Featuring…Feature Walls!

For those of us wanting to make a big statement on a small budget, a feature wall is a fabulous way to make a room “pop.” In the same spirit as the highly popular accent wall design concept of the 90s and 00s, the feature wall adds an element of interest to one wall in a room, creating a focal point that is both exciting and unique. You can add a touch of elegance or whimsy to any wall in any room in the house, in ways both large and small.

A few tips to keep in mind for your feature wall, no matter how large or small scale of a project you have in mind:

Dark=Drama- If you wish to add some drama to the room, go for a dark color for your feature wall. A charcoal, navy or black wall plays off of the surrounding lighter walls nicely and draws the eye directly to the space you wish to serve as the focal point of the room.

 

Consider Color Blocking- Who says feature walls have to be all one color? A nice striped or patterned color-blocking effect on the feature wall can create visual interest that mingles nicely with the surrounding wall colors. For example, you can set off solid colored surrounding walls with a feature wall that includes complementary colors so that the whole thing goes together. It is also a fun and popular idea to use wallpaper on the feature wall and let the colors of the wallpaper coordinate with the solid walls for a sense of harmony.

 

 

Feature Walls Can Be Functional- Especially in smaller living spaces, one fun idea might be to incorporate functionality into your feature wall. For example, you could use a massive bookshelf, vintage record player, family pictures or floating shelves with children’s toys on them as the primary focus of your feature wall, which not only will give great visual interest to the area but also provide an excellent storage space for these items. Additionally, this will give your living space a sense of your personality and let the wall speak for you. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Everyday Items to Clean Your Appliances

Who says cleaning products must be costly to clean effectively? Banish those harsh chemicals and pricey concoctions for good and keep your appliances beautiful using things you already have laying around in your kitchen. You will be amazed how you can keep all of your kitchen appliances sparkling clean and running like new, just by using things like:

 

Baking Soda-

While the uses for baking soda are seemingly limitless, baking soda has long been associated with deodorizing refrigerators. In fact, Arm and Hammer actually manufactures a special container that is designed to be stuck on the inside fridge wall and changed monthly. When it comes to deodorizing with baking soda, why stop at the refrigerator? It can be dusted along the bottom of the dishwasher, rubbed into a microwave with a damp cloth and sprinkled liberally down the garbage disposal, all with the same wonderful effect of eliminating kitchen odors.

 

Vinegar-

Baking soda’s time-honored partner in home cleaning remedies, white vinegar is useful for a variety of household tasks. One particularly inventive use of vinegar, mixed with an equal amount of water, is as an anti-grease agent to prevent buildup inside your oven. If you are concerned about the toxicity of bleach and other cleaning agents on the market, vinegar is a great, safe and eco-friendly alternative. It can be used to wipe down countertops and cabinets.

 

Tang-

The powdery orange drink originally designed for astronauts has a secret identity as a powerful dishwasher cleaner! Using Tang instead of dish detergent in a hot-water cycle can give the inside of the dishwasher an all-over clean, thanks to the acidity of the powder.

 

Coffee-

Another way to effectively eliminate odors in the refrigerator is to place a small bowl of coffee grounds on one of the fridge shelves, replacing every two months for best results. The best part- the grounds can even be used! Talk about recycling!

Brand of the Week: Samsung

In this day and age, the brand name Samsung immediately evokes images of outsize high-definition Galaxy smartphones. While it’s true that Samsung is holding firm as the leading manufacturer of Android smartphones, the brand itself has a long and storied history of developing and manufacturing diverse electronic products. In addition to the innovations Samsung has made in smartphone technology, the brand is synonymous with quality in TVs, home entertainment systems and computers. The household appliance division of Samsung is no exception: marrying form and functionality with technology, Samsung manufactures a variety of “smart home” appliances that turn any house into the home of the future.

Founded in Seoul, South Korea by Lee Byung-chul way back in 1938, Samsung was originally a trading company. Over the next 30 years, Samsung diversified into areas such as textiles, food processing and insurance. By the late 1960s, Samsung had entered the electronics industry and manufactured its first product- a black-and-white TV. Samsung focused primarily on TVs and other household electronics throughout the 1970s and 80s, and in 1974 manufactured its first refrigerator, opening the door to the household appliance industry.

Over the decades, Samsung’s commitment to technology and smart design have produced some very exciting appliances for the modern home. One such product is the Flex Duo Range with Dual Door™, a range that enables the user to cook two dishes simultaneously at different temperatures- a dream come true for Thanksgiving prep and other occasions that require an entrée and side dish to be prepared on the same timeline.

Another innovation guaranteed to make the modern homeowner’s life easier is the Samsung WA8700 Washer with activewash™. This top-loading washer is unlike any other on the market, boasting a built-in sink for pre-soaking and pre-treating stains. Additionally, the AquaJet® Deep Clean technology employed in this model cleans clothes deeply but gently, while the Super Speed cycle can cut wash time down to an unbelievable 36 minutes for a large load, without sacrificing the quality of the wash.

A 4-door refrigerator sounds like something straight out of The Jetsons, but the Samsung 4-Door Flex™ Refrigerator is for real. The energy-efficient, 23 cu. ft. counter-depth refrigerator features a Triple Cooling System which helps keep perishable fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer. Meanwhile, the Cool Select Plus is a bonus door to the right of the bottom freezer that can be used either as a fridge or a freezer, depending on the temperature selected by the user. This versatile door is ideal for storing frozen meats or casseroles, and then can be converted back to a fridge when the extra freezer space is no longer needed. A true innovation!

If you are in the market for new household appliances and your motto is “work smarter, not harder,” Samsung may be the brand for you! Check out the Samsung website for pricing and availability. http://www.samsung.com/us/homeappliances/

 

A Pain-Free Guide to Cutting the Clutter

Be honest- is there a huge pile of stuff taking up valuable space right now in your garage, shed or basement? Is it full of items that have absolutely no functional value in your life, yet you are reluctant to throw or give them away in case you find yourself needing them in the future? Maybe you aren’t particularly attached to anything in the junk pile, but lack the necessary motivation to get in gear and cut out the clutter for good. Not only is it exhausting to sort through everything and haul away what you don’t wish to keep, but it is also quite taxing to decide whether to keep, sell, give away or throw away every object you encounter. While reducing clutter in your home can be both physically and emotionally difficult, it is an important step to helping your living space reach its full potential in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The following tips can get you on the right path to a clutter-free, organized home:

Sort Your Stash- Probably the hardest step of the de-cluttering process is the very first one you will have to do. You need to go through the items in your pile and decide what you keep and what gets sold, given away or tossed. The easiest way to go about this daunting task is to get four boxes, marked with “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell” and “Trash.” Items you actually use at least once a month should go into the “Keep” box, and anything you think may actually be of some collectible value should be placed into the box marked “Sell.” If you see anything that may be of use to someone else, such as a household appliance or clothing with little wear, put it in the “Donate” box. Everything else…sorry, it’s “Trash.” The act of physically putting each thing into one of these boxes will help clarify what you truly need and what you can afford to part with. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the process goes after the hard start, and how much lighter you’ll feel almost instantly!

Don’t Lose Momentum- So now you’ve sorted everything into their respective boxes and you feel really accomplished. Don’t put your feet up just yet- you’re far from done! It’s so easy to feel accomplished when you’re done sorting your pile and then just leave the four boxes sitting there in the same spot for six months. Why not go one step farther and actually bring the “Donate” box to your local charity organization or thrift shop? How about listing some of those “Sell” items on eBay or Craigslist? You can at least walk the “Trash” box over to the Dumpster, can’t you? The follow-through is every bit as important as the initial effort to get rid of the clutter.

Time to Organize! – Now that you’ve whittled down the items you actually want to keep, it’s time to figure out where to put them. As much fun as those home organizing stores can be, there is really no need to spend a lot of money on fancy storage systems for your living space. Check out Pinterest and other home-improvement blogs for excellent and creative ways to use existing items in your house as organizational tools. The internet is teeming with all kinds of these little “life hacks” to get you organized on the cheap. Be honest with yourself about how you will really end up putting things away on days when you are too tired or busy. An organizational system that isn’t going to realistically fit into your life is not going to help much. Pick what you think will work best for your personality and energy level. Better to have a bin full of odds and ends or a “junk drawer” than to have the junk overtake the entire kitchen counter. Use your best judgment to figure out a system that is right for you.

Grilling Tips To Avoid BBQ Disaster

1. Make sure to pre-heat your grill! Allowing time for your fire to become a steady source of heat is crucial for a near-perfect meal. This step will help to cook your food thoroughly without burning the surface. Allow about 10 min for gas grills and 30-40 min for charcoal.

2. Prepare your ingredients ahead of time. To ensure a timely success without the mess, make sure to season, shape, and cut-up any food that will be included in the grilling process. This will help eliminate running into any snags and make the whole process more relaxing and enjoyable.

3. Perfect the art of shaping burgers. Don’t pack the burger meat too tight, this will result in a tough burger; instead, use a light touch to shape the patty to the shape and thickness you prefer. Just before putting it on the grill, press your thumb gently in the middle of the patty – this will eliminate the “bulge” that happens when you grill hamburgers and allow the patty to cook evenly.

4. Wait to sauce! Apply BBQ or any other sauce to your burger, steak, or chicken about 5 minutes before you want to take your food off the grill. Using the sauce during the entire grilling process increases the chance for your food to burn significantly. Instead, wait until the food is almost done, then apply the sauce of your choosing.

5. Make sure you have the right tools. This might not seem too important and the fork and knife from your kitchenware has done an ok job in the past but believe it, having the right tools makes all the difference.

6. Let your food sit after you take it off the grill. Allowing your grilled steak or burger to rest about 5-10 minutes before digging in lets the flavor really soak into the meat. Cutting into the meat right off the grill lets all the juices (basically flavor) seep out so you lose a lot of the flavor onto the plate rather than onto your taste buds.

7. Better clean up after yourself! Each and every time after you grill, you should always clean the grate of the grill off. This allows your food to step off the grill with the best flavors and a neat and clean grilling experience every time you fire that bad boy up.

Fruit & Whipped Cream, Oh What a Dream!

With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, we must be prepared for all of the festivities! And what is at the heart and soul of these summer gatherings? DELICIOUS FOOD! Check out the recipe below from Cups + Spoonfuls for a light and refreshing angel food cake recipe that is sure to please anyone and everyone that has a piece!afcd410

I turned to Betty Crocker for inspiration this week.  Every so often I find myself leafing through my Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, the cookbook my grandmother gave me after Bubba and I married.  “You’ll need this, it has everything.” she promised.  At first glance, I judged the cookbook for its lack of “healthy” recipes, horrible food photography and sexist illustrations of family life.  I tucked it away in our bookcase with the plan of donating it.  Years passed, but Betty remained on our book shelf.  I couldn’t part with her.  This dated, meant for “home-makers” cookbook gave me a glimpse of a time before social media, mommy wars, barre and kale smoothies, quinoa and hemp seeds.  As much as the Mad Men era illustrations of mom in heels baking a cake with 2 kids underfoot and Dad in a suit sampling her hard work with a smug look on his face enraged me, I couldn’t help but notice the common ground across generations.  Women ministering to their loved ones by making delicious food.  Homemaker or not, food is love, it was then and it still is today.

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Angel Food Cake Delight     

Light and airy angel food cake filled with honey whipped cream and fresh berries        

Serves 10-12

Recipe barely adapted from Baking Illustrated and inspired by Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

Ingredients for Angel Food Cake:

1 cup sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cups sifted sugar

12 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions for Cake:

Move an oven rack to the lower-middle position and pre-heat your oven to 325F.  Set aside an ungreased large tube pan with a removable bottom.  ( If you can’t remove the bottom, line it with parchment paper.)

Whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl.  Place the other 3/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-speed until they break up and begin to froth.  Add the cream of tartar and salt.  Turn the speed up to medium and beat until the whites form soft mounds.   Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, just 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites form soft peaks and are shiny.  Next add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until just combined.

Turn off the mixer and sift third of the flour/sugar mixture over the whites.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them in.  Sift the remaining flour/sugar mixture of the whites and gently fold.  Scrape the batter into your pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  Gently bang the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when you touch it with your finger, about 50-60 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and invert it onto the prongs of the pan or use the neck of a glass bottle.  Allow the cake to cool for 2 to 3 hours before removing it from the pan.

Once cool, run a knife around the edges of the pan.  Slice the cake out the pan and carefully slice off the removable bottom.   Set the cake golden brown side up on a cake platter or stand.

Using a serrated knife cut 1 inch the top of the cake off.  Set aside.  Carefully cut down into the cake, leaving a 1 inch border from the middle hole and cake “wall” and 1 inch base.  Scope out the inside of the cake and set aside. (Keep the scraps for nibbling!)

Fill the hollowed area of the cake with your honey whipped cream/berry mixture.   Place cake top on and press gently.  Cover the rest of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to over-night.  The cake, refrigerated, will last up to 2 days, but I doubt you will have leftovers.  Enjoy!

Honey Whipped Cream  + Fresh Berry Mixture

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 cups heavy cream

5-6 tablespoons of honey  (light flavored)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced in quarters

Directions:

Start with a chilled bowl and beater.  Add cold heavy cream to the bowl and beat until the cream thickens.  Add honey and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream creates stiff peaks.  Be careful not to overbeat!   Remove less than half of the whipped cream and place in a small bowl.  (Set aside remaining whipped cream.)  Using a rubber spatula fold in the berries.  Use the berry mixture to fill the cake and use the remaining whip cream to cover the entire cake.

**You can make the whipped cream (without the berries) ahead of time.  Be sure to store it in an air-tight container in the fridge.  It will stay fresh for up to 10 hours.  Whisk for about 10 minutes before using and then proceed with the recipe.**

Happy Garden – Take It Up A Notch!

Ever look at a garden with envy because it just looked so… perfect? Well, not ALL of that is the skill of the gardener, but a few tricks of the trade that really improve the health and looks of your plants! Check out a few of our favorites below and try them out in your garden this spring!

 

  1. Cucumbers taste sweeter when planted near sunflowers – Both plants require similar soil conditions and the tall stalks of the sunflowers give cucumber plants something supportive to climb.

 

  1. Use crushed up eggs shells as fertilizer – packed with calcium carbonate, the shells work great to enrich the soil

 

  1. Water plants with chamomile tea – used to ward off bacterial and fungal infections to prevent young seedlings from damping off (make sure tea is cool before using)

 

  1. Plant in odd numbers – planting in odd numbers creates a more natural layout and makes plants look larger and healthier

 

  1. Garden by moonlight – experts say planting by moonlight minimizes water waste and causes gardens to grow faster and stronger

 

  1. Plant placement – place shorter plants to the south and taller plants to the north, this prevents plants from casting unwanted shadows over smaller crops

 

  1. Use cooking water for plants – water you use to cook pasta or boil veggies if full of left over vitamins and nutrients (make sure water is cool before using)

Spring Gardening

It’s that time of year again and we’re guessing you feel slightly over-whelmed with where to start with your garden. Let us help you out! Below is a list of reminders of things you should be looking for when you begin your gardening project.

 

  1. Survey the Yard – Take note of clean-up and repairs to be made. Make sure to remove any over-hanging tree limbs and use the mulch from your yard to help boost this year’s gardening soil.

 

  1. Order Tools & Plants – Make note of what tools you do and don’t have, order needed tools and order your plants/buy the seeds you plan to use in this year’s garden ahead of time.

 

  1. Get Ready To Mow – Service your leaf blower or lawn mower; make sure they are prepped and ready to go. Before mowing, pick up debris around the yard.

 

  1. Soil Test – Take several samples from different planting areas to test the pH. Implement dolomitic lime to raise the pH and elemental sulfur to lower it.

 

  1. Prepare New Beds – Remove sod or weeks and debris, spread a shallow to medium layer of compost and any amendments over soil and mix into bed about 10-12 inches with spading fork.

 

  1. Plant & Fertilize

Ice Cream Cakes for Summer!

With summer around the corner, cool summer treats tend to sneak into our minds. On a hot summer day, all we want is a popsicle, frozen yogurt, ice cream bars, and more! Who wouldn’t want to indulge in those treats we have been so fond of since childhood – that’s one of the best parts of summer! Check out Kelly’s recipe for ice cream cake below, then check out her page Cups + Spoonfuls fore more ice cream cake links.

Classic Ice Cream Cake + 5 Ice Cream Cake Links

 

cic0028I turned 36 last week and suddenly it feels like I am on a fast train to 40. One of my best friends called to wish me a happy birthday and said “I can’t believe we are 36.” I hear ya, Bethie. Didn’t we just turn 30? Part of me would love to be 30 again; mainly because I looked a hell of a lot less tired. At this point, my exhaustion feels like a chronic illness. My 36-year-old self has dark circles under the eyes which, luckily, a good Laura Mercier concealer hides. Each baby has left their mark on my body. C-spider veins. G-bulging belly button. N- thinning hair, and I’m anticipating breasts that point due south once I stop nursing. My stomach and butt are less taut than they were six years ago despite running religiously several times a week and eating quinoa. (Thanks for nothing super grain! Somehow, I thought eating gobs of quinoa and kale would make my ass tighter. No such luck!) Despite my physical changes over the last six years, I’m much happier in my skin today. I get know myself a little more every year. I have things to work on, things that will never change and I ok with it.

On my 36th birthday we went to the beach; me, Bubba and the kids. We played in the water and we looked for treasures. I left them at the shore and took a swim in the ocean and it felt so good, 62 degrees good.  I swam to the sand bar that had formed and stood up. I took a big, deep breath of the salty, warm air and stared out at the horizon for a minute. I always think at moments like this, alone, staring out at the ocean, I’ll have sort of epiphany about life, but I never do. I turned back to see my sweet family waving from the shoreline, calling me back. I swam back feeling exhilarated from the freezing, take your breath away, cold water. We left the beach tired and happy. Bubba made fish tacos for dinner and they were awesome! He offered to make me a cake, but I insisted it wasn’t necessary. Cake not necessary? I know, it sounds crazy. I said that, because I wanted to make an ice cream cake to share with you. I can’t handle to much cake in the house. I just don’t have that kind of will power.

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Just like a Carvel ice cream cake, the center is a thick layer of crunchies.  My “crunchies” are a combination of dark chocolate and chocolate wafer cookie crumbs. This my favorite part of the entire cake. In fact, I could eat just this layer and be happy. The cream frosting tastes just like the frosting you find on store-bought ice cream cakes, except fresher.

This cake is so easy to make and the flavor combinations are endless! I used a combination of vanilla and strawberry ice cream. The only down side to this cake, as with many cakes, you need to plan ahead of time. So plan ahead, be creative and enjoy!

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Classic Ice Cream Cake

barely adapted from Kinfolk Magazine

Serves 10-12, makes a nine-inch cake

Ingredients:

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 recipe Chocolate Crunches (see recipe below)

9 ounces  chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

1 quart  of a different flavor ice cream, whatever you like ( I used strawberry.)

1 recipe Cream Frosting (see recipe below)

*This cake takes time to freeze so plan ahead before serving!*

Directions:

Place a 9-inch cake ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Remove the vanilla ice cream from the freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes or until a bit soft. Remove the vanilla ice cream from the container and using a spatula spread it evenly across the bottom of the chilled ring.  Freeze ice cream in its ring until completely hard, about 2 hours.

Place 9 ounces of chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and seal the bag. Using a rolling-pin crush the cookies. Place the wafer crumbs in a medium bowl and stir into the chocolate topping until the crumbs are completely damp.

Remove the cake ring from the freezer and spread the chocolate crunchies over the vanilla ice cream. *Remember to work quickly!* Freeze for another hour.

Remove second ice cream flavor from the freezer and allow to soften a bit. Remove the ice cream from the container and spread quickly over the chocolate crunches. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to freeze overnight or for a few days.

When ready to serve, remove the metal ring from the spring form pan.(If it is really hard to get off you could use a blow dryer for a few seconds to loosen the ring.) Freeze the cake for another 30 minutes. Decorate your cake with the cream frosting. You can place it back in the freezer until ready to use or serve it immediately. Run your knife under warm water and then cut into the cake. Enjoy!!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Crunchies

chocolate sauce recipe adapted from This Homemade Life

Ingredients:

2/3 cup good quality dark chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1, 9 ounce box of chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

Directions:

Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave in 10 second intervals. Stir after every ten seconds until melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. When ready to use, stir in chocolate wafer crumbs. Spread evenly over vanilla ice cream layer. (**Do not place sauce in the refrigerator because it will harden!** Can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for several days.)

Recipe for Cream Frosting

recipe from Kinfolk Magazine

makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. powdered gelatin

2 tbsp. milk

food coloring – optional

chocolate jimmies or sprinkles optional

Directions:

Chill your mixing bowl. Once the bowl is chilled beat the cream, sugar and vanilla in the chilled bowl until firm peaks form.

Using a small saucepan, soak the gelatin in the milk. Once all the milk is absorbed, heat the gelatin over low heat until it melts. Gently but quickly fold the gelatin into the whipped cream. Use immediately or tint it with a food coloring. Spread over entire cake. If desired, sprinkle with chocolate jimmies. Enjoy!

Mold – Don’t Let It Invade Your Home

Mold

Definition: A furry growth of minute fungal hyphae occurring typically in moist warm conditions, especially on food or other organic matter.

Synonyms: Mildew, fungus, dry rot, must

Sound like something you want in your home, around your loved ones? Didn’t think so.

So what causes mold? Mold requires a special brew of moisture, warmth and food. Because of these necessities to survive, mold is commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements or any area where flooding or leakage has occurred. Roofs, walls, pipes are also very common areas for this fungus to hide in.

What risks does mold bring? The most common reactions to mold are allergy-like symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Redness of the eyes

How can you prevent mold in your home? According to Mother Nature Network you can prevent mold with these simple tasks:

  • Identify problem areas in your home and correct them
  • Dry wet areas immediately
  • Prevent moisture with proper ventilation
  • Equip your home with mold-resistant products
  • Monitor humidity indoors
  • Direct water away from your home
  • Clean or repair roof gutters
  • Improve air flow in your home
  • Keep mold off household plants