Sunday, January 22, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Okay, so typically this blog is about home decor and repair (to some extent) of one or two newbies...but I am stepping away from that for a short moment because my time has been completely dominated with my work.  My two amazing 50's chairs are still languishing around the house just waiting to be covered in that yummy new fabric.

Boo.  Serious boo.

So to get my creative groove on, I tackled something that I have not done in a while.  Cooking.  Yes, I can cook and like to do so as much as possible. In the winter months, I like to marathon cook soups and pack them away in the freezer.  See, I work from home and live forever away from most every decent place to grab a quick and relatively healthy lunch.  Having individual servings of soup ready to go in the freezer is perfect! 

So, after being asked several times for recipes, I thought I would provide them in this format.  Today, I rocked one of those marathons - well sort of since I ran out of stem for the 4th one so will be trying that out later.  So without any further ado, here it goes:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is one of my favorites!  I love this one as it is spicy and kind of like my own personal version of chicken soup - only without the noodles. And with tortilla chips.

1/2 large white onion diced
3/4 cup celery diced
2 cups of carrots chopped into bit-sized pieces
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chili's
1 can of Hatch green chilies - your choice either mild or hot
2 quarts of low sodium chicken stock
1 whole chicken Roasted (can do this yourself as I do or pick up a lightly seasoned one from the grocery store to use)
3-4 corn tortillas

Directions:  in a skillet with a little bit of oil, cook the onions and celery until they are just going translucent.  Add to a large crock pot.  Dump in the carrots. Dump in the rotel tomatoes and chili's and the hatch chili's.  Add the stock and the tortillas (yep, just as they come out of the package).  Fire up that crock pot and let cook for several hours until the tortillas have broken down.  You can add the chicken while the stock part is cooking or wait and just add the chicken at the end to the bowl before you add the stock.

Right before serving, add some rough chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls with avocados, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and fresh tortilla chips for crunch!  Makes around 6 servings.

Beef Stew
This one is a family super fav in my world!

2 lbs of stew meat
2 cups of carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup onion diced
1 cup celery diced
3-4 large red potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans Campbell's tomato soup
1 quart beef broth

Optional:  Add corn kernels and/or Lima beans

Once again we are going to be rocking the crock pot (I have two thanks to a rocking mom!) To start off though, take that stew meat out of the package and rinse and pat dry.  Add to a large ziploc bag with around 2-3 tablespoons of all purpose flour. 

Add a touch of oil to a large skillet and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent.  Dump them into the crock pot and into the same skillet add a touch more oil, let it get warm, and chuck that dusted beef into the skillet.  Brown - don't cook - the beef and then dump into the crock pot.  Add in the carrots, potatoes, and any other option veggies you want.  Dump into the tomato soup and the beef broth.  Fire up the crock pot and let cook on high for 3-4 hours (or all day on medium if you cook while you are at work.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Our favorite way to eat is to serve up in bowls with good cornbread!

And for a final recipe, something new I have just started cooking:

French Onion Soup
I love this soup but it is so hard to find a good version of this without driving forever for some so why not make at home!

4 large onions - sliced (I used my mandolin so they would be even slices)
1/2 cup real butter
2 garlic cloves minced
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine - I recommend a hearty red like a Cabernet or red zin for this recipe
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 quart beef stock

In a large pot, melt the stick of butter and then add the sliced onions, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.  Cook the onions slowly until they caramelize.  This stage is really important as this is where most of the flavor for the soup comes from.  Cooking the onions slowly so they caramelize to a nice golden brown is really important. 

Once the onions have soften and caramelized, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and add the wine.  cook until the liquid of the wine is gone.  At this stage, add the flour and stir cooking on medium low so you don't burn the flour.  Cook like this for around 10 minutes so the flour integrates into the onion mixture. Finally, add the beef stock can cook for another 20 minutes.  I like a really low boil for this stage...too high a boil and you get a frothy mess on the surface. 

I serve in a bowl or crock (if you have them) with a large crouton and shredded Gruyere cheese.  I make the croutons out of homemade rustic bread that I have brushed with either butter or olive oil and toasted in the oven until super crunchy!

Well, there you have it!  Three soups to give a try on your own.  These are especially nice when it is cold outside so it is sad that I pick a day when it is 72 degrees in Dallas in January to go to town cooking.  but, I now have 20 servings of soup packed away in my freezer just waiting for my microwave....


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yes, I'm Alive...No, I Have Not Done Anything Creative Lately....

Give me a break!  I have been traveling for my know, keeping me in funds to do creative projects around my house as well as Christies.  I spent a week in Washington DC and the surrounding areas...a city that I love with people and clients that I genuinely like but boy was I ready to come home! 

I have to say that I love the Old Town Alexandria area though for the great architecture, brick streets, and general neighborhoodlyness.  I say this as someone who lives 10 miles at least from the nearest grocery store and moderately appropriate coffee shop.  The neighbors of my neighbors walk on four legs and eye me dis- trustingly when I head out in my leather shoes.  Good news....little traffic most days (unless someone loses a load of those giant hay bales)...bad neighborhood vibe. 

So one of the projects I plan on tackling in between travel in the next two months is the creation of a front porch bench.  Hopefully this will allow me to get to know the phantom people behind their doors on my street.  Here is the front of my little abode:
The "glamour"shots before I bought my house.  These come in handy for the Before pics!
 See, now it is hard to tell but that column on the right of the opening to my front door is exactly 4 feet from the brick wall next to the front door.  Keep up with me now....I am going to build and install a great 4 foot bench in this area.  The design I am thinking of will have the back outfitted with 2x2 wood slats from the top of the back of the bench to the bottom effectively becoming a "wall" for Snickers.  That way she cannot escape into the yard. Then, when I want to hang out on the front porch, I can just move her "Snickers" baby gate to the main opening to my front porch area. 

She and I can sit out there and just chill hopefully getting to meet the surrounding neighbors.  If not, well until I get the back patio built with appropriate shade/rain coverage, this might just be our go-to area when the weather is not so nice.  Well, as long as the weather does not look like this:
Yep, that is Texas in March 2010 right after I moved in...
Have a great holiday couple of weeks and if I get industrious, I promise to post some kick-butt projects that have been languishing around my house.  That or drink and eat myself silly...not sure yet!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just Because

So this week, I needed to create a video to express my Hamptonality (don't ask) and the only thing I could think of using as my subject is Snickers.  I mean, how can you not use the plethora of video of this cuteness:
Doesn't she look like a stuffed animal here?
I mean seriously!  Snickers keeps me sane when I am hip deep in some zany project either at my house or at Christie's.  She knows when to crawl up in my lap because I have stressed myself out over something or when to go hide in her travel crate (home base in her world) because I am busting out the big tools.

Snickers...she may not be certified but she definitely is a therapy dog in my life:
Who, Me?
I'll be back to regular DIY and decorator posts soon but for now, enjoy!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chair Project Planning

So, those of you who know me (hi friends from work!) know that I am always on the hunt for something I can turn into something fab...either for my house or for Christie's 1930's cutie.  While I am not the best at Craigslist - that award totally goes to Christie and remind me sometime to take a picture and post it of her amazing Duncan Pfyfe style table she found recently and snapped up! - I am totally good at digging through a consignment or antique store and coming up with amazingness!

Recently, I put these digging skills to the test down in the Design District when the stores had a street sale.  I had read about the store Again and Again (check it here) that had recently opened their second store so I wanted to check it out.  Really, I was on the hunt for an affordable settee for Christie but in the wandering, I came across these:
Hello my beauties!
Not only were they fabulous but they were also marked down to $400 for the pair. SCORE!


Now the material on the chairs is dingy, 80's, and scratchy to the touch but the shape is amazing and the chairs are in great shape otherwise.  So, what are the plans?  Well, for the wood frames, I am going to sand them down and most likely stain in a dark look.  They need to be refinished due to some scratching on the legs that cannot be touched up and a dark stain will bring the chairs more in line with the rest of the furniture. 

So far so easy.

then I need to tackle the cushions on each chair.  Once I pull out the button plugs hiding the screws attaching the cushions, I can just rip off the old fabric and go to town once again with the staple gun.  After rocking the Settee last weekend, this should not be much of a challenge.  I will need to do a bit of sewing with these chairs though to finish the corners off but that is also not too much of a challenge.

What was a challenge?  Finding fabric I love enough to tackle this project.  So, while down near the office, I popped into my favorite fabric store (seriously, it is like Fabric Disneyland!) and began the search.  And what did I find?  Only this amazingness:

Love it!  Fab material....craptastic photo
This fab material has several amazing colors and fun patterns that will make these chairs the showpieces of my living room.  I am so excited to get started on this project and share with you the fruits of my labor.  But, real world and work are getting in the way so stay tuned....


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chandelier's and Settee - The Project Overload Weekend!

Y'all, the past two days have been tiring but so worth it!  Christie and I tackled some major projects around her house in anticipation of the upcoming holidays and people wanting to come over to her house.  We tackled spray painting the vent-a-hood in the kitchen since it was cream and the rest of the kitchen is white, recovering the vintage dining room chair cushions for the fab Duncan Phyfe dining table she picked up locally, and tackled the biggest project...recovering the cute settee for the kitchen (more on that in a minute.) 

Before I roll into a crazy long how to on the settee though, I have to show you some pics that will shock and amaze you at the fab stills Christie has with those heinous brass chandeliers you see all over (can you tell I hate brass?)  On a previous shopping trip we took to the Habitat ReStore, she picked up several of these brass chandeliers for like $20 each with an idea to make them pretty for the kitchen and dining room.  So, here is what they both looked like before:

HELLO 1980's!
So, girl whipped out her mad spray-painting skills and went to town on two of these.  With a bit of fun crystals found at the local hobby store and some bead garland, she turned two blah chandeliers into some crazy amazingness! 

For the Dining Room:
Hello fabulous!  Shades added for a bit more of that formal look in the dining room
And in the Kitchen:
This is before the beads have been added but even in this state, 1000% better!
Spray paint....a DIY'ers best friend!

Now, onto the big project for this weekend.  I am going to preface this by saying that neither of us had ever tackled a reupholster project. Basically, the only experience that I had was watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the whole process we needed to follow to get the best results. 

I was positive.  I was confident.  I was scared that I might have bitten off more than I could handle but was not going to tell Christie that.  I did not want to ruin the settee but the heinous look of it meant that anything would be better.  So, what did it look like before?

Out came the flat head screwdrivers and the needle nose pliers and all that stored up anger we had and we went to town stripping this puppy of her flowers:

Yep, that's me getting my DIY on!
So very close to a naked settee!
Hundreds of staples, sore hands, and around 3 hours later, she was naked and Christie had whipped out the broom to sweep up the trash.  Goodbye floral material.  We will not miss you.

Now, while the destruction took a long time and was difficult, it frankly was the easiest part for someone who does not know what they are doing.  After all, you are just ripping the fabric off the settee so anyone can do this.  Putting the new material on is a different story.  It is important to know the basics of the order you cover the different parts of the chair so you can hide as many seams as possible.  Here is how I did it:

1.  Tackle the seat first
2.  Go after the arms
3.  Complete the inside back
4.  Close her out with covering the back of the Settee

Now, depending upon the type of furniture you are covering, it may be different but this is the general order for most items.  We used a natural canvas drop cloth as our material and it is always best to pre-wash your this type of thing as it becomes a bit more flexible and easy to maneuver.  Christie bought one drop cloth at the local hardware store.

Tools?  What will you generally need to make this happen?  A staple gun.  DO NOT USE A MANUAL ONE!!!  You will be crying before you get the seat covered.  I used a compressor staple gun but you can use an electric one as well.  What else do you need?  Scissors - sharp ones, a glue gun, and a whole lot of patience!

So, step 1:  Covering the seat
Cut a piece of material large enough to cover the entire seat and hang over so that you can pull the material through the back and sides as well as pull under the front of the settee:

Here I have pulled the fabric through the back of the Settee and am tacking in place.
Tack the back and the front in place with one staple each pulling the material tight.  This is really important.  Then pull the sides through the frame and tack each side with one staple pulling the material tight. 
There was seriously so much batting on this settee in the weirdest places making it difficult to maneuver!
Then, once you have all sides tacked in place, carefully smooth out the seat, working your way around tugging the material to make a nice smooth area.  Then go to town with the staple gun!  I started in the back stapling all the way across, then worked on the front, and finally finished with each side.  I left the areas around the front legs loose as I was not sure yet how I was going to finish them off:

Check out that nice smooth seat!
Next, I tackled the arms.  Since this piece has a rolled arm, I started on the inside of the arm pushing the material through the frame between the arm and seat then draping it over the actual arm.  The arms frankly were the most complicated and I was so concentrated on getting the arms to look right that I did not take any pictures.  Boo on me.  Seriously!  Local friends, if you want to tackle a project like this yourself, let me know and I will come and show you how it is done.  Anywhoo, I covered the top part of the arm and then covered the bottom part of the outside of the arm....following me here?
There I am smoothing out the arm of the Settee!
Once I had the arm fully covered, I needed to figure out how I was going to make the front part of the arm pretty....hmmm.  Well, I basically took a scrap of the canvas and just went to town stapling:
Staples as stitches!
Voila!  Stapled and covered.  A bit wrinkly but this was my first time so give me a break!
We were digging the staples and thought about just leaving them but then Christie went to digging in her stockpile of trim and found some great black zigzag trim and her glue gun:
Again, girl has some mad skills.  She was way more patient working this trim around the weird shape of the arm than I would have been.
How rocking is that?  So seriously cool people.  But, then we figured out we did not have enough of the canvas to cover the back of the to the hardware store we went....and they did not have the same color. Crap.  What were we going to do?  Head to the hobby store next door of course and find an amazing material that could and would be the feature of the chair!  Seriously people....I cannot wait to show you this!  What was initially a total party-pooper...running out of material and not finding more....became what made the chair totally fabulous! 

We only bought 1 yard as it was a bit expensive and then you basically do the same old thing...drape the material on the back and then tuck and pull the material through the frame on the bottom and sides and staple like hell!  And the finished back? Check it people:
Is that amazingness or what!
Now the very back of the settee we have left open for now.  We might want to rock a couple of button tufts in the seat back and we need the back open to do that eventually.  We are also on the lookout for more of the correct canvas drop cloths to use.  But, based upon where this baby is going to sit, the back does not need to be covered right away (we will do that eventually).  I also added a band of black canvas around the bottom to finish it off and....drum is Settee 2.0!!!!:
Bask people!  Bask in all her glory!
Doesn't she look awesome on the great painted wall that Christie did in the Kitchen?  Here is a better shot:
She totally fits right in with the painted wall and the great shabby metal back door!
Whew, that was a long blog post but peeps, it took like 12 total hours to rock this settee between two days.  Lessons learned?  Buy more than you think you will need of whatever material that you want to cover your furniture in. Have patience and realize you are not a professional at this and there will be flaws but that is part of the charm of the piece!  Oh, and have a cocktail or two while you are doing this...and make sure you have a good friend around to share the experience with.  Makes the time spent way more fun. 

Total cost for this project?  Well, Christie scored this settee for $125 on craigslist and the material (all of them) for this cost around $60-65.  So for less than $200, you have a fab piece that is unique to you.  Christie is rocking some pillows for it in the leftover materials and some fun trim.  I am at home looking at my two chairs that are next on the upholstery list!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Pretty Kitchen Pantry!

So I know I have not posted in, like, forever...but my job and my volunteer job (what's up Region 7!) have gotten in the way lately of any house projects at my abode or over at the McKinney Money Pit that Christie calls home (just kidding Christie!  You know I only think of it as a Money Pothole!)

Anyway, while staring at a sink full of dishes and not wanting to mess with any of them (not even to put them in the dishwasher...I need a dish fairy if anyone wants to buy me something for Christmas by the way), I took a gander at my kitchen pantry and thought, project time!  Now, not that I have time to throw in another project amongst the great chair rehab and bedside table surgery that I have planned currently or the fact that my parents are coming over for Thanksgiving and my messy house needs to be family presentable.  But I just could not resist the siren call of a brainstorm project.  I mean, you gotta jump on those projects immediately while the brainstorm is happening!

Anywhoo, I headed down to IKEA (it is way too close to my house for comfort and financial stability) for some storage ideas.  Perusing the great storage options, I thought about maybe hitting up some clear storage so I could see inside but I really did not like the look of a bunch of plastic boxes sitting on the shelves in my pantry.  I wanted something cute.  I am a girl so deal with it.  I stumbled upon these boxes:

IKEA Prant Box with Lid
This beauty is made out of plywood with metal corners so is a good option to stand up to heavy use in a kitchen.  But I could not just roll with plain plywood boxes in my pantry...oh, no.  That is when the thought struck me, "what if I could label them over and over on the contents but not have to sand or scribble or print out and cover with new labels?"  Blackboard paint.  Brilliant!

Now, I know blackboard paint is everywhere from walls to appliances but it was a really good solution to being able to change the labels over and over.  So, out came the cheap foam brushes and a quart of blackboard paint and you get these:

Three coats peeps and they were ready to go.  All 8 of them.  But remember to have a great blackboard surface, you must wait 24 hours between coats.  So essentially my living room was covered in newspaper and boxes for the most of last week letting the paint cure appropriately.  But they turned out great!

But, after painting the boxes, I started to look at the pantry and see just how sad it looked in it's builder white paint.  And then I decided to put a splash of paint on the walls while leaving the shelves white for contrast!  Color selection was easy as I love all kinds of blues and have been wanting to use the Peacock blue color forever but am not brave enough to paint a full wall with it.  But in a closet o pantry, it is just enough color for fun but not constantly in your face.  Sad are so going to be pretty soon:

Check out that Container Store door organization!  So helpful in a small pantry.

So, off to Sherwin Williams I went!  Problem?  I did not have any foam rollers which is what I wanted to use for speed of coverage and lack of brush I brushed the first coat on...leaving crazy brush marks:

Man, these were serious brush strokes and for such a small space, it took 2 HOURS to paint with a brush.  I was spent and wanted to let the first coat dry 24 hours before adding more paint (and getting to Lowes for some foam rollers!)  After a second coat, we were looking better:

Less brush strokes, more fab peacock blue color!  I added one more coat and then started the staging process:

I started off thinking I would use the lids on the boxes but decided I preferred the ease of access without the lids on.  I can use the lids for another project I have up my sleeve later :)  The only problem was I did not have any chalk.  So off to the store to stock up on thanksgiving food goodness and chalk!  And the final product:

Hopefully I will get better with writing with chalk and I also want to add crown moulding to the ceiling in the pantry but for now, she is done!  The best part?  I can cram a ton more stuff in the pantry than I could before and I discovered I had 3 jars of peanut butter!  So, what did this cost me besides time I really do not have?

8 boxes x $9.99 = $86.51 (sales tax included)
1 quart Valspar chalkboard paint x $14.26 = $15.44 (sales tax included)
1 gallon Sherwin Williams HGTV paint in Peacock Blue = around $27 (I never buy just one thing at SW!)
Finally, around $5.00 for foam brushes and roller
Total?  Right around $134.00 and totally worth every penny! 

Now I am off to Christie's for post-Thanksgiving reno work...coming up, we tackle reupholstering a settee and some amazingness that Christie worked on a couple of cheap brass chandeliers picked up at the thrift store....stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Mmmkay...I am about sick and tired of this blasted summer heat - and don't go telling me to suck it up since I live in Texas.  It is hot y'all and not just normal hot but nuclear hotdog hot and that is futzing with all my building/renovating/decorating plans.

See, I had good intentions this weekend but even after a blessed rain storm (which woke me up at 4:45 AM Saturday morning), it was still stupid hot and that just made me lazy.  How lazy?  Like couch surfing watching bad disaster movies on SyFy lazy (yay for craptastic disaster "movies").  I finally got my act together to get some semblance of minor order in my home office - which is good since I work from home - but pretty much nothing else. Dude. Not. Cool. At all....

I am really good at coming up with ideas for things to make or purchase for my house when it is hot outside.  The Internet is so my friend when it is hot and so I was on blogger yesterday catching up on another blog favorite and saw this thing of beauty:

Thank you Copy Cat Chic

I have been pondering what in the goobers I was going to do about my bar area in my dining room.  See, I bought this ginormous table but it was pretty and me wanty so I did it.  I had the table in my dining room for a year before I broke down and bought chairs for it (they are temporary until I can afford the Louis Ghost Chairs for every one's tushy).  Then I tackled that accent wall in blue. Now I needed something more snazzy than the re purposed bookshelf I have been using for years as my "bar".  I also needed something that would not take up a lot of depth and so when I saw this, I thought Bingo! 

The price was right - $89.95 for the whole thing before shipping costs - but the color was wrong.  Hey, for that price, I have no issues with getting it and then having to put a little love into it with paint.  I am going high-gloss white which will match the trim in the room and the eventual drapes that will make it on the windows. My credit card was burning up the Internet for this one last night.  Now I have to sit and wait for it to arrive...damn, that is the part I hate.

Now, anyone have a crystal chandelier they want to sell me uber-cheap so I don't feel bad about painting the crystals? Anyone? Please?