Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lost In A Good Book

Have you ever read a book that transformed you and changed you into a whole other person until the day you finished reading the final page and gently closed it one last time?
I'm talking about a book that enraptures your mind and thoughts to the point that you cannot think of much else beyond the characters and their journey. A book that sucks you in.
Mind, body and soul.

It doesn't happen all the time for me, but when it does....boy, oh boy! It drives my husband nuts because I become almost unable to physically stop myself from reading until I have devoured every single word.
As a child it was Lois Lenski whose tales held me entranced. As I grew older it seemed that Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and Maeve Binchy could all take hold of me and not let go.
It happened with The Lovely Bones ~ I sat in one spot on the couch and read from cover to cover without stopping.
It even happened with Twilight. You can all means do! I teased and taunted a girlfriend mercilessly for reading the series and scoffed at her when she tried to explain the allure.
Next thing I knew it was 3am on a workday and I am still sitting on the couch reading New Moon. I became unable to sleep or focus on life until I had experienced everything Bella and Edward were living. I'm not too proud to admit I wasn't myself for a good couple of weeks. My brain had become as foggy as Forks, Washington.

A few weeks ago I picked up At My French Table by Jane Webster. I have an enormous cookbook collection, and when I saw that this was the story about how Jane and her family moved from Australia to France to start a new life as well as a cookbook......well, I was smitten.
And just like those other times before, I was unable to put it down until I had read the entire thing. Between the stunning imagery, recipes that you actually want to try at home and Jane relating their tale, I found it to be a blend of all the very best things a book could offer.
I should also mention that it took days for my head to return to the States from the beauty and simplicity of life in Normandy. Bookshelf real estate is at a premium in this house and this is one title that earned it's space.

What are you reading lately?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

P.S. ~ personal style

found on Pinterest via happily gray

My personal style is constantly evolving. Over the past few months I have purged a ton of things from my wardrobe and can think of a bunch more that needs to go.
I'm tired of my closet feeling overstuffed while I reach for the same basics time after time. While I will always strive to look "put together", comfort is key these days.
When I saw the above photo on Pinterest a few days ago it immediately struck a chord with me.
The bold, graphic print of the sweater, the ease of the vneck and the simplicity of the jewlery was sweet perfection.
It reminded me that I have an old printed coccoon sweater that I haven't worn in far too long.

What inspires your daily dress code?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bar Made

On Sunday I reworked our barware in order to accomodate my husband's large collection of pint glasses. The pint glasses have been residing on open shelving with his other beer memorabilia in our home office. Problem is, everytime he wants to use a glass he has to clean it first. Open shelving + glassware = dusty. I thought if I could somehow work them into the cabinet in which we store all of our glassware then they will stay clean and be more readily available.

Since we love to entertain, keeping a fully stocked bar is important to us. It also keeps us at the ready for any last minute get togethers or dinner parties.
Liquor is housed on the buffet in our dining room. I tend to reposition the bottles from time to time and season to season. They are currently grouped in an oversized rectangular wooden tray.
I definitely have my list of "must have" bottles to keep on hand but we'll save that for another time.
Today let's talk glassware.

We keep all of our glasses in an antique china cabinet I inherited from my grandparents. My collection is vast and runs the gamut from rocks to champagne flutes to the dozen margarita glasses I thought I had to have one year for our annual Cinco de Mayo party. (They're pretty but not worth the space they take up. What was I thinking?)

From my Waterford highballs and rocks glasses to the simple catering wine glasses I bought from a now defunct housewares depot, my collection has a little bit of high end and a little bit of lower end. While I love wine, I'm not fussy enough to need specific glasses for reds or whites. All purpose works fine for me.

My husband is a devoted beer drinker and has collected pint glasses for over a decade. The wooden tap pulls were a Christmas gift I gave him a few years back and add some great visual interest to the cabinet.

We save all of our wine and champagne corks and I love the way they look in a simple glass ice bucket. The tone of the corks also compliments the set of Target Altuzarra glasses Charlie bought me for Christmas.

While I love all my wares, the truth is, you don't need vast amounts of glasses to entertain in a pinch. In fact, if pressed to scale it all down, here's what I could simply not live without ~ as long as I have a set of at least six!

 All purpose wine glasses like these or these
 The perfect cocktail glass like this one and of course a pretty glass like this for those delicious summertime drinks!

Now I'll be thinking about Long Island Iced Teas all day!

What do you raise a glass in?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Perfect Lazy Saturday

Last night I headed upstairs to tuck my daughter into bed and jumped under the covers with her for a few minutes to chat.
She told me what a great day she had and coined it, "The perfect lazy Saturday."
She was so right.

We had another snowstorm late Friday afternoon into the night.
I was up before the sun Saturday morning and as I looked out of my bedroom window the fresh powder was sparkling like a carpet of diamonds across the yard.
It was breathtaking.

I had a surplus of overripe bananas, and in those early morning moments I baked this banana bread as both a loaf and a bundt cake.
(I omit the nuts since picky little eaters don't like them)
The loaf was tucked into the freezer for a later date, and I kept the bundt out for all day snacking.
(I keep this buttermilk on hand at all times. it comes in handy for baking and stays fresh in the fridge for a long time. I love this product and it is readily available at most grocery stores.)

Some little girl was antsy to be outside in the snow and luckily it was just enough for Daddy to pull her around in.

I stayed inside taking care of the weekly housework, but found myself watching them through the windows.
My heart was full as I watched them circle our property.  Charlie gently pulling her around and around, again and again until she was too cold to stay outside any longer.

I received some supplies I ordered for some upcoming parties and projects.
I seriously love ordering from this fabulous little company.

In the late afternoon we all bundled up and took a walk.
The lake across the street from us is totally frozen over and we watched some men playing ice hockey on it.
We walked until our faces were frozen stiff.
Trust me, it didn't take too long for that to happen. It's cold here!

Inspired by a recipe I saw for a roasted BLT salad from Better Homes and Gardens, I decided to make my own non~roasted version with homemade sourdough croutons.
There was not a speck leftover.
I do intend to try the roasted version. Roasted romaine? Who knew? I have to give that a try!

A little while later we feasted on stuffed clams and sipped wine.
The adults, that is.
We watched The Lorax together and I was surprised my daughter had never seen it or read it.
Dr. Suess is like a childhood rite of passage...haven't we all grown up on him?

Before I knew it, we were snuggled up together under her blankets discussing all we had done and how lucky we were to have a whole other day in which to do it again.

What does your perfect, lazy Saturday look like?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weeknight Chef

Maintaining  family meal time is something so important to me, but is easier said then done when you are a working mom outside of the home.
I rely on meal planning, my crock pot and easy recipes that call for fresh ingredients to help me keep my family around the table together. Many times this means we don't eat until 8pm or so, but I know myself too well. If I have to make a decision on what we are eating after a long day of working, then it's take out for sure.
I try to keep my weekday meals simple with as much advanced preparation as possible. As I discover new recipes and add them to our repertoire, I hope to share them here with you as well in a series called Weeknight Chef.
Bon Appetit!

Confession: Most weekends I scour my sister in law's Pinterest boards for recipes like a hunter stalks it's prey. She has an uncanny knack for finding delicious dishes that are so easy to make it is almost ridiculous. I am constantly repinning her finds to my own boards in true copycat fashion. But imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

I spied a recipe for crock pot Beef and Broccoli on her Pinterest a while back, and since it is one of the only forms of Asian cuisine my daughter will eat, I decided to give it a go.

Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli
recipe from

1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sauce from the crock pot after being cooked
Fresh broccoli florets (as many as desired)
Hot cooked rice
~ Place beef in a crock pot.
~ In a small bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil, and garlic. Pour over beef. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 
~  In a cup, stir cornstarch and sauce form the crock pot until smooth. Add to crock pot. Stir well to combine. 
~  Add broccoli to the crock pot. Stir to combine. 
~  Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes on high (the sauce has to boil for it to thicken). 
~  Serve over hot cooked rice.

Adaptions and Suggestions:
~ I removed everything from the crockpot after cooking and into a large saucepan because I have never seen my crock pot boil anything. I finished the dish on the stovetop which worked out just fine and gave me time to clean out the crock pot! Win!
~ I used a 1lb skirt steak because that was what I had on hand. We prefer lean meats as a general rule of thumb, but that cut of meat was a bit dry. A fattier cut would definitely retain more moisture.
~ I will make this again, but we all agreed it needed to have a little sweetness to it. Next time I prepare it, I will reduce some of the soy sauce and replace with agave nectar or honey.
~ Use a reduced sodium soy sauce. This recipe calls for a pretty hefty amount and the less salty the better!

Do you rely on simple weeknight meals too? What are some of your favorites?
I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sweet Sips

As I strolled through my local craft store this weekend I spied these adorable paper straws with hearts on them. For $1.99 I couldn't resist!
I decided to make little hearts for the straws out of some sheets of foam I knew I had.
I found a small heart template online and traced it on the foam.
After cutting the hearts out I gently folded them in half and snipped two slits to slide the straw through.

I don't think her chocolate milk has ever tasted so good!

foam sheets: dollar store
heart straws: michael's

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snow Envy

For days I have been scrolling through my Instagram feed feeling quite envious of all the glorious pictures of snow that seems to have fallen everywhere but New Jersey.
From France, to the English countryside then back across the Atlantic to the old streets of Montreal, I longingly stare at these images, wanting to jump in and revel in the pretty, white fluff along with everyone else.
My little homemade cloches are the closest we've come to a winter wonderland of our own.

Last night a soft snow finally began to fall here too and my wishes were granted. I woke up to a blanket of white gently covering the world outside.
This morning I can finally peer out beyond my handmade winter scenes...snuggled up under a wooly throw while I sip my coffee and dream. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DIY Valentine Cards

It took but a split second for my wheels to start turning when I saw this awesome Valentine DIY on Pinterest.
I loved the idea of the bookmarks, but how could the idea translate into a Valentine's Day card?

I found packs of pink scalloped cards in the $1 bins at Target then headed next door to Lowe's to help myself to copious amounts of paint swatches.
{confession: i felt like a thief taking 16 squares of each color}
I selected paint swatches with great names to incorporate into the salutation.
 Raspberry Tart, Berry Much and Cherry Pickin' couln't have been more perfect.
Sunday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to have some assistance from my favorite little helper.

I took two swatches and placed them on the notecard exactly where I wanted them to be glued.
Then I took a pencil and traced a soft line across the top of the swatches to mark their places for an even mount.
Glue sticks are perfect for this craft and water soluble which is always ideal when you have little hands helping!
I punched the heart cut out in the swatch that would be the top layer.
The color palette and top card is switched around from card to card.

Center the cutout where the two bottom swatches meet and glue.

For the salutation I used the name of the swatch as inspiration:
"Valentine, you're sweet like a raspberry tart."
"Valentine, I love you berry much."
"Valentine, I'm cherry pickin' you!"

Incredibly inexpensive and extremely easy to create, they will certainly put a smile on your loved ones faces this Valentine's Day!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Coming Soon!

Ballyhoo & Bedbugs is the tale of two sisters {in law} who love trinkets and treasures and things made with love.
We are looking forward to opening our shop, also named Ballyhoo & Bedbugs for March 1st, 2013!
We welcome you to join us on our adventures.

Eleanor and Meghan

p.s. this lovely sailboat with punched tin sails will be one of the first items in the shop!