Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kids Outdoor Eating Area Reveal

Reveal is such a dramatic word... Today I want to give you a peek at the kid friendly outdoor eating area that I have been working on. Once the weather permits, the kids and I eat outside a lot. A lot. And we spend a great deal of time in the backyard in general. Warm weather is fleeting in Buffalo, so we really try to make the most of it.

Most of our outdoor furniture is of the hand me down variety:  a collection of [those ubiquitous] plastic chairs, in dingy white, two glass topped tables, one in brown metal, the other a dark green, and two metal chairs, also dark green, with tan and green cushions. Each piece is sturdy, it just not that appealing to look at.

Some of the furniture on a drop cloth in the driveway awaiting painting. I should have gotten a better "before."

I wanted to use what a had and not a lot of $$ to create a functional space for the kids. I wanted something that is attractive, durable, and easy to keep clean, with extra emphasis on easy to keep clean. Kids are messy, and I'm tired of being frustrated over dirty cushions. 

You might remember that I took a can of Krylon Fusion paint to a couple of chairs and a little metal table last year (here). I was pleased with the result, so I decided to attack the rest of the furniture this year. The Krylon wasn't on sale (like last time), so I went with what was - this Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover (Paint + Primer). And it turns out that I like it better than the Krylon Fusion. It has a nice glossy finish, and it does give really nice coverage (though I don't know if its exactly the 1 = 2 can coverage that is promised on the packaging). And another plus? The only prep needed is a quick wash with soapy water, and a bit of air drying.

I used "Seaside" and "Real Orange" on the chairs, and "White" on the table. 

The centerpiece is a mint plant potted in a plastic receptacle (intended to be a small waste can) from the dollar store. I punched holes in the bottom for drainage. The kids planted fast sprouting arugula seeds in the caps from the paint cans, which we'll soon transplant to the garden. And all four objects are gathered together on a thrifted metal tray, which allows for easy removal in the event we need more space. Everything on the table is edible and non-shatterable (a word?).

The bright colors go nicely with the kids' plastic Ikea dinnerware. Add some thrifted clothe napkins and mismatched silverware (the 18/10 stays in the house!), and it's a kid friendly place to eat!

When the meal is done, we just hose the table and chairs down.

Not only do the kids eat here, they also color, paint, use play-do, read books, and do puzzles. So again, spray paint for the win!

And a final note... I couldn't have done this project if my good sis Liz wasn't there to help with the kiddos. Thank you, Liz! Also, you may have noticed that not all of the furniture is accounted for. More to come!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

De Pomiane in Ten Minutes

Today I'm linking up with Jessica for What We're Reading Wednesday. The book? French Cooking in Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life by Edouard de Pomiane.

I love this little book, and I think that I would get along swimmingly with the author, were he still alive (sadly, he passed away over fifty years ago).  De Pomiane's writing style is conversational, yet clear, witty, yet kind. You feel he has faith in your taste and abilities, no matter how inexperienced you may be. While de Pomiane's background as a doctor and scientist is apparent in his methodical approach and his faith in process, he refuses to reduce cookery and consumption to cookery and consumption.

And that brings me to my favorite thing about this book. It's really about more than French cooking, and you can profit from it even if you never prepare a single recipe from it's pages. It's a reminder: that meals are for nourishment and delight, that anyone can cook, that life is beautiful. Let me share with you one of my favorite passages, where the author describes what one ought to do following the stress free, quick, and delicious meal one has just prepared and consumed:
Fill your cup with the hot coffee... Lean back in your armchair and put your feet up. Light a cigarette. Take a nice long puff, then blow the smoke to the ceiling. Enjoy the coffee's aroma, take a long sip. Close your eyes. Think about that second puff, that second sip - you're rich!
And if that is all a little too esoteric for you, here are a few concepts that make this book a practical gem.

Courses: At the time of publication (1930, but maybe still?), French habit was to compose each meal with four or five small courses. While I personally love meals that have courses, I don't serve them at my house. In my mind, courses equal waitstaff and chefs. De Pomiane outlines how the cook pressed for time can plan, prepare, and serve just such a meal with a minimum of difficulty.

Cooking Methods: De Pomiane outlines the basics. He lists three cooking methods that can be accomplished quickly, and explains a bit about what is happening and why. He gives the reader an understanding, rather than just a process. And this is his modus operandi throughout the book. I think most of us have had a sauce turn out lumpy or an egg curdle and turned to takeout none the wiser for our failure. None of that with the good monsieur. If you fail, there is a reason, and he does his best to make sure that you understand why.

The Master Recipe: I recommend reading the book from Introduction to finish, all the way through. De Pomiane doesn't designate it as such, but he often starts each section with a master recipe that can be used, built upon, or modified. The cook is an artist and masterpieces start with basics. I love this concept, because it gives the novice cook an invaluable starting point rather than a deluge of recipes that can't be remembered.

So there, I think you will love this book even if you don't particularly care for French cuisine or such foreign wonders as Honeycomb Tripe with Tomato Sauce or Breaded Pigs Ears. De Pomiane wouldn't judge you, for as he says, "If you're not convinced, do as you like. After all, that's the best way to enjoy what you're eating."

Monday, July 14, 2014


Happy Monday, everyone! I know the weekend just ended but I'm already craving a break. I've been on a "doing" kick lately. We've painted tons of outdoor furniture: six chairs, two tables, and some other stuff.  The finished product is an outdoor eating area that is totally kid friendly. I can't wait to share the finished product sometime soon!

I've also been refurbishing a dresser. This is my first attempt to redo a piece of wooden furniture. I'll be honest - I put it off because it intimidated me, but it really hasn't been awful so far. My forearms and triceps are burning from using a hand sander, but the dresser is shaping up nicely. As is my wimpy upper body. Or so I tell myself.

As bigger projects are accomplished, the smaller stuff has been falling by the wayside. My room is a mess and dinners lately have been simple. Very simple. And I'm sure that everyone will heave a sigh of relief when they see me finally putting the paint away. But hey, isn't this what the long days of summer are for?

After Mass. All motion. Motion and joy.
Sorting linens before summer guests arrive. And now they've come and gone. 
Sticky. Sweaty. Summertime.
Driveway time. I read and the kids scooter. Scooter on, little ones.
Anyone else addicted to spray paint?  Once I start, I can't stop...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Under Construction

Not the blog, but other stuff. The last two weeks have been a perfect storm, creating the just right conditions to  ignore the blog, and actually the whole of the internet. Gorgeous weather, visiting loved ones, the itch to redo and reorganize. 

This dresser, finally getting some attention.

The upside? Lots of good times, inspiration, and projects in the works.  The downside? No blogging, and I sure do miss it! So, I'll see you next week ;)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Top Tips for the Postpartum Lady

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I am guest posting over at Stethoscopes, Style, & Grace. The topic?Tops that are postpartum friendly. I'll give you a little taste of what I'm talking about:  

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The Pin Tuck: A pin tuck is a very narrow narrow tuck, or pleat, used as ornament in a garment. When used below the neckline of a top, the result is a slight gathering of fabric that flows into a looser fit through the middle to the bottom hem. This can be flattering because you aren't swallowed up in the garment thanks to the tucks, but it is more generous through the midsection.

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The Slouchy Sweater: This is the sweater that has a slouchier, looser cut. Some versions are rather cropped, others are longer and may be called tunic sweaters. A bit of slouch can hide a multitude of lumps.

For four more flattering styles, head on over to Stethoscopes, Style, & Grace!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Reading List

I was going to call this "A Summer Reading List," but then I realized that this will take me into fall and winter, most likely. So let's be real. I'm putting this list out there mainly for myself, because I always jot titles onto random scraps of paper, and then... Lose them.

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers (Meg Meeker)  (I'm almost finished with this one. It's a really easy read and refreshment for the weary mother.)
Basil Moreau Essential Writings
On the Road (Jack Kerouac, book club)

In Queue:
Bossy Pants (Tina Fey)
Dad Is Fat (Jim Gaffigan)
Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. (Leandra Medine)

A Good Man is Hard to Find (Flannery O'Connor, book club)
Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger, book club)
Following Polly (Karen Bergreen)
Rules of Civility (Amor Towles)

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to be Beautiful (Myquillyn Smith)
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Ann Voskamp)
The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise)
French Cooking In Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life (Edouard de Pomiane)

Any title by Elizabeth Goudge

To Reread:
The Intellectual Life (A.G. Sertillanges)

What's on your reading list?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Rituals

Summer means fresh food: basil and mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, salads. Summer means slowing down to beat the heat. Lazy afternoons beneath the shade tree, reading, watching the kids run around. Relaxing with guests. Grilling. Freezie Pops and cool drinks.

After a brutal winter summer has finally come, and my brood and I are trying to make the most of it, and I bet you are, too. And as idyllic as it all sounds, at times it's hard for me to just calm down and be. To be present to my kids (that's starting to be a theme, isn't it?). To not feel guilt if I'm not busy, busy. To be content to hold a baby that won't go to sleep or to choose a trip to the playground over completing a blog post.

How to solve this inner angst... I don't know, I just keep reminding myself that my biggest responsibility right now is to these littles. And alcohol. Just kidding. Sort of. What I mean is that alcohol is part of it, one small part of creating and living summer rituals. Of responding to the changes in weather and environment, interacting with them and with each other in meaningful ways. 

You may have caught the post two Fridays ago about summer cocktails. Since then I have been playing around with various ingredients, and I have come up with a formula that can be used with whatever you have on hand. It's a little less boozy but just as fresh and even more refreshing for the days that are turning hot, hot, hot.

I hope you like it!

The Perfect Summer Cocktail


Gin or Vodka
Basil or Mint
Lemon or Lime
Fruit: Strawberries, Blueberries, Peaches, you name it
Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water, boiled together to dissolve)
Club Soda 

The Formula: 2 ounces alcohol + 1 ounce simple syrup + juice of lemon or lime + five leaves basil or mint + club soda

Muddle (i.e. crush using a muddler or the back of a spoon) the herb leaves in the lemon/lime juice. Pour into a shaker. Add alcohol, simple syrup, and ice. Shake. Strain into a Tom Collins glass (or a martini glass). Mash some really ripe fruit and add. Fill glass with cold club soda. Now take it outside, and enjoy!