Saturday, July 30, 2011

Guest // Treasure Hunt:: Jennie's Furniture Steals

Our new guest blogger, Jennie, has some exciting furniture steals from her latest Treasure Hunts! Check out these great finds she'll be sharing soon on her upcoming DIY Project posts::

I'm most excited to refinish this solid wood hutch I scored for $65 at Goodwill. I also have a dining table in the works to create a matching set.
Entry Way Bookshelf
A $19 bookcase from Goodwill I will be using in this unique entry way arch along with an antique gold mirror I found several years ago for only $10 or $15. By adding the mirror and some other fun decor touches to the shelf I hope to make this a beautiful entry way to our home.
Entry Table
This entry table has a classic design and with a little wear and tear it only cost me $25. I will be reconditioning this great piece to create a finished and elegant look in my entry way.

If you would like to be a guest DIY blogger, please contact me at: ahomebeautiful at gmail dot com.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Introducing Our New Guest Blogger:: Jennie

Jennie and her husband are recent newlyweds and have recently moved into their first town home together in our neighboring OC. Welcome to the wonderful adventure of starting your lives together and making your house your home! Jennie is excited to decorate her new home but as many newlyweds who are also busily working on their careers (oh and did I mention ambitiously obtaining their PhD), she is working her thrifty skills as well to make a home beautiful on a budget by shopping second hand and refinishing great furniture finds while adding her own crafty decor touches. Stay tuned tomorrow when we share a few of the pieces you can expect to see from her guest DIY Project posts!!

Ashley:: What are you looking forward to most about decorating your new home? 
Jennie:: I'm looking forward to the end product of having a comfortable, relaxing home that is full of things that my husband and I love. My husband and I both have large families and a lot of close friends, so we will look the most forward to sharing our space with others as much as we can!

Ashley:: What challenge are you facing in decorating your new home?
Jennie::  A unique thing is that I have to live with the bold colors that were in the condo, rather than repaint right away. We are on a tight budget since I'm starting a PhD program in August and will be transitioning jobs in the fall.  So that's a challenge, but a fun one since I'm finding that a lot of my things actually are coordinating! There are also some unique angles of the walls too so I'm trying to figure out how to place things. Finally, I want to create a few "me" spaces that will allow me to escape from my schoolwork and allow for some creative time without leaving visible messes everywhere. (Ooo, do I hear organizational posts?? ... I'm starting a new feature on this subject soon!)

Ashley:: Where do you hunt for great thrifty purchases?
Jennie:: I'm a total thrifty d-i-y-er! I'm also an ambitious furniture repainter and refinisher. I love looking for items to repurpose at Goodwill and Salvation Army and other clearance shops. I recently bought a shelf and a small table on sale at Salvation Army to sand down and repaint black for my entry way. After that, I'll focus on my dining room table and hutch, so that I can enjoy all of the fun wedding gifts that my husband Sam and I received earlier this year.

Ashley:: What do you look for when you choose furniture to repurpose? 
Jennie:: Every item needs to pass my 5 tell tale signs to know I've found a great piece.

1. I have to LOVE it! Meaning if I know I'll kick myself when I get home for NOT buying it right then...experience has taught me someone else will grab something good before I'm able to get back and get it.  (So true! I have sadly been there.)

2. It has to have GOOD BONES. I tend to gravitate more to classic pieces rather than trendy ones, and I also prefer solid wood. With classic peices and solid wood, you can always re-paint as color trends change. There is definitely a place for Ikea furniture, but solid wood simply stands the test of time.

3. CLEAN LINES are a plus. For instance, a lot of flat surfaces are easy to use an orbital sander to re-finish, versus lots of tiny grooves. Tiny grooves and ornate carvings can give pieces character and personality so if the piece is compellingly cute enough - meaning I love it - I'll spend the extra time sanding by hand. Otherwise, I'm lazy and prefer the power tools.

4. It has to FIT. By this, I am giving a public service announcement about carrying a tiny tape measure in your purse along with an index card of measurements for the spaces you're trying to fill. There will always be another peice of adorable furniture to find if it is too large, but thrifted furniture is rarely worth moving walls for!

(True story - when I was hunting for my baskets to "FIT" in our platform storage bed, I found these fantastic baskets, I had my measurements, but I had no way to measure them...when suddenly over my shoulder I hear the familiar zip us d-i-y-ers wouldn't mistake for a mere purse zipper and a very nice woman let me use her pocket-size tape measure!  I do keep measurements of things I know I need on a shopping list on my phone and now I have a ruler app too just in case!) 

5. The final question is "WILL SOMEONE ELSE LIKE THIS?".  As my tastes change, it's much easier to sell something on craigslist (for extra decorating $$) if it is not so unique that someone else will not love it too. A good example of this is the huge 40x40 coffee table I bought on craigslist 2 years ago for $20. I painted it black and loved it for 2 years, but it simply was too big to bring with us to our new place. I sold it on craigslist in less than 12 hours for $75 (more than I needeed to buy my recently acquired hutch).

These are fantastic tips, Jennie!!! We can't wait to see what you have to share with us in your upcoming DIY Project posts.

If you would like to be a guest DIY blogger, please contact me at: ahomebeautiful at gmail dot com.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Project + Decor:: Staining an Ordinary Basket

Key Basket
Key Basket
Key Basket
On Display

I've been hunting for a shallow basket to put near our front door and found this plain woven wood one on my last Treasure Hunt. It had the right shape but it was really blah and didn't go with our darker living room decor. But since it was plain wood and I had some left over stain from my antique window project this became an easy d-i-y decor piece. And I love how beautifully it turned out with the dark walnut stain.

Wooden basket made of natural unstained/painted wood
Wood stain (I used walnut)
Foam brush

How I did it::
1. Work on a surface that you don't care about getting stain on because it will leak through a lot! I did this on my work bench. I recommend working outside on a scrap piece of wood or thick cardboard. The stain will stain everything it touches.
2. Dip a foam brush very lightly in your stain. Instead of painting on the stain as you normally would a smooth surface, press the foam brush into the woven pieces to cover all of them, don't worry if it's a little thicker in some places than others, keep dabbing all over with the foam brush. It will pick up the excess where it needs to as it runs out of stain on the brush.
3. Let your basket dry for several days. It may still feel a little tacky but rub a clean rag over it to make sure nothing comes off. If not, it is ready for display!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Project + Decor:: Jewelry Display for less than $10

Jewelry Frame
Jewelry FrameJewelry Frame
On display

I have some really adorable jewelry boxes I've gotten as gifts over the years (thanks sis for my latest hand carved one - it's my fave) but my jewelry collection has outgrown it's storage so I needed a new solution. I've seen the idea to display your jewelry in frames so I decided to tackle this simple project.

I found these frames on my latest Treasure Hunt for less than $1.50 for all three. With some left over spray paint from our bed frame and fabric from building our awesome West Elm style headboard I only needed to get a few simple supplies. For less than $10 I turned these old frames into a beautiful display with easy access to my favorite pieces I wear all the time.
DIY Frames
Jewelry Frames
various wooden frames
white spray paint
scrap fabric - (you can use old clothes, linens, patterned contact paper, or scrapbook paper instead of buying new fabric)
cardboard, if your frames don't have backing in them - (you can pick up free boxes at beverage or grocery stores)
masking tape
staple gun (optional, see note on step 3)
brass cup hooks - (1 package of five 1/2 inch and 1 package of five 1/4 inch)
brass eye hooks - (1 package of seven)
photo hangers or nails

How I made them:
1. Remove any backing from your frames, two of mine had cardboard and old fabric backings already, and spray paint white or color of choice.
2. Measure and cut cardboard for new backing. Cover with fabric and attach to back with masking tape.
3. Insert fabric covered cardboard as the new backing in the frames once the paint is dry. Secure in place.
Note: I had to replace the staple fasteners for the backing on one of my frames. I did this by holding a narrow flathead screwdriver where I wanted to place a new staple while I punched in a new staple with a staple gun. This kept the staple from being flush against the frame. Use the screwdriver to pry the staple out far enough so it can bend down and secure your cardboard.
4. Attach your cup hooks to the frames you want to hang necklaces and bracelets on.
I used the 1/2 inch cup hooks for necklaces on the short edge of my largest frame. By attaching them to the outside of the frame it gave them an extra inch to hang. I used the 1/4 inch cup hooks on the long inside edge of a smaller frame so that the bracelets would lay flat against the backing.
5. Attach eye hooks on the short inside edges on either side of the frames you want to hang earrings on.  Tie string or ribbon between them to make rows.  Position them so your longest pair of earrings will still be inside the frame and not dangling over the edge when you hang them. I used string on one frame and gold ribbon on the other.
6. Hang your frames using photo hangers or nails.
7. Hang your jewelry for a beautiful display!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Project + Decor:: Spray Paint Transformations, Picture Frame

Pressed Flower Frame
Framed Pressed Flowers
Pressed flowers frame
On dislplay

A simple spray paint transformation for this pressed flower frame easily turned it to a beautiful decor piece. It looks great on our recently updated bookshelf with the hand carved stash box I found at the thrift store on my Treasure Hunt this past weekend. For less than $8 and a little left over spray paint from another project, these two versatile decor items will be treasured for quite some time in our home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Music Monday:: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A new indie band to hit the scene this year with the perfect summer vibe and a great sense of humor. When the first cheeky line of this song caught my attention - "How can you love me, if you don't like me?" - I had to look up the rest of the lyrics. I quickly found almost all of them were different and almost all of them were wrong...and the band was behind the joke. Their self-titled debut album was released this June on Fat Possum Records. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Treasure Hunt:: Thrift Store Visions

Thrift Store Visions

Part of the excitement about thrift store shopping is finding an amazing piece in great condition. Like this yellow plate with a feathered, painted brown edge. It's going to make a great pop of color for a house plant base. And since I found a great little book on growing house plants, I plan to hunt for some more fun plates once I gain my long-awaited green thumb. So far, I've really struggled with this hobby.

Finding great pieces or total steals like my books is fun in it's own right, but real successful thrift store hunts take vision. Being able to imagine the beauties you can turn someone else's recycled wears into is part of the thrill. To everyone else, they pass these items by as trash but being able to see potential can get you some real steals. 

For example, the three frames were each under 50 cents and are going to make a beautiful jewelry display by my wardrobe station in our bedroom. This $2 basket is going to get a makeover as well and be used as a key catcher by our front door. The framed pressed flowers looks shabby with the brown frame they are currently in. But I don't even have to get a new frame. For less than $4 and a little spray paint transformation, this will make a nice orange and white accent that will fit great with the orange accents in our bedroom, or the bookshelf we just put in the office.

All of these items will be featured under our DIY posts this coming week so check back for the beautiful transformations from this Treasure Hunt.

What types of items have you transformed from your local thrift store or flea markets? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Going Green:: No Impact Man

Wow! So we may be a little slow on the uptake in that we just saw this amazing documentary, No Impact Man, but better a little late than never. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. This one man (and his amazing wife and adorable daughter) take on the impossible task of transforming their consumptive Manhattan lives into a challenging no net impact alternate universe - something many of us can't even imagine - and he deeply inspired us that the "green" impacts we are currently making just aren't enough. Are yours?

Our small deeds...carrying our reusable bags, abandoning bottled water for reusable aluminum, recycling jars and other throw away packaging as useful household storage (toilet paper rolls make a rather crafty storage system - diy post coming soon!), getting on the no credit card mail list (mainly because they are just annoying and we live a credit card free, debt free life), reusing plastic bags for doggie cleanup, burning the paper grocery flyers in our backyard fire pit for kindling instead of throwing them away, shopping used at thrift stores, building some of our own furniture, barely ever eating fast food...etc. etc. Point is, we make an effort where we can but we are still learning. No Impact Man's experience taught us so much. And more importantly, he proves that if you just make the commitment to one thing at a time, you can make a vast difference.

While overall the changes No Impact Man makes are dramatic he does them in stages and not everyone will get to a zero net impact stage, but everyone can start at the beginning, one day at a time...I mean, who wouldn't want less junk mail? Who really needs to throw away all those Starbucks cups? (No one needs Starbucks at all...but that's just my crazy opinion because I don't like their coffee. Yeah, I said it!) Bottled water isn't even regulated by the FDA although somehow that doesn't bother any of you out there - you know who you are. Ok, enough controversy. If you like your Starbucks, I'm a coffee junkie so I still sympathize. The point of this post is to influence you to watch the documentary, do more than your doing to help our planet tomorrow than you are today, and to enlighten you to this wonderful source of inspiration sure to influence many more Going Green posts here at ahomebeautiful. So stay tuned and enjoy!

What are your unique ideas around the home for saving on waste? Share your repurposed and diy ideas (and blog links) in the comments for our readers. Thanks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Around Town:: Yosemite

Yosemite isn't exactly around maybe these posts will have to evolve into Around Town and Other Travels...I'd love that! But, Yosemite is completely relevant to living in Southern California to me and for now the Around Town posts because when I first moved here a friend (and Cali native) insisted that I was not a true Californian until I went to Yosemite. About five years or so ago now, I had accomplished what I thought qualified me as a resident...I had applied for my California drivers license, the new license plates were on my car, I officially changed my address...BUT my friend still insisted - and I trusted his opinion as an older and wiser local native - that all was not official until I witnessed the greatness that is Yosemite.

For my birthday this summer, my husband planned us an amazing trip to the famed Yosemite, visited by nearly 20 million people each year, and we became official Californian's. I had no idea there would be so many people there and it quickly erased all fear of seeing any bears! And then later, all fear aside, I was sad that we didn't see any bears...from the car window of course. We drove all over and saw lots of great sites from Yosemite Falls and Half Dome to the breathtaking Tuolumne Meadows and the gigantic Sequoia Groves. It was fantastic. If you can ever go, you must. It may have taken us both a while to get there but we now understand why we can truly call ourselves Californians. It was well worth the discovery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good Eats:: Warm Asian-Style Quinoa

Asian-Style Quinoa
Photo from One Perfect Bite

I'm always exploring new and healthy, but delicious, foods to incorporate into our staple diet and quinoa is something I've been wanting to try for so long but was somewhat intimidated by because I know nothing about it! Is it like rice? Is it more like couscous? I didn't know. Plus, the few recipes I had seen used it in cold salads and for some reason that just wasn't working for me. I wanted something hot I could eat for dinner. When I discovered this great warm recipe that even my hubby's particular taste buds would enjoy, I was thrilled! (Thanks to One Perfect Bite for the original recipe! My slightly altered version is below.)

This recipe includes one of our fave veggies, edamame, often found in Asian dishes and with it's unique flavor I decided to pair it with another Asian dish we love, delicious Pork Potstickers, in case this new food introduction didn't quite work out. The combo was ideal. And the quinoa was awesome! I would even recommend the unique tarragon and lemon dressing on a fresh summer salad. 

We rounded out the meal with a sweet, bold and fruity Shiraz (Postcode Collection 09 Shiraz) to compliment the tart lemon and salty soy flavors from the two dishes. Bon Appetite!

What other warm quinoa dishes do you love? Share in the comments and we will feature our fave new recipe in a future Good Eats post.

2.5 cups quinoa
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups shelled edamame
2 TBSP lemon zest
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 TBSP tarragon, chopped
salt and pepper
1 small roasted red pepper, chopped 
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (coat pan in 1/2 tablespoon butter and toast walnuts on med-low heat for a few minutes - until you can smell them)

How I made it:
1. Follow package instructions to cook quinoa. Place in a serving bowl when cooked.
2. Cook edamame per package instructions (usually a few minutes boiling them or heating in microwave)
3. If you have a gas stove you can roast your red peppers fresh, or used jarred. Roast on open flame, watching carefully and turning as each side chars black on the outside, let cool and chop. Add to quinoa mix.
4. Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, tarragon and salt and pepper. Toss over quinoa and stir to blend ingredients. Serve warm.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recipe:: Pork Potstickers

Pork Potstickers

This is a dish I've never made before but found to be a lot of fun to make and quite easy despite being a little time intensive. While it's not a whip-it-up-in-20-min meal, you can make a ton of them at once and freeze them to use for several meals or make them ahead of time for entertaining so they do prove to be time saving with some planning. They are delicious and totally worth the effort!

We enjoyed our first meal of Pork Potstickers paired with yummy Warm Asian-Style Quinoa (recipe found at this link) and it was excellent! Even my husband ate every last bite. We froze the extra Potstickers, but since they were so good we heated them up and ate them again the next day. AND we had them again a few days later with friends. We couldn't get enough of them! My adapted recipe is below. I actually made less filling than the original recipe calls for and it still yielded about 50 Potstickers.

Many thanks to Yumsugar for the original Potsticker recipe and wonderful photos and instructions. Definitely check out the Yumsugar post for help in making these your first time. Enjoy!

Pork Potstickers
1 medium (or 1/2 a large) head of cabbage
1/4 cup salt (*for draining water from cabbage not the recipe*)
1 pound ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1-2 packs of round Gyoza Skin (aka wonton wrappers. Round is best, but you can use square. Find them in the fresh or frozen sections of most grocery stores.)
3-4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

Pork Potstickers

Here's how I made them:
1. Shred cabbage using a cheese grater into a large bowl or strainer. Use the smallest grater you have because the smaller the pieces the better. A food processor also works well.
2. Cover cabbage with 1/4 cup salt and let sit for up to half an hour to draw the water out of the cabbage. You'll be surprised how much water drains out!
3. If you are using a bowl, drain the excess water from the bowl and then squeeze a handful of cabbage at a time to remove the excess water. It should be like squeezing a sponge - that's how you'll know it's ready.
4. Mix your drained cabbage with the ground pork, minced garlic and soy sauce.
5. On a clean surface, take one wonton skin at a time and wet half of the edge. Place a tablespoon or smaller scoop of filling into the middle.
6. Watch this fantastic video on how to seal the edge of the potsticker from Yumsugar.

7. Cover large non-stick pan with enough olive oil to coat the surface and heat on medium heat until hot. Place potstickets standing up in pan so that they aren't overly crowded. They can touch but shouldn't be smooshed.
8. Once all the potstickers are set in the pan, pour 1/4 cup water into the bottom of the pan, cover and cook for 4 minutes. The water will be sizzling and steaming to cook the insides of the potstickers.
9. After 4 minutes, add another 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook for 2 minutes.
10. After the 2 minutes, remove the lid, cook off excess water and cook for 1-3 more minutes. We liked ours crispy so we cooked the bottoms a little longer. Check the bottom of one of the potstickets from the center of the pan to see if they are done since this is where they cook a little faster.
11. Serve with dipping sauce.

Potsticker Dipping Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 scallions, chopped

Here's how I made it:
1. Mince your fresh garlic or ginger if not already from a jar. (We prefer fresh because it's cheep and I mince my own in batches and store covered in olive oil in the fridge for later use.)
2. Use enough soy sauce to cover minced ingredients.
3. Add crushed red pepper to taste. We like things spicy.
4. Add some scallions for extra flavor.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Music Monday:: Helio Sequence

It's been an entire week since I've blogged...where does the time go? Since it's Music Monday I decided to kick off this fresh week of posts with another inspirational tune that relates to some upcoming posts. My husband and I could not get enough of The Helio Sequence (*free* mp3 downloads on their site) on our latest road trip to Yosemite (pics coming soon!). Partly because it's one of the few bands where I actually uploaded the entire album to my phone because it's just that good....I definitely recommend buying the entire album...but also because this  song in particular has a great upbeat summer vibe, perfect for cruising through beautiful mountain views with all the windows down on a hot summer day. Love it!

Beyond the catchy indie vibe of Helio, I love this band because they're lyrics actually matter. Can't Say No responds to the consumptive nature of America and is totally relevant to the latest Going Green posts I'm working on this week so stay tuned and, as always, ENJOY!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Music Monday:: Esperanza Spalding

I am in love with this year's Grammy Winner for Best New Artist. I'm so happy she won. My husband discovered her a while ago and we love this song, Prescious, from her first album. The first time I heard it I thought he was playing Erykah Badu. They both have that beautiful, airy yet stong soulful voice that I love in a female vocalist. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Good Eats:: Kale Chips

Kale Chips
I recently saw this new idea for Kale and I'm so glad I tried it! Kale is one of those veggies that's super good for you but I'm still learning how to eat it. It's easy to use it in many of the same ways you use spinach, but this is by far the best way I've eaten Kale yet. And it was really easy to do.

Here's how I made them:
1. Trim your kale from the center rib using a sharp knife. I used two large leaves to get this snack size bowl full. Perfect for two.
2. Cut into about 2 inch size pieces since they will curl up and get a little smaller after baking. Ripping the pieces doesn't work well with Kale since it's pretty durable. 
3. Spread pieces on baking sheet and drizzle about 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil. Stir them around well to make sure both sides are covered. Generously salt with coarse sea salt.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 300. Remove from oven, let cool, serve and enjoy!

Kale chips definitely have a unique flavor so your non-veggie lovers may be skeptical at first but the crunchiness and saltiness sort of melt in your mouth and grow on you. They are such a healthy alternative that if the Kale flavor is still too strong I'd encourage you to try them with additional seasoning such as crushed red pepper to spice them up.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Project Update:: Antique Window Turned Table

The window has legs! Now it just needs glass so we can actually use it. But that is a project in itself coming up next week after we have the glass panes cut and get the other supplies. The staining process was a lot of fun. To see the bare wood I worked so hard to sand down turn this beautiful, rich walnut color was worth all the hard work. After adding some decorative bling to the legs with the door hinges it's really starting to look the way I pictured it. Check out how far it's come from the original window and come back next week for the unveiling of the final table and the d-i-y instructions!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's Stewing?:: Spicy Turkey Chili

Spicy Turkey Chili

I know it's a bit warm for chili this time of year...okay, it's way hot out for chili, but it's soooo good that we eat it year-round. And on my journey of What's Stewing? I couldn't wait to share this fave with you. It's healthy, it's easy to make, and it goes perfectly with my favorite in season item: avocados! Yes, avocados are a little secret of mine I use as a substitute for sour cream. They add the same cool, creamy texture but are a healthy, guilt-free fat.

Spicy Turkey Chili

Chili is a spicy stew and one of the more common stew dishes. My dish includes your basics - beans, garlic, tomatoes, onions, cumin - but with a healthy twist using ground turkey instead of beef. It also has a rich, flavorful spice from the beer and hot peppers without being overpowering. It'll warm you up but won't make you sweat or burn your mouth so you can enjoy as much as you want. 

1 pound ground turkey
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
3 TBSP olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can kidney beans
1 can white beans
1 can light beer
1 brown onion
4 or more hot peppers, diced (I usually use 1 habenero, 1-2 jalapeƱo, and 2-3 types of chili peppers)
2 sweet peppers, diced (red/orange/yellow/green)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce
salt and pepper
(*buy organic canned veggies and tomato sauce to avoid HFCS and added sodium)
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

Here's how I make it:
1. Cook the ground turkey seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and cumin in a pan until fully cooked.
2. Bake your beans in beer. Read my post of beer soaked beans for cooking instructions. You can make these ahead of time.
3. Heat olive oil and minced garlic in large pot. Add onion and peppers. Cook covered until veggies are slightly cooked and onion is transparent. Add diced tomatoes with juice and sauce and bring to a slow boil for a few minutes. Add cooked ground turkey and beans with the beer. Lower heat and cook for a few more minutes so all ingredients are hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and/or avocado.

More What's Stewing? to come so be sure to follow us and enjoy! Share your creations or twists on our recipes for a chance to be featured on our blog. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Project:: Spray Paint Transformations, Bookshelf

Brightened Bookshelf

We recently updated a boring brown bookcase to create an airy corner for reading in our office. With lots of leftover white spray paint from building our storage bed, and this bright orange and gold contact paper I found at the hardware store (I also used it as a window covering in our bedroom.), we had an easy transformation for less than $20. Since we only paid $40 for the bookshelf on craigslist, this d-i-y turned out to be cheaper and better looking than buying a brand new one. We love beautiful bargains!

Here's how we did it:
1. Remove the cardboard backing of the bookcase. If you want to reuse as your backing be careful you don't rip it when taking out the nails. We chose to replace our cardboard backing with tempered hard board leftover from our bed project. It's stronger and gave us a smooth surface to cover with the contact paper.
2. Scuff all of the surfaces you are going to paint with fine sandpaper.
3. Paint the bookcase. We used a flat white spray paint to cover the bookcase. We used two coats. Make sure you paint the underside of the higher shelves as both sides will be visible.
4. Cover the backing with contact paper. Contact paper is best to work with in smaller portions. Instead of covering the backing from top to bottom in one long piece we measured the roll across the back horizontally leaving an inch overhang on either side. This is also the direction the pattern on the paper went as well. Follow the directions on the contact paper for application. Trim off the excess paper by dragging a razor carefully against the edge. It trims very easily without tearing.
5. Attach your back panel to the bookcase with small nails and reinsert your shelves.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Music Monday:: Foster the People

Foster the People are a fitting band for today. They really represent freedom, small town kids that moved to LA that have finally made it in the big city, and as their recent interview mentions they write music about humanity and social issues. While the lyrics to this song have a deeper message, the "pumped up" vibe has an LA vibe that's summery, free, surfy the kind of thing you listen to hanging with your friends on the 4th of July. Have a safe and happy 4th everyone!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Going Green:: Lemon-Lime Body Scrub

Lemon Lime Zest Body Scrub
Lemon-Lime Zest

This lemon-lime body scrub is super easy and gives your skin a beautiful glow. The citrus is astringent and helps keeps pores clean, the sugar scrubs away dead skin and the olive oil adds moisture leaving your skin super smooth. Follow up with a clean moisturizer.

Zest of 1 lemon and 2 limes
Juice from 1 lemon and 2 limes
1 c. olive oil
about 2 cups sugar

Here's how I made it:
1. Zest and juice one lemon and two limes in a plastic container for storing your scrub.
2. Add olive oil.
3. Add enough sugar until the mixture in more grainy than liquid. There should be more olive oil than juice and the sugar and zest should be the most dominant ingredients.
4. Apply generously and massage into skin especially on elbows, knees, feet and hands. Don't use on your face. I recommend applying while in the shower but without the water running because you want to be able to rub it all over your skin before it washes off. For a refreshing pick-me-up, use in the morning and rinse with cool water. Store for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Read my 5 Tips for Keeping Natural Beauty Products Fresh

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Good Eats:: Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Chicken Pasta
I can not even describe in words how delicious this healthy dish tasted! I remember learning when I was younger that the secret to spaghetti sauce was sugar, which makes sense since it's so yummy. Most yummy things I knew about then had sugar in them. But, as I've learned more about cooking and grown more health conscious (aka my metabolism isn't at hyper-speed on it's own anymore), I've discovered there are so many wonderful tastes to explore beyond the manufactured HFCS we've all gotten to know so well in our regular diets. In an effort to rid our home of this depreciatory robber of our health, I banned our favorite tomato sauce and decided to go from scratch and found it was remarkably easy and better than anything I'd ever tasted in a jar!

1 container cherry or grape tomatoes*
1 medium size vine tomato*
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c basil leaves
1 clove garlic minced
* Use any kind of tomatoes you want. This was about 2.5 cups worth.

Here's how I made it:
1. Rub tomatoes in just enough olive oil to coat their skins and place in a roasting pan.
2. Roast tomatoes in the broiler for about 15 minutes, turning any burnt ones over part way through. I cut the large tomato in half and did not turn it as the skin was already up. You want the skins to get a little black so adjust your timing if necessary for your own oven. You should also be able to smell them cooking so you know the insides are nice and soft. Let cool.
3. Combine 1/4 c. olive oil, basil leaves, garlic and cooled tomatoes and juice/oil in bottom of pan into the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. The color is a beautiful warm orange (if you are using all red tomatoes) and the roasted taste with the fresh basil burst is delightful.

We ate this on whole wheat pasta with shredded chicken. I can't wait to make it again with heirloom tomatoes when they are in season this summer. Yum!
Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition - 2006I adapted this recipe from my fave cookbook and kitchen bible: the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition. Every cook, baker, mom, etc. needs a go-to reference cookbook like this that has everything in it. I use Joy because that's what my mom and my grandma both used but there are plenty other good ones out there.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Decor:: Contact Paper Window Shades

Orange Glow Window TreatmentOrange Glow Window Treatment

In decorating our bedroom I've been wanting to incorporate a warm orange as the pop of color in the room.  I have a few ideas for accessories, but when our neighbor recently installed a flood light illuminating their backyard all night...and our bedroom...I got a great idea. I didn't want to change the pretty sheer curtains I hung to ugly blackout curtains just to solve my problem so I gave our bedroom window a stained-glass treatment with Contact Paper.

I chose this beautiful orange patterned Contact Paper that I am also using on another project updating a bookshelf (diy instructions included). It's just opaque enough that it helps block out the light at night but also lets a pretty warm glow into the room during the day adding that pop of orange I wanted to the sheer white curtains. Plus, our home gets a lot of natural light, including the bedroom, so now we have a comfy place to retreat if one of us wants a nap or isn't feeling well.

This solution is easy, cheeper than curtains or shades, and if you tire of it or want to take it down it's made to come right off with no problem.

Here's how I did it:
1. Measure the window panes. Cut the contact paper in as large a strip as possible to fill the window with one cut. If you have to use multiple cuts line the edges up so that the paper doesn't overlap much so the light shows through evenly.
2. Follow the instructions for applying the Contact Paper making sure you clean your windows before applying.