Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dressed For Success

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! If you are like me, you are in a food coma after days of cookies, cakes, candy and more cookies. We had a wonderful first Christmas as a married couple, getting the chance to celebrate with both sides of the family. And we finally got our first snow here in Chicago, appropriately on December 25. Now it can go ahead and not snow again until next winter and I'll be happy.

Now that my nieces are getting a little older, the holiday is that much more chaotic and fun - our family's present opening tradition which normally takes several hours and includes at least one dessert break, sped along this year with the 3 year old Ella "helping" everyone open their gifts. Seeing her enjoy her gifts was a delight - I'd like to share one of the ideas I put together for her that I hope she'll get use of this coming year and perhaps beyond!
She is getting to that age where fairies and princesses are pretty much the best things on the planet. Yes, the phase of pretend time and dress up has begun! I started looking online at some dress up trunk options, and - while cute - the "trunk" was usually a cardboard box and some of the choices seemed to get so-so reviews for quality.

We used a vintage suitcase in our wedding as the card box. When its original owner did not want it back I considered what we would do with it. With the idea of building a dress up trunk growing in my mind over the last couple months, the solution was right in front of me. I always remembered my sister opening an old doll-sized suitcase filled with mini clothes and a note asking her to take care of her new doll that was placed under the Christmas tree. There is something sweet about a little girl with a vintage suitcase, and - will you look at that - I happened to have one collecting dust!
I started by going to a thrift store up the street and perusing the aisles for anything that caught my eye. I left with a gold coin purse, a small pink handbag, a sparkly ruffle skirt, a white fringy top and the most adorable furry white shoulder wrap that attaches under the neck with velcro.

Stopping at Target on the way home added a few more items: 2 pairs of footless tights, in white and hot pink, a sequin-covered purple scarf, a trio of glittered belts in case some of my sizing was off and a Tinkerbell costume from the toy aisle.

As I started putting the outfits together, three personas started to stand out: Rock Star, Fairy Princess and Movie Star. One of my friends had to name "Movie Star" for me - the only thing i could think in my head was "Sophisticated Lady" which somehow did not seem quite right.

I bought a pack of colorful headbands and added some flair with a hot glue gun, feathers and fabric flowers from the craft store. I also threw in a long strand of pearls - perfect for a Movie Star - and then had to stop myself before I went too crazy with accessories (sunglasses, hats, bracelets, oh my!). 
A late in the game trip to Marshall's found another fairy costume in my cart and the Perfect  "little black dress" for the Movie Star outfit. I had a little bit of room in the suitcase yet...adding a tiara from Michaels seemed only fitting. I stacked the three outfits side by side and hung the decorated headbands with a little help from mini clothespins. Bob helped me make three note cards specifying the outfits.
When she got around to opening this gift, we helped Ella unlatch the suitcase and her face went from confusion to sheer happiness as she pulled out the top fairy costume. 
It was on in a matter of seconds, along with the string of pearls, hot pink tights and the blue flowery headband.
Next up was the movie star dress. I bought 4T or bigger of everything so that they aren't grown out of right away. Everything is just a little bit stretchy, perfect for playing dress up with friends.
Try as I might to put it on her, she wasn't into the shoulder wrap just then, so my photo op for the moment was lost. I stole a chance the next morning at dressing up 1 year old Amelia instead. Humiliating Aunt in progress.
By that time, Ella had switched to the Tinkerbell and Tiara costume. We established the rock star skirt was a little too big, so I'm glad to have picked up the belts!
I have to admit, I almost ordered little doctor and chef costumes and a couple other Melissa & Doug outfits from Amazon, but wanted to create a more personalized trunk by finding clothes on my own. Candidly, the store bought fairy costumes were my fail safe in case none of the other clothes fit her or tickled her fancy!

What else might one add to a dress up trunk? Maybe Ella will get an "expansion pack" for her birthday next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Chairs Have the Floor

Some exciting times at the house. Our dining room table and 2 armchairs arrived within a day of each other! We ordered both waaaay back in September and have been patiently waiting as our Appsgiving Party and hosted Thanksgiving passed us by.

First up, the table. Oh, the table. We first spied "Big Irony" during a modern design store inspiration day (written about here) at a store called Orange Skin. Although the idea of us being able to afford anything in these stores, or at least justify the purchase of an investment piece at this time in our lives, was a stretch we were pleasantly surprised to learn of the reasonable price tag attached to the phosphatized sheet metal table that caught our eye.

We hemmed and hawed over the last 12 months. Yes, 12 months of talking about "our table" and brainstorming chair choices and how big a table would be too big. We finally made the decision after our wedding to treat ourselves and put in the order for the 74". This table can fit 6 comfortably with another 2 on the ends. If we really squeeze I could probably get 10 for a dinner party. It is in a temporary spot for now, as our tree holds court in our living/dining area. We plan on moving it out more towards the middle and perhaps one day adding a buffet against the wall.
And those dining room chairs mentioned above? Well, that's a work in progress. We have visions of hot pink leather chairs to lend a pop of color to the sleek black metal of the table. Easier wished than found, as it were. We are still on the hunt.

A quick close up of our holiday centerpiece...
On to the armchairs. The Tux Chair from Crate & Barrel has been on my Pinterest board since last fall. We originally were drawn to this striped fabric for the color scheme that matched our library (purples, light blues and grays). .
Time passed and the next time we found ourselves in the furniture floor of C&B, we shifted gears just a bit. The Tux Chair was still the way to go - defined arms, not overly large, simple legs - but the houndstooth pattern in gray was our new love. We ordered the pair and sat by the phone waiting for the order to come in. The chairs keep my homemade shag rug in place (learn all about making the rug).
The new bar is fully stocked and recently a few pieces of art were added above it including a Roy Lichtenstein print (Alka-Seltzer), a framed enlargement of one of Bob's shots in Egypt and a pencil drawing of a London street inherited from relatives.
Eventually, I would love for a small occasional table to be added to the mix, but I worry about filling up the space too much.
The chairs face a currently festive fireplace and with a throw added to the mix is now one of the most inviting places in the house!
 So a warm welcome to our newest additions, we have had you in mind for over a year and I must say it feels pretty good to see you in place.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pinterest Project: Three Trees

This pin was just the pinspiration I needed to do something with a threesome of chunky black candlesticks that got shoved in the closet awhile back while adding to the holiday decor.
Instead of buying a cone shape from Michaels, I picked up a few sheets of poster board and created my own.
I considered buying fabric to cover the cones, but then remembered my "eventually going to happen" plan of making pillows out of sweater fabric.

A few bucks at the thrift store later and I was back home with a fuzzy green sweater and two white knits. Armed with some happy scissors and a hot glue gun, the fabric was shaped around the cones and glued in place.
I didn't permanently attach the cones to the candlesticks so that they can easily be switched out. I am thinking I should have made the cones a little larger, to cover more of the candlesticks, as opposed to looking like triangles on top of posts.
When I was at the thrift store I also found a set of "Be My Valentine" kids' pajamas that I might try out for the next holiday. As you know from my Every Holiday Blocks, I love a multifunctional holiday display!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pinterest Project: Mirror, Mirror

The Little Pinterest Projects continue for the holidays!

When I saw this instruction, I finally found a use for the pack of mini mirrors I bought at Michaels awhile back. If I remember correctly, I had some mixed media mod podge dreams but couldn't quite find a fit for the little mirrors.
Lining a string of four or five with hot glued-on fishing line, and adding a hook to the top, I had four extra ornaments to hang strategically on the tree to maximize the twinkle lights.
Hard to capture a good photo of this, but it really does make a difference and doubles the shine!
Here's a full shot of our tree. We are on the hunt for a new topper this year. My tall Target-bought ornamental top never seems to fit correctly, always swaying dangerously to one side. Any ideas are welcome - I don't see us being Angel people, so maybe a classy star will find us this season.

Another tip that has been shared in a previous holiday post is to hang the lights vertically. This makes their placement a bit more random, and also allows you to save on strands that would otherwise be hidden against the back of the wall.
For the last few years, our Christmas tree has not come from a tree farm up north, but rather a lot in downtown Chicago. We sauntered into the same lot we bought our pumpkins from this past fall and came out a mere 10 minutes later with a pretty sweet 10-footer. Not exactly the same as trolling the farm and breaking out the chainsaw, but definitely a time saver.
Who else is enjoying the smell of fresh pine in their house?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Risott-Oh So Good

Almost every recipe made for our second Thanksgiving hosted at our house was a repeat from past parties or holidays and already featured in a past post, so pardon the Turkey Day skip over as I highlight another recent meal that has been added to the rotation.

I had a year long subscription to Cooking Light in 2007 and will pull out an issue every once in awhile to plan a week of home cooked meals. From some tasty garlic/thyme/parmesan mashed potatoes made with a pack of yukon golds and a whole bunch of butter....
to the Ham and Sugar Snap Pea Risotto below. The ooh la la candlelight is courtesy of me attempting to burn down all of the votive candles from the wedding.
Link to the risotto is in the name, happy cooking!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Littlest Pinterest Projects

The Halloween and fall decor have been sent back to its bin and put back on its shelf. Exchanging 1 bin for 5 in the garage storage space, the Christmas decor is slowly being put into place! No tree yet at the Kamicar household - this seems like a good project for next weekend - but I did take advantage of a couple recent pins on Pinterest to spruce up the holiday decor without spending any money.

First up, the idea of a toy car with a tree on its roof was too cute to pass up. (sources for pins listed in image).
I dug out a Mini Cooper from my box o' random stuff and, using string, attached a little tree to its roof. Luckily, the windows are open on this little car so I was easily able to rope the tree to the car.
The second project took exactly two minutes to put together. I loved the look of these holiday scenes in apothecary jars and considered them much less messy than the snow globes I tackled last year with varying degrees of success.
A few scoops of epsom salt made for fake snow, and a little fawn was placed amongst different sized trees. These figurines were left over from the snow globe project and they were happy to find a home.

The decorations are definitely still a work in progress - stay tuned for a full write up to see where these little projects end up in the house. Here's a sneak peek into how some of those wedding centerpiece lanterns are being put to use.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thank Ya Very Much

There are several ideas that stick in my head for years until I have the opportunity to use them:

1) My perfect cat names.....a few years later, meet Sonny and Fredo
2) Literally Saving the Date
So when it came to our wedding thank you cards, I looked at Bob with a "pretty please" smile and hoped he'd go along with this one.

Here's the deal: show our friends and family how thankful we are for their generous gifts by showing us using them. A few weeks after the wedding, my brother in law lent us his camera and photography skills while Bob and I donned our bride and groom attire and put all of our lovely gifts into action.

Mmmm....ice cream maker attachment! We also made the waffle cones, but that machine was a gift to ourselves a few months back.
We spent a lot of time in that corner of the kitchen with all of our new gadgets, even the stovetop got in on the action. Not so fun fact - I am stirring nothing!
We love our new towels. Notice my "tan" from our Belize Honeymoon. The most color I'm ever going to get.
New DVD Player? Consider us glued to the couch.
We even headed outside to feature our new picnic set and cooler. Why yes, we did get strange looks in the elevator!
Our cupboards were stocked with great white dishes, flatware and entertainingware, so we consolidated a few photos by creating a sit down breakfast!
For those who gave us gift cards or cash, we shared a photo of us digging into boxes from our registry store, Crate & Barrel!
I picked up a big pack of blank cards from Michaels and attached photos to the front with glue stick and photo corners. Since I put the photos on last, it was important to remember which ones were vertical and which were horizontal. Let's just say we messed up a few times until we listed them all in a spreadsheet tracker.
It was a nice feeling to wear the wedding dress again - I still haven't taken it in to get drycleaned, one of these days! In the meantime, maybe I'll throw it on another day just for fun? I can't help but think it would have been nice to have my amazing hair and makeup team from Pin Me Up Chicago with me for the thank you cards - I didn't quite accomplish an exact replica of what they did for me on August 25!
(photo by GReyes Photography)
We tried to be as timely as we could be in getting our thank you cards out, we wanted to make sure everyone knew how humbled we were with their generosity and good wishes. We had a goal of one month post wedding, but it ended up being closer to 2. Bob was in charge of writing most of them and I must say he does a lovely job of taking his time personalizing each one and his handwriting is loads better than mine!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Appsgiving

Bob and I have been planning this party since the day after our wedding and we had a chance to assess just how much liquor we had leftover. It had also been almost a full year since our last party (a housewarming holiday party last December). After missing a year of our starting-to-be-annual Harvest Dinner Party, we decided to increase the size of that squash, pumpkin and apple themed dinner to a bigger bash. And so Appsgiving was born. With the help of Pinterest and my "Let Me Entertain You" board, we culled together a list of Thanksgiving themed apps.

The bar area was set up with an extra table of mixers - I did not take into account how many times these bottles of soda have been moved since we bought them, and learned the hard way after not one, but two explosions and sticky messes to clean up.
I used another Pinterest idea to save ice while keeping the mixers cold. Frozen water balloons mixed in with the bottles also added a bit of color to the bin!
We spent the last couple days cleaning up the place and arranging to entertain. This included buying pumpkins ON Halloween (for a discount!) and Bob trying a new carving. Not sure how we decided on an alien octopus attacking the John Hancock Building, but after adding some paint to accentuate the creature we were proud to display.
 I added 2 strands of orange lights to the interior of the gas fireplace and used an extension cord to reach a nearby plug. It offered a wonderful glow to the library all evening, without having to worry about tending to a real fire or our place heating up too much with so many people!
Okay, on to the food. Here's the run down:
Crisp Pear with Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Honey
Turkey Dinner Tartlets
Squash Soup Shooters
Mini Pie Pops
Sweet Potato S'Mores
and Cheese, Cheese and more Cheese.

Crisp Pear with Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Honey
This one came straight from an early Pinterest post. I learned how to core a pear, sliced them thin and kept the slices in a lemon water bath until ready to set out. Cooked pancetta slices topped with goat cheese, drizzled with honey. Great tastes when put all together.
 Turkey Dinner Tartlets
Bob gets full credit for this one! We picked up phyllo dough mini cups, the same type used last year for blue cheese and pear tartlets, and filled them with a bit of turkey, a dollop of Stove Top Stuffing and a 1/2 teaspoon of cranberry sauce.
 At the last minute (meaning 1 hour before the party start time), we freaked out on the number of shells we had and I was worried about the number of pears I had for the previous app. So Bob ran to the store for the second time that day and we ended up with 90 of these little guys. We had 10 left over this morning so I would definitely say they were a hit.

Squash Soup Shooters
I have made at least three different squash soup recipes over the years, but wanted to find something different for this time around. The appetizer version of this was planned to be served in small cups or shooters and I thought I had the perfect answer....
 We bought 84 votive candle holders for the wedding. I could clean them all out, washing them multiple times and following directions from Pinterest on how to get all wax out of the holders, and use them as the individual servers. However, after burning them all off and starting to clean them out, I was frustrated to learn that the metal ring at the bottom of each votive candle had burned into the bottom of the votive holder, leaving a rusty looking mark I couldn't clean off.....so I did not feel good about serving guests out of these!

Our liquor store had party packs of 5 oz. plastic cups that were the next big thing for us. I put in two ladle-fulls into the cups and garnished with a bit of thyme.
 Mini Pie Pops
Definitely the most intensive of the apps we tried out, partly because we made our own pie crust instead of buying pre-made Pillsbury Crust. I mixed several recipes found on pie pops, pie crust and filling options.
 After using a circular cookie cutter to make the crusts, I laid them out on the baking sheet, attached a lollipop stick (found a package at Bed, Bath and Beyond) and added the filling. I did half of them with pumpkin pie filling - with less evaporated milk added to thicken it up - and the other half were done with strawberry preserves.
 An egg wash and some fork action to crimp the edges, these went in the oven for 10-12 minutes. I was disappointed with the strawberry pies. The fruit spilled out of several of them, bubbling and burning on the pan. Also, the sticks did not stick in  for these, I can't figure out how other people have gotten them to stay. So instead of all pie pops, half were just "mini-pies."
All in all, I'm not sure if I would put the time in to make these again. They were cute, but you can't get a whole lot of filling in, so they ended up being pretty crust heavy.
 Sweet Potato S'Mores
We thought we had made this concept up, but I was certainly glad to find a blog post out in cyberspace because I wasn't sure where we were going to take this one! Roasted sweet potato + marshmallow fluff = tasty filler. 
We used our new toaster oven to heat these for 5 minutes at 325 degrees., the filling being wedged with 3 squares of a Hershey bar in between 2 honey graham crackers. I have never had a toaster oven before, but gotta say it is winning me over.
 Cheeses
When I found this photo on Pinterest, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to re-create the look.
We gathered the prettiest apples, a few extra pears and bunches of grapes to surround our cheese choices. A stack of plates, a bouquet of fall flowers and backed by wine bottles and glasses. I called the set up, "Abundance."
We picked up a couple hard cheeses and a half wheel of brie to set out along with many types of crackers, crostini and breadsticks. The brie was baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, topped with dried cranberries, thyme and toasted walnuts.
The pear and pancetta slices were added to this mix, partly to add to the "abundant" look but mostly because I ran out of room on the table! Needless to say, this display was pretty much demolished by the next morning. Who doesn't love cheese?
We loved having everyone over, getting ready to ring in the holiday season. One tradition from last year's housewarming party I plan on continuing for future parties is asking guests to bring a donation for the Lakeview Pantry, stationed just a few blocks from our house. The box we set out was quickly filled with peanut butter, whole grain cereals and canned goods. We ended up with over 50 items to bring in so a big thank you goes out to our guests!