Sunday, October 31, 2010

What scares you?!

Boy am I glad the Halloween season is almost over - it seems everywhere I turn there are new scary ads for the latest thrasher movie that I have no desire to see.  But it got me thinking, what scares me?  Nothing too deep or serious, since the spirit of Halloween scares seem to be surface-level (think fear of clowns versus contemplating one's own mortality!)  My impromptu list...

1. Balloons.  Hate. Them!  If you would like to see me have a complete panic attack, bring me a balloon!

2. Scary in anything with blood!  I don't understand the draw of thrasher or psychological thrillers - I'll take a comedy any day!!

3. Touchy-feely people (and close-talkers).  Blame it on my east coast upbringing, but I'm just not a touchy-feely person!  I don't do long hugs, I like my personal bubble...I guess this isn't something I'm scared about, necessarily...but maybe a little! (The only people this doesn't include are my husband and kiddo!!) 

4. The woods at night.  Gives you chills, doesn't it?!  I don't mind camping, but as a child, growing up surrounded by woods, I was convinced there were bears and coyotes just beyond the trees - yikes!

5. Pet birds (and cats too!!)  EEEP!!!  I don't mind birds in the wild, but parakeets, blech!!  I think it's due to my best friend's bird that bit me on the ear and didn't let go (the bird, by the way, is still alive - sheesh those things live forever!!)  Same goes for cats - she had a cat that bit and scratched - it's taken me years to get over that one (ok, still clearly not over it!)

6. Needles.  True story: at 13 years of age, in front of my sister and best friend, I basically climbed up and over my mother trying to get away from the nurse trying to give me a shot.  My mom had brought said friend and sister so that I would "play it cool" dice, cool goes out the window when it comes to me and needles!

...a little look into my spooky head!  What scares you?!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh how I missed you...

 (I took a quick snapshot before the performance began!)

On Saturday we went to the Joffrey ballet and we agreed - we dearly missed these types of events!  It was a beautiful night, warm(ish) and clear.  Ella was home sleeping and we were out on the town!!  The performance we saw was called All Stars and was beyond wonderful.

As a child, I remembered the ballet being fun...for the first few minutes...and then it would slow down.  I was a touch worried that I was going to be bored, or worse, fall asleep!  But, as it turns out, 20+ years did mature me (in ways).  Not only was I not bored, I was in love!  We laughed, we sighed, it was over entirely too fast.  One act, called After the Rain, was by far the best of the four vignettes we saw - I could have watched it again and again quite happily.  It mixed hypnotic and beautifully slow piano and violin music with equally stunning and fluid movements of the pair of dancers.

We have tickets for two more shows this season and I think we're hooked!  The reason we moved to the city was for the cultural events we love.  Ironically, before having Ella, we rarely actually went to these types of outings!  With both of us working, we were often too tired and missed being at home, and quite frankly, if you let it, the couch will suck you in.  Now that we have a little one, we have a new appreciation for moments that are fully adult - no baby talk, carrying only my purse, and only having to worry about one person instead of two!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tres Leches Cupcakes!!!

Monday was Ben's birthday and to celebrate I made him his current favorite dessert, tres leches!  Instead of the standard cake, however, I decided to go with cupcakes (easier to bring to work the next day!!)  After lots of looking, I decided to go with a recipe by one of my favorite chefs and TV personalities - Alton Brown (he has a great, cheesy show called "Good Eats," that combines science, anthropology and appeals to many sides of my personality!)  The one hard part about this recipe is that he measures things by weight instead of by volume.  With a little figuring, though, we were very happy with the outcome!!  Here is my version of this tasty recipe - yum!!!

You will need:
(For the cupcakes) 
- Vegetable oil 
- 3/4 cup cake flour, plus extra for pan 
- 1 teaspoon baking powder 
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature 
- 1 cup sugar 
- 5 whole eggs 
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

(For the glaze)
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
- 1 cup half-and-half 

(For the topping)
- 2 cups heavy cream 
- 1 cup sugar 
- 1 teaspoon (and a touch more) vanilla extract

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Servings: 16 to 20 cupcakes

What to do: 
(For the cupcakes)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line some cupcake pans or, if you're brave, you can also try to make mini-bunt-cakes (in which case you will need to lightly butter the pan and dust with flour)!

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.  Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared cups and divide evenly - fill about 2/3rds full.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cupcakes all over with a skewer or fork. 

(For the glaze:)  
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cupcakes.  You will notice that it pools on the top, give them a bit of time to let the glaze seep in and then pour on some more.  Refrigerate the cupcakes overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Top the cupcakes and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beautiful bursts...

I've been seeing some really interesting pictures of bursting bubbles and water balloons lately.  I think they are magical!  Why is it that things breaking are so pretty sometimes?


Mosaic Soap Bubble
Breaking a Marble
Bubble Pop (Colour and Focus)
Popping Bubbles
 sources: (bubble) (closer) (popping) (gone)





Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My little pumpkin in a patch

When I was little, my Dad called me Pumpkin, because I had a round head (oh yeah, and because I was really cute!)  Our little Ella-Bean has a different family nickname, but for today, she was an honorary Pumpkin baby.  It was a lovely day with a bonus - we drove out to the pumpkin farm with friends Danielle and little Ewan - it is a rarity that two moms can sit and talk uninterrupted for 45 minutes (plus a bit more since I got a bit lost!)  I love the feeling of forming new and deeper friendships, it makes me feel very lucky and supremely happy.  

(Ewan and Ella admiring the ponies)
The pumpkin farm was less farm and more extravaganza!  There were cutouts and camel rides and giraffe (yes, I said giraffe) feeding areas.  I know, I know, a bit much - but we were not there for the spectacle, we were there for the pumpkins!!  

Big ones, little ones, fun warty ones - it was so fun watching Ella toddle around with the "big" kids, making me (and the other moms) feel like we were loosing our babies - Ella was the holdout, the baby of the bunch, and now with her walking, well, there's no denying that they are all growing up.  I am still wholeheartedly denying that I have a toddler.  No, I have a baby that walks, but she's still a baby (my baby).  

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm in stitches!

I've completed a couple of fun projects recently - the best one being the curtains I made for Ella's room (we had been hanging dark sheets over her windows, but it made her room feel so closed, which I didn't like).  I found some pretty linen that I lined with muslin - it's dark enough to keep the room dim during Ella's day time naps, but light enough to let the sun in (especially when now-easily pulled back!)  I've tried, but haven't been able to take very good pictures of them - so you'll just have to take my word for it that they look nice!

Another fun project is a little dress I finished for Ella - it's made out of an old shirt of mine that no longer fits right.  It was my first time sewing 1. clothing 2. a zipper 3. button holes with my sewing machine - with all those firsts I'm happy with the outcome.

(work in progress...)
(finished dress!)

As I've mentioned before, one of my best friends moved back to town.  It has been wonderful being able to connect so easily and so often!  As a little housewarming gift, I whipped up some coasters out of vintage and new fabrics and quilted each one.  It was an easy and SUPER fun project to do - I will certainly be making more of these!

What have you been working on lately?  Are you as addicted to sewing as I am??

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chili *sin* carne

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

It's been getting consistently cooler around here - piles of leaves are on the ground and Halloween costumes have been purchased (or, in my case, planned...though not started).  Wednesday evenings I go running with some friends (me, the non-runner, now THAT'S something to write home about!)  We don't go too far, but by the time we've run and returned home it is late and making dinner feels more like a chore than a luxury.  Yesterday I decided to be proactive and make my house smell nice at the same time.  I whipped out my crock-pot and my favorite cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, which was ironically given to me by my mother.  After some quick flipping, I knew what I was making, Chili Sin Carne - yum!  I already had most of the ingredients and just enough time.  Paired with some corn bread and a fresh green salad, it hit the perfect spot!!! 

This recipe is very close to the one I used, or you can try this recipe or this one while camping!  To get a taste of my cookbook you could try this recipe for Braised Beef in Espresso or Hot Fudge Spoon Cake.  I have a special dessert planned for next Monday, which is someone special's birthday (*cough-Ben-cough*) so keep a lookout for next week's food post - I'm hungry just thinking about it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A little visual inspiration... help the week along! Sometimes I don't know what inspires me, or at least I cannot articulate what inspires me...generally, if it makes me smile, I'm inspired!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Balance is a Moving Target

It's the second Tuesday of the month - usually right now I would be participating in the natural parenting blog carnival, but this month the topic was "balance" and my life was decidedly not balanced when the blog submission deadline rolled around.  I know this sounds terribly dramatic, like I had some great life upheaval that got in the way, but reality is just not that glamorous.  There had been a lot of traveling and some colds, there was mounding laundry and a little girl who just needed a bit more attention.  Something had to give, and considering I didn't have anything to give by the end of the night, it was an easy (and inevitable) decision. 

Though I'm not technically participating in any structured carnival, this topic has stayed with me, turning itself in the back of my mind over the past couple of weeks.  Here's what I've decided about's fleeting, it's imperfect, it's a moving target.  Holding on to balance is not only impossible but ultimately, not desirable!  There are times in my life where everything is focused on my child or husband, there are other times when my life revolves around work or myself.  Sometimes balance is more than just the day-to-day "am I feeling content with my life in my many roles," sometimes it is a much bigger picture, and that's OK.

(pssst...check out Danielle's blog or Hobo Mama's blog to read up more on balance and for links to yet MORE musings on balance!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three Xs Ten

A post in honor of 10.10.10.
Ten Things I Love...

 My favorite color (red), whimsical and!!!

 Such a pretty addition to a front door

Those boots really are for walking!

Extend the life (aka heat) of your tea while protecting your palms

 The leaping gazelle print is magical

 I see you!

This autumnal print is divine!

 Perfect for special displays.

Ten Things To Do...
 Stencil wall paper = easy to create, easy to change up

Have leather scraps, will make shoes that fit 

 Because perhaps fabric can help soften our highchair 
(or at least glam it up a bit!)

Making our sharp storage baskets a little less dangerous 
(and a little more fancy!)

Make my own yogurt?  Yes I can!!!

 Perhaps I shouldn't try to make my own doughnuts
(because then I'll want to do it again...and again...)

Miss Ella-Bean will soon be ready for her own busy book - fun!

 Dyeing playsilks with kool-aid...sounds tasty!

 Perhaps I'll try my hand at making my own yarn wreath!!

 Make a dress by Friday. Love the concept. Love the dress!

Ten Goals I Have...

1. Tackle my to-dos
2. Have (more) patience with others
3. Switch from canned goods from the store to canning my own
4. Launch (one of) my dreams
5. Repaint the bedrooms
6. Run a half-marathon
7. Make a quilt
8. Move back to the east coast (this is a longer-term one!)
9. Listen to more NPR and less TV
10. Clean out my closet


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