Monday, August 31, 2009

Giveaway Time!

This week I get to host yet another giveaway thanks to the folks at This time around you can win 500 Business Cards. You may choose from three business card sizes, then choose the paper and the color. These are high quality Die Cut Business Cards for you to design and personalize in any way you choose. I'm going to use mine for sub cards so that I can leave an eye-catching reminder of my awesomeness on the desks of teachers at school :)

To win, just leave me a comment telling me what you would do with your business cards. Don't forget to leave me a way to contact you if you win. I'll choose two winners on Monday, September 7th using Good luck everyone!

Shipping must be paid by Winner. Offer Valid for UNITED STATES SHIPPING ONLY.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That time of year again...

Before I start babbling, I just need to let everyone know how excited I am ( and offer more evidence of what a big dork I am!). My Painter's Palette won the Craftster Challenge, I was featured for Foodie Friday, My Sex and the City Cupcakes are featured in Bakespace's newest newsletter, and my Oreo Crunch Fudge Bars are on the Hot 100 list. Fun! Now on to the babble...

I can't even believe that it is time to start thinking fall. I'm so resistant to letting summer end that I am just ignoring all of my usual late August rituals. Since I am yet to procure a full time teaching spot and may be subbing again in September, I am letting it all slide! Usually I do several things that help me to get ready for back to school without losing my mind:

A huge wardrobe once over: I pull out all of my fall clothes and try everything on. I then sort things into piles. One for the great-as-is stuff, one for anything that needs repair or tweaking, and one for items not worn in two years. The latter get photographed and posted to my Wardrobe Swap Shop. I use the next few weeks to do repairs and wash and iron all of the rest. Then I figure out what I need to buy. I love Tim Gunn's list of Ten Essentials, which I agree is the base of any great wardrobe. Once I'm happy that I have them all, I start scoping out new things I want to try out from fall collections, fashion blogs, or magazines. I'm a sucker for Lucky and InStyle since they tend to cater to more realistic shoppers like moi. Also, I like perusing Closet Couture, but many users have a style that can be a little too much for work wear! I make a list, check the sales and go to the stores, where I then STICK TO THE LIST! This is essential for me, since I am sometimes an impulsive shopper. It's for this same reason that I avoid online shopping. It would be the death of my bank account! All of that "Free Shipping for orders over $100!" and "10% off if you order by 9 PM!" is oh so tempting, but I've learned to stay away!

A freezer/pantry once over: I tend to buy food in bulk and when on sale, so my freezer fills up quickly. I take these next two weeks to pull out anything more than a month old and get cooking! Since the weather is still warm enough for grilling, I take full advantage of it. I absolutely love this Grilled Tuna with Mango Jalapeno Salsa and this Sweet and Sour Grilled Pork Loin with Apples and Onions is a fantastic meal for the transition into cooler weather. I also want to get the most out of late summer produce, so now is the time for freezing any berries, making jams, or canning fruits for the fall. I already made the blueberry preserves and raspberry dessert sauce that will likely make up part of many Christmas gifts this year (Yes, I just said Christmas. Ack!).

School Supply Shopping This is usually another big item on my to-do list, but if I'm subbing, I won't end up doing this at all. Normally I go through the same routine as I do with my wardrobe: check to see what I am low on or what new items I want to use, check sales and make a list. I still get all of my teacher discounts and specials, but I'm avoiding the office supply and book stores until I know for sure what I will be doing in September. I must admit, I'll miss it a bit. I love shopping for new books! For anyone who needs to boost their classroom libraries, end of summer yard sales and your local freecycle are the way to go! I have picked up most of my books there, especially from moms looking to clear out the bedrooms of their college bound kids!

Although I am sad that summer is ending, I must admit that I love autumn. I am looking forward to apple picking, wearing boots with tights, Halloween crafting, and costume parties, but still. The heat, the the food, the lazy afternoons are just bliss. However, it could be worse! If I had been on the beach at home all summer I would be suffering so much more! Wait, did I just discover a benefit of living in Michigan? Whoa.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tori and a few tidbits

In case you are not one of my local friends, several of whom were irritated by my incessant bragging the past few weeks, get ready! I was lucky enough to win a pair of tickets to see Tori Amos at the Detroit Opera House this past weekend from my favorite radio DJ, Martin Bandyke. Tori Amos, as in the musical embodiment of my emotional teenage years, stylish, amazing, talented beyond compare and eclectic crazy cool Tori Amos, who somehow, despite my obsession with her, I had never seen in concert! I was thrilled; Eric not so much. Luckily we had dinner with our friends the Robinson's a few nights before the show, inspiring my dear husband's truly selfless and charitable suggestion: "Katja, why don't you go?" Katja dutifully agreed and Girls' Night Out plans were set in motion.

Katja has never been to downtown Detroit and I have never been in the Opera House so it was a fun adventure even without what ended up being one of the greatest live shows I've seen. We had what I thought were great balcony seats, until I saw this lucky duck's photos! (A side note: I'm now in love with Pink is the New Blog! You can go check out more photos and the set list from the show there.) Tori looked fabulous in her hot pink leggings and stilettos, while straddling a piano bench and playing several keyboards at once. Her energy and the power of that voice gave me goosebumps more than once. I was so excited to hear Winter, Icicle, Precious Things, and Caught a Lite Sneeze, but the new songs were equally stellar. If you have not heard the new album yet, get on it! And if you live anywhere near where this tour is headed, go buy tickets now! You will not regret it.

Our evening ended with our meeting the boys at the Berg and heading to Brown Jug for the cheapest beer in Ann Arbor. Lots of young drunks, but if you want a seven dollar pitcher at midnight, you can't go wrong. Snacks next door at Pancheros and home to bed. I'm still humming Body and Soul.

On another note, I need to congratulate the winner of my second giveaway, Cora! Cora has won herself an 18x24" poster print from Large Format Posters. She was lucky, and she was the only person who entered properly! Looking back I see that the sponsors probably need to rethink charging a handling fee for a prize. It seems to be a real turn-off for readers, which I totally understand! Even if it is only five bucks, people don't want to pay for free prizes because then they don't really seem like free prizes at all, do they? Exactly.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Painting Never Tasted So Good

Okay, so I haven't done a Craftster rave in a good long while, so I think it is about time! If you haven't visited the site and you are at all crafty, you should do so immediately! It is by far the best of the social-networking-for-crafty-people sites! I first found Craftster way back in April of 2006. I had just been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy and was stuck in the house, pitying myself and getting more bored by the moment. I started working on a scrapbook that I had been neglecting and ended up searching the web for supplies. Somehow this led me to Craftster, which was serendipitous to say the least. The inspiration, information, support and friendships that followed have made me a Craftster fan for life. Anything you want to learn to make, you can find it, anything you want to share or show off, you can do that, too. Want to swap some goodies or make some friends? Go for it. I became so swap addicted for a while that I had to do a craft detox.

With our recent move, work, and all of life's other obstacles, I have been neglectful of Craftster lately. A twitter post by one of the admins alerted me to the newest monthly challenge: Incredible Edibles. Create a project mimicking craft supplies entirely out of food. Obviously this challenge was made for me. I knew everyone would be making cupcakes or cakes for this challenge so I wanted to make something a little different. Instead of sweets, I created a savory appetizer platter in the form of a painter's palette. The bread palette was baked using a whole wheat dough based on the master dough recipe that I always talk about. My version of the recipe follows along with recipes for each of the "paints" and a few other ideas in case you'd like to try this with other colors or flavors! Each "paint" is a different flavored dip or spread. The paintbrush is more bread, with fennel fronds for bristles, tied on with onion skin. After it was finished Eric and I devoured this for dinner with several glasses of vino... nothing left but crumbs!

Don't forget to head over to Craftster and vote for my entry between August 6th and 12th!

How to:

Make your bread dough:
- In a large Tupperware container, mix 1.5 cups of lukewarm water with 1 envelope of yeast and 1/2 Tbls. of kosher salt.
- Add 3.5 cups of whole wheat flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon until all flour is combined and dough is sticky.
- Cover with a towel and let rise in a dry, warm room for 3-5 hours or until dough doubles in size.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees. I recommend a pizza stone, but if you don't have one you could do it on a baking sheet instead. If using the stone, put it in the oven now. PLace a roasting pan on the bottom rack of your oven.
- Dust your work surface (I do this right on a pizza peel because I then transfer it to a pizza stone, but you can sape it right on the baking sheet if that is what you have) and hands with flour. Cut 3/4 of the dough from the container, and shape it into a crescent like a painter's pallette. Cut a circle from one side for the thumb hole.
- Shape remaining dough into a rod for the paint brush and any other shape you'd like (I used extra dough to make little baguettes for dipping).
- Slide dough shapes onto pizza stone or put baking seet in oven.
- Pour 2 cups of hot water into the roasting pan and shut the oven door to catch steam. Watch out for hot steam when you do this because it burns like a mother!
- Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until crusty and browned. (You may need to take smaller shapes out earlier, so keep an eye on them!)
- Cool completely.
- Cut organic paint shapes from the "palette" using a serrated knife and dig out a little bowl for your dips. Save any bread that you pull out; you'll need it later 'cause it makes good eats!
- Spoon dips into each little bowl and serve with veggies and the extra bread. When you run out of dippers you can just start tearing your palette into delicious little pieces! Cheesy

Recipes for Dips in rainbow colors!

RED: Roasted Red Pepper And Eggplant Tapenade

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 large red peppers, cut in half, with seeds and stems removed
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbls. fresh basil
1 Tbls. fresh oregano
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbls. olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place eggplant and peppers on a grill or under the broiler.
Cook until slightly charred, turning once.
Remove from heat, peel skin from peppers, and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse garlic and herbs until finely chopped.
Add peppers and eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and pulse to chop.
Add oil and blend until just combined.

ORANGE: Savory Sweet Pumpkin Dip
1 small can, or 1 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin
1 large golden delicious apple, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbls. butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a sauce pan, melt butter.
Over medium-high heat, cook onion until translucent.
Add apple and cook until just softened.
Add nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add pumpkin and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring to avoid burning.
Add half of the chicken broth and cook 2-3 minutes.
If dip is very thick, you may need to add the rest of the broth and cook another few minutes.

YELLOW: Garlic Yogurt Sauce
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 drops yellow food coloring

Blend all ingredients well and serve cold. You could actually color this with any shade since it's white anyway. I was too lazy to make the yellow corn dip below!

YELLOW Option 2: Chipotle Corn Dip
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
2 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup finely shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Melt the butter in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the onion, garlic, cumin and chile powder, stirring, until you can smell the spices and the onion begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the tomato and corn, and toss once or twice to coat with the onion mixture.
Transfer to a medium-size bowl and allow to cool.
Stir in the sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight to let the flavors develop.

GREEN: Sweet Pea and Onion Spread
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbls. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until combined. Again feel free to puree it, but I like a little texture.
** Guacamole would also make a good green!

BLUE: Blue Cheese Fondue (I didn't have room on my palette for this, but it is delicious!)
1 lb. Blue Cheese (crumbled)
1 cup nonfat milk
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. flour
1 Tbls. nonfat sour cream
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Blue food coloring

Crumble Blue Cheese and set aside.
Add butter to a small pot over medium-low heat.
Stir in flour, then milk.
Slowly add crumbled Blue Cheese while stirring.
Turn up the heat to high and stir in nutmeg.
As the fondue starts to bubble but before it boils, lower the heat and add the sour cream and a few drops of food coloring to make it nice and blue.

Hope you all enjoy it; we sure did!

Print the Recipes!