Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 972's pretty

I know I'm not the only one, but I am loving all things in a soft shade of gray lately. Except the weather, which has thankfully turned from gray to nice and sunny and conducive to Wes' starting on a big outdoor project this weekend!

Happy Weekend!

Photo is Atlanta Bartlett

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Slippery Slope of DIY

Sometimes projects go easily and smoothly but other times ... not so much. And in a 50-year-old house you just never know what you're going to find behind door number one. Or, in this case, behind an ugly light fixture.

We took one down in the kitchen last Sunday afternoon and this is what we found. I didn't even take a photo of the old one because merely changing a light fixture seemed so inconsequential at the time. Oh the slippery slope ...

While trying to secure the junction box (so that the new fixture will hang straight) the ceiling started to crumble. Lovely!

Okay, so a simple drywall patch can fix that, but it has to go all the way to the nearest stud, so down comes more drywall.

And with it, nasty old insulation. Yes, I am aware that he needs gloves and goggles. At least he's wearing a hat.

As the insulation started to fall, I was very glad I called a timeout and put down a drop cloth.

So, after a quick shower and wardrobe change, the patch is in.

And now, instead of a shiny new light, we watch the drywall mud dry and get started on the actual project we had planned for the afternoon. Which -- thank goodness -- went easily and smoothly.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 970's bedroom

My bedroom has kind of been driving me crazy lately. It was the first room I painted after we moved in and I'm starting to think it's too dark (Benjamin Moore's Bar Harbour Beige). The room is on the Northeast corner of the house and, despite windows on two walls, it definitely gets the least amount of sunlight. You've probably never even seen it because it's so dark I can't manage a decent photo for the life of me.

Not to mention, this is still looking kind of wonky. I just painted my kitchen China White and, though I never considered myself a white-walls kind of girl, I have to say I kind of love it! Should I repeat it in the bedroom?

This lovely bedroom is from the 2009 Southern Accents showhouse at Riverhills, which, sadly, was never published in the magazine. You can still see it all online here. Is it just me or is the ceiling blue? Hmmmm maybe that would satisfy my supposed-need for some kind of color the walls? Before I get ahead of myself (and give Wes a heart attack) maybe I should just replace the navy lampshades and see if that helps with the light situation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 969: a more simple approach

My antithesis to the more cluttered look that I posted about last week is restrained, simple style that makes me think of a well-appointed farmhouse. The furniture is antique, but not fussy, and the accessories are usually utilitarian objects displayed in collections. Fabrics are made of elements found in nature (cotton, linen, maybe even leather), and the colors are quiet.

This Texas Hill Country house is a perfect example, and this one is a more refined version. Trina from A Country Farmhouse has this look down pat. Tricia Foley is another master.

I love this look, but am definitely not disciplined enough to make it happen. Does it work for you?

Photos: All came from the new-to-me blog Brabourne Farm; click to see the original sources.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Homemade Doughnuts

I'm almost embarrassed to share this recipe, because number 1, it's not really a recipe, and number 2, there are plenty of more sophisticated versions available that actually qualify as homemade (I've been wanting to try this one). But, you asked, and so you shall receive (good thing I took pictures just in case).

For these doughnuts you will need: a can of biscuits (find them with crescent rolls at the grocery store), milk, confectioner's sugar, vanilla and shortening (or whatever you want to fry them in -- did I mention they are fried?!).

First, heat the oil over medium-high. If you have candy thermometer, you want it to be at about 350 degrees. I don't and just use the doughnut holes as a gauge (more on that later).

Separate the biscuits and -- here's where it gets technical -- use whatever you can find to cut a hole out of the middle. If you have small cookie cutter, you are set. I used an empty (and clean) Pelligrino bottle (though it was kind of hard to get the holes out). My mom uses an old prescription bottle. What ever you use, you want the holes to be about the size of a quarter so they don't completely close when cooking. You can stretch them a little if you need to.

If you aren't measuring your oil temperature, fry a couple of the cut out holes first. They should brown evenly and slowly and not create a lot of grease "pop" when you drop them in. Add the doughnuts in batches. They cook very quickly -- about a minute on the first side, and a little less on the second. Unless your oil is too hot, the inside should be cooked through. Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper-towel lined plate.

The icing is very simple. I don't measure and do it by feel, but you really can't mess it up. Take a cereal bowl-full of confectioner's sugar and add milk, about a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until it is slightly stiff. You want it to be loose enough to be able to cover the doughnuts, but thick enough to stick (again you can test with the holes). Add a splash of vanilla if you like. Drop the doughnuts in, cover with icing, then drain on a cooling rack. If you'd like a tangy, citrusy icing, try a splash of orange juice. Enjoy with a big glass of milk!

Day 968's week in pictures

Tiny little crocus (I think) growing under the oak tree in our front yard.

Oh the painting! Will it ever end?!

Maddie-girl is ready for the painting to end, too.

Trying to appreciate the beauty of winter.

Wes sneaking a doughnut before I'm finished with them. Although it is pretty ridiculous to not eat them warm in the name a taking a photo, isn't it?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 965's pretty

Why is it that the short weeks always seem the longest? I'm looking forward to a nice weekend hanging out with Wes and my family (for my birthday). Wouldn't it be lovely to hang out on this pretty seat?

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 964's debate

Another of my great debates -- like light vs. dark -- is spare vs. a collected clutter. At the moment I think I'm leaning toward a little clutter, but ask me tomorrow and who knows what I'll say (I think I need a hobby!).

Clutter on the walls has my attention for now, as I've been making an effort to watch for interesting framed things instead of random small objects on trips to the flea market and such. Here are few examples of the kind of wall clutter that I think I so pretty.

P. Allen Smith's Arkansas house is definitely on the extreme side of the debate. I don't see myself living this way, but there is still something interesting about it.

So why am I so concerned about all of this? Well, I've been on the hunt for something to balance the bookshelf in our living room (above). Last week I hung two frames around the bird print on the left (found at the Goodwill). On the top is a painting we bought on our honeymoon and below is a little ink drawing I picked up at an antiques mall. I like it, but I'm worried it's too much. Like I said, I think I need a hobby ...

Photo sources, from top: Muffie Faith via StyleCourt, Miles Redd, Kate Spade, Domino, unknown, Peter Dunham, Domino, Roger Davies for Cottage Living, Cheryl Dalton for Cottage Living.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Before and After: Stainless Steel Paint

Stainless steel paint has gotten some mixed reviews in blogland. Nathan loved it, Lauren hated it, and I've been left quite curious. We've been working on a few little fixes to hold the kitchen over for a real makeover, and one of the items that really needed attention was the rust-colored and grime-covered hood over the stovetop.

After the cabinets got a fresh coat of paint, I just couldn't ignore it anymore. This picture doesn't even do justice to the grime (Wes had to use his finishing sander to get it off -- seriously, how does that much grime get on top??) but you can imagine that it stood out like a sore thumb from our white, almond and black appliances. Or maybe they all just stand out since they are all different colors? Anyway. I thought that surely some paint couldn't make it worse.

And I think I was right! Does it look like actual stainless steel? Perhaps not. But does it look 100 times better? Definitely yes. I don't think I'll use it on the refrigerator, but the jury's still out on the white dishwasher. Have you tried it?

Day 962's week in pictures

An early and very unexpected birthday present from Wes.

Afternoon walk in the snow.

A very dirty but very happy pup after a romp in the very muddy dog park. It's a good thing I keep a "dog blanket" in my car.

Fun little painting project!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 959's Valentine's treat recipe

Chocolate-covered strawberries are a pretty cliche thing to eat on Valentine's Day, but the combination is pretty irresistible. Instead, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with my favorite strawberry icing.

The dark chocolate cupcake recipe* is Ina Garten's (and that peanut butter icing is delicious too, by the way) and the stawberry icing is supposedly the recipe from Sprinkles (I think I found it on Smitten Kitchen last year). It's so delicious I could eat it with a spoon. I used a Ziploc bag as a stand-in for a pastry bag and topped them with a light dusting of red decorating sugar.

Strawberry Icing
1/2 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
pinch of course salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor, and process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed and slowly add sugar. Beat until combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree** (I add it to taste) and mix until just blended. Do not overmix; the consistency should be dense and creamy -- like ice cream.

Ice your cupcakes and enjoy!

* The recipe says it makes 14-15, but I got 2 dozen. The icing covered all but four, which I put in the freezer. It also says to bake for 22 minutes, but I checked them at 20 and they were done. 19 minutes probably would have worked, too so keep an eye on them.
** I also added a bit of red food coloring to get a brighter pink.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 958's pretty

I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day! I personally love the holiday -- I don't expect or want any grand gestures, but it is the only time of year I don't feel like a total dweeb wearing pink or doodling hearts. I'm going to do some holiday-themed baking and we'll celebrate with a quiet dinner at home (and okay fine, probably a little housework).

Happy Weekend!

Lovely, lovely flower arrangements and photos courtesy of Saipua.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 957's question

Yesterday as I was flipping through the new issue of Lonny I couldn't decided if I liked the light, bright, fresh rooms or the darker, moodier rooms better. If you look at my house, lighter and brighter has definitely won, but I'm loving darker images more and more. Maybe it's the winter.

Neither of these are from Lonny (this is an old favorite from House & Garden -- SM, I know you love this one!), but you get the idea. What do you prefer? Light and perhaps colorful, or dark and perhaps cozier?