Friday, March 29, 2013

Italian Easter Bread and traditions...

Well it looks like spring is finally here, even though we have snow in the forecast early next week. Last night I stayed up late to make some of this Italian Easter Bread that I had pinned. It looks so good and I always like to make a fresh bread on the holidays. I never had this bread before, nor had I ever heard of it; so I asked around and apparently its a tradition that is taken very seriously in some Italian homes. 

The only traditions that I recall from my childhood during Easter would be the typical church with Mommo, dinner at moms, dying eggs, and let us not forget the awful pink frilly dresses! I used to wish I came from a huge Italian family, something out of the Sopranos' without all the violence and crime. 

Do you and your family have any traditions? 

This bread is fairly easy and it is delicious, the whole process took a few hours. The original recipe called for a pinch of salt, I changed it to 1/4 teaspoon and it still wasn't enough, so next time I would up it to 1/2 teaspoon, it was just a little on the flat side for flavor. 

Easter Cookies and reminiscing my cooking years...

Its so hard to believe that Easter is this weekend, where is this year going? Liam and I will be taking a trip up into the mountains to enjoy time with friends, also known as "our Colorado family". Its always an amazing time surrounded with food, laughter, and great people.

Last week I started experimenting with different recipes for rolled sugar cookies. I have been using the same recipe for years now, its one from my first job out of pastry school; working for Chef Charlie Trotter. The man is a legend in the culinary world and I feel privileged and honored to have worked for him and learned from his team.

This time of year we would be so busy, prepping for both Easter and Passover. Pumping out tons of sugar cookies and coconut macrooons to name just two things. I always loved the rush of a busy kitchen and the comradery of the team. We all had one goal and that was Excellence! If it wasn't delicious and beautiful, it wasn't hitting our guests mouths. I miss working in a kitchen a lot, its something I have always struggled with (passion vs. priority). I do believe one day I will be back with a team, but for now its free lance projects and working on raising Liam.

After testing three new recipes, I came up with this one that I like the best.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wishing for spring and some patio inspiration...

Over the weekend we had another visit from old man winter, leaving spring just a figment of our imagination. Its hard to believe that Easter is this weekend. Liam and I will be spending the holiday up in the mountains with our "Colorado Family". Its always great to get up there and relax with our friends, something we both look forward to often. 

I have been envisioning what to do to our little patio space, I know I want to plant some herbs, tomatoes, and flowers; as well as have a little seating area. So much to put into the little space.

Here are a few examples of what I'm thinking...

I also have plans of transforming an old piece of furniture into something special...stay tuned for that!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Recalling starting over and dreaming of a better kitchen...

Most of us have started over at least once in our lives. Whether moving off to college, surviving something out of your control, rebuilding yourself after a breakup. Whatever the case may be, we have all been there. I have more times than I care to remember and one time the memory of it all still haunts me to this day.

A few years back I lost everything I owned and everything that Liam had collected in his one and a half years on this planet. We were moving back to Colorado after living in the past 10 months in Florida, that's another story I may one day share with you. I was pulling a trailer behind my Jeep and 500 miles into our 2500 mile journey my car started acting up. One of my best friends at the time was with me, as well as a 17 month old Liam. We were in the middle of Florida on a holiday weekend and the Jeep started smoking and sounding rough. I pulled into a Jeep dealership, they took a look at it, and explained that the weight of the trailer was too much for my transmission to handle and that if I continued to pull it the transmission would drop. I was in a state of panic, I had to get back to Colorado in three days to start a job. I had no money and nobody around that I could trust to help me with this car.

I asked the gentleman at the dealership if there was a Goodwill or Salvation Army I could donate everything too and he said that the owner "buys stuff". My reaction was "WTF do you mean, he buys stuff?" Turns out he did it as a part time thing, buying and selling. So, I emptied the entire trailer right on the grounds of the parking lot of this dealership. There was so much stuff, things I had from when I was a little girl, souvenirs from my travels, art, photos, clothes, furniture, and all of Liam's stuff too. It was so much to handle. I kept what could fit into the Jeep and left everything else behind. The owner gave me $850 for everything, not much for a lifetimes worth of shit. I kept telling myself "its just stuff and most of it can be replaced". It was a decision that I made in a few minutes, feeling pressured by time, stress, and the heat and humidity of Florida in the middle summer.

Would I do it all over again, I don't know; I would probably take more time to look everything over and decide what was really important and what wasn't. There are some things I will never see again that hurt, like my grandmother's sunglasses, a wood carving from Jamaica, some of my original paintings, and my cooking and baking equipment.

The 3 year anniversary of this event is approaching and most of my stuff has been replaced, it was a humbling experience. I learned what was important and what isn't. You learn to live off what you have and how to make do. Setting up our home (small apartment)  has been a fun and rewarding experience. Most everything started as thrift store finds, hand me downs, or stuff off the side of the road. I'm excited to share with you some projects I have planned in the near future.

Today I'm really wanting some new kitchen stuff, this is actually dream equipment. I might one day have it all. I have been using the same crappy stuff for 3 years and I'm just dreaming. Plus I wanted to create a mood board, it was actually a lot easier than I thought. Writing this blog has been fun, I'm actually learning a lot and hope that you enjoy reading it. I'm not trying to recreate the wheel, just have fun and hope to inspire someone else as well.

So, here it is....


What's your starting over story? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Project complete and finding treasure...

It's finally complete and right on schedule I might add! Its exactly as I pictured it in my head that one day back in January, at the Goodwill store. I shared with you a couple weeks ago that I was starting this project and have slowly worked on it, weather causing delays. I couldn't be happier with the results.

It all started with this ugly thing right here.

I fell in love with it instantly and pictured it painted white and reupholstered with a light fabric. I knew I wanted yellow and grey. The grey chevron is for an ottoman that I'm redoing too and the yellow is for some pillows.

The process is fairly easy, just takes some patience and a little hard work to pull it off. 

I love this tag that I found at the bottom of every chair, it dates back to 1972; but I'm certain this set is much older. Under the awful flowered fabric was this even nastier green stuff. 

After removing the cushion I sanded the entire surface with 220 grit sandpaper and wiped it clean. Next, a coat of primer.
And I added some 1 1/2 inch foam for some cushion for the tush. Just trace an outline from the seat.
Next is the fun part...staple gun. I regretfully don't have pictures of this process, but it fairly simple. Just cut a piece of fabric that is bigger than your seat, staple in center once and while pulling taught staple around. This was fun, but the next day my palm was so sore! After primer has dried (I gave mine a full 24 hours) apply a coat of paint. I used Rust-oleum in Heirloom White with a Satin finish. The chairs were good with one coat of paint, but the table needed two. I finished the table with Rust-oleum sealer in Clear Matte. You'll want to raise your piece off the floor so you get good coverage on the legs, I used the lids from the paint cans.

Like I said, I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I love getting my hands dirty and fixing something up myself. The whole piece really lightens up the space!

The whole project came in at $123...
$50 for table and four chairs at Goodwill
$13 for fabric at Hobby Lobby (with a 40% off coupon)
$40 paint, primer, sandpaper at Home Depot
$20 for foam at JoAnns (with 50% off coupon)

Yesterday Liam and I took our regular trip to Goodwill with hopes of finding something for the home, we weren't having much luck (he will tell you otherwise, cause he came home with a huge toy jet that makes tons of noise); then out of the corner of my eye on the other side of the store I found this...

I know what your thinking...WTF, right?!?! But upon further inspection I found something that may be my new favorite thing...

It only took a few snips from the trusty wire cutters! I'm thinking of hanging it above the new table and chairs. 

Have you found any treasure lately?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pasta Bolognese and remembering the first city I fell in love with...

Hello everyone, hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend! I'm not one to usually celebrate St. Patrick's Day, except for maybe cook corned beef, but I couldn't even find the time to make it this year. Today was my "Saturday", I'm always off on Mondays and have a chance to relax, shop, cook, and just hang with Liam. He wanted pasta for dinner and I haven't made this Bolognese recipe in some time, so I figured why not?!?!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Project update...

A couple weeks ago I showed you a project I was getting started on. I have been slowly working on it and the weather has slowed me down a little bit. I wanted to give you a sneak peak at what its looking like. I am projecting I will be finished on time with all my projects. 

I am really excited about it, its really looking nice; Liam even agrees with me. My next project is doing something with that awful looking couch and getting an antique dresser for a media cabinet. So much to do, so little time. I hope you all are doing well! 

Any suggestions for the ugly sofa?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Girl Scout Week and Homemade Samoas...

Today marks the 101st birthday of the Girl Scouts and this whole week is known as Girl Scout Week. I was doing some research on the company and learned so much about our favorite cookie sales persons. I never belonged to the Scouts or Brownies, but always assumed it to be some special club that sold cookies at random times of the year, all while wearing an unattractive uniform. Now I know different and wish I could go back in time to be a Girl Scout myself. Times have changed for these little girls too, there are now apps available through ITunes that help you locate your favorite cookie and most of them carry credit card readers on their IPhone as well, which I'm sure helps their little business.

The Five Skills that are taught are goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics; everything that I think are so important for young girls to learn and carry with them throughout life. Somethings I could use a lesson on even today!

I pinned this recipe awhile ago on Pinterest and knew that I had to make it, after I missed this years sales. My favorite Girl Scout cookies are Samoas, its their second popular cookie after Thin Mints and preceding Tagalongs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Home stretch and gratitude...

Restaurant Week is almost over and I will finally have a day off on Monday after working 20 days in a row. This is my third year in a row doing this, working days on end only wishing it would be over. I'm exhausted, cranky, and sore; and most importantly I miss Liam. I haven't been able to put him to bed or read him his bedtime story and I miss that. Its the simplest things that make me feel complete and I feel like I'm failing at that right now. I cannot wait for next week to spend every minute with him, just him and me hanging out.

We are expecting a huge amount of snow this weekend and I am not looking forward to it at all. Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but it just adds that much more stress right now. But spring is right around the corner and I look forward to the change in seasons. Liam is wanting to plant a garden, we will be planting a container garden on our small patio. I look forward to sharing that with him, we both are very excited.

Last night my little blog here hit 600 views and I'm so thrilled! Its a work in progress and I want to THANK everyone for reading and following. I have plans to really take it to the next step, such as getting an original look and a logo, and investing in a good camera. I really appreciate everyone for believing in me and giving me such wonderful feedback.

Until next week, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Skinny Chicken Enchiladas and Supporting Local...

It's that time of year again, spring is right around the corner and summer will be here before we know it. So what better time than now to start watching what we eat. I'm not one to count calories or ever say no to a cupcake, but I do choose to eat fairly healthy. I gave up fast food some time ago and I feel so good about it, both inside and out. I would much rather spend my hard earned money supporting a family owned restaurant that serves food that's good and good for you.

I never made this before, found it on Pinterest and made it yesterday. I thought it was really good, but found it to be a little too spicy for Liam. I will make it again, only cutting down on some of the spice. What makes this recipe "skinny" is the use of whole wheat tortillas that are not fried, and boneless skinless chicken breast.

Most of this meal was created using local products and I feel so good about that. I always look for the local produce before buying the imported stuff. Its time that we open our eyes and support those around us, there's a sense of pride when you buy from your neighbor. This summer I have plans to take Liam to local farms to show him where the food actually comes from; we're both really excited about it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Excited about a new project...

A few months ago I purchased an old dining table and chair set from Goodwill. Its a mid century modern set that I fell instantly in love with. Its like nothing I've ever seen before, it sits really low to the ground and fits in with my most of my pieces. It needs a little TLC and I'm excited about finally starting it. 

I've been redoing furniture for a long time now, I love finding an old piece and making it new again. It all started in junior high when I was in wood shop and I refinished an old dresser that had been in my family for a long time, my sister still has that piece.

These chairs have seen better days, but they are pretty solid. I have been sanding away for the past few days, bought the paint and fabric to cover them. I'm so excited about this project, its going to tie the whole apartment together.

I'm in love with the fabrics, yellow and grey are one of my favorite color combinations. The yellow chevron is for some pillows, the grey chevron is going to be for my ottoman that I'm going to redo, too. My goal is to have this all done by the end of the month, along with a couple other DIY projects I have lined up. 

                                           Are you working on any projects for your home?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss' 109th birthday, but we celebrated today because of the crazy weekend ahead.

I recall in kindergarten celebrating his birthday, my teacher made green eggs and ham. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, still do apparently; its one of those memories that I think of often. Liam has an arsenal of Dr. Seuss books, some of our favorites are Green Eggs and Ham, The Foot Book, Go Dog Go. 

So, what better way to celebrate this legends birthday than to make green eggs?!?! Liam thought the idea was "awesome", but actually eating the green eggs was not so cool. 

What are your favorite Dr. Seuss books or quotes?