Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall in Colorado

The air is crisp and the leaves are changing. Fall is one of my most favorite seasons and you just can't miss the beauty of the mountains this time of year. This past Saturday was a perfect day to head up and see the aspen leaves, so we spent the day at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We took a hike up to Frazer Meadow and drove Mountain Base Road to Panorama Point. The breeze rustling through shimmering aspen leaves, the warm sun on our faces, and the fresh mountain air made for a serene and wonderful afternoon. We are so blessed to live less than an hour from the beauty of God's creation in the Rockies!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Food For Friday: Rustic French Apple Tart

I made this Rustic French Apple Tart for our housewarming party. I had seen it on an episode of Barefoot Contessa and wanted to give it a try. I was happy that making it at home was just as easy as it looked when she made it on the show. It was delicious and would be perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!


For the pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
(be sure to use unsalted!)
1/2 cup ice water

For the apples:

4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam (optional: I did not use)

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! (Optional: When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.) Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper and move to the serving platter. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Housewarming Celebration

I want to share some of the first photos of our new move-in! We still have a list of little projects and some decorating plans that we are working on, but we are feeling very settled in our new house. We moved in about 6 weeks ago and our house quickly began to feel like home. I thought I would share some photos of our living and dining room today, and I will post photos of our kitchen and other spaces soon!

This past weekend, we hosted a housewarming party to celebrate our new home with friends! We feel so blessed that God provided this house for us and we have enjoyed making it our home. We had a fun afternoon of good food with a house full of friends!

I wanted to capture a photo record of all the friends who came to celebrate with us, but I realized that I missed one family who joined us.

We look forward to many years of hosting family and friends in our new home!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Painting Love

I have to tell you about my absolute new favorite paint! Have you seen the new Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint from Home Depot? It is paint with the primer already in it. When we bought our new house and went to purchase paint, the paint dept. clerk recommended the Premium Plus Ultra paint to us. She had recently used it in her own home and had rave reviews. We decided to give it a try and we were not disappointed!

We actually got by with only one coat of paint in our rooms! One! The paint is so smooth and goes on so easily. No worries about roller marks or brush marks. You do have to apply it a tiny bit thicker than you would if you were doing two coats, so a roller with a little longer nap might be helpful. After we had finished all the walls in a room, we went back and checked the walls to see if there were any thin spots where the original color was showing through. In the few spots where we didn't have full coverage, we re-rolled just that small area and it blended in perfectly! We were thrilled with how much time this paint saved us! We've always liked Behr paint, but they have truly outdone themselves with this new line. I know exactly which paint we will be using for all of our future painting projects. If you have any walls that you are considering a fresh coat of paint for, I would highly recommend the Premium Plus Ultra. It is only a few extra dollars a gallon and well worth the time and effort it saves!

One thing to note...Though there is a Premium Plus Ultra paint display in the store with it's own paint chips that differ from the colors of the regular Behr line, they can tint the Premium Plus Ultra paint to match any of the Behr colors. All of the colors we selected were from the color swatches of their regular line.

The photo above is a sneak peak at my new laundry room and the fabulous robin's egg blue color that is on the walls! I have a couple of projects still planned for that space, but I'll be sure to post photos when it's all finished!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sheen Stripe Tutorial

We really wanted our bedroom to be a serene and peaceful space, but we wanted to add some texture and visual interest to the walls. We decided that a sheen stripe would be a perfect way to add some detail while still keeping it very calm and light.

The sheen stripes are more noticeable at different times of the day, depending on the light, but they always add just a little extra design character to the room. They are hard to capture in a photograph, but are much more apparent in person. I did my best to capture a few of the stripes to give you an idea of what the technique looks like on the wall.

If you have ever striped a room with paint, you know that it takes some time and effort! But, I just love the end result. You could use this exact same technique with 2 colors if you want colored stripes.

Since we were striping with sheen, we used eggshell and semi-gloss paint. We first painted all of the walls with a base coat of eggshell. By painting the whole room first, you get to tape only one set of stripes instead of two! That is a big time saver. I would recommend allowing the base coat to dry overnight before moving on to the taping off step, to make sure it is good and dry!

The second step is to measure and mark the stripes. We made each stripe one foot wide in our room. I used a yard stick and a pencil to measure and mark along the ceiling and the baseboards. I would recommend starting in an inconspicuous spot, like behind a door or a less visible corner. When you get to the end of the marking, if you have an odd length of wall left, it will be less noticeable in a less visible spot in the room. As you are marking out your stripes, it's ok if they aren't exact in the corners. For example, if it was 11.5 inches to a corner, I would just mark the corner rather than taping off 1/2 an inch onto the next wall. After you have worked your way around the room and are getting within several feet of where you started, measure the space left and see if you have an odd number of inches. You don't want to end up with a 4 inch stripe left over. For example, if you find that you have 54 inches instead of 60, make each of the 5 last stripes just under 11 inches each instead of 12. The overall effect of the stripes will not be impacted if they aren't all exactly 12 inches, especially if your ending spot is in a less conspicuous spot in your room.

For the next step, you need chalk and a chalk line (ours was from Home Depot.) Basically, it looks like a tape measure with a string that pulls out and the inside fills with chalk. When you pull the line out, it is covered in the chalk. You'll need someone to help with this step! Hold the end of the string line at the ceiling on your pencil mark. Pull the base to the floor, pulling the chalk covered line out. Line up the string by the base with the bottom pencil mark and pull it very taut along the wall! Using two fingers somewhere near the middle, pull the string back and release it so that it pings the wall, leaving a chalk line behind. You will need to do this with each set of pencil marks around the room. (Hint: I often use a level lined up top to bottom along the string for the first few lines on each wall to double check that the line will be straight up and down before I make the chalk line.) I upped the contrast in the following photo so you can see the 2 faint chalk lines.

Next, I walk around the room and use a small piece of tape in the middle of every other strip to mark off where I am not going to paint. This makes it a lot easier to keep track of every other stripe while you are taping off and painting.

Now, you are ready to tape off your lines! I would recommend the 3M Delicate Blue Painters Tape. It does a great job of protecting your base coat of paint, especially if it was just painted in the last day or two. Be sure that as you tape your stripes, you line up the outside edge of your tape with the chalk line, putting the width of the tape inside the stripe that you are not painting! You will be alternating with the tape to the right of the line, tape to the left of the line. Otherwise, you will end up with uneven stripes! If that doesn't make sense, use your ruler to double check the width of the stripes you are going to paint as you apply your tape until you get the pattern of taping.

We taped the baseboards only on the stripes we were painting, not worrying about taping the bottom of the stripes that were not being painted. In a large room, this saves quite a bit of tape!

Lastly, paint the stripes! We used our semigloss paint for this step. If you are painting with two colors, you will use your second color. You'll be painting the stripes without the little tape markers in them. Let them dry for an hour or two, then carefully remove your tape! You might have visible chalk lines peaking out in some spots. Let the paint dry well for a few days, then you can go back with a small cotton rag and rub off any visible chalk.

I have also seen stripes painted horizontally for a different look. You can use this same process, but instead you will mark top to bottom on your walls rather than side to side. Check out Layla's beautiful horizontal stripes in her reading room at The Lettered Cottage here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer Whites

When we registered for our bedding when we got married, we registered for both white and chocolate sheets. We wanted our bedroom to be very serene and calm and found a duvet and shams that we loved in a light blue and chocolate brown. I wanted white sheets to lighten it up in the summer months, when you want crisp and fresh bedding. We use the chocolate brown sheets in the winter for a warmer, cozier look.

When we were preparing to move into our new home, we needed to pick out a blue paint color for our bedroom walls. We weren't happy with the color we'd had in our bedroom in Austin because it was too white, with not enough blue tone. I realized that I'd forgotten to bring one of the shams from our bedding to select a new color, so we went to the store to purchase a sham to use in selecting paint. While we were there, I happened across these white shams with a blue and brown line of embroidery around the edges, that perfectly matched our bedding! And they were 60% off in the clearance bin! I was so excited. I thought they would be perfect to switch out to in the summer months when we wanted to add a lot of white for a very crisp and light, summery feel.

Here is our bedroom with the all blue bedding that we use in the fall and winter months:

(I'm not sure why the strip of bedding at the end of the bed looks like a different color than the rest of the duvet. It's not.)

And here is the bedding with the new white summery shams:

I am so happy with how they work with our bedding to add a layer of fresh white! I picked up some fabric at JoAnn's yesterday for 60% off to sew some additional throw pillows for our bed. We also have plans to order a light neutral area rug to go under our bed. We love the wood floors in our bedroom, but it will be nice to have something cozy underfoot when the chilly months of winter come!

In my next post, I am going to share a tutorial for the stripe technique we used on the walls in our bedroom. It's a subtle sheen stripe that is hard to see in these photos, but I've done my best to capture it in a few photos that I'll share with the tutorial. We still have some details and decor to add in our bedroom, but so far we are really happy with how it is coming together!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Target Steals and Deals

Target has some GREAT deals this week when you stack manufacturer's coupons with Target printable online coupons! I wanted to share some of the amazing steals and deals I got tonight because Saturday will be the last day for some of these sales!

I got all of these items for $6.94 after coupons! Several of them were free or almost free. Total Saved: $29.18! The cashier that checked me out said, "I need to go shopping with you!"

If you are interested in receiving an e-mail with the links to the online coupons I used and an explanation of which coupons to stack and the prices for each item after coupons, leave me a comment with your e-mail address and I will send you an e-mail with the details so you can take advantage of the deals too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Food For Friday: Beef Lo Mein

This Friday's dish is the Asian inspired meal that Chef Deborah Fewell taught me to make on our episode of Home Made Simple. Back in January, Truman and I taped an episode of Home Made Simple in our home. The Beef Lo Mein recipe that Deborah created for us was delicious!

Deborah and I taping the cooking segment for the show

This lo mein has all the flavor of Chinese take-out, but it is a healthier version and a quick dinner, which makes it great for a weeknight meal. I made it for dinner tonight and wanted to share the recipe with you!

1 flank steak (1 lb.), trimmed & cut across the grain in long strips
3 tbls. soy sauce
2 tbls. brown sugar
1 tbls. hoisin sauce (the original recipe calls for oyster sauce, but I am allergic to seafood, so we substitute hoisin sauce instead)
1/2 tbls. chili paste with garlic (the recipe calls for 1 tbls. but it is spicy! so I reduce it to 1/2 tbls. If you like a lot of heat, you may want to use 1 tbls.)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups cooked whole wheat spaghetti (approx. 8 oz. uncooked)
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
2 tbls. peanut oil
1 tbls. fresh ginger, peeled & minced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 medium onion, halved & thinly sliced (I like to dice it instead of slice it when I make it)
sesame seeds for garnish
green onions for garnish (optional)

(You should be able to find the Asian ingredients at any grocery store, but they will be less expensive at an Asian market!)

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, chili paste, and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. After it is drained, combine the pasta & sesame oil, tossing well to coat.

While the pasta cooks, heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, broccoli & onion and sautee for 5 min or until the broccoli is tender. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan, creating a hole in the center. Add the steak strips into the center of the skillet.

Sautee the steak for 5 min or until done. Add the pasta mixture & soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Serve garnished with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

Chopsticks optional!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Potted Herb Garden

This past weekend, we took a trip to our local nursery and I planted a potted herb garden. Because we moved into our new home so late into the summer, we sadly weren't able to plant a garden this year. I still wanted to plant some organic herbs, though, because they grow quickly and are so much more economical than buying fresh herbs at the grocery store. I can buy a plant for what I would usually pay for one bunch of basil at the store. I love having fresh herbs just outside my door that I can snip to use in our meals.

I opted to plant them in a pot instead of in an outdoor planter in hopes that we can move them inside in a month or so when it gets too chilly for them to live outside! We get a lot of sun through the large windows in our house, so I am hoping they will be able to survive inside this winter. I included several varieties of basil and mint, as well as cilantro, rosemary and oregano. The nursery was out of thyme but I would like to add it in if I can still find some!

We are already looking forward to planting a garden next year and are making plans. We have the perfect spot all picked out!