mélange - a mixture of often incongruous elements. Pretty pictures, yummy-looking recipes, money-saving tips, going green, noteworthy news, and stuff going on in my life. In no particular order.
Sometimes snarky. Oftentimes serious. Usually thoughtful. Never dull.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We Baked! Beer Bread!

 Wednesday night's experiment: beer bread!

I only wish chocolate stout actually tasted like chocolate...

Ahhhh, the convenience of just dumping everything into the machine, pressing a couple of buttons, and walking away!

While your bread is baking, you can relax. or...do what I did: go to Costco!

See that mop? I don't think I've ever been so excited to clean floors!

A couple of hours later and voila!

It's actually not as...beer-tasting as we'd hoped. But still quite yummy!
We've thought of two ways to enjoy the fruits of our [machine's] labor:

A nightcap for Eric - beer bread toast and his favorite Old Man Drink - a Manhattan.

And this morning's breakfast - toasted with a spread of blueberry goat cheese!

Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens' More Bread Machine Bounty (1994)
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons dark beer 
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 1 cup bread flour 
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 2 tablespoons molasses 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

  1. Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by its manufacturer [in my case, liquids, semi-liquids, salt, flours, yeast]
  2. Program your bread machine to a whole wheat cycle
  3. Enjoy!

Do you enjoy cocktails that are 'inappropriate' for you generation?
Any suggestions for the next yummy bread concoction?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Projects I'd Maybe Like to Do

I'm really great at finding inspiration for DIY projects, crafts, storage solutions, and decor. Stumbling upon Pinterest helps tremendously with cataloging and organizing these ideas. It's a virtual pin board, where users can create groupings of recipes, fashion, quotes, craft projects, remodeling ideas - you name it, there's a photo of it somewhere to pin!

Check me out:
If you're not already on Pinterest, comment with your email address and I'll send you an invite.

Anyway, as I was saying, I've got a knack for finding inspiration. What I lack is the little push to get projects started! I'm wondering if I post them here, I'll feel motivated to begin and document my progress and then show off the results??

One disclaimer: I'm not crafty, I'm quite clumsy, and I need step-by-step instructions. I also most enjoy projects that can be completed in a couple of hours, so they don't end up on the list of Projects I've Started But Can't Seem to Gather the GET-IT-DONE Mentality to Finish.

Without further ado, I'd like to try my hand at these ideas:

This door mat made from salvaged wood planks will be perfect for when the dog comes back to the park with muddy paws, or when my husband returns from a nature-filled trail run.

I love the picture collage concept. And it can't be too hard to purchase or re-paint frames so they all match. AND it will give me a reason to print some treasured photos...like the ones from our wedding...almost three years ago.

More to come!!

Tell me about the projects you'd like to try!
Do you have more trouble getting started or following through?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Odd, silly things that I seem to enjoy more than most:

1. Getting the mail - even if it only contains bills and ads

2. Starting a new book - last night I breezed through the first half of Between Here and April and can't wait to pick it up again!

3. Doggy kisses on my way in the door after work

4. Grocery shopping - despite being such a picky eater, I get a very strange sense of pleasure from this errand

5. Finding the perfect shade of lipstick  - I'm really not girly, but once I discovered my shade had been discontinued, I called every Sephora in southern California and had them ship me any stock they had on hand.

6. Clean sheets - especially after a long shower [and we'll just pretend my bedroom remotely resembles this lovely one found on Pinterest]. I think my husband would list this as his #1 if he were to make a similar list. On laundry day, he races into the bed with a grin like he's just been told his student loans have disappeared.

What are some of the tiny, likely insignificant items or actions that make you smile?

Friday, May 20, 2011

I baked! A cake!

I like sweets. Sweet tooth? I have sweet jaws.
I need reasons to share them, else there's much too much for just the two of us.Though I've never been too good at sharing.
The ingredients were already on hand, so of course I volunteered to bake a cake for the baby shower happening today at work!

Yes it's from a box and a can. Don't judge; it's delicious!
Actually, you know what? Judge all you want; it's still delicious.

You really don't need much to bake a cake from a box mix.
The recipe calls for three eggs, but I needed four.

Because it's impossible for me to bake without some kind of accident.
Do you not recall me mentioning that I burned my wrist handling the raspberry almond bread last week?
That is now a scab which I guarantee will become a scar.
Anyway, at least the dog wasn't home when I tumbled an egg!

It took more time to clean up the shattered egg than it did to make the cake.
The above photo shows my favorite part about baking. Licking the beaters and the bowl!
Screw salmonella! I've had close to 30 years experience with cookie dough and cake batter and [knocks on my MDF coffee table] no issues yet!

I include this just to show my husband proof that there's plenty you can do when you have some down time. For instance, I scrubbed down the entire bathroom while waiting for the cake to cool.

Pink cake! Rainbow chip frosting!

And here's my second favorite part about making cakes - eating the last bits of frosting that somehow didn't make it on to the cake.

All done! The nice thing about using rainbow chip frosting [other than it being the best!] is that nobody expects your cake to be perfectly smooth - or perfectly level for that matter!

I'm counting down the hours til the baby shower at lunch time. I'm sure other yummy foods will be plated and presented for indulging - but I just want a piece of my own cake!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Inspiring words

Busy morning before a busy day.
Some days, I need to remind myself to breathe.
Sometimes I need a reminder to refocus.

So I visit a site like Do Nothing for Two Minutes, where I'm 'forced' to stare at a beautiful beach and listen to the sounds of the ocean.

Other times, I need a literal kick in the butt to slow down, or to push through, or to pick myself back up again. Today I stumbled upon these words of wisdom and smiled.

And today's favorite:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ideal escapes.

Every morning should start with breakfast - it should be nutritious and filling, and wouldn't it be lovely to begin the day with something just a bit sweet?

How about a blackberry honey wheat scone? Balance the yummy with some Greek yogurt - double the protein of regular yogurt, and fat-free! I'm a big fan of Chobani - the raspberry flavor is my favorite.

Wouldn't it also be fabulous to end every long day of work with something cool and refreshing, with just a little zing?

This watermelon mint lime martini would do the trick, don't you think?

Something tells me Alice from Savory Sweet Life must have had me on her mind when she made these most recent two posts, right? Even though I only stumbled across her blog this morning, she just *knew* I'd become a big fan! Plus, she's in Martha's Circle - and unless we're talking about inside trading, Martha Stewart is practically perfect in every way!

If time and effort [and heck, money!] were no object, how would you like to start and end each day?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let's play pretend

I've lived in apartments for the past 8 years. And in those 8 years, I've moved apartments 7 times. Surprisingly, there hasn't been too much variety: they've all had beige carpets, white walls, and the layouts are never quite functional. One was quite colorful though - butter yellow counter tops with a neon yellow sink, and a pink bathtub in the itty bitty bathroom!

So for today, I'm playing 'Pretend it's a House'.

Let's also pretend that my husband will go along with any furnishing and decor styles I suggest. Here's what inspires me today:

I love this kitchen! Lots of counter space, a very slightly unique backsplash, a big island with seating, a nearby but separate dining area... I'd want to change the drawer pulls, darken the stain on the hardwood floors and switch the chairs for something slightly less country.

Just replace the flooring with something less busy, sub a deep purple rug instead of the green, and switch out the blanket for something less animal-looking and this living room from Young House Love [one of my new favorite blogs!] is perfect.  Look how big that couch is - totally enough room for two people and a dog, or a bit of company. And that console table spans the length of the couch - so much hidden storage space! That little office nook is the perfect size for the space.

Imagine this in some color other than gray - maybe a pale teal or a pewter-purple color. Think lighter furnishing and a darker floor. I love that there's natural light, a small seating area, and a vanity or office nook.

I've had this bathroom in mind since I first saw it in The Blue Issue of House Beautiful back in 2009. I love how calming it looks, how open the floorplan is, how there's space for two people to be in the room at the same time. It's massive though, if you look at the other photos. I'd like to scale it down by about half - too much empty space. 

Here's one thing you never get living in apartment: a yard. And a patio. This one from Young House Love's first home is lovely - lounge space, some outdoor dining space, room for guests to mingle, and living plants!

Don't tell me there's no coherent style - I'm not designing or moving to or furnishing a house anytime in the near future. However, anything above is better than the beige carpet, white walls, mix-and-don't-match furniture we've got currently!

If you were given the chance to remodel one room where you currently live, what would you remodel?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yummies for Monday

Last week when Blogger flubbed their maintenance update, they lost all comments to my most recent two posts. Boo. This weekend I had a maintenance update too - scheduled a haircut, had my teeth cleaned, got my eyebrows waxed [gotta love being a girl!] and decided it's time for a mani/pedi - only about my third ever!
These lovelies caught my eye over the weekend...so much yummy goodness.  

Individual portions of cake! In reusable jars! 

Strawberry shortcake popsicles - seriously it's just pureed strawberries and yogurt mixed with Nilla wafers. A spring treat that's practically guilt-free. I must make these soon!

And for an indulgent treat - creme brulee french toast. Decadent.

Bet you didn't think you'd ever see easy, chocolate, and guilt-free in the same sentence, did you?

Do you ever take a day to catch up with yourself, whether it's health or beauty or simply rest?
If the magic dessert fairy appeared and granted you one treat right now, what would you request?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Money Matters 101

When my husband and I first moved in together back in spring 2007, we made 'adult responsibilities' into a game:
-If we clean and clear clutter for 15 minutes, how much nicer will the apartment look?
-What happens if we just don't buy junk food at the grocery store for a couple of months?
-How long can we go without eating at a restaurant?
-If we save $X in Y weeks, we can treat ourselves to something fun

Over time, we've become more healthy, more active, and far more financially savvy. And because I care, I share.

When thinking about the simplest way to talk about some of the changes we made, especially in the area of money management, I consistently look to The Simple Dollar. Trent didn't strike it rich and then decide to preach to investors. He hit rock bottom, his spending out of control, his future bleak and decided to turn his life around. Trent writes about his struggles with frugality, teaching his children about the value of a dollar and saving for wants, and how to spend less without sacrificing.

Note from Ms. Divine: I'd like to take a moment to stand on my soapbox for an important announcement: Frugal does not equal cheap. It doesn't mean becoming a recluse, eating cans of bean and sacks of rice, buying only on clearance, etc. To me, being frugal simply means choosing to spend less on things that aren't important so that you can spend more on things that matter. Your definition of important may be different from mine, and that's okay.

Back to Trent! One of his best posts, and the one I consistently recommend to others is basically the perfect elevator pitch about spending less, earning more, living frugal [not a dirty word!], managing money, and controlling your own freedom. Though this information was posted on his blog in 2007, the principles are time-tested and terrifically simple. And the method of explaining them is quite effective:

Everything You Ever Really Needed to Know About Personal Finance on the Back of Five Business Cards

Not everything can be tackled at once, don't get overwhelmed and close the page! It may take decades to get to the points where all your debts are repaid, you're saving for the future and you're able to do what makes you happy. We've got the spending less than we earn principle down pat, have a healthy emergency fund, and are becoming better and better at understanding wants versus needs and making less-bad spending choices. 

On the other hand, we're not the greatest at networking, we can't imagine having the time or energy to start side businesses and the concept of investing and maxing out retirement savings is a lofty goal farrrrrr into the distance. Baby steps, right?

What one change do you think you can take today, this week, or this month to improve your finances? What's stopping you from taking that baby step?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Perpetual calendar.

I never kept a diary. I was always afraid my mother might question me or my sister might snitch.

When I started college, I created a journal online which allowed me to keep in touch with friends, find strangers with common interests and document important moment.

Oftentimes though, I want to record memorable goings-on, but simply don't make or take the time to sit down and describe.

There are also occasions where I take a curious look at what I was doing On This Date 3, 5, or even 8 years ago. For instance, my wedding day. - scrolling through my journal's archives, it was lovely to see what I was experiencing on the same day in the past. Or recording celebrations into a new year - how fun to see how my idea of 'fun' has changed over the years!

I recently came across a very easy DIY project that tackles both of these issues.

This pretty vintage postcard calendar journal was posted on Design*Sponge last winter, and a friend linked me to it last week, thinking it would be something I'd enjoy.

At first I thought I ought to wait to start this on January 1, but I know myself. I'd never remember by then! Instead, on May 1, I immediately set to work with a trip to an office supply store for index cards, rummaging through my collection of pretty stationery, and re-purposing a perfectly-sized gift box. Now I'm all set for one-lined memories.

Do you keep a journal/scrapbook/diary? Are you more likely to record the good or the bad - why do you think that's the case?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We baked! Raspberry Almond Quick Bread!

My husband has wanted a bread machine for years.

Last week, he finally did some analysis: compared reviews on Amazon, figured out how much bread we'd need to make to pay for the machine vs. buying bread at the store, calculated the cost-savings over time once the machine was paid off in bread, and found a suitable space in the kitchen.

Yesterday afternoon he was rewarded with a delivery! The Sunbeam 5891 - highest rated bread machine under $100.

And because we're fans of instant gratification, we just had to try it out last night!

I found a strawberry pecan quick bread recipe on AllRecipes - my go-to site for recipes as they have photos and reviews. We modified the recipe, subbing raspberries for strawberries and sliced almonds for pecans. Note that this bread can also be baked in an oven if you don't have a bread machine.

The wonderful thing about a bread machine is that you can prepare the recipe in the evening, place the batter in the machine, set the timer, and awaken to the smell of fresh-baked bread in the morning!

I burned a small spot on my wrist removing the bread - almost the exact spot I burned my wrist at age 6 making pancakes for the first time! I say it's my battle scar, but I'll also admit that I'm clumsy and impatient.

And now, I present, our very first bread machine experiment:
Raspberry Almond Quick Bread

It's quite moist and has just the right balance of sweet and nutty. Success!

Do you have any cooking-related battle wounds? Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm a dummy. I might even fail Gardening for Dummies!

I've always wanted a garden.
I've only lived in apartments since becoming a grownup.

So I had plants, in little pots. And I've learned I have a black thumb. I've killed many an orchid, African violet, baby Arica palm, and even a cactus!

But I still want a garden! And I'm determined to find something that won't kill my chances of getting my full security deposit back and that our precious-yet-giant doggy can't attack!

And then I found this on Re-Nest [Apartment Therapy's wonderful spinoff for green living]:

It's a Simple Garden, and it can grow anywhere! And not die!
And one day, when I can prove I haven't killed anything, and when I get a yard, I can have my flower garden.

Do you have a green thumb or a black thumb? What would be your best advice for a beginner gardener?

Because I can't wait any longer.

I'm finessing my 'introduction to the blog' post, but I just couldn't hold back  any longer! Who cares about me this second? On to the pretties!

This little dish of poached peaches and lemon verbena ice cream from Tartlette is calling out to me. "Spring is here! Enjoy the bounty! Sit and relax in a hammock and enjoy my delight!" 

It probably doesn't help that my dishes are just a shade darker than this bowl, so that yummy goodness BELONGS in my kitchen doesn't it?! 

Are there any foods that simply scream "eat me!' at you?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Post the first.

Testing, testing.
Care to leave a comment, just so I know this thing works??