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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Necklace Holder

My vacation's just about over.  BUMMER! Earlier in the week I took a trip up to visit my best friend.  We live almost three hours apart so it's hard to be spontaneous.  We usually meet roughly halfway at a coffee shop and sit and bead jewelry all day in between breaks for more coffee.  After about six hours, I did all this:
Not too shabby!!

But when I went to put them away, I remebered this mess:

All my long necklaces have nowhere to go since I only made holders for my dresser top - and they're all too low to accomodate the long necklaces. 

I found this neat little shelf at Goodwill, along with a plain old tie holder (not pictured):


I painted them both to match the colors of my wall and now I have this:

The upper handle actually opens a drawer.  Pretty cool!

Way better than a messy chair! 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Special Delivery

It's my birthday week so I've taken off work through Memorial Day.  Yippee!  One of my favorite birthdays ever was my 8th birthday.  My mom gave me the book Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.  I must've read that book at least  a dozen times. 

I always thought Wilber was kind of selfish.  Charlotte the spider works like heck weaving those amazing words into her web to save his bacon-y behind and then he gets mad when she goes off for a break.  Her break was actually to have her spider babies which she had to die to do, as is often the case in nature.  And Wilber never seems to regret that he didn't thank her for saving him.  He doesn't even seem all that amazed that she had babies.  It never even occurred to him that she might want to do something for herself for a change.  That always bugged me. 

Anyway, that's not the point of this post.  The point is, I went to check my mail today and saw something odd on the side of my mailbox. 

Weird, huh? I had to take a closer look. Only because I love my mailbox. I found it on the side of the road not long after I bought my house. It was red on a grey post so I repainted the box white and the post blue.

I even hand painted my last name in ants:

And my house number in ladybugs:.

So the fact that something was clinging to the side irked me. The ladybugs and ants were for pure whimsy.  But it was kind of ironic that, upon closer inspection I found this:

Yep!  That's a whole cluster of spider babies!  I like spiders but not that many and not all at once.  Time for a good wash down.  Sorry, Charlotte.....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lemon Apron

Every time I go to the garden center, I tell myself I don't need a cart because I'm only stopping for ONE thing.  Who stops at the garden center for just one thing?  I end up clutching a whole handful of potted plants to my belly and by the time I amble up to the counter under my load, I peel them away to find I have a huge brown wet spot across my shirt.  It's high time I made a smock to wear to the garden center. 

Using the pattern on page 76 of the very fresh and flirty book, A is for Apron, I now have a new smock.

I'd consider it a beginner level apron - if you can make some gathers and sew on some bias binding that's about all there is to it.  In fact, the most time consuming part for me was making my own bias binding.  The  background to the lemon print came in its own fabric which I happend to have in my stash. 

Those are green on green triangles:

Digging through my stash of vintage findings, I also found some super cute green buttons:
Too cute!  I think they're the best part of the apron.

And, for added flirtation, the back straps criss-cross:

Now if our Wisconsin weather would just make up its mind about what it wants to do, I could start some gardening.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Happy Mother's Day to my mom & all moms.  Here's a little tribute to my mom.

I'm glad I have a mom that:

Let us kids help her cook and bake.  We're all good cooks and we all are good eaters.  Nobody makes apple crisp, beef roll-ups, or potatoe pancakes like my mom.

Made a bedtime book part of our night time ritual.  I owe my excellent vocabulary, my imagination, and my inquisitive mind to reading and it started with the bedtime book.  This was one of my favorites.  I liked the way my mom said the cat's names "Brush and Hush".

Made us have a "no thank you" helping.  Even if it was something we didn't like we HAD to have one or two forkfuls.  Mamby-pamby parents now will tell you it's wrong to force kids to eat what they don't want to.  But I'm glad my mom did it.  After being raised to try just one forkful, I'm now an adult that's willing to try anything and I've found that I end up liking a lot of things most people would think are yucky. 

Likes wild colors and crazy prints.  Because I like them too.  This is a purse I made with a crazy print that caught my eye. 

Coincidentally, my sister gave my mom a crazy print with wild colors for a gift. 

I'm also glad my  mom passed on to me her

Love of a good pair of shoes, or two, or 100....

and her insane need for jewelry. 

Many of the good habits she taught me stuck.  But some of them were just bound to be tossed aside when I became a grown-up.   

Like how she always wanted the house tidied up on a regular basis. 
As you can see by my kitchen, I don't give a fig about tidyness.

Mom always made us drink a glass of milk with dinner because, "it's good for you".  This was probably the first glass of dinner milk I've had in years.

Sorry mom! 

I hope my mom had a good Mother's Day.
Here she is, wearing the birthstone necklace we gave her - one pendant for each of us six kids with our
birthstones in. 

And with her gifts.  I think she got a pretty good haul.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dirty Laundry

  I am SO open to the power of suggestion! 

Back when I was learning Spanish my profesora would say something in English and we'd have to repeat it in Spanish.  I've forgotten most of what I learned but sometimes the old habit of repeating a phrase in Spanish still creeps up.  I was watching TV one night and someone said something about "dirty laundry". In my head I automatically translated:  "ropa vieja".

Then I got the craving.  Ropa vieja is the name of a delicous Cuban dish that I've only eaten in restaurants.  Beef is brasied and the liquid is then cooked down to a concentrated sauce that the beef is cooked in again.  It's awesome!  So I invited The Conductor over for a meal and, man, did we eat!

The Menu
Ropa Vieja - I used this exact recipe from Epicurious 

If a food looks a mess of dirty clothes, this sure does, no? 

I followed the recipe exactly except for the braising liquid which is just spiced water.  I kept the spice but used a jar of thick tomatoe juice - one of the first things I ever canned.  The tomato added a nicer depth to the beef than the water would have done. 

Doesn't it look pretty in that jar?

The recipe included a side of delicious Yellow Rice.  I altered it only to add two teaspoons of turmeric which doesn't change the flavor but makes it really yellow.

We also had homemade cornbread muffins

I didn't link to the recipe because I didn't like how they turned out.  I'm still on the hunt for the perfect cornbread.  These were too chalky, even with the addition of jalapeno.

The tastiest thing for me was the Pineapple Salsa:

 I basically made it up:
Cut all of these into same sized bits:
One FRESH orange - peel with a knife to remove the pith
About a cup of FRESH pineapple
About a cup of fresh melon (I used cantaloupe)
1/3 cup sliced green onion
1/3 cup sliced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper
One big handful of FRESH shrimp, pre-cooked

1.  Cut the orange over a bowl to save the juice
2.  Supplement the shortage of orange juice with lime juice
3.  To one part juices add 2 parts olive oil.  I ended up with about 3 Tablespoons total liquid.  Whisk together and toss with salsa.  Chill to meld the flavors.

(Steps onto soapbox)  So why FRESH?  Because there's no point in making things from scratch if they're just going to taste like crap.  I could have used canned mandarin oranges and canned pineapple and (shivvers!!!) canned shrimp.  But I like fruit that tastes like fruit.  I like seafood that tastes like the sea.  I don't like food that tastes like a roll of Reynold's Wrap.

Incidentally, a tunafish sized can of shrimp costs $2.79 for the cheapest brand and you get half a cup.  I went to the deli counter and asked the guy for one man-sized handful of shrimp at $4.99 a pound.  His one handful totaled a full cup of shrimp and only ran me $1.55.  FRESH not only made my salsa taste better, but it was actually cheaper.  So there!  (Steps off soapbox)

Back to the  menu, the most adventurous thing for me was the Fried Plaintains.  I never attempted them before because they seemed so exotic and complicated.  Actually, they couldn't be easier.  Just look for plaintains that are about half covered in brown spots (the point of freshness that's best for frying them).  Slice them into disks while you heat veggie oil to 350 degrees.  Fry them til brown and either lightly salt or lightly sugar them.  They were delicious! 

I stuck with the Cuban theme and made a rum cake for dessert from my 1963 edition of Good Housekeeping's cookbook.  It's faintly rummy - not overly boozy like some cakes can get. 

The Conductor ate three big platefuls and took a pile of leftovers home so I think this whole menu is a keeper.
!Que delicioso!