Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Tis the Season....

....for decorating, entertaining and holiday link parties!  I will be linking up the following tablescape to Centsational Girl's party for a chance to win a $100 Home Goods gift card in addition to a few others.

Here is my gold and silver palette inspired by nature.  Maybe it's a sign of the times, but I am in the spirit to use what I have and truly embrace the old adage, "waste not, want not."  I am proud that everything on my table, with the exception of a couple tree ornaments and the food, was already in my home.

Did anyone catch the 60 Minutes program on Sunday about the homeless families in America? It really hit home with me, and put things into perspective.  This year has been challenging for so many families, and our family is no exclusion.  At the end of the day, I am so thankful my little family is happy and healthy.  As long as we have each other, I couldn't ask for more.

That being said, here are the goods....

I mixed gold and silver for a timeless look.  The beaded China was from my wedding registry via Crate & Barrel, and I mixed it with some silver pieces inherited from my grandma's collection for a vintage look.  I added some brass candle holders purchased from Goodwill...

I LOVE decorating with food...

I stole a few IKEA candles from my fireplace for some ambiance, paired with some leftover green moss and curly willow from my floral supplies.  The silver tray was a wedding gift from Peru.

some curly willow....

....some silver and gold BLING.  The tree ornaments were from my collection, and the icicles were C&B circa 2010.

...and more BLING

I went without a table cloth to showcase our new table, courtesy of Kanto Home....

I swapped out my host chairs for the Ikat Farmhouse Chairs from my previous post.  The miniature trees were from Big Lots for $4, the mercury ball was from my bookshelf.  The votives are C&B from last year.

Have you caught the decorating bug?  I am just getting started, so bring on the holidays!

Linking to the following holiday link parties: 



Liebster Blog Award

I received an e-mail last night that really made my evening.  My new friend, Samaa, at Honey Sweet Home  awarded me the Liebster Blog Award.   The award is designed to promote new bloggers with less than 200 followers.  I am so grateful to receive the award, and happy to promote other new bloggers like myself.

I would like to dedicate this award to a fellow blogger - my father.   At 68 years young, recovering from a stroke that nearly took his life, my dad traveled all the way from Michigan to Alaska on his Harley Davidson with little more than a tent, a mess kit and two-weeks worth of clothes.  His journey was such an inspiration to me.  If you know my father or not, you will find his blog to be funny and inspiring.  Here is to you, Dad, in hopes that you will end your hiatus and get back to what you love - traveling and blogging.  You truly have a gift!

It has been so incredibly gratifying to receive comments from new people who have been inspired by  my work.  I truly love blogging, and the sense of community that comes with it.  Thanks again, Samaa, for keeping me in mind.  I hope to keep posting beautiful creations and ideas for everyone to enjoy.

The rules of the award are as follows:
1. Post about the award in your blog, linking back to the person who gave it to you.
2. Award 5 new bloggers, and leave a comment telling them so.

Here are five new blogs to check out:

Please stop by these blogs and show 'em so love! You just might make someone's week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ikat Farmhouse Chairs

After several months of sanding... more sanding, and playing around with different finishes.  I FINALLY finished these lovelies.

They were a bargain deal on Craiglist.  The listing read, "I crawled on these chairs as a toddler.  I am now 60 years old. My mother crawled on these chairs as a little girl.  She is now 80."

Man, I am such a sucker for a good anecdote.

I just couldn't pass up this set of four farmhouse chairs, only to be discarded at the nearest curb.  Apparently, I was the only person who saw the potential.  If there is one thing I am really good at, it's spotting a diamond in the rough.

They were in rough shape, but I bit the bullet because the chairs were solid oak with dovetail joints, and the springs were in surprisingly good condition.  They stood level with no creaks.  There were a couple deep cracks, and the finish was in major need of some TLC.

The upholstery had probably been replaced a couple times, most recently with the oh-so-stylish chocolate vinyl.  The chairs were in desperate need of a good sanding, but I loved that remnants of the original olive paint were still visible.

I sent the photo and dimensions to a local antique dealer who verified the chairs were probably English or American farmhouse chairs, at least 60 years old.

I had never refinished anything before.  Since my intention was to resell, I contacted a couple of professional refinishers for a quote to restore the chairs, and the bids range from $165-$250 per chair. Yikes! I also struggled because the quotes were to make the chairs "like new." I realized that I didn't want them to look new - the whole reason I fell in love with them was because they looked old.

I started sanding the chairs a couple hours - here and there - over a period of weeks. This was what they looked liked mid-way through.  You can see the grain of the oak starting to show through, but some of the paint is still left behind.

Warning: Make sure if you are working with old furniture (1978 or prior) that you take precaution and wear a protective mask, for risk of exposure to lead-based paint.

The finish was a three step process:

First I sanded them smooth, which took many hours. I didn't attempt an electric sander - one, because I don't own one (hint hint, relatives and/or spouse) ; and two, because I wanted control over the finish.

I didn't keep track, but I would estimate at least 20 hours of sanding for all four chairs over several weeks.  I used a 80 grit sandpaper to get rid of the crud and initial roughness.  Once the initial layer of dirt and crud was removed, I moved to a 120-150 sanding wedge to maintain as much of the original paint as possible.

Once the chairs were completely smooth.  I stained them with Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut.

Finally, I diluted a 1 part Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Country Gray with 1 part water to create a wash of color, allowing the grain of the wood to peak through.

I can't express how amazing this paint is to work with.  It is so easy to use, and is virtually impossible to screw up.  I used a 200 grit, very fine sanding wedge to gently sand the paint down enough to remove the obvious brush strokes.

Here is the finished product.

I gently sanded the paint into the grain, and buffed it to a subtle sheen. The dark area you see below is the original paint peeking through.   

I had them professionally upholstered with 7 yards of Robert Allen's, Sweet Nothings, Ikat in twine; 40 feet of upholstery tacks; and new foam for each seat.  

I am truly proud of the way they turned out.  If you see them in person, you will notice that each one is unique. The chairs look as if they would be rough, but when you run your hands along the arms, the finish is smooth as can be.

I was going for a updated vintage farmhouse look.  Do you think I was successful?

The chairs are now available for purchase in my Etsy store.

Linking up to the following parties: 


Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Heart Gray

Color is one of the easiest, and most inexpensive ways to bring life and personality to a space.  For no more than the cost of paint, you can virtually transform a room.  I love adding color to a space, but despite the infinite possibilities in the color wheel, I always resort to neutral palettes for their timeless appeal and soothing qualities.

My favorite neutral right now, seen everywhere, is gray.  Gray is mysterious and elusive.  It changes continuously depending on the lighting, and the objects and accessories it surrounds.  

There are cool grays with green and blue undertones...

via Better Homes & Gardens

via Pinterest

and warm saturated grays with notes of violet and red.  

via Pinterest

The versatility of gray is endless.  It can be modern and masculine, classic and feminine - sometimes all at once.

via House Beautiful

Not sure how to make gray work for you?  One key to finding the right shade within a sea of options is to take hints from complementary colors in your space, and choose a gray with those undertones.

Gray varies greatly depending on the light.  Be sure you evaluate the color throughout the day in both natural and ambient lighting.  Paint the sample on each wall of your room for the best result.  

If you are unsure, consult a professional to help you.  It is well worth the hourly fee that most designers charge for a quick color consult to ensure you choose the right shade for your home.

Do you have any gray rooms in your home? Do you have a go-to gray that you recommend? Please do tell.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy-Rise Autumn Pumpkin Bread

Oh I love thee.  Cozy sweaters, cooler weather, tall boots and all things pumpkin.  Pumpkin Spice Lattes, toasted pumpkin seeds,  and of course...pumpkin bread. 

This is a delicious recipe for a quick-rise bread.  It doesn't contain any yeast, so the dough doesn't need to rest prior to baking.  You can have a delicious dessert or snack in just over an hour.

Since Mateo is apparently "too big" for naps these days, I decided to put him to work.

This was at the expense of my kitchen of course, which looks exactly as you would suspect with a 3-year-old operating my large stand-mixer.  But it's all good.  He is only young once, so I am going to enjoy it, and try not to take things too seriously.

This recipe makes three small loaves.

4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup of evaporated milk
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease three 6-inch x 3-inch x 2-inch pans with non-stick spray or butter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil and milk.  Blend in pumpkin.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to pumpkin mixture and beat until combined.

Pour into pans.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean.  Cool for 15 minutes.  Loosen the sides from the pan with a butter knife, and invert the pan so the bread falls out.  Turn right side up and dust with confectioner's sugar.

You can have one for yourself, give one away and still have one more for your freezer.  Let's see if Mateo approved.

"More Mommy, MORE!"

 His reaction to my obvious answer when he requested a third slice. 

I guess that means it was good? Try it for yourself and see what you think.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

30-Minute Linguine

I LOVE to cook.  With the addition of Luca (he is six months old today!),  I can count on one hand the number of times I have prepared a meal since he was born.  The result is, we eat the same things 3-4 nights a week (snooooooze).  Aggh! I must get my cooking groove back.  I am missing the variety in our diets.  And I am pretty sure it would be more economical to raise our own chickens with the amount of poultry we have consumed in recent months.

I came across this recipe at Luca's checkup this morning in Parenting magazine, and decided to test it out for lunch.  It's a 30 minute pasta by celebrity chef, Buddy Valastro, host of TLC's Cake Boss and Kitchen Boss.  I never really stick to the recipes, but I must give credit where credit is due.  I modified the original recipe, so following is my version.

I substituted shrimp for chicken (that is what I had in my fridge), and swapped the baby spinach for baby kale.  Did you know Kale is a superfood?  It's so delicious!  This pasta is fail-proof, and absolutely yummy.

3/4 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tsp chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil and more to taste
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 box of linguine (I choose the Barilla multi-grain pasta in the yellow box)
2 tbsp butter (I recommend the Presidente brand)
1 lb chicken in 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup of dry white wine
2 cups of baby kale
salt & pepper to season
fresh grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a baking dish, toss the cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp of chopped fresh garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and mix in the bread crumbs.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

In the meantime boil one box of linguine in generously salted water.

Meanwhile, heat a large saute' pan over medium heat with 2 tbsp of butter, and remaining chopped garlic.  Cook the chicken until golden brown on all sides, seasoning with salt and pepper.  De-glaze the pan with 1/2 cup of white wine.  Bring the wine sauce to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Add the cherry tomato mixture, drained pasta and baby kale.  Toss well, and dig in! This recipe is perfect for busy families.  I can attest after making it for myself, it was ready in 30 minutes - tops.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pottery Barn Side Table Makeover

I had my first experience with my new shipment of the highly-anticipated, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and it was a success! 

I found the paint to be very workable and forgiving, and this is coming from someone with limited experience painting furniture.  I tried not to read too many reviews on the product (everyone raves about it), because I didn't want it to influence my opinions.  But I have to say, I will definitely continue to use the paint, despite the hefty $35-a-pint price tag. 

Here is a picture of the piece in progress.   This is what the piece looked like during the first application of Annie Sloan's Country Gray.

As you can see, one coat allows the color underneath to show through.  The paint was developed to provide a great deal of versatility.  According to Annie Sloan's website, the paint can be diluted with water to create a "wash" of color.  The paint can also be thickened by allowing it to set overnight with the paint can opened, which will provide a textured effect.

I will provide a more detailed product review in an upcoming post, but first, I wanted to share the finished product with you.  I just love how the Pottery Barn side tables turned out.  

Here is a picture of one side table before.

And the end result.

The color I chose was Country Gray.  It is almost a pale, pistachio green.  The paint dries in a soft matte finish shown above.  When you wax it (recommended), it turns slightly darker with a subtle sheen.  The proprietary wax also offers versatility when distressing the furniture, while providing some protection.  

I chose not to distress these side tables because I loved how pretty they were in one solid color.  I am just going to let the pieces distress naturally with normal wear and tear. 

I dressed these babies up with some gorgeous, vintage-inspired drawer pulls purchased at Anthropologie.  They have an incredibly unique selection of hardware.  It can get pretty pricey, but I was able to purchase these pulls for $8 each.  They are the jewelry, after all.  Since I only needed four, it was worth the extra splurge.

I also lined the drawers with some linen wrapping paper purchased from World Market for just $3 a roll.  This was a huge upgrade from the standard shelf liners, and it's cheaper too!  

I measured the sides and bottom of the drawer, and cut the paper to fit as shown here. 

I adhered the paper to the drawers using a spray adhesive.  I had Elmer's Spray Adhesive in my arsenal, but there are several different brands.  It is holding up OK so far, but I think next time I will use a stronger bonding agent such as Mod Podge.  If you go the spray adhesive route, make sure you lay a cloth on your surface prior to spraying. Then attach the wrapping paper to the inside of the drawers, making sure to apply enough pressure to eliminate any ripples.  

So there you have it.  These side tables will be right at home in my newly-painted guest room/office.  I love how the room is coming along.  I can't wait to have my own sanctuary to sip my morning coffee. 

Let me know what you think!  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mother Nature Strikes Again - Literally

What a crazy week it has been already.  Hubby is in Miami for business, and I am home with two sick kiddos.  I guess its Murphy’s Law—they seem to get sick every time I am home alone.
But I am not letting that keep me down – no ma’am. In fact, I realized how much more productive I can be when home alone.  I have to keep myself busy, otherwise it feels awfully lonely in this big ‘ole house.

Not to mention, we had a huge thunder and lighting storm that caused a power surge in the upstairs bathroom.  The kids and I were in the kitchen having dinner, when I heard a huge crash.  Immediately, the smoke alarms triggered.  I thought surely the painfully ear-piercing sound would send the children into frenzy.  They were surprisingly calm.

I was certain the house was hit by lightning (I was right), and immediately tried to gather my senses and stay calm for the kids.  I looked upstairs, and glanced outside for any signs of smoke, but I couldn’t see anything.  I noticed the upstairs smelled like something was burning.  I didn’t waste any more time, and immediately called 911 to send the fire department.

It appears the lightning struck somewhere on the roof.  We are so fortunate the house did not catch fire.  A nearby neighborhood was struck with a bolt of lightning that burned down the entire movie set of the Alamo, in addition to starting a fire that spread 200 acres.  It is devastating the destruction we have had from wildfires the last few weeks.  My heart goes out to the local families and businesses affected by the recent disasters.

Here is the picture of the bathroom, post-storm.  Sorry for the dark picture but, there were no lights after the blowout. There was some minor damage, but overall, nothing major.  Needless to say, it could have been much worse.
I see more painting in my near future. Any suggestions?  This bathroom is screaming for some color.  While I am at it, I will certainly change the hideous builder-globe.  Yuck!
On a lighter note, my shipment of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint arrived last week, and I have been dying to start experimenting.  I chose Country Grey, and the standby, Old White.

Here is a sneak peak of the piece of furniture that I will be repainting.
Stay tuned for the transformation.  I have a set of these Pottery Barn pieces that I (over) paid for a couple years ago.  And they have been darkening up my guest room ever since.  I can't wait to make them over, and share pictures of my new guest room/work space.