A Room For Living

>> Friday, April 17, 2015

We’ve tackled the dining room and the kitchen + cabinets, but the living space on our first floor has remained relatively untouched since we moved almost a year ago. It all started when I decided to look for cat-proof blinds for the space and didn’t turn up anything. In our last house, the cats systematically ruined 80% of the blinds we put up, so I didn’t want to go down that road again.

After some research, we chose faux wood plantation shutters from Home Depot.

Since they’re stock versus custom, the price point wasn’t quite as shocking. The best part? The cats don’t have any strings to gnaw on, so I figure they’ll stay in good condition for a long time. Since we knew they’d darken the room (we went with wood versus white to match the wood trim in our house), we painted the room in Revere Pewter to match the kitchen and dining room.

So, once we got all the shutters up, the living room looked . . . too mature. Something about all the wood and made it look quite dated and dark. I went on Pinterest before anything else looking for inspiration for how to mix up a room with an “oriental” rug. (I got our 9x12 lookalike on Overstock.com for less than $300.) I have no idea what I’m doing -- especially with pattern mixing -- so I needed some guidance, that’s for sure.

Here’s what I found:

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

We haven’t finished painting the walls and haven’t actually put up the curtains. But I’m liking it so far. At least I think. I’ll admit it looks a bit crazy, and there’s still work to getting it all fitting together the “right” way, whatever that means with home decor. For example, the curtains aren’t perfect. I’d prefer some in a true ikat design, but these guys were only $9.99 a panel at the Christmas Tree Shops -- why not? I’m spray painting the old brass curtain rods and hardware a rubbed bronze color, btw.

Hooray for budget makeovers!

Other plans for this room include some fireplace freshening. I’d like to paint part of it white and make the mantel chunkier somehow. Maybe some faux crown molding. Just painting the top several inches of the room white and then adding some inexpensive molding pieces for added impact. And then accessories, etc.

I’m sure the room won’t be officially “done" for quite some time due to budget, etc. -- but it’s coming a long way from its original state. I really hated those 1980s pleated curtains. The shutters are already so amazingly functional, and we’re really happy with them! I can’t wait to update with the finished look.

Happy Friday, friends!

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Spinach + Cheddar “Buttermilk” Biscuits

>> Thursday, April 16, 2015

You guys know I’m a biscuit fiend. (What gave it away? These 10,000 biscuit recipes?) I made this delicious slow cooker soup yesterday (I’ll post that recipe soon, too), and I always serve soup with biscuits, cornbread, or some other bready bread bread on the side. It’s just, like, a requirement. An essential part of the meal. Not to be skipped. Ever.

Especially now!


What you’ll need . . . 
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance (or salted butter)
  • 1-1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1-3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup finely chopped spinach (I used baby spinach)*
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
* I think basil or any other “soft” greens would work great too!

Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Cut in your Earth Balance or butter -- I simply used my hands to blend until the mixture resembled coarse meal.
  4. Toss in the Greek yogurt, spinach, and cheddar cheese. Mix with a spatula (or your hands) until everything is moistened. You may need to add another couple tablespoons of water so everything sticks together (but isn’t sticky).
  5. Then flour a work surface and take your ball of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand. It should be around 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Take the ring of a Ball jar (standard size) and cut out your biscuits. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in your fridge for several days.
FYI: This recipe makes 12-15 of these guys.


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8 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

>> Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I’ve been getting some emails with questions about kitchen and cooking stuff lately, so I thought rather than replying individually, I’ll post the answers here. Today’s “question” is more a conglomeration of different ones about what kitchen tools I use, why, and which are the best buys. Here are my top picks for things I use most every day in my cooking and baking.

(Also check out my list of Useless Kitchen Gadgets!)


I bake something almost every day. So, I use my BeaterBlade (sold for 4.5/5 quart + 6 quart mixers) almost as often. I used my KitchenAid mixer’s blade so much the paint started coming off. And I’ve had the BeaterBlade for at least four years -- heavy use -- with no problems.

Ninja Blender

Every food blogger has a blender preference. Healthy living bloggers, in particular, can’t live without Vitamix or Blendtec blenders, and I so wish one of those was in the budget for us. The thing is, we’ve been using our Ninja Blender for the last five or six years . . . and it’s still going strong. I’m able to blend greens, even tough kale, into smoothies. Soups are quite easy to pulse together. I’ve even made juice with my blender, etc. All for hundreds less than the other machines.

Silicone Spatulas 

Whether it’s smoothing out brownie batter or mixing together stir-fries, I use each my silicone spatulas -- I have four of them -- pretty much every day. I got my set at Kohl’s, but wherever you find them make sure to get the ones that are all one piece. That way there are no grooves to catch gross leftovers, and they’ll clean in a breeze. The ones in the link are heat-rated to 450 degrees F -- so check to make sure any you consider can stand up to whatever you plan to create.

Dutch Oven

I waited the longest time to buy a large dutch oven because of the price. It seems like ever since I did, more and more have been popping up at stores like Home Goods, TJ Max, etc. -- at good price points. You can also find some online ranging from the luxury editions (Le Creuset 5-1/2 Quart at $299) to the budget-friendly (Lodge 6 Quart at $70). I make bakery style breads in my dutch oven, along with simmered soups and stews. They’re incredible versatile and should last a lifetime.

Slow Cooker

Of all our kitchen gadgets, the crock pot comes in the most handy year-round. The one we use -- an old Rival pot -- was given to me by my mother-in-law. Nowadays you can get a variety of slow cookers that can be programmed certain ways and others that have more than one pot for cooking or heating multiple meals. As I type this, I can smell the corn chowder I’ve tossed together for dinner simmering beautifully.

Dough Scoop

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a baking/ice cream scoop that I use to portion out my cookies. I also use the scoop to portion veggie burgers and other patty-like edibles. You’ll notice these guys come in different sizes, ranging from 1 tablespoon to 4 tablespoons (mine is the biggie!). Of course, you don’t need this tool, but it sure makes life easy with the sliding band that releases the cookie dough or ice cream or whatever else you’ve mixed together.

Ball Jars

We use our Ball jars of all shapes, sizes, and varieties for a number of purposes in the kitchen. We store a lot of our bulk foods on exposed shelving in extra tall wide mouth jars for easy grabbing. I freeze or put leftovers from different meals into other jars. We even use the jars to drink our water, beer, and tea. They all get washed together and then we have a good stock so we can shift their purpose according to what we need at the moment.

Large Bowl

A nice large, shallow mixing bowl works for so many things. You can hand mix breads and other baked goods. I like to chop up all my veggies and then hand mix my veggie burgers in the bowl. Big salads can be tossed together in a huge bowl. Sometimes we even just use ours to serve.

What did I miss? 

Add your must-haves in the comments!

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