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Monday, December 26, 2011

Wall stencil photos (finally)

While at my parents' home for the holidays I used my mother's camera to upload the contents of my memory card, allowing me to finally post these pictures taken of the wall stenciling project I did in October before my camera broke.

Because it has actually been more than 2 months, a few things in the room have changed (I just can't help it!) mostly the only changes worth noting though are few bedding changes. I will post updated pictures soon, and thanks to an amazing Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice gift, the pictures may be much better quality (I got a DSLR!!!)

I had intended for a subtle ombre effect by adding a bit of white to the paint progressively as I worked up the wall. But I think it may have been a little too subtle. You can see the effect fairly well in the last picture, plus you can see the beautiful capiz shell mobile/chime that was a gift from my cousin last year. :)

There you have it, finally. Happy holidays, everyone!

Little TV

My apartment is going back in time. We are leaving our days of having a giant flatscreen HDTV behind and switching down for this old 20" CRT. (This change came from the moving out of the roommate who owned the flatscreen.) Perhaps I should feel sad to downgrade, but I couldn't be happier. Having a smaller TV on a smaller stand to me makes the whole room seem so much bigger. Plus, none of us watch much TV anyway. This goes hand in hand with our recent decision to reduce to basic cable to save lots of money on a service we hardly use anyway.

The TV stand looks so cheery in it's new bright sky blue paint. I picked that table up at a thrift store for $9. The TV was free. And, I have a pretty dorky project in the works- A TV Cozy! More on that soon. For now, check out how different this corner of the room looks, below.

Sadly I couldn't take a picture right before we took out the TV (my camera was broken!) so this picture has some outdated decor in it, but is the only one I could find. The second picture has our up to date decor, but doesn't quite show the TV area.

And now:

and yes, I was watching The Blues Brothers on VHS when I took this.

I know most people would prefer a big flat sceen TV. But for me, a TV that takes up less space and makes less of a statement is better. Our living room feels bigger than before, and easily lends itself to conversation and socializing more than just watching television.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holdiay baking

This year I revisited several favorite recipes I have posted here in the past. There are still many occasions for dinner parties or hosting guests, so if you're looking for a little something to bring your host, or some appetizers or desserts for your own event, maybe you'll be inspired by the favorites I made this year!

1. Perfect for an unusual appetizer (served with crackers), or a host gift... Bacon jam

2. Perfect divided into small cellophane bags as gifts for friends, or served with wine and cheese...Spiced mixed nuts

3. Perfect for the dessert table, or made in smaller loafs as gifts...Chocolate chip pumpkin bread

And, with New Years still coming up, I have big plans. I am hoping to make my own crackers for our cheese plate, and make fondue and signature drink for the evening. You'll be hearing from me soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


*So I still don't have a working camera, hence never posted those reveal pictures mentioned last month...I'm hoping to borrow a camera over Christmas. I'm sure you've all forgotten by now anyway!

I made a joke to a friend the other day, after becoming obsessively involved with making a spreadsheet to use for household costs, utilities and rent payments for myself and my roommates, that maybe spreadsheets should be my new hobby. I even joked that perhaps I should start a blog about them.

Well, I didn't go quite that far (though I wonder if the url AdventuresInSpreadsheeting is taken? Things To Do While Making a Spreadsheet?)  I did decide though that my beloved, and can I say it, beautiful, work of spreadsheet-ness was worth at least a quick post. I mean, just look:

Pretty colors, right? And it's got all the functions 5 flatmates could need. It's based on the spreadsheet created by my soon to depart roommate, but I gave it an updated format, and included important contact info, more room to write the details of your purchases, and some nice colors. It was a great excuse to finally learn all the excel formulas and how to make them work. 

Now I want to make spreadsheets for other things, too.

In case you're wondering, the function of this spreadsheet is to allow roommates who pay a house bill (such as the electric bill) or buy something for the house (such as TP) to be evenly and easily reimbursed. Since our landlord doesn't care the amount of each of our checks, so long as it adds up to the total rent, we deduct money owed to each other and adjust the amount of each person's rent check. This way we don't have to pay the rent and then pay each of the roommates who bought something one fifth of what they paid (yes, there are 5 of us.) The spreadsheet also allows any roommate to transfer money to one other roommate for purchases instead of splitting a cost across all 5 roommates if desired. This also is an original function of the spreadsheet this was replacing. It comes in handy if your roommate buys you a few groceries while they're at the store, and you don't have any cash on you. We use it on Google Docs so that each roommate and access and update it from their own computers, or from wherever they are able to get online.

If you live with roommates, and would like to give this template I created a shot, or just if you are are curious, you can view it here. I've wiped out the personal information such as our rent rate and address, so this is just blank to let you get a sense of how it works. If you live with multiple roommates and wish to use my spreadsheet, just email me and I will email you a blank template you can start with. I will even adjust it to work for 3, 4, or 5 roommates if you wish!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Are you wondering if I am ever going to show the final reveal from my stenciling project I gave a sneak peak of nearly a month ago?  Sorry it's taking so long!

Here's my excuse (ready?):

It's not that it's not finished. In fact, by the time I posted that progress picture, it was secretly entirely finished. It's not that I don't love the final result. Seriously, I love it. It's... I can't find my camera.

Anti-climatic right?

Well, I have figured out where my camera is. On a trip with family it somehow ended up going home in my sister's bag instead of mine. Should be easy to get  it back, right? She only lives 3 miles from me.

Well, due to our busy schedules, it's starting to seem like I won't see my camera until my next family trip, for Thanksgiving. So I will definitely be posting those reveal pictures as soon as I get home from Thanksgiving.

Meaning they will be revealed only about 5 weeks after the project was done. Oops.

And  I haven't posted anything else in this time mostly because I know you guys dig photos. I've made some stuff. A couple dinners, mostly. But I'll have to recreate them later so I can take photos when I have my camera back.

Here are a few other things I have done recently, to keep this entire post from being an apology"

  • Had fake-flu- it was just as unpleasant as real flu, but my temperature was lower instead of higher than it is supposed to be.
  • Finally read Hunger Games (in one day...couldn't put it down) after a friend in class lent me her copy.
  • Watched the full series of Being Human (the UK version) on netflix streaming.
  • Wrote a paper for class while in a flu-y fog. I am not sure that thing is even coherent. I guess I'll find out when I hand it in today.
  • Took two sick days from work...more sick days than I have taken in a row in recent memory. Luckily this came after a talk with HR about how I really am supposed to use my PTO days- I hadn't been taking any time off for so long I needed the reminder.
  • Lost 4 lbs in 3 days. Yes, the flu is one way to loose weight, but I don't suggest it. I also am pretty sure I will gain all that back instantly now that I can eat again.
Anyway, what have all of you been up to? I really can't wait to show you the completed stenciling project...I love the result so.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In progress

Here is an in progress shot of a recently completed project I'll be sharing soon. Thought you guys would like a sneak peek!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A post about bikes on my blog about- what again?

So I have read very many posts from other bloggers giving tips to find a loyal readership and be successful. And one of the first things they always say is to find your niche and more or less stick to it. I have done a lot of thinking, and while I love getting new readers, I decided that sticking to a niche just isn't what it's about for me.

Some of you have been reading this blog since it started more than a year ago, when it was strictly a place for me to share recipes, and motivate myself to try making new things. After about 6 months, I decided I just had to share about my decorating adventure when I covered my refrigerator with contact paper.  Yes, I did that. It wasn't a post about cooking, I realized, but at least it related to the kitchen where I cook!

Soon after I found myself posting about repainting the kitchen, and painting my new mis-matched purple chairs. After that it became open season for DIY/interior decorating posts of all sorts as well as recipes and cooking posts.

At this point I have blogged about everything from my cleaning compulsion, to bird watching, to my finds on Etsy.  And I realized something. I don't blog to make money (you'll notice no ads on this blog, ever, and if you see a link to a product in the text, it's just because I think you guys might enjoy that link, not because I will make any money off you clicking on it.) I blog because it makes me happy, helps me express myself, and helps me motivate myself to do the things I love. And I don't just blog about cooking, I blog about many of my interests.

I never mean to disapoint a reader of course, and I would love to meet more cool and interesting people who like the things I blog about, but it just doesn't feel right to limit myself to one subject when collecting a certain number of readers, or making money has never and will never be my goal.

So, in short, if you read my blog: 1. I love you and 2. Read which ever part makes you happy, leave me feedback if you like something, and feel free to skip those posts that don't relate to an interest you share with me!

Now, without further adieu, a bit of a post on a subject VERY unrelated to both cooking and interior design, but something I like a lot- my bike.

I've mentioned two bikes on this blog so far, my vintage English 3-speed (let's call him Phil) who showed up here.

He really is a beauty. Just look at him. He has a sweet internal gear hub, original stamped Phillips plaque, and the most uncomfortable bike seat ever made (I kid you not).

Isn't he a looker? Maybe it is just my love of vintage that draws me to him.

But I have a new love- who is sleeker, faster, brighter and very importantly LIGHTER than good old Phil.

She doesn't have a name yet, but if she did, it would have to be something girly and fun. Maybe Lucy or Posey or something like that.

Similarly to Phil she has a steel lugged frame, but being about 15 years younger and at least 12 pounds lighter, she makes for a very different sort of bike ride. And I am falling in love all over again with the streets of Boston as I she guides me from place to place. She is fast and reliable, and her bright colors make me so happy the moment I see her, locked up at a bike rack patiently waiting for my return.

Pedey likes her too.

Do any of you bike? Do you do so for transportation? Fitness? To save the world?

Or, if you don't bike- what's your favorite way to get from place to place?

Display shelves for the crafting/study area

Some people have the luxury of a separate room to call their office, craft space, or sewing room. I don't. I have read lots of debates in the home decor blogosphere about office spaces in the bedroom. I understand the point of view that a bedroom should be relaxing and tranquil, a place to get away from the work and projects of the day. That is a very nice idea. But for some of us, it just isn't feasible to keep our sleeping quarters totally separate from our at-home workspace.

Because I live in a shared apartment with roommates, the only space that can truly be "mine" is in my bedroom.  I am lucky, though, to have a fairly large room of my own to work with. I wanted to create a space that would fit in with the feel of my room, but still be very functional. I decided I wanted to build shelves above my desk both for display and to store craft supplies.

I recently rearranged my room, and my desk ended up in the little nook created by a former doorway. I have been so inspired by the closets turned to offices (or cloffices) I have seen on the web in the last few years, and I wish I had a closet to use for that purpose. Since I don't (I don't have a closet at all in fact!) I thought the moulding of this doorway frame could at least give the illusion of a "nook" in which to make my office/craft space.

To start I did some measurements, and bought some lumber. Then I felt a little overwhelmed, so I got some help.

My boyfriend Ben drew out this plan and remeasured everything for me. He's better at this sort of thing, and drafting seems to make him happy, where as it seems to make me an anxious wreck.
I know you dig that teal nail polish I got going on.

Then I let him do the dirty work of cutting down the lumber to size, too:
And then I let him mount the shelves, make sure they were level, and install the vertical supports. Yep, I pretty much just made him do everything. Oops. Well, besides the painting. I did all the painting. Oh, actually, he did paint on the primer... But anyways.

One thing I actually can take credit for in this project, is the paint color. I am far too proud of myself, really, because if anyone asks me what color I choose, I get to say "it's custom." I have a lot of near empty or half full cans of painting hanging out in my hardware closet (what, you don't have a whole closet devoted to hardware supplies, tools and paint?) and so instead of having to pay for more paint to get the right color, I recalled the color wheel from my art class days. I had a pale blue, an electric green, a charcoal gray and a deep turquoise among other colors, and I got to mixing.

Here you can see a bit of color testing, including some combinations I made myself. I ended up going with the slightly darker pale turquoise tone, which you can see on the far right. It was just a bit more muted than the brighter blue, and I didn't think I'd like it, but once it was on the wall I knew it was the one.

And the building began. We (can I say we?) used simple L brackets to attach the cut 1x4s to the wall, made sure everything was level, and then added vertical supports from remaining pieces of lumber.

Next came priming and painting the wood shelves, caulking any gaps, and touching up the background color.

I have yet to feel really satisfied with the styling of these shelves, I want to take some time and collect some quirky items that make me happy to live on these shelves, along with my jars of art supplies. Here's the styling as it exists now...Surely I will make an update later when I decide exactly what I want up here.

Do you have a work or craft space in your home? In your bedroom? Have you undertaken any minor or major building projects recently? How do you feel about drafting and measuring-- boring or rewarding and pleasurable?

Roasted Roots & Tubers Pizza

One of my favorite family recipes is a side dish my mother always made called roots & tubers. She cut small potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions (am I forgetting anything, Mom?) and roasted them in a pyrex dish with olive oil until they were a perfect combination of soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, and sweet.

I was reminded of that side dish when I saw this pizza recipe from Martha Stewart, and decided I had to give it a try. Roasted root vegetables and herbs with ricotta on pizza? An odd combination maybe, but it sounded totally delicious. And was also reminiscent of the ricotta and butternut squash crostini I had recently made, and I even had ricotta left over from that. Perfect.

I made this my own by changing some ingredients as I saw fit and adding a drizzle of balsamic reduction at the very end before serving. I love the way the rich sweet flavor of reduced balsamic plays against the earthy fall flavors of the root vegetables and also seems to bring out the contrast of the light smooth flavor of the ricotta.

I was intending to make a pizza dough from scratch, but this ended up being a last minute meal made straight after getting home from work. Luckily, I am a fan of the pizza dough sold by Whole Foods, and I was able to stop in and pick some up near my work.

Pizza is always a simple meal to assemble, and giving a recipe for a pizza sometimes feels redundant. It's like telling people how to make a sandwich, right?

But, as this is how I like to do it, I will include the groceries you will need and the cook times to recreate the pizza as I made it.

Roasted Roots & Tubers Pizza
Inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe


  • your choice of fall vegetables, consider including: fingerling potatoes, little red potatoes, sweet potatoes and/or butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, red onion. (You can also include other vegetables that suit your fancy, look for ones that are hearty and can roast for a long time, so you can prepare all of the vegetables at once in one dish.)
  • a homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • a small container of ricotta cheese (I had some left over from my crostini, so I used that. It had some lemon zest and juice mixed in, and I found I liked the brightness this added)
  • A variety of fresh herbs to keep things interesting(I used fresh rosemary and thyme which I cooked with vegetables, and then added the sage leaves to the top of the pizza before baking )
  • olive oil, salt & fresh ground pepper 
  • one cup of balsamic vinegar to reduce


To prepare the Roast Roots & Tubers topping:
1.Chop the vegetables into small similarly sized pieces. I look for small carrots, potatoes and parsnips, as the skin is usually thinner and you can scrub them and then roast them with the skin on instead of having to peel them. If the skin seems thick or you think I am crazy for doing it this way, by all means, peel away!

2.Add the chopped veg to an oven proof dish or baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a small sprig each of thyme and rosemary- no need to remove from the stem or chop, the flavor will cook right into the oil and roots over the course of the roast.

3.Place in a hot oven (about 450 degrees) and roast, tossing as needed to brown all sides of vegetables for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. remove herb sprigs.

For the Pizza:

1. Stretch dough onto a baking sheet (or preheated pizza stone, I love using mine!) with a bit of olive oil. 
2. Spread on the ricotta as thick as desired.
3. Add the cooked vegetables and and sage leaves, nestling ingredients into the spread ricotta.
4. Bake in a preheated oven (475) 20-25 minutes (until crust is golden)

MEANWHILE... reduce your balsamic vinegar by pouring it into a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Pay attention and stir often so the bottom doesn't burn. You can add some sugar to speed up the process and add extra sweetness, especially if the balsamic you are starting with is of poor quality. after the balsamic has reduced, keep it slightly warm until you can drizzle it over your pizza. 

A tip- Wash the pan you reduced the balsamic in asap...that stuff can become sticky as it sits!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Sage Crostini

A few nights ago I put together the quickest, easiest meal and appetizer for my weekly dinner (and Fringe-watching ) with my friend Sophie. I got home less than half an hour before she arrived, and the meal (compromised of this tasty crostini to start and a hearty doctored can of pre-made tomato soup) was ready to be served by the time she rang the doorbell.
I have been living in my apartment for two years and I still jump about 2 feet in the air every time our doorbell rings. That sound is terrifying. So, needless to say, when she rang the bell at 5:30, and I was standing above a plate of crostini, carefully placing fried sage leaves on top of each, I jumped in alarm and dropped a few of the aromatic crisp fried leaves. Bummer.

I have long felt confused about sage. Most other common herbs I have a good sense of when to add here or there, what flavors they will compliment, and what quality they will bring out in a dish. Thyme? Basil? Bay leaves? Parsley? Rosemary? Yep. I can (for the most part) taste a dish I am cooking and think "this would be enhanced with                    ." But sage? Well, honestly, I didn't even quite know what it tasted like. I have really only had it paired with brown butter and butternut squash ravioli. I think I'd like to look into other recipes that use sage, get to know this herb a little better.

This recipe also paired the flavor of sage with butternut squash. But the crispy fried sage leaves were the statement making part of this combination. The ricotta was smooth and subtle, enhanced only with a little bit of lemon juice and zest, the bread that made up the toasted base of this crostini with toasted with just a bit of olive oil, and the butternut squash was cooked up with olive oil, salt and pepper. So the crisp sage leaves spoke for themselves, not overshadowed by other flavors, but instead bringing interest to combination of subtle sweet squash and creamy ricotta.

I saved time on this meal and was able to prepare it so quickly because I had leftover roasted butternut squash from the dinner I made the night before. Feel free to prepare the components of this appetizer the day before if you wish, you can roast cubed butternut squash and set aside in the fridge (bring to room temp before serving), or even combine the ricotta and zest the night before and refrigerate. Assemble right before serving.

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Crostini
Recipe from Bon Appetit

  • 1 bunch or package of fresh sage leaves
  • olive oil
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 butternut squash (or cheat and buy the precut pieces at the grocery store. Cutting butternut squash is one of my least favorite jobs in the kitchen- they're tricky!) 
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • sea salt & ground pepper 
  • 3/4 cup fresh ricotta 
  • 1 lemon- zested & then squeezed for juice

Step 1. Roast the butternut squash- after cutting into 1-2" cubes, lay butternut squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with brown sugar. place baking sheet in preheated oven at 425 degrees.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. While this roasts, start the next steps!

Step 2. Fry the sage- in a small skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot. Place sage leaves (stems removed) in oil and remove after they appear lightly golden and crisp. Place fried leaves on a paper towel and set aside. Reserve the used olive oil for the next step.

Step 3. Toast the bread-  cut the baguette into 3/8" slices. lay on a baking sheet, and brush on the oil from step 2. Add the to the already hot oven (if not making the squash ahead of time. Otherwise, set the oven to broil and keep an eye on the bread, it will brown quickly!) until golden.

Step 4. Prepare the ricotta- While the bread toasts and the butternut squash finishes roasting, zest and juice half of your lemon. In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta and the lemon zest and juice. set aside until the bread has started to cool a bit.

Step 5. Assemble it all- Spread some of the ricotta mixture on to each piece of toast. Place the butternut squash pieces on top of that, then squeeze lemon juice from the remaining lemon half over the top, and drizzle a bit of olive oil. Top each crostini with 1 or 2 fried sage leaves, and season with salt and pepper.

This was easy and so delicious, I will definitely make this again soon. So perfectly fall!

As I mentioned above, I served this as an appetizer with a simple "doctored" pre-made tomato soup. When I am short on time and want something warm and delicious, especially as the weather gets cooler, I am not above opening a can of soup. I use Progresso Tomato & Basil, and add lots of fresh basil leaves, heavy cream, cracked pepper, sliced fried garlic, and a little bit of herb oil. A quick salad and some hearty bread, and you have an easy nearly instant light meal, that I swear doesn't taste like it came from a can.

Ok, excuse me, I am going to go make some more of these now!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bedroom project: New headboard

I recently upholstered myself a new headboard. It was one of those projects that was so simple and quick and that I had wanted to do for so long. Yet I didn't realize what would happen next: I would want to change everything else in my room, too! So essentially a one day project became weeks of updates and money spent and splinters, and getting paint on my favorite slippers. It works out that way, sometimes.

You may remember this picture I posted last year which shows my bedroom set up:
While I liked the way my room looked, it actually felt a bit too formal to me. The new set up is much more in touch with my current style, and it's lighter. So I said good bye to the curtained faux headboard, as well as the chocolate brown accents, and I created an upholstered headboard in a fabric I love. Recognize the fabric from my updated entryway bench project? Yep, it's the same.

Here's the new bed design:

By the way, see that weird branch hanging down in front of the window? My building is covered with vines, and durring the recent hurricane this one broke off the building, and in a strong wind rapped against the window and broke it! There is a giant crack going all the way through the window pane in 3 directions. I am still waiting for the building managment to come take a look, I hope they cut down that branch when they come, I am scared with it just hanging there that in a day with bad wind the whole thing could happen again!

You may also notice in the above picture that I moved the bed, it is no longer framed out by that closed off doorway. Want a sneak peek of what that area of the room looks like now? The detailed post is soon to come, but in the meantime:

I still have a lot of updates to take on, and completed ones to show you, here's a bit of what to expect in the future around here:

In my bedroom I'll be completeing these projects:
1. a patterned stencil wall above the bed
2. a DIY update to my overhead light fixture (I recently added a plain white drum shade you can see in some of the pictures above, but I am planning on making this more of a focal point)
3. a fun DIY update to a my desk chair
4. Building a new nightstand

And a few things I have yet to share with you, that I look forward to posting about:
1. The new crisp white sheers I hemmed for a more tailored look and some needed privacy
2. A few solutions to storage issues- especially since I am so worried about things looking even a tiny bit cluttered, but I live in a relatively small space, with no closet!
3. Of course- the built in shelves I built (with help) in my new desk/craft space as previewed above

Ok, and to wrap things up just one last picture for honesty's sake.

This is what the opposite side of the room turns into when I need to clear all the junk from the area around the bed and desk to take photos:

Yep, not so perfect.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black Bean Soup & Sweet Potato Biscuits

When people ask me what my favorite thing to cook is, I almost always answer with some sort of soup. French onion some days, butternut squash, perhaps a lively and spicy black bean soup, like this one. To me, cooking soup seems like a nearly magical process. Brown a few simple ingredients in the bottom of a large pot, perhaps onions cooked until translucent and lightly sweet, garlic and herbs, add liquid, a few other choice ingreidients, cover the pot and... Magic happens. Water becomes flavorful broth,  dense root vegetables become soft and sweet. Herbs and spices mingle on your tongue, and the whole thing can be sopped up with a nice piece of hearty bread.

We have had our first few days of true fall weather recently, the rare moment in time where 50 degrees feels just chilly enough to curl up in a blanket on your couch with a book and make every excuse not to leave the house, or run all the errands you need to. (Or is that just me?) As the months wear on, we will grow accustomed to the colder weather, and a 50 degree day will seem like such a luxury, a moment to take back out our summer clothes. But at the end of the summer, with the certain crisp air only fall can bring, 50 degrees means it's a time to make soup; to comfort yourself.

I made this soup with my (lovely and pretty) friend Sophie, one of my oldest friends, whom I met in pre-school. We attempt now to cook dinner together every Friday (before settling in to watch Fringe-- any other Fringe fans out there? WHERE IS PETER BISHOP??) and her regular email to me "What should we make this time? Should I bring wine?" has been a great motivator of many of my food posts on this blog.

This time around, unsure what to make, I linked Sophie to my pinterest board for food inspiration. She responded pointing out that many of the recipes included sweet potatoes, and it had her thinking about the African Sweet Potato Stew I often make. Since I have already blogged that recipe, I suggested making a different sort of soup, and pairing it with the Sweet Potato Biscuits I had pinned and had been wanting to try. I suggested black bean soup particularly for a few reasons:

1. I love black bean soup
2. I love the way black beans pair with sweet potato- like in this recipe
3. The ingredients for black bean soup are cheap- no lies, this is always a good motivator for me

In the end we both loved the combination, and the leftover biscuits were great for breakfast the next day, too.

too bad I can't master the perfect sour cream dollop at the moment
Since we followed the recipe with no alterations I am not including the steps in this post, but you can head over to this link to see the original recipe- it's easy and delicious, they turned out flaky and just a tiny bit sweet. Like with pie crust, the key is to keep the butter cold and handle minimally. We ended up having to handle our biscuit dough more than we intended, but even so they were tender and flaky.

The only note I would make about the above recipe, is if you are short of time, peel and poke some holes in your sweet potato, then microwave it for about 3 minutes before mashing instead of baking it. We also chose to keep our sweet potatos mashed in a chunkier style, I liked the chunks of sweet potato in each bite that this created.

And for the soup...

This soup was adapted from a recipe from Eating Well. The recipe I started with was very basic, but gave me just the guidelines I needed. I supplimented it with 2 large cloves of garlic, more lime and cilantro than it called for, and where they asked for prepared salsa I used Trader Joe's Habenero Lime salsa which really added a lively kick. If you don't have a salsa like this available to you, I would suggest adding some diced fresh hot pepper and doubling the lime juice.

Adapted from Eatingwell.com

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15oz cans of black beans, rinsed
3 cups of water
1/2 cup prepared salsa- I used Trader Joe's brand Habenero & Lime Salsa
Salt to taste
Juice of one lime
fresh cilantro chopped, plus some additional for garnish
Sour cream to garnish


1. In a large pot heat the oil. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent- less than 5 minutes
2. Add to pot: cumin, chilli powder, minced garlic, stir and cook 2 minutes
3. Add rinsed beans, salsa  and water. add salt to taste, and adjust spices as needed at this point (remember that the heat of the soup will vary depending on what salsa you use)
4. Using a traditional or immersion blender, blend mixture minimally so that some chunks remain.
5. Add the lime juice and cilantro before serving, add additional cilantro to garnish, as well as a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Serve with cornbread, biscuits or something else delicious. Feel happy. Go watch Fringe.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entry way update

I hinted before my blogcation that I was making an update or two in the entryway to my apartment. I believe I posted this pic as a teaser:

The entrance to my apartment has been the subject of many posts, including all of the many steps of my still-evolving sidewalk-find dresser turned entryway table. But while that side of the foyer has been shown on this blog over and over the other side of the same space never has.

Why? Because it was weird looking and never really lived up to what I wanted.  I found a media shelf in the trash of a building near my own two years ago. This was really my first DIY furniture hack. I took it, removed a few shelves, painted it, removed the casters to add feet, and sewed a simple cushion for the top. Voila! Entrance bench!

Except.... Well except I never quite liked it.

Why? I guess there were a few reasons.

1. I luckily happened upon 4 unfinished wooden legs at goodwill right after deciding I wanted to change out the casters for real legs.  But even from the start their style was too traditional and even "country-ish" for what I wanted.

These were a pretty close match to the legs I found, but mine were shorter:

2. The color I chose, a sage green, was a paint I had on hand which had a similar tone to the tablecloth that sat on the old entryway table, which was a pretty sad folding table I had gotten from my parents. I later decided that the color made the bench look sort of heavy and dated instead of fresh and light like a coat of white paint might have.

3.The cushion, which took me forever to sew, since I didn't have a sewing machine at the time, looked sort of lumpy and sad  instead of cushy and welcoming.

See? You can't see the legs from that angle, but you can see my sage color choice, the still existing pegs where the shelves used to be, and my hours and hours of hard work on that lumpy sad cushion. Sigh.

***Also, a quick apology- I took not one but several before pictures of this project. Sadly they are all sleeping with the fishes so to speak, in the depths of my sadly departed laptop. Shall we have a moment of silence?***

Later I found a large bead-board mirror at a local thrift store, and placed it above the bench, after painting it with same sage green paint. I thought the matching color would tie it all together to look a bit like the built in entry way benches I had seen occasionally online.

Unfortunately, I was working with something sort of weird to begin with. Our entrance way came with a shelf and coat hooks already on the wall, which we probably weren't supposed to mess with, since it was a rental. Nice, right? Except...the shelf was hung too high for much good use, and had a curvy country-home style that I was not a huge fan of. AND the coat hooks on the wall? Make that actually a crooked chunk of 1x3 lumber with a few 30 cent cup hooks.

In my most recent redo, I decided to work with the shelf, and use it as a display space instead of anything too functional given it's height  (I can only reach it if I stand on the bench to do so).

But the 1x3 wood scrap complete with brass cup hooks? I took that baby down. And threw it in the trash. And no one will miss it.

Due to my sad story of long lost before pictures, the only thing I have to satiate your curiosity about just how awkward that 1x3 "coat rack" looked, is this picture from after I took it down.  Even in its absence you can see how crooked it was, right?

Luckily a little primer and paint hid every hint that this was ever there.

I ended up buying some nicer brushed nickle coat hooks and drilling them into the base of the shelf. You know the kind that look like an octopus ready for a fight? Surely you all saw this make its rounds earlier this year- I first caught it on Laughing Squid, but am not entirely sure where it first appeared.

Next I replaced the bead-board mirror with a framed print I happened upon at the same local thrift store mentioned earlier. And, get this: the print isn't just a drawing of buildings from a cute new england town, it's pictures of buildings from the cute New England town I went camping in with my family nearly every year of my childhood. Lots of nostalgia. The frame it came in was pink plastic...I painted it with a bit of charcoal gray paint and I love it. Isn't it a cute little print?

I also rethought the cushion on the entry way bench, and made one by upolstering a piece of plywood with a few layers of foam, and the same fabric from the previous cushion.

I thought it looked a lot better, but still something wasn't quite right. I wanted the bench to look...fresher.

For your amusement I have put my mad-editing skills (ok, try my hillariously ametuerish editing skills..) into this info-graphic to better explain the situation in the picture above:

So I made a few updates... I used Dwell Studio's Indoor/outdoor fabric in Maze Work Brindle to recover the cushion. I chose an indoor/outdoor fabric since I figured there would be lots of wet rain coats and such making contact with this cushion. A bit of water resistance would be great!

I replaced the legs with some nice mid-century inspired ones which I special ordered from Home Depot and gave a quick coat of dark walnut stain, finally removed the pegs that used to hold to removed shelves, puttied, sanded, primed, and painted the whole thing white. Then I placed my white owl umbrella holder next to it...to rally up any big umbrellas.

Ah, so much better!

As seen above I added a few decorative items on top of that high up shelf, including a vintage globe from Etsy (I love looking at all the old country names like Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and  Baluchistan. By the way, if you have a vintage globe and want to figure out how old it is based on the outdated names for countries, this page is great.), a decorative vase that used to sit on my desk, and a jar candle I very nearly got rid of in my recent goodwill donation.

So that's it! My new entry way area, opposite the much-pictured foyer corner. Finally that area is worthy of a pic on the old blog. Now if only I could find a way to take a picture of that area without flash that isn't dismally dark...man I wish this area had some natural light!

PS- if you like that update, check back soon to see the updates I am making in my bedroom, one of them is eerily similar to the update that bench got....

So- do you guys have any projects you just keep revisiting? Sometimes it takes a few tries to get something right!

Linking up to Remodelholic and Miss Mustard Seed's  Friday Parties! If you stopped by here from one of those link parties, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm Back!

Hello again!

So my little blog-cation took a bit longer than anticipated. I did get a chance to enjoy some summer days of hiking, biking and doing whatever else it is that you do over the summer. I also spent many hours in class, and started a big transition that meant leaving my previous position at my job (which I have held for 2 years) and learning the ropes of a different position in a different office.  It's been a busy few weeks.

Here are some highlights I thought I might share though, and I would love to hear about the highlights of all of your summers', readers!

1. I took a trip out to the Berkshire town I lived in 2 years ago. While there I hiked in the rain, attended a downtown beach day, visited my favorite local pub, and took in the sights of a place that I called home not so very long ago.

I was surprised with the longing I was left with, revisiting this town that was the site of my adventure year in a new place where I knew almost no one. Seeing it all again has left me with the bug to try again living somewhere new!

I find myself planning my next adventure, to the tune of perhaps 2 years in an all new city by myself. At the moment I keep thinking about Portland, Oregon, but that could all change before the plan goes into action. I have a lucky opportunity to potentially move somewhere for my last couple of years of school. Do you ever get a bug to make a radical change to your life and your setting? I really think the time is right for me, I need a new experience!

a cliff-side view from my trip to the Berkshires, taken at a moment when it wasn't raining

Beach day, North Adams. Such a sweet, fun tradition for a landlocked town!

rainy, forest-y ruins of an old plantation

2. This summer I bought a new bike. I am so enamored of her, and have been biking everywhere. She's a road bike and she is fast and light.  A few days now I have added up nearly 20 miles of riding! My calves are sore.  And yes, to all the concerned relatives reading this: I do always wear a helmet. :)

3. I also got to watch a bit of baseball, taking in a game at Fenway (and another coming up this week!) and seeing a local minor league game, the Lowell Spinners vs. the Brooklyn Cyclones. There are some surprisingly fun antics at minor league games, I learned.

what exactly is going on here? Is that Mario? (picture taken by my sister, Abbie)

What fun things did you guys do this summer? Did you work and take classes the whole time, with only a stretch of 3 days totaling an actual "vacation" like I did? Did you travel, relax or take in new sights? Did you start something new, or hatch a plan for a new adventure? I'd love to hear about it!


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