Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bedroom Update

Thanksgiving weekend, I bought some great fabric at JoAnn's in order to finish 'dressing' my bed, and I realized I never posted pictures of the completed fandelier. Good thing, because in the meantime I also got a sweet deal on some pintuck bedding from Target (69.99 for a king comforter and 2 shams, plus free shipping!). Sorry, West Elm...I love you, but I couldn't pass it up!

I still need to make the pillows, but I feel like our room is finally really coming together. I also need to figure out a bedskirt-ish solution to the box spring showing, and a chair in the corner of the room...oh, and staging all of the walls, but really, details...is it ever really 'done'?

Here it is today, with a slightly rumpled bed, and grey skies abounding outside.


And one with  the flash, and the light off. Wow...those walls really need some  bling!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Showgirls

When we get home on Friday from sunny Aruba, I promise to post about our epic flight, and the tantrum that launched a thousand ships, but until then you can read about my Vegas half-marathon/girls' weekend at My Sole Sister!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun...

Double the socks for everyone! I have gotten a slew of sock orders on my etsy, and in an effort to speed up the hand-knit process (not really a lot of ways to do that!) I decided to figure out knitting two at a time once and for all.

I love using double-pointed needles in knitting socks because it feels much faster to me than constantly sliding everything around on the cord between the two needles on circulars. However, if there are two socks on there, the sliding is not quite as tedious, and it means you get each pair done and ready to block more quickly. I know it doesn't seem like you should be able to, since you're still knitting the same number of stitches, and it may be all mental, but since these are orders for basic socks, sometimes it's all about the mental game! I'm using my old stand-by basic sock pattern, which is the beauty of the magic loop; you can adapt any pattern to it. In order to not get such a pointy toe, I have my own little formula that's worked out pretty well, but that's the only change I've made.

Knitting Giraffe had the best tutorial, which was found in two parts; getting cast on and then turning the heel and picking up gusset stitches. If you've knit socks before, everything else is the same. Her order for the heel worked the best, because the other tutorials I found had the gusset stitches on two different needles, incorporated a boat load of stitch markers and then a third dpn...and looked a little like a hot mess...

First attempt
Uh, no thanks! I'm all about simplifying, and Knitting Giraffe's method required no extra supplies or pieces hanging down. It's enough to keep the yarn untangled (which I've been able to do so far, phew!)

So here I am, heel turned, gusset picked up and ready to decrease. Let's hope these bad boys are ready to get in the mail by tomorrow night, which is my self-imposed deadline.

After re-ordering them on the needles to match Knitting Giraffe's tutorial-much better!
Next up: Another entrelac scarf, but a thinner version; stay tuned!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trip the Light Fantastic

Photo From House*Tweaking
I was perusing DIY blogs (shocking, I know) after talking with my friend about options for a capiz chandelier in the bedroom without forfeiting our ceiling fan, and she pointed me to House*Tweaking for the awesome mash-up; The Fandelier. Her ceiling fan looks almost identical to mine, so I knew it would be a great fit. I'm so excited!

Our King bed arrived, and it's been la-la-la lovely to get a great night's sleep with, or without (but mostly with from about 3am on), three other people in my sleeping space. We settled on the Englander Nature's Finest Organic Natural Latex mattress. J and I have both found it very comfortable, though it's been just a week; it's pretty darn cozy. It needs to be spun (head to foot) weekly for the first three months, and then about once a month after that. I had read some reviews that there were 'deep body impressions', but I think it could be because they didn't ever rotate the mattress. Either way, it has a lifetime warranty, and if there are body impressions after 6 months, we get a brand new mattress.

My point to detailing this cozy love nest is that, with the advent of late Fall/early Winter, we put our down comforter back on which served to reinforce that we use our ceiling fan year round. I had first had my heart set on this capiz chandelier from West Elm and with 20% off lighting, I thought I had it in the bag! Problem; it's a plug in, not hardwired, so I couldn't add it on to our fan.

As I was talking to that same wise DIY friend about my sadness, she urged me to look at World Market's Capiz pendant, which does not include a light. But, how would that work? She asked me kindly, 'Doesn't your fan already have a light?' Oh my, is she a genius...or maybe I'm just slow. Luck be a lady, the World Market version was on sale for $52, instead of the $100 I was willing to spend on the sale-priced West Elm version, and the creams and browns will go better with my color scheme anyhow, since I've not had as much white as I first anticipated.  

I just got the email confirmation that it's been shipped to me, so I'll post pictures when I swap out the glass bowl for the chandelier (and cross my fingers that the tinkling shells don't drive J bonkers in the night...I'm hoping it just makes him feel like he's at the beach!). I'm not sure what I was thinking with the other light, which just goes to show that I should always hire out electrical work!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Like Buttah(cream)

The sad 'before'
So, after about four months of sitting in my garage and staring at me with disdain for my lack of follow-through, the supplies for the tiling job finally got moved into the house.

With the momentum from the satisfaction of last weekend's completed projects, I decided it was high time I bit the bullet. My biggest concern was that I go into every project with a lot of what we'll call 'lack of skill' and just call the results good enough. Mistakes are happy accidents that I use to make things look rustic. There is nothing rustic about a tile job. You either do it correctly and it looks nice, or you do it wrong and it looks like you've got a hillbilly's teeth stuck to your wall until you're ready to hire someone to come rip it out, replace the backerboard and start all over again.

With much trepidation, I put the kids to bed on Thursday night and messaged a picture to J with the tiles laid out. He said that he commented to a co-worker 'Guarantee she'll be working on this still when I get home.' Yes, yes I was.

It all started innocently enough, I called my neighbor to see if she thought I should just forego the decorative 6x6's I planned to insert at random intervals. She offered to just come over and help me see how to lay it out. My issue was, I told her, I didn't have enough hands to hold the sheets up on the wall and figure out placement of the decorative tiles at the same time.

C: Weren't you just going to lay them out on the floor?

Me: Of course, I was! (while in my head I was thinking she was a genius, because you know that I fully intended to just slap those puppies up. Fast forward to what would surely have been Jared coming home to a gigantic mess and me sobbing in the tub.)

Like pretty maids all in a row
Obviously I had measured the things to death, so I knew exactly how many sheets, and fractions of sheets, I needed on each wall. But the placement of the 6x6's? That would have been tricky business to try vertically. After painstakingly laying out each wall and placing the 'pretty tiles', I cut out the extra 2x2's and dropped in the 6x6. I can't even imagine how much time this saved me in the long run even though in my head I was already feeling itchy at the tedium of it all.

Tiles laid out, it was time to bust out the mastic; how hard could it be, right? Surely I haven't logged nearly a thousand hours (I hope this is an exaggeration, but 100 would be a gross underestimation) of DIY and HGTV for naught. With the soothing, encouraging voices of Amy Matthews and Marc Bartolomeo (but mostly Marc) in my head, I popped the top of the bucket (after taking a Blizzard break, because it was offered, and I don't turn down free ice cream), dipped my trowel, smoothed it at the proper angle against the wall...and my heart sang.

It was exactly like consistency of thick buttercream. I slapped some more on the wall and oh! my! gosh! It was just like frosting a cake! Though I have to say, I think the trowel was right-handed, I was able to get 'er done. God bless prior planning because taking those sheets from their spot on the floor directly to their designated position on the wall left behind the chance of an ulcer, and by the time J walked in the door I had the first wall completed, and was starting on the second.


Then comes the hitch. All along I knew that the wall shared by our bedroom had about 2/3 of an inch more tile than it's matching side, which would require me to nip a row of 8 tiles. After watching a how-to video online, I realized that this was going to be te-di-ous...so, being who I am, I decided to think of other options.

It's neither the wall you'll see when you walk in the bathroom, nor the one you'll look at while you're bathing, so I decided at 11:45pm that I was not going to use the extra tiles at all. I made the spaces between the sheets just a little larger and there's a tiny space where the bottom tile that was already there before sticks out further but it looks fine. At about 1am, I finally laid my weary head down, with the prayer in my head that I didn't wake to the tinkling sound of tile falling off the wall. I felt pretty good about it, though, because I'd been thorough and consistent with the pressure I applied to each tile. It was very much like decorating a cake.

This afternoon, I taped over the decorative tiles so the design wouldn't get filled in (thanks for the tip, Heather!), and I prepped the grout. It was a tiny bit thinner than the creamy peanut butter that Marc (yes, we're totally on a first name basis) always recommends, but I didn't have any more to add that was the right color, so what are you gonna do? H was my faithful observer through the process, as he always is when I'm working on a fun project for the house.

At one point, I got super nervous that I wasn't going to have enough grout (which was special ordered in the color to match the existing grout), and after dropping about the tenth big glop of what I thought was a substance more finite and precious than the breast milk I painstakingly pumped for H all those years ago, I asked him to leave the room because 'mommy might have some cuss words slip out'.

Relief washed over me as I was about half-way through the last wall and realized I'd have enough (with the assistance of a bowl scraping spatula to get the dregs out of the bucket and onto the trowel). Just before J left for work, I had him be my second pair of eyes to see if I'd missed any spots. I have to say, I was still skeptical of the process as I set the time for my 20 minute wait before I could start sponging off the excess.

Sponge in hand, I began the process of wiping, dunking, squeezing it out and wiping again, and it was not only quick, but very rewarding.

Tub cleaned out, buckets washed, and two hours later a quick wipe across the tiles with a clean damp cloth to get the final 'grout haze' off of them; I'm a happy girl. Later I'll use the extra silicone caulk (which has a sandy texture in it to look like the grout) that they left behind for us after finishing our house to go around the top and sides of the tile. Then, in a month, I'll seal it and this will be a fully completed project. All told, the supplies for the project, including sponge, spacers and the bit to stir the grout, was under $300. Using the sheets of tile were not only economical, but I think they're pretty forgiving and allow you to eyeball the spaces a lot better, plus they don't really slide around like the 6x6 tiles did (when I was pushing on them.) a great option for my first project.

More and more I'm finding that the hardest part is just getting started. Once you begin a project, finishing it is, especially in this case, a piece of cake.


Pretty good match on the grout! 
The 'bad' wall...not so bad, really.

The new view from our bedroom. Now to find some art or a cool sculpture to round out that wall!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wanna hear how the Walla Walla half went? Click on over to My Sole Sister!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Free Weekend

Life has been a whirlwind these days, and judging by the looks of everyone else's social calendar, I'm not anything special in that department. This weekend was the first in a long while that I didn't have a looming social engagement, and Jared had time off as well.

I was scheduled to host a birthday party for my running partner-in-crime at my house on Monday and my home looked as though it hadn't been cleaned since the Reagan Administration-which I admit seems impossible since it was just constructed last year. Yes, the dishes get done (when they overflowed the sink) and the floor is routinely swept of large debris, but the fronts of the cabinets were starting to get the telltale streaks of neglect and the sliding glass door looked like it has been given an artful fog treatment from dog noses and boy fingers. It was time to get down to business.

So, what did I do? Ah yes, took on some painting projects. We've had a table outside that I got at a garage sale, but no chairs to accompany it. I had been searching overstock for simple wooden chairs, but they were all still pretty spendy. I decided on Saturday night that I'd finally paint the dresser that's been holding up our cable box in the living room as I've given up on getting the Pottery Barn gem that I so desire anytime in the near future. I had purchased a quart of Behr Premium Plus in Red Chili about 6 months ago and there it sat on the shelf in the garage. Two coats later and some poly-magic (although I'm totally impatient, so my cable box and the PS3 are officially stuck to the top of the dresser. Sah-weet!)


Once I got going, I looked at the sad little IKEA chairs that went with the dining set for our apartment in Massachusetts and a lightbulb went on. I could just use those outside. Yes, they're kind of rickety and cheap, but they're just for outside. I knew I wanted them to be something other than just plain wood (we've got a lot of wood going on in our house, and the exterior is brown, so I wanted to punch it up a little bit). Remember how indecisive I was in my quest for the perfect shades of blue and gold for the bedroom and sitting room? Well, those little paint samples did not go to waste, my friends. Sponge brush in hand, I lightly sanded each chair and then just brushed a pretty rough coat over each chair and then coated them in a Satin Poly made for indoor/outdoor use. Voila! I have a cute outdoor seating area that picks up on the colors in the umbrella from World Market and makes our NEW patio looks so much more inviting! (It's amazing how productive you can be when there are toilets that need a thorough cleaning-boy toilets especially!)


Yes, I said new patio. I nabbed the contractors I saw working on our sidewalks and they gave me a number that sounded good. Two days later; Houston, we have a patio. That means we get to put our grill outside permanently, where it will be tied into the gas line from the house so I can use it all year 'round without replacing propane tanks!




Sunday, I started baking for the party, and doing a half-hearted clean-up of the house. Top to Bottom: Peanut Butter Pretzels dipped in chocolate, Chocolate Candy Corn Cookies and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars-all delish!




I know myself very well, so I knew I'd just mess around until the next day in order to treat my family to the raving loon who always comes out to play when there's a deadline that ends in company looming ahead. The difference is that this time, I actually planned and executed so that I was done several hours before guests arrived. I went to bed last night after the party with the satisfaction that comes only from clean sheets and a sparkling house. Waking up this morning, the first thing I did was make my bed, which always starts the day off on a good note. Then I made my kids make their beds. Dishes were done, beds were made, floor was vacuumed, out the door to school and life is good.

 Having a clean house is really important to me. Clutter makes me feel overwhelmed, and I have enough on my plate to overwhelm me without that adding to it. So, I've decided that it's one thing I can really control (uh-oh, is this how it starts Fancy Nancy?) so I will. H is old enough to get little chores like wiping down light switch plates and door handles once a month, and he actually enjoys making his bed and putting his clothes in the laundry, so I better harness that happiness now, right?In light of this most recent acknowledgment in my own self-enlightenment, I've printed off a chart from IHeart Organizing so that I can better stay on top of household cleaning tasks.

I am still sitting here marveling at how much difference it can make to have just a couple of tasks checked off that ever-growing honey-do house list (Especially when it doesn't cost a dime!) in addition to a clean house, it even spurred me to weed my front bed and plant some daisy starts! What have you tackled on a recent 'free' weekend?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kinder Care

My lack of posts of late is not because I don't have a million ideas swirling around, but because I haven't had the time or presence of mind to sit down and translate them into actual words. Here's my best attempt.

Last year, we made the decision to retain H in Kindergarten. As an August boy we understood that he would be the youngest in his class and that might go over like a toot in church, but that's how we roll so we sent him anyhow. I don't regret that decision because he learned a ton and I became a better mother to him, which I attribute to being able to appreciate his sweet quirky self a whole lot more when I wasn't bombarded with it 12-14 hours a day. Over the summer, we had a great time and I didn't ever feel that 'when is school going to start?!' panic that so many of my friends described to me.

Then school started. For the first week, he was the model student with a normal amount of testing his limits and missing his mama. Then the shenanigans came to a head and culminated in the use of the 'D' word by more than one person at his school. That's right; they were calling my little cherub defiant! Okay, so I know that he's stubborn, willful and really likes to do his own thing, but defiant just seemed like such a harsh word. And, that's when I realized that if I, as his mother, didn't advocate for him and take the bull by the horns, then who would? I don't know how many of you have had to take 'the call' from school, but I started to dread that number flashing on our caller ID. We had stopped watching TV during the school week at the suggestion of a friend, my kids are asleep every night by 7pm and we practice 'the family meal' at night with healthful breakfasts at home and lunches packed each day. I don't know what else I could be doing while still maintaining my sanity (and three blogs, a marriage, a running training schedule, a 3 year-old, Clifford the big black dog, the rest of my household and a small knitting business, ha!)

After a consult with his pediatrician and collaborating with his teacher (who I really like) on an informal behavior plan that was very concrete, Mr. H has had a much better time at school and is even starting to (gasp) enjoy it! He has two things to focus on: Listen and Follow Directions.

I found an article online about living with strong-willed children that gave me goosebumps as I read it because it could have been written about H. He's a super smart kiddo who's pretty quirky, and has a huge heart. However, he's a six year old boy who doesn't seem to understand (or yet care?) how all of his actions affect other people. Being super concrete, setting specific limits which are consistently enforced, along with physical exercise after school everyday and trying my very, very hardest not to raise my voice with him have all seemed to culminate in positive behavioral change. This could be just a honeymoon phase, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my voice to zen-like tones in hopes that this school year is the true gift of time that we intended it to be.

School should be enjoyed, especially kindergarten! I'm finally starting to see how fun school can be for him, so here's to a banner year for Mr. H (and his mother who would most likely be put on Zoloft if I cry one more time when his teacher calls.) What fun has the new school year brought for your family?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Pound of Flesh: No More, No Less

I'm smack in the middle of a round of Game On!. This time J is in on the action, and we're competing against my sister and her husband, plus the perfect fifth wheel of our baby sister who is playing solo. She is diligent and disciplined and does not have a partner to drag down her average; dang her!

So far, it's been like a marathon. The first week we were jubilant and constantly saying 'This is so easy! This food is so good! We feel fantastic!' By the end of the first week, I'd lost 4.6 pounds and J was down 5 even. I was a little sick of spinach, but whatev' I was getting results, baby!

The second week, ended with me kicking up my game by having my first Cardio Strength Bootcamp class (highly, highly recommended) and I could just feel the metabolic disturbance that was going to rocket me to record weightloss. Aunt Flo be damned, I was on track to still lose the 1% of my body weight required to earn the weekly points bonus. I even passed up elephant ears at the fair. I! Know! I did succumb to bubble tea (the smallest size then had, thank you), but I still count that as a success, because I would have previously had both. Plus a corn dog. And a Hawaiian Shave Ice. And maybe some onion rings. You get the picture. And on Saturday's weigh-in, I'd done it again. Success!

Now, well into my third week something has happened and I'm bloated and up three pounds, which is making me feel frustrated, annoyed and just a touch on the childish side. Why is this happening? How is this possible?! I'm following the rules, I'm exercising consistently, drinking tons of water and getting a great night's sleep.

I would feel great, if a tiny bit bloated, were it not for those little numbers taunting me on the screen. Why do I do this to myself? I know that what I'm eating is healthy, nutrient-packed unprocessed food. I'm exercising (real exercise, not 10 minutes on the eliptical while I read a book) and properly rehydrating. This should be enough but alas, I want those numbers to give me instant bio-feedback that I'm a success and my efforts are being rewarded by an ever-shrinking gut. Forgoing peanut butter fro-yo that was calling my name from Blue Palm and instead having a serving of non-fat plain greek yogurt with some berries and almonds (see? lean protein, carbs and a healthy fat.) should feel like a victory, not a fruitless exercise in self-restraint.

For anyone that's made big diet changes, were there times that you felt like your body was revolting against the change? Fat Cells that felt suddenly empowered, crying 'Hell No! We Won't Go!"? Please tell me I'm not alone in this! Otherwise, it's okay, don't mind me; I'll just sit quietly in the corner, drinking my quiet juice-aka a spinach and greek yogurt smoothie with almonds and frozen strawberries. I know you're jealous. Don't hate me because I'm bountiful.

As for my kryptonite, otherwise known as Ben and Jerry's, they've just come out with a new not-to-be-missed flavor based on the awesome SNL skit with Alec Baldwin. Yes, their new flavor is 'Schweddy Balls.' I'll be eating a reasonable portion with my next meal 'off'. Mmm...those balls are tasty!


And now for a taste of the deliciously inappropriate. If you're easily offended, please don't press play!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Read my post over at My Sole Sister about speed workouts and wilted chard...in that order.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coffee Talk

This morning as I sit to type, enjoying my coffee, I am feeling very well-rested because my entire family slept until 8am. This has literally never happened. I logged on to read my daily dose of inspiration on Another Mother Runner and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Tonia Blanchet was today's guest poster on the topic of 'Why I Run' and it really hit home.  Running gives you a sense of accomplishment that's so personal.

I cannot underscore enough the impact running has had; Becoming a runner changed my life. Not only because of the connections I've made with people, but because of the way it's made me feel about myself. Sure, I'd still have weight-loss goals, but I no longer look with a hypercritical eye. Instead, I try to find the things that have changed. My legs, chubby white girl's legs that they may be, have taken me almost a thousand miles in training over the past year and a half. A thousand miles.

I'm ecstatic about the fact that on my last few runs, I've hit sub 11:30 for the last mile because my usual average is in the 12's or 13's. Most people would cry at that time, but not me. I come home feeling energized and ready to take on the day. I am the stinkiest, sweatiest girl you'll ever meet, but now instead of feeling self-conscious about it, it just lets me know I've worked hard. Hit the shower and go about your business. Get over yourself.

I found a running partner that is going to push me, and it's just what I need. She's a new runner, but she's picked it up kind of annoyingly fast, and I'll have to work really hard to keep up with her. Her goal was a 10k (remind you of anyone?), but I've just about got her convinced to run the half with me; wahoo! I have big goals for my next two half-marathons, and they don't include just crossing the finish line. If that were my goal, I could just dink around until race day because I now know that I can finish, it's all in how I want to finish. Some of the little things I've committed to are drinking enough water every day,as in 3 liters at the minimum, and I've instituted a bed-time. Best gift I could have given myself, as I've had no problem rising with the first chime of my phone at 5:40 on those few mornings a week when I run with the sun's rising.

It was a struggle post-marathon, but I feel like I'm finally back. Each run is a challenge, and sometimes I feel like I'm starting all over again, but I do it and I feel a thousand times better when I walk through my door to find my family rising than I would if I were just starting to stumble around with my first cup of coffee.

Are you struggling to regain inspiration? How have you overcome a slump? New music or a mantra that replays itself in your head? Here's to just getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other.

*Cross posted on My Sole Sister

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Jr. Taste-testers chose their selections from the middle :)
A couple weeks ago, I found a new food blog that has a ton of great ideas. Being in a bit of a meal-planning rut, I turned back to my old habit of scouring cookbooks and food blogs for things that my whole family could enjoy, with a few meals just for J and I thrown in. When I stumbled across this blog, it was from a link about a recipe that I can't even recall now, but what I did recall was this gem: Root Beer Float Cookies from Heat Oven to 350. Having ice cream on the brain lately, I was intrigued. Root beer floats are a classic summer treat for my family from the time I can remember so how could a little butter and sugar added into the mix not make it perfection?

Root Beer concentrate and white chocolate team up in this twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. The recipe makes a pretty good-sized batch, coming in at five dozen pretty generously sized cookies, so it's perfect for sharing with your neighbors or freezing for future afternoon playdates.

It was suggested that these would make pretty phenomenal ice cream sandwiches, and I just happened to have some vanilla frozen yogurt from last night's dinner playdate leftover, so I had to test the theory for myself. I don't usually like white chocolate, but in these cookies they really work for that creamy sweetness of a float. I think vanilla ice cream would be great, but the tart frozen yogurt made it so the cookies weren't overwhelmingly sweet, which they kind of are when eaten on their own. Which could be a good thing in itself; built-in portion control!

...and baby makes 5. (what's with Mr. H crossing his eyes in pictures lately?)
Since I was in baking mode, I also used a chunk of the giant zucchini we got from our neighbor last night to make the Orange-scented Zucchini Bread from Our Best Bites. The same neighbor that gave us the zucchini gave me the cookbook (of the same name as the blog) as a birthday gift, so she'll be getting one of the loaves, and I'll freeze the other for my fam when they stay the night this weekend.

J took the kids up to the mountains on this glorious day so that I could have the house to myself, which I desperately need to clean and organize. So, why all the baking? Because there are few chores I like less than cleaning the bathroom and the longer I bake and blog, the longer I'm not cleaning a toilet. That's just how I roll. I guess I've procrastinated long enough-off to my date with Little Bowl Blue!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fro Yo From Yo' Own Home

When my girlfriends and I were walking through the airport in Honolulu, I spotted a sign that made me think the mother ship was calling me home; pinkberry! it's snazzy sign called out to me. I couldn't not try the very yogurt I'd heard so casually referenced in all the Hollywood and NYC magazines I drool over in the grocery lines and when I get the (sadly now) occasional pedicure.

This was no TCBY-I got the original tart and loaded it up with berries and some hot fudge and it was amazing! I had apparently never had 'real' frozen yogurt before, and the tangy zip was perfection. Recently I discovered a little frozen yogurt shop downtown called Peach and Pear, which serves European-style frozen yogurt with hand-made and/or local toppings (excepting the candy such as m&m's) and it was just as I'd remembered Pinkberry. Then, just in the last month another yogurt shop opened even closer to my house (sabotaging my weight-loss plans here people!). Blue Palm Frozen Yogurt has okay yogurt, a lot of them are yocream brand, and it's mainly a fun experience. You get to pick your cup, go through the line and pick your flavors, then load on the toppings. Keep in mind, though, you pay by the ounce so be careful. 

It was fun the first couple of times, until I realized that I was spending an exorbitant amount of money on a frozen treat. (Over $10 when I picked up a single large container without toppings for the fam's dessert). 

Since I bought the ice cream maker, I can kill two (or three) birds with one stone. 1) Spend less money on something that's not a necessity, 2) Have absolute control over the ingredients and 3) Re-create that tangy Pinkberry perfection.

I've heard several mentions of the book The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, but I've yet to purchase it or try any of the recipes. When I googled Frozen Yogurt Recipes, I found that someone in the comments on a generic recipe had referenced both The Perfect Scoop and 101 Cookbooks in the same comment. Hell-o! I love me some Heidi Swanson takes on recipes, so I clicked on over.



Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Recipe

Heidi notes: First off, remember it is important to use good-quality whole-milk yogurt. The version in David's book is Vanilla Frozen Yogurt. This time around I skipped out on the vanilla, opting for straight, bright white yogurt with the sweetness playing off the tang of the yogurt. I also used slightly less sugar than called for here, more like 2/3 cup - but you can go either way depending on what you like.
3 cups (720g) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
At the risk of having it become too icy, I'm going to use 0% yogurt, because part of the purpose of this is to find lower/no fat alternatives to my most entrenched addiction: Ice Cream. I think that I'll also experiment with alternative sweeteners next time, but only one rebellious move at a time here. For tonight, I used 3 cups of Fage 0%, 3/4 cup of sugar in the raw and a splash of vanilla. I'll also test out almond and orange extracts in the future, but for now it's good ol' vanilla.


This only took about 12 minutes to freeze in my bowl...it's velvety smooth and I can't imagine added richness from full-fat yogurt.
First off, aren't my new nesting bowls fun?! A great Wold Market find. After mixing the ingredients, you just store them in the fridge to chill for about an hour before transferring them to your ice cream mixer and create your frozen dessert per the manufacturer's directions. I rinsed out the yogurt container and will re-use it to transport the yogurt to our neighbors' house for our dinner/swimming date. Talk about deceptively delicious!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lighten Your Load

Are you interested in cutting your laundry costs and lessening drying time, while single-handedly saving the planet?! Okay, maybe that went overboard just a little, but still-check out my review of wool dryer balls on Knitty Reviews.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Choc-o-Holic

I saw a post from my sister-in-law's mom on facebook the other day referencing a chocolate sorbet recipe from Smitten Kitchen that she was making for later that day. Sorbet? Smitten Kitchen? Chocolate? Sign! Me! Up!


But, then I read the recipe and was so sad to see the second to last line;  Chill the mixture thoroughly,  then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Well, boo-hiss! Our ice cream maker was one of the appliances that didn't make the cut for our tiny apartment kitchen, but that I always thought I'd someday replace. 


Had I yet replaced it? Nope. J started home-brewing last fall and I thought it would be fun to upgrade to the professional kitchen aide and get the ice cream maker attachment so that we could make home-made ice cream and home-made root beer for a truly authentic summer treat. Well, the best laid plans and I've neither a bigger kitchen-aide or home-made rootbeer. But alas, the same mother-in-law-ish said that the Cuisinart ice cream maker was awesome, and you'd have frozen bliss in about a half hour. A quick scan of amazon showed me that not only was it a pretty affordable appliance since it was on sale, but the red was also cheaper than the white. It was meant to be.


Thanks to amazon prime, I had that baby in my hot little hands in less than 72 hours. I prematurely told the boys we'd have ice cream for dessert that night-what? You have to freeze the freezer bowl first? Obviously I'm a newbie.


After a night in the freezer, it was more than ready and I whisked the sugar, water and cocoa powder in a large pot on the stove, watching it work into a frenzy of a rolling boil and then remove from the heat to stir in semi-sweet chocolate and some vanilla, along with the other 
half of the water.




Because I'm super patient, I transferred the mix to a shallow pan and stuck it in my fridge so the 'thorough chill' would happen post-haste.




After about an hour, I transferred the mix to the fridgid bowl of my ice cream maker and the magic began.


I set the timer for 20 minutes, but it wasn't until after about 25 minutes of churning that it was the consistency of soft serve. If I let it be truly, thoroughly chilled, it'd probably have a thicker consistency, but I wasn't complaining! I plopped it in a plastic container (had I not read the directions, I'd have been storing my culinary delight directly in the freezer bowl) and put in back in the freezer while we ate dinner so it could continue to harden.




It was ridiculously good, and I have to say that I wasn't even able to finish my serving because it's so rich. I feel a little bit dirty even having to type those words!  


Yes, I shamelessly smeared it on their faces for a photo op...but it really is that good!  Hee hee.
On the food front, when I get back from visiting my parents this weekend, I asked J for a little sit-down so we can make some health and fitness goals for the coming school year. If I'm serious about dropping some lbs before getting pregnant again, something's gotta change because, while this was much healthier than eating, say, a pint of Ben and Jerry's, dessert is something that's snuck back into our everyday lives far too easily. Post-marathon, I've struggled to really embrace my running schedule again and it's a little like starting all over again. 


Alas, I will make this again, too many times, playing with additions like fresh raspberries or a little mini marshmallows and slivered almonds for the kids my own guilty pleasure. Oh, the dance between letting myself enjoy food and being a gluttonous slug. All I can say is it's a good thing I run! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

DIY (Dog) Bathtastic


After paying for Clifford the Big Black Dog to get bathed at the local big box pet store, and at the vet's office, and being only marginally happy with both, I decided I'd take the bull by the horns or, in this case, the dog by the collar. With the vet's grooming center, I had to drop him off early in the morning and not pick him up until the evening. For an older dog who's slightly quite neurotic, being in a kennel-type situation isn't great for him. Add in the fact that I have to sign off on a 'senior citizen' waiver each time and you can see why I'd rather just bathe my pooch in the back yard for a little peace of mind.

Later this month will mark our one-year anniversary with dear Mr. D, and I'm still learning a lot about being a pet owner. When I last purchased his food from my favorite local pet supply store, Wags to Whiskers, I asked about at-home bathing. I love the owner because her guidance has helped me have joyful walks with Dailey after being fitted with a proper pinch collar, and trouble shooting horrible gas issues and other fun things that come with having what amounts to a gigantic hairy old man living in your house.

She steered me toward a gentle shampoo that wouldn't irritate his skin and didn't have any funky ingredients or fragrances. In addition to the earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe shampoo, I got ear and eye wipes from the same line and I was off.

...That was a month ago, and I was a little nervous to do it because I could just imagine a marley-esque sopping wet dog. No, I didn't try to bathe him in my tub; I'm not that unaware of my own limitations (or those of the our indoor plumbing to handle the amount of hair that would surely shed during the bath).

With just over 15 minutes of work, I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with the results. A thorough brushing, followed by wetting him down and applying a small amount of the soap, a good scrub, and then rinse, rinse and rinse some more and we were done. I had our oldest towels on stand-by, but as you can see, he gave me a good head-start on drying and after wiping his ears and eyes, he was more than ready to burst back into the gentle clutches of the air-conditioned house. The extra added bonus was that I didn't have to lift him in and out of the car, or worry that he'd leap out of the car into the parking lot before I was able to get his leash on at the pet store. Best yet, it was another chance to bond with Mr. D.
Sittin' pretty in the sun. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lightbulb Moment

I've been scouring the internet and catalogues to find the perfect light fixture to go above my dining table. Our main dining area is technically the breakfast 'nook' but it's plenty big to meet all of our needs. The room that is intended to be used as a formal dining room is the 'golden arches' room, which I am making a sitting room because I'm just not a formal dining person.

Today, I was looking on the Pottery Barn website and found this pendant:


16 mason jars' worth of incandescent bliss hanging from charcoal grey fabric of varying lengths, which are all affixed to a board (or metal that looks like a board). In short, perfection. I love the beautiful chandeliers, such as my friend's divine capiz beaut from West Elm, but it just wouldn't look good in my space. I don't want to be too 'country' or shabby chic, or rustic, but I feel like the simplicity of the pendant still looks polished and isn't too fiddly.

At least my taste is consistent.  They've staged it with the Tolix cafe chairs that I fell in love with when we ate at Brasserie Four, but cost almost a grand for a set of four...on sale!
Now for the challenge. It costs $400...before taxes...or shipping. Really? For Mason Jars hanging on cords affixed to a board? I am going to investigate to see if I could make one myself for a fraction of the cost that would still look as polished and professional. The tricky thing that I foresee, aside from having absolutely no electrical experience (minor detail) is that the lids aren't just mason jar lids, but galvanized metal...does that mean I'll have to whip out my long-retired, and barely developed, welding skills? My dad is actually a pretty awesome welder, so I may have to employ his skills rather than mine. Or maybe I can find some galvanized metal lids that already have some sort of hook attached to them? In the end, it would be super awesome if I can making something like this, that also won't cause an electrical fire in my house.


I posted the photo on my facebook page, and a friend said she'd seen a DIY post about it on a blog. I'm excited by that prospect, but also a little disappointed because I was hoping this would be a more original fixture, but I guess if PB is making it, then it's probably a little trendy. A quick google search turned up some ideas, but the author of this particular post hadn't actually done it yet. Oh! And maybe I'll try to hunt down some colored mason jars...me thinks some olive green glass would look pretty sweet! Either way, I'm on a mission; stay tuned.

UPDATE: Our Hiding Place has an awesome tutorial on a half-sized version of this that looks stunning and would better fit my space anyhow...for under $100. And, I already have the spraypaint, jars and can probably rustle up some wood, so it will cost me even less. Yay for me! This project, however, can't see the light of day until I do the tile in my bathroom. Boo!