Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pork Chops and Brownies

Since we stayed home all day yesterday, I cooked some pork chops in the crock pot for our dinner. I'm always nervous about leaving the crock unattended during a work day, you see, because I am not confident that one of the cats will not jump up and do something to create disaster. Nope. As a result, I really only use the crock pot when I'm going to be home for the majority of the day. I guess that's kind of sad. You know what they say, though, you have to do what you have to do when it comes to mischief making felines. They do say that, right?

The recipe I used for the chops comes from my handy dandy crock pot cookbook. My parents gave me this book for Christmas in 2008 along with a little baby crock pot. My mom also, helpfully, starred the recipes that she had made for me in the past so I could make them for myself. I think the thing I love about cooking in a crock pot is how much of a stress-saver it is. You don't have to worry about when to add ingredients, or if you're cooking it too long or not long enough. You just toss that stuff in there, turn it on and you're off!

Here is the chops recipe, in case you want to try it:

4 pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of celery)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

-Put the chops in the cooker.
-Combine the soup, ketchup and Worchestershire. Mix together in a bowl.
-Pour mixture over chops.
-Cover and cook either on High 3-4 hours or on Low 8-10. 

Tada! I served my chops over egg noodles, but I'm pretty sure I've had it over rice many times in the past. I also opened a can of corn to go with it. Yum.

I decided, sort of last minute, that I wanted to try my hand at making brownies from scratch. I didn't want a complicated recipe that called for anything I didn't already have at home, so I was pleased when I found this basic brownie recipe on Tasty Kitchen. Boyfriend and I had planned on eating around 5:30, so I whipped these up right before that time, while I was simultaneously cooking noodles and corn. I think I ended up baking them for about 29 minutes (the recipe suggests somewhere between 25 and 30) and they turned out beautifully. I even added a cup of chocolate chips! Give these a brownies a shot sometime. They're better than boxed. I promise.

After dinner, we watched Slapshot, which is always a good time. If you haven't seen it, you really need to. 1970s Paul Newman! Hockey!! Johnstown, PA! So many good things. Oh, and the music. I love the music. 

How was your Saturday? Aside from my self-proclaimed culinary achievements, mine was fairly lazy. Haha.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I can finally talk more about the awesome bag I made last weekend!! I only mentioned it briefly before because I wanted to make an identical one for my sister and I didn't want to blow the surprise. You understand, yes? Anyway, I had found this awesome fox print at Joann's a little while back and I knew I had to use it to make something for Holly. We love foxes, you see. I can't really explain why. I do know that our fox love probably started this one time (in 2007) when we were out and about with our grandparents and they were showing us some property they were interested in and we saw the skinniest little fox running across a field. We both got unnaturally excited and we have been obsessed with foxes ever since. Holly even gave me a sweater with a fox on it for Christmas. What a good sister she is.

Anyway, anyway. The bag. I made one for myself on Sunday and it turned out pretty well and I was super excited about the relatively small amount of time it took me to churn it out. Here is a picture of mine (blurry, of course, because I just used my phone and didn't think to grab my camera which was sitting right... next... to... me...):

Here is a better picture of the whole thing (again with the blurriness!!) laying on the back of the couch. I believe the bag is meant to be reversible, but I used such a light fabric for the lining that I wouldn't reverse this one. Plus, I obviously love foxes too much to tuck them away inside.

Sooooo... because I was so happy with the way my bag turned out, I decided to whip one up for Holly on Monday. I had the day off, you see. I spent the afternoon hanging out with Amanda and in the evening, I sewed up the bag. It took even less time than the first one. On my lunch break on Tuesday, I walked up to the post office near my office and sent it off. She got it on Thursday and was, as I expected, super excited about it. I asked for pictures. She sent me this picture of her, the bag, and Penny. I like it. I'm still trying to work on getting a picture of her carrying the bag. I'm hoping my brother in law will oblige.

Yay for the fox bag!! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A List For A Wednesday

It is, my friends, time for a list. A list of random things that are making me happy lately:

-Smoothies. Boyfriend and I bought an inexpensive blender and we've been making delicious smoothie creations lately.
-Hockey!!! It's back!! Also, I am reading a hockey-related book right now (Have you seen Slapshot?).
-Lenny the Lobster. As I reported last week, the cats really love this toy. I had to rescue poor Lenny from the water bowl the other day. 
-Sewing. I know I already mentioned this the other day, but I'm so excited about my sewing accomplishments. It is really exciting to be able to create something that other people think is cool and useful.

It has been quite cold here this week, but we haven't gotten much snow at all. Everyone I know in Michigan, however, has gotten a TON of snow today. I'm hoping we get some at some point, but I just want it all at once so I don't have to deal with it forever. I know that voicing this request will make a difference. Of course.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sewing Madness

This weekend, I was a crazy person with the sewing machine! On Saturday, I started making a set of napkins. I bought this pretty floral fabric at Ikea when Marmee and Holly were here and decided to finally use it. If you recall, I made one set of napkins (a set of six, I believe) when I first got my machine. I decided that we needed another set. I'd like to move toward using the cloth napkins more frequently on a daily basis. We'll see how it goes. 

Anyway, I got these particular instructions out of a wonderful sewing book I bought a couple of months ago. If you are thinking about getting into sewing, you need to look into this book. It's called Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes. The book is set up in such a way that everything is made very clear: tools, supplies, methods, etc. It starts with small projects to build skills and works up to more complex projects. I really like it.

After making the napkins, I followed her instructions to make a lovely little bag. The method BLEW MY MIND. I wish I could explain it, but I just can't. I made the bag in less than three hours. Three hours! That's from cutting fabric, to the final topstitch. It was ridiculous. In a really good way. It made me feel really confident and good about my budding sewing skills. I think that's a pretty good thing. 

I also decided that it was time to shorten the curtain that we have hanging on one of our windows in our kitchen. It was MUCH too long and had been driving me crazy since I hung it (and of course, I didn't take a before picture). I lived with it for a great deal of time and decided that it was time to take action. I talked to my mom about it a bit, to find out what she suggested for the hem. She suggested three inches. I measured and marked where I wanted the curtain to fall and then added three inches and... chopped. Yikes. It wasn't the most even of cuts, but I rolled with it, hemmed it, and hung the curtain back up. I think it looks marvelous, if I do say so myself. It makes a huge deal, bigger than I thought it could. Yay curtains!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Let's Get Organized!

I am in an organizational mood. All week at work, I worked really hard to clear my desk of the many ridiculous files that had piled up there. I made some real progress, and I can actually see my desk now! It's basically a miracle. I know, I know. I shouldn't get all excited about this, because someone will just dump more files on my desk any day now, but I feel proud of this accomplishment.

When I got home today, I decided that I needed to make use of the two baskets I purchased at Michael's a couple of weeks ago when they were having a big storage sale. I always knew they were destined for the mud room shelves, I just wasn't sure how I would arrange things. I wish I had taken a before picture. It wasn't bad, but it was too cluttered. Not that I'm a super tidy individual, of course, but I am trying to move the house toward organized as best I can.

So, let me tell you what the shelves were holding before my whirlwind of organization took over. Half of the top shelf was covered in water bottles and travel mugs. Too many, and we never, ever use them. For now, they will hang out in the attic until I can decide what to do with them. Also on the top shelf was Boyfriend's lunch box, a vinyl tablecloth for our picnic table and some hats. The bottom shelf was home to a huge grey container of grilling implements as well as a basket containing an assortment of weird items, batteries and a couple of my aprons.

Here are the mud room shelves, post organization:

You'll notice that Boyfriend's hats are stacked neatly on the bottom shelf. I don't know how long this will last, but he did pledge to do his best to keep them organized. In the basket next to the hats are some winter hats and gloves. Then there is a set of coasters (back up coasters, you see) and Boyfriend's lunchbox. On the top shelf, I created a space for all of my cookbooks to live. Together!!! Until tonight, some were in the dining room and some were in the bedroom. I'm pretty excited. The basket next to those contains that vinyl tablecloth and some aprons. And then there are the plastic pitchers, a couple of water bottles and the phone books.

Above is a better picture of my cookbook collection. Some were Boyfriend's when we met, some were mine, blah, blah. I realized later that the Joy the Baker cookbook is on the end table in the living room. I like it there because it is pretty. Maybe it will migrate to the cookbook area eventually. I'm really excited that the cookbooks are all in one place. I wish I had a shelf in the actual kitchen, but since this is attached to the kitchen, it's close enough. And when I moved books on the shelf in the dining room, I was able to put all of my sewing books together (with my Young House Love book, of course). THINGS MAKE SENSE NOW!!!!!!!! I'll probably throw my Square Foot Gardening book in there with the sewing and home-related books someday. It, too, lives on the end table.

Since this is a three day weekend for me, I am hopeful that my productivity will continue. I want to tackle the attic a bit: go through stuff, reorganize, vacuum, etc. Boyfriend has plans to organize all of the manuals we have lying around for our appliances and other gadgets. It will be so fabulous. I'm also planning to work on some sewing project or another. We'll see what I can get into.

What are you doing this weekend? Do you have Monday off like I do? 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shake & Bake Fail

Last night, I made some shake & bake pork chops for dinner. They... did not turn out well. I don't really know how someone can mess up shake & bake, but it seems that I can. They were weirdly wet on top and we had to scrape all of the seasonings and whatnot off of the chops. I feel quite dejected about this.

In other news, I am presently watching the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey from season two. I decided last week that I needed to rewatch seasons one and two before watching any episodes from the new season so I could get back into the swing of things. And now it's finally near the time to start watching new episodes and I. Can't. Wait.

In cat-related news, I bought the cats a little red lobster toy when I was at the pet supply store the other day. It has catnip in it, which is exciting. Anyway, I brought him home to the gatos (I named him Lenny, in case you want to know) and when I loosed him from his packaging and threw him to the felines, they went craaaaaazy. They were all fighting over him and batting him around and running really fast. It was really hilarious. I wish I had taken a video of the funny things they were doing. After we went to bed, I heard some tussle downstairs and I'm 95% sure that it was the cats, tossing Lenny around. Poor Lenny. At least he's loved.

And finally, I am really excited for the three day weekend coming up. I don't know how I'll spend it, but I intend to be somewhat productive. I started work on a new camera strap cover last night. We'll see how that turns out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sunday Lasagna

A week ago Sunday, I made lasagna. It was the first time I had ever attempted such a feat. I don't really know why I waited so long. It was inevitable that I would try it someday. Boyfriend's mother's family is Italian, so... you know. Yeah. I texted her while I was cooking and she seemed very excited. Next time I make it, I'll have to have her and Boyfriend's dad over to try some. Hopefully, I can pull it off more than once. 

Anyway, I used a Pioneer Woman recipe. No surprise there. She never misses. Her recipe was very easy to understand and made me feel confident about tackling such an intimidating dish. Haha.

Here is a shot of my hamburger/sausage combo cooking alongside the noodles. I maybe shouldn't have cooked the noodles at that very moment, but I did and it was fine. 

And here is the cottage cheese mixture. I was pretty excited about it. I can't tell a lie when it comes to cottage cheese, you see.

And voila!! The finished, delicious product. OMG. It was so good.

You really must make this. Trust me. Boyfriend liked it and he grew up making pasta, gnocchi and the like with his aunts and grandmother. I guess my final test will be when I make it next for his parents. Yikes!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pound Cake

On Tuesday night, I made some pound cake. I had been thinking about it all day and by the time five o'clock rolled around, I knew I had to do it. I decided to try one of Joy the Baker's recipes (naturally). I didn't include the orange zest, but I did use the chocolate. And, despite Joy's good advice, I used Nestle chocolate chips.

Let me just tell you. This pound cake took FOREVER. I mean, forever. Our friend Nick was over for dinner and I had hoped that it would be done in time to send some home with him for he and his wife to enjoy. NOT TRUE. I am not even kidding. It took two hours to bake that thing. It was delicious, though, so I can't even be that mad. 

You should try making it. Boyfriend has requested a lemon pound cake at some point, so I will likely do that. Yum.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Ohhhh it's a new year. I have been thinking about the resolutions I made on my birthday a few months ago. I think I still need to work on some of these (um... definitely). I have a few changes, perhaps, to make to that list. Let's see here:

1. I want to try waking up earlier each morning. I really think that this will help with the cleaning problem I continually have if I can do a couple of things before work. ALSO, it will leave more time when I get home for me to work on my sewing projects.

2. I want to try to challenge myself to write at least one letter per week. I think that it could be a fun project, and would encourage me to be better about timely responses. Yay? Nay? I do have a stationery problem, so it's not like I don't have writing materials. Ha.

Anyway... I am considering setting a goal about how many books I want to read this year, but I can't decide on a good number. We shall see.    

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup

On Sunday, I made one of my favorite soups for dinner: Sausage, Potato & Kale. I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I've made this one before (but never blogged about it?) and it turned out beautifully, so when I got a craving for it, I decided to forge ahead. If you're into that zuppa toscana soup at the Olive Garden, you're going to want to make this. It's essentially the same. I think my favorite part about this soup is the kale. THE KALE. It's so good.

Side note: the first time I bought kale at the grocery store, the cashier didn't know what it was, stared at it quizzically, put it in my bag, and swiftly moved on before I even knew what was happening. Haha. Free kale!

Anyway, here is my kale, all ripped up, rinsed and ready to go. Sorry for the blurry picture.

Here are the potatoes, chopped, cooked and draining:

I got my sausage from the meat counter at the grocery store, rather than picking up a pre-packaged situation. No biggie. I chose the "mild-hot" variety and it was pretty darn spicy. If you're into that, cool. If not, maybe try something a bit more tame. Next time, I might use half mild-hot and half sweet. We'll see. Here is the sausage and the onion, creating a wonderful harmony in a pan.

The Pioneer Woman doesn't list when to use the onion. It's at the sausage cook time. She notes it in her pictures, but not in the written recipe. Just FYI.

Here is the finished product, a zesty, kale-filled wonder! So, so, good. Mmm. Seriously.