Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Good [Thrifted] Stuff: DI is awesome.

I grew up with a strong aversion to DI, the main thrift store in Utah. DI does leave some things to be desired, with its pungent aromas and characters hanging around. As a teenager, I only dared enter when I needed a last-minute Halloween costume. However, when I went to the highly acclaimed Brimfield Antique Show over a year ago, I thought to myself, "I bet I could find a lot of this stuff at a thrift store, without paying the antique dealer a penny!" I tried a few Goodwills in Connecticut, but they were disappointing. It wasn't until I revisited DI that I realized....oh me oh my, I totally love this place.

So, for all you naysayers out there who stick your nose up to DI, let me show you what I'm talking about:

Thanks, Kat, for this image!
've mentioned this typewriter before, but, ah, don't you love it? I saw typewriters on Etsy going for $250! I can handle the $4 paid at DI.
Remember this barn? This one is in mint condition!
I nearly fainted when I opened the "moo" barn door and found all these inside! Merry Christmas, Petey!

(Out of focus) Books. So many great books.

Can you believe this fabric? Perfect trim for the boys' Christmas jammers.
I just had to cut around these freaky ladies. No wonder it was only $1. Creepy.
And a bunch of other fabric.
This mid-century lamp! So cool! I love it!
Binoculars for Pete! Why not?! Perfect for birding expeditions and exploring in his treehouse (that is many years to come!)

I'm telling you, Utah folks, give DI a chance! There are lots of treasures hiding there!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Good Taste: Wise Words

Here's what my hero and New York Times food editor, Mark Bittman, says is the most important skill when it comes to cooking:

“The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

I love a good party: He's Three!

"Happy birthday to you"

It was all trains for Pete's third birthday party.

The cake was a success (and the frosting, too, which I find utterly miraculous). I am not good at decorating cakes. Like those little roses and writing and, well, creating anything with frosting that is supposed to look like something? Not my forte. I had to be outside the birthday cake mold on this one.

It was to be a mountain cake with a train comin' round it.

Do I think too much about this stuff? Last night, I was thinking, what if I had a boss who told me that I had to do this stuff as part of my job. I would think she was totally nuts as she explained: "So, tomorrow, I need you to figure out how to make a mountain need a domed cake mold, but don't pay a lot of money for it. Just find a cake mold for, hmm, maybe one dollar. And then, in a couple weeks, figure out how to make your newborn look like a banana..." More to come on the banana baby later. I just keep telling myself: I'm using the same skill set as my former professional, blow-dried, black-suited, put-together self. It's just a different application of my skill set. Right? riiiight?

Anyway, I found my one-dollar domed cake mold. I baked the cakes a few days earlier and froze them (using this favorite cake and frosting recipe which I will now always use for yellow cake and chocolate frosting)
Why pay for one of those white-noise machines when you have a perfectly good KitchenAid?

I then left the actual construction up to my very capable husband. Shaner is a procedure man; one who has sutured and poked and extracted. I leave the fingernail clipping, the bath giving, and the cake constructing up to his steady hands. The results were my vision realized! I patted myself on the back for delegating this task to just the right hunk of burning love.

And the only thing left to do for Pete and I was to adorn our mountain with little lego pirates and knights and trees and horsies. I call this cake a success!

Ok, so maybe not suitable for the cover of Martha Stewart Living, but Pete thought it was awesome.

We had a modest spread of train-shaped pb&js, popcorn, and crackers with apple juice. I tried to keep it all low-key this time around, given the recent events (that is, bringing baby brother to this world a couple weeks earlier. oh man.)

And, for party favors, I found these little engineer hats and train whistles at Oriental Trading. Pete likes his homeboy style.

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Happy Birthday, Pete! Love, Mama

Pete turned three!

For his birthday this year, I really tried to think of something that would grow with him and put his fantastic imagination to good use. I remembered one of the most highly coveted toys from my grandma's house: the flannel board.

It's simple--a piece of felt stretched taut and stapled to a wooden board. I chose to frame it for better looks and the hopes that we'll be able to hang it low on the wall in our next place. After researching online for flannel board kits, I was quite appalled at the price--really, $20 for a few little felt-backed pictures? Instead, I made my own little flannel board kits, with the help of some adhesive-backed felt I found at Michael's. At that point, the options were limitless! I used the images from books bought at DI (our thrift store) and suddenly, I had a great assortment of pictures for our board: cars, planets, animals, the Nativity scene, and even photos I printed up of our family (this was a huge hit!). I also cut out felt shapes for Pete to make pictures out of and my attempt at felt continents for a future geography lesson. Asia is quite unidentifiable and none are quite to scale, but it's the spirit of the thing, right?

Figuring out how to store these pictures was tricky--I ended up sewing some 'pockets' out of scrap fabric and put zippers on them. I lined the inside of the pockets with different yet oh so coordinated fabric just to make myself crazy. I think I was watching Martha Stewart when I thought that would be a good idea...that show makes me feel waaaay too ambitious.

So far, Pete likes it. I've already received requests for more felt board pictures: trains and Santa Claus, please. And more photos of friends, too!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: In anticipation of our blessed babe

I'm still going strong here in prego land. No baby yet, but, I did welcome a new baby blessing sweater and pants into the world yesterday. Hooray! A finished knitting project that took less than a year! When I found out that I was having a boy, I wanted to make something special for his baby blessing day. I have a beautiful lace dress that I bought on Burano while visiting Venice, which continues to gather dust somewhere, but I have had a tough time finding something just right for my baby boys. I took matters into my own hands...

Hopefully, baby Lloyd will be a little less hairy. I had to try this outfit on something, and the gorilla is just about the right size. Pete was totally into this idea of dressing up the gorilla like our baby and insisted on being part of the photo shoot:

After all the ups and downs that came with my first sweater project, I managed to fly through this one in just a couple of weeks. The pattern is
Seamless Baby Kimono, and I actually purchased the newborn pattern on ravelry. This pattern is a great first-time sweater project.

I found the pants pattern in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. There are some mistakes throughout that would make any knitting granny shudder. But, hey,they were knitted with love! The pants are adorable and I'm thinking about giving the pattern a second try. Little knitted pants might be just perfect for my little autumn babe's newborn legs (which will be long and skinny, if he takes after his dad and big bro).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Good Taste: ah, these lonely summer nights

When dinnertime rolls around, my poor intern husband Shaner is usually right smack in the middle of his trillion-hour work day. Now that suppertime is down to two participants, Peter and myself, I've had to dig deep to actually get something presentable to the table . I promised myself I would write this post to report that yes, I actually do try to cook when it's just the two of us. And that the meal was not shaped like dinosaur chicken nuggets. It's the whole accountability thing. And, yes, I know that cooking good food is a nice gesture to myself, because there is nothing more deppressing than feeding myself food that is an orange color that may only exist naturally on Mars. So, here's my report of the Lloyd's summer menu lately:

Chicken Salad with Potatoes and Arugula

Beautiful salad that takes no more than 20 minutes to put together. Plus some pineapple and cantaloupe for Pete. I think he must have eaten half of the cantaloupe while I was cutting it up.

Pasta with Leeks, Peas, and Prosciutto

It's so pretty to eat. Whenever I cook with leeks, I feel kind of French. Speaking of, ah, I am dying to see Julie and Julia asap. Don't tell me that you already saw it, because I will not be happy for you, just slightly bugged and resentful for me. Really, I just want to be Julie, who thought to do a Julia Child blog, because I DID get the same cookbook for my last birthday with the very same intention of cooking through it, although I did not start a blog about this process. Nor did I write a book about it. Nor did someone make a movie about that book. Nor did I really get past the first 3 pages of soup recipes. But, dang, that soup was good!

The pasta recipe calls for prosciutto, which may seem a bit extravagant, but can really do wonders for the flavor. Heck, pasta, peas, leeks, butter? How much does that all cost together, like $3.00? A few more bucks for beautiful prosciutto? Yes.

And the next day, I finished up my prosciutto by making some paninis with tomato soup: ciabatta with mozzarella, basil, and prosciutto. Yeah, the prosciutto was an excellent investment.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Big Boy Duvet

We've got a baby coming, which meant that we needed to kick Pete out of his crib and get him situated in a big boy bed. I saw this duvet and wanted to try to recreate it. I am insane. I did finish it, miraculously, and learned more than I ever wanted to know about applique and fusible interfacing.

I'm particularly fond of the bug pulling the trailer and the convertible:

I admit, I still love the version I found online better, but this blogger is a pro at sewing and I'm still a rookie! I was glad to have my own version.

For the back, I did wide stripes

and the pillow, I used up the rest of my car fabric from Purl.

Mission accomplished! Pete is happy every night to have his cool car blanket and I am really happy that he loves it so much. And, so far, we haven't had any nighttime wanderers visit us in the night. Hopefully, he continues to stay happily dreaming in his bed!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Good [Neighborhood] Stuff: The Avenues

Shane and I both agree on the great importance of the walkability factor in our neighborhood. Our New Haven neighborhood had some great streets to stroll (or run) around right outside our door, which was fortunate. We have been equally blessed in our new home to have some great strolling streets (but, definitely no running for me these days! Baaad idea) so I took along my camera to show off some of my favorite spots in Salt Lake's oldest neighborhood:
People in the Aves love
their old houses:

The building above is a garage to the house pictured below.

their gardens:

(I'm loving these desert plants that are unique to this fabulously dry climate.)

and their chocolate shop.
People in the Aves also love their cats (not shown).

Another great bonus is seeing my old elementary school, The Open Classroom, in it's permanent home as an official charter school (complete with organic school lunch and and Jr. High!) The Open Classroom is a parent cooperative and a beautiful example of how to bring the best out of kids. I only wish that we could bring it back with us to Connecticut, so Pete could have such a positive academic experience!

So, if you've lived in the aves, do tell what your favorite spot is!