Monday, January 31, 2011

Show and Tell Monday - Special Edition (kt40)

Is it Show and Tell Monday already? Well, thank God! I've been dying to share this with you.

I am curating a group art show that is scheduled to open on Saturday, February 26th. The show, called Love Is: Romantic Renderings of Daily Life, has seven featured artists and photographers. One of the artists lives in Italy. Her work came over last week, well packaged, and I wanted to wait to open the work until it was someplace safe. Today,  the safe place appeared, and I began opening the artwork. 

Katy Keuter, don't expect much of your work to be sent back to Italy after the show. That's all that I have to say.

"Permission" by Katy Keuter
9 3/4" by 9 3/4"
Mixed media acrylics and collaged papers on 100% cotton canvas,
sealed with a gel medium and a medium gloss protecting varnish

Can you imagine that this was the first one that I saw? I nearly fell over. I know Katy's more recent work pretty well, and this is so different to me. I loved all of her work so much, that I asked her to participate in this show, and then I saw this. Well, consider it sold.

For Show and Tell Monday, February 28th, I promise to post photographs from the exhibit, so that you can see all of her work, and the work of the other amazing artists and photographers that are showing. If you are local and would like to join us, please do! Champagne and strawberries will be everywhere, and most of the artists will be there for you to meet. It's from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Gallery at River's Edge, 106 Broadway, in Denville, NJ.

Guess what else? I received a really special gift from her. I wonder, are all curators so lucky as to receive gifts from artists in their shows?

Velvet black drawstring bag, with KT40 signature label.
The way this ribbon is tied, and the tag, it looks like a pretty apron.
What's inside, you wonder? It's Show and Tell Mondays, not Show and Spill the Beans on All Good Things Mondays. Let's just say that I love it, it's so Katy, and I will keep it close to my heart. 

Have a great week, all.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What a Weekend (feel the love, see me and raise me one domestic goddess)

This was one amazing weekend. I cannot express how deeply loved I felt, or how wonderfully comforting that was. In addition (separately), I cannot tell you a time that I've enjoyed myself more at a party, or engaged in better conversation.

I can say that I spent this weekend surrounded by people who are very close to me and love me, and one of those people in particular brought the love to a whole new level. It is utterly intoxicating, the love and attention that was given to me. I am beyond words. This alone was enough to make this weekend the best on record since our weekend in Point Judith.

Now, the party we (W and I) attended was hosted by a friend whose home I was visiting for the first time. While I may fancy myself a domestic goddess, I have to say that I should be passing the crown to KScorna. She is truly a domestic goddess. She made the most delicious recipes, has a gorgeous well-cared for house, and a walk-in closet in her kitchen filled with aprons, cook books, recipes, and more. Oh, and she just finished knitting a fabulous twisty scarf, is raising two kids, and happens to also have her own business as a graphic designer. You must check out her company, Water's Edge Design. I am booking her for some work next week.

As we walked into her house, we immediately felt welcomed. Her house is warm, yet spacious, and as her husband came to the door, he was smiling. That's always a good way to start a party. Everyone was in great spirits, and the kitchen, which is giant and gorgeous, and is completely surrounded by windows (offering a supreme view of the lake), was breathtaking. With all the snow we've been forced to endure, this party was just this thing to remind us of all good things.

Oh, and to top it all off, when we got home from the party, we decided to watch SNL. Lately, it's been an unfunny show, but last night was uncharacteristically good. If you didn't catch it, you can watch the entire show on (the episode I am referring to, with special guest Jesse Eisenberg, is available for viewing by clicking here). We laughed so hard that I am surprised we didn't wake the children.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hit By Cupid's Arrow (shoot one yourself, get involved)

I am assuming that you all know what it means to Ghost someone's house at Halloween. (If not, click here to read about it.) In keeping with the spirit of spreading anonymous good cheer for a holiday, I am starting something new. At least, I think I am.

It's been a dreary winter. Were it not for my family, and the love of my oh so fabulous boyfriend, I'd been sitting under the seasonal affective disorder lights with a 'Gansett in hand, 24/7. Still, I thought it might be nice to play Amelie and spread a little love for Valentine's Day. I do have one rule. Send only to people who are the same gender that you are. The reason I created this rule is to prevent jealously or problems for people in relationships -- we don't need someone's husband, wife, or significant other to wonder who the hell sent you a heart shaped card, or flowers, or whatever. So sign what you send, even if it's with just your first name.

My extra large conversation hearts in a Ball jar.
I am starting this off on Friday the 28th, so you may want to be on the lookout for something from me. I am not sending to just good friends, and good friends might not get anything. I am sending randomly, to people in my phone book, to whatever page I happen to open up.

The purpose of this is not to receive thanks; rather, it's to share a little good cheer with someone you know. 

I have been obsessing, yes, still, about getting you all involved in Project PDA. This is primarily because I think our society needs a little more joy and a little more love. It's super easy to do and lots of fun. And, my darlings, it's free. So maybe when you shoot cupids arrow (details to follow), you can take a photo of it, and post it on Project PDA. (My sweet kt40, I am hoping you will do something for Project PDA. It is sooo you!) We all can easily find stuff to complain about, but what about sharing good words? 

Oh, and regarding those mind-blowing Private Displays of Affection? Mmmm... those are good to practice, too. Really good. But let's keep them private (they're private for a reason).

how to shoot cupid's arrow (the four D's):

  • Designate to whom you will be sending your treat. It could be a friend, someone at work, and old lady who lives alone on your street, your sister, whoever.
  • Decide what you are going to do. Leave a note, some flowers, a Ball jar full of conversation hearts. You can bring someone a cup of coffee or tea, make them a mix CD, bake them a dozen cookies. If you are crafty, you can make something special. It's yours to decide what to do. I like the vintage looking cards. I know that they sell them in packs at United Smoke Shop. You could probably get real vintage ones, too. 
  • Details: Put a note inside your special package that says, "You've been hit by Cupid's arrow. Do something special for someone important in your life, something to make them smile. Be sure to send it to someone of the same gender only, and to sign your name. Spread the love."
  • Deliver (or mail) your little bit of loveliness to your recipient. (If you are Project PDAing it, take a photo of it before you send it, or if you are leaving it on the hood of a car or a doorstep, photograph it there.)

Most importantly, have fun with it. The love you give away comes right back to you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Everyone's An Artist

Every child is an artist. Parents always have their children's artwork hanging on the refrigerator, the walls, somewhere around the house. Yet somehow, as kids get older, art falls to the wayside. 

I am not sure why. In part, I think a large chunk of our society focuses more on sports than art. Perhaps this is because we can sit in the bleachers and watch, and cheer our kids on. It could even be that we long for the accomplishments we wish we had made back in the day (think Al Bundy and his high school football attachment), so we live vicariously through our children.

Regardless, art is what makes life more beautiful. It's historic. Even adults who aren't into art will know and can identify the da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Michelangelo's David and the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Munch's The Scream. There is Picasso, Monet, Manet, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Dali, Kahlo, Rivera, I could go on. Architecture is another form of art. Statues, fountains, churches. People travel to places like Italy just to see all of the art and architecture that exists. They go to France to visit the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa up close. We love art. Why is it that when it comes to art at home, we forget?

Our schools budgets tend to cut the arts in general before they cut funding for anything else, like, I hate to say it again, sports.

And it's not just the schools. Tonight, our local news reported that the Jersey City Museum has closed. It's been around for over 100 years and had a vast art collection (over 20,000 pieces). The article "Jersey City Arts Treasure Closes" by Bob Hennelly says, "This latest setback for the Jersey arts scene comes as non-profit groups state wide are bracing for continued cut backs as Governor Christie and the legislature try and close a ten billion dollar budget gap." Clearly, we need to invest our own money in keeping art alive.

My son loves art. The girls love it, too. Together, they take art classes at a studio called Let's Create. I am thrilled about this. My son has been creating since he was old enough to sit upright. He sold his first piece of art at a group art show four years ago, when he was six. The show was in a bar, and was all adults, but my son's father and uncle were in it, so they submitted one of his pieces, too. It sold for $60 to someone who didn't know my son, nor did he know that the artist was only six (at least not until after he bought it). Since then, my son's been to lots of art openings, and we've even had a chalk art show here on my block, in the same spirit of the SCAD annual sidewalk arts festival.

I am organizing a children's group art show just before summer solstice, called "Dreaming of a Midsummer Night." It is open to all children ages 2 - 16, and the guidelines are minimal. The opening will be held the Saturday before Father's Day, complete with a lemonade and cookie opening reception. (Interested readers please contact me.) It is my hope that this show will be the first of many for our children, and that it will inspire our kids to continue to paint, draw, sketch, and sculpt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Freezing Temps and A Nice Warm Car (thank you, W)

I cannot remember a time when it's been so cold for so many consecutive days. I don't need to get into numbers with you, as the bitter cold temps have been record breaking and making news across the country. But I will say that today, when I got into my truck to take my son to school, my truck's temperature gage read three degrees.

But my car sure was warm.

There is nothing worse than waking up and heading out of a warm house to a cold truck, except maybe getting into a cold truck at night. I remember running out to my truck ten minutes before I'd have to get in, wearing my son's sneakers, and throwing on a coat, just to warm it up. I say remember because those days have been gone for something like six weeks now.

About two weeks into December, W gave me an early Christmas present. He switched trucks with me for a day, he said, to pick up a large present. He said he needed my truck. Well, we both have trucks so I wasn't sure this made much sense, but mine is a bit larger (like, inches larger - no big deal). I couldn't figure out what it might be. Maybe a piece of furniture from Savannah Hope Vintage?

So, we meet up for lunch and I run to my truck. He is sitting in the drivers seat, and he hands me my keys, with a bow on them. My keys? And then I see a small black thing with a grey button. He smiles. Then he tells me all about how to use my present.

My remote starter.

Oh, I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this gift! Every time I leave my truck, I set my heater to the desired start temperature so that when I click the starter, it turns on the truck, and with it, the heat. I cannot remember the last time I got into my truck and it wasn't warm. This year, of all years, is the one it is the most necessary. Thank you so much, W, for the greatest gift ever!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Show and Tell Monday - Frida Kahlo

I found this item for kt40's Show and Tell Monday, while looking for something last week. I also have a show and tell ready for next week, and it's all about the wonderful and talented (did I mention generous?) Katy Keuter. So stay tuned...

Here, my beautiful, hand painted wooden necklace with Frida Kahlo on the front. I saw it years ago on ebay, and had to have it. Ironically, I've only worn it a few times, but it is one of my most favorite things.

Bought on ebay, signed Tracy '05
On top, it's written "AMOR", because Surprise! Look what, or should I say who, is on the back...

Diego Rivera! 

Kahlo and Rivera are two of Mexico's most famous artists. However, they are also known for having a turbulent love affair that lasted over thirty years. When they met, she was a 15 year old schoolgirl, and he was her teacher. And did I mention that he was married? Nothing happened, not until six years later when they happened to meet each other once again. Thankfully, he was divorced (whew!) and the two fell in love. They married a year later.

A young Frida Kahlo
Years into the marriage, Rivera had an affair with Kahlo's younger sister, which devastated her, causing the marriage to crumble to an end in 1940. Ten years later, when Kahlo's health was in severe decline, Rivera married her once again. People speculated that Kahlo used her poor health as a means to drag Rivera back into her life. Regardless, she was dying and passed away in 1954 with Rivera beside her.

Artists and lovers Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
I can't stand infidelity. I think it is the most unforgivable breach of love and trust. However, I do like that Rivera and Kahlo stuck together through the ups and downs of 30 years of living. Perhaps it's not a fairy tale romance, but does make for an interesting story.

Rivera kisses Kahlo

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Green(?) Goddess (with dressing recipe)

Is the Domestic Goddess going green? I'm doing the best that I can. We live in a very disposable, plastic society and being green does require some work. 

I've written about this a lot lately; it's not a new kick, but it seems like every time I get on the Internet, I find a link that motivates me to write. After reading about the floating plastic island (pointed out to me by my old cheerleading friend Joi), I've done everything I can to eliminate buying unnecessary, plastic items. I buy bigger packages so that the waste is less (one container instead of two), and when I buy drinks for upcoming events, I will buy things bottled in glass. 

For financial reasons, I will be handling my own lawn care, with the exception of mowing, which is something my neighbor's son has offered to do for $25 a pop. Looking through my gardener's former schedule of maintenance, I realized that my grass (which wasn't really that green anyway), was loaded with unnecessary, expensive chemicals. My town technically won't allow anything that is not organic to be applied to our lawns; we have five lakes in town and runoff is a concern. Yet I would bet that the stuff that my landscaper used was not organic. 

After starting to use my Evelyn Fields reusable unbleached cotton coffee filters, and shaking the grinds off of them and into the garbage twice a day, I realize that those grinds can be composted. Composted? Did I just say that? I never thought I'd be interested in composting, but after seeing images and videos of the plastic island, I feel that I have to do as much as I can to green my home. W's mom has a compost heap in her backyard, and my ex-husband and his wife have a composter. The idea wasn't foreign to me, it just screamed more work, more separating. I have a paper recycling bin, another for plastics and aluminum, and now a composter? I don't want to do it; I am compelled to do it. My waste is ridiculous. After sending an email to a friend asking how to begin composting, I saw this link (click here) online via Whole Foods. After reading it, and getting thoroughly grossed out by the worm bin idea, I've decided that I will be composting outside.

In this three minute Sierra Club video on how to compost (made in 2008), the on-camera personality says that we throw away 200 million pounds of trash per day. That's a lot of trash. I cannot guess if that number has grown or gotten smaller in these few years, but numbers floating around 200 million pounds a day isn't too promising.

There is a website called, How to Compost that has all sorts of tips and tricks for composting. While I am happy to get my hands dirty, I am going to choose the least wormy method possible. I want to have it tucked away in my yard, in a place that won't be too intrusive, but that's still close to the back door of my home. I have never seen W's mom's pile, in part because she has a vast, wooded yard, though it's more probable that she has it in a very inconspicuous place. 

Click here for a list of some things you can compost that might surprise you (latex balloons, shredded bills, hair from your hairbrush, moldy cheese, stale beer, plain cooked pasta, and that is just the beginning), courtesy of Planet Green.

And to reward you for your patience, here is a super easy recipe for Basil Green Goddess dressing by Ina Garten (with my modifications).

basil green goddess dressing
modified from Ina Garten's recipe


  • 1 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (6 to 7 scallions)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream


Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, white vinegar, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the sour cream and process just until blended. (If not using immediately, refrigerate the dressing until ready to serve.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Stuf(f) Becomes A Four-Letter Word

I've been very interested in paring down lately. After hearing an interview with Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding, I decided to take stock of all that is in my home, and get rid of things I haven't used in a while (or at all), and things that I no longer need. I'm not a hoarder, far from it, but in the past I had a tendency to live in clutter. It's been a few years since I've really gotten to a place where my home is always neat, but I figure it can't hurt to gather up the things in my house that I no longer need, and donate them to someone who can use them.

When I see something that doesn't have a home, whether it be a book, a pair of scissors, a ribbon, and I don't put it away, it quietly nags me from in a hidden spot in my mind. Every time I pass the item, I feel like I am failing both myself and my home. Taking five minutes to either find it a home or put it in the bag of things to be donated relieves the stress.

Letting go of things that we think we need isn't easy. I've gotten rid of wine glasses that I had saved for years, just in case I had a party of 40 people who needed formal stemware. That was years ago, and I still haven't had that party. I also minimized my extensive mug collection, only keeping mugs that were from special places that I visited, and two mugs from my son (with a "T" and a "W" on each). I put a couple of extra ones in storage (that are going to be donated soon). Since I've sorted through the mugs, I try very hard not to buy new ones. When I do, I know that they will replace an old mug (and that mug gets donated). I did this with my plates, bowls, and bake ware. More isn't better. It's just more.

The key to maintaining this order, is to be sure not to buy new stuff to replace the old. It may be tempting to buy decorative plates for each holiday, but those things take storage and don't really get a lot of playtime. I use the same plates and cups all year long, but alternate tablecloths and napkins. These are easy to store, as they lay flat and don't take up much space. White plates always look great atop any tablecloth, so if you are starting from scratch, give white plates a try.

We can't get rid of our grandmother's favorite sweater, or our child's first pair of shoes, and keeping them in a special place does them justice. If, however, they are being stored in a box in the basement collecting dust, then you should think about giving them away. I have some art and old mirrors in my basement, mostly because I rotate my art and mirrors on a fairly regular basis. Still, I try not to keep stuff I don't use.

Children's art and clothing are sometimes tough to part with. W had a great idea for our kids' art. He photographs it, then makes the photos into art books, so that they can always see and enjoy their past projects. This limits having piles of paper around the house, and the art won't get torn (because it's photographed and gone). For their clothing, we've made our kids t-shirt quilts through Willow Creek Studio (717) 903-1060. They call them Memory Blankets. You send them the t-shirts you'd like included in the blanket, and you choose the color backing you'd like (it's chenille, and it's beautiful). We've had ours for a few years, and it's our favorite blanket. For my son's, I included a couple favorite pairs of pants. I asked them to have the pockets of the pants show on a couple squares of the quilt, and now we use them for remotes, tissues, whatever. I also had a memorable hat sewn on. Prices range, based on blanket size. It's the best way to keep your children's old clothes, because you can snuggle up to them.

After you've read your magazines, either share them with friends, or take them to the gym or the coffee house for other's to enjoy. Share read books, donate them to your library, sell them to a used book store, trade them at,, or send them to Books for Soldiers.

I recently read an article online called 18 Things You Can Get Rid of Today by Diana Reese. This article was so good that it prompted me to post this blog, and to clean out my linen closets. Though today (before I read the article), I cleaned and organized the girls' bedroom, and it motivated me to keep going. Seeing it cleaned and organized gave me such a sense of accomplishment. And the girls loved it, too. My son's room is next, and then those darn linen closets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tending to the Cake (recipe included)

Give me nachos with cheese over a piece of cake any day. Don't get me wrong, I like dessert. I don't order it at restaurants -- don't like it that much -- but if I am at a party and there's cake, I'll have some. Cookies, well, they're another story... But this is about a cake.

I've never been fond of cheesecake. Well, maybe once. It was a ricotta cheesecake from a local Italian restaurant called Atillio's Kitchen. The kitchen closed a couple of years ago, and reopened as a different restaurant called Atillio's Tavern in a different town. It's the same owners, and the same good food, but different menu choices. I'm not sure if they still make the cake.

Years ago, though, I made a cheesecake as a birthday cake. I can't remember if it was requested or if I just really wanted to try the recipe. Regardless, it was a total blast to make, and it tasted just like a super moist pound cake. You'd never know it was a cheesecake. It's such fun to make, even if you don't want to eat it (but you will). The fun isn't in the mixing, it's in the actual baking. Read the whole recipe and you will see what I'm talking about.

I recommend that everyone try this recipe at least once. You will be hooked and will want to make it for every special occasion that comes your way.

cream cheese pound cake
Bon Appetit magazine, December 2003
makes 1 large cake

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
3 c sugar
1 t salt
6 lrg eggs, room temperature
4 t pure vanilla extract
3 c sifted all purpose flour

Butter and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan. Using the electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not over beat). Transfer batter to pan.

Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200*F; bake 20 minutes.
Increase temperature to 250*F; bake 20 minutes.
Increase temperature to 275*F; bake 10 minutes.
Increase to 300*F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer.

Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Big Fat Thank You to... (and the best recipe you can make for dinner tonight)

Sometimes, all a girl can do is say thanks and be grateful. Okay, we can pay if forward, too. While I definitely plan to pay it forward (easiest to KT, as Black History Month is just around the corner), I cannot wait to say thank you any longer. Oh, and in the spirit of giving, I am sharing my Cuban sandwich recipe. I swear, it is spectacular. I used to make these sandwiches every Halloween, for parents of trick or treaters, and year after year they would come early to place their orders. I used a sandwich (panini) press, and kept it outside at my trick or treat table, but you can use any pan you have.

First, THANK YOU! To those who have given to me, I know that as much as it's about me, it's more about your generous spirit. That desire to do good things and be kind exists within you. I feel fortunate to be the recipient of your kindness.

To Hilary, for the beautiful note cards you hand-painted and sent to me. What a crazy, fabulous surprise. I adore you, I adore your writing. And now you've given me another thing to love; your artwork.

To KT and Marco, for giving me a bouquet of tulips when I came to look at your art on Saturday. Oh my! Such a treat. And they are looking more and more beautiful everyday. 

Tulips? For moi?

Next, a big thank you again to Paula K.T. for the package filled with vintage aprons and floral sachets. I am so honored that you would do something so kind for me. I was bowled over when I got the package, and still continue to be shocked at your thoughtfulness.

To Andrea, for the public display of affection. I made your storefront window! Does it get any better than that? Yes, actually, it does, because after I made your window, you gave me a blank glass bottle on which to write a quote. As if you haven't done enough spectacular things for me already (like giving me those super lavender sachets, made with vintage fabric), you go ahead and do this. I am IN SHV HEAVEN! 

The storefront at Savannah Hope Vintage (and me in the mirror)

And to Anne B.C. for the most remarkable letter updating me on your life. This is big in so many ways, mostly because you have been a friend for quite some time, and always know exactly what to say. 

This is the very Anne B.C. who knit me dish towels and drove them to my house on my birthday. She is one of the most considerate women I've ever met. She lives a town away, and I used to see her nearly every day, but my schedule changed and with it, I've not seen her much at all. I miss her, and I need to go see her soon. On the outside of the card was a beautiful photo from Canada that someone close to her took, and she shared it with me. 

Thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And now, drumroll please, here is my never before shared recipe for my Cuban sandwiches. You will love them, and they are so easy to make. Be sure to read it all the way through, as the cooking options vary.

cuban sandwiches -- goddess style
(recipe originally from Cuban Food Market)
makes 3 sandwiches (1 each, and 1 to share)

  • 1 loaf Cuban bread (or crusty French bread)
  • 1 sliced dill pickle
  • 1/2 lb. sweet ham
  • 1/2 lb. roast pork
  • 1/2 lb. Swiss cheese
  • mustard for spreading
  • butter for spreading

Slice bread into thirds and slice horizontally.

Pile sandwich so that it looks like this:

bread, slathered with think layer of mustard on the inside of the slice
1 slice of dill pickle
1/3 of ham
1/3 of roast pork
1/3 of swiss cheese
1 slice of dill pickle
bread, slathered with think layer of mustard on the inside of the slice

Take completed sandwich and butter the outside of both the top and bottom of the sandwich so that the outsides of the bread have butter on them (to make them golden when cooking). If you have a pan, and need to press the top with a pot cover, then only butter the bottom, and butter the top just before you flip the sandwich. 

Press with a panini press 'til golden brown.
Heat any pan to medium high. Put the sandwich in the hot pan, buttering only the outside bottom half of the sandwich. Use a pot top or heavy plate to press the sandwich down, flattening it as much as you can. Keep pressing, or stack a couple of heavy cookbooks on top of it. After a few minutes, remove the pot top and butter the top of the sandwich, then flip it over and press again until bread is golden brown.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Organization 011

I've been spending the past few days trimming down my house. I'm taking old, unused cookbooks off the shelves, deciding which towels are good, and which I'm converting down to rags. I am going through pots and pans, deciding which need to be replaced, which need to be given away, and which need to be stored in more functional places. In fact, I am going to make a small garage sale section at an upcoming Handmade and Homespun Winter Shop that I am organizing in February, to sell these items. I will be charging $0.50 per item, and having two boxes for people to put the money in, on the honor system. One box will be for donations to the local school system, the other for the art gallery to support the arts. This way, everyone benefits.

It's time to pull it together. The economy is still in the hole, and from what I've heard, it's only getting worse. Someone (who will remain unnamed) buys materials overseas, and said the trend is heading towards both hoarding and jacking up prices. Prices have already tripled in his industry. He joked that we should start stocking up on canned essentials now, but he may not be too far off. (For money saving tips from someone who's been retired over 45 years, click here.)

This is the perfect time to pare down, buy less, repurpose more. I successfully used my Evelyn Fields reusable snack bag yesterday, and now realize that I will no longer be needing Ziploc snack bags. I've also been using real towels in lieu of paper towels, and it's been great. More savings. I've been refilling my Sigg with filtered tap, and have saved at least $15 this week on single water bottles (that start at $1.59, I might add) while drinking much better water than any plastic bottling company can offer. I've only bought coffee out once, at the bowling alley. I always get coffee with breakfast at the diner; I am referring to carry out coffee.
Beautiful unbleached cotton reusuable snack bag by Evelyn Fields on etsy,
with artifically flavored and colored orange Boy Scout popcorn
(we aren't in Boy Scouts, just supported them)

On Monday, I took an old hobo bag out of the closet. It was given to me years ago by W's sister, Mary. It's a big, slouchy yellow bag with a painted butterfly on the front. Every day, literally, since the day I first used it, I got compliments on it. Every day. Never has this happened to me before. Last year, someone got me a new purse for a gift, so this yellow bag went into retirement.

Randomly, I had a dream about this purse, and decided to use it once again. Day 1, I got a compliment. Today is only Day 2 with it back in rotation, and I am sure I will hear about it again. It has no name brand, and I've never seen it before. It's very bohemian. I think I will be using this bag until it falls apart. I love it that much.

I wear and keep my clothes for years, but I'm going through to find things that I will never wear again to donate to the Market Street Mission. Mine and W's old tees are being given to a friend, ADeM, to be repurposed for bigger and better things. Stay tuned.

All of this is giving me the opportunity to give my house more space, more room for us to grow. Though we are in the heart of winter, I see only the promise of spring. Perhaps my spring cleaning has started a season too soon. I guess it can't hurt to get ahead of them game.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Every Domestic Goddess Needs... (and a recipe for birthday cupcakes)

I rarely write and publish my blog post on the same day. This blog post, for example, will be published on my son's birthday. Snow delays are popping up all over the place, so it's my bet that our school will open late and he will get to sleep in. When he wakes up, he will find himself surrounded by blue and white balloons hovering at the top of the ceiling, with draping ribbons (in matching colors) hanging to the floor, and a giant happy birthday sign on the wall. I hope this will start his day with a smile. He deserves it.

But I write this the day before my son's birthday, on Dr. King's big day. There is no mail, and both the banks and schools are closed. W and I took the kids out to celebrate Johnny's birthday this morning, and then we celebrated with my parents in the evening. After such an action packed day, I arrived home to find a package by my front door. This was odd. There's no mail today. I looked up close, and the package was sent via UPS. From California. 

So exciting. 

I brought in the package, tossed my Sigg water bottles in the sink, and proceeded to open it. I recognized the return address, and remembered that the sender had asked for my address sometime last month. I'd assumed it was to send me a Christmas card. Apparently, it was for something else. 

The package smelled beautiful. The scent was strong and floral, but I wasn't sure how. Inside were layers and layers of... I don't know what wrapped in beautiful tissue paper. I began opening them one at a time. First, a red and white checkerboard apron, finely trimmed in lace. Handmade? There wasn't a tag so I assumed so. It was beautiful. I tied it around my waist. I unfolded the tissue paper of the next gift. Another apron. Blue patterned with a sheer blue overlay (or underlay); it seems to be reversible. Again, no tag. Handmade? I tied that one on too. I felt like a little girl playing princess. As I went along, more and more fabulous aprons appeared from beneath the tissue paper, and a few organza bags were in the middle, filled with dried flowers. Ah, that was the scent. I stood laughing, wrapped in five aprons, shocked at the wonderfulness of it all. How was I so lucky?

The beautiful vintage aprons gifted to me. Completely fabulous!
There was no note. Nothing. I searched between the aprons and the paper. Still nothing. I rechecked the envelope and there it was. A thickly packed envelope with "Tiffany" written across the front. First I read the card. It had a sweet message from the person who sent it to me, and it began with "Every Domestic Goddess needs a few vintage aprons." She mentioned that she collects them, and wanted to share some with me. She sent me five in all, one of which is a red Christmas apron, with a gold Christmas tree across the front. What could be better?

She'd also typed me a long, lovely note that is personal, and it made me feel fortunate to have 'virtually' met her. It's rare that I find someone who is both generous and understanding, someone who truly gets me and connects with me. When that does happen, though, it reminds me that I am in good company. This is how I felt when I read her letter.

It ends with something I'd like to share with you, something she wrote, and I hope that she doesn't mind that I am quoting her and using her name (here comes the reveal!). Thank you very much to the beautiful blonde, California girl who is a mother, wife, and fellow domestic goddess! I love the package and will wear, and care for, these vintage aprons with love and thanks.

A domestic goddess is a woman who keeps her home ordered, clean, uncluttered and tastefully decorated. In addition, she is an ace in the kitchen, a brilliant baker, fabulous cook and exceptional entertainer. As if this is not enough, a domestic goddess always looks beautiful and sexy. She can put in a full day at the office, work in the garden, put up shelves in the house, be a fabulous mother and a vamp in the bedroom. We can have it all!  -- Paula Thompson

Finally, in keeping with my domestic duties, here is my favorite recipe for birthdays, called Happy Birthday Cupcakes, from Lifetime Magazine 2003. The first time I made these were for my mother's birthday in 2003. We served them at California Pizza Kitchen, after having dinner there with my family and maternal grandparents. I frosted them warm and the frosting dripped everywhere. What a memory!

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c boiling water
3/4 c mascarpone, at room temperature
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t non-alum baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t chocolate extract (my addition)

vanilla frosting
5 c confectioners' sugar
1/2 c mascarpone, at room temperature
1 t pure vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa and boiling water until smooth; let cool 10 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
3. In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
4. In large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Follow with cocoa mixture, then vanilla. 
5. On low speed, add in flour mixture. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups.
6. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes. Remove muffin from tin; cool on wire rack. 

For frosting: Using a wire whisk, beat together confectioners' sugar, mascarpone, and vanilla, adding a few drops of water if necessary to make a smooth, thick frosting. For pastel colors (optional): Tint frosting with small drops of color. Frost cupcakes as desired. Top with flowers and candles. 

Cupcakes without frosting can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks. Frosting can be made 1 day ahead; return to room temperature before using. Frost cupcakes on the day of the party. (I don't like to refrigerate baked goods, so I recommend freezing if making ahead. DG)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Show and Tell Monday - Italian Playing Cards

It's week two in the Show and Tell Monday series, created by kt40. I did as Katy said, and searched my stuff to pick just one thing to show, and I must say that it was tough. In the end, it was a new (old) find that won out.

Last month, when I was cleaning out my grandparents' old dresser, to be redone by the fabulously talented Andrea DeMorest of Savannah Hope Vintage, I found an old pack of playing cards. They were my grandparents, who must have gotten them while on a trip to Italy. I made the choice not to open them, as I wanted their fingers to have been the last to touch them. Still, they look so cool on the outside.

What I love about them, aside from the fact that they were my grandparents' cards and came all the way from Italy, is the design and color of the pack. I love that the box is red, and has faded with time. I love the gold writing (which is difficult to see in my cell phone picture) as it has a lovely texture to it. Very Italian. The graphic is cool, and I love the way "NAPOLETANE" is written across the front.

I have them sitting on the dresser (now painted) in which they were found, leaning against an old photo of W. The two things that I love, one on top of the other.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Less Is More (save money, save our earth - please read)

God, everybody talks about being green nowadays. Recycle this, repurpose that. If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say any of those words, along with phrases like "light bulb moment", "the universe", or "good energy", well, I'd be loaded.

But the fact is that these words and phrases are being used because they matter. Heck, I use those words as much as everybody else. Here's why: we are overbuying, under using, and wasting way too much. I think back to when I was a kid, and how different everything was. Water wasn't bottled (plastic waste), people didn't go on daily Starbuck's or Dunkin Donuts coffee runs (paper waste), fast food wasn't taken out daily (again, paper waste, and worse yet, Styrofoam waste). We didn't have baby wipes (or for that matter, adult potty wipes), and most babies were diapered in cloth (just think about all that landfill). I know that my grandmothers washed their dishes with dishrags (rarely a sponge) and that they would hang them to dry after washing and rinsing them with soap. You say dishrags carry bacteria? Oh, and sponges don't? Just wash them. Their clothes hung on clothing lines. Food was shared via Tupperware, not those flimsy plastic containers that you use a handful of times and then throw away. People cooked food (they didn't microwave it), and they baked their own desserts. Homemade wasn't a novelty, it was the norm.

People took their lunches to work in lunch pails, and though their sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, drinks were carried in thermoses. They brought forks and knives from home, and returned them home to be washed and used again, and again, and again. They ate dinner at the kitchen table on real plates with real forks and knives, and the table was covered with a tablecloth. Napkins were cloth, too. Washable.

People washed themselves with bar soap, not antimicrobial, antibacterial, kill-everything-under-the-sun-even-the-good-bacteria pump soap that comes in a plastic container. One bar for the body, another bar by the sink.

People didn't buy new things everyday. They didn't shop away their sorrows, or their boredom. They cleaned and managed their homes; they cooked dinner. They didn't spend exorbitant amounts of money on crappy plywood furniture, but saved their money and bought well-crafted, real wood furniture, with dovetailed drawers. If something broke, it was fixed, not replaced. Hand-me-downs happened with clothing and furniture. Things just weren't thrown out.

Quality mattered. It still does. Somehow, we've just forgotten.

Today, while picking up my Evelyn Fields reusable coffee filters at Savannah Hope Vintage, I got to talking to the owner, the lovely Andrea D, about quality. I was telling her how I think that what she does is amazing. She gives new life to select, vintage furniture, and her prices are a fraction of what is available in today's market. The price of a side table is comparable to furniture at, say, Pier 1, but hers is quality craftsmanship with amazing detail, and real wood, whereas Pier 1's stuff is made with plywood and glue, I think. Andrea's furniture is as beautiful, no, more beautiful than the furniture they sell at Anthropologie.  Savannah Hope Vintage furniture is recycling at it's finest. My house is nearly all Savannah Hope Vintage, and it's fabulous.

Anyhow, Andrea and I were talking about the filters, and the napkins and reusable snack bags (all unbleached cotton, and handmade in the U.S.A.) that are also made by the same person, Melissa, of Evelyn Fields. We were talking about how being green is also a great way to save money, and it struck a chord with me.

I bought two reusable snack bags to see if I could actually green up my snacking. I've managed to carry my Sigg water bottles, filled with filtered tap water, a majority of the time. In addition, I often use my reusable grocery bags. However, with both, I forget to clean them or return them to their proper place. I need to brush up on the follow through of greening my life. Sometimes, bigger changes are easier to implement than little ones. So I am giving up as many disposable items as I can, ay-sap.

As soon as I am out of paper towels, I am converting to cloth. I have a ton of dish towels and rags already, so I am going to keep them in a big basket under my island in the kitchen and use them in place of the paper ones. I am also going to try the reusable snack bags, and ditch the Ziplocks. At least for snacks...

I've been saving my glass jars (think jelly, sauce, pickle jars) and reusing them to store things, and so far, it's been effortless. I love glass. It doesn't leech into foods, and holds everything really well. (And look at how pretty glass can be when one gets crafty (click here). Kudos to Andrea D. for this!) Whenever possible, I don't take shopping bags for my purchases (like from the bookstore), and when I do, I reuse those bags for garbage or recycling.

I challenge you to save some money and perhaps lessen your carbon footprint. Look around you and see what you are doing right now that can be replaced with a cheaper, more earth friendly option. The investment in a few towels might be more than a roll of paper towels today, but long term, you will be saving lots of money. And our earth.

Friday, January 14, 2011


This morning, I went without my usual cup of coffee. Each morning, while waiting for my pancake pan to heat up, I start my coffee. I fill the water to three cups, grab the filter, and put one and a half scoops full of coffee grounds into the filter. While it brews, I make the pancakes.

My timing is impeccable.

Today, as I was going through the usual process, something happened. I reached into my vintage coffee tin, where my filters are kept, and... nothing. I checked the spot where I keep the overflow of filters and still, nothing. No big deal, I'd just go get some more at the store after I dropped my son off at school.

But by the time I got through running my errands, I'd completely forgotten to get the filters. Turns out, that was a good thing.

My favorite shop, Savannah Hope Vintage, carries vintage items and furniture, but she also carries cool handmade items, including home goods, purses, jewelry, and other things. Today, she posted that she is carrying reusable coffee filters. Whaaaat?

Well, I was just too excited. I had never heard of reusable coffee filters before, but I was very interested. I asked some questions, and it turns out that they are made out of unbleached cotton and you use them like you would a regular filter. When you are done, you just toss out the grinds, rinse the filter, and allow it to dry wherever you'd leave a dish to dry (like a dish drying rack). Eventually, the coffee stains the filter to a lovely coffee brown. The tag line that goes along with the filters is, "For those who love coffee, not trash."

I went to pick mine up, but by the time I got to the shop, it was closed. I plan on going back tomorrow morning before my root canal (something to look forward to). I will get two, just in case I want to make more than one pot of coffee in the same day.

I can't imagine how many coffee filters I go through in a year, but I know it's more than a few. Knowing that I am not wasting all that paper really makes me feel good. It may not make a big dent, but it's a start. The woman who makes the filters also makes reusable snack bags, "unpaper towels", and napkins. While the towels and napkins aren't new ideas to me, I do like that they are unbleached cotton, and that they are handmade by a mom right here in the United States. The snack bag idea is novel and worth looking into. Could these snack bags eliminate the need for little ziplocks? They seal with velcro, and are machine washable. If I do get them, which I am thinking I will, I promise to do a test run and blog about them. They will force me to be a bit more organized, but then again, that is one of my New Year's Wants.

Locals can go to Savannah Hope Vintage (418 Main Street, Boonton) to get theirs. For those living out of the area, shop online for them at

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day the Fun Way (finally)

Yesterday, when I heard about the impending snow storm, I nearly cried. After being in the house sick, with a sick kid, I didn't want to be trapped inside our house for yet another day. It was nice, yes, to sit by the fire with my son, decorating and relaxing, but after two days, both of us were getting bored. I did prepare by stealing out quickly for some groceries and rock salt, but that was about the only time I'd been out since Sunday. We don't live with W and the girls, so snow days don't just become a party for us. They take planning. And driving. Otherwise, I'd probably look forward to them. So as the reporters frenzy heightened, and the updates on this second blizzard were underway, I melted down.

There was hope. W had mentioned that we could take the kids sledding, provided that my son was well enough to go. I don't know if it was the power of suggestion, the progression of the cold, or just a random miracle, but my son slept soundly through the night last night, and woke up itching to go sledding. We were going sledding!

W took us to a place he's been going since he was a kid, about 20 minutes from my house. It's not just a hill, it's a hill. It's in a beautiful, well-known sort of place, with an amazing landscape, and a brick tower that his great-grandfather had built. It's even named after him. When we arrived there, we saw families of sledders at the top of the hill, covered in pure white snow. The snow was so fresh, it was unbelievable. We hiked from where we were parked, and I couldn't help but notice that our footprints were fresh in the snow.  We were making our own path.

I'd packed a thermos full of hot chocolate, brought a baggie filled with marshmallows, and disposable coffee cups. W brought his camera, and a trunk full of sleds. We were ready.

When I reached the top of the sledding hill, I looked down. It was daunting, though perhaps only for me. Before I had a chance to register it, everyone, including W, was at the bottom of the hill. Whoosh! 

Searching through the bunches of people, I found the set that belonged to me. Up they came, dragging their sleds and dodging the people who were racing down. This went on for something like an hour, with occasional sled swapping. One of our sleds, an inflatable three-seater, couldn't take the heat and popped a hole.

At some point, W and the kids took a break and had some hot chocolate. While we sat, a small black and white dog came by to see what we were drinking. Another dog, a big golden retriever, kept chasing the sleds as they rushed down the hill. It felt like we were back in the 70s, when all that mattered was the slope of the hill and the measure of freshly packed snow.

I never imagined sledding could be so much fun, and I didn't even do it! I was the only one who didn't go down the mountain, but I did use W's camera to take photos of everyone else. Despite the fact that it was freezing cold on top of that wooded hill, I couldn't have had a better time if I tried. It was a wonderful day, the kind that I thought only other people had.

Until now.