"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Come on Spring!

I think I've slept all weekend (hence no posts, no new cards up on Etsy, no pasta made, etc.). I'm ready for more sunshine for more hours in the day so my Circadian rhythm and body in general don't put me to sleep every afternoon of the weekend. Bread is in the oven so at least we can have sandwiches for lunch this week! And the Stewarts (my wonderful chem professor and his wife) just bought some of my most favorite cards. :) 

I'm starting to really embrace my full weekends of NOT working on Saturdays and I must say it's pretty awesome. Only very small moments of panic remain. :) 

Well, I've read two books in about 2 1/2 weeks (which is amazing and wonderful and definitely partly due to having a Saturday/weekend again) and I've just started Water for Elephants, which I've heard is amazing. And so far it is--beautifully written, funny, interesting. So it's off to read in bed for a bit. 

Here's a funny picture I don't think I've shared from around Christmas time. I was walking from the kitchen to the office and I look over into the living room and see this: 

That used to be on the tree.
Vivienne, just chilling with the garland all around her. No biggie. At least that's what her entire attitude says--that and, "I do what I want!" The vet says Tortishells are "independent," but Brian uses other words. They're certainly into everything like toddlers! Hope you all have had relaxing weekends and I'm going to try and be more of an online presence this week!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


So a week or two ago I decided to buy a showcase on Etsy. For $7 your stuff gets a featured spot on the homepage of the "paper goods" section of Etsy for 24 hours. It can be fairly hard to get a showcase sometimes. I was feeling super excited because I had just sold two cards that week to two STRANGERS (that is still a huge deal to me!). I figured I'd at least make back the showcase fee. And I just went for it. 

And I didn't sell one thing. Not one thing! It was kind of depressing. And surprising. And then I felt conceited for feeling surprised that people wouldn't want to buy my stuff. I put so much effort into making sure everything looked good and the best pictures were up, etc. And individual cards got more hits/views/hearts. But no money in my pocket. I've been in kind of a funk since then. I haven't had any real interest in posting to Etsy all the adorable Valentine's mini-cards I've made. And now it's almost February and I'm running out of time for Valentine's day. *sigh* I think tomorrow I'll make myself pull it together and start again. But seriously--these set backs really take a tole on my excitement and energy and enthusiasm for my card business sometimes. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homemade Applesauce

I've noticed that all the blogs I follow take the weekends off (probably because it's their "real" job, and this is clearly [unfortunately] not mine...) and I tend to ramp up the writing on the weekends. Anyways, I had 8 old apples sitting on the counter and considered throwing them out yesterday. Instead, I put them in the "ingredients" section on allrecipes.com to see what might come up (I was feeling in the mood for some kind of apple tart...) and APPLESAUCE came up. Brilliant! Make semi-mushy apples mushier and nobody will know how old they are! 

My lovely friend Katie who has a very funny cooking blog did this applesauce recipe last year, and I wish I would have remembered it in time! (Or at least the part about putting the peels in the oven sprinkled with brown sugar for crispy apple-chip type snacks before I pitched all my peels.) 

I'm thrilled to add applesauce to the list of things I'm never buying from the store again. That list is slowly getting longer! (In that blog post she talks about making her own ketchup...which I'm definitely now researching too). So, this applesauce is pretty spectacular. It ended up tasting a lot like apple pie filling! 

I kept wishing those were chunks of butter. 
So I looked up a bunch of recipes for this and then just kind of winged it. Here's measurements I used for sure. With the other ingredients you're on your own! Taste as you go--it's the way the real cooks do it. ;-) 

Homemade Applesauce
8 apples (I had golden delicious, fuji and some other reds on hand and used them all)
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar (will probably use less next time, and will probably try to substitute some maple   syrup and/or honey for some of that processed stuff too! see Katie's recipe)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice (it just seemed like the right thing to do)
2 TBS butter (we got fancy butter from Jungle Jim's. Ingredients? Cream. Salt. Amazing)

I added in cinnamon (maybe 1-2 tsps? Little seems to go kind of a long way depending on how much of that flavor you like) and sprinkled some apple pie spice in there too. I also added light brown sugar (maybe 2-3 TBS, not too much). When all that stuff was added I turned the stove on med-med high and covered the 3-quart pot. 

After a little bit it started boiling so I reduced it to medium heat. About 20-25 minutes later the apples were soft enough to mush with my spatula spoon. 

Looks watery but it thickens when you stir it and let it sit.
I took a big fork and mashed it all up. Some big chunks of apple are still in there and I'm okay with that. 

Yes, please.
A quick note on the butter I added--It made this a very rich, more dessert-like applesauce. If you're looking for something a bit more like the store stuff, leaving out the butter is probably a good idea. But since I never miss an opportunity to use butter, it's staying in in the future! 

My first task for this tasty treat was to put it on some vanilla ice cream for dessert! 

All is right with the universe.
My future plans for the applesauce include mixing it with oatmeal for breakfast, and using it as a side with pork chops and sauerkraut for dinner tomorrow night (there will also be mashed potatoes and possibly a veggie, in case you were wondering). Happy eating!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

50s Style Clothing

I find it kind of ironic that as much as I frown upon the 50s for the way women were viewed/treated/pigeon-holed into being housewives, I gravitate towards the fashion of the era like crazy. It's super feminine, classy and just plain "pretty." And in today's world of less is more, I think it really stands out as beautiful and sexy in a sea of unfortunate fashion choices. I've seen a lot of the style around the web lately and it's making me want to go shopping! And I'm especially gravitating towards all the swimsuits. :)

I love love love this Etsy shop!

I shared this shop with you yesterday, but couldn't resist another print! :)

I'm a sucker for polka dots. Swimsuit from Anthropologie.

I love the cut of this dress. Wasn't too crazy about the colors but they've kind of grown on me! 
So that's just a couple examples of the thousands out there. Search online for 50s dresses and prepare to be amazed! Where do you find vintage clothing in Cincy? I've been to Gayle's Vintage Clothing on Main Street in Old Milford, but that's about it! :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Yikes. It's been awhile since I've posted! Life has been quite busy. There's much to update on: 

My first week in EDITORIAL.

My first drum corps camp on cook staff.

American Idol has started (I'm only half kidding. The new judges are awesome). 

I took a trip back up to Oxford and it was really lovely. 

The Christmas tree finally came down. The kittens went through some serious withdrawal for awhile. 

That doesn't seem like much now that I put it down. I've been wracking my brain--there must have been other insane things happening that kept me from posting!! Well, I'm done serving so I'm hoping this weekend will help me get things more in order because I'll have the time! 

So in my infinite laziness, I'm going to direct you to other people's creative and inspiring blog posts that I've particularly enjoyed. :) Hope all is well with everyone and you're driving safely in the white death. 

I'm pretty sure the author of this blog might be slightly insane. Which makes me lover her all the more. Be prepared to laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. 

These prints are unbelievable. Thanks to fellow crafty lady and blogger Alicia for sharing! This is one of my favorites. :) 

Can't get enough of these poms. Seriously one of my favorite Etsy shops. 

One of my cards was featured in a pretty purple polka-dotted treasury! :) 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nostalgia for the Home

I love this Etsy shop. It has combined cute images with one of my favorite things: books! More specifically, pages from vintage books. They're inexpensive and there's a sale going on where you buy 4 and get 1 free! Click on the photos below to be linked to Winterberry Cottage's Etsy shop! I need to spend some time walking around our apartment to see where I can add a few of these. How do you choose!?

For the kitchen:



For your bedroom/closet/bathroom:


For your kids' rooms: 



For your home decor:

Home Library Inspiration

I am obsessed with books. I have a "to-read" list of books that has no less than 20 titles on it. And yet, I compulsively buy more books that I don't need, and may not read for years! I am waiting excitedly for the day when we have a house with room for a wonderful library. A real, grownup, beautiful, inspirational room that people just want to be in. Following are some beautiful library inspirations I've found around the interwebs, but first, a look at our current library, which is also in our dining room. 

The scary part? I have boxes of books at my dad's house, waiting for a bookcase to fit on!!
We have some games on one shelf, photos and knickknacks interspersed throughout the books. I'm very happy with them--especially how we got them to fit on the strange curved walls. In the middle on top of the shelves is the sand we poured together from our wedding, and a framed photo of us pouring the sand together during the ceremony. I really like that it's up there on display (and so brightly colored--blue, green and plum) and especially that it's safe from the kitties who destroy everything fragile in their paths. (P.S. the bookcases are from IKEA. Fairly economical and endless combinations / colors / fun!)

Now on to the REAL inspiration you've been waiting for. This is the most beautiful and impractical way to organize a library I've ever seen. You'd never be able to find anything you were looking for, but I'd almost rather sit in the room and stare instead of read anyways. 

I really appreciate creative uses of space (especially small ones). Have bookcases built into areas of your home that would otherwise be lost or unusable: under staircases, in oddly-shaped bedrooms of older cottage homes (you know, the ones with the sloped, awkward walls in the gigantic second-floor bedrooms?). This bookcase just seems to be an extension of the wall; something that has always been there and feels just right. 

I really like the idea of a room that feels Victorian, sumptuous, elegant and regal. (Maybe I read too much historical fiction?) This room comes pretty close to my visions of that! I think it's the light fixture that does it--chandelier in my library? Yes, please! 

Along the same lines as the photo above, this amazing study is from designer Badgley Mischka's home. At first, I thought it was a dining room (The table has place settings...I'm still not convinced it isn't a dining room). The photo is from the book American Fashion Designers at Home. What a fascinating thing, to see how fashion designers translate their style into home decor. Look at the little antlers hanging on the wall! What on earth are they from? A jackalope or something? :) 

So since I was convinced this was a dining room, it got me to thinking how nice it would be to actually dine in a library. Maybe like this, with a more rustic feel. Then I'd get my chandelier in the library for sure! The blog where I found this photo has now decided that they must have their dining room in a library, and I can't say it's a bad idea. I've even played with the idea of adding more shelves to our dining room.
I think that libraries can and should be places where work is accomplished. Whether it's a small desk or writing surface, or an easy place to put your laptop when you're feeling inspired, there needs to be some functionality to the room. This designer took it one step further and created a beautiful workspace--for many people at once! Doesn't it make you want to do some research out of old texts? Or maybe some experiments?

Now this next one is a little bit out of the realm of my personal design tastes, but it's so visually pleasing anyways I had to share. This blogger might want a home library even more than I do. I believe there are no less than 3 separate posts on her blog about different library designs. What is really neat about this ultra-modern library is that the bookcase isn't one continuous unit--the top part is in a loft area! You may have figured that out right away, but it wasn't until I noticed that there was a desk "floating" in the top right of the photo that I realized that was a second floor! What a great idea to have something visually line up for two stories--even with a separation of floors in between. 

And finally, the library room that may have all my favorite things in one photo.

I'm right in line with the blogger whose site I found this on: I love libraries, spiral staircases, lofts and little cozy spaces. And this one has it all. I like the idea of having a guest room tucked away in the library. Can you imagine what it would feel like to visit someone's house and sleep in their awesome library? The pillars are beautiful and make the space feel grand. The clock hanging from the ceiling adds whimsy. The lights in the loft are industrial. How could you ever get bored here with so many elements to look at and process? I'd add more touches of color (maybe with paint to the backs of the bookshelves in the loft and in the curtains and bedding in the nook area?) and then we'd have perfection.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Goodbye Restaurant Industry!!

Saturday was my last serving shift (ever?? Too early in life to tell if that's the case, but man I hope so!). I foodran last night (I know I went out with a bang!) and now I'm done! It's an awfully bittersweet thing. I'd venture to say that serving is one of the hardest professions to quit--the good money, the cash, the flexible scheduling, the camaraderie you have with your coworkers in the industry. That's why I've been doing it for 8 years! But I also know if I don't just make a break and get out now, I'll be doing this forever. This rest of this post is rather sappy about leaving the business and all-- the sting and melancholy about the whole thing is still pretty fresh. So I've interspersed some of my most favorite videos that break down the many, many reasons that I am happy to be out of the serving world.

(I've literally had these conversations. Many times.)

It seriously makes me feel panicked, even though I've not NEEDED to pick up a shift the entire time I've been juggling Cheesecake and my full time job (and my freelancing and my Etsy shop...). In the back of my head I always said, "I need to keep on at Cheesecake just in case we need extra money for some reason." And you know what? I've never once had to pick up a shift because I actually needed to. I've also come to realize and understand and believe that since I've been there for so long and am leaving on good terms--I can always come back! People do it all the time--seasonally or moving back in town after living somewhere else for awhile. 

But even Saturday (after being called in as a standby to work on New Year's Day!) I found myself wavering about whether or not I should quit. I said goodbye to Roy, a regular who sits at the bar, and he teared up and was so sad to see me go! He said he so looks forward to our chats on Saturday mornings and it about broke my heart. I didn't foresee anyone being that sad I was leaving. So I gave him a big hug and a business card so he can read my blog (Hi, Roy, if you ever read this!) and that was that. 


Another thing about serving that made me waver today was the realization that in no other profession can you meet such an array of people in such a short amount of time. I met two of someone else's regulars today and it might turn into a freelance editing job at some point in the future. They were such wonderful, nice people and it was great to meet them. We decided that they were meant to be in my section today instead of their usual server's so that we could exchange information about her book for the future. It's the networking and coincidences and contacts and friendships that you make that has me finding it so hard to leave. (I attribute my current full-time job to a couple in the company I served when they came in to celebrate a family birthday. Let me know if you're interested in that story.)

(This is brilliant for so many reasons: secret shoppers, lemonade, etc.)

One thing I'm super excited for? Knowing that I can plan anything for the future. I don't have to worry if I requested a day off in time. Or if I'll be scheduled on a holiday because we can't request off. It feels so freeing to know that my time is really now my own. And the nights and weekends are just open with no guilt strings attached. When I get rid of shifts I feel an enormous sense of guilt because I just think about the money I could have been making. I don't have to worry about that anymore! :) 

Cheesecake Factory has really been the best place I've ever served. There have definitely been challenges, but it was leaps and bounds above everywhere else I've served as far as atmosphere, professionalism, management, co-workers, etc. The good thing is that, as we all know, I currently eat at Cheesecake Factory more than I serve there anyways! :) So I'm sure I'll be able to strike a nice balance in the future. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Strawberry Cream-Filled Cupcakes

Drooling yet? I spent my Friday off work baking--literally, all day. I made cupcakes from scratch, a cream cheese icing, and a strawberry cream filling. And all so I could carry them to a NYE party in one of my wonderful Christmas presents from Brian: a cupcake/cake carrier (Williams-Sonoma calls it a "courier" but we're not that fancy).

Photo from Williams-Sonoma's website. Buy one here! P.S. Do you see those flower cupcake muffin things?! How does one make those!? 

So first I made the icing because it needed to be in the fridge for awhile to thicken up. 

I've mentioned before that butter and brown sugar are two of my favorite ingredient combinations. Unsalted butter and cream cheese is another great one. I know it seems kind of weird and like it could actually taste pretty disgusting. But if you love cream cheese and butter independent of one another as much as I do, you understand how great putting them together can be. 

This particular recipe called for 5 cups of confectioner's sugar (also known as 10x in the baking world. Don't ask me why!). It sounded like a lot, and by the time I had added 4 cups I was a little overwhelmed by the sweetness! And that is truly saying a lot for a person with a sweet tooth of my caliber. I only added 4 cups on the first batch and then a little less than 4 on the second batch. Then I mixed them together and the result was pretty amazing--plenty of sweetness but a big cream cheese flavor as well. 

On a side note, if you plan on adding confectioner's sugar "one cup at a time while continuously beating the icing on medium speed" with a KitchenAid as the recipe suggests, this is what your kitchen will look like. 

Powdered sugar EVERYWHERE. The mixing bowl is hiding some of the mess as well.
I would suggest adding it VERY gradually, and if you can aim the sugar to hit the blade it seems to work much better. Otherwise, when the mixer makes its way around and hits the pile of powdered sugar you just put in, it explodes into a big cloud all over everything, including you!

The cupcake batter was the best I have ever had. It was light, fluffy, sweet, a little floury. The texture had so much lightness to it it's hard to describe. It was almost like a mousse. It made me so excited to actually bake the cupcakes. I was paranoid about ruining that wonderful batter in the oven that I sat next to the oven with the light on and practically watched them rise and bake for the last 7-8 minutes of bake time. 

There are no words for this!
The real point of this little exercise was to try out the cupcake corer I got for my birthday. 

It looks kind of vicious but it's just plastic. 
It makes cute little cupcake plugs

Brian cored all these. :) 

Then I made a strawberry cream filling while the cupcakes were cooling. I think whipping heavy cream was the most exciting thing I've done yet with a KitchenAid. If you've ever whipped cream without one you understand how exciting this moment was for me. I think I even went into the office where Brian was on the computer and did a little dance of excitement to try and convey how awesome this was. (Especially the fact that I could leave the cream whipping in the kitchen while I left to do a dance.)

This is all I've ever really wanted in life. 
And then, the finished product, iced and ready to go in my carrier/courier! And for the record, that thing is HEAVY with 36 cupcakes in it!

If you're thinking the icing looks a tad bit runny, you'd be right. It never actually fell over the edge of any cupcakes or anything traumatic like that, but if you're used to a canned frosting or canned whipped frosting you might be a little worried. If I had added the other two cups of 10x sugar the consistency would have been much thicker. But then I'd also be on the floor in a sugar coma and you wouldn't be learning about these great cupcakes!

Finally it was time to go to Em and Scott's to see their beautiful little girl.

"It's a baby!!!"

It's almost the smile we tried to get out of her all night.
Hope you all had a safe and lovely New Year's Eve!

P.S. for all the recipes, get this book. Everything is from the famous Magnolia Bakery in NY. Look through the table of contents on Amazon--you'll hardly be able to contain yourself. Or, if you're just dying of curiousity, let me know and I'll post the cake and icing recipes here. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hello April?

What was up with the weather on New Year's Eve? I know I went to sleep and it was December 30th, but somehow I woke up in April. We opened up the dining room windows and I think the babies were a little overstimulated. 

Here's the conversation Viv and I had: 

Viv: "Mom. It's December 31st and you just opened the dining room windows."
Me: "Viv it's 60 degrees out. Stop looking at me like that. Enjoy the birds."

She spent the next hour or so freaking out about all the noises outside and generally being weird. 

Sometimes when I get startled I flatten my ears so I look like a crazy bat.

Oh look! A bird!
I tried to take a photo of Finny but he was so freaked out I couldn't get him to sit still in the window long enough to get one. That nice warm break in the middle of crazy winter did wonders for my psyche! I'm quite optimistic for spring now. :) 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Post-Holiday Relaxing

Thursday was a pretty awesome day. We get early release at work on the day before we're off for a holiday, so I was home before 2pm. We decided to go to the art museum to see our wedding photographer's (Steph Carson) photos hanging in the wedding exhibit they have going on right now. Yes, that's right, she has a ton of photos hanging in an exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum. 

So we go to the art museum and we're walking along and so exited to see the first grouping of her photos, and I look at the wall and my jaw drops and I just stare. Because I see this: 

I think Claire was in front helping/balancing me. Ladies--your backs are hanging in the art museum!
These are my bridesmaids!!!! I think it was cropped a little closer, and all her photos were in black and white, which was lovely. Brian tried to get a photo of me with it (there is very strictly NO photography in the exhibits) but he wasn't stealthy enough. The people watching the rooms have eagle eyes for this stuff. I have the original and that's good enough for me. :) (But for the record, if I had been in the photo, I'd be posting a pic of me with my photo right now hahaha. We would have fought security for that one!)

I've been renewing an interest in Groupon recently and got a $10 Groupon for $20 worth of pizza at Mt. Adams Pizza. When I was checking out on Groupon it said I had $10 worth of Groupon credit (I have no idea how I got that) so the Groupon was free! After the art museum we drove to Mt. Adams. It was way too early for dinner so we parked and just walked around. 

It sounds sad, but I've never walked around Mt. Adams. I've driven around it, but never actually been "in" it. It was warm out and the weather was beautiful. We looked at the gorgeous houses and all the crafty ways they get more space. And then we stood and looked out over the Ohio River for awhile and then looked out over the city skyline at the top of the steps at the Church of the Immaculata. We have such a beautiful city. Once it was about dinner time we walked back to Mt. Adams Pizza and got dinner to go and then came home. Streamed The Big Lebowski on Netflix on the TV (I had never seen it--pretty darn good!), ate dinner and relaxed. It was such a nice evening. Our beautiful tree was lit: 

You can see Finn in the bottom right guarding his precious.
And we had the candles going in the fireplace for the second time in almost two years. 

These will now be lit more often--so peaceful.
The cool thing about this day, besides getting to spend so much time with the husband, was the fact that it cost us $8 total. Yep, you read that right. $4 for parking at the art museum and a $4 tip to the owner of  the pizza place (since our meal was free from Groupon and all!). I was seriously impressed with us! 

Whoops. Just forgot. Brian ran out and got us milkshakes after the movie. Make that $15 for the entire day. Not quite as impressive as $8, but it'll do. :) Regardless, it made me realize that if you plan ahead (i.e. use Groupon, special discounts at places, free entertainment, coupons etc) you can really enjoy our city and have fun date days/nights for really cheap. I'm inspired and motivated to make this happen more often! 
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