Apartment Tour: Bedroom Makeover

I have been promising several of my friends that I will do an “apartment tour” to show off my new digs – even though I actually moved at the end of September so they are hardly “new” anymore! So, after I spontaneously reorganized my bedroom this weekend, I realized it would be the perfect place to start!

Of course even “bedroom” is a stretch because I live in a studio – although this studio does have small alcove!

This is my “bedroom” before. The alcove is only about 4′ deep so I had the bed on a far wall, against the windows.  The walkway was  created with the back of the couch as well as two bookshelves: 1 short, 1 tall.

The after “bedroom”! With the simple shift of putting the headboard against the wall, the whole space – and the whole apartment – feels different! Not only does it feel bigger with all of the windows exposed but I also have much more room for a proper bureau – which will go in the alcove corner to the left, the area deliberately cut out of the photo! I did move the bookshelves about 4″ to the right, but that was only to allow enough room around the end of the bed to be able to make it without driving myself crazy!

Beyond the improvement to the layout of my apartment and the wonderful view out the window I now get from my bed, this change also brought major functionality improvements! Before I had to walk down what basically was a long hallway to my bed – while I initially was ecstatic to have so much space in my new place I enjoyed walking those 15 steps, I realize now how much better this is. Also, as you can see from the above photo, my bedside table hardly fit in the small space so I couldn’t really take advantage of all of the storage it can provide (or pull out the drawer properly!).

Now my bedroom feels open and bright – the next steps will be to finish the space. On my list is: bureau, rug and curtains to hang over the two left windows for better light, noise and draft protection. So many fun things to look forward to!

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Well isn’t that pretty…

My simple salad for lunch: chopped arugula, leftover chicken, 1 clementine and chopped walnuts with Newman’s Own Light Cranberry Walnut Vinaigrette. Next time I will cut the clementine sections in half to ensure I get a piece with every bite and so the citrus can add to the dressing. Either way a delicious, and quite photogenic, lunch!

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Ginger Chicken Meatballs with Snap Peas & Edamame

Last night I made a Real Simple recipe Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs with Edamame and boy was it good! As good as it was, it wasn’t really a teriyaki so I’ve decided to call it Ginger Chicken Meatballs instead.

I opted to make only 3 of the 4 servings, using 0.9lb of ground chicken (1.25lbs for 4 servings). Per usual, I cooked all of the protein but only enough rice, veggies and sauce for my one meal. Overtime I’ve realized that leftovers rarely taste as good as the original meal (with the big exception being anything Thanksgiving related). Instead I try to cook protein in advance for several meals, as it tends to be the most labor intensive part of most dishes. However, I also try to always prepare the starch and veggies “made to order” to help the whole dish feel fresh and exciting.

The only adaptations I made to the Real Simple recipe were to use long grain brown rice instead of white and to increase the amount of ginger and scallion in the meatballs. For 0.9lbs of chicken I used 3Tbs of diced ginger (not grated like they suggest) as well as 3 whole chopped scallions. I loved the flavor of the meatballs – ginger and soy may be one of my favorite combinations!

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It’s Official!

Now I really have to finish those pillows…

(This is my way of holding myself accountable – now that it’s public I’ve got to get it done!)

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Sewing Up a Storm

I took advantage of this past long weekend to make some headway in my first ever “collection” of throw pillows! My goal is to open an Etsy store in the next week or two, launching with a late-winter collection of about 8 throw pillows. I am mirroring the design of my current pillows, using the same Diane Von Furstenberg knit.

Making basket-weave pillows can be time consuming because you need to cut so many strips of fabric to make the design. For this reason, I like to design the whole group at once and then go on a cutting rampage! Above are my 5 colors of fabric on top of my cutting mat (on the dining table). You can also see my sketch pad with all the math that went into the measurements.

Beyond the time it takes to do all of the math, the real time consuming aspect is marking out all of the strips in pencil so I can go back over and cut them out individually. This part can really make you see stars but it’s important to be diligent to ensure straight cuts.

I am new to the rotary cutter and I already don’t know how I lived without it! After 8 hours of near straight cutting my hand was super cramped and my first finger and thumb tips went numb. However I do believe strongly the rotary cutter allows me to work faster and cut straighter lines, so it’s all worth it!

In the end I cut several hundred strips of varying lengths and widths. Of course, what is much more satisfying than seeing the full quantity on the chair is seeing all of the woven panels assembled – more to come on that!

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Friday Chicken Dinner

Friday Night Dinner Parties may be my new favorite thing! I always leave work at the end of the day on Friday simultaneously exhausted and looking to celebrate the start of the weekend. Normally for me, exhausted wins and I spend my Fridays catching up on the DVR. However, for the past two Friday nights I hosted dinner parties instead and have decided it is the best way to kick off a weekend!

A casual dinner can be a great compromise when your dead tired at the end of the week. While on the other hand, everyone can stay late on a Friday! From the host’s perspective, I rarely work late on Fridays, so I have extra time to prep before guests arrive. Also since I’ll have all weekend to clean up I tend to be even more relaxed about dishes and clean up! (I say “even more” because I am always very relaxed about doing dishes – ah the joys of having a dishwasher.)

For this past Friday’s Dinner Party we reinvented the Sunday Dinner and made a Roasted Chicken! Admittedly we also started the evening with Baked Brie in Puffed Pastry with Fig Spread and Prosecco – a big divergence from the cliche Sunday Dinner but totally typical for a dinner at my place!

I roasted the chicken with lemon and herbes de provence. The gravy is made from the chicken drippings, white wine to deglaze, chicken broth, 2 Tbs diced shallots & 1 Tbs flour and is the best part of the dish! We were all (literally) pouring the gravy over our entire plates and eating it on everything! The roasted carrots with parsley & orange and steamed broccoli with lemon & pecan breadcrumbs were both made by the lovely Alex, who was a dream to share the kitchen with! Lastly, the mashed yams (which were not mashed enough if you ask me) is my favorite standby from Epicurious.

A heart-warming classic shared with great friends – no better end to a week, or start to a long weekend, if you ask me!

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Purple Tulips!

I loved my Valentine’s Day centerpiece so much I decided to replicated it with a fresh bouquet! There is nothing as lovely as having fresh flowers around the house but it can get expensive – especially with delicate tulips. With that said, a $8 splurge every once in a while totally worth it in my opinion!

I chose these tulips because they were the most fresh in the bucket and because I have never seen this color purple before! Now that they are home they look kind of funny and VERY purple. With my place mats it almost looks like Kenyon – or the Lakers.

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A hint of Spring

With NYC expected to hit 60 degrees tomorrow it isn’t surprising I have a little touch of Spring Fever. Fortunately some of my favorite retailers are feeding the fire with new spring merchandise and hits of color everywhere – here are some of my favorites:

CB2 La Bicicleta 18" Pillow - $39.95

Crate & Barrel Summer Stripe Pillar Candle $16.95

Crate & Barrel Bianca Melon Ball Salad Plate $4.50

Fishs Eddy Italian Wine Glasses - Set of 6, $33

Anthropologie Laguiole Steak Knives $78

Anthropologie Chrysanthemum Double Switchplate $24

Restoration Hardware "Nantucket" Outdoor Collection - What a photo!

Finally, Everything by Jonathan Adler!

Here is hoping these little pop’s of color bring you a smile and hopes of spring – even though it’s still months away!

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Weeknight Leftovers

With all of the entertaining I’ve been doing over the past few weeks I have been eating a lot of leftovers. Like most people who love food, I hate wasting it. I also get almost as much pride from inventive re-use as I do from creating the original successful dish!

The only left overs from the Valentine’s Dinner was a little crab dip. Not to say it wasn’t good – I doubled the recipe and there were only 6 of us!

For my dinner, the left over dip went back into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes (until warm throughout) while I chopped some leftover red bell pepper and prepared a bed of arugula (about 2-3 cups). The Porkslap beer was left over from the Superbowl party and was poured into a glass, which can make all the difference.

Voila – a wonderful dinner! The concept is simple: keep salad greens on hand and most leftovers can be re-invented. After the Superbowl party I even made salads with the left over pulled pork, the blue cheese dip from the chicken wings as dressing and chopped tomatoes from the chili as topping!

I admit turning leftover’s into salads doesn’t really qualify as an “inventive reuse” but it’s definitely better than wasting!

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Carmel Crack-Corn

As promised, my new-found obsession with making caramel corn has warranted it’s own post. The idea to start making caramel corn came from my friend Nancy who brought bags of her recipe when she came to visit back in September for my Empty Apartment Party. I had never tasted anything as delicious (or addicting) and knew I had to try to make it myself!

Full Batch Ready for Baking

I started the same way I set out to make most classics – I searched and compared recipes across several sources: Epicurious, All Recipes, Martha Stewart and, of course, Google! By comparing recipes I get a better sense of what the “base” recipe is and what the adaptions are. The base recipe basically explains how to make the dish – what is essential and what is flair. This not only helps me make the recipe the first time but also allows me to easily adapt it as I get more comfortable and confident. Between all of the versions I looked at, I netted out with this adapted recipe:

20 cups air popped popcorn (I use Orville Redenbacher kernels)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 3 ozs bourbon (Extra: 1 pound chopped, fried bacon)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Boil without stirring for 4 minutes – test by dipping in a spoon and the caramel should coat the back of the spoon and basically look like caramel!
Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla or bourbon. Add pecans and/or bacon, if using, to caramel.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn, tossing and mixing to coat.
Transfer to baking dishes (if needed) and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour.
Remove from oven, break into pieces and let cool completely in as close to a single layer as possible (wax paper on a table works well).

There are a few tips I have learned from this cooking adventure:

  1. The initial caramel (pre-soda) will be very dark in color, don’t worry, that’s normal!
  2. Adding both the baking soda and the bourbon will cause the caramel to foam considerably. This not only lightens the color of the caramel but also should be taken into account when you chose which saucepan you’ll use. Unfortunately the pan I used to make regular caramel corn (with vanilla) worked fine. However, when I made the bourbon variety (bourbon causes as much foam as the soda so it’s basically a double-foam situation) I had an over-flow disaster!
  3. As I mentioned in my earlier popcorn post, I make this whole recipe in my over-sized roasting pan. However, before I owned this amazing pan I used two cookie sheets (well coated with cooking spray) for baking and several large mixing bowls for mixing the caramel into the popcorn. If you have to go the cookie-sheet route keep in mind that it is important to mix the caramel into the popcorn quickly. So, if you’re worried about juggling, making the caramel in two batches can be a good idea (also two batches can prevent the dreaded caramel over-flow situation).
  4. Caramel may seem like a disaster to clean – not true. Carmel can be easily wiped away with warm water and a little dish soap. I promise, you will be delighted with how easily your saucepan cleans up. However, if you do have foam over-flow on your stove, make sure to clean it all up before you use the burner again. Re-heating the caramel and letting it harden is when you will run into some serious clean-up challenges!

Caramel Over-Flow Disaster

We can’t talk about Caramel Corn without talking about how addicting it is! As I have mentioned before, it is lovingly called “crack” by many of my friends – I truly have never seen so many people uncontrollably scarfing popcorn! I also fall prey to it’s powers, most often when it’s in the initial cooling stage. There is something about seeing the full quantity laid out on the table, still warm from the oven, that is irresistible. Irresistible, uncontrollable, addicting – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I continued to graze the negative space of my munching formed an angry face!

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