Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Roof Deck Lights

I am the least homey person.  I consider "keeping a home", double checking to make sure my hot iron is off before leaving for the in "keeping my home" from burning down.  Charlie does most of the homey projects around here.  Sometimes I assist, sometimes I don't.  I always try to photograph it though.  I've been keeping you guys posted on our roof deck progress...this weekend, we Charlie hung lights! 

Charlie picked up a $20 staple gun from ACE Hardware.  He began by securing the main line of power from our condo to the deck.  We get some wicked nasty storms up in Chi-town so we figured it would be best to lock this baby down. 

Doesn't this look like the guy from Scream/a worm?

We bought these weather resistant globe string lights from Target.  There were fancier ones, but these were simple and less expensive so we sprung for these.  They were approximately $12.50 per box/20 feet, so the cost to line the entire deck was on $62.50!  Not too shabby.

We unraveled the lights and then I held one end while Charlie stapled them in.

Look at those buff forearms...

Charlie and I are both risk averse, or...lazy.  We tested ever single string before stapling it up.  The thought of having to redo one was too much to bare.

I still need throw pillows.  Pillow post to follow...except I will not be making mine.  I will be purchasing them and color coordinating.  That's a homey worthy post, right Caitlin? No?  Ok. 

Here the lights are at night...

This is a better picture, albeit a little blurry, without the flash.

Here's the section behind the couch.  We have the cover on because it was a little rainy...but you get the idea.

Stay homey!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rethink: Homemade Cleaners & Deodorant Tutorial

Hi everyone!  Hope you had a great long weekend.  We've got a guest post today.  Mary is a friend of my brother's - he's been telling me for ages that we need to get together because we're very likeminded. Check out Mary's recipe for homemade deodorant (something I plan to try making myself soon since this no-deodorant policy on maternity leave can't last forever) & information about her Eco-Friendly Product Parties with Rethink.  I think Rethink sounds SO cool & would love to host a party once I make some friends around here have some free time.  Many thanks, Mary!

Rethinking Choices

It all began with ice cream.  Sure, I have been thinking of ways to “go green” for awhile.  When my husband and I moved into our new home we started a compost pile.  I had always recycled.  We planted a garden.  I finally got to try the laundry soap I read about on Hardly Housewives.  But it was ice cream that really changed me.

After a typical Sunday dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables, my husband and I enjoyed some ice cream.  I am not a huge ice cream person, but my husband likes it and I must admit that this week, I had bought the least expensive 2 for $5 offer at the grocery store.  It did not even dawn on me that this cherry ice cream was red.  That night, we were both tossing and turning-- unable to sleep-- our minds racing.  The next morning, we put two and two together and noticed that the ice cream had red dye in it.  This dye has been linked to attention issues and while usually this would be noticed in children more so than adults, this is all it took for me to start reading my food labels much more closely. 
I started slowly, taking baby steps in rethinking choices, starting with the food I was putting into my body.  I am now eating mostly real food, with much of my food being purchased from local farmers markets.  I will buy food in packages but I try to make sure that the ingredient list is five or less items and that they are items that I can read and understand.   

As I mentioned, I make and use the Laundry Soap featured on this blog.  I love it.  As I began rethinking the products I used on my body, I was contemplating deodorant, but was scared to try it.  At the same time my co-teacher and friend was rethinking her food choices due to acne and other health annoyances.  In one of our daily conversations, I found out that her sister uses homemade deodorant.  A few text messages to her sister and I was willing to give it a try.  

In another conversation, my friend and I decided that we needed to figure out a way to spread awareness.  In the hustle and bustle of daily life, convenience often wins our over health.  When healthy options are taken into consideration, these options are often times expensive and many times deceiving.  It was with this in mind that our ideas became a reality.  We launched our first Eco-Friendly Product Party last week:

Guests gathered to “make and take” six products.  The products-- veggie wash, all-purpose cleaner, deodorant, bathroom scrub, laundry soap and a soy candle-- are made with all natural ingredients.  

We hope that guests will either make the products again at home, or ask use to refill them at a reasonable price.  

When Caitlin asked for uses of coconut oil, I immediately thought to share the deodorant recipe that we use.  The original recipe was found online and tweaked to our preference.  Here is a step by step guide, including photographs.

Here’s what you need:

2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
8-10 drops tea tree oil

Here’s what to do:

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  You will really have to mix well until the ingredients firm up.  

Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated, transfer into a container of your choice.  

To use, scoop out a small amount and apply to underarms.  Since coconut oil has a low melting temperature, you will need to store your deodorant in a cool place, depending on the temperature.

I would recommend making sure to give this product a good week before you give up on it.  You might think you smell, or feel a little sweat as your body gets used to it.  I encourage you to stick with it.  I will never go back and I can raise my hand all day, because I’m sure!  

You can visit Rethink on Facebook or contact us at for more information about our goal.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fiesta Burgers

Happy Memorial Day!!  Charlie and I spent the weekend doing a whole lot of absolutely nada. We needed it.  We've both been going and going so it was time for a little RnR. We work hard, party harder, and relax the hardest.  I'm either going 500 miles per hour or I'm drooling on my pillow. 

Anyway, Fiesta Burgers...yes please.  I almost forgot to post about this.  Charlie and I made these last weekend and they were so good I actually erased part of my brain. Spicy, cheesy, crunchy, creamy...all the things that make a wonderful burg. 

We started off with equal parts (1 lb) each of ground beef and ground chorizo. 

Charlie added some of his famous house rub (1 part brown sugar, 1/2 part chili powder, 1/2 part paprika, 1/4 part cumin, 1/2 part kosher salt, 1/4 part garlic powder, 1/4 part pepper).  Don't worry - I'll do a full post on that later.

I wanted to make a cool avocado spread to balance some of the spice.  A smashed up some avocado, lime juice, a pinch of the house rub, as well as some sour cream to smooth things out. No recipe here, just wing it.


Charlie made four giant burgers.  This is what happens when I leave him alone for more then 5 seconds.

Mmmmm flame broiled baby.  I went sans cheese for mine, but Charlie added some oooooey gooey pepper jack cheese for an additional little kick.

For a little crunch we added a thick slice of red onion...

Oh hello there...


These burgers were AWESOME.  I'm excited to try some new burger recipes this summer.  Have any favorites out there?  I'm thinking a Vietnamese pork burger, or a turkey pot sticker burger next...TBD.

Stay hungry!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grilled Wedge Salad

I've really out done myself this time.  I know, I know, I shouldn't toot my own horn, but TOOT TOOT

This is one of those salads that you make for company.  Or for yourself, because you love yourself.  And bacon. 

Speaking of the bacs, you want to buy thick cut bacon and slice it into chunks, or as I like to call them, bacon croutons. They will shrink as they cook, but really good wedges have really good pieces of bacon so don't screw this part up.  Please...and thank you.

Holy cow.  I was swatting Charlie away with our broom.

Now, I'm fully aware that wedge salads are usually served with a wedge of iceberg lettuce.  The only problem with that, is that this is a grilled wedge.  Iceberg is the flimsiest of lettuces and would never hold up on a grill.  Not only is romaine better suited for the grill, but it's also prettier.  I mean, it's ombre for goodness sake. Oh, and it's healthier.  Win, win,

Anyway, remove the rough looking leaves from the outside and trim the top, so all you're left with is super firm pieces of lettuce.  Next, slice down the middle lengthwise.

For any flavorful dish, you need to season every component...including the lettuce.  So, after slicing down the middle, brush with olive oil (or with bacon drippings, like me) and sprinkle a little sea or kosher salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

I handed this part off to Charlie.  On a super hot, clean grill, he laid the lettuce cut side down.  DO NOT CLOSE THE GRILL.  Otherwise you'll have limp loose losery lettuce.  All we want are the grill marks, the grill flavor, but still super crispy lettuce.



To serve, cut each half of lettuce sideways.  I found these beautiful mini heirloom tomatoes, so I served the salads with those.  Top with a spoonful (or two or five) of homemade blue cheese dressing.


Stay hungry!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great Map Wall

I've posted here & here about the biggest decor project we've taken on at our house thus far... the living room's two story map wall.  The project started in 2006 with a map of Vieques we bought while vacationing on the island.  Seven years, many countries visited, & lots of maps later (plus some printed from the Library of Congress site & purchased from antique stores), we have a full map wall in our living room:

It's tough to photograph with the light coming in from skylights & reflecting off of the glass on the frames, but the photo above gives you an idea of the scale.

 We started out with a (very tall) ladder (note my cat on top) & a program called Google Sketch Up.

Google Sketch Up allowed us to map out exactly where each print would go (it looks messy & required a lot of measuring beforehand, but helped us plan a spot for each map):

Some of the maps are traditional, some are artsy (or Etsy), and some are perhaps not what you would think of when somebody says "map":

We have old maps and new maps, one from a wedding in Cooperstown (annotated with landmarks near and dear to the couple), a few postcards, Jesse's dad's old fishing maps, and maps in German, Thai, English, Czech, & Spanish.  We have a Super Mario NYC map.  We have a map of Little Compton, RI & a map of the seas of the moon.

When we hung everything up, we knew this was an installation that we'd keep up for a long, long time.  This wall is one of the first things you see when you walk into our house and it's made a huge difference with making the house feel like it's ours.

We still have two tiny frames to fill, as well as a key that will show what each map is of for easy reference (people often ask "What's that one?" when looking up at the wall).  It's tough keeping the maps straight and more or less impossible keeping them all dusted, but I'm still loving how it looks and will for a long time.  Let me know what you think & stay homey!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dill and Chive Blue Cheese Dressing

There's this newish place in Chicago called Bavettes.  Charlie and I have been there a million times to eat their wedge salad.  In fact, we've crawled out of bed at 10:30pm on a Saturday to go get one because we couldn't stop thinking about it. The dressing makes it.  It's SUPER herbaceous, creamy and sinful.  To dies fors. 

I made a grilled wedge salad this weekend (salad to be posted on Wednesday) as an homage to one of my favorite dishes in the city.  The most important part to any salad is the dressing (duh) so we'll start with that. 

There are several fresh herbs you can use for this, but my favorites are chives and dill. Chop them up as fine as you want - I give them a rough chop because I think the herbs look super pretty.

If this looks like a's because it is.  I doubled the recipe because Charlie puts this on everything.  Really.

After you add your sour cream and mayo and other good stuff, you could stop here and have a delicious dip...

Or, you can add milk to thin it out and have an amazing dressing...

Either way, it's absolutely divine.  Here's the recipe (doubled):

2 Small Containers (4 oz each) of Blue Cheese Crumbles 
1 Pkg of Fresh Dill (3.75 oz), large stems removed, finely chopped
1 Pkg of Fresh Chives (3.75 oz), finely chopped 
2 Shallots, Minced 
1 Cup Sour Cream 
1 Cup Mayonnaise (Hellman's please) 
2-3 Tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar 
1/4 Cup of Milk 
1/2 Tsp of Garlic Powder 
1/2 Tsp of Kosher or Sea Salt 

Mix everything together in a bowl.  If it's too thick, add additional milk slowly.  Note: It will thicken as it cools in the fridge.  Also, taste for seasoning.  If it needs additional acid, add a little vinegar, 1 tbs at a time.

Stay tuned for the salad on's ridiculous!

Stay hungry!