Sunday, September 11, 2011

Slow down!

      I can't believe the little guy is almost two years old!  Come December, the big guy turns ten (!!), and little momma turned eight back in June.  How did this happen?  They are growing up way too fast.
     It's been fun for all having a baby in the house.  Antonio and Martina have been amused and amazed at the developmental stages that Kieran has gone through, and Ken and I have had a wonderful time re-living them.
     This poor little blog has been badly neglected the past few months.  I've been a bit busy with the older kids back in school and enrolled in soccer.  Martina's Brownie troop starts meeting again this month as well.  Plus, I've been blogging at Little Ms. Sew-Unsew, where I discuss my sewing, quilting and knitting projects.
     It will be a challenge to have fresh homemade dinners every evening with soccer practices twice a week for both older kids, but luckily I have a few dishes which are quick to make with a little pre-planning.  The quinoa recipe below is a family favorite.  It was inspired by Weight Watchers' Santa Fe Rice frozen dinner.  [Note:  I grill the chicken, cook the black beans, and roast the corn in advance so all I have to do is throw everything together right before dinner.]

Mexican Style Quinoa

1 cup black beans
salt (optional)

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
salt, to taste

1 grilled chicken breast, cubed
roasted corn kernels
diced red onion
diced tomatoes
grated cheddar
1/2 avocado, sliced thin
plain yogurt

Soak the black beans in a pot for 6-8 hours, then drain and rinse with water.  Add water until the water line is 2 inches above the beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Salt the beans towards the end of the simmering process.  Drain, then set aside.

Soak the quinoa in a bowl for 15 minutes, then rinse with fresh water a couple of times (this is to release and wash away the saponin, which can give the quinoa a bitter taste if not removed).  Drain and place in a pot with 1.5 cups of fresh water and salt.  Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down the heat to simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

To serve:  Spoon some quinoa on a plate and add chicken, red onion, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, corn and avocado.  Top with yogurt (or sour cream if desired).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

     After a few days of playing in the snow near Bear Valley, we are now back home and settling back into our old routine.  It was quite an experience taking the new guy on vacation.  Some of our activities were cut short to allow for Kieran's nap time, and now that he's mobile, much of the vacation was spent keeping him out of trouble.  Still, the kids had a great time (I think), despite a few meltdowns (parents included).

    One drawback to the cabin we rented was there was neither trash nor recycling services.  We had to haul our garbage to the "refuse site" in the next town, and our recyclables came home with us.  Other than that, we liked the cabin and would consider renting it again in the spring or summer.  It sleeps up to 12, so we may do a joint trip with some good friends with kids the same ages as ours.
    Of course I had to check out the local thrift shops.  The shop in Angel's Camp huge, but the selection wasn't great, and it was overpriced for thrift shop merchandise.  I scored big at the Humane Society thrift shop in Arnold- small shop but a better selection and even better prices. 

Thrifted finds

    I've been looking for a big-ass glass juice reamer, and this one's the size of a boat (a gravy boat, that is).  And, yes, that is a vintage Vera Neumann scarf, as well as vintage Trifari Crown earrings.  Love! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New dishware

Canonsburg Temporama

     Like my new vintage dishes?  This dinner plate was purchased at an estate sale last weekend.  It will be joined by three more from an ebay battle I won last night.
     I just discovered a wonderful blog near and dear to my heart (see previous post).  Jennie at Wedgwood Tulsa blogs about the return of her 1955 ranch house to it's former glory.  I want a ranch house!  Anyway, she's having a giveaway of a platter that matches my new dinner plates.  Sigh... I never win stuff.  Get the scoop here:

Wedgwood Tulsa: Temporama Giveaway
    Fingers crossed :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kitsch'n Bitsch

     Staying home makes you realize how tired you are of seeing the same thing day in, day out.  I'm over the black/espresso furniture.  It makes the house look so dark and depressing.
     So the kitchen and living room are getting a cosmetic makeover.  Gradually.  Like a child that's outgrown it's old clothes.  Which we replace piecemeal as we find things we like on Craigslist, or from thrift shops and estate sales.  
     In turn, we are listing what we are replacing on Craigslist or Freecycle.  The goal is to buy our furnishings used (and inexpensively), but keep our cast-offs out of the landfill.  Plus it's fun trolling Craigslist.  And I've already posted about my love of thrift shops and estate sales.
     Part of the reason we're updating our place is that we really like the mid-century modern look.  I keep finding pieces from the 50's and 60's while I'm out thrifting.  I guess we're really out-dating, not updating.  We're okay with that.  But the pieces I bring home have to play nice in our modern looking home.  Here's a preview of some of the kitchen stuff I've found:

Vintage tea towel

Georges Briard-styled enamel pot

same pot, another view

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dress Envy

     I heart this dress.  Love the color, love the pintuck ruffles, love the red shoes with it.  It appeals to the vintage lover in me, and I like that it looks somewhat demure librarian, yet somewhat naughty secretary.  All it needs is a cute little red handbag and a pair of bookish glasses to complete the look.
    Don't ask me where I would wear this ensemble.  Walking the kids to school?  Out picking up groceries at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods?  At home as I unload the dishwasher or change baby's diaper?  Perhaps out on one of my thrift store jaunts?  No, sadly, it would be a special occasion dress, i.e. hubby and I hired a babysitter so we can actually have a (gasp!) date night.  And I'd have to ditch the glasses so as not to look too Jane Hathaway. 
    But I do heart that dress.  I may have to thrift a dress and embellish with pintuck ruffles to achieve the look.  I think I've just been inspired to do my first up-cycle project.  Thrift shops, here I come!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guilty pleasure: thrifting

     I have a confession to make.  I have a thrifting problem.  I believe my dear hubby has suspected as much, but has wisely kept silent.  Indeed, he's been my enabler, helping me find and going with me to estate and yard sales, though he seems to have drawn the line at going to thrift shops. 
     I think my hubby supports my habit because it's environmentally friendly (keeps stuff out of the land-fills), and he likes the retro stuff that I find.  Plus, it keeps me out of retail stores, which is a much more expensive habit.
     If you like vintage stuff enough to want to own it, then thrift shops, estate sales and yard sales are part of your life.  Here are some thrifting tips and tricks (none of this is new, but I thought I'd pass it along):

 Estate and Yard Sales:
  • Craigslist is a good resource for finding estate and yard sales.  I like to use keywords (such as vintage, mid-century, pyrex to narrow down the list).  I like it even better if pictures are included in the listing.
  • You have to be careful about "estate sales."  True estate sales are the liquidation of the contents of an entire house and garage.  I've gone to a few so-called estate sales which are really yard sales where the seller has purchased items from estate sales, and is now re-selling them for a profit.  Usually, the prices at this type are higher than at true estate sales.
  • If you're looking for vintage pyrex and kitchenware, the best time to show up is right at the beginning of the sale.  These items sell quickly.
  • The same can be said of vintage sewing and knitting paraphernalia.
  • If you like something but are not sure you want it, pick it up anyway.  You can always put it down at the final tally.  But if you don't pick it up and then go back for it, chances are it won't be there.
  • Generally, the more you pick up, the better the deal.  If you have a price in mind for what you've selected, don't be afraid to ask the seller if they'll take that amount for your lot.  Especially if it's towards the end of the day.
  • Always bring small bills.  It's a faux-pas to bargain down a price, then whip out a big bill for which the seller will have to make change.
 Thrift Shops
  • Consult to find which are the better thrift shops in your area.  It helps to read the reviews about a particular shop, as yelpers usually point out the strengths and weaknesses of a location they are reviewing, and which shops to avoid at all costs.
  • Be prepared to look at a lot of junk before finding your treasure.  On some days, you may walk away empty-handed.  The fun is in the search.
  • Know your limit- you aren't really thrifting if you're paying more than you wanted to for an item.  In either case, pat yourself on the back for keeping it out of the land-fill.
  • Find out what the sale days are for that particular shop.  Some shops have a discount on a certain department depending on the day of the week, or may have a certain day of the month when everything is 1/2 off.
  • If you're buying clothes and are going to try on at the store, wear something like a t-shirt and leggings so you can try-on over your clothes, or a t-shirt and a loose skirt so you can try-on under your clothes.  Donated clothes are not always pre-washed!
  • Familiarize yourself with labels.  I've seen Target merchandise priced upwards of $7.99, but labels sold at Anthropologie tagged at $3.99 (and yes, I jumped at the Anthropologie merch).
  • If you find an independently-run thrift shop that you like, donate your cast-offs regularly.  It never hurts to build a rapport with the owner or manager.  And by keeping them in business, you get to keep indulging in your guilty pleasure.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A treat for Martina

     Martina has been wanting to learn how to sew.  This, coupled with my fondness for vintage pieces, led to this purchase from a yard sale:

     It's a Singer 257, and it is heavy- I think I pulled a muscle putting it in the car!  The operating manual and accessories which usually come with a machine (screw driver, feet, extra needles, cleaning tool, etc) were not available.  The machine only came with the carrying case and foot peddle, so I was able to talk them down from $50 to $35 .  I gave it a good cleaning inside and out, oiled it and played around with the tension.  She's ready to go. 
     The machine matches Martina's room (which, I must admit,  did have somewhat of an influence when I made the decision to buy it).  Now to find space for it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sewing mishap, lesson learned

     I usually remove the pins as I sew before the needle sews over the pin.  Then I heard in my quilting class that it isn't necessary, as the pin almost always gives way to the needle.  Almost always.

     Lesson learned.  Remove the pins.  Luckily, I just bought a pack of needles a couple of weeks ago because the needles hasn't been changed since I've had the machine.
     With new needle in place, I can continue on with a tote bag with these fabrics:

     It's destined to be a gift for one of Martina's friends.  We'll fill with either art supplies, or some fun little tchotchkes from a Japanese store.