Monday, January 31

menu plan monday

well, i'm back from chicago, where i ate some of the most amazing food! if your ever in the windy city, let me recommend to you my favorites:

artopolis [greek] - saganaki kabobs [fried kasseri cheese], manitaropita [mushroom & cheese pie], & galactoboureko [phyllo, lemon custard, orange-blossom syrup]

woo lae oak [koren barbeque] - bulgogi & vegetable barbeque made on your in-table grill

la creperie [french] - hot cocoa, champignons crepe [mushroom crepe], creme caramel crepe [caramel & vanilla flan]

carnivale [latin american] - fried sweet plantains, market-fresh fish with acorn squash, charred romaine lettuce, & carrot escabeche, carnivale ice cream cake [mango, papaya, & pistachio ice cream with guava & mint sauce & chocolate ganache

yum-O! i'm getting hungry just thinking about all that food! well, it's back to real life & my own cooking, so here's this week's menu.

monday - gnocchi florentine
tuesday - spanish paella & manchego polenta
wednesday - quesadillas
thursday - spaghetti with sweet potatoes & ricotta
friday - y.u.m.
saturday - @ indy
sunday - @ superbowl party! [i'm bringing layered peach salsa dip - remember all those jars of salsa & packets of seasoning from my pantry makeover?!]

baking - shaun made his signature cowboy cookies to send to our grandparents this month, & he made enough for me to eat a couple!

Monday, January 24

menu plan monday

this week, i'm in CHI-CA-GO!!!  my favorite city! i'm here on a semi-business trip. my best friend & business partner, rachel, is here on a business trip for her 9to5, & i was able to tag along so we can work on our business in the evenings - yay! [i guess i haven't mentioned on here that we're starting a business... i'll blog about that more at a later time...]

anyways, back to menus. i left shaun at home to hold down the fort [or casa] with our three furry children - zorra, bella, & caenya. shaun's more than capable of cooking for himself &  has a few recipes in his repertoire, so i made sure to gather all necessary ingredients for him. so, i'll post what he's having:

1. chicken enchiladas [no recipe - buy enchilada sauce & use the recipe on the back]
2. leftover pumpkin gnocchi
3. quesadillas with whatever's in the fridge
4. minestrone
5. [out to eat one night with a friend]

i'll be back. [said like arnold schwarzenegger]

saturday - [soup & movie night with friends] i'm making my pumpkin soup & will make sure to take pictures this time to add to the casteel cafe!
sunday - @ life group

also, last friday, we had friends over impromptu & i made one of our greek favorites, chickpea fritters & tzatziki, so check out the casteel cafe!

Friday, January 21

feature friday: THE OFFICE

i'm still trucking on with my 2011 organizational projects, but i've been spending a lot of time on the office, which is a BIG project, over doing some of the smaller, quicker projects.

remember when it looked like this?

[before: the office in its state of disaster & despair]

well, i haven't organized it yet, but i did finally complete the first step of organizing a space this large & this far gone: clearing the room!

[after: cleared ready to be organized]

now that you can SEE it, i can show ya'll this fabulous room! our house has three bedrooms upstairs, all of which we want to use as bedrooms. that left us in a quandary about where to put an office space. this room is off of the foyer, the main entrance to the house, across from the living room, & it also connects to the kitchen. originally, it was the formal dining room, but our living room is large enough to encompass conversation areas & a dining area. so, the dining room became the office.

[the view looking through the foyer & into the living room]

it took me a couple months to figure out what color scheme to do in this room.  in our old casa, we decorated the office in blue & orange for our college teams, duke & illinois.

[office at the casteel casa de raleigh]

it's cute if you can close the door when company comes, but in the new casa, the room is always open to the foyer, one of the first things people see when they enter our home. [we put a shower curtain up to hide the mess all these months, but that doesn't look much better!]

i was inspired by my pier 1 paper weight to go with a spring green, pale aqua, & black. 

[my glass bird paper weight]

we wanted a place where we could continue to display some of shaun's illinois & agriculture collection, but i also wanted the space to have an updated style. the color palette accented with lots of brushed nickel fixtures & accessories gives a contemporary feel to the traditional & rustic farm elements.

we chose new light fixtures to bring in the brushed nickel & to update the house in general.  actually, where the sconces are, there were gaping holes with wires left by the previous owners covered by tacky wall art -- real classy, not to mention super safe.

[ceiling light]                                           [wall sconce]

back to the "after" picture: shaun & i built that shelf for my craft supplies. we painted it black to go with the color palette. i love the way it pops against the green walls & wood paneling! hanging above the door way is an apple butter stirrer from my mom's side of the family. my uncle steve has been the main collector of all these heirlooms from the old homestead back in tennessee [which burned down long before i was alive], & he has been passing them on to shaun for years. shaun loves it!

[apple butter stirrer from the miller side of the family]

[my desk]

this is my awesome desk - i love it! shaun salvaged this from n.c. state when they were refurbishing his old office building. it used to be brown with brass accents. he gave the desk to my sister vanessa when she moved to d.c. & she repainted it to emphasize its retro style with a modern flair. when she moved back home, she passed it on to me. this was also part of the inspiration for the color palette in this room because i had to be able to make it work with my desk!

[the round barns at the university of illinois]

this is a poster shaun bought while attending illinois, & i had it framed for him a few xmases ago. it hangs between the two front-facing windows above my desk. [we moved my desk to that side of the room & removed the other wood desk.]

[wall opposite entry to foyer & living room]

this corner is going to become our "home center" & shaun's home office area. we plan create a desk surface over the cabinets. that window faces directly onto the porch in front of the den. the door on the right leads into the kitchen. you can see the cat litter box mat peeking out from behind the door. this room also kind of belongs to the cats & houses their litter, their food, & their toys.

of course, in clearing the room, all that stuff had to go somewhere...

[office stuff in the living room]

we set up tables in the living room to organize everything coming out of the office into piles. it doesn't look very organized, but there is method to this madness!

[my craft stuff piled on the dining table]

there is a little less method to the craft supplies, but they are all in one place at least!

[essential organizing tools]

i grabbed four plastic tubs from the basement [left by the previous owners] & labeled them move [as in, these items don't belong in the office!], sell, toss, & recycle. look at the overflowing trash heap...

so, that's our office currently. i can't wait to start putting it back together. we really need this space to be organized & functional. i'll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 20

organized pantry

it's about time i got this finished!  i've been working on it for the last week. sometimes that's how i organize - i have to stare at it for a while before i know exactly what i need to do, or what containers i need to find/buy. all week, i've had my pantry items all over my kitchen table [slash-extra-counter-space] & mentally trying to figure out what to do with them.

if you read my 2011 organization projects list, then you will recognize this BEFORE photo:

[pantry BEFORE, with edward :) ]

there is no rhyme or reason - everything is just thrown in there. we used to keep all our food in one of those corner cabinets with the lazy susan shelves. bad idea. we kept forgetting we had items & losing them back in the corner where we can't reach them. 

before thanksgiving, i moved all the food items to the pantry, which previously housed all my serving dishes, vases, candles, etc. [which have now been moved to the built-in cabinets in the living/dining room].  

ready for the AFTER?!?!

[pantry AFTER, still with edward, now in coordinating apron!]

i thought i'd break it down for you in case you have a pantry that needs organizing, too.

1. clear out pantry

[empty, dirty pantry]

[really gross 46 year old shelves]

[my pantry items & extra stuff on my table]

2. organize items by category

[salsas & canned items]       [pastas, rices, & sauces]

[chocolate chips & nuts]    [extra nuts & dried fruit]

this is also a good time to see why it's so important to have an organized pantry - look at all these duplicates! in the top left picture, you will see seven jars of peach salsa that have seven accompanying spice packets to make the most amazing layered nacho dip. shaun & i loooove this stuff, but it's been in the back of that round-about cabinet, & we couldn't see it to crave it! [our cousins - okay, really aunt nancy - give us two of these every year for christmas, for which we are deeply grateful, but we haven't been taking advantage of it - so sad.]

i also have three boxes of the same flavored couscous, three open containers of brown rice, three open bags of chocolate chips [plus unopened bags], five cans of chickpeas [that's a bit much, even for us chickpea lovers], & two boxes of coarse, kosher salt! [the bottom right picture also shows multiples of the same thing - pepitas [shelled pumpkin seeds] - but that's on purpose because i stock up when in north carolina.]

3. clean & freshen up the pantry

i did a thorough deep cleaning of the pantry, including an intensive scrubbing of the floor because there was something nasty sticky down there...  i decided while i was at it, i should paint the dingy white walls, & i chose the leftover green paint from the office.

[the painted pantry]

it's not the best paint job i've ever done, but you don't notice so much with everything back in there. shaun was sweet enough to paint several fresh coats of white paint [also leftover & therefore free!] onto the shelves.  

[pantry ready for reloading]

ahhh! it already looks tons better!

4. choose organizational aids

it took me a while to settle on still using my double-decker wire bin for veggies & then purchasing the rest new. i really like oxo containers for their modular quality & the fabulous sealed lids. they can be pricey, so i use them sparingly. i decided they were just right for my pasta collection because of all the sizes they come in & because they're clear.  fortunately, i found them at meijer for $2 off each! i also bought the three baskets while i was there - i have a slight [matching] basket fetish...

the surprising element of my organization was repurposing the old coke crate. i bought it for $7 at a local thrift/consignment store over a year ago, planning to hang it on the wall to display cookie cutters & knic-knacs, but the compartments are too small. so, i decided to repurpose it for its original purpose!

5. load everything back in

[the top shelf: bulk/extra items]

i put baskets up on top with rarely needed extra items. everything in the baskets has an opened twin out in our cabinets or fridge. the baskets keep everything corralled & make it easier to get things down for this shorty! 

[condiment basket + applesauce]

[salad & relish basket]

my pantry has these "wings" on either side of the door frame that aren't visible from straight on & are more difficult to access, so i put even more rarely used items in the wings.

[the right wing of the top shelf]

notice the old stains that seeped through the multiple coats of white paint...  oh well. i'm too short to see it!

[second shelf: canned goods]

i organized the canned goods by item, with only that item in a row so that i can always see what i have.  those seven jars of salsa & packets of seasoning are on the right wing of this cabinet. we don't eat it on a regular basis, but i can still seeee it!

[third shelf: pastas, rices, grains, & sauces]

[pastas & rices]                         [gnocchi, couscous, sauce, & stock]

aren't my oxo containers so nice?! i put the rices in the left wing because we don't eat that nearly as often as pasta. i ended up also incorporating this shelf extender from my old organization, too. and in the right wing, there is enough room for six boxes of stock [a major staple in my kitchen].

[fourth shelf: juice/soda, fresh produce]

there is nothing in the wings of this shelf because in the summer we'll move the soda & onion/potato basket over & use the middle to store all our fresh garden produce! [the juice & sparkling water is what i use to make my own soda, lower calorie!]

[floor: sodas]

we enjoy keeping different kinds of sodas in bottles around, mainly for when other people visit. we also "import" cheerwine [a cherry soda] & blenheim [a spicy hot ginger ale] from north carolina, as you can see on the wings. i love getting to use the coke crate & the pop of color it gives!

well, there you have it!

i'm looking forward to adding labels [can anyone say colored vinyl?!], an errands list board on the inside of the door, & a chalkboard menu on the the front of the door. so stay tuned!
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