Friday, September 30, 2011

La Fonda Wild West Green!

Why do paint colors have such funny names? I just painted our half bathroom "La Fonda Wild West Green." I mean really... what kind of weird name is that?

Anyway, the bathroom is painted! I started by taking the mirror, towel ring, toilet paper bar, and electrical plates off the wall. I left the light up because the room doesn't have windows or anything, and it's pretty hard to paint in the dark!

The towel ring and toilet paper bar clicked on and off of these nice little plastic pieces. So easy!

All empty!

Because I did this while Jeff was out of town, he wasn't there to make me do our normal meticulous taping/plastic sheeting/precautionary stuff. I went with just one sheet of plastic on the floor under the paint can, one on the sink, and one on the shiny new porcelain throne. I decided to do all the edges by hand rather than tape them off (our walls are super-textured, so I figured the tape wouldn't work too well anyway).

By the way... I tried to do that fancy foil-on-the-paint-tray thing that's going around Pinterest, but it didn't really work. I had to use two pieces of foil to cover it, and even though I overlapped them for a few inches, the paint seeped underneath. Plus, the foil started to rip after I rolled the roller up and down a bunch. Overall, not a good idea. Better to pay $1 for a real tray liner.

At this point the room was kind of creeping me out... it just looked like an abandoned ghost bathroom or something. Maybe it was all the fall/Halloween decorating that I did earlier that day. I don't know. It just looked weird. So I quickly got to painting!

Let me tell you... painting a teeny bathroom with a high ceiling is really tough. Picture me sitting on the floor, one leg on either side of the toilet, ripping off the plastic sheeting because it's IN THE WAY, practically hugging the good old potty (let's see how many synonyms for "toilet" can make it into this post...) and leaning over trying to paint along the baseboard behind it (remember I decided to cut in by hand rather than tape them off...). Thank goodness I cleaned the bathroom before starting this whole thing.

Now picture me sitting forward on the toilet, leaning over with my head upside down so I can face the back wall, trying to paint behind around all the little pipe connections and such before my vision starts to blur due to all the blood rushing to my head...

Now picture me standing on the back of the toilet (surely that thing isn't meant to hold the weight of a person, but it looked pretty sturdy, and it was really my only option), trying desperately to reach the ceiling corner without pressing my chest against the just-painted wall in front of me, wishing that I could have made the ladder fit into that tiny room.

Now picture me losing my balance and grasping at the ceiling to prevent a fall that would most certainly cause me to knock myself out by hitting the sink or tile floor, knock over the paint bucket on my way down, and end up left on the floor for days until Jeff gets back from his business trip and finds me unconscious and starving on the floor in a puddle of La Fonda Wild West Olive, which would by then have seeped into the brand new living room carpet and permanently stained the floor.

Those are fingerprints of survival! I'm waiting on the nice man that works for our builder to bring me some ceiling paint so I can fix it. 

As far as I'm concerned, a couple La Fonda fingerprints on the ceiling is about the best scenario I could have hoped for.

I discovered during this painting ordeal that the construction guys were less-than-precise with the beige paint against the ceiling. There were places where the beige went pretty far up onto the ceiling, which I tried to cover with the green, but then it just looked like I had gotten too much green on the ceiling, and the beige was still showing through.

I figure there are three possible solutions to this... 1) just ignore it (entirely not going to work for perfectionist me), 2) try to paint over it all with the white ceiling paint and get a crisper line (definitely an option, but no fun), and 3) CROWN MOLDING! (I've pretty much convinced Jeff this is what we're doing. I'm asking for a nail gun and an air compressor for Christmas). The bathroom will be good practice for when we decide to do it in other bigger rooms, right?

To top it all off, I can't even get good "after" photos of the room because the lighting is so weird! These are the best I could do:

This is a pretty accurate color representation (at least it is on my computer screen... haha).

It's WAY not this shiny and bright in real life. I don't know what was going on here.

The bottom half of the mirror looks pretty accurate in this one... doesn't it go nicely with the dark wood of the mirror?

I love how the baseboards pop now!

Gotta get some pretty things on those walls!

And now for some before-and-afters (this is the first time I've actually made these... so fun!):

What do you think? Much better, right? I'm just glad I'm done. Five hours in a teeny tiny bathroom is enough to drive a person crazy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chocolate Ricotta Cupcakes

I had some ricotta cheese leftover from making my crock-pot lasagna, so I searched around for a good recipe using ricotta. I found this one, tweaked it a bit, and made delicious cupcakes using ingredients I already had in my pantry and leftover cream cheese buttercream from when I made the strawberry coconut cake!

The texture of these is just lovely... they're like halfway between cheesecake and regular cake. Very moist!

Recipe adapted from here.

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners (about 16 if you want them to be puffy and large, or 24 if you want them flatter and in smaller portions like mine).
2. Mix the ricotta cheese, then beat in the eggs. Add the milk, vanilla, and butter. Mix well.
3. Whisk together the dry ingredients (not including the chocolate chips) in a separate bowl.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture to the ricotta cheese mixture, and mix to combine. Don't overmix!
5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Spoon batter into cupcake liners (they won't puff up as much as regular cakey cupcakes, so don't worry too much about overfilling).
7. Bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool on wire racks.
9. (optional) Top with Cream Cheese Buttercream frosting.

See how they get little bubbles kinda like cheesecake?

Mmm, cream cheese buttercream!

Moist cake with gooey chocolate chips! Yummm!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I Love You Because" Frame (Free Download!)

I saw this cute little frame on Pinterest, and I thought it was such a great idea!

Since I usually leave the house in the mornings before Jeff gets up, I thought it would be kind of fun to leave him a sweet little note to read! Luckily, this is a really easy project that takes very little time to create!

I whipped up a quick design in PowerPoint (mimicking the one that I saw on Pinterest, which I believe was originally done by this blogger/Etsy-seller), saved it as a JPEG, imported it into iPhoto, cropped it as an 8x10, and clicked print! Super easy.

You can download the file by just clicking that image to enlarge it, then right clicking to save it. Just crop it for whatever size frame you have (using whatever photo printing software your computer has), and print (I just used regular printer paper, but you could be fancy and do cardstock of some sort).

I bought a $1 8x10 wooden frame from the dollar store and gave it a quick coat of glossy white spray paint. Then I popped the "I love you because:" paper in it and hung it on the wall in our closet!


The best part of this whole thing is that Jeff's out of town for work right now, so it will be a sweet surprise when he gets home. Teehee! I hope he doesn't think its stupid. Haha. Hopefully he'll play along and write me nice things too. :o)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spirals & Spatulas is Turning Two!

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Spirals & Spatulas! I kind of can't believe I've actually been documenting my life here for two whole years! The first year of the blog was completely full of wedding stuff, and I've really enjoyed branching out over the last year to just document our regular, everyday life.

I know Spirals & Spatulas has quite a few more readers and more followers now than it did a year ago, but honestly - I've dramatically decreased the amount of attention I pay to that sort of stuff. I feel like I've finally started to stop thinking about what my readers will think, and instead I just write for me and let my personality actually come out, and I'm loving it.

Don't get me wrong... I LOVE my readers! I love that I have so many frequent commenters (your comments make me smile every day!!), and I love that my readers come from so many different places and backgrounds and stages in life. I love that some of you have been here since the beginning (back when Spirals & Spatulas was all-wedding-stuff-all-the-time!)... how things have changed since then!

Spirals & Spatulas is definitely growing up. I received my first inquiries about advertising on my blog this year, and I turned them down because it just didn't feel right. Right now the blog is so representative of me and my personality, and I just didn't want to dilute that with ads for companies that weren't totally representative of my goals for the blog. I'm not sure if I'll ever find "the perfect advertisers," but for now I'm happiest to just keep the blog the way I like it, without any ads clogging up the sidebars.

I was recognized in public by some blog readers for the first time at Alan & Katie's wedding this year, which was a totally bizarre experience! It still amazes me that my life and blog are somehow interesting enough to keep so many of you coming back again and again! I completely love it!

Who knows what's in store for Spirals & Spatulas in the next year... maybe I'll actually learn how to take better blog photos and figure out how to predict which posts will be popular (my favorites always seem to be the ones with zero comments! haha!).

As always, I appreciate my dear readers so very much! This blog has been such a wonderful way to document our life (since I can't seem to find time to scrapbook anymore!), and I'd never be motivated to keep doing it if I didn't have so many wonderful readers! I can't wait to see what Year Three brings!

Monday, September 26, 2011

DIY Striped Bow Pillow

I had some fabric left over from my chair refinishing project, so I used it to make a pillow for the piano room! I was inspired by a cute striped pillow on Pinterest (does anyone else feel like ALL of their projects come from Pinterest these days?):

I followed this tutorial. It's really easy to follow and well-written, so I'm not going to bother re-writing everything here. I did resize everything because I wanted a 16x16 pillow rather than an 18x18, but that was as simple as subtracting two inches from some of the pieces.

If you make one of these pillows, keep in mind that she used a very light jersey fabric in the tutorial. I was working with a thicker upholstery-weight fabric, which made it impossible to just slide the two bow pieces through the center loop. Instead, I just hand-stitched the long piece to the pillow, gathering it in the middle. Then I put the side bow loops through the center loop (with a lot of pulling and pushing and tugging), and stitched that down on top. In hindsight, it would have been way easier to make the center loop a little larger.

Here are my pieces... (and a law school textbook - they're everywhere!)

...and here's the finished product!

I'm really happy with my newest pillow! Plus, he just looks so cute sitting that chair!

I love this room more and more... it's so fun, but it's like sophisticated fun. Or something. Haha. I just like it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Favorites

To celebrate the official first day of autumn (today!), I wanted to share some of my favorite fall-ish recipes that I posted about last year:

I was super-surprised when I went back in my archives to get these and found NOTHING with pumpkin! Why haven't I been blogging my pumpkin recipes? I absolutely LOVE pumpkin, especially in baked goods. Don't worry... this year I'll remember to snap some photos and write some pumpkiny posts!

What's your favorite fall recipe?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baked Creamy Chicken Penne (with Mushrooms and Broccoli!)

This is delicious. Mmm, mmm, mmm! I mean... if you like cheese. Which I do. A lot. Really though... who doesn't like cheese? Everyone likes cheese. Therefore, everyone will like this casserole.

Recipe adapted from here.

6 tbsp butter
Salt & Pepper
1 pound penne pasta
1 tsp olive oil
1 pound chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups whole milk
2 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
10 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare one 9x11 dish or two 8x8 (2 quart) dishes with cooking spray.
2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water, 3 minutes short of al dente.
3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in the pan until opaque throughout (about 3 to 5 minutes on each side).
4. Remove cooked chicken from the pan and chop into cubes. While the pan is still hot, toss in mushrooms and saute until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes) (you may need to add a little additional olive oil).
5. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and flour, and cook 1 minute while whisking. While continuously whisking, add in milk one cup at a time. Keep whisking as sauce thickens (about 1 minute).
6. Add parsley, oregano, mushrooms, and broccoli to the sauce mixture. Add pepper to taste. Cook while stirring for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
7. Add the Italian blend cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan to the sauce mixture and stir until cheese is incorporated.
8. Add chicken and pasta to the mushroom sauce. Stir to combine.
9. Spread the mixture into your pan(s).

IF COOKING IMMEDIATELY: Sprinkle 1/2 cup parmesan cheese on top of each 8x8 pan, or 1 cup parmesan cheese on top of the 9x11 pan. Bake uncovered until the top is golden and bubbling (about 25 minutes).

IF FREEZING: Keep the parmesan cheese in a plastic bag. Let the pasta mixture cool, then cover the pan with a double layer of plastic wrap, placing the cheese bag on top. Cover the entire thing with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. To bake, preheat the over to 400 and remove the foil and plastic from the frozen pasta dish. Cover with foil and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then, stir the pasta mixture and sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Bake for an additional 15 minutes (or until the mixture is hot and bubbly throughout).

Chopping broccoli...

Boiling pasta...

Broccoli going in the steamer basket...

Pasta - 3 minutes short of al dente!

Garlic, flour and butter

Seasoned chicken!

Chopped mushrooms!

Sauce after adding milk...

Sauteed mushrooms!

Sauce after adding mushrooms...

Chopped chicken!

Adding in the broccoli and pasta and chicken...

Pan #1: Ready to go in the oven!

Pan #2: Ready to go in the freezer for later!

In the oven...

All done!