Friday, February 25, 2011

Writing Nook

Last month I wrote about turning an extra closet into my own work space so I could get organized and focused. Well, I now have my very own little writing nook.

I decided on a Better Homes and Garden Baily Writing Desk:

I got it for $70 ($100 off!) from Free shipping when I had it shipped to my local Walmart store. The desk has everything I need to stay organized--drawers, slots and even a little shelf underneath the desk to hide my clutter. It was a bit of a pain to put it together, but it's sturdy and looks like an expensive piece of furniture. I love it!

I took the doors off one of the two closets in my living room, slid in the desk and accessorized with things I already had--red curtains, shelves, lamp, books, Buddha, photographs, and cork board. I also use an old chair that I re-upholstered a few years ago. 
  While the chair is pretty, it's not the most comfortable thing to sit in for hour upon hour. So I'm still in search of the perfect chair. I don't really like the look of the traditional desk chair. I want something that looks at least somewhat stylish but that's comfortable too.
Even if it takes me a while to find a chair for my desk, I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it is to have my own place to write and work. The mess and clutter from my coffee table (my previous working space) is gone. I no longer feel lazy because I'm sitting on the couch all day. And I can finally put my work down. Since the living room was my work/relaxation space, I couldn't seem to separate the two. Even though I had written my articles for the day, I found my constantly searching for more articles or conducting more research. Now, when I'm at my desk, it's work time and when I'm not, I don't even think about it. And to make sure that I leave my work at my desk my darling boyfriend made me this sign:

Sweet dreams,


Friday, February 18, 2011

Quarter Century

February always seems to be my busiest month. Between my family and friends, there are birthdays galore, not to mention Valentine's Day. I planned a Vegas vacation for my parents' birthdays earlier this month and two days after Valentine's Day was my boyfriend's 25th birthday. We planned a small get-together to celebrate, so I spent the last couple weeks sifting through countless recipes online and flipping through my many cookbooks searching for appetizer ideas. I've known for a month what kind of cake I was going to make. I thought about turning the celebration into a dinner party, but 10 people is a lot of people to cook for, and it's hard enough to cook for two people in my tiny, two-drawer, limited counter space kitchen. I once had a dinner party for seven people in a kitchen half the size (my current walk-in closet is bigger than the kitchen in my last apartment) which included pumpkin soup cooked and served inside actual pumpkins. It was a success but a lot of work. So appetizers and cake it would be.

I finally decided on cheese puffs made from pate a choux, a light pastry dough.

1 stick butter
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tsp thyme
2 shakes of pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the water, salt and butter to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and immediately add flour. Stir continuously. Dough will form a ball in the center of the pan. Remove the pan from heat and give the dough a couple of minutes to cool. You want the dough warm but not hot enough to cook the eggs. Stir in one egg at a time and mix until the mixture becomes creamy. Add cheese, thyme and pepper and mix well.  

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough onto a baking sheet. Space the cheese puffs about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 350 and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. 

My boyfriend's mom gave me an amazing recipe for rangoons. I made half crab, half cream cheese, but we preferred the cream cheese rangoons.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayo
handful of green onions, chopped
1 package wonton wrappers 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the cream cheese, mayo, and green onions. Spoon about a teaspoon of the mixture into each wonton and wrap. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. 

The birthday cake was strawberry (from a mix) with cream cheese filling (4 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 ounces cool whip), chocolate frosting, fresh strawberries and candy clay roses. 

You can see the candy clay recipe and how to make roses (as well as other fun things) here. It's much easier to work with than fondue or gum paste.

One of my boyfriend's friends is allergic to eggs and of course everything I made had eggs in it, so I had to find a dessert that required no eggs. I ended up making dirt pie sans the gummy worms. 

2 tbsp butter
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 3/4 cups milk
6 ounces cool whip
half a package of Oreo cookies, crushed

Mix butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl; set aside. In a second bowl, mix the milk and pudding. Fold in the cool whip. Next, fold in the cream cheese mixture. In a bowl or casserole dish, start with a layer of crushed cookies then add a layer of cream cheese and top with another layer of crushed cookies. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Sadly these recipes didn't make the cut . . . this time.

Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Roasted Garlic

Cajun Onion Rings
Mozzarella Sticks
We also had fresh strawberries with cool whip, pretzels and beverages. It was a good, relaxing evening full of good food and good friends.

Sweet dreams,


Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Am the Mad Hatter

I love hats. I love all kinds of hats. Cloches, berets, newsboys caps, fedoras, bowlers, top hats, pin box hats, skull caps . . . the list just goes on and on. The first thing I do when I go to a store is check out their hat section. I have developed a serious hat obsession. And all began with this hat:

Angelina Jolie in The Changeling

Right now hats are the current fashion trend . . .

 . . . but I'm hoping they stay for good. The TV shows Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire have really fanned my hat obsession.

Downton Abbey:

Boardwalk Empire:

I love the hats from old movies:

And hats from period movies:

I also don't mind looking at men in hats:

Okay, maybe I just like looking at Nathan Fillion.

I've even found an appreciation for quirky, artistic hats:
Well, maybe not all hats.

Somehow I've kept by hat obsession under control and only own four hats. But that's subject to change at any time.

Sweet dreams,


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Puppy Love

My first dog was Rosie, a cute, not so bright mutt. I was one year old. I think kids form a special bond with animals, one that's hard (though not impossible) to duplicate as an adult. She was ready to play whenever I was, whether it was fetch or dress up. When I was upset, she could sense it and was always right there to hug and cuddle. As I got older, so did she. By the time I reached high school she was deaf and nearly blind among other health problems and had to be put to sleep. It was sad, but we were all kind of prepared for it. Plus, we knew she'd no longer be suffering.

Halloween: Rosie and Me

For my sixteenth birthday my parents gave me Zoe. When it comes to the pets, Zoe was the love of my life.  Zoe was a beautiful, incredibly smart golden retriever with a ton of personality. She had a gorgeous reddish gold coat and the sweetest, most expressive brown eyes. I had her house trained within two or three days. She learned new tricks at astonishing speeds and loved puzzles--untying knotted socks, twisting the caps of pop bottles, unrolling her rawhide bones. She was the only golden retriever I'd ever met that refused to play fetch; she preferred tug of war. More than anything, she loved swimming in the lake up north or running through the orchard behind my parents' house. She was also devious and manipulative, training us just as much as we trained her. At night, Zoe slept in my water bed with me. Not at the foot of the bed like a normal dog, but stretched out against me like a human. Most mornings I woke up with dog breath in my face because she had to share my pillow. When I went away to college, I missed her more than anyone else. After I left, she split her nights between my parents' bed and my bed. At ten years old she died suddenly of a heart attack or stroke. Zoe's death hit us all hard--me, my mom, dad, and brother. She's buried in my parents' backyard, a huge rock marking her grave. Zoe was a good dog. She was one of those dogs that you never forget. My parents still--years later--reminiscence about her, even though they now have two Jack Russell terriers. Jack and Heidi are adorable--and a handful. I love them to death, but they're no Zoe.


After Zoe died, I didn't think I'd ever want another dog. I loved her too much and it hurt too much when she died. But a couple years ago, I finally reached a point where I want another pet, a dog I like cats and my apartment allows cat, but I'm a dog person at heart. I want a pet to love and care for and break me out of my selfish, daily habits. I spend an exorbitant amount of time online looking through all the pets to adopt from the local humane societies and animal shelters. 

Meet Vergie
Hi! I'm Vergie, a two year old Lab mix. I am very food motivated to I would be a great candidate for Obedience classes! I am great with other dogs! I'd like to meet my kid friends before I live with them as well. I am a great, playful girl who needs a loving home! Please come visit me today!

Meet Sage
Hey! I'm Sage, a 3 year old Tree Walker Hound mix. I am super sweet and affectionate! My previous owner said that I already know sit, speak, down, shake, fetch, and sit pretty! I would like to meet my canine and kid friends before living with them, so when you come to visit me, please bring them along! I'm a great girl so please come and visit me today!
Meet Molly
Hi! I'm Molly! I'm a four month old Pit Bull mix. I am a super fun-loving energetic puppy! I'd love an active family that can let me in on the fun! I'd like to meet my kid and/or canine friends before living with them, so when you come visit me, bring them along! I'm a great girl, please come visit me today!
Meet Hobo
If Hobo were a person, I think he would be a fireman! Hobo is adventurous, smart, athletic, friendly, outgoing, and he likes to work and play hard. Hobo originated as a stray dog at animal control, and I was so impressed with his temperament that I wanted to make sure he had a second chance at a family. Having bragged about his temperament and personality, I must tell you that Hobo is also still a puppy in many ways! He has a mischievous side and needs to be kept busy or he will find his own activities.
Meet Fletcher
Fletcher is a gorgeous, brindled boy who has a lot to say and is more than willing to tell you his stories. He walks around smiling and wagging his tail all of the time, and likes playing with the other dogs. He loves to grab toys, shake them, and make his foster mom cringe because some of the toys smack him in the head as they fly from side to side. His goal in life right now is just to have fun and please his foster mom. 
But before I get a dog, I have to move since my apartment doesn't allow dogs, not even little ones. And not all that long ago my boyfriend lost his childhood dog, Galahad, another one of a kind dog. It takes a long time to get over that loss, I know. So it might be awhile before I can adopt. Until then I'll get my doggie fix from my parents' dogs, the boyfriend's family's other dogs--Wilson and Rhea--and websites like Capital Area Humane Society, Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter and Petfinder

Sweet dreams,