Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday smells (and looks) like... Monogrammed Pancakes

Okay, I'm sure you've had enough of the pancakes, but J made extra pancake batter last week, and since he's still doing the Atkins thing, I had several mornings of pancakes for breakfast this week.  What happens when I have time and materials available to me?  Creativity.  In this case, I discovered that I could (together with our favorite Williams-Sonoma Pancake Pen) make letter-shaped pancakes.  And cool spiral pancakes.  And then a combination of the two--monogrammed pancakes!! 

Not a backwards Sigma--This looked like an "M" to me (and the computer) right up until I uploaded it here...

Basically, you pipe out the shape of your letter, then go over the whole area of your pancake.  The first batter down has a chance to cook a bit more, seperately from the rest, so it stays a distinct part of the whole.  Over the course of the week, I worked with several different letters.  I'd like to try a traditional three-letter monogram, but the pancake pen just makes letters too big.  I may have to try using a cake decorating bag and smaller tip to try that!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Unfurnishing J

ETA:  Well, I somehow messed up scheduling this to post and you missed the message below.  To update you though, now that you've found it, J came through the surgery well, and is doing well.  Well, as well as one can do after having one's head cut open.  He's well drugged and making good use of his prescribed pain meds, but seems to have finally climbed his way out of the loopy-grogginess that came with the sedative they used for the actual extraction.

Hi friends!  Yes, it's Friday, and I know you expect to see a Furnishing Friday post this morning.  Instead, I'm hanging out in a waiting room while J has his wisdom teeth removed.  Yes, he still has them (well, depending on when you read this...had them).  I do, too, actually, and have no idea what to expect from the process.  Please send good thoughts our way today, as J deals with the pain of having four parts of his head carved open and as I deal with J.  Clearly, we both need prayers! :)

Oh, and Happy Royal Wedding Day!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday--April 28

Well, it has been another rainy week, and knock on wood, we've still managed to keep the basement mostly dry!  I'm so thankful that our little dehumidifier is trucking along, keeping up with all of the moisture seeping in and around our basement.  I'm thankful this week, too, that we found a house with a finished basement!  While we've had steady rain for a few weeks now, we've had quite regular severe thunderstorms and many tornado warnings since last Friday.  The basement has been a comfortable refuge for our family during these storms. 

This last week has been an interesting Stella & Dot week for me.  I believe I am starting to really find my way in this company, and I am thankful for the amazing supports put in place by our corporate leadership, as well as the other stylists who are so quick to share their experiences, their advice, their encouragement, and even their documents with each other.  I've often commented about how I found it interesting that I belonged the first greek sorority for women, found great involvement in the largest patriotic service organization for women, and (for several years) worked for the largest leadership development organization for girls.  Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald, Mary Desha, and Juliette Gordon Low are awesome role models for me.  I'm so thankful to have discovered the modern-day version of these forward thinking women in Jessica Herrin, and I'm so thankful to be a part of this organization.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Perhaps the least appetizing Wordless Wednesday ever...

Seriously, don't look if you have a weak stomach...

I mean, it's nothing too terrible...

But it did give me the willies while I was taking the picture.

Okay, if you're still reading,

you obviously want to see the picture...

This is the biggest earthworm I've ever seen, hanging out with two friends (who weren't exactly little) in the landing at the base of our outside stairs in our basement.  The water gathers there from a couple of places and then runs into a pipe into the sump pump well in our laundry room.  Eek!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Brunch

J used his talents to the best degree on Sunday, when he headed up the church Easter Brunch between the two Easter services.  I was so proud to stand back and watch as he coordinated items for the potluck, arranged the tables, cooked a ham, bacon, sausage, pancakes (both blueberry and chocolate chip), and who knows what else!  I so wish I had thought to take a picture of it to share with you!

Isn't it appropriate that a talent like J has for cooking should be shared (and in sharing be multiplied)? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I know that many of our readers are in Kentucky, and that I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but for the rest of you--it rained all week. Again.  And this week is poised to be more of the same.  At just over three-fourths of the way through the month, we've had more than ten inches of rain.  Shockingly, since our bout of four inches in twenty-four hours a week and a half ago, we haven't had any more water in the basement, and the dehumidifier seems to be keeping pace.  Cross your fingers that it continues to hold up!

This week I plan to finish off the bathroom and put our guest room back together.  We are so very close to having the big things finished (grout base tile, seal it all one more time, fix and hang the door), and just a few small things to address (touch up paint and hang shelves), that I'm sure I can wrap it up.  Stay tuned!

I'd really like to get a start on the built-ins in the library (the last of the three rooms on my to do list for this spring), but J would prefer I not sand in the same room as his computer and I'd prefer not to stain in my flood-prone laundry room during this never-ending weather cycle.  We'll see how that ends up.

Have a great week, friends!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thoughts on Easter

Several thoughts I wanted to share about this Easter Sunday...

...I get that rain washes everything clean and how that ties in really well with the Easter story, but we're now over ten inches for the month and well over the record for rainiest April on record here.  Can we be done now?  (Yes, I know that means we'll have a terrible dry spell this summer.  I think I'm okay with that.)

...I love the story of the Red Egg.  Are you familiar with the story?  In a nutshell, Mary Magdelene was sharing the story with the Emperor who didn't believe it.  He said something about how a man couldn't be resurrected any more than than an egg could turn red.  The egg she was holding turned red and he believed.  As someone who's had her own struggles with faith, I love this story!  For more stories about Red Eggs and Easter, Google "Red Egg" "Mary Magdelene".

...Our priest's sermon today was awesome.  The church was packed (as per usual on Easter), and instead of sending the infrequent visitors on a guilt trip for not attending more frequently, he reminded us that the resurrection released God in Jesus into the world to be everywhere at all times.  What a comforting reminder--not just to those of us who regularly attend, but to those who don't. 

...Mexican isn't exactly typically for Easter dinner, but it's delicious just the same.  So was the yummy hotdog on romaine lettuce "bun" with sauteed onion/mushroom/bacon relish J made for supper.

I hope you each enjoyed your Easter Sunday!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday smells like... Carb-free foods

J mentioned last week that he's decided to try the Atkins diet, and that has lead to a few interesting meals this week.  For one, I've never really been one to read labels.  I'm glad there are there, of course, and they make interesting reading if you're terribly bored, but to actually pick up each package and read it for specific information prior to putting it in my meal?  Not so much.

It's been interesting, to say the least.  I've discovered that this whole Atkins diet plan is not good for me, too.  Twice this week, J came home for lunch.  Supportive wife that I am (or try to be), I prepared carb-free meals for us to share.  (I was particularly proud of using leaves from romaine hearts as taco shells.)  While the meals were filling, they simply did nothing for my sweet tooth.  And both afternoons I found myself whipping up small batches of frosting (we don't generally keep a lot of sweet stuff in the house, but powdered sugar is usally on hand for decorating other people's cakes) to quench the sugar-drought.  Fail.

Have any of you attempted to support your partner on a diet and completely ruined your own in the process?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Furnishing Friday: Living Room Mantel

A friend suggested that I share the story of our living room mantel for one Furnishing Friday, and I thought it would be fun to try to pull that together!  (Also, it gives me a chance to show off my understated Easter decor.  Forgive the little pink egg--she's had a lot of trouble staying upright.)

Item: Living Room Mantel
Who Purchased: J & JE
Year Purchased/Received: 2008  (Read the story of the weekend we found it here)
Location Purchased/Received: An Antique Affair, a Lexington antique show. 
Description:  The mantel stands 51 inches tall, and the top piece is five feet across.  The paint is almost entirely chipped off of the top piece of the mantel, as well as the bottoms of the support pieces.  The center opening is 37 inches high and 31 inches across.  The mantel is solid wood, though I am afraid I don't know what type, and we believe it was built in the 1800's.
Markings: None.
How it came to the MP: I shared the story of buying the mantel, as well as why I wanted one, here.  I think it's worth pointing out that we've layered the mantel with other pieces (pictured on the blog for the first time here--apparently I never got around to writing a post-- and here) so well that folks who enter our house for the first time (and subsequent times until we let them in on the secret) truly believe we have a fireplace.  This is really more than I could have hoped for!  When we bought the mantel, I had a pristine white mantel in the picture in my head and intended to clean this one up quite a bit.  Entropy being what it is around the MP, it remained chippy and over time I grew to like it this way.  Our burlap table runner and canvas drop cloth curtains are a result of the evolution of style kicked off by the chippy mantel.  What I love about the mantel is that if I do ever want to redo it, the lines are fabulous and it will make a lovely mantel either way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday--April 21

We had a terrible line of storms go through last night (many of you did, too, I imagine), and after all of the rain we've had this month, I am so thankful that we didn't have any additional water issues in the basement!  In fact, after more than a week of doing 'double duty' with our residential dehumidifier and a rented industrial dehumidifier running 24/7 to dry things out and keep them that way, we were able to return the rental this morning.  I'm thankful, too, for the husband who loaded it up and the rental store employee who unloaded it when I got to the store.  That thing looked heavy!!  And, to round out my basement thankfulness, I'm thankful for our one year contract with Stanley Steamer, and the knowledge that I can just call them up to come clean my carpets again.  J and I laughed today that we've managed to cut the annual basement water damage cost in half this year!

More rain is on the way (with two inches to go before this becomes the wettest April on record in Lexington, I think Mother Nature is making a run at the record), so please pray, cross your fingers, do an anti-rain dance for us! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

While it looks bizarrely off center on the wall, I promise this is centered over the vanity!  And no, the door is still not attached to the hinges...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gluten-Free Cake Love

J and I have a great group of friends who get together once a month for game night--video, card, board, etc--and generally some eating, as well (J talked about our most recent Game Night offerings here).  Well, one of the couples in our group live a gluten-free lifestyle (one suffers Celiac's Disease and the rest eat gluten-free in solidarity), so we try to offer gluten-free options.  One area that this has suffered has been in my baking.  I make cakes/cupcakes for the group periodically, and so far I had not tried to go gluten-free. 

Last week, the wife half of this couple celebrated a birthday, and the awesome husband half arranged a suprise birthday dinner at one of their favorite Mexican restaurants.  To complete the celebration, he asked that I make a cake (gluten-free of course).  Eek!

Now, to be clear, I did not make a cake from scratch.  Gluten-free cake mixes have come a long way, and seemed to be a safer route to a quality cake.  I've no doubt that scratch recipes might turn out a better quality cake (just like they might turn out a better result than a 'regular' cake mix); I also have no doubt that there is more room for error and more things to go wrong.  I used Pamela's Chocolate Cake mix.  We used Pamela's pancake mix for our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper with great results (not grainy, tastes like pancake), so I didn't hesitate to grab her mix for this project, too.  Best compliment?  A non-gluten free party guest raved about how delicious the cake was!

So now that you know how I made the cake, what about the decorating?  Well, the week before I noticed a flower pot cake in the Williams Sonoma catalog that provided the inspiration (you can order your own here).  In order to be sure we had enough cake, I also made some cupcakes to stretch (and to work for the little ones who attended!).  Enjoy!

All decorated and ready for the knife...

...and the inside shot!
Thank you, Leo, for the opportunity to try my hand at gluten-free!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hi friends, JE here--finally back after a very long weekend of work (and very grateful to J who stepped in with posts for y'all to read)!  Sometime Sunday I realized that I didn't have anything to update on the checklist and commented as much to J.  What did I do last week?? 

Well, to be fair, much of the week was all about baking (baked Tuesday for a birthday party Wednesday; decorated cake all day Wednesday for that party--come back tomorrow to see the result; baked cupcakes Friday morning and decorated them late Friday night for the church bakesale, baked another cake Saturday morning...). 

What else happened at the MP?  Well, it rained (a lot) last week, and as is our apparent custom during heavy spring rains, we ran out to grab an industrial strength dehumidifier for the basement.  This year, the basement flooded when water pushed up through a crack in the basement floor.  It also kind of flooded a little bit later in the week when I decided to do a load of laundry (What idiot decided to run the washer and sump pump on the same circuit??  Oh wait, Previous Owner...).  On a positive note, I was checking the basement regularly and caught the thrown breaker before the sump pump well overflowed (but after water started to flow through that crack in the floor again).  I look forward to having Stanley Steamer out again soon!

Between baking, cleaning house, fighting the rains, and work (great week for Stella & Dot and typical week for the lawyering sort), our week just seems to have filled itself up.  I still don't feel as though I've gotten ahead of my to-do list, and I know that is represented by our lack of good house projects.  Cross your fingers that we manage to have a good week with a few more projects crossed off this week!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Freestyling with J

Hello all, J here again. JE had to go to work after Church, and I expect that she will be pretty tired when she gets home, likely too tired to write two blog posts (i.e. today's and tomorrow's). So, bear with me as a substitute writer, and know that your tolerance will result in a much better Bella blog on Monday.

Sundays here mean that you get a entry without a theme, leaving me to my own devices. Those devices today tell me to share two things that I learned today. First, if you have attended Church with JE and me, you know that she teaches J2A at 10, and I've taken on leading our adult contemporary class, the Wired Word. I'm sure that this shocks you, but JE and I can sometimes take these duties a bit far, meaning that one or both of us runs over, leading us to walk into church after the service has--technically--started. Often, this isn't a problem, as attention is at the front, and we can come in the back and get to our regular pew without too much commotion. Today, with the extended reading in the back (due to it being Palm Sunday), JE and I came in late, with all attention on the back.

JE and I not being of a mind to let tradition trump our desire to avoid social awkwardness, we chose to slip into a pew at the back entrance and act like we had been there the whole time.

I do not know about you, but JE is not that comfortable with change, which means that we are typically in the same pew ever Sunday that we attend. And, I admit, I like it that way too. I like how our pew is on the sunny side of the church, and how the wind comes in through the window, bringing spring and all God's wonder into our gathering. I know it's not right, as s/he's always there, but it's kind of like I get to see God slipping into Church on the cusp of being late due to doing wonders elsewhere, with the notion making the connection to the holy ever so intimate.

By sitting elsewhere, I missed that today. But, I learned something else. A change of perspective can be great. First, it makes you appreciate and feel blessed for the everyday. Before, I never really thought about how much I liked where we sit, but I got to learn that today. Second, sometimes the different can be better in a few ways. For example, today JE and I got to sit behind Carol and Michael Summers, two great people who we got to know in doing some work in the Church kitchen. It's always fun to see them, and due to our proximity, we got to visit with them more than we would on a typical Sunday (Carol and I even had a muted "sword" fight with our palm fronds until we realized that it might be a skotch blasphemous.). Third and finally, a different perspective is exactly that. I got to see the sermon from a different area, I heard the choir with different acoustics, etc. Each of these differences, together with us in the congregation, means that many variables in the context of our church experience changed today. In the end, just that little difference in the complex system can get you out of your head, make you more attentive and attuned to God's whisper and make your worship that much better.

In short, I endorse occasionally taking a different pew.

Now, I was going to write about the second thing I learned today, but I think this post is too long now. And, I want to take a nap (I've been writing in the sun), and I still have work to do today. So I'll leave the other point for another time. Until then, switch things up a bit. It might be the best thing you do that day.

Saturday Smells Like . . . Asian Lettuce Wraps

Hello all, J here.

JE had a long day "slangin rocks" (selling jewelry), and is currently sound asleep beside me. No. I won't pour cold water on her. Did your parents not love you enough as a child or something? Who's that cruel?

At any rate, since it's technically past Saturday, and I saw that she did not have time to do a post, I figured I'd back her up. I mean, it's Saturday Smells Like, and I cooked for Melton game night, so the post writes itself. And, you never know when I'm going to mess up and need to cash in some husband points.

This Saturday smells like stir fry beef and pork, with vegetables and Teriyaki sauce. This mixture formed the basis of our lettuce wraps. JE and I love the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps, and we were expecting a friend who has gluten allergies, so lettuce wraps seemed like a great idea. All you have to do is season some meat (chicken, pork, steak, whatever you like . . . except for haggis . . . there's no haggis in stir fry), chop some vegetables and heat a wok and you're set.

The idea for lettuce wraps struck me as I was planning for game night. Planning for Melton game night this time occurred as J walked around the Beaumont Kroger this morning, trying to figure out what would work with Atkins Induction (don't judge me; I'm fat and I like to cook; I'll try almost anything to lose weight now . . . you know, except for that portion control/exercise thing. That's crazy.), not contain gluten and be tasty for everyone else.

I was walking around the vegetables, saw the lettuce, and thought, "Why do they call it 'lettuce'? Were the marketing people opposed to 'edible grass'?" This opportunity wasted was later saved when I saw huge pork chops and steak on "manager's special." Only then did I think, "Wow, great deal on meat! How can I make this work?" After a bit of brainstorming, I came up with lettuce wraps.

So, how do you make lettuce wraps? Well, the lettuce wraps themselves are pretty easy. Step one, buy one head of iceberg lettuce. Step two, google the name thing, because it's really bugging me. Step three, curse the interwebs for not having truly useful information on the etymology of vegetable names. Step four, take off the plastic and carefully peel off lettuce leaves until you think you have enough.

The harder part is what you put into the lettuce leaves. I chose to create my own stir fry marinade for the pork and steak and work from there. I butterflied the pork chops (huge chops that you could cut pockets in to stuff, so the butterfly was necessary). I then rubbed the pork and the steak down on both sides with some sesame oil (This is more for flavor, as I would later use grapeseed oil to perform the stir fry, as sesame oil's smoke point is too low to use as the oil for the stir fry.) After you rub in the sesame oil, salt and pepper both sides of the meat. Then put on granulated garlic, paprika, red pepper flake, ginger and just a bit of cumin. Put the seasoned meat in a plastic bag with some soy sauce to marinate for at least thirty minutes (If you want to score extra husband points, put the plastic bags on a plate. That way, if you fail to seal the bag properly, you won't have a mess in the fridge. Or you could just seal the bag correctly in the first place and use the plate to make your wife feel better. Whatever works for you.).

During that thirty minutes, you can break down the vegetables that you are going to use in the stir fry. I chose bean sprouts, bell peppers (red, yellow and orange for color), broccoli, water chestnuts, jalapeños and onions. When prepping, try to get each of the pieces about the same size, as you want to have uniformish cooking times. I also put each ingredient in its own bowl, so people could choose what they wanted in their lettuce wraps. This pretty much made it like a Mongolian Barbecue, except instead of rice or tortillas, we had lettuce leaves.

Now, after the meat has marinated long enough, cube it, and pour the remaining marinade in the bowl with the cubes and mix it around with your hands so it coats all of the cubes. Then, go wash your hands. Seriously. You have meat juice on your hands. I'll wait. . . . (After that, get spoons for each of the bowls or get a towel for your hands, to prevent cross-contamination.)

Next comes the fun part. Get your wok pan. Put it on the range at high heat. Pour one and one half to two tablespoons of grapeseed oil in the hot pan. Next, put in the article that will take the longest to cook. Generally speaking, this will be onions or the meat, at least for me. I like my onions cooked (raw onions can be overpowering), and I like to be safe with my meat. I also like chicken and pork fully cooked when I'm stir frying (Yes. It's a horrible joke, but its late, and I'm trying to be somewhat entertaining). Next, constantly stir the meat/onions around the wok with a wooden spatula, etc., stopping only to add ingredients or when the stir fry is done. You can also do the pan turns, but at that point, you're just showing off, and we all remember how that turned out last Christmas. And yes, the new paint on the ceiling does look nice.

As for the rest of the vegetables, add them based on size and how done you like your stir fry vegetables (I like them still firm). If you like your vegetables more done, add them shortly after the meat and onions (if you choose onions), if you like them crisper, wait a bit longer. After you have your vegetables in the wok, then add your soy sauce or teriyaki according to your preference. You can also add minced garlic at this point if you like. Once everything gets done, upend the wok and slide the stir fry onto lettuce wraps on a plate, and wipe down the wok with a moist cloth or paper towel to get it ready for the next order.


I must say, I enjoyed the lettuce wraps, and it seemed that everyone else did too. They, together with some guacamole and chorizo cheese sauce with tortilla chips, chorizo and cream cheese stuffed jalapeños, two vegetable trays (one from the Hills, and one from us) with ranch and spicy ranch, a shrimp cocktail ring and bacon tomato cups made for an adequate game night spread.

The only problem was, like always, I made too much food. One day, I'll figure out how not to overcook. Until then, I will give people food to take home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Furnishing Friday: Green Armchair

Item: Green Armchair
Who Purchased: My Grandmother B.

Year Purchased/Received: Late 1950’s/ Early 1960’s

Location Purchased/Received: Purdy Furniture Store, Owensboro (Which was described to me as being on the corner opposite Anderson’s...this is meaningless unless you're very familiar with Owensboro of at least 30 years ago.)

Description: The best description I’ve found of this style of chair is a tufted fan-back. I’m still not sure that is correct, so I’m open to comments. It started life with a tan-ish color brocade upholstery; Mur later had it reupholstered in the green color it is now. I love the nail head trim on each side of the wooden arm and around the legs.

Markings: None.

How it came to the MP: From the time she purchased the chair when they lived on Hathaway Street in Owensboro, through two more houses in that town, the chair was always in Mur’s living room. I’ve always liked the unique back to the chair and was thrilled when it moved to our living room! Now, it lives in our upstairs guest room.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday: April 14

I've had a pretty awesome week--great vibes with Stella & Dot, a chance to make and decorate a cake for a friend's birthday (expect to see pics later this week or next!), and good times with my husband.  Even with all of the awesome going on, those aren't the things I thought about when I started this post.  Yes, I'm insanely thankful for these things, as well as the chance to spoil my neice and nephew a bit on Sunday morning (very thankful for that opportunity!!), but there was something else that hit me this week to be thankful for.

That thing that jumped out as me this week happened Tuesday morning, when one of the managers at my part-time job called to tell me she'd had to cut hours and that they didn't want me to come in on Wednesday.  I've never been in the manager's situation, but I can imagine that I would dread making those calls.  I'm sure that there are people working hourly jobs who dread receiving those phone calls, too.  I am so thankful that I'm in a place where I don't dread receiving that phone call (this week, I actually said a little prayer of thanks for it!), and I am especially thankful that I can respond positively to my manager.  Knowing how much I would have dreaded making that kind of phone call, it means a lot to me to be understanding and supporting of my manager.  I'm so thankful that I can be that understanding and supportive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stella Shoes

As confident and outgoing as I can be, sometimes I need a little something extra to pump me up.  This is often the case with my Stella & Dot business.  I know I have an awesome product.  I know I have something to share.  I know I am coming from a place of abundance.  But sometimes I forget that, and I need a little reminder from Katie Perry (Baby, You're a Firework), or my husband (who gave me an awesome WillowTree figurine to remind me), or my Stella & Dot friends (who encourage me to make plans to rock our National Sales Conference--Hoopla).  Today, I rolled them all into one and bought a fabulous pair of shoes (on sale!!) to wear while I'm working. 

What about you?  Do you ever forget that you are totally worthy of greatness and need a little reminder?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gift Box to Gift Tags

It seems like it has been a while since I actually did anything crafty (and yes, I know that the bulletin board is still hanging out unfinished), so I took some time Monday to create and document it for you!  Now, I'll be using Stella & Dot gift boxes, because I needed gift tags for an event this weekend, but you can use any gift box for this project as long as they aren't too thick.  If you do like the patterns I used, know that I got many more circles with just the pattern than with the company name, and that I would love to sell you some jewelry so you would have your very own S&D boxes to use!

1.  For starters, find your gift box.  S&D boxes work well because there are actually two coordinating pieces for each package--the box and the sleeve.

2.  Then, cut out tons of circles!  I used a Fiskers 2" circle punch, which resulted in about seven circles for the box piece and three to four circles per sleeve (one of which I centered--or tried to center--"Stella and Dot" in). 

3.  Next, it is time to put your tag together.  When I first decided to make these tags, I thought I would just use one circle and jot a note on the back.  Then, when I realized I would have SO many of the coordinating circles, I decided to use two circles with the plain sides facing each other.  (This way, you can write on the plain side of the back circle or, as I did, use a sticker!)  Choose a place on the back circle where a hole will not interfere with what you've written (or stuck) and punch it.  Then, line up the two circles and punch the coordinating hole in the front circle.

4.  Run ribbon or string through both holes (be sure you've still got the plain sides facing each other and the patterned sides out) and you will be ready to tie your tag onto a bag (or anything else you want to tag)!!  Rather than folding the tag open, you just swivel the top circle around and can view the second circle.

I love this craft because it is both a great example of recycling (Otherwise the boxes would be trashed) and it gives me much cooler gift tags without buying any!  Cost of the whole project:  $2.49 for a huge spool of curling ribbon (The boxes were free, and I owned the circle punch already.  I probably could have used curling ribbon I had on hand, as well, but I liked the punchy green color.)

Early Tuesday morning, I'll be linking up with Beth from The Stories of A to Z, so if you get here before I do, come back by to check out the amazing How To's that link up with her linky party! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

MPMonday Checklist Check-In

Just a quick check-in on our list--

Main Bath

  • Order vanity top
  • Seal floor
  • Install base tile:  Installed!  I do still need to grout and seal this, though.
  • Install vanity/sink/faucet: DONE!  Finally, after three trips from the new plumber and one extra trip from the marble guy to re-do the drain opening, everything is attached and working!  I do still need to seal the top, but will do that when I seal the baseboard.
  • Install new shower curtain rod
  • Buy/install new switchplate covers
  • Put up shelves/artwork
  • Trim and install door: Hinges are installed on the door frame, but the door still needs more trimming to hang and swing correctly before it can be installed.
  • Buy and install mirror

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Springtime Sunday

One of my favorite things about St. Raphael is the clear glass windows that line each side of the sanctuary (as opposed to frosted, glazed, or stained glass windows in many churches).  While I do periodically get caught looking distractedly out the window, I just like knowing what it looks like outside!  We had many Sundays this winter where it felt like we were off in the countryside somewhere--complete with snow fluttering down threw the trees to the snow-covered ground below.  I loved those Sundays and was so happy to belong to a church that offered me those views on Sunday mornings. 

Today, I was reminded of another one of my favorite things about Sunday mornings at St. R--springtime!  This morning the windows were all cracked.  We hit 80 degrees in Lexington today, and even this morning it was warm out.  We have the kind of windows that crank open like doors, and where we sit, the windows catch the breeze and send it right to us!  As much as I loved watching the snow fall outside this winter, I love feeling that warm breeze just as much!!

I hope you all enjoyed a little of this beautiful spring weather this weekend!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday smells like... Creamy Beef Stew

Last Sunday after we got back from Nashville, J went grocery shopping while I worked at Williams-Sonoma.  The week before he commented that our fridge looked like a bachelor fridge so you can only imagine how it looked after another week with no grocery shopping!  I came home to a packed fridge and the best meal cooking in the slow cooker.  In fact, while we did not actually eat it Sunday night (taste-tested, yes, but no actual 'eating'), we ended up probably six or seven meals between the two of us from this one pot of yummy goodness.  So of course I wanted to share it with you!

Creamy Beef Stew

Top Round Roast
Carton of V8 Southwest Corn Soup
Packet of dried Onion Soup Mix
Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
Can of Cream of Tomato Soup
Orange Juice (a half cup or so--"about what you'd think")
Cup of Cream
Package of Egg Noodles
Red Pepper Flakes
A couple squeezes of Sriracha sauce

Place the beef (one large piece) in your slow cooker and pour everything else inside.  J turned ours on the ten-hour setting and left it overnight.  The following morning, he pulled out the beef, which basically fell apart while cooking, and made sure that it had all come apart in even pieces.  We periodically stirred it together.

I served mine (pictured) with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese on top.  Incredibly easy, and makes a ton of food!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Furnishing Friday: Tray

Item: Silver Tray

Who Purchased: Grandmother B. received as a Christmas gift from a close friend, Mrs. G.

Year Purchased/Received: This is the worst description ever, and I’ll work to find a better answer, but the notes I have only indicate that it was some time before Mrs. G died.

Location Purchased/Received: Owensboro

Description: 8.75 inch diameter round tray

Markings: "Owensboro 1968" is engraved in the center of the tray

How it came to the MP: My grandparents B. were close friends with an older couple in Owensboro. Their son, who was younger than my grandparents, but older than my mom, married a woman whose family was quite wealthy. Every year, this woman’s extended family took a trip to a different part of the country.  In 1968, the couple hosted the annual outing in Owensboro, and Mrs. G. received this tray as a hostess gift/thank you gift from the family for hosting them.

In the years before Mrs. G. died, she had a habit of inviting Mur over before special occasions and asking her to choose a piece of silver from her collection as her gift. In this way, she ensured that the silver would be going to someone who wanted it and would continue to appreciate it. My grandparents attended a party during the week that the couple’s in-laws visited Owensboro, so Mur chose that tray as a way to remember the occasion, as well. 

We received the tray after our wedding.  It is particularly special to me because I got to know the son of this couple (the husband of the woman whose family gave the tray) when I lived in DC.  He was very kind to me, always expressed interest in my grandmother and mother, as well as in my own pursuits and friends.  While the tray reminded Mur of her friend, it reminds me of her friend's son, though in both cases it is their kindness that we remember.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday--April 7

I'm so thankful this week for fabulous spring weather!  In spite of the terrible storms that roared through the state on Monday (or maybe because of?), we've had many lovely warm (but not hot), breezy days.  As I walked home from the mall today I passed many folks out in the park flying kites.  And yes, I'm thankful that no one heard me break into "Let's go fly a kite" from Mary Poppins.  I know that hot days when I won't want to walk to or from work are just around the corner, and I'm thankful I can enjoy the walk now.

 I'm thankful the the many opportunities I've had this week to spend time with friends old and new.  No, I did not break into song (Make New Friends--Girl Scouts) on any of these occasions.

I'm thankful for Bobby the plumber who visited us three times in the last week, and for Sam--the plumber who got us started on this remodeling adventure seven months ago--who helped get us to three working pieces in our bathroom this week.  In a related note, I'm thankful that I get to brush my teeth in the sink again.  It's been a while.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Without (many) Words

Y'all know there will be more than enough words about this some Monday.  Today, though, I think this is enough.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So I completely forgot to write my post for Tuesday's Talent last night. The reason I forgot, though, actually led to today' topic. Last night, J and I had a documentary film night. He was perusing Netflix when I noticed a National Geographic doc on the Appalachian Trail. Now, aside from the fact that we are overweight and haven't hiked more than a mile through the woods in years, and despite the fact that our lifestyle doesn't really lend itself to taking off for six months at a time, hiking the AT has been on my bucket list for a while. I pounced. J agreed to watch. When it was over, I quickly asked if we could watch another--Helvetica. Helvetica is another doc, but instead of being at all outdoorsy, it documents the history of the font and the people who love and hate it.

Where am I going with this? Well, it dawned on me that we all have a range of different talents. Myself, I'm a generally fairly creative person, but I am also fascinated by outdoor pursuits like hiking or running 5K's. Clearly I've not demonstrated any talent for running, but I wonder I I might have some talent for hiking?

What talents do you have? Do you think you might have hidden talents that you've not yet discovered? Is that even possible?

Monday, April 4, 2011

A tale of two plumbers...

I hope you're prepared to laugh this morning, because the plumbing situation at the MP just gets more laughable.  Today's post will be written in two parts:  Part One--Another update (but not completion) on the bathroom sink and Part Two--A leaky faucet in the bathtub (same bathroom, mind you...)

Part One
A few weeks ago, when we picked up our vanity top, I expressed that we were just days from having the big parts of the bathroom complete.  All I had to do was call the plumber and have them install the sink.  So I called (No answer).  And called (Got a fax machine noise).  And called (another fax machine noise). And dropped by their office (No one answered the door).  And Called and Dropped by their office again (same results).  Then I sent them a fax (no respone).  And called (Same fax noise).  And called their National Hotline (super helpful girl who offered to look into it....I never heard back from her).  So I called their National Hotline again (another helpful woman who sent them an email...still no response for me).  So I called their National Hotline again (not so helpful guy who at least told me that they really couldn't help...come to think of it, maybe he was the helpful one).

At this point, I was ready to give up (J laughed when I told him that, as he'd have given up and moved on to another plumber weeks ago), but I decided to call the local number one more time.  Instead of the annoying fax machine noise, I got voicemail!!  I think Angels descended from the ceiling of Office Max playing their trumpets--I was that excited!  The voicemail offered three of four options, so I just picked the general mailbox and left a message.  By the next morning I hadn't heard anything back, so I tried again.  This time, I picked the mailbox of the owner.  This is when I learned that they closed February 18--just a couple weeks before my first call.  While this news left me rather deflated, it was the news I needed to hear.  I dug through the drawer where I keep important receipts and operating manuals until I found the receipt for the plumber who fixed our ice-maker leak three years ago.  They sent out a plumber that afternoon.  On Saturday morning, one of the plumbers from the closed business called. The owner (who's father took ill and eventually passed during the time in which they closed and the last month) had checked messages Friday and gave him a call.  Sam has now gone into business on his own and was hoping he could help me out.  Head::Desk.

Part Two
A couple of weeks ago the hot water faucet in our bathtub started leaking.  This wasn't new, as the same thing (I thought) happened a couple of years ago and I'd saved the part and directions to fix it.  As is typical of me, I left the leak to get worse and worse until it had to be looked at, which actually happened about Thursday, when I had a plumber sitting right next to the tub for an hour or so.  Did I ask him to take a look?  Of course not.  I'm a bit stubborn sometimes, and it seemed silly to pay a plumber to do a job I was completely capable of completing myself.  Fast forward to Friday afternoon when I decided to take a quick shower before packing for Nashville.  It seemed logical to me to fix the faucet at that time.  Had the problem been what I thought it was, I would have been right about the timing, too.  I wasn't.  When I put the faucet back together I noticed that the faucet wasn't catching (you know how, when you turn it off, it stops?  It didn't.  My leak was no longer the drippy kind).  I found myself, unshowered, at rush hour, running to two stores, trying to match up the hot water valve.  Luckily, Lowes actually came through for me, as I don't know what I would have done at that point.  (I didn't particularly want to leave the water to the entire house turned off all weekend, but I also didn't want to send all that hot water down the drain all weekend).

So there you go.  Thursday and Friday were rather big days for plumbing at the MP, and I'm thrilled to discover that I can still do some basic plumbing and fix things like tub faucets!  The other plumber will be back this week to finish the sink job (we discovered that the stone fabricators didn't make the sink drain hole large enough, so now we're waiting on them to come fix that before we can move forward with installing the sink).  In other bathroom news, I did install the tile baseboard on Thursday, so that just needs to be grouted.  Once the sink is complete, we will be done with the big things in the room, and just have the finish details left!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Value of Weekends Away

I realized last Tuesday that J and I had a (mostly) unscheduled weekend ahead of us and one very important basketball game (UK's first appearance in the Final Four in more than a decade).  Now, I've learned a thing or two in the last six years with J, and while I don't think UK basketball plays as big a role in his life now as it did then, I still knew that this game would be a big deal.  Solution?  I suggested we drive down to Nashville so he could watch the game with three of his closest friends (our groomsmen, in fact).  Other benefit of the trip?  I could finally meet his buddy D's little girl.  I missed the annual New Year's trip to Nashville when J got to meet her, so this was my first chance.  While the game didn't go quite as well as we had hoped it would, quality time with Kenzie went exactly as hoped!  She's an absolute doll, and we were thrilled to spend a little time with her family!
 While we were up and out this morning before anyone was up (I had to be at work at 12:30 and we lost the hour coming home), we both feel like it was a great (and somewhat relaxing) weekend.  There is just something to be said for getting out of town and spending time with old friends to re-center you a bit.  I hope you all get to have one of those weekends soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Smells like...IHOP

J and I decided to take a last minute trip to Nashville to visit J's childhood buddies D & E and their families (and to let J watch the UK game with his boys tonight). As a result of the last minute-ness of the trip planning, I totally failed to pre-write today's post. On the one hand, it means that today's post is totally late. On the other hand, it means I'm visiting IHOP with friends. And when you're at IHOP, there is no question about today's topic. Have a great day everyone!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Furnishing Friday: Fruit Compote

Item: Fruit Compote

Who Purchased: The Fruit Compote belonged to my great-great-grandmother Julia Corley. I don’t think we know where or when she got it.

Year Purchased/Received: Unknown, but my grandmother B. (Mur), Julia’s granddaughter, told me that Julia had “always” had the compote. Mur was born in 1923, so if you figure she started taking notice of these things in the mid-1930’s that gives you an idea of how old it might be.

Location Purchased/Received: Unknown

Description: The fruit compote is a clear cut glass compote on a pedestal. The base measures about 7.25” tall and is about 7.25” across at the top. The lid is about 3.5” tall, so the whole thing is just less than 11” tall.

Markings: There really aren’t any markings, though you can see the faint line down each side where the two pieces were put together.

How it came to the MP: As I said before, the Fruit Compote belonged to my great-great-grandmother Julia Swope Corley. When she died in February 1947 (in her late 90’s), the Fruit Compote passed to Mur’s sister Mary Ellen (my mom called her Aunt Nul…I still don’t quite understand why). Aunt Nul died in 1995, and at that time her daughter Lois gave the compote to Mur. I think the compote than passed to my mom when Mur moved to Texas in 2005, and then on to us when we received the rest of her furniture in 2009.