Monday, April 30, 2012

Culture Shop

Whew!  These past few weeks have been crazy busy for me, with packing up, flying home to the US and then nonstop traveling ever since.  I'm just settling down to a few weeks of visiting back at home with my family, and I'm so excited to get to spend some time with everybody.

Everyone says that whenever you move home from another country you'll experience reverse culture shock.  Since it seems unavoidable, I'm sure it will happen to me, too, but so far I'm just enjoying being here.  One thing I do already miss, funny enough, is the amazing flea markets you can find in any big city in Europe, full of everything from junk to antiques, furs, china, silver--you name it.  We love strolling through ours in Vienna on a Saturday morning or the even bigger one in Berlin.

The fun thing about these markets is searching through the piles of things you wouldn't want and coming home with something special--and usually at a great deal.  

Happily, thrift stores and consignment shops abound here in the good ole' USA, so my love of an inexpensive treasure continues.  If you have a little time and patience, a quick run through these places in your area can give you some fantastic finds.  Don't be deterred by furniture that's painted an ugly color or even needs new upholstery-- you can always change those details to make it your own.

Happy treasure hunting.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Review

The past week has been full of activity.  My sister was in town for the Mockingbird conference, I organized all the dinners, then Liza stayed on to help me with my sad sofa.  Check in next week for the the full reveal. 

via Oscar PR Girl

Happy Friday


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Backyard Redo

When we moved into our house in Ambridge, PA during our first year in seminary, I was so thrilled to have a yard.  Never mind that this yard was really just a tiny piece of land in the back with struggling patches of grass and charmless concrete walkway, all overshadowed by the view of the CVS a block away.  

Not to be deterred by a little challenge, Jady and I kept this kind of little garden (below) in mind as we planned our own back yard makeover.

Our first thought was to rejuvenate the "lawn," so we rented an aerator from our hardware store and tore everything up to kill the weeds and encourage soil drainage.  Then we spread grass seed and waited... 

We realized once the grass began growing that the soil quality (or lack thereof) and the size of the yard meant that our little patch of grass would always be a challenge to maintain, so we changed our plan.  Flexibility is critical when doing it yourself!  Rather than a yard, we decided to go for a patio look and pave everything except for the surrounding flower beds.  The perfect solution for our sad grass patch-- and a patio would provide us extra entertaining space.  Win-win.

I sketched out an idea for how to pave it all, deciding in the end on a brick walkway cutting through to the back alley and a stone patio area off of the back steps.  

Our first step was to tear out the ugly concrete walkway running down the side of the house out to the back.  Then, using steaks and twine, I mapped out the lines of the brick walkway as a guide.

The lovely view of the CVS again.

 Next we dug out the soil a few inches down where the bricks would go to create a smooth surface once the walkway was paved.

Our goal with the back yard was to create a little private garden space in a town where neighbors live nearly on top of each other and you always feel a bit exposed.  To help give us a secluded feeling, we decided to install our own fencing.  We bought a simple tool for digging post holes (Jady said is was a great workout!) and got to work, cementing the posts in place before attaching the fencing.  To add even more height we attached latticework to the top, creating our own custom privacy fence around the yard.

With the fence and walkway in place, we turned next to the patio.  Again we staked out the area with string, dug a few inches down and smoothed the surface as well as possible to provide a flat surface for the stones. 

Then we laid out landscape fabric all across the area to surpress weeds, followed by two inches of sand.  

Next we started laying down the stones, fitting them together without any pattern to give it a natural, relaxed look.  Here's a photo from halfway through, with a tarp covering the unfinished area.

Nearly finished! Once all of the stone was laid, we brushed dry cement into the cracks and hosed the area down to secure the stones in place.

After filling the beds with compost to boost the quality of the soil, we mostly choose plants that would be low maintenance to fill out the garden.  A mixture of flowering, deciduous and evergreen plants provided a dynamic mixture of textures, flowers in the summer and some green and structure still during the bleak winter months. Finally, we chose some fast-growing vines to help soften the space from the newness of the fence.

Now a more private scene instead of the view of the CVS.

Even the tiniest, saddest yard can be transformed into a little private getaway and outdoor dining room.  I hope you're inspired to get your hands dirty:)



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bewitching Hours....

I say the hours between 5 and 7 PM can perfectly be described as the bewitching hours.  Kids are hungry (who am I kidding? I am hungry, too) you are trying to prepare supper while they pull on your apron strings.  These two hours can be tense if you don't have a plan of action.  Of late I decided to begin cooking early and inviting Sophia into the mix.
This last week Sophia and I made a healthy version of meatballs 
and spaghetti. 

White Turkey Breast Ground Meat
Mexican Oregano
Sea Salt
Ray's Spaghetti Sauce
Spring Onions
Fresh Ground Pepper
Linguine Pasta

Side Note
I am a big believer that modified and age appropriate activities can be perfect learning opportunities.  Children's self-esteem is boosted when they can achieve and share. Preparing the family meal together is a wonderful opportunity to share and build important skills.

The Result: Happiness & Full Tummies
I divided the ingredients into little bowls so Sophia could easily mix the ingredients without me hovering over her. I instructed her to mix the Oregano, Salt, Pepper, and Turkey Meat.  When she completed her mixing portion I asked her to form small balls into another bowl.
After I gave the instructions to her, I completed the stove top tasks, since children should not be cooking over the stove.  I sautéed the onion in half a cup of olive oil along with the mushrooms. When they were browned we removed them and tossed the meatballs into the pot.  
At this time Sophia washed her hands really well and went off to play. Giving her a job she could achieve made her feel proud.  I cooked the linguine on my own.  Then I tossed the linguine in with the meat balls added the sauce, mushrooms, and onions.  The meal was delicious along with a salad and glass of wine, it meal was pretty satisfying. 

Something Sweet
Fridays are always a day for a treat, so naturally Sophia I baked cookies.  This is a simple and fun cooking experience for everyone all around. Just toss & mix your favorite cookie recipe together. 

Add caption
Enjoy whatcha got and who you're with!!!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Outdoor Living Space

As we continue the house hunt in Louisville, one thing I have been dreaming of is having a yard again.  Just a little spot of green behind the house-- even if it's tiny or unattractive-- can become another room in your family's house for entertaining or lounging in the sun.  

Even if your thumbs are anything but green, small gardens with low maintenance plants and shrubs can be an easy way to enjoy the outdoors without getting overwhelmed. 

I love this garden!  The high, vine-covered walls offer privacy to this small space, and the pretty brick walkway and patio pave the majority of the garden-- which means no grass to cut!  I would love to read the paper out here in the mornings...

Even if you don't have the space or the desire to have a garden, just a few potted plants can go a long way to soften an outdoor space and provide a little burst of green on your way out the door. 

When we lived in PA during seminary, nearly everything about our house needed fixing up, and the tiny back yard was no exception.  Patches of anemic grass struggled (and mostly failed) to grow on our little plot of land, the neighbor's fence was falling apart, and the view out the back looked down to the CVS.  Lovely.

Check back in on Friday to see our attempt to turn our sad little yard into a diminutive garden.

Get your hands dirty!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Loving Coral

Last week after book club I popped into ABC Carpets, what a happy inspiration spot.  I spied this happy entry to the children's section and what a dreamy bed. 

Jonathan Alder
Old Navy


Old Navy

I can't help myself, this color affair has been going on for quite sometime. Last year I painted this piece for our towels and linens.

Besos in CORAL!!!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

My New York

If you ever find yourself in the back of a taxi here in New York, you will often see a little blurb on "My New York" by really cool famous people who live here. I thought, why not share MY New York, too?  I would have to say the funny thing about living in Manhattan, for me anyway, is the fact that I rarely leave my neighborhood.  So, the majority of my life is spent in Gramercy Park and Maialinos.

During Liza's recent visit, we had an afternoon of leisure in my favorite place.

This locked up garden is spectacular.  I could sit on a bench all day long.  If you are ever visiting NYC check into the Gramercy Hotel, where you can eat at Maialinos and visit the park as much as you like, just stay off the grass! 

Roof Top

Tell us about your favorite places to relax!


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