Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lucky 29!

It was a busy weekend around these parts: Hubs and I cashed in a gift certificate we won a while back to a hotel out in the wilds of West Des Moines so we spent Friday yukking it up at chain restaurants and breathing in ridiculous amounts of chlorine in the indoor pool.

Saturday, we bottled the zinfandel Hubs whipped up last month.
29 bottles of yummy, yummy zinfandel.

Sunday, we had to add toppers and labels, which fell to me and Hubs was hitting the books. First, I had to put these little gold foil toppers on each bottle and steam them shut.

Then, it was labeling time. We found these awesome Post-It labels on pretty paper that are easy to remove. That way, when we reuse these bottles for the next batch, we won't have to scrub old label gunk off. Hooray!

We tried the wine on Saturday, and it was a little twangy, but considering that it isn't going to be really ready until the end of March, we were pleased. By then, these bottles ought to be a-ma-zing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wheel-ly? Like, for wheel?

^ Yes. That is the worst pun title of all time. But, it pales in comparison to what I am about to share.

Last night, something really important was on TV. State of the Union? Puh-leeze. How about the single most horrifying episode of Wheel of Fortune of all time ever?

I think Hubs' and my hearts could be heard breaking for this poor woman at least two blocks away. We were hysterical (-ly laughing at) for her. And good job to the guy on her left! Congrats and aloha!

My advice to this poor gal: take this opportunity to run away to an island, change your name and become a bartender. That's my plan should I ever encounter this situation. Hubs' even said he'd come with, so we're all set there.

Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance! I have an escape plan for doing a bad job on Wheel and I hope you all do, too. This is important stuff, friends!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In which I eat cookies in the name of proper blogging

Yesterday, I came to you with cookies-in-progress. Today, we have cookies-eaten. Here are the stats:

Hours since dough-making: 24
Frozen dough yield: 5 dozen +  four (-two, consumed frozen)
First bake yield: six cookies
Second bake yield: four cookies

Cookie ranking system:
1: Would not eat again, even if someone else baked for me. Cookie failure.
2: Would eat again, if baked for me. Would not have seconds.
3: Would ask half-hearted-ly for recipe if cooked for me. Would not actually bake.
4: Would bake for myself. Would probably screw the recipe up due to consumption of two glasses of red wine.
5: Would bake for myself. Would pay attention during baking process.
6: Would bake for myself. Would share leftovers with co-workers. (aka Threshold for Sharing << a pivotal point in this ranking system)
7: Would bake for a party. Would eagerly anticipate praise.
8: Would bake regularly, hoping the recipe became a signature dish.
9: Potential to over-bake this cookie. Over-baking in this case = baking these cookies like all the time, not baking until burnt.
10: Boo-yah. Cookie nirvana.

First bake cookies (the dough right after being refrigerator for 24 hours): 3 - cookies were dry, puffy and wicked lame.

Second bake cookies (after dough had been frozen for two hours): 7 - cookies were more melty, less puffy, mo' bettah.

Frozen dough: 10 - frozen cookies are available for on-the-spot consumption AND freshly-made 7s are available within 15 minutes.

Five hot cookies and two frozen cookies later, you're welcome.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Boatload of cookies

Right now, chilling in my fridge, I have approximately five pounds of cookie dough. Per One Lovely Life, this lump of rawness will soon become the tastiest chocolate chip cookies this side of the Mississippi. Yep, I'm jumping on the bandwagon (thank you, Pinterest!) and making the New York Times chocolate chip cookies.

Here's my beef so far with this recipe: the dough has to sit for 24-72 hours! How is a cookie-loving gal such as myself supposed to wait it out like that?

Obviously, I'm only going to be able to hold out for the minimum 24 hours, but I'll report back as soon as I've done the proper research (aka, eaten a boatlod of cookies).

I'm also going to try rolling half of the dough into balls and freezing it, because as much as I'd love to OD on chocolate chip cookies, I think it's in my best interest to pace myself. Luckily, Pinterest supplied me with a how-to on that as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dumplings Gone Wild

Last Saturday, it was just barely snowing and we decided to make us of our giant steamer for only the third time since we bought it more than two years ago. Dumpling Mania 2012 was on!

But first, a sale on kale (did that make you as happy as it just made me?) led us to the least appetizing-looking appetizer of all time: kale chips. We just laid the pieces out, sprinkled with olive oil and Mural of Flavor from Penzey's spices and toasted them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

They tasted about 10 million times better than they looked.
For the dumplings, Hubs and I used a simple recipe based on a few different dumpling recipes we found online.

1 pound of ground pork
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 table spoon apple cider vinegar (because we realized too late we were out of rice wine vinegar)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 inches of ginger, smushed
NO hoisin sauce, though I was a big proponent of this
8 scallions, chopped

We mixed all that together and filled up dumpling wrappers. Into the steamer they went for about 15-20 minutes.

While they steamed, we got rolling on two sauces: a peanut butter chili sauce and soy-based sauce.

The peanut butter sauce was just 1 cup warmed peanut butter (use a double boiler!) and chili oil (3 table spoons). It made WAY more than we needed.

Our soy sauce was also simple, soy and scallions, with a little apple cider vinegar and sesame oil.

We also steamed a sweet potato, so we could feel just a smidge healthier about all this pork and salt.

It was delightful!

In general, Hubs and I aren't great Asian cooks, but we can do dumplings. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the all-time easiest dishes to make ever.

Pardon our less-than-chic dinner ware, the good old divided plate just made for the most utilitarian choice for our two dips. What can I say, we are not fancy folks.

Have you tried making dumplings at home? What the heck else should we be using this steamer for?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What we're up to

Ignoring the 60 degree weather.

Enjoying my favorite chair.

Lookin' mad thug in a hoodie from the Target dollah aisle.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Birthday bupkis

Loyal readers may recall my annual tradition of whipping up something disastrous for Hubs' birthday. Obviously, I don't mean to eff things up so much, but I think the pressure of birthday baking just makes me crack.

This year, I went for a key lime cake. Hubs recently discovered a love of key lime pie, but you know, a birthday pie sounds less than thrilling. I Googled until I found a recipe that sounded about right and set about gathering my mise en place.

(Totally. Like using the phrase mise en place makes me sound like I know what the hell I'm doing, which, in case you lost track - I do not.)

Fancy French words that I learned from Bravo shows notwithstanding, I effed the shizzle (pardon my French) outta that poor cake.

I also did not use key limes because the store didn't have any. So there. The whole truth.

A rare sight, me (in profile no less!) looking seven kinds of domestic! Have I told you how much I love our new camera? It makes me look as good in pictures as I do striking a pose in front of the bathroom mirror.

The glaze was a simple lime juice plus powdered sugar. It had a heck of a tangy punch.

And the finished product. It sure looks purdy, and I was proud enough to force a parade of well-wishers to have a piece and toast to mon mari (more! French!). This proved a mistake. 

The cake was dense and barely cooked, even though the damn toothpick came out cleanly. Our friends were polite and finished their slices, bless their hearts.

At least some palettes are better suited to super tart undercooked cake:

For those of you playing along at home, that's birthday baking: 3, Alexson: 1. Here's to 2013!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knitja unmasked

A while back, I had the delusion that I could whip up two ruched, West Elm knock-off blankets in time for Christmas. I ordered 26 skeins of worsted mushroom colored yarn and got to knitting.
100 hours and at least one million stitches later, I finally had one blanket that a full-sized human could properly snuggle beneath. I can reveal it to you now because no one got these for Christmas. I only finished one and it became a birthday present for my mom  whose birthday is conveniently two weeks after Christmas (Happy birthday! I hope mail-arrival time is prior to blog-reading time, Mom. If not, well then - surprise!), which is perfect for harried, hand-crafting daughters. 

 Poor Hubs' mom won't be getting hers until March, assuming I can stay on top of my game. But, I think it's totally worth the wait. I mean, look how pretty!

So, my first blanket is in the books. It took a LOT longer than I had anticipated, but it was a good and simple pattern so I only collapsed in frustration once. 

I used this pattern and was really happy with the simplicity of it. It was definitely an easy project to do while carrying on conversations, watching TV or flying. Some projects are so complex with the counting and the intricate stitches that I need near silence to make progress, but this was just garter, garter, garter, knit, pearl, knit and voila!

What's the biggest DIY present you've ever given? Was it on time? Teach me your secrets!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy birthday, Hubster!

The most cat-lovingest, beer brewing, DIY maniac of a Hubs is celebrating his birthday this very day!

I love when birthdays fall on Fridays, don't you? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pimp My Office: Chalk Hearts are for the Birds (plus glitter!)

Last Christmas break, I spent hours tearing down heinous 80s wallpaper and painting the tiny room where I spend 40+ hours a week. But, I wasn't done pimpin' this little home away from home, no siree!

So, me and two office mates spent one afternoon over break at the office - not futzing with spreadsheets and Hootsuite bulk uploads - but getting our Martha on.

Behold: our masterpiece (my co-workers have similar branded office art now, too).

Yeah, it's a chalkboard heart and torch (the logo 89% of you can positively associate with the American Heart Association) - surrounded by RED GLITTER PAINT!

Do you have any idea how much red glitter paint can make a crafty Heart Association employee squeal? A lot.

I also added some functional art in the form of a magnetic bird that Hubs' parents picked up for me as a Christmas present. It sits over my desk, along with my handy (and free!) deadline clothesline and the amazing Ork heart poster I fell in love with last spring.

Clearly, this office is not short on personality.

Do you get to snazz up your workspace? How have you incorporated glitter into your professional life?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Twelve Tidys: Basement Workshop

Get crazy, wicked excited, please: I'm starting a new monthly series on this silly little blog called the Twelve Tidys (ba da ba BAH!). Every month, I'll be tackling one hideous, horrible, very bad mess and whipping it into shape using only my very fragile sense of organization (and Hubs for brute strength and lots of mismatching tupperware).

First up, our junk-filled workshop in the basement. It was crammed with all the left-overs of the basement project because after we finished, we couldn't bring ourselves to do much of anything, especially clear away the debris. So, we worked around it. Hubs brewed his beer and I just kept digging through the mess to find screws, goggles and other random supplies for DIY projects. It was bad.

We needed to find a home for all the tools, materials and brewing supplies. In a fit of domesticity and gender-normative behavior, I told Hubs that he needed to keep all that stuff on his side (the side with the unpainted floor), while laundry and pantry items, plus anything hidden in an old oak armoir we had, was welcome on my side. 

That blue shelf and all the coupon-bought things it holds is my pride and joy. Judge not.

Seedy-underbelly no more!

Not only is it clean as a whistle, but that five gallon white bucket? That's full of homemade wine, suckas! We live in heaven!

A surprisingly small amount of all that clutter was actual trash or Goodwill-able, so I'd say about 80% of it is still here, though you'd never know it.

Want to hop on the neurotic organization wagon with me? Share a link in the comments.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All the trimmings

Our little living and dining rooms had suffered for too long with unsightly trim. Mismatched and unloved, the trim wasn't doing much to help our admittedly neglected upstairs. And so it was that Hubs and I pulled our painting clothes out and set to beautifying the badness.

As if an ugly stain wasn't enough, this poor slice of baseboard got all dripped on by myself, way back when I didn't even know to to edge without one of those horrible plastic slider things.

Believe it or not, Hubs and I actually applied the lighter stain and declared it good. Oh, we were such DIY punks in 2009.

Again, we applied the lighter stain and felt OK with that. We must have been drunk.

We decided to pull up the quarter-round and replace it because trying to paint around it seemed like a lot more work than making a few cuts and spending $20 at Menards.

After two coats of primer and three of paint (and two meatball subs and one costume change), we had afters that we could finally be proud of!

The whole shebang.

How bright and happy!

Seriously, I spent the better part of the next day just staring at the match-y-ness of this section.

I'm so jazzed to finally have paid some attention to this room. It hadn't seen any major updates since we painted it about two weeks after moving in. Now, with our crisp white trim, I'm ready to get crack-a-lackin' on making this, the most used room in our house, a little more punchy and rad.

What was your final DIY of 2011?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Droppin outta high school, straight into the pros

It's entirely possible that Nelly was not talking about cameras in this song.

Happy 2012, friends! I'm coming off a most glorious 11-day weekend which was at once productive and highly relaxing. One of the highlights: being gifted this sweet little Canon T3i by my ma 'n pa. I have absolutely zero idea how to use it aside from the point-and-shoot settings, but I'm sure it will be just a matter of time before I catch on.

I think I need more mirrors in my house and fewer self-portraits in the powder room. 

It's my goal to play along with these fabulous tutorials, even though the 12 weeks are long gone. Just putzing around can only take a gal so far.

So, the real question is: how many pictures of cats can I take before it gets weird? 

Just kidding. Anyone else get a snazzy camera for the holidays? What tips and tricks should I be reading up on?

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