Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Those dog days of summer! My summer Top 10!

This summer, well really, the whole year has flown by! I can hardly believe that we're headed into September. I figured I should take one last look at those dog days of summer. We really had a blessed summer full of family visits, fun outings and new experiences. Here are my Top 10 of summer (in no particular order). Warning: This is a long post, a really long post, so read with caution.

1. Olbrich Gardens & Butterfly Exhibit

2. Henry Vilas Zoo

Aubs rode the carousel until it closed down (true story) and had fun running around (literally) and looking at all of the real animals.

3. Lake Monona & Atwood Beach

I love how you can see her toenail polish. My love for her is incredible.

4. Concerts on the Square

We made it to two of the concerts this year. The first one we went to was with some folks from work. We had a table at a 5 course meal served. This was the 2nd time we'd been invited to attend with them and it was, once again, a lot of fun. Plus I loved the music. That night it was "POPERazzi"or hip Opera!

A few weeks later, we took my family to the Beatles Tribute. They brought in a tribute band from Vegas and they played with the symphony. It was great.

5. Tour Epic's Verona Campus

My favorite part was the hot pink wall. Can you tell? Nick preferred the slide (above).

6. Driving Range

7. Bowling

8. Boating on Lake Geneva

9. Tour the Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (and wear an awesome hat)

10. Recreational Volleyball (which happened to include food quite often)

We don't have a team shot, but I wanted to show off our awesome, hand-designed team t-shirts. This was on Sam's birthday. Here he is with his birthday pie!

Kayaking is also totally on my list... it would be #0 or #11, or both, because I love it so much. However, I can't find the pictures anywhere and I KNOW that I took photos. Nick and I had an awesome day kayaking on Lake Wingra when he was here. They had to force us in when our time was up. I think we could've stayed out there all day long. I really want a kayak. A pink one. And a yellow paddle. With a black life jacket. I really want one. I found one on sale at Dick's Sporting Goods and I almost... ALMOST.. walked out with it. I went back and it was off sale. Such is life. I'll start saving my pennies.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you! I am so looking forward to seeing you this weekend. I hope you had a wonderful anniversary together. Here's to another year of marital bliss.

And happy birthday, baby Brinna. Welcome to the world.

How do you spend a free weekend?

J and I don't get many "free" weekends... ones where we don't have obligations or plans... so when we do, you'd think that we'd sit back, put up our feet and relax. Well, if you know us well, you know that's not true and that we hate sitting still (unless my nose is glued in a great book). So this weekend, with twin gone and nothing to do, we decided to renovate. Of course my paint choices were once again decided on a whim, but I think they worked out for the better. I didn't have any formal renovation plans drafted up but my head is always planning the next coat of paint, the next change, etc. I did a lot of shopping around the house.

The rooms still need last minute edits and changes but then I'll be posting some pictures. In the meantime, I can share some pictures from the weekend! I wish I could get some good pictures of the boys because they are COVERED in paint... it isn't funny, but it really is. :)

I love the one of Ollie. He has paint swatches under his paws! He just wanted to help, I guess. He looks so serious. He was probably thinking that I seriously needed to take him to bed.

This is J working on the first coat of paint downstairs. Yes, that is Back to the Future on the TV. We made it through all three Back to the Future movies, Stardust and Blades of Glory. I don't know what we'll put on tonight, but I'm sure I'll find something.

And, although we were renovating, we still needed groceries. And while we were at Woodman's, I had to use the bathroom. Imagine my disbelief when I walked in to find this...

I exhaled so loudly and started laughing before choking out, Holy Toilet Paper. The other ladies in there might've thought I was crazy, but I HAD to take a picture for proof. I laughed throughout the entire store!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Freebie Friday

I love finding a great freebie online. I thought I'd share a few of them with you today.

For the crafty chefs out there, here is a link for some super cute recipe cards.You can keep them for yourself or use them when you need to pass out a fabulous recipe. You could also write up a bunch of family recipes, bind them with twine and a sweet tag and give them as part of a wedding shower gift.

For those of you who adore the "Stay Calm and Carry On" signs, you're in luck. Here is a freebie of a similar signs that says, "Get Excited and Make Things." It has four popular colors to choose from. I think I'm going to put mine in my craft corner/room. I just don't know where in there yet.

I also found this free modern art website. It is truly incredible, especially that these artists will give you their art for FREE! I am increasingly smitten with this one and this one; but there are so many that I just love. Can you imagine this and this in a sweet nursery? How precious! I'm trying to think where I could use these in my life now.

Now there is no excuse for you to be lacking in beautiful art in your life. I hope you find something you like as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

Ever since we returned from Costa Rica, I've been looking to replicate their Gallo Pinto, or rice and beans. I found a recipe that looked fairly easy to replicate. I tried it Tuesday night and the flavor was spot on; however, I couldn't get my rice to crisp up. I don't know what my problem was, but I'm sure I'll try it again.

Gallo Pinto (beans and rice) Recipe

1 lb (450 gr.) Black beans.
8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen, not dried!
1 small or medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)
3 cups (700 ml) water
2 cups (350 ml) white rice
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
1-3 Tablespoon oil to fry the Gallo Pinto

If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight, if they are fresh, just rise them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5-cm) above the top of the beans, salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours).

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine.

Add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20-35 minutes).

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 cup 120-240 ml). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can also refrigerate or freeze them. Make up small batches of Gallo Pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Today is one of those days!

So I quite literally had some sour lemons today! I like to create my own delicious and fresh water made from combining slices of lime, lemon and orange. It is tasty. You should try it sometime. The container looks beautiful and the water is very refreshing. Well I grabbed for some today and apparently it had been a little too long since the lime had been in there and it was extremely sour. This was the start of my day.

I had my first ever cavity filled at the dentist today, too. The dentist said I did well. Does he tell everyone they did well? Does that mean that I really didn't do well?

On my way into work, I decided to drive by the Union and pick up my 2010-2011 bus pass. However, I somehow managed to drive along the pedestrian only State St today...directly behind a cop. How about those lemons! At least he didn't pull me over. Since it is move in day for grad students, campus was crazy so I think he gave me the benefit of the doubt. Thank goodness. I couldn't believe I did it, but now that I think about it, it was kind of cool.

Since it had been that kind of day, I have to post this incredible picture of my God-daughter. It will put you in the mood for Fall and Amish jam. I love her so much. I know this picture brought a big smile to my face today (despite the numbness).

I'll be posting about my cooking classes next week, but here's a teaser for you.

I hope you're getting to enjoy some sweet lemonade today. Have a great one!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Frosted Monogram

I saw these etched glass monogrammed vases at Pottery Barn and I thought, hey, I could duplicate that for a lot less. I also saw a similar DIY post on another blog, but she was doing this on wine glasses, and I can't remember what blog.

Anyway, I decided to start slowly by doing the frosted glass monogram as a gift for my MIL. She is really into vases and jars this season, so I thought a monogrammed one would fit right in.

You need:
A vase or jar to your liking
Painter's tape
A sticker of the letter(s) or the cutout of the letter(s)

Here it is in progress. I had to do about 3 coats of paint to get it coated like I wanted. Once I peeled back the tape, I had to use an exacto knife to help me get the "B" off of the vase. Then I scrubbed the excess paint off from the outside of the painters tape (where I shouldn't have sprayed). I sprayed it with a clear top coat with a matte finish to protect the frosting and to hopefully prevent chipping.

Here is the finished product. Fill it with your favorite goody to use as a centerpiece or accent piece on a side table.

It didn't turn out as crisp as I'd like it, but it's still cute and way less expensive than the pottery barn ones.  Next I'm going to try this on one of the square vases I have leftover from C&N's wedding shower.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Back to School

A lot of kids are heading back to school today in my neck of the woods. In honor of my MIL heading back to school, I created this pencil vase for her desk. I filled it with roses (I would've preferred fire-engine red but there seemed to be a shortage in Madison).

This is an incredibly easy DIY project that you could do for a teacher on the first or last day of school.

Things you'll need:
An empty and cleaned can
About 20 pencils -- sharpened to the same length
School themed ribbon
Hot glue gun

Simply hot glue the sharpened pencils to the exterior of your cleaned can. Tie a ribbon around the pencils as an embellishment and viola! I added a little Happy Back to School 2010 tag to give it some character.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Run, don't walk!

Run, don't walk, to your nearest Williams-Sonoma. I found this a few months ago when I was window shopping and fell deeply into lust. It may be what sparked my obsession with cake stands.

I kept attempting to find or create a cheaper version and I love some of the stands that I've acquired, but they never filled that void within my kitchen's heart.

Anyway, I was in W-S, signing up for a knife skills/cutting class and I saw a clearance table. Like some stores I worried how much clearance is clearance, you know? An amazing savings from $45 to $44.99. Right, I was skeptical. So, back to the story. I approach the table and I spy it. MY CAKE STAND. Mine. Right there on the clearance table. I look around before picking it up, thinking that there must  be several other crazy women about to jump over me to get the item and no one was there. So I grabbed it, closed my eyes, flipped it over, took a deep breath and opened my eyes back up. Guess what I found? A bright red sticker for $9.99. I couldn't believe my luck so I quickly made haste, bought my treasure and booked it out of there! Please note: online it still shows the stand for full price of $42.

Here it is at home in all its glory. I love it more today than yesterday. So sweet.

I wonder what I'll fall into lust with when I go to my cutting class next week. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guest Room Facelift -- DIY

So, if you know me, you know I get bored with decor quickly... and this season made me want to give my house a fairly superficial facelift.

I painted the numbers of the front of the house, painted an accent piece out front, painted the downstairs bathroom, put up a new shower curtain and other accents in the master bathroom and I re-vamped the "green room" (which is the smaller of the two guest bedrooms). So far, it has only cost $1 (for red spray paint) to re-vamp the room, but it isn't done. I'm still working on getting it all put together the way I want it.

In the "green room" we had a black and white comforter that I was done with. I had had it once and for all and I HAD to get it out of there. So I pulled out this duvet I'd picked up at IKEA awhile ago and got it situated on the bed.

The I knew the wacky purple art piece (see above), had to go, too. I went shopping in my house and found a B that I hadn't used yet and a frame that we had from our WEDDING (4 years ago) that we hadn't done anything with... I started to ask what I could do with those pieces.

Hello, Frame. Please meet Mr. Spray Paint. I had the picture ready for our garage sale for a quarter. I decided to take the frame and leave the rest in the garage sale. Maybe someone will want it? Maybe?

So I sanded the frame just enough to rough it up.

I got out the sawhorses and sprayed away. J gave it its second coat for me. The red was perfect for the room in order to tie in the bedding. I think it was Fire Red.

Here's the finished piece. I think I'm going to spray and add some other frames around this one to give it more life and dimension, but for now it works just fine. I hope it'll eventually have this feel to it, but for now I'm satisfied. It feels a lot fresher for its $1 price tag.

Do you know any cheap ways to re-invent something?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sweeping into Drywall

J and I are hosting a multi-family garage sale this coming weekend and I asked J to help me sweep out the garage this weekend. Somehow sweeping out the garage ended up with this...

...2 new pieces of drywall and a ton of trash. J and twin took on the project all on their own, so I couldn't complain. The new drywall was needed, just unexpected. Eventually we'll need to repaint the garage, but for the garage sale, I think its A-OK!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy Anniversary -- DIY Idea

Warning: You will want to have one or make one of the below items. Be prepared to carve out some crafting time this week!

I always love trying new crafting ideas -- some that work, some that don't. I saw this idea on another blog and instantly had to create my own. Check out her designs here.

When I first saw it, I thought it would be an awesome wedding or anniversary gift so that is what I created. I made some great wedding and anniversary gifts. The pictures above are the ones I created for J and I. I have it in our bedroom and I love looking at it. J says that he likes it, too.

I've been thinking of enlarging it and printing it on canvas or modpodging it on canvas to make it even more of an art piece. Who knows? For now, my $1 picture in my bedroom is perfect.

I made the one above for the Brown Newlyweds. They like shades of silver and gold with a modern twist... I hope that they liked it.

To make your own, sift through these images and create your own document in Word or Photoshop.  You can crop to whichever size you want the images and go to it. Print out at home of have it printed somewhere like Sam's, Costco, Snapfish or Shutterfly. So easy and such a unique finished product... as long as you only use the images for personal use (no selling).

This is the finished product of what I compiled for G&D for their anniversary gift. I made sure to coordinate with colors in their home and their own style and taste. I think it really reflects them. 

Happy Anniversary, Gwyn and Dave! Here's hoping you have an incredible day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Courtney!

Wishing my sister-in-law, Courtney, the happiest of birthdays today.

P wanted to pose with her present. How sweet?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Brasserie V and Perseid

Hold the phone. I have finally found it. Belgium frites right here in Madison. Made to European perfection, right on Monroe St at Brasserie V.

 Taste just like the ones from Belgium and the ones from Brugges in Indy. I am so happy to have found a substitute here in my neck of the woods.

Please ignore the mussels. I tried them one or twice in Belgium, but now as a vegan, it doesn't fit in my menu. But the pomme frites do and they are incredible! Head on over to Brasserie V for your own frites though, I'm not sharing! Here's a great review of the restaurant.

Also, for those of you (like J and I) that attempted to see the Perseid Meteor Shower at 10pm, saw none, went to bed with an alarm for 2am, decided to turn off alarm as it went off at 2am and slept through the shower but still wanted to see the meteor shower, click here. I must say that I did dream I was watching the meteor shower and we saw some cool ones. (Yes, J was with me in the dream and I honestly did dream it, so you know it was on my mind.) NASA did a live chat all night long and has some camera shots of the shower. Here's one. If you click here, NASA gives out tips for still trying to sneak a peak at some falling stars as Perseid winds down for the season.

Happy Hunting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

All in Tico Time

Tico Time is similar to the Jamaican minute, if any of you are familiar with either of those. It's a very laid back approach to time management. Great for a relaxing vacation, not-so-great for transportation. Here is the story of our travels in Tico Time.

Optimistic in ORD. 

En route to Mexico.

Our flight out of Mexico City was delayed by 3 1/2 hours, which meant our arrival time was 4:30 am local San Jose, CR time.

Here we are... passing the time...

Upon arrival in San Jose, we prep for our leisurely drive through Costa Rica only to find out The 1, or The Pan-American Highway has washed out in one section tripling the length of the trip and forcing us onto lesser-used roads (which during rainy season, could possible be flooded, too -- just not washed out).  Because of this, we decided to fly to Liberia, which is only a half hour from our resort. Simple enough. Booked and done.

We arrived at the other airport an hour or so early, got checked in and started waiting. When we should've been boarding, we found out we'd been delayed. No big, you have to be flexible.

When we should be boarding that flight we find out that we've been delayed again and since that small airport closes, they'd have to move us back to the larger airport for our flight about two hours later. Again, no problemo.

 About a half hour later, they start to sweeten us up but surprising us with a pizza party. Yes, a pizza party. J was excited because they brought us Sam's Club pizza, except it's called the Super Compro there.

Once we were full, they dropped the bombs. Our flight was canceled and they were sorry but there was nothing they could do and no way to get us to Liberia. No flight the next day, no bus, no car, no different airline, not even a hotel stay. NOTHING. Well, for those of you know me, that wasn't acceptable.

I came up and he mentioned how, well he could maybe get us on a bus, and I said well that and a refund might be helpful. So that's what they did... a refund for the flight and he paid to get us to our hotel in Guanacaste via bus and driver (at least it was private).

Ah, Tico Time. At that point, we realized that for this trip it was going to be much more important to enjoy the journey and not just the vacation.

In other road related news, we ran over a HUGE snake in the middle of the road coming home from Nicaragua. A lawyer who was bumming a ride with us confirmed that it was indeed a small snake for the region, but if that was a small snake (taking up much of the width of our side of the road) I did not want to run into a large one.

We also encountered lots of pot holes as big as our vehicle -- not exaggerating. Our drives ended up feeling a little like a roller coaster ride because of the constant swerving.

Now that we're adjusted to Tico Time, it's a little difficult to be back.