Monday, December 29, 2008

Adventures with my New Kitchen Aid Mixer

I have wanted a Kitchen Aid Mixer for a long long time. The first Mixer I ever witnessed was at my good friend, Jill’s, house when we were kids. Her mother, Amy, used to throw a holiday party every year with an amazing assortment of homemade goodies. She owned her own pastry business for a time and still to this day makes the most delicious cream puffs ever created. (I dream of those cream puffs.) I remember her making chocolate chip cookies in her red Kitchen Aid mixer and thinking to myself, “this must be why her cookies are so good.”

This Christmas, Evan gave me a brand new Kitchen Aid Mixer of my very own. He always gets me the best gifts. I was so excited to try out a new recipe. I looked for one that required a lot of mixing on all different speeds. The Mixer came with a book with a few recipes and I picked the Double Chocolate Pound Cake. I haven’t done very many cakes from scratch and have never made a pound cake. This recipe was definitely an adventure.

The recipe required 5 different speeds be used during the mixing process. The most hysterical step was mixing in the eggs. The directions read, “Turn to Speed 2 and add eggs, one at a time, mixing about 15 seconds after each addition.” I cracked the first egg and when I went to drop it in the mixing bowl, the Flat Beater hit my hand and my egg went flying onto the counter. You really have to time it just right when dropping eggs in while the beater is going. It was a high stress egg drop, but I got all the eggs in with only one casualty.

After my batter was all mixed up, I underestimated the size pan that I needed. I poured ¾ of the batter into my loaf pan and it was way too much. I put it in the oven for 5 minutes and it over flowed and leaked all over the bottom of the oven. Evan helped me transfer the batter to a bigger loaf pan, but I was worried that it had already partially cooked. We went with it anyway. Next time I will read the last line of the recipe so that I know what size pan I need before I start.

The cake was probably the worst cake I’ve ever had. It was so dry, it was almost inedible. I don’t care though. It was so fun using the mixer that it didn’t bother me that the recipe didn’t turn out. I can’t wait to mix up something else.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday (or Anytime) Casserole

I have never been too thrilled with the traditional holiday meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am a pretty picky eater, so I don’t do stuffing or green bean casserole. I won’t usually touch the cranberry sauce (unless it is from a can) and I didn’t realize that I like pumpkin pie until two years ago. For me, at a holiday meal, my plate would be filled with turkey, mashed potatoes with butter and canned corn. You can see why I don't get too excited for the big feast. I’d much rather order a pizza. That is, until we shared Thanksgiving with our friends in Arkansas last year. My good friend, Nicole, made one of her Mother’s classic Thanksgiving recipes, Corn and Macaroni Casserole. This has since changed my outlook on a holiday meal, forever. When we moved to back to Maryland, Nicole gave me her Mom’s recipe and I’ve made it at Thanksgiving, Christmas and when Evan’s parents were in town. It was a major sensation every time! It is so easy and can work with any meal. I don’t recommend trying to count how many calories are included in a serving size, but do recommend having more than one serving.

1 Cup uncooked pasta (this seems like not enough pasta, but it is)
1-1 1/2 lb Velveeta, cubed
1 can whole kernel corn (do not drain)
1 can cream corn
2 tablespoons butter/margarine

1. Mix uncooked pasta, cubed Velveeta, whole kernel corn and cream corn in a medium sized baking dish.
2. Drop 2 tablespoons of butter/margarine on top in small pieces.
3. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring after 30 minutes.
4. Serve and accept the praises.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Topper the Puppy

My brother and Brad adopted an adorable puppy and named him Topper. He came to my Mom’s for Christmas and we got to spend some quality snuggling time together. He is a mix between a Chihuhua and a Dachshund. They call him a ChiWeenie. I am more of a cat person, so dogs usually bother me, but Topper is very well behaved. He gets pretty excited, but doesn’t bark or yip. He goes potty on his pad and takes lots of naps. I love him.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays

So much has happened in the past few weeks, let alone the past few months. There is no way I can recap all events since my last blog post, so I figure I will start fresh with what has happened this holiday. Evan’s parents came to visit us in Maryland, we entered a balcony decorating contest in our new apartment complex, my brother adopted a puppy and we had an absolutely wonderful Christmas at my mother’s house in Annapolis. I hope the holidays have been as good to you as they have been to me. Have a wonderful wintery weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life Sized

So my brother’s Fashion Week Show in NYC is scheduled for September. This is understandably very exciting! (I still don’t have an outfit and I don’t want to talk about it.) Bubbles Hair Salons and their product line, CIBU, are one of the sponsors for the show. In promotion of this event, Bubbles has a life sized standee of my brother up in every salon. This has been a really funny thing for me. Can you imagine going to work and there standing at the door to greet you, is a life sized cardboard cut-out of one of your siblings? So strange it is. I don’t make it a big deal and actually, I am trying to lighten it up by posing for photos with the 2D little brother likeness. It is funny to have people come up to me and ask, “Is that your brother?” My response is obviously, “No, that’s a cardboard poster, my brother lives in New York, duh.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hair Do

I have a fantastic hair cut because my stylist, Jamie from Bubbles Annapolis Mall, is a genius. This will only do so much since I wear it the same way everyday. I am not creative at all when it comes to styling my hair, but from spending my days in salons and getting educated on youtube I am getting a little braver. Bubbles Salons (where I work) has CIBU, their own line of Hair Styling Products. The Brand Manager, Jenn (who is very awesome), has a great youtube site with a bunch of videos showing different ways to style your hair using CIBU products. She is not a hair stylist which makes me feel more confident using the products and experimenting with different styles. I think, if she can do it, I can do it. Especially since she has short hair and still manages to where it in a million different ways.

I always go with a straight style by blow drying with a round brush and using a CHI flat iron to straighten and smooth. I use Shang High Volumizing Mousse on damp hair before the dryer and then use Sashini Thermal Shine Solution before I use the flat iron. I like the look, but get bored with the same style everyday. In trying to improve my personal style I decided to try a curly look this weekend.

I still used my Shang High Mousse and a blow dryer, but left out the round brush and did a quick dry with my head up-side-down. Then I used my CHI flat iron to curl small sections. To do a curl with the iron, you take a small section of hair and then twist the iron under like you would a curling iron and pull to the ends to make a flippy curl. I used CIBU Pho Finish Finishing Spray (like a light hairspray) on each section after I curled it. The curl fell into a really nice wave after I was finished. I am pleased with the look and am feeling pretty snazzy. With a few more practices, I’ll have it down. My next challenge will be some sort of going out up do, but I’ll need some major practice time before that goes up on the blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good Stuff Eatery

A month or so ago, I walked by a new restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC and an older gentleman stopped me. He told me that I would have to come by when their restaurant is officially opened. I told him, I was headed to the salon less than a block down the street where I was working and his reply was, “I love all those gals at the salon, come back and see us very soon!” I thought nothing of this random friendly encounter from a fellow business on the block and went on with my day.

Earlier this week I found out what this new restaurant was all about. Good Stuff Eatery, a burger, fries and milk shake joint, co-owned by Spike from Top Chef and his family. I’d like to think the man on the street was Spike’s father, but who knows. As a Bravo TV junkie, I was so excited to try it out, but the past few times I’ve been by around lunch time, there was a line down the street. Today I finally got in the door and there was Spike, working the counter, passing out orders with a smile and hustling his line cooks.

I got a burger, Spike’s French Fries and a diet coke. I patiently waited for my order while thinking of what I might say to Spike when he handed me my to go bag. Unfortunately, he traded spots with the milk shake maker when my food arrived, so I didn’t have the chance to tell him my life story and my connection to Bravo. The burger wasn’t made to what I had ordered, but that turned out to be a good thing because I usually order a burger plain and the toppings were excellent The Fries were delicious. They weren’t your ordinary Fries. They were tossed in rosemary and some other spice that was absolutely delightful (and I am a self proclaimed French Fry connoisseur). The wait was a little long, but I will definitely make another stop at Good Stuff. I am really excited to have a Top Chef in the neighborhood. After all, Top Chef is my second favorite Bravo Show ;)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Honda Fit

When we left Arkansas, Evan sold his old blue Buick so that he could drive our moving truck to Maryland. Our plan was to get a used car to replace Old Blue (something without a hole in the gas tank). After a few weeks of looking at over priced old clunkers in random people’s driveways, we decided that it might be a better use of our limited funds to just bite the bullet and get a new car. We looked around online and at local dealerships and finally decided on a Honda Fit. It is the #1 selling car in Japan. (This is the only selling point I needed to know when making my decision. Thank goodness Evan is a bit more thorough.)

We absolutely love it. We got the basic model, silver, automatic transmission. I’m not a car person, so I can’t speak to the car features or any other tech kind of talk. I just think it’s cute! The gas mileage is OK, but not anything to brag about for a car so small. We are averaging 32 miles per gallon, but at least it takes regular gas unlike my old Benz. The thing that I love the most about the Fit is that it will “fit” in any sized parallel parking spot in the entire District of Columbia. Evan and I negotiate on a day to day basis for who will get to drive it. I know that Old Blue meant a lot to him, so I try to be understanding. I just can’t help but want to go cruising.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

No Sew Fleece Blanket

Even though we did get my sewing machine out of storage, I opted for a quick no sew blanket to take as a gift to one of my best friend’s sister’s baby shower. At Nicole’s baby shower in Arkansas, a friend of hers made her one of these fleece blankets and I fell in love with how cute it was. It is so easy to make, that it took me less than an hour. I bought two yards of no-pill fleece in a checked pattern to make it easier to measure as I went. The mother-to-be’s baby décor theme are frogs and fish, so this fabric find was perfect (and on sale since it is summer time).

Here’s what I did:
1. Cut the fleece fabric in half so that you have two pieces the same size and line the two sides so they match as a top and a bottom.
2. Cut 4 inch deep, 1 inch thick strips on all four sides. Cut out the corners (4x4 inches).
3. Knot the top and bottom strips together along all four sides and your done.
**The trick that I learned by the end of the project is to not tie the knots too tight or the blanket will get bunched.

I have some other fleece that I’d like to use to make a second blanket. The other patterns that I bought do not have the checked lines, so it will be a little more challenging to measure and line up correctly. Now that I have one blanket under my belt I think I can get it straight. These are so adorable and can be made in all sizes. Hand made gifts are always so nice and I’m glad I found one that is easy to do but still thoughtful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Treasures from Michigan

Casa de Greenwood

For the past two years Evan and I have taken a summer trip to Michigan to visit his family. We stay at his parents house in Kalkaska and enjoy get togethers with family in the backyard. This year we got to do a lot of tourist type day trips that we hadn’t done on previous visits. We went to see to Torch Lake and had ice cream, went to Traverse City and saw the cherry spitting contest at the National Cherry Festival, went to see Sleeping Bear Dunes and crossed the Mackinac Island Bridge.

My favorite day trip of all was to Mackinac Island. Me, Evan and his parents, Jane and Bob, took the ferry over to the island and had lunch on the main strip. There are no cars allowed on the island. We rented bicycles and rode the 8 mile bike trail around the entire perimeter. Evan and I rode a tandem bike and didn’t kill each other, which I consider a great success since I’m not much of a bicycler. The weather was absolutely perfect for a day spent outside wandering. After our bike trip we walked around the middle of the city past shops and restaurants. We walked up to the Grand Hotel, but didn’t get on the property since it was $15 to walk on the porch. Next time we go, we’ll have lunch there. As we walked through the city, horse drawn carriages and bicyclers passed us by.

At one of the little shops I found this treasure:

It is an umbrella napkin holder (sorry for the crummy picture). When I was little my grandmother used to teach me how to fold dinner napkins, so when I saw this, I thought of her. One is going in the mail to her as soon as I can get myself to the post office.

We had a really nice time exploring Northern Michigan and catching up with the friends and family in Kalkaska.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Settling In

I am starting to feel a little more organized here in Maryland. We are still flopping at Mom’s house in Annapolis, but are slowly developing routine in our day to day. The kitties have found their favorite spot under the dining room table gazing out the sliding glass doors. The backyard is like cable TV to kitties. There is always something going on. There is a squirrel that digs in the mulch for what seems like hours while Buzz and Bubbles sit totally mesmerized. Us humans are carving out our spots as well. I have a small office area set up in the master bedroom. The boxes of our clothes and kitchen appliances are starting to seem like part of the dining room décor. Thank goodness my mother is so patient. In the time we have been on the east coast we have been able to catch up with friends, buy a new car, take our yearly trip to Michigan, start my new job and fix my mom’s gutters. There have also been trips to the beach at the end of the street and Evan’s first time crabbing. It has been a pretty productive month, I must say. Now that I am starting to settle into the new job, we will find Evan a job and start to search for Home Sweet Home. I am hoping to start posting more regularly now that I have my space organized. I have had a number of really nice inquiries of when I plan to be back on the blog. I will be attending some baby showers and birthday parties in the next few weeks, so I hope to have some hand made gifts to share. I also plan to get my new sewing machine out of our storage unit this week so that my Mom can show me the basics. I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer. More to come soon!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Operation: I Love Mama - Complete

This Saturday was the baby shower event of the year. It has been many months of preparation leading up to a 2 hour event that was over in a flash. Nicole, the proud Mama-to-be, was delighted with the decorations, the food and all the work that the party planners put in for her party. We had perfect weather. It was sunny and warm, so all the guests were dolled up in beautiful Spring dresses. We played Baby Shower Mad Libs, a Baby Memory Game and Baby Shower Bingo, while Nicole opened her huge stack of gifts.

It was so nice to finally reveal my centerpiece. This project proved to be much more work than I had originally planned, but it turned out better than I expected. I will post more on the construction of my centerpiece later this week. (All the Moms have been dieing to see it, so I promised pictures this weekend.) The idea for the centerpiece came from the need to display my Cake Lolipops, inspired by Bakerella. All the guests got to take home a few as a shower favor.

I was really happy with how everything turned out. All the work was worth it to see how happy Nicole was to know how much her friends care about her and how excited we all are for her new baby.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Baby Shower Mad Libs

My good friend, Nicole’s, Baby shower is this weekend! I have been planning this event with two friends since March. We have had planning meetings, email correspondence and research tasks in preparation of what my boss calls, the event of the season. After all this planning it is nice to see things finally coming together and now focus 100% on execution. I’m and calling it, “Operation: I Love Mama”.

I am responsible for the decorations which are coming along slowly. I have made a small forest of Paper Trees and some other things that I have to keep secret until Saturday. I am making a second attempt at my Baking Experiment in hopes that these will work as favors. I am going to be up late on Friday night.

For Baby Shower games, there is nothing but cheesiness. We have gone back and forth on what games we will play. We are expecting a really big group, so we are struggling to find something that is not too interactive, but not too boring. I have suggested a Baby Shower Mad Libs. I combined two versions of Mad Libs that I found to come up with this one. I hope it will be amusing to more than just me.

"Toward the end of her pregnancy, Nicole was feeling like a(an) [ animal ]. Finally, on [ number ] month, she felt a sudden painful contraction in her [ body part ]. Of course, the first thing she did was go to the [ location ] and [ present tense verb ] to keep her mind off of the discomfort. When the contractions became more frequent, Tommy suggested that she [present tense verb ], till she knew for sure if she was in labor. She was sure it was time to go to the [ location ] and give birth to her [ adjective ] baby. Before leaving she called the [ professional ] and said she would be leaving right after she [ past tense verb ]. Within [ number ] minutes of hanging up the phone, she was to the point where she could not even [ present tense verb ] during a contraction. When Tommy walked into the [ room ] and saw her on her hands and knees [ verb ending in ‘ing’ ], he said “we are going NOW!” and quickly packed up the [ vehicle ] and got everything ready. She and Tommy rushed to the [ place ], where they were met by the [ occupation ]. Meanwhile, Nicole’s family and friends arrived by [ mode of transportation ] and gathered in the waiting room. Nicole hadn't been sure whether she would use a pain killer, but as soon as she felt the pain in her [ body part ], she asked for [ medicine ]. Tommy tried to help by counting as Nicole [ past tense verb ]. This went on for [ number ] hours. The family kept busy in the waiting room by playing [ game ]and takeout [ food ]. Finally, the doctor decided to use the [ tool ]. With a scream of [ emotion ], Nicole gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was so perfect, with a [ adjective ] [ body part ], and [ number ] fingers and toes. He weighed [ number ] pounds and [ number ] ounces and measured [ number ] inches in length. Nicole and Tommy named him [ boy’s name ] [ boy’s name ]. All the people in the waiting room agreed that he had Nicole's [ body part ] and Tommy’s [ body part ]. Nicole sang [ song title ] as she rocked the baby, and they all fell asleep dreaming about their new life together."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Who are you calling Betty?

Please, excuse my silly blog title. Since I have been baking up a storm lately, my coworkers and friends have lovingly called me names such as Betty Rocker, Betty Bi**h and other versions of the classic homemaker variety. Baking, cooking and being domestic in general is a new thing for me in the past year. I think that it is funny how much it surprises my friends. They think of me as the hostess in heels not the slave of the stove. I still get skeptical looks from people when I tell them, "I made this cake!"

Even though I just posted a cake last week I had to share. I am so in love with my new torte pans, I can stop myself. I did this one with a devils food cake mix and a teaspoon of cinnamon to make it a Mexican chocolate cake. Our neighbors had a Mexican themed party this weekend, so I though this recipe perfect. I added the strawberries and whipped topping just like the yellow cake, but also added Evan’s homemade chocolate sauce and powdered sugar to top it off. The cinnamon added a spicy flavor to the cake, but I’m not sure it was a hit. The next time I do a Mexican chocolate cake, I will do it from scratch.

It is going to be a yummy week as I have a bunch of new recipes that I want to try. Here is my menu plan including dinner yesterday:

Monday – Taco salad (Evan loved it!)
Tuesday – Turkey sausage, broccoli and couscous
Wednesday – Lemon cakes and strawberry amaretto pastries
Thursday - Savory Vegetable Mini Quiches
Friday – No Dinner Plans, it will be baby shower planning freak-out time

Friday, May 9, 2008

Flowers and Sunshine

It is amazing to me what flowers can do to your mood. I had one of "those days" this week where everything went wrong. On my way out to door to work I dropped a glass bottle filled with water on the tile kitchen floor. It exploded everywhere and took me 20 minutes to clean it up. I had to lock my kitties in the spare room because I was afraid they would find all the little glass pieces I missed. I hate to lock them in a room for a few hours when we have people over. The idea of them locked up for a whole day made me panic, but I had to get to work. When I finally made it to work (15 minutes late) I discovered that my computer had a virus. A virus so bad that I had to transfer all my files to another computer so that I could wipe out the infected computer. That took me until 2pm. Not exactly a productive work day. On my lunch break I left a frustrated message on Evan's voicemail, ate some Chic-fil-A and dragged myself back to the office. A few hours later, as I sat slumped in my chair, flowers were delivered to my desk. They were from Evan and instantly I felt better. I could not keep the smile off of my face for the rest of my day. I was surprised by the drastic change in my mood, but I couldn't help but to feel good. This was a very wise move on Evan's part. He could have called me back and listened to me complain about all the things wrong with my day, but instead he sent flowers. Genius.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Strawberry Delight

I ordered a set of torte pans from Pampered Chef with the bonus that I earned for my first two months as a sales consultant. As soon as I took them out of the box, I had a million ideas of what I wanted to do with them. It is a little funny that I have been so excited to bake now that the weather is warmer. Most people don’t turn on their oven this time of year, but I have been filled with baking ideas. For this strawberry delight, I used a regular yellow cake mix and added orange rind. On top are strawberries and a whipped topping accent. That’s it! I was planning to do an orange glaze, but didn’t have time. I have recipe for a lemon glaze that is lemon juice, sugar and butter. I was hoping I could just switch out the lemon juice with orange juice, but maybe I should do some more research. I think this will be a staple dessert recipe for summer get-togethers. Throw some blueberries on there and it is perfect for July 4th.

Monday, May 5, 2008


My extended weekend in Maryland was beautiful. The weather was abnormally warm with a nice breeze down by the water. I got to catch up with all my girlfriends, get my hair cut, do a little shopping and spend some quality time with mom.

I got there Thursday afternoon and had a late lunch at the Mexican Café in Annapolis with my wonderful friend, Jen. The Mexican Café is less than a mile from my mother’s house. The place is tiny with less than 10 tables inside and about 8 tables outside on a deck built on top of the cement parking lot. It is an old building with faded pink, yellow and green paint. It is one of the only places with a patio in that part of Annapolis, so it is always packed. I have many memories of this place. In the summer, you can order your Margaritas while you wait for a table, literally, in the parking lot. From what I remember the Margaritas are horrible. Everyone knows they are horrible, but still the idea of waiting in the parking lot on the side of the road with Margaritas in hand, just sounds like a great idea on a hot summer evening. We did not have Margaritas at this particular lunch, but it was good to catch up with Jen and enjoy the view of 7-11 and traffic on Forrest Drive.

After the Mexican Café, Mom went home and I went downtown Annapolis to walk around and see what is new. It is a place that is ever changing, but the staples of my childhood are always there. The Hat Store where I had my first job still sits at the bottom of Main Street. There are still teenagers huddled around the cement benches outside the Market House where I was sitting when my mom caught me smoking a cigarette in 10th grade. I even recognized some of the people working in the shops from when I worked there 10 years ago. My favorite part of the Annapolis scenery were the May Baskets. I had almost forgotten how every shop on Main Street would hang them the first week of May. We would walk up and down the streets admiring and choosing our favorites. Here are some of my favorites:

Thursday night, Mom and I made mini pizzas using my Pampered Chef recipe and watched my little brother on Ugly Betty. My mom had friends calling at every commercial break and I got text messages from friends who were watching. It was fun to get to see it together.

Friday I went to get my hair done at Bubbles and my Mom tagged along to hang out in the salon. Everyone in the salon was asking how Christian was doing and I had to tell the same story about 15 times as more people would walk by and recognize me. I didn’t mind at all. It is great how excited they are for him. My stylist, Jamie, worked her magic to give me a new hot look. I kept my bangs and have some fun new reds mixed in.

Friday evening I got to spend some quality time with my girlies, Stephanie and Sarah. We met at Stephanie’s new house that I had not seen before. I got to meet her boyfriend’s baby, Angel, who is 2. I just had to take a photo of the baby monitor on Steph’s dresser. My friends are moving in to a new stage of life, which is a little scary, but fun. We ended up having a wonderful time, dancing the night away at Mosaic, a new club downtown Baltimore. It was a much needed girl’s night out for all of us who rarely get together.
Saturday, Mom and I spent the day together. We went to look at condos in Annapolis and had lunch at a new restaurant on West Street. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the restaraunt. It was so nice outside that they had the entire front open to the street.

Saturday night, mom and I went to see the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra at Maryland Hall. I spent most of my childhood taking ballet classes in the Maryland Hall building. The memories flooded back as soon as I walked in the front door. The smell of chalk envoked images of myslef and my friends running up and down the stairs from the vending machine to the classroom in between class and rehearsals. The building is almost exactly as I remember it. The paint is chipping off the banisters and the concrete floor is discolored in the exact way that I recall it. As we walked up the stairs to the third floor, there hung a picture of the Artistic Director of the Ballet Company for all the years I studied there. He passed away a few years ago, but the painting was exactly his likeness as I remember it. The orchestra was nice, but we left at intermission so that I could to visit my friend, Jill, who had recently bought a house. The house was beautiful and spacious. It was great to see her and my other friend, Candace who is her roommate. The three of us danced together all through highschool. Jill and I danced together since we were six. It was nice to catch up and reminisce.

I really appreciate Annapolis so much more now that I have moved away. There is no where like it that I have found. It was so nice to go home.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I can’t believe it has been a week since my last post. Time is truly flying by and not in a good way. I spent my week trying to get things in order and get the house cleaned. We have been out of town for 3 weekends in the last month. It is amazing how much house work can pile up in that amount of time. I wish I could say that I was jet-setting to glamorous locations, but we’ve been to Hot Springs, AR, Kalkaska, MI and Little Rock, AR, not exactly dream vacation spots. This weekend, I am headed to Maryland to visit my Mama and get my hair done at Bubbles. I am really excited about the trip home even though I was just there in February. February feels like a lifetime ago and for my favorite little brother, February was a different life. Unfortunately, he won’t be in Maryland this weekend, but we will be with him in spirit watching his acting debut on Ugly Betty.

You can also see an article in US Weekly.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baking Experiment

Updated with pictures:
I haven’t been baking as much now that the weather has gotten warmer, but I just had to try this recipe that I found on Bakerella via Hostess with the Mostess. A cupcake in the form of a lollipop is kind of an odd thing to make, but I am trying to find things to do for the upcoming baby shower and thought these might be cute. The concept is pretty easy, but they just take some time to prepare. I used a red velvet cake mix, a tub of cream cheese frosting, lollipop sticks and some colored candy melts. You will also need a block of Styrofoam for drying.

Here is what you do:
1. Prepare cake mix and bake according to directions on the box.
2. Let cake cool completely and then crumble in a large bowl.

**This is where it gets messy**
3. Mix in the tub of frosting. I had to use my hands to get it all mixed together.
4. Roll into small balls (about 1 inch diameter) and place on cookie sheet.
5. Refrigerate for several hours (or stick in the freezer for 20 minutes)

6. Stick in lollipop sticks and refrigerate for at least another hour. I left them in overnight.
7. Melt candy and coat the ball by spooning mixture over the cake. Don’t dip or you will get cake crumbs in your candy melt.
8. Stick the lollipops in a Styrofoam block to dry. My fatal mistake was that I stuck them back on the cookie sheet, so I ended up with a flat top instead of a nice round one.
9. If desired, wrap each lollipop with a small square of colored cellophane and tie with a ribbon.
There are a bunch of variations to this recipe. You could use chocolate or white chocolate bark to cover the outside instead of the colored candy melts or you can lose the stick and make little cake bites. For my next batch, I am going to use a yellow lemon cake for the inside.

I took these little guys to work to do a sampling and they got really good reviews. People love red velvet cake, which kind of surprised me. Here is an important tip: do not leave these in the car on a 75 degree day. I made this mistake and melted half the batch. :(

Monday, April 21, 2008

Farmer's Market Finds

FINALLY, the Farmer’s Market has reopened in Fayetteville!! Actually, it has been open for two weeks, but since I’ve been so busy jet setting around Southern Arkansas and Northern Michigan (I know you’re jealous) I haven’t been able to go. This weekend, we had perfect market weather with temperatures right in the mid-seventies. Because the Spring isn’t quite in full swing, the selection at the market was limited to mostly herbs, plants and local crafts. It was still a blast to walk through and enjoy the day. I purchased these beautiful apple blossoms while Evan made funny faces. “Why are you buying those branches?” he questioned. I have to admit they were a pain to carry around in the crowded market, but it was worth it. Once we got home and they were carefully placed in the vase they looked spectacular and Evan agreed.

Being more adventurous than me, Evan selected some Lion’s Mane Mushrooms. These mushrooms are unlike anything I had ever seen, so I wasn’t sure what we would do with them. From what the vendor explained to us, they are used in traditional Chinese cooking. She told us to sauté them with a little oil and garlic until they become soft. She said that would be the consistency of bread after it had been in a soup. I’m not sure that texture sounds appetizing, but Evan still wanted to try them. I did a little search for some info on these mushrooms and found this:

This mushroom has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of stomach distress and for cancer prevention. Many distinct polysaccharides have been identified in this species several of which have demonstrated potent anti-tumor properties that extended the lifespan of cancer patients (Mizuno, 1995). Studies in Taiwan on rats that were fed Hericium fruit bodies demonstrated significant beneficial effects on blood glucose, serum triglycerides and total cholesterol levels.

I don’t usually eat mushrooms, but I think I will try these. Evan also found some morel mushrooms this weekend, but I couldn’t make myself eat them. I know they are a delicacy, but there was no way I was eating anything that he found off the interstate exit 69.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Work in Progress

I can’t believe how long it has been since I had time to make something crafty. Finally last night, I was able to sit down and start a new project that I have been planning for weeks. I have volunteered to provide decorations at my good friend, Nicole’s baby shower in May. There are three of us planning the event. We had our first planning meeting last week at lunch and we all showed up to the restaurant in our business casual with note pads and pens. It was pretty funny. Nicole is having a boy, so I am going to be using greens and blues as the theme colors. For the first part of my decoration plan I decided to try to replicate the paper globe trees that Heather Bailey posted around Valentine’s Day. I have only started to make my first little tree, but wanted to share the rough draft. I plan to add some ribbon and moss in the flower pot and make two more trees. I am still deciding whether to use an actual stick for the tree trunk or something else. Once these are finished I can start of the rest of my list of to dos:
1) conceptualize and make a centerpiece for the table
2) make a mobile or something hangy
3) decide between balloons or paper lanterns

So many decisions and a weekend full of fun!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chicks Rock Part II

All of the people that I work with must want to kill me by now. I first heard a snippet of the new single, “Mercy”, by Duffy on the radio last week. I rummaged through the sample bin at work and found the single (no full length just yet). I have played it at least 4 times a day for the past 4 days. I will not be surprised if I come in tomorrow and my player is hidden.

I am totally digging this girl! Duffy comes from the small coastal town of Nefyn, Wales. She has had much success in Europe and is set to release her album in the States on May 26th. When listening to her bio on the radio I became a bit irritated when the two DJs bantered back and forth announcing that she sounds like Amy Winehouse. Although I am a fan of Winehouse’s music (not her escapades), she did not originate this sound! I think of artists like Dusty Springfield, Etta James and the soul sounds of Aretha, when I hear this little blonde belt out her blues. Not silly Amy Winehouse.

One of the best music shows I’ve ever been to was a little known artist, Sharon Jones. Sharon performed with her band, The Dap Kings, in a small venue in Richmond, VA. She had the entire crowd moving and shaking the entire show. Her energy just takes a hold of you and you have no choice but to be moved by her funky soul sound. Sharon’s accompanying band, The Dap Kings have been touring with Winehouse and were featured in her video, Rehab. I almost felt like they were cheating the first time I saw them on MTV, but Sharon Jones still tours with the band, so I guess that is ok.

Another group I wanted to mention in my Part II of Chicks Rock is Paramore. This band is my guilty pleasure. They are totally a band for teenagers, but I just can’t help myself. I have the newest album, Riot, and it is my jam out in the car music. The lead singer looks like she is about 15 and has an adorable high school punk kind of style. Her voice is quite powerful and I just can’t help myself but to enjoy this “pop/alternative-girls are mean-I miss my boyfriend” music. I guess she kind of reminds me of Avril Lavigne with a band, but cooler.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rains and Floods

If you hadn’t heard, parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma had terrible rains, floods and hail storms last week. I got calls from frantic relatives wondering if I was ok, but fortunately, I live on a hill that seems to protect me from most of the bad weather in the area.

I have never lived in a place where the major news is the weather. The meteorologist is the highlighted newscaster. He does events and has his own commercials. I personally get quite frustrated with the constant programming interruptions and alerts for “treacherous” weather. (They literally use the term treacherous when it is raining.) This is the first week that the weather really was dangerously bad and sadly we are expected to get more rain the end of this week.

I don’t plan to watch TV on the rainy days because I get so mad when the entire news hour is devoted to the rain. I looked outside the window. I know it is raining. If I was at home watching the news and my house started flooding, how would this help me?

Don’t get me wrong. I feel absolutely horrible for the people that have been affected by the storms. My complaint is that these people are not sitting at home in their flooded living rooms watching 2 hours worth of weather news to find out what is happening.

One of my coworkers took this picture last weekend in Rogers. Rogers is the city in between where I live and where I work. The highway was fine and I didn’t have any problems getting around, but this picture just looks like something you would see on a redneck email forward. Some days I can’t believe that I live here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Purple Potatoes

This past weekend, Evan and I flew to Michigan to surprise his mom, Jane, for her birthday. It was a whirlwind trip. We flew into Detroit Friday night, drove to Kalkaska on Saturday for dinner and bowling. Then we then woke up on Sunday, drove back to Detroit and flew home. It was well worth it to see Jane’s surprise when she saw her only son had come all the way from Arkansas for her special day.

On our trip Evan’s sister, Jessica (who has worked as an organic Gardner), had some peculiar vegetables at the house and offered me some Purple Potatoes. She told me a special name for them, but I forgot what she called them. I looked up Purple Potato and came back with a few different things, one being Purple Majestic Potato. I am really amazed how all the websites I found had totally different information about this mysterious vegetable. The picture for the Purple Majestic matches what my potatoes looked like, so I guess I will have to believe this site until someone gives me better info. Other sites like this one simply referred to them as Purple Potatoes.

Besides the obvious difference in color, the Purple Potatoes are different from your regular white potatoes because they are packed with antioxidants. This info came directly from my source, Jessica. To my amazement when she cut one open for me, they are a bright purple in the middle unlike red potatoes that are white in the middle and red outside.

I wasn’t sure if I needed to prepare these any differently than I do white or red potatoes, so I just went with my gut. I cut them into small pieces, tossed in some olive oil with some pressed garlic and baked them at 350 on my baking stone for 35 minutes. They turned out with a crisp first bite and soft in the middle. Perfect. In my opinion they taste just like regular white potatoes. This could be because I tasted the oil and garlic that I associate with regular potatoes. I honestly didn’t notice any major difference in sweetness.

I have two Purple Potatoes left. I am going to cut them with a crinkle cutter and bake them like French fries with a little salt. French fries with extra antioxidants! This is a dream come true. Thanks Jess!

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Links

I haven't posted a craft project in a very long time and it is kind of bumming me out. I hope to get something going this weekend. I have a few projects that I want to start, but just have to make myself sit down and start them. Ever have that feeling?

In the mean time, I have added some new links to my list of favorites. In recent browsing I have discovered more blogs that I must read every day. They are random in category, but fun sites to explore.

Curious Bird – is the blog where I found the link to those gorgeous Church and State dresses. I think our taste in design is similar and I just love the way she takes photos
Ellen Silverman – I found this site through another one of my favorite blogs (although I can’t remember which one) these are inspiring pictures that motivate me to want to learn how to take better pictures for my posts.
Face Hunter – is an awesome Street Style site. I must visit 3 times a day. Enough said.
Tango Baby – If you want to see how beautiful San Francisco is, read this blog. I feel a special connection to Tango Baby because she looks like Mia Wallace from Pulp fiction. I also have a love for Uma in this role and sport a very similar haircut.
Vintage Goddess – I love the humor on this blog. I also love the vintage finds. Who says you can’t find good vintage in Arkansas?

I also want to wish Jane (Evan's Mom) a very very very Happy Birthday. We wish we could be there with you!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Street Style

I recently took a browse through my favorite Street Style blogs. I love looking at what people in other countries are wearing. It makes me feel like fashion is not too far away. My only problem with the new posts is that it is still very cold in most of the fashionable world. Our weather is warmer everyday, so I am patiently waiting for the Streets of London, Helinski and NYC to catch up with new Spring Fashions. For more fashions, check out the street style links on the side.

For more fashions, check out the street style links on the side.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Weekend in Hot Springs

This past weekend, Evan and I drove down to Hot Springs, AR. We went with two other couples, our neighbors, the newly weds, and my friend from work and her fiancé. The drive took about 3 ½ hours, so we left early Saturday morning and got to Hot Springs about lunch time. Our first stop was the race track. It was the last racing weekend of the season, so the track was buzzing with spectators. It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sun cool in the shade. I didn’t make any bets, but Evan was up a couple dollars at one point. We chose our favorites amongst the group. Our decisions were based totally on the names of the horses, with names like, Whatitsallabout, Mojito Man, and Daughtry being some of the favorites. We stayed at the races until about 4 o’clock and then headed to the hotel.

Before dinner we stopped at the Hot Springs winery for a wine tasting. We sampled several of the Arkansas wines, but the group was unanimous in the decision that Arkansas wine is gross. All of the wines, white and red, were so incredibly sweet. At least three of them tasted exactly like Welch’s grape juice. They are made from the same grape as Welch’s, which explains the similarity, but who wants juicy wine? My friend, Cheri, literally almost gagged on the port wine. After this we needed something to cleanse our pallets. Barbeque! Evan had a place recommended to him from a coworker and he did some research online to find the best Barbeque establishment in Hot Springs. McClard’s has been in business since 1928 and is a family owned and operated restaurant. It was featured on the food networks, “The Best Of” show. This was the obvious pick. Evan and our, neighbor Aaron, got Ribs covered with fries. I had a chopped pork sandwich. It was a delicious way to end the day. After dinner, we stopped in some local bars for a couple drinks and then headed back to the hotel.

Day two started with breakfast at The Pancake Shop. We had a 45 minute wait, but that flew by while we spent time in the Pancake Shop store sampling and collecting gourmet spreads, dipping sauces, salad dressings and other goodies. The actual restaurant is in no way gourmet. It’s your basic pancakes, bacon and sausage. We had a great meal, but then needed to walk it off.

Picture from website

We spent the morning walking around downtown and looking at the hot springs. Bath House Row is a National Historic Landmark with 8 Bath Houses lined up on one street downtown. We toured the Fordyce Bath Houses that has been preserved as a museum. It was fascinating to me to see the equipment and design of one of America’s original exclusive spas. The Bath Houses were more than a spa; they had gyms, bowling alleys, music rooms. They were designed for all day entertainment. Here is a little history from the website:

The Fordyce opened March 1, 1915. Designed by Little Rock architects Mann and Stern and constructed under the supervision of owner Sam Fordyce's son John, the building eventually cost over $212,000 to build, equip, and furnish. Totaling approximately 28,000 square feet, the Fordyce is the largest bathhouse on the Row. It has three main floors, two courtyards, and a basement under most of the building. The Fordyce became the first bathhouse on the Row to go out of business when it suspended operations on June 30, 1962, but it was extensively restored by 1989 and is now enjoying a renaissance as a historically furnished museum. It also functions as the park’s visitor center.

Before we left for home, we went to tour the Garvan Woodland Gardens. They were supposed to have a tulip festival or something of that nature going on, but we were a weekend too late. Most of the tulips were dieing, but still very pretty. Walking through the gardens was relaxing, but we were ready to go home after a couple hours.

I’m glad that we made the drive down to Hot Springs, AR. It was a really nice weekend and it’s always great to get away for a while.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Glossy Glossy

I was cleaning out my bag the other day and I realized something that I never noticed before. I am a collector of lip gloss. I am actually not very good about keeping my lips glossed, but I always have good intentions. I apply in the morning, throw my gloss in my bag and forget about it. This is why I had 12 different glosses in my bag. That’s a lot of lip stuff.

I am not a connoisseur of make-up, by any means, but I thought that I’d put together a quick review of the glosses that I regularly use for something fun. Keep in mind that this is only an opinion of a girl who likes to be glossy. I am going to rank from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and give a little explanation.

L’Oreal Infallible Lip Gloss, Color – Barely Nude
Rating – 4
I like this gloss and the neutral color. (I keep this one in my desk drawer at work for emergencies.) I got the L’Oreal Infallible in the swag bag at the Project Runway, Bryant Park fashion show. The gloss did last 6 hours (at least) as promised in the commercials. It does leave a lip print on your glass and there is no way you could kiss someone’s collar without it coming off. Amazingly, it didn’t dry my lips up, which is usually the case with all day wear. The downside was that it felt more like liquid lipstick than lip gloss.

Bobby Brown Lip Gloss, Color –Tangerine
Rating – 2
I like the orange color of this lip gloss, but that is about it. The applicator is a bristled brush which is difficult to get in an out of the tube. I prefer a spongy applicator. It is probably the stickiest liquid that I have ever put on my lips. It’s the kind of lip gloss that you know not to wear on windy days unless you want all of your hair stuck to your face. If you run out of crazy clue, this is a close substitute.

Chanel Rogue Allure Lipstick, Color – Rubis Siam
Chanel Lip Gloss, Color – Spark
Rating – 3.5
I always wear these two together, so I figured I should review them together. In case you couldn’t tell what colors are from the names, they are RED. I bought these at Bloomingdales in New York, right before the Project Runway, Bryant Park fashion show. I knew it was possible that I could be on camera, so I wanted to make sure I had ruby red lips. As you probably know, Chanel is a bit pricey, but at the time I wasn’t concerned about budget. I was concerned about close-up. I really like the color and the lipstick doesn’t dry out my lips. The negatives are that I have to reapply (what feels like) every thirty minutes. You can not drink, smooch or even press your lips together without a big red mess. This type of lip stick and lip gloss combination is for special occasions only, not every day wear.

Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine, Color – Glamour Full
Rating – 4.5
This is one of my favorite lip glosses. I think I got in as a gift when I purchased some Clinique skin care. The color is a soft pink that is pretty and neutral. It also has a sort of glimmer affect making your lips look moist and healthy. I don’t know if it really “pumps” up my lips, but it does feel nice when you wear it. It lasts for hours, which is not something that is advertised, but I noticed the first time I wore it.

Stila Lip Glaze, Color – Spiced Pumpkin
Rating – 3
I got this gloss from my brother when he was working for Stila Cosmetics. The colors are really rich, but still look neutral and glossy when applied. My problem with this gloss is the applicator. It has a twisting mechanism that (supposedly) forces the gloss into the brush. I never seem to get the right amount of gloss. Either, I twist and twist and nothing comes out or I twist once and I have a gloppy mess. I am all for innovative packaging, but it has to work.

MAC Lustreglass, Color – Beaux
Rating – 3.5
MAC is usually my go to brand for good colors and quality make-up. This color is a pink/tan everyday color. I have a few different colors, but mostly the neutrals (if you couldn’t tell, neutral is my favorite for lip gloss). This gloss is another one that you can’t wear in the wind. It’s not nearly as sticky as the Bobby Brown, but still is hazardous in a breeze. I wear these often, but do find myself needing applications throughout the day. Sometimes I need a good round of chapstick after a day of continuous application of this gloss.

Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, Color – None
Rating - 5

Ok, ok. I know this isn’t a lip gloss, but it is a must have in the bag at all times. I can’t live without my lip balm and I love the tingling feeling of Burt’s Bees lip healing.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Beautiful Dresses

I was browsing through blogs today when I came across Curious Bird. She recently posted about the Spring designs of Church & State. I am in love with these dresses! My favorite dress, yellow, can be purchased online at Sotto, but I’m not sure if I can spend that much for a dress that I haven’t tried on. I wish it was still my birthday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So Much in 6 Words

I haven’t posted for a few days mostly because I haven’t had a whole lot of interesting topics to share. Not that my days have been boring. So much is going on around me that I have just been jumbled. Spring is coming! The weather is playing tricks. My brother is all over the media, so I am trying to keep track of his appearances to keep the family up to date. My good friends got married last weekend. On Monday, they found out they are having a baby boy! My company went through big layoffs and some good friends lost their jobs. It has been a whirlwind of things that have distracted me from the things I like to share on the blog. No craft projects this week. No baking. I did buy a new shirt, but I’m not sure that is blog worthy. I hope to get some time to get creative this weekend and get things back on track.

Evan’s mother, Jane, forwarded me an article about SMITH Magazine’s book, Not Quite What I Was Planning. This is a book of 6 word memoirs. The entire book is made up of submissions from people who shared their own life stories in 6 words. The inspiration for this book is described on their website:

Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).

It is amazing to me the amount of emotion and connection I feel with a 6 word synopsis of a stranger’s life. It really is a fun concept to play with and I think that it is great that you can write in your own to be included on the site and possibly in the next book. I was looking at these 6 word stories as a moment in time in a person’s life rather than a synopsis of its entirety. This made it a little easier to conceptualize my own. As I’ve been brainstorming, I have had a few different versions that describe how I currently feel. I imagine my 6 words will change, but here is what I have today:

Went there, moved here, what next?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dengue Fever

I am not one to find amazing new music, but every once in a while I come across a gem like this. I heard about this band while listening to National Public Radio (NPR) on my way home from work. Dengue Fever was started by two brother musicians from California. The lead singer, Chhom Nimol, is from Cambodia and met the two brothers after she had recently moved to L.A. Their new album, Venus on Earth, is comprised of all new songs inspired by Cambodian pop music and does include songs in English. I know I have an older album, but to be quite honest, I don’t know what album I have. Evan downloaded some songs for me and burned them to a CD. Since the lyrics are not in English, it is impossible for me to tell what songs they are and figure out what album they are from.

Dengue Fever’s sound is a tribute to Cambodian pop music that was popularized after American music was broadcast in the East during the Vietnam War. The outcome was a mixture of psychedelic rock and Cambodian folk music that was popular in the late sixties and early seventies. During the NPR interview they described how this music was literally killed off when the dictator, Pol Pot, came to rule in Cambodia. His regime literally executed the musicians who were part of this music movement in addition to others that were deemed to have influence from the West. I am not familiar with Cambodian history and did not know anything about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge who took over the country in 1975. I, of course, had to get online and start researching to learn more about the inspiration that this California based rock band used to recreate this sound. The story of this music and this band is so intriguing. It’s amazing to me how much I do not know about world history. This was only 30 years ago. How do I not know this?

I think it is just so great when art inspires people to learn about the world. I am amazed how musicians and artists can adapt something so unfamiliar and bring it to a new place and it becomes new again. Thank you Dengue Fever!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Surprise On My Doorstep

I love getting packages in the mail. I buy a lot of things online, so it is not uncommon to have a box on my doorstep. Pre-planned packages are exciting, but the best packages are the ones that are unexpected. I got an expected package with an unexpected surprise inside yesterday.

Back story: About a week ago, my friend, Ann, sent me a link for Wire and Twine, a website that sells screen print shirts and other goodies. This particular site has a shirt dedicated to my brother’s most popular catch phrase, “FIERCE”. I absolutely loved the cleverness of the shirt and was excited to see my brother’s likeness. I tried to order one, but was having problems getting PayPal to work with the site. I sent a very desperate email explaining that I must have this shirt! Chris Glass wrote me back and offered to send a shirt for me and one for my brother. This I thought to be so incredibly generous.

Coincidence: Before I left my office yesterday (before I received my surprise) a co-worker came up to me to thank me for sending him the link to Wire and Twine site. He had bought two of the Project Runway inspired shirts for his wife who is a big fan. What goes around comes around these days, so I’m glad that I could at least spark some sales for the site seeing how generous they are.

Back to the box: When I got my package yesterday I was so excited. I ripped open the box to find not only the two “FIERCE” shirts, but also two of the “Ladies Hair” shirts. It just so happens that, the hair shirt was the next on my list of favorites. This is awesome! Another bonus, that I didn’t realize before is that the shirts are American Apparel, which are my brother’s favorite. The prints are just awesome and I’m so thankful to Wire and Twine. These shirts are hotness!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Evan is ¼ Irish, which is only one of the reasons that St. Patrick’s Day is his favorite holiday. There is not much celebration for St. Patty’s here in Arkansas, so we planned to have friends over for a late lunch on Sunday. Evan got up early and started his pot boiling on the grill outside. He spent the day laboring over his corned beef and cabbage, which turned out spectacular. He boiled the beef from 10am-2pm and added potatoes, carrots and cabbage at the end of the boil. I had a frozen pizza ready to go for the non-Irish, but everyone ended up eating the corned beef. We served Irish coffee, Guinness, and Smithwicks. Irish Car Bombs were consumed after lunch (not by me). I made a "Pot of Gold" for dessert. I used the caldron that I bought for Halloween as my pot and filled it with mini yellow cupcakes. It turned out cute, but we ended up having a delicious grasshopper pie that my friend, Cheri, brought over. Lucky Evan got to take the "Pot of Gold" to work today.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!