Friday, April 30, 2010

The Stink Tree and Fanta

Here in lovely Aurora, spring is here and the trees are in bloom.  Some tree blossoms smell terrific, and some smell downright foul. Sadly, I don't know the names of any of these trees, so for identification purposes, I'll name them myself.  If you know what these are, please clue me in.

This tree is next door.  I'll call it "Neighbor Tree."  It smells just fine.

This tree is all over the neighborhood. Let's call it "Stink Tree."  Why?  Because it stinks.  It really, really stinks.  What is this thing?

This tree smells good, and it's pretty.  I'll call it "Short Pretty Purple Tree."  I wouldn't mind having one of these in my yard. 

Finally, we have my favorite neighborhood tree.  I'm calling it "Fanta" because it smells exactly like grape Fanta.  And whenever I smell it, I want one...the tree and the Fanta. 

Next spring, I might go on a stealth mission to replace all the Stink Trees in the subdivision with Fanta trees.  People might be mad at first, but they'll thank me when the neighborhood smells better and property values rise, I'm just sure of it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Darling delivered

A few weeks ago, I told you about my friend Evonne's Etsy shop, Darling Clandestine. She makes beautiful jewelry in unique designs.  Naturally, I fell in love with a pair of earrings, and in my blog post, I strongly hinted that the Big Guy should get them for me.

And he did.  The Big Guy is also a smart guy.

The earrings came in a cute sheer pouch with a very hip business card and a nice note from Evonne.  The quality and design are top-notch.  Great work, Evonne!

In unrelated news, I have business card envy.  How cool is this?

Mother's Day, graduations and all sorts of occasions that call for nice jewelry, either for yourself or as a gift for someone special, are coming up.  Check out Darling Clandestine.  Emphasis on darling, because it is.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Martha Monday--What I covet

Martha has a lot of things that I would like to have: talent, money, fame.  But beyond that, there is one thing she has that I really, really espalier orchard.  Espalier is a gardening technique by which fruit trees are trained to grow along walls or a wire/wood framework.  Rather than bushing out, the trees are quite flat and manageable, making the fruit more abundant (it gets more sunlight this way) and easier to harvest (trees grow out instead of up, making fruit easier to pick). 

Martha first detailed this technique in her blog here, and again here.  Below is a picture of her espalier apple orchard at her Bedford farm.

Recently, she got another espalier orchard with a different variety of apple.  The trees were bought already with the espalier form.  Isn't that amazing?

One day, I'd like an espalier orchard of apples, pears and peaches in my backyard.  I'll have to speak with my gardener about that. 

NOTE: pictures are from Martha's blog. Follow the links to see more. :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

My delicious breaking point

Whenever I bake, with just about anything I bake, there's a breaking point.  That strange and mystical point in the creation process when I stop and I think "Why continue making this? I really want to eat it now."

My breaking point looks like this:

It's right after the white sugar, brown sugar and butter have been combined.

Doesn't it look delicious?  And wouldn't it be great on toast?

Oh, who am I kidding?  Forget the toast, I just want to eat it straight out of the mixing bowl.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The books are signed!

Recently I mentioned that Singer Sewing Company is giving away a copy of Martha's new book, The Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts every day in April.  They recently announced that thanks to Martha, each copy will be signed by the woman herself! 

To enter, simply become a Fan of Singer on facebook here, and/or become a follower of Singer on Twitter here. On each odd-numbered day, a winner will be chosen from the fans on facebook. On even-numbered days, they'll choose a name from their Twitter followers. You can find the official rules here.

Good luck and happy crafting!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fence me in

It's springtime. The TMI household has two small children, one of which is extremely mobile and moderately disobedient.  Our property backs up to the wetlands area and we are near a busy train rail.  Naturally, our thoughts are turning towards getting a fence. 

To see what was available, the Little Guy, BabyGirl and I did some recon in the subdivision to see what fencing styles are out there.  Here's what we saw:

I think the last fence (last two pictures shown) is the winner.  The simple, straight lines are attractive, and I like the cap on top.  Now, the Big Guy and I have to decide on things like height of the fence (I think 4' is fine, he would like 10' topped with barbed wire) and placement.  I'll be getting some quotes from various companies over the coming week to see if this is financially possible for this year, or if we could do it cheaper ourselves. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Martha Monday--Carrot cake

I tackled Martha's carrot cake for Easter.  And in true TMI fashion, things went awry while I was trying to emulate Martha. 

This is Martha's finished cake:

You can't see it from the picture, and I didn't know it until I was pulling out ingredients and mixing bowls late one night to bake it, that it is a THREE layer cake.  As in, you either need to own THREE 9" round cake pans, or you need to spend hours baking the cake layer by layer.   

As you can see, I only have TWO 9" round cake pans at my disposal.  And since I have ZERO spare time, I decided to make my version of Martha's cake with only two layers. 

One day I will get this Martha thing right, I swear.

Of course, with only two cake pans, I had to decrease the recipe by 1/3.  Which I thought would be easy since it called for three sticks of butter and three eggs, but got a little more complicated when it came to the shredded carrots.  What is 2/3 of 2 3/4 cups of carrots?  The TMI answer is "almost 2 cups." 

Hey, that's how we roll around here, okay?

The batter was very thick, and by the time I was putting it in the pan, I had developed some very serious doubts about the success of this cake experiment:  what if it's too dense?  What if everyone hates it?  What if I'm forced to eat this disaster all by myself? 

These doubts remained after the cake was baked, as it looked dense and tough in the pan.

However, it turned out in the end...

The cake was acceptably moist and quite delicious.  The cake was a hit. 

If I tackle this cake again, I'll be sure to take the time to make that third layer, or at least invest in a third 9" round cake pan by then.  Of course, now that I know how good it is, I might end up eating it all by myself anyways.  Give this carrot cake a try!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Barley in the sun

Sometimes, Barley is a little cat-like.  Observe:

I think he looks a bit like a lion, don't you? 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Our house backs up to a county wetlands preserve.  This is what it normally looks like this time of year:

Sadly, the area recently burned.  Even worse, we missed all the excitement...the Little Guy just loves fire trucks.  He's two, obviously.

It's somewhat difficult to tell from the pictures, but a large section of the preserve was burned.  Apparently, the fire department from Aurora and Sugar Grove both responded--it was that out of control. 

As you can see from the above picture, the fire even jumped the creek and headed towards the other half of our subdivision on the other side of the preserve.  One word on the street is that this was a controlled burn, that quickly got out of control due to higher-than-expected winds.  Other neighbors are saying it was an accident, or maybe someone tossed a cigarette into the brush.  Who knows?

A few fences were even cinged.  Yikes!  Truthfully, this is too much excitement for my taste.  Fortunately, no people or homes were hurt in the blaze, and the fences will live.
Already, ten days after the blaze, things are starting to grow back.  Below, you can see tiny patches of green in the burned area. 
I'm hoping the wetland brush grows back even greener and lusher than before. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Martha Monday--Win the book, courtesy of Singer Sewing Company!

Last Monday, I wrote about Martha's new book, The Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts.  As it turns out, you can win your very own copy of this book courtesy of the Singer Sewing Company.  They're giving away a copy of the Encyclopedia each day in April.

Here's how to enter:  become a Fan of Singer on facebook here, and/or become a follower of Singer on Twitter here.  On each odd-numbered day, a winner will be chosen from the fans on facebook.  On even-numbered days, they'll choose a name from their Twitter followers.  You can find the official rules here

While you're signing up to follow Singer on Twitter, go ahead and follow Martha, and me.  Yeah, I'm listed as "miniMartha" on Twitter--that's how I roll.  Happy Monday!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cake compromise

The Big Guy is a picky eater.  Seriously, the list of foods he won't eat is longer than the list of foods he will eat. 

Case in point:  he likes chocolate cake, but only with white buttercream icing.  I like buttercream icing, too, but since nearly every cake made in the TMI household is chocolate with buttercream icing to accomodate the Big Guy, I was getting tired of it.  It was time to put some chocolate icing on a chocolate cake.

But, being as I am madly in love with the Big Guy, and because eating an entire cake by myself would be a bad thing, I compromised.

Oh, the things I do for love. 

The end.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Garbage bag storage--a good thing

With two kids in diapers/training pants, we go through a lot of wipes in the TMI household.  Which means we empty a wipe container or two every week. 

Fortunately, I've starting putting those plastic containers to work for me. 

We use regular plastic grocery bags to line the small trash cans in our house, of which there are nine.  To corral the seemingly-endless supply of plastic bags, and to make sure we always have liners on hand when we need them, I use the empty wipe containers to box the plastic bags. 

I keep a container in the car as well, which is helpful when I need to clean out the car or simply put the bottom half of one of my kids in a plastic bag.  Yes, we have moments like that here.

Plastic bag reuse and organization--it's a good thing!

NOTE TO EVERYONE:  I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart has copyrighted the "It's a Good Thing" phrase, so that's all hers. Just an FYI.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Martha Monday--sewing crafts and chickens

Last week, Martha introduced her 71st craft book, Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

First of all, 71 craft books?!? Holy cow. That is amazing!

Secondly, I need to suggest this book to the Big Guy for a Mother's Day gift, being as I recently birthed our second child and all. 

Third, just looking at the preview of the book on Martha's website and blog are getting me excited to break out my own sewing machine, which hasn't seen the light of day in years.  That, my dear readers, is a good thing. 

In other Martha news, she recently posted this video on her blog, and my Little Guy cannot get enough of it.  She is demonstrating how to put a chicken to sleep...sleep as in a snooze, not as in beheading, so the video is just fine for the kids. Enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bunny mix

Since we are hosting Easter for the first time ever, the Little Guy and I decided to make favors for our guests.

Okay, I decided to make favors.  The Little Guy is just along for the ride.

I thought doing a bunny trail mix would be great for all ages coming to dinner on Saturday.  Ingredients included Kashi Heart-to-Heart cereal (honey flavor), raisins, Easter M&Ms, cheddar Chickadees (Market Pantry brand from Target) and chocolate bunnies that I made with a Wilton mold.  I had thought about including pretzels, but decided against it at the last minute.

Everything but the chocolate bunnies was mixed together.  You can see that the Little Guy really enjoys those M&Ms.  The bunnies were added 2-3 at a time to each bag to ensure even distribution. 

The Little Guy scooped up the mixture and poured it into the bags.  This was a fun afternoon for us!

Here's the finished product:

The treat bags are in the shape of carrots (these are from Wilton, I believe).  Isn't that too cute? 

Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day, again

This is from last April Fool's Day.  I'm reposting because, well, The Onion article is just too funny.  Enjoy!

I wonder what Martha does for April Fool's Day.

I'm coming up blank.

However, in the spirit of April Fool's Day, and in celebration of Martha, I present to you a delightful article from the Onion.

Martha Stewart Stalker Can Barely Keep Up