Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookies

Mr. J and I undertook a time-honored tradition the night before last.  We made Christmas cookies!  And behold, the beauty of our work:

Truly, I am in awe of our skills:

Here are all the goodies:

Ok, seriously, they might not be THAT beautiful (oops), but they taste PERFECTLY delicious.  It took us quite a bit of time to figure out how to actually roll out the dough, cut out the cookies, get them OFF the counter and onto the cookie sheet without the whole thing turning into a nasty mess.  I am truly proud of us!! 

The key is to keep the dough cold, cold, cold.  Flour the heck out of your work surface and the rolling pin and work quickly.  We rolled out the dough straight on our countertops--that seemed to work best.  We first tried a Silpat nonstick (HA!) mat and it was a disaster, FYI.  The other tip we learned was that you have to cut the cookie, pick it up and put it on the sheet right away.  If you cut a bunch of cookies out and try to remove the cookies when you're finished--DISASTER!  I think the dough warms up too much or something--the result is messy, sticky cookies on the countertop.  Ugh. 

Anyway, without further ado, the recipe:

Sugar Cookies
Cream together 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Add 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons baking powder.
Wrap and chill for AT LEAST 2 hours.
Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes

Mix powdered sugar, milk and a small dab of butter together to desired consistency, add food coloring!

Happy Decorating!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Smells Delicious

The smell of the Christmas season is one of the most delicious. It's a combination of Christmas trees, hot chocolate, vanilla, gingerbread, cookies, frosting, candy canes, oranges, spices....yum. A quick and easy way to bring this scent into your home is to throw a few spices into a pot, add some water and simmer away on the stove.

My recipe of choice for this simmering spice blend:

A few pieces of orange rind
A few pieces of lemon rind
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2-3 bay leaves
A handful of cloves
A dash of vanilla

Add a few cups of water to the mix and you're on your way.  Remember to watch the pot--the water evaporates off very quickly. And don't worry if you don't have all of the ingredients in your cupboard--just get as close as possible, and it will smell delicious!

'Tis the season!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas

So it will be no surprise to you all that I have been pretty lax about the old blog lately.  It will also not surprise you that one of my New Year's resolutions will be to bring back the blog.  Maybe a few changes will be in store.  Ever since we've moved, lots of things have changed at Casa J, so I want to be sure that my blog reflects my new priorities.  Two students (that's right...I'm one now, too! Told ya things have changed) = no funds for home decor.  Sad face.  But, not to despair.  Outside of my focus on interior design, I also want to focus on what makes a home a home...the people in it, the things we love to do, and, of course.... the food.  Yum.  So, that being said, have a very Merry Christmas, and stay tuned for more from me in 2011!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I am not Martha.

Just when you think you have this whole cooking/baking/decorating grown up business under control, THIS happens:

Baaaahhhaaaaahaaa haaa! THAT, friends, is zucchini bread.

Faced with loads of zucchini from our garden, and feeling super confident, I decided to bake a  loaf last night.  As Mr. J studied away in his little room, I turned on the radio, preheated the oven, grated the zucchini, mixed it all together, poured it in a loaf pan and popped it in the oven.  La la la!!!  One hour later, I pulled it out, and it looked like this.  WTF?!

It was all sickly and sticky on the top, and crispy brown on the bottom and the sides.  Deflated, I started to wonder what I had done wrong.  First things first, I used a loaf pan that was way too huge.  Not sure what it was appropriate for, but it sure wasn't meant for this.  I found another pan in our stash that was probably half as big as the one I used.  Whoops.

I'm not going to let a little funky zucchini bread get me down.  Oh no. I sliced it up and ate it with my coffee this morning.

Seriously, how bad can something with chocolate chips be?  I'll take another crack at it (so.  much.  zucchini.)
and let you know if it turns out any better!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wanna see my living room?

So it's been a month since we've been here in California, and I figured it was high time I showed off our new place.  Here are a few shots of the empty space, right before we moved our stuff in.  Uhh.  Please excuse the image quality.  It was hot, I was tired, the movers were waiting to get in with our stuff.  So I ran around and snapped a few photos before all hell broke loose.

The living room:

The corner of the living room:

The living room from the dining room:

And, the finished space:

A bit of a close up:

And dear god, help me out here, our new TV:

It's enormous, ginormous really, and totally ridiculous.  My dad was getting a new TV, and asked us if we wanted it....I said NO!  Mr J, predictably, was super enthused.  And here we have it.  Though I must admit, now that I've been watching it for about a week...I'm sort of into it.  Who knew I was a big screen sort of gal? 

So that's it, my living room for the next two years.  I gotta say, I'm not crazy about the paint color--never would have picked it myself--but we're too lazy to proposition our landlords with the idea of us repainting.  It'll work for now.  With that huge TV taking up most of the wall, you can barely see the paint anyway, huh?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hello California

Mr. J and I are officially Californians now.  Moving is a crazy, hectic, umm....kind of a traumatic experience, and I don't recommend it for the faint of heart! But, the dust is settling here, and things are getting back to normal. 

We found a small house to rent while Mr. J is in school, and as a bonus, we've inherited a sort of neglected, but super productive vegetable garden. There's a horseshoe pit, and the previous tenants even had a chicken coop.  Not that I'm into that sort of thing.  A couple of friends who've come over called it our little farm.  Awww.  We've always wanted a farm!! 

Check out our cherry tomatoes (there are literally zillions of these):

And our heirloom tomatoes, ripening away:





Sunflowers! Bees!

And our lone farm animal, chewing sticks in the shade.

We have so much produce, it's kind of ridiculous.  We've barbequed corn, onions, squash, zucchini, and made salsa, pasta and bruschetta with the tomatoes.  What do you even do with that many tomatoes??  Help!  I'll keep y'all posted on some of our successful summer recipes.

It's good to be back!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Summer days are here…well almost here in the Northwest. Mr. J and I are hosting our first BBQ of the season tonight, and I can’t wait! Summer always makes me think of lazy days lounging in a hammock, sipping minted iced tea to beat the heat, and listening to lawn mowers droning on in the distance. Or summer BBQs, eating outdoors, then sitting out on the back patio for hours under soft candle light with a glass (or two) of wine…aaaah. What about bonfires at the beach....bliss. Happy, happy days are here!

Enjoy these summery shots, and have a great weekend!

Images via Domino, Country Living, and Martha Stewart

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hot Knobs!

Looking for fun hardware for your latest DIY project? (I always am!) We all know about Anthropologie’s ridiculously overpriced but fabulous collection of clothing, jewelry and shoes, but I sometimes forget about their unique collection of hardware.

Check out a few of my favorites:

But wait, there's more!  There are hooks, switchplate covers, finials, doorknobs and handles...the works! 

Our entryway is one of those places where too much stuff tends to collect.  You too?  Clean up your entryway with a sweet hook or two. Your bags, coats and dog leashes will be corralled and organized in a hurry.

Super cool, right?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Baking Bread

I did it!!! Last weekend, I made the most delicious, flavorful and perfect no knead bread. Drumroll please:

The recipe was so easy to follow, and turned out perfectly...Mr. J said it was the best thing he had ever tasted.  Word.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Just Because

Sometimes, stuff happens in your life that makes you want to hold on to the ones you love a little tighter, be a little more grateful for what you have, and quit worrying about all the small stuff. Get out there, and get to living.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Big Sort!

Ahh, there's nothing like a well organized drawer!!!

Over the past couple of years, Mr. J and I have accumulated more STUFF than we’ve ever had before, and now we’re faced with the fact that we’re going to have to pare down, or else.  I’ve always been a real stickler about only keeping what you love in your home. Otherwise, before you know it, you're surrounded by useless clutter that bogs you down, makes you unhappy, and totally cramps your style. So, we've had to get serious about unloading some of the crap we’ve been toting around. 

As a bonus, three of the thirty things on my to do list revolve around getting rid of crap, so this "Big Sort" has helped me check off all three.  Score. Getting rid of stuff you don't use can be thrilling, and watch out!  There are zillions of articles with tips, tricks and the how tos of the super organized--check out Real Simple if you're clueless about this kind of stuff--so I won't bore you with all that.  The bottom line is, you gotta do what works for you.  My personal checklist for whether or not to get rid of an item is:

1. Do I love it? If the answer is no, or even maybe, it has to go.
2. Do I have a place for it?  Again, if the answer is no, out it goes.  This seriously will eliminate half the crap in your house.
3. Do I use it?  Out goes the other half of the crap.  Works like a charm for me!

Anyway, we have been sorting through our great sea of unused stuff, deciding what to keep, toss, donate and sell.  We recently posted and sold quite a few things on Craigslist, and I must say, I consider myself a pro at the fine art of Craigslist.  Seriously, I can move old stuff on that site faster than you'd even imagine!  So, I thought I’d  leave you with some of my top tips for Craigslist success. 

First, think about what items you want to sell. I'd say Craigslist is best for less valuable furniture items, household goods and appliances, and gently used event and party supplies (bulk candles, lanterns, lighting, vases, etc).  If you have multiple items to sell, create a post for each, and think about whether someone could really use the item you're considering before you post. There are other ways to get rid of your stuff, and if it's just a pile of junk, that's all it is, so toss it or donate it and dedicate your time to something else.

Second, think about how you’d search for an item, and be as descriptive as possible. Is it a dresser? Maybe.  But, it could also be an end table, an entry way table, or a nightstand. No one will find your post if you limit your description. It’s all about the keywords, so make sure to include as many relevant terms as possible in the copy of your post. Just because you'd use it one way doesn’t mean it wouldn’t suit someone else’s purpose.  We’re not all copy writers, but you've gotta take a crack at it. Try out something chock full of adjectives: “Sturdy, solid wood three-drawer dresser with dovetail joints. Medium tone wood finish with black painted top.” If there’s a brand name, include that as well—especially if it’s a popular one like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, etc. Again, it's all about the keywords and getting your piece in front of the right set of eyeballs!

Third, take some good photos. There are actually a couple key points here.  The first is, make sure your photos are good quality. Again, we’re not all pros, but there are some basics that should help things along. Shoot in the daytime, turn all the lights on in your room, and take a bunch of different shots from all sorts of different angles. Zoom in on features you want to highlight (dovetail joints, hardware, even a detail of any damage to the piece).  The second point here is to stage the hell out of your piece. Grab a few of the decorative accessories you have laying around: some books, a plant, a smaller piece of artwork, a pillow, a throw, whatever. Just channel your inner catalog photo shoot styler and stage away. Nothing will ensure your item doesn’t sell like bad photos.

Finally, be realistic about the price you’re asking. Many people search and filter listings by price alone.  What would you be willing to pay if you were looking for a similar piece? Forget what you originally paid for the item, you won’t get close to that amount, unless it’s brand new and in perfect condition. Even then, the mere fact that it’s spent time in your home has devalued it. So be reasonable. Also, don’t forget to pad the price by an extra little margin so when your buyer inevitably bargains the price down, you’ll still be happy with the final selling price. Like I said, it’s kind of an art form—don’t go too high, but don't go too low, either!

Happy Decluttering!

And P.S. Yes, I baked bread and yes it was awesome. Photos soon!

Image via Real Simple

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Weekend!

It's Friday, and I could not be happier!  I’m getting closer and closer to winding down at my job, and I’m really looking forward to the big move and having more free time. So, apologies for the lack of blog posts lately, but I’ll be back on top of it soon.

Guess what I’m going to do this weekend?? I’m going to make some bread. Seriously. It’s totally Martha, right? It’s one of my goals, on my to-do before I’m thirty list, so I figure the long weekend is a great time to get ‘er done. Ew. Can’t believe I just wrote that.

Anywho, I came across this recipe for no knead bread in the NY Times, and I have been waiting and waiting to try. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Have a fabulous weekend!!!

Image via Williams Sonoma

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ork Posters

Check these babies out!  On a recent shopping trip with a friend of mine, I discovered these super cool Seattle neighborhood posters by Ork Posters.  Seattle poster--purchased.  Check!

Thought I'd share.  They have other cites...Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, LA, NYC, DC, the works.  Check 'em out!

Rug Roundup!

You might say I’ve got rugs on the brain lately. So I thought we’d have a little fun Friday rug round up of the few I can’t quite get out of my mind….enjoy!!!

Andalusia Rug from West Elm

Sakura Rug from West Elm

Gray Wool Rug from Burke Decor

Taupe Wool Rug from Burke Decor

Wool Area Rug from Burke Decor

Another rug from Burke Decor, this one's getting a little bit spendy!

And totally out of my price range, but super cool wool rug, also from Burke Decor.

Which one floats your boat?? Help me choose!!
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