Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nesting Part 1: The Dining Room

I am so excited to share with you what we did with our dining room this past weekend! I think my nesting instincts are starting to kick in, and since I cannot work on a nursery yet because we have to wait for the floors to be changed out (which should be happening next week...yay!), I have resorted to fixing up other parts of the house.
Our home has been a labor of love. Prince Charming and I were married only six months when we purchased our first place in late spring 2008. It was a foreclosed house, and it needed a lot of work. (I will have to do a post showing you some before and after photos, although it won't be as effective to the real thing without a scratch and sniff ability for the before photos!) Prince Charming's family, thankfully, is in a sect of construction, and we were able to do a lot of the work ourselves. Nine months after demo, and we had a beautiful, practically new home to move into in one of our favorite neighborhoods.
Being as how we were newlyweds, and I had not yet started working, our budget didn't allow us to complete every task we wanted to right away. For example, our curtains throughout the house and built-ins we put in the living room were just installed this past year. We also relied on some family hand-me-down furniture pieces to help fill up our space and make it functional. One such piece was a really nice, hardwood dining room table and chairs from one of Prince Charming's uncles. It worked great for our needs up until we found out a baby was on the way.
Now that we are planning for a bambino in the house, we have had to reevaluate our use of space and the functionality of each room. We are only 3 MONTHS away from our little arrival (at the most), and I am starting to want to see the house transform into a baby friendly home. One way we are doing this is turning part of our large dining room into a "play area" for baby to use and grow into for years to come. In order to do this, we had to figure out a way to reduce the size of our dining space to make the room function in two separate ways. This brings me to our Saturday shopping trip.
This past Saturday evening, we decided to go to Rooms-To-Go to look for a small dresser to use in the nursery. The only piece of furniture we have ordered so far for the baby's room is the crib, so we have been on the prowl for a great dresser and comfy rocker. Anyway, as we were walking around, not really seeing much by way of dressers, we found a really cute bar-height dining table with six chairs and a sidebar for sale. And this wasn't just any sale, it was a floor-model sale, so the price was AWESOME! It isn't everyday that you find a table, six chairs, and a sidebar for quite a chunk less than $1,000. The store was closing in less than an hour, so Prince Charming and I decided to go home to measure the space and think about it.
Once home, we realized the dimensions of the table would work perfectly for what we were hoping to accomplish in our dining room space, and our existing bar stools could work as additional seating if the occassion ever called for it. I loved the finish of the table, and Prince Charming loved that the chairs were easily wipeable for future messes. We decided to go back and get it first thing the next morning. Two trips to the store later, and we had our new furniture!
It works so great in our space, and it totally matches our style asthetic. We added an area rug we found at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and some accessories we picked up at TJ Maxx. I am so pleased with how it turned out, and Prince Charming even did his sermon prep for this past Sunday's service at the new table. (You can see the old set in the background.)

I love shopping in the TJ Maxx home section for accessories, whether they are everyday pieces or holiday decorations. I think the accessories I ended up with are just perfect for the dimensions of our sidebar and the style of our home; and the extra storage the piece provides is awesome!

We still have a little ways to go with getting our house prepared for our bundle of joy, but this definitely helped us feel one big step closer to our goals for our home. Our new living room sofas have been ordered, and we will be emptying our bedrooms for the new floor installation this week. The dining room will eventually continue its transformation into a dual-purpose dining/play room, and I can't wait to share the process with you.

All of the buzz and activity going on around the house are making me even more excited for the baby to come. I hope you love the space as much as we do, and I hope to see you back here for a visit soon!

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Carrot Cake Craving

Greetings, Blogosphere!
So, we have already established that my craving thus far in my pregnancy has been for cinammon. The other day, my cinnamon craving lead to something specific...carrot cake! I had some carrots left over from making a creamy chicken over mashed potatoes meal, so very good, and I was trying to think of something to do with the leftover orange root veggies. The natural combination that came to mind between cinammon and carrots lead me to pick a carrot cake.
I decided to go with a carrot cake recipe I have made before from Pinterest. It is from a blog called Cooking the Amazing, and while this is the only recipe from the site I have made so far, it is certainly promising of lots of yumminess to find! You can find the link to the original recipe here: Cooking the Amazing Carrot Cake. It is a super moist carrot cake, and it is full of flavor! I don't use the given icing recipe, but I will tell you all about that in a minute. Here is how I made the carrot cake.
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and trim about 5 small-medium carrots. You want about 2 C of shredded carrot, and I had exactly that from these puppies. I use a fine shredder because I like the smaller size, but feel free to use a larger grater if need be.

Shred away! I will totally count this as your Jane Fonda time for your arms if you would like. :)

In a bowl, put in your flour.

Follow your flour with your granulated sugar...

and your brown sugar.
Toss in your spices and baking powder and baking soda. Whisk these together to combine. This is your dry mix.
In a separate bowl (I use the bowl on my stand mixer), toss in your grated carrot.
Zest an orange. Throw about 1 T of the grated orange zest into your carrots.

To this, add in your sweetened, shredded coconut.
On top of that, add in your pineapple, eggs, and chopped pecans. Blend the wet mixture together.

Once combined, add the dry mix into the wet mix by about one third at a time. Don't overmix your batter at this point, just make sure everything is well mixed.

I poured this batter into a Pam Baking Spray sprayed (Can that be an acceptable way to say that, please?) 9 x 13 inch baking pan. I popped it into the oven for about 45 minutes, but you may have to leave it longer or for a little bit shorter time. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, whip up some cream cheese icing. Here is where I deviate from the recipe and just wing it. I threw an 8 oz block of softened cream cheese into my cleaned mixer with a stick of softened butter. To this, I added about 1 t of vanilla extract and about 1/4-1/2 t of almond extract. I whipped this mixture together until combined and scraped down the sides of the bowl. Then, I added in about 2 C of powdered sugar with the machine running. Just add enough to achieve the sweetness and consistency you want.

After the cake was done baking, I pulled it out and cooled it for about an hour and a half before spreading the icing over the top. This cake is so delicious, and the spiciness of the cinammon, nutmeg, and clove really hit my craving spot! This cake also stores really well. We wrap the pan in foil and leave it on the counter, and it stays super moist. We leave a fork in the pan and work on it all week. The cake was large enough that I cut several pieces and delivered goody boxes to Prince Charming's parents, Bella and Bubby, and to his grandmother, SugarPie.

So that was my craving fix for last week. I am leaning towards whipping up a good, old fashioned Southern peach cobbler this week to take the edge off of that cinammon desire! If I do, I will definitely give you a tutorial on that one. My Mississippi born and raised great-grandmother, Big Mama, taught me to make peach cobbler, and it is so fine! Some things, NOLA can't touch, and peach cobbler is one of them. Maybe as a counter-argument, I can make a bread pudding next week. I do have a Creole Cooking Club meeting, and dessert is my dish. (You can find our website here: Creole Cooking Club. We have an awesome group of girls who are all about sharing good food and good times!)

I hope you have a chance to make this carrot cake soon. It truly is satisfying, whether your craving comes from pregnancy (like mine) or just from loving good food. Either way, eat up!

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?


Friday, July 26, 2013

Nursery Craft 1 - Wall Art

Greetings, Blogosphere!
I am so excited to share this post with you! I have completed my first craft for the bambino darling's nursery! (Anyone else ever seen or loved Rock-A-Bye Baby starring Jerry Lewis? If not, go watch it as soon as possible! It is amazing!) Before I was even pregnant, I saw a print on Pinterest that I loved of six giraffes. It was yellow and gray in color, and all of them were on one image. I pinned it right away knowing that I would want to use it as nursery art. It sold really fast, but I knew it was something I could recreate and make it more condusive to using as wall art.
Don't get me wrong, I am not doing a giraffe themed nursery. I didn't want there to be a single theme for the room as I wanted it to be as neutral as possible going forward. Prince Charming and I are hoping to have our kids close together, within a year or two of each other, so the room needs to be usable for multiple babies. Keeping it as neutral as possible, I feel, will allow me to change the little things: accessories, art, etc., to customize the space for future bambinos.
My intention for the giraffe art is that it will hang in a trio above the crib on the wall. This could change once we have furniture placed, but I knew that I wanted to do three canvases by breaking up the original print I saw on Pinterest into groups of two. I also knew that I wanted the center canvas to be larger than the other two canvases. I picked up a few canvases from Michael's, and I took with me to the store the fabric sample I have from Carousel Designs to choose the paint colors. I picked a few acrylic paints, grabbed a few brushes, and headed home to get to work. I did this project in one single day. I worked indoors to avoid the sweltering NOLA heat and humidity, and it worked out well due to the size of the canvases.
I started by freehand drawing the images I saw on the print from Pinterest in pencil on the canvases. Then, I filled in the outlines with solid colors and painted around them in white. I varied the shades of yellow by adding in bits of gray to the yellow paint so there would be some contrast in the design's color pallette. This is what the canvases looked like at the halfway point.
While I thought the giraffes were very cute solid, I wanted to stay as true to the concept of the original design as possible and add some shapes to the figures. Below are the final draft canvases.

I am truly so excited for how they turned out. I am sure that in a nesting frenzy, I may at some point go back and tweek the design here and there, but I am very pleased overall with how the nursery is coming together. (At least in my mind!) Below are the design elements we have picked out so far.

The floors, a porcelain tile that is made to look like wood, are being installed in the next couple of weeks. That should be fun! We have three bedrooms to empty of all furniture and items into our dining room, including ours, and the floors will be installed in around 4-6 days. We will probably go stay down the street at the in-laws to avoid sleeping on the floor, and I cannot wait to see how the rooms look with the new floors.
One craft down, and I am sure I have numerous crafts to go. We have ordered our crib, and we will be hunting for a dresser that will double as a changing table tomorrow. Please feel free to leave some feedback on the design or ask any questions you may have about anything regarding the products. I will look forward to seeing you back here soon. Have a fantastic Friday, friends!
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Cinnamon and Ultrasounds

Week 22, and I am one happy pregnant lady for the most part. Except for the irregular sleep pattern, I feel happy and beautiful and excited. I figure a woman having difficulty sleeping during her pregnancy is God's way of preparing her for the sporadic sleep schedule a baby can induce. I feel the baby move all of the time now, and just this week, Prince Charming has been able to feel it, too...when he can catch it! :)

We took a weeklong trip to Chicago to visit my parents, and we had a great time. This statement may throw you off as I am a Mississippi girl, but shortly after I married and moved to NOLA, my dad's job transferred him North. It is super hard to live so far away from my parents that I adore and am close to, especially with this huge life event occurring, but we make it work. We drove up, and the 15 hour ride was quite different as a pregnant lady. If I had to choose a section of my pregnancy to travel that far during, this one would be it. Too early and I would have felt so sick, any later and I am sure I would have been far more uncomfortable. Overall, the trip was great; and it was awesome to get so much alone time with Prince Charming.

Once home, I geared up for my 22 week check up and my first ultrasound since the initial internal one where we saw the peanut for the first time. This one was quite another experience. Tears streamed down my face the entire time as I watched our baby kick, wave, and yawn. We could clearly make out his or her face, and it was so heartwarming. I was overwhelmed with joy and humility and gratefulness that God had granted us this little gift. It was amazing!

I think I have pinpointed what it is I will crave during my pregnancy, at least for now: cinnamon! Every time I pass a Cinnabon or soft pretzel shop or piece of cinnamon cake, I melt. Even as we speak, I am trying to refrain from licking my cinnamon coffee cake plate clean in the middle of Starbucks. I eat cinnamon cereals and am pinning cinnamon bread recipes like crazy on Pinterest. It isn't overwhelmingly bad at this point, but it is definitely the one thing I can't turn down.

I have several posts I hope to get up next week: recipes I have made, nursery crafts I am working on, and bits of this and that I have been doing. I hope to see you back here soon, and have a great weekend!

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?