Wednesday, March 20, 2013

spring cleaning: when to toss your makeup



It's here! Today is finally the first day of spring. Of course, we have some snow on the ground, so it's not really looking like spring yet. But, the sun is out and the snow is melting away. So, it's a start anyway.

With spring comes spring cleaning, and I've been doing a lot of thinking about spring cleaning. Note that I actually haven't done any spring cleaning. Just thinking. Eventually I'll get around to it. I do kind of enjoy cleaning out stuff. There's something really satisfying about purging and getting rid of a whole bunch of clothes that you never wear, or clearing out all the junk that's piled up under the sink in the bathroom (I totally toss things under the sink just so that I can close the cabinet doors and pretend that there isn't a disastrous mess). One thing I definitely need to clean out is my makeup case. I always wonder how long makeup products last and when they should get tossed. And then I never remember to look it up, and then my makeup continues to sit in my makeup case, and then I continue to wonder when I should get rid of my makeup...anyway. So, here's a handy-dandy list of when to toss out your makeup (in case you were wondering, too!)

Foundation
Powder: up to 3 years
All other formulas: 6 to 12 months

All foundations are water-based (except for powder foundations), so it's an ideal spot for bacteria. An unopened bottle of foundation can last a couple of years, but once opened, foundation should be replaced every 6 to 12 months. Foundation should be stored in a cool, dry environment (i.e., not the bathroom. I definitely keep all my makeup in the bathroom. Oops!) If the ingredients have separated, or there is a change in the color or consistency, or if it smells funky, then it's time for some new foundation! 

Concealer
Powders and sticks: up to 2 years
Liquids: 1 year

You'll know it's time to toss your concealer when there is a change in the color. Just like powder foundations, powder concealers can last a long time. Liquids should replaced after one year. 

Face Powder
2 years

Powders last a while, but some may contain some water from botanical extracts. Water means the potential for bacterial growth, so be sure to store makeup in a dry environment. Ingredients like oat extract, aloe, and chamomile may contain small amounts of water.

Blush
Powder: 2 years
Cream: 1 year

Again, powder blush can last up to two years, just like face powder. However, cream blush should be replaced after a year. In order to make your blush last, store it in a dark, dry place and clean your blush brush (try saying that ten times) regularly. Moisture and oils from lotions and foundations can stick to the bristles on the brush, which promotes bacterial growth. So, after applying your moisturizer/foundation, wait for a few minutes before putting on your blush. You can also use a blotting sheet to get rid of any excess oil. Once you've applied your blush, wipe the brush with a dry towel to remove any residue, moisture or oil.

Eye Shadow
3 months

Though eye shadow is generally a powder formula, they should be replaced more frequently since they're in contact with the eyes. If the color of your shadow changes or if there's an odd smell, it's time for some new eye shadow. 

Mascara & Liquid/Pencil Liner
2 to 3 months

Liquid-based mascara tubes are the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Since mascara is applied to the eye area, you really don't want to mess around. Itchy eyes, sties, and conjunctivitis are no fun. Once mascara has gone bad, it emits a gasoline-like smell. And, of course if you develop any itchiness, sties, or any symptoms of conjunctivitis, throw out your eye makeup.

Both liquid and pencil liners should be replaced about every three months because -- you guessed it -- they're used in the sensitive eye area. Pencil liners might last a little longer if you sharpen them regularly. A white film at the tip of the pencil is a definite sign that it's time for some new liner.

Lip Gloss and Lipstick
1 year

Lip gloss and lipstick last a while because they don't contain water -- which means less bacteria growth. Look for changes in texture with your glosses and lipsticks. If your lipstick has hardened, it's no good anymore. If your lip gloss has globs in it, then it's time to toss it.

Nail Polish

Nail polish can last seemingly forever. However, the formula will eventually dry up. If you shake your nail polish bottle and the polish remains separated, then it's time to say goodbye.


And, while we're on the topic, here's a quick list of skincare products and their expiration dates:

Primers, eye firmers and other silicone-based products
12 months 

Cream cleansers, masks, moisturizers and eye creams
4 to 6 months

Gel cleansers, masks, acne treatments and eye gels 
6 months

Water based toners (you can keep in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life)
4 to 6 months

Cream or gel scrubs and shower gels 
4 months 

Serums and boosters
4 to 6 months

Sunscreens 
Generally, sunscreens have an expiration date of two years, but it's recommended to replace sunscreen every year


So, in conclusion, store all your makeup in a cool, dry, dark environment (like in a box in your closet) and keep all tools and brushes clean. In order to keep track of when to toss makeup and other products, you can get those little round stickers (like these), stick 'em to the bottom of your makeup/skin care product and write the date that you opened them. Or, even better, write the date that they should be tossed.

Now, I've got move my makeup out of the bathroom and clean some stuff out! And just think, if you have to toss some stuff, then that definitely means that you can buy some new items. Right? Oh yes.

Sources: Allure, Fitness Magazine, Parade, Tips on Home and Style, and Parenting


Monday, March 18, 2013

thai chicken quinoa bowl


So, March is absolutely flying by. Like a peregrine falcon. Exactly like that. Spring starts this week! Like, this Wednesday! Holy macaroni. And we're supposed to get snow tomorrow. Of course. You know you live in New England when spring arrives and it snows. Real spring here probably won't start until, like, May. Sigh. I'm so ready for some nice spring-like weather! The cold and gray skies are driving me crrrazzyyy. I'm actually missing living in Savannah right now. I never thought I would miss Georgia -- I was constantly complaining about the heat. But now that I've had to deal with a New England winter after a year of not having to deal with a New England winter, I'm kind of preferring a Savannah winter right now. And a Savannah spring would be nice. But I like New England autumns. And it would be nice to have snow in December and January. But then the snow can stop and it can get warmer. Do we have a deal, Mother Nature? Because that would be awesome.

Until the weather actually turns springlike, I can pretend it's spring and eat springlike things. Like this thai chicken quinoa bowl. Oh my goodness, I could eat this everyday. With fresh taste of sugar snap peas and cilantro and the utterly delicious sweet chili thai sauce, it feels like it's practically spring. I am addicted to the thai sauce that goes into this. It's also perfect for sauteing and stir-frying. I sauteed brussels sprouts in this sauce and it was deeeeelicious. Multi purpose! This dish is so easy to throw together and it's super healthy too! Win-win! Don't eat meat? You could definitely swap the chicken for tofu or chickpeas, or even forgo the chicken completely. Oooh, some sprouts or shoots would also be really good in this! Or even some red pepper. The possibilities are endless!

thai chicken quinoa bowl 
gluten free, soy free, peanut free
adapted from How Sweet It Is
yields about 2-3 large servings, or 4 small servings

// ingredients
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into strips (or shredded)
2/3 cup chopped carrots
2/3 cup sweet snap peas
3/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro

for the sauce
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons sunflower seed butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

// directions
 Prepare quinoa according to directions. Use 2 cups of liquid for every cup of quinoa. I actually like to use water over vegetable or chicken stock so the other flavors can really shine through, but if you like your quinoa cooked with vegetable stock, go for it!

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl. I like to use a micro planer to mince the garlic -- so much easier! You can just grate the garlic straight into the bowl; no knife skills required! Also, heating up the sunflower seed butter in the microwave for a little bit also makes it a little easier to whisk into the sauce.

Once the quinoa is done cooking, stir in sauce, chicken, snap peas and carrots (I had cooked the chicken in a large saute pan, so I just transferred the quinoa to the saute pan to stir everything together. You'll just need a bowl/pan that's large enough to mix everything together in). Taste to see if any additional seasoning is needed. If so, just add some salt and pepper. Toss in half of the cilantro, stir, then serve in a large bowl. Add some more cilantro on top and enjoy!

>> print recipe

Saturday, March 16, 2013

happy weekend


Happy weekend, everyone! I don't usually post on weekends, but it's pretty much been forever since I last wrote here. Sorry about the long absence! It's been pretty busy around here, between job searching and figuring out life. Also, my brother and his girlfriend came home for a surprise visit this week, which was awesome. I think that's the most surprised I've ever been in my entire life. I could not form a cohesive sentence when I found them standing in the living room. It's going to be hard to ever top that surprise! It was fantastic to see them and a much needed break from all this life-figuring-out stuff (I'm still not sure I'm ready for this real world thing. Or ready to be a real adult, for that matter. Nope, nope, nope.)

Anyhow. That's what's been going on here lately! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 4, 2013

pros and cons of going freelance

 (via)

Okay, so this is another lazy post, but I really wanted to share this post from The Austin Eavesdropper. This is an awesome article on the pros and cons of going freelance -- something I've always wondered about. It's always super helpful to get some perspective from someone who's actually doing it. The article is about writing freelance, but it's definitely applicable to anything freelance. Go read it here!

monday monday monday

(via)

Happy Monday, everyone! Can you believe it's March already? Seriously, where did February go? I feel like I say this at the beginning of every month. We're getting closer to spring -- thank goodness!

Sorry for the lack of posts. I promise a real post will be coming soon!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

wedding dresses: short & sweet

I am so into short wedding dresses right now. It may just be because I am desperate for some warmer weather, and looking at short wedding dresses makes me feel like it's springtime. Well, sort of. Ugh, so ready for spring. But, anyway. Short dresses are fun, flirty, sassy and sweet -- all at the same time. They're just the ticket for a chic city affair, city hall nuptials, a casual backyard bash, a rustic farm fete...I could go on. Plus, a short wedding dress lets you show off some really cute shoes, too. Score.

 from left to right
1. How cute and classic is this Pinwheel Tea Dress by BHLDN? You could swing dance all night long! $1400

2. This technically isn't a wedding dress, but I feel that this Parisienne Dress from Piperlime is just perfect for a casual springtime wedding celebration. $99

3. I just love the details on this fit and flare Dolce Vita Dress from BHLDN. The Swiss-dotted tulle overlay, key-hole back, and belt make this dress just oh so pretty. $300

4. Wear this classic Jenny Woo dress at a fun and quirky barnyard wedding. Perfection. $1200 or less

5. Another beautiful dress from BHLDN! (I'm obsessed.) This Sequin Sash Dress has a beautiful sequined underslip -- just the right amount of sparkle! $350

6. Again, this dress isn't technically a wedding dress. But who says you have to buy an actual wedding dress? I say, bend the rules! This sleeveless brocade dress is just perfect for city hall or a chic city soiree. $207

7. Oh my gosh, I am so in love with this Agata Swing Dress. It's flirty, vintage-y, bohemian-y, and so chic all at the same time. Perfect for a casual backyard bash or a fashion-forward museum affair. $420

(And, if you love this dress, H+M has a similar dress for just $29.95. Why not?)

8. This sweetheart neckline dress from Jill Stuart is adorable and perfect for spring. I love the bow on the side; it's sweet, but not too girly. It's somewhat modern which keeps this dress from being overly cutesy. Love. $248

9. This fringed Nicole Miller dress is the epitome of chic and sassy. Kick off your heels and dance the night away in this little white dress! Price not available.

Not sure about wearing a short dress? These are also perfect for a reception dress if you love outfit changes. Thinking about an all-white bridal party? Well, these dresses also make super cute bridesmaids' dresses!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

gluten free vegan raspberry coconut oat macaroons

I started watching a few episodes of the new show Something Borrowed, Something New on TLC, and I have to say, I'm a little disappointed with the re-worked wedding dresses. I really like the idea behind the show and was super excited to see the old wedding dresses updated and revamped. Ever since reading Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble series a couple of years ago, I've been obsessed with the idea of reworking old wedding dresses. I think it would be so much fun and so cool to do! I just wish I knew how to sew. That would help.

Anyhow. I don't know if my expectations are just way too super high -- I mean, I really know nothing about restoring and working on wedding dresses -- but I haven't been all that taken with Kelly's re-worked and re-imagined wedding dresses. They're pretty, but they just sort fall a little short for me. I think one of the problems is that some of the dresses just don't have enough structure, and they end up looking a little nightgown-ish. I'll still watch it though -- I'm holding out hope that one of these reworked wedding dresses will be ah-mazing and blow the new one out of the water!


Okay. These macaroons. Well, I guess they're not really macaroons, technically, since there are no eggs in them. But they kind of are. They're sort of like oatmeal cookies, but soft. And spherical. With coconut and raspberries. And they're super delicious. I just love the combination of coconut and raspberry -- it's so tropical and spring-y, which is just what we need right now. Sigh.

Let me tell you, I went through a lot of trial and error and recipes before I got to these macaroons. After making these, I swore I would never make macaroons again. But, now I kind of want to make them again.

And I really kind of want to attempt traditional macaroons again. With Easter coming up, I'm feeling all macaroon-y.

Initially, I used frozen raspberries with making these macaroons. Did. Not. Work. I highly recommend using fresh raspberries if you can. The results are oh so much better. No matter how much I rinsed and dried off the thawed raspberries, they continually just turned to mush in the dough, creating a weird purple-y macaroon that didn't look at all appetizing. And that spread out all over the baking sheet. No good.

Use fresh raspberries.

I know they're expensive, but they'll make an amazing macaroon. Trust me.


raspberry coconut oat macaroons
gluten free, vegan
adapted from Healthy Food for Living

// ingredients
1 cup of coconut butter
1 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces fresh raspberries

//directions
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the coconut butter and all of the ingredients, minus the raspberries, in a bowl. Once the ingredients are well combined, gently fold in the raspberries. Mash the raspberries slightly while folding them into the "dough," but don't fully mush them in. Using a small spoon (I used a melon baller, which worked great!, scoop out the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the bottoms of the macaroons are slightly browned and toasted looking. The macaroons will be really soft, but don't worry! Take them out of the oven and let them sit for about 30 minutes -- they'll firm up. Placing the macaroons in the refrigerator will also help firm them up.

While you're enjoying your macaroons, close your eyes pretend that you're sitting in a lovely park and that it's sunny and 70 degrees. Ah, perfection.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 oscar best dressed


Who watched the Oscars last night? And, is it just called the Oscars now? What happened to the Academy Awards? Well, I missed the Oscars (or the Academy Awards. Or the not Academy Awards) because I was catching up on the Downton Abbey finale (WHYYY, Downton??? Whyyyy??? I think I'm going to need some counseling.) I haven't fully caught up on the Oscars and its shenanigans yet, but I have perused all the gorgeous gowns (not going to lie, definitely one of the best parts). I couldn't resist sharing my top picks for best dressed!

from left to right

1. I love, love, love Amanda Seyfried and her Alexander McQueen gown. I know a lot of people have been saying that the dress seems a little too big, but I still love it and think that she looks amazing in it.

2. Catherine Zeta Jones looks absolutely stunning in this golden Zuhair Murad dress.

3. Naomi Watts is simply gorgeous in this form-fitting, gunmetal sequined Armani Privé gown. I'm a sucker for anything shiny, glittery, and/or sequined! (clearly!)

4. Jennifer Aniston always looks so effortlessly beautiful, and last night was no exception! This bold red Valentino gown was perfect for the Oscars.

5. Love Octavia Spencer and her flowy, ethereal Tadashi Shoji gown! Classic. Gorgeous.

6. Jessica Chastain is perfectly stunning in this sparkly, form-fitting Armani Privé dress. Love the old Hollywood glam look!

(All images via People.com.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

super simple gluten free cornbread


So, I seriously have a case of a writer's block. Or creativity block. I don't know what to write about. I don't know what to cook or bake. It's terrible.

"Tell me, O Muse, of something to write. Inspire me.

I'm waiting, O Muse.

I think my Muse is attending some other people at the moment."

Name the book that quote is from!

Okay, it's from Absolutely Normal Chaos. That was my favorite book back in elementary school. Okay, it still is one of my favorite books. I just love it. I won it in something. I don't remember what it was. All I remember was that it was like the last day of school or something before summer break when I found out that I won the book, and I was so excited because I never win anything. Then, after reading the book, I wanted to write my own summer journal. I don't think I got too far though; I wasn't very good at writing in it on a daily basis.

Anyway. Cornbread. I love cornbread. It's so easy to make and it's so delicious. The perfect answer for my creativity-block-stricken self! Well, at least the answer to my baking woes. You can eat cornbread with like anything. And, cornbread is so versatile! It can be sweet, it can be savory. You can use it in stuffing. You can eat it as dessert. Or breakfast. And this cornbread is especially easy because you only need six ingredients. Yup, that's right. Six. That's because I used gluten-free Bisquick -- makes things so much easier! I will say that I do prefer cornbread made completely from scratch -- however, this Bisquick cornbread is still pretty darn good. And so easy. Two pluses in my book!

I want some cornbread now.


super simple gluten free cornbread
gluten free, soy free

// ingredients
2 cups gluten free Bisquick*
6 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 cup Truvia baking blend (you can also use 1/2 cup of regular sugar)
2 eggs
1 cup milk of choice
1/2 soy free Earth Balance spread, melted (or regular butter, if tolerated)

*Note: for those who are extremely allergic to soy, gluten-free Bisquick may contain soy.

// directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the Bisquick, cornmeal and stevia blend (or sugar) together in a large bowl. Slightly whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add the eggs, milk and melted spread to the dry ingredients and stir. Pour the batter into a prepared 8x8 baking dish (I like to grease my pans with Spectrum Organic All Natural Vegetable Shortening). Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden and delicious.

// variations

for something sweet

Maple Cornbread: Replace the sugar with 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Melt 1/4 cup of Earth Balance spread (or butter) and mix it with 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Once the cornbread is done, brush with the maple butter mixture.

Fruit and Honey: Serve with strawberry compote and honey. Or blueberry compote. Or any kind of fruit compote! You could even mix in some blueberries or strawberries into the batter -- just make sure if they're frozen that they've been thawed and patted dry. Otherwise you'll end up with a soggy purple or red batter!

for something savory

Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread: Omit the sugar. Add 1/4 cup of finely diced jalapeno peppers, a dash of cayenne pepper, and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (Daiya makes an excellent dairy free, gluten free, soy free shredded cheddar cheese).

Olive Oil and Thyme: Sugar is optional (you may want to reduce the amount). Replace the butter with with olive oil. Add two tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped. You could also use rosemary instead of thyme, or go crazy and use both!

Monday, February 18, 2013

winter can be over now


I am so ready for winter to be over. I think that's the general consensus around here. Winter can happen from December 1st through like now. And then it can be over. Where was all this snow around Christmas? Seriously. That's when snow is needed.

I'm good with snow now.

It can go away.

So can the chilly wind.

We're definitely in the winter doldrums. Well, at least I am. I've felt so uninspired lately, hence the lack of blog posts (sorry!)

I need some warmth, some life and rejuvenation!

I'm so ready for this now.


And this. 







Sigh.

We're almost there! March 20th marks the first day of spring. Of course, around here it will still feel like winter. But, shhhh. We can pretend its spring. Well, it is spring. We can pretend it feels like spring.

Until then, have warmth thoughts, dear readers!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

pink + red


I have to admit, I really love the color pink. I do. I used to have this bright pink desk chair that was amazing. Sadly, during a maybe-I-don't-like-pink-so-much phase, I tried spray painting it white. Didn't work. The chair was plastic, and I followed the proper procedure for spray painting plastic. I sanded the chair with a fine grit sandpaper, cleaned it up, and bought spray paint that was specifically for plastic. Unfortunately, the spray paint peeled and got all funky. Not the desired result. I haven't tried spray painting anything plastic since then -- it was a traumatizing experience.

Anyhow, I am no longer in a maybe-I-don't-like-pink-so-much phase. I love pink. It's just so happy and cheerful. And paired with red, the two colors are just so vibrant and lively. So, because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, here are some ways to add some cheer and loveliness with pink and red!

1. I absolutely adore these dusty pink pants from Piperlime. They are the perfect shade of pink; not too in your face, but still pink. And, if you're not too fond of the $230 price tag, Old Navy carries a similar pair of pants. The light pink color isn't quite as nice in my opinion, but my bank account much prefers the $12.97 price tag.

2. Mornings would be a bit easier with this cheerful, bright pink alarm clock. Okay, well I'd probably still hit the snooze button a few times.

3. This colorful Marimekko pillow adds an instant pop of color and lots of pep to any space.

4. How cute are these coasters? Best of all, it's a do-it-yourself project! Love. It.

5. I love all the peaches, corals, and pinks in this springy poppy print. It's pink without being overly pink if you're a pink-doubter.

6. I am so in love with this red polka dot dress from Forever21.

7. Snuggle up with this red and pink Ikat throw and watch Under the Tuscan Sun. Or 300. Whatever floats your boat.


And because I love pink so much, here's a few more items that I couldn't leave out!

1. I need these faux suede pumps. So. Cute.

2. This pink and red houndstooth patterned mouse pad is just fantastic!

3. I absolutely love pretty much anything Kate Spade -- and this pink and red bow patterned clutch is just so adorable.

4. Plaster these happy pink heart stickers over everything for Valentine's Day! Okay, well maybe not everything.


Now, go forth and spread the love with red and pink!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the blizzard


Well, we made it! Snowstorm Nemo is over. What kind of a name is that anyway? Nemo? Who decides on these names for these storms? I think we need a new storm namer.

Anyhow. That is a picture from my window on Saturday morning. We ended up getting a lot of rain/freezing rain/snow on Friday, which made a lovely ice sheet for all the rest of the snow to pile up on. 


And it was super windy, so pretty much all the windows were caked with ice and snow.

Fun stuff.

I have a question about hurricanes, storms and blizzards. Why do people stock up on milk? I don't get it. If the power might go out, why get milk? Milk is going to do you no good. Get granola bars and batteries instead. Those are actual useful during a power outage.

Anyway.

Of course the power went out. It seemed as though the power was going to go out on Friday; the lights kept on flickering, and then power kept on going on and off. I hoped that maybe this was a sign; that maybe, just maybe, this was the extent of the storm. It was incredibly windy Friday night, and I thought, well, if the power can stand this, then maybe it'll stay on afterall! Alas, Saturday morning there was no power. Having the power out for roughly 36 hours really makes you appreciate those things you take for granted. Like warm water to wash your hands. It was really nice to have warm water again. And to be able to take a warm shower. And heat. Saturday night, I could see my breath in my bedroom it was that cold. How did people survive before electricity?? If I ever got stuck out in the wilderness, clearly I would never make it.


Sunday evening, just before 8, the power came back on. I literally cried tears of joy when the lights came on in the kitchen and the microwave beeped. However, about an hour or so later, the electricity decided that it wanted to play some mean tricks and go off again. And then, a few minutes later, it came back on. Then went off. Not very nice, electricity!! Eventually, it did come back on and stayed on -- hallelujah! We didn't have cable or internet for a while, but that was a-okay with me. As long as there was heat. And hot water. 

So over blizzards and power outages.

I hope everyone fared the storm all right and has their power back!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

before + after: buffet turned bedroom storage


One of my favorite things ever is to pick up old pieces of furniture from thrift stores or salvage places and fix them up. I love it. If I could, I would do it all the time. Unfortunately, I would probably run out of space real fast. There's something so satisfying about taking an ugly piece of furniture and completely turning it around. 

This summer, I decided that I needed some storage in my bedroom. Since I moved back to my parents' house, I now have like double the stuff. The stuff that I accumulated while living in Savannah PLUS all the stuff that had been sitting in my room. So, I needed some serious storage.

So, the search began. I looked at antique places. I looked at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I went to the Brimfield Antiques Show (stuff was way overpriced if you ask me. But I did get a really cool old-fashioned picnic basket for half price! I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but it's cute!) Finally, after what felt like eons of searching, I found the piece at a second-hand furniture place in Holbrook. It wasn't pretty, as you can see. The hardware had to go. It was actually already falling off. And I wasn't crazy about the wood tone. But, the amount of storage was perfect. And it was a really solid piece. Dovetail joints, solid wood back, drawers slid without protest, and the cabinets opened nicely. Check, check, check and check!


So, I trucked back home and got to work! I hit up True Value for some paint and scored with a reject can of paint for $4. I was looking for a really dark charcoal and when I showed the paint sample to the paint lady. she told me that someone had returned a can of paint that was similar to the paint sample I had picked out. Bingo! $4 for a can of paint? Yes, please! I believe the color was California Paint's Dark Engine in a matte finish. PLUS, this paint was a paint AND primer in one. YES. Score.

I have to say, I love the look of the matte finish, however, it scratches really easily. If you decide to use a matte finish on a piece of furniture, use it on something that won't see a ton of use. So far, the scratches on this piece of furniture aren't too bad. I can deal with it because I just love the matte finish so much.

I decided to only paint the exterior because a) I'm lazy, and b) I really like the contrast of the warm wood tone with the painted black. Why not save yourself some work? The interior was in really good shape and only needed to be wiped down and vacuumed (there were a few spiders that decided this buffet would make an excellent home). So I figured, why not leave it as is?

And, as you saw, this piece seriously needed some new hardware. Anthropologie to the rescue! I absolutely adore their knobs and hardware and have been dying to use them somehow for years. I knew straight away that I was definitely using some Anthropologie knobs for the doors, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do about the upper drawers. I looked at Home Depot for handles since I really didn't feel like filling in the holes and drilling new ones. But nothing really spoke to me at Home Depot. Plus, the distance between the existing holes in the drawers was weird. None of the standard handle sizes fit. And the handles in the weird middle part there were smaller than the other two. Enter wood filler, sandpaper, a drill, and some more paint. 

Then came the new knobs. The upper drawers have the white ceramic melon knobs and the lower cabinet doors have the caricature knob. Omigosh, how I love these knobs. I love, love, love the hand-painted detail on the caricature knob. So pretty! And, while we're talking about Anthropologie knobs, I'm itching to use these gorgeous knobs on some future project. Or these.


Check out all that storage.

And please ignore all the dust on my floor.

Thanks.

 
Voila. The perfect piece for storage!

Monday, February 4, 2013

butternut squash + chickpea pasta [gluten free]

So, who watched the Super Bowl last night? I'm sure all we'll be hearing about is the power outage. The Outage. The Power Outage Super Bowl. And what about the commercials? I'm telling you, I feel like the commercials are becoming increasingly lamer every year. I remember when the Super Bowl commercials were funny. Like, the majority of them were funny. Not just a few. There were some good ones last night, and some really terrible ones. Before we get to today's dish, we've got to discuss some commercials. Here are my top three picks for the best and and the worst:

Best Commercials
1. The Oreo library commercial. Definitely the funniest commercial of the night, hands down. Fiiiirre!!!
2. The Tide commercial. I love it when things are taken to ridiculous extremes. And I loved the ending. Even though I was sort of rooting for the 49er's.
3. The Space Babies commercial. Very cute. Uvoplaywheelsonthebus!!!

Honorable mentions:
The Doritos goat commercial. It's a goat. Eating Doritos. Done.
Taco Bell's Viva Young commercial. That's what I'm going to be like when I'm old.

Worst Commercials
1. GoDaddy, the one with Bar Reafeli. This commercial made me want to empty the entire contents of my stomach. I'm not even including a link to this commercial. It was just gross. Disgusting.
2. The Bud Light superstition commercials. They were just weird.
3. Beck's Sapphire commercial. Again, just weird. Why is there a singing black fish? And why is it trying to be all suave and smooth? I just don't understand. The only acceptable place for singing fish is The Little Mermaid.

Mixed Bag
Budweiser's "Brotherhood" commercial. It was sweet, but it made it want to cry! I don't want to cry when I'm watching the Super Bowl. That's just not okay.

So that's my little wrap up of the Super Bowl commercials. Now, let's get onto the pasta! I was inspired to make this dish while flipping through this month's issue of Bon Appetit. The magazine included a recipe for fiorentini with butternut squash in their Seven Perfect Pastas article. The squash is shredded, so it almost acts like a cheese. Sort of. In my mind, anyway. So, I decided to use gluten-free corn macaroni for the pasta and to throw in some chickpeas for some added protein. Oh my goodness. Deliciousness. The shredded butternut squash really does mimic cheese, so it was sort of like a mac and cheese dish. Only with squash. And chickpeas. And I also threw in some greens at the end for some color.


butternut squash + chickpea pasta
gluten free, dairy free
recipe inspired by Bon Appetit

// ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups shredded butternut squash (about half of a medium squash, peeled)
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
about 2 tablespoons of dried sage (if you can, use fresh sage! I did not have any, so dried sage it was. If you can, use about 1/4 cup of fresh sage)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
about 12 oz of corn elbows (I used Mrs. Leeper's)
some greens (baby spinach, baby arugula, mixed greens -- whatever floats your boat!)

// directions
Cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute or sauce pan. I ended up using two pans since there was so much butternut squash! Add squash, chickpeas and sage and cook while stirring until the squash and chickpeas start to brown. Add a little salt and pepper.

Once the pasta is done cooking, add it to the butternut squash and chickpeas and mix it all around. Serve it with some greens on top. Enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2013

super easy peasy valentine's day card

Hello, February!!!

Wow -- how in the heck is it already February 1st? Seriously. When did that happen? Oy.

I apologize for the lack of posts! I've been battling some lovely sinus issues yet again -- so much fun. Thanks so much, New England weather. I love it when it's like 10 degrees one day and 50 degrees the next. My sinuses love it too.

Anyhow. I figured the perfect way to kick off February would be a super simple Valentine's Day card. I love making cards. I hoard paper. Seriously, you should see the amount of paper I have. It's slightly terrifying. Well, especially in the state that its in now. I need like an entire wall of shelves and storage dedicated to my paper. Currently, I have boxes scattered all over the places with scraps and bits of paper along with one of those scrapbook paper accordion things that is overflowing with paper. And there are piles of paper just sitting on the floor. And on shelves. And basically any available surface.

I especially love making pop-up cards. They're so much fun and so easy to make! And they're super cute.


See? Let's get to it!

Here's what you'll need.


1. Scissors
2. Pencil
3. 3 pieces of paper (one for the inside, one for the outside, and one for the heart shape)
4. Double-sided tape
5. Ruler
6. Paper cutter
7. Gel pens/other pens for decorating/writing in the card
8. Bonefolder (I forgot to include it in the picture! D'oh!)

>> step one
Measure and cut your pieces of paper for the card to size. I like to use a cardstock for the interior paper, since it's sort of the "structure" of the card, and then a thinner paper for the exterior. For this card, I wanted a 5 by 3.5 size, so the pieces of paper measure 5 inches by 7 inches. Once you have the papers cut to size, fold them in half with a bone folder.


>> step two
Cut out the heart. [yeesh, that sounds a bit morbid!] I just freehanded the heart, but you can totally use a template if you'd like. [as you can see, I messed up on the first heart! too small!] Then, decorate it! I added some white dots around the edge of the heart with a white gel pen. You could also cut out a smaller heart with a different color paper to do a cute, layered heart.


>> step three
Take the interior paper and estimate where you'd like the heart to pop up. I took the heart and placed it on the outside of the paper, roughly where I wanted it to be. I then marked the spot with a pencil and cut two lines to that point. You can get super precise with a ruler if you want. But I'm lazy. I like to guesstimate. 

Open up the card and pop out the "stand" for the heart.


>> step four
Take some double-sided tape and attach it to the "stand." Then, attach the heart! Close up the card and attach some more double-sided tape along the edges. Double-sided tape is my new hero. So much easier than glue!


>> step five
Line up the taped side of the interior paper with the exterior paper and press down. Do the same thing with the other side of the card. Apply some double-sided tape to the edges and attach to the exterior paper.


>> step six
Voila! You're done! How cute is that?

There are so many possibilities with this pop-up card. You could have a double heart, or cut out a banner and write "Happy Valentine's Day." And this card can totally be applied to any occasion! I've made birthday cards with balloons and Christmas cards with trees and penguins -- the possibilities are endless! And it's so simple and always looks so cute when it's all done. The perfect card!


Monday, January 28, 2013

happy australia day! part two

(via)

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Have a very, very happy Australia Day.


You're welcome.

happy australia day! part one


Note: Australia Day is really January 26th. Today is the observed Australia Day. So this is a few days late! 

Happy Australia Day, everyone! I really love Australia. It was the first country I ever traveled to. In fact, my trip to Australia was the first time I had ever been on a plane (well, not counting when I was like three months old or something, but I don't remember that) and it was the first time I had ever traveled anywhere without my family. It was the summer after fifth grade that I went on a People to People Student Ambassador trip to Australia. And it was one of the most amazing two weeks of my life. Australia has a very special place in my heart, and I'd love to go back. I just wish I could skip the 24 hour flight. That would be great.

In celebration of Australia Day, I've rounded up some Australian recipes. I wanted to try out making some of these over the weekend, but alas, did not have the time. They're all gluten-free, and there are no kangaroo or emu recipes. One thing I learned on my trip: emus are evil.


Pure evil.

One of the stops on our trip was at this emu/alligator farm. (I think this farm had emus and alligators. It's been a while, so the details are a little hazy!) Anyhow. This emu that you see right here tried pecking my face. I'm serious. Granted, I suppose I would be pretty cranky too if I were in a pen and people were taking pictures of me through the wire fence. So the emu and I didn't really get off to a good start.

That night for dinner, the options were either alligator chowder or emu sausage. Well, neither option sounded all that appealing to me. But, I decided to go with the emu sausage since the only experience I ever had with chowder was clam chowder, and as a 10-year-old, I hated clam chowder. I still dislike clam chowder. It's mainly the clams, I think. They're so chewy and gross. Anyway, the emu sausage seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Oh, how wrong I was. The emu exacted its revenge on me later that night.

Never eat emu.

Or kangaroo.

Or alligator.

Please.

At least I'll never eat emu again. I'm sorry, Mr. Emu.

So, you will not see any emu, alligator or kangaroo on my round-up. Or Vegemite. But, you will find other delicious Australian goodies! [gluten-free, of course!] So let's get to it!

1. Strawberry Kiwi Pavlovas. Okay, so kiwifruit is technically from New Zealand, but the pavlova is from Australia! It's said that the dish was created in 1935 at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth, Australia. Though, the roots of the pavlova do go back a bit further -- and potentially back to New Zealand. Home Cookery for New Zealand published in 1929 by an Australian author, Emily Futter, did have a recipe for Meringue with Fruit Filling -- similar to pavlova. Regardless, Australia has something to do with a pavlova. And this strawberry kiwi pavlova looks delicious! And how many times can I type pavlova?!

2. Fresh Kiwi Grape Juice. Get your vitamin C with this yummy drink! And, yes, I know its kiwifruit again. But New Zealand is so close. It's like right there. Australia by association, right? And kiwis are delicious. And nutritious.

3. Gluten Free Beer Damper. Those Australians. They love their beer. Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, of sorts. Farmers, swagmen, and stockmen often baked their damper over a campfire. Stockmen, who traveled far and wide for months and months, created the bread since it only required the most basic ingredients. This particular recipe adds beer into bread. It isn't noted in the recipe, but be sure to use a gluten free beer, like Dogfish Head Tweason’Ale or Epic Glutenator.

4. Gluten Free, Paleo Lamingtons. Lamingtons are a traditional Australian dessert, dating back to 1902. Usually, a lamington cake is a sponge cake that is coated in chocolate icing and coconut. They can also have layers of cream or jam. This particular lamington is a vanilla sponge cake layered with chocolate icing and coconut. If you're not into the paleo thing, here's a regular ole gluten-free recipe for lamingtons with a chocolate ganache glaze. Yum, yum! Is there anything better than the combination of coconut and chocolate? Okay, well, a lot of things go with chocolate. But chocolate and coconut is pretty darn good!

5. Gluten Free Anzac Biscuits. Anzac biscuits are basically an oatmeal cookie. Wives would send anzac biscuits to their solider husbands since these biscuits kept for long periods of time. Original anzacs were a hard tack bread, a bit different from the anzac biscuits of today! These biscuits have been long associated with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) -- hence, anzac biscuits! I'm pretty sure I wrote a paper on anzac biscuits in sixth grade. These would be delicious with some tea! I could go for that right now.


Hope you have a fantastic Monday, and a fabulous Australia Day!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

a classic viennese affair

Okay, so we're back to The Letter Box! Clearly, I am an indecisive person. Changing my blog's name sounded like such a great idea the other night while I was drifting off to sleep. But then, after changing it, I started not liking the new name. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it. It just sounded weird. And then, the internet was all wacky yesterday because someone ran into a telephone pole down the street. So I couldn't even change it back! I know, this long story about my blog name sure is thrilling. Let's get on to the good stuff!

Sophomore year of college, I had the incredible experience of studying abroad in Vienna. I absolutely fell in love with the city. The to-die-for cakes and pastries, the cobblestone roads, the beautiful old churches and buildings, the museums, the violin players in the Stephansplatz, the u-bahn (it's just fun to say!) Vienna is a truly gorgeous city that is just saturated with art, history, and culture. If I could, I would so move there in a heartbeat. Except my German is a bit rusty. Well, like really rusty. I'd have to work on that.

So of course, I felt compelled to create a Viennese-inspired wedding board. How romantic-slash-totally-awesome would it be to get married in Vienna? Yes, please.


1. First, we have a classic column-style gown, perfect for an evening soiree in such a historical setting.

2. Lots of gold accents, inspired by Klimt's paintings. A gorgeous gold-toned crystal headband for the bride.

3. Gold nail polish, with 18 karat gold flecks! Because you need a little bling.

4. Beautiful hand-made clutches that can be personalized for your bridesmaids!

5. Gold teardrop earrings covered in crystals completes the glamorous, classic look.

6. Vienna's Rathaus (City Hall), decorated for the holidays, looks straight out of a magical fairy-tale land (image from here)

7. A fox and mink jacket keeps the chill away as you celebrate long into the night!

8. Cafe Sacher, home of the famous sacher-torte. Instead of a traditional cake, serve up sacher-torte, an Austrian classic!

9. The Wallpaper City Guide to Vienna will keep your guests busy during their stay.

10. Beautiful deep blue sparkly shoes are your "something blue" and the perfect finishing touch to your classic ensemble!


Now, someone take me to Vienna! Please?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

organization + indecision

So, as you can see, I decided to change the name of my blog. Nope, I changed it back! I wasn't too sure about The Letter Box -- I liked it, but I wasn't feeling it. I am a very indecisive person. I had like three other names for this blog before I came up with The Letter Box. And now I'm changing it again. Who knows -- maybe I'll go back to the Letter Box. I felt that I needed something a bit more cohesive with my portfolio and other social/interwebs media. (mediums?) I needed some streamlining. And every time I look at my portfolio website (named k. louise photography), I always think mmmmkay louise. Like, mmmkay? Get it? I know, I'm weird. Thus, mmkay louise. Nope, now my blog is back to the Letter Box! We'll see if it sticks. It's hard coming up with a name and branding and stuff that all goes together! Anyhow. This is step one of doing some streamlining and organization. I need some serious organization. My life needs some organization. Seriously. Here are some tips that you can use to get your stuff in line and organized.


1. Some ideas from Better Homes and Gardens for strategic organization and storage. Oh, I could use some of these. I wish my desk area looked like the one in the picture. Currently, I have piles of paper. Not the best organizational strategy.

2. LOVE this idea of using washi tape to make a calendar more organized and pretty!

3. Real Simple's Ultimate Bathroom Organizer guide. I'm sure I've got some products sitting around that are, oh, about five years old.

4. Some inspirational, organized closets from Apartment Therapy. It's so beautiful and...organized!

Ahh. Now I feel inspired to get ORGANIZED. I think it's time for a Staples shopping spree, no?

Monday, January 21, 2013

happy mlk jr day! + pecan pie muffins [gluten free, soy free]

I have always held Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of my heroes. One of my earliest memories of learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. was in middle school when we had to memorize his "I Have a Dream" speech. I'm sure that the civil rights movement was covered in elementary school, but by now, elementary school is just a haze of American Girl, Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and Hanson. I specifically recall analyzing King's speeches and watching documentaries on civil activists and heroes, like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X in middle school. Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr. -- those were the two people I would have named as my heroes back then. I still do to this day. Sure, there are many more people who have been added to the list since then, but there's just something about Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember having a tough time watching those documentaries on the civil rights movement -- the hatred and cruelty of people boggled my 12 year old mind, and it still kind of boggles my mind. Anyhow, today is all about celebrating the life of a great man, a hero -- Martin Luther King, Jr. In memory and celebration, here's a link to a video of his "I Have A Dream" speech. Here is a list of 10 things you may not have known about MLK. Also, a list of quotes by MLK here and here. A couple of my favorites are: 

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Hate is too great a burden to bear." 


And today, I decided to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. by creating a riff on one of his favorite foods -- pecan pie.


I didn't exactly want to make a pie since we already had a lot of pie over the holidays. I wanted to make something small and snackable. Muffins. Now, I know that these muffins aren't much to look at. I was a bit skeptical at how they were going to turn out. I feared that they might be a bit too dense and chewy. However, they taste exactly like a pecan pie morphed with a muffin. Yum. Delectable for both breakfast and dessert! And snacks in between. Don't you just love it when a food can do double-duty? Or triple-duty? 

pecan pie muffins
gluten free, soy free
makes about 10 standard sized muffins 
adapted from Black Hawk Wife

// ingredients
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (I like Bob's Red Mill)
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup softened Earth Balance soy-free spread
2 eggs

// directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with some vegetable shortening or soy-free cooking spray. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and pecans until it's all well incorporated. Using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer, beat the soy-free spread until it is creamy. Break the eggs in a separate bowl and beat them with a fork. Add the beaten eggs to the creamy soy-free spread and beat together. Then, stir the dry ingredients into the egg-spread mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling the cups about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (The muffins will not rise a ton -- don't worry!) When muffins are done, take them out and let them cool on a wire rack. Then, devour!



Friday, January 18, 2013

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