Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last minute table decor - ROCKS & CANDY?!

The Headlines:

Thanksgiving is here.


Mom's coming over.  

Hurry - set the table... with rocks and Skittles!!!  

Yes, it's a fact.  You've had all month to decorate for your Turkey Day soiree but you're leaving it to the last minute.  Honestly - so do I.  At least, when it comes to the table setting.  Let's face it... do many of us really set our table a week plus before the dinner?  If you're Martha Stewart or maybe over the age 65, you do.  But that, for most of us,  is so unrealistic.  It is literally theee last thing I think of when it comes to my dinner.  So I always find myself going - ooops.  What now!? 

But with last minute improvisations - to me - comes greatness.  Really.  I don't like things that are too perfect, let me revise, that LOOK too perfect.  I like a fair amount of "roughness around the edges"  let's say.  Which works incredibly well when you "dress" a table the day of an event!  Right?  Therefore, you can guess most of my table "dressing" doesn't come from Williams Sonoma but either Backyard De McGregor or Safeway.  That's right, the great outdoors and grocery stores are my inspiration! 

So ready, set, go!  I am not a fan of table runners.  So very 80's.  But I like the idea.  It ties the table together.  Hence, burlap ribbon.

I got mine at Michael's.  Once that's done -  candles on a table are always a nice follow up.  I have 3 of these (below) sitting on my table almost year round - I just switch out what the candles rest on.  Here, it's corn kernels.  They're very fall looking to me.

Next, I add the plates and, in this case chargers.  I don't always use them but on this day - they fit the Thanksgiving bill.  I like white plates.  If you can have one large set of anything - get white plates.  They work with anything.  The white makes food look good and they go with any occasion.   Adaptable - simple - elegant.  Add wine glasses, utensils, napkins (paper are so much easier... let's be real here - I'm busy!)  Next, I think about place cards.  You have to use them at a dinner like this for 2 reasons:  one, they look cool.  two, sit people where YOU want them.  On this day - that's when I hit the outdoors.  I used rocks!  The names are written on the rocks with a black pen.  I figure after we're done we'll throw them back in the yard... and won't it be fun if/when we (the kids) find them again!?   

Now the place setting looks like this... and it's good.  But it needs color.

Enter Halloween candy.  M&M's and Skittles.  The reds, oranges, yellows, browns and purples are perfect to sit center (plate) stage.  It was just what the table needed.   

Kids love it and adults... well shhhhh.... but they do too!  Everyone's happy and the table is done.

Other ideas for tables are - let's be honest - infinite!  There's the obvious: pumpkins and gourds, even pine cones.  Or almost any kind of fall colored fruit works like oranges & apples.  There are pantry finds - like coffee beans or even Chocolate Cheerios!  Candy.  So many candy options.  Get some things from your yard.  Bougainvillea or random flowers and leaves.  One year I even had my mom bring some "fall" leaves from her house in California.  We don't really have the traditional kind I wanted here that year.  But that took planning.  My point here is you can do it today or tomorrow - in a few minutes - just think outside the Pottery Barn box.  NO offense, PB!!

Okay.... good luck and let me know what you do if you get the chance.  For now...I gotta go.  Let's Eat! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

To Die For - Warm Cookie Dessert!

The Headlines:

Want a quick & easy dessert that will impress like crazy?

I have one that NEVER FAILS.

It's Thanksgiving and you're super over the pumpkin pie.  I am.  In fact, I'm not sure I ever really liked it in the first place.   That's a surprise, huh?  So,  I have this dessert I pull out during the cold months and everyone like - dies over it.  The funny thing is... it is easier than ... ah.... anything!!!!

Parents and kids alike... rave.  You know what it is?  It's a cookie baked in a ramekin, served in another bowl and drizzled with a sweet sauce plus ice cream!  People flip.  I feel like Bobby Flay or Giada or Chef Boyardee... no wait the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  Anyways, I agree... if I do say so myself, it is a hard to beat dessert.

What's even cooler is the many combinations of this creation you can do!  One Thanksgiving I did chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with cinnamon ice cream and I think it was caramel on top.  Of course you can never go wrong with plain old chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.  It's just whatever works for the occasion or time of year you're in.  Yes, that's how I think.

On this occasion... just a simple Fall night... I did oatmeal cookies with cinnamon, chocolate ice cream and a caramel drizzle.  To make it even more simple, you can use those pre-made cookie blobs.  You know the kind you buy in the grocery store or from that kid whose parent keeps bugging you at work to support their child's school or sport or... pick your passion.  Place 1 or 2 of them in a small ramekin.  Or scoop some of your own cookie dough into one.  Or 10.

For this particular creation, I set the oven to 375.  Then, plopped in the oatmeal cookie dough and put some cinnamon on top.  The ramekins then go on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  While those were in, I prepped the bowls they would sit on once they came out.  They're too hot to stand on their own.  For nice dinners I'll use these huge pasta type dishes.  They look so grandiose.  Almost like a restaurant.  But for my purpose on this night I did small but deep bowls.  I threw caramel, chocolate sauce and cinnamon in the bowls first. The cinnamon looks better on those huge dishes I just mentioned because there's a ledge the cinnamon rests on.  Oh well.

Once the cookies are baked, I like them a tiny "raw" inside,  they look like this... kinda boring.

But not for long... You add the ice cream, caramel and it's like a party on a plate.  No, a party in a ramekin.  And a bowl.  That didn't work the way I wanted it to.  Alright - just serve right away!

I will warn you: goooey, warm, gobs of heaven on spoons lies ahead!  Be careful.  You might want to make it for every holiday after you try it once.  Followed by every birthday.  And then just everyday.    But try to avoid this... it's more special if you just pull it out sometimes.

Now, before you pile on on the cookie pie express I leave you with just one last picture.

All abooooo-ard!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Window Picture Frame

The Headlines:

Frames are boring.

This is not.

Tap tap tap.  Is this thing working?  Testing 1,2,3.  Yea, just making sure people can hear me.  That's what I did when I used to work in... well, you probably get it.  Anyways, someone-somewhat internet savvy (you know who you are :) ) was telling me that unless I get people asking me questions or commenting on this little blog of mine... it's kind of hard to gauge if people like or care about it at all.  I guess I see her point.  Or maybe no cares.  How depressing.  That's a whole 'nother type of blog!  So please, if anyone is reading this -- let me know --  or "share" it or "pin" it or "release" it, wait... Anyways, I don't know... what else do people do out there in social media/internet land?  I am so so behind!  Also, really, if I can be of any assistance or you have any questions about what I write - please do not hesitate to ask me either in the comments (I really haven't gotten one yet... I'm not even sure how it works)
*** update, I've now been told you have to be a google signed up user to comment so if it's too hard - feel free to comment on my Facebook One Picky Chick page or email me at

Alright now that we got that out of the way - down to business.

This post is going to be short and sweet.  My last one - was soo not!  But holiday cards are a big project/topic so I felt it needed due diligence.  Okay, so we already talked about my wall art concept.  It's not your usual stuff.  I like windows on the wall.  Here I have a few clustered together.

But they needed some purpose.  This red one finally has some.

It's a picture of me and my daughter as an infant and a picture of BP (husband) and our son.  The glass is actually knocked out of the other 2 "spots"... so this works perfectly.  I wouldn't want a picture in all 4 quadrants anyways.  Too busy.

I actually found the frame at an antique store years ago.  Now, there are places everywhere that have these.  In Phoenix, there's a store called Qcumberz on 7th Avenue or just google it where you live.    Maybe even Craig's list.  Very common.  Anyways, I obviously enlarged the pictures and stuck them onto the pane with this stuff.

Find it in hobby or home stores.  Easy.  Cheap. Done.  Cute.  Wall art unlike any other.  Aaron Brothers, eat your heart out.

Now, on to the next project.
And remember... if you're reading this -- drop me a comment if you have 2 minutes.  I'd love to hear from you!

Your ever picky chick,  Nicole

Monday, November 18, 2013

Holiday cards - chore or cheer?

The Headlines:

It's that time of year again.

Holiday cards.

To some it's a chore - to me it's a challenge.

Here's how to do great holiday cards!

Holiday cards.  Oh my, there is so much to say on this topic.  I'll be as brief as I can.  Okay, some people love them, some people hate them.  Some use them to show off (and talk about, in DETAIL) their lives, others use it to witness and still some others... like me... try to use it as an opportunity.  An opportunity to show the people whom you love and care about (and sometimes don't see) - how your family is growing.  I know that's what Facebook is for... but I'm old school.  I don't want to FB my kids every day, week or even month... I stick with the yearly update during the holiday season.  Then, I also like being able to formally send people well wishes for the year ahead.

For me the holiday card is fun.  I try to come up with something different each year.  It gives me a reason to get creative and I look forward to it!  I actually start planning the card (in my head at least) around March.  No kidding.  But remember... that's because, all together now, I AM PICKY!  I  also never tire of receiving cards and seeing other people's families and lives... it puts me in the spirit and it makes me smile.

I always did holiday cards when I was single but the creative/picture holiday cards didn't start until I got married.  Perhaps my excitement for the holiday card was born from this picture...


it assumed the starring role of our first-year-married-holiday-card.  I loved it!  Everything about it.  The looks on our faces.  The off-centeredness.  Everything.  Someone caught the moment on one of our throw away cameras and therefore I didn't even have someone to thank for the job well done.  But after this card, I was hook, line and sinker.  I wanted to out-due myself every year.  And so it began.  We went up to Flagstaff, AZ...

and took a picture in the woods with our dog Maverick.  No kids. This was our family.  I liked the casualness of it and I got a card that matched.  See, this was the era before the computerized cards we all do now.  And I wasn't ever thrilled about going to Costco or another big box store and doing photo cards on photo paper.  So I carefully taped pictures in photo cards like these. When we had our baby girl I wanted to do the opposite of what we had done the year before.  So we took a picture in the desert.
It was so easy.  This was behind our house.  Next on the agenda was some serious greenery.  We went to a Christmas tree lot.  Then we went to to the beach and all of the sudden I remembered, for a Christmas card, we hadn't had a Christmas scene yet.  Duh.

So that happened.  Then, I realized there was no snow in any of of our holiday cards.  And we were going to be at the Polar Express in Williams that year -- a winter storm came just in time!

It was the next year, honestly, we needed something quick... I had my son and BP's (husband) company merged... we moved.  I had no time to plan anything so I decided a grass scene in my parents backyard was perfect!  I threw in a wreath and a handmade sign and, in the end, I loved it!  Possibly my favorite card of all time.

This was also the first time I decided to join the phenomenon of -- what's it even called? -- on-line card making!?  I did this with Cards Direct and it was expensive.  So the next year I went with VistaPrint and man are they cheap!  Right now you can get flat cads starting at $4.99 for 10 with free shipping! And they're nice.  They have become my go to for all photo cards.



If you can't tell what it says -- it's "Walk like a family... laugh like friends."  The front picture only worked because the inside picture was close up.  The only thing I'm struggling with is the inside writing.  I may keep all the same handwriting versus the handwriting and the printing.  I'm also wondering if I should keep all the writing in red. 

Here's why I can ask all these questions -- because I make only 10 cards!  Then I see them in person and make adjustments... after, I order the rest of the cards I need.  Done.

I do want to make a few more mentions regarding holiday cards.  I'll call it my own little do's and don't list. 
  • DON'T all wear the same color clothes.  A picture with everyone in black just looks like someone died.
  • DO wear complimentary colors/patterns, i.e. the varied blue stripes in my "grass" pic above.
  • DON'T go to Sears or KMART to get your holiday family portrait.  It shows.
  • DO vary up your locations outside and have fun with it.  It shows more.
  • DON'T spend money on a photographer.  The pictures rarely come out better.  I hired one, once, and never again.  My friend, dad or BP's dad takes all our photos.  
  • DO spend money on a good camera.
  • DON'T write a long dissertation about your year - it really irritates most people.  If they don't know where you went on summer vacation by now... they probably don't care.
  • DO write a personal, kind thought inside.  They aren't called holiday well wishes for nothing...
And that's it.  So get going and get hooked!  I know to some people holiday cards can feel like a chore.  If they are, then don't do them.  Either have fun and be merry or Bah Humbug the whole idea!  

Have any good cards?  Let me know about them... comment here or email me!

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Headlines:

Making pasta is easy.

But this is easier!

I cook easy things.  It's good.  They're awesome.  All works for my family.   We're happy.  Today, I need to share a dish that makes it seem as though I was raised in the Northern portion of Italy in a small town named -- Sirmione -- near Lake Garda.  It was there that I picked up some knowledge de cuisine as I sat cross legged in front of my grandmother's old, wood burning stove.

None of that happened... but this dish makes it seem as though it did!  Ready? This one is HUGE!

Cue the organ music.  That's DRY PASTA in there!

From this...

It's cool.  You take everything - all your ingredients, including the dry (as in not cooked) pasta... put it in a pan with water and cook!  It becomes one complete pasta dish in minutes.  Italians in Sirmione probably do it all the time but here in the states... I think not.

To this!
Prepare to amaze people.

Here's What You Need:
DRY spaghetti (angel hair, whichever)
Cut tomatoes (lots they shrink)
chopped onions
chopped garlic (lots)
Fresh Basil (lots and lots)
Italian Seasoning

Here's What You do:
Cut up tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil.  Then, put all the angel hair pasta in the pan and fill it nearly half up with water.  Next, add a few glugs of olive oil.  Finally, throw in all the fresh ingredients above and turn on the flame!

I could have added even more tomatoes, garlic and basil but I didn't.  You should, more is more.  Not less... in this case.   Less is always more - but not here.  Anyways, as it cooks you can add Italian seasoning and salt.  Turn it up to about medium-high.  It's kind of a rolling boil.  Like this...

Watch for a point that you may have to add a bit more water.  Or maybe turn down the flame to medium low.  Because obviously, you don't want it to burn.  Once the water's gone, it will.  But that is also when... it's done.  Dinner, or maybe a side, is ready.  See?

It actually comes out kind of creamy.  It's the starch in the pasta.  You know, the part that's usually drained after you boil it?  In any case,  it's AMAZING!  My kids just had trouble with the long noodles, as they usually do... so next time I may try fusilli or something.

It was a fun little trick I can now pretend I picked up from that fake grandmother of mine in Italy... or maybe my daughter can begin her own cuisine dream with me being the lead character...?  Ahhhh... okay, alright, maybe not.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Batter up Baseball Desk!

The Headlines:

Take any normal desk

Turn it into whatever you choose!

It is so so so easy.

My husband, BP, grew up playing baseball.  So when it was time to turn my son's room into a "big boy" room... he was all about it.  Why?  Because it was a baseball room.  That's right - red, white and blue with lots of baseball stuff thrown in the middle somewhere.  I think he's secretly hoping that through osmosis - you know - being surrounded by it, the gift of play will somehow seep into his pores and he will become the next great - Randy Johnson.  Or Derek Jeter.  Those are both former great players, right?  I know not much when it comes to baseball.  Or any sport really.  Anyways,  yes, it has been a lot of work but BP has fully toughed it out.  He complained not one lick.  I am lying.  But he triumphed anyways.  And I am proud.  Because it looks good... errr - ah, it's really getting there.

BP does not have many pieces of furniture from his growing up years, but he does have his childhood desk. This is where my "before" picture should go of that desk but I don't have it.  Still getting the hang of this before/after project blog thing.  We kept it for, obviously, the kids.  I knew it would come in handy someday and that day has arrived.  Plus, I love pieces with a story and this has one!  How cool is it that my son will be doing homework where his dad once did his...!?  But the desk needed a bit of a "facelift" to suit our needs.  And every good facelift starts with paint.

He chose to spray paint it.  I like brushing but he wanted to go fast.  Get it done.  I mean, he was okay with doing this project but not psyched to spend too much time on it!  I take what I can get.  Next, I had found baseball pulls at Michael's like a year earlier, and at a buck a piece - I knew they would come in handy at one point.  In my opinion, it made the desk.  We also, like we often do... used an electric sander to sand some of the paint off.  See those edges below?

It's a small desk and our ceilings (adobe style home) are super vast so I decided it looked weird on it's own... (don't know if you can tell this from the picture) it needed height - it had to look more grandiose. 

So I added the shelves.  We painted those too, of course.  I just had them in his nursery so they were easily available!  And we decided to wrap them around his desk so it would be a more complete, almost, "office" area.  Then I added more height with the cork board.  

You can find this very LARGE corkboard with a wood edge at Target for like 8 or 9 bucks.  
Then we painted it too. 

The rest is easy.  Just add frames and containers to hold desk stuff.  Yes, that's a campbell's soup can but the the colors were perfect, I think it's really cute.  The containers were actually also a part of the nursery/bathroom decor so we painted those lids and put them back in his room!

And done!  Almost.  I still need to add more office stuff.  Maybe some files or boxes.... but that I will take my time with and add accordingly.  I do want to mention one last little trick that you can use anywhere, really.  As you can see in one of the pictures above, I have a baseball lamp on the shelf.  But to actually make it work, you know, like produce light...  the cord was going to dangle down and look, well, bad (I did it again... no picture of that?  Note to self: get better at before pics).  Since it was against the dark blue wall that acrylic cord look really stood out.   So BP bought cord covers at Home Depot and painted them.  The picture is not great as it is super dark in that corner with the blue paint and all but the cord literally disappears!  So for just a couple bucks - we get years of glowing happiness!

With all of the above said, my advice to you is simple.  Find an old desk, on Craig's list or a garage sale or... at your Grandmother's house... and make it your own.  It's easy to do.  And the cost - once you find that desk - should be nominal.   For me, next on the agenda is making my daughter a larger desk.  Right now she has one of those old school house style ones.  Now.... if I could just talk BP into that --- hmmmm ---- softball style???  Yeah, that's not gonna work. 

**  Hey, if you like this, there's more where that came from!  Go to the home page and put your email in the top, right hand corner where it says "follow by email"... every time I do a new post - it will let you know!  And thanks ahead of time!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cloth sack + filling = Pillow!

The Headlines:

Have a cloth sack that u like?

Make a pillow.

Happy Veteran's Day.  I salute all men and women of the armed forces with a simple idea (almost) anyone in the U-S of A could do.... make a pillow.   Yea,  this may be my easiest post ever.  Do you have a cool cloth bag you've always just loved?  Well I didn't.  But, eventually, I found one.

This, if you couldn't tell, is a close up of (2) European Grain Sack(s).  They were brought back to the states (in sack form) and then found by someone who eventually sold them to the woman who owns/runs Sweet Salvage.  It's a cute little store, with stuff you WON'T find in Pottery Barn, in the Melrose District which is right off of 7th Avenue near Indian School.  And then, I bought them for around $15 each I think.

When I saw these two I didn't know where they would go - but I knew what they would be!  They were destined for something BIG with that cool material they could not be ignored for much longer... they called out  "pillow" loud and clear!  And that is exactly what I did with them.  Sadly, I do not sew.  I wish I did and it's even compounded by the fact that I have this amazing FATHER who does!!  Yes, he's... an upholsterer.  I know... a decorator's dream.  And while I am ever thankful for it I'm also almost ashamed that I never took advantage of the fact and learned his craft.  I'm not really sure why I didn't do it either - probably just a young girl more interested in other "more important" things.  Maybe he wouldn't have been a good teacher (that's what I'll tell myself, yeah) - patience is a virtue y'know?  But again, I side tracked myself.  Back to the point - he made my pillows.  He bought stuffing from Walmart.  He says they have the best and most cost effective.  He stuffed and then stitched one side.  Piece of cake.  Done.

For him.  Right?
Now they sit on a bench pillow, which yes, he also made to fit this weird spot in my entry way.  Not sure what the architect was going for there???? But I saw it as a bench.  

Whatever the case, now my European Grain Sacks have a happy home where they are appreciated and loved by me everyday.  Standing front and center - they have been repurposed and thus re-born in the United States.  All in one picky chick's days work.  Now go find your perfect sack that will, no doubt, look much better as a pillow in your home - somewhere!!!???

**  Hey, if you like this, there's more where that came from!  Go to the home page and put your email in the top, right hand corner where it says "follow by email"... every time I do a new post - it will let you know!  And thanks ahead of time!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Black Bean & Mushroom Enchilada

The Headlines:

These aren't like your Mama's Enchiladas.

They're better.


I've never been that interested in cooking.  Problem is... I love really good food.  Just not enough to actually make it!  I once even did a cooking segment at one of my old TV stations in Washington State.  They were having "guest chefs" on the weekend morning show.  I was one of them.  It was hysterical.  Like it was so bad, it was good.

Which, by the way, we made these AMAZING STICKY BUNS,  chalk full of ooooey, gooey goodness!  Find the recipe HERE.

I digress... so back to the point: if I make something and put it on this blog it's worth trying.  Really. Really, really.

I served this little dish to my husband this week.... Bean & Mushroom Enchiladas.  He stood up and applauded.  No joke.

It really is that good.  My daughter even raved.  No, that doesn't always happen.  At first, my 2 year old son refused to eat it since it looked way too healthy - but he eventually came around and shoveled it in his mouth!

Here's why it's so excellent:  first of all it's healthy.  Second, the mushroom-bean combination is totally unexpected.  But you have to love mushrooms.  I happen to la-la-LOVE them.  Lastly, it took maybe 15 minutes to put together... something any mom can handle during the week.

So let's get started!

Here's what you need:
1 pound mushrooms (button, cremini, whatever your store has)... cut up
5 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon of something you have in your seasoning drawer, i.e.: cayenne pepper (be careful this stuff is HOT), chipotle seasoning mix, maybe paprika - I think I used all of them!
sale & pepper
1 can of black beans rinsed & drained.
10 corn tortillas - warmed and cut in half
3 plus cups of your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (3 if you want it extra cheesy)

Here's what you do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet heat some olive oil and then add mushrooms, cook, stirring often, until they're browned and sautéed.  That should take about 6 minutes.  Add garlic and seasoning/salt/pepper.  Then add black beans, stir and cook for about 2 more minutes.  Remove from heat.  Then place 7 tortilla halves on the bottom of your large casserole dish.  Top with half of bean and mushroom mix.

Then add a cup plus of salsa, followed by a third of the cheese (or one of the cups of cheese if you want extra cheesy).  Do another layer of 7 tortillas, beans & mushrooms, cup plus of salsa and cheese.  Finally, put the leftover tortillas, salsa and cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Then remove foil and bake 5-7 minutes longer.  Grab from the oven, add fresh cut cilantro for color (and taste) on top! You're done - major yum awaits!

 Good luck!  I'm telling you - you won't be disappointed!

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