Thursday, May 31, 2012


Progress is moving {slowly} on our family room makeover.

After a little more research, we decided cork flooring, posted about here, was not the right choice for this room. According to those we have spoke to, it doesn't hold up as well as we need.

(Of course, if I thought I could get away a polished cement floor, I would. But that may be a tad too modern for our little yellow cape.)

We decided to go with a factory-finished hardwood from Home Depot. It needs time to acclimate to home's temperature and humidity before installation.

Verifying that we didn't have a hidden gem hiding under the vinyl brick flooring.
No such luck. Just the typical plywood sub floor.

Here's hoping we will have a new floor for this room soon. . .

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

color blocking with flowers

The other night my daughter had her end of the year chorus concert. My chivalrous husband thought ahead and bought her an inexpensive bouquet of flowers from the grocery store to celebrate the event.

That night we got home late, so I just dropped the entire bouquet into a vase of water and forgot about it. The next day, I knew these pretty little flowers needed some more care to ensure the longest life possible, so I took my cue from one of today's hottest trends, color blocking.

un-arranged flowers

Color blocking is one of the hot trends in both fashion and home interiors. But with a little know how and some simple household supplies, you can transform any boring bouquet into a trendy arrangement.

  • flowers
  • water filled vase
  • scissors
  • clear tape
  • measuring tape

  1. Measure the height of your vase and the length of your flowers. Decide the vase to flower ratio. (For example, a 3:5 ratio -where the container equals 3, the flowers equal 5, and the entire arrangement equals 8).
  2. Cut your flowers' stem -this is best done under running water. Cut the stems on angle to allow for maximum life. Remove any leaves that will fall below the water line -this prevents bacteria growth.
  3. Tape off sections of your vases. (Make certain, the vase is dry. The tape won't stick to a wet surface.) For this particular arrangement, I created a simple grid.
  4. Arrange the flowers in your vase. I wanted a diagonal stripped color block, so I started with the tall yellow lilies in the back corner and worked my way to the white daisies.
Actually, in the wold of floral design, color blocking is not new, as evidenced by the Biedermeier style originating in 1815 in Austria and Germany.

There are so many fun ways arrange flowers. What are your favorites?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

more family room progress

Our marathon DIY family room makeover finally has some more updates. Handyman used his Memorial Day time off to get some more work done in here.

The ceiling is painted.
The trim is all painted.
The walls are all painted.
And the old carpet, padding, and nail tack strips are removed.

The room is now ready for new flooring.

newest progress



newest progress

close up of the vinyl brick flooring

To lower our disposal costs, Handyman cut up the carpeting according to our town's bulk item removal criteria. We also purchased another Bagster.

Of course, our weekend did include its share of marshmallow roasting, firepit corn popping, yard clean-up, and swimming.

How did you spend your Memorial Day?

TDC Before and After

Friday, May 25, 2012

favorite souvenirs

We recently traveled to Costa Rica and brought back some fun little souvenirs to remember our trip. Since we left our little ones at home, it was important that we bring back a few goodies for them.

At a small strip of shops along the beach, I came across the fun little musical frog. If you remove the stick from his mouth and run it along the bumps on his back, he creates an authentic sounding croak. My kids love it, and have already rubbed all the paint off the top of the bumps from so much use.

When I'm shopping for souvenirs, I try to select pieces that:
1) fit in my suitcase (or are worth shipping)
2) remind me of a specific part of my trip
3) will complement or enhance an existing space in my home

The iguana puzzle is representative of this sunbathing iguana we observed sunbathing on the roof every morning. This wooden iguana also houses a small, secret stashing spot.

A few years back I started collecting nativities. Through my own travels and those of close family members, I now have a small collection of international nativities. I'm fascinated by the different interpretations of the same event.

Since I know my children love to rearrange them, I selected two nativities that will tolerate their sometimes clumsy little hands. The brightly colored one is made of wood and can withstand lots of Christmas-time rearranging.

Photographs of where we stayed, posted here.

What criteria do you use when selecting souvenirs?

Linked to CentsationalGirl

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I apologize for my lack of recent posts. It's so hard to be inside when it's so beautiful outside. The weather has been great and I've been busy springing cleaning inside and plotting a little bit for the outside projects this year.

I have {many} rhododendron bushes in my yard, and right now they are in full bloom. Their fragrance perfumes my entire yard. It's pretty heavenly. The blooms won't last too much longer, which is why I try to enjoy them while they last. I've kept a constant supply of blooms in vases inside the houses too.

As far a plants go, they are quite easy. These perennials are easily recognized by their white, purple, or pink blooms and their large oval leaves and are relatively low maintenance. I didn't even touch them last year. Mine are quite large, and will need some severe pruning this year. According to my local nursery, it's probably best to do it in stages over the next few years.

Right now they provide great privacy along my back and side yards.

What beauty do you have blooming around your space at this time of year?

Monday, May 21, 2012

spring cleaning and spray painting

It was a busy weekend.

I've been on a spring cleaning-decluttering-purging mission over here. Even though I do it annually, I always find a couple small garbage bags full of stuff to donate each year. This year on the chopping block was the princess dress up attire, the magical Cinderella princess vanity, the play kitchen, along with a bunch of paper back books, and outgrown  or I-refuse-to-wear-that-kid clothes.

This is also one of the few summers that we aren't moving. How novel. Usually this season, I'm busy packing up our things to move. I have to say, its a pretty nice feeling being settled. I think that's why I feel so driven to go through everything, its just habit. (There's nothing worse than moving stuff you do need or love.)

I was helping my friend Lisa purge and organize last week, and we came across this little guy, proudly displayed above her enclosed porch sliding door. (Lisa has a similar situation, bought her home not too long ago, and inherited various treasures, like I posted about here.)

I did find time to give him a quick little makeover.

 the original


new key lime outfit

I selected this key lime color to coordinate with some new key lime kid chairs that she picked up for her children's play space. She doesn't know that I had plans to paint this guy, so I am excited to see her reaction. She was ready to toss him in the trash.

If  tackling your own spring cleaning tasks seem daunting or you just need a little break, try this old fashion bread recipe. The kneading process provides some great stress relief and provides a loaf of yummy bread.

What are you tackling this week?

Linked up to PowerofPaint, ThrifyDecorChick

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

story telling

I think photography should convey a story. . .

Taking pictures of my kids is one of my favorite things to do. And even though I am still learning, I try to capture those candid moments that express them in the moment.

Funny how I can remember each one of these specific moments and why I treasure them.

What is your favorite way to tell a story?

Linking up to SerenityNow

Monday, May 14, 2012

boston cream cupcakes

I hope you had a great Mother's Day weekend! Mine was filled with handmade cards and school crafts, breakfast in bed, {plastic} jewelry, and a vase-filled flowers from our yard.

School is almost out and that means time can get pretty tight. But there's still ways to have pretty homemade desserts handy for last minute get togethers and dinner parties.

One recipe I tend to go to again and again is this Boston Cream Cupcake recipe. It's not only easy to make, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time. Just assemble before serving.
Recipe from marthastewart
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for tins
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour standard muffin tins. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Warm milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in dry ingredients.
  3. Bring milk and butter to a boil. With mixer on low speed, add milk mixture to batter, and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake cupcakes until light gold, about 15 minutes. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Let cool.

Vanilla Cream Filling
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Whisk yolks until smooth. Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add milk in a slow, steady stream. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Pass vanilla cream through a fine sieve into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on surface.* Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Chocolate Glaze
2/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup**

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and add chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool, stirring often. Use immediately or store in refrigerator.

Using a serrated knife, slice cupcakes in half. Spread generously with the vanilla cream filling. Replace the top and drizzle with chocolate.

Baker's Notes:
*This prevents a skin from forming.
** This adds a nice shine to the glaze.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

our family renovation

Did you ever read Laura Joffe Numeroff's sweet story If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?

It's the full circle tale of an innocently cute mouse's simple request that evolves into increasingly complicated requests and their ensuing messy consequences, eventually tiring the generous giver to utter exhaustion.

I {might} have been a mouse.
And I {might} have wanted a cookie.
And we did make a mess.

I blame it on my babysitter really. She was unavailable that fateful Friday night, leaving us bored and wondering what to do. So, we did what any listless couple does, we demolished a room.

The initial mess ensued not long after we painted the fake wood paneling. Truthfully, we didn't even finish the job. . .

All I really wanted to do was:
  • paint the fake wood paneling
  • remove the space-eating gas stove
  • tear down the brick hearth

But once the brick was down we realized we might as well:
  • remove the fake wood paneling
  • replace the old and yucky insulation
  • spray foam the window joints
  • rewire, relocate, and consolidate the electrical
  • install overhead lighting
  • replace the door
  • remove the acoustic ceiling tiles
  • update the trim

And that's how we got from wanting to paint our family room to renovating the entire space.

You can read more about our family room renovation here, here, here, and here.

Please tell me I'm not the only DIY mouse out there?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

outlet placement

A few weeks ago, my new blogger friend Lisa, of Lisa Mende Design, wrote one of the best design posts I have read in a long time. She commented on how we often go to great lengths to renovate our spaces, then fail to overlook something as simple as the outlets placement. This is most noticeable in the kitchen space, where smart outlet placement lends to increased work function and efficiency.

Lisa's post specifically addresses kitchen outlet placement. Her position is simple- great style and design can accomadate high function. Whether you are starting from scratch or retrofitting,  her post is complete with photographic examples of each design point.

As a someone who has plans/hopes (fingers crossed) of a kitchen remodel in the next few years, I'm filing away this one under key information to remember.

Lisa is an interior designer of 14 years and a master designer. Read her post and then c'mon back and let me know what you think. Have you considered outlet placement before or is it an "ah-ha" moment?

(Of course, feel free to leave Lisa some comment love too!)

Check it out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

front steps

This is the story of our front steps . . .

When we moved into our home, our steps looked like this. . .

functional, and intact. The home inspection didn't reveal anything amiss and we didn't notice anything either.

That winter, like almost everyone else, we were buried in snow. At least 5 feet here.

When the snow finally receded in the spring, we noticed the mortar between the bricks was literally crumbling underfoot. Even the gentlest toe nudge crumbled the concrete into dust.

For safety reasons, this clearly wasn't a project that could wait. We step up some temporary cinder block stairs while we drew up plans, priced supplies and materials, and Handyman arranged some time off work for our unexpected DIY spring project.

After a long weekend of concrete mixing and brick laying we had our new steps. . .

I spotted these planters sitting outside a cute shop in Napa Valley last fall.
Anyone know where I can purchase a similiar pair?

I don't even want to think about how much this would have cost if we hadn't done it ourselves. . .

Of course, I left the dirty & heavy work to Handyman and his Dad. I relegated myself to lunch provider, Home Depot runner for all the Quickcrete, and kid entertainer to keep the curious little one and his fingers out of the way. 

We still need to seal the steps and add handrails, but other than that, there are complete. One project down, 99+ to go. . .

Did last winter bring any surprise spring projects your way?

Linked up to SerenityNow, BNOTP, Debbie Doos, Making the World Cuter, LinesAcrossMyFace, NifyThrifty, CRAFT, HomemakerOnADime, MadeByYou, SingingThreeLittleBirds, SweetAnneDesigns, S3, HowtoNestforLess, NotJustaHousewife, CoastalCharm, Carolyn'sHomework, SugarBeeCrafts, ClaimingOurSpace, MyUncommonSliceofSuburbia, aBowlFullofLemons, CozyHomeScenes, theDelectableHome, BoogieboardCottage, theMommyClub, GingerSnaps, SavvySouthernStyle, NewlywedsOnaBudget, DIYByDesign, UncommonDesign, Michelle'sTastyCreations, LiveLaughRowe, ShabbyCreekCottage, FirefliesandJellbeans, HouseofHepworths, the36thAve, LovingThisCrazyLifeFindingFabulous, AtthePicketFence, TheShabbyNext, ALittleKnickKnack, 30HandmadeDays, CheeriosAndLattes, It'sOverflowing, MopItUpClassyClutter, SundayRoundUp, DIYShowoff, HomeStories, MakingLemonade, HomeStoriesAtoZ

Monday, May 7, 2012

cheese flautas and rice

Happy Monday!

I hope you had a good weekend. Ours was filled with Saturday soccer games, a piano recital, a Cinco de Mayo party, and some family room progress.

Since I knew the schedule was tight for this past weekend, I wanted to select something fast and easy to take to my friend's Cinco de Mayo party.

I've made these cheese flautas before, following the recipe exactly. This time around I modified it a bit, but got just as good results. And if you remember, Martha's my go to gal.

(I wanted to get a photo, but they were gobbled up too fast!)

Recipes modified from Martha Stewart


  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup pepitas (green hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch), softened by moistening and lightly toasting over a gas burner (turn with tongs)
  • 2 cups (6 ounces) grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • Directions
    1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low. Cook garlic until golden, 1 minute. Add pepitas; cook, tossing, until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Pulse to a paste in a food processor. Add cilantro, lime juice, and remaining olive oil; pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Spread some pesto on a softened tortilla; top with cheese. Roll up; place seam side down. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Repeat.
    2. Heat peanut oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Fry flautas in 2 batches, seam sides down, 1 minute. Using tongs, roll to brown evenly, cooking 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels, dabbing tops to remove excess oil.

    My Modifications
    • I minced my garlic, since I had my press handy and it goes in the food processor anyway.
    • I softened my tortillas by placing them in the microwave for 30 seconds. The tortillas will likely split if not softened first. (I don't have a gas stove this time around, so I didn't lightly toast them either.)
    • I used canola oil to fry, instead of peanut oil.
    • I used a Mexican blend of cheese, instead of just  Monterey Jack.

    • 1 cup long-grain white rice
    • Coarse salt
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove

    1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is just tender, 16 to 18 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water; blend until smooth. Stir into cooked rice, and fluff with a fork.

    My Modifications
    I cooked my rice in my rice cooker, then add the cilantro sauce. You can add more or less depending on how subtle you want the cilantro/lime flavor of your rice.

    I more than doubled each recipe, about 2.5 since I knew this would be a large group.

    How about you? Was your weekend jam packed as well? Or slow and relaxing?

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    costa rican villa

    Last month we left the little ones behind and slipped away for a little adults-only vacation with Handyman's family. We flew down to sunny and warm Costa Rica.

    The country is just beautiful. And house we stayed in was equally beautiful, situated right near one of Costa Rica's National Parks. As a longtime real estate lover, I was in pure house heaven.

    Check it out. . .

    Pool & Outdoor Patio

    This where we would sit and watch the monkeys hop and swing from tree branch to tree branch.

    Upper veranda with outlooking view

    Gourmet kitchen and bar seating

    The fully equipped kitchen included this high-end Viking range.

    Master Bedroom

    Master Bath

    Master Bath

    You can see more photos and get more information here.
    09 10