Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Suburban Trash Hunting

No, I haven't been digging through actual trash piles recently.

But I did pick something up on the side of the road. We were on our way to a friend's house on Sunday when I spied something leaning against the ground. You know how when you see a pile of stuff and you can tell it's got a "please someone pick me up and take me to your house" kind of vibe?  Well, this thing was screaming LOVE ME!  So I squealed, scared the crap out of Ryan, demanded we make a U-Turn, popped out of the van, and threw this baby in the back.

It's signed by the artist and is even titled.  "Dining Room Table".  Yeah, a name filled with symbolism and mystery. I would never have guessed this was a table and chairs.

For those scoffing and questioning my taste level...well, let's call it Primitive Art. There's a whole museum filled with this stuff in Baltimore, the Visionary Art Museum, and people actually PAY to see the stuff.  It might possibly be my favorite museum in the world.  When I was in college, I remember seeing a sweater that some crazy lady had made out of her bed sheets (which she had meticulously separated into little fibers) from the asylum...then she claimed to not remember doing it.  There was also a sky high paper-mâché sculpture of Divine (think: Pink Flamingos the movie.  Gosh, I saw that movie with one of my college roommates over spring break.  Gross!).  They even had a model of the Lusitania made out of toothpicks!

Anywho, I think the painting's kind of cool, and it'll go great next to my 2nd grade abstract masterpiece I have hanging in the family room (My elementary art teacher said it was genius.  Smart lady).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monster Cookies

You know you want one.

Or more than one.  Three, perhaps?

Oh, I'll stop teasing.

I told y'all about my friend whose ring is bigger than a chocolate chip cookie. Well, apparently, while large, the ring isn't as spectacularly enormous as a Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie.   My pal recommended I try one, and since I'm miles away from NYC, I had to make a whole batch.  Darn.

I found a knock-off recipe at Love from the Oven.  (Much prettier pictures than mine.)

Made a few tweaks.

2 sticks butter – cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour 
1 & 1/2  tsp salt 
2 tsp cornstartch
1 & 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
A regular size bag of chocolate chips
Half an ounce of semisweet chocolate, grated

375 degree oven.

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together.  Yeah, use a mixer, handheld or stand. It'll be easier.  I was graciously given the Kitchenaid Epicurean Mixer (not sure if they make that model anymore) over 10 years ago. I use it a couple times a week.  Anywho, I let it go to town for quite awhile on that sugar and butter.
  2. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (except for the chocolate chips).  You can either dump it all in at once like I do, or put a little at a time until the dough is mixed.  Remember, with most sweets, you don't want to overmix.  Then add the grated chocolate and the chocolate chips.  You'll probably need to use your hands to mix it up at this point.  Add nuts if you feel so inclined (which I never do for cookies).
  4. Here is your chance to make enormous cookies. The recipe is supposed to make 12.  Yup, only a dozen. Roll 'em into balls and place them on your cookie sheet.
  5. Bake.  8-10 minutes is my guess.  

Important: Your oven will determine cooking time, as will the size of your cookies.  I made one huge mamba-jamba, about 6 medium sized, and 12 smallish cookies.  I felt I needed to test the recipe--can you make a decent small cookie from it?

The verdict in this house is that they need to be big to be good.  The different proportions really affect the way these babies cook, and you might end up with crispier cookies if you make 'em too small. They burn easily with all that sugar.

Or it could be that my oven just plain sucks and you'll have no trouble making smaller cookies.  

Should I make these twice a week? Prolly not.  But they'll be in my repertoire for now. 

Now I'm off to buy bigger pants.  Big cookies call for big pants.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Productive Weekend

We went from this:
Invasive vines from hell.
To this:

Vines hiding in the soil, but pretending to be gone for now.

From this:
A one-butt garage.
 To this:

The whole family can stand in here now.
Drew helped.

I found a treasure.

Cheap champagne?  Sign me up!
Ryan toiled.

Admire the honeysuckle.  At least a ton of it. Perhaps two.
The kids went off-roading.

We had early supper with friends, and then I went to a little Oscar party.  Got to meet my friend's new little girl from Ethiopia. And mock celebrity outfits. And cringe at Angelina's skeletal-chic look (Make some cake and eat it, girl!).

Good times.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Would you like a little lime with that?

All the work in the house has been slow-going.  It's very difficult for me to get a lot done during the day because my three kids are wildly engaging, and at least one of them doesn't nap very well (I'm talking about you, son.  Love you. Sleep.).  In the evenings, I have exercise class, Ryan has freelance work, and then we both just want to lie around and be still like vegetables some evenings. But there are only so many recipe posts I can do before feeling like a certified doofus.

Not today, though! With the weather we've been enjoying, it seemed ridiculous to take those precious alone minutes and put my feet up. Instead, I went outside to deal with this:

Yes, I'm a blogging loser who keeps forgetting to take "before" shots.  This is only quasi-before because the freezer already has a few sprays of primer on it (Will you ever get it right?  -Nope.  There is no "right" on the webs.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it!).

We bought the freezer so we could buy a cow.  Or at least a part of one.  Living in the midwest, and being meat eaters, we realized that buying CAFO beef isn't a great idea when we can get fresh meat straight from the source.

But where would we put it?  Our current freezer is pathetically small (You mean, it's European, which makes it efficient and chic. Okay, you win).  So we had to buy a new-to-us chest freezer off of Craigslist.  We bought it from a freshly divorced woman.  This past year, we also gave away our fire wood to a newly separated mom of four, and sold our Pier 1 side table to another recently split parent--makes sense for them to use Craigslist since their budgets are tight.  I hope we've helped 'em out, but I'm here to tell you that you don't have to be divorced to use Craigslist.  Promise.  Buying new stuff is so predictable.

Wait, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  An ugly, utilitarian chest freezer stood before me.  If we'd left it as-is, it would've felt completely at home with our hideous ceiling tiles.  I could not, however, stomach that.  It is going in the kitchen, which is getting better looking every week, so it needs to be really cool.

Meaning, I needed to paint it.

What would go with our soon-to-be peacock blue walls? That's the color on the right.  I decided to go bold on top, white on bottom, with white cabinets.  We'll be featured in House Beautiful because it'll be that awesome when we finally finish it in Spring of 2023. I know we will!

How's about lime green?  Oh yeah.  (It looks yellow to me.  Dude, I don't know what to tell you. It's lime green, and it looks great with the peacock blue)

Painted on the driveway. Several drivers slowed down to admire my work.
Or to make a mental note to avoid my house at Halloween since I
probably give out homemade granola or worse, fruit.

I taped off the rubbery parts.

A coat of primer first. Then two cans of lime green.
With a few gnats thrown in.
This weekend, Ryan and I will check the freezer for spots I missed, re-paint if necessary, and then bring it on in to prepare for our cow.  More to come in the kitchen.

Let's Blog Hop again!

I really enjoyed the hop a couple of weeks ago--got to see many great blogs I've never heard of.  So let's do it again. -Starr
P.S. Thanks to It's so Very Cheri for setting this up.

Many of you have probably already heard that

GOOGLE Friend Connect will go away

on Feb 29 for any one that is not with Blogspot BUT
there is good news
There is a NEW awesome tool–Linky Followers

  1. You must have the LINKY FOLLOWERS tool on your site to participate.If you see that your link has been deleted you need to add the LINKY FOLLOWER tool to your site and then come back over and re-enter your link. You can have both the LINKY FOLLOWERS & GFC on your site but you must have the LINKY FOLLOWERS toolto participate in this party hop.
  2. You must follow the person who has the party on their site as a thank you.
  3. Just add your blog button to the LINKY PARTY below.
  4. Then grab the BLOG HOP code.You will find the code right under the Linky Party where it says CLICK HERE TO ENTERjust under that it says: WHAT IS A BLOG HOP? GET THE CODE HERE
  5. Click on GET THE CODE HERE and enter it into a post on your site.You can grab the party button code in the FOOTER at Its So Very Cheri
    You can grab info from my post if it helps you with your post.
  6. Follow other bloggers–(as many as you want)–leave each one of the blogs that you follow a comment letting them know you are following them and ask them to follow you back.

If you want to add the BLOG HOP to your own site you will get lots of new followers(see rule #2)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Great news!

You've seen our ceiling tiles.  They are so beautiful.  I'm so happy they were installed because they completely destroy all the vintage character in the house, activating my gag reflex regularly, forcing me to keep sick buckets in every room.

Or maybe I mean that I hate them.  You might say, Starr, ceiling tiles were all the rage, just like all the shabby chic chalk painted furniture is these days. People will be laughing at YOU and talking about your bad taste in 30 years!  

As long as I don't paint a fine antique, I think no one will be laughing at the furniture I paint. It will be *that* timeless. It'll be the awesomest furniture ever. So there.  Anyway, you've changed the subject.  Those tiles have got to go.

See those babies?  Awful.  And they drop the ceiling by a few inches, too.

But we got great news.

First, something ugly, though.

The roof above the kitchen is flat and damaged (we knew this when we bought the house), meaning that the tiles below the bad spot were wavy and damaged by water.  We pulled the tiles down because I wanted to make sure we could be aware of any more water.  No water for months, thanks to drought and then no snow.  Recently, though, we did have a small leak during a big storm.  After a heart attack inducing quote from the roofer ($5k for this portion, $11k for the whole roof), Ryan did an excellent repair job with a pot of tar.

Before you get all up in my case about not having a fund to cover an $11k roof, I'll let you imagine a low income, and then let you be amazed by all the work we've paid for in cash in the past 10 months.  Believe me, we'll be scrimping and saving for that roof--Ryan'll be starting back up his pet massage business, and I'll be selling "I'm a nagging hag" services to tired wives with lazy husbands--but right now, it's gotta wait.

But let me get to my point!  Recently, I woke up in a panic. What if these tiles have ASBESTOS in them?  I know we have asbestos in the duct insulation--we won't touch it, won't mock it, won't even tell it dirty jokes, so it'll leave us alone. What if, though, it's in these tiles we pulled down?  I think I'm getting a cough. Is that because of the invisible asbestos dust??  The addition was done in 1983, which is smack dab in the middle of a lot of legislation banning the use of the material, so there was no way to really know without testing.

So we got the tiles tested for $20.  If the answer had been "yes, you have a cancer-causing agent in your tiles", we would've been able to leave the other ceilings alone, and just deal with this deteriorating one for the bargain price starting at about $1500 for masked men to come in and remove it.  Remember E.T. at the end where there's plastic covering everything and E.T. is in the freezer bag or whatever?  That's what our house would've looked like.

No need to worry. There is no asbestos in our tile!

We got brave and yanked down some sagging tile in the bathroom and look what we found!

Actual ceiling.  I'm sure it's damaged, but I'd much prefer flaking plaster to ugly ass ceiling tile.  And now, because we have no asbestos, we can get a dumpster and demo to our heart's delight without fearing the EPA's fines of $25000 for improper disposal of the stuff.

Ryan is (not) excited about this work.  I am elated.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spring, Snow, then Spring again

Earlier this week, we got our first "major" snow of the 2011/2012 winter season.  Almost three inches.  Considering last year we had boatloads more snow, this storm was pretty measly. However, it was perfect for snow play, and the greatest thing?  It all melted the next day!

Katie has been waiting for snow for months now.

This was Drew's first time walking in snow. He loved it!

The perennial good sport, Winslow.
Poor thing took about 20 minutes to figure out those mittens.

The snowball maker was a big hit.

After about 30 minutes and a few face plants, Drew was ready to go inside.
To get that damn pink hat off.
Now, before you crazy snow fanatics give me a hard time about the snowball maker, let me tell you it was great.  Scoop the snow, close the mold, and you had a perfectly compact snowball.  It was a gift for Christmas. Maybe next year, we'll use it more than once.  If it makes me a dumb southerner to like it, so be it. I've been called worse, like "margarine-lover".  That was a dark time in my life in comparison.

Today, the weather is so good it's hard to believe we had snow on the ground so recently. We've started work on the raised beds (if you look behind the red swing, you'll see some of our early efforts).

What's that? My potting benches in use?  Expect some more about heirloom seeds soon.  And possibly an entry about steaming compost.  If that doesn't excite you, I don't know what will.  It made my skin tingle with delight!

So there we go from snowing to growing in a matter of days.  Love the Midwest. Seriously, Kansas is kind of awesome if you ignore the political crazies and religious fanatics. Of course, my mere presence should be enough to justify calling the state fabulous.

P.S.Ryan deserves a beer for all the work he's done today.  Anybody wanna bring him one?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rain + sickies + pot pie = better than awful day

The kids have been a little sick since Sunday.  Yesterday, it ramped up for Drew and Winslow. And today?  Moi.  You know how in Ghostbusters II, there's an evil pink river flowing through the city?  Just imagine an evil green snotty river, and you'll know what's happening here at the KC in RP.  We haven't tested to see if the slime would make a toaster dance, but we might try.

It's also been raining. I love rain.  We need it.

However. Ahem. On the other hand.

Rain can be so dreary.  So dinner had to be something uplifting, miraculous, more than the beans and rice I had planned (seriously, though, the kids love beans and rice as well as plain ol' lentils), so I went a-cruisin' through my handy-dandy, nift-a-rino Bride and Groom: First and Forever Cookbook that my college friend (who just got engaged and her diamond is bigger than a chocolate chip cookie! Best Wishes, YY!) gave me when Ryan and I got married in 2009.  This cookbook is very very good.  Not only is it gorgeous, but it is also filled with great recipes.  I've only had one mild failure with the beef burgundy, which tasted good, but needed about 2 more hours in the oven.  Just ask my brother. He ate it too, and was free flowing with the criticism.  (I'll just get McDonald's for him next time, so he can have real food.  I'll make something nice for his wife because she did the right thing and pretended to love what I made.)

Anyway, I decided on chicken pot pie.  I've always loved the dish, and have even enjoyed those frozen versions that cost 79 cents at the store, but these days, I much prefer homemade as much as possible.

Chicken Pot Pie, adapted from Bride And Groom: First and Forever Cookbook

1 T olive oil
1 chopped onion
As much garlic as you want, chopped
3/4 tsp dried thyme (use fresh if you want, but use more)
Salt and pepper
1/2 c dry white wine
1 T flour
2/3 c chicken stock
1 jar alfredo sauce (15 oz)
3 c shredded cooked chicken
veggies of your choice: carrots, peas, corn, potatoes.  all should be cooked or canned or frozen (thaw before use)
1 sheet of pie pastry (make it yourself -enough for one pie-or use the premade stuff. This is one of those times I don't mind somebody else making it)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat the oil, onion, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until onion is soft.  Add wine and evaporate until the onions are just a tad wet.  Put in the flour, stir, and cook for 1 minute.  Add the stock, stir around, and let it thicken just a bit (shouldn't take very long at all).

Take the pan off the heat and add in the Alfredo sauce first (yes, you'll notice this is another premade item.  Alfredo sauce is not something I've made well.  A jar'll have to do). Then drop in the chicken and veggies. Add salt or pepper if needed. Roll out the pie dough over the filling.  I guess I should tell you now that I use a round casserole dish for this meal because I can make it a one pot recipe.  If you don't have a stove AND oven ready pan, transfer the filling to an oven friendly casserole dish or even several if you wanna make individual potpies.  Then you'll put the pie dough on.  I don't bother making sure it fits tightly.

Take a pastry brush and brush the beaten egg onto the pie dough.  Bake for 35-45 minutes.  Once you take it out, let it sit at least 15 minutes before serving. It's like lasagna.  If you eat it immediately, not only will you burn the hell out of your mouth, but you'll also get something a bit runnier than it should be.

Forgot to take a picture until we'd eaten supper.  Oopsy.

Drew helped me by building towers of cans and jars.  Can you say brilliant?  I can.  BRILLIANT!  You have to say it loudly with an English accent.

He actually had four things stacked and decided
 that the wasabi sauce needed to be on the floor.

How's that for symmetry?

There, that's where the wasabi goes.  
So there ya have it.  Pot pie saved the day.  And Drew helped.  Let's hope we don't have to do anything drastic tomorrow, like make chocolate cake.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Tea Party

I am an enthusiastic subscriber to the local newspaper (KC Star).  That means while I am busy feeling smug about not having cable, thereby watching very little commercial television, I am exposed to subversive advertising that gets its evil claws around my soul without me even noticing.  These products and restaurants and stores don't even take out ads in the traditional sense.  They submit blurbs to the paper, letting everyone know about their foodie events.  Yes, I'm mainly talking about food since I love to eat it, talk about it, dream about it, cook it, and be an overall snob about it, depending on my mood and energy level at the moment.

This week in the Thursday section that lists all the upcoming events in the city, there was a little blurb about Bluestem Restaurant. It's been in the news some, it might even have a bit of a national reputation, and I've been wanting to go there.  On a side note, a fellow book club member lamented that her meal there was tainted by Eurotrash.  I nodded politely, looked appropriately disgusted by said trash, and filed it away so I could look up the term.  What is Eurotrash?  Well, let's just say if I were thinner, blonder, and gaudier, I could also be Eurotrash.  Hey, a girl can dream.  I'll add that to my "When I grow up, I wanna be..." list.  Currently, I want to be a paid political pundit, so Eurotrash aspirations will have to wait a bit.

Anywho, Bluestem was going to host a Valentine's Tea for families, featuring sandwiches and pastry.  For our family, though, it would've cost about $75 to attend.  Since I'd recently emptied the sofa of all lost change and spent it on a night at the nickel slots, I figured I could throw myself a little tea for a fraction of the price.  I invited another family for the fun and called it a party.

Screw it, we're doing our own tea!

I love parties!
Enjoying her Shirley Temple, Winslow smacks her lips.

My egg salad and cucumber sandwiches had everyone licking the leaf!

Ryan made the cookies...

Oooh, cookies with special messages on them!
Appropriate for Singles Awareness Day.
So wrong, and yet so right.
Isn't he special?

Meanwhile, Martha Stewart called me and made me prepare Chocolate Pots de Creme for all the adult guests.  And by "called me and made me", I mean, my mother subscribes to her magazine and sent me a copy.  Just reading the damn thing draws me into a trance of epic cooking proportions.  The recipe did not turn out as I expected.

Requisite chocolate dessert.

It was a little too ganache-y and not creamy enough.  Hell, it has the word "Creme" in the name--it should be creamy!  Since MS is the queen of perfection, and I am the queen of good enough and that's almost right, I'm going to take the blame.  However, I still ate all of it, my husband ate all of his, my friend ate his and his wife's (she's not a chocolate lover).  So nothing went to waste, despite the dessert's delusions of grandeur.

Of course, we also enjoyed drinks. Shades of red being the colors of VD (that's Valentine's Day, sir, and nothing more ::cough::), we thought Shirley Temples for the kids and something spiked for the adults.

If it's red, it tastes good, right?
Adult red drinks.   Or Triaminic parading around as cherry vodka. 
Even if it's on clearance, do not buy this vodka.
You'll also see Sun Chips in the background.  They cost $3.99.
More than a pound of slab bacon. What gives?
We had flowers at Katie's request.

After the party, the girls read a coloring book together.  I think the words are written in special ink that is invisible to adults.

Oh, and thanks for all my new followers!  I think I've managed to follow everyone back who has left me a message.  If not, I'll catch up in the next day.

Spread the love, y'all. And to those of us in KCMO, enjoy our first inch of snow for the season.

P.S. If you look carefully in one of the photos, you'll see paint samples we're testing in the kitchen...

I linked up to Type A Decorating, A Bowl Full of Lemons.
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