Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Color Selections: Front Door and Hallway

Hello, friends. Sorry I've been away for a while. I guess I needed a little break. We're into fall now, but our weather isn't showing it just yet. Our front door, however, has taken on an autumnal look. We had it painted two weeks ago. Thanks for those of you who offered feedback and opinions on colors in this post. We ended up choosing Aztec Brick, a Benjamin Moore color, but we had Sherwin-Williams match it because we buy nearly all our paint from them (they were also having a 30% off sale, which was a plus).

Here's our newly painted front door! See how much darker it looks through the screen in the second photo? To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about the color when it was first painted. But it has grown on me the past two weeks, and now I like it very much. It's very similar to our dining room wall color. As one reader noted, it's good to think about colors inside the home when choosing a front door color for cohesiveness. Of course the true color is a bit different from the colors in these photos. The first photo is too red, the last photo is too orange. It's somewhere in between.

We had our hallway painted the same day as the door. It was a pale minty green that I'd been unhappy with for years. We chose Sherwin-Williams Canvas Tan. I won't even try to post a photo because our hallway is impossible to photograph. It's long and narrow and not well lit. The digital swatches online of Canvas Tan seem much darker than what I see on our walls. I'm super pleased with the results. Canvas Tan has lightened up the hallway and contrasts nicely with our Bleeker Beige (Ben Moore) trim color. We left the ceiling the darker shade of green that contrasted so well with the previously lighter green walls. The painters (both women, by the way, and fantastic!) kept commenting on how cool the light walls look with the darker ceiling. The walls are also an eggshell finish which has a beautiful sheen and reflects the light so nicely both during the day and at night. What a difference a couple of coats of paint can make!

What's new in your home?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

End-of-Summer Cocktails

The first day of fall isn't until September 22, folks, which means summer isn't officially over until the 21st! So let's enjoy the last of our summer days with two cool, refreshing cocktails. Check out the two below and visit my Drinks page on Pinterest for more ideas.

First, a traditional Tom Collins. When I was a little girl I remember my parents ordering this cocktail in restaurants. I tried a sip of my mother's once and actually liked it. I also thought the name was great, so when my best friend and I played "house," I gave my "pretend husband" the name Tom Collins. My parents thought that was pretty funny!

Tom Collins

  • 2 ounces gin (my preference is Tanqueray
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice  
  • 1 ounce homemade simple syrup
Serve over ice and top with 1/4 cup cold club soda. Stir. Garnish with fresh fruit and lemon peel.

And here is a unique margarita recipe from the Vitamix cookbook I received when I purchased our Vitamix blender. I found it a little on the weak side, so I increased the amount of tequila in the recipe below to 6 ounces. If you want it less strong, use 4 ounces.

Blueberry Margarita

Place the following ingredients into a blender container:
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup 
  • 1/2 cup orange juice 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
  • 6 ounces tequila 
  • 1/2 cup pure blueberry juice (I use R.W. Knudsen brand)  
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries 
  • 4 cups ice cubes
Blend for 25 to 30 seconds or until desired consistency is reached. 

When I thought about making this cocktail, I realized we didn't have any true margarita glasses, so I bought a couple of Clara margarita glasses at Williams-Sonoma. They have a nice, green tint to them and a pretty shape. I didn't realize until I started shopping for margarita glasses that they vary a bit in size and shape. I like this style the best. Now that I have the glasses, I'll have to experiment with different margarita recipes.

Enjoy the last days of summer, and cheers!

Monday, September 5, 2016

No-bake Peanut Butter-Chocolate Snack Squares

Treats that don't require time in the oven are perfect for warm weather cooking. These no-bake peanut butter-chocolate snack squares are easy to whip up and, as the name suggests, don't require any cooking. With healthy ingredients like natural peanut butter, ground flax seed and oats, this treat is one you can feel good about indulging in.

No-bake Peanut Butter-Chocolate Snack Squares

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter (if your peanut butter contains no salt, add a small amount of salt to the mixture)

1) Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine oats, flax seed, chopped chocolate and cinnamon. 

2) In a separate bowl or large mixing cup, stir together the maple syrup and peanut butter. If stiff, microwave for 15 seconds and stir well; allow to cool a minute.

3) Stir wet ingredients into dry mixture until fully combined and no dry spots remain. Drizzle in a tiny bit of maple syrup, if needed, to moisten the dry spots; stir to combine. 

4) Spread mixture into lined pan and use wet hands to press down firmly into an even layer. Be sure to press firmly and evenly to avoid having crumbly bars.

5) Place pan in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours before slicing into squares. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Check out this Pinterest board for more gluten-free treats!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Coffee Smoothie

This refreshing, cold coffee smoothie is like a decadent drink you would order from your local barista, only it's easy (and inexpensive) to whip up in your blender right at home!

Coffee Smoothie

1) In a blender container, combine 1 teaspoon instant espresso with 1 tablespoon hot water. Let sit a minute, then add 1 small, frozen banana (cut into chunks), 1/2 cup skim milk and 1 tablespoon honey.

2) Cover and blend until smooth, adding a little milk if needed. Gradually add 1/2 cup ice and blend to desired consistency. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Side note: don't use as much cinnamon as I did ... I had to scoop some off the top before stirring the rest into my drink. Ah, delicious!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Front Door Color Choices

Our front door has been "naked" for a long, long time and is overdue for a coat of paint. When we bought our bungalow in the summer of 1998, the house was a dingy white with a grey porch floor and grey front door. We had to tackle several projects after moving in, and painting the house wasn't in the budget.

A few years later, we did have the house painted. We chose a sage green with off-white trim. I don't recall if it was before or after the house was painted, but around that time I decided to tackle a little DIY project: stripping the paint off the front door. If you've ever stripped paint by hand, you know how arduous a task it is. I must have gotten burned out on the project because I stopped short of stripping the paint around the two windows. See below? How embarrassing -- our front door in all its naked glory!

I've been kidding myself all these years thinking the raw wood with streaky remnants of grey paint is charming. It's not. I do like the color of the wood though, and as much as I'd love to have a new wood Craftsman-style door, I have to admit it's not going to happen any time soon. We'd have to order a custom door (nothing in this old house is standard sizing) and it would be expensive as all get-out. So for now some paint will do nicely.

Over the weekend my husband went to Sherwin-Williams for supplies to refinish the porch floor (more on this in an upcoming post). While he was there, I asked him to pick up some paint colors he'd recommend for the front door. He came back with some options in dark greens, brownish-greens and deep burgundy. They're not quite what I had in mind. I'm envisioning more of a rust or brick red, something warm and welcoming. In these photos are some Benjamin Moore colors I like. The first color in the strip below is called Mexicana, which I'm leaning toward, and the Copper Clay is lovely too.

The color below is Benjamin Moore's Country Redwood. It is much more red, but looks pretty with the house colors.

Aztec Brick is a more orange shade (orange is one of my two favorite colors), but not too much so. It looks better in person than in this photo -- it's difficult to accurately portray these reds and oranges in pictures.

And the three swatches I chose lined up on the front door ...

Below are the current colors of our siding and trim. Go here to see more photos of the front of our house.

Do you have any color preferences for our front door? I'd love to hear your thoughts ... leave a comment if you'd like to weigh in. Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Blackberry Corn Muffins

It's blackberry season, folks. Big, plump, juicy blackberries are plentiful these days at our local farmer's markets. Last Thursday I bought a big container of them and yesterday morning before church I whipped up these blackberry corn muffins, which we enjoyed with a cup of coffee. They're quite easy to make and are some of the most delicious muffins I've had in a long time. This is definitely a new favorite recipe -- and they're gluten free. I should make another batch while blackberries are plentiful and freeze the muffins for later!

Blackberry Corn Muffins

2 cups almond meal (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 cup corn meal (I used House Autry yellow plain corn meal. Do not use corn meal mix, which has flour in it)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Grated zest of one small lemon
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups fresh blackberries, halved

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups. In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, corn meal, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold in 1 cup of blackberries.

2) Using a small ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among the lined muffin cups. Top with remaining 1/2 cup blackberries (2 to 3 halves per muffin) and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until golden and tops spring back when lightly touched, about 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ice Cream Keeper

Whenever I make ice cream from scratch, I always have a dilemma: what to store it in. I recently found a great ice cream container at Williams-Sonoma. Made by Tovolo, the container is the perfect shape for storing and scooping homemade ice cream. Its size and shape fits easily in a crowded freezer, or even a freezer door. So much better than the too-large plastic container I've used in the past. Go here to get the recipe for the blackberry-lemon ice cream shown below.

Tovolo makes some pretty interesting kitchen tools, including these fun ice molds in skull, Tiki and "rubber ducky" shapes. You may recall my husband gave me these Tovolo ice sphere molds for my birthday one year. I use them frequently when making cocktails.

This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homemade Lavender Fabric Softener

If you love the smell of lavender like I do, you'll want to experiment with lavender essential oil. At night, before going to bed, I mix a drop of it with unscented hand lotion to moisturize my hands. The scent of lavender is very soothing and calming -- perfect for bedtime.

Another way to use it is to put three or four drops of the oil on a cotton ball and add it to your vacuum bag (or simply vacuum up the cotton ball). The smell of lavender will fill the air as you vacuum the house. 

I visited the Aura Cacia website recently to get more ideas for how to use essential oils and found a recipe for lavender fabric softener. All you need is white vinegar, baking soda and lavender essential oil.

Here's how to make it:
Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Note: do not mix the vinegar and baking soda in a 1-cup measure, as I did below. Use a 2-cup measure or larger. Remember from science class what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar? Well, as I was taking photos and my husband was adding the baking soda, the mixture quickly bubbled up and over the cup and ran all over the counter! Should have known better! We had a good laugh over it.

When the fizzing stops, add 90 drops of lavender essential oil (this produces a strongly scented mixture, but when my clothes and towels came out of the dryer, they didn't smell strongly of lavender). Pour the mixture into a glass bottle or jar. To use, gently shake the jar and add 2 tablespoons (for a small load) or 4 tablespoons (for a large load) to the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Here are more ideas for using lavender essential oil:
There are many other fragrances too, such as lemon, sweet orange, eucalyptus, patchouli and rose, as well as blends. I'd like to begin experimenting with more essential oil recipes and scents. Do you use essential oils in your beauty or house cleaning routines?
This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Using a French Press to Make Coffee

As a young adult I "learned" to like coffee for the caffeine benefits. Then I began to really like the stuff. Then I had to stop drinking it and didn't touch it for 10 years or more. Why, you ask? Because I was having heart palpitations and was told caffeine could make them worse, so I quit cold turkey. I gave up caffeinated tea also.  

Well recently I began drinking coffee again and have found it's having no effect on my heart (those palpitations are few and far between now). I think after such a long time away from coffee, I appreciate the process of making it and drinking it more than ever before. I'm also a newbie to coffee shops and all the fancy drinks they sell. I'm the one in line asking "What's the difference between a macchiato and a cortado?"

My husband uses a drip coffee maker to prepare his coffee, but years ago he used to use this Boden French press. During my trip to Seattle in May, I saw that my friends use a French press too, and so I started using it to make coffee and found that I love the process. So when I returned home, I dug out our French press. I've always loved the look of one, and the method is quite simple and enjoyable

To make coffee in a French press, first add four scoops of ground coffee to the container. I've been buying ground coffee that is really meant for drip coffee makers, which means it's too finely ground for the French press. Once I get through all the coffee we have in our pantry (which is a bunch thanks to our local grocery's buy 2 get 3 free specials), I'm going to start buying more coarsely ground coffee for the French press. I am anxious to see what kind of difference it makes.

Heat the water (I use our electric kettle, which I love) and just before it comes to a full boil, fill the French press container with the hot water.

Let the mixture steep four minutes. I use a timer so it doesn't sit too long. I find that four minutes is the right amount of time for a rich cup of coffee without bitterness.

After the coffee has steeped, slowly push down on the plunger to press the grounds to the bottom of the container.

I like to use turbinado sugar to my coffee ... an idea I got from my friend in Seattle. I store it in a pretty glass container on the kitchen counter.

I also add half & half to my coffee. My husband prefers his black. I am definitely not that much of a die-hard coffee drinker to drink it black. I need the sweetness and the cream!

I store leftover brewed coffee in a jar in the fridge so I can enjoy iced coffee in the afternoon or the next morning. Sometimes I also use the leftovers to make coffee ice cubes. I really enjoy iced coffee in the summer! I can remember my parents drinking iced coffee when I was a kid and I thought it was so gross, now I love it! Add a little chocolate syrup and voila, you have a fancy iced mocha -- without the fancy price tag! 

So tell me, do you make coffee at home or buy it at a shop? What method do you use to make your coffee? Do you have a favorite coffee drink or brand? There's a locally roasted coffee that my husband and I think is the best. A local bakery uses it to make their fancy coffee drinks, which are to die for (but expensive!) -- a cafe mocha and a gluten-free almond horn and I'm in heaven.

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on coffee!
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