Friday, June 19, 2015

tasty treatsie

I mentioned in a recent reply to a reader's comment that I was thinking of posting a little bit of food stuff on the blog, too, so here goes nothing!  Wanted to put up some pictures of a really tasty cake I made recently.  I've never made an upside down cake before, but have always loved them, and am really into fruit cakes this year, so I decided to try my hand at making one.  Pineapple upside down cake can be a little cloyingly sweet for me, though, so I did some googling and found that there are tons of recipes for pretty much any upside down cake fruit combination under the sun. I was tempted to make a Meyer lemon cake, but have been kinda in peach mode lately, so ultimately decided on a peach upside down cake, which I altered a little bit by adding blackberries.  The recipe I found on Use Real Butter turned out really well, so I figured I'd share it here, along with some shots of my dessert.  I wouldn't change anything about the directions, except to add a few blackberries like I did if you want to mix things up!

How pretty is all that fruit, nestled in melted sugar and butter, arranged in the pan?

Here she is, twenty minutes after coming out of the oven.  If you plan on making this cake, I suggest putting a towel/paper towel under the cooling rack, since some of the sugar will drip off a little while it's cooling.

Done!  I realized after taking a slice that I never got a picture of the finished cake - so here it is, minus one piece that I just had to sneak.  It was incredibly delicious - and really, very easy to make!  Definitely recommended if you want to impress someone - it looks beautiful and is moist and fruity and just the right amount of sweet.   This would be delicious served with homemade whipped cream, though I decided to try something a little different and served it with homemade cream cheese ice cream instead.  The tanginess of the ice cream complemented the sweetness of the cake really nicely.  I didn't get any pictures of the ice cream I made (will be more conscientious of that in the future!), but the recipe I used is here.  Fair warning: there are a few steps involved, and you do need an ice cream maker.  But the finished product is worth it.

Also.  I've really been digging on World Market lately.  It's not that I didn't already like that store, it just kind of fell off of my radar for a while.  But it's definitely back on again. For starters,  I got my new fancy hallway light fixture there, and I've been having fun walking through their food section, too.   I was super excited to find my beloved - and ultra fattening, but who the hell cares - Thai iced tea in a CAN at my local store!  So now I can have the goodness of creamy delicious condensed milk sweetened tea in the comfort of my own home.  Fat pants, I hear you calling my name.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

garden view + homemade pbj

So fun watching my garden grow this summer!

Also!  Been really getting into food and cooking lately.  I've always liked cooking (specifically baking) and have been relatively competent in the kitchen, but I'm branching out and getting more ambitious. Plus, I've been getting in the habit of making make my own staples like butter and yogurt instead of using store-bought.  I've made my own jams for several years, but recently I tried my hand at homemade peanut butter, which is the easiest thing ever to make: 16 oz. of peanuts (I used honey roasted) in the food processor for 4 minutes.  And that's it.  Add nothing.  The resulting PB is some of the most delicious I've ever had, and even better: the oil doesn't separate out, which is one of the things I've always disliked most about natural peanut butters.  How satisfying is this image?  Homemade peanut butter AND jelly!  So delicious.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

before and after: hallway makeover

OK, let's do a proper before and after post here!  The upstairs hallway in my house has been an uninspired space with bare white walls ever since I moved in.  It never really bugged me per se, just sometimes I'd walk through the hall and think to myself, 'I should really do something to spruce up this area a little bit.'  And then life would get in the way and the project would fall by the wayside.  But recently I had a tiny bit of free time and decided to get on it.  

Just for some reference, here's a before picture (taken at night, almost as an afterthought just as I started stenciling - so sorry for the crap quality):

Not very exciting.  Huh.

Anyway.  I like covering the walls of small spaces with bold prints, since the effect of doing so - to which many designers will attest; this isn't my original idea or anything - makes the space feel extra snug and precious, like a little jewel box.  If I had my druthers, I would've gotten a gorgeous wallpaper for the hallway, but that's in itself so expensive, and of course you have to factor in hiring someone to hang it, too, since wallpaper is one thing I don't trust myself with (though never say never!  I'd still like to learn).  Anyway, I was trying to come up with ways to get a big graphic print on my walls without wallpaper, and the idea of stenciling came to mind.  Gone are the days of hideous old lady floral stencils (though those are most definitely still out there); we're now in an era of some really cool stencil options.  I wanted something that was at once geometric and earthy and mid-century inspired, so yeah. Not a tall order at all.  But believe it or not, I found the exact thing I was looking for at Royal Design Studio: the Ibo Pinwheel stencil.  Here's the pic from their site:

I love how the shape is reminiscent of midcentury starbursts, but is also not totally literal in referencing that aesthetic.  And for the record, Royal Design Studio has a bunch of really really awesome stencils - would totally recommend checking their stuff out.  

OK, so I'm writing all this damned text and if you're reading this, you probably just want to see pictures.  So let's get down to brass tacks.  I ordered the stencil months ago and had the thing sitting in a closet for months, and then a couple nights ago decided to pull it out and just give it a try.  You saw the boring hallway before, and here it is after I got the first couple stencils down.  Pretty thrilling!

We're getting there!  Already starting to look better.

There are a million stencil tutorials on the web, so there's no need for me to provide one here, but I'll say one thing...make friends with the foam roller for a job like this.  I tried painting the first stencil on with a stencil brush, and it came out nicely, but it took a while.  With the foam roller...?  Done in under a minute.  

But back to the makeover.  After I finished the stenciling (which ended up taking longer than anticipated because I ended up having to repaint an entire wall - long story, and no time for it here), I realized that the light fixture in the hallway was pure shite and definitely needed changing.  I don't have a picture of it intact, but it was one of those ugly builder grade flush mount light fixtures that just make you want to scream because they're so hideous.   I found a pendant light at World Market that I liked and picked it up from the store, and then...was stuck.  I've never changed a light by myself and, while I've fixed garbage disposals and stripped furniture and done a bunch of other DIY stuff, electrical has always been the thing I've been a little intimidated to tackle.  But I called around to some local handymen to see if I could find anyone to hang the light, and they were all booking two, three, four weeks out, and the obsessive amateur designer in me just HAD to have the job done immediately.  Necessity is the mother of invention, people!  Or something.  Either way, I decided now was the time to figure out electrical.  So with the help of a friend who coached me via text, and several YouTube videos, I figured it out.  And I did it!

Here, at least, is the awful light before (with cover removed):

I wanted a fixture that was hanging, but that I could still mount somewhat close to the ceiling. So I bought this cool brass pendant light from World Market, which was a good pick for an electrical first timer like me, since you actually just install the light kit and then attach the shade to it separately.  

Pendant lamp:

Light kit:

When I finally got the light kit attached to the ceiling, I was totally elated.  It doesn't look like much here, but trust me - I was squealing:

You might have noticed that the light kit is a cheap looking silver finish, while my fixture is lovely brass.  At one point in time, I might have taken the trusty metallic brass spray paint can to the canopy and cord of the light kit, but no longer - my new friend for projects like these is Rub'n Buff.  I've used it before in a few DIYs and it works like a charm.  I like it because you can apply it to something after you've assembled it (i.e. I was able to "paint" the canopy you see above gold after I installed it, which would have been impossible with spray paint), and application is really easy.  Like the name indicates, just rub it on with your finger or a cloth and buff it off!

You can see the antique gold finish on the canopy and cord a bit better here:

OK, so finally.  Here are some pictures of the finished hallway!  I'm so, so pleased with how everything turned out, and extra proud of this DIY because I finally conquered my fear of switching out light fixtures on my own.  So empowering to be able to do it myself - and now I want to change all the lights in my house.  And yes, the yellow dresser is the very same craigslist find that I stripped and painted many moons ago, and the lampshade, now that I think about it, is also an old DIY...

So the lesson of today's post is: don't be afraid to do these projects on your own!  I was surprised at how simple the electrical was - though my house is admittedly somewhat newly rehabbed; I don't know if I'd be singing this tune if I were dealing with old wiring.  My next step?  Maybe trying to switch out my bathroom faucets by myself...?!   We'll see!!!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 12, 2015

sneak peek - stenciled hallway

It's gray and cold outside in this unseasonably cold Chicago summer, so here are two pretty pictures making me happy today.  I wrapped this pretty birthday present this morning and couldn't resist taking a picture.  And here's a sneak peek of my upstairs hallway, which was ugly and boring with drab white walls and builder grade lighting before, but now looks fun with my little makeover: I stenciled the walls and hung that pendant light myself!  Which was in and of itself a massive achievement for me - have always wanted to know how to hang light fixtures on my own and finally figured it out with the help of some friends' coaching and a couple YouTube videos.

Before and after of the hallway to come soon!  Have to wait for the sun to come out again (who knows when that'll be?!) so that I can get a better shot than the dark grainy one below.

Monday, May 18, 2015

it's been a while

I'm the worst.  So many empty promises about 'pictures on the way' and then months go by with nothing posted.  So sorry about this to my (very few) readers - it's been an insane few months (as always).  I'm working on getting some professional photos taken of my house, since there's a possibility that my place will be featured on one of my most beloved design blogs (which remains nameless for the time being, in case things don't work out).  If and when that happens, I'll be sure to link here.  For the time being, here's a little eye candy - and yes, that's my new couch in the first picture!   Spring has sprung, and the house is feeling fresh and clean!

Monday, February 9, 2015

I like this shot...

...of my table set before I hosted a holiday party for my grandma a few weeks ago.

More soon, I promise.  New couch is being delivered Friday and pictures WILL BE TAKEN!