Monday, June 20, 2011

Basil = Summertime!

Fresh basil from my front porch! I feel like it's finally summer when I can make pesto, one of my all-time favorite meals.

Here's a great basil pesto recipe... with mint added in for a little twist:

Basil-Mint Pesto
1 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves

1/8 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Pulse basil, mint, pine nuts & cheese in food processor. Drizzle in olive oil and process to combine. Continue adding oil to desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serve it on pasta, or over chicken. Sooo easy and super yummy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rotating "Coffee" Tables

I've yet to buy a real, grown-up coffee table. I've just never seen the perfect one. So... I tend to rotate random things from throughout my house to use in the living room... ever searching for the perfect "coffee table."

For a while I used an old coffee table that I found at Mile High Thrift Store (a good one if you live in Denver!). I bought it for $6 because I liked the turned wood legs. The top had some sort of fake wood, so I painted it antique white and free-handed some zebra stripes in big strokes across the top! It was a sort of homage to our recent Kenyan travels, and it tied in with some of our African decor pieces. It got a lot of comments from visitors to our home, but I always sort of wondered if they felt compelled to say something because it was so bizarre, whether they really liked it or not! And there were some stripes that bugged me. Rather than repaint them, I found myself constantly repositioning our magazines & books to hide the wonky bits! You can sort of see the table in this picture of our old house.

So eventually I talked my husband into helping me turn it into an ottoman! I put 2-inch pieces of foam over the table top and covered it with an outdoor fabric, to withstand our toddler's sticky hands. I learned a lot in that process, and will do things a little differently if I ever decide to make an ottoman again. Here you can see the corner coming loose!

When we inherited a red recliner, something red had to leave the living room... the ottoman was banished, and these black and woven cubes hung out for a few months (you might remember seeing these in my outdoor room).

Most recently, I moved my son's IKEA table & chair set in front of the couch. The scale isn't perfect, but I love the way the white lightens the room and the two-shelf storage is pretty handy. Not to mention that my son loves having it here!

By the way, I gave up coffee (and chocolate, and anything with cocoa) this week. I'm feeling rather sorry for myself, but my 3 month old son is allergic to caffeine! So to keep my mind off coffee, maybe I should call this the "juice" table, or the "water bottle" table. I'm taking name suggestions for my anti-coffee table.

Real life moment: Apparently dry-erase marker wipes off a painted surface if you clean it right away, but if you leave it for a few weeks (say, the first 2 months of your baby's life...), it is stuck on there for good! Does anyone have a suggestion for getting this off? I've tried every cleaning solution out there, and a good amount of elbow grease! Sigh.

My husband always says, "Once you have kids, you can't have nice things anymore." Please say he isn't right!

Update: alcohol-based hand sanitizer cleaned this dry-erase marker right off! Thank you, Gretchen! I thought it was rather ironic, since a bottle of hand sanitizer has been sitting on top of this table most of the time for the last few months!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Pick Your Plum"

Have you seen this website yet?

Pick Your Plum

It's my new favorite "daily deal" site. I think daily deal websites are ingenious. They prey off the consumer's desire for a bargain, while creating a sense of urgency. And then they show you a tally of how many other people have already bought the 'deal', hence telling you in yet another way that you just MUST have this product... service... whatever. I know how this works, but I'm still such a sucker!

Pick Your Plum is all super fun crafting supplies at a serious bargain. And I love that their deals are often just a couple dollars! Another way to suck me right in.

Here are a few of my finds:

Magnets made from vintage door knobs.
This was a crafted item more than a crafting item, really.

Peel & stick chalkboard vinyl to create a days of the week menu board. I'm thinking of putting these on a magnetic board to go on our fridge:

Pattern & tutorial for these super cute pear & apple pincushions from The Idea Room. Could you figure out how to make these on your own? Probably. But is it worth $2 to save the time & energy? For me, yes! Time is everything when you have little ones at home.

So go ahead, pick your plum, and get some stuff to inspire your next project! I'll be right there with you, picking away.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dresser Turned Kitchen Island

Last night I dragged my sister with me to buy a dresser I found on Craigslist. I've been searching the site for a couple weeks, looking for a piece with just the right lines to turn into a kitchen island - success is sweet!

Here are the photos that inspired me:

Ohhhhh. Amazing, right? (I first saw this on Nesting Place)

A bit less fanciful, but still wonderful. (From Faded Plains - her whole kitchen re-do is inspiring!)

And here is my beauty. She needs some work... the previous owner put on a very thick layer of high-gloss navy blue paint. And there are drips and scuffs and a drawer that sticks. But she's full of potential! I think I'm going to live with her for a while as I decide on a color. I'm dreaming of a butcher block top, with a little overhang on the back to tuck a couple of stools under.

One thing I might do right away is paint the rustic back (which I LOVE!) with chalkboard paint for Finley. We'll see...

Real life moment: This is probably what the "island" will primarily be for the next few months - a place to put baby's bouncy seat!

UPDATE: For photos of the finished product, read the post titled "Finally Finished!"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Baby Album - only 3 years late!

I was really excited to receive this in the mail today:

It seems natural for me to have an album of baby pictures around the house since I have a 3 month old baby, right? Well... yes. But this is a picture album of my almost 3-year-old when he was a baby! Can we say, "a little behind?" Yes. Quite. Party I simply haven't had time. But partly, I couldn't reconcile how to combine all these amazing photos I have of my firstborn with this:

a bag of all those important first-months mementos. You know, like his first hat from the hospital...

and birth announcement...

and footprints, etc. All important things, but they were keeping me from doing anything! The pressure of doing it "right" crippled me. I couldn't bring myself to start compiling photos or mementos, because I wanted it to be a perfect scrapbook/photobook for him to pour over with his children someday. Silly, I know. But a typical problem for me. The perfectionist in me turns into a procrastinator. Ugh. Then I just feel depressed because I've accomplished nothing.

The pending birth of Baby #2 helped to kick me into gear, along with an email from Shutterfly , with a 50% off coupon. I admitted that doing something with all the baby photos was more important than doing the perfect thing. So I decided to do a 12x12 photo book with pictures from his first few months, with plans to fill up a scrapbook with all the other mementos sometime in the future. I got the book 95% assembled before Baby #2 made an appearance, and I finally printed the book this week!

It's not perfect, and I've already though of a few photos that I forgot to include... but hey, if Baby #1 ever does look at this book a few years down the road, he won't know! And in the meantime, I will enjoy it immensely. What sweet memories of those first few sleep-deprived, colicky, overwhelming months of being a mom!

How do you compile your memories and photos of your children? I could use some inspiration for future endeavors!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Outdoor Room

Our favorite late afternoon hang-out spot while we wait for Daddy to get home from work is the front porch. At the end of May, I'm a little late in readying the space for spring, but now it's a wonderful oasis!



Slightly better, eh? I bought flowers and a couple plants (including an amazing organic basil plant from Whole Foods!) and an adorable little wire bird sculpture that was chirping my name, but the rest was just stuff we had around the house! One of the rare times when I appreciate all the extra junk we have yet to purge...

Still room for the essentials... like the milk delivery box.

How to create your own outdoor room:

1. Decide how you want to use the space. I wanted the following: space to sit with my feet UP, space for little boys to play, and space to have an occasional al fresco dinner with my husband.
2. Rummage up some furniture to make the space functional. Think outside the box! If your outdoor room is covered, you can even use indoor furniture. If it's not covered, grab some stumps from behind the garage, an old bench in the back of your garden, or your old dining room chairs that you could claim as outdoor furniture! In my case, I used an old indoor futon chair with cubes as a foot stool, and an outdoor bistro set. A hand-me-down chair and end table both spray-painted brick red complete the space.
3. Add layers as you would in an indoor room. Rugs, lighting, plants, baskets with toys & books, or magazines. Here's where you give it your flavor!
4. And lastly, don't expect it to be perfect! At first, I was deterred by my dreary front porch, and the fact that it needs some major renovations. The house is faded, begging for paint... the porch needs a new floor... the concrete stairs are sad and peely.... but it can still be a lovely place to enjoy while we wait for the time & funds for a major reno!

A couple nights ago, my little family gathered on the porch to read our bedtime stories, and my husband gave me a great compliment: "This is my favorite room in the house!"