Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lisa, it's your birthday...

Happy Birthday, Lisa! Yup, that's The Simpsons (& the late MJ). Yup, you'll be humming that little tune for a while now, my apologies. 

Last week, several friends and I spent our "Service Industry Weekend" (that'd be Monday & Tuesday, to you 9-5ers) in Lincoln, NH. We were there to celebrate my favorite Hot Mess, Lisa. She's impossible to put into words other than to say she's got a heart of gold, the mouth of a trucker & a wheat thin addiction. I was fortunate enough to have this tanned, stiletto junkie enter my life through the restaurant we both worked in, starting in 2007. We arrived Monday afternoon after a 2+ hr car ride in which we caught up, listened to 90's music & gossiped. You know, girl stuff.

I am one of those people that get far more excited about the birthday of a loved one that I do about my own, special day. I love coming up with creative gifts for family/friends. These often come hand in hand with a desserts of some kind and an extremely personalized gift - which can range from a crafty mug, to a personalized version of your favorite board game or rules to a drinking game of your favorite movie/tv show. My craftiness switches into overdrive when it comes to birthdays.

Case in point: Homemade Mini Strawberry Pop-Tarts.

I wish this picture was better. Focus on the back ones.
These went over like gang busters. I saw the original idea here, but heavily adapted it. 

For the crust:
I <3 my Hipstamatic App. I can't fight it and neither should you.
Using two boxes of Jiffy Pie Crust Mix yielded about 30 tarts. I wasn't a saint about reusing the scraps of my cuts - plus, if you work with the dough too much it seems to not work as well. This is my first time using pie crust that isn't pre-made - once my skills are honed I'm confident in that number doubling. Since the original recipie for the filling called for Almond Extract and I wasn't using the recipie for the filling (I took a shortcut and used strawberry preserves) I substituted 1/4tsp per box. Just for a little hint of flavor. Just think of the possibilities! Apple Cinnamon was experimented with too, that might be the next batch.

I rolled out the dough and cut 1 1/2" x 2" rectangles with a pizza cutter.

I understand if you're jealous of my Harriet Carter Catalog ruler, it flippin' rules! Pun intended.
And added some strawberry preserves (about 1/4tsp):
Then used my fingers to press together the edges before taking the fork to 'em. Helped the filling keep from leaking out. I dipped the fork in egg wash before pressing them and brushed them with the wash before slipping them in the oven. 

After two previous trial runs its seems as if 400 degress for 12 minutes was the sweet spot, but it'll vary, sadly all I can say is keep your eye on them. Easier for you than myself, I hope. The oven doesn't have a window and it's a shame. 

For the frosting I used 1cup Confectioners Sugar, 1/4 tsp Strawberry Flavoring, 1/4 tsp Vanilla flavoring & 2 tbl Skim Milk. Drizzle with a spoon (Too bad as writing this is when I recall my squeeze bottle and that IT would have been perfect! Ah, hindsight.)  and once hardened, decorated them a white candy writer. The candy writer is a Duff Goldman (of Charm City Cakes / Ace of Cakes fame) product I picked up at Micheal's, I love it. It was crucial to this endeavor from last summer:

My wonderful friend Susan is a Scrabble/trash talker aficionado. It's 100% accurate to the actual game board, because I'm crazy detail oriented.
The finished product.

The celebrations of our weekend didn't end there. Lisa was also treated to a homemade dinner by our resident Chef Shane Allen, Wheat Thin Encrusted Chicken. It was amazing! WTG SAC! There were multiple on the fly cocktails (Yahoo to having bartenders and wanna be bartenders in your group of friends! Or, as Cash himself would say, Yaaaahhhhhhhhhhooo-ooo-ooo!) There where jello shots, strawberry shortcake ones to be exact (cake vodka & strawberry jello) & a Rice Krispie Treats birthday cake. Another solid winner.

Slowly mix in 1/4cup yellow cake mix into melted marshmallow mix & about 1/2 cup rainbow jimmies.
But, we couldn't just stop there - games are a MUST in our group. 

Bananagrams. I didn't notice the "JOY" until after I snapped the picture, so appropriate. 
Not to mention Apples to Apples, Things, and a personalized Scattegories List. Which, sadly, we didn't get to play, but we will!

If you don't own Scattegories, stop reading. Drive to Target/Walmart. Buy it. NOW! You'll thank me.
It was some of the most fun any of us have had in ages. Good times with good friends in a beautiful mountain town. Lots of laughs, more drinks, singing (RENT's La Vie Boheme, anyone?) and a drinking game to The First Wives Club. What can I say? That's just how we roll. 

Lisa, it's your birthday! Happy Birthday Lisa!
So, how was your weekend? Either the real deal Saturday/Sunday or a made up weekend like our. What was the last movie you made a drinking game for? What's your idea of a fun birthday? I know there are people out there reading...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Room With a View

How different many places have you slept in? Either in the place you call home or where you're calling home for the next week, or even, just tonight. I couldn't even begin to count. Five European trips, Mexico, two cruises, countless Walt Disney World vacations, various US Cities & friends spare beds. Fortune is something not many people can claim in their life. In terms of travel I feel as if I'm luckier than many. For example, neither of my parents have been abroad. Dad traveled the US while with in the Air Force, the furthest he's been is Alaska. Mom has not been further. 
My first desire when I get to a new hotel is to see the view. (Ok, it's usually to unpack - at least my toiletries - but we're talking about views here!) Sadly, it's often completely lackluster. This is where I would insert a picture of a horrible view from a hotel window. But, truth be told - if it ain't pretty I ain't taking a picture. Just visualize back alleys so small you can toss TP to your neighbor if they are in need. Another with unobstructed views since there was a serious lack of curtains. Or the ever popular parking lot - that's typical since paying for a view is just silly. It should be the bonus to a room, not the focus. If you care enough to pay for a view then you are spending too much time in the room. Period.

The only allowance I'll give is for getting a balcony on a cruise - but that's really not for the view, per say. But - you do get photos like this:
Aboard Freedom of the Seas (RC) Oct. 2006

All of my travels to Europe have been as part of a tourgroup which is geared toward the high school students that I chaperoned. Side note: I use "chaperone" loosely, some of these kids are some the most wonderful I've ever encountered. They are slowly becoming adults and will make great contributions to this world. I'm thrilled and honored to have shared such an amazing time in life with them. Anyway - getting back to the topic at hand - the tours are meant to be "affordable" to a family with children in their teens rapidly approaching college and therefore the accommodations aren't anything like what you think of when you think of traveling Europe. Most times you stay far outside the city you're visiting and aren't near any kind of landmark. 

When you go to Venice, you aren't getting views like Katharine Hepburn in Summertime. Or views of the Duomo in Florence. Or the Ruins of Rome. But, staying outside of cities gives you the ability to go to local shops, restaurants and sometimes you'll have an amazing view right out your hotel window. If you're lucky. 
A view of Vesuvius. Vico Esquisa,Italy. April 2006

Outside of the Cinque Terre region, Italy. April 2007.

Outside Lucernce, Switzerland. April 2008.
Vesuvius, April 2009. Yup. Still there. 
Cancun, Mexico. October 2008. We arrived in the evening and were greeted in the morning to Darlene yelling "Wake up! It's morning! And there's something in my water!" - she wanted crystal clear blue water. Poor thing. 

The luckiest I've ever been with a view is the one that is right outside my living room window. You catch a glimpse (although it's at night) of the view if you watched the video in the Welcome post.
 I've become only slightly obsessed completely entranced by the view. It's my second favorite photography subject (save my incredibly photogenic niece & nephew).

It's the same view over and over, I'm well aware. But it's RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. And this morning I was rewarded with this:

Ah, it's almost prettier this way. Almost. 

Outside to shovel now. Pretty to look at - not so much with the shoveling and having to go to work, make a living, afford the view. 
Totally. Worth. It.

Happy Saturday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"So, this is the hallway."

Let's start with my pride and joy. The hallway. It was dubbed as such the day after I moved in by Adrienne while touring the new place. It's a tiny space between my living room and bedroom that has a heinous exposed (painted the same color as the wall) pipe right in the middle of the "outside" wall. The "inside" wall has what used to be built in shelving and a slant. 
To distract from the pipe I chose to make it into a gallery style picture hallway. I thought of many things first: A full length mirror? I have no insecurities, but does anyone want to walk by a full length mirror that often? No. Paint the pipe to look like a tree? Yes, I'll admit I entertained that for a second. Truth be told, there wasn't really enough space to make it fully functioning. It now houses an old, beaten down, apothecary chest that was my grandmothers. I vow to refinish it this summer. 
Since I, unfortunately didn't snap the "before" or "during" pictures - you'll only get the finished result. Suffice to say it's miles better than the blank slate I started with.

Outside Wall

Couldn't fit in all in one picture (it's a small space!). So, you get two.

The "Inside" wall

Did I mention it's a small space?

I used many white frames from all sorts of sources, Ikea (the bulk came from here), TJMaxx, Homegoods, gifts, Christmas Tree Shops, Target, etc. Nothing over a few dollars. Let's get into details. How & what I used, including my own definition of "art". Don't think you'll hurt my feelings if you stop reading halfway. It's a lot of photos and words and I'm totally fine if all this is interesting only to me. Many things are.

A Postcard from Nubble Lighthouse in York, Beach Maine. August 2009.

Amy, Myself & Jen in a ivory sequined frame. September 2010

This is more crafty: box frame, corkboard, scrapbook paper. I put saved fortunes, a bead and pin. A hydrant frame w/Molly's face & a treasure box from WDW.

Ceramic from Taormina, Sicily. 2009

Graphic tissue paper makes a great background for a (carefully) cut out Dahlia magazine photo.

Scrapbook paper, an Ikea frame and a photo from my mom's 2nd birthday. It's a painfully cute photo that I don't know if she's aware I have. (Hi Mom!)

A Thift store, $2 sketch of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. This was was much larger, professionally framed when I bought it - but the frame was black so, it was destined to be changed. Don't ask me why there is a gondola...

Fenway Park. Love that dirty water.

The very much missed, Miss Molly.

My "K". Wooden craft store letter & spray paint. Don't be surprised if the color gets changed.

A framed postcard of one of my favorite pieces of Disney Art, "Puppy Love".

Some scrapbook paper, a photo of Adrienne and me on the plane to Switzerland 2008. And the silver dolphin place card holder from her wedding this past summer.

Graffiti of loved ones names outside Juliet's house. Verona, Italy 2008.

Dianna & her bridal party @ her shower. March 2011

Photo strip from Sailsbury Beach. August 2011. I really should frame that. It's currently hanging up with painters tape.

Target sparkle frame w/Angela & me at the Spanish Steps. Rome, Italy 2006

Ikea frame, yellow tissue paper, card stock and a photo of my Grammie, Dad & me at Easter. Saugus 1988?

Terra cotta shop. Taormina, Sicily 2009.
A piece of Terra Cotta bought from that shop in 2006. (the '09 shop photo came out WAY better!)

Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo) Florence, Italy 2007.

My niece, Rosalie all pretty for her date. 2011

 The inside wall.
Ikea frame, after Xmas (aka cheap!) wrapping paper & a Flamenco Dancer watercolor from Spain. February 2008

Painted terra cotta flower from Mexico, October 2008.

Silver snowflake. And the reflection of my iPhone.

My nephew, Stanley and his weird sleeping spots. 2011

Chalk drawing a friend did of my name in high school. Circa 2000. Wow.

The cow Ish bought with his arcade winnings in York. August 2011.

Ish & Me @ Fenway Park. July 2011

Two rosaries. Both from Vatican City. The silver I got in 2009. The blue my grandfather Mario purchased in the 60's when he returned to see his family.

Framed card Jen brought me back from India. 2009

Cork board and a cut out postcard. I wrote "love is all you need" around the heart with a sharpie. I bought that postcard in college and the cork was a quarter at Staples on clearance years ago. I consider that free.

Painted moon from Cozumel, Mexico. October 2006.

A poppy in the Roman Ruins. April 2009. Man, I miss that camera.

Cardstock and the fortune I received in Salem Willows on my birthday 2009.

My favorite Meryl Streep quote, written in sharpie on the glass and used cardstock for a background.

An incredible frame from Ikea w/cardstock and an Emerson quote magnet.

Etsy art of my girl, Mary Richards. Elloh is the artist (her store). Great pop culture stuff!

And, in the interest of full disclosure. The rest of the hallway.

This apothecary chest I remember being in my grandmothers living room when I was growing up. Somewhere along the way my teenage, boy cousins inherited it - hence the damage. But, I will make it beautiful again. Yup, I said it TWICE. 
On the chest you'll see a framed photo from this past Christmas of Ish & me. A snowflake illuminary, snowflake tin box, my Italy Fund piggy bank (bought long before I ever went!), Figment from WDW & Condorito, my yellow horseshoe bird - for now, he migrates. Oh, and can you spot the little yellow "etc"?? - it's drying, but will be on that wall, somewhere, soon. 

I'm all for buying decor for your home if it speaks to you. But for $40 at TJMaxx it better sweep me off my feet & treat me like the lady I deserve. Personal art makes things more homey. Every time I walk through I smile because everything in that room is a personal, happy memory. Your home should reflect you & what/who you love - at least, my home should.