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July 31, 2012

Emma's Packing Our Dishes | Moving Tips | Wedding China

Emma has been a busy girl.  She took on the task of packing up our wedding china today.  You might be thinking... weren't you worried that a 7-month-old infant wouldn't pack your dishes properly so they wouldn't break during the move?  I'll admit, at first I was a skeptical, but when I saw her technique, I knew our wedding gifts would make it safely all the way back to Kansas City.

Place felt round on top of plate. 

Put each plate in a bubble wrap sleeve.

 Smile.  Packing is fun!  Bang your wooden spoon with enthusiasm.

When you've packed 4 plates in bubble sleeves, stack them and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap.  This is a tip I Emma learned from rental companies.  When you receive rental china it all comes tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from clanging together.  

Next, wrap the plastic wrapped bundles with foam to protect the edges. 

Powder Blue Gold Rimmed Anna Wheatherly plates are done...

Now she's moving on to the Spode Woodlands collection.

She ran out of individual bubble sleeves, so she zig-zagged the foam sheeting between the plates, then wrapped in plastic and more foam.

She especially loved the little birdies on the salad plates. 


Next the stacks got packed into boxes.  The bottom is filled with crumpled unprinted newsprint - you can by reams of newsprint very inexpensively at packing stores.  

In go the wrapped dishes, separated by layers of crumpled paper. 

The top is topped off with extra paper to make sure it is packed tight and snug inside to prohibit the dishes from moving.  

Top with the top and label.  

 These are from Rasa Orchards - the orchard of a family friend.  These apple boxes are perfect for moving - they are strong enough to hold a big load of apples!

July 30, 2012

Salad for Supper | Chicken, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Red Peppers & Greens

Salad for Supper | Chicken, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Red Peppers & Greens

When I ask Mike what he'd like for dinner he usually says something "fresh & healthy" (if not steak and baked potatoes).  Humf.  Then, I explain to him that the blog readers don't want "fresh and healthy."  And honestly, neither do I!  Well, I guess that is not true... maybe you and I just need something that is fresh and healthy AND crave-able.  Because, if you're anything like me (and I'm guessing you are...) you're going to head to the cookie jar (or carton of ice cream) minutes after dinner if it didn't have enough oomph to be satisfying.   Oh, and the side of cheese bread helps, too.

This salad fits the "fresh and healthy" but still really flavorful bill for me.  It is somewhat like a cob salad - if I would've had bacon, I would've added it!  The avocado makes any dressing really creamy, the chicken makes it 'supper' worthy, and the crunchy sweet corn and red peppers are so perfect together. 

On another note, the packing has started (as you can see in the photo above, we're eating amongst packing paper at our table)!  I'm going to be purging the excess from our life and I can not wait.  It always feels so good to get down to what you really need and love - all other possessions will be outta here.  Easier said than done... wish me luck.  I'll be sharing my purging and packing journey over the next two weeks.

2 Very Large 
Supper Salads
Chicken, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Red Peppers & Greens

2 Chicken Breasts*
2 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1 head of lettuce*
1 Avocado, large dice
2 Ears of Corn, cut off of the cob
3 Green Onions, sliced
1 Red Pepper, diced
Cheese (I used parmesan, but cheddar would've been great, too)
Creamy Dressing (Green Goddess or Ranch)

*You could use a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own.
*I used a combination of bibb lettuce, radicchio and romaine.

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet.  Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size.  Let them cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Cut lettuce into 1/2 inch pieces, then rinse twice and spin dry.  In a large bowl, combine avocado, sweet corn, green onions and red pepper.  With a fork, mash 1/2 of the avocado slightly to help it incorporate into the dressing.  Add cheese, lettuce and dressing.  Toss well.  Add chicken and toss a little bit more.

July 27, 2012

We Bought a New House... and I'm going crazy on Pinterest

I have been distracted lately.  You may have noticed.  We have some major news... we bought a new house!  Or, I guess, we're buying a new house.  Certain things, like, the appraisal and closing still have to happen, but the plan is to buy the house.  In one month.

So, yes, I've been distracted.  Then I thought, instead of letting my endless search for interior inspiration distract me, I decided to bring you along.

I've been going Pinterest crazy (follow all of my pins here) pinning inspiration photos, paint colors, chairs (oh, the chairs...) and general I love everything about this photo photos. 

Follow along as I share the journey of designing our new home.  Note, I won't be sharing the photos of the actual home until we move at the end of next month to keep the current owner's privacy.  And to not jinx the closing!

So, I've listed some of my new Pinterest Boards below that I'll be updating with inspiration as I come across it.  To follow all of my Pinterest boards (recipes, home inspiration, wish list, clothes, baby...) click here.

New Living Room Pinterest Board

Paint Colors Pinterest Board

General House Inspiration Pinterest Board


New Dining Room Pinterest Board

New Master Bedroom Pinterest Board

July 23, 2012

We built a bed! DIY Wooden Headboard

Last weekend a friend called and asked what we were up to.
My reply, "Building a bed."
Really?  Can you do that?   
"Sure.  Why not?"

I feel like I always get a similar response to people when we're working on a project.  Especially the guys that work at the hardware store.  Why do they always assume I don't know what I'm doing?  It is so frustrating.  And annoying.  I'll be looking at nail guns or sorting through pieces of lumber and they'll come up and ask me what I need.  I'll say something like, "I'm building a bed" or "I'm making a wood counter top for my kitchen island" or "I'm creating a bathroom vanity out of a dresser," and they start explaining to me why I can't do whatever it is I want to do.  

I've got new for you people : Yes, I can and will.  
I don't mean to sound "know-it-all-y," and I do know that there are things that I actually can not do (at this point in time... until I google it and figure it out, that is). 
Oh, and when I say "I" I really mean "we" - as you can see Mike has really expanded my repertoire of skills.  

I feel like this mind-set is what sets people apart from others- in everything, not just furniture building and home improvement projects, of course.

I also used to run into this problem a lot when I was a wedding planner - I would have a vision for something, like how the reception space should be set up.  The event space coordinator would say things like, "We usually do it this way" or "Um... well, we have never done it that way" and they would get this really nervous look on their face like, "You're going to take me out of my comfort zone and make me actually think today, aren't you?"  Yes.  Yes, I am.

Even when I worked at my 'real' job at an advertising agency before leaving to start my own business, when I would go to my supervisors and suggest implementing a creative new system would making things more efficient and easier, I would be met with a, "Well we've always done it this way- maybe we should just keep doing it the same way we've always done it" response that sent my mind spinning into an Office Space type of moment. 

I just wanted to stand and up and shout at them, "You are crazy."  But then I would've been the one that looked crazy.  All is well in the end, because when I told them I was going to quit to start my own business, they, of course, looked at me like I was crazy.  The lesson : You can't help the vision-less.  There are those of us that have it.  And those of that don't.  Feel bad for them.  Don't yell at them and tell them they are crazy.  

Clearly I was in desperate need of a more creative outlet if I was spending my days thinking of new fancy excel sheets to make my day more exciting.

Actually, I love spreadsheets.  In fact, I spend a lot of time maintaining my spreadsheets for my business, parties, projects, our home and our savings.  I just want to be clear- I'm not insulting spreadsheets or those of you who work with them all day long.  Creativity comes in many ways.

Maybe someday I'll share all of the spreadsheets that I've designed?  They make me smile.  What could I categorize them under?  My Life?  Home? 

It seems that this post has gotten a little off-topic.  Or has it?  The moral of the story is to open yourself to do something you think you can't do.

Push yourself.  You might end up with something beautiful.  Be it spreadsheet or bed.  

This bed was inspired by the Sommerset Bed from Pottery Barn that is no longer available (in a Queen size).  So, I did a little research and found plans for building this bed at my new favorite site, Anna White.  If this post hasn't been enough inspiration for you to push your carpentry limits, her easy to follow projects will.  

We built the headboard first, and plan to build the base/frame later this month.  I used the following combination to achieve the finish (I'm including this so when we go back to make the bed base I won't forget) : 

1st : Sand, Sand & Sand
2nd : Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (Minwax)
3rd : Stain mixed in equal parts : Special Walnut, Provencal & Golden Pecan (Mixwax), brushed on and left on
4th : Special Walnut & Weathered Oak (Minwax), brushed on, then wiped off
5th : Light sand & buff
6th : Danish Oil rubbed on.
7th : Light sand & buff.

July 20, 2012

My Projects... a work in progress

Last week I told you that Emma and I were taking the week off to work on some projects. 

Emma and I were very busy...
Turns out, 'projects' post baby are a lot harder to get finished than the wide open days of old.  

I promised that I would share the projects I worked on this week.  Well, it's Friday... any my projects are still works in progress.  I'm a keeper of my word, so here are the projects I've been working on - and I'm still working on.  

The Mini Me Wingback Chair I'm making a slipcover for...  it is actually almost done. 

I'll be putting the finishing touches on it today... maybe.

I told you Mike was building me a bed.

Isn't it pretty?!

I'm refinishing our dresser.  This is mid strip.

This is post-strip, pre-sanding.

Check back next week for a real update on these projects!

July 18, 2012

The Best Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

I consider myself somewhat of a cupcake aficionado.  I've been on the cupcake bus since... well, as long as I can remember.  In my catering and wedding planning days, I made (I'm guessing...) thousands of cupcakes for my clients.  I once did a Bridal Fair and was told to be prepared for 3,000 brides to visit my booth... So, I made 3,000 mini cupcakes topped with a pale blue buttercream that I dubbed "Bliss Blue."  Obviously the booth was a big hit.

My first 'gourmet' cupcake was at Sprinkles in Beverly Hills 10-12 years ago(?).  Since then I make a point taste cupcakes from any cupcakerie that I pass.  An occupational obligation.  Some of my favorites include Georgetown Cupcakes (tv show, DC Cupcake), Sweet (Back Bay, Boston), Sprinkles (DC - remember the cherry blossom cupcakes I made?!), Cupcake A La Mode (Kansas City), Dolce (Kansas City), and most recently Magnolia Bakery.

When we were in New York for a wedding this Spring, I had my first experience at Magnolia Bakery.  I'm a tough critic- but I thought these were some of the best cupcakes I've ever tasted.  Mostly, I loved the very vanilla-y, soft and creamy buttercream.

Emma's 7th month birthday was on the 15th, so yesterday I made a batch of Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupakes topped with Bliss Blue Vanilla Buttercream.  Basically, I just needed an excuse.

*New : Here is a link to my new store with all of my favorite Baking Essentials - the perfect cupcake liners, disposable piping bags, etc. to make your cupcake making easy.

Magnolia Bakery's
Vanilla Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

My favorite cupcake liners : a little taller than most papers, but still fit in a standard muffin pan for professional looking cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttercream:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake

 Make sure you beat the icing for 3-5 minutes to get the super creamy consistency.

 As I talked about at length in my Heirloom Pumpkin Sugar Cookies post, when I'm mixing icing colors I always add a little touch of the opposite of the color I'm mixing to achieve a muted color that looks more sophisticated.  In this instance since I was making blue, I added just a touch of red (far left) and yellow (middle) to the blue (right).  By adding the red and yellow (or orange... I didn't have any) the color will appear more muted and not so bright.  It sounds strange, but it really works.

Ready to frost - I opted for a homemade looking cupcake versus my typical piped on swirl.

I tried to mimic the famous Magnolia swirl... it was hard to copy!

Again... here is a link to my new store with all of my favorite Baking Essentials - the perfect cupcake liners (a little taller than most for professional looking cupcakes), disposable piping bags, etc. to make your cupcake making easy.
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