Domesticity

Or, How I Organized My Desk Drawer for Less Than $15

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Yikes. Am I right? Just looking at a picture of our desk drawer stresses me out. So you can imagine how I felt actually living with that mess.

But despite being a fairly organized person in general (okay, I’m a little bit of a freak), there was something about our desk drawer that had me stumped for, well, let’s call it a calendar year.

While this drawer is actually significantly better than the one on our old desk (which was tiny), the bigness of it tended to backfire on my organization habits because it was essentially one big space, meaning everything in it shared that space all willy-nilly like. As a result, it became the bane of all type-A types: the junk drawer.

Finally, I decided enough was enough. On my recent trip to IKEA, I kept my eyes peeled for desk organization items. But I also knew I didn’t really want to spend a million dollars on a fancy organizational system. I just wanted something simple, pretty, and budget friendly.

That’s when I spotted these. These cute little bowls would have worked well enough on their own, but I decided to try to think of a way to personalize them/make them look more expensive if possible.

I also started to peruse IKEA’s vast selection of silverware drawer organizers (a great option for office supplies and jewelry, as well as cutlery), when I suddenly remembered that I actually had a silverware organizer tucked away in a closet at home. We had used it at our old apartment, but it was too wide for the drawers in our new place. So I bought two of the bowls and decided to simply upcycle everything else I needed.

And that, my friends, is the definition of budget friendly.

A few days later, I dug up the old silverware drawer. It was totally fine — no broken parts, the right size — but the bronze color clashed with the mint bowls.

And THAT was when I decided this was a job for gold spray paint.

I am no stranger to spray painting things gold. (Cough.) In fact, my husband has said, on occasion, that everything in our apartment is gold. (This is a gross exaggeration. But I get it.) So at this point, I consider myself a bit of a pro in what to do. I purchased some primer and some metallic gold spray paint and got ready to get in to it.

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Cue my instant disappointment when I realized that the primer I had purchased was defective. Any attempt to spray the paint resulted in the can just spurting paint everywhere. Not cute.

I was about to give up on my project for the day (and had started racking my brain for a new project to fill this week’s post) when I decided to, you know, actually read the instructions on the gold paint’s can.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Krylon gold spray paint boasts the ability to stick to virtually every surface, INCLUDING PLASTIC AND METAL.We were back in business.

Three thin coats later, and I was left with these beauties:

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Note: I taped off the bottom of the bowls to keep them white, and I am very pleased with the effect.

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The one thing that was kind of annoying was that the gold spray paint dripped a bit, which was only really noticeable in the bowls:

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This could probably be avoided by a) using a can with a more even spray nozzle or b) being more careful, but ultimately I decided the bowls would be full anyway, so no one would ever know.

Then I set to work organizing the aforementioned junk drawer desk drawer.

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Not bad, right? Let’s get a close-up:

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Now, not only do I not dread opening the drawer, but it actually feels a little bit luxe. And I got that feeling of luxurious organization for less than $15! Not bad at all.

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You guys know how much I love a project. It doesn’t even have to technically be my project — I’m willing to help with any kind of makeover or DIY. So when my dear friend Cynthia (you may remember her as the mastermind behind the annual tea party and my “Once upon a time”-themed baby shower) decided to redecorate her sons’ room, I was excited to help out any way I could.

And when she found out I was looking for projects to blog about, she immediately asked me to assist her in painting a lacquered wood and laminate bookshelf for the room. Naturally, I was game.

I’ve painted a few pieces of furniture in my time, so fortunately I already had most of the materials we needed on-hand. Here’s how we handled this mixed-materials piece.

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Step one: Clean your piece of furniture thoroughly. The majority of the bookshelf was wood with a thin lacquer, but the back panel was a laminate.

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Step two: Sand it down. We started with a medium grit sandpaper, and then followed up with a fine grit. You don’t need to go crazy; just go over each section for about five seconds to remove the shiny finish and smooth out any divots or nicks from previous use. For the laminate, we just needed to provide a bit of roughness for the primer to stick to, so we primarily used the fine grit sand paper.

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This photo gives you an idea what the sanded wood should look like. Not unlike your T-zone, you don’t want any shininess remaining.

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Step three: Wipe the whole piece down with a damp rag. You could also use turpentine or something stronger, but, honestly, a wrung-out washcloth will do the trick to remove any grit or dust. Let dry completely (should only take a few minutes).
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Step four: Time to prime. Or you could save time like we did and use a paint+primer. Either way, you should end up doing 2-3 thin coats.

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We used a small mohair roller for the flat areas. For the first coat, you should also use a small angled brush or foam brush to coat the corners and get between any grooves in the wood.

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Don’t worry about the evenness too much, that’s what subsequent coats are for. And don’t glop on too much paint, even though it’s tempting. Thin, even coats are the key to a smooth finish and faster drying times.

Step five: Repeat step four up to two more times. Really, it shouldn’t take more than three coats to cover the wood/laminate evenly. If you do end up with any bumps or drips, use your fine sandpaper to smooth them out before the next coat. Let dry completely in a cool, dry environment for 24 hours before putting anything on the surface.

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Didn’t it turn out great? The boys’ new beds, desk, and shelves are white, so this bookshelf ties in perfectly with the new look.

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If you’re worried about any remaining tackiness on surfaces where you will put books or other heavy items, you can also seal the paint with a water-based polycrylic. In this case, though, it wasn’t needed.

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Go, Cynthia! You are the coolest mom.

Side note: How much fun is it decorating rooms for kids? They get all the coolest stuff.

What have you been working on lately?

Or, I Went To IKEA…So You Don’t Have To

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IKEA is a funny place. (As are the people who go there, but that is neither here nor there.)

On one hand, it’s everything I hate: crowds of people who lack spacial awareness that I have to tune out, a veritable warehouse of stuff you don’t need, a thousand temptations to spend money I don’t have, etc.

And yet.

And yet, I love IKEA. Not just like. LOVE. I want to enter a serious, committed relationship with IKEA. (Except we only go on dates every couple of months. But, honestly, it’s you, not me.)

I love perusing the aisles and imagining each new item styled in my home. I love dreaming up alternative uses and hacks for just about everything in the Marketplace. I love the perfectly constructed sample apartments with their incredible efficiency.

Actually, I also kind of hate those apartments. Because they make me realize just exactly how stupid every New York apartment is in reality. You’re telling me a 300-square-foot mockup is smarter and more livable than my 800-square-foot actual apartment? Awesome. Great. Thanks for the reminder.

MOVING ON.

The point is, I love almost everything about going to IKEA. It makes me feel invigorated. This is me after shopping at IKEA:

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No makeup; all glory. That is true joy, folks.

But I also recognize that IKEA is bonkers. And actually quite unenjoyable for most rational humans.

Which is why I’m here to help.

I recently visited IKEA with some friends (they needed wardrobe systems, I needed a table and some storage items). We all had very successful trips (I really killed it in the “As Is” section, to the tune of a table I’ve been wanting for TWO YEARS at a $60 discount), but the thing I am most proud of is that I actually managed to only buy things I need. That is very difficult to do in places like Target and IKEA. (As we all know.)

But even though I didn’t make any superfluous purchases, I did spot quite a few cool new items for spring that I thought I would share with you all so you can see what they look like in person…without actually having to go to IKEA. For the sake of time, I narrowed it down to my seven favorites.

Let’s begin!

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1. Skoval Wall Clock

You guys? This picture does not even do this clock justice (I know, totally defeating the point of this post). Five years ago, when Joey and I first got married, I was briefly obsessed with the idea of finding a clock for our kitchen wall. I eventually gave up the hunt because I couldn’t find anything with the right amount of charm, style, and je ne sais quoi. But if I had found this clock back then? It would be mine. I actually almost bought this one because I found one in the “As Is” section, but ultimately made the responsible adult choice of only buying things that were currently on my list. For now…

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2. Maryd Tray Table

Why, yes, IKEA is killing it in the minty green items for spring. Thank you for noticing. This sweet little tray table would be a perfect alternative to traditional TV dinner trays, or you could leave it out full time as a side table or night stand.

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3. Strandmon Wing Chair

If I had any need for any kind of accent chair/additional seating (and, of course, by “need” I mean “space”), I would buy one of these chairs immediately. They make such a statement — my friend Michelle and I literally had to stop to talk about them every time we saw one around the store, which was a lot because they work with almost every style of decor. If you want a chair packed with panache (or at least a place to sit that will get people talking), this is the one. Note: Seating experts (AKA, the aforementioned Michelle) did comment that the chairs were not exceptionally comfortable, but they were enveloping and supporting. We both agreed that over time they would most likely become more comfortable. Just wanted to be transparent.

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4. TOCKARP TV Unit

As you may know, space is at a premium in most big city apartments. This TV stand is tres petit (why does IKEA make me French? Je ne sais pas.) and quite stylish. I love mixed materials, and those metal legs with the wood base are speaking my language. (Which, again, is apparently French.)

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5. BILD Poster

Not going to lie, there’s a distinct possibility I will actually buy this poster. It’s SO COOL. And it’s the perfect mix of vintage and modern .And it matches my living room. So…that sounds like fate to me.

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6. DUKTIG Play Kitchen

This was my first time in IKEA as a mom, and BOY do you notice things you don’t notice pre-kids. Like this adorable play kitchen. (And a million adorable art tables with a billion adorable tiny chairs.) They also have a bunch of sets of play food and cakes and tea sets and cooking supplies. And Vivi loves watching me cook, so how much would she LOVE playing with her own kitchen? And I would paint it mint green with gold fixtures. AND I WILL DEFINITELY BUY THIS WHEN VIVI CAN WALK.

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7. SKURAR Noticeboard

When I first saw this little board, it was hanging in a super girly bedroom mock-up and I immediately thought, “Now THAT is a cool way to display jewelry.” Then I realized it was actually a pretty little bulletin board, but, honestly, if it were mine, I would TOTALLY use it to display jewelry. Who posts bulletins in their bedroom anyway, amiright?

So, there you have it. You know, telling you guys to buy things is almost as satisfying as buying them myself. This discovery could be a total budget saver for me.

Have you braved IKEA lately? What are you coveting? Are you also one of those freaks who loves the terror of IKEA?

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

What’s that? Two cooking posts in a row? Aren’t I a little icon of domesticity these days? (Of course, “in a row” might be considered a stretch since my last post was a couple weeks ago. Oh, life with a baby!)

Anyway. As I said last time (because nothing has changed in my life, guys), I’m cooking more. Blah blah blah blah anecdotes.

The point is, I cooked this thing the other day, and it turned out pretty tasty, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Truth be told, it was one of those days when I had a few key ingredients in my fridge (in this case, gnocchi and chicken) and I decided to scan the interwebs for recipes I could make using said key ingredients. I found something that was generally what I was looking for, but I had to fill in a lot of gaps and improvise since I didn’t have everything that the original recipe called for. In this case, I substituted my favorite spices and a container of takeout Chinese broccoli left over from lunch the day before. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Or, in this case, leftovers I don’t want to throw out are the mother of dinner. Or something.

As I said, though, the resulting dish was met with positive reviews, so I figured it was worth a post. Especially considering the only other posts I have rolling around my head are Vivi updates (keep your eye out for her two-month post…it’s coming next week) and thoughts on my new life as a housewife. I’ll get around to those. Probably. At some point.

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Ingredients:

3 T olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups broccoli (or Chinese broccoli, which is what I used because multicultural fanciness!), roughly chopped
1 tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 T butter
2 T whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 chicken breasts, baked and shredded
1 package whole wheat gnocchi
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

Add the broccoli, rosemary, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove veggie mixture from skillet and put into a bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

Add butter to the skillet and melt. Stir in flour until mixed thoroughly.

Add the chicken broth, almond milk, and cinnamon. Cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes.

Stir in chicken and gnocchi until coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until slightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

I used to cook a lot when I was single and then when Joey and I first got married. I even had a whole section of this blog dedicated to what I dubbed my Kitchen Adventures.

But then around the time I was living on Long Island, I got a job back in the city and suddenly had a much longer commute to contend with. So Joey started taking over cooking duties. It started with a few nights a week, but it eventually became one of his primary responsibilities around the house.

What can I say? He’s good at it, and I’m a sucker for a man who can cook.

Over the last year or so, it has evened out a bit more as to who is wielding the spatula in our kitchen. But now that I’m home every day with the baby, I’ve tried to pick up more of the cooking slack. I mean, it’s not like I have tons of free time when I’m home, but I like to think that by taking one thing off Joey’s plate (by, you know, putting something on his plate) I’m giving him more time to spend with the Vivster when he gets home.

All of that is a long way of saying that I actually have a new recipe to post! My transition into total housewife is almost complete, you guys.

It all started with my book club. I’m in a club that meets about every two months. We try to read a variety of books in different genres and styles, and we do what we can to theme the food we eat to the book.

This month, we read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. After the necessary choices like tea and pastries had been covered by other book club members, someone suggested a meat pie of sorts to add some heartiness to the meal. I still hadn’t offered to bring anything yet, so I offered to make some kind of mini chicken pot pie. (Mostly because I had no idea what other kinds of meat pies exist, and I was scared to google it.)

After I made my offer, I decided it could be fun to create my own recipe using some of my favorite fall veggies. I’ve been cooking with a lot of fall produce lately, and I’ve never met a root vegetable I didn’t like. So the idea for my Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies was born.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could sub in basically any kind of vegetables you like, so get creative! Here’s what I used:

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

INGREDIENTS
1 chicken breast, baked and diced
1 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits

The most time consuming part of the recipe is chopping all of the veggies, but I promise it’s worth it.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Once everything is chopped, combine the vegetables, chicken, cream of chicken soup, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
  • To assemble the pies, lightly spray a muffin tin with coconut oil or the cooking spray of your choice. Flatten one biscuit dough in each muffin cup, making sure it extends up the sides. This creates the crust for each pie.
  • Fill each crust with a heaping pile of the veggie mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. (Check it around 12 minutes. You might need to bake for longer depending on your definition of “heaping.”)
  • Let stand for a few minutes after cooking and enjoy!

When I made this, I accidentally made way too much of the veggie mixture, so I used the leftovers to make a bigger chicken pot pie for Joey and me the next day. Dontcha love a twofer? The result was pretty delicious, and also pretty, well, pretty. Autumn is totally the best season, folks.

I also recently made a stuffed acorn recipe and salmon with roasted root veggies, but I forgot to take photos. If I make it again soon (which I probably will), I’ll write posts for those too.

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

What are your favorite fall recipes? Do you love root veggies as much as I do?

I’m a pretty lucky girl in that my husband does most of the cooking in our house. Occasionally, if he’s stressed with work or I’m craving something really specific, I’ll dust off my rusty culinary skills and whip up a little something, but in general, the kitchen is his domain.

Sometimes, though, neither of us is in the mood to do anything after work except to flop on the couch and have someone hand us a meal. That usually results in a sizable Seamless order, but recently we learned about a new option.

I’d like to introduce you to Kitchensurfing, an on-demand personal chef service where you can have a professional chef come to your home, prepare a meal, and clean up before you even sit down to eat. The result? A healthy, often locally sourced dinner in about 30 minutes time, cooked entirely to order.

The view.

The view.

Our chef, Claire, was delightful. She arrived promptly (even getting there a few minutes before we did), and quickly set up and started cooking. Joey and I sat at the table nearby and caught up on our days while the aroma of steak started to fill the kitchen.

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The talented Claire.

Before we knew it, Claire was done, the kitchen was cleaned up, and dinner was served. And, you guys? It was gorgeous.

Dins.

Dins.

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We had the Rosemary Beef Tagliata with Seared Polenta Cakes and an arugula salad with baby artichokes and a balsamic dressing. It was totally delicious.

The most amazing part of this service to us was that, besides being super quick and delicious, it’s not even insanely outside our price-range — at least as an occasional luxury. Weekly pricing (one meal per week) for couples is $59, for a young family is $79, and for a family of four is $95. If you consider what you would spend on an evening out with friends, it’s not that different (and you can do this in your pajamas!). Joey and I could also see using the service again for an anniversary or other special occasion.

My date.

My date.

Interested in trying it out for yourself? Click here to learn more.

Have you already tried Kitchensurfing? Can YOU think of anything fancier than having a personal chef for the night?

[Disclosure: All Kitchensurfing links used above are affiliate links.]