It's Fire Pit Season!

I'm so
fired up
to have spontaneous nights around the fire pit
now that the nice weather is finally here!
(Although really a fire pit can be enjoyed 12 months of the year even if you live in New England like we do!)

Our fire pit was a
found at Target at the end of the season a few years back for 50-something dollars.
(Check out my makeover of our neglected fire pit next week.)

Here's some eyecandy of beautiful fire pit options if you're in the market for one this summer:

Photo:  Elle Decor

Photo:  Frontgate

Photo:  Grandin Road

Photo:  Home Depot

Photo:  outdoorpropanefirepits

Photo:  sprite elements

Photo: Ballard Designs

Photo:  Lowes

Photo:  Oasis Fire Pits

And if you're planning to make your fire pit part of your landscaping,
check out these beauties!

Photo: Charles and Hudson

Photo:  Source Unknown

Photo:  Bennett Bros. Stone

And the absolute McDaddy of all firepits is from the show 
Rock Solid Landscapes on HGTV!!!
Are you kidding me?

It's fun to dream!

Okay, I'm just happy to have any kind of fire pit
to sit around with friends and family,
enjoy a nice glass of wine and toast marshmallows with the kiddos!
S'mores at the Cape last summer with some of my favorite peeps

More thoughts on fire pits next week
(I'm almost embarrassed to show you the state of mine
after sharing these beautiful pictures...but I will!),
along with some s'mores recipes...
you can really bring the whole s'mores thing
to a whole new level.

I'm signing off for a few days for a much-needed
weekend away with the fam.
Before I go I want to say
a special
to all the
courageous people
who have served our country!
Have a wonderful
Memorial Day weekend!

I'm linking to Melissa's Friday inspirations at the Inspired Room.  Pop on over there for tons of ideas of ways to spruce up your space!  Thank you Melissa for hosting this great weekly party!


Risotto with Carmelized Onions, Mushrooms and Roasted Chicken

This risotto is great for a busy night when you're rushing home from work or the ball field. 
Grab a cooked rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store to make your life easy as pie
(come to think of it, grab a pie at the store too!

This first part of this recipe is a basic risotto base.  You can be creative with the base depending on what's in your fridge!


What you'll need:
olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 C uncooked rice
3 C chicken broth
1 medium sized onion
1 C white mushrooms
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
store-bought rotisserie chicken OR
2 C chopped cooked chicken breast

Basic Risotto:
1/4 C olive oil (I don't measure, just swirl the oil in the pan)
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 C uncooked rice (I use Arborio)
3 C chicken broth

Heat oil.  Saute garlic over medium heat for a minute until fragrant, and add rice.  Cook rice for a couple minutes; add 1 cup of broth.  Continue to cook and stir occasionally until liquid is absorbed, and gradually add remaining broth in this fashion until all broth is absorbed and rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).

Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms:
2 T olive oil
1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped
1 C sliced mushrooms
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
Heat oil; saute onion for about 10 minutes or until translucent and starting to brown.  Push onions to side of pan to continue cooking.  Add another swirl of oil and mushrooms to center of pan in an even layer and cook for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned.  When onions are a dark golden brown, remove pan from heat.  Add balsamic vinegar and set aside.

Putting It All Together:
Slice meat from rotisserie chicken and chop.  Your yield should be about 2 cups for this recipe.  Stir the onion-mushroom mixture and the chopped chicken into the risotto and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper before serving. 

I like to serve this with a salad (as usual!) but you can also throw some fresh baby spinach into the onion and mushroom saute a couple minutes before taking it off the heat until wilted.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!

May you have a lovely day today!


A Shack With A Nice Kitchen

While most normal people, when moving, hope to find a nice home to live in...
I, on the other hand,
am hoping for a shack on a nice lot.

My biggest fear in looking for our next home is that the houses will be too
I want to rehab!  Why does my family think I'm crazy?

There's just something about before and after that floats my boat.
Plus this time 'round we want to do it our way.  For instance - the kitchen. 

I really, really want to tear out an outdated kitchen and replace it with this:

Photo:  Coastal Living

Or this would be fine:
Photo:  Cottage Living

I suppose I could make do with this:
Photo:  mls

Or one of these:

Photo:  mls
Photo:  mls

Photo:  Architectural Digest

Photo:  Christopher/not fully identified

 Not so crazy after all, am I?
Keep your fingers crossed for us.
There's a shack out there with our name all over it!

Hope you enjoyed these lovely kitchens.
Enjoy this fine day and thanks for stopping by!


Skeletons in the....Cabinet

Do you tape things inside your cabinets? 
I love a nice clean kitchen, devoid of small appliances
(except the beloved coffee maker, let's not get crazy and put that away). 
But inside my cabinets are all sorts of goodies. 

This post was going to be just about these Cook's Helpers that I found at marthastewart.com (where else?).  I taped them inside the cabinet closest to my cooktop....I'm always doubling or halving a recipe and seeking out measuring equivalents I just can't commit to memory.  While I was at it I figured I'd tape up the these other tips as well (you never know when I might take up candy-making - in all my free time!)

I realized that I have a thing for taping tidbits inside my kitchen cabinets. 
Healthy serving sizes for kids and adults inside the pantry. 
A reminder for the whole family that started with my 9 year old bringing home a list of healthy choices from her exercise class.

Bulletins from local churches with mass schedules, right above the coffee maker
as a gentle reminder on Sunday morning.
Also, love notes from the kids,
including that heart from my then-3 or 4 year old girl who used to write notes to her Mama
and address them all "Lisa".  Fresh girl.  Oh how I love you!
My favorite poem given to me at a Mother's Day tea
by each of my kids when they were in kindergarten:
I am wonderful
I am grand!
But...sometimes I might get a little out of hand.
If you get upset with me
and have a nice cup of tea
(a tea bag was tied to the ribbon around the poem - so cute!)

Doctor's appointments, referrals, first aid...

Neighbors' numbers for emergency purposes
(what - you love that kitty paper??? 
zip it - it was a pad of paper that belonged to my kids!)
A chandelier photo from PB about 5 years ago.  (Why didn't I buy it? I still love it.)
Random quotes that I've fallen in love with -
I should wallpaper my next house with this one:

Wealth consists not in having
great possessions
but in having few wants.
Esther de Waal, Seeking God:  The Way of St. Benedict

These little scraps of paper inside my cabinets, they make this house our home. 
The rest of the house has been de-personalized to appeal to buyers,
blah, blah, blah,
but it's still our home (for the time being). 
For all my need and desire to have an organized and pretty home,
I will always do this crazy taping of our life into the cabinets. 
It's what makes this building a home to us, no matter where we are.

I imagine my kids will grow up,
have space-age modern minimalist George Jetson homes,
 and yet there will be all sorts of scraps torn out of magazines
and taped inside their cabinets. 

Wait - you think I need a bulletin board to corral all my notices, papers and whatnot??

I think when we move, I'll take my little scraps, tape them up in our new house,
and then I'll feel right at home.

So - do you do this too or do I need a clutter intervention???

A Few Words On Paint

Thank you for all the nice feedback on my cozy chocolate brown bedroom
that had a makeover...
and became sandy white.

If you are painting over a dark color, make sure you prime your walls.  I still cannot believe it only took TWO coats of paint to cover the chocolate brown with such a light color!

This was the secret of my success:  priming.
Before I started painting, I went through my paints in our garage and looked for leftovers that were light in color.  I figured instead of throwing these half-empty cans of paint into a landfill, I could use them as a primer and cut down on how much paint I would need to buy to paint over the brown.
Well lo and behold I discovered this baby that has obviously been there for many years....
Ben Moore Super Hide.
Don't judge a book by it's cover...it's my new BFF.
I shook it and mixed it and it was perfection.
One coat of the Super Hide over the chocolate brown and one coat of this paint from Lowes...
Yes I am really showing you cans of paint!
But I want you to know how much less expensive
this paint is compared to Ben Moore, and it went on smoothly in one coat.

Benjamin Moore paint is what I have always used.  Other paint brands have never matched the coverage, smoothness and durability of those paints.  However, a gallon of BM is currently $35 and a gallon of Valspar is $23.  I had read about Lowes' Valspar paints as used by my blog friends and thought I'd give it a try.  This one gallon did almost my entire bedroom.

I needed another quart to finish, so I ran back to Lowes and ordered the quart, went off to do some shopping, realized I had 10 minutes to get home before my kids got off the bus, and didn't pay attention when I picked up the quart.  Well dontcha know - when I got home I realized it was NOT Valspar.
It was, however, the right color, so I used it anyway, but let me tell you -
 it stunk
and I want you to know so you don't waste your money!
This did NOT go on in one coat (doesn't claim to either for the record), was not smooth even after mixing, and the finish is not as nice as the Valspar.

Other tricks for the painter:
An angled brush is a must for cutting around the trim and against the ceiling!
Also if you don't have one of these - I highly recommend.  It is lightweight and the handle rests on your hand.
For cutting in before you roll the walls, a small cup and brush will do instead of dragging around the whole can of paint! 
Just don't absentmindedly take a sip out of it when surveying your beautifully painted room.
I don't know anyone who would do something silly like that.  (cough, cough)
There you go friends - the most boring post ever! 
But sometimes a girl's gotta be boring to be informational!

Have a happy day!


For the Grillmaster: Steak Tips

So sorry kind friends, for not posting a recipe this week! 
I'm glad you have been enjoying them; my aim is to share at least one recipe with you a week.  This one is a favorite around here; the kids love them as well as adults and they are great for busy families.  Allow the tips to marinate for 1-2 days and then grille them along with some baking potatoes and asparagus for a quick weeknight dinner!

Marinated Steak Tips
2 medium shallots, diced
1 T dried thyme leaves
3 T packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c soy sauce
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. sirloin tips, cut into 2-3" tips

Place a large zip-loc bag in a small bowl to keep it upright.  Add the steak tips. 
Combine shallots through vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved and pour over the steak tips.

Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag,
then roll around on the counter to distribute the ingredients. 
Refrigerate for 24-48 hours for maximum flavor to develop,
turning the bag a few times. 

Grill tips for approximately 10 minutes for medium-well. 
(This photo is so unappetizing at 7am, but trust me, these are really, really good! 
Did I gross you out?)



While the Husband's Away the Wife Will....Paint?

Mark swears the square footage of our house has diminished since we bought it
because I have painted the rooms so many times that they are shrinking.
That being said, we have been trying to sell our house for 16

(yes, 16)

very long months.

I have run out of things to spruce up.
I have exhausted every hole that needed puttying,
trim that needed painting,
closets that needed de-cluttering.

I don't fool myself into thinking that painting one room will sell our house,
but it can fill the room with light,
make the room more appealing to buyers,
and satisfy my need to
to get this baby sold.

Even though I have been craving neutral walls everywhere,
we have
our chocolate brown bedroom.
Nothing fancy, nice and simple and pared down,
but it was like a cozy cave, dark and comfy.
The chocolate brown was soothing, enveloping,
and I loved it paired with crisp white and a bit of robin's egg blue.

But when Mark left on Monday on a business trip,
I decided the time had come to neutralize it.
You know,
when he wasn't around to veto the project.

This is the after.  (Surprise, Honey!)
 I have to say - although I was going for a bit more of a beige color,
the color I picked under the flourescent lights at Lowes
(leading to a misinterpretation of the paint chip)
actually reminds me of the almost-white sand beaches of a Caribbean island. 
I'm loving it.  It's so bright and cheerful!
What do you think?

Here are some simple details of the room.
Everything except the wall color is exactly the same
but it all looks so different against a light background.
Keep in mind the house is on the market, hence the de-personalization!

Yes, that is a velvet coverlet in May!  And a winter scene over the bed! 
The colors work, plus I just adore this print by Thomas Dunlay
He is an incredible, well-known artist from the Boston area
that used to live in the neighborhood I grew up in. 
We have about 15 framed Dunlay prints in our house!

I reframed this one when I was in the biz....one of my favorite mouldings.
The moulding really pops against the new wall color.

This is our master bath, painted Fantasy Blue #716 (Ben. Moore)
- pardon crazy mirror reflections.
I love this color next to the new soft sandy white of the bedroom
(and lo and behold, another Dunlay print!)

We have a showing for the house in the morning.  
How much do you want to bet the prospective buyers say, 
"This room would look great painted
chocolate brown!"
Whatever, at least we can enjoy it while we're here!

Thanks for visiting...have a lovely day!

I'm linking to The Inspired Room
so you can find more great ideas of fabulous projects -
check them out!