Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I got a package in the mail from my dear friend Evonne at Darling Clandestine.  I've mentioned her before: Evonne makes amazing earrings.  This package contained something new and entirely different...

Well, well, well...what do we have here?

Is it? It is!  Darling Clandestine now has a line of fragrance, and Evonne sent me Circassian.

I opened it up and took a sniff.  My stomach dropped. I just wasn't that impressed.  How was I going to tell Evonne?  I instantly envisioned a very unpleasant conversation in my future, and how I might feign interest in her new product.  I was panicking, especially since Evonne and I go way back, and I know she puts her heart into every project she does.  But then I came to my senses and remembered a few very important things:

1. Everything Evonne touches turns to gold.  Everything.
2. She would never attach her name to something that wasn't a quality product.
3. Evonne's work is always new and different. There is truly nothing else out there similar to what she does.
4. Most perfumes smell very different once they are applied.  After all, how many times had I liked something that was sprayed on a card, only to realize too late that it stunk once I actually put it on at home?

With all that in mind, I rolled Circassian on.  At the 30-second mark, I sniffed my wrists and smiled.  It smelled good.  At the 45-second mark, it smelled great.  And at the one minute mark, I was bowled over.  And I was feeling like a fool:  How could I have doubted Evonne?

This might be the best perfume I've ever tried. 

Now, I wear Circassian every day.  Every single day.  Without fail.  In fact, I keep it next to my wedding band, so I am sure to put it on each morning.  I wish you could smell Circassian for yourself, but since I have yet to invent a scratch-and-sniff blog, words will have to convey how intoxicating this scent is.  And I know my words are inadequate, so I'll simply steal the description from the Darling Clandestine store:

"Odd and wondrous, these trinkets the suitors bring—astonishing flowers that look like paper birds, jasmine tea and black coffee, a costly box of chocolates with a red silk ribbon. You once saw a tiger in Bangkok, a riot in Paris, a machine at Coney Island that they said could really fly. The exotic butters in your fantastic hair, the livelihood you've adopted and the orchards you left behind. Your love is not a curiosity—it's a marvel. Make them earn it.

Carefully blended and infused by me in small batches in vintage green glass wine bottles, this is a warm chocolaty fragrance with intriguing notes of amber and blossoms. A dozen different scent elements and several days of methodical alchemy make Circassian no ordinary scented oil mix—it's a truly inimitable fragrance."

Every word in the description is absolutely perfect for this perfume.  I truly could not have said it better myself. 

Darling Clandestine has a whole line of circus-inspired fragrances.  I have Circassian, and the other two in the Calliope Crash line are Step Right Up and Fire Eater.  Different size bottles and samples are available.

My birthday is coming up in a few short weeks.  Forget about a party, cake or dinner out.  Hint, hint Big Guy:  I want Step Right Up and Fire Eater.  I must have them all. 

And to Evonne:  well done!  Once again, your work is golden. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Martha Monday--Mail call

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Martha and/or her people have noticed me.  Soon after, I got two interesting pieces of mail...take a look at the return address:

What a thrill to see something from MSLO addressed to me as a (blog) writer!  Inside the envelopes were the September issues of Whole Living and Everyday Food, along with info sheets about both publications. 

I have to confess, I've gone through each magazine several times already and I think I might like them better than Martha Stewart Living

I know, right?!?

Anyways, I'll be trying out the recipes/ideas in the coming weeks, and let you know how the suggestions on the page translate into real TMI Living.  Because at the end of the day, you and I know that's the Living that really matters...the one that works for us in our homes and with our own families.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cheery utensil crock

For the longest time, I've kept my most-used cooking utensils in a small stockpot by the stove.  It's functional, but not very pretty.  In fact, sitting on the gray countertop in front of the gray-ish backsplash, it's downright blah.

Enter this new...thing.  I'm not quite sure what it is. Decoration?  Cookie jar? 

Whatever it's intended purpose, I thought it would make a great new utensil crock.

Which it does.  I like the color it adds to an otherwise mostly-gray kitchen.  My only issue now is...what do I do with the lid?

The poor, lonely, sad lid. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salmon glaze

I recently found a recipe for a brown sugar glaze for salmon, and it's delicious.  The recipe is in the 2010 Taste of Home Annual Recipes Cookbook.

The recipe suggests mixing all the ingredients over a saucepan, but I threw everything in a pyrex measuring cup and heated it in the microwave. It turned out fine.

The glaze is intended for salmon cooked in the oven, but at the TMI household, salmon is wrapped in foil and tossed on the grill.  For my purposes, the glaze really served as more of a marinade.

Cooking salmon this way is really quick (only 10 minutes or so on the grill) and a cinch to clean up. This is a real bonus in the summer, when turning on the oven in August in the midwest is never a good idea.

Give this glaze and cooking technique a try. Happy grilling!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Martha Monday--Martha imposter!

When I need a fast Martha fix and I've already gone through the "Martha" section of my personal library, I turn to the Aurora Public Library.  My most recent fix uncovered a mystery....let me show you what I mean.

I checked out four MS books during my last trip.  Book #1 is Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts, published in 1992. 

Isn't Martha too cute?  In 1992, Martha was 51 years old.

Book #2 is Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, published in 2005.

Thirteen years have gone by, but Martha hasn't aged a bit!

Book #3 is Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook, published in 2006.

This picture is more difficult to see because of the barcode, but Martha looks great.

Finally, Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home was published in 2009. 

Keep in mind that the woman in this photo is supposed to be 68 years old. 68. years. old.

Did you see that? 
Compare the 2005 Martha Stewart.... the 2009 version of Martha Stewart. 

What the hell?  It looks like two completely different women!

Now, I've thought long and hard about this, and there can only be three possibilities:

1.  Someone got WAY too carried away with airbrushing and photoshopping the 2009 book cover.
2. The real Martha Stewart was kidnapped by aliens and/or Libyan nationalists, and the folks at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia tried to pass off this fake Martha as the real thing so as to reassure the public and cover-up the existance of aliens and/or Libyan nationalists.
3. ...This is too awful to think about, but bear with me...There is some kind of horrific "weekend at Bernie's" thing going on here, and the MSLO people don't want the public to catch on.

Please, for the love of all things Martha, let it be option #1.  My fragile understanding of the world just can't fathom the implications of options 2 and 3. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chocolate-zucchini cakes

Before I saw this recipe, I never in a million years would have thought of putting chocolate and zucchini together in cake form.  Never.  The very pairing just seems wrong, you know? But, I was swimming in zucchini and had an urge to bake, so I decided to go for it and let me tell you now...I am a believer.

Note: the recipe for Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes can also be found in the May 2010 edition of Everyday Food.

But first things first...the Little Guy helped, as usual.  I'd like to point out that since he has mastered the KitchenAid hand mixer, he is now learning how to use my KitchenAid stand mixer.  Soon, I'll be able to snap my fingers and say "Bake me some chocolate chip cookies!" and he'll run over to the mixer and get started and I won't have to do anything but supervise his dealings with the oven.  And then he'll clean everything up and not whine and life will be grand.  Just grand, I tell you!

Martha's recipe calls for 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, which I had, but since I doubled the recipe I didn't have enough.  So I did the only logical thing I could think of:  I melted 1/4 cup of Wilton's dark cocoa candy melts and added them to the batter.  Which I forgot to take pictures of.  My bad.

The addition of the dark cocoa candy melts was a stroke of pure genius, though, so WHEN you make this recipe (notice I did not say IF, because you really do need to bake these tonight) go ahead and give the melted chocolate a try.  You'll thank me for this, I promise.

When I first decided to make this recipe I flirted briefly with the thought of making these full-size cupcakes rather than mini-cupcakes.  I wasn't sure what that would do to the baking times, so I left it as is.  And boy, was that the right decision.  These things came out perfectly!

You'll notice that I skipped the walnut on top and went with a dollop of buttercream icing.  My oh my are these things delicious!  You have to taste it to believe it, as I did.  The cakes are sweet and moist, and unless you've been told there's zucchini in there, you'd never know. 

Next year, I might plant some zucchini just so I can make these all late summer and fall.  And since they do contain zucchini, each mini-cake is like a serving of vegetables, so it's okay to eat 12 or so in one sitting. 

Thanks for the great recipe, Martha! This one is a keeper.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two cups

After slicing up half of the monster zucchini, I still had a ton left that I wasn't sure what to do with. Perusing Martha's gallery of zucchini recipes left me with three yummy-looking options:

Option #1:  Zucchini Spice Bread

Option #2:  Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes

Option #3:  Sweet Zucchini Cupcakes

All three looked equally delicious, but what it really came down to was how much shredded zucchini I could come up with:

Two cups, which is exactly the amount needed to double the Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes recipe.  Time to get started!  Results will be up tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grilled zucchini

My neighbor gave me a zucchini that is the size of a small suitcase. This thing is huge!  Sadly, I have no 'before' pictures as my first instinct was to slice part of it up and throw it on the grill a la Martha's Grilled Zucchini and Squash recipe:

First I peeled and sliced half of my monster-zucchini.  Seriously, each slice was the size of the palm of my hand. Zucchini are amazing!

Next, I seasoned.  And because I didn't have all the necessary fresh ingredients on hand, I took Martha's recipe and simplified it further. I only used zucchini, olive oil and season salt. Good times.

I let it all sit on the counter for a while before throwing it on the grill.
And here's the finished product:

Not as pretty as Martha's, but it sure did taste good. This is a great side dish to whatever you might be grilling tonight. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Martha Monday--Crazy for zucchini

Those of you who are lucky and talented enough to have gardens are probably swimming in fresh produce right now.  And for those of you crazy enough to plant zucchini, I bet you are nearly drowning in it. 

To help you get the most of your 57 bushels of zucchini, Martha has 57 zucchini recipes

I got a zucchini the size of a loaf of bread from my neighbor. This thing is a monster, and I'm perusing Martha's suggestions now to find something that looks really yummy.

What are you making with your zucchini?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bloggers' Night Out!

The BlogHer conference is in New York City this year, and the creative team at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is hosting a Bloggers' Night Out party tonight. 

And they invited me!

But, sadly, I can't go for the following reasons:

1. It's a Thursday night, and I work.  Believe or not, blogging is not my job.  I actually have a 9-5 gig where real, live people are subject to my crazy stories and random outbursts.  While they might appreciate a break from me, my job duties will not allow for a quick jaunt to NYC for a two-hour event.

2.  Little Guy and BabyGirl must be cared for.  Since that caregiver must have opposable thumbs, this leaves out Barley.  Actually, getting a babysitter wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I would miss them and I think they are still way too young to have mommy away overnight. 

3.  I got the invitation a week in advance, and no accompanying plane ticket.  Maybe it got lost on the internet? Plus, I really need more time to plan.  I'm just a planner, you know?

4.   See the last sentence of reason #2. 

5.  I don't have anything to wear.  Unless this event is all about denim capris and t-shirts, which I seriously doubt.

Lots of fellow Martha fanatics will be there, and I look forward to seeing all the pictures on their blogs.  Have fun, everyone!  Say "Hello" to Martha for me!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Happy birthday, Martha!

Today is Martha's birthday.  She is a stunning 69 years old.

To celebrate, Martha is coming over tonight for dinner and dessert.  Here's the menu:

Veggies and dill dip
Tex-mex casserole
Chocolate mint cake
Funky monkeys

I'm expecting her around 6pm.*  We're going to have a super fun time.  After dinner, we'll enjoy drinks as we stroll around the backyard dodging snakes and dirt piles, looking at my new fence and discussing tree care.  Then, we'll head back inside for a fun game of Scrabble.  I hear Martha is one mean Scrabble player. 

*That claim is obviously not based in reality.

Happy birthday, Martha!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Martha Monday--Hello, Martha!

Hello, readers!  I have some news:  she's noticed me.

And by "she," I mean Martha.

Martha Stewart.

THE Martha Stewart. 

Let me back up...back in 2009 (May 1 to be exact) I met Martha at a book signing and slipped her my business card for this blog.  I was a tad worried I'd come across like a crazed fan, but I thought she might enjoy the blog, if only for its comedic value.  So I blogged.  And I kept blogging, all the while hoping that Martha hasn't given my name and number to the local branch of the FBI for monitoring.  (Hello, FBI!)

Then, just a few weeks ago, I got an email from Martha's main PR gal (Hello, Katie!)..."Wanted to reach out and say how much we have been enjoying your blog.  In fact, I was with Martha the day you met her at Macy's..."

Naturally, I peed my pants, screamed for the Big Guy, and fell out of my chair.  Though not necessarily in that order.  After all that, I called both sets of my parents, even though it was too late at night (Hello, moms and dads!) to inform them of this latest development:

Martha Stewart reads my blog.

Or at least her people do (Hello again, Katie and Hello, Sarah!) which is a-ok with me.

So, what comes next?  I'm not sure, but for my part I will continue to strive for perfection knowing full well that I will fall on my face, and report those often-hilarious and sometimes-disastrous results for your amusement.  For example, I have a great story from yesterday...Barley was making a noise like he was going to puke all over the kitchen floor, so I opened up the sliding glass door to get him into the backyard, but I couldn't get the screen door open fast enough, and he ran right through the screen door. Thus destroying the screen. And then he didn't even puke.

See? Isn't that hilarious? Or maybe that falls into the "disaster" category.  Just keeping it real, folks. (Hello, folks!)  And I've got PLENTY more where that came from...

I'll continue to blog about cooking, baking, entertaining, homekeeping, crafting, gardening and all that fun stuff, and throw in the occasional picture of my kids and dog for value-added cuteness.

Thanks to everyone who's been a regular reader from the beginning (Hello, Tom and Laura!) and thanks to all of you who have joined the fun/craziness/cookie-induced-coma over the past 20 months (Hello to all of my 33 followers!).  And a big thanks to my lurkers...I know you're out there and you know who you are.  Hello, lurkers!

And hello, Martha!