Unofficially Official

My crafty makeover is 80% complete, and yet I’m 100% thrilled with the results so far. I keep the door open to the room, dogs and chewing be damned, at all times! It makes me that happy. Knowing I have a little purple heaven in the form of my closet that is now more organized and less cluttered with candles, cute, wire baskets full of candles, and a space to freely damage through whatever whim of artistic expression does my heart solid! I don’t think I’m really doing it justice, and while I still have a list and things and dreams for that room, my intentions when starting this room materialized for the most part.

Let’s visit the list, shall we?

Best of Intentions

Best of Intentions

Almost everything has been done. With my latest adventures into furniture refinishing (teaser alert!), Mr. Plaid has been way more encouraging of my new hobby. Not to gush, but I certainly love him a lot more for it.

We even were looking at trucks the other day, and he told the salesman with “my wife and her furniture browsing these days”…. everyone together… AWWWWW! Right?

It's the little thingsStyles change. Tastes change. And with it, so do the things that we create and want to be around us in our homes. Someday, I could despise the color purple, or think that Owlie is just not as cute as he once was. I could think words demanding me to ‘CREATE’ could seem pushy or presumptuous. But that is for another day. Today, I celebrate. I have a special place that energizes me and inspires me.

All to myself

All to myself

And that was the point.

As I mentioned earlier, my best laid plans for the actual worktable didn’t pan out quite as I had anticipated, but certainly I don’t regret the way I have things now. I will say, though, there are a few items I should add to my list. Because, as anyone who delves into DIY and projects in general, no project… no room…. no plan… is ever, really, complete. 

 

Doggies love arts too!

Doggies love arts too!

Here’s what still needs to happen:

– cushion for the stool, while I love IKEA, that stool is not the most gentle on my toosh
– labels for my baskets (CHECK! Thank you, Target)
-daybed – I have all the intentions to tuft a headboard for a daybed, watch out world!
and
-dog bed, they come and watch me try to be artsy. If I was brave (which I’ve already proven I am not, I would show you some of my, let’s call them drawings)

I love my space. I cannot emphasize that enough. Love it. LOVE it. And hopefully it will be the epicenter of all things great! I’m hopeful.

-jenn

Less is More…

Keep it simple stupid.

As the craft room has taken shape over the course of the last few weeks, what started out as a place of inspiration and color became more of an understated and simple vibe. Which, in its own right, IS inspiring. But I get distracted… let’s talk turkey. And by that I mean, table. Let’s talk Craft Table.

It looks smart

It looks smart

I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble with crafting in inappropriate places around the house. Apparently, painting on the kitchen table isn’t the best of places… who knew?? And while I have a garage ready for the crafting, it’s flipping COLD in there right now and I won’t even bother. So, the obvious thing to do was set myself up with a suitable workspace in-house where I wouldn’t be horrified if it became a bit banged up, but still would look presentable to guests (if those even exist).

Bun Feet, painted gold

Bun Feet, painted gold

The idea of a pull-out craft table came, more than likely, in a drunken brainstorming session. Shannon and I text more than we probably really talk, and drunken texting leads to drunken brainstorming. We talked about my needs for storage, something guest-friendly (ie. quick to clean up or make it appear clean), and not insanely expensive. So, IKEA. The Expedit shelf, to be precise. Shannon happened to have a spare one (that’s a post in the making there!!). We ‘drafted’ plans that would be the most epic craft table. It would slide out to form a larger work space and collapse when company was over. Genius, right??? I would cover the outside with decorative paper. There would be bun feet, to elevate the piece above the floor, so cute.

Paper waiting for the right project

Paper waiting for the right project

Well, the day finally came for the Expedit to be delivered (along with our own IKEA trip). We carried it up the stairs (hilarious!) and into the room. We installed the feet, everything was going according to the sketches and overly-contemplated plan. Once flipped and moved around the room a bit, we finally found the perfect spot. I’m telling you, it’s so cute and perfect!! Tucked in with the corner by the window, with the right amount of filtered natural light to help illuminate my horrible drawings and sketches.

Natural light makes me happy!

Natural light makes me happy!

I took a step back as we prepped for the next step: papering the outside of the table. And then, all of a sudden, it seemed complete. Perfect. Just as it should be. The idea of adding paper to the outside seemed like it would take away more than it would add. Installing the extending portion of the table gave me the impression it would just complicate things and make my pretty nook, ugly and busy. So… we did what only made sense, we scrapped the rest of the plan. In Shannon’s words “too bad we didn’t figure that out before we primered the legs”. Yes. If only. But here’s the thing, at least we figured it out. It was obvious. Not the way painting the closet purple seemed like the most natural fit, that was a hard one that I stared at for quite a while. But this: the table, the expedit, left no doubt. It was done. Add baskets, stow away my supplies, add a few other Ikea finds and BOOM, she’s a beaut!! And she’s all mine!

I feel watched... in a good way

I feel watched… in a good way

As I sit here, in my newly semi-furnished craft room, typing away, I actually feel legit. Not like, quit my job-legit, but… inspiring-legit. And that makes me… effing thrilled. Is it 5 o’clock yet? I need a celebratory beverage!

-jenn

Gettin' Crafty With It!!

Gettin’ Crafty With It!!

I’m a Girl, ya know…

Confession: I have commitment issues. With color, that is. I love the idea of bold and vibrant colors. But I am afraid of committing to any one color.

My house, as you have seen, could use a bigger dose of the lady-vibe. As I said, I feel obligated to pass many of my design inspirations past Mr. Plaid. Big items in my home, like the couch, furniture, bed, etc are pretty masculine in nature and as such, I need to get more femininity in my home. With that comes many ideas. Just browse Pinterest and you’ll see all sorts of decorative ideas and ways to add color, soft lines and the like. So far so good, right? Wrong.

So much Partylite

So much Partylite

Candles everwhere

Candles everwhere

Attempts to organize

Attempts to organize

Enter Shannon and the ever-neglected craft/guest room. The room, as it currently stands is a catch-all for my candles and un-done projects and certainly isn’t suitable for any kind of visitor. I need a place to work on things and I need a place that feels girly, without overwhelming guests with lace and pink (hello, perma-Valentine’s Day motif?). So, as part of my guest room makeover and crafting ventures, with a little nudge of encouragement from my partner in crime, I went for it. I dove in, and I painted the boldest solid color you’ll find in my house. Let me tell you, never in my wildest would I have thought purple would find a place in my house. But it did. It found the perfect little tuck-away place. The closet.

Which color will I choose?

Which color will I choose?

In addition to painting the entire closet, I also did a mini makeover on these two (raggedy) end tables that were Mr. Plaid’s pre-me. They had seen better days and needed some love.

Primed and ready

Primed and ready

In doing the end tables, the process was insanely simple. Prime, wait, another coat of primer, wait, paint, wait, another coat of paint, and wait some more. As you can see in the background, my closet threw-up onto the floor, but you gotta make it work, right?

Even Ellie was tired of waiting.

Even Ellie was tired of waiting.

I had a quart of KILZ on hand from earlier painting projects, so I used that. It is a universal primer that kills and seals. Not that my little end tables needing “killing”, but I got the stuff that I could use on anything, no matter the origins.

I used an eggshell sheen with the paint, in a beautiful color. One of the sample pots from the closet color choices.

Painted and beautiful

Painted and beautiful

But enough about utility and storage, on to the pretty part. Right?

Lazy Afternoon

Lazy Afternoon

This happened!

This happened!

You don’t even understand my excitement at having such a beautiful color. It is both inspiring (necessary for crafting) and only a door-close away for being guest-ready. With the closet color-over I also took the time to do better organization of my candles (wow I have too many!) and my craft supplies. There are more things in-store for the room itself, but for now, let me introduce my newly beatified closet:

There are no words

There are no words

This is going to be the best room makeover ever. Between the closet and the other décor tidbits I’ve done to the craft table being fabricated, my guests will love the space and I will finally have a feminine place to hide and be creative all to myself. The color is a Home Depot color match to Benjamin Moore’s Lazy Afternoon. Let me tell you, this was anything but Lazy. I was so excited to have my closet re-assembled, I hardly waited long enough to let the paint dry!

I don’t want to give too much away before the big reveal and guest room re-vamps, so I will leave you with one last glimpse of my crown jewel. Enjoy!

-Jenn

Lookin' Good!!

Lookin’ Good!!

We thought it would be a good idea to really put some elbow grease into our respective guest rooms this month.  For Jenn, this works out well because that’s the one room she can girly up without any spousal grumblings about how she’s making his home feel like ladytown.  For me, this mostly works out well because my guest room should be more accurately titled “that bland white room upstairs that I ignore until someone says they’re coming to visit and then make mad-cap halfhearted attempts to make temporarily habitable.”

I see nothing wrong with leaving a room a bit of a blank slate until inspiration and/or necessity strike, but the fact is, all the décor for that room was hammered down years ago.  Literally, years: it was destined to inherit my old bedroom’s palette and accessories.  Easy, right?  All but effortless?  Yeah, maybe, except for how it really needed to start with One Super Dreaded Project.

If this blog were a solo venture, I could title it “Shannon Grows A Pair And Maybe Stops Procrastinating In The Process.”  For the sake of catchy titles, it’s really best this is a partner gig.

First, the guest room in question:

guestbefore

It’s tiny, and like most upstairs rooms, afflicted with awkwardly-sloped ceilings and the beigest beige carpet that’s ever beiged a bland.  It’s not all bad, though:  the light is beautiful, and because it’s small, I harbor high hopes that super-saturating it with color will make it a total jewel box.  Or circus tent.  I did always want to live in a circus tent.

The weirdest thing about the guest room is that it is the only bedroom in the house that has a closet.  Not only a closet – a semi respectable walk-in-able closet.  Naturally, in the absence of permanent guests, we have put this to good use:

guestcloset

Yep.  Chock full o’ pillows.  And a Rubbermaid bin.  I do not know where either the pillows or the bin came from, which leads me to suspect Roommate Involvement.  It’s on the agenda for the next house meeting.

The chaos isn’t all roommate-induced; I claim full responsibility for the presence of a chair that takes up 40% of the room:

oldguestchair

You might think that’s a papasan, but in actual fact, it’s a really posh dog bed. Ask my dogs; they will confirm.  Just don’t ask them why I thought it made perfect sense to put into a room that is closed off to them 99% of the time.  I stand by the opinion that a guest room really needs a chair – I just cannot give any rational explanation for why any guest room ever would need THAT chair.

Meanwhile, back at the point:  the onerous project.

Years ago, my mother made me an absolutely beautiful crazy quilt.  I mean, gorgeous.  It’s all brocades and velvets and metallic threads, reds and pinks and purples and turquoises, all slapped together in a total riot of colors.  It was too beautiful to risk the pitter patter of pet feet by putting it on a bed, so I asked my mom to add a rod pocket on the back for wall-mounting.  It’s been the centerpiece of my bedroom in the last few places I lived…once I could get it up on a wall.

Things that quilt taught me:  I hate, and I mean hate, hate, HATE, installing curtain rods, because apparently, no matter how many levels and stud finders and careful measurements are involved, I.  Will. Screw.  It.  UP.  You give me a drill, a length of pipe, and some ornate finials and where any sane person would produce a place to hang curtains, I will give you back some kind of drunkenly-tilting modern art failure that is about as sturdy as a tower of Jenga blocks.

Seriously, it’s a gift.

Absent a blog-related commitment to get this room in order, I am pretty sure I would have kept avoiding the guest room until the literal end of days.  With avoidance off the agenda, though, I did the only other thing a reasonable, sensible adult possibly could.

Yeah, I called my mommy to help.

She came armed with lots of helpful advice.  One, an organized, efficient workplace is key:

organizationiskey

Two, it is of paramount importance that one measure carefully and mark studs accurately:

barewall

And it is super helpful if one uses the appropriate tools and techniques to make those all-important marks.  Pencil over scotch tape works really well for legibility and easy clean-up.  Unfortunately, there were stairs involved in that plan, so I went with plan B:

highclassmarker

Bonus:  if and when anyone drilled through a finger, we were TOTALLY ready.

But most importantly, have good assistance.  And if you can’t have good assistance, get your mom to climb the ladder and do the heavy lifting while you take pictures of your dog getting in the way.

jashelps

In actual fact, I TOTALLY did all the drilling and hardware-installing and EVEN THE LEVELLING. I just also did most of the picture-taking and hand-flapping and freaking out.  Let’s be super clear about this:  I AM A COMPETENT AND CAPABLE ADULT.  That capability just doesn’t include any skill at drawing a straight line, and if I’m being honest, ladders terrify me. Feel free to point out that the ladder in question has 2 steps and rises to a total height of something like 18 inches.  It’s still a ladder, and I still want nothing to do with it.

Despite hand-flapping and freaking out and a well-documented historical incompetence when it comes to mounting window hardware, I am proud to say:  NAILED IT!

quiltwhole

It totally hangs up!  Without falling down! Or listing like a sinking ship!

quiltfinished

The guest room is officially underway.  Now, to find a solution for that ridiculous chair…

All the Rage

Just so we all know what I’m talking about when I start this post.

So we're on the same page

So we’re on the same page

I am going to offer my tips and tricks for making the amazing and currently uber-popular, French Macarons. Everywhere you look people are making and sharing these amazing little gems of the kitchen. They are finicky and difficult, but I think that is what adds to the appeal of making these at home. There is a little bakery in the Pike Place Market called Le Panier that makes these and so I can have these treasures on-demand if I so choose. But if I am to be honest, I take more pleasure in the ones I slave away for in my own kitchen.

Almost two years ago, I took a cooking class with my dad (I know… cheesy) at Sur La Table and we had a hands-on tutorial from a French pastry chef on the magical macaron and since then, I’ve been hooked on these cookies. Currently, I am trying to venture out from my mastered flavor/color combinations. We all have room to grow, yes? So I will share with you the Sur la Table recipe that I use and find success. There are many cheats and tricks out there that tout the “easy” macaron and guarantee a perfect cookie every time. I make no such claims. I do what I have done and just keep practicing until I get it perfect. Feel free to sub out any recipe and follow along.

Tricks and Prep

Piped and waiting patiently

Piped and waiting patiently

– weigh, weigh, weigh — I use a digital scale and weigh everything rather than volume measuring. I’ve read it improves accuracy. A basic digital kitchen scale does the trick
– old egg whites – the recipe I use and the ‘training’ I went through had us using at least day-old egg whites. So what I do is separate my yolks and whites about two to three days ahead and leave them out, at room temp, in a sealed Tupperware container. I open the lid at night just to ‘burp’ the air. Supposedly, allowing the whites to ‘age’ will improve their stability when you’re making the meringue
– Red Mill Almond Flour, fine grind – is magic. I didn’t find this until about my 4th or 5th batch of macarons. I was originally using Trader Joe’s Almond Meal, but the grind was not really fine enough and I spent a lot of time sifting and pulsing in the food processer
– sift, sift, sift – when the recipe calls for it, do it. It really aids in the stability of the batter, which in the end, improves the formation of the pied.

These are the only "feet" I love

These are the only “feet” I love

– the pied (foot) – pied is the tell-tale sign you’ve made a macaron. The ONLY way to ensure a good pied is to allow your piped macarons to sit, for at least 30 minutes. Usually I am making a day of baking and make three or four batches of cookies, so I mix and pipe everything one batch after another. So by the time I am done piping the last batch, the first are ready for the oven. It makes for a crowded kitchen, but if you are only doing one batch, there is no harm in letting those babies sit for as long as you need.
-Baking – it took me a while to find the write heat/time combo. Here’s the thing, every oven is different, so while I will put what I use, please watch your batches the first go around and tweak as necessary. However, one thing that will aid in an even rise and limit burning, Double Pan. This is where you have a baking sheet that stays in the oven, and you just place your piped macaron sheet on top, essentially ensuring you have an even heated surface. At the half way point in your bake time, do a quick rotation of your baking sheet. All these steps are to give yourslf the best chance at having sturdy meringue that is still soft to eat. Lastly, the class teacher told us that you have the best success with the macaronnage (when you fold the egg whites with the dry ingredients) if it is a ‘dry’ day. I take this to mean, any day when there isn’t moisture in the air, be it fog, humidity, or rain. This caveat makes these cookies all the more rare in my house.

So many colors

So many colors

-piping – I’ve made a template. I took an 8.5×11 piece of paper and traced perfect circles (slightly larger than a quarter, but bigger than a 1/2 dollar) on it. I lay my parchment paper over the template and pipe the macarons. Pipe by holding your piping bag directly over the center of the circle, about 1/4 inch above it. Evenly squeeze, holding the bag steady until the batter just reaches the edge of the template lines. At that point, make a swift motion going up and to the side, bring the piping tip out of the batter without disrupting too much of your soon-to-be macaron. If you’re unsure, allow yourself a few practice pipes on a separate parchment piece. Once done piping a baking sheet’s worth of cookies, bang (yes, they like it a bit rough) the cookie sheet with the piped sheet of macarons on the counter. This breaks up any air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter and makes sure that any air escaping during the baking process will exit out the bottom/sides forming the pied.

Even Ellie appreciates a macaron day

Even Ellie appreciates a macaron day

-let cool and enjoy!

Sur La Table’s Macaron Recipe for the Basic Macaron

Yield: 35 sandwich cookies

7 oz powdered sugar, divided
4 oz almond flour or meal
4 oz egg whites, room temp
pinch of Cream of Tartar
3 1/2 oz granulated sugar
Food Coloring gel (whatever color makes you smile!)
Filling of your choice (jam, buttercream, ganache)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare parchment paper macaron templates. Line baking sheets with Silpat silicone mats and top with parchment paper templates. **Jenn’s note — I start my oven at 310 and bake at 7 min a side.

Pulse one third of the powdered sugar and all the almond flour in a food processor to form a fine powder. Sift mixture two times. Sift remaining powdered sugar two times. Combine almond flour mixture and remaining powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. (*Jenn’s note: don’t add Cream of Tartar until the whites start to get frothy. Wait until the whites/tartar become… and this is gross… the consistency of runny snot, then add the granulated sugar). Gradually add granulated sugar. once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, add food coloring and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step, sift the almond flour mixture one-third at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny. One all the almond flower mixture is incorporated, check for the correct consistency, as the batter should be nicely firm and drip slowly from the spatula.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip (#12) and pipe according to the templates, approximately 1 1/3 inch rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets. Rap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form. the macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Stack the baking sheet with the macarons on top of an empty baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 to 15 minutes total. If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven to 300 degrees, cover with aluminum foil and bake for a few more minutes.

Let macarons cool on sheets for two to three minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

Try to leave a few for others, but it’s really hard… these cookies are ADDICTING! You just pop ’em in… and it doesn’t stop. Happy Baking, everyone!

-jenn

So many colors, so many fillings...

So many colors, so many fillings…

Sugar and spice and everything nice

It’s February!  That magical month where one greeting card holiday mid-month ensures 28 days of everything being so chocolate-coated and strawberry-flavored and lace-bedecked and so lovey-dovey-precious that you could just choke. 

We would like to apologize in advance for not being Those Kinds Of People. Don’t mistake us, it’s not that we object to all the saccharine cuteness or the endless mushy love-themed decorations, at least in theory.  One of us – name withheld to protect the dignity of the victim – may possibly have already used the impending holiday as an excuse to festoon her entire office with glittery hearts and doilies. 

No, we like the frilliness and the sparkles and pink and purple and ribbons and lace.  We just don’t see why we should confine fancy sweets and candy colors to one month:  these should be long-term commitments and legitimate lifestyle choices.    So, instead of turning this month into a shrine to all things Valentine, we’re going to use this as an excuse to revel in the little bits of sweet and girly we want to see in our homes all year round, and to make the kinds of decadent little treats we find irresistible in any season.

 

 

 

 

Put a 12 on it!

If we’re a little quiet here for a few days, the reason is pretty simple:

We’re in Washington state.

Normally this would be our excuse for being a bit loud:  we are where the world gets its coffee, and if we don’t drink lots and lots of it, we will have no way of ensuring that it remains of the highest quality.  We do this for you.  We do this for science.

At the moment, our rallying cries are less about the coffee and more about two very simple words:

GO HAWKS!

Seriously, are you ready for some football???? GO SPORTS!! HOME RUN! Or, you know, whatever one shouts in these moments.  Confidentially, we are neither of us particularly committed football fans, but damned if we haven’t been swept up in the fever this year.  And today, Seattle’s beloved Sea-Chickens are trying it out with Denver’s Broncos.

(check it out!  we’ve totally learned lingo!)

If you are anywhere near…oh, let’s just say the entire West Coast, you’re probably a Seahawks fan right now, too. Maybe you never were before, but you’re wearing blue and calling yourself the 12th man today.

Seattle's Skyline is a fan too

Seattle’s Skyline is a fan too

Hawk Jet

Hawk Jet

Honestly, the days and weeks leading up to this moment have bordered on full on ridiculous. Anything that sits still long enough ends up emblazoned with a #12, because apparently putting a 12 on anything makes it fan-gear, and god help you all if anyone thinks your car, your sneakers, and your yorkie aren’t all superfans. The local City Target pooped out a Seahawks gear station overnight, and hasn’t been able to keep it stocked since. Staid buildings full of boring businesses are are blocking out windows, raising flags, declaring “Blue Fridays” for their office workers, and racing to the bandwagon of fandom. I mean, they painted a Boeing plane and did a test flight over Eastern Washington… IN THE SHAPE OF A 12.

Don't ask me why

Don’t ask me why

 

 

Skittles even made a special Seattle blend.

 

The thing is, winning at sports isn’t really what we do best here.  It’s going to be a sad day if we lose, but we actually have more pressing concerns.  Llike what will happen if we win.  We’re actually pretty sure the city will riot out of sheer confusion. We’re also more than a little concerned that we’ve got enough of the fever to join right in.

Until it’s time to throw trashcans through windows, though, we’ll be busy painting 12’s on anything that’ll hold still for it.  We’ll see you in a few days –  if we’re not recovering from jubilant hangovers or riot-control pepper spray, that is.