Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tiffany Inspired Baby Ensemble

It is that time of year again.  The breeders are in overdrive.  I currently know six, yes six, pregnant women.  Be prepared for a lot of baby item postings.  Today I am sharing the cardigan pattern for my Tiffany inspired baby ensemble.

One of my three co-workers that is pregnant, loves Tiffany.  She even painted her closet Tiffany blue and put in a chandelier.  When I found this beautiful Tiffany blue yarn in my stash, I set out to find patterns that would fit my theme.  I found this sweater pattern on Ravelry.com.  I started to whip it up and found that the pattern is a little wrong.  Not a lot, maybe not at all, maybe just not explained properly.  I got about 1/4 of the way done and realized it was wrong.  I had to rip it back out and start over.  Luckily, this sweater works up VERY quickly, so it was not a big deal.  I decided I liked the way it looked with the little capped sleeves, so that made it extra fast.  It is the perfect gift for a summer baby.

Capped Sleeve Infant Sweater
worsted weight yarn, you only need a small amount, not even 1/2 skein
size H crochet hook for newborn (I for 0-3 months)
yarn needle
1/2" ribbon
Ch 37 (this is the neckline)
Row 1: DC in 3rd chain from hook and in the next 4 chs, (DC, ch 1, DC) in the next ch, DC in next 4 chs (this is the sleeve), (DC, ch 1 DC) in next ch, DC in next 12 chs (this is the back), (DC. ch 1, DC) in the next ch, DC in the next 4chs (other sleeve), (DC, ch 1, DC) in the next ch, DC in the last 6 sts, ch 3, turn
Row 2: Skip ch 3 space *DC to first ch 1 space (DC, ch1, DC) in ch space* repeat around three more times, DC to end, ch3, turn
Rows 3-6: repeat row 2 **here is where it is important to note DO NOT DC into the top of the ch 3, you will end up with a slanting front**
Row 7: DCto the ch 1 space, DC in the ch space, ch 1, skip to the next ch 1 space, DC in that space, DC to next ch 1 space, DC in that space, ch 1, skip to next ch space, DC in that space, DC to the end, ch 3, turn
Row 8: DC in each st and ch 1 around (54 sts, including the ch 3)
Rows 9-17: DC in each st, ch 3, turn (be sure NOT to DC into the ch 3 at the end of each row)
Tie off yarn and weave in ends.  Weave ribbon between top row of DC, leaving enough tail to tie a bow in front. 
The ch 3 counts toward the number of stitches in the row and gives you a sweet little scalloped edge up the front of the sweater.
*Hat and booty patterns coming soon!*

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

So I am still stuck on my shower.  I am conflicted.  The OCD girl in me can't leave it alone, the ADD girl in me is ready to do the laundry, and the toilets, and the grocery list, ohh look something shiny...  and the lazy girl in me says "who cares, let's watch Real Housewives."  Today the winner was OCD.

As I have pointed out before my sister is brilliant as well as one of the only people who reads this and gives me opinions.  She asked if I had tried Barkeeper's Secret.  Hmmmmmmmmm.  I was at Hope Depot this weekend and picked up a bottle, which promised to clean my mineral build up.  It even said it must be rinsed off the surface at most a minute after application.  That got my hopes up!  If it has to come off in a minute, surely it is strong enough to tackle a little lime scale.

I'm sure you know by now where this is going.  Epic Fail.

My last resort is windshield cleaner.  I do not have high hopes.  On the plus side, I would just complain that I could see my naked self a little too clearly in the mirror across from the shower if it did work.  Maybe cloudy is better.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fitness Fridays

I have a cool tricep move to share this week.  My son would love to have "bat wing" arms.  Me... not so much and the older I get the more terrifying they become. 

Chair dips and free weights are great, but I saw this and thought it was a really good idea.  I am lazy enough to not want to have to go to the basement and get my weights, so anything I can do without them gets a gold star in my book! 


Place your elbows and palms flush against the wall, and take a few steps back so that your weight is supported from elbow to palm. Then, extend your elbows out and back slowly.  I am starting with reps of 8-10.  A girl's gotta be able to brush her hair the next day, so be careful!

This guy's triceps are bangin' so apparently he thinks that gives him a pass to wear his sweat pants like that.

Chevron-ish Baby Blanket

This is my favorite baby blanket pattern... for the moment.  It is super easy (so my brain doesn't hurt) and super fast (so I can actually finish it).  It looks modern, not like your grandma made it (not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I normally go for). 

It is really versatile.  Add extra stitches or rows to make it bigger and use it as a throw for an adult.  Change colors every third row (like I did on the gray, gold and white version) or every fourth row (the navy, gray and green option) or more!  Use only two colors for a real chevron look, or make each row a different color and clean out your stash.  The next one I make will be wide rows of gray and white with one row of a different color at one end.  Luckily people are breeding at an alarming rate so I will have an excuse to make it soon!

Here is the pattern I follow:

Special stitch dc3tog (this takes three stitches and makes them into 1, it is the bottom dip of the pattern): yo, insert hook into st and draw up a loop, yo and draw through 2 loops *yo, insert into next st and draw up a loop, yo draw through 2 loops* twice, yo draw through all loops on hook

ch 123
Row 1: dc in 3rd ch from hook *dc in next 3 ch, dc3tog, dc in next 3 ch, 3dc in next ch* repeat to last ch. 2dc in last ch.  ch3, turn
Row 2: dc in 1st dc *dc in next 3 dc, dc3tog, dc in next 3 dc, 3dc in next dc* repeat to end. 2dc in top of turning ch.
Repeat row 2, changing colors as desired.  I did 19 bands of color (each band is 3 rows) on the gray, gold and white afghan, starting and ending with gray.  I did 16 bands of color (each band is 4 rows) on the navy, gray and green version, starting and ending with navy.  I like the look of the same color on each end, but you can end with any color you like. 

I use worsted weight yarn and a J hook.  The navy afghan is Vanna's Choice, and the gold and gray is Red Heart.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thirsty Thursday

Yesterday was rough.  I did not have time to pee let alone write my weekly wine review.  So instead of Winey Wednesday, we have Thirsty Thursday.  Better late then never, right?  I HAVE to do it today because I can't come up with a cute saying involving wine and drinking.  I'm sure if I did a poll of college students they could give me more than a few, but I'm short on time and college age people.

Anyhow, this week's wine selection comes courtesy of my sister and sister-in-law.  It is red...  my sister-in-law is a red wine drinker who picks wine the same way I do.  Looks.  She is wine shallow too.

I did not think I liked red wine which I always kind of hated, simply because I think a glass of red wine looks so much more sophisticated then a glass of white wine (I keep telling you I'm shallow). 
This is a California red wine by Parfait.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Merlot.  I wonder if Syrah and Sirah are like Sara and Sarah... 
The bottle describes this wine as "rich and lush with blackberry and chocolate flavors and a long smooth taste".  I am not sure if I am loopy from drinking so much alcohol recently or if I'm just getting better at this, but I totally get it.  This wine felt "full" on my tongue.  I really can't describe it better than that.  Sorry.  It was also very smooth and although not really sweet, it did taste a little fruity.  I did not feel it was dry at all.  I REALLY liked this wine (notice the review is all in past tense? Gone.)  I will be finding out where to get this because it is really good.  I am also going to subtly suggest my sister and her wife always buy me wine since they are so much better at it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

I am a day behind.  Not for lack of trying.  My plan was to tell you how to clean that awful cloud of hard water build up off your glass shower doors.

See how it looks like there is fog in my shower.  There's not.

I thought this was going to be an easy fix.  A little CLR, problem solved.  How arrogant of me.  I put my trusty CLR in a spray bottle, soaked the glass and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then I scrubbed it with a scouring pad and rinsed and dried it. Here is how it looked.
See the difference?  That's a trick question.  There is no difference.

 Next, I went to my "go to" favorite, nothing else is working, cleaner.  I used the same technique.  Spray, sit, scrub, rinse, dry.  Nothing.  Alright.  An online search told me to use vinegar and a dryer sheet.  This was not the first time I had heard of using a dryer sheet in cleaning and I have to admit I have been more than a little curious about it's abilities.  I had high hopes on this one.  I mean, if the internet says it, it must be true right?  Spray, sit, scrub, rinse, dry.  Damn.

The moral of the story is maintain your shower doors.  Do not let them get as foggy as a Scooby Doo scene because I have not found a way to successfully get them sparkling clean again.  I do not take responsibility for mine.  They were this way when I got them.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fitness Fridays

Butts have become big.  Literally and figuratively.  Big breasts, meh.  Now the focus is on the bedonkadonk, donkey booty, dat ass, I can't find my thesaurus so that's all I got.  Incubating and birthing and rearing three humans has left me with a lackluster posterior.  Not a train wreck (like my stomach), but certainly not noteworthy either. 

Since I can never have an ample bosom (outside of breastfeeding of course), and I gave up on killer abs about ten years ago...  well, I didn't give up, that dream was ripped from me by the biggest of my small people.  I would nickname her Dreamkiller, but people would probably get the wrong idea.  Tangent over.

Anyway.  Since I can't have big breasts, full lips or killer abs, I have decided a great butt is my last hope for an enviable body part.  In my research, I was happy to find that some of the best posterior exercises are well known and easily mastered options. 

Today, I am sharing a variation on the traditional lunge.


Reverse Lunge
Backward lunge exercise.
Basically, you step back into the lunge instead of forward. Be sure to bend your front knee at a 90 degree angle. Do not extend your knee forward past your toe, keep it directly above your ankle. Start with 12 reps per leg and work your way up to 20.  I recommend setting your IPod to Sir Mix-A-Lot. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Chip Truffle Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day!  In honor of the day of love, I am sharing my love's favorite cookies!  They are rich and fudgy and amazing.  Stock up on milk and make them for your sweetie!

Chocolate Chip Truffle Cookies
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Melt together unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1/2 c. chocolate chips.  Stir in espresso powder.  I am too lazy to use a double boiler so I melt mine together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly, and taking off the heat when almost all the chocolate is melted.  You can also do it in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between.
Combine eggs and sugar in stand mixer and beat on high until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in small bowl.
Add chocolate mixture and vanilla to eggs and mix on low until smooth. 
Add flour and mix just to combine.
Stir in remaining chocolate chips and chill at least 15 minutes.
Drop by the heaping tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes, until tops are cracked and shiny.  Slide the parchment and cookies off the sheet and cool completely. 
*Disclaimer*  You HAVE to use parchment when baking these cookies, and you still HAVE to cool them completely before trying to remove them.  They are super sticky little things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

After the let down of last weeks "pretty label" selection, I decided to pick a wine based on advertising.  If TV says it, it must be true, right?

I love watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS.  I also love their magazines, books and website.  If they did not exist, I would get so much more done, but be a waaaaay crappier cook.  Anyway, they recommend Woodbridge wine at the beginning of each show.  I do realize that only means Woodbridge helps pay for the show, but after seeing it so many times, I decided to give it a try.

I chose their "Sweet Wine".  On sale it was $8.99.  It is said to "showcase floral aromas with flavors of ripe citrus and tropical fruit and a finish that is delicately sweet and refreshing, making it food friendly and delightful for sipping".  It is sweet.  It is fruity.  It is good for sipping.  It is too sweet and fruity for eating and sipping.  Maybe with cheese and crackers, but not with dinner.  I like it, but I am in pursuit of the perfect wine for me.  This one is not light and crisp enough.  The search continues.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Too Much Chocolate Cake

I don't believe any cake could live up to this cake's name.  I do not feel you can EVER have too much chocolate.  That's like saying you eat too many vegetables.  Simply not possible.

As you can imagine, I looooove this cake.  I love it for it's ease and it's texture and of course, it's chocolaty-ness.  Yes.  It's a word.  Look it up.  The pudding gives the cake a velvety moistness that is divine and the chips give a nice contrasting texture and chocolate punch.  So freaking good.

I found this recipe at allrecipes.com and gave it some love.  Here is the link to the original Too Much Chocolate Cake ... and here is my version.

Too Much Chocolate Cake
1 box Devil's Food cake mix
1 small pkg. chocolate instant pudding
1 c. low-fat sour cream
1/2 c. oil
4 eggs
3/4 c. warm water
1 t. espresso powder
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine warm water and espresso powder in measuring cup and set aside.
Whisk together cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk sour cream, oil, eggs and espresso mix until combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. 
Stir in chips.
Pour into greased bundt pan and smooth top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.
Cool in pan, the invert onto serving platter.
*I made a simple glaze of powdered sugar with a splash of vanilla and enough milk to get a nice consistency.
*This picture made me realize I need a cake stand.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

My husband is a pyro.  When we were house hunting a couple of years ago, his one requirement was that the house we purchased HAD to have a wood burning fireplace. 

His condition is genetic. My father in law was knocked on his butt by an explosion while starting a bon fire... with gasoline.  My brother in law lost most of his arm hair and part of an eyebrow burning who knows what in a chimnea.  I witnessed that one.  The flames shot a few feet out of the top spout.

Because my husband uses our fireplace so often (to feed his habit), it had gotten pretty grungy.

I read the best way to clean the brick around your fireplace was with cola.  Seriously?  The instructions were to soak the brick with cola and use a stiff brush dipped in hot water to scrub the area.  I filled a spray bottle with old Pepsi and had at it.
It worked ridiculously well.  I was absolutely shocked.  Who knew?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lighter Cookie Dough Brownies

My husband loves all things cookie dough.  When I saw these beautiful brownies on Pinterest I knew I must try them.  Since I am attempting to lose some volume, I decided to see if I could successfully lighten them up.  Success!  Don't get me wrong.  They will never be confused for a health food, but I was able to take out some of the guilt and still have a dang good brownie.

P.S. The base for this is the brownie recipe I always make.  They are one of the few homemade brownies that are just as good as a box AND they are only 110 calories per brownie.  Bonus.

Lighter Cookie Dough Brownies
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. low fat sour cream
1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 egg
1 egg white
2 tsp. vanilla
Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together.
Microwave chocolate and butter together in 30 second intervals, stirring often until melted (it takes mine 45-60 seconds total).  Let cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, sour cream, chocolate syrup, egg and white along with the vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Spread in a greased 8" square pan and bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes.
Cookie Dough Top:
6Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 Tbsp. low fat sour cream (you could also use low fat cream cheese, yum)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. milk
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 c. mini chocolate chips
Melt butter in microwave and let cool slightly.
Add sour cream, sugars, salt, milk and vanilla and blend.
Stir in flour, followed by chips.
When brownies have cooled completely top with cookie dough mixture.  Store in refrigerator.
*Disclaimer*  I did not invent this brownie base recipe.  It is from the lovely people at America's Test Kitchen.  It can be found in their "Healthy Family Cookbook".  One of my favorites.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fitness Fridays

I am in desperate need of some abs.  I am sure I still have them, they just resemble a pair of panty hose AFTER you wear them.  You realize having children will take all your energy, time and love of course.  You just don't realize it will take your ability to comfortably sit down in a swimming suit in public.

With the impending doom of a family vacation on the beach, I have decided to get my butt in shape.  Unfortunately, my two small children make it difficult to do anything for an extended period of time, so I have decided circuit training is the way to go.  Good thing it is my absolute favorite way to work out.  I have the attention span of a gnat so the constant changing involved appeals to me.  The down side is I have a hard time remembering different exercises to do.  Heck, I have a hard time remembering my kids names. 

Pinterest to the rescue!  I have pinned tons of great exercises, but who wants to run and look at their monitor every minute?  Not me.  So, I decided to make a binder with all different circuit training options.  I can divide it up by body area so I am sure to work everything.  Don't want to  end up with super toned arms and a flabby butt.  At the beginning of the day, I can decide what to do and when I have a few free minutes, get my hind in gear! 

I will share a favorite exercise every Friday and update on my progress.  Hopefully I will not feel like a beached whale come June!

First favorite:  The Russian Twist.  Work those abs!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thirsty Thursday

I have never been a big drinker.  I only like beer when I'm already looped, I'm too lazy to learn to mix cocktails and I'm pretty sure Children's Services would have something to say about having my kids do it for me.  So I'm left with wine. 

I don't know the first thing about wine.  I guess that's not true.  I know it comes in at least three colors.  Some kinds are considered "dry"  which seems like a misnomer.  Some kinds are considered "fruity" also seems weird since they all come from fruit.  Anyway, I have decided since I am now a mother of three, for the good of all humanity, I need to learn to like wine.

I am going to review (in my EXTREME layman's terms) the different wines I sample.  I will decide which wine to try based entirely on the prettiness of the label as well as which one is on sale, because I am shallow and cheap.  Not sure how you will like it, but I guarantee I will have fun!

The first wine I tried is by Cupcake Vineyards and is called Angel Food.  It was on sale for $6.99.  The label reads "luscious, aromatic and delightfully reminiscent of an angel food cupcake.  Flavors of baked Granny Smith apple and hints of toasty vanilla combine for a creamy mouthfeel."  They had me at cupcake.

I clearly had a different vision of what Angel Food cake in wine form would taste like.  Angel food cake is light and sweet.  This wine is heavy and burny.  Yes, I am sure burny is a word.  Look it up.
Not especially sweet, it has a harsh almost chemically taste, not the creamy vanilla baked apple I was promised. False advertising.  At least I have a pretty bottle.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beef Stew with Gnocchi

Gnocchi is one of my favorite things.  Imagine a dumpling crossed with mashed potatoes.  Yeah.  Yum.
Yum factor aside, I love gnocchi because they make my life easier.  You can find them pre-made in a shelf stable package in the international isle of your grocery. They are great with pasta sauce of any type, but also as a replacement for dumplings or potatoes in soups and stews.  My daughter loves them as a side dish, sauteed in a little oil with salt and pepper.  They are yummy AND versatile!
This is one of my people's favorite meals, especially this time of the year.  It is meaty and warm and satisfying.  It also uses gnocchi (see how nicely I tied that in?), and the Crock-Pot.  It is a super easy weeknight make-ahead meal.  All you have to do when you get home is toss in the gnocchi and make a salad while they cook! 

Beef Stew with Gnocchi
1 lb. beef stew meat cut into 1" chunks
3 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste
3 medium carrots cut into 1/4" coins
10 oz. pkg. mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. pkg. frozen pearl onions
1-1/2 c. beef broth
3/4 c. dry red wine
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
17.5 oz. pkg. gnocchi
Toss together meat, flour and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.
Place prepared meat in slow cooker with carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, broth, wine and 1/2 tsp. thyme.  Cover and cook on high 5 hours or low 7 hours.
Stir in remaining thyme along with gnocchi and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes or until gnocchi is tender.
*Disclaimer* I did not have mushrooms... or pearl onions... or red wine.  Instead I chopped a regular onion, used white wine, and added frozen peas and green beans with the gnocchi.  It was still wondrous.  Be brave.  Cooking is very forgiving.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to maintain somewhat of a clean house (as well as sanity) is to make a schedule.  Laundry Monday, bathrooms Tuesday...  you get the gist. 

My sister is awesome and clearly much more talented in the world of Excel than I am.  Because she loves me (and enjoys poking my OCD with a stick), she made me a pretty and professional looking cleaning sheet to share with you (which ironically at this point is primarily her and my mom).  Sigh.

 Anyway, after much research, I realized Blogger does not allow you to post documents for security reasons...   WHAT?!  I'm not sure why they are insecure about a few documents.  All I'm insecure about is my hips. 

Major let down.  All that hard work for nothing.  I do realize I could take a picture to show you, but that would defeat the intended purpose of providing it for use (and to feed your OCD monsters).  I tried to be helpful.  Dirty houses win again.