Saturday, June 30, 2012

Organizing 101

Growing up I was definitely no Queen of Organization.  Keeping my room clean was always a struggle.  I had so many things I didn't want to let go of.  Those things ended up growing piles in corners causing MEGA clutter in my room.

My Mom used to give my sister's and I ultimatums and tell us "If you want to go to the pool today, you have to clean your room" (Our youngest sister Evie was usually excluded from this chore since she was only 4 or 5.).  So my sister Amanda & I had devised the perfect plan for cleaning the junk out of our rooms AND keeping the clutter...Give it to Evie.

We had what we called "AUCTIONS" in our youngest sister Evie's Room.  We would gather all of our clutter that we didn't want to clean up, and we took it into Evie's Room.  At that point we would display and barter our items to one another.  Ultimately, the end result was forcing our baby sister TO PAY US to hoard our junk, so our rooms were clean AND we didn't have to throw our treasure away.  It was awesome.  I think the best bargain I sold to Evie was 25 cents for babysitting 25 of my stuffed animals for a year! She was thrilled, and I got to go to the pool!

As I've grown into adulthood I still do tend to hoard things (my workmates will attest to this FOR SURE).  I do, however, try and keep some sort of organization and system in place with my madness.  Especially since we're expecting an additional roommate coming to live with us in October ;)  I've been trying to make sure that we've got good organizational systems in place at home.  My friend Beth tells me I'm nesting.  I say I'm just cleansing my inner organizer.  My husband, Tommy, definitely appreciates my need to clean.  But he also thinks my urges sometimes have inconvenient timing when he is in the mood to relax and hang out and I'm twitching because there are dirty dishes in the sink...

TODAY, I had one of those urges...I walked into our bedroom and there was unorganized laundry EVERYWHERE.  Tommy does a lot of laundry.  But by the time he washes a load, folds a load and carries it upstairs he isn't in the mood to put it away.  So it accumulates in these piles that start out folded and then just get spread all over the place.  It ends up being hard to tell if it's clean or dirty! As I started trying to clear up some of this clutter I opened one of his dresser drawers and found this:

I knew EXACTLY what was going on here...  He's the guy who needs his undershirt to match the button up he is wearing on top.  The problem is, when he puts his laundry into these drawers he can only see 4 or 5 of his tshirts at a time, because they are stacked on top of one another.  So, apparently his remedy to this is just swirl them around in the dresser drawer until you see the color shirt that matches your button up and go from there.

I decided it was my wifely duty (I'm NOT nesting) to try and help him overcome this chaos. So I refolded all of his tshirts with my awesome Old Navying skills and got right down to work.  I thought, if there was a way that he could see all of his shirts at once MAYBE probably not though it wouldn't turn in to this swirly mess.  So here's what I'm trying out:

So, I'm trying out this new method and we'll see how it goes.  I folded all of his shirts and stacked them sideways so he can see every shirt he has and just pull out the one he needs.  I did the same thing with his pants and shorts too.  And guess what else? THE DRAWERS ACTUALLY CLOSE NOW!!! Ha.  I think they closed before, but Tommy just has this thing where he likes leaving drawers open.  

Definitely have started the itch to organize my space more, so please share your organizing tips and tricks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DIY Beach Wedding Invitations

I love it when my friends and family get engaged because it gives me an excuse to craft all kinds of fun projects for their weddings.  A few months ago my sister got engaged and started planning a beach wedding....YES!!!!!  

Usually when I start a project I try and mimmick a sample of something else I've seen that I like.  This time I had no clue where I was going with her invites.  My sister thinks she's being an easy bride because she doesn't have preferences...not really helpful when there are hundreds of color combinations and invitation layouts. Haha!  Anyways, I strolled around Michael's for a while looking at paper, strolling the stamps and sticker aisles and came home with a bag of goodies that resulted in the above.  

Super hoping that my sis loves it and that her guests can figure out how it works.  But if you love it and want the step by step here's what you need:

  • A7 sized envelopes (I usually order these in cases since it's cheaper. You can get them through wholesale paper distributors.)
  • Embossing Heat Tool 
  • Transparent Vellum Paper for the overlay layer
  • Textured Colored Paper for the bottom layer
  • 5x7 Ivory Blank Cards
  • Embossing Ink Pad (this is like the glue that makes the embossing powder stick then raise up)
  • Beachy Stamp of choice (goes on the transparent layer)
  • Embossing Powder (I used a powder that turned a pearly gold after heat was applied)
  • Rounded edge punch (if you want your paper edges to be rounded. I think this makes it look a little more elegant)
  • Double Slotted Paper Punch (this is what you use to punch holes through all your layers and tie the ribbon through them)
  1. Design your actual invitation for printing.  I use this jenky little program called Printmaster (I couldn't live without it now, it's NOTHING fancy though) but you can TOTALLY do it in Microsoft Word if you tell the page setup tab the size of your paper is 5" x 7" so it prints correctly.  
    1. You'll have a total of three pages that need designed: The Ceremony Invitation, The RSVP front and The RSVP back.  (The RSVP is a postcard!) 
    2. Print your front page and RSVP page, then you'll flip the RSVP card and run it BACK through your printer to print the response side of the postcard.  
    3. For your ceremony invitation page you'll cut 1/2 inch off the bottom.
  2. You'll cut your textured paper the size of 5.25" x 7.25" so you have room for its edge to show all the way around your 5x7 cards.  Repeat the same cutting regimen with your transparent paper -- only you'll cut this a 5x7 size.
    1. Use your rounded corner punch to round all the edges of all your paper.  
  3. On your transparent paper you will now begin the fun part!!  Cover your stamp pad in the embossing pad glue and stamp it onto your transparent paper.  Sprinkle your embossing powder over the stamped area.  Pour off your excess powder, turn on your heat gun (let it heat up for a sec before you start blasting the paper) then wave the heat gun over the stamped area.  It's kinda cool to watch the powder melt into this neat, shiny gold design.  (Sometimes depending on the thickness of your paper, the heat might make it a little wavy -- I like to remedy this snag by putting them in one of my husband's Nursing Textbooks and sitting on it for a while).
  4. Stack all 4 layers (Textured Paper Bottom, RSVP card, Invitation & Transparent Paper) on top of one another and then use your double slotted paper punch to punch 2 slits into all 4 sheets.  You're almost done!
  5. After this you simply thread your ribbon through the holes and tie! I'm terrible at bows.  My mom rules at it, but she's 2 hours away from me, so I went with the knot.  TA-DAH!
Invitation over the RSVP Postcard underneath the transparent layer.

This is the front of the postcard, but as you can see, it says
RSVP on the left so it sticks out under the layer of the invite.

This is the back of the RSVP card. It's a MADLIB! I filled
in one line on the MADLIB so guests who aren't savvy to
MADLIB awesomeness will know what to do.  Also on the
right hand side of the postcard is a postcard stamp &
return mailing address.

And there it is inserted into the stack. 

Not super complicated.  And now I've got leftovers for future stamping, embossing, ribboning crafts...probably relevant to the beachy wedding :) 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The "Lovely" Bones Unveiled...

I'm going to have to go with a three star rating for this book.  It's not terrible, it's just kinda...up and down throughout the whole thing.  I know I'm kind of behind the times with reading this book AFTER it was trendy.  But it was on my "get to eventually" list.  SO I got to it!

Anyways, the book starts out AWESOME.  The first 30-40 pages I couldn't put it down.  As most of you know, the book is sort of a murder mystery.  And like lots of you know, I'm a lover of Law & Order: SVU so I LOVED that aspect of this book.  The interesting part of the book is that the story is told from the viewpoint of the murdered girl, Susie.  She is raped and murdered and tells the "full" story that even her family doesn't know.  So throughout the book she is narrating their investigation to "solving" her mystery.

I will say that I enjoy reading different interpretations of what people think heaven is like.  Susie describes heaven in a really unique way that I've never imagined it.  Every person in heaven with Susie has their own perfect heaven.  So if my perfect heaven was drinking coffee at open mic night, that's what it would be.  Kinda cool.

So anyways, AS USUAL, I have a couple nit-picky things of this book that were a little annoying.  Not nearly as annoying as Fifty Shades (that book just put me in a constant eye-rolling state). My annoyances with the book were:

  1. In the beginning of the book when Susie is walking us through her abduction and murder Alice Sebold is SO descriptive with each detail: how Mr. Harvey (the rapist) smells, what Susie was wearing, the room they were in...So you're being led step by step through the entire crime then all of a sudden "Mr. Harvey gets out his knife and approaches Susie....the next day a dog was sniffing around the cornfield and found a patch of blood and stood there barking until someone found 'the crime scene'...."  It just kinda pissed me off that she was going to be so descriptive then all of a sudden FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF.  They just totally skip over describing the actual FINISH of the job. Blah.
  2. Throughout the entire book they keep referencing Susie's Keystone PA bracelet that her dad got her when she was young.  I know you don't judge a book by its cover, and I usually don't, but the cover of this book has a charm bracelet that has a house dangling from it.  Not a keystone charm?!  It wouldn't bother me if they didn't reference this bracelet throughout the entire book.  So it's just weird that what they describe isn't what was drawn for the cover illustration. Blah 2. 
  3. OBVIOUSLY, when a family has a daughter abducted and murdered they go  through some serious mourning and recovery.  So Susie's family starts going through this weird recovery process.  The Dad starts going through this shut down state, so the Mom gets irritated.  The kids are left to fend for themselves so Grandma moves in (Grandma, BTW, seems like she'd be right up my alley!  She's hilarious.  She wears heals, gets all dressed up AND she loves her cocktails.).   So the family starts falling apart.  SO IRRITATING part is when a good hundred pages of the book is just about this weird 8 year rant where the Mom cheats on the husband, moves away, starts working at a has NOTHING to do with solving the mystery.  BORING!
  4. My final beef was this:  
This excerpt is from the final chunk of the book.  Mr. Harvey is getting ready to try and strike again, and he follows this chick out of a diner to smoke a cig.  He tries coming onto her to lure her in...she calls him a creep and then BAM!  Apparently, he dies by crashing icicles???  But AGAIN, Sebold isn't descriptive and leaves you to figure that part out for yourself.  

So, the family never really gets closure or finds out Mr. Harvey indeed killed her (they did suspect it the whole time though).  Then he dies by getting ICICLED???!!! I just wanted a little more dramatic conclusion to the mystery.  Olivia Benson & Elliott Stabler would have never let this story end like this.  But, WHATEVS!  

Overall, not a terrible story.  I liked the plot...I just didn't like the rants, bunny trails and unfinished business the book leaves you with.  Might have given it a different title.  The only BONE they actually found was a piece of her elbow...but IDK what else they might've called it.  So I put this one back on my bookshelf.  Maybe my next DIY project will be illustrating a new cover for this one...with the RIGHT CHARM.  Ha.  We shall see...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mexican Roll Up

Started out our Saturday morning bright and early today taking our hairy, hot pups to our favorite "doggie salon" in Pittsburgh.  The first time we tried them we weren't sure what to think since it seemed sort of boutique-y, but it's just plain AWESOME!  If you're Pittsburgh Dog Parents I HIGHLY recommend The Diamond in the Ruff located in Pittsburgh's Southside.  We've been using them the past few times we've groomed the dogs and have had nothing but great experiences.  The gals that work there are so nice...and the dogs come home smelling like blueberries!  SO anyways, this photo was an attempt to snap a pic of the dogs with their summer buzz cuts, but they were too distracted by Dog Master, Tommy...

When we got home we were in the mooooood for some food, but wasn't really feeling anything super involved or really heavy.  So we whipped up an easy mexican roll up treat!  Prep time takes maybe 5 minutes, and they're just delish!

(Makes 18 bite size pieces)
  • 3 Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • 1/2 stick of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • sprinklings of chilli powder
Whip together the cream cheese with the salsa.  I just mixed it with a fork.  Spread the goods on your tortilla.  Dust the mixture with a little bit of chilli powder, sprinkle with cheese, then ROLL!  It helps to cut them with a super sharp knife so you don't have to smash the rollies down.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Better than McDonald's Breakfast!

So, I'm not gonna lie, I tend to be a sucker for McDonald's.  I know, I's terrible for you, but when it's good it seems SO good.  But then you wake up the next morning and feel like you have a stomach full of bricks.

I'm personally a lover of the simple Sausage Burrito on the breakfast menu.  Unfortunately, about 50% of the time I get it, it's good.  The other 50% of the time I get it, it's dried out and terrible.

Before I decided I was going to perfect this breakfast sensation myself, I did a little homework on McD's version of the sausage burrito.  You know what I found?  I'm a sucker for the stinkin advertising.
I think about a sausage burrito and instantly I imagine this.  
Then I go through the drive thru and am given this!
LET DOWN!  So I've been determined to perfect my own McD's sausage burrito.  I think part of my objection to this for such a long time was feeling like it's too much work. But by the time I get in my car, go to McDonald's, order and get home to eat it...I could have already enjoyed a homemade breakfast deliciousness without even leaving my house!

BUT! You can totally MAKE THIS!!! 

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Mushroom
  • 2 T. Chopped Onion
  • 1/4 cup Salsa
  • 1/4 lb. Browned Pork Sausage
  • 2-4 slices of Velveeta (depending on how CHEESY you are)
  • Whole Wheat Tortilla (notice the McD's picture TOTALLY makes it look like a whole wheat tortilla and it's TOTALLY not!)
AND It's 100% tastier and better.

Place your skillet on your burner at a medium-low heat.  In a separate bowl scramble your eggs adding all your goodies - veggies, cheese, salsa, pork maybe a little salt & peppa!  Once your skillet it hot hot hot you can add your eggs to the skillet.  Just kinda let them simmer for a few keeping an eye on them.  Don't scramble or turn your eggs too much, I think it dries them out.  Slowly flip or stir the eggs around a little.  Watch. Wait. Stir some more.  Repeat until your eggs are fully cooked and smelling delish!  You can then roll your eggs up into your tortilla...I'm NOT a pro at that part hence the lack of picture.  The Chipotle people always make it look so easy.  Aggravating. But they are Burrito Masters.  But then you can roll up and enjoy!  

Then Top it off WITH THIS!!! HEAVEN on Saturday Morning!!!

It was even MORE delish than McDonald's accompanied by my homemade Cafe Mocha!! TAKE THAT McDonald's!!  And can we all tell that I've discovered Instagram.  It totally makes an amateur look like I can take good pics.  PAHAHA! FINALLY!!! So anyways, stop drive thru-ing it up.  We know I'm all about DIY projects...apparently this theme is carrying over into the world of cooking as well.  


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fifty Shades of Crap!

I bite my lip as I write this post...Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are radiating Fifty Shades of Crap after completing the first book.  I can't believe that how many readers have been so enthused that they've devoured the entire series!!  I tend to be a sucker for trendy books, so when I'd heard this series was becoming all the rave I had to read it for myself to find out.  Suspicions confirmed -- CRAP!

I have so many issues with this book I'm not even sure where to begin with my gripes.  Since I've been on a groove with writing spoiler reviews of books I better go ahead and disclaim any spoiling now.

Issue #1 - There's way too much Twilight going on here for me.  This EL James character is getting rave reviews from fans, but I'm confused as to where these fans are getting a creative plot from because I feel like she just made a mortal version of Twilight...Here's her story:

Ana/Bella is this quiet gal who grew up with her mother.  She has a younger friend named Jose/Jacob that is quietly in love with her.  Ana/Bella's dad gave her a used VW Beetle/Beat up Truck to drive herself to and from work/school...

She becomes acquainted with a ridiculously good looking guy named Christian/Edward, who is adopted by his parents Carrick & Grace/Carlise & Esme.  Christian/Edward's father/mother is a doctor...(really!?)

It just drives me batty that EL's attempt was pretty lame to try and develop her own story line to write her TRILOGY that is being turned into a MOVIE SERIES!!!! (Sound familiar?!)

The icing on the cake with all these dang Twilight parallel's are that all the potential casting roles are going to be played by actors that have already been featured in some sort of vampire series...Eric from True Blood, Damon from Vampire Diaries...blah blah blah...

Issue #2 - If EL James has some real friends out there that might be reading this, please buy the woman a THESAURUS!  Because if her inner goddess bites her lip one more time, while Christian runs his long fingers through her hair...Oh jeez....I mean, seriously...Holy CRAP! 
AHH!! It really drove me nuts!

Issue #3 - WHERE IS THE PLOT!?  I will admit, going into the book I had heard what it was about so I was hooked in the first few chapters because I knew what was coming.  I was trying to figure out how this awkward girl, who is supposedly beautiful but no guys have ever paid attention to her before, is going to hook and sink this billionaire stud muffin love machine....

Once they started with their crazy sexcapade there wasn't much else to the storyline.  It was all about Christian getting his next "love" fix...Even when she wanted space and went to visit her Mom, he mysteriously shows up because he can't stay away...ANNOYING!  ESPECIALLY after that, you always just expect wherever Ana goes, Christian will show up, they'll hook up....Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.

Issue #4 - This is going to be TMI maybe for a fella reader who reads this post...but the scene where she is on her period in the bathroom?! Come on. WEIRD! He takes the tampon out of her...gross.  Then the sexcapade begins, they fall asleep next to one another, but never talk about her period again, but the whole time (since it's day 2 of her period and he is THANKFUL for that) I can't quit envisioning in my head how much of a mess this chapter was...NASTY-ness!!

Towards the end of the book I started telling myself (and some of my friends who are also reading this book) I have no interest in continuing this series and I was hoping the end wasn't going to be some sort of a hanger...

THANKFULLY, the story ends with Christian beating up Ana, Ana getting pissed, then both of them getting sad.  They realize they're in love but can't be what the other needs/wants so Ana breaks it off and leaves.  Definitely not closure (since the plot hadn't even started yet) but that door closing and her leaving was enough for me.  Book 2 & 3 will not make it into my Kindle's library.  I can't even IMAGINE how this storyline can stretch out into a 1000 more pages!!! NO THANK YOU!

Please friends.  Invest the time you would reading this book in something more staring at the wall or twiddling your fingers.  You'll thank me later :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fish Tacos for Mi Hermana

Fish Tacos always sounded like a weird concept to me... You see I love tacos, and I love all fish, so I'm not sure why I was hesitant to try this incredible delicacy.  A few years ago my pseudo big sis, Amy got married in LA.  Tommy and I were more than pumped to be able to be a part of her incredible celebration and flew out to LA.  We'd not been to LA, but one of our close friends, Levi who was also in town for Amy's sha-bang, was more than willing to tour us around.  

We drove around and saw the was grand in the land of LA.  But the icing on the cake, or should I say the salsa on the tortilla, was the fish tacos we had for lunch with Levi.  INCREDIBLE!  The fish was delish and making it even better by adding taco-ness to it was when I discovered fish tacos are GENIUS!  

So I'm sure I'll never be able to replicate the tacos we had that day in LA, but I can continue to try perfecting a recipe that tastes like Los Angeles and reminds me of Levi.  

You can totally add or change your ingredients to adapt to your taco preference, but today here was my fish taco recipe that I made for me and my sister...

  • Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Refried Black Beans
  • Fresh Baby Chopped Spinach
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Salmon
  • Lime Juice
  • Cilantro

After you bring a pot of water to a boil, cook your rice in the water.  While your rice is cooking, you'll have time to do the rest of the prep for all your taco stuffings.  My sister, Evie got me one of my new favorite kitchen doo-dahs for Christmas this year....A STEAMER!  It rules.  Dinner making has become so easy.  Anyways, I used the steamer to throw on 3 cuts of salmon with lime juice and cilantro sprinkled on top.  You set the timer for 20 minutes and just let it do its thing!

Meanwhile, you can put your salsa and chopped spinach in serving bowls.  I prefer my refried black beans to be heated, you can even microwave them if you'd like!  When I have fish tacos, I prefer to use a sweeter salsa, it just seems to go better with the fish.  

Once your steamer dings that the fish is done you can take the cuts of fish out of the steamer and just fork it apart.  It literally just flakes apart when you cut the fork into it.  

By this time your rice is also finished and you can add some cilantro and lime juice to your rice for flavor (I like to make extra rice so I can save my leftovers for a chipotle bowl replica for tomorrow's dinner.).  

From this point, it's dinner par-tay time! Time to build your tacos.  Today was Evie's first Fish Taco experience and I'll speak for her in saying it was a SUCCESS!  See Ev! Cooking's NOT that hard!!!