Monthly Archives: February 2013

WIWW: Old Man Noah

We got something like seven inches of rain over the last week, which for a state entirely made of sand means a giant mess. The temperature has been in the mid-60s to low 70s, which is too high for the heat but too cool for the AC. My towel doesn’t get dry between showers. Ew.

pleated poppy

Wednesday: My hair was a hot mess. This was immediately after removing the hot rollers, before moving/twisting/tugging into place. Honest.

Trousers and Tee: Loft
Shrug: I made it myself!

IMG_7057 2

Thursday was dreary. My outfit? Also kind of dreary! I want this cardigan to be more flattering than it is.

Dress, Cardigan, flats: Target
Tee: Loft

IMG_7059 2

Friday! Comfortable work outfit. Nothing fancy. Well, blue pants are always a wee bit fancy, right?

Pants: Fancy
Sweater: Ann Taylor

IMG_7060 2

Sunday: I wore this to the 9:00 a.m. church service, the 10:30 a.m. meeting to receive new members, the 11:00 a.m. church service, and the 12:30 p.m. Session meeting. (I was being installed as an elder, not filled with religious conviction.)

Dress: Ann Taylor
Wedges: Target
Tyler: High-waisted, bless his heart.

IMG_7063 2

Monday: I gave up trying to look cute and dressed for the apocalyptic, all-day rain. Bean boots, fleece, and rain jacket.
Boots: L.L. Bean
Rain Jacket: Eddie Bauer
Cords: Loft

IMG_7067 2

I will say, in my own defense, I was warm and dry all day.

Which brings us to Photobombed by Love: The Tuesday Story

Cardigan: Old Navy
Scarf: Banana Republic
Trousers: Loft

IMG_7070 2

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Goofy Boogers

So the children are now 12 (Hollyn), 9.5 (Tyler) and 9.0 (Jensen). They’ve all changed considerably in the five years that Jason and I have been together.

IMG_6890 2

Hollyn is now 5’2″ and buys clothes from the junior’s section – much to Jason’s chagrin. She is into hairbows and Instagram and music (and, occasionally, pink fuzzy mustaches).IMG_7024 2

Tyler is almost as tall as Hollyn, and still loves Legos more than anything. He’s currently reading “The Two Towers” and will talk your ear off about Middle Earth.

IMG_7013 2

Jensen loves her gymnastics classes and all things Hunger Games. She is also on a quest to wear all the trends at the same time.

IMG_6990 2

The one thing that hasn’t changed, other than their collective love of tormenting the animals with their affection, is their enjoyment of each other’s company. I am still amazed by how well they get along.

IMG_6986 2

This is what dinner looks like at my house. Every. Night. Well, every night that they’re all together.

IMG_6977 2

Sometimes, they laugh so hard they can’t eat.

Those are my favorite nights.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

WIWW: The Dog Days of February

What a week.

pleated poppy

For Valentine’s Day, I asked Jason to help pick my outfit. Because he’s cruel (but adorable), he selected a double dose of pink.

Button Down: Brooks Brothers
Cardigan: Target
Cords: Loft
Shoes: Shoe Station

IMG_6965

Friday was a bit more casual. I accidentally wore my slippers (which are knockoff Birkenstocks, so not totally outside the realm of “shoes”) to work. Oops.

Sweater: Target
Scarf: Banana Republic
Khakis: Dockers Metro
Shoes: Actually slippers

IMG_6993

Saturday was COLD, so I wore all the clothes.

Jeans: Loft
Gray Tee: Loft
Flannel Shirt: Target
Scarf: Target

IMG_6995 2

Monday: Another day, another scarf.

Actually, with a sad tale. Last year, I bought a chambray shirt from the boys’ section. It turns out that boys’ clothes are not flattering on me, and also that it’s too big. So I bought a replacement at Target yesterday, from the women’s section. The reject shirt now lives in Tyler’s closet until he grows into it. As you can imagine, this super-frugal girl HATES having to buy replacement clothes.

Cords: Loft
Shirt: Target
Scarf: Old?

IMG_7049 2

And Tuesday I bundled up, because it was cold!

Trousers: Loft
Sweater: J. Crew
Necklace: Etsy

IMG_7056 2

Have a lovely week!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Only Valentine Craft I Ever Make.

I don’t really get into Valentine’s Day, but I love making these every year for Tyler’s classmates. After printing the photograph, I punch holes above and below his hand and thread a small lollipop through. Instant awesome!

Tyler Valentine 1

Happy Valentine’s Day!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

WIWW: Variations on a Theme

Probably time to call in my photographer’s backup, Mister Tripod. It’s beenĀ  busy here, folks.

pleated poppy

I only managed two pictures this week, and they’re….um…. similar.

Friday: I liked this outfit way more than I thought I would. It was comfortable, but not schlubby. Top, cardigan, and necklace from Loft, pants from Dockers Metro.

IMG_6910

And Monday I was at it again, with the khakis/top/cardigan/necklace. But I was facing the other way. So that’s something. Tops from Loft, khakis from Target, necklace from Etsy.

IMG_6964

Have a lovely, and more interesting, week.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Green…..ish

I am not a hippie. I consider myself to be green….ish.

I do not buy organic food from the grocery store, but I shop my local farmer’s market. Gas mileage is important to me, but I’ve never considered an electric car. I breastfed for over a year, but did not cloth diaper.

When our house burned up in a fire, we saw the reconstruction as an opportunity to make the house much more energy- and cost-efficient – without crossing the line into composting toilets and solar panels.

We decided to convert the house to natural gas, and bought a gas range, water heater, fireplace logs, and a gas lantern (for the front porch). We also decided to upgrade the old, under-sized HVAC unit for two smaller units with gas furnaces. The City of Tallahassee gave us enough money in rebates to cover the cost of the conversion. Our walls got new insulation, as did our attic space, and we chose a lighter-colored roof to reflect more heat in the summer.

So far, so good.

The only major energy vampire left was the windows – the original, aluminum, single-hung windows. We did not have enough money to replace the windows during the reconstruction, so we started saving our pennies.

IMG_6725

This window, in the laundry room, has been duct-taped since we bought the house. We always intended to replace the windows as soon as we could, HONEST.

This is a tell-tale sign that you may need new windows:

IMG_6848

In the meantime, I ran an experiment in December. The thermostat for one of the HVAC units is right outside my bedroom door, and registers the temperature near the center of the house. I put a thermometer by the windows in the bedroom, approximately 20 feet away. The register for the heat is about halfway between these two. I noticed a consistent 5- to 8-degree drop in temperature between the hall thermostat and the windows. I’m guessing the difference between the vent (where the heat comes out) and the windows is even greater.

IMG_6738

The largest discrepancy I noticed was over the last weekend, when the thermostat was set to 68 and the thermometer read 59.3. My wallet suspects this has….ramifications.

Thermo

A few years ago, we replaced the windows at our old house, which cut our utility bill in half. IN HALF, I TELL YOU. It was glorious. We used the same company, NRG Industries, to replace the windows at the new house. We chose low-E, argon-gas-filled double hung windows.

I’m a traditionalist, so we chose regular grid windows for most of the openings. This is the living room, halfway done:

IMG_6905 2

In the kids’ rooms, which have giant openings and great views, we went with side-to-side sliders, to maximize ventilation and awesomeness.

IMG_6901 2

This is the window installed (but not sealed) in Tyler’s room:

Window 2

And remember the sad laundry room window? This is what it looks like now:

IMG_6906

We are completely thrilled with our windows. I (almost) can’t wait to get my utility bill next month. In addition to energy savings, the windows have reduced the noise in our house considerably. Our bedroom faces the road, and I don’t hear the cars any more. NO CARS.

If you’re looking to reduce your energy costs, I cannot recommend new windows enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Greek to Me: Pastitsio

My father grew up with several Greek neighbors. He used to say, “I learned all the food words and all the curse words. Turns out that’s all you need!”

I love Greek food. Every year I eagerly anticipate the Greek Food Festival at Holy Mother of God church here in Tallahassee, and I’ve been expanding my repertoire of Greek recipes.

This weekend I made pastitsio, which is a layered pasta/meat/cheese dish similar to lasagna. I scouted a few recipes on Pinterest, and decided to use this one from Chicho’s Kitchen as my starting point. I altered it significantly, based on a few of my personal kitchen rules.

Like Rule 1: I’m not buying a whole bunch of celery to use one stalk. No, ma’am.

And Rule 2: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. (This rule applies to wine and not, say, clam juice.)

And Rule 3: Authenticity is awesome, but if I can’t find it at Publix in Tallahassee, I’m probably going to use a substitute.

And Rule 4: All metric measurements will be converted and rounded without remorse.

So here we go.

Think of this as a play in three acts: The Meat Sauce, the Pasta, and the White Sauce.

Act 1: Meat Sauce.

Brown a chopped onion and some garlic until they get all sweaty and happy:

IMG_6936

Then add two pounds of ground beef and brown it. I used 93/7 lean.

IMG_6937

Next, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. That’s your meat sauce.

IMG_6939

I didn’t have cloves, so I used allspice. And next time I’ll either use petite diced tomatoes or tomato puree.

All that simmering left me….. thirsty. See Rule #2:

IMG_6943

Anyway, here’s my sauce after 40 minutes of simmering:

IMG_6944

If I had sufficient rangetop space, I could have proceeded with the pasta and white sauce while the meat sauce was simmering. However, since this recipe used my three largest pots/pans, there was not enough room to do that. The meat sauce pot hung out on a cutting board until time for assembly.

Act 2: Make the Pasta

You can make the pasta while you’re making your meat sauce, or you can make it while you’re making the white sauce. Pasta – it’s flexible.

Boil one pound of pasta, cutting 3 minutes off the recommended cook time. I used Ditalini, because it’s short and tubular and adorable.

IMG_6945

Drain, and throw the pasta in a large bowl.

Act 3: White Sauce

While the pasta is boiling, start your bechamel (white) sauce. Have ready: 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup flour, and 4 cups milk. Melt the butter in a large pan, then whisk in the flour. Keep whisking for one minute, until all flour lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth. Don’t stop whisking yet! Whisk in the milk, in a slow stream, until it’s combined with the flour/butter. Turn the heat up a little bit, until the mixture boils, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking slowly but constantly. Season the white sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and turn the heat to low.

IMG_6947

Now it’s time to assemble.

Turn your oven on 350 degrees F.

Grab your bowl of pasta. Add about a cup of the white sauce, 2 beaten eggs, and half the Parmesan cheese. Mix mix mix.

You should have in front of you: one big pot of meat sauce, one bowl of saucy pasta, one pan of white sauce.

Go ahead and grease a 9×13 casserole.

Take a deep breath.

Aaaaand here we go. From the bottom:

Layer 1: One third of the pasta
Layer 2: One half the meat sauce
Layer 3: One third of the pasta
Layer 4: One half the meat sauce
Layer 5: One third of the pasta
Layer 6: Bechamel sauce
Layer 7: Breadcrumbs & Parmesan

Step back and admire your work……

IMG_6948

…….then put that bad boy in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

IMG_6951

DEVOUR.

Pastitsio
Adapted from Chicho’s Kitchen

Serves 8-10

Meat Sauce:

2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used 93/7)
1 cup red wine
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, or tomato puree
1 TB tomato paste
1 4-in. piece cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. ground cloves OR allspice
1 TB + 1 tsp. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1.5 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute until just beginning to brown. Add the ground beef and brown, breaking up lumps. Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer 30-40 minutes. Remove cinnamon and bay leaves.

Pasta:

1 lb. tubular pasta, such as ditalini, rigatoni, or small penne
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (or Greek kefalotiri cheese, if you can find it)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, taking 3 minutes off the recommended cooking time. Drain and cool slightly, adding eggs, cheese, and 1 cup white sauce at assembly time.

White Sauce:

1/2 cup (4 oz) butter
1/2 cup flour
4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a large pan. Whisk in flour, stirring about 1 minute until all lumps are gone, then slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Topping:

1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Assembly:

Mentally divide the pasta into three portions, and the meat sauce into 2 portions. Layer as follows (starting at the bottom): pasta, meat sauce, pasta, meat sauce, pasta, white sauce, breadcrumbs/Parmesan.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Let rest 15 minutes, then serve. This would be a good opportunity to use the rest of that wine. Just saying.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized