Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's for dinner?

Most annoying question in the world.  UGH - I don't freaking know what's for dinner, what's in the pantry?  What's in the fridge?  Can we just go to McDonald's?

That's what Dave and I go through frequently.  He's not always asking the question - sometimes it's me.  Either way, it's freaking annoying.

Pinterest has saved us from this repetitive, futile conversation.  Peep this, from Little Birdie Secrets:

Menu planning is genius - I know it's nothing new, but we have never done it.  We go to the grocery store a little a time, rarely thinking about actual meals.  We go when we need milk or turkey or beans, but don't compose meals while we're there or think more than 3 hours in the future.  This will help us...hopefully.

Dry erase boards are awesome for writing things down temporarily without wasting post-its, but until recently they only came in white - BORING.  Check out Bonnie's new blue one, which is tres playful and fashionable:

I didn't do much shopping around to find a cute board because I assumed my OCD would kick in and I wouldn't find one that was just right.  Does that happen to you?  Analysis paralysis over the silliest little things?  Guilty.

I decided to make one instead, so I could be sure that I was in love with all the elements and would love this thing for the long haul - no yard sale fate for this guy.

Off to Michael's to get my materials!  I initially thought I'd pick up a heavy-duty record frame like the ones Dave uses in the office for his Beatles record collection.  But when I got there and saw/felt them, I decided they were too heavy and figured that whatever mechanism I used to hang the board would need to be sturdy enough to hold the weight and respond to movement from writing and erasing.

Then I saw these guys - they're also record frames (12x12) but the frame is plastic and they were much lighter.  They also had a flatter back so I could attach said hanging mechanism.  They were $6.99 each, so I picked up 2...then I wandered over to the scrapbooking section to get some stickers - either days of the week or letters.  But once I got there I realized I'd have to buy so many packs for the amount of d's, a's, and y's for 5 days of the week I scrapped that plan and decided to use some stamps I have in my ridiculous stamp collection.

What kind of paper?  I was looking for something neutral, but with a subtle print.  I wanted it to have personality but not draw attention.

Perfect!  It's a little green, a little beige, and a lot subtle and neutral.  That's all I used for this project:

  • 12x12 record frame (I bought 2 in case I messed up and broke the glass or something) - $6.99 each
  • 12x12 piece of scrapbook paper (I bought 2 in case I messed up) - $.59 each
  • letter stamps or stickers in whatever font you like (EXCEPT COMIC SANS - UGH) - already owned
  • stamp pad - already owned
  • industrial strength velcro - $3.49 for 4 sheets
  • Total - $11.07 - pretty darn good price for a DIY one of a kind dry erase board!  It would be more expensive if you don't already have something to use for the letters, but still so worth the cost!

Now for the construction and assembly.  SO EASY!  I started by stamping the letters onto the paper - pretty straight-forward:

I only did Monday through Friday since we usually eat out on the weekends and/or are so lazy that we order from somewhere that delivers.  Since the paper I bought had a red border on one edge I cut a strip of plain beige paper and added a header at the top of the menu board before putting it in the frame:

The frame is pretty flexible plastic and I just bent a corner back until the glass popped out.  Then I slid the menu sheet in behind the glass and popped it back into place.  Then I attached some velcro for hanging:

Time for hanging on the pantry door!

The blue marker didn't exactly work, but you'll see in a minute that it wasn't a fail project :)

With the extra frame and scrapbook paper (since I didn't screw up anything when assembling the menu board), I made a memo board for the front door.  Dave is always asking me if I need anything when he's going out or what's going on this weekend, so we need a place to keep notes like that in a prominent place.  We had a dry erase board there before, but it was too small. 12x12 is a much better size!

So here's our new memo board - see how well the black marker works?
pardon the picture quality - iphone camera is awesome outdoors, sucky indoors

So for another $7.58 I made a memo board too!  A two-fer project! :)

They have some flaws, but most handmade things do, and I think it gives them character ;)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Along Came Polyvore

No room in our house is safe. Lately I've been restless to work on projects and finally get our house 'done' so I'll have a clear head when I start school in the fall. I doubt I'll have much free time for projects or decorating, so tying up loose ends now makes me feel like I'll be less overwhelmed in the fall.

What does 'done' mean anyway? I suppose there will always be a tweak to be made or re-arrangement to be arranged, but I'd like to have some semblance of order to start clean. Think it'll work?

Nah, I didn't either. But I can try, right?

My latest victim is our bedroom - my mind has been a flurry of thoughts around how to make it more feminine. In its current state, there is too much man. Black furniture, beige walls,  and green curtains, lampshades, and bedding. There are no feminine elements except for my jewelry/makeup area, and the '...and they lived happily ever after' sign above the double window.

So it's time to bring in some estrogen! All the furniture will stay, but anything made of fabric is up for grabs. Even the bedskirt has to go, since we'll be upgrading to a king bed sooner than later...

So I decided to draw out Polyvore my options...and here they are.  I'm not sure why I'm even considering one of them since there isn't an ounce of femininity in it. It should make for an easy decision, but with me you never know. I might decide to go for more earthy, natural elements and throw the whole girl-it-up goal out the window - I'm ca-razy like that! :)

Option 1:

See how boring our paint color and furniture are? I love my Expedit, but it is so boxy and intimidating. I think I can dress it with some photos or favorite mementos of trips we've taken to take care of that tout de suite.

I LOVE this bedding - "Mandala" by Dwell Studio for Target!! It's not too girly and pink, but I'm digging its feminine vibe. Even Dave said he wouldn't mind this - that surprised me a little!

Art is the question - I found a lovely framed map at Target that I love! I do not love the $189 price tag, though. I found this almost-identical unframed version on Amazon - I could mod podge it onto a canvas to glam it up a little (like YHL's horse poster project)...

...or I could create some cute, personalized art like this yarn-wrapped monogram set? I heart this project!!

Option 2:

See how not girly it is? I know, it doesn't fit the bill, but I really like the bold burnt orange color in the bedding - "Perch" (also by Dwell Studio). Bonnie had a good point about the birds staring at you from those branches though ;) Might give me nightmares.

I love the birch silhouette piece from, you guessed it, Target. It reminds me of a painting hanging in the basement when I was growing up. I never paid much attention to it until high school - when my boos (Carrie, Cynthia, and Mo) came over for sleepovers we'd name the trees in the painting to correspond with boys we liked at the time. I know, I don't get why we did it either, but we did. We even ranked them so the trees in the foreground were named after guys we were either dating (yeah, right) or reallllly liked. Guys we thought were cute or completely unattainable *cough*TugCoker*cough* were banished either to the blurry background trees or the clumps of really skinny trees.

Come on, you were 15 once, too. You totally did things like that!! Right?

So there are our options. I'm definitely leaning toward option 1 - what do you think? On board for the bedding but not the art? Love it all? Think we need new furniture too? That last one is impossible for now, but it's fun to get opinions ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Puff pastry experiment

I recently took a 'Frozen and Plated Desserts' class at University of Richmond's Center for Culinary Arts.  It is a required core class for the Baking and Pastry Arts certificate I am pursuing.  One group in the class made creme horns, using puff pastry and buttercream.

I thought that was far beyond my skill level, so I was scared to try to make them - plus I didn't have any items in my house that I could use or even kludge as the metal cone needed to shape the pastry.  Then, the other night on Pinterest I saw this:

Looks like a s'more, right?  I'm a sucker for pretty much any Nutella recipe, even though given the choice I prefer World Market's generic hazelnut spread.  Since this used puff pastry too, I decided to bite the bullet and go buy some pastry cones so I could try both recipes!

The bad news is they are $5 each, so I could only stomach paying for 3 of them.  That was even a stretch.  Why is a little piece of metal so expensive?  Jeez!

Anyways, tonight was the night to experiment with puff pastry and first up were the creme horns.  Once the puff pastry was thawed I unfolded it (it comes as a tri-fold) and cut it into 1-inch (approx) strips:

My precision needs a little work :)

I sprayed my horns and a baking sheet with baking spray and then wrapped the strips of pastry around the cone.  After some near-fails and experimenting, I ended up using 2 strips per cone.  I overlapped them about an inch to make 1 longer strip and then wrapped the long strip around the cone after spraying the cones and baking sheet with cooking spray:

Each one got an egg-wash before going into the oven:
They look like mummies.

I baked them seam side down at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes, and they came out looking like this:

While they were cooling I started my Nutella pastries.  I used the third of the first pastry sheet plus the second sheet, cutting them in about 3x3 inch squares.  I spread Nutella and Pampered Chef Mocha Hazelnut Sprinkle...

...folded them diagonally, crimped the edges with a fork, and egg-washed the tops:

I baked them at the same temp and time as the cones, and they came out like this:

They puffed way more than I expected, but they look light and fluffy!

I knew when I was grocery shopping for the puff pastry and the week's groceries that I wouldn't feel like making homemade buttercream after experimenting, so I picked up a tub of Ukrop's buttercream:

I piped that into the creme horns and they're ready for their closeup!  Pardon the blurry and whited-out photo - my good camera's on the fritz:

I can't believe I was scared to use puff pastry - it's so easy and versatile!  This would be a great base for many, many party foods...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Philly Cheesesteak Calzones

The Philly roll Bonnie and I tried at Center Street Grill yesterday was so good that I wanted to try a similar recipe for dinner tonight.  I didn't want to make egg rolls, so I made calzones instead!

I bought 2 Steak-umm packages (America's favorite sliced steak - apparently), a bag of cheddar cheese, a pizza crust, and an onion.  Easy!

My brother and I used to make Steak-umm sammiches all the time if we were in charge of dinner - I don't remember them being so messy!  Perhaps because we left the mess for mom to clean up?  That was rude of us.  There is grease all over my stove now - maybe I can leave the mess for Dave to clean up this time...*evil laugh*

Once the steak was cooked the onion was diced, I mixed them together with the bag of cheese (saving 1 cup of cheese for a sauce!), and then I prepared the crusts.

Haha - look at my mad rolling pin skills below!  Ideally this would be a perfect square :)

I spread a light layer of light mayonnaise on the crust, then spooned the steak mixture on the bottom half.  Fold over the rest of the crust and pinch the edges and you're ready to put them in the oven! 

While the calzones were cooking (I have no idea how hot or how long because I just followed the directions on the pizza crust packaging), I asked Dave to make the cheese dipping sauce (they served something similar at the restaurant with our Philly rolls).

The finished product tasted awesome!  Next time I might add mushrooms and peppers, but it was good with just the steak, cheese, and onion!

BFF Day: Jamestown

Phew!  Our plan for yesterday's BFF day was to visit the Jamestown Settlement, and that turned into running some errands, eating some yummy food, and seeing a movie!  A marathon day! :)

Here's our list, with a few special notes added by Dave:

Dave apparently wanted to see how fast he could type motherfucker, a la Franklin from True Blood:

Seems like a big list, considering we didn't start until 11, there's an hour of travel time to/from the Williamsburg area, and the tour of Jamestown was expected to take 2-3 hours, but Bonnie and I are nothing if not ambitious, so we went for it!

The Goodwill dropoff and bank were finished by the time Bonnie arrived in Richmond, so 2 things were done right away! :)  Our first stop once we hit the road was Williamsburg Pottery.  Bonnie's been looking for some retired pieces to expand her silverware set, and multiple websites indicated there was an Oneida outlet there.  When we got there and started to look around the kitchen building, we started to realize we were on a wild goose chase.

Remember when Williamsburg Pottery was the place to go on the weekends?  Before or after a fun family day at Busch Gardens, we'd head over to the Pottery for some outlet shopping.  I knew it had gone downhill over the years, but I didn't realize that instead of actual stores, it's just a big warehouse of crap now.  We gave up looking for any silverware and asked the cashier where we could find the Oneida silverware - she said they haven't had any since 2008.  Really, internets?  You lied!  So that was a bust - cross that off the list.

Next we went to Jamestown.  I'm sure I've been there but none of it seemed familiar to me. Bonnie recognized some exhibits and part of the settlement, but not all of it.  So it was cool to both be clueless about what we would find down the trail.  Here are my favorite pics from the day:

Once we were done with our tour, we took the Colonial Parkway back towards Williamsburg.  Bonnie broke one of her flip-flops while we were walking around Jamestown, so we stopped at New Town since I knew there was an Old Navy there - only Old Navy isn't there anymore :(  One more strike for the internets.  I looked up store locations just to see if I was crazy and maybe there hadn't ever been an Old Navy there, but sure enough it was on the list.  FAIL.  So she kludged it and we went to Victoria's Secret instead and hit the motherload - awesome sale on beauty stuff!  I love New Town - I always stop there whenever I go to Williamsburg for shopping.  It's set up like a little town - imagine Stars Hollow, CT - the fictional hometown of the Gilmore Girls, or any town in Vermont ever portrayed on TV or in a movie.  So cute!

That sale at VS made us hungry so we went around the corner to Center Street Grill - a fancy-looking place with a casual menu.

We each ordered a Caesar salad and a Philly Roll appetizer, which was fabulous!  It was basically an egg roll filled with steak, cheese, and onions, and was served with a cheese dipping sauce.  So yummy!  Tonight's dinner will be inspired by that somehow -we'll see where we end up!

Next up was Sweet Frog for dessert - I've been telling Bonnie about this place because I am in love.  So glad she finally experienced the greatness!  It's like a salad bar, only with frozen yogurt - you pick your yogurt and any toppings from the 10 foot long topping bar, and then you pay 39 cents per ounce.  You can make any weird combination you like and no one will ever know!  :)

I tend to go with basic yogurt flavors and go crazy with the toppings, but Bonnie went the other way - she got several kinds of yogurt, topped with colored sprinkles.  Here's mine - you might see Fruity Pebbles, peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, and random other toppings I tried:

Once our bellies were full we stopped by the Yankee Candle flagship store since Bonnie had never been - can you believe that?  Yeah, we had some fun in there :)

It was time to head back to Richmond - we checked 'Bridesmaids' showtimes in the car and weren't sure which one we'd make it to.  I didn't want to rush anywhere, but I reaallllly wanted to see this movie!  We both heard that it was the female version of 'The Hangover" and I was really looking forward to it!  After a brief stop at Hobby Lobby for a gift card, we got to Movieland in time!  The movie was hilarious!  I think we've all been in the shoes of one or more characters several times in our lives - it was cute, and real, and funny!  Definitely a good girls' night movie!

Phew, I'm tired!  Since that was the last thing on our list, we headed home to have a later dinner along with a treat from Bonnie - a bottle of Tru Blood to share!  It tasted like blood orange soda - very fruity and delicious!

Long day, but fun!  Dave didn't get his sammich from Paul's Deli - but I think he knew that part was wishful thinking on his part.  Plus, who'd want to eat a sub that sat in a car for an hour?  Blech!  We accomplished everything else on our list!