Ripple blanket update

I’ve been moving along on my ripple blanket, row by super long row, and it’s starting to look more like a blanket and less like a scarf.

You could darn near cover half a leg with that.

On moms

It makes me sad to hear that someone isn’t close with her mom because I’ve been lucky to always be close with mine. We have the same thick, wavy, and often unruly hair that started to turn gray too soon. We have the same junk in the trunk that makes jeans impossible to fit at the waist. We love writing, bargain shopping, and KU basketball. But being the same never matters as much as being supportive. And I’m grateful for all those times I’ve called her up to say, “Am I crazy?” and hear “No way.”

My mom wasn’t Martha Stewart or June Cleaver (and thank God for that, really), but she taught me to stir the flour slowly into the cookie dough, and took us on a gadzillion trips to Hobby Lobby to pick out paint-by-numbers and embroidery floss. Thanks to her, I’ve always known how to make things with my hands.

My mom can pick up a screaming newborn and pat it’s butt until it falls asleep in her arms. I look at a screaming newborn and go “what the hell do I do with this thing?” Someday I’ll know, and someday she’ll help me, and for now I’ll just say, thanks for being there, mom.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

Loving: impromptu tablecloth

When I set out my blue vases I felt like they just didn’t quite go with the table runner I had on the table. But I remembered that in my craft room I had some unused fabrics that might look better, and it turns out this Amy Butler yellow/gray pattern was a surprisingly good match. I just folded the edges in to hide the unfinished parts.

The best baked beans

A few years ago I picked this recipe randomly from the Web site because I wanted to make some baked beans that were actually baked in the oven rather the the stovetop variety I was used to eating.

People loved it. Took second helpings. Told me they were the best beans they’d ever had. So I couldn’t have been happier and I’ve been making this recipe ever since. It’s the perfect picnic, barbecue, potluck dish, and the secret ingredient is… an apple.

I would also say it’s important to use Bush’s beans and K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce, but that’s just me.

The best baked beans

Adapted from

1 28-ounce can vegetarian baked beans (yes, you start with baked beans)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 apple, not too tart, peeled, cored and diced
teaspoon black pepper

To make it meaty: Add 3 strips of cooked and crumbled bacon after you take the beans out of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Dump your beans into a small glass casserole dish (or double the recipe for a big crowd and go for a 9X13 dish). Mix in the remaining ingredients and bake uncovered for 60-70 minutes until the beans are thickened and bubbly. The apples will cook down and add another dimension of flavor that you can’t necessarily pick out, but you’ll love.

Organizing the garage

The other day I went on another organizing bender, only this time it was in the garage. We actually have a three-car garage, which is pretty much unheard of in our neighborhood of old brick houses. Well, it’s more like 2 1/2. We discovered that the third stall (added later) is more of a work or storage unit. It doesn’t even hold the teeny convertable that our landlord wanted to store in it last year. But it’s a third garage, which is pretty sweet!

So we have a huge space for people that just have two compact cars and a scooter. And there’s actually another sectioned off part of the garage that we were using to store some old furniture that we never got rid of. We could not have been making worse use of the space considering that every time I opened my compact car door I smacked it into an assortment of shovels and rakes, which would inevitably fall over and cause a domino effect.

So I pulled the cars out of the garage and just started moving stuff around. It always amazes me how much difference that makes. Nothing new, nothing hard, just moving stuff around. We decided to trash the old desk since I spilled chalkboard paint on it (oops!) and it wasn’t good quality to begin with, and that freed up a huge amount of space. I moved all the gardening pots, tools, bags of potting soil, fencing, etc. to the empty corner and parked the mower in front. The previous owner had put in shelving on all sides of the garage and peg board, so we had plenty of places to hang tools and keep bottles organized. I can’t believe we didn’t do this before. We’ve lived here almost 2 1/2 years!

The finished gardening corner.

Gotta love this retro light, though it could use a dusting.

Then I rearranged the other shelves, cleaned out the tiny garage, moved the dangerous chemicals to high shelves away from doggie tongues, and swept all the dust and leaves away. The last step was rescuing a few items I found covered in cobwebs and dirt. One was a full-length mirror, which I have been meaning to buy for ages, and the other is this little table.

Isn’t it cute? I think it would make a great plant stand, but it needs a fresh coat of paint. What color do you think it should be?

Super Easy Broccoli Rice Casserole

I think this was another recipe that came together when I realized I had a bunch of ingredients on hand and kind of mish mashed them all together until I came up with a tasty casserole. If you have very little time to put together dinner, but want something that feels really satisfying, this little casserole will do the trick. It can be a main dish or a side dish, whatever you prefer. The idea is that it comes together really quickly. Rachel Ray would be proud.

Super Easy Broccoli Rice Casserole

1 bag Steamfresh brown rice
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Couple handfuls of French fried onions
Black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Microwave the rice, then the broccoli while you’re waiting for the oven to heat up. I love the convenience factor of using frozen brown rice that heats up in about 5 minutes. You don’t even half to dirty a pot.

Dump the rice into a small casserole dish (don’t laugh at me for using a pie pan. I broke my adorable vintage Pyrex dish). Then add the cream of mushroom soup (and for me, it has to be Campbells. The store brand is not the same.)

Mix that together, and if it’s too thick add a little water or milk. But not too much! Season with pepper.

Then mix in your broccoli and put that in the oven for about 10 minutes. Mmm, doesn’t that look yummy and healthy with bright green broccoli?

Once it starts to bubble, sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for another 10 minutes. Yeah, this is where it starts to get not so healthy.

Last but not least add the French fried onions and let them brown for a minute or two.

Voila – insta-casserole.

Weekend gardening

I love these precious few weeks in May when everything is in bloom, but hasn’t been destroyed by heat or thunderstorms.

I especially love watching the ferns in our back yard unfurl.

The tree in our front yard is blooming, too. Most of the trees in our neighborhood are purple right now, but I love our delicate white blooms.

I planted some annuals in our side garden bed. I’m partial to white and pink vinca and these orange zinnias.

If I had more money to spend on it I would have splurged on some daisies. But my budget was basically two trays of annuals with a buy one get one free coupon. Sad face.

Aren’t these pretty?

Someone who lived here before us planted them in another part of the garden (along with several rose bushes) and now they pop up randomly here and there.

Mike’s growing some seedlings in the basement while we wait for our tomato and pepper plants to arrive from Seed Savers. I’ll keep you posted!

The mother lode

When your craft involves making something new out of something old, you get pretty excited over finding the “old” supplies. And for me, that’s the ultra glamorous pile of partially burnt candles.

So I got pretty excited when I was at a wedding over the weekend and every other table was covered with flickering white pillar candles. It’s really the mother lode for me when I can find used wax that is both white and unscented, because then I can remake it into virtually anything. I take the colorful ones and the scented ones, too, but this is ideal. So thanks to Erin, the bride, for letting me pack them up after the reception and carry them home like a crazy bag lady. I have big plans for them!

I loved her “placecards”, too. They’re little galvanized metal buckets with a potted pansy inside. Instead of saying what kind of plant they are, the sticks denote the person seated there and the color refers to what they wanted for dinner. Clever!

My easy tostadas

I got the idea for this recipe from my Super Fast Suppers cookbook, and have adapted it since, basically to use whatever I have around the house. Since it uses baked corn tortillas rather than fried ones, it’s a bit healthier than what you’d get at a restaurant, but still very satisfying.

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Set out a cookie sheet with as many tortillas as you can fit on there, and poke holes in them so they don’t puff up when you cook them.

While the oven’s heating, saute about half an onion (chopped) in a little bit of olive oil until the onions are translucent. Then dump in one 15-ounce can of black beans and a couple tablespoons of taco seasoning (I make my own with cumin, chili powder and salt).

While that simmers on medium-low, saute up one sliced onion and two sliced banana peppers in a little bit of oil in another pan. Or you can use a bell pepper if you don’t like spicy food.

While everything is cooking on the stovetop, your oven should be fully heated and you can pop in that cookie sheet with the tortillas. Bake those for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned. But watch them! They get overly browned really quickly.

Once everything is ready, you just make an assembly line. Spoon some beans onto a tortilla, top with cheese (it should get nice and melty), then add your onion/pepper mixture and maybe a little salsa on top.

It seems like a lot of steps, but all of them are very easy, and the whole thing can be done in about half an hour.

Another tip: Make two or three cans of beans instead of one, and you’ll have leftovers on hand in case you want to make this again, or huevos rancheros, or just have beans as a side dish. We eat them all the time.