Monday, August 31, 2009

Martha Monday!

Martha is big into crafting.

Okay, that's an understatement.

Martha invented crafts.

Wait, that's too over the top. What would be in-between? Martha took regular crafting and made it awesome? Martha gave the field of crafts a kick in the butt and now it's super cool?

Well, whatever level is right between "inventing crafts" and "big into crafting," that's exactly where Martha is. After all, she wrote the Encyclopedia of Crafts, and that is some serious crafting credibility.

This weekend, like the good Martha-in-training that I am, I expanded Martha's crafty reach by giving the gift of Martha.

Okay, it was a glitter stamp set, but doesn't the "gift of Martha" sound really inspiring?


This is my good friend Ellyn. We go back. Way back. And when we find the time, we get together for card-making and craftiness. And this time around, I was able to give Ellyn a glue/glitter/stamp set from the Martha Stewart Crafts line at Michael's.

We got down to some serious card-making. Martha is also serious about card-making--she has a Card-Making Center at marthastewart.com. Check it out! And happy crafting!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Foil lid wisdom

I cook. And bake. A lot. This involves opening a ton of containers. And some containers are much nicer to open than others. I'm not talking about the ease of getting the lid off--I'm talking about the lids themselves.


Check out the aluminum foil lid of this Daisy sour cream container:





"Little acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of happiness." Isn't that a lovely comment? What a nice thing for a sour cream container to say.


This Kraft container of mayonnaise, on the other hand....


"Attention: Remove foil completely. Do not use knife to open. 1. To remove foil, pop off lid at back corner using tab. 2. Grab foil tab and pull to remove foil completely."

Wow. Really, Kraft? Really? I've somehow figured out how to acquire money, make my way to the store, choose an item, successfully navigate the purchase process and make my way back home without incident, but you are compelled to give me detailed directions on how to remove a foil lid?

Really? REALLY??? Um, thanks, but I think I can handle the foil lid. Really.

Now, back to the nice Daisy sour cream lid....

On the underside of that nifty little saying, Daisy offers a menu idea: mix sour cream with salsa for a tasty dip. The good folks at Daisy mention that they have more recipe ideas at their website. Under that, they do tell you to remove the foil seal completely, but at least they give a reason, unlike their counterparts at Kraft: it's to prolong freshness.

Here's another Daisy lid:

"The most precious thing one can make is a friend."

Awwww. Isn't that sweet?

Daisy sour cream, I'll be your friend. Really.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barley goes to the vet

We've had Barley for over five years. In that time, we've been to only two veterinarians. Now that we've moved (okay, that was last fall, but still) it was time to find a vet closer to the new house. I'm pleased to say that I've found one I really like--they are knowledgeable, friendly, thorough and very close to home.

The Little Guy and I took Barley in for his annual check-up and shots.


Funny story about this picture: I gave the sit command, and they both went down. This is one of the many advantages about getting (and training) a dog before you have a baby. I'm noticing that households with well-trained animals usually have well-behaved children. Just a TMI observation.

The new vet did a great exam, and really took the time to talk to me. One myth I think she cleared up: for many years, everyone (vets, family, friends, other dog owners, random people on the street, the shelter where we got him) has identified Barley as a pit bull. This vet took a good look at his face structure and determined that while she sees the resemblance, Barley is not a pit bull. She suspects the red coat is Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and suggested that the facial structure could be Rhodesian Ridgeback. Now, none of this really matters to me, but since we had no background information on Barley from the shelter, it was nice to have an expert finally take the time to give him a really good look and try to fill in his history for us.


The Little Guy was really interested in Barley's exam. He kept trying to get right in there with the vet and her assistant. Maybe he's a budding veterinarian? More likely, he's just interested to know that someone in our family other than him also has to see a doctor on a regular basis.


Here's another reason I like our new vet: while we were there, they took a picture of Barley to include in his file. Then, they sent us a welcome letter with a brochure and a copy of the picture. Hooray for quality veterinarian care!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Martha Monday!

Oh, that Martha. And her people. I don't know how they do it, but MarthaStewart.com always has just the recipe, craft or homekeeping hint I need, right when I need it.

I found a handy-dandy checklist (yes, it's printable) of 6 things that, according to Martha, you must do every day. Let's see how the TMI household measures up...

1. Make your bed everyday.
Check! The Big Guy got me into this habit, and the bed is made each day as soon as we are out of it.

2. Manage clutter.
Yeah, we're not as quick on this one.

3. Sort the mail. Martha has detailed instructions on this.
We're 1/4 there on this one--junk mail always goes straight into the trash. Everything else sits in a nice, neat pile. Does that count? I'm 1.25/3 on Martha's checklist.

4. Clean as you cook.
This hardly ever happens unless I am cooking in front of company. Meal preparation in the TMI household is a mad dash to feed a hungry Little Guy and Big Guy before they start whining. Under those circumstances, and that's usually every day, cleaning can wait until everyone has eaten.

5. Wipe up spills while they're fresh.
Another item I can check off. So far, 2/5.

6. Sweep the kitchen floor.
I'll be sure to do that, right after I stop rolling on it while laughing hysterically. TMI confession: we're lucky if the kitchen floor is swept once a week. With our busy schedule, and lack of household staff to do it for us, sweeping the floor on a daily basis is just not a priority.

Looking at this list, it's clear that I need to fudge my results. If I eliminate #2 and #6, consider my piles of mail a legitimate form of organization, squint my eyes and tilt my head, then I've gotten 2/4 things done on Martha's list! That means I'm halfway to being just like Martha.

Take a look at the list here. What are your "must-do" items each day?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vocalpoint

Have you signed up at Vocalpoint yet? If not, and you really like coupons and saving money, then you really should. Vocalpoint is a great source of free samples, free products and high value coupons.

Of course, if you hate coupons and enjoy spending money when you really don't have to, then don't sign up. Vocalpoint would not be for you.

Check out what I got in the mail recently: one coupon for a FREE box of Rice Krispies cereal, and five $1 off coupons. Awesome!


The coupons came in a talking card. The Little Guy was amused. Bonus: this talking card kept the Little Guy busy for several minutes so the Big Guy and I could work on dinner. Coupons and a safe toddler activity in the same package? Now that's a gift for parents everywhere.

If you're interested in hearing the Vocalpoint message and being overcome by the cuteness that is my offspring, then watch the video--it's 29 seconds long.


video

Barley makes a brief appearance in the video, too. Sadly, he's just not that captivated by a talking card. Maybe next time Vocalpoint will send some dog treats for him. That will get his attention!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blackberry Farm

Recently, the TMI household packed up some cold drinks, some snacks and a well-stocked diaper bag and headed out for a fun day trip. We drove all of 10 minutes (we took the long way) to Blackberry Farm.

Blackberry Farm is a fun local attraction owned and operated by our park district. It's over fifty acres of park land with a recreated pioneer village, a log cabin and family home circa 1850, plenty of picnic space and fishing lakes. We went on the Great Train weekend to see a bunch of model trains set up by area enthusiasts.


The Little Guy is a train enthusiast. He was quite enthralled.

Blackberry Farm's many attractions include a bunch of barnyard animals, including goats and bunnies.


They have a wide variety of birds, including hens, roosters, pheasants, ducks and geese. The Little Guy enjoyed seeing all the wildlife.


They have pony rides in the cooler summer months, and a carousel. Funny story: the Little Guy was all serious on the carousel. Would not crack one smile. We figured he wasn't enjoying it, but of course he threw a tantrum when we pulled him off. I guess he liked the carousel after all!



Kids. They sure are strange sometimes. Blackberry Farm is a neat local attraction, and we'll be headed back in October for Pumpkin Weekends. Happy travels!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Martha Monday!

Martha Stewart goes places. She does things.

Okay, most of us go places and do things, but not many of us can do it Martha-style. And by Martha-style, I'm referring to her recent vacation to France, which she's been documenting on The Martha Blog.

She goes to fancy hotels on the French Riviera.


She visits friends and goes to restaurants with cute names like "La Petite Maison" and they eat fancy foods like this creme caramel.

TMI Note: I'm pretty sure I gained a pound just by looking at this picture.


Martha strolls through amazing farmer's markets like this one in Antibes, and tours the Picasso Museum. Very fancy.


Well, here at TMI, we also go places. We also do things. Most recently, the Big Guy and I packed up the Little Guy for a day of fun at Blackberry Farm. It was fancy. Sort of.



The Little Guy rode a pony, we toured some buildings from the 1800's, took a train ride, saw a variety of farm animals, rode the carousel, and went for a tractor ride. I'll share more later this week.


Oh, yeah. At TMI, we go places. And we are all kinds of fancy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mmmmm....bacon

Sometimes, in life's daily grind, the task of planning and making meals can become a crummy chore. Maybe you're tired, pressed for time, lacking ingredients and short on ideas. This was my story a few nights ago, but then it hit me: BACON!

And what does bacon mean? No, not breakfast for dinner, although I'm still working on the Big Guy with that one. What does he have against brinner? Anyways, bacon means BLTs!



Since I haven't had bacon in a long time, and it's been even longer since I've had a BLT, I splurged on this fancy-looking stuff. I'm glad I did. And for those who don't know, a BLT is a Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich. I don't know where they came from or when, but I have a special place in my heart for whoever came up with this dreamy combination.


TMI musing: isn't it strange how bacon shrinks as it's being fried? Why is that?
If at all possible, cover the pan with one of these handy-dandy screens to shield the grease splatters. This was probably invented by the same person who invented the BLT--genius!


When the bacon is done, drain it on some paper towels. Clean paper bags also work for this. I don't know if any extra fat or calories are taken out as the bacon drains, but I like to think so. Of course, I also count any chocolate intake as a serving of dairy, and think my birthday should be a national holiday. So there you go.


Now that the bacon is done, it's time to get started on the actual sandwich. Toast some bread. Slather it with Miracle Whip. Don't even think of using mayonnaise. Well, okay, you can think of using mayonnaise, and you can even use mayonnaise, just don't let my Big Guy know. He's quite particular about his condiments.


Add lettuce and tomato. Can you see the deliciousness building?



Finally, add the bacon. The tasty, tasty bacon.




And there you have it, a BLT sandwich. Soooooo goooooooood.



And I'm giving a huge thumbs up to the Oscar Mayer Center Cut bacon. I see many more BLTs in our future. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easy fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo. Mmmmmmmmmm. Thick noodles, creamy sauce...don't you want a plate-full right now? Fettuccine Alfredo is a food sent from the gods. It is rich, decadent and fortunately, making it from scratch is a snap. I've got the recipe down to five store-bought ingredients--it really doesn't get easier than this.

Here's all you'll need to make enough Alfredo sauce to go with one box of fettuccine noodles: one stick of butter, heavy whipping cream, minced garlic, grated Parmesan cheese and ground pepper.


It takes less time to make the sauce than it does to cook the noodles, so be sure to start the noodles first. Then, melt the stick of butter in a medium-size saucepan.

Once the butter has completely melted, stir in 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream. Stir constantly over medium-low heat.

Bring the mixture to a soft boil, and while stirring continuously, let it bubble for one minute. The butter and whipping cream should be well incorporated by that point. After that minute, turn off the heat, and add as much minced garlic as your heart desires. Add some freshly ground pepper. Then add at least one cup of grated Parmesan cheese. The final amount is up to you: more cheese will give your sauce more texture to cling to the noodles, and less cheese will mean a smoother sauce.


Stir everything together. At this point, the noodles should be done. Drain the noodles, give them a quick rinse with hot water and throw them back in the pot. Pour the delicious Alfredo sauce over the noodles, toss to coat, and you are done!

Pile that fettuccine Alfredo on a big plate, ignore how many calories and fat grams you are about to consume, and dig in. Personally, I like my fettuccine Alfredo topped with grilled chicken and diced tomatoes. But believe me (and my hips), this dish is just fine on it's own. Enjoy!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy birthday, Martha!

Today is Martha Stewart's 68th birthday. Happy birthday, Martha!

This cake was made for Martha at the Bedford Post, an inn co-owned by Richard Gere. You know, George Clooney made me a birthday cake once. It was chocolate with buttercream frosting. He messed up on the roses, but I told him it looked fine anyways. George gets really touchy about those kinds of things.

From Richard Gere, and chef Brian Lewis of the Bedford Post on Twitpic

Okay, George Clooney didn't really make me a cake, but wouldn't it be awesome if he did? Sigh.

Anyways, Martha's birthday has given me a lot to think about, and thanks to my week off, I had time to think those thoughts. Deep thoughts. Walk with me for a moment through Martha's earlier life events:

Martha fun facts
Born in 1941
Married at 20
Had a child at 24
Became a stockbroker at 26
Became a stay-at-home mom at 32
Started her catering company at 35
Published her first book (Entertaining) at 41


Now, let's compare my life to Martha's. We don't match up in terms of when we got married or had that first child, but I do see a unique window of opportunity for me to become more like Martha...she started a new career when her child was two, and had her own business at age 35.

Do you see where I am going with this?

My Little Guy will be two in a few months, and I'll hit 35 in a few years. And having my own business (though I'm not exactly sure what) is a dream I've had for many, many years. And I think it's time. Time for me to get serious about what it is that I want to do with the next 30 years of my life, and time to start taking steps to make it happen.

It's amazing what a week of deep thoughts and extra sleep can do for a person. That, and being inspired by Martha's example, have motivated me to finally take that first step. It's a good thing!

Thanks, Martha. And happy birthday!