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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Perfect Christmas Morning Breakfast #1

I love to have a big, festive breakfast on Christmas morning after all of the presents have been unwrapped.  But I don't love to prepare a big, festive breakfast on Christmas morning after all of the presents have been unwrapped.  That is why I love this recipe.  I can put the pre-assembled casserole in the oven when the kids first sneak down to get a peak at the tree, and breakfast will be ready when the last gift is unwrapped.  If you want, slice some bananas and strawberries the night before and have them waiting in the fridge, too.  This recipe turns out beautifully and has always gotten rave reviews.

Oven Puffed French Toast (serves 6 to 8)
8 slices French bread, cubed
6 eggs
1/6 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinammon
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups half-and-half

1/2 cup firm butter, cubed
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts

Place bread slices in a single layer in a generously buttered 9x13 pan.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, spices, vanilla and half-and-half, mix well.  Pour egg mixture over bread slices.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Before baking,  baste unabsorbed liquid over bread.  Combine topping ingredients with pastry knife just until the mixture has a coarse texture.  Sprinkle over bread slices and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degress for 40-60 minutes.

Note:  I assemble the topping ingredients the night before and save the mixture in the refrigerator until I am ready to put the casserole in the oven.


Love, 40

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Great Christmas Eve Tradition - The Gift of Matching Holiday Children's Pajamas

Though I have never been organized enough to follow it, I love the tradition that many families have of gifting each child a pair of holiday-themed pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Allowing the children to open this gift the night before Christmas gets the holiday off to a kick-start, satisfies the little ones' desperate pleas to start opening presents, and makes for picture-perfect photographs the next morning.

You can deck the kids out in anything from perfectly matching flannel p.j.'s to adorably coordinating longjohns.  There are styles for everybody in your family - from the youngest babe to Mom and Dad.  And, if you are like me and don't like to sport Santa and his reindeer after the 25th, there are options available that will look perfect on Christmas morning AND on the wintery morings to come.

Here are some of my favorites:

From stripes to snowmen to pefectly gift-wrapped presents, Garnet Hill has it all.

Hannah Anderson has an adorable selection of Christmas and seasonal-themed pajamas for big and small alike.

I also like the striped pajamas at Crew Cuts and the flannel snowflakes at Land's End.

Sweet Dreams!

Love, 40


Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Here! My NiceRink Ice Skating Rink!

My husband surprised me (after many e-mails to him that not-so-subtly hinted that I really, really wanted an ice rink) and bought the family a NiceRink ice skating rink!  The rink is being constructed as a type.

Cool Find! A Wall-Mounted Fishbowl

I was reading The Selby recently, and came across the cool and fun digs of Keith Abrahamsson and Kate Young.  When I saw the picture of their wall-mounted goldfish bowl, I knew I had to have one.  I mean, how cute is this?

Perfect for a child's room, I can also see one mounted in the kitchen or family room or even in the powder room for a little humor and entertainment.

You can buy one here.

Love, 40

Monday, December 6, 2010


I know I am going to get a lot of sh*t from 40 for this, as she is no fan of Angelina (and that is the most polite way to put it)- but I am going to post this anyway.  I think that Johnny (my all-time favorite favorite) and Angelina are the two best looking people EVER.  Absolutley beautiful.  Both of them. As in when I heard about this movie, I wondered if I could even handle watching it, they are that pretty.   (I am so sorry 40).  So, what the hell is going on here?  Why does neither one of them look all that attractive?  Is it possible they somehow cancel each other out?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I'm still here, blog!  I haven't forgotten you again, I promise.  It's just that I have been so busy working on my final projects for school.  I am currently wrapped up in a project  improving an intersection near my home.  That's right, an intersection.  Hours and hours of work on an intersection.  Doesn't it sound fascinating?  The sad thing is, it is fascinating to me.  I am a transporation nerd.  A complete and total geek about it.  I came to this realization slightly later in life.  I don't know how I missed it before because looking back the fascination was always there.  As a suburban kid, I used to love to ride the commuter train or the L into the city (made me feel "urban"!) and as a college kid, I loved road trips. Absolutely LOVED them!  Read On the Road a million times.  (Well, also because I love Jack but we're talking about transporation right now).  Yesterday, in the midst of an insane day that involved my son's first day at a new daycare/preschool and meeting with my school partner among other things, I took four L rides and three bus rides, some with my son and some alone.  It was the best part of my day.  No joke.       Well, more about all that later.......... 
So anyway, I am just checking in.  Sorry to be so neglectful.  You're welcome, 40, for the virtual birthday card.  I knew you would like it!  I love the square wreaths you posted but I think I'm more a circle person today.  Which is odd because usually I prefer squares.

By the way,if you like this picture, you can buy the poster here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Week 3 of FOOD+FOTO

cranberries, originally uploaded by susan736.
I am in week three of Miss B.'s FOOD+FOTO class. I have to admit, it has been more difficult than I anticipated. I have never staged a photograph before. (Other than trying to get my children to sit still!). Staging and lighting food so that it looks like something you would want to eat is proving to be a lot more challenging than it looks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Martha Stewart's Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have never met a Martha Stewart cookie recipe that I didn't like.

The cookies in my FOOD+FOTO pictures are from Martha.  And they are (well, were) as delicious as they look.  And, they have oatmeal and raisins in them, which, in my book, qualifies them as both healthy and a breakfast food. 

If you would like to eat cookies for breakfast without feeling guilty, make this recipe.  Now.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies
  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  1 tsp baking soda
  1 tsp salt
  2 sticks (16 tbsps) unsalted butter, room temperature
  3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  2 large eggs
  1 tsp vanilla extract
  2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  1 1/2 cups raisins
  1 package (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until ight and fluffy.

2.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Add dry ingredients; beat just until combined.  Add oats, raisins and chocolate chips; beat just until combined.

3.  Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and are golden brown but still soft to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:  I accidentally used quick cooking oats and the recipe turned out fine.  The recipe says it will make 32 cookies, I had about 48.  Also, I used salted butter rather than unsalted.  I always use salted butter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Obsessing Over Square Boxwood Wreaths - and another DIY Wreath

I am in love with square wreaths this season, especially ones made of boxwood.  How can you resist these?

available on Etsy  

I absolutely love this one against the red door.
available at Williams Sonoma

You can hang the wreaths inside, if you prefer.

Me, I plan to hang mine inside AND outside, with a ribbon through the center and a bow at the bottom. 

Since no wreath posting would be complete without a DIY idea - go to Better Homes and Gardens for the DIY tutorial for the wreaths above.


Love, 40

Best Birthday Card Ever!

Thank you, 35, for the best birthday sentiments I have ever received!  Only Mick Jagger appearing in the flesh on my doorstep could have topped those awesome pictures!



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, 40!

Happy Birthday, Big Sister!  I really wanted to get you this, but I was afraid it might gross everyone out.  Instead, I decided to just give you some nice things to look at. 
I love you-

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Souvenir Foto School FOOD+FOTO Week 2 Submissions

These are the images I submitted for week 2 of the Souvenir Foto School.  I couldn't decide which image I preferred, so I submitted several, hoping that members of the group would give me feedback on what they do and do not like about each image.

Playing with the depth of field.

Just cookies.

More cookies

Bagels and ceam cheese

To take take the cookie photos, I ventured out of my comfort zone.  Generally, I like to take pictures of things as I find them.  This time, I created the background and manipulated the items for each picture.  I generally like the way the pictures turned out, what do you think?

Love, 40

Still Dreaming of Backyard Skating Rinks

Until recently, my husband did not share my enthusiasm for a backyard rink.  He thought a rink would be too expensive, too hard to put together, and too much work to maintain.  Well, I found something that finally changed his mind - a backyard skating rink kit!  There are many kits online, but I like this one.   In fact, my husband is so on board with the idea that he even talked a co-worker into buying a kit for his home! 

Now, as far as maintenance of the rink is concerned...that's what the children are for!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Backyard Skating Rinks

I have been dreaming of my very own backyard skating rink. 

Something like this would be nice:

Our afternoons would be filled with the kids and their friends gliding around the rink.

Afterwards, we would all sip hot chocolate:

While doing this:

Wouldn't that be fun?

Love, 40

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vinyl Wall Decals

Funny you should mention that quote, 35, as I just came across the magnet with that quote on it that I bought with you many years ago. It is a great quote, for sure.

I also lust over vinyl wall decals. The trouble is, there are so many great quotes and pictures to choose from that I just can't make up my mind.  Of course, you can never go wrong with a monogram...  This one had me at hello:

Another great source for vinyl decals is wall words, which I believe used to be wonderful graffiti.  And don't forget etsy!

Can't wait to see your new decorations!

Love, 40

Keep on truckin'

"It is never too late to become what you might have been"
-George Eliot

I have always liked this quote but it always just served as a vague reminder to me that I still had time to figure it all out.   Now more than ever it has taken on new meaning for me. As someone who has gone back to graduate school slightly older, with a small child and that ever present goddamned mortgage knocking on my door every month, I am often disheartened by the twenty-somethings that I am surrounded by.  I need more than ever to remember this.  Read it every day, shout it from the rooftops, WRITE IT ON MY WALLS.  Keep pressing on, move forward, you don't want to get dragged down by the "shoulda, coulda, woulda's".  It serves no purpose.   And with that, I think I really might write it on my wall- a Sharpie would work but how about this instead?  And while I am ordering that, I might order this:

cuckoo clock

P.S.  I want to mention, when I searched this online to confirm that quote was George Eliot, there is some debate whether she really wrote it or not.  I hate giving out incorrect information and must add this disclaimer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No, You Are Not Twiggy

But I bet you could pull off that hairstyle. In fact, I think you are right, you already wore that style - in 7th grade. But that was very much part of Twiggy's appeal, wasn't it? That she looked like a child, a young boy, to be exact, much of the time. And weren't you mistaken for a boy several times in your youth? You were high style and didn't even know it!

Anyway, I say go for it, if you really want to. You only live once. Hair grows back. But you have to promise to wear your eyelashes like Twiggy, too, if you do the hair.

So, all this talk of Twiggy had me searching for other 60's hairstyles. Which, of course, lead me straight to Marianne Faithful. She was one cool chick. I just had to share this picture of her and Mick Jagger. Isn't it sweet?

I don't know who looks prettier, Mick or Marianne. Well, yeah, I do.
Love, 40

Great Gifts for Shutterbugs

Have you heard of Photojojo?

They have some really cool stuff for photographers and photography buffs.

I need this:It's not a new lens...

It's a stainless steel coffee mug! So cool. It even has a lid in the shape of a lens cover. They have Nikon and Canon cups. And the zoom feature on the Nikon cup really zooms. Fun.

Love, 40

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I am not Twiggy

I am supposed to be writing a paper- three papers by December 9th, to be exact. Which is why I am currently cruising the Web for anything to distract me. This is also why I am currently seriously considering a new hairstyle. One like this:
Please, 40- STOP ME!!! Doesn't it look suspiciously like the haircut I had in 7th grade? It sure looks good on Twiggy, though. The more I look at it the more I like it. What do you think, 40? How very sorry would I be? (And how very ugly would I look??) Wow- I love it though!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Note to 35 About Christmas Wreaths

I am not ignoring your challenge, my dear sister. In fact, I went to Michael's this weekend intending to buy the materials for our cheap wreath. But, I just can't do it. My heart belongs to the wreath of felted wool balls, not its cheap imitation cousin. I am now trying to determine just how guilty I will feel if I use some of my X-Mas fund money to buy the more expensive balls.

Serendipity and Vintage Fisher Price

On Friday, I took my two boys to an estate sale. I was worried about how the outing would go -my 12-year old was not too keen on the idea when I first suggested it, and, well, with the 3-year old, you just never know.

It turned out that both boys had a blast. For a treasure hunter and collector like my 12-year old, the estate sale turned out to be a wonderland. The woman who owned the house was a collector, too. There were bags and bags of beautiful shells and sea glass she had collected throughout her years of travel. Old urns, pieces of fences, and architectural pieces greeted us at every turn. My son went home with a PS2 game system, 14 games, and a ziploc bag full of "rare" blue sea glass.

My 3-year old amused himself by playing with the house dog and old toys, talking to everybody who crossed his path, and running through every room of the rambling house.

As for me, when I saw a tub full of vintage Fisher Price toys, I knew I had to buy them. I had recently read on Sarah's blog that she buys vintage Fisher Price toys for her children. I loved the idea of buying some vintage FP, and searched for some on ebay. I really wanted the amusement park series, but all of the toys offered on ebay were either too expensive or in poor condition. Now, right in front of me, in a plastic tub on a dirty basement floor, were the toys I had been lusting after on ebay, in perfect condition and for less money. Serendipity.

I bought a merry-go-round:

A circus train:

Seven little people:

And a ferris wheel.

The cost for everything was $25. Watching my boys play with their treasures for hours after we returned home - priceless.
It was a great day.

Love, 40

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Souvenir Foto School Photo #1

Sneaky Baby, originally uploaded by susan736.

I am participating in Tristan's Souvenir Foto School this session. This time, the theme is food. The students will be posting their pictures to the Flickr group FOOD+FOTO by midnight Sunday of each week. This picture is my first submission. Head over to Tristan's blog, or Flickr see all of the great pictures that have been entered.

Love, 40

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I must be getting old

I should have titled this post- "No really, I'm serious". I love this! I can't stop listening. Honestly, how about that Julio? I mean, Willie has always been Willie and he's great. When we were young, our dad certainly went through his Willie Nelson phases. We even saw him at the State Fair once. But I am developing a new fascination for Julio. I actually think that this is the only song I have every heard by him. But I am thinking I need to invest in some more of his music. I want to have a dinner party and play only Julio. For real. I'm not kidding. And anyway, I had to distance myself from all that Christmas talk, I can't take it this early in the season.


P.S. Who doesn't love some good old fashioned cheesy pin-ups? Your welcome.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Or take the lazy route

You can get this wreath here, at Anthropologie for $148. A bit pricey, yes. But I find being lazy always costs more in the end. And actually, I must say it is still not as pretty as the one with the felted balls. But even if you don't love the wreath, it is worth a peek at their website just to see the animated ornament catalog. So cute it makes me want to puke.
And with that, maybe I'll throw down a challenge to 40: in the next few weeks, let's try to make the cheap pom pom wreath. After all, surely ours will be beautiful!

More Cute and Easy DIY Christmas Wreaths

Here is a cheaper, though not quite as cute, version of the pompom wreath I posted earlier:

Instuctions for making it can be found here:
This wreath is also really cute. And it would be very cheap, fast, and easy to make. I would replace the flowers with some cute buttons or large pompoms. (The other kind, not the kind on the wreath above.)

Instructions on making this wreath can be found here

Love, 40

Pretty DIY Christmas Wreaths

I am thinking about making this wreath for Christmas:
image via Pickles

Instructions on how to make it can be found here http://http//

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

quote of the day

"Till there was rock, you only had god."
I always loved this one.
Well, 40 and I were talking the today and we said, "hey, whatever happened to our blog? Is it still out there??". Sure enough, here it is.
Okay, fine, we're slackers. We never denied that. We were very upfront about it, actually. We're always honest, atleast. But we might just give this a whirl once again. Watch out world.
We're back.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pot Roast from the Joy of Cooking

A friend of mine recently had a baby - the sweetest little baby girl you have ever seen. She is only two weeks old and she is smiling! Adorable. But we all know that such adorableness comes with some other not-so adorable qualities that make a new mother's life difficult for the first few weeks after the baby's birth. To help ease my friend's household burdens a smidge so that she could have more time to enjoy her new little bundle, I decided to bring her a meal. Because I have been craving pot roast, have been on a quest to find the ultimate recipe for it, and wanted to bring my friend a dish that was a meal in a pot - you guessed it - I made pot roast.

Honestly, it was a little brave of me to cook a pot roast with the intention of feeding it to someone else. Pot roast is one of those meals that always disappoints when I cook it at home. The gravy is runny and the meal is bland. My default way to cook pot roast is to throw everything in a slow cooker, wait six hours, then eat. Since this hasn't been garnering the results I want, I was ready to try a different method. Following the instructions from The Joy of Cooking, I first seared the meat in hot oil in a large skillet, then added veggies and broth and cooked everything over an extremely slow flame for several hours. When everything was cooked, the result was not all that different from those I had achieved prviously, and I was thinking I would have to have a pizza delivered to my friend's.

But wait - what is this? A step AFTER everything is cooked? Yes! Rather than enjoy your now cooked but bland meat and veggies in broth, Ms. Cunningham instructs you to remove the solids from the pan and add 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp flour for every cup of liquid. This thickens the broth into a wonderful gravy and adds that depth of flavor that only butter can bring to a dish. People, let me tell you, this is what I have been missing in my pot roast cooking life. Try this recipe, you will be glad you did.

Beef Pot Roast (Basic Recipe)from the Joy of Cooking

1 beef chuck or rump roast (3-5 pounds), neatly tied if boneless
Season with: salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 2-3 tbsps vegetable oil, rendered beef fat, or lard in a heavy Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat.
Add the roast and brown on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. Maintain the heat so that the meat sizzles but does not burn. Remove the meat to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tbsps. of fat from the pan and heat over medium high heat. Add:

2 cups finely chopped ojnions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, just until they begin to color, about 5 minutes. Add:

1 cup beef or chicken stock, dry red wine, or water

Bring to a boil and add:

1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsps fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Return the roast to the pan and cover. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook the roast slowly so that the liquid just barely simmers. Turn th roast every 30 minutes or so. Make sure there is always some liquid in the pot and add more as needed. When the meat is tender, (Flat roasts will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours, round or oblong roasts may take as long as 4 hours), remove the roast to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim off any fat from the surface of the liquid. Strain the liquid. To thicken the sauce slightly, bring the liquid to a boil. For each cup liquid, stir together and whisk in:

1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1tbsp butter, softened

Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Note: I did not tie my boneless cut. Also, I roughly chopped the vegetables, did not add a bay leaf, and did not strain my liquid after cooking. My flat, 2 pound roast took 3 hours to cook.

Still Thinking about the Green Bathroom

If I am going to keep the green fixtures, I need to find a new tank cover for the toilet and a green (or black) toilet seat that matches the color of the toilet. The tank cover is cracked, and I don't like the way the current white toilet seat looks. (I wouldn't keep the old seat, but it allows me to see what a white seat looks like against the green.) On a related note, I think I've said/written the word "toilet" more in the past several days than I have in my life. Toilet. It's a funny word.

Last night I found a great site - retro renovation - that is dedicated to providing information about how to renovate your home while staying true to its retro origin. The site is full of great tips and resources and is truly inspiring. After spending some time clicking around on the site, I didn't feel so crazy for liking my green bathroom. (By the way, did I tell you that when the plumber came to give me a quote on installing a shower he said "You're gutting this, right?", as if it was a foregone conclusion?) The best part is that through retro renovation, I found two other sites - one which sells toilet seats in every color of the rainbow, and one that specializes in vintage toilet parts. The downside is that, depending on the exact shade of green of my fixtures (Mint? Ming?) the cover I need can cost between $300 and $900. I can buy a brand new toilet for that!

I'll leave you with a picture of my toilet: You can see the white toilet seat in this shot. It's also interesting to note the color of the bowl. The previous owners claimed to have the place cleaned on a regular basis. I think they need to ask for their money back from the maid service.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our (Not So) Minty Fresh 1940's Green Bathroom

There are two full baths on the second floor of our house. You will have to trust me when I tell you that the one I am about to show you is the lesser of two evils. Here is our green bathroom in glory:

The light above the mirror is actually hardwired into the medicine cabinet electricity. Big no-no, apparently.

The lovely green wallpaper covers the ceiling, too, as you can tell by looking at the corner above the bathtub.
Now, I don't know which is more sad, the state of this bathroom, or the fact that I actually wanted to salvage it. Honestly, I did. For several weeks after we bought the house, my plan was to keep the green fixtures and work around them. I found the green charming, and I like to preserve vintage details when possible. This house was built right after World War II, and I thought of the woman who chose the green, so excited to have these fresh, fun, fixtures after years of worry about the war. Sappy, I know.
Anyway - back to reality. You may have already noticed, but this bathroom is missing a shower. No big deal, I thought. We'll "just" put a shower in. (You will find that I like the phrases we'll "just" do something, and "how much could it cost?" - phrases that generally get me into trouble.) Of course, I did no research on what needed to be done to put in a shower until after we had already bought the house. I figured it would cost about $1,000 and take a day of work.
Enter the plumber. Sure, he could put a shower in, but he would also need to tile the surrounding walls. (Mental head slap). And, oh, by the way, the surrounding walls are old plaster and can't hold the weight of all that tile. We would need to take down all the walls and rebuild them with cement board. And, on further inspection, there are no risers behind the tub, so we need to install risers, too.
In my head, I hear the ringing of a cash register. But I am also thinking about that green tub. Because by now I have noticed that the green fixtures are not all the same shade of green. The tub is darker than the toilet and sink. I have decided it might be a good idea to replace the sink and toilet and refinish the tub. But with all the walls around the tub needing to come down, this would be the time to replace the tub if I ever plan to do so. Of course, I have not budgeted for a total bathroom remodel, and there are oh so many more things that need to be done in this house.

I need to sleep on it...

Starting Over

A lot has happened since we last posted. I put my house up for sale, sold it, bought a house, moved to a new suburb, and helped to acclimate my school-aged children to a new school and new friends. It has been three months since we moved, and the dust is finally beginning to settle.

Thirty-five has also had big changes in her life She has gone back to school to get her master's degree. In addition to going to school almost full-time, she is raising a two-year old and working full-time. She definitely has her hands full!

Anyway - all this is my way of apologizing for our not being more consistent in our postings. But we plan to mend our wicked ways, we promise.

As I mentioned, I recently moved. The house my husband and I bought is in need of alot of TLC, and I plan to document our progress on the house as we go along, for your enjoyment as well as so that I have a place to look back to when I feel disheartened. I also plan to use this blog as a place to store links, ideas, and great finds that I may want to use in the house in the future.

Also, I have once again challenged myself to cook at least one new recipe a week for the next year. I will share each of these recipes with you.