Friday, April 29, 2011

Photo Friday

Happy Friday to those of you that woke up this morning knowing that it's Friday. I bet all of you are really happy that it's the last day of the work week. I on the other hand, woke up this morning and thought it was Saturday. It's not. It's Friday. Which means I have to work. Not cool.

Oh well, such is life.

Let's enjoy a little Photo Friday action, shall we?

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, we went to a brewery this weekend.
Here are a few photos from the excursion.

Easter was the next day, and we made sure to celebrate the best way I know how...

We splurged on cinammon rolls for breakfast, and then spent the afternoon making and enjoying deviled eggs and deviled ham (which is new to me, but one of Jesse's favorites. Has anyone else heard of it?). For dinner, I made Greek Turkey Burgers (recipe still to come) and Drew brought over angel food cake and strawberries for dessert (made by his mom, of course).

The coming of Easter is the going of Lent, so on Monday I got to enjoy an iced soy latte with caramel drizzle. It was heavenly.

I also worked on my buffet this week, as seen in this post.

Aside from blogging, sanding and working, I went to both of Jesse's soccer games this week! I always have a good time watching his team play, so I rarely miss a game. His team always jokes about making me a jersey, but I'm still waiting. :)

And as usual, here is Mr. Mac-A-Rooney, living the high life. He never ceases to entertain me!

enjoying a new spot on the couch for once

I think he was trying to tell Jesse to play with him instead of the PS3

He finally found a way through the blinds.
Looking at this picture cracks me up every time!
But it's not funny when he's trying to poke his head through
at 5am ... especially when he's in our room!

I hope everyone has a good weekend! Mine will be spent outside enjoying the weather and working on the buffet. I'm also heading into the city tonight to meet up with a good friend of mine, Kelsey. She's been out of the country for the past year, so I can't wait to reunite!

Most of my photos are edited using the iPhone app, Instagram. You can follow my photo feed at lilsuzy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Secret Space

S is for Secret ....

And I have a secret to share.

My secret is this ....

That's right, it's an entire room just for me. It's an entire room to do my arts and crafts; an entire room to sew; and an entire room to stash all of my goodies. 

You want to know what I do with it? 

Close to nothing.

My poor sewing machine sits in this cute little room with nothing to sew. 

And this flashy red task lamp has only been turned on about three times. 
(At least I know that light bulb will last awhile)

I need to take the time to practice sewing, but for some reason I keep procrastinating. 

I'm hoping that by sharing this room with all of you, I might feel more obligated to use it.
(Admission is the first step, right?)

And when I start using it,  I can start sharing all of the cute little projects that I make.

Here is one project that my mom and I made when she came to visit last August.

Not only did we make that frame, we made two more to go with it. 

If I used this room more, I'd be able to look at them all the time!

My mom is actually the one that helped me setup this room. I told her I needed a sewing table for my (at the time) new sewing machine, but somehow one sewing table turned into a whole sewing room. We spent an afternoon at Ikea picking up the table, chairs and lamp. And then, she spent the evening making that adorable 'S' for me, along with these two memo boards.

When I start using this room, these will be the perfect boards to pin inspirational pictures.
(In the meantime, it looks like I have no good ideas or inspiration)

And when I start using this room, I won't feel bad spending just a little more money and elbow grease to hang some curtains, paint the walls, and replace this hideous light fixture!

But until I spend more time artsing and crafting (that's a technical term), I'll enjoy the wonderful tweaks that my mom and I made.

See that fabric and pattern on the front of the table? That's a purse that my sister gave me for Christmas. The catch? I have to make it myself. She's so sneaky ... it must be her way of telling me to spend more time sewing. I think I'll make this one of my summer projects!

And the reason for spilling the beans about my craft room?

Melissa over at HOUSEography is hosting a weekly link party, highlighting a different room each time, and this week's theme is home offices/craft rooms/mom caves. 

Thanks, Melissa, for inspiring me to spruce up my crap craft room, and quite possibly motivating me to use it a little more!

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Cleaning, Easter Weekend and the Buffet ...

This weekend turned out to be productive ... really productive. I cleaned out my dresser, packed up my winter clothes, cleaned out our "junk" closet, spent an entire afternoon with friends - drinking beer, watching hockey and eating pizza, made deviled eggs, deviled ham and turkey burgers, hosted an Easter egg hunt for Jesse and Drew, AND started working on the buffet!

I thought about sharing all of the nitty-gritty about my spring cleaning and giving you the recipe for the deviled eggs I made on Easter, but I know that everyone's probably more curious about the status of the buffet. {Check out my first buffet post here and the "voting" results here} So without further ado, here's the progress I made this weekend.

But first, one last before picture. From here on out I'll be posting pictures of my progress, and then the final product!

Here's what I accomplished this weekend:

1. I decided how I want to refinish it.
2. I bought sandpaper (80, 150 and 220 grit - I wasn't sure what I really needed).
3. Drew dropped off his dad's power sander (again, not sure if I need it, but it's here just in case).
4. I removed the hardware from the left door.
5. I got so impatient removing hardware that I decided to start sanding ... by hand!

What, you're not impressed? I'll admit, it doesn't sound like much. But here's the thing, I'm trying not to rush into anything and mess it up. Plus, this is the first piece of furniture I've ever redone, so I want to make sure that I don't wear myself out before I finish it. And according to my loving husband, he isn't expecting it to be finished until at least our 10th wedding anniversary, so I've got plenty of time to make it perfect. :)

#1 - Refinishing Plan
After reading a lot of blogs, talking to several family members and really thinking about what I want to bring into the dining room, I've decided to go with an ivory paint on the body of the buffet, with an olive green/black glaze and distressed finish. At this point, I think I want to stain the top of it, to play off the wood furniture, but I'll see how the sanding goes. I'm not sure if I want to stain it to match the table (dark wood) or the chairs (medium honey), but I still have a little more time before I have to make that decision. Here are a few newer inspirational pictures that I've been ooh-ing and ahh-ing about.



I love the coffee table, but I probably won't distress the buffet quite as much. As for the dresser, I like the glazing that she did, along with the hardware. The squid doesn't quite fit with my decor, but to each their own.

#2 - Sandpaper
Here is the sandpaper that I bought:

The guy I bought the buffet from taught me that the lower the grit, the rougher the sandpaper. He also said that I should start with the lowest grit for the first round of sanding and then use a higher grit for each additional round of sanding. I am using the 80-grit to do my initial sanding, which should remove the glossy finish from the wood. Prior to priming, I will probably quickly go over it with the 150-grit to make sure there aren't any rough patches. And after priming, I'll use the 220 to smooth it out before painting. I'm not sure if I need all three steps, so if anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it!

#3 - Power Sander
Drew found out that his dad has a power sander, so he picked it up for me this weekend. After talking to my mother-in-law about the quality of the wood, I'm a little nervous to use the power sander on this piece. Not only have I never used a power sander, but the wood is in really good condition, so I don't want to do any damage to it. Again, any tips or pointers?

#4 - Prepping
I decided to start sanding the doors first because I'm still thinking about cutting out the center of them to add glass. I figured if I mess them up, it doesn't really matter because it'd be a good excuse to justify the glass! I removed the first door from the buffet, which took a little longer than I expected. It doesn't look like the screws have been removed since it was built, so it was hard to get them off. I still need to work my way around the rest of the buffet to remove all of the hardware, but last night I just wanted to test out the sand paper and get a feel for the road ahead.

#5 - Sanding
Which brings me to sanding. I started sanding last night, but only made it through the first door before we had to leave for Jesse's soccer game. I knew I only had a little bit of time, so I thought it would be a good chance to try my hand at sanding - literally.

I think it went alright, but I'm feeling anxious about how much I took off. My mom said that if I'm going to paint it, then I don't need to sand it down all the way to the wood - just enough to remove the glossy finish. I tried not to press too hard, but I also didn't want to create an uneven texture by not sanding enough. I'm a little worried that I over-sanded, but nothing I can do about it now.

Does this look like a light sanding, or did I do too much? If I did too much am I stuck sanding this much for the whole piece? I don't want to do more work than necessary, but I also really want to make sure that I end up with a nice piece of furniture. These are the questions looming in my head, making me wonder if I'm making more work for myself than necessary.

After thinking about the buffet through most of Jesse's game, I decided to come home and check out a few of my go-to furniture blogs {All Things Thrifty, Twice Lovely and Primitive & Proper}, to see if I could find any tips. Here's the problem, I got too impatient and it was late. One post talked about how to prep, but as far as sanding goes, it just said to "lightly sand" - ugh, that's what my mom said too. Can I get a picture of what "lightly sand" means? I knew that all of those blogs had better descriptions/how-to's/tutorials on their sites somewhere, but it was close to 1:00 in the morning, which was WAY past my bedtime. I decided to call it a night and try again today.

Imagine my surprise when I logged into my Google Reader today and saw that Kate from Centsational Girl had a whole post dedicated to painting wood furniture! It's almost as if she knew that I was going to struggle with this project. While she didn't post any pictures of "lightly sanded" furniture, she did have plenty of useful tips about sanding, repairing/patching wood, priming (that will be my next step), and of course, painting. Her post is just what I needed to regain my momentum! One thing I realized is that I probably need to buy a sanding wedge if I am going to keep working by hand. I should also probably hit up a paint store to see if I can find a few of the products that she recommends.

Before I start sanding again, can anyone give me any insight about where to go from here? Should I keep sanding at the level I have been or should I lighten up for the rest of the piece?

As soon as I figure out this sanding conundrum, I'll be back with more pictures and details about the next step!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo Friday

It's official, I have Spring fever! Most of the things I captured this week were nature related. Whenever I get outside I try to snap a few pictures of the everything blooming around me. And since I've actually kept up with running jogging, I've been outside quite a bit.

Other than enjoying the blooms, I've been counting down the days until lent is over. I gave up Starbucks for lent, which isn't sooo bad because I didn't drink it everyday, but walking past it 5 days a week is pretty tempting when you know you can't have it.

Speaking of work, I spotted this food truck outside today. We tend to see a decent amount of food trucks in Crystal City, but this is the first time I've seen the Big Cheese. 
If it becomes a regular, I might just have to give it a try.

On top of loving the weather and flowers, I've been loving my aviators too. I bought them the last time I was visiting my family and I've been loving them ever since!

And of course, here's the Roon-dog. He picked up this nickname as a kitten because he tends to act more like a dog than a cat. He begs for food, greets us at the door, and even plays fetch!

This is how he looks at me when he's begging ... how do you say no to that face?!

We don't have any real plans for this weekend, so I'm hoping to get started on my buffet, hit up a thrift store or two, and start packing up our Winter clothes to make room for my new Spring finds. 

Here's hoping it's as productive as I'm planning for it to be! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Do you remember the Chicken Soup for the Soul series from the 90's? Well that's not exactly what this post is about, but when I was trying to come up with a title for it, those books came to mind. I read a few of them in high school (not the one on the left), but looking back I can't remember a single story.

Speaking of looking back, I hopped over to their website to see if any of the title rang a bell, and there are at least 100 books in the series. Here are a few of their recent releases (which I found very entertaining) - CSS: What I Learned from my Cat, CSS: Tough Times for Tough People, and the best one, CSS: Teens Talk About Getting In ... to College. Yes, that's really one of the titles. I couldn't make that up if I tried!

Aaaanyway, like I said in the beginning of this post, those books have nothing to do with the chicken soup I'm talking about.

The title is actually referring to the amazing chicken soup that I made last week. Amazing because of the recipe, not because I made it. Last year around this time, I came across a recipe in the Food Network Magazine for Slow-Cooker Chicken Soup. I had just gotten my crock-pot a month before, so I was really excited to find a recipe that called for me to use it. And after enjoying it so much last year, I decided to give it another spin.

With the weather fluctuating so much in the spring, I constantly find myself wanting more fresh foods, but needing a little bit of comfort on the rainy/chilly days. This chicken soup is the perfect solution to a day like this:

Chicken soup will warm anybody's soul, but the addition of lemon, dill and feta, lightens the soup up enough to make you crave it any day - rain or shine!

Slow-Cooker Chicken Soup

Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 1/2 hours

4 carrots, quartered lengthwise and
   cut into 1-inch pieces
4 long strips lemon zest
4 sprigs fresh dill, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
   (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as pastina
1/2 bunch fresh baby spinach
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces feta cheese

Combine the carrots, lemon zest, dill sprigs, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker. Season the chicken with salt and add to the cooker. Add the broth and 4 cups water, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, add the pasta to the slow cooker, cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir the chopped dill, peas (optional) and spinach into the soup and cover until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir to break up the chicken and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Ladle into bowls and crumble the feta on top.

 I served it with my favorite Trader Joe's heat-and-serve rolls. They only take five minutes to heat up, so they're perfect to top off my already easy, slow cooker dinner. It's been about a week since we finished off the leftovers and I'm already thinking about making it again.

 Anyone want to come over for dinner? :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brunch with the Girls

This past weekend, I went to my friend Erica's house for brunch. Erica and I met through work, but she's since moved onto another position. We have a fairly tight knit "lunch bunch" at our office, so as people come and go, we usually stay in touch. Once every month or so, she and I try to meet up with another one of our former colleagues, Bethany, to eat catch up and reminisce about the good ole days. This time around, Erica invited us over to her house, along with one of her current co-workers, where she put on a fabulous brunch.

I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the spread, but trust me, it was good! She served a sausage and egg casserole, fruit salad, chocolate croissants, spiced bread and mimosas. I told her that I would bring something for dessert, not realizing that we would be eating chocolate croissants, but it actually worked out well. I made Peach Melba Shortbread Bars, which were the perfect afternoon snack for us. We went over there at noon and stayed until nearly 5 o'clock!

Since the bars seemed to be a hit, I thought I would share the recipe with you. These are the perfect treats to prepare the night before (unlike what I did), and since they don't need to be refrigerated they hold well for a few days as leftovers.

I found the recipe in Southern Living Magazines, which is one my new fave subscriptions.

Peach Melba Shortbread Bars

Servings: 12 - 24
Prep Time: 20
Cook Time: 60

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter
1 cup peach preserves (I used peach-mango preserves)
6 tsp. raspberry preserves
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl. 
Cut in butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.

Lightly grease an 11 x 7 inch pan. Reserve one cup flour. 
Press remaining flour mixture onto bottom of prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Spread peach preserves over crust in pan. Dollop raspberry preserves by 1/2 teaspoonfuls over peach preserves. Sprinkle reserved 1 cup flour mixture over preserves. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Garnish with powdered sugar.

I waited to put the powdered sugar on until I got to Erica's house, mostly because I only let the bars cool for about 30 minutes. I was running a little bit late (shocker, right?) because it took me longer than expected to make them. See, I didn't know what a pastry blender was when I decided to make the bars, and it turns out, I don't own one. I had to take a timeout halfway through making them to Google "alternative to pastry blenders" and finally settled on using the food processor. I think the clumps turned out a little large, but it seemed to work out just fine. But my lack of owning a pastry blender, isn't the point of this post, so I digress ...

The buttery goodness of the shortbread, combined with the tart jam, crunchy almonds and sweet powdered sugar, made for the perfect combination. 

Get a pastry blender and make them. You won't regret it! :)

P.S. This is what a pastry blender looks like.