From Scratch

As a result of my new-found love of blogging, I’ve started to follow various blogs, mostly about DIY type projects, wedding ideas, and cooking. It is impressive to see how many fellow bloggers there are out there, most of whom have very interesting things to say or talent to share with the world. With each new blog I come across, they have at least 5 or 6 more blogs listed on their site, of places they like to visit when they aren’t busy blogging. It is a vicious cycle that eats away at my day… which isn’t really a bad thing since I have been spending most of my work day sitting at my desk feeling uninspired to actually do work. It is quite perfect that my new obsessions with blogs has come along just as I’ve run out of things to google (you know you are bored when you start googling, “google” just to see what comes up!)

Once of the blogs that I check periodically has inspired today’s post. The blog, “From Scratch” posts a few times a week about various recipes that the blogger has made. The recipes are usually unique and fun and it has inspired me to spend a little more time in my kitchen (I plan to make the tomato sauce tonight!) I really do like to cook and I LOVE to bake, but finding the time, inspiration and energy to do these things isn’t always easy. However, last night I decided that I would spend a little time getting in touch with my 1950/60s housewife-self, pearls and all!

Matt and I have been watching a lot of “Mad Men” lately and I have fallen in love with Betty (Bets) Draper. So last night, I channeled my inner Betty. While Matt  loves Don Draper (what guy doesn’t) let’s hope he doesn’t start channeling him!

Matt informed me that he would probably be able to leave work at a decent hour and that we could eat dinner together. He offered to take me out, but I decided to treat him (although he would argue that isn’t always a treat!) to a home cooked meal since he has done so much work around the apartment for me lately, and to make up for that whole 1:30am fire alarm incident thing.

I prepared a delicious meal of steak, potatoes and asparagus. It turned out great and I am happy to report that the smoke alarm didn’t go off! I felt like such a good fiance, making a meal for my hard-working man. I know my feminist mother would be proud!

I capped off my domestic diva evening by baking a cake, from scratch. This is something that I used to do often, back when I decided that I was going to move to Baltimore and work with Duffy at Ace of Cakes; however, I haven’t made one in a very long time. I made a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting, following a recipe that is apparently what New York’s Magnolia bakery uses for their cakes and cupcakes. The recipe wasn’t very difficult, but I did substitute the “self rising flour” with cake flour, salt and baking powder.

The cake turned out a little denser than I would have liked. I blame this on my oven – I have convection oven settings which always seem to screw things up for me (clearly I accept no blame for this). I have officially swore them off and promise to use the regular temperature settings from here on out! I finished the cake off with the frosting and pink fondant flowers. I can never get the frosting to be as smooth as they do on Ace of Cakes or Food Network Challenge, even when I attempt to do a crumb coating.

 While the cake looks good, my hands are now covered in pink food dye (note to self, use gloves when handling food dye).

I brought the cake into work today and it just happened to be someone’s birthday in my office – how perfect! Now all I need is for my co-workers to post comments about how delicious the cake is. Stay tuned…

No Work Wednesday

Astrology is the belief that the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details can provide information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters. Astrologers believe that the movements and positions of celestial bodies either directly influence life on Earth or correspond to events experienced on a human scale. While I may not be an astrologer, or actually believe in astrology for that matter, today the stars aligned and a supernatural phenomenon occurred.

This Saturday I have to work all day at the Tribeca Family Festival; in turn I was allowed to take off a “replacement” day during the week. Columbia’s swim season is over and training is a little more relaxed for the girl. Abby decided that since there isn’t practice on Wednesdays in the spring, she shouldn’t have to work on Wednesdays (yes, swim coaches do a lot more than just coach). So while Abby’s day off is more self-imposed than mine, we were happy to have “No Work Wednesday” together today.

Unfortunately, the day did not start off to a good start. Let me back up a little… a few weeks ago, I made a delicious dinner for Matt and myself and unfortunately something spilled as it was cooking leaving residue at the bottom of the oven. Of course, this would then create a lot of smoke when I used the oven later, resulting in our hyper-sensitive smoke alarm going off, which often resulted in me yelling at Matt to get off the couch and help me shut it off. Clearly, this was not a good situation. So, I decided last night that I would run the self-clean feature on our oven in the middle of the night to resolve our smoke alarm issues. I went to bed excited to have a clean oven in the morning.


At 1:30am I woke up to the sound of our fire alarm going off. I jumped out of bed and ran into the hall, right into a cloud of ash. I started freaking out and yelling at Matt to come help (what I thought he was going to do, I am still not sure). We got the smoke alarm to turn off by taking the fan from our bedroom, turning it on high and pointing it directly at the smoke alarm. Unfortunately, the alarm was not being hyper-sensitive as our apartment was filled with the ash that resulted from the oven cleaning process. We opened all of the windows and turned on the kitchen fan. Matt went back to bed while I stayed up freaking out. I was convinced that our oven was going to explode or that the ash would set off the smoke alarms in the hallway outside of our apartment and the entire building would have to evacuate. I ended up turning the oven off and eventually climbing back into bed, my heart racing and my lungs burning from the ash.

Needless to say, in the morning, I was extremely happy that it was “No Work Wednesday” and I didn’t have to get up at my normal 6:20am time. Unfortunately, Matt did not get to participate in “No Work Wednesday” and he let me know that the smoke alarm better not be going off again tonight as he walked out the door for work around 7:30am.

To celebrate “No Work Wednesday” Abby and I decided to go to the outlets shops that are just over an hour outside of the city. This is something that I have wanted to do since I moved to New York but since I don’t have a car in the city, it just never happened. I convinced Abby to drive us to the outlets, which wasn’t too hard after she learned that there is a lululemon store there, and that brand is basically the uniform for her life.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we were in awe. As a BIG fan of deals and discounts, I personally felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. Row after row of stores awaited us, and our credit cards. At first I was so excited that I couldn’t pick a store to go into. Finally Abby suggested that we actually go into a store, as opposed to run around the perfectly manicured walkways yelling and pointing out stores.

We spent the next few hours visiting various stores; from the typical outlets like JCrew and Banana Republic to a few new ones like Crate and Barrel, Vineyard Vines, Lululemon, William Sonoma and Kate Spade. Not only were Abby and I the only Americans at the outlets, we were also the one people who weren’t dragging a suitcase (or two) around to hold all of our new purchases. It really was quite an experience, one that was capped off when Abby decided to mount the Pumbaa ride located in the food court and ask for a quarter. Never in my life, have I been in such desperate need of a quarter to only find myself with no change!

No Work Wednesday is coming to a close. It was a great day that literally started off with a bang (or alarm). And although my credit card bill will be hirer than it should be this month, I am still smiling as I sit on my couch thinking about my day, my new purchases and the slight burning sensation that remains in my lungs.

DIY – Pencil Container

When I originally started my blog, I thought that the majority of posts would resemble Martha Stewart’s blog, detailing all of the wonderful things I had made using a hot glue gun. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time, or the motivation, to come up with too many creative projects. But that is about to change!

My craft nook is just about complete. Last night, after pathetically whining to Matt, he hung up some homemade bulletin boards and shelving that just about completed my craft area. The last thing I need to do is exchange the chair I bought at Ikea for one that actually fits under the desk. When I purchased all of the materials a while back to build my craft desk, I bought the wrong height chair and haven’t been able to make it back to Ikea to exchange it. Once that is done, I will post pictures of my new arts and craft home. I am confident that with the right space, my inspiration will start flowing!

Last night, as I started to organize my desk, I realized that I needed somewhere to store my markers and pencils. Instead of buying something that was much more expensive than it needed to be, I decided that I would make something, saving money and giving me ammo for today’s post (god I love to multi-task!)

Since being “green” is the new thing and Earth Day was celebrated last week, I decided to create my pencil container out of an old soup can. I took some decorative paper (you can find at any craft store – I got my from Michaels), cut it to the appropriate height and length of the can, and used Mod Podge to glue it to the can. Pretty simple, right?

Mod Podge was first introduced into my crafting “tool box” during an evening of volunteering at the hospital. The Child Life Specialists and Art Therapists who work with the children and run the activities use this stuff on a daily basis. I swear, it is prescribed as a treatment more often that any other medicine in the hospital! 

Mod Podge is a type of glue that has a consistancy of paint and the strength of super glue. After painting it on both the can and the top of the paper, you are left with a smooth, hard and set product. You can use this on a variety of materials and the result is nearly always flawless, and more importantly, permanent. I have used it with tissue paper collages, wooden picture frames and tiles (much easier than grouting). Mod Podge comes in various finishes from matte to shiny to glitter.

You can do this project with various sized containers made out of pretty much any material. With a bottle of mod podge, the possibilities are endless.

Gun Control

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The meaning of the Second Amendment depends upon who you talk to.  The National Rifle Association, which has the Second Amendment engraved on its headquarters building in Washington, insists that the Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to possess and carry a wide variety of firearms.  Advocates of gun control contend that the Amendment was only meant to guarantee to States the right to operate militias.

Growing up, I lived in a household that supported gun control, at least on the child raising front. The only guns I ever shot were squirt guns and an antique rubber band gun that had been passed down from my grandfather. While my sister and I were certainly tom-boys, our affinity for “cops and robbers” or creating “guns” out of legos or sticks, was certainly missing from our genetic makeup.

So it is no surprise to hear, that I was extremely shocked to find a pretty intense looking gun resting in the mud-room of my parent’s house last year when I was home for a weekend visit. I was even more shocked to hear that my dad had borrowed the gun from a friend to deal with his “groundhog problem.” This was a problem that spanned many years, and was between my dad, his flowerbeds, and the numerous groundhogs who reside in our front yard. Apparently, his past attempts to remove the groundhogs from our property had failed and had driven him to use a pellet BB gun to solve the problem once and for all.

Now before you start calling PETA to report him, I must tell you that after taking a few practice shots and missing horribly, my father decided to save his pride and in turn, the groundhogs were saved. However, Matt and I decided it would be fun to take a couple of practice shots ourselves. We stacked some coke cans and fired away. I was shocked to learn that with my extremely limited exposure to guns, I was actually a pretty good shot. Matt and I decided that we should expand my gun shooting experience and visit a gun range at some point. Unfortunately, living in New York City, the opportunity to visit a gun range doesn’t present itself too often. That is, until yesterday.

We were invited to drive out to a gun range in New Jersey with some friends for an afternoon of skeet shooting. While I thought my gun skills were impressive, I was pretty nervous to fire a shotgun. Matt warned me about the “kick back” and I was not particularly looking forward to it.  To make matters worse, I was the only girl in our group and I didn’t want to fulfill any stereotypes about girls and guns.

After getting our shells and guns, we made out way over to the practice range where we each got to shoot 5 rounds of 5 shots each. Thankfully, I wasn’t first in the line up so I had some time to watch the others to see how it was done. Unfortunately, the boys were good. As I stepped up for my turn, the pressure was on. I loaded the shell in, nestled the gun up to my shoulder and placed my cheek squarely on top of the gun and inline with the sight. I nervously called “pull” and waited for the orange flying skeet to appear. As it came into view, I lined up my sight, pulled the trigger and waited. I immediately felt the power of the gun as it recoiled into my shoulder. I looked into the sky, only to see the skeet fall to the ground and smash into multiple pieces. I had missed. I shot and missed again three more times. Then, on my last shot, I hit the skeet. While the satisfaction of hitting it was great, the nervous feeling of anticipation I got before I pulled the trigger was not something I particularly enjoyed.

With each round, I got a little better, but I was still the worst of our group. I ended my shooting experience early and sat out the range shooting that the boys did after the practice range. It was funny to watch them, as they flexed their masculinity for each other.

So at the end of the day I decided, while change have taken place in the political climate of our country, I am holding true to my liberal views. I forfeit my right to bear arms, and I do so happily. Unfortunately, my fiancé is now more in touch with his republican side and all of the work I did to pull him left, was undone with power of a cool hard shotgun. Thankfully, there is always Sarah Palin to convince him otherwise.

Dorks in Love

When I was younger I thought the best thing about getting married would be picking out a giant princess dress, wearing a sparkly ring or getting to taste all different kinds of wedding cake for free! I certainly hoped that I would marry someone like Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid, but that was clearly not the focus of my big white wedding fantasy. Now that this fantasy is coming true all of the details, from picking out a dress, finding a band that isn’t lame and chosing a wedding venue, seem much less fun than I originally anticipated. Thankfully, throughout this process, I am able to focus on the person that I am marrying… not all of the stressful details. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found someone who isn’t afraid of doing things, that may makes himself look dorky, if it makes me smile.

Below is the gchat conversation that Matt and I had this morning:

While our wedding is over a year away, I can not wait!

Wedding Show Crashers

This past weekend, my mom, Abby and I went to a wedding show at the place that Matt and I will be getting married next summer. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be getting myself into, but it turned out to be a worthwhile event.

Caterers, florists, photographers, lighting specialists and some musicians came together to provide a sort of “one stop shopping” for people interested in hosting their wedding at the venue. They all brought samples of their work and set up various displays throughout the building. While I didn’t make any “wedding decisions” I certainly ate my fair share of the food and cake that was provided by the caterers and bakeries. The tickets to the event were 7 dollars, which was a great deal considering all of the offering available. Typically I spend 7 – 10 dollars on lunch every day and nearly 20-25 dollars on dinners. Abby and I decided that we are going to look for wedding shows in New York and use these to feed ourselves for the next few months. Who cares about planning a wedding, it is all about survival!

This Day in History

April 15th

1452 – Leonardo da Vinci is born

1755 – Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language is published in London.

1794 – “Courrier Francais” became the first French daily newspaper to be published in the U.S.

1865 – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, died at 7:22 a.m. Lincoln had been shot in the back of the head the previous evening while attending a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, escaped, only to be hunted down and shot to death. Lincoln was carried to a boarding house across the street from the theatre. He never regained consciousness.

1892 – The General Electric Company is formed.

1912 – The ‘unsinkable’ luxury liner, “Titanic”, sank at 2:27a.m. The largest passenger vessel in the world went under off the coast of Newfoundland two and one-half hours after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City. A young David Sarnoff, later of RCA and NBC, relayed telegraph messages to advise relatives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean of the 700+ survivors. 1,517 lives were lost at sea. Many movies and documentaries about the monumental disaster have been filmed over the years. However, none had the exacting data gleaned by scientists from the 1986 expedition aboard “Atlantis II”. Dr. Robert Ballard headed a crew and a robot named Jason in a descent to the deck of the “Titanic” aboard “Alvin”, a submersible craft. They returned with information and photos that challenged and verified stories from the past. After years of studying the facts, the 1997 Academy Award-winning film, “Titanic”, recreated the ship to the tiniest detail including the design on the elegant china. Although the film’s love story is fictitious, the true tragedy of the Titanic can now be seen by the world some eight decades later.

1923 – Insulin becomes generally available for use by people with diabetes.

1947 – Jackie Robinson put on his first Brooklyn Dodgers uniform (number 42) and broke the Major League Baseball “color line”.

1955 – The national deadline for filing taxes, in accordance with the 16th Amendment to the constitution, was changed to April 15th

1955 – “Two all beef patties…” This is the anniversary of McDonald’s. Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s — in Des Plaines, IL. Kroc began his career by selling milk shake machines. Among his first customers were the McDonald brothers from Southern California. After selling them several machines and watching the efficiency of their drive-in restaurant, Kroc bought the rights to market the brothers’ good fortune and hired them to work for him. On his first day of business, sales of 15-cent hamburgers and 10-cent French fries totaled $366.12. Thirty years later, McDonald’s grossed a whopping $8.6 billion annually. There is no telling how many burgers have been served at McDonald’s. They stopped counting years ago, saying, “Billions and billions served.” The rest is McHistory with McDonald’s a common sight around the world. The first McDonald’s is no longer. It was torn down to build a newer McDonald’s restaurant across the street. The firm’s worldwide headquarters are located in Oak Brook, IL, the home of ‘Hamburger University’. Have a Big Mac today! You deserve a break.

1967 – Dara Torres, American swimmer, is born

1985 – Ozzie Smith was awarded a $2-million annual contract by the St. Louis Cardinals. Smith became the richest infielder in baseball with the contract. The highest paid player today, Alex Rodriguez, receives over $33-million per year.

1990 – Emma Watson, aka Hermione, is born

2010 – ABBY GLENNAN BRETHAUER TURNS 30! (Happy Birthday big Sis!)

HELLO

The count down is over.

After months of waiting and playing my “All Glee” playlist on repeat for about the thousandth time, the students of McKinley high school sang and danced their way back into millions of family rooms last night. I had been waiting for this moment for a very long time, and I am happy to report that Mr. Schu, Rachel, Finn, and of course Sue Sylvester did not disappoint. Rekindling my love of this small high school in Ohio has been the highlight of my week.

My favorite song of the episode was 100% Rachel’s version of “Gives You Hell” by the All American Rejects (yes, I have already downloaded this on iTunes).

My favorite quote of the episode was when Brittany told Santana, “Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?” (Yes, I secretly wish I was a cheerio!)

While I am happy that the show has made its return, I now find myself, waiting in anticipating for next week. And so, another count down has begun.

(Someone else inspired by Glee’s greatness)

Personal World Records

“What was my time?”

After each race, as I climbed out of the pool and looked to my timers, these were the first four words out of my mouth. As I got older and technology got better I was able to turn my head and see my time posted on the scoreboard high above. In a sport that is based entirely on your time and results are clear, you begin to become obsessed with the clock. Getting your hand on the wall faster than your opponents is crucial and making various “cut times” for different meets, is the sole focus of your season. As age group swimmers, Abby and I attended the “Top 10 Banquet” nearly every year. This event recognized swimmers at various age groups, who had posted a time that was in the top 10 for New England Swimming. (Interesting side note: Matt and I were both invited to these events as 10 & under swimmers, but it was before we  officially met. I am fairly certain, that the little boy who used to cut in front of me as I waited patiently in line for a  Shirley Temple, had to have been Matt). Although going to these events meant missing  crucial hours of Trick-Or-Treating, we loved going and being honored for our “fast times.”

The faster you became, the harder it was to drop time and your focus on dropping seconds, became tenths of a second, and finally to hundredths. So many races are won or lost by hundredths of a second. I am sure that almost everyone witnessed Michael Phelps’ miraculous win at the Beijing Olympics in the 100 Butterfly. He out touched the second place swimmer by just 1/100th of a second.

After graduating from college, my swimming career sadly came to an end.  Transitioning from an athlete to a young profession has been hard. I wish that there was a way  to document success in the workplace that is black and white like a time. While there are performance reviews and successful “deals,” there is no score board to look to at the end of work day, to see where you pan out.

Over the weekend, Matt and I competed in the JP Morgan Run As One that was held in Central Park. This four mile race is one of the many events that New York Road Runners puts on during the year. Matt and I joined Road Runners this year and have already competed in 4 races this Spring. This past weekend, I achieved a Personal World Record (PWR)! While I have only run that distance once before a few weeks ago in the Run for Haiti, knowing that the second time I ran the course, I improved and achieved a better time, brings a smile to my face. Now, if only I could figure out a way to achieve a PWR at my job, or in terms of my “fiance-abilities”, I would be all set.

Red Sox Nation

One of the hardest things (if not the hardest thing) about living in New York is the fact people here actually like the Yankees. Whenever I meet a new person, I always ask them… “are you a Yankees fan?” Thankfully, more often than not, the answer is no. Most New Yorkers that I have met, are Mets fans (clearly I only surround myself by intelligent people) or they support another team because they didn’t grow up here. I am happy to report that I have rejected many kids from my school on the sole fact that they are self-proclaimed “die-hard Yankee fans.” Last year, when the World Champions Ticker Tape Parade was marching down the streets near my school, I sat in my office, windows closed, pouting.

Yesterday was a depressing day to be a Boston fan in New York. Matt got tickets to the Celtics/Knicks game last night, and after a very close and very physical game, we ended up 3 points short. As Matt and I walked out of the game, I stupidly said, “At least the Red Sox won.” I was referring to the season opener that was held on Sunday, where the Red Sox made a classic comeback and beat the Yankees 9 to 7. Unfortunately, the game that was coming to a close last night as we were leaving Madison Square Garden, did not end favorably for the Red Sox. I went to sleep cranky and throwing my classic “I hate living in NYC” temper tantrum to Matt. I love my rational that if I still lived in Boston, the Red Sox and Celtics would have won. I guess I could argue that even if they had still lost, it would sting a little less knowing that I was surrounded by others who shared my feelings of misery.

At the start of last night’s game, the Red Sox home opener, a 5-year-old boy took to the field to deliver one of the best psych up speeches in sports history. While, he was recreating a speech given by Herb Brooks, the delivery was all his own. Joshua “Rizzo” Sacco, memorized the speech at age 4 after watching the movie “Miracle” 150 plus times.

This video alone almost makes up for the fact that both the Red Sox and the Celtics lost to New York Teams last night… (almost).