Food for Thought

Pete and I recently purchased a Weber charcoal grill, which he was eyeing up for a few months. Rather than hosting a huge backyard bash out of our budget, we’ll be having an intimate barbecue with immediate family this year. We figure it will be good practice for next year, when we’ll likely have a bigger summer shindig.

I’m really looking forward to having our families over and have been browsing foodgawker for recipe inspiration. What are your must-have items on a menu for a backyard barbecue? So far, I’m hoping we can make burgers (black bean and meat), hot dogs, some shrimp skewers, grilled vegetables, guacamole & chips, berry bowls, potato salad (hopefully commissioned by Pete’s parents), deviled eggs (thanks to my mom), cucumber salad (my grandma’s contribution!) and hummus with naan/pita chips.

Pete and I made Teriyaki shrimp with mango, corn on the cob and grilled asparagus for our first grilled feast together. It was really nice eating outside with Betty and enjoying the last hour of sunlight together.

Betty White is looking forward to schmoozing at the barbecue, although she is in desperate need of a haircut if she’s going to be hanging outside with us all day (that mustache doesn’t groom itself).

I’ve been gathering some simple, DIY decor ideas from Pinterest to help dress up our party a bit. I love the idea of taking a plaid, plastic tablecloth and using it to embellish everything. I have a feeling I’ll be making a trip to the Dollar Tree or Party City to get some obnoxiously bright tablewares!

{Photos courtesy of Hostess With the Mostess}

Do you have any tips for hosting our first family barbecue, apart from wearing lots of sunscreen?

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Patio Sets, Sunrooms & Seals!

Like total procrastinators, Pete and I recently began our search for a patio set, since barbecue season is here and we have nowhere to seat potential guests. His mom and I went looking for a set which he would approve of (the boy is surprisingly picky) and didn’t have much luck. Since it’s so late in the season, most stores only had a few options to choose from, if anything at all, so I began my search at IKEA.

I made my way to the South Philadelphia location, where I was able to snag the Ransby table on major sale for $99 and the last two matching chairs for $40 a piece. I was able to find four more chairs to complete the set at the Conshohocken IKEA location, where the same chairs were priced at $70 a piece. Lame. I asked the employee if she’d be willing to match the Philadelphia store price and she scoffed at me. A girl’s gotta try. Seriously though, when did chairs get so expensive? I’ve been scouring thrift stores to see if I could find any wooden chairs to revamp without having to dish out a fortune, but no such luck.

You might have caught a glimpse of the concrete death pool in the shot of our new patio table. Remember what it looked like when we moved in? Terrifying. Since these photos were taken, the circle had filled up with high weeds overflowing onto our concrete patio.

I made it my mission last Sunday to clear out the weeds and take out all of the stones so I could place them in a more organized fashion. Now Pete and I are at a standstill with the new and slightly improved concrete death pool. Should we wait until we can garden some fresh herbs/flowers or save those for our fenced in garden? We could rig some sort of fire pit situation I suppose, but I’m not sure how we’d go about that without it looking sort of awkward with dirt underneath. It doesn’t help that the circle wasn’t cut with the best craftsmanship, but at least it’s a bit cleared out now. If anyone has any clever ideas on how to make it look nice, I’m all ears!

While in Conshohocken, I paid a visit to Impact Thrift Stores, where I have had the most luck with vintage finds in the past. “Bric a Brac” was 25% off, so I went there in an attempt to find glass pitchers for future summer barbecue festivities (I’m dying to try out some sangria recipes). While browsing knick knacks, I walked down an aisle of artwork and gasped/flailed/squealed. My heart pitter pattered when I saw a signed Charley Harper serigraph print from 1975 on the wall. Charley Harper is my all-time favorite artist, so to find one of his serigraphs signed at a local thrift store, seemed a bit like fate. I looked at the price tag. $175. All of the other artwork on the walls was priced from $3 to $30, so the store knew they stumbled upon a treasure. I carefully plucked the print from the wall and brought it with me as I sat on a hideous, olive green and pink floral couch from the 70’s.

As a gal on an unemployment/freelance budget, I am very careful with my savings. I’m comfortable spending $5 on a glass pitcher, but to spend over $50 on a print on a day other than my birthday, seems a bit selfish to me. After fifteen minutes of mulling, I began browsing Charley Harper signed serigraphs on my iPhone and discovered that the print was going for $350 (unframed). With the 25% discount, I would be spending $130. I decided to make the splurge and rationalized my purchase by telling myself that I would sell something back home to replace my wedding photography savings (keep an eye out for a wedding dress for sale post soon!).

Now that we have a much-loved Charley Harper print to keep us company in the kitchen, I am much more enthusiastic about spending time in there. I decided to make black bean burgers for Pete and I, which I’ll be posting the recipe and directions for later. I’m on a vegetable and fruit-infused water kick now that we have pitchers, which has been incredibly refreshing in this painfully hot weather.

Above on the left is a “before” shot of a table I purchased for $10 at ReStore (I kept the price sticker on it to give it an unflattering “before” look). I plan on spray painting the table and replacing the cross-stitched seashell linen with an old page from my grandfather’s Animal Encyclopedia. The white table above is part of the furniture set we inherited from the previous homeowner. I gave it a fresh coat of white paint with the intention of keeping it upstairs with the rest of the pieces, but decided the guest bedroom was too crowded with furniture and brought it to the previously bare sunroom. When our patio chairs aren’t outside for shindigs, we’ll keep them safely indoors in our sunroom…we certainly don’t want anyone stealing our overpriced IKEA chairs (can you tell I’m bitter that the Conshohocken location charged nearly double for the same chair sold in Philadelphia?).

Here’s where I’d like some reader input—do you think I should spray paint the white table a color (like a deep blue teal) or keep the white on white look? I plan to spray paint the mini end table to match, so I need to make a decision to begin the makeover process. The other treasures in the sunroom include a huge Charley Harper book, a mosaic owl from HomeGoods and a vintage tea towel from 1978 with a vibrant bird print.

I figured my grandfather’s old bird paintings would mesh well with the overall theme in the room, which is tied together with the nature-inspired Gislev rug by IKEA (yay to scoring a large rug for under $15!). Even though the Julie Rothman rabbit pillow always manages to poke me with its sharp feathers, I still heart it.

Betty White and I don’t spend much time in the sunroom lately since it is scorching out there, but we look forward to the days when we can people watch with a cool drink in our hands (lets just pretend she has hands for a moment, please). It really is the little things that make a house a home.