Friday, September 30, 2011

Ready To Play!

Lucy

Lucy

Lucy


Lucy is here to tell you that we are all ready to play this weekend!
Lucy is always ready to play.  Don't let her naps fool you.
Ashley and Frank are so looking forward to a weekend together, with beautiful weather in store.
A to do list has been made, as there are so many things to be done, fun things.
  • Coffee, waffles and cooking shows on public television are first up.
  • Some form of junking, perhaps flea market or garage sales?
  • As much time outside as possible, a trail walk, a state park, both?
  • Catching up with friends.
  • A trip to the bookstore and catching a movie.
  • Making Pretzel Buns and Chimichuri are also on the agenda.
  • A bit of outdoor coking and perhaps some yard work will get squeezed in there.
Is that ambitious enough for a weekend of fun?   
I can't wait, only eight hours of work stand in my way!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sight For Sore Eyes

Have I mentioned that the Summer of 2011 was the hottest on record here in North Texas? It was basically, scratch that, totally miserable. I felt especially bad for people who work outside for a living, including my husband. I was grateful to get a new job in a nicely air conditioned grocery store. We are all glad that the Summer of 2011 is behind us, and will no doubt often refer to this Summer in future discussions about the heat. Summer of 2011 is the new Summer of 1980 around here. 

I wasn't able to water my perennial beds enough this summer. They were looking so, so good in Spring but that just couldn't last. It is a wonder anything survived. I lost a few plants, some plants need time to recover, but some of my little troopers are out there smiling with their Fall blooms right now! The Salvias, Datura and Creeping Plumbago as well as the Flame Acanthus are all happy as can be. That makes me happy. I think there will be some yard work done amongst the rest and play this weekend.

Fall blooms!

Fall blooms!
A Rain Lily popped up under my Okra plants
Fall blooms!
The Zinnias basically took over the veggie garden.  

In other news, I scored big time on thrift shopping yesterday!  I'm so glad mom came down to hang with me, we had a really good time.  I got three tops, two skirts, some teal velvet pants and two pairs of jeans.  I have some alterations to make, but most of it fit perfectly.  I need to go thrift store shopping more often.  All these new clothes, plus I've been sewing and have finished three pieces for the Fall Palette Challenge.  I just can't bring myself to take pictures in these clothes though.  I guess I don't like posing for the camera. I'll try to get pics of some of my new clothes though, especially the handmade ones.  I've noticed with clothes that I've made in the recent past and don't wear, that I think they need certain shoes, or accessories that I don't have, or the sleeves are just a bit too long, etc.  I'm trying to remedy some of these things and actually wear more of what I have spent my precious time making.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Okra

The okra is finally going strong, like where I have to pick it everday or it gets way too big to eat.  I have been freezing the okra all summer for lack of recipes.  I'm thinking something Indian, and probably Gumbo, and maybe just a simple saute with tomatoes and onions.  Any other okra recipes would be appreciated.  

I'm starting to think about my Fall and Winter garden and making a mental wishlist.
  • Fava Beans
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Parsley
  • Nasturtiums and Violas 
  • Beets?
I'm sure there will be more on that list.  Fall and Winter gardening are so much easier here than summer!

I'll be on my 6th day of closing at work tonight, with two more days after that.  Then I have a three day weekend, woo hoo!  I feel a lot of pressure to have this perfect weekend, which is silly.  There will be time spent outside for sure, the weather is supposed to be perfect.  There will be cooking of good food and eating dinner before 11pm, and hopefully catching up with some friends who I have not seen since starting my job.  I hate that my work schedule is opposite of all my friends.  I don't get to see or talk to any of my ladies these days and it makes me sad.  

Today mom is coming down to go thrift shopping with me, something that Frank always rushes me through.  Looking forward to it.  

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pad Thai

Frank and I had a craving for Pad Thai a couple of weeks ago and I was determined to find an authentic recipe. I found this one, which is more of a guideline than recipe.  I had trouble finding the ingredients at work or anywhere else around here, so we trekked over to Haltom City to a Vietnamese grocery store.  Of course they had everything we needed, and I loved looking at all the interesting ingredients there.  Central Market was out of Rice Noodles when I needed them, but this store had a whole row of them!  We will definitely be going back.

Asian grocery store

They even had Durian, the stinky fruit that I have seen on many food travel shows, but never in person.
Asian grocery store

I had never cooked with fish sauce, so we asked a sweet lady at the store, who asked her mom to recommend one and she said the crab brand one was best.  I think the flavor is an acquired taste that I haven't quite acquired yet.  I liked the outcome, but next time may do less fish sauce and compensate with the soy sauce that Pim mentions.  We used whole Thai Chile peppers and I didn't feel like they imparted enough heat to the dish even though I sautted them in the oil as it heated in the wok.  Next time I may try the chili powder in the sauce.  Another thing I would change, I bought tamarind paste and had to soak and strain it.  I didn't realize until later that I could have bought it already soaked and strained.  All in all we were thrilled with our Pad Thai.  We used Shrimp, by the way.  I will make this recipe again and I'm sure I'll concur the learning curve eventually!

Asian grocery store

Making pad thai

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Fall!

Today is the first day of Fall and I think everyone around here is happy to say goodbye to the Summer of 2011. The weather could not be better and I've been trying to get out on walks and enjoy it while it lasts. Apparently we are set to have a hot and dry Fall and continue in drought conditions into next year. Here are some images from our recent walks.

Tuesday on the Trail with Frank and Lucy
Late summer walk

Late summer walk

Late summer walk

Late summer walk

Late summer walk

Yesterday Lucy and I saw this poor beautiful Blue Jay on our walk
image.jpeg

Today on our first day of fall walk.  The sun felt intense and the breeze cooled us.  
It was lovely.
First day of fall walk

We made our way down Camp Bowie and inspected this soon to be Bakery.  Not that I need to eat more sweets, but it makes me happy to see new small businesses opening up in our neighborhood.
First day of fall walk

I hope you are enjoying the weather where you live and that Fall treats you well.
Have a wonderful weekend!
xoxo
ashley

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Treasury Love

My work is in some lovely new treasuries on Etsy.  Click on them to check out all these lovely items.
It feels good to be loved!





Monday, September 19, 2011

Twelve Years of Togetherness!

Frank and I celebrated twelve years of togetherness this weekend.  I, of course had to work both Saturday and Sunday, but luckily got off at 3:30 yesterday.  We had a delicious El Salvadoran meal at a local favorite Glorias.  I have to learn how to make Chimichurri at home, I'm a bit obsessed.
We took a walk after dinner with a gorgeous stormy sunset and spent the rest of the evening just chilling at home. 

I've talked before about how awesome my man is and how lucky I am.  We met through mutual friends in 1998 in Denton.  Our first date was September 17, 1999 and we have been together ever since.  We are both lucky to have found each other.  I love that picture above, we look so young, and we were, and Malta was so young too, not a white hair on her face.

Love you babe, thanks for being the wonderful man you are!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Palette Challenge Obsession

I mentioned the Colette Fall Palette Sewing Challenge the other day in passing, thinking that there was no way I could find time to participate.  Well, I became obsessed with the idea, as I tend to do, and created a palette and inspiration board.  I have two patterns cut out and plenty more in line.  I have no idea how many pieces I will have time to actually finish in the next 7 or so weeks that are left in Colette's time frame.  It doesn't really matter though as I need clothes, have lots of fabric and patterns in my stash, and will simply sew when I can find the time.  

I'm still narrowing down my fabric and pattern choices, and will get back to you on those.  The ones that I have cut out so far are Simplicity 2250 View A in a black and white polka dot cotton pique and 2305 view d in a lovely plaid pima cotton.  Both are Cynthia Rowley patterns, which I have been pleased with in the past.

Of course I had a hard time narrowing down my color choices and ended up with 8.  The Anna Maria Horner print in the middle was my inspiration and though I wanted to make a blouse with it.  It will likely be a skirt since it only comes in quilting weight cotton and not the sumptuous Voile that I have come to adore.  A few of the colors are already in my wardrobe and I won't have to make anything new with them. I also have pieces that I have sewn and never worn, which I plan to integrate into my new wardrobe.  Some need hemming, letting out, or were just out of season by the time I finished them.

I used Pinterest to gather inspiration.  I love that site and you can find my pins, including all of these pieces, here.

I'll share my progress soon!
Back to work on jewelry for now....
xoxo
Ashley

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crazy for Ice Cream

Last week A couple of weeks ago (I've been meaning to post this for a while)
we went a little crazy in the kitchen.
I may have lost my mind, evidenced by homemade waffle cones. We scored the waffle cone maker half off retail at Tuesday Morning, and armed with a recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream I couldn't resist. My technique needs to be perfected but they sure were tasty!



We made our third batch of Salty Caramel Ice Cream and our first batch of Banana, both Jeni's recipes as well.  I don't have her book yet, but received a packet with a good amount of recipes in the class that I took.  Here is the Banana base with delicious Vanilla Bean seeds.


We also made homemade shell toppings.  First I attempted the Caramelized White Chocolate that I had tasted in class on Banana Ice cream (it tastes like Dulce de Leche).  I burned it, and burned my hand badly, leading to a ginormous blister that is finally healing after a week.  

I was out of white chocolate that night after burning the first batch so I used dark chocolate.  I prefered that one after all, and it was much easier to make, only having to melt it and not caramelize it.


Despite preferring the dark chocolate, I was determined to get the Caramelized White Chocolate right.  I burned it a second time but finally had success and no more burning myself on my third try.  The trick is doing it on the lowest heat, stirring constantly and using a thick bottomed pot.


The inspiration for all this craziness was sharing ice cream with my family, which we did last Friday night.

Karlie getting some chocolate topping
Mmmm, chocolate!

My Salty Caramel Cone with Dark Chocolate Shell Topping

Salty Caramel with Dark Chocolate Shell

Silly Ice Cream Face

Silly Ice Cream Face

I am in love with the Salty Caramel ice cream and we have served it with this Chocolate Cake (as a single layer/half recipe with chocolate ganache instead of icing, highly reccommended) for a friends birthday a few weeks ago and now with Dark Chocolate coating, both divine!

I don't have time to type out these recipes, so here are some links:
Caramelized White Chocolate Bombe
Banana Ice Cream
Salty Caramel Ice Cream

 For the rest of the recipes you'll have to purchase the book!  
Hint, dark chocolate shell coating recipe is the same as the white chocolate only you just melt it over low heat and it's done.  Try it, you'll love it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Late Summer Walk

After a miserable summer, we North Texans had a reversal of fortune this past Sunday. Gusty winds blew in a "cold front" turning temps from blast furnace to perfect, practically overnight, dropping highs by twenty degrees. Morning and night are cool and breezy, in the heat of the day it still feels great. This isn't even normal September weather for us, it is cooler like October and November. I know it will get hot again, so we squeezed in a walk on the trail. We hadn't been out on this trail since we lost Malta.  Lucy walked mostly off the leash, and behaved herself for the most part. Times like these give me a sense of calm and happiness. They are too few and far between.





Just off the trail we found this little nest like fort structure.  I wasn't sure if it was created by neighborhood kids or homeless people.  Regardless, it was cool and reminded me of mine and Elliott's childhood forts.  I don't think we have any pictures of them, but they were super cool and kind of like this in a circle of trees.




I love those sunset colors. I have been thinking about color a lot, more than usual I guess. There is a Fall Pallette Sewing Challenge going on over at Colette Patterns and I so wish I could find the time to participate. My relationship with clothing is a difficult one. I don't like most of what is in my closet, am too cheap to buy new clothes (I always talk myself out of purchases) and don't have time to sew all the sewing patterns that I hoard.  I think this sort of challenge would force me to think about what I wear and be more purposeful in my clothing choices. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homemade Ricotta and Flatbreads with Honey.....Or Yum!

I had some leftover whole milk and heavy cream from making Ice Cream and was inspired to make homemade Ricotta Cheese. I had seen recipes pop up in magazines and on blogs recently but only remembered this one from Smitten Kitchen. I love that blog and she never steers me wrong.
I didn't have quite enough milk and cream for the full recipe, and attempted to adjust accordingly.  However, I think I ended up with more lemon juice proportionately and it was a bit too lemony.  I also added a tad too much salt, but once it was served with other ingredients that wasn't noticeable.  I will definitely be making this again, and couldn't believe how easy it was.  Seriously about 5 minutes of active work in the kitchen.  You can't beat that!


I made these flatbreads, also from Smitten Kitchen, to serve with the Ricotta.  I left out the cheese, salt and thyme just making them plain for this purpose.  They didn't last long, but were delicious the first and second day.  After that they tasted stale and I tossed the rest.  I would probably freeze leftovers next time and I'm sure they would take no time to thaw.


Honey and Ricotta on Flatbreads, seriously to die for.
Honey, Homemade Ricotta and Flatbread

I stocked up on organic whole milk at Central Market, taking advantage of their Moo Monday special. You get three half gallons for $6 when you spend $25. So more ricotta and ice cream will be made around here. I have to join a gym, or get out and enjoy this gorgeous weather and work it all off!

Have I mentioned that I want a new camera?  I know my hipstamatic images of food aren't always the most appetizing.  I adore the photography over at Smitten Kitchen and reading her info on her camera equipment has me seriously jonesing for a DSLR.  Another favorite blogger, Alicia of Posy gets Cozy just started using one and her photos are amazing as well.  I know, I know having a fancy camera does not make a good photographer, but I have some skills already and definitely have an interest in photography, plus I have to photograph my jewelry.  I'm talking myself into it, aren't I?!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Party

Our niece Karlie's Second Birthday celebration was last Saturday and we all had a blast, especially her.
Here she is working hard at rearranging the balloons.

working hard

She was so excited when she saw the cake and she was singing Happy Birthday quietly to herself.
She loves to sing, it's so cute.
singing happy birthday to herself

She helped fill the HUGE tweety bird pinata.
She wants to help with everything and do everything by herself, such a big girl!
helping to fill the pinata

This is my favorite picture of the day, taken while we sang Happy Birthday to her.
She was so happy.
Singing happy birthday

Here is what I made her. 
Our gifts to Karlie

The doll pattern is Little Miss Storybook from Wee Wonderfuls, and the dress is Simplicity 2320.
 I sort of guessed on what size to sew her in the dress, and I think I did okay. She hasn't tried it on yet, but mom measured her this past weekend and I had made it one size above what she is now, so she will have room to grow. I loved coordinating her doll with her dress, and I'm in love with the little brown Moda print. I hate that Moda only does their fabric design runs for one season and when they are gone, they are gone. They have so much cute stuff that I miss out on. I had a little trouble with the yoke on the dress. Since I added the piping it rounded the corners, making it harder to attach to the dress front, but I persevered and it turned out fine. The doll is from the Wee Wonderfuls book that I made her Kitty from.  I made a few changes to her.  I made taller boots, left out the cape, turned her apron into a removable skirt, made the dress fabric into the body leaving off the second layer of body fabric and seaming it at the neck.  I love the way she turned out, not even sure what my favorite part is, I just had fun with the whole project!  Of course Karlie loved those shoes the most, and didn't pay attention to the doll or dress.  I'm sure they will grow on her though.