a simpler sound.

Simple dinner staples: Red Lentils with ras el hanout and rainbow carrots.


Yes, this may look like baby food to the untrained eye.

But in reality, in this mush of food lies a perfect combination of red lentils, rainbow carrots, onion, garlic, and ras el hanout.  The last ingredient has become one of my most coveted ingredients [thanks to this guy], mostly because it turns any blah dish into a thing of beauty [and tastiness].

I threw this together one late night midweek, when I wasn't in the mood to cook, but also had no interest in just eating chips and salsa for dinner.  Out came a completely simple, but hearty dish [or side accompaniment to grilled chicken, pork, fish, etc. etc.].  I highly recommend trying this the next time you need to throw something together quickly, or just have a hankering for something left of center. Also, I can't say this enough...absolutely invest in ras el hanout- it's essential for this dish!

Recipe:

1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup diced carrots [I love using rainbow carrots, mainly for their color, but also for their sweetness]
1/4 cup diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout [or more to your preference]
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium and cook the onions and garlic, for a couple minutes until softened. Add the ras el hanout, and water and heat.  Once simmering, add the lentils and bring to a boil.  Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in your favorite bowl.

Serves 4





2013: T-minus 12 days to HOME-A-GEDDON!



I've been out of pocket for TWO months now, and it feels like just a blip on the calendar, even though so much has happened!  

Since my last post, I

...traveled to Germany to visit family
...with a side trip to Paris [posts on my travels to follow]
...traveled to New York for work
...helped good friends move into their new, beautiful home
...with some design consultation and business planning on the side
...AND raised a completely adorable puppy named Watson [he's a handful, but a lovable one!]

What's preoccupied my time more than anything else has been the process of designing an entirely new house [well not exactly, but pretty darn close].  

From initial conception, to architectural plans, to re-designing [again and again and then one more time], to permitting [and praying], to slowly packing away the house, to scouting and purchasing plumbing, lighting, tile, furniture, floors, fabrics, to...

12 days [or maybe a few days sooner!] from now, the contractor and his crew will set up camp to: demolish, rebuild, add on, and [hopefully!] finish my house.  The planned completion date is sometime in June [fingers and toes and legs and arms crossed that we stick to this deadline!]. That's FOUR months of mayhem!

One of my favorite places in the world will be completely transformed, nearly doubling the size of my house! I don't think I've been more excited and engrossed [and terrified!] by anything quite so much as this project. I know things will get worse before they get better, but it will absolutely be worth it in the end.

Stay tuned...






What I've been [REALLY] busy doing...whole house renovation anyone?


I don't exactly know how it started, but it's been on my mind since I bought my house four years ago.  Being an early 20th century craftsman bungalow, my home has got oodles of charm and character, but not much in the way of space.  I always knew going up and finishing my attic space was part of the plan, since it was a major selling feature of my house with its unusually high ceilings [most attics, you're lucky to even stand upright in them, and my attic has 13+ foot ceilings...not too shabby].  

I was in the running for being part of a major HGTV renovation a few months back, and their plan was in fact to renovate the attic, which would have been amazing.  Unfortunately, we didn't make the cut.  But the idea was now implanted, and the cogs in my head were turning at such a rapid rate, I couldn't help but try and see if I could pull off this project myself.  

The biggest impetus for going big is my home is now becoming a family compound, where my Mom will also live long term, and hopefully other family members will come and stay over the years.  I also like to play imaginary big family [yeah, I'm TOTALLY Ted from How I Met Your Mother]. In the meantime, my brood consists of my two dogs and two cats [I think my only child syndrome is at fault for this]. 

Since I'm [sort of] an interior designer these days, I've been HEAVILY involved with this project.  I actually had a significant hand in the design of the attic renovation, as well as the small addition on the back end of the house [the part of the renovation that is turning out to be what I'm most excited about!] 

Even though I'm not a licensed architect or interior designer, I was able to work very closely with my architect, sending him scale drawings of what I had in mind, and he's now finishing up the final construction plans. Upon approval by the city [fingers crossed], the construction will begin as early as mid January [SO exciting, but slightly terrifying!] so I've been working 'round the clock, making decisions about plumbing and lighting and woodwork and space planning and AHH!  We've had many sleepless nights about this project, but it will dramatically change our lives for the better once completed. 

Check out the preliminary design plans above, though they've changed here and there, because I'm constantly coming up with new ideas and creative ways to make the house more functional and beautiful.  Over the coming months, I can't wait to take you through the entire process of this renovation. Hopefully by April [our predicted completion date], I'll have something my family and I can truly be proud of.

My foodie-talk hero: Alex Guarnaschelli.


For years, I watched cooking shows religiously.  I basically learned how to cook as a teen by following the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. These days, I do love me some Top Chef, and while I cook, I'll have the occasional throwback episode of Giada, Ina or Nigella [they're like my long time girlfriends] on in the background.

One reason I stopped watching most cooking shows is because after a while, the TV personalities start to all sound nearly identical and it becomes somewhat monotonous. A college drinking game could be made out of the Sandra Lee show- ALL she ever says is that her food has "great flavor."  There's literally no other phrase she can think of to describe her food and it drives me insane! I literally avoid using 'flavor' in my everyday vernacular because of this. And don't even get me started on her semi-homemade Kwanzaa cake!! [mini-rant]

My love for cooking shows has been revived with most recent addiction, chef Alex Guarnaschelli's show, Alex's Day Off.  

She's a celebrity in the culinary world, and is currently the executive chef of two New York City restaurants, Butter and The Darby, but I so dearly hope she gets into the food-writing business!

What I find so refreshing about Alex's show is her incredible way with words.  There's nothing like smelling and tasting a dish to truly familiarize yourself with cooking a meal, but when a screen comes between you and the cook, the only two ways to 'taste' the food is through sight and sound.  Alex tells a story about the ingredients she uses and the recipes she cooks that's unlike anyone I've ever seen on a culinary show [with the possible exception of Nigella Lawson- she's fantastic!].

Alex has a fantastic way with metaphors.  She'll compare mozzarella to a "quiet friend at a cocktail party, who needs a couple drinks before they get interesting."  When describing the making of dulce de leche, she compares the process to "a conservative person in their cardigan sweater who minutes later rips off that sweater to reveal themselves." I absolutely love it! My favorite line of hers is "when you pull up your dress just to show a little bit of slip" to describe the bit of cheese that oozes out of a pressed sandwich. Some might find these descriptions a bit garish, but I think they're fantastic! Her way with words gives such an alluring visual of her food, and makes me want to jump right into the kitchen.

I've been waiting for Chef Guarnaschelli to come out with a cookbook, or frankly, any kind of book, because I'm fairly sure she could make burnt toast mouthwatering!

Holiday Eating Tip: Don't forget to eat your greens!


Over-eating becomes entirely too easy at this time of year.  There's an embarrassment of decadence at ever meal.  [My fridge currently has THREE different baked desserts in it, and that's just not okay.]

One way to lighten the heavy handed eating this time of year is through making healthy choices, particularly with all things green. I'm not a big vegetable eater, and I blame that on my early years dealing with "severe-picky-eater syndrome."

Over the years, I've learned to love the green stuff through learning how to cook them properly and with bold flavors.  This recipe is one I've perfected, and I can confidently use the word "perfect" because I literally can eat an entire bowl of these green beans [or string beans as they're referred to in New York], and there's something to be said about that feat.

This recipe paired well with my Thanksgiving meal, but it's quick enough to throw together for any weeknight meal.

My best time-saving tip is to have your shallots sliced [or minced] ahead of time and stored in the fridge [you can do this a few days in advance].  Shallots make me cry more than anything else [yes, even more than The Notebook] so I like to prep three or four at a time, and get all my sobbing out at once.

I also like to have a jar of nuts [this recipe uses slivered almonds, but walnuts work well too] toasted ahead of time, since that just saves you a step and again this ingredient can be used in a number of recipes.

I added some crisped, diced bacon at the last minute, because I had forgotten to use it in a soup I had made earlier in the week, and just had it sitting in the fridge. Typically, I don't use bacon, but just a bit makes all the difference.

Sauteed Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds

1/2lb. green beans, trimmed [I used local greens from NC]
1 shallot, thinly sliced [I was using diced shallots in two other dishes this Thanksgiving, so I just prepped them all in a fine dice]
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted [I like using A LOT of almonds, since they turn these beans into a much more filling dish, and help me stave off the third serving of mashed potatoes...]
1TBsp. olive oil [I like to use a good quality one here, since you really taste it]
1TBsp. unsalted butter [you can also omit the butter and double up on olive oil]
3TBsp. diced bacon, crisped [optional]
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the green beans for five minutes.  Submerge in an ice water bath for a couple minutes.  While you wait for the beans to cool, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat in a frying pan. Add shallots and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.  Drain the beans and dry thoroughly.  Raise the heat to medium-high and add the beans, sauteeing for 3-5 minutes.  Add the toasted almonds and cooked bacon and toss to combine.  Garnish or toss with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  

Holiday Drinks: Pom-Germain Champagne Cocktail.


Any special occasion [especially one with a big meal attached to it] isn't complete until you have the perfect cocktail to complement it. This Thanksgiving, I went with a simple, straightforward cocktail, with a bit of a twist. I combined pomegranate juice and prosecco [but any sparkling wine works well] and added a splash of St. Germain liqueur to the mix.

St. Germain is a French liqueur made from elderflower berries found in the alps.  It's described as having notes of pear, lemon, orange, and passionfruit.  I definitely taste the pear, but I actually find it tastes more like a late harvest dessert  wine I'd brought back from Napa a few years ago.  

Long story short...it's delicious! The combination was nice and bright, and not terribly sweet, so it cut through the heaping mounds of mashed potatoes and turkey on my plate. Here's the recipe- I highly recommend it!

Pom-Germain Champagne [or prosecco!] Cocktail

1/2-1oz. St. Germain Liqueur
2oz. 100% Pomegranate Juice
6oz. Champagne [I used prosecco, but any good sparkling wine will do]
Sliced Orange

Add the St. Germain and pomegranate juice to the glass and swirl. Top with champagne and garnish with a slice of orange.




Dough Therapy: the art of making pie.


Flour. Butter. Water.

Just a handful of ingredients can create the most incredible, flaky pie crust. There's something so therapeutic about the process of making a dough.  It's all in the cool temperature and the gentle process of rolling, rotating, adding flour, and rolling again.

The only reason I don't make pies on a daily basis is because I know how much butter goes into that crust, and I might not make it past 60 if I ate as much as I'd like. Using butter with wild abandon is not my typical modus operandi, but every once in a while, everyone needs pie. 

Here, you can see an up close look at 'dough therapy' from this Thanksgiving [special thanks to my Mom for being the on-hand photographer while I cooked] and the completed [and utterly decadent] apple pie with marzipan [recipe to come later in the week].












For the love of cheese: putting together a cheese board.


I'm fairly certain the only thing keeping me from becoming a vegan is my undying love for cheese.  There is nothing that can substitute it, nothing that can replace that perfect combination of salty and creamy.  I don't discriminate.  I've never met a cheese I didn't like [though there are certainly some I prefer over others]. 

For this Thanksgiving, I decided to handle the lunch/pre-dinner snacking with a cheese board.  I really don't do this enough, but it's entirely too easy to put together.  If I'm having a party, I usually like to choose cheeses I know well and thoroughly enjoy.  In the same way I wouldn't try a new recipe on guests, I wouldn't want to spend money on a cheese I haven't tasted.  Thankfully, if you go to a great cheese shop [or in my case, Whole Foods], the cheese mongers are so knowledgable and do a phenomenal job choosing cheeses for you, and will let you taste before you buy.  

While I was doing my Thanksgiving grocery shopping, I was inspired by this small basket of goodies, also known as "Cheese Orphans." This is by far the most affordable way to put together a cheese board, or just test a new cheese at home.  Every wedge of cheese is less than $3 and they're just a delicious as their larger counterparts.


I grabbed one of everything. I couldn't help myself! I didn't use every cheese, since typically with a cheese board, I like to keep it to only three or four selections.

By far, my favorite cheese was a Parrano, which is a cow's milk cheese from The Netherlands.  It's incredibly salty, but also buttery with a hint of sweetness.  Surprisingly, it tastes quite a bit like an aged parmesan, but is only aged for five months and is quite affordable.

I decided to pair this cheese with some of my simple homemade cranberry sauce [I'll post this recipe later in the week], since I figured the salty bite would balance well with the sweet, citrus hints of my cranberry sauce.  






Mahón was another cheese I sliced for my board [seen on the left in the below photo], which is a Spanish [specifically from the island of Minorca] cow's milk cheese.  A fairly firm chesse, this one is much more subtle in flavor, and I think would work better in a sandwich, next time around.  But it too tasted yummy with the cranberry sauce and a slice of apple [which also made a debut on my board, since I had a few extra slices leftover from my pie. 


I also snagged a small portion [not from the Cheese Orphans bin] of one of my all time favorites, Gorgonzola Dolce, an Italian mild blue that is incredibly sweet, and pairs perfectly with caramelized onions [I used a jar of my go-to store bought variety].  One thing I should note, I like to bring my cheeses to room-temperature, so I leave them out for about an hour before serving. 

I paired this board with a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Doyac. My friend, who is a wine specialist at Whole Foods, gives me a wealth of information on wine, and helped me choose this particular bottle for Thanksgiving [slightly pricier than my normal, but it was for a holiday after all...]

Finally, some Marcona almonds and rice crackers rounded out this perfect pre-Thanksgiving snack.


Why does it have to be cold in Boston? Memories of New England.


The temperature has dropped 24 degrees. This can only mean one thing...

I must be in BOSTON!

I'm here for a mini college reunion, since it's been almost 2 years since I've been back [I think? Time has a funny way of getting away from me these days...] and as I sit here drinking my mocha, I recall my love/hate relationship with New England.  The love can be found in these photos, which were actually taken in Maine five or six years ago in the summertime.  Even though they're not of Boston, I posted them because they remind me of how beautiful it is up here, and how wonderful a city Boston can be.

I need these photographic reminders, since I just completed 20 minutes of waiting in the freezing, windy rain for a bus, which then took me to the T, which then proceeded to take me over an hour [public transportation should NEVER take this long, but that's the charm of Boston, right?] to arrive at my present location; a neighborhood close to my alma mater, where I'll be staying with a friend.  As I walked to the cafe I'm hunkering down at for a few hours while I wait for her to get home from work, I actually trudged through a bit of slushy snow. SNOW.

Just yesterday I was out running around with the new puppy [I'll get to that news another time..] in a t-shirt and shorts.  Therein lies the 'hate' of my love/hate relationship with Boston.  I've grown really accustomed to the warmer climate of Atlanta, and I've become nothing short of a pansy when it comes to the frigid, grey north.  There's a reason why only college kids thrive up here.  I used to walk around in my Rainbows and a hoodie well into February without batting an eyelash.  It must have been all that Natty Lite that kept us warm at night [kidding...sort of...]. Now, I've resorted to four layers, plus a scarf.  I'll admit, that was a bit excessive, since I had to immediately shed several layers once I was safely in the belly of South Station. 

Okay, rant over.


I really do love it here, and I'm so thankful I get to be back here, even just for a few days.





Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars.



I may never buy another another granola bar ever again.  I did some digging around, and compiled ideas from various recipes, eventually evolving them into my own concoction.  I modeled these after my favorite store bought variety. Naturally [or well, unnaturally] store bought bars have all kinds of ingredients that aren't necessary or good for you, despite them all having the predisposed idea of being healthy. I used only ingredients I had around the house, and lucky for me, I keep a good variety of nuts in stock [not a reference to me or my family's insanity], as well as seeds and grains.

I'm insanely proud of these bars, since they're incredibly filling, healthy and delicious. 


  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars
Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds [optional]
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, whisked [optional, but acts as a binder, which allows you to use less butter]
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter [I use Skippy because I'm still 10 years old, but natural peanut butter would amp up the health factor in this recipe - natural = less sugar]
  • 1/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions


Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
In a small saucepan melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring.
In a large bowl stir together oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well. Add the egg whites and stir until combined.
On a large baking sheet, [if you have a silpat sheet, use it!] spread the granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5-10 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. 
Cool the granola and place in a large bowl.
Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is at a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the granola, stirring to coat well. Cool slightly and add in chocolate chips. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let cool completely and harden. Cut the mixture into bars and serve at room temperature.

Easy Comfort Food: Hodge Podge Macaroni + Cheese.

With the blustering winds that brought chilly weather prematurely to Atlanta for the past week, I've been on a comfort food kick, stocking up my fridge with my favorite soups, stews, and most importantly with a big platter of macaroni and cheese.  There's just nothing like homemade, and it's insanely simple to throw together.  The secret is in the cheese, and this is a perfect time to get rid of the last bits left in the fridge [hence the name 'hodge podge', which then naturally gives me a good excuse to buy more! 

Hodge Podge Macaroni + Cheese.

Béchamel Sauce [taken from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home]

[this will make more sauce than you need, which I like to reserve and use later in the week for a baked chicken dish or broccoli-cheese casserole]


3 TBsp unsalted butter
3 TBsp all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 TBsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper

My added ingredients:

1 tsp white truffle oil [optional, not everyone loves truffles- but I can't get enough!]
12-14 oz cheese, shredded and/or crumbled
[I happened to have sharp yellow cheddar and goat cheese in the fridge, so that's what I used, but I've literally used every cheese I can think of [with the exception of a blue or gorgonzola- they're too overpowering to mix with other cheeses]

1/2 lb elbow macaroni


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan [I use my Le Creuset cast iron braiser] over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the béchamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the béchamel doesn't burn. In the last 15 minutes of reducing the sauce, bring water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni to al dente.


If you have a fine mesh strainer, strain the béchamel into another bowl, and then return it to the saucepan. Straining is optional since it helps to create a more velvety [not velveeta!] consistency.  Add the truffle oil and cheese and whisk to combine. Add enough sauce to the macaroni [not all of it, as this is a double recipe for sauce] and you're done!

I sometimes like to add buttered bread crumbs to the top and bake off the macaroni in the oven for several minutes, but this time, I was starving and just dug right in.  Yum.




This is how I've felt all week...


Sometimes people say dogs and their owners start to look alike.  I'm pretty sure Kona likes to mimic me, especially when I'm feeling under the weather and I'm hunkered down on the couch.  Here's Kona, perfectly content in the late morning sun, tongue out, and eyes glazed over. It's amazing to me how she can go from being completely rambunctious, running laps around me in the backyard with no end, to being a complete bump on a log, appearing to be comatose.  Like mother, like daughter.

Happy weekend!

Layering Flavors: Turkey Meatballs with marsala sauteed mushrooms, wilted arugula and brown rice with a spicy parsley sauce.


Whenever I go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, I'm always hyper aware of two things: the presentation and the depth of flavors. I'm the type of cook who loves throwing things together on the fly and as quickly as possible.  That sort of cooking typically involves a lot of one pot [or pan] cooking, and not the most artful presentation when all is said and done. 

I do occasionally get inspired to push my usual boundaries a bit and try creating slightly more complex meals.  I still made this recipe off the cuff, with ingredients I already had in the fridge and garden. When I was making this dish, I realized as I was jotting down notes, how tough it must be to write a cook book with more complex recipes.  This was fairly simple, but since I used a number of ingredients and cooked them all separately, it was fairly laborious to write down.  So here's the run through of my new dish and I apologize for the wordiness in advance!

Turkey Meatballs with marsala sauteed mushrooms, wilted arugula and brown rice with a spicy parsley sauce. 

Ingredients

2 cups arugula, cleaned and dried
1 cup brown rice


For the mushrooms:
2 TBsp unsalted butter
1 TBsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced [with some removed for meatballs]
3-5 garlic cloves, minced [with some removed for meatballs]
1lb. white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/4 cup water [or chicken broth, I was just out at the time]

For the meatballs:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
1 TBsp of diced shallots [see above]
1 tsp of minced garlic [see above]
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon parsley, minced


For the spicy parsley sauce:
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, cleaned and stems removed
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes [or more if you like the heat]
salt and pepper, to taste


Directions

Make the brown rice according to directions on box [takes about 45 minutes so you want to take care of this first- unless you're using instant]

When cooking the mushrooms, find the widest pan you have, since the mushrooms shouldn't crowd the pan.  I actually still don't have a large enough pan to cook a decent sized amount of mushrooms, so you can always cook them in batches, and in that case, just split the butter and oil in half and reserve half the shallots and garlic for the second batch.

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic, allowing them to soften for 2-3 minutes. Raise heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, making sure all sides are coated by the butter mixture.  Leave them alone and allow them to sauté until they begin to brown, 5-10 minutes. After at least five minutes, move the mushrooms around allow both sides to brown.

Remove them from the pan [I placed them in my warming drawer, but you can also just cover with foil to retain the heat] and add the marsala wine and water, scraping the brown bits off the bottom and allowing it to thicken, about 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, start on the meatballs. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat and combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and form into small, golf sized balls. Once oil is hot, add to the pan and brown, turning them every so often to ensure an even crust, about 10 minutes total. 


While the meatballs brown, put together the spicy parsley sauce. [I used my food processor for this, but you can create this with a good knife and a whisk as well.] Place all ingredients, except for oil in the food processor and pulse a few times until combined.  Then drizzle oil through top while the processor is running, just until the ingredients combine, about 10-20 seconds. 

Once the sauce has thickened slightly, pour it over the mushrooms, reserving a bit in the pan.  Place the arugula in the pan with the remaining sauce and allow it to wilt slightly.  

Then, all that's left to do is assemble all the ingredients.  Check out how I layered everything below! 

Serves 2-3








Designing my new office: DIY Tack Board.


Now that I'm seriously getting into the design business, I need a dedicated space to work on projects, and one day [fingers crossed!] meet with clients.  The third bedroom of my house is located right off the front door, and is wide open to the street and our parking pad.  I can't ever legitimately using the space as a bedroom, but it makes the perfect spot for a home office.

I'm far from finished, since I still need to space plan and figure out creative ways to organize samples [fabric, buttons, countertops, and other goodies] as well as paperwork.  One thing I knew I wanted was a simple tack board to pin any important notes or samples, and have it easily accessible to my desk.

Just because I need a simple tack board in no way means it should look simple.  I thought it might be fun to try and create one myself, since even a plain old cork board can be a bit pricey [$30+ and not so attractive].  I don't have photos of the process [I threw it together so quickly, I completely forgot to document how completed it!] but here's a rundown of how to create this yourself!

Fabric Tack Board

Materials:
Wood Frame: $5 [I found mine at a thrift store and it has such great vintage character]
Cardboard: FREE! [this needs to at least the size of the frame, or slightly larger.  I used a box from a mirror I ordered, but you can also find free cardboard boxes at your local liquor store]
Fabric $5 [I found this bold, graphic fabric at a great deal at Lewis & Sheron, and only needed about a half yard
Industrial Stapler $20 [of course you don't need to factor in this cost if you already own one, but I HIGHLY recommend having one of these around- they can be used for a million different projects]
nails [you likely have these around the house, and they're just pennies anyway, so no cost factor necessary here]
Hammer [I imagine you have one of these too!]

Cut 2-3 panels of cardboard to fit just beyond the opening of the frame, about a quarter inch.  This will give you enough room to attach the cardboard to the wood frame at the end.  

Cut the fabric larger than the cardboard, allowing for at least 3 inches excess on each side.

Lay your cardboard panels and fabric on top of additional cardboard or on a work surface that can take a beating [sometimes staples will make their way too far through the layers of cardboard, and could puncture your work surface, so be careful!]

Start with one corner and pull fabric taught and staple as close to the edge of the cardboard [this will ensure that if any staples punch through, this won't be visible once the board is attached to the frame]

You don't need to overdo it on the staples, maybe just one every 3 or 4 inches until you've made your way around the entire board. 

Once the board is completely covered, all that's left is to lay the board on top of the back side of the frame, and nail each corner [and a couple additional nails depending on the size of your board- for mine I used 8 nails total]

And there you have it, a beautiful, functional backboard that's customized to your exact design aesthetic! This took me only 30 minutes, and has already made such a difference in my office.



Atlanta Street Art: on The Beltline.


A small street art sign marking The Beltline. I'm beginning to see these pop up all over the city.


A couple weeks back I was finally able to snag a seat on the elusive bus tour of The Beltline.  If you're not from Atlanta, The Beltline is a major undertaking by the city with the goal of connecting the many neighborhoods of Atlanta with light rail transit while also bringing green space to neighborhoods in need of it. The entire Beltline will be over 22 miles long, becoming one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the United States!

 The tour I went on was almost three hours long, and took me to neighborhoods I never even knew existed. I tend to stick to my little bubble of Atlanta [probably within a 4 mile radius of my house], and finally after four years, I'm beginning to branch out! Here are just a few quick photos I took of some street art I found along the tour. I was able to learn a bit about some of the art, and the stories of those who created it.  It's amazing how much culture and history this city has, and how I've barely scratched the surface.

A great little walkthrough park that's flanked by a beautiful wall of art that reminds me of a Suzani textile.
This wall was painted by a Christian community center in Pittsburgh [not PA] and spans almost an entire city block.
I didn't get any information on this, but it was my absolute favorite piece.  I took a bunch of photos, but unfortunately the bus was moving so quickly, most of them were blurry and not worth posting.  I'd love to come back to it and find out the story behind it.
This wall mural was done by the community [both kids and adults] of this neighborhood [the name of which is alluding me]. It tells the history of this area, spanning from the time of Native Americans all the way to present day.

Fabric Hunting on a budget: $9.99 or less.

I recently purchased my first sewing machine [we had one as a kid, but sewing machines have really come a long way!] and my first upholstery stapler [my now preferred weapon of choice].  I'm on the hunt for fabrics to start some new projects.  My favorite stomping grounds are Forsyth Fabrics and Lewis & Sheron Fabrics, both of which are located in the Westside of Atlanta, a neighborhood jam packed with everything a designer needs.  

Since I'm pretty green when it comes to sewing, I wanted to pick up some fabrics on the affordable side [so if I botch them up, I'm not throwing hundreds of dollars into the scrap pile].  This time I headed to Lewis & Sheron, and told myself I would only purchase fabrics under $10.  The projects I was shopping for were: a chair seat, bulletin board, and curtains. It's amazing how fabrics and colors can really inspire an entire room, even when on a budget! 

All four of these fabrics are $9.99/yard and coordinate so well together. Although I love using color, I'm starting to lean towards using more neutrals, and layering in interesting patterns is a great way to add interest to a neutral palette.  
I LOVE all things chevron [although too much can make me a little dizzy] and I decided to pick up a yard of the bright pink pattern, since I thought it would coordinate well with my new multi colored chevron headboard [pictures to come soon!]
I don't normally love floral fabrics, but when they're large and graphic like this, you can't go wrong.  The grape purple really resonated with me [my early childhood bedroom was COVERED in purple] so I picked up a yard and decided to go with this as my bulletin board fabric.
The Greek key is a classic pattern, while also bringing a modern flair with its geometric lines.  It was a little busy for the projects I was working on, but I could definitely see using the dark grey or linen color in some upcoming projects.

This fabric with its tiny leaf design has a really delicate quality that I like.  I could see using this as an alternative to the traditional ticking stripe.  I almost considered this for curtains, but I was worried since the fabric was a bit stiff, and might not drape well alongside my windows.  


a bit about me.

[ Let's sift through the static to find a simpler sound. ]

I'm Jo Torrijos.  I cook and write, independently and simultaneously.  I'm fascinated by spaces and thrive on coming up with interesting ways to change them. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I could probably take a thousand pictures for every word I write. I love creativity, in all forms. 



My Living Room was selected for a color contest!


I'm excited to share here that my living room was selected for a contest on Apartment Therapy: Room for Color 2012!! I only found out late last night, and already I'm in third place in my category!  I shared this with my friends + family, but I would love to get the blog world involved too!

Check it out my room here!

If you already have an Apartment Therapy account, then voting is super simple, just click the 'favorite' button towards the bottom of my room's page [see photo below].  If you don't have an account, I know it can be a hassle to sign up, but I would be forever grateful and send you good thoughts [and cookies if you're convenient enough!].  All you need to do is click where it says 'Need an account? Sign up for free in minutes' [see below] and follow the directions.

I feel so lucky that I was picked right around the time I decide to really forge into the interior design world, and I would truly appreciate your support!  Wish me luck!


Retro + Vintage finds: Highland Row Antiques.

After Highland Row Antiques took off for a couple months from their usual first Saturday furniture extravaganza, I was so excited to see it back this October! I really have no need for any new furniture at the moment, so I knew this trip would be a tough one.  Restraint can be a real challenge, especially when I come across a good deal. I was SO close to making it out the door without a single purchase.  But I ultimately caved and snagged a chair that every other person was coveting [that's part of the thrill of these sales!].  It's now my favorite chair in the entire house! Here's a brief overview of some pieces I photographed.

Retro desk with a great pop of color, $175.  This could be used in a teen room or it could be dressed up to be part of a more adult space.  Who doesn't love apple green?
I'm on the hunt for a place to store fabric samples, and this vintage metal card catalog would fit the bill, it was just a little pricey at $150.
I absolutely loved the pattern on this vintage wingback chair.  The back of the chair was upholstered in a contrasting light green velvet. I don't have a spot for them now, but I would LOVE to have these, $285 for the pair.
I came across this bin of random fabrics, some that had old Hawaiian shirt designs, others that had Dr. Seuss characters. They would all make great framed wall art for a kids room! Prices varied, but they were very reasonable.
Another great pair of chairs, this time with a more Danish modern flair.  The fabric was actually really interesting, and had a great color palate, but they would make a really simple reupholstery job, $145 for the pair.
Despite my better judgement, I ended up buying a piece of furniture anyway! I just had to have this retro lounge chair [if it isn't obvious yet, I have a thing for chairs...] It has a solid wood frame, and a great sloped design with button tufting in the army green upholstery. You just don't see furniture pieces like this everyday with such unique lines. It was priced at just $85 because the upholstered section of the chair wasn't properly attached to the wood frame.  Once I took a look at it and knew I could fix it, I was sold.  On top of the fact, it seemed like a really plausible project for my foray into reupholstery, but for the meantime, it is THE most comfortable  chair in my house, hands down.

Restaurant Designs I love: Chaps.


I was introduced to Chaps last Christmas while I was visiting family in Spokane, Washington.  It's known for having amazing food and a really unique design.  Driving up to the front of the restaurant, I was completely blown away.  It's without a doubt the most eclectic, interesting establishment I've ever set my eyes on.  I literally took over a hundred photos of every nook and cranny of this place [even numerous photos of the bathroom- it was THAT good!] and it would take me several posts just to give you the official tour.  The place was made even more famous by a visit from Guy Fieri and his Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives [you can proof in the last photo].  This place has been impeccably curated by owner Celeste Shaw.  I had the privilege of meeting Celeste and chatting with her about her restaurant and design aesthetic, since it's very similar to my own.  Here are a  few photos I took upon entering Chaps [there's MANY more that I'll share later on]. 

Who would have thought to use the pages from old books and music as wallpaper?! 

Such a great use of vintage plates and platters in an arrangement over the fireplace.




Yes, that's a random old child's play kitchen.

Love the use of old frames around playing cards. 

Guy Fieri's stamp of approval.