Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chicken & Artichoke Pie

Obviously a roast chicken has way more meat on it than Nate & I can handle for one dinner. So recipes like the following are great because they use up the leftover chicken.

I am a huge fan of cookbooks and reading them to find recipes for the week. I realize that at some point, most likely after we start having kids, my life will become really hectic and I will fall into a rotation of the same five meals and not have time for the luxury of reading cookbooks. I like making as many different meals as possible and then we vote on whether we would eat it again. This helps weed out a lot of the recipes ripped from magazines as well. If the recipes are in cookbooks, and we love them, they get tabbed.

The following recipe is from Roy Finamore's Tasty cookbook, given to me this past birthday from my bro-in-law, Nick. This is the first thing I made out of it, but if the other recipes are as marvelous as this one, it was a good purchase.

Chicken & Artichoke Pie

For the pastry

1 cup all-purpose flour
grated zest of 1 small lemon (i only used zest from half a lemon)
salt
8 tb (1 stick) butter
cold water

For the filling
3 TB butter
1 onion, chopped
salt
3 TB flour
2 cups chicken stock
pepper
1/4 tsp tarragon
13.75 oz of artichokes (drained and quartered if using canned)
half a leftover roast chicken, skin removed and meat cut into chunks
1/2 pound small red-skinned potatoes, boiled until just tender
3 or 4 large eggs, hard-cooked*** (i did not use these because I wasn't going to add more cooking time onto this - I was hungry)

Milk
coarse sea salt

For the pastry:
Toss flour, salt & zest into food processor. While food processor is running, drop small bits of butter in until you use the whole stick. Add cold water by the tablespoon until dough forms a ball (usually 1-2 TB). Form a disc, wrap in plastic, put in refrigerator for 30 minutes. (I refrigerated it for as long as it took me to prepare the filling, so not quite 30 minutes).

For the filling:
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, pinch of salt and cook until onion is soft and translucent. Spoon in the flour, stir and cook for about 2 mintues, until bubbling. Pour chicken stock, stirring well to dissolve the roux, and bring to a boil. reduce heat, season with salt, pepper & tarragon, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in artichokes, chicken and potatoes. Scrape into gratin dish. Slice eggs, if using, and nestle them into the filling.

Unwrap pastry and roll it on floured surface to a couple of inches larger than your dish. Lay it over the filling an dpush it just along the rim. Brush with milk, sprinkle with sea salt and cut a few vents in it.

Bake at 375 for an hour, until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling.

DO NOT SKIP THE ZEST! It has a wonderful flavor!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great way to spend a Monday Night

Nate was picking weeds in our lawn last night, when our neighbor drove past and asked him if he wanted to go to the Brewers game. Apparently he had two tickets that he was trying to get rid of and it was less than an hour until game time. "Trust me, they're great seats. You will love them."

Nate came running into the house to see if I wanted to go. After I said Yes, he ran out to get the tickets. He came back inside and we realized that we would be sitting in row 4 just to the left of home plate! The tickets were $100 face value EACH! Nate was like a kid on Christmas:


Since we live fairly close to the stadium we were there in no time...just in time to catch a glimpse of Ryan Braun before he launched a homer:


It was a GREAT game full of lots of hits, a few pitches that hit players and a fun crowd. And AMAZING seats never hurt!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kitchen Update

We took a home remodeling class last Thursday night that was given by the OAR group. One of the items they discussed was that home remodeling projects always take longer than you think. Nate and I just gave each other a knowing look. While we never really had a firm timeline for our kitchen, I think we weren't anticipating that it would take one full year. Granted, as friends and family have pointed out, we did 90% of everthing ourselves, did not take time off from work to complete anything, and also did things as our budget would allow, rather than save up a lump sum of money and knock out the project in a shorter time period. We also didn't put pressure on ourselves (until recently) and worked on it when we felt like it in our spare time. This worked for us, as we never really had a non-working kitchen, except for the overnight period before the countertop guys came. It also felt more manageable from a budget perspective too, since we could save up incrementally and still manage to have "fun money" at the same time. At some point, when the project is finally done, I will have to continue this "lessons learned" reflection.

Now, for the point of this post: an update. Remember our kitchen list that we made before the project started last spring? Yeah, I almost didn't either. It hasn't made an appearance on this blog since Dec 26.

This is the list that was posted 12/26/08:

  1. Sand cabinents, wood putty any existing holes

  2. Prime cabinets

  3. Paint cabinets

  4. Change cabinet hardware

  5. Change countertops

  6. Install sink and garbage disposal

  7. Install subway tile backsplash

  8. New flooring in foyer, kitchen, dining room

  9. Remove upper cabinets that divide kitchen & dining area

  10. New range/oven (our last appliance to buy!)

  11. New pantry doors

  12. New light fixtures

  13. Install roman shade in window



Since I haven't really looked at the list since then, I noticed that there have been some modifications to this list:
First, item #8 re: flooring may be cut from the list, or delayed. Our flooring is in good shape. It originally made the list because, aesthetically I didn't like it because it contributed to the cave-like feeling one got while being in the kitchen. However, I'm not thinking it is so terrible now that the kitchen is whiter and brighter. It would be more budget-friendly at this point to keep it.

Item #11, re: new pantry doors. I think I did blog about this, but basically the space to our pantry is odd (like everything else in our house) so that standard doors will not fit. And the pretty bi-fold doors that I originally wanted will also not work. We made the decision to paint the existing doors and change out the doorknob and hardware instead of investing in brand new doors. Again, the existing doors were in fine condition, I just wanted an aesthetic change.

There are items to ADD to the list - one being a New Microwave. As you can see in the picture below, our existing microwave is centered from the cabinets, but NOT centered over the oven. To made our tiling job easier, and also because we have decided that it will look better, we are going to get a microwave to match our other appliances and move it to center over the oven. We ordered our new microwave yesterday and it should be here by 5/11.


The other item we need to add to the list is to install gas valve. We have our eye on a gas range/oven and we have a capped gas hookup behind our exisiting electric range/oven. However, in order to use this hookup, we need to install a shut off valve before HD can deliver the oven/range. They will not do this for us. So we are going to have the guy who installed our faucet and garbage disposal install this for us. We figured his $20/hour labor charge was worth investing in rather than risk blowing up our house.

Our revised list now looks like this:

  1. Sand cabinents, wood putty any existing holes

  2. Prime cabinets

  3. Paint cabinets

  4. Change cabinet hardware

  5. Change countertops

  6. Install sink and garbage disposal

  7. Install subway tile backsplash

  8. Install new microwave

  9. Remove upper cabinets that divide kitchen & dining area

  10. Install gas shut off valve

  11. New range/oven

  12. Paint pantry doors and install new door hardware

  13. New light fixtures

  14. Make and install roman shade in window

Weekend Update

We took full advantage of the HOT (80+ degrees) weather on Friday night to go to the Tosa Art Walk. We didn't get any art but did get some olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Oro di Olivio, where we took the olive oil tasting class last year. YUM. (BTW, I did not use this olive oil to clean the paint off my purse - Trader Joe's brand worked just fine, and is much more economical!)

Saturday brought early morning spinning for me, raquetball for Nate, errands and a lot of rain. We had to go to the mall to pick up my dress from the tailor, and we were hungry. Nate was slightly surprised (apppalled?!) that I hadn't experienced such mall food court treasures as Steak Escape and Auntie Anne's pretzels, so we dined at both. We also continued tiling the kitchen. No, we are not done yet. My math brain was not in my head that night - I made several measurement errors so it didn't take long for me to pronounce, "I (BLEEP) hate tiling". This is the cue for Nate to suggest stopping tiling for the evening.

Sunday the rain continued. After church we made some great paninis, and headed to the library book sale where we got a HUGE bag of books for $2! I would estimate we got 15-20 books. Then we headed to Lowe's to purchase our microwave, which we need to have before we can finish the tiling. We asked, "Are microwaves usually in stock or will we need to order it?". "Oh, they are most always in stock", replied Mr. Lowes. We point out which microwave we want and OF COURSE the one we want is not in stock so 2 more weeks we will wait. We have less than one month to finish the kitchen in under a year. (D-Day is May 23).

We got home and realized that we had a new water feature in our yard - a waterfall! We had so much rain that the side of our garage had a lake that eventually pushed through the flower bed rock to form a waterfall into our driveway. We couldn't really find the cause of all the flooding in our yard, so we had to just let it go. I hope my daffodils still bloom!

The weekend was wrapped up with another Poulet Roti, a rosted tomato caprese salad, and seven episodes of Weeds. Season 2. We recently discovered this show and are now addicted (pun intended).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy #3 Toni!

Today is my one and only niece's 3rd birthday!


I can't believe that she is three years old. It seems like just yesterday that I was getting back to my Vegas hotel room with Sneeder & Tara and I got the call that she was on the way!


Failed...and a little light headed

Well, folks, I did NOT donate blood this morning.

I woke up, had some food, drank a whole thing of water and was feeling pretty good. I got called to the booth and managed to stay upright for the finger stick test and vital signs. I thought this was a good sign! They put me in the chair, rubbed iodine on me and that was it. The cold sweats, light-headedness came on and I managed to mumble, "I don't feel so good". They got me back before I actually passed out but had to lay there for a good 45 minutes with a cold compress and sipping some coke. I still don't feel all that great.

I wanted to get out of that room STAT - watching all those other people's blood drain out was not helping my process. I started thinking it was a little strange that they even made queasy people stay in that room.

I'm sure I'm already in the group that will be receiving the "You're Still a Hero" letter.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Belated Earth Day

I received this email today:

Earth Day may be over, but there's always time to be eco-friendly. Don't know where to start? Today you can download a free copy of Grist magazine's humorously helpful book, Wake Up and Smell the Planet, when you register online. Armed with tips on greening everything from your office to video games, you'll be fast friends with planet Earth.

You have to register by the end of today to get the free book download. Click on the book title above to get more details.

T minus 23 hours

24 hours from now, my blood drive appointment will be over!

Thanks for all of the comments and emails. BCK even had a bunch of tips for me that I am going to follow. If you are interested in blood donation, click here to read them. My favorite suggestion of hers was to bring a book to distract myself while it is going on so I don't stare at it. Good thing I am in the middle of a good book right now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Turn Your Husband into a Fashion Critic

I mentioned that over the weekend we went through my clothes stash and made some major cuts. I was a little nervous doing this with my husband - I really just figured he would tell me to get rid of it all, and then upon seeing how many clothes I really have, would discourage all future purchases.

I am happy to admit I was wrong.

Nate ended up being GREAT at going through clothes. We dragged all 4 rubbermade totes out of the crawl space that housed my spring/summer clothes and proceeded to make "Definitely, Yes"; "Maybe Not" and "Definitely NOT" piles. I realized that I had a lot of halter tops, tank tops, tube tops, etc that in recent years have never even gotten worn. And I definitely would not be sporting that stuff to work! Thus, we have a huge lawn bag for my sister to go through the next time she stops over at our house. I hope this is soon, because when i see it sitting there, I am tempted to rifle through it and grab out a few things.

We also went through my shoes. I love my shoes, but there were definitely pairs that haven't been worn in years. Yet another bag of stuff! Goodwill is going to be pleased!

Of course I always keep more than I should, so I am going to make a concerted effort to monitor what of the keep pile I actually wear in the coming months. Anything that does not get worn this summer is heading out in the fall!

I have been looking for a few "more professional" items to have in my closet. I don't need to wear suits and professional stuff every day to work, but occassionally, there is a presentation or day that calls for it. It is definitely harder to shop when you are looking for specific items. I am definitely more of a deal/clearance shopper, thus leading to purchases of randomness that I don't necessarily need. Thus, our last few shopping trips have been focused on the work wear. Over the weekend, I got this cute dress that Nate found:

(I think the model is making it look more sexy/less professional than it looks on me.) The best part was the dress was on super clearance! The one problem i found with it was one of the belt loops was broken. I pointed this out to the sales clerk, hoping to get an additional percentage off, but she referred me to Frank the Tailor who said the exisiting belt loops were crap and was going to fashion new ones for me FOR FREE! Why don't I shop at department stores more often? So my fully lined, Calvin Klein dress ended up costing me $50. The best part is that both Nate & I thought it was relatively classic so that it won't go out of style too soon.

So when did my husband turn into such a fashion ally?? My advice to you: Get your husband to start watching What Not To Wear with You. In no time, he will be dishing out style advice left and right, help you whittle your wardrobe and find outfits that are great!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blood Drive!

I think donating blood is a very good thing. I have done this exactly once in my life, despite several attempts. I have this fear of needles/blood that really is getting beyond ridiculous. I attempted to give blood at our blood drive last year and passed out from the FINGER STICK test. Really. They had to shout "Wheelchair, Wheelchair" and transport me to a cot that was literally 2 feet away via wheelchair. I kept saying that it would be easier for me to get there without the wheelchair due to the close proximity but that was met with, "This is standard protocol. We HAVE to transport you to the cot via wheelchair."

Then as if that wasn't embarrasing enough, I got a letter in the mail from the blood center a few days later proclaiming, "YOU'RE STILL A HERO", convincing me to try donating again.

Here we are one year later and I got the reminder postcard in the mail. I just called to make my appointment for this Friday morning. Here's hoping all goes well. I am determined to give them my blood!

2009 Boston Marathon!

Today is the 113th running of the Boston Marathon! Days like this I love that I work in front of a computer for most of the day so i can track Kara Goucher. MKD sent me this great clip that I guarantee will motivate anyone to get out there and run (even if it is cloudy, gray and rainy like the current weather here in Wisco).

I can't believe it was two years ago that I ran Boston. Seems crazy how time flies! My mom, Aunts Jennifer & Jackie had a great time in the weekend leading up to the race.


And now...back to athlete tracking...

POST RACE UPDATE: WOW! KG took 3rd. The last 10k was beyond exciting to watch! Maybe now Nike will sell those awesome armbands!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A great weekend

I took a day of vacation on Friday because work has made me very frazzled over the past couple of weeks. Turns out it was a perfect day for a day off - it was 70 degrees! I got up when Nate left for work, continued on a sewing project with some coffee, went out for a run/walk, went to the library, and read some of my book. Lovely! Friday night we washed our windows - the winter makes them so gross and literally black, made some risotto and watched a movie.

Saturday morning I tried spinning for the first time bright and early. Rolling out of bed at 6:20 on a Saturday morning to get my a** kicked by a stationary bike might not be my normal idea of fun, but my boss talked me into it. I actually really liked it, although, like swimming, my body does not adapt well to non-running exercise. I feel like I could easily go out and run for an hour, but one lap in a pool or 5 minutes on a bike and I am dying. I made it through spin and am now going to try to go to one or two classes per week.

Saturday was another lovely 70 degree day where we finally saw our daffodils bloom! We also planted a lot of grass (more on that mid-week), hung our bedding outside (NOTHING beats the smell of the sun!), cleaned and aired out the entire house and made a lot of great food including eggs florentine omelets, homemade chocolate pudding (recipe below), and cobb salad, the ingredients to which made excellent paninins the next day.

THEN today it rained. All day. Sigh. The good news is that Nate helped me go through all of my clothes and shoes and i have a big bag of shoes and a monster lawn bag full of clothes to donate. It is amazing how much more room is in our closet! We watched Alex for a few hours tonight and he also helped us with the clothes. He finally convinced to me to get rid of the orange halter top. Thanks Alex! Check out the little cutie:


Here is the pudding recipe. Trust me - homemade pudding is so worth it.

Vanilla Pudding - America's Test Kitchen

3/4 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups half and half
3 large eggs yolks
1 TB butter
1 TB vanilla

**We made chocolate - so if you are so inclined, the recipe changes slighlty to 4 tsp cornstarch, 2 TB dutch processed cocoa powder and 6 oz melted chocolate (we used a combination of bittersweet and 60% cocao). You also need to reduce the vanilla to 2 tsp.

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt (and cocoa powder if making chocolate) in a medium sauce pan. Slowly whisk in half and half and then egg yolks. (If making chocolate, melt the 6 oz chocolate and pour in after egg yolks).

2. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking gentrly but constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and coats the back of a spoon.

3. Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, scraping the inside of the strainer with a rubber spatula to pass the pudding through. Stir the butter and vanilla into the pudding until the butter is melted. Pour into ramekins. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hungry?

Right on the tail of me finishing AVM, Bittman goes and posts this. Love it. Maybe my love of Bittman biased my opinion slightly (which is what Nate would say).

Last night, this recipe from fresh365 was calling our names. We had a great workout, spread some mulch in the yard and made this. This is so easy it shouldn't really be a "recipe" and indeed I wrote down the ingredients and that is it. We added kalamata olives to it and used parmesan instead of asiago. It was delish.

Nate turned my dense, ugly loaf of bread into some wonderful garlic bread. I might just have to keep messing up bread around here!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Frankly, my dear..."



If I were still living in the ATL, NO DOUBT I would be heading to the Fox Theater this Sunday for the showing of Gone With the Wind to celebrate it's 70th anniversary.

There are other events commemorating the big 7-0 listed here.

Guess I'll have to settle for popping in my GWTW DVD.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on cooking...

Well, we still ate the pie last night. It was like eating lemon pudding at least and not lemon soup. I think I am going to try a new recipe. Damn, I am going to Master the Art of the Lemon Meringue pie if it kills me!

I also finished Animal Vegetable Miracle. You are probably thinking, "good - we can finally stop reading about it on this blog!". I gave it 3 stars on my GoodReads profile. Overall, liked parts of the book and I think it is worth reading. I didn't love it though and as I have said before, Kingsolver just came off as very preachy in parts which I didn't like. My reaction may be shaped by my prior expectations, which happens with me a lot. I expected the book more to be a memoir of their year of raising thier own food, including trials, mishaps, funny stories, successess, etc. I felt like most of the book was actually trying to persuade readers that you are evil if you don't eat local foods and grown your own food. I also think that she made the whole thing seem so easy to have a farm and glorified it rather than portrayed it realistically. My family members are farmers so I know that it isn't all the glory of canning tomatoes and waiting for turkeys to hatch (which was my favorite part of the whole book). Anyways, those are my thoughts, and I say them as someone who agrees with and see the benefits of the local food movement and likes cooking versus eating out, even if I did threaten to only eat Lean Cuisine with my last post. :) I am curious to check out Food Matters by Bittman and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Pollan to compare.

I did read about a great food blog - fresh365. I definitely recommend checking it out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My middle name is NOT Julia Child



I was all excited to post today about fulfilling one of my resolutions to successfully make a lemon meringue pie. It was Easter last year when my first attempt failed miserably and I had lemon soup (to which my amazing brother and husband still slurped it up for me).

I was boosted by the fact that last week I mastered rice pudding, another one of my cooking failures. For you fans of rice pudding, the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook has a simple no fail stovetop method that produces rich creamy delicious pudding.

SOOOOOOOO...last night I decided that I was going to re-make the pie because my dad and his girlfriend are coming over for dinner tonight before the Brewers Game. My pie crust went much smoother this year due to the fact that I now own this awesome food processor. I rolled it out and baked it. Woohoo things are going great!

Then I start on the filling. I set microwave timers for each part of the process so as to follow the recipe to a T. My eggs temper beautifully and i can tell that the filling is definitely thicker than last time. NO runny soup here! The smell of lemons fills the air of our kitchen. Ok that last line was for drama - it really didn't smell like lemons - it smelled like paint because Nate was working on the pantry doors and offering encouragement as I whisked and stirred.

The filling definitely resembled a pudding as I poured it into the baked pie crust. I put it in the fridge, watched a movie and then checked it. IT DID NOT SET. Granted, this is an improvement over last year's soup. At least I have pudding this year. We have not eaten it yet. I don't expect to come home to work to some magically set pie.

While I stewed at Martha, I read Bittman's great post on TV cooks vs home cooks. I emailed this to my mom lamenting about the pie. She suggested looking at a different recipe to see if the ingredients are off or something. So I looked up the recipe on Martha's website and LORD ALMIGHTY. I should have done this after last year's mishap and all would not be lost. It turns out other people also had the same issues and the trick is that you have to boil the filling for much longer than indicated and you have to make sure it gets to a certain temperature. WHERE WAS THIS INFORMATION IN THE RECIPE? It did not exist.

Lesson: READ THE COMMENTS after recipes if available!

In other cooking failures, I also retried making bread last night. If you want a picture of how loaf #2 turned out, look here. That's right folks, absolutely nothing different about the visual results of loaf #2 compared to loaf #1. Breamachine: 2, Amy: 0. Nate and I may be eating Lean Cuisines from now on.

Photo: Courtesy of Associated Press, via Bitten

Schlotty Couture Signs Miles Heintz for Modeling Contract

Schlotty Couture received a big surprise - some professional shots of the Schlocks! I will be working on the format over the next couple of days to include as many of the great shots that I can. For some strange reason, the format of this blog and that blog does not work the same so I have am having trouble moving photos around. If MLH can't sell Schlocks, no baby can! Kudos to RDD Photo for the excellent shots. I can't resist this sneak peek:

Head over to Schlotty Couture for more great shots!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Marley & Me: SOBFEST

I knew I was in for a tear jerker.

I still rented and put the DVD in the player.

I am not sure there is a facial mask that will rid me of the puffiness and blotchy red spots that I am suffering due to a full half hour of intense sobbing.

Oh...and our throw pillows are covered with my snot.

Here I go again...Consider yourself warned.

Google and Olive Oil: A Marriage Saver



Nate: "Honey do we have any leather cleaner"

Me: "Why do you need leather cleaner?"

Nate: "Um...I might have gotten some white paint on your purse."

Me: "WHAT? By purse do you mean my Westchester purse from Banana Republic that I got for $27.99 even though it is still $140 on ebay"? {OK, so i didn't really say all of that.}

Nate: "Yes, that's the one. S*%&, I'm sorry."

Luckily he found out (via a Google search) that olive oil saved some woman's jimmy choo purse and so we tried it on mine and it works! No more white paint on the purse and no leather discolorations! Did I mention that I totally LOVE the Internet?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I am pooped. We had quite the weekend and got a TON of stuff done around the house.

THE YARD
We bought some mulch to fill our flower beds/garden with. Our mulch was looking a little sad last year but we never did anything about it so this year they got a makeover. Additionally, we replaced our sump pump hose. Nate also scrubbed our deck. It was looking greenish and so we did some research on the Internet. Turns out that oxygenated bleach (aka Oxiclean) is recommended. It worked like a charm! I really wish I had taken a before and after picture but I wasn't really thinking. You'll have to trust me on this one. The back of the oxi-clean bucket tells you what proportion of oxiclean and water to use.

Our daffodils are THIS CLOSE to blooming! Exciting!

THE HOUSE
We took down the pantry doors, sanded, primed and painted them, and rehung them with some new hinges. We have yet to paint the trim around the doors or put a final coat on them, but huge improvement to a side of the kitchen we tend NOT to photograph:


We also tried baked eggs for dinner. I read about the recipe on Angry Chicken . Here they are before going into the oven:


I also made some bread to go with our baked eggs. I was inspired by two things: 1) Steven Hopp's essay on homemade bread in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where he tells you to dig out the old breadmaker and use it; and 2) Nate threatening to take the breadmaker to Goodwill because I never use it. This second item is true. I have had the breadmaker since high school and I probably have made Nate bread one time in the seven years that I have known him. So I dusted it off, found the manual, bought some bread flour and got set to make bread. Our kitchen was smelling GLORIOUS. The beeper went off and this is what we had:


It's ok. You can laugh - we certainly did. Bring out the troubleshooting section of the manual. It turns out that I must have let the liquid touch the yeast, rendering it useless. Hence, the funny loaf of bread that you see here. We still ate the entire thing with our baked eggs and it still was delicious.

I repotted some of our house plants that were outgrowing their pots. I'll have to take pictures of them at a different time. While doing this I noticed that my basil has sprouted!!! I was very excited!


HOBBIES

I also went for a long-ish run (8.05 miles...I'm at the point where I count the .05 - my half marathon is less than 3 weeks away!) and started a new sewing project. I had to take a break from knitting because my wrist sort of hurt! I know...I have a craft-induced injury. This also cracks me up. I am almost certain they don't have an MMWR on that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Orla Kiely Sale at Shoo


orla kiely fans - bags and wallets are 30% off at Shoo through Easter Sunday.

AND...if you enter the code SPRING25 you can get another 25% off your entire purchase from the site.

This means that the multi-cross bag (pictured above) which regularly is $175 would be $96.75.

Alas...my budget is more the Orla Kieley for Target line but thought I'd share something from one of MKE's cool stores!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hair Couture

Two quick updates:

1. I decided that my hat did not look quite finished enough so I added a button to the center of the flower. It is NOW officially done.


2. I WON a complimentary cut & color at Erik of Norway from last week's Laura Mercier Event at Blush! SWEET! I do not color my hair (nor do I plan to start) but will take a free posh haircut anyday! I guess it paid to get the complimentary flat iron touch up! I have been toying with cutting my hair really short a la Winona below. Maybe this will be an incentive to do so??

Hat is Done!

I finished knitting my hat last night!

It was a rough start, but once I got the correct needles, I was off! Nate brought home the double pointed needles from the yarn shop tonight (gotta love a husband that will go into the yarn shop for you!) so I could finish it.

I am really proud of this thing -




I thought it didn't look girly enough so I made a little flower yo-yo for the brim:




Voila! From dishrag to baby hat. Hopefully it fits Little Miss EBH.
Pattern Used: I made the lace cuff version included in this pattern.

Next up: a wool diaper cover for Little Miss Sarah.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hammer Time: Can't Touch This




I really can't believe MC Hammer pants are back in. I don't care if anthropologie is selling them or JLo is wearing them, I am not in on this trend.

I gave Hammer pants their fair shot when i was in second grade. My mom made me not one but two pairs - one a blue material with pictures of jewels on them and one a purple paisley. Those things were awesome. In fact, many moms called my mom to get the pattern to make them. It was the only time in grade school that I was remotely cool. Probably because my metamorphosis of looking like a boy was not yet complete at that time...but that's another story for another day. The patterns for such pants are still around if you want to venture out and make some.

What are your thoughts on hammer/harem pants?

More reading material on this subject featured at The Cut: Are you Excited or Terrified by Harem Pants?

Home on the Range

Last night we went to Home Depot because the stove/oven that we have had our eye on was apparently on sale. We discovered long ago that the HD closest to our house was useless, except for appliances. I swear that everyone else must have failed HD training and got sent to this HD. The appliance guy, on the other hand, is great. We have bought all of our appliances through him and he has proved to be very knowledgable about a lot of different appliances. This is why we continue to go to this HD.

Well last night we had a short window of time to go to HD and it happened to coincide with the lunch break of the appliance guy. Thus we got someone that I am sure may have failed 8th grade a few times. She could not answer any of our questions pertaining to the stove or the microwave. Instead, she Googled GE and read us the website, which didn't really reveal anything we didn't know because we had already done that at home. Thus we did not buy any appliances because we did not have confidence that she knew how to order them. Grrr!

Before we have the range delivered, we have to install a on/off valve to our gas pipe. This is one project we are not doing ourselves for fear of blowing up our house. We are going to have the same guy who installed our sink do it. For the $20/hour he charges, it is worth it.

In more exciting news, we met Emelia last night! She is a cutie and looks very pretty in pink. Good thing I made her some pink and green Schlocks!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ANIMAL VEGETABLE It will be a MIRACLE if I finish this book

I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and am halfway through it. It has been SLOW going for me, but all nonfiction usually is because I don't usually read nonfiction. Basically the book is successfully making me feel guilty about food. I didn't buy bananas the other day because I knew that they were from far away. Ditto with the pineapple.

I would love to live on some farm and raise all the food I would eat. Scratch that. No I would not. We are going to try container gardening this summer and see how it goes, but basically I am just really not into gardening or raising plants. I forget about them. I groan when they require me to do something to care for them. (Our houseplants are proof of that, although we are trying again with some new cuttings from famiily members). Our flower beds get a weeding once a summer whether they need it or not, ha ha ha errr...it's true. Asthetically I like plants...I just do not enjoy the work that goes with them. Wah. I'm a baby, I know. Some people find gardening relaxing. I am not one of those people.

While we aren't going to quit shopping at the grocery store for a lot of our food, turn our yard into one monster garden, start slaughtering chickens or stop eating Edy's Thin Mint ice cream, we have started to try to pay more attention to where our food comes from. Nate works with a woman that DOES garden and produces a lot of food. We are going to start using her for as many of our fruits and vegetables that we can. Tomorrow she is bringing us lettuce. Given that she just brings it to work, it actually makes the process of shopping EASIER for us.

In addition to that, Nate's bank passed out free seeds for tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes that we planted indoors and are hoping will grow. We also planted some basil, cilantro and lavender from seed and are awaiting it's arrival. We successfully planted and used homemade herbs from our yard last summer so I'm hoping to do the same this summer. There has even been talk of purchasing a half cow from a local farmer for our chest freezer downstairs.

As for the book....the jury's still out on what I think about it. I like the recipes and the little tidbits from Kingsolver's husband and daughter. The book is interesting but at times feels really preachy to me, but again I am only halfway through it. Perhaps I should read more nonfiction.

Apologies if you read an earlier version of this post and it had the book incorrectly titled as Animal Vegetable MINERAL. As Dwight Schrute would say, that is false.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Addendum to Weekend Highlights

Geez...there were too many highlights that I forgot a few.

We upgraded our cookware this weekend! A few weeks ago, Nate mentioned that we should start looking at new pots. The pots we had were my mom's old Pampered Chef set, which served me well through undergrad, grad school, and several years post. One started to leak and none of them really sit level anymore. So we added new pots to our never-ending to-buy for the house list. We found some great ones at Marshall's Home Goods on Saturday. We went there to buy dress socks for Nate and came out with 4 new anonized stainless steel pots in a variety of sizes! They have performed very well in the two meals we have made in them thus far. I was amazed to see all that Marshall's had to offer in terms of cookware, including many name brands. We were very pleased with our find.

We also went to the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo. This did not prove to be as great as we were expecting. I will say that neither Nate nor I are bike gurus. He has a bike and I do not. Obviously, if we do a triathlon this summer, I will need a bike. We also have great bike trails around our house that we never take advantage of. So basically I need a bike that I can cruise around with my husband during a Saturday morning bike ride. The bikes at the Bike Expo were in the range of $6500. Um, we traded our VW Golf CAR in for a third of that. I have no doubt that they are great bikes, but I really don't think I can go from no bike to a $6500 one. The search is still on...

Weekend Highlights

The number one best thing about this past weekend is that we did NOT get the 2-6" of snow they predicted. We did not get ANY snow! WOOHOO!

It still is way too cold for my tastes though.

The weekend brought us a lot of busy-ness. The woman at blush gave me a "flawless face" and flat-ironed my hair (complimentary). After that I was the chauffer for Nate and 4 of his friends from Madison. Fun times - I really don't think I have laughed that hard in a while. The only bad thing is that MKE bars are not smoke free so my great hair didn't last more than one night due to the smell.

Saturday brought us a very clean house and cars. We had all the windows open despite it being only 45 degrees, rotated the mattress and hung the sheets out to dry. How wonderful is the smell of line-dryed laundry?! I was sad to see UConn lose...my bracket was officially toast. No $500 for me :(

Sunday we accompanied my sister, Alex, Wade & Holly to the Art Museum for Art in Bloom . The event features floral exhibits that are inspired by works of art. It is amazing. Even at 2 months old, Alex had some favorites, including the painting of the cows.

AND...yesterday brought the last of the March babies...in April! Yes, she was a little late, but Emelia Brielle arrived yesterday! Congrats Mike & Carissa!

We ended the weekend with wine, a cheese platter and some ranunculus.



Friday, April 3, 2009

Diet: The Final Recap

Not only is the year 1/4 over, the spending diet officially ended March 31!

Do you know how I celebrated?

I went shopping.

Not intentionally...which is the worst kind. I had to go to the mall yesterday to return some pants that I ordered online from Banana Republic. Why oh why are lined dress pants such a problem to find?

I returned the pants and found several pairs of tights on clearance at BR. I usually stock up on tights at the end of the season because they are obviously much cheaper. I have found BR tights to be very nice for my height and frame. I bought 4 pairs. Over the past couple of months I have destroyed a couple of pairs of tights that went into the garbage. I got rid of 2 more pairs last night so now I am even with black and brown tights.

You may be thinking, "Well that's not so bad...one might even consider tights a necessity and you waited to buy them until they were on clearance".

Yes. But I did not stop there.

I went into Victoria's Secret. I had returned the awful PINK underwear (the UNWORN pairs) so I can't use that as an excuse. I simply went in there to use a free coupon I had for some lotion. They deliberately put the cashier in the back so you have to walk past the "Buy 1 Get 1 Free on our Best-Selling Bras". Well it just so happens that the bras that were on this sale were exactly the same as one that I was wearing...well past it's expiration date. I bought 2. $50 spent there. One cool thing that they are doing at VS now is giving away gift cards that may have $10, $50, $100, or $500 on them. I did not know about this but I got one of the cards. I know it will only have $10 on it, but a girl can dream, right?

Ok, again...this is not so bad. I have been needing to get some new bras. I did go home and got rid of not 2 bras but 6 bras. (Yes, it has been a long time since I cleaned out my dresser!).

Again, it did not stop there.

Now this did not cost me anything, but I will risk my shame to tell you a funny story. I have this card for the Aerie store, which is basically the American Eagle equivalent to Gap Body. I stood in line for a good 10 minutes behind about 13 12-year old girls who also have the same card to get a free body spray. Do you know how much of a loser you feel like when you are basically in line with people less than half your age just to get a free sample? Let me tell you...

I should have just left the mall with my bras and tights. But I still would like to find some work pants for winter (again I have waited to buy these b/c I know they will all be on clearance right now). So I went into J.Crew. They had a few pairs of pants but none in my size. Did I leave the store? OF COURSE NOT! Not when there is a uber cute orange jacket ($29.99) and hot pink tulip dress ($19.99) on the rack! SOLD! I walked out of there dropping another $50. I honestly was thinking, well maybe I'll take them back. Nate will talk me out of these things when I get home.

Then I officially left the mall.

I got home and Nate did not talk me out of the things - he actually liked them! So today I sit here blogging wearing my new orange jacket :)

So what the heck did the spending diet even teach me anyway?

I really have cut my impulse buys down, especially from Target. I will always have a weakness for dresses and free samples. I don't think I will ever be cured from that!

In non-clothes areas, we have become much better about using up what we have in the house before buying other stuff. After cleaning out our linen closets, pantry, and the office, we realized how much extra stuff we have. And we are STILL using soap, shampoo and conditioner samples up!

We have started to use the library more for videos. We cancelled our Netflix subscription shortly before Christmas and it really has freed us up from the TV. We still watch movies, but will get them from the library (we are lucky that ours has a great selection) or Redbox.

I also have stopped impulse buying makeup. Those aisle ends of baskets of lip glosses and nail polishes at Target? No more for me! Again, after cleaning out my caboodles, i was happy not to fill them back up with useless makeup. I have not yet regretted getting rid of my green sparkly eye shadow!

I AM excited for my free Laura Mercier makeover with my BF and new homeowner JS though. How could one not be excited for makoevers and champagne? TGIF!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2009: One Quarter Done?!

Time flies. I meant to do this yesterday but I was home sick and didn't move more than 2 inches from the couch. Now that 2009 is a quarter of the way over, I revisited my new year's resolutions to see how they were going:

1. Start logging my running miles. I have been doing this. My system is not the best - I take advantage of the electronic system at the Y if I do my run at the gym and i have this notebook at home if I do not do my run at the gym.

2. Do a triathlon. Given that we are still dealing with snow here in WI, we obviously have not done this yet. Nate & I still are talking like we are doing one towards the end of the summer, though.

3. Clean and organize our closets and get rid of at least a quarter of my clothes and shoes. Have not done this yet. I am waiting to do this when I switch my fall/winter clothes over to my spring/summer ones. And I'll admit...I'm not excited about this one!

4. Read 30 books. 30 books in one year equals 2.5 books a month. To date I have finished 9 books since January 1. 21 more to go!

5. Retry making the Lemon Meringue Pie and some Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipes. I have not done the LMP yet but have made and blogged about some MTAOFC recipes. We started the year out fairly strong with MTAOFC but backed off a bit when we realized how much butter we were eating.

6. Send 52 letters/cards to friends/family instead of email. Have not even remembered that I put this one on the list!

7. Learn to knit. CHECK! Nate actually came home with some bamboo circular needles the other day so I was able to restart my hat with the correct needles. I am really liking it so far (it only took me 3 starts!). I got a book entitled DomiKNITrix from the library so sometimes he will refer to me as that.

8. Make the skirt on the cover of Stitch magazine. Not done. I still am afraid to take the plunge into making my own clothes.

9. VACATION! No definite plans yet...all talk.

Overall not bad progress in three months.

Now for the house resolutions:

1. The kitchen gets finished We looked back on the blog the other day and found out that we started the kitchen on May 23 of last year. Our goal is to have it done before May 23 of this year. Nate finished grouting last night and sealed the other spots. He is the tile master!

2. We replace all of the heat vent covers. I think we only have one of these left - the office.

3. We figure out what the bathroom upstairs will become. Provided that we meet goal #1, we may start this during the summer.

4. Do a better job landscaping. Not a lot we could be doing right now with this but we did buy some seeds for some vegetables and planted some herbs indoors. We'll see how that goes.

5. Get the piano moved from my in-laws to our house. Check! We have been proud owners of the piano for a month now.