Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Card and a Winner

[This post could have easily been titled 'Ugly Photo Post.' Sorry about the quality of the pics, but bear with me.]

First of all, I made another card for the Daring Cardmakers (DCM) challenge. This week, it was called 'It's All in the Shape,' and you had to make a card that was a unique shape (as in, not a square or rectangle). Well, we went to our friends' wedding today, so I decided I would make a wedding cake-shaped card:

And actually, the stamp I used for the design on the cake looked a lot like how their cake was decorated, funnily enough. Though they had it over the whole cake, and I didn't use their colors for the card.

Ok, I know you all just want to know who the winner is. Well, I used a random number generator to decide the winner (I didn't have too many entries, but using the RNG makes me feel like the responsibility is out of my hands, and then I feel less guilty that not everyone can win...). And the RNG chose the number:

Four! Melody is the winner. Congratulations! Email me your mailing address, and I will send your magazine off to you as soon as possible. And thank you to all of you who entered.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

This post actually has nothing to do with Memorial Day. I'm in bed feeling sorry for my throat, so I'm not exactly doing something special to celebrate. :) But I did want to post (belatedly, as usual) about another holiday: Mother's Day.

For Mother's Day (which was May 11th here in the States), I made dinner for my mom. I'll give you one guess where the recipe is from! [Honestly, I do cook things that aren't in that book. I really do].

I made Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme Mushrooms, only I made a few changes. I'll write down the original recipe for you, and then tell you what I did differently:

* 8 oz/4 cups finely sliced cremini mushrooms
* 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
* small garlic clove, minced
* zest and juice of a lemon
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped to give 1 teaspoon leaves
* 1 lb linguine
* 1 bunch parsley, chopped to give 1/2 cup
* 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
* freshly ground pepper

1. Slice the mushrooms finely, and put them into a large bowl with the oil, salt, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, and gorgeously scented thyme leaves.

2. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and drain loosely, retaining some water. Quickly put the pasta in the bowl with the mushroom mixture.

3. Toss everything together well, and then add the parsley, cheese, and pepper before tossing again, and eat with joy in your heart.

Nothing in the recipe calls for cooking the mushrooms, but I like them cooked, so what I do is put the slices of mushrooms in a pan with the oil, salt, and garlic, and I sauté them. Then I do pretty much everything else the same, adding in the lemon and thyme at the same time as the parsley, etc.

Sorry it's not the best photo, but I forgot to take a close-up of the dish, so I just snapped a picture really fast before we tucked in. :)

On a completely different note, I just wanted to mention that my pay-it-forward swap is now closed. I'm hoping to get a start on those projects sometime soon, but won't be able to share them with you until they make it to their new homes...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Showers of Love

As I mentioned earlier, I recently hosted a wedding shower for a good friend of mine. She and I work together at one of my jobs, and another friend and I co-hosted the shower for all our coworkers at that job. We work at a local, independently-owned giftstore (a really wonderful little shop) and I had my friend C, the bride-to-be, register there for her gifts for the shower. Then I made the invitations:

The little hearts were placed loosely in the envelope, so that they would 'shower' out as the invitation was opened.

J was the woman I was co-hosting with, and she and I provided drinks and desserts, as well as an appetizer each. Then we had each guest bring an appetizer to share. There was some good food there, I tell you! The appetizer that I made was from Nigella Express (are you starting to get the feeling that this is maybe my favorite cookbook ever?) It's called 'Mozzarella With Crazy Gremolata.' Easy and tasty, so it doesn't get much better than that...

Recipe for Mozzarella With Crazy Gremolata:
* 2 balls buffalo mozzarella
* 1 long red chile, deseeded and finely chopped
* 6 black olives, finely chopped
* zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
* 1/2 clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1. Slice the mozzarella into 1/4-inch rounds and arrange them on a plate.
2. In a bowl, mix the chopped chile with the chopped olives, lemon zest, and minced garlic.
3. Tip in the salt, oil, and parsley and stir together to make your c-c-c-c-razy gremolata. [Nigella's way of putting it, not mine!]
4. Spoon the gremolata down the center of your sliced mozzarella.

Serves 6 as part of a starter.

I skipped the lemon zest, I guess mostly to save a little time, and I think that I used smaller (and a few more) balls of mozzarella than she did, but otherwise that's basically what I did. All the ingredients (other than the parsley, which came from my garden) are from an organic coop in the Twin Cities, and I served it on a fresh baguette from the same coop.
This is the second time I have made this appetizer, and everyone has loved it. At the shower I had several people ask me for the recipe. And it is so easy. So try it, already!

For the dessert that I brought, I made cupcakes. If you read this post, then you know how busy I was at the time. So unfortunately, they are not from scratch, which I would have preferred.

But I did decorate them with wedding bands, including a 'diamond,' so maybe that makes up for it!

I also made little goody bags for each of the guests. They were really easy to put together, and it was fun for everyone to leave with a little treat. I stamped the tags (I don't know if it shows up in this picture, but they say 'for you') and I attached them with heart-shaped brads. As for the goodies, they include: champagne-shaped blowing bubbles from the store where we all work, milk chocolate and almond kisses, and handmade soap from Etsy. [Oooh, Etsy! That's going to be a whole post in and of itself. Stay tuned!]

The soap was supposed to be strawberry scented, but unfortunately it didn't smell as good as I'd hoped (kind of more like playdoh). That's ok, though, because they were cute, organic, and I was supporting someone's handmade, independent business. [If you like organic, handmade bath products that smell so good you could eat them, Lush is the place to go - don't you agree?]

Ok, now for the decorating. J's girls picked some flowers from the yard for the party.  I thought they looked beautiful, especially the way the light was hitting them.

J was really fun to plan a party with. A lot of people I know like to throw some chips in a bowl, put out some paper plates, and call it a party. But not me and J (and from what I can tell, you all are with us on this one!) We used glass plates and real glasses and serving ware. And we had a color scheme going on (silver, white, and a pretty green). Here's J's buffet in her dining room:

And what party would be complete without balloons?!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Better Late Than Never

I recently came across the Daring Cardmakers blog (from someone else's blog, and I'm so sorry - I can't remember now whose it was).
*** Edited to add: Gina reminded me that it was her blog. :) **** Basically, they do a challenge once a week (at least), where they post about something that you need to include in your card. Anyone who wants to can make a card fulfilling the requirements, and then post a link to it in the comments. They post a new challenge every Friday, and my card actually fulfills last week's challenge, rather than the current one (hence the title of this post...). But I didn't quite feel up to crafting earlier this week, so it didn't get made until yesterday:

Last week's dare was called Animalia, based on the book by Graeme Base. (Which happens to be one of my favorite children's books. Check it out, if you don't know it already!)

For the Animalia dare, all you had to do was include an animal on your card.

Well, this was very convenient as I had already picked up this monkey paper with my brother in mind. I needed to make him a thank you card, and he loooooves monkeys, so as soon as I saw this paper I knew it was destined for his card. :)

I also tried something that I've been wanting to do for awhile now, but hadn't gotten around to yet:

I love 'lined' envelopes. I think it makes them as special as the card, and it's fun to coordinate the two. I had never done it myself before, and it was super easy.

(You might even notice that the circles on the paper I chose for the lining mirror the circles in the background of the monkey paper. No accident, that!)

And while we're on the subject of cards, here's a sweet one that came in the mail today from a good friend of mine:

Although she's a crafty-type herself (scrapbooking, mostly) she didn't make this card. But it really got the gears turning in my head. I love how ribbons were used for the 'bandages,' and I love that the animals are cutouts. I will have to give something like this a go myself. (And it ties in so well with the Animalia theme, too!).

And, you know, speaking of cards and better-late-than-never, I did some stamping today, and I finally have a set of cards similar to this one all done. [Ali - now all I have to do is feel well enough to make it to the post office!]

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's That Time Again

Giveaway time, that is! When I was in France, I picked up a couple copies of Marie Claire Idées. I had never heard of that particular magazine before I started reading blogs, but as soon as I saw it, it looked like my kind of thing. I picked up the most recent copy (at the time - looks like doe-c-doe has her hands on the newest one now!) for me. But it seemed to me that many of you already had your own copy of that one. [Though of course now I can only find one link to back that statement up! But really, I did see it in more than one place!]

I also picked up another Marie Claire Idées that they had at the bookstore. It's an 'Hors-Série' one for April (I know it's May now, but hey - we were gone all of April!) It's a special one all about babies. And no, there isn't something I've been holding back from you! I'm not having a baby, I just couldn't resist the magazine! Plus, my mom and I are hosting a baby shower this summer, so I could use that as my justification for buying it. :)

It has some great ideas in there about things for baby showers, as well as adorable baby gifts, and even some things that I would just like to make for me! I'm really hoping to try my hand at these cookies for the shower we're hosting:

I hadn't seen anyone post about this copy of Marie Claire Idées, so I picked up a second one for one of you! It's still wrapped in it's original packaging, and even has a free embroidery gift that comes with it:

You do not have to have a baby to enter. It has beautiful photography, and lovely ideas, and is so worth having even if you don't have a specific baby to make things for. :) All you have to do is leave me a comment. I'll leave it open for a week, and draw the winner next Saturday. Maybe I'll even use one of those random number generators to take it completely out of my hands. And ideas on where to find a good one?

Ok, folks. Enter by noon Minnesota time on Saturday, May 31st.

And can I just say, I am so obsessed with this magazine now? I gotta ask doe-c-doe where she gets hers here. Somehow I just don't think I'll be able to pull off a trip to France every three months to pick it up...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'd Like to Introduce You to My Family

I always think it's fun to have at least an idea of whose words you are reading. So I would like to introduce you And my immediate family.

This is me. 

My husband. He's a musician, so you get a photo of his guitar.

My beautiful baby girl, Mary. She just happens to be the model for my profile pic.

My handsome baby boy, Oscar. Look, you can tell he knows just how handsome he is!

Kitty photos by my friend, C.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

A Long Absence

There has been an awful lot going on here in the Kittens' household since I last wrote!

First, rather than blogging, most of the time I spent on the computer was finishing up my final paper and presentation for my Master's degree. I presented my final work on May 10th ... and I graduated on May 17th!

I now have my Master's in Elementary Education, and I get to begin the exciting process of trying to find a job. :)

In addition to all the school stuff, we celebrated Mother's Day on May 11th, I had a graduation party on the 17th, I co-hosted a wedding shower on the 18th, and then I had my tonsils out on the 19th.

Phew! Busy couple of days.

As a result, I haven't been on Blogger much. But now I have to spend a lot of time in bed recovering, so I'm hoping that I will also get to spend some of that time catching up here in blogland!

I would also like to wish Happy Birthday to a very special someone. Today is my mom's birthday. She is the most amazing mother ever, and I love her so much. And my sweet, sweet mother cooked her own birthday dinner for today, composed entirely of really soft things (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mushed up broccoli casserole, etc) in the hopes that I might be able to partake in the meal as well. Poor Mamma! Oh well, at least I cooked her dinner for Mother's Day... :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art In Bloom

Every spring, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) does a special exhibit called Art in Bloom. A certain number of the works of art in the MIA's collection are chosen, and then florists, gardeners, artists, or anyone else who wants to can participate. Each participant creates a floral arrangement to go with the specific painting or sculpture that they are working with. Some even do more than one.

Olive Trees, Vincent Van Gogh,
arrangement by Amy Krzmarzick, Carriere's Floral

This year it was held May 1-4, and I went this past Friday with my mom and some friends of ours. It's always so interesting to see what people come up with. As with anything, there are varying degrees of success.

Piazza San Marco, Venice, Pierre August Rodin,
arrangement and vase by Lois Ann Helgeson
[This was especially cool to see, as I was just there!]

In my opinion, the floral arrangements need to meet several different criteria to really be spot on. First of all, they need to capture the feel of the work of art, without actually copying it directly. To me, this means that they need to have the same colors and shapes, and evoke the same feel that the art does. But at the same time, it can't just be trying to replicate the art exactly.

Portrait of Clementine (Mrs. Alphonse) Karr, Henri Lehmann,
arrangement by Brenda Johnson and Mary Parker

Secondly, the vase used needs to complement the arrangement and the art, but shouldn't be used as a crutch. The flowers should be able to represent the art on their own, and the container they are in should enhance the relationship to the artwork, but not be the main link to it.

Thirdly, I like it when the flowers could stand alone as a beautiful arrangement even if you saw them out of the context of the exhibit.

Temptation, William Adolphe Bouguereau,
arrangement by Mary Olafson, Richfield Garden Club Council

The painting above is one of my favorites in the museum's collection.

[Just an aside here - Bouguereau is absolutely one of my favorite artists. I realize that he is not highly looked upon in the art world (and perhaps that says something about my taste in art) but I love him nonetheless. When the curator of the Louvre came to visit the MIA, it is said that he complimented everyone there on how well the museum looked, and then added "...though I do notice you have your Bouguereau out on display." Hmpf...]

So I had to include a photo of this one because it's my favorite painting, but I just wanted to say one thing about the floral arrangement. It is very well done, but if I were doing it, I would add one thing. You know those tiny sized roses? I would take one in a yellow/orange color and add it to the left hand middle part of the arrangement. I don't like things to be too literal in the arrangements, but I do think it is key as the painting is called Temptation, after all. :)

Lucretia, Rembrandt van Rijn,
arrangement by Joan Fox, Fleurish

All of the pieces I have shared with you are ones that I thought were excellent (and there were many, many others that were beautiful, too, but I felt I should narrow down what I put on here or this could have been a very long post!). But the one above may have been our favorite from the show. It was absolutely stunning.

If you ever happen to be in the Twin Cities in May, you should definitely check this exhibit out (this year was their 25th anniversary!).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Belated Birthday

So, in my last post before I left for my trip, I mentioned that it was my husband's birthday. But I couldn't share his b-day card with you, because I hadn't put the photos on my computer yet.  Well, here it is:

He and I have this joke about how owls are "in." So he got an owl-themed birthday.  

I even made a little owl tag for his present. 

Still working on my trip photos, more coming soon. In the meantime, I'm hoping to get going on some of my crafting projects. Maybe next time I can share something more recent.  :)

Edited to add: BTW, I think owls are great. They totally deserve their popularity. I just think it's funny how prevalent they are now.  

Friday, May 2, 2008

I'm Home!

I got back Tuesday night, but I've been recovering so that's why I haven't said 'hello' yet. I have a few pictures from our trip to share with you today, but I still haven't finished loading all the photos I took onto my computer (I really took a lot!).

Photo taken on the island of Burano, by Venice.

I had such a wonderful time. I can't wait to tell you more about it! In the meantime, don't forget to join in on the Pay-It-Forward swap - there's still room for one more person!

Photo taken in Florence - one of my favorite fountains there.