September 29, 2008

Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner and I decided to make a dessert. I made an easy Cheesecake. It's not the kind you bake, but it's really good none-the-less.

1 package Cream Cheese
1 Vanilla Pudding mix (or another flavor)
1 Graham Cracker Crust

I actually made the crust myself too: (It's so much better without all the added sugar.)

In a bowl blend the Cream Cheese until soft. Check the pudding box for how much milk it requires for the pie version. Slowly add in 1/2 cup of the milk with the cream cheese and mix. This is important to get right so that the cheese gets blended properly. Otherwise it's lumpy. Add the rest of the milk and the pudding mix, blend for the required time on the pudding package. Pour the pudding mix into the crust and chill. When I served it I topped it with Strawberries.

If you're brave try different pudding flavors. Lemon, Chocolate, etc. I'm actually going to try to make a Key Lime version. I'll let you know how that goes when I get around to it.

September 21, 2008

My husband and I got a (Universal) Bosch for our wedding from some dear friends of ours. I honestly can say every time I pull it out I am so grateful to them. I love it. I love the mixer and especially love the blender. I'm sure there are other blenders out there with such super abilities, but none that I have ever used. This one is awesome. It blends my 5 cups of oatmeal for cookies to fine powder, and the graham crackers too. It makes a smoothie in no time flat. It's just my favorite.

There has been one slight problem with this blender since we started using it though. The bottom is really hard to get out. REALLY HARD. As in, we've even tried pliers, and other things to try to pull it apart - to no avail. Just so you understand - this has been going on for almost three years. It wouldn't be such a problem but I prefer to have the blades and entire thing clean.

Tonight was the last straw. I pulled out the blender after a few weeks of down time. It had little dots of mold growing around the bottom ring. That was it! Absolute last straw. I tried again then handed it to my husband and made him try again. Not a budge. I was so frustrated. I considered my options: 1. Replace the blender. 2. Search for a solution. The second option seemed the obvious first step. So I googled the problem "Bosch blender how to get bottom off". To my utter surprise there were a lot of results. Seems many others have had the same problem.

So here's the solution: Pop the center out of the blender lid. Put the lid on the bottom, as you would on the top, and press down. The twisty part (not so good on technical terms here) should come up through the center of the lid a ways. Now twist the lid. It works fabulously. Trust me. It was apparently designed to work that way!

After nearly three years of wondering why anyone would make a blender so hard to take apart I finally figured it out. Yeah me! So to all you Bosch owners - when the bottom gets stuck use the lid!

September 19, 2008

No, not the flooring, or the baseboards, or the many small renovations going on around the house still. (Mind you we have ordered the carpeting.) What's finished was an idea I got a long time ago for a piece of artwork. I almost thought it would never come to fruition. I found a small piece of artwork some time ago at Deseret Book. It was some nature pictures with a small golden plaque that had my favorite scripture on it. I really liked it, but I wished the scripture were readable and that the artwork were larger. Aside from all that though, it was just too expensive for something that I only kind of liked. (Somewhere between $120-$150.)

Then one day I was at Target, and I found (I think) the exact same nature shots but much larger. It was $60! Now only the scripture was missing. I searched online for some time to get a matching frame, but to no avail. Eventually I caved and bought a second piece of the same artwork. With a little work (pulling out the pictures, getting glass from Lowes, gluing it in, taping the back, and designing, ordering, and applying the lettering) I finally have exactly what I wanted. It was about the same price as the original in the end, but the results are worth it!

I ordered the vinyl lettering from Rachelle did a fantastic job and got it exactly the way I wanted it! Thanks Rachelle.

I have a passion for Interior Design and crafts. It's not hidden at all, almost anyone who knows me at all is well aware of it. It seems I always have a project on the side burner. No kidding. During my years in University I think the hardest thing on me was suppressing my artsy side in order to focus more on the textbooks. I spent several years doing very little craft-wise. Since graduating (and adjusting to Motherhood) I have gotten back to my old love.
Unfortunately, my crafty side took over recently. I decided that instead of buying something for my husbands new niece, I would go all out and create something unique for her. I did go all out. I waited until I knew the nursery set they were getting, went and checked it out, bought the crib sheet and then headed to Jo-Ann's. I bought fabric and paper and then came home and started creating.

I used produce crates (small ones) from Win Co and redecorated them. Then I made a scrappy quilt, scrappy burp cloths, and out of left-over fabric I made some change table pads. (I have pads like them for my change table and it sure saved me having to wash the cover so often.)

I'm so pleased with how it all turned out!

September 16, 2008

"Gossip is the art of saying nothing in such a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid." ~Walter Winchell

Recently, someone I know has dealt with the underhanded blows of gossip. It has not just been about herself, but many other women whom she loves and respects. The experience has been absolutely distressing for this person. I'll confess, sometimes it is not easy to keep confidences shared with us, but I am not speaking of a small slip of the tongue. I am speaking of people who have truly made an art of gossip. "Hearts that are delicate and kind, and tongues that are neither..." ~ Logan Pearshall Smith

It astonishes me that some people do not have enough love in their hearts to keep their mouths closed. Whether or not the knowledge is true or false, there is no reason to share. It bothers me that some people need to verify the veracity of their juiciest tidbits before sharing them. Isn't it just easier to forget it and move on?

What is even more mind blowing to me is that these people usually lead very busy lives. They have children to care for, large homes to keep immaculate, and a group of "friends" to impress. (Can't give your friends anything to gossip about, right?) These people have charisma, and it is their best trait.

Serving in a leadership position in my church, I gained a lot of insight on the dangers of gossip. (I was Relief Society President.) I learned how much knowledge one could potentially glean all in the name of their calling. (I was all about knowing as little as possible.) Truly, it disgusts me that anyone in a leadership position would hold one of their charges in such disdain as to speak evil of them. A leader is a steward. They are called to be over a specific group of people, entrusted to them by Heavenly Father. Sometimes as one's leader you learn things about them in order to better help and serve them. That knowledge ought to be held in the strictest of confidence. And yet, there are leaders that feel it's their right to know everything and their blessing to share it.

So what of those that gossip? Hopefully they will learn to bind their wagging tongues, especially before it costs them their membership in the church. I love the counsel from the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants: "...Let your words tend to edify one another." (D&C 136:24) Oh, if only we could all do that. How much easier this world would be to live in.

*Side Note: This is not about someone living near me, just incase you were worried. I have the greatest friends and I hope they know that!

September 11, 2008

OK - So over a month ago I discovered this really cool site I was so enthralled by the possibilities of digital fabric printing that I signed up to wait for a Special Invitation. I thought about what I would print, what I would do, and was so overwhelmed by possibilities. I mean, my own creativity is my limit (it's no longer what's in stock at the fabric store). Then the other day as I scrolled through my e-mails I found an invitation for me from Spoonflower! Oh I was so excited, so thrilled! And then it hit me - I have to design something now. Not that I can't, don't get me wrong. It's just I have to narrow down all those ideas and choose something, and hope that I get it right. That is what overwhelms me and keeps me from litterally jumping for joy. Maybe I will once I've finished a design and see it printed. Lately I've been so dissapointed by the lack of lines that are perfect for little boys. I mean, practically all of what's out there is perfect for a cute little girly girl item. So that's where my plans are at now. Wish me luck!

September 8, 2008

Is it that I blogged about poor customer service or is it just my fate? I had 3 packages to mail today. I don't have boxes or stuffing, or anything like that at my house, (I'm not the Post Office) so I just haul all the items in the trunk of my car. Of course my dear son is along for the ride too. Don't get me wrong it's not that I don't have boxes at my house. There's always a ton in the recycle bin. But the problem is they're never the right size. Never.
Anyhow I arrive at Fed-Ex Office and load my son in the stroller, the items over-flowing from the bin below and head on in. I am quickly greeted by the delivery truck driver - hands full of packages - and he asks if I need help. I say "Yes" loud enough for the two ladies behind the counter to hear and continue "but I'm sure one of them can help me." as I look down at his full hands. He understands that I don't want to slow him down from his responsibility when there are employees there to help me. He says "Oh yeah, Sarah in the back there can help you." Maybe I should have stopped him then, or perhaps followed him out and gone someplace else.
I walk over to the boxes, expecting one of the girls in the back to come help. Yeah right. My mistake. A few minutes there and I've found a box about the right size (for 2 of the packages, I'm still not sure what I need for the bigger one though). Then my son starts fussing. I check on him, and another customer walks in and walks up to the counter. One of the girls in the back drops everything she's doing and comes to help the other customer. Umm... Hello? So - I grab the boxes and a few labels and go stand behind the other customer in hopes I'll get some service. The other girl in the back continues her activities back there oblivious to the third customer now standing behind me hoping to get some assistance as well. He finally goes and works on a computer. I pull out the address I am shipping to. Finally the employee assisting the customer notices me, looks at my boxes and says: "If you're shipping express you need the air bill, not ground." I reply I didn't plan to ship express. She says "Oh, well to ship ground you have to use a brown box or one from home." OK that was about it. There's not a brown box in the store that is the size I want. At least not that I could see AND for goodness sakes - do you think I'd load up my child and all those items into his stroller and haul it all to the store without having checked at home for a freaking box?! Whatever. I stand there for a minute and look at the boxes. There's not one the size I want. I look back, she's still taking her sweet time with the customer (who came in with packaged boxes - shouldn't be too hard) and now she's eyeing me like I'm a nut. I give up. I look back at her and ask where the nearest UPS is. She answers and I leave.
At UPS the employee got up from the computer she was working at as I walked in the door, got behind the counter, let me quickly explain everything, pull out all the items I had and divide them into piles for each package. She hands me a shipping bill, tells me I only need one because I have three packages, and starts measuring and weighing as I fill it out. Once I'm finished she says "So the cheapest shipping is $$. I am assuming you want the cheapest method, is that right?" Yup, she was right. So I pay. As I finish the filling out the addresses and a quick note for one of the packages she's in the back wrapping up one of the packages. As I leave, number two is about to be wrapped up. Oh, and did I mention she squeezed in some help to another customer who had his box ready, and another one with a question her co-worker couldn't answer? I know it's not rocket science, not even advanced math. But for me, it makes a world of difference when an employee does their job!
I've seen what Brown can do for me! Thanks UPS!

September 7, 2008

I know we all sometimes have buyer's remorse after purchases. I think in this consumer driven world it's almost a given. We spend so much time making decisions on what to buy and how much to spend - groceries, home decor, technology, entertainment, clothing, cars, houses, etc. I know of a few times I actually had buyer's remorse. But for the amount of things I purchase, I'm grateful to say I rarely regret the purchase. Normally I'm glad I purchased it.

I guess I don't experience the remorse often because I am a thrifty shopper, especially when it comes to home decor, clothing, and anything craft related. Maybe that is what caused my recent dilemma. Let's call it Non-Buyers Remorse (for lack of a more creative name).

Two weeks ago I was in a very awesome home decor store. One that is a little more expensive. I could buy their stuff, but I'd rather go there, be inspired and make something similar for under half the price. While there I found this glass tile artwork that was just perfect for a gift for someone. I mean, I saw it and automatically the person came to mind. It was perfect. But I didn't want to spend the money right then - I wanted to think about it. There-in was my mistake. Upon my return, it was already sold. Hence, Non-Buyers Remorse. I lament not having made the purchase immediately. Now I am scouring the Internet to find the same item, but alas to no avail. Has that happened to you? It's bothering me so much today. I really want that item now.

September 4, 2008

I know - some of you are wondering where I would fit a grand piano. I'm proud to say it took very little re-arranging. It's a "Baby" Grand - so it is much smaller than your regular Grand. And I got an amazing deal on it. ($5 on Craigslist! Wahoo! These cost $100 new.) Little Monkey loved it from the get go!

*Update, we've since moved it up to our loft area as decor. We have two little pianos and this one was a climbing hazard.

September 2, 2008

This project is one of my biggest ever. And yet it's one that I've heard my husband say he would be willing to do with me again.

When we got married we bought an old sofa and love seat. Together they cost $100. We could not afford more than that. But - they were hideous. This is the couch in it's former shape!

I'm not sure what the pattern was called in it's glory days - but to us it was Pastel Tex-Mex. We didn't waste time finding cheap slip-covers. I also found some cute napkins and sewed pillow covers for some cute decor.

But alas, as those of you with slip covers know - they are terrible to deal with. (At least, the unfitted kind are.) I was constantly stuffing the fabric back into place, pulling on it, smoothing it out. It was like sitting on your bed right after you finished making it. And it drove me mad. Mad enough to consider Re-Upholstery.

Most people say you should only reupholster something if it's vintage or sentimental because it's too much work or too expensive. These couches were neither. I just didn't have money for new couches. But I had enough for some discount Upholstery! So I decided to give it a try.

A trip to a local Home Fabric shop and I found some really nice green upholstery fabric for $3/yard! I bought the rough estimate amount using some online calculator to tell me about how much I needed. I think it was 27 yards. I know with taxes it was just under $100.

I made another trip to the BYU's library and checked out about 7 books on upholstery projects. During one of our road trips to Canada I read the books, narrowing down the pile of useful aides to about 2 books. I learned as much as I could from those books.

Then one day when classes were cancelled and I didn't feel like studying I grabbed the tools and started demolition. I pulled those couches apart (1 at a time) as fast as I could. The worst part was pulling out the old staples. My hands were so sore. My wonderful husband helped when he came home, and he helped with the next couch. Bless his heart for putting up with all my craziness.

While I had the couch completely apart, I re-enforced the back with Jute Webbing so that it would have extra support. This has been especially handy when the back cushions are off!

I used the old fabric pieces as patterns for the new fabric and began re-forming the couches. I changed the pattern on the cushions though. They were very rounded and I wanted straighter lines. I can't even begin to describe the difference the new fabric made so I will show you instead.

Here's the love seat in all her glory:

All together the re-upholstery cost $150. I bought new legs later (the nice bun feet style) and painted them black. Another $80. Anyone else out there amazed by how much those things cost? And that was a really good price!

Sofa & Loveseat: $100
Upholstery: $100 (Actually less)
Tools & Supplies: $50
Feet: $80

TOTAL: $330!

A few months after we finished my hubby and I saw a sofa like these at Pier 1 for $800 - just the sofa! Oh yeah - talk about saving $$$!

Here's the sofa:

Later, after all was said and done I found more napkins and made the red pillow covers. I also found the lace to put on them at Jo-Anns. I still can't believe how well they turned out for a first timer.

I'm adding a little update for the CSI Project folks. Just in case anyone gets ideas from this.

It's been about 3 years since I worked on these so do I have any regrets? Yes.

1. I wish I'd replaced some of the tack strip instead of using the old. It comes loose every once in a while and annoys me.

2. The lace on the red pillows. During a game once my husband was asked to describe one thing that his wife made that he didn't like. I believe he described these as "the bane of his existence". Ouch. It's actually because of the beads on the lace. Very Scratchy and annoying when you actually use them. I've bought new Joel Dewberry fabric to recover all the pillows. Pillows are decor but they should be comfortable too!

I can say I'm still pleased with the look, the color, and the overall durability of the fabric. We've had to wash the cushion covers many times so I'm really glad that I put zippers on all the covers. So much easier. We machine wash our covers and hang them to dry. Wondering how it looks today? Here's a picture from this morning. You may think it's faded, but not really. This was just taken in different lighting and with a different camera.

Couch Reupholstery

September 1, 2008

So I have to admit this blog began with all the intentions of complaining about the fact that customer service no longer existed. I've been seriously disappointed by the lack of service I've received in so many places lately. But alas, my blog has been foiled. I have encountered excellent customer service. I suppose that I should not be complaining - but you may find yourself surprised as I was by the time you finish reading.
Recently I have eaten out at tons of restaurants. Girls Night out, Anniversary Dinner, Simply Doing Something, Anniversary weekend away, and dinner out with my parents are just a few of the reasons I've been out. So here it is: BJ's, The Rainforest Cafe, Old Spaghetti Factory, The Blackforest Restaurant, The Copper Room, Wild Cat Grill. Have you lost your minds? You are restaurants known for top quality foods. I mean, everyone recommends you these days. So WHY did you not serve me well recently? I KNOW what some of you are thinking. You can't expect to enjoy an evening out with a 16 month old in tow. You can only try to blame my son for bad service at Wild Cat Grill, every other evening out he was in someone else's care.
SO I've come up with a theory. I don't drink alcohol. Could it really be that simple? I'm not sure. I've waited over 25 minutes at more than one of the above mentioned restaurants to even have my order taken. That's not because I didn't close my menu. It was closed most of the time. Have you noticed the trend too? Is it really that these servers are more concerned about how big of a tip they're going to get? Is it really that much different if I don't drink? I THINK SO.
Here's why: Servers automatically assume that because I don't order alcohol I won't tip as well (I mean, based on the whole percentage of your order rule, it's true right?) BUT then they don't serve you very well and end up getting even less of a tip because they didn't even try. It's a crazy theory I know, but I'm sticking to it.
As I've been thinking about the lack of customer service everywhere I've stumbled upon a few examples of excellent service.
Tina at The Rock - Wood Fired Pizza. Thank you for your prompt service, your understanding, your smiles, and for actually checking on us as you walked by. Both my husband and I enjoyed the difference good service made. Seriously, you made our evening more enjoyable. I know you said it's because you love people - but I think some of it has a lot to do with common sense too. Everyone wants good service.
Christina at I-HOP. Thanks to you for making our breakfast enjoyable. It was so refreshing midst your busy holiday morning to still receive good service. I know you'll be shocked to hear that just by asking me if I wanted water because I was out of milk I was impressed. I was - I sat in one of the above restaurants without a refill for my drink for 30 minutes. (At another place my husband and I were actually notified by our server after drinking our lemonades that they do not have free refills so would we like a water?!) OK enough venting - I'm talking about good service here.
And you know the craziest thing? My son was with us at both of the "Good Service" places! So I'm holding out hope that my most recent experiences eating out are not rare, never to be repeated experiences.