Decking the Shelves [Holiday Home Tour Part 1!]

Welcome to the first installment of my Holiday Home Tour 2013! I’ll be sharing glimpses of our decorated home for the next few days. And I say glimpses because for every neat and clean photo you see here, there is a giant pile of stuff waiting to be organized/put away/wrapped. So, if you would like to join me in the pretty illusion that my house is nice and clean at all times, we shall begin!

It’s Christmas in the kitchen over here – and boy are these open shelves making my day!

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I loved having a pretty new kitchen to decorate this year [psst – you can read more about our kitchen reno here]. With the mostly white canvas to work with, I took advantage of my open shelves and put some of my favorite holiday dishes on display. I try to keep my counter top clutter free (try being the operative word here).

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I hung some pretty white, clear & silver ornaments from the top shelf – making sure they were strategically placed so that I could still easy reach my dishes. (Speaking of the dishes – the adorable appetizer plates are from Target, and the Santa mugs were a wedding gift from Pottery Barn last year).

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And, for an unexpected twist, I glued some bottle brush trees to the TOP of a few mason jars, and used them as a good and cute excuse to put lots of chocolate within easy reach.

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On the top shelf, with my cake stands & pitchers, I framed a holiday postcard from Rifle Paper Co.

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That garland I made from canning jar lids is hangin’ out below the sink.

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On the little pub table, I’ve got my drink-accessory station:

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Mulling spices, cinnamon sticks, and marshmallows in an easy access position so I can whip up some mulled wine or hot chocolate within minutes. (Both of these things have happened within the past 24 hours, because it has just been that kind of week, ok?)

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That adorable wooden advent calendar house is from Target several seasons ago. We’ve discovered that the boxes are the perfect size to hold dog treats. If you haven’t ever taken the time to fill an advent calendar with treats for your dog…you probably have a life.

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Do you decorate your kitchen for the holidays? Or do you simply “decorate” it in flour, shortening & chocolate chips? Yum… Christmas cookies…

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Thanks for joining me in the kitchen today- stay tuned for more of my holiday home this week!

Appliance Talk

Making large purchases has always caused me a great deal of anxiety. I blame my father – who never buys a thing without researching, consulting consumer reports, and debating for months on end. (Did we ever get that new computer, Dad?)

When it came to selecting new kitchen appliances, the hubs and I debated over a few different options:

Stainless Steel vs. White

We fluctuated back and forth between these two options for a week or so. While I’m not happy with the way some of our old white appliances have yellowed, I’m also not convinced that Stainless Steel is a “must have” in a kitchen, as I’ve seen some lovely white kitchens with white appliances that look nice and open, like this one:

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In the end, we settled on Stainless Steel, primarily because we discovered the Gallery Collection from Frigidaire, which boasts a nice smudge-proof finish. The hubs is quite the perfectionist, and I knew that he would have some issues with constantly cleaning fingerprints and marks off of shiny stainless steel appliances.

I like the way the SS appliances look in this white kitchen:

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So we bit the bullet and went for a new fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher from Frigidaire. We’ve already moved the new refrigerator up into the kitchen, and it is lovely. Plus, we’re really going to appreciate the energy-efficiency of all these new appliances!!

Hood vs. Over-the-Range Microwave

Another tricky decision – I love the look of a pretty stainless steel hood, but I knew that could benefit from the space-saving aspect of an over-the-range microwave. Right now our microwave is hogging precious counter space, so I think we will really appreciate having it built up out of the way.

FGMV174KF_V1_HRFrigidaire Gallery Over-the-Range Microwave

Stove vs. Wall Oven/Cooktop Combo

This one wasn’t a very difficult decision, once we realized it would cost us about $1,000 more to replace both our old wall oven & our gas cooktop, rather than switching to a single stove. I kind of enjoy the vintage look and convenient access of the wall oven, but I know I will really enjoy the extra cabinet and few feet of counter space that we will gain!

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So that is the tale of our new appliances – which (with the exception of the fridge) are currently hanging out in our garage just waiting to be installed! In the meantime, I’m busying pinning & collecting all the new recipes I’ll be trying once I have an oven that bakes evenly, and a range that lights on the first try! Woo!! 🙂

Kitchen Possible – Getting Started!

I am SO excited to share that we are getting ready to move forward with our little kitchen renovation project. I’ve been dreaming about updating our small kitchen for years now. I even made this little mood board up back in February, when the hubs & I started discussing our wish list and counting our pennies:

KitchenMoodBoardThese days, our kitchen looks like this:

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The big problems with our kitchen are:

1. Extremely limited counter space (we’ve added some Ikea island/kitchen carts to add both surface & shelf space) – everything is very cluttered! (Also, snapped these photos during a particularly hectic time…)

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2. Extremely limited storage. The original upper cabinets were removed years ago (why?????) – so I keep many appliances, large platters and cookware, etc. in storage areas outside the kitchen due to the lack of space.

3. No dishwasher. (More so than even the work of washing dishes, I’m getting tired of chipping & breaking dishes during the washing/dish rack process!)

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4. Old fashioned, stained Formica countertop

5. Outdated and “yellowed” white appliances (and an unreliable oven).

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6. Old cabinets (that have several layers of paint & no practical features like a lazy susan, sliding drawers, etc.

Most of these problems are easily dealt with. Our kitchen renovation will be completed with the help of our neighbor, a contractor, and will be rather budget-friendly. We did splurge a bit on new appliances (our new refrigerator is already here and in place, while the rest of our Frigidare Gallery set sits in the garage).

So here’s the to-do list for the project, with most jobs falling in the neighbor/contractor category, while others we will tackle ourselves:

1. Installation of new white base & upper cabinets in a full L-shape. (The refrigerator used to live in that cabinet-less corner on the right, but we’ve moved it to the other wall to allow space for the dishwasher and extended counter surface).

2. Open shelving to the right of the window.

3. Installation of new gas stove and over-the-range microwave to replace the current wall oven/cooktop combo –> we will gain cabinet & counter space with this change!

4. Installation of dishwasher.

5. New counter top and under-mount SS sink.

6. White subway tile back splash.

7. Fresh paint job (grey?)

8. Caulk cleaning/coloring? for ceramic floor tiles.

9. Designing & building a pub-style table for next to the refrigerator.

10. New lighting fixtures –> pendant above sink (like this one), and either curved track lighting or a new, non-boob-light flush mount fixture in the center.

11. New molding around window, new pantry door & new door molding.

12. Eating area – perhaps a custom built bar, or a fun retro pub table?

These three kitchens are my major sources of inspiration:

1. This GORGEOUS white kitchen remodel over at Our House.

2. This beautiful and cheery bright, white kitchen from House Beautiful.

3. This small kitchen featuring open shelving from Southern Living.

I just cannot wait for this project to start – I can only imagine how much better all of my food & baked goods will taste when they come out of our new kitchen! 🙂

The Joys of an Organized Fridge (and a Recipe for Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs)

I consider it a miracle if I can get to the grocery store on the weekend with an actual shopping list (imagine!) and a meal plan for the week ahead. Most weeks (especially when FH & I are at our busiest) I am lucky if I get to the store by Wednesday, which means Monday and Tuesday consisted of take-out or pasta for dinner. For some reason, we always have plenty of pasta in the house. I think it is because I tend to head to the grocery store without a list, and therefore grab a few boxes of spaghetti or macaroni each time, assuming we need it when we do not, and thus the stash continues to grow.

I used to think it was cute for FH and I to go to the store together on Sundays, and stock our cart while making plans for lovely home cooked meals and so on. I suppose I still think it is cute, however I’ve learned it is not financially wise (or particularly healthy) to take my man grocery shopping. Empty stomach or not, he is an impulse shopper who grabs every delicious looking thing in sight. By the end of our trip through the store, we have a cart packed to the gills, a huge bill, and an assortment of things like Tortilla chips and Queso dip, which Lord knows neither of us need to be eating.

So bad. But so good.

So these days, I make the dreaded trek to the grocery store alone. Which means by the time I am done, I am cranky (it is always crowded, and the self checkout is NEVER as easy or convenient as it should be), hungry (and I managed to pass by the boxes of Cheese-Its, my ultimate weakness), and completely dreading the task of unloading my bags of groceries. This means that when I do get home, I quickly throw all of my new groceries into the fridge and shut the door. The end result is typically a big mess of a fridge, full of new and old (and probably expired/moldy) food that I will later shove around while trying to find the ingredients to a particular recipe, etc.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. And my life may quite possibly have been changed forever.

I was feeling weirdly motivated, even after returning home from the store and lugging my groceries up to our second floor apartment by myself (FH was out). I was inspired by the sight of my future Mother in Law’s (FMIL?) fridge- which was neatly organized, with all produce cleaned, cut and easy to find in clear containers. So I set to work chopping up my veggies (bell peppers and yellow squash), slicing my strawberries and cleaning my ears of corn, so that everything will be cleaned, cut and ready to use this week.

The end result made me giddy with domestic joy. I threw away about 20 bottles and jars of expired food, and now my fridge is neat and orderly. I know exactly what I have and where it is. Imagine if I could apply this to the pantry next or… dramatic emphasis… my closet! How much simpler my life would be if everything was as easy to find as the kiwi in my fridge! I was so excited to go into my neat fridge later in the afternoon and make myself a fresh and delicious snack.

Seriously- summer fruit cannot be beat.

I now fully understand the benefits of planning and preparing in advance, and I look forward to a week of easy eating.

In other news, I made the most delicious Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs for dinner last night. You should try them.

Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs (served with Couscous and Grilled Corn on the Cob)

Recipe adapted from here.

Ingredients:

Boneless, skinless chicken breast (four- or a pack of tenderloins)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Juice of 1 Lime

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, olive oil, garlic, and lime juice.

Cut chicken into large chunks (or you can leave the breasts whole rather than make kebabs). Put chicken into the sauce mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Soak the bamboo sticks in water for 5 minutes. Once chicken is marinated, skewer the chunks onto the bamboo sticks.

Grill on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes.

Served here with Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous and grilled corn on the cob (wrapped in foil packets with a little butter for a delicious grilled taste!)

The marinade is sweet and the lime juice adds a zesty kick… these were so good! FH grilled them to perfection, each piece was tender & delicious! I love couscous, by the way. I’m a meat & couscous kind of gal.

So, friends, the moral of the story here is- organize your refrigerator and you will make & enjoy a delicious dinner. Or something like that. 🙂

Have a great day!