Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gettin' Ready for the Smokey's!

Mental "to-do" lists.  I am always making them, but can't ever seem to remember them.  I blame it on Facebook.  And Pinterest.  And Etsy.  And...the list could go on.

I have to write things down.  I haven't been doing a good job of that for the past month.  Changes.  They throw me off, in a big way.  I need my planner!  Where are you??  I should probably get a new one.  This is pretty.

So as I make my mental list/i'm-looking-for-pen-and-paper-right-now, I think it would be helpful to me and maybe fun for you if I blogged this list.

Dustin and I are visiting family this Labor Day weekend in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and we leave in two days!  Yippee!!  But I've got a lot of stuff to do to prepare.

I am getting to see a lot of my precious nephews and never-before-seen niece and I've gotta bring gifts!

Miles turned three a week ago.  He needs presents!

Caroline hasn't seen her auntie since she's been alive!  Major gifts needed here!

Hudson has a beautiful, sweet face (and great hair for being almost 1!).  That baby needs to know his aunt loves him!

Brantly.  The kid has to wear braces on his legs.  Everyday.  He's four months old.  Gifts willingly jump into my arms when I am going to see this child. I'm helpless against it.

Ethan is the oldest.  Eight years oldest, in fact.  E-bo.  E-dawg.  My sweet, sweet (crazy, psycho, funny, sarcastic, clever) friend.  I must bring offerings of peace.  He must know that I love him despite my absence.

Bribery, you might say.  To that, I say....I live 800 miles away from these angels.  By pure circumstance, I get to play the role of "awesome aunt who loves to spoil her siblings offspring by bringing gifts".  Yes, I feel like I have to con them into liking me.  These babies haven't seen me in 4 months (or ever, for Sweet Caroline).  I'm a stranger to them.

But, I'm a stranger who brings them toys.

You can write that on my grave.  (Maybe one day, stranger can be replaced with aunt!)

Let's get this list started: (i'm crossing them out as i go)

1. PACK BAGS (check the weather!)
-tennis shoes & socks (outdoors?)
-flight info.

2. CINNAMON ROLLS - bring the recipe, get ingredients in TN. (bring your maple flavoring...that *@$# 's expensive!)

3. GIFTS (italics = project NOT finished)
-baker's cards for Riles
-heart garland and heart letters for Sweet C
-books for Ethan
-milk jug catchers & ball - Ethan
-teething necklaces - Candice, Caitlin, Riley
-book, wings, cardboard guitar, homemade playdough - Miles (birthday, so yeah, he's getting more)
-ToyStory3 blocks- Hudson
-brace cushion - Brantly

4. CRAYONS + ICE TRAY - fun craft with kiddos

5. UPLOAD PEN PICS TO USB - for dad's website.

6. GROCERIES - just a few things
-paper towels
-vanilla yogurt

7. CLEAN ROOM - yuck

8. HANG MAP - over bed

9. LAUNDRY - tomorrow

10. SHOWER - eh, I'll get to that eventually.

Okay, enough fiddle-fartin' here.  I've got to get something done.

Any advice on how I'm gonna be able to do all of this in 2.5 days, let me know!

Gotta run.

Keep Posted!

the rave

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene = DIY Time

We survived a hurricane.

I'm not being sassy, I'm being truthful.

We were very lucky here in West Philly (at least my block) because we didn't experience any power outages, not fallen trees, no flooding.  Just a few scattered branches and  a lot of heavy rainfall.

We were lucky.

One block north of our street, there was a tree that had snapped in half and totally smashed a parked car.  It looked so bizarre.

Here's what I'm really trying to say:

In the midst of people scurrying around to round up a weeks worth of supplies for possible power outages, we were buying lumber our local Lowe's to build a DIY farmhouse table that I've been eyeing on Pintrest.

Let me tell you.  It's the bomb.  So beautiful.  You should build one too!

Here are the pics.

He's not stressed, just working it all out in his mind.

The bones

Conditioning the top boards - pre staining

TA-DA!  Ain't she a beauty?

Bad pic.  I was trying to show the distressing I did. 

The Carpenters - Karen and Richard were "no shows" :)
Great job, fellas

So there it is.  Our Hurricane Irene project.  Here a tutorial if you're interested.  Discovered via Pintrest.

Check out my friend Natalie's blog post about what she's done/been inspired by on Pintrest. 

Oh, before I forget...I conjured up a sweet little gift for my niece Caroline, whom I haven't met yet, but will be seeing very soon!!

Soon-to-be stuffed, felt hearts!
They spell out her name, Caroline, beginning and ending with embroidered hearts

Eventually, they will be in a jar like this

That's all I've got for now.  But I will say that I am seeing four of my nephews soon too!  One just had his third birthday.  There will be more gifts.  I am the distant aunt, so I must bring gifts!!!  

Keep Posted!

the rave

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hello, Fat Bottom Girls...It's Time To Fika

I live with six people, including my husband.  It's just the beginning of, what I think will be, an incredible journey.  One of the things we have decided would be a beneficial exercise is to gather on Wednesdays, just our house, and hang out, discuss our weeks, our lives, thing we've been reading, etc.  Currently we are in the process of telling life stories.  You know, from birth to present; one person each week; for as long or as short as the teller wants it to be.  Once the teller feels like he or she has expounded upon his or her live sufficiently, the listeners are able to ask questions.

Honestly, this intimidates me.  I am a wimp when it comes to vulnerability and plain ol' group discussion.  Luckily, we drew names from a hat the first night, and my name was not drawn.  Whew!  It was Peter who had to begin.  Sucka!  Just kidding.

I can't really describe it, but listening and responding to him tell the story of his life was amazing.  He has a very interesting and different story than myself and I felt like it was a blessing to be guided through someone's journey.  I am really excited to hear the next one.  Hopefully it won't be me just yet.  Not that my story isn't interesting, I just get caught up in "What do I say?" "Where do I begin?".  I need to stop worrying and start talking, I guess.  If you don't know, my continual analysis of a situation is a dead giveaway of my nervousness.

**Time Out

I'm sitting in my LR, blogging and watching life happen outside of my beautiful bay windows. The approaching sky is black and there is, for now, a gentle breeze blowing on my greasy hair, dragon breath, I-woke-up-two-hours-ago-and-haven't-thought-about-personal-hygiene-once self.  It's a heavenly breeze.  One that you feel and chills run up and down your spine, not because it's cooling, but because it's a breath of fresh air, the feeling of autumn on the horizon, or the realization that you are alive right now.  I think it's the breath of God.

**Time In

So, back to life stories.

All I have just told you is a prelude to what I'm really trying to get at. 

Peter shared his life story with us last Wednesday.  Yesterday, his parents drove all the way from Georgia to visit him for a day, on their way to Rhode Island to be a part of his brother's graduation from the navy?!  I can't remember which branch of the military it is.  Regardless, his parents were here.  They are wonderful, beautiful people that I had met only once before.

They were missonaries in Ghana, Africa for 25+ years.  Peter was raised there.  Contrary to popular belief, though Peter and his family are from Africa, they are white. Not all people from Africa are black. I hope I have expanded your world view with this bit of information.  Back to the story....His dad is a doctor from Georgia, and his mom is a nurse from Sweden.  Elisabeth, his mother, speaks many languages, including Arabic and English (very fluently), but she still holds onto that sweet Swedish accent.  I could listen to her talk for hours.  She's so cute.

A couple of years ago, Peter introduced us to one of the many brilliant customs of the Swedes.  They call it Fika (fee-ka).  If you love coffee/tea and sweets at any time of the day, this is the tradition for you, your friends and family.  Think of it as a coffee break + social gathering. We fika a lot around here.  Since his parents were in town and we wouldn't be able to hang out with them until later, we decided to honor the timeless Swedish ritual of Fika. I had made some killer English toffee earlier in the week and we had a slice of store bought pineapple pound cake. 

I was not satisfied with those two treats being our only selection, so I did a little research and discovered there are several traditional Swedish sweets that are served, probably all of the time but especially for Fika.  The one that caught my eye was "Bullar" (Boo-LAR).

Now what do these look like to you???  Cinnamon Rolls!!  You're right!  How easy!  I could just purchase some store bought cinnamon rolls, stick them in the oven and voila!  The American version of a Swedish pastry at it's finest.

I am disappointed/laughing at you if you think that's what I would do.  Not that I wouldn't have done that two months ago after getting home from working an eight hour day.  Presently, I have way too much time on my hands to look for shortcuts.  And I must confess that I LOVE baking, but more specifically I have acquired a deep affection for the phenomena of yeast activated dough.  Letting it rise is a thrilling process for me.  I am amazed every time I lift the dish towel to discover that this lump of mush has just doubled in size! Whoa!

It all started with my friend Amy's bread baking skills.  I admire her.

Needless to say, my cinnamon rolls were not store bought, they were from scratch.  And who better to guide you through a made-from-scratch recipe than The Pioneer Woman herself. 

Look at these babies!

I wish I had a picture of my successful attempt at making these delicious rolls, but there were eaten too quickly.  Not that I'm complaining.

I must warn you, The Pioneer Woman's recipe makes 7 PANS of these guys.  I was forced to summon my 5th grade math skills in order to decrease the amount of cinnamon rolls down to 2 pans.  Fractions intimidate me.  I will say, I must have done a pretty good job dividing things up because these little goodies were to-die-for!

Here's the breakdown:

It makes two pans. Approximately 18 cavities.

1c. whole milk
1/4c. vegetable oil
1/4c. sugar
1/2 package active dry yeast
2-1/4c. all purpose flour (the 1/4c. is separate and added later in the recipe)
1/4tsp. (heaping) baking powder
1/4tsp. (scant) baking soda
1TBS. (heaping) salt
1/2c. or 1 stick of melted butter
1/2c. sugar
lots of cinnamon...depends on your taste preferences

1c. powdered sugar
1/2tsp. maple flavor
2TBS. milk
1TBS. brewed coffee
pinch of salt

I ended up going back doubling the glaze because it was so good.

The end result was very satisfying.  I got to partake in kneading and rolling the dough and watching it rise, not once but twice.  The second rise was after they were in cinnamon roll form.  They filled that round pan like that's what they were made to do.  After our fika, between the decaf coffee (with creamer!) and all the pastries and sweets, my bottom was feeling nice and round.  And jiggly.

I would like to make these again. All SEVEN pans.  How's Labor Day Weekend sound?  Great, I'll be there.

I'll try to take some photos on my next attempt.  Why? Because it's fun.  Am I good at it?  HECKS NO!

Keep Posted!

the rave

Monday, August 15, 2011

Settling In

Okay.  So it's been a while.

You'll be very happy to know that I have taken a few pics of the house since we've settled in a bit, and I am going to share them with you today. Yipee!

Don't expect a lot.  I am not an interior decorator.  We are combining four homes into one. We are making it work.  Eclectic is something I've always wanted to be.  Usually I am neat and tidy (I still am, now I can also say eclectic!).


The bookcase my dad built.  He's always overflowing with a wealth of knowledge.  I'm talking about the bookcase.

Musical corner.  Ladies, if you're husband/boyfriend owns a guitar, purchase him a Hercules Guitar Hanger.  It will make your life, and his, so great.

A view from above.  This is our living area.  There are a lot of characters that make up this space.  Are you ready to meet them? 
We have A LOT of natural lighting in this house.  It's great.  Who needs electricity anyway??  I do.  I know.

Yellow + Velvet = lots of class.  Her name is Fancy.  I just made that up.

This is Karlstad, call him Karl for short....he's great for sitting and sleeping.

Nostalgia.  I have plans to refinish this telephone table. Right now, it is our radio table (great radio, right?!).  She is nameless for now.  Maybe her name can be Nostalgia.  Okay, it is.

Old Man Whisky.  He's having a hard time deciding where he's male or female.  I think of him as a stout old man, but he's wearing a skirt, and his pillow is ruffly.  Identity crisis, I guess.

Great for reading or anything that requires focus.  No slouching here, Gertrude.

Gertrude's counterpart, Milton.  He rocks.  Literally, he is a rocking chair. 

Don't they look so happy together?  I think one day Milton will have new cushions.  For now, he's happy.  (Ignore's out of place). 
Ah, the land of opportunity....or brotherly love?  And lots of other things probably too inappropriate to mention.


We don't have a table yet.  We are looking for a large table that would seat at least 10 and up to infinity.  A table with leaves would be great.  This is not a "want" ad.  I am just telling you.

Our dining room bookshelves....really, they're more like "stuff shelves".
On the left side, we have all of our plates.  Cake plates, pie plates, serving dishes, dinner plates and dessert plates.  We could probably set a table for 30 or more.  This zone is a work in progress.
As you can see,  our books spilled over from our shelves in the living area to the shelves in the dining room.  Doesn't this look like a Barnes and Noble set up?  What an awesome tree book.
Our things go together quite nicely, don't you think?
That big pasta bowl is one of my favorites.  It has/had four smaller dishes, perfect for any type of meal, not just pasta.  We accidentally broke one.  So now we have three.  It's a sad story. :(
Strawberry Shortcake, anyone?


My most favorite room in the house!  I love the kitchen.

My favorite piece of furniture in the whole house. Thanks yard-sale.  Thanks dad.

Chalkboards are always fun.
Inside the cupboard.  A baker's delight. I love jars. 
I had to combine a lot of duplicate items.  A little masking tape label never hurt anyone.

LOVE this thing.  No more fumbling through bottom cabinets to keep your pots and lids in order.  Success!
This is our soon to be coffee corner.  There will be chalkboard shelves for our mugs.  Soon enough, Lord.  Soon enough. 
They taunt me everyday.  I will conquer you sooner than you think, little mugs. 
Also a success.  No more chunky knife blocks...lots more counter space!  This should be in the homes of all.  Ikea...$8 or $9.  Worth it. 
We are professionals here.
We have a variety of spices.  I'm just glad I got to organize them! 
Don't they look great?

Great front porch....also great for watching neighborhood drama! 
The Stoop
The stops right in front of our house and can take you all the way to Penn's Landing.
Our actual corner 
Just wanted to end on a pretty note!'s growing like crazy!
Maybe one day my bedroom will look nice enough to show you pictures of it.  Sigh.  Maybe one day.

Keep Posted!

the rave