Monday, July 25, 2011

$6 Summer Wreath (better late than never)

Sadly enough, this little wreath has been several months in the making. It didn't literally take me several months to make, but let's just say I've been wanting one ever since it was supposed to be a spring wreath. The only problem was, I couldn't find the right kind of greenery I was looking for and still stay within my usual cheapskate budget.

Then all of a sudden, things started falling into place last week.  I unexpectedly found this wreath at Goodwill for $2.49.  Score #1.

Then I found this interesting faux flower thing at Hobby Lobby for about $3. It had a bunch of narrow yellow/green leaves, along with small white and yellow buds. The leaves and stems had tiny wires in them, so they'd be easy to stick into my wreath. It was like it was made exactly for the purpose I wanted. Score #2!

So, as I previously alluded to, all I did was cut off the leaves and stems with wire cutters (I only used about half of them). Then I just tucked them into the wreath far enough so it felt like they wouldn't fall out.

About 30 minutes later, I ended up with this.

And here it is, giving our front door a little extra flair. Simple and pretty, but not too flowery.

On second thought, it may be a little on the puny side, but oh well. It does the job, and the price was right!

  Weekend Bloggy Reading

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Don't count your veggies before they grow

Okay. I'm trying not to get too excited about this.

Remember when I decided to start a vegetable garden?

I have a bit of a black thumb and admittedly didn't really know what I was doing. Planting seeds seems easy enough, but I figured if there was a way to screw it up, I would.

Well, here's what it looks like now. Be still, my beating heart!

Somehow, I have managed to keep my vegetables alive, even despite the scorching heat we've had! I would say the cucumbers are thriving the most, followed by the zucchini and then the green beans.

I should probably mention that in my initial post, a couple of you gave some helpful recommendations to get some chicken wire or fencing for the vines to grow up instead of out. So they wouldn't get out of control. As you can see, I did not heed that well-meaning advice. My only excuse is pure laziness. At this point I've decided to just let them grow wherever they may.

Not all of the seeds I planted survived, but that's probably a good thing given the limited space here. I'm also seeing some yellow blossoms on the cucumbers... another promising sign, yes?

It looks like they should start producing any time now, but I still haven't seen anything yet... So I'll continue to wait and remain cautiously optimistic about my future veggie crop. Cross your fingers for me!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blog updates

Look up there, at the top of my blog. See anything new?

I've been doing a little organizing around here, creating a couple new pages for the posts I've done that qualify as "Crafty Stuff" or "Before & Afters." This is my way of keeping them easily accessible for reference and not buried away somewhere in the depths of my blog. There's not a whole lot to start with, but I'll keep adding to them over time.

(And for those of you who are reading this through e-mail or some other type of feed, I guess you'll just have to come visit my blog to see what I'm talking about!)

Sorry, no pictures or anything exciting in today's post. But if you check out my new pages, you'll find pretty pictures there. ;) And I'll have a garden update soon -- I know you've been waiting for it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If these walls could talk....

They would probably say, "What the $&*#% took you so long?!"

Three years, three months, and sixteen days after we closed on our house (but who's counting?), we finally have some walls in our unfinished dungeon basement. Before I continue, I realize that if we're getting technical, this is merely the framework. But for the sake of feeling like progress has been made, and because it's my blog, I'm calling them walls, mmmkay?

So ladies and gentleman (hello? anyone still out there who cares?), I now present the proof of our progress:

The first wall

It's up!

Adding the doorway to the laundry room, plus one of the walls for the shower in the bathroom

View from in the laundry room

Okay, there's only so many photos of 2x4s I can show before it starts to get a little redundant. That's all I really have time to post right now, but I had to stop being a tease and actually show the goods. Well, you know what I mean.

I've also determined that summer is not exactly the best time to start any large project, because there are too many other things going on. So at this rate, maybe I'll have more walls to show by, say, November? I kid, I kid... hopefully.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I recently had the urge to make some chocolate chip cookies, but not just any chocolate chip cookie. The recipe off the back of the chocolate chip bag (although good) wasn't going to cut it this time. So I started searching for some new adaptations and happened to stumble upon Lisa's quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. After perusing a few of the recipes she had tried out (bless her heart!), I settled on this King Arthur Flour recipe, below. I think I was drawn to it because it uses vinegar, which I hadn't seen before in a CCC recipe.

2/3 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, right from the fridge, or at room temperature
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. vinegar, cider or white (I used cider)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
2 c. all-purpose flour (no, I did not use King Arthur brand)
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. (I just used my baking stone.)

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, salt, vanilla, vinegar, and baking soda, beating until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg, again beating until smooth. Mix in the flour (use a sifter!), and then the chips.

Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to scoop 1 1/4" balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2" between them on all sides; they'll spread.

Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes, till their edges are chestnut brown and their tops are light golden brown, almost blonde. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan till they've set enough to move without breaking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

NOTE: Upon reading the original recipe from King Arthur Flour, I chilled the dough for about 48 hours before baking. Apparently this is supposed to deepen the flavors or something like that. (Side note: Roll the dough into a log before refrigerating, like I did below, so you can just cut it in slices when you're ready. This is also a great gift idea for anyone who loves freshly-baked cookies... and who doesn't?!)

Just look at these gorgeous, perfectly-shaped cookies!

As you would expect, they were amazing fresh out of the oven -- nice, uniformly thick, and chewy -- but still delicious even after they'd cooled off later on. I think chilling the dough also keeps them from spreading out as much, so they stay thicker. The texture and color are just about perfect, too. If you want a really good detailed review, check out Lisa's post over at Sweet as Sugar Cookies. I really admire this girl for all of her baking endeavors (which we get to benefit from)!

Another thing I like about this recipe is that it only uses one bowl for all the ingredients. (Normally, I'm used to mixing the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another bowl, then mixing those two together.) As far as I'm concerned, this is my new go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

On the subject of cookies, did you know that putting a slice of bread in your jar/container of cookies will keep them from drying out and getting hard? I had heard it before but just tried it for the first time with these. The next day, the bread was hard and dry, but the cookies were still soft and chewy. Amazing!

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Manic Monday @ Serendipity and Spice


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