Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mission Repaint Dining Room: Accomplished

I must say that I am infinitely proud of myself for my newest house project. Ok, so it really only involved a very simple paint job, but our dining room now looks 1,000 times better. Goodbye putrid mauve circa 1991; hello gorgeous Patina Blue (Valspar Signature color with the primer already in it - fabulous!).

I’m gonna take my self-aggrandizement a step further. Huzbo and I finished the whole project in two and a half hours. And yes, I actually convinced him to sacrifice part of his weekend for another home improvement project. I’ve got mad persuasive skills. Snap!

Ugly, horrid before:

Gorgeous, calming after:

Now, while the room obviously is not completed, I think it's still a hell of a lot better than it was before. I'm on the lookout for some larger scale artwork (on the cheaps) and a fabulous mid-century modern buffet piece or china display. Holla if you hear of any.

You must be thinking to yourself, “Wow, Ragan, this must have been the absolute highlight of your weekend.” Well, adoring masses, you’d be wrong. The only thing that could top such an accomplishment: Food.

You know you’re old when you consider a perfect weekend eating and home improvement projects…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dirty Little Secret

I am a wedding registry stalker and I can’t control it. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

I can’t explain why I find it so interesting to creep on acquaintances’ wedding registries, but if you’re getting married or have recently done so, I probably have a pretty good idea as to what you new kitchen is going to look like.

I like to think that this strange mini-obsession comes from a good, healthy place. Maybe it’s that I don’t feel quite comfortable squeezing you for details about your huge life events, but I still care. And a little part of me feels like I’ve participated in your happiness just a bit when I check out what you’re hoping people get you. Or maybe I’m just jealous that I can’t have all of your presents. Bet these folks would really appreciate it if I purchase something from their registry, rather than just perusing.

Now that I’ve gone off the creep end, I’ll close this little post down. But really, it’s not as weird as it seems, right?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Maybe it’s a Southern Thing…

I recently came upon a post on Apartment Therapy (http://ht.ly/2e631) about a particularly considerate house guest and the author requested comments on other lovely, considerate things that readers’ house guests had done for them. Reading through the comments, I was struck with an idea so foreign to me that I didn’t know how to comprehend it. Some people despise and even forbid houseguests. What?!

Like I said, maybe it’s a Southern thing, or maybe I’m an overly hospitable freak, but I simply don’t understand why someone would turn away a friend in need of a place to stay, or even a non homicidal looking stranger, from their home. I mean, I can sort of see how one can be inconvenienced or mildly uncomfortable with the cleaning, preparing and grocery shopping bit, but it is inconceivable to me that one would not derive some satisfaction from enjoying the company of their friends and helping to make their travels more comfortable. Its called karma, bitches.

Am I too Southern? Too trusting? Too much of a homebody? Is it weird that I genuinely enjoy making sure that my house is as comfortable as possible for my family, friends and friends of friends that need a free place to stay? Maybe I’ve just travelled a lot and have had to rely on others’ hospitality. Or maybe I am a little too maternal for my own good. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not an asshole like those grumpy commenters.

Granted, sometimes people aren’t the best guests – they don’t make the bed or leave like 20 peppermint wrappers scattered across the room (same guest) or eat my last chocolate-coconut Kashi bar (really I don’t mind, it was just an example) – but I am nonetheless pleased that I was able to provide them with the same comfort and friendship that so many others have shown me. I don’t know, maybe I just know how to share.

So, friends, family and non homicidal strangers: You are always welcome at my home. I have no problem washing the sheets before and after your stay, making sure that you have clean towels and preparing a meal for you. Do try to make the bed, though; this Southern girl appreciates your manners. And just for the record, I also like iced tea and football.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dining Room SOS

It's probably no surprise that my decorating sense of style is a little different. Maybe it's my mother's aforementioned hoarding, but I prefer an eclectic, vintage and modern decor to the out of the box, prefab and pre-coordinated look any day. The upside is that when you're able to achieve that perfect balance, your living spaces are cozy, comfortable, fashionable and sentimental. The downside is that if you lack the funds, creativity, time or any combination of the three, your rooms look dumpy, sloppy and cluttered. This is my struggle.

My current room of focus is my oddly laid out, very chartreuse kitchen and eat in dining room. I’ve found a photo of the casual dining look that I want and I’ve even purchased the most perfect 1950s wooden movie theater seats, but I just don’t know where to go for the table (modern-looking chairs are easy thanks to Tracy's fantastic West Elm wedding gift). I’ve scoured Craigslist and local flea markets, but when I describe to people that I want a beat up, but solid barn work table, I get the craziest looks. Am I off on my description? Anyone have any ideas of where to go with this? Or maybe you have one of these in your garage and would like to drive over and drop off on my doorstep? I would like that a lot.

Here’s the look that I’m going for:

(photo from http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good Goddess of Deliciousness - Crispy Creamy Avacado Fries!?!

I just came across this post on thekitchn.com and had to pass it on. This just might prove once and for all that everything is better fried (as if Oreo hadn't already cleared up that arguement).

Check it out here.

I'm so making these sometime this week and I'll get to keep them all to myself, as Huzbo is an irrational avacado hater. Sometimes I just don't get him...

Arkansas Summer Staycation

With holes still in our bank accounts from one expensive spring of nuptials and home buying, Huzbo and I are trying to tame our travel bug and find delights a little closer to home. I can’t promise that I’ll make ever event on my list, but making a list is really the first step to accomplishing things, right?

Here’s my See Arkansas First travel to do list (descriptions come from their respective websites):

27th Annual Altus Grape Fest - Friday, July 30th & Saturday July 31st, 2009

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks - http://www.bgozarks.org/events/

Farmer's Market - Sunday, May 2nd 9am to 2pm

The Fayetteville Farmers Market will begin on May 2nd at 9am. There will be a variety of vendors located in the Botanical Garden Parking Lot. The Market will occur every Sunday until the end of October. Please visit http://www.fayettevillefarmersmarket.org/ for more details including vendors and other items of interest.

Firefly Fling THE Festival for Families - Saturday, July 24th 7pm - 10pm
Come join us as daylight turns into night as we celebrate nature with art, music, food and play. We will have hands on activities for children of all ages including lots of water play! Dress up as your favorite woodland creature and critters and build a fairy house in the woods. This event will provide down-to-earth experiences that will reawaken our sense of belonging to the larger community of life, and ignite deep caring and concern for the Earth.
$6 for Individuals , $20 for a Family of 4

Cocktails in the Garden - Thursday, August 12th 6:00pm
Enjoy Moonflowers & Margaritas at Cocktails in the Garden, a fundraiser for the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Come casually dressed and wind down with a drink and light appetizers as you stroll through eight acres of paradise while listening to surprise entertainment.
Enter the number of tickets that you would like to buy in the boxes below:
» Member tickets @ $15 each
» Non Member tickets @ $20 each

Backyard Bluegrass Concert - Friday, August 27th Begins at 7pm
Join us for a night full of fun, food and music! This free concert will feature Lonesome Road. Bring your blanket or lawn chair and a picnic basket or reserve a gourmet box dinner from The Event Group. No carry-in wine or other alcoholic beverage allowed. Soda, water, beer, and wine will be sold. This concert is the second in the Summer Concert Series.

Mozart and Beethoven in the Garden - Sunday, September 19th 5pm
The Lyrique Quintette features the music of Mozart and Beethoven. Bring your blanket or lawn chair and a picnic basket or reserve a gourmet box dinner from The Event Group. No carry-in wine or other alcoholic beverage allowed. Soda, water, beer, and wine will be sold. This concert is the third and last in the Summer Concert Series.

34th Annual Hope Watermelon Festival - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - Saturday, August 14, 2010

Also, don’t judge me for taking a tiny little trip or two to Kansas City. It certainly doesn’t qualify under my Arkansas Summer Staycation, but it’s still close and you can find amazing hotel deals on Priceline or by sweet talking a certain BFF employed by Hilton. And…I’m helping to plan the BFF’s bachelorette party there, so a little recon mission is totally justified, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So Decadent You Can Feel Your Ass Grow Just Reading This

As promised, here is the super simple recipe for my sister's birthday cake:

Chocolate Orange Cake

1. Box of your favorite chocolate cake mix – Brandy (the sister) chose double fudge cake, but I’ve also used Devil’s Food
2. Prepare as directed on box instructions, but sub orange juice for water
3. Bake as directed in two round pans – mine are 9 inch pans, but I’m sure 8 inch ones would also work, your cake would just be a bit taller
4. Let cool completely
5. Once cool – don’t get all excited and jump the gun, your icing will melt off - gently level the top of one cake layer by slicing off the rounded top. Nom the leftover top part as you see fit, just make sure that the cake is level so that the second layer doesn’t slide off or look crazy.
6. Cover bottom layer (the one you just cut the top off of) with the toffee cream filling.
7. Plop the second layer on top of the bottom
8. Cover with icing and enjoy
9. If you wanted to be really cute, you could add little candied oranges to the top

Toffee Cream Filling

1. Take one regular-sized can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk and plop it in a medium saucepan (do not open the can), ensuring that the water just barely covers the can.
2. Bring the water to a boil and keep it boiling for four hours, ensuring that the water always comes to the top of the can (you’ll have to add water).
3. Open can and find toffee cream filling

It’s seriously that easy (thanks Brandy for the recipe)

Orange and Limóncello Icing

1. Buy a container of your favorite cream cheese icing
2. Plop it into a small-medium sized bowl
3. Zest 1 orange into the icing
4. Add ½ teaspoon of orange juice
5. Add 1 teaspoon of Limóncello, an Italian lemon liqueur
6. Mix together with rubber spatula and set in freezer to stiffen for approx 30 minutes
7. Spread on cake and enjoy

I suggest enjoying this treat with a glass of champagne, because, well, everything should be enjoyed with a glass of champagne. Don't concern yourself with the quality of the bubbly, your taste buds will be so busy with the sweetness of the cake that they won't care anyway.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family + Friends + Food = The Perfect Weekend

I am a lucky gal. This weekend I had the all-too-unusual pleasure of spending time and eating some of Fayetteville’s most spectacular food with my sister, mother, grandmother, husband and friends. This happens, umm, never.

After an impromptu visit to the Northwest Arkansas airport, aka landing strip in a cow pasture, to pick up my sister, who has been stationed in Harrogate, England for the past year, we met up with two wonderful friends for sushi. While Wasabi is sometimes hit or miss, they were certainly on point the evening. I won’t go into how much sushi I shoveled into my mouth – it’s just gross. Despite my embarrassing eating, my party took a chance in going out with me after dinner. I’m not sure I would have been so gracious, were the sushi in the other mouth. But whatevs.

At this point Brandy was patiently awaiting the arrival of her bags, particularly since she had no toothbrush, face wash, clean clothes, or any of the other essentials that one needs in order to be allowed out. Going to bed with a vehement assurance that both bags would be on my doorstep the next morning, she remained calm. But of course only one showed up in the morning. I’ll not recap the entire ludicrous situation or the 20 (minimum) phone calls to United and American Airlines. Suffice it to say that the bag is lost and may or may not be recovered.

But we would not be deterred from our commitment to a lovely weekend. Mom arrived on Saturday and we did some light flea marketing, made amazing burgers from Richard’s Meat Market (go there, now) and drank far too many Sweet Tea cocktails. Take it from me – this is an essential and totally easy summer cocktail:

• 1 part sweet tea vodka
• 1 part water
• Lemon slice
Caution – it tastes just like sweet tea and goes down as smoothly. Watch yourself and only consume around people that will be your friends in the morning despite your crazy behavior.

So after a fabulous Sunday brunch at Café Rue Orleans and a quick jaunt up to Tontitown to purchase my vintage movie theater seats, which are going to make a fabulous bench for whatever dining table we eventually purchase, we watched the World Cup at Foghorn’s and consumed copious amounts of beer and wangs. The Viva la Jalapeño sauce is where it’s at.

The Nanny came up Sunday evening and we had a shrimp and crab boil, which is so nostalgic for me. The whole weekend was, really. Maybe it’s that make very strong associations with food and memories, but it seems that nearly all of the wonderful times that I’ve had with my family or friends have been accompanied by certain wonderful, comforting foods. Now, perhaps my growing derrière is an indication that either I have an amazingly wonderful life or I take my connection with good food a little too seriously, but I think that we all celebrate a little more heartily and enjoy each other’s company a little more when good, thoughtful food is in the mix.
This woman is grateful to have such wonderful people to enjoy fantastic food with.
Me, my sister, my mom and Nanny enjoying the yummy early birthday cake I made Brandy.

The cake is orange-chocolate cake with a toffee cream middle and orange and Limóncello icing – I’ll post the recipe tomorrow. It's super easy and ridiculously tasty.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Change or not to Change

So I have reached the point in newlywed-dom where I have to make a decision – do I adopt my partner’s last name or keep the one that I’ve had for the last 26 years? Now, I realize that if this is my only confusion in life, then I really don’t have much to complain about, but nonetheless, it is a fairly huge hassle and certainly a decision sure to endure for quite some time.

I must begin with a little background. I am not what you might consider a traditionalist. I am a feminist and also generally very practical. These things conflict more than you might think. First, I have identified with my name for 26 years. It’s me and I like to believe that while marriage might help me evolve as a person, it will not “change” me. In other words, Ragan is essentially the same person now that she was pre-marriage. So that’s part of the Keep the Hensley argument.

The other side is probably very similar to the argument that many feminists have made throughout history, which is essentially, “Screw you patriarchy. Why should I have to abandon my identity when that asshole I married doesn’t?” Or something like that. The one you’ve heard was probably much more eloquent and diplomatic, but you get the gist. And I wholeheartedly believe it. It makes no sense that I’m expected to not only sacrifice my identify, but that I should also spend a significant amount of my time filling out all of the paperwork if he doesn’t. The aversion to paperwork is my practical side shining through. What a waste of time.

In the same vein, why is it his family name that endures through generations and not mine? Chances are that I’m going to be more involved in the gestating, birthing and rearing of said posterity than he is (another conversation for another day). All this to say that I’m not comfortable with having to do all of the legwork and receive little benefit (not that carrying on one’s name is the sole benefit of parenthood).

But on the other hand…is it more practical to have just one name? Less explaining, less logistic hassle, etc. I’m just not sure that’s a good enough reason.
Our initial plan was to hyphenate both of our names, thus creating a shared family identity that recognizes both of us. But part of me, most likely the part indoctrinated by a patriarchal society, is still a little hesitant to make that move. Also, I’m not sure Hensley-Nichols would fit on most forms and would certainly be irritating as a signature…

What are your thoughts on the To Change or not to Change question?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Twilight: Take it for what it is

Twi hard fan or commited critic, you can’t open a webpage without seeing some sort of commentary on the Twilight franchise and I’m over everyone taking it so damn seriously. Let’s put the whole pop culture phenomenon in a tiny bit of perspective, shall we?

Twilight (the books and movies) are a lot of things, including, but not limited to:

•A trite, but nonetheless entertaining love story
•An excuse to either watch or visualize sexy men (while feeling creepy because one is under 18)
•Something to consume on an otherwise lazy weekend
•A recently pervasive piece of pop culture that provides a relational baseline between strangers
•Not-so-positive construction of women’s sexuality

Along the same lines, the Twilight series/saga is not a lot of things, including, but not limited to:

•Appropriate content for adolescent women to consume (do we really want young women to grow up pandering to a creepy, albeit super hot, old man?)
•Classroom literature
•Non-fiction, despite our deepest fantasies that a sexy, brooding, protective vampire is really out there waiting to find us
•To be taken too seriously

My verdict? Everyone stop taking these silly books and movies so damn seriously. Whether you’re a devoted fan or emphatic critic, take a moment to contextualize the whole hullabaloo. Accept the franchise for what it is – a relatively poorly written, but compelling fantasy romance that appeals to some women’s sexual and romantic desires. It is not real, nor is it really harmful in the scheme of things. It is not worth foul words on a message board, nor does it necessitate picking a “team” for either of the lead male characters. Wanna know why? Because they’re not real.

I say read it if you like, enjoy it for the simple piece of pool reading that it is and stop blowing up my Facebook feed with your weirdo comments.

Full disclosure: I spent an entire weekend finishing Breaking Dawn and I have read/seen the entire series.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Tiny Little Product Endorsement, Paycheck Free

So, I’m not getting paid for this post, but I really should be.

Photo books – the gift grandmothers swoon over. Seriously.

In March the Huzbo and I got hitched, at the most amazing location, I might add. Thanks to our super creative photogs, our photos were gorgeous and deserving of much more than a sad old photo album. While the lay flat album with an acrylic cover was absolutely gorgeous, the $1000+ price tag was waaaaay too steep for these newlywed new homeowners. So, after much research, I found a company with great reviews and a BOGO deal. Sold. We started with small books to gift to those that made the wedding happen financially and holy shit, we are forever super stars. If I wasn’t my grandmother’s favorite before, there is no doubt now.

Whether you’re currently or have recently gotten hitched, or you just have tons of photos saved on your computer that could be better-enjoyed, check out MyPublisher. The software is dummy-proof and the deals are unbeatable. I recommend the book jacket to the photofinish cover, but it’s personal preference.

Hit me up for more info. And in the meantime, gawk at my beautiful photos… http://bit.ly/awoGIf

Couple Crafting: Pick up a Paintbrush you Lazy Man

Currently, I am devising a plan to ditch the whole day job idea and exclusively craft. I mean, Etsy exists, so it must be possible, right? Hrmm…

Either way, I have several projects in my immediate future that I’m pretty excited about starting, most of which involve updating and customizing our home. The rub? Huzbo has some weird aversion to any sort of home or garden improvement that involves him getting his ass off the couch or out of his silly nerdy card room. It makes no sense to me, but makes me wonder if my sense of ownership over our home, not just our house, is greater. Perhaps it is. Perhaps he’s just lazy.

I mean, I’m confident that I am not the only homeowner that derives a significant amount of satisfaction from completing projects that ultimately improve our quality of life, contribute to the increased value of our home or just make our home cuter. Am I right?

I’m going to go ahead and give the generally thoughtful, caring, sensitive man the benefit of the doubt and believe that he just doesn’t have experience with the value and joy of home-building and maintenance. He doesn’t really understand the inherent benefit, both to our home and relationship, which these projects can provide. He’s a good person, really. No really, I promise.

All this to say that I’m super stoked about my soon-to-be chartreuse kitchen and patina blue dining room. All other main areas with be a smoky brown, I think, which is a HUGE upgrade from the current blanket mauve (pausing to vomit) in every room of the house. I’m also working on a secret project for a certain friend preparing to pop out a lovely little girl. Oh, how I love productive weekends!

P.S. Painting/guilt inflicting volunteers are definitely welcome...