Inspiration to realization: HGTV Divine Design’s Retro Living Room

November 17, 2009 § 1 Comment

Divine Design is probably the best show to watch on home decorating. Period. Problem is- there’s a reason why a budget is never mentioned on the show- because the designer doesn’t have one! I found some gorgeous budget-friendly items so you can get this look for less.

CB2’s Avec Sofa – $1,199.00

Ikea’s KULLA Floor Lamp– $89.99

Directly Home’s Damask Rug– $149

Ottoman Showroom’s Contemporary Square Ottoman– $138.33

Crystal Beaded Chandelier from Amazon- $39.99

Self-adhering Silver Mirror Mat from DiscoMirrorBalls.com- $5.95/8-inch sheet

To get the striped wall:

  1. first prime the wall and then paint the whole thing with your lighter color
  2. measure out 1-foot wide intervals and mark up either side of the wall you want to paint
  3. using painters tape, extend the tape from one end to the other, taping off the 1-foot intervals, smoothing along with your hand to seal it
  4. paint in the grey stripes
  5. when removing the tape, first run along the edge touching the grey with an exacto-knife to keep the tape from pulling off any paint and ruining your perfect straight line.
  6. Ralph Lauren’s my favorite paint brand- the paint comes in a really chic color selection and it only needs one coat for a smooth finish

Arancini (cheese-stuffed risotto croquettes)

November 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

This is my go-to appetizer recipe for the holidays- always a huge hit partly because they are so unexpected but mostly because they are an explosion of foodgasm in every bite. I first discovered Arancini (which is Italian for “little oranges”) while flipping through Williams-Sonoma’s Christmas catalogue and right away I looked up the recipe on epicurious (which no longer exists on the site.)

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Ingredients

  • 3 3/4 to 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cubed mozzarella
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Tomato sauce, as accompaniment

Directions

  1. bring stock to a simmer. Cover and set aside to keep hot.
  2. In a heavy Dutch oven or large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the chopped onion and saute until transparent, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is opaque and fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed.
  6. While continually stirring, begin adding the stock in 1/2 cup increments, allowing the liquid to become completely absorbed between additions. Cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes.
  7. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, heavy cream, basil and salt and pepper and stir to combine well.
  8. Transfer to a mixing bowl or baking dish and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  9. remove the chilled risotto from the refrigerator and stir in 1 of the eggs.
  10. Using a small scoop or large spoon, divide the risotto into approximately 3 tablespoon portions.
  11. Using your hands, form the portions into rough ball shapes.
  12. Press a hole into the center of each risotto ball and stuff the center with some of the cheese and press the opening closed and roll the ball between your hands until it is smooth.
  13. n a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 360 degrees F.
  14. Place the flour, remaining 2 eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls.
  15. One by one, lightly dredge each risotto ball in the flour, then the beaten egg mixture, then the bread crumbs, so that each ball is completely coated.
  16. Set on a cookie sheet and refrigerate at least 20 minutes
  17. Fry the balls in batches, a few at a time, turning once during cooking so that they are evenly browned, about 2 minutes
  18. Serve with Parmesan cheese and some tomato sauce.

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This is what the risotto looks like when its NOT done- the secret to getting risotto to that perfect al dente is constantly testing out the rice and adding more broth until it is absolutely the right tenderness. The rice grains should double in size.

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I knew someday I’d need that crusty baguette from Panera! Homemade breadcrumbs really made a difference.

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Take that pent-up aggression! An easier approach would have been to use a food processor if I owned one- which I don’t. But I DO own a hammer!

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The goal is to get the crumbs into a coarse powder

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I like using deeper, narrower bowls for breadding than having the ingredients spread out too thin. Also, using tongs is a great way to keep from breadding your fingers. I prefer to use my hands because it’s faster.

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Letting the balls chillax in the fridge. Start to finish these bad boys take about three hours to make so if you know you won’t have that much time you can make them ahead and freeze after assembling the balls.

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For a healthy alternative you can bake them at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes- but you’ve seen the list of ingredients so you might as well just go all the way! I’ve made them both ways and the frying method is definitely tastier. Diet food is for January.

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All done! All this talk about balls got me thinking back to my favorite Christmas SNL short

 

Nightmare Before Christmas themed Christmas card featuring Zero

November 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

If you liked the Nightmare Before Christmas here’s a card featuring Jack Skelington’s little ghost-dog Zero flying through the night sky. So cute!

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It’s really simple to make- you just need blank cards, sparkly black paper, white paper, toilet paper or Kleenex, a red rhinestone, red puffy paint, a marker, scissors and glue.

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First cut out the head and drew in eyes and the mouth

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Then cut the sparkly paper and glue on the front of the card

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Glue the tissue to the card first, then glue on the head

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Finish by gluing on the rhinestone, making the candy cane with the paper scraps and paint, and paint a collar

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I’ll be honest I couldn’t come up with anything clever to put inside so go crazy!

How to make perfect place cards when you have horrible handwriting

November 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

It can be done! The trick is to use dark paper. See the end of the post for tips on placing those guests.DSC01909

All you need is some pretty paper (preferably dark, you’ll see why), a lighter color paint pen, scissors, glue, and a printer. An internet connection would be useful too.

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On the computer, type out your guests’ names in your favorite fancy font, arrange them with plenty of space in between, and print on your fancy paper. I love to download fun new fonts from 1001FreeFonts.com. For tips on installing a new font on your computer, here’s a PC tutorialHere’s a Mac one.

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I then used a credit card to trace a rounded-edge square around the names, but then I discovered I didn’t leave enough room in between the names- good thing I had extra paper!

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And now for the magic- trace over the printing with your paint pen. Because the paper is dark, the print ink will be unnoticeable. You’re so sneaky.

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I didn’t like the rounded corners so I hacked them off to make something different. Did I mention I made larger cards to glue behind the names since I screwed up? I then outlined the outsides of both cards- I did this on newspaper to bring the paint to the very edge.

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I really like how they turned out- maybe professional calligraphers aren’t telling us something…DSC01905

As promised – here are some tips on where to seat guests when you’re using place cards- referenced by my FAVORITE life/entertaining/cooking manual; Jane Buckingham’s The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life.

  • Try to alternate males and females, and seat couples away from one another
  • Seat yourself at the head, with your significant other, or maybe a special helper, at the other end. This is a place of prominence and it might make a guest feel obligated to help out with the dinner logistics like refilling the water pitcher
  • Use your knowledge about your guests’ personalities to dictate the flow of the table- spread out the more talkative guests among the quieter ones, you don’t want one end of the table sitting there awkwardly watching the other, more conversational end.
  • Set a kitchen cart or small table up near the dining table with all of the water, wine openers, etc. you can see yourself leaving the table for. This will keep you in the action while you tend to host/hostess duties.

The Holiday Season is here- BRING IT ON!

November 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

The chill in the air, the 30-page Toys R Us ad (and by ad I mean catalogue) in the Sunday paper, the eggnog lattes- it’s here! Even the flu, which unfortunately I have had for the past week so I apologize for the lack of recent posts. No Martha-in-training can resist the call of the holidays- the baking, crafting, card-making, decorating- which is why I am so excited for the coming weeks. So much to post!

For now I will leave you with a little diddy to get you in the holiday sprit. Get excited!

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