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I am on a hunt, but my prey is elusive. I’ve been searching and searching, but nothing comes in to view. Why, oh why can’t I find affordable side tables that I like and are the right kind of functional?

Right now, the nightstands in the bedroom are white metal Eero Saarinen Tulip table (cheap) knock-offs from Target. We’ve had them for a couple of years, and although they are a fun style, I have never been particularly happy with them. The tabletop is ridiculously flimsy (I got what I paid for) but still, putting pretty much anything on the table causes it to bend at an angle. Even alarm clocks and simple lamps cause the tables to bend awkwardly. I am also unhappy with the size of the tabletop. All Joe can fit on his is his alarm clock and lamp. Clearly not adequate.

So for the past handful of months I have been on the unsuccessful search for attractive, functional, affordable side tables. I want a drawer, or a shelf, or both. I want a sturdy table with a large-enough tabletop. I want something that will compliment our current bedroom furniture. I want something that won’t break the bank. It seems like it should be easy, but it is really not! So far I have found nothing that appeals to at least a majority of these desires. And I am getting so frustrated! It is like if I find one that fulfills two or three of my criteria, it fails the last one. And the one that they normally fail is the factor of affordability. It is just mind-boggling to me the prices for side tables, even at places that are usually known for their cheap furniture. Factor in that I need a pair of tables, and I get head-bangingly frustrated with the whole thing!

For example, this table is absolutely gorgeous. Nice size, has a drawer, would match our current bedroom set:

Hudson Table from Williams Sonoma Home

Cost? $1790 for two. Uh, no. Not going to happen. Ever. Even if it is handmade. I just can’t do it.

This one is nice. The color is okay, if not my favorite. It is functional and fairly neutral. I like the shelves:

Metropolitan Side Table from Pottery Barn

Cost? $249 each. Less expensive, but more than I want to spend. I like something that looks nice, but to me, side tables are primarily functional, and I am not really willing to spend twice as much on side tables than our bed cost.

This next one has both a drawer and a shelf, which I like; and it comes in white, my color preference:

Narrow-Leg Storage End Table from West Elm

Once again, though, they are $249 each. One wouldn’t think this should be this hard!

This next one is more in my price range – $99.95 each:

Harvey Nightstand in Carbon from CB2

However, this more industrial aesthetic is not one I am usually drawn to, and I feel the proportions might look off next to our more traditional-styled bedroom set. The color is also not my favorite, and I am very nervous about buying another metal nightstand since the current ones are metal and are unsatisfactory.

If I wanted to go match-y with night stands, then this stand would work as it is from the same line as our bed:

Hemnes Night Stand from Ikea

And it fits our price range, as it they are only $59.99 each. But they are way too tiny; the top surface is really minuscule and the scale is completely off when matched with the bed it is ostensibly meant to match.

So what is the answer? Side tables that are perfect are too expensive; the ones I can afford aren’t right. Trawling Craigslist and Goodwill have both proven unsuccessful. Does anyone have sources/ideas I have not thought of yet?

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I decided to try out a new feature where I pick a theme and create a “collection” of items related to this theme on Etsy. So, today is the theme of Carnival. I wanted a cool kind of retro feel to this collection; a little bit nostalgic, but not too washed out. I wanted to make the collection reflect the exuberance of a carnival.

"The Carnival"

Top Row (L to R): Coney Island Notebook by Ciaffi, Admit One Wooden Cuff by ruthmikos, Popcorn Soaps by LoveLeeSoaps

Middle Row (L to R): Aqua and Orange Fabric Garland by PaisleyHandmade, Panoramic Ferris Wheel in Barcelona by bomobob, Vintage Acrobat Circus Pendant by Arete

Bottom Row (L to R): Funnel Cake Bobby Pins by lepetitebonbon, A Carousel Ride Vintage Necklace by ABoxForMyTreasure, Confetti Dot Paper Straws by HeyYoYo

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Pantone Fall 2011

So, remember how last year I did a ton of posts about the Pantone Fall 2010 colors? Well, the Fall 2011 palette has been released here, and I think that they are quite lovely.

Fall 2011

I like that the more firey colors are allowed to shine–for the past couple of seasons the blues and greens have played a central role; it feels right that it is the “hot” colors’ turn. I also like the richness of the palette, compared to last fall’s more muted vintage-y tones, this palette feels far more glamorous and luscious.

The downside for me is that “Honeysuckle” was named the color of the year. Really? I know corals have been popular for a couple of seasons, but not a fan of this overtly pink version. I find Honeysuckle to be too aggressively girly, too over-the-top. In my opinion, “Emberglow” is a more interesting color with a wider-range of uses. But that’s just me.

Anyway, instead of doing the very time-consuming mood boards, this season I am just going to play around a little bit with the colors and see what interesting combinations I can come up with. One nice thing about the palette this year is the ease of the neutrals. Both Coffee Liqueur and Nougat have a casual feel to them that makes them work well with any palette. Oddly enough, while playing with the palette, I found that Quarry (although thoroughly blue) also makes a wonderful neutral.

So first, the calming color combinations.  These palettes are more soothing, more mainstream. They have a natural, casual coolness about them. I could see these palettes being used quite successfully in a home.

"Beachside"

“Beachside,” as indicated in the title would not look out of place in a summer cottage on the beach somewhere. I feel it has more of an “East Coast” beach feel to it.

"Calm Forest"

“Calm Forest” is also very neutral and casual. It really embodies the French Country aesthetic, and maybe even a little bit “shabby chic”

"Peacock Park"

“Peacock Park” is based in those lovely neutrals, but throws in the rich luxury of “deep teal.” Neutral but with a touch of glam.

"Vintage"

“Vintage” has an old-fashioned feeling to it. Slightly antique, a little bit feminine.

Now, for the more bold colors. Harder to successfully pull off in a space, but very fun!

"Masquerade"

“Cedar” and “Emberglow” alone together look old-fashioned. Put some “Phlox” with them, and the trio reads as bold glamor.

"But I Am A Lady"

“But I Am A Lady” just reads “modern girly” to me. The yellow undertones of bamboo mixed with the aggressive pink of honeysuckle could be cloying, but the intensity of the colors make it modern.

"Bold"

“Bold” is just over-the-top eighties-style glamor. Probably not something I would like to live with, but appealing nonetheless.

So, good palette for Fall 2011? Is Honeysuckle a good annual pick?

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Well, it looks like I am somehow making not blogging a habit. Funny how it is. I feel all motivated, and then, whoops, there it goes out the window. 12 Days of Cookie-mas, well, it ended up being only five. That was due to my hurting my back and being laid-up for a couple of  weeks; I couldn’t even stand long enough to bake cookies, much less sit up straight to write blog posts about them. Other than that, though, I really have no excuse. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy blogging–I do–it just seems to be a lower priority than it maybe ought to be. For me, blogging isn’t particularly easy. I mean, the words flow very easily when I am actually ready to write, but all the preparation for the actual writing just takes it out of me. Since I often blog about food, not only do I need to cook it, but I need to photograph and edit the pictures. Which doesn’t take long, but by that point, I often seem to lose steam. When I do more style-based posts, it takes probably 2+ hours of work per post. I am not quitting blogging, it just really seems to take more out of me than I think one would assume it would.

So anyway, now that I’ve whined a bit, here is what I made for Valentine’s Day. I am not really much of a Valentine’s Day person. I don’t dislike the holiday, it just isn’t an important one to me. But any excuse to make desserts I will take! Funny thing about cupcakes for me–this was the first time I’ve made them. Yep, somehow to cupcake craze passed right over me. But with desserts, there really is no late! And oh my goodness were they fantastically delicious!

three chocolate cupcakes with pale pink swirled frosting and red sprinkles
Aww, aren’t they cute?

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Via Baking Bites

For cupcakes:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules (I used decaf, single-serving packets; these actually)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

For frosting:

  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 – 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • Sugar sprinkles (optional)

First, we make the cupcake base. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 48 mini muffin cups with mini muffin liners. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, coffee powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.) A lot of the coffee crystals will not go through the sifter. Its okay, just discard the stubborn bits. In another bowl, whisk together milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar. It will get slightly frothy. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 way full. I found a table teaspoon works well for this. Bake cupcakes for 10 – 12 minutes until tester comes out clean. In my oven, it took more like 11 – 13 minutes, but no harm in checking at the ten minute mark. Remove the cupcakes to wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. Note: I used silver metallic muffin liners because it was for a special day, but I highly discourage this! When removing the cupcakes from the hot pans, the metallic liners will burn your fingers!

While the cupcakes are cooling, its good to get started on the frosting. Using a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Make sure to scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl frequently. Beat in the vanilla extract and add 1 Tbsp. of the milk. Add the second Tbsp. if needed. Remember not to lick the measuring spoon used to measure the vanilla extract–it smells better than it tastes. Add a couple drops of food coloring if desired. Gradually add powdered sugar until frosting is desired consistency. I used approximately 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar, but would probably add more in the future–my frosting was a bit limp.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost the cupcakes as desired. I used a decorator bag with a medium star tip and swirled the frosting on, but I suppose the frosting could be spread if need be. Add sprinkles to top if desired.

Yield 48 cupcakes, lots of extra frosting. Send lots of cupcakes to work, as 48 is way too many for two people to eat, even though they are mini cupcakes!

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“On the first day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: crunchy sandy almond cookies!”

I have dubbed December the “12 Days of Cookie-mas.” From now until around December 25, I am going to cook 12 cookie recipes; some old favorites, some new to try. Today was day one, and I made Almond Drops. This was a new one for me!

Almond Drop Cookie Stack

Almond Drops

From Taste of Home via AllRecipes
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cups sliced almond

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl (I used my mixer bowl) cream the butter and the sugar until it is very creamy, almost white, 10-12 minutes, making sure to pause every once in a while to scrape down the paddle and the bowl sides. Beat in the almond extract. While the butter and sugar are creaming, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir in the almonds. The dough might seem a little more moist than some dough, but it’s okay. Drop teaspoons of the dough around 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes (my cookies took more like 14) or until lightly browned. Cool for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling racks. Yields around 42 cookies.

This recipe is an easy one to halve, a good deal for Joe and I; I think 42 cookies is an awful lot for two people to eat, good thing Joe is willing to offer cookies to his coworkers throughout the month. I halved the recipe and it yielded 24 cookies, so I guess it depends on your cookie-size preference.

Reviews:

Kathy: “7/10. The cookies have a tasty almond-y flavor, but it really could have used more sliced almonds in my opinion. I am an almond fiend, so the more almond-y the better in my book. The texture was not my favorite, very crumbly and messy. I’m not sure if I over baked the cookies or whether they are supposed to be so sandy? Still tasted good, though.”

Joe: “7.5/10. The cookie is good because it is very sweet without being too sweet. The almond texture feels really good. I dock it points because its airy quality, while I recognize that’s just how the cookie works, doesn’t really fit with my preferences; I prefer my cookies to be more substantial and chewy”

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Thanksgiving week is rapidly approaching, and as per usual, our trip back to our home state looks to be quite a whirlwind. Joe and I choose to take our long family visit at Thanksgiving, and it is starting to become a tradition. I, for one, am particularly excited because the two of us can drive up to our Michigan rather than having to fly. Which means we don’t have to be quite as judicious packing our week-plus worth of clothing and other things. Nonetheless, I thought it would be a fun exercise to see what I could do with an (imaginary) wardrobe of only ten articles of clothing. Could I put together a week’s worth of outfits? It was extremely entertaining to come up with, and although I don’t actually own these clothes, I certainly think this made me think about packing for my trip in a new way! Oh, and I used OPI’s new “Burlesque” themed nail polish as a jumping off point.

We start with these ten articles of clothing...(Click to Enlarge)

Approximately Clockwise from Left:

  1. Women’s Ruffled Flutter-Sleeve Dress in Red Print from Old Navy
  2. Above the Folds Top from ModCloth
  3. Dream V-Neck Cardigan in Pale Plum from J.Crew
  4. !iT Jeans Dream Diva Stretch Jeans from The Buckle
  5. Wool Flannel 1035 Trouser in Steel Grey from J.Crew
  6. Croft and Barrow Cable Knit Sweater in Wine Heather from Kohls
  7. Cambridge Cable Shawl-Collar Cardigan in Black from J.Crew
  8. The Bates Coat in Black Plaid from ModCloth
  9. Akome Top from Anthropologie
  10. Women’s Rib-Knit Embellished Tank in Cinder Smoke from Old Navy

See below what we do with these ten items!

(more…)

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Thanksgiving Table

Our annual Thanksgiving trip to visit family is in 10 days. I cannot believe how quickly November is sneaking past! Am I ready for Thanksgiving yet? I’m not sure. Magazine articles on Thanksgiving dinners are certainly getting me into a turkey-eating mood, though!

This year, I feel myself gravitating more towards tradition and a more rustic aesthetic. Maybe its that I actually have woods and trees to look at outside my windows instead of other apartment buildings and the roofs of big box stores. Or maybe the extended fall is making me seek warmth and comfort. Either way, I’ve been playing around more with Traditional/Modern combinations. I am finding myself more drawn to wood; a texture I had previously felt generally averse towards. So here is my mood board for a Rustic-Modern Thanksgiving table setting which includes quite a bit of wood!

Rustic Modern Thanksgiving

Background color: Based on Linden Mint Tablecloth at Crate and Barrel

Silver Beaded Pitcher at Williams Sonoma Home

Carved Wood Serving Platter at Target

Emeco Navy Chair at Emeco.net

Vintage Patina Trestle Table at Bernhardt

Artificial White Pumpkins at Zimmerman Marketplace

Marimekko Lepo Olive Napkin at Crate and Barrel

Olivier Flatware at Crate and Barrel

Vernazza Dinnerware at CB2

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