A friend of mine added me to this home decorating group on Facebook recently, it's filled with Do It Yourself-ers and decorators. People post pictures of the projects they are working on in their homes, and all the pretty things they own.
It's a great group to join if you like feeling shitty about your house keeping skills, and lack of style.
We've lived in our home for about 3 years, and I have slowly decorated things to my tastes. Which I like to describe as eccentric.... fun and cluttered, ha. Each wall in the family room, dining room, and sitting area there is a lot of kids art work, family photos. I have lots of bright throw pillows, bright yellow and green shelves and tables. Then in my kitchen.... this is where it gets weird... and I need help.
My counters are shitty dark formica. It's not super tacky formica... but it's formica. I have new cherry finished cabinets, which a lot of people love, but I detest. They are too dark and make the room look gloomy. For appliances, I have the standard Frigidaire set that every modern kitchen built on a budget has, which in my kitchen these are always covered in finger prints and look dirty. I hate stainless steel. Then I have one wall that is kind of neat and original to the 1952 architecture, it's all tongue and groove, so it's little country and clashes with the modern cherry finish cabinets and stainless appliances. On this wall I have hung all of my favorite pots and pans, so there is little copper, some fun yellow and red enamels, cast iron, and other random things I cook and bake with. On the opposite wall under my cabinets I all of my knives hung on a magnet strip, and then the third and last wall, is covered in kids art, and then my wine bottle rack. Because kid's art + wine makes sense. In the center of the room, my husband made me a spring green rolling island which has become super useful and I love it.
So yeah, nothing matches.. and this group of Facebook strangers with beautiful homes makes me want to do better. To tie it all together. So I have a plan....
First, I want to replace my appliances with this white GE line, it's modern.... but retro. The white is nice and bright and will do wonders for the lighting in my kitchen.
Second, I want to replace the counters with wood tops. I know... wood. We'll see if I actually go that route because my husband is already huffing and puffing over cost and what a pain it will be to maintain with water stains... and needing to be refinished every so many years.
Third, I want new cabinets, but these cherry finished ones ARE new... so I think I want to sand them down and repaint them a bluish color... similar to the ones in the Julia Child's kitchen from her Cambridge house. (The one on display in DC)
Fourth... new flooring. I have the worst 1990's cream colored tile that sucks balls. A few are cracked... the light color shows black dog hair like crazy, it's a full time job keeping them clean. I have no idea what I should do for flooring yet... but I know there is oak underneath that ugly ass tile, and I want to open that can of worms.
So when am I going to do this work?
Because... well.... money, and I like my boat.
Boat things trump kitchen remodel. Priorities.
For now, I am going to learn to love my weird unmatched kitchen. It is the center of our home, where the kids sit and chat about their day at school while I fix after school snacks. Or where Mads climbs up on a chair to help me bake goodies or make play-doh. Where after a long day and late night, Steve comes home, plops in a chair, and we both have a drink while he talks about cars and customers, and I fix his supper.
I love my kitchen. It's what makes this house feel like my home.
In my kitchen, my home, Mads helped bake this Maple Walnut Carrot Cake for our Easter celebration. She was the master mixer, while I did all the measuring and frosting. She even helped make an incredibly sticky mess all over my not so favorite formica counters.
It was a girls day well spent.
This cake is pretty easy to prepare, it is a basic carrot cake, but made with purple carrots and unsweetened shredded coconut. Spiced with ginger and cinnamon, and then topped with a melt in your mouth velvety, salted maple Italian buttercream.
Italian buttercream has changed my life and my cakes. I don't think I will ever go back to making the traditional, easy peasy American buttercream, filled with far too much powder sugar. I'm not sure anyone actually likes gobs of that piled on a cake.... except four year old children.
The maple walnuts are always a quick and easy cake garnish that taste so good. You'll have a hard time not snacking on them while you decorate your cake.
Maple Walnut Carrot Cake
3 cups grated raw carrots (I used 2 large purple carrots)
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbs baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
For the frosting:
5 large egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1.5 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
For the walnuts:
1 cup whole walnuts
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare 2 8 inch cake pans with non stick baking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, using a rubber spatula mix combine carrot, coconut, eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vegetable oil. Set the bowl aside.
In a separate bowl sift together, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt and flour.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
Divide batter into the cake pans equally.
Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the center has set and springs back when you touch it. Or you can insert a tooth pick in the center, if it comes out clean, the cakes are baked through.
Allow the cakes too cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature.
To prepare the frosting. Bring maple syrup to a low boil. Remove from heat and allow it cool until it is warm... but not so hot you an touch it.
Whip egg whites with salt on high speed until they are stiff.
Slowly drizzle in the maple syrup, and whip until the meringue is shiny.
Reduce speed to medium and add the butter in 1 tbs at a time until it is all incorporated.
If the meringue appears to be soupy, place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes and then return to the mixer and whip on high until it thickens and starts to come together.
If the meringue appears to be lumpy and cottage cheese like, try wrapping a warm wet dishtowel around the bottom of the bowl and whip it on high until it smooths out.
Sometimes Italian Buttercream can be fussy, but if all of your ingredients are the perfect temperature it should come together just fine. But don't fret if it's collapsed and soupy or cheesy... you can fix it with the tricks above!
To prepare walnuts, add the nuts and syrup into a shallow pan, and heat over medium heat until the syrup becomes very sticky and coats the nuts. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Once they are coated and look shiny, spread even on parchment paper. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Frost cakes as desired, decorate with candied nuts.