Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Things I Like: Sew Liberated Patterns

I went to Crafty Planet with a specific mission: find 1.5 yards of fabric for a gift that I'm working on. While perusing the amazing fabric selection, books, supplies and patterns, I came across this beauty:

I am in love with this tunic. I must have stared at the picture for several minutes. It's so me! I even opened the packaging and took out the pattern and instructions to see if it was a manageable project. I decided it was something I could handle, but I couldn't bring myself to buy the pattern. You better believe I haven't been able to stop thinking about it ever since...

Anyone up for a trip to Crafty Planet?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Food Revolution!

I had a lot of downtime when I lived in Norway. A lot of downtime. The apartment I lived in had a small TV that picked up one channel with its antenna. That channel occasionally aired three English-speaking shows: Full House reruns, a BBC documentary on Downs Syndrome (always, never anything else), and Jamie Oliver's cooking show.

I love Jamie Oliver. I love his accent, I love the food he cooks, I love his shows. You know how excited some people get about 24, Lost and The Office? Yeah, that was me with Jamie Oliver in the summer of 2003. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned about his new show on ABC. Anyone else watched it? How about those chicken nuggets? Yummy.

I'm number 15 in line in our library system for his latest and greatest contribution to healthy eating and I am so excited for the day it becomes available. So is G, because he cannot wait for the proportion of vegetables he consumes to keep climbing. I kid, but it's happening whether he likes it or not.

Anyone else a big Jamie Oliver fan?

My Monday Evening

Last night I drove to the far north side of the Cities to pick up some furniture I found on Craig's List. I just couldn't pass up two cute side tables and a coffee table for $15. Don't worry, I was going to meet the woman outside in a highly populated area. I would have been completely safe.

Would have, but I never made it to my destination. You see, I stopped at a Target to break my $20 so I had exact change and when I returned to the car it refused to start. It pretended to, but the engine wouldn't turn over. I tried it several times. I called G. I called my dad. I called our insurance company. I learned that my car but not my husband's car had roadside assistance (?) and since I was driving his car, I decided to try other options before resorting to a tow truck. I found a group of nice looking people walking near the entrance of the store and asked if they wouldn't mind jumping my car. I bought new cables. The friendly people tried. It didn't work. I called our insurance company again. The woman I spoke with arranged for a truck to meet me in the parking lot, and when I asked her about payment for the service she said it was covered. I was a little perplexed, but decided not to challenge her. The tow truck driver arrived, asked me to start the car so he could get an idea of what might be wrong. . .

. . . and it started.

We decided that he should take the car since the insurance company was covering the tow (you better believe I triple checked to make sure that was actually the case) and we didn't really know what was wrong with the car. The last thing I wanted was for the car to breakdown while I was cruising south on 35W. I spent the next half hour learning about the ins and outs of the towing business and being surprised that people actually pronounce Arab with a long "A" at the beginning. I arrived home sans furniture, but safe, and now I'm looking forward to a nice morning at the repair center.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Recap

I had a fabulous weekend!

I've had a fairly persistent problem with my upper back muscles since last summer. It comes and goes and last Thursday it really started to bother me. I'm not sure what brought it on, but I'm guessing it had something to do with standing on my feet for most of the week and chasing hyperactive first graders. By Friday, one of the teachers I was assisting convinced me that I needed to see a chiropractor and gave me the name of a guy she thinks is "incredibly amazing." I'd never been to a chiropractor, but the pain was so stinking intense I decided I would stop by his clinic on my way home. That ended up being a brilliant decision. The doctor was out for the weekend, but his message therapist was working. Despite the fact she was booked for the remainder of the afternoon, after listening to my description of my problems she graciously offered me a free ten minute chair massage. It was heavenly. Why have I never done that before? She confirmed that all of my upper back muscles are extremely tight and she located the "string of knots" that are the source of my discomfort. She worked on them until her client arrived. I made an appointment for a full session later this week. I'm totally jazzed about it. In the mean time, I've been instructed to drink 70 ounces of water a day, ice my upper back for three fifteen minute periods each evening, and take Epsom salt baths. I think I can handle this kind of therapy.

On Saturday one of my girlfriends came up for a day of shopping. We started off at an estate sale in Golden Valley. It turned out to be a bit of a bust. Despite our early arrival, everything that was remotely interesting to us had a sold tag on it. We probably wouldn't have bought anything anyway as it all reeked of cigarette smoke. The hunt for a coffee table and side tables continues. I am determined to find something second hand.

We had lunch at the Punch Pizza in NE Minneapolis. Man, I love that place. I almost always order the Siciliana, but I was a little adventurous that day and tried the Adriatica. Heaven. I could eat that stuff every single day.

After devoring our lunch, we went to Crafty Planet. I wished I lived closer to that store. Despite its small size, I could have spent hours looking at fabric and felting supplies. It was wonderful. I picked up some fun fabric that I'll (try to) share later in the week.

Our afternoon ended with trips to TJ Maxx (I am determined to find my seagrass baskets!) and IKEA. No big purchases, but I did find some new juice glasses. Is it odd to be so excited about cheap glasses? They're simple, inexpensive and look nice. Just how I like 'em. The husband gave them his seal of approval, so I'll be making a return trip to the store later this week to pick up some more.

On Sunday we slept in and then visited a few of the remodeled homes that were part of the Parade of Homes tour. It's so much fun to visit remodeled homes and imagine the potential for our little abode...

Healthy Nest: Keeping Accountable Week 3

I missed my mark, but I was much closer to reaching it than I was the previous week! I'm not going to set a goal for next week so I don't feel quite so guilty. Despite not meeting my goals, I think I've been making good progress...

Monday, March 22: Run 3 miles/arms, back and core strength building.
Tuesday, March 23: Run 2.5 miles/legs and core.
Wednesday, March 24: Day off.
Thursday, March 25: 3.5 miles/back and upper arms.
Friday, March 26: I corralled children at a bowling alley all afternoon - that must count for something, right?
Saturday, March 27: Day off.
Sunday, March 28: 3.1 miles/legs.

Weekend recap later today!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I have a secret...

I love working in elementary schools.

I spent last Friday bowling and making craft projects with the first graders at the school where I was subbing. I had a fabulous week, but helping the kiddos make coffee filter butterflies and craft bugs out of egg shell cartons and pipe cleaners was the highlight of my week. Such creative little minds. The teacher and I made butterflies, too. I brought mine home and we hung it on the refrigerator. I can't wait until our refrigerator is plastered with our own kids' art. Joy!

There's a certain innocence about first graders that I just love. My main charge and I used the word "secret" as a reminder to him to stay focused on one of his personal objectives (I won't go into any details). We always whispered it, but apparently we weren't quiet enough. On Wednesday, a different student approached me and told me that she had a secret she wanted to share. She must have overheard us whispering our code word and decided I needed to know her secret.

It turns out she's a real princess. Only her parents and I know.

I was obviously very surprised at her confession and totally thrilled and honored to be in the presence of royalty. I vowed never to divulge her secret to her classmates. For the rest of the week she would randomly approach me and whisper "secret."

On Friday afternoon, a little boy in the class decided that he needed to share a secret with me, too. Again, I had to vow not to share his secret with anyone in the class.

He informed me that his dad is the Vice President. Of the United States.

I asked him what it was like to be Joe Biden's son and he looked at me like I was crazy. When I told him that the VP's name is Joe Biden, he said "Oops. I meant he's the vice president of something else that's really big." He then lowered his head and whispered a reminder to me that this was our secret.

First graders. I love them and their creative little minds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Felt Baby Booties

Remember the shower I mentioned yesterday? I also gave Jenny and Joe this little pair of booties that I made:

I used a Simplicity pattern for the basic form of the shoe, but ended up changing the measurements so that I could have finished edges on the upper part of the shoe. I also hand stitched some satiny ribbon around the seems on the base of the shoe to give it a more finished look and to keep the baby's feet more comfortable. I made the flowers by hand and added clear beads to their centers for a little extra embellishment. The outer shoe and flowers are felt and the inner shoe is a brightly colored funky tie dye fabric. I wish I had more friends having babies - they were fun to make!

The Green Demon

Yesterday morning, I unlocked my car, dumped my bags onto the back seat, and opened the front door. Suddenly its hazard lights started flashing and the alarm was blaring. Having experienced this before, I slid into the driver's seat and started the engine. Starting the engine should have caused the alarm to stop blaring, but it didn't. I turned the car off. The alarm kept going.

I opened the garage door and reversed.

The alarm kept going.

I turned off the car.

It kept going.

I opened the car doors and shut them.

It kept going.

I started the car again.

It kept going.

My neighbors started to emerge from their houses to see what was happening.

I waved at them as my car's horn beeped and lights flashed.

I called my dad, foolishly thinking he would be able to help me from afar. No luck.

It just kept going and going and going.

It felt like forever, but it probably only lasted a few minutes. When I realized I couldn't control the problem I started to get really nervous because I had to be at my subbing job in less than 20 minutes. My dad suggested that I just drive to work with the alarm on, but there was absolutely no way I was going to drive down any road with my car's lights madly flashing and the alarm blaring. I probably would have caused everyone to clear out of my way allowing me to get to work in time, but can you imagine how embarrassing that would have been?

There's a reason we call it The Green Demon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend in Review

My weekend started a little early with trip to my hometown to visit my parents and my favorite aunt, who was visiting from Chicago. We attended an impressive production of Once Upon a Mattress on Thursday night and spent the next morning wandering around town looking for good deals. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. I left after lunch in order to avoid rush hour traffic and made it home just in time to greet my husband as he returned from work. We had an impromptu date night that involved dinner at Chipotle (I'm a cheap date), a trip to REI to purchase new shoes for the boy, and a stop at Babies-R-Us to find some gifts for a shower I attended on Saturday.

Let me just say that Babies-R-Us is one of the most overwhelming places I have ever visited. My friend, Jenny, wrote me an after they registered in which she exclaimed that she had no idea there were so many different kinds of butt paste. I laughed, but when I got lost in the butt paste aisle I realized that she wasn't kidding. There's an impressive selection of different butt pastes. I can't imagine there's that much demand for such a product, but I guess it must be a fairly competitive market.

After I navigated my way out of the butt paste aisle, I decided to just find the book section. Books are always safe gift ideas, especially when the baby's mama studied English in college. On my way to the book section I had to pass through a sea of pink and blue clothing. As I was about to emerge from the infant boys' section I stumbled upon the cutest little pink Minnesota Twins baseball hat. The baby's parents might not be into the color pink, but the dad is a fan of the Twins so I knew it was a perfect gift. I picked out the book based exclusively on the cover's picture, which turned out to be a stupid idea. It turns out the book was meant to help kids feel comfortable with the idea that parents can love all of their children equally. I know the baby won't understand the words of the book for quite some time, but I still felt pretty dumb for buying her a book that is meant for a child with one or more siblings. Did I mention she'll be an only child (at least for a while)? For as overwhelming as Babies-R-Us was, I also had fun. I can't wait for the day when we can visit the store to prepare for our own baby's arrival - keep calm, it won't be for a while!

Saturday morning I picked up the guests of honor at the airport and we headed up north for the shower. We arrived early, which was good as my friends got to spend time with their immediate families. It was a casual open house, which was perfect. Jen's mom is an amazing baker and had prepared some fabulous food for the buffet table. I need to raid her recipe box.

One of Jen's sisters decorated the letters in the picture above. Aren't they cute?

There were two diaper cakes at the shower, but this one was my favorite. I really love those little pink sunglasses on the top tier.

We had a very lazy Sunday morning. I ran errands while G hung out at home and rode his bike. I went to TJ Maxx to pick up some baskets to finish my decluttering project, but they had sold all of the baskets I had hoped to purchase. Drats! I'll have to track them down elsewhere...

That afternoon we met my parents and my little brother in Minneapolis for dinner at The Melting Pot to celebrate my parents' thirtieth wedding anniversary (!). We had two different cheese fondues, three different entree fondues (two veggie, one surf and turf, and one seafood), and two chocolate fondues for dessert. I wasn't a big fan of the cheese course, but I enjoyed the main course and I loved the chocolate.

I will gladly eat this passion fruit-infused chocolate fondue any day of the week. Now I'm inspired to break out the fondue pot we received as a wedding present. Fondue and games anyone?

After dinner, G suggested we take the train up to Target Stadium to check out the new ballpark. I'm not a big baseball fan, but after seeing the stadium I'm kind of excited about going to a night game. It really is a beautiful structure.

After taking the train back to our park and ride, we went home and prepared for the busy week ahead. I'm going to start the week off on the right foot and attempt a four mile run tonight. We'll see how it goes...

Healthy Nest: Keeping Accountable Week 2

Well, I didn't meet my goal for the week. I failed. Miserably. I was feeling icky last Monday, I subbed on Wednesday and had a band concert that evening, and I spent Friday and Saturday trying to nurse my most recent case of runner's toe. Someday I should go to Running Room and find out what kind of shoes I should really be wearing.

Here's the breakdown for last week:

Monday, March 15: Day off (sick).
Tuesday, March 16: Run 3 miles, strength training for arms and core.
Wednesday, March 17: Off.
Thursday, March 18: Run 2.5 miles, upper back and leg strength training.
Friday, March 19: Off.
Saturday, March 20: Off.
Sunday, March 21: Off.

That is embarrassing. This week I'm going to try and recover the 4.5 miles I missed the previous week and finish the 10 I originally hoped to add to my total mileage. We'll see how my toe holds up!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Things I Like: Rogue Chocolatier

Another good reason to visit home?

So I can eat my mother's chocolate.

If you ever come across Rogue Chocolatier Hispaniola or Sambirano, do not hesitate to purchase multiple bars. Do not look at the price tag. Just pick up one bar of each, proceed to the checkout counter, and hand over your check card. It's amazing. AMAZING.

And if you ever need a small gift for my husband, this is it. He has suddenly become a connoisseur of dark chocolate. Earlier this week - out of nowhere - he even talked about the finishing flavors of one of the bars I recently purchased. If I brought this home he would squirrel it away and I'd never see it. Ever. It's that good.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Home Projects: Dining Room I

I'm at my parents' home for the night. My mom is performing in the pit orchestra for the local high school's production of Once Upon a Mattress, and being the good daughter that I am, I decided to attend the opening night performance. I'm sure that for every 1 concert of hers that I've attended she's probably been to 100 of mine, so I owe her. Big time.

Going home also meant that I could check out some furniture that my dad offered to us when we moved into our house last August. I initially told him "no," but in February I started rethinking my plans for the kitchen and decided his old dining room table might be a good fit. You see, I was originally very committed to placing a Parsons table in our dining room...

...and while I still love the look of the table (and the room above), after shifting course with the style of our living room, I decided we needed something with a little more character. With that said, I would like to introduce you to our newest piece of furniture, our dining room table:

It's been sitting in the basement of my parents' house for as long as I can remember, which makes sense since my dad bought it before I was born. It never really served its intended purpose, but it definitely worked well for art projects, folding laundry, and keeping things away from our dogs. No one is really sure how old the table is, but we do know it's solid oak. When it's fully collapsed it's a square that can probably seat around 6, but you can add two table leaves that will increase seating to 10 (at least it looks like it will).

Here's a close up of one of its five legs. I'm in love. So simple, yet so much character.

Unfortunately, the top of the table is going to require a little TLC. One of the slats is warped and needs to be repositioned and secured. The good news is that my dad thinks we can tackle that project this summer. It also (obviously) needs a bath, some linseed oil, and a few coats of fresh varnish. I am really excited to see what it looks like in our home!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Home Projects: Minimzing Kitchen Clutter

When we moved into our house last August, we knew the kitchen would pose the most difficult challenge for us because it was significantly smaller than our apartment's kitchen. We managed to find spots for all of our essential items, but had to store many of our small appliances and tools elsewhere. It's a bit of a pain when I want to bake and have to scrounge around for certain pieces of equipment, but it's not a huge problem. Even though our kitchen is ugly and cramped it's fully functional and we're not ready to invest in a big renovation project at this point. If it's not broken, why fix it, right?

The fact that I spend a lot of time in our tiny kitchen means that the counters and the tops of the refrigerator and microwave collect clutter. Lots and lots of clutter. It drives both of us crazy, but we just don't have a lot of free space so keeping the kitchen tidy is challenging. It just collects. Rapidly. One day it's spotless and the next it's a disaster zone. My mission this week is to tame the kitchen's clutter causing trouble spots.

Last Saturday, while surveying the stock at TJMaxx HomeGoods, I found a large, shallow seagrass basket. I immediately knew that it would be perfect for holding the boxes of saran wrap, tin foil, wax paper, plastic baggies and hot pads that have lived on top of our microwave since last August.

Take note of that other clutter to the left of the microwave. Included in that pile are four candle holders, a spool of thread, my grocery list, a thermostat, two boxes of pewter serving pieces, a set of cheese knives, and my copy of Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook. Oh, the irony.

On Sunday, I cleared off the top of the microwave and put everything in the basket. I also tidied up the pile of stuff to the left of the microwave. The basket really makes a difference, I think.

But now I want to tackle all of the messy areas of our kitchen, including this disaster zone (the clean dishes aren't usually there, but everything else is)...

...and this mess of stuff (I'm betting at least half of the boxes contain 1/4 cup or less of whatever is in them - my husband very kindly saves me the last bits just in case I might want them - so they should be easy to clean up)...

Tidying up these spaces will make a big difference, I think. I hope. Any tips for managing kitchen clutter?

Target Loveliness

I have a longer post that will go up tonight, but I just don't have time to finish it this morning. It involves a lot of pictures, and while I would love to finish it up right now I really need to focus on my dissertation research. In the mean time, check out this shower curtain I found at Target:

I love it, but I am 110% sure that my husband would gasp in horror if I suggested putting it in our bathroom.

I discovered it last night after checking out the new Liberty of London products at Target. One of my best friends is having a baby girl in a few months and her shower is this weekend. Wouldn't one of these dresses make a cute gift?

I'm not sure how I ended up looking at shower curtains after looking at infant girls' clothing, but that kind of thing will happen at It's like a black hole. I just get sucked in and one search leads to another.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Healthy Nest: Keeping Accountable Week 1

I woke up early, made an egg, cheese and sausage omelet for G., and started to get to work on CHAPTER TWO of my dissertation when I was overcome with a very sudden urge to purge. Not to be too gross, but I haven't vomited since I was 15, so I was probably a little overdue for a date with the garbage can. What a way to start the week!

Every Monday morning, I'm going to update my blog with the previous week's exercise stats. I call my dad almost daily to keep him informed about my progress with my running goal, but I figured it would be good to document it elsewhere - why not here? I didn't give too much thought to exactly how I would record the information, but here goes:

Monday, March 8: Run 3 miles of intervals*, followed by brisk walk; core strength training.
Tuesday, March 9: Bike 20 minutes; 20 minutes strength training for arms and legs
Wednesday, March 10: Run 2.5 miles, brisk walk for 20 minutes.
Thursday, March 11: Day of rest.
Friday, March 12: Run 4 miles; 20 minutes strength training (legs and arms)
Saturday, March 13: Run 4.5 miles (4 straight, .5 at pace of 8 mph following brief brisk walk); strength training for 20 minutes (legs and core)
Sunday, March 14: Day of rest (unintentional, daylight savings must have hit me hard because I was exhausted)

* I run my intervals based on distance, not time, so I can keep track of how many miles I'm actually running. For example, I might run .50 miles at a pace of 7 mph and then walk .20 miles at a pace of 4.0 mph before running .25 miles. I always run quarter-mile increments as it's easier to keep track of in my head.

I'm up to 25 miles for the first 2 weeks of tracking, which I think is reasonable. Given the events of this morning, I'm not sure I'll be adding on to that mileage today but I think 10 miles is a reasonable goal for this week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I cannot find the words to adequately describe how very badly I want to see this movie:

Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig in a movie about roller derby girls? I hope it's available through Redbox soon...

In other news, I've nearly finished the first complete draft of one of my dissertation chapters, I had an interview for a temp job with an interesting company this morning, we're meeting with our new tax guy later this afternoon, I'm seriously contemplating having real bangs for the first time in 17 years, and we have what appears to be a rapidly growing pond in our backyard.

Exciting times.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Home Projects: Living Room Window Coverings

I hate our office. Our office chair doesn't fit under my super cool desk, I don't care for the color on the walls, and the lighting is horrible. I realize these are all fixable things, but I can't tackle renovating the office until I've painted the basement. That's just how I work. Anyway, my dislike of our office means that I often spend my days working in the dining room, which feels less dungeon-like.

A week ago, I was typing away and something moving past the living room window caught my eye. I looked up and saw "Pete," the self-proclaimed neighborhood watch dog, walking down the middle of the street holding his can of beer. I watched him stop in front of our house and stare at it for what felt like a long time. When I realized he was staring at the house, I slowly backed my chair up so I was hidden behind the wall that divides the living from the kitchen and prayed he hadn't seen me watching him. Pete can talk forever and I didn't want him to see me and feel the need to explain why he was staring at our house. Hiding was necessary. After a few moments had passed, I poked my head around the corner and saw that he had turned around and was staring at the house across the street. It was at that moment that I decided I needed to expedite our search for some curtain rods so we could increase our level of privacy. Neighbor or not, I don't really like people staring into our house. It's a little creepy.

I've been searching for curtain rods since January 28, when we finally finished mounting the hardware for the rods my aunt gave us last fall. Having never mounted curtain hardware, we approached the project with great caution – or what we thought was great caution. We measured the length of the panels, we positioned the brackets so the curtains would hang just right, we brought out the tape measure and level to make sure the spacing between the brackets was perfect and that each individual bracket was positioned straight up and down. Unfortunately, despite our attempt to be perfect, we screwed up. Big Time. How we managed to measure the length and width of the curtain panels but not the length of the actual curtain rod is beyond me. My dad came up to help with the last bit of the installation process and we decided we’d surprise G and have the curtains hung by the time he got home from work. We slipped the sheer curtain onto the rod and I climbed up to slide it into mount. My dad held the middle piece and slid the other end through the openings…only to discover that the parts didn’t meet. There was a foot gap between one of the rod and the middle joining section.

Because the hardware was an absolute pain in the butt to firmly secure on the wall (G insists they are a permanent fixture and will be sold with the house), and because I had just finished painting the room and didn't want to spackle and paint again, we opted to leave them up and search for new rods that had a matching finish. Unfortunately, the PB rods that extend to 120" are pretty pricey, so I offered to look for a less expensive alternative. It took forever. On Monday of this week, I found some on sale at Jo-Ann’s (of all places). They're not great quality, but I couldn’t pass up the price. I only installed one because I wanted to see what other people think of them. The color of the rod matches the scrolled hardware pretty well, but I need help with the finials. I'm going to wait to install the second rod until I know what finials I'm going to use.

Here's the scrolled finial that came with the rod:

And here's the ball from the original PB rods (just to give you an idea as to the difference in quality, this little ball finial weighs about as much as half of the curtain rod from JoAnn's):

Here are my options:

1) All ball finials

2) All scrolled finials

3) Scrolled finials in front and ball finials in the back

I'm so excited to have some privacy back!

Meatballs and Marinara

Marriage is about compromising, right? One of - if not the - biggest compromises we make is in the kitchen. My diet is mostly vegetarian, with eggs and a little chicken (and maybe the occasional piece (err, pieces) of bacon) thrown in for extra protein. G is a carnivore who likes his hamburgers medium rare and never misses an opportunity to offer me a chunk of pink animal flesh. Since G and I have been married, I've had to be creative in the kitchen. I've also had to be increasingly flexible with what I consider vegetarian. A classic example of this is the recipe below, which is for meatballs and marinara sauce. I don't eat the meatballs, but I do eat the sauce they float around in. Three years ago, I would have prepared, served and stored the sauce and meatballs separately. This no longer happens. It's too time consuming, and frankly, while I don't see myself biting into a meatball anytime in the immediate future, I don't notice any of the juices they release into the sauce. Marriage is teaching me how to be more flexible, and that is a good thing.

You might be wondering what kind of compromises G makes. Suffice it to say his reaction to our freezer full of organic vegetables - especially the peas, they're his kryptonite - often involves loud sighs and occasionally swearing. Just last week, I watched him open the freezer door, survey the recently stocked shelves of Trader Joe's organic foursome, and then release an audible sigh followed by him saying "oh my god" under his breath.

But really, if one of the biggest compromises we have to make for each other comes down to vegetables and red meat juice/bits, that's awesome, right? I think so.

On to the recipe! I intended to take pictures, but the diced tomatoes I used for this batch of sauce made it look rather industrial and not pretty. To be totally honest with you, they actually didn't taste very good, either. Alas, I promised a friend I'd post the recipe, so here it is:

Marinara (my own recipe)

2 large cans diced tomatoes and juices*
1 small yellow onion, chopped**
1 cup kalamata olives
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine

*I almost always use Nature's Harvest canned tomatoes w/ basil (available at Cub), but opted to use Muir Glen last night because they were on super sale. Bad move. If your grocery sells Nature's Harvest, use it, it is perfect for this recipe.

**Depending on what's in our refrigerator, I also add spinach and/or carrots.

I make our marinara using both our slow cooker and the stove top. If I'm making meatballs, I will usually put the tomatoes in the slow cooker right away and then move on to prepping the meatballs.

Meatballs (Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe)

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 1% milk
1/2 lb. ground sausage
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup minced onion
1 minced clove garlic

Mix the bread crumbs and milk until very moist. Add both meats, the egg, both cheeses, the onion and garlic, and a few twists of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the bowl.

Form the mixture into 3/4 inch balls. Cook in EVO over medium heat, turning until all sides are brown. Place the meatballs on a paper towel to drain the excess oil, and cook the remaining meatballs.

When all of the meatballs are cooked, I put the entire plate directly into the refrigerator so they don't sit around collecting bacteria until the sauce is ready (it will be a while).

Drain liquids from the pan used to make the meatballs into a container and return the pan to the stove top over medium-low heat. Add two tablespoons (or more depending on whether or not you use extra vegetables) of EVO, heat, and then add the vegetables (with the exception of the spinach) you want to include in your sauce. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the wine, scrapping the bits off the bottom of the pan, and heat for a few minutes. Add the mixture to the slow cooker. Let the mixture cook for at least three hours over low heat. If you add spinach to the mix, do so when you have one hour of cook time remaining.

I add the meatballs when there's about 30-45 minutes of time remaining. I put half of the cooked meatballs in the sauce, and half in the freezer for a later date.

It might seem like a lot of work up front, but the leftovers last for many days. Let me know if you try it...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Recipe: Creamy Toasted Ravioli

Last October, I was gifted with a subscription to Cook's Country. While paging through the most recent issue, the recipe for cheesy toasted ravioli with pesto caught my eye, but I didn't have all of the ingredients - including the very important pesto, which I don't think G would even like - so I improvised and came up with a variation I'll call creamy toasted ravioli.

Before the recipe, some advice:

1. After finishing two small helpings, G declared: "My taste buds are full, but my stomach is not." This is rich, people. If you ever make this, you might consider adding some chicken for a little extra protein.

2. Do not eat this meal less than two hours before running 2.5 miles at the gym. It was probably the combination of the gym feeling like a sauna, the significant amount of dairy product being jostled around in my belly, and my less-than-graceful gait that made me feel ill, but it was not pleasant and I do not intend to make that mistake twice.

I bet you're hungry now. ;) Let me introduce you to last night's dinner:

Here's the "formula," as my grandpa would call it:


1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 package fresh ravioli (I used Trader Joe's 4 cheese and it was perfect for this dish)
1/2 cup cream
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
1-2 Roma tomatoes, sliced


Melt butter in frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ravioli, tossing to coat in butter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and cream, cover, and cook an additional 4-5 minutes (the ravioli should feel almost tender when touched with a fork). Remove lid and cook until sauce is thickened and ravioli are completely tender, approximately 3-4 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to second highest position. Set broiler to high and warm up the oven.

Pour ravioli and sauce mixture into a broiler-safe dish. Season with pepper and add 3/4 of cheese cubes. Mix. Place tomatoes on top of the ravioli in a single layer. Put remaining cheese on top of the tomatoes. Broil for approximately 3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.

Mags, I promise to post the crock pot marinara later this week!


Until July of 2009, I did a decent job maintaining a running schedule. Then I got caught up in a mess of schoolwork and we bought our house and I just never got back into a running routine. A week and a half ago, I started again. I'd really like to stick with it this time, although I'll be the first to admit that it probably won't happen.

Just bein' honest.

In an attempt to log some serious miles (for me) this year, I set a goal of running a minimum of 250 miles before December 31. I signed up with dailymile, a website that allows you to keep track of your runs and post information in the public sphere.

So far I've been fairly good about keeping my log up-to-date, but to help keep me accountable I opted to link my blog to the website. Every time I update my account, it automatically updates the counter on my blog. You'll find it at the bottom of the column on the right of this page. Not that I expect anyone to keep tabs on my mileage - other than my papa, because he is definitely keeping an eye on the number - but if you ever see the number stay steady for more than a few days feel free to get on my case.

17 down, 233 to go.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Home Projects: Closet Organization

I didn't finish organizing our front closet this weekend, which is a little embarrassing to admit because it's really not that big of a project. I did, however, pick up these baskets to put our hats, tennis balls, and other summer things in:

The green in the leaves matches the paint I'm going to use on the walls in the hallway and spare bedrooms, and they were half off. A perfect purchase.

Mondays are always busy for us, so this post is short. Maybe I'll find some time to finish the closet organization tonight. Maybe...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Embroidery Project Update

Know what I love? Lazy Friday nights. This afternoon I went to the gym and did some interval running and strength training. Then I ate a giant burrito for dinner. Oops.

As promised, here's an up-to-date picture of my project:

As you can see, I didn't make substantial progress over the last week, but I did finish what was left of the horn, the entire globe and part of the bike. I'm hoping to make some more progress tonight while we watch The Informant.

Tomorrow morning I have a brunch date, and then we're hanging out with our brother T in Rochester for the afternoon. I fully intend to bring both G and T to the TJ Maxx HomeGoods in Rochester to search for another throw pillow, but I'm not going to tell them we're going there until we're actually in Rochester. :)

I think we're going to the Como conservatory on Sunday to see what's in bloom. I'm excited!

My other plans for the weekend aren't very exciting. The change in weather and this post have motivated me to clean out our front closest and pack away our thickest winter jackets and a few other things that make it quite cluttered. In addition to clutter control, I'll probably dust the floor trim. Exciting, I know!

Home Projects: Basement Bathroom Inspriration

Remember earlier this week when I professed my love for TJ Maxx HomeGoods? While I was hunting for throw pillows, I also found some accessories for the basement bathroom. Two events over the past month made me realize that for as much as we dislike the bathroom, we needed to invest in some essential items to make it a more welcoming space. It can no longer be ignored.

#1: We had out of town guests take over our basement for a weekend, and I realized that we had nothing for them to use in that bathroom. We made do, but I had to spend a lot of time scrounging around for a makeshift bathmat, extra hand soap, and toiletries for the shower.

#2: Shortly after our friends left, I overheard my BIL yell at G: "G-d, G, you don't even have a hand towel in this bathroom" (this was also the moment I learned that you can hear just about everything taking place in the basement bathroom while you are in the upstairs bathroom).

Needless to say, I felt a little guilty. We might hate the basement bathroom and we might be two of the cheapest people you'll ever meet, but we also like to be hospitable. Something had to be done.

The bathroom accessories section at TJ Maxx was impressive, and included some high end brands like Ralph Lauren. I found two small bathmats in a really pretty shade of green-blue that were only $10, so I added them to my cart. We'll use on in front of the shower and one in front of the sink.

Having found the bathmats, I decided I should probably look for some towels to match the color. I found these:

I love the print and the colors. And by love, I mean I'm totally inspired to rip out every last tile and shred of wallpaper in an effort to make the bathroom functional and pretty. As a reminder, here are a few pictures of what our bathroom currently looks like:

You actually have to pass through this short hallway to get to the bathroom. In order to to turn on the bathroom light, you have to walk all the way into the bathroom and reach around in the dark until you find the switches. Very convenient, especially for guests who don't know the layout of the bathroom.

I'll be the first to admit this room is ugly, so don't pretend it has good qualities. There's only one...

...and that's the extra storage space we have due to the awkward placement of the water heater. A real door would be nice in that corner, don't you agree?

The duck shelf and organizer thing above the toilet were both "gifts" from the previous owners. We're selling them a our garage sale this June, so if you want them let me know and I'll put a hold sticker on them for you. Just kidding. I'm not even going to show you what's behind that skinny sliding door or what the shower looks like.

Here's a close up of our lovely new towels right next to the super awesome wallpaper border that features deer prancing through the wilderness:

I'm sure you're jealous and wishing you had a country woodlands hunting themed bathroom with a dingy dropped ceiling in your house. I bet you're even more jealous that you don't have towels and bathmats that look quite as awesome as part of the decor. Aren't the towels inspiring, though? The colors and prints are just lovely. They give me hope for this room - I can't wait until we renovate it!

Update on my embroidery project later today!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ms. O-yee

I spent the last two days herding preschoolers, reminding them to keep their fingers out of their noses (and to wipe those boogers off their cheeks), gently encouraging them to reconsider whether or not the color brown is really called "pink," asking kids to keep their hands out of their pants and their shirts pulled down over their bellies, and praying their glitter and glue filled hands didn't touch my denim trousers.

Not only did my pants have glitter and glue on them, I also had really stink homemade play dough on my butt and probably every shade of marker imaginable on my legs. Preschoolers are cute, but they have no sense of boundaries and they frequently become distracted by almost anything and forget they need to maintain control of their arms. Ms. O-yee! Ms. O-yee! Jordan has a booger on face! Look, it's right there by his eyeball! This - and many other distracting statements - will invariably involve not only the child making the observation, but every other child within earshot, running over to examine said booger, arms flailing around, knocking things over, transferring glitter and glue to anything within arm's reach, as they struggle to get their face as close to the booger as possible. I also had a little girl come up to me, say Ms. O-yee, I think you're earrings are beautiful, only to discover she wasn't really complementing my earrings, she was just distracting my attention so she could wipe her dirty little hands on my pants. I know this because I asked her to stop using my pants as a towel, she gave me a little smirk that said "I fooled you."


And yes, the did call me Ms. O-yee. It probably didn't help that after introducing myself to the kids after I first arrived, the preschool teacher responded with (to the entire classroom): "Boy, that certainly is a strange, excuse me, different, last name, isn't it?" I told them they could call me Ms. K, but the teacher refused to allow that to happen, and so Ms. O-yee I was. It worked, and they were so cute when they said it. So cute.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Decorating Deal: Paisley Throw Pillow

Last Saturday morning, I mentioned that I still needed to find some throw pillows for our couch. On Saturday afternoon, I went to TJ Maxx HomeGoods with my MIL. I'm in love. The prices were amazing, and I definitely plan on visiting the store again. The sooner the better.

I found this paisley pillow that is comprised of the perfect colors for our living room:

It was half-off. It was meant to be.

The problem is that I only found one. I need two. I called another HomeGoods location on Saturday night to see if they had any in stock. I thought I could just give the woman the style number on the price tag and she'd be able to look it up in the store's computer system, but they apparently don't operate that way. She put me on hold for five minutes and searched their pillow stock. No luck. I felt pretty badly about making her search through the pillows, so I decided not to call any other stores. I didn't want to put anyone else through the same process.

I can't find them online, either, but I just know there has to be another sitting on a store shelf somewhere. If you find a Newport Layton Calista throw pillow, snatch it up and send it my way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

House Projects: Painting the Basement, Part 1

Disclaimer: These pictures are horrendous. We have one window in our basement and it is really challenging to get adequate light that creates pictures that are decent. Keep this in mind as you scroll down - they range from okay to horrible.

These are the paint swatches my MIL and I picked up over the weekend:

Bluish-grays are impossible to work with. Impossible. I know I constantly complain about paint, but I just cannot find a color that looks good in our basement.

The paint chip in the lower right hand corner of the picture - "Yarmouth Blue" - had so much potential. When I put it on the walls of our basement, however, it looked horrible. On the white walls it was way too dark (clockwise from upper right: sunset wheat - what was I thinking?!, Yarmouth, Mt. Rainier gray, and oatmeal):

We need a much lighter paint color. The room is rather big and while we want to make the room feel a little warmer, this particular bluish-gray was just way too dark to cover all of the basement walls. We did, however, think it might work on one section that is covered with wood paneling. The paneling is painted a really, really light mauve (at least I think it's mauve). It's ugly. When I added the Yarmouth blue, it turned into a horrendous shade of light blue. I added primer to the wall with the hope that it might change the color of the paint. THANK GOD FOR PRIMER.

Unfortunately, this is one of the horrible pictures, but it should give you an idea of the contrast:

This picture shows five things:

1. The wall on the north side of the basement was anything but white. Check out the difference between the primer and the original paint color. Anyone who doubted this wall wasn't white should now be convinced of that fact.
2. Our wall has obvious scuff marks that demand some TLC in the form of some wood caulk, a little sanding, and a fresh coat of paint. Those brown splotches at the top of the picture? Yeah, they're all over that wall.
3. Wet paint definitely reflects light.
4. Primer = Good.
5. I need to work on my photography skills.

Here's a closeup of the paint with primer - the Yarmouth in this picture is actually fairly accurate. The paint looked pretty much the same when it was fully dry.

G came home and agreed it will work for the paneled wall. Now we just have a find a lighter hue that we can use on the other three walls. I'm going to Hirshfield's before I go to the gym tonight and I'm hoping my favorite color consultant is working. It would make things much easier for me if she could just recommend a few options so I don't end up coming home with umpteen paint chips again.