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Archive for March, 2010

I have been really frustrated with my book collection lately. I am very much so a collector; I enjoy acquiring and enjoying things, and books are certainly one of my largest pleasures. Fiction and non-fiction are both enjoyable. Topics in my collection vary from young adult fantasy to scholarly texts on Chicano culture. But lately, I have been faced with a problem–too many books! In our small apartment, there just isn’t room for any more books. In fact, my bookcase is so full that I have started stacking books on top of one another, which drives me batty, as I like my books to be alphabetized by author last name. So I have recently instituted a new rule: no more books. I cannot buy any more books until I have read the books I already own. They all must fit on the shelves I have. Joe has the same problem–his book collection is also a bit out of control.

So lately I have been dreaming about having dedicated shelves for our combined libraries. I would love to have built-in shelves instead of silly-looking freestanding ones. Ours our mismatched and are from our college days–not a lot of style or impact. I have always wanted to have a library, but I know that dream is a bit ridiculous, since I am a big proponent of small homes. So I was incredibly excited when I saw a catalog picture of a multi-purpose dining room and library. The idea just clicked for me. I have always wanted a more formal dining room, but have always thought that it would be wasted space. But combined with a library, the idea combines two aspirational rooms into one smaller space.

In my research on the “dining library” I found a lot of eclectic, almost Victorian-like rooms. Lots of classical paintings, dark woods, lack of light. Many of them reminded me of the old “Clubs” of late Victorian times where gentlemen of clout would go for a cigar and a drink. Needless to say, these rooms could not be farther from my general aesthetic. So I was really pleased when I did a bit more digging and found some light, bright, modern options for a library/dining room.

Llyndu House from Design Commission for Wales

photo by rubykhan via Apartment Therapy Boston

Mosby Building Arts

Alvhem Apartment via Momoy

Cottage Living via Junkgarden

Point-Click-Home/Elle Decor via My Pear Tree House

From "The Quarry" aka "Big House Devon"

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So this is a little bit different for me–cooking! I have never been much of a cook; I am passable in that I can follow a recipe and end up with an edible, and often delicious result. I am trying to cook more often these days. I won’t lie, cooking is not normally the most joyful activity for me. So, I am trying to teach myself to love cooking. Trying new recipes keeps cooking at least a bit more interesting, and I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon at how documenting the process made it more enjoyable. So, steel yourselves for my newest cooking endeavor:

North African Chickpea and Kale Soup from FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced or diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8-1/4 teaspoon chilli powder or cayenne
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
generous pinch saffron, lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
8 cups vegetable broth (or water plus bouillon)
1 large bunch kale, thick center ribs removed and chopped (at least 8 cups)
about 2 cups water
salt to taste

Spray a large saucepan with olive oil spray and heat it. Add the onion and carrot and cook over medium-high heat until the onion begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the spices, including bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the chickpeas and stir to coat them with the spices. Pour in the 8 cups of vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the chopped kale and stir. If necessary add water to cover the kale and cook until it is tender, about 10-25 minutes, depending on how cooked you like your kale. Check frequently to see if it is becoming dry and add water as needed. Add salt to taste and serve.

Part of the adventure in this dish for me was the Kale. Prior to tonight, I had never tried kale before. I had always heard that it was a bitter green, and my palette is not partial to bitter flavors at all. Still, it seemed worth a try. And oh my gosh, let me tell you, I am completely a kale convert! I tasted a touch of the greens raw while I was tearing it up, and I did not find the flavor overly bitter or spicy. It was crisp and quite yummy! So yay for a new green!
This soup was incredibly easy to make; not much active cook time or chopping.
I like this picture of the carrots all peeled and ready to go. I know that there is always great debate whether or not to peel carrots before cooking. Personally I prefer my carrots peeled; I think that they cook up a bit more tender and sweet, but that may be entirely psychological. If I make this recipe again, I will add more carrots, I think.
Some of the easiest chopping ever. I love to make soups, but chopping is such a hassle. This soup really only requires the carrot and onion to be chopped, which was a breeze.
The kale soaking in cold water. As I had never used kale before, I had to do some quick reading up on it before I cooked with it. It took a couple of baths in the cold water before all of the grit was removed from its curly little leaves. I also chose to tear the kale rather than chop it; I found tearing it much easier.
Yummy spices! This recipe called for quite a combination of spices. Don’t they look pretty?
Full discolsure, I used chicken rather than vegetable broth, which made the soup decidedly un-vegan, but that was what I had on-hand. I also ended up using an extra can of garbanzo beans, as I love them more than I can say. Did you know that the word for chickpea in Latin is “Cicero?” Yes, like the famous Roman statesman and orator. It most likely would have been pronouned with hard “c’s” in ancient times, more like “Kikero.”
The soup was very tasty, and I will probably make it again. Of course, there were leftovers (my favorite) and I hope that the flavors will blend even more as the soup relaxes in the refrigerator!

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Yesterday Joe and I traveled into downtown Denver. I had forgotten that Saturday morning was Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Needless to say we were surrounded by green–green shirts, green necklaces, green beer. Thus, green inspiration photos!

Arcadian Green

All Images from Flickr. Clockwise from Top Left:

“Rivet” by Auntie P

“Be natural.” by LunaDiRimmel

“Acadian” by splorp

“Misty avenue” by net_efekt

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I have been studying color quite a bit lately. I especially adore studying color trend predictions for upcoming seasons. They make me think of palettes, combinations, and concepts that I might not normally consider otherwise. So it seems natural for me to make mood boards based upon these color trends, as I like to make mood boards for everything!

This board is based on the concept Archaic Garden by the group Le Cuir A Paris. This combination is meant for the Spring/Summer 2011 season, and it is very exciting to me.

Archaic Garden Palette

They say about Archaic Garden:

So we cultivate an archaic garden where primitive joins forces with antique. Where archaeologists decipher hieroglyphics that speak of Gods, of man and plants unknown.
Forbidden fruits and flowers bear forgotten names: Kumquat, oponce, papyrus, tuberose, rosewood.
Nestled in shadowy niches, worn mosaics hide behind twisted and dried branches of ivy. Collapsed columns and arches form a mound of worn stones, hiding fossils.
Colors: The range is whitened, stony, mineral or delicately fruity. The softness of faded, evanescent, light and serious colors.
This concept was very exciting to me personally, as I am very passionate about ancient cultures, particularly the ancient Greeks and Romans. I was a Classical Studies minor in college, and studied abroad in Rome, Italy. The color palette reminded me of the colors found in one of my favorite Roman artifacts: the fresco of Venus on the Half-Shell uncovered in the preserved city of Pompeii.

Venus on The Half Shell

Normally I have trouble incorporating my love for the ancient cultures into my ideas of home decor. But this palette really inspired me to try something different. I went a bit more traditional than I normally tend to and I am quite pleased with the result. I simplified the palette a bit to give the board a bit more focus. I went with a tangerine color for the paint, which feels fresh and modern, but accented it with more classical furnishings to give it a very classic feel. The stool is an update on a  traditional design that dates back to ancient Roman times, called a “Curule chair.” The artwork is a print of a fresco image from Pompeii. The pillows on the couch are made of modern shiny fabric, but the leaf application reminds me of acanthus leaves, a common motif in ancient art. Finally, I went a bit silly and literal with the lamps, choosing lamp bases that look like ancient columns.

Archaic Garden Mood Board

Simplified Palette

X- Base Stool in Brown from Wisteria

Framed Giclee Print of Mars and Venus at AllPosters

Benjamin Moore Paint in Tangerine Zing

Azure Sofa in “Bran” from Crate and Barrel

Grace Pillow in Apple Green and French Blue from Z-Galerie

Alabaster Doric Column Lamp at Todd Anthony Home

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Bedroom Bliss

I love beds: I love sleeping in them, reading in them, just all-out relaxing in them. I am what one might call a “bed enthusiast.” It has taken me years to break myself of the habit of reading in bed during the day. But that does not mean my love for beds has receded–oh no, I still adore a cozy bed that allows for proper sleeping temperature and comfort; but I also liek a bed that looks clean and tidy during the day. So I am going to give a litle bit of a run-down on our bed.

Our (Current) Bed

The bed itself was a wedding gift; it is a Hemnes bed frame from Ikea. I love the look of the head and footboard, but overall, our experience with the frame itself has been mediocre. Due to taking it apart and rebuilding it several times due to moving, it seems the bed has lost a bit of its structural integrity. In time, I hope that I can buy a more sturdy frame and attach the head and foot boards to that. But I love the clean, classic lines of the bed, to me it feels fresh, but not trendy, a problem that some Ikea furniture seems to suffer from.
When it comes to sheets, I am incredibly picky. I am particularly partial to sateen-style sheets. I know that there are criticisms of sateen sheets and problems with durability, but I have never found that to be a problem. I suppose I am also willing to replace the sheets more frequently since I love the feel so much. Sateen sheets seem to “breathe” better and slipping into them at night feels like slipping into butter. Which is appropriate, since the sheet color we use is actually “butter” color.
After the sheet, in the winter time I like to put on a loosely-woven cotton blanket. It is surprising how a simple cotton blanket really keeps the warmth in. Above that is a light to medium warmth down comforter. I prefer to keep the comforter encased in a duvet cover–it keeps the comforter itself clean, and it is much easier to launder a cover than it is an entire down comforter.
To add just a little more interest to the bed, I have added a couple of throw pillows and a thin comforter. I am not usually a big fan of throw pillows. I see photographs of beds encrusted in throw pillows, so much so that it seems to take up the entire upper half of the bed. That style is just not for me. So, I went simple with just a couple of small ones. I think I purchased them for between $5 and $10 each at a discount store when we lived in Lower Alabama. They are not of the highest quality, but as we do not sleep with them on the bed, I am not too concerned with quality. The thin comforter/throw is actually a recent acquisition. I try very hard to keep our home more gender-neutral. Joe isn’t a huge fan of florals, so when I saw the gunpowder gray/black circle comforter on sale at Target, I had to snatch it up. Oddly enough, I feel like the circles on the throw and the stripes on the bed do not seem to clash, and I think that is because both items are patterned in a monochromatic fashion. The yellow-on-yellow and gray-on gray stripes and circles, respectively are subtle enough that they read more as texture rather than pattern, and so they work well together.

Bedroom Inspiration

Once we get to a house or apartment that we are permitted to paint, I am hoping to apply a gunmetal gray to the walls to create bedroom that reads more quitet and cozy than light and airy. Gray and yellow are certainly a trend color combination now, so I will just have to wait and see whether it ages well in the next couple of years before I make a dark-paint commitment.

Some paint colors I find intriguing:

Bedroom Color Inspiration

All paint colors from Benjamin Moore; From Left: Gunmetal Gray, Kitty Gray, Gray Pinstripe, Englewood Cliffs, Delray Gray.

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I’ve been thinking about dining rooms a lot lately. Growing up, dinner was almost always a family affair. Dinner would wait until everyone was home, and was a time for us to catch up on one another’s day and such. I was never the kind of kid who hated sitting with my parents at the table, digging into a meal cooked up by my mom (during the work week) or by my dad (during the weekends.) Now that I have a family of my own, this kind of thing seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit. I still love talking with Joe about our respective days over a meal; but I have found that more often than not, this conversation occurs at some sort of restaurant or cafe.

It actually saddens me a lot that I am not upholding the torch of the family dinner. Part of this is due to my not being a passionate cook. For me, I like things to taste good and I like things to be easy to make. I know so many people who take great pride and joy in their cooking, but I have yet to find that part of myself. For me, cooking is mostly a chore that needs to get done rather than an activity that fills me with pleasure; and so cooking often gets left out of my daily equation. I hope that at some point I will find the joy in cooking; maybe when I have more than just my own mouth and Joe’s mouth to feed. Maybe it will be when we no longer live in apartments with teeny-tiny sub-par kitchens. Or maybe it will be when I can find the consumption of the meal to be an event, a gathering, rather than just something for sustenance.

The other thing about living in the apartments we have lived in is that there is no delineation of space. The kitchen is the dining room is the living room (quite common in apartments.) This set-up makes me feel less inclined to actually prepare a meal and then sit down and enjoy it. Eating is not really an event to look forward to; it is instead something to hurry up and complete quickly so Joe and I can move on to other activities. I would like to think that having a calming, dedicated dining room would encourage us to take a deep breath, sit down for a bit, and begin to unwind from the day. Something about a dedicated dining room says, “now we are eating together.” In a dedicated dining room, other distractions are minimized. The couch isn’t five feet away, beckoning with its siren song. Instead, you are in the moment, enjoying a meal together, enjoying the food and one another’s company.

My Dream Dining Room

In thinking about dining rooms so much, I have been considering my own dream dining space. I want this dining space to be one of comfort and relaxation, and so blue seemed a natural choice. Color theory talks about blue being a calming color in contrast to bright fire-y colors, such as orange, red and yellow, which can induce feelings of urgency and induce appetites. In this light, blue seems greatly counter-intuitive for a dining room, but as I want to focus more on relaxation and togetherness in the room, I think it works. The idea of the industrial-style chairs is a new one for me. I had admired them for a while, but always thought that they probably far too uncomfortable to be enjoyed within a home space. Well, my mind was changed this weekend when Joe and I visited a restaurant called “The Counter,” which is an upscale burger joint chain here in Denver and elsewhere in the United States, and even internationally. I do not know if all outposts have these industrial-style chairs, but the one here does, and both Joe and I agreed that the chairs were incredibly, surprisingly comfortable. On this mood board I went with ones from Crate and Barrel. I know that they are not the originators of the design, and that “authentic” chairs can be bought from Design Within Reach, but at this point in our lives, that design is not within our reach. I accented the industrial chairs with the warmth of wood. For a long time I have not been much of a fan of wood, feeling it is too formal for my more modern aesthetic, but I have recently discovered that I do enjoy the warmth wood imparts on a space. And, although the board is intended to be aspirational, I included the dinnerware that we already own, because I absolutely love it. So although it still may be a few years before I get the dining room of my dreams, this one seems pretty perfect for me right now.

Light Silver Sage Paint by Restoration Hardware

Delta Side Chair by Crate and Barrel

Jolene Sideboard by Scandinavian Designs

Marlow Extension Dining Table at Crate and Barrel

Martha Stewart Collection Dinnerware at Macys

Yoko vases from Crate and Barrel

Also, apologies for relying so heavily on Crate and Barrel. In reality, I am hoping to have an oak table custom made, and the Crate and Barrel one was the closest image I could find to what I am hoping to eventually acquire.

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