Create / Enjoy

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Street of Dreams 2015 - a morning of inspiration and overwhelm!

As much as I love houses, decorating, and getting new ideas, I don't stay up on glamorous home decor trends (I now realize). Last weekend husband and I went to Street of Dreams for the first time in about 10 years, and wow, were we surprised. Things have changed. I guess we would know might if we watched shows about mcmansions on HGTV, but we don't. We wandered through each of the 9 homes with awe, surprise, appreciation, and sometimes a crinkle on our brows! (Does anyone really need 3 washer/dryer sets in one house??)

This was Street of Dreams's 40th year in the Portland area. Since 1976 the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland puts on a show of 8 or 9 luxury homes, built and designed by local firms. There are awards for Best Architectural Design, Best Master Suite, Best Outdoor Living, and so on, and the homes are sold after the show.



I was really impressed by the diversity of styles this year! Some very modern, some retro (one of the coolest houses was a renovated 1950 home by John Yeon, which had a very cool floorplan and northwest/modern style), some more traditional... Of course, they were all huge and elaborate, but some more than others, and I actually got some ideas from a few of them! (Although I can't imagine ever needing or wanting 5,500 SF for just my family!) When I went to Street of Dreams last time (2005, maybe?) I remember a lot of the heavy, dark wood, wrought iron, Tuscan-inspired, dark earth tones and burgundy... not my taste back then or now! So it was great to see such variety of design.

I did notice some trends that speak to my demographic, moreso than the homes in the 2005 show spoke to my then-late-teens self. Almost all of these houses had home gyms! Some very cool, like with kettlebells, and one with mounted squat/press racks and hanging rings. (I have a home gym, too, although it's called half of my garage with Craigslist-assembled equipment. Not quite the same as one with a walk-through to a sauna room and shower like one of these had. Oh, also, a secret bookshelf door from the living room. Seriously.)

Other trends I noticed? Of course there are big kitchens, with multiple sinks, cabinet-faced dishwashers and fridges, and built-in espresso machines, but lots of them also had faucets over the stove. Would be handy for me making bone broth!

So much marble. Kitchens the size of restaurants.

Of course there was a lot of grey and white (been there, done that! still like it.), but it was cool to see it in modern and more traditional looks. 

Every single house had a wet bar (if you could call it that--most were bigger than my kitchen) and multiple seating areas both indoors and outdoors. These are homes for some serious parties!! Here's one of the smaller, more playful ones. Reminds me of a trendy urban hotel.

Every house had at least one private office area off the main foyer, and some also had quiet reading spaces as well. A nice break from the massive TVs and 6 different patio sets they also had!

Also lots of walk-in closets. This was the first one we saw so it felt so decadent... but actually it was one of the smaller ones (and no private washer/dryer in this one!--still can't believe that's a thing--). Although I liked it a lot better than the larger, darker, windowless ones.

Another trend I'm already all over? Cool patterned walls in half-bathrooms. (Remember my DIY stencil project?)

One of my favorite houses was one I could tell from the outside that I would love. Every room was beautiful. Crown molding and vaulted ceilings in all the bedrooms, beautiful cabinets and a farmhouse sink in the laundry room, amazing tone-on-tone tile patterns on bathroom and utility room floors... and, more grey and white.

This is the secondary living room, of course. Far too small to be the main one. (I kid.)

And a pretty amazing kitchen. This one had a $22,000 stove and $11,000 chandelier in the entryway!

So much great tile at these homes!

Seeing 9 houses in a few hours is quite a whirlwind. We came, we took photos, we got inspired, we got overwhelmed... and we felt grateful for our townhouse with its relatively easy-to-clean spaces and adequate, but not excessive, rooms. I can't imagine every needing a single building so large and so fancy in every space, BUT seeing Street of Dreams did make me excited for my next decorating projects. I'd love to have a home that was the right size for me, but totally beautiful and well-made everywhere.

Street of Dreams is going on in Lake Oswego through August 30! It's a super fun outing and a great way to get inspired!

Thanks to Street of Dreams for the tickets they provided for me and my husband to go tour. I didn't receive any monetary compensation for this post; I just wanted to share it with you in this depth because it's fun!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seriously chunky, fudgy, fluffy, dark chocolate Paleo brownies

Aaaah, brownies... is there a more perfect easy dessert for a crowd??

We went up to my husband's grandparents' place last weekend for relaxing time with family, which we do a few times a year--and I've become known for making rich, grain-free treats for everyone once a trip. My mother-in-law requested something chocolatey, since her mom likes it a lot. I didn't want to yet again make the amazing flourless chocolate cake I've made 3 times now, and I haven't made brownies in literally years, so I thought they would be a great chocolate-ey treat!

I don't know about you, but when I think brownies, I think chunky. A brownie without chunks is basically chocolate cake, right? And chocolate cake on its own is not that exciting. Brownies need to be slightly chewy, definitely dark chocolate-ey, fudgy, and chunky.

Since I didn't have a go-to grain-free brownie recipe, I dug around and found this recipe, which was almost perfect, except that the only chunky element was the melted chocolate chunks on top--not chunky enough for me! So I looked in my cupboard and fridge and found a few other ingredients to bring for the weekend and try out added to the recipe.

Well, they turned out great! This recipe is a keeper, I'll definitely make these again!

Chunky, Fudgy, Dark Chocolate Paleo Brownies

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. coconut oil or butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 tbsp almond butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 5 dried apricots, chopped up very small
  • 1/4 c. walnuts or hazelnuts
  • About 1-1.5 oz (1/3 bar) high quality dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

    Instructions:


    1. Plan ahead and get the eggs and coconut oil out of the fridge several hours before making this recipe. If it's cold in your house, you may need to heat the coconut oil and then let it cool a little before using. If it's too cold, it won't blend with everything else.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8"x8" or 9"x5" pan with coconut oil.
    3. In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a mixing bowl with hand mixer, combine coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and almond butter; mix on medium speed until well combined.
    4. Add cocoa powder and coconut flour; blend on low.
    5. Add apricots and walnuts and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.
    6. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until firm. Cool; cut into 8 pieces.

    Optional, but makes them extra special--serve with ice cream! This is storebought coconut milk ice cream.


    So decadent! Make these for your family when you want to be super nice! ;)

    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    Back to summer camp!! Company picnic and a great reason to screen print!

    Last weekend featured the most wonderful hot Saturday afternoon in my recent memory.

    I love summer camp. I went to a great one in the San Juan Islands for 5 summers as a kid, and I have great memories and friends from there and will always appreciate those happy, fun, carefree times. I'm so grateful for the experience.

    So, I have some nostalgia about summer camp (increased by movies like The Parent Trap, Wet Hot American Summer, and Moonrise Kingdom, and hipster culture!), and this year I suggested a summer camp theme for our company picnic.

    The summer picnic committee was totally on board and all the team and subcommittees jumped on ideas for bringing the best of summer camp to our fellow employees and their families for an afternoon. We had wood cookie name tag decorating, a tie dye station, camp counselor names, the Announcement Song, a water balloon melee, and more and more and more. Everyone got so into it!

    Another idea I had was for a name for this pretend "camp" and a logo to go with--our company is called Mackenzie, so the name was Camp Mackenzie and I found the perfect reason to use my screen printing kit again! We did a logo on the front and "STAFF" on the back for the committee members ("camp counselors"), on vintage-ey ringer tees. (Seriously, if you haven't seen Wet Hot American Summer, you must. Pretty sure Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper would have worn shirts just like these.)

    The inspiration (Wet Hot American Summer):

    The tug-of-war matches were particularly epic. Husband's team was undefeated.

    A few of the committee got together and built a stick sign for the camp--it says CAMP backwards and MACKENZIE with a flag in front!

    The inspiration (Moonrise Kingdom):

    Of course we had whistles and wood cookie nametags we decorated, and our "camp director" (committee chair) had a megaphone. Oh, and the wood cookies--three of us collected our Christmas trees last year and one very helpful committee member cut them into disks and drilled holes for everyone--for our more than 220 attendees!

    We had so much fun acting like kids and getting the whole company into the spirit!

    Oh, I should say on the shirts--the emulsion I got more than 2 years ago in my screen printing kit was old, so instead of the standard emulsion method for getting the design, we used contact paper and cut with an exacto knife, then stuck the contact paper to the screens. It actually worked out great! We made 16 shirts, so it would have been rough to do iron-on letters or stenciling individually. We did the fronts one day after work, and the backs another!

    It was so great being back at camp for a day--and being a counselor and in charge! ;)

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Beginning gardening, plus tech! The Edyn garden sensor

    I'm an aspiring gardener. Not a very experienced one, nor one with a lot of resources (like a yard of any kind)... but, I do what I can!

    This summer our little porch garden contains 6 tomato plants, several varieties of herbs, and a ton of onions. We've done peppers, lettuce, and even cucumbers in the past, but this year we stuck to a smaller selection and just got more of them.

    So when I got a chance to try out an Edyn Garden Sensor, I thought we could really learn something from watching data about our plants' health!

    The Edyn Garden Sensor was born of a Kickstarter campaign in summer 2014. It's a solar-powered sensor that gathers and analyzes data about light, humidity, temperature, soil nutrition, and moisture around it and wirelessly connects to the Edyn cloud; checks the data with plant, soil science, and weather databases; and feeds the info to your iPhone. Fancy stuff!!

    It's available on the Edyn website and at HomeDepot.com and select Home Depot stores.

    The data from the sensor tells us the current environmental conditions of the plant in question (this one is Tomato) which is probably the most helpful part for us.

    It also provides historical data about the plant's health over time. You also can track multiple sensors at once, so you can watch the health of a variety of plants in the same conditions. And the app has options for tons of different plants so you can learn about their growth stages, tailored to-do's, and how well they fit with your garden. (In future phases of the app, there will be a garden timeline with suggestions for when to harvest, plus ideas for plant groupings that go well together.)

    We have definitely under- and over-watered plants before... as beginning gardeners it's sometimes hard to get into the routine of caring for our plants, especially when that routine changes a lot with the weather from April to October in Oregon. Sometimes the rain waters the plants for us; others we have to water twice a day!

    Husband has enjoyed the tech + hands-on elements of the sensor and the garden is more his creation than mine. He has more gardening experience than I do and is more diligent about watering than I am!

    So here's his review about the sensor!
    • It's sturdy. The specs state how it's built for the elements, but it really does feel like it'll last through many seasons of use.
    • It's easy to use. It was super fun and easy to set up and connect to a smart phone.
    • It's not buggy. It consistently has worked and been accurate.
    • It covers a lot. One sensor covers 250' of soil! We're using small containers, which is potentially not as useful since it can only cover one plant, but it's still helpful for the size and type of plant it's in. The downside is, if you have plants in differently sized pots or of different varieties, it's less helpful. The tool would be best used for a garden box or in-ground garden so it could cover a wider area. However, the plant with the sensor in it is by far doing the best of all our plants! (It's in the largest pot, in the sunniest spot, but the sensor has been helping us keep it healthy.)

    I'm really excited to have this tool to help us track our garden's health, as we learn gardening skills and slowly add to our plant repertoire!

    Follow along as Edyn grows (pun not intended) and #gardensmart!

    Twitter: @EdynGarden
    Instagram: @edyn_garden
    Purchase on the Edyn website and at HomeDepot.com and select Home Depot stores.

    Thanks to Edyn for sending me the sensor and sponsoring this post!

    Thursday, July 16, 2015

    Dark denim versatile romper

    The romper cannot be avoided these days.

    I made this romper last summer, and shared this roundup of romper patterns earlier this summer. Around that time, reading one of my magazines, I came across this page and was inspired by these chic, fitted, interesting denim rompers. (I love denim in many forms!)

    I also love the Anthropologie McGuire Sailor Romper in dark denim.

    So, I found some nice lightweight dark denim and made my own!

    I combined the simple tank dress top of McCall's M6744 (except I gave it an open button placket at the back so I could step into it) and the romper shorts of Simplicity 1355, a versatile dress/jumpsuit/romper pattern I've used several times even just this year (see all my uses of Simplicity 1355 here).

    It's so fun to wear out on a hot day!

    I had fun doing the top stitching and shapes of the pockets, a lot like the Anthropologie one.
    Necklace: Jules Smith, c/o Favery. Purse: Old Navy (similar/similar/similar). Sandals: Old Navy (similar/similar). 

    I highly encourage making yourself a romper this summer!

    Monday, July 13, 2015

    Beautiful grain-free baking - and a giveaway! My Paleo Patisserie

    I've had phases with baking. My mom wasn't much of a baker, so when I got into it in high school it was new and exciting. After grad school when I switched to a very restrictive diet, I still made treats but didn't do detailed, careful-measuring "baking" and didn't use common ingredients or chemistry. Now that we eat our own personalized versions of the Paleo Diet, I avoid super sweet things most of the time (and grains always) but I do occasionally bake for a special event! Like the birthdays that have happened this month!

    So when I saw Jenni Hulet's inspiringly beautiful new book, My Paleo Patisserie: An Artisan Approach to Grain-Free Baking, I was excited to try some of the recipes when I had a reason to make a real treat! Husband was amazed by the 300+ pages of grain-free baking wisdom and unlimited combinations and varieties of desserts. His birthday was earlier this month, so he picked out a dessert for us to make. We both got super into it, flipping through the pages and learning the grain-free baking tricks and techniques Jenni has perfected!

    I got a copy of My Paleo Patisserie to try out AND a copy to give away to one of you!!

    The cake we made husband was most similar to the Neapolitan Cake, though we used all vanilla cake and jam for the filling. So beautiful.

    For my birthday, I might choose the Maple Carrot Cake with coconut. (Or the No-Crust Black-Bottomed Banana Pies... or the Tiramisu... or the... well, it's hard to decide.)

    Considering how fancy some of the recipes look, the detailed step-by-step photos of some of the specialized skills seem SO helpful! For example, making marshmallows someday is a goal of mine, so I know I'll want to refer to these photos when I try it!

    Husband picked out a mix-and-match combination of vanilla cake, raspberry jam (we made it from berries we picked at a farm), and Swiss meringue buttercream icing. It was delicious!

    Then for my mom's annual July backyard party, we made the berry tart, in one 9" pan, with coconut cream filling, nut-free crust this time, and more berries we picked at the farm. 

    It was a huge hit!

    Enter to win a copy of My Paleo Patisserie here!


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