Friday, June 29, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Easy Patriotic Cheesecake Strawberries

From Divine Dinner Party

The name of this dessert says it all -- these luscious bites are indeed easy as well as patriotic, and would make a great ending to a Fourth of July dinner.  Best of all, there is no cooking involved, so they are no problem to make even on the hottest of days.  Add to that the fact that they can be made well ahead of time and you have a treat that can't be beat, for Independence Day or any day of the year!

Easy Patriotic Cheesecake Strawberries

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 C. confectioner's sugar
12 or 24 large ripe strawberries
24 blueberries

Stir together the first three ingredients until fluffy and well mixed.  Hollow out the centers of 24 large strawberries with the tip of a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the bottom.  Alternatively, slice 12 extra-large strawberries in half and hollow out the centers slightly.  Fill a pastry bag with the cream cheese mixture, or use a plastic bag and cut off the tip instead.  Pipe the filling into the strawberries.  Place a blueberry in the center of each strawberry, then refrigerate until ready to serve.  If desired, serve on a platter covered with graham cracker crumbs.  Serves 6 to 8 average appetites, or 4 hearty appetites, or 1 to 2 ravenous appetites!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Crustacean Décor Revisited

Yes, folks, it's that time again -- time for another look at crustacean-themed interior décor!  Just a few select items for this round, and most of them are lobsters, but I thought their red, white, and blue theme was appropriate since Independence Day is fast approaching.  First up, a couple of lobster ottomans:


From Completely Coastal

And a lobster waste basket:

From Inside Avenue

You can also (very carefully!) sit upon lobster-upholstered chairs -- in red:

From We Loved DC

Or blue:

From Vanguard Furniture

Or with blue lobsters and crabs together:

Last but certainly not least, a fabulously red crab daybed:

From Zoostores

If you decide to really go all out crustacean patriotic, then this may be the room for you:

From Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod Properties

All the colors of Old Glory, and I seriously covet those fantastic chairs with the red crab and blue shrimp upholstery!

Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue!

From Patriot Lobster

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Fourth of July Wreath

Independence Day is only a week away, and I haven't yet given a single thought to decorating our house for the holiday!  Looking for some inspiration, I came across a DIY wreath that would add the perfect patriotic touch to any home.  All it takes is a styrofoam wreath form, a mind-boggling number of mini flag toothpicks, a bit of time, and plenty of patience.  Okay, I can do this, I know I can, if I can just get myself psyched up... oh, who am I kidding, I don't have a single crafting skills bone in my body!  Maybe someone else is willing to make some and sell them?  If so, I'm ready to buy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Gnocchi with Prosciutto, Pesto, and French Green Beans

I have to admit that I am one of the world's laziest cooks.  Sometimes I feel motivated enough to cook everything from scratch, but most of the time all I care about is getting a good meal together with as little time and effort involved as possible.  This recipe is based on one I found on a blog called Pink Basil, and it drew me in because the title of the post is "Super Simple: Gnocchi with Pesto and String Beans".  It is indeed a simple recipe, but does call for making your own pesto.  Pesto is not hard to make -- I have done it before.  I have even made my own fresh gnocchi.  But this time I decided to make a super simple recipe even easier by using refrigerated pre-made pesto.  I even used packaged microwaveable French green beans, for heaven's sake!  (If you use the microwaveable beans, just stir the cooked beans into the fried prosciutto, then add them to the gnocchi.)  So feel free to make this easy version, or if you are feeling ambitious, make some of the ingredients from scratch, although I would advise against this for the prosciutto and beans, as it takes a while to raise both!

Gnocchi with Prosciutto, Pesto, and French Green Beans

1 pkg. (4 oz.) diced prosciutto
1 pkg. (16 oz.) potato gnocchi
16 oz. green beans, cut into thirds (about 3-4 C.)
1 container (7 oz.) refrigerated reduced-fat pesto (I used Buitoni)

Fry the prosciutto until crisp on the outside. Set the pan aside and cool.  Cook the gnocchi according to package directions, adding the green beans during the last two minutes of cooking (when the gnocchi just begin to float to the top).  Reserve 1/2 C. of the cooking liquid, then drain the gnocchi and beans and return to the pot.  Stir in the prosciutto, then the pesto, and toss to coat, adding a little cooking liquid if the mixture is too thick.  Serves 4 as a side dish (2-3 if served as the main course).

Note: If you cannot find diced prosciutto and must use the paper-thin slices instead, put the slices in the freezer first.  Quickly dice the frozen slices using a straight, downward motion of the knife before they have a chance to thaw.  This is much easier than trying to cut up unfrozen prosciutto slices, which usually end up sticking to the knife and making life difficult.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Seaside Serenity Living Room

Unlike most people, I am not a big fan of the coast -- my preference is for the mountains.  I also prefer warm colors to cool, so watery blues, greens, and greys seldom find their way into my home's interior design.  However, there is something so tranquil about the painting above that I find myself drawn to it despite the seaside theme.  While I may not want a beach cottage, this picture did inspire me to create a style board for just such a place:

Clockwise from top left: Camden Denim Slipcover Sofa from Club Furniture; Banana Armchair from Pier 1 Imports; Sea Turtle Pillow by crabbychris on Etsy; Japanese Float Table Lamp from Pottery Barn (no longer available); White Cottage Side Table from Pure Home; Plank Wood Coffee Table from Belle Escape; Glass Fishing Float Balls from West Coast Sea Glass; Sandpiper Pillow by crabbychris on Etsy; Center: Piper Parade Art Print from; Background: Puhalo Stripe Rug in Faded Azul from Capel Rugs.
What a calming retreat a room decorated like this would be -- I may prefer a more earthy design and warmer color palette, but I can understand why so many people love coastal style!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seasonal Style: Summer Beach

The Summer Solstice officially begins this evening, which means that tonight is the shortest night of the year, and that summer has arrived!  To celebrate the season, what better outfit than one which is perfect for a trip to the beach (you may want to remove the shoes before stepping onto the sand):

From Fashions Art

Casual and colorful, with a giant bag to hold all of your beach paraphenalia -- just pack your swimsuit or wear under the clothing and this comfortable ensemble will get you through a coastal day.  Then you can head on back to a room designed to remind you of that fun-filled time:

From Best Home Designs

Enjoy your summer, everyone!

Wish List Wednesdays: OHEA Smart Bed

From The Huffington Post

Ever since the vacuum cleaner that sweeps floors on its own was developed, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of a bed that makes itself.  The OHEA Smart Bed is sheer genius!  Bed making is one of the most tedious and unrewarding of chores, because the bed just gets messed up again at the end of the day, so leaving this task to the bed just makes sense.  Since I have only seen this in operation on the video, I am not sure how much effort on my part will be required for this to work -- sheets topped with blankets may have to be rearranged before the robotic arm can finish the job -- but I am certainly willing to give the OHEA Smart Bed a try!  Unfortunately, this product is not yet on the market, but I will be keeping an eye out for it.  I wonder if they need testers?  I will gladly volunteer, especially if we get to keep the test bed!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Maine Lobster Roll


Today is National Lobster Day, so what could be better than a classic lobster roll recipe from Maine, the state best known for its lobster?  Mainers love to keep food simple, and this recipe is a perfect example -- just lobster and mayonnaise served on a top-split hot dog bun, the latter preferably toasted with a little butter.  If you must you can gussy it up with additions like celery or tarragon, or even both, but don't expect anyone from Maine to thank you for that!  You can also check out more lobster recipes here.  Even simpler, just serve cooked lobster with a little butter -- it really doesn't get much better than that.

Maine Lobster Roll

1 live lobster (3-5 oz. of meat)
1 T. mayonnaise
1 top-split hot dog bun, sides buttered and toasted

Boil the lobster 16-18 minutes.  Pick out the meat and cut into chunks.  Mix with the mayonnaise.  Stuff into the hot dog bun and eat!  Serves 1.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Modern Africa-Inspired Living Room

From FilmoFilia

When I was young, I thought of Africa as the land of lush, green, steamy tropical jungles, probably thanks to those old Tarzan movies I watched as a child.  In reality, much of the continent is not jungle, with desert to the north and south and vast expanses of savanna in between covering more of the land mass.  Now when I think of Africa this is the sort of image that is more likely to come to mind:

From Savanna's Swagged Out Climate

The rather stark but beautiful landscape of savanna grasslands inspired this living room style board, and even includes the little gazelle side table from yesterday's Wish List Wednesdays post:

Clockwise from top left: Max Sofa from Van Gogh Designs; Rafuan Chair from Weylandts; Kuba Cloth Pillows from Wisteria; Crock Coffee Table from Khaya Collection; Wall of baskets by Stephen Falcke; Giraffes Canvas from eBay; Gilded Maasai Table Lamp from Gold Coast Africa; Gazelle Side Table from DwellStudio; Center: Biba Mirror from Khaya Collection; Background: Kite Kilim Rug from West Elm.

Strong but neutral colors, clean and simple lines, bold patterns and textures, and just a hint of African animal décor --- now this is a room I could live in!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Gazelle Side Table

Out of Africa and into your home -- this Gazelle Side Table from Dwell Studio will bring a touch of the exotic to any room!  It is available in either black iron or antique gold.  At $1,500 the cost is rather steep, but if you love the thought of visiting Africa without ever leaving your home, this may be just the piece to get you started on your "staycation" safari!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Current Events: Starbucks' Indivisible Mug

From Business Wire

My husband is a news junkie -- he would watch, listen to, and read about current events 24/7 if he could.  I am just the opposite, as most news stories just make me cringe.  Every once in a while, though, a story comes along that actually makes me happy, and this one about a small ceramics company is one of those.  American Mug and Stein in East Liverpool, Ohio, was just barely managing to struggle along, when Starbucks placed a huge order for 20,000 mugs with their new "Indivisible" logo.  The order has reinvigorated the company as well as the town, which was once known as "The Pottery Capital of the Nation" but which now has only a few pottery factories left.

Starbucks is committed to helping revitalize small businesses in the United States, partnering with financial institutions on the Create Jobs for USA Fund.  The mug produced by American Mug and Stein is one of several items Starbucks will have available for purchase to raise money for this fund.  This is such a wonderful concept, and hopefully other companies will follow suit!

If you want to support this effort, check out the online Starbucks Store -- you can purchase the mug here.  You can also look for it at your local Starbucks.  Or if you prefer, make a donation to Create Jobs for USA Fund.  Every little bit helps, and what a worthy cause this is!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Ramen Corn Chowder

From Taste of Home

The weather this week has been unusually mild for June, which is quite a welcome relief here in Georgia. It has been so cool, in fact, that I have actually been craving soup.  Ramen Corn Chowder satisfies that craving nicely.  Thick, creamy, and full of noodles, it is a perfect comfort food, and so easily prepared from ingredients usually on hand that I can have it any time.  I think I will go whip up a pot right now!

Ramen Corn Chowder

2 C. water
1 pkg. chicken ramen noodles
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn
1 can (15 oz.) cream-style corn
1 C. milk
1 tsp. dried onion
1/4 tsp. curry powder
3/4 C. shredded Cheddar cheese
1 T. crumbled cooked bacon
1 T. minced fresh parsley

Prepare the ramen noodles in the water as directed on the package.  Stir in the next 5 ingredients and heat through.  Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Serves 4.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Animal-Themed Interior Décor

From Quaint Curios

Anyone who has perused my blog knows that I love animal-themed décor for the home, but how do you know when enough is enough?  The first time I saw the elephant ottoman pictured above, I just could not decide if it was cute or tacky.  Would I have it in my own home?  Probably not, since elephants are not my thing.  Would it look good in someone else's home?  I honestly could not say.  After a bit more searching, I found an interesting site called Anything Animals, which features décor and linens with an animal theme, including my little elephant.  They also have a section with design ideas incorporating their goods.  Here are a few images featuring the ottoman:

I have to admit that these rooms are a little too "themed" for me -- the first one is not bad, the second is okay, but the last two are overdone, in my opinion.  So maybe this ottoman is not for me.  Which is not to say that I am against elephant décor for the home.  For example, I would not mind incorporating this comfy elephant print armchair into one of my rooms, if I could only afford it:

From The From Sthlm Blog

And I would rather have the little elephant ottoman inside my house than this rather alarming beast (besides, that wallpaper pattern is so not my style!):

From Philosophy in Motion

But even the elephant above is preferable to this outrageous zebra print overload:

From Alspics

I don't think anyone will disagree with me when I say that this is taking animal-themed design way too far!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Spiral Staircase Slide

From Freshome

I am so coveting this spiral staircase slide!  I have always wanted a wooden spiral staircase, and the sliding board option carved from wood is just icing on the cake -- even better than sliding down a banister!  What's not to love?  According to this site, though, the stairway of my dreams may be rather difficult to build, not to mention quite a bit beyond our budget.  Oh well, at least I can look at the lovely pictures -- in fact, here's another impressive option (sigh!):

From Yahoo! News

Friday, June 1, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Green Pea and Spinach Soup

From Vegalicious Recipes

I always think of June as a very green month.  Green Pea and Spinach Soup is such a pretty green color that I thought it would be the perfect recipe to start off this month.  The days are getting warmer, so this soup is on the lighter side, but the weather is still mild enough to allow one to enjoy a cup of soup.  And since this soup can be served warm or cold, it is still appropriate later in the month when things really heat up -- just make it early in the day, or late at night when it is cooler.  Luckily this recipe is so easy it takes almost no time at all to create, so why not try some soon?

Green Pea and Spinach Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 T. butter
2 1/2 C. chicken broth
16 oz. frozen green peas, partially thawed
1 pkg. frozen creamed spinach, partially thawed*
1 tsp. salt

Sauté the onion in the butter until soft.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until heated through.  Purée until the peas are no longer whole.  Serve warm or cold.  Serves 6.

*I used the Bird's Eye brand 11 oz. bag.