Archive for the ‘Decor’ Category

Balcony Garden: things we learned the first time around

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013


Suj and I are fortunate to have a huge balcony at our place in DC. It is really a ton of outdoor space in the city, so as soon as we moved in we knew we wanted to take advantage of it by planting an urban garden.  We considered building a medium sized planter box for a more traditional-type garden, but since we are just renting we decided that probably wasn’t a practical option. We settled on planting in a variety of mismatched pots, and we are pretty happy with the results.

I did a lot of research about when and what to plant, but I didn’t find much helpful information. Most of the posts I read suggested talking to a local garden store. We decided to just wing it and plant a random variety of veggies. We started in early spring (I think about mid-April) when the weather started to warm up.

We planted a few varieties of tomato, classic and purple basil, rosemary, lots of hot peppers, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini. The rosemary died immediately. We seriously had it for a few weeks before it totally shriveled and died. Apparently it is temperamental with heat and watering. On the other hand, the basil has done quite well. Suj’s sister had a garden last year and her basil plants grew into these crazy 4 foot tall monstrosities. Ours is only about a foot tall, probably due to the fact that it is growing in a small planter. In any case, we have had plenty of fresh basil this summer.

We have had mixed results with the tomatoes. One of the plants is an heirloom variety, and while it has given us a lot of tomatoes, they have a tendency to crack. We did some googling, and apparently the cracking is a result of inconsistent watering. This summer we have had a ton of rain storms followed by intense heat, so we haven’t been able to control the water exposure for our plants. Beside the heirlooms, we also planted a few cherry tomato bushes. These little guys were gifted to us and had been specially bred to be high-yield and compatible with DC conditions. These have been fantastic. I absolutely recommend the cherry tomatoes over the regular size. Not only have they grown well, but they are ready to be eaten so much sooner. I was shocked to learn that it takes over two months for a regular tomatoes to ripen!

The zucchini was a horrible idea. The plants were so tiny when we got them, so we planted them in a long container alongside our bell peppers. We soon learned that the zucchinis are basically plant terrorists. The leaves grew so fast and so big that they took over the place. In addition, we had to wait a long time before we ever saw zucchini growing. When we finally harvested one it was all goofy shaped, not like the ones at the grocery store. It is still in our fridge.

The jury is out on the bell peppers. We got one pepper from each bush and they were tiny. That said, it is unclear whether the problem was the bell pepper plant or the insane zucchini that basically grew on top of them.

The hot peppers have done the best by far. We have a couple bushes: jalapenos, serranos, and red peppers. The jalapenos and serranos have given us more than we can possibly use–and we love us some peppers. I would definitely recommend those for an urban garden.

Bottom line: My urban garden recommendations are hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Mid-sized planters work fine. Make sure to water them every day.




5 Tips for Outdoor Dining

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This month our book club read Gone Girl, which we discussed over a beautiful alfresco dinner. The book is sort of a “beach read” which was appropriate since I finished it during my last beach trip of the summer.

The weather is cooling, which made dining outside so enjoyable. Erin made coconut shrimp with pineapple salsa, which we had with cilantro rice and a ginger tomato salad. For desert, we had warm brownies with ice cream and fresh strawberries. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was very romantic. Throwing an outdoor dinner party can be very easy with a little planning.

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Tips for Outdoor Dinner Parties

  1. Scout for the perfect space. We are fortunate to have a balcony large enough to comfortably fit our dining table, but I love the idea of throwing a dinner party in a unique outdoor location.
  2. Setting the mood. Simple holiday lights went a long way in setting the mood for our dimly-lit, twinkling scene. We took mosquito precautions with this (worked great). We also lit some candles and streamed background music via a Kings of Convenience Pandora station.
  3. Planning the menu. The hardest thing about dining outside is timing—i.e., serving a warm meal on location. We didn’t have too much trouble with this since our table was so close to our kitchen. For a more distant location, I would try something portable like a steak salad with fresh berries and cheese for desert.
  4. The table. Last year I purchased a tablecloth from Target and picked up a few sets of cloth napkins from Marshalls. They were pretty inexpensive and I’ve used them over and over. I worked as a caterer in college so I love any excuse to break out my napkin-folding skills (though it is pretty easy). A nice table setting is an easy way to make a simple dinner feel special.
  5. Guests! At our house, we look for any excuse to entertain, but book club nights are some of my favorites. It is so rejuvenating to laugh, cook, and catch up with the girls. And sometimes we even manage to discuss the book!

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Simple solution: jewelry dish

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

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My bedside table is something of a problem area for me, with jewelry and hair pins scattered about. A few weeks ago I found this beautiful nautical soap dish at GoodWood, one of my favorite vintage furniture shops in DC. The dish serves as a perfect jewelry holder and it makes smile when I see it. Problem solved.


Terrarium DIY

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Growing up in the desert, we had a variety of succulent plants and cacti growing in our yard. I always thought they looked so beautiful and structured. In DC, however, the atmosphere is much more conducive to flowers and greenery (which does not last long in the dry southern Utah heat) so it is rare to see desert plants. But I managed to bring a little bit of Utah to our balcony with these easy, desert terrariums.

I picked up a few potted succulent plants from the farmer’s market for about $3.

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Next, I filled the bottom of a wide glass vase with rocks (for water drainage). I found this vase for a few dollars at a discount home goods store.

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I topped the rocks with potting soil.

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I placed my plant into the vase. Ideally you want to plant it at the same depth it was growing in the pot (mine is a little high in this vase).

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The farmer told me to water these plants about once a week, maybe even longer if the soil is still moist. This little guy is very low-maintenance.

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And there you have it. A little bit of the desert on our urban patio.

Project Balcony

Friday, June 1st, 2012

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A few weeks ago, I set out to revamp our balcony, while sticking to a budget. After a lot of planning, and multiple trips to home depot, the space is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I so wish I had a few “before” shots so that the transformation could be truly appreciated! We have such a great space but we simply weren’t using it because it was so uninviting (nothing but two large tables, flimsy plastic chairs, and a cooler, seriously). But now that it has been transformed into a relaxing outdoor retreat, we use the balcony every day.

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So, having finished the overhaul, here are my tips for deck-orating (couldn’t resist):

First, come up with a game plan. I put a lot of thought into the layout of the space and I tried to think about how I saw us using it. We have a very large balcony and initially set up tables thinking we would frequently dine al fresco. This turned out not to be the case. Like, maybe once did we eat outside. So this time around, I wanted to create more of a conversational atmosphere where we could relax with a glass of wine and chat after work. I imagined a bistro table with a sitting area under the window. Once you have a game plan and a rough sketch of the design it is time to make a few purchases.

Budget. I set a budget of $400 for the entire project. That seemed big enough to cover a table and chairs, bench, and flowers while still being realistic. I love being resourceful on projects like this and I think I could have done the revamp for less, but I was on a deadline and being resourceful takes more time and energy than I had in this case.

So once you’re ready to buy, it’s time to hit up craigslist. In the past I have had a lot of luck with craigslist finds, so that was the first place I turned. I’ve found the best strategy is to go on the site with something specific in mind, so as to not get distracted/overwhelmed. I knew I wanted a bistro set and some kind of bench, and I found a few good options, but nothing perfect. The key to craigslist is patience, but in this case, I was anxious to complete the project. So I went to home depot.

One quick city-specific side note. Doing a project like this in a city, without a car, is a beast. Because of this, I did a lot of research and found furniture options from websites that offer free shipping. Before heading to the depot, I found back-up options online, which gave me good price points and helped me stick to my budget. For instance, I found this bench and this bistro, both offering free shipping (not to mention I had one of those 20% off coupons for BB&B). Fortunately, Matthew and Laura were kind enough to lend us their car for an afternoon, so we avoided the online route, but the research made all the difference because I knew what I wanted and how much I was willing to spend.

We ended up purchasing everything from home depot. The Adirondack chairs were a total score at $36 each and the wodden end table was $12. We stained/weather-proofed them ourselves, which was quite the eye-opener since I learned I am not great with a paint brush (tip: stain them after assembly to ensure all the visible parts get covered). The tiled bistro table was $99 and the chairs were $19 each and we spent about $150 on pots, planters, and flowers. Finally, we converted a glass table that was already on the balcony into a grill station in the corner. We went a little over budget due to additional costs (pillows, broom, stain and brushes, watering can, zip ties, etc.), but Suj saved the budget by stepping in and buying the tile table when I was leaning towards the much cheaper metal version. So glad he did, I simply love that table.

I couldn’t be happier with the results and I am thrilled that we been spending the past few evenings on the balcony. Mission accomplished.

busy week!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

This has been a crazy week and a few things (ahem, this blog) have been a little neglected. Good news is the balcony is finished and it looks amazing! (Post to come!) Now I am getting ready to visit Tennessee for the holiday weekend. I am so excited to see my good friends, Laura and Matthew, get hitched! I am also looking forward to staying at a haunted hotel in Chattanooga and then a quick trip to Nashville.   For now, here are a few things I have been enjoying in DC:

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{sneak peek at the new balcony}
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{Erin’s famous banana bread}
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{empty park in front of the white house}

project balcony

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

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I am a girl who loves herself a project. The latest on the list is revamping our balcony. We have a great, huge balcony off our back door and we have basically done nothing with it for the two years that I have lived in the house. But no longer! I have some big ideas (but trying to stay budget conscious) and I am excited to create a space for relaxing and entertaining this summer. Here are a few photos with some outdoor inspiration.

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(images via pinterest)

Mother’s Day Paper Rose Card Tutorial

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

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Handmade cards are so special and personal. So this mother’s day tell mom you love her with a beautiful paper rose card made by you! Use any paper you like for the roses. I picked up this scrapbooking paper from the Columbia Heights Target (who knew they had a scrapbooking section!). I attached the roses to a blank fold-over card, but you could also use them to jazz up any basic card or envelope. Here’s how:

Step one: Free-hand draw a swirl design on a 4″ by 4″ square of paper. Tip- the wider you make the lines, the “taller” the flower will be. You can also play around with different sizes of paper to create a variety of flower sizes.

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Step two: Cut.

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Step three: Roll the strip of paper beginning at the tail end of the swirl, i.e., not the middle part(with the design side of the paper facing in).

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Keep rolling to form the rose.

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Step four: Add a little glue at the base to keep the flower in place (I used a hot glue gun, but any glue will work).

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Step five: Glue the roses to a fold-over card or use them to personalize a premade card.

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{Happy Mother’s Day!}

Where To Eat – DC: Taylor Gourmet

Monday, March 19th, 2012


I love a good sandwich. Taylor Gourmet is a stylish DC spot with a creative sandwich menu, so I was thrilled when they opened a location in my neck of the woods. Last week, I visited their new 14th street location in northwest DC. The reclaimed-style decor gives the place a cool, urban feeling, but the highlight, of course, is the food (I ordered the “race street” and it was awesome). This place is definitely on my restaurant-list when my folks visit next month.

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20120319-092940.jpg{the race street}

Paper Puff DIY

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

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This is a simple DIY idea for party decorations. I used tissue wrapping paper to make puffs of different colors and sizes. I also found this to be a fun way to recycle shopping bag tissue. My blue puffs were originally stuffers from a Club Monaco bag.

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Let’s get started:

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I cut three sheets of tissue paper, all about 10×15 inches, and placed then in a stack. Then I made 1 1/2 inch “accordion style”  folds in the paper.

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Secure the center of the folded paper with a clear elastic hair band (you can also tie string around the center, but I found that the clear band worked really well).

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Cut the ends off the paper. Note, that you can change the look of your puff by cutting sharper angles or round edges.

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Gently fold back each layer of paper.

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Fluff and adjust until the puff reaches the desired shape.

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Easy, right?