Tuesday, September 11, 2012

4 Simple Goals

After reading about Kitty and Buck's 4 Simple Goals,  I spent some time mulling over what my 4 goals might be, and I think these 4 are a nice place to start.

1. I am intrigued by the design of Colette Patterns. I've ordered a few of her patterns, planned projects, and even bought fabric for one, but I have yet to trace and cut the first pattern piece. Whether I go ahead with one of these projects or plan a new one, I will use one of the Colette patterns that I already have to make a new garment by Christmas.

2. Steve and I like to go on bike rides (some leisurely, some not), and our Sunday afternoon rides always make me wish I'd thought to roll up an old quilt and pack us a picnic lunch. One Sunday before it gets too cold we'll do just that.

3. Now that I live close enough to campus to bike in for classes, I plan to do this more often than driving. The past few weeks I have chosen my car most of the time because I am either running late or wearing a non-bicycle friendly outfit, so from now on I must to plan for enough time to get to campus on my bike and learn how to make my teaching attire bike friendly. On the days that I've ridden to class thus far, I have avoided my skirts and dresses, but my closet and love of dresses won't allow for an all-pants attire much longer. I guess this number 3 could also be: Learn to ride a bicycle in a skirt.

4. More often than not, letters that I intend to write either end up unchecked on a lost to do list or in a pile of good intentions on my desk. I love to write and receive them, but I easily talk myself out of taking the time to sit down and write. I will try to write at least one {handwritten} letter a week.

This is my first try at a blog challenge of sorts, but I think this will prove to be a productive and meaningful one.

Read more about the origin of "4 Simple Goals" at A Beautiful Mess.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Refurbished Dresser

When I moved across town to a new apartment at the first of August, mom and I decided that we'd take my Aunt Patty up on her very kind offer to let me use a dresser and mirror that were being stored in her garage.


Even though I have suspect wall painting skills, I thought painting a dresser couldn't be too hard. I mean, after all, Pinterest does makes it look oh so very easy. Well I am here to tell you that it's not easy, but it's also not impossible. Patience and letting go of my perfectionist tendencies helped me through painting the round edges and bottom rods and obsessing over the brushstrokes showing even after the paint dried. They give character, right? At least that is what I am telling myself.

Dad and Steve took care of most of the sanding for me, which I greatly appreciated since it was August in Alabama and hot as the dickens standing still much less working. We discovered that there were in fact two coats of paint already on the dresser, so the sanding took the good bit of an afternoon. We didn't get all the paint off, but the bottom layer seemed to not peel like the top. on the 6 long drawers, I covered the holes for the knobs with wood putty and sanded those spots down after they dried over night.

I started painting the next day, and it took me the better part of a morning to get the first coat applied. It went on well, and I wasn't too worried about brush strokes since I was going to put another coat on the next day. The paint went on the flat surfaces quickly, but the rods and legs proved to be quite time consuming, leaving me to conclude that no one was going to scrutinize the paint job on those parts because they are way below eye level.

The next day, Steve came over, and we painted the second coat. This is when I realized that the brush strokes were not going to dry smooth and tried to make the strokes less obvious by working in small sections and paying attention to paint in only one direction. That worked marginally better except for when I tried to touch up places that I had already painted, which caused a big grainy mess on the top, so I sanded and painted a third coat on the top that night.

On day 3, I installed the knobs for the center drawers, and Steve drilled the new holes for the pulls. After a few times marking and drilling from the front of the drawer, he decided that it would be easier to drill from the inside. I don't suggest this move; it made for splintered wood and necessary paint touch ups.  But after much sweat on Steve's part, angst on mine, and super glue for a broken glass pull, the knobs and pulls were all installed.

All in all, I love everything about my new-to-me dresser and am proud to have succeeded at a non-sewing DIY project.

Here's a photo taken right after we put the dresser together for the first time after painting. I love the color and hardware.
Thanks for the help, Mom, Dad, and Steve-O!

A Homemade Pizza and Some Wings

To celebrate the start of college football season and Alabama playing beating Michigan, I made mom's homemade pizza and tried making baked hot wings for the first time. Both were quite successful and perfect game day food.


This homemade pizza was a Friday night favorite at our house when I was growing up. The recipe makes enough for two pizzas, so there's no worry over toppings even with choosy pizza eaters in the house. At home this often meant a pretty standard mushroom and pepperoni pizza and an every-vegetable-in-the-house pizza.

Pizza Crust:
1 1/4 cup water 
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast 
3 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal 

The pizza crust is made with the dough cycle of a bread machine. It's so easy, y'all. You measure out  all of these ingredients into your bread machine bowl, choose the right setting, and press start. In a little under two hours, you are ready to roll out and bake 2 pizza crusts. This crust is the thickness of a hand-tossed crust at most restaurants. 

Mom bakes her pizzas on a pizza brick that is so heavy that it stays in the oven all the time. She rolls out the dough on a wooden bat and transfers the pizza to the brick by way of the bat. I don't have a pizza brick or even a round pizza pan, so I used cookies sheets with a sprinkling of cornmeal to bake my rectangular pizzas. 

After the dough came out of the bread machine, I cut the dough in half, rolled out one of the pizza crust into a freeform rectangle using my wooden cutting board, and transferred it to the cookie sheets to rise. Then I repeated this step with the second crust.

After rising for about 10 minutes, the first pizza crust is ready to go in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Baking the crust before adding toppings gives this thicker crust a crispier texture and keeps it from getting soggy. 

When the first crust is done, the next is ready to go in the oven. This staggering is necessary when you are using one pizza stone or have a tiny kitchen like I do.

After baking for ten minutes, the first pizza is now ready for toppings, and then back into the oven for 15 minutes. This step is repeated with the second pizza.

Both pizzas need to cool at least 5 minutes before cutting them. No one wants all those toppings to go sliding off a too-hot-to-cut pizza. I discovered that I don't have a pizza cutter, but a long fancy knife worked just fine for us. 

A few comments about pizza toppings:
Like I said before, toppings varied in my mother's kitchen, changed as we grew up, and depended on who was over for dinner.  She frequently cut up/prepped whatever she had in the kitchen, arranged it on the cutting board and let us decorate the pizzas we desired. I warmed canned tomato sauce with dried basil and oregano for the sauce. Mom adds fresh basil from her garden.

my attempt at mom's pizza bar

Steve and I have come to a toppings compromise, thanks to many trips to the Mellow Mushroom.  I'm a veggie/white pizza fan. Steve is an all out meat kinda guy, but we both agree on our love for black olives. So our compromise is a pepperoni, mushroom, and black olive pizza. Not fancy or terribly exciting, but it is quite yummy with a beer in hand. For this homemade pizza, I switched to turkey pepperonis because they have 70% less fat than regular pepperonis, sauteed some button mushrooms in olive oil, and used canned black olives and a mix of grated part-skim mozzarella, grated 2% percent cheddar, and fresh mozzarella. 

Collyn and Chris topped the second pizza with Bocca crumples sauteed with green bell peppers, fresh mozz, and black olives. It looked quite amazing, but sadly, I did not get a picture of that one. 


This baked hot wing recipe comes from combining my godmother's recipe and a recipe from Hannah. Thanks to both of you for your help! 

For the Wings:
3 pounds of chicken wings 
olive oil 
Buffalo wing sauce (I used Texas Pete)
2 tablespoons of butter

Optional Fixing:
ranch or blue cheese dressing

I had never paid much attention to the anatomy of a chicken wing until I started cutting them up. There are 3 parts: the little drumette-like piece, the wing piece with two small bones, and then the tips. I cut and chopped these three pieces apart, and discarded the tips. (Mom says to use the tips for stock, but I'll try that some other time. Sorry for being wasteful, Lulu.) Now this hacking apart of the chicken wings is a little on the gross side of cooking for me, but I tried to remind myself of the story that my mother tells about how her grandmother killed and plucked the chickens they ate for dinner on their Tennessee farm. At least cutting apart a chicken wing does not involve feathers.

After the chicken wings are cut apart, I arranged them in a roasting pan, drizzled olive oil over them, and added salt and pepper. I rubbed the oil, salt, and pepper all over the wings, and flipped them once, adding more salt and pepper to parts that needed it. 

In a 425 degree oven, the wings baked for 15 minutes. 

After 15 minutes, I took them out and flipped them to the other side, and because I was afraid that the amount of juice in the roasting pan would keep the skin from crisping up, I poured out most of it. (Neither Joan nor Hannah suggested this so I cannot say if this is sound chicken wing practice.) 

I put them back in the oven to bake for another 18 minutes. 

After those last 18 minutes, I poured 1/3 of the bottle of Buffalo wing sauce over them and flipped them again to cover them completely in the sauce. I let them sit for 5 minutes.

Because the sauce looked a like it wasn't really sticking to the wings and butter makes everything better, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and mixed it with 1/4 cup of the sauce and tossed them in this mixture. After this last coating they were ready to be served. 

I highly recommend these wings if you don't mind the little bit of mess. Steve even said that he didn't miss the wings being fried. If you know Steve or have read about his love for fried chicken, you understand that is a shocking statement and also quite a high endorsement for these wings. 

I also made The Pioneer Woman's caesar salad and homemade croutons with a few changes like using anchovy paste instead of whole anchovies in the dressing and cutting/tearing up the romaine instead of serving the entire heart of lettuce. I was also able to use only half of the dressing and save some for salad the next night. If you're a caesar salad fan like Steve and I are, give this recipe a try. 

Hope y'all have a happy weekend! Hotty Toddy and Roll Tide Roll!