Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where is the baking?

So I realized I started this blog with the intention of sharing my baking recipes, and yet I have only baked once. For some reason writing this blog has motivated me to organize and finish up things around the house that I have started. I feel that this is more important to me right now than baking. Today I started cleaning up my "craft room". It is such a pretty room... painted a terra cotta color with white shelves and a big work table. However, the shelves and table basically have collected clutter, clutter, and more clutter over the past few years. It seemed like if I had something that didn't have a home it would end up in that room. As a result, the desk was covered with catalogs and things that are meant to be hung on the wall. The book shelf was full of not only books, but left over fabrics and flowers from the craft store. I have piles of books that have been waiting to be given away in the corner, along with scrap book paper and sewing boxes and pens. Well, you get the idea.

So today was step one. Throw as much stuff away in that room as I could. Catalogs, boxes, and papers were thrown into the recycle bin. More books were bagged to be given away. As a result, the top of my work table is finally clear and clean!

Of course, the floor is a pretty big mess right now. But you have to start somewhere. And I am determined to get this room organized!!

So, anyways, I will share more baking in the near future. I am making cupcakes for my husbands birthday this weekend.  But right now I plan on getting my house (and I think as a result my life) in order.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unfinished Projects

I am notorious for thinking of a project, starting it, and then abandoning the idea for months. I really need to stop this, because once I finish said project I am so much happier. I decided I wanted to make a wine barrel into a planter box over a year ago. This really doesn't involve too many steps:

1. Buy wine barrel container
2. Find place in yard for said container
3. Buy dirt and plants for planter
4. Actually plant the plants

When wine tasting in July with some friends we came across these half wine barrels for sale. They were less expensive than the "wine barrels" that I had seen at the home improvement shop, so I couldn't pass it up.

I then let it sit there empty for about three months. Why is that? Am I that busy where I can't take the time to go out and buy plants? Definitely not... guess I am a lazy procrastinator at heart. Gotta work on that. Anyways, today was the day to finish my planter box.

We went to the home improvement store and picked up some plants, flowers, and dirt. I don't have much knowledge when it comes to plants, so I generally just choose what looks pretty.

It took about 3 bags of soil to fill this container. Finally I was ready to plant!!

This corner definitely needed some color. And now we need to add some more plants in the ground. And add some bark. Hmm... maybe we'll get around to that in a year or so.

I'm so happy with how it came out!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Centerpiece

I love fall... the colors, the scents, the food. Since I don't have kids, I don't really decorate for Halloween. Instead I try and add a bit of fall flair to my home. One of my favorite things are those adorable mini pumpkins and gourds. They are a great way to add some fall color to your home and they last through the whole season without spoiling. Plus they are so darn cute!

After visiting a fall themed bridal show, I was even more inspired to decorate my house for fall. I also saw some talk show that used a cake plate to hold fall decor and knew instantly what I wanted to do. So here is a simple way to use those cute little pumpkins in a decorative way...

Start with a simple covered cake plate. This idea gave me an excuse to go out and get one of these.
Next I went to the store and bought a hand basket full of these little pumpkins. I love the striped one!

I always go a bit overboard at the craft store so I had these leaves from a previous trip that I didn't have a use for until now.
After taking all the "leaves" off the "stems" I was ready to assemble my centerpiece. It couldn't be simpler... Just take the cover off the cake stand and fill it up with the pumkins and gourds. Throw some of the leaves into the empty spaces and put the stand on top of the cover. Invert and you have a really pretty centerpiece!

I had a few pumkins left over that didn't fit, so placed them around the stand along with some of my craft store flowers. I love this simple idea. And I already know what I am going to do with this stand for Christmas!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wedding thoughts

My sister-in-law is getting married, and I am so grateful to be a big part of the wedding. All this planning and organizing has got me thinking about my own wedding. It is easy to get caught up in all the details of the day. You want everything to be perfect... the flowers, the cake, the dress. Little things become ridiculous. The placement of the ribbon on the program is vitally important!! Why would my fiance think he was being helpful by punching the holes in the program for the ribbon there??? Didn't he know that was wrong??? Thankfully, I got past the whole program debacle, and even though the ribbon wasn't placed where I had wanted it, our wedding was beautiful. Everyone, including my husband and myself, had a really great time. People still talk about how fun our wedding was. And, ultimately, the most important thing occurred. I married my soul mate.

Eleven years later, looking back, would I change anything? The couple of things that didn't go as planned actually make for good stories. I mean it is pretty funny that our DJ played "Let's make love" as our last song instead of "It's your Love" as we had requested. And who in the world requested "the family tradition" of gathering around us as we danced to New York, New York? Both my husband and I still do not know of this so called tradition. I think I would only change one thing...

Friends. They are so important in life.  We have been so lucky to find a few amazing friends later in life. That doesn't always happen. Yet it saddens me that these close friends of mine weren't even at our wedding. We didn't know each other, yet they are such a huge part of our lives now. It is funny how that works. So if I could, I would go back and somehow include these special friends in our wedding day. I think I would have a very large bridal party if my wedding were to have occurred today.

Well, okay, I guess I would also go back and change the placement of the ribbons on my programs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thoughts at 2:45 am

Awake again at 2:45 am... fretting away. Thankful it is Friday. Bummed I had to sit in a huge traffic jam for almost two hours. Guilty for being annoyed at that, when obviously others were in a much worse situation having caused the traffic jam. Wondering why PJ is jingling around downstairs. Hopeful the Sharks can pull off a win this afternoon. Missing my husband who is away till tomorrow. Excited to see my friend from New York for breakfast this morning... at 7am. Grateful for a friend who is willing to meet me for breakfast so early. Sensitive to every little sound due to the two earthquakes yesterday. Wondering if I'll have a full staff at work today. Already dreading work on Sunday, yet I have Saturday off to enjoy. Remembering I have to call my mother. I have to get to the gym. I am getting older...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rachel and Julia

I've always enjoyed baking. Measure things out properly, mix them according to the directions, and usually things will turn out pretty good. Cooking was a whole other ball game. You could have put chicken and rice in front of me, and I would have just stared at it wide eyed. Well I could probably have cooked the rice, but without a recipe, I had no idea what to do with that chicken. Enter Rachel Ray.

Early on in my married life I had a day off and discovered 30 Minute Meals on the Food Network. After watching a few episodes I was hooked. She made cooking look easy, and equally important, what she made did not require hours of time. I started with one of her pasta dishes... no longer was I just making spaghetti and putting jarred sauce on top. I had options. I started my collection of her cookbooks, and it seemed that I would get a new one each holiday season. Rachel Ray taught me how to cook. I guess I can blame her for my cookbook addiction. One of my favorite things is to sit down and flip through the pages of a brand new cookbook. It is so inspiring!

There is another chef I greatly admire and enjoy learning about... Julia Child. She found her calling in life and started toward her goal in her forties. She started a small cooking school in her home in France, while she was writing her cookbook. Her book changed cooking in America. She changed cooking in America. She brought cooking to television and made it entertaining. Julia has inspired me to learn more about cooking and baking.

There must be another reason I relate to these ladies so much... neither one of them is a mother. Yet they both lead/led fulfilling lives doing what they love. One never knows what goes on behind closed doors. I wonder if Julia wanted children. I read somewhere that she did. But she had a wonderful marriage, like me, and she had a wonderful life. I wonder if I can find "my calling". It is never too late.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Clutter, clutter, clutter...

Clutter can be so overwhelming. I feel as though clutter causes me to be lazy. Everywhere I look around my house I can find something in desperate need of organization. My closet, under the bathroom sink, my pantry, and don't even get me started on the garage. It is time to get organized. It shouldn't be that hard if I just pick one thing every couple of days and focus. Today I chose my spice cabinet. Now, I kind of copped out here, because really the cabinet itself wasn't that bad.

But I am in need of a system to get organized, and I thought this small project would be  good place to figure out what that system would be. So my first step was to empty the whole thing so I could see what I had, and also figure out what was so old that there was no way it could enhance any of my cooking.

Next step was to clean the actual shelf... and wow did it need some cleaning. Threw out what was outdated... I had some dill weed (which I don't know that I have ever used) dated 2006. Whoa. 

But the hard part was figuring out how to organize what I had left. After staring at my mess for a bit, I just decided to use a three tiered shelf and put the spices back alphabetically. Liquid extracts and food colorings were grouped together on the side. I still feel like there should be a better way. But it looks nice and clean, and I think it will be easier to find things.

Now that my spices are organized it's time to bake something!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ginger Cookies

Nothing says the start of fall more to me than the smell of cinnamon and ginger, and fall represents the start of "baking season" in my kitchen.

I have been making this ginger cookie recipe for years now, so long, I'm not even sure where I first got it from. But it is a hit. I bring them to work, and they are gone that day. In my opinion the two things that make them so amazing are the chewy texture and the ground cloves. And there is a slightly unexpected ingredient in the icing that just makes you wonder.

Here is my favorite ginger cookie recipe--

(By the way, I never give this recipe out, so my very few readers should feel very special)

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies in
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbsp molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt

For the icing 
1 cup powdered sugar
a bit of water (around 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl cream the cup of granulated sugar with the butter until light and fluffy-- about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg and molasses.

In a medium bowl stir together the dry ingredients- the flour, baking soda, salt, and the spices. Add to the butter mixture and blend well.

Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll into balls. Roll the balls in sugar and arrange on greased cookie sheets. 

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

To make the icing combine the powdered sugar with about 1 Tbsp of water and stir until smooth. Then stir in the lemon juice. Drizzle icing over cookies. 

Enjoy what may be the best ginger cookies ever. The lemon in the icing gives it just a bit of freshness. Oh and aren't these the cutest measuring spoons??

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts at 3 am

Is it just me? I'm fine during the day, thoughts of my age and babies don't really bother me. But, dang, if I don't wake up at about 3 am at least twice a week. It would be alright if I could just turn over and go back to sleep. But for some reason, that is when my mind decides to wander. I'm getting older. I'm not pregnant. I'm getting older. I may not have a baby. I'm getting older. My job is no longer rewarding. I'm getting older. I'm getting older. I'm getting older!! AGH!! I can lay there for an hour and just think these things over and over and over. And as I think them I am just getting older!! So I'm vowing now, no more. If I wake up, and start this vicious cycle, I'm getting up. Maybe I'll become a late night baker, or just a late night blogger. But I will no longer allow myself to lay in bed for over an hour and fret about my empty uterus.

Tomorrow I'm baking ginger cookies...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sugar and Spice...

I want to have a baby... there I have said it. My husband and I have fielded the question of when we are going to start a family for over eleven years now. The answer, people, is WE DON'T KNOW! Sometimes things don't work out as planned. If they did I would be the mother to 5 year old twin girls right now. But, in the meantime, while we work on making that a reality, I thought it would be fun to blog my way through my life. I have other interests, right? I love to cook and bake. I'm an avid reader. Photography is one of my favorite hobbies. I'm determined to try new things. This seems like a great way to do it... Follow me as I bake my way through life. And please don't ask me when I'm going to have a baby.