Friday, August 29, 2014

Labor Day Cookout Menu

Alas, it is the unofficial end of why not go out with bang and invite your friends and family over for a cookout? Whether you are hosting or attending one, these recipes from Delish are sure to be the talk of the gathering! On the menu is mango peach sangria, grilled corn with mango-habanero butter, Mo’s sticky ribs and mixed-berry spoon cake. Visit Delish for some other recommended Labor Day cookout recipes.

Mango Peach Sangria
1/3 cup(s) sugar
1/3 cup(s) water
1 cup(s) Grand Marnier
1 bottle(s) Viognier
1 mango, chopped
2 peaches, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup(s) mint

In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves; transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate until cold. Stir in the Grand Marnier, Viognier, mango, peaches, and mint and serve over ice.

Grilled Corn with Mango-Habanero Butter
1 mango, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup(s) mango nectar
1 tablespoon(s) honey
1/2 habanero chile, seeded
1 1/2 stick(s) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoon(s) packed cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
8 ear(s) corn

In a small saucepan, combine the chopped mango with the mango nectar, honey, and habanero chile. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the mango is very soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the mango puree into a small bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes.

Wipe out the food processor. Add the cooled mango puree along with the butter, cilantro leaves, and salt and puree until smooth. Scrape the mango butter into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Pull the corn husks down to the base of the stalks, leaving the husks attached. Discard the corn silk. Using butcher string, tie back the husks. Fill a large bowl with cold, salted water and submerge the corn for 10 minutes.

Drain the corn but don't pat dry. Grill the corn over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, about 8 minutes. Transfer the corn to plates, spread with the mango-habanero butter, and serve.

Mo's Sticky Ribs
2 1/4 pound(s) baby back ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Granulated garlic, for sprinkling
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon(s) whole cloves
1 12-ounce bottle of lager
1 cup(s) ketchup
1 cup(s) peach or apricot jam
3 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic. Drizzle with oil and scatter the cloves over the ribs and in the pan. Pour the beer over the ribs, cover with foil, and bake for 2 hours, until the meat is tender.

Strain the pan juices into a saucepan. Whisk in the ketchup, jam, and lemon juice and boil over high heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Set the ribs meaty side down on the baking sheet, brush with glaze, and broil 4 inches from the heat for 7 minutes. Turn the ribs and brush with half of the remaining glaze. Broil for 10 minutes, until starting to char. Brush with the remaining glaze and broil until browned, 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.

Mixed-Berry Spoon Cake
4 pint(s) strawberries (2 pounds), hulled and quartered
2 pint(s) blackberries (12 ounces)
2 pint(s) raspberries (12 ounces)
3/4 cup(s) sugar, for the filling
2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
1 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1 cup(s) sugar, for the batter
2 teaspoon(s) finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup(s) milk
1 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 stick(s) unsalted butter, melted

Make the filling: In a bowl, toss the berries with the sugar and cornstarch and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the batter: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and vanilla. Whisk the liquid into the dry ingredients until evenly moistened, then whisk in the melted butter until smooth.

Spread the filling in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spoon the batter on top, leaving small gaps. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean. Let cool for 1 hour before serving.

Did you try any of these recipes? Let us know or share your pictures in the comments!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Create a Zen Bedroom

"Bedroom Curtains" by Emily May is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Your bedroom should be a place where you feel relaxed and ready to rest, and your decor will influence your pre-bedtime mindset. Remember as a kid when your mom told you not to study in bed? That was because you would either fall asleep, or not be able to sleep other nights when you didn’t have to study. The same goes for adulthood--your bedroom should be a work-free zone! Here are some other tips from Apartment Therapy on bringing calm to your bedroom.

1. Be natural. Check the tags on your sheets, blankets, pillow covers. Are they of natural fibers? If not, seek out some good, basic sets of natural fiber bedding. Take it a step further with the mattress and your pillows, though this can get pricey. Also consider the materials of your furnishings and rugs. Are there a lot of synthetics like plastic and polystyrene furnishing your bedroom or natural materials like wood and wool?

2. Unplug. Banish electronics from the bedroom. Seriously. That means phones, computers, television. Nothing sucks the lovely out of a bedroom faster than electronic devices. If it plugs in, take it out (except the reading lamps, of course). You'll get better sleep and your room will be a calm respite from digital life.

3. Keep it clean… Furnish and decorate sparely. And clean often. If things are kept simple as far as furnishings and decor, it should be a rather quick job to clean the bedroom. Wash linens at least once weekly and be sure to dust between the head of the bed and the wall.

4. …and serene. Are natural woods and cool colors relaxing to you? Then use them in the decor of your bedroom. Prefer deep, dark black or brown? Incorporate that. Whatever puts you at ease, use it in the decor of your bedroom.

5. Get personal. This is the room for displaying cherished personal possessions. Have an heirloom wedding pic of your ancestors? That could also be well-suited here. If you have personal items you've collected but don't feel comfortable displaying front and center in the living room, make your bedroom the place for these things. The bedroom's a private area of the home and it will make you happy to see things in it that are meaningful to you but perhaps not to everyone.

What do you use to create your bedroom zen? Share your tips with us!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Decorating Myths Debunked

We’ve all heard the famous “no white pants after Labor Day,” but there are plenty of myths floating around about home decor, too. Ultimately, your decor is your choice and should be a reflection of you and what makes you happy. However, if you’re curious about some common interior design fact and fiction, Elle Decor (courtesy of House Beautiful) will give you the truth.

Photo courtesy William Waldron
MYTH: Throw pillows must appear in odd numbers only

REALITY: It's more about what you feel works in the room. Here, in a Long Island home, designer Robert Stilin alternates two pairs of pillows in a similar color scheme for a look that's perfectly serene and symmetrical.

Photo courtesy Simon Upton

MYTH: Trends should be incorporated only in the form of small, replaceable accessories

REALITY: If a trend—say, metallics—speaks to you, you should feel full license to use it with abandon. Here, Jean-Louis Deniot's hammered silver kitchen cabinets show that going big on a trend you love can end up being the most show-stopping part of a home.

Photo courtesy William Abranowicz

MYTH: Collections are only meant to be decorative

REALITY: A collection can be something as simple, beloved, and downright useful as a stack of magazines, as seen here in Eric Hughes and Nathan Turner's Malibu apartment.

Photo courtesy William Waldron

MYTH: Choose one pattern to be the star of the room

REALITY: Through artful pairing you can feature two, three—even five!—fabulous patterns as long as you keep the color scheme similar, and get creative with scale.

Photo courtesy William Waldron

MYTH: Your ceilings must be white

REALITY: A dramatic color can actually draw the eye upward, plus it gives you an extra surface to make a major impression, as Richard Mishaan illustrates in a Westchester home.

Photo courtesy Eric Piasecki
MYTH: All 4 chair legs must be on (or off) the rug

REALITY: It's more important that the space can morph and adapt to however guests configure themselves. In Michael Leva's Manhattan apartment, a flexible seating arrangement is constantly in flux to make room for everything from cocktail to dance parties.

Photo courtesy William Waldron

MYTH: All "ugly" architecture must be hidden

REALITY: Even something like exposed ductwork, as seen here in a D.C. apartment decorated by Nestor Santa Cruz, can be embraced for what it is. "It gives a rhythm and movement that flows through the rooms," says Santa Cruz. Something to consider before taking on a massive cover-up process.

Photo courtesy Richard Powers

MYTH: All artwork must be at eye level

REALITY: Art can live wherever it feels at home—to your eye, at least. In Susan Hable Smith's Georgia home, a piece tucked up at the top corner of the room offers a moment of surprise beauty, while silk screens and drawings add pizzazz even from the floor.

Photo courtesy Richard Powers
MYTH: Once is enough, when it comes to a busy pattern

REALITY: If you truly love a pattern, why limit it to only one surface? In Alex Papachristidis's Manhattan apartment, the same cotton fabric covers the walls, sofa, canopy, and curtains...and still looks fresh and modern thanks to the artfully-chosen prints that balance the entire room.

Photo courtesy William Abranowicz

MYTH: The most expensive piece in a room should get pride of place

REALITY: It's the piece with the most character, not highest price tag, that deserves the spotlight. For example, this chair, in William Abranowicz's entry hall, was found in the dumpster!

What other myths have you heard? Do you believe them to be true?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Keeping Street Noise Outside the Apartment

"Blocks of Flats on Poleg Beachfront" by Jonathan Pincas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
You’re laying in bed, ready to get a good night’s sleep and then it happens...that annoying couple from across the street is having another fight. We’ve all been there, whether it’s “that couple,” car doors slamming, sirens or traffic, noise from the street has either awakened us or kept us from falling asleep at one time or another. It’s not something you can really control, but there are ways to prevent it from coming into your apartment, as Apartment Therapy explains.

Use your exterior walls
Nothing absorbs noise like a fat wall of books. Consider moving your bookshelves to line your outside walls so the books will help absorb some of the street noise. Fabric is another good insulator, so a solution that moves your closets, clothing racks, or linen storage to the outer walls can help as well.

Get thick curtains
Heavy curtains can also help dampen sound. The thicker and heavier the curtains, the more effective they'll be. You can even buy special noise-absorbing curtains designed to help cancel out annoying sounds. While I would love to drape my entire apartment in velvet someday, for now I'm using IKEA's Werna blackout curtains. They're very thick and heavy, don't cost a fortune, and as a bonus they also block all the light that would otherwise be seeping in. If the noise makes you batty, you might even want to consider hanging two sets of curtains.

White noise
"Midtown New York traffic under the Gimbels Bridge"
 by joiseyshowaa is licensed CC BY 2.0.
I find that a fan or a white noise machine helps a lot.

Reinforce the windows
A lot of noise seeps in through windows. While you're probably not going to be able to convince your landlord to replace your standard rental apartment windows with better ones that keep out more noise, there are some DIY options you can consider. Covering the windows entirely would probably turn your apartment into a dark little box, but cutting some sheets of acoustic foam to fit the windows will give you an option you can put in place at night and then take down whenever you want your windows back.

I like to save the squishy little foam earplugs that airplanes give out on international flights. They're comfortable enough to fall asleep in and keep out almost any noise.

Trust time to fix it
In the end, time will probably take care of most of the problem for you. I grew up in a major city, so sirens and car horns don't even register as noise for me. When my husband first moved to a city, he couldn't sleep for weeks because of all the noise. He was convinced he would never sleep again. But after a short time he got used to it, and now he can sleep through anything. He even slept through the World Cup game last night, and that was so loud I thought the windows were going to fall out. Give it some time and you may find you don't need any noise-canceling solutions at all.

Do you have other noise-free apartment living solutions? Share them with us!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Farmer’s Market Survival Guide

Photo courtesy Rhett Maxwell
If you have never been to a farmer’s market before, prepare yourself for a lot of amazing fresh produce and baked goods to choose from. While it’s a benefit to have possibilities, it can also be a little overwhelming. With some help from Apartment Therapy, you’ll be ready to grab your roommate and re-usable bags and hit the market in no time!

1. Come prepared. Bring bags, small bills, sunscreen, comfortable shoes and a list. I have a bad habit of not writing out what I need to get and leaving with popcorn, pastries, candied nuts and oh-so-conveniently leaving out the veggies. Preparing a plan helps keep you on track.

2. Be flexible. Farmers markets carry only what is locally in season and, depending on harvest, this can change from week to week. Being flexible and willing to make substitutions ensures that you will always have produce at its prime.

3. Walk a lap. Before you start shopping walk the length of the market to asses who has the freshest produce and the best prices, then work your way backwards through the vendors. This insures that you get the most bang for your buck.

4. Ask about deals. Some vendors offer discounts if you buy certain quantities of things or discount overripe fruit and unsold items at the end of the day.

5. Realize it's not a one-stop shop. While you can often find a range of products (eggs, cheese, olives ,etc.), assessing what you'll need to pick up elsewhere to supplement your market finds can help you fit your fresh produce into some delicious recipes, instead of letting it languish in the fridge.

6. Research new ingredients. Websites like our own Kitchn and apps like Epicurious are great for figuring out how to utilize new-to-you ingredients like dandelion greens and squash blossoms. You might just discover a new favorite dish.

What is your favorite farmer’s market? What are some herbs, fruits or veggies you must buy when you’re there?
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