Fourth of July No-Bake Graham Cracker Cake

Posted 5 July 2015 at 6:00 PM | Comments (0)

My mother wasn’t always the master baker she is now. When I was a kid, her go-to dessert was made with only two store-bought ingredients: graham crackers and instant vanilla pudding. She would layer them in a large baking dish, refrigerate overnight, and voilá, the tastiest cake for my six-year-old palette.

It occurred to me that I could probably recreate her recipe with whipped cream instead of pudding, and with a festive Fourth of July berry design.

It worked brilliantly. Three layers of graham crackers with three layers of whipped cream, and then blueberries and strawberries for an American flag design. After settling overnight, the cake was perfectly moist and soft and delicious. We polished it off with our BBQ crew in minutes.

Fourth of July No-Bake Graham Cracker Cake

Fourth of July No-Bake Graham Cracker Cake

My Simple Closet

Posted 10 August 2012 at 9:03 PM | Comments (12)

A phrase I hear regularly: “You must have sooo many clothes.”

My usual response goes something like, “Actually, I really don’t. I have a very minimal wardrobe.”

Which is usually followed by unconvinced eye-rolling.

Today I want to show that I do, in fact, have a very minimal wardrobe! So here it is; my entire closet, apart from a jacket hanging in the hallway, and my wedding dress and three pairs of shoes that are stored at my parents’ house:

My Simple But Stylish Closet -- A Fashionista's Minimal Wardrobe

People find it hard to believe that someone as obsessed with fashion as I am would be able to live with such a small wardrobe. Well, admittedly, this is the smallest it has ever been. Though I’ve always hated living excessively, over the years I’ve pared down my closet more than ever, so this is small even by my standards.

Also, I don’t have an American-sized closet. I’m living in a tiny, fully-furnished, Mediterranean apartment with three other people, so there isn’t much room for me to go crazy. I’m trying to stay within my spatial means. Perhaps if we were back in the U.S. my wardrobe would grow with the space.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, you might be looking at my bare closet and thinking that I must dress like a boring old hag. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m no fashion editor, but I am known for my style.

How can I be stylish with such a small wardrobe, you ask? Well, I have a rule. I try not to repeat anything. Every single item I buy has to look completely different from anything else I own, and then I do my best to style it differently each time.

So friends are always asking, “Is that a new top? I’ve never seen it before,” and I say, “Nope. You just saw me wear it it last week with my paisley skirt, and the week before under my tweed dress.” And they look at me like I’m crazy.

And I look at them like, haha! Fooled you. Fooled you good.

Annual Room-By-Room Deep Clean

Posted 29 July 2012 at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Yesterday we started our annual room-by-room “deep clean.”

We always start in the living room. Every single item is moved to another room (and I take a moment to relish the emptiness of the space), then we clean the empty space from top to bottom. Items are not returned to the living room until they, themselves, are thoroughly cleaned.

Simple Wood Sideboard with Art Leaning Against the Wall

It’s hard work, but it feels so good sitting in the living room—our most used room in the apartment—knowing that you could eat off any surface in here. (Not that I want you to.)

So! I thought I’d take this opportunity to open up the doors of our sideboard and show you what’s inside. It’s one of two places in our home where we store toys.

Simple Wood Sideboard for Organized Toy Storage

People always ask if it actually stays this organized. Honestly, it does. My boys, young as they are, know exactly where things go and are terrific at returning toys to their location. I chalk this up to one thing only (no, not magic): habit. We all know that children absorb everything, right? Well, they’ve absorbed my penchant (an understatement, I know) for tidiness. They see how I put things away, and they do it, too. Sometimes it takes a little nudging, sometimes it takes a lot; the point is, they’ve learned.

Think I can leave the dining room deep-clean to them?

Our First Overseas Apartment

Posted 21 April 2012 at 3:41 PM | Comments (0)

You’ve already seen pictures of our first apartment in Chicago (2002-2003), and our first condo, also in Chicago (2003-2007), so now I want to show you our first apartment since living abroad.

We moved to the Mediterranean coast as a young couple in 2007 to do volunteer work. The one-bedroom apartment pictured below was provided for us, fully-furnished. After owning a home for four years, where we did things our way, it certainly was an adjustment to go back to apartment-living, especially one that was already furnished and considering we wouldn’t have done it this way ourselves.

But we’ve learned to make the best of what we have here, not just in our living space but in everything. Our life out here is definitely not the same as it was in the U.S., but we continue to adapt to the changes, just as we do in parenthood.

So…! Onto the pictures.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Living Room

The furniture and area rug were there when we arrived, but we added the accessories. Hard to tell, but the walls are off-white.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Living Room Window

I was looking for a color to complement all the navy blue in the room, and the autumnal-orange drapes were the best option I found; they even worked with the rug. So that was our starting point.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Living Room Papasan Chair

The orange drapes led to orange pillows and throws.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Living Room Bookcase

Which further led to orange floor pillows and an African table runner.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Living and Dining

The new color palette inspired the artwork on the far wall. They were simple tree prints that I created in Photoshop and then framed in eight, cheap IKEA RIBBA frames.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Dining Room

It’s obvious that none of these accessories cost us much, but we were still pleased with the way everything came together in that place. It was simple, cozy, and the best we could do on our small budget.

Our First Fully-Furnished Mediterranean Coast Apartment Dining Room

To the far left was the kitchen; the middle was the W.C. and bathroom, and the door on the right was to the bedroom. We hung the (too-short) curtain in the doorway to avoid having to watch our guests walk between the W.C. and the bathroom.

And there you have it. We’ve since moved to a different, but still fully-furnished, apartment to accommodate our now-family-of-four— you’ve seen hints of it here and here. One of these days I’ll get around to taking pictures!

Our First Condo

Posted 8 November 2011 at 8:07 PM | Comments (9)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I used to live in Chicago; if you know me personally, you know that I think Chicago is one of the best cities in the world. It’s where I met my husband, where we lived in our first apartment together, and where we bought our first home—an 8th floor, 700 square-foot condo built in 1964. It didn’t have a lot of charm, but it had a mind-blowing view of the city, which sold us on the place the moment we saw it. We lived there for about three and-a-half years before moving overseas.

Anyway, I just came across these pictures on my external hard drive and had to share! They’re not the best size or quality, so sorry about that. But I think you’ll get the gist.

Grove Street Condo Entryway

View of the living room from the entryway.

Grove Street Condo TV and Accessories

IKEA glass vases, patterned slipper chair from Home Center, quilted puffy pillow from TJ Maxx.

Grove Street Condo Living Room

Now you’ll know I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m a minimalist (however, this is not the way I’d do it now. I’ve grown up a lot since). Also, the wall color was Chocolate Froth from Behr paint.

Grove Street Condo Beyond the Living Room

My sister crocheted that awesome blanket. It’s one of the reasons we chose this color palette.

Grove Street Condo Dining Room

Cost Plus World Market Dining Set, IKEA floor lamp and painting, IKEA tall reeds (make it stop!).

Grove Street Condo Beyond the Dining Room

View of the dining room from the bedroom doorway. We installed the ceiling fan.

Grove Street Condo Bedroom

Awesome Crate&Barrel quilt, IKEA tall reeds (blech!), and a mostly ridiculous painting by yours truly.

Grove Street Condo Bedroom Closets

We were so proud of the geometric knobs we installed on the closet doors. Also, the wall color was Gobi Desert from Behr Paint.

Grove Street Condo Bedroom Dresser

IKEA lamp and dresser.

Grove Street Condo Bedroom Lamp

Floor lamp from IKEA, I think.

Grove Street Condo Bathroom Mirror

We renovated half of the bathroom ourselves and had a contractor finish it. It was so clean and pretty.

Grove Street Condo Bathroom Sink

The wall color was Gypsy Magic from Behr Paint.

Grove Street Condo Kitchen Refrigerator

Our tiny kitchen. We were very excited about our new refrigerator.

Grove Street Condo Kitchen

We installed the light fixtures, countertops, sink, and dishwasher. We didn’t have to do anything to the original cabinetry—it was gorgeous and sturdier than most modern cabinets.

Grove Street Condo Kitchen Cabinets

The wall color was Mountain Elk from Behr Paint. It was deliciously pleasing for a tiny kitchen.

I can’t wait for the day to own a home again. My design sensibilities have matured so much in the past five years!

Grate and Tile

Posted 9 November 2010 at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

Like everyone else in town, our apartment windows at risk for break-ins are covered with a metal grate. Fortunately, the design is as pleasant as it is practical (or maybe I just think so because I’m used to seeing these everywhere?):

Mediterranean Apartment Window with Metal Security Grate

When we move back to the U.S. (can’t wait!), I will, no doubt, be constantly looking for ways to recreate this Mediterranean experience at home. That’s why I’m triple-bookmarking this gorgeous vanilla art glass tile from Edgewater Studio:

Edgewater Studio Madeira Vanilla Art Glass Tile

On a related note, our move back to the U.S. has been delayed by, oh, about two or three years. Though I’m 100% confident that we’ve made the right decision, and though I absolutely love our life here, I’m a little heartbroken-slash-homesick. So if you bump into me on the street, feel free to give me a hug.

Our First Apartment

Posted 13 August 2010 at 2:47 PM | Comments (8)

When we married eight years ago, my husband and I moved into a studio apartment that was, oh, about 500 square-feet. I remember my sweeping excitement about sharing that place with him, daydreaming often about how we would decorate it together.

Reality set in, and I realized that there was no reason to invest whatever miniscule amount of money we had in that tiny apartment, because we probably wouldn’t be there long. It was a disappointing reality to face, of course; I was MARRIED, and my husband and I were sharing an APARTMENT—it seemed like the ideal time for creative energies to flow and our unique tastes to converge.

So, to be practical, we ended up keeping the small sectional couch, the roll-top desk, the old swivel chair, the IKEA end tables, and the brass bed frame—all of which we had inherited from friends. We did our best to decorate around those things, eventually coming up with a decent color palette that, to this day, when I see this combination of colors, I think of those exciting, youthful, sweet and passionate days of early marriage.

Our Studio Apartment on Clark Street
Dusty Purple, Sky Blue, Pale Gold, and Ivory Color Palette

Someday I may end up going back to this color palette, so I can always be reminded of that amazing time in our lives.

(Note that, because the colors in the photo look so inaccurate, I did my best to recreate a proper example of that dusty purple, sky blue, pale gold, and sweet ivory.)

Acquired Artwork

Posted 30 July 2010 at 3:02 PM | Comments (2)

This morning we walked about a mile in this suffocating heat (boo) to pick up our new artwork from the framer (yay). I bought this piece, “Pathway in the Rain,” from artist Nancy Park Barnes several months ago. The photo doesn’t do it justice—in person, the various layers and textures are so interesting—and I love how it ties together all the colors in our living room.

Now, just to clarify, I would probably never have chosen the grass-green couches myself (“Astroturf couches,” as someone once called them), but we’re volunteers, housed in a clean, fully-furnished apartment, so we try not to complain. Instead, I’ve done my best to neutralize the green by bringing in various shades of beige, tan, and terracotta. Plus, to make it seem like the green wasn’t a mistake, I’ve sprinkled other green accents around the room.

It has worked out amazingly well—when people walk in, they don’t just see Astroturf anymore. Now if I could only figure out where to hang this piece…

Pathway in the Rain by Nancy Park Barnes