This Summer was the Summer I finally said “enough” to the living room paint color. I’ve wanted to paint the walls in our living room for years (I didn’t like the color and they were splotchy from being touched up with color matched paint that wasn’t perfect), but for one reason or another, had never gotten around to it. Finally, I not only painted the living room, but I finally painted the French doors in there (red isn’t my color of choice), and the foyer/dining room as well! It was a productive Summer for painting rooms!

living room before after

It seems like August is the time to work on projects in the living room for me. Last August, I added the Teal/Turquoise pillows in there, the August before that I added the photo gallery wall above the couch (which I’ve since taken down and plan to re-do soon), and the August before that, we re-arranged the space and added the Drop Cloth Curtains and TV stand (the curtains I just replaced this Summer).

Here is a little tour of our foyer/dining room & living room now:

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We still LOVE the plant/console table we built ourselves (one of our favorite things in the house!). Curtains are from Pottery Barn Teen, which I love, but I’m a little disappointed in them. They weren’t cheap (they were my Valentine’s Day present one year, lol!) and they’ve faded quite a bit, especially in certain spots. Dining room table is from the Nashville flea market, dining chairs are vintage, rug and baskets on the console table are from Target, milk glass bowl, old Reader’s Digest books, small white cabinet were thrifted, wood stump was the cake stand at our wedding, black lamp was given to us by Drew’s mom and then I gave it a makeover, Self-Portrait woodcut  and small abstracts are done by me, the glass jar candles on the table and console are from our wedding, door wreath I made, and gold plant pot is from Home Depot that I painted gold.

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I really love how the color on the walls came out in here. It’s a nice taupe-y grey (Smoked Oyster by Valspar in a Satin finish). It’s two shades darker on the same paint swatch card as the color in the living room, so they tie in well together. All the windows in this room really play well into having a slightly darker color on the walls. I love how it makes the art and trim pop.

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I’m so happy that the entire house isn’t painted the same fleshy-red-tan color anymore!

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I finally replaced our Drop Cloth Drapes with some simple white curtains (I made these out of white twin bed sheets I ordered online for super cheap!) I love how the white brightens the room up! I was tired of the dull tan of the drop cloths and the seam down the middle of them always bothered me. They served us well for several years though!

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I LOVE the French doors in black. I think they make such a pretty and dramatic statement. I love that they are a neutral color that allows my art and accessories to really shine. I didn’t love the red before because I don’t use the color red very often and I felt like they didn’t go with the rest of our house.

Couch and loveseat are from Compass Furniture in New Orleans, television/media cabinet is from Target, white bookcase is from IKEA, painting above loveseat was a wedding gift from my sister and her husband (by New Orleans artist Adam Hall), big turquoise velvet couch pillows are from World Market, teal and patterned pillows I made from World Market cloth napkins (these and these), light blue pedestal side table next to loveseat is from Nadeau in New Orleans, cream and white damask throw, wire basket (filled with yarn on bookshelf), remote box, and wooden @ symbol from TJ Maxx, floor lamp is from Lowe’s, silver table lamp is from Compass Furniture (scored it for $15 with a Living Social Deal!),  8×10 area rug from Lowe’s (scored it for $15!), wooden ladder and quilts were thrifted, beads are from Mardi Gras parades, basket (with magazines in it behind the french doors) was a wedding gift, landscape painting on the bookshelf was a wedding gift (painted my Drew’s mom’s good friend and my 8th grade teacher!), globe was mine from when I was little bought for me by my Mamaw, the chalkboard message board was from our wedding (originally from here), small pink table is from Target, and the abstract paintings and ceramic artichoke were made by me.

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The coffee table/bench is also new! When my childhood best friend, Tonya, and her husband, Peter, were visiting New Orleans this Summer, we spent one evening in the French Quarter eating and walking in antique shops before heading to the Frenchmen Art Market and to listen to some music on Frenchmen Street. In one of the little shops we walked into, I found this wooden table base (without a top) and we bought it for $30. I cleaned it up and rubbed it down with some coconut oil, and Drew and I made a tufted table/bench top for it out of wood, foam, linen fabric and fabric covered buttons. It was an exhausting project (much more so than I had expected), but I’m pleased with how it turned out!

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The wall color in here is Asiago by Valspar in a Satin finish. I wanted something that was almost white, but had a soft white creaminess to it (to go with the trim that looks white, but is really pretty creamy-off-white). I love how this color turned out. It brightens up this room and I think it is really going to look great with the new gallery wall I have planned for above the sofa! I really love how it looks with the black French doors (I’m loving the high contrast of black and white these days) and the color in the foyer/dining room too.

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Last, but not least, this photo is of the small little hallway at the back of the house (right off the long hallway that spans down most of our apartment). It leads to the bathroom and our bedroom. We painted it Semi-Sweet by Valspar (also in a Satin finish) this Summer as well. I think it looks great! Dark and moody and works so well with all the white trim and the fact that the bathroom right next to it is full of white tile, white walls, white sink/toilet/tub, etc. The art in the white frames pop off this wall so perfectly! It makes this little space feel more like a “room” and less of just a pass-through space.

I’m so happy that after 3 1/2 years of living in this apartment, we have finally painted some walls! Only $30 for a gallon of paint and a few hours of time, I don’t know why I put it off for so long!

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Y’all, I’m so excited about this! As you know, I’ve been eating gluten-free for almost two years now (after years of serious digestive problems caused by wheat). That means I’ve switched to a diet that is full of meat, veggies, fruits, nuts/seeds, along with the easier starches for me to eat — rice, potatoes, etc. Slowly over the last two years I’ve worked on coming up with and trying out gluten-free recipes for traditionally glutinous things like cookies/pies/desserts, tortillas, muffins, etc, but I still eat those things rather sparingly and I only make them homemade (I don’t buy a lot of pre-made gluten-free snacks from the grocery store). I’ve gotten used to eating our previous night’s dinner leftovers for my lunches, so I don’t make many sandwiches and therefore I’ve gotten away without needing bread. Most of the gluten-free bread options at the grocery store are bland and expensive (although I do like this Rice Almond bread).

For a long time I’ve been meaning to try baking my own gluten-free bread, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Then, a couple weeks ago when visiting my sister in Nashville, I tried some of the gluten-free bread she had made (my niece also has a gluten allergy). After realizing how nice it is to have a piece of crusty bread to eat with soup or a nice buttery piece of toast, I decided my own experiments in gluten-free bread-making were long overdue. Blair had forgotten what recipe she had used, but after a quick search on Pinterest, several delicious-looking loaves popped up: this, this, this, and this. After reading through those recipes, I realized that they were all the same! That’s when I knew that this promised to be a really good loaf of bread.

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I followed the same basic concept as all those recipes, except I cut the recipe in half. The original recipe is for four small loaves (and Drew and I don’t need that much bread in a week!). Two loaves work much better for us (I usually bake one immediately and save one in the fridge to bake a few days later — they are small, round loaves).

This really is a delicious loaf of bread. It is nice and crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, with a great texture! It is dense but also fluffy. I really don’t think most people would even be able to tell that it is gluten-free. But I really love how simple and easy it is to make and that the list of GF flours is short and simple!

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Gluten-Free Artisan Bread (Crusty Boule)
makes two 1 pound loaves. Adapted from original recipe, here

Ingredients:
-1 cup Brown Rice Flour
-3/4 cup Sorghum Flour
-1 1/2 cups Tapioca Flour (also called tapioca starch)
-1 tablespoon yeast
-1/2 tablespoon sea salt
-1 tablespoon Xanthan Gum
-2 large eggs, whisked together
-1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
-2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 tablespoon honey

Directions:
1. Mix together flours, yeast, salt, and xanthan gum in large bowl.
2. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs.
3. In another separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup) combine water, oil, and honey.
4. Dump eggs into dry ingredients and mix while adding in 1/3 of wet ingredients.
5. Continue to stir while adding the second 1/3 of wet ingredients, and repeat with final 1/3 of wet ingredients.
6. Stir until dough is nice and smooth (will be a pretty wet dough).
7. Divide dough into two equal sized balls and place into plastic Tupperware containers (with lids). If baking one loaf immediately after rising, you can leave that half in the mixing bowl.
8. Cover Tupperware containers with lids, but do not snap shut. If leaving one dough ball in mixing bowl, cover that bowl loosely with plastic wrap.
9. Let dough rest on counter for 2 hours to rise.
10. Place the lids on dough you aren’t baking immediately and place in fridge (can store up to seven days).

11. If baking dough immediately, place dutch oven in the oven (make sure it has a metal knob, not a plastic one) and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Let dutch oven heat up in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
12. While oven is heating, transfer dough to a slice of parchment paper (gently dump it out of the bowl, being careful not to handle it too much or knead it, you want to keep all the bubbles in the dough that you can.)  If dough looks a bit scraggly, use wet hands to lightly smooth out the surface.
13. Use a serrated knife to cut slashes in the top of the dough, if you wish.
14. Once oven/dutch oven are heated, remove the dutch oven from the oven, and carefully lower the dough (on the parchment) into the dutch oven. Replace the lid on the pot and place back in oven.
15. Bake at 500 degrees inside lidded dutch oven for 20 minutes.
16. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, turn down the heat to 450 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes.
17. Once bread is done baking, remove it from pot using a spatula and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t cut into bread until cooled or the center may seem gummy.

11. If baking dough from refrigerator, transfer refrigerated dough to a slice of parchment paper (gently dump it out of the bowl, being careful not to handle it too much or knead it, you want to keep all the bubbles in the dough that you can.) If dough looks a bit scraggly, use wet hands to lightly smooth out the surface.
12. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest on counter for about 90 minutes (if your kitchen is very warm you may only need about 75 minutes).
13. Place dutch oven in the oven (make sure it has a metal knob, not a plastic one) and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Let dutch oven heat up in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
14. Once dough is done resting and oven is heated, use a serrated knife to cut slashes in the top of the dough, if you wish.
15. Remove dutch oven from the oven and carefully lower the dough (on the parchment) into the dutch oven. Replace the lid on the pot and place back in oven.
16. Bake at 500 degrees inside lidded dutch oven for 20 minutes.
17. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, turn down the heat to 450 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes.
18. Once bread is done baking, remove it from pot using a spatula and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t cut into bread until cooled or the center may seem gummy.

Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can also bake this bread on a baking stone or cast iron skillet. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the stone/skillet inside. Once heated, place the dough (on the parchment paper) on the stone/skillet. Place a metal pan of hot water on the rack under the baking stone. Bake for 30 minutes.

If you have a larger family and want to make more than two small loaves in a week, double this recipe (or follow these measurements, that link also includes more detailed photo instructions of each step). Here is also the same recipe adapted into naan. I also hear this freezes wonderfully, but I haven’t tried that yet!

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Not that I need to give serving suggestions for bread, but seriously this bread is so versatile and delicious! My favorite is to slice a couple slices, spread with butter and place under the broiler in the oven for a few minutes until crispy. Another version of that is to do the same but add shredded Parmesan cheese on top. Excellent served alongside a nice Italian dish or a creamy soup (like this one). Also great for sandwiches/paninis or toasted with jam!

Enjoy!

P.S. I did a rough calculation to see how much a loaf of this bread costs. Based on the cost of the flours (from the regular grocery store or Whole Foods – this would probably be a little cheaper if you bought your flours in bulk online) and how much of each is used the in recipe, and estimated costs for how much water/salt/yeast/oil/etc. is used, a small round loaf (about 8 slices) costs about $2.60 a loaf. (Remember, this recipe makes 2 loaves.) Not bad for delicious GF bread!

This bowl of soup might not look like one of the most delicious things you’ve ever eaten, but just take one bite and you’ll be convinced.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves 6. Recipe altered from this one.

Ingredients:
-1 Tablespoon butter
-1 medium yellow onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1/3 cup masa harina (GF corn flour) to thicken
-5 cups chicken broth
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1 teaspoon paprika
-salt and pepper to taste
-1-2 chicken breasts, chopped into small chunks
-1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
-1 small tomato, diced
-1 can black beans, drained
-1 can pinto beans, drained
-1 cup corn (can be frozen)
-2/3 cup heavy cream
-1/4 cup sour cream

For serving:
-shredded cheese
-avocado, diced
-sour cream
-tortilla chips

Directions:
1. Chop veggies (onion, garlic, tomato) and set aside. Cut up chicken breasts.
2. In dutch oven (over medium/high heat) melt butter. Add onion and saute for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute for about 30 more seconds.
3. Add in masa harina and stir.
4. Add in chicken broth and dissolve masa harina.
5. Add in spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper).
6. Add in chicken and bring mixture to a boil. (chicken should cook pretty quickly since it is in small pieces)
7. Add black beans, pinto beans, corn, tomatoes & green chilies and stir.
8. Add heavy cream and sour cream and stir.
9. Done when all ingredients are heated through and chicken is cooked.
10. Serve warm with shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado and tortilla chips.

Note: If you like more spice, you can also slice and add in jalapenos when you saute onion and garlic. If you need to make this dairy-free, just leave out heavy cream and sour cream. People can always add sour cream/cheese to their individual bowls if they choose.

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I’m really starting to enjoy blogging again now that I’m doing these monthly posts. I love being able to look back on what I’ve been up to. Click to check out June and July.

Right now in life, I am:

MAKING our house pretty. Over the last month we’ve painted our living room, our foyer/dining room, and the french doors connecting the two rooms.
COOKING homemade gluten-free blackberry pies (turns out it is a family tradition! My great-grandmother used to make fabulous blackberry cobblers from blackberries she picked in the backyard–the same backyard I grew up in), rice crispy treats (first time I’ve had those in forever!), and eating lots of fresh cherries. (along with other more sustainable things, you know) I also baked my first loaf of homemade gluten-free bread yesterday!
DRINKING a pineapple juice/orange juice/grenadine/rum cocktail every so often.
READING The Happiness Project.
WANTING to get some more paintings done, print some more prints, and open an Etsy shop.
PLAYING this song over and over again (Drew is obsessed!) and this (it made me cry. I’m so sentimental.).
SEWING new curtains for the living room from plain white sheets.
CROCHETING a throw blanket for our living room.
WISHING for this quatrefoil mirror for our apartment. Love it!
ENJOYING our freshly painted house and how different (better) it feels.
WAITING to hang our living room gallery wall until I have all the pieces painted/framed/collected.
LIKING apple picking, pie making, corn shucking, hiking, and waterfallin’ with my homies in Nashville (my husband, sister, her husband, nieces and nephew). Sweet little Gig was my little shadow all last weekend. :)
WONDERING why I decided to chop half my hair off! I miss my long, wavy/curly hair. Short hair is so much maintenance!
LOVING that summer is slowing down. The last few months have been so busy! Looking forward to a quiet fall.
HOPING that my hair grows quickly!
MARVELING at the ability of sweet little kids to help you slow down and take life in.
NEEDING to paint more (mostly actual paintings, but there are a few more walls here that need to be painted too).
SMELLING fresh homemade gluten-free apple and blackberry/raspberry pies Blair, Gigi and I made last weekend. Made with apples we picked (photo above) and berries we bought because I’m obsessed. This was the fourth berry pie I’ve made this summer.
WEARING more black and white lately. I even bought some black skinny jeans last weekend.
FOLLOWING the “one-minute rule” lately. Don’t put off any task that takes a minute or less to accomplish.
NOTICING lots of stars on our visit to the country. I wish we could see the stars better in New Orleans. I love this quote, “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they’d live life a lot differently.”
KNOWING that I need to spend a little more time on our “curb appeal.” Our rosebushes need to be trimmed (they’ve grown like crazy in the last year!), weeds picked, more mulch spread, some other potted plants need to replace our current ones (our little potted rosebushes constantly struggle with black-spot like crazy. Time to replace them with some simple little boxwoods.) Maybe in September I’ll tackle that.
THINKING a lot about self-improvement and happiness. Fall seems like the perfect time for a fresh start. Love this quote I read today, “Happiness is a collection of small, pleasurable moments.”
BOOKMARKING this gray couch. Oh how I wish our couches looked like that one! (someday…)
OPENING up my creative endeavors by joining the New Orleans Lettering Arts Association! First meeting is next weekend! Can’t wait to learn some new calligraphy techniques! I bought some new supplies this weekend! My new version of “back to school” supplies.
LAUGHING at this sign at a roadside Farmer’s Market.
FEELING thankful for quality sister/niece time last weekend, a weekend getaway/time spent in the country/nature, and for our beautiful, cozy little apartment to return to.

P.S. This past week (September 4th, to be exact) marks 4 years since my first blog post here! Happy 4th Birthday Icing on the Cake blog!

As you may remember from my mention in this post, I was part of an art exhibition in New Orleans this past June. It was sponsored by RAW Artists and you can see my RAW profile here. It was a long and crowded evening downtown with a variety of art and entertainment. There were visual/fine artists, jewelry artisans, music performances, fashion shows, and performance art. It was an interesting evening, but I’m happy I had the chance to participate.

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The best part of the show was that it really pushed me to create new work. The top nine paintings on fabric/canvas were new for this show. The only ones I’d shown before were the small framed ones from my BA Exhibition. It was also great to have this show as a push to work on updating my branding.

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Lots of family and friends either came out to the show or expressed their support which really means a lot! If you weren’t able to make it, watch the video below to hear a little more about my inspiration or read my artist statement below.

 My artist statement:

I have always had a love for art, a desire to create, and a passion for making things beautiful.

“I AM GOING TO MAKE EVERYTHING AROUND ME BEAUTIFUL — THAT WILL BE MY LIFE.”    —ELSIE DE WOLFE

As both a person and an artist, the world of my childhood—growing up in the country surrounded by nature—has always been my biggest inspiration. The organic forms, deep, complex colors, rich contrast—the ever-changing landscape is endless inspiration to me. I grew up in rural Southern Illinois on land that has been passed down through my family for generations. Before I started school, I spent every day with my grandmother, who encouraged my love of watercolor painting and being creative and who established the foundation for my personality and moral beliefs. My grandpa wrote stories, fished every day, and grew a huge garden that I helped him harvest. I loved snapping off the ripe asparagus, helping my grandma cook, and feeling the country breeze while laying in the hammock in their backyard. Just down the road was my own house, where I climbed trees and ran through the creek with my sisters and brother, helped my dad work in the yard and feed our chickens, and helped my mom plant flowers and herbs, cook and bake. Throughout my childhood, my mom imparted to me her creative knowledge—sewing, hand embroidery, cross-stitch, smocking, machine embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and basket weaving. This home-made, home-grown, down-to-earth, appreciate-the-simple-beauty upbringing encouraged me to develop a simple and creative life that I still strive to maintain.

“IF I WERE CALLED UPON TO DEFINE BRIEFLY THE WORD “ART,” I SHOULD CALL IT THE REPRODUCTION OF WHAT THE SENSES PERCEIVE IN NATURE, SEEN THROUGH THE VEIL OF THE SOUL.” —PAUL CEZANNE

Living in New Orleans over the last several years and finally having a space to call my own has also given great influence to my work. There is no other city like New Orleans with its rich history, abundant nature, brightly colored houses rich with architectural detail, and vibrant color combinations. I’m so intrigued by the color harmonies found in the world around me, particularly those that can be soothing and exciting at the same time.  I’ve always associated certain colors with particular things—days, people, memories—and I enjoy exploring those connections through my work. My first love has always been painting, but I enjoy mixing mediums and incorporating drawing, pastel, fabric, sewing, embroidery, quilting and pattern into my work, exploring how those elements can intertwine with paint to create images. One of my aesthetic and conceptual goals is to somehow marry all these different elements—mixed mediums, neutral and bright color combinations, the contrast of subtle and bold, thick and thin brushstrokes, paint drips, pattern, lines, shapes, nature and the domestic world—into a quilt of sorts, all parts orchestrated together to create an abstract moment of beauty, a complex image made up of simple parts.

“THE MAIN THING IS TO BE MOVED, TO LOVE, TO HOPE, TO TREMBLE, TO LIVE.” —AUGUSTE RODIN

As pretty as most of my inspiration is, not all areas of life are picture perfect. Often the greatest and most meaningful moments of our lives are also seeped with sadness, hurt, sorrow and loss. My art aims to tell these stories and explore these personal histories—the good, the bad, the beautiful and the I’d-rather-forget—illustrating the struggle, but choosing to see the good in those memories, moments, periods and people, choosing the kind word over the bitter one, letting the good overshadow the bad, living a positive and uplifting life despite the circumstances, seeing the beauty in the imperfect, and focusing on a heart of gratitude for the beautiful imperfections in these moments and in our lives. I want to take those moments and turn them into something both beautiful and tangible, to inspire and uplift through the expressive form of grace, the way only art can do.

If you want to check out more of my artwork, you can visit my portfolio website, here.

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