Monday, February 28, 2011

So long, February!

February was a dreadful month. Just dreadful. I am so ready for spring it's not even funny. I will be really ticked if we get any more measureable snow here in Ohio. Surely my wish is laughable. Of course we'll get more snow. That's just the way it goes here. But, to laugh in the face of February, here are a couple 'spring-y' things from my weekend. My apologies in advance for the blurry iphone pics.

A pretty printed pillow I made for my mama

Fresh manicure in OPI's 'Do You Think I'm Tex-y?' from the new Texas themed line. Sorry about the upside down claw picture

Cheerful tulips (my fave!)

HA! That was me laughing in the face of February. Here's hoping March is a great month!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recipe Re-Blog #8

Busy week! Three new recipes this time and all totally different. I really like this New Year's resolution. Not only have I made it through 2 whole months but it's forcing me to branch out and get a little creative in the kitchen. I think John digs it too!

Smoky Turkey Shepherd's Pie: This one is also from Rachael Ray's 365, No Repeats cookbook. Shepherd's Pie is not really something that appeals to me. Let's face it. This is probably one of the most disgusting looking meals ever. But, I'm always looking for a new use for ground turkey so, here we go! This recipe has a TON of ingredients, yo. And also, it took me longer than 30 minutes to make. If I had my sous chef in the kitchen, it would have been 30 mins but I was flying solo. In addition to lots of ingredients, there were a lot of steps, hence the time extension. As for taste, this was pretty good. I left out the bacon because I didn't feel like buying it but had I used it, there would have been an added richness to the flavor. This is also chock full of veggies. Two thumbs up on the healthy scale. I'll make this again, but not for awhile.

Crispy Parmesan Baked Chicken: This is from the April 2010 issue of Woman's Day magazine. I love a good meal you can put in the oven and go do other things while it cooks and this fits the bill. Super simple and I had all the ingredients on hand. This chicken was super tasty! There are only so many things you can do with baked chicken and I liked how this recipe upped the ante with some simple breading. It made it feel fancier than naked chicken. Give this one a try for sure!

And in the snack department.......

Crispy Parmesan Chickpeas: I ripped this recipe out of Woman's Day awhile back too and John thought it sounded like the grossest thing in the world. I had all the ingredients on hand, which is always a plus. Anyway, these were really easy to make. John sure was eating his words when he tried them. He loved them! Plus, they have the added bonus of being fiber-rific. YUM! Hey - it must have been a "crispy parm" issue for Woman's Day that month.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Couch Conundrum

A few weeks ago, John and I happily ended our living room seating hunt with the purchase of a couch and loveseat from Macy's. We not so patiently awaited their delivery. There were big plans to move our current couch and chaise to the basement so John didn't have to sit on an old chair to play Xbox (priorities.) On Saturday, we deftly moved the chaise downstairs. Then came the couch. After several tries and lots of wall scrapes, we decided we were going to have to take off the couch legs. And the door. AND the railing down the stairs. Ever determined, we tried again. Luckily, I've been lifting weights because we held that couch up for darn near 2 hours trying to make the 90 degree turn at the bottom landing into the main part of the basement.
See brand new, pretty couches.

See couch sans legs, waiting for another attempt to go down the stairs. PIVOT!

Bonus points if you know where "pivot" comes from.

John and I huffed and puffed and sweated and pulled various muscles. Sadie had a field day running through the cave hole the wedged couch created. She also tried to ride down it as a slide at one point. Try as we might, that couch wasn't going to make it. We called for over the phone back up by way of my father in law. He didn't offer much but gave some encouragement. After only one small Ashley breakdown, I said I would ask the Macy's movers for their professional opinion. Macy's Mover Stephen even tried to help us. There was enough clearance at the bottom of the stairs......except for that last step. Macy's Mover Stephen says, "No way, no how." He may not have used those words. I thanked him anyway and tipped in all ones. Totally embarassing but it was all I had!
See current living room, now with comfortable seating for 8!
Anyone need a new-to-you couch??

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Confession

The Confession is John Grisham's latest offering of fiction. Grisham, if you've been living under some sort of reading rock, has made quite a name for himself in various aspects of legal drama. Many of his books have been made into movies. He has a knack for suspense and I really appreciate his character arcs.

In The Confession, Donte Drumm is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit. Travis Boyette, the one actually responsible for said crime, has a guilty conscience and commandeers Lutheran minister Keith Schroeder's good will and says he wants to confess to killing Nicole Yarber, the girl Drumm is in prison for having supposedly murdered. Keith and Travis drive from Kansas to Texas at the 11th hour to save Donte's life. Throw in controversial topics such as race and the death penalty and you've got yourself a story.

I'm stopping there because I don't want to give anything away. The Confession was suspenseful but not nearly as much as some of Grisham's other books like The Client and A Time to Kill. It was a fast read, as his usually are, and a page turner and kept my interest. If you've never read anything by him, start elsewhere. But, if you're already a fan, you'll probably enjoy this all the same.

Rating (out of 5): * * *

P.S. Blogger wouldn't let me upload the book cover for some reason. I'm sowwy. It's blue.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pining for Punta Cana

When you have reached a point that you're sick to death of everything in your wardrobe it means it's time for the seasons to change. I am on a big time closet purging mission. There are lots of shirts, pants, skirts, etc. in my closet and dresser that I haven't worn in more than a year and really don't plan to ever wear again. So, it's out with the old. Show no mercy. What this also means is that I'm ready for in with the new. I think my look needs a bit of revitalization. Some pizzazz, if you will. I also need to buy new clothing in my current size. A lot of the pieces I have purged were easily 2 sizes too big. When you wear clothing that is too big for you, you look a lot larger than you really are. Trust me on that one.

So, get ready for an Ashley makeover of makor proportions. Head to toe! Watch out because here comes the new me. :)

Anyway......the reason for this post title is that I'm currently trying to plan a tropical vacation for John and me and Punta Cana is currently in the lead. Something about months of cold, snow and sweaters has me jonesing for the beach. The DR is winning over Cancun for the sole reason that I found a nonstop flight from Cincinnati. I will do anything for a nonstop. The downside to this is that we'd have to board Sadie. Whereas if we fly out of Cleveland (and connect) then our dogsitting is free! This is a tough choice. This will be our first time at an all-inclusive resort. We are super excited about this. Any tips or suggestions? I'm all ears!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recipe Re-Blog #7

Two new recipes this week and they're both keepers! This first one comes from Rachael Ray's 365, No Repeats cookbook. If you are don't have any of her cookbooks, this is a good one to start with. It's chock full of great meals.

A BBQ Burger Brad: Even though 80/20 beef makes a delicious burger, it doesn't make your thighs or arteries look very delicious. I religiously buy either 93/7 or 96/4 beef at the store, the leanest I can find. I know a lot of people wouldn't even bother with these percentages because the lack of fat can make for a dry burger. This is true, however, this recipe really helps combat that. You're essentially mixing in easily 1/3 c. of BBQ sauce with the beef to make the patties. I skipped the Liquid Smoke because that stuff scares me. If you're a burger fan, give this one a shot to stray from the every day. (P.S. I could not find the official recipe for this anywhere online. The link is from someone else's blog but it's the same as in the book.)

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Raisin Scones: I love scones so much! What I don't love about them is their fat/calorie content? These are a little healthier for you but not lacking in flavor at all. They were delicious! I made them on a sunny Saturday morning. It's hard for John and me not to eat all of them. We left two behind for another day. How prudent of us! After they had baked and I sat down to enjoy them, I turned on some classical music and poured myself a cup of coffee. I felt like I was sitting at Panera, only it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. That's what I call a rockin' good Saturday morning. The only thing I changed in this recipe was the amount of buttermilk. I used 6 Tbsps instead of 5. Oh, also, only 1 tsp. of sugar in the glaze. Try these too!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Medium Raw

I do not watch Anthony Bourdain's shows on TV. I'm not sure why as I'm a fan of cooking and food shows in general. I think it's because the things he finds to eat do not always look very appetizing. Nevertheless, in my quest to read new authors and new topics, I picked up his latest memoir, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook.

Medium Raw flips back and forth between successful Bourdain's life and the life of Bourdain before anyone knew who that was. He talks about chefs he admires and others he loathes. Quite gossipy, this one. He discusses various positions in a kitchen and the quick-paced, oft-grueling life of a chef. Also, there are other things I don't really feel like summarizing. Sorry, I'm lazy today.

If you are easily offended by rough language, you should probably skip this one. Bourdain doesn't pull any punches in that department. That sort of thing doesn't really bother me though. While I found Medium Raw interesting, I think I ought to go back and read his first work, Kitchen Confidential, as that is what really put him on the map. I'd like to learn even more about where he came from and what made him a star, and also the gossiping. I love a good gossip. Anyway, this is a quick read and even if you think you're not really a fan of his, it was entertaining all the same.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weighty Issues

Have I told you that for the last 3 Fridays in a row my weigh in was exactly the same? To the tenth! How is this possible? My workout regimen has been unfailing. I will admit the diet side of things hasn't been great but still, exactly the same? Come on! I could take it as a good sign that I'm maintaining but, I'm 3.8 lbs away from my ultimate goal still. Well, my first ultimate goal. Once I hit that, then who knows? The sky's the limit!

Admittedly, this past weekend while we were back home, John and I ate with reckless abandon. I'm embarrassed to report how many cookies we had. Cinnamon rolls AND cheesecake for breakfast? Oh yeah, we went there. And it's because of this that I'm really afraid of this Friday's weigh in. I guess only time will tell what toll my caloriefest took. I probably shouldn't beat myself up about this. I thought I was past doing that. I guess not.

On the plus side, I'm feeling like I look pretty skinny these days. What's that about? My weight world is nuts these days!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Native Tongue

Native Tongue is an old one by Carl Hiaasen but also one I had never read so while I was trying to make my new-old library work for me, I checked it out. As a whole, I find his books entertaining so I figured I’d probably like this one too.

Joe Winder works in PR at the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills, a second rate amusement park in Southern Florida that is currently plagued by scandal. Two of their prized attractions, the blue-tongued mango voles (some sort of small animal) have been stolen. Joe and his boss Charles Chelsea try to spin the story in their favor and keep honcho of the park, Francis X. Kingsbury from firing them. Something is amiss with the voles, however, and Joe intends to get to the bottom of it. After the death of a park veterinarian and some strangeness on the side of the burglars and other nature radicals, Joe finds himself thrust into a tangled web of cover-up, deceit, bribery, crazy jungle men, roided out security guards, and in an all around mess.

Hiaasen’s books generally follow a large cast of characters and Native Tongue was no different. Their plots are all interwoven so that by about the middle of the story, you start to see all of the connections, though in the beginning it can be tough to keep everyone straight. He also typically throws in some humor that garnered a few chuckles from me. I haven’t read anything by him in awhile and had forgotten about his haphazard (in a good way) style. I enjoyed Native Tongue but maybe not as much as some of his other ones. Check out Nature Girl if you’ve never read anything by Hiaasen before. Although, when I was finding the cover image to post here, there were lots of quotes about how Native Tongue sort of put him on the map, so I guess start wherever you want!

Rating: * * * 1/2

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

John and I don't buy gifts for Valentine's Day. I don't know why we don't but we haven't done so since college. I'm fine with this. I guess if I weren't fine with it, he'd be getting me a gift, right? He bought me beautiful flowers and we're having a fancy meal in. Mmmmm, filet and blue cheese mashed potatoes. Make me a steak and I'm yours forever. Well, I'm his forever, not yours.

Enjoy Valentine's Day with your sweetheart!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recipe Re-blog #6

This week I tried two new dishes. The one may not technically count as a recipe because it uses a mix packet for the seasonings but I'm gonna go with it anyway.

Chicken & Rice Casserole: I borrowed this from someone's cookbook and I have no idea where to find it. I typed it up years ago and it's been in my 'to be cooked pile' ever since. It really doesn't matter because it was just okay. I love a good crockpot meal. My crock doesn't have a timer so instead of cooking this during the day, I did it overnight and we just reheated it for dinner later on. We're not picky. The cooking time was 6-8 hours on low and daytime crockpot meals go for 10 hours in our house so you have to choose carefully. The taste was okay but it did not need the additional salt it called for. I could re-type the recipe for you but again, why bother? It didn't get a sleeve in my recipe binder so I don't think it's worth sharing with you! So there.

Spinach Dip: This one, though. Ahhh, c'est magnifique! You know how at every potluck you have ever been to someone brings the spinach dip in a pumpernickel bread bowl? I could swim in that stuff. Surprisingly, I have never made it before. Folks, when looking for the Knorr spinach dip packet that is the crux of this recipe, do yourselves a's not next to those gravy packets! It's also not next to the Ranch packets. It took John and me about 4 stores to figure out, it's by the soup mixes. Sheesh! Well worth the hunt. I took the healthier route and used low fat mayo and sour cream. You could easily use fat free sour cream though and your victims, I mean, guests, would be none the wiser. I made this for my Super Bowl party. My guest list was 2 people, me and John. Wouldn't have it any other way. Awww. Just kidding. There were only 2 of us because I didn't want to share this dip. I was going to freeze half because it makes a lot but who am I kidding, it'll be gone in 1 more day. Try this one!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful that.........

  • I finished my taxes
  • John and I don't exchange gifts for Valentine's day (I don't have time to find one anyway!)
  • I can have wine tomorrow
  • This weekend we're going home to hang out with family
  • Football season is over
  • Vacation planning mode has begun
  • Our new living room furniture is being delivered soon
  • I might have time to sew next weekend

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wine-y Wednesday

This past weekend John and I stopped in at our favorite chocolate/coffee/wine shop, Winan's, before we had dinner. This place smells so delicious you want to fall over when you walk in. Their chocolate is smooth, the coffee divine. And the wine, d'vine....get it? There are always a handful of both reds, whites an dessert wines for tasting as well as a number of fun martinis. I was on a white kick and chose the $3.00 pour (half a glass) of the Montevina Pinot Grigio.

The bottle says: "With aromatics of ripe pear, summer peach and lotus blossom, our vibrant Pinot Grigio offers refreshing flavors of juicy Bartlett pears and citrus with subtle traces of nutmeg and spice. Well-balanced and approachable, this wine is the ultimate palate-pleaser."

I have to agree! It was a palate pleaser. Even though we're in the dead of winter, I appreciated the crispness. I think I'll really appreciate it this summer in my backyard. If you come across this very reasonably priced bottle, pick it up!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

T-shirt to Halter in no time flat!

A couple weeks ago my instructor hosted a Zumba Beach Party at the studio. I got to guest instruct 4 songs along with a few other folks too. We had a great turnout and an awesome time! SO great that we're going to do another one in April. YEA! I wanted something fun to wear, even if it wasn't super beachy.

I bought this shirt for $4.00 many years ago at Gabriel Brothers. It's just a boring old workout shirt and actually it kind of makes me hotter when I wear it. It's brushed cotton. Not the best choice for running outside. (Read: sweaty mess)

I cut off one of the sleeves (It doesn't matter which you choose) and then cut a curved diagonal from just outside the neckline to the armpit on the other side. DO NOT go crazy with the diagonal or it will be too low cut in the back. I speak from experience the first time I tried to do this. I didn't blog about that because it was an awful, unwearable mess.

This is the armhole that is now the new neckhole. See? The side seam is now a seam down the front.

I forgot to take a picture of the back before I cut it up. Also, I got too excited and forgot to take a picture of the little tabbies I cut before I tied them. I wanted the shirt to be pretty fitted so I cut it up the side, now back, seam. Then, I cut fringe a little less than an inch wide and probably 2 inches long up the back. If you've ever made one of those fleece tie blankets, this is the same concept.

Sorry about the detail but see those little tassels? It looks like ruching but they really are strips of fabric tied in knots.

That's wear I tied each strip to the corresponding one on the other side. Again, sorry for the lack of pictures in this department.

Here it is from the front! I think it's pretty cute for a basically free shirt. I didn't have a halter sports bra but I thought the purple straps looked okay because I had matching purple pants on with. I was beachy! Well, sort of. I was ready to party anyway. :)

Recipe Re-Blog #5

Hey! I made it through the month of January and kept to my resolution. How are you doing on your own resolutions? Not to rub it in, but so far, mine is going swimmingly. I tried two new recipes this week. I was cooking my books. No, I'm not laundering money. That's what I call it when I comb through my extensive library of cook books to find recipes that I haven't made yet.

Sauteed Chicken in Mustard-Cream Sauce
: This one was actually not scheduled for this week but when a trip to the grocery store did not include the cranberries I needed, I had to substitute this guy in. It had the added bonus (luckily) that I already had all the ingredients in my fridge/cupboard. LOVE when that happens. It's by my girl Martha and is in the Everyday Food cookbook. This was delicious! It's a keeper for sure. I try not to buy heavy cream very often but I have a handful of recipes that call for it. This will be a good way to use up the half carton that's sitting in the fridge. Try it!

Vegetarian Chili: John and I take soup to work for lunch approximately 4 days a week. I used to be really good about making homemade soup for us and then freezing the leftovers. My freezer was stocked. Then, life happened. I haven't made any soup or chili for awhile but I want to get back into it. I also didn't feel like buying ground beef so, in another "cook your books" effort, I pulled out my Better Homes & Gardens Slow Cooker cookbook and selected this Vegetarian Chili recipe. It is chock full of veggies and fiber-y goodness. I love my crock pot. This link is not exactly the same as the one printed in the book. I used regular diced tomatoes because that's what the BHG recipe in the book called for. For a veggie chili, this was tasty. It filled me up for lunch and only had 200 calories. I don't know how often I'll make this but it was worth trying at least once.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Reliable Wife

I have actually checked out A Reliable Wife by Richard Goolrick from the library before but had to return it. When I saw it at my new to me library as one of the few books that interested me, I thought it must be library fate.

A Reliable Wife takes place in Wisconsin during the turn of the century. Catherine Land has answered widower Ralph Truitt's want ad for "a reliable wife." After some courting by letters, Ralph sends for Catherine from Chicago. He is the richest man in the small Wisconsin town he basically owns. In his 60's, his first wife and daughter dead, and his son missing, Ralph is looking for companionship. He hopes to find this with Catherine. Catherine has other motives. Motives of a monetary nature.

A tale of deceit and sadness, A Reliable Wife was not really what I was expecting. I'm not really sure what I was expecting and I'm leaving out a key ingredient of the story so I don't give away too much about the plot. I didn't really like any of the characters and the plot kind of plodded along. You can probably skip this one.

Rating: * * 1/2

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bringing back the grape!

I haven't talked about wine in awhile. High time I got back to that, I think. Sad to say this may not have been the best bottle to reinstate my wine reviews on. Oh well, we must press on. I have often seen the House Wine label and thought, "How clever!" A label that's bold and catches the eye will, well, catch the eye in an aisle full of bottles. That, and, it was on sale. I think I paid $10 for a bottle of House Wine Red. The store I bought it at claimed it retailed for $14 full price. I doubt it but, let's press on even further.

House Wine Red by the Magnificent Wine Co. is a blend of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon 54%, Merlot 30%, Syrah 11%, Malbec 3%, and Cabernet Franc 2%. Sounds pretty good, right? All except for that 30% of Merlot. That should have been a dead giveaway for me. Oh, I drank it all right but it's definitely not my favorite. No flavors really stood out. They sort of just muddled together. I shan't be purchasing this again anytime soon. 88 Wine Spectator points or not!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy February!

I'm so glad it's February! January is a horrific month. The sun barely shines. It's cold and brutal. Not to say that February is that much better but at least we have Punxatawney Phil to help us stay optimistic that spring is somewhere around the corner. The other bad part about January, to me, is that I don't really have a holiday to decorate for. I don't have "winter" decorations. Truth be told, I skip right over the icy decor and hang up the hearts for Valentine's Day. I don't have very many Valentine's decorations but I also have a hard time committing to the purchase of any. I'm not sure why. I don't, however, have a hard time using free scraps of fabric.

You may recognize this gray and white wool from my recently sewn cowl scarf. I cut out two hearts to stuff and stitch.

Here's the pink one with the crude stuffing I came up with. It's batting scraps.

I stitched around the outside because I wanted them to fray a bit to give it more
of a handmade look.

I stitched in some hot pink ribbon loops. BTW - the ribbon was the only thing I really purchased for this project. It was only fiddy cent. Here are all my baby hearts lined up.

Then, I attached them to the main ribbon so I could string them up.

This is kind of a rough picture but I strung them up on my dresser mirror. Too cute, right? I love how they turned out. I don't normally decorate the bedroom for a holiday but I thought this mirror was the perfect spot.