Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I wish I was mushy & gushy & lovey & husband does too, but I'm not.  I used to be but I'm jaded so it's not a big deal to me.  Though I do have 4 men in my life that are the best Valentine's I could ask for.  All 4 have stolen my heart a 1,000 times over & I am grateful that I will never have to spend February 14th alone.  I took 2 of those special men out today for a wonderful treat.  We hit up an Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor!!! 

 Klavon's in The Strip District, Pittsburgh PA.  

 I'm a chocolate malt girl, though I would like to go back for a BIG sundae with my husband because I could never eat it all.
 "Penny Candy" counter.  Nothing costs a penny anymore but the candy was the kind of things you would get at the penny candy store.  I bought candy of my favorites!
 Old fashioned booths.......
 Jack looking out of the door into the city, he enjoyed watching all the trucks go by.

  I think the pictures say it all.....though the last picture kinda creeps me out.  Because what you don't see is that the ice cream man's sprinkles are going on ice cream below that the children are holding, it's a huge mural on the side of the building & the thought of someone spitting sprinkles onto my ice cream was kinda gross.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to paint your brick fireplace....and totally freak out your husband.

My husband used to travel quite a bit with his old job.   The best trips he took were the trips to Germany, they were a week long & allowed me to do a little "home project."   I would usually paint a room or make some curtains but the traveling ceased when he went to a new company.  So when Dad went on his first business trip in a long time this past week I decided to take on a project.  Painting a brick fireplace! 

Here's the deal, you either love painted brick or you don't.  You can love raw brick & painted brick but nobody ever seems to be on the fence about painted brick, the majority of people I meet don't like it.  I love it! My husband....not so much, so I waited for him to go away & got to work.

I did a lot of research on this subject.  Searched the internet for hours, talked to the guy at Lowe's until I was blue in the face & he was sick of me, I even took a picture of the fireplace & uploaded it into Photoshop CS5 & did a little "what it would look like" preview for my eyes.  I was ready!

You will need:
rubber gloves
mild dish soap
vacuum cleaner
1 gallon of an OIL-based primer paint in white
1 gallon of ACRYLIC flat paint in color of your choice
3" paintbrush
2" or 3" thick nap paint roller
painter's tape
drop-cloths or plastic
old rags
Vacuum the brick off really well, get rid of cobwebs & loose grout, this is important & you may want to go over the brick a couple times.

Fill up your bucket with some hot water, add a few drops of the dish soap & swish it around.  There is no need to have the rag or brick soaking wet when you are doing this., brick is porous & you must give it time to dry before painting it.  A damp cloth will get the dust, dirt & cobwebs off & that is good enough.  I did these 2 steps before I wen to bed & finished the next day, but I suggest you give the brick at least 2 hours to dry.
After the brick is dry..guess what....vacuum again :-)

Now we tape off what we need to do it well.  I am a taper I love paint tape, my husband on the other hand thinks it's a waste of time.  You would think the person who tapes off is the "Type A" personality but in this case, I tape because I am a slob & know full well that I color outside the lines whereas my husband is a "Type A" crazy person who colors inside the lines.
Most fireplaces have some "black soot" areas on the brick, usually above the hearth opening.  This is the reason for the oil-based paint.  My fire place is not bad but know that you may need to put several coats of the primer on this area  of "soot spots"  You may need 2 coats of primer on the entire fireplace since the brick is porous, so be prepared & let it dry throughly before you do the final color coat. Paying special attention to "soot spots."

Get out that thick, nappy roller....coat it really well & get to work.  I wasn't sure what the reasoning was behind the 3" nap roller but I get it now.  Having it that thick leaves a nice texture on your brick, it makes it look "naturally painted" - if that makes sense.  I liked this roller because is reminded me of sheep fur....which reminded me of yarn....which made me want to go knot....but I controlled the urge & painted on.

I made a big mistake!  I  ignored one huge "rule of thumb" in the painting world.  WORK FROM THE TOP DOWN!  NOT FROM THE BOTTOM UP :-)  
This made it a little harder for me to work on the top part & I had to wait for the paint to dry a little on the bottom before I continued on.

Let's talk brushes.....a lot of instructions on the internet said to use cheap brushes because they will get ruined when painting brick & that's true  but what they don't tell you is that cheap brushes fall apart & you will get brush hairs in your paint job.  Spend the extra 5 bucks, trust me!

After you roll the entire fireplace, get the brush out & dig into the grout....this is time consuming & boring but the finished product is well worth it.  I found that angling the brush & dabbing worked great.  Also, coat that thick with paint, it goes faster.
There she is all primed & ready for a coat of paint - I chose the color "Dove White" FLAT at Lowe's.
Not gloss or semi-gloss, you'll regret that.
 It is a Velspar Acrylic paint & about $20 a can.   When I first put the paint on I didn't notice a huge difference in the color of the primer & the color of the paint but as it dried I realized the primer had a "bluish" tint to it.
IMPORTANT TIP:  after applying the paint in he grout with the brush you will end up with "brushstrokes" on your brick, go back over the brick with the roller to make them disappear while the paint  & the roller are still sticky.  You won't want those "brushstrokes" on  he brick.

I love it, though I have to admit when that first brushstroke of primer went on I took a step back, gasped & had a moment of "Dear God, what have I done"  You have to be 100% sure that this is what you want to do.  I thought about this for months before the final decision was made.  It was well worth it when I my older kids came home & said "Wow, it's so much brighter in here" and for the first time in their school life sat down at the kitchen table & did homework together ;-)

Was my husband happy?  No, not really, he freaked a bit, we had a spat but I think it's growing on him.  He's over I told him, I spend 80% of my time in the kitchen.....I'm the only one that has to like it.

Final Cost: $80 for paint & supplies + $60 for some new decorations for the mantle from Marshall's

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When mother nature sends you snow, make SNOW ICE CREAM!

Things can get pretty cold in the Northeastern parts of the United States, at least once a winter we get hit by a pretty big snow storm & the world comes to an end.  Everyone over 50 starts running for the store to grab their bread & milk.  Me?  I just grab the milk.  Because when the snow hits & the kiddos get cabin fever this is one of the BEST things to do.

Google "snow ice cream" & you will come up with hundreds of different ways to make it.  They are all tasty & they will all work.  Just make sure you have all your ingredients, toppings & utensils ready to go because this melts pretty quick.

 HOW TO MAKE:  Take a HUGE bowl of clean snow, about 16 cups.  Stir in 1 cup of milk & 1 cup of  half-n-half. (you can use 2 cups of milk if you wish)  Add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract & a half cup of sugar.
Most recipes call for a whole cup of sugar but I find that half cup of sugar works just fine & my toddlers really DO NOT need that extra sugar high :-)

Let the lil' ones go at it, stir! stir! stir!  Let them get messy!
You can clean them & the table off later.  Take some time to enjoy their excitement in stirring up some snow & milk, it's the little things that make memories.  If you are standing their with a rag in your hand trying to wipe up every drop that falls out of the bowl you need to go get therapy for OCD, just sayin'

We used some leftover sprinkles from Christmas cookies, Starbucks carmel topping & chocolate syrup.  Jack preferred to just use the sprinkles, he is a one-topping kinda man.
Now get outside, grab your spoons & have your family make a really cool treat after dinner tonight!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

French Provence Smock

My great-grandmother, Victoria Burell (that's her in the middle), came over to America from France when she was a little girl.  Hoping for a better life.  When she was around 14 a man did some work to my great-great-grandparents home.  Instead of paying him in cash they gave him my great-grandmothers hand in marriage.  They had 9 children, one of them was my grandmother, she was miserable her whole life.  Married to a man 15 years older than her that she didn't love.  I'm sure she didn't expect that America would be like that.  On the flip side,  if it wasn't for a leaky roof, I guess I wouldn't be here.

In honor of her, here is my French Provence Smock.  I would love to tell you it took 3 hours & it was a piece of cake but it took me more like 3 days due to the little ones I have running around.  I would like to tell my great-grandmother that times have changed & we marry men we love & pay people not only in cash but on these plastic things called credit cards and that she shouldn't worry because I won't be trading Sabrina's hand in marriage to my window washer anytime soon.

The author of this book, A is for Apron, complains about using bias tape, she doesn't like it.  I loved it.  None of that cutting strips of material & pressing, folding, pressing, folding.  I ditched the pattern about a quarter of the way in & just wung it.  The way it was written was to much for me to read, I like my patterns simple. It worked out just fine.  I had a flaw here and there, but nothing noticeable.  My only complaint is that I am a bit busty & it makes me look really pregnant.  Which is not a pleasant thought to me seeing as how I had 2 babies in 18 months. (It looks lopsided in the photo because of the way I am standing & the wind was wicked)  I would make every apron in this book if I had the time.  But I think I am going to go give my husband a hug instead & be thankful my parents didn't give me away to the guy that delivered their mail.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clapotis & Cancer

I finished Clapotis!  It was such a great knit, really it is, people would see me knitting this & were amazed at the outcome.  The dropped stitch & all.  But it's so easy, and much more easy the second time around.
  It was knit for a friend who lost her mother this past summer to pancreatic cancer.  My mom died exactly 14 days later.  So as I knit this I thought about the women who have gone before us, my mother & my friend's mother.  I thought about all that they would miss out on &about the time we were lucky enough to have with them. I'm selfish & would of liked more time.  My mom was only 74, her mother, my grandmother,  lived to be 94 years old.  I feel a little cheated.   Sometimes I would just be sad while knitting this.  Other times I would have a smile on my face as I reflected in my mind the life I shared with my mother. 

I hope my friend loves this Clapotis as much as I loved to knit it.  I hope it brings her comfort on the bad days & warmth on the cold snowy days.

Know the signs, of Pancreatic
 and Ovarian cancers.  Stay with us a lot longer than cancer would let you.  Be informed & be protected. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Because it's just that nice out...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I can't bake! But I try...

I'm a gadget gal, new phone out...sure I'll buy it, Wii?...yeah, I'll search all over like a mad woman wanting one, Xbox? we got one of those too.  Zune, IPod...whatever, I'm game!  So when I saw the Kindles come out, then the Nooks, then the Sony Readers, I knew I had to have one.  After some investigation, I snatched up a Sony Reader!  Knitting books, cookbooks, novels, The New York Post, anything I want & I don't' have to leave the house.  So if I read a review about a new novel I would love to crack schlepping the kids to Border's to buy it, I just sit at my computer and click-click-click.  Now, trust me, I still take the little rugrats to Border's & buy them their books but if you ever spy a lady walking around looking at bookshelves & talking into her Droid (yep, had to get that too!) that's just me working the voice recorder on my phone.  I record the titles of the books I want on my phone, go home & click-click-click!  It's in my Reader!  I love this thing.

So when Heather told me about a blog called Pioneer Woman, I had to check it out.  Great recipes!  Great food! So much to read! Then,  I saw she had a cookbook & click-click-click, it was on my Reader.  So while I was out today with the hubby I was in the car skimming my new cookbook & decided to make the sheet cake, easy..... right?  I dove right in like a crazy woman, all the while forgetting that I CAN'T BAKE!  I've said it before & it's not a lie. I'm so bad at baking that one time I thought the corn starch sat so long on my shelf that it became baking soda, I'm not lying.  After mentioning it to my husband we figured out that the kids tried to make play-dough, dumped the corn starch & baking soda out into bowls, then when they put them back, they put it in the wrong boxes! 

So after pouring the cake into the jellyroll pan & popping it into my crappy-ass electric oven I realized I forgot one really important ingredient, the baking soda.  It's essential.  So I pull the cake out of the oven, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of baking soda on the batter& try to whisk it in there as smooth as possible. Back into the oven it went, while I made the icing, which turned out perfect, so perfect in fact you could eat it off the spoon! I did!  The cake came out poofy all over but flatter in the corners....when we cut into it it was all fluffy & perky on top but dense and heavy on the bottom where the baking soda didn't go.  Oh well, it still tasted & learn!  Make this, today!  It's so good, so easy! Just don't forget your baking soda.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Clapotis...almost there.

I have been busy, to say the least.  My daughter is a dancer & competition season is in full swing, I have been busy with at my sewing machine this week but won't bore you with the embellishments of a dancers costume.  I would rather be making aprons & sweater quilts, but those items elude me for yet another week or so.  Though my beautiful 13 year-old daughter, that's her with a feather in her hair, informed me that this would be her last year trick-or-treating and she would like to go out with a BANG! She wants me to make the Satine Costume!  YIKES!  To be cont....

Though I did get to take off for a few days by myself with some girly friends on a little ski trip & had so much fun.  I took lots of things to knit but did way more gabbing, wine-drinking, Olympic viewing & board game playing than anything else.  It snowed a ton while we were up there, I spent an afternoon at the spa getting a hot stone facial & massage.....H-E-A-V-E-N for a woman that has had 2 babies in less than 2 years!  I wanted to pack Jessica the Masseuse into my bag & take her home!  I even got to teach one of the ladies(baseball hat) to knit, I hope it she sticks with it!  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I worked on Clapotis a little while I was gone & have started the decrease rows, I enjoy this pattern & intend to make more in the future, just not the near future.  After this baby is done, I have some small things to knit, including a scarf, baby legwarmers, Toast & socks!

I met up at KnitOne with my good friend Leslie TWICE in one week!  What a treat!  The first time we met we got together with another Leslie that found my Leslie on her blog.  The second week we met with Heather & Barb, that meet-up has been a very long time in the planning since we live so far from them.  It happened & it wasn't long enough for any of us!  You can see photos here & here & here.  My D90 is at the hospital & I hope to get it back soon. Oh my, how can I forget, I mean this is a knitting blog, after all....Leslie made this for my Cole, or as we call him Cokey. Thanks Leslie! 

In the meantime....check these out, how cute are they!  I want one! or TWO!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowmageddon 2010

 I am sure you all have heard the East Coast has gotten slammed with snow, which means my 4 kids have been home since last Friday & we really didn't get out much.

Luckily before the storm came I had the good sense to go to Goodwill & grab some sweaters so that I could make one of these.  I found a great piece of material at JoAnn Fabrics in the remenant aisle for the back & got to work all day Saturday.  Then when it was time to sew her shut, my machine kind of died on me.  I got the machine when my mom passed away & I think it just needs some oil because it is making one hell of a squeaky noise & the bobbin thread keeps catching.    I even sewed little heart buttons in the middle of each square while watching Lost the other night. 

It is such a  warm blanket, I feel asleep on the couch yesterday while the boys napped.  Now as soon as this snow clears a little I am taking the machine in to get some oil so I can start making some of these!  Let the Spring thaw begin!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Model Husband

This is one of my first creations, the scarf not the man.  I made this about 5 years ago for my husband,  I never posted about it.  I taught my self to knit after 10 years of crocheting.  While at Michael's one day I picked up a kit from Lion Brand to make socks.  The yarn was Fisherman's Wool which was REALLY thick, after I got it home and read the pattern I realized this was not the best project to start with, so I knit a scarf for my daughter with different yarn.  Later I pulled out the yarn from the kit and made him a scarf .  The pattern, I am ashamed to say, came from a book I saw at Borders, it was a simple pattern that I copied onto a piece of paper because I didn't want to spend the money on the book for one pattern.  *GASP HERE*  I don't think he really liked it but he did wear it quite a bit so he didn't hurt my feelings.  I found it in the bottom of our "winter stuff" box and made him pose...thanks baby!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I had a crush on Jacques Costeau

It's true, when I was a little girl I used to watch Jacques Costeau on TV & dream of being on his boat, sailing the seas with him & exploring the world.  I was glued to the television watching the Costeau Odyssey Series over & over.  When I was in 9th grade we wrote a paper on what we wanted to be when we grew up, I was going to be an oceanographer!  Dreams are a part of life, little did I know that I was claustrophobic, afraid of the dark & scared of sharks.  (this fear was only amplified & confirmed when I had a panic attack while watching a Titanic Documentary)  Good thing I never took out a loan to go to college with this ambition, I would of got a swift kick to the heart the minute I went underwater.  I did the next best thing, The Jacques Cousteau Hat!

It is for one of my daughter's dance teachers.  His name, oddly enough is Jack....or Jacques...
It is an easy pattern, though I hated my yarn for it, I used Mirasol Yarn, Tupa.  The yarn is very nice but  I just wish I would of used something a little less bulky, it took about 1 1/2 skeins.   I CO for the men's size & feel it will be too big, should of CO the woman's for this particular yarn.   I'm proud of my project & would like to think that somewhere in an alternate universe I am sitting on The Calypso next to my husband, Jacques.  Wearing our matching hats that I knitted, his in Navy...mine in Pink,a place where I am not afraid of water, or of the dark, or of small enclosed spaces.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recipes of the past......

I went home for a visit & found myself going through my mom's cookbook collection.  I came across 2 copies of the BetterHomes & Gardens Cookbook.   You know the one we all have when we get married with that familiar red & white checked cover.  Her copies were published in 1953 & 1962.  I thought I would share  a few delightful photos with you.  That thing there, that looks like a pineapple is actually a center piece for an appeitizer tray.  Want the recipe? Come on!  I know you do!

Liver Sausage Pineapple
Mix 1# of liver sausage  with 1 tbl. lemon juice, 1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce & 1/4 of mayonaise
Shape around a jelly glass.
Soften 2 teaspoons unflavored gealatine in 2 tbl. of cold water, dissolve over hot water & add 1 cup of mayonnaise; chill. Use to frost pineapple.
Score; stud with sliced stuffed olives.
Top with real pineapple top.

Though it sounds inviting, I think I might pass on making this, but I can't help wondering about the person that created this.  Can you imagine all those ladies in the test kitchen at Better Homes.  They were probably "ooooing" & "ahhhing" Betty for such a fabulous presentation piece.  Little did she know this one would not go down in history as one of the most fabulous dishes ever to be made.

Then these was this little number, a Crown Roast Dinner.  The "roast" is actually 12oz. cans of luncheon meat.  You'll need 4 of those if you decide to make this dish, I'll let you figure out the rest.

 The kitchen that was featured in the 1962 book I was a little jealous of, I must say, pretty impressive for the 60's.  Notice the 1950's version of the book where the husband is standing over the wife smelling her delicious soup.  Being the pessimist that I am, I imagine he is saying, "Honey, where is my martini & why isn't dinner on the table yet?"

All jokes aside, I couldn't sleep this morning so I came down to the kitchen.  The books had been on my mind...haunting me....calling to me.   The ripe bananas on my counter were screaming to me!  So I dove in...looking in the index section of both books I found 3 different banana bread recipes, and went with the one that best suited the ingredients in my kitchen.  I started to bake.  Since I still get up with a baby twice a night my older kids rarely see me in the morning before they go to school.  My daughter was shocked to see me in the kitchen, mixer in hand.  So I asked her opinion on the bread, to chocolate chip or not to chocolate chip?  She said, "No chips, you'll ruin the bread."  My thought was....I can't bake anyway so it's final resting place is most likely the garbage can.  But alas, out popped this little number...

Save the compliments, I know you can all see the doughy bottom part.  It was good nonetheless.  I added pecans instead of walnuts, which I like better anyway.  It was not as fluffy as the banana bread I buy at Loafers, I don't know if it was the recipe or me.  I'm gonna go with me, only because at one point it called for 1/2 teaspoon of soda, I think they meant baking soda, not club soda.  So that is what I put in.  I look forward to sharing many more endeavors with my new ancient recipe books....this will be interesting.

Banana-Nut Bread  (Circa 1962)

1/3 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups of flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

heat oven to 350

Cream together shortening & sugar; add eggs one at a time.  Beat well with mixer.  Sift together dry ingredients' add to creamed mixture alternately with bananas.  Blending well after each addition.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into 9 1/2 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.  Bake in moderate oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until done.  Remove from pan, cool on rack.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I baked a pie! Sort of...

I'm not a good baker, never have been, never will be.  I can make chocolate chip cookies, sometimes they even get screwed up.  Baking is too precise & I am not a precise person, so I cook.   That is what I can do.  But for birthdays around here I like to try to make the kids a  cake, it is always more special from mom....right?   So I stick with boxed cake mixes & icing that you buy out of a can but for my son's 15th birthday I went with a pie that I love.  When I was 17 years old I worked at a restaurant that no longer exists, it sat on a country club golf course & their specialty dessert was Mallo Cup Pie!  We would often sneak into the walk-in freezer & steal pieces of it, shoveling it in before we would get caught.

It's easy to make, but even easier to eat! 

Mallo Cup Pie

Bag of  mallo cups, frozen (you can use any size or any candy bar you want)
1 bag of Oreo Cookies
1/2 Gallon of French Vanilla Ice Cream
1 stick of Butter
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Freeze your candy bar, Mallo cups, bite size candy bar pieces in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

~Take all the Oreo cookies & scrape out the creamy center, throw in garbage, trust me on this you won't need the extra calories!
~Put Oreo cookie pieces in a ziploc bag, crush it with a rolling pin, so it is fine.
~Melt butter in microwave.
~Put Oreo Pieces in a bowl, and slowly stir in melted butter.
~Press into one of those nice deep pie pans.

Freeze for 1 hour.

Take your frozen candy & put in ziploc bag, wrap in towel, bang with heavy hammer until broken up into tiny chunks.   In the meantime let you ice cream sit out until it is soft enought to stir, but NOT runny. Mix the candy in with the ice cream & stir.  Pour into your pie crust. Spread the top all nice & pretty with peaks & such, then freeze, for as long as it takes it to get hard, usually a couple hours.  Melt chocolate & drizzle on pie & freeze a little longer until the chocolate hardens.  I spoon my chocolate eon in lumps we like it that way.   ENJOY!

Candy that works well for this:  Snickers, Mallo Cups, Milky Ways, Whatchamacallits, Snickers Dark, Peppermint Pattis, Peanut Butter Cups & one of my favorites....Heath Bar!