Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Tu B'Shevat

Tu B' Shevat is next Wednesday, February 4th (15th of Shevat).  Here are some creative ideas to incorporate the holiday into your week...
1. Make some yummy chocolate bark incorporating many the seven species of Israel (like almonds, figs, and wheat).
2.Plant some seeds indoors and they'll be ready to transplant this spring.
 3. Invite friends for a Tu B' Shevat Seder and serve foods on the seven species list.
4. Make mini tree place settings for each guest
5. Make a fruit bouquet.
6. Try making a family tree. It's a great conversation piece when the holiday's over!
7. Dried fruit in paper cups are simply presented in parchment paper wraps.
8. Play with your food and create these charming trees.
9. Download the art to create this pretty banner for free!
10. Don't have mini trees? Fake it with some fallen branches and paper leaves, here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vegetable Chili

The Northeast corridor is preparing for a winter wallop this evening here in Connecticut. (I'm okay with that as long as we don't loose power!) I needed something for dinner that was warm and comforting and this chili recipe was the perfect thing.  I usually make it for a crowd in the sukkah but with the approaching storm I decided it was perfect for a cold winter night.
The original recipe is from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook, but I tweaked it and made it even more delicious. Here's how...

Vegetable Chili
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, but into 1/2 inch cubes.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper, cored seeded and cubed
2 stalks celery, cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large can plum tomatoes, cubed
1 small can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1 cup canned black beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Place eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with the course salt. Let stand for 1 hour. Pat dry with paper towels.
2.  Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and saute until tender. Remove eggplant to a dutch oven.
3. Heat remaining 1/4 cup of oil in the same skillet. Add the onions, garlic, peppers, celery and sweet potato. Heat for 10 minutes, then add to the casserole.
4. Place casserole over low heat and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid, tomato sauce, and all the spices. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
5. Stir in the beans, dill and lemon juice. Cook another 20 minutes until potato is tender.
Serve with brown rice, shredded Cheddar cheese and sour cream.

If you don't see a post for a while, you know I've lost power! :(

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eight Fresh Ideas for Purim Food Baskets

Are you giving Shalach Manos baskets for Purim? It's one of my favorite traditions of the Jewish holidays. I think I enjoy putting these together even more than receiving the beautiful and yummy baskets we get every year.

Though not a necessity, it's fun to have some kind of theme to pull your food gifts together. Here are some great ideas to inspire you--remember: it's all in the presentation!
S'more kits

T.L.C. in a Jar

College Must Haves

Garden in a Flowerpot

A Sweet and Savory Breakfast Basket

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun Basket

 S' Mores Kit

 Everything black and white

I already have mine planned for this about you?

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Family Tree

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar (celebrated this year on Wednesday, February 4, 2015) is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This is when the earliest-blooming trees in Israel begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

A family tree combines the tree + family...the perfect combination to celebrate the holiday!
It didn't cost much to make and I'm so happy with the results.

Here's how...
1. Get outdoors and cut some branches...mine were found on a small tree.
2. Gather your family's pictures. I e-mailed these to Staples and asked them to print color copies.
3. If it's freezing where you live (like here in Connecticut) you'll have to use faux leaves from the craft store. (You'll have a lot leftover for another project.)
4. Place a block of florist foam into a pot and stick in the branches so it forms a tree shape. Top with moss.
5. Using a hot glue gun, glue each leaf onto a branch.
6. Hang pictures (mine are mounted on gray cover stock) with thin wire.

You're done!
Mine's sitting on the dining room buffet...
  It will make a great conversation piece even after the holiday is over.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This & That

Here's what I've been up to this week...
Left: Started the girls bedroom! The new color is Wickham Gray...such a pretty soft gray with a hint of green. And yes, that's a mantel in their room. As cool as that may be, the room has very little wall space (three doors and a huge bay window) so the mantel will be the spot for a desk.

Right: This olive tree is half price at Crate and Barrel! It's so hard to find faux trees that don't look totally fake. I bought one for a client's house and this one for my own. And yes, I need a larger pot.

Left: A Habitat Restore recently opened near my homeit's fun to wander around and check out the bargains. This week I found this garden urn...there are two chips but nothing a bit of Bondo can't fix. The price? $3.00!

Right: I found these two of these "art" canvases at a discount store.  The sizes are perfect for a spot in our living roomI'm going to paint right over them with "new" art and save the hassle and expense of making my own canvases.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Custom Tzedakah Boxes for Kids

My Etsy shop has had several requests for children's tzedakah here they are! The best part is that these are custom made with the child's name printed in colorful letters so each order is made specifically for your child.

I was inspired by my grand-children who learned this song at pre-school whenever they gave tzedakah: They would sing "Yosef did a mitzvah, Zelda did a mitzvah, a mitzvah today..."

There's a cute striped version for boys...

and a pretty dot design for girls.

These make a great gift for a birthday, bris, baby naming, or just to teach the importance of doing a mitzvah at a young age. You can find them in my Etsy shop.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The New/Old House: Yosef's Room

Yosef's room is finally done!
The entire room was put together from Craig's list finds, DIY's and re-purposed furniture—it cost very little to design a cute boy's room that it perfect for a four-year-old and will still be appropriate when he's 12-years-old.

Here is what we started with before I hung the map wallpaper...
Just bland off-white walls...the map wall became the wow factor. The bed is a Craig's list find painted navy blue.

The post modern dresser was also snagged on Craig's list.

Custom shades can be very expensive so I was thrilled to find these pleated shades on clearance at Lowe's...
Because I mounted them on the outside I was flexible with the size and was able to find shades to fit all three windows for $6.00 a shade!

The magnetic boards are galvanized steel panels from the hardware store.
Yosef can easily change the art and pictures without making holes in the walls and I like the industrial vibe.

1. The desk was scored at Goodwill for $35. Primer, two coats of paint and new hardware changed it dramatically. 
2. The chair had a previous life in the study. The yellow adds a pop of color to the room.
3. Since I'm re-doing a guest room in my house, I gave the gingham duvet cover to Yosef. It's from Muji in New York, no longer available.
4. The house was built in the 1800's and this is the bedroom door!

5. A Hebrew banner was added to the map wall.
6. The soft gray shag rug was (you guessed it) a Craig's list find.
7. Ikea's Trofast toy storage is from their previous house reconfigured to fit Yosef's room.

The abc pillow I made adds more yellow to the room...
Next, it's on the the girl's room. This one is going to be so much fun!

Monday, January 5, 2015

West Elm Knock-Off Stripe Vases

Really, how beautiful are the Stripe vases at West Elm? I'm a sucker for stripes to begin with and the hand painted look is so organic. But the colors weren't quiet right for the room they'll end up in and they were more than I wanted to spend.

I started collecting mismatched vases for a few months and now that I gathered five of them in various shapes and sizes it was time for my project.  I found these glass vases everywhere from Goodwill to discount stores for a few dollars each.

Look for vases that vary in size and shape. The color doesn't matter since they will be painted.
I used Rust-Oleum primer that's actually for cars but it worked perfectly on these!
I keep an old box around to spray paint small objects like these.
Once they are all the same color they look like a group instead of different vases that don't go together.
I used Martha Stewart craft paint for the stripes and I found a rubber band helpful to keep my lines straight.
So pretty...can't wait to see how they'll look on the mantel!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Living Room Sneak Peak

With a houseful of guests staying here (including three under the age of 6!) over winter break there was little time to blog...but my head is already spinning with so many projects planned for 2015.

I've been working on a client's living room for a several months now and even though it's not finished, I thought I'd show you a sneak peak and share some money saving ideas that worked here and may help you with your own home decorating.
Even though there wasn't much wall space we needed a pair of end tables flanking the sofa. These Martine Accent Tables from Pier One Imports were perfect. (Ours are gold but it looks like only the silver is currently available.)  And, don't forget Target for a great selection of pillows very well priced!  Sofa and chairs are Clayton Marcus from a local furniture store.
Tall curtain panels instantly soften and add color to a room. These are Skylar from Crate and Barrel... remember to hang them as high as possible and the bottoms should just kiss the floor. Faux trees can look so fake but this Potted Olive Tree doesn't (right it's now half price!) We put the tree in a large Smith and Hawken basket to add height and weight to the corner.
I'm not the first person to paint an Ikea Vittsjo Shelving unit gold but it's a great trick to turn a $79 metal shelving unit into something that looks more like an elegant etagere.
Every room needs a touch of something live and organic but if you don't have a green thumb just add a bowl of dried material like these moss balls, pine cones and bark. The brass hammered bowl is from Target, the Andrews Pedestal Table is from Ballard Designs and the Scroll Tile Rug is from Pottery Barn.
Did you know you can paint the interior of a fireplace? Just use High Heat paint by Rust-Oleum. Birch logs are beautiful and really pop against the black.

Next project...adding the finishing touches on Yosef's bedroom!
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