Repurposed Cigar Boxes

Can you imagine life without the internet?

 The flipside of it's many negative uses is the incredible exchange of ideas that is available to us.

One hundred years ago someone from Ireland could have a fabulous idea, execute a project, and write a letter to a relative in the States about it.  A few months later, the letter arrives, and the reader tries to imagine the project in her mind's eye and attempt to recreate this great idea.  Today that project can be detailed, from the idea's birth all the way through it's completion, with photos and instructions, and shared the world over.  From methods of harvesting crops, to refinishing wood, sewing new fashions, or getting hydrangeas to bloom, it's all at your fingertips for the taking.

Isn't this thing that we have come to know as commonplace in our lives just amazing?

I have a pretty wooden cigar box that I want to repurpose, 
and in an instant I can find all these amazing inspirations!

Gorgeous centerpieces…..

(oh my, succulents and tangerines and beautiful flowers in a rustic cigar box???)

plant boxes for the porch….

pretty towel storage….

fun and unique purse with pretty lining...

desktop storage…..

jewelry box...

unique key strorage….

men's valet….

So far I've soaked the label off my box and am working at getting all that adhesive off.  Now it's going to get de-odorized with printed newspaper inside to absorb the cigar smell.
It's a fun little project for the weekend - I'll let you know how it comes out!

What are you up to this weekend?
Hope you have some fun and relax (and maybe even find some inspiring new projects to amuse you!)
Happy weekend, lovelies!


Making a Case for a Neutral Rug

Continuing with the living room rug debate, today I thought I'd share some beautiful rooms featuring a neutral rug for your consideration. 

I adore natural fiber rugs - sisal, seagrass or jute.  They add a neutral yet textured element to a room and in my experience they are quite durable - my seagrass and jute rugs held up to kids and a dog for many years.  In the world of flooring, natural fiber rugs are quite affordable too.

Take a little looksie at some of my neutral rug inspirations.

Neutral walls, natural fiber rug, lots of white balanced by warm wood, and a bit of soft color.
{Susan Kassler/Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles}

White paired with natural elements like the sisal rug and wicker chair, and bold pop of color.
{Kate Singer/Hampton Design House}

{Southern Living}

This next photo is from a Southern Living many years ago - how many of us ripped it out and saved it???  All these years later, what I still love about it is the neutral base of the walls and floor, warmed up with the wood toned armoire, natural elements, lots of texture and a bit of gold.
{Southern Living}

{Coastal Living}

This might be one of my all time favorite photos.  How cozy and welcoming is this little corner?  
{Original source unknown; if you know could you fill me in so I can update this photo?  Thank you.}

I love how a neutral rug and a light wall color give you the opportunity to do anything with textiles and accessories in your room.  The combination creates the perfect backdrop for adding pops of color and changing up the feel of your room on a whim.

So what do you think about natural fiber rugs - love or hate them?


My Mother Is Always Right:: Pattern In Moderation

Hey all, I just want to say a humungous thank you to everyone who weighed in on my living room.  We sit in there every single day and yet is the most neglected room in the house, currently home to a mishmash of furniture and having a bit of an identity crisis.  However, thanks to your comments and ideas, I am finally on a roll with this room.

Our big decision is whether to keep the traditional rug we brought with us from our last home.  Because it was a bit of an investment, we have been waxing and waning about using it.

The thing is, we have turned into commitment-phobes when it comes to window treatments and rugs.  Why, you ask?  We are victims of the matchy-matchy late '90s-early 2000s.  We drank the Kool-Aide that the Ethan Allen saleswoman was selling and had custom window treatments made for our family room, PLUS throw pillows, PLUS a large chair and ottoman, PLUS two roman shades for the adjoining kitchen, AND counter stool chair pads, ALL in the same floral fabric, with a complimenting plaid fabric everywhere else.

Looking back at these pictures, it was a bright, cheerful, happy space - but REALLY with all that floral fabric???  What was I thinking??  In our next house, I toned down the widespread use of the floral fabric by just using the panels in our family room, but that fabric exhausted me.  I was completely done with it by the time we moved two years ago.

The funny thing is that my mother has always said any kind of bold pattern gets tiresome after a while.  Did I believe her?  Nope.  Because I am headstrong, it's true, and because I enjoy interior design, whereas it's not really her thing, and yes, probably because I thought she was old-fashioned.  I thought I knew better.

Well, with most things, from feeding my babies and getting them to sleep through the night, to roasting a juicy turkey, to decorating with pattern, I have learned that my mother is always right.  She has a lifetime of experience after all.  When will I learn to listen to her?

And so the plan was born, when moving into this house and parting ways with that pretty but over-invested-in floral fabric, to create a neutral backdrop that we wouldn't tire of over the years, a base that I could change up with throw pillows and accessories.  And this brings us back to the rug.  The rest of our space is so neutral that if we're not married to this rug, I could bring in rust and brown in the fall, pops of red in the winter, blues and greens in the spring and summer….you get the idea.

But yet - I do love traditional rugs - especially when paired with more contemporary elements!!  On the other hand - a neutral rug = options.  So tomorrow - a case for the neutral rug.

In the meantime:
is there any advice you wish you had taken from your mom???
Or am I the only one?


Mangia Mondays:: Chocolate Spoon Cake (Low Fat!)

It's Mangia Monday again!  The day that Kristin of Delightfully Dowling and I talk food, and we hope you'll join us to share a recipe, a restaurant review, or anything kitchen related!

Everyone in my house has a sweet tooth, and it goes without saying that Sunday dinner needs a happy ending with a yummy dessert!

Since this "cake" is yolkless and does not require a ton of sugar, it is lower in fat than it's cousins, the brownie and the molten chocolate cake, but yet it still satisfies!!  This airy confection is the perfect finale to a big meal, since it's not too rich and heavy.

Be sure not to overbake your chocolate spoon cake!  The end result should be fudgy and moist; overbaking will make your cake dry.  I found 30 minutes was ample baking time in my oven.

baking spray
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoons hot water

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar

Optional, for garnish:
chocolate fudge sauce
whipped cream
vanilla ice cream

*Preheat oven to 375.  Coat a 1.5 quart baking dish with spray, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.
(Note:  if my casserole dishes don't have the size printed on them, I write the capacity on the bottom with a Sharpie.  Over the years these markings haven't washed off and it's great for figuring out which one is the 1.5 quart, etc.  Great for the different sized ramekins, brownie pan sizes (8x8, 9x9…), and also your name, if you bring your dishes to family or friends' homes for parties!)

*Combine cocoa and hot water in a measuring cup and set aside.

*Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir with a whisk for 1 minute.  Add 1/4 C. sugar and salt, then gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk for about 3 minutes until thick.
{This is a good job for the sous chef!}

*Remove from heat.  Add cocoa mixture; combine well.  Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool a bit while preparing the egg whites.

*Beat the egg whites with at high speed until foamy.  Add 3 T. sugar,  beating until stiff peaks form.

*Gently fold one cup of egg whites into chocolate, then fold in the remainder.  Spoon into prepared dish.

*Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffy and set.

*Serve warm or at room temperature with strawberries and chocolate sauce, or a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Chocolately, light and airy PLUS "lite" and guilt-free - my kind of dessert!!

Mmmm.  If there were leftovers I would be eating them right now!  The strawberry makes it a good option for breakfast, right??

What have you been cooking up these days?  Share with a link below and remember to link back to Mangia Mondays with either a button (the html can be found in the link under my header) or a link back to either Delightfully Dowling or Shine Your Light.  Thank you!

Have a wonderful week ahead my lovelies!


Making a Case for the Traditional Rug

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on my living room yesterday.  Doing the neutral thing with this house is a thousand times harder than I thought it was going to be, and I feel like I've lost my decorating mojo these days.  Since we spend a lot of time in this room, I need to make some decisions and be done with it!!  (for 2012 anyway)

So, to keep the rug or give it the boot?  That is the big question.

I think I'm out of love with the traditional decor I had going on in my last house, but these room could make me reconsider!  Traditional with a fresh twist - what do you think?


{Country Living}

{hgtv (Sarah Richardson's house I think?)}

{House Beautiful}

{Traditional Home}

It would have been a lot easier to make decisions for my house if Pinterest didn't exist - there are too many beautiful photos to sway me one way or another!!

Wishing you a wonderful first official weekend of Autumn - stay away from that troublemaking Pinterest, relax and enjoy!



Living Room:: In Process

Changing the way our house looks by painting the walls and trim was a piece of cake for me, but pulling the rooms together has turned out to be the most daunting part of making our newest house a home.  We have lived here for two years and in that time I've been trying to use what we had in our previous homes to create a more casual, comfortable, functional house for my family of five.  I want every room to welcome my kids, friends and family to be able to come through our door and curl up in a comfy spot and feel at home, and I want to utilize our old furniture and stuff in a fresh new way without spending a lot of money on decorating, since we have some big renovation projects on the horizon.

While figuring out how to decorate our house doesn't keep me up at night (I have real life issues for that, don't we all?), after two years of living with half-done rooms, I seriously need to FINISH up some things around here and move on!!!

Our living room.  Oh, woe is the living room.  Here it is 6 months after we moved in (more on that evolution here.)

It's the room that we spend the most time in, and the one I have paid the least attention to.  This is a room that we read in, drink coffee, blog, entertain, and generally hang out.  It is also home to our armoire-turned-office that the kids use for homework.  I'm thinking about painting this bad boy.  There is no other spot for it in the house so I'm trying to work it into this room.

I wasn't loving the feel of the living room, but I was happy to be able to use the room and it was fine for the time being.

What I didn't love:
*the overall blah-ness of the room.  I think I tried too hard to pull a neutral color out of the chairs.  I love neutral, but blah?  Who likes blah???

*the faux-silk curtains.  Hated is too weak of a word.  I bought them because we left all our window treatments behind with our last house, and Mark wanted something like the heavy silk drapes I had hung there, so I tried to make him happy without spending a lot of $$$.  Total fail.  When the light came through them in the afternoon they looked so synthetic and the color was so blech.  (I tried painting them.  Didn't work.)

*the burlap tableskirt on the round table, from Ballards about 10 years ago.  Mark has always despised this.  Time to go.

*the floral chairs.  I have learned over the years that while I'm great at committing to people, I cannot commit to any kind of pattern for a long time.  Throw pillows - yes.  Large pieces of furniture or window treatments with a major pattern?? - no.

What I did like:
*the black & white photo wall.  In fact I have loved this wall.  It makes me happy to look at these old family pictures, I love that my kids see them all the time, and I like the eclectic composition of the gallery wall.

*the green couch.  While I wish it was white or beige so I wouldn't have to work around the color, it's the most comfy couch ever, it is fairly neutral, and somehow red wine washes right out of it!

*the coffee table and side table between the chairs.

*I loved the seagrass rug that we had for 14 years - it was a great textured neutral.  Unfortunately it met it's demise thanks to our pup (who doesn't normally come into this room, but was left alone too long - I'll spare you the details!)

When we had our basement finished last winter, we proceeded to shake up all the furniture in our house to furnish it, leaving the living room totally bare - a blank canvas.  We were just about to take the plunge on a white slipcovered sectional from Crate and Barrel when - dun dun duuuun - Mark lost his job in May.

Okay then!  Back to shaking up the furniture we already owned and pulling some things out of storage that were headed for Craigslist.  Here is a snippet of where we are today:

Getting rid of the curtains was the best decision I ever made!!  (More on my new curtains later!)  Now I'm on the hunt for a different mirror for between the windows and side tables (as in, I'm stalking the Salvation Army and thrift stores for potential makeovers).  And remember that chair that Mark's parents gave to us?
I've been envisioning it in black for the living room - what do you think?

I put together a mood board to see if I can work around the rug.  I let a saleswoman talk me into it years ago and I'm mad at myself for investing in it.  It's not offensive, but while we don't LOVE it,  it seems so wasteful to not use it.  
*lamps/Ballard Designs (on sale right now!)
*chairs/Boston Interiors (also on sale right now!)

What do you think?  Would you keep an "investment" piece that you're lukewarm on and try to work around it??  Paint the bamboo chair black?  Paint the armoire something???  Ugh.  This room makes me want to flop face down on my green couch and take a nap.



Mangia Mondays:: Fried Mozzarella

Hi you!
Did you have a good weekend?  Eat anything delish?
It's Mangia Mondays over here, the day Kristin of Delightfully Dowling and I talk food! 
Join in our blog hop with a recipe, restaurant review, whatevs - anything food related will do!  
We'd love to hear what's rocking your world in the kitchen these days.
Did I mention to you that I have a teenager?  
Yep, I sure do.  14 years old since last Friday at 6pm.  He was born in time for dinner and from the moment he entered this world he was a hungry lad.  In his teenagehood he's become known as the bottomless pit, the trash compacter, the pantry emptier.  He looks for something to eat ALL THE TIME, rifling through drawers in the fridge, searching high and low in the pantry, hunting and gathering tasty between-meal snackaroonies.
{My niece Kate and my three hooligans.}

Oooooh, how I was his favorite mom the day I made these.  Yep.  Favorite.  Okay - so also his only mom - but let's not split hairs right?  I'm sticking with favorite.

I bought these mozzarella rounds at BJs thinking they would be a great school snack (according to Livestrong, 1 little ounce of mozzarella has 7 grams of protein and 18% of the recommended daily dose of calcium.  Look for mozzarella made with skim milk for a low-fat snack.)

I tried a new-to-me brand, purchased 100% because the name of the cheese company also happens to be the last name of my cutie patootie niece and nephew.
But despite bearing the name of our little munchkins, the bag of cheese sat in my deli drawer for way too long, ignored and unloved.  When interviewed on the subject, the teenager and his sidekicks deemed this brand of cheese a bit on the bland side.  Blah.  Yawn.

This mama had a brainstorm.  
Fry those suckers right up in a little panko, that's right.  
Who doesn't love fried mozzarella??  
And did I say my word yet??….E.A.S.Y.  You know I love some easy cookin.
Unwrap individual cheese sticks or rounds.  Whisk an egg in one bowl, and in another place panko seasoned breadcrumbs.  Dip the cheese into the egg and then press the breadcrumbs onto the cheese.  
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat until shimmery, then add breaded cheese and fry until golden on each side.  Serve hot, with marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

With the egg and the breading it's not exactly the healthiest snack, but without a doubt a surefire way to be popular with your peeps (my popularity lasted about 10 minutes until all the mozzarella was consumed.)  I shamelessly cook my way to my teenager's heart.  I buy his love and affection with fried mozzarella, it's true.

Okay - you're turn!  What have you been cooking up in that kitchen of yours??  I'd love to hear about it.

*Thanks for linking back to Mangia Mondays in your post!