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Summer Refreshments: Mojitos


Nothing quite compares to the thrill of that first refreshing splash of summer. The anticipation as you drive toward the lake, the squeal of delight as your toes dip playfully at the water’s edge and the rush of adrenaline as you hold your breath and dive on in. The humid summers of East Tennessee have made me appreciate more fully the therapeutic refreshment that water brings. Whether it be by poolside, lake, river, or ocean, water gives us a chance to beat the heat, both literally or figuratively. Although for many the mayhem of work continues into the summer, the endless heat eventually beckons people out of their cubicles, into their cars, and toward the water.

While we can’t spend every moment of summer lakeside with a drink in hand, we can find some satisfaction in the refreshments of summer. I’m talking Mojitos, people!

Virgin Mojitos

The hubby and I have been experimenting with different refreshing cocktails this summer, and while I’m always game for the traditional Mojito, I wanted to try an alcohol-free version that would taste light, refreshing and full of summer. Today I attempted a Mojito spritzer. There is no fancy trick to this little number, just simple minty deliciousness.

Recipe: 1 oz simple syrup/1oz lime juice (Cheat: 2 oz Mojito Mix) 10 Mint Leaves 3 oz Club Soda 1 tsp. brown sugar Ice

To Mix: Grind fresh mint leaves with brown sugar in separate bowl and place in shaker. Place ice in cocktail shaker. Add Mojito Mix or simple syrup and lime juice. Shake. Pour into glass. Add club soda. If you prefer less minty flavor, simply add more club soda or you can always add rum.

Virgin Mojitos


5 Beautiful Blogs


Happy Friday! Today I’d like to take a moment to share with you five beautiful blogs & websites that I just can’t get enough of. These are my daily go to blogs for inspiration and an overall feeling of goodness. Check them out and be sure to spread a little love their way.

KinfolkMag: A photographic/journal-style blog that provides casual entertainment ideas. They put out a beautiful magazine that is available for purchase on the site and also have a Journal site as well as galleries of their various events.

Kinfolkjournal

My Ideal Home: A beautifully crafted tumblr page filled with awe-inspiring architecture, design, and decorating elements.

myidealhome

Sunday Suppers: Beautifully staged photographs and details of class-cooking-dining experiences, pairing friends and food. Classes are held in a waterfront loft in Brooklyn, NY and are taught by local Chefs. The food is market fresh, local and organic and the approach is to create seasonal and fresh meals together.

Sunday-Suppers

Treasures and Travels: Hosted by the two girls behind the online shop, Kalos which sells handmade jewelry and vintage clothing. They post about anything and everything they see, love, wear, etc.

TreasureandTravels

Tiny White Daisies: Beautiful photography is king at this tumblr page. The photographs range from nature, to architecture, to everyday sightings. A must see sight for beautiful finds.

tinywhitedaisies

Happy browsing!



Out & About: Antiques


antiques

Today was my fourth day off from work in a row and I can’t even begin to explain how relaxed I feel. I am determined to make the most of every free day before classes begin again next week. The last few days have been spent enduring the daunting tasks of cleaning out the office. Since the hubster and I will be moving in the next 6 months, any opportunity to throw out junk and downsize is another step toward making the move a smooth transition.

antiques

After all that cleaning I decided it was time for a bit of town exploration so I grabbed the camera and headed to one of my favorite antique stores. After an hour of taking photos and wishing I could buy out the store, I came home and made a yummy lunch for me and the hubby, Grilled Lemon Basil Tuna Wraps. Next, we headed down to the river for an afternoon walk and yes, a few more photos which I will share later.

antiques

All in all, it was a glorious day. Antiques, sunshine, outdoors, lunch with my hubby, what more could a gal want? Hope you all are having a splendid afternoon as well!


Kitchen Shelving Transformation: Country Chic


Kitchen Shelving

I’ve had a bit of a nesting bug lately. It seems every Christmas break I feel the need to stock up on home projects, sewing, painting, etc. This past weekend I decided to finally paint the cheap bookshelf that has been serving as extra pantry storage in my kitchen. I have a light, unfinished wood shelf on the opposite side of the kitchen so I wanted a light color for this shelf as well to keep a small space looking as open, light and roomy as possible.

BEFORE:

Kitchen Shelving Transformation: Country Chic

AFTER:

Painted Kitchen Shelving

Like I said, this was a very cheap bookshelf, the kind with the veneer covering, not real wood. I was worried I wouldn’t really be able to paint over this material but I used a primer/paint mix and although I did have to use multiple coats, it covered quite well.

If I were to paint this material again I would probably use a spray primer so it would cover without the brush strokes. I think this would allow better overall coverage and would also be less expensive than the primer/paint variety.

Painted Kitchen Shelving

The baskets hold our bread, potatoes and onions since we tend to buy those in bulk. This is also a convenient way to showcase some of my favorite serving pieces without actually having to have a dinner party.

Materials:
Primer/paint(1 qt.) from Home Depot-$14.98
Wood Baskets from Michael’s-$3.00
Mercury Votives from Target-$2.99


Brussel Sprouts & Toasted Pecans


I didn’t grow up a vegetable-eating child, not even a semi-compliant vegetable eater. I spent many a night sitting at the table after everyone else had finished their supper staring down the grotesque stalks of broccoli and cauliflower that threatened my sensitive palate. I hated vegetables forever, and then one day, I didn’t. I tell you about my childhood vegetable woes because it is necessary if I’m to convince you that this brussel sprouts recipe is absolutely delicious!

brussel sprouts

Yes, despite the common misconception that brussel sprouts are a child’s worst nightmare (and many adults’) these little vegetables are so tasty when cooked right. I had the pleasure of trying my first sprouts at a friends home a few weeks ago and decided I needed to attempt my own recipe.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

1 package brussel sprouts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
garlic powder or 2 minced cloves
pepper
salt

Instructions:

Rinse sprouts and place in casserole dish (or similar). Coat generously with olive oil, balsamic vinegar & lemon juice–adjust vinegar for individual taste. I cannot emphasize enough to coat the brussel sprouts well with the olive oil, this is the key to getting them cooked just right, all the way through to the middle.

Chop pecans and garlic (unless you use powder) and place in small oven safe dish. Place dish under broiler for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add toasted pecans & garlic to the sprouts. Add a dash of salt and about 1 tsp of pepper. Place in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, you want the sprouts very tender. Stir contents every 15 minutes.

Once sprouts are tender, broil on high for about 15 minutes until the outsides begin to char. Remove from the oven & allow to cool. Serve alone as a side dish or add to a mixed-green salad with artichoke hearts.



Table Setting: Mercury Glass + Blue + Yellow


I hope each of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. We had the pleasure of having a family member in town this year, hooray! I always miss our family around the holidays and can’t say enough about how thankful we were to have my mom in town. Here is just a tiny glimpse at our shiny Thanksgiving table setting.

Blue & Mercury Glass Table Setting

Blue China: TJ Maxx
Grey Napkins: Target
Yellow Raffia: Walmart
Mercury Glass Votives: Target

This table setting was incredibly simple to put together and the mercury glass votives went a long way to making it dressy for the holiday.

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!


Baby’s StoryTime Quilt


A couple weekends ago I attended a baby shower for the most stylish mom-to-be I have ever known. Seriously, she’s so classy I wish I was her. Anyways, the invitation I received asked if I would contribute a children’s book for story time, I decided to continue the story time theme and also make her baby girl this pretty quilt to snuggle into while mom reads her favorite tales.

This little quilt was very simple as it was my first and didn’t take much time to piece together as I stuck with simple strips instead of squares. I cut 2 pieces of fabric the size of my large rubber cutting mat (a simple and easy measurement to make). I also cut one piece of batting the same size. Next I took one of the pieces of fabric and cut it into 4-1/2 in. strips.

Once all my cutting was complete, I placed two strips together, right sides facing each other and sewed up the one long side, 1/4 in. from the edge. I unfolded those two strips and aligned a third strip next to the second strip, once again with right sides facing each other and sewed 1/4 in. in from the edge. Now unfolded, I have three connected strips of fabric. Continue to join strips until all are combined into one piece. Iron flat.

Place a piece of batting on the wrong side of the pieced together square of fabric. Pin together. Now sew along the lines that join each individual strip of fabric. This is how we are going to get a quilted look (see below).

batting sew lines

Once you have sewn down all the lines, lay the untouched piece of fabric (the back piece with no stitching) right side up, then place the pieced-together fabric with batting right side down (batting up). So the batting is on top, attached to the wrong side of the front of the quilt and the right side of the front of the quilt is facing down and touching the right side of the back of the quilt. Confused yet?

Now pin the pieces together. Your top piece will most likely be a bit smaller than the other two pieces so once pinned, take your rotary cutter and trim the edges to match the size of the top piece. Now comes the sewing. Sew around all 4 edges of the fabric pieces, leaving a 4-5 in. opening on one of the long sides. Make sure you capture all the layers as you sew around the quilt.

Now, reach into the opening and pull the opposite corners through the slit, essentially turning your blanket inside out or in reality, right side out. Once this is done. Iron all the edges and iron under the small section that was left open. Sew a 1/4 in. from the edge all the way around the blanket making sure to catch the fabric at the opening in your sew line (see below).

quilted edges

That’s it. You should now have a very sweet little baby quilt. Now that you have the general idea you can make another attempt and add ribbon along the edges, switch up the fabric strip patterns and textures, or switch to squares instead of strips. Good luck!


Grilled Eggplant, Tomato & Aioli Sandwiches


In preparation for the coming school year our kitchen has once more turned to freezer-meal central. I recently read a book on cutting your grocery bill in half and while I began the read thinking it would be quite useless, I can proudly say, it works! I’m very excited to share some tips with you throughout the coming months. For now, let me just emphasize the importance of going to the grocery store once monthly and taking one day each month to cook up a couple staple meals that will keep in the freezer. Last year we realized just how valuable freezer meals can be with a schedule like ours.

Anyways, I’ll get to more freezer meal recipes, tricks and tips in a few weeksMore freezer meals here, but I’ll get to back to the point… While freezer meals are wonderful on the wallet, we love our fresh fruits and veggies so we supplement our menu with produce dinners from the farmer’s market. Whipping up a quick vegetarian meal once or twice a week goes a long way to incorporating variety into your month of meals.

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwich

This week one of our produce meals consisted of eggplant, tomatoes, onions and eggs. The tomatoes were from our very own garden, the eggplant was thrown into my produce bag for free after buying 5 zucchinis and 5 yellow squash and the eggs are from a local farmer. Neat-O, right? I love fresh!

Here’s how we put this dish together:

1.) Grill Eggplant: Slice eggplant, sprinkle with salt, parsley, pepper, thyme and garlic, place in a sauce pan with 2 tbsp. of olive oil, cook each side 3 minutes or until slightly browned

2.) Saute onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil

3.) Cook 2 over-easy eggs

4.) Prepare Aioli Sauce: 1/4 c. light mayo or Greek Yogurt, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove

5.) Slice tomatoes, toast bread and assemble sandwiches

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwich

Easy as pie! My favorite part was slicing open the yolk and letting it drizzle all over the sandwich, seriously, it was SO good.

Next time you are looking for a healthy, tasty and filling dinner recipe, give these open-faced sandwiches a try. Trust me, it’s a decision you won’t regret.


Pink & Burgundy Altar Arrangement


I feel like I say this every week but yesterday’s farm flowers were gorgeous! Seriously. Kristin took eight buckets of flowers to a wedding in Virginia. You would think with eight buckets gone we wouldn’t have many left to work with but that was not the case. Instead, we (Linda and I) made a record amount of market bouquets–a grand total of 50 (trust me, that’s a lot).

Linda asked if I wanted to make an arrangement for the altar on Sunday and I, of course, jumped on board immediately. It was really hard to not make something beautiful with the array of flowers we had to work with.

pink & burgundy altar arrangement

This pink and burgundy arrangement is my finished product and I must say, I love it! Pitcher arrangements like these are perfect for a country wedding or for simply taking to church on Sunday to share with others.

Here’s how this pitcher arrangement came to be:

First I started with the large limelight hydrangea. I cut them down to size and angled one toward each side of the pitcher and one smaller one a bit higher in the back to provide a “back” to the bouquet (a place where the eye will stop looking).

Next, I added several bunches of dark pink lisianthus buds. These pop against the creamy-white hydrangeas and serve as a great filler since the mouth of my pitcher is so wide.

Then I added two stems of lilies, one low and one higher, each angled a separate direction.I also added a pink and white gladiola semi-centered. The lisianthus serve as support for keeping the lilies and gladiola securely in place.

Finally I filled in the gaps. Down low I added trailing amaranthus (that’s the pretty burgundy spilling over the edge), I also added bits of white and green filler (poke weed, grasses), a couple green/cream lisianthus and hot pink dianthus.

pink & burgundy altar arrangement

Arrangements like these are fairly simple to create if you stick to a specific order when combining your flowers–heavy bulky stems first, delicate flowers next supported by the larger flowers, then smaller pops of color, collar greenery and delicate accents.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-flower-arrangement lesson. Try your own pitcher arrangement at home, all it takes is a few stems from your own backyard.


Wood Panel Wall Art


wood panel wall artThe last few months I have noticed a plethora of wooden-variety signs and art making their debut on the pages of Pinterest. I have struggled to come up with an idea that could turn the hundreds of extremely creative ideas into one project that I can truly call my own–my idea, my style, my brain child. Although I am one of the biggest supporters of Pinterest, I find it becomes more & more difficult to be original after seeing the incredible ideas submitted by users. Really, I just want to make exact replicas of most of the projects I see, but no, I push on and try to make each project my own. I think I did just that with this plywood art.

I received this beautiful Monet print from my friend Kristin after her recent excursion to D.C. with her junior high students (isn’t she sweet). I struggled with the many ways to really make the print stand out on the vast expanse of white wall currently found in our apartment. Originally I started this project thinking I would just paint a cute saying of some sort on the boards but luckily the print came to mind and the finished result makes me happy.

Wood Panel Art

Materials:

2-8ft 1x4in boards
1-4ft 1×1-1/2in board
1 bag of 2in screws
1 small jar of wood stain
3 colors of paint (mine were gray and blue and yellow)
1 canvas frame
1 print
60-grit sandpaper

Instructions:

Cut the two 1x4in boards into three-2 1/2ft long pieces and sand.

After sanding, stain two of the boards with wood stain. Set aside.

Next, get your other two paint colors ready. Dip your brush into the paint and then swirl around in a cup of water so the paint is extremely watery. You want to use your paint sort of like a watercolor and let the watery tint soak into the board. So, to reiterate, you aren’t really “painting” the board but more “tinting” the board. Got it?

painted wood panels

Allow the boards to dry. Meanwhile, take your 1×1-1/2in board and cut two pieces long enough to fit horizontally across the back of your boards (20in each). This is what you will screw your 2-1/2ft pieces into.

Take your canvas frame and paint it using your third color (mine was bright yellow to accent the yellow sunflowers). Let dry.

Come back to your stained and painted boards and begin to sand the edges and tops until you achieve the desired amount of weathering.

Now it is time to assemble. Turn your boards over so the front is facedown. Stagger the boards and place the 1×1-1/2in boards across the back horizontally, one toward the top and one toward the bottom (see picture). Screw the boards to the blocks.

wood panel wall art

Once all the boards are secure, turn the pallet over and glue your print to the center with craft glue.

Last of all, take the painted frame and using wood glue, attach the frame around your print.

This project took about 6 hours for me to make. The longest part is sanding and drying time, but overall it is fairly simple to throw together.


Jungle Paper Mobile


Recently I’ve been working on a few decorations for a friend’s baby shower in July. Their nursery is going to have jungle decor so we decided to extend the theme to the shower as well.

paper jungle mobile baby shower

I found a beautiful animal print fabric for a table runner ($5/yd) and decided to contrast the muted browns with bright jungle colors.

Here are a few simple steps to making your own mobile:

1.) Cut cardstock into 1X8-inch strips. I used seven shades of brown, green, yellow and gray.

2.) Next, line the colors up in gradient order and decide on your mobile length. I ended up using 28 strips of paper for each mobile.

3.) After deciding pattern and length, stack the strips in order and head to your sewing machine. Place a piece of tape on the machine as a guide to help you sew straight down the middle of each strip of paper.

4.) Sew. Simply push each piece of paper under the needle, continue stitching until you have achieved the desired distance between strips and then place the next strip under the needle. Be sure to leave excess string on each end of your mobile for hanging.

5.) If you are using a light-weight paper, such as vellum you may want to weigh down the end of your string after hanging to avoid curling at the bottom of the mobile. Project Wedding makes this mobile with vellum and attaches a fishing weight at the bottom to weigh it down. The card stock however, is heavy enough that this curling does not occur (hence my choosing cardstock). The cardstock is also a cheaper purchase than vellum.

Project wedding vellum mobile: $25
Sweet Peonies cardstock mobile: $10 (even less if you already have various pieces of cardstock on hand like me)

I love how the mobiles turned out. I have made 5 so far and will hang them above the food table at the baby shower. I am also tying in the jungle greens by placing tall ornamental grasses on the table and surrounding areas which should complement the green mobiles nicely. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little sneak peek at the jungle baby shower. I’ll be sure to post pictures of the finished event. You can see finished photos of the baby shower here.


The Patterns of Life


Tonight I am breathing a huge sigh of relief after making it through another week of midterms. Now I intend to spend my next week (Spring Break) re-cooperating, reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and stocking up on some great blog posts for you all.

For today, I thought I would give you a glimpse of our home through the patterns that inspire it. As many of you know, the apartment life is just not the same a turning an actual house into your very own home. Although Jack and I have a lovely apartment, certain rules keep us from making it truly ours. So, without being able to paint the walls, hang anything heavy, attach molding, etc. patterns have become my way of making due until the eventual day that we are able to purchase a home of our own.

These photos are just a few of my favorite patterns that I have in our apartment that I hope to one day incorporate into a home of our own. Keeping these patterns in sight keeps me looking forward to the future and to the possibilities it holds–and I don’t simply mean for decorating.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this unique sneak peak into our little apartment living.