Monday, March 30, 2009

Shrimp & Grits

I am back.

Cory and I jetted off to Charleston, South Carolina for 4 didn't even notice I was gone, did you? Be honest.

We took lots of pictures and once I get organized, I'll share some more.

I don't look quite this confused/mildly annoyed/rain frizzed in most of them. Then again, there is probably a reason why 90% of the pics we took were of beautiful homes and Spanish moss...

I'm glad to be back. I missed all ya'll.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mirror, mirror, soon to be on the wall...

The good news is, I had an email waiting for me this a.m. from Mirror Man. The bad news is, well, remember when I said I wasn't too concerned about the price? Let's just say that $220 doesn't exactly fall into my realm of "Good Investment". Now I feel sort of bad telling the very expedient Mirror Man thanks, but no thanks.

At the same time, I hate the thought that the remodel of this tiny bathroom will be further stalled because of the unavailability of the mirror of my dreams. There is a lesson here, and that is, when life hands you awkwardly shaped mirrors that aren't the exact size you yearn for, make them work. Own them. They are only $39.99, after all. Learn to love them. And then sing this to them:

Don't love make a mirror shine
It don't matter if it cost a dime
Dang thing looks like a million bucks
Sittin' on the wall of a girl in love
A perfect 17-inch oval is duller than dirt if the girl is too broke after buying said mirror to buy towels and toilet paper
With three little words it'll knock you blind
Don't love make a mirror shine.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Devil really is in the details.

We are nearing the final stages of completion of the upstairs bathroom and I am so anxious to share! The only problem: a mirror.
Uniform Bevel Oval Mirror

Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine that finding a mirror of relatively specific proportions would be such a feat. I want an oval, frameless mirror, with a beveled edge. At this point, I am not even super concerned with the price. It can be no taller than 17", and I'm hoping that it would not be much shorter, since this pint-sized space would really benefit from the largest possible mirror. I might as well go ahead and admit that I am teetering dangerously close to settling for a round mirror, although I haven't even seen a round mirror that meets the qualifications.

I just send a pleading email to a random company I found that custom-cuts and bevels mirrors. Do you think they will write me back? I tried to find a nice, non-threatening way to stress that I really, really hope they will write me back as soon as possible. I signed off, "Talk to you tomorrow, pal!"

No, I didn't. But I wanted to.

Cross your fingers for me....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Unclutter me.

Today over at The Inspired Room they are talking about home organization. This topic truly warms my heart. I will never tire in my pursuit of being more organized at home. It's tricky at times, with two little ones, but it is a worthy endeavor. I am always trying to find warm, loving homes for all of our clutter. Nothing can kill the look of a beautiful room more quickly than piles of stray clutter. And I should know, because I regularly kill the look of my rooms with mounds of un-filed mail, art projects, magazines, you get the point. Boom! You're dead.

One of my most hated forms of clutter is electrical cords. And I have now read that last sentence exactly 13 times and cannot figure out how to make it right. Someone, help!

Back to the hated cords...they are just sooooo un-vintage. Such a reminder to me that I do not live in the 1950's. Such a slap in the face that I am not and will never be Laura Ingalls. Or even Nellie Oleson.

Here's what I have come up with:

Pretty tins, right? I love metal that is painted blue.

Now, open the lids and you'll find my junk in one and Cory's junk in the other. I was nice and gave him the one with the lid that opens without the use of a pry bar. I wasn't recently crowned Queen of the Castle for nothing...

Charge away, baby!

Ah, that's better.

I'm off to the mercantile now! I may even stop and say hello to Doc Baker, while I'm out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Digging in dirt.

I spent some time yesterday digging in dirt. It was heavenly.

Now it's chilly outside again and I wish it would warm up so I could get back out there. There's plenty to do, and even if there wasn't, I would pretend not to notice and just keep on digging.

I realized, while I was digging, that I didn't start this early last year. Here's why: I didn't realize what was coming, quick as a wink, around the corner.

This is what's coming:

It's funny how, when you know what there is to anticipate, you'll do anything to help it along; to speed it up somehow.

Come on, Spring! I'm so ready.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Help me.

This guy here:

Has turned into this guy here:
It appears to have happened overnight. How on earth do I have a four-year old?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ikea or bust

This weekend I high-tailed it to Schaumburg, IL with Cory's mom and sisters for a last-minute trip to Ikea.

I really, really love them. They are fun and funny and different than me and the same as me and Normal. Capital N. They are sincere and listen to all of my stories. They have welcomed me with open arms, ever since the beginning. They forgive my chronic tardiness. They make life away from my family bearable. They are responsible, in part, for making my life exactly the life that I want. They are a huge reason that I don't ever want to move away.

I think you get the point. I really dig 'em.

That being said.....

They are all currently obsessed with Christian fiction of the Amish genre. I'm sorry, but I just can't do it.

I'm sorry, Wanda.

No offense, Bev.

Really, Wanda, I'm sure life "On Her Own" is one wrought with daily struggle and the heart-breaking consequences of life after a shunning. I'm sure it's a gripping tale. But I just can't do it.

At least I had something pretty to look at:

I wish I had this phone.

Once I wrestled the books from their hands, we shopped and shopped and shopped. I am still lamenting the fact that I did not buy those rusty boxes at Home Goods. And don't even ask about the green Gorel curtains - the exact curtains I have been picturing in my mind for our bedroom.

I definitely did walk away with some good loot. Towels and a crate for the soon-to-be-revealed upstairs bathroom, kitchen rugs, some shoes for Ruby, flip flops for me, a loudly-ticking little clock, a yo-yo table runner and a few other odds and ends.

Then we did what we secretly wanted to do all along.

We ate.

Jamie and I, pre-gorge.

Sherry and Linds. We made them sit together because they matched so nicely.

What other restaurant can make a turkey sandwich and a salad look so dang good? Sherry shared some of her soup with me. Cream of chicken with artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

Roasted eggplant sandwich and free-fries.

Roasted vegetable pizza. With goat cheese.

I wish I could show you what I ordered, but the picture just didn't do it justice. It's called the French Country salad and it is on my list of Top 10 Favorite Salads of All Time. Don't pretend for a minute that you don't keep the same list...

It has roasted beets, caramelized pecans, roasted asparagus, goat cheese and amazing vinaigrette.

I really wish I could show you the picture, but I can't. I got too excited to eat it and rushed through it's photo shoot. Rather than looking luscious and fresh, it looks kinda slimy and dark.

It looks a little freaky.

It looks kind of like this:

Aside from a botched order at P.F. Changs, one bout of extreme carsickness, a faulty I ZOOM pass, a whispering Tom Tom, a mid-range snorer (not naming any names...) and, well, 3 Amish books, it was a ton of fun.

The only thing that would have made this trip better is to have had you with us, Lor. We missed you. Get back up here pronto.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baking Crayons

Before we proceed, we'll need to clear something up. How do you'ns pronounce "crayons"? It might seem like a moot point, but apparently, around these parts, it is not.

Case in point:
Me: Honey, when you were a little boy, what did you use to color with?
Cory: Crans.
Me: As in, cranberries?
Cory: No, crans. Like... crans!
Me: Uh-uh.

Case in point numero dos:
Me: Keish, when you were a little girl, what did you use to color in my coloring books with?
Keisha: Crowns.
Me: As in, the Queen of England?
Keisha: No, crowns. Crowwwns. Right? Crowns!
Me: Nope.

Call me old school, but I prefer the two-syllable pronunciation. Cray-ons. It's phonics, people!


I found the best craft idea from "Whatever", a blog that is near and dear to my heart. This craft just spoke to me, for some reason. I decided that Calvin's upcoming birthday was the perfect reason to try it. I had the epiphany that I might as well start early, while it was cold and grey and I was spending countless evenings decaying on the couch. It's a good thing I started early, because it ended up being quite a task. A fun one, but a task all the same.

First, I went to Walgreens and bought the gigantic box of cray-ons that has the built-in sharpener. It harkened me right back to being a 7 year old and yearning for such a box, although I was also partial to K-Mart brand cray-ons, because they rendered a darker, waxier color.

So beautiful! It tore me up inside to think about what I was about to do to them. It just felt wrong.

But I overcame, and began stripping them down. I swear to you, I ended up with a battle wound from peeling so many cray-ons. I cut my thumb under the edge of my fingernail. Yeow.

Oooh, naked cray-ons. So much prettier without those Pale Gail wrappers. Is that Carnation Pink I spy?

Now, I have no pictures of this next and most important step. But here's what I did: I broke these bad boys up, put them in ABC sillicon molds, then baked them until they melted at 300 degrees.

I let them harden for an hour or two then I started peeling/popping them out of the molds. So fun! Until I got to M. And N. And S. And K. Some letters were just not designed to be melted into molds and then popped out in one piece. The problem was, I planned to make a set of these for each of Calvin's class mates, spelling his/her name. And there is a Macy and a Markuz. And a JerraN. And an Aaron. And Saige. And Sophie. You get my drift. The most popular letters were also the most impossible to forge.

At the same time, it seemed silly to scrap the whole plan. I was bound and determined to make a stinking M! I even consulted Meg over at Whatever. She said she had the same problem, although she was probably just trying to make me feel better.

I labored on. I think I finally did get a solid M and one, lone S.

For the others, I called in my favorite handy man, and he welded them back together for me. My motto is always that imperfections add character, so why the heck not? Plus, hello, they are 3 and 4 year olds.

Finally, it was time to pack them up.

The girls got lavender ribbons. This looks like...Sophie. Hi! Ha.

The boys got green. Kaiden, is that you? I took these pics at midnight, the night before the party. So, no natural light and lots of glare, instead.

This artsy shot is courtesy of Cory and his new monstrous, fancy camera.

The party was a success, though the teachers seemed more excited about the cray-ons than the kids. They are probably all lost or broken up by now. Or their little sisters have stolen them. But it was a fun project and it gave purpose to roughly 158 hours of my cold, Winter nights.

I swear I'm a good mom.

You may or may not know about our ill-fated Sunday School ice-cream party. Long story short, it resulted in a lot of left-over ice cream and a multitude of toppings...including a can of Cool Whip. That's right, they make Cool Whip that you can squirt out of a can now! Is this a new thing? It's certainly new to me.

Several days after The Party That Would Not Be, Calvin came to me quite sheepishly and asked me if I would "squirt some of that whipped cream" into his mouth. I asked him where he had ever gotten that idea and he said Nana lets him do it sometimes. Nana - I'll be in touch.

Anyway, I decided there was probably no harm in granting his request.

Now, we do this once a day, but only if he asks, and he always does. Just one squirt.

Ruby has also joined in on the fun.
Fyi, it's surprisingly difficult to squirt the Cool Whip and take a pic at the same time. Pardon the blurriness.

Uh-Oh. I think I got a little trigger-happy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brown Rice

This is my new favorite thing to do with brown rice. In fact, it's the only thing I've ever really done with brown rice, which may explain why brown rice has never excited me all that much.

Boil your rice. Mine is usually instant, but whatever.

While your rice is boiling, coarsely chop a couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach. While rice is still hot, throw the spinach in and mix it up, so the warmth from the rice wilts the spinach a bit. I also add a little bit (about 1/2 a Tablespoon) of butter and 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil. Then I zest a lemon and add some of the juice. Tonight I also added some sliced scallions that needed usin' up. Throw some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and some pepper.

Here it is, pre-stir.

(Ugh - the errant bits of lemon zest and green onion clinging to the side of the bowl are on my last nerve. This is probably why I haven't been hired yet by Better Homes and Gardens to do food styling.)

And, post-stir.

This is a fantastic way to use up leftover, fresh produce. Or even toasted pine nuts. (Trust me.) I need to see how many other combinations I can come up with and which ones I like the best. For now, this is a keeper. Super fast and easy, pretty to look at, I get to use my microplane zester and my lemon reamer, and it's gotta be pretty healthy, right? Oh, and the kids like it. Forget that "Deceptively Delicious" hogwash. It seems to me that kids will not learn to love good food if they never realize they're eating it in the first place.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Menu Plan

Quite some time ago I realized that by planning out my meals for the week, and shopping only for those items (with the random jar of salsa thrown in for good measure), I would save money and waste less food. I used to dread getting groceries, and it's still not my favorite task, but I enjoy it infinitely more now that I'm on a mission, rather than aimlessly wandering around and throwing things into the cart.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: Chicken Florentine Artichoke Bake. I made a double batch to share with friends from church who just brought home a brand new baby. (He's so super tiny and cute!)
Tuesday: Baked tilapia, brown rice and orange soy-glazed green beans. I found the bean recipe on one of those random, free recipe cards in the produce section at Meijer and
they have been a favorite ever since.
Wednesday: Stuffed Pepper Soup and biscuits. A staple.
Thursday: Reuben Bake, salad and Fruit Pizza. Of all of the foods on this fine earth, my husband requested this for his birthday meal.
Friday: Frozen Pizza. I won't be here to cook! Hooray!!

For the record, I am always on the hunt for new, yummy recipes. If you've got a good one, be sure to send it my way!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stealing Beauty

OK, so I didn't actually "steal" beauty. But I did find some pretty things for a steal.

My new favorite local haunt is a store in Goshen called Home Again. It's a home consignment store in an old warehouse-type building. It's packed full. Every time I'm in there, I'm silently willing it to survive. To me, one of the saddest things has always been when little businesses close up shop. Oh, I'm hoping this one makes it. It's so great.

I found this foldable step ladder for $6. It's the perfect height for Frick and Frack to stand on while they "help" me cook dinner. And then it folds neatly and leans against the wall until next time. And it's bluish green!

As I was checking out, I spied this, across the store. Up on a shelf, with every manner of lamps. Ugly ones. Tacky ones. Retro ones. Ornate ones. And a lone alabaster one. See, it's even got a little chip in it, just to prove that it's the real deal. Again, $6. Now, to find a shade...

Last week was our inagural steak-tasting, from the side of beef we purchased earlier in the Fall.
New York strip. I marinaded 'em up and Cory showed them who was boss out on the grill. The marinade (red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning and Montreal steak seasoning) was incredible, but Cory's grill skills would have put Bobby Flay to shame.

Is it weird that I have a before shot, but no after? It's kind of weird, because raw meat just never looks very appetizing. But those steaks were so dang good that it never crossed my mind to stop eating and go grab my camera.

In a related sidenote, we grilled/ate these after the kids were in bed. So fun! Thank the Lord for early to bed-ers.

Oooh, aren't these pretty? I sure hope so, because they tasted nasty. $4.99 right down the drain. How can Clementines vary from so delectable to so dry and shrively and nasty, but they all look the same on the outside? I feel an analogy brewing here...

Finally, Calvin painted this for me. I asked him what it was and he said, very matter-of-factly, "It's a person watering flowers!" Immediately, I could see the person, watering the flowers. The power of suggestion is a lovely thing. Especially when you have a 3 year old.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The month in review.

We had an eventful February.

I think I've done an adequate job of communicating my love for Valentine's day, but unfortunately, February isn't just about construction paper hearts with doilies glued on them.

Sometimes, it's about raw sewage.
I'm sorry - it hurts me more than it hurts you to go there. I have a long-documented aversion to all things toilet, but it's the truth.

Don't you just want to punch Mr. Rooter and his snide, winky face? I do. "Sure, I'll fix your toilet for $200 and wreak havoc on your bathroom and make your entire house reek to high heaven! Wink wink! I'll even throw in this classy refrigerator magnet, just because that's the kind of guy I am! Wink!"

Upon the resolution of that particular crisis, it was time to hit Bed, Bath & Beyond. Our wedding-gift toaster had browned his last slice. Our $19 Meijer saute pan (my sole saute pan/skillet) had a convex heiney and no non-stick coating to be found. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the time I personally met Dr. Roy J. Plunkett, the inventor of Teflon - your collective excitement is palpable, even from here!)

I trust Emeril, don't you? I'm not sure what his hands are doing, but I'm sure it's important. BAM! I also picked up a couple of other items, including a good knife. Heaven. It's probably just a matter of time now before I land my own cooking show. And most importantly, the store allowed me to use three expired 20% off coupons.

Calvin became enthralled with outerspace. Jupiter is his favorite, because it's the biggest. For fun, I picked up a paint-it-yourself solar system mobile kit. Thet kid nearly fainted from pure joy.
Check out his "sweat band". :)

Ruby surprised me one morning by slathering an entire container of Castor oil hair grease onto her hair, during the 10 minutes that I was in the shower. We finally resorted to washing her hair in dishsoap to clear the residue. Her entire outfit was unsalvageable. I was too mad to take a picture of her after the big event, which I am already regretting.

A week late, she pulled an encore performance, with another tub of reject hair goo.

It has become clear that showering is the most dangerous thing I do all day.

She's so dang precious though. What's a girl to do?

Oh, Chi-Chi's mild Restaurant Style salsa went on sale for $1 a bottle.

I bought 7.

Hmmm...what else am I missing? Oh, that's right! My coronation!

I was finally and fittingly crowned Queen of my castle. I've felt a special closeness to the late Lady Di ever since.

Now, on to March!