Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thrifty Thursday & the one that got away

As any of you Craigslist-ers, yard sale-ers, and thrift-ers out there know, this hunt can be hit-or-miss.  I can search Craigslist for a month to no avail, then BAM!  This happens.

I had a "bam" moment recently that I feel inclined to tell you about.  I've been searching for a dresser for the dining room (you know, a buffet, or whatever), and suddenly one afternoon I came across this:

That's right.  This.  Magnificent Mid Century Modern beauty.  For 50 bucks.  The stars had aligned,   the clouds opened up and a beam of light shown down on me sitting in front of my computer screen.  And I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing, too.  I almost pulled a finger muscle hitting the "reply" button so fast.

Then I realized the beam of light had actually been shining on some other lucky a-hole.  Someone had beat me to it.  I wanted to cry.  Like a young, spoiled child.

But don't think I didn't get back up on that horse.  Like a gambling addiction at one of those quarter pusher machines, I became obsessed.  Furiously searching Craigslist, I decided this unfortunate situation would NOT happen again!  (stomping foot and shooting fist into the air).

On the bright side, I did manage to rake in a handful of other bargains that are attempting, unsuccessfully, to fill the void left by my dresser (yes, mine).

Exhibit A.  Hello, little cabinet.  I nabbed this guy for $40- probably more than I should have spent looking back, but I was rebounding, people.

He's a little worse for the wear, so a paint job is in order.

I plan to put him where the little grey cabinet is under the window in this picture.  Then the dresser will go under the chalkboard.

I also snagged this sweet quilt at a neighbor's moving sale.  I bought 6 dresses and 2 pairs of earrings from her for $8 (because when you're as freakishly small as I am and you find anything remotely cute at a good price that fits, you buy that ish).  She tossed in the quilt.  Fo' free.  Whoop whoop!

The last addition is this ginormous beast of a trunk.  It had seen better days when I bought it.  A couple of boards were loose, and the trim on the lid was coming off.  But as mentioned, it's gargantuan.  And only 20 bucks.

A little hole-drilling and nailing got this baby into workable shape.  I've been considering a paint job, but I'm kinda digging the beat up, rustic look.  At any rate, it holds a ton of blankets, which until now were kept in giant crates in the office.  Also, don't mind that crater coming from beneath the window.  The glories of old-home-ownership.

I did spot this great MCM sofa as well, not long after the dresser catastrophe.  A bargain at $90, and new upholstery would make it a beaut.  It didn't really "get away".  I actually emailed the person selling it, had plans to reupholster it myself (oh yea, and learn how to reupholster a couch, because that's also important), and was figuring out a way to haul the thing back to our house.  Then my brain came out of hibernation, smacked me in the face, and asked me why in the heck I would buy a couch.  I freaking love our fantastic Chesterfield.  And I no longer have an extra 3000 square feet of space to just... fill.  Poo.

So what about you?  Any celebration-worthy finds recently?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Going Meat-Free: My Top 10 Vegetarian Recipes

If you've seen any of the recipes I've posted the past couple of years, you may have noticed a lack of meat.  I do eat seafood, but the word "pescatarian" makes me feel like an enormous snob, so we'll just say I don't eat mammals.  Or animals with feet.  Or snakes.  I guess this is why there's a word for this diet.

Most people assume I've cut out meat for nutrition reasons, but in reality, I think meat-containing diets can absolutely be healthy.  And actually, vegetarian diets can be a really bad idea if you don't know what you're doing.

When Will and I both hopped on board the meat-free wagon, it was a huge challenge at first.  The biggest challenge was figuring out what the heck I was going to make for dinner!  All of my old recipes had meat in them!  I think many people (my previous self included) have the idea that every meal has to be centered around meat.  It sounds silly, but I seriously had no idea how good food could be without it.  I can honestly say there's not a single old meat-containing recipe I like better than any of the food I make now.  And it's a lot cheaper, actually.  Meat is expensive!  After experimenting with a lot of recipes, I've compiled a pretty solid set of go-to recipes.  Will calls it the "All-Star List".

Since I've had several people ask for vegetarian recipe advice, and I tooootally know how hard it can be to try the meat-free route, I thought I'd post a list of some of my favorites.  I post a lot of my own recipes here, or some that I've found and altered, but unless you follow me on Pinterest, a lot of them are never mentioned.  And even some of the Pinterest recipes I've tried have been duds.

So without further ado, here are some go-to recipes for meat-free folks... or if you're just looking to cut back on food expenses.  Enjoy!

1. Edamame Fried Rice
This is a much healthier take on the standard Asian takeout.  With a boost in fiber from brown rice and only a tablespoon of canola oil (packed with unsaturated fats- the "good" fats), this is a guilt-free, meat-free way to enjoy Asian fare.

2. Spring Pesto Tortellini
This recipe from Prevention RD (Nicole rocks!) is perfect served with white wine on a hot day.  Pesto pretty much rules my world in the summertime, and paired with crisp asparagus, it's incredibly refreshing!
Photo from Prevention RD

3. BBQ Black Bean Pizza
One of my favorite summer recipes, this pizza is fantastic on the grill!  Sweet corn and black beans with the smokiness from barbecue sauce is an unexpected and delicious combination.

4. Black Bean Enchiladas
I have yet to find a better Mexican recipe than these black bean avocado enchiladas.  It's the perfect combo of veggies, protein and fiber-packed black beans, and enchilada sauce... My mouth is seriously watering.

Some tips:
  • I love using whole wheat tortillas for these to get additional fiber.  
  • While these are unbelievably tasty, I've found they're not nearly as good as leftovers (we're talking about soggy tortillas here, my friends).  In other words, these would be best served to a larger group, or use a smaller baking dish and make fewer of them if it's just for two people.
Photo from Creme de la Crumb

5. Coconut Curry
Feeling like Indian tonight?  This is the simplest recipe ever.  The curry sauce is delicious, and like many of the recipes above, it makes enough to serve all your favorite people!
Photo from Detoxinista

6. Grilled Eggplant Burger
Can you tell I'm in summer-mode?!  This is another favorite grill-able meal.  Did you ever guess you could still grill as a vegetarian?  Forget the burgers guys, the thinly sliced eggplant with fresh basil, tomato, and onion is crazy good.  Toast the buns on the top rack for an added delish-factor!

7. Avocado & White Bean Wraps
Adobo chiles are the secret to the yum-level here.  Not only are these things tasty and filling, but you don't feel like a beached whale after eating them.  Plus, they're simple enough to make when it's Monday and the motivation is nonexistent.
Photo from Eating Well

8. Greek Lasagna
While this Greek Lasagna is the best cold weather soul food I could imagine, I've been known to make it year-round.  Even my meat-loving family back in Indiana digs this stuff!  It's especially fabulous for serving a large group of people or for tasty lunch leftovers the next day (and the day after that, and the day after that!).

9. Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Cheese.  Need I say more?  You won't need dessert (or another meal for 24 hours) after eating these bad boys.  Decadent should be in the name of this sandwich.  Yummy... in... my tummy.
Photo from Joy the Baker

10. Portobello, Broccoli, & Red Pepper Melts
Oh Martha, you've still got it.  These may look like just an appetizer, but thick sliced portobello mushrooms mixed with veggies and cheese makes this a surprisingly filling dish.  Another perfect dinner to throw together after a long day of work.  Pair with wine.  Obviously.
Photo from Martha Stewart.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

How It's Looking- A living/dining room update

Did everyone have a fabulous fourth of July?!  I still can't believe it's mid-year already.  We spent our day biking (at the crack of dawn when it's still possible to breathe outside), "swimming" (AKA bobbing around in a pool without actually exerting any energy), eating/drinking with pals, and enjoying fireworks and the extended hours of Crescent City Park on the Mississippi.  Don't worry, I won't be sharing photos of various fireworks.  But I will share this:

Aaaanyway, it's time for another house update.  I think the last time I photographed the main part of the house was at Christmas.  Also, we've been sliding small updates in, not mentioning them, and pretending like no one will notice.

For instance, we painted the dining room and kitchen, as well as all the trim near the crown molding.  Did anyone notice the walls suddenly weren't yellow anymore in this post?  I think it helps tone down the "everything around me is yellow" factor.  The cream cabinets, yellow ceiling, yellow walls, and yellow trimming between the molding was making me pine for something blue-toned in my life.

Yes, the ceiling is still yellow.  Uggggghhhhhhhhh.  Sorry.  Every time I think about painting a ceiling it makes me groan for extended periods and feel like I might vomit.  It may be a while before we tackle that beast.

We've got a few new pieces of art hanging out in the living room these days.  The two larger pieces are mixed watercolor and ink by Geza Brunow- his stuff is awesome.  Check out his "Kings" pieces.  They make me smile so much!

Then we balanced out the fancy schmancy art with some pieces that are more tolerable to the Arvin budget.  The top piece we acquired for $2 (!!!) from a guy who lives nearby and doodles little pen on paper pieces like this all the time.  The bottom right is a postcard-style advertisement for the Tennessee Williams Festival we picked up at a performance of Night of the Iguana at a warehouse in the Marigny.

Here's the 2-buck doodle a little closer:

Remember when I mentioned how bright the 60W bulb seemed in this fixture I pieced together?  I switched it out for a 40W.  It was a good move.  I also love the shape.  Ooh lala!

I've gotten into the habit of picking up flowers every week, and it's fantastic.  Flowers make me happy.  So do ice cream, chocolate, and cake.  Keep that in mind, friends.  My birthday is nearing.

You may have noticed (above) the little cabinet to the left of the window.  It was a Craigslist find we snagged for $50 a few weeks ago.  Plans are to paint it.  More on that soon.

So what have you been up to?  Any home-updates on the to do list?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Outer Beauty

Have I really not posted anything about the backyard yet?  Let's have a glass of wine and check it out, shall we?

Fortunately when we bought the house, the backyard was in pretty good shape.  Here's what it looked like:

The landscaping layout was already in place, the whole thing was fenced, and the deck had been built.  We also inherited a barge wood table and outdoor chairs, which has been perfect for entertaining.

Here's what it looks like now:

String lights, lanterns, and an outdoor rug have made it a bit cozier.

I know what you're thinking about that picture above.  Jackie's looking very regal.  Here's another regal shot.

We also mulched, added some extra plants, and stained/sealed the deck.  After 12-hour car rides, staining decks is 2nd in my list of "things I wish could be done when I snap my fingers".

 Here's what the deck looked like last month (I don't know why Jackie always seems to be standing over there when I'm taking pictures):

Penelope the Palm Tree is lookin' sexy in the corner.

And check out the new garden!  Doesn't it look like I actually know what I'm doing?  Turns out everything grows like madness down here.  This is just after a massive basil harvest that got us 3 large batches of pesto.  Yay, pesto!  Boo to eating so much in one sitting I have to lie down to avoid throwing up (Yes, that happened to me this week.).

This is what it looked like about 6 weeks ago:

I get these wild hairs and feel like I want to plant every vegetable known to man, then I remember that the drive to care for plants only strikes me every now and then.... so I need to start small.

Not surprisingly, the mint is taking over like a pug in a Dingo factory.

I started these babies from seeds, folks!  Woop woop!  If only I had a cow and the knowledge to make cheese.  I'd be eating Caprese everything until the end of time.  You can check out a whole bunch of ways to eat tomatoes, basil, & mozz together here, by the way.  Yummy to my tummy.

We've loved using the backyard for drinks, dinner, and game nights in the evenings.  Ain't she a real beaut'?!

So, what's left on the to-do list back here?
  1. Add some lighting for evening entertaining.
  2. Start a small vegetable/herb garden.
  3. Get a palm tree.  Because we can.
  4. Stain the deck.
  5. Seal the fence (uuuuggggghhh).
  6. Sand and re-stain the barge wood table.
  7. Replace the single door to the laundry room and French doors to our bedroom.  We might as well have cardboard propped in the doorways.  The doors are not efficient.  At all.
  8. DIY a pergola over the deck, where the bistro table and chairs are.
  9. Take out the pea gravel and replace it with brick- We started out really liking the gravel, but it's pretty obnoxious after a while.  For one, it's really uncomfortable to walk in.  With shoes on, it feels like I'm walking in sand, and barefoot it feels like.... well, like I'm walking in gravel.  Second, we have brick along the sides of our house and in a little patch near the center of the fence.  It looks sooo pretty when it's all rustic and mossy.
  10. Paint the trim a different color.  We've actually already done this out front- I'll be sharing that shortly.
  11. Get a whole bunch of chickens and give them all "old lady" names!  Okay, this one will probably be on the back burner for a while...
Clearly, we have a long way to go.  Let's end on a positive note: