Domesticity

How often do you cook at home each week?

When the hubs and I first got hitched, I cooked often. Joey hadn’t get discovered his love of the culinary, which meant it was either eggs every night or I take on most of the cooking duties. But while I enjoy cooking, I found myself often making pretty much the same thing every night. (This was a weekly staple.)

Fast-forward almost four (!) years later, and the roles have almost entirely reversed. And while I love (LOVE) how often and well Joey cooks, sometimes I miss it. But, to be totally honest, cooking had started to bore me. My veggie-loaded pastas were good, but not that exciting. And while I was pinning new recipes all the time, I rarely had the motivation to seek out new ingredients and learn new techniques.

I guess Joey must have been feeling stuck in a rut too, because a few weeks ago, we started using Blue Apron.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled -- so you really can't mess this up.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled — so you really can’t mess this up.

 

If you’re not familiar, Blue Apron is a service you can sign up for that will send you perfectly portioned ingredients and recipes so you can cook at home. We signed up to get three meals a week, and personally, I immediately loved the process. Every Wednesday night, we receive a shipment of super fresh produce, spices, and seafood (we didn’t want chicken, so that eliminated other meats from our plan as well), along with the recipes cards — complete with step-by-step photos — we need to create the meal. Of course, there have been a couple of recipes we weren’t as crazy about, but for the most part we’ve been pretty pleased with everything.

The best part for me? I’m cooking again — AND I’m learning new things all the time. I’ve cooked Thai food, Vietnamese food, and pot pies, I’ve experimented with new kinds of seafood (I’m making catfish this week!), and I’ve learned so much more about working with fresh spices. I’ve pickled my own raisins. I’ve grated my own horseradish. I’ve become an expert chopper. And I’ve kept all the recipes we loved, so I can create them again any time I want. It’s also surprisingly affordable — we’re not spending any more on groceries than we were before.

I didn’t really realize how much of an effect Blue Apron had had on my cooking until this past weekend. We took a trip to Vermont with a few friends, and I offered to cook dinner and lunch two of the days. My plan was to make venison chili with cornbread quiche for dinner and venison cutlets the next day for lunch. I had never cooked venison before, and I’m always nervous about cooking meat after the Meatloaf Disaster of 2011. But after reading over a couple of possible recipes, I realized that the skills I had picked up over the last two weeks would translate pretty easily.

And you know what? That venison turned out pretty darn good.

So, I’m curious: How do all of y’all learn new recipes? Do you tend to cook the same things over and over? Have you tried Blue Apron? What did you think?

(I feel obligated to clarify that this isn’t a sponsored post — I just wanted to share my opinion about a new service we’ve been trying!)

Hi hi hi hi HI!

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you all.

You probably already noticed, but I took a bit of a break from the interwebs over the last two weeks. (Except what I needed to do for work.) Instead, I really threw myself into organizing our apartment and updating a few decor things.

We decided last year that this would be our final year in our current place, meaning we’ll be ready to move come April. Before then, though, I wanted to get rid of as much as I could to make packing and moving less of a headache.

Meaning it was time to tackle the really messy areas of our apartment.

Here were my main goals:

1. Organize the linen closet.
2. Organize the file cabinet.
3. Rearrange the desk area.
4. Replace our (seriously beat UP) living room rug.
5. Sell and replace our green upholstered chair in the living room.
6. Organize the kitchen cabinets and pantry.
7. Rearrange our picture frames.
8. Organize under the bathroom sink.

I had also hoped to get some organizing done in the bedroom, but that’s a task for another day. It’s mostly Joey’s stuff that needs a more efficient storage system. (Sorry, babe. I promise, you’ll like it better when everything has a place!)

Here are a few before-and-afters…because who doesn’t love a makeover story?

Let’s start in the kitchen. Here is the pantry before:

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And here is the pantry after:

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I don’t know about you, but those sweetly labeled food containers just warm my heart.

Up next, the linen closet before:

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And now the linen closet currently:

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Yup, more chalkboard label goodness.

Next up, I rearranged some furniture around our desk. Here’s what it looked like before:

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And here’s what we’re looking at now:

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For the living room itself, here’s where we started:

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And here’s the updated version:

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A little lighter, brighter, and a lot more colorful, non?

I also did organize the kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink, our file cabinet, and I even threw in the tupperware and baking sheet cabinets for kicks. (It was a very busy couple of weeks.) I’m still waiting for our new upholstered chair to arrive, but then I’ll be sure to post an update.

So there you have it! How did everyone else spend their break?

 

I like to believe I have a lot of control over my own happiness. Sometimes I think this is good. Other times, I think it is naive.

It’s good because I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of gal. I also think truly believing that I can pull myself through the dark times is instrumental in actually making it happen.

It’s naive because…well…sometimes I can’t.

Because obviously there are a lot of things that happen to a person that are outside of our control. And there are a lot of things that happen inside of a person’s head that can negatively affect happiness beyond the limits of our control.

And when I fail at controlling and activating my own happiness, then there’s an added layer of, “Well, why can’t you just fix it?”

You know how people with severe depression always comment on how pushy relatives or well-meaning folks will tell them to “just get over it,” but they really truly can’t and telling them to try just makes things worse? Sometimes I think I am my own pushy relative.

Anyway. That was a long way of saying that, while I feel fine now (promise!), recently I was in a low place. And in an effort to pull myself out of it, I started making a list of all the things I could do to make my life better.

BECAUSE OF COURSE I DID.

And, what LUCK, I also have about a week of working from home ahead of me, so I will have more time to tackle projects. Hooray! Here’s brief recap to keep me accountable:

1. Streamline!
We’re planning to move apartments in April. To help simplify the process, I want to start whittling down our belongings now. I’m planning to clean out (and properly organize):

– The linen closet
– The front closet
– The trunk at the foot of the bed
– The file cabinet

I truly believe that getting rid of tangible clutter helps me clear my mind. Is that weird?

2. Finish decor projects
A few weeks ago, I purchased a new rug for the living room (because my roommates have destroyed the cream and brown rug we have now). I’m also planning to sell our green accent chair and get a navy one, plus rearrange the frames on the walls. I might also rearrange some furniture. Who knows? Things are getting crazy!

3. SECRET SIDE PROJECT.
More on this later. Because I’m a terrible tease.

Anyone else planning on crossing a few things off the to-do list over the holidays? Am I the only one who derives deep personal satisfaction from crossing things off to-do lists?

I’ve noticed a few bloggers making bucket lists for the seasons. You’ve probably seen them: In the summer, they want to go to the beach, try surfing, throw a BBQ. In the fall, they want to make s’mores, go camping, wear plaid, etc.

You all know I love fall. And you know I love making lists. So I figured, why not? Here’s what I would put on my fall bucket list:

1. Go apple picking.
2. Make an apple crisp.
3. Go camping.
4. Hike a trail through fall leaves.
5. Drink apple cider.

You may notice a propensity for the outdoors and, well, eating. I am who I am.

And what a coincidence, I’ve already checked off three of those things. Last Friday, Joey, Boges, a few of our friends, and I went apple picking at an orchard upstate.

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Bogey clearly loved it most of all, but Joey and I also had a great time picking our own apples and drinking cider. (Hello, Bucket List Items #1 and #5!)

Last night, I decided to check off item #2 by making apple crisp for the first time evah. Here’s the recipe I used, in case you have your own list to tackle this season. Bonus: It’s also gluten free as long as you use gluten-free oats.

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Whiskey Pecan Apple Crisp
(gently modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

For the filling:
6-7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

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For the topping:
1 cup hazelnut flour
1 cup gluten-free whole oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the garnish:
Cinnamon Whiskey (I used Fireball)
Cinnamon for sprinkling
Vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream (optional…but recommended)

 

Step One: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Step Two: Combine the apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons honey, and lemon juice. Stir until apples are coated evenly.

Step Three: In a separate bowl, whisk the hazelnut flour, oats, salt, remaining cinnamon, and pecans.

Step Four: Use a fork or your fingers to mix in the remaining honey and butter until the topping has a crumbly consistency.

Step Five: Pour apples into two 9-inch pie dishes or baking dishes. Cover with the crumble topping.

Step Six: Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Step Seven: Spoon half a cup to one cup of crisp into a bowl while still warm. Drizzle with 1 oz of the cinnamon whiskey. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, and cinnamon as desired. Enjoy!

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Ohhh, apartment living.

Most of the time, I am totally fine with our apartment. Is it the newest, most modern place on the planet. No. But our building is reasonably well maintained, and I love our neighborhood, so I overlook a lot of things.

At its core, it’s just a basic one-bedroom that is nice enough because we make it nice enough.

One thing that I really do not like, though? Our lack of closet space.

The bedroom has one minuscule closet that would actually be impossible for Joey and me to share, so it is exclusively Joey’s. I use an IKEA wardrobe instead, and while it is marginally bigger than the closet, it’s still not much.

Over the weekend, though, I decided to see if I could maximize the space I had with just three simple closet organizing additions. And it I was able to create this:

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(Side note: I am wildly impressed with anyone who can take a decent photo of their closet. I am never successful in my attempts. Probably because, unlike this person, not all of my clothes are the same three colors. You will just have to trust me that it now looks worlds better in person.)

The biggest issue I had before was that my wardrobe only had one hanging bar across the top and two shelves for shoes. I have to be totally honest: I’m not that much of a shoes person. In New York, you pound your shoes into the pavement day after day, so, to me, it feels silly to spend much on something I know I will have to replace after six months or less. The point of that mini confession is that I don’t really have that many shoes to begin with. And especially in the fall, after I retire so many sandals and wedges until April, I really don’t need nearly so much space for my kicks.

Pro tip: By positioning your shoes so one shoe faces front and the other faces back, you can fit up to an additional pair of shoes in the same amount of square footage that you could if you had all the shoes facing the same direction.

I started my closet TrAnSfOrMaTiOn by removing the top shoe shelf. Already, so much more space! To better utilize it, I added a double hanging barInstantly, I had doubled my hanging space. I arranged my clothes so tops, sweaters, and jackets hung from the top bar and skirts hung from the bottom bar.

Next, I added a hanging shoe/accessory organizer to hold the pairs that didn’t fit at the bottom. This also worked as a great means to separate my tops/sweaters/jackets from my dresses, which take up the right side of the wardrobe.

Finally, I hung a handbag file next to the shoe organizer. This allowed me to hang some of the bags that were currently in the shelves next to the wardrobe, opening up shelf space for other storage.

The result is seriously life-changing — I can actually see all my clothes! And it totally inspired me to straighten up some of the other areas of my home that cause me stress — stay tuned for more DIY updates.

What are your tricks for creating more space in cramped areas? Anyone else working on organizing projects this fall?

Last weekend, I did something I’ve never had the gumption to do before: I did a bit of dumpster diving.

Well, technically there was no diving. Or even a dumpster. But I did spot a GIANT gold picture frame where they put our building’s garbage (in the alley behind the building) and take it home with me.

It’s in almost perfect condition (it still had the cardboard corner protectors on it!), and there weren’t any bugs or weird smells on it. (I swear, I inspected that thing like a hawk.) And it’s GIANT. Roughly 2×3 feet.

I think it could be the perfect solution to the blank space above my dresser (that continues to mock me every.single.day it remains blank). Now I just need to decide how I want to style it.

So far, I’ve come up with five different options — but I want opinions. Here’s what I’m thinking:

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Leave it blank (and possibly hang lights on it)
Apparently this is a trend? I don’t hate the look, and I do have a bunch of string lights from my parents’ party I could hang up. But it still feels…blank to me. Maybe the secret is having a whole bunch. I do have one other gold frame…but I’m not sure that’s enough.

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Create a chalkboard with paint
I like this idea because the repurposing possibilities are endless, and it could be created in an afternoon. Plus, it could be fun to switch up the quote for different season/events/etc.

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DIY (Cross-stitch) Painting
I’ve also been toying with the idea of painting something abstract-ish. I’m not actually that artistic, but I could definitely create something like this faux cross-stitch design. Remember when I made this adorable actual cross stitch? Maybe something like that, or a bigger, more abstract version like in this photo.

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Song lyric as art
Another alternative to a traditional painting that I can still DIY is this song lyric mural (that I discovered when the lovely Kayla pinned it!). I could do the lyrics of our first dance song, or find a poem I like, or anything, I suppose. Sort of a more permanent version of the chalkboard quote.

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Professionally commissioned Bogey portrait
I think I’m kidding. But also…kind of not? I mean, that’s kind of adorable. And maybe it could be awesome and hilarious? What are our thoughts?

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So, what do you think? Haaaaaaalp me.