Friday, February 19, 2010

Three Things

1. I know you are all on the edge of your seats to see my new couch. Well, you can find a more comfortable seat at this point because HERE IT IS!

$40 people, FORTY DOLLARS. And it's got to be at least 7' long, because P stretched all the way out on it comfortably. Who needs a measuring tape? Not me.

2. While Ulrich has made several appearances on my blog, he is not our only pet.

Exhibit A: Trooper The Cat
He says "herro." That's Cat for hello.

Exhibit B was feeling camera shy. She'll model something else. Later. Maybe. You know how cats are.

3. My seedlings are super excited to stretch their little arms and legs in the fake springtime my living room has provided. Look at them!

There are 72 little cells in there. That's a-gonna be a biiiig garden.

So far we have the following sprouts:

Black Krim Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes
Yellow Pear Cherry Tomatoes
Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes
Shelling Peas
Sugar Snap Peas
Green Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Bell Peppers

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Couched In Burnt Orange

You know how when you're standing in line at the grocery store there's sometimes a magazine with a really cute cover photo of either a bunch of outfits or an adorable room setup with the headline "This Look For Less!"? And you think to yourself, "Omg-really? I can look like Zooey Deschanel for $35 even though I'm six feet tall, with brown eyes and a total inability to act?! AWESOME!"

The problem with these magazines (other than the question of genetic predisposition) is that yes, while that particular editor *may* have found an original Eames lounge chair in a Manhattan dumpster behind the Modern Museum of Art, and *happened* to have a signed Picasso hangin' out in the attic, let's face it, people: IT AINT GONNA HAPPEN TO YOU. The best you can hope for is Ikea to knock off that lampshade, so that you can buy it just like everyone else on the Isle of Cheap, and try to somehow personalize it. I recommend bedazzling. Not really.

Even if the stuff they have in the picture is not some kind of amazingly original vintage/antique, it's usually one of a kind. As in, there was one of those for $10 at the invitation-only flea market and the editor of Elle Decor already snagged it leaving the rest of us up the chimney without a sleigh.

BUT...drumroll please...It may have just happened to me.

I stopped by a local auction house that was having a giant garage sale (excuse me, "tag" sale...stupid regionalism) and everything today was marked down from it's already garage-sale price by 60%. I had scoped it out on Sunday and had my eye on some really nice terra cotta planters and green glass bowls, which magically were still there, just way cheaper this time. I took my trusty sidekick C along with me, as usual, and so we decided to do another once-over just to see if anything caught her eye.

We were perusing the aisles of junk when all of a sudden, angels sang. The heavens opened. There, on the right, was the awesomest couch ever. It's really mid-century modern looking with clean edges probably about 7 feet long. It's really solid and it has the most hilarious 1960s-burnt orange upholstery you've ever seen in your life.

I immediately started laughing when I saw it because I knew C would hate the color, and even the style isn't really her thing. "This couch is soooo cool," said as I plopped down on it. Ever practical, she looked at the pricetag: $100.

Honestly, I loved the couch. But, I didn't love it $100 worth when we already have an extra couch and no ideas for a new one. A new pumpkin orange colossus, at that.

I caught the attention of a nearby worker bee and inquired after the "AS IS" notation on the tag. "Oh, there's nothing really wrong with it, except the wear you can see. Isn't it an amazing couch for $40?"

Wait. $40? FORTY DOLLARS?! Yes. And it's coming home with me.

I loaded up my terra cotta and headed for the door, receipt for couch in hand. Pictures will be posted as soon as I can get Dan Dan the Handyman (who has a pickup truck) to deliver it for me.

So, I have officially done something in my life which I never thought would happen and pretty much makes me want to do a little dance. In fact, I already have.

Done the dance, that is.

Note to self: apparently the happy-couch dance is also a close relative of the rain dance, known as the blizzard dance. Hence the fact that my house in now 20,000 leagues under the snow.

Now all I need are some harvest gold pillows and an avocado colored throw to really start gettin' the good vibrations.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I'm feeling inspired. SO inspired. By SO MANY things. Is this what they call "nesting"?

It may prove problematic.

Here's the thing: I love love love pretty and unique things. Emphasis on unique. And pretty. It's sort of a running joke around the house that everything I like is impossible to find.

For instance, this awesome illusion vase:

It's. so. cool. It actually has a small green plastic rod that holds up the top of the vase sort of like an axle on a wheel. It's green and stem-like, so it totally blends in with ...ya know...the stems. I found it for 75% off at a modern art museum in California one time. It puzzled and amazed several visitors to my home. I adored it. Then, one of our lovely cats sent it crashing to the floor, where it was irreparably shattered. LIFE IS SO UNFAIR.

Then P decided to give me a replacement as a surprise and the only one C could find had to be flown in from Europe. I don't even want to think about the shipping costs. Good thing the first thing was so cheap.

This Christmas I had a small, inexpensive book on my wishlist, called "The Library of Babel." I'm really into the etchings of imaginary libraries done by the book's illustrator, Erik Desmarzieres. I wish wish wish I could have some of his prints, but they're like, expensive, and hardly ever for sale. There's a whole collection of them in the University Club of New York, and it's so cool because they have a whole series of the imaginary library ones in their library!

I think I should totally meet up with whoever made that incredibly clever decorating decision, because we would clearly get along.

The point is this: the book is still in print. It's only $20. And yet it was only for sale in France.

I don't do it on purpose, but it just happens.

Okay, so now that it's been established that I can't make things easy, let me introduce you to my new love and fascination (bordering on obsession):

It's a sofa, decorated with crewel-work that looks like an octopus in the deep dark ocean. It's SO COOL.

I know! I told you.

And it's even easy to find! It's right here on the Anthropologie website. There's a catch, though. I don't want to spend this much money on it. No, I really don't. P, if you're reading this DO NOT INTERPRET THIS TO MEAN that I want you to buy this sofa for me and surprise me with it. I don't want IT. I just WANT it. See? It's very clear.

So, the obvious solution is that I need to learn some mad crewel-ing skills pronto. Oh, and upholstery.

THEN, if I knew how to make my own crewel upholstery fabric I could do whatever design I wanted. I could do a sofa and a rug. And pillows. I could do the whole darned nursery.

Maybe I'm getting carried away.

Perhaps an infant should grow up a bit and get some life experience before it has to face this crewel world head on. (heh. yesssssssssssss. You had to see that one coming.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Puppy and The Pea, or, How To Make A Dog Bed

This is Ulrich.

This was Ulrich a few months ago.

He's adorable, this is fact.

However, despite his clear future as a doggie model and heartbreaker known the world over, Ulrich is not allowed on the furniture.

He knows this.

And he's usually pretty good, but at certain vulnerable times -- like, when P is distracted by the computer or A first gets home from boarding school for a long weekend -- Ulrich will sometimes try to take advantage of the situation. He gracefully leaps onto the down-filled couch, with total disregard for its pristine WHITE upholstery, and curls up into as tiny a ball as he possibly can, which at this point isn't too small. He then puts his head on his paws and looks up at any passerby with the pleading puppy-dog eyes that say, "Oh, but you just wouldn't disturb me, would you? I'm so cute and comfortable."

It is a trial, let me tell you, to break through the shield of cuteness and exile him to the stone floor. It just wasn't right.

So, in search of a compromise, I grabbed my sister and headed to Petco in hopes of finding a big fluffy dog bed that would somehow soften the harsh realities of puppyhood.

Have you gone dog-bed shopping recently? WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

$70 for a dog bed?! $125 for one large enough for Ulrich?! You've got to be kidding me. It's a glorified couch cushion.

Turns out, we had some pillows hanging around the house which had seen better days, and the $1 a yard cloth bin at Walmart yielded some fairly non-hideous fabric.

Here goes somethin'.


1. A sewing machine. Here's mine:

There is also a child in that photo of my sewing machine. She lives here, eats my food and keeps referring to me as her "stepmom". Weird. She's spending quality time watching "Millionaire Matchmaker." See, we only allow the viewing of high-quality television around here. It's edu-tainment or nothin'.

2. Some old pillows and a few yards of fabric. I used four old pillows and three yards of fabric, but presumably not every dog is going to be as big as mine.


1. Choose what size you want your dog bed to be, and trim the fabric to near that size. It could be a circle or a rectangle or whatever. If your fabric has an obvious "outside", then make sure to line up the top and bottom pieces of the fabric with the "outsides" touching each other. That way when you turn it inside out, it's actually right side out. Get it?

2. Gut all your extra pillows. I learned in this process that the insides of pillows are actually rolled up fluff, like a swiss roll. Mmm...delicious.

Optional dessert break.

3. Sew up most of the fabric sides, leaving about a foot unsewn. Turn the whole thing inside out so that the seams are inside and it's like a big pillowcase. Stuff it with the fluff. Sew up the stuffin' hole.

4. Show it to the dog!

And the best part: it only cost me $3.97.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

So Long, Sushi...For Now.

I really miss eating sushi. It used to be a regular with me, and now I'm stuck getting noodle soup while P orders some tantalizing plate of colorful rolls then dips them decadently in wasabi and soy sauce.

I'm obedient though, and my doctor told me to abstain while pregnant. And I get the whole raw-fish-is-at-higher-risk-for-bacteria argument, I do.

But my question is this: What are all the Japanese preggos doing?! Are you telling me that THEY aren't eating sushi for nine months?

If so, I don't believe you.

So, because I'm seriously questioning my doctor's recommendation and was perched precariously on the verge of giving up and giving in over the weekend, I've decided:

While all the other Catholics are struggling with pescetarian Fridays, my Lenten obligation will be distinctly less fishy.

Sushi, I really won't be seeing you until at least after Easter. Let's just hope by them I'm not past the point of nori turn. (heh. I couldn't restrain myself.)

Is that tempura in your belly, or are you just happy sashimi? (Jim Carrey)

Regrouping and Potato Souping

I'm pleased to announce that I think I may be back in the saddle again. Ridin' along, cooking and and breaking/fixing things, and sharing my adventures with The Internets.

For a while there, between morning sickness and the general lethargy that ensued, things were looking dire for the dear old Impractical Guide. But I'm back! Mostly...

I still experience severe stomach-lurchery at the very whiff of garlic. Back in the fall I bought a bag of garlic at the local farmer's market, which I kept in a pretty little (well, medium sized) olive-wood bowl on my kitchen island. I never really noticed the smell of it until duh duh DUH the baby hangin' out in my womb made it abundantly clear that good ol' allium sativum is not a welcome part of its gestastion process. Initially, bowl and all were banished to the far recesses of the hall closet (the catch-all for kitchen miscellany), but even that wasn't enough. I put it up for adoption, and C very lovingly took all 9 heads home to live with her.

So here I am, cooking up a storm with NO GARLIC. It's very strange, I agree.

Side note, I've also developed a serious sweet tooth for the first time in my life.

Last night my twin-law and his son, B, were over for dinner. Both have extremely conservative stomachs, so it's sort of a fun challenge to come up with food that is both fun and interesting and that they will readily eat. Mostly B, with the not-eating. B is extremely thin and as any good Southern woman would, I feel the need to shove food at him every 5 seconds.

Finally able to cope with the combination of standing in front of the stove and smelling the food bubbling away there, I went all out. We had Baked Potato Soup (new recipe, totally delish), steamed brussel sprouts, grilled Baja-citrus style shrimp, and NY strip steak from White Flower Farms. Plus we had a wonderful smoked gouda cheese, fresh french bread, crudites and a green salad.

I'm only just getting the hang of cooking steaks, but by all accounts (and by accounts I mean empty plates) the steak last night was very good. I can officially now plan to have steak for dinner without hyperventillating, which is significant progress from a year ago. I didn't grow up in a frequently steak-eating family, and my memories of steak dinners consist of my Dad (not the usual cook in the house, although quite good when he wants to be) taking himself very seriously at the stove AND oven, executing some very complicated kind of beef ballet between the two which involved filling the kitchen, dining room and living room with dense smoke.

Rather intimidating, you might say. And you would be right.

However, I've faced that fear head on and discovered that if you have a good raw steak (ie, a good cut of meat to begin with) it's pretty hard to mess it up too much. The 200lbs of grass-fed beef that we've been working our way through this winter is amazing. AMAZING.

Just grill those suckers up on a hot grill pan, and plop a little thing of butter on them while you keep'um hot in the oven. In this particular case I used some Habenero flavored compound butter I got at the Garlic Festival, but don't tell the baby.

Here's the recipe for the Baked Potato Soup, adapted by me from Playing House.

Yeild: about 8 cups

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2-3 shakes of Lawry's Seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup chopped green onions, with some extra for garnishing

1. First, poke holes in the potatoes and bake them in the oven for an hour. You could probably cut time by using the microwave for this step, I'm not really sure.

2. Put the flour in a large, thick bottomed pot, and slowly add the milk to it, whisking at first to prevent lumps. Heat the milk until bubbly and stir frequently to avoid a buildup of film on the bottom of the pan.

3. Put on some oven mits and take the potatoes out of the oven. (Game of Hot Potato optional here.) On a cutting board, chop them up into smallish pieces. The baked potato skins can be kind of tough, so if the idea of having them in your soup bothers you, they're pretty easy to pick off: cut the potatoes into quarters and peel the skin off to discard. I personally like potato skin, so I left about half of mine in, and just made sure it was cut up into small enough pieces that it would get softened by the soup itself.

4. Dump the potato into the milk. Add everything else, too. Stir until the cheese is melted and to further break down the potato pieces. Let it cook for about 10 or 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it gets thick. Taste it, and season to your taste. I think I may have put more salt in mine (I didn't measure) but I'll leave that to you.

To serve, I actually put mine in some stemless wine glasses that we have because I don't have enough smaller bowls to serve 6 people. Garnish with some extra green onions or grated cheese. Or bacon.

Bacon makes everything better. Or is that butter?