Monday, March 23, 2015

The Magic of Spray Paint

I have decided that there really is magic in taking something you already own that is old or out-dated and turning it into something (almost) brand new. Spray paint is often the key.

Project 1:

When my parents died, I ended up with a magazine rack that they had used for years. It was in excellent condition and I didn't want to get rid of it, but it didn't really fit in with the my decorating scheme. I didn't take a "before" photo, but here is a picture of one that is similar in shape and wood tone:

I was in the process of redecorating one of our bedrooms and was working with grays and yellows. A few coats of spray paint later, the magazine caddie was transformed from something a little bit tired into something bright and cheerful to hold bedside reading for our guests:

Project 2:

I like to hang a wreath or other seasonal objects on my front door for major holidays. My autumn wreath looked tired and worn out; it was multi-colored, papery baubles on vines. The colors were faded and some of the baubles were beginning to crack. When I found another one to replace it, I planned to throw the old one out. But as I put it on the "to donate" pile in my garage, I happened to glance up at the paint shelf and was inspired to try to transform it into an Easter wreath.

The original plan was to go white. I untwisted a wire hanger and hung the wreath from a tree branch. This made it easy to cover the wreath from all sides:

I let it dry and was pleased with the results. The faded colors were transformed by the white paint, and the cracked baubles now looked a bit like opening blossoms. But when I hung it on the door, I was disappointed. The white seemed gray against my black door.

So I went back to the paint shelf and grabbed the same yellow can that I had used on the magazine rack. And. . . . here it is:

Those of you who are less boring than I am could add ribbon, flowers, eggs, etc., to make it even more interesting.

Basically, for the cost of a single can of paint (well, two if you count the white mistake), I got two fun and functional items. So grab a can in your favorite color, find something a bit tired and worn out, and make something old new again.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mama's Soft Baby Book: Embroidered Animals

Happy birthday to SourPatch! He's the mighty age of one, officially. It's actually kind of emotional, so let's not talk about it too much. I do want to thank everyone for being so generous! He has been showered with clothes, toys, and books galore, and I understand more of them are on his way.

It can't help but remind me of the presents he received for his real birthday. I had three amazing showers; one in Texas, one in Utah, and one in California. How lucky can a girl get?? The Texas bash was thrown by none other than the marvelous Melanie, and it was pretty much a perfect affair.

I admit that in the midst of the beautiful decor, delicious food, and delightful games, the presents all blurred together in a marvelous whir, in particular those from my mother, I'm sad to say. She gave me so many, and I didn't have time to really parse through and appreciate each item.

Flash forward several months, and SourPatch is now a crawling ball of energy. I had a few friends (and their own babies) over, when one of them noticed a beautiful soft book that he loved to play with. They ooh'd and ah'd over this hand-stitched, felt-and-floss wonder and asked where I had gotten it.

Oh dear. To my shame, I couldn't recall for certain where it had come from, but a little voice in the back of my mind spoke the truth: this bore the mark of my mother.

Which, if you know her at all (or even quickly browse the posts under her "Marilyn" label), means that it's beautifully sewn and well put together. I quickly called her up to both verify that this was in fact her handiwork and to thank her profusely for such a personal gift. This present took time and talent, and SourPatch loves it.

Which is impressive, because he has pretty much loved it for a year now and not outgrown it. It is just the right size, it's colorful, and it has great textures. But a picture is worth a thousand words:

Here's the cover! I simply call this "The Penguin Book" when talking to SourPatch. It's about a 7 inch square, and has been through the wash a few times by now and held up marvelously (I believe all baby items should be easily washable? Agreed?). He loves touching the buttons and little penguin feet (which aren't sewn down and flap freely).

Inside are eight pages of animal joy. Mum embroidered each animal and its name onto the page in happy colors.

The monkey is his favorite page; he stops each time to touch its face. Even at a just few months old, Patches loved to flip though the book and feel the textures of the animals and the words. Now, when we read it, we talk about the sounds the animals make or the colors on the page.

So, mum, this is a year late, but thank you again for the book! It's one of the most well-used toys of the past 365 days, and we will continue to love it in the days to come. And for all ye similarly talented sewers and embroiderers, this makes an excellent gift.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Quinoa Crusted Pork Chops

Has everyone officially heard and tried some random recipe with this new "super" grain called quinoa? (Which is not in any way, shape, or form pronounced the way it is spelled. Unless you speak a Latin-based language, I suppose.)

Cooked quinoa
I tried a couple recipes containing quinoa a year or so ago and thought they were "okay" but didn't love them. Then I stumbled across this idea while I was googling quinoa recipes: use quinoa as a crust or breading for meat rather than using breadcrumbs. I must say I was intrigued, especially since I am breast-feeding baby #2 and have to go easy on the gluten to keep his tummy happy. I tried it and am here to shout to the world that using quinoa in place of breadcrumbs is AMAZING! You must try it. Here is the recipe I used and recommend:

Quinoa Crusted Pork Chops
Adapted from this Rachael Ray recipe

3/4 cup cooked quinoa (cook according to directions on package)
4 pork chops
1/4 cup mustard (I just used the kind you slap on hot dogs)
pepper to taste
a little olive oil and/or cooking spray

1, Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, spray foil with cooking spray, and spread the cooked quinoa on the foil. Bake quinoa at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes or until it starts to lightly brown. 

2. Mix pork chops, mustard, and a few sprinkles of pepper in a medium bowl until pork chops are uniformly covered with the mustard. 

3. Roll pork chops in the quinoa until each pork chop is uniformly covered in the toasted quinoa. 

4. Drizzle a little olive oil in a 9''x 9'' pan or pie dish and put the quinoa-covered pork chops in the pan. 

5. Cook chops in 425 degree oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the pork chops. You may have to cut one open at some point to make sure they are cooked all the way through. Do what you have to do. 

Yum, yum, yum! My husband was afraid this would taste too mustardy, but he was pleasantly surprised. The quinoa doesn't allow the mustard to take over the flavor. I have used quinoa on chicken too, but I really prefer how it complements a nice, fat pork chop. Enjoy!