diy: fuzzy baby burp cloths

baby burp cloths

My cousin is having a baby and I couldn’t be more excited!  Especially because it gives me an excuse to raid the craft store for cute and cuddly baby fabrics.  (Which I’d do anyway, let’s be honest.)

I found this super easy DIY for baby burp cloths on Pinterest and decided they’d be the perfect, made-with-love shower gift.  I had so much fun making these and can’t wait to make more again soon.  (Hint, hint, friends and family!)

burp cloths link

I made twice as many cloths as Chelsea from Life with My Littles, so I have slightly different measurements.  Here’s what you do:

  • Go to your favorite fabric store, and beeline to the baby aisle.  Stop yourself from buying everything.  (After about an hour, I finally decided on two gender-neutral fabrics. Animals are always safe!):
    fabric storeHere’s what you’ll need to make 8 cloths:

    • 1/2 yd printed fabric (I bought 1/4 yd each of two different flannel prints. Soft, plain cotton would also work great.)
    • 1/2 yd fuzzy fabric (JoAnn Fabrics calls this “Soft N Comfy“)
    • Thread to match
  • Pre-wash and iron your fabrics.  The washing might result in some fraying but you’ll still have plenty of fabric to work with.
  • Cut fabric into 10″x18″ rectangles.  (You will likely have fuzzy fabric left over, because it comes in a larger bolt size.)
    burp cloth fabric
  • Take one patterned piece and one fuzzy piece and sew right sides together with a 1/2″ seam, leaving 2″ or so open on one of the sides so you can turn it right side out. (See here for more detailed photos, which I always forget to take.)
  • Turn right side out and iron seams flat.  Topstitch all along the outside edge, including your opening, with a  1/4″ seam.
    burp cloths
  • That’s it.  Seriously!  These little blankies are done.

baby burp clothsI can’t wait to give these cute and cozy burp cloths to my cousin…and can’t wait to hold that burpy little baby!

Happy sewing!

on baltimore

Baltimore riots 1968

Be wary of those who are more concerned about the expression of your pain than they are the condition of your suffering.
– Dr. Heber Brown III

I can’t possibly begin to comment on what is happening up the road in Baltimore, because I can’t possibly claim to have lived a single day in the life of those whose voices are so hoarse and hearts are so broken that they feel only through violent action can they make themselves heard.

This has happened before, and it will happen again.  Something needs to change.  But we can’t take that first step until we try a little harder to understand each other.

For now, I’ll be practicing empathy, and I’ll remember the fallen.

Boston Tea Party

Peace be with you.

fine wine of the month: sterling syrah

April is almost over.  How did that happen?

Before we run out of time, let’s talk about wine.  This month’s delicious, affordable wine is a syrah from Sterling Vineyards.

Sterling Syrah

I love syrah.  It’s bold, but balanced.  It’s versatile without being boring.  (Sometimes, secretly, I think it might be the perfect cheap wine.  Don’t tell.)

I also love Sterling Vineyards.  Next time you’re in California’s Sonoma Valley, hop on a gondola and take a tour.  It’s not the cheapest winery in the area, but the views from the top are spectacular.

Sterling gondola

 

Sterling Vineyards

When it comes to this type of wine, we don’t discriminate.  We sip shiraz (from Australia) or syrah (from the U.S., or France if you’re feeling fancy) at least once a week.  I’ll definitely be featuring more syrahs in the future.  But for only about $10 a bottle, Sterling is a great place to start.

Stay tuned in May for a sure sign that spring is here: a white wine of the month!

Happy sipping!

Sterling Vineyards view

10 solutions for tiny spaces

minimalist

I’ve lived in some very tiny spaces.

In Paris, I lived in a two-room pied-à-terre with a fellow intern. She slept on the pull-out couch in the living room; I slept on the Murphy bed in the kitchen. Our shower head was directly over our toilet. We hung laundry on a clothes line in the kitchen, and cooked food from a mini fridge on a hot plate. We are lifelong friends.

In London, my then-fiancé and I lived in a dorm room. We pushed two twin beds together, and stacked kitchenware atop our wardrobes. We used the loo in a prefabricated, plastic “wet bath,” with the shower head (again) over the toilet. We ate, studied, entertained, and slept in 300 square feet. We survived long enough to get happily married.

Now we live in a 625 sq. ft. apartment — a big upgrade from a dorm room, but still pretty tiny.

Tiny spaces can sometimes be tough, but there’s something to be said for living simply.  And in today’s economy, tiny living is as au courant as ever. Here are 10 tips to make life beautiful and comfortable in a postage stamp space.

1. Purge.  My husband and I are a little crazy — we love to purge. (We move so often, it’s become a regular part of life.) At least once a year, make an inventory of your possessions and sell or give away everything you don’t need or doesn’t have real sentimental value. It might sting at first, but freeing yourself from possessions is unbelievably cathartic. Plus the cash from those extra wine glasses or designer purses might buy you something special that doesn’t take up space, like a fancy dinner or a plane ticket.

yard sale

2. Shrink. Pick furniture that’s proportional to your space. Instead of a sprawling sofa, opt for a love seat with clean lines and just enough cushion — bonus if you can fit a fold-out for guests. Ditch the plush recliner for a slim side chair or two. Buy an expandable dining table and keep extra folding chairs in a closet for dinner parties. Trade in the king bed for a queen or double; spooning is the best, anyway. If you keep furniture small-scale and simple, you don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort in a tiny space.

midcentury modern

3. Hang. Vertical space is the unsung hero of tiny living. Instead of a jewelry box, hang necklaces and earrings in a frame on a wall. Free up cupboard space by hanging pots and pans on a ceiling or wall rack. Hang pots of herbs, mitts, and spatulas near the stove. Display your shoes or scarves on the back of a closet door. Many items that clutter our drawers, shelves, and surfaces can easily be hung to save space.

kitchen racks

4. Tuck. Hidden storage is essential to keeping tiny spaces uncluttered. Invest in sturdy bins or drawers that tuck away under beds, dressers, and even sofas to store photos, documents, guest linens, off-season clothes and shoes, or any other items you don’t need to access very often. Space can also be found in ottomans and benches with hidden storage compartments.

under bed storage

5. Stack. Never underestimate the utility of stacking bins. Many closets have ample vertical space, so take advantage by neatly stacking see-through bins of old documents, holiday decorations, or anything else that you don’t need very often. The interlocking bins can reach the ceiling without collapsing or shifting around, and you can identify your items through the clear plastic.

plastic bins

6. Flex. To maximize efficiency in a tiny space, make your stuff work double duty. Seat your guests on a bench or ottoman that hides storage underneath. A bedroom desk or dresser can also serve as a nightstand. Transform the space underneath stairs into a bookshelf. Buy window blinds that transform into a drying rack for clothes, or a wall mirror that folds down to become a dining table. Sleep on a pull-out couch or a Murphy bed. Get creative and make your furniture work overtime.

apartment therapy

7. Display. Displaying and purging go hand in hand: if you love something enough to keep it, try to show it off by working it into your decor. On our travels, we have a rule that if we can’t use a souvenir — an ornate pepper grinder from Istanbul, a tea set from Hong Kong, a bottle opener fridge magnet from Santo Domingo — then we don’t buy that souvenir. Frame and hang your favorite old records. Display Venetian masks or whiskey decanters on the bookshelf between Hemingway and Fleming. Showcase the few things you truly value to keep your space neat and uniquely yours.

bookshelf

8. Float. Keep things light and airy by setting your items afloat. Install floating shelves above desks, dressers, nightstands, and even the toilet to display treasured collections, glass jars of toiletry items, indoor plants, or neat stacks of books or towels. If you’re very daring (and preferably if you own your home), you can even float your bed from the ceiling.

floating table

9. Slice. In extreme situations, slicing and dicing furniture might be the solution to getting the look you want in a tiny space. You can halve an ornate nightstand, desk, or vanity and attach the raw side to a wall — it will take up half the space but retain its original charm.

DIY bar

10. Clean. Minimize heavy window treatments to let in as much natural light as possible. Keep furniture and decor light and airy (or even see-through) to create the illusion of space. Designate a place for every item you own, preferably out of sight. Don’t keep stuff you don’t value, and don’t buy stuff you don’t need. And most boring of all: keep it clean. Tiny living means less space you have to vacuum or dust, but you’ll have to work extra hard to keep clutter under control.

clean living room

With a little patience and creativity, you can create a beautiful, livable space in a tiny footprint.  Happy downsizing!

4 podcasts for happy ears

podcast

If you live on the planet Earth, you know that podcasts are hot.  It seems like a new hit show comes out every week!  Whether you’re looking to laugh, cry, learn, or just spice up your commute, there is a podcast out there for you.

Here are a few of my must-listen favorites:

1. Planet Money

The hubs, who is both an NPR nerd and an econ nerd (soul mate), introduced me to this fabulous podcast on all things money.  As of today Planet Money has pumped out more than six hundred episodes, ranging from the cerebral (Ep. 411: Don’t Believe the Hype) to the inspiring (Ep. 610: The Prisoner’s Solution) to the whimsical (Ep. 600: The People Inside Your Machine).  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a bad episode.  And I guarantee you will learn something every single time.

2. Call Your Girlfriend

This is the most lighthearted podcast on the list, but that’s not to say you won’t learn something here, too.  In this “podcast for long distance besties everywhere,” real life long distance besties Aminatou Sow (New York) and Ann Friedman (Los Angeles) spend about 40 minutes every week talking about topics as asinine as celebrity ridiculousness and period sex and as serious as abortion, The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Shine Theory.  (Dear God, Shine Theory! My lifeblood!)  Bonus: After every episode, you’ll want nothing more than to catch up with your beautiful, brilliant, long distance besties (California).

3. 99% Invisible

The website says it best: “99% Invisible is a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.”  The humble description belies a show that is endlessly varied and entertaining: episodes explain the long forgotten Los Angeles streetcar system, the science of the buzzer-beater, why Penn Station is the worst, and China’s knock-off cities.  New York Times design columnist Allison Arieff called show creator Roman Mars “the Ira Glass of design.”  And Ira Glass called the show “completely wonderful and entertaining and beautifully produced.”  That’s proof enough for me.  You won’t be disappointed.

Honorable Mention: Serial

You’ve probably heard of Serial, the podcast from the folks at This American Life that attempts to determine the guilt of Adnan Syed, a man sentenced to life without parole at age seventeen for allegedly murdering his ex-girlfriend.  This podcast is undeniably addictive, although — spoiler alert — the last episode left a bit to be desired.  But don’t let that stop you; Serial weaves a fascinating, complicated story and you’ll find yourself playing detective right alongside creator and narrator Sarah Koenig.  It’s been renewed for a second season, and Serial fans everywhere can’t wait for what comes next.

Okay friends, those are my top four!  What are yours?

Happy listening!

st. patrick’s day treats: green jello shots and guinness brownies

clovers

We went over to our friends’ house last night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to get the party going with a couple of lazy, boozy treats: lime green jello shots and semi-homemade Guinness brownies.

Want to make your own?  Here’s how.

 

Lime Green Jello Shots

Yields 24 small jello shots.

jello shots

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes Lime Jell-O (with sugar)
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 2/3 cups citrus vodka (I used Smirnoff Citron)

Tools:

  • Pot for boiling water
  • Pitcher
  • Dixie cups

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a full boil.
    • While the water is heating up, set out 24 Dixie cups.
  2. Take boiling water off the heat, and immediately pour in the jello packets.  Stir until the jello has completely dissolved.
  3. Add citrus vodka to the pot, and stir.
  4. Transfer jello mixture to a pitcher, and pour into Dixie cups.  You should have enough liquid to fill 24 cups about 3/4 inch.
  5. Refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight.

 

If you want to make more boxes, or different flavors, jello shots have a magic ratio that you really can’t mess up:

  • Take the number of boxes you’re using (say, 3 boxes)
  • Boil a bit more than that many cups of water (about 3 1/3 cups)
  • And measure out a bit less than that many cups of vodka or rum (about 2 1/2 cups)

 

Semi-Homemade Guinness Brownies

I normally make baked goods from scratch, but after a full day of work, a happy hour, and trips to the mall and the grocery store, I needed some help from the boxed dessert gods.  So I adapted this excellent Guinness Brownies recipe from Lessie at Modern Christian Homemaker.  Hey, if she can feel okay about making boozy brownies from a box, then surely so can I.

Guinness brownies

These were a huge hit.  You can’t really taste the Guinness, but it does lend the brownies an extra warm, earthy flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme brownie mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup Guinness Draft beer

guinness brownies ingredients

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl or mixer, mix the egg and oil.
  3. Stir in the Guinness.
  4. Add the brownie mix and chocolate syrup pouch. Mix well.
  5. Grease and flour an 8×8″ baking pan.
  6. Pour and spread the batter in the pan.
  7. Sprinkle the top with semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  8. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Do not overcook; underdone is better than overdone.
  9. Allow to cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!

Wishing you a very happy and slightly boozy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dublin rainbow
rainbow over Dublin, Ireland

Sláinte!

fine wine of the month: gnarly head pinot

Dear friends, it is that time again … to sing the praises of a yummy wine that won’t break the bank.

This month’s pick is another well-rounded red.  Gnarly Head makes delicious red wines — we love their cab — but tonight we are making chicken pesto pasta so we cracked open a bottle of something a bit smoother: the pinot noir.

gnarly head pinot noir

Gnarly Head’s version is pretty bold for a pinot, but that’s okay with us.  This versatile wine would be delicious with just about anything.  (Or with nothing at all.)  And for about $9 a bottle, we suggest popping this one early and often.

Happy sipping!

selma

Obama Selma

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march — and the accompanying, nationally televised police brutality — in Selma, Alabama.

The jaded part of me wonders, would the President have given that speech on that bridge if the recent Hollywood production hadn’t brought so much attention to this particular anniversary?

The optimistic part of me believes that he — our first black president, who during his tenure has had to witness a roll call of injustices that only begins with names like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown — would have.

We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go.  I hope you’ll watch the speech here, and think with me about where that bridge can lead us.

#onelove

a perfect paris evening in 8 easy steps

Montmartre
  1. An hour before sunset, exit the Métro at Pigalle station.
  2. Find the Monop‘ (Monoprix supermarket’s mini-me) on Place Pigalle.
  3. Load up:
    • one+ twist-off bottle of red wine (if you came prepared with a corkscrew…we should be friends)
    • une baguette
    • prosciutto
    • the stinkiest cheese
    • plastic cups, because this is Paris and you aren’t an animal
  4. Climb the steps toward Sacré Coeur, but don’t look behind you until you get to the very top.
  5. Okay…now…look behind you.
  6. qui ne pleure pas, ne voit pas.
  7. Pop into Sacré-Cœur.   It’s free.  They say ‘no photographs,’ but life is short and everyone is doing it.
  8. Walk back out and sit on the steps with your picnic.  Enjoy some of the best free music in Paris, with the entire city as your scenic backdrop. Sip your wine, eat your stinky cheese, enjoy (and join in!) the locals’ conversations, and savor la belle vie as the sun sets over the City of Light.

Sacre Coeur

 

Repeat, early and often.

paprika chicken in white wine butter thyme sauce

Is there anything better than the smell of white wine, butter, and garlic in a hot pan?

Nah.

butter thyme chicken

Last night we cooked up some delicious Paprika Chicken & Spinach with White Wine Butter Thyme Sauce, created by Mary over at The Kitchen Paper.

Here’s how we did it:

PREP TIME: 5 mins
COOK TIME: 30 mins
TOTAL TIME: 35 mins
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 large chicken breasts (we used 3 breasts for leftovers)
  • 1 tsp paprika (I’m sure we used more — just shake liberally)
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves (we used a more, since we used more chicken)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (we used five small cloves)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 handfuls spinach (we used more, and cheated using frozen spinach!)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Season the chicken breasts with the paprika, rubbing it evenly over both sides. Also season with salt and pepper — about ¼ tsp each.
  2. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the chicken breasts. Cook on the first side for three minutes (or until crisping and golden), flip, and turn the heat down to medium, or slightly less. Let cook for another three minutes before adding the remaining butter, thyme and garlic.
  3. Cook, stirring the thyme and garlic around, for about 2 minutes before adding the wine.
  4. Bring the wine to a gentle simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. It will reduce, so add more if necessary.
  5. Add the spinach, and let wilt fully. Season with salt and pepper, make sure the chicken is done, and serve with a grain of your choice.  (We served over rice, which soaked up the sauce really nicely.)

This dish reminded us of our time living in France: the flavors were subtle — you may want to add more salt and pepper in the end — but so delicious.  How can you go wrong with that much wine, butter, and garlic?  (Answer: You can’t.)

Bon appétit!