Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cure: Week 1

I have been marginally following The Cure, except that for the last 2 days, I have been horizontal.  My back has basically decided that I need to lay down.  It does that once in a while, which you might imagine, does not really help one with home organization.  Also, due to the bitterly cold temps, school had a 2 hour delay today, and yesterday off.  

Nevertheless, I did manage to make some progress on my list, even if I did not 100% follow the Cure assignments. 

Kitchen/Office
  • Clean up my desk
  • Clean up Thomas's desk
  • Deal with the things piling up on the window sill and counters
Dining Room
  • Christmas Decoration Overload  
  • Lego have taken over this room.  
Living/Entry
  • Fireplace screen falls overhand is fragile.
  • Storage ottoman: what is even in that thing?
  • Entry show drop off is a disaster
  • Better lighting for my side of the couch
Bathroom
  • Artwork is banged up
  • Need more hooks for robes and towels
  • Need to do something to contain the toothpaste
  • Need to organize the things falling out of the medicine cabinet. 
Master Bedroom
  • Organize my makeup and jewelry
Thomas's Room/ Guest Room
  • Fix up the curtains in Thomas's under-bed reading cave. 
  • Organize Thomas's art work for the guest room, and hang up some additional pieces. 
I also did a few extra things.

  • Obtained a small table for in between the two chairs in the living room. 
    • Now that Thomas is older, we don't all fit comfortably on the couch, and having no table over there has been trying. 
  • Moved a drawer unit up from the basement to house Thomas's art supplies and school papers.  

The Cure assignment for today is to do one of the projects on my list.  I am considering that the answer here might be to order a new table lamp for myself online.  I can do that from my horizontal position and technically it counts. 

Yesterday's assignment was to set up an "out box", which is basically a holding tank for things we are undecided about.  That seems like it might be a bit of a culture shift for my family, so I need to have a conversation with Jeff about it first 
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Connie Does the Cure

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a great holiday or winter break or whatever that ends up being for you.  For us, it was a lot of lego, a lot of cookies, and a lot of pajamas.  I couldn't be happier with it. My 2013 had a bunch of high points, and I am hoping 2014 can top them.

In this blog's previous incarnation, I posted about our home remodeling projects. Mostly the kitchen. That whole set of projects kinda stalled out, in part due to finances, and in part due to family/contractor situation.  (Short form: Our contractor is my father in law.  Step mother in law passed away over a year ago, and my father in law just hasn't felt like doing anything, which I am totally sympathetic to. In addition, we were in aggressive debt repayment mode, which should be coming to an end in the next few months. Hopefully, it will soon be Game On for home remodeling projects.)

Will it ever be 'done'? 


For now, I am doing the Apartment Therapy January Cure. I am really hoping this will help me get over my "nothing will EVER be done around this house" malaise.  We have so many projects, many of which are completely dependent on other projects. (Like, remember the structural engineering?  Still need to finish that.)

I am hoping the January Cure can help me spruce up without freaking out too much about the dependency chain of our home reno.

My List:

Kitchen/Office

  • Clean up my desk
  • Clean up Thomas's desk
  • Deal with the things piling up on the window sill and counters

Dining Room

  • Christmas Decoration Overload (did this tonight!)
  • Lego have taken over this room.  
Living/Entry
  • Fireplace screen falls overhand is fragile.
  • Storage ottoman: what is even in that thing?
  • Entry show drop off is a disaster
  • Better lighting for my side of the couch
Bathroom
  • (Not doing much in here, since we are hoping to do a gut job in 2014)
  • Artwork is banged up
  • Need more hooks for robes and towels
  • Need to do something to contain the toothpaste
  • Need to organize the things falling out of the medicine cabinet. 
Master Bedroom
  • (Not doing much in here, since we are hoping to do some medium sized reno work here)
  • Organize my makeup and jewelry

Thomas's Room/ Guest Room

  • (Both of these rooms just got spruced up, so not much to do in here.)
  • Fix up the curtains in Thomas's under-bed reading cave. 
  • Organize Thomas's art work for the guest room, and hang up some additional pieces. 

So that's my list for Day 1 of the January Cure.  Hopefully I'll post some highlights over the next month.  In the meantime, here's a small selection of my 2013 highlights.

A Selection of 2013 Highlights

We had a 10th anniversary!
And renewed our vows after a golf cart ride



I finished a half marathon! 13.1 baby!


And I got a new haircut.  It will never look like this again because my hairdresser dried it all straight. 


Hope you all had an awesome year. Happy 2014!
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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Beer Shrimp Skillet

Do you guys know about The Beeroness?  I have been loving her blog lately, because it combines some of my favorite things: cooking, pretty photographs, and beer.

A few weekends ago, we took a half day, stopped at Growler Hours and then Penn Avenue Fish and came home with shrimp and beer.  I intended to make the recipe I linked to above, but realized that, sadly, I did not actually have the ingredients beyond shrimp and beer.  So I made something similar, but not entirely, like it.



2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon old bay
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound raw shrimp: cleaned, deveined and peeled
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
1 cup amber or red ale
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or to taste, depending on how much spice you like)
a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt and pepper to taste


  • heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet with a lid
  • fry the onion until it gets translucent 
  • stir in the old bay and smoked paprika until well mixed with the onion
  • add the shrimp and tomatoes and stir gently for a minute or two.  the shrimp will start to pink up a bit 
  • add the beer and Sriracha and run your spatula around the bottom of the pan to pick up any bits of spice or onion stuck to the bottom.  Then put the lid on and let everything simmer for a few minutes.  It's ready when the shrimp look fully pink, it should take maybe 5 minutes for regularly sized shrimp. A little more if you get super big ones.  
  • Add lemon, salt, and pepper to taste and serve.  



I served mine with some tasty multigrain bread to sop up the yummy sauce at the end, kind of like how I serve mussels.  This reminds me that I don't think I posted about the time we made mussels. It was dramatic but tasty.
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creamy Herb Dressing & Community Supported Agriculture

I am so excited! Today is the first day of our CSA, and this year, we're hosting!

A friend posted on Facebook that a local organic farm was hoping to expand into new areas, including our neck of the woods. Hosting comes with a bit of a discount, so I hopped on board that very night.  They checked out my porch to make sure it would work out, fast forward to today and I'm coming home to a porch full of organic vegetables.  And apparently an envelope full of capacitors for Jeff. Veggies and capacitors: that's how we roll.
Hooray for Veggies!

This time of year in Pittsburgh, veggies are a lot of greens and herbs. And some kind of turnip, which I am not at all sure what to do with.  Instead, I made this creamy, herby dressing to go on a big huge salad full of lettuce, and cucumber, and radishes from our garden. ZOMG garden radishes, you are delightfully zingy.  Don't stop, radishes!  We love you!


Creamy Herb Dressing


Creamy Herb Dressing


  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic scapes*
  • 1 green onion, with the top and bottom chopped off, and the rest diced up a bit
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used light)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Whiz everything in a blender until it's dressing consistency. Seriously, it's that easy.  
*All of these things were in my CSA box this week.  To be honest, I kind of ripped off Simply Recipe's Green Goddess recipe, but swapped in stuff I had in my CSA, and omitted the anchovy.  


My porch today!!!

I am so excited to be part of the CSA and super excited to be eating yummy organic vegetables again.

Hope you're all having an awesome week!

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tomatoes: My New Favorite Side Dish

I was telling my friend Karen about how I had 3 pounds of tomatoes in the oven, and she asked me how I got good tomatoes this time of year.  I confessed that I did not.  I bought the hydroponic romas, which leave a bit to be desired by way of texture and flavor this time of year, but are fairly passable.  I do not think she believed me that this oven treatment makes them divine.  

(For the record, it's totally possible that they would be more divine if it were prime ripe tomato season, but I'm probably not lighting the oven to bake them at that point.  Plus they are already great, so they don't really need it.)  


We are AT THE LAKE HOUSE for 4 glorious days.  Alas, the weather here is calling for snow overnight, says our neighbor, so it seemed like oven roasting something was reasonable. The lake house does not have AC, which means I mostly do not bake when we are up here in the summer.  Lighting your oven when it's 90 degrees inside is not a fun time with no AC.  I'm actually thinking it's a good reason to figure out this crock pot bread thing everyone is doing.  But anyway, the tomatoes. 

To be honest, I am not even sure if this counts as a recipe, but let's just pretend it is, because it is DELICIOUS. 

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Before
After

3 pounds of roma tomatoes, quartered
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Preheat your oven to 275
  • Lay the quartered tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt
    • I line mine with aluminum foil since we have no dishwasher up here
  • Bake the tomatoes in the low heated oven for about 3 hours.  You can go more, if you like.
  • I finished these at 375 for about 15 minutes to get the dark crispy edges
Yum!


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Monday, May 20, 2013

TheKitchn & White Appliances

During TheKitchn's reader request week, they answered my request about awesome looking white ranges!


TheKitchn is one of my favorite blogs so I was super excited that they answered my request.  I think this one above is my fave of the bunch.  Although, one of the commenters suggested the White Ice line from Whirlpool which is looking pretty snazzy.

I am committed to keeping my freebie white range for the rest of the year, though I'd love a newer prettier one with more bells and whistles.

Thanks TheKitchn!!


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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Puff Pastry: Best Thing Ever

Happy Mother's Day!  My gift to you is a rant about puff pastry and why it's so awesome.  AND!  A recipe.


Puff pastry is a freezer rock star.  You can buy it months in advance, pull it out and have it be ready for toppings in 10 minutes.  Plus, you can turn it into a dinner or dessert that everyone loves, because it's difficult not to love something so full of butter.

I am a huge fan of the puff pastry from Trader Joe's, specifically, for two reasons.

  1. It only contains flour, butter, salt, water and sugar.  NO HYDROGENATED OILS!    
  2. It's pre-flattened.  I've bought stuff at other stores that's folded in half, and you have to thaw it and roll it or worry about breaking it if you don't let it thaw enough.  
OK, so now we have "freezer friendly" "makes dinner fast" "not full of weird stuff" and "easy to work with".  Are there any downsides?  Well, yeah, it's full of butter, so it's not exactly the heart healthiest of foods.  Still, I think the benefits outweigh the risks for an occasional treat or fast dinner. 

Asparagus Romesco Tart

A few weeks ago, I happened to have some puff pastry and some homemade romesco in the freezer.  I had some time, but not a lot of energy, so I thawed out both puff pastry sheets on the counter and made the asparagus romesco tart (above) and a tasty strawberry cardamum tart for dessert. 

My family was super happy with the results, and I got to feel like I made something complicated and exciting for dinner, when really all I did was smear some stuff on some other stuff and bake. 

So basically I got a bunch of the self satisfied happiness of cooking without a ton of effort.  Love that!


Yummy Tart

Strawberry Cardamum Tart

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry dough, thawed for about 10 minutes
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves or jam 
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamum
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet covered with a silpat or parchment. 
  3. Microwave the strawberry preserves for about 30 seconds, until they are spreadable. 
  4. Slice the strawberries and toss in a bowl with the sugar and crushed cardamum.
  5. Spread the preserves over most of the tart, leaving an edge like you would for a pizza. Don't push hard and don't bruise up your pastry. Don't spread it on very thickly.
  6. Arrange the strawberries over the top of the preserves.  Drizzle on the sugar, cardamum, strawberry juice stuff from the bottom of the bowl.  Try your best not to eat the last 3 strawberries and lick your fingers.  fail.  OMG it's so tasty. 
  7. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the pastry is puffy.
  8. Take it out of the oven and let it cool while you eat dinner (maybe 20 minutes?).  The resting time will let the preserves solidify up a bit. 
  9. I slid mine off the silpat with a pizza peel and used a pizza wheel to slice it into 4 to serve. 
Note: I bought cardamum seeds out of the pods and I just crush them up with the flat of my chef's knife, and maybe run the blade through them a few times.  If you buy the seedpods, crush them to get the seeds out, then crush again and run your blade through them.  I do not buy the preground stuff because I think it tastes like dust, and the seeds, when crushed, taste like delightful heavenly wonderfulness. 

I could *easily* have eaten half of this.  It was delicious.  Cardamum and strawberries are amazing together, and this was super easy.  

Yum! 
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