Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nursery Trend: Yellow and Gray

**I’m going green today and recycling a post I wrote last October. This may be an oldie but it’s a goodie! Hope all my fellow East Coasters are safe and dry. We were lucky never to have lost power and, other than some trees down, to escape Sandy’s wrath.**

This color combo is really fresh and modern for nurseries or big kid rooms. You can accent with girly ruffles or clean lined-giraffes to make the room perfect for a girl or a boy, which makes this an ideal palette for surprise deliveries. Here are some of my favorite yellow and gray nurseries I’ve come across:

Photo via www.rhoneydesign.com

Photo via www.rhoneydesign.com

Photo via madebygirl.blogspot.com

Photo via realhousewivesofbc.blogspot.com

Photo via thedomesticwannabe.blogspot.com

Photo via littleelephantstitchery.com

Embroidery hoops with fabric via littleelephantstitchery.com

Photo from taliaaudenart.blogspot.com

Available on Etsy @gusandlula ($16)


Pumpkin Soup

If you live on the East Coast, you are likely trapped in your house today, and your Halloween pumpkins are probably getting pummeled by Hurricane Sandy. . . so why not turn them into some cozy, delicious pumpkin soup (if you have power, that is)? If you’re lucky enough to not be in the path of the storm, well, make this soup anyway because it’s just that good.

I have experimented with several recipes for pumpkin soup in the past, but they all turned out too sweet or too bland or too creamy. With this recipe, however, I have hit the jackpot. It is the perfect balance of savory and sweet with a little fall spice and just a hint of cream. I served this soup with a cheddar and apple grilled cheese sandwich, which was the perfect complement!

Pumpkin Soup

2 whole pie pumpkins (I roasted 3 to make pumpkin bread at the same time, hence the picture)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp thyme
5 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Place your pumpkins, whole and uncut, on a cookie sheet and roast them for about 45 minutes or until they are soft. Allow the pumpkins to cool before cutting them, removing the seeds, and scooping out the flesh.

2. Using a food processor, pulse the pumpkin until it’s smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a regular blender, an immersion blender (after you’ve added the chicken stock in step 4), or a manual masher instead.

3. Heat a dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, butter, and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent and soft. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.

4. Whisk in chicken stock and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Slowly add in the pumpkin and stir to blend well.

5. Cook the soup for 15 minutes to allow it to thicken, and then add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and heavy cream.

6. Serve immediately or reduce heat to low to keep warm until you’re ready to eat.

 


Halloween Safety Tips

Be sure to share these Halloween safety tips from the Polly Klaas Foundation with your little “monsters” to help keep them safe from the real life ones.

Halloween Safety Tips

  1. Have older kids take along two or more friends trick-or-treating. If your child is 12 or younger, you or another trusted adult should go along.
  2. Remind your child to stop only at houses that are well-lit and stay in neighborhoods that are familiar.
  3. Have your child carry a flashlight.
  4. Tell your child to NEVER enter a person’s home or car for a treat.
  5. Get to know the entire route trick-or-treaters intend to follow and agree with your child on a specific time to return home.
  6. Tell your child to stay on the sidewalks and only cross the street at intersections.
  7.  Make sure your child’s costume is flame resistant, allows for safe walking, is easily visible at night and does not obstruct sight. Consider putting reflective tape on your child’s costume and bag to increase visibility.
  8. Tell your child not to eat any treats until they return home. Inspect all treats and dispose of anything that seems to have been tampered with.
  9. If anyone bothers or approaches your child, remind them to take 3 steps back, yell “NO!” and run away quickly. Tell them to seek out a group of trick-or-treaters accompanied by an adult and tell what just happened.

Founded in 1993 in memory of 12-year-old Polly Hannah Klaas, the Polly Klaas Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to children’s safety, helping to find missing children, and advocating for public policies that promote child safety and welfare.


Converting a Cabinet into a Bathroom Vanity

I think this was the mother of all DIY projects in our house. It’s by far the most ambitious one we’ve ever tried at least, and my husband did an amazing job! When we renovated our master bath, we had a really hard time finding a bathroom vanity that fit our vision for the space. We have a small bathroom, but we wanted to maximize the space we had, which meant that we needed a vanity that wasn’t a standard size. We also loved the idea of having a marble counter top. Those two things together meant that we were looking at spending $2,000 on the vanity alone, not to mention all of the other bathroom expenses.

So when we came across the perfect sized cabinet on clearance at HomeGoods for $250, we decided we could do it ourselves for less. And we did. With the custom-cut carrara marble counter top, we ended up spending about $800 total. Yes, we could have gotten a smaller, standard vanity from Home Depot for cheaper, but it wouldn’t have been exactly what we wanted. This project let us achieve the look we were going for while keeping an extra $1,200 in our pockets!

Here’s how you can DIY: 

1. When you choose your counter top and sink, request the sink template from the vendor to use as a guide for cutting out the top of the furniture. You may need to coordinate this with your vendor to make sure you’re cutting the void for the sink in the correct location.

2. With all measurements accounted for, tape the sink template to the top of the furniture and trace it using a pencil or marker. You may want to add an additional ½” – 1” to the outside of the template to account for the brackets that attach the sink to the bottom of the counter top.

3. Assess the supporting points on your furniture and plan your cuts to retain structural integrity.  If cuts are necessary that may compromise the structure, plan to install new supports to help bear the weight of the new top. In this case, we added 2 x 4’s cut to length for support. You will want to reassess the stability after you cut out the section as well.

4. Drill a starter hole near the center of the traced template, and then use a jigsaw to cut out the top of the furniture.  If you are able to cut the full sink void, do so.  If your furniture has a center support, then you may need to cut the void out in sections. You can then use a hole saw to cut your faucet voids.

5. Measure the depth of your sink.  If a center support exists, transpose the measurement to the support and use your jigsaw to cut away the appropriate section.  If there is a shelf near the top of the furniture to support drawers (as was the case with our piece), cut out the appropriate void in this shelf as well to account for the depth of the sink.  Be sure to reassess the supporting structure to verify the furniture’s stability and strength.

6. Measure the section of plumbing on your bathroom wall.  Transpose those measurements to the back of the furniture (remembering to mirror the measurements) and mark out a section large enough to accommodate the plumbing. Cut out your marked area, and reassess the structure’s support and stability. At this point, you can add your extra supports if necessary.

7. To attach your new counter top to the furniture, dollop the appropriate adhesive around the top of the furniture. If needed, get assistance in placing the new top on the furniture and adjust to final position.  Be sure to allow for proper drying time. Once it’s dry, you can install the sink and faucet hardware.

8. Our furniture had two drawers at the top that now ran into the sink, but we wanted to utilize at least a portion of these drawers. If your furniture is similar, you can measure the area that the sink now occupies and subtract that from the previous drawer layout.

9. If possible, try to utilize the existing drawer sides and simply cut the bottom and the back of drawer to achieve the new size. Using wood glue and small nails, reconstruct the drawers. Because you are essentially losing the built-in track on one side of your drawer, you may need to install new drawer tracks to allow for proper movement. You can find these at any hardware or big box store for pretty cheap.

10. Finally, move your new vanity into place and secure it to the wall. Attach your plumbing, and you’re done!

 


How to Give Yourself a Mani in About 10 Minutes—Including Drying Time!

I never have time to go get or give myself a manicure. So it wasn’t surprising that I cringed when I looked down at my hands while on our way to a wedding a couple of weeks ago. I knew I wouldn’t have time to do anything about my nails once we got to the hotel, so my only chance was to try and give myself a mani in the car. . . while going 75 mph down the interstate. Now before you freak out, no, I wasn’t the one driving. But still, I have a hard enough time painting my nails sitting on a completely stationary couch, let alone while hitting a pothole every few minutes.

We stopped at a Walgreens so I could pick up some polish, and I decided to give the Sally Hansen Color Quick Pen a shot. I had seen them before and was pretty skeptical about how well it would actually work. But I figured I would be far less likely to get polish all over the car if it was contained in a spill-proof tube instead of an open bottle. Much to my surprise, it worked really well!

All you have to do to get started is shake the pen and click the top a few times to get the polish going and then start painting.

Overall, I felt like I had more control over the brush, which is saying something considering I was in a moving car. Plus, the polish dried super fast. I don’t think I will use these pens all the time simply because the color selection is a little safe and limited, but if you need to polish in a pinch (or on the go), they are fabulous!


5 Awesome Halloween Costumes for your Little Mister

I love having a little girl and all of the frilly, sparkly stuff that goes with it, but I have to admit that some of these costumes for boys are pretty darn cute. Too busy to spend hours building a homemade costume? Don’t sweat it. These costumes can be put together pretty easily, many of them using stuff you probably have around the house already!

Carl from UP

A little “Risky Business”

Strongman

Little Ewok

Mini Dwight Schrute


How to Make Pumpkin Spice Pancakes the Busy Mom Way

When it comes to pancakes, I am all about using the box mix. I have made pancakes from scratch before, and I really don’t taste much of a difference. All pancake mixes, however, are not created equal. After some tasty trial and error, we have found a winner:  the Krusteaz Low Fat Oat Bran pancake mix is our go-to for fluffy, healthy(er) pancakes with a hint of cinnamon. Plus, they make a great base for these yummy pumpkin spice pancakes.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
8 pancakes 

2 cups pancake mix {or make your own batter, whatever floats your boat}
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin purée
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. In a large bowl, mix together the pancake mix and water using a wire whisk (batter will be a bit lumpy).

2. Slowly stir in the pumpkin, and then add the remaining ingredients.

3. Allow the batter to sit for 10-15 minutes to thicken up.

4. Heat your skillet to medium/medium-high heat. Spray the surface with nonstick cooking spray, and ladle on about 1/4 of batter for each pancake.

5. Once you start to see lots of bubbles in the batter, flip the pancake and cook the other side.
If you really want to get fancy, you can soften your butter and mix in a little maple syrup or honey for a sweet butter to top your pancakes. You can also sprinkle on candied pecans or add a dollop of fresh whipped cream.


How Dora Made Family Game Night Just a Bit Awkward {and also hilarious!}

During our vacation this summer, my family was playing a nice, wholesome game of Bananagrams before dinner one night. Everything was quiet as we all concentrated on building our words. Olivia sat quietly on the couch nearby watching Dora the Explorer, as bits and pieces of the cartoon floated through the background. All of a sudden, we hear “Use your hands and squeeze really hard!” Umm, a little weird, but okay, let’s see where this is going. Then Dora and Boots start singing:

“I love to squeeze my squeaky squeaky squeaky!
I squeeze him up high!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
I squeeze him down low!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
I squeeze him reaaall slow!
Squea-ky    Squea-ky    Squea-ky
I squeeze him fast too!
Squeaky Squeaky Squeaky
Squeaky, I love you!”

This might not sound that bad when you read the lyrics, but I promise you that it sounds downright dirty when you hear it. I tried to find a clip of the song, but I didn’t have any luck. You’ll just have to trust me on this one—it’s ripe with innuendo.

I made the mistake of glancing up at my husband, who of course, was thinking the exact same dirty thought as I. But what made this whole scenario really hilarious/awkward was that my brother, his fiancé, my step-mom, my dad, and my little sister were all trying (and failing) to stifle their laughter as well, and nobody wanted to acknowledge exactly what they found so funny because, well, did I mention I was sitting next to my dad??

No sooner had we all returned our attention to the game when Dora announced that she and Boots needed to go to the Gooey Geyser. Well any semblance of composure that we had totally crumbled. Olivia, not realizing what we all found so funny starts yelling “Gooey Geyser, Gooey Geyser, Gooey Geyser!” which made me both cringe and laugh harder. Then through our laughter, we hear The Map exclaim, “The Gooey Geyser spurts out goo! Kersplooge!” Umm, did anybody at Nick Jr. watch this episode before it hit the air?!

At this point, we’re all laughing so hard that we’re in tears. Seriously though, I wonder if anyone at Nick Jr. voiced any concern about this episode or if they all just read the script and said, “Really into squeezing Squeaky. . . okay I buy that. Gooey Geyser spurts out goo, yep. ‘Kersplooge’—great adverb. The kids will love it!”

To the cartoonists, who I find it hard to believe didn’t know exactly what they were doing, I’d like to say THANKS. Dora the Explorer is usually one of the most annoying cartoons Olivia watches, but you guys decided to shake it up a bit and provided these parents with a much needed laugh.

“Here comes the goo!”


Pint-Sized Sexy Costumes Give New Meaning to “Trick or Treat”

My future sister-in-law, Caity, recently posted a picture on Facebook that made my jaw drop—and then made me want to go take a shower. It was of a child’s Halloween costume she came across while out shopping. The costume was called “Naughty Wizard” on the packaging. Mind you, this was a child’s costume.

Yeah, kind of makes your skin crawl doesn’t it? As if the name itself isn’t bad enough, this costume looks eerily similar to the Naughty Wizard costumes you see in the “Sexy” section of all the costume websites. Sure, why not dress your 10-year-old like one of the drunk 20-somethings you see stumbling around the bars? What could possibly go wrong?

Are you freaking kidding me?!

I thought surely this was an anomaly. No way is there some dirty black market of sexy kiddie costumes. I was wrong. These costumes were all in the Girls section of a costume website—not even Teens or Tweens, but Girls (not that Teens or Tweens would have been much better) and come as small as size 6.

My first thought was OMG, are they wearing platforms?! My second thought was, I’m pretty sure I’ve worn one of these costumes before. . . when I was 22!! 

That last one is called “Red Hot Riding Hood.” Perfect for your average 5th grader, right? I think I was a bunch of grapes at that age, complete with purple balloons and a lime green ponytail.

I haven’t even told my husband about these because he’s freaking out enough about our daughter hitting puberty as it is. . . and it’s still many, many years away.

Let’s just hope Olivia’s really into ghosts or something so we can just cover her with a sheet!


How being a mom cut me to the quick—and why I am better for it

When I became a mom, I was warned that I would be unsure of myself and would question every parenting decision I made—at least until I got my bearings. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hit that my self-confidence and esteem would take. I’m not talking about not being able to fit into my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans or the fact that my belly button doesn’t quite look the same. I’m talking about how being a mom has forced me to put all of my own flaws and shortcomings under a microscope on a daily basis.

I thought that reaching my thirties and being a mom would give me a self-confidence and a surety that, until now, I never realized I was lacking. Instead, I am struggling with my inner self-image more now than ever before.

When my daughter throws a tantrum, or hits, or yells “You’re mean!,” I see my own impatience, my own short fuse, my own irrationality, my own  jealousy, my own competitiveness, staring out of those big blue eyes. And I feel ashamed. I know that this type of behavior is normal for a toddler, but the last thing I want is for my daughter to pick up these traits and experience the same self-doubt and discomfiture that I feel. It breaks my heart to even think about it (seriously, tears are licking my cheeks even as I type).

As difficult as it was for me to acknowledge these failings, I think it’s this recognition that will ultimately make me a better mom. I can begin to recognize my behavior and make conscionable choices to correct it. While becoming a mom was the catalyst for my introspection, it is also my motivation to be a better person and a stronger role model for my daughter. As she grows up, I want her to see me as someone who is not impatient but efficient, not irrational but passionate, not competitive but driven. And I want her to be able to see these things in me because I can glimpse them in myself.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”
—August Wilson