Friday, June 8, 2012

So, Maybe Every Other Month...

What's this?  Blogger has changed it's format?  Obviously I haven't been around for awhile; but according to blogger, 10-20 people still check this blog daily.  A few of my friends have recently encouraged me to keep writing.  Apparently they'd rather read about my life than actually talk to me.  Figures.

Well, trying to sum up the last two months of recipes, house updates, happy links, and good deals may be hard in one post, so let's start out slow.  Maybe there will even be a follow up in the next few weeks.

Spray Paint:
I'm learning to love spray paint.  A few months ago I spray painted all of our brass kitchen pulls, saving a ton of money as compared to buying new and making a huge impact on the look of our kitchen.  There are a few (silverware drawer, under sink cabinet) that have chipped a little, but it is too be expected as I didn't sand or prime (tisk, tisk).  I could very easily repaint them, but it really isn't bothering me that much yet.  Our house has seven outdoor lights that were a very worn, tarnished brass.  I priced out similar new lights at $35-$200 EACH.  Spray paint to the rescue!

Huge improvement!  I still pause in the driveway on my way out of the garage, just so I can admire the change.  I also spray painted the shiny gold house numbers, as well as the shiny brass kick plate on the front door.  Again, these are the type of improvements that nobody else will notice, but I can't stop staring at them.  This is the paint that I used, with one can getting us through 5 fixtures, the numbers, and the kick plate.  Removing the lights required flipping off the breaker and very basic wiring, just like replacing the smoke detectors.  

Window Un-Coverings:

The formal living room playroom in our house has lots of large beautiful windows.  The house came with lots of large, not so beautiful, window coverings.  They are dark brown pocket drapes that look ruffled on the top and had so much fabric that I could never really pull them open as far as I wanted.  Everymorning I tried to coax them as far to the side as I could, and every night we had to strategically pull them closed to cover the whole windows.  I priced out new drapes, but found that nine large, lined drapes could easily cost $500 +.  So, I lived with them, but day after day I've let them annoy me.  Until the other day.  I was sitting on the play room floor while the kids hit me in the head with toys.  I suddenly remembered seeing drapery clips at a store once, and I had an "aha" moment (aka, a "duh!" moment).  After a trial run with rings from Bed, Bath and Beyond, I ordered these much cheaper rings from amazon.  After about an hour of removing, clipping and rehanging, the results are awesome.  More modern, more open, more light and more visible window space.  The pictures aren't great, so you'll just have to trust me on this one. 



I bought a new oven a few months ago, and since doing so, I've hardly baked a thing.  I just haven't been in a baking mood, I guess.  I did, however, make blueberry muffins the other morning.  Browned butter blueberry muffins, to be exact.  I don't think anybody would have guessed that they had browned butter in them, but I knew, and I thought they were delicious.  My children and coworkers concurred.  Find the recipe here

Woo, I must be out-of-blogging-shape, because I'm tired.  More to come...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's Make This a Monthly Event

Daily blog posts are for wimps.  Imagine a once per month blog- go big, get it all out, save time (for the writer as well as the reader).  Can you dig it?

Well, here we go.

A few good things:


Try this recipe for Pad Thai.  Quick, easy, yummy.  Hadley had seconds.  Blake had fourths.

Then he ran back to the table for one more bite.

Chocolate Rads.  Super delicious, crispy outside, gooey center, major chocolate flavor, and fairly easy.  I snuck 2 dozen of them into a movie theater last night (I shared)- way better than movie theater popcorn. 


How can you not love spring time?  No picture can capture the beauty that is Boise right now.  Huge flowering trees and bushes line the streets; tulips and daffodils line my yard.  The windows are open, the house is filled with a delicious breeze.  Life is good. 

Can you see the hint of pink?  Blake's bedroom doesn't have much of a view (sideyard/neighbor's house), but when this tree blooms, his view will be filled with plum blossom awesomeness.


Speaking of views, do you know about top down/bottom up blinds (that's probably not the real name)?  I had never heard of them until we moved into our new house, but I'm a fan.  We leave them on the bottom half only in our master bedroom and bathroom, so we have privacy, but still get views and daylight/moonlight.  We can lie in bed and see the stars, or wake up to this view in the morning.

I love blue skies and "Simpsons" clouds.  

Or this view from the master bathroom:  Sky, flowering pear tree (which sadly does not produce pears), and the chance to pretend that there are not actually 50 houses visible from that window.   

Fun fact:  The other day I was standing on the edge of the tub to open that window, when I realized that we can see the Owyhee mountain range in the distance to the South.  Imagine that- a mountain range has been out our window this whole time, and we didn't even know it.  (You can also see the Boise foothills from Hadley's room, and just barely from Blake's room).  Hooray for mountains.

Black out curtains:  If you have kids and you want them to fall asleep before 10 PM in the summer, you need black out curtains.  Target has a much improved selection compared to a few years ago, with some colors and patterns designed for kids.  I think the curtain was about $25 and I bought a cheap curtain rod for under $15.  For the extra sleep they'll provide, they are worth every penny.

Master Bedroom:  Blake wasn't the only one to get new curtains.  Our master bedroom has been bothering me since we moved in.  The walls were the same pink/mauvey brown as the rest of the house, and we had only put a few things on the walls.  I tried to freshen it up with new curtains last fall, but they just didn't look right (perhaps it was because they hung on a lovely brass rod with flower finials). So, I tricked my husband into painting it with me late on Easter Sunday.  I told him it would take two hours; it took six.  Close enough.  After a fresh coat of Bleeker Beige ($25), some new curtains ($25x2 at JC Penney), a new curtain rod ($13 super clearance at Penney's!), and a lovely quilt/shams from Pottery Barn (not on sale, but I had a 15% off coupon),  it feels like a new room.  We added a wall hanging from the old house (originally purchase at TJ Maxx about 5 years ago- I think it was $39).  The room isn't done, but it feels much more complete and purposeful.  The quilt is not our usual style, but there is such a cozy sense about it, and I am hopeful that the classic print will stand the test of time.  


Have you tried Tortilla Land tortillas yet?  They are fresh, uncooked flour tortillas.  I'd heard rumors of these magically fresh tortillas from my Costco shopping friends, but I had never tried them, so I was so excited to spot them at Fred Meyer a few months ago. They have no preservatives and only a few ingredients (have you looked at the ingredient list on regular store bought flour tortillas?), and they taste awesome.  Oh, and they literally cook up in a minute!  


Have you or your kids ever raised butterflies?  We used to catch caterpillars, stick them in a jar with a few leaves, then dump them out when they died.  I don't think they ever made it to the butterfly stage.  A  few weeks ago, my kids were asking lots of questions about how The Very Hungry Caterpillar became a beautiful butterfly.  And, well, I really didn't know how to answer that one.  I decided to embrace the learning opportunity, and ordered a butterfly house.  We've already all been amazed by the quick transition from larvae to caterpillar to chrysalis; the butterfly hatch is sure to blow our minds. 

A Feel Good Film:

Well, that's all for April.  Who knows what May will bring?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Those Tricky Leprechauns

Remember a few years ago when Jessica Seinfeld wrote a book about sneaking vegetables into kids food?  I remember hearing some debate over whether or not you were actually doing a disservice to your kids by sneaking vegetables into meals, versus teaching them to like them, straight up.  This was before I had kids, so you can guess which side I took.  Now, as a mother with years (3) of experience, I'm all about lying to the little stinkers.

Speaking of lying, how about leprechaun tricks, traps, and shenanigans?  My kids have been talking about nothing but the creepy little green men for past 2 days.  So far, our leprechaun has not been very creative (green water in the toilet, green water in the flower vase, a green banana stuck in the couch cushions- yep, even I don't understand that one).  Luckily, my kids are using their imaginations to my advantage, upgrading our leprechuan a notch or two.  They have been seeing him hiding above the kitchen cabinets, and hearing him in the dining room, prompting them to eat their dinner nicely.  They are finding "tricks" all over the house, my favorite of which was tonight, when Blake ran into the kitchen, saw a container of spinach, and screamed, "Wow!  The leprechaun brought us salad!"   Nope, not the leprechaun, just your sneaky mother.

The spinach was turned into frosting.  To top cupcakes made with beets and zucchini.  Quit gagging.  Seriously, knock it off.  If I hadn't told you, you'd never know what was in them.  What would you do if a box of produce containing beets and zucchini unexpectedly showed up on your doorstep?  (Wait a minute, damn leprechauns...)  Add chocolate, of course!  I've seen recipes for chocolate zucchini cake, and recipes for chocolate beet cake, so I figured I could mix it all together, and luckily, it worked.  I also had recently seen a recipe for frosting that used spinach for green coloring, and so it was decided.  Zucchini beet chocolate cupcakes with spinach frosting.  Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld.

Mmm.. beets a' boiling

 The dry

 How about some veggies with your cupcake batter?

 Fresh from the oven

It's frosting time!

Zucchini Beet Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from this recipe
makes 28 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, mix together:
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.
 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (raw, unpeeled)
1 1/2 cups shredded beets (cooked and peeled)

Mix, then portion into muffin tins, greased or with liners.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool, then frost if desired.

The cupcakes are moist, dense and chocolatey.  Sure they contain sugar and white flour, but pre-frosting, they can't be any worse than most muffins.  They made a perfect afternoon snack for my kids.

Spinach frosting
inspired by this recipe, and this one.

In the bowl of food processor, mix:
 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 TBSP milk
3.5 cups powdered sugar
Chop/mix until smooth and combined.  Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand or handheld mixer, then whip until thick and fluffy.  Frost cupcakes, then keep refrigerated.  This frosting is a bit on the thin side, and tastes like powdered sugar frosting with a twist.  Had I remembered to buy whipping cream, I would have whipped one cup of cream until stiff, then folded in the spinach frosting mixture.  If you try it, let me know how it works.