Archives For August 2011

OMG. Crazy Delicious.

I was shocked to discover recently just how easy it is to make biscuits from scratch. It’s ridiculous, really. All you need is flour, butter, milk, baking powder, and salt. And about ten minutes of your time.

Ingredients:

  • two cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp butter (But really the more the merrier. You can’t go wrong with extra butter)
  • 1 cup milk

First, mix together two cups of flour, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of baking powder.

Now it’s time to add your butter. You don’t want the butter to get soft while you’re working so it’s helpful to have it really cold from the get-go. Because I live in south Louisiana I like to throw a stick of butter in the freezer a few minutes before I plan to make my biscuits. Like maybe just while I gather the rest of my supplies and mix the dry ingredients.

Confident that my butter is sufficiently cold, I cut six tablespoons of it up into smallish pieces and toss them in the flour mixture. Then I use a fork and knife to toss the whole mixture a little bit more until the pieces of butter are about pea-sized. If your butter starts to melt into the flour stop in the name of biscuits and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Wash your hands, then add a cup of milk to the flour butter mixture and knead it by hand right there in the bowl. Once it’s all sticking together pretty good I grab the big ol’ ball of dough in my left hand and use my right hand to pull biscuit-sized balls off of it and plop them onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes. Nicholas and I like them a little doughy on the inside so we pull them out at exactly ten minutes, but if you’re more of a fully-baked sort of person go for the full 15.

One of my very favorite ways to spend an afternoon is strolling the aisles of my local nursery, carefully choosing only the most delightful of plants, then coming home and planting them thoughtfully in garden beds and pretty containers. My heart swells in anticipation of the lovely life we’ll lead together, them living outside and me living inside, happily ever after.

And then reality hits. You give those plants and inch and they take a mile. Apparently they have a lot of needs, like water and sun. Needs that I am just not able slash willing to meet on an ongoing basis. I try to foster independence, but it often backfires.

I thought things were going bad back in May, when I snapped this picture.

Ha! Check out how that same galvanized tub looks now, along with two of its forsaken friends.

It’s terrible. And I had the most lovely assortment of plants surrounding my favorite chunky porch column, but that’s a forgotten dream. Even the hydrangea I rescued is dead!

My sister gave me two gardenias for my birthday in April, but I think one is dead. I’ve been watering it every day to make up for weeks of neglect but I think it’s too late.

Its partner isn’t looking so hot either…

The only thing I’ve been able to keep alive in a container so far is ferns, and even with those my success rate is only 50% or so. I feel like maybe I should just dump my money directly into the compost bin, rather than even bother with plants that clearly hate me.

I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that it was a hot summer, with moisture levels oscillating wildly from near-drought to humidity so high I had to kick my wood front door just to get it open. Fall is almost here and the nurseries will start tempting me with fall annuals. Maybe I’ll try my hand at some purple and gold pansies, happy mums, and pretty petunias. I think it’s important that I stick to annuals for while, since they can’t be expected to live past one season anyway. I need to build my confidence back up before killing any more perennials.

By that I mean yellow pillow. As in this little bit of awesomeness…

I dreamed up this idea for a pillow yesterday morning and was totally inspired to create it as soon as possible. This yellow fabric has been sitting in my stash for over a year. Clearly it was just waiting for the opportunity to become a pretty little pillow for my bed.

It was really easy and fun to make. I thought about making it in a circle shape, but I didn’t have a round pillow form or any loose batting. I decided to make it 14″ square to work with a pillow form I already had. I cut two 13.5″ square pieces of fabric (I like to make my pillow covers a little tight so they look nice and full), then just cut looooong strips from the same fabric. This was the most time consuming part. I just cut and cut and cut. I could make one really long strip out of a relatively short piece of fabric by cutting almost all the way to the end, then turning around and starting a new cut going the other direction, like you see here:

Make sense? I eyeballed my strips to be about 1″ wide, but they certainly weren’t uniform or anywhere near perfect. The beauty of this pillow is that sloppiness just adds interest to the final product. Every now and then I would stop and kind of lay out the strips on the square of fabric to measure my progress. By the time I was sure I had enough, I had three long strips.

I joined the strips together using my sewing machine.The edges didn’t match together perfectly, so I just sort of folded the bigger one a bit.

My original plan had been to sew the strips to the pillow, but as I sat there staring back and forth from the fabric to my sewing machine, I started thinking about how much of a pain that might end up being. Plus the sewing machine is so loud that I can’t talk to anybody or even listen to music or the TV while I sew. I decided to glue the strips to the fabric while I watched TV with Nicholas and his brother. A much more pleasant way to spend my Sunday afternoon than slaving over a sewing machine.

It’s worth explaining that I’d decided at this point that I won’t ever be washing this pillow. If I wanted it to be washable I would need to A) do something to prevent the strips from fraying (either by hemming or by treating them with liquid fray-check), and B) use fabric glue. I much prefer to use regular ol’ craft glue over fabric glue (which I find tiresome to squeeze). Craft glue doesn’t fare well in the washing machine but is mega-sturdy for all other purposes, so craft glue it was for this little pillow. I ran a line of glue down the edge of my strip, then pressed it onto one of my 13.5″ squares in a circular fashion.

I just kept wrapping and wrapping around, gluing and pressing as I went. Whenever I got to a weird part (like where I’d reached the edge of the fabric in my strip-cutting) I just folded it about the right width and kept going.

At some point I decided the strips were lying too flat and started ruffling them a bit as I glued.

Glue and press, glue and press…

Then I got the genius idea to run a line of glue where I wanted my strip to go, instead of on the strip itself. This was much more efficient.

Almost done…

When I got to the end I just squeezed a bunch of glue in the middle and twisted what was left of my strip up into itself.

Voila!

I gave the glue a while to dry (maybe an hour or so), then followed the same steps as I did for my blue chevron pillow to get it ready for action. I laid the other square of fabric face down on top of it, sewed around three and a half sides, trimmed my corners, turned it inside out, stuffed my insert in, and stitched up the opening by hand.

Bam.

I love love love the way it looks on my bed. I’m also loving how much more of my bedroom I’m able to photograph with my new camera! I’m working on taking updated pictures of the whole house so I can update my house tour page.

Speaking of updates, check out the new header that I made! (if you read my posts via email or a reader, click on over to the homepage to see it) I am far from being a graphic designer, but I wanted something new to let folks know what this little corner of the internet is all about. I write mostly about my home, but every now and then my crafty escapades take me outside the realm of home decor (as in my ruffled fabric necklace), and I like to throw in some posts now and then about general “life” stuff, as well, like the one about staying calm even when things aren’t going your way. Because a pretty house and a talent for crafts does not a great life make. You gotta have the emotional slash relationships slash health slash balance stuff there too. So the new header gives me license to write about that sort of stuff without feeling like I’m straying too far from my core mission. Holla.

I told y’all yesterday about how my camera fell to a tragic death, but if you’re friends with me on facebook you probably already knew thanks to the extremely whiny status I posted within minutes of the event. When life hands you a crisis, post about it on facebook, I always say. Not really.

Well, my whining via social media wasn’t completely useless, since it’s how my mom knew I was in need of a camera, which prompted her to call and offer one she was no longer using! Thanks, mom! It’s got a wide angle lens so it’s much better suited to house blogging than my old one was, anyway. And as soon as I realized I wouldn’t have to drop a couple hundred bucks on a new camera after all, I hopped over to Amazon to drop a mere ten bucks on something that could’ve prevented this whole thing from happening in the first place:

Amazon

No more perilously propped valuable electronics for me. From now on all my self-portraits will be of the fancy tripod variety. And it’s a total bonus that using a ten dollar tripod will help pictures of all my decorating adventures come out clearer and sharper (thanks to removing my less-than-steady hands from the equation). Winner winner chicken dinner.

Take a look at these pictures I took with the old camera.

Wow, that last pic (of the living room) is old! Somebody needs to update the house tour page! At least the room was clean then, which is more than I can say for it right now!

Now feast your eyes on these pictures taken with the new camera + tripod.

And here’s an angle that wouldn’t have worked at all with the old camera, but with the new camera shows almost the whole dining room.

Downside: it’s much harder to creatively avoid eyesores when taking photos, like that empty spot in the staircase frame gallery. One of the frames fell and broke months ago and I didn’t have a frame to replace it until I went to Ikea a few weeks ago. Now I can’t remember where I put the photo that was there! I’m waiting for it to find me. I also tried to keep the air-conditioning ducts/vents out of photos before, but that’s a lost cause now. Our house was built well before central air conditioning was standard fare in private homes, but (thankfully) someone added it down the line and the dining room is one of the areas where it’s particularly obvious. I’ll trade the weird drywalled ducts for cold air any day.

Details aside, I’m totally stoked that I can include more of each room in a single photo now. I remember feeling frustrated that it was so hard with my old camera to show you how close the mustard coffee table was to the blue dresser, and I can’t wait to see if the new camera will do a better job of capturing our master bedroom. I feel like it’s impossible to get more than one piece of furniture in a single photo up there. I’ve been traveling so much lately that the bedroom isn’t really fit to be photographed right now (strewn with half-empty suitcases and all), but I’ve been contemplating a nightstand-switch so maybe I’ll be snapping some pictures sooner rather than later. We shall see!