26 September 2011

taking a hiatus (officially)

You may always be wondering if I'm on hiatus, since my updates are so sporadic, but I'm telling you right now, I'm officially taking a blog sabbatical until further notice. That further notice may be a new project, it may be the restart of this blog. I just know it doesn't have a spot in my brain right now. So, until I see you again - take care.

-Nicole

16 August 2011

how to really taste a rainbow

Guys, I'm crazy. I decided to make a rainbow cake. But not just a six layer rainbow cake, a 19 layer rainbow cake.

It all started about a year and a half ago, when I saw this image online:
(via Darius A Monsef IV)
My dear friend Nic had an impending 28th birthday, and I thought this would be super fun to make. Turns out we didn't get around to celebrating his 28th birthday, since he was swamped in post-doctoral work and I was house hunting. But I knew I couldn't just forget about an epic rainbow cake, so I filed it away in my mental to-do list.

This year for Nic's 29th birthday, I scheduled a dinner party, invited friends, and set out to make a ginormous rainbow cake. I thought 29 layers would be fun, but decided I'd wait and see how it worked out. All the cakes I had seen had been stacked up long-ways, and I really thought it would be much more glorious to see a vertical tower of rainbow cake. I pinned the following images as inspiration:
(rough edges rainbow cake and 30th birthday rainbow cake)

(pink ombre cake and rainbow cake)
Without much planning, I started making some rainbow colored cake layers. I have three 8" cake pans, so I decided I would just make up a batch of cake batter, divvy out equal amounts of batter into smaller bowls and start mixing colors. I baked 3 layers at a time, let them cool for about 10 minutes, then transferred to a cooling rack and started again.

A few hours and a trip to the store later, I had 19 layers and guests arriving in 2 hours. I decided to stop baking and start frosting. Luckily, I had a batch of raspberry Swiss meringue buttercream in the freezer, so I only had to make two batches of lemon SMB (Sweetapolita has the best tutorial in the world!). I started stacking, and couldn't be bothered with things like stabilizing skewers - I just stacked and frosted, stacked and frosted. I had just enough frosting for all the middle layers and one coat on the exterior. So I guess I also couldn't be bothered to go to the store for more butter and eggs with friends arriving in 30 minutes...



12" tall, at least 10 pounds heavy, and topped with rainbow candles, we celebrated a dear friend in an epic, epic way:
 



*Please credit me if you share these images on the interwebs. Thanks!

15 August 2011

How do you bike?

Personally, I prefer to Bike Fancy.
Photo: martha williams/bikefancy.com

I've been following Martha Williams' blog since it started in November of 2010. I think my little bike is pretty snazzy, and I'm always just wearing what I wear when I ride (no special gear). I've really hoped to be able to meet Martha and find my way on to her blog since it started. On my way home Friday, I stopped by my favorite butcher shop to grab some sausage for dinner, thus altering my typical route. As I was stopped at a light, Miss Martha pulled up beside me and asked if she could take my photo. I immediately knew who she was and was delighted. Check out my feature on her blog, but also the other lovely folks looking good on bikes at Bike Fancy.  

03 August 2011

garage update

July ended with a much less shameful garage and back yard. We're making progress...



We're searching for a new (used) door. There will be 2 more light fixtures like the one you see in the right hand corner of the garage. I need to paint the window trim green. There are boards waiting to be made into a deck/patio...

11 June 2011

{green} renovations

Summer has arrived in Chicago. Don and I have been working on making the outside of our house a little more livable, too. The sad parkway and front yard were the first to get some attention. (No one wants a house that screams "I was an unloved foreclosure!") They are almost respectable now.

In the parkway, we have a wonderful elm tree that provides a ton of shade when the leaves are full. (It also blocks our view of a heinous billboard - BONUS!) Below that tree, we had a mud pit. So we planted some hostas and lily of the valley pips, and added mulch. My hope is that they will just start to spread out and I won't have to do much in the future. No one likes a high maintenance parkway.

Our parkway - don't you love that boulder? Just waiting for those hostas to fill out...

Our front yard had 'minimal' landscaping. There are 3 dated evergreen bushes right in front of the house. Eventually we'll tear those out and put in some tall grasses and flowery things. But they're staying until we've got the time and funds to replace them. I thought those shrubs were the extent of our front yard landscape until we had tulips pop through the ground in March! (Our sweet next door neighbor got tired of our yard looking so crappy when the house was empty that she planted tulips a couple years ago!) My dream is to eventually have no grass in the front, possibly in the entire yard, so we've started to fill in with some plants. Now we just need to get rid of the dandelions and find a way to make that 'grass' look a little less sad until it's replaced.

so far we've got hostas, dead tulips, coral bells, butterfly bush, salvia, purple fountain grass, and some kind of japanese shrub. everything else is "inherited"
And that brings us around to the back. We grill almost every night in the summer, so a hospitable back yard is very important to us. The existing yard was anything but - ugly garage, gnarly mulberry tree/bush combo that the neighborhood birds used for a toilet, weird weed patches. Even with all that still needs to be done inside, we agreed the back needed improvements, incrementally of course.

TAAADDDDDDAAAAAAA!!! An alternately appropriate title  for this post would be "yard of shame." You can see the remnants of the mulberry tree. Bush removal pending... Also, don't be jealous if your neighbor doesn't drive a mystery machine!

View towards the house. Embarrassing. 

See, we originally planned to expand the garage and rebuild the roof of it. That is proving cost-prohibitive at the moment. So until we really need more garage/wood shop space, the foot print stays the same. Making the garage into a functional wood shop is now the priority, so that all the tools can be set up to tackle other projects. This means new sheathing, wrap and siding, and possibly some new doors/windows, and definitely appropriate power. Along with garage recladding, we decided we're going to build a wood patio deck in front of the garage, with a few planter boxes, and get our hands on an oak rain barrel. Hopefully by sometime in July, we'll at least have a place to sit and eat.

(And hopefully, the amazing Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely will select our sad pitiful garage to be in the top 10 for her Social Space Makeover Contest! These two architects need a little boost to help make our back yard awesome! We'd make a great before and after feature, plus I'm good at spending money when it's not actually mine!!!)

A panorama. Doesn't get any prettier in multiple views...

10 June 2011

an undesirable pallet...


Is it just me? Does anyone else cringe when they see pallets used as furniture? No, just me, the girl who had a toothpick sized splinter surgically removed from her 4-year-old thigh? I guess it's just not my aesthetic.

There's so much on the interwebs right now about this 'green and fun' design trend. Green? Really? Pretty sure those things are just as chemical laden as railroad ties. Just because you're repurposing something doesn't mean it's enviro-friendly...

courtesy design finch, who outlines the pros and cons of pallet upcycling

But maybe I'm missing something. Lots of trusted sources are singing the praises of pallet furnishings...

09 June 2011

have a seat

My craft pantry is the most finished room in the house, and I have yet to really use it... I call it the Craft Pantry because not only is it my dedicated sewing/art space, but it also has open shelves that hold cake stands, vases, platters, ingredients, etc. It is my happy little girly space. Here is a progress shot of it, along with the curtain fabric that inspired the color:




There are really just a couple of things left to be done in there: hang the curtain, hang the ironing board rack & magnet boards, organize my stuff, find a better flooring solution (although my free carpet square samples from work are nice, no?), swap the light, and eventually make the trim less weird (that's a whole house issue). I also need a rolly chair, so I can be a zippy little crafter. Don suggested I need an Eames Aluminum Management Group Leather Chair, in white leather:


But at $1500 (pre trade discount, but still), it's just way too expensive. So I was doing some window shopping on the internets, and came up with the following alternatives:

At $149, Ikea's Skruvsta is one of the most economical options, and it also comes in white:




Ikea also makes the Patrik Chair, available in a charcoal or red. $199 is still very much in the budget, I think.



Crate and Barrel has a couple of options. The Folio is nice and minimal, but a little too steep at $399:



And the Ripple is a pretty direct Eames knock off, and not bad for $299 (obviously the proportions are way not as nice, but that's why Eames is $1500...)


But, I hate to buy a knock off...
Crate and Barrel's hipper, younger sister CB2 has a great option in Bubble; $199:


Ikea and CB2 seem like the most likely candidates. Looks like I've got some sitting to do. Readers - do any of you have any of these chairs? Thoughts? Complaints? Do share!