Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don Draper = Advertising Phenom.

Don Draper really is an advertising genius. Or Mercedes-Benz has the most genius ad campaign ever: using the voice of Don Draper to sell cars. Or sell anything else they feel like selling. Because let's face it - that voice could sell a dump. I literally stopped flipping through radio stations today when I was caught by the immediately-recognizable voice of Mr. Jon Hamm and honestly continued to listen until the commercial was over. I will probably listen/watch every single Mercedes-Benz commercial on the air as long as they continue to use voice-overs by Jon Hamm.

Little does Mercedes-Benz know that I'm poor and will never actually buy a Mercedes-Benz. I'm just enjoying the free ear-candy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Business Time.

Maybe it’s been the nice spring-like weather we’ve had (although short-lived… hello again, rain) or just my constant nagging need to organize and re-organize our house, but I’ve definitely been in the ‘spring cleaning’ type of mood lately… feeling the need to purge, to de-clutter, to spiff up the house, to have a garage sale. This past Sunday, Nick and I were sitting across from each other at our dining room table – me, at my sewing machine finishing my latest project...

...and Nick, on the laptop working on his real estate website. I realized as we were sitting there that we hardly ever use our dining room table for dining… which is probably what a lot of people will admit, since everyone we talk to says the same thing. The thing is I want to use our dining room table for dining, and want to have another space where we enjoy working on other things… like an office or something – what a novel idea!

We have an office/guest room that is only seldom used, mostly when we need to use the printer (which is in the office) or when my sister is in town and stays with us. Other than those times, we mostly just have an under-utilized room of about 100 square feet with a queen-sized bed taking up about 60 percent of it… what a waste of space! 

So we got to scheming and decided to take a trip to Ikea in search of some affordable and efficient solutions to create an enjoyable and functional ‘home office’ that we both could utilize on a regular, if not daily, basis. Nick could keep all of his files and do all of his real estate work and keep everything organized, and I could have a space to work on my crafts, use the computer, and whatever else I deem necessary and Business-y. We took some measurements of the room, agreed on a basic plan of what we were looking for, and headed to my favorite place to spend way too much time and money on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. By the time we left Ikea, we had eaten four hot dogs (still the best lunch deal on the planet) and purchased two desks, a room-size rug, and a giant 5’x5’ cube-y sort of shelf, along with fun baskets and magazine holders to fit. 

We also had to call Nick’s dad to bring his truck in order to get our new shelf home (which we really hadn’t planned on buying, but was marked down in the ‘as-is’ section – my favorite place – because of a totally unnoticeable small chip on the back side, and was exactly what we were looking for). I was thrilled with our purchases, but already kicking myself a little that I had just tacked more onto our Ikea credit card which by this point was only $50 away from being completely paid off… ugggghhhhhh, sometimes I think it’s me alone keeping that Swedish-designed Disneyland of assembly-required-furniture in business.

So now I am just aching to get it all set up… it’s driving me crazy letting it all just sit in the garage, begging me to let it populate its new home in our soon-to-be-redesigned home office. We decided to wait until the weekend since my sister will be visiting, and we figured she’d rather sleep on a bed than on or under a desk. I’m way too into this and will definitely post photos after the transformation. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Domesticity: Part 2.

Continuing with my cooking adventures... tonight I experienced a couple of firsts: we ate my first attempt at a 'freezer meal', and I cut up a whole chicken for the first time ever.

The 'freezer meal' we had for dinner tonight was a pan of beef enchiladas I made about a month ago. When I first made it, I had simply made too big of a batch of enchiladas to cook at one time in our tiny oven. Oh yeah... I probably haven't mentioned it before, but we don't actually have an oven. Our kitchen just literally did not have an oven when we moved into our house, and we still haven't gotten around to really finding one that will fit/work with the existing gas and lack of adequate electricity as well as space. So my mom bought me a small countertop convection oven for my birthday last year, and that's what we use. For two people, it's usually more than sufficient (except when I make way too many enchiladas). So I froze the extra enchiladas and we ate them for dinner tonight, about a month later... and I am happy to report that they came out quite tasty. I must do this more often for nights like this when it gets too late to cook a real meal.

The chicken situation was... interesting. I've always been much too intimidated by the thought of butchering a whole chicken to even try. (Plus, like I said, we don't actually have a real oven so I've never been sure if my kitchen could even actually handle cooking an entire chicken at one time.) During my last big grocery shopping trip, I bought a 5+ lb whole chicken marked down for quick sale to a little more than $2. I couldn't pass up a deal like that, so I bought it and stuck it in the freezer, thinking I would one day summon the confidence to tackle that bird. And tonight was the night. I came across a yummy sounding recipe for Tandoori baked chicken and thought this chicken would be perfect. So, I sharpened my knife (a scary task in itself), rolled up my sleeves, and found a very helpful Pampered Chef video tutorial on YouTube. I felt a lot like Amy Adams in Julie and Julia. And once I started, I actually enjoyed it. It was so satisfying that I wondered if I should be worried about latent maniacal tendencies. The chicken pieces were then put into a mixture of Greek yogurt and exotic spices to marinate overnight, which tomorrow night will hopefully become a somewhat edible version of Indian Tandoori-baked chicken, whipped up by the whitest girl you know.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


If you haven't noticed, I've been trying to incorporate a little more substance into my blogs recently, so it's not just my occasional accounts of ridiculous things that happen in our house or an excuse to post the latest adorable photos of Nora. 

My goal is to make this blog a fair reflection of myself, meaning there will always be a lot of stories about the everyday stuff involving me, my family and Nora, but there are a few things I've realized I don't usually mention that are actually fairly significant components of who I am. A couple of these things are crafting and making every effort to always be clever and creative with new projects, and cooking. I've introduced the crafting element and hope to be able to incorporate it more into my regular blogging. As for cooking, I don't think I've afforded it the attention I feel it deserves, for as much as I cook out of pure enjoyment as well as frugality. So here we go.

I come from a cooking family. My family is German-Hungarian, and my grandmother loves and LIVES to cook. And we all appreciate that very much, as we all love and live to eat. My grandmother was a cook for Sac State for many years; my mom has been a cook for the school district at different schools (we always joked that she was following my brother as he got older and changed schools) for several years too. (Who knows... maybe she'll continue the pattern and soon make her way to Sac State to follow in my grandmother's footsteps and cook for my brother yet again.) I have not always been a good cook, and I don't claim to be one now either. All I know is that I used to be a terrible cook and as a teenager, feared for my poor future children's eating habits as I would be incapable of cooking anything more than microwave burritos; today, I have been cooking and trying out recipes for several years now and am able to make a decent meal nearly every night for Nick and I (and Nora too, even though her meals usually only consist of some form of pureed vegetable, but still cooking, right?).

I really truly enjoy cooking - I find it both relaxing and rejuvenating to come home from work and create a meal. I like that we save a lot of money by eating in. I like that I feel confident enough now to try new things, whether it's a recipe I came across online or something I've invented all on my own. There are a couple of things that make cooking every night a much more manageable and efficient endeavor for a mom who works full-time away from home: keeping it simple, and planning meals in advance. Both of these end up saving us a lot of money in the end, since I avoid anything too complicated that involves hard-to-find or expensive ingredients, and I purchase all of these ingredients ahead of time when I do my weekend grocery shopping with meals already planned out - that way I know exactly what I need (and most importantly what I DON'T need) when I do my shopping and can therefore find better deals and shop the sales. Planning and shopping ahead also help me avoid last-minute shopping (where I would normally end up spending much more because I'm more rushed, making one quick stop, and willing to pay top-dollar if necessary in order to buy what I need and save time), or even worse, getting off work at 5pm and realizing I have no dinner plan and no energy to go shopping and still make a meal, resulting in us eating out and wasting money on a less-than-healthy dinner.

So enough preaching on the benefits of home-cooking and budget-friendly menu planning for now - here's a recipe. It's my own invention and very simple with inexpensive ingredients - I made it for dinner last night for the first time. (FYI, for my own creations such as this one, measurements are always approximate... use your own judgement and adjust to fit your taste.)

:: Spicy Italian Sausage Fettucini ::


1 lb - ground Italian sausage (I used Target's Archer Farms brand, but also like Johnsonville)
12 oz - packaged fettucini noodles
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup - chopped fresh or frozen spinach
6 oz / 1 small can of tomato sauce
1 tsp - dried rosemary
1 tsp - dried red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1 cup - Italian cheese (I used Target's Market Pantry blend of shredded mozzarella, asiago, romano)
1/4 cup - grated parmesan cheese

1) Break up the sausage and brown in a large pan over medium-low heat, stirring as it cooks. Fill another large pot with water and add 1/2 tsp salt and about 1 tsp of olive oil, and heat to boiling.

2) Once the sausage is mostly cooked through after about 10 minutes, add the garlic, green onions, rosemary, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook together for about 3 minutes or until garlic and onions are golden (but not brown, since garlic will get bitter if over-cooked).

3) Add pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions while sausage mixture is cooking.

4) Add tomatoes, spinach, and tomato sauce to the sausage mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and cook over low heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Drain the pasta and return to large pot; pour sausage/sauce mixture over pasta and add the cheese, stirring to coat pasta with the sauce and melt the cheese. Serve hot and top with extra cheese if desired. (I also made fresh bread from frozen bread dough - a sourdough baguette or garlic bread would also be really yummy.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best Superbowl Ever & A Finished Project (finally)

So obviously Sunday was the Superbowl, and it was hands-down my favorite one ever. This was for two reasons:

(1) The Packers, and much more specifically, former California Golden Bear, Mr. Aaron Rodgers, took home the win. GO PACK GO, and GO BEARS.

(2) I got to watch the game with this girl:

Tonight I was also very pleased to finally finish my wall organizer project that I started a week or two ago... I rather enjoy how it turned out, and am looking forward to having a central place in the kitchen to sort all of our bills, outgoing mail, coupons, and miscellaneous notes.

I also really like that I purchased absolutely nothing to make this; I used cardboard, a scrap piece of plywood, and some odds and ends of fabric and ribbon that I already had. Hooray for crafting!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Morning Thoughts

Nick is working, Nora is taking a nap (...or at least in her crib, supposedly trying to fall asleep judging by the ongoing moans and quiet humming I've been hearing over the monitor for the last ten minutes...). How should I spend my precious time?

...try to finish my newest DIY wall organizer project I started last week with the goal of finishing it in a couple of days so I could actually use it to sort the bills we have before (1) they're due or (2) they get lost in the shuffle of the rest of the mail and miscellaneous papers on the counter and don't get paid on time?

(...this is my idea for a wall organizer I created to hang in the kitchen in an effort to keep track of bills, incoming and outgoing mail, coupons, etc. This is the drawing I had made to be able to make a pattern; I'll post the finished project whenever I get around to finishing it.)

...throw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and take advantage of the nice weather this morning to do some light yardwork and prune those ugly rose bushes like I've been meaning to do for the last few weeks?

...start packing up all of Nora's stuff for her first overnighter with her two Omas tonight, since it will take forever to round up everything she could possibly need for 18+ hours away from home? some cleaning - ok, in reality just sweep the floors - and gather up all of the dog fur that could potentially be enough to create two additional Dundies that might just end up being perfectly well-behaved replacement dogs for our misbehaving real dog?

...or just stay in my pajamas, drink my coffee, ignore the dog fur, and watch HGTV dreaming that I will one day be as motivated as these people to really get something done on a Saturday morning. 

Done and done.