Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Little Hand's First Birthday

Little Hand's birthday was a low-key event with exactly three guests: himself, his dad, and me :) Everything else was likewise simple.

Decorations were kept to the general notion of red, yellow, and blue. (Slightly more complex than our wedding's colors of black and white ^-^). We hung the decorations the night before, so Little Hands could enjoy his decorations. My assessment is that he was charmed by the change of colors in the kitchen.

Yup, unceremoniously hung with masking tape.

I hung a few blue fans from the tray of his high chair, yet Litlte Hands quickly plucked them off for closer inspection and tasting.

His birthday events were likewise simple. When DH came home he blew up a yellow, helium balloon which served as Little Hand's birthday present. Kiddo was delighted by its defiance of gravity. We had all of his favorite foods over the course of the day: formula for first breakfast, fresh strawberries with vanilla yogurt and granola for second breakfast; pepper jack cheese, hotdogs, and tortillas for lunch; spaghetti and frozen peas for dinner, and more formula for second dinner. I made the spaghetti sauce the week before and froze it, so dinner was particularly easy.

Oh? You noticed I missed second lunch? That would be smash cake :) It was a heavy debate between a "healthy" cake and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. In the end, I went middle of the road: strawberries, shortcake, and a mound of mildly sweet whipped cream. Little Hands ate with both hands and a serious demeanor, but managed to make a big enough mess to make his mama proud.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bunny Buns [Delicious Yet Ugly]

It seems every spring Pinterest goes gaga again for these adorable bunny buns. They’ve been so over-pinned that I had no luck in tracing down the original pin.

(Photo courtesy of Pinterest. Just search for “bunny buns” and you’ll find a million links seemingly none of which go back to the original author.)

Several weeks ago I tried out an delicious orange knot recipe that held it’s knot shape really well, so I decided to try it again as bunny buns.

Yeah, that wasn’t a winning decision.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fabric Stash Note Cards

Back in October, I saw on Pinterest a set of pretty cards used to document one’s fabric stash. I wasn’t interested in purchasing them at 50-cents apiece – especially when I noticed that they didn’t include the metadata for the attributes I wanted to record.

So, as part of the Pinterst Challenge I decided to make my own note cards.

As natural consequence of making card for organizing, I organized my stash. Little Hands helped by verifying the structural integrity of my stash box.

When I was lucky, this is how my stash was previously with a single piece of label tape.

Now I have quite a bit more information: when and where the material was purchased; my project intent; the type and yardage of the material; whether or not it has been prewashed; and the patterns’ manufacturer, designer, collection, and title and colorway.

By theory when I use the material, I can attach a scrap of fabric for a project reference archive.

I drilled two holes in the stack of cards using my paper awl. I don't want to dull my pins when I'm attaching the card. These holes are also useful for tying a stack of unused cards together with a ribbon. (Do remember that in some materials you don't necessarily want to go poking holes into it.)

Now my stash is happily labeled and organized. This picture does look rather drab. I promise I have lots of pretty fabrics! It’s just the pretty ones were prioritized and put in the bin first. I ended up “destashing” nearly six yards of fabric; they’d been lingering for years, weren’t as pretty or useful as my other materials, and simply wouldn’t fit in the bin.

Here is my pdf file that I used to print out my cards. The cut into a 4.25” wide by 3.5” tall card with a half inch of unused paper space.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Roti Chicken and Pancakes

I was surfing the web when I came across a recipe for Roti Chicken in which the author declared she was making a lot of friends “very, very” happy for posting this particular secret recipe. That selling point is promising, yet what intrigued me was this is allegedly a Surinamese dish from a woman who is Dutch. What really sold me was its liberal use of curry. We in my house are people who love our curry.

Unfortunately, the dish is pretty ugly. Go see the original post because it does a much better job making the food pretty.

Kay, the author, does a beautiful job of meticulously documenting every step of the recipe with sharp, meaningful photos, directions, and commentary. She does a nearly perfect job streamlining the steps and providing all the information I need such that I didn’t have to scroll back to the top of the post to review the recipe itself.

The only change I made was I used one habanero chili in place of her recommended red chili or Madam Jeanette chili. Much to my surprise – HEB didn’t have fresh red chilis! I did commit and purchased a bottle of Sunflower oil and the flavor it lent to the dish was entirely worth adding to bottle to my pantry. (Well, half a bottle. The recipe used half of what I purchased! It loves its sunflower oil.)

Foremost, despite the use of an entire habanero between the curry dish and the pancakes, this recipe isn’t at all hot. It was completely mild in terms of heat. The habanero did lend a nice, chili flavor to everything, yet no heat that I could discern. (So little heat, in fact, that I handed over a pancake to Little Hands and he happily ate it. Stuck his tongue out a lot while smiling, but he’s been pretty fascinated by his tongue all evening.)

The chicken and potatoes dish itself is good. It’s tasty. It doesn’t make our curry-loving tongues sing, but it didn’t make them sad either. I think the green beans went in much too soon and became over cooked. That is the only fault in an otherwise perfectly written recipe. (And maybe it had something to do with my green beans.)

The Roti pancakes? We love them. Love love love. I’ll probably just start making these “just because” to go with other curry dishes. They’re tender and have just the right amount of garlic, onion, potato, and chili to flavor them. Absolutely fantastic.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

A few weeks ago DH remarked that he had a delicious chimichurri sauce at work and that we ought to make some sometime. I took this to mean, “Go to the internet, find a recipe, and pin it for future reference.” We recently acquired a grill, and I am now having fun experimenting cooking with it. Thus, when the Pinterest Challenge arose, I already had the ingredients on my grocery shopping list.

I did have to make the sauce twice because I was halving the recipe and the first time I forgot to half the salt - yuck! The second time was much more successful even with suplementing the lemon juice with the bottled variety.

I’m quite proud of this meal being it was the first steak I’ve ever grilled on a proper grill in my life. The only negative was that the chimichurri sauce was a bit too bitter – but that is because the parsley it was based on was very bitter. Lesson learned: taste the parsley before committing to it when a ~fourth of the recipe is comprised of parsley. In the future we do want to try to brighten the flavor by adding in fresh lime juice and lemon zest.

I’d say this would be a great sauce for a St Patrick’s Day meal, but Saint Patrick’s day is the day I use as an excuse to make ham, potatoes, and cabbage.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

February Dinners

It’s a large enough task for me to try to get dinner on the table in a timely and competent fashion that I don’t care to spend the time taking pictures while I prep, and I’m so hungry by the time I’m done I forget to take a picture before I dig in! Still, here are the list of entrees I recommend which I made in February.

Successful Internet Recipes

  • Butter Chicken - I always forget this one needs to marinate overnight. We really prefer tikka masala, but this recipe is easier to prep.
  • Chicken Peanut Chow Mein - This dish is very Americanized, but still tasty. Don't buy noodles from the Asian section of the grocery; save a few dollars and buy 4 packs of Ramen Noodles and toss out the flavor packet.
  • Italian Meatball Sandwiches - This was a repeat from January because the recipe made plenty to freeze :)
  • Caesar Chicken Burgers - Great! I bookmarked this recipe as a bit of a wildcard to mix up our normal routines, and it was delicious. It's legitimately a "burger" by my defintion because it uses ground chicken.
  • Creamy Rosemary Penne - This recipe is one of our go-to dishes. Usually my chicken turns out dry, so this time I took a different approach by precooking the chicken in a crock pot with Italian dressing. Unfortunately, somehow the texture of the crock pot chicken made the dish very reminiscent of Tuna Noodle Casserole.
  • Alfredo Chicken Bake - LOVE! I used HEB frozen Mediterranean Mix of vegetables, and I made my own alfredo saucefrom scratch. This dish was awesome: fast, minimal prep, and tasty. I baked the dish in the same pan I made the sauce in. The only change is that I should omit the garlic from the alfredo sauce in the future because the breadsticks contributed plenty of garlic on their own.
  • Grilled Sandwiches - The HEB medium cheddar we used overwhelmed the sandwich, yet it was still tasty. We served this with soup.
  • Homemade Pizza - Ya know, homemade pizza is nice, but Papa Murphy's is actually more cost effective and a lot less demanding.

Print Recipes

  • Chicken, Rice, and Vegetable Casserole
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Hamburgers
  • Steak with Califlower Gratin
  • 12 Boy Curry
  • Tacos
  • Stir Fry featuring leftover veggies

Successful Yet Won't Be Repeated Internet Recipes

  • Slower Cooker Beef Ragout - This dish just didn't speak to me. The recipe made a ton, yet I've been reluctant to pull the leftovers out of the freezer. I love cinnamon and allspice, but I want this to be a comforting, home-like dish and - to my tongue - they just don't taste that way in an entree. This is probably because I don't have a drop of Greek in me. The recipe was successful.
  • Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs - Another successful recipe that just wasn't to my palate. The dish was lovely, citrusy and it had a surprising, pleasant, floral note. It was pretty. It was a nice change from the usual, yet we found ourselves reluctantly divvying up the leftovers. We plan to try the cranberry sauce on a pork chop later.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lumpy Ceramic Pots

Way back in January, a friend got a great idea to try a "Going Throwing!" class at FirePit Ceramics. I was eager to get my hands muddy again after a decade or more since my last ceramics experience. From these pots, it is hard to tell if I ever had any prior experience! Five minutes before the end of the one hour class, I realized how the FirePit Ceramic teachers had instructed me to use the wheel was the opposite positioning of what I have used in the past. I’m blaming that oversight on my part and the softness of white clay for my poor performance. Still, white clay is the prettiest to paint.

I’m thinking that there is an object lesson somewhere in this pot if it hasn’t already run out the bottom. The danger with keeping it is that eventually I’ll have to keep the pot because I’ve kept it for so long. Funny how longevity messes with my perceived value of an object.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Second [Failed] Attempt

The difference from last time is that I have since acquired a candy thermometer. There's improvement. I think. It still wasn't edible.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pinterest Challenge

Sisters Share It All: Pinterest Challenge

Pinterest is the answer to the just over 100 links I had bookmarked as something to remember for the future, but I never could recall what those things were based on the title of the link alone. The problem was so glaring I'm a bit ashamed I didn't invent and code Pinterest on my own. Pinterest finally provided me with a visual representation of what I wished to recall.

I hear Pinterest is spoken of in two ways. First, "I love Pinterest! So many pretty ideas I never use. Second, "Nothing ever turns out like it does on Pinterest, I don't know why I bother."

My experience with Pinterest doesn't agree with either of those extremes. I start on my own Pinterest boards when I'm looking for a craft, an organization technique, or a menu. I also frequently delete pins that have sat idle or that, despite looking for something to do, I just cannot bring myself to do it. (e.g. A recipe requires half a gallon of oil for frying and for the past year I've been unable to commit myself to that level of clean up. If it hasn't happened in 52 weeks it ain't ever going to happen. Delete.) Visiting the boards frequently and being willing to delete things means that I actually follow through on the ideas and that I let go of the ideas that I'm no longer interested in.

And failure? Yup. It happens. See also the bunny rabbit buns I tried last week. They were more ugly blobs than bunny rabbits. If there are two life lessons that apply to Pinterest they are: one, know your abilities and dictate your plans and expectations accordingly, and two, it is ok to fail.

Ok, I'm stepping off my soapbox for now.

So, the egomaniac behind that rant believes she's pretty good at actually doing the things she collects on Pinterest. The thing is, I never actually wave my little, decoupaged banner of triumph to the world. I'm terrible at blogging about things. (See also the aforementioned blobs. Not that you wanted to see them.)

For that reason I'm participating in the Pinterest Challenge. I first heard of the challenge through Alli.It's a little challenge where you select 6 Pinterest pins, complete them in the next month before April, and blog about them in one or multiple posts. Yeah, it's that last part that's going to get me.

Here are the pins I've selected:

Um, yes, I am able to count, and, yes, there are more than 6 there. It's just, I already have 3 of those on my grocery shopping list and it feels to be cheating a tinsy bit if they're already planned and practically in the works for March.

  1. Canvas Lined Diaper Box
  2. Animal Cookies
  3. Cloth Pull Baby Toy
  4. Fabric Notes
  5. Painting with Yogurt
  6. Roti Chicken
  7. Table Runner Rolling
  8. Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

If you want to participate: choose "six" things on Pinterest that you want to try between now and April, create a blog post, and link up by clicking this link.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

January Dinners

Here are some dinner ideas from around the web. I made each of these in the past 3 weeks. This selection is the recipes I can link to which were successful. Successful being defined as worth making again in the future or worth trying again in the future with modifications. Other dinners without internet presence included: spaghetti, ginger chicken with coconut, creamy ranch chicken, sweet & sour meatballs, steak stir fry with vegetables, honey lime enchiladas, and hummus baked chicken.

  • Korean Beef and Rice Bowl - I like this dish because of all its veggies, and it comes together quickly if you purchase the carrots already matchsticked.
  • Cuban Tacos - This was a new dish I tried. I liked it, but they were very dry. I don't know if that was a cooking mistake or just the nature of the dish. I feel like they need some sort of southwest-inspired ranch sauce.
  • Chicken Pot Pie - Little Hands is particularly fond of this dish; the boy loves a good cream sauce. Making one pie alone is too high an effort for a single meal, so I double the recipe and freeze the second pie. I also stick with store-bought crusts on this one to reduce the workload. To this recipe I add more salt and nutmeg to taste, a clove of garlic per pie, and I substitute the black pepper with white pepper.
  • Drunken Noodles - This dish struck my fancy, and my downfall was the rice noodles required 30 minutes of soak time before cooking. I liked the dish, but didn't love it. As with all rice noodles dishes, I found myself hunger again an hour later.
  • Meatball Sandwich - Another dish where I was able to freeze half the yield. I drastically cut down the onion, and I felt that was a good decision. Next time I'd take the red pepper down a bit as well. I love a good, hot dish, but the heat in this one overwhelmed the spiciness of the meatballs.
  • Fajitas - Yum. I like this recipe better than the pack o seasoning I used to use. I omit the fancy sizzling step, and I just warm up the tortillas in the microwave.
  • Beef Stroganoff with Dill This is a recipe that I cut in half. I also use a cheap cut of beef, slice it thin, and then cook it slowly for-ev-er.
  • Disneyland Monte Cristo Sandwich My downfall on these was I don't have a thermometer to gauge oil temperature, and my oil was too cold. The other downfall is that each sandwich half takes up 4-6 minutes to cook. This is not a fast dish.
  • Chicken CarbonaraIn place of the pancetta I used bacon. I also halved the recipe and doubled the bacon. Delicious despite the fact it clogs arteries.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Champagne Cake

When DH was a child, his birthday cake of choice was a Champagne Cake from a particular bakery. This was my second year to try to recreate the cake. The first time I made it, I had no idea what the cake was supposed to be like and, as such, it didn't do so well. Last year I was able to taste the cake courtesy of William's family, but we found that the cake had changed greatly over the decades. So I'm left trying to match a cake to the memories of my husband.

Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today's Sweet Tooth by Julie Richardson was just published in 2012. I read about this book on one blog or another that I follow. I was pretty excited to see Champagne Cake listed in the Table of Contents, and pretty excited when Santa (he still exists!) gave me a copy for Christmas.

The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute the provided pudding-whipped-cream frosting recipe with a Swiss meringue buttercream. Last time around, we determined that Swiss meringue buttercream was exactly what we wanted (as opposed to a basic buttercream or quick icing).

The resulting cake was delicious, yet it still isn't quite right. I used 9" pans instead of 8" pans, so I only put in 1 layer of pudding filling and, unfortunately, overbaked the cake. I omitted the traditional, curls of pink-colored chocolate that existed on the cake I'm trying to match; I felt I'd been pretty lucky to make a cake, a pudding filling, and a frosting with a baby and I wasn't going to press my luck. Overall it's a good cake, and it should be a perfect cake in a few more drafts.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A First [Failed] Attempt

Let's not even mention what this was supposed to be. Let's just pretend to be optimistic and call it my first failure on the path toward success.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Grocery Shopping List Tear Pad

One year ago or more, I pinned a tutorial on how to create a grocery list tear pad to hang on a fridge. Now that I take primary responsibility for the grocery shopping, I wanted to improve our household communication on what needs to be replenished. This picture is my finished product. (Sorry for the blurry picture, my cellphone's camera is lacking.)

grocery shopping tear pad

My first step was to create my own list. The template provided by Beckie at Infarrantly Creative list pretty much everything under the sun: from fish crackers to syrup to sponges. I wanted my checkmark list to only include the items I purchase on a weekly or monthly basis. I think it took my close to 15 grocery shopping trips to settle in on what I wanted to keep on my list. It's pretty personalized; I don't know of any of my friends who buy at least one can of coconut milk a month.

My next step was to create my own template. I used InDesign simply because I like InDesign. Word or OpenDoc would have sufficed. I split my page into 2 columns and used a 1" margin on top, 1/4" margins on all other sides, and 1/2" gutter between the columns. I divided each column into two columns with a 1/4" gutter. I organized the list based on the organization of my favorite grocery store.

Thereafter, I followed the original tutorial with only a few, major exceptions.

The first exception was that I used a bone folder to create a score mark and a "skip stitch" rotary cutter to create perforations 3/4" from the top of the page. I also shortened up the top overlay to only 3/4".

My second exception was that I used an exacto blade to cut a hole into my cardboard so that I could embed my magnet into the pad. I don't want to worry about the small, high-power magnet falling off the pad and being consumed by Small Hands. The first picture below shows the hole I cut, and the second picture is the back of the product after finishing it. My regret on that is that I should have used two magnets on either side of the pad for better stability rather than center the magnet.

I do not know what the overall cost of this project was. I spent $20 on a paper awl because DH expressed that he would prefer I not use his drill to bore through a pile of paper and because I didn't want to wait for a cheaper one to appear on ebay. Well, and I've been waiting for one to fall in my lap for ten years. I spent $2 at Lowe's to purchase 3/8" aluminum posts. I spent $6 at Hobby Lobby to purchase a "skip stitch" blade when really I was looking for regular replacement blade, and then I spent $3 at Michaels to purchase a regular replacement blade. All other supplies I already had on hand, and it's only by coincidence that I needed a new rotary blade for this project. So the cost is somewhere between $0 and $32. =\

Et voila! A successful pinterest-inspired project :)