Lately at A Beautiful Mess

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Lately I’ve been waking up in the morning, pinching myself, and getting right to work on my projects for A Beautiful Mess. Is this really my life? Pinch again. Back to work. Is this really work, though? Oh yeah, it’s work— but it’s the best kind! I’ve really enjoyed my recent projects, especially this mid century modern side table (above) and quilted wall art (below left).

Right now I’m working on a couple of easy-as-pie projects that I hope you’ll like as much as me, but while I wait for the paint to dry, I thought I’d share my recent projects with you in hopes that you’ll be inspired to make something fun for yourself!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Mid Century Modern Table DIY // What a fulfilling project this was! I was surprised at how relatively simple it was to make, but I definitely feel like the process flexed my craftsman muscles and made me a more confident DIYer when I saw the beautiful end result.

DIY Quilted Modern Art // Inspired by the quirky graphic textile art of Ethan Cook, this art uses simple quilting techniques alongside tradition canvas stretching for an unexpected design element in our living room.

DIY Mid Century Inspired Plant Stand // I have some larger houseplants that needed a little boost off the ground, and this was the project was the perfect simple solution! 

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Make This Metallic Lightning Bolt Mobile // This was a really fun and whimsical project that would be perfect for a nursery or office space.

Vinyl Chair Makeover // People didn’t believe it was as easy as I described, or that it would hold up as well as it has— But I promise this is such a simple way to update an old vinyl chair, and it seems like the finish is going to wear really nicely through the years!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Wall-Mounted Jewelry Box Display // I love rescuing sad antiques and repurposing them in modern ways. This time was for a quirky little jewelry display in our powder room!

DIY Marquetry-Inspired Wooden Trivets // Got a craft blade and a hot iron? Then you can do this project! It’ll really add some pizazz to your dinner table and dress up the walls in between meals.
Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Turn a Bird Cage into a Mod Floor Lamp // This project definitely upped the cool-factor of our living room. So easy, too! The funnest part was shopping for the bird cage stand. I was surprised as how many are for sale in antique malls and shops!

Try This: Type Tray Nail Polish Display // I always see a wide variety of type trays for sale at antique shops, and finally realized it would be perfect for nail polish display! After I finished this project I discovered my lipstick fits perfectly in the in between spaces too. Victory!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Simple & Sweet Donut Pillow // Finally— A calorie free way to enjoy doughnuts! This project is really simple, and a good one to make with a child’s assistance.

Try This: White Tablecloth Makeover // Tired of looking for a fun patterned tablecloth that suits your specific tastes? Quit looking and make your own!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Modern Mirror DIY // I wanted a bold, graphic mirror, and it was really easy to make one myself with some plywood, paint, and a jigsaw!

Make Your Own Faux Marble Drawer Knobs // Are you into the marble trend as much as I am? You might also be sad because marble is $$$, but you can fake the look pretty easily!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Build a Mini Horse Bookcase // This folk-art inspired bookshelf adds the perfect amount of whimsy to Lucy’s bedroom. It would also make a nice stand for potted herbs too!

Spotted Curtains DIY // I can’t get enough of spots these days, and this set of curtains I made will look great in Lucy’s next bedroom!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Make Your Own Pop Art Pet Portrait // This Andy Warhol inspired craft project is so incredibly easy to do! You don’t even need photo editing software.

Budget Curtain Rod & Finial DIY // Curtain hardware can be so expensive, but I made my own rod and modern finials for very little money! I was really pleased with how store-bought it looked when I was finished.Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

How to Create a Weathered Paint Effect // This easy rub-off weathering technique takes very little time and gives a great patina to any of your projects.

DIY Marble Jade Earrings and Pendant Necklace // Another simple jewelry DIY with lovely results! You won’t believe how easy they are to make.

A Visit To: Columbus, Ohio

Making Nice in the Midwest - German Village in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio’s capital city has so much to offer— one weekend trip to Columbus is never enough! Our little family teamed up with Experience Columbus to showcase some of my favorite parts of Columbus, and we had such a fantastic time! We can’t wait to get back and explore more places I remember enjoying as a child, like Cosi and the Olentangy Indian Caverns, as well as some adult-me favorites like the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, and, of course, some more downtown restaurants. We ran out of belly space during our weekend trip! Check out the Columbus places we loved the most!

German Village - Columbus, Ohio

Pistacia Vera macarons - Columbus, Ohio

Pistacia Vera - Columbus, Ohio

We started eating our way through Columbus early Saturday afternoon in the charming neighborhood of German Village, where my sister-in-law lives. Pistacia Vera is an exceedingly charming bakery and cafe in the heart of German Village. Everything about PV (as the locals have affectionately dubbed the shop) is on-point, down to the marble table tops, charming Thonet chairs, sophisticatedly simple menu, and to-die-for treats. I can’t believe I had never visited! It’s about a block from my sister-in-law’s house, so I’m already looking forward to popping in at Pistacia Vera first thing during our next Columbus trip!

Pistacia Vera - Columbus, Ohio

Pistacia Vera - Columbus, Ohio

The Book Loft, German Village

The Book Loft - German Village

I’ve never been to a place as magical as The Book Loft in German Village! Just the pathway leading into the Italianate style building is an experience, with a long cobblestone garden area that opens to tables of books that you can’t wait to get your hands on. The interior of the building has a few annexes, and you can wind your way through this place for hours. I’m not even kidding! The Book Loft boasts being one of the largest independent book stores in the country, and I believe it. It’s a treasure trove of literary enjoyment. And if you don’t like reading so much, but prefer baking, don’t worry— there’s a whole room dedicated to the subject!

We’ve been looking for some very specific alphabet books for Lucy that would coordinate well with Phil’s kindergarten Zoo-phonics reading curriculum (He’s a teacher, in case you didn’t know!), and The Book Loft had so many options for us to choose from. Lucy loves the book we selected for her!

The Book Loft, German Village

Royal Factory Atelier - Columbus, Ohio

Royal Factory Atelier - Columbus, Ohio

After starting our Columbus visit in German Village, we headed downtown to the Short North for some shopping. Columbus has a nice amount of street parking in the areas around High Street, which is where most of the downtown shops and restaurants are located. You do have to pay for street and lot parking except for Sundays. There’s also an easy bus system and bike sharing program available for car-free transportation.

We started shopping on the north side of High Street in the Short North, and worked our way south until we’d visited all of the shops we had time and energy for. Our first stop was at a clothing shop I really adored— Royal Factory Atelier. They have a nice selection of men and women’s clothing as well as some decor and art. Everything in the shop is either vintage or from an indie label— there’s a nice amount of variety. I particularly love the line of women’s crop tops made from vintage dresses. Some of the dresses were made into matching sets of skirts and crop tops. I’m still kicking myself for not getting one!

Royal Factory Atelier - Columbus, Ohio

Royal Factory Atelier - Columbus, Ohio

Royal Factory Atelier - Columbus, Ohio

Jeni's Ice Cream - Columbus, Ohio

Most of you probably have heard about Jeni’s ice cream if you use social media these days. And there’s a reason the Columbus ice cream shop has sky-rocketed to fame! If you haven’t found a way to taste some for yourself, you really must. Jeni’s offers unique flavor combinations without being too out-there— I promise, if my husband’s timid tastebuds will enjoy it, so will yours! I normally am not much of a fan of chocolate ice cream because it’s a bit too much cream and not enough of that chocolate punch, if you know what I mean. But Jeni’s dark chocolate ice cream changed my life. I’ve heard good things about the riesling poached pear, but one scoop of dark chocolate and one scoop of brown butter almond brittle was all I could fit into my belly. If I lived around a Jeni’s, I would definitely try all of the flavors!

Jeni's Ice Cream - Columbus, Ohio

Grand View Marcantile - Antiques in Columbus, Ohio

Grand View Marcantile - Antiques in Columbus, Ohio

The first time I walked this charming resale shop in the Short North, I think it was a couple of hours before I saw daylight again. Grandview Mercantile is a wonderfully curated consignment shop featuring a wide variety of antiques, art, home furnishings, and decorative accessories. I always find entirely too many things I like each visit, though restrain myself from making a purchase. But this trip I actually walked out with a treasure. I found a large panel from an antique photo booth that I can’t wait to hang as art in my home! Even better- it was originally from Cedar Point, which is a beloved Ohio amusement park.

The prices at Grandview Mercantile vary, but it’s certainly not low end. My sister-in-law found a nice console table for less than $50, and the large photobooth panel (It’s huge.) I got was $240. The great thing about their prices is that they go down the longer each item is in the shop. Each item has a tag with a series of prices, starting with the highest, and then dates alongside each lower price, indicating when the price will drop down. If you can’t afford something when you see it, you can always wait to see if it’s still there when the price starts dropping lower. Pretty cool, huh?

Grand View Marcantile - Antiques in Columbus, Ohio

Grand View Marcantile - Antiques in Columbus, Ohio

Flower Child Vintage - Columbus, Ohio

Flower Child Vintage - Columbus, Ohio

I was so excited to see that Columbus has a sister store to Cleveland’s Flower Child Vintage! The Columbus Flower Child is very similar to our Northeast Ohio location, boasting two floors of vintage furniture, home decor, and clothing for men and women. The shop mostly houses 1960s-1970s items, but you’ll also find things from the 1930s all the way through the 1980s. The prices are average for vintage shops— not too expensive, but not cheap. It’s certainly worth a visit! I walked away with two gorgeous summer tops for $38.

Flower Child Vintage - Columbus, Ohio

Flower Child Vintage - Columbus, Ohio

Flower Child Vintage - Columbus, Ohio

Bakersfield - Columbus, Ohio

Bakersfield - Columbus, Ohio

After a long day of shopping, I was really craving a margarita, and Lord knows Mexican food always hits the spot. Bakersfield is a fresh, trendy restaurant on High Street in the Short North with a combination of indoor and outdoor dining (The window wall slides open.). I drank the best margarita of my life at Bakersfield, made with all fresh ingredients and agave nectar. We really loved our meals and I still have dreams about the amazing guacamole we ate with their fresh chips and salsa. We’ll be back, Bakersfield!

Bakersfield - Columbus, Ohio

Happy Go Lucky Home - Columbus, Ohio

Happy Go Lucky Home - Columbus, Ohio

Happy Go Lucky Home is filled to the brim with fun and whimsical home accessories. They have a great collection of Sugarboo art (like the one hanging in my bathroom), and it took all of my willpower not to buy that dog painting in the middle of the photo above. You guys, this place has oodles of quirky charm, and the people who run the shop are pretty great too! They have a great heart for Ohio and their local community, so you can feel extra good about giving them your money.

Happy Go Lucky Home - Columbus, Ohio

Happy Go Lucky Home - Columbus, Ohio

Happy Go Lucky Home - Columbus, Ohio

Harvest Pizzeria & Curio - Columbus, Ohio

Harvest Pizzeria & Curio - Columbus, Ohio

On Saturday night, we decided to walk over to Harvest Pizzeria in German Village for some tasty pizzas. Next door to Harvest Pizzeria is Curio, a really nice little cocktail bar with a menu of classic and modern drinks. We ordered a couple to enjoy while we waited for our pineapple pizza and our Ohio double bacon pizza. Eating outside was really nice, and the other patrons were really friendly and interacted with Lucy while we waited for our table. It was a really nice experience in such a beautiful corner of German Village.

Harvest Pizzeria & Curio - Columbus, Ohio

Harvest Pizzeria & Curio - Columbus, Ohio

Harvest Pizzeria & Curio - Columbus, Ohio

Katalina's Cafe Corner - brunch spot in Columbus, Ohio

Katalina's Cafe Corner - brunch spot in Columbus, Ohio

No visit to Columbus would be complete without a visit to Katalina’s Cafe Corner in Victorian Village. This carry-out style restaurant is almost Brunch Village popular— and for good reason! Katalina’s Nutella-stuffed pancake balls certainly bring out quite a crowd on Sunday mornings! Their menu is fresh, modern, and Mexican inspired (my favorite!), and includes something everyone can enjoy— even our picky toddler! Lucy loved eating bites of Phil’s french toast while I stole pieces of his sweet and spicy glazed bacon.

Though the line at Katalina’s can get long during prime brunch time, it does move really quickly, and they just updated their outdoor seating to make sure everyone can sit down when their food is ready. (There are also a few small indoor tables.) We enjoyed our delicious brunch under the shade of the table umbrellas outside and shared our community-style table with some nice Columbus gals who politely passed the napkins when we asked.

Katalina's Cafe Corner - brunch spot in Columbus, Ohio

Katalina's Cafe Corner - brunch spot in Columbus, Ohio

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

North Market & Sunday Flea - Columbus, Ohio

Head out to the North Market in Columbus on Saturday mornings for local farmer’s bounty and visit on Sundays for the flea market where local artisans sell their creations. I was really impressed with the quality of goods for sale outside at the Market Flea— there was none of the junk you might typically find at a flea market— everything was really nice and well made! We picked up a beautiful Ohio state shaped cutting board with a nice pin-striped pattern.

Inside the North Market is a wide variety of food vendors, bakers, retail vendors, and even branches of other beloved Columbus shops, like Pistacia Vera and Destination Donuts. We had some fresh juice and smoothies and barely resisted the urge to grab some Belgian crepes (we had just eaten at Katalina’s). There’s a mezzanine level at the North Market where you can sit down to eat your food while looking down to people watch at the market below. Lucy had a lot of fun running around up there (with our close supervision, of course).

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

The North Market in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus is really such a great city to live in, and perfect for visiting on the weekends. If you’re just driving through Ohio, you should take some time to explore a little of Columbus! There are lots of fun things to do, and great outdoor activities that I didn’t even cover in my weekend. We can’t wait to visit again soon!

The North Market— Columbus, Ohio

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

It might be my penchant for all things salty, or maybe it was the latest Wendy’s signage you just can’t escape when living in suburbia. But whatever it was, I was craving a pretzel bun sandwich like a crazy pregnant lady. (I’m not pregnant— just cravy/crazy.) The pretzel buns I find at the grocery store just don’t do it for me like chewy homemade ones, so I decided to get to work on making my own soft pretzel buns right away!

You can use this recipe to make regular ol’ soft pretzels, I suppose, or even pretzel rolls or a pretzel loaf. But I highly suggest making a batch of these soft pretzel rolls and compiling a delicious sandwich as soon as possible. Just a special homemade bun really elevates a simple deli sandwich to gourmet status. So Phil tells me, and I’m inclined to agree!

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

I adapted this recipe from this delicious looking recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, making my version a little more like a chewy soft pretzel, and less like a light and fluffy dinner roll. I used a bit less flour, added some brown sugar, used a touch more butter instead of oil, increased the soda for a little more of that distinctive pretzel flavor, and added an egg wash for a nice, shiny glaze.

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns
Yields 12
These chewy soft pretzels buns will make any sandwich extra special!
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Prep Time
1 hr 50 min
Cook Time
20 hr
Total Time
2 hr 10 min
Prep Time
1 hr 50 min
Cook Time
20 hr
Total Time
2 hr 10 min
For the dough
  1. 1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
  2. 3 tablespoons melted butter
  3. 2 cups warm milk (no warmer than 100 degrees F)
  4. 1 1/2 cups warm water (no warmer than 100 degrees F)
  5. 2 teaspoons salt
  6. 7-8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For boiling
  1. 3 quarts water
  2. 1/2 cup baking soda
For finishing
  1. 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  2. coarse salt
Instructions
  1. In an electric mixer, combine all ingredients with 6 cups of flour, adding more flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be sticky and not stiff.
  2. Remove dough from mixing bowl and transfer to a large greased bowl. Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface and need with a little extra flour a few times until the dough can be handled without sticking. Separate dough into four equal parts. Separate those four parts into three balls for larger buns, or four balls for smaller buns. Placed the well-formed balls onto a floured surface next to the stove, and allow the dough a second rise, which takes about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Boil three quarts of water with 1/2 cup of baking soda. Add dough balls to water for 45 seconds on each side. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer boiled balls onto a greased or parchment-covered baking sheet. Brush egg wash onto the buns, gently slice an X into the top of each with a sharp blade, then sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until a deep medium brown color as shown. Allow the buns to cool before slicing.
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Making Nice in the Midwest http://makingniceinthemidwest.com/
Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

To split my rolls, I divided the dough into four equal parts (using a food scale to get uniformity in size), then split those four parts into three equal parts. I rolls each ball in my hands until they were a nice perfect ball (adding flour to my hands to keep them from sticking), then set them on a floured surface next to my stove.

While waiting for the dough balls’ second rise, I added the baking soda to three quarts of water on the stove and got things boiling. The dough should be ready after 15-20 minutes, which is great timing, because by then, your water should be boiling.

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Drop three rolls at a time into the water and boil for about 45 seconds on each side. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plop them onto heavily greased baking sheets, or baking sheets covered in parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. While each set of three rolls are in the water, you can brush the ones on the tray with the egg wash. Just don’t forget to count the seconds!

When both trays are full of rolls, you can sprinkle the rolls with coarse salt, then using a very sharp knife, mark the tops with an X. Try not to mutilate them at this point. You don’t want the rolls to deflate.

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, then allow them to cool completely before slicing them for your sandwiches. This recipe yields 12 large buns, but if you’re looking for something more like the size of store-bought buns, you may want to make each bun smaller by splitting the quartered dough into fourths, instead of thirds. I like the larger buns for deli sandwiches, but for chicken sandwiches or pulled pork, I would definitely like something smaller.

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Somehow these buns manage to not only feel light and fluffy, but chewy and moist as well. They’ll keep for a week on the counter, but before using them, you might want to heat them up a little bit for a bit of that fresh-baked warmth.

Soft Pretzel Sandwich Buns

WHAT WE WORE: Red, White, and Sixties

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

This Independence Day, none of us wore blue. We ate steak instead of hot dogs, didn’t take a dip in the pool, and waved not one flag. But we did take three trips to the hardware store in pursuit of home improvement supplies. Don’t worry, last night we chilled out, grilled out, and today we’re planning on treating ourselves to ice cream (of course) to celebrate our American heritage.

In the meantime, Phil’s been up on the ladder replacing our gutters while I’ve been in the backyard playing with glitter. While I’m quite certain you aren’t interested in seeing our new gutters when he’s finished, I am pretty sure you’ll be very curious about this sparkly project of mine. I can’t wait to share it with you! In the meantime, here are our Mother/Daughter outfits Lucy and I wore to our Tex-Mex dinner with Phil on Sunday.

W H A T   L U C Y   W O R E :
vintage dress from the Medina Antique Mall / shoes from a consignment store

W H A T   I   W O R E :
blouse: vintage from Sweet Lorain /  trousers: ASOS / shoes: Clarks / necklace: thrifted

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Vintage-inspired Mother/Daughter style on Making Nice in the Midwest

Fast Molasses – Music from The Rust Belt

Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt

For me, summers past are marked by the music that accompanied them. 2010 was for biking downtown to the coffee shop with wayfarers on my eyes and the Black Keys in my ears.  2011 was for weekly garden parties and Motown. 2012 included swollen feet everything, Cleveland pride, and Dr. Dog on vinyl. 2013 was for manufacturing feelings of a fabulous life during cancer treatment with Ella Fitzgerald on Pandora in my forever messy kitchen. During the past four summers, music has seen me through some difficult times and even helped to develop my intense local pride for northeast Ohio. Good things come out of this place I call home, and one of them is a merry band of friends who play soul-satisfying music fit for the perfect summer sountrack.

Fast Molasses has come a long way from their Friday night house parties— and I mean that quite literally! The boys have moved all the way to the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t see them around Canton any more, but Christopher mailed me some music with a nice handwritten note, even enclosing some chocolate mint from his garden. He said I should make a pitcher of ice tea and listen to the CD with headphones on one lovely summer night. It was perfect.

If you need a little Americana in your life (Who doesn’t?), click through to listen to Fast Molasses on Bandcamp and download their new album, From the Sugarcane. Along with a pitcher of sweet tea, their music will infuse your summer with exactly what it’s been missing. Oh, and follow their adventures on Instagram here and Facebook here. Miss you guys around here! Thanks for sending the music!

Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt    Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt

Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt    Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt

Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt    Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt

Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt    Fast Molasses - music from the Rust Belt

top image by Sonya Kumpus

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