Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Glazed Carrots

My husband loves carrots. He eats them nearly every day for lunch and whenever I say I'm hungry but don't know what to eat (you know that feeling, right?) he always suggests carrots. They're his go-to snack, so he doesn't see why they wouldn't be my go-to snack as well.
It's not that I don't like carrots, but I have to be in the mood for them in order to eat them. And I must say - I'm more frequently in the mood for cooked carrots (especially when they're glazed!) than I am for raw carrots. Regardless, we pretty much always have a nice stock of baby carrots in the house.
This plentiful stock of carrots came in handy this past weekend when we needed to bring a side dish to our young adult group's "belated St. Patrick's Day lunch." I had lots of carrots and have always wanted to try making glazed carrots - this made choosing which side dish to bring much easier. Glazed carrots it would be!

I looked up several different recipes for glazed carrots in my various cookbooks, but so many of them seemed so complicated. Aren't glazed carrots supposed to simply be sugar coated carrots?? It didn't make much sense to me why you would need so many ingredients to make glazed carrots. Finally I came across this simple recipe. Ahh, I love how nearly everything I have physically in my cookbooks is also online :)

I doubled the recipe, so I used 1.5 lbs of carrots (my cookbook calls for 3/4 lb of carrots instead of 1lb). I also used Extra Virgin Olive Oil instead of butter because I have a friend who is allergic to all dairy, so I wanted to make sure she was able to eat these. The olive oil worked just fine.

olive oil + brown sugar + dash of salt
I don't really worry about measuring for recipes like this, so all of the ingredients above were "eyeballed."

glazed carrots
If I had known that making glazed carrots was this easy I'm sure I would have been making them for years now. This will definitely become one of my "go-to" side dishes for potlucks and get togethers!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm going to war...

....in my kitchen. Again. Remember when I thought I had my ant problem solved? Yea - thought would be the key word there. This past week they've started mosey-ing their way back into my kitchen. My "wall-o-cinnamon" doesn't seem to work on them anymore. They've learned how to go around it by walking on the wall instead...and a few of them don't even care about the cinnamon - they just walk right over the cinnamon!

I was killing ants daily for a while before Will and I decided we needed a more permanent solution than me standing by the sink squishing ants several times a day. We decided to try ant baits. I had actually bought some last fall when the ants were out in full force, but before I discovered the cinnamon trick. So, we decided to put the ant baits out. Now I'm constantly having this dilemma: do I kill the ants or let them be hoping they've a) taken some of the bait and b) are on their way back to the nest. It's driving me a little crazy just letting the little boogers walk all over my kitchen - although they do stay mostly by the sink. They particularly like our sponges...even when they're brand new - can anyone explain that one to me? Anyway, now I feel compelled to clean the counters any time I want to use them because who knows if they've spread the poison (and who knows what else) all over our counters.

I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be able to tolerate giving them free reign. I haven't actually seen a single ant go into or out of either of the baits, but Will assures me we need to give it a few days to take effect. Deep breath. If this doesn't work what am I going to do? Simply squish ants for the rest of my life?

Friday, March 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 9)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 121)

1) The baby's room has been painted! That means I can get started putting together the crib and changing table (no dresser yet). I can also start getting the closet organized. I'm debating whether I want to install shelves in the closet because I've heard shelves are much more helpful in a nursery than the typical 1 clothing rod with a shelf above it which is what we have in there now. 

2) Since giving up TV for lent I've become much more addicted to reading blogs (mostly Catholic blogs). I can't decide whether this is a good or bad thing. I mean I find these blogs to be inspirational and help me grow in my faith. But, to some degree I think I need to spend more time putting some of the thoughts/suggestions I read about into action. And at what point does it count as an addiction?

3) fat free cream cheese < reduced fat cream cheese < regular cream cheese. I won't make this mistake again. Enough said.

4) I finished reading "Legacy: A Father's Handbook for Raising Godly Children" by Stephen Wood a couple days ago. Yes, I do realize the book was written for dads. But after Will read it he wanted me to read it so we could discuss, etc. I must say that even though it wasn't written for women in particular I think it was helpful for me understanding how Will's and my roles as parents are connected and complement one another. I also like the fact that I now have a good idea of what I can expect from Will as a father - or maybe, it's the other way around. Either way, this is definitely a good book and worth reading.

5) I had big plans to knit in all the extra free time I'd have during lent from not watching TV. Somehow I have yet to pick up the blanket I'm knitting. I'm not quite sure how that has happened, but I'm hoping to change that trend this week.

6) Happy Feast of the Annunciation! 

7) My favorite Facebook status of the week goes to one of my former advisees, Maia. This status struck a chord with me. It made me smile and think about this recent post. Here's what Maia had to say:
"I hate cleaning my bathroom but Lysol 4-in-1 is the greatest product ever...this is the most random status lol"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Curtains - Take Two

It's true. I FINALLY finished the curtains for our living room. I started them waaaaaaaay back at the end of summer. As in - that's when I bought both the pattern and the material for this (unknowingly) ginormous project. Now, don't get me wrong, I knew this was going to be a big project. It's just that I had no idea how big it was actually going to be.
To be fair - I could probably have completed the curtains in a month or two if I had made it my priority and just buckled down and did it. There were steps in the process, however, that caused delays. Figuring out what size I needed each curtain panel to be was the first of many hurdles. My pattern wasn't clear on this, and I basically had to figure it out on my own (i.e. make an educated guess about what size the panels should be). Then cutting the fabric was a bit of a to-do becasue the panels were so large. I had to clear out most of the front room so that I had enough floor space to measure and cut the material. Once all 8 panels were cut (4 main panels + 4 panels for the lining) I had to figure out exactly how I was going to piece everything together. Was I supposed to seam the sides together first? What about the top and bottom seams? What about the tabs that would go at the top? It all seemed to complicated (no pun intended). So, what did I do? I did what any amateur housewife would do - I called my mom for help :)
Yes. I called her and she explained the entire process for what I needed to do, but I still didn't feel confident that I was going to do everything correctly. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and always worried I'm going to mess something up - especially when I'm sewing (as if I couldn't go back and fix it later...). So, instead I took everything home over Thanksgiving so she could help me solve this puzzle I was facing. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving ended up being pretty busy, so my mom was really only able to explain to me (again) what I needed to do. But this time she was able to visually show me with the pieces I had cut instead of just telling me over the phone. Even after this tutorial I still wasn't 100% confident I knew what I was doing.
The next few weeks passed with nary a stitch being made. This was mostly because life got busy just before Christmas, and I was still feeling wary about this whole situation I had gotten myself into. My lack of progress did not go unnoticed. Every time my mom and I spoke on the phone she asked how the curtains were coming along, and every time I had to tell her I hadn't done anything yet. I promised her that as soon as the holiday season was over I would definitely make more progress. My husband was also getting annoyed that we STILL had a random sheet hanging over the window that kept falling down (the sheet came after I donated the vertical blinds that were originally covering the window - it was a temporary fix :). So, I promised Will that I would make the curtains a priority in the new year - it would be at the top of my "to-do" list. And, for the most part, it was.
I made fairly steady progress in January and February. I started out by hemming the lining. I then sewed the front panel to the lining and ironed out the seams. 
Next came the tabs. I had to cut, seam, invert, and iron 32 tabs. This seemed to take FOREVER. It was a very tedious process - just making the 32 tabs took somwhere in the vicinity of 2.5-3.5 hours. 
This is the tangle of tabs after hemming 23 of them. I ran out of
thread on my bobbin after 23 and didn't feel like rethreading the
spool (is that what it's called?) for ONE  measly tab. So, I just saved
 that last tab for later (I had already completed the first 8 tabs).
Once the tabs were complete I had to sew them to the main curtain panels (between the front panel and the lining). The sewing part wasn't too challenging, but figuring out the spacing of the tabs (both vertically and horizontally) took a good bit of time and effort.
Notice the tape measure in the upper left hand corner. I had just
finished spacing the tabs and was in the process of pinning them.
The tabs had been pinned and were ready to be sewn.
Once I had sewn the tabs all that was left was to sew the final hem - this would determine the final length of the curtains and where they fell with respect to the floor. But, before I could do this I needed to hang/install the curtain rod. Luckily, I have basic drilling skillz, so I was able to put the curtain rod up all by myself :) 
Isn't that beautiful?
After hanging the rod I hung two panels at a time so I could pin them. This part was much trickier than I thought it would be, because the curtains didn't necessarily hang like I thought they would. If I had simply sewn a straight hem at the bottom of the curtains (which I was tempted to do) they would have looked AWFUL. But, I had my mother's wisdom to go by and knew to hang them before doing any pinning.
Here's the final product. The fruits of my labor :)
Now I need to decide what to do with the extra material.... I'm thinking I might make a few throw pillows to match :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 8)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 120)

1) I finished the curtains for the living room last weekend! This was no small feat. It has taken me literally months to complete this project, and I'm so happy it's over. There will be a "curtain" post coming soon!

2) Some creature has been getting into my tulips. I'm not sure what kind of creature it is, but I shall begin my research today. At least 2 of the bulbs have been dug up and a bunch of the tops of the sprouts have been eaten off! Needless to say, I was fairly upset to discover this when I got home last night. If you know anything about what might be the culprit I'm all ears.

3) I was a slacker and did nothing to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year. I didn't even wear any green. Pitiful, I know. But, until yesterday I only had five maternity shirts and none of them were green. I guess I'm going to have to step it up next year :)

4) My book of Shorter Christian Prayer came in this week. I'm excited to get started using it even if it is over a week into Lent.

5) The ants are back. This means I'm going to have to be ridiculously diligent about keeping the kitchen spic-n-span to keep them at bay. They must have found another way into the kitchen, or maybe I just need to replace the Cinnamon. I now know what the next major item on my "to-do" list is. Darn those little ants!

6) I purchased bedding and paint for the nursery this week. It's exciting to really get started with putting the nursery together. I'm really excited about the bedding because it's so cute (but what baby stuff isn't?). I went with an animal theme and the bumper, quilt, etc are SUPER soft and have lots of different textures. 

7) My favorite Facebook quote of the week comes from my sister, Julia. Yay! I can't wait!
"One more month to go! Expecting our second in mid-April. :)"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Products I Love / Chores I Hate

I would like to start by saying that I haven't found a magical product to ease the pain of every chore I hate. Nor are some of the cleaning products I love necessarily used for chores I hate. But when I find a product that does, indeed, soften the blow of one of the chores I hate, it makes me smile. This post is dedicated to: products I love, chores I hate, shortcuts I've found for accomplishing chores I hate, products that ease the pain of chores I hate, and chores I love. This post makes me realize how much of a grown up/housewife I am. Ok...here we go :)

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1) I've never really minded doing laundry. It's not a chore I actively avoid or try to figure out short cuts for. BUT, I really don't enjoy folding sheets - especially sheets that are larger than, ooooo, twin size. And there is (of course) a reason for this - I'm a bit of a perfectionist. And getting that darn fitted sheet folded neatly is just DIFFICULT! 
I realize I said earlier that I don't actively look for short cuts when it comes to laundry, but I do look for short cuts when it comes to folding sheets. Here's what I've come up with: instead of folding the sheets when they come out of the dryer - I just put them right back on the bed! Genius! 
Now, I do try to change which set of sheets we're using every few weeks so we don't have one set that is completely worn out and another set that's barely been used. But it has cut down on my sheet folding significantly, and it (generally) ensures that I don't put off folding the sheets until the next day which results is terribly wrinkled sheets.
2) I have a love/hate relationship with my Swiffer WetJet. I love it because it makes cleaning the floors so simple. But, I hate it because I often don't feel like it cleans ALL the dirt off my floors. I've been debating getting one of those swiffer mop/vacuum thingys - it would really help with the bigger pieces of dirt (even though I sweep before using the Swiffer WetJet!). I'm just too cheap to buy one yet, and I'm skeptical about how great it will actually be.
3) I really dislike dusting. It's not so much that I hate the actual chore of dusting. I just hate that two days after I spent an hour (or more!) dusting it appears that I didn't dust at all - or at least it feels that way! I've tried using Pledge, but it doesn't seem to help. It also drives me nuts that I have to remove everything from the surface I want to dust in order to clean the area sufficiently. Because then I have to replace all the STUFF and it just reminds me how much I want to get rid of all the STUFF (and sometimes sends me into a purging tirade, which I suppose isn't necessarily a bad thing). I haven't tried the Swiffer duster - it looks like it may be promising, but I'm not ready to pay for it unless I know it's going to work. Has anyone used this product before?

4) I love Comet. That stuff is just amazing. I use it to clean our kitchen sink (and sometimes the bathroom) and it just makes the sink shine - and with very little effort! If there were a "Comet" Facebook page I think I'd have to "like" it. Ok, not really. But Comet is awesome. This is how it makes me feel (but place a can of Comet in the woman's hand instead of Joy - or maybe you can just think of "joy" as the emotion I feel once I've used Comet):
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5) I hate. Let me repeat. I HATE cleaning the bathroom. (My husband can attest to this.) I don't mind cleaning the sink so much, but the toilet? the shower? the floor? No thanks. And for some odd reason I always seem to forget to clean the mirror. And it's not because I dislike cleaning the mirror. I think it's because I'm too busy thinking about how much I hate cleaning the rest of the bathroom. By the time I finish cleaning the rest of the bathroom I'm so happy to simply be finished that I don't even think about cleaning the mirror. Regardless of the way I feel about cleaning the bathroom I would like to point out the silver lining here: 
1) I've begun to try and think of cleaning the bathroom as good mortification. This can be very difficult to do, but I'm trying.
2) I have recently discovered Lysol 4-in-1 Bathroom Cleaner (the foamy spray stuff). It's one of the most amazing products available. You just spray it on the area of the bathroom that you want to clean, let it sit for a minute, then wipe clean! Seriously, cleaning the bathroom has become much more tolerable since discovering this product. 
6) When I'm in the mood I LOVE cleaning/purging stuff from the house. When I start cleaning in a room and have a box (or two!) of stuff that I can give away it makes me feel like I've accomplished something. And it makes me feel less overwhelmed - like things aren't taking over my life. And it makes dusting easier :)
7) Along with cleaning/purging stuff, I really enjoy organizing things. This may not be apparent if you were to walk into my house, but it's true. I love the saying "a place for everything and everything in its place." If only I were better at organizing...then my house would no longer have ANY piles of stuff (I would like to say that these "piles" are generally kept to one room/area of the house, so it's not like my entire hosue is full of "piles"). Suffice it to say, I definitely enjoy organizing I'm just not very good at it. 

Ok - this post makes it official that I'm not longer an "amateur" housewife. I actually think about (umm...and blog about) which cleaning products and chores I like and dislike.

Friday, March 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 7)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 119)

1) I have the teeny-tiniest little tulip sprouts in my front yard. I can't wait to see the tulips in full bloom!! Yay - it looks like my first attempt at gardening is going to be a success.

2) Not watching TV for lent is going to be much more difficult than I thought. I've realized I'll probably be reading a lot of books, so if you have any suggestions please let me know.

3) Last weekend I got to have another ultrasound. Our local crisis pregnancy center is in the process of training a new ultrasound technician and needed pregnant women to practice on. I was more than happy to volunteer :) I got to see baby Rayel again and this time we got a "profile view" picture (we only got front views at my earlier ultrasound). 
I think it's also significant to mention that of the 36 ultrasounds they did last year 31 of the mothers decided to keep their babies! How amazing is that? What a blessing it will be to have another trained technician so they'll be able to offer ultrasounds to even more women.

4) Last weekend I also took Will to this huge baby sale. Bad idea. Lots of women looking for a good deal and my husband do not mix. At least I was able to find some stuff for the baby at reasonable prices :)

5) I didn't babysit on Monday like I usually do. This made me nearly miss adoration on Tuesday. For some reason if anything other than my "normal" routine happens on Monday my whole week is thrown off. Thank goodness Will was there to remind me!

6) Peanut butter and chocolate is the best food combination ever.

7) I would first like to say that there was some competition for my favorite Facebook status of the week. I was choosing between four different statuses, but my favorite Facebook quote of the week goes to a friend who lives in DC. It rained a lot yesterday and I loved Oregon Trail as a kid. This was her Facebook post after her morning commute.  Elizabeth said:
"Had to ford several rivers on my way into work this morning. Proud to say I didn't lose a single ox."
The comments were also quite entertaining to read:
1) "Any dysentery?"
2) "better change that pace to grueling if you want to get to oregon."
3) "Did you notice anyone wandering off?"
4) "Joseph is drowning in a river. Would you like to retrieve him? No. Would you like to buy supplies? No. Would you like to hunt? Yes. You have shot a 200 lb. Senator. Would you like to eat? No. Would you like to hunt? Yes."

Monday, March 7, 2011

New England Baked Bean Stew

I recently made this recipe for dinner. I got the recipe out of Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook. My husband and I really liked this dish, so I was a little surprised when I looked up the recipe online and saw that it only had a 3.5 star rating - don't be fooled by this inaccurate assessment - only 2 people have reviewed it (and I tried to give it a review, but you have to sign up for the website in order to review the recipes)! The only thing I changed in this recipe is I didn't add the green onions. It really was super easy and would be very easy to double (or triple!) for a larger crowd. All you really have to do is cut and cook the chicken and slice the sausage then you just dump everything else in the pan. Here are a few pictures from when I made the dish.
the ingredients minus the chicken
the chicken
Yummy dinner!

My only thought for changing this dish is that I could have easily used more meat and my husband would have been even happier (but I thought the dish was delicious enough as is).
My cookbook suggested serving this dish with Italian bread, but I served mine with corn bread (as you can see in the picture above) which was delicious. The sweetness of the cornbread complemented the meaty flavor of the stew very well.

Friday, March 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 6)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 116)

Go to fullsize image1) Will and I went to my ultrasound earlier this week and found out we're expecting a baby BOY! We're super excited! And it's weird because I didn't think I was partial to wanting either a boy or a girl, but as soon as we found out it's a boy I was kinda sad it wasn't a girl. It was weird and kind of hard to explain, but I'm now pumping myself up for a boy. And I'm very excited to be able to talk about "him" instead of "it" or "the baby."

2) I was so glad to be able to go to adoration shortly after having my sonogram on Tuesday. I was so happy to be able to spend that time giving thanks for our baby boy, and reflecting a bit on how my life is going to change  (drastically) in just a few months. Oddly enough toward the end of my hour I finally came to the realization that I have a son. I'm not sure why, but the word "son" really struck me. I not just having a baby. I'm going to be... I am... a mother. Weird. 
I'm not sure why that struck me so hard, but it did. I was a little dumbstruck there for about 5 minutes. I kept thinking and repeating over and over in my mind "I have a son. That means I'm a mother." Once I got over my initial shock I was immediately struck by how Mary must have felt at finding out - choosing! - that she would be the mother of God. She knew from the beginning that she would have a son. How did that make her feel? Wasn't she terrified at what was about to happen? She was so young. She wasn't even married. I can't imagine what was going through her mind, but I did feel that I could relate to her on a whole new level.

3) After reading this post (and the recipe suggestions in the comments) over at Testosterhome I really want to try some keilbasa recipes. I rarely cook any form of sausage simply because I don't know what to do with it. I think this will give me a good jumping off point.

4) I discovered Blueberry Eggo Waffles this week. I'm not sure if I should tell you to avoid them like the plague or if I should tell you to go buy out the entire stock at your local grocery store. These things are SO good. They don't even need syrup! Who knew a waffle could taste so good. Luckily, baby Rayel likes them, too. :) 

5) I started reading Holly Pierlot's "A Mother's Rule of Life" this week. It was recommended by a friend after I told her about my attempts to "bring structure to my life." I haven't gotten too far into the book, but I have really enjoyed what I've read so far. I have a feeling this will be a book I read more than once in order to get as much out of it as possible. The book focuses not only on structuring your day and your life by scheduling out your day, but she also talks about the importance of ordering your life in terms of your values by taking a hard look at what exactly you spend your time doing. I am so excited to read (and re-read!) this book. I'm sure I'll be talking about it more in the future. You can also find her blog here.

6) I have a feeling this blog may turn in to a "gush about the baby (babies?)" blog. But I shall do my best to avoid doing that :) If you know of any good recipes or home projects I should try feel free to pass them along!

7) I've decided to forego the "favorite Facebook status of the week" this week because it was going to be one of my own statuses (I again wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to Facebook)... Instead I'm going to talk about how my passport came back to me on Thursday only to tell me that I filled out the wrong form. And they only returned one of my passport photos, so now I'm going to have to get them retaken. Fun times. Is this a sign that I shouldn't go to Spain?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Deviled Eggs

This past weekend Will and I attended our parish potluck. Being the slacker that I am I didn't sign up for what we were going to bring, but I knew we needed to bring something. So, I opted to make deviled eggs. I had made this my "go-to" dish this past Christmas and decided it would work well for a potluck - especially one where you didn't sign up for anything!
I love deviled eggs. I think I could eat them every day of my life and not get sick of them. They're just that good. And, luckily, they aren't too tricky to make. When I first went to make them this past Christmas I looked up recipes online and those all seemed so meticulous and complicated. I knew the basic ingredients that went into a deviled egg, so I ditched all the recipes and just made what I wanted. For the sake of posting a "recipe" on this blog I tried to note approximately how much of each ingredient I put in my deviled eggs. But remember a deviled egg is not an exact science. You can just go with what "feels right" and they will likely turn out great!

Deviled Eggs
1/2 C mayonnaise (I used a little less than 1/2 C)
1/8 C Dijon Mustard
cayenne pepper
1 plastic sandwich bag

1) Hard boil 10 eggs (or 8 or 12 or however many you like).
Luckily figuring out how long it takes for an egg to be officially "hard boiled" is much simpler than you might think. All you have to do is put the eggs in cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Then once you notice the water is boiling turn off the heat (but leave the pan on the burner) and let the eggs continue to cook. As soon as the water is cool enough to retrieve the eggs (with your hands) you will have a perfectly hard boiled egg. No runny yolk, and no greenish-brown yolk either!

2) Peel hard boiled eggs.
I've found that this actually isn't very difficult to do if you peel them right away. Run the eggs under cold water and the inside of the egg seems to condense before the shell, so it (seems to) make the egg peel away from the shell fairly easily.

3) Cut hard boiled eggs in half and remove yolks. Place egg yolks in a small bowl.

4) Mush egg yolks (I can't think of a better word and I'm no professional cook, so cut me some slack).

5) Add mayonnaise and mustard. Then add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper "to taste." Mix well. (Sorry - I didn't take a picture of this part of the process.)

6) Cut a corner tip off sandwich bag. Then fill with yolk mixture.
I like to use the sandwich bag like an icing bag. It makes filling the eggs much easier and much less messy.

7) Fill eggs with yolk mixture. You can be generous with how much you put in each egg - I filled mine pretty full and still had a lot left over.
extra yolk filling

8) Enjoy the extra eggs you made for yourself. You did make a couple extra just for you, didn't you? I am always so tempted to eat the ones I'm preparing for others that I've now learned to just add an extra egg or two in for my own eating pleasure. This way I'll still have a full tray of eggs to serve :) And if any of the eggs tear or get messed up I don't have to serve those.

I would like to note if you're planning on making deviled eggs in advance it's important to keep them in an air tight container as they tend to dry out. But, really it's best to make them just before serving them.
I would also like to say that I think adding a little relish or finely chopped pickles would be a really yummy addition to the yolk mixture, but I've never tried it because we never eat relish or pickles. A lot of people also top their deviled eggs with paprika, but I've never noticed that it really changes the flavor it only seems to add to the aesthetics.