Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sunday Sandwiches

Before the long weekend kicked off, I had lunch at Local Three in Atlanta where I tried their seasonal strawberry grilled cheese, a pretty little sandwich made with goat cheese and strawberry jam. Not one to forget a good grilled cheese, it was on my mind the next day when I went grocery shopping.

Now, whenever I go to the farmers' market and wander the cheese section - so neatly organized by the origin country of each cheese - I can't help but find myself defenseless among the Italian cheeses, craving some fresh mozzarella. Helplessly, I scooped up the mozzarella along with and a hunk of French Brie to try some at-home fancy grilled cheese sandwiches myself on Sunday with friends.


Ciabatta bread

Fresh mozzarella cheese
Tomato slices
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Brie cheese
Apple slices
Apple butter

Heat a skillet to medium-high. Pour olive oil or rub butter on the surface and place the sandwiches on top. Let sit for a few minutes on each side, flipping and pressing occasionally with a spatula until the cheese is all melty and delicious.

For dessert:
I used two homemade chocolate chip cookies (extra soft so they mold to the ice cream - yum) and a scoop of Edy's chocolate chip ice cream, and it did not disappoint.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bathroom: Repainted (Before & After)

Our beloved apartment came with some boring walls, painted mostly in builder browns and deep tans. Fortunately, it also came with a landlord willing to let us paint - and paint we did. Before we moved in, we first took care of the living room and my bedroom (both seen here).

After a year of thinking my bathroom could stand a redo, I finally got around to it a few weekends ago. I didn't stop at the walls, though: I replaced the shower curtain (after a botched dye job to the last one - oops) and refreshed my stock of towels since most were from college.

I used the leftover paint from my bedroom, but lightened it a touch - which I do not recommend, and neither did the woman at Home Depot who advised us against this for reasons not obvious at the time, until I ran out of said leftover paint and had no idea how much lighter it needed to be for the next batch needed to cover about three feet of unpainted wall. We got it to match somehow, so it looks fine. Live and learn?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BBQ Brisket Tacos

I enter any long weekend with big ideas and even bigger ambitions. I'm going to be so productive! I tell myself. I might even fool myself that I can check off some DIY projects I've wanted to try. And this Memorial weekend was no different, with lists of to-dos and to-makes to go along with it.

But then traffic was bad on Friday afternoon, so I didn't make it to JoAnns to get fabric for a table runner. I didn't have a hacksaw (seriously), so I couldn't shorten some knobs for a necklace hanger - and what am I going to do with a hacksaw anyway? And then I remembered the pools opened this weekend, so before I knew it the weekend was over and I had little to show for it.

In the end, I did make it to the farmers' market and was able to make a few meals, host some friends for a potluck with this delicious brisket, go for a long run and, fittingly, a walk to Memorial Park with Ryan. And in the grand scheme of things, isn't that enough?

Happy (late) Memorial Day, everyone!

Recipe notes:
I used 3.5 pounds of brisket - a mixture of flat and whole trim after some confusion at the farmers' market (whaaat?!) - which is about all that can fit in my tiny CrockPot. I did not alter the sauce measurements at all, but I did use a sweet onion instead of the Spanish one the recipe called for and we used three chipotle chiles (per Ryan's suggestion, and it was not too spicy for a wimp like me). Ryan helped me cook it Saturday night for Sunday night dinner. On Sunday morning after a long run and 10.5 hours of cooking, I drained the drippings (cover and set aside in the fridge) and let the brisket rest  in the fridge for about 8 hours on Sunday, at which point I skimmed the fat from the drippings, reheated it, poured it over the meat and pulled the brisket. While we were waiting for everyone, I kept it in a glass dish with about 1/3 of the drippings in the oven to keep it warm.

Served with flour tortillas and a bit of BBQ sauce (we used Stubbs) - but pico, guac and cheese dip are equally delicious on top (thanks to my friends for bringing and making all of these...and agreeing to put them in margarita glasses for added adorableness). I've made this brisket before and added a cilantro-lime slaw on top, but I find it unnecessary.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just Paint It: Shale & Silver Whiteboard

My friend Danielle gave me this whiteboard in college after I noted aloud how much I liked the one she had in her apartment. Don't you love friends like that? They are the best, most thoughtful gift givers (shout out to my favorite PharmDawg!). This board has served me well over the years, but I've been toying lately with the idea of changing up the colors for a lighter, fresher look.

And so I bring you a new installment in the "Just Paint It" series. Really, what can't a good coat of paint (or two or three or nine) fix? Nothing, folks.

I grabbed a small sample of Martha Stewart paint in shale, the silver paint I used on these guys and got to work. I removed the hooks and did two-three coats of the shale color with a sponge brush, then sprayed generously with a clear gloss because the paint didn't seem to be sticking to the slick black surface of the whiteboard. When I got to the silver part, I used tape on the edges where I wanted silver - which I only half recommend. In some areas where I got a good, full coverage of clear gloss spray, it was fine. In other less-fortunate areas where the gloss was light, the tape ripped up the shale paint and I had to go back with a few more coats. Just being honest here:  sometimes these projects don't go how you planned, but don't fret and keep going.

After painting the silver, I sprayed the entire piece with clear gloss again. Fair warning: definitely cover your whiteboard with paper because the gloss can get sticky and will affect the marker erase-ability later on, though I found the gloss to remove easily with some nail polish remover.

I ended up removing the corkboard section because we don't use it and I like the idea of more space for writing our ever-growing collection of bills and to-do's (which is what we use this board for 99% of the time).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Peony Bouquet

Ever since moving into our apartment, my roommate and I have kept an always-have-fresh-flowers-in-the-house rule. For the most part, we've stuck to it quite well (with many weeks' success attributed to one very routine flower-giving boyfriend).

Since fresh flowers can be so expensive, we generally pick-up our stems on sale from the grocery store, sometimes at the farmers' market and we had potted poinsettias for a few weeks at Christmas, a time when few flowers are in season and we wanted to save some dough. But this last weekend, we decided a splurge was in order. Elizabeth saw on Instragram (of all places) that peonies were on sale at Whole Foods, so I rushed over to grab some. Since it was Mother's Day, the store seemed to be overflowing with florals and I couldn't help but indulge and scoop up a few others: larkspur, goldenrod and bells of Ireland.

I recently read this post on Style Me Pretty Living on how to make flowers last longer and I put some of the tips to use for this piece, including cutting each stem diagonally, throwing in some pennies at the bottom (I've tried this previously, too) and changing the water frequently.

It seems silly, but walking into the apartment to this centerpiece makes so incredibly giddy each day. Peonies are my absolute favorite flower. Their tissue-paper-thin petals just kill me and I love to watch them bloom. After the first day at work, I came home to find the first peony had started blooming and she just gets prettier by the hour (and huge). I also created a smaller bouquet for Ryan's mom since we were headed over for a Mother's Day grill-out. I arranged it in a vase and then tied it with twine to easily transport it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just Paint It: Bookend Redo

I bought these bookends for an impressive $4 at Goodwill late last year. It has always bothered me that the inside part facing the books is prettier than the outside and I've been looking for a fix for quite some time. As with most things, I decided a good coat (or two) of paint can really cure anything (as demonstrated in numerous DIYs on this blog).

And so I bring you a new series entitled "Just Paint It," where I throw some paint on old or outdated items. This series doesn't have any weekly schedule or routine planned out, as that would be entirely too ambitious for someone like myself. However, I actually already have a few other projects in mind that only involve some fresh paint, so I'll be sharing those here shortly.

Now back to these bookends. I had some silver Martha Stewart paint left over from a version of this project that I made for a friend, so I got right to it with a brush and two coats. I really like the new look - they add a little glitz to my otherwise gloomy grey bedroom.

Next up for "Just Paint It" is a whiteboard where my roommate and I hang our keys that really needed some loving, but I have a few more layers of paint to go.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Simple Spicy Shrimp Linguine

I recently expressed sentiments to Ryan that I wanted to start cooking a bit healthier than usual. Though delicious, Chick fil A nuggets aren't the best for my waist line and not all of us can have a quick metabolism like that of my man. A day or so after this conversation, in typical Ryan fashion (he's a planner; I am not), I received a text with a photo of a healthy-ish recipe he found in a magazine. At this point, I will basically consider anything to be healthy* so long as it's not cream-based or fried. Bonus if I can throw in a vegetable or two.

He couldn't recall where he found it, but I found a similar (ok, exact) version from Real Simple, though Ryan maintains he was not reading Real Simple nor did he know it was a magazine.

I must applaud Ryan for this recipe, really. It was super easy to make, cheap (save for the shrimp), tasty (but supremely spicy if you're a wimp like me) and most importantly, light (no cream!). Most of the ingredients I had on hand and I only made a few modifications. If you're in the market for a quick meal this week, I highly recommend this one.

Recipe notes: To my dismay, I omitted the watercress because it wasn't available at the time I went to the store (but I did see it earlier this week at Publix). I think this would be good with some steamed broccoli, but Ryan isn't a fan so maybe we'll save that for next time. I also roasted the garlic in the oil for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients, added a squeeze of lemon in addition to the zest and served with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.

*I'm sure that according to anyone who knows anything about healthy eating, this is far from accurate.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DIY Hair Ties

Today I bring to you the easiest, most inexpensive DIY of my life...and just in time for Mother's Day! These are great little gifts for the gals, moms and kiddos in your life. I like to mix a few fun colors (or Bulldog colors, right?!) and package them up all pretty before dishing them out. You can make headbands, too!

But let's back-up a bit. I started eyeing these hair ties the moment they hit Anthropologie's shelves, though I have since been told they originated from the hands of some designer whose name now escapes me (it's rumored that she hand-dyes them). My roommate and I both exchanged a set of five at Christmas because spending $12 on a few hair ties for someone else is a little more settling than buying them for oneself (that's $2.40 each!! for some elastic!!).

In looking at them, they seemed easy enough to make, and that was my ultimate goal in the months that followed. But as life goes, I got busy (or lazy, rather), and failed to find out what kind of elastic to use. A quick Google search or trip to a fabric store would have been an easy remedy, but I just sat as the months disappeared behind me as they so often do.

And a few weeks ago right at the moment in which I could have easily moved on, a friend posted a photo on Instagram proclaiming that she had just purchased some "fold over elastic" on Etsy to make - you guessed it - hair ties. Thirty-three dollars, fifty-five yards and a few days later, I had a package* on my doorstep and some hair ties to make.

Here's how:

All you need for this project is some 5/8" foldover elastic, a pair of scissors and a lighter (or match if you're old school and don't mind burning your fingers a bit).

Measure and cut strips of elastic about 7" long. You can do longer or shorter depending on hair thickness, but this length seems to be just right for 2 loose or 3 tight wraps around my medium-thickness hair. For glitter ties, I have found that the elastic isn't quite as stretchy, so I add half an inch of so on those. For headbands, I would use anywhere from 18-20 inches.

Tie the ends together and trim if needed.

Lightly burn the ends to melt and prevent fraying. VoilĂ !

*I bought all my elastic on Etsy from a seller called Fleuiste and afterwards learned they have a Fleuriste Supplies website that's much easier to use. I highly recommend this seller because of the wide selection, efficient pricing and SUPER fast shipping! If you're in a pinch for time, JoAnn's has a smaller selection (just make sure it's 5/8" - some look closer to 1").

Salted Dark Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips

 I used to hate peanut butter. I talked about it here, though disguised it as a mild dislike so as to not offend the PB die-hards (believe me, they exist). But then I met peanut butter brownies and thought, "Well ok, I could get used to this." And then I tried peanut butter and banana toast in the morning for a brief stint, and that was nice.

Now here we are, at a point in my life where it seems various peanut butter-infused cookie recipes are popping up all around me on blogs and in magazines and I can no longer ignore it. I think many of us have been scarred - jaded, even - by the likes of these boring ol' things that we all know too well with their generally stale exterior decorated neatly with little fork prints on top. You know what I mean: the cookies that get left behind at the grocery store sample station or in the mixed box someone brings to a party (a cookie party is my kind of party).

But these ones are different! They have a chocolate base with peanut butter chips, aka baby steps for a recent peanut butter convert who, let's be honest, will try anything in cookie form. Plus sea salt on top? Just when you thought your cookie was the sweetest little thing, it hits you. Salt is such a dear friend.

Recipe notes: I misread the recipe and forgot to buy dark chocolate chips, so I omitted those and upped the cocoa powder by a teensy bit (not too much or I was afraid it would dry out the batter). Secondly, someone once told me that butterscotch chips are "the same" as peanut butter chips. I whole-heartedly disagree and used Reese's brand peanut butter chips, which in my opinion are the best, as evident by the fact that I only had left the one cup needed for the recipe by the time I got home from the store. Those pups are dangerously good for snacking. I cooked these for 11 minutes and they came out fudgy and delicious.

Overall, I really liked these cookies. Perhaps I'll try these next, but that's contingent upon my taste buds agreeing with peanut butter for a little while longer.

Oh! And these make for a cute little gift when wrapped in some craft paper.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good Reads

Unlike the majority of my sisters and my mom, I'm not a huge reader. I wish I were, but I think the combination of my ADHD and can't-sit-stillness (and perhaps a touch of laziness) isn't really conducive to reading. When I find a book I like, though, I can't seem to put it down. Over the last year, some favorites have been The Memory Keeper's Daughter and A Thousand Splendid Suns (prompting me to put The Kite Runner and, now, And the Mountains Echoed on my long-running list of "To Read's").

Embarrassingly, the last book I read was while I was in Amsterdam (over six months ago, whaaaat?!). Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris came highly recommended from my sister Susie, a reader extraordinaire who has developed quite a talent in finding novels for me. I absolutely loved this book and kept finding myself laughing out loud on the planes and trains (i.e. places that exude perfect reading conditions). David Sedaris might be my new favorite writer. The way he tells stories is so captivating and I only hope that by reading more and more of his essays, I might come to laugh a bit harder and write a bit better.

In preparation for an out of town wedding with Ryan this weekend, I ran into Barnes and Noble* and picked up his latest book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. While Ryan's tending to groomsman duties, I'll no doubt be poolside, laughing by myself.

I'd love to hear, what are you reading these days?

*It was not a "run in and grab one book" kind of trip. I couldn't help myself and also picked up two coffee table books: The Flower Recipe Book (for creating the most beautiful flower arrangements...hopefully) and Vintage Jewelry Design (which I consider an educational piece should I ever get into estate sale shopping).