Happy Weekend!

Get excited, it’s Friday!! I hope you all had a great week and if you didn’t, that’s okay because now  you get 2 weekend days where you pretend that the troubles you faced last week will magically disappear, hooray!

What are your plans this weekend? The Texan will be watching a lot of rugby as it’s the six nations tournament this weekend. I managed to marry a man with a passion for American sports as well as those in Europe so there is basically never a time of year that he doesn’t have a sport to watch.  I don’t mind so much because rugby men can be quite dashing (the few with necks anyway).  We’re also going to go to our local planetarium for a show because we are both super cool and love stars and stuff. And it’s Oscar weekend which means we will likely DVR it so we can watch it later and fast forward through the stuff we don’t care about (like 70% of it).

To send you off to the weekend in style, here’s some fun links. Cheers!

The Joy of Knitting

If you told me last year I would be spending my days blogging, knitting, sewing, cooking and reading I probably wouldn’t have believed it. I mean, I would  have thought that sounded amazing since last year I was running my millionth campaign and was so stressed out I literally cracked my teeth from grinding them. (Because of this my dentist made me get a $1000 night guard that I no longer need. I’m a little bitter about it).

Teeth grinding jobs aside, I like what I do and have always wanted to work. In a way, I think I have an unhealthy association  with work because it is so integral to who I am. Long before I had the Texan or even my cat, I had my job and it was like my kid (assuming your kid pays you moderately to work your butt off for it. So, maybe not like a kid at all, they totally don’t pay).  I’m good at what I do. And because of that, liz-lemon-drunk I was lulled into a false sense of security that I would always be able to find a job.  I lived in places like LA and New York where they value progressive, sassy, small women. (Plus, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, right? No, as it turns out. Thanks for nothing, old blue eyes). On my first run here, I spied no less than 5 “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and started to get worried. My worries were confirmed by my first small talk conversation where a man gleefully told me “You gotta love a town that supports 4 Walmarts.” And I swear someone played this music. I live in a state that loves Donald Trump. And I’m still in shock about it.

I’m not going to pretend this transition has been easy for me. Just thinking about writing this post while on the treadmill was enough for tears to start streaming down my face (worst).  I feel like a failure that I haven’t been able to find work opportunities here. But, the break has been good, too. My previous job wasn’t just a job, it was my life. My nights, weekends, my thoughts when I wasn’t at work, even my dreams (which really sucks). It’s a testament to the awesomeness of the Texan that our relationship survived that time. Suffice  it to say, I needed a break. And if tumblr_mqd550R2Li1qfqs3do2_250Hermione can take a year off to read books and  focus on personal development, then why the heck can’t I? We aren’t planning on living here forever and its my sincere hope that the next place we live is a more job friendly environment for me. And, hopefully, one that doesn’t have slot machines at the grocery store. Please.

One of the things that has truly been a healing thing for me is knitting (and exercise, but who wants to hear about exercise? Borrring). There is something satisfying about making something, stitch by stitch. I’m far from an expert knitter and only recently mastered anything beyond a scarf. If you are a good friend of mine, there is strong probability I have sent you some knitted slippers because I’ve been making them like crazy. f538da94-f740-483c-bfca-30ee7886c43dFor those of you out there who are just dying to bust out the yarn and needles, I will share the pattern to make these slippers (or booties, if you prefer). These are super easy, promise! You only need to know how to knit and purl and thank goodness we live in a world with Youtube where there are loads of awesome tutorials.

 Knitted Slippers 

  • Items needed: 
    • Knitting needles (I use size 10 1/2)
    • Yarn (Most yarn will do, go for Vana’s Choice or Lion Brand to start). I can usually make 1 set of slippers using 1 skein
    • Knitting stitching needle (like this)
    • Scissors
  • How to make them: 
    • Step 1: Cast on and knit a row as long as you want your slippers to be wide (for adult slippers, I do 28 stitches). You should knit with 2 threads of yarn as 1 just isn’t cushy enough for slippers. You knit just like normal except instead of 1 strand, use 2.
      • Tip: when you start, leave a little tail of yarn for stitching later. 
    • Step 2: For your 2nd row you are going to knit 8 stitches, purl 1, knit 10, purl 1, knit 8 more.
    • Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2, alternating for about 13-15 rows. I usually measure this on my foot, you want this part of the slipper to hit about just below the ball of your foot as you are making the heel of the slipper.
    • Step 4: Next, you knit the toe of the slipper. Alternate across the row purl 1, knit 1 and repeat for about 8-10 rows. Again, measure on your foot to know how many rows to make.
      • Tip: I’ve learned that the yarn tends to stretch, so make them a wee bit smaller than your foot. 
    • Step 5: Cast off the last row. Now you should have a square about the size of your foot. Repeat steps 1-5 and make a 2nd slipper (assuming you want 2 and aren’t trying to start a 1 slipper trend).
    • Step 6: After you have both slipper squares, use your plastic knitting needle to stitch them up. I start with the heel. Make sure to turn the square inside out side up (you should have 2 ridges where you purled). Knit together the back of the slipper the bottom to create the heel of the slipper.
    • Step 7: Stitch up the toe. I fold the square over a bit so the toe is rounded and knit up the seam until you reach the heel part. Tie off and you’re done! Super cozy slippers, made by your own wee hands! Hooray!

 

 

 

The Challenges Week Night Meals & Beef Stroganoff

whats-for-dinnerI grew up in the kind of family that had a home cooked meal every night. I thought that this was just “normal” and didn’t realize until much later in life  that for a lot of kids dinner was a frozen pizza or McDonald’s or for some, nothing at all.

Sure, I sometimes cringe at the amount of hamburger helper I consumed as a child but it was the 80’s. There were a lot of errors in judgement. This was a time for overly processed foods, acid washed jeans, side ponies and  TV shows about alien life forms with a hunger for cats.  It was a weirdly wonderful time. And, who could forget the cute shake n’ bake girl?  We were brainwashed toward the processed.

Looking back, I marvel at how my mother managed to work, take care of 3 kids (and our various pets), keep the house spotless and cook dinner every night.  To all the mom’s out there, I am in awe of you. Seriously, you are the heroines of our lives (sorry we don’t tell you until much later).

Coming up with an idea for dinner can be a serious burden added into everything else we deal with during the week.  Anyone who has been to my place has seen (and likely mocked) my dinner0687c4a0-6f2a-48bd-b642-efc818a2cc2e chalk board in my kitchen but I am convinced good dinners are the result of good planning.

At the beginning of every week, I scour my cook books, blogs and my brain to come up with meals for the week. Then I make a list (critical to make a list), shop and chalk up what I’m making for the week. This helps organize my brain when I walk into the kitchen at dinnertime and think, what the heck am I going to make tonight?  True confession: this is something I’ve perfected in my accidental housewife-dom. When I worked all the time, I’d be lucky if I thought ahead to buy raviolis. So, no judgement.

The Texan has taken to ranking my meals (out of a possible 4 stars) which some might find annoying but I’ve always appreciated feedback. I’m going to share one what I made last night, Beef Stroganoff, (3 star meal).  This is a childhood comfort favorite of mine that we ate often like the good Russians Americans that we are. I made up the recipe after consulting various versions online and my ultimate chef (my mom) who admitted she probably used a seasoning packet when we were kids (gasp! the 80’s strike again.)

Beef Stroganoff 

a4196a95-ee3f-4991-a757-73b37dd00559Makes about 4 servings.

  • What you’ll need:
    • 1 lb Beef sirloin tips
    • 2 Tb Flour
    • 2 Tb olive oil
    • 1 Tb butter
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 1 yellow onion
    • 1/2 quart white mushrooms and 1/2 quart baby bella mushrooms
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 1 1/2 cup broth (I used beef but I’m sure chicken would work too. I’m a big fan of better than bouillon)
    • 1 Tb Worcester sauce
    • 1 Tb Tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 t thyme
    • 1 t fresh parsley
    • Salt and pepper (to taste)
    • Serve over Egg noodles or rice–whichever you prefer.
  • How to make it: 
    • Chop mushrooms, garlic and onion. Heat 1 Tb of olive oil and saute over medium until brown. Reserve 1/2 of the onion for later.
    • While mushrooms are cooking, sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Then slice and dredge in flour being sure to coat evenly.
    • Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside in a bowl. Add 1 Tb of olive oil and cook the meat flipping until browned, about 5 minutes.
    • Once meat is done, place in bowl with mushrooms and set aside. Deglaze pan with wine cooking until wine is reduced by 1/3. Then pour wine over meat/mushrooms and set aside.
    • Heat butter and remaining 1/2 of the onion on medium high until they are clear, about 2 minutes. Then, add bowl with meat/mushroom/wine into pan and add broth, Worcester sauce, thyme, tomato paste. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    • I like my sauce to come together a bit so at this one I let it simmer on low and put the water for the noodles, boiled them and cooked until done.
    • The last step of the sauce is to add the sour cream which gives it a creamy deliciousness. Add cooked noodles, place some chopped parsley on top and serve.

 

On Audiobooks and Cry Reads

I have been a serious and devoted book lover my entire life. As nerdy as this is to admit, I started my first book club in 1st grade so that I could trade indexBaby Sitters Club books with my friends. When I moved out of New York the only things I didn’t sell were my books (and also my Kitchen Aid mixer, because, duh). And the great thing about being an accidental housewife is I get to read more than I have in the past 5 years. Compared to my former life where I was running a phone bank nearly every night, coming home exhausted and crying myself to sleep, it is a welcome change. I’m pretty much always reading at least 3 books at a time because depending on my mood I may want something fictional and fun or classic and brilliant or scary and suspenseful.

That being said, I’m a book purist. I like reading a real book, nothing on any sort of electronic devise will do. I make an exception, however, for audio books which I find essential distraction for driving through loads of traffic. A few years ago, the Texan and I had this genius idea to live on the beach in LA which was great except for the hour and a half drive to work every day. In LA traffic. An experience that will turn even the calmest of drivers into a screaming, vein bulging lunatic. So, suffice it to say, I needed a distraction and fortunately for the citizens of Los Angeles I discovered Audible. 

I have a few rules for a good audio book. First, they are almost always better when the person reading it has an accent, preferably a British one. It’s just more pleasant to hear than us Yanks drawling on. Although, I might listen to the Texan read a book because his drawl is just so adorable (barf, I know). Second, it should be a plot driven, quick moving story (anything by Gillian Flynn falls into this category). Overly descriptive books get a little mundane to listen to (it took me about 4 months to listen to The Orchardist, a good book but probably better not on audiobook). Third, (and this is a warning based on experience) avoid books with a lot of racy scenes.  It is likely while sitting in traffic another driver (with children in the car) will hear it and think listening to porn on your morning commute. This might be entertaining if you didn’t think you were scarring young children. (Note to the wise, avoid listening to This is Where I Leave You).

So, while searching for good Brit lit that fit these rules, I discovered Jojo Moyes. The first book thI listened to by Ms. Moyes was The Girl You Left Behind. And it is a great read–a little history and a fantastic female lead. Highly recommend it. But, the book that I listened to that made me laugh and also sob so uncontrollably I had to pull the car over was Me Before You.

This book–wow, let me tell you. It’s the story of a quirky lady lead who ends up caring for a disabled man and how they both help each other (and fall in love because duh, of course they do). Seriously, this book brings out all the feelings. And, it’s going to be a movie! With Finnick from the Hunger  Games and Daenerys from Game of Thrones! I almost cried again seeing the trailer–I’m actually scared to watch it because I don’t know if I can handle seeing it in real movie life. But, then again, it is kind of a great feeling, I mean don’t you just love a good cry read? Have you ever read something that made you cry but also made you happy to be crying? Please tell me I’m not alone here.

Hooray, it’s Friday!

hey-friday-yay-quote-1Yay! You’ve made it to Friday. Woooo!

I hope you have some exciting plans for the weekend–and by exciting,  I mean it could involve everything from Netflix  to trying a really good brunch place or maybe even a new cocktail if you’re getting crazy. Life in your 30’s is exciting, folks.

It’s still pretty snowy, windy and cold here (still in denial that I live somewhere where it snows). So, Texan and I are going to likely spend most of the weekend indoors–tonight, we are going to see The Witch (I love a good horror film, hopefully it doesn’t disappoint). After that, we’ll probably spend the rest of the weekend with the fire on and the cat in between us re-watching Outlander in anticipation of season 2. If you don’t watch Outlander yet, all I have to say is this and also this.  Seriously, add it to your queue immediately. For the clothes if nothing else–I mean that dress! I die.

Also,  I have to say, THANK YOU so much for making this first week of blogging so awesome–just by reading this you are making me a very happy lady.

To send you into the weekend with some fun stuff to look at, I’ve shared some of my favorite things I saw around the web this week. Hope you enjoy!

  • My life in perfume: This  is seriously spot on–especially the Tommy Girl phase. The only thing that would make it better would be the inclusion of the Gap perfume phase. I mean who could forget all the cool/generic kids with Dream or the edgy girls who wore Grass? Or if they were really cool, Om?  If only I had the foresight to save these babies,  I could be making bank now.  
  • Pineapple Bacon Nachos? I’m sharing this mostly because I’m intrigued and not sure if they would be good or gross. But, I feel like my inner Joey  is saying “Bacon? GOOD. Pineapple? GOOD. Nachos? GOOOOOD. If you make these, you must share how they are, for scientific reasons, of course.
  • For homesick Oregonians like me (or anyone, really): I want to consume everything on this list but especially the smoked fresh goat cheese because seriously this is the description “It’s bright, tart, and amazingly creamy, wrapped in a smoked maple leaf that’s misted with bourbon.”  And now we’re all like this. 
  • In case you didn’t see the important news, yesterday was National Drink Wine Day (I wish I could have toasted it with Cersei). But, don’t fret if you missed it, I won’t tell anyone if you celebrate today with this handy guide pairing wine and good books.  I totally want to read In a Dark, Dark Wood.
  • Please tell me this isn’t a real thing and that its just some weird high fashion-y thing that I don’t get.  So very creepy. And impractical–can you imagine eating with furry nails? Grossss.
  • These paper flowers are seriously amazing. I always get sad when I buy real flowers and they die so maybe this is a good alternative.
  • Mom, Dad and teen in a 160 sq-foot house. This house is super cute  but even for a tiny lady like me I can’t imagine lasting more than like, a day, before wanting a room with a door. Also, where is the bathroom? That is my most urgent concern.
  • Reason a million why I’m sad I don’t live in LA anymore: It’s  QuiltCon this weekend in Pasadena. Any of my So-Cal readers should go so I can live through you. Seriously, admire the work that it took to make this baby and also this one, WOW!

Happy weekend!!

 

Tea and Lovely Lemon Cake

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was easy to fall in love with coffee at an early age. I had what many would call a Lorelai Gilmore obsession withanigif_enhanced-1888-1413499367-2 coffee as a youth. Tea was something I found  later in life. It wasn’t until I lived in England where most coffee is instant, (as in little crystals you stir into hot water and pretend its coffee), that I began to truly embrace a love for tea. Specifically, for high tea which is tea with little sandwiches, cakes and scones.

5b763568-ad27-4d5e-9dcd-a9dbd5662509I experienced my first high tea when I was studying at Oxford and took a break from the books to stay with some little old ladies in Kent. How I know them is a little confusing (my then boyfriend’s, mother’s, boyfriend’s, mother) but they were seriously delightful ladies. Their husbands had all passed away and so they were all living in the same town home community and met for tea every afternoon.  It was like they were living as I was as a college student surrounded by my friends and it immediately became my life ambition to someday become them (Assuming Texan goes before me. Ugh now this became morbid and sad, sorry, it was supposed to be a happy thought). The ladies pulled out all the stops for our tea including the most delicious lemon cake ever. The other day I was craving that lemon cake and decided I would try to make one.

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Seriously–cake so good I didn’t even take a picture until it was almost gone

When faced with a cooking challenge I always ask myself W.W.B.C.D? (What Would the Barefoot Contessa Do?) Seriously, is there anything she makes that isn’t the most delicious thing you could ever dream of? I’m jealous of her husband in every episode I watch and also wish I could be her best friend/sister/official taster.  My enduring devotion is what led me to Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake.

A few notes: I halfed the recipe because there is just the 2 of us and this makes 2 loaf pan size cakes. (We like cake but we also like being able to see our shoes). It is a pretty straight forward recipe, the hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool before glazing because as soon as you smell it you will want to eat it all up. I don’t have a paddle attachment for my mixer so I just used regular whisk mixer and it turned out fine. For the lemon zest, I zested only 2 lemons and the cake was perfectly zest-y enough.

Seriously: Bake this, make a pot of tea, eat, and enjoy life, you won’t regret it.

What you will need: 
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

How to make the glaze:  Combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

 

The beginning of our story….

Helllllloooo internet friend! It’s nice of you to stop by on my little corner of the web.

If you are reading this then there is a strong probability you are either  cdf16ff8-8bb2-410b-a41c-92a270d55ce6related to me, a friend of mine, someone I used to know in high school or work, an ex-boyfriend (you can leave, unless you are just here to be nice and pine, then you can stay), or someone who randomly googled this site  to see if I would really post something every minute (you, literal-ist, can also leave). If you’re super curious about the blog name, check out the About section.

For the few of you who don’t know me already, and are dying to know the lady behind all the sass, I will explain. My name is Caroline and I’m a 30-something recently married lady who took her cat and followed her heart and husband to a town in Nevada that boasts the proud distinction of having a slot machine for every 14 people. Seriously.

Before I became a married lady, I lived in many places and had some fun adventures along the way. Detailing them may take a bit so consider yourself warned.

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Trees, oh how I miss them

I grew up in a town east of Portland, Oregon where my adventures mostly involved planning elaborate public pranks, admiring trees and learning to drive in the rain while applying make-up (mascara not recommended). I went to college in Southern California where I met my lifelong best friends and learned that no matter where I lived I would never be tan. I also managed to study abroad in England where I picked up a lifelong love for the word dodgy.

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New York Caro, ironically in the part of New York I spent the least amount of time.

After college,  I moved to New York City as adventurous and hopeful wee lassies tend to do.  I lived there for 6 years and you could say New York City was my first serious boyfriend. I loved everything about living in New York, even when I lived in a bedroom the size of my bed.  I often wandered the city out of choice, not just because I couldn’t afford a cab (maybe that’s a lie). But, walking has its good parts–my calves were amazing and I still have a map of the city in my mind. I  can close my eyes and navigate to my favorite book store and also, who am I kidding, my favorite bar.

But, as fate would have it, New York and I were destine to break up eventually. I was a single lady living in Brooklyn, happily on my own, even secure enough in my single lady status to get a cat. (Just 1 though, when they start out numbering you, you’re in trouble.) I went back to Southern California for my fathers 50th birthday party (where I was decidedly not looking for someone to date). And, of course, I ended up meeting my husband there. You know how everyone always says, (in the annoyingly condescending way only securely coupled people can), “it will happen when you least expect it.” Well, turns out they are right.

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The night I met the Texan, class all the way.

My husband-to-be, a big, tall Texan who I feared was a Republican, strolled up to me at this party (where I had already sang drunken karaoke) and asked me if I liked gravy. If you had told young Caro that would be the line my future husband would use I would have probably rolled my eyes and said yeahhhhh okay. But, as it turns out, unlikely and hilarious questions are just the ticket to get into my heart. We talked all night on my parents patio (so high school of us). I gave him my phone number not really believing he would call (I was a jaded New Yorker at this point). But, after many unexpected phone calls and plane trips, we decided to take the plunge and live in the same time zone. I moved back to LA, a place I left 6 years earlier without so much as a backward glance into the glaring, smog filled sunset.

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Happy bride to be

And, it turns out, I learned to love LA and domestic bliss. And, he even learned to love my cat, allergies be damned. And, after a few years of respectable co-habitation wherein we learned that we could handle each others more annoying quirks , we ended up getting engaged.  Then he got an excellent job opportunity in a Nevada town where bowling is the favorite past time.

And, I guess I really love this bloke because here I am, single gal from the City turned accidental housewife. This is mostly because, after 6 months of looking, I have determined the job opportunities in this town are limited to casino floor operator and I’m not really qualified for that nor are my lungs up to the cancer challenge.

This blog will be a place where I document the trials and tribulations of domestic life. I’ll share some cooking ideas, some crafting, some books and some of the cool stuff I’m seeing online. And hopefully, dear reader, you’ll enjoy the journey because its gonna be great and not as long winded as this post, promise. Here’s to living every minute!