Monday, May 31, 2010

Lazy lazy

I have to apologize for being a lazy blogger lately. It's not a good excuse but we've been really busy. Last week and this week, Chez G. is hosting my brother-in-law. He's helping out at the office and living with us too. He has been a fine house guest but in trying to be an accommodating host, I've given him free reign over the laptop. We also had to drive north this weekend for the baby shower, which was a smashing success!! It was so good to see my sister, brother-in-law, mom, stepdad and of course everyone who still lives in Ohio. I am glad everything went well but I'm also glad it's over. I was kind of tired of hearing about it and helping plan, even though I was not a hostess. Now we can just focus on the baby getting here. Only 2 more months! CAN'T WAIT!!!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Simplicity #2591 - Umbrellas for a shower

I purchased this lovely yellow fabric with turquoise parasols and pink flowers a number of years ago. I think I was still in college when my local JoAnn's was going out of business. I don't remember how much it cost but it must have been a song because I bought lots of yardage. Having had it in my stash for so long, I finally had the perfect occasion to make this lovely little day dress in Simplicity #2591, my sister's baby shower!

The picture is small but I'm focusing on the sleeveless version on the bottom right corner there. I only got to start on it this past weekend and I was sweating bullets. I never thought I'd finish in time. I only let the time get down to the wire (the shower is this Saturday) because I knew I had other dresses as back ups to wear. Luckily, this pattern went together way easier than I thought it would. I started it on Saturday and I finished it on Sunday. How's that for efficiency? See for yourself!

And here it is from the back. Sorry these pictures aren't the best. You can't see the darts or seaming but up close, it's a stunner!

I'm positively tickled at how well it came out. And it even has pockets, which I didn't know until I starting cutting fabric. I love the boat neck too. I think it's a very flattering cut on me too. I got to brush up on my darts, which I think I'm getting better at, if I do say so myself. And I got to practice my gathers, ever improving. I cut it in a 12 without measuring and thankfully, it fits me like a glove!

After this, I should probably move onto making things for the baby. He'll be here very soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Merlot? Mer-NO!

During my birthday wine buying spree, I decided to broaden my horizons and try some things I was unfamiliar with and maybe revisit some others that I don't have very often. This is one of those bottles. I told the clerk that I'm not really a fan of Merlots but to be fair, it had been a number of years since I tried one and I thought I should give it another shot. She recommended Red Diamond as one of their most popular Merlots. It retails for only $7.99. A bargain! That's not always a good thing though.

The bottle notes that "the silky palate displays flavors of red berries, juicy plums and a touch of caramel and mocha." Well, I don't know if I tasted all of those things. The berries yes and possibly the mocha but not all of them together. I was not a fan of this wine. Unfortunately, I don't know if it was that I didn't like this or that I still don't really like Merlot. I'm going to go with the latter. If so many people are interested in purchasing this wine as the clerk said, then a Merlot-lover I must not be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Condo Creeper

There is a man who lives across the parking lot in our condo complex. He is old and wears the same clothes for about 5 days. Then he changes them. These include a bright orange t-shirt and most recently, a Reds shirt and shorts. Everyday he sits and stares for hours. He watches the comings and goings of the parking lot and all of the condo inhabitants. Sometimes I have to park near his first floor unit and I try not to make eye contact because to me he is creepy.

The other day I was watering my blossoming garden and from afar I hear, "Hey, how ya doin'?" Not knowing from whence this greeting came, I looked up from my flowers to see the creeper waving to me. I wasn't sure what to do so I said, "Hi. Good thanks." I continued watering and a few seconds later I hear some mumbles, "Flowers........lookin' good....mumble." I just said thanks and hurried inside.

Does that make me an unfriendly person? I see this guy all the time and even though he's probably very friendly, it really weirded me out to have him shout across the parking lot and over the garages to speak to me. As if I'd have a complete conversation of that distance. Now I feel like he's always watching me, even when he's not sitting on his patio. I guess I'll have to choose my watering times more carefully.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just cruisin'

In 109 days, John and I will be jetting off to Ft. Lauderdale to board this:

Then we cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman with 2 days at sea. Jealous? I'll send you a postcard! Not really, but I promise to blog about it upon return. We cruised for our honeymoon and have been dying to cruise ever since. We wrestle with extravagant vacations because we are in saving mode. Well, John wrestles. I do the cajoling (and often win!) So, because this trip on the Grandeur of the Seas was a good price and because booking the air separately will save us $400, we open up the purse strings and heard crickets. Just kidding (I spend money all the time on nothing at all!) We opened up the purse strings and booked it. Duh.

How will I ever wait 109 days? Very impatiently.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang

I just finished funny gal Chelsea Handler's second book Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang. If you're unfamiliar with Ms. Handler, she hosts Chelsea Lately on E! Her show is somewhat of an acquired taste but once you settle into her dry wit, it's a hoot! Her book is much the same. I was looking for something lighter and less heavy than the one I got 100 pages into recently and had to quit reading because it was too depressing and also disjointed (Thanks for steering me wrong NY Times, book editor!). I also previously read and enjoyed her first book, Are You There Vodka? It's me, Chelsea.

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang is a series of hilarious stories about Handler and her life. She's always looking for a laugh which is much appreciated by me. I love books that are laugh out loud funny. If you've never seen her show or read her first book, start with one of those and then move onto this one. I think it helps if you're already a fan. Do not recommend this book for anyone who is easily offended by rough language and off color stories though. It's chock full of both!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Thumbs Unite

I finally got everything potted for my balcony garden. Having a balcony garden is advantageous for really only one reason: there are no rabbits or deer to ravage your crop on the third floor. Other than that, I would much rather be planting in my own yard. Le sigh...... Anyway, Having picked up all my herbs a couple weekends ago, I still needed soil, some potted flowers and hanging plants. I found these at Meijer of all places. Their garden center was bustling and their prices were way better than the local nursery we stopped at. Sorry. I do try to shop locally as much as possible but their baskets were $50. The ones I bought were only $15.

Here are my babies.

This is one of my hanging baskets. They're called Super Bells. The red ones are Scarlet and the others are Yellow Chiffon.

Here is the other hanging pot. I just love this vibrant blue color. I don't know if the picture does it justice. Sadly, I have no idea what this flower is. The little tag that tells you all about it is non-existent. Sad face. I will still enjoy him, nameless as he is.

Here are my potted friends, clockwise from the left. That's Genovese Basil, we use this in LOTS of summertime recipes so I hope he stays very hearty. Then the first of a cocktail of Begonia in red. Then, my bay leaf tree. Fresh bay leaves! Below that is the white variety of the cocktail Begonia and then the pink one, Gin, that's the only one whose name I can remember. I just have this little table for them to sit on so they are a bit crowded. Something disadvantageous about balcony gardening is the lack of space.

Here are my herb beds. From left to right: Sage, Oregano, Rosemary, and Cilantro. Sadie is inspecting them for me. I want these to thrive too. I've got big plans for them.

And here is my Husky Red tomato plant! Last year, a lost a number of tomatoes to what I'm told is tomato blight. Let's not have that happen again this year. They are ear-marked for salsa, bruschetta, and countless margherita pizzas. I need him to grow up big and strong. I do not really like tomatoes all that much but I do like them in things. I will not pick one just to eat it though.

Stay tuned for progress reports!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Today is the 2nd anniversary of our wedding! Just 2 short years ago, we were saying our vows, dancing the night away and then embarking on the cruise of a lifetime.....and the journey of a lifetime. Because our Florida trip was somewhat of an anniversary gift to ourselves, we don't really do actual presents, and because it's on a Monday, we had Second Anniversary Observed yesterday. With much fanfare, I put my wedding dress on and twirled around. I wish I could wear that thing everyday. I felt stunning in it.

To celebrate, we had filet mignon and bleu cheese mashed potatoes. As luck would have it, while shopping for our wine night selections, I happened across this bottle of 2003 Reserve Shiraz from Greg Norman. I've never met a Greg Norman wine I didn't like. Unfortunately, his price point is slightly higher than what I spend on a random bottle of wine. This special vintage was on sale that day, marked down to just $17.00. It was originally priced at $59.99. Can you believe that discount?! A special wine for a very special occasion indeed.

According to their website: "The deep, purple hued color of the 2003 Greg Norman Reserve Shiraz is the first thing you notice in this wine. Not far behind are the beautiful aromas of ripe blackberry fruit, brown spice and candied violets. The mouth feel is rich and round with flavors of plums, blackberries, boysenberries and spicy clove. The well structured wine has fine, supple tannins and a long finish." Very complex! I'm too lazy to upload the picture of the bottle but it was absolutely delicious. Having said that, I probably would have been mad if we had paid full price for it. That's far too rich for my blood to spend on one bottle of wine. Here's to another wonderful year!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wine Night

On Saturday, John and I drove south to our friends' house for the second installment of Wine Night. I think we need a snappier name but for now, this will have to do. The theme for this evening was dry reds. These were far more accessible than my Alsace whites a couple months ago. None of this running all over creation to 4 wine stores business. We kept it simple this time. Our assignment was dessert and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Done and Done. In addition to the wine, we were served lovely appetizers including bruschetta and cheese, and a delicious Italian meal of salad, lasagna, and garlic bread. YUM!

Onto the wine.......

This first selection is from a local Cincinnati winery, Vinoklet. Hence the name, Cincinnatus. There was no help on the bottle or the website to tell us what we were supposed to be picking out of the wine flavor-wise but, it was good. The sweetest of the dry wines of the evening. The bottle only noted that it was a "dry, robust wine made from the chambourcin grape." I don't know what this one retails for and it doesn't say on their website. I thought it would be rude to ask. It also won the Silver Medal in some wine competition I cannot recall today.

This is the bottle John and I brought. It's a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bogle Vineyards in California. This was a 2007. We selected it because it is consistently called out as a good value by the New York Times. It also scored a 90 from the Wine Enthusiast. It retails for $15.99 but we got it on sale for $12.99. YEA! Anyway, I think we all really liked this one. Again, the bottle was no help but I swear I was getting hints of honey. Everyone agreed but if they're anything like me, I can always force myself to taste whatever someone else has just said they notice. Now, having said that, according to their website, I was WAY off. Bogle says, "Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape that takes its own sweet time, slowly lingering to ripen on the vine. We are rewarded by its reluctance. Overwhelming cherry and vivid plums create a welcome first impression, while touches of green tea leaves and leather nestle themselves among the spicy, saucy fruit. Fourteen months in American barrels have produced touches of melted caramel and white pepper. With well-integrated tannins and a rich and round finish, this wine will be a favorite for years to come." Anyway, I would definitely buy this one again. John said he wanted to try more of it too. He was reserved last night, since he was our driver.

Last but not least we have a Chianti from Da Vinci. Remembering to take pictures of the bottles this time sure saved a lot of time. The initial taste of this wine was strong, almost an attack on the taste buds. But, John and I both thought it mellowed way out for a dry, red. We liked this one too and would buy it again. And once again, I have no idea what it retails for because I thought it would be rude to ask. It was good though.

For dessert, I made a Triple Chocolate Cherry Cake and we had spumoni ice cream. When selecting this recipe, I knew I wanted something chocolate, and cherry is often found in various dry reds so I thought it would pair nicely as well. Not wanting to bring a plain old box mix cake, I did a little digging. The Betty Crocker website has a wealth of recipes in which you dress up their mixes so it seems like you worked really hard on a fancy dessert. (Sorry, C, cat's out of the bag on that one!) Anyway, this was delicious and low fat. Here is the recipe and I found a ton more that I want to try in the future. I love cake. And wine!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rough Shape

I am a hot mess today, guys. Here is a list and description of all my current ailments:

-Twitchy eye: For about the past week, my left eyelid will rapidly spasm back and forth for a couple seconds inexplicably. This happens at very regular intervals. One morning I counted it happening 3 times before I even got out of the shower. A friend said this is due to stress. I think this could be true but if I can't de-stress, will the twitching stop? I certainly hope so. It's very disconcerting to have no control over your eye movements. And I think John is tired of me pointing at my eye every time it happens and saying, "Look! Did you see it?" He has yet to do so.

-Cloudy eye: This happened just this morning and unfortunately, or fortunately, it also afflicts my left eye. What's curious here is that my vision is cloudy like when my contacts are cloudy, only, I wore my glasses today. No amount of blinking, rubbing or eye drops cleared up the cloudiness. Very frustrating. And it made for an interesting drive into work as well. Plus, I've had a headache pretty much all day that I can only attribute to this issue. As luck would have it, I received in the mail my eye doctor reminder card. Hopefully I can get in soon and address both the twitching and clouds.

-Jacked up back: This happened yesterday, quite embarrassingly, while I was spinning Sadie around in circles. She was having a whopper of a time and it seemed like a great idea. Well, I was having a good time anyway. When I stopped and put her down, sufficiently dizzy, I noticed a twinge in my lower back on the left side. I hobbled around for awhile and decided to go to zumba anyway, where someone took my spot. (I don't want to talk about it. There was crowding. It wasn't good.) The pain wasn't noticeable during class but boy was it there after. And sleeping was tough too. I am an all sides sleeper and I had to knock out the left side and my stomach because those positions were too painful. This morning, the pain seems to have subsided a bit. I should have used the samples of Biofreeze my mother in law gave John this past weekend (don't ask). I think it's probably like Icy Hot, which I've never used. I passed, worried that I would smell like menthol all day.

So, there you have it. I am completely falling apart. And, I've slowly backslided on my no wine drinking except Thurs-Sun. I had a glass last night and I plan on having another tonight. Ah, me. It's a slippery slope. Are my ailments related to this trip back into the bottle? I have to say no because wine has so many healthy and healing qualities. Send good thoughts my way, s'il vous plait!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Swingy summer dress

What do you get when you take this 5 year old tank top that I only use as a pajama top...

This yard and a half of fabulous fabric with umbrellas on it......

And followed this clever tutorial for the Alice dress on Little Red Roost?

Well, I'm glad you asked because you get this fabulous dress that didn't really cost me anything and only took me 2 hours to make!!

I'm pleased as punch at the way this turned out. I also realized that I really enjoy working without a pattern and following the tutorial instructions instead. It's slightly wonky on the left side at the waist but I'm hoping that's due in part to the way I'm standing. I love the ruffle. I love this umbrella print. And man, does this skirt twirl! I think it's going to be a great weekend dress in the coming months. Perfect for graduation parties, shopping, lunch outside while sipping sangria. I guess this dress has a busy summer ahead!

Monday, May 10, 2010

House Rules

House Rules is Jodi Picoult's latest novel and I have been waiting on the hold list forever for this one. She is quite the popular author. In fact, I came up the list and was so excited that I shelved the book I had been reading over vacation to start this one instead.

Set in Vermont, House Rules is the story of Emma Hunt and her two sons, Jacob and Theo. Jacob is a sufferer of Asperger's, a syndrome at the high end of the autism spectrum. He is incredibly smart but also holds the hallmarks of Asperger's in that he cannot connect with others, read emotion, or keep calm when routines are disrupted. Theo is the younger, oft-forgotten brother of Jacob. Emma is raising her teenagers on her own as her ex-husband left her when Jacob was diagnosed with these issues as a child. When Jess Ogilvy, a grad student helping Jacob with his social development, is found dead, an investigation and trial surrounding Jacob turns the Hunt's world upside-down.

House Rules is written in Picoult's traditional style, skipping between narrators. I haven't read any of her work since last year but I find this style refreshing especially after having not read it for awhile. I like Picoult' usual twist, the suspense she creates, and the thought she puts into all her characters. House Rules is probably in my top 5 of her books.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I am only a dog mother so I was not really a celebrant of today's festivities, although John did go to the grocery store by himself instead of us going together. So, that was a nice treat. When I was in Florida, I left behind a quilted duffle bag I sewed for my mom. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it! I think it turned out really well and I even learned how to do French seams for it. Yea! Anyway, she said she really liked it and I know it'll come in handy. She's always traveling somewhere, it seems.

Yesterday, John and I had a mother's day outing in Cleveland. We took my stepmom and my mother-in-law out to breakfast, to a big market downtown and then to buy herbs at a garden center. It was great fun! This is the third year in a row we've done this exact same thing for Mother's day. Must mean everyone enjoys it, right? It was a fun day, even though the weather was super crappy.

Good news! I got all my herbs for the summer and a tomato plant. This year on the balcony, I'll be growing cilantro, basil, rosemary, oregano, and Husky Red tomatoes. I was also given a bay leaf tree. Fresh bay leaves! What I didn't get were any flowers. So, I'll have to get some hanging pots and a few potted ones that I already have the pots for. I can't wait for all my babies to start growing. And to use them in many summer recipes!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vino: Pinot

This 2008 Pinot Noir from Mirassou Winery in California was selected by my wine shopper on my recent wine spending spree. I enjoy a nice Pinot Noir as something different from my typical red preferences, Cabernet and Shiraz. I have seen this label a lot. It's everywhere, including my local Meijer. So, very easily accessible if you're interested in trying it. I think it was probably about $11.00. The problem with buying up all that wine is that I have to store it. The problem with that is that it's tacky to leave the price tag on bottles in your wine rack. And the problem with THAT is I forget how much they cost. I should have taken notes.

Onto the bottle! Claiming to offer "Intense flavors of cherry and plum with delicate floral notes and a hint of vanilla." On Mirassou's website, it also references pomegranate and currants but no vanilla. Why do these tasting notes differ if they're written by the same people? Anyway, I definitely tasted the cherry and plum. The other stuff was too subtle for my palate.

This was dry, but tasty. I would try it again. It seemed classy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sloppy Buffalo Joes

Some time ago, John put sloppy joes on the 'Do Not Make' list. I'm not sure why because we didn't have them very often. Maybe once a month, max. Nevertheless, he's tired of them. This is unfortunate because they have two hallmarks of a great dinner: 1) cheap, 2) fast. The only reason I agreed to put them on the DNM list is because the mix we use is chock full of sodium. Not good. We're trying our darnedest to cut out sodium wherever possible.

When I stumbled on this recipe, I thought I could sneak it past him as a different kind of joe. Not only does John love all things buffalo, but this one doesn't have any additional sodium and has bonus veggies. Two thumbs up, eh?

It's from Rachael Ray and can be found on her site and here on the Food Network. For some reason, I can't find the one I printed out for myself a few weeks ago. That one only used a pound of meat. The one I linked to uses 2 lbs. Far too much for 2 eaters, even with leftovers. So, I recommend halving this recipe. We used ground turkey. There are a lot of ingredients but most of it I had on hand. They were mighty tasty. These joes have entered the dinner rotation for sure!

Monday, May 3, 2010


One Full-blooded white watch from Swatch. $165

I saw this watch on my way to baggage claim in the Swatch store at Cleveland Hopkins airport and have been obsessing over it ever since. They have some with colored faces too which are equally as awesome but the straps are plastic. On the full-blooded white, they're aluminum. Couldn't you just die? I like that it's white and super chunky. If only I could convince John that he should buy it for me. Alas, I couldn't even pull him away from Modern Warfare to look at it online. Le sigh.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today's chuckle

Mom: So, do you have zumba tonight?
Ashley: No. I'm doing strength.
Mom: G-string?
Ashley: Um, what?
Mom: What did you say?
Ashley: I said I'm going to do strength for my workout tonight.
Mom: Oh. I heard g-string.