Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vocalpoint #2

I've mentioned Vocalpoint in the past: it's a great company that let's you sample and review various products.  Through them, I get great coupons and product samples in the mail. 

Most recently, I got a full-size bottle of the new Pantene Nature Fusion shampoo:

Some great coupons were included.  If you haven't already signed up for Vocalpoint, what are you waiting for?  Do it today--sign up here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Martha Monday--Easter Menus

Easter is less than a week away.  Like any other holiday, we'll celebrate three times over the course of three days and two weekends to make sure we see as much family as possible.  This year, I'll be hosting one of the Easters. 

This is a first for me.

Sure, I've done Thanksgiving and Christmas, but never an Easter.  Gird your loins, people.

For those of you looking to go all Martha on Easter, you can see a sampling of menus here.  I'm particularly intrigued by this "Easy Easter Dinner"...

...because nothing says "Easy" like hosting your first-ever Easter for the in-laws, right?!

Here's my menu:

Green bean casserole
Au gratin potatoes
Corn casserole
Glazed carrots
Devilled eggs
Bread and butter
Magic jello mousse


Carrot cake cupcakes
Lemon cupcakes
Twisted krispies
Easter M&M cookies

The Little Guy and I will be tackling the cupcakes and maybe even some Easter candy this week.  For your viewing (and salivating pleasure), here's the Easter dessert I came up with last year:

It's a coconut cake covered with peanut M&Ms and candy bunnies.  I called it "Easter Island."  You can read all about it here.  While that was fun, I'm going to try something new this year.  Stay tuned!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Martha's blueberry muffins

I have blueberries in my freezer.  They've been there a long time, and I had to take action. 

Enter Martha's blueberry's what they look like:

The Little Guy and I decided to tackle these blueberry muffins and decrease our stash of frozen shame-berries (seriously, they've been in my freezer forever.  I keep meaning to use them...). 

Unlike a few of Martha's recipes I've tried recently, this one was absolutely correct in both yield and baking times.  The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to leave out the additional sugar and nutmeg for the muffin tops.

Granted, my muffins aren't as picturesque as Martha's, but I can guarantee they were just as tasty.  Yum!  In the meantime, I'm going to work with the Little Guy to turn him into a food stylist for this blog. 

After all, he's got the role of taste tester down perfectly.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Announcing the arrival of BabyGirl

Here she is!

BabyGirl was born on February 25.  8 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 inches long.

We're doing well, if a little sleep deprived, and definately enjoying the latest addition to the TMI family.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Martha Monday--Martha's St. Patrick's Day menu

St. Patrick's Day is Wednesday, so for those of you looking to do something special, there's still plenty of time.  Martha shares her St. Patrick's Day menu and recipes here

I don't know if I'll get to the entire meal, but the Little Guy and I might take a stab at the soda bread. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pantry makeover

I love my pantry.  It's a walk-in, and by that, I mean it's big enough that the Big Guy and I can take turns standing inside to hide our cookie consumption from the Little Guy.  Don't get me wrong, the Little Guy gets the occasional cookie, but there are only so many Girl Scout Thin Mints to go around, you know?
Anyways, the pantry had gotten a bit disorganized in recent months.  (Tilt your head 90 degrees to the right to get the full effect--sorry for the sideways picture.)  Cereal and crackers are on the top shelves, which makes absolutely no sense in a household where there's a two-year-old who only wants to eat crackers and cereal. 

Here's more proof things are out of control:  one shelf contained canned goods, bread, chips, syrup and noodles.  And to think I consider myself an organizational maven.

Plus, there was a great deal of wasted space toward the ceiling. 

Not a good thing.  Clearly, something had to be done.

I started with a semi-detailed plan of where items should go, and as I emptied the pantry, any expired items went straight into the trash can. 

The Big Guy installed two more shelves at the top of the pantry, allowing me to fit in items that I don't use often but want easy access to.  Additionally, everything was rearranged so that items I don't use often are up top, items the Little Guy will want are within his reach, and items for easy meal planning are mostly at eye level. 

For the full finished product, tilt your head 90 degrees to the right.

Overall, this project took only one afternoon. It was well worth it...the pantry is now a much more enjoyable place to hide while eating cookies.  I might even have room to fit a recliner in there now. ;)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Darling Clandestine

My very talented friend Evonne has at long last opened a shop on Etsy:  Darling Clandestine.  There, she features hand-made, one-of-a-kind earrings, pendants and stickpins.  I'm in love with so many of her pieces, and I know you will be, too. 

Take a look:

Here's a description of Evonne's process: 

"My pieces are formed completely by hand, not just strung or glued together. I make them from scratch with high-quality wire—copper, silver and brass. I add natural gemstone, fine glass or crystal beads. And pretty little found things, like watch gears, for extra Cadillac. ;) You’ll see I’m crazy about curved lines and curls. I use commercial ear hooks for safety, but I don’t use headpins or pre-made filigree pieces or clasps—it’s more satisfying to make them myself."

I have a feeling that lots of shopping for Mother's Day, birthday, and Christmas will be done at Darling Clandestine.  By both myself (for the women in my life) and by the Big Guy (for his main woman--HINT HINT!).  Happy shopping!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Martha Monday--sugar cookies

Recently, I made Martha's Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies from the recipe in her Cookies book, but you can find the same recipe online here.  Here's what Martha's cookies look like:

Mine didn't turn out this way.  In fact, this is one of Martha's recipes that leaves me scratching my head.  In the Cookies book, the old-fashioned sugar cookie recipe is in the "Soft and Chewy" section.  But in following the recipe, the cookies turned out much more crisp than I would have liked.

The recipe calls for 15 minutes of baking time, with a sheet rotation halfway through.  My disclaimer: I don't rotate cookie sheets during baking, mostly because I'm busy cleaning up the mess I just made by making cookies and I don't think it really makes that much of a difference when baking.  So I must admit that that could be part of the problem, but I just don't think that's what led to my crispy (not chewy) cookies.  I think the baking time is too long.

I decreased the baking time to 12 minutes (still no cookie sheet rotation) and they started turning out much, much better. 

I'd also like to point out that in the Cookies book, the instructions state that each batch will make 1 1/2 dozen cookies.  Online, the recipe says it will make 20 cookies.  In my kitchen, the recipe made over 2 dozen large cookies. 

My second personal note to Martha (see the first one here):

Once again, Martha, it is time for a new proofreader.  Employ this Martha-in-training as your field editor, or a new baker for your test kitchen.  Mistakes in baking time and recipe yield are a serious matter, and it's something we here at The Martha Initiative (and by we, I mean just me!) take very seriously. 

That is all. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Basement shelves

Like many households, our unfinished basement had become a dumping ground ever since moving in.  I had blamed this on a serious lack of shelving--where was I to put all those totes and boxes?  Little Big Brother Freddy stepped in by spending two days building shelves with the Big Guy.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves....

Freddy and I designed the shelves, taking into account the different sizes of totes and what all needed to be stored.  So far, the Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving and winter decorations are safely tucked away on the shelves.  In the coming months, my goal is to fill up the rest of the shelves and get everything off the basement floor. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Handy Freddy

Martha has people. People who know how to do things.  Skilled people, who know how to build, landscape, garden, plumb, wire and all kinds of other handy things. 

Here at TMI, I'm fortunate to know many handy people, too.  But there's only one I can count on to drive across state lines, stay for days, and literally ask for projects to work on.  It's my Little Big Brother, Freddy.  He stayed with us for a long weekend back in November, and tackled a number of household projects for us. 

Freddy hung curtains.  In several rooms.  He repaired closet doors.  He helped the Big Guy rearrange the living room. 

He repaired the bathroom sink. This particular project took quite a while.  But Freddy stuck with it, and got the job done.

Freddy's most magical quality, however, is his ability to entertain the Little Guy.  The Little Guy is just fascinated with Uncle Freddy. 

You just can't beat that for handy, you know?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Martha Monday--How she does it

Way back in December of 2008 when I started this blog, I compared my life to Martha's.  She is a domestic diva, a smart and powerful business woman and just all-around fabulous.  I am a disheveled woman trying to balance work in the city with  family in the suburbs with the hope of one day starting my own business.  In writing, I sadly realized that Martha's actual domestic divatude and my domestic diva aspirations are very far apart.  Even our morning routines are nothing alike!

Fortunately, some smart TMI readers quickly reminded me that Martha has a staff, both at home and in her office, to help her get things done.  Or in many cases, just do them for her.  For example, Martha's farm staff include her housekeeper, landscapers, maintenance guys, stable managers, a farrier (blacksmith--I had to look it up) and more.  I'm betting she has a staff of 15-25 just to manage her farm.  (See evidence of this at her Christmas party)  And that's only one of her houses!  Of course, this doesn't include the daily visits from her trainer, her hair/make-up artist....well, you get the idea.

Naturally, I, along with everyone else on this planet, could get a lot more done each day if I had a staff of my own.  But I don't.  However, I do occasionally have a lot of help and that makes things a lot easier for me.  Once the baby arrives and our family goes from 3+ dog to 4+ dog, you'll be meeting the people who are helping me get by.  For this week though, I'd like to focus on my #1 maintenance guy, my Big Little Brother Freddy.

You met him a few weeks ago when I shared with you the shell of a dresser he turned into a bookcase for us.  This week, I'll share with you some more projects that Freddy did for the TMI household.  Freddy--he's a good thing!