Friday, August 23, 2013

IKEA Vittsjo shelves in blue

So you know how I said I was considering spray painting my new IKEA Vittsjo shelving blue? Well the clever Caitlin at Desert Domicile has already done it.

Seriously, I think these look great in gold a la many a Vittsjo hack, but it's great to see something different. And since blue is my favorite color, I'm a big fan. I love Caitlin's styling too. I don't even think I own this many accessories in my entire house, but then again I'm a minimalist. The cool thing is that she blended her own pretty decor items with her boyfriend's gamer collectibles. If you click through to Caitlin's blog you can see all the interesting characters mixed in there!

I'm obsessed over the bust atop the shelving who dons the mask and moustache. You know I love the quirky things in life!

I just found her blog last weekend but I'm happy to find a kindred spirit. I'm a fan of her style and she's a perfectionist to boot. She's a whiz at not only building, but styling a floating wooden shelf, too.

1 / 2

I'm beginning to sound like I have a girl crush. Caitlin, if you're reading this, do not be alarmed.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vacationing in Germany: More Munich sights

Oh my gosh, I have so much more of my June vacation to tell you about. We're not even 1/3 of the way through. It wasn't just raining beer in Munich. It was raining period. Germany, this was no way to treat your visitors. We had about enough, already. Despite the less than ideal weather, we did venture out to see a few things other than beer halls and breweries.

We stayed at an apartment in Schwabing, which is a hip part of town. The subway was only a couple blocks away, which was great for getting around. A friendly neighbor let us borrow his extra parking sticker so we could leave our vehicle on the resident-only side street in front of the apartment.

Zachary and I took a long walk around the neighborhood one day while Jason went on his brewery tour. This fencing is pretty amazing, no? And the bike leaning against it made it even more picturesque.

I was swooning over this buttery cognac leather jacket I saw in a store window. Come to mama.

Our first night in town I had the most amazing pizza from a shop run by a genuine Italian family. Genuine as in their Italian is better than their German, which is better than their English. Luckily a nice couple who were eating at the bar spoke fluent English and helped me order while the guys were setting up in the apartment.

A couple days later I was introduced to panna cotta and fell in love. Again, a small restaurant run by a genuine Italian family. This time the owner spoke no English, so we did some motioning and I used my crude German, since I know zero Italian. Good food speaks for itself, right?

We really didn't do much in Munich itself that didn't involve beer because there wasn't much that spoke to us enough to warrant more time there versus other places. We mainly used it as a home base for some day trips. I'll tell you more about those in the next installment. Until then, here are a few more Munich sights.

Clockwise, from the top left: The Neues Rathaus featuring the famous Glockenspiel, in Marienplatz; the running man statue in Schwabing; Siegestor (Victory Gate); my much-needed wellies; an example of Art Deco architectuere; a shop selling traditional German clothing.

We also took a browse through Viktualienmarkt, which is just off the Marienplatz. It's an open-air market with lots of stalls. We got there late in the day so many of the vendors had closed up shop for the day, but it would be a fun place to browse, grab a bite, or grab a beer earlier in the day. We did buy some fresh garlic and cilantro that we used to cook a homemade dinner in our tiny apartment kitchen!

Have you been to Munich? What were your favorite attractions, sights, or neighborhoods?


Monday, August 19, 2013

Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus

I don't usually talk celebrities here, but this is a tie-in with interior design. Remember Jeremiah from "The Rachel Zoe Project"? Did you know he and Nate Berkus are engaged? And talking about a baby? And have a glamorous house together in the Hollywood Hills? Apparently I have been living under a rock. And clearly I don't watch E! News or read People magazine.

Those two are good looking, have great hair, and decorating talent to spare. I'm sure by now you've seen the Harper's Bazaar spread showcasing their man-glam pad.

Douglas Friedman for Harper's Bazaar

Truth be told, I'm not a fan of most of the decor in the home. It's nice -- don't get me wrong -- but it doesn't wow me like I would have expected. I do like the bedroom, though.

Are you as behind-the-times as me, or have you known about their relationship for a while now? They seem to be truly in love, which is great to see in the land of fakeness!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

A tall & skinny shelving unit for a tall & skinny space

Finally I have something size-appropriate for the narrow wall space just inside my front door!

If you'll recall, this diminutive former-nightstand just wasn't cutting it in the height department.

After a while of living with it and hating it, I just took it away because it was better to have an empty space there than the total wrong thing in the space.

You probably recognize my new shelving unit. It's the ubiquitous IKEA Vittsjo. It's the perfect size and shape, and at only $40, it's also a steal. I had been considering it for some time but the nearest IKEA is a couple hours away. A friend of Jason's was going to pick it up for me on an IKEA run but, even flat-packed, it was too long for her compact car. I finally got the chance to get up there a few months ago and am just now sharing the pics.

I'm sure you've seen these shelving units (they come in both a single and a double-wide) get hacked over and over. Just type IKEA Vittsjo in the Pinterest search field and you'll find tons of examples. Gold seems to be the top color, with white in second. I originally liked to have the black on that side of the room (to coordinate with the black sofa) but I'm a color gal so the royal blue spray paint can in my basement keeps calling out to me. I usually just wait if I can't make a decision, but spray painting is easy enough that I could always spray over it if I change my mind later, I guess!

I'm certainly not set on how the shelving is styled. These are just things I had on hand. I'm sure they will change frequently, much to Jason's dismay!

What do you think? Better than the old table? Should I go for color or keep it black for now?


Friday, August 9, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Puffs with Mascarpone Cream

I am a lover of desserts. I have to eat something sweet after just about every meal. Usually Jason and I are pretty skeptical about recipes that come from magazines because, frankly, we haven't been all that wowed. But every once in a while, we give a magazine recipe a try again. This time, Better Homes and Gardens did us right.

Let me introduce you to Chocolate Puffs with Mascarpone Cream. You're welcome.

Please excuse my horrendous food photography. A narrow depth of field is nice, but this is toooo narrow. And I am horrible at photo styling. But I am VERY talented at eating, so at least I have that going for me.

Many of you are choc-o-holics, right? I do love chocolate, but too much richness can put me over the edge. these chocolate puffs have just enough cocoa that they provide a bit of chocolate flavor, without being overwhelming. And don't even get me started on the mascarpone cream filling. If you're not familiar with mascarpone, it's a soft cheese similar to cream cheese, but it has a sweeter flavor. It's most well known for being a primary ingredient in one of my other favorite desserts, tiramisu. Friends, I would eat this mascarpone cream on just about anything. Well, maybe not pizza. But I'm going into a mental food coma right now just thinking about a dollop of it atop a Belgian waffle with fresh strawberries.

You know what the worst thing was about this recipe? We had too much cream left after the first round of puffs, so we had to make more puffs. Then we had too many puffs, so we made more cream. It was a horrible situation to be in, no?

Enough about me and my issues. Here's the Procrastinator-approved recipe.

Chocolate Puffs with Mascarpone Cream

Cream Puffs
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)

1. Let eggs stand at room temperature 30 minutes.* Position oven racks to divide oven into thirds; preheat to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. For cream puffs, in a medium bowl sift together flour and cocoa powder. In a medium saucepan combine water, milk, butter, sugar and salt; bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Add flour and cocoa mixture all at once; lower heat slightly. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy heatproof spatula, stir vigorously. The mixture will come together in a ball and there will be a film on the bottom of the pan, but do not stop stirring; give it another minute of energetic beating. Transfer hot dough to a mixing bowl; let rest for 2 minutes.

3. Using a whisk (or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat dough 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each. You'll have a smooth, shiny dough.

4. Using a small cookie scoop or small spoon, place 8 mounds of dough on each of the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch of space between mounds.

5. Transfer baking sheets to oven; immediately reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until the puffs feel hollow and lift easily off the paper, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the halfway point. Cool to room temperature before filling.

6. For filling, in a medium bowl gently stir mascarpone with a spatula to loosen. Beating makes mascarpone turn grainy, so go easy. Set aside.

7. In a medium bowl beat whipping cream until it just starts to thicken. Beat in sugar. Continue to whip until the cream holds peaks that stand up nicely and just start to fold over at the top. Stir a spoonful of the cream into the mascarpone to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining cream.

8. To assemble, cut cream puffs in half. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or a Ziploc baggie with a hole cut in one corner), pipe filling over one half; top with remaining half. To serve, drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired.

* If you're like me and are too antsy to wait 30 minutes for the eggs to come to room temp, you can zap them in the microwave. I do mine about 20 to 30 seconds on 30% power until they are no longer chilled.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, February 2013

Please tell me you're going to try these. If so, tell me what you think. Are they chocolatey enough for you?


Saturday, August 3, 2013

A sweet dresser for baby

Remember how I was swooning over this lovely dresser?

In the photo it looked great in its natural state, but up close it had its issues. Either way, a dark stain wasn't right for this sweet baby girl's nursery.

Friends, meet Lexi. Her Grandma (my aunt) bought the vintage dresser and asked me to spruce it up in a bright white to coordinate with the rest of the nursery decor. Here's what it looked like after I was finished with the makeover.

Slightly different, huh? Painted or not, I love all the sculptural details of this dresser, from the scalloped apron to the scalloped thingy on top (what do you call that?). Let's not forget about the turned legs -- that are on casters, my favorite! Below, you can see detail of the design along the front vertical rails. Ah ... why doesn't furniture get made like this any more?

The drop pulls are original to the piece, and I'm in love with them myself, but Lexi's mommy wanted something a little different and fresher for the room. She bought some plain wooden knobs and painted them a bright pink to coordinate with the crib drawer knobs. Here's a panoramic shot of little Lexi's room, with the dresser on the left wall.

Even though I was skeptical at first about painting the dresser, we were able to hide its flaws with paint, and the original dark tone would have stood out like a sore thumb next to the other decor in the room.

I hope it works well for Baby Lexi and her parents for many years! With such a classic shape and color, a simple change-out of the knobs can help the dresser evolve with their needs as time goes on.

Here's the obligatory before and after shot:

Although I was happy to get back to furniture spraying, during this project I was reminded of how much of a pain it is to spray large pieces a really light color like white. In my basement workroom, there is no air filter, so there are particles floating in the air at all times, especially after sanding and since I live in a home with 4 cats. (Even though the cats were not allowed in the basement once the project was underway.) I was constantly picking or sanding hairs and dust out of the white paint, and especially out of the layers of Polycrilic. If the paint were darker, nobody would have ever noticed.

On a less whiny note, I am happy to be working with HomeRight, who provided me one of their new FinishMax Fine Finish HVLP Sprayers. My old Wagner sprayer was clogged up, and as much as Gail raves about the FinishMax, I had been dying to try it out for months.

While my new FinishMax was being shipped, I really needed to get going on the dresser, so I managed to get my Wagner sprayer unclogged and put the coats of paint on with it. (Please note this is nothing against Wagner ... I had left paint in it for months, so it took a little finessing but now it's working just fine again.)

The new FinishMax arrived just in time for the Polycrilic stage. All was going well until I sprayed on what I thought would be my second-to-last coat of poly. When I came down to do the final coat, I found that I had several really bad drips that had dried. Dried drips are the worst because they are so hard to sand out without ruining the layers of paint underneath. To make a long story short, the real problem was me trying to work without enough light, and not realizing I was concentrating the sprayer too long in one area on the dresser. Sprayers are awesome, but you have to watch what you're doing. Note to self: Need another tripod work light so both sides of a piece are illuminated equally in my otherwise dark basement workroom. After much sanding and some touch-up repainting, the last couple layers of poly went on well with the FinishMax, and I'm excited to use it again on my next project.

If you use a sprayer, I'd love for you to share in the comments what tips you use to achieve a good finish. Patience and a watchful eye are key in my book!

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