Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Happy Friday

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Happy Friday my dears! It’s spring break here, which means I’ve been playing hookey from everything, spending time out of town visiting twee little cupcake shops, fighting crazy crowds in the largest children’s museum in the world, eating a crazy good burger and generally ignoring the rest of the world. It’s finally warmed up in Chicago, so now that we’re back I’m excited to open some windows this weekend and get outside. Hooray for almost spring!

Some fun links.(although my stats tell me most of you have ditched the computer this week as well)

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Have a lovely weekend!

Fancy Monday

set a quick dining table

Despite being officially spring, it’s pretty gray here still, like much of the country. In fact, I think it may be snowing right now. I needed a little color and greenery to deal with this today, so I stopped by the store to pick up a simple bouquet. Once home, Emm and I decided we’d use them to make dinner “fancy”, so I pulled out a variety of items to add to our usual monochromatic selection of plates, placemats and napkins. I prefer to have most of my table linens and place settings in neutrals so I know everything can go together in layers.

fancy water

I love these little vases, they’re perfect down the center of a table and they make cheap grocery store mums and wax blossom look modern. I trimmed the top off some fennel to add a little greenery to the place setting, tied the napkins in a knot and placed the flatware on the plates instead of next to them. We added our larger size plates under the ones we use everyday for a little variety and sliced some oranges for our water just for fun. Quick, simple changes to make a gray Monday evening feel a little more special.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

bakery perfect chocolate chip cookies

Look, I made you cookies. And not just any cookies, nope, for you guys I made my extra special cookies, ones that both look and taste good. Because I love you (yes, you). I’ve made a lot of cookies and I know, and I bet you know, that those two things don’t always go together. Most of the time my cookies taste pretty good. I mean, they’re butter and sugar and flour for Pete’s sake. How bad can they be? But till recently they didn’t always look good. These, however, look like I could sell them. The trick? Why chemistry of course. What kind? I have no idea, I’ll leave that sort of thing to Alton Brown, but as this recipe looks very different in execution I know it must have something to do with the chemical reactions. Science (albeit undefined science) and a recipe. You’re welcome.

Directions. They are a bit different from your usual cookie. Follow them anyway. Start with the usual, cream your butter and sugar. You’ll need 3/4 of a cup of butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup white sugar. The trick here is that the butter must be melted. This makes it not look anything like normal creamed butter and sugar. It’s not light and fluffy. Instead, it looks like this.

cream butter sugar

Yum?? Don’t worry, it will all work out. Next, add one whole egg and one egg yolk. Yep. Also toss in 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla. And please, for all that’s holy, use real vanilla. Don’t get the imitation. Just don’t. Mix well. Then it will look like this.
butter sugar eggs

Slightly better. Add in two cups of flour, with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt whisked in. Mix until everything is combined. This takes a bit, as the dough is a little dry.

dough

Now stir in 1/2 bag of chocolate chips. They won’t want to mix into the dough, but that’s ok. You’ll force those suckers in when you create the dough balls.  Eat some of the dough, just to check for quality. No sense in baking them if they’re not going to taste good. Fend off any youngsters with the old “you can’t eat raw eggs, you’ll get collywobbles” routine.

dough with chips

Wash your hands. Hopefully not for the first time. Grab about a 1/4 cup of dough (I think I used slightly less) and roll it into a ball. Drop the ball on the cookie tray. Don’t flatten them.  I use the silicon tray liners, if you don’t you should probably grease your tray or use parchment or some such. Space them about three inches apart. I get 8 of these on a tray. Don’t crowd them.
dough on tray

Bake at 325°F (note, not standard cookie baking temperature) for 16-18 minutes, till light brown. Do not over cook or they’ll be bricks. Tasty bricks, sure, but not what we’re going for here. Cool for twenty minutes or until you can’t stand to hear anyone whining for a cookie anymore.
cooling

Or you can do what I did today. Melt the other half of your bag of chocolate chips. Add a little milk or cream to smooth out the consistency. Dip half the cooled cookie into the chocolate. Place the dipped cookies on a plate and put them in the fridge to cool and harden for several hours. Then make everyone wait to eat theirs until you’ve taken pictures.
dipping

chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies

Yum. The dipped version was very popular. This recipe makes 16 – 18 cookies. They last about 24 hours. It’s possible they’d last longer stored in an airtight container, but as we end up quickly storing them in our stomachs I just don’t know. They are the hands-down the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. You should make some today.

Original recipe here. I used slightly less white sugar and dipped some of them in chocolate.

Basement Lighting

sconces

I’ve planned to replace the hideous sconces in our basement since the day we moved in, but have yet to find anything I like better. Now that the seating area is looking good, I decided I wanted to make some other changes. I got serious about some sconce research and found 9 options that might actually work down there.

sconces

You can’t really seem them around all the glare, but there are two of them on either side of the chalkboard prints. They’re brass hideousness and they are the only lights for that side of the room. I’d like to replace them with double sconces to increase the light, but I really like some of the single options (especially that green one from Urban Outfitters. Color and price). The double sconce from West Elm is looking pretty good too though, I could always spray paint it for color. Decisions …

Sources.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

The Weekend

lazy weekend We did nothing this weekend. We actually did nothing quite a lot. It was glorious. The kids rediscovered our stash of audio books on the iPad and spent the weekend not fighting. I read two books while they listened. I did not think about blog posts or house projects (ok, maybe a little) or get anything remotely useful done. bakery perfect chocolate chip cookies There was also baking – these cookies turned out bakery perfect. I’ll put up the recipe later this week as I’m being forced to make them again. And because I didn’t make anyone wait to eat them till I’d staged pictures. remote control lego car with iphone There was a bit of lego building at the end though, of course, Finn & Roan built this remote control car that holds an iPhone and created quite the echo conversation via facetime. And Emm and I saw Hubbard Street’s fantastic performances with Lines Ballet. And I made some owl cupcakes for Emm’s class fundraiser (which they call a Hootenanny). Much easier than the owl cake fiasco last year. How was your weekend?

Links & Things and Things & Links

things

I’m combining all the posts this week. Lots of stuff to covet, projects to attempt and interesting reads. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week trying to get rid of some of the furniture and odds and ends that we no longer need and will spend the weekend doing more of the same, so it feels a bit odd to do a post just focusing on more stuff. That said, I like to look at pretty things. And on this gray, rainy day I especially like to think about riding a pretty green bike and having garden parties. Soon, right?

easter

Some projects, mostly Easter related, I may or may not attempt with the kids. The egg stack is not something we’ll repeat, but it’s super cool. Mr. Printables, where it’s from, is a new favorite for crafty ideas.

And finally, some links for the weekend.

This list of Things I want my daughter to know is lovely.

A great article on doubt. I can’t wait till Emm is old enough to read Rookie, it’s so good.

Lots of great ideas (including my basement) in this working with what you have link-up.

I put this in the Things graphic too, I really want to try it this weekend. Wallpapering walls with gift wrap – genius!

Amazing jewelry from paperclips. Click through to the link on paperclip chandeliers too.

This site for maker kids. We just registered Roan, he’s prepping his first post as I type. So cool.

Sparktruck’s new kick starter. Check out the cool kid running their mini-truck at 2:18.

The latest Sweet Paul magazine is full of wonderful stuff as always.

And the picture links.
Bike stuff. Bed. Tape. Shoes. Tunic. Lights. Owl. Bubbles. Salt Dough Eggs. Easter Tree.

 

Have a lovely weekend!

Planning the Kitchen

Kitchen ideas

Plotting out ideas for the kitchen mini-reno today. Which unfortunately won’t happen as magically fast as the basement seating area. We’re planning to replace the countertops, which are currently a dark granite-esque laminate, with a white, marble-esque Corian or Quartz. I know our family, we need maintenance-free countertops. New sink as well, as we’d like a undermount.

We’re going to try painting our existing cabinet doors, although as they’re from Ikea that might not work out. If it doesn’t we’ll replace them with new Ikea doors, this time choosing a solid wood option, and then painting those. Right now I’m leaning towards white and navy, with navy on the island and white on the wall.

I’d also like to replace our existing giant pantry with something more streamlined, perhaps using the corner unit billy bookcases. I have to figure out where to put the microwave though, so we’ll see if that actually happens. I think that the white countertops and white cabinets will lighten the space considerably, making a darker island a nice counterpoint, but we’ll see. I’ll make the final decision once we have the countertops installed, which will likely be early summer.

Finally,I’d like to install some pendants over the island and some can lights throughout the space. I’m getting an estimate next week, we’ll see what those costs look like. The electrical in this house is insane, it’s clearly been home to DIY folks since it was built in 1923. There’s a lot of crazy going on behind the walls.

Links to all items can be found here.

Linking up here.

Basement Dreaming Part Two

basement transformation I had a busy weekend. Remember Friday, when I was complaining about the attack of the overly brown basement? I put together a mood board, thought I’d need to get rid of everything and start over. Yeah, not so much. Turns out I just needed to get a new rug and shop my furniture hoard. Never underestimate the power of shopping your home. Or the power of outlet stores. I’m really quite astonished by how simple (and cheap) this “makeover” was. After I hit publish Friday, I convinced Nicole to trek out to the Crate and Barrel Outlet store with me. (She got a table. We strapped it to my car. Then we high-fived and downed a couple of beers. Or maybe we just got 900 calorie shakes). I was looking for chairs and a rug, still thinking I need to get rid of everything. Nada. So we went next door to the Land of Nod outlet just for kicks. Where they had a lovely, striped  8×10 rug in perfect condition. This one, to be precise. And some storagepalooza’s to boot (those things were the reason the table ended up on the roof). Several hours of rearranging and cleaning later and the sitting area is looking so much better. from side three I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to divide the space up before. It’s always felt just a bit too long with the couch and TV at either end. That weird little nook by the window threw everything off, not quite big enough for another chair, too big to ignore. Now it feels like the nook has a purpose, cordoned off with the desk and storage on either side. The desk was originally upstairs, displaced when I moved the round dining table in front of the window. The console used to hold the TV. And the black console that the TV is currently on was hiding behind the couch. I’ve resisted getting rid of it for years, even though until now it’s never really fit in this house. It was the first real piece of furniture Finn and I bought together (13 years ago, our anniversary is next week. Yikes.), so I’m pleased to have finally found a good spot for it. The lamp used to be upstairs, where it’s been in the way ever since I bought it. My mom painted those pictures of my kiddos. Isn’t she amazing? Some more photos from various angles (the books are helping the rug pad straighten out). from furnace from desk

from bathroom

desk nook 1 The rug is not perfect. It’s very thin, practically like having a blanket on the floor, so I’m not sure how well it will hold up. I put a super thick rug pad underneath to help with warmth and softness over our concrete floor. I’d also forgotten that an 8×10 rug is just slightly too big where one of the posts is, I’d cut slits in the wool rug to accommodate. That won’t really work with the cotton one, so hopefully no one trips. I placed the sofa opposite that spot to direct traffic around it. And lest you think our basement now looks too nice, a quick look at what’s hiding on the side of the room. Also, let’s not mention the mouse-hole I found when I moved things around, okay?

to do text

Still, not bad for a basement that five years ago had no floor and a (truly disgusting) pink hot tub in the middle of it.

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Basement Dreaming

Basement Ideas

Scheming and dreaming, those are the themes this week. With a little cake thrown in for good measure. I mentioned a while ago that the basement is currently wildly underutilized. While I think that will change some in the summer, I also think it’s a sign that we’ve outgrown the space in its current arrangement. Here’s a shot from when I first showed you the space.

basement and garden 037

We’ve changed it up quite a bit since then. We switched out the messy expedit for a sewing nook.

kids sewing nook

And when we moved the basement sectional upstairs, the two Room and Board Jasper sofas went down to the basement seating area. I haven’t shown you that. Mostly because, meh, it’s really brown down there now. Here it is, in all its brown glory.
basement

from door

Brown rug, brown sofas, brown curtains. Bleh. Plus they don’t really fit in that space. It’s weird, like all basements, full of odd nooks and headers. Plus, most of the time it looks like this.

mess

 

It looked like that a lot with the sectional too, but it didn’t bother me as much. Because the sectional was Craigslisted Ikea and those sofas are Room and Board and we saved up for them. Never mind that that was a design mistake that I’m slowly accepting, I still can’t allow the kids to trash them. So before they get trashed I’m cutting my losses and selling them. Or at least one of them. Above you can see some ideas for brightening up the space. I’ll likely pick a color scheme, right now I’m liking emerald, navy, white and gray (much like my outfit today) and then hack some Craigslist finds. I’d like to have something down there that can also serve as guest/sleepover quarters. And perhaps turn one of those odd nooks into a library corner with a cosy chair.

We’ll see. We need a larger craft table, which is currently an Ikea hack in process, a music area, open space for building and running, reading and hanging out space and room to do yoga and Wii. That’s a lot to ask of any space, but the room is large. I think I can make it nice enough that we find reason to use it again. In the meantime, anyone want to buy a sofa?

Mood board sources here.


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