Category Archives: Our Home

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

tableHi guys! Long time no see! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We had a cah-razy Thanksgiving week with a lot of travel. The weekend before Turkey Day we flew to Kansas City for a night, then drove to Branson, MO and spent a few days with Robert’s family at Big Cedar Lodge. We then drove back to KC for Thanksgiving, flew home to Chicago for a night, and then drove up to Detroit for our final wedding of the year and back home again. Phew! I can’t believe all of that happened within the span of one week. At 25.5 weeks, baby sure has racked up some miles already! I must say, it feels so great to be home.

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but I’ve been cooking A LOT. We’ve been so fortunate to host family and friends several times over the past few months. It’s funny, when Robert and I were registering for wedding gifts (best thing ever) he’d joke about the imaginary life I had in my head in which we throw dinner parties all the time. Before we got married we just didn’t do it very often. But over the past year we’ve been hosting more and more and I absolutely love it. We’ve become quite the team when having people over.

I must say: dinner parties at home > dinner out. It’s just so much more laid back and enjoyable!

Currently, I feel like I’m going through a phase where I’m really enjoying following recipes pretty much to the word. It’s a great way to sharpen my skills in the kitchen and get back to basics. At the same time, following recipes gives me the confidence I need to make things I’ve never made before (like penne alla vodka–from scratch!) Lately, I’ve been all about comfort foods and no one does comfort better, in my opinion, than the Barefoot Contessa. So you’ll see quite a few links to her recipes below.

Here are some of my favorite recipes lately:

Barefoot Contessa Italian wedding soup I made this soup for a big group of friends we had over on a Sunday afternoon. I served it with a big salad, cornbread, and apple cider cupcakes.

Barefoot Contessa penne alla vodka This is going to sound insane, but I actually decided to make this recipe on a whim as a way to use up some ingredients we had on hand including lots of frozen pureed tomatoes from our CSA this summer and some heavy cream. It’s probably the most extravagant clean-out-the-fridge meal I’ve ever made. It was delicious.

Barefoot Contessa winter minestrone soup with garlic bruschetta I’d been eyeing this recipe for as long as I can remember and I’m so happy I finally got a chance to make it when a friend visited for lunch one day last month. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m definitely going to make a few batches to freeze before baby arrives in March!

Smitten Kitchen sweet and sour holiday brisket in the slower cooker from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.This November, my parents and sister visited for a weekend. I had this brisket ready for them when they arrived late Friday night. I served it with roasted carrots and potatoes (recipe is also from the cookbook), sauteed shredded brussels sprout salad, and apple spice cake for dessert.

Smitten Kitchen big cluster maple granola from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I make a batch of this with raisins every week or two so I always have a container of it in my pantry. I love having a big bowl of granola with sliced bananas and milk most mornings. I’ve also been known to have a bowl when I occasionally wake up starving around 3 or 4am : )

Quiche Oh my goodness we’ve been eating so much quiche lately. It’s my favorite way to clean out the veggie drawer and finish up any remaining eggs each week. I use this recipe as my base, mostly for the instructions. Lately I’ve been taking a much simpler approach with shallot, canadian bacon, and arugula or spinach. Yum! I even made two of them while we were away with Robert’s family last week.

Life Lately: Home Improvements

Hi friends! It’s been a while since I did a little Life Lately post and updated you on some of the fun things going on around here besides food. So today I’m excited to share some of the big home improvements we’ve made lately. Our main living floor, which includes the living room, dining room, and kitchen is very nearly D-O-N-E!

If you’re new to the blog, we bought our townhouse in Chicago last July and moved in in August. Since we got married in September we didn’t do much furnishing/decorating for a while. The first big improvement was our kitchen backsplash in December. I also introduced you to Jana Bek. Her eye is amazing and she’s such a joy to work with. She’s made everything so easy for us and the best part is that although she provides tremendous input she takes all of our opinions and preferences into account so everything is still 110% us.

Eventually I hope to do a home tour with higher quality photos, but for now here’s a glimpse at our home as a work in progress.

 Living room. Light, bright, and cozy were what we were going for. I love that we worked in pieces we already had like the couch, Santa Monica print (a gift from Robert after a trip to L.A. together), the sampler (a handmade wedding gift), white stag, and side table along with newer items like the coffee table, pillows, rug, lamp, and painting.

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Our new built-ins. When we moved in, the spaces where you see the white cabinets were just two open, unfinished holes. Two weeks ago we had the cabinets built and we’re so happy with how they came out.

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 Dining room. The new light fixture may be my favorite part of our home so far.

DSCN3654Record table

For Robert’s birthday this past friday (happy birthday, love!) I gave him a record player and my parents gave him the speakers. We had such a fun date Friday evening after work shopping for records and starting our collection. The turntable has been spinning pretty much ever since he set it up Friday night. I’m loving it just as much as he is. In this age of multi-tasking devices, there’s something so simple and satisfying about an object that serves only one purpose. Plus, it looks pretty cool if you ask me : ) The records and seagrass bench probably won’t live there permanently {the bench lives in our bedroom–our next big project}, but it works here for now.

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Finally, here’s a shot of the kitchen table in party mode before Robert’s birthday party on Saturday. I realized afterward that I didn’t get a final picture with the most important dishes–slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken {for sliders} and two trays of mac & cheese. For those who asked for recipes, check out the links above. It was also my first time making a three layer cake and frosting from scratch.

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We had so much fun celebrating with friends {too much fun to remember to take any pictures, apparently} and loved inviting so many people into our home for the first time. Creating this space into something we love has made it feel more like a home than ever before.

Our Home: New Kitchen Backsplash!

It’s no secret that the kitchen is my favorite place in our home. When we first looked at our townhouse (reminder: it was the only property we saw during our very brief house hunt) I didn’t need to look much further once I laid my eyes on the wide open kitchen, plentiful counter space, and ample cabinet and pantry storage. I knew it would do the trick. For the past five months (has it really been five months already?) it certainly has.

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Although the kitchen is entirely functional, we knew we wanted to make some improvements for it to appear more finished. To be perfectly honest, we really, really, really wanted to paint the cabinets white. But after several contractors (and my dad) warned us against it we decided to nix that plan and keep them as is.

Once we scratched that off our list, installing a backsplash became priority numero uno.

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Before we dove into the project we made a very big decision. We enlisted the help of a wonderful interior designer, Jana Bek, to help us with several spaces throughout our home. Fancy shmancy, I know. Robert and I have both accepted that interior design isn’t our greatest talent. It is, however, important to us to live in a bright, cozy, and welcoming space. I stumbled upon Jana’s work through a link to a Pottery Barn blog post on Instagram (hello living in the 21st century!) and loved what I saw: Bright, airy spaces with a blend of neutrals and pops of color that felt completely comfortable and livable. Jana does e-design, which means she doesn’t come to our home (though you’re always welcome here, Jana!). We work through photos, FaceTime, and Pinterest (don’t you love living in the future?) Working with our tastes, preferences, and budget she creates storyboards that reflect what each space will look like. We make tweaks back-and-forth along the way and then carry it out!

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For the backsplash, Jana sent us links to a few tile suggestions. The one Robert and I chose is something we would have never found on our own and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It’s bright, clean, and cheery and looks like it’s always been there. I think it even makes the maple cabinets and black granite countertops look a little happier, too!

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To see what a big difference the backsplash has made here’s a little before and after action:

Before:

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After:

DSCN3181Swoon. Huge improvement, wouldn’t you say?

The next task is finding a kitchen rug to cozy-up the space even more. Early next year we’re having most rooms in our house painted so we’re (hopefully) deciding on paint colors soon. Stay tuned for more adventures in creating this space we love to call home.

 

Wedding Wednesday: Our New Home!

You guys…we did it! We’re homeowners! Two months ago I had no idea I’d be typing those words, but here we are. There really aren’t any words I can find to accurately describe what this entire process has been like from deciding to think about buying a place, to looking, to finding, to closing, to moving, and to unpacking and living in it. I just feel grateful. Grateful for this opportunity; grateful for this experience; and grateful for the wonderful guy I get to share all of it with.

Closing morning! Me: Robert, your calculator is on. R: I know, it's solar powered.

Looking dapper on closing morning! Favorite quote: “Robert, your calculator is on.” “I know, it’s solar powered.”

It’s surreal. At the moment it kind of feels like Robert and I are living in someone else’s home playing make-believe grown ups. I’m sure that with time and some furniture it will feel like ours.

The adorable pie shop around the corner, Bang Bang Pie, has iced coffee on tap and the cutest courtyard. We'll be frequenting this place, I'm sure.

The adorable pie shop around the corner, Bang Bang Pie, has iced coffee on tap, hot biscuits, and the cutest courtyard. (Had to go on closing morning!) We’ll be frequenting this place, I’m sure.

Right now everything is a big ol’ mess, but eventually I hope to share some pictures with you as we get settled, furnish and decorate.

For now, the specs: It’s a 3 bedroom 3 bathroom townhouse in the Logan Square neighborhood.

As a townhouse there are lots of floors—four in total. When you walk in the front door there’s the entryway with a full bathroom and mudroom (which is really the size of a closet, but let’s call it a “mudroom” to keep this whole grown up jig going on). There’s also an attached 1.5 car garage. I know I’ll be loving it even more come winter when I don’t need to scrape ice off of my car.

First trip to Home Depot. (We're planning to replace all lightbulbs with CFLs)

First trip to Home Depot. (We’re planning to replace all lightbulbs with CFLs.) Also: Pippa!

Head up a flight of stairs and you’re on the main floor, which has an open floor plan with our kitchen, dining, and living room. There’s a Juliet balcony on the front off of the living room and a deck for grilling on the back off of the kitchen. The kitchen deserves a post of its own someday. It’s not terribly fancy, but what it is: big—at least compared to what I’m used to in my previous apartments. And it’s wonderful. My favorite part is the pantry. You can walk in there and do a full spin! Oh, and it houses all of our FOOD! Thanks to a successful trip to the Container Store the pantry is already well on its way to becoming a highly organized machine. There’s also more cabinet and counter space than we could ever need, but I love every single inch of it. I even have a glorious coffee nook for the coffeepot, grinder, and mugs! This makes me happier than words can say.

You guys, I have a spice DRAWER! Easy to find what I need +  less stuff on the counter = winning!

You guys, I have a spice DRAWER! Easy to find what I need + less stuff on the counter = winning!

Up another flight of stairs are two bedrooms—the master and guest—both with en suite bathrooms.

Head up one more flight of stairs and you’re in the top floor third bedroom/loft/office. It’s bright and open with a super high ceiling and decks off the front and back. It’s the perfect sun-drenched place to work during the day.

We’re definitely getting used to lots and lots of stairs and I’m just going to be honest…my calves and quads are sore from these first few days! Since we’re still getting organized I find myself flying up and down stairs constantly throughout the day. Of course, this just means we get extra cookies for the extra effort, right?

We’ve very quickly realized how easily homeownership can take on a life of its own. And while our place was totally move-in ready, newer (built in 2005), and functional there are still approximately 359,943 things we dream of doing with the space to really make it our own. But for now we’re going to take our time.

Our first home cooked/grilled meal: Grilled salmon (with olive oil, s & p) grilled corn sliced off the cob, and arugula salad with olive oil, squeezed lemon juice, s & p.

Our first home cooked/grilled meal: Grilled salmon (with olive oil, s & p) grilled corn sliced off the cob, and arugula salad with olive oil, squeezed lemon juice, s & p.

When we realized there are less than 10 weeks (66 days to be exact) until our wedding (and most weekends we’re away) we decided that we’re going to hold off on doing anything in our home besides unpacking/organizing. Who knows if we’ll even acquire a couch in that time! Frankly, I love camping out on blankets on the living room floor with my guy and the dogs while watching TV at night : ) So we’re going to take our time and really enjoy this home stretch of wedding planning and anticipating the Big Day.

After all, we plan to make this place our home for many years to come.