One of the biggest dilemmas for any household is what to do with that spare room upstairs? For someone that loves DIY and home decoration activities, it’s actually a godsend. They get to reset the room however they wish and pretty much stir their creative juices into a smooth-as-silk flow. For those that aren’t so versed in homely things, it can be more than a bit of a problem. In fact some people are so afraid that they might get it wrong, they just leave the room blank. So right up and til they want to sell the home, they have been living with a giant empty hole in their home. The issue is, what kind of ideas could work? Starting totally fresh is what gets people twisted up. When you have the money, you can throw ideas at the wall and create the room into whatever you want. But when you don’t, it’s best to fall back onto something safe, like mimicking a room that you already have.
Personal relaxation or lounge?
Consider these two options, personal relaxation versus an upstairs lounge. For personal relaxation you would make the room into somewhat of a mix of the living room and bedroom. You could have a single bed in the room, together with an armchair that looks out toward the window. This means that the room would be your little corner of the home where you can just relax, away from the kids, your partner and the pets. Here you could read a book in silence, have a snack or have a chat with your friends on the phone or via online without disturbing anyone else.
On the other hand the lounge option would mean hiring some furniture transport because you should put a great sofa in the room. The services are user-rated and reviewed, so you know who you can and can’t trust. They offer assistance in moving it also so you need not put your back out lifting it up the stairs. It could be a corner sofa that is end to end giving maximum space usage. The design is modern so it doesn’t look like a hovel trapped in time, the spare room could end up looking even more fashionable than your downstairs lounge.
For the pets
Still not sure about what to do? If you have pets, usually they will sleep downstairs in their own beds. They could be moved upstairs nearer to where the rest of the family sleeps. In fact, the spare room could become the pet room, where they could play with their toys and gnaw on bones without damaging the walls or floor in the kitchen. If you install a small bath, you could wash them here too and not need to put them into the same bath the family uses. All their clothes could be kept in this room, such as towels, winter jackets, costumes etc.
The empty room is always a conundrum in households that aren’t used to having a spare room no one uses. The fear is messing it up with decor and things that don’t work. However, it could be your little space or privacy, or perhaps a zone where the pets can be a little wilder inside the house!
To say that I’m a Polish-American to the core, would be an understatement. Growing up as a first-generation American, my parents and grandparents instilled in me a great love of family, an immense pride in our Polish heritage and a passion for it’s deeply-rooted food (or at least to indulge in it!).
My great-grandmother and grandmother were always in the kitchen making meals from scratch, filling the house with delectable smells of soups, stews and baked goods. One of my favorite childhood memories was selecting my favorite cookies off an assorted cookie platter. Grandma always had food on-hand for that unexpected guest and you never dare leave without having at least a bite to eat.
So I say it’s fitting to share with you one of my favorite Polish cookie recipes, just like my Grandma use to make. Simple in taste and in effort, the Kolaczki is especially good along a side of black tea or coffee. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, Na Zdrowie!
8 ounces (1 block) of cream cheese (at room temperature)
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with butter until light and fluffy. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, and mix well. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick on a silicone mat or a surface that has been dusted with equal parts confectioners’ and granulated sugars (not flour), because the granulated sugar will act as ball bearings and help keep the dough from sticking.
Cut into 2-inch squares. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fruit or cheese filling on center of each square. Overlap opposite corners of dough to the center over filling, pressing dough together lightly. Alternatively, brush a tiny bit of beaten egg white on one point and press the opposite point on it.
Bake for 15 minutes (longer if baking frozen) or when corners start to brown. Cool completely and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Note: Kolaczki tend to get soggy after several days if not stored properly. Store them in an air-tight container without the confectioners’ sugar. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Tips on freezing
If you find yourself with leftover fillings, they can be frozen in a zip-top bag or another container with little loss in flavor or consistency. Just defrost them when you’re ready to use them. Pour off any accumulated moisture on the surface.
As for the kołaczki themselves, fill them and freeze on a parchment-lined sheet pan. When completely frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container separated by sheets of parchment paper. Bake them from frozen. Don’t freeze baked kołaczki. When defrosted, they will be soggy and unpalatable.
Brownie recipes are much like chocolate chip cookie recipes, everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe and thinks theirs is the best. I get it. There are so many variations and are a standard dessert go-to for many. I personally like my brownies chewy and dense. (Oh, and super chocolaty *duh*) After doing some “brownie research” for this post, I concocted a Brownie recipe that is chocolaty, chewy and even had a secret ingredient to elevate the chocolate flavor —INSTANT COFFEE! I made a batch of these brownies this weekend. My boys were licking their plates to get every last crumb and morsel. A true sign of a recipe gone right!
P.S. The coffee is totally optional, but must say it does give it a great boost!
Prep time:15mins Cook time: 30-40mins
Total time:55mins Servings: 16 brownies
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1tsp instant coffee diluted with 1 tsp of hot water (or 1 tsp of coffee extract)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 9 x 9 inch square pan. Set aside when done.
Place the butter in a heat-proof bowl and microwave until butter is completely melted.
Add the brown sugar, white sugar and salt while the butter is still warm. Mix to combine the butter and sugars together until you have a smooth consistancy.
Add the vanilla, shot of instant coffee (or coffee extract) , eggs and egg yolk to the butter and sugar mixture. Whisk in the eggs until they have been incorporated into the butter sugar mix. With a hand mixer, approx. 2 minutes until the mixture is well combined and is light in color.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together.
Add the dry mixture of flour and cocoa powder into the wet ingredients and mix it in until just combined. Add about ⅔ of the semi-sweet chocolate chips halfway through the mixing in of the flour. The goal is to make sure the batter is not over-mixed when the flour is being incorporated. Important: Do not over mix!
Spoon the batter into the 9 x 9 pan. Spreading the batter evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the semi-sweet chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes. If you like your brownies fudge-like, stick closer to 30 minutes. If you like you brownies a little more well done, 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it cool down to room temperature. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. Brownies that are chilled are easier to cut.
Cut the brownies into squares with warm knife and serve.
Fenway Serving Tip: Drizzle with chocolate syrup, a dollop of whipped cream and lightly sprinkle with cocoa powered for an impressive presentation.
Are you ready for a new year? I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. Instead, I pick an action word that will encompass what I want my year to be. I aim for it. No promises. No expectations. No insurmountable hurdles. Just living my life with that word in mind.
This year I pick “EXPLORE”. I want to explore possibility, explore my surroundings, explore the unknown, explore my inner self. It’s the year of “40” for me. It’s a big one!
If you could pick a word to live by in 2018, what would it be?
Well, here in Wisconsin it definitely feels like late Fall (if not Winter). It’s November! How in the heck did that happen? The air is crisp, the leaves are gone and every once in a while you catch a flurry or two. I’m not quite ready for knee-deep snow, but a lazy day snuggled up on the sofa – sure, why not! The best days are curled up with your favorite, warmest throw blankets. In the market for a throw blanket? Well, I have you covered! (Yes, pun totally intended! LOL) So curl up with your laptop or tablet and check out these comfy picks!