20 July 2009

How To Keep Track of Your Ideas

Between constantly decorating in my head and reading numerous decorating blogs, my mind is filled with ideas. I don't want to lose any of them, but how to keep track of them all? I've always loved the look of artists' inspiration boards, but since most of my inspiration is digital nowadays I didn't want to use up so much colored ink printing everything out. The solution? I have a handful of folders in my pictures folder that are solely for collecting inspiring images. It's so easy and helpful. I have a general one filled mostly with artwork and photos from Europe, one for my current writing project filled with photos of old New York, and then of course my decorating one. Here are a few of my favorite images.

18 July 2009

Spice Up Your Memo Board

Bulletin boards come in handy but I can't thing of many things uglier than a big ol' slab of cork. So I whipped up something a bit more pleasing to the eye.

What You'll Need:-corkboard: I found this set of 4 6x6 boards at Michael's, but you can get a sheet and cut it down to whatever size you prefer.
-fabric: This set of 4 coordinating pieces of fabric also came from Michael's. I like having each board be a different pattern, but you can use just one kind of fabric if you'd like.
-fabric scissors: unfortunately I only have paper scissors with me (thankfully the edges are hidden for this project)
-craft glue
-double sided tape

Step One: Cut your fabric down to size
Using your corkboard as a guide, cut your fabric so it's about an inch bigger than the board on all sides.

Step Two: Secure one side
Draw two lines of glue on the corkboard and pull the fabric taut over two opposing sides. Press down.

Step Three: Secure the other sides

This took a bit of maneuvering, but maybe someone who's more adept at wrapping gifts than me would have an easier time with it. First, I put a dot of glue between the two sides of the fabric where they meet at the corners so they'd stay put. Then draw two lines of glue on the corkboard and across the folded fabric. Pull the fabric taut and fold over, pressing down while keeping everything in line.

Step Four: Repeat with the other four boards and let dry.

Arrange the boards in a grid and stick 'em on the wall with some double-sided tape.

You can throw things up there willy nilly or artfully arrange photos or souvenirs so the fabric acts more as a frame. The added bonus is they're also perfectly lovely to look at if they're not in use.

16 July 2009

Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space With More Than 35 Projects

Ok, so you're feeling crafty, and those ladies at The Kitschnettes have been slacking on the DIY ideas (don't worry, we'll have plenty in the near future), what do you do? How about taking a look at Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space With More Than 35 Projects? This book, originally intended to spice up dorm rooms with individuality, is chock full of great ideas to help transform your space (which, let's face it, will likely not have much more room than a dorm room anyway). These sewing projects add a little flair to your bed, study space, closet, common areas and bathroom. They vary in difficulty and wow-factor, but I could see myself attempting most of these projects (I might even have to have a crafting day tomorrow). My favorites are the towels embellished with birds (see my decorating scheme), the tongue-in-chic Magritte pencil pouch (Ceci n'est pas un crayon) and the cosmetics carryall. And, while I'm probably not making them, I love their idea of making a stuffed animal out of a blown up picture of your pet at home and a closet organizer shaped like a dress that hangs from a hanger. They also include information on how to buy and care for fabric and sewing tools, and there's a pocket on the back cover stuffed with templates and patterns.

Bonus idea! A few nights after you move in, invite a couple of similarly crafty friends over to each make a project from the book for a house-warming party that's both fun and useful.

09 July 2009

What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?

I have amassed a rather hefty collection of cookbooks for someone who really only started having a use for them two months ago. Let's face it, there aren't tons of cookbooks targeted towards the same audience as this blog is, so I thought it would be useful to show you which ones I've been turning to for inspiration and guidance.
1. College Cooking by Megan and Jill Carle was the first cookbook I could ever claim as my own. I like this one because it was written by two college students (obviously for college students) so they really stick to the tastes and budget that I'm looking for. There are some classics like baked ziti, mac n' cheese and chicken and rice, but they also cater to the more adventurous like crab cakes and Thai chicken. Their instructions are easy to follow (but not condicentingly so) and the accompanying photos are lovely. There are also a few party menus interspersed between each chapter. Also, there are little bits of trivia and tricks to turning their recipes into vegetarian options littered throughout. If you like this book but feel it's a bit too meat-heavy for your tastes, these ladies are coming out with Vegetarian College Cooking soon which had some very tasty looking recipes.
2. I was very excited to finally have an excuse to get I Like You by Amy Sedaris . This book did not disappoint. I had always assumed it was more for the sake of humor than actual recipes and advice, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was heavily packed with both! I kid you not, I actually sat down and read this from cover to cover and had to stop every now and then to remind myself that, yes, I am indeed reading a cookbook. While certainly entertaining, it is a bit difficult to actually put to use since the recipes are arranged so haphazardly (tell me, Amy, what do you cook for a lumberjack lunch?). With that said, this book is an absolute must in your kitchen library.3. Memorable Recipes to Share With Family and Friends doesn't, I admit, look terribly exciting at first glance, but once you pay a bit of attention you'll see that there are some very tempting recipes throughout. There is also a wealth of entertaining advice (although not as amusing as Mr. Sedaris teaches us). The recipes in this book are a bit more adult (read: more sophisticated and intricate) than, say, the ones found in College Cooking, but they all seem perfectly doable (read: relatively inexpensive and easy). If they aren't enough to get your mouth watering, the gorgeous photographs certainly will. Warning: a bit of math will be involved, assuming you won't be serving over 6 people with each meal.

4. Honestly, I got The New Basics Cookbook because it was on one of those $1 book carts outside of The Strand, but it really is very good for- surprise! - the basics. It's organized in a way that makes more sense than all the other books on this list: the vegetables are listed with the vegetables, chicken with the chicken, desserts with the desserts etc. Is The New Basics terribly thrilling? No. But is it full of useful and tasty recipes? Definitely.
5. I don't keep kosher, but according to Hip Kosher: 175 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes For Today's Kosher Cooks it's the next big culinary trend. After looking at the recipes in this book I, admittedly, picked up with trepidation, I believe it. They look absolutely delicious, the soups especially. It's trying to be chi chi, but definitely the kind of chi chi that can be recreated in your own kitchen.
6. I got Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen Cookbook for my birthday in January and then it promptly disappeared. This dearly departed friend was full of sass and wit and, oh yeah, occasionally a good recipe thrown in. From what I remember, not many of the recipes jumped out as something I could see myself cooking on an average night but I could always see myself eating if it just so happened to be served to me. Everything's very Italian, even most of the instructions (don't worry, there's an Italian slang glossary in the back). Like Amy's book, you may not be turning to Bitchin' Kitchen on the regular, but it's an excellent book to have in your toolbox.

07 July 2009

Summer Smoothies

Today, as I was pouring yet another glass of water to try to stay hydrated through the summer heat, I realized that I didn't have to torture myself any longer. I remembered that I have a blender & fruit. I remembered that I can make smoothies.

As silly as this sounds, I think that most of us tend to reach for the things that are readily available like water, juice, or any other drink lying around the house. Usually, unless you're unusually health conscious, these drinks are full of sugar & artificial things (or just plain boring). Depending, of course, on what you put in them, smoothies are a tasty & healthy alternative. Here's how to make your own! :)

I didn't go out & buy things specifically for my smoothies, I just used things that were already in my kitchen & pantry, so keep that in mind. Typically, smoothies contain fruit, some kind of dairy, & juice. They can have other things, however, like ice, honey, ice cream, or even instant chocolate milk powder.

After looking around my kitchen, I find the following for my smoothies: one banana, one can of pineapple chunks in natural juices, one container of light raspberry yogurt, & a container of sugar free pomegranate juice. I combine all in a blender, with the exception of only using 1/3-1/2 cup of the juice.

I taste it, but it's not quite right. I add four ice cubes & two scoops of light peach ice cream & blend again. Perfect. (Remember to put the smoothies in the fridge to keep them nice & cold.)

I encourage everyone to raid their kitchens and make smoothies. They're particularly good for slightly overripe fruit that you might not want to eat on their own anymore. All you have to do is pick some of your favorite fruits (almost any fruit goes with another) and other things that you like. If you're nervous, search here for a few more recipes. But don't be afraid to experiment!