Curtains 101

Confession: I don’t know how to hang curtains. In all the apartments I’ve moved into, I’ve always been too cheap to buy a curtain rod, or there was already a curtain rod in place. Like our current apartment–It came with these neutral and 80’s-ish curtains, which I took down and replaced with World Market and Target curtains. This infographic showed me that my curtains are technically in the wrong place, especially for a small space that needs to appear bigger:

The Rule

The rule, as I’ve heard from several sources, is to place the curtain rod about an inch or two from the ceiling, and to give the rod about six to eight inches past the window PER SIDE. That seems like a lot more curtain space than I’ve ever had in my tiny apartments, but I can see how it expands the look of a window. Next time I’m hanging up curtains, I’ll use this guide. Here is a picture of my curtains currently:

Matching Curtains

It is also traditional to use the same material and style for every window in a room to create a uniform look. As you can see from this picture, showing the other window in our apartment, we haven’t done this either. Mostly because the desk would have squished the curtains anyway, and we ran out of World Market gift cards to buy more curtains. So the apartment’s original curtains stayed, ugly as they are. Thankfully, we have so many other interesting things in our apartment that I don’t think they are noticeable.

We also usually keep a chair next to the desk, so the space fills up pretty fast (this picture is from pretty soon after we moved in).

Ah well. When we move and have more money, I’ll get REAL curtain rods and hang them the RIGHT way.

Carbohydrate Cheat Sheet for Gluten-Free Cooking Newbies

Every once and a while, someone will come to me or my family and ask us for recipes or ideas, as they have figured out they are allergic to gluten. While just avoiding all carbs is probably a good health move, sometimes you just really need that carbohydrate kick. So here are the basics of what you can do to make tasty gluten-free breads, pastas, and desserts.

Oh, and all suggestions below are corn free and soy free (with the exception of Pamela’s—the xanthan gum (corn) in it bothered me)

Part of my collection of gluten free flours.

Good Gluten-Free Mixes

I think most gluten-free mixes are up to par these days, so that leaves much of this to personal preference. I will mention national brands, but be sure to try out your local or regional mixes (that are run by companies too small to go nation-wide) as they can be just as good!

Pamela’s. I love Pamela’s. The baking mix is our family’s go-to for almost every recipe, including pancakes, crepes, muffins, coffee cake, and a fabulous carrot cake. The texture is impeccable. The flavor is good. And my dad swears that this carrot cake is the best he’s ever had, gluten or not. Note: the xanthum gum in Pamela’s bothered my corn allergy, so I started using more Namaste mixes and began to make more things from scratch, thanks to the 1000 Gluten Free Recipes book listed below)

Namaste: These mixes tend to make bigger batches than the others I’ve seen, and they are also corn free, soy free, and dairy free. I LOVE the brownie and blondie mixes. The cakes are pretty good, too.

Honorable Mentions: Gluten Free Pantry, Betty Crocker, and others all make delicious gluten-free mixes (but note that many Betty Crocker mixes contain soy in the chocolate). Honestly, there are plenty of great mixes out there, and many of them are only distributed locally. So support your local or regional economy and try them out! Then let me know what you think 🙂

Where to buy gluten-free mixes: Even Wal-Mart has started carrying gluten-free mixes (I’ve seen Betty Crocker’s gluten free cookies and cake mixes a lot, and I can vouch for their good price and great taste). But if you have extra pantry space or use one mix as a staple, consider buying in bulk on Amazon for a GREAT price.

Recommended Cookbooks and Recipe Sources

Pamela’s Products Website: This is yet another reason to love Pamela’s. Their website contains tons of great recipes for different cakes, breads, desserts, and other dishes. This is where we got that awesome carrot cake recipe, and also where I look to find the recipe for crepes and their banana bread.

The Cake Doctor Goes Gluten Free by Ann Byrn: We’ve made several recipes from this book, and they are all awesome. We actually had the strawberry cake as our wedding cake—seriously AMAZING!

You Won’t Believe it’s Gluten Free by Roben Ryberg: This book defies the idea that good from-scratch gluten-free treats have to involve two, three, or even four different flour replacements. This book is also a gem if you have multiple allergens, as she gives several versions of the same recipe. For example, she gives a rice flour version and a corn flour version (and I think a potato starch version) of doughnut holes. I’ve tried the rice flour doughnut holes, coffee cake, and biscuits and they all tasted good.

1000 Gluten Free Recipes by Carol Fenster: If you want to make gluten-free baked good from scratch, this is your best bet. It has recipes for phenomenal garlic bread sticks, pizza, French bread, buttermilk biscuits, and more. Seriously, the biscuits taste like regular biscuits, buttermilk flavor and all! This book generally breaks my no-complications rule, as it uses its own flour blend of sorghum flour, rice flour, and tapioca starch. However, I usually make a big batch of this flour blend and that simplifies things.

This book also has incredible instructions, tips, and tricks for gluten-free baking. After reading this book, I am no longer afraid to make yeast-based recipes from scratch. She also includes an awesome replacement guide for different flours and starches, depending on what you are trying to make. Seriously, this books rocks.

If you are living corn and soy free as well as gluten free, you need to buy this book.

Gluten-Free Bread Replacements

Now that you know the recipe sources and mixes, here is what we usually make for our gluten-free bread replacements:

Sandwich Bread: Pamela’s Bread Mix. Hands down the best gluten-free bread, and it is incredibly easy to make. I have friends who make it in the oven, but my family LOVES the breadmaker. Simply put in the ingredients and walk away for three hours. Also since this mix does not require a gluten-free setting, you can use any breadmaker and it will always turn out fine. Don’t think you can afford a breadmaker? My family has found three breadmakers for $5-$15 a piece at various garage sales. They all make this bread perfectly. Did I mention the mix comes with the yeast so all you have to do is dump the ingredients in?

If you want to buy bread, I’ve heard great things about Udi’s. I tried it myself and thought it was delicious! It does contain either corn or soy, though.

Pizza: Pamela’s Bread Mix OR 1000 Gluten Free Recipes’ Pizza. This is a toss-up. I love both these crusts. The 1000 Gluten Free Recipes one is faster, but you can toss the Pamela’s into the breadmaker on the dough setting for less mess (It will take longer either way as it takes time to rise). Your choice, really.

Pasta: Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta. You can’t go wrong with this brand. It can handle overcooking, it’s cheap, and it’s easy to find. I buy mine at Wal-Mart. It also doesn’t taste that different. Corn-based pastas are also really good and have a better texture (I just can’t have it).

Breading or Flour for Fried Foods:  Bob’s Red Mill. I make oven fried chicken or chicken tenders, oven fried fish sticks, and fried avocado, and Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour works just fine. In fact every gluten-free flour I’ve tested has turned out fine, including brown rice flour or bean flour used on its own.  I also use Quinoa Flakes in place of bread crumbs, but you can also make your own breadcrumbs by grating and toasting an old gluten-free loaf (this will freeze well).

Phew! That’s about all I have to say on gluten-free baked goods. Also, with these amazing alternatives, my family makes fantastic coffee cake, money bread, and other favorites. We’re still on the lookout for a simple and perfect cinnamon roll, so let us know if you find a recipe!

Did I miss any of your favorite recipes or mixes? Wondering how to make a specific thing? Let me know in the comments!

Tried and True – Coconut Flour Bagels

I have lived gluten- corn- and soy-free for over three years, but the no-sugar no-carb diet of the Candida Diet has been new for me. After all, what do you do without fruit, caffeine, and starchy vegetables? I’ve had surprising luck with it, however, and the four weeks I’ve been on the diet haven’t seemed very long or tedious. One thing I’ve been wanting to try is a coconut flour-based bread, since coconut flour is supposedly the best thing ever, especially for the candida diet.

This is a recipe I’ve just tried, which I found as a decent replacement for bread—plus it’s a BAGEL! When was the last time you had a decent gluten and corn free bagel?

This bread holds together very well and is very moist. It has a distinct garlic taste (and I even cut down the garlic it called for by about half), but it also has a sweet coconut taste. Side note – I can’t taste the garlic as well when my nose is stuffy (I’ve had a cold) but the better I get, the more I taste the garlic. I also tried adding a chopped green onion to the mix second time around and it was delicious!

Also, the batter was much like cake batter for me and had to be spread out with a rubber spatula onto the parchment paper. In the original, I believe she said the dough would be more crumbly. I believe the difference is from the type of coconut flour used—I used Let’s Do Organic (and added a handful more flour than the recipe called for) and she used Bob’s Red Mill (I think). That didn’t seem to faze the final product, though. It was still delicious.

Overall, it was a great carrier for sandwiches, eggs, and peanut butter. Or alone with butter, like Foodie Fiasco recommends. Not to mention much healthier than the brown rice bread I’d been using.

Image via Foodie Fiasco

I ate all mine before I got a picture, so this is one of the most delicious pictures from Foodie Fiasco. Be sure to go and check out the recipe!

How to Decorate for Different Seasons Without all the Money and Hassle

I love changing my decor for the seasons. It means that every four months, I have an excuse to go and be create and create something new out of my apartment space. I think the love of it comes from helping my mom decorate for every season–she has a whole bin of decor for every season (well, more than one bin for Christmas). I particularly loved how she would change the mantel. The only trouble is that I don’t have a lot of money or space to spend on buy a whole new set of decorations four times a year. I’m lucky if I can afford two small boxes for all my decorating! I also don’t have a fireplace or mantel.

So instead, I’ve created a system that relies on a core group of decorations and locations, and a rotating set of candles and other things that fit around this core. And I reuse the same items in different ways for different seasons. I use our awesome and cheap entertainment center as my mantel or main decorating space. For example, here is this autumn’s decorations:

This is the top of my entertainment center, where I usually trade out seasonal decor

The Base

In the picture above, the Van Gogh print, books, white candle holder, and clear terrarium work together as my base. My rotational group includes the candles, what goes inside the terrarium, and other decor that I place around these things (this season I took a more minimalistic approach, so that’s not quite relevant here).

The Candles

I use orange candles in autumn, green candles in spring, and white candles in summer and winter. I got the candle pedestal for my wedding. It is, of course, from Pottery Barn. I love how it gives more height to the overall look; however, I think I might need to find another white element to place around the terrarium to balance out the colors (since there isn’t any other pure white on there this season).

Pottery Barn Candle Pedestal

The Terrarium

Every season varies what the terrarium will hold. I’ve used antique globe ornaments, moss and a bird’s nest, and now whole nuts. I got the idea from something I saw about roasted acorns and this picture on Pinterest that used coffee beans:

Image via Style Me Pretty

I actually set these nuts out last winter in a bowl with a nutcracker, so I didn’t have to buy any acorns or risk a bug-infested house picking my own acorns from the tree outside (I thought about it, but I’ve had bad experiences with that. Particularly an ant-infested dorm room). Here’s my version:

Terrarium with Mixed Nuts

I’m really happy with it. Here’s another:

And here’s a picture of the entertainment center as a whole. It really gives the room a center, and I love that we decided t oput old books on the shelf for an antique look:

What are some of your staple fall decorations?

First Things First: I Heart Molly Weasley

Last week I stumbled upon this article about Molly Weasley’s hospitality. I thought it was brilliant.

Hospitality is about welcoming the stranger.

That’s the kind of home I want to create. While this blog is about home decor, and I will definitely be posting all sorts of pinterest-y things, the bottom line is that I want a home that welcomes. I want to be a host that welcomes.

I know what this looks like because my mom is very possibly the most hospitable person you will ever meet. You walk up the beautiful wrap around front porch and through the excellently decorated rooms, but what really sells the whole thing is how much you feel at home. Mom will be the first one to take your coat, offer you a drink, and ask if you’ve eaten. She’s not afraid to invite you to help in whatever task she’s taking on (like, hanging Christmas lights for my sister’s wedding, or sewing mittens out of old wool sweaters). My mom knows absolutely everything about etiquette, but she draws a line with her Emily Post book when it starts focusing on tradition instead of making the other person feel comfortable.

For some reason, this natural knack of helping people feel at home and everything didn’t pass on to me as easily as her creativity and eye for detail. So I’m hoping I can help it form just as I have my love of paint and shelving. Here goes!

Mom playing host at Luke’s and my wedding reception