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Monday, August 29, 2016

Family Dinners at Our House | Steaks with Easy Red Wine Sauce + This Week's Menu


Family Dinner At Our House



I will not pretend that this is the scene every single night at our house... but we try for at least a couple nights a week.  These photos were from last night's Sunday dinner table.  It is always easier to pull off a nice Sunday dinner than during the week, right?  At first glance, this setup may seem fancy for a family dinner, but all of these elements are really common.  I know that some are thinking, why all the trouble?  And the truth is that it isn't really much trouble at all, really very little effort or expense involved, though the impact is big.

I feel so strongly that sitting down at a table that is set, brings a sense of purpose to a typical family dinner.  It brings us all together for a moment of grace and it says no matter what your day was like, I want to sit, share and talk with you.


A lot of time when we sit down at this table it doesn't have flowers and the candles aren't lit, and it feels completely different.   So, at least 3 times a week, I am going to make it my goal to actually light the candles : )  It feels somewhat related to "stopping to smell the roses."  It is there for the taking, you just have to stop and actually make the effort.  I mean, what does it take 4 seconds to light candles?



And like most families, we have our fair share of casual dinners at the island, too, don't worry.  Though, if you've never thought about the difference between sitting at the counter versus sitting at a table, the difference is this : conversation.  When you are sitting and not facing each other, conversation is hard.  Eye contact is even harder.  I imagine as kids get older and they have more independence, eye contact with parents while talking about their day can be so revealing.  It is always my goal to make our dinner table a safe zone, a comfortable place that is a place that everyone wants to be and feels loved and cared for.

I mentioned that the setting was not much effort.  I always try to create a "maintenance free" table setting once a week - this is a perfect example.  The flowers are dried hydrangea from our yard that have turned the prettiest shade of green (that actually seem a little more vibrant in the photos than in real life).  They don't have any water and would look just like this if I left them there all year long.  Though dry, they still bring life and some seasonal color to the table.  Other "maintenance free" tables we like are a bowl of apples or gourds (fall!), or potted herbs.

Anytime you add taper candles to a dinner table...and actually light them ; ) you add instant atmosphere.  These are 12" Privot Berry Blue tapers that go great with the green flowers (blue + green is my current favorite combo, as you all know).   The candles come in an 18" too for an even bigger effect.  Super elegant.  The "copper" salt and peppers were a steal from Target.  Be fore warned, they are plastic with a copper coating... something I didn't realize (but should have since they were $18).  Love the warmth that they bring to the table, though.


Emma always helps with setting the table.  This time, she made place cards for each of us, while I took care of the rest of the setting.  When she sets the entire table there is a lot of mix-matching linens and flatware, which is just fine by me.   I'll be sure to share one of those tables someday, too.

As you can see, above, she drew a pumpkin and maple leaf for me... she knows how much I'm itching for fall!

Mike got a "branch" : )





The place cards were her idea.  Sometimes she makes placemats from printer paper or tries her hand at interesting napkin folds.  I just like that she's enthusiastic to help and looks forward to making it special.  Hoping I pass on this love for making family dinners special to her.  At least I'll know that whatever life circumstance she finds herself in, she'll be able to create a special dinner for her family.  What is it they say about teaching a man to fish?  So many parables in this post... ; )



A cherry leaf and cherries for her.  After the fact, she also decided they could be headphones, which she thought was better.


Dinner was seared steaks with a very simple Red Wine Sauce.  I'll share the recipe for the wine sauce later today.   It is all of 3-4 ingredients and transforms dinner.  In fact, this entire dinner looks impressive but it is the easiest dinner to make.  Besides putting the baked potatoes in the oven 1 1/2 before, the rest of the dinner took about 20 minutes of hands-on time.

I'd like to pretend that this was Mike's giant loaded plate, but we all know that he doesn't like mushrooms...  busted : )








Table Setting Resources :

Block Print Napkins, 4 for $32

Privot Berry Blue Taper Candles, $10.50

Brown & White Ceramic Container (available in Squares or Round), $12.00-28.50

Heathered Indigo Throw (over back of chair), $80

Dusty Green Block Print Pillow, 20" Square, $32

See the rest of the Blue & Green Classic Home Collection, here >




This Week's Menu :

Seared Steaks with Easy Red Wine Sauce  (recipe coming later today)

Baked Potatoes

Sautéed Mushrooms

Sliced Tomatoes



Chicken & Vegetable Corn Chowder 



This is a great dinner to make in advance.  I'll put individual servings in the freezer for Emma and I to reheat for lunches, too.

Beef Stroganoff

This photo and recipe link are of this "fancy" version of Beef Stroganoff.  Our favorite weeknight version is made with ground beef and egg noodles.  I'll share this version very soon - an almost weekly staple around here.
































Panko Salmon

So much flavor in this Barefoot Contessa recipe.  That Nine Color Salad is still one of my favorites.

I'll share the Easy Red Wine Sauce recipe later today.  I'm off to pick up Emma from preschool... oh boy do these mornings go by quickly.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Our "Classic" White Kitchen Design | Marble Countertops, Wood Island Top, Brass Pulls & Lanterns


Our Kitchen Details




I've been meaning to write this post since we moved into our new kitchen last summer.  Sorry : )  I often get emails asking about the details of our design and I thought it would be easier if I had one nice post to direct everyone with questions.  When we were designing the kitchen (and the rest of the house), I remember being very overwhelmed by all of the decisions to be made.  All of the decisions.  We often look around at our kitchen now and say, there were probably one thousand decisions made in this one room.  

Thankfully, I don't have any regrets when it comes to our kitchen (or the rest of the house).  I'm glad we splurged where we did, and I'm glad we saved where we could.  I absolutely love this kitchen.  I love that the finishes are polished enough to feel elegant, but the warmth makes it feel little country-cottagey, too.  It is a breeze to work in efficiently.  It feels cozy on a Sunday morning, but is big and open enough to handle a large party, too.  While the entire kitchen is "white on white" we added warmth through the creamy paint color (Navajo White), brass, marble and warm wood island top to make it feel homey and warm.

All of the resources are listed at the end of the post.  I tried to include everything, but I'm sure I left something out.  Let me know if I missed something!

Take a tour of our entire house (in progress...) here.



This was the original plan for how I would organize my kitchen.  I posted it here with more details on the layout and cabinetry design.  You will see as I go through the post, it changed a bit when we unpacked and as we continue to live and work in the space.


This is the baking corner that looks to the backyard.  Most of my photos for the blog and store are taken right here.  The back porch overhang is the perfect filter for pretty light through these windows.  Not only is cooking in this kitchen delightful, but working here is so much easier and more natural.  I used to have to stage food and product photos in other parts of the house.   Now it is a much more natural process for me to be able to take pretty photos as I go without having to change locations.


This is the layout of the kitchen, as drawn by the cabinetry designer.  This can be helpful if you are looking for measurements for scale.

Walls & Trim : Benjamin Moore Navajo White Satin

Countertops : Arabescata Veneto Marble with Honed Finish

Hardware : Martha Stewart Bedford Brass from Home Depot

Windows : Anderson 400

Paint Color Details : You can see all of the paint colors for our house, here.

Bread Board Collection


Charging Drawer
I love this charging drawer!  In every house we lived in before, we had a countertop dedicated to charging... and things just end up piling up in that spot - mail, keys, junk.  This drawer just gave all of those things a place.  So, instead of planning for the ipad to have a spot on the counter to charge, we planned for a spot that would put away - charging.


We charge the ipads, the wireless speaker and my iphone.  Of course, it is also a place for keys, lip gloss, sunglasses, tablets and pens.  Of course this drawer doesn't always look like this.  There is always a needed purge about once every season.  I tend to put it off, but when I do it takes 5 minutes and I feel so much better.


This is what the back of the drawer looks like.  We had our electrician hardwire an outlet and powerstrip in the back of the drawer.  So much better than this tangle of cords on top of the counter.  We never open the drawer all of the way out, so we never see this cord mess unless we need to ; )


Baking Counter

This corner of the kitchen works so well for me.  I love that it is a couple of steps away from the rest of the kitchen.  It gives me so much room to stretch out and get messy, and everything I need  for baking is within arms reach.

Our kitchen wouldn't be complete without Emma's chair close by that she uses to stand and help.  It comes in handy for me, too, when I need to reach to a top shelf.  When we moved in the house, I bought a set of unfinished childrens chairs and a table, then applied the finish myself.


Left to right : Kitchen Aid attachments, Copper Biscuit Cutter, Petite & Small Paper Tart Pans, Rubber Spatulas, measuring cups, Brown & White Cupcake Papers, Jumbo Pastry Tips, Scoops and Disposable Pastry Bags.

All of these items have recently been restocked in my store (found in Baking Supplies) this week.


The Baking Sheets & Parchment Paper are stored vertically, here to the left of the baking counter.  This photo was taken before I added the natural parchment paper to my store.



On the right side of the baking counter, is the area for the small appliances.  Originally, I thought I would work in the kitchen and keep a printer and files here, but since I've relocated my office to the mudroom, this area opened up.  I actually can't imagine working in the kitchen now - not sure what I was thinking!  I think before I had always just perched at the counter with my laptop and sipped coffee while I worked all day.  I was so used to not having a proper space to work that I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.  You can see what my office space in the mudroom looks like, here.



As you can see at the end of the baking counter is our coffee and tea station.  Above, in the glass front, are the coffee cups, below the coffee and tea is kept in the drawer.   You can see into the mudroom/my office space through the dutch door.  We only installed the bottom of the dutch door to leave the top open.  Mr. Darcy has a doggy door in the mudroom to the back yard, so, if it is muddy, then I shut the dutch door so he can come in from the backyard to food and water, but can't track mud all over the house...

This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.  You might notice in the photo at the top, that Mr. Darcy has since had a haircut ; )

The Creamware Platters on the wall are part of a six piece collection, here >



We were sure to have the above cabinetry at a specific height so that we could open the top of the kuerig machine - which was not the case in our last kitchen.  We always had to move it out from underneath the cabinet for it to work.


Island

Island Wood Top : Clear Alder Wood Wide Plank

Finish : Minwax Provincial Stain + Marine Satin Finish Sealer

Sink : Signature Hardware Reinhard 30" Sink, White

Faucet : Rohl Perrin & Rowe Bridge Faucet in Polished Nickel


















Kitchen Bottles : These are part of my Clean Bottles Collection (recently restocked).

The small tray (holding the dish soap) is here >

Kitchen Bottles : 
About my Everyday Essential Bottles Collection :
Half of you are going to think I am crazy (you have too much time on your hands, blah, blah...).  The other half are going to say - "Yes! This is what I've been looking for!" just like me.  I have always wanted clean, fresh bottles with clean fresh labels for every single bottle in my house.  Like most things, I thought if I want it, there is likely a group (of you!) out there that are on the same page.  
It took me about 20 minutes to fill all of the bottles from my collections (Kitchen, Cleaning, Laundry & Bath and Shower) and it was so gratifying to get rid of all of those brightly colored, tacky bottles designed to grab your attention in the Target aisle.  Now, when I look under the sink, or in my shower, or in my laundry room I am no longer confronted with those red, black, green, orange and bright blue labels, but these soothing clean bottles.  Everything already feels more organized.  They can also help us reduce our footprint by buying in bulk (less packaging to recycle) and buying in bulk means running less errands... something I detest.  Have I convinced you yet?  You know you will love them.  
I designed the packaging to be subtle and classic - no bright colors or distracting labels to take away from your beautiful kitchen.  These bottles come bank and empty, ready to be labeled (included) and filled with your favorite products.



Piles of Tea Towels kept in the drawer to the left.




We have a small microwave inserted into a cubby that has an outlet.  I really don't like microwaves, so I didn't want to spend any $ on a super nice one or give it much of a priority in our kitchen, so this worked perfectly.  Bonus, Emma thinks it is her own personal oven, since she can reach it easily.

Below, I keep our to-go cups.  We have Clear Cups & Lids (50 for $12) and Straws for smoothies or water togo (instead of bottled) and we have White Paper Cups and Lids (50 for $12) for coffee, cider and hot chocolate as we head out the door.




In the drawer above the cups, I keep Emma's plates and bowls for snacks.  I like that it is at her level so she can help herself - it makes her feel more independent.


The Brass Lanterns are from Cape Cod Lantern Co.  You might remember we installed a larger version in our old dinning room (that now hangs in our bedroom).  It is called the Concord Lantern and is made by hand in Cape Cod.  We bought it right after we moved back from Concord, Mass to bring a little piece of our New England journey into our new home (especially appropriate, as it is a Cape Cod style house... just in Kansas!).

You can read more about our lighting decisions for the rest of the house, here.

Millwork Details :


I was very specific with our cabinetry designer that I wanted the crown mouldings to wrap around the entire room.  I wanted the kitchen to feel built into the room, not added or separate.  We had to plan extensively for this, making decisions on the mouldings before the cabinets were built to make sure there was room to fit the 10" crown treatment that wraps the walls, cabinets and the beams.  I think great millwork details are really what makes our kitchen feel completely custom.  We included a Furniture Base Trim at the base of the cabinets, which is different from a typical open toe kick.  Again, makes the kitchen feel more built-in and finished.
Backsplash & Bracket Details :

The backsplash on the counter area is painted wooden beadboard, while it is bone subway tile behind the range.  We have wooden brackets accenting the cabinetry around the range, also, which adds to the "country kitchen" feel.

Inset Cabinetry : We chose to upgrade to inset cabinetry (about a 15% increase) because it turns out every single photo I had pinned had inset cabinetry.  It was a fairly pricey upgrade, considering it didn't really add any function, but it was the "look" I was going for.  You can read about the decision making process here, as I debated inset versus overlay.  I'm glad we chose inset for the kitchen (and our master vanity, we used overlay in the mudroom to save) because it really adds to the finished look of our kitchen and the "old fashioned" "built-in" and "original" look we were trying to achieve.




To the right of the stove, I keep all of my wooden cooking utensils in a white pitcher.  I also keep this basket with linen tea towels and fresh fruit.


To the left of the stove, we keep the knives, small bowl of seas sea salt and pouring dispenser of olive oil, for easy access while cooking.

Handled Tray and Maple Cheese Tray, here >



In the drawer to the right of the stove, we keep the rest of the cooking utensils.  I have a thing about not having many plastic or colorful utensils - just looks neater when everything sort of goes together and has a place.  I also make a point of only having one (sometimes 2) of everything (except wooden spoons).


Below the kitchen utensils, the pots and pans.  Are you suprised to see that I only own 6 pots and pans?  (Besides the Staub dutch oven I keep on the stovetop.)  We registered for this set of All-Clad for our wedding and have never needed another pan yet.  The only thing I've added is a cast iron skillet.  I am a big advocate of pairing down your kitchen to the essentials - it makes being in the kitchen so much easier if you don't have to dig around for what you need.


And above, the spice cabinet... it never looks this neat, unfortunately : )


Now for my favorite.  I love this area of our kitchen!
This is the hutch that holds all of the pretties and everything we need to set the table.  It is also conveniently located across the way from the dishwasher for easy unloading.  


These long flat drawers hold all of our flatware and linens.


I love collecting, mixing and matching flatware.   The set to left is a silver plate set we received for our wedding.  The service set next to that with the wooden serving spoons and knives are antique, and were an old family friends'.  The Laguiole Ivory Handles are available, here.  The set all the way to the right is a basic set from Pottery Barn - maybe their catering set?   In total, we have enough to do full place settings for 20.  

And then, the linens... my favorite part.

Since I have new linen collections in my store every season, I've amassed quite a collection...

Shop the Linen Collection, here >




These are the napkins that we use for dinner every night.  They aren't always ironed, though ; )

My newest favorite are above (all the way to the left), the Olive Block Print Napkins, 4 for $32.  They are going to be perfect for family dinners this fall.



We keep all of our dishes, china, platters and glasses in this cabinet.  It is so great to have everything for setting the table, just across from the dining table.  It is helpful that it is not in direct flow with the kitchen, so when I am cooking, Emma and Mike can set the table without crossing my path... also very helpful when entertaining.





















We have all basic white plates and bowls, with a couple of additions of some ice cream bowls that Emma likes.


Our runner is from Ballard Designs.  I thought I'd need a new one every year (after muddy paws and spaghetti sauce drips), but I just took this out to the back yard and scrubbed it and power washed it and it looks great.  I have an oriental runner that is full of rich colors that I'll move here in the fall and winter.  You can see photos of what the kitchen (and the rest of the house) looked like for Christmas, here.
Resources : 


Walls & Trim : Benjamin Moore Navajo White Satin

Countertops : Arabescata Veneto Marble with Honed Finish

Hardware : Martha Stewart Bedford Brass from Home Depot

Windows : Anderson 400

Paint Color Details : You can see all of the paint colors for our house, here.

Brass Lanterns : Concord Lanterns (Small) in Antique Brass from Cape Cod Lighting Co.



Island :

Island Wood Top : Clear Alder Wood Wide Plank

Finish : Minwax Provincial Stain + Marine Satin Finish Sealer

Sink : Signature Hardware Reinhard 30" Sink, White

Faucet : Rohl Perrin & Rowe Bridge Faucet in Polished Nickel

Range : Verona Range

Kitchen Bottles : These are part of my Clean Bottles Collection.

Small Tray : The small tray (holding the dish soap) is here >

Large Handled Tray : Large Tray and Maple Cheese Tray, here >


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