Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DIY Concrete Pendant Lamps

I love concrete.  It is a natural, green building material that looks great in any application.  Concrete has tons of uses from foundations to counter tops and now home decor.  I found some really great pendants made from concrete at a local lighting store.  My problem is the cost for one pendant ranged from $159-$245 each.  Wow, that's quite a bit for sand, water, and stone.  

Photo from Houzz
So I decided to go another route.  I found an online tutorial that Ben from HomeMade Modern filmed.  It is informative and the finished product looks great.  I love the versatility in using different bottles for different shapes of pendants...choices for less!  That is my kind of project.

Homemade Modern, Episode 9 – DIY concrete pendant lamp from on Vimeo.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

I Needed a Minute...

Sorry for the blog silence the past week or so.  I needed a minute, well several hundred hours to collect myself, but alas I'm back.  Spring has finally arrived in the mountains.  The flowers are finally blooming, the snow has stopped blowing, and the trees will have most of their leaves this time next month.  This is where I live.  Our climate is frigid and spring takes several tries to rev up before it is official.  


I'm not going to be a total faker and blog that my life has been busy doing amazing things and that's why I haven't blogged.  No, it has been icky.  A dear person in our community is very sick and she is younger than me and my heart is broken.  I had eczema for the last few months (MS/Masto/winter) on my feet and ankles.  I haven't been able to wear shoes because it hurts that bad.  So in the dead of winter I'm wearing flip flops with socks.  A good friend of mine said it wasn't a bad look, just maybe I looked a little "oriental."  One day I'm walking up my driveway (because the snow was too deep to drive up) and crying tears in the snow.  It was like a sad, sappy song.  I know I was feeling sorry for myself but I couldn't overcome it that day.  

After a course of steroids that gave me pimples, made me eat everything I could fit into my face, and I became even more teary; my eczema is much better.  I'm still not completely in shoes but at least I'm not in horrible pain and my skin doesn't freak people out.  Last month I had a good doctors visit, the first of several to come, but at least I know where the MS stands.  I'm happier about that, I guess.  Finally, something really bad happened to someone I love very much, so it also happened to me.  It affected me mentally because it was so horrible.  I'm still dealing with the whys and the praying aspect of the situation.  I'm not there yet.  It has been a trying few months.

There is my life of late in a nutshell folks.  You go through shit in your life, really hard stuff sometimes.  Everyone does, even if they won't admit it.  I love living vicariously through the people that their social media pages are all cotton candy and perfect hair.  I love the people that make it to the gym every day, eat only organic foods, and stay a perfect size 0 - all while balancing 4 kids, a husband, and a career.  Those people are inspiring and motivational.  I should emulate their skill set for making everything look easy...Sorry kids, it must be a flaw in my character because I want to punch them in the face (while wearing my socks and flip flops and eating Doritos dipped in chocolate).

I will start my diet for swimsuit season tomorrow.  Bring it.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The "Rise" of a World Class Bakery...and Tips to Make the Best Bread Ever

There are only so many days in life that I would classify as extraordinary.  You know, those days that something magnificent happens or you meet someone great or have a day that leaves you smiling for days to come?  I recently had a day like that - and I have the photos to prove it.  I was invited to tour the newly reopened Maison Kayser store at Bryant Park in NYC.  I love baking and have been baking since I was little, so it would be good chance to see the beautiful creations and taste some yummy treats.  I mean, I thought it would be great to get some photos and blog content and to surround myself with a little bit of France.  What I didn't realize is that I would meet one of the world's top bakers, tour a world class kitchen that is old school and modernized at the same time, and leave knowing how to make my own bread better with a treasure trove of new ideas...So my day at Maison Kayser was different than expected.  Wow, it was a really good day.

 Maison Kayser recently expanded and reopened its location at Bryant Park.  It's located at 8 West 40th Street across from the New York Public Library.  Go for a Sex and the City (Carrie's wedding) throwback tour and stop in.  The store is chic and very French.  Coffee is a big focus with an enormous coffee bar in the center of the main dining room.  There is a somewhat revamped menu, if you're a Kayser fan you will recognize most of it.  The pastries are perfection.  I couldn't work there or I'd be overweight and probably diabetic.  It's really a neat layout because the store revolves around the kitchens.  They have windows so you may walk between the pick-up restaurant and the dining room and watch the baking happen.  It is very cool.

I knew I was going to meet Yann Ledoux.  He is the Executive Master Baker for Maison Kayser stores in the US.  Do you remember the feeling of giddy excitement as a child meeting Santa?  Then you get really quiet and nervous when he appears in front of you...that's how I felt about meeting Yann.  At first I couldn't remember my questions.  Yann trained in Paris under Eric Kayser for years, he has a thick French accent, and he knows everything about bread and baking science; except maybe Eric Kayser, but I haven't met him yet.

Yann Ledoux

I'm not just writing that Yann knows everything about baking, he does know everthing about baking.  People email him photos of bread gone wrong and he writes back about what is wrong with it - just from the photo.  Getting a job at Maison Kayser isn't easy.  You must train for a period of months before you start baking.  The product is taken seriously.

It's true
Maison Kayser has six stores in Manhattan with 2 opening soon.  The goal is eventually 20 stores!  I think it's a lofty undertaking especially given that the products are made on site.  They bake using artisan traditions and methods.  The breads take hours, overnight time, and several proofs before they meet the heat!

Our Daily Bread
Yann explained the process from start to finish.  I was there for about an hour - it is a real process.  Eric Kayser invented a fermenting machine to make his own leavening agent similar to yeast for us mere baking mortals.  The culinary know how to think of that is genius.  The entire time I felt really privileged to be there.  

This is the machine in the Bryant Park store, they use 60-80 liters of leavener per day.  The largest Maison Kayser store in NYC uses 120 liters of leavening agent each day.  Imagine!  Kayser's ratio is roughly 20 percent - so think of how much bread that equals.  On a busy weekend, any given store will sell between 300-500 croissants per day...just croissants.  This place is hopping!
First comes leavener
Everything is made by hand, literally, the bakers shape every single baguette, croissant, roll, etc - by hand.  Everything is also proofed twice.  After proofing (rising), the bread sits covered in a cooler overnight to await baking the next day.  Allowing the bread to sit overnight is the real trick.  I didn't know that.  I will talk more about the process in a minute.

Shaping the rolls
The ingredients are top of the line.  I won't mention the brands, but expense is not spared in finding the best flours, seeds, toppings, and add-ins for the breads.  It is truly an artisan process with attention to every single detail.  The original recipes are made by Eric Kayser and Yann sometimes adds in his special touches to breads of the month or other goodies.  I asked Yann about his favorite bread and it is the basic baguette...hmm I thought it was a bland choice.  After he explained the process I understood.

Baguettes waiting in linen
The baguette dough is made and proofed and rests overnight.  The trick is that Kayser uses linen fabric in their bread making.  Using linen is an old world French tradition for baking.  The baguettes sit in folded linen in the cooler as the top hardens just a touch.  Yann explained how to bake the perfect baguette and the need for the ingredients to be absolutely perfect to create the bubbles in the dough that will become the baguette.  He cut one to show me and the bread was perfectly crusted and also beautiful on the inside.  I felt seriously out of my league.  There is much more science than I realized.

The perfect baguette
Okay so I'm learning how little I know about baking...Next he explained the loaf bread process.  I'm sort of wondering why I'm here at this point because the Kayser process is so refined and amazing.  A world wide bakery chain that churns out so much bread on a commercial scale but is still committed to quality and traditions that are hundreds of years old?  Really?  I thought especially in Manhattan with commercialized everything and the frantic pace that quantity and speed would be king.  It isn't that way at Maison Kayser.

Bread is proofed in linen lined baskets.  Yann said they make their own baskets (of course they do) because they couldn't find the French quality baskets they wanted.  Once the bread is ready for baking, it is lightly sprinkled with flour to turn it on the, wait for it, specially made ovens with baking stones on rolling racks.  What else would you expect from Maison Kayser?

Baking Bread Step #1
 Then the bread is turned on the stone.

Baking Bread Step #2
And once more sprinkling.  Yann wasn't pleased with the ingredient composition of one of the loaves.  Can you guess which one?  I thought they all looked perfect but he said one was just a little off.
Baking Bread Step #3
 And finally the top is scored in a cool pattern and sent to the oven.

Baking Bread Step #4
 You can kind of tell the "imperfect" loaf, but I'm not certain.

And into the oven
The tip Yann gave Effortless Girl readers is to try proofing their homemade bread twice and then putting it in linen in a basket and allowing it to sit covered overnight.  It is really just one more step - but if we are trying to be French Artisans, it is worth a try.  If you are making bread at home in a small basket, a round loaf is easy enough.  Bring four corners toward the center, allow it to sit, and bake it.  You may want to try using a small bowl of water in the corner of the hot oven to keep the heat somewhat moist as the bread bakes.  

It's easy right?

The photo below is a Fougasse.  It is a French pizza/bread combo.  It is technically considered a bread but it is like pizza without the sauce.  Fougasse is made fresh daily and available in different flavors.  
I wanted to do a face plant in the pan, but it would've been completely inappropriate and I probably would've been asked to leave. 

Delicious and Hot!
I stayed at Maison Kayser for lunch.  The dishes we sampled were from the revamped for spring menu.  Below is the Salade Poulet & Quinoa.  The ingredients are organic chicken, quinoa, green pepper, cilantro, avocado, mache, sauce verte, and crème fraîche. It was perfect.  All of the ingredients go together deliciously.  I will have this again.

Salade Poulet & Quinoa

Also we sampled the Saumon Fumé Tartine.  On a slice of fresh bread is smoked salmon, crème fraîche,  an organic sunny side-up egg, capers and red onions.  I'm not a runny eggs person, but I'm told this is divine.

Saumon Fumé Tartine
Lunch was the perfect way to end my visit.  I learned so much, tasted amazing food, and most of all I left extremely impressed with Maison Kayser.  I am confounded by the fact the bakers spend so much time and effort to master the product.  Yann is amazing and I'm so glad I met him - he'll probably be on the Food Network one day so watch out.  If you're in NYC visit Maison Kayser.  You're missing out if you don't.  

Find them on Facebook and Twitter!  Thank you to Janet Mick, Yann Ledoux, Anthony Battaglia, and Tripp Polen for the photography.

Maison Kayser

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Effortless Gardening - Perfect for Kids!

I love to grow things.  I have what I'll call a semi-green thumb - my skill level always has room for improvement.  One thing I do know is that "starting" seeds or allowing them to sprout before planting in the garden is a good idea.  There are all kinds of seed starter kits to purchase and you can end up spending quite a bit at the garden center.  Or you can start your seeds in egg shells from breakfast for free...all you need to purchase is a $1 bag of seeds.  This project is perfect for kids and they will love to plant and watch the life cycle of the vegetables.  It may even get them to eat more veggies.  So, let's go!

You'll need eggs, seeds, dirt, and a paper towel.

Make a hole in the egg shell for planting and use the egg in a recipe.  Also make a small hole in the bottom of the egg for drainage.

Make a hole in the egg
Wash the egg shells out thoroughly and let dry.

Wash the shells
Cut small squares from the paper towel.

Cut the paper towel
Place a paper towel square in the bottom of the egg shell.

Add the towel to the shell
Fill the shell about 1/2 full with dirt.  I used dirt from the yard.  Potting soil may be better.

Add dirt
Add the seeds and then more dirt.  Don't fill the egg completely full with dirt.  Allow just a bit of space at the top of the shell.

Add seeds
Place the shells back into the egg container for easy transport.  Place the container beside a window or somewhere in your home where sunlight is abundant.  Water everyday just a few drops until the soil is moist.  The seeds will begin to sprout in a couple of days.

Ready to grow!
This photo is after five days of growth.  Once you are ready, transfer the eggs to a bigger pot or the garden.  Crack the shell around the egg so that the plant roots may grow and plant the egg into the soil.  Easy Peas-y...Happy Gardening!!

Almost ready for the garden!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Effortless At Home Spring Break!

It's the time for spring break.  If you aren't a college student, it may be challenging to fill the week with something other than television - what is there to do at home for a whole week?  This morning WCCB Rising featured an Effortless Girl segment with all things spring break!  Take a minute to relax and send the kids outside to play with these fun things they can craft/make by themselves.  Check out the video for super simple activities below!  Thanks to Kristine Zell for being such a great person on and off may follow her on Twitter.

Spring Break!!

Below are some behind the scenes photos from the day.  Thanks Tripp!

The Set

Gardening with egg shells

DIY organizing for LESS!

Easy cleanup

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Effortless Spring Break on WCCB Rising April 1st (it's no joke)!!

Stumped for how to spend an entire week with the kids at home during spring break?  Check out effortless spring break ideas Wednesday morning April 1st on WCCB Rising.  Join us for the Effortless Girl segment during the 8:30 am hour and learn about fun things for kids to eat, play, and even clean their rooms!  If WCCB isn't part of your channel list, check out the live streaming broadcast here.  See you Wednesday...and this is no April Fool's joke!

WCCB Rising

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Fun Spring Cleaning - In Color!

It's spring and for many that means time to get rid of the dust and clutter that builds up during the shut in winter months.  Organizing can be a daunting task.  Finding a good place to put things or something to put them in can be a real challenge.  There are some inexpensive tricks you may use to make the job a cinch.  Stacking colorful plastic cups is a great way to keep things organized and easy to find.  It's fun and money saving way for adults and kids to make cleaning up effortless!

Easy Organizing
Plastic cups make inexpensive compartments for stuff - art stuff, office stuff, toy stuff - you get the idea.  There is more than one way to fasten the cups together.

The materials are simple.  You need plastic cups (20 cents each at a discount store) and either magnetic tape or paper clips.  

I made the organizer two ways.  First I clipped the stack together with paper clips.  This was SO easy and worked well.  Next I tried pieces of magnetic tape along the top of the cup.  Magnetic tape is found at any art or discount store.  It is a flexible magnet with adhesive on the back.  It is relatively inexpensive, but the paper clips cost even less.  Press the magnets onto the cup and then stick the cups together.  This isn't brain surgery.

Press the tape onto the cup
Next, place all the miscellaneous markers, pens, small toys, Barbie shoes, crayons, or whatever into the cups in a way that makes sense and next time you need that pen, marker, will be easy to find!

Effortless Organizing

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