Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: September

September was a fairly calm month in terms of reading. Meaning I did not bulldoze over a million books this time. Sad, but true. The ones I did read were pretty great, though. They were:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Code Talker by Chester Nez
The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I think I have something to say about all of these. First of all, I read Birdsong because I saw the Masterpiece series pop up on Netflix and I thought, "Well, I have to read the book before I can watch this." So I read the book. It was not exactly what I expected, but it was pretty enjoyable. I think the series is no longer on Netflix, which is a bummer, but I may be able to watch it through Amazon instant video. We'll see.

Side note, when I went to IMDB to get the link for the Birdsong series, I saw this trailer and got all teary-eyed and I think I probably need to see this:

Yay? Nay? What do you think?

Anyway. Back on track... I really enjoyed reading the Chester Nez book. His life has been an amazing one and it was really exciting to read about the use of the language of the Navajo in codes during the second world war. The Girl on the Cliff was kind of ehhhh for me. Know what I mean? I liked parts of it, but I was most certainly not blown away.

I read Austenland because Amanda and I had plans to go see the movie and I wanted to compare the two. For the record, the movie is nothing at all like the book. I mean it. Very, very little is the same. The book was very cute and I liked it. The movie was... ridiculous. Amanda and I laughed our heads off, but mostly because it was just insane. I think the movie wasn't trying to take itself too seriously, which really helped.

The Circular Staircase was the book club selection for September. I enjoyed it. Partially because the author, as I may have mentioned at some point, is from Pittsburgh, and partially because it was just a darn good story. I'd recommend it.

Ikea Dream House

Do you ever get jealous of the fake houses in the Ikea catalog? 

You don't? Oh... 

Neither do I. Nope. Not ever. 

The rooms they make up just look so wonderful! I love my house and I'm happy with the way we are working on making it lovely and ours, but damn. Ikea. You make me crazy. I want all the things.

It is a good thing my sister is an interior designer. I can use her brain to steer my house toward magnificence. MAGNIFICENCE!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Birthday Gifts for a Duck

This is my final post to catch up on all of the drafts I had floating around here! YAY! I'll feel much better about things now. Maybe I'll even be more inclined to post things timely. That would be amazing, right? Right.

Anyway. Back on track. Do you remember the fox bags I made for me and for Holly back in January? The one that I made using the techniques I learned in Deborah Moebes' book, Stitch by Stitch? Yes... those bags. I decided that the little Duck needed some cute bags for her birthday. See, ever since she was very small, she has liked to pretend that she is going to the office. To play this game, she needs to find a hat, a bag, someone's keys and someone's shoes (never her own). I actually don't know if she still plays this game, but I hope so. Maybe three year olds are too fancy to play going to work games.

ANYWAY. Geez. For her third birthday in July, I made the Duck two little skirts (I need to work on my child-size skirt skills; her mom said they fit her like pencil skirts) and two little matching bags. Here are the skirts:

And here are the matching bags. They are not the same size. I definitely made them smaller than the ones that I made for myself and for Holly, but they are also not equal in size to one another. I used the cotton webbing for the handles, rather than the fabric itself. I think they turned out pretty nicely:

I think she loved the Dora stuff the best, but she also seemed to like the cupcakes. She's pretty easy to please, though. And, adorably, she is so emphatic with her thank yous.

I'm looking forward to making her other cute bags in the future. She started dance class a few weeks ago and, if she keeps with it, I'll make her a special bag for that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Minestrone Soup

Here's a thing you should know about me. When I read magazines, I rip out the pages of stuff that I like. (I subscribe to Better Homes & Gardens, so the majority of my torn pages are from issues of that publication.) I then use a three hole punch and those little circle reinforcing labels and put the pages into a three ring binder. I have sections like: color, recipes, decor, garden, and pretty things. You know, the usual. 
Anyway, I had a recipe for minestrone soup ripped out that I had been wanting to try for a while. In early August, I finally did it. It was delicious. I would share a link to it here, but I cannot find the same recipe on their website to save my life. Instead, I'll type it out here. You should know that this particular recipe was published in their March 2012 issue. It was a pretty quick meal, which was nice for a weeknight. 
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 14 or 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, chopped
2 tsp Italian seasonings or 1 tsp each dried basil and garlic powder
1 cup dry rigatoni or penne
2 to 3 cups baby spinach
Parmesan cheese and/or basil (optional)

-In a Dutch oven, combine the tomatoes, 2 cups water, beans, broth, pepper, seasoning, and pasta. Bring to boil over high heat.
-Reduce head to medium and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just barely tender.
-Stir in spinach. 
-Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan and/or basil.

You should try this soup! I think it would be really delicious now that it is socially acceptable soup weather and the temps are supposed to be cooling down. I plan to make it again very soon.

Girls Weekend 2013

Since I have been so bad about keeping up with blog posts, it isn't super surprising that this one is so late. It is a bit ridiculous, though. 

In the tradition of the girls weekend we had at my house last November, my mom, sister and I got together for a weekend in April. APRIL. That is six months ago, isn't it? Goodness. I'm sorry for the delay. This trip, like the other was full of crafts and hanging out. Marmee and I traveled to Holly's house this time.

The first night we were together, we decided to use hot glue and buttons to create something pretty on a canvas. It was pretty fun and I liked the way it turned out. The picture below is our finished works. I am, clearly, the odd woman out. My flower makes me smile, though. I have had it up on my mantle since that day and it adds some color to the room. I figure it will get a more permanent spot somewhere in the house as we work more on our rooms.

We also made terrariums while we were together (and bracelets, but I don't love any of the pictures I took of those enough to post them)! Holly had most of the supplies ready when we got there. We just went searching for the plants themselves as well as little animal figures to put inside. It was more challenging to make them than I had expected, but I liked the way they turned out. I had to be sure to get plants that were non-toxic to cats, just in case. I put a little porcelain duck in my terrarium, and dubbed her Susannah. She's very cute. 

Sadly, my terrarium did not make it. I have since given up on it, but Susannah is hanging out on our bookshelf now. She's a cutie. 

It was a joy to be all together for a relaxing weekend. I got to see Alex, my brother-in-law a bit (he's usually out riding his bike if he is not working, you see) and visit with the cute pups, Charlie and Penny. They are very funny dogs and I love them. I made Marmee and Holly have a photo shoot with them before I left.

I am hopeful that we can get together for another girls weekend soon! It's always one of the best things ever. I always hate that my family is so far away and spread out, but I love it when we have the chance to be together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Peach & Blueberry Buckle

Gosh, I've been so bad about posting lately that I can't actually remember when I made some of the stuff I've wanted to write about. That's not great, right? Probably not.

I'll keep this short, because I need to get my drafts cleared out so I don't feel so guilty about them lingering around here mostly unfinished. I made a super delicious, amazing dessert a while back. A peach & blueberry buckle. I had never made a buckle before, much less heard of one. I think it seems most like a coffee cake to me. I got the recipe from real simple and it was pretty easy. I took some over to Elisa when it was still hot and Boyfriend and I had some right away as well. I will definitely make this again. The combo of the peaches & blueberries was a great one.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Monthly Book Roundup: August

As I anticipated, August was considerably slower for reading than June & July had been. Oh well. Any reading is good reading, I suppose. This month, I read:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

The Gaiman/Pratchett book was our book club selection and I really wanted to love it. I was such a huge fan of American Gods and Stardust. Tracy hypothesized that the problem was that I didn't like Pratchett's style of writing. It's possible. I did finish the book and I liked it much better by the end and I enjoyed some of the specific characters, but I don't think I really loved the book as a whole. 

The Massie book was really interesting. I've always had a fascination with the Russian Imperial family and this book was well done. It made me want to watch the animated film Anastasia which, of course, is really, really untrue. Haha. 

I think my September book roundup will be up in very little time. Keep a look out, friends.

Freezer Jam!

I have been thinking about freezer jam for months. MONTHS. I found this recipe via pinterest a long while back and knew I had to try it. Regular canning intimidates me, but I figured that freezer jam was more reasonable. 

A couple of Fridays ago, I embarked on my endeavor. I decided to do a straight up raspberry jam, despite the recipe calling for a lime zest. I thought I could get raspberries at Aldi, but I was wrong. So I ended up getting everything at Giant Eagle. Fruit, pectin, jars. The whole process was pretty simple and didn't take long at all. I ended up being able to make five jars. I kept two (mostly because we basically inhaled the first one), gave one to Elisa & Chantry, one to Jamie & Jason, and one to Boyfriend's parents. So far, rave reviews! If you've ever wanted to make jam but were afraid of boiling jars and all that, try this out.