Before + After Week: Office

Growing up in Phoenix, I was spoiled by real estate. I grew up in a home with a walk-in closet in my bedroom. Our house had two nicely sized bathrooms and a double garage.

As an adult in the Denver area, I realize how much younger of a city Phoenix is. Homes here in the same socio-economic range often come with one bathroom, zero closets and a nice parking spot on the street. My new home does have a few closets but nothing significant. When organising my office, I did not like my many tubs of art supplies hanging out for everyone to see. With this being said, I don’t help myself. Pretty much anytime I go to the store, if there are deals on stationary, I’m there. Who doesn’t like having office supplies for home? You can never have enough. I still need to organise everything in a better way though, so I can justify spending more money on supplies.

Before + After: Office

Hi! We previously lived in a closet where no one could see us, in all our plastic glory.

Before + After: Office

Nor the green drapes — although they did provide awesome shade. This space needed some organizational love, including sewing up some panels to hide the junk:

Before + After: Office

Two yards of heavy canvas and 30 minutes of sewing later — voila. Hidden junk.

Before + After: Office

Before + After: Office

Also — Sue sent a lovely housewarming gift this week that she embroidered. I couldn’t bring myself to use the dishcloth in the kitchen, but it looks sweet here — along with the African chicken my friend Tina sent.

Before + After: Office

And my favorite Japanese print curtains in place. It’s starting to feel like home.

~K

Before + After Week: Dresser

About 4 months ago, I bought a bunch of second-hand furniture. A hutch, dining room set, antique mirror and this dresser — painted a dusty rose.

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

The dresser is well made of heavy wood, with tongue and groove joints, but needed some attention. The paint was worn and the hardware did nothing for me. Enter Adam and his favorite stripper:

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

Before + After: antique dresser

Surprise! There are five layers of paint already on this thing. Let’s sand it down and see what happens…

Before + After: antique dresser

Wait. That’s kinda pretty as is. Or as Adam said, “Someone would pay $1000 for that at Anthropologie.” 

Before + After: antique dresser

I loved the antique barn wood look of this when it was outside. And when I installed the new hardware. And when I lined the drawers. All until I finally got it back upstairs and in place. I’m not sure if it is the lamp that’s throwing me off, or if it just looks too shabby now that I have it in place.

Before + After

Before + After: antique dresser

Am I fugly? Or unique? Hmmm. 

Interwebs, what do you think? Change up the lamp? Repaint the dresser? (The original idea was a bright barn red.) Change up the lamp shade? I’d love to hear what you would do.

Also, many thanks to my trusty sidekick and his stripper. They are quite the team!

~K

UPDATE: I am going to repaint this red. After looking at these photos, I can’t help but think this looks like a Pepto Bismol massacre.

 

She’s Thrifty!

clink!

I feel like that should be an extra verse in the Beastie Boy’s “She’s Crafty!” No surprise I love that being “thrifty” is once again a prized virtue. In an odd way, I feel like I’m honoring my grandmothers and their struggles through the Great Depression by honing my own frugalista style today. Not to mention my mother is the creator of the coupon. Kinda like Al Gore is the creator of the Internets. One of my most distinct memories as a child was playing secretary and writing down each item she’d buy at each grocery store to save pennies with coupons. The thrift of that woman is unbelievable. I’ve got a couple girlfriends who are fine tuning their couponing skills as well and the pennies are stacking up. Mini spends 1/3 of what she used to feeding her family by sticking with coupons. One third!

pile of new-to-me linens

With this spirit in mind, I took an hour after church Sunday to comb a couple new-to-me thrift stores to see if I could find some champagne glasses and cake stands for the upcoming Spring Party. I don’t have the room or the patience to buy stuff just to buy. If it isn’t pretty and useful, I’m not going to make room for it in my already otherwise full kitchen. Also, until recently, I’ve been anti-collection. Collections of tea cups, beanie babies, blue glass, quilts and a dozen other nicknacks grace my parent’s home. To me, they seem like yet another shelf to dust. To my mother, they are a life of decorating a home with things that she finds beautiful.

In contrast, I own little. I dust rarely. I like to think I could flee in the night in my car and get 95% of what I love materially in the trunk.

pillow cases

That said, I’ve decided a collection of cake stands — think depression era glass and other prized antiques — would be perfect to display on top of the fridge. Alas, I didn’t find a single one. I did find champagne glasses and racks and racks of vintage linens, many of which are hand embroidered. I had a hard time deciding which to purchase and had to be mindful of how I would use them. (Also, it made a sad to think of the linen closet cleaned out after an older woman’s death and dropped off at this store. There was so much fine needlework discarded and I couldn’t help but think of the many happy events where these linens had graced the table.) I wanted to take home all three racks. But where would I store them? And really, how many embroidered napkins does one girl need?

veva!

Apparently the answer is 11, including two from Vera’s line and several that happen to be embroidered with my last initial. Any guesses on the grand total for: 1 vintage Pucci-inspired apron, 2 embroidered pillow cases, 11 napkins, 2 table cloths, 2 embroidered bread cloths and 11 champagne glasses? (And a partridge in a pear tree…)

With the $4 I spent on Oxiclean to get these babies back in bright white shape: $40. Giddyup.

tiny

Roses

Everything for the Spring Party is coming up roses, and I hope there is a sweet little old lady looking down from above and smiling wildly that her artful hard work is being celebrated.

~K

A Caroling We Went

Last 2008 Community Dinner

BEFORE: And the commotion begins. I took on a bit too much for this dinner; from beginning to end, it took about six hours to prepare and clean up afterward.

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Aztec squash soup

Aztec squash soup

Turkey chile

Turkey chile

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Buttermilk biscuits

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Carbs o’ plenty

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AFTER: phew.

Last night’s communiy dinner menu included: crockpot turkey chile, aztec squash soup, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, carrot cake, brownies, homemade hot chocolate with candy canes and marshmallows and a partridge in a pear tree. The prep for this dinner took quite a bit of time, but it was well worth it. There was plenty of food, lots of cheer and even a dozen friends who stuck around to go caroling afterward. We walked through the neighborhood singing a variety of tunes completely off key and completely enjoying ourselves. We agreed the night was well worth embarrassing ourselves when we came to a house where an older gentleman opened the door and his wife, bald from what we guessed was cancer treatment, cheered us on.

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

We spread a bit of cheer and walked off those calories in the process. I had a lot of fun and am really thankful for my friends. I realized last night as we tromped through the street that I have some incredible people in my life, willing to do the ridiculous to make me happy.

Jars of Renewal: Sweet Treats

Jars of Renewal: Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Jars of Renewal: Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Jars of Renewal: Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Jars of Renewal: Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Jars of Renewal: Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds

Do you have men in your life who you want to treat to homemade gifts but who recoil at the thought of anything crafted? Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of those too. I’ve spent way, way too much time and energy in the past trying to change their minds with felted pencil holders, embroidered pot holders, and even a man bag or two. I haven’t known my audience well.

When J asked me last week if I’d ever heard of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, I knew what the next Jars of Renewal project would be. Jason is the husband of one of my best friends and father to a small cadre of children who I adore. He is also the brains behind the design of this site and worthy of all the tailored spoiling I can muster.

I bought a large jar of roasted sunflower seeds, two large dark chocolate Hershey’s bars and threw them together on a cookie sheet. This then went in the freezer for an hour and then I carefully broke the pieces apart by hand before filling the jars. A simple, salty-sweet treat I’m guessing most men (women, children, monkeys) would love.

~K

Emerald, Lime, Olive, Kelly

Fall in DC

DC was excellent; I had such a great time at the Green Festival with Mike and Sam. Let me tell you — these two know how to hosts guests.

The Tuck's home

The adorable Tuck home.

They not only drove me around for three days, set up a hotel room in the city so we could walk and enjoy our time without worrying about driving back to the burbs, and spoiled me silly with chocolates on the pillow, awesome food and gobs of time, but they did so graciously. They didn’t make me feel like a guest, but like someone they’d really been looking forward to seeing and I couldn’t be more thankful. We also spent a night in Georgetown singing Billy Joel songs at a piano bar, surrounded by hot men in suits. (Seriously, DC? Good work on the men. Well-dressed eye candy abounds.)
It was a blast, and I’m pretty sure everyone within a five-foot distance — as far as my shouting voice could carry over the piano — knew that there were no such venues in Maricopa County. Phoenix, we need a piano bar, lots of Billy Joel and more suit-worthy weather.

Green festival, DC

Spicy chicken wrap with local veggie salad: $10. This was about three bites and the one thing I’d change about the festival was the commercial angle. They charged $1 for a cup of water — as in they charged you for the cup and then you used the faucet. Pretty silly.

Felted hippie bag in action

Africankelli bag being rocked at the festival by Ms. Sam.

Green Festival, DC

Books for sale a the fest. I didn’t buy any books. I spent my cash on an ionized foot detox instead. The photos are here, but be forewarned, they are horrifying.

We also heard Marion Nestle and Amy Goodman speak. Nestle is one of my public health heroines and she did not disappoint. Goodman gave me an entirely new perspective of the media. I learned gobs and felt right at home with my fellow Birkenstock-wearing, earth-loving, tree-hugging friends.

Green Festival, DC

My notebook, ready for some Marion Nestle insight…

Green festival, DC

Dr. Nestle, who within five minutes of taking the stage made me reconsider everything I eat. In a nutshell: the US now imports the majority of our foods (and preservatives and pharmaceuticals) from China, India and Mexico — noteworthy because of their lack of quality control in areas such as preservatives and pharmaceuticals. Or so she and the recent dog food/melamine/baby formula scandals would suggest. Scary. Her talk made me sit up straight and think of all the foods I’d eaten in the last two hours that had countless preservatives, most of which probably came from an unregulated source. Yikes. Time to make some serious pantry changes.

In response, we decided not to go out for dinner after the conference. Instead we celebrated with a homemade meal and lots of local incredients:

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Roast acorn squash filled with apples and garlic…

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples
roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Turkey, sage and squash simmering with onion and olive oil.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, sage and apples

Voila — the perfect meal to end a fantastic weekend. We included local Tarara wine, which was excellent.

There is certainly something to eating fresh, local and eventually vegan.

Three cheers to the Tuckers at Washington DC. I’m smitten.

~K

Jars of Renewal: Halloween

Jars of Renewal: Halloween
Jars of Renewal: Halloween
Jars of Renewal: Halloween
Jars of Renewal: Halloween
Jars of Renewal: Halloween
Jars of Renewal: Halloween

I have two friends who are new moms and have been saving their baby food jars for me. I have a vision of making a path of tea light luminaries through my garden this winter. In the meantime, we are all about celebrating autumn, pumpkins and cooler weather for the time being. $4 later, I have treats for today’s staff meeting. Jars of Renewal recycled jar count: 40+.

~K

P.S. If you are thinking about the holidays, buying small, supporting artisans and local business — check out Funky Finds. Jess does such a fantastic job with finding the coolest handmade stuff online. If you have a second, check out the site and drop her a line. She is a great girl in need of some much deserved support.

Jars of Renewal: Pumpkin Style

Jars of Renewal: the perfect October project

Wondering what to do with all those pumpkin seeds coming out of your jack-o-lantern? May I make a suggestion, including using up a few more of those jars we’re recycling? Wash and dry the seeds {handy instructions} and then consider throwing them into a batch of granola. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and you are keeping them out of the trash, or compost, by enjoying them toasted instead.

Jars of Renewal: the perfect October project
Jars of Renewal: the perfect October project
Jars of Renewal: the perfect October project


This is my go-to granola recipe.
I simply substituted the coconut and craisins for the pumpkin seeds and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Voila — a fabulous snack that has my coworkers and neighbors skipping this week. {Alrighty, it may be the cooler weather we’ve been dreaming about for months and not the granola, but still. Lots of skipping, smiling, and thanking the weather Gods in Phoenix this week!}

Jars of Renewal: the perfect October project

~Kelli

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Jars of Renewal Tag

So, you are going celebrating a three-day fabulous summer weekend with a BBQ. May I make a suggestion? Take an hour while the meat is marinating, the beer is cooling and the cake is in the oven to make homemade BBQ sauce. This is a family recipe that I can promise BBQ lovers will not soon forget.

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

My grandfather Trevor has been perfecting his BBQ sauce recipe for years, including many spent in Louisiana where he learned to master gumbo, crepes and a variety of other delicious plates we’ve come to expect at our truly eclectic family table. Plus, it freezes well and is another great way to use up some of those jars you’ve got hanging around — you know, the dusty ones in the back of the pantry.
Double the recipe and you’ll have two great Fall gifts ready to go. Just be sure to leave yourself a couple inches at the top of the jar before you stick it in the freezer. If you decide not to freeze your batch, the sauce will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Enjoy!

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Pap’s BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 green bell pepper
1 large celery stalk
1/4 white onion
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1/2 can of tomato juice
Cayenne pepper to taste

Jars of Renewal: Project 2
Jars of Renewal: Project 2
Jars of Renewal: Project 2

Directions:
Using a three-sided grater, or your food processor, finely grate the bell pepper, celery and onion. Put the oil in heavy pot on medium-high heat. Add the grated vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add sugar, vinegar, sauce and juice. Let simmer for 15 minutes and add cayenne and garlic powder. Taste and see if you want to kick it up with a bit more of each spice.
Let simmer for 40 minutes. If the sauce isn’t the thickness you desire, add 1/4 cup of corn starch to a cup of cold water and mix thoroughly before adding to sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully. Take off heat.

Adding a dash of liquid smoke is great too!

Jars of Renewal: Project 2

~K

P.S. Big thanks to Miss Colleen for yet another kind, thoughtful and creative logo! Please feel free to download it here and use it for your own Jar of Renewal projects.

Jars of Renewal — Limoncello

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The first jars of renewal project requires a bit of time to prepare — hence its place in the lineup. The December 2007 issue of Sunset magazine featured a myriad of ideas on what to do with all those lemons us living in the southwestern US would soon be seeing. Sure enough, John’s tree was brimming. With a rosemary limoncello recipe in hand, I harvested dozens of lemons. I had to laugh out loud when later in the year he mentioned he thought the tree was sick because it didn’t produce as much fruit this year. I reassured him that in fact it produced more than ever. I was, um, just using them.
Hey! He’s a bachelor. It’s not like he was sort for a lemon meringue pie. Plus, I’m thinking he’d love what I turned those golden babies into.

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Rosemary Limoncello
“Italy’s Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for this intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an after-dinner drink.”

Prep and cook time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 weeks and up to 80 days of infusing time.
Makes: 10 2/3 cups (ten 8.5 ounce bottles)

Notes: Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe. To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you’ll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

Ingredients:
18 lemons, washed and dried
One 4-inch rosemary sprig, washed and dried
2 bottles (750 ml each) 100-proof vodka
4 1/2 cups of sugar

Peel lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler, taking only the zest and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1 gal glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar. Pour 750 ml of vodka over rosemary and zest. Seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days. (This is a great time to go to Africa, for example.) In a saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Leg sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml of vodka over lemon-vodka mixture. Stir and seal. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

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That’s Sunset’s way. My way includes using what you have — two sprigs of rosemary, a giant tupperware container for the mixing and leaving the lemons in the bottles at the end because I think they are pretty and add character. Oh, and I tried peeling them and it was a disaster including skinned knuckles. So the rind stayed on most of these suckers.

To fill and then jazz up the bottles, you’ll need a couple supplies:
Several wide-mouth jars with tight lids, tongs, a funnel, a ladle, fabric, cards, ribbon, pinking shears and rubber bands.

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COAR 027
COAR 026
COAR 031
COAR 030
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Voila — fancied up moonshine ready to go in recycled jars. If lemons aren’t in your pantry at the moment, I’m thinking this would also be great with oranges or even Mexican-style with limes. Spicy! If you try it out, let me know. I’d love to hear how you play with the recipe.

Official jar count: 7

~K