Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tu B'Shevat Seder Table

The Jewish Holiday of Tu B'Shevat also known as the Jewish New Year for Trees, is February 8.  One way to celebrate the holiday is with a Seder, tasting many of the fruits that grow in Israel.  Here's how to get started.

 My own Seder table is set and ready for guests...

To see how I made the miniature tree place card, click here.

Since wheat is served on the Seder table, cookies are ideal and yummy.

Two bottles of wine should be served--red and white. Assembling the grapes into a topiary is so much more fun visually than grapes sitting in a bowl. Here's how to make it:
*After purchasing a round Styrofoam ball, cover it with plastic wrap.
*Put the ball in a flower pot.
*Using toothpicks, stick a grape into ball one at a time until the topiary is formed.
*Use parsley to fill any bare spots.
Dates, olives and almonds are served on small plates.
A bowl filled with apples stacked on top of a cake stand adds height to the table. Fresh flowers make any meal special.
Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bathroom Redesign for Under $200!

Remodeling bathrooms can be expensive. Ripping out tile, toilets, or showers that are outdated or flat-out falling apart costs enough--and that’s before you even think about replacing them with new ones!

If you don't have the money to totally remodel a bathroom (or you have a rental, as the case was here) here's how to make it look great on a tight budget, as shown below.
This was a bathroom that was U-G-L-Y! The good news was it was in good shape--no broken tiles, no plumbing problems--just needed some updating and a good dose of style. The most dramatic change here was color. The "before" color was a weird shade of yellowish/green. The wood vanity was ho-hum brown.
The new color is "Cinder" from Benjamin Moore's Aura Bath & Spa paint line. Not only did this paint cover the walls in less than two coats, but it stands up to hot, humid conditions,  provides a mildew resistant coating, and is low VOC and low odor. The vanity got a few coats of a soft taupe and some new sleek knobs from Ikea.
The old light fixture and the Plain-Jane mirror didn't do much to help the look of the vanity area.

Some easy, inexpensive tricks were used here. First, the light fixture was painted the same dark grey as the walls. Now, it blends into background and you don't notice the unattractive fixture. Next I bought three seeded glass shades (for six dollars each!!!) and clear light bulbs from Lowe's--it gives the light a whole new look!
Same for the mirror--chair molding was cut to size and mitered by the guy at my lumberyard. It adds a "frame" to the mirror and makes it looks custom! I gave it a coat of silver spray paint, and then dabbed some brown glaze (with plastic wrap) to give it an antique look.

The shade was meant to be temporary when the family moved in, but two years later, it was still here.
Although the new Levolor Solar Shade stays down most of the time it lets light into the room during the day. They can see out but outside can't see in.

These shelves were a good idea for extra storage, but the wood was not finished and they were not used efficiently.
By adding some trim to the edges and painting them the same color as the walls, they are the perfect place to store extra bath towels, shampoos and a glass container filled with soap.
Don't forget the shower curtain--it adds tons of color and softness to a "hard" room.
Last but not least, are the details. Even a bathroom needs art, decorative shelving, and pretty accessories.  
Here's the cost run-down...
Paint: $48.00 (Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa)
Shower curtain: $30.00 (Target-Fieldcrest Luxury Multi-Stripe)
Shelf: $29.99 (Ikea-Savern shelf)
Knobs: $9.99 (Ikea-Varde)
Molding for mirror: $21.00 (local lumberyard)
Seeded glass light shades: $18.81 (Lowe's)
Two picture frames: $11.98 (Ikea)
Solar Shade: $30.00 (Lowe's-Levolor)
TOTAL: $199.77

This post was featured in: The Shabby Nest,
Fingerprints on the Fridge  , I Should be Mopping the Floor,
Today's Creative Blog,  
The Power of Paint

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miniature Tree Place Setting

The Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat is coming up in a few weeks. (February 8). One way to celebrate this holiday is to sit down to a seder (more on that to come).  Since Tu B' Shevat is the "birthday" for trees in Israel, I decided to make these mini tree placesettings for each one of my guests.

I found these mini clay flower pots at Michael's, along with the moss and the dried Caspia Basil which looks just like a small tree when you cut the stems.
The pencil's in the shot to give you an idea how small these flower pots really are. After cutting off small "trees" from the bunch of dried basil, I inserted small chunks of floral oasis into the clay pots, then stuck the branches in. The oasis is topped with moss for a more finished look.
Since Tu B'Shevat celebrates the of the gift of trees, we enjoy a festive meal which includes fruits from various trees. Next week I'll post the beautiful Seder table to help inspire those who might wish to celebrate Tu B' Shevat.
This post is linked to Creative Jewish Mom

Friday, January 20, 2012


A few months ago I added a new cookbook to my collection; Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Yotam is an Israeli-born chef and restaurant owner currently living in London and has written a wonderful vegetarian cookbook with a "vibrant" approach to vegetables.

I've been slowly working my way through many of the recipes, and my favorite so far was Shakshuka. It is a North African dish with many variations. Some add preserved lemon, others, feta and different herbs and spices. I didn't add any of these and it was still fantastic!
Serves 4 generously 
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
4 tsp muscovado sugar (I used regular sugar)
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (I left this out since I don't like the taste of cilantro)
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp saffron  threads (I left this out too--so expensive)!
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper
up to 1 1/8 cups water
8 eggs

In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance).

Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro (I used parsley) and serve.


As seen in:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jonathan Adler Inspired Vases

I've admired Jonathan Adler's textural pottery for quite some time. You may have seen some of his work, like these three beautiful examples on the left that range in price from $78 to $200.
The photo on the far right is by another designer, Kelly Wearstler. It's a brass studded vase and retails for $895!  I thought I'd try and do my own version of these with vases I picked up at the dollar store.
Here is what I gathered...I did not pay more than $2.99 per vase.
I found the Crayola Air-Dry clay and puffy paint at Michael's and I picked up the pastry tip to use as a tiny cookie cutter.
I rolled the clay out just as I would for cookie dough, and cut out the shapes with a mini cookie cutter.
Parchment paper kept the clay from sticking to the table.
I sprayed the large vase with grey primer which had the added advantage of covering the printed design which was too distracting for me to work with.  A drop of glue on the back of the clay shapes helped them stick to the vase once they dried. 
For the white vase, I decided to try a simple dot pattern with the puffy paint.  A rubber band helped keep the rows of dots straight and I was able to mark 1-inch spaces on the band with a marker.
When I finished, I gave all the vases a few coats of white spray paint and then applied clear polyurethane. Okay, so they're not as fabulous as Jonathan Adler's but they look pretty darn elegant and my total for everything was under $25 including supplies!

This was posted on Today's Creative Blog

Friday, January 13, 2012

Obsessed with Orange

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the design world, it seems yellow is now everywhere…in kitchens, fabrics and even doors are painted yellow.

Not that I have anything against yellow, but lately I can’t seem to get enough of orange! Maybe it’s because of my other color obsessions…blue/greens and greys. Orange looks so great with both of those colors!

So here is a bit of it to give you some “orange” food for thought…
From top left: Kitchenaid mixer; canvas striped shoes, Toms; boxes in a shot from a Flor carpet catalog; a wedding table setting, lover.ly; dining room walls, colorissue; staircase, Tobi Fairley; Amac boxes from the Container Store; Poufs, etsy.com; orange chair, Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bar Mitzvah Centerpieces

My friend Barbara asked me for help with her son’s bar mitzvah. The Saturday morning Shabbat service was followed by a Kiddush lunch, held in a (heated) tent. She asked for centerpieces incorporating photos of Josh—the bar mitzvah boy.  She wanted to keep things “low key” and she didn’t want to spend a fortune.

My first thought was tree branches. The tent had high ceilings so the branches would fill the overhead space nicely. At the time, there was no way for us to know that Connecticut was about to be hit with Hurricane Irene and we would have all the tree branches we would ever want. Here is a shot looking down our street weeks after the storm—it was still a mess!
After gathering lots of branches, I laid them down on a painter’s drop cloth and gave them a quick coat of silver metallic spray paint.  
We ordered slim glass vases, 20 inches high. This way people would be able to see one another unhampered.  Each vase was filled with tiny stones to ensure they did not tip over.
The next step was making colored copies of old photos of Josh. After these were spray mounted back to back, we cut them into rectangles with a paper cutter, punched a hole in the top, and tied them with some silver cording. The pictures provided a fun conversational piece at the party.
Because Jewish law prohibits taking photographs on the Shabbat, these pictures were shot on Friday afternoon after we set up and not the actual Bar Mitzvah.
Barbara also asked me to do the flowers on the synagogue’s Bimah. The average florist usually charges at least $100 for each large arrangement, but I picked up all the flowers at Trader Joe’s for under $40.  Both urns were filled with wet floral oasis which made for easy flower arranging.
The bar mitzvah was a success. Mom was thrilled with the decor and the great job her son did!

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