Saturday, July 30, 2011

channeling my inner jenna lyons

The other day I channeled my inner-Jenna Lyons, played J.Crew creative director for an afternoon, and got to work re-inventing a big faux pearl choker from an estate sale. 

This was the easiest thing in the world to make!  And doesn't it remind you of something you might buy at J.Crew? All I did was tie a knot of ribbon over the clasp at one end of the necklace and wrap the ribbon around the loop on the other end.  I also tied a few knots haphazardly throughout the ribbon to make the necklace the right length.  I might embellish it a bit more at some point - maybe add some gold beads on either side of the knots in the ribbon or perhaps a brooch or fabric flower, but for right now, I think it's pretty nice!

Friday, July 29, 2011

more is better...

...when it comes to picture collages anyway.  I can't get enough of them.  Sometimes I like the very homogenous, organized walls of photos where all of the frames are the same color and the pictures tend to relate to each other somehow.  

very organized and chic
But lately, the quirky picture walls have really been capturing my imagination.  I l.o.v.e. the thought of framing old maps (especially nautical ones or ones with sentimental value), including unexpected objects in the collage, showcasing an antique chart of some sort, and displaying a collection of vintage portraits.  I love old portraits like I love old houses.  I don't even care if I know the people in them.  I rather enjoy making up stories about how they would have lived and what they would have liked.

Framed maps on whitewashed wood paneling! What's not to love?
Vintage portraits and lots of them! that spindle bed doesn't hurt either :)
Quirky and glamorous

an old chart

Gold frames lend a worldly, regal feel
A bright, contemporary space with big mats around art


In my revived determination to make my dream life happen, I'm going to write a new list of things I really, really want to do and I'm actually going to do them.  No excuses.

example of a "bad" picture
1. Actually take good pictures of the food I make.  No more of this "I'm so hungry I don't care if the picture is good. " I want to set up, find good lighting, and style these pictures.  No more skimping on this.  I'm tired of being excited about a blog post until I see the ho-hum pictures I took to accompany my writing.

2.  Make more gorgeous food (so I can take pictures of it, of course! And, you know, eat it).  I am often sooo inspired by pictures in Food and Wine and other foodie magazines. I yearn to make these recipes and never get around to it.  No more of this either.  I have to eat something, why not make it something delicious and beautiful?

a beautiful picture of a delicious-looking zucchini galette made by my friend, Sarah
aka what I wish my food photos looked like
3.  Along these same lines: learn to make more of my own food. Specifically, learn to can, make jam, make cheese, bake bread.

4.  Dress the part.  Even as I write this, I'm wearing pajamas.  Granted, I love my red and black buffalo check shorts, but I feel markedly happier and more confident when I get dressed.  Throwing on any old tee and shorts doesn't count.  I mean compiling an outfit, a cohesive look.  If I can't style myself, how am I going to style pictures?

5.  Convert my antique store/estate sale finds into something fabulous.  Sometimes I get paralyzed by the possibilities.  Or maybe I feel like if I screw up turning one burlap sack into a pillow, I'll never find another one with which to try again.  There will be more burlap sacks.  And, hey, even if there weren't, even if this were the very last one ever, what good is it doing me tucked away in a corner of my bedroom?

 a sugar sack that I have yet to transform
also a perfect example of a bad picture
p.s. yes, I realize this sack is not made of burlap
6.  Stop being afraid to bring my camera with me when I go places.  Or don't bring it and then "forget" to take pictures.  I am always so nervous that I will get in trouble for taking pictures, but what is the worst that could happen? Somebody tells me to stop? I need to act like a true photographer (even though I'm about as far from it as could be) and just take pictures already.

First step towards reclaiming my life? Dan and I made cheese!  If you know me at all, you know that I am a cheese-aholic.  If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it just might have to be cheese.  I have been wanting to make cheese for a long time now and I was inspired by reading Barbara Kingsolver's chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about cheesemaking with Ricki Carroll of the New England Cheese Making Supply Company.  When Dan and I stopped by the home brewing store (he brews with his friend Chris), I was so excited to see this kit:

Our cheese-making kit
If I hadn't read about Ricki in a Barbara Kingsolver book, I never would have bought this kit.  It looks like it is marketed for 9-year old girls who want to make friendship bracelets (not to knock friendship bracelets - stay tuned for more on this).  But there's something about bright pink and purple doesn't really scream "quality cheese" to me.  However, Ricki Carroll is at the forefront of cheese-making in our nation.  She has been inspiring American cheese-makers since 1978 and wrote one of the first books on the subject, Home Cheese Making.  What to do next? Make some cheese of course!

mozzarella's optimum stretching temperature is 135 degrees

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what's up with that picture?  I mean, it's terrible.  I'm sorry I'm making you look at it.  But to be completely honest and much to my chagrin, it's the best cheese-making picture I took. And it's terrible.  I mean, is it even in focus? Anyway, Dan and I made both mozzarella and ricotta.  We then used the mozzarella in a roasted vegetable and orzo dish and an heirloom tomato, basil and mozzarella salad (all of the vegetables were locally grown).  

We used both the ricotta and mozzarella on grilled pizzas.  For crust we actually used whole wheat naan from Whole Foods and a whole wheat pre-made crust from Trader Joe's.  I wanted to make the crust from scratch, but making the cheese from scratch was enough for me at this point.  One thing at a time, people.  We topped the pizzas with varying combinations of pepperoni, a natural spicy italian sausage, homemade pesto, zucchini (I was inpsired by Sarah's galette, pictured above), new potatoes, and red onion (all locally grown). 

I feel like I'm back on track to making my life what I want it to be.  I, honestly, feel happier already - like I have taken control.  Cheese-making turned out to be just what the doctor ordered (minus that whole cholesterol thing).  Now, I just have to keep at it!  Dan and I are hoping to develop our cheese-making skills to the point where we can make hard cheeses someday.  And of course my other goal is to take good pictures of it, too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

living the dream

via absolutely beautiful things
Living the dream is what I used to do.  Unemployment might qualify to some as living the dream, since I don't have to report to some job that I hate every day.  But watching my bank account dwindle away and still having bills to pay isn't fun. And applying to jobs I'm overqualified for and not hearing back doesn't exactly make me happy.  In fact, it makes me pretty sad.

fish tacos from my father's daughter by gwyneth paltrow via coco+kelley
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I can no longer stand this feeling of being trapped.  Of feeling helpless day in and day out.  Of wondering when what I've done and what I do is finally going to be good enough to get me recognized.  To get me a job.  I mean I'm not asking for much here:  just something that pays me more than I made in high school and maybe offers me health insurance too?  I mean, hell, I'd even take what I made in high school at this point.

raspberry jam with mint and lavender from katy elliott

The other day I had this epiphany.  Nobody is going to hand me the life I want to live on a silver platter.  Funny how that works, huh?  I know I'm working hard to find a job.  But I'm still pretty bummed.  The one thing that has been making me feel better lately is escaping my life by reading my favorite blogs and writing on this one.  When I read those beautiful blogs and dream of my life being like the writers', well, I just dream about it.  But why not make it happen?  Why not enact this change and make that my life too?  What am I waiting for?  Just because I don't have thousands of followers doesn't mean I can't make delicious jam.  Just because I don't have advertisements on my blog doesn't mean I don't know how to create a beautiful tablescape.  So, today I am officially taking my life back into my own hands and starting to live the dream.  Even if I have to do it frugally.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

cozy bedrooms

Perhaps due to my recent bout of insomnia, cozy bedrooms have been catching my eye lately.  Not the super stylized bedrooms that make you nervous to step foot in, let alone sleep in, but the real kind that's just begging you to stop and stay awhile.  And maybe take a nap or two.

via apartment therapy

via tiny white daisies
via this old house

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

city mouse, country mouse

Rachel and Paul sold their home in Toronto and moved to the country with their two young children, chihuahua, and cat.  They purchased a total fixer-upper and got to work renovating and reviving.  In Paul's words, "It looked like a house that had been abandoned and had squatters living in it for 4 years.  It was the house that teenagers used to party in.  It was a piece of history that was going to become a parking lot for the bank."  He wasn't exaggerating:

Rachel describes the pre-transformation house as looking, "sad. Like it had once been something special but it was sagging under too many years of neglect.  Under all that rubble and dust there was a glimmer of promise, of what it could be again given the chance."

I love the thought of fixing up an old house that would otherwise be destroyed.  It feels like you're saving a piece of history.  Seeing, learning, and guessing how people used to live in houses years and years ago has always filled me with a sense of awe and contentment. There is just something so romantic, so intimate about walking those same floors, touching those same walls.  It makes me feel comforted in a way, to know that other people lived and loved and lost in the same exact space.

I am glad that Rachel and Paul honored the character and history of the house in their renovation.  They didn't try to make it all shiny and modern, but the decor is still quirky and fresh.  The home looks happy to be loved again.

For more of the interview with Rachel and Paul and more pictures of their amazing home visit The Marion House Book, a blog written by Emma who was so nice to share this with her readers.  The pre-renovation photos were taken by the homeowners.  All other photos were taken by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion Book.

P.S.  Can you believe that these after photos were taken just 6 months after the couple moved in and began renovations?  Talk about some serious reno-skill envy.  Wow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

got the travel bug

Look at these pictures of eye-catching store fronts in Copenhagen that I found on {frolic!} (originally via Elle Decor Sweden).  I still can't believe that I actually get to go there in a month! In fact, our flight lands in Copenhagen exactly one month from today! Wow.  It seems kind of surreal.  I'm pretty sure that all of that Scandinavian-ness going to make my brain burst from gorgeous design overload.  How do you handle so many splendid things all at once? 

p.s. Don't forget to vote for Alessandra's kitchen by noon today! (See below for more details.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

alessandra's kitchen

Mrs. Waite, of orzo salad fame, sent out an email the other day asking us to vote for her friend Alessandra's kitchen in an Apartment Therapy small kitchen contest.  Her kitchen certainly is small! And it's gorgeous! And it's in Portland, Maine so it already wins in my book.  You should vote too!  Create an account at Apartment Therapy (if you don't have one already) and vote for Alessandra's kitchen here! You only have until 12 pm tomorrow (Monday, July 25)!! So hurry, hurry!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

michael penney's new home

When I came across images of Michael Penney's new home, I fell in love.  Everything looks very collected; sophisticated, but not too serious.  In essence, it's perfect in that messy, not-so-perfect way. Then, when I looked at the before and after photos on House&Home, I, well I don't know what's more intense than falling in love, but whatever it is, that's what happened to me.  As I was trying to select pictures to share here, I told myself I would only choose a select few.  I lied.  I think when you check out these before (left side, obviously) and afters you'll understand why.

It's really hard to choose, but if I had to, I thiiiink my favorite vignette would be the one with the piano with the map and the fan coral above the piano.  It feels so bright and makes me feel like I'm on the coast of Maine. And that, my friends, is always a good feeling.  Of course, there's also the hexagonal tile on the kitchen and bathroom floors, that little green cabinet in the bathroom topped with botanical prints, the wallpaper in the master bedroom, oh I could go on and on and on.  It just goes to show you that if a house has good bones and you have a good imagination, the possibilities are endless. 

To learn more about the renovation visit Michael Penney's blog or House & Home

Images by Donna Griffith from House & Home found via House of Turquoise thanks to Jessie