Friday, February 26, 2010

Kitchen Message Center

While changing the color of the kitchen cabinets, I decided that I also wanted to do something drastic with the other end of our huge-but-awkwardly-laid-out kitchen. These bookcases:

I've had them since my first-apartment-after-college and they always housed my large collection of books - either in a living room or bedroom, or both. When we moved into this house, we still needed somewhere to store my cookbooks and other kitchen-y things, and that wall is pretty large with nothing else to put there. So there they went, getting junked up and cluttered along the way. Jim and I both started to hate them - mostly the fact that they were so large and collected so much clutter. 

Once I decided that I was going to change the color of the kitchen cabinets, I thought, why not these also? But I didn't want all the shelving at the top - that's where the clutter happens, so after being inspired and envious of some message centers like the ones below, I made a decision to cut the bookshelves in half and create a message center above.

My inspiration:

Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

This Old House

Pottery Barn

The Lettered Cottage

And the result...


I really love organizing books by color. Such an easy way to play with color. The red file boxes on the bottom shelves house years of issues of Martha Stewart Living organized by month. The basket on the bottom left keeps linen napkins close at hand. Metal boxes on the right contain all the recipes I find from magazines and newspapers that I am still waiting to try, as well as take out menus and local information for guests.

I love that all my gardening and cookbooks are not only close at hand, but also beautifully displayed.

The small hanging buckets and bracket are from Ikea - great to keep pens handy and a few odds and ends. The metal knife bar above holds our keys - a fun alternative to the traditional hooks.

Frame I picked up for one dollar at a local thrift store. I spray painted it white, and cut a thin piece of plywood to size, painted it with chalkboard paint, and ta-da! A homemade chalkboard!

This was simply a stretched canvas from an art supply store (16"x20"), covered in a great fabric, and I then added the strips of ribbon stapled in the back, and I used fabric glue at the intersections to create places to slide in memories. For us, some save-the-dates from friends for upcoming weddings in 2010.

Another one dollar photo frame from a thrift store, spray painted white, and a piece of sheet metal from Lowes cut to size. Instant metal memo board.

See my upcoming corkboard post for the how-to on this project. So easy!

An inexpensive basket from Homegoods hung on the wall for mail. Vintage lantern from an antique market in Lancaster, PA.

Love, love, love the finished look! All the white makes the room complete, and the punches of red tie it all together. LOVE IT!

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It all started with a faucet...

...So a little background on our home. Built in 1978 and not really decorated since. We bought the house in September '08 and immediately ripped off wallpaper and painted every room except 2 bathrooms. We also ripped up all the carpeting and installed hardwood throughout in every room except the kitchen and bathrooms. Other than decorating and a lot of gardening, that's about it.
Fast forward to Christmas '09; my parents and sister visiting for the holidays. My dad, who was not interested in the many shopping trips and days of baking my mom and sister and I were engaging in, was checking out Jim's basement workshop and noticed a "to-do" list Jim has posted above his work bench that we made a few months after moving in. One of the top items was, "new kitchen faucet". Dad found a project! So he asked Jim about working on it together, also noting the new garbage disposal sitting on the workbench that was waiting to be installed, and they got to work on planning out their project. Luckily, I intervened at just the right time, as Jim was about to head out to pick out a new faucet himself! So off we headed to Lowes to pick out a budget-friendly faucet. (Side note here: we're not looking to make any huge changes to the kitchen right now, as the entire layout/design/appliances need to be completely overhauled and that is going to take some serious cash.)
Once that was successfully installed, I became totally convinced that I hated the cabinets. I knew I didn't like them before, although they are in good condition, but I am really against the color. However, I always thought I hated the green countertops more than the cabinets, but for some reason, that kitchen faucet changed my mind. When we initially painted the room, I was trying to tie all the colors together, and I took my inspiration from this Williams-Sonoma tablecloth that I made into a valance.
It had worked for the time being, but the real eyesore was the cabinets. They cover so much surface area in the kitchen, that they really needed to be a more neutral color. Not to mention the outdated hardware. All I decided to invest was $50 on two gallons of paint, and only $50 on new hardware. And a lot of time and effort of course!

The result:

Of course now the almond color of the stove and hood stick out like a sore thumb, but that's for another day.

I think the white makes the green countertops a little less offensive, don't you?

Love the hardware! Check out The Knob Shop on eBay - what a steal!

I added an inexpensive hanging basket bracket to hang this tiered basket for vegetables.

I picked up some great glass jars from Ikea to keep all my baking ingredients together in this vintage crate that was left in the house by our previous owners. The rolling cart I have had there for a while - with my Kitchenaid mixer on top - I just roll it over to the island for a great baking station. So convenient with the jars of sugar and flour underneath.

See the ugly ceiling fan peeking out of the top of this photo? That will go away someday!

What's that on the right of this photo? Where did those bookcases go? Check out my post on my message center to see what I did. 

So with a new color, a de-cluttered storage area, and elements that tie it all together, I am finally happy (appliances and lighting excluded) with the kitchen... until I get that itch to change it again :)

Please let me know what you think!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Springtime dreaming

As I sit here under a blanket watching the weather report for tomorrow's huge and fourth snowstorm of the season, I started to daydream about spring and all the things I'd like to accomplish in the garden. 

My number one project for the spring/summer will be window boxes for all the windows in the house. Did I say ALL? Well, with any luck :) I'd at least like to get the ones in the front - that's 8 window boxes to build, plus five more for at least the downstairs windows in the back and on the side. Oh yes, did I mention we'll be building them? That's the plan! With a little help from craftsman and husband Jim, I hope to be able to build some simple window boxes, paint them, and fill them with beautiful seasonal blooms. 

Here's a collection of photos that are my inspiration for this project, and that hopefully will warm my toes on this snow-day's eve. Enjoy!

This Old House

This Old House

This Old House

Hooks and Lattice

Martha Stewart

Country Living

Of course, in my internet travels I came upon this little gem of a Martha Stewart article, 60 Great Ideas for the Garden. So now, as much as I enjoy the snow, I am really looking forward to warmer weather!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Welcome home Jim! - Savory Bread Pudding

Jim left me in the snowy northeast this week while he was enjoying sunny San Diego in flip-flops for a work trip. Am I bitter? Only a little :)

Well to welcome him back I thought I'd try something new for dinner last night. He LOVES bread pudding, and this is a delicious variation of that. Savory Bread Pudding. YUM.

My mother-in-law gets about 650 magazines a month, which she then passes onto my sister-in-law, who then gives them to me (in addition to the 350 magazines I get a month!). Several months after receiving a huge tote filled with Good Housekeeping, Southern Living, BH&G, etc, etc, I eventually get around to flipping through them and tearing out the pages of things I want to buy, things that inspire new home ideas, and recipes that I want to try. This was one of those recipes, but I made a few minor changes.

The original recipe can be found HERE or in the September '09 issue of Southern Living.

Here's my version - I think it makes more than the original, but was definitely delicious. I used it as a side dish to some lightly panko breaded, oven fried pork chops. It could easily hold up on its own for an easy vegetarian meal. You can use any vegetables you have on hand, and really you can also use any bread you have.

Savory Bread Pudding

6 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp stone ground mustard
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2/3 loaf of challah bread (try to cut the crust off), cubed into 1" chunks (day old bread preferred)
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
12-16oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup julienned carrots
3/4 lb baby spinach
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°. 
2. Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in bread and half of cheese.
3. Sauté mushrooms and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 8 minutes. Stir in spinach, and sauté 2 minutes or just enough until the spinach begins to wilt. 

4. Fold vegetable mixture into egg mixture. 
5. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

6. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick picture frame makeover

So, after owning our lovely home for over a year, I have the itch to start making some changes. Some are grand and take a lot of planning and $$, and others are a quick fix to make a small change until I get the time, resources, and funds to tackle something larger. This is one of those quick fixes. Our dining room is blue - 2 different blues which I am already starting to dislike (hopefully this summer we will be doing some crown molding work and I will then paint the entire room the same dark blue).

Anyway, I have had these old photos for several years now. Some very cool photos taken by a great uncle in WWII when he was stationed in the South Pacific (that's him on the left in the photo). He and I being the only two sailors in the family, I was the lucky one to inherit his photos. When I first got the photos, my mom found a matching set of frames at a flea market - with mats - and they looked great. They have graced the walls of several of my homes, and now have found a resting place on the wall of our dining room - strategically placed around the thermostat our previous owners felt the need to place smack-dab in the middle of a main wall in the room. However, the color of the frames were a light oak wood color, where the dining room furniture is mahogany and cherry, and it just doesn't go.

So with a can of spray paint I took the frames into the basement, and gave them a new look. I started by giving them a coat with some flat black spray paint (because I didn't have spray primer and I figured that should cover all the oak color, and the flat will be a good base - it worked!)

I also picked up some fresh new mats from Michael's and gave them a great makeover! They connect with the rest of the room and I am pleased with the end result!