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Sep. 25th, 2014

Alton Brown's Soft Pretzels & German Pretzel Dip

I came across this recipe for "Obatzer", a German dip for pretzels ("offered in every real Bavarian beer garden"). My husband is a big pretzel fan, but I'd never heard of a pretzel dip before & had to try it right away!

Soft Pretzels with Obatzer dip

We've made soft pretzels in the past, but were not in love with our old recipe, so I decided to try the Alton Brown recipe that she used. It was a real winner! The dough definitely rolled & stretched out much easier than our previous tries & they actually seemed simple to make. I find it odd that mine ended up covered in white stripes, but that is a minor complaint.

My husband liked the dip, but I was not a huge fan. I wasn't sure if it would be savory, sweet, or a blend of the two, but the main flavor seemed to come from the spicy onion. I do like the idea of a dip though, so maybe I'll have to experiment with my own!

By the way, this week I finally cracked open my copy of Animal Cross: New Leaf. Any players out there? We were pretty obsessed with Wild World, and this one is no different! If I get a little scarce around here you'll know that I'm probably out shaking trees or hunting giant island beetles. ;)


Sep. 18th, 2014

Pad See Ew

At Thai restaurants I normally order Pad Thai, and I can make a tasty version at home, but I have a friend who swears by Pad See Ew. I did order it once, but the restaurant ended up being a dud & both of our meals were very bland, so I wanted to give it another try some day.

This recipe looked very tempting, so I decided to make it for lunches this week. (Looks like she has lots of other tasty & quick Asian recipes!) Thankfully our new house is less than 5 minutes from an Asian market (angel chorus), so I knew I'd have no trouble with the ingredients.

Chinese Broccoli

The Chinese broccoli was a new one for me! For the recipe she separated the leaves from the stem & then sliced the stem into thin sticks. The leaves were huge, so I ended up chopping them down a bit too. For 4 cups I needed about 3 stalks ~ but keep the leaves & stems separate, because she adds them at different parts of the recipe! The taste was similar to kale leaves and broccoli stems, but with a slight bitterness.

I had previously bought a bottle of "black/dark soy sauce" for Pad See Ew, based on a different recipe. But this one called for "dark sweet soy sauce", so I begrudgingly headed back to the store. I didn't find "dark sweet", but saw several "sweet" & am about 95% sure it is the same thing. I'm glad I ended up buying it, because that stuff is tasty!

Pad See Ew

The recipe turned out great! I didn't really make any changes, other than cooking the chicken longer because I forgot & cut it into bite sized pieces rather than thin slices. Next time I would add 1-2 extra Tbsp. of the sweet soy sauce for a stronger flavor (and darker color). Yummy!


Sep. 16th, 2014

Spray Bottle Manicure

One of my favorite nail art blogs, The Nailasaurus recently linked to this awesome tutorial video for creating a manicure that looks like a turquoise stone. You drip polish on the surface of water (similar to a water marble manicure), and then spray the polish to create a fun texture. In the video she used spray hand sanitizer, but I had a similar tutorial pinned where they used rubbing alcohol (Check out that link for a quick photo step-by-step). And for my very favorite version, she got an amazing spotty texture by spraying nail polish remover, but I think the change in texture had more to do with the sprayer.

I've had some terrible luck with water marbling in the past, but after that recent video I couldn't get this technique off my mind. All the recent moving, unpacking, and cleaning kept me from painting my nails for a while, but I had to give this a try! I decided to use silver as a base color, black for the details, and sprayed with nail polish remover.

My first attempt was not the best. The only nail I liked was the pinky ~

Spray Bottle Nails, 1st attempt (fail)

I wiped off everything but that one nail and gave it another go (topcoat over your basecolor helps it come off easy). This time I aimed my nails at the more intricate textures and they turned out great!

Spray Bottle Nails, left

Wow! My favorite nail ended up being the middle finger on my right hand, so I had to include a picture of that. It was not easy to reach the button for this shot!

Spray Bottle Nails, right

Sometimes I ended up getting a very faint gray marbling rather than black, so I just sprayed some more polish & dipped it again. You can see the traces of gray on the ring finger here.

By the way, I tried painting my fingers around the nail with glue like the video, but only had clear Elmer's glue on hand. It didn't peel off quite as nice as she showed, but I was able to rub it off. For the right hand I just taped around the nail ~ much quicker, but more clean up at the end!

I was shocked that these were so easy to do, and they turned out *awesome*. Many times I'll spend forever creating some intricate nail art, and by the time I'm done I just feel "meh" about it. It looks good, but I just don't care anymore! It's been a long time since I've done anything that wowed me like these.


Sep. 13th, 2014

Ruffly Purple Bed Sets

For the guest room I'm planning an orange, red-violet, purple sort of color theme. It sounds a little crazy, but trust me!

I've been looking at purple bed sets lately and am kind of loving all of the ruffly textures! I correctly guessed that Justin would veto the idea, so I'll just share some pretties here.

Comforters like these are often photographed dramatically draped on the bed. Which is kind of awesome for those people like me who hate making beds!

Two of my favorites are from Anthropologie, and definitely out of the price range!

I thought things might be getting a little too crazy, but then I saw the most ridiculous bed set in the world...

Oh my, haha! Can you imagine? You've got to take a running leap to get on that bed.


Sep. 9th, 2014

Stir-fry with Ground Chicken & Green Beans

I had never stir-fried with ground meat before, so I was intrigued by this recipe using ground chicken. I gave it a try for lunch a while back & it was so good that I made it again & again!

Ground Chicken & Green Bean Stir-fry

In the directions she mentions Hoisin sauce, but it's not on the ingredients list. I followed her recipe link & saw the original called for 1 Tbsp. ~ she left it out because she didn't like it, but I think it adds a nice flavor to this dish. Otherwise I follow this one as written!

Sep. 3rd, 2014

Chicken & Tofu Teriyaki Meatballs (with Stir-fried Broccoli & Cashews)

This week I was combing through old recipes & Pinterest for dinner ideas when I came across these tasty meatballs we made a few months ago. The meatballs are made with a mix of ground chicken & tofu, making them soft & moist, and then glazed with a wonderful teriyaki sauce. The recipe was from Just One Cookbook, but I used 1 lb. ground chicken, 1 pack of tofu (14 oz?), and doubled everything else.

Chicken & Tofu Teriyaki Meatballs

They turned out great, but cooking them in the pan was a little tedious, and it left a few black bits stuck on the meatballs. We made this meal again last night and this time I tried baking them in the oven & then tossing them with the sauce afterward. I definitely need to tweak my technique before I share, but I think it will work well. And we won't mind trying this one again ~ even the baby who has barely eaten in a month gobbled everything up & wanted more!

On the side we had rice and stir-fried broccoli with cashews & oyster sauce, recipe here. The broccoli is stir-fried for a few minutes with oil, and then you add a bit of water and cover the wok to steam it. It turns out nice and crisp, and It's amazing how much flavor you get using only the oyster sauce. Unfortunately it does take a little while to cut up all of the broccoli, so it was probably not the best side to make when I'm already spending a ton of time forming all of those meatballs! Next time I'll pair the meatballs with a super simple side, or at least do a little bit of prep work earlier in the day.

Aug. 27th, 2014

Living Room - Paint Mock-ups

Last week I posted some of our favorite Mid-Century Modern Couches & asked if you could guess which one we chose. Here is the beauty we bought ~

I was worried it might be a shade too green, but in person it definitely is not. It could stand to be a little greener, actually!

We also purchased this lovely loveseat to go alongside it ~

Target pic - Velvet Canary Settee

The color is *so off* on this one though, it ended up being a big disappointment. Instead of the vibrant, mustard yellow pictured, we ended up with a very muted, pale yellow. (The color is much closer to the "French Yellow" linen settee by the same brand.) Here are the two couches together ~

Living Room, current

We considered going through the hassle & cost of returning the yellow couch, but I couldn't find anything similar that I liked in the same price range. And the shipping boxes had already been cut, colored, & turned into play houses, haha! I thought I would come to terms with the pale yellow, but I hate it enough that I think I'm going to have to get a little crafty & 'fix' it myself.

But for now I'm having fun with some mock-ups of wall paint colors!

For the pics I also tweaked the color of the yellow couch (a little brighter, with a touch of orange) and threw in a few other items we are considering buying. After many tests, here are our three favorite combinations ~

Living Room, paint idea 1

I love the cheery yellow walls above, & this was originally my favorite combo. But the more I look at it, the more I feel like the colors just don't work.

Living Room, paint idea 2

Above is Justin's favorite, but the room is a bit dim, so I want to use a light color on the upper wall to keep things bright.

Living Room, paint idea 3

And this is what we are currently leaning towards. I had originally nixed the double teal because I thought it was too much blue, but once I saw it with the yellow accents mixed in I liked it.

Which one do you like?


Aug. 25th, 2014

Living Room Inspiration

While I've got plans for each room, the living room has definitely been our main decorating focus for the new house. Nearly everything in our old living room was free or a gift, 10+ years old, and starting to fall apart. It was long past time to replace some things! We decided to ditch the red & black and start over with a drastically different color scheme and all new furniture & decorations.

You probably gathered from the last post that we're using teal, yellow, and gray for the color scheme. I thought the combination might be too crazy, but found some great inspiration pictures through Pinterest. (Click on the pics for their original posts)

I was originally thinking there would just be touches of yellow like these, but then we found so many pretty yellow things!

A pretty mix, but a little pale for us...

And my favorites below! (Just nix the red & exposed wood)


Aug. 21st, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Couches

I've always been a fan of "modern" decor, but recently started noticing how a lot of the furniture reminded me of the 50's, 60's, or 70's. That's when I discovered "mid-century modern", which was basically the modern style of the 30's-60's, but it has remained so popular that it is still a big influence on what we consider modern design today.

For our new couch I was really leaning towards a tufted modern style. Here were some of my top picks, all between $630-$1,100 ~

I don't think that these two qualify as mid-century modern, but they do have a similar tufted look ~

I was only searching for tufted couches in teal, yellow, or gray, but if you want an awesome list of mid-century couches in all colors & styles, check out this site. 240 couches under $2000!

And we did buy one of the couches above. Can you guess which one?


Aug. 19th, 2014

Funky Modern Couches

While we were in the process of buying the new house, one of the first things I started shopping around for was a new couch. Or two. We'd been living with a hand-me-down pink couch for 10 years that was falling apart, and we weren't loving our black leather couch much either.

I would love to own a really crazy modern couch, but they are mostly way out of our price range (or the work of a designer & not for sale). I found some beauties while I was searching though & wanted to share the love. I wasn't able to find info for all of these, but will link the pics to what I could find. Enjoy!


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