Sunday, July 31, 2011

Making Some Changes

If this isn't your first time to read my blog, you're probably noticing some changes here.  I'm in the process of working on some new features on the blog, as well as design.  Being that I am incompetent in almost every area of web design (I'm learning!), this might take some time for me to get what I really want, so thanks for your patience!

There is a now a search box for this blog (thanks for the suggestion, Callie!) so you can look for recipes, projects, or whatever and you'll get results just from this blog.

My new Facebook page is up and running, so be sure to 'like' it either on Facebook, or over in the sidebar.  I'll soon be moving all of my blog activity over to the new Only From Scratch page, so you'll want to be sure to be a fan so you can get the latest updates.

Thanks for reading my blog!  I read ALL your comments and love them!

Have a blessed Sunday!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

10 Recipe Ideas for Blueberries

There are now 7 pounds of fresh blueberries in my kitchen, thanks to myself and my two daughters who picked blueberries today.   I guess I should just say one daughter.  Mallory, my 18 month old, stood at a bush almost the entire time, popping blueberry after blueberry into her mouth!  She's my little fruit lover and I think she enjoyed our outing!

Now that I have tons of blueberries, I'm trying to figure out how to use them all.  Most will go in the freezer to use throughout the year, but I want to go ahead and use some now.  What better place to look for ideas than Pinterest?  I'm still learning my way around there, but so far I'm loving it!  As long as I can limit myself to looking for what I need...If you haven't joined yet and would like to, let me know and I'll send you an invite!

Happy Saturday!

Lemon-Blueberry Iced Tea

Blueberry Banana Cake

Blueberry Pull Apart Bread

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Blueberry Butter, for Pancakes, Biscuits, Toast, Bagels.  This sounds so yummy!

Blueberry Cake
Source: via Rosa on Pinterest

Blueberry Popsicles

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Cheesecake

Friday, July 29, 2011

Slipcovered Parsons Chairs for the Dining Room

There have been tears, sweat, and yes, even some blood, while working on this project.  I am happy to report that my dining room chairs are complete!


I've wanted parsons chairs for about a year now, and have been perusing Pottery Barn, World Market, and Ballard Designs to find my favorites.  When I realized I couldn't afford something brand new, I began scouring Craigslist for the right thing.  You can read about the ones I ended up finding here.  Six chairs needed some serious work!  Having little children and knowing that even grownups can sometimes make messes, I decided that slipcovers would be the most practical way to go.  But, I'd never made one before, so the task was a bit daunting.

Janell, over at Isabella and Max Rooms, had a post about her dining room chair re-do, and she used drop cloths to slipcover some chairs.  What a great idea!  The reason she used that convinced me was that drop cloths are pretty durable and could withstand lots of washing (which they would most likely need), so I decided to go that route.  And, I'm really pleased with how they turned out.

I have two different types of chairs, so I decided to make skirts for the four matching ones, and leave the other two with a simple hem for now.  I may decide to make skirts for those later on, but for now, it helps me keep them set apart, as the slipcovers are different sizes.

One thing I found interesting when I removed the fabric from the old chairs, was that each one had what looked like a plastic bag over the cushion/padding.  Having that does make putting the slipcover on easier, but I think it might have also been there to protect the padding from any spills.  I didn't really want trash bags on my chairs, so I purchased a vinyl tablecloth, cut it to size, and wrapped it around the seat of each chair, stapling it in place.  Hopefully, this will help in protecting the padding from unwanted spills and stains.

The only trouble with the vinyl is that sometimes the slipcover shifts when sitting in the chair.  Any suggestions?

I'm not giving a tutorial here on how to do this, because there's no way I could, but I will recommend two sources that were extremely helpful to me in this process:

First, Ana, from Ana White Homemaker, has a great tutorial on how to make slipcovers for a parsons chair (she also has designs for making the chair).  My chairs were different dimensions than hers, but the principles there were great to follow.

Secondly, Krisi from, Pink and Polka Dot, has a fabulous tutorial for making knife pleats, which I used for the skirt of these chairs.  Her tutorial is so simple to follow!  And, if you think you might be making a lot of slipcovers, there is also an e-book for sale that Krisi wrote, which you can find here.

Instead of a tutorial,  here are some 'hindsights' from this project.  Hopefully, this will be helpful for any who might try to tackle this kind of project.

1. Drop cloths come in different shades of color. Yes, even the same brand, same size, from the same store.  I purchased the largest drop cloth I could find and when I got through several of the chairs, realized I would need another one.  So, I bought it, washed it and when I laid it out to start cutting, realized that it was a different color.  Ugh!  It's not noticeable from a distance, but there was no way I could use that fabric for the skirts of the chairs I'd already completed.  Thankfully, I found the right shade after a few trips back to the store.  Just be sure you check before you purchase multiples.

2. Measure exact dimensions and cut to size.  Some people recommend draping the fabric over the chair, pinning and marking, allowing ample amounts of extra fabric.  This technique works for pieces with rounded arms and high backs, but with straight lines like a parsons chair, I found this to be more frustrating than anything, and it caused me to rip out the seams from at least 4 of the 6 slipcovers.  It was much easier to figure on 1/2-inch seam allowances for every seam, and measure my pieces 1-inch larger on all sides than the dimensions of my chair.  The sewing was simple then, and the slipcovers fit snugly around the seats.

3. Figure that it will take a long time.  I thought for sure I would be done with this project in a day or two.  WRONG!  The only thing I have to say for this tip is something my dad used to tell me when I was a little girl and wanted so badly to help him with projects.  He would smile at me, shake his head and say, "You can help, but it's harder than it looks."  So true!  Don't get frustrated with yourself if making a slipcover (especially if you're making 6 of them) takes more than a couple of days to complete.  Eventually it will be finished!

4.  Buy lots of thread.  Several times I ran out during this process, and it's not possible to run to the store while my children are napping.  I think I used 5 spools of heavy duty thread for this project.  (This might not have been necessary if I hadn't ripped 4 slipcovers apart to re-do.  Ha!).

Now we're ready for company and no one has to sit in a broken chair!  Let me know if you'd like to come for dinner!

Someone asked to see the new dining room light fixture lit up.  Here you go!  You can read about my $6 Knock off Pottery Barn chandelier here.

I'll be linking up to these parties:
Miss Mustard Seed Furniture Feature Fridays
Feathered Nest Friday, over at French Country Cottage
Show Me What Ya Got, at Not Just a Housewife

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Onions

If you've never cooked with chicken thighs, you need to!  They are less expensive than chicken breasts and have a great flavor.  This recipe turned out really well, and I know we'll be making it again.  My initial desire was to try this recipe, but I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand, so I had to settle for a less fattening one.   Don't let the caramelized onions scare you away; they are super easy to make.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pan over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in melted butter.

Cook 5-6 minutes, turning once to brown.  Remove chicken from pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter and then add 3 onions, sliced very thin.

Cook onions about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup chicken broth, 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 2 garlic cloves, minced.  Pour over onions.  Place chicken in onions.

Cover and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

This is delicious served with Baked Brown Rice

Source: Recipe adapted from Cooking Club of America

Baked Brown Rice

Rice is a staple in our household, but I always like to try new ways to make it.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to give brown rice a try.  Brown rice hasn't been on the top of my 'recipes to try' list, but I was pretty confident it would be a health benefit to my family.  Did you know that brown rice contains more nutrients than white, like fiber and magnesium?  There's an interesting write-up I found as I was searching for ways to convince you all to really give this recipe a try (ha!) so here's the link if you want some scientific and nutritional convincing!

The only convincing I need to make this again is the fact that my family couldn't get enough of it!  The girls kept asking for more!  And what's even better?  Once in the oven, you don't have to think about this anymore.  Have you ever made rice and had to keep checking it to make sure it was cooked all the way, or not overcooked?  Don't have to worry about that if you make this.  Trust me and give it a try.  It's really quite tasty with the Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Onions.

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375F.  Place rice in a greased 8x8-inch baking dish.  Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in a small pan.  Pour boiling mixture over rice and stir.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for 1 hour.  Fluff with a fork and then serve.

source:  Food Network

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Color Choices

Blues and greens have always been my favorite colors, so when we moved into our new home and I began looking through paint swatches at Lowe's and Home Depot, I came home with oodles of swatches in varying shades of these two colors.  I suppose they remind me of the ocean, which is my favorite place to go, so it's no wonder that I would want to surround myself with something that looks like the ocean.

The downstairs of our home has a pretty open floor plan, but there are definitely divides between the main living areas.  The eat-in kitchen opens up to the family room, and the dining room is adjacent to the kitchen via an open doorway.  I wanted these three rooms to flow nicely together, so I found a swatch of Valspar paint at Lowe's, of which I loved all 3 colors!  This made it quite easy to keep a good flow of blue in the downstairs and yet still have some variety.  Here are the three colors:

Family Room - Distant Valley

Dining Room - Sparkling Lake

Kitchen - Tropical Bay
Each color actually looks quite different once on the walls, as is usually the case, but we love how it turned out.  For the kitchen I chose a Better Homes & Gardens fabric that has a natural linen background with a blue and green floral design.  

The blue matches my paint color perfectly (which is how I chose the paint) and the greens allow me to keep the green placemats I already had, while pulling in some other green elements in the room.  

The family room color is soft enough that it makes our room feel cheerful during the day and cozy at night, and I love it!  Our sofa was a wedding gift and it's a bit darker than I would prefer, but when I added some blue throw pillows, it sort of lightened up.  Amazing what a few accessories can do!  The right shade of red can go so nicely with the right shade of blue, so as a POP in this room, we have a wing chair that I reupholstered with a red chenille fabric.  You can read about how I tied in my blue and red with a throw pillow here.  

I had been wanting a piece of art for several years, and when my parents came for their first visit, they brought us a great house warming gift:  the art I'd wanted!  We held it up over the fireplace and it matched the paint color almost perfectly!

The dining room has been my focus the past few weeks, simply working on some chairs so that it's functional once again.  Fabric choices have been difficult for this room.  Originally I was using a pamphlet from Lowe's as my color inspiration here:

I love the combination of these colors and the red would tie in so beautifully with the red chair in the family room.  But I wasn't sure about it.  We held up some red drapes in the room and the feeling was a bit more modern and formal than what I was looking for.  I wanted something geometric in here, so I've decided to use a Waverly fabric for the window treatments.

Eventually, I plan to bring in red with some smaller accessories.  That will have to wait, though, as we're working on a small budget so all of this takes much time!  In fact, none of these three rooms is quite done, but I'm looking forward to completing some projects in the next few weeks and revealing some pictures of our home!

In summary, here's how I recommend choosing colors for your home:

1.Use the colors that you really like.  Yes, there are color trends, but if we all tried to keep up with those, we'd constantly be changing our homes and on a small budget, that's just not possible.  Choose colors that you really love, use them tastefully, and you'll most likely be happy with your choices for a long time. 

2. Find fabric or another piece of inspiration first.  The fabric in the kitchen determined my colors for all three of these rooms, so I guess I didn't follow this exactly, but it has worked out so far.  Matching fabrics or art to paint can be a challenge, so if you start with some inspiration, chances are you will end up with the perfect color palette. 

3. Keep a flow of color throughout your home.  Choose one or two colors and use these as your primary paint colors, choosing different shades and accenting with pops of colorful accessories.  Accessories are easy to change out as trends come and go, so you won't have to break the bank, or take lots of time to repaint a room by adding orange throw pillows, a pink vase,  a purple throw or a lime green end table.  

How do you choose colors for your home?

Linking up to The Handmade Home 

The Handmade Home

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lime Granita with Pistachio Shortbread

If you're looking for a refreshing dessert that doesn't require an ice cream maker, this is the one for you!  The tartness of the lime paired with a buttery shortbread is a great combination.  Or just make the shortbread to savor with a cup of coffee.  We had company this weekend so I broke out the china for our  meal.  Instead of using ice cream dishes (which I don't have), I decided to serve the granita with a cup and saucer.  It worked out well because when the granita has melted, you can easily drink the remaining juice instead of trying to lap it up with a spoon.   Enjoy this light dessert!

Recipe for Granita:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 limes)

Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to boil in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.  Cool syrup; stir in lime juice.  Transfer lime syrup to 11x7x2-inch baking dish.  Cover and place in freezer.  Stir every 45 minutes until frozen, about 3 hours.  Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and keep frozen. 

Pistachio Shortbread:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix flour, powdered sugar, and salt in processor.  Add butter, pistachios, egg yolk and vanilla.  Using on/off turns, mix until moist ball forms.  Transfer dough to work surface.  Divide dough in half.  Form each dough half into 8x1 1/4-inch log (if dough is too soft to form, chill for 30 minutes and then shape).  Wrap logs in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.  Can be made 5 days ahead; keep chilled. 

Preheat oven to 325F.  Slice logs into 1/4-inch thick rounds.  Place rounds on ungreased baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.  Bake shortbread until barely golden, about 18 minutes.  Cool shortbread on baking sheets.  Can be made 4 days ahead.  Store shortbread in airtight container at room temperature. 

Source: Bon Appetit, August 2007

Monday, July 25, 2011

$6 Knock off Pottery Barn Chandelier

Shopping at thrift stores is becoming a habit of mine, and I'm finding that in order to find something I can use, I need to do it on a regular basis.  During my last shopping trip to Goodwill, I found six small lamp shades, perfect for my dining room light fixture!  I mentioned in a previous post, which you can find here, that I was looking at several different options to change these shades up to fit the room.  The burlap shades won, so here is my new knock-off chandelier:

And, the inspiration:


Here's how I did it:

adhesive spray
burlap trim
hot glue gun and glue sticks

First, I cut the burlap in a curved shape, following the shape of the shade.  Because of the slant of the shade, this made the application much easier than simply cutting in a straight line.

Then, starting at the original seam, I sprayed a bit of adhesive spray and then placed the burlap on top, smoothing out the fabric.

I continued spraying, placing and smoothing, until I reached the starting point.

I then cut the excess fabric off right at the top and bottom edges of the shade, so that my trim would lie exactly on the edges. 

Next, I folded over the burlap (to hide the cut edge) and using my hot glue gun, placed a thin line of hot glue to hold the end in place.

Using the hot glue gun again, I attached the burlap trim around the top and bottom edges, pressing down after each application so that the trim would be straight.

I allowed it to dry for a few hours before attaching the shades to the bulbs.

The look is perfect for what I wanted and I'm thrilled that I now have a 'new' chandelier for only $6!

I'll be linking this up to these parties this week:

Between Naps on the Porch
Southern Hospitality
Home Stories A to Z

The burlap, trim, glue, and adhesive spray I already had on hand, so my only cost at this time was $6 for the shades.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Decorating Tip: Order a Fabric Swatch

As you know, the dining room is my big decor project right now, consuming every nap time during the day, and sometimes more than that.  Thankfully, the bigger parts of the room are coming together nicely and I'll be moving on to window treatments this weekend.  Which brings me to the point of this post:

If you're considering fabric for a new space and thinking about ordering it online, order a sample!  I know it seems like somewhat of a waste to pay just as much on shipping as you do on the cost of the swatch, but you do learn so much by actually seeing it in person.  I was so excited when I found this the other day:


I love the paisley design and the colors are perfect for what I want (or so I thought).  But, in real life, what looks like a soft blue is actually a very bright turquoise!  NOT what I was going for.  So thankful I decided to order a swatch before forking over some cash for a fabric that would not have worked in my space.  

Look for some more finished projects from the dining room soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pork Medallions with Cherry Sauce (BH&G)

A few weeks ago I picked up a magazine that I spotted while checking out at the grocery store.  I don't normally do this, but this Better Homes and Gardens special caught my eye.  It's titled, 'garden fresh recipes'.  Since we have a garden this year, I decided I could use some inspiration on how to cook some new recipes.  So far, I've not been disappointed.   The magazine is on display until August 16, so if you want one, go get it!

For some reason the picture won't rotate in blogger, but this is what the cover looks like.
This pork dish uses cherries, which are not from our garden, but they are fresh, so I enjoyed using some summery goodness for our dinner.  Everyone loved it!  And the girls were so excited to eat cherries for dinner!

1 pound pork tenderloin (I used half of a pork loin, so my directions reflect that size cut)
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup cranberry, cherry or apple juice
2 teaspoons honey dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup fresh sweet cherries, halved and pitted

Cut pork into 1-inch slices. 

Cut those slices in half to achieve a medallion size. 

Place slices between two sheets of saran wrap.  Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound each slice to a 1/2-inch thickness.  

Before pounding

After pounding

Sprinkle pork lightly with salt and pepper. Coat a large nonstick skillet with oil.  Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork.

Cook for about 6 minutes, until pork is slightly pink in center and juices run clear.  

Transfer to a platter and cover with foil.

In a small bowl stir together juice, mustard, and cornstarch.  Add to same skillet.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. 

 Add cherries; cook and stir for about 4 more minutes.  

Pour cherry sauce over pork.  

Source:  Recipe slightly altered from Better Homes and Gardens, garden fresh recipes, 2011