Rocks for Brains

July 16, 2010

I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, so I don’t have as much to share about food lately. The heat makes it hard and I’ve just been feeling tired of the constant dinner grind. So this morning, I thought I would share an interesting collection I’ve developed – rocks. I’m not fascinated by the scientific information about rocks – what they’re called, how they were formed. No, I just like them because they’re pretty. And they are a way of bringing home a piece of a place I’ve visited.

My fascination with rocks started when we rented a house in York Harbor, Maine for a week several years ago. The coast is very rocky there and the house was right on the water, with a very rocky and challenging shore. We spent a lot of time clambering around the rocks. So many of them were so beautiful that I started hauling some back to the house with me each time. This rock sits beside the doors to our basement and garage and I use it as a doorstop. I just love the wavy lines through it.

These are more Maine rocks. Thank goodness we drove, because I could never have gotten these home on an airplane! I love the pink rock and the amazing stripes in the blue rocks. I was like a kid in a candy store before we left – stuffing more and more rocks into the car. I did try to sift through carefully and only take the most beautiful.

A few years after the Maine trip. we rented a house on Cape Cod. Again, there were so many beautiful rocks! As you can see though, they are very different from the Maine rocks. I love the green ones the most.  Again, we were driving, so I didn’t have trouble getting them home.

These rocks are in a basket that came from Maine (I know, I should swap things around and put the Maine rocks in this basket.)

I put some of the smaller rocks in a rectangular glass container on a kitchen shelf. Next to it is driftwood I found on the beach there as well. Dude Martha and I spent a lot of time just walking on that beach, looking at rocks and exploring tide pools. As a kid, we vacationed in Maine, so a rocky beach is my ideal for summer vacation!

I was so enamored with the Cape Cod rocks that I took lots of photos of them because they are most colorful when they’re wet – right after a wave has washed over them. So I had to take some photos to preserve those bright colors. This photo sits on a shelf in my office and it makes me happy every time I look at it!

Our trip last summer to England and Scotland was magical. My entire life, I dreamed of going to Scotland. After we had crossed the border into Scotland, I said to Mr. MarthaAndMe that I couldn’t believe I was actually there. It was so beautiful that I had a tiny little cry. So when we got to Loch Ness and parked on the side of the road and climbed down some stairs to get to the beach, I couldn’t help but pocket a few rocks! They aren’t as colorful as the New England rocks, but they sit on a shelf in my office and remind me that I actually did go to Scotland.

I don’t have rocks from our trip to Hawaii (the goddess Pele would have been angry if I had brought home any lava rocks) but I do have some shells and coral, as well as a nice container of beach glass I found there.

This summer we’ll be headed to the Pacific Northwest – Seattle, Alaska and Vancouver. Maybe they’ll have some rocks I can bring home.

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Kitchen Essentials According to MSLO Editors

April 7, 2010

As part of Kevin Sharkey’s kitchen remodel IRS write-off (am I cynical? Why, yes!) several months ago, Living did a big feature on his kitchen and how “Martha” (meaning MSLO I think) helped him redo it. Included in this was a list of kitchen essentials. I went through that list on my blog and a lot of you commented about your own kitchen essentials. Someone is snoozing in editorial at Living because April’s issue includes yet another shorter list of 10 kitchen essentials. So just for kicks, I thought I would go through this one as well.

– Measuring cups and spoons. Duh.

– Asian strainer. I do like mine, but I think a slotted spoon is almost as good.

– High-heat rubber spatula. Yes, definitely.

– Vegetable peeler. They say they like Y shaped peelers. I am fond of my Oxo peeler with the rubber handle.

– Flour-sack towels. Personally, I prefer a terry towel since it absorbs more.

– Maple cutting boards. I use plastic only. I agree that wood is nicer, but I think plastic is safer.

– Mini kitchen torch. I don’t have one and have had success just using my broiler when needed.

– Pump-style salad spinner. I had one and chucked it when we moved 10 years ago. It just took up too much room. I also hated washing it. So now I soak my greens in a colander in the sink, then let them sit in the colander over the open sink to drain and pat them dry with a towel.

– Mandoline. I don’t have one and toy with buying one. I am afraid I’ll slice off some bodily appendages with it. I do have a slicing attachment for my Cuisinart which I use for large amounts of slicing.

All right readers, what are your thoughts on this list? My personal list of top ten essentials would be: plastic cutting boards, chef knife, small paring knife, rubber scraper, handheld cheese grater, tongs, silpats, nonstick pans, Oxo veg peeler, and measuring spoons/cups, including glass liquid measuring cups which I use to boil water in the microwave.

Martha Mondays: Earring Storage

March 15, 2010

Thanks to Sara at Sassy Suppers for choosing this week’s project – earring storage in a paint palette from March Martha Stewart Living (pg 48). I thought I had a paint palette my kids used to use for painting, but I couldn’t find it, so I thought I would show you how I store my earrings. I have plastic cases with little cube dividers like you might find for fishing tackle or for hardware like nails or screws. I put one or two pairs in each space and this keeps them together and makes it easy to find them. If I were more organized, I would arrange them by color, but I’m not!

The plastic cases are inside a big 8-10 drawer plastic unit that sits on a low shelf in my closet. I have a different drawer for each type of jewelry and also keep my shawls and scarves in it.

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Martha Mondays: Postcards

February 1, 2010

I used to love to send postcards when I was a kid. I always sent them to my grandmother, who stuck them into random pages of her cookbooks. She always said she liked to happen upon them in the future. When she died, we found lots of them in her cookbooks.

This week’s Martha Mondays project, chosen by  Sarah at Mum in Bloom, is to make your own postcards. The project is very simple. Print out the template for the back of the postcard and glue it onto the back of a 4×6 photo. The photo I used is one we took on the shores of Loch Ness this past summer.

Here’s a little secret. You don’t even really need to print out the template. You can simply mail a photo if you write the address on the right hand side and leave a place for the stamp. In fact, you can mail all sorts of weird things. There’s a whole little business surrounding this in Florida, where we go every spring. We have mailed a whole coconut (no packaging, just a label), a flip flop (again, just a label) and a plastic bottle with a note in it (label glued on the outside), all sold in gift shops down there.

My aunt, who was postmaster of her town, used to mail her own photos as postcards often (without any backing glued on) while on vacation.  If you’ve got a printer with you, this is a great way to send personalized postcards for very little cost. I have to say I always do like to look through postcards though wherever we are. I like to see what photos are being used. I have some blank postcards I bought as a child and now have all the ones  I sent my grandmother and they are interesting to look through.

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Crafty for Valentine’s Day!

January 20, 2010

Spray on glue

Woot-woot! I did a Martha craft and it went really well!! Ok, here’s the scoop. In March Living, Martha suggests embellishing roses with glitter. She shows two methods. In method one, you mix 3 oz of water with 4-5 squirts of craft glue. Mix it up and spray it on a rose from 8 inches away. Sprinkle glitter over the rose and shake it off. This went well for me. The only tip I would offer is to use roses are not tightly closed. It’s hard to get glitter down in it if it is.

Method number two involves using glue that has an applicator tip. You’re supposed to trace glue around the edges of the petals. Well, I didn’t have an

Directly applied glue

applicator tip. My glue had a brush in it (just like the rubber cement we used to in art class – that took me back!) so I brushed it on gently and then sprinkled the glitter.

It really worked! I was tickled pink (get it?). Now, the question is would I really ever do this? Um, no, probably not. I think roses are beautiful by themselves and adding glitter is sort of tacky. I did say to Mr. MarthaAndMe that this might be something sort of fun to do for a centerpiece for a party if you wanted something a little glitzy and exciting, so I can see doing it in that setting. Maybe white roses with silver glitter for New Year’s Eve.

You can see I used pink roses. That’s a rule in our house. I don’t do red. Period. So Mr. MarthaAndMe has been trained to only bring home pink roses for Valentine’s Day.

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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! 2010 is here and to help ring it in, we had our traditional fondue party last night. We’ve been doing this for years. It started as something fun to do while we were home with small kids and has now become a tradition among our daughter’s friends, who come every year. I like it because it gives a purpose to the holiday for me and we have fun food, and then I can go to bed at 10!

In addition to the cheese and chocolate fondue, this year I made some appetizers. I made cocktail wieners – so not Martha but a kitschy thing I like to make. It’s very simple – mix a bag of mini wieners with half a jar of grape jelly and half a bottle of chili sauce and heat it up.

I also made stuffed mushrooms. I used baby bella mushrooms and filled them with a mix of crabmeat, cream cheese, mustard, dill, lemon juice, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. I put the mushrooms in a baking dish and just covered the bottom with chicken broth. I covered it and baked for 15 min at 400.

I bought a bag of mini vegetable egg rolls and served those with sweet and sour sauce. Then I made up a puff pastry item (channeling my inner Martha). I started with two sheets of puff pastry, which I rolled out to make a bit thinner. Then I mixed 3/4 jar of pesto with 8 oz. of goat cheese in the Cuisinart with some pepper. I spread this mix on the puff pastry and then placed prosciutto on top (I used about 12 pieces of paper thin prosciutto). I rolled them into logs, sealed the edges with water, and refrigerated (a trick I learned from Martha). Then I sliced them and baked at 350 for about 10-15 minutes until they were brown and cooked through. I liked them, but thought they were a little salty.

The fondue went well, but as always it is hours of cutting up food! With the cheese, I served: ham, chicken sausage, marinated chicken breasts, French bread, pumpernickel/rye, pear, apple, grapes, cherry tomato, broccoli, and cauliflower. With the chocolate: pretzel logs, graham crackers, marshmallows, pineapple, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, banana, tangerine, rice krispies, pound cake, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and chocolate chip biscotti. We had rainbow sprinkles, chopped nuts, and chopped white chocolate to roll things in as well. Beverages were sparking apple juice, sparkling white grape juice, sparkling red grape juice and cola. We had a bottle of sparkling apple pomegranate juice, but the screw top lid was stuck and when Mr. MarthaAndMe finally got it off, it ended up breaking the top of the bottle off, so we had to toss that one.

I loved the way my table looked, even if it was not up to Martha’s standards. I used my gold tablecloth. I went to the party store and bought plates, cups, and napkins that say Happy New Year. I bought a string of New Year garland which went down the center of the table. Each person got a hat, a noisemaker and two little champagne poppers. Also in the center of the table I placed a few different metal noisemakers, a big horn, a little gold hat and a feathered New Year’s tiara. It looked festive and cute.

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My Martha Mantel

December 19, 2009

Martha has definitely inspired me to take decorating more seriously. For years, I’ve been moaning about how I don’t like some of my Christmas decorations. I’ve finally started to get rid of the ones I don’t like and focus on collecting things I do like.

Last year when I was shopping the after Christmas sales, I picked up three glass tree toppers are bargain basement prices. this year, I added a mercury glass tree topper I found at Target and a smaller pink vintage German topper I bought on eBay. I’ve got them displayed on my mantel in front of the mirror and I’m thrilled with them. I hope to keep adding to this collection.

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The Grandmother Project: Christmas Version

December 3, 2009

At this point, dear reader, you must be scratching your head and thinking “What else could she have inherited from her grandmother? Her house must be full!” But, as I’ve been doing since my grandmother passed away in May, I continue to find ways to use, display, and enjoy her belongings with some inspiration from Martha.

It should be no surprise that now I’m working through the Christmas items I got from her. My grandmother’s Christmas tree was always filled with blue ornaments – blue was her signature color. My own tree is pink (which is my signature color!), so her ornaments don’t work on my tree. I do have a lot of blue in my house, so I gathered all of the blue ornaments I received and put them in a Heise glass bowl she gave to me. It’s on the coffee table in the family room and looks very pretty.

Among her things we also found some pink ornaments – mostly hot pink, which doesn’t quite go with my tree. So I took these and put them in a glass container to display. They look great in my dining room.

Since everything on her tree was blue, she had a few interesting items you wouldn’t normally find in blue. The most memorable for my kids and me were her blue Santas. She had two blue Santa ornaments she bought in Japan. Every Christmas we would talk about these with her. She was so proud of them. “You never see a blue Santa!” she would say. Since there were two, each of my children got one (and fortunately they are identical so there was no squabbling). The Santas are hanging on the kids’ tree in the family room. They’re a bit old and falling apart (after all, she went to Japan probably 40 years ago)

She also had some elves, very 1960s elves, which are of course blue. I tried to put these in my kitchen, but the green color clashed with the sea green of my tile, so instead I gave them to the kids and they hung them on their tree.

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Merry Martha HANDMADE Gift Guide

November 25, 2009

If your holiday budget is small this year, you might be wondering if there are any handmade gifts you could make, even if you aren’t a gifted crafter. Martha to the rescue! I’ve collected my 10 favorite handmade gift projects that even the most craft-impaired person can make. So while the rest of the world is out fighting the crowds on Black Friday, why not enjoy a quiet day at home and work on some low-cost DIY gifts with Martha?

1. Decal Candles. This craft is ridiculously easy and Martha even provides the templates.

2. Bath Fizzies. Cute and easy to make. What woman wouldn’t enjoy receiving these?

3. Velvet Ribbon Belts. Who wouldn’t love a fab new belt?

4. Map Coasters. I made these and they were actually quite easy. Perfect for a man or a woman, and easy to personalize with maps from their favorite vacation spot, cabin, or even where they honeymooned.

5. Photograph jewelry. Any gift that involves buying something and sticking a photo in it is doable for even the most craft-impaired. You know you can make any mom or grandma misty eyed with this kind of gift.

6. Stenciled Stool. Stenciling is a quick way to dress up a child’s stool, and a stool is a gift a young child will use every day at the bathroom sink.

7. Holiday Drink Mixers. Just mix and give – no crafting required! This is a gift that says “invite me to your next party.”

8. Pecan Clusters. You can’t go wrong with candy and these are classier than homemade fudge any day. Sneak a couple for yourself.

9. Popcorn tins. This all-purpose gift is even less expensive when you make your own at home. There are many yummy options available.

10. Organza Sachets. This is a great project for kids to work on with you or do on their own with a little guidance.

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A Merry Martha Gift Guide

November 18, 2009

I decided to put together a Martha Stewart product gift guide. You don’t have to be a Martha fan to appreciate the things she sells. Martha could probably fill an entire store with her products at this point, so my challenge was to isolate just ten to recommend to you this holiday season. Check the list out for things you might want for yourself, hostess gifts, and presents for the ones you love!

cookie book1.Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  This book will be adored by anyone who likes to bake.  The cookies are organized by texture, which is a new approach, and includes classic recipes (peanut crisps, shortbread and snickerdoodles) as well as more adventurous kinds (bratseli, cornmeal thyme cookies, and Earl Grey cookies). $24.95

glue pen2. Fine Tip Glue Pen.  This is a great idea for anyone who crafts, has kids, or has lots of fun office supplies.  This dual purpose glue can be used wet for a traditional glue or once the applied glue has dried for a tacky, temporary stick. It’s a bargain at $3.06.

3. Glitter. Martha Stewart is now probably one of theglitter biggest purveyors of glitter – she has over 100 colors and types. Pick up a pack for crafters or kids. The glitter is excellent quality and the shades of color available are just astounding. $15.95 for a 12 pack.

towels4. Tropical Toile Kitchen Towels. These are perfect for a hostess gift.  The vintage look of these towels means your grandma will like them and so will your newly married cousin.  $8.99 for a 3-pack.

4. Trousseau Pillowcase Box Gift Set.  Beautifully pilllowedged heirloom quality pillowcases will make a welcome gift for anyone. Choose from lace, scallop or delicate blue edging. Because they’re white, they will match any sheet set and the 300 thread count means they will feel luxurious to weary heads. $29.99 for 2 pillow cases.

wedgewood5. Wedgwood French Knot Beverage Pot in Gold. What’s a gift list without a bit of luxury? Martha has her own line of Wedgewood dinnerware, and this elegant coffeepot/teapot is the perfect gift for the woman who has everything. Its delicate design will complement any china pattern and will identify her as a woman of class and taste. $189.

6. Asian Strainer. A fabulous stocking stuffer that will be asian strainerwelcome in any kitchen, this kitchen tool is bigger, lighter and more functional than a slotted spoon and is perfect for scooping veggies or ravioli out of boiling water. $7.99.

recipe7. Magnetic Recipe Divider. You’ve decided to cut your aunt’s cookie recipe in half, but what’s half of a 1/3 of a cup? Take the guessing out of reducing recipes and buy your Secret Santa this magnetic doohicky that does it all for her!  $9.99.

8. Counting Baby Quilt. For the mom-to-be or the new quiltbaby in your life, Martha’s 100% cotton quilt will be a cherished gift whether it is used as bedding or hung on a wall with the attached rod pocket loops. $79.99

cake plate9. Whiteware Cake Stand. Whether you choose round or square, these elegant cake stands will make any cake look like a gourmet treat.  Select 8″, 10″ or 12″ for $22 to $42.

10. Petite Hydrangea Plant.  Send this to your friends and family who won’t be coming home for Christmas (and maybe send one to yourself too!). Martha’s 1-800-Flowers collection includes these lovely live plants, in pink or purple, which will last much longer than hydrangeaa cut flower arrangement and can be planted in the garden come spring, for years of enjoyment. $39.95

Looking for other great gift ideas? Here is a round up of some other terrific gift guides:

Gifts for dogs and dog lovers

Irish music

Gifts for travelers who read

Gifts for travelers

Gifts from paradise

Foodie gifts under $20

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