Monday, June 29, 2009

My Awesome House: The Spice Drawer

So I've been working my tail off for exactly one month trying to unpack, paint, organize and set up house. We've come a long way and we are getting there. Checking one thing after another off our long, long lists. So it's time for a little flaunting, just a little.

My kitchen counters are 14 feet long. Lower cabinets, dishwasher and sink along the island counter; upper and lower cabinets, stove and refrigerator along the wall. When I saw the kitchen I knew it was bigger than my last one, so I would have no trouble fitting all my stuff. But I'd conveniently forgotten the huge rack of kitchen appliances, serving dishes, and tupperware I'd been keeping in the laundry room.

No matter, I worked and worked those first weeks, to get the kitchen put together. Each day I'm getting a little better at remembering where things go when I unload the dishwasher. I'd gotten almost everything a place by week 2, but one placement eluded me - my spices! I have a lot and they need their space. My double decker lazy susan was cracked and crippled but I would still use it if I could. Only there just wasn't an upper cabinet for them. Or a lower cabinet. Or a shelf. I'd started researching wall-mounted wire racks when I had a vision. What the heck was I keeping in that huge drawer across from the fridge?

I'd overlooked it, walked right past it, in my considerations. I opened it and found a pair of scissors and the dishwasher user manual. And a huge empty drawer.

Behold, my spice drawer:

It's a beautiful thing. I almost hate to post it because I love opening it for first-time visitors, especially family who understand the spice thing, and observing the appreciative awe, but it's a good way to start my My Awesome House series.

I also keep my rolling pin in this drawer because it's too long for any others. That leaves almost no space for new spices so I knew I would have to be prudent. Then one time my dad laid one jar on top of the others and closed the drawer. "See?" he exclaimed, "You can do a whole second layer!" Aaaaahhh.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bake Sale Report

Hallelujah - camera cord has arrived so I can get back to blogging! It's high time for a bake sale report.

It was a grand success! A little crazy, a little stressful, but a screaming success. Friday, the day before, everybody dropped their goodies off at my house, and amongst all the boxes (we'd been in the house 6 days), a kingly mound of sweets developed on the dining table. Around 8pm my friend Lori came by and we hunkered down to a night of Diet Dr. Pepper, cellophane and ribbon. I printed off return-address size labels for each item, telling name and price, and we individually wrapped several hundred goodies in bags, plus about a dozen loaves.

The next morning I took my baskets, boxes, table cloths, aprons (I'd gone a little project-nuts one day and made iron-on "Carlin Hall" aprons for the Bake Sale workers), and lists and headed to the school. We set up a U-shape under a tent, with goodies on 2 tables, pizza on the third, and coolers of drinks and ice pops on the ground nearby. Someone dug out foamboard posters from the school attic and we hung them up - open for business!
Luckily the weather was perfect! Partly sunny, in the 80's - warm but not too hot. We ordered pizza from Domino's and sold it by the slice, made a killer profit on the water and sodas, and raked it in on the goodies. The other two workers and I were hopping the whole 3 hours of the fair, and I only ever stepped away to call for more pizza or run over to bid at the silent auction. Ed and the girls passed by once in awhile on their way to or from games, and for the occasional treat. By 4 o'clock the fair was over, everything was cleaned up, I was sweaty and had a killer headache, only realizing then that I was probably hungry and dehydrated.
Overall the fair made a record profit, about $2500, and the bake sale make about $400. I've got big plans for next year, like ordering more pizza (we kept running out) and charging more for it (at $1 a slice we only made $1 profit per pizza), rallying more help with the packaging (it took two of us almost three hours), and buying less water (I bought five cases from Costco and only used one.)

But what we really care about is what I made:

Cookies: Lime Meltaways, Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies, Molasses Gingersnaps, Peanut Butter Cookies, Mint Surprise Cookies

Bread: Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (from a Trader Joe's mix)

Cake: Lethal Peppermint Chocolate Cake

Visit The Virtual Goody Plate over the next week or so to get the recipes I haven't posted yet.

As a side note, the twin-sized quilt my Mom made for the silent auction brought in $150, and we're already planning for next year's. My cookie-of-the-month offering only brought in a disappointing $25 but I scored winning this awesome herb pot for my deck - chives, parsley, rosemary, basil, mint, thyme and oregano, and no work on my part!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mom Tip: Shopping List

Kind of random but here's how I do my grocery shopping list. I keep a magnetized paper pad on the fridge and write down things as I run out or as they occur to me. Then Saturday or Sunday when I make my menu plan for the week I write down everything else I'll need.

But the list is all jumbled, not in categories - RECIPE FOR SHOPPING FAILURE!

Between scolding, wiping noses, giving snacks, and issuing nonstop threats with one or both kids at the grocery store, I'm lucky to get anything on my list, much less read through and double-check it in every aisle.

So on my computer I have an excel list divided into categories. I take my handwritten list, enter it into the computer and print it out - makes life much easier!

But since moving to Virginia, with it's overwhelming shopping choices, I shop at four or five different stores, depending on the sales, or what area I'm going to be in for other errands. And of course all stores are arranged differently, and it's hard to keep track where things are in each one. It makes me crazy to have to backtrack when I've got ticking time bombs in tow.

So for the stores I frequent the most, on the back of my list I've written down the aisle numbers and what they contain. Then I've come home and made a custom list in excel for each store, not just with categories but with aisle numbers so I can really hopefully get what I need in each aisle:

I guess it kind of sounds obsessive but grocery shopping with kids is a science and takes as much preparation as possible. And even then it can be harrowing. Since preschool has ended I've taken both girls a few times, and usually come home in a deep sweat and having forgotten several things anyway. And in a bad mood to boot. So I'm back to my NY routine, which is getting up at 6am to shop before Ed leaves for work. Even so, the shopping list thing helps a ton so I'm not searching like crazy; after all, who likes to think at 6am?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Writing book reviews is mentally taxing, especially when one feels, as I often do, that words fail. How to perfectly capture the tone of someone else's work in your own words while also relaying just-enough-but-not-too-much plot, and, in this case, trying to convince every person I know to read it immediately? Even as I write, I waffle whether to even try, the alternative being to copy the entire back cover into this post, summary and book review quotes in full.

Ever since finishing Jeeves a month ago I've had trouble getting into a book. Tried a few but the timing just wasn't right for me and them to make it happen. One afternoon I finally sat down and gave myself 15 minutes to browse categories, lists, and reviews on Amazon to find a suitable read, one that would fit my mood just right. I wanted easy but not fluffy. I wanted deep but not depressing. I wanted humorous but substantial. Reviews of Guernsey gave me high hopes so I took the leap.

Aaaah, the leap! Could hardly put it down - I wanted to savor but couldn't help rushing through. Charming is too cliche but what says it better?

"Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naive...It's tempting to throw around terms like 'gem' when reading a book like this. It's as charming and timeless as the novels for which its characters profess their love." - San Fransisco Chronicle Book Review

All I usually need are fabulous characters, gifted writing and a great ending - maddeningly hard to find altogether, so when I do I make a big deal about it.

"The characters step from the past radiant with eccentricity and kindly humor. The writing, with its delicately offbeat, self-deprecating stylishness, is exquisitely turned." - The Guardian (UK)

And ok, the obligatory summary, totally copied because it's so well put:

January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton (love her!) receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

My only sadness is there is no sequel. What on earth shall I read next? Maybe I should look into Charles Lamb...

Sunday, June 14, 2009


So while I was moving/pulling the computer across a room the other day I managed to bend my plugged-in camera cord enough to permanently incapacitate not only it but also one of my precious USB ports. So a new cord is on order but until then I'm strapped and can't upload pictures, pictures upon which most of my blog posts rely. I'm not gonna lie to you, it's annoying. I can try to start drafting but I don't like to without the pictures. Guess I'll just go hang a curtain rod or find a place for those last remaining kitchen items.

In other news, I LOVE my house. LOVE IT. The honeymoon was short, as we have quickly discovered its flaws, and the repair list grows longer, but every day I look around and love it. I expect there will be a new series on the blog - What I Love About My House or some such. May come off braggy but whatever. I think back on our history of apartments and decide I deserve to love my house and revel in it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Disco Mom is in the House

...and I have internet, woohoo!

We are up to our chins in boxes, and the house echoes as we move around, but bit by bit, box by box, we are settling in. I could tell you the story of moving day, the details of organizing the kitchen, the way "rough" is an understatement for the girls' adjustment, or our new favorite game:
"Where Did I Put _____: (I Just Saw it a Minute Ago)."

But I'm too tired and have too much else to do right now. Like paint. And clean. And unpack. And put together. And get all the stuff for the bake sale organized. And baked. So for now a few pictures:

Living Room

Dining Room
First Batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies
(I've got my priorities straight)
And a final two words for you:DOUBLE VANITY
(I have arrived.)
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