Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deep Dish Pizza

One of the things that I made for the Superbowl party was deep dish pizza. NOM. I used the crust recipe from America's Test Kitchen (I love that show) with my own sauce. It turned out pretty amazing if I do say so myself! The best part? The recipe makes two doughs, so we had one pizza for that day and I froze the other for later.

You really should try it, it's fantastic!
http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=21349

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Superbowl!

Yes, I know the Superbowl was a while ago, but I forgot to post about it. It was a quiet affair with myself, hubby, Max, my dad and my grandpa. Out of all of us, only grandpa was pleased with the outcome. <sigh> Why, Pats, why???

But I digress.

I made way more than enough food for the 4 adults attending, but it's all freezable so that worked out well. In fact, I'm having leftover chili for lunch today. Mostly I wanted to put up cute pictures of Max wearing his Superbowl shirt that I re-created from hubby's well worn t-shirt. He has the best halftime show dance moves!

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Strawberry" Oatmeal

Keep in mind that I'm using the word strawberry very loosely here.

So, you know those oatmeal packets you can get? Specifically the strawberries and cream ones? Yeah, I love those. But I know they're not very good for you, so with some creativity (and bravery) I've come up with an alternative:

"Strawberry" Oatmeal
1/2 cup low fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup oatmeal (dry)
1 1/2-2 cups very hot water
1 strawberry flavored fizzy vitamin tablet (like airborne)

Put everything in a bowl big enough to hold it and stir occasionally until the tablet is dissolved. It doesn't taste exactly like those oatmeal packets, but it's pretty darn close.

Per the labeling on my ingredients, it comes out to 215 calories and 3.75 grams of fat - with a really good dose of protein, fiber, and of course vitamins.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Corn & Clam Chowder-Soup

I know what you're thinking: it must be a typo. Nope. I really mean chowder-soup. I was in the mood for chowder, clam or corn, either would do. But I had an inherent problem - no potatoes, and I really didn't want to go to the store. So I pulled out my trusty cookbook, 365 Great Soups & Stews, for a little inspiration. I decided to use the Chinese Crab and Corn soup as a base, kinda. It has corn and shellfish, I wanted corn and shellfish, and the soy sauce and ginger sounded intriguing. Otherwise the two recipes bear little resemblance.

The result is creamy without being thick and chunky, just like a cross between a chowder and a soup. And it's delish. Ignore the odd color, that's just the soy sauce.

Corn & Clam Chowder-Soup

4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp dried chives
1/4 tsp dried grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp soy sauce (or 4 packets)
12oz clams in juice (frozen or canned)
16oz frozen corn (approx 2 cups)
1 package instant mashed potatoes, plain or butter flavor
1 cup milk

Blend half of the corn - it helps to thaw it a bit first. Put all of the ingredients except for the instant potatoes and milk in a large pot. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the milk and instant potatoes. It's important to keep stirring while adding the instant potatoes so they don't clump. Return to a simmer for a few minutes so the flavors can blend. That's it, enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Easy Backsplash

The kitchen re-do is slowing down, but has not yet ground to a halt. To go with the new counter top (and the repainted edge, it's now gray) I put up a tile back splash the other day - no grout needed. I picked up a bunch of 2"x2" off-white tiles at a garage sale last summer for $15 and have been itching to get them up in the kitchen.

Step 1: Clean the tile. Mine were pretty dirty, they'd been sitting in various garages for years. (that's not all of them, BTW, just what I needed for this project)

Step 2: If they have those little tab things or webbing on the back, cut them off. Be careful, I take no responsibility if you slice your finger, only if I slice mine. Not that that would ever happen.

Step 3: Put a little dallop of construction adhesive on the back of the tile. Make sure it's approved for both tile and the type of wall you have, in my case wood.

Step 4: Start in a corner that you want to look good. My "bad" corner is behind the microwave, though I must say it turned out pretty well. Smush the tile against the wall, give it a little wiggle to smear the glue more evenly, and move along to the next. Make sure to keep tight to your edges and set the tiles close together.

Step 5: Cut the tiles as needed to fit. I cut the tiles by hand with a tile cutter I picked up at the hardware store. It wasn't easy, but it did the job and $5.00 is a lot better than renting a tile saw.

Step 6: Let it dry and admire!
ignore the outlet
Since the back splash is not in an area that will get wet or dirty I didn't bother with grout, caulk, or sealers. For the back splash behind the sink I'll use some paintable silicone caulk to make it water tight.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Link Party at Nester's!

I'm linking up today at Nesting Place's It's Not Perfect But It's Beautiful party with my Recovered Couch. She has the best posts over there, I'm so thrilled to be joining in the fun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prepping the Starting Zone

The Seed Starting Zone, that is. Along with getting my seeds together last weekend, I also prepped the part of the back room that I use for seed starting (which also houses my lovebirds and hubby's heavy bag). I put together the collapsible greenhouse, rearranged so there was more floor space for potato sacks, removed an unused cage (two of the lovies have decided to move in together), and moved all of my alternative pots (aka food containers) into one spot.

On Saturday I picked up some seed starting mix as well as a few clear storage bins. I found last year that starting my seeds in cups in the bins made a HUGE difference. The double greenhouse effect was great, and I was able to water from the bottom which I'm sure helped as well.

Now I need to bring in some seed trays and last year's yogurt pots out of the shed and then wait until April to start the rest of my seeds. Ugh. I hate the waiting.

a seed-starting arsenal: milk jugs & industrial size sour cream tubs

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Potato Sack

(L) dirt bin, (R) potato sack
If you hadn't guessed, the theme of my posts this week is gardening. Yes, gardening. Get over it. Unless you're totally psyched like me, then don't get over it because I'm giving you a high-five through the computer.

So, you can grow potatoes in a sack, did you know that? I didn't until sometime last fall when I was disgusted at my lack of potato production and was looking for an alternative way to grow potatoes. Normally potatoes will grow in clay soil, but we had such a wet start that they almost all rotted in the ground. Out of 40 "seeds" I harvested about a dozen potatoes. Yes, only three plants lived and those little potatoes were pretty pathetic. But I threw them in the cupboard anyhow.

And do you know what happened? They sprouted in my cupboard. So, I decided maybe February wasn't a bad time to try out this potato sack method. I even had a handy-dandy empty cat food bag to test it out on.


Materials:
A large bag (trash bag, cat food bag, whatever. Make sure it's big, my cat food bag is the 20lb kind)
Drip tray or bag
Seed potatoes
Potting soil

Step 1: Prep your potatoes - just like you would for planting in the ground.
Step 2: Put a 2" layer of damp potting soil in your bag. If it is plastic, cut some slits for drainage and put a tray or another, uncut, plastic bag underneath.
Step 3: Put in your sprouted potatoes, sprouts facing up.
Step 4: Cover with 1" of damp potting soil (I mix the water directly into the soil in my dirt bin)
Step 5: Put them in a sunny location.
Step 6: Let them grow and water as needed. Just like outdoor potatoes, when they reach 8" or so cover with more soil and/or straw to within 2" of the top.


I'll keep you posted on how well my February potatoes grow. I figure it's no real loss, if they die I can reuse or compost the soil, and it's not like they were very usable sprouting in the cupboard.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seed List 2012

We had a cold snap this weekend and stayed indoors on Sunday. That didn't keep me from day dreaming about this summer and putting in a few seed orders to supplement the shopping trip I did in January.

In no particular order, here's the 2012 seed list:
black valentine bean (snap and baking)
tigers eye bean (baking)
cannellini bean (baking)
green arrow pea
hungarian heart tomato
luffa angled gourd
half long guernsey parsnip
carnations
marigolds
whippersnapper cherry tomato
spinach
lettuce
basil
melons (mixed)
sweet bell peppers (mixed)
popcorn
artichoke
nasturtium
winter squash (mixed)
cucumbers
turnips
birdhouse gourd
beets
cauliflower
carrots

And, since my community garden plot has super heavy clay soil, I plan on amending it this year with a cover/compost crop of alfalfa and clover. I'll plant half in the spring, till it under halfway through the summer, plant the other half and till the whole thing in the fall. The other half will be beans, which with good timing on planting I should have a summer crop and a fall crop.

Of course I also had to get some fun things: millet for my lovebirds, and some blueberry and serviceberry seeds just for fun.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How to ReCover a Couch - After

And, drum roll please!

Ta-da!

Now add some throw pillows and drape a blanket -


Perfection. Well, almost. Nothing is perfect without my little helper. :)


Now, go and recover that ugly couch. Then come back and tell me all about it!

Links below to the rest of the tutorial!
BEFORE

STEP 1 

STEP 2

STEP 3

AFTER!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to ReCover a Couch – Step 3

Now let’s cover the seat area.

Firstly, get a long piece of your fabric. If you have to join more than one piece I suggest making the seam(s) line up with the couch cushion(s). My couch has two cushions, so I would have made a seam dead center. If you want to get fancy you could even put in a pleat. Me, I’m not fancy. I just made sure I had a long piece.

Fold the end under itself by an inch or two so you don’t have a raw edge. You could sew it first (like a hem) if you wanted to, but the staples will keep it secure. Now line it up with that inside corner and staple along the inside (top) edge. Notice how this fabric piece overlaps that arm fabric? Nifty, I know. When you get to the further edge, again tuck under an inch or two.

fold the edge under and secure on the inside
Now flip that couch over, secure on the bottom side and trim the excess.


finished front edge, the stapling is done!
Cushions… I didn’t take any fun pictures of the cushions, sorry. It was late, and frankly there are much better tutorials out there than I could do. BECAUSE – I made the cushion covers just like a fitted sheet. “What?” you may be asking. Yes, I made fitted cushion covers with elastic and everything like a small fitted sheet. They come off easily for washing and were a heck of a lot easier than making a full pillowcase type cover. I suggest checking out this tutorial for fitted crib sheets at luvinthemommyhood that Dana from MADE did. (I seriously love both of their blogs, you should check them out!) Just adjust the measurements to the size of your couch cushions.

Or you can cover your cushions like you would a pillow cover, or put in a zipper, or any number of methods.

Links below to the rest of the tutorial!
BEFORE

STEP 1 

STEP 2

STEP 3

AFTER!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to ReCover a Couch – Step 2

Ah, the arms. The arms took a good bit of thought and staring. (I do some of my best work after staring “vacantly” into space)

I wanted to do this with no sewing and no visible staples or tacks or anything like that. The couch has a rolled arm, so it wasn’t as easy as making some sort of standard gift package edge. I decided on a draped look that would show off the curve of the rolled arm.

Firstly, make sure that you have a lot of extra fabric overhang, you’ll need it.

Drape the fabric over the arm so that it is flush with the inside corner and hangs on the floor side by a few inches. Secure it with staples on the inside edge so it doesn’t move around. I also secured it on the floor side with a few staples so that it wouldn’t move around when I started pulling.

the arm is coming along...
Now, with those long front flaps o’ fabric – before you staple anything, play around with the fabric to see how you want it to drape. Think like you’re wrapping a really oddly shaped present.


Take the inside edge and pull it across to the outside, angling down a few inches. Keep the fabric taut and secure with staples. I secured directly under the roll of the arm into the frame. You may want to put a couple underneath the bottom as well.

inside edge is secured
Now take the outside edge and pull it across to the inside. Here you’re going to want to angle downward steeply, I tucked the fabric in on itself a bit to get a steeper, cleaner edge and a nice looking wrinkle. Pull the fabric all the way over to the seat area and secure on the inside. You’ll be putting more fabric over the front seat part, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. But perfection doesn’t hurt…

notice how the fabric goes across to the seat area
lots of staples - lots
Lastly, flip your couch over again and secure it all on the bottom of the frame.


Before you trim the excess you may want to tuck the extra under the couch and turn it upright again, just to make sure you really like that arm. Once you trim the extra fabric it’s a lot harder to change it. Needle nose pliers are super-handy at pulling staples.


Repeat with the other arm, and voila! We’re close to done!


Links below to the rest of the tutorial!
BEFORE
STEP 1 
STEP 2
STEP 3
AFTER!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to ReCover a Couch – Step 1

Materials:
Staple gun and lots of staples
One large drop cloth (approx 10’x12’) and one long drop cloth (approx 4’x12’)
**Measure your couch before purchasing material – you might need more or less than I used
Fabric Scissors (or just good, sharp ones)
Needle Nose Pliers
Time, patience, and a sense of humor

I really liked the look of the unbleached drop cloths from the hardware store. It’s a sturdy weave, the cloths are large enough that I don’t have to piece anything together, it’s all cotton, and it goes with my decor. Well, it goes with my eventual decor. With my decor goals. I pre-washed the cloth and tumble dried so that it would be all pre-shrunk. Not that I’ll be tossing the couch through the wash, but it’s a good idea to pre-wash any fabric before using it.

First things first: Drape that fabric. I removed the cushions, then I fussed and tugged and tucked and rearranged the largest cloth across the couch so that the back edge fell on the floor by 2-3 inches (for tucking underneath) and was centered on the length, leaving about 10 inches coming up the arms.



Then I took a very deep breath and started stapling. I made sure that I knew exactly where the frame was so that I didn’t miss and try to secure fabric to fabric. I started in the center of the back cushion at the very base, almost inside the couch, making sure to smooth as I worked my way out toward the arms. When I got to the crease with the arms I tucked the fabric into the crease, put some staples in, and then turned the corner and continued stapling for the 10 or so inches that it ran onto the arms.



A tactical note: I originally had the bed part pulled out so I could reach in further… but then realized that I could reach in just fine with it folded up. I tend to put a staple every inch or so, but I wouldn’t go more than 2 inches between staples.

Then I went around to the back of the couch and flipped it over to reach the bottom (the part that touches the floor). I pulled the fabric tight and started stapling to the underside of the base of the frame. It’s important to keep a good tension on the fabric, if it’s too loose it’ll look bad and/or get really wrinkly.

Think of it as a really large present that you’re wrapping, and you don’t want the tape (staples) to show.

Once that was done I put the cushions back on and took a break. (like a two month break)

Links below to the rest of the tutorial!
BEFORE
STEP 1 
STEP 2
STEP 3
AFTER!

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to ReCover a Couch – Before

I was going to title this “How to Reupholster a Couch,” but I couldn’t pass up the play on words - How to recover a recovered couch. Get it? No? Ok, keep reading.

A year ago last October hubby and I got a couch off of FreeCycle, hence a recovered couch. (we ended up taking home a cockatiel too, but that’s another story)

It’s ugly, I know.




But, we don’t have a guest room or guest bed, so here’s why we got it:




Yup, a free, full-size sofabed. Awesome. And it’s relatively comfortable (for a sofabed) and didn’t smell funny and no major rips or tears. However, it’s ugly. Good lines, but the burgundy plaid was not only sooooo not my style, but it was also worn. If you look closely at the left arm you’ll notice where it was repaired with tape. Yup, tape. Not by me, btw, by the previous owner.

It was a no-brainer that it had to be recovered, and my first thought was a fitted slipcover like I did for the living room couch. BUT – then I’d have to take it off every time we want to use the bed part, and then my guests would be inundated with ugly. So, no. I thought of making a modified slipcover that had an opening for the bed to pop out of, but frankly that just got too complicated.

So I sucked it up, bought some unbleached cotton drop cloths, got out my trusty staple gun, and went to town. And it only took me seven months. Well, really, it took three sessions of 1-2 hours each, but finding those 1-2 hours when I didn’t have a little helper (and even sometimes when I did) and when I didn’t have something more important to do took a while. But it’s done now! Stay tuned for the tutorial...

Links below to the rest of the tutorial!
STEP 1 
STEP 2
STEP 3
AFTER!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Frugal Luxuries: Storing Old Paint

As I mentioned yesterday, I love having a painted table because it's so easy to touch up. With painted kitchen cupboards, having touch up paint is absolutely invaluable. Seriously. Then there are the inevitable dings on walls, filling in nail holes... SO many uses for touch up paint.

You know what makes it even easier to touch up? Having the exact same paint color handy. If you have leftover paint you can store it in the can, sure, but if you have just a little bit in a giant gallon container it can be annoying, awkward, and a waste of space. Enter: Your friend, the jar.

For latex paint, a plastic jar is fine. For oil you should use a glass jar. Either way, make sure it has a tightly fitting lid. If the lid seems a little too loose, try putting a piece of plastic wrap in between the lid and the jar, the plastic wrap will help seal the grooves. I also highly recommend that you label the jar with the brand, color, sheen, interior/exterior, and the tint. That way if/when you run out you can get the same kind again.

Personally, I'm a fan of peanut butter jars. They clean up well, the lids go on tightly, and they stack. Reusing old materials, saving space, being organized, it's a win-win-win.