Friday, February 27, 2009

Piano



I'm hoping this really happens. I am only saying this because we have been dragging our butts on moving the piano from my in-laws to our house.



This weekend, my brother-in-law and his friends are moving the piano that my mother-in-law bought when she was younger than us to our house! We are VERY VERY excited. Nate was playing piano when we were visiting them two weeks ago and realized that he is really out of practice, as am I.



The piano will be filling the giant hole that is the library.

Photo Sources: Domino, Apartment Therapy, All Things Lovely

Diet Recap: Short & Sweet

The spending recap this week will be short because I didn't spend any money. THAT is the beauty of having a birthday during a spending diet!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crafting Nightmares


I arrived home from work last night to find two packages: one containing the pound of fabric scraps that I ordered from Beebee Mod during their president's day sale (and boy am I pleased with the "scraps"!) and one containing Amy Butler's Midwest Modern book from JT for my birthday!!! Well that was all the push I needed to get sewing ASAP.

I found these cute fabric animals online the other night and wanted to start on them. We were going to be visiting Baby Alex in about 45 minutes. "They don't look that hard, I could whip that up before we go". HA! I found out I am not quite the "whip-it-up crafter". First off, I neglected to flip the elephant over before I cut him out of the second fabric. I didn't figure this out of course until I sewed the ear on. I had to re-cut him. We have 30 minutes yet!

In my rush to stuff, I poked through one of his legs. AHHH! Forget it. I am not giving them something that resembles a chew toy AFTER the dog got it. Actually Nate recommended bringing it for their dog Madison. It would have taken a dog 2 seconds to rip this thing apart - that is how poorly constructed it was! I took pictures:
Side 1

Side 2

Back to the drawing board with that one!

When we got home, we had some of Brooke's Delicious Turkey Sandwiches and then I continued making this pajama shirt for my niece. I should have just realized that my sewing was going nowhere yesterday and read a book or something else. What did I do? I sewed the arms shut. Tra-la-la, I continued stitching all around the outside of the shirt to sew the front and back pieces together. I went into the living room to show Nate and realized that no one was going to be wearing that shirt! This is why seam rippers were invented.

After that, I stopped sewing and joined my husband to watch Law & Order.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free Calendar Downloads



Along with my planner fetish, I also love calendars. You can download a pretty 8x10 calendar every month on Lisa Rupp's blog.

March is already making my office a prettier place!

Photo: Lisa Rupp Design

WINNER!


My day is off on a good foot (even though my shoes today are not so practical for the long walk I have from my car).

I opened my email and found out I won some Orla Kiely goodies from Lecia at A Day That is Dessert! I am anxiously awaiting to see if I get the dish towels, apron or coasters! FUN!

Given my spending hiatus, I have been staying away from Target so I haven't seen the OK for Target stuff in person but it looks so great on blog pictures!

Photo Source: A Day That is Dessert

Monday, February 23, 2009

400th Post: A Whole Lotta Craft

I have more and more crafty blogs taking up space in my Google Reader and everytime I see a free tutorial of something I would like, I star it so that i can come back to it later. I went through my starred posts last night and wowza. I could craft for a while with all the stuff that is in there. I thought I would share some of my starred items:

Directions for the sash I made CD (above) from the In Stitches book are available for free here.

I have yet to try quilting. I mean, I made the two baby quilts, but those are sort of easier to hide mistakes with (or upon close inspection, NOT so easy to hide mistakes). My sister keeps bugging me to try a quilt so I keep starring quilt tutorials. I have yet to bite the bullet. Here is my list of free downloadable patterns/tutorials:
Free Spirit
Amy Butler has about 5 or 6 quilt or duvet cover tutorials for download on her website. (Click on Free Patterns on the lower right hand side).
Craft magazine has the soda shop quilt here.
Chick Pea Studio has Finn's Quilt here.
Lizzy House has the housewares quilt here
Stacked Coins Quilt here.

As for bags, there are lots of different bags to make.

JCaroline has a tutorial for the totes pictured above here.
There are some great shoe bags featured here.
And for those of you trying to go green:
Reusable snack bags here
Trash can liners from a t-shirt here
BCK made me a produce bag out of some fabric. It is great and I need to make some more. It is a simple drawstring bag that probably doesn't require a tutorial but if you are so inclined, google "produce bag tutorial" and you will have several to choose from including this one.

And for random other craft project tutorials, How About Orange and Whip up are great blogs to add to your Reader.

Birthday Goodies

Some more birthday goodies!

My BF JS got me this great purple scarf:


The H Clan got me gift certificates for FABRIC! I am having a great time searching this site trying to decide what to get. They suggested i check out the "outdoorsy type" fabric for a laugh and indeed, it cracks me up. And they have not one but THREE different scenes with these hunks to choose from!


I also was excited to learn from CD that sephora gives it's beauty insiders a birthday gift of 3 lip glosses! I hopped on over to the mall to pick mine up!

In true fashion, i am dragging my birthday out as far as possible with some future celebrations this weekend. woohoo!

Photos: Express, ReproDepot

Domino Subscription Switch


Attention Domino subscribers: If you have remaining issues on your subscription, they automatically transfer to Architectural Digest magazine. Thankfully, Maison Luxe posted that you can actually pick any of the Conde Nast magazines instead - you just have to call the magazine you want. This took me 4 mintues.

Check out Maison Luxe for the whole list.

I decided to go with Lucky. A magazine I have only perused at the Y. I get a lot of the other magazines on the list and figured i would try something new.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tile ORDERED!

WOOHOO! Our tile is officially ordered and scheduled to arrive on March 2. And do you know what the BEST part about it is? By waiting until today to order, we saved 20%! Anyone who is planning a tile job that requires special ordering from Lowe's, their sale is 20% off any special order tile job! This basically got us the adhesive and cutter for free! The dining room corner has been taken over by all the tile supplies.

Our weekend with my almost-3 year old niece was fun, but exhausting as usual. She was very excited to go swimming at the Y so we went Friday night, Saturday morning and this morning, each time for at least an hour. We also enjoyed free stirfrys at a flat top which is opening near out house. Thanks to my brother in law for getting us in on that one.

Another fun thing we did is go to the Milwaukee Domes. Nate & I are pretty sure this was a grade school field trip at some point, but not one that we remembered. Each of the three domes has a theme: there is the desert dome, the rainforest dome and the show dome, which featured a bunch of model trains. My niece LOVES trains so this is why we decided to go. It was a hit!

Nate was in heaven because he taught Toni how to play Mario Kart, which of course she loved.

The one thing Toni would NOT do is acknowledge my birthday. Nate kept trying to get her to say Happy Birthday. The closest she came was announcing that it was "mamie's birthday and my birthday". So I guess I now share my birthday ;)

I wasn't expecting a present from Nate since my Christmas present was also my birthday present but he did get me a bunch of roses, a bunch of ranunculus (one of my favorites!) and a bunch of tulips!!! It was a great surprise.



We made some cupcakes but they aren't the greatest. Toni was a great helper and
loved measuring and dumping stuff in the bowl. I kinda think that the ingredients and measurements got a little messed up but it was fun making them and frosting and sprinkling them!

And now, I think I need a nap.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Diet Recap Week 5

It's Friday and time for another Diet Recap.

We upgraded our cell phones on Sunday but this did not cost us anything because we were 18 months into our contract and able to upgrade for free. Plus we picked the free phones. The girl working the counter was so less than thrilled with our phone choice. She kept saying that they didn't have ANY features. Well guess what? I don't want any features. I want a phone. $0 spent there.

We went out to dinner on Tuesday night with Nate's family to celebrate Bo being in town. (Bo was the foreign exchange student that Nate's grandparents had when Nate's mom and aunt were younger. He lives in Sweden and we see him about once a year). Nate's grandpa picked up the tab for that one so $0 spent there.

I did spend $10.51 on the fabric I sent out for the fat quarter swap and $10 on lunch yesterday. I always rationalize buying lunch though b/c 95% of the time, I eat leftovers from home at my desk (like right now, I am enjoying some delicious Poblano Potpie leftovers).

This weekend will be relatively thrifty for us as well. My niece Toni is coming to stay for the weekend and it's my birthday! Woohoo for turning 28! Having birthdays during a spending curb is fun because it doesn't feel like you are missing out on anything when presents arrive!!

Some early presents: My mom got me an America's Test Kitchen cookbook, which I have checked out from the library and fawned over before. C&FD got me some amazing cooking gear from Sur la Table including a bamboo salt box and some fleur de sel! It looks so cute on our countertop. I think to master the art of french cooking, you need a salt box for sure. :) And Nate's grandparents got me something every girl who is trying not to spend her own money needs...cash. Did I mention I LOVE my birthday?!

I'm hoping Toni brings her batman Mask. Apparently a couple of weeks ago she packed her own bag to stay by my mom and there was nothing in there but dress up clothes including the ever-essential mask:

Oscar TIME!

I LOVE the Oscars and how appropriate that they are on my birthday weekend!

How About Orange has a fun Oscar Bingo game that you can download if you are having a soiree. Me, I'll be in my sweats watching the red carpet wishing I looked like Angelina Jolie...or Kate Winslet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Apron

The year of handmade birthdays continues with this apron:

Chef Extraordinaire BCK was the lucky recipient of this. I was pretty proud of my first pleating attempt, but again, Amy Butler made it really easy with all of the measurements planned out. The coolest part about her apron is that it includes a towel loop, which I am testing out above.

Fabric Karma



I got my four names for the Sew Mama Sew Fat Quarter Swap. The fabrics above are the fabrics I am mailing out to Ontario, British Columbia, California and New Hampshire. I hope the recipients enjoy them! I picked out really good ones in the hopes that karma repays me well :)

I can't wait for my fabric to arrive!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Poblano Potpie



Ahh Rick Bayless. You hold a special place in our hearts, mostly for your Poblano Potpie recipe (below).

Back in 2006, Nate's parents bought me the Marshall Fields Cookbook. I always thought it was to remember Marshall Fields (which was taken over by Macy's here in the midwest about that time, much to my chagrin). It is one of my favorite cookbooks.

The first recipe we ever made out of it was the Poblano Potpie. We didn't have the highest expectations but it really was phenomenal. The recipe was by Rick Bayless, who up to that point, we just thought was a chef for the Marshall Fields Culinary Council.

Fast forward a few weeks later to January 2007 and I dragged Nate to the Macy's bridal event (it was our engagement year) and we are waiting around for the food demonstration when my husband bolts from my side. I literally ran to catch up with him and he taps this guy on the shoulder saying, "Hey, You're Rick Bayless, right?". "Yes" was his reply. Nate proceeded to gush about the Poblano Potpie and how the recipe was so good and I probably through in a "yeah, it was great" too. He was looking at us like we were nutso but said Thank you and went on his way.

From my husband's point of view, he thought that he was going to make this guy's day by telling him how great the recipe was. Little did we know that Rick Bayless is a pretty big public TV and Chicago persona. We continue to laugh at this story, which was again brought up because we made the potpie tonight in an attempt to clear out my sinuses.

Later that March, I took Nate to Frontera Grill (one of Rick's 2 restaurants in Chicago) for his birthday. We didn't see Rick but the food was great.

Here is the recipe:
Poblano Potpie
By Rick Bayless
Biscuit Ingredients
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Filling Ingredients

2 large poblano peppers (if you don't like things to have too big a kick, I suggest using 1)
2 TB butter or veg oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch squares
2 carrots, cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

To prepare the biscuits: Whisk milk and egg together in a small bowl. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse four times to mix. Add the butter and pulse eight times. With the motor running, slowly pour the milk-egg mixture through the feed tube and mix for about 4 seconds until the dough comes together into a sticky looking mass; do not overmix. Pulse as necessary until all the flour is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface. Dust the dough with flour. Knead gently 5 times (use a little more flour if necessary). Form the dough into a 9-inch round. Using a biscuit cutter or an upside down glass, cut into four 2 to 3 inch biscuits.

To prepare the filling:Roast the pepper(s) over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler until blistered and blackened all over. Place in a bolw, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to cool for about 20 mintues. Rub the blackened skin off the peppers and pull out the stems and seed-pods. Rinse the flesh to remove any remaining bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

Melt the butter or heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring frequently for about 6 mintues, until they begin to brown. Add the flour and stir thoroughly. Add half of the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Add the remaining milk and whisk until mixture boils. Add the chicken, carrots, salt, pepper, and thyme and stir well. Decrease heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Add the peas and cilantro and stir well. Scoop the mixture into an 8x8 inch baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Lay the biscuits on top in a single layer.

Set the baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until biscuits are browned. Serve while hot.

Speaking of which, our timer just went off! Time for me to eat!

Recipe Source: The Marshall Fields Cookbook

HALLELUJAH!

My dear, dear husband took on the tiling stores this morning before a conference he had to attend. Round 2 of Tile Shopping went MUCH MUCH better than Round 1.

He went to a corporate tile store which had tons of white subway tile. Only one company did the rounded short edge of the 3x6 size. Given that they were a corporate place, they do not usually work with individual home owners, but the kind woman there suggested that he go back to Lowe's with the information because Lowe's could order the tile from them for us.

Nate then went to Lowe's and this is the "HALLELUJAH" moment - the girl that we had originally spoke with months ago before starting this whole thing was working! We were very impressed with this woman back then, and as I mentioned, were sad that she wasn't working last Saturday. I will call her Tile Guru from here forward.

He explained that we originally wanted to do a white subway tile backsplash in all 3x6 tiles, but were having a difficult time locating that size tile with a short edge rounded. "OH, no problem, we can order those for you" was her response. We have to figure out our exact square footage before we can place the order but by her rough estimate the tile would be about $120 for the entire backsplash and the rounded pieces. This is more than it would be if we did a 2x6 border, but an amount that we are both ok with spending given that my mom donated a lot of the other required supplies and it wasn't the $800 that the Tile Shop wanted.

So it looks as though we will be doing some measuring tonight and ordering this weekend! He also got her card and had her print everything out so that if we come back and she is NOT working, we can still successfully order everything. We also have some prep work to do - we have to paint the area underneath our cabinets white. I'm not sure I'm going to explain this so well, but basically our cabinets have a visible bottom which we will be tiling to. If you look under the cabinet, there is an indentation that you can only see if your head is under there. This is where it is not level and would be a major pain to tile, confirmed by the Tile Guru. This will probably make more sense when I take pictures.

Some junior varsity (that's for you AH) hallelujahs:
1) As ChaCha mentioned in one of her posts/comments, the tiles she bought at Lowe's had built in spacers. I mentioned this to Nate who asked Tile Guru about it. Tile Guru confirmed that the tile we would order also had these so we would not have to buy them separately or mess around with them while tiling. Thanks for the tip ChaCha (check out her awesome subway tile backsplash here.

2) We will be trying the tile cutters. EVEN THOUGH almost everyone we talked to said to get a wet saw, Nate is a believer in the tile cutter based on the Tile Guru's recommendation and the fact that she let him test cut a few tiles at Lowe's today and they all worked perfectly. I do not really care what instrument we buy to cut the tiles, but prefaced this decision with "I don't want to hear about it when the tile cutter does not work so well when you get it home".

Hopefully the backsplash will be born within the next couple of weeks! I can't wait!! I think it is going to look SOO great!

New Magazine!


Fresh Home launches next week!

Thank you CreateGirl for the news!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cheap Home Fixes

Sometimes I really love blogging. First Dudeman saved us with the comment regarding our incorrect insulating and yesterday Chacha gave us some great advice regarding tiling. We are back on the tile project tomorrow night.

Here are two quick fixes we did over the weekend. First, we replaced our pantry door handles. We still have to clean and paint the pantry doors to match the rest of the cabinets. Nate has to plane the doors b/c whoever made them cut them a little crooked. The new doorknobs are brushed nickel like our other kitchen hardware. The old doorknobs were faux gold:

Each of the doorknobs was about $7 or $8 at Lowe's.

I also went shopping in our linen closet and found a sheet to cover our boxspring a la Martha. I think it looks good - it is a blue plaid patterned sheet. Gotta love the home makeovers that don't cost anything!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Home Project...Finally!

I'm all about public transportation but this subway tile backsplash project is not exactly off on the right foot.

We had spoke with two seemingly intelligent people at Lowe's before Christmas about the backsplash and tiling process. At that time, we bought 5 sample tiles (@ 19 cents each) to see if we really liked the color, shape etc with the rest of the kitchen. We did and that stack of tiles sat for a couple months on the countertop.

Saturday, we decided that our hiatus from home projects was up and that we really should get to the backsplash. I printed out some free graph paper from this cool site and we got to work measuring.

Roadblock #1. Our cabinets are not exactly level. While this is not a huge surprise (we ran into this while installing the countertops as well), it can mess up tiling quite easily. Luckily we played with spacing and figured out the tile amounts for the test area.

OKAY! We have the measurements and tile counts all set for our test area and we headed off to the Y to workout. After the Y, we went to Lowe's where we were prepared to walk in, get our list of stuff and walk out.

Roadblock #2. Lowe's did not have the finished edge tiles that you need for the end of the rows. We determined this after speaking with a huge moron that works there. The people that helped us previously were no where to be found. He recommended going to home depot. We also asked him about tile cutters vs. wet saws. Thankfully a guy in the tile aisle with some experience told us that the wet saw was the way to go. The Lowe's worker was less than helpful in this area as well. Our next question was, "Should we buy a wet saw because they don't appear to be expensive and that way we don't have to worry about renting?" "No, you should rent one becuase it is really cheap to rent one from home depot" Moron Lowe's Guy replied.

We left Lowe's purchasing two handles for our pantry doors and that was it. On to Home Depot.

Roadblock #3. HD also did not have the finished edge pieces. Apparently they have been waiting to remodel their tile section and they didn't know when they were going to get them. They seemed to think that they DID have them at one point though. As we were leaving, the woman who cut our shades too small approached us and asked if we needed help. We explained that we wanted to do a subway tile backsplash and that we were having some trouble. She said that HD did not carry subway tile. Hmm...that's interesting becuase we were just looking at it! "That's not realy subway tile" was her reply. Oh? What is "real" subway tile then? "You know McDonald's floor? THAT is subway tile". WHAT?! Is this for real? I was not going to get into debating "real" subway tile with her so I said that we wanted these white 3x6 tiles. She confirmed what the first guy said but referred us to Color Tile, just south of our house. Before we left HD we took a walk over to the tool rental section. Turns out that tool rental is a rip off and even if we only use the wet saw for this one project, it will be cheaper to buy one than to rent one.

Ok...so we are back on the road going to Color Tile. Keep in mind that we are disgustingly gross from working out still. We drive along the street she said it was on and of course there are several OTHER tile places but no color tile. We pull into the Tile Shop.

Roadblock #4. D-bag man at the Tile Shop selects us to help. We explain that all we want are 18 subway tiles and 8 end piece 3x6 tiles. He takes us over to this beautiful display to the white ceramic 3x6 tiles, which apparently ARE subway tiles according to him. GREAT! He says, "you only want 26 tiles"? We explained that we in fact only needed this many tiles because we only measured this one area that is not really connected to the rest of the backsplash to test out. "Well, I work on commission so can't you just order all of the tiles?" No Mr. D-Bag man, we cannot. He then tries selling us a wet saw for $99 (without the blade). No, we just want the tile. How about some adhesive mix? No we just want the tile.

He goes in the back to locate the tile. Comes back with 18 tiles and then only 3 of the end pieces. "We are going to have to order the others". He rings up these 21 tiles. $60....and some odd cents. WHAT? You are telling me these 21 tiles that would have been $3.99 at Lowe's were over SIXTY DOLLARS?! I really thought Nate's eyes were going to pop out of his head. We did not buy the tile.

Now we are back in the car. Really smelly and Really annoyed. We decide to stop at the HOBO store just to see if they have anything. They did have quite a selection of tile, but not the tile we want. Funny but they had the same exact wet saw that was at the Tile Shop for $70 WITH the blade. One of the HOBO workers begged us not to support the Tile Shop because they were evil. Ok...time to go home.

And that is what we did. I think I will be calling places BEFORE we trek all over to get the tile. Nate is ready to abandon ship with the tile, paint the backsplash white and call it a day.

P.S. I happened to Google Color Tile (the HD lady's recommended tile source) and it turns out that the MKE store went out of business in 1996!!!!! Maybe because they were giving their clients McDonald's flooring when they asked for subway tile.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ready Made Posters



If you are looking for some free downloadable art, Ready Made Magazine is offering it. Click here to look at all 5 options, including the one above.

Photo Source: Ready Made Magazine

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For Valentine's Day, We got Butter

Happy Valentine's Day!

We started our celebration last night since we will be spending tonight celebrating my brother-in-law's 21st birthday.

The main point of our celebration was that we consumed 9 TB of butter.

And now the long story... I have been wanting to make crepes all week. It initially was fueled by reading about them in the February issue of Martha Stewart Living. I went to make them on Wednesday and then realized that you have to let the batter sit for 2 hours and at that point I was not about to wait 2 hours to eat. Then Thursday was the tire escapade so that left last night. I have certainly eaten crepes before (JW used to make some great ones in grad school) but never have made them. My husband however had a french exchange student stay with his family when he was younger so he claimed to be pretty good at it (indeed, he was).

Making the crepes took out 4 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cookinng book because we made 2 different fillings for them, and one of those recipes was Epinards Blanchis (or blanched spinach). I realize you don't really need a recipe for blanched spinach, but I'm counting it just the same.



Martha's article says that the first crepe invariably is always bad because the cook does not wait for the pan to get hot enough, or they don't pour enough batter in. I'm proud to say that my first crepe worked like a charm and by the end of the batter, I was flipping them in the pan. Nate got smart and took a video of it, which isn't showing off my skillz so well, since I missed the first flip.

video

The crepes were a lot of fun to make and even more fun to eat as they were delicious! After the crepes, we went to see Coraline in 3D. The movie was pretty creepy. I think that if I had watched it as a child, I would have had nightmares. After the movie we were still pretty stuffed, but we shared one of the heart shaped cakes I made:

This morning we used the leftover fillings in omelets, which was also a stellar idea.

Now we need to go work out.

Here are the crepe recipes, in my suggested order of making them:
Pate A Crepes (Crepe Batter)
NOTE: This is the full recipe - we cut this in half for the two of us and still had leftovers.
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
4 TB melted butter
A rubber scraper

Put the liquids, eggs and salt into the blender jar. Add the flour, then the butter. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. If bits of flour adhere to sides of jar, dislodge with a rubber scraper and blend for 2 - 3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Epinards Blanchis (Blanched Spinach)
Blanch enough spinach to make 1 1/2 cups. Chop it.

Sauce Mornay (Bechamel with cheese)
5 TB Flour
4 TB butter

Cook the flour and butter slowly together in a saucepan for 2 minutes without coloring. Meanwhile boil 2 3/4 cups milk.

Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and a "big pinch of nutmeg". Boil, stirring for 1 minute.

Reduce to a simmer and stir in 1/4 cup whipping cream by the tablespoons. Sauce should be thick enough to coat spoon fairly heavily. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese.

You will need to add this sauce to both of the following fillings.

Spinach filling:

1 TB minced shallots or green onions
2 TB butter
1 1/2 cups blanched chopped spinach (from above)
1/4 tsp salt.

Cook shallots or onions in butter for a moment in a saucepan. Add spinach and salt, and stir over moderately high heat for 203 minutes to evaporate moisture. Stir in 1/2-2/3 cup of the sauce mornay. Cover and simmer slowly for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Mushroom filling (this is modified - I did not add the cream cheese and egg and the original recipe indicates)
1 cup minced mushrooms
1 TB minced shallots or green onions
1 TB butter
1/2 TB oil

Saute mushrooms and shallots in butter and oil for 5-6 minutes in a skillet. Stir in 1/3-1/2 cup of the Sauce Mornay.

Your fillings are now done. Time to make the crepes!

I will type in a very abbreviated version. I obviously can't replicate the drawings in the cookbook either.

You will need an iron skillet or a crepe pan with a 6 1/2 - 7 inch bottom diameter and a piece of fat bacon or pork rind; OR 2-3 TB cooking oil and a pastry brush.
Rub the skillet with the rind or brush it lightly with oil. Set over moderately high heat until the pan is just beginning to smoke.

Imediately remove from heat and pour in a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to run the batter all over the bottom of the pan in a thin film. Pour any batter that does not adhere to the pan back into your bowl. Return the pan to heat for 60-80 seconds. The jerk and toss the pan sharply back and forth to loosen the crepe. Lift its edges with a spatula and if the underside is a nice light brown, it is ready.

Turn the crepe by using 2 spatulas or grasp the edges with your fingers and sweep it toward you or toss it over by a flip of the pan.

Brown lightly for about 1/2 minute on other side. Repeat until all your crepe batter is done.


Fill the crepes with the filling of your choice (we really liked combining both the mushroom and spinach) and roll and eat.

All recipes typed from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child - becuase I am lazy I did not type the complete instructions for most items.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Diet Recap: Week 4 Small Indulgences

Well, besides the $37 I spent repairing the tire on our new car, I had an ok week.

I mentioned that we went shopping last weekend. We have a lot of random gift cards from various things and we had a couple of birthday presents to get for my brothers-in-law. I know that I said I was making all of the gifts this year, but I think I'm amending that to the female gender only. It is difficult to find things to make for males. So off to the mall...

I had a barnes & noble giftcard to use from Christmas. I figure that since it isn't my OWN money I'm spending that gift cards are not a diet-food. I found an awesome Bruce Springsteen book in the value section and I bought the launch issue of Jamie Oliver's magazine. It is BEAUTIFUL!

Then we went to a variety of places shopping for birthday gifts. I didn't buy anything. Until Banana Republic. A while back I told Nate that I really wanted a nice leather brown purse that was fairly plain, had no logos or anything, that I could use everyday. Currently I have this big brown satchel from Target that was nice when I got it, but like ALL Target purses, did not hold up very well. A year and a half of everyday use and it is looking like it's on death row. So we were at BR and Nate says, "Aren't you going to look at anything? You have your birthday card from them". So I said I would look at the sale accessories. And behold I found a perfect brown leather purse. NATE even liked it, that was how perfect it was. It was on major clearance at $47 and was the last one like it around. Nate said that I should get the purse even though I was on the diet because I had been talking about it for months.

The best part was I got up to the counter and after my birthday card and a random extra 10% off they gave me, it was $27. Which was CHEAPER than my crappy Target purse was a year and a half ago. It isn't often that my husband encourages me to buy things so I took full advantage!

There's more unfortunately. I wish I could say the buck stopped there. A few days later, my sister and I were shopping at Goodwill (after I made a huge donation of more stuff from our cleaning binges) and I found a cool pair of green pants. Goodwill even sent me a birthday card for 25% off so I bought the green pants for $4 (post coupon).

Then I had to go to Kohl's to get an iron. I had dropped our iron down the stairs and after that it didn't get hot anymore. I didn't get an iron, but while helping my sister try to find some shoes, I came across these cute black patent wedge sandals for $5.99. UGH - this is exactly why I went on this diet - I cannot resist things like this. I totally rationalized the purchase saying I had donated 4 pairs of shoes to Goodwill so I can get this one pair.

Total extraneous spending for the week: $37. Weird! That is the exact same amount that the tire was!

Valentines' Projects

Admittedly, it is a little late to start in on the Valentine's Projects.

However, here are a few fun things that I have seen in the blogosphere:

Kate Spade has some fun ecards to send.

Design Work Life designed some free "Palentines" to send to your friends. Download them here.

How About Orange has a list of crafty projects.

Twig & Thistle has a cute brownie bag and apple pie carton you can download and print. (You're on your own with the brownies and apple pies)

Creature Comforts has a downloadable tea bag wrapper project.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cheetos may just save the world (Or I had a Bad Day)

Today started off rather well. I found a pair of pants in my closet with the tags still on that I bought when I lived in ATLANTA (read: over 5 years ago). I tried them on and decided they were great and wondered why I hadn't worn them in all of this time!

I got in the car and headed off to work (early for a change).

I have a 2.5 mile commute to the office. At about mile 1.7, I was stopped at a red light and I notice a woman in my rear view mirror get out of her car and run up to me. "Your back tire looks really low" she said. I immediately called Nate who asked if I could get to an auto repair shop at that moment. Since I had an early morning meeting, I couldn't so he told me to just call and see if I could get the tire looked at during lunch.

I got to work, parked and looked at my tire. Sure, it looked a little low, but nothing catastrophic.

I make the trek (15 minute walk) from the parking lot to my office and find out that my 9 AM meeting was cancelled. Oh well, have another one at 10. Make an appointment with a car place for 11:30.

MEANWHILE, I have been on the phone with my eye doctor, my supplemental vision insurance and my glasses provider for the last month because last JULY (yes, over 8 months ago), the eye doctor office messed up the billing coding, causing my supplemental insurance to not pay for my glasses. It will eventually get resolved, but not before I make 30 phone calls to all of these places.

OK...back to the time. My 10:00 meeting ran over so I am HUSTLING back to my car to make it to the repair shop in time for my 11:30 appointment. I get to my car and the tire is completely flat. I call Nate who says, "Call AAA". At that moment, I realize I have ZERO battery left on my phone. Well, enough battery to call AAA before it dies. They tell me to stay by my car, and that they will be there anytime between 11:30 and 1. WHAT?! Now I know WI has had a bit of warm spell this week, but I was NOT about to sit and wait for AAA to show up out by my car for an hour and a half. But I was not thinking clearly so with my last few seconds of air time I called Nate, crying, saying that I now had to sit out in the cold.

Practical husband called the repair shop to tell them I would not be making the 11:30 appointment and called AAA back to ask if they would call my office 10 minutes before they were going to arrive. I trekked BACK to my office to await the call. By this time, I was pretty sweaty b/c all of this trekking in a down winter coat had made me pretty warm.

I am not good at hiding when I am in a bad mood. My co-worker, wonderful woman that she is, made me a card and got me a bag of cheetos. This did cheer me up :)

MEANWHILE, this is what my office has looked like for the past week:

My office usually is super clean but we hired a new person and have done some shuffling around and the movers keep pushing back the date that they were going to move. Well today they showed up so on top of being all sweaty, I am covered in dust from moving files.

Ok...back to the main topic. At 1:00, I get a call from the AAA guy - he is at the gate to our parking structure. The parking structure that you cannot get into without an ID badge. AHHH! So I BUST ASS down the street, sprinting as fast as my pink suede heels will allow to get him my ID badge before he decides to take off. MORE SWEAT. The tire gets changed. ***SIDE NOTE: I DO know how to change a tire, but the new car did not have a kit with a jack, etc***. TREK Back to the office to continue with the dusty files.

Make an appointment at 5 to get the tire repaired. Sit at repair shop for 45 minutes watching crappy TV while tire gets repaired. It turns out THIS (see photo below) was the culprit:


A THREE INCH NAIL.

Thankfully Nate convinced me that going to the gym was still a good idea so I was able to lift a TON today (hence my gross appearance in the above photo). I now am nursing a yummy vodka tonic and waiting for our homemade macaroni and cheese to bake. In times like these, cocktails and comfort food are DEFINITELY warranted.

Here's hoping you had a better day than I.

And if you want to make the macaroni & cheese:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 1-1/2 quart deep baking dish.
Cook 2 cups of elbow macaroni.

Meanwhile, Melt 2 TB butter over medium-low heat, whisk in 2 TB flour and cook for 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in 2 cups milk. Stir in 1/2 medium onion, minced, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp paprika. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat add 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar or colby cheese. Stir in macaroni (after you drain it, of course). Pour half of the mixture in the baking dish, sprinkle 3/4 cup shredded cheese, pour remaining mixture. Top with 1/2 cup more shredded cheese. Melt 1 TB butter and mix in 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top.

Bake for 30 mintues until breadcrumbs are browned.

Source: Joy of Cooking

Book It: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao



If you would like to read this book, please leave a comment and I will randomly pick a person to send it to. I will mail it to residents of the United States only.

Photo Source: Barnes & Noble.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust...


Speaking of Crafts, CRAFT magazine is dunzo as well. BOO. Cross that item off my birthday list!
Photo Source: CRAFT magazine

Birthday Craft Reveal

I've been writing a lot about the time I have been spending on birthday gifts. CD was the first victim of my handmade birthday pledge. Happy Birthday CD!

I put together this stash of items for her:


The first thing was this market bag:

My aunt sent me the directions (from a free Jo-Ann fabrics flyer) to make these bags to take your groceries home. I didn't test it out before I gifted it, but it seemed fairly sturdy with a nice large bottom. Jo-Ann Fabrics has a lot of these free project flyers around the store - keep your eyes open!

The second thing was this sash, which could be a scarf, belt, headband:

The instructions for this were from Amy Butler's In Stitches book. I have commented before that I really like this book - the instructions are really good and detailed, especially if you are a beginner like me. I did run into a bit of a "huh?" with this project because the instructions call for using a zipper foot on your machine. My machine did not come with such a thing so I had to wing it. This is also the first thing I have made with the fabric on the bias!

The third item(s) in the bag were these lavender sachets:

Are you ready for this...I did not use a pattern or instructions for these! I know they are really easy - essentially cutting out squares of fabric and sewing them together, but it was a big step for my type-A instruction loving self. I have gotten lavender from Outpost before but the lavender for these was purchased in Fond du Lac's Village Market when I was visiting my mom. CD says it is really nice smelling!

The last item was the lounge pants:

I have also made (and posted about) these pants before but this pair was a giant improvement. First I added the trim on the bottom, but not how the instructions (from In Stitches) said to (again..branching out!). I also double stitched each seam with a zigzag stitch so they don't fall apart.

I used some Anna Griffin placecards as the tags for the items. I found the placecards when we did the big office organization and initially bought them for no reason other than I thought they were pretty.

There you have it - birthday gift #1!

Also, today is a big day for W&HB as Alex was born! Congrats to them!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fabric Swap!


The Sew Mama Sew Blog is hosting a Fat Quarter Fabric Swap! Sounds like a fun way to get some cool new fabric! Details here.

The blog also has some fun project ideas.

Photo Source: Juicy Bits

Monday, February 9, 2009

And now back to real life...

What a great WARM weekend we had! I ran outside in light clothing 2 days in a row!! woohoo!!

We tried a good ol' WI fish fry at a new place on Friday. The place was cool. The fish fry was not. We are going to give the restaurant one more try with its non-fish fry food. We also rented Wanted. Do not rent this movie it is terrible.

Saturday we did some shopping! (more on this on Friday with the diet recap) and we saw Slumdog Millionaire. I was a little nervous that I my expectations for this movie were too high given the rave reviews it has been getting...but we both loved it. Go see this movie.

Yesterday my sister and I had a craft fest. I continued work on birthday presents and she continued with the freaky hard looking hexagonal quilt that is awesome but gives me a headache just thinking about attempting it.

While we were having the craft fest, Nate puttied holes and touched up paint on the kitchen cabinets that we had missed. I am sure there is a noticeable difference now that he has done this. I just am not picking up on it.

We wrapped up the weekend attempting to master another french recipe from Julia Child: Potato and Leek soup. This is the first recipe of the entire book and very easy. Take 2 quarts of water, 3-4 lbs of potatoes (thinly sliced) and a pound of leeks (thinly sliced) and 1 TB of salt and simmer for 40 minutes. Then take your handy cuisinart hand blender and blend it all together. Remove from heat, add in 6 TB heavy cream, garnish with chives and serve. YUM. (Notice that I am tackling all of the EASY recipes in here first.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Diet Recap: Week 3 Hidden Calories

Starting last weekend, I realized that I spend a fair amount of money on fabric on a regular basis. I'm not concerned with this, just something I never really thought about before I went on "the diet". I then made the decision that I am going to try to hand make all of my birthday gifts this year. (Phew - those of you with January birthdays are safe!) This week I worked on several things and am very happy with this decision so far. I am sure somewhere through the year I will mess something up and have to make an emergency trip to the mall!

I also now have accumulated quite a list of favorite sellers on etsy to indulge my fabric obsession - of course I am withholding...for now.


Sewbettie was also featured in the NY Times article about Domino closing from Wednesday, which as BCK also noted, has some cute fabric.

In other areas, it wasn't a very difficult week mostly because I was home crafting for a lot of it! We did have some amazing dinners last weekend at Roots and La Merenda, which is somewhat of an indulgence but at the same time, we found a gift card from our wedding for Roots while cleaning the office that we simply HAD to use!

I will predict that sometime(s) during the next couple weeks I may fall off the wagon. I have been accumulating lots of coupons for various places due to my approaching birthday, and I don't know that I can let a perfectly good coupon go to waste on account of a diet! ha ha ha.

Speaking of which, isn't Anthropologie's birthday present so so cute?!
Here is the outside:

and the inside contains a 15% off coupon and this:

Sure beats the paper cards that the other stores send!

I may just have to take a closer look at some of those items from the February catalog including these:



Photo Sources: Anna Maria Horner Fabric Pile, Anthropologie.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"It's tough being buff"

We have been working out at the Y for almost 3 months now and I am very impressed that we both have been maintaining a regular workout schedule for the majority of it (there was that 2 week period around Christmas...).

I am very happy with my progress in the weight lifting arena. Thus far I have lifted a total of over 62,000 lbs! Given that I haven't really lifted a weight since we had to for high school basketball, (and really, why was lifting weights a requirement for bench warmers like me?!), I don't really know if that is a good amount or not. I just think of it this way: That's 62,0000 lbs I hadn't lifted before.

It must be having some effect as Nate has noticed my back and arm muscles now when giving me massages. The other morning, after a particularly grueling weight workout, I couldn't get out of bed because I was too sore. I tried to garner some sympathy by stating, "It's tough being buff". All I got was a big laugh.

In other non-running related workout endeavors, my swimming is not progressing as smoothly. Nate has been a great coach and I think that my form has improved due to some foam device that I stick between my thighs (wow..reading THAT out of context is funny). But I think that my runner's lung capacity hasn't really translated to a swimmer's lung capacity. Still working on that one...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Poulet Roti: Mastered



I think I mentioned that I asked for and received Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas. Thus far, I have not made anything, just read through everything. However, tonight post workout, I decided to try the Poulet Roti, or Roast Chicken.

I am not the biggest fan of chicken if I make it typically because I have a tendency to overcook the chicken for fear of salmonella poisoning and because we usually buy chicken breasts. So I bought an organic roaster chicken over the weekend and proceeded with my very first MTAOFC recipe.

Our chicken was 4 lbs, so by the chart on page 240 it would take 1 hour and 15-30 minutes. I warned Nate that we would be eating later than usual due to the cook time and the fact that I did not start any roasting business until after our workout.

An hour and a half later, we carved the chicken and dug in. WOWSA was it DELICIOUS. I'm still a little fearful that I didn't cook it enough, however, I just keep reading, "The French criterion of doneness seems like underdoneness to some American palates" to make myself feel better.

Here it is: Poulet Roti
Julia's wine suggestion: a light red wine, such as a Bordeaux-Medoc, or a rose.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with the salt, and smear in half the butter (1 TB). Truss chicken, dry throughougly and rub skin with the rest of the butter (1 TB).

Place the chicken breast up in the roasting pan. Strew 1 cut up carrot and onion around it, and set it on the rackin the middle of the oven. Allow the chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, turning it on the left side after 5 minutes, on the right side for the last 5 minutes, and basting it with the following: 2 TB melted butter and 1 TB cooking oil. Baste rapidly so oven does not cool off.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Leave the chicken on its side, and baste every 8-10 minutes, using the fat in the roasting pan when the butter and oil are exhausted. Regulate oven heat so chicken is making cooking noises, but fat is not burning.

Halfway through estimated roasting time, salt the chicken and turn it on its other side. Continue basting.

Fifteen minutes before end of estimated roasting time, salt again and turn the chicken breast up. Continue basting.

Indications that the chicken is almost done are: a sudden rain of splutters in the oven, a swelling of the breast and slight puff of the skin, the drumstick is tender when pressed and can be moved in its socket. To check further, prick the thickest part of the drumstick with a fork. Its juices should run clear yellow. As a final check, lift the chicken and drain the juices from its vent. If the last drops are clear yellow, the chicken is definitely done. If not, roast another 5 minutes and test again.

When done, discard trussingn stings and set the chicken on a hot platter. It should sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before being carved, so its juices will retreat back into the tissues.

YUM.

I am in the middle of reading Julie and Julia, after she has cleaned marrow out of a cow bone and tried various aspics. I'm not sure that I will be making EVERY recipe in here, but I enjoyed my first one!

Photo Source: Amazon.com