Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Stepping away from fiction for a spell, I borrowed Rob Lowe's autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, from the library. I am a big fan of his character on Parks and Rec (Love that show!) and decided I'd like to learn a little more about his life. Why not?

Lowe spent his formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Small world, eh? He caught the acting bug as a child and eventually moved with his mother and brothers to California. As a child actor, Lowe was always waiting for his big break. His retelling of these days was very interesting and probably very similar to a lot of child stars. Fame didn't really catch on for him until he was just about ready to throw in the towel and go to college. He was cast in the Coppola film The Outsiders, and everything changed. Throughout the autobiography, Lowe describes anecdotal moments from each notable TV and move shoot he experienced. He also explains his party lifestyle and battle with alcoholism that probably began somewhere around his Brat Pack days and helped him forget and escape a troubled family life at home. The book continues on through his time on TV in the West Wing and up to present day.

I thought this was a quick, interesting read. There was excessive name-dropping but I suppose in a book about Hollywood then that's par for the course. Plus, Rob Lowe is dreamy so he can do whatever he wants. If you're a fan of his work, Lowe has some good stories to tell you. He's had a very busy career and a lot of his work I had completely forgotten about. (Wayne's World, duh!) Give this a shot if you're into the movies of into foxes like Rob Lowe.

Rating: * * *

Monday, January 30, 2012

PO Problem

When we went to Cancun back in October, I decided it would be fun to start sending ourselves a post card from each trip we took. We don't typically buy souvenirs from the destinations so this is a nice way to remember where we go through the years. Well, I promptly forgot about that post card when we returned home and only remembered it when it finally made it to our home more than 2 months later!

Good thing we weren't sending important information!

So a word of warning when mailing post cards internationally, don't rely on speedy service!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recipe Reblog #3

Hosting a crowd for the Super Bowl? Take note!
Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches: This recipe comes from the Everyday FOOD Jan/Feb 2011 issue by Martha Stewart. This pulled chicken had the perfect amount of heat for someone (me) who doesn't like things too terribly spicy. It was also a really nice departure from your typical BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches. Double bonus, I had all but one ingredient on hand! The flavor was really nice and some bleu cheese crumbles would have melted in well, if I'd had some. I followed the recipe exactly but I'll tell you this. It suggests 4 hours on high in the crock, after you've already cooked everything. I don't think this is necessary, especially since the chicken really lost any texture by the end. I would do maybe 4 hours on low or 2 hours on high and I think it'd be just fine. Give this a shot!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Switching Switchplates

We finally got around to fixing the outlets in the kitchen backsplash that we screwed up oh, about 10 months ago. Being tiling novices, John and I had no idea that you were supposed to bump out the outlets so that they would be flush with the tile and then put the plates on TOP of the tile. That would have been some good information prior to starting that project, right? Well, in case you've never tiled a backsplash before I'm telling you now, DO THAT FIRST! Not only does it look super crappy the other way:

                                                                     Case in point

Ignore the terrible picture and half empty (half full?) bottle of wine

But we could have save a lot of time trying to cut these tiny travertine squares to fit perfectly since they would have been hidden. And let's not forget how terribly it went the first time anyway. We have not tackled tiling since.

Anyway, it just so happens, Lowe's carries this handy dandy little product for you DIY fools like us. You accordion these little plastic doo-dads (technical term) and put them around the screws in each outlet. This pushes the plug or switch forward far enough so your plates can lie flat against the tile like they're supposed to, instead of being sunken within the tile.

Another word of warning. If you're going to get decorative stone plates (recommended!) you should buy them all at once because you'll probably stop making the ones that match the 2 you purchased 10 months ago, leaving you at a loss for the other 4 outlets. No matter. John broke one of the fancy plates that we had wedged in to begin with so we just bought all new ones to compliment the tile. See?

So now, finally, we don't think it looks like crap. What an accomplishment! Another word of warning. Before putting in those fancy accordion doo-dads, turn off all appropriate breakers. There's a chance that if your garbage disposal is a combination outlet and switch, it will have two separate breakers. John learned this the hard way in the form of a little shock therapy. Luckily all his faculties seem to be intact.

In other outlet news.....we are in the process of switching all toggle outlets to these fancy bar switches (Do these have a real name? If so, I don't know it) We also bought fancy plates for those too! More on that another time.
John deemed this switch relatively simple once he figured out what he was doing. It wasn't an expensive upgrade, about $2 per switch and the plates were $8-$10. I think it adds a little interest thoug.h And ta-da, my new year's resolution of completeing things on the house is set forth this month. Yahoo!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I am over half done with the HP books now. This is good news because they are getting increasingly longer and longer and harder to hold onto. This is the 4th in the series by J.K. Rowling.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the students of Hogwarts are all aflutter over the Tri-wizard Tournament. Two other wizarding schools will be sending students to Hogwarts where each school offers up a champion wizard to compete against each other in wit and wizarding battles. There is also a new, curious Defense of Dark Arts teacher and Hermione wages a fight for house elf rights. But, all wizards, especially Harry, are nervous about the signs that are pointing to a return by Voldemort. Quelle horreur! Which school will reign supreme? Will Voldemort rise again? Read it and see!

I am really enjoying these but I have a hard time offering up a decent synopsis because I don't want to give anything away and there are lots of plotlines. I'll be taking a Potter break for a few books but never fear. I'll finish it all sooner or later. I've also taken to renting the movies after I finish each book. Unfortunately, I fell asleep in the last 30 minutes of this one on Friday night. Oops! I started it later than I wanted and I'll blame the fact that by Friday, I have trouble keeping my eyes open past 11:00 pm.

Rating: * * * *

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter Brew

Yeah, it's winter and the last thing you want to do is tuck into an ice cold beer but......trust me on this one. I've had this many times but have neglected to share it with you. Je suis desolee.

Looking for a warming, winter beer? Look no further than Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter.

Oh, my friends, this is one dark but sweet and smooth libation. You can definitely tell it's brewed with vanilla beans. It has a great taste! From the bottle: "Deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Madagascar grows the perfect ingredient for an extraordinary Porter brewed in Colorado. Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter. An ale that has all the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic Porter, with an enigmatic surprise thrown in for good measure."

Sounds exotic, yes? Breckenridge typically retails for $9.99 / 6 pack. Not a bargain but well worth it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe for a Bad Day Buster

 Last week I had one of those days where you wonder why your sock is all wet and then you realize there's a hole in the bottom of your shoe and you stepped in a puddle on your way back from the mailbox. No really, it definitely happened to me. The best way to bounce back from that is to have your fruit cheer you up.

This was my morning snack. Yes, I eat two oranges and a banana around 10:00 am each weekday. Actually, I spread them out throughout the morning, and I don't always have two oranges but we had extra. I love me some clementines!

The next best way to cheer yourself up is to have your husband surprise you with a special treat when you get home.

Cheerfully dyed daisies and a Cadbury egg! It may only be January but the Easter candy is out in full force, folks. Does John know me or what? My bad day blues went away and I ended up having a great workout. Exercise is also a great way to bust a bad day. Endorphins are your friends.

Happy Monday, to you!
Here's to not stepping in any puddles!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recipe Reblog #2

Will anything else ever pair as well with chili as cornbread? It's like PB&J. I have never made cornbread from scratch. I grew up on Jiffy cornbread and I love it. But recently, I thought, I have cornmeal, why not try to make cornbread? A-ha!

Creamed Corn Cornbread: This recipe comes from Alton Brown. I often forget about him as a chef but I have a number of his recipes in my binder and they are always winners. Always. This one was no different. It was not nearly as sweet as my tried and true Jiffy mix but was it ever moist! It has buttermilk and creamed corn, a big help. I use a normal Calphalon pan because I don't have a cast iron skillet and it worked fine. Give this a shot!

Recipe Reblog: Go nuts for donuts

Oh, hi. You look like you could use a donut. Am I reading that correctly?

More specifically, you look like a Pumpkin Donut with Honey Glaze is exactly what you had in mind. Well, today is your lucky day! Just drive yourself on over to Ohio and have one with me. What's that? You don't feel like driving here? Well, you can make them yourself too, I was just offering.

This recipe comes from Dessert for Two, a great blog devoted to smaller batches of all things sweet. I love this concept because I'm constantly halving recipes. Who needs a dozen donuts lying around when they'll just end up in your mouth and on your thighs? As a rule, I don't like glazed donuts but these may have converted me. The pumpkin flavor is really subtle so the glaze stands out. Make them for yourself and see!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dwelling: Kitchen Valance

I have been searching high and low for the perfect kitchen valance fabric for over a year now. I wanted something to go with my burnt orange (Sherwin Williams' Reynard) walls but also incorporate the cobalt blue accents. Well guess what. It does not exist. I finally had to face facts and redirect my efforts.

This is Bancroft Bollywood and it can be found at Joann's for $45/yard. Take a coupon!

Sorry about the rough picture. It was a weird time of morning.

I stitched up a simple valance with just a slight gather. This window is 44" wide so I would have had to piece two sections together had I wanted more gathers. That light fixture is going. It's stained glass with grapes on it. Not my style. I have a lot of lighting changes for the whole house. Below is what the window looked like when we first moved in. We hadn't even changed out the cabinet pulls yet but it's the only shot I could find without me taking down the valance because I forgot to take a picture before.

Here is the view from the doorway with the valance. Sorry about the strange picture. It was an iphone shot. That light over the dining table is also going. The Mr. and I are at an impasse on light fixtures at the moment. Rest assured, I will prevail!

Ignore the counter clutter

Anyway. Another step closer to completion. Albeit a small step.

Have you made any changes to your house lately, big or small?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Marriage Plot

First read of 2012!

The Marriage Plot is the third offering from Jeffrey Eugenides. I read and loved his first, Virgin Suicides. Could not get through his second, Middlesex, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. So, when I picked up The Marriage Plot from the library, I had mixed emotions. I felt like I missed the boat on Middlesex but I could not get into it to save my life. Then, it became critically acclaimed. Go figure.

The Marriage Plot follows the love triangle of three Brown students in the 1980's. Madeleine is an English major who falls in love with Leonard Bankhead, a scientist of sorts who is also a manic depressive with a host of problems. Mitchell Grammaticus is a theology (? I can't remember) who is deeply in love with Madeleine but also knows Leonard from various intertwining social circles. What ensues is a sad story about the problems in all of their lives and relationships tailored around Austen's theory of the marriage plot.

I didn't enjoy this one bit. While I understand that it was clearly Eugenides' love letter to his alma mater, Brown, the constant minute details of the school, classes and campus really annoyed me for some reason. There were also painstaking discussions between characters on theory and other works of literature that I could not stand; and I was an English major! It was an incredibly slow read that took me more than a week to get through, not typical for 400 pages. The one tactic I did enjoy was Eugenides' storytelling in which he came back around eventually to discuss the other characters' perspectives of each situation. That being said, I didn't connect with any of the characters. In fact, I kind of hated all of them. Eugenides can write, it's just interspersed with a lot of dullness. This book made it onto a bunch of 'best' lists for 2011. Maybe I should just give up on him and trying to agree with the critics.

Rating: * *
Final Verdict: Skip it

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sisterly Love

Watch out. It's about to get real sappy in here, y'all.

Hands down, my sister is one of the most important people in my life. She is three years older than I am and because of our closeness, we are now both convinced that is the perfect age with which to spread children. As children, we were thick as thieves. There were many times she convinced me to trade rooms with her so I could have the "better room" and I totally agreed. Or, she often tricked me into trading stickers (from our sticker collections, duh) that she no longer wanted and made them seem like prized posessions. She's tricky, no?

We spent one year together in high school and even had one class together. Band. She played flute, I saxophone. I'm going to say I was a more gifted musician than her. Just putting it out there. Then, she went off to college and a few years later so did I. She moved a few hours away after graduation, and I visited her. A lot. For the entire first year I lived in Dayton alone, I didn't spend one weekend here by myself. Then she got married. Then, she moved to Texas.

I love my sister so much and I never tell her that. I don't know what I would do without her even though we only get to see each other a few times a year. I hope some of you have this bond with your sisters (or brothers) and know what I'm talking about. Anyway, since she's my #1 fan, I thought she deserved a post all her own on the day of her birth.
Happy Birthday, B! Wish I were there to celebrate with you!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mad for Plaid

I had been dying for a plaid top to wear on Christmas. To me, plaid in all colors just screams HOLIDAY. I'm not sure why. I searched high and low for a top that, as my sister says, "didn't make me look like a lesbian." (not that there's anything wrong with that) What I found just had absolutely no shape or didn't look festive enough. So, what's a girl to do who is completely sewed out only 5 days before Christmas....make the darn plaid shirt herself!

I picked up some black watch plaid super thick flannel at Joann's to the tune of $9.00. Knowing that I had a finite amount of time in which to complete this project, I selected a pattern I had previously stitched but made a few modifications. Slowly but surely, I am learning that the sizes on many sewing patterns do not really correspond to ready-to-wear clothing. I cut this WAY big, intentionally, with plans to tailor it down later.

This is the Simplicity 3835 Built By Wendy pattern (now out of print, I think. Sowwy!). I made the blouse in the middle but used the longer sleeves of the dress on the right. I also added about 4 inches to the bottom length. Nothing worse than a too short shirt. A lot of people trace the patterns they purchase onto tissue paper so they don't cut up the original pattern. I probably ought to get into this habit but it seems like a gigantic waste of time. When I start cutting out a pattern, I am anxious to sew.

And here it is!

I love how it turned out and I got a lot of compliments. Very Christmas-y indeed! I styled it over a pair of skinnies and added the yellow belt for a pop up color. Also, the belt gives it more shape and waist definition. Without the belt, it's kind of sack-like. I'm definitely going to be using this pattern again now that I know what changes need to be made.

Have you been sewing lately? Do you love plaid as much as I do?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Recipe Re-blog

OK so maybe I won't try to make a new recipe every single week this year but that doesn't mean I won't stop all together. You don't know me at all! This week we tried two new recipes both from.......drum roll.......Rachael Ray! What a surprise!

Not-sagna Pasta Toss: Even though I'm trying to cut back on carbs, I couldn't give up pasta all together. I'm always looking for new pasta dishes to try. They are a weakness of mine. This recipe is a deconstructed lasagna. No layers, but all the same ingredients. I was the sous chef on this one since John had the first session on the treadmill that night. Then, he cooked everything up while I did my run. What a team! He said it was an easy recipe except when she mentions the shallow bowl used to mix the ricotta and water. Definitely don't use a shallow bowl or you will have a mess on your hands! This was VERY filling. We got 5 servings out of it instead of 4 (portion control!) And really probably could have gotten 6 if we had been a bit more judicious with the scooper. Try it!

Orange Cashew Chicken with Broccoli: I love me some Chinese take-out. What I don't love is how bad it is for you. RR has countless Make-Your-Own-Take-Out (MYOTO, as she says) recipes that give you all the flavor but are much better for you (aka not fried). This is one of those recipes! I sous-chefed on this one too. I guess I was all about the backseat cooking this week. But once again, John said it came together easily. Stir fries like this one are a great use of protein, veggies and time. They are quick cooking and full of flavor. We let it simmer a little too long though and the cashews lost their crunch. So, just be sure to turn off the burner.

P.S. Blogger says countless is spelled wrong. Poor form, Blogger spellcheck.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Awesome App

You may have made a resolution this year (like every year) to get healthier and more fit. You may also have a smart phone with app capabilities. If both of these things describe you, you are in luck! I have recently discovered one of the best fitness apps available from the Apple Store, for free! If it's free, it's for me. I don't pay for apps, yo.

This is the perfect app for home workouts because you don't need much equipment, typically just a set of hand weights. It provides countless circuit workouts combining cardio and strength moves for short amounts of time totaling a 30 or 45 minute workout. Your choice! Each move has a picture description and a video you can watch to check your form and make sure you're doing it correctly. The app counts down the seconds of each move for you and tells you when to move onto the next exercise. And the best part...... You can play your own music from itunes or elsewhere while working out!

Circuit training is one of the best ways to blast calories quickly. Your heart rate stays elevated while incorporating strength moves that are very important but some people often overlook in their workouts. I used to be a cardio freak too but muscles are important.Fact. Muscles burn more calories at rest than fat does and the best way to gain muscle (duh) is through strength training!

So, check this one out if you're looking to jazz things up in your workout world. There are lots of different workouts to choose from and I think, the more you complete, the more you unlock. I worked up a good sweat for sure and that's no lie. Disclaimer, it does take way more MB than any other app I have on my iphone. You will want to be connected to wi-fi or a hard network connection when downloading.

Get sweatin'!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In mourning

Guys, it's a sad day indeed here in Ashley G. land. I have just discovered that my style of Joe's Jeans has been discontinued. Oh the inhumanity!! Why?! WHHHHHYYY?! (Are you picturing Nancy Kerrigan? Because I am). If you've been jean shopping ever in your life, you know the frustration it can present. But, my lucky friends, hopefully you may also know the joy of finding that perfect pair of jeans. You know the one. It fits like a glove and even reverts back to its original dimensions after having been stretched and washed. It makes your butt look round and your legs looks long. Perfection.

That is what I had in the Startlet. But, no more. My Starlets were a reward, of sorts. When I first lost some major poundage, I purchased designer jeans because I could finally fit into them. It was a glorious day! I tried on many different brands and styles and landed on these gems. My current Starlets are still in good shape but we all know how jeans wear out. I went to the Saks Outlet AND the Joe's outlet on New Year's Day and there was nary a Starlet to be seen. What the what? I went online and didn't see any on the Joe's site either. CURSES!

Now, I'll have to start over in the designer jean department. This will be a solo mission to the store, I'm guessing, unless I can commandeer a jean-finding friend.

P.S. I was recently on the Joe's site and they were touting their Jean Sweats. They look like jeans but are described as being made of sweats-like materials. Really, Joe's? Have you gone the way of pajama jeans but are tricking fashionistas into pay $150 for them? Can anyone tell me if these truly are sweatpants made to look like jeans? I've GOT to know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Last week....

-The other day, I could not get the Greek alphabet out of my head. It was maddening. No, the Greek alphabet doesn't have a song like the English alphabet, officially, but I happen to know one. Jealous? In my brief sorority career, we had to learn the Greek alphabet. In order to do so, it was taught to us in song form that we also used during rush. I'll sing it for you some time. Great to learn the alphabet, bad to have constantly running through your head.

-Speaking of songs, the other day John and I were putting away laundry and blasting some Bon Jovi. Fact: Mr. Jovi makes mundane tasks better. You Give Love a Bad Name came on and John was dancing around to it, singing along. During the chorus, he started tapping on his wrist. "Why are you tapping on your wrist?" I asked. John responds, "You know, Shot through the heart and you're too late." After I stopped laughing five minutes later, I had the pleasure of telling him the lyrics are "Shot through the heart and you're to blame." Crestfallen, he proclaimed he'd been living a lie for over 20 years.

Later on, he admonished me for never telling him the true lyrics before. He claimed that tapping his wrist at that moment in the song is his signature move (!) and certainly I've seen him do it prior to this. Back off, ladies. He's all mine!

-If it's 10:30pm on a Friday and your bronchitis-recovering husband has already gone to bed and you're on your 4th 3rd glass of wine, bad decisions with chocolate chips that have been hiding in the back of the pantry are likely to happen. You've been warned.

-In the checkout line at Kroger, John overheard a disturbing conversation (yet again). The man checking out in front of him and the cashier were complaining that the police force in our local town are too tough about DUI. "I had only had 4 beers and they pulled me over and charged me." Oh, I'm sorry, sir. You're right, maybe they should have let you go with a warning so you could kill someone else on your way home. The cashier agreed but semi-redeemed himself by saying that he didn't even go out for New Year's because he wanted to drink. Thank you. Please, do your drinking at home or have a designated driver, people. It's really not that difficult. More and more I find myself exclaiming out loud, "What is wrong with everyone?"

-Do they still make button-fly jeans? I had a pair I would say, 10 years ago in high school. What a pain the butt, time-consuming piece of clothing. I'm going to say this "trend" went by the wayside because I haven't come across it lately. Thank God!

-When does Mad Men come back?

That's all I got, fools. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fabric frenzy

I made it exactly one week from receiving a Joann's gift card for Christmas to spending the whole thing on fabric in one trip. It really wasn't my fault. A friend of mine asked if I wanted to scope out her new and first sewing machine. When someone asks me to run a sewing-related errand, I oblige. And, I hadn't been to Joann's in a good two weeks. Far too long. Not only did I pick up these three lovelies, but now I want a new machine. We had a full demonstration of the Emerald 116 Viking. I may have drooled a couple times. I know for certain that I ooh-ed and ahh-ed audibly. That baby sewed whisper quiet. A far cry from my now clunky Kenmore. I even picked up a tip or two about my machine. 8 years and I never knew I could raise the presser foot up even further to get thicker fabric under it. That knowledge would have come in handy on those 4 pairs of slippers.

Anyway, a new machine is likely not in the cards for me in 2012. While it was on sale, it still costs more than twice what my current machine did. Lots of money that could be put to use on house things. Instead, I bought 2 yards each of the mustard berries, purple and white interlocking circles and blue medallion prints above. I've got shirts in mind, patterned and otherwise.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Merry Christmas to Me

I don't usually get money for Christmas but when I do, it ends up in my wallet getting spent on whatever day-to-day purchase happens along. Not this year! When I received the email from Kate Spade announcing an additional 25% off sale items, well I just HAD to click over. Yes, I just got a beautiful bag from my wonderful husband but it never hurts to look, right?

Instead of a bag, I purchased this necklace. It says "ooh la la" in script and I think it will make me feel fancy, and France-y.

Do you want to feel fancy too?
Orig. $74, now only $36.74 with discount after tax, and free shipping!
It is my lot in life never to pay for shipping.

Hurry Hurry! Sale ends soon!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recipe Wrap Up

I love making lists, and I love a good challenge. So, I guess it's only fitting that I make a list of my 2011 challenge. At the beginning of last year, I swore to myself I would try at least one new recipe every week. I'm not going to rehash all of those here but I thought I'd give you my 10 favorites from this past year, in no particular order. Get yourself in the kitchen, fools!

1) Korean Style Chicken Noodle Bowl
2) Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins
3) Sauteed Chicken in Mustard Cream Sauce
4) Irish Soda Bread
5) BBQ Pasta Salad
6) Big Fat Spicy Sate Noodles
7) Cincinnati Sloppy Sliders
8) BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing
9) Almost Famous Rosemary Bread
10) Watermelon Martini
11) Chocolate Cake Donuts
12) Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
13) Key Lime Pie Fudge
14) Crockpot Mulled Wine
15) Ginger Chicken Noodle Bowl

Yeah, I said top 10 but as I was reliving my year in the kitchen I found so many that I wanted to list. And I'm the boss, applesauce.

P.S. This is my 600th post!

P.P.S. Is it sad that most of these are totally carbed out recipes? I guess I know where my loyalties stand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Messy messy

I cannot live like this any longer. When I got my very own desk for my sewing machine instead of commandeering the dining table I thoughy everything else in my crafting world would magically come together. Unfortunately, I am still borrowing a chair from the dining table. The desk on which I sew is crowded with crap. I can't even be bothered to clear off the detritus as I sew. I'm using a shipping box as a trash can, and it's overflowing. What is wrong with me? I will admit that growing up my room was always messy. My sister's was neat as a pin, of course. My parents were constantly imploring me to clean up my pig sty. I guess the state of my craft room probably won't come as much of a surprise to those who stepped foot in my room during my childhood.

But, really. Look at the organizing cubes I have for fabric. Just look! Not very organized at all. I have only myself to blame. When I first put these babies together, all the fabric was folded and neatly stacked. Then I started using it and shoving the remnants back in willy nilly. These cubes are only temporary anyway. There is a perfectly good hand-me-down (read: free) dresser in the garage waiting for me to paint it. Eventually, it will house all this fabric. My poor little machine is also getting dusty now that it lives in the open. Note to self: must sew cover for machine. Someday, I won't have to take the 4th chair back downstairs when we have guests. The day I find the perfect fabric for curtains to sew is near. I can feel it! But for now, I guess this is my craft room in all its glory.

Good thing I made that clean and organized resolution, eh?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books Read in 2011

I knew pretty early on in the year that I wouldn't make it to 50 books read last year. I wasn't really aiming for that number because I was focusing more on quality and new authors. Don't worry, I slipped some fluff in there too. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. So, if you're looking for something to read this year before I start reviewing even more books, here you go!

1) The Fiery Cross, Diana Gabaldon
2) Ford County, John Grisham
3) A Reliable Wife, Richard Goolrick
4) Native Tongue, Carl Hiaasen
5) Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain
6) The Confession, John Grisham
7) The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick, Gene Stone
8) Corduroy Mansions, Alexander McCall Smith
9) The Red Garden, Alice Hoffman
10) Mini-Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella
11) Hell's Corner, David Baldacci
12) Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland
13) Left Neglected, Lisa Genova
14) The Camel Club, David Baldacci
15) The Collectors, David Baldacci
16) Two Kisses for Maddy, Matt Logelin
17) A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Diana Gabaldon
18) All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris
19) If You Were Here, Jen Lancaster
20) The Duggars: 20 and Counting, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar
21) From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris
22) YOU: On a Diet, Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen
23) All Over But the Shoutin', Rick Bragg
24) Money Class, Suze Orman
25) An Echo in the Bone, Diana Gabaldon
26) Bossy Pants, Tina Fey
27) Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
28) City of Thieves, David Benioff
29) The Paris Wife, Paula McClain
30) Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris
31) Dead in the Family, Charlaine Harris
32) Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris
33) Divine Justice, David Baldacci
34) Smokin' Seventeen, Janet Evanovich
35) A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
36) Drama: An Actor's Education, John Lithgow
37) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
38) Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
39) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
40) Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
41) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
42) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling

 Not too shabby, if you ask me. Especially if you know the size of some of these books. I would say, as a whole, the series really did it for me this year. I enjoyed the Outlander, Sookie Stackhouse, and Harry Potter books probably more than any others. Funniest was Bossypants and most interesting was probably Sarah's Key. Other than that, none of them are really jumping out at me as total favorites. Oh well, onto more books. Never enough reading!

Big shout out to my library! I didn't pay for a single book on this list.

And if you need even MORE to read....... Books from 2010, Books from 2009.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions, part deux

Yesterday, I talked about my resolutions for my home in 2012. Now it's time to focus on me.


Did you people know that I run for exercise? If you've been coming here for any length of time, you probably did. Did you also know that I used to not be able to run for more than 45 seconds at a time only 5ish years ago? Now, I regularly run for 50+ minutes with no walking breaks. That's progress, my friends. No fooling, one day I said out loud to no one in particular, "I'm going to run 6 miles today." And I did. It wasn't easy but it sure felt good when I finished.

Running and I have a love-hate relationship. This is probably true for a lot of casual runners. I say casual because I run only 3 days a week and do other activities like strength training and zumba to balance things out. Well, this year, even though I love-hate running, I'm going to really focus on removing the hate part. I'd love to get to a point where I really love running and look forward to every single time I step on the treadmill. Running is so good for me. It's transforming my legs into muscle machines like no other exercise has ever done.

In an attempt to become a better runner in 2012, I'm going to run more races. As in, more than the one 5K I've ever run in my whole life. I'd like to run more 5K's and possibly a 10K or two as well. Some people say you burn out on running if you're not constantly working toward a goal, such as a personal record in a race. When I put up an awesome time on the treadmill I cheer for myself (stop laughing) but I don't get a medal. There's no t-shirt that says, "Personal Best for Ashley". As long as my jacked up foot will allow, I'm going to keep adding distance and upping speed. Being healthy is extremely important to me. Maybe 2012 is also the year I finally hit my elusive goal weight. When I achieve that, I'll tell you what that number is. I'm also going to keep track of the number of miles I run this year. My goal is 500 miles in 2012. Even with only 3 days of running each week, I think I can do it. We shall see!


What's fitness without food, right? This is something I started at the end of 2011 and really want to continue. I know you all read my diatribe in too many carbs recently. Perhaps some of you took it to heart, perhaps some of you chortled aloud. Oh my friends, the first time I read about cutting out white foods I laughed too. I'm going to refocus my attention from carbs to protein. Something I've discovered in my running journey is that protein is a really important fuel component. Duh, right? I feel much better after a run where I ate a piece of cheese beforehand than when I run completely empty-stomached.

In fact, I'm actually going to explore more meatless protein options. Shhh, don't tell John. No, I would never give up meat completely. But, I also have very few main course recipes that feature alternate types of protein and I want to change that. Also, have you seen the price of meat these days? Kroger thinks I'm made of money. So, we'll see what happens and if these meatless dinners are met with much resistance Chez G.

I also want to explore different types of cuisine. I'm hoping to stumble on foods I've never tried and fall in love with them. I love food in general so I have high hopes for this. On the other hand, there are lots of classic recipes I've never attempted before so I'm going to circle back and try those too. Lots of growth in the kitchen from Ashley this year. I probably won't keep up my weekly new recipes but I'll still be branching out in a big way.

OK, if you're still out there, those are my resolutions for 2012. A good year, I can tell.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year one and all!

I hope you all had a joyous celebration of 2012 last night. John and I kept it real. Real easy. Take out Chinese and some champagne in pajamas at home. We have been in our hometown for over a week and only just got back to our house yesterday afternoon. There was lots of laundry, grocery shopping and picking up to accomplish. Neither of us really felt like partying, least of all John who contracted a wicked cold. We did manage a toast at midnight though, just barely. Then I sent him off to bed drugged up with a box of kleenex and the humidifier going. And onto New Year's resolutions.....

New Year's resolutions are important to me. I realize this is not the case for many, or even most, people who generally make them and then immediately break them. I don't take my resolutions lightly (I'm going to eat more broccoli this year) or speak in general terms (I'm going to be nicer), at least I try not to. In recent years, I've accepted resolutions as more of a challenge to myself. I am, apparently, a very goal-oriented person. This is something I really didn't know about myself until I started setting forth these decrees that I must follow. I read 35 books, then I read 50 books, then I cooked a new recipe every week for a whole year. They may seem trivial but to me, I can look back and see my accomplishments and that makes me proud. In learning new things and achieving goals, I bettered myself. That's what resolutions are really about, right? The betterment of your life.

My resolutions are many this year. I'm going to lay them out today and tomorrow for you, because I know you wanted to hear all about them. I realized there was more than just one area in my life that needed improvement.


John and I were lucky enough to purchase are very first home together in October 2010. We've now been living here for over a year. It's only about 10 years old so most appliances and fixtures are relatively modern. However, there are definitely areas that could use some improvement or just homing up in general. The list isn't brief but it's time to really dig in and start crossing off the things we can. We'd like to replace the flooring in the entire house, add a patio or deck, finish my craft room, re-do a bathroom (or two), frame out windows, put in new blinds upstairs, the list goes on and on. I'm sure every home owner has a list like this. It's foolish for me to think we have the time or money to complete all of these things in one calendar year.Now that we've been in the house for the time we have, we noticed the areas that are more urgent and other things that are wants and not needs. OK, so pretty much all that stuff is a want but whatever. Guarantee there will be needs that crop up unexpectedly too.

My house resolution is two-fold. I am kind of a messy person sometimes. Pieces of mail languish on the dining table longer than they should. Magazines that haven't been read in days are left open on tables. Baseboards don't get dusted ever that often. At least I don't leave cupboard doors ajar at random (coughJohncough). 2012 is going to be my year of cleaning. Typically, John and I do cosmetic cleaning on the weekends and then when we have guests, we really clean well before they come. The rest of the time dusting, vacuuming, etc. is often neglected. Then we lament that we spend 4 hours cleaning on a Sunday because we let it all pile up. NO MORE! On any given day of the week, I would likely be embarrassed if a visitor stopped by unannounced. OK, not likely, absolutely for certain would be tomato-red embarrassed and may not let them past the foyer. Part of taking pride in my home is keeping it tidy. If we're going to make upgrades around the house in a major way, then I think I can handle keeping things picked up in the inbetweentimes. At least I hope I can.

Tomorrow......more resolutions! What are some of yours?