recipe roundup!

I've always enjoyed cooking but it wasn't until my husband I got married and I had free reign of my own kitchen that I really felt free to experiment and try new things.  Unfortunately, experimentation can sometimes lead to failure.  Most of my failed recipes haven't been too bad, meaning they were still edible albeit bland or in some other way not very enjoyable.  Quite recently though I finally made something that was completely horrendous.  What was supposed to be a hearty bean soup turned into a giant pot full of dark, thick cement.  My dear husband, ever the trooper and not one to waste food, dutifully ate bowl after bowl even though we agreed it was the worst thing I had ever made.  I would have fed it to the pigs if we had any.  Two bowls of cement was all I could handle.  It eventually went into the trash and I vowed to wait a very long time before attempting to make soup again.

Thankfully, I've had a great many successes in the kitchen despite the failures.  Some are with family recipes and others are recipes I find online.  I recently started compiling the successful recipes on my Pinterest to better keep track of them.  Here are some of my favorites!

Hot Chocolate from Gimme Some Oven
Instead of calling for a billion different ingredients and fancy chocolate, this recipe is super simple and quick to whip up.  Whenever I try to make hot chocolate without a recipe it turns out either too bitter from the cocoa or too sweet from the sugar.  This recipe hits a perfect balance.  If anything, you could probably go a little less on the cocoa, and I did do half milk and half water.  But if you enjoy super rich hot chocolate, why mess with perfection?  :)

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup from All Recipes
This is a rich, creamy, delicious soup that I absolutely love!  My husband doesn't care for it, but that just means more soup for me!  :)  You can play around with the proportions depending on how thick or thin you like your soup.  Using milk rather than half-and-half will make the soup less rich if that's a concern for you.  But do not skip the step of cooking the onion, garlic, and chopped carrots before adding everything else to the pot, that's where a lot of the flavor come from.

Fluffy Pancakes from All Recipes
Saturday morning breakfast usually consists of loaded scrambled eggs or these delicious pancakes, both made by my husband because his eggs and pancakes are the best.  :)  We like to put chopped up apples and walnuts in our pancakes for some added deliciousness.  Just make sure they are cut into small pieces so the pancakes still cook all the way through.

Parmesan Broiled Tilapia from Spend With Pennies
I've tried several different ways to cook fish but never really liked the outcome.  Either it stuck to the pan and fell apart or ended up tasting like fish and nothing else.  This cooking method with the broiler and the simple seasonings of dill, lemon, and parmesan go perfectly with the fish.  I omitted the mayonnaise because we didn't have any and the recipe still turned out just fine.  My husband is not a fan of fish but he said this was the best fish he's ever had.  :)

Never be afraid to try new recipes and experiment.  Your next favorite recipe is out there waiting for you!  :)

My cute little recipe box my mother-in-law gave me.  :)


chocolate and pumpkin spice cake

Special occasions are always so fun!  Not only is it an opportunity to get together with family and friends, but it also gives me an excuse to dream up fancy culinary creations.  At the beginning of this month I was already scheming on what to bake for my husband's birthday and shared my exciting news with him.
"I thought of the coolest cake to bake for your birthday!"
"Hey, don't I get to pick what I want for my birthday??"
Ummm, oops!  Thankfully he loved my idea and I didn't have to change plans.  :)

I came across this beautiful cake on Pinterest recently and mentally bookmarked it for a future occasion.  A wonderful combination of colors and flavors!  It looks so fancy!  How could I resist?!  I don't think my cake turned out quite so grand looking, but it was very delicious!

For the layers I used two cake recipes I've successfully baked in the past.  A half recipe of this chocolate cake recipe and a full recipe of this pumpkin spice cake.  Rather than using canned pumpkin I thawed some roasted ambercup squash from the freezer and it still had a wonderful flavor.  Perhaps a full recipe of the chocolate cake would have been better because that layer turned out shorter than expected, but I didn't want to make a cake so tall it couldn't fit in my cake carrier.  :)

There was a new frosting recipe I was going to use with this cake because my husband requested frosting that wasn't too sickly sweet and that's what the recipe was supposed to deliver.  But no matter how much I whipped it up the frosting wouldn't completely mix together and there were weird lumps in it.  Since we had company coming over that night I didn't want to waste any more time messing with it or finding a new recipe, so I went to the store and bought some frosting.  Fail.  :(

My handsome man.  :)

To build the cake I ended up cutting the pumpkin layer in half and sandwiching the chocolate layer between the two halves.  Between the layers I put a thin coating of frosting (it was a little sweeter than I cared for, so I used it as sparingly as I could) and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts for some crunch.  The top of the cake was my favorite part.  :)  After covering it with the rest of the chopped walnuts I melted down some chocolate, let it cool a bit so it wouldn't melt the frosting, and put it in a frosting bag with a small round tip.  Then I crisscrossed the chocolate over the walnuts, making a nice crunchy layer on top after the chocolate hardened.

Like most Sundays we got together at my in-law's after church and my husband's grandmother came over for lunch.  The cake received rave reviews!  :)  Last year my husband's parents gave him a giftcard so we could buy frames for our wedding pictures we hadn't printed out yet.  Well, the giftcard got used on other things (like yarn....), so Mary and Ed gave him actual picture frames this time.  :)  We're one step closer to finally printing wedding photos after nearly a year and a half of marriage!


sew lovely: a tale of three skirts

My most recent trip to the thrift store resulted in a bunch of great finds!  A great green LOFT shirt and a fun long grey and red cardigan for myself and a nice dress shirt for Noah (that is just a tad too small; still trying to figure out the best way to fix it).  But that's not all!  I also came across these fantastic skirts!  For the longest time I've been in need of a few good skirts.  Last year I made this green one, which I still love, but it was one of only two skirts I own and the only one appropriate for winter (the other is a light green maxi).  My husband can confirm that many happy dances were had when I came home with my new clothes.  :)

Who doesn't love suede?!  And in such a fun color!  I've always wanted a funky suede skirt and this one certainly fits the bill.

It was a little bit too big for me and I wasn't crazy about the diagonal hemline, so I made a few changes.  FYI, skirts with a side zipper can be more challenging to take in and let out.  Whenever altering an article of clothing you want to do it on the existing seams otherwise you might end up with seams in weird places or disrupting a special design going on with the fabric.  With skirts you pretty much always want to do your altering with the side seams, even if the zipper is there, otherwise it could end up looking lopsided.  I actually ended up cutting off a bit of the end of the zipper when I trimmed away the extra fabric after making my new seam.  Probably not the best thing to do.  When I was done I realized it probably would have been easier to use a seam ripper to open up the seam along the zipper and then tuck in the fabric however much I needed to.  Would have been much cleaner than sewing through the zipper and hacking off the extra.  Oh well.  Lessons learned for next time.

Another fantastic color!  I couldn't believe the fun fabrics these skirts came in!

The changes on this one aren't as obvious as what I did with the red skirt.  Clothing tends to have more hips than I do.  This skirt was no exception.  I followed the curve of the skirt when I made my line to sew on, making it thinner at the top until it came down to the straight part of the skirt.  By that point it was about half an inch in from the outside of the skirt (meaning a full inch being taken from both sides).  I didn't want the seam to go into the waistband which is why I gently sloped it down from the top (just under the waistline) to the maximum amount I wanted to take in.  If you don't care about the waistline or your body type allows you to do just a straight line when taking in a skirt, then go ahead and make your seam go through the waistline.  You can tell a little bit in the pictures that the skirt isn't quite so baggy after taking in the sides.  I like my skirts and dresses to hit either just above the knee,  just below the knee, or even longer.  Having a hemline cut across your knees ruins the lines of the skirt and your figure.  I folded under this skirt's hem at the line of stitching (ended up being about an inch shorter) and lightly tacked it to the lining by sewing by hand.  Taking up the hem that little bit brought it to the sweet spot just above my knees.  I'm planning to wear it this Sunday with one of my favorite dressy grey shirts and a bright yellow scarf!

No alterations were needed with the third skirt, but I still wanted to share it with y'all.

Beautiful color, perfect cut, I love the seams, the V at the waist, and how it flairs at the bottom.  It feels so vintage and classy!  The best part though is that this skirt is from LOFT and I bought it for only $4!!!  When I am in dire need of dress clothes or something that fits me really well, I love going to LOFT, but their prices sure kill me sometimes.  Finding this beauty made me feel better about donating my beloved LOFT skirts that became too small for me.  I wore this fantastic skirt the day after I bought it when we went to the Grand Rapids Symphony for their Love, Lust, and Rock and Roll show (which was amazing!).  It was so wonderful to have such a dressy skirt for our date night.  I love dressing up!  :)


crocheted rag rug

Here is a fun project I've been wanting to do for years.  My fabric didn't go as far as I thought it would, so my rug is a lot smaller than I envisioned.  No worries though.  I'll accumulate some more old sheets and things and add on to it until it takes up our entire living room.  ;-)

I searched around for a pattern to follow but ended up making up my own.  The thickness of your fabric strips and size of your hook will influence how often you need to increase, so no pattern will work perfectly for every rug.  I believe I started out with six single crochet stitches in a magic ring and then increased every stitch in the next round.  (Increasing is just making two [or more] stitches in a single stitch instead of one stitch.)  After the second round though I just increased whenever the edge of the rug started to curl up.  If the rug was laying flat I kept doing single stitches.  Instead of getting cozy on the couch like I usually do when I crochet, I worked this project while sitting on the floor to make it easier to see if it was laying flat or not.  I restarted this rug at least three times before I really got going and understood how it worked.  Increasing when you need to rather than following a pattern really seemed the best way to go about it.

Here are some blog posts I used as reference for my crocheted rag rug.
Thrifty Below
Craft Stylish
B is for Becky

Hopefully this summer I can find some more fabric at garage sales to continue my rug.  :)


sew lovely: a pretty yellow dress

I made this dress back in November over Thanksgiving break.  When I came across this yellow tablecloth with such beautiful details I knew it was destined to be a swishy, full skirted dress.  :)

For the skirt I followed the same circle skirt tutorial I used for the lovely green skirt I made a while back.  For the bodice I traced one of my t-shirts and added extra for the side seams and back zipper.  Speaking of the zipper, I ripped it out of a dress I outgrew and reused it for this dress.

Since the details in the fabric are see-through I knew the dress needed to be fully lined.  Black was my first choice but I didn't have any black fabric handy and I didn't want to waste the four day weekend simply because I didn't have a certain color of material.  I decided instead to use a light blue full bed sheet.  I think the two colors go together nicely.

I've made several dresses in the past using store bought patterns so figuring out my own simple pattern wasn't terribly hard.  Besides goofing up some of the seams I think it turned out wonderfully!  It reminds me of retro dresses from the 1950's.  :)