Wednesday, March 31, 2010

D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs!

hello all!  yes, i am still alive.  i am not hidden in some faraway craft room bleeding out after an unfortunate pin to the heart (or important artery), but i can see how you might have been mistaken.  i've been enjoying the downright tropical temps invading iowa this week, practicing making some awesome desserts for upcoming events and catching up on my favorite showtime features, which have recently started up again (as of last monday).  ahhh the life i lead.

but anyway, do you know what heroin looks like?  i don't.  well, i might have an idea from years of watching a & e's "intervention," but i have never seen the stuff in person.  anyway, a few weeks ago, during an intial client interview, a gentleman asked me the aforementioned question.  of course my response was no.  he proceeded to explain, in a roundabout way, that it looked like potpourri (which doesn't seem to make much sense, but it was his story).  anyway, he continues on with his tale, and gets to the part where he happens upon lots of little baggies in his basement (where his adult son lives) that contain this potpourri-looking stuff.  he claims he didn't know what the stuff was, and i'm thinking, is this guy for real???  what, did he think his ne'er do well son who hasn't been employed for at least the last three decades had suddenly taken up an occupation as a independent yankee candle salesman?  really?  but this is a public service announcement for you.  if you happen upon baggies of potpourri, don't be so sure that someone's trying to make their house smell nice.  something far more sinister might be in the works.

in other news, last night i cooked dinner without the use of a staple ingredient: meat.  meat is pretty much the glue that ties together meals at my house, and my husband wouldn't be too keen on me turning him into a vegetarian.  and i wouldn't do that anyway because i love meat, too.  i have to say that i love RED meat, but i do try to watch our weekly intake.  i decided to try an experiment with a recipe i found in my april 2010 edition of cooking light magazine: black bean burgers.  (i did not use the mango salsa; i had made chipotle pork soft tacos on monday night and i used the apple/pineapple salsa leftover from that instead).  here's the recipe:

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 burger)
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided     (*I did not use any cilantro)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)  (*I subbed regular plain old breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt  (*I subbed kosher salt)
1/2 medium jalapeƱo pepper, finely chopped (*did not use; I'm not a fan of jalapenos)
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups chopped peeled mango (about 1 medium)
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 (2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted
6 green leaf lettuce leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place black beans in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and the next 7 ingredients (through egg whites). Shape bean mixture into 6 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Arrange patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, carefully turning once.
3. Combine remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, mango, and the next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) in a medium bowl. Place a patty on bottom half of each hamburger bun; top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1/3 cup salsa, and top half of bun.

the burgers were excellent!  i LOVED them, and didn't even miss my beef!  even john's picky self gave this experiment two thumbs up.  if you're interested in the pineapple/apple salsa recipe i used to top my burgers, here it is:

(from May 2007 issue of Cooking Light magazine -- taken from the Chipotle Pork Soft Taco Recipe)
2 cups minced pineapple (*i just buy the crushed, canned kind; cuts down on time because you don't have to cut it up)
1 cup minced apple
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

slow, but green.

well, it's official.  i am the slowest member of my family.  and yes, in this context, slow refers to speed.  last may, my sister cathy ran her first marathon in 3 hours and some odd minutes (she qualified for the boston marathon) and last night my other sister won the 200 meter dash at her track meet.  oh, and just rub some more salt in this wound.... my youngest brother clayton runs track, too, and just shaved 5 seconds off his time, meaning he now runs a half mile in a whopping 2 minutes, 17 seconds.  don't forget about brother chris, who also ran track... and marty, the last sibling, who plays junior hockey and routinely jogs more miles than dollars in my purse.  the point is... how is it that i happened to be the leader of this family of super athletes?  now, i'm trying to think about what i can accomplish quickly.  i can demolish a whole bag of chips with a side of salsa, but even that might take me 10-15 minutes.  i can be quick (sometimes too quick) with my sewing machine, but even then, we're usually talking at least an hour from project start to finish.  i'm pretty decent at turning a meal meant for two into a feast for five when my hungry sibs unexpectedly show up for dinner.  i guess we all can't be sprinters.  i'm happy to take a jog around the block or a refreshing jaunt on the treadmill at the gym.  but only because that means more chips and salsa later.  i am an avid fan at all the siblings' athletic events, and i am very complementary about their achievements.  anyway, the kids might be fast, but i've always held and will continue to hold onto my title of loudest family member, thank you very much.

and now... without further ado, i present: jessica's st. patty's day surprise!

sidenote: i don't believe in embellishing or workshopping clothing or accessories without a point.  meaning, if i can buy the same thing for the same price it's going to cost me to make it, i'll just avoid the whole process.  however, my itty bitty sister jessica wears size xs (of course!) and i stumbled upon a whole bunch of $0.97 plain shirts at old navy.  i spent about $1 on fabric, which means i created this adorable little number for a little over $2.  my kind of project!

little sister as a leprechaun

i fell in love with this printed silky fabric (because i'm LOVING polka dots right now!) and decided to use it to make something st. patty's day themed.  when i happened upon the cheap-o shirts at ON, it was the perfect opportunity to use the new fabric.

i used the same method employed when i did my cardigan re-mix HERE.  create a circle pattern by tracing anything in the desired size.  (this time, i traced around the lid of a can of pine-sol.  while i'm not necessarily the world's greatest duster, the pine-sol bottle has found a better use in this project!)  i like to save the plain stiffer wrapping paper that they use to wrap delicate items at hobby lobby or joann's (you know the kind i'm talking about, right?  it's in between regular paper and tissue paper?)  i often use that paper to make my own patterns for things. 

anyway, layer your fabric (so you'll be able to cut more circles at a time), pin the pattern to the fabric, and cut out as many circles as you want.  take the circle and fold it in half once, then again.  you can sew a stitch or two at this point to keep the circle shape together, or you can use pins to affix the circles to the shirt and sew them right on.  i have found it's easier to sew a stitch first, then affix the silk to the shirt because it holds its shape better.  the silk will fray a bit around the edges, but i like that look, especially on a casual tee.

in keeping with the theme (being green) ...  and because i needed a little something special to wear down to st. louis this weekend, i decided to try out the tutorial i found here.  i started with this plain navy tank top i've had for seriously YEARS... it dates back to my pre-law school days, i do believe.

my goal (after i got my last credit card statement and noticed that all my purchases were made at joann fabrics, i decided i should work on this addiction) was to get through this whole week without one trip to joann fabrics, but plans went awry, as you can see.  however, i did recycle some cans (yay for iowa's 5 cent deposit return!) and got a whopping $5ish, which was less than i spent on the material for ruffles and lace, so i figured i could cheat a little bit.  so, anyway, a couple dollars and a few episodes of sex and the city later, and i had this little number:

so, an embellishment on something other than a cardigan... something fit for warmer weather... aren't you proud of me???  this tank should be a personal invitation from me to spring.  (welcome!)  nevermind that i heard we're supposed to get some snow flurries on saturday.  i'll wear my tank bravely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

spring forward.

while my husband was away on his own version of a productive weekend (a jaunt to beale street!), i held down the fort in iowa and accomplished a couple lists full of things. i also broke the dryer, but that's beside the point. on saturday, my little sister jessica and i headed to madison to check out the deals, hopefully find her a prom dress and just generally enjoy some girl time. it was a rainy, dreary day, but i was wearing my new wellies, so i was in good spirits. we spent several hours at three different malls, and that much shopping is something i haven't done in a very long time. i came home under budget, and with lots of fun, new things: shopping success!

a few observations:

(1) since when has it become acceptable to traipse around wearing nothing but leggings? apparently spandex is now the hot new commodity for college kids & teens everywhere. i even caught a glimpse of a gal purchasing some spandex-y leggings that had pockets painted on (to make them look like jeans). to each her own, i suppose, and i've seen the leggings under a dress look and thought it cute on appropriate occasions... but i just can't condone wearing something that, in many cases, is too revealing even for gold's gym.

(2) another new trend appears to be shopping while blasting one's iPod. no less than 4 shoppers plowed into me while rocking out to their own tunes. each time the bewildered shopper looked at me like i was in the wrong. excuse me? you crashed into the back of me because you were so engrossed in those annoying ke$ha lyrics. i can admit, the heart-pumping techno blasting in most stores annoys me, too, and maybe that's what prompted people to start donning headphones. just a simple plea from a simple shopper: watch where you're going, yo.

(3) when young girls (between the ages of 15-17) call me "hun" or "sweetie," it irritates me more than i ever thought possible. i am 25 years old. i look young. i get that. but i have a wrinkle in the middle of my forehead and i use the mary kay timewise age-fighting skincare line, so i am not THAT young. when a very tan, gum-smacking girl in an obnoxiously loud, cheery voice insisted on calling me "hun" and checking on me every 2 minutes (LITERALLY, i timed it) as if i couldn't be trusted to decide on a few cardigans, i almost said something to her. it wasn't going to be something mean; i was just going to give her a polite tip. i decided against it. but still, my annoyance was probably palpable. and it seemed to happen alllll day long.

(4) i stopped in at pottery barn to admire the pretty things. the only thing i found that i really wanted was this moss wreath.

i did not fancy it's $50 pricetag. my sister did not fancy it at all. her direct quote: "it looks like someone put a bunch of dirt and grass into a bundt pan and baked an ugly cake." i, however, thought it seemed very springy and immediately began to plot my own creation. on the way home, we picked up supplies to make our own version of the moss wreath. last night i was checking on some of the blogs i usually read, and i saw that i was on the same wavelength as karli at my version of the PB wreath cost approx. $10, and i adore it! my friend kristy did, too, so i made her one.

my wreath

kristy's wreath

i also made some progress on birthday gifts for my mom and mother-in-law (neither is a blogger, so i will probably post some of my gift ideas soon! steal them if you like -- i think they're super cute!) ... and what would a day at the hodge podge lodge be without some fabric flowers??? made a few flower pins with tulle & chiffon (like the one on my flower belt).  i need a better camera to be able to share these creations, but you get the idea...

in between shopping, cleaning and my spring creating, i also attended two hockey games and am excited to report that my brother's junior A team is thus far undefeated in the play-offs and will be playing for the hurster cup in st. louis this weekend. john and i are going down to cheer them on and visit friends. i've already mapped out routes from our hotel to the nearest piano bar and bloody mary buffet. priorities, people, priorities!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

my endless love.

remember those houndstooth wellies i mentioned? well, i finally located them and, like a little kid on christmas morning, excitedly opened the shoe box to greet my adorable old friends. i was extremely dismayed to discover that the white on the boots had become disclored, and was now an ugly yellowish-orangeish-blotchy hue.

now, truth be told, i think i spent something like $9.99 at tj maxx on these bad boys, so it's my own fault they lasted for only one spring season. (because let me tell you, they CANNOT be salvaged. i thought maybe the lighting in my house was making the discoloration seem worse than it actually was. ohhhh no. real light was far worse. sadly, the wellies have seen their last days walking.)

but here's the thing: i hate being wet. when it rains and the bottoms of my pants get wet, i am disportionately crabby compared to what i would otherwise be. i am not a fan of rain in general, but at least wellies gave me a good reason to stop hating precipitation so much. i decided it was imperative to shell out the funds to replace the wellies since i apparently live in iowa's own version of seattle.

i was almost ready to purchase a pair of rain boots from piperlime when a friend suggested i check out endless. i found the exact boots i had contemplated for almost $20 cheaper, PLUS endless offers FREE OVERNIGHT shipping on brand new items and FREE TWO-DAY shipping on other things. get your booties over to their site and reward yourselves with their fabulous deals!

UPDATE, UPDATE! my wellies arrived from endless. ummm, who says there's no such thing as love at first sight?!? i ordered these on thursday morning and they arrived on friday. to iowa. remarkable!  my mom is also in on the endless love, or will be soon; i arrived at my brother's hockey game wearing the new boots and she decided she had to have a pair. (i ordered her the lime green polka dot ones, and they should be here tomorrow. just in time for a little st. patty's day surprise!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

fear itself.

they say the only thing to fear is fear itself. which i don't think is 100% true because that snookie character i've been hearing about seems pretty scary. so are clowns. so are a lot of the people i've been running into at grocery stores and parking lots (listen, i'm sure you are a firm disciplinarian and that you are doing your best with your kids, but does everyone at aldi's today need to know about it?) i do agree that the fear of losing, striking out or messing up prevents people from taking risks that could turn into...

an adorable "new" pair of flats! (yes, i DO know how to make things other than fabric flowers. but i've got spring & flowers on the brain. so there. i was rummaging through a large bin of shoes trying to find my houndstooth wellies because if it has to be this foggy & gross outside, then i am at least going to sport some cute rainboots. anyway, i found these little guys that i forgot i owned. they'll now hold a coveted spot in my weekend shoe rotation.)

ok, but so, on going for it & taking risks. my approach to cooking and sewing and all other creative pursuits is generally the same: what's the worst that could happen? because, really, what IS the worst thing that could happen? oh, yes, i suppose i could burn the house down. or i could amputate a finger with a sewing machine. but i can always scrap a dish that didn't turn out and head to red robin for bottomless fries. i can always trash the cardigan that just couldn't be re-vamped.

i am speaking from experience, people. experiences wrought with impulsiveness. impulsiveness and a little one-track-minded-ness sometimes yields sucessful results. or sometimes not. i have failed at projects many, many times. sometimes failure is the most hilarious thing, though. like the time i decided that i was going to turn 2 $40 target bookshelves into colorful and modern masterpieces. the first step was spraypainting. indoors. nevermind that my mom, my co-workers, my classmates and my husband all took the time to warn me against making this decision. nevermind that all the websites i consulted also warned against this idea. i got lots of plastic drop cloths and set up a space akin to a kill scene from an episode of dexter. a few hours later, the two bookshelves crashed into each other, smashed into pieces, and collapsed in a messy multi-colored heap on the office room floor. i also contracted a mysterious three day sickness that i believe was caused by the inhalation of toxic spray paint fumes in an unventilated area. i can still vividly see my husband's disapproving face staring at me from across the living room after i told him about my big bookshelf plans. "i want absolutely no part of this." even after the bookshelves were nothing but a memory, living out their last moments in a grimy green dumpster, i was still perplexed that my idea had failed. really. ahhhh c'est la vie. spray paint can't transform cheap dorm furniture into sturdy, classic pieces. lesson learned.

once i set out to wow my husband with a new recipe i had gotten from an old friend. chicken taco pie (sort of like chicken pot pie, but with a spicy twist). i diced some chicken breasts and cooked the pieces in a skillet. i added all the necessary ingredients to a pie plate and popped it in the oven to await a delish dinner that i just knew john would love. as soon as the timer beeped, i checked the pie, noting that it looked perfectly golden brown and ready to eat. i removed it from the oven, and placed it on top of the stove to cool for a moment. all of the sudden, POP! PING! the glass pie plate shattered and shards of glass mixed with chicken taco pie went flying everywhere. i was stunned. was this a terrorist attack? in my kitchen? sabotage? what the F was going on? it was then that i noticed that i had forgotten to turn off the stove burner after cooking the chicken. the burner was on when i set the pie plate on it to cool. and of course, you can't use a glass pie plate on the stove burner. when the dust settled, i cleaned up the mess, and we headed to buffalo wild wings to enjoy some effort-free boneless wings and beer. which, i must say, is a pretty decent way to salvage a chicken taco pie gone wrong.

these incidents, while a blow to my ego, didn't much deter me. i'm still attempting crazy craft capers, making mistakes, messing things up and once in a while, creating something i love (see yesterday's flower belt post!). but occurrence of these mishaps are probably best for my friends and family who seem to enjoy hearing about the escapades. anyway, the point is... don't be afraid to...

take the scissors to a sweater. or to let a little egg yolk into your homemade angel food cake. (ok, try not to do that, though. i had never made an angel food cake from scratch, but my mother-in-law gifted me a lovely tube pan, and i wanted to try out a fabulous recipe i had seen in an issue of cooking light. the recipe warned against allowing ANY TRACE of yolk to mingle with the egg whites. i think my general attitude was, "ohhhh, one miniscule speck isn't going to hurt anything." ahhhh, wrrrong! my egg whites would NOT rise. i enlisted john's assistance in an urgent trip to the grocery store to get a new carton of eggs. the cake turned out magical in the end, but the first dozen eggs ended up at the bottom of our garbage can.) go for it. fear not.

and speaking of being fearless, i. am. in. love. with. kell on earth, bravo's new show about PR fashion queen kelly cutrone. i enjoyed the little snippets of kelly i caught on "the hills" (gasp! i know... it used to be one of my guilty pleasures). kelly seemed so harsh and full of gloom & doom juxtaposed with the sunny LA landscape, overly tan famous-for-no-apparent-reason "stars" of the reality show. i think the contrast between cutrone and conrad, for example, made the PR queen seem far less human than she actually is. i love her no-nonsense attitude. she's human, she's a mom and she's also the owner of a successful business. and she cares about her staff in a way that was not presented on "the hills." come on, does a boss who doesn't care spend the time to invade blind dates or purchase lube for her overworked employees? she shares wine and bitch sessions with her senior staffers, and answers tearful distress calls from overly stressed assistants. and she is loving and adorable with her sweet little daughter ava. i know that reality tv shows can be less than accurate, but i'm liking kell on earth as an alternative to intervention, which i love, but can sometimes be a bit TOO real and, for example, the real housewives of the OC, whose characters seem a little out of touch. (though, let's be serious. the ladies of the OC have clearly gotten a dose of real life this past season. divorce, eviction, cancer scares... even lynne had to forego a spray tan because of the economy! wooooahhhh!) ok, but anyway, i am not a couch potato. i swear. i watch tv while i sew, and i have been working on lots of things the past few days... so i've been holed up in my craft room enjoying cutrone's observations and one liners in between pricking myself with needles and getting busy with my trusty seam ripper. kelly on a former whiny assistant: "she says that no one could survive PR unless they were superman on amphetamines. to be honest, proper dress code and common sense would have been enough. " LOVE it. LOVE her! kudos to a kick ass woman who calls people out on mediocrity. a perfectionista after my own heart.

fear not.

Monday, March 8, 2010

we always called each other goodfellas.

i have a not-so-secret obsession with gangster/mob movies. there's something about a big italian family eating meatballs and marinara while the men whisper about murders and money that seems so glamourous to me. goodfellas was on the tele while i was working on some crafts up in my office/craft room. (it's really like 22% office, 78% craft room.) it was sort of interesting that this movie full of men with filthy mouths, vile tempers and scandalous affairs was playing while i was working with the most beautiful fabrics. ahhhh, the irony!

well, the movie ended and so did my latest project. i have been PINING after anything floral recently. my most recent cyber window shopping jaunts have left me drooling over embellished cardigans (but you already knew that!), delicate necklaces and brooches and lovely little in-betweens.

(photo credit to the devilish photogs at ATL. somehow they have a knack for capturing these clothes so as to make me want. every. damn. thing. on. the. site. ps. i am currently jonesin' for the cardigan shown as well. and i am in the process of locating the perfect type of fray resistant chiffon or silk so i can make that, too.)

i was checking out some of my latest favorites at the loft (see above) when i decided i would try to create my own flower belt.

i headed to joann fabrics. (and yes, they know me by name there.) i happened upon some lovely shimmery silk and decided on some coordinating tulle. some velcro and ribbon and i was off to re-create.

i feel sad that my camera is so crappy because i. am. in. love. with. my. new. flower. belt. the petals are delicate and beautiful and everything i wanted them to be. i am not putting too much stock in the following, but i was pretty excited when my husband asked where i bought the flower belt. because, as he reminded me, "you have way too much flower crap already." duly noted.

ahhh, but it is love. this silky material was so fun to work with, and i love the depth added by the layers of tulle. i only wish you could see the flower in person because it truly is wonderful. it is a bit too much for work, though, no? i mean, i have lots of fabulous flower pins that i add to cardigans and suit jackets for that extra oomph at the office. but a flower belt? might be a little too avant garde for iowa.

tres jolie! if i do say so myself. (if you're particularly interested in the step-by-step, feel free to ask. it's SUPER easy and the supplies are SUPER cheap.)

... and now another delicious thing for your waist. or waistline, i should say. yesterday happened to be a dreary, foggy sunday morning, and when i woke up, about the only thing i had any interest in doing was snuggling in my fluffy pink bathrobe and sipping on a hot mug of coffee. it turns out that my laziness/forgetfulness led me straight to a road labeled "no coffee creamer." i just couldn't bring myself to think about getting dressed. in real clothes. i contemplated the appropriateness of running to the nearest grocery store in my bathrobe, but i was nervous about seeing a client or a co-worker, so i thought it was time to try my hand at making my own coffee creamer. i mixed one can of sweetened condensed milk with equal parts skim milk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. ummm... yum! it was exactly what my sunday morning coffee needed. and i didn't even have to get out of my bathrobe. total win.

according to joann fabrics, march is national craft month. i was going to try to be really creative and post an obscene amount of projects and ideas for your own pleasure & enjoyment. but here we are, almost done with march 8, and i've yet to embark on that journey. my apologies. but i do have some cute ideas to share over the next few weeks... including an adorable st. patty's day gift i'm working on for my little sister. stay tuned!