Latest Posts

brazilian-limeade-recipe

Brazilian Limeade Recipe

Brazilian Limeade Recipe: Quench summer thirst with a twist on a hot day beverage favorite. In our Outdoor Dining Tips post, we introduced readers to the perfect outdoor menu. Featured in the menu is a twist on a summer beverage classic. This Brazilian limeade recipe will cool and satisfy during the warm summer months ahead. Recipe makes about 6 cups, so double or triple if needed!

Brazilian Limeade Recipe (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 5 limes, washed and quartered
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sweetened
    condensed milk

  • 5 cups cold water

Directions:

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Add 4 cups of cold water and blend on high speed until limes are slightly chopped. Strain into a pitcher and then, with the strainer still resting above the pitcher, slowly pour about 1 more cup of water through the strainer over the lime pieces to extract all the residual sugar and juice.

watermelon salad

Watermelon, Tomato and Mint Salad Recipe

Spring is right around the corner and we’re ready to bring one of our favorite seasons into the kitchen. If you’re in a hotter state, this salad recipe will transition easily into summer, as ice cold watermelon always satisfies with its juicy bite. By gathering a few simple ingredients, you can create a simple and mouthwatering salad.

Ingredients:

  • 4- to 4 1/2-lb. watermelon, preferably seedless
  • 3  large ripe tomatoes, preferably green or orange heirlooms, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1  cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

Cut off and discard the watermelon rind. Cut the watermelon into 1-inch cubes, removing any seeds as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. Add the tomatoes, onion and mint to the watermelon and toss gently. Add the feta and toss again. Serve immediately.

 

Kitchen-main

The Spring Dining Room

Spring is fast approaching, and that means breathing life into your dining room by bringing in fresh flowers and opening the windows.

The Bellaire dining table is rustic and refined at the same time. With two chair styles— Parsons and Bellaire Arm Chair, this solid ash table is veneered with wire brushed elm. This durable table transitions well into any season. We especially love it in this Spring dining room surrounded with spring tulips and eclectic finishes like the Butterfly Study Prints from Furniture Row.

trail mix bars

Homemade Trail Mix Bars

Homemade goodies such as trail mix bars, make perfect afternoon snacks in the Spring. Head to the park with a tin box of these, or take them to the movies (shh.. we wont tell).

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup almonds
  • ⅔ cup cashews
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • ⅓ cup ground flaxseed
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup all natural creamy peanut butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Place almonds and cashews in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10-15 times to break into large pieces; transfer to a large bowl and add the oats, ground flaxseed, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and raisins. Mix thoroughly.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the honey and melted peanut butter and and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix until fully coated. Transfer the mixture into prepared baking dish and press firmly to flatten the bars using the back of a spatula.
  4. Place bars into the refrigerator to set up for at least one hour. Cut into 16 squares. Bars may be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

cozy-white-living-room

Cozy Up Your Living Room

I love winter because it’s the season in which we enjoy the simple cozy things: curling up to read a great book by the evening fire, relishing the comforts of a warm home with family and friends or savoring a steaming bowl of homemade goodness.

design-studio-home

Making your home cozy doesn’t have to be daunting. Making a room or home cozy usually just requires a couple additions to your space. Adding throw pillows and blankets instantly make a couch or chair more appealing. Get your fireplace in working condition and actually use it! Adding cabinets like the Parkview cabinets will help store some of your cozy devices. The ones in the photo are stacked, making a dramatic effect. Soft neutral rugs and cloth accent chairs always help bring comfort into your space. Select Furniture Row locations now offer free design services with the Design Studio program. Get more tips from experts at Furniture Row on your next visit.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”  ~Edith Sitwell

Global-Pursuits

Furniture Row Global Pursuits

Make a global-inspired statement with unique artisan products from around the world with the Lost and Found collection from Furniture Row.

Global-Pursuits

Product list top to bottom, left to right:

  1. Raja End Table // Scallops, finials and style – The Raja End Table brings intricately carved style to your space. With scalloped detailing, elegantly sculpted finials, and ample storage, this table is as beautiful as it is functional. This one-of-a-kind table is wonderful next to a favorite reading chair, or anywhere at all. Bring home the Raja today, and enjoy for years to come.
  2. Laslo Hall Console // Storage with intricate details – Add storage and striking style to your hallway with the Laslo Hall Console. Complete with storage, this piece features a beautiful, dramatic two-toned patter on its doors. Made solidly of wood, this console is sure to be a timeless favorite in your home.
  3. Hairpin Desk // Striking style that works – One-of-a-kind style comes to your home office with the stylized yet functional Hairpin Desk. With mid-century lines and a striking silhouette, this piece is sure to catch everyone’s eye. Beautifully finished, durably crafted to last, the Hairpin Desk is a work of art you will love to work with.
  4. Seagrass Set of 3 Storage Tables // Basket storage with table tops – The Seagrass Storage Tables bring a touch of seaside style to your space. With a casual woven base, these tables feature basket storage and removable wooden tops. Great for storing blankets, books, and more, the Seagrass Storage Tables combine style and functionality for a one-of-a-kind look. Enjoy the natural, earthy green tones of these tables, and place them anywhere in your home.
  5. Murray End Table //Designed from reclaimed metal for our Lost and Found Collection with an Antiqued Brass finish.
  6. Oldsmar Desk //  Aged to perfection –  The Oldsmar Desk is a truly one-of-a-kind piece. Featuring a stylishly distressed finish, this rich blue writing desk boasts a casual, lived-in look you will love. Durable, designed to last, and made from reclaimed wood, the Oldsmar is a scaled-down desk addition to any workspace.
home-workout-body-weight

Get Moving: Best At Home Workout

Professional, personal training tips to get fit and stay active.

Staying in shape in the midst of a busy lifestyle can be a challenge. More people are finding time in the day for an at home workout. We sat down with Lauren Domanski a fitness trainer at MVP Sportsplex in Grand Rapids, Mich., for expert advice. As a personal trainer, she offers advice for keeping off those extra pounds by using easy-to-do exercises, finding a routine that sticks and staying active as a family.

home-workout

Q: When it comes to staying in shape, what are the top three areas a person can focus on to help stay active and keep off those extra pounds?

A: When it comes to losing weight, 80 percent is healthy diet and 20 percent is exercise. Be conscious of calories in and calories out. An easy way to track this is by downloading an app on your smartphone. Secondly, focus on moving more in general. Don’t underestimate the power of an active life: When you’re able, stand instead of sit; park farther away from the door; take the stairs; take a 5-minute break at work, walk around or grab a water. Thirdly, fi nd a partner in crime to provide motivation and accountability. Find someone to journey with you.

Q: Beginning — and staying — on track with an exercise routine can be a challenge.What are some of the best ways to get into an exercise routine?

A: Finding a buddy to help you out, get you going and keep you on track is invaluable. Secondly, set a goal and track your progress. Whether it’s a weightloss goal or running or walking a certain distance each day, set something realistic — and then reward yourself. The best rewards are nonfood, nondrink rewards like a new pair of jeans or shoes. When you reach your goal, set another one and keep going. Challenge yourself a little more every day — you are capable of doing more than you think.

Q: Spring and summer are busy months. Do you have suggestions for exercises that can give the most bang for our buck and will fit into a hectic schedule?

A: Even though these are busy times, take advantage of the extended light hours and warmer weather to be outside more. Use the extra light to get up earlier and exercise before the day begins. Use the outdoors to motivate yourself. The beach offers great outdoor physical activities, and walking in the sand burns more calories in the same amount of time as walking on fl at ground. Enjoy the fresh food available during these seasons by visiting a farmer’s market and eating fresh and local.

Q: As the weather becomes warmer, do you have any suggestions for keeping kids active and establishing healthy patterns early in their lives?

A: Make the activity fun so that it doesn’t feel like a chore to anyone. Outdoor games are a great way to involve the whole family. Set up a backyard boot camp for your kids with obstacle courses, stations and even sprinklers. The more active kids become, the hungrier they’ll be, so make sure to have healthy snacks on hand like water and cut-up fruits and vegetables.

Q: What’s the number one idea to remember when we start getting active or are trying to continue staying active?

A: Don’t feel overwhelmed when you start. Take small steps and don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that small increments make a difference; small changes make a difference; and along with exercise, don’t forget to eat healthy!

Don’t feel overwhelmed when you start. Take small steps and don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that small increments make a difference; small changes make a difference; and along with exercise, don’t forget to eat healthy!

home-workout-body-weight

  1. Plank: Hold in pushup position, legs out straight, arms straight under your shoulders. Press belly button to spine and tighten abs. Hold and release. Start with 30 seconds and gradually increase time. Focus muscles: core and shoulders.
  2. Chair Dip: Sit in a chair, place hands at the front of the chair and scoot bottom off the front of chair. Keep your legs out, knees slightly bent, bend elbows simultaneously to drop hips lower than seat level and push back up. Focus muscles: triceps.
  3. Lunge: Keep feet shoulder width apart, stand and take a large step forward. Bend both knees at the same time, push off with the back foot and bring back leg forward. Switch legs and repeat. Variations: Add weights to include upper body strengthening. Focus muscles: legs.

  4. Bridge:  Lie on your back on the floor, knees bent, li your hips in the air. As you lift, squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs, pause at the top, lower hips down, bring them back up. Focus muscles: glutes.
luxurious

Surprise Your Spouse: Make the Bed

It’s surprising what a difference new bedding can make to a room. In face, it can make or break the room. So take your wife’s advice, make the bed, and make it even better with the bedding from the Linen Shoppé at Furniture Row. With styles, quality and design, we’ll help make your bed into something very special.

make-the-bed

Traditional Bed: The Bryant Park Bed embraces classic cast iron durability with modern lines. Make the bed traditional with a sleek comforter from the Linen Shoppé. Decorate with 4 pillows, and 1 accent pillow.

Minimal Bed: The Grant Park is a modern solid wood bed frame. Keep the modern minimal feel alive with a two toned thin comforter from the Linen Shoppé at Furniture Row.

Cozy Cottage: The River Ridge bed from Bedroom Expressions embraces cottage chic style with it’s rustic wood durability. Dress is up in a quilt/comforter combo and add lots of pillows for a truly cozy feel.

Lux Modern: The Urban Pacific storage bed can be layered with smooth linens for a luxurious and comfortable feel. Add throws and a variety of pillows for contrast and texture.

diy-mason-jar-lantern

DIY: Mason Jar Lantern

Bright Idea: The Mason Jar Lantern DIY from Furniture Row experts.

Here’s a fun and inexpensive way to brighten up the exterior of your home for the holidays.

diy-mason-jar-supplies

Materials:

• Mason or other quart-size glass jars

• Wire — about the thickness of uncooked spaghetti, about 3′-long

• Wire Cutters

• Needle-Nose Pliers

• Hanging Hooks

• Colorful Play Sand or Pebbles

• Glue

• Hot Glue Gun

• Candles

• Decorative Trim (sheer ribbon or fabric, vintage buttons or other decorative fasteners, real or synthetic greenery and/or berries, etc.)

• Scissors

Instructions:

1. Cut a length of wire long enough to make a handle approximately 12″ to 18″. Bend the ends of the cut wire at a 90-degree angle about 3/4″ from each end. Place the ends of the handle on either side of the opening of the glass jar. Wrap more wire around the mouth of the jar twice, securing the handle to the jar. Twist the wrapped wire until it is snug, and cut off any excess. Bend the ends of the handle up as far as you can on top of the wrapped wire.

2. Cut a strip of fabric or a length of sheer ribbon — this works best for letting the light shine through — long enough to go completely around the jar overlapping by at least 1/2″. Make sure to leave enough glass showing so the candlelight can be seen.

3. Hot glue the ribbon or fabric to the jar, overlapping and hot gluing the ends.

4. Hot glue decorations over the overlapped ends.

5. Fill the bottom of the jar with about 1″ of sand or pebbles to prevent the candle from shifting. Press the candle down firmly into this material to make sure it’s secure.

6. Hang the finished candleholders using pre-made hooks or a loop made from leftover wire and securely fastened to prevent the candleholder from falling or tipping over.

TIP: Replace candles with battery operated flameless candle.

winterize

10 Tips to Winterize Your Home

How to Winterize: Just as you prepare your family for winter by digging out the long-sleeve shirts, sweaters and coats or jackets, you can prepare your home for the onslaught of cold weather with a few relatively simple measures.

House_scarf

Here are a few tips from Furniture Row experts:

1. Prepare your landscaping

Trim weak trees and branches that might break during winter storms. “They could cause damage to your house or car,” cautions All State Insurance Company spokesperson Stephanie Sheppard. Prune limbs that hang too close to the house or electrical wires and be sure to move sensitive potted plants indoors.

2. Check your pipes

“Cold weather can cause pipes to freeze and burst, flooding your home and causing thousands of dollars in damage,” says Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). His advice: Cover all exposed water pipes in cold areas such as attics, garages and crawlspaces with foam or fiberglass insulation. “It’s readily available in most hardware stores.”

Most pipes are located within walls, where it can be significantly colder than the rest of the house. Setting your home temperature no lower than 65 degrees will help keep these pipes from freezing.

3. Eliminate Drafts

Install storm doors and windows, or put plastic sheeting over single-pane windows. Add foam gaskets behind electrical outlet plates on exterior-facing walls. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ductwork and wiring go through walls, ceiling and floors.

“Feel for drafts with your hand or watch for horizontal smoke from an incense stick as you wander through the house,” Gromicko suggests.

4. Boost Your insulation

If your attic isn’t properly insulated, heat can escape and cause snow or ice on your roof to melt and refreeze. This can lead to roof leaks or even collapses. “Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates,” says Gromicko. “Add it if you need it.”

5. Raise your alarms

Residential fires increase in winter, so make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries. Consider installing a carbon dioxide detector, especially since a well-sealed home can trap this toxic gas.

6. Inspect your chimney

The National Fire Protection Agency recommends that a chimney be inspected annually to determine if cleaning or repairs are necessary. To ensure that critters don’t take up residence in your chimney, consider buying a protective chimney cap. Also, remember to keep the damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use so that you can keep the cold air out.

7. Assemble your emergency kit

Candles, matches, flashlights, bottled water, blankets and battery back-up systems will come in handy if the power goes out — as will the phone numbers of your utility providers!

8. Service your Heating System

Furnaces should be serviced annually. Keeping your furnace cleaned and maintained will help it last longer and reduce energy usage. A well-maintained furnace also helps prevent fire and the production of deadly amounts of carbon monoxide, which can be emitted from a dirty, inefficiently burning furnace. Also, be sure to clean or replace your furnace air filter as often as the package indicates.

9. Clean your gutters

Remove leaves and debris to allow water to flow freely, helping prevent interior leaks and mold growth. Consider installing “gutter guards” to prevent debris in the first place.

10. Reverse your fan

Reverse the rotation of your fans to push warm air down and force it to recirculate throughout rooms. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.

winter-lighting-home

Complete Winter Lighting Guide

It’s a mistake interior designers see all too often:

A nicely appointed room bathed in soft, warm incandescent light. Attractive? Yes. Stimulating? No. Depressing? Quite Possibly.

The notion of drab light dampening spirits is nothing new. In worst cases, lack of light can cause seasonal-affective disorder, or SAD, explains psychologist Melodie Schaefer, executive director of the Office of Applied Practice and Counseling Centers at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles.

SAD is an extreme reaction to gloomy weather, requiring special therapy with full-spectrum lights. Still, lack of light can cause “winter depression” in otherwise healthy people, Dr. Schaefer explains.

Why? Sunlight plays a crucial role in body chemistry. When it enters our bodies through the optic nerve, light stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycles, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that modulates mood.

Light “stimulates the part of the brain that relates to issues around energy, sleep and wake cycles,” Dr. Schaefer says. Home decor experts agree that the right lighting can go far in creating a cheerful ambiance.

“Color of light is really important in setting a mood,” says Amy Foster, Furniture Row’s lighting buyer for Oak Express and Bedroom Expressions. “Brighter lights will be more invigorating, more awakening, while dimmer lights create more of a nesting atmosphere.”

Interior designer Holly Kaiser agrees. The biggest mistake she sees with lighting? “People just like to put out table lamps with incandescent bulbs,” says Kaiser, proprietor of Studio5 Design in Birmingham, Michigan. Warm incandescent lights induce sleepiness, she explains: “The last thing you want is that lighting at 4 p.m.”

Like daylight

Fluorescent bulbs, which cast a blue light that’s closer to daylight, are a better choice for mood-improving interior lighting. But don’t be put off by preconceived notions about fluorescent lighting. Contemporary fluorescent bulbs come in warmer shades — check the packaging for terms like “daylight,” “sunshine” and “warm white” — as well as in long-lasting compact fluorescent (CFL) models. Those warmer colors are great for living spaces; the harsher blue-tinged fluorescents work best in laundry rooms, garages and other utility spaces, Kaiser says.

Now might be a great time to start getting used to compact fluorescent bulbs: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will phase out incandescent bulbs by January 2014, with a few exceptions, including appliance bulbs and bulbs under 40 watts or over 150 watts. The aim of the act is to make compact fluorescents the new standard.

Wattage counts as well. For mood-improving light, kick up the wattage in light bulbs, but make sure it does not surpass the wattage for which the fixture is rated (that information is printed on the metal fixture into which the light bulb is inserted). Exceeding the recommended wattage poses a fire risk.

Given the array of light bulbs available, Kaiser suggests a trip to a home-improvement store’s lighting display to see firsthand what’s available. “Just walk through the space — which light do you like being in? Which makes you feel energized?” she says. “That’s the light you want to put in your whole home.”

natural-light

A well-lighted space

Lighting’s not just about bulbs; it’s about the entire look of a room. Indeed, rearranging the furniture can make a good start in improving lighting, says Debbie Thompson, co- owner of A Change of Space, a Columbus, Ohio-based interior design firm that specializes in budget-friendly room makeovers.

Thompson suggests pulling furniture to the center of a room — get that sofa and those armchairs away from the walls — and then arranging lighting around the furniture. A console table behind a sofa and a pair of table lamps will create a lighted space good for reading, knitting or other tasks. Torchiers in each corner will throw light up toward the ceiling. Recessed ceiling lighting throws light down to the room. Interior lights in book- cases, china cabinets and curio cabinets can also add decorative spots of light to a room.

The combination of light coming from different directions will bathe a room in light, Thompson explains. The change, she adds, will be dramatic: “People don’t understand what lighting can do for a room.” Thompson is also a fan of hanging warm-colored glass pendant lighting above tables. The colored shades “warm things up in the winter,” she says.

Different colors and shapes of table lampshades also add ambiance and panache to a room. Thompson recommends warm-colored shades, from a rich tobacco to a deep cream, for all but the most contemporary interiors. Drum shades yield the most light; long, skinny shades produce a more diffuse light. Thompson goes so far as to recommend winter and summer lamp wardrobes: Choose cooler, whiter shades for summer, warmer shades for winter. “Lampshades are like shoes,” she notes. “You can change them out — there are so many fun ones.”

Lighting also depends on the use of the room, according to Foster. Bright, cheery lighting is called for in living areas, and it’s crucial in work areas such as kitchens, garages and laundry rooms. Because it induces calmness, lower, warmer light is more appropriate for bedrooms. Experts advise exposure to warm incandescent light about an hour before bedtime to help ensure a good night’s sleep.

Color concerns

For Karen Kaplan, lighting isn’t just about bulbs and shades; it’s also about the color of a room and judicious use of natural light. “Lighting is one of the major issues I look at when I come into a space,” says Kaplan, owner of New Leaf Interiors in Skokie, Illinois.

As a designer, she’s a fan of rich, saturated wall colors. However, she notes that rooms painted in such colors need more light because deep colors absorb light. For those rooms, recessed or track lighting helps elevate mood and atmosphere. For recessed or track lighting, Kaplan is a huge fan of halogen bulbs. The lens of clear, refracted glass produces a light that “makes everything pop and be sharp … it’s almost the quality of lighting you see in a jewelry store,” she says. The quality of the light also goes far toward lifting mood, she adds.LED, or light-emitting-diode lighting, achieves the same effect, but it’s expensive — about $45 per light bulb compared to $10 for a halogen bulb, Kaplan says.

 

low-country-boil

Recipe: Low Country Boil

Just in time for Thanksgiving! This Low Country Boil recipe is popular in the coastal states, this simplified version uses shrimp — but other shellfish can be added if you desire. Make sure you have plenty of friends and family on hand since a “boil” is more of a gathering than just a meal.

Low Country Boil Recipe – (Serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 quarts water
  • 8 medium red potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, cut in wedges
  • 2 pounds smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 8 ears frozen corn on the cob, thawed
    (use fresh if available)
  • 4 pounds large uncooked shrimp, in shells

Directions:

1. In an 8-quart stockpot, bring Old Bay,
salt and water to a boil.

2. Add potatoes and onions; cook over high heat for 8 minutes.

3. Add smoked sausage; continue to cook
on high for 5 minutes.

4. Add corn to pot; continue to boil for
7 minutes.

5. Add shrimp in shells, cook for 4 minutes.

6. Drain cooking liquid, then pour contents
of pot onto paper (or foil) lined table or
surface.

7. Sprinkle with additional Old Bay and
squeezed lemon.

roasted-chicken-recipe

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables Recipe

Dinner all comes together easily with this delicious roasted chicken dish. Placing a lemon inside the cavity while roasting gives the bird a nice citrus flavor. So simple, this meal will soon be your go-to favorite.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables Recipe (Serves 4 to 5)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Approximately 3-pound chicken,
    preferably free-range, organic
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • A small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary,
    bay or sage, or a mixture

Directions:

1. Remove chicken from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking.

2. Preheat oven to 475°F.

3. Wash and roughly chop the vegetables.

4. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled.

5. Pile the garlic and vegetables into the
middle of a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil.

6. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and
season well with salt and pepper.

7. Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (or microwave it for 40 seconds to bring out the flavor).

8. Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, along with the herbs.

9. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan and put it into the preheated oven.

10. Turn the heat down immediately to 400°F and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

11. Baste the chicken halfway through cooking, and if the vegetables look dry, add a splash of water to the pan to keep them from burning.

12. When cooked, remove the chicken and vegetables from the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for approximately 15 minutes.

13. Cover it with a layer of foil and a towel and put aside until ready to serve.

winter-table

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — Everyone!

When it comes to family dinner parties, it seems like people usually fall into one of two camps: hosts and guests.

We’re guests. And it’s all because my sister, Susan, grabbed the spotlight one year. She pulled out all the stops — and a tradition was born.

But not this year. Susan and I had a little sit-down. I told her that as much as I love her dinner parties, the thing that would make me happiest would be to get my own turn. That I wanted my daughters to have the experience of creating a special evening. Really, I think that’s what made her give in.

The next day, my heart raced with excitement. This was the year when everyone would find out that I, too, am a great cook; that I can throw a great dinner party. For planning I turned to trusted experts whose recipes have always inspired me: Julia, Jacques and James — as in Child, Pepin and Beard. Hunkered down at my dining-room table, barricaded behind their cookbooks, I began making lists.

I’ll confess now that my initial plan would have worked just fine … for a formal dinner at Downton Abbey. Visions of Beef Wellington, Coq au Vin, Potatoes au Gratin and flaming plum pudding danced in my head. Naturally, I would have to upgrade our table linens, candleholders and china. But then a trip to a few stores and some quick calculations brought me right back to reality. My budget was no match for my imagination.

So I turned to the people who consistently get me through everyday meals: Rachel, Betty and Ina — as in Ray, Crocker and Garten (or, as you know her, the Barefoot Contessa). Turns out, their recipes are perfect for feeding a crowd without breaking the bank — or collapsing from exhaustion.

Once I changed my focus, I realized that entertaining is about warming hearts and welcoming guests with open arms. It’s not a competition — how the table looks matters much less than how people at the table feel.

Fore more entertaining tips, read here.

apple bacon grilled cheese

Recipe: Grilled Cheese with apple, bacon, and cheddar

Gooey cheddar, crisp bacon and tangy green apples combine to create this grilled cheesy goodness. For a tasty twist, try these combinations: pear, ham and ricotta; caramelized onions and Swiss; raspberry jam and cream cheese; or pesto, ham and mozzarella.

Grilled cheese stuffed with apple, bacon, and cheddar recipe (Serves 4):

Ingredients:

  • 8 ¾” slices country-style white bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 12 oz. farmhouse cheddar, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked to desired doneness
  • 1 green apple, thinly sliced
  • Dijon mustard

Directions:

1.  Heat griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat.
Or, you can use your panini press if you have one.

2.  Assemble sandwich: Generously spread Dijon on 4 slices of bread. Top with slices of Cheddar, 3 pieces of bacon, apple slices and additional Cheddar. Place the remaining bread on top and spread with butter.

3.  Place on skillet buttered-side down and butter the remaining side. Cook until cheese is slightly melted and bread is browned. Flip the sandwich and continue to cook until cheese is thoroughly melted and sandwich is golden-brown.

See more cheesy recipes here.

balthazar-korab

Balthazar Korab: Documenting Design

 

Over the past 30 years the northern Detroit suburb of Troy, Michigan, has changed from a peaceful farming village to a sprawling boom town.

But tucked away in a quiet corner, screened by trees and other plantings, is one of metro Detroit’s most unique residences, occupied by the family of the world’s most distinguished names in architectural photography.

Hungarian-born photographer and architect Balthazar Korab, a U.S. resident since 1955, has roamed far and wide in his career, shooting an estimated quarter-million images of the world’s best architecture in spots as remote as the deserts of Yemen. His photographs of the work of such famed architects as Frank Lloyd Wright and Eero Saarinen are displayed in prominent museum and personal collections.

Always, though, Korab and his wife, Monica, who runs the business side of the operation, return to the four-acre plot they purchased in 1970. Over the years, they restored the mid-1800s farmhouse and converted the nearby barn into a two-story studio and workspace. For good measure, they lovingly landscaped the grounds of their home, filling
it with trees, flowers, a small pool and artwork crafted from tree stumps and found objects. Here, the Korabs created an oasis of the simple life for themselves at home, a life dedicated to art, photography, gardening, friends and their two children, Christian and Alexandra. The home blends the Korabs’ two great passions — nature and natural materials on the one hand, and a modernist design ethic on the other.

Simple Life

No visit to the Korabs’ home is complete without a tour of the gardens. “A garden is not a product, it’s a process,” Balthazar observes. “It can be hard labor, too. But in our case, it’s a labor of love.” Balthazar grew up in Budapest, where he cultivated a small rock garden as a tot. Their garden today is intensely personal, dotted with found objects. The Korabs once grouped big wooden spools for telephone cables on the hillside, their fronts charred by flames for a more interesting texture. Old beams from the barn were buried upright for dramatic visual effect. This eclectic setting of plantings and objects became a focus for Balthazar’s lens. “The garden I photographed over and over,” he says.

Some 40 white pines screen the property from a subdivision. Balthazar recalls the pines started as tiny seedlings that arrived in a single bag. Monica completes the story: “I told the kids, ‘Invite all your friends over because we’re going to plant a forest.”

But what is perhaps most striking about the Korabs’ residence and studio, aside from the tranquility so close to a bustling thoroughfare, is the unique mix of 19th century rural architecture with modern furniture and art. Balthazar, 84, came of age in the golden days of modern furniture design, and he and Monica have filled their home and studio with glass-and-steel and leather furniture by mid-20th century masters. There is a glass-topped dining room table by the European architect Le Corbusier. Their upstairs office in the barn contains both the latest Aeron chair from the Herman Miller Company and a Mies van der Rohe vintage daybed — “for everybody to crash on,” Monica explains.
A gleaming white iMac sits on a contemporary desk.

Yet the Korabs also adhere to an Arts & Crafts ethic, collecting handmade furniture and high-quality art objects, many found during their travels. Their modern furnishings blend with the 1800s Midwest rural architecture, artwork and antiques to create a very special place. The impression one gets of Balthazar Korab is that he is as unique as his home — a harmonious and affable blending of the old and the new. His work reflects both the dynamic history of architecture and the expansive horizons of his own mind, taking in the traditional and the radical and everything in between.

Korab Legacy

No effort has been made to hide the humble origins of the Korabs’ home. The barn’s original wood beams still brace the ceiling. The wooden staircase to the upper studio loft space is original. The fieldstone walls also are original, left natural on the exterior although painted white on the interior. In the basement of the house, the foundation combines locally gathered fieldstone, handmade bricks and wood. Some ceiling beams still have bark on them.

The original wood plank floors in their two-story residence create a rustic setting for the furniture of Hugh Acton, Tobias Scarpa and others. As a counterpoint to the moderns, the Korabs have scattered antique Italian chests and tables here and there — souvenirs of a couple of years they spent in Florence in the 1960s.

Modern + Rustic -- Korab

The Korabs’ biographies are as eclectic as their furnishings. Monica is a Detroit native, but Balthazar was born in Hungary, fled Communist rule, studied architecture in Paris, came to this country in the 1950s, and soon evolved from designing buildings to photographing them. His work now is represented in museums around the world. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton presented a portfolio of Balthazar’s photos to Árpád Göncz, the president of Hungary, during a state visit.

Even now, Balthazar continues to work, sometimes taking the entire family along. The Korabs recently shot an architectural commission on Long Island with Balthazar directing the shots, his son Christian operating the camera, and Monica and daughter Alex helping out. Balthazar says he has no plans to retire.

Editors Note: This article features the late Balthazar Korab and was originally published in 2010.

Electric Fireplace

Dress Up Your Electric Fireplace

Taking up the mantel.

Electric fireplaces modernize hearth and home.

Love your house, but wish it had a fireplace? You don’t have to endure the hassle and expense of installing a working chimney. An electric fireplace is an easy, affordable way to bring the look and feel of crackling logs to your living room — or any room of your house, for that matter.

“A freestanding electric fireplace is a quick, easy way to warm up your home — perfect for the holidays,” says Sofa Mart buyer Gay Lehnerz. There’s no remodeling or complicated fuel hookups required — simply situate the fireplace against a wall, plug it in, and use its remote-control button to adjust the brightness of the simulated logs and flame.

The same remote also controls the fireplace’s heat. Typically, they operate at either low (750 watts) or high (1,500 watts) power, and distribute up to 4,600 BTUs of heat to effectively warm up a 200-square-foot area. What’s more, you can turn off the heater completely to enjoy the look of a roaring fire when the outside temperature soars. Try that with a regular fireplace. 

Unlike regular fireplaces, console fireplaces can be coordinated with the rest of the furniture in your room.

Some electric fireplaces extend this year-round functionality even further. A highly popular model doubles as a media console, providing a top surface to support a TV, a shelf for DVD players, DVRs and other electronic equipment, plus adjustable shelves for storing CDs, DVDs and additional media behind closed doors. “Everyone immediately gravitates to the media-console fireplaces,” Lehnerz says. “We just seem to love the idea of the fireplace as furniture.”

Console fireplaces are ideally suited for today’s flat-screen TVs. No more than 17″ deep, their slim profile won’t “swallow up” a TV the way some big, bulky entertainment centers do. They also look great with the TV mounted on the wall above, leaving the top surface free for electronic equipment or anything you might place on a conventional fireplace mantel.

Starting at around $600, console fireplaces can be added to your home for a mere fraction of the cost of installing a wood-burning or gas fireplace. And, unlike regular fireplaces, console fireplaces can be coordinated with the rest of the furniture in your room. Match finishes and styles with occasional tables and other pieces in the room.

cheddar biscuits

Parmesan and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits Recipe

We continue our cheese voyage with the parmesan and cheddar cheese biscuits recipe. Take biscuits to the next level with these cheesy, flavorful delights. Serve them with a bowl of hearty soup on a cold winter day.

Parmesan and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
(Makes about 8 biscuits) 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Dash of cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • Kosher or black salt for topping (optional; not iodized salt)

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 425°.

2.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour,
cayenne, black pepper, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2.  Dice the butter into small pieces. Toss the diced butter with the flour mixture until well coated. (NOTE: If the butter gets too warm in your hands, place the whole mixture in the freezer for a few minutes.) Add the scallions and cheese and toss until well-coated.

3.  Add the buttermilk and mix with your hands until it just comes together. You may find you need an extra dribble of buttermilk; if so, then go right ahead but do so judiciously. Do not over-knead.

4.  Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice; no more. Form into an 8″ x 8″ square and cut into 4″ x 4″ squares and top with a bit of high-quality salt, if using. Bake for 12–16 minutes or until golden.

blue-+-bold

Mix and Match Decor Styles

You love the feel of an urban space, but want to include natural fibers to soften the feel of your decor. Or, your dining room furniture has bold lines, but you absolutely love the floral wallpaper in your new home. No matter your style, a fun and easy way to decorate — and showcase your personality — is through using a blend of styles, colors and patterns in a space. “Mixing and matching different styles makes for interesting rooms,” says Barbara Chandler, Visual Merchandising Manager, at Furniture Row.

7

Colors and Form: Mixing bold colors with strong lines in your space provides a modern and sleek look. The mix of circles, squares and angular lines gives dimension to this room.

3

Neutrals and Patterns: A neutral and soothing palette provides the perfect backdrop for a pop of pattern in any room. The textural patterns in this chair, along with the woven shades, add interest to the space.

5

His and Hers: Balancing feminine with masculine touches can create the ideal “his and hers” bedroom space. The sassy lamps and patchwork-pattern rug complement the more masculine leather chair and bench, according to Chandler. The crisp white bedding with touches of purple and lavender finish the look.

6

Classic and Contemporary: Combine classic and current decor elements to create this chic living space. Traditional touches such as wall frame molding, damask curtains and urn-style table lamps pair nicely with the contemporary look of the sofa, chair and hanging lamp. Metallic finishes and rich wood tones unite to give this room a timeless, sophisticated look.

4

Blue and Bold: Create a focal point in your dining room with bold wallpaper or by wall papering just one wall. The white chair rail complements other bold decor elements in the room: the blue vase on the table, the bright green apple chair and the large-scale dining room table and chairs.

1

Metallic and Modern: By mixing metallic accessories with contemporary colors and furniture pieces, you can create a unique and modern look for your home. The tone-on-tone of this blue wall and gray sofa, along with touches of green accents in the room, offer a contrast to the metallic glamour of the chest, side lamp and candlesticks.

2

Plant and Animal Prints: Go wild by mixing your favorite botanical and animal prints. The black-and-white zebra print chair makes a statement in this lavender room, and the neutral loveseat provides a solid base enhanced by beautiful floral metallic print pillows.

potato-gratin

Fall Recipe: Mushroom and Gruyère Potato Gratin

Mushroom + Gruyére Potato Gratin

Comfort food meets gourmet taste for this potato gratin dish. Perfect served as a side dish for your next family gathering. Next is our Fall Recipe series, we’re cooking up the ultimate comfort foods for any evening including Thanksgiving.

(Makes 8–10 servings) 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 ¾cup olive oil
  • 4 cups finely chopped leeks (about 3 large;  white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and
  • sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 375°.

2.  Heat 1/4 cup oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks; sauté until soft and lightly browned, 10–12 minutes.

3.  Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and liquid evaporates, 7–8 minutes.

4.  Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

5.  Combine half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large pot. Add potatoes.Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6.  Remove lid; simmer until cream is reduced by about half, stirring often and watching closely to prevent mixture from burning, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

7.  Brush 13″ x 9″ x 2″ glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Transfer half of potato mixture to dish, spreading out in even layer. Spoon mushroom mixture in an even layer. Spoon remaining potato mixture, spreading in even layer. Sprinkle cheese over top.

8.  Cover with foil, tenting in center to prevent cheese from sticking to foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until potatoes are tender and top is brown, 20–25 minutes longer. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

close-up

Fall Recipe: Asparagus Cigars Appetizer

Cream Cheese and Parmesan Asparagus Cigars

Elegant, yet simple to make, these asparagus cigars make a fun — and hearty — appetizer.

(Makes 10 Cigars)

Asparagus-Cigars

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. ready-made puff pastry
  • Flour, for dusting
  • 1 oz. cream cheese
  • 10 asparagus spears
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
    Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface into a 6″ x 10″ rectangle and spread all over with the cream cheese.
    Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into 10 long, thin strips.
  2. Wrap one pastry strip in a spiral around each asparagus spear and place onto a baking tray. Lightly brush each with beaten egg then scatter the
  3. Parmesan cheese on top.
    Bake the cigars in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden-brown.

Become a “cheese head” with these 8 must know cheese types:

Cheese-Board-feature

hard-woods-care

Floor Care from the Ground Up

What’s always underfoot and in need of attention? Your floors. Floors take a beating from dirt, pets’ paws and debris carried in from the outside on shoes. Entryways, kitchens and hallways get an especially tough workout. Floor care is usually at the end of your list.

“The Healthy Housekeeper” Laura Dellutri, author of several home-care books, says keeping floors in shape requires preventive measures and regular cleaning.

Floor Care (1) Stop dirt at the front door.

“Eighty-five percent of dirt comes in on the bottom of shoes,” Dellutri says. A comfortable bench and plenty of shoe storage space help train family to remove shoes. For extra protection, outfit doors with dirt- capturing mats and place runners and area rugs in high-traffic areas.

Prevent scratches.

Don’t wear high heels in the house. Outfit furniture legs with felt covers, and keep pets’ nails trimmed. Wipe dogs’ feet when they come in, or outfit them with removable booties if they’ll cooperate. If your wood floor gets scratched, lightly sand the damaged area with super-fine steel wool, then fill in with MinWax Wood Filler® (Home Depot®, about $7 per quart) that matches the stain.

Keep floors clean.

Vacuum or sweep every day or every other day; wash weekly or more often depending on traffic. And clean the right way: Damp- clean and air-dry floors. Instead of commercial floor-care products, Dellutri recommends using a neutral cleaner such as Simple Green® or a drop or two of dish soap diluted in cold or tepid water (hot water degrades finishes). You can, she adds, use a solution of vinegar and water on unfinished stone or tile and ceramic tile, but never on any floor with a finish, such as wood or linoleum.

trek

Care for carpets.

Vacuum religiously. Keep them stain-free with two or three coats of Scotchgard™ or other fabric protector Get area rugs professionally cleaned; when purchasing them, avoid fringe, which traps pet hair and dirt. Perk up dull- or chalky-looking wood, stone or marble floors. Quick Shine “makes floors look brand-new,” Dellutri says.

 The bottom line? Prevention is the key to keeping floors clean and fresh. “You want to make sure you’re picking up dirt and debris so it doesn’t get ground in,” Dellutri advises.

french toast

Last Minute Brunch Recipes

Last week we discussed Greg Utsinger’s Weekend Brunch Tips. We’re capping off this week with some last minute brunch recipes for anyone looking to make a last minute ‘wow’ with their guests.

Candied Bacon – Makes 10 Slices (via Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound bacon slices (10 slices)
  • 1/2 cup Demerara sugar
  • Special equipment: brown paper such as a grocery bag or butcher paper

Preparation Instructions:

Cook bacon in 2 batches in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning over once, until bacon is lightly browned on edges but still flexible, 5 to 6 minutes total per batch. Transfer bacon as cooked to paper towels to drain.

Pour off fat from skillet and arrange bacon in skillet in 1 layer. Sprinkle Demerara sugar over bacon and cook over low heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until sugar is dissolved, caramelized (sugar melts very slowly and burns easily; reduce heat if necessary after sugar begins to caramelize), and coats bacon, 8 to 10 minutes. (Bacon will be dark and look lacquered.) Transfer bacon with tongs to brown paper to cool.

Créme Brulée French Toast (via NYT Cooking)

  • 5 large eggs plus 2 yolks (or 6 whole eggs)
  • 2 ¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or use more milk)
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 loaf challah bread, sliced 1 inch thick, preferably stale (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preparation Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, rum, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Spread bread out in 1 layer on a large rimmed baking sheet (about 11 by 17 inches). Pour custard over bread, cover with plastic wrap, and let soak in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Flip bread slices over once while they soak. This can be halfway through the soaking, or about an hour before baking, whichever is more convenient.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar and butter. Pour mixture onto another large rimmed baking sheet, using a spatula if necessary to spread into an even layer.
  3. Transfer soaked bread to sugared baking sheet, placing slices on top of the brown sugar mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and sugar is bubbling.
  4. Serve immediately while still hot, with the crunchy brown sugar side up, spooning more of pan syrup over the top.

Homemade Granola – Makes about 5 cups (via Joy Of Baking)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon wheat germ (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade A Dark Amber)
  • 1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, and/or raisins) (optional)

Preparation Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Either butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the rolled oats, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, ground cinnamon, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil (or melted butter), and maple syrup. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and toss together, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the liquid. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 -45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the mixture browns evenly. (The browner the granola gets (without burning) the crunchier the granola will be.) Place on a wire rack to cool. You will notice that the granola may still be sticky when it is removed from the oven but it will become crisp and dry as it cools. Make sure to break up any large clumps of granola while the mixture is still warm. Once the granola has completely cooled, store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.

How to Host Weekend Brunch

An invitation to a weekend brunch signals relaxation, celebration, indulgent food — and a good time ahead. A bonus? Brunch rarely absorbs an entire day. The host can “chill out” after the goodbyes or finish a project before Monday.

Brunch is more relaxed than most parties because much of the work is done ahead, maintains Greg Utsinger, the Denver-based regional visual-merchandise manager for Furniture Row. Utsinger, who once cooked professionally, enjoys entertaining when he’s not on the road for business. His spring brunch menu for six may sound ambitious, but you don’t have to stay up half the night to prepare it. His indulgent, yet fuss-free, version of the classic eggs Benedict, for example, features scrambled eggs instead of poached which simplifies last-minute assembly.

Add excitement to your brunch table with creative presentations. Serve various sizes, shapes and textures of muffins and fruit or nut breads made from zucchini, blueberries, lemon, orange and dates. Put breads, muffins and pastries in attractive baskets for easy passing. Within convenient reach of each guest, place ramekins of flavored butters and dips such as sweetened orange-flavored cream cheese or soft goat cheese with fig preserves.

Use fresh fruit as a palate refresher.

Instead of a mixed-fruit salad, serve one made with various melon chunks. A cut-crystal bowl of ripe, glistening strawberries can also double as a centerpiece. Toss the berries lightly with sugar, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly crushed black pepper.

Keep beverages simple. Offer a variety of juices — grape, tangerine, lemonade, cranberry, pineapple — with sparkling water.

HELPING HANDS

The festive brunch table.

Choose a color scheme for your brunch table that’s inspired by gardens bursting into bloom, the seasonal fruits and juices on your menu, or even the color of your china and serving dishes. Serve beverages that match your napkins and tablecloth. Add a small vase or two with a single flower and scatter small votive candles around the table.

Or, pick a theme for your brunch and decorate accordingly. Utsinger recalls a memorable brunch that had a Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme, complete with napkins and tablecloths close to the jeweler’s signature Tiffany blue.

Whatever you do, Utsinger says to make sure that you and all your guests have a great time.

“The fun of brunch is to be informal and offer a variety of foods on an interesting table,” he says. “If you don’t have enough flutes or plates of the same size or color, that’s fine. Mismatched plates add to a casual atmosphere. Let your colorful food stand out. At weekend brunch, anything goes.’’

Hungry for more? Check out these last minute brunch recipes.

Patterns

Ask the Experts: Mixing and Matching Patterns

In this edition of Ask the Experts, we’re teaming up with Furniture Row Visual Merchandiser Barbara Chandler and talking patterns.

mixing-patterns

Q: Where do I start?

A: With your color palette. Choose a main color and a few accent colors. Look for patterns that use at least two of these colors. “Get free swatches from wallpaper and fabric stores,” Barbara Chandler, store design and visual-merchandise manager from Furniture Row, advises. “Lay them in your room, then step back and look at them. Keep in mind where each patterns will go — the impact of the pattern will be magnified on a large surface, like a sofa or wall.

Q: How do I know I’ve done it right?

A: If you like it, it’s right. But if you’re nervous, Chandler says, “start small— with accent pillows on your sofa, for instance.” Many fabric companies offer preselected pattern sets that take the guesswork out of the process.

Mixing Patterns

Q: Should patterns be similar or different?

A: You want to vary the scale and color intensity. “Don’t use tiny checks and tiny stripes and tiny florals together, there will be no focus on the design,” Chandler explains. “You also want a bit of color contrast so the patterns don’t fade into each other. Try playing with different textures, too.”

Q: Is it O.K. to mix stripes, plaids, florals and other patterns in a single room?

A: Absolutely. “Mixing patterns is a great way to add energy and vitality to a room,” says Chandler.

Q: How many patterns can I mix together?

A: There are no rules, but too many patterns can become overwhelming. Odd numbers are generally more interesting to the eye, so three patterns is a good start. If things start to look too busy, use a solid color to strike a balance between patterns. A solid rug, for example, can help tie a patterned look together..

Q: Are there any patterns I should never mix together?

A: Again, there are no formal rules But stripes may the most adaptable to different decors, and the easiest to harmonize with other patterns.

blueberry-muffin-recipe

Classic Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Blueberry Muffin Recipe – Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened (plus 2tbsp.)

2 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tbs baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1/4 water

2 cups fresh blueberries

8oz. cream cheese, diced

2 tsp. lemon zest

Preparation Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Line muffin pans with paper of foil liners (approximately 18, depending on the size of the pan). Set aside. In a large bowl, cream 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add 2 1/4 cups flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, toss 2 1/2 cups flour with blueberries. Add to batter. Fold in cream cheese and 1 tsp. lemon zest. Divide batter among the muffin cups and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, remaining lemon zest and 2 tbsp. butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the top of each muffin. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Natural-Cleaning

Natural Products: A fresh start to cleaning

Home, sweet, home? Not always.

Sometimes, it goes sour. Our busy lives leave little time to clean thoroughly. Still, any freshening does wonders for the eye and mind.

“Freshening up,” delivers a sense of calm and order to homes, says Elizabeth Goldsmith, professor of family resource management at Florida State University and author of Green Cleaning for Dummies.

She suggests using scent-free natural products — baking soda, white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and cream of tartar — as home-cleaning agents. The use of such pantry staples as cleaning agents goes back generations, but the current interest in sustainability, as well as food and home safety have renewed their popularity. “This generation of younger parents is very aware of what their kids eat and what their toddlers put in their mouths as they crawl on the floor,’’ Goldsmith says. “People stay home more. The rooms are more lived in. We notice more, such as dirt.’’

A solution of baking soda and water cleans sinks. Remove tannin stains (red wine, coffee, tea, juices, ketchup, soft drinks) by blotting with club soda. A mixture of salt and baking soda clears drains. A paste of water and baking soda or cornstarch removes greasy oven stains. A dusting of baking soda absorbs odors from rugs, carpet, even running shoes. Fresh grapefruit cuts grease in garbage disposals. For sparkling windows and glass surfaces, use a solution of warm water and vinegar in a spray bottle.

Novices eager to make their own cleaning products need to follow “recipes,” advises Susan E. Taylor, extension educator and consumer and family economics advisor with the University of Illinois Extension in Matteson. “Careless mixing, such as using bleach mixed with acids, can be hazardous.’’

natural-cleaning-solutions

Taylor urges consumers to check with the product manufacturer when in doubt. Many universities with domestic-science departments and extension services offer excellent resources of online information on household cleaning.

When time is scarce Goldsmith recommends focusing on the area people notice first. In the kitchen, start with counters, the refrigerator and range. Polish the doors and handles. Remove stains from sinks, polish faucets and keep counters clutter-free.

In the living room, concentrate on the sofa. Remove pillows, re fluff and air them outside. Vacuum all surfaces including corners. Open doors and windows. Shake drapes and dust blinds. In the bedroom, strip the bed and move it away from the wall. Dust and vacuum all surfaces and open windows before relocating furniture.

In the bathroom, target shiny surfaces such as mirrors, faucets, toilet (inside and out) and shower/tub. Rub mirrors and glass surfaces with a vinegar/warm water solution. The vinegar odor dissipates in hours. If aroma is critical, add essential oils (peppermint, lemon, lavender, eucalyptus) to scent solutions. Remove stains from tile grout with a paste of water and baking soda. Let it dry, then scrub with a toothbrush.

spinach-benedicts

Recipe: Spinach Benedicts

Spinach Benedicts Recipe

(Serves 6)

INGREDIENTS:

6 1/2″ thick slices of Brioche

6 slices turkey breast

6 slices swiss cheese

6 roasted red onion slices (instructions below)

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

6 eggs, scrambled

1 1/2 to 3 cups Hollandise Sauce (see recipe below)

1 tomato

PREPARATION INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the broiler. Place the brioche slices on a large baking sheet and broil for 1 to 2 minutes until just starting to toast. Remove from oven and top with turkey and Swiss cheese. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until cheese begins to melt. Remove from oven and transfer to individual serving plates. Divide the onion and spinach between the toasts and top each with a scrambled egg. Finish by spooning 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup Hollandaise sauce over each Benedict and garnish with a tomato slice, if desired.

Roasted Red Onion

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and slice the red onion. Place slices on a rimmed baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

Hollandaise Sauce

8 egg yolks

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Large pinch cayenne pepper

Large pinch salt

Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless-steel bowl or in the top of a double boiler. Egg yolks should thicken and nearly double in volume. Place over simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl). Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne pepper and salt.

Make it Memorable

Personalized touches make any occasion more special. Give each guest a tiny take-home treat, such as individually wrapped portions of homemade granola with a colorful ribbon and a handwritten name tag that can also serve as a place card on the table.

Before-and-After

Before and After: Home Office

Before and After: Back in business with the home office.

Once used for a little ironing, light fitness workouts, and occasional paperwork, this spare bedroom has been transformed into an inviting home office space.

home-office

Hardworking Furniture: The desk, which can be set up in the middle or at the end of the unit, easily accommodates a computer and other technology.

From cluttered catch-all to warm and workable. That’s the transformation we accomplished in converting a spare bedroom into a home office.

First, we gave the room a soothing color palette that’s neither overtly masculine nor feminine. For the walls, we used Benjamin Moore’s Hawthorne Yellow and added green and cream touches that are repeated throughout the room in the chair, rug, lamp and window treatments. A floral upholstered family-heirloom chair provides a personal touch and another splash of color.

Next, we selected the attractive, space- saving Tribeca Loft Hutch wall unit with its generous file drawers and adjustable shelves as the room’s stylish workhorse. A bookcase/file- cabinet offers additional storage and anchors a sitting area.

Inexpensive, custom-cut faux wood blinds in white and delicately patterned curtains complete the look. Mounting the curtains above and beyond the actual dimensions of the tall, wide windows makes the high- ceilinged room feel less cavernous.

“This is a dramatic change,” says Barbara Chandler, store design visual merchandise manager for Furniture Row. “It’s definitely organized — there’s lots of storage they didn’t have before. And now there’s also a place to sit and read and be comfortable.”

Home-Office Makeover Considerations

• Determine your needs — storage, work surface, etc.

• Measure carefully and consider the home-office layout that’s functional for you.

• Does the room need to do double duty? If so, plan to add a daybed, chaise or chair and

ottoman.

• What colors do you need for a working environment?

See more of our Before and After transformations:

Before and After: Tween Bedrooms

Before and After: The Neutral Nursery

Before and After: Newlywed Bedroom Suite

media-storage

Choosing Storage for Electronics and Media

Today’s must-have electronics aren’t always visually compatible with today’s home decors. Finding storage options isn’t always easy. Fortunately, says Dennis Crouthers, senior buyer for Oak Express, there are many clever, stylish ways to conceal, display and maximize accessibility to electronic equipment and media.

1. Inventory your technology- Make a room-by-room list of your equipment and media — TVs, DVD players, DVRs, music and game systems, computers, CDs, DVDs and so on.

2. Measure your equipment and space- Record each component’s precise height, width and depth. Now measure the space where you plan to put the equipment and the doorway(s) through which it will have to fit.

3. Identify your style- There are media storage solutions to fit any decor. Deciding in advance which look you want will help narrow your search. Many manufacturers include complementary storage pieces in their living room and bedroom furniture sets, which takes the guesswork out of matching styles — although mixing styles is also perfectly acceptable.

4. Review your furniture options- Use the information you’ve compiled to pinpoint the best furniture solutions. You can choose from a virtually endless array of sizes, shapes and functions. Popular choices include a TV cabinet (ideal for smaller rooms and TVs) and a media console (which offers additional under- the-surface storage). A TV armoire is a great choice for rooms in which the TV is not the focal point.

Home theater Walls are best suited to large-screen TVs and offer the most storage capability. Though available in many configurations, they typically include at least a TV console, two audio towers (or “piers”) and a connecting over-the-TV bridge.

There are also many beautiful, functional choices for supporting computers, printers and the like, from simple laptop desks to specialized computer desks and modular walls that can be configured to perfectly fit your needs. Your selection will probably be governed by space. For example, do you have a dedicated home office, or will you tuck the computer into a kitchen nook? Because technology is constantly changing, choose furniture pieces that are adjustable and expandable.

Cord Control: There are many clever, stylish ways to conceal, display and maximize accessibility to electronic equipment and media.

Most furniture for storing electronics has some provision for routing wires and cords down legs or out the rear of the piece. To cut down even more cord clutter:

1. Use a power strip for multiple plugs.
2. Hide excess cordage in a cord organizer.
3. Label cords with color-coded ID tags.

Replace. Recycle. Renew.

Don’t let old, obsolete and broken equipment clutter your home. You can recycle old gadgets for cash at sites like Gazelle. com and BuyMyTronics.com. (Be sure to remove all personal data from cell phones and computers.) You can donate to charity — for example, RecycleForBreastCancer.org will resell your electronics and the profits go to breast cancer research. Or check with your local municipality — many offer electronics recycling programs at certain points in the year. For additional options, search google.com to see what kind of electronics recycling is available in your area.

Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Recipe: Perfect Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie: This traditional British dish gets its flavor from lamb and savory winter vegetables. A stick-to-your-ribs meal that’s perfect for chasing away hunger on cool winter nights.

Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk, warm
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½pound ground lamb
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and
    finely chopped
  • 1 small celery root, peeled and
    finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 ½cup beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½cup frozen peas

DIRECTIONS:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2.  Start with the potatoes: In a large saucepan, boil until soft in unsalted water.
  3.  Drain and add milk, butter and sour cream.
  4.  Mash well and season with salt and pepper; Set aside.
  5.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan and brown the ground lamb.
  6.  Remove from pan and add carrot, onion, celery root, garlic and thyme.
  7.  Sauté until the onion becomes soft, about 5 minutes.
  8.  Add flour and mix well.
  9. Pour in the stock and let mixture cook for 1 minute.
  10. Add Worcestershire sauce, meat and peas.
  11. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  12. Add the mashed potatoes on top.
  13. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Shepherd's Pie Recipe

kids-art-decor

Home Decor: Kid Art in the Home

Earlier this week we posted a guide to decorating your walls with artwork. This week we are going to focus on the artists you have living in your home right now. Children love to explore their creativity with arts and crafts. In this guide, we’re giving tips for preserving and displaying your child’s masterpieces throughout your home.

Kids-Art

Art created by children is often reserved for the refrigerator. LaFontsee, who has overseen the installation of a large collection of art created by children for patients at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, tells us that art created by children can really lift one’s spirit.

Kids-Art-1

White frames and pops of color from your child’s creative masterpieces add joy to hallways.

When selecting frames to display your child’s  creation, choose a standardized frame so you can easily exchange the artwork that often arrives daily with kids.  “And as your child’s art collection grows,” adds LaFontsee, “their  vision of the world is now presented as a visual record. It is so wonderful to see the world through their eyes.”

Kid-Art--Single

Get your child’s art professionally mounted for a seamless look. Professional mounting is also a way to preserve your favorite pieces.

art_and_decor

How to Tips: Art and Decor

The possibilities are limitless when we begin buying art. We are potentially embarking on a lifelong journey of exploration and sharing— sharing with ourselves and our friends an artist’s message that we, too embrace and bring into our homes and offices.

Many people often perceive art as a commodity reserved for the cold, white walls of a local cultural institution. But it’s easy to forget that these works of art are created in artists’ spaces, comfortable workplaces that usually have more in common with a home than a museum.

When you collect art, you are, in a sense, ensuring its return to a similar place from which it was created.

The first step toward welcoming art into your home may not be the easiest to embark upon, but it is necessary to the adventure. So, where do you begin your journey?

Locating Art:

The obvious choices are not always recognizable, and some valuable resources could be right under your nose. For example, magazines and books on your coffee table or shelves may provide clues to the type and style of art to which you are drawn.

The most obvious locations to discover art are showrooms, local galleries, art fairs and even Internet sites like Etsy.com. All of these provide a multitude of choices from which to build a personal collection.

An art gallery is an obvious place to start, according to Linda LaFontsee, co-owner of LaFontsee Galleries.

“I love it when someone walks in the door who has never purchased a work of art,” says LaFontsee, “because those first steps are often followed by the phrase, ‘We want something for our home, but are not sure.’”

wall_decor

Choosing art that suits your style and personality:

LaFontsee, like many gallery owners, guides buyers through a series of questions to help them choose pieces that suit them. Questions such as:

  • What does your space look like?
  • Do you have a photo that references the space or wall you are looking to place your art?
  • Do you have a personal favorite
    artist or artistic period? 
  • What do you like?

The last question is crucial to the process LaFontsee explains, “You should welcome art that you connect with on some level. The importance of it being personal is because you will be living with this work of art in your home.”

Fear of making the wrong choice can also be a factor for the novice art buyer. LaFontsee, however, has figured out that the best way to get acquainted with a new work of art is to let the person take the piece home.  This process allows the client to begin a relationship with the piece by observing how the art looks in their home.

“A work of art changes over time with the changing of the day,” LaFontsee says.  “A piece can look one way in the morning light and at night display a whole new beauty as subtle details are revealed over the passing of time.”

The placement of art in your home:

Placement is an important part of the selection process, so it’s always best to know where the work will be displayed before you purchase it.

A person may not be ready to fill a whole room at one time. For this reason, LaFontsee thinks it’s wise to look at other areas in the home like a hallway, a breakfast nook or a study.

The study is a great place to assemble highly personal pieces in groupings of a single theme, also known as “salon style.” Favorite themes or collections may already exist in your home and can be expanded upon over time with additional acquisitions.

For example, if you are a person who travels a lot, then postcards placed under chunky black frames with a white matte can bring the eye to these mementos of one’s adventures.

LaFontsee has found that one of the best ways to arrange a salon wall, if this is the direction you wish to proceed, is to lay the pieces flat on the floor in front of the wall and begin to move items around until you find the proper balance and spacing for your collection.

“It is a simple process,” LaFontsee says, “and it will save your walls from unnecessary nail holes, too.”

A good rule of thumb to remember when hanging artwork is that it is always best to consider spatial relationships and the work of art.

modern_decor_home

Thematic groupings, though, do not all have to be hung salon style. Another trend, according
to LaFontsee, is to pair three-dimensional with framed works on the wall. These groupings
can be an exciting addition to a hallway or nook where visiting friends or family will have a chance to interact with the artwork in a relaxed, familiar setting.

If wall space in your home is filled or limited, feel free to set a few framed works of art on a shelf or horizontal plane to create a dynamic harmony around an existing collection of objects or knickknacks. A discerning eye will appreciate your efforts.

Works that are smaller in size should not sit orphaned or be placed alone in oversize spaces, which diminishes the power of the work and increases the likelihood of it being overlooked.

 No matter where you choose to begin showcasing an art collection, LaFontsee says it’s important to take that first step.

It really is that simple. And often, that first step can lead to a lifelong adventure along the path to your personalized art collection. So, when you open your doors to friends in years to come, you can continue to share that journey with them every time you add a new piece to your collection.

visual_vignettes

Visual Vignettes:

Not every room has to be about acquiring the shiny and new in order to create dynamic collections. These vignettes above illustrate the diversity of options found from items already in your home. When creating areas that reflect who you are, it can be as simple as buying a single new piece of furniture and adorning it with favorite objects to create themes or inspirational spaces.

Coordinating Furniture from Furniture Row:

Elias-Recliner

How to Buy a Recliner

Remember that easy chair Dad used to sink into every evening — the one Mom felt was too big and clunky for her? Times have changed. Today’s recliners combine style and function in a way that will please everyone (and every body). Here’s how to choose the right recliner for you.

recliner-home

1. Look for Quality Construction

“A recliner is often the most-used piece of furniture in the house, aside from the bed,” says Sofa Mart Buyer David Cox. So pay attention to these durability details:

Foam- A minimum of 1.8-lb.-density foam in the seat retains its height over a period of years.

Reclining Mechanism- A construction of 8-1/2-gauge steel or better stands up to years of daily use.

Your salesperson should explain these features and the tests the recliner has undergone to ensure long-lasting performance. Ask about a warranty.

2. Allow for Adjustments

When it comes to recliners, comfort is king. So consider which type of chair will ease your relaxation:

Power Recliners have an electric motor that lets you stop at an infinite number of positions between upright and fully reclined.

Manual Recliners offer two or three positions, and are typically engaged by a button or lever on the side of the chair. “Push-back” recliners eliminate any visible sign of a reclining mechanism — they move with a simple push on the arms.

3. Upholstery Options

The most popular of the many options available:

Leather- Sleek, stylish and stain-resistant, but usually the most expensive upholstery choice. (A leather-vinyl combination lowers the price.)

Microfiber- Polyester fabric that looks and feels like soft suede but is more durable and easier to clean.

Chenille- Soft to the touch, with a distinctive texture; masks dirt well and resists wear.

shopping-recliner

Shopping Strategies

• Check the fit. Measure your space so you’ll know what size recliner will fit. Allow for the fully reclined position.

• Sit on it. Test-drive recliners in the store to make sure the lumbar support, posture and reclining angle(s) feel comfortable. The reclining button or lever should be easy to reach from all seated positions.

• Study your style. Determine what look will complement your room. There are recliners to fit every decor.

• Set a budget. Well-made recliners can cost from $200 to more than $2,000.

• Choose your move. Chaise-style recliners feature a seat and back that move in tandem to reach a reclining position. Wall-saver recliners can be placed just inches from a wall because the seat moves forward as you recline. Rocker recliners rock in the upright position. Swivel recliners can rotate in a complete circle.

Today’s recliners are available in a wide array of upholstery choices. See recliner options from Sofa Mart.

exterior-house-log

Decorating a Log Home

When Lori and James Proctor couldn’t find their dream home in Colorado, they quickly devised a Plan B: They bought a 20-acre parcel just outside Golden and had their dream log home built for them.

exterior-house

 

James and Lori Proctor’s 5,400– square-foot log home, located just outside Golden, Colorado, faces south, the better to capture stunning views of Pike’s Peak. The porch encircles almost the entire house, which has five bedrooms, four full baths and two half baths.

A log home was their first and natural choice, given the property, which offers stunning views of the Continental Divide and Pike’s Peak. “It’s a beautiful spread,” says Tom Worley, director of sales and marketing at T.J.’s Wood Products, the Bailey, Colorado-based company that built the home’s log shell. “When you look at it, you hear the theme music from Bonanza playing.”

log-home-staircase

Focal points in the great room include a wrought-iron, tortoiseshell glass chandelier and the stone fireplace, which spans 40 feet from basement to rooftop. Both fireplaces in the home feature gas-burning logs.

The home’s exterior has three stunning features: the imposing, prow-like roof line; the shell crafted from 14-inch, honey-colored Engelmann spruce logs; and a stone chimney that rises 40 feet from the ground to the roof. “That is one tall house,” Worley comments, adding that its height made construction a challenge. “It’s very difficult when you stack logs that high,” he says.

The house encompasses 5,400 square feet on three levels, while most log homes average 2,000 to 3,500 square feet. And, as one of only about 10,000 log homes in the entire country, it’s rare, too.

log-home-staircase

A staircase framed by structural and beautiful beams leads to the study and two bedrooms, one of which has a full bath.

The logs are held together in the traditional way, with corner saddle notches. Durable polymer chink is sandwiched between the logs. Worley says the shell took three months to build; the entire house was completed in nine months.

study-log-home

The Proctors turned a balcony, created by the roofline, into a mini-library; the shelves are stocked with antique law books.

Inside, the home is traditional, yet not stuffy or old-fashioned, and is filled with modern luxuries such as radiant-heated floors and smart-house technology. It is anything but rustic.

Custom Touches: Rather than start from scratch, the Proctors chose to customize one of T.J.’s model homes. High on Lori Proctor’s list of creature comforts: a giant walk-in closet and a bathtub with a view of the mountains.

bedroom-log-home

The beamed master bedroom features painted walls, not logs. The master suite is also home to Lori Proctor’s prized possession: A 252–square-foot walk-in closet.

The 252square-foot closet was a must for Lori, an attorney with a heavy travel schedule. “It is isolated from the rest of the house, so I can return home and let my luggage explode while I enjoy the rest of the house,” she says. The master bath, complete with whirlpool tub, walk-in steam shower and radiant-heated floors, offers Lori a similar welcome home.

“The master bath is pretty fabulous,” she says. “After a long week on the road, it’s great to come home to.”

A stylish kitchen with plenty of workspace was also a must-have. The kitchen opens to the great room and dining room, making it ideal for entertaining. The kitchen is outfitted with Electrolux appliances, including a double oven and electric range and griddle, and has an expansive island with seating.

kitchen-log-home

To make entertaining fun, the couple designed the kitchen to open to the dining room and great room. Indeed, guests comment on the house’s easy room flow, James Proctor says.

To help further with entertaining, the Proctors saved space on the walkout ground floor for a 75-bottle wine room. “It’s cool even in summer,” James says.

A Natural Look: Indeed, the interior logs dictated the color palette for the home. Accent wood — the stair railing, floors and bookcases — is stained a dark cherry wood, which complements the logs’ rich honey hue. Furnishings, in dark woods and leathers, also let the logs’ natural beauty shine.

To keep the log look special and add the slightest contemporary touch, the couple chose drywall and paint for a few rooms including the master bedroom, which is painted in sage green and mocha brown. “A lot of people want the logs everywhere,” James says. “We really didn’t.”

dining-room-log-home

The couple furnished the walk-in first floor with existing pieces from their Houston home; they also used an existing dining-room set. New to the home are the oversize dark brown sofa and comfy chairs in the great room, and, surprisingly, a coat tree for the foyer. “We forgot to put in a coat closet,” James admits sheepishly.

James and Lori Proctor moved into the five-bedroom home, their primary residence, on Christmas Eve 2009. “It’s been great living in it,” James says, noting that visitors often comment on the house’s expansive feeling.

Lori agrees. “The whole house feels to me like a warm, welcoming lodge,” she says. “I often forget I’m not on vacation.

Achieve this welcoming log cabin look with the following items:

Beef-Bourguignon

Recipe: Beef Bourguignon

One Pot Meal: Beef Bourguignon

The French know a thing or two about slow and low cooking. This savory standby is great on its own with crusty bread or served over egg noodles for a heartier meal. Either way, make this a day ahead or leave some for leftovers because this dish is even better the next day.

Beef Bourguignon Recipe

(Serves 4-6)

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup onions or shallots, chopped

3 strips thick-cut bacon, diced

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2– inch pieces, patted dry

1/4 cup flour

1 1/4 cups beef or vegetable stock, hot

1 1/4 cups red wine

1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)

1/2 cup mushrooms, diced

Black pepper to taste

Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil.

2. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.

3. Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).

4. Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned, and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.

5. Simmer very gently for 2 hours.

6. Add mushrooms and cook an additional
30 minutes.

7. Season with salt and serve. Or, even better, reheat and serve the next day.

budget-bedroom

5 Ways to Update a Room on a Budget

Had it with that sofa you inherited?

Tired of losing your appetite in that gloomy dining room? Feel hemmed in by an army of knickknacks every time you sit down in the living room? Well, everybody needs a change now and then, and a budget-friendly makeover can give you more of the atmosphere and surroundings you want and deserve. Here are a few tips to redefine your space and put a fresh spin on any room.

Tips from the Sofa Mart experts:

Update color. Changing colors is easy, and why should chameleons have all the fun? A new coat of paint provides a quick and inexpensive update and can make anything — walls, woodwork, furniture — look fresh and lively.

Remove furniture. Give yourself room to maneuver. Store, recycle or donate unused or dated pieces of furniture to your local Salvation Army or other nonprofit organization.

Insist your furniture do double duty. Place a tray on an ottoman, which can be used as a coffee table as well as for storage and seating. Repurpose a slim-lined dining table as a desk. Use a tall bookcase in the dining room to display plates, crystal and silver.

Freshen things up. Purchase new linens including a bed skirt and pillow shams for the bedroom. Replace old towels with thick, spa-like towels in white or a favorite solid hue.

Home Update

1. Reflect on the positives. A full-length mirror adds depth to any small space. Use it opposite a window to reflect or direct light, or as a backdrop to highlight an unusual shaped vase, sculptural artwork or flowers.

2. Define space with lighting. Add intimacy and warmth to conversation areas with low-wattage bulbs in soft pink or peach hues.

3. Quick fixes. Add new vases to the mix. Instead of clear glass, choose vases in white or other colors. Instead of flowers, try tall feathers, bamboo stalks or dried branches. Also consider changing your mantel arrangements. For additional updates, drape beautiful throws on sofas and chairs and switch different-colored lampshades in interesting shapes for a visual uplift.

4. A new view. Nothing dates a room faster than drab window treatments, tired floor coverings and worn linens. Go formal with sumptuous window panels in lush fabrics or casual with simple cotton panels in a solid hue. Place a colorful area rug over hardwood floors.

5. Use furniture and accessories to redefine space. The back of an angled sofa, a chest of drawers, a row of tall stately plants in low rattan planters, a desk or a low-rise sectional can create demarcations.

 

Featured “Update on a Budget” products:

 

For more home tips or to contribute, visit our Home Tips and Tricks Pinterest Board.

red-living-room

Using Color at Home

Most everyone over the age of 10 remembers that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps from the black-and-white world of Kansas into the kaleidoscope of color that is Oz.

Dorothy’s eyes widen at the site of the sparkling sky, the radiant green trees and, of course, the Yellow Brick Road.

No other movie could make a stronger point about the impact of color. In addition to being a pleasure to look at, color gives the spirit a boost. “It’s uplifting,” says Barbara Chandler, store-design and visual-merchandise manager for Furniture Row. “Color creates mental energy.”

And happily, there’s no such thing as a “wrong” color for a home. “If you love a color, you should use it,” Chandler says.

Color-Wheel

Foolproof Color — A color wheel (inexpensive, pocket-size versions are available from art-supply stores and online) is a handy guide through various color combination options, such as:

Classic color combos: Colors that are next to each other on the wheel and are a natural progression of one another.

Complementary color combos: Colors that are the exact opposites on the wheel — such as orange and blue — that can really make a room pop.

Triadic combos: Any three colors equally spaced around the wheel — for instance, magenta, turquoise and yellow — that create an eclectic and risk-taking effect.

Monochromatic combos: Various shades of one main color used to easily create striking rooms.

 

Right room, right color.

Certain colors naturally lend themselves to particular rooms, says Tucson, Arizona-based interior designer Leah Bruns.

Oranges, reds and yellows, which naturally elevate blood pressure and mood, are ideal for family rooms and social spaces.

Shades of blue, green and violet, which are calming and relaxing, work well in bedrooms, studies and dens. Blue and green, or soft yellows, golds and browns — even a dark peachy-pink — are good choices for rooms that couples share because they’re neither overtly masculine nor feminine.

Avoid blue in kitchens: It kills the appetite. Yellows and greens — the colors of fresh, delicious produce — are good color complements to cooking areas. Red works well in dining rooms, as it stimulates the appetite.

For the bathroom — the room for cleaning up — white bespeaks freshness. Blue is also a “clean” color — think water or the lining of swimming pools — and is a classic teamed with white.

 

Cool and Calm Bedroom

Bedroom provided by Bedroom Expressions and the Linen Shoppé.

Choose your shades.

To narrow the choice of colors, think about what makes you look and feel good. Heather Smith, principal designer at H&K Interiors in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, asks clients what colors they enjoy and observes what colors they’re wearing.

She then asks them to point out a recent purchase: A piece of art, say, or an area rug. That clues her in to colors they love. “Color is an automatic reaction,” she explains. “People either like a color or they don’t.”

Keep in mind that intensity is as important as the color itself. For instance, while navy and baby blue are both blues, navy sends a strong, masculine message whereas baby blue delivers a softer, gentler feeling. Intensity is important when it comes to unifying colors within a home. Say the dining room is fire-engine red and the living room is a soft green. Going from room to room might feel jarring, especially if there is no architectural connective element, such as a hallway. To make the colors, and thus the rooms, flow together smoothly, match the intensities: Choose a browner red to match the green, or turn the green up a notch, to apple green, to match the bright red.

A room’s architecture can also guide color choices. In a room with huge windows that offer a spectacular view of nature, Smith says she’d use organic colors — russet browns, mossy greens and gold tones. A cityscape inspires a more monochromatic palette — black, brown and white with splashes of saturated red or even turquoise.

 

Beyond paint.

Accessories, artwork and furniture can add pops of color to a neutral palette. “Artwork is a wonderful way to introduce new  colors without changing everything,” says Margi Kyle, a Charlotte, North Carolina based interior designer. To find accent colors, carefully examine a piece of artwork or an area rug to find a secondary color — such as a black or green border in a carpet. Then decide whether you want to contrast the color or have the colors blend in and work together.

Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to use color to create a home with vibrancy and personality.

“Color is tied into our emotions,” Kyle says. “It says a lot about who we are.”

 

Small Room, Big Impact.

You can use color to make a tiny room look expansive. Rose Tejeda-Navarre, of the Chicago-based interior design firm Urban Source, offers these suggestions:

Choose medium or light hues. They open up a space, particularly one with little natural light. Go monochromatic. Paint accent trim and walls the same color so there’s no interruption in the line of the room. Avoid wainscoting and other architectural touches that do the same.

Use dark wallpaper to enlarge a small room. Choose patterns with depth (shadows or multiple versions of the same color).

Consider the four-wall effect. If you make one wall contrasting, your eye stops there, as opposed to perceiving one uniform space.

Featured “Using Color at Home” Products: 

Get more home decor tips by pinning with us.

Living-Room

How to Buy a Sofa: 7 Sofa Materials to Know

Sofas are all about relaxation — but, before you can relax on one, first do a little homework and legwork on sofa materials.

Sofa Mart Buyer David Cox suggests starting by measuring the space designated for the new sofa, as well as the dimensions of the hallways and doorways through which it has to fit. Bring those measurements with you to the store. Your salesperson will use them, as well as information you provide, to guide you through the selection process. Be prepared to answer these questions:

1. Is the sofa for a seldom-used formal living room or a rough-and-tumble family room?

2. What do you like and dislike about your current sofa?

3. What is the most important factor for you in this purchase — price, durability, style, comfort or something else?

4. How is your room decorated — colors, patterns, furniture, accessories? Descriptive terms like “contemporary” or “traditional” are somewhat subjective, so take along a few digital photos of your current decor.

 

Material Differences

Cotton and linen take color very well, allowing a wide variety of choices, while offering excellent durability for everyday use. If stain resistance is a priority, polyester would be a better choice.

Leather — available in many grades and finishes — offers a unique look that stands up well to kids and pets. There’s a big difference between genuine leather and a “leather-like” fabric such as bonded leather, which is polyurethane with flecks of leather bonded to the back. You’ll pay more for the real thing. Ask your salesperson what’s right for you.

Take into account decor, usage and priorities such as durability, stain-resistance and comfort when making your choice.

sofa-materials

 

Featured Products:

Bradington Accent Chair

Vero Beach Loveseat

Colton Sofa

Scholl Accent Chair

Olympic Sofa

Hampton Sofa

Kantha Accent Chair

Cheese-Board-feature

The 8 Types of Cheese Everyone Should Know

Discover how speciality cheeses can elevate basic dishes to stand-out favorites.

From not-so-standard grilled cheese to decadent side dishes and appetizers, we want to inspire you to ‘just say cheese.’ The sea of cheeses we often find at our local grocery store can be intimidating — and confusing — when it’s time to make a purchase. By learning the eight basic styles of cheese, you can take cheese buying from exasperating to exhilarating.

 

8-types-of-cheese

 

1. Fresh Cheeses: Fresh cheeses are ready to eat as soon as they are made — no aging required. For these mild-flavored cheeses, milk is curdled and drained with little other processing. Examples include cottage cheese, Ricotta and goat’s milk Chèvre.

2. Mild Semi-Soft Cheeses: Mild, semi-soft cheeses are often aged from a few days to a few months. These cheeses, such as Monterey Jack, fontina and Havarti, have high moisture content and melt beautifully under heat.

3. Soft-Ripened Cheeses: Distinguished by their white, velvety rinds and creamy interiors, these cheeses get softer instead of harder as they age. Popular choices include Brie and Camembert.

4. Surface-Ripened Cheeses: Surface-ripened cheeses can have a wrinkly rind, such as many French and American goat cheeses, or a thin rind containing runny or molten cheese within. Special molds ensure that their exteriors ripen first.

5. Semi-Hard Cheeses: A broad category that can include Swiss, Cheddar and colby, these firm, but moist, cheeses are perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches and often add nutty flavors to soufflés.

6. Hard Cheeses: These well-aged cheeses such as Gouda, Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano are defined by their firm, crumbly texture and salty taste. They’re often grated and used for seasoning soups and pasta dishes.

7. Blue Cheeses: Blue cheeses get their distinct color from rich veins of mold that often give them an assertive, piquant flavor. Their texture can be soft or firm; well-known types include Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton.

8. Washed-Rind Cheeses: These cheeses get their characteristic orange-pink rinds from being repeatedly “washed” with liquid such as saltwater, brine or alcohol (often beer or brandy). Washed-rind cheeses can be soft (Limburger) semi-hard (Muenster) or hard (Appenzeller).

 

Like this post? Visit our foodie board on Pinterest.

 

tween girl

Before and After: Tween Bedrooms

Two rooms take on a grown-up makeover as they transition from kid to tween friendly decor.

As your kids move into their tween years, they want a space of their own to express their individual style and interests. And, since your tween has most likely outgrown the race car bed or My Little Pony wallpaper of their childhood, chances are they’re looking to assert their independence through making updates to their bedroom design. Bedroom Expressions has everything for your child’s changing bedroom and bedroom style.

tween bedroom

To help your tween remodeling project go smoothly and result in a room they’ll love well into their teen years, it’s a good idea to plan the remodel together with your child. First, sketch out his desired layout and create a list of must-have (but reasonable) features. It’s best to keep expensive items like flooring and furniture basic, and then incorporate your tween’s desired theme into less expensive items and accessories like colorful paint, bedding and wall art.

tween boy

Although tween boys are still active and playful, they don’t want to be perceived as childish. So a good option for his room could be incorporating colors from a favorite sports team, or if he’s into music, this theme can easily translate into his teenage years.

Tips:

  • Go bold or go home. A bedroom is a great place for your tween to express his individual style. By using a hobby he’s into — like this skateboard — as a design element, you can create a unique space that he’ll love. Add vibrant colors to the mix, and you can give the room an easy and inexpensive makeover.
  • As your child moves into his teen years, primping and preening can begin to be part of his morning ritual. Updating a dresser to one that includes a mirror will give him the space he needs to prepare for the day (and keep him out of your bathroom)!

tween girl

For girls, it’s also important to design a room that she’ll continue to love as she enters her teens. It’s best to stay away from movie and pop-specific themes, which are trends that come and go quickly. Most likely, she’ll want to distance herself from childish décor and gravitate toward hip designs, so consider choosing removable wall decals that come in about every color and shape imaginable, or mixing up patterns in her comforter, sheets and pillows for an eye-catching splash.

Tips:

  • Lighten up. By keeping white furniture, you can give the room a bright and airy feel — offering the perfect contrast to the dark drapes and rug. This furniture choice also makes it easy if your tween chooses to swap paint colors or bedding later.
  • Bright accessories and wall colors allow your child to personalize her room to match her style.

 

Featured Products:

Horizontal Stripe Twin Comforter // Linen Shoppé

 

For more Before and After, follow us on Pinterest.

emily-zambia

World Vision Gives Loans of Hope

Loans of Hope: World Vision’s microfinance program aids communities around the world. Imagine breaking the cycle of poverty in an entire community through small, sustainable change. World Vision’s microfinance program is doing just that. Through small-business loans, thousands of lives are being revolutionized, offering hope and a sustainable future.

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, has developed a program to advance economic development through microfinance. It provides small-business loans to individuals, along with training on business management and family finances.

Through microfinance loans, women like Carolyn from Uganda are able to start and sustain small businesses.

World Vision’s microfinance agenda focuses on 16 countries, establishing and staffing loan and finance institutions within each country that offer loans for everything from farming to retail. Families from across the globe, including Armenia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia have benefited from these microfinance programs.

carolyn-uganda

Carolyn is one such beneficiary. She’s a 38-year-old owner of a retail shop near her home in the Lokole sub-country of Northern Uganda. Since joining the village savings and loan association in Lokole (one of 15 such organizations in this area), her store has grown, and she is beginning to support her family from the business. After a 20-year war displaced the people in this area, the loans provide a means for communities to resettle.

“Microfinance loans help men and women become highly productive,” says Sam Jackson, World Vision’s national director of philanthropy. “They help people make a sustainable living.” By creating a small business, a family can increase the amount of money coming into the home, which directly results in better education, nutrition and health for the children. Savings become a part of the family economics, funding the gap in case of emergencies or disasters and creating a new life now, and for the next generation.

Emily is a mother of three, and through Harmos, a World Vision affiliate, she was able to start a new business selling fish. “Life without Harmos would have been miserable for me,” she says. “It would have forced me into prostitution to support my family.” Now, she is able to support her family through her small business and
not only provide for her children, but create a new and vibrant life for herself.

Zarika’s shop in Armenia creates economic engines that can help alleviate poverty from entire communities.

zarik-armenia

World Vision is changing the lives of individuals, families and entire communities by providing a means for livelihood, financial education and rebuilding through microfinance loans.

World Vision has joined Furniture Row as part of the No 78 Chevy SS team and is racing to build a better world for children. We work in nearly 100 countries, supporting children and their families. You can help by sponsoring a child.

world-vision-nascar

Camping

How to Pack for Camping

Summer is coming to an end, and some of us are checking off those summer bucket list items like camping. Earlier we gave tips on How to Pack for the Road. Now we’re giving you an easy list of items to always bring when camping.

pack-for-camping

To ensure the best camping experience possible, plan ahead and make a list of all the items you’ll need. Some of them might include:

1.  Accessories, such as a backpack, hiking boots, sunglasses and a hat.

2.  Clothing that fits the weather and the activities you plan to do.

3.  Equipment and gear: batteries, water bottle, cell phone, lantern, matches, sleeping bag, tent, stove and fuel, tent stakes, fishing gear, flashlight.

4.   Food and cooking: foil, cookset, utensils, dishes, cups, food, napkins, garbage bags.

5.  Health: antibacterial wipes, first- aid kit, insect repellant, sunscreen.

6.  Toiletries: soap, comb, deodorant, shampoo, toilet paper.

7.  Miscellaneous: snacks, maps/GPS, journal.

Avoid the hassle of searching for camping gear each time you pack for a trip by storing items together in a specific location or in a few labeled storage bins. Also, keep your packing list handy so you can reference it from trip to trip and you won’t need to re-create a list each time!

Download our free Camping Checklist before you hit the road:

camping-checklist

Be sure to follow our Operation Organization board on Pinterest.

pack-for-the-road

How to Pack for the Road

When it comes to packing, organization is key. Whether you’re loading up your car for a family road trip, filling a picnic basket for a day at the park or gathering camping gear for a weekend trip, a bit of preparation goes a long way.

pack-for-the-road How to pack for the road:

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of items that need to fit in a relatively small space when packing for a road trip. But by following a few tips, you can pack your car with efficiency and ease, ensuring your family stays comfortable and organized on the road.

1.  Clean out your car to ensure you’re starting with as much open space as possible.
2.  Pack the night before to avoid rushing.
3.  Fit as much as possible into each bag to save room.
4.  Instead of taking a huge suitcase, pack smaller duffel bags for each passenger.
5.  Designate one person to handle packing the car.
6.  Start with a strategy. Approach trunk organization like a puzzle, and begin by packing larger, regularly-shaped items first.
7.  Then, fit medium and smaller-size bags.
8.  If on a long road trip, pack one separate overnight bag with everyone’s clothes for the next day.
9.  Pack another bag with all toiletries needed for the next day.
10.  Fill an activity bag for the kids: crayons, coloring books, mp3 player, DVDs, etc. Make sure the bag is easily accessible.
11.  Pack a separate snack bag to keep up front; individually packaged items work best.
12.  Bring a trash bag to keep the car organized in between stops.

Download our free guide before you hit the road:

car-checklist

mud-room

Back to School Organization Tips

We all collect things over time. But the key to getting — and staying — organized is to simply have less stuff to manage.

Utilize storage bins and label them for a specific person or purpose.  Enlist the help of the whole family in keeping your home organized. By creating designated bins to store items, such as kids’ toys, school supplies and even laundry, you can ward off clutter while teaching your kids valuable organization skills. And, when the bins begin to overflow, you know it’s time to pare down.

de-clutter

Disguise items in bins that coordinate with your décor. For items you use often, but that tend to clutter your living space, choose bins and baskets that coordinate with your décor. This allows you to keep the items handy while adding a decorative touch to your home. Small boxes are perfect for candles, photos and recipes. Larger boxes work great for magazines, books and extra blankets.

organizing drawers

TIP: De-clutter your living areas by sorting through old books, magazines and videos. Look for knickknacks and other items that you don’t love, and give them away or sell them.

Make a place for everything. The reason things pile up on counters, tables and floors is usually that they have no home. Make sure everything in your house has a designated place to “live.” Consider storing similar items, such as all art supplies or all electronic items, together. It’s also best to store items in the room in which they are used, so putting them back is a snap.

TIP: Use drawer organizers to keep small items in order.  Perfect for office items and even makeup!

Utilize the insides of cabinet doors. Consider installing pegboards to keep small items handy. Chalkboards are also ideal for keeping lists.

TIP: Don’t over-analyze whether or not to keep an item. If your first instinct is you never use it, toss it.

command-center

Create a Command Center

Mail/Bill Paying: Use labeled file folders to keep mail and bills organized. As soon as they arrive, stash them in the correct folder so clutter doesn’t pile up. At the end of each week, clear them out and start over.

Message Center: Hanging framed corkboards above a small workstation creates an ideal message center for you and your family. Perfect for posting notes for each other or for keeping important invitations and lists handy.

Charging Station: Rather than finding cords and electronic items charging all over the house, why not choose one location to help you keep them charged and organized at the same time?

 

For more back to school organization tips, follow our Pinterest board Operation Organization.

diy-garden-stones

DIY Stepping Stones

Add inspiration to your walkway or home garden by creating your own personalized DIY stepping stones.

DIY Stepping Stones Instructions:

1. Gather your materials — You’ll need a bag of stepping stone concrete, safety glasses, gloves, a pen, colored stones and plastic molds, all of which can be purchased from your local craft store. Pie plates, disposable cake pans and pizza boxes can also make great stepping stone containers.

2. Prepare your work surface — Prepare an outdoor area with plenty of space that will allow your stones to dry overnight. You’ll want to be able to place your stone molds on top of newspaper and on a level surface so they’ll dry evenly.

3. Mix and pour the concrete — Mix the concrete according to the instructions on your bag. Pour the mix into your containers and leave about 1/2½-inch space from the top of the container. Be careful to not make the mix too thick, or it will not dry well or may even crack. Gently tap the mold on the ground to spread the concrete evenly, and let it set for 45 minutes or until it has a gummy-like texture.

4. Personalize your stones — If your kids want to add handprints or a message to the stone with a pen, do this first. Then, add rocks, mosaic tiles, shells, glass rocks or anything you’d like to use to personalize your stones. Push them far enough in so they set inside the concrete, but are not covered. Set the molds aside and leave undisturbed for one to two days.

For more great DIY projects, follow our Pinterest page.

farm-to-table

Farm to Table Menu (and Recipes)

Thinking of creating a “farm to table” menu for guests this summer? Shallowtail Farm in Alachua, Florida was kind enough to treat us, and many other guests to one of their legendary farm to table dinners. In this post, we’ll share chef secrets and recipes for you to try this summer and fall.

farm-to-table

 

 

Head to your local farmers market to recreate this truly extraordinary menu with all local and or organic ingredients. For a better farmers market shopping experience, see our article on Farm Fresh tips before you head to the market. Buying local ensures freshness and helps the local economy. It’s also a great way to find out what’s in season and meet new and interesting people in your community.

 

pork-steam-buns

Pork Steamed Buns with Hot Honey Slaw and Hoisin Sauce

For the Buns

We used a recipe from David Chang’s Momofuko Noodle Bar, but you can purchase frozen steamed buns at your local Asian market.

For Braised Ginger Pork:

  • 10 lbs pork butt or shoulder
  • 3 onions diced
  • 4 ribs of celery diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed
  • tangelo juice
  • 2 whole tangelos
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped ginger
  • 1 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper

Liberally season the pork with salt and pepper and sear all sides to golden brown. Add onions, carrots and celery to the pan and caramelize. Deglaze with wine and tangelo juice. Place pork, vegetables and pan juices in a dutch oven or brazing pan. Add remaining ingredients and fill braising pan ¾ of the way full with water. Cover with foil and braise in a low oven (300 degrees) for 4-6 hours until the meat pulls apart easily. Strain the juices and reduce by ½. Add ½ cup sugar. Shred the meat to bite-size pieces when it is cool enough to handle and add the reduced juices.

For Hot Honey Slaw

  • 1 head cabbage shredded
  • 2 carrots julienned
  • 1 cup pickled red onions
  • 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions chopped
  • 1 cup tangelo juice
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 tbs Sriracha
  • salt to taste

Reduce tangelo juice, honey, and Sriracha in a sauce pan. Cool and toss with remaining ingredients. Serve warm buns with pork, slaw and hoisin sauce, available at your local Asian market.

  strawberry-salad

Strawberry Field Green Salad

For Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 2 pints strawberries
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tbs dijon
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 cup balsamic
  • 2 cups canola oil

Reduce strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in pan to form a thick syrup. Place cooled strawberry syrup, dijon, shallot and balsamic in a blender and puree. While blending gradually add canola and emulsify. Salt to taste.

For Candied Pecans:

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • ½ tbs allspice
  • salt to taste

Whisk egg white with sugar and spices. Toss with pecans and spread on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until toasted and candied shell glaze forms. Stir, salt to taste and allow to cool and fully harden.

Just before serving, toss farm fresh field greens with the balsamic vinaigrette and fresh cut strawberries. Sprinkle with goat cheese and candied pecans.

chicken-vol-au-vent

Shawlowtail Chicken Vol-Au-Vent

This is our play on chicken pot pie in a rustic puff pastry bowl and served with roasted root vegetables.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 carrots (2 for stock; 2 for chicken mixture)
  • 3 onions (1 for stock; 2 for chicken mixture)
  • 4 ribs celery (2 for stock; 2 for chicken mixture)
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 green garlic
  • 1 head romanesco
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 2 oz butter
  • 4 oz flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Simmer chicken in a large stock pot with
onions, carrots, celery, parsley, one bay leaf, thyme, white wine and water. Cook until
tender and falling off the bone. Strain the broth and reserve. Pull meat from the bones and set aside. Dice and sauté remaining onions, carrots, celery, romanesco, kale and green garlic until tender. Add butter and melt. Add flour and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes being careful not to brown. Stir in reserved broth and stir on medium to low heat until thickened. Add chicken and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over a preformed and baked puff pastry shell and serve.

cardamom-carrot-pie

Cardamom Carrot Pie from WizardRecipes.com

  • 6 whole green cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 12 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely ground gingersnap cookies
  • 1 disk Perfect Pate Brisee 
  • Freshly whipped cream, for serving
  • Ground cardamom, for dusting

Make the filling: Crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a chef’s knife just to split. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; add the crushed cardamom. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the milk, cream, and ginger; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low; cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let steep 30 minutes.

Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar and salt. Cover the pan; cook until the carrots are tender, about 8 minutes. Pour the steeped milk through a sieve into the pan with the carrots; discard the solids. Remove from heat; let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Process the carrot mixture in a food processor until completely smooth; transfer to a bowl.

Temper the beaten eggs by whisking in up to half cup carrot mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until the eggs are warm to the touch. Pour the warmed egg mixture into the remaining carrot mixture; whisk until thoroughly combined. Let cool.

Make the pies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly sprinkle the ground gingersnaps on a work surface to form a large circle about 18 inches in diameter. On the crumbs, roll out the pate brisee to 1/8 inch thick, turning occasionally to coat both sides.

Cut out 8 5-inch rounds from the dough. Press the rounds into 8 4-inch pie plates; trim excess. With a fork, crimp the edges, and then prick the bottom of the dough all over. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Line each pie shell with parchment paper or foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Remove the pie weights and parchment. Let the shells cool completely.

Divide the filling among the shells. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve the pies warm with whipped cream dusted with ground cardamom.
MAKES EIGHT 4 – INCH PIES

Sophisticated-Bedroom

Look for Less: Sophisticated Bedroom

In this “Look for Less” post, we’re showing you how to create a sophisticated bedroom without breaking the bank. Our team of interior designers and Design Center professionals have an eye for class, with a budget friendly outlook. Drop into Bedroom Expression to bring home this sophisticated bedroom look.

Sophisticated-Bedroom

 

 

To get this look:

Oakcrest Queen Bed – Bedroom Expressions

Renaissance Nightstand – Bedroom Expressions

Bryant Park Lamp – Bedroom Expressions

Blue Pinwheel Rug – Bedroom Expressions

Park Avenue Duvet Set – Linen Shoppé

500 Thread Count Sateen Sheet Set – Linen Shoppé

Faux Doupioni in Pearl White Concealed Tab Curtain Panel

 

Check out our Look for Less Pinterest board.

farm-to-table

The Farm to Table Dinner

Everything tastes better when it’s fresh. And the latest trend for fresh food lovers is indulging in farm to table dinners. Extending beyond visiting local, farm-to-table restaurants, diners are now traveling directly to the farm to enjoy mouthwatering meals served family style at harvest tables surrounded by nature’s bounty.

farm-to-table

Swallowtail Farm in Alachua, Florida is one such farm bringing community members directly to the land and utilizing local chefs to prepare elaborate dinners right on the farm.

“People are realizing the value of supporting local farms and the importance of knowing where your food comes from,” says Chef Amanda Bisson, manager at The Jones Eastside in Gainesville, Florida. Bisson, one of the chefs who prepared the menu for Swallowtail’s March 23 dinner, notes that events like this not only help the local economy, but they’re also a great way to connect with the farm itself. “Visitors come out and experience the farm as well as their food being prepared by local chefs.”

Swallowtail schedules several farm-to-table dinners a year, and each is a one-night-only, four-course creation from a local chef based on what’s ripe and available in the fields. Wine and local beers are paired with each course.

Shallowtail Farm

The desire to get high-quality, locally-grown food is growing across the U.S. And it’s fueling the concept of farm-to-table dining — bringing garden-fresh ingredients as quickly as possible from the local farm to your plate.

Dinners with a Purpose

For Swallowtail, the purpose of each dinner goes beyond serving delicious local fare. Each dinner is linked to a specific project, according to Head Farmer Emily Eckhardt. “Our dinners serve as fundraisers for our farm,” she says. Each one funds a particular project to enhance the farm, and the purchase of tickets directly seeds the project. “The goal is to show guests the completed project when they come for the dinner so they can see what they helped accomplish,” says Eckhardt.

Farm-Guests

Swallowtail dinners are an entire evening’s event. Guests arrive at 4 p.m. to a reception prepared by the farmers. After a brief introduction to the farm, visitors go on a tour where they have the opportunity to see the project they helped fund. When the tour is finished, guests gather back at the harvest table for cocktails, appetizers, music and a chance to meet the chefs. Then, the farmers, landowners and their families serve the meals.

Special Event

Response to Swallowtail’s dinner events has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Eckhardt. “It’s exciting and surprising for people to see the food in the fields that they are about to eat,” she says. “People rave about the food. And they really experience a huge difference in the quality and the ingredients.”

Swallow-Tail-Community

At the end of the day, Swallowtail’s desire is to help community members connect with the farm and with their food. “It’s a really beautiful farm and such a shareable place,” says Eckhardt. And by hosting these farm-to-table dinners, Swallowtail continues to share its bounty with the entire community.

 

Get the Farm to Table Menu here:

farm-to-table

Tell us your thoughts on Farm-To-Table dining on Facebook.

mud-room

Back to School is Around the Corner: Reclaim your Space

With back to school around the corner, it’s time to reclaim your space.

This month, we’ll be giving you strategies to organize all around the house and keep clutter at bay.

furniture-with-cubbies

Designate a drop-off area and create strategies to keep items organized. Creating clearly defined storage areas can go a long way in keeping your home in order. Choose furniture with cubbies or baskets, and clearly label each so the family can help.

 

Featured Products:

Hilton 6 Drawer Cabinet – Oak Express

Baroque Pillow, Sage – Sofa Mart

Payton Storage Box, Natural  – Oak Express