Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Design Dilemma

Y'all, I've asked Betsy Speert for some kitchen color advice.  She has a fun Tuesday special called "Oy Vey Q&A!" where folks write in for help.  I adore her blog because bottom line, she is damn funny.  So many blogs are way too serious, or filled with too many unnecessary and undeserved LOLZ.  Betsy deserves a good laugh.

I sent her waaaaay back to my kitchen post from July 2011.  Not much has changed since that time, mainly because we were thinking if we put off the work a little longer, it'd be easier to complete. We all know that is a lie.

Anyway, if Betsy helps me out,  I'll let you know!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rubber Treasure

Tell me what you see.

Regular ol' citrus with a really random fake sunflower.

A messy and quite offensive kitchen.  


I see very different things. These aren't just citrus nothings.  They are honeybells!  The juiciest fruit out there. Google 'em and you might be able to still order a box--they are only found in January!

The kitchen?  That's a "before".  The paint starts tonight.

And the tire isn't a piece of trash.  I see a portable raised bed for the yard.  I thank my father-in-law Frank for such a great idea.  And to the fool who left it on the side of the road, thanks for being a litter bug.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinner from scratch, anyone?

Have you ever had a day when your coworkers didn't nap and there's too much whining going on and all you wanna do is hide in the corner office with a box of donuts and a Cherry Coke?  I say coworkers because, well, I want everyone to feel included in today's post.  Really, I'm talking about my children, my lovely precocious children, but I think "coworker"  or "boss" or "employee" could be an appropriate substitute for "child".  You know what I mean, even if you don't want to admit it.  Don't worry, your boss isn't here to read your thoughts.  I won't tell him/her before your next review unless you seriously cross me.  And by cross, I mean that you steal my donuts or poop in my yard without cleaning it up (I've got my eye on you!!).

Anywho, today was one of those days.  It's very difficult for me to hide anywhere with three constant observers, so I moved to the kitchen.  The kids know that they must follow orders in the kitchen because things might be hot or otherwise danjawus, so it provided some respite.  I knew that cooking would make all that is wrong with the world much much better.

I had two wins.  The first is a spaghetti squash casserole. The recipe was developed by a chef at The Brick here in Kansas City.  You might have seen the joint on a cable network some time. Apparently the food is very good.  I wanted to go on New Year's Day because they had a hangover special ($1 Bloody Mary!), but taking the three kids somehow seemed wrong.  Of course, it wouldn't have been wrong if we had been in New Orleans, where you're only wrong if you're not, in fact, drinking around small children.

So here's the recipe:

4lb spaghetti squash (I did not measure to see if ours was 4lb)
2 cups ricotta
1 egg
4 cups chopped fresh spinach (4 large handfuls)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 lb cooked ground Italian sausage
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
2 cups grated mozzarella

Chop the squash in half lengthwise, drizzle flesh with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put cut side down on a pan and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  When it's done, scrape out the flesh with a fork.  Put the squash in a large bowl with the next seven ingredients and mix it all up.  Put in a 9x13 pan, top with tomatoes and then cheese.  Bake at 350 20-25 minutes.

I used one of those large cans of tomatoes and used it all.  More was better I think.  I also used some country sausage because I couldn't find the right sausage.  I think the Italian would've been better, but this was still quite good.

Verdict: tasty.  All three children ate their portions.

Then my friend Starr (yes, I have a friend here in Roeland Park named Starr) sent me a link to an article about how it's chocolate cake day!  So I had to make a chocolate cake.  Because I cannot look at food without needing to make it NOW.

2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Mix up all dry ingredients. Then add the wet ones except for the boiling water.  Mix it all up for a couple of minutes (with or without an electric mixer). Then add boiling water. Stir until it's all together. It will be very very runny.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

It could take longer because our oven is blazing hot and we've cut off 30% of cooking time before and still burned things.

Let it cool. Make the frosting.

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
4.5 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Cream the butter. Add everything else. You might need more or less milk.

Now, if you're a crazy perfectionist (AKA normal baker), you'll wait until the cake is cool before frosting and then wait for all the flavors to combine, maybe until the next day. If you're surrounded by whiny coworkers or little kids, you'll frost the cake piping hot and eat it immediately.

Notice the runny icing.  Totally worth it.

So there you have it. How to calm the masses.  Cook from scratch, baby!

I shared this post at Type A Decorating, A Bowl Full of Lemons.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A good reason to visit

Guys, I need a new gimmick.  My dwindling readership is depressing me, so I need something drive traffic here so I can feel good about myself again.  What can I do to draw people in?

1) Good content.  

Seriously, this is the worst idea ever.  Sure, there are plenty of blogs with excellent writing, beautiful photos, lovely design in general.  But that is way too obvious for me.  And kind of hard.  I'll pass.

2) A religious slant.  

Many blogs quote the Bible in their headers or use religious language for their blog names. I grew up in the Methodist church--how difficult could it be to put all that front and center here?  Very difficult, turns out.  I remember a few Sunday School lessons, but I slept through the majority of the sermons, even when I was an acolyte (thank goodness the robes were flame resistant).  Plus, I'm having trouble thinking of a good Christian name for our blog, which would obviously have to be renamed.  Jesus and the Kiefers?  Sounds like a bad band name.  Anyway, this is probably an angle best left to the sincerest of believers.

3) Giveaways galore.  

Already tried to give our stuff away, and nobody wanted it!  I still don't understand why I didn't end up with dozens of followers vying for a used breast pump.  Something is seriously wrong with you guys.

4) Good old fashioned brown-nosing.  

Y'all are the best.  The best readers ever.

Wow, that was really hard for me to even type.  See #3 where I insult you without blinking an eye.  I do love you, but kissing up has never been my strong point.

5) Funny little drawings of stick figures.

You know the blogs with the elementary school style pictures with witty captions.  They make me laugh, cry, pee my pants.  But peeps, I can't even draw a stick figure, let along come up with a caption for it.  Anywho, it's been done before, so why should I copy it?  I am all about originality, as you can tell from reading this list of gimmicks to borrow.

Oooh, I just thought of something! Instead of stick figures, I'll post photos of cats with hilarious captions!  That has never been done before! Ever!

Funny Caption.
Whoohoo! Easy AND funny, right?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kindling, anyone?

First, a few confessions/rants.  1) I called all the sticks in the yard "Kindle", as in "Do you think anyone would take this Kindle for free if we posted it on Craigslist?".  I immediately said, "That's not the right word.  What am I trying to say, Ryan?"  Thank goodness I'm married to a wordsmith who doesn't laugh at me too much when I confuse the word for big pile of little pieces of wood with an Amazon e-reader.  Typing that out makes me feel even more foolish, but that's what I'm here to do.  Be foolish on the interwebs!

2) I am having a hard time not schooling people at exercise class on elbow room etiquette.  Here is what a class should look like.

x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x
    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x
x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x    x

Right?  Everyone should be as evenly spaced as possible so when we're hopping, skipping, and shaking our boo-tays, we can do so without knocking into someone else.

Recently, though, class has been more like this (x=everyone else, S=me):

x    x    x   x    x    x    x    x    x    x
   x    x     xSx    x    x    x    x    x    x
x    x    x   x    x    x    x    x    x    x

Luckily,  I have a friend who has acted recently as a buffer to the space encroaching workout fiends, but still, it's not like I'm the one squeezing in between folks to carve out a space where there previously was none.  I arrive early to plant my feet, and then others get so close I cannot move.  It always happens after class has started, so there's often no other place to move to in the room, either.  It's a conspiracy, I tell you!  Maybe I just look like someone who needs close company. Perhaps I appear lost, confused, and lonely.  I'm thinking seriously, though, about eating chili for lunch every day and not washing my workout clothes. Before I resort to those measures, I'll wait for people to stop sticking to their resolutions and hope they stop coming to class.

3) Okay,I can't think of another thing to confess or complain about.

So I'll get to the point.

Let's see a little progression of the work we've done in the yard.

Scary. I half expected to find a dead dog in here.
Gate down. Millions of Kindles.
Halfway finished.
It took a looooong time just to bag up half the sticks. The bottom half will take even longer because it's very dense.

Here's what Ryan did on Monday afternoon.

Tote that barge! Lift that bale!
Woodchipper, anyone?
Our yard looks bigger already, although we still have a long ways to go. It'll get worse before it gets better.

Yes, still ugly.

I'll thank global warming for all this lovely landscaping weather. Today, however, it's below freezing, so we'll have to wait until it's normal to have warm temps to work again...like next week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Resolutions

I figured waiting until mid-January to post my resolutions would help me look like I've kept them longer than thirty seconds.  I won't tell you that I haven't actually made any until now.  Or maybe I just did tell you that.  Anywho, I already know that many weight-loss resolutionaries have already given up by now--you know who you are--so I'm here to give you a second chance. We'll call January 17 the beginning of Round 2. No need to wait until 2013 to shoot for the stars again.

Give Round 2 some thought, however.  Don't create a goal you really can't, in reality, reach.  If you tell me you wanna be an astronaut, I'd love to support you in your one-in-a-zillion quest.  Just don't come crying when you realize that unless you were a military pilot or you're performing some super awesome research, your chances of going to space are limited by your wallet (only $200k if you go with that crazy Virgin airlines guy!).  I really appreciate specificity, though, so go for whatever will push you.

Here are some ideas for 2012: I'm going to
1)  read more cerebral fiction--at least once a month I'll dive into a post-modern, thought-provoking work of art.
2) raise chickens.
3) teach Katie to read.
4) go to exercise class 4 times a week.  Or more.
5) stop worrying about money so much.

How's that for a list of resolutions?  #1...check!  I already read a ton.  I'll have finished my 12 hoity-toity books by February.  #2 is impossible in our yard, so it's already decided for me.  #3...well, we've started it.  Katie's learned some basic phonics, and since we all know that learning is more about me than about my daughter who is but a mere vessel into which I pour knowledge, I figure she'll be reading by next week.  #4...done.

Well, that was a great 2012!  Wait, I didn't address #5. That's a tough one.  Not sure if I'll reach it, but I'll certainly try.  I figure, though, that 80% complete in the first month of the year is awesome, so I'm going to pat myself on the back and cuddle up with something really avant garde, like the latest John Grisham novel.

Monday, January 16, 2012

April in January

The past couple of days have been glorious.  Crisp and breezy, hardly what you'd expect in the middle of January.  So yesterday, we spent as many waking hours as possible outside.

We're removing some chain-link fencing that used to be a dog run.  I had hoped to turn it into a chicken run and apparently it is too close to the property line to be up to code. So that'll have to be somewhere else some other year.

This mess had to be dealt with, too.  We left the compost pile on the left, but the pile of sticks has to go. Don't worry, it won't end up in a landfill because it's not allowed to go there--it will be chipped up and composted.

I'll be tackling more of this today.  Looks better already.

Drew helped organize the bouncy balls.

The girls played like crazy, which means KB ended up trying to torture Winslow.

Ryan and I tore apart all the vines on the fencing.  Honeysuckle was one. A thorny vine.  Others of unknown origin.

Ryan cut down an unbalanced evergreen that had partially grown into the fence.

Also took down some other evergreen bushes/trees that were nigh unto ugly.  I'm planting my magical peach pits here!  Yes, they're magic.  LA-LA-LA I'm not listening!

Remember where we started?

An over-shaded wonderland.  

I'm sure we displaced a few pixies in our quest for a more useful yard.  For that, I'm sorry.  But once we're finished, they're welcome to return and find new hiding places.  They can feast in the veggie garden I'm planning, too.  

Enjoy your day.  Get out and enjoy the sunshine if you're experiencing such lovely weather.  Ryan's taking half a day off...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A lovely find

This year, Ryan and I did not exchange Christmas gifts.  But he's been asking for a chair where he can read and even write on his little netbook, so I've been on the lookout when I go to the monthly furniture markets in West Bottoms.

Lovely grocery store feet.

He has one now!  Yes, he is wearing a heavy sweater and shorts. I thought my brother was the only person who dressed like that in winter.  But no, my husband does, too.

It reminded me of the furniture we used growing up.

My mother's couch.

Totally different style and much more caning, but still, I think you can see a few similarities.

The cane is in great condition.

I even love the cushion.  I do wish the cat didn't like it so much.  He acted like the chair was made of catnip.

Pretty touches on the legs.

Coordinating fabric on the back. Kind of unexpected!

Overall, I think I got a great deal. It was about $60 for this sturdy and rather attractive chair. I love buying vintage, well-loved furniture.  Good thing, too, since it fits my budget.  It's also quite Earth-friendly, if that's your thing.  If you're in the Kansas City metro, hit West Bottoms the first weekend of the month! It's really fun, and you might find something awesome.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brighten Your Day

No, sillies, not with a picture of my yucky bathroom from a few months ago!  But with some cheap fixes that make the bathroom a tad more tolerable.

Fresh caulk for the tub.  Should keep me from cussing every time I get into the shower.

And some frosting paint for the bathroom window.  Those awful blinds made me insanely angry every time I looked at them!  In this size bathroom, I don't think cloth coverings are a good idea because of the potential for mildew.  So no blinds and no cloth.  That left me with few options.  

I bought the paint when we moved in and was waiting on Ryan to do it.  Patiently.  For six months. Then I decided to bring out the paint while the kids were napping.  Might as well do it myself, right?

A tip: Do not assume that no one can see you after you've painted.  I am very glad we did a test. It involved Ryan mooning the window while I stood outside next to the neighbor's house.  I could see a little too much.  And by a little, I mean, it still needed a few more coats or else we'd be providing free entertainment every night at bath time.  And possibly face jail time.

That concludes my brighten your day post.  If none of the photos above worked, look below.  If you're still not moved to smile, then all I can suggest is that you find some JELL-O jigglers and jiggle them.  That always makes me giggle.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year, y'all.

Everyone else decided to wish their fans a Happy New Year on January 1. I hate being a conformist, so today felt like a better day to celebrate.  A bit more against the grain.  Be ready next year, though, because I'm certain I'll be copied.  The 5th is the new 1st!

We rang in the New Year at Julian.

Teeny tiny potatoes with caviar.
 If you tell me you don't like caviar, my gut tells me that you probably haven't even tried it.  I really enjoyed popping these babies into my mouth.  The caviar was a briny little garnish that added some pizzazz.

Lobster shepherd's pie.
 The lobster was so tender it was almost like butter.

Yes! I got my photo taken with a great chef!

Yes!  I was *that* blogging tool who took photos of her food!  Actually, it was Ryan. But I made him.

Yes!  I am proud of it!

Happy New Year!
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