Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Love/Hate Relationship

The first time I ever saw Martha Stewart, she was in a TV spot for American Express, tiling her pool with other banks' cut up credit cards about 10 years ago. At the time, I didn't know who she was, but it wasn't long after this commercial that I caught her show for the first time.

Immediately, I knew she was spawn of the devil, long before she went to the slammer. I mean, who has the time or the inclination to fashion their own place mats for a dinner party out of twigs? Give me a freakin' break. As if women don't feel inadequate enough as it is.

As a matter of fact, Martha was a big inspiration for this blog. To kind of show the average woman she's not alone. We all don't have a team of 25 working behind the scenes to make our crafts, cooking and entertaining look so effortless. Screw you, Martha.

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enthralled with the woman and her craftiness. I've bought her magazines a time or two, and I've kept them for future reference. I've visited her web site for wedding and other event ideas. I've tuned into her show as recently as last Monday.

My most recent foray to the dark side was purchasing her Halloween edition Holiday magazine while visiting my parents. How could I resist? I'm a Halloween fanatic and she used one of my most favorite printing tricks - the flip book. One side of the magazine shows her dressed as a goddess and boasts 150 good things (and bad things, too). Flip it over and she's a witch advertising 150 bad things (and good things, too). How clever!

As you can imagine, the squeaky clean side emphasizes the lighter side of Halloween; the dark side highlights the spookier aspects. Pure genius! And both sides have tons of ideas for decorating, entertaining and stuffing your face, a few of which I plan to try this season. Watch this space for the gory details.

In the meantime, check out her web site. There are even more adorable ideas there (some I'd even call easy), including how-to videos. And tune in to her Fine Living Halloween special called Bad Things, Good Things every Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Oscar Madison Than Felix Unger?

Don't despair, you might not be as big of a slob as you thought. Take me, for instance.

Our house is chock full of crap and, I'll admit it, most of it is mine. Recipes, receipts, lists, junk mail, clothes, books, happy meal toys, kitchen gadgets, baking pans, sporting equipment (funny if you know me and how un-athletic I am), etc.

And while I've always said at least I'm just messy, not dirty, it has been cold comfort. Until yesterday.

Since I've been home with Ian, I've had the pleasure of seeing our meter reader. She's a super nice lady and I always feel completely guilty when I see her that she has to go through such an obstacle course just to do her job.

Not sure of her schedule, I am sure that there have been plenty of times she's had to maneuver around garbage bags and recyclable items we pile at the back door in lieu of putting them outside in their proper receptacles just to get inside.

After she makes it down our cat-hair covered basement stairs, there are untold numbers of boxes, kids' toys, groceries and more she has to navigate around. Once we finally got rid of all the stuff we moved to this house that we decided we didn't need after the fact, it was pretty well organized down there. For awhile.

But a few weeks ago, we started to have some work done that caused us to move all the stuff out of our coal room into the main area of the basement, so it's probably now worse than ever.

Long story long, I was apologizing to this dear, patient woman for the mess she always encounters when visiting our home and she assured me I had nothing to worry about. That she's seen some pretty disgusting things in her day (fat old men in their underwear notwithstanding). Including kids eating food off plates that were literally crawling with cockroaches.

Somehow, I feel vindicated. I'm okay comparatively speaking, and you probably are, too.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Better Late Than Pregnant

Especially when you're just getting out your baby's birth announcement almost three months after the precious little one was born. People get busy. Your life isn't your own anymore. Time gets away from you. I can forgive all that.

The problem I have with myself in this particular situation is that I had the envelopes and stamps a month ago, we rushed to have the things printed at about the same time (without proofing, so there are two typos in there which is quite embarrassing in my line of work), and my mother-in-law was kind enough to address the marjority of them for us.

Could the way this task was handled stem from my fear of success/fear of failure?

Yes and no. (Give me a break, I'm a Libra.)

A lot of the addresses were wrong because I was using a list from our wedding three years ago and my handwriting and editing notes were difficult to decipher, so a decent amount of envelopes had to be changed. And I had some new names to add to the list and addresses to acquire.

Plus, we ordered only so many pictures from his hospital shot. Many fruitless attempts at making additional copies took time, albeit yielding no results. And today I finally had to do some hard picking and choosing of who got a picture, who didn't, and whose was only wallet size.

I can only hope I do better with Ian's three months picture. At this rate, they'll be in the mail by the time he enters kindergarten.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

God Help Us All

My son, Ian, was baptized three weeks ago. We invited a few friends and some family to share this special day with us and planned to have a cookout after the festivities. My sister, Kathy, flew in to perform her duties as Godmother and she also was a big help getting ready for the par-tay.

Now I am famous for overdoing things, particularly food – namely homemade food – at parties. This time, I decided, things would be different. I thought I was doing good. We were expecting about 28 total (including us) and we were just going to have hamburgers (bought pre-pattied), hot dogs, baked beans, veggie tray, Asian salad, chips and a cake. Really, the only things I had to make were the salad and the cake.

Well, when I was trying to find ideas for my cake on webshots.com, I noticed one ambitious baker made some cross cookies. I decided I wanted to make some cross cookies. I mean, how hard could it be? You buy some sugar cookie rolls and a cookie cutter and ta-da – cross cookies.

While I was shopping at Cincinnati Cake and Candy Supply, I happened to notice they had cross molds. Hmmmm. A little chocolate is always nice at a party. And how hard can they be? You buy the mold, you buy the chocolate, you melt the chocolate, you put it in the mold, you let it cool and ta da – cross shaped chocolates. So I picked up the mold, white chocolate mint and milk chocolate pieces.

Kathy suggested we also have a buffalo chicken dip and a pasta salad, both of which she offered to make. Just to prove I'm not the only one complicating things, Kathy wanted us to get rotisserie chickens instead of canned chicken because our oldest sister, Sharon, said that's what she does to make it 'fresher.' (Personally, I didn't notice a difference.)

While at Costco, I saw watermelons for $3.99 and decided that's always good at a party, especially one on Labor Day weekend, and all you have to do with one is cut it up. So I picked one up. (Thanks to the friendly couple who pointed out my first choice was moldy on the bottom.) They didn't have pre-made burgers in any size mere mortals could actually eat, so we had to just buy ground beef and patty them ourselves.

To back track, I had ordered a baptismal outfit off ebay over a week before the baptism. I didn't get it 'til Saturday and it had milk stains all over it. Gross. And it was dry clean only, so my bargain just turned into a liability. Kathy found a store called Fancy Kids in Reading (the bridal capital of the world) and we found a cute, reasonably priced outfit there, but it still was a stop (and research) we didn't plan to make.

In spite of it, I thought we were in good shape to get the house picked up and all the food made in time for us to leave for the church at 2:30 on Sunday.

I was up til past midnight making the cake and I was questioning my cake decorating abilities, as I always do. The thought even crossed my mind that I might have to actually buy one from Kroger or something. That and the fact that I trashed the kitchen.

The next day, I went to make the cookies and the first batch turned into blobs. Really, none of the batches came out with sharp-edged crosses. But I guess decorating helped give the illusion that they looked nice. Had to completely give up on the chocolate crosses. *sigh*

I barely had time to take a shower and, up until that point, wasn't even sure the one dress I thought I could fit into post-pregnancy, with new giant boobs, was going to work. Thank God it did. Kathy and I were scrambling to pick up the kitchen and get things set up since our guests were getting back to our place the same time as us. By the time we got to the church, all of our family and friends were already there. Somewhat embarrassing, but thankfully, the priest got the party started about 15 minutes late.

Everything turned out fine, though, in the end. Ian got all Catholicized and everyone seemed to have a good time. The only sad part is more than one person who knew how crazed I'd been said, 'Well, live and learn.' The sad part is, I never do. We'll be doing it all over again for our annual Ornament Exchange Party this December and I'm sure for many other gatherings in between. Can I get an Amen?

Themes Rule!

I love me a good theme, just like I love me some matchy-matchiness. I guess that's why I enjoyed planning our wedding so much. We picked a theme – Las Vegas – and went with it.

And that's what my friend, Kristen, did for her daughter's first birthday. Not the Vegas thing, though it would be fun to be that unconventional for your kid's birthday. I'll have to bear that in mind when Ian turns one next June...

Anyway, for Alyssa's festivities, fun in the sun was the theme of the day since the party was of the pool persuasion. And the thread that held it all together was flip flops.

It all started with a flip flop invitation she found on vistaprint.com. As far as I remember (I had a Bacardi Mojito – yum! – and it doesn't take much to get me buzzed these days), there were flip flop napkins, flip flop plates and the most adorable (and delicious) flip flop cookies. Too cute!

Kristen went all out and had little gift bags for all the kids in attendance, so Ian got his first pair of shades along with some treats to eat (which Mom enjoyed since he still doesn't have teeth), party favors and an adorable picture of his bud, Alyssa.

Way to go, Kristen. You have definitely set the bar high and believe me, I've already started planning. Viva las birthdays!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not Well-Versed In The Art Of Crisped Rice

Yes, it's true. I literally had to look up the recipe for Rice Krispies Treats.

Sad, I know.

I've eaten plenty in my day, but rarely do I myself fire up a batch. I rely on my GLOJAG pals (a group of girls I met while working together several years ago) to make RKTs, as we like to call them. We're getting together this weekend for a camping outing and while at the grocery store, I got a wild hair while walking down the baking aisle.

Of course, I bought the store brand of crisped rice (now that I'm officially a stay-at-home mom, I have to watch my pennies even more) so I had to look up the 'recipe.' Oddly enough, the number one listing on Google was from cookingforengineers.com.

Pretty funny. They turned a 3-ingredient recipe into a page-long diatribe, complete with pictures, graph-like directions and 98 messages thus far. Plus, I learned that Mildred Day, a Kellogg employee, created the recipe back in 1941 for a Camp Fire Girls fundraiser. Who knew?

Mistrusting girl that I am, though, I also went to the source, Kellogg's, just to confirm those brainy types had it right - they did. While I was there, checking out the recipe exchange to see if they had all the combos one of my friends co-workers likes to whip up, I saw one of my favorite cookie recipes of all time - Date Balls.

My mom makes them for the holidays. My dad says they look like horse turds, but I don't care. They taste fantastic and they'll keep you regular. So next time you want to do something a little different with your crisped rice, give them a try.