Thursday, May 24, 2012

My First Estate Sale Finds & Decor Dilemnas

This past Friday night, I searched craigslist for 'silver' hoping to find some silver pieces for sale at a good price (more on that in another blog). What I came across was an estate sale website that is the coolest thing ever - Being an estate-sales newbie, I was accustomed to my mom dragging me to yard sales and so-called-estate-sales where you just never knew what you might find. I am in love with You can enter your zip code and it will show you all estate sales in your area - WITH PHOTOS of the actual pieces for sale.

Needless to say, I was hooked and proceeded to drag my husband to one that looked very promising - lots of Lalique figurines, Dresden, ornate furniture, lamps, crystal candelabra, china, bronze statues - the works. I mean - the good stuff. There were no pyrex bowls, corningware dishes and the other junk you ususally see at these things. Ok, all this to say that I made us get there at the start of the sale on Saturday morning (the sale had been going on since Thursday) so I could get the best shot at the good stuff. We were not alone - the place was crazy, which caused me a little bit of anxiety, I have to admit. It was almost like shopping at 5am the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas: lots of people keyed up to get the best deal. I found out that this particular estate was formerly owned by antiques dealers and that's why there was an abundance of nice pieces.

Lots of the furniture was way out of my price range, but I did manage to snag two pieces I've been seeking for a long time - a large mirror for the dining room and a side table for the living room.

This mirror was originally marked $1000 and then it had been marked down to $400 on Friday. When I came on Saturday, everything was 50% off! I purchased this HUGE mirror for just $200. My plan is to antique it with a white or cream paint and allow some of the gold to show through. Right now, I think it might be just a bit TOO gold for my dining room.

I plan to hang it above the sideboard that I inherited from my honorary grandmother, which I also plan to antique with white paint. Shhhh, don't tell my mom because she would flip out if she knew I planned on doing this. I'd rather just do it and then let her see the finished product. I believe in re-purposing or restoring/updating pieces that you inherit to work with your own decor and lifestyle. It doesn't change what is important to me - which is the memories I have of hiding under this sideboard with my cousin when it was time for one of our parents to pick us up to leave (we wanted to continue playing!).

This is an example of what I plan on doing to the mirror and my grandmother's dining set.

This was my second purchase from the estate sale - a marble-top side table. At 50% off, it was just $135 and the marble-top was worth at least that much. You can see that the owner had not even removed the maker's tag from the table, it was tucked underneath. I have plans to paint this table as well, but not sure what color just yet. This is the first vintage piece I'm adding to my living room. My original grand plan was to mix French or Italian antiques with modern pieces and so far, I've only purchased the contemporary furniture, until I found this little beauty. Right now, it looks a little out of place in my living room because of the color and because it is the only vintage piece. I need to find some friends for it, so I can create my 'mo-dage' look or 'modern vintage' as it has been called.

Here is what my living room looks like right now. You can see my 'new' vintage purchase in the corner by the window. I still need to add window treatments, another lamp, area rug, upholstered bench for behind the sofa, Bergere chair with ottoman and another vintage sideboard or bombe chest to sit under the television (not pictured, but to the left). Whew! When I think about it, I have a long way to go. Oh, and a chandelier. I think my next two priorties are the chandelier and window treatments because they'll make the biggest impact. Of course, my husband would quote The Big Lebowski and say that a rug "really ties the room together".

I definitely forsee more estate-hunting in my future, not while I have a house to decorate and an addiction for collecting china and crystal! I was amazed at how many antiques dealers came to the estate sale - if that's where they are hunting, I'm headed in that direction too. My only concern is that I have may have been over-ambitious in planning on painting these pieces...I've never antiqued anything before, so here's hoping I have beginner's luck!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mother's Day Baking

I decided to make a coconut cake for Mother's Day since it's my mom's favorite. I especially like this recipe from Paula Deen's cookbook "The Lady & Sons Just Desserts" entitled 'Cool and Creamy Coconut Cake'. As you can see by the state of my cookbook, I've made this recipe a few times before! The reason why I LOVE this cake is because it is super-moist and is best when made the day before serving. It's also ultra-easy and reminds me of Tres Leches cake, which I adore and even chose as my wedding cake.

Here is the recipe:
Cool & Creamy Coconut Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (12 oz.) cream of coconut

1 (8 oz.) tub of whipped topping, thawed

2 1/2 to 3 cups flaked, sweetened coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Prepare cake mix as package directs. Pour batter into pan; bake as directed. Remove from oven. Using a fork or skewer, poke holes in the entire cake. After mixing condensed milk and cream of coconut, slowly pour over warm cake. Cool cake completely. Frost with topping; sprinkle with coconut. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Cut into squares. This cake is best if prepared a day or two ahead of serving so all the liquid can be soaked up by the cake.

Yield: 12 servings

Mixing up the cake batter in my beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer. My mom has had one for as long as I can remember and taught me to bake with it. Naturally, I had to have my own. I've worked with a couple of other stand mixers and hand mixers while in college and I can say - nothing compares to a Kitchen Aid. My husband gave me this one for Christmas and it proudly reigns over my countertop as THE most important appliance, and the prettiest one too. :)

The batter is ready to bake - I usually have to bake mine a bit longer than what most recipes call for. It takes a while to get to know your oven, but eventually you figure out its particular quirks. When we moved into our new house a couple of years ago, I had to switch from cooking on a gas stovetop and oven to electric - that was a major adjustment!

Getting what I call the 'soaking mixture' ready to go while the cake bakes. I just love coconut and especially Coco Lopez, which I use to make homemade Coconut Ice Cream during the summer.

You've got to stab little holes all over the cake so that the delicious mixture of Coco Lopez & sweetened condensed milk can seep into the cake and make it incredibly moist.

Close-up of my stab-work. It's quite cathartic. This cake is dead, for sure.

Time to pour all of that coconut-sweetened goodness over the cake. When you first pour it on, it might seem like the cake won't absorb it. Take your spatula and gently smear it all over the cake and it will eventually soak in.

Frosted with Cool Whip and sprinkled with shredded coconut, it is ready to sit overnight so it can take its sweet time to soak in the coconut sauce. I always receive lots of compliments on this cake whenever I bring it anywhere. It isn't the prettiest cake, but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in flavor.

Grammy's Ambrosia

Since I knew I wasn't going to be able to spend Mother's Day with my Grammy (my dad's mother), I decided to make one of her recipes to take to my in-law's so that she could be with me in spirit. I immediately thought of the Ambrosia she serves at most family gatherings since she had chosen NOT to serve it at Easter. What was she thinking? There are certain dishes that one counts on being there when one goes to a family gathering or holiday meal. For example, my Oma (my mom's mother) always makes mashed potatoes and my late honorary grandmother always used to make German Sweet Rice (most people call it rice pudding). Luckily, my Oma fills in and continues to make the Sweet Rice, so we always think of my honorary grandmother, Manda, when we eat it. I remember one year that Oma forgot to make the mashed potatoes and let's just say that she hasn't ever let us down since then. I was similarly disappointed when the Ambrosia was missing at Easter.

I was damn sure going to have it one way or another at the next family event and since I couldn't spend the day with Grammy, I brought her Ambrosia with me. It was the first time for me to make this dish, but Grammy told me that it was the easiest recipe in the world and that there were only five ingredients.

Some of you may turn up your nose at Ambrosia, but when you've had it at every family holiday meal since you got off the bottle AND it is lovingly prepared by your Grammy, it becomes a sacred and favorite dish.

It's such an old recipe, tres chic in the 50's, but still a goodie, if not fashionable in 2012. Versions of Ambrosia date back as early as 1877. For some fun facts on Ambrosia, click here.

Grammy's Ambrosia
1 cup sour cream
1 can chopped pineapple
1 can mandarin oranges
1 cup coconut
1 cup mini-marshmallows

Mix all together in a bowl and serve!

My Grammy always serves her Ambrosia in a crystal compote. Since I don't have one, a crystal bowl will have to substitute until I can find my very own compote.

Grammy's Ambrosia was a huge hit at my mother-in-law's house, despite being such an old and simple recipe. Three people asked me for the recipe. I'd say that was a success and although I couldn't be with Grammy that day, I still felt like she was with me.