Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kitchen Mini Makeover

When Bobby bought the house, the guy who lived here before had decorated it very nicely...to his tastes. Needless to say, there were some projects I knew I would need to tackle when I moved in. It took me a while to get started but I finally have. I painted our little entryway a cheerful buttery yellow (it was an odd mauvey color); took down an old moldy, stinky curtain that hung in our shower and frosted the window so that neighbors won't see us all naked; and now I've been working on the kitchen. The funnest part? I've finally been able to use the sewing machine Bobby got me for my birthday.

This is what it looked like before:

I had no problem with the wall color, but the curtains drove me crazy, and they've started driving Bobby crazy the last few weeks. The fabric wasn't too bad, but there was just too much of it, and it hung to the floor so that when you were sitting next to it, it was always in the way. I made a valance for the window out of a cute, light floral, which softened the room a lot and opened it up quite a bit. I'm really proud of the trim.

The other thing that was driving me wonkers was the pillows we were using as chair cushions. So I decided to upholster the seats with foam and a basic muslin and then make slipcovers for them. That way I can switch them out whenever I want, or easily wash them if they get dirty.

So here's the after:

What do you think? I still need some art or something for the wall next to the window, it needs some color, so that's still in the works. But, I love the change and am very proud of myself for figuring it out all by myself!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Isn't he handsome?

Bobby was called to be 2nd counselor in the bishopric a little over a month ago. He readily accepted, and started serving. I'm lucky to be married to a man ready to do the Lord's will. Anyway, he felt sadly lacking in a suit. He has a couple, but they were purchased second-hand or given to him and he's had them for years and none of them fit him quite right. So we felt a new suit was in order.

A men's store in town was having a sale, so we picked one out, got it tailored and here it is....doesn't he look handsome?

He's decided he likes having nice suits that fit him perfectly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can I tell you how much I'm loving my Cook's Illustrated? For my birthday, Bobby and his mother got me a subscription and the first one arrived a couple days ago. After seeing how great the Summer Entertaining issue was, Bobby was pretty excited to see my first regular issue come in the mail. And he just about fought me for rights to read it first. But I handily snatched it from him and told him it was my birthday present, so hands off!

There were so many things from the issue I want to make, and Bobby has a list going too, but what I absolutely needed to start with were chocolate chip cookies which pompously claimed to be perfect. How could I resist?

The recipe was a little different and slightly more involved than your typical dump-everything-in-a-bowl-and-poof-there-you-have-it cookies. And there's good reason for it: these were to die for. Nice and crisp on the outside, chewy goodness on the inside, lovely warm toffee flavors with smooth dark chocolate chips. They were sinful.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Work (Yuck!)

My fun job with Kaleidoscope (an after school elementary program) ended in June with the school year. And since then I have been utterly enjoying not working. I've been able to get some things done around the house and have been loving the freedom...well as much more freedom as you can get from only working 15 hours a week to not working at all.

Needless to say I've been dragging my feet to get a job and Bobby has been doing his best to motivate me to get one. I just haven't had to not work for years and I'm majorly a fan of being unemployed. So finally Bobby won out and I joined the ranks of a temp agency. Today was my first gig as a receptionist.

Can I tell you how boring it was? I started at 8 and left at 3:30 and probably only answered the phone 15 or 20 times. I played solitaire, I wrote in my journal, I read 150 pages of my book. And I was ready to start poking my eyeballs out I was that bored. Hopefully any other work I get won't be that painful, and luckily it's only for another month or so.

I can't wait for fall and Kaleidoscope to start up again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Raspberry Picking

Our lovely friends Daniel and Katie brought their little girl, Madeleine, over this week to pick raspberries. Katie had been watching my blog and was envious of all the raspberries I'd been bragging about and decided she wanted in on the action. And since raspberries are one of her absolute most favorite foods, I thought it would be too cruel not to let her get her fix this season. We had a lot of fun with them. Thanks for coming over guys!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Morning Buddy

I was just going about my business this morning, cleaning the kitchen, working on a new kitchen curtain in the living room, when I heard some tapping against the kitchen window. I looked in and saw this little guy hanging out on the ledge:

What a cutie-patootie!(He's an American Goldfinch, in case you're wondering). I ran to get my camera, chanting to myself "Don't fly away, don't fly away!" I had little to worry about because he hung out all morning, tapping against the window, just chilling on the ledge and looking in. I think he was bored and wanted to play. Or eat my food. Or poop in my newly cleaned kitchen. Take your pick. But he made me smile.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raspberries are coming out of our ears!

So the raspberries are now in full swing and there are more than we know what to do with! We've already made two batches of raspberry jam, which means we've picked about 15 cups so far, and the end is nowhere in sight. I decided we don't need anymore jam (we have 14 cups of strawberry and 12 cups of raspberry in the freezer right now, with potentially some grape jelly on the way when Xax's grapes come into season...i think we're good!)so I asked Bobby what else he wants me to make with the raspberries. We decided on this Raspberry Chiffon Pie from Cook's Illustrated.

If anyone out there loves to cook or bake, this magazine is to die for! When I worked at Crate, we regularly received this and everyone would fight over getting to read it first. It has wonderful tips and hints, it does comparisons to find the best gadget, appliance, ingredient, brand,etc., and each recipe includes the process the author went through to figure out the best way to make it. It's a lot of fun, and everything I've ever made from it has been wonderful.

So when I was in Walmart a few weeks ago, I saw that they had the Summer Entertaining issue and I had to get it. It was $8, and I brought it home and when Bobby found out I had spent $8 on a magazine, he just about had a heart attack. Then I started making things from it and I have been redeemed. I made black beans last week and they were the best black beans he'd ever had.

So here's the recipe for the Raspberry Chiffon Pie. It's nothing short of divine.

1 baked 9" pie crust

Fruit Layer:
2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen, whichever is easier)
3 tablespoons Sure-Jell pectin
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh raspberries

Cook the 2 cups berries over medium high, stirring occasionally until berries begin to give up their juice, about 3 minutes. Stir in pectin and bring to full boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and salt and return to full boil and cook for 2 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer and press to extract as much puree as possible.

Transfer 1/2 cup puree to a small bowl and cool to room temperature. Gently fold the 1 cup of raspberries into the remaining puree and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie shell.

Chiffon Layer:

3 tablespoons raspberry flavored gelatin
3 tablespoons boiling water
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream, chilled (must be ice cold!)

Dissolve gelatin in the boiling water in a large bowl. Add cream cheese and reserved 1/2 cup raspberry puree and beat with a mixer on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup cream and beat on medium low until incorporated and then on high until it holds stiff peaks. Spread evenly over the fruit layer in the pie shell, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

To serve, top with sweetened whipped cream and eat, observing that your eyes roll up into your head and you groan with pleasure.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

My favorite Dad memory? Annie and I were probably 5 or 6 and asleep in our bedroom one wintry morning. We woke up and looked out the window. There was snow everywhere, it seemed like a ton and we were very excited. But then we noticed that Dad was out there and he had already made two huge snowmen, one for me and one for Annie...I think they had to be as tall as him. I couldn't wait to get outside and play in the snow with my Dad.

Dad, I love you!

How to make raspberry freezer jam

I had a couple people ask me about how to make jam after my post, Bread and Jam. They wanted a recipe, and if you've never made freezer jam before, it is just about the easiest thing ever to make. We made some raspberry freezer jam this weekend, so I thought I'd share in the simplicity and absolute deliciousness of the process.

First, you start with these:

Then, you find someone like this to pick them:

It helps if you have some moral support:

Once you have the fruit, you get the rest of the ingredients. Pectin can be found in any grocery store around the canning supplies. The box comes with instructions about exactly what you'll need; how much fruit, how to prepare it, how much sugar, etc.

Then, just follow the instructions. Basically you mash up the fruit and combine it with the appropriate amount of sugar. Tons of sugar...if you are afraid of calories, jam is not for you, although there are some pectins out there for sugar-free jams.

Boil the pectin with some water:

After stirring the pectin into the fruit/sugar, you pour it into containers:

I like these containers, they're 2 cups so they're not too big and they stack up nicely in the freezer. After sealing the containers, you let them sit out at room temperature for 24 hours and then store them in the freezer if you're not going to use them immediately.

Easy, huh?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Farmer's Market

Morgantown has a summer farmer's market, so we decided to go today. It was small, but very cute and very fun. Bobby loved walking around and talking to all the meat vendors...lamb, beef, chicken, goat. He was in heaven, especially when we bought some smoked chicken and some livers (yuck for me!). We also found some delicious spring honey made from locust flowers. So tasty!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The trials and tribulations of a bird feeder

We have decided to get rid of our seed bird feeder. There's a couple reasons why: first and foremost, we have a rat or more likely, rats, that have decided our bird feeder is a very nice spot to get food. Think Ratatouille but not nearly as cute and charming. We've tried traps but to no avail. Gross, disgusting, yeah, we know.

The second reason is this:

Since we're growing delicious goodies in our yard, we don't want to give this lovely lady any more reason to frequent the joint. No deer means good garden, means lots of food for us and we'd like to keep it that way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I hate nature...

So there are some things in life that really drive me crazy, even though I know that it's the way it's supposed to be, everything happens for a reason, and even though I don't like it there's nothing I can do about it and it's completely natural.

My case in point today? Our baby birds. I looked at them this morning. Their eyes were open they had a dusting of gray fuzz on them and they were starting to look like birds. As I was getting ready I noticed a blue jay hopping around the bush, hovering over the top and being a pest. I thought to myself, "Oh no you don't!" and chased him away whenever I saw him. Then I had to go grocery shopping and in the pit of my stomach knew something would happen while I was gone.

I came home and checked on the nest and found it empty. No baby birds. Is it silly to cry over such a thing? Well if it is, I'm utterly silly, because even though there's about a billion sparrows in the world and we could probably do with a few less, these were our sparrows and it makes me mad that things like this happen.

Mommy bird is trying again; there's already another egg in the nest. But part of me wants to tell her it's not worth it. That blue jay will be back and will probably do another "natural" dastardly deed and she'll be another baby-less mommy this year.

I hate nature.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Baby Birds

In the front of our house we have a couple bushes. A couple weeks ago I noticed a little sparrow flying in and out of one of them. So I looked and she had been building a nest there. It's been fun watching her fly around and see her tending her nest but we never saw if there were eggs yet.

Today we looked and saw cute little babies inside, waiting for mommy to come back and feed them. So I had to take a picture. Mommy bird sat patiently by our front door while I took a picture and then immediately went back to check on her babies.

Daddy was standing by too with a little snack in his beak for the kids.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bread and Jam

Last year when we were dating, I made up a batch of strawberry freezer jam and sent some home with Bobby. He raved, moaned in ecstasy and fell even more deeply in love with me when he ate it. There's just something about the substance that does that. I prefer freezer jam to cooked jam because it just tastes fresher; like you're eating a strawberry right off the plant.

Well, I made some this week and when Bobby came home in the evening and saw containers full of the sweet nectar he just about fainted. Then he pouted just a little bit when I told him he couldn't eat it for one day because it needed to set. So, to appease him, the next day I made some bread to go with the jam.

Because there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is more splendid to eat than homemade bread and jam.

There's just something nostalgic about slathering warm bread with butter and gooey sweetness. It reminds me of going to Grandma's and always having fresh bread and jam when we got there....and then having thin pancakes with jam in the morning. I think that's probably where I got my love for freezer jam. Thanks Grandma!

So now Bobby's happy that he can partake in the wonders of fruit, sugar and pectin. I made a huge batch so that we can be stocked for the year. Up next: round two of freezer jam...the raspberries are going to be pickable soon and then we'll turn those suckers into sweet nectar too. My man should be content for awhile.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How does your garden grow? update...

We are loving how well our garden is doing! Everything is growing so big, but I have to admit, it's not quite fast enough for me...I'm ready to enjoy the fruits of our labors! Our tomatoes are now officially staked and getting huge, and our peppers and herbs are doing great too.

But the newest, most exciting development? We've got squash growing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Big Race

The Decker's Creek Half Marathon was on Saturday and Bobby did great! I was supposed to run too, but hurt my knee on our last long run the week before. Actually, I was pretty bummed out about it too, since I had been working so hard and was doing really well. But, Bobby was kind enough to inform me that the Parkersburg Half Marathon is in August, so it looks like I'll get my chance after all.

The day was perfect for running--overcast and about 65 that morning. Here's the boys before they left.

I wish I had pictures of the trail, because it's absolutely the beautiful. The first six miles or so run right along Decker's Creek, in some gorgeous wooded areas(When we were training Bobby and I saw deer, wild turkeys and fun lizards). The next few miles are just through some pretty trees and neighborhoods and the last three are through different industrial and residential parts of Morgantown.

Bobby ran really well and did much better than last year (of course last year it was 95 degrees and the sun was blazing). Here he is coming in and crossing the finish line! And I must include, just so everyone knows, the timer is wrong! Bobby finished about ten seconds faster (according to his watch...hmmm...I guess that's not too suspicious, is it?)