Friday, June 29, 2012

Yummy Hake Recipe

I picked up a bag of frozen Hake loins from Costco the other day. Vlad and I had never eaten this fish before and thought we'd give it a try.

I looked up a couple tips on cooking Hake, experimented a little, and came up with this delicious recipe.

You will need: 

3 or 4 Hake Loins, thawed (I was cooking for three people, but four loins would work just fine)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Small Vidalia Onion, diced
3 Tbs Butter or Margarine 
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
3 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 Lemon

1. Heat the oil on medium high heat. Add garlic and saute for a couple minutes. Then add onion, and continue sauteing until the onion starts to brown (10-15 minutes)

2. If you have enough room in your pan, simply move the onions over and place the Hake on the pan;  otherwise, remove enough onion to make room. Once you add them to the pan, also add about a tbsp of butter cut in a few pieces around the loins. Cook on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes; then flip and cook the other side 4-5 minutes. Be careful, because this fish falls apart easily! 

3.When the fish is white and opaque, or has an interior temperature of 145 degrees F, it's ready! Put the fish on a separate plate and keep warm. Don't dump the remaining oil!

4. In the same pan add the wine, parsley, and remaining butter. Squeeze a half of lemon in the pan, being careful not to add any unwanted seeds. Heat on medium high heat until slightly reduced, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool for a minute or two. Add sauce to your Hake, and done!

For a side dish, I decided on cous cous. I always buy Near East because it's inexpensive, easy to make, and tastes great! I wanted to add more texture to the cous cous; so I diced up a clove of garlic, one vidalia onion, and one red bell pepper, and lightly sauteed them together in olive oil on medium heat for about 15 minutes and then combined it with the cous cous. 

I wanted to saute some spinach as well, but we were too hungry! The kitchen smelled soooo good while I was cooking that we couldn't wait another minute! It turned out perfect; the fish was so juicy and the lemon/butter/wine sauce went so well with the fish, even mixed in great with the cous cous! This recipe would also work great with cod, haddock, or flounder.


<3 Lauren

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kitchen Renovation

The number one piece of advice I would give someone who is about to tackle a major home renovation ... ... TAKE "BEFORE" PICTURES! I had no idea how different our home would look once we finished... I am kicking myself now that I don't have the proper "before" pictures to show how much work really went in to each project. That being said, I am not completely empty handed. I do have a before picture of our kitchen, though the kitchen is not the main focus, it will have to suffice. 

Here is our kitchen before. 

As you can see, it was outdated and in need of a lot of work. Not only were the cabinets out of style, they were just too small. The appliances were old and barely working. The old Formica countertops were not durable and they were UGLY!! All of that being said, our kitchen was still the gathering place of our guests. We knew we had to make it more accommodating for big groups, as we both love to entertain.

When Vladimir decided to raise the ceiling, he realized the wall separating the kitchen from the living area was not a bearing wall. He decided to tear it out and open up the entire space.

The next step was designing the layout of our new space. We had been purchasing our appliances one by one for about a year or two, so that it wouldn't end up being one large expense. Once we had all the appliances and cabinets, we used Ikea's online kitchen designer to help draw out our ideas. As you can see here, we started out knowing where we wanted our fridge. After that, the rest of our kitchen fell into place.

This shot is midway through the process. We fell in love with these gorgeous, dark brown, bamboo cabinets that Vlad discovered at work, (OZ Enterprises). We also picked out a rich black granite. We were worried that the combination of the two would make our kitchen appear too dark; but we couldn't bear to part with either. Our solution was to have lighter cabinets on top. We settled on Ikea vertical stainless steel cabinets with horizontal white glass cabinets underneath. 

Vladimir had always wanted a giant kitchen island. He decided to use an entire slab to make it. How many Eastern European men does it take to carry a granite slab? Nine! (Vlad took a break to take the picture ;) )

I picked out this gorgeous backsplash from Lowe's. We both agreed on it several months before we started the renovation. Just like with the appliances, we bought each panel one by one over several months instead of buying them all at once. Vladimir added lighting underneath the cabinets to shine down on the countertop, which you can see in the next photo.

Vladimir didn't want to have any seams on the countertop, so he opted for a wood butcher slab instead! Not only does it break up the dark granite, but is also extremely convenient!

Here is a shot of the kitchen all finished. It turned out sleek, modern, and just plain beautiful. We could not be more happy with the results! 

Is your kitchen modern or traditional? 

<3 Lauren

Ps. Click on the "home renovation" label to see all of the posts about our renovations :) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DIY Easy Makeup Brush Cleaner

I am not a fan of spending extra money (who is?!). I refuse to buy expensive makeup brush cleaners when they are so simple to clean at home. All you need is shampoo and hot water! 

1. Take your brush and run it under hot water for a minute or two.
2. Pour about a tsp or so of shampoo on your brush and work in a good lather for another minute. Rinse it out completely, then add another tsp of shampoo. 
3. After you work up a lather for the second time, don't rinse it out. Take your brush with the lather and set it in a small bowl. Add about a half a cup of hot water. Let that sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
4. Take your brush and rinse out all the shampoo under hot water. Spend the extra time to make sure you get all of the shampoo out so that your brush is squeaky clean. Shake your brush out, pat it down with a towel, reshape it to it's correct form, then hang to dry. (I hung mine with a magnet clip on my fridge.) Let it dry overnight. If it's still damp overnight, you can run through the ends with a hair dryer.

I've also heard massaging the ends with conditioner and letting that sit for a few minutes before rinsing out will keep your brushes soft :) 

No need for expensive brush cleaners, regular shampoo works great!

<3 Lauren

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Easy Bisquick Crepes Recipe

Instead of making pancakes on Saturday morning, my mom always made crepes. It's a tradition I plan on sharing with my future children. Crepes and pancakes are very similar; however, crepes are thinner and more flexible. They are typically served rolled up with some sort of fruit or cream filling. At our house, we always used powdered sugar and lemon. This recipe is an easier version using Bisquick (which always seems to save a couple steps ;) )

You will need:
2 cups Bisquick
2 cups milk
2 eggs
Powdered sugar
a handful of fresh strawberries

Makes about 10-12 crepes.

1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups Bisquick (here's an easy homemade Bisquick recipe if you  don't have any on hand), 2 cups milk, and 2 eggs. Whisk until blended. Heat a greased medium sized skillet on medium high heat and pour in about 1/4 cup of batter. Turn your skillet in a circular motion while pouring the batter to cover the pan evenly. When the batter has a significant amount of bubbles on the top side, flip over and cook the other side. Stack the crepes on a plate, this keeps them warm.

2. Chop up some fresh strawberries and toss them lightly with a pinch of sugar.

3. Lay a crepe on your plate, add powdered sugar right down the middle, and squeeze a lemon wedge on top of the powdered sugar.

4. Add your strawberries on top of the powdered sugar and lemon.

5. Roll it up and enjoy!

Super easy and delicious! 

<3 Lauren

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flatbread Pizza Recipe

I found a fun recipe for flatbread on A Beautiful Mess. I loved this recipe, but after trying it out once, I made a few tweaks. You do need at least two hours to do this recipe, so make sure you start well before you plan on eating. These are great light snacks for parties! 

For the flatbread:
3 cups flour
4 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tsp salt, (sea salt if you have it)
1 tsp sugar
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

Pour the warm water into a small bowl and add the packet of yeast. Don't stir, just let the yeast bubble. 
In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, olive oil, sugar and salt. Pour the water & yeast in the large bowl, and stir until dough forms. 
Once the dough forms, knead it for about 5 minutes until it's elastic like. Set the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a wet towel or paper towel. Let sit for an hour. 
After an hour, split the dough in half, knead for a couple minutes again, and set the two balls of dough in two lightly oiled bowls; cover with wet towels for another hour. 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Each ball of dough can be split in two and stretched out thin. Place each on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake the dough for about 10-15 minutes, or until dough has hardened lightly. 
Take the dough out of the oven and let cool for a couple minutes. Now it's time to add your toppings, this is where you can get creative :)
Once you've added your toppings, you can then return to the oven, and let bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how crisp you like the flatbread. Let cool, and then you can cut into bite-size pieces.

I did a greek style flatbread for my first try. I finely chopped equal parts black olives, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. I very lightly covered the dough with tomato paste. Then added the chopped ingredients and crumbled some feta cheese.

For the second flatbread, I tried out A Beautiful Mess's recipe. I lightly covered the dough in blackberry jam, then added chopped apple and crumbled feta.

Both were delish! I've also tried taking bits of chicken from a rotisserie, tossed them in BBQ sauce, and added crushed pineapple. That was a big hit! You can experiment with all sorts of ingredients; have fun with it! 


<3 Lauren

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Mint Cocktail Recipes

Today I wanted to share with you two cocktail recipes I like to make in the summertime. Both contain mint and vodka. Mint, because it adds a great flavor and smells wonderful. Vodka, because if there's a bottle of liquor at our house, it's probably vodka (my husband is Ukrainian, haha.)

For both cocktails, you will need a shaker, muddler, and a shot glass (for measuring).

The first is kind of a play on a mojito, using vodka instead of rum, and lemon instead of lime. 

For this drink you will need:

Fresh Mint
Ginger Beer, or lemon/lime soda, or both
Simple Syrup

To start, you take about 6 mint leaves (give or take a few depending on the size) and add them to your shaker. Pour in about a tablespoon of simple syrup. Muddle the mint and syrup for a good 30 seconds or so, making sure to bruise the leaves well. Then take two wedges of lemon, squeeze them into the shaker, then toss in. Muddle on the skin of the lemon a couple times to squeeze out the citrus. Add a handful of ice to the shaker and pour in a shot of vodka. Typical size of a shot is 1 & 1/2 ounces. Close your shaker and shake it all up. Take a regular glass, and instead of straining the contents of your shaker, just open the top and pour it all in. Add ice to fill up the rest of the cup. The next step is up to you. If you'd like more spice in your drink, only add ginger beer. If you want your cocktail to be sweeter, only add lemon/lime soda. For my cocktail, I find the perfect solution is equal parts of each. Give your drink a little stir, and voila! 

The mint and lemon wedges through the clear glass act as the garnish while making your drink smell amazing!

The second drink is similar to the Southside cocktail, but using vodka instead of gin and orange instead of lime.

For this drink you will need:

Triple Sec (or any orange liqueur) 
an Orange
Simple Syrup
Martini glass

Once again, add around 6 mint leaves to your shaker with a tablespoon of simple syrup, and muddle away. Once your mint leaves are good and muddled, add a slice of orange, and muddle again. Make sure to muddle on the rind. Add ice to your shaker. Now add 1 1/2 ounces of vodka, and about an ounce of tripe sec. (if you want a stronger martini, do 2 oz. vodka & 1 oz triple sec; if you want a sweeter martini, do 1 oz. vodka and 1 1/2 oz. triple sec) Close and shake all of the ingredients in your shaker. Strain into your martini glass, and voila! 

I garnished mine with a sprig of mint and a slice of orange. If you don't have martini glasses on hand, this drink would go great strained over ice in a regular glass as well.

*If you absolutely hate vodka; gin or rum would both work very well with the first cocktail. The second would work great with bourbon also.


<3 Lauren

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Room Update

Vladimir and I are in the process of renovating our home and we've made a ton of progress in the past few years. However, there are still several projects that aren't quite finished. Today, I wanted to share with you our guest room progress. Before, this room looked small and drab. The molding was an ugly, greenish off-white color. The walls were scratched up and cracked. The entire room needed a pick-me-up. 

To makeover this room, we started with the molding. Vladimir ripped out the floor molding and replaced it. He also added in crown molding and did beautiful corner details. We then painted the window frames a nice bright white to match. The walls were in bad shape and we did not want to go through the hassle of tearing down the walls and starting over; so we opted for wallpaper. Not just any wallpaper; a extremely strong, thick, textured wallpaper. Not only did it cover the cracks and imperfections, it actually made the walls feel better. Plus, it's just plain gorgeous! We could not be happier with the way it turned out. Here are some pictures of the room with the wallpaper and molding finished.

A friend of mine had a gorgeous wood four poster bed from Ikea that I fell in love with. I had searched the store and found that they stopped making the same model; I was devastated. One day about a month ago, she was talking about her big yard sale before she moves and mentioned that she was selling the bed. I was so elated and immediately asked if I could be the buyer! Of course she agreed and was happy to see her bed go to a good home (where she can visit it of course ;) ). We just assembled it last night, and can't wait to bring up the mattress and dress it! 

I can't wait to show you the room again once it's finished! The next step is the most fun; DECORATING! 

<3 Lauren

Ps. Today was day three in a row of the 30 day shred. My muscles are sore, but they burn so good! Have you done your exercise today?

What's In Season, Virginia - JUNE

I have only recently discovered the importance of eating local and supporting local agriculture (Eight Reasons to Eat Local Foods.) Eating local food goes hand in hand with eating what's in season. Stepping in a supermarket produce aisle can make it seem like every fruit and vegetable is in season year round. Unfortunately, this isn't true. Local Foods from is a great resource to find out what's in season in your location. I've decided to help spread the word to Virginians on what produce is local every month in our state. These posts will be titled "What's In Season, Virginia."

Here's a list of produce in season for the month of June:
Collard Greens
Green beans
Green Onions
Mushrooms (wild)
Peppers (sweet)
Snap peas/Snow peas/Pea pods
Summer Squash

And here's a list of the produce available year-round in Virginia:
Mushrooms (cultivated)
Sweet Potatoes

I have made the pledge to buy locally grown food from Virginia Farmers every week, and so should you! Since I have committed to spending at least 10 dollars on locally grown food every week, I have made it my mission to try to visit as many farmer's markets in the area as possible.

This week I stopped by the Lakeside Farmer's Market in Northside.They are open Wednesdays 8am-12pm & 3pm-7pm, and Saturdays 8am-12pm. I almost made the mistake of bringing my pup Lucy, but I'm glad I didn't, because they don't allow pets. 

I spent an easy 15 bucks on summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and blueberries. :)

I encourage you to check out the farmer's markets in your area! 

<3 Lauren

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

30 Day Shred

So it's been a couple months since I've changed to a healthier diet full of veggies and fish. However, I've neglected the fact that I haven't been exercising at all. After a little encouragement from my sisters, I've decided to start on Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. 

If you've seen Jillian Michaels on TV before, you might feel annoyed/frightened of this buff chick, but she's actually a great motivator! I've done this workout before and it's wonderful. First off, it's a great workout that really makes you sweat. Second, it's only 20 minutes long! Even with the busiest schedules, one can spare a mere 20 minutes to workout. Third, though a lot of her lines are cheesy, she's actually fun to listen to and really gets you moving!  

Jillian mixes each workout with 3 minutes of strength training, followed by 2 minutes of cardio, followed by 1 minute of abs; three times over. The three sets use different moves; a lot of those moves being compound exercises that work both your upper and lower body at the same time; which keeps the workout interesting. She has three 20 minute workouts on the DVD, levels 1-3, easier to more difficult. Instead of working out for an hour and taking breaks in between, you bust your butt without breaks for 20 minutes and really get the most out of your time. All you need are a pair of light handweights and a TV/DVD player.

Although I've done this workout several times before (also helped me get in shape for my wedding), I've never done the full 30 days straight. So that's my goal this time around, starting today. I encourage all of you to get your exercise in everyday; whether it be taking the dog for a walk, sweating it out at the gym, swimming laps, playing tennis, or doing a 20 minute workout video at home. Get off the couch and do your body good!

<3 Lauren

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DIY Picture Canvas

I found this great little DIY project from one of my favorite blog's A Beautiful Mess
To start out, you need :
Modge Podge
a Paint Brush
12" by 12" Canvas

Modge Podge is a glue, sealer and finisher all in one. They have other products similar, maybe some a bit cheaper, but I'd definitely recommend this brand; it's the best! 

This two pack of 12" by 12" canvases was $7.99 at Michael's; but they were having a sale 50% off! Craft stores like Michael's are constantly having deals on different items in the store as well as weekly coupons for 40-50% off regular price items.

Elsie from A Beautiful Mess used instagram photos and had them printed out and shipped from PostalPix; which is a great option. You can use the different filters and borders from Instagram to enhance your photos. Since I enjoy playing around on photoshop with different filters, I opted to print out my own. I printed each photo 4" by 4" onto light matte paper. I chose to use pictures of our friends and family.

After cutting out each of the photos; arrange them on the canvas. Move around their placement until you find one you like. 

Once your happy with the order of your photos; it's time to start pasting them down. When using modge podge, first paint on the section of canvas, then paint the back of your photo and adhere them together. Once all of the photos are down, paint a layer of modge podge over the entire canvas. (it may seem scary at first, but it seals them in paints with a protective covering) This part of the project can get messy, so make sure to lay down newspaper,etc. around the space your working. 

The finished product! I've had so much fun with these, I've made four so far, can't wait to hang them up! 

Enjoy! <3 Lauren

Friday, June 15, 2012

DIY Virginia Wedding

Vladimir and I were married in the beautiful mountains of Lexington Virginia in the fall of 2011. I had searched to no avail for a venue. While I was looking for inspiration, I kept running across these gorgeous, rustic, barn looking spaces. My mom searched endlessly and found the perfect space, Irvine Estate at House Mountain. She also worked hours upon hours gathering and making the perfect decor. We did a mix of burlap, mason jars, and bright colorful flowers. Thanks to the hard work of my mother, our wedding was beyond perfect!

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

My mom found a bunch of cute decor from Some of which being these cute burlap banners; Just Married pictured above and our Bride & Groom chairs pictured below. She also lined the tables with burlap runners, mason jar candles, and gorgeous bright flowers from a local florist. 

Photo by Daniel Rockburn 

Photo by Peter Child

My mom, pictured here to the left, worked tirelessly making sure every detail was just right.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

We were talking about using pumpkins, since the wedding was in October, but didn't want them to look cheesy. My mom came up with a brilliant idea; she stored up on these adorable little white pumpkins and tied the home printed place cards to each. That way each guest had a cute little pumpkin to take home :)

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Instead of having a guestbook, my mom found this cute idea for a "Wishing Tree." Tags
 were left in a basket with some pens. Whenever guests were ready, they would take a tag, write a note for the bride & groom, and hang it on the tree. It looked really beautiful 
once the night was over, pictured below.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

I had pictures framed of the weddings of my parents, Vlad's parents, my sister and Vlad's sister; and had those pictures displayed on the table with the wishing tree. I think it's a great way to tie in both families' histories. Plus, who doesn't like looking at different wedding styles over the years?

Photo by Peter Child
 My parents wedding on the left, and my sister's on the right.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Vlad's parents wedding on the left, and his sister's wedding on the right. Both were in his hometown Lviv Ukraine. 

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Another great DIY aspect of our wedding was instead of buying a cake from a bakery, Vladimir's mother and his brother-in-law's sister baked this beautiful cake for us :) Here the cake is pictured surrounded by my bridesmaids' bouquets.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn
My mother-in-law loves baking and made each layer of this cake one of her signature flavors. Vladimir's brother-in-law's sister (there's gotta be a name for that, right?) had been taking cake designing classes, and together they made this masterpiece. Pretty good for amateurs, I'd say ;)

Photo by Jose Robertson

As per Ukrainian tradition, there isn't just one cake, there are several... So my mother-in-law made a couple more cakes, sliced them into bite size pieces, and my mother set them up on these cute stands.

My contribution of DIY projects were with disposable cameras and our wedding favors.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

I bought bulk disposable cameras and set five or so at each of the tables. I printed out this little signs and attached them on the backs with some scotch tape. It was one of the best decisions I made for the wedding; we've had so much fun developing cameras every week.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Plus, the children loved them :)

Photo by Jose Robertson  
 I saw this note on tumblr and decided to make my own. I only tweaked it a bit and put in my own fonts & colors to match our decor. Then I printed them out on cardstock paper and set them up with each camera. It's a fun way to let your guests feel like they're a part of the action.

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

As for wedding favors, I made mix cds with Vladimir's and my favorite songs. Then we wrapped them up with packaging paper, stamped our initials with ink, and tied them up with some twine. They turned out great and our guests loved them :)

I also saw this idea on tumblr and loved it. It's of small pictures attached to the bride's bouquet of the people close to the bride and groom who had passed. I loved this idea so much, so my mother recreated the idea for my bouquet. 

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

It's a great way to feel like your loved ones are still there to enjoy your big day with you.

One thing I've never understood is putting bridesmaids all in the same dress... It usually ends up looking tacky, the bridesmaids typically never use the dress again, and there are very few dresses out there that look great on every different figure. Instead, I opted to have my bridesmaids choose dresses that they loved and would definitely wear again. To hone them in from picking just any dress, we gave a couple store options and color choice.

Photo by Peter Child

Photo by Sergey Zabrovskiy
The end result, they all looked gorgeous, but you could still tell they were my bridesmaids. 

Special thanks to my uncle Peter Child, our friend Daniel Rockburn, our friend Jose Robertson, and our brother-in-law Sergey Zabrovskiy for taking such beautiful pictures of our wedding for us. 

And most of all, thank you to my mother Anita Child; for the endless hours and attention to detail. Without you, our wedding could not have happened. Because of you, our wedding was beyond beautiful. <3

Photo by Daniel Rockburn

Hope you enjoyed our wedding ideas! 
<3 Lauren