Wednesday, April 9, 2014

bananas

Quick recap of the last couple weeks:
  1. my "but-weren't-you-3yo-like-yesterday?" baby sister got married last friday!!! so excited and happy for them!
  2. it's market week here so work has been bananas. business people apparently can't get coffee fast enough.
  3. plus side - strider has had loads of overtime so his check will be bananas too (all the better for doing responsible things like paying off students loans. wah wah)
  4. i borrowed a sander from my friend steve and project nightstands should be complete this weekend
  5. it's officially too hot in our apartment to buy actual bananas. in april. i mean, really? stupid parking lot with no shade on our south-facing kitchen. anyone have tips on how to make fruit stay unripened as long as possible?
  6. lastly, my aunt showed me this video, which I just love. this kid is kinda bananas too, in an awesome way.



Lastly, life may be crazy (b-a-n-a-n-a-s), but it's also really great!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

a to z: book edition

Taken from Jessica at Polished Arrow, who snagged it from Jessy at The Artsy Cajun, who borrowed it from Charlene at From Bisons to Buckeyes, and apparently on and on a billion times because that's how this awesome blog-o-sphere works, here's a fun book-lovers survey that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and taking! Let me know if you post it somewhere else so I can read your answers too!

Author I've Read The Most Books By: it's a 3-way tie: Jane Austen (brilliant and timeless), Jasper Fforde (the Thursday Next literary detective series is wildly addictive even if you don't like detective fiction), and Walter Moers (whom I adore for writing insane-in-the-membrane kids books for grown-ups) 

Best Series Ever: The Chronicles of Narnia...or Harry Potter...or Boxcar Children if my 10-y-o self gets a vote 

Currently Reading: The Alchemaster's Apprentice and Red Letter Revolution

Drink of Choice While Reading: hands-down, chai tea

EReader or Physical Book: don't get me started - physical books win 100%. I consider almost no eReader argument valid. Haters gon' hate.

Fictional Character I Probably Would Have Dated In High School: oh gosh, I had a serious crush on Marius from Les Miserables for a while. I doubt we would've dated though cause I played it pretty safe and his whole involved-in-a-subversive-group thing would've scared me off. Also, I was mad awkward. 

Glad I Gave This Book A Chance: The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins - it definitely isn't my normal kind of read but I loved it and have since referred it several friends as well

Hidden Gem Book: either Free for All, which is a crazy funny look at librarians, or this Ghandi autobiography which was breathtaking and incredible from cover to cover - what a fascinating life! 

Important Moment In My Reading Life: In 4th grade when our school librarian would'nt let me check out Les Miserables (among other titles) because it was above my proverbial clearance level for our school. In response, I became a frequent patron of our local public library and realized that no one should ever be denied books just because they aren't tall enough or seemingly mature enough to make a cut (and for the record, I was fine)

Just Finished: basically every cookbook and home organization book I can carry out "da p-lib" 

Kind of Books I Won't Read: smut/brain garbage, graphic novels (I have trouble following dialogue in this format), and anything by Nicolas Sparks 

Longest Book I've Ever Read: Anna Karenina, in one sitting, on a 12-hr bus trip to Orlando for our senior trip. 

Major Book Hangover Because Of: Harry Potter. It was such a part of my childhood - I don't know if I'll ever fully accept that the last page was the last page.

Number of Book Cases I Own: much less than it used to be. In truth, I've been working hard to slim down my book buying and instead, only purchase those I cannot stand to not own a copy of. This somewhat painful transition was made in hopes of better supporting local libraries and in efforts to keep life simple.

One Book That I've Read Multiple Times: Little Women, every year at Christmas 

Preferred Place To Read: snuggled in bed or an obliging window sill, if available. Either way, a blanket is a must!

Quote That Inspires Me From A Book I've Read: "It is a warm green rain with love in its pockets for spring is here, and does not dream of death." - Richard Brautigan 

Reading Regret: The Lovely Bones. Didn't bother to finish it. Such a waste of time. 

Series That I Started But Still Need To Finish: None I can think of at the moment. Once I start something, I'm pretty dedicated to the end. 

Three Of My Fav Books: Alice in Wonderland, Thirteen & 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, and Pride & Prejudice 

Unapologetic Fan-Girl For: Walt Whitman & Lewis Carroll

Very Excited For This Release: I'm not great at keeping track of new releases, however, I will definitely be looking forward to Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey prequel to be released sometime in 2015. Agonizing wait

Worst Bookish Habit: 100% judging books by their title and cover. While I know it's bad book-lover form to do so, I make no apologies - it's my system and it works for me

X Marks The Spot - Start at the Top of My Shelf and Pick the 27th Book: This collection of Richard Brautigan short stories and poetry. He was insane, but there's something about him I love. 

Your Latest Book Purchase: Honestly, I have no clue. I mostly just put books I want on an Amazon wish list and drop hints so the hubs knows which ones to get me during the next gift-worthy holiday.

Zzzz-Snatcher Book (The Book That Kept You Up Way Too Late): Probably the Hunger Games. Book one and two were interested and so easy to read that I lost track of time...however, I definitely did not have the same problem with book three...what a drag


See wasn't that fun!
Also, quick aside - my baby sister is getting married on Friday! What what?! Too crazy-awesome to handle!

Friday, March 21, 2014

happy.

After lots of work, cooking, and doing dishes this week, here we are, chilling at my mom's so Strider can watch endless bball (aka the perfect opportunity for me to catch up on reading some of my favorite blogs). 

My friday started at 6 am with a green apron and customers who apparently couldn't get their coffee fast enough. Normally, this is fine and just part of the barista job description, except mid-shift today I accidentally spilled dumped an entire 20 oz vat of boiling Blonde roast all over my hand slash apron slash pants slash everything. We were really busy so I quickly ran some cold water over my hand and kept going. 30 mins later my skin was still throbbing, red, and angry. I used a truly glorious burn cream which helped, but several customers were like: "What the deal, Sarah? Why no funny song and dance today with my latte?" Honestly, I wanted so badly to suggest that maybe if you're irritable and 20 min late for work, this isn't the best time to stop and stand in line for a hot beverage...or maybe, just maybe baristas are here to make coffee, not necessarily to memorize your name and complicated beverage while also performing a simultaneous comedy routine and motivational therapy session. However, I did not. And eventually we (my hand epidermis, crappy attitude, and I) got over it and enjoyed the rest of the day.

So now that I'm caught up on internet reading and my hand is all better, I'm just sitting here, rocking out to my new favorite song, watching the video over and over because it just doesn't seem to get old. The moral of the story is, even if your day started with a bath in 200 degree brown caffeine water, this song does exactly what it says: Happy. 

Simple and awesome for a weekend night. Let down your hair and dance around a bit.
"Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre." -Psalm 149:3
Though Pharrell isn't exactly using a lyre or dedicating this jam to the Big Man, I'm taking it as full opportunity to revel in the love of my awesome Creator, in whom I find true joy.

Fun fact: my favorite scene is at 1:30-1:38. Just. so. awesome.
Happy dancin!


Note: The author does not endorse this musical artist as a whole. I just really like this particular song.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

diy framed chalkboard

For a while now, chalkboards have been making a huge comeback in home decor. And with good reason...they're super versatile and pretty! I've had my eye on a few ideas but I didn't want to jump in until I had a clear plan (a rare ideology for me). I had put the idea on a crafting back-burner until I recently saw a blogger who used a large chalkboard for quotes in the kitchen. Most kitchen boards just display the week's menu, but that's impractical for me since I know for sure that I would never get around to changing it every week. However, the idea of putting up a quote or Scripture is definitely one I can warm up to.

I started at our local thrift store to hunt down a frame but their prices were surprisingly high for scary motel art. I hopped over to Hobby Lobby just out of curiosity and found a gorgeous empty frame in the clearance section...90% OFF! Seven bucks later, I walked out with a frame and a plan. I measured the inner frame and went to Lowe's for an 18"x24" piece of plywood. I already had a can of chalkboard paint at home so that afternoon I was all set to start.
Two coats of paint later and I hit a huge speed bump. The paint was fine but the texture of the plywood was still coming through. Maybe this would have been remedied with 8-10 coats of paint, but ain't nobody got time for that!

I headed back to Hobby Lobby and ended up purchasing a dry-erase board with the same dimensions as the frame and since the board had a smooth chipboard back, I knew the chalkboard finish would be much cleaner. Using wood glue and a couple stacks of books, I adhered the dry-erase side of the board to the plywood. 

Next, I started over with the paint, using four crosshatching layers. While this was drying and we finally had a sunny day, I took the frame outside with some leftover soft-white spray paint. Once all the pieces were dry and gorgeous, I used a medium coarseness sanding block and lots of elbow grease to give the frame some character. 
The next step is very important -- priming the chalkboard. It says it clearly on the paint can, but for some reason, lots of people skip this step and then are frustrated when the chalk "stains" the board or it doesn't clean properly. Simply take a piece of chalk and rub it sideways across the entire surface of the board. Clean with a felt eraser then a wet rag and it should be good to go!
To attach the board to the frame, I laid it flat and used a staple gun to bridge the gap between the wood and frame. Inevitably, the board will not be flush with the frame, especially if you have someone at the store cut the plywood for you. That's okay though, cause no one will be able to tell from the front. Post-stapling the back looked a little like Frankenstein...but I wanted to make sure it was really secure since it's a bit heavy.
Then just flip it over and get creative! I opted for a Chalk Ink marker since I like the cleaner lines and no dust, but regular chalk will do the job too. This weekend, I'm getting hardware to hang it in the kitchen over our table, replacing the current poster, but for right now, it's in the living room. Ultimately, I'm aiming to put up a new bible verse at the beginning of each month. Our main door to the apartment opens into the kitchen and I spend lots of time in there now, so it's definitely the central location for Scripture to be seen. And what a promise to have hope in!
Cost (not including everything I already had at home):
Frame = $7 (originally $59.99!)
Plyood = $5
Dry-erase Board = $6
Total = >$20

Note to self: work on writing in straighter lines before showing off stuff like this. Oops

Monday, March 10, 2014

blackout blessings

After yet another ice storm and two days without power, Strider and I are getting back to normal life. 
Can I just say, what is up with the South this winter?!
img source: newsobserver.com 3-7-14
Friday night we had an awesome sleepover with some of our best friends who graciously let us crash in the guest bedroom. For dinner, I made Turkey-Pesto Meatballs with spaghetti for everyone and it was delicious - definitely a new addition to the recipe binder. Plus, I got to have a cup of coffee Saturday morning on their couch with a very snuggly Reece beside me -- she's extra sweet-cakes in the a.m.! 

As Mark started making breakfast, we sadly had to rush out the door. I then proceeded to work a 14-hour event at my Events Coordinator job. Needless to say, I was thoroughly spent by midnight. However...I got a text from Strider an hour before I got off saying that our power had been miraculously restored. Praise God!

Weighing on my mind over these last couple days are the tons of posts complaining about the power outages...on Facebook...from their smartphones. Honestly, it made me pretty sad. Yes, not having electricity is a bummer. And yes, having trees fall on the roads and power lines is a inconvenience. But it appears that no one was hurt or lost a loved one. Property can be repaired, streets will be cleared, and everyone will be back online in no time. 
In the end...is it really worth getting so upset over?
Plus, while venting about how long it might possibly take to restore everything, let's pause together and think of the dozens of people out dealing with live wires and dangerous conditions just trying their best to make it right.

But here we are at Monday. And with my rare and glorious afternoon off, I just spent 20 minutes hauling out basically every item in our refrigerator. Though I hate to do it, I am embracing the chance to get a jump on spring by cleaning out our fridge properly. I am taking advantage of the opportunity to not replace all the super-processed unnecessary items that my new cookbook-reading hobby has enabled us to do without. I am looking forward to a fresh start Monday in my kitchen (which my sister always says is a great day to start things). And I am really loving that after a weekend of darkness and ice, today it is 70 degrees and the windows of the apartment are thrown open. Because after all, when you weigh a couple days without power against everything else in the world, I don't have room to feel anything but extremely blessed.

And to all the city employees and energy company workers out there that have worked so hard over the last 48 hours, who probably feel like there is still an insurmountable amount yet to be done...I truly and deeply appreciate you. I could not do what you do and I am filled with gratitude. If it were up to me, there'd be free Starbucks in it for you all! Since it isn't, I hope a simple "thank you" can suffice.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

diy recipe binder

I love public libraries! Have I ever mentioned that before? What a truly brilliant invention, enabling access to endless amounts of information and entertainment. Including...cookbooks. I mean, who has $25 to $40 to spend on a book that you may only like a quarter of the recipes in? Not me. So, as I've been going through stacks of fabulous cookbooks from the affectionately named P-Lib, I need a place to store all the recipes I photocopy (plus, I love making notes on ones I've tried). Cue a glorious organizational project: the DIY Recipe Binder!

There are a million different tutorials for similar binders, so just find something that works for your individual cooking style. First, figure out how many sections you want. Though I got a little overzealous with the dividers, you can use all or some of the following and combine those that you might not use as often:
Breakfast, Breads, Salads, Soups, Pastas & Pizzas, Beef & Pork, Chicken & Turkey, Seafood, Veggies, Sides, Crockpot, Cakes & Cookies, Pies & Pastries, Other Desserts, Canning, Kitchen Tricks & Info, and Other

I used an extra 3-ring binder I had at home, then headed to Hobby Lobby and Office Depot to pick up other supplies: scrapbook paper, dividers, and page protectors. Regarding paper, choose one per section, plus one for the front cover. I used the larger pieces and cut them down to size, but you could easily just get 8.5"x11" and skip that step.
Taking a clue from another brilliant blogger (which I don't remember the name of at the moment), I decided to put the dividers into page protectors as well as the recipes, so that the tabs stick out further than the recipes once in the binder. To do this, lay each divider out on top of a page protector, then cut a 1.5" notch out of the edge of the protector so you can feed the tab through the notch once it is inside the sleeve. If this is confusing, see the before and after below. Just make sure not to cut all the way to the bottom or top of the protector sleeve.
I made simple square labels for each section in Word then just did handwritten labels on the tabs. Just tape your labels onto the scrapbook paper, line it up with the divider page, and slide it all down into the same protector sleeve. This is a little awkward at first but gets easier the more you do. Use the remaining sheet of scrapbook paper for the front of the binder and the spine. All done!
Project cost: $0 binder at home, $5.50 for scrapbook paper, $5.50 for 16 dividers, $12.50 for 100 protectors = $24 for a collection that will last ages! Now, just add recipes as you find ones to try or to store ones that you already love. 
For example...these super tasty wraps Strider and I enjoyed for dinner last night!

Chicken-Spinach Wraps with Cranberry Chutney 

For chutney:
1 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1 Tbsp brown sugar (recipe called for 2 but we felt it was a little too sweet)
1 chopped shallot
1 tsp grated orange zest
a pinch of salt

Combine all the above in a small pot with 1/2 cup water. Bring it to a boil, cover & reduce heat to med-low for 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until it reaches the consistency of jam.

To assemble wraps, spread whipped cream cheese over a wheat tortilla, spread chutney over that, add chicken or turkey breast and a small handful of fresh spinach leaves. Carefully roll it all up and enjoy. Easy, fairly healthy, and delicious.

Friday, February 28, 2014

dinner last night

To follow up on my mention of dinner plans yesterday, I come bearing good news - it was a huge success and a lot easier to pull off than I anticipated. The only snag was a moment of panic over preparing asparagus (a new skill to this amateur cook). I started to fret over confusing directions about bending the asparagus until they snapped at their natural breaking point (which mostly felt like a veggie version of Legally Blonde as I was saying it in my head), then there was a bit of nonsense about peeling them halfway up the stalks. A quick text to my sweet friend Betsy revealed that I am not a total nincompoop and yes, you can just cut the ends off and move on with your life.

First, I started by chopping up 5 or 6 yukon gold potatoes and boiling them in a pot for 15 minutes. Drain and spread them over a baking sheet -- make sure you grease it well because mine ended up sticking horribly later. Sprinkle with kosher salt, olive oil, and herbs de provence (or whatever else you have on hand - parsley, thyme, etc) then bake on 400 for 45-50 minutes till they're crispy. 

Once the potatoes are in, I made 4 over easy eggs in a frying pan and set them aside for a reheat later. AKA cheating a bit so all the food finishes at the same time. At this point, I made the hollandaise using a hand mixer to blend 2 egg yolks, 1.5 tbs fresh lemon juice, a dash of texas pete hot sauce, and 1/4 tsp of salt together. Melt 6 tbsp of unsalted butter in the egg frying pan then drizzle that into the egg mixture as you continue to mix it. According to the recipe footnote, you are supposed to use hollandaise immediately, but if you make it within an hour in advance, just re-mix it with 1 tbsp of very hot water right before serving.

Then, rinse and cut however much asparagus you care to eat, lay them flat on one half of a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt & pepper (no peppa' in our apt though - anaphylaxis is such a bummer). Roast them in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pull the pan out and lay 3-4 slices of prosciutto on the other side of the sheet, return to the oven and roast another 5-8 minutes, but no longer because (according to Betsy), they'll get real floppy, real fast.

Once it all comes together in a glorious food symphony, arrange the asparagus on a plate, place a piece of prosciutto on top, crown it with an egg, then drizzle with hollandaise. Serve hot (microwave the whole shebang for 10-15 if needed). Then prepare to amaze and delight your guests, or husband if you went through all that trouble just for a Thursday night dinner. 


These three recipes are adapted from this Barefoot Contessa cookbook according to what I have in the cupboard.