Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall Decorations 2013

I decided it might be cool to post some of this year's Fall decor, since last year's is getting a lot of hits and quite a few pins.

I will start with my outdoor Fall wreath. 

I bought this HUGE grapevine wreath at Salvation Army for $2.  Unfortunately, it was covered in mauve and dusty rose decor.  I wish I had remembered to take a before pic, but of course I didn't.  After removing all the remnants of 1985, I got to work digging through my fall decor pieces that were purchased on clearance last year the day before Thanksgiving.  

This is my Thanksgiving table for this year.

I reused the arrangements that I had made last year here.  I added a table runner that was on clearance at Steinmart.  The runner has some slate blue in it, so I am going to use some slate blue place mats, that I think will pop against my amber plates.

I elevated the center candle on a candle holder and covered it with a plain white napkin, but you could easily use canned goods or books, or whatever you would like.  It is always nice to give your pieces height to add interest.

Last here is my Fall mantle.  I am particularly fond of this look.

The wreath and the sugared leaves were purchased from a local silk flower supplier.  They were already on DEEP discount, because they are selling Christmas decor already, and needed the space for more trees, wreaths, and poinsettias.

I just adore this wreath with it's copper vines and beautiful metallic and shimmery leaves.  The ribbon that I used is actually Christmas ribbon, but I thought the colors were perfect with the rest of the decor (if you look close you will see that I also used this ribbon on the outdoor wreath).

I just love the way those leaves pick up the light that comes in from the window.  Those candle sticks and that amber glass were both thrift store purchases (less than $5 for all 3 pieces).

 This little angel candlestick was 25 cents at the Salvation Army. For my thrifting dollars, Salvation Army trumps Goodwill any day. If you notice the little picture frame on the left, that was bought to put a terrific family picture in.  However, when I was getting ready to put the picture in the frame, I realized that a sweet little person had made a special picture and had inserted it in to the frame, and I did not have the heart to take it out of there.  Sometimes, when I am taking life just a little too seriously, I look at that frame and it reminds me that everything doesn't have to be perfect, and occasionally we just need a little dose of silly.

That's all that I have to post for now.  I do still have a few arrangements to make with last year's clearance flowers, so once I get those made, I will post them as well.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plus Size Fashion

My eyes have been opened to a whole new world of plus size fashion.  I find myself not only sewing obsessed, but also fashion obsessed.  I am working on a new blog...more lifestyle and less food focused, and I guarantee there will be more and more fashion appearing in that blog.  It will also feature some of my own creations, and don't worry there will still be an occasional recipe, or decorating tip.  I don't have a name yet, but I am psyched and I feel like I am getting back to my true self.  Bare with me, as I get ready for this transition.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sewing = Obsession

This Summer, sewing and fashion have really become my obsession.  As a plus size gal, it has always been hard to really embrace fashion, because most things off the rack 1. never fit right 2. are hideous and 3. make me feel even worse about myself and my body.

I have said for many years that I was just going to start sewing my own clothes because I am so disgusted with whats available in my size.

Sewing is not quite a new thing for me.  I loved to sew when I was younger, but I was never encouraged to run with it, so to speak.

Anyways, the reason that I am not on here much is because there are some new things in the works, so bear with me.

Friday, May 31, 2013

An Indiana Raised Garden

I have always loved gardening, and have had a bit of a green thumb all my life.  So, now that we are back in a home that we own, one of the first things that I decided on doing was building a raised garden bed.

It is a bit of a hodge podge square foot garden.  It is actually 5x5 instead of 4x4 because the cheap wood at Home Depot was 10 foot planks, but I laid it out in a 4x4 grid.  For us it ok that it is a little bigger, because my husband is 6' 4" and has a long arm span.  If you are all shorties in your house stick to a 4x4.  I didn't follow the rules as far as what you put in the garden for dirt.  There are no sources near where I live for compost in bulk or any of the other components that are recommended for a square foot garden.  So, it is about half topsoil, one quarter peat moss, and 1/4 compost.  I had intended to add unflavored gelatin to the mix (it helps to hold moisture in the soil) but forgot, so maybe I will add it this Fall when I turn the garden.

Another nontraditional thing about my "square foot garden" is that I have it laid out as a diamond instead of a square.  The reasoning for that is the area I wanted to put it, it would only fit in that orientation.  I have it in one of the beds around my house, because I didn't want to kill my grass.

I started some of the plants from seeds and others I bought already starting to grow.  I have beets, carrots,  both head and leaf lettuce, zucchini and yellow squash all starting from seeds.  I got already started plants of tomatoes, basil, an assortment of bell peppers, and rosemary.  There are also a few marigolds in the garden.  They help with attracting pollinators and are supposed to help suppress aphids, though there is much debate on this subject, and some say they attract red spider mites.  We also have a patio tomato plant for cherry tomatoes, a mint plant going vigorously in another part of the yard, and my little guy has 3 hanging strawberry baskets (though I am not so sure how well these are going to do, we will transplant them to a bed come Fall).

My Winter herb garden is now perched outside for the warm months, and the herbs seem to be doing quite well.  The rosemary is hardy, the parsley seems to produce a fresh crop every week, the thyme is running all over the place, I am finally getting some nice sized leaves on the oregano, and the poor sage is growing a little better now too.  I should have never planted the sage next to the parsley, but you live you learn.  I also have a pitiful hydrangea that was given to me as a houseplant earlier in the Spring.  I thought it had died out completely then much to my surprise it started shooting off new foliage.  It is sitting outside getting used to the weather right now, and I will be putting it in the ground sometime within the week.

That is about all that is happening in my garden right now.  I will post photos, and some gardening tips soon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sewing = Upcycling

On a recent trip to the Salvation Army, I picked up this men's gap sweater.  Purple was the color of the week, so I paid a whopping 95 cents for this sweater (color of the week items are half off).  It was a size medium which is obviously not going to fit anyone in my household, but I loved the colors and the way the sweater felt, and for the price I knew I could find something to make with it.

At first I figured maybe I would use it for some cute pillows, or even to make a cuddly stuffed animal.  The material is so soft!  It almost has an angora feel to it.

Then I decided to make it in to a few things for Marcus instead.  Marcus is the most appreciative child of anything that I make him.  I have a special gift in the making for his birthday too, but more on that at another time.

First thing I made was a v-neck sweater vest for him.  I took another v-neck sweater out of his sweater, and laid it on my rotary mat matching the bottom of the two sweaters so that the finished piece would have the lower band already in place.  I simply cut around it using a rotary cutter allowing an extra 1/2 inch all the way around  This yielded two pieces: a front and a back, because I cut through both layers of the sweater.  I then cut the V in to the front of the sweater.  I cut the neck out of the original sweater, and then hand basted it to the new sweater in two pieces (one for the front piece and one for the back piece).

I then used my sewing machine to sew the shoulder seams and side seams of the sweater.  Once that was finished, I decided that I wanted to cut one of the runs of blue and white striping out of the original sweater and use that to cap the sleeves on the v-neck.  I hand basted these in because I knew it would be easier that trying to sew these small round holes on the machine.

All in all in took me about an hour from start to finish on this project.  I also put some of the scrap pieces together to make a matching scarf for it.

Here is the finished product on the hanger.

And on the Monkey.

As I sat looking at the remaining scraps, it occurred to me that I had these two long sleeves and I should make something from them.  Then it hit me, that they were dead on fit for Marcus's legs.  So, I made a pair of pajama bottoms for Marcus using the sleeves, and two triangles of the material from the sweater, and I used what was left of the lower band of the sweater to form a waist band for the jammies.  I simply sewed the two triangles together at the angle across from their widest side.  I then sewed each of the other two corners together as to form the upper side of the pants.  Next I hand basted the legs to the triangles, and then I machine sewed the waistband to the top of it all.

This project took me about 25 minutes start to finish.

Jammies on the hanger.

Jammies on the kiddo.

Marcus LOVES these jammy bottoms.  If he looks in the drawer and they are clean, they are what he is wearing to bed that night.  Who could blame him though, they feel luxurious!

So to recap, I took a 95 cent Salvation Army sweater, and with another 50 cents of thread plus an hour and a half of my time, turned it in to a stylish sweater vest and matching scarf, and the most comfortable pair of pajama bottoms a little boy could ever wish for, with only a tiny handful of slivers of scrap.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Someone's in the Kitchen with Momma

Someone's in the kitchen, I kno-o-ow.  Someone's in the kitchen with Mom-ma, chopping and he's 5 years old!

Okay, he will be 6 year's old this month, but still I know that many reading this are thinking, "Eek, you are letting your little kid use a knife!"

Cooking is a fundamental life skill that so many adults kids lack these days.  My husband came to me with VERY little cooking skills and no knowledge of proper nutrition, and I am determined that my son will leave my nest knowing how to make a healthy and nutritious meal for himself and others.

Marcus's has been in the kitchen stirring things with me for quite a while (literally years).  When daddy is feeling particularly patient, he let's Marcus crack the eggs for Saturday breakfast.  He uses a butter knife to cut the softer items on his plate.  So, as far as I was concerned starting to chop was naturally the next skill for him to learn.

We started a few weeks ago with mushrooms.  I have him cut them in to quarters (think pie cut in to 4 pieces).  This week I decided that since he has been doing such a good job of cutting the mushrooms, I would let him move on to some tougher veggies.  Squash, zucchini, and peppers were the order of the day.

Showing him how to put the tip of the knife on the board and use the knife like a lever.

Chopping on his own.  He chopped all the veggies on the sheet pan.  The knife sitting on the counter is the paring knife he used to chop the mushrooms, and the knife in his hand is the small chef's knife that I refer to.

He has been doing great with chopping.  So far, all of his fingers are cut free, and I have enjoyed having an extra hand in the kitchen.  He is also eating his veggies even better than before, because he is invested in them.  He can take pride in them.

If/when you are brave enough to allow your child to start using a real knife I offer these tips:

1.  A sharp knife is a safe knife.  I know that this is hard for some of you to understand, but your child will have to push harder with a dull knife, making it more likely for an accident to happen because the knife slips.

2.  Use the appropriate knife for the job.  If you are chopping something softer, let your child use a small paring knife.  It will be more than sufficient.  If you decide to let them chop more resilient veggies and fruits, invest in a small/short chef's knife.  It is important that they learn which knives to use for what jobs and why.  And, they get a science lesson when you explain how leverage works as you are using the knife.

3.  Make sure that your child is at the proper height for chopping.  Marcus stands on a very stable step stool as he chops, and he has to have shoes on. Not something you would necessarily think about, but knowing that a knife could fall off the counter and pierce his foot (something my dear hubby experienced as a young boy) it makes me feel better.  Plus, I would hate for him to slip off of the stool in socked feet with a sharp knife in hand.

4.  Last, but not least.  You have to establish some ground rules.  Marcus knows that he is not allowed to handle a knife without a parent in the kitchen with him.  He knows that we don't run with knives in our hands, and that there is a proper way to walk with a knife.  He knows that when we are not chopping, the knife sits on the counter instead of the cutting board so that we don't pick up the cutting board and send the knife flying.  You have to decide what the rules in your kitchen are.  These are just mine.  I am sure that there are others that I am forgetting, but like I have to establish your own rules.

One other word of advice, save your glass of wine until after the chopping is done! ;)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My new Obsession

Right after the Holidays, I started to really get in to something that is so, so, sew not Ina.


I can see this scenario in Ina's home.  Jeffrey says, "Hon, I have a hole in my sock!  Can you darn it for me?"  Ina walks over, grabs the sock in her hand that doesn't have a fabulous martini (or sidecar, or Manhattan) in it, pitches the sock in the trash and says, "Darn!"

And that is ok, because Ina can do that, and to be quite honest, I am not going to darn my husband's socks either.  But, I do know that Ina has her fabulous tunics made by a tailor from the pattern of a tunic that she loves.  I can not afford that luxury, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a pretty creative gal.  So, my answer to this is going to be sewing my own clothes.  There are a few pieces of clothing that I just LOVE!  A good maxi dress, jersey skirts, and t-shirts that are long enough (a constant struggle ALL my life, and I am only 5'6").

I have already done a few simple sewing projects, and I will post the details on those soon.  There is even a cute upcycle project that I did turning a man's sweater in to a sleeveless v-neck sweater for my son, and a pair of pajama pants for my son.

More on all of this coming soon.  I must warn you that the pictures for these projects aren't great, because I wasn't planning to blog about them.  Also, I am considering a name change for the blog, as I see it headed in a different direction now.  But more on that later.  Can't wait to show you all the things I have been working on.

On the food side, I did make a FABULOUS osso bucco for Valentine's but alas, no pictures.

I will get better, I promise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It is so cold out that I am using that as my excuse for not blogging!  Ha!  But, really there was a 2 hour delay for school this morning because it is sooooo cold out there.  Windchill was around -15.  YIKES!

Most of the rest of January I won't be blogging a lot either.  Sorry ya'll.  It will pick back up soon though, so please check back by soon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oh, Do You Know the Grocery Man?

More importantly, have you formed a relationship with the person at the seafood counter, meat counter, or the produce manager?  If not, should.

Today I went to Fresh Market to purchase some groceries.  As I strolled through the produce aisles, the Produce Manager pointed me in the direction of the shitake mushrooms that he had just put in the bin (they are sold in bulk at FM).  Those will be in one of my meals later in the week.

As I approached the Seafood Counter, I could tell that the Fishmonger remembered me.  That smile you get from someone when they recognize you, but don't necessarily know your name.  On my last visit we had struck up a conversation about all the places we had lived.  He and his wife had just moved back to Indianapolis from San Francisco, and I was very jealous!  So, as I was making my seafood choices he mentioned that he and his wife had just tried a sushi restaurant and that my hubby and I should try it.  When your fishmonger recommends a sushi restaurant and he has lived in San Francisco, you trust his judgement.  We will be visiting the place he mentioned, and I will report back to you on it.  He also told me that the tuna was great today, which was obvious just by looking at it, but I appreciated him pointing it out, none the less.

At the Meat Counter, the Butcher and I had never met before.  So I joked around with him a bit and then asked him what was good today.  Of course at first you get the standard, "It's all good!"  But with a little more prodding I was able to find out that there was some great lamb sausages available today, and that I should wait til Saturday to get any beef because there is an "event" happening.  So, even though I did not purchase anything at the Meat Counter today, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge.  Had I not already had so much perishable seafood in my basket, the lamb would have come home with me for sure.

The point here, is that you should get to know these people if you are able to shop in a store where you can actually talk to them.  Joke around with them.  Let them know what level of foodie or chef you are, and they can sometimes point you in the direction of some fantastic food, and often get you the best value for your money!

So, what is in the basket today?

From the Produce Department we have (all Organic unless otherwise noted):

Shitake Mushrooms
Baby Portobello Mushrooms
Boston Lettuce
Green Beans (not organic)
Carrots with their tops
Red Beets with their tops (this is a two for one veggie: greens and beets)
Baby Spinach
Red Pears
Aurora Apples (my new favorite)

From the Seafood Department we have (all Wild and Fresh)

Sashimi Grade Tuna
American Shrimp
Blue Mussels

As I type the mussels are in a bowl of floured water so that they can purge.  They were quite muddy when I got them home, so I knew they needed it (remembered they are wild, not cultivated), plus all their beards were in their shells, and the purge helps to get them to spit their beards out (so to speak).

We have decided this is the year to really start paying even closer attention to what we are putting in our bodies.  Our intent is to buy more organic produce, and more wild seafood, grass-fed meats, and free range poultry.  I discovered an amazing food co-op here in Indy for the meat and poultry, and I can't wait to get my first delivery of meats in March.  I will be writing more on that soon as well.

That is all for now, as the mussels are calling my name!

Easy Shmeezy, Pesto Pea-zy

They say that variety is the spice of life, but how about using some spice to put some variety in your life?

My latest spice obsession has been Smoked Paprika.  I put it on everything.  I have always been a fan of regular paprika.  Most people associate it with the red color on deviled eggs, but it really is so much more.  It tenderizes, and adds peppery flavor.  I just love it.

So, when I saw Smoked Paprika in the store a while back, of course I picked some up.  It adds smokiness to foods without the funkiness of cumin.  It is so versatile!  You haven't had sweet potato fry perfection, until you have put Smoked Paprika on your sweet potato fries! When you grill fish for fish tacos, add a little Smoked Paprika, you are gonna love it!  Then of course there is garlic aioli with Smoked Paprika...yummmmy!  The list goes on and on, but here is how I am using it today!

Take a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, Smoked Paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Cover the chicken thighs with all the spices (about a tsp each of SP and G, and 1/2 tsp each of the S&P), and let it marinade in the fridge for the day.

Put a cast iron skillet on medium heat, and add a little of your favorite oil (Coconut Oil here).

Cook for 8 minutes on the first side.

Cook for 6 minutes on the other side.  Make sure to check your chicken for doneness, as the size of thighs and heat of your pan may vary from mine.

Serve it up for some total deliciousness!

Tonight I am serving mine with Pesto Pea Salad on page 77 of Barefoot Contessa at Home,

Spinach, Peas, Pesto, and Parmesan with Walnuts (my improvisation).

Easy, Shmeezy, Pesto Pea-zy!

Try toasting the nuts in the microwave.  I left out the salt, because I felt that between the pesto and the parm there was already plenty of salt in the dish.

...and Wanna Be's Oven Roasted Veggies.

Oven at 475.  Red Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms on a pan with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper.

Tonight Marcus cut up the mushrooms.  Yes, with a real knife.

Cook until brown and caramelized (about 20 minutes).


No making fun of the McDonald's plates!  We WERE adding a little spice to our meal!

 Then when you are reading a good book after dinner, get leftover salad out of the fridge and enjoy while reading.  He ate the WHOLE thing!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

Mmmmmm!  When I first read those words on the page, I knew this would be one of the first recipes that I made for my family.  In case you haven't noticed, soup has been really popular around here lately, and any way that I can get more tomatoes in to my fellas makes me a happy gal!  This recipe is comfort food in a bowl, that will take you back to the days of eating canned tomato soup, but it is much more sophisticated.  This recipe is on page 56 of Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.  You should give it a try, you WON'T be sorry that you did!

Tomatoes, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and pasta.  What could possible be bad about that?

Home bubblin' pot of yummy!

Adding a little heavy cream never hurt anyone, right?

Time to make the croutons!

Plate it all up!

Now enjoy the deliciousness!

All I can say is that this was really delicious!  The saffron totally makes the soup, so if you don't have the saffron, step away from the recipe.  If the cost of saffron seems prohibitive, try looking for it at TJ Maxx, they usually have little jars of it on the cheap, and they are always fine quality. 

There were two things that I did different.  First, I mistakenly grabbed a can of Trader Joe's Marinara instead of crushed tomatoes.  After reading the ingredients on the can, I decided to just go with it, and I have total faith that it didn't change the taste of the soup any.  Second, I could not find Gruyere cheese anywhere, all I could find was smoked Gruyere   I decided that the smokiness might not play well with the saffron, so I opted to make the croutons with a cheddar and mozzarella  blend.  There is NO doubt in my mind that the Gruyere would have made this already terrific dish even better, so next time I will make sure that I have it on hand, but my improvised croutons were still a big hit.  One other little minor thing that I did, to make it more appealing to my kiddo, I used star shaped pasta instead of orzo.  Worked like a charm.  First time the kid has ever asked if he can take leftover soup in his lunch!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Word for the Year - 2013

I am not a person who really believes in New Year's resolutions.  To me it just adds stress to a time of year when we should be decompressing from all that Holiday drama cheer!  So, we just kind of pick a word to focus on for the year.  This year's word is:


In our life, we have quite a few negative people.  Some of them are friends, some are relatives, and some are   just acquaintances.  Obviously, we can't shut these people out, so we are going to focus on helping them to be more positive too.  We can't control the people around us, but we can surely try to change their stinkin thinkin!

I hope that I can bring lots of positivity to your lives this year as well.  Don't worry, I am not talking daily affirmations from Wanna Be Ina!  I believe that something as simple as a good chuckle can foster positive thoughts, so expect my sense of humor to show up even more.

I hope that whatever you are focusing on for 2013 that it brings brightness and cheer to your life, and that you don't let that focus lead to added stress!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta

The christening of that new cookbook I got, started with Ina's Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, p. 53.

 First I started by prepping the veggies, and herbs, and pancetta.

Next, I added the pancetta to a Dutch oven with a bit of olive oil.

Once the pancetta was browned, the whole lot of veggies was added.

Once those got softened, a few other ingredients were added.

I only used one can of tomato sauce.
Once those simmered for a while, the rest of the ingredients were added, and the soup was finished.

Don't forget the tasty brushetta for dipping!

And the leftovers were put in to pint size Ball jars, and put in the freezer to enjoy on another cold Winter's night!

I did change Ina's recipe just a slight bit.  I omitted the cannellini beans as beans and I have not really been each other's friend of late.  My husband does not like tomatoes.  He likes the taste, it is just a texture thing, so I used a can of tomato sauce instead of chopped tomatoes.  As I was first making the recipe and I tasted it, I was not sure we were going to like it.  It seemed too tomato-y.  But, after it simmered, it was tasting better.  The kicker was the pesto and parmesan cheese.  Once these were added, my whole family LOVED this soup.  Marcus said it tasted like pizza soup, which is a high compliment from him!  Dan really enjoyed it too, and even took some of the leftovers for lunch the next day, along with plenty of pieces of that yummy garlic bruschetta.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where to Start?

How about where we left off?  About 10 days before Christmas everyone in our household came down with something.  We were all sick, but with different symptoms.  Maybe we had a touch of the flu.  I really don’t know, because I have NEVER had the flu, but I can tell you that I felt pretty rotten, as did the rest of my crew.  I started five different blog posts during that time, but truly did not have the energy to take pictures and edit the text, so those will go in to the file for next year.  Just in case you are wondering, none of us are fully recovered from whatever we had, but we are all functioning which is what is important.

My hubby’s parents arrived the Saturday before Christmas.  It is all really a blur what we did while they were here.  I remember that we had venison on Christmas Eve.  I truly can’t remember any of the other meals.  While they were here, I was just about at the height of my ailment, and my mind is really fuzzy as to what we did.  There was one morning that they entertained Marcus when he got up, and hubby and I slept in til 9:45.  For that I am very thankful, because between us snoring and sneezing and coughing, there had not been a whole lot of sleeping happening.

Yes, someone is spoiled is totally his Grandparents' faults.

We had a great Christmas.  Many new things were added to my kitchen.  There was a potato ricer and and an electric knife (both items that I had been wanting  for years), a cast iron griddle, a set of artisanal salts, a set of European jams and curds, a replacement bowl for my food processor, and the best gift of all…

An autographed copy of Ina’s new cookbook.  My Mother-in-Law is actually the one who got it for me.  I am so excited to start cooking from this cookbook.  I will be tweaking some of the recipes to make them a little healthier, but no worries, I won’t play around with them too much.

My hubby’s parents ended up having to leave on Christmas day to head home, because we were under a blizzard warning, and they did not  want to get stuck here.  My Father-in-Law still works, and he wanted to make sure he could get to work on the 27th.  It was a good thing they left, because we ended up with a pile of snow estimated to be around 11 inches!  It was nice though, because we didn't have any real accumulations of snow last Winter.

This was long before it finished snowing.  The snow was all the way up to the seat on Marcus's picnic table!

The view from above.  It was nothing but white everywhere you looked.
There is still a lot of snow on the ground, because it just hasn't warmed up enough melt the snow!

Some news to share, I have started a new business venture.  I am not quite ready to share about it just yet, but I will be posting on it within the next week or two.  I am REALLY excited about it, but I want to get all my ducks in a row before I give you all the details!

Now, with Marcus back to school (they went back yesterday) and Dan back at work, I finally let out a little sigh of relief.  Everything seems to be returning to normal, and I am so happy about that.  Not only have I not been blogging, but I haven't been able to read any of my favorite blogs either.  So, I am going to stop typing now, and try to catch up with all my friends out in the blogisphere!

I hope that all of you had a fantastic Holiday Season, and that you are headed in to the New Year with plenty of homemade chicken stock in your freezer!  ;)