Renters Refresh: The Balcony

When I moved into this apartment, I had big visions for how I would personalize every square inch of it into a space that was cozy, cute, inspiring, and functional. It’s been a total blast bringing those visions to life and I’ve loved sharing my process with friends & followers along the way, so I thought it would be fun to delve a little deeper into how one area in particular came together!

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When I started decorating, I obviously started with the big spots. The living and dining area, the kitchen, the bedroom, all of which are just about finished. Now, I’m shifting focus to the smaller spaces. On the top of my list was the balcony. With the summer months and the warmer weather finally here, all I want to do is be out there drinking iced coffee in the sunshine and enjoying dinners al fresco in the evening! So I knew the time had finally come.

Balconies, in my experience, tend to be the least loved area of the home for us twenty-somethings. More often than not they’re a mess of mismatched furniture and dead leaves/dirt. It makes me so sad. Our old one was like a plant graveyard that also happened to store Mark’s bike and a camp grill. It wasn’t cozy or coordinated, so spending any time out there just wasn’t pleasant. This time had to be different.

My first step in planning was determining what I wanted to use my balcony for. While I love a good lounge chair or low sitting chair/coffee table set up, I knew that wasn’t right for my needs. What I really wanted was somewhere I could drink coffee, eat a snack, and either read a book or do computer work while occasionally looking out onto the bustling street and neighboring shops. Images of coffee shops and cafes came to mind, and then it was abundantly clear – I needed a bistro set!

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Finding the style I wanted was also easy. I’ve been really into European decorating styles lately (namely French countryside) meaning I was looking for some bright colors, natural materials, curved shapes, Chinoiserie prints, pottery, and lots of greenery and flowers. 

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Finally came sourcing everything, from the bistro set to the flowers. I took it nice and slow, and really didn’t settle for anything I didn’t love. I started with the bistro chairs and twinkle lights, both of which I’ve actually had since I first moved in. The next step was the flower boxes and the table, those came from Amazon. I went to a local gardening shop to pick out supplies, pottery, and flowers. Finally, I found just the right rug and trellis to finish everything off. My little oasis!

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So, there you have it. A relatively inexpensive renter’s refresh! My tips to anyone looking to do something similar are: 1. honestly evaluate your needs and desires for the space in question. 2. scour Pinterest and decorating blogs/books/resources for different aesthetics and what they entail. 3. source things slowly and deliberately, and don’t buy everything from just one store (or it will probably look like that store’s catalogue).

Finally, here are some links for ya: bistro chairs // bistro table // trellis // planter boxes // rug // twinkle lights // chinoiserie pot // watering can 

 

 

MILK-Style Pistachio Cake

Damn, y’all. You ever have a whole month whir by so fast that you just kind of lose your mind in it all and forget to do 90% of your to-do list? #MARCH, amiright?!

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Anyway, time for a little catch up. Here are some highlights from the month of March:

  1. My mama came to visit! She did my taxes, counseled me on life, and bought me a ton of Easter decorations from Homegoods. As a mother does. 😉
  2. I attended a murder mystery party with my colleagues as a corporate bonding attempt. And now I am heavily considering signing up for improv classes because it was so. much. fun.
  3. North Carolina started warming up and the days got longer. Thank the lawd, cause your girl was missing the sun. And running outside after work. And sitting on her balcony in the mornings!
  4. St. Patrick’s Day came and went. Raleigh actually celebrates, which is fun! I called my grandma for a quick chat, made corned beef and cabbage, and then made this pistachio buttercream cake (the true star of todays post). It’s green, see?!

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Did anyone else watch Christina Tosi’s episode of A Chef’s Table on Netflix? It was my favorite episode by far. Since watching it I’ve had a revitalized outlook on cake decorating, in that I don’t want the stress & pressure of perfectly icing a cake to take away from the fun of actually making a delicious cake! So I made this one MILK-style. I loooved how it turned out.

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MILK-Style Pistachio Buttercream Cake

ingredients:

for the pistachio buttercream frosting

1/2 cup butter, close to room temp

1 3.4 oz package of pistachio pudding

3 cups powdered sugar

6 tbsp milk

for the cake layers

2 + 1/4 cup flour

2 + 1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4th tsp salt

3/4 cup butter

1 + 1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

optional: green sprinkles

directions:

for the buttercream frosting

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add the package of pistachio pudding and 1 cup of sugar to the creamed butter, mix on high to combine. Alternate between adding the remaining sugar, mixing, then 1 tbsp milk & mixing, until all ingredients are well incorporated. Set this aside.

for the cake layers

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a sheet cake pan with butter and parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, & salt.

In the stand mixer (again fitted with the paddle attachment) cream the butter and sugar together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs & vanilla, mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, mixing everything so it’s well combined in between each addition.

Pour batter into sheet cake pan, making sure that the batter is evenly distributed so that the cake comes out flat. Bake in oven for 35 minutes.

Once finished, remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely.

to assemble

Find whatever cake pan you’ve decided to assemble the cake in (preferably a tall one) and use it to trace a perfect circle on a piece of parchment paper. Cut the circle out. Place that circle on the cooled sheet cake, and begin to cut perfect circular cake layers out of the sheet layer with a knife (aim for at least 3)!

Use parchment paper to line the cake pan you will be assembling the cake in, so that the paper reaches at least 1 inch above the top of the cake pan.

Put the first cake layer down in the bottom of the pan. Cover this layer with buttercream, making sure to spread it out to the very edges of the cake. Add green sprinkles on top of the buttercream frosting. Top with another cake layer. Repeat this with the remaining layers & buttercream, making sure to finish with a layer of buttercream on top of everything.

Pop the cake, pan and all, into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove the cake from the freezer and, using the parchment paper that should be peeking out of the edges of the cake pan, pull the whole cake out. Peel away the parchment paper to reveal a perfectly imperfect and totally delicious masterpiece!

Cut & enjoy.

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Whole30 BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs

Here’s a nerdy fact about me: sometimes I watch Bon Appetite youtube cooking videos in my free time. Like, on a lazy Saturday morning in my bathrobe. Claire is my favorite. (Molly, too!) I’m truly obsessed with her attempts to make gourmet versions of classic candies and junk foods, like Snickers bars and Pringles.

So I was down the Bon Appetite rabbit hole one night a couple weeks ago, and all of a sudden I was watching Claire make St. Louis Style BBQ Ribs. Until that moment, I had no recollection of ever craving ribs. Like, I can honestly count the number of times I’ve eaten ribs on one hand. But watching her grill those things, I had a hard.core.hankering. 

The thing about whole30 is it’s not uncommon to crave foods that you usually don’t care about. I regularly had dreams about tuna melts this month. But after a full week of thinking of nothing else other than juicy BBQ ribs, I decided I had to attempt a whole30 version.

You guys. They did NOT disappoint. I made them TWICE this month (effectively doubling my lifetime count) and would happily do so again and again and again. Plus, how perfect are these for your SUPER BOWL PARTY TOMORROW?!

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Everyone has an opinion on what style BBQ is the best. The whole30 BBQ sauce I made is vinegar-y, in the true and beloved style of the Carolinas. The ribs are bigger and fattier than baby back ribs, because of where they come from the pig. The smokey char is, like, divine. I can’t really verbalize how it feels to have meat just melt off the bone into your mouth, but I feel like the sensation should be bottled.

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Whole30 BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs

ingredients:

3/4 cups balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup water

6 oz tomato paste

2 tbsp yellow mustard

3 tbsp coconut aminos

1 tbsp + 1 tsp garlic powder

3 tbsp + 1/2 tsp salt

rack of st. louis style ribs

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cayenne

chopped parsley, for garnish

directions:

preheat the oven to 350 F.

combine 3 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. take ribs and with your hands rub the spice mixture all over both sides of the ribs until they are completely coated. (if you need more rub, make more. it depends on how big your ribs are.)

get a big piece of aluminum foil and wrap the ribs in it so that they’re completely covered and none of their juices will be able to drip out. you can see claire’s method here.

cook the ribs in the oven for 2.5 hours.

meanwhile, make the bbq sauce! add the balsamic vinegar, water, tomato paste, mustard, coconut aminos, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp salt to a saucepan over medium heat. stir to combine and simmer everything together for 5 minutes so that all the flavors can marry. transfer the sauce to a mason jar for storage.

after 2.5 hours, remove the ribs from the oven. heat a large grill pan over very high heat.

coat one side of the ribs with some of the bbq sauce, then place that side down on the grill pan and cook so that the bbq sauce caramelizes. meanwhile, coat the other side of the ribs (should now be facing up) with more sauce and flip. repeat this process 3 or 4 times.

finally, remove ribs from grill/grill pan. cut the ribs for individual serving. top with parsley and serve with additional bbq sauce for dipping.

enjoy!

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I’m forever changed. These ribs changed my life. Where I was indifferent before, I am now a very firm advocate. Ribs for dinner, regularly.

As for the super bowl tomorrow…I still don’t know where I stand. I’m beyond over the Patriots, but rooting for the Rams is also counterintuitive to me. I’ll probably just watch it for the commercials and Maroon 5. 😉