Wednesday, February 27, 2013

office space: home office update...

it's been a long time coming (and still has a way to go) but I'm excited to share with you some updates to my home office. let's recap where it started (and stalled for close to a year)...

The only things in there that were part of my room design plan were the lamp shade, owl lamp, chair and my dining table desk. The walls were a boring builder's grade beige and it started to become a catch-all for my craft supplies, bills, papers, etc. But for the entire year, I had a paint sample taped to my wall. I had every intention of painting it myself, but it just kept getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. 

So when we finally got around to having our house painted, we decided to include my office. The color I chose was Behr Home Decorators Collection in Dew. It's a beautiful muted blue green. In certain light it looks blue, in others it's a grayish green.  

After it was painted, it inspired me clean up the clutter and get more organized. 

Two white nightstands coupled together on one wall have provided me with some much needed storage while I'm still trying to find the perfect credenza. 

and my fan as finally found a home! 

Still left to do is find a credenza, get some file cabinets, and hang curtains and a gallery wall of photos. But I'm getting closer to my vision and it's reinvigorated me to use my office more... and the couch less. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

40 days of joy: Day 11...

this story reminds us that there are good, honest people in the world and if you do good for others, it will come back to you ten-fold. Here is the story from ABC News:

"A homeless man who returned a diamond engagement ring to a woman who mistakenly dropped it into his donation cup when she was giving him some spare change now stands to be handsomely rewarded for his selfless act.
A fund set up on for Billy Ray Harris, the man who was panhandling on the streets of Kansas City, Mo., earlier this month when he received the valuable donation in error, had gotten more than $146,000 in donations as of Monday evening.
"It is good to know honesty still exists despite one's circumstances which Mr. Harris exemplifies!" wrote one poster, who donated $25. Another who gave $100 added: "People from all over the world salute."
The donations - more than 6,000 of them in varying amounts - have come in from all over the United States, as well as from Germany, Sweden, Australia, Ireland and other countries. In addition to the congratulations and good wishes that they offered, some donors also urged that Harris receive help to manage the money that was earmarked for him.
Harris himself seemed to be bemused by the outpouring.
"What I actually feel like is, what has the world come to when a person returns something that don't belong to them and all of this happens?" he said last week in an interview with KTNV-TV, an ABC News affiliate in Las Vegas.
When Harris saw the unintentional donation in his cup on Feb. 8, he kept it safe until its owner, Sarah Darling, returned to ask about it. Her wedding and engagement rings had reportedly been bothering her, so she removed them and put them into her purse, and that's how they ended up in Harris' cup,KCTV reported."

Monday, February 25, 2013

40 days of joy: days 8-10...

sometimes the weekends just get away from me. so I'm bringing you a joyful trio to make up for the last three days. And what brings more joy than animals being totally adorable?! I hope you can handle the cuteness!

just chillin'

I mean, come on! 

he's so happy! 

have a wonderful evening! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

kraut inspired: sweet potato fries and apple sausage...

Have you ever been grocery shopping, spy something that isn't on your list and are immediately inspired with a new recipe? That happened to me recently when I spotted a jar of sauerkraut. I know, it surprised me too because the first time I tried it was at our Oktoberfest this year.

I grabbed the jar, scooped up some sweet potatoes, chicken apple sausage, wheat buns and this meal was born: 

Not to toot my own horn, but OMG it was so good.  

I made the sweet potato fries myself. The recipe is really simple: 
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into the fry shape you desire
  • 4 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, chili powder, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add in the sweet potatoes and mix until they are coated. Then spread them evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and 1 tsp of salt over the top. Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove, flip the fries and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar over the top. Cook for 20 more minutes. flipping the fries once more after 10 minutes. I put them under the broiler for a couple minutes at the end to crisp them up a bit. 

Cook the sausage with the cover on. I just couldn't get a good photo of the pan with the cover on. 
As I approached the last 10 minutes of the potato cooking time, I added the sauerkraut to a pot and heated it over medium. Then I added my chicken sausage to 1/2 inch of water in a covered saucepan and cooked them for 6-8 minutes until they were heated through. 

When the potatoes finished cooking, I set them aside to cool for a few minutes and put the buns under a low broiler to toast them a little. I combined a little honey and mustard to create... wait for it.... honey mustard dipping sauce for the fries. 

Then we plated it up and enjoyed a delicious meal. It was super easy, pretty low fat compared to regular sausage and white potatoes, and in my opinion, even tastier. Who would have thought a jar of kraut would end up creating a new dinnertime staple in our house! 

40 Days of Joy: Day 6...

Albert Lexie donates more than $200,000 to Children's Hospital. The true spirit of giving.

Shoe Shiner Donates Tips to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital | Video - ABC News

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

40 days of joy: day 5...

This is one of the best things I've seen online in ages. A hilarious look at motherhood!

light it up: finding the right floor lamps...

right now, my house is in the 85% stage. every room is about 85% finished. the office needs a credenza and then it's done. the guest bath needs art and some hand towels and it's complete. and the living room and family room need floor lamps and they will be almost finished. since lighting in an integral part to making a room feel warm and inviting, I am focusing on lamps - specifically floor lamps.

Our house is blessed with a variety of overstuffed chairs. From my husband's coveted leather chair in the family room....

to a pair of hand-me-downs from my parents that occupy the living room.

I cannot take a good picture in this room, the window is my nemesis.
They are all so comfy, but because they take up so much space, adding a side table and table lamp near each one would make the rooms look too cluttered.

Enter the floor lamp. Sleek, tall and inconspicuous. I have been eyeing a variety of lamps for each room. The family room is much more casual, with lots of silver details so I thought any one of these might fit in just perfectly:



In the living room, I'm envisioning antiqued brass or gold with a warmer color shade to work with the color palette.
 I like that this is simple but the three rods give it some interest.
  I love this lamp:

This reminds me of a reading room lamp. Something you would find in a study. I like the warmth of the bronze base.
Crate and Barrel

  I am obsessed with this gold sphere lamp. It it gorgeous but a little too rich for my blood.
I keep coming back to this tri-pod lamp for both rooms. It is simple and feels like it is meant for our space.

Stay tuned to see our final pics. And I know I still owe you all updates on our house painting. It looks great, but I need to get the rooms back in order before I share pics. Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

40 days of joy...

Lent began yesterday. I went over the usual list of things to give up and then started thinking about things that I do that don't necessarily make me feel great. One of the things that I always regret doing is reading sites like People, US Weekly, TMZ and the other gossip sites.

The stories are always horrible and are usually cutting someone down for their outfit or their weight or glorifying bad behavior. I mean really, why should I care that one of the Teen Mom's is in a Twitter feud with her boyfriend?

So I've given up reading those sites for Lent (and hopefully the rest of my life). And I'm going one step further and committing to spreading positive news for the next 40 Days. Each day on the site, in addition to my usual posts, I'll be sharing videos, news stories, anecdotes, basically anything that is uplifting and positive.

I'm starting today with this awesome pep talk from Kid President. It's sure to bring a smile to your face.

If you want a daily dose of positivity, stop on by. And if you have any positive stories you'd like to share, send them my way.

Happy Lent to You! Let's spread 40 Days of Joy!

PS: I'm also giving up chocolate and cheese. Jesus, take the wheel.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sneak peek...

Much of our house painting is done and I couldn't be more excited. Only the office and bathroom are left so I'll share photos as soon as it's all complete. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at the light gray that's throughout much of the house...

Friday, February 8, 2013

I was featured on Better After blog...

As I was reading one of my favorite blogs today, Better After, I was so excited to discover that one of my projects was featured. Lindsey showcased my Nate Berkus-inspired tray makeover.

Check it out here and make sure to browse the rest of her blog. It's great! 

slow cooker chicken tortilla soup...

I love a good chicken tortilla soup. If it's on the menu, I order it. So I thought I'd try to make my own at home. Now I'm not the kind of gal who can sit and watch a soup on the stove all day -- I've got things to do. So I pulled out my trusty crockpot and went to work!

I gathered my ingredients, all things I like in my soup and none of the stuff I don't.

In a slow cooker, I added:
3 chicken breasts
1 box of Chicken Broth
1 can of corn
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
1 bottle of salsa of your choice
1 small can of diced jalapenos

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6 or more. The longer the better. Shred the chicken in the pot after 4 hours and let cook for the remaining time. Top with tortilla strips, cheese and sour cream. Or any toppings of your choice. Easy peasy.

It turned out better than I could have hoped. This is definitely going to become a staple of the O'Brien household. Enjoy! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

party appetizers: reverse dip bowl...

when I dip, you dip, we dip...

No, I'm not talking about the dance craze of the late 90s, I'm talking about party dips! Whenever I'm tasked with bringing an appetizer to a party, I freeze like a deer in the headlights. Not because I can't think of a thing to make, but because I can't narrow down my options. So yesterday, I thought, why should I have to choose, why can't I enjoy them all? And the reverse dip bowl was born!

This is what your typical chip/dip server looks like: 
Dip in the center and various dipping paraphernalia around the outside. 

In my reverse dip, I flipped it. 
 I put three dips around the outside and filled the middle bowl with thin pita chips. 

I found two of the dips on Pinterest (so technically this is also a "I pinned it then did it" post) and the third is my signature cream cheese salsa dip that is a big hit at any gathering. It's so easy and such a crowd pleaser that I filled two of the bowls with it and both were gone by the end of the Super Bowl. You take a softened brick of cream cheese, combine it with 3/4 of a jar of your favorite salsa and stir it together until its fairly smooth. I love it with a sweet salsa like mango, peach or lime. But you can make it with spicy salsa as well. It's two ingredients, delicious and easy. That's why it's my signature.

You can find recipes for the other two dips here:
Cilantro Lime White Bean Hummus
Creamy Avocado Dip

Since you're not making a huge portion for each dip, the reverse dip bowl is a great way to try out smaller versions of recipes and not worry about wasting ingredients if it isn't a hit.

I'm already thinking up other reverse dip combinations:
Mexican Fiesta: Salsa, Guacamole, Signature Salsa Dip and Queso. Served with Lime Tortilla Chips.
Game Day: Beer Cheese Dip, Horseradish Dip, Reuben Dip and Rotel/Velveeta Dip. Served with Pretzel Bread Chunks.
Ladies Day: Dill Dip, Signature Salsa Dip, Hummus, Smoky Sweet Potato Dip. Served with celery and carrot sticks.

Happy dipping!