Kitchen game-changer.

21 May

It feels like such a little thing but it also feels like such a win.

Do you have bunches of recipes torn from magazines, printed from the internet, copies from family and friends? Come on. I can’t be the only one.

They were folded in a stack in a drawer and the chaos of it kind of made me crazy.

So I bought a binder. And a bunch of page protectors. Viola. Recipe binder. (They totally sell ‘recipe binders’ on Amazon but I like my budget $4 version.)

When I meal plan for the week (when I’m organized enough to meal plan … which isn’t every week), I can look through and pull out any recipe we’ll be using. The page protector saves the recipe from any splatter. It works for us.

Dave’s bagel recipe and its many revisions.

We also use an index card system. That’s not new but something we’ve used for a long while. Simple favorite recipes that don’t require fancy instructions or lots of words get an index card on a book ring.

A tiny macaron obsession.

3 Apr

I’ve tried many times over the years to make a French macaron cookie. I’ve tried many times … and failed.

Enter Sur La Table virtual cooking classes and the one Saturday afternoon they offered a course on pistachio macarons. I joined 83 other bakers in a zoom video chat as we learned the basics of the delicate sandwich cookie.

That course, combined with three other attempts in the last week, has gotten me farther than I’ve gotten before with egg whites, almond flour, and sugar. I have succeeded in baking the cookie with consistent “feet” – the wrinkly bottom edge, a must have with macarons. Win! However, they’re hollow. And they shouldn’t be. Many more batches, trial and error, and following a super-intense-macaron-baker-facebook-page will hopefully get me there.

In the meantime, I have two Tupperware containers full of macaron trials in my freezer. They’re not perfect but they still taste good. My coworkers are about to have their pick of French sandwich cookies. (Because what else does one do with so many cookies?)

Vacation sewing.

20 Mar

Don’t be confused. I don’t mean sewing on vacation (at least not this time). This is sewing FOR vacation. We’re anticipating a week in Florida in mid-April and have been looking forward to the beach, time away from work, and chill time. We’ll be meeting up with my brother/sister-in law and their two kiddos to rent a house on 30A, a stretch of highway between Destin and Panama City Beach.

It can’t come fast enough. We haven’t had a week away since … early September? I’ve been working full weeks but for a few three-day-weekends and I am ready for a bit of a break. Enter vacation anticipation. This time around, I’m anticipating vacation by sewing.

First up — a countdown chain. A fabric, REUSABLE countdown chain. This isn’t construction paper but quilted layers of fabric with snaps. (Hey. I learned how to do snaps!) I’ve had this pattern from Maker Valley for forever and finally decided to tackle it. Right now, it will count down the days until Florida. Then, snap it back together and we’ll pick something else to count down. It’s good to have exciting things on the horizon.

Peeps on Instagram have been posting photos of the yarrow clutch (a pattern by noodlehead) and I decided that was next. It will be my purse while away. I don’t need to carry much and it’s easily thrown in a larger bag if needed (see next project). I made one … and then decided to make a second with some improvements. The rainbow stripe one has an added snap on the front pocket and an added zipper pocket on the back, in addition to interior zipper and card slots like the first.

THEN I was thinking I needed a larger-ish bag for the airport. I combed through sotakhandmade’s Etsy store (a favorite go-to for patterns) and decided on her Kensington tote. For fabric? An ode to former home, Austin, I found Spam fabric. It’s got bunches of zipper pockets, a recessed top zipper that opens wide, polka dot interior fabric and will be large enough for my clutch, water bottle, book and snack. I finished it up just today.

What’s next? No idea. I think that may be all the vacation sewing I can think of right now.

What Einstein Ate

16 Jan

In this edition of what Einstein ate —

Soap. A portion of a bar of soap.

The soap had been sitting on the lower shelf of the shower for months. Months. He never paid it any attention until one day, when I got home from work, I found him chowing down. (He wasn’t already in the process of eating it when I got home. See, the dogs sleep all day and are perfectly lazy while Dave works from home. Then, the minute I walk in the door, they decide they want attention. And sometimes the puppy declares he wants attention by doing not-so-great things. Case in point. Eating soap.)

Now, it was a smaller, used bar and he ate maybe a third of it. But still concerning? It was a black soap, charcoal of some kind. I was concerned.

Our first instinct is to induce vomiting. This we had to do many times with puppy Emmett; this was a first with puppy Einstein. (I can hardly believe that, based on the things he has ate.) Hydrogen peroxide down the throat and the dog was thrown outside to throw up the chunks of soap.

Except he didn’t. And didn’t. And just stared at us through the door as we stared at him. It’s like he wasn’t even phased by the bubbles in his stomach. And then we started to worry that somehow the combination of peroxide and soap was ineffective or terrible or … and then I just got worried.

So I called the vet. Because the kind of soap was unknown, they suggested I bring him in to induce vomiting there. Sigh. Another vet bill but I knew I would feel better if he just got it out of his system. Into the car we went.

I put the car in reverse, we got to the end of the driveway, and then I thought – well. If this isn’t dumb. I really should cover the seat with a towel in case he pukes in the car. I was so concerned with getting out the door quickly and packing my work computer so I could sit in the car to finish the work day while he was inside the vet office ridding himself of soap.

I put the car back in drive to pull back to the house so I could get a towel —

And you guessed it. Puke. All over my car seat. Chunks of black soap and all.

Pro: no vet bill necessary. Con: cleaning the car.

A couple lists of things.

11 Jan

I sure haven’t been blogging (Sorry, Marilyn.) but I have been doing other things.

Like reading. FOR FUN. I think eight years of post-high school academia stomped the desire to read out of me. This is the kid who would stay up late reading, who read The Babysitter’s Club books four times over, and who spent a campout with friends in the tent reading the last chapters of the most recent Harry Potter by flashlight because she couldn’t stop.

Ten years distance from seminary graduation (Let’s pause to ponder how that is even possible.) and I find myself reading on a more consistent basis. Not in any crazy capacity but with steadiness. I’m the first one up in the morning (Well. First human. The dogs will make sure I am up because they eat their breakfast at 6 am, people.) and will often enjoy a few chapters while I eat breakfast and take my first sips of coffee. If the book is a can’t-put-it-down-kind-of-book then reading spills into the evening, sometimes while riding the outdoor-bike-on-an-indoor-trainer that we have set up in the living room this time of year.

Here’s what I’ve been reading the last six months* –

  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley (This was a finish-at-night book.)
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (I still think about this book. It lives in my heart. I laughed. I cried. So good.)
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (A curious group of people knit together in funny/poignant ways.)
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (A sucker for YA lit.)
  • Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling (Eh. Okay.)
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Another finish-at-night.)
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Thoughtful.)
  • Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Another favorite from the list. Charming.)

* I read on my kindle 95% of the time. I check out the digital books from the library which sometimes means, if they’re popular titles, they sit on my holds shelf for months until they are available. Then – oh – the excitement when they become ready to download!

The other fun thing I’ve been up to? Cooking new recipes.

Not every night allows for a new recipe but I try and sneak one in every couple weeks. Tonight was sweet potato and cauliflower chowder, a recipe I originally tore from a magazine but is obviously available online which makes me wonder why I subscribe to said magazine. Anyways. (Always a sucker for soup season here.) It’s on the fence as a keeper or a toss. Jury’s out. A couple nights ago it was turkey chili calzones. Meh. We won’t make those again. We tried Christina Tosi’s haute dogs to use up some meat market hot dogs on the verge of freezer burn. They were pretty tasty … but then again, what of hers is not? Quick chicken lo mein with some substitutions (We subbed out the mixed veggies – ew, corn in lo mein – for frozen broccoli and peppers) was pretty decent. Italian wedding soup from Iowa Girl Eats (one of our fav sites for recipes) was outstanding. (Again. Soup season.) Oh. And we’ve become we-make-our-own-granola kind of people, using the recipe from thelazygenius Instagram account of all places. (The Lazy Genius Way is a book I own and have only half read. Hence it not being on the list above.) Below is her magical concoction a la screenshot. We keep a container in the fridge at the ready for yogurt&fruit time.

Updates from the craft room.

19 Apr

Over the course of the last couple months, I’ve added a new item to my craft show inventory. Ever in the colorful and practical way, eye glass cases have made their way into my heart. I keep one in my car for my sunglasses (which before I’d just throw in the cupholder) and another in my office for my blue light blocking glasses. There are some listed in my online store but I’m super excited for them to make their craft show debut, hopefully in the fall when craft shows have resumed. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, I keep plugging along and adding a few to my inventory here and there so I’m ready when the first show arrives.

There is now yarn in my craft room. YARN. I tried knitting years ago; no thank you. This year I decided I would try crochet. Maybe it would help me stay awake when we watch tv on the couch at night? (Otherwise I’m usually drooping by 9:30. Sometimes 9 depending on how exhausting the work day was.) I was inspired by instagram and modern granny square blankets; I thought to myself, I could do that. YouTube will teach you anything days. I think I’m getting the hang of it and rewarded myself with oodles of yarn colors to choose from as I continue on this new crafty adventure.

I finished a heart quilt back in February. It’s backed in minky and is a cuddly couch quilt. It was a kit I bought from Maker Valley in an after-Thanksgiving sale. It was super easy to assemble and, as always, I love the bright colors. Here it is being basted on the sunroom floor –

Recipe recommendations.

12 Apr

Every time the conversation has an appropriate opening, I’ve been telling everyone about Iowa Girl Eats. We’ve followed her blog for a couple years now but recently have made a couple more meals that have astounded us. I love her use of unsweetened almond milk and cauliflower rice. While most of her meals are gluten free, because that’s not a necessity for us, we just sub standard ingredients. Here are our favorite Iowa Girl Eats:

The other place we’ve gathered recipes that have been nothing but home-runs is King Arthur Flour. I’ve made their 2021 Recipe of the Year a couple times now with nothing but tasty results – Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls. Dave gets his bagel recipe from King Arthur and their cheesy pan pizza (2020 Recipe of the Year) is amazing. We picked up their Baker’s Companion at Costco; it’s 500+ pages of recipes, science of baking, and tips. I am convinced they can do no wrong.

Einstein, aka Little Dog

11 Apr

Einstein. Little Dog. Sometimes jerk and sometimes cuddler extraordinaire.

Einstein was pretty much not feeling his tip-top self until maybe a month and a half ago. Lots of trips outside, especially in the middle of the night. Special prescription dog food, a couple extra vet appointments, and now he seems to be back on track.

Here’s a list of things he’s ate: a hole in the carpet; part of an old, vintage chair arm (that already had a hole – he was just helping make its appearance more known); sticks; Dave’s wallet; extension cord (that wasn’t plugged in, oh, boy). (To our knowledge, none of these things were connected to his sickness. They were just bonuses.)

Einstein learned how to escape his kennel. His wire, door-latched kennel. I came home one day and Einstein should have been in his kennel … and yet, he greeted me at the door. Huh. I must have not latched the door completely, I thought. But then it happened again. And a third time. Little Houdini unlatches the top latch and somehow sneaks his way out. Because of the dangers involved with the escape, we’ve begun to let the dogs roam when we leave. Nothing has been chewed or destroyed. (Yet.)

He’s a sock stealer and of great annoyance to his older brother. But he’s also pretty darn sweet and cuddly. Smart too. We start obedience classes this week. He continues to get car sick when we reach the one hour mark in motion; still hoping that ceases as he grows older.

Quilting with panels.

3 Jan

It all started with a Christmas quilt. Instagram sucked me in and I had to search and find the Christmas panel to make a Christmas throw of my own. Once I found myself on Fat Quarter Shop’s website, the panel page sucked me in deeper. I ordered not one but three quilt panels. This is their story.

Quilt panel the first. The original. The reason this all started. I ordered the panel and cuddle minky to go on the back. And let me tell you. The cuddle minky on the back makes it the heaviest, comfiest, warmest couch throw. Dave felt it and immediately wanted his own.


Which was a good thing because quilt panel number two was purchased for him. Dave has a love for all things 80s and nostalgic including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of his childhood. He instructed me on how to grow the panel into throw-quilt size; the actual panel is as big as the green border. The color choices are his (and certainly *cough* not the route I would have went but it’s his quilt). His is backed in a black minky and equally as cuddly as my Christmas throw.

Quilt panel number three is for our nephew who is obsessed with Super Mario. It was his birthday this past week and, as this family has more toys than they know what to do with, we tend to go the homemade or experience route when it comes to gifts. He recently got a Super Mario bed and thus, a Super Mario quilt must be next. (The panel goes to the blue border. I added the polka dots – of course – and gray to make it twin bed-ish size.) It was also a first for me – a machine-stitched binding. While I usually love to sit on the couch and hand sew the binding, time was of the essence and, after the it was complete, I really like how it looks.

Laughter is a good thing.

30 Dec

I don’t even remember who posted it or where I found it but a couple nights ago I stumbled across this –

I can.not.stop.laughing. I’ve texted it to friends. I found a way to include it next week in my weekly “Monday Meditation” email to the hospice team. I thought about it while driving today and snickered in the car. I just talked to Dave about it tonight and I could hardly get through explaining why it’s so funny to me. Whatever this is, it’s my sense of humor in a nutshell.

I hope it makes you laugh too.

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