Home and Decor

Who did it better? Free nightstand vs. $395

 

 

I just received the newest Anthropologie House & Home catalogue and had so much fun leafing through it.

When I turned to page 75, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

There was a nightstand so similar to the one that I refinished from a free cast-off in A Nightstand Castoff: Simply Upgraded and Gilded.

Oh, and, it sells for $395.

So, I ask you.  Who did it better?

I know who did it last summer and who did it for a whole lot less money.  As we like to say in our house, “Nothing beats free”!

White and Wow Wedding Arches

white-and-wow-arches

When Kaitlyn’s friends started to get married, we realized that there were no places in our community to rent or borrow wedding shtick (items of whimsy to adorn the wedding dancing).

That left only one choice.

We quickly needed to figure out how to make our own.

And we did. The most popular item that we designed were our wedding arches.

After the traditional Jewish wedding chupah (Jewish canopy) ceremony, the Jewish bride and groom have a few moments alone called Yichud (seclusion) in order to enjoy each other’s company before entering the reception room.

As the bride and groom prepare to enter the reception room after Yichud, there is palpable excitement in the air.  The band gets ready to perform a musical intro and the guests are on their feet waiting to dance the new couple into their lives together.

In the last few years, so many Jewish couples enter the reception by dancing under beautiful arches held by their friends and family.  There is nothing in halacha (Jewish law) or minhag (Jewish custom) that explains the significance of these arches.

So, we are truly left to our imagination.

Perhaps, the arches mimic the idea of the chupah, a shelter representing their new home and they represent the doorway from the new couple’s status as individuals into a life of togetherness. Perhaps, these arches connect earth and heaven.  Maybe, they incorporate the idea that the new couple is rooted in the friends and family that hold the arches.

Nonetheless, these arches carry the excitement and whimsy of an exciting new chapter just opened by this new Jewish couple.

And, that is what has guided the design of our wedding shtick.

These arches can be designed in so many different ways.  We have feathered and flower arches, but our most popular arches are our fluffy, curly and whimsical mesh arches.

We offer all of our wedding shtick with a donation to Camp HASC (Hebrew Academy for Special Children) in memory of Stephanie Cohen a’h. Stephanie was a very special friend of our daughter, Leah, and our family.  Her dear parents, Lisa and Stuart, are like part of our own family.  The joyfulness and whimsy of these arches were designed with Stephanie’s delightful character and joyful nature in mind.

stephanie-cohen

Stephanie lived a life of joy and lit up the lives of all those who knew her.  Although she was physically and cognitively challenged, she used every fiber of her body to bring happiness and whimsy to others.  She taught everyone around her about being positive and happy  in one’s life and she brought a smile to all who interacted with her.  The original set of colorful mesh arches were designed using Stephanie’s favorite vibrant colors in order to raise money for the place that she loved most, Camp HASC.  

arches-with-michelle-and-scotty

Stephanie’s colorful arches have been and continued to be borrowed over and over and have raised a great deal of money for Camp HASC.

This week, I  designed a new set of white and wow wedding arches to complement the colorful mesh arches that were designed several years ago. This time I documented the supplies and directions necessary to create their design.

Here we go!

SUPPLIES

hula hoop
heavy-duty scissors
scotch or cloth tape (optional)
duct tape or White Gorilla duct tape
21″ wide deco mesh (For each arch, I needed one 10-yard roll of deco mesh plus extra embellished mesh for accents)
pipe cleaners to match mesh or floral wire
white gloves (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Carefully cut a hula hoop using strong scissors.  Some hula hoops have beads inside to create hula hoop sound effects.  If you would like to add those sound effects to a plain hula hoop, add a few beads to the inside of the cut hula hoop.

Cover the ends of the hula hoop with duct or cloth tape to prevent the beads inside from falling out.  Use duct tape to coat the hula hoop from one end to the other.  I find that the easiest way is to leave a 2-3 inch section of tape exposed on the roll and wrap the duct tape roll around and around the cut hula hoop.

mesh-wedding-arches-hula-hoop-covered-in-duct-tape

Prepare pipe cleaners or cut wire into 12-16 inch sections.

Line up mesh near one end of the hoop.  Begin securing the mesh to the hula hoop by using a pipe cleaner or mesh to secure the mesh to the hula hoop about 6 inches from the end of the hula hoop.

Making sure that the mesh covers both sides of the hula hoop, wrap the mesh around the hula hoop, twisting slightly to form a swelling effect.  Secure mesh again to the hula hoop in about 12-15 inches.

mesh-wedding-arches-mesh-wrapped-around-hula-hoop

deco-mesh-arches-hula-hoops-covered-in-duct-tape

Continue to wrap the mesh around the hoop, securing it with the pipe cleaner or cut wire at equal intervals, making sure that the last interval before the end of the hula hoop is secured about 6 inches from the other end.

deco-mesh-arches-wired-at-even-intervals

Cut the mesh close to the end of the hula hoop, leaving the same amount of space for a handle at both ends.

Using the deco mesh, cut 8-12 inch sections of mesh.  The longer the sections, the more perfect your rolls will look.  The shorter the sections, the more rolls you will have.

mesh-wedding-arches-mesh-tubes

deco-mesh-arch-rolled-mesh

Prepare pipe cleaners or cut wire into 18-30 inch sections.

Take 3-4 deco mesh rolls and twist a pipe cleaner or wire section around the middle, forming a whimsical curly flower, making sure to twist the middle tightly, but to leave plenty of wire at the ends so that the curly flower can be securely fastened to the arch.  Here is where you can be creative and incorporate different colors, textures, ribbons or media.  For these arches, I used three white sparkly mesh rolls and one 4″ section of bubbly mesh for each curly flower.

deco-mesh-arch-flourish-with-wire

Continue to cut deco mesh rolls and create at least as many curly flowers as you have secured intervals on your hula hoop arch.  Each one of these flowers will cover the wire that you used to secure the mesh to the hula hoop.

deco-mesh-arch-flourish

I like to prepare a few extra curly flowers to fill in the middle of the arch, which will add whimsy and height to the final arch.  I also sometimes prepare a few smaller curly flowers, made with only 2-3 curls to fill in areas where the arch needs some more volume.

mesh-wedding-arches-in-parts

Using the ends of the wire or pipe cleaner, secure each flower to the arch covering the exposed pipe cleaner or wire that you created when you secured the mesh to the hula hoop, making sure to twist tightly and secure all wire ends.  Examine your arch carefully and critically, adjusting curly flowers to cover both sides of the hula hoop and making sire that the arc looks full.  Add curly flowers to areas on your arch that look unadorned.  To achieve a full look, each of these arches took 9-12 curly mesh flowers.

deco-mesh-arch

If necessary, cut the end of the deco mesh so that at least 2-3 inches at each end of the hula hoop can be handled.  Use heavy duty duct tape, secure the ends of the deco mesh to the handle.  Wrap the duct tape around and around so that the handle is neat, comfortable and secure.

To give the arches a more finished look, wrap matching pipe cleaners around all exposed wire securing the curly flowers to the mesh hula hoop.

If you would like to make a donation to Camp HASC  or would like information on borrowing these arches for an upcoming wedding, please comment below or email me at simpletowow@gmail.com.

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Plating Lesson: Leah’s Birthday Dessert

Today was Leah’s birthday and we celebrated the special day by going out as a family to Leah’s favorite restaurant in Manhattan, Noi Due.

Don and I had never been to Noi Due and we were delighted with the food selection, presentation and taste.  Although we were all too full to have dessert, we felt compelled to order at least one dessert to share so that we could sing “Happy Birthday” to Leah.

Leah ordered her favorite dessert in the whole world: cheesecake.  Simple New York-style cheescake.  Not Italian-style cheesecake.  Not the in-house prepared tiramisu.  Not anything else.  Just plain cheesecake.

And, when the dessert was served, Leah was delighted.  And so was everyone else.

Ju-Ju eyed the confectioners sugar.  Avigail eyed the whipped cream.  Don was hoping to share the cheescake.

I just admired the plating…..and asked Aaron S. to take a picture for the blog.

noi-due-dessert

Because, I loved a creatively plated dessert.  And, this dessert was cleverly and beautifully plated.

Here is what I loved about the dessert plate:

Beautiful plating is in the simple details
A simple piece of cheesecake was embellished with powdered sugar, whipped cream and some chocolate syrup. all simple ingredients that together yielded something extraordinary

There were many textural elements to appreciate
This plate allowed us to enjoy the ruffled whipped cream, decadent sauce, creamy cheese cake slice, the handwritten birthday note and the powdery sugar

It was original
They took the time to write “Happy Birthday” with a flourish and a dose of whimsy.

There was plenty of white space on the plate
The elements of the dessert were not crowded and left the diner with a feeling of space to appreciate the details

Happy Birthday, Leah!

Upcycled Chalkboard Chargers: Simple Placecard Alternative

chalkboard-charger-don-sample

I love the way chargers dress up a table.

It adds that extra flair to the table setting and makes the table look dressed even after the meal has begun.  It is one of the wonderful tools I implement in keeping my Pesach (Passover) seder table elegant and neat (see Seder Table Ideas and Inspirations).

Decades ago, I bought a set of gold chargers to use for Shabbos and special occasions. Then, gold was the only option and it matched the gold leaf border on my china.  The chargers were painted plastic and very heavy.

The top dozen of these chargers have been used over and over again and through constant use and cleaning, the gold has rubbed off and they have gotten just a bit grimy.   They have really been put to good use, but could really use a facelift.

Besides, nowadays chargers are much more common, much lighter and can be purchased at many discount stores.

I plan to purchase a new set of gold chargers and wanted a way to upcycle my faded and well-used chargers.

Enter….chalkboard spray paint.  It is one of those supplies that can be used in so many creative ways.  Among so many other projects, I used it to accent the  DIY Nightstand Play Kitchen for JuJu and it is so simple to apply.

While I was collecting the well-used chargers, I came across an oddball silver one that had been a gift, but had never matched the gold set.  I added it to my collection of soon-to-be-repurposed charges.

I washed the chargers with soapy water, dried them well and sprayed them with chalkboard paint.

blackboard-chargers

chalkboard-chargers-just-painted

I now have a new look that can even be easily personalized with chalk…voila!

Salad Appetizer in a Flower Pot

A plated appetizer should be pleasing to the palate and pleasing to the eye.  Very often, the difference between an ordinary appetizer and an extraordinary appetizer is in the plating.

This one is the perfect example.

I have taken a small terra cotta flowerpot and fitted it with a plastic cup.  I filled the cup with Heirloom Tomato Salad and garnished it with a Curly Scallion Garnish and beet horseradish sauce.  To add a ‘flower’ to the flowerpot, I placed a radish garnish on a skewer and placed it into the pot.

 

SUPPLIES

terra cotta pots

short 4″ skewers

Voila!

 

 

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Sweet Potato Roses in Salad Box

sweet-potato-floral-appetizer-up-close

Who said that salads have to be tossed in a salad bowl?

I love the idea of individual salads and especially individual layered salads. There is something wonderful about being served an individual salad, especially when there is a beautiful and delicious garnish to top it off.

Here is one sensational salad appetizer that I created using the simplest of ingredients to create a wow.

 

sweet-potato-floral-appetizer-vegetables-slices-before-roasting-with-peeler-salt-and-oil

INGREDIENTS

sweet potato, onion or zucchini, scrubbed
kosher salt
oil
chives
romaine lettuce leaves
chopped peppers or your favorite chopped vegetables
Simple and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette or your favorite dressing in a squeeze bottle

SUPPLIES

mandoline or wide peeler
clear square plastic bowls

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Thinly slice unpeeled sweet potato using wide peeler or mandoline.

Place thin sweet potato, zucchini or onion slices on parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of oil and kosher salt. Roast for 20-30 minutes, just until vegetables are soft with the edges just starting to turn brown.

While roasting the vegetables, soak and rinse romaine lettuce and chopped peppers.

Stand 1-2 sprigs of smallest inner leaves of hearts of romaine at edge of square plastic bowl. Place chopped peppers at the bottom and squeeze scant amount of dressing on top of peppers.

Remove the vegetable slices from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Roll each slice up to form a rose, using the crispy end to form the middle of the rose bud and wind the softer end around to form a rose.

sweet-potato-floral-appetozer-sweet-potato-rose

Garnish each salad with vegetable roses and tuck  two or three loops of chives between the vegetable roses and the romaine  sprigs.

 

 

 

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon,
which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

An arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking

roses-in-sequence

Last week, I hosted Sheva Brochos (one of seven wedding after-parties, each with seven blessings) for the children of my dear friends, Andrea and Michael.  The chosson (groom) and kallah (bride), Davidi and Efrat, are a gorgeous and young couple.

The Sheva Brochos was hosted together with five other couples, all close friends of Andrea and Michael.  Since this Sheva Brochos was toward the end of the week of partying, we created a theme and menu that would be lighthearted, interesting and youthful.

We decided to host the Sheva Brochos as a Spanish fiesta and it was wonderful!

We set up a taco bar with pulled beef, pulled chicken,  chili, an assortment of taco shells and rice choices.  There were lots of toppings and salad choices for the vegetarian and diet-conscious guests, too.  Over the next weeks, I will share recipes, menu and table setting inspirations from this wonderful Sheva Brochos.

As a backdrop to the Sheva Brochos fiesta, I challenged myself to create centerpieces to reflect the youth and glamour of this couple and the fun inspired by the fiesta theme.

Since we had not allocated much of a budget for centerpieces, I created centerpieces that were inexpensive but sensational.  I set up long rectangular tables and round tables.  For each long table, its  centerpiece spanned four feet in length, six inches in width and amazingly, only required six flowers that I had upcycled from last week’s floral bouquet.  For each round table, its centerpiece spanned two feet in length, six inches in width and amazingly, only required three flowers that I had upcycled from last week’s floral bouquet.

For the floral arrangements, I selected the straightest two  inch by six inch by eight foot lumber beams from my local Home Depot.  Since I was using both long and round tables, I purchased two eight foot length beams and had the lumber cutter at Home Depot cut them.  I cut one beam into two four-foot beams and the other into one four-foot beam and two two-foot beams.

I now had three four-foot beams and two two-foot beams.  On an outside table, I sanded the wood with my hand sander, paying particular attention to the area that had been cut at Home Depot. The sanding took only a few moments per beam, but really smoothed the beams, removing all splinters and jagged edges.

I then sprayed the top and the sides of each beam with metallic gold spray paint and let it dry for several hours.

Finally, I lined up 6 clear 4″ square glass vases at equal intervals along the beam.  I placed a floral blossom in each vase with just an inch of clear water pearls

Voila!

roses-in-series-on-sequin-tablecloth

SUPPLIES

6 large open-blossoms
four foot section of 2″x6″ wood beam
metallic gold spray paint
6 clear 4″ square glass vases
clear water pearls (optional) or water

TOOLS

hand sander

INSTRUCTIONS

Sand rough edges of beam.

Spray paint the top and all sides of the beams in your favorite color.  I used metallic gold spray paint

wilted-roses

Cut  blossoms off of stem.

Set up glass vases at equal intervals along beam, aligning first and last vases with the edges of the beam.

Add one inch of water or  clear water pearls to each vase.

Carefully place each blossom in each vase.

roses-in-series-on-sequin-tablecloth
Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon,
which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Simple Coffee Spice Rub

simple-coffee-rub

 

I am not a coffee drinker.  I just never developed a taste for coffee.  To me, it tastes bitter and unpleasant.  Thankfully, I wake up with enough energy that I don’t need the boost that coffee provides.

Interestingly, though, I love the aroma of coffee.  While the taste does not please me, the aroma of coffee is something I really enjoy.

There isn’t another member of my extended family that shares my distaste for coffee.  In fact, it is rare that I meet someone else who does not start their day with a cup of coffee.

Despite my not drinking coffee, we stock quite a varied supply of coffee in our home to satisfy the different but obligatory morning coffees of our family.  Some like dark roast, others light roast; some enjoy favored coffees and we have some visitors that actually prefer instant coffee.

Since we do not brew coffee on Shabbos (our Saturday Sabbath), our coffee drinkers either brew it in advance, buy cold brew coffee or use instant coffee for their Shabbos java.

I find that I have lots of leftover instant coffee, not fresh enough for the morning brew, but with enough aroma and flavor for a spice rub.  I store this instant coffee in the freezer until I am ready to use it.  Once I make the spice rub, I store the coffee rub in a spice container or ziploc bag in the freezer, as well.

The aroma and texture of this rub really adds that special wow to a roast. This spice rub imparts an amazing quality and flavor, even to my coffee-impaired taste buds.

If you are concerned about the caffeine in the coffee rub, feel free to use decaf coffee, instead.

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons ground coffee, regular or decaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

DIRECTIONS

Combine by shaking in container or ziploc bag.  Cover tightly and store leftovers in freezer

london-broil-spice-rub

 

A Homemade Warm Compress

I woke up earlier this week with a stiff neck that just seems to get achier.  Today, the pain radiated to my shoulder and down my arm. It seems like I may have pinched a nerve.

The pain and stiffness really needs some warm relief.  My husband, Don, suggested that I design a microwavable compress to ease the pain.

I did some internet research and found that it is quite simple to fashion a compress filled with uncooked rice, beans, oatmeal, barley or flaxseed.   The filler is placed into a cotton (non-synthetic) sack and tied, velcroed or sewn closed.

I looked around the house and found that I had plenty of raw beans, a brand new oven mitt and a variety of cotton socks.

With just a few moments of prep time, I was sitting at my desk writing this blog post with a warm compress soothing my neck and shoulder.

 

 

 

SUPPLIES

Cotton sock or oven mitt

Beans, uncooked rice or barley

Naturally dried herbs, essential oils, contents of an aromatic tea bags or spices for fragrance (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Fill a sock or oven mitt at least halfway with beans, rice or barley.  I found that it was easiest to use a stack of coffee filters to move the beans into my compress.

homemade-hot-compress-beans-in-coffee-filters

For a pleasant aroma, you can add a bit of dried herbs, fragrant powder or oils to your compress.

Seal the compress by tying a knot, placing a resealable velcro strip or sewing the ends shut.  For a firm compress, seal it with very little empty space.  For a looser compress, leave empty space before closing your compress.  A looser compress will allow for draping it around your neck and moving the beans to conform to your painful area.

Heat compress in microwave for about one minute, keeping an eye on the microwave during heating just in case the filler or compress starts to smoke.

Before applying compress, check that it is not too hot.  If it feels too hot, shake it and wait until it is just the right temperature for your aches and pains.

 

NOTES

Be careful!  Check that the compress is not too hot before applying it.  It is hard to tell how hot the microwaved compress will get, so please check before applying to your skin.

For extra safety against burns, place a layer of cloth (like a towel or t-shirt) between your skin and the compress.

Do not use heat therapy for acute injuries or if you are pregnant or have diabetes, poor circulation, high blood pressure or heart disease.   If you are not sure, consult with a doctor before using a warm compress to ease muscle or joint pain.

It’s All About Plating: Simple Baked Apple Dressed Up

I love simple things done right.

Delicious and beautiful does not need to go hand in hand with complicated and time-consuming.  It can certainly be something simple just presented in a unique way.

I love plated appetizers and desserts.  It dresses up the meal and makes each guest feel pampered.  It also allows for the simple combination of colors, flavors, temperatures and textures that  create a wow to the palate and a wow to the eye.

I have found that good plating needs white space in order to properly appreciate the elements on the plate.  Very often, I will use  three different elements on a plate and will opt for a larger plate so that each plate element will be able to be appreciated without being crowded.

Here is a plated dessert where the Simply Baked Apple is served warm, the chocolate sorbet is frozen and the star fruit and whipped cream dress up the plate.

I have used a large square appetizer plate as the canvas.  I placed a small plastic square plate under the apple and a taster spoon under the chocolate sorbet.  Placing the frozen sorbet in a taster spoon or small bowl allows me to portion out the sorbet in advance.  This saves me time and effort during the meal.  I added whipped cream to the center of the apple right before serving and placed a candy gummy ring to the top of the apple.  I finished the plate with a few slices of starfruit.

baked-apple-dessert

Salmon Terrarium Appetizer

salmon-appetizer-plating-in-glass-bowl

We were fortunate to have spend the past Sukkos (Fall Jewish Holiday celebrated in temporary huts covered in natural materials) in Israel.  We always marvel at how our  Jerusalem sukka is so much larger than our doll-size apartment living space.  Our sukka is tucked into one of those beautiful, dusty and wonderful corners of Jerusalem.  It is surrounded by gorgeous Jerusalem stone walls and is just beneath a main street with people strolling by on their way to the kotel (Western Wall) via  Sha’ar Yafo (Jaffa Gate).

jerusalem-sukkah

On sukkos, our sukka was home to many guests.  Our guests over Yom Tov are our friends, our family, our neighbors, Aaron and Davida’s friends and their friends’ friends.   Over the past Sukkos holiday, I served lots of food to many, many guests.  I try to keep the food simple, so that I can enjoy the spirit of the Yom Tov (holiday).  To keep things interesting, I try different table settings and plating techniques.

One of my appetizer mainstays is salmon.  I usually prepare a side of Perfect Salmon with Roasted Vegetables.  For the first meal, I usually serve the salmon as is.  It is beautiful just as is.

As an alternative, I often plate the salmon differently for the next Yom Tov meal.  This time, I flaked it in small pieces and served it in a clear square bowl with some Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo and dill sauce drizzled on top and garnished with a few chive sprigs.  I just placed a few fancy lettuce leaves on the side for garnish.

salmon-terrarium-plating

Simple to Wow!

 

Bobby’s Homemade Bubbles and Wands

Avigail and Juju are attending “Bobby Camp” and one of the favorite morning activities is playing with the water table on my front porch.  After breakfast and our morning walk, when the two of them are still in pajamas, we fill up the water table and have a good and messy time playing with all the water toys.  Best of all, when we are finished, everyone gets bathed and then changed and dressed for the day.

While we were outside playing, the kids asked Davida to blow bubbles or as seventeen month old Juju likes to say, “Bubboos”.  I did not have any bubbles or bubble wands, so we decided to make our own.  Davida fashioned some bubble wands out of pipe cleaners, straws and string.  Avigail was delighted that one of them was purple, her favorite color. We mixed water, dish detergent and pancake syrup, stirred gently…and voila.  The magic of bubbles was added to our messy water activities.

This was one of those simple things that created a wow of a time at the water table.

homemade bubbles for avigail and juju

We sang as we blew and popped bubbles…”Avigail is a bubble blower, bubble blower, bubble blower!”  “JuJu is a bubble popper, bubble popper, bubble popper…”

bubble supplies

SUPPLIES

container with a flat bottom

3 cup water

1/2 cup dish soap

drizzle of pancake or corn syrup (about 2-3 tablespoons)

scissors

straws

string

Pipe cleaners

bubbles with wands

DIRECTIONS

Place water in a bowl or container.  Carefully add soap and syrup, stirring gently, being careful not to foam up the bubble mixture.

Create bubble wands using pipe cleaners that are looped.  You can create different size loops to form differ size bubbles.

bubbles and bubble wands

Create large bubble wands by cutting straws in half and tying string around each of the straws, top and bottom.  To secure the string, cut a small slit near the end of each straw for the knotted string to rest.  This will keep the string from coming off the end of the straw.

bubble wand from straws and string.jpg

 

 

 

 

DIY Nightstand Play Kitchen for JuJu

Seventeen month old Judah (or JuJu as he is sometimes called) loves to play in our play cupcake kitchen when he comes to visit us.  He doesn’t have a play kitchen at home, so I decided to surprise him with his own one.

diy kitchen 2

My mother-in-law a’H was fond of repurposing cast-off items, so she would have just loved this new, but old kitchen.  When we cleaned out my in-laws’ home several years ago, my sister-in-law begged me to take home Mom’s lightweight aluminum pots.  I had them in storage in a box in my basement since then.  They were perfect for use in this play kitchen.  Mom would kvell (Yiddish for feel proud)!

diy kids kitchen-bubby's pots

I found an old nightstand on the curb near Kaitlyn’s apartment two months ago and brought it home.  Kaitlyn showed me some adorable furniture to play kitchen adaptations on Pinterest that I used as inspiration for this upcycled nightstand castoff to vintage play kitchen redo.

Here is what the original nightstand looked like:

 

diy kids kitchen-original with painters tape.jpg

I taped the outer part of the cabinet door and first painted the interior black to resemble an oven:

diy kids kitchen-oven and restoration blue

I chose a restoration blue color spray paint and painted the shell.

diy kids kitchen-tape and restoration blue

I had Aaron attach a piece of wood to the back of the nightstand to resemble a backsplash and painted all the vertical surfaces blue.  I painted the top surface chalkboard black for a sink and cooktop area.

I repainted the oven silver to resemble an art-deco stainless steel look.

diy kids kitchen-painted

I visited my hardware cabinet and local dollar store for accessories to stock the kitchen.

I found some old plastic foosball table feet that I sprayed silver and had Aaron attached with long screws.  They even turn!

diy kids kitchen--oven knobs

Aaron screwed a large screw into place to hold the kitchen timer.  The timer hooks on and off in case JuJu wants to use his timer for something else.

I used an old hose spray nozzle for the faucet that I sprayed silver and attached with  heavy duty contractors’ adhesive.  I bought a silver toilet paper holder that I separated into two pieces.  Aaron attached those with screws for the faucet handles.

Aaron drilled holes into a small dog water dish and secured them with screws.

I bought a plastic shower organizer, sprayed it silver and secured it with heavy duty contractors’ adhesive to the backsplash.

I glued an old chalkboard to the backsplash and glued an alarm clock to the chalkboard.

diy kids kitchen-cooktop

 

I glued a touch LED light from the dollar store to the inside of the oven for light inside the oven.

 

diy kids kitchen-inside of oven

I glued an oven thermometer to the inside of the kitchen door.

diy kids kitchen-oven thermometer

I fashioned cooktop grates out of craft sticks secured to CD’s covered with upside down plant saucers.  Aaron secured the grates with long screws so that they spin.

diy kids kitchen-cooktop grates

For a little extra fun, I glued an old unbreakable mirror to the outside of the oven door.

diy kids kitchen -outside oven door

I bought and repurposed lots of accessories and kitchen gadgets including: a hand broom and dustpan, tongs, strainer, oven mitt, ladle, plastic food, squeegee, plastic cups and martini glasses and even a plastic vase with a flower fashioned from a bottle stopper.

diy kitchen-hooks on side

 

 

diy kids kitchen-plastic vase

Juju just adores this new kitchen.  He has been perfecting his chicken soup and I am loving it!

 

diy kids kitchen--juju's chicken soup.jpg

 

jujus-play-kitchen

A Dozen Roses Stretched to Fill the Shabbos Table

Don brings home roses every Friday in honor of Shabbos.  The roses are always of wonderful quality and it  a surprise to discover what color roses will adorn our Shabbos table.  Most Fridays, we enjoy all twelve roses in one traditional arrangement.

This week, Don brought home peach color roses, one of my favorites.  Our home is decorated in earth tones and peach works well in our dining room.  The roses were large and robust and I decided to stretch the twelve roses into four different arrangements.

I lined up different vases and spread out the roses.

One arrangement took five roses.

roses in a row

One took a single rose.

rose in single bud vase

One arrangement took two roses and that left four roses.

roses in a pair

The last arrangement was a collection of glass bottles set up in a grid-like formation (Upcycled Glass Jar Floral Arrangement: Simply Stunning).  I placed the last four roses into these vases, adorning them with the ferns that accompanied the dozen roses.

roses in glass bottles

 

Here is how they all look together:

roses-four different ways

 

roses-a dozen in different ways

roses-3 different ways

Good Shabbos!

A Dozen Red Roses Split Up: Contemporary Arrangements

Don brings home roses most every Erev Shabbos (Shabbos eve).  I try to find different ways to arrange the roses every Friday so that the Shabbos table setup is unique.  As you know, most recently, I have begun to break the dozen roses up into several arrangements.  I love the flexibility of moving the arrangements into different rooms and setting them up differently for each part of Shabbos.

Before I arranged the roses, I took my pruning shears out to the backyard.  I snipped some Dusty Miller to use for my grid-like vase.  I snipped some branches off one of the magnolia trees to use in the largest arrangement.  I re-purposed some leaves from an older arrangement to use in the bud vase.  And so, I arranged the roses in three different vases…

For Friday night, I placed all three arrangements on the table.  For Shabbos lunch, I placed the largest arrangement on the Shabbos table and moved the other two arrangements into the kitchen.  And, so it goes…..

Here are the three arrangements, together and separately:trio of red roses

red roses in bud vase

red roses with dusty miller

roses in wavy vase

Oil in Squirt Bottles with Free Printable Labels

For most recipes, I use one of two types of oil: extra virgin olive oil and/or canola oil.  I like to buy these oils in large quantities and the containers tends to be large and unwieldy with a way-too-large pouring spout.  I find it easiest to decant the oil into a small squirt bottle for easy drizzling and squirting. I just refill the squirt bottle when necessary.

oil squirt bottles with label

I use oil for so many things and for most of them, I just need a bit of oil squirted in just the right amount in just the right place.  This counts for frying my morning omelet, dressing salads, sprinkling on roasted vegetables, starting a saute and most everything else.

For decades, my parents have been repurposing a dishwashing detergent bottle with a squirt top for this use.  You can easily use this type of bottle or a sport-top water bottle, washed and dried well, of course.

I prefer the thin, longer nozzle of a purchased squirt bottle.  I have so many of these type of bottles, so I am always happy to use two of them for decanting my olive oil and my canola oil.  So that I don’t get them mixed up, I just label the oil bottles with my SimpletoWow customized squirt bottle label.

I leave the heavy oil bottles on the shelf for use only for recipes that called for measured oil or for refilling my oil squirt bottles.  I keep the smaller squirt bottles of oil with my spices.  The thin nozzle on these squirt bottles is perfect for drizzling and squirting and the bottle fits perfectly in my spice drawer.

To prepare each oil squirt bottle, all I do is decant the oil carefully and apply the squirt bottle label with packing tape or glue stick.

This has been a great tool for me and I hope that it is for you, too.

 

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Roses and Lanterns: A Simple and Stunning Centerpiece

It all started with It’s all about the arrangement (psst….even with last week’s roses), my first blog post.  This original blog post was one of those ideas born out of an upcycling strategy and week-old roses.  The idea was to take last week’s open but slightly wilted roses and enjoy the blossoms in another arrangement, floating the wilting blossom heads to straighten them out and enjoy them in another way.

Don buys roses just about every Erev Shabbos (Sabbath eve) and I try to create original arrangements for the Shabbos table from these roses.   These roses  are sold right in front of our synagogue by a member of our community.  These roses have thick stems and  high quality blossoms and come in a variety of colors.  They really last a full week and with these upcycled arrangements, I can get at least one more week and sometimes two weeks of added enjoyment from each rose bouquet.

This week, I was setting the table for a weekday dinner and still had some lanterns on the kitchen table from a goodbye barbecue that we had hosted for one of Leah’s friends last week.   Sitting next to the lanterns, were the variegated roses from last Shabbos.  Most of the blossoms were still gorgeous,  but the stems were already starting to droop, making the flowers appear wilted.

wilting roses in silver vase

I cut the roses off their stems, cutting them right below each blossom.  I placed a single rose blossom in each of six square glass vases and bowls.  I interspersed the lanterns with the roses and stood back to admire the newest upcycled arrangement.

Here it is:

lanterns and variagated roses

 

 

Magic Tip: Keeping the Lid on a Pot of Chicken Soup

Leah decided to spend Shabbos at Kaitlyn’s.  Avigail was barely able to contain her excitement, telling everyone that “Tante Reah” was coming to visit her and would be sleeping in the bed right next to hers.  Don and I were empty-nesters for Shabbos.

Although it is not the first time this summer that Don and I are home alone for Shabbos,  I still haven’t figured out how to cook for two people.

My batch of Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever!is enough for 6 challahs, my Simply the best chicken soup…ever!still feeds 8-10, Perfect Salmon with Roasted Vegetables is enough for 10 and Cowboy Caviar: A Simple and Hearty Salad with Attitude is enough for a large family.

That left me with a great idea.  I could cook an entire batch of our Shabbos favorites and send most of it for Kaitlyn, Aaron, Leah and the kids to enjoy.  That way, I need not alter any of my recipes and two households will enjoy the Shabbos delicacies with only one cooking spree.

There left only one question: How do we transport the chicken soup in its pot?

That was easy.

I found some long and strong rubber bands that fit over the pot. I secured each band under one pot handle.  I stretched each rubber band over the lid and secured the other end under the second pot handle.  I did that three times so that in case one or two rubber bands snapped, the lid was still secure.

chicken soup with rubber bands

Perfect.  Now all that’s left to do is to teach Avigail to call Leah, “Tante Leah”.

 

A Trio of Magenta Flowers in Vintage Silver Vases

magenta flowers tri up close

My local supermarket had some beautiful magenta peonies for sale. I thought that the vintage quality of these fluffy peonies would look gorgeous in series with some other magenta flowers arranged in different types of silver vases.

magenta flowers in silver.jpg

I used the same inspiration that I described in Three’s a Crowd? A Trio of Floral Arrangements by arranging three types of flowers of the same color in separate vases. This time I used peonies, Alstroemeria and a gorgeous magenta filler. Here is what is looks like:

magenta flowers tri on table

 

 

Growing Lettuce in TopSoil Bags

When Aaron was a little boy, he loved to join me in shopping for our summer annuals and vegetable plants. We would peruse the aisles of the local garden center, looking for unusual plants and interesting planting combinations and techniques.

We discovered that our local nursery started some of their lettuce and leafy vegetables right inside topsoil bags. We couldn’t wait to try this technique ourselves. We tried it and it worked beautifully, producing vibrant plants with minimal care. Best of all, once we harvested the leafy plants, we would reuse the topsoil for our vegetable garden. It seemed like a win-win.

We have been using this technique for spring gardening for the past many years.

topsoil planters for lettuce  supplies upside down

 

SUPPLIES
bag of top soil, potting soil or mixed soil
a knife or box cutter
seeds

DIRECTIONS

Place bag of topsoil in a sunny area.  Using the box cutter or knife, cut x’s in 12-15 inch intervals.  Pour one or two seeds into each hole created by the x.

topsoil planters for lettuce with xs cut

Make sure that the soil bag is damp, but not wet.  Seeds should sprout within a week or 10 days.

lettuce in soil bags
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A Simple Fluffy Arrangement of Peonies and Hyndrangea

For Shavuos, Davida’s friend, Chava, brought us a gorgeous new vase.  It is rectangular with a narrow opening, perfect for arranging so many different types of flowers.  It is unique in its narrow but long shape, and it is stunning with a floral motif designed into the glass.  Since Shavuos, I have tried so many types of floral arrangements in this vase and they all work.

But, this is my favorite, so far.

My niece, Michal, hosted an event at her home last night and she sent a bouquet of hydrangea and peonies from the event to us.  I rearranged these flowers using a large structural leaf that I already had.  I placed everything in Chava’s vase and I love the soft and delicate floral arrangement.

 

hydrangea and peony arrangement with orange background

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A Gallery Wall of Playgroup Art

Kaitlyn created a gallery wall for Avigail’s art.  Two-year old Avigail is a budding artist with so many art projects and pictures to display.   The gallery wall allows Kaitlyn a way to rotate all the different playgroup art that Avigail brings home from playgroup.

Kaitlyn used empty old frames and sprayed them all the same color blue to create a cohesive collection.  To each frame, she attached a thick string with a clothespin or two so that she can easily add and remove art as needed.

This gallery wall transformed the study area in their apartment and is the perfect spot for Avigail to display her art.

Here it is:

blue gallery wall for avigail's art

SUPPLIES

old frames

spray paint

Thick string or twine

small wooden clothespins

Assorted Command Strips for Picture Hanging

DIRECTIONS

Spray paint frames in well-ventilated area.  Allow to dry. Attach a length of twine using staple gun to backs of wood frames.

Use Command strips to attach frames to gallery wall, following directions on package. Attach clothespins to string.  Hang pictures using clothespins.

Voila!

 

 

At War with Weeds: A Homemade Non-Toxic Weed-Killer

weed killer spray

Our nineteen year old son, Aaron, is our resident landscaper.  Aaron has always been a budding entrepreneur and handy around the house and yard.  When he was thirteen years old, he took some of the monetary gifts that he had  received for his Bar Mitzvah celebration and purchased a bright red lawn tractor.  He convinced us to hire him as our resident gardener to earn back the cost of the tractor and he has acquired other garden tools since then, too.   For the past six years, Aaron has used his tractor to manicure our lawn and yard, his tiller to turn our flower and vegetable garden areas and his edger to edge our lawn.

Problem is…Aaron is studying in yeshiva this year in Israel.  We have had to manage without him and we have had to find easy solutions to our gardens’ overgrown messes. Don has been driving the tractor around the lawn and yard to cut the grass.  I have been planting the vegetable garden and mulching the flower beds.    Aaron will be home for a few weeks in the summer and we have lots of landscaping and maintenance waiting for his expert care.

One of the biggest problems is battling the weeds.   In the past, Aaron has tilled the garden beds with his gas-powered tiller which has cut down on the weeds.   This year, Don and I have had to figure all of it out on our own.  I have discovered this amazing homemade weed killer that does the job without the toxins found in most commercially available products.  This solution works best when used on a hot, sunny day and sprayed in the morning.  The sun will wither the sprayed weeds as long as there is no rain expected within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Here it is:

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Wow Uses for a Simple Dish Detergent Bottle

My mother has always been the ultimate recycler, decades before recycling and upcycling became fashionable.

My mother still decants oil from a large container into a clean dish detergent squirt bottle. The squirt nozzle is perfect for squirting oil onto salads, roasted vegetables and a saute pan.  It keeps the oil contained and helps place the oil exactly where you want it. You can also use a sport-top water bottle for most of these uses, but the water bottles tend to be constructed of a thinner and less robust plastic, not intended for extended use.

squirt bottle uses

 

Here  are some other wonderful uses for a simple dish detergent bottle. Just make sure to mark the bottle with the contents and the date that it was prepared.  You can print a squirt bottle label and adhere it to the bottle using glue stick.  This can avoid any dangerous mixups:

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Three’s a Crowd? A Trio of Floral Arrangements

I love to arrange flowers of the same color and my favorite floral centerpieces are white.  Often, I can find beautiful flowers at my local supermarket that are sold as three bunches for a single price.  When that happens, I usually pick all white flowers and I arrange them as a trio of floral arrangements.

When time is short,  I find that it is easiest to create a series of arrangements using one color.  Each arrangement uses a different flower in that same color and it works best if the flowers are different heights and textures.

This arrangement uses soft and puffy hydrangeas, structural cala lilies and tender stems of bell-shaped flower to play off the softness of the hydrangeas and the architectural height of the cala liles.  To make things interesting, I used some steel grass from a previous arrangement to set off the clean look of the cala lilies.  I rounded off the corners of  a palm leaf to create a round backdrop for the bell-shaped floral stems.

There are many perks in creating three smaller arrangements, rather than one larger one.  They are simpler to arrange and can be set up in different configurations for each meal.  After dinner, I move these to the kitchen or anywhere else that needs a breath of floral freshness.

Try your own trios of floral arrangements.  I would be interested to hear about your favorite combinations.

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