Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Lessons From Madame Chic

I have always been a reader, but in the past month I have been devouring books with lightning speed. Every night I have been retiring to bed early, curling up under our duvet with a mass of pillows propped under my head and basically inhaling some book or other until I can no longer keep my eyes open. And if the book is really good, I refuse to stop reading and usually Charlie finds me sitting up comatose, book open, glasses on and head lolled to one side with my mouth gaped open. He's one lucky guy.
That is basically how he found me each night I spent reading Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. Erin Gates mentioned the book on her blog and I was completely intrigued. I had to get it. And you should too.
Jennifer Scott spent a year living as a foreign exchange student in Paris with the "Chic" family ~ a family of aristocratic stock and masters in the fine art of living. Madame Chic's lessons cover everything from dining to dressing and Jennifer relates her observations and experiences in such an affable way that you won't be able to put this book down either.
The part that struck the biggest chord with me was Chapter 4 ~ Liberate yourself with the 10 item wardrobe. 10 items??? I own like 10 hundred articles of clothing!!!!
I have worked in the apparel retail industry since I was 15. Clothing is my livelihood and my closets runneth over. While I have scaled back my shopping habits immensely in the past few years, I own enough clothing to fully dress a small third world country. It's ridiculous.
They say we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time and I cannot deny that being true. But how do you scale back when you lean towards the "classic" and have spent years building what you consider to be a "timeless" wardrobe?
Well, here's how that "timeless" wardrobe was working out for me:




This is closet 1 of 2.
And shall I mention that this is my Fall/Winter wardrobe?
There are 8 Rubbermaid totes in the attic with the summer stuff.
It is so tight to squeeze anything in, that this past winter I just started hooking things to the bar over top of everything else.
My folded piles are so high that they tip mercilessly to the side.
My closets are, frankly, a hot mess.
And the craziest part?
The retailer I currently work for has such a restrictive dress code that I wear even less than 20% of my stuff 5 days a week! Pathetic.
I had already purged a large amount in early fall but clearly need an intervention of some sort or other.
So I took Jennifer's tip about being brutal with cleaning out closet clutter and I have spent the past week sorting through each day after work, filling trash bag after trash bag of clothing, shoes and accessories.
I'm not sure that I could ever get to a 10 item wardrobe, I'm not even at 25 items yet, but I am down to one closet from two and poor Charlie lugged 11 trash bags out to the garage this week. I unpacked the 8 totes of summer and only 4 of winter went back to the attic. I can now slide hangers back and forth in the closet and all my shoes fit perfectly. There will be more purging I'm sure at the end of the summer, but for now I'm pretty pleased with what I've done.
Here's what I learned:
1. I owned over 30 pairs of jeans and wear the same 4 pairs again and again. Can we say Denim Hoarder???  I kept 12 for now, but will probably revisit this pile and purge again.
2. I own so much vintage and I wear so little of it. I kept the "to die" for pieces that I will never come across again in my lifetime (like my white sequin jacket ~ amazing with a stripe tee, jeans and heels!) and have contacted a vintage dealer to buy the rest of it.
3. I have had some items for over a decade! Just because it still fits and may be a "classic" doesn't mean I need to keep it. That's where the brutal part came in.
4. Items I can't wear to work because of dress code I had to seriously ask myself "Will I wear this on my day off?" Many bags were filled because there are other things I would love to wear on those two precious days.
5. I'm turning 40 this year. My son starts college in September. Time for those pairs of 6" heels to go. I'll live on "the edge" with no higher than 4" and age gracefully with some sensible shoes. I'm just not ready for Aerosoles yet.  

What about you?
Do your closets runneth over or are you disciplined and in control?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Snack Attack


I read somewhere that you can pop corn in a brown paper lunch bag right in your microwave. Intrigued, I picked up a jar of kernels last time I was at Sur la Table.
Well, guess what???
It totally works and tastes a bajillion times better than that microwave crap!
I plan on making it again tonight and having a cocktail. Or two. Or three.

I can't believe it's Friday already, it seems like just yesterday it was Monday morning and Charlie and I were laying in bed groaning about getting up and going to work. Then all of a sudden it's the weekend again!
Halleluja!
Tomorrow my best girl and I have hair appointments together then we are having my dad over for his birthday dinner.
Sunday we are off to the flea market to unload our unwanted wares and empty out that garage of ours. Although with everything I've purged lately it may take more than one trip!

What are you up to this weekend?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bake Nights







Saturday nights are quickly becoming a baking night for my best girl and I. She has always enjoyed helping me from time to time in the kitchen, but she is now big enough to really do things on her own with my close supervision.
Two weekends ago we all agreed that some sort of cake was totally necessary. This past weekend we were all craving Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches. This coming weekend cake is back on the menu as we will be hosting her PopPop's birthday dinner.
In an attempt to cut out as many processed foods as possible, I have been on the hunt for a great cake recipe and think I may have finally found the "one". It comes from another blogger and is just as easy to make from scratch as it is to buy a store bought mix.

Quick Yellow Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare two 9 inch cake pans with either butter and flour or baking spray (I use baking spray).
Beat butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Beat in flour, salt, baking powder, milk and vanilla. Mix on low for 30 seconds then high for 3 minutes.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning cakes out of pans. If the cake is not easily releasing from pan, lay a slightly damp kitchen towel across the bottom of the pan and tap gently to release. *this really works!!!!!
Once cooled completely, frost and enjoy!

*we are still on the hunt for the perfect chocolate buttercream ~ the one we used when we made this cake was from the Hershey's cocoa powder box and was just "ok".
**for our chocolate chip cookies we ALWAYS use the original Toll House cookie recipe. It's a no fail classic.



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Comfort

My plan was to come home Monday night and post pictures from our weekend. Then the awful events in Boston unfolded and I couldn't even bring myself to log on and read any blogs this week.
Thankfully, Boston can start to get back to it's "new normal" although in the backs of our minds we will always be wondering what craziness will happen next. This world is such a scary place at times, but we have to remember how the beautiful moments outnumber the ugly ones because they most certainly do.
Last weekend was filled with food, bike rides and fun.
After this week, I will settle for nothing less this weekend and I hope you don't either.






Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekending

Well, we made it to another weekend.
Whew!
The sun is shining and they are predicting 65 degrees both today and tomorrow. I'm looking forward to hitting some thrift stores and working on the shop which should be opening very soon!
Here's a sneak peek of some of the treasures the shop will be opening with:

19th printing circa 1970 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

11th edition circa 1965 of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook

Set of 3 Woodfield by Steubenville Tea & Toast sets

Set of 8 Fred Press mid~century highballs in the original carrier



What are you up to this weekend?






Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weeknight Chef: Baked Chicken Cheese Enchiladas


Cinco de Mayo is quickly approaching and I thought it high time to start warming up my pitching arm and throw out a Mexican inspired meal or two.
I have been using this easy recipe for years. I have made these enchiladas for our annual Cinco de Mayo party many times and they are always a hit. When I make them for just our family, I am guaranteed two meals from what it renders. In a nutshell, it is not only an easy fix for a weeknight, it provides another dinner and fills our bellies with cheesy goodness. It's no wonder it's a favorite of mine!

Baked Chicken Cheese Enchiladas
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

4oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sour cream
2 c. prepared salsa ~ Note: I use two full 15.5 oz jars of salsa. I have found that only using two cups leaves it too dry.
2c. grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese ~ Note: I used Colby Jack this time around
2c. of shredded cooked chicken ~ Note: I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts I precooked
1c. frozen corn kernels ~ Note: I have used canned on occasion. Either works fine
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced ~ Note: If I have them on hand I use them, if not, I omit
12-14 soft round 6-8 inch flour or corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and the sour cream. Stir in 1/2 c. of salsa. Stir in 1c. of grated cheese. In a second bowl toss together the chicken, the corn, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and 1/2 the scallions (if using). Add the chicken mixture to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.
In a baking dish, spread just enough salsa to cover the bottom. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling in a tortilla, roll up and transfer to the baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat process with remaining tortillas and filling. Pour enough salsa over the tops of the tortillas to coat all of them. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese over the top. Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.*

*Note~ if I used frozen kernels I add about 10 minutes to the cook time to ensure they are heated through
**Note ~ I only measure the salsa I add to the cream cheese mixture. The rest I eyeball to our personal taste




Monday, April 8, 2013

The Weekend

apparently, this is a small size cone!

i adore the light in my living room at the end of the day


my husband's childhood home ~ the first home we owned together

apple pie? yes please!

I tried not to think about how this was my last weekend home before going back to work and just enjoy the final 48 hours of freedom. Saturday we browsed through a few antique stores and thrift shops and stopped for our first ice cream cones of the season. I had a chance to curl up with a new book, a glass of wine and soak up the last rays of sunlight in the day.
Sunday I got to spend some alone time with my eldest and discussed his future, took a much needed walk with the dogs, drove through our old town and past our first home as a family and finished the day off with dinner and pie at my dad's.
Uncomplicated and restful.
I wouldn't have it any other way.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Weekday Birthday


Yesterday was my husband's birthday and while we never go "over the top" on birthday celebrations, I thought it would be fun to make a regular weeknight something a little more special.
The birthday boy/girl always picks the meal on their special day, and Charlie asked for surf and turf. In lieu of cake (he's not a cake fan) he requested my blueberry pie. Other than taste, there is really no "WOW" factor to pie like there is to a decorated cake, so I made a quick little bunting out of skewers, craft tape and baker's twine.



I thought it would be fun to fill the dining room ceiling with assorted helium balloons. It looked so great that I think we may have a new tradition started here!


Luckily, my son was willing to help me transport them. Most likely because he was barely visible there in the back seat. More likely because I offered to buy him lunch. We had a couple good laughs wrangling them into the car and driving home!



Charlie opened his cards, we shared our meal, and then wrapped it up with that amazing pie. I blogged about this pie last summer on my old blog and it has become my go-to recipe. I baked it in the late afternoon so it was still slightly warm and utter perfection with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


And to think....there's leftovers. Mmmmmm.

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

P.S. ~ Personal Style : Shoe Love

After a week of lying around the house in sweats, I am ready to pull the trigger and order these gorgeous little stunners:

Vince Camuto Mikal

It's been quite some time since I swooned this hard over a pair of shoes!
Must.have.them.

I also realized how I need a new pair of nude heels for the spring/summer.
But then I found these on Pinterest and started rethinking the need for a traditional pump:

Image via

Of course you can never go wrong with the traditional nude pump as witnessed in this simple perfection:

Image via

Perhaps I can justify all 3???

Is there a shoe that has you "swooning" this spring?


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Almost Completed Kitchen

Well, we still have a few things left to do ~ I have to order my new range hood (in stainless steel) and we have a stainless steel dishwasher coming too. Not to mention that my husband still has to swap out the old lightswitches to new ones and add a few more handles to drawers. (Screwing new holes for the handles required a run to the home improvement store for new drill bits.)
BUT,  we've come a heck of a long way.
There were moments that I started questioning why I bothered in the first place. Moments that I thought my husband might kill me. And a few times when I wondered why the universe seemed so against us ridding ourselves of our 80's/90's nightmare.
When I tell you nothing went according to plan, I mean NOTHING went according to plan. The list of (now comical) errors should be in bold type with exclamation marks and a few cyber slangs for expletives next to them. In short, we couldn't catch a break. From the old wallpaper border ripping down sheetrock with it, to the fact that our old cabinets are so solid that screwing in my bin pull handles is a whole project in itself just blew my mind. Or how about the Saturday when we removed the old faucet for my gorgeous new Moen one and the old adapter valves on our pipes were so rusted and corroded that they wouldn't come off? We spent the better part of the day with no running water in the kitchen, had to cancel our plans for that evening and thought we would be calling an emergency plumber in.

this is about when my husband started hating me

luckily my 5'2 frame fit better under the sink than his 6'1 one did. guess who saved the day under there in the end?

you're so pretty, but man! you gave us hell!

All in all, we are coming out of it DIY warriors. I never set a specific budget, and we have spent a little more than I thought we would, but we literally have what feels like an entirely new kitchen. In fact, I have been asked multiple times already if we replaced the countertop and backsplash because it looks so different. My color palette really made it pop and now everyone thinks it's new.
So without further adieu, I will remind you of what we started with:



starting to get somewhere

my plan starting to come together and hello new stools!

what a difference!

oh look, a hinge snapped in half on one cabinet door and now we have to search for a match.
typical.

Can you believe we painted over the wallpaper? It was a TON of work, but better in the end then repairing drywall!

I ended up buying my ikat bowls from West Elm, found the beautiful wooden mortar and pestle at Homegoods and the cute lanterns and moo cow creamer at Pottery Barn. I debated a printed roman shade for the window, but have decided we are staying window treatment free.


Got rid of the old red teapot and found this cute little blue one that feels so much better.

What a difference!
Of course, a new floor would look amazing, a solid surface countertop would be divine, and a subway tile backsplash would be my dream come true. Oh, and how about some open shelving instead of cabinets? I love that look! But in reality, we don't intend to live here forever and would like to not take a loss on the house when we sell it. These little updates we made put us miles ahead of the competition within our target price range anyway. (I know ~ I've been layed up for over a week and stalk Realtor.com.) If we change our minds, decide to stay and do a full blown remodel, we haven't spent so much that it would be painful to undo all that we have done.
The kitchen still has some quirks that drive me crazy and there's a few additional quick projects we would like to do (like adding new base trim around the floor after the new dishwasher goes in) but it feels good to know we are almost to the finish line.
Finally.




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Best & Worst of March

31 days have never flew by as fast as March did! I felt like I blinked and it was April already. How could that be? March certainly held her high points as well as her lows.
The very first week of March I started putting touches of spring around the house.

We kept getting random snowstorms ~ Really?

My little girl finally became an official "Four Eyes" like the rest of us....(and she was happy about it!)

We started tackling our kitchen remodel.

Everyone of us put in a ton of elbow grease and sweat.

I was the only one who shed tears. And it was after a full day of spackling followed by another of sanding.
Worst.jobs.ever.

It felt like the kitchen would never be done. And living in a torn up house is no fun.

A little retail therapy and a cute treasure like this one helped me to feel a little bit better about the whole thing.
I love Homegoods.

Then I was off to Rhode Island for a full week of meetings.

But I missed her very first violin concert. Daddy sent me this picture of her before she left for it. It was a tough day for my Mama's heart.

It probably didn't help that I stayed in a hotel that reminded me of The Shining.
Yikes!

Finally getting home and seeing this little face was the highlight of my week.

March wound down with me having my gall bladder surgery. I was relieved it went according to plan and to get home to my family (groggy as could be) to recover.

I wonder what April will bring besides it's usual showers?

What were the best and worst parts of your March?