Friday, August 22, 2014

Brick House Party

It's been a long time since I've taken time to post, but life, blah blah, you don't care; it's boring. Pregnant again, some more. This time it's a girl. Anywho. I'm back. This summer we were gone for H's birthday and between friends' vacation schedules and other availability I'm having his party a month late. Sooo...I thought I'd finally post about his last birthday.

I had a lot of fun planning a simple Lego-themed party. Pinterest is awash with crazy complex cakes and ideas, but I just don't have the time or patience to work with fondant so the cake I made (following this tutorial) ended up looking really, really sad but the kids thought it was fun. That's what matters, right? RIGHT?!

The Lego Candles really take the cake, right? Punny.

The cupcakes were the Best White Cake {Ever} recipe (and it really is) with simple buttercream frosting, and I made yellow mini-figures using candy melts and these molds, plus pure candy melt bricks out of the second mold in the set. They're silicone so they clean up really easily, which is always a plus for me.

Instead of filling the pinata with candy, I bought the big box of Lego Bricks and filled it with that...which was kind of a disaster when the legos flew everywhere on my patio but, again, the kids loved it and they got them all, so it was fine. It wasn't until the moment right before it busted open, however, that I realized what I'd done by filling it with tiny pieces. Ah well, live and learn.

After gathering their legos with lightning speed and playing outside for a bit, they brought their sweaty selves in for some cake, presents and lego-building with the leftover time. 

The one thing I didn't take a picture of, was the gift bag; it was cheap and easy. Just the way I like it. Instead of buying a bunch of colored handle bags, I busted out my package of 4,000 count brown paper lunch sacks, went through my paper stash and found primary colored card stock (which you could buy and it'd still be cheaper than buying colored bags) and cut a rectangle the same size as the front of the bag and affixed it with glue. Then punch out six to eight 1-or 2-inch circles with a large circle punch like this one, which you can usually find at a craft store with a coupon, and affix them to the front with 3-d foam squares so that they look like the studs on the Lego bricks. Boom, cheapo goody bags. In the bags I put a couple of the candy bricks in a melamine bag and they got to put their pinata haul in it for the rest of the goody. I'm not big on doing a huge gift bag for each person, but it's nice to have the bag for them to put candy or treats in if you're doing a pinata.
My bags were based on this idea...but cheaper ;)
That's really all I did. It doesn't have to be fancy to be fun!

This year Henry has request a Red Velvet Cake with Ice Cream filling for his birthday party. Thank the lord for Pinterest. 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Buy You a Penny Lick

For my fellow Downton Abbey fans, the Penny Lick shawl gets its name from one of the last lines of season four when Bates offers to buy Anna a penny lick as a peace offering after a season of tension and brooding between them. Plus, I'm like a twelve year old and it sounded kind of dirty, so...

Jimmy Beans Wool hosted a mystery knitalong for this season of Downton Abbey, the result of which was this beautiful and cozy shawl that I knit from Pepperberry Knits 100% cashmere in a retired colorway Mixed Berries. I've had this particular yarn in my stash for about two years, but because I had significant yardage of a single color (as opposed to enough to make one hat) I wanted to find just the right project and I think I did!

Crescent-shaped with a seashell lace edging, it will wrap around people of all shapes and sizes, swathing you in comfort, with the cashmere adding a touch of luxury. Whether you're going to work or curling up with a book on the weekend, I think this piece fits the bill! I had a lot of fun knitting it, and if you love it as well it can be yours! Just click on over... Pin It

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meal plan Monday Tuesday

Better late than never, right? This week marks the beginning of Lent, and with it the return if Fish Fridays. Here's what we have on tap for the next two weeks. I'm trying to clear out my freezer of some of the meat that's been there awhile, so I can make way for a partial beef and pig purchase.

Week of March 3rd:

Monday: Fruit, Cheese and Crackers-the first two Mondays of the month are Cub Scout meetings so it's a quick and dirty dinner after homework.

Tuesday: Fat Tusday! I'm trying The Pioneer Woman's new take on pancakes and putting them in mini muffin tins. Use whatever pancake recipe you love and scoop them out into mini tins, bake at 425 for 8 minutes for a crispy edge or 400 for 11 minutes for a softer finish.

Wednesday: rice noodles with tofu and peanut sauce

Thursday: pork chops and applesauce (just try to say it without curling your lip over your top teeth a la Alice.

Friday: salmon burgers and salad

Saturday: Manda's birthday celebration

Sunday: frittata and salad

Week of March 10th:

Monday: Quesadillas and fruit

Tuesday: Taco stuffed pasta shells

Wednesday: Slow cooker Salsa Chicken with brown rice and salad

Thursday: home made pizza: build-your-own

Friday: Grilled Halibut and salad (drill weekend)

Saturday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (drill weekend)

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner; WW English muffin breakfast sandwiches (drill weekend)

For Lent, my kids are giving up Candy! I will be holding them to that. They aren't giving up all sweets, but candy is a biggie because little treats add up over time. Movie night treats will still happen, but they won't be candy. Pin It

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cozy Up to the Oscars

This week's stash-buster is brought to you by my desire for a mindless craft that I could do while watching my favorite awards show. While the stars glammed it up, I slummed it on my couch with a glass of Washington White and a pile o' wool felt.

This craft is ridiculously easy and you can make a handful of them in minutes. Mind you, one side of the stitching is totally janked because I didn't take the time to fix the tension but, hey, I was whipping them out on a commercial break!

All you need is a stack of felt (make sure you get actual wool felt) a cut-out of this template, scissors and some pins.

I cut out the cozies while Pink rocked a tribute to Judy Garland and then stitched them up quickly using the chain piecing method during the next commercial.  These are cute, simple, and would be a great addition to a teacher gift, hostess gift or a simple thank you for a friend. Also, Easter is a'coming.

hmmm...which little xy placed a cup right in the middle of my coffee table?!

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Third Rising: Whole Wheat Bread (Again, Some More)

I've posted about my issues with bread-baking here and here using my mom's recipe, but I never did get it to work out perfectly every time. When I had Jack, my friend Emily brought soup and bread to us one night for dinner. It was so good, and she offered to have me over for a long playdate one day to show me exactly how she does it. She starts, as did my mom, with whole wheat berries that she grinds into flour. I don't have a grain mill (yet) so I go with the same brand of flour, Wheat Montana, which is nonGMO and can be purchased in bulk on amazon. There is only one store locally that sells it, and that's Wal-Mart, though I've requested it at two other grocery stores, so we'll see if they start to carry it. I love the Prairie Gold varietal, because it doesn't produce too dense a bread, but their other varietals are great, along with the all-purpose flour, which is a natural white flour; unbleached and unbromated.

The recipe she uses for her everyday bread is the Fresh Milk Bread from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, with a lot of' 'you'll know it's ready when it feels like this' and she'd pinch the dough between two fingers looking for the perfect amount of give. It was the best, most generous thing for her to host us for about four hours on a sticky, summer day. She walked me through each step, fed my kids lunch and sent me home with a loaf of fresh bread.

I ordered the book right away and embarked on my quest to replicate. After several months, I've had consistently good bread and am so grateful to her. My kids are brimming with gratitude as well. I believe H's direct quote was 'Can't we just buy bread at the store like normal people?' Brats. I do a one and-a-half batch of this bread to make three full loaves. My kitchen aid won't work a full double batch. The big-daddy kitchen aid is next on my appliance upgrade list. Also, I find that it's really important to weigh your flour because the way you scoop and measure it, may make the difference of about a cup when you compare weight to volume.

First rising

Punched down and risen again

use a bench scraper to divide into three equal balls and allow to rest on the counter

roll each ball with a pin into a rectangle and then roll up into a loaf and place in pans to raise for a third time

Third rising complete and ready to go into a 350 oven for 40 minutes

Golden Delicious

cool before cutting

Unless you baked it, and then you get a warm slice with honey and butter

Do you have a favorite bread recipe?
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Monday, February 24, 2014

But Tonight, I'm Cleanin' Out My Closet

For almost four years we've lived with a huge master closet that has the most dysfunctional storage, so it looks like a giant craphole about 90% of the time. Coming from apartment living, it felt pretty ungrateful to complain about a closet that could serve as an extra bedroom in a pinch. Once every six months or so, I go through and make it all pretty again, but it doesn't last long because there's not a home for everything. Add having a giant rolling laundry cart that takes a big chunk of the floorspace, and it just looks bad. I swear, we're not giant slobs but you'd never know it to see our closet.

Last year we got an estimate for a closet system that was so ridiculous, I was glad I was holding a cup of coffee in front of my mouth when he read out the number because my jaw dropped and I closed it just in time to let him know we'd get back to him. Then a friend got her closet done and it was gorgeous. I had All City Closet (Formerly Tri-City Closets) come give an estimate and it was significantly lower than the competition, and instead of drawing up a quick plan at my table, they took all of the measurements, a list of our needs and requests and rendered drawings for me about three days later along with the estimate. It was spot on with what I wanted.

Over J's drill weekend, my mom came and helped me drag everything out of the closet, sort it, goodwill it, yardsale pile it and every other tedious thing you do with a closet that's bursting at the seams.

Here's the ugly before, which I really didn't want to take, but it makes the after so much better.

Doesn't my side look so much less cluttered than J's? Oh, wait, that's because all of this was shoved under the shelf; a big basket of clothes waiting to be consigned, two laundry baskets of clothes that the kids had outgrown and needed to be sorted, plus random bags from day travel and swim lessons...oh the treasures to behold.
Closet emptied, it was time to tear out the old shelves. I think a lot of basic closets have this issue; decent square footage, but not big on storage. After I used a rubber mallet to get all of the shelves up, I texted the foreman for our builder to make sure the wooden supports were just nailed and not glued/nailed to the wall. I was not excited at the prospect of replacing the drywall. Once I had assurance they were nailed only, I thought it would be easy-peasy. Not so. Those suckers were securely affixed!
The conversation with my mom went something like this (as I was grunting with effort to get the board to even wiggle).
Mom: I bet they're glued.

Me: They're not glued. Just nailed.
Mom: Hm. They seem like they might be glued.

Me: They're not glued, I asked the foreman.
Mom: (after I'd used a screwdriver to try and get behind a board and succeeded only in gouging the drywall). I bet dollars to donuts they used glue and he just forgot.
Me: THEY'RE NOT (insert word you should not scream at your lovely mama) GLUED TO THE WALL!
I decided to put down the sharp objects at that point and ask dear Facebook what a girl should do. I was given a lot of good suggestions, including the one from my husband that said 'Um. Leave it alone. I'll fix it when I get home.' Since I knew that a pretty closet was not high on his list of wants for the house, I figured that chiseling lumber off the walls of said closet after driving three hours to get home from working all weekend was likely not high on his wishlist either.
When I told him I couldn't wait for him because I needed to paint, he replied 'Are you going to drywall as well?' Oh, ye of little faith. A neighbor so kindly dropped by that night with three wood shims, a prybar, spackle and a multi-use paint tool. I could have kissed her. 
The next morning, I spent a good hour plus gently loosening, pry, pry prying and then putting a little muscle into it once I'd gotten a good purchase. I was trying to leave all of the pieces intact so we can reuse them to create more storage in other areas of the house and donating what we don't end up using.

Next to deal with the dingy paint color. I used just one good coat of Enamelware by Martha Stewart color matched to Behr Ultra Paint Plus Primer in satin finish. I plan to use the same color on the bathroom in the next few months. 

These were taken about 8pm after I was done painting last night.

The carpenters came at 9am, and when they were done at 2, this is what I have now. I couldn't be happier!

Shoes and bags will all have a home, and there will no longer be a shelf full of shoes sitting just under the window. These windows are the front of my house and if the light was on in the closet, you could see stuff sticking up from outside. Not attractive.

The shelf on top is a full wrap around if you need space for baskets of winter sweaters or other seasonal clothes

Jared's end has both a belt and tie rack that pulls out from the long-hang bar

Laundry baskets! I love that these will be integrated into the system instead of taking space on the floor

There is a row of four wire baskets at the very end, and they pull all the way out and are removable.
The system is fully adjustable and if I find that I need something different as time goes, we can always have them come back out and make the changes we need. I couldn't be happier! Now to put all of our clothes away. In rainbow order, of course.

Updated with more photos for your viewing pleasure-J and I stayed up after he got home from work last night and got it all squared away. It feels so nice to have a home for everything with room to spare. I have a few ideas to decorate the shelf below the window simply.

the second pull-out scarf rack houses my race medals
swimsuits, running tights and running skirts

I added this branchy thang to hang my necklaces under the window-purdy! 

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