Laundry Room Renovation: Almost There!

View of the LaundryOver a year ago (3/13/12), I began my laundry room renovation project. As you can see from the first post, the room was in dire need of work! I’m excited to say that this project is well underway, and though it’s not quite complete, we are almost at the end. (I’ve made some after/before pictures and attached them to the end of this post.)

Different OrganizationWhat have I done so far? The two biggest changes implemented are 1)Painting the room pinkish/coral and, 2)Reorganizing my stuff. We moved the original utility shelves to a more suitable space, bought chrome wire shelves from the Home Depot, and got rid of unneeded junk. I also got a cute (cheap) red rug from ikea, covered the previously white shelf with red wrapping paper & clear contact paper, and moved a puzzle of Tamara de Lempicka’s 1925 painting, “Self portrait in the Green Bugatti,” in from another room to cover the electrical panel.

Mini DrawersOne of my favorite new tools is this set of mini drawers that my neighbor gave us when she was reorganizing one of her spaces. I now have different drawers for beads, paints, printmaking supplies, floral supplies, embroidery thread, felt, etc. Even my buttons are sorted by color and pretty in their own drawer!

Rainbow Button Drawer

What’s left to do?

  1. Replace the ugly light fixture with the chandelier from my bathroom. In the first image on this page, you can see the light I’ve renovated to be the new light over my tub. (It’s sitting on the cabinet.)
    Lights

    Current Light (left), Future Light (right)

  2. I’m working on a solution for air-drying clothes.
  3. Looking for a cart to go between the dryer and the cabinet.
  4. Considering a unified enclosure for the washer and dryer.
  5. and, Maybe some more wall art, scavenged from other areas of the house.

After (Left) & Before (Right) 1

After (Left) & Before (Right) 1


After (Left) & Before (Right) 2

After (Left) & Before (Right) 2


After (Left) & Before (Right) 3

After (Left) & Before (Right) 3

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts with Awesome Sauce

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts with Champagne Instead of going out this past year on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I stayed home and made our favorite appetizers! We love these bacon wrapped bites of goodness, and they would be perfect to celebrate your normal, everyday Champagne Thursday. Even though the holidays are over, we’ve got to keep up with the celebrations…(but these may interfere with new year’s resolutions that involve eating healthy).

    Ingredients:

  • Thick-Sliced Bacon (The better your bacon is, the better these turn out. We love to use the black pepper bacon for an extra kick, and I usually buy the 24 oz. package)
  • 8 oz. cans of Water Chestnuts (I have a hard time finding these whole, so I usually make the sliced water chestnuts work. Three cans should work for 24 ounces of bacon.)
  • Toothpicks!
    For the Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Ketchup (Heinz!)
  • 1 tablespoon Miracle Whip (or mayo – i can imagine some fancy mayo making this sauce even better)
  • 3 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 5 teaspoons Sriracha (you can always start smaller if heat isn’t your thing)

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts - Close-up View

    Directions:

  1. Drop a handful of toothpicks in a dish of water and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Unwrap bacon on cutting board and cut the entire package into thirds (of equal length).
  3. Open and drain water chestnuts. If you’re using whole water chestnuts, cut them in half.
  4. Wrap one-third slice of bacon around a water chestnut half or stack of two slices. Secure the little bundle with a toothpick through the middle.
  5. Arrange the wrapped water chestnuts on a broiling pan (that pan that comes with the oven) or on a wire grill that fits on baking pan, but keeps the food off the surface of the pan. The key here is that these delicious bacon wrapped delights will shed a lot of bacon fat as they bake; it’s nicer to keep them out of the pool of fat that will be sitting in your pan.
  6. Bake wrapped water chestnuts 40 minutes, and while the water chestnuts are baking, mix up your sauce ingredients in a small bowl with a fork.
  7. When the wrapped water chestnuts have baked for 40 minutes, pull them out (leave your oven on). Spoon/pour the sauce onto the tops of the wrapped water chestnuts.
  8. Put the wrapped water chestnuts back in the oven for about 20 minutes; bake until the bacon is crispy.
  9. Use tongs to move the appetizers to a serving plate; leave the toothpicks in the wraps, so people can easily grab them.
  10. Make sure you get some when you put these appetizers out, because they disappear fast!

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Amazing Lower-Carb Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup (with Shirataki Noodles)

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

When it’s cold, we always make more soup, and one of our favorites is Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup. By substituting Shirataki Angel Hair Noodles for the real thing, we enjoy a more low-carb version of our favorite cold day treat.

    Ingredients:

  • 48 oz Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/3 cup Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 3/8 cup (6 tbsp.) Brown Sugar
  • Sriracha – We use 2 tbsp., but I recommend starting at 1 and seasoning up based on how you like it.
  • 1 Medium Lime – the juice & the zest
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
  • 2, 7 oz. packages of Shirataki Angel Hair Noodles, rinsed in cold water and drained (We use these from Amazon, because I subscribe to them!)
  • 2 tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 cup Sliced Mushrooms (Any kind will do, I used Portobello in the picture, because that’s what we had in the fridge. Shiitake might be the best choice for this asian-inspired dish.)
  • 1/2 cup Grape Tomatoes (I usually quarter these.)
  • Fresh Cilantro (2-3 tbsp.)
    Directions:

  1. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, lime juice, lime zest, and bring to a boil.
  2. Toss chicken strips in corn starch
  3. When broth mixture boils, add chicken, mushrooms, and Shirataki noodles.
  4. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the tomatoes and cilantro.
  6. Let the soup cool 2-3 minutes before serving

Enjoy!

Handmade Christmas Wreath from Christmas Cards Past

I have a problem throwing away things, especially paper remembrances – ticket stubs, cards, programs. There is no logical reason to hold onto the Phantom of the Opera program from my high school orchestra trip or the autographed Penn & Teller program from their performance at Duke, but I still have them. I have quite a stack of holiday cards, and I was trying to brainstorm a way to incorporate the cards into a new wreath. (Our previous wreath was nice, but a very plain wreath of greenery with a simple red bow.)

Interior Shot of Wreath

I can’t say that I thought of this idea all alone; my inspiration was a DIY Clock from Junk Mail that I saw on Apartment Therapy. To make the wreath, my only materials were items from the dollar store, old holiday cards, and a few Christmas catalogs to fill in the spaces. (I only had cards for about half of the spokes.) I made a 3″ wide base for the wreath by cutting it out of foamcore with my x-acto. The interior circle was large enough to feature the star ornament; the outer circle was just 3″ larger than the interior. I used my handy compasses from grad school drafting to get the circles right, but a piece of string could also be used to measure the radii. After I had the wreath shape, I stacked foam to about 1.5″ and hot-glued that to the back of the wreath shape in 4 places to give the wreath some depth. Then I covered the whole frame with ribbon. You can see the back here:
Back View of Wreath

The next step was to roll up the holiday cards. I used the entire card for each spoke and started rolling from the plain side, so the end product would have the most color. And I used a dowel to get the initial shape and help keep the rolling even. In my wreath there are 58 spokes; 29 of these spokes are from Christmas cards. The remaining spokes are pages from the West Elm and Blissliving holiday catalogs cut down to a similar size. I wasn’t worried about the spokes being the same length, but it could be easily controlled if precision spokes are your thing.

The last steps were to hot glue the spokes to the base in a radial pattern, add gold ribbon for hanging, add a gold bow, hang the gold dollar store ornament in the middle, and finally I added some bells to up the holiday-ness of the wreath. I thought it was important to keep the wreath accents in the same color (gold), because the rest of the wreath could be pretty busy.
Wreath Hanging on the Door

Now we have a wreath that is inexpensive AND is made from the love and kindness of our friends and family. It’s perfect. As we get more holiday cards over the years. I will probably just replace the catalog pages with real cards.

Amazing Hot Sauce (Comrade Like Spicy)

My husband and I love this hot sauce. It’s a recipe that my uncle gave us a long time ago. At our Non-Rehearsal Dinner the night before our wedding, my uncle made the best BBQ chicken on the grill using this sauce.

Bottle of Hot Sauce

    Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 oz. Black Pepper
  • 2 oz. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 2 oz. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 cup Salt
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar

Directions: Mix ingredients in pot on stove, and bring to a slow boil for a few minutes over a medium-low temperature. Store and enjoy.

We normally use the empty half gallon bottle of vinegar to store our sauce, but you can get fancy with it! If you want to use the label we made up for my brother-in-law (who we tease about his communist leanings), here’s our “Comrade Like Spicy” label as a PDF download. I cut the label out in vinyl on my Silhouette SD, but you can just print it and stick it on the bottle. I save all the specialty glass bottles we use for purposes just like this! The label uses the awesome font, “Kremlin” by Vic Fieger.

Comrade Like Spicy

Escapades in Quilt Squaring

One of my favorite projects of the new year is the metaquilt project; it’s an online version of a quilting bee (the “meta” part refers to the online community where all the quilters come from). Each month, one quilter mails out the fabric for her quilt to all the other quilters, and then we all mail completed squares back to her. It’s a quick way to get lots of quilt squares done. We also have enough fabric to do two squares in each month’s fabric–one for the original quilter, and then one for our metaquilt. At the end of the bee, each quilter will have two quilts–the quilt they made for their month & the metaquilt that combines all the fabrics. I haven’t started on my metaquilt yet, mainly because I haven’t decided on a design yet.

I have finished two squares – Naturalist’s Journal Quilt (January) and the Wonky Rainbow Quilt (March). The Naturalist’s Journal square went well enough. It was my first experience sewing; it was thrilling to actually make something with my machine.
January Square

The wonky rainbow quilt was another story entirely. Inspired by a gorgeous Anne Brauer quilt called Rainbows of Summer, this quilt used a modified version of an overlapping squares tutorial. We made only the center block in the tutorial, but upsized it to a 12.5″ square. At first, I thought my square was going well; everything was assembled without mishap. It wasn’t until I was preparing to mail the square off when I realized my 12.5″ square wasn’t 12.5″ on all sides. It got down to 12.25″ on one of the sides. (I think the problem was that I didn’t cut my initial strips long enough. I was aiming for 15″, but the directions said to cut free form, and I must have been way too relaxed about that step.)

Bad Rainbow Square

This 1st square is not big enough!

I didn’t have enough fabric left to do a completely new 12.5″ square, but I sewed the fabric I had left into the strip panel called for in the first stage. Then I cut out the middle section of my bad square, used it to make the central panel of the new square, and added the two side panels from my new strip panel set. Voila! It is not exactly what the tutorial called for, but I think the look is the same.

Good Rainbow Square

The finished Wonky Rainbow Quilt Square

And now I’ve got some cool remains to use in my metaquilt!

Remains of the Rainbow Square for the Metaquilt

Remains of the Wonky Rainbow for the Metaquilt!

Outdoor Kitchen Inspiration

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  • Outdoor Kitchen from CMU's
  • Years ago, before we moved into our home, my mama gave me a stack of her old magazines. I dutifully went through the magazines and ripped out the pictures that I liked. There was one set of images from an outdoor kitchen that I still can not forget. This piece was in Better Homes and Gardens in May of 2009, and it was about an outdoor kitchen made of CMU’s and reclaimed wood. I want to create this kitchen in our side yard. Now I just have to find a source for the reclaimed counter. And design the space. And clean up the rest of our yard nonsense. Read the scanned article here: Better Homes and Garden – May 2009.

The Little Tea Rose

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  • Tea Rose
  • This pretty little flower is blooming right outside our door. The red is so vibrant, it’s hard to photograph (especially with my iPhone camera). I’m going to use this color red as inspiration — for the laundry room color!

Laundry Room Renovation: Before

If we ever have a tornado, our laundry room might be the best place to go. It’s right in the middle of the house, there are no windows, and there are actually two roofs over it. However, it’s also the room most likely to look like it was hit by a tornado. It’s one of the *two* rooms that haven’t been redone since we moved in. Now the time has come to put some work into this room.

I probably shouldn’t show these pictures because the laundry room is bad. Really bad. And I can’t blame anyone else; I’m the only one who uses this room! However, a proper room renovation requires before pictures, so here goes.

The Washer & Dryer Wall

The Washer & Dryer Wall


Bookshelves & Craft Supplies

Bookshelves & Craft Supplies


The Wall Behind the Door

The Wall Behind the Door

The Wall with the Door

The Wall with the Door

As you can see, I’ve got decent space, but major layout issues. And clutter issues. This renovation is going to involve a lot of things; can you say de-stashing? We’re going to paint, change the lighting, and maybe even construct some furniture-type things! My next laundry room post will focus on designing the new layout (plan & elevation views) and inspiration shots. Stay tuned.

Flower-Shaped Paper Ornaments

Variety of Ornaments
In preparation for the holiday season, I’ve been making paper ornaments. These ornaments are perfect for wreaths, trees, garlands, or as my favorite use — a gorgeous substitution for a traditional bow when you wrap a gift. It’s amazing how pretty folded & cut paper can be!

Variety of Packages

Today, I’m going to just post some pictures of the ornaments I’ve made (along with a link to my Etsy shop where these ornaments can be purchased). AND tomorrow, I’m going to post a tutorial where you can learn to make these ornaments yourself. The ornaments are infinitely customizable — like snowflakes, but they remind me more of flowers in their execution.

I’ve made the paper ornaments out of patterned & solid colored papers,
Star Shaped Ornament

Cream Colored Ornament

but my favorite ornaments are made from catalog paper! (In this case West Elm & Free People; such pretty colors!)
Recycled Paper Star Ornament

Recycled Paper Heart Ornament

They’re a lot of fun to make; they’re pretty easy to make; and they can be used for so many things! If you’d like to purchase a set of these, just check out my Etsy shop here: JulepStyle.com on Etsy!

Semi-Homemade Halloween Wreath

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  • Halloween Wreath
  • This past weekend, we had a lot of fun getting in the spirit of the season and decorating for Halloween. In an effort to better document my Halloween exploits, I’m going to try to post a project each day.

    One of the oldest projects on my Halloween to-do list was to make a wreath. Last year, I bought a spooky-ish (but plain) black wreath from CVS on 60% clearance the week after Halloween was over. The wreath sat in our Halloween bins in the attic all year. I got it out this past weekend and decided to spice it up with some dollar store items: Centipedes, roaches, a fly, spiders, a ghoul, and the dollar store spooky gray cloth. Total budget for this wreath ended up being about $5, and we’re pretty pleased with the effect.

Painting (Gilding) Ugly Furniture

When I realized that Rob and I needed a sideboard/credenza for our dining room to hold serving pieces and extra dishes, I began looking at all our options. I quickly realized that I didn’t really want a sideboard enough to part with hundreds of dollars. I wanted a stopgap sideboard that would suffice until I could afford the sideboard of my dreams.

Enter ugly dresser found from Craigslist:
Ugly Dresser 1
Ugly Dresser 2
This dresser had 4 things that made it the perfect temporary sideboard:
1. Cabinets with doors in addition to drawers. Drawers can be useful in a dining room (hello silverware storage), but for the most part they become unwieldy when filled with heavy dishes. The cabinets with doors are perfect for large heavy stacks of plates and other china. (The drawers are perfect for bulky large platters or those over-sized chip/dip trays that won’t fit anywhere else in your house.)
2. Interesting Hardware. The drawer pulls had some spunk.
3. Interesting Architecture. The cabinet doors had some intriguing ornament to them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s definitely UGLY — late 70′s/early 80′s plastic-glued-to-manufactured-wood furniture. However, when looking at the pictures of the dresser on Craigslist and later in person at the thrift store, I saw some potential.
4. Cheap price. I’m not going to euphemize this one; the dresser wasn’t affordable or cost-efficient. It was cheap. And at a fraction of the cost of my other options, I pulled the trigger.

Fast forward through the horrible difficulties of transporting over-sized, manufactured wood furniture (thanks Mom for letting me borrow your Envoy!), and I had to decide how to make this ugly dresser fit in our cute little home. I did some research online & decided on spray paint, but not just any old color. I chose silver spray paint with gold for the handles. We lugged the monstrosity outside, gave it a good cleaning, and 3 coats of spray paint later, VoilĂ !:
Painted Dresser/Sideboard
Painted Dresser/Sideboard
Painted Dresser/Sideboard

Gilding (silvering) makes it all look ok!

My Grandmother’s Cake Carrier

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  • Cake Carrier
  • For my first five years of elementary school, I went to school about two miles from my grandparent’s home at the same school where my mother also taught. Often in the afternoon on the way home from school, we would stop by their home to chat, visit, pick something up, or drop something off. The first names that I used to call my maternal grandparents were, “Ma,” and, “Dada.” However, around the age of 9 or 10, I grew self-conscious of those names because to my ears they sounded like baby talk compared to the other names kids called their grandparents. I started using, “Grandma,” and, “Grandpa.” In retrospect, my self-consciousness probably stemmed from reading so many books where grandparents had bland grandparent names. It’s funny what kids do.

    Any time that we stopped by my grandparent’s house, I would begin a treasure hunt. Grandma had all kinds of food in her kitchen that wasn’t at home: White Bread with Butter, Sleeves of Ritz Crackers, Left-over Fried Chicken or Pork Chops from the day’s lunch meal (their biggest meal of their day), or Biscos Sugar Wafers. (To this day, when I get sick, I send my husband to the grocery store after Biscos Sugar Wafers because that’s what Grandma or Mama gave me when I stayed home from school sick. I am not interested in any other brands, only Biscos are light and sweet and creamy in the exact curative proportions.)

    The biggest treasure hunt score was always when I noticed Grandma’s orange cake carrier out on the counter. Cake! Usually, I would excitedly open the carrier to find pound cake; always awesome, but not the ultimate prize. The best days were the days when the big reveal exposed Grandma’s Sticky Chocolate Cake (if you click the link, it will take you to the recipe for this amazing treat). I was in heaven with a can of Diet Coke (or Tab before that) and a huge paper plate of chocolate cake.

    Many years later after my grandmother died, when my Mom and Aunts were cleaning my grandparent’s house, my Mom asked me if there was anything from Grandma’s that I wanted. The only I could think of was Grandma’s orange cake carrier. It now has a treasured place on our dining room hutch, though I wish I baked a lot more, so I could leave it on the counter with cake inside. Maybe if Rob and I have children one day, I will be able to share with them the anticipation of seeing the orange cake carrier on the counter and slowly lifting the top to reveal their heart’s desire.

    Other Cake Carriers
    My grandma’s cake carrier was a “LookLift” Cake Carrier. From time to time, one can still be found on etsy or eBay (like the examples above).