a post a day for seven days: today is day 1

I need something to challenge me. So I’m challenging myself.

Seven posts in seven days.

In the beginning days of Urban Casita I posted this much regularly. I even wrote out a schedule for my little blog: Mondays about memories, Tuesdays about thrift finds, Wednesdays a free day, etc. etc. Somewhere along the way my naivete about blogging disappeared and I began posting sporadically. I looked at content other people were putting out and became unsure of myself. ReadyMade, which was the one place where I had to produce a certain amount of work and for whom I had to push myself at times, folded and I went into a slump. I decided my words were boring, my photos crappy, my ideas and projects overdone. Nothing was new. Everything I wanted to write about had been written about somewhere else. I guess this is the problem with the internet. Nothing ever feels new, until it is, and then it isn’t anymore because it’s all over the place. Follow? I didn’t think so. I’m not sure I do.

Anyways, I’m over that. I’m going to post about what I want to post about because it makes me happy to do so. I find that the blogs and sites I love the most do just that. See you tomorrow?

turquoise kitchen redux

I was in love with the kitchen in our old spot: big old sink, turquoise walls, black and white checkered floor, huge windows. We put a lot of work into making it our own and I miss it dearly. The new place is a little more well-kept and the management company much more involved, so painting our new cocina turquoise was a no-no. The walls are the same gray we chose for the entire unit which, thankfully, makes a great contrasting color for my favorite shade. The first order of business was adding bits of turquoise everywhere I could. Most of this stuff had been orange in its prior life, plain wood or metal before that. I love how easy it is to update with a can of spray paint.

kitchen

Shelf: $3, IKEA
Spray paint: Montana Gold Shock Turquoise, $6
Lotus bowls: .50 – $1.00, various thrift stores. I use these in almost every room of the house. I think I have around a dozen!
Mortar & pestle: gift from Papo
Yellow plastic sugar and cream containers: $3, rummage sale

kitchen

Vintage shaker: $5, rummage sale
Vases: $2, thrift store
Wooden bowl: $1, thrift store
Bombay Sapphire: priceless !

kitchen

Teak salt and pepper shakers: $30, A Hunted House, Washington DC
Silverware people: gift from Papo
Spice rack: $3, thrifted
Spray paint: the same Montana Gold Shock Turquoise, $6

kitchen

Hook: $4 for two, Ace Hardware
Spray paint: Again, Montana Gold Shock Turquoise, $6

kitchen

Coat rack: IKEA, $3
Spray paint: Of course, Montana Gold Shock Turquoise, $6
White cow: $8, thrift store
Wood art: $3-5, thrift stores

kitchen

Knobs: $1.49 for SIX, IKEA

And of course, the cabinet doors came off almost immediately. The bottom doors that remained got a dose of color courtesy of the cheapest knobs ever.

BEFORE
kitchen

AFTER
kitchenkitchenkitchen

When our cutlery tray proved too wide for our new drawers we were forced to improvise. These jars came from the junk store and have been used for everything: remember my mini-planter from ReadyMade? They’re perfect for spoons, forks and knives.

And that, my friends, is a turquoise-tinted kitchen. I had much better photos of the whole room put together but accidentally deleted over 150 shots from my camera. I’m hoping to find a recovery tool online lest I have to contort my body into all those weird picture-getting angles again. More of the kitchen soon…

love you, ms. whitney

I’m at a loss. I didn’t know Whitney Houston. I’ve never seen her in concert. My memories of her are strictly from albums, radio, television, movies. And her voice brings up Mama. All Mama.

I remember dancing to How Will I Know, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, I’m Your Baby Tonight.

Breaking it down with my siblings to I’m Every Woman.

My mom took me to see The Bodyguard in the theater four times. Waiting to Exhale came out right around the time of my parent’s divorce. I saw the book on my mom’s nightstand. I read it when she was done. My mom had a six disc changer in the trunk of her VW. The soundtrack to that movie was in it almost always.

Whitney Houston has passed. One of the leading voices of the soundtrack to my childhood, maybe yours, too. I hope she is at peace.

Thank you, Ms. Whitney.

cookie monster: sugar cookies + cream cheese frosting

Trader Joe’s has the best packaging for cheap, don’t they? I just finished making sugar cookies for a Super Bowl party this evening. One of the problems that comes with working in a three star restaurant is that I am almost always embarrassed and nervous to bring food to parties where co-workers will be present. I can’t really cook. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking and I find it rather boring (although I have made a list of dishes for Okunola and I to cook this week and am rather enjoying the process).

I promised I would make something for the party and decided to try my hand at baking. I threw together some mean biscuits for Thanksgiving and figured I should be able to handle a simple sugar cookie recipe adapted from here. I was right. They’re delicious. If I eat another one I will hurl.

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened * really, really softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a bigger bowl, mix together the softened butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. I put on gloves and used my hands after my arm started hurting for this part.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls and tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. I left some the larger tablespoonful balls plain for frosting and rolled the smaller ones with blue and red sugar. Place the balls onto ungreased cookie sheets. If you do not have a cookie sheet like me, feel free to use a cake pan. I think I left ours in the oven when we moved out of the old place.

Bake 7-8 minutes in the preheated oven. They will look and feel soft but will harden a bit after cooling. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

The small ones are finished after that. The big ones still need frosting. I picked up a container of pre-made frosting and it was disgusting so I hunted around on the internet and found a great recipe for cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese, check.
Butter, check.
Vanilla extract, check.
Powdered sugar, nope.
Thank goodness for the Polish corner store around the corner.

Cukier Puder, at your service. I also hadn’t softened more butter than I needed for the cookies overnight and so placed the amount I needed into a plastic bag and mushed it with my hands.

Further, I didn’t have the electric mixer the recipe called for and instead of putting my arm in any more pain, decided to break in the food processor I got for Christmas. The frosting turned out a bit more liquid-y than I would have liked but is insanely delicious. I could have quartered the recipe and had plenty. Anyone in the Chicago area in need of frosting?

Some silver sprinkles and we’re done. Super Bowl cookies. I guess the people playing wear red, white, blue and silver uniforms?

love peace & soul

Soul Train line!#soultrain line in #wickerpark last night#dancing #night #city #igerschicago #chicago #wickerpark #soultrain line#soultrain #wickerpark #chicago #igerschicago #city #night #dancing #hamburglar@urbancasita and @earthseed taking in the action...

At 4pm on February 1st, the day the great Don Cornelius passed on, we got word via social media that there would be an impromptu Soul Train line in his honor on Milwaukee Avenue at 9:30. About 200 people showed up to pay their respects and make their way down the line in thirty degree weather. You can view much better photos here and here.

Then read ?uestlove on Don Cornelius.

Soul Train started in Chicago. What a blessing to see its creator celebrated here in such a worthy way. Rest in Peace, Don Cornelius.

brother & sister

I have a little brother. Even though we aren’t technically Irish twins I pretend that we are. At exactly seventeen months apart, we experienced a lot at the same time growing up. Chicken pox was one such experience I remember vividly. I was probably around 4 when I caught it from someone in pre-k and I distinctly recall my mother plopping he and I into an Aveeno bath, hoping that he would catch the virus from me so she wouldn’t have to go through it twice. He caught it, we itched together and she was pleased.

We shared a room before our baby sister came along when I was 5 and he was 4. We had twin beds pushed against a wall of clouds, wallpaper that my grandfather put up for us. I had a red pencil lamp on my bedside table and he had a blue pencil lamp on his bedside table. The sheets were covered in clowns. We would smash our beds together to make one big one when we weren’t fighting.

I tried to hurt my baby brother once. My evil moment was right after he was born. I was a mommy’s girl until that day and when my father went to hold my brother I must have realized his existence. I didn’t like that baby brother was getting attention from this man I knew was important somewhere in my periphery and I stuck my fingers down baby brother’s throat. From that day on I paid my dad a lot more attention.

He once was on television. Around the time he was five, baby brother was playing baseball at daycare. He slid into third base (maybe home plate?) and a rusty nail lodged into his knee. Because my mom had started the first workplace daycare center in the state of Wisconsin (and I believe one of the first in the nation, if not the first) while pregnant with me, she was able to be by his side in minutes. The news showed my brother’s injury and my mom talked about how great it was to be able to work and be within a quarter of a mile of her children during their formative years. She was profiled in a Japanese magazine for her contribution to working mothers around this time as well. I was very excited to see the two of them on the big screen though a little jealous that I had not been the one to receive a rusty nail to the knee.

No. 18 Making your little brother look like an idiot #1000thanks The caption for this photo when I snapped it: No. 18 Making your little brother look like an idiot #1000thanks

My baby brother goes to Barnes and Noble to read books instead of buying them. He read every single Easy Rawlins novel in this way: seated in a comfortable leather chair for a few hours until his work or schooling called, remembering the page number he was on, and coming back the next day to finish up. Well, he used to do this until the Barnes and Noble near his apartment got rid of the leather chairs forcing him to the hard seats in the cafe. I am so pleased that we share a love of books even if I could not fathom reading my own inside a busy store.

He will arm-wrestle anyone at anytime and any place. He is hilarious, often without meaning to be. He loves the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers. He gets off work at 5am and occasionally goes to dive bars for a “nightcap” where his drinking buddies are third shift nurses. He gets his hair cut once a week. You will never catch him in a pair of dirty sneakers.

He is like our mother was: refined, tough, sharp, classy, bright, quiet and a bit closed off but tender and caring all the same.

My baby brother overthinking. Bless his heart.

We argue constantly. We are competitive. We have spelling bees. We use humongous words when we’re together to one-up each other. Sometimes our sentences lack sense and we laugh at our efforts. He texts in full sentences, always ending them with at least two dots because they “add emphasis to the meanings.(.)”

#familyLate night #taqueria run... @urbancasita and her brother

All that to say that he came to town with his gal this weekend and we had a great time.

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dovetail lamp + a peek of the dining room

I haven’t had a proper dining room since we occupied the mansion back in my mid-teens. That experience as a whole didn’t go so well. Maybe this is where my ambivalence towards any kind of formal area, be it for seating or dining or really doing anything other than sleeping since you kind of need a bedroom for that (unless you’re my dad, then the living room futon does just fine), stems from. You wanna eat? Do it in the kitchen, while sitting on a counter or at the table, your choice. Or maybe you’d prefer the back porch? Or the couch? Or the bed… while reading a magazine and swatting the dog away from the bowl perched perilously on your lap? Fine by me. Just clean up after yourself.

However, I now have a dining room. A tablecloth-covered desk may be acting as a table and the two benches that used to anchor our bay windows are standing in place for chairs but it’s worked for one gathering so far.

The tablecloth is a piece of fabric my friend Kate brought back from a trip to CuraƧao a few years ago and the curtains are hold-overs from the old place. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to update them soon. Any ideas? Maybe I could turn the tablecloth into curtains. Hmmm….

My favorite part of this room is the new lamp. It blows my $4 floor lamp out of the water both in style and price and was worth every penny thanks to a local vintage boutique. I had been out with Chernara all day looking specifically for a floor lamp for the dining room and I happened to pop into Dovetail while waiting for an order of Thai food from a neighboring restaurant. I pass the shop everyday on my way to work and loved a recent write-up of a co-owner from Time Out but this was my first time visiting. It also happened to be a day where every single item in the store was half off, making me a very happy girl.

And of course I love all of the built-ins! Perfect for the books that used to line the floor of our old abode.

So…who’s coming over to sit at the grown-up table?

Psssst… Chicago! Check out Dovetail!
1452 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 243-3100