Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting Ready to Fly

I'm so excited because in two days I will be flying away to AUSTRALIA!!!!  My mom and two sisters live there, and now I get to take the 24 hour flight to go see them.  I live in New York so this is quite a trip (and not one that happens often).

To Say that I am happy to see my mom and sisters is an understatement.  I can't wait.  I have not seem my mom for almost three years.  That is a long time.  Since my father died a year ago last August seeing my mom and family has become really important.  Although we can't really afford it, we are stretching our budget and taking the plunge.  I HAVE to see my family.

So in preparing to take the LONG flight I got to thinking about my neck pillow.  If you are not familiar with the very easy blowup neck pillow you have never traveled in style.

With my handy neck pillow and the aid of a Tylenol PM I can sleep for six or seven hours on the plane.  This is a godsend when you have those long flights, and I can't think of a longer flight than from LA to Brisbane (that is 14 hours in the air).

The problem with this neck pillow is that the seams tend to chafe my neck.  So I decided to make a handy little pillow case for it.

I used some funky fabric I got on my last trip to Ikea (love that Ikea fabric).

Here's what I did.

I measured the shape and cut it out with  my shearing scissors so that I don't have to worry about frayed edges (don't want to get afrayed, lol).
Turn fabric front side IN.
Pin and sew.

Turn right side in, and insert blow up neck pillow.  It was at this point that I realized the pillow case was not going to fit over the pillow once it was blown up, so I inserted the pillow, and then blew it up.
To do this I had to make a hole for the spout.
(It is a bit messy but it works.  I did this after I had sewn the pillowcase.)
I then finished off the edges of the open end and my pillow case was done.  BUT I can't travel to Australia without a nice little bag to hold the pillow.



bag with deflated pillow
So there you have it.  I will be flying on a jet plane (had to fit that in) in style with my bright and fun blow up pillow and matching little bag.

What do you think?  Do you use neck pillows when you travel (if not you have to try it)?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Madeleine Madness

I love Madeleines.  The first time I made them back in 2005, with the Martha Stewart Lemon Madeleines.  It was at that moment I was hooked.  If you have never had them, they are like little perfect cakes and cookies in rolled into one.

I was then reminded of how much I love them when I went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant in NYC with my step-mom.  (We went to dinner and the ballet, it was a fun night)

So I set out to make my own.  I saw this recipe in the September 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  I cut out the page, bought a Madeleine tray and then proceeded to not make the Madeleines for 5 months.

BUT we had a much needed snow day so I took the chance to make my own Madelienes.  

Here's what I did.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Coarse salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more, softened, for pans
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

I like to put all the ingredients out on the counter.  That way I know if I don't have something BEFORE I 'm half way through the recipe.  This recipe is great because I already had everything on hand to make these, all I really needed was time (it takes two hours to set the batter).  

1.       Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.

2.       Whisk together eggs and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Sift flour mixture over top in 2 additions, folding in after each addition. Fold in melted butter in 2 additions, then honey and vanilla. 

      The batter will be very fluffy.  Be careful when you fold in the next set of ingredients.  So you don't loose the height of the eggs.  

 Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

I gave myself time to butter the pan and preheat the oven
(but I gave myself too much time I must admit)
3.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let batter stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Generously butter 2 standard-size or 2 mini nonstick or aluminum madeleine pans using a pastry brush.

4.       Transfer batter to a pastry bag, and snip tip to create a 1/2-inch opening. Pipe some batter into molds, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake on middle rack until pale gold, 8 to 11 minutes (6 to 8 minutes for mini madeleines). 

Immediately shake Madeleines out. Wash and rebutter molds. Repeat with remaining batter. Dust baked 
Madeleines with confectioners' sugar.

At this point you could let them cool, or you could do what Jeff and I did and just eat them warm, they
are the best this way I must say.

They were so yummy we ate them all before the went bad (two days is all you get).  What I love about 
this recipe is that you can refrigerate the batter for up to two days, so this could be made for a dinner 
party and cooked right before you serve them.  

What do you think?  Have you ever had Madeleines?  If not are you willing to try them?  I love 
comments, and I always write back.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dyeing Belts Purple

I have really gotten into Iyengar Yoga for the last year and a half.  I was suffering from migraines and I had three (count them ... three) different doctors tell me to try yoga.  Before that I always resisted yoga because it was my mom's thing (she is a yoga teacher and has been for thirty years).  But I finally listened to my doctors and tried it.  Immediately my migraines stopped.  I now love it.

But with my unemployment I had to cut down on the yoga.  My teacher, and in many ways my friend, saw that I was cutting down on the classes and offered to do an exchange.  I "deep clean" the studio once a week and get two classes for free.  Along with that I agreed to dye her belts (Iyengar Yoga requires lots of props) purple.

This is a tutorial on how to dye fabric.  I'm no expert, but this is what I did.  (By the way, I just followed the directions on the box so this is really not that original)

I'm a visual learner so this will be done with a series of pictures.  BUT..I'm also highly educated, so I have to add a bunch of words to complete the tutorial.

Measuring Cup (not shown)
Timer (not shown)
Large non-porous spoon (I used stainless steel) (also not shown)

Step 1:
Dissolve the powdered dye in two cups of warm water (I just used hot tap water, but my water gets really hot, like scallding hot).

Step 2:
Wet fabric.  I put the fabric in the bucket and filled it with hot water.  This way I filled the bucket with hot water (see step four) and wet the fabric at the same time.

Step 3:
Remove belts from water.

Step 4:
Fill bucket with warm water.

Step 5:
Add diluted dye to bucket

                 Before                                                                       After

Step 6:
Add wet belts to bucket.

Step 7:
Set timer for 30 minutes.

(I was a little late taking this photo) 
Step 8:
Wait and stir once in a while.  This is your chance to use that non-porous spoon.

Step 9:
Remove belts from water.

(The color is all wrong, they are really purple I promise)

Step 10 (and my least favorite step):
Rinse belts in water.  Start with warm water and gradually change to cold water.  You are supposed to do this until the water runs clear, but I didn't have the energy (nor was I totally convinced the water would ever get clear), so the water got be almost clear.

(There is still a slight color to the water)
Step 11:
Hang belts to dry.

That's where they are now, drying.  The color came out really great.

I'm thinking about dying my old jeans.  What do you think, should I dye them, should I dye them back to blue or go for another color (I keep reading that different color jeans are very stylish).  If you vote for another color, what color would you suggest?  I need your input so be sure to give me some ideas.

I'm  linking up:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Big Basement Plans

I have big dreams, big dreams for my basement.  Right now it is a little scary better than it used to be.  When we first moved in we had a basement that was crowded with the tenants stuff.  He had so much stuff that we did not even know that there were leeks in the steam heating.  The basement was wet, and dark, and crowded.  The day we moved in we paid to have all the stuff left over hauled away.  It was a gross job, and the poor guys had to work along side with the movers who were moving in all our stuff.

Once we got the basement dry we could think about cleaning it up.  In the fall my father-in-law installed some flooring to get us up off the concrete.  This made a huge difference.  Now we had a space to work with.

 Here you can see my father-in-law putting in the first pieces of the floor.  I did not get any after pictures (Not sure what happened at that point), but here is how we did it.  We got flooring that has plasic on the bottom in case more water comes in, this provides a little protection.  We hope to cover this floor with some carpeting in the future some time.

Speaking of dreams, we have a lot of dreams about our basement.  For now we have some outsdoor furniture in there to get it out of the weather.  So we made the room up to a little "living room trial run."

The problem is that the room became overrun with STUFF.  I had to move a bunch of my books and belongings out of storage and it ended up here:

What a mess.  I got a little overwhelmed and gave up for a while.  When I did attack it, I am quite proud of myself.  I got rid of three boxes of books (that is good for me).

I then proceeded to go upstairs and get rid of more books to make room for the ones I kept (inclusing a bunch of kids books from my childhood).

We moved down the dresser for the guestroom (I hope to have a full reveal in a couple of months) and made a little drinking station under the window.

I like having all my liquor in the basement.  It keeps them out of reach (and if I have to do too much laundry I have some relief right there with me, haha).

I'm not done yet, I have massive plans for this basement and my Pinterest board "Finished Basement Dreams" (more on that latter).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Year Anniversary - Thank You

Although the very first post was in November, I really didn't get the ball rolling until January, so I'm celebrating my one year anniversary now.

I have come so far.  So much has happened to me...ok...not that much has happened, but it was still a good year.  I finished graduate school, I traveled to India, Alaska, and soon I will be on my way to Australia.  

My blogging and crafting were in high gear all summer, with projects on furniture (here and here), and painting projects (here) as well.

Blogging for me started out as a way for me to show off my crafts.  In many ways it still is, but this blog has become a lot more.  It became a place to make new friends.  I have made some wonderful friends who share my love of crafts and home improvement.  They have told me about their lives and taken the time to learn about mine.

What I have discovered over the year is that these friendships are more important than my blog, my crafts or how many followers I have.  I used to worry that I did not have enough followers, but what I have learned is that it is not the quantity of followers but the quality.  I have so many great followers who really make me feel important.  You read this little blog, and you make the most thoughtful comments.

So this post is to officially a "thank you" to my readers, for keeping me going.  I know I don't post as much as I used to, but you keep reading, and for that I thank you.  I really could not have kept this blog going for the whole year without you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5 Crafts I Want to Try

I have an active Pinterest addiction, as I wrote about here.  But in truth, sometimes I feel that I am a lot more popular on Pinterest than I am on my blog.  (In truth, I have three more followers on my blog than Pinterest.)  

One of my biggest boards is my board titled "Crafts".  When I see something I like that I feel I can do myself I pin it to this board.  There are 273 pins on this board.

So I thought I better take a look at my Pinterest board and see what projects I really want to try.  Of all those pins there are five that really speak to me (I also found one project I want to make for my hubby, but I don't want to tell).

Funny side note: four of my five favorite pins are orange (guess I still love that color).

1. I-Pod charger out of used bottle.

This is the best idea I have ever seen.  Back before I lost my wall charger, I always had my phone charging on the floor near an outlet.  This solves that problem.  I don't use Johnson's baby lotion, but maybe my sister-in-law will save me her jars.  I can't wait to try this!

2. Cool sweater out of an old sweatshirt.

The link above is to an etsy site, so you can just go buy this, but I want to figure out how to make it.  I'm not sure if I can really make this myself just from this picture, but maybe my good friend who is a great seamstress will give me a little help (when she gets back from Brazil that is).

3. Bifold Wallet

I had a lot of success (at least for Christmas gifts) with my gift card wallets, now I want to try this real wallet.  it looks like a lot of work, but I may just try it this year.

4. Clementine Candle

I just love this.  After reading the blog post, I see this is from a clementine!!!  Who knew?  I just can't wait to try this.

5. Stamp Mailing Label

This is a really cute and simple idea.  I would love to use this for Christmas cards next year.

There you have it.  My five favorite crafts from my own craft board on Pinterest.  I really like that I went back through my board and found the pins I wanted to try.  There are a bunch more I still want but this is a good list to start with.  Now for my food board (you know, I realized I have a lot more deserts than anything).

Have you looked back at your Pinterest boards to decide how to use them?  Do you even have a Pinterest account?  (If you want an invite just let me know I will be happy to sign you up.)   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mohonk Mountain House

If you have never been there you must go.  I have only been to the Mountain House once for my friend's wedding.  Now ten years later these same friends brought me back.

My friend called me before Christmas because she bought a one night stay at the Mohonk Mountain House to celebrate both Christmas and their ten year anniversary.  They needed me to take care of the kids for 24 hours.  

I love these kids, they are really great, and I have been watching them every week for months so this was not new.  I was also looking forward to helping out my two good friends so they could get the romantic getaway they needed.

So I packed my bags and spent the night with the kids.

But it turns out that this babysitting job was much more fun than I expected. What we arranged was for me to bring the kids up to Mohonk so we could enjoy the fun.  First we went ice skating, and then we took a walk around the lake.  finally, we ended the day with tea and cookies in the hotel.
Overall,  I really enjoyed myself.  So much so, in fact, that I immediately went home and talked my husband into booking us a night at the hotel of our own.  We hope to be there in the spring for one night.    
Mohonk is so great.  They have ice skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and that is just for the winter.  Indoors they have a spa and an indoor pool that has underwater sound system (very cool).  In the summer they have tons of hiking trails and each trail has little benches and spots to sit and enjoy the view.
The hotel is very nice and grand with wood paneling, lots of fire places and little places to sit and enjoy the evening.

I just love this resort.  The best part is that this resort is 147 years old (I think) and as an historian I can just see what it was like a hundred years ago.  It is like stepping into another time.

I like the idea of getting away to a resort, even if it is for one night and in your own area.  Would you spend a night in a hotel or resort near your home?
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