Thursday, January 31, 2013

I spy with my little eye...

... a FABULOUS tripod lamp, in the corner of one of my design idol's homes (well... her previous home, but still).  Erin Gates of Elements of Style has made a name for herself through her blog, and quickly risen in the world of interior design.

The Every Girl featured her rented flat about a year ago, and as I was peeking through the archives, I came across this feature.  As you can imagine, I was super stoked when I spotted a  tripod lamp in this space, that is eerily similar to the one I just bought for our living room.

All I could think was... Erin Gates loves tripod lamps too!!

Is it silly that I got that excited about it??  Totally.  Do I feel like my decision has been totally validated even though my best friend wasn't a fan of the tripod lamp?  ABSOLUTELY.

I constantly hear about making design decisions that stay true to who you are, no matter what is on trend in the moment.

If you love classic pieces but modern lines are in, go with your gut.  If you like a little side table shaped like an elephant, but think it's a little "out there"... who cares, if it makes you happy.  I know that having unique pieces that you love is what makes your space stand out, but I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to second guessing decisions.

Despite the pressure to go with what "safe", I'm glad I went with the tripod lamp.  I love it, and not everyone else has to... but it's good to know that Erin Gates would approve....

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Superbowl Snacks

Pizza and Beer... pretty sure that would make any guy happy when watching a big game, but not this girl!  As a San Franciscan, whose parents also grew up here, it's in my blood to root for the 49ers this weekend, but watching football is not something I usually partake in.  For me, the Superbowl is all about the food (and commercials), and so pizza and beer just won't cut it!

I've been seeing all sorts of yummy snacks as the weekend gets closer and closer, and these roasted Jalapeno Popper Potato Skins are at the top of my list to make this Sunday.

One of my biggest pet peeves is to go to a party and have food that you need to eat with two hands - especially when you are holding your cocktail!  So annoying!  For Superbowl parties, it's especially important to have bite size food since the living room is likely to be crowded, and possibly a little rowdy.  

The potato skin is kind of perfect - easy to pick up, easy to eat, no dipping involved since the toppings are already on, and they are hearty - no complaints from the boys about having to eat "dainty food"... don't even get me started...

Here's how to make them:

2-3 jalapenos (depending on how spicy you want the potato skins)
2lbs baby red potatoes, roughly the same size
2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
8oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 strips center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

Place oven rack to top position and preheat broiler. Place jalapenos onto a foil-lined baking sheet then broil, turning occasionally, until skins are black on all sides. Remove jalapenos to a paper sack then seal. When jalapenos are cool enough to handle, peel away skin then remove seeds from insides and chop. Combine with cream cheese in a bowl then set aside (do not refrigerate.)

Place oven rack to center of oven then turn heat to 400 degrees. Wash and dry potatoes then prick once or twice with a fork. Place onto a foil-lined baking sheet then drizzle with 1 Tablespoon oil and coat all sides. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center goes in easily.

Turn oven heat to 450 degrees. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise then scoop out flesh, leaving 1/8″ potato inside the skin (save for mashed potatoes/other uses.) Brush insides with remaining oil then sprinkle with salt and bake for 10 minutes.

Fill each potato skin with 1 teaspoon roasted jalapeno cream cheese mixture, then top with bacon and shredded cheddar cheese. Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Makes ~24 potato skins

That's it!! Super easy, and surprisingly not that bad for you (since the insides of the potatoes are scooped out)!  Perfect for game day if you ask me!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gin and Blood Orange Sparkler

Does this look refreshing or what??

I've never been a big "gin" person, but I recently had a gin cocktail and it was AMAZING.  I think I might be a convert!  Gin is really herbal (I've always thought it tasted a little like the pine needles of a Christmas tree), so with fresh herbs (like the rosemary in this cocktail) it's really delicious.  If you hate rosemary, this is not the drink for you, but it's easy enough to leave it out!

If you've never tried rosemary in a drink, you must - it might sound weird, but it's awesome.  My first experience with an herbal cocktail was at a friend's wedding.  Her signature drink was a pear martini with rosemary.  OMG... SOOOOO good.  Maybe that will be the next drink I feature on here, but as blood oranges are "in season" let's stick with the topic... shall we?

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (~2 sprigs-worth) fresh rosemary leaves 
blood oranges
ice cubes
tonic water (or sparkling water)

Combine the water, sugar and rosemary in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, or long enough for the sugar to dissolve, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let the herbs infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a jar to cool completely.  This is essentially simple syrup, infused with rosemary.  Easy peasy.

While that's going on the stove, juice and strain your oranges, you'll need 1.5 oz of juice for each drink.

To make each drink combine equal parts gin, juice, and tonic water with a bit of syrup and ice. So, 1.5 oz gin, 1.5 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons of the rosemary syrup in each highball glass. Stir to combine, fill each glass 2/3 full with ice and top off with 3 tablespoons / 1 1/2 oz tonic water. Stir again and you're set.  This could also be mixed with the ice in a cocktail shaker and strained into martini glasses if you prefer.

Prep time: 5 min - Cook time: 10 min

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Little Black Coat

Brrrrr!!  It is SO COLD on this Monday morning.  As I shivered on my walk into the office, I decided I NEEDED to dedicate my post today to functional AND fashionable coats.

Everyone loves the "little black dress" because it goes anywhere - from the office to dinner or wherever else!  I feel the same way about the little black coat.  Always chic, totally fashionable, and you'll be warm - even on the coldest days!

I am totally in love with this Burberry coat from the above inspiration - I mean, aren't we all??  The belted waist .. the wide lapels... I'm in love.  It's fabulous to be sure, but totally NOT in my budget.  Wah!  

Loving this look, I pulled some little black coat inspiration together for you all - which do you like best?
Black Coats

Coat / Coast wool coat, $310 / Tweed coat / Double breasted coat / Ted Baker trench coat, $360 / Karen Millen

I love the classic lines of the double breasted wool trench on the left - it's no frills but the belted waist keeps it super feminine and tailored.  The second two on the top row, involve faux fur... which you KNOW I am all about right now... it just takes it up a notch, don't you think??

On the bottom row, how fun and flirty is the flouncy skirt on the coat to the far left?  Or the belted cape in the middle?!  Adorable, and so easy to throw on with jeans!  And finally, the asymmetrical collar on the final coat is so Charlotte from SATC. LOVE!!

BRRRRRRRR... I've got the heater cranked up, and a hot tea warming me up slowly.  Have a happy Monday!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Re-upholstered Seat Cushions

Amen to Friday!

I've actually been down in LA for the week - my first week on the new job - so I've felt really disconnected from everything "normal".  The weather was so fabulous, and LA is one of those places you always feel like you are on vacation, but it was a busy week for sure.  After a wonderful start to the new job, I am so happy to be back home, with Kris.

I'm ALSO excited to share a mini DIY project I worked on last weekend!

Our dining room chairs were looking very sad.  I bought them from Craigslist with an antique (aka old) table for $50 total, and since buying them over three years ago, I have done nothing to fix them up.  I like to refer to the chipped paint as "shabby chic" but the cushions were just plain sad.  The old linen fabric was yellowed from probably decades of wear, and they were badly stained (from god knows what).

Actually confessing that on paper is so embarressing since we lived with them like that for YEARS, but last weekend, I finally did something about it.

While at World Market (picking up our FABULOUS new tripod lamp... yes, I pulled the trigger on that), I saw some curtian panels on sale for 50% off.  For just $15, I scored some amazing fabric with enough yardage to cover four seat cushions (and then some).  Sunday afternoon, I busted out the staple gun and went to work...

Here are a few "before" shots so you can appreciate the afters:
This is looking into the dining room from the living room - not awful, but the chairs were definitely on the plain side from afar...

 Closer up, you can really see how badly the paint is chipping...

And another angle - this room is pretty small... maybe 11'x10', so it's hard to photograph from a distance, but the mirrored wall helps a little... also, ignore the mess in the corner - those frames are still waiting to be hung!

Ok this photo is the last "before" that I'll post, but this one does a really good job illustrating how disgusting the fabric was - stained, yellowed... this is so embarrassing!  I can't believe we lived with these for YEARS.

Ok time for the "after" shots!! Here they are in all their glory!

One of the chairs still acts as our desk chair, but I love it as much in the living room as in the dining room, and dare I say it... it looks amazing with the tripod lamp :-)

Here is a zoomed in shot - you can really see the raw texture of the fabric here - I love the "grain" in it (is that a term, or did I just make that up?)


And just for fun, here is a photo with the new lamp in place... that inspiration board I put together is really coming together!  I am absolutely LOVING the desk next to the window, and the light from that enormous lamp shade is just so pretty at night.

More pictures of that lamp later - I need to figure out how to camouflage the cord!!

I am loving the colors, the pattern, and the fact that in just over an hour, the chairs looked a million times better!

The paint is still chipped, but I'm going to choose to ignore that for now - we'll get to repainting everything another weekend.  One, step at a time, am I right??

Let's talk about the process for recovering the cushions for a minute - trust me when I say that it is SOOO easy.

Step I:
Rip off old disgusting fabric - you would not believe how dusty it was.  SO gross!

Step II:
Staple fresh layer of batting over cushions if needed - the actual cushions were in good shape, so I skipped this step.

Step III:
Staple new fabric onto cushions.  I found it was easiest to get the fabric smoothest and tightest by working on opposite sides.  Pull the fabric taut along one side and then staple (leave the corners for last!!)  Pull fabric taut on the opposite side from the one you just secured, and then staple.  Pull remaining sides taut and staple. The fabric on the corners should still be loose - this is where you finish the cushions.  I just pleated the fabric along the corner as neatly as possible, and stapled as I went.

There are basically two different ways to pleat the corners.  One was like a fan, the second like a box pleat (kind of).  Take a look at these pictures - you'll see what I mean.

"Box Pleat" fold:

"Fan Pleat" fold:

Step IV:
Finish everything off by cutting excess fabric from around the staples - any bulky fabric will prevent the cushino from sitting flush with the seat - if you are able to, screw the cushions back on the seats.  Ours have a lip that goes over the front of the chair, holding them pretty secure, so I also skipped that step.

All in all, this project took me about an hour.  One of the most labor intensive parts was cutting the fabric up, and removing the old fabric from the cushions.  The actual reupholstering took almost no time at all!

Next on the list is to repaint the chairs (and table - god the table needs some love), but for now, I'm happy with the improvements to the cushions!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spring Florals

Adorable right??

Yeah, I think so too.  I found this look on Pinterest (where else) and fell kind of in love.  I am trying to put together looks from my own closet that mimic this sweet look as the weather has turned absolutely spring-like.

This first outfit will be better for the cooler more wintery days, when floral just feels necessary despite the weather.  The muted colors feel more "winter" than "summer", so you won't get those "are you freaking crazy" looks from strangers on the street.  Also, a thick trench and booties are still "practical" for January / February, so even though you're dressed for cooler weather, you'll still feel ready for spring.

Winter Florals

Dolce & Gabbana long sleeve blouse, $635 / Wool trench coat / Emilio De La Morena flare skirt, $365 / ASOS studded high heels / Forever New , $74

And this second look is perfect for those rare, sunny warm days, when you have a fresh spray tan, and are ready to show off those legs!  Amen sister!

Speaking of showing legs... must I really MUST start doing squats again...

Spring Floral

Equipment silk shirt / Vero Moda , $18 / Pull&Bear high heel, $95 / Leather handbag / Nouv-Elle pendant jewelry, $45

Happy (almost) spring!!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

So THIS is what Heaven Looks like...

You all know that we are living in a teeny tiny apartment in San Francisco, and while the list of things I'd like to change about our apartment is a mile long (small kitchen, no garbage disposal, dated tile, crumbly plaster, loud neighbors...) if I could ask the apartment gods for one thing, it would be...


Our Christmas ornaments are packed away in boxes, yet they are still stacked against a wall in the living room until we find a better solution.  My super duper vacuum that could pick up a small child is still at my old apartment with my best friend because we simply have no place to store it (lucky lady).  The broom has a home behind the door that leads into the hall.  Wrapping paper lives behind one of the curtains in the dining room (I've had to get a little more creative recently).

Let me just say that to have a closet just for clothes, much less a closet that you could host a party in, is the stuff dreams are made of.  Please enjoy the closet porn I've rounded up for you all!

Every purse has it's own cubby!  It's all white.  All the hangers match.  The shirts are color coded for god's sake - I am SOOOOO jealous!!

This is what heaven looks like... in case you were wondering.  Rows upon rows of shoes, organized by color, heel height and designer (ok maybe not by designer, but that would be FABULOUS).

A chandelier, and fresh cut flowers??  Seriously??  I have pillows, luggage, and boxes of college memorabilia shoved (yes SHOVED) in my closet.  This is how the other half lives!!  I wonder if they are looking for roommates........

A vanity in the closet??  Why would you ever leave!  I'd feel like such a diva putting on blush every morning in that fabulously upholstered chair!

This closet was built for me.  Even in these vast closets, I'd still need a few doors to hide the secret mess when I shove my stuff in after a long week.  Doesn't everyone have that closet??

Contemporary Closet design by Orange County Interior Designer Michael Fullen Design Group
And a little tufted benching never hurt anyone!  The perfect spot to chat with girlfriends while trying to decide which Louboutins to wear out.  That's my kind of problem!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caprese "Sandwich"

How amazing does this look...

But seriously... how AMAZING does this look?

After college, my best friend and I backpacked through Central America and Europe together, and when we were in Italy, we feasted like kings.  Every meal was pasta, pizza, and gelato, but one of our favorite things to eat (and make with a few ingredients from the local market) was a Caprese sandwich.

We first had the Caprese sandwich on the island of Capri and we were pretty much hooked.  This recipe is a take on one of our favorite things, and with such fresh ingredients, it's hard to pass up!  The word sandwich is in quotations because here, we are taking out the bread, and adding in some asparagus - a healthier version of the fabulous lunches we had in Italy.

Fresh (REALLY ripe) tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Asparagus
Fresh Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Truffle Oil
Aged Balsamic Vinegar (emphasis on aged - the older, the sweeter)

Ok - this one is super simple... my favorite kind of recipe.  Set a pan of water to simmer, and toss in a bunch of asparagus.  It will cook quickly - you want it crisp and super green, so don't let it go too long!  3-5 minutes, max.

As the asparagus is cooking, slice the tomato, and mozzarella.  After the asparagus is cooked, throw it in an ice bath (a large bowl / pot of ice and water) - this will stop the cooking, chill it quickly, and keep it really fresh and perfectly cooked.

With the asparagus cooled, slice it in pieces to match the width of the tomato slices, and start stacking.  Tomatoes, mozzarella, asparagus, basil (whole leaves), tomatoes, mozzarella, etc.  Remember, this is the meal, so do several layers (four slices of tomato high).

Finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, and truffle oil (the truffle oil is really sinful and delicious!)  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and enjoy!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

DIY Roman Shade

You guys... this post has been a LONG TIME in the making!!  The last time I brought this project up was back in October (original post here).  

After months and months, I finally get to share with you this DIY for making your own Roman Shade!  This project took me somewhere in the ballpark of 8-10 hours in total, however, it's important to remember that I've never sewn anything in my life before, so the learning curve for me was pretty steep!! While this project took mere hours, it's taken me over 4 months to complete, photograph, and post!  Without further delay, let's get to it.  

Here she is... my DIY roman shade... and she's hanging like a champ in our hallway!

I really tried my best to document every single stage of the project, but it got way more difficult in the last few steps since Kris and I were both standing on chairs, trying to hang this sucker... 

Step one: find fabric.  I ended up ordering a bit over two yards of Secret Gate from Lewis and Sheron Fabrics (online)... remember this post  from way back in September??  That's how long this has been in motion...

Ok anyway, the FABULOUS fabric arrived, and after dawdling a bit, I decided to tackle this project.  That was step two. Easy peasy.

Step three: iron the fabric - trying to tackle measurements on wrinkled fabric is a big no-no (or so my mama told me)... and so I ironed away!

And then I ironed some more....

And some more... until it was perfectly smooth (side note, that's not my beautiful kitchen in the below photograph... ours is perhaps the ugliest room you've ever seen.  These beautiful cabinets are at my parents house - jealous?)

Once the fabric is ironed, it's time to do some math.  This was by far my least favorite part of this project, and the part I was definitely the worst at.  Thank god for my mom!  She corrected it several times, but let me see if I can recap how you need to measure.

Write down the length and width of the window.  Once you have that, decide if you want your shade to be the exact length and width, or how much wider than the window you want your shade to be.  If you want the shade to be wider than the window, add on the amount you want it to be wider to each side (for example, if the window is 40" wide, and you want an additional inch on each side, add two inches, for a total shade width of 42 inches).

If you are lining this, it gets a bit more complicated.  You'll want your printed fabric to wrap around to the back side of the shade, and the lining to be less wide, so add on additional width for the fabric to wrap around to width you've already estimated (if you want the printed fabric to wrap around 2" on each side, add an additional 4".  Make sense??

Finally, keep about 5 extra inches of "front side" fabric for wrapping around the piece of wood for mounting - no lining fabric needed here.  You can cut off extra fabric later if you don't end up needing it, but you can't really add more on if you are short!

Ok, once the measurements are made, and your fabric is cut, start pinning the lining to the fabric.  As you are pinning, you want the print side of the fabric to be face up, and the lining to be on top.  This way once you sew the seams, and you turn it "inside out" so the seams face in, and the print faces out.

When you have finished pinning, the fabric will look odd - each side sort or folded over - that's because the lining is more narrow than the front facing fabric for the extra length to wrap around (so you don't see the seams or lining from the side once the shade is finished).

This picture below is how it should look.

Ok onto sewing.  Set up the sewing machine (I could not help explain this step, but if you sew, just follow the instructions with the bobbin, etc), and sew along the seams, taking the pins out as you go.

Halfway through, I realized my outfit matched the fabric - it was a good omen!!

After both seams are sewn, flip it inside out... or "right side out" I guess, and iron it again, so the fabric edge is even on both sides.

It should look like the below picture from the back side, with the lining not going all the way to the edge.

Next step is to get out the measuring tape again, and start marking off where the rings will go.  Ignore the wrinkles in this photo, it started out ironed, but got wrinkled after sitting folded on the table for three months.

I wanted fewer, larger folds, so I pinned every 17" or so for a 70" window, I got 4 pleats.

A note I left out above was that at the bottom of the shade, I inserted a wooden dowel cut down to the width of the window, and sewed it in.  This rod inside the bottom of the shade acts as a weight so that when the shade is pulled up, it hangs properly.  You can kind of see the rod in the above picture.  Some people put these dowels up the entire length where each fold will be, but I didn't find it was necessary.  My shade pulls up just fine - perhaps my fabric is heavy enough (and I ironed the folds in, so it has the memory).

Anyways, getting back to the point... sew three vertical rows of these rings onto the shade.  One on each side, and one in the middle.

Be sure these rings are really secured on there - they are what is supporting the shade when it's pulled up and down - I used a drop of super glue to make sure the rings and thread were super secure.  I'm not sure this is necessary, but I feel better about it.

So this is the part where photo documentation became shoddy, so I apologize.

The final steps here are super simple.

Prepare your mount - I used a piece of wood 1"x2" and started by stapling the shade onto the wood, wrapping it around, to cover all sides.  Once the fabric was stapled, I screwed in single hook screws into the wood (through the fabric).  These look like a more sturdy eye hook.  With that prepped, it's time to thread the shade.

This below picture, pretty much illustrates everything more clearly than I can put into words.
Tie the cord to the bottom rings, and make sure the knot is really tight (I also used superglue here so the knots won't come undone).  The cord furthest from where you will pull the shade up should be longest, the one in the middle the second longest, and the cord on the side with the pulley should be shortest.  Thread each cord up through the loops on the shade, and then through the eye hooks screwed into the mount on the top.

Final stage mounting - I used L shaped brackets, and some super long screws to get this up.  Once it was secured above the window we were ready to test out the shade, and praise the lord, it WORKS!  

That moment, seeing the shade go up and down was really cool, to see that after all that measuring, sewing, and installing, that it actually worked.  I was half waiting for it to collapse, pull up crooked, or whatever, but it was super simple, and dare I say it, foolproof!

And here it is from the side.. pretty awesome...

And the pleats from the front - this was completely accidental, but the pattern is perfectly lined up - cause I'm a ballerrrrrrr!!

Here is a close up of the pulley system in action, along with the mounts... 

And a final glory shot of the curtain, hanging in the hallway - it's so pretty, although in these pictures, I am completely realizing that I forgot to wrap the side of the wood mount.  I painted it white, but I'm not loving that unfinished edge.  I'll have to go back in with a little hot glue gun, and swatch of fabric to finish off the ends!

If you are thinking of attempting a roman shade of your own and have some questions, just shoot me an email!  I could NOT have done this without my mama's help!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sunny Saturday

It's been a warm sunny Saturday here in San Francisco, and for the first time this year, I feel spring in the air. My day started off with a coffee in the park, and a little puppy watching.  The park near my house is THE spot for dog meetup groups, and I could have sat there all day watching the dogs play.

I mean, is there a better way to start the day??  I think not.

On days like this, I want to stay outside as long as I can, so after puppy-patrol at the park, I took a long walk through the neighborhood.  All my friends on the east coast are just settling in for winter, but here in California, I always feel so smug to welcome these 70 degree days in January.  I spotted the first cherry blossoms blooming already, and it made me so happy, because spring really is amazing in San Francisco.

I can't wait for the cherry blossoms to be blooming in full force.  Across the street from our apartment is a french chateau inspired mansion (yes, mansion - I'm not exaggerating) and it's flanked in front by four cherry blossom trees.  I'll have to post a picture of them once they are fully in bloom - it totally makes me feel like I'm in Paris.

Anyway, completely inspired by the sunny warm weather, I picked up a few bunches of tulips, and they are sitting pretty on the coffee table with some new aqua coasters I snagged on sale at ZGallerie (I love how they look like they are lacquered) and my FAVORITE Restoration Hardware catalogs.


Hope you all are having a lovely weekend!!