Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind…

I met a famous person!

Well…kinda famous.

Some of you may remember the high school comedy “Saved By the Bell“.  It ran in the 90’s and starred an impossibly good-looking group of kids and their principal.  Some of the kids have gone on to do great acting things, and others have become punch lines.  What are you going to do?

Anyway, one of my clients is a local minor league baseball team,  and last night was their Educator Appreciation Night.  Because they are my clients, I scored tickets to the game and the autograph signing with none other than Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding on the beloved show.  Get it, because he played an educator on tv?  Funny, yes?

Now, you may have heard in the “news” (I’m using that term loosely) or seen on celebrity gossip pages that Haskins is a lecherous old man with a serious case of the grab-hands, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

He was seriously, the sweetest person ever, really nice and amazingly personable.  He patiently shook hands and took pictures with everyone and signed cast photos for us all.  If all celebrities were this nice to their fans, I think the whole world would be a much better place.

Happy Thursday!

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It’s All Over but the Revenge…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a cat with fleas.

Now keep your hand up if you’ve ever tried to give that cat a flea bath.

Hand still raised?  Mine is.

Saturday, I decided that enough was enough and that Stuart needed a bath.  He’s been miserable all summer and scratches himself bloody, plus leaves fleas everywhere he goes (read: all over my home).  So I did the research and got some shampoo and read and re-read the instructions and decided that it shouldn’t be too hard.

Mmmmhmmmm…..

So in the wake of that disaster, here are my top 5 hints on how to give your cat a bath.  This doesn’t really apply to dogs, who seems to love the water, but if yours doesn’t, this could probably be adapted.

5 – Take it Outside

You are going to get wet.  Really wet.  Don’t starting thinking you can do this in your bathtub and it’ll be fine.  You can’t, and it won’t.  If you live in an apartment and you don’t have an outside…well…you probably also don’t have fleas.  So there you go.

4 – Enlist Help

I called my parents to help me.  Honest to goodness, there would have been no way to do it alone.  with one person holding Stuarts front legs and the other two scrubbing, it was still all we could do to keep in him the water.

3 – Use a pouring device

This is one I didn’t do but wish I had.  It’s really hard to get all the soap off of the cat without some way to pour water on him.  Since cats REALLY don’t like being sprayed, the gentle pouring of the watering can would work well.

2 – Wear gloves

Flea shampoo is really dangerous stuff and it’s harmful to humans if it gets on your skin, so gloves are a must.

1 – Towels at the Ready and Snuggle Time!

When you’ve finished torturing your cat, use some big fluffy towels to start drying him off.  He’ll dry in the sun in a few hours, but giving him a rub-down while making nice is the first step to atoning for the epic betrayal he feels.

Awwwwww….. Right?!

Happy Tuesday!

Start now, she tells me. It’ll be fine, she tells me…

On Friday,  I was working along, minding my out business, and the power went out.

Well.  Okay.

Turns out there had been an accident, or something, and the lines got knocked down.  It was fixed by the evening, but really messed with my ability to work.  So…weekend!  Cue happy dance.

Except the part where I had a huge project that was due Monday morning and I had no way to finish it.

Hmmm…

I knew I’d have to work on the project over the weekend, and since Saturday was already booked, Sunday afternoon was the designated hour.  I procrastinated as long as I could, but there was no way around it.  Lamenting my plight to my mom, she was full of encouragement and support and said, “Well, it’s quarter to 5 now.  I bet if you got started you could be done by 8!”

At just after 11, I called it quits and finished it up this morning.  Turns out, it wasn’t due until Tuesday.

Hope your week started better than mine!

Weekend Warriors…Threembride

I don’t know where you are, but where I am, we’re on Day 4 of what I’m calling The Great Heat Siege of 2012.  We Mid-Atlantic-ers have gotten spoiled so far this summer with very few days jumping out of the lower 80’s and a plethora of cool nights.  Windows stayed open, summer weddings had p.e.r.f.e.c.t. weather and all was right with the world.

But now, the siege.  My favorite weather guy tells me that by the weekend, this will pass, so I’m holding out hope.  In the mean time, a hot day stuck indoors seems like a perfect time to talk about one of my favorite things: Weddings!!!

(Note: other times to talk about wedding include, but are not limited to: cold days, beautiful days, days that end in “y”, morning, evening, midafternoon, holidays, weekends, vacations, while at work, on the phone, online, through video chatting, by smoke signal, when children are present, when children are not present, church, school, etc…)

My sweet friend Madelynne Moulton of Threembride (www.threembride.wordpress.com) just got married in April, to her long time sweetheart Corey.  Madelynne and I went to college together and she is an Architect in Atlanta, GA.  Besides be really freaking attractive and one of the sweetest couples I’ve ever known, the Moultons also had an AMAZING wedding, which she chronicles in her blog, as well as giving advice on wedding planning and breaking down red carpet fashions.  Much of Corey & Madelynne’s wedding was a total DIY-fest, including their invitations, which they designed themselves.  In case you’re wondering about the “three m” part, it comes from Madelynne’s new name: Madelynne Miller Moulton.  Clever, no?

Madelynne’s Bouquet = GORGEOUS! (Photo by Stephen DeVries Photography)

Here’s what Madelynne says about herself:

Hi, I’m Madelynne, threembride and intern architect in Atlanta. I originally created this blog to chronicle my own wedding to my sweet husband Corey. We got married in April 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama. But it turns out fashion and wedding design are my new hobbies, so I’ll also be sharing my favorite red carpet looks, wedding inspiration boards, planning advice, and more. You can follow me on Pinterest (here) or email me at threembride[at]gmail[dot]com.

So pop on over to threembride and be inspired (and a little intimidated, this girl is really on the ball).

Have a lovely weekend!

Stir. And then? Panic.

I am a baker, both by experience and by personality (if you know a lot of bakers, you understand what I mean).   So when I decided to try out a homemade caramel recipe I found on Pinterest (by the way…can we just talk about Pinterest for a minute? Ah-may-zing!  If you’re still waiting for an invite, let me know.  I’d be happy to invite you!) I thought it would be no big deal.  After all, candy is just like baking, right?

Right?!

Wrong.

I used this tutorial from AmberLee of GiversLog (www.giverslog.com).  And I mean, I used it EXACTLY AS WRITTEN.  I don’t mess with candy.  Respect.

After testing your candy thermometer, you start by melting some butter on low, then adding brown sugar.  Now if the sugar crystallizes on the side of the pan, the whole thing is ruined and you’ll cry, so you are armed with a damp pastry brush in one hand and a spoon in the other, stirring, whilst keeping watch for the crystals.

Constant vigilance.

This next part happens in kind of a blur….

The sugar starts to melt and your stirring, and your stirring and you add corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, and you’re stirring and stirring and the recipe says frequently, but you’re not sure how frequent so you decide to stir constantly and then you’re watching the thermometer because you know that if it gets too hot it will crack when it cools and you’re watching and stirring and little bits of things start coming up off the bottom of the pan and you think it is burning but then the whole thing changes color and you’re stirring and watching the temperature and trying to remember when you last felt happy and it has been like half an hour and your stirring and watching and OMG we’re almost there and you’re stirring and watching and praying and then remembering to open your eyes and then all of a sudden you hit the right temperature and you stir in the vanilla and pour it into the parchment covered pan and step back and you’re done.

Whew.

Then comes the waiting.  You have to wait for the caramel to cool down before you know if it’s right or wrong.

A couple hours later, you check it and

OMGITSPERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Truly and seriously, it is amazing.  Sticky, buttery, soft and wonderful, it’s great for Fall but was just a good in June.  I cut mine into 3″x3″ ish squares and wrapped them in parchment paper.  I found that kitchen shears were the best tool for cutting.

Happy Tuesday!

If this is going to ruin our friendship, just walk away…

So Emily has this problem….

I call it “Waytoomuch(stuff)ititus”.

Between moving from home to school and back again and trying to keep her ever burgeoning wardrobe under control, she’s in way over her head, and has been lamenting her plight to me all summer.  So last week I finally relented and offered to help.  We each took the day off of work today and started early, tackling the project head on.

Now, in case you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s just her bedroom.  How bad could it possibly be?” I offer you photographic evidence:

Yeah.

Emily prefaced this adventure with the words (no joke), “I’d like us to be friends at the end of this, so if, at any time, you feel like you’re going to hate me forever, just walk away.  I swear I won’t be mad.”

We filled 2 giant trash bags (42 gallons each) an enormous bin for charity and reorganized a ton of stuff. Along the way, we found several humorous and largely unexplainable items.  These are my favorites.

6 hours, 1 pizza, 1,849 bobby pins, and 5 times vacuuming the carpet later, and it looked like this:

I’m good, yeah?

Ultimately, I knew I could do it, but there were definitely moments when I wasn’t so sure.  In case you have a messy space (though hopefully not that messy) that you need to clean, here are my top 6 tips for cleaning and organizing.

6 – Do It…NOW

Set aside a day (or an hour, or a weekend) to clean.  Designate that time and finish the job in one sitting.  If you swear you’ll get back to it, I swear you never will.  Have your meals and snacks delivered or pre-made, so you don’t lose focus making food.  Keep drinks handy so you don’t have to stop.  The name of the game is MOMENTUM!

5 – Prioritize

Think seriously about the things you keep available.  We sorted Emily’s shoes into ones she wears regularly for work or casual wear, and the ones she wears rarely, or seasonally (like boots). Everyday shoes went on a rack in her closet and seldom used shoes went in an organizer under the bed.  This is a good strategy for dealing with anything seasonal, or just items you rarely use.  After all, you’ll want to keep the latest novel or two by your bed, but there’s no need to keep an entire library there.

4 – Relocate

If sheer volume of the items in your designated area is overwhelming, take it all out and start from scratch.  In this case, we relocated everything in Emily’s room to the guest room (and the hall, the staircase, the bathroom…it was a LOT of stuff).  By getting everything out of your space, it’s easier to bring back in one thing at a time and fight small battles.  Just remember that when you lay it all out, it will look like even more stuff, so don’t get discouraged.

3 – Quick Sort

When dealing with boxes with varied content, do a quick sort.  Health and Beauty here, Office and Electronics here, Books, Clothes, whatever.  Don’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out where everything goes, just sort them into piles and move on.  This will help you get rid of trash quickly, and start to create order.  Since things of the same category are likely to end up in approximately the same place, pre-sorting is the first step to more refined organization.

2 – Phone a friend

It’s always easier to organize and clean if you have someone with you.  Even just having someone there to give you permissions to throw things away that you don’t want, can’t use, but feel guilty getting rid of.  It’s nice to have someone to talk to, commiserate with, and laugh at all the ridiculous things you find.  A friend will also be a lot less sentimental about the whole thing, so she’ll keep you going, even when you want to sit and look through a box of baby pictures.  Make sure you have boundaries though, like providing lunch and never NEVER asking your bestie to clean your bathroom. Also, you’ll want a deep, firm friendship for this; it isn’t the kind of thing that a fledgling friendship is likely to survive.

1 – Singular Focus

Focus on exactly one thing at a time.  If you are on a mission to round-up all of your shoes and put them away, don’t get distracted untangling electronics cords.  It seems ridiculous to pass up an easy job if it’s right in front of you, but that’s how you get pulled away from finishing anything.  You’ll end up with 27 half done things and nothing to show for it. Finish one job and then move on to the next.  You’ll be making room for yourself as you go, and you’ll feel accomplished.

Seriously, the best thing to do is just start, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  If you stress about everything you have to do, you won’t get anything done, so take it easy, and just dive in.  It’s amazing how accomplished you feel.

Happy Monday!

Weekend Warriors…Aunt Peaches

Every once in awhile, I come across a blog that actually makes me laugh out loud. Enter, Aunt Peaches (www.auntpeaches.com), a creative free spirit living in Chicago who embraces all things colorful and reusable.  She is quite well known in the blogging world, and her work is often featured on crafting blogs and her blog features her thoughts on everything from daily observations to her regular feature on paper flowers.  She is a lover of coffee filters and bright colors and her particular brand of humor brightens my day.

Here is what Peaches says about herself:

“I’m Peaches: aunt, artist, wannabe photographer, expert city dweller, World Class Diet Coke Connoisseur. My hands are always moving. My toenails are tangerine. I’m excellent at procrastinating. I guarantee you, at the time you are reading this, there are dirty dishes in my sink. I didn’t get my driver’s license until a was twenty-nine. Did I mention it was my third attempt?

I’m sort of like that chubby friend everyone knows; you like me because I know how to order cocktails and make you look skinny by comparison, and, I like you because your family/office/personal/Mother-In-Law/Baby-Daddy drama makes my life feel normal.  Damn, we are so good together.

My days are spent in an office getting paid to have people tell me do lots of things, most of which translate to “make it pretty.” My nights are spent working as a freelance graphic designer, attempting to validate the time and money I wasted on a pretentious art school.”

Love it!  As a posseser of a slightly pretentious, practically useless art degree myself, I can relate.

Have a lovely weekend!

PS:  Does someone inspire you?  Would you love to see a feature on them in the Weekend Warriors column?  Hit me up and let me know, and I’ll check them out.  If I pick your idea, I’ll feature you right along side!

Oh, Happy (Mon)Day!

Happy Monday!

I hope you had a lovely weekend.  My Saturday was spent at a graduation party for a high school friend of mine, then feeling OLD because I graduated from high school many moons ago, then out with my dear friends Maggie and Janelle.

Sunday, I recovered. And went shopping.

Anyway, my friend Amy just got married (and by just, I mean like a month ago) and I got her a Deep Covered Baker from The Pampered Chef as a wedding present.  This is an AMAZING piece of glazed stoneware, and you can cook almost anything in it, both in the oven AND THE MICROWAVE!  Some of you may remember my incident with the chicken in the microwave.  If not, you can read about it here!

One of the best things about the baker is that my consultant’s team has put together over 150 recipes using this thing.  I wanted to include the recipes in the gift, but just handing Amy a sheaf of papers or putting them in a binder didn’t really seem good enough.

So I made a cover.

This tutorial is roughly based on this tutorial from Teresa Down Under.

You’ll need three different kinds of fabric and a 1″ 3 ring binder.  I used regular quilting cotton because it comes in a variety of patterns, and it’s fairly inexpensive.  Especially yesterday, when it was all 40% off.  All together, I think I spend $8 on fabric. I’m going to call the Dark Purple fabric “A”, the Polka Dot “B” and the Lavender Floral “C”.  You’ll need half a yard each of “B” and “C” and a quarter “A”.

Next, the measuring and cutting.  These were my measurements, but you want to make sure you measure your binder and adjust accordingly.

For the Lining

1 piece “C”- 23.5″ by 12.75″

For the Cover

1 piece “C” – 23.5″ by 5.25″

1 piece “B” – 23.5″ by 8.5″

1 piece “A” – 23.5″ by 10″

For the Pockets

2 pieces of “B” 12.75″ by 7.5″

You’ll also need to cut a piece of batting 23.5″ by 12.75″

To Assemble

Sew the Cover pieces “C” and “B” together along one long edge.  Press open the seam so it lays flat.  Lay the Cover piece of “A” over the sewn fabric on the bottom edge and decided how tall you want the pocket.  Fold over the edge to the desired length, press the crease and then sew down the edge.  This makes the pocket a lot cleaner looking.

Now you should have these pieces:

Lay the lining down right side up.  Fold the two pocket pieces in half, wrong sides together and lay them on the lining.  Then lay the pocket on the bottom edge, followed by the cover and then the batting.  Make sure all the edges line up and pin it together.  Sew through all the pieces, keeping very close to the edge.  Leave a 4″ gap at the bottom.  Trim away the extra batting, and the fabric at the corners and carefully turn the piece inside out through the hole at the bottom.  Dry fit it to the binder.  If it is loose, run a second line of stitching around the whole piece, tucking in the open edge.  If the cover fits perfectly, just sew the bottom edge closed.

En Voila!

Now I just have to print out the cookbook, put it in page protectors (for longevity) and wrap up the gifts.  Plus! I’m going to use the extra fabric scraps to make the bows for the wrapping.  Yay, recycling!  This would be a great wedding, birthday, or baby shower present, and you don’t have to use a cookbook.  This could be an organizer cover, or a small spiral notebook.  You could add a button or ribbon closure, extra pockets, and embroidered message, really anything.

Weekend Warriors…Whatever

I have a confession.

I feel like I do that a lot, make confessions.  It’s low cost therapy, I guess.

Anyway, my confession: I haven’t been feeling very creative this week.  Really, really not.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason, I’m just not in it to win it. Kind of a bummer.

Which is why I think this week’s Weekend Warrior is so important.  Meg Duerksen from Whatever…(http://megduerksen.typepad.com) is creative enough for both of us.  She’s a wife and a mom and a crafter/photographer/camper/runner/all around inspirational type person.  The title of her blog comes from Philippians 4:8, a favorite Bible passage of mine.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

I think maybe we could all be a bit inspired to think about these things, you know?

Plus, I’m absolutely dying to try this striped floor painting technique.  In LOVE!

IMG_1571-4

Have a lovely weekend!

Raspberry Sauce? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Raspberry Sauce!

I say this all the time, but I think it bears repeating.

Simple does not always mean easy.

Case in point;  I’ve just finished applying to grad school and the application was fairly simple, just some general information about me and an essay.  The only thing is, I’ve never written an admissions essay.  Ever.  I applied early admission to my first choice undergraduate school and there was no requirement for an essay.  I got in, so I didn’t apply anywhere else.  Fast forward six years and I have no idea what to write.  Simple? Yes.  Easy? Not hardly.

The same is true for Meringues.  We talked a little about them when I made the Chocolate Pie (find that here) but this time I actually made meringue cookies, kind of, and it was a whole different story.  You can find the recipe I used here or in Barefoot In Paris, Ina Garten’s cookbook, which I reviewed here.

You start with egg whites at room temperature.  Now, you could wait a long time for eggs to come to room temperature, or you could help them along.  Go ahead and separate the whites from the yolks (and for Heaven’s sake, keep the yolks!) and put the whites in the bowl of your mixer and let them sit for awhile.  They’ll come up to temp faster this way.  Add a bit of salt, and cream of tartar and mix them (using your wisk attachment!) until foamy.  Then add a cup of sugar.

Beat awhile longer on high.  When I say “awhile” I mean awhile.  It took about 15 or 20 minutes to get the stiff peaks to form.  Unlike when you’re just beating egg whites for a mousse or something, this concoction turns into a milky syrup before it binds together.  Just be patient and don’t panic.  It’ll happen.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.  On parchment paper the size of a cookie sheet, use a glass or cookie cutter and a pencil to trace circles.  You should get 6 circles on each piece and  make two pans worth.

Now is the difficult part.  You’re going to need to pipe the meringues, so you’ll need to get them into a pastry bag with a large star tip.  I had a feeling that this would ruin my nice pastry bag (and I would have been right!) so I used a gallon sized plastic bag and a pasty tip I got from Big Lots for 97 cents.  The meringues are EXTREMELY sticky, so don’t be surprised if they don’t jump into the bag like good boys and girls.

Starting in the center of each circle (which you have place pencil side down on a cookie sheet, yes?) pipe a disk of meringue, then pipe around the edge for a second layer to make a kind of cup.

Pop the whole mishegoss into the oven for 2 hours, and then turn off the oven and let it sit for 4 hours, or over night.  Don’t make this recipe if it’s super humid, or they will never dry out.

The original recipe says to make raspberry sauce and whipped cream and all kinds of nonsense, but I didn’t have any of the ingredients for it, so I covered mine with sliced bananas, walnuts, a dab of vanilla ice cream, and hot fudge sauce.  Yum!

Happy Thursday!

P.S.  I did finally write the essay, and I think it was pretty good.  I’ll keep you guys posted on my admissions journey!