Friday, March 28, 2014

Mac-And-Cheese Gets A Makeover!


I love mac-and-cheese. I mean....who doesn't? Oh wait. That's right. My husband. He hates it! So, I have a ritual: whenever my husband works a late shift, I make myself mac-and-cheese. For those that don't know, my husband is in his first year of medical residency. Which means a lot of late shifts. Like one or two a week. So......yeah. That's a lot of mac-and-cheese.

Needless, to say, I'm always trying to find ways of making my mac-and-cheese healthier (without adding less cheese, sorry that's just not an option). I love adding vegetables, Greek yogurt, healthy meats like fish, and I have even added avocado to my mac-and-cheese! My new favorite tip: replacing the pasta with barley. It's so great, I just had to share it with you all!

This isn't really much of a recipe as it is a suggestion. If you've never tried barley, you will be pleasantly surprised. Barley is dense and chewy and actually reminds me of pasta. The flavor doesn't compete with the flavor of your mac either, unlike whole-wheat pasta. It's just chewy, whole grain goodness. Covered in cheese of course.

Another thing I really like about replacing my macaroni noodles with barley is that the barley really fills me up. Normally, when I make mac-and-cheese, I can eat it indefinitely. Like.....scrape a casserole dish clean. I try to never leave any sort of utensil in the casserole dish, because, if I do, I will sit over my stove and stuff my face when no one is watching (Hello, my name is Meredith, and I'm a mac-aholic). But with barley, you just can't do that. One normal-sized bowl is all you need.

Barley also has a lot of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, copper, vitamin B1, phosphorous, and magnesium. The high fiber helps keep food moving through you (the un-grossest way I know how to say that) and helps to lower bad cholesterol.

Give barley a try and tell me what you think of it. Also, any more ideas to give mac-and-cheese a makeover? I'd love some tips!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rolling Coffee Table DIY


So......I have power tool phobia. I blame my father and grandfather for this. I had to take a wood-working class in college, and my dad and grandfather sat me down and scared me to death with terrifying stories of losing fingers and other assorted body parts. Needless to say, I'm a bit wary of power tools.

I can use power tools, but if given the opportunity, I will let someone else do it. Cue Olie. He's pretty good at building things and gets better all of the time. He recently built me a rolling coffee table for my studio. He built it out of an old pallet, and I could not be happier with the results.

We found this DIY on Instructibles and I'm going to link you to that original explanation (click here). I'm also going to give you a tutorial on how to do it using photos. I think the photos explain the process better than I could. In a nutshell: take the pallet apart, push all of the board together into the shape of the table, trim excess wood, wood glue and nail together, sand it down, seal it, add wheels. Pretty simple, really.

(Disclaimer: If you have never used power tools, get someone to help you. They are great tools, but they should be used with care. Do not drink alcohol and use power tools. Always pull back your hair when using power tools. Ok, enough parenting).

So here's how it is done:











And that's it! Every time I look at this table I love it even more! I hope this inspires you to build something for your home. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Unapologetically Girly




What is it about spring that makes you want to be the girliest version of yourself? Pastels, heels, florals, dresses, curls-these are the things that say spring to me. I'm definitely embracing my super girly/ridiculously ladylike side this spring!

I bought this dress for my honeymoon, so I always feel a bit nostalgic when I wear it. I really like it, mainly because it's an unusual length. You can't really tell here, since the wind is blowing the hem around, but it hits me about mid-calf. Being 5'10", it's almost impossible to find dresses that are this length. Most of my dresses are way too short. Consequently, I don't really wear them. Any tall ladies out there? Where do you buy dresses?

Dress: Anthropologie, Scarf: Bought on the street in London, Linked Bracelet: J.Crew, Heels: Aldo (on sale!), Assorted Jewels

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dying Upholstery With Simply Spray

As I mentioned in my post House Tour: The Studio, I recently dyed my couch. I still can't believe you can do this. New rule of thumb? If you think it exists, it probably does. But who would have thought that you could spray paint a couch! The spray is made by Simply Spray, and you can buy it on their website or on amazon. I inherited this couch from Olie's family. It's a great couch and in super condition, but it was such a boring color. At some point, I'd like to get it recovered, but that is out of my budget at this point in my life (you're looking at at least $400 to recover a couch). So dying it was the perfect solution.

We went from this.....

To this!

I am 100% satisfied with my new gray couch. It adds a lot of contrast to the room, especially against the white walls and brown mat. I used 6 cans of paint for my couch. I need to buy one more because there are still a few touch-ups to be done (I'm lazy), but it looks great. I'm going to give you a few tips that I picked up as I did it.

1). Try to dye your furniture inside. I know this is a weird tip, but the lighting of the room is really important. I sprayed the cushions outside and did the bones of the couch inside. I think I wasted a lot of the spray paint on the cushions because I was looking at them in bright daylight. The rest of the couch was a lot easier to spray and took a lot less paint. The spray doesn't smell very bad at all, so if you open a few windows you should be fine.

2). This paint is permanent! Cover everything! And wear old clothes.

3). This paint is also transparent. Which means: any pattern on the fabric will show through. Also this means that you can only go from lighter colors to darker colors. If you have a dark couch, then dying it black is probably your only option. My couch was a light brown, so the charcoal gray worked really well.

4). Don't worry about the underside of cushions or the back of the couch. This method is cheaper than buying a new couch or getting one recovered, but the bottles of paint are still $11 each, which adds up. Don't spray anything that won't be seen.

5). Simply Spray says that it dries soft, but it isn't soft right after it dries. Don't worry though! It softens as you use it. It took about a week for my sofa to soften up.

6). Don't spray a really nice piece of furniture. This isn't like painting your walls. Go to the thrift store and get a cheap couch/chair/whatever for this project. Or spray that couch that you inherited from your parents. If you are in your twenties, you probably have one of those.

7). Read the instructions carefully. There are also a lot of great tips on simplyspray.com.

Best DIY ever! So proud of this one! I hope this inspires you to give your old boring couch a makeover!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Beer To Pick Up This Weekend: 312 Urban Wheat Ale by Goose Island


I'm so loving writing beer reviews. Mainly because it gives me an excuse to try every beer in sight. Have I had a few disappointments? Of course. But the journey is so fun.

As I browsed Kroger's beer aisle the other day, this beer caught my eye: 312 Urban Wheat Ale by Goose Island. As you may or may not know, my very first beer review was one by Goose Island, so I was immediately intrigued. I have to say, Sophie by Goose Island is one of my all-time favorite beers. It is, however, a bit on the pricey side, so I reserve it for special occasions. This is a great alternative. It's light and crisp but has a nice bite on the end. Sharp but refreshing, this beer reminds me a lot of the Sophie. It doesn't have the champaign-y aftertaste, but it still has a bit of sparkle. I'm sold.

BeerAdvocate gives it a score of 78 (which classifies as okay). I know, I know, that's two okay beers back to back. But I like okay beers, just like I like okay pizza or okay donuts. Sometimes, okay can be pretty great.

I will say that by making myself try new beers, I've come across some real gems. My intent with these reviews was to do the legwork for you all and to therefore save you time and money, but I would encourage you to go out on a whim and pick up something crazy this weekend. Does it have a pretty label? Is it made by a company that you really like? Is it on sale? No matter the reason, try to give your pallet a workout with something new.

It's a gorgeous day here and my husband is getting off work early. Time to celebrate all the good things with a 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Farmer Chic

Overalls are everywhere at the moment. I'm loving all the new skinny jean overalls. I seriously considered investing in a pair, but I already had the overalls you see here. And no one needs two pair of overalls. That's just excessive. So I thought I'd pull these out again. Mixed with a little chambray, of course.

I wore this last night to church. One of the 4 year-olds in my choir told me I looked like a farmer. My response? "How do you know I'm not a farmer?" I'm so witty.

What do you think of my nails? I haven't attempted nail art since elementary school. But this is great because it still looks good as your nails grow out. I just put two pieces of tape over my nail in a v-shape, and then painted them. I want to try them in white, I think that would look great.

Getting pumped for the weekend! Lots of nothing to do, so excited! Thanks for stopping by!

Overalls: Delia's (very old, I think I bought them in the 10th grade), Chambray Top: Zara, Linked Bracelet: J.Crew, Shoes: Journey's, Assorted Jewels

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pinstripes and Plaid




I bought this shirt for my husband the other day. I guess I was really buying it for me. I'm so (not) sneaky. I love men's button downs. They are so classic and comfortable. J.Crew had them on sale, so I couldn't pass them up.

If I had to wear the same thing everyday, it would be something like this. Men's button down, a fun scarf, black skinny jeans, and great shoes. You just can't go wrong with that combo.

Shirt: J.Crew (men's), Scarf: Gap, Jeans: Old Navy, Shoes: Target, Linked Bracelet: J. Crew,Assorted Jewels

Monday, March 17, 2014

Salty Crunchy Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies


Are we tired of salty deserts yet? Well, guess what? Too bad! I'm not even close to being tired of them. Salt just makes chocolate taste better. It just does.

About once a week, my husband looks at me and asks, "cookies?" Actually this happens at least three times a week. He loves cookies. Like a lot. I'm not much of a cookie person, so it's not easy to get me to make cookies. But, the other night, I was in a cookie mood. After the Buttered Popcorn Chocolate Chip Cookies, I've been feeling a little more open to the whole cookie thing. I just happened to have a brand new jar of Nutella, a bag of chocolate chunks, and a bag of hazelnuts (I "just happen" to have these things around most of the time), so I decided on Nutella cookies.

Nutella cookies are the easiest thing to make in the world. You're really just relying on the Nutella to do the work: you don't need a lot of ingredients. All you need is a bit of flour, sugar, and an egg to bring it all together. The addition of chocolate chunks, hazelnuts, and sea salt are completely optional. But highly encouraged.

I've actually started buying the off-brand Nutella. I like that I can get chunky, chocolate hazelnut spread, which Nutella doesn't make. For some crazy reason.

Sorry for the lack of green food today. I always kind of forget about St. Patrick's Day. I did eat an avocado this morning. Does that count?

Salty Crunchy Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies (adapted from Ambitious Kitchen)

1 cup crunchy chocolate hazelnut spread
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup flour + 1 tablespoon
1 cup chocolate chunks
1 cup hazelnuts
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients using an electric mixer (except for sea salt). Place dough in the freezer for ten minutes.

Roll dough into one inch balls. Place on a greased cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper) and press flat. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Let them cool a bit and then devour with a large glass of milk. Feel free to add some green food coloring to your milk.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beer To Pick Up This Weekend: Dos Equis Amber Lager


I love the weekend. That's kind of an irrelevant sentence, but it just needs to be said. The older I get, the more I look forward to doing as little as possible on the weekend. My favorite Friday or Saturday activity is staying home and cooking a big meal, preferably with tons of leftovers. Then I proceed to while the weekend away watching tv, looking at blogs, and eating said leftovers. The past few months have been pretty busy, so I haven't gotten the chance to indulge in this pastime. But this weekend is different. Nothing to do, no where to be, no reason to wash my hair (TMI, but I know you all are sporting dirty hair all weekend too, so you can't judge me).

Last night I decided to cook up a pot of Mexican rice and beans. So a 6-pack of Dos Equis Amber Lager was in order. I am a huge fan of this beer. I definitely prefer a Dos Equis to a margarita. I know. I'm weird. But there is nothing better than a big plate of Mexican food with an equally large glass of Dos Equis Amber. Garnished with a lime of course. The lime is of the utmost importance. I haven't had a ton of Mexican beers, but I've had all of the usual suspects. This one is the best. It has the most gorgeous dark amber color, but its on the lighter side of beer and is very refreshing. Perfect for the warmer spring days we've been having (thankfully!).  It's got a lot of flavor and the lime adds the most amazing scent and taste. I actually think the smell of this beer is one of its best qualities, so be sure to pour your beer into a pint glass or a frosty mug so that you can get your nose all up in it. BeerAdvocate gives it a score of 72 (which classifies as ok), but the Brothers give it an 80 (which classifies as good). (The Brothers are the founders of the site, the other score is an average of reviews from the site. I think it's interesting when the scores differ this much).

I'm sure a lot of you don't like to cook on the weekend, and I get that. For me it's relaxing, for some it's just another job to do. So maybe a pot of Mexican rice and beans is not happening for you. But you can still pick up some Dos Equis. And maybe make this salsa to go along with it. You have to have salsa with a Dos Equis, at least. It all just goes in the food processor, so it's not really cooking.

This is my mom's salsa recipe. She makes, hands down, the best homemade salsa. Take five minutes to make this salsa and then head back to the couch. With a Dos Equis Amber Lager of course. On Saturdays, it is acceptable to start drinking before 5:00. Says me.

My Mom's Salsa (I'm sure mine is a bit different from hers, but it's basically the same recipe)

1 12 ounce can tomatoes (I have switched over to Cento tomatoes, and I couldn't be happier with the results)
1/2 onion
1 garlic clove (don't add more, you'll regret it)
I bunch cilantro
1 serrano pepper (VERY SPICY! My mom uses jalepeno, so start there if you don't like spicy stuff)
5 or 6 squirts of lime juice (I use the lime juice in a bottle because I like a lot of lime in my salsa. Feel free to squeeze fresh limes)
salt and pepper

Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Start out with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper at first. It's best not to taste the salsa right away. The flavors really need to come together. Let the salsa sit on your counter for an hour and then try it. You may need to add a little more salt and pepper or a little more lime juice.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

House Tour: The Studio

I'm so excited to share this tour of my studio with you all. This has been the most difficult room to decorate and, therefore, it's the one that I am most proud of. (Check out my other tours here and here). Once again, my house is very, very dark, so my photos of it are always a bit grainy. Sorry, I'm not a professional photographer.

Since we've moved into this house, this room at the front of the house has been the studio. There is no door to keep it seperate from the rest of the house: it's very open and very visible. Now, I don't know if you've ever been into an artist's studio before, but most of the time they are an absolute mess. For a long time I thought this was just a fact of life. But the more I lived in this house, and as I was decorating other rooms, I began to think that there had to be a way to make this room look nice, but also remain functional.

I also was well aware that I needed this room to be much more than a studio. I needed an office, a music room (my husband plays guitar) and a workout space (we love yoga videos). I needed the room to fill a lot of different roles. I also thought it would be nice if people could just hang out in there. I do entertain a decent amount, and an extra sitting area is always welcome.

So! Olie and I got our thinking caps on. We decided that if every bit of furniture in the room was easily moveable, we would get a lot more use out of the room. I decided on cute, red, folding chairs for the extra seating ($10 at Target) and Olie built a great coffee table with wheels out of an old pallet. This is my favorite part of the room, and I can't wait to share the DIY with you.
I already had a hand-me-down couch in the room, but it needed a face lift. Big time. I literally googled, "how to hide an ugly couch." I found the usual suggestions (throw pillows, slip covers, etc.), but then I found a link to upholstery paint. Um.......what?! I did a bit of research and the reviews were all positive, so I gave it a go. The couch that you see here used to be a boring light brown, and now is a dark gray. I bought 6 cans of paint which cost me $70 all together. I'm going to pick up another can for touch ups (if you look on the arms of the chair, you can see a bit of the old brown color), but honestly this room is so dark that you cant tell at all. A brand new couch for $70? Sign me up. I'm beyond thrilled with the results. I have a DIY of this project coming soon as well.
I already had shelves around the room for propping up paintings. This just makes my mess look a little more presentable. I also prop paintings in a stack on the side of the room. I have found that people thumb through them when they come over, which I like. I can't hang all of my work, so I like for people to be able to look through it.
I also ended up hanging a bunch of smaller paintings that I've been working on. Even if they aren't done, they create a great visual in the room. And it keeps them off of the floor.
I have a ton of art books that I needed to store. I also needed a side table. Stack of books with a lamp on top? Tada!
I'm so satisfied with this room, but I still have a few things I'd like to do to it. For one: I'm still stuck on window treatments. I need something on the windows, but there is NO light in this room. Any suggestions?

Also, I really want to paint this room a pale pink. But I think Olie would put his food down on that one.

And there you have it! My studio! I hope this inspires you to think about your rooms in a new way. Thanks for stopping by!