I hate my fireplace. I don't think that's a secret. Well, let me clarify. I love that we have a fireplace (it was one of my "must haves" when buying a house). I love that it's a central fireplace. I don't love that it's red 50's scored brick. Or that the grout is dingy.
My husband loves our fireplace. As in he won't let me paint it. He also would not let me attach a mantle to it. I'm not sure why, this has been one of those "line drawn in the sand things."
So after walking by it for three years and pretending that I don't hate it, and trying to hide it behind decor as much as possible, I finally did something about it. I know we will be fixing it up in the future when we remodel, but I didn't want to wait.
I made a freestanding "surround" and I kinda love it. It was super easy and you could use this same technique to make a faux fireplace for the holidays if you wish. The best part? I can take it off and move it or change it whenever I want. For $50 and one afternoon's work you can have one too. Here's how I did it...
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it's a day to simply be thankful for all of the good in our lives. Even during tough years, the day has brought solace. I also love that it kicks off a season of celebration. I'm usually able to see friends that live out of state, catch up with coworkers outside of work, and enjoy the music and decor that accompany trips to the store. I love hosting parties, and this is the season of parties.
We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and are having more people than our dining table could hold. We, like most people, have resorted to abutting a folding table to the dining table. The problem is I just hated the look of it. I was hoping to avoid table cloths, and didn't like the idea of some people eating at a real table and some at a plastic table.
Short of making my actual table larger, I needed a solution, I did a deep dive on Pinterest for some solutions found some things that sort of worked, but nothing that was quite what I wanted. Finally, I decided to wing it and made a topper for our folding table to transform it into a farmhouse table. To put it bluntly, I'm in love. In case you are in the same situation, I'm going to share how I did it.
If you followed along with my cookbook review series, you know that I recommended Cold-Weather Cooking (one of my all time favorite cookbooks) a while back to you. You may not know that Sarah Leah Chase herself shared my review on Facebook and message me on Instagram. I think I now know what "fangirling" is. I mentioned that I came across Chase's book from an Ina Garten recommendation, and this week's book choice comes from the same list.
The Union Square Cafe cookbook has been a fantastic addition to my cookbook collection. I tend to gravitate toward books meant for the home cook that produce wow worthy but approachable meals. The Union Square Cafe Cookbook includes favorite recipes from their storied establishment. I have made several recipes from the book and each time the result has been something truly restaurant quality.
If you want sophisticated restaurant dishes that you are able to recreate at home, this is an excellent starting place. It also includes two recipes that have become an annual tradition for me!
With Thanksgiving just over a month away, I know many are starting to think about their menu. While there are traditions and family recipes passed down, it's always nice to explore new recipes. I've decided to test out some recipes over the next few weeks and thought I would take you along with me. In some cases I follow the recipe exactly as written and in some cases I tweak it to make it my own. I'll tell you where I got the recipe from, how to make it, and what the results were so that you can put out the best Thanksgiving menu possible!
I thought for the first recipe I would change up my carrot game. Carrots are a wonderful side, but I almost always make them the same way. I've been making the mustard creamed onions from Sarah Leah Chase's Cold Weather Cooking for just over a year now to rave reviews each time. I figured her mustard carrots must be worth trying as well. I already make my carrots with brown sugar, but sometimes they are too sweet. I was curious if the mustard would improve that (spoiler, it did). I also found the best hack for getting food out on time!
I have so many of Ina's cookbooks, and for the same reason. They are good. They are easy to follow, the photography is lovely and helps me to understand what the finished product should resemble, and I know if I go to the store and spend money on ingredients, it will be worth it. The recipe will turn out as it should. There's a wonderful confidence to be gained from that. It's like having a secret trick up my sleeve. Whatever the occasion, I know I can produce just the right dish to share. I could review any of her books and come to the same conclusion, that you need to have them. I thought though, I would start with her first book, Barefoot Contessa. It's the "OG Ina" if you will, and I return to it again and again when I need some inspiration in the kitchen.
It contains recipes from her specialty food store of the same name. These are crowd pleasing recipes that teeter the line between high and low in the most delicious and perfect way. The recipes are dishes that are familiar, you've made them before, but Ina's added a twist that takes the flavor and luxuriousness up a notch.
I love apple picking, but inevitably every year I'm left with far more apples than I could possibly eat. I love pies, tarts, cakes, and everything else apple. The problem is typically the apples go bad before I can use them all up.
Faced with the prospect of expiring apples and no need to bake anything, I decided to try a new way to use up my leftover apples, apple butter.
This isn't actually "butter" anymore than peanut butter is butter, but rather it's a delicious spread, a bit thicker than apple sauce that is wonderful on toast, muffins, or frankly out of the jar by the spoonful. It also is the easiest thing you will ever make.
Risotto always makes me think of my maternal grandmother, in that if you asked her to make it you had to be realllllly sure that you wanted it. She would confirm several times because she would say "it takes all day."
Because of that I avoided making it for a good part of my adult life, but over the last few years have learned that while it does take a bit of time and muscle (or at least constant stirring) it doesn't really take "all day." However it is a bit time-consuming for a typical weeknight dinner, so I was delighted a few years ago when I learned it could be made in a dutch oven with minimal active effort.
More recently I was curious if I could get the same effect using my Instantpot. I'm not going to lie to you, the stove top method will always beat any oven or Instantpot, but if you're crunched for time, my Instantpot Risotto comes incredibly close to the stove top version. It's creamy, cheesy, and delicious. Oh yeah, it also only takes 6 minutes!
This is my go-to drink for chilly autumn days. I love that I can make a big batch of it in the crockpot for gatherings or just a single mug to take the chill out on a rainy fall evening.
I always knew I would do my own bouquet for my wedding. Initially I wasn't sure what that would look like, but after I got my dress which had a lot of beads and embroidery, I knew I needed something glamorous to go with it. I also wanted something that could be a keep sake.
I came across brooch bouquets on Pinterest and knew I wanted to do one. There are many different ways that you could make one and I experimented with a few. Ultimately this is how I ended up doing mine but as I said there are many tutorials out there.
I loved that I could incorporate brooches from my husband's grandmother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother. It was a nice way to have these women walk with me down the aisle. Here's how I made mine...
It's hard to believe it's been a year and a half since I made these shelves for my dining room. They were one of the first big projects I tackled and my first time using a saw. I had no idea what I was doing, but I am so happy with the results. They serve as storage but also have added a lot of character to my dining room. The original shelf system I wanted was $500, definitely out of my budget, these cost me a fraction of that. You can check out my post from January 2018 on how I made them here.