Thursday, January 28, 2010
all of this cold cold weather lately has been making me wish i was somewhere warmer. somewhere tropical. somewhere requiring at least a four hour plane ride to reach.
i love traveling, though i often hate all that goes along with it.
one of the biggest pain-in-the-butt issues that comes up on my trips is 'what to do with the dirty laundry?'.
both my husband and i are extreme over-packers and frequently change our clothing three or four times a day while on vacation (you HAVE to change that often if you want to wear everything you brought, after all). this leaves us with quite a bit of dirty laundry that needs to be hauled back home.
you don't want to just throw the dirty clothes in with the clean ones, and you don't want to have to purchase an extra suitcase to lug all that stinky crap home in, so what's a world-traveler to do?
my trick (which i came across entirely by accident): jumbo scented litter box liners!
the jumbo sized liners are large enough to hold several days worth of laundry and the fresh scent masks any lingering funk.
i keep a large box on hand (okay, originally i bought the wrong size for my kitty's box) and throw a couple of the liners into the suitcase before we leave.
when we get back home, all the laundry is sorted and ready for the wash!
now, i just need to find somewhere to go......
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
need an easier way to clean off your cheese grater after each use?
try using one of those little fingernail brushes your grandma used to keep by the 'garden sink' to clean her nails.
by rubbing the brush opposite of the grates, you can easily remove any oil or rind remnants left from whatever you were grating/zesting.
added bonus: since you are now 'in the know' on how to clean this little contraption with ease, try buying bulk cheeses from the store and shredding your own. you'll save some real moo-lah (bad joke, i know)
my undying love for all things amy sedaris is no secret.
this recipe of her's is no secret, either: it's straight from her new york times bestseller entertaining guide, i like you by amy sedaris: hospitality under the influence.
8 pieces chicken
3 tbsp olive oil
1 sliced onion
1 bell pepper
2 minced cloves garlic
1/2 c dry white wine (if you have to buy more and drink the excess, so be it)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped up
4 oz fresh chopped mushrooms
heat 2 tbsp of oil in large skillet over med heat. place as many pieces of chicken in skillet without overcrowding and brown, turning just once.
remove chicken to flame-proof dutch oven. repeat this until all chicken pieces are browned.
add leftover tbsp of oil to skillet and get that hot. add onion, pepper, garlic and mushrooms. stir and cook for about 6 minutes.
add wine and reduce for 1 minute. add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and bay leaf and simmer.
put the chicken back into the skillet, cover, simmer for 30 minutes.
transfer chicken to serving platter. reduce onion/pepper/mushroom mixture in skillet, stirring until thick, about 4 minutes.
spoon mixture over chicken and top with fresh basil
this recipe is super for a cold weeknight dinner (uh, like tonight?) and since it is kind of a hodge-podge of ingredients, it's a pretty easy way to clean out the fridge without really trying.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
hey, guys, remember me? sorry for break in all this exciting marthastewarthatesme action but i've got a life to live outside of this blog-o-sphere, and quite frankly, sometimes that life involves copious amounts of alcohol. m'bad.
last night, in a 'private' moment, my husband and i accidentally knocked over and broke a ceramic lamp.
waking up to the aftermath this morning (yeah, i leave broken lamps on the floor overnight, okay? who do you think i am? martha-freaking-stewart?) i began searching for a way to salvage what i could from the wreckage.
i came across this fairly easy mosaic tile project and am planning on employing all the craftiness i can muster to see it out.
the directions to this project seem long, but trust me, they are pretty basic and i have absolute faith in you (and a little less so in myself) that we can pull this off.
to make a 7" x 10" mosaic plaque or trivet you will need:
1 - wood cut out of the shape you desire (close to the above size guidelines)
2 - cups of tile grout
to prepare ceramic tile or dishes for use, place a couple into the large ziploc bag and seal. hammer until medium is broken up into pieces of various sizes.
remove from bag to your work area and continue this process until all tile is broken up.
leaving a 1/2" margin between ceramic edge and edge of your shape, lay all of the edge pieces in place first, without glue. be sure to leave space between each piece for tile grout. when you have your outer edge exactly as you want it, go back over it and glue each piece into place, one at a time.
once your edge is on and dry, you can continue this same process with the remainder of your plaque or trivet.
it usually works best to lay out and glue a section at a time. if you get near the end and find you don't have quite the right fit, you can recreate the edges with a hammer or a bevel, but remember, the coolness of mosaic lies in the irregularities of the shapes; pieces that fit perfectly together will actually detract from your finished project's overall efftect.
once your shape is covered it needs to completely dry for a minimum of 8 hours.
before grouting, cover the wooden edges of your plaque/trivet with masking tape. mix your grout and water in the container until the grout is smooth and creamy.
using your hand for best results, put a pile of grout in the very middle of the plaque and work it evenly from the center to all of the edges until entire plaque or trivet is covered. using your hand again, immediately remove the excess and let it set for 12 hours.
at this time, if you see any uneven grout or air holes you can fill them in with more grout.
it again needs to set for another 1/2 hour. wipe once again with a lightly damp sponge.
let set for 20 minutes this time. once the 20 minutes is up, take the soft rag and "polish" the plaque/trivet.
at this point you can remove the masking tape and attach your hanger, if so desired.
you can do eeeettt!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
to celebrate the wonderment that is clear vision, i've got a super tip to keep your mirrors and windows free of those pesky streak marks:
this tip is an oldy but a goody as far as i'm concerned because i've known it, like, forever and a day, but i'm still amazed at how many people i encounter that have never heard of this trick (come to think of it, i'm also amazed how many people i have the occasion to speak to about streak-free windows).
instead of using paper towels to clean your windows and mirrors, try using newspaper. i don't know why this works, but i swear it does.
maybe it has to do with the ink on the pages. maybe it has to do with the type of paper, itself. who knows and, frankly, who really cares.
bottom line is, i can't remember the last time i used anything but newspaper to clean my mirrors and i've been loving what i see looking back at me ever since.
p.s. anyone in the central illinois area that's looking for an awesome selection of eye glasses with service to match, check out julen's opticians in the round barn shopping center, champaign. they're the best and i am soooo happy i followed up the recommendation given to me to go there.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
but today is a new day. today i am beginning my slow return to the gym (truth be told, i'm still a little scared of re-injury) and in honor of that return, i thought i'd showcase a great lo-cal chicken soup, perfect for cold winter nights and for shaving off some of that holiday pudge.
4.5 c homemade (or store bought) low-sodium chicken stock
2 c water
1 piece fresh ginger, sliced
1 c sliced scallions (plus more for garnish if you wanna get fancy)
1 hot chile, chopped
1 bunch fresh dill
6 oz shitake mushrooms, caps sliced .25 in thick, stems reserved
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heads baby bok choy (or 1 regular), quartered into wedges
combine first six ingredients and reserved mushroom stems in medium pot over medium heat. bring to a low simmer.
add chicken and cook until instant-read thermometer reads 160 at the thickest part of meat (about 15 min).
remove chicken and strain broth through fine sieve, discarding solids.
return broth to pot and bring to simmer.
add sliced mushroom caps and bok choy and simmer until tender (about 5 min).
slice chicken, divide among bowls and ladle broth and veggies on top.
garnish with scallions if you must.
3 g fat
i promise, this recipe will do more to take off the pounds than these stupid things....
but it does look rather stimulating, doesn't it?
and are they drinking?
Monday, January 18, 2010
what a great metaphor for human existence, huh?
cram all your clutter and crap that you don't really want to think about, but might someday be inclined to desperately need, into a an inadequately small space, slam the door and hide it all from the world.
what's not to love?
the problem with messy closets is, though they may leave the rest of your home or office looking neat and tidy with minimal effort, you know what's behind that door.
you know that you are a poser and that at any moment your horrible secret could come crashing out for all to see.
if you have messy closets you are, essentially, a big fat liar and an awful human being.
now that ive got you motivated (i learned this technique from my eastern-european mother-in-law): ready to clean?
yeah, me neither, but we have to do it anyway.
closet cleaning 099 (we'll get to 101 once your grades improve)
step 1: decide the function of your space.
is this closet for storing clothing? gift wrapping paper? important paperwork? cleaning supplies? you don't get to pick them all for one space, so just get over it. figure out what belongs in this space and get all of the other crap out of there.
step 2: take everything out of the closet.
yeah, that's right. you're going to make a mess, but guess what? that's how you clean. things get messier in life before they get cleaner. haven't you ever seen a disney movie?
step 3: go through each piece one at a time.
this step can be tedious, but it is essential in weeding out all the trash/ugly junk/broken stuff/where in the hell did that come from kind of items.
if you haven't worn it in at least a year: pitch it.
if it no longer fits your growing body: lose it (the article, not the weight).
if it needs repair: for christ's sake fix it or get rid of it.
c'mon, are these rules really that hard to follow?
if you are experiencing a particularly difficult time discarding items, pour yourself a giant glass of red wine and watch the first 20 min of an episode of hoarders. now get back to work.
step 4: utilize shelf space.
do not hang sweaters.
or else i will be able to spot you from 40 paces as an idiot who doesn't know how to care for their clothing by the little devil horns popping out of your shoulders.
fold sweaters and store in small stacks with the heavier sweaters on the bottom, lighter on top to avoid distorting their shapes.
jeans, sweatshirts and knits also store well when folded.
step5: get creative.
there are a ga-jillion ways to use your brain, so you might as well exercise your creativity a little bit when it comes to organizing your closet.
shower curtain hooks work well to hang purses, belts and scarves from closet rods, for instance.
use an empty case of wine (you know you have them laying around) to store flip-flops and other flat shoes. wrap the case in pretty paper if you're a perfectionist.
okay, we've completed our first seminar in closet organization. yes cleaning and organizing sucks super big time, but so does living with the knowledge that at any moment a houseguest, child or spouse could unsuspectingly open THAT closet door and all the crap you've been stockpiling since your first my little pony play stable could come spilling out. then you have to clean it, anyway.
remember: there's a reason monsters live in closets.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
oh, what the hell. overdo it if you want.
if you're the bride or groom, everyone will understand you trying to drink your way through the day.
if you're a member of the wedding party or just a lowly guest, if you make a big enough scene, you'll get yourself out of wedding obligations for a loooong time. good plan, huh?
2 oz vanilla vodka
1 oz coconut rum
splash of pineapple juice
splash of grenadine
shake and strain
3 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
dash angostura bitters
3 oz ginger ale
serve over ice with lemon garnish
happily ever after
2 oz peach schnapps
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz ginger ale
serve over ice
jameson straight up
because sometimes you need something a bit stronger to get you through
Friday, January 15, 2010
we don't want to squander all of that hard-laid (haha) groundwork that we put in on steak and blowjob day by cruising through the next month. hells, no, ladies: we've got to trick these men into not just thinking, but truly believing that we are so exceptionally awesome that we absolutely definitely deserve jewelry, designer handbags, and matching stainless steel appliances.
this quick chili recipe will at least get you through dinner tonight:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chili peppers (more if you dare), coarsely chopped
28-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
19-oz can black beans, rinsed and well-drained
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste (duh)
in large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. add ground beef and cook until well browned. add onion and cook until soft. add garlic and chili peppers and cook until soft, about 5 min.
add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. stir well and heat until bubbling.
add beans, spices, salt and pepper and turn to low heat. simmer for 20 min.
serve on its own or over elbow macaroni noodles.
30 min total 6 servings
get yourself some bonus points and do all the clean-up without bitching (yes, it's hard not to bitch, but just do it so you can get some sweet presents, okay?).
'hey, honey, i'll clean up. why don't you go relax and watch some tv?'
pour yourself a giant glass of wine, chug half, and bust those dishes out.
trust me, in a month it will ALL be worth it.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
today is a very important holiday, ladies. how you perform today will determine just how good your feb 14th is this year.
steak and blowjob day was created as a way for women to sucker their men into getting them really awesome and expensive v-day gifts (jewelry, designer handbags, matching stain-less steel appliances, you get the idea).
we celebrate this prestigious holiday every jan 14, one month before the biggest female-oriented holiday in the world. this gives our guys plenty of shopping/spending time before the big day!
see how smart we are?
now, keep in mind that, like all holidays, it is important that each person finds their own way of celebrating. the words 'steak' and 'blowjob' are merely suggestions--not absolute rules.
bottom line: figure outyour guy's sweet spot (you should, truthfully, already know it by now) and milk it for all it's worth.
you can all thank me next month!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
want spotless linens? go solid white.
it may seem counter-intuitive, but clean white towels and bedsheets look and feel fresh and are surprisingly easy to keep looking that way (here's a hint: hella bleach, yo).
i like to keep extra hand towels at the ready so if visitors stop by i can quickly swap out the dirty towels for fresh ones.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
use a turkey baster to skim the gross stuff from your flower vases and to add fresh water to your arrangements without disturbing them.
Monday, January 11, 2010
which got me to thinking about glassware at cocktails and dinner parties. i once knew a girl who had all mismatched glassware, but with similar motifs.
it was a really cute, eclectic collection and it made it so much easier to keep track of which random wine glass was yours.
tacky wine charms, i banish thee!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
this dressing is so simple, i can replicate it consistently regardless of how much pre-dinner vino i've had. yes, that simple. and delicious.
(an easy way to peel them is to chop off the gnarly
end and then smash the clove with the flat side of a broad knife).
in a small cream pitcher or coffee cup combine
garlic and approx 3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil.
squeeze juice of half a lemon into
mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste
(whenever tasting salad dressings, always taste dressing on lettuce).
stir vigorously while pouring over salad greens of your choosing. done.
this dressing is so light and flavorful, it's sure to get you to kick your ranch dressing habit. you'll never DREAM of drowning your salads in heavy dressings again!
hang a length of cord from a ceiling hook. attach smallish wooden clothespins down the length of the cord by tying knots on either end of each pin.
use clothespins to hold random snow-cessories while they dry.
another great tip that i think looks super cute is to take a shallow tray, large enough to hold several pairs of boots, and fill with largish-sized pebbles (you can steal them from your neighbors landscaping or buy them at any home-improvement store). store wet winter boots on the tray and water will wick away while staying off your floors.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
happy snow day everybody! in honor of the white stuff (no, not that white stuff), i've compiled some fun winter craft/activities to do with the kids. if you don't have any kids, these activities can still be super fun to do, but i would recommend either a couple hot toddies or whatever other substance floats your boat to really give it that WOW factor.
this craft is easy and fun and can be as classy or creative as you like.
all you need are spray water bottles (one for each desired color) and food coloring. mix the food coloring with water, shake well and voila! you've got snow paint.
try decorating shrubs or bushes and making pretty flowers near your entryways.
i saw a picture of these snowmen a couple years back and thought they were so cute! i've finally figured out how to make them easily.
begin by constructing two classic snowmen, facing each other, with approx five feet between them. use sticks for arms and attach marshmallows on the ends of the 'fingers'.
construct a fake firepit between the two snowmen by placing logs or other sticks in a circle. build up an igloo-column of smaller snowballs in the middle of the circle, leaving spaces between each snowball that light can pass through.
in the evening, place either pillar candles or battery powered flicker lights inside the 'igloo' and prepare for your neighbors to be both envious and amazed.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
if your special guy is having a difficult time keeping your freshly-scrubbed toilet clean, try this trick:
float a couple of froot loops or any other round cereal in the bowl of the toilet (i like froot loops because the bright colors attract my guy's attention).
direct the male to attempt to 'shoot' the cereal with his stream. he will have fun practicing his accuracy, and your toilet bowl and bathroom floor will remain clean.
this tip works equally as well for drunk husbands as it does for six year old boys.
i have to admit, even though i know the holidays are over and i am thankful that i survived them with only a stint on crutches, i think i might maybe kinda miss all the hub-bub a teeny bit.
something about seeing our tree on the curb this evening coming home from work got to me. it's sad.
so while i huddle inside this evening because (i know, people have been saying 'it's cold this' and 'it's cold that' all day) it's freaking cold out there, i wil be sipping away on one of the greatest holiday drinks known to mankind, waxing poetic about how great the holidays are. in hindsight.
tom and jerry
makes a butt-load of servings
18 egg yolks (i guess whites can also be used instead, but i've never tried it)
2 lb powdered sugar
3 drops oil of cinnamon
3 drops oil of clove
one heaping spoonful of batter
2 oz blended whiskey
add hot milk (or water)
sprinkle with nutmeg
delicious! (and faux-pressive, too!)
besides, if my leg is still recovering from my spill (and subsequent crutches) and i'm not allowed to go to the gym, i might as well have a cocktail. (gee, that decision seemed easy!)
besides, it's like, really, really freakin' cold out there.
Monday, January 4, 2010
so, it's time to get all of the holiday decorations out of your sight and back into the garage/crawl space/basement until next year. as if this undertaking isn't daunting enough, chances are you seem to have way more crap laying around your house post-holiday than you did before.
now, you can take a lesson from my mother and simply wait for 'spring cleaning' to remove all of this new clutter, but by that time, it's likely that you and your household will have become accustomed to your new living arrangements and the need to get your house back in order may not feel quite as pressing. (note: this is how people get themselves into serious trouble. ever seen that a&e show, hoarders? it all starts somewhere.)
rule number one for getting your house clean: bust it out.
forget the advice you may have read elsewhere about doing a little bit everyday until the job's done. no one has this amount of discipline and you WILL end up cutting corners....oh, i guess that stack of 30 victoria's secret catalogs can stay there, they are fun to look over sometimes.
i seriously devote hours at a time to cleaning my house, because if it doesn't all get done at once, it's not going to get done. period. start in one room of your home and get it sparkling (i like to start in the kitchen), i'm talking drawers organized, appliances moved and wiped behind, the whole she-bang. once that room is done, move on to the next one with the thought in mind that no one room in your home should be cleaner/messier than another.
yes, this will take you some time, but you only have to do it about once every couple of months to maintain a 'clean' home. chug an energy drink and just get it done.
rule number two for getting your house clean: throw shit away!!
seriously. get it out of your house. you will not miss it. if it is ugly, don't put in a closet or seldom-used guest bedroom, throw it in the trash where it belongs! if you are afraid that you will one day miss it, get over it: remember those really comfy elephant print sleep pants that you practically lived in in college and then let some friend wear home some morning after a night of binge drinking? (yeah, well you didn't until i just brought them up.)
if you are a collector, pick ONE thing to be a collector of and figure out a way to display the collection in one place. if your collection can not be displayed in a pretty or interesting way, you are collecting the wrong thing. frame children's artwork or create a coffee table book by sliding pieces into plastic slipcovers inside a 3-ring binder. give knick-knacks their own special shelf in your entryway. display an interesting wine glass collection on an unused bookcase shelf or mantle.
if you can't find a place for it, donate it, sell it, or pitch it.
rule number three for getting your house clean: small, pretty containers.
they don't even have to match! small baskets, jars, glass dishes, saucers all are great ways to give the illusion of cleanliness without actually having to do much cleaning. since you've already done your room-to-room cleaning and thrown out most of the crap littering your living space, you should be left with only a few little piles of 'where do i put this' kind of stuff.
i keep my tv and stereo remotes in a pretty fluted glass bowl on the bottom shelf of my coffee table. loose change is kept on a large saucer in the master bedroom. keys, sunglasses and bills are kept on a similar saucer above the microwave. dishtowels and scarves and gloves have their own respective baskets in the laundry room and hall closet. nail polishes and small lotions are kept in an old wrought-iron silverware organizer in the linen closet. i even have a basket at the foot of my bed where my husband and i keep our jeans and sweaters that we have worn but are likely to wear again before laundry day.
these are just a few of my organizational tips (trust me, i've got plenty) though i deem these three to be three of the most important. i hate clutter because clutter looks like laziness and even though, yes i am lazy i am also too much a lady to let that fact be thrown into my house guests faces.
another added bonus tip: if you have school-aged kids, get them to help out...if they are young enough, sorting like things into piles can be a fun and educational game. and, if they are too old to be so easily fooled, just threaten to take their playstation or cell phone or keg party privileges away. they'll be helping you in no time!