Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More inspiration for our farmhouse...

While searching for vaulted bathroom ceiling ideas last week, I came upon this enchanted looking bedroom, which is pretty much exactly what I want our attic bunk-room at the farmhouse to look like eventually... I love the white-washed wood paneling on the walls and ceiling, the rough looking wide plank boards on the floor, and the summery palette of all that white fabric!!

It has this lovely, ethereal quality to it-- like a warm breeze just blew through and ruffled all of the gauzy drapes...

So many beautiful things to build.... 

Easiest thing I've ever made...

The John-Jules-Christina Family is gearing up for a big traveling adventure soon (details to be revealed eventually...) and we've been diligently eating through the contents of our fridge, freezer, and pantry; trying to consume as much random food as possible before we leave.

Our dear friend Arryan (of Freeman's Alley fame) is celebrating his birthday tomorrow with a potluck dinner and-- of course-- my first instinct was to bake birthday pie. Yes. Birthday pie has become somewhat of a speciality of mine.

What sets birthday pie apart from regular pie is the pool of melting candle wax that forms when you put stripe-y little birthday candles into a piping hot pie, straight out of the oven. Believe it or not, I've made birthday pie twice, with identical results, and have decided now to embrace it as a "tradition".

So with this exciting birthday upon us, I thought, "What better opportunity to make another birthday pie-- this time using the frozen fruit and puff pastry packet I have in the freezer!!" Five google-search-seconds later, I found this easy-breezy recipe, and whipped up a slight adaptation of this Mixed Berry Galette in almost as much time.

Follow the incredibly easy instructions below-- and track down a jar of Devonshire Clotted Cream or Creme Fraiche if you really want to impress your guests. They'll be so wowed, they'll never guess that you're just blowing through the contents of your fridge!! : )

  • 1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed, or pastry for a single-crust pie
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 cups of assorted berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered strawberries will all work perfectly! 
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, cut into bits
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, foil, or a silpat mat.
  2. Divide pastry into two pieces. Roll puff pastry into two circles, about 8-inches each. Place on baking tray (it's okay if they are touching) and place tray in the fridge to chill the crust while the oven preheats.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch and get rid of any lumps. In a large bowl, stir together the berries, sugar-cornstarch mixture, lemon zest and salt. Juice lemon over the mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Once oven has preheated, remove puff pastry from the fridge and divide the filling between the two crusts. Using a slotted spoon, mound the mixed berries into the middle of the dough, leaving an inch or two around the edge. Fold the edges over the filling, just enough to keep the berries from sliding out. It should overlap and will look rustic, don't worry about evenness or neatness.
  5. Brush the pastry with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Dot the fruit with the butter cubes. Bake two galettes until golden, 25-30 minutes. If the middle of the galette puffs up in the oven, just pierce it with a fork.
  6. Remove tarts from the oven and cool for a few minutes before sliding out onto a cutting board or serving plate to cut and serve.
  7. Serve warm, preferably with creme fraiche or clotted cream if you really mean business. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

OMG brainstorm.

In the middle of the night, I popped out of sleep and suddenly thought, "Wait! We could vault the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom the same way we vaulted the ceiling of the porch!" This is because that little guest bathroom is tucked under the same continuous roof of the porch, so there really isn't any reason it couldn't be vaulted. Since our plan is to completely gut the bathroom down to the studs in order to insulate properly AND we were going to take down the yucky dropped ceiling anyway, there is really no reason not to vault the ceiling in the process.

See the window on the far left side of this photo, first floor? That's our downstairs bathroom! 

Of course first thing this morning, I tracked down some inspirational images of vaulted ceiling-ed bathrooms-- and I love it. (Plus-- all of these examples prove that there isn't some secret contractor-y reason this isn't done...)

The first image is so similar to what I've got in mind for our bathroom-- it's a little preposterous-- though I'd give the golden-shower-head-from-above the skip, and most likely install our shower head on the wall that's hidden by the shower curtain in that photo. But in concept-- subway tile-- vaulted ceiling-- white tile floor-- this guy and I are clearly on the same page. It's also making me warm to the idea of shower curtain over glass door for a standing shower... M...a...y...b...e...

So this is pretty much the nicest bathroom I've ever seen. I want to sleep in this room.
That said, it is probably better suited as inspiration for our attic than our downstairs bathroom, as I'm pretty darn sure we don't need another claw foot tub in this house. 

This is another inspiration image that's cut from the came cloth, though they've parked their tub in an eave, so they're vaulting up from both sides. This isn't quite what we're planning, but aesthetically I like everything else that's happening in here, so it didn't seem irrelevant either. Plus maybe I can refer back to it if we do ever decide to install a bathroom up in the attic???

: )

I think I just heard John groan at that prospect. Especially when I mentioned a clawfoot tub. Have you ever carried one of those babies up a flight of stairs??? How about two?

Another thought I had that has me pretty excited is that theoretically we could even install another window in the bathroom if we wanted to... Once I started thinking about it "down to the studs" I realized the sky is kind of the limit! One idea was to install a sky light in the shower, because I'm pretty sure that'd be awesome-- but the downside is that the roof of the porch is really the first thing you see when you approach the house, so chopping a skylight into might not look so hot... 

Hmmm.... Lots to think about... 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whoa. New favorite.

John and I just hosted an experimental "bar food" dinner party, serving a delicious trifecta of dishes: a secret recipe of chicken wings that John invented, homemade mozzarella sticks served with homemade marinara sauce, and mini Mediterranean lamb burgers. I was in charge of the lamb burgers, and scared up this sensational recipe for the burgers, and then we tapped the NYTimes's recipe for "How To Cook A Burger" for the cooking instructions.

Not gonna lie.

Holy shit. 

Basically I followed the recipe exactly, EXCEPT that I made them in miniature so they'd fit onto these adorable little mini-buns John bought at the grocery store, and we referred to this recipe for cooking instructions, because we were making them indoors in Brooklyn. Needless to say, our house still smells like a diner, which is a little intense, but is also kind of making me want another burger as I type... I've adapted Aida Mollenkamp's recipe to reflect my miniature status, but you could also revert back to full-sized if that suits your needs. Check her site for the original recipe as well as outdoor grill instructions...

**Look... I'm going to keep calling them "mini burgers" throughout this post because I just really can't tolerate the term "sliders". It's too freaking gross and too freaking literal. If ya don't like it, just say "slider" to yourself whenever I say "mini burger." So there!

Mediterranean-Spiced Lamb Burger Recipe

  • Makes: 8-12 servings
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Hands-On Time: 30 minutes


  • For the mayonnaise:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive tapenade (or finely chopped olives)
  • For the burgers:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil, for the pan
  • To assemble:
  • 8-12 mini hamburger buns, sliced in half and toasted
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into 4 rings
  • 1 handful baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • Optional: Add harissa to the bun as you assemble for a delicious zingy flavor. 


  • For the mayonnaise:
Place the mayonnaise and tapenade or olives in a medium bowl and mix to incorporate.
  • For the burgers:
Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a large bowl and, using your clean hands, mix until just combined. Split the meat into 8-12 equal portions and shape each piece into a patty that is 1/2-inch-thick, about 2" across or approximately the size of your mini burger buns.
Using your thumb, make a 1-inch-wide indentation in the center of each patty in order to help the burgers cook more evenly.
Add oil to a cast iron pan and heat to medium on the stove. 
Increase heat under pan to high as you place the hamburger patties. Put each hamburger into the pan with plenty of distance between them and allow them to cook, without moving, for approximately 2 minutes. Use a spatula to gently turn the burgers over. 
Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through, approximately another 3 minutes for medium-rare. Remove the hamburgers from the cast iron pan and allow to sit for a few minutes before you inhale them. 
  • To assemble:
Spread about 1/4 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on each bun top and then spread an equal dollop of harissa onto each bun top. Divide red onions and thinly cucumber slices amongst burger roll bottoms, top with a patty, then garnish each with arugula and feta. Top with the bun and serve immediately. The mini version is pretty messy. In hindsight, I think stabbing it with a toothpick wouldn't have been a bad idea, but we opted to devour in one to two bites instead. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Busy, busy bees!

Another hiatus! I'm the worst!

It's been another round of crazy weeks for the John-Christina-Jules household, and I'm only just now catching my breath after what has felt like weeks of home improvement and professional project overload. Jules also celebrated his SECOND BIRTHDAY last weekend, which just blows me away. It's hard to believe that it's already been two years since he was born on the Upper East Side of New York on a rainy August afternoon. We've been through so many bananas adventures together since then! A lot of you have followed our blog through all of those ups and downs, and it must seem like only yesterday that I told all of you that I was pregnant! 

Now, here we are two years later, and his birthday has given me a tangible milestone to contemplate all of the events, good and bad, that have happened since then... 

We've got one reality show behind us, one country cottage sold, one farmhouse acquired. We've gone from one little tooth to an entire remarkable mouthful of them. We've spent wonderful time with our family, and lost wonderful parts of our family. We've lived for months in a hotel together, we've explored new cities together, we've visited thousands of grocery stores seeking respite from sitting in the car, all together. We've made new friends and left some behind, we've gone from no-neck-muscles to some-neck-muscles to "so-many-muscles-that-I can-climb-onto-anything-and-will-jump-from-incredible-heights-fearlessly"... We mastered the "art of walking" in an endless hotel hallway, we've learned how to put on lots of eye-makeup, how not to be on TV, how to insta-gram, how to kiss a dog on the mouth, how to avoid kissing a dog on the mouth, how to insulate a house from the top-down, and how to crawl into the tiny space under your house because you don't have enough money to pay someone to do all of your electrical work for you. We've experienced international travel together, we've gone on a cross-country road trip together, we've come up with ridiculous sleeping arrangements to ensure that everyone gets a good night's rest all together..... It has been a wonderful, though at times, incredibly unconventional two years together, and hopefully Jules will be able to look back at this blog eventually and say, 

"Wow. We lived a totally bizarre but adventurous life, altogether." 

Happy Second Birthday to our ever-growing Jule-Bug. To everyone who was with us to celebrate his birthday, in person or in spirit, we send our love and thanks to all of you.

Now onto the next adventure...!! 

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.

Okay. So after I posted my last blog, I got completely sucked into hunting for vintage wallpapers and found the most incredible website. Not only do they have loads of vintage wallpapers for sale, BY THE ROLL, they even have one of the wallpapers we originally found in the farmhouse that we (tearfully) had to remove to insulate the house last fall.

I'm kind of freaking out. Now I want to wallpaper everything. Like, maybe I should wallpaper the little bathroom AND the staircase?!?! And maybe... the upstairs' hallway too?!!???! Holy sh--t!! I'm so jazzed up about all of this wallpaper!

The options are limitless!! 

What's next on the to-do list?

The next project brewing on the to-do list is the downstairs bathroom in the Catskills' Farmhouse. I don't know if you remember what that bathroom looked like when we first bought the house, but it was truly the stuff of nightmares. So much that it even came with a place to stash a dead body if need be.

To refresh your memory, I encourage you to re-watch the YouTube video that John and I made a little over a year ago, when we first fell in love with our very own money-pit. 

Nowadays, the bathroom is considerably less frightful-- we pulled up the vinyl tile, closed up the creepy-crawl space above the shower, painted every possible surface, and cleaned the billow out of the shower, toilet, and sink. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing to write home about, but it's a perfectly serviceable bathroom that has done well by us in our time of need. ; )

That said, now that we're the proud owner of two other fully functional bathrooms, it seemed like it was time to hunker down and address the shortcomings of this space. It is currently the weak-link in our house, and something has to be done! 

My fantasy is to completely remove the existing fiberglass shower enclosure which veritably sings midwestern truck stop, and replace it with a smaller shower stall and a glass door. And once we open that pandora's box, I was thinking we'd remove the existing wallpaper, install a beadboard-wainscotting throughout, and possibly install a new wall paper. Yes! I did just say that! I found this incredible old bird wallpaper at a yard sale, and if I've got enough, I'm thinking I might just "put a bird on it."And if I don't have enough, I might be entertaining buying some from this awesome website, because I've gotten a little bit obsessed with her wallpapers, looking for more of mine... 

I tell-ya! You spend ten friggin' minutes on a design-reality-TV-show, and before you know it, you're hanging kook-a-doo bird wallpaper up in your own house, ON PURPOSE. 

Is nobody safe anymore??? 

I am considering some very straight forward white hexagon tiles for the floor, which I imagine John will be elated to hear. I'm not sure if you remember, but the last time John and I installed some "very straight forward white hexagon tiles", it was in the tiny bathroom in the Fox Ridge Cottage. I was probably six months pregnant at the time, and I think it's the closest brush we've had with divorce in the twelve-and-a-half-years we've been together. Let's just say that two grown adults and a half-baked baby should not cram into a 40-square foot bathroom and try to cut one-inch tiles by hand. 

While trying not to step on the floor. 

I dare you to try it and see if you don't emerge with a pink slip. 

That said, it's hard to resist the overwhelming allure and simplicity of "very straight forward white hexagon tiles", so I might test fate and see if our marriage can survive another installation. I'd like to think we're older and wiser now, so hopefully it won't be as arduous, but we also have additional square footage and not being pregnant on our side too. 

Basically our bathroom, in my magical imagination, will be the combination of the bathrooms shown above and below. Minus the clawfoot tub and plus a bird wallpaper. (!!!!)

The only question I have, aside from the obvious zinger (Where will I get the money and time for all of this genius?!?) is whether it's a tad overwhelming to have wainscoting, hexagonal tile, bird wallpaper, and probably a white subway tiled shower enclosure all in one 75 sq. ft bathroom. 

Okay-- this example is kind of a nightmare-- but if you subtract the pretty horrifying fake tin ceiling, minus the lovely though rather busy marble floor tiles, and then-- and here is where you'll have to squint a little-- add some bird wallpaper-- this is pretty much exactly what I'm proposing!!! 

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks to see if I can make this magical thinking become a reality!!