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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

Ingredients:
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

Process:

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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