Get your ribbon under control

Have I mentioned yet how excited I am that Martha Stewart has a line of products at Michael’s?? I could spend hours in that aisle — her stuff just seems to match my taste really well. Anyway, one thing I actually let myself buy was this ribbon box. It’s got a bar inside that goes through the center of your spools and handily feeds it out the front.

I also bought a scrapbook for my Europe trip pictures, but isn’t it scrapbooking tradition to wait at least a year to get started?

Soap dish from Real Simple

A great idea for keeping your ever-slimy man soap looking a little less bacheloresque in your bathroom (from Real Simple’s Simple Solutions book, one of my favorites).

Melt-in-your-mouth home fries

My boyfriend, Mike, is obsessed with making hash browns. Inspired by the Waveland Cafe, a greasy spoon that we once lived 2 blocks from (and patronized regularly), he’s been trying to emulate their crispy-on-the-outside, soft-inside version. He’s tried different graters, the food processor, different methods of squeezing out the excess water – just about everything. And I don’t think he’s got it yet, but we’ve had some pretty tasty hash browns in the process.

So I decided one day to try my hand at a different kind of breakfast potatoes, and I am more than happy with the recipe I created. It tastes so good because it appears to be drowning in butter. But I determined that it comes out to about a tablespoon per person, which is only 100 calories. Yes, they’re all from fat, but we can’t have everything…

There’s also a kick of cayenne pepper. Add or subtract the amount depending on how much kick you like before noon.

You need:
2 large gold potatoes, thin sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 an onion, thin sliced
4 T. butter
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium and melt your butter. Then add the potatoes and onions. While they’re cooking, season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

2. Cover, and continue cooking on medium about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. At this point, taste your taters, and if they’re a little bland, hit ’em with a little more seasoning (and if you’re brave, another pat of butter).

Mmmm, taters. And butter.

The Crocs I don’t hate

I never thought I’d say these words. And I mean never. But I bought Crocs.

Before you go shaming me into hiding, I’ll explain. I bought the Crocs that look like ballet flats. They’re cute and pink, and I’ve made a rule for myself that I’ll only wear them at home. And I haven’t changed my original position that unless you are working in the garden or in a medical facility (or you are part of the under-5 set) you have no business wearing butt ugly clog Crocs!

I can say this with no reservations because I lived in Boulder, the birthplace of Crocs, and I saw them on every other pair of feet for far too long. My favorite shoe store had an entire back room dedicated to Croc-dom. Even the Iron Yogi wore Crocs. It was out of control.

So anyway, I bought this pair in part because they’re cute, in part because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and in part because I can get on board with the whole anti-microbial, super comfy part. So far they are kind of squishy and good for walking around the yard/cleaning the house.

Doris Daymat

I’ve spent the last two weeks in bed recovering from back surgery, and I thought that meant I’d have two weeks to devote to crafting. Well, not so much.

Though I had plenty of time and was bored out of my mind, I was also doped up on Vicodin. Which makes you feel a little bit drunk all the time. Not so good for the motor skills. I bought five skeins of yarn to make a blanket with my newly learned granny square skills, but I didn’t even touch them.

I did, however, complete one project, and that’s cute little “Doris Daymat.”

The pattern comes from Stitch ‘n Bitch Happy Hooker. I made several changes to it. First of all, I didn’t want to use jute and twine from the hardware store, as the pattern calls for, because I read it was slippery, and I already had yarn in the 3 colors needed for the flowers. God knows I don’t need any more yarn (even if it is twine).

At the craft store (Michael’s to be specific) I found some thick nylon yarn that’s used for some other craft project. They had the exact green color I needed so I bought 2 rolls. Later when I needed 2 more rolls I went on a wild goose chase for it because that store was out. But I finally found it.

One type of flower turned out to be super easy to make. I could make these all day long.

The others were ridiculously hard. So much so that I made two and gave up. But that seemed plenty. Because I was using bigger yarn I had to use the smaller needles to get a similar sized flower. But that meant it was almost impossible to make the petals, which required getting 3 and 4 stitches into one stitch.

All in all it’s a little misshapen, but I love it. And no one better walk on it!

Crocheted clutch

After the baby blankets I needed a quicker crochet project, so I cracked open my Stitch ‘n Bitch Happy Hooker book and decided to try the Fit to Be Tied handbag. I thought it would be super easy, but it actually took quite a while.

I goofed a couple times on the half double crochet and had to either start over or add a stitch in the middle of a row. Then when I went to sew the two sides together I did the whole thing and realized the two eyelet rows didn’t match up on one side. But I was too far in to undo it and fix it. Then the lining wasn’t quite wide enough, but I made it fit anyway.

Sometimes I think I am way too impatient to be a good crafter. But then when I show my mangled mismatched purse to someone who doesn’t craft they look at me in awe like I just gave birth or something, and they couldn’t find a flaw if they tried. Thank you, by the way, to those people. You keep me sane.

Baby blankets for twins

A reasonable first project for someone who just learned to crochet would be something like a pot holder or a skinny scarf. But I like to do things the hard way. So I decided to make a blanket. For someone with twins.

It took months to finish but it was great practice. The first row of crochet is absolutely brutal, especially when your chain is 164 stitches. It’s amazing how much better that row is on the second blanket than the first. It also turned out to be a good project since I had a back injury and I’ve been doing a lot of couch time.

The pattern is from MarthaStewart.com. I made it a few stitches narrower (accidentally the first time) and about 10 rows shorter since I ran out of yarn. I bought these giant rolls of cream colored baby yarn at Michael’s and Bernat baby yarn for the accent colors. I made sure to use acrylic in case they get peed/drooled/barfed on.

Biscuits and Gravy, my way

Two years ago I decided to try being a vegetarian. Just try it for a week and see what happens. I was living in Boulder at the time, a place where being vegetarian is like, well, being a meat eater anywhere else. It was actually pretty easy. And though I never quit eating seafood, I did keep my meatless ways even when I moved back to pork-chop-on-a-stick-lovin’ Iowa.

Just like I always did with recipes, I tend to change vegetarian recipes to my liking. I don’t like mushrooms, which is a major meat substitute. And for a long time I didn’t care for tofu either. I find gluten disgusting, and I still haven’t warmed up to things like seitan and tempeh. But, BUT, I have come to appreciate a lot of meat substitutes, like Quorn, and I use them often because they keep me feeling like what I eat is still pretty much like what everyone else eats. Just healthier. And better for the environment.

I find that a lot of times when you try to eat vegetarian at a restaurant the offerings are either really limited (pasta with vegetables, woo hoo!) or so different from what I’m used to eating that I don’t care for it either. I like to make recipes that remind me of what I grew up eating, but fit in better with my dietary limitations.

One thing I’ve never seen in a restaurant is a vegetarian version of biscuits and gravy. And anymore, it’s not a hard thing to make. So here is my version. It takes about a half hour to make on a Sunday morning. (Unless you make your own biscuits. And if you like to make your own from scratch, by all means do it!).

You need:
1 package ready-to-bake biscuits
1 package (about a pound) meat-free sausage – I like the Boca or Morningstar versions that come in patties, but GimmeLean is great, too.
3 T vegetable oil
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 t. tamari or soy sauce
3 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Do this:
1. Preheat your oven for the biscuts.
2. Heat the oil over medium in a skillet. Brown the sausage in the oil. When it’s done, break it up into 1-inch pieces and drain on paper towels. Put your biscuits in the oven to bake.

3. Keeping the heat on medium, melt the butter. Then add the flour and whisk together.
4. Add the milk and tamari or soy sauce, whisking together. Raise the heat to medium-high until the milk starts to bubble.

Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the gravy reaches desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper and dump in the sausage pieces.

Be careful not to burn your biscuits! They tend to get brown on the bottom before the top.

Voila! Vegetarian biscuits and gravy.