Friday, September 30, 2011

'Live the Life You've Imagined' Part 9

Fall is here and I've decided to embrace it despite the fact that we are now one season closer to winter. This pile of leaves was located in the CVS parking lot.

{Happy Hollow Park}

1. Birthday flowers from my husband. 2. My good friend, Nicole, had a bridal shower. I made them this banner. 3. Iron door mat= fancy birthday present. 4. I planted these shrubs at the house I lived in during college. They grew up the side of the house. 5. Josh made me a chocolate on chocolate birthday cake. I was impressed : ) 6. US 52 7. I attended book club in Indy this week and had a lot of fun. 8. I cut grass for the first time in over a year. 9. Pretty radishes. I recently found a radish recipe that gets a passing grade in our house. Check it out at: rachael-ray braised-radishes

{rainbow somewhere between Indianapolis and Lafayette}

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Birthday.

In my book, birthdays are a big deal. I really try to make sure friends and family members know how much I appreciate them on their special day. I send them cards filled with confetti, buy them luxury cars and send them on all expense paid vacations. (just joking, I don't want Aunt Lorraine feeling jipped about that pillow I made for her)

I also eagerly look forward to my own birthday. Yesterday I turned the big 2-7. The end of September/beginning of October is chocked full of special events in our family that must be celebrated. The 27th of September was my parent's anniversary. October 1st is Aunt Lorraine's birthday and on October 9th Grandma Kregel turns 89! We went out for a very nice celebratory dinner.

Yesterday on my way home from yoga, I decided to take a back country road to look at the changing leaves. As I was driving, I noticed hedge apples alongside the road. I immediately thought of Grandpa Kregel and stopped to pick some up. The story goes that his father,. Great Grandpa Kregel, claimed that hedge apples could not be grown from seed. One of the first items on Grandpa's agenda when he got to heaven was to inform his father that hedge apples could indeed be grown from seed because he had done so himself. We even had hedge apples in our flower arrangements at our wedding as a tribute to Grandpa.

The hedge apples, along with all of the well wishes, cards, and gifts made my day. My family knows me well, and I now have hundreds of bulbs to plant and two humongous mums!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Boring Spare Bedroom

Our spare bedroom has been neglected. It wasn't until this summer that we managed to get some furniture to fill up the space. The result is a hodgepodge of pieces from my single lady days, including a too small night stand and a tiny chair.

{naked, boring wall}

I decided to spruce it up on the cheap. I will share with you a little bit of my progress. I attempted to change the dorm room decor above the dresser. (I have already used the canvases for a different project in the room. I am just waiting for the handy man to hang them)

{place bowl of ramen and three ring binder here}

I found this guy at Michaels for $1.50 I liked his swirls and figured I could give him a makeover.

I stumbled upon this pretty mirror at an antique store. I only paid $22 for this monstrosity. It is big and HEAVY. Because of its weight and size, I postponed hanging it on the wall. I am still debating whether or not I want to paint it. Any suggestions on a color?

I used these rubber grippers to prevent the mirror from sliding off the dresser.

The room still has a long way to go. Hopefully it's starting to look like an adult lives here. I will keep you posted on my other spare bedroom projects.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Money Matters

When I decided to quit my job, we knew that we would have to change our spending habits. Not being in a retail environment everyday has prevented me from shopping so much. Unfortunately, I think I can still work on spending less each month.

I started planning out our meals at the beginning of each week. This small chalkboard menu on our fridge has held me accountable to the process. My shopping list is much more streamlined and I have had to make fewer trips to the store.

Starting this week, I am going to challenge myself to only spend $40 a week at the store. This amount is somewhat arbitrary and I may adjust my goal at the end of October. This will hopefully force me to pay better attention to sales, use coupons, and better utilize the food in our pantry. In addition, I am not going to spend any money on STUFF during the month of October. If I want to work on the house, I will have to use supplies we already have. If I need to give a gift, I will have to get super creative.

Do you have any tips for me that will support my cause?

Friday, September 23, 2011

'Live the Life You've Imagined' Part 8

This was a good week! I made a trip north to say goodbye to my sister before she left for Costa Rica. On the way home I stopped to take a photo of part of a giant wind farm by our house. Other highlights from this week that I did not capture in photos: I got my sewing machine up and running! I can finally make use of all of the fabric I have been buying since I was sixteen years old in anticipation of this achievement : ) In addition, I submitted my application for grad school. Please send me positive thoughts and say some prayers for me.

While visiting, Alyssa and I picked a bouquet of zinnias and cosmos.

1. A picture of me and my house while doing some work in the flower garden.
2. Monday night into Tuesday morning I was trapped in Lowell by a thick blanket of fog. I wasn't encouraged to drive in it after just reading 'Pictures of You,' which included a fatal, foggy car crash.
3. Pretty, purple asters. An early birthday present from Aunt Lorraine.
4. Saint James Lutheran Church
5. Last Friday, Josh and I went on a gallery walk through all of the local shops.
6. Sunday morning Cracker Barrel.
7. Kale from Aunt Lorraine
8. I found a praying mantis while planting flowers. He looks giant compared to our neighbors' house.
9. I cannot get enough of these humongous roses from our garden.
This week's InstaChallenge was to take a photo of something I greatly dislike. These spiky weeds and I have been waging a war ever since we moved in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sea Turtle Cake, Tips & Tricks

My sister is leaving tomorrow for Costa Rica to help save baby sea turtles. I decided to bake her a cake as part of her send off. I am in no way an expert on cake decorating; however, I recently took a class and learned some useful tips and tricks that I am going to share with you.

I used a boxed mix to bake two nine inch round layers. I made sure to rotate the pans halfway through. My oven is twenty years old, and this stops the cake from getting over cooked on one side.

I used to smash my dome shaped cakes together when making a layered cake. At my class I discovered cake saws (aka a cake leveler), which made smooshing unnecessary.

I used the Wilton icing colors and premade icing. This was not enough frosting, so I made a batch of Wilton buttercream icing. Josh said the icing from scratch was just as good as Pillsbury.

Instead of filling the layers with frosting, I used dulce de leche pudding. By using an icing bag with just a coupler, I made a thick band of icing to hold in the pudding.

Next I found a simple sea turtle graphic online. I covered it with wax paper and traced the turtle using Wilton decorating gel. Air bubbles were a bit of a problem and it certainly was not perfect. I slapped the wax paper with the gel on top of my cake to transfer the image. Then I watered down some icing and used a paint brush to fill in the shapes. You could use an icing bag, but I feel like I have more control with the brush.

My squiggles and stars were supposed to be sea weed and star fish.

It's a little wonky, but I think it's cute.

I think she liked it. It was probably the best sea turtle cake she has ever received. (the eye patch was in celebration of national talk like a pirate day.) 

Friday, September 16, 2011

'Live the Life You've Imagined' Part 7

We started off the week in Chicago spending time with Josh's family. On Sunday we drove into the city to have a family photo taken. Sunday happened to be September 11th. I was randomly taking snapshots of the skyline while leaning over my sister in law through the car window. It wasn't until today that I realized I captured the image of a September 11th memorial in the foreground.

1. I recently discovered a tiny Mexican grocery store in my neighborhood. It has a lot of charm and has helped me avoid making trips to the giant grocery store. 2. Roses from our garden. They make me happy : ) 3.We went to a festival over the weekend. This used to be the only game I was allowed to play at the fair. 4.Coneflowers. I paid $1 for a small plant at a garage sale and it finally bloomed! 5. My in-laws only live ten minutes away. I was there as soon as they opened on Saturday.  6. I80/94 7. Darien Festival 8. Gladiolus from my mother-in-law 9. Vegetables from our CSA and fruit to make my cold go away.

I'm still working on expanding my non-red & khaki wadrobe
and I need to convince somebody to take these photos for me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Roasted Chicken With Tomatoes and Olives

It has been a  fun challenge trying to figure out how to use our CSA goods each week. Our last basket included green beans, potatoes, two colorful bell peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and two spaghetti squash. I'm still stumped on a spaghetti squash recipe that Josh will eat, but everything else will be put to good use. This evening I used a recipe from Real Simple that used up this week's supply of grape tomatoes and it was quite tasty!

Step 2. tomatoes, garlic, olives, thyme, lemon zest, and olive oil


  • 1 lemon 
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes 
  • 1  head garlic, cloves separated
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved 
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces 
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • small loaf country bread, warmed (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of zest from the lemon. (Reserve the lemon.)
  2. In a large roasting pan, toss the tomatoes, garlic, olives, thyme, and lemon zest with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  3. Nestle the chicken, skin-side up, among the vegetables and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the chicken and vegetables with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the hot roasting pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the roasting pan and add the wine. Gently stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the pan juices and bread (if using). Recipe by Kate Merker,  March 2010

I tweaked the recipe to serve three. We would be on chicken overload if we had to eat a whole three pounder. I substituted three chicken breasts, 1/2 cup olives (I didn't bother halving them), four sliced cloves of garlic, almost two teaspoons of dried thyme. In addition to using a vegetable peeler for the lemon zest, I also used my kitchen sheers to cut the pieces even smaller.

I favor recipes that include wine. It gives me an excuse to drink fancy 'Two Buck Chuck' from Trader Joes.

vegetables after roasting

The next recipe in my tomato-centric meal also came from Real Simple. I made cheesy broiled tomatoes as a side dish.

Directions: Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. Season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the slices with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

I guessed on the salt and pepper and skipped the Parmesan. I broiled the tomatoes at 425 degrees for about seven minutes until the cheese turned a light brown/golden color.

Broiled cheesy tomatoes fresh out of the oven.

The finished product.

My first encounter with an olive boat occurred about six months ago at my cousin's bridal shower and I immediately knew I wanted one. I found this Italian beauty at a garage sale for $3. Josh said that it was neat, which is high praise in his book. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

'Live the Life You've Imagined' Part 6

My week had a very colorful start with the Labor Day weekend. The above photo is of Grandma Kregel. She was drunk, drunk, drunk after a glass of wine and a shot. When you are 88 years old and you only weigh 85 lbs, your liquor tolerance is pretty low. She's always a good time on holidays.

1. Dahlias @ Aunt Lorraine's house. I need to plant some of these next year. 2. Josh and Dad checking out the new farm stand. 3. Labor Day cosmos arranged by Aunt Lorraine 4. Alyssa on the barrel train. In case you were wondering, I was riding in the barrel behind her to take this photo. 5. Went with Mom to peddle vegetables at the farmer's market last Saturday. 6. Josh looking like a male model. 7. Went to church with the family. I was able to sing and nobody could hear me. 8. Crown Point court house. I visited a few antique shops off the square. 9. I was able to help Aunt Lorraine pick out some paint colors for her living room. My vision was too distorted from onion chopping and wine consumption to figure out the rest of the rooms.

Mom and I went to a festival in Frankfort, IL. I whined about it, but I did end up getting a few good ideas and a photo of this pedestrian bridge.

1. Labor Day camp fire. 2. Today I bought Nicole a cupcake from the Flying Cupcake. Happy Birthday Nicole! 3. Sunset from our front porch. 4. My favorite Mexican restaurant and parade entry: Mi Ranchito

I have been using the iPhone application, Instagram, a lot lately. If you would like to follow me, my user name is mrsmoon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

McDonald Family Photos

As I mentioned in my profile, I enjoy being an amatuer photographer. I love when I get the chance to take photos of our close family and friends. I had the opportunity to photograph our friends, the McDonalds, over Labor Day weekend. They were great sports since it was freakishly hot out for the beginning of September. They made my job easy since they are such a loving family and their son is super cute. We spent time strolling around the Lake County Fairgrounds and taking some family snap shots. Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Recap

I had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. A few of the events included making pasta sauce and salsa with my Aunt Lorraine and cousin Rachael. I was able to take some photos for some of our friends; hopefully there will be a post on that later on this week. We went to the Labor Day parade and spent some good, quality time with family at a cook out hosted by my parents.

{Grandma insists on having her picture taken with various parade characters}

{some parade favorites}

{Grandma loves Josh, so much that she did not want to get off of his lap}

{tomatoes from my dad's garden}

After a 10+ hr marathon session of canning pasta sauce and salsa, we came to the conclusion that making pasta sauce was not very time/cost efficient. For that reason, this year's batch of Basil Lover's Pasta Sauce will be a very limited edition. The salsa making was a bit more reasonable. The recipe we used came from the Ball cook book.

Cutting an X on the bottom of the tomatoes and then briefly boiling made the skin much easier to peel

10 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes (about 25 medium)
5 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (about 4 large)
5 cups chopped onions (about 6 to 8 medium)
2-1/2 cups chopped seeded chili peppers, such as jalapeƱo (about 13 medium)
1-1/4 cups cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp hot pepper sauce, optional
6 (16 oz) pint  glass preserving jars with lids and bands

1.) Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) Combine tomatoes, green peppers, onions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt and hot pepper sauce, if using, in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
3.) Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) Process both pint and half pint jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
{I needed a stool to stir our giant vat of salsa}

Although Ball calls this recipe 'Zesty Salsa,' I affectionately named our rendition 'Burn Your Hands Off Salsa' because Rachael's hands burned for days after chopping all of the jalapenos. She recommends wearing gloves in the future.

The frames on the labels are courtesy of graphicsfairy (note: our kitchen walls are no longer red kilt plaid!!!)