Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Project 12: Backyard Makeover

We live on a steep hill (I'm talking 'bunny hill' ski slope steep) -- about the only flat part of our property is our back patio, which is covered 100% in flagstone. When we bought the house, we knew we'd like to completely revamp the patio to improve drainage, plus increase usable square footage. As you can see from the original pictures of our patio, about 1/3 of the patio was taken up by doors to access the basement (ala "Auntie Em!"), which we NEVER used.

To get things started, we had the 2 old trees (one that was rotting) removed, which REALLY opened up the space and allowed us to expand the square footage by 92 ft. Next, we found a mason contractor that came in and installed a 2 foot high stone retaining wall (which can double as seating for large parties, removed the doors to the basement, added new drainage, and regraded the entire patio to drain properly.

As you can see...the transformation is just incredible -- especially with the new furniture and accessories. We use this space almost daily during the summer, and it's been a great way to entertain large crowds.

Nothing better than sitting around the firepit with friends and making s'mores for the kids...

What a view!

Seating for 8 people easily now...

Amazing what weeding and new mulch can achieve! It's our little garden oasis.

As I look outside now in February to everything covered in a foot of snow, I can only dream of our warm months ahead when we can once again enjoy this space. Sigh... :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spinach-Mushroom Crustless Quiche

This is a great recipe for holiday mornings or a special brunch with friends. I normally make the spinach-mushroom-onion mixture the night before and then just drain well when adding to the pie dish with the rest of the ingredients. Feel free to play around with different combinations of cheese for the mozzarella (I love Gruyere, or a combination of Asiago and Fontina).

Serves: 6

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ tsp minced garlic
Non­stick spray
1 large bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 oz. feta cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
½ cup shredded mozzarella
Salt & pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and saute for 5-8 minutes, or until the onions begin to wilt and turn slightly brown in color. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, minced garlic, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Turn the heat on to medium­high and saute the mushrooms until they release all of their moisture and no more water remains on the bottom of the skillet (5­7 minutes). Add the chopped spinach and saute a few minutes until wilted and no moisture in the pan.

3. Spray a pie dish with non­stick spray. Spread the mushroom, onion, and spinach mixture on the bottom of the pie dish. Next add the crumbled feta.

4. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs until fairly smooth. Add the milk, parmesan, and another small sprinkle of pepper. Whisk to combine. (This step can be completed while the mushrooms are cooking). Pour this mixture into the pie dish over the spinach mixture and feta.

5. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over top. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet for easy transfer into the oven. Place the quiche into the preheated oven and bake until it is golden brown on top and the center is solid, about 45 to 50 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Boy's Nautical Baby Shower

Several of us wanted to throw a 'Sip and See' shower for our friend, Erin, who welcomed a beautiful baby boy in November 2014. For those not familiar with the concept of a 'sip and see' -- basically, a bunch of friends who 'sip' champagne and 'see' the newborn. Love it!

Erin decorated her son's nursery in a nautical theme, so that was our inspiration. For favors, we decided to go with various shades of fun blue polish and cute tags we personalized with his monogram. So cute!

When guests entered, we used a copy of Dr. Seuss' "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" (going with the nautical theme) as a guest book and this adorable sign I saw on Pinterest. What a great keepsake of this fun event!

The Menu:
Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche
Cranberry Scones
Blueberry Scones
Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Shaved Parmesan
Asian Chicken Salad
Fresh Fruit Platter
Brownie Bites
and of course...The Champagne Bar

I'm sure the adorable 'pretty tie' garland decorating the table caught your eye! It was such a great touch when you first walked into the party...

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to create your own preppy, nautical baby shower!

Project 11: Powder Room Makeover

Before we even moved into our home, I did a mini-facelift of our tired, small powder room. It helped, but I must admit that I was anxiously plotting a complete do-over: new vanity, new light fixture, new floor, new toilet, new faucet, etc. -- basically new 'everything'!

When the tank of the toilet started a slow drip in November, I convinced the hubby that it was finally time to tackle this project. I knew I wanted to install board and batten, plus a fun, beachy wallpaper. I found the PERFECT inspiration with this photo:

The paper is from Thibault, and was a tough choice to narrow down to this selection, since their Resort collection is just incredible (in fact, I ended up picking up a different pattern for our daughter's bedroom redo...more on that to come!)

OK...with inspiration in hand, I started finalizing my other choices...

The light fixture was a super bargain on Joss & Main - $45! I spray painted it to match the same gray of the vanity cabinet in high gloss. The faucet and toilet were from (amazing prices and fast delivery), and the vanity and tile were ordered online from Home Depot.

After a few weekends and late nights, we completed the transformation (I'm not sure I would attempt to ever wallpaper a 4'x6' bathroom with a 6'3" husband in the near future...and don't get me started about grouting tile).

Despite a few hiccups, I'm sure you will agree that the finished bathroom is a HUGE improvement from the drab, hunter green original.

The total project cost was around $1500 for materials and labor (I ended up having to call a plumber to fix our 1960's plumbing for the faucet). Quite the transformation...we couldn't be more thrilled!

On to the next project...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Project 5: Basement Redo Part 2

During our unbearably LONG winter in 2014, we decided to tackle a bit more in the basement (what better way to take your mind off of 2 feet of snow outside + temps in the teens??) We made great progress tackling the walls + trim, as well as painted the whole space soothing shades of watery blue and re-carpeted the stair case.  While we still have a bit to go, I must say we're thrilled with the current state -- HUGE improvement from how it look before we purchased the house, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Here are a few before & after pictures...

All Home ProjectsAll Menus PageAll Recipes PageAll Crafts Page

Saturday, February 15, 2014

DIY Custom Pin Board

I was looking for a way to display all of my daughter's artwork in her playroom. Here's a quick tutorial of how to create a DIY Custom Pin Board to match any decor.

Step 1: I started with a plain framed 24-inch x 36-inch cork board I purchased on Amazon.

Step 2: Next, I painted the frame AND corkboard with white, high-gloss trim paint. I was using a light-background fabric to cover my boards; if you didn't paint all of the board, you could see the brown of the corkboard bleed through the fabric.

Step 3: I used some leftover fabric (from a sheet set) that I had used to make full-length curtain panels in the playroom.  You'll want to measure carefully to the inside of the frame.  Cut your fabric 1-inch longer than the height and width of the inside of your corkboard.  Using an iron, make 1/2-inch seams, so the outside edges are crisp.  The polka-dot pattern really helped to ensure my lines were straight!

Step 4: Using plain ol' tacks (I used brushed nickel ones I picked up from Staples), make a border with tacks about 1-inch apart. This was a great project to do with my five-year-old...she had fun pushing in the tacks along the border.

The corkboards came with hardware to hang on the wall. All done! Now, it's so easy to swap out art, cards, etc. -- they add a great touch to the playroom room.

And here's a view of the playroom gallery wall with custom pin boards...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Delish Chicken Chili

This is a staple in our house, once the weather gets cold.  It's a one-pot-meal...tons of veggies plus chunks of chicken -- all seasoned perfectly for one of the best chili recipes all around!  Feel free to substitute leftover cooked chicken or turkey for the chicken thighs (great way to get rid of oodles of leftover Thanksgiving turkey!)

The toppings are certainly optional, but in my opinion...they take this chili to the next level.  Serves 8.

Delish Chicken Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pound skinless chicken thighs (about 6), cut into thin strips
4 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes (preferably Hunts® Fire Roasted diced tomatoes)
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 15-ounce can drained and rinsed pinto beans
1 15-ounce drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Toppings (optional, but worth it!):
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped scallions
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt or light sour cream
1 cup chopped avocado tossed in the juice of ½ lime

1. Preheat broiler to High. Seed and core the red and yellow pepper.  Slice the onion into rings, taking care to keep the rings together.  Place onion rings, peppers, and whole jalapeno on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick spray.  Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper, so all veggies are coated evenly.

Place veggies on cookie sheet about 5-inches from the broiler; broil for 5-6 minutes (or until lightly charred).  Turn and broil another 5-6 minutes, or until charred on both sides.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

2. Cut chicken into strips and season lightly with kosher salt and pepper.  Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the chicken in one batch and cook until done, about 8 to 10 minutes total, stirring frequently to cook all sides evenly.  Remove from pot to a bowl and cover with foil.

3. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic to the pot and sauté for 1 minute. Meanwhile, chop the charred onion, red and yellow peppers and add to the pot. Remove the seeds and veins from the charred jalapeno; finely dice and add to taste (for mild/medium chili, add ½ of the charred jalapeno).  Cook for 1 minute to combine flavors.  Add spices and cook for another minute. 

Add the canned crushed and diced tomatoes with their juices and chicken broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15-20 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro.

To serve: ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese, a heaping spoon of yogurt or sour cream, scallion, additional cilantro, and avocado chunks.  Soooo good!