Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tied up like a pretzel

I made homemade pretzels last night.  Oh man, were they good.  I need to learn to look at a recipe before I decide to make it though.  Sure, I had all the ingredients, I knew I had those. But, I failed to see how long they would take to make.  And I didn’t start pretzel making until 8.  So I got them all mixed up and then they had to rise for an hour.  So that meant I didn’t start actually cooking them until after 9.  Oh boy.

So I got to finish watching Covert Affairs while my pretzels did their thing.  I started off following the recipe and rolling them into pretzel sticks.  Ug.  They looked terrible and it was a huge pain.  So I made pretzel bites instead and just rolled the dough into little balls.  The recipe called for kosher salt.  I have never in my life purchased kosher salt.  No specific reason, I just haven’t ever done it.  So, what did I use?  Margarita salt, because that’s something I almost always have on hand.  It makes sense, right, it’s way coarser than table salt.  It worked.  And it was funny.

I also topped some with cinnamon and sugar.  They were good but didn’t turn out very sweet; even though I sprinkled on what I thought would be waaaaaay too much sugar.  Maybe if I made a nice glaze to dip them in.  I bet that would be good.  I will definitely be making these again.

The pretzels weren’t as hard as I expected.  I had never made anything with yeast before so I was a little intimidated.  My sister makes the best yeast rolls and I know they take forever to make and are a serious process.  Really other than having to let the pretzels rise for an hour, it didn’t take that long.  And they were so delicious that it was totally worth it.  The roof of my mouth may be a little raw today from excessive salt consumption but I’ll take it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I made the best smoothie in the world for breakfast this morning.  The whole time I was drinking it, I kept thinking, “Man, this thing is so good!”  Oh holy cow, it was DELICIOUS.  I may be in love with this smoothie.  It was way too delicious for breakfast really.  It seemed more like a decadent treat.  Only, it was healthy!  Three cheers for delicious, treat-like, and healthy!  I seriously cannot get over how good it was.  I have been telling any co-worker that would listen how delicious this smoothie was.  And then proceeding to tell them how to make it, as if they care.

So, this was a Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie.  I know, I know, it sounds super weird.  My breakfast foods have been severely limited since the whole food allergy issue.  In case you didn’t know, pretty much all bread has soybeans in it.  So do all those handy little convenience foods like granola bars, Pop Tarts (don’t judge, I love Pop Tarts!), and pretty much anything frozen or drive thru.  That means it’s kind of hard to make a mobile breakfast.  I drive an hour to work so I usually eat in the car.  I can eat cereal or oatmeal, but neither of those are really safe driving foods.  So that’s why I was super excited for this smoothie.  It combined everything you would potentially want for breakfast and dumps it into a cup that can then be drunk through a Starbucks straw (still in the wrapper) that you find in the bottom of your purse.  Win!

Without further ado, the best smoothie ever:
-½ C oatmeal (I threw it in the blender first so that it was nice and powdery, not chunky and weird)  (I also use steel  cut oats so they’re less processed)
-A handful of strawberries (I used raspberries too because they were in the same bag in the freezer)
-1 C milk (the recipe calls for soy but I used skim for obvious reasons)
-1/2 C yogurt (I used strawberry)
-1 tsp sugar
-a splash of vanilla

Then you just blend the whole thing up and pour it in a big cup.  You will seriously love me for sharing this recipe with you.  I found it on All Recipes – my favorite recipe website.  The recipe says this is two servings but I definitely drank the whole thing myself, there wasn’t going to be any sharing going on.  And really, that’s not an unreasonable amount of food for breakfast. And it had two servings of dairy and one of fruit.  So to me, that’s a total win.

And for your viewing pleasure, I took a picture of it while I was driving to work.  Don’t worry, I was stopped at a Stop sign on my nice non-busy road.  That’s my cute, but not practical for filing, dress in the corner of the picture.  I didn’t really think about what I needed to do at work today when I got dressed this morning.  But I had that delicious smoothie and I got to work on time so I think I can still call the day a success.

Now I’m going to have to buy straws on my way home from work because I know there aren’t any more stray Starbucks straws in my purse.  And something about drinking a smoothie without a straw seems like a very bad idea.  The kind of bad idea where I would show up to work covered in smoothie.  Not cool.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why I Love Pinterest

Ug. I said I wouldn't join Pinterest. But I did. However I suck at actually pinning things. Instead, Pinterest really just makes me feel better about myself. It makes me know I am not the only dork out there making old lady crafts. Remember that scrap wreath I made?

That is totally something my grandma would have made.

I'm trying to get better at pinning things without becoming totally obsessed.  Learning that I have food allergies has actually made me use Pinterest more.  I look up recipes for stuff that I can eat all the time.  I'm going to try a Texas Roadhouse roll knock off recipe.  I'm also going to try homemade pretzels.  I'm pretty excited.  I've never really tried anything with yeast so I'm a little nervous.  I've made bread, but really just beer bread or fruit breads.  So, fingers are crossed that it's not a total failure.

I feel like some of the things on Pinterest are ridiculously over the top.  If those are the things you love, no judging.  Well, maybe a little judging.  But, if that's what makes you happy, go for it.  There are some things that, at this point in my life, are just not worth the effort.  One of those things is super elaborate scrap books. Ug.  I tried it when I was in high school/college.  And then I gave up.  I honestly pretty much quit taking pictures.

The picture taking is going to improve.  My husband got me a new camera for my birthday.  I'm so excited to start taking pictures that are better.  And actually start documenting our lives.  Well, other than DIY projects that I take a picture of with my phone.  Keepin' it classy.  

Anyway, my real hope about Pinterest is that it is bringing back the craft projects and recipes of my grandmothers' generation.  I love crocheting.  I love repurposing things.  I love fabric.  I also love my 1960s Betty Crocker cookbook.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

football season

Between being back to work and being sick for the last week and a half, it's been hard to keep up with things.  I haven't done a single project since I started back to work.  And I'm pretty sure I've quit cleaning the house.  Not good!  It's a disaster.

I'm also pretty sure tonight is the first night I've actually cooked dinner this week.  Sheesh.  In my defense, Monday I had a work dinner I had to go to.  Tuesday, I have no idea what happened.  I don't remember Tuesday.  Wednesday night we had Meet the Teacher night an an open house for the new wing of our building so my amazing husband brought me Oklahoma Joe's burnt ends for dinner.  Amazing!  Yesterday was my birthday and my husband was sick so I had leftover burnt ends and made him a hot ham and cheese.

But tonight, tonight was a cooking night.  I made baked potato soup.  And holy cow, it was amazing!  I'm still kind of considering eating a second bowl.  I know, it's really not cold enough for soup, but having been sick and my husband still being sick, I thought soup would really hit the spot.  And it did.  It is in no way healthy, but it's soy free so I can eat it.  Also, obviously peanut free.

So we are on the very edge of football season.  I'm pretty sure that is the best time of year at our house.  We are big Chiefs fans.  We're watching the third pre-season game right now.  Our second date was a Chiefs game.  I had no idea what was going on, but I'm really good at clapping and cheering when other people do. I've picked up a lot since then.  I'm just not always the best at paying attention.  When we go to games I get distracted people watching.

We are having a Labor Day party next weekend.  That means I am going to have to whip our house into shape.  Eek.  I'm thinking if the hubby is still sick tomorrow that will give me some good time to get the house deep cleaned so that I just have to do a quick run through next weekend before our party.

Monday, August 13, 2012

grocery shopping is hard

What?  I know, grocery shopping in real life is not in any way difficult.  Unless you don't know what you want to cook for dinner or something.  But, when you cannot have soy, it's hard to grocery shop.  I have to say, Walmart does not have a great selection of soy free foods.  I came home and my husband asked what I got, I almost had to laugh.

When you're kind of a chubby girl, you feel a little (a lot) self-conscious reading the label of every single food before it goes in your cart.  You start to feel like everybody is assuming you're on a diet and checking calories, fat, or something else.  Sure, those are benefits, I am having to eat way healthier without the choice of soy.  That basically boils down to pretty much zero convenience foods.

I think I did reasonably okay buying groceries.  I bought butter with canola oil to make it spreadable.  Margarine has soybeans in it.  There's pretty much no cereal or bread I can eat.  So I got eggs, so that I can make an omelet or some other portable egg for breakfast.  I also got fruit.  Lots of fruit.  It's draining right now so it can go in a big bowl in my fridge, ready for eating.

And I'm making things from scratch.  We had Chipotle style burritos for dinner.  Rice, black beans, corn, grilled steak, red peppers and onions.  It was pretty darn delicious.  And now I'm on a mission to learn to make bread.  I'm not going to 100% give up bread, it's too good.  But I know it's something I can make so that I can eat it.  I'm just going to have to adapt.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

on food allergies

So remember how I found out I'm allergic to the world.  Or just trees, grass, soybeans, peanuts, and sesame seeds.  I didn't really understood what all that meant.  Peanuts are fairly easy to avoid.  Yes, I'm pretty allergic to them, like allergic enough I have to have an Epi-pen.  It doesn't really make sense to me, but I guess doctors know more than I do.

So, I can avoid peanuts.  I know the things peanuts are in.  No more Reese's cups, no more peanut butter, no more peanut brittle, no straight up peanuts.  Sesame seeds.  That one made me kind of sad.  My favorite Chinese restaurant serves sesame chicken which happens to be one of my all time favorite foods.  Deep fried chicken in a sesame sauce.  Holy cow it's delicious.  But there will be no more sesame chicken for this girl.

Which leads me to the soybeans.  Oh soybeans.  Initially I thought, oh that's easy.  I never eat soybeans.  I've never had an overwhelming need to eat edamame.  Oh but wait, soybeans are in practically everything!  That soy sauce I love on my sesame chicken, both out.  Practically all packaged cookies, a lot of packaged foods, and ice cream sandwiches.

The good news is, this is like a medically mandated diet.  I am severely limited in the quick foods I can eat.  Most of the stuff in our cabinets is off limits for me.  So it's been hard when I got ready to pack my lunch for work and a little more difficult than usual to cook dinner.  I'm guilty of using a lot of quick to cook foods -- those pasta packets with seasoning, Stovetop Stuffing, pasta salad, that sort of thing.  But all of those are out now.

So I'm back to cooking from scratch which is way healthier.  And for lunch.  I've never thought about what I packed for lunch, just whatever sounded good.  Now I have to start thinking about it.  So lately it's been saltine crackers (they are soy free!), cheese, and grapes.

I talked to one of my sisters yesterday and she said she had come up with an allergy free way to make cashew chicken for me and could make it for my birthday when I go to my parents.  I thought that was the sweetest thing for her to do.  And they do actually make soy free soy sauce.  I'm not sure exactly how that works, but I'm willing to try it.

So, soy free here we come.  I think it's going to be easy to handle at home.  And so many restaurants have allergens listed online.  So that's not too bad.  I can check out restaurants before we go and see what I can eat.  I think the real challenge is going to be eating at family dinners or things at other people's houses.  We tailgated Friday night before the Chiefs first pre-season game.  I had to read labels on everything before I could eat it.  Yes, I felt really dumb doing it, but it's worth it to not have hives.

Yesterday I read the labels on my vitamins, both the ones I take have soy in them so I'm going to have to find different vitamins to take.  So, yesterday was totally soy free except for my vitamins.  And guess what, no hives!  It was amazing!  And I worked outside a lot of the day, doing landscaping with my husband and caulking the trim we put up outside the basement.  It was so amazing to have a day without hives.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work i go

I went back to work on Monday.  That has meant little time for anything but work.  And trips to Walmart to get stuff I still need for my office.  Man, do I wish I was still on summer vacation.  This getting up every morning is for the birds.  I am seriously not a fan.

It would be okay I guess if I could've spent the whole week decorating and organizing my office rather than doing schedules, sending out transfers, and other paperwork.  Such is life.  I guess at least I'm lucky to have those two months off.

This year I decided my office needed a more decisive color scheme and some better decorating.  I didn't really have a color in mind.  I went to Walmart the other day to buy fabric for my bulletin boards and fell in love with a black, grey, cream, and chartruse floral print.  It's now on the big bulletin board in my office and on the two smaller cork boards by my desk.  And I'm in love.  I also got some of those vinyl wall quotes to put above my desk.  It's pretty much amazing.  So, even though all the paint on my walls is not the same, I like what's actually hanging on the walls.
And, looking at this picture, I apparently need better lighting in my office.  Those fluorescent lights are just not cutting it.  But I love how my wall looks.  I have a bookshelf ordered, so maybe when it comes in I can get a lamp too.

In other news, I finally went to a doctor that did an allergy test to find out what was causing my hives.  A novel concept, right?  So, I really am allergic to the world.  Pretty much all grass, nearly all trees, sesame seeds, soybeans, and peanuts.  And it's a fairly severe peanut allergy.  How did I get to almost 29 years old and not know I was allergic to peanuts.  So, those crazy food allergies are likely what is causing my hives.  That means it is time for a serious change in diet, soybeans are in practically everything.  So we'll see how that goes.  It's going to involve a lot of label reading, I know that for sure. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

paint and decoupage

I started painting the outside of our house this morning.  I've always liked the general look of our siding.  Until I started painting.  It's way too much like paneling.  We have cedar siding which holds up really well but is a huge pain to paint.  I just did one section.  And I didn't truly realize how bad the old paint looked until I started trimming around the doors.
The before.  
Well, with the door and the outlet trimmed, shows how bad the old paint looked

Why our siding sucks.
I had to come back with a paint brush and paint each of those gray stripes.  Ug.

All done!
Now it's just waiting for me to add trim around the door and at the ground.

So, as soon as my husband gets home, trim is going up.  I was just too lazy to haul the miter box and the air compressor around the house.  So hopefully he will be up for putting some trim up when he gets home from work.  I was pretty sure that me using power tools unsupervised was a bad idea.  So for now I'm working on some of my projects for my office.  And watching P.S. I Love You.  I'm going to have to do a little cleaning at some point today, but for now it's projects and movies.  And then a trip to Sonic for a milk shake.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hangin' Out

It's official!  I have art up in the living room and bedroom.  I could not be happier!  And considering I spent about $15 on two projects to paint 5 canvases I'd say that's not bad at all.

So in the living room we started with canvases that looked like this (even though they had not been up on a wall since we lived in our apartment)
And now we have this...

And the art is up in the bedroom too.  As a side note, my only real complaint about our house is the master bedroom and bath are tiny.  We have a king size bed and it takes up most of our room.  I had to stand with my back against the closet door to take a picture.  I also stood on the bed with my giant level to hang my canvases.  Sometimes it's better that I do these things when I'm home by myself.
It's not exactly the right scale, but for working with what I had, I like it.  And I'm still in love with our new bed frame.  Even if I did bruise my foot putting it together (you should probably wear shoes to put together or move furniture, lesson learned).

And now it's time to go play with the puppy and do some work on the outside of the house.  It quit raining and I don't think it's super hot out.  So, time for caulking and paint.  I really know how to live it up.

Pencil Stencil

No I did not make my own stencil.  I seriously considered it.  I finished my living room art.  No, it's not totally perfect, but I am so happy with how it turned out.  It's laying in the middle of my living room floor, drying, waiting to be hung on the wall.  I can't wait!  That's the great thing about the little Apple Barrel acrylic paints, they dry super fast.  So by the time I make another trip to JoAnn's I can hang it on the wall when I get back.

So right now it's sitting in the middle of our living room floor.  And I love it!  Stenciling three canvases takes quite a while but obviously not nearly as long as doing a whole wall.  And I'm so excited to finally get some art up on the wall.  I'm going to have to bust out my level to get these three hung so that the pattern lines up.  

And then it's on to getting some projects done for my office for when I go back to work next week.  I love my job, but I also love summer vacation, I'm just not quite ready to go back.  It's pretty sad.  But I'm determined for my office to be cuter this year.  I stopped by one of my friend's school yesterday and saw her office, it was adorable.  So my definitely needs to step it up.  I wish I had taken pictures because I am totally going to steal some of her ideas.  But here are some of my ideas....

I think I am going to do this with a piece of wood or a canvas and then cut letters out of scrapbook paper and Mod Podge them on.  Fabulous!

I still haven't decided exactly how to recreate this, but I'm pretty sure it's perfect for my office.  So now I'm ready to go shopping.

I had plans to totally work on the outside of the house today but I woke up and it was raining.  I'm definitely not complaining about the rain.  We are in definite need of a lot of rain.  So I'm just going to do inside projects and me thankful that it's raining.  Still not enough I'm sure, but a little is better than none.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On cooking and self-confidence

I love my husband. I love that he truly believes I can do anything. When he believes it, I believe it too. Sounds strange for someone so in love with DIY, cooking, and crafts - all activities that require believing in oneself.  I haven't always been so self-confident though.

If you knew me in high school or college, I was quite the opposite.  I am the youngest of four sisters, that meant I never had to cook anything.  If I had to contribute to a family meal, it was usually Jell-O.  Wow.  Even when I lived on my own I seldom cooked.  I survived on cereal, take out, and pasta.  Mmmm, healthy.  And the guy I dated in college did nothing to increase my confidence in my cooking skills.  He didn't even think I cooked pasta properly (c'mon, what kind of bonehead can't cook pasta.  And more importantly, what kind of ass criticizes how someone cooks pasta).  So my main cooking dishes were butterscotch brownies for my dad; grilled cheese; a pasta dish with angel hair pasta, jarred sauce, and pre-cooked chicken; or my boyfriend's mom's chicken recipe.  I refused to try cooking anything else because I was sure it would suck.

Fast-forward to 2012 and I am making homemade chocolate pie and lasagna from scratch.  My how times have changed.  My husband and I have cooked together pretty much since we started dating.  And I never wanted to admit I didn't know how to cook something, so I would just figure it out.  And it turned out, I'm a pretty good cook.  Not everything has been a success, but for the most part, things turn out pretty well.

The first big, monumental success was chocolate pie.  We had been dating about a year and my husband invited me to a family holiday.  I asked what I should make.  He asked if I could make a chocolate pie, his grandma used to make them when she was alive and it was his favorite.  I had never in my life made a chocolate pie, unless you count dumping chocolate pudding into a graham cracker crust and topping it with Cool Whip.  But I said sure I could make him a chocolate pie.  I then proceeded to panic.  I tried at least three different chocolate pie recipes that all sucked.  Then my ever intelligent dad told me to use my Betty Crocker cookbook.  What a smart man my father is.  My oldest sister made the pie crust (one thing I still haven't mastered) and I made the filling.  It was a hit.  It's still requested for family dinners.  For a long time I kept the pie crust "recipe" a secret from my husband.  Now that we don't live close to my sister, he knows my secret, and now I use a Pilsbury crust.  I'm going to learn though.

But he's always believed I can make anything for dinner.  And I always try.  If I don't know, I search for a recipe.  Or I read the directions on whatever he's brought home.  I had definitely never fried fish the first night I cooked that in his apartment at the lake.

He's always believed in me, period.  And I am a better person for it.

Off the Wall

Okay, so today is supposed to be a day to be motivated.  I'm trying.  So far, I haven't been super successful.  I finished reading a book.  And I did actually start one of my craft projects.  And I have pictures of another finished project!

So first, the project I've started...  I am cheap, so so cheap.  I like to make things myself.  Since I moved out of my parents house, I have been trying to put my mark on where I live.  My favorite way to do it, is through making things myself -- allowing me to continue being cheap :)  Our house has had a serious lack of stuff on the walls because I haven't found what I want.  Or if I've found it, it's way to expensive.  So for now, I am remaking canvases I already have.  The current project is the living room.

So this is what I started with.  These were canvases that were in our living room at our apartment.  I've always had burgandy as a strong color in my living room because it went with our old couch -- it had pink undertones.  But now I've replaced the burgandy with turquoise and we've sent the pinkish couch to the basement.  So right now the canvases got their first coat of cream paint.  They will get one more coat of just cream and then a last coat with cream mixed with a hint of gold.  And then there are plans for a turquoise stencil.  Inspired by these....

I can't wait to see how it turns out!  I hope it's fabulous.  I finished the art to go up in our bedroom.  Granted, it's all still sitting in our living room waiting to go on the walls, but I'm still happy with the finished product.

I originally had something else in mind, but I found new inspiration and the right stencil and it ended up being way less work.  This is where my idea came from.

So I'm hoping the living room project is going to have the same level of success.  Fingers crossed!  Now I have to get busy.  I have a lot to do before I have to get ready to go out for girls night.