Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ick...

This is really difficult. Hillary how do you do it? I got the idea for the little pillow dolly from her, but I'm trying not to stare so it will be my own creation and not just a copy of hers! Well this is turning out to be a little more difficult than I thought. I'm still not going to go back to her blog and memorize every detail. I'm gonna work through this!

I started on the booties too. I don't have a pattern, so I made a bootie out of paper first, then cheap felt, and now I'm actually trying to make the real thing. So far so good! We'll see how they actually turn out.

Ok, going back to work....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fearful Gardener


Actually, I don't know if I could ever really be a gardener because I am so friggin scared of every creepy crawly thing I find. I went to a nursery a week or so ago. It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The kids were home with dad. If I could, I'd go there every Saturday just to walk around and dream. The wisteria was in full bloom. While I was drinking in their heavenly scent, the hugest bumble bee I'd ever seen zoomed past my face, then circled around for another pass. I realized that I was interfering with whatever he was trying to do.
Fine.
I'll admire the lavender loveliness from a safe distance.

Then, for some reason, every time I'd try to enjoy the rest of my walk, some other little creepy thing would jump out at me. EEEK!

I realize that insects are an important part of a garden with the whole pollenation thing. I think I heard that spiders are actually good since they eat things that would hurt my roses. But, I don't like being startled by nasty looking creatures devouring one another while I'm in lala land. So all this comes up because I went outside to take some pictures of these amazing roses in our yard. The previous owners planted them and I am sooo glad. These roses really are amazing. The peachy-pink blossom above is at least the size of a soft ball. In the middle of one of these blossoms was a nasty spider devouring something...I think it was a wasp. I hate wasps! (no surprise there, I'm sure) But,....they're just....ew.

Nevermind.

Anyway, that isn't what I wanted to blog about. I wanted to write about what I got at JoAnn's today. A friend of mine will be having a baby girl (keeping my fingers crossed)in about a month. I decided to make her a light summer blankie, a lacey bonnet, a pair of booties, and a little pillow dolly inspired by the wonderfully talented Hillary over at Wee Wonderfuls. These lil' gals of Hillary's really remind me a lot of these little people I used to doodle all over my homework in Jr. High. Seeing Hillary's little dolly pillow inspired me to create my own! Here's a couple of sketches of what I'm going to make.

What happens on paper never seems to be what happens with fabric, so I'm sure it won't look anything like that. Anyway...

My friend is doing the baby's room in antique-ie kind of colors with deep reds and blues and tea stained muslin. So, that's what I'm going for. I found this really beautiful lace that I'm going to use for the bonnet. It reminded me of the above picture from the fall '02 issue of Martha Stewart Baby. She did a little article on an Amish inspired nursery. I'm going to use the red floral fabric on the bonnet as well to keep it from looking too much like part of a christening outfit. I want it to be more of a wear-this-any-time-you-feel-like-it kind of thing. The thinner lace is for the booties. I also got some felt because I've been seeing so many awesome felt things lately on a lot of different blogs. I made myself a pincushion a while back and thought I'd try something else. Who knows, maybe I'll even try a softie.

My friend's baby is coming at a very convenient time for me (how thoughtful of her). I'm glad I get to work on one last baby gift before we take off for the summer. We'll be gone a couple months, so I really won't have time to make anything until the end of the summer. By then, we'll have birthday parties and all sorts of wonderful things to tackle. I can't wait. I'm thinking about having a tea party...the pinkest, stickiest, prettiest, little girl tea party ever! Wouldn't that be fun. I have all summer to dream and get motivated.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why didn't I get anything done this spring?...Because it only lasted a week.

I've been so busy lately, I haven't had much time to make anything, let alone blog. I've even cut down my list of "must read" blogs down to 2 or 3. I did, however, manage to take some pretty pics of spring time around our house. It (spring) was nice while it lasted. It's 90-something degrees outside today! Where the heck did spring go?!? Oh ya, it was that one week of beautiful 70's inbetween the rain and the heat. *sigh* I can't believe we've got at least another 20 degrees to go before it's REALLY hot. Anyway, these are pictures of our beautiful springtime flowers. I'm sure they're wilting as I type...

This is our beautiful dogwood. Oh, I love this tree. I'm so glad the previous owners planted it. I know they loved it too, because the little old lady who lives next door said they did.

These are the flowers which will probably wilt here in the next week or two. Hopefully not...I'll be optimistic...I WILL water them, I will water them, I will...
....they WILL live through the summer. There. See?
Aren't they pretty? I so don't have a green thumb, but for some reason they are really happy here and actually growing! You know what I mean? Not just-not dying, but actually growing! Yeah.

...a close up.

I've always wanted to hang flowers on my front door. There's a little sandwich baggie inside the tin container for water. I do forget to water these sometimes.
One other picture of springtime outside...

A little bit of spring inside. I love my kitchen. Occasionally, i get a little tired of different colors I've painted our walls around the house or just wonder what things would look like if the walls were a different color. Almost two years here and I still love, love the color(s) of my kitchen. It's been called alot of different things, but I call it green apple green. If only we liked green apples, I would ALWAYS have a bowl of them on the breakfast table.

One more picture.

I do have a few projects I'm working on, but they're a secret for now...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ever been to Chicago?



If you have, hopefully you took time to get authentic Chicago pizza. If you did, than you'd know that anyone claiming to make authentic Chicago pizza outside the city of Chicago, (and definitely the state of Illinois), is probably a liar, or just very misinformed. Anyone, that is, except my husband. Hubby spent his undergrad in that fine city, consuming...well... we know how much pizza college boys can pack away. Let's just say, a lot of it. So he, like anyone who spends years eating the same thing several days a week, became something of an expert. Because we don't live within driving distance, (not even close), my husband began his search for the perfect Chicago stuffed pizza recipe. Finding none, he toiled and toiled, borrowing from some, and altering where needed. Until....one day, it was finished. For anyone seriously interested in making a truly authentic stuffed Chicago-style pizza, read on! As you will see it is a very long recipe. But, believe me, it's well worth it.

the following is written and photographed by "hubby"
Stuffed Chicago Style Pizza

Crust Ingredients (makes 2 pies worth)
1.5 C warm water
1.5 pkg yeast (or 1.5 T)
2 T white sugar
4+ C bread flour
2 T oil (or butter) + some for brushing
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)
1 beaten egg

Having lived in Chicago I couldn't eat all the "Chicago Style Pizza" I found at so many restaurants around the country. It took me awhile, but I figured out the crust after making some challah without enough eggs. It was about the right consistency, so I worked egg into the recipe until it turned out alright. Of course, to be authentic you'll need cornmeal, loads of butter, and a cast iron pan. I sometimes use cast iron, but this time I used a deep dish baking stone from Pampered Chef greased with butter, so I didn't bother with the cornmeal. You can also be a bit healthier by replacing up to a cup of whole wheat flour and using honey, but if you're doing it you may as well have fun eating it.

Combine salt and 2 C flour. Combine yeast, water, sugar, and some (up to .5 C) of the flour, mix, and let sit until foamy (5-15 min). Combine yeast mixture, egg, oil, and flour, (I never add the wet stuff to all the dry stuff at once--it always ends up too dry). Mix thoroughly, adding flour .5 C at a time to get a sticky but solid dough. Turn out and knead for 10 minutes, until the surface starts to blister a little. Turn it in a well oiled bowl until it's covered (else it will dry out). Cover and let rise for 1-1.5 hours, until doubled. Brush some melted butter or oil into a deep dish stone or cast iron pan. Even a pie pan will work, but it doesn't hold heat as well; cast iron is worth it. I got some pre-seasoned pans from Amazon for dirt cheap.

Turn out the dough, (don't "punch" anything), and knead it 30 seconds or so, to work out the bubbles, and let it sit for a minute. If you need to, add a tiny bit of flour, but you're better off using oil. Dried out dough makes bad crust. Messy is ok.

Divide it in two with a knife or dough blade, (don't pull it apart or you'll undo what the yeast did so well with the proteins in the dough). At this point I divide one of the halves in two again and freeze them separately in ziploc bags with as much air taken out as possible. You could use them again later for another stuffed pie, but it never turns out the same. I thaw one at a time, the bag immersed in water, (never thaw dough under heat or on the counter), and make a thin crust with toppings my wife won't eat anyway. With the half you're using, divide it again, one piece (the top) half as big as the other (the bottom).

Put the top aside, and roll out the bottom to fit your pan. That's right. I said roll it. You can't toss these or they won't get thin enough. I promise nobody is watching you use a rolling pin on pizza dough. Lay it in your greased pan and push it in evenly. I pull it up over the sides a little so it doesn't fall in while it's baking. Be sure to poke lots of holes with a fork, around the sides, too, so it doesn't puff up too much. Coat it with butter or oil (of course) and stick it in the oven while it preheats to 500 or so. It should take 5-10 minutes, so take the time to roll out the top crust.

Take it out when it starts to brown a little bit. If the sides look like they're getting too dark at the pre-cook stage here, then use some foil or a pie ring for the main cooking cycle. I use oil instead of butter on anything that's sticking out since it won't brown as fast. Line the bottom crust with loads of mozzarella, then toppings. I used a layer of pepperoni and a layer of green peppers, but whatever you use be sure the veggies are pre-cooked. Nobody wants to feel like they're eating healthily when they bite into this thing.

If you have a huge wheel of sausage, then use it. I have yet to find those outside of a Gino's or Uno's. I'm not sure how they make them, and it's disgusting to imagine, but they're good.

Top wth more cheese if you want (I don't, but hey, why not) and then tuck the top crust into the ridge on the bottom one.

Coat with tons of homemade sauce, (I'm sorry, but if you go to all this trouble and use Ragu then you deserve what you're eating), then basil, oregano, and parmesan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and don't open the door. You don't want radiant heat or you'll burn the crust. Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, and eat with a knife and fork.

It sounds like a lot of work. I guess it is. If you don't have time for it, then quit your job. You're not really living, anyway.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Just a little bit of hippie...


I bought these overalls on the clearance rack at a tanning salon of all places (I don't tan) for $7. Although I love patchwork clothes, these overalls are just a little too hippie for me. But, I just couldn't pass them up. These things are usually at least 40 bucks. So, I took them home anyway. After I set them on the couch when I got home, I realized that they match my livingroom perfectly! So, the legs became throw pillows. The pillows I had already really needed some re-stuffing. So I cut them open, restuffed, then just attached a square piece of fabric from the overalls to the front. Here's a close up of the fabric: (you can also click on it for a larger picture)

And here's the result!

I am REALLY happy with these. I was going to try to make my own applique pillows for the living room, but this was just too easy...and for $7! I still have the top half of the overalls. I think I'm going to get some corduroy fabric and attach a skirt to the remaining top half to make a jumper. I think I might even have enough fabric left to make a little skirt or something for my toddler.

I also got this little dress for $5. It's really strange, though. It is sized for a small child, but the neck is too small for a child's head to fit. That's probably why it was on the clearance rack. I'm going to open one of the shoulders, hem the rough edges and attach ribbons to tie.

One of our favorite children's books right now is "You Can Do It, Sam" my Amy Hest. I absolutely love the illustrations by Anita Jeram (the same gal who did "Guess How Much I Love You"). In this book, Sam the Bear and Mother Bear (who live on Plum Street, by the way) wake up early on a snowy morning to make cakes for all their neighbor friends. It was so sweet and inspiring that we decided to make something for our neighbors. I'll blog about that later this weekend.... also coming up this weekend (for Susan), my hubby's Chicago-style stuffed pizza recipe and pics (he'll be making one)....also, a knitting project.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I'm so spoiled...


After reading Angry Chicken's blog about cookbooks this morning I thought it would be a good time to introduce my hubby. We decided that although this blog would primarily be mine, he could record his baking activities from time to time as well. Aren't I sweet?
We don't eat any red meat and hate sea food, so that pretty much leaves us with chicken and pork. We're very picky with our veggies, so it gets really hard to come up with new, interesting meals. I try to do alot of cooking, especially since he's at work and I'm at home and we hate eating out. But...I certainly need help having two little ones. And...he really enjoys it.
I love to look through cook books, but really only if there are alot of pictures (so sad, I know). I admit, when I really need a recipe for whatever it is I'm craving, I usually consult the internet. Apart from a few well worn cookbooks (look below), I've found the internet to be my greatest resource. "The Basics" was a wedding present from and authored by a friend in Colorado (Hi Ann!). I use it ALL the time.

"Breaking Bread with Father Dominic" is one of hubby's favorites. The Alton Brown book isn't a cookbook. But, it's a good organizational tool and...good reads.
My hubby and I both enjoy cooking. I usually stick to comfort foods. I absolutely love making soup or chili and corn bread on cold, rainy days. I also usually make the quick breads like banana and zucchini and the cakes and cookies (see my last post). My wonderfully talented husband loves to bake yeast breads and has expanded into pie crusts (the deep-dish pizza kind!).
Did I say that he makes the BEST deep dish pizza? Four years of college in Chicago completely ruined any other kind of pizza for him and since you can't get authentic "chicago stuffed" anywhere outside Chicago, he toiled away until he came up with his own perfect recipe (crust and sauce both from scratch).
He is also the master of dessert pies (I know, I know, I'm spoiled rotten). He makes an apple-cranberry walnut (adapted from his grandmother's recipe) the "wins" at every Christmas get-together. We replace our pie pans annually. This is because we usually leave the remaining pie with the hosts and almost never get the pan back. Oh, well.
We've been married about five years and I think he's starting to rub off on me. I can now make a pretty darn good chicken curry w/ flat bread and I think I've aced just about every kind of soup. I'd like to try my hand at baking and make croissants from scratch. Every now and then I look at a recipe. It looks horribly difficult and tedious, so I put it off. Is this year the year I'll try it? We'll see....

Oh, and by the way my hubby has TWO brothers....
......sorry, they're taken.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Yum


Mmm...This morning's breakfast is a maple apple walnut scone, coffee, and o.j. I substituted 1/3 or the white flour for wheat, hoping to make them a little healthier. These are definitely not "getting-back-to-my-prepregnancy-weight-scones". There's plenty of butter and sugar. Whatever. Yay for yummy breakfasts.
This is supposed to be a craft/ideas blog, but I'm working on reorganizing my sewing space, so I haven't been working on much lately. We have a 3rd bedroom that we were using as a playroom/guest room, but my daughter found a way to continuously scatter her toys all over the house regardless of the fact that she had TWO rooms in the entire house devoted to her belongings. Well, enough is enough, I say. I was having a hard time managing the day to day clutter, toys, AND my sewing stuff all in the living/dining room, playroom, and her bedroom (not to mention the kitchen and bathroom). So, I moved everything from the "playroom" back to her room and moved all my sewing stuff in to my BRAND NEW STUDIO(/guestroom)! I also put some toys in storage to rotate every so often. *whew*. Now, when I am working so diligently in my own little world (up to my post-baby waist in fabric, buttons, ric-rac, and who knows what else) I can wade out of the bedroom and shut the door when I need to move on to reality. The following are pictures from Alicia Paulson's blog at posie gets cozy that were so inspiring and so cute:

This photo is from here. It's actually from the December issue of Martha Stewart Living. but I also think it's beautiful and inspiring. The photo below is from here. I love the colors, the bowl of thread, the jar of buttons...everything. Alright, well, i probably have a good half hour before the kids wake up. Maybe I should actually go work on my "studio".