Thursday, April 28, 2011

Great Kitchen Purge of 2011

Last weekend, I got so fed up with my kitchen!  I am sick and tired of opening cabinets and things falling on me, or having to take out 30 things to get to a casserole dish hidden in the back, or not being able to find what I want because gadgets are in 3 places in the kitchen. ENOUGH!  

Motivation fought off the procrastination monster long enough for me to go through each and every cabinet in the kitchen and find things that we don't need.  That means the item:

  • has either never been used or hasn't used the object in a great while
  • doesn't work as expected or is plain ol' broken
  • was an impulse buy or style item that isn't practical
There are probably items that I was just sick of looking at, too, but I can't remember.  :)

I started with an empty kitchen table:

Then I did a mad dash through the baking pans and casserole cabinet:

Then I took a break for a birthday dinner plus Easter.  :)

I got back to it and filled up the table, and then some!

Phew - that's a lot of unwanted items!  I can't believe after all the times I went through the cabinets for yard sales and such that I still found this much stuff to get rid of. I guess I really meant business this time! :)

A couple people called dibs on whatever I got rid of, but then I found out my friend is getting an apartment and doesn't have any kitchen stuff, so he got true first dibs on the table o' items.  When I informed one of the original dibsters, I imagine his reaction went something like this:

So here's what's left after I packed up the little kitchen starter kit:

  • Apple platter

  • Corn plate

See anything you want?  Let me know - otherwise it's all going to Goodwill next weekend!

Spring Bada-bing!

Last weekend my girls and I went to the Spring Bada-bing, presented by the Richmond Craft Mafia!

This wasn't your grandmother's arts and crafts show - you know, the ones we all go to where there are rows and rows of smelly supposedly-antique furniture and tchotchkes that you find out later are cheaper online.  This one is exclusively for hand-made items and small businesses rather than basement clean-outs or home party companies.  Think an art gallery space full of Etsy sellers, and you've got the Spring Bada-bing.

I love trolling Etsy for cool one-of-a-kind treasures created by someone in their craft room...and this place was full of those treasures, from these original prints by FoundStudio... these summer dresses made out of fabric scraps by aprilscott...
My favorite was this vintage-inspired one, Bonnie saw one reminded her of her favorite Amish quilt, and this one is made from the fabric I'll use for my nursery...someday. upcycled patterns, turned purses...

I got really excited about Lazymuse's booth, which was full of crochet animals.  Melissa and I stood there for at least 2 minutes stroking the jellyfish and squid.  We were in love...but left all the crochet animals behind :(

I only bought a few things, but took a ton of cards for Etsy trolling later that night :)  I picked up this felt wallet by ettarose - she had some awesome felt food play the sushi and vegetable garden!

I also picked up a notebook made from an old Scrabble board, by Pop Culture Rehab.  I broke my rule of having a purpose for anything I bought so as not to waste money, because I'm not sure what this will be used for - maybe for keeping score when we play Scrabble?  Do we play Scrabble? :)

I don't see it in her Etsy shop, but she makes ornaments out of Scrabble letters and sells a WTF one that I need...

Lastly, I bought a recycled burlap coffee tote by clevercatbags for my school books - I've wanted one of these for a while but they're outrageously expensive in stores!  This one was modestly priced at $35 so I snatched it up!  ...and it's pretty!

I could have bought way more, but I was exercising that self-restraint that has been eluding me for so long!  Bonnie bought an awesome audiophile pursy/wallet hybrid, and Mellisa bought one of aprilscott's dresses for her niece, but no one else bought anything.  We were on our best behavior that day! 

After the bada-bing, we headed over to Kitchen64 for brunch!  I got some sliders and sweet potato fries and then we walked whole 30 feet over to Sweet95 for dessert:  a PB&J Pileup!  Yum!

Then we headed downtown to visit a store we had passed on the way to the bada-bing.  These Four Walls is like World Market on crack.  FUN.  Well, fun in the way that I love everything I saw but will never be able to afford any of it and will have to purchase a less-fun item at World Market. :)

Fun day with my girls <3

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bunny vomit cupcakes

I was responsible for bringing dessert to Easter dinner with friends, so I decided to modify the tie-dye cupcakes I made for Bonnie's birthday.  I only used 1 drop of food coloring in each of the 4 portions of batter to create pastel colors - pink, yellow, blue, green.

I am calling these bunny vomit cupcakes, because I imagine it's what the Easter Bunny's vomit looks like after eating all the pastel-colored candy that he steals from kids' baskets as he's delivering them.  Also, because they were tainted with expired milk that may have induced vomiting by any consumer of said cupcakes.  Won't tell you how I discovered that...

Anyways, here they are, in all their bunny vomit glory:

Aren't they perfect for Easter, or a little girl's birthday party?  I thought so.  Too bad no one got to enjoy them.

I think a box cake mix works better when making tie-dye cucpakes than the from-scratch recipe that I use for basic white cupcakes.  The from-scratch recipe is very thick, tastes the same once baked and is much easier to work with when portioning the batter into cupcake tins, but didn't work well for layering the batter.  You can see that each color clumped together as it baked instead of flattening out like the rainbow-colored ones I made.  Lesson learned - use the box for these!  Bonus:  it takes less time and comes out perfect every time.

So, what did we have for dessert since the vomit cupcakes stayed home?  Dave and I stopped at Wegman's, the best grocery store on earth that somehow isn't in Richmond, and picked up a pack of their cupcakes.  Still traumatized from my bunny vomit cupcake taste-testing, I didn't try the Wegman's version, but I'm sure they were moist and tasty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cadbury Mini Egg Chocolate Chip Cookies: Batch 2

I made another batch of the cookies last night just to be sure I didn't do something wrong with the first batch.  I used parchment paper for the first batch, and they turned out very thin and soft/mushy until they cooled.  Then I ran out of parchment paper, so baked the second batch without the paper to see if I got different results.  

Well, I did.

I cooked them a little longer so they wouldn't be mushy, but as you can see, those extra 2 minutes made a world of difference! 

Overall I'm calling these FAIL cookies! :)  I'm sticking with cupcakes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cadbury Mini Egg Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bonnie sent me a link yesterday to Cadbury Mini Egg Chocolate Chip Cookies and my immediate response was "OMG how soon can I get to walmart to buy some of those mini eggs?!!?"

So tonight on the way home from work we picked some up so I could get in the kitchen make some cookies!  Bonnie beat me to it and made hers this afternoon!  Hers turned out awesome - she used her tried and true Wegman's chocolate chip cookie recipe rather than the one provided, and I'll try that one next time because mine didn't turn out quite like expected!  

The best part of making these cookies is the crushing of the mini eggs!  It's like banging your knife against a metal pizza pan - your frustrations melt away with each pound of the rolling pin against these little buggers!
I used Hershey's mini eggs because they were cheaper, and I'm cheap.  :)

Dave got in on the pounding action too!

They taste awesome, but are very thin rather than fluffy and thick. 

 The taste is what matters right?  If so, these are great!

Road trip with the 'rents

A few weekends ago my parents came to Virginia to visit their new grandson/my nephew, Reed Tyus Bartholow, so Dave and I drove up one day while they were here to hang out with them.  It was a real treat to see my parents in my state - since they moved they've only been back a few times!

Speaking of Reed Tyus Bartholow, the cutest baby boy on the planet - his name blows me away.  Remember in "Where the Heart is," when Novalee tells Moses Whitecotton she might name her baby Wendy-with-an-i and he scolds her and tells her to give her baby a name that means something?  Amey and Eric certainly did that - Reed is my brother's middle name, Tyus is Amey's, and together they make this bold, sophisticated, meaningful combination that sounds so strong and powerful - I love it!

I mean, really, how cute is he?

But back to my parents' visit:  we had lunch at Mimi's (Yum!) and then my dad suggested we take a road trip, for which I am always ready and willing!  He wanted to drive down to Dahlgren, where he and my mom got married, lived for a while, and worked for many, many years...

On the way, they pointed out some buildings that once housed restaurants they frequented, most of which had closed.  We noticed there was a mini-explosion of chain fast-food restaurants in their place.  We saw the place where some coworkers hosted my dad's retirement party, and then we headed over to the base.  They both spent most of their adult working years at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, after my dad's stint in the Air Force and my mom's years of teaching math.  This place was their home away from home for 30+ years so I'm sure it was nostalgic to go back and see what had changed.  Unfortunately we couldn't get past the gate :(

My mom said there used to be both restricted and unrestricted sections of the base, and that the chapel where they got married was in the unrestricted section - but since they no longer work there we weren't allowed on base...

So we went to the post office parking lot adjacent to the front gate and looked through the fence (electrified and thicker than any wire cutters I've ever seen) at the buildings where they worked...then we drove away from base a bit and they showed me where they lived after they got married:

It was cool to see where my parents met, fell in love, and started their marriage...we took the scenic route home - that's a joke because it's all scenic between Fredericksburg and Dahlgren.  :)

I drove them by the house they bought after they lived in the Dahlgren apartment and it looks exactly the same...sure, the new owners have made some tweaks, but it still looked like home.  Minus the awesome pink mini-blinds I had in my old room :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Road Trip! ...and another dorky organizational project

I use the word dorky in the least offensive way possible.  I've accepted the fact that I would much rather be at home organizing something than out at some festival (unless it's a fall festival) or at a bar or concert somewhere.  Been there, done that, it's cool, but so is not losing broccoli in the bowels of your freezer.  I apologize for insinuating that anyone who likes to organize is also a dork - but that correlation is true for me.  So there.

Last weekend, my girls and I took a road trip up to DC to visit Georgetown Cupcake and the Container Store.  Ever since DC Cupcakes aired we've talked about taking a road trip up the Georgetown to visit Sophie and Katherine, and we finally found the perfect weekend when everyone was free from work and other social obligations and there would be no special events in Georgetown.  <-- Too bad we didn't realize we picked the day of the Cherry Blossom Parade until the night before, but we assumed (correctly) that parade traffic would be far enough away it wouldn't affect our trip...

I was a horrible driver on the way up - like, worse than normal.  I started out slow because Crystal was following me in her car, but about 10 minutes in, I asked Bonnie to call her and ask if I could drive like I normally do, and she said Heck Yes!  After that, it was all downhill.  Between the normal Saturday 95 volume, my aggressive lane-changing which led to much honking, and my possessed TomTom iPhone GPS app, we barely made it alive.

We certainly didn't make it there on time.  Bonnie's cousin, Lora, had arrived at our designated meeting time, and had been waiting in line for about 30 minutes by the time we found a parking spot and got to the shop.  Pro:  Lora and her beautiful mini-me, Livi, stood in line for us and was 5th in line, in front of about 200 people.  Con:  Lora had to stand in line for 30 minutes, while we just swooped in at the last minute, pissing off the 200 people behind her.  :)  Thanks Lora (and Livi)! :)

Livi brought her friend, Penelope, along for the ride, so she seemed pretty occupied!  How cute is she?

Our turn to go inside!  There were 2 employees working crowd control outside the entrance - only 6 or 8 people are allowed to go inside at once so it doesn't get crowded and chaotic in there. 

I got a half-dozen cupcakes - a mix of red velvet, Girl Scout thin mint, chocolate2, peanut butter chocolate, key lime, and coconut!

After we got our cupcakes, we took over 2 tables (out of 3) in the little sitting area they have in the front of the shop.  We ate a cupcake and took pictures of the staff who were creating things out of fondant, icing cupcakes, and, I'm sure, feeling like zoo animals from all the flashing and oohing and aahing.  You could tell some of them aren't fans of being documented so much, but that's kind of the nature of their job now, no?


Here are all the girls except Lora and Livi:
From left:  Sharon, Bonnie, Melissa, Crystal, Melissa

Once we were full of sugar, we walked around the corner to their other location.  We learn on every.single.episode that this is their old shop, and when they outgrew it they decided to keep it to use as a lab for special projects.

Next stop was the Container Store - I can't believe we don't have one in Richmond, so we decided to take advantage of the fact that we'd be 10 minutes away from one to visit!  Great idea Bonnie!  This place is my heaven.  Any container that you could ever imagine for any item or group of items that needs to be organized can be found here!  Bonnie and I both had wish lists in hand when we walked in the door - to both control us from freaking out and being overwhelmed by all the containers, and limit our spending.  That last part didn't work so well for me as I picked up a few impulse buys, but for the most part I stuck to my list.

Another savior was the fact that we only had an hour on the parking meter, so when the hour was up, we had to be finished shopping, like it or not.  When the hour was almost over, Sharon went out to guard the car so it didn't get ticketed or towed - we found out later how she occupied herself while she was waiting for us!  Taking pictures of herself on my phone!  Hilarious!

My favorite Container Store purchase is 4 bins meant to hold hanging file folders.  I got the idea from Jen's iHeartOrganizing blog to use these to categorize and organize food in our freezer.  As we learned from the February Food Foray, food gets lost in the layers and goes bad before we even remember it's there.  This method will prevent that.

I Dave measured the freezer width and shelf heights the night before our trip so I knew exactly what size bins I needed.  I even mapped out what categories I needed (with help from Dave and Bonnie) to store in the bins:  breakfast, breads, meat, fruits/veggies.  The 4 bins would take up 2 shelves, so we still have the bottom drawer in the freezer for larger items, like frozen chicken breasts and ready-to-eat shrimp, along with the top shelf for desserts or frozen lunches/dinners.

Here's the before shot of the freezer:

I laid all the food out on the kitchen table to categorize it - see the bins in the background?

I took some items out of their bulky boxes, like the garlic breadsticks - I added an erasable freezer label (also from Container Store) with the heating temperature and time, which is the only use of the box.

Then I just added the food into the 4 designated bins:

Then I put it all back in!  OMG it looks so much better!  Now before we go grocery shopping, it will be SO easy to know what we have and don't have, without having to guess or dig everything out!  Exciting for a dork like me!

Here's a closeup of the bins:
Don't tell anyone, but the label on the breakfast bin is crooked.  I'll have to fix that at some point.  :)

So, while normal people were out enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon (which I did for a bit on an unsuccessful road trip to Glen Allen in search of a crafty store) or watching baseball/Nascar/SyFy, this is what was going on in my house :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011's Scarlet Letter

The other day I read a news article about a local teacher who is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with one of her students.  Within an hour of this story being posted, someone (presumably a stranger to her) had posted a link, via a comment on the article, to the teacher's Facebook page and divulged some basic information about her, like marital status, political affiliation, and favorite book or some other trivial fact.

I clicked over to her FB page (I'm a bit of a troll/voyeur in that regard) to check out what I could learn about her, and I was amazed at the amount of information I found out about a complete stranger.  I found her Etsy shop, learned she is a Stampin' Up demonstrator, teaches high school English, and I found a link to her blog via her Etsy shop.  On her blog I found a post from about a year ago where she had posted a link to the MLS listing for the house she recently bought.  The listing shows many details about the house that you'd like to see if you're in the market for a house, but she also inadvertently published her address for the world to see. 

Maybe she assumed only her friends and family would read her blog (as I assume about mine), and that it was safe to post the link to her new investment.  Little did she know that a year later, that information would be sought by any number of strangers attempting to make her feel miserable about a crime she may or may not have committed. 

Maybe it's the nature of my job that made me curious, or perhaps it was the news/scandal junkie in me - I checked in on her page throughout the day just to see if others were doing what I had done, but taking it further by stepping out of supposed anonymity and taking advantage of her lack of privacy restrictions by sharing their feelings and opinions about her alleged misdeed.  Some of the things I saw/read were horrible - not even close to something I'd type or say to anyone.  

Her most recent status updates seemed innocent enough, like "what am I so afraid of" and "what have I gotten myself into," referring to committing to making handmade cards for an upcoming an arts and crafts festival.  These status updates were taken out of context by the commenters, who left some pretty lewd comments - none of which I'll paste here.  Her students even chimed in; some defending her, others not so much.

This is a great commercial for better understanding of online privacy and security and keeping some information close to your vest.

Monday, April 4, 2011

This time it only took a year!

I have reduced my trip-to-scrapbook-production time frame by 66% - isn't that exciting!  The last scrapbook I made (other than the proposal one) was for a trip we took to Alaska in 2007.  I typed 'crapbook' in that last sentence - haha.  I didn't get around to making the Alaska scrapbook until last summer.  That's pretty bad - 3 years later I had forgotten some details and had to rely on Dave to fill in the blanks.

I was much more efficient this time - only making the book from our cruise 1 year later...almost to the day!  Bonnie and I were invited to an all-day scrapbooking workshop hosted by a Creative Memories consultant (Missey Kerens).  It's $10 and she puts out all her tools so you don't have to bring your whole scrapbooking arsenal with you for the day.  This is the perfect event for me because I have 8 hours to just work on the book, without allowing myself to be distracted by TV or dishes or shopping or whatever else life throws at you.  I had started the book at another workshop months ago but was unusually slow and OCD that day, worse than normal, so I only finished 3 or 4 pages.

I had all my pictures, brochures, tickets and receipts organized by day so this time I was able to move more quickly.  All my stuff took over a whole table and then some, but I finished!  Crystal and Bonnie were crowded on the table they shared because my crap was everywhere :)
Bonnie worked on a family book and Crystal started a book for a trip to Mexico they took last year - she's no longer a scrapbooking virgin...

See how nice and neat those other tables are?  Now look at mine :)

Cover of my cruise album :)

Here are some finished pages:
First page!  Bon Voyage!

Nate on stage at the amateur comedy night!

Towel animals left on our bed every night...

Smokin' Cubans!

Bonnie took all 3 of these - I think they're amazing!

Finally one of us won one of those damn '24 Karat gold plastic ships on a stick!' (I added the journaling on that blank green sheet later)

So glad this thing is done!  And in only a year from the trip - haha!  Here's hoping my efficiency will continue to improve :)