First Day of Fall Recipe: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It is officially Fall! I am so excited. The weather is going to start getting cooler, the nights will be longer, the trees will begin to change and I get to bust out my favorite scarves! Not to mention it is now holiday baking season. Since today is the first day of Autumn, I figured I would celebrate by giving you all a wonderful recipe that's perfect for today and the next few months. This is a recipe I found in my fabulous William's Sonoma cookbooks, which have made my holiday cooking such a breeze. Enjoy it!

Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Bread
350 degrees
1 hour
Makes 2 medium loaves

What You'll Need:
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin or canned pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

How to Make It:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans and dust them with flour.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well blended; a hand-held mixer is useful for this step. Beat in the pumpkin, eggs and water until completely mixed. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Stir in the raisins and nuts.
  3. Pour and scrape the batter into the 2 prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake until a thin wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, about 1 hour. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

What Was That Outfit Again?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm wondering if you've ever felt this way: You go to your favorite clothing store, pick up a couple of versatile pieces and while in the fitting room trying them on, the sales associate shows you how to create different, fashionable looks by combining these new items with one's you may already have in your closet. She (or he...) help make you look fantastic! But then a few days, weeks or months later when you pull those pieces out, you've forgotten everything they showed you. You think, "What was that outfit again? I just loved the way it looked on me. Darn it!" I know I've been there a few times, and I'm sure you have too. You can never quite piece the look together yourself. Did they tuck this one in? Should I add a belt? Was this cardigan pared with a ruffly blouse, or just a simple tank? It can turn a quick "getting dressed" moment into "I'm going to be late for work!" And now your rushed and frazzled. It's okay my dear's, I have an experience and solution.

A few days ago I went out shopping with my youngest sister who is currently working in an office as well as heading out to many a job interview. She is a rather petite young gal and dresses pretty casual most of the time with tee-shirts, tanks, jeans and flip-flops (we do live in southern Cali...). Because of the jobs, she needed more professional clothing and had no idea where to start. Having about 8 years of retail experience under my belt (and just plain good fashion sense) my little sis enlisted my help. I was glad to be her leader on this treacherous journey. We stepped inside The Mall!

Luckily, she was pretty willing to try on most of what I showed her and everything fit rather nicely. She has also been on the more Tom-Boyish side most of her life and so ruffles, ribbons, flowers and frill are out! We went with basics: solid tanks for under cardigans, sweaters and blouses as well as black and tan pants. But I did want her to have a little style so we paired things with belts on the outside of tops and simple jewelry that brightens and livens up her outfits. She left the dreaded mall, happy and satisfied. But not being one for fashion, I was afraid she would forget all of the outfits we pieced together. I live about an hour away from her and would hate for her to be stressed when choosing her outfit for the day or even worse, look boring and bland.

So here is my solution to this problem I think may be more common than not: take pictures. As soon as you get home (so you don't forget) from your shopping trip, put on the outfits that the salesperson (or loving sister!) showed you. Then have someone take pictures of you. Once you've done this for every outfit, have the pictures printed and then tack them to the inside of your closet door or on cork board that you have hanging inside for easy view. Now everyday you will have your own stylist right there with you. This will also save time when packing for a trip too! Now if you want to get really crazy (and I know that you do), you can to do this with all of your clothes and begin to create categories for types of events or feelings. Feelings? Yes, you know you dress based on mood or how your body feels. You can have a "Feeling Fat" section, a "Feeling Sexy" section or even Church, Bridal Shower, Tropical Vacation or Date sections. It will make getting ready a real "snap".

Handmade Wednesday's: Teacup Candles

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Martha Stewart is at it again with these simple, soft, pretty candle options. I am a huge candle fan, but sometimes the containers are boring or the labels stand out too much. I love the idea of making your own candles and using teacups to contain them. So lovely. Just use teacups that have lost their saucers or head out to a thrift store or garage sale to find some "new" ones. These also make excellent gifts!

What You'll Need:
  • beeswax or paraffin bricks or old candles
  • teacups
  • wicks with tabs, sized for your molds
  • candle-making or candy thermometer
  • wax colorants (crayons work great!)
  • wooden skewer
  • double boiler or two pots
  • (optional) natural essential oil or fragrance oil (might be flammable if not natural)
Preparing Your Wax
  1. Place beeswax and/or paraffin bricks in a double boiler or in one pot that is inside another filled with water over the stove. When the wax has reached it's melting point according to a candle-making or candy thermometer, lower the heat and add a hardening agent such as stearic acid (if desired), using three tablespoons of stearic acid per pound of wax.
  2. To tint the melting wax, stir in bits of colorant using a wooden spoon. Test the color by dabbing wax with a wooden craft stick on waxed paper or parchment paper. Remove from heat; if using fragrance, add it at this point.
Make Your Candle
  1. Cut the wicking to the cup's height plus 2 inches. Fit 1 end with a wick tab; tie the other end around a skewer. Dip the wicking and the tab into melted wax to coat them. Remove and stick the tab to the cup's bottom. The skewer should be sitting across the top of the cup.
  2. Pour in the wax, stopping about 1/2 inch below the cup's rim. Allow the wax to set, about 1 hour.
  3. Note: If a well develops in the wax while it's hardening, use another skewer to prick a circle of holes about 1/16 inch deep around the wick. Pour in the melted wax until the surface is about 1/4 inch below the rim. Then let it harden completely, at least 1-2 hours.
  4. Cut the wick to 1/4 inch before burning.

Temporary Enhancements

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Moving into a temporary apartment can be a hassle, believe me, I’ve done it three times over the past three years. First you need to find the apartment, then handle all of the legal business, which sometimes includes a roommate; and lastly you need to figure out a way to make your apartment look semi-homey while staying inside your budget. This last step, in my opinion, is the hardest of all. Especially if you’re a college student and barely have enough money to feed yourself, let alone afford to decorate where you live.

My first tip in looking for an apartment is of course to find a good location. Most areas around college campuses can be full of crime, and no one likes an apartment complex that is broken into all of the time. However, if not many other options are available, you can stay safe by always making sure to lock your doors and windows. Another important aspect to look for, especially for those with a busy schedule, is an apartment with carpet instead of wooden floors. Wood floors are a nuisance to clean mostly because the process of sweeping and mopping. Instead get an apartment with carpet where time is saved in cleaning by a quick vacuum job. More focus can be spent on other parts of your apartment, such as the kitchen and bathroom, which take longer to clean.

The legal issues are dealt with as you move into your apartment. Most of this process is pretty typical and not very messy or hard. Of course you should always make sure, if you have a roommate, to lay down some ground rules about living together. I always find it can be tougher to live with someone if there is no boundaries or rules, or even designated cleaning days. It’s best to set up all of this before moving in with someone, because otherwise unnecessary problems can occur and cause tension among roommates.

Once you’re all moved in its time to start decorating your new apartment. I always find the best way to begin decorating is by ordering a few posters from a website. There are plenty of websites that have a wide variety of posters related with music, film, and many other forms of entertainment. Not only do these posters take up a lot of wall space, they’re not very expensive and are great conversation starters. In order to hang these posters, they can either be inexpensively framed or you can invest in some kind of poster glue. The poster glue may cost less, but in my experience doesn’t stick to walls very well. Other than posters, many decorations can be purchased at garage sales; you’d be surprised what you can find. Sometimes you can even get lucky enough to find free picture frames, vintage chairs, or even lava lamps sitting on peoples front lawns.

Starting over in a new place can be intimidating to say the least, but it can also be entertaining. Just be aware that there’s endless possibilities in enhancing your temporary apartment in affordable ways, you just need to have an open mind!

Clean Around the Rosy

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I hosted a playdate at my house yesterday afternoon.  Rewind about 5 hours earlier and you will find me sitting on my couch staring into a wasteland of toys, dishes, laundry and shoes.  I helplessly thought to myself, as I have many times before, "how am I going to tackle this mess?!"  Everyday my house is inevitably overrun with hoodlums and chaos and everyday I wander around aimlessly trying to clean it up.  First, I start unloading the dishes.  Then I spot a toy on the counter, so I go to put it away. On the way to the toybox, I notice that the TV is smudged and dusty, so I clean that.  Then I see that the hamper is overflowing, so I throw in a load of clothes.  At the washer machine, I find a puzzle piece that my son has been looking for.  Better put that away.  Darn, where did I put that toy from the kitchen?  After retrieving the toy, I head to my son's bedroom with toy and puzzle piece in hand.  I drop the toy in the toybox and begin to rummage around for the puzzle box.  After going through the closet and the bookcase, I find it lodged between the wall and his bed (what?).  Then the phone rings and and I gab for a while... Does this sound familiar?  You have been doing stuff all day, but have barely made a dent in the wreckage.  Well, yesterday I discovered an alternative to this silly runaround.  Brace yourself for genius...

I decided to try something new and divide to conquer.  First, I threw in a load of laundry.  Then, I started in the kitchen.  I put away everything that needed to be put away and I made a pile of stuff that belonged in other rooms.  I saved the cleaning (ie: wiping down and sweeping) for later.  Then I took my pile and moved to the family room.  I put away everything from my pile that belong in there.  Then I organized everything else, adding new misfits to my pile as I went along.  I continued to move through each room like that.  By the time I was done, my pile was gone!  I made a quick stop in the laundry room to change loads.  Then I moved on to the cleaning.  Again, I focused on one room at a time and cleaned from top to bottom.  I then grabbed my little cleaning caddy and moved on to the next target.  When I was finished with the cleaning, I threw my second load of clothes into the dryer and started folding the first.  When all was said and done, my entire house was sparkly clean in the amount of time it took to do two loads of laundry, and in plenty of time for our 3:00pm playdate.

Handmade Wednesday's: Botanical Calendar

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Now I know what you're thinking: "Starting a new calendar in September? Isn't that a New Year project?" But since the Fall is coming, I loved the idea of using pretty plants to make this calendar and then you'll have your calendar for next year all set and ready to put up on January 1st! This is also no ordinary calendar. We will be making this calendar by rubbing plants onto thin paper! Since this is a Martha Stewart project, you know it's going to be immensely beautiful.

What You Will Need:
13 x 19 in. thin Japanese rice paper
Crayons or Colored Pencil Stick
Pressed Leaves or Flowers
Calendar Template

  1. Choosing Your Plants: In order to make the calendar fit your home, personality and season try collecting leaves and flowers that you enjoy all throughout the year when certain plants are in season. Martha recommends thicker leaves, such as those from magnolias or geraniums. And when choosing your flowers be aware that most are too delicate but that hydrangeas and Queen Anne's lace are sturdy enough for this pretty craft. If you are having trouble finding leaves and flowers, you can always order them on-line. Here are Martha's choices for a few months: Pine needles for January and since it's september you might want to grab sugar-maple leaves! For the February winterberry, only a branch was used -- berries were drawn in with a crayon, a single hydrangea bloom for August, and a stem of lily of the valley for May.
  2. Flatten Your Plants: Next you are going to want to flatten your selections in a phone book or between sheets of newsprint under a heavy object.
  3. Make the Rubbing: Place paper on specimen, and secure with paperweight. Rub one section at a time with crayon or pencil stick, holding paper with free hand. (For large elements, such as leaves, hold utensil on its side; for small parts, such as stems, use its tip.) Fill in details, such as small flowers, with crayons.
  4. Making the Calendar Dates: Make the plant rubbing on Japanese rice paper, then position this calendar template under the paper. Use a colored pencil to trace the days, then add the dates for that month using the template's lines as a guide. Add the name of the month.
  5. Assemble the Calendar: When stacking the pages, slip blank sheets in between if the next month's design is showing through. Punch two holes 5 inches apart and 1 inch from top of each page. Tie with ribbon, and hang.

Add a Cup of Joe to Your Life

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are you a serious coffee lover like me? I am obsessed and in a very bad way, a little addicted. I must have my cup every morning (or two or three) and then perhaps another later in the day. The smells, the tastes, - and yes - even the colors energize me and get my creative "java" flowing! I love all shades of brown and cream. They have this way of turning something rather ordinary, into intriguing as well as soothing. Plus if you use them as a undertone, they will tame brighter and bolder hues that you accent with. So wether it's your blouse, your kitchen table runner or the paint on your walls, these latte color inspirations will invigorate you!

With Fall just around the corner, this Eddie Bauer ensemble makes for a classic, comfy piece. Not only will you be sharing the same colors with you favorite cup of joe, but you will also be cozying up right along with it in this cotton and cashmere blend cardigan. To be honest though, my favorite part of this outfit has got to be the satin blouse. The caramel color and ruffles down the front bring me back to another time. But then of course the belt reminds us we are in the 21st century. If you wanted a hint of color in there as well, try adding a scarf in orange, green or grapefruit.

The color of this chair calms your visual senses, especially when a room is filled with bright colors. But the dark brown wood adds more interest to the piece without drawing too much attention. What i love about this little snippet of a room is how even though there are bold yellows, oranges and even greens, it is still soft and inviting.

Then of course there is picking paint colors for the rooms of your pretty home! Better Homes and Gardens has a few suggestions on coffee shades that will help you paint these beauties in their right place:
Macchiato can be used anywhere, but it is an exceptional background for a wall of art.
Dark Brew reminds us of that string french roast, but matches so handsomely with cream trim or wainscoting.
Milky Foam has such soft yellow hues that pairing it with a muted robin's-egg blue is perfect.
Extra Cream would be surprising in tone-on-tone stripes with the color Artisan White. Guests will adore this one!

Dog's and The Right Kind of "Training"

Monday, September 6, 2010

I am lucky enough to have a cute little dog that I love. His name is Bolt because he looks like the little dog from the movie "Bolt". He is a Jack Russell/Boston Terrier that is a year and a half so he has a lot of energy and needs a lot of attention. My husband and I have had him for about 6months and have been successful with house training, the "sit" command and not pulling on a walk. But there are other habits he has that we just can't work out of him. So what do you do?

I have read a lot of Caesar Millan's (The Dog Whisperer) books and watched his show. I love watching him take a dog he has never met and transforming it into an incredibly well behaved dog within minutes. His secret is treating a dog as a dog: giving it a lot of exercise, feeding it only after it has earned the food as well as giving it rules, boundaries and limitations. But his biggest rule is that us (the human beings) must be strong pack leaders for our dogs. Now, I agree with a lot of his approaches on how dogs should be treated and that we need to be calm and assertive in order to get our dog to "listen" to us. But after applying a few techniques over the past few months, nothing seems to have changed. All I know is that I am more frustrated and Bolt still licks too much.

Of course, being Christians as well as just good people, we would never hit our dog. But when your dog - during playtime - runs as fast as he can, jumping right at your face with his mouth wide open and cuts your nose with his fangs, what are you suppose to do? He didn't bite down on your nose, he just came at you so fast with his hard sharp teeth that you are now bleeding. You say "No!", but he doesn't get it. You give him a "time-out" for lunging at your face, but all he knows is that he was playing, you got upset and now he is stuck in the bathroom again. My husband also likes to play video games in order to help him relax. Bolt seems to always want to nibble on him and yelp at him when he does. In order to allow my husband his time alone, I try my best to tell Bolt "No" and move him out of the way, but he just goes right back to his old tricks. My husband pushes him away a little and then of course Bolt thinks it's playtime. We try to be strong "pack leaders" so that he will listen to us but nothing seems to work. We too often find ourselves saying, "He's a wonderful dog, but....."

I know a lot of people have these same problems and have tried numerous ways of dealing with it all. If I was the Dog Whisperer, then perhaps my God given talent of speaking to dog's through my energy would get the job done. But unfortunately, that is not a gift I posses. Though I do agree with Millan's philosophies that dog's are not humans and we should not treat them in the same manner. They are wired differently than we are. But at the same time, I don't believe that every single dog in the world should be treated exactly the same. They are each different from each other. So where do we turn? I turn to my dog. I've decided to try a technique for a week or so and see how he reacts. If he seems to respond, I continue. If he doesn't respond well, I move on to something else. Plus, sometimes you just have to know what your dog is trying to say; like a baby. When they cry, it means they need one of many things and you just have to figure out which problem to fix. Bolt only barks when he needs to go outside, is out of water and food or my brother-in-laws run after him like a big bear. I'm learning who he is. If you're having the same problems, it's best to just be observant and adjust to what you discover.

Now for some rather Pretty Dogs!

Friday's Fab Etsy Finds: Legwarmers

Friday, September 3, 2010

I don't think that there is a girl alive that doesn't (openly or secretly) love legwarmers. They are fun, flirty and so versatile. Sure, you can rock them during a step class with a leotard. But the legwarmers of the 21st century have moved well beyond the gym and into every day attire. Now we wear them with minis, under cropped jeans, over leggings or skinny jeans, around our pumps, above our boot cuff and other in unexpected ways. Now that fall is on its way (pardon the heat wave), this is a great time to revive this classic look in your own wardrobe. Here are some Etsy finds to show you just how many ways leg warmers can work for you.

If wearing a mini skirt always feels like you are trying a little too hard then these crocheted above-the-knee legwarmers are your solution. They say "Yes, I can flaunt my legs, I'm just not going to". For a sexy, yet classy look, pair these with a mini skirt or perhaps some pleated shorts. For a more casual style scrunch them down or wear them over leggings. Pick up a pair from Mademoiselle Mermaid for $40.

These vintage legwarmers with yoyo rosettes are all grown up. Like the repurposed wool sweaters they are made from, they exude casual elegance. I prefer them in an understated look as shown in the photo above. However, as you will see on the Etsy page they also go great with a flowing floral skirt. Try them out for $35.

Okay, so technically these are not legwarmers, but they have the same feel so I threw them in here. I love a good pair of riding boots in the fall. And these little Boot Cuffs are the perfect addition to this look. They really do complete the outfit and make it all come to together. There are rave reviews and several color choices on the Etsy page. They go for $38 a pair.

My husband caught a glance of these lace up legwarmers and told me in no uncertain terms to order them. This came as no big surprise since he is a fan of almost anything that laces up. He says that it is because it has the allure getting of a peek at something that is covered up. There is nothing flashy about your calf. But when you lace some ribbon (or yarn as the case would be) around it, it becomes mesmerizing. The legwarmers are made by Two Trees Grow, so it is fitting that they have a subtle tree design woven into them--adding a little extra interest. Snatch up a pair for $56.

Again, these are not technically legwarmers, but I think that spats have a place in this line-up too. They do, afterall, at the very least keep your ankles warm. They dress up heels or flats and add interest without screaming for attention. Mademoiselle Mermaid has this pair listed for $30.

Handmade Wednesday's: The Mouse Pad

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Last week I told you about the book Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule and gave you instructions for the Rag Bag. So, keeping with this woman's fabulous sewing projects, I give you another that I think we can all use: The Mouse Pad! Most everyone these days has a computer, whether a desk top or lap top, and the mouse can be used for both! In fact, I know many people who have lap tops, yet prefer to use a mouse for easier maneuvering around this essential piece of technology.

Unfortunately, if you are trying to make your home pretty, soft and homey, a computer sort of ruins it. They are clunky, have sharp lines and just their being in a room can make you feel as though you have a ton of things to do. Perhaps the computer is a huge part of your job - like mine - and you spend hours upon hours staring into it. Don't you want something with a little softness to ease your cluttered mind? Make yourself a pretty mouse pad and just may feel instantly better!

The Mouse Pad
Soule believes that you should use what you've already got in your home and I could not agree more! So, grab any type of fabric for this project: quilting, cotton, linen, duck, and even cotton upholstery-weight fabrics are perfect. You will want to use a contrasting fabric along the bottom edge of the pad, so choose a favorite piece that you will really enjoy!

Approximately 1/4 yard total, as follows:
Fabric 1: (1) 9" x 9" piece of fabric for the back
Fabric 2: (1) 9" x 6 1/2" piece of fabric for the front
Fabric 3: (1) 9" x 3 1/2" piece of contrasting fabric for the front strip
Heavyweight fusible interfacing: (2) 9" x 9"

How to make it:
  1. Gather all materials and cut all fabrics to the measurements above.
  2. Lay the two front fabric pieces right sides together, matching up their 9" edges. Stitch. Press the seam open.
  3. Following the manufacturer's instructions, adhere the interfacing to the wrong side of the front piece that you just created. Then adhere a second piece to the wrong side of the back fabric piece.
  4. Square up these two pieces, wrong sides together and trim away excess. Use a tight zigzag stitch around all four sides close to the edge. Trim as needed, being careful to avoid cutting the stitches.
Finished size will be 9" x 9". Enjoy surfing the web in peace!