Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gma's Kitchen ReOrg: Spices

You should have seen Grandma's face light up when I told her I was going to make refillable kitchen containers so that we could buy more things in bulk. I think it made her day! It's the little things...

So, because finishing the downstairs...ish...wasn't enough, I have decided to take on the kitchen we share with Grandma. A part of this is self serving, I cannot fit the things i want to fit into the pantry downstairs until i move kitchen things currently in it upstairs. We plan to be here a while, at least a year, so I'd like to.... i dunno.... use my snazzy kitchen gadgets in the next year. And not break a sweat going up and down all the time. Grandma is ok with it. Commence reorganization!

It's going to have to be in baby steps. There's just too much to take on to simply move things over and make an empty shelf for us. I have to take Grandma's needs into consideration too, and one thing she likes to do is buy in bulk. However, she loses track of things at times. Or buys it simply because it's on sale. 

(Hence the 5 pounds of sugar.)

I want to respect this method (it's not hard, I am all for buying in bulk and getting things cheaper, not to mention wasting less plastic by not buying bottles),  AND also admit that because I am not used to it, I will not be able to manage this all in my head. To accommodate this, I plan to make an inventory list. Before I can do that, I have to figure out what's in the kitchen. Besides 5 pounds of sugar :) 

As I set about this, I found there were multiple bottles of the same thing. Not to mention I have some of the same spices and there is no sense in not combining them. I also have these beautiful blue vitamin bottles that i cleaned up to use for the wedding, just empty and doing nothing. Hmmmmmm... I see spice jars in their future....

I gathered up supplies:

For some reason, my black ink wasn't being I used a black fine point sharpie to help it along. Then I set about combining everything, labeling bottles as I filled them with their destinies.

They came out pretty cute! I like the messy typewriter look of the letters. Its the book nerd in me :) My only qualm is that you can see the glue on the bottle, because I was trying to seal off the label. My husband says it makes it look more "rustic."

yeah...He's cute when he's trying to keep me from getting all perfectionist. :) I am pretty sure I can sand it down though....


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Drunken Mermaid Special: Why You Just Never Know

So here's how it happened: My grandma is catholic and still practices eating fish on Fridays. I am still getting a little used to it, but it's getting better (not because I don't like fish but because I always seem to be frantically making some fish dish at 11:30 hoping it will be done in time for her lunch lol i'm not used to the schedule part.) SO...scrambling to come up with something. We have fish sticks but....meh. I know... I do it to myself :) i know. But this is how wonderful recipes are born!

I want to make a soup, she loves soup. Aunt Linda does Clam Chowder, we id that last week, so i want to do tomato based something or other. I look through about 10-20 recipes and see nothing that i have everything for, so i already know i have to wing it, it's just a matter of getting the ratios right. I open up a few cookbooks, find a Mediterranean style fish soup and LOVE the idea. I can't use any kind of meat broth though and we don't seem to have vegetable (note to self...) but that's ok because you can use wine to sub and Grandma likes it. Usually, with fish you use white. I have red. While I know it will be ok, i see that I am making a lot of changes and i am not sure at all how it's going to taste at this point.

So I am going along, throwing things in, very much in a hurry because it needs to boil for 45 min, it's 11:45 and my cousin is taking me to coffee at 12:30. I grab the first measuring cup in the drawer, a small one because they're stacked. A quick glance tells me it's a 1/8 c. I want to put in a cup of wine so I pour in 8 of those, all the while thinking it looked awfully large for a 1/8 c. container.

I use the cup again to measure in some lemon juice a little later... this time I see it. It's not an 8, it's a 3.

Which means I used 2 2/3 c. of Pinot in this soup.

Did you know soup gets foamy when you do that? I do now. It also turns the white fish an interesting maroon color...

Well...waste not want not! I plow ahead. As I was posting about this on FB, I got the idea for the recipe, should it succeed. I love mermaids. It smells amazing and you know what, Grandma LOVED it. She laughed at my story but she said it was in improvement on the soup :) So here it is (mainly for my mom,  who taught me how to cook like this, hehe!)

The Drunken Mermaid Special

2 celery stalks, chopped
1 dice tomato
3 large potatoes, or 9 small, chopped
1/2  large onion or 1 smaller
1  8 oz. can pitted black olives
1 4 oz can of mushrooms
1/3 c. green olives
2 TB capers
1 TB Sea Salt (I have this fish specific one from Hawaii, oh and i wouldn't use this much if using broth since broth tends to be salty but i wasn't)
4 c. water
3 bay leaves
2 2/3 c. red wine
2/3 c. lemon juice
1 TB whole pepper corns
1 tsp basil
1 tsp fennel seeds
3/4 stick butter
3 fillets white fish
1 c. shrimp

Place everything but the seafood in the big ol' pot and get it boiling. Boil for about 25 min and then add the seafood for another 20 min or so, until it is fully cooked, stirring occasionally. Consume the awesomeness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wine and Fig Reduction Recipe

I wish I had taken pictures, but I honestly thought I was going to follow a really simple recipe (about 4 ingredients) and call it good. We didn't have the stuff to make what I made before, but I was really craving it. Anyway, I tried this out but it didn't smell right, so I winged it and it came out amazing. It was soooooooo good! I used it in the slow cooker over some pork ribs from grandma's freezer. Then I made some blue cheese mashed potatoes and some not-so-fancy green beans to complete the meal.

Wine and Fig Reduction
1 can beef broth
1/2 cup red wine (I used what we had: pinot noir, if you use a port you probably won't need as much sugar to sweeten it up)
1 package of dried figs (mine had 12)
1 TB dried rosemary
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cumin

Bring the broth, wine, figs and rosemary to a boil in a small sauce pan. Boil for about 7-10 min. Turn off the flame. Stir in remaining ingredients until sugars have dissolved. Use immersion blender or pour into a blender to liquefy into a sauce. You should have about three cups worth.

Like I said, I then poured it over the frozen ribs in the crock pot and cooked on high for four hours. Amazingness. And the remaining sauce made a great gravy. It's naturally pretty thick so i didn't need to use a thickener. It goes perfectly with blue cheese or goat cheese. to. die. for. ugh, now i want more! bu-bye :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thank Goodness...Thank You's are DONE

We got married in June of 2010. I had the lovely idea, at the time, of hand stamping the thank you's. And then we went to a  family reunion 12 hours away and moved in the same week,  went on our honeymoon in Hawaii, moved again a month later, moved AGAIN two months later (this time out of state) and oh yeah...moved again a month later. Now you know why I never want to move ever again! This is also why the Thank You's have taken so long. Little by little, we've worked away at them. They've been addressed, we've written our personal notes, and still they were just a blank white on one side. Well, dear friends, no longer!

Yeah...I was going to try to work in a photo and some other fancies this point...simple seemed sooo appealing! Ironically it has now been so long i need to include an update letter! Well... not need but I'd like to. So I still need to do that and then they can get sent. 

Look at that fat stack!!!  Isn't it a splendid reminder of how much we have to be thankful for? yay! <3

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Happy Glue Shelf!

Yes, it's happy. It makes me smile, so it must be! I found a random wooden drawer in the shop. It has no home, I don't know why it's there. What I do know is that I have some glue bottles that need a home. So my hubby took this shabby-chic-by-nature drawer and nailed it to the wall. It's the perfect fit and I LOVE IT. Makes me all excited and happy inside every time I look at it. I's weird.

Hello, Beautiful....
And....yeah....that's it for that! Hey, it's the weekend, what do you want from me? :) 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Desk Organizer: Trash to Treasure (with unexpected success)

So I set out to make a desk organizer for my new crafting corner (YAY! crafting! You know, it's the first time I have had all of my arts and crafts stuff in one place before? it's a very exciting moment). So I gathered together some tin cans. They were too uniform in size so I decided to mix in some glass jars. There was too much roundness going on so I took some old stacking blocks and turned them upside-down. Eventually, I got this snazzy configuration:

Now, one thing I would change about what I did next: paint first, then glue. Buuuuuut, in my defense, I was in a hurry. The downstairs has been a disaster for a week longer than I wanted and it's freaking me out. So I was not interested, initially in prettiness. I wanted function and by golly I wanted it now

Thus, I glued these pieces to the cardboard, waited for it to dry and then took it out to garage and painted them.

sorry it's dark, the shop has poor lighting.

It looked....better. But not amazing. I wasn't supposed to care though! I wasn't going for amazing! I was going for functional! BUT BUT COULD be pretty! Right? How long could it take?


Yeah...the internal battle began. My need to have things be pretty started fighting with my need to have immediate usefulness. As I stared at the uniform hammered steel colored organizer, contemplating, the need for pretty...won.

I started to pick at it, put one color here, another there. Decoupaged old pages and fun words. There had been no original vision, so I wasn't expecting much.'s not the best thing I've ever made, but it was unexpectedly cute! I was so excited by this turn of events that I really loved it by the end. 

Isn't it cute?? :) It got a bit of steampunk influence. See, the reason I had to do hammered steel paint is because my white paint up and died! It's a full can, you can feel it, it's not clogged, it just doesn't let the paint out! anyway, since I was in a hurry to make this happen I just grabbed the next best neutral I had. When I started adding color, all we really had was left over paint from our steam punk costumes. It works though :) My living room is burnt orange and neutrals, I like to think it ties it all together. 

I cut the cardboard off the edges to finish it off. And added a penny to the flower :) I just love it, I do!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Learning to live in the Great Depression

No, I'm not talking about the current recession. I am talking about life with my grandma. There are times that it's like a study of another time altogether, her mind set is so entirely different and, at times, so entirely justified. And at the same time I have to act responsibly. I am not going to pretend I know better than her, but there are somethings I not do in good conscience. Like subject her to potential food poisoning just because she thinks it's still OK to eat. It might very well be, but with an 89 yr-old, I'm not taking that chance! But I do try to respect her beliefs, if you will, as much as possible.

One of my preferred ways to cook is to have the occasional splurge item, an ingredient you pay a little more for, to give things pizazz and spice. With Grandma, if it's not on sale you don't get it. It's cute :) And I get it. She was born in 1921, was raised in the city of Chicago during the time of mobsters, survived the Great Depression, married a soldier during WWII and lived on base cooking bread out of a wood burning stove. After that she goes on to raise 12 kids on a ranch? Yeah, if anyone knows how to use every bit of something it's Grandma. I was given a lesson on how to eat an apple the other day because she feels me just biting into the thing is wasteful, you eat way more of the apple if you slice it up and just cut some of the core off that way. I also got a little interrogation about why there was a "handful" of sauerkraut in the sink when I had rinsed the container out (Lesson Number One in learning to hide food waste from Grandma, haha!). I don't take any of it personal (it's really not that critical anyway), I just observe the behavior, smile, adapt and move on. But I do have to admit, it's stressing me out.

I think if it was just this that I was doing it wouldn't be so stressful, but I'm moving in still (this crafting corner REFUSES to come together!), I'm helping my brother through a very hard time AND I keep getting gnarly headaches! Those really don't help things go any faster let me tell ya. I don't want to sound whiny but UGH! Can I learn this another time????



But what do you MEAN life is like that? since when?'s been like this all along? hmmmmmmm....

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE learning and this is a huge learning experience. But I kinda wish I could just learn this AFTER my life got organized. And I organize grandma's kitchen. Then it can be learning time. 


the whining like a little girl is over now.

In other news, I have made some progress on our living room! Unfortunately these are pictures that were taken about..... a week ago. Yeah.... i have been waiting for it to be finished so I can have a big reveal buuuuut i think this is just going to have to be it for now.

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