Handmade Table Runners

IMG_9826When thinking of the decor for our dining room table, I knew that I would want to use table runners, as opposed to full tablecloths, to show off the oak wood. I also knew that I would create my own runners, since the selection at a fabric store is so much wider than what would be available prefabricated. Initially I went to the fabric store thinking that I would make one or two runners to switch out. However, once I started walking the aisles I wanted to grab a lot more options. Ultimately I settled on three unique fabrics to have a good variety, and to be used with different dishes and seasons.

IMG_9788IMG_9819Each runner followed the same general layout: a strip with pointed ends and tassels. I cut out rectangles in each piece of fabric, hemmed around the edges, and then folded the tips in to create the points. Then, I sewed on a decorative edge for a couple of them to give a bit of extra contrast, and created simple tassels for each using string and yarn.

IMG_9825IMG_9827For the first runner, I selected a light blue fabric with an off white pattern that I thought would work well with our main set of casual dishes.

IMG_9830IMG_9832For the second runner, I picked out a light green fabric with a beige leaf pattern. This one compliments our wedding china, which I love to take out for special events, or small gatherings with friends. I decided not to give this one an edge since the pattern has a lot of detail on its own.

IMG_9821IMG_9824For the final runner, I used a light linen fabric with a beautiful embroidered pattern. I gave this one a blue rope edge to give it a bit more color, and created gray tassels to compliment the colors of the stems in the pattern.

IMG_9820Although this one has a lot going on in the pattern, it is perhaps the most neutral of the three for our dining room table. With just a couple of center piece items, this runner makes our table feel complete without being too heavy and cluttered.

IMG_9822Although I may use table cloths in the future for some events, I am very happy to have these new runners to alternate with our decor. Each runner was very simple to make, and I’m so excited to have these options when entertaining.


Blackberry Tartlets

IMG_9800I love mini desserts – not only are they cute, but you also don’t have to worry about cutting up pieces to serve like you would with an entire cake. For a recent gathering with friends, I volunteered to bring the dessert, and made these little blackberry tartlets. The filling was decadent and creamy, with the hint of acidity from orange zest and a splash of liqueur. The crust was buttery and sweet, and the fresh fruit and bright colors were perfect for springtime.

IMG_9798Ingredients: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (plus more for decorating), zest of 1 orange, 2 tsp Cointreau, 1 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 stick melted butter

IMG_9792Instructions: Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl, and gently mix with a fork. Make sure that all crumbs have incorporated the butter, and that the mixture isn’t too dry. If you see dry crumbs, add more butter as needed. This should make eight 3 inch tartlets.

IMG_9794Scoop the graham cracker mixture into tartlet pans, and push down on bottom and sides, packing in the graham crackers tightly. It helps to use a tart tamper to really press down and even out the mixture. Once all of the tartlet pans are filled, place them on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

IMG_9791In a small sauce pan add the 2 1/2 cups of blackberries, 3/4 cup of sugar, orange zest, orange liqueur, cornstarch, and brown sugar. Heat over stovetop on medium-low, and let simmer until most of the blackberries have broken down and you have an almost syrup like consistency. Set aside to cool.

Add heavy cream to a mixing bowl, and beat on high for about 5 minutes, until peaks form in the cream. Set aside. Add cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl, and beat for a couple of minutes until ingredients are incorporated and cream cheese is fluffy. Add cream cheese mixture, and cooled blackberry syrup to the bowl of whipped cream, and gently fold in to mix all ingredients together.

IMG_9801Remove tartlet pans from refrigerator, and remove crusts by gently tapping bottoms while holding upside down. Fill each tartlet with blackberry cream, and top with fresh blackberries. Place tartlets back in refrigerator, and chill for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with small mint leaves.

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His and Hers End Tables

IMG_9777Over the past few months we have been working on smaller home decor projects until we’re ready to tackle the bigger renovations. These small changes, such as stenciling a simple design over our door, redoing our chairs, and putting together a guest room have made a big difference in their respective spaces. We recently completed another small upgrade, this time in our master bedroom, with the addition of new end tables styled differently for each of us.

IMG_9776IMG_9782For James’ table we chose a wooden tray and an armillary sphere as the primary pieces. The sphere gives the setup a bit of height, and the tray grounds the items so they don’t look haphazardly laid on the table. We looked for pieces in shades of brown, bronze, and ivory that coordinate well with the entire room design.

IMG_9781IMG_9784For my table we selected an ivory and gold color palette. The tray is a vintage mirror that we found at a flea market, and the gold containers belonged to James’ grandmother.

IMG_9780We added decorative frames to both tables, each holding a photograph of us together, and a different crystal water carafe on each side. These changes, although small, help to give the room a feeling of warmth and coziness. We’re very eager to eventually see the entire room come together, and fully enjoy the space.

 


Potato Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise

IMG_9680Potato salad has always been a favorite side dish of ours. Whenever it’s available on a restaurant menu, we tend to opt for that instead of french fries. This recipe includes all of the traditional ingredients in potato salad, as well as some additions that give the salad a boost of flavor, such as toasted almonds and spicy mustard. One of the key components is the homemade mayonnaise. Freshly made homemade mayonnaise is light and fluffy, and adds just the right amount of flavor to the potato salad, while also avoiding the sometimes unpleasant texture of store-bought mayonnaise.

IMG_9678Mayonnaise ingredients: 1 egg, 1 1/4 cup extra light tasting olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tbsp lemon juice. Note: all ingredients should be at room temperature.

Mayonnaise instructions: add the egg, 1/4 cup of oil, mustard powder, and salt to a glass stand mixer bowl. Start mixer at a medium speed and run for a few seconds, until ingredients are combined. Raise the speed of the mixer to high, and slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of oil. It’s important for the oil to be added very slowly for it to emulsify and create the right consistency. Once the oil is completely added turn off mixer and add lemon juice, mixing in with a spoon.

IMG_9670IMG_9673Potato salad ingredients: 10 medium red potatoes, 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 4 eggs, 2 tbsp chopped chives, 2 tbsp spicy brown mustard, 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste.

Potato salad instructions: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add potatoes and eggs. Cook the eggs for 10 minutes, remove from pot, and place in cold water. Once eggs are cooled peel and chop. Cook potatoes for about 15 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork, but still firm. Drain potatoes and set aside to cool.

IMG_9674IMG_9676Add almonds to a frying pan, and toast on stovetop for about three minutes, until almonds have started to brown. Grind almonds into small pieces and add to a large bowl. Chop potatoes into small chunks and add to bowl along with mustard, onions, chives, eggs, and mayonnaise. Thoroughly mix all ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_9679This salad is a great side dish for any entrée, or as a stand-alone snack. The almonds give it a great crunch, and the homemade mayonnaise is well worth the effort.

 

 


Infused Olive Oils

IMG_9665Now that spring has arrived, I have devoted even more time to our garden and the herbs that we have been growing. To get as much use out of the produce growing on our property, as well as ingredients I tend to keep in my pantry, I infused olive oil using four different combinations. It’s a great way to make use of a variety of herbs, as well as other ingredients such as citrus, garlic, and peppers.

IMG_9653To infuse the oil, I simply heated it with the herbs and aromatics, let simmer gently for about five minutes, and bottled it once cooled. The amount of herbs completely depends on how potent you want the oil to be. I typically use about four sprigs of herbs per cup of oil, resulting in a delicate but still noticeable flavor. You can use any combination of ingredients, so long as they are appropriately infused. Soft herbs should be blended with the oil separately, whereas woody herbs and aromatics can be added directly to oil when heating. Aromatic ingredients, such as garlic and onion, can be lightly roasted in the oven to extract extra flavor before adding to oil for heating.

IMG_9656For the first combination, I used rosemary, mint, and orange rind, all from our very own garden.

IMG_9658For the second oil, I used roasted garlic, thyme, scallions, and ginger. I like to add the ingredients used to the bottle for presentation, and as a reminder of what’s inside.

IMG_9663The third infused oil included garlic, dry chiles, and basil. I love using this combination on meats, and to drizzle on pizza.

IMG_9667For the final oil, I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary from our garden. These oils add extra flavor and fragrance to all meals, making them great to have for multiple uses such as drizzling on meats, adding to salads, or just for dipping bread.

 


Tortilla Soup

IMG_9648aThe weather in Southern California has been a bit chilly and intermittently rainy the past few days, making it ideal soup weather. I was craving something flavorful and hearty, without being too heavy, and tortilla soup quickly sprung to mind. I have been using this recipe for many years, and it is at the top of my comfort soups list. I love making a big batch of it on the weekend, and having some as a small side to meals throughout the week, or as a meal itself.

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Ingredients: 3 tomatillos, 3 ripe tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 3 guajillo chilis (seeds removed), 3 garlic cloves, 1 white onion, 1 cornish hen (or 1/2 chicken), 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs thyme, 2.5 quarts water, 10 tortillas, 2 cups canola oil, salt and pepper to taste. Optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese.

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut the tomatillos, tomatoes, bell pepper, chilis,  and onion into quarters and place on baking sheet along with whole garlic cloves. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft and starting to brown. While vegetables roast, cut cornish hen (or chicken) into separate pieces, and put in large pot of water with bay leaf, thyme, and a dash of salt. Bring pot to a boil, and let simmer until hen is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove hen from pot, let cool, and shred meat off the bones using a fork.

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Cut the tortillas into thin strips. Heat canola oil in a pot, and add tortilla strips in batches, cooking until each batch is crispy. Remove each batch from hot oil and place on dish to cool.

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Remove roasted vegetables from oven, and let cool. Add all of the vegetables to a blender, along with some of the water from the pot, and a handful of tortilla strips, and blend until thoroughly liquified. Add the vegetable mixture back to the pot (you can do this by running it through a fine mesh sieve to avoid having too many seeds in the soup). Add the chicken back to the pot, and about 3/4 of the remaining tortilla strips, and bring back to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer for at least 5 minutes. Serve hot with crispy tortilla strips, sliced avocado, cheese, and minced cilantro.

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Staining and Upholstering Chairs

When we started to look for dining room furniture for our home, I knew that I would want round back chairs. I have always loved the style, and the soft curves would be fitting for the look of our living room. We searched high and low for an affordable option that would match our color scheme, but finding the perfect ones seemed impossible. A couple of months ago, we found the correct style for sale, but when we received the chairs they were no where near the color of our table, so I decided to re-stain and re-upholster them myself.

IMG_9526The process was long and complicated, but this was the best way to guarantee that we would have the style of chair we envisioned. Here you can see the original chair, which was very gray covered in a rough gray fabric.

IMG_9530IMG_9532We took off the original gray fabric, and removed the old finish. After prepping the wood for staining (I read a lot on the nuances of how to properly remove old stain, sand, and condition wood), I applied a gel based stain that would closely match the color of our dinning room table.

IMG_9541Once the process of re-staining and finishing the wood on the chairs was complete, it was time to re-upholster. We looked at several fabric swatches, and decided on this light champagne color to create a soft, neutral space.

IMG_9542The last part of the process was to make piping for the bottom and back of each chair. Thankfully, I have plenty of experience with a sewing machine, so this was the easiest part of the project.

IMG_9529I made the piping on the bottom a bit thicker than the one on top as it seemed more fitting for the proportions. The piping not only hides the staples put in to hold the fabric, it also makes the chairs look complete and elegant.

IMG_9527This has been one of the most difficult projects I’ve taken on, but absolutely worth all of the effort. I love how the chairs look in our space, and can’t wait to finish the rest of the dinning room changes, which we will reveal here as soon as they are ready.

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Welcome to Glendale: The Jewel City

IMG_9429Now that we’ve been living in Glendale for a few months, we’ve had some time to explore the city. We visited frequently while living in Los Angeles, but there is a big difference between passing through and actively engaging with the environment. Here are a few of our favorite discoveries so far.

IMG_9516Grand Central Air Terminal was very important to the development of aviation not only in Glendale, but throughout the entire western United States. The Walt Disney Company now owns it, and they are doing a wonderful job restoring it to its former glory.

IMG_9520Another historic property that is currently undergoing restoration is the Glendale Masonic Temple. Watching historical preservation efforts unfold, as well as following the construction of new developments, makes us feel a closer connection to the neighborhood.

IMG_9400There’s probably no one who contributed more to the development of Glendale than Leslie Coombs Brand. His former mansion, El Miradero, can now be enjoyed by all residents as the Brand Library & Art Center.

IMG_9436This sleepy little Spanish Colonial Revival train station is the source of the roaring clamor that passes by our house throughout the night.

IMG_9440The Streamline Moderne Seeley’s Furniture building is one of the first buildings that motorists see as they drive into Glendale from Los Angeles onto the Brand Boulevard of Cars.

IMG_9451At night, Brand Blvd is illuminated by the neon of the Alex Theater.

IMG_9401The Americana at Brand may be a shopping mall, but the way that the space flows encourages more interaction with the streets of downtown Glendale, rather than shutting them out like a typical mall. This industrial elevator shaft seen here is the site’s most prominent feature.

IMG_9395In the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers turned the Verdugo Wash into a concrete flood control channel. They also built some beautiful truss bridges for the roadways that cross it.

IMG_9445Forest Lawn Memorial Park is no ordinary cemetery. Aside from the breathtaking views, it is also home to a number of quaint chapels sprinkled throughout the hillside.

IMG_9402We are so glad to call Glendale our home, and we look forward to watching many, many sunsets over the Verdugos in the coming decades.


Chocolate Lava Cake

IMG_9538I’m not a big fan of cake, which puts me in the minority. Lava cake, however, is a thing of its own, and a treat I can have on any given day. I recently made little chocolate lava cakes for a few girlfriends, and it was the perfect ending to a relaxing evening. Each bite, with it’s oozing warm chocolate center was incredibly rich, and each cake disappeared within just a few minutes.

IMG_9540What’s great about this dessert isn’t just that it’s rich and indulgent, it’s also very easy to put together and most people likely already have all of the ingredients for it in their homes. You can also prepare ahead of time, and bake just before serving for a freshly baked warm treat for guests.

Ingredients (serves 4): 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 4 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, 2 tsp flour, 2 tbsp cocoa powder

IMG_9533Instructions: Combine eggs, yolks, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat at medium speed. Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and butter on a stovetop over low heat, just until it’s oozy but not completely melted, whisk together to combine. Once the egg mixture has thickened (about 4 minutes),  add the warm chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs, as well as the flour, and beat for a few more seconds to combine.

IMG_9535Butter four ramekins, and lightly dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Pour in the batter, dividing equally among each dish. At this point you can either bake immediately, or refrigerate until a few minutes before serving. When ready to bake bring batter back to room temperature, and bake in 450F oven for 7 minutes on a baking tray. You will see that the sides are set, but the middle will still be soft. Invert each cake onto a small plate, and let sit for a few seconds before lifting ramekin. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries.

IMG_9539I plan to make this treat again for Valentine’s Day, and I know I will be making it many times in the future. It is a decadent dessert to enjoy during these winter months, with good friends, or to finish a dinner for two.


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