america's birthday {cake}

July 4th will be here soon!! I've always had tons o' fun on the forth of July.  When I lived back home in Portland, OR we always spent the forth at a Beavers baseball game (*rant).  They'd play ball, we'd hoop and holler, and when the game was over they'd shoot fireworks from the street and play really bad, super patriotic, country songs.  It was great.

In the last few years I've gotten even more intense about it. I love wearing ridiculous red white and blue outfits and painting my nails.  This year we're going to have a little get together so I've been scouting ideas on the interweb.  A few days ago I found this awesome cake!!



You might be thinking, "Hey Aly, some little flags does not a awesome cake make"
well to that I say scroll down my friend . . . 




WOW WOW WOW WOW!!
How cool is that?!
It's a lot of cake baking but it doesn't look too complicated




Lots of different circles.  Lots of different layers. 
And then Bam!


Sweet, Delicious America.



*rant. Recently Portland got rid of the Beavers, who I know weren't a major league baseball team, but a farm team is still baseball dammit!!!  The reason they sent away the baseball was because they purchased a soccer team . . . Soccer! What the Hell!!!  Now they have basketball and soccer, lame! No football no baseball!! So un-American!! That's my only complaint about Portland, it's missing the good sports.

wishful wednesdays {sunrooms/enclosed porch}

One thing this Lazy Lady does best is fantasize about the future.  I'm not very good at living "in the now," I'm always thinking about the next recipe we should make, or couch we should buy, or city we'll live in, or job I could have, and where we'll be in 1, 3, 5, or 15 years.  It's not really the healthy way to live, buuuut sometimes I come up with some really great futures. . . 

It's finally nice outside.  We've had some beautiful days but they don't last long, they're always sandwiched by a scorching day and a 40 degree drop with buckets of rain day.  But for the past week (knock on wood) it's been great, there's a threat of storminess just about everyday but so far the weather men have gotten it wrong.  Aaaaanyway, to my point, it's beautiful and sunny and all I want to do is curl of in a room of windows.

Living in an apartment can be pretty dark.  I don't know what it's like in all cities but here in Chicago everyone is squished so close together that the sun can only come in through the windows facing the street.  I remember one place lived in a few years ago, the window in my bed room faced the window in the stairwell (frosted of course).  Even in the middle of the day, if you turned the lights off, my room was pitch black.  This will probably be the first of many wishes about windows and natural light, it's just so hard to come by around these parts, I think about it all the time.

I started looking up sunrooms, and was overwhelmed by gorgeous spaces.  Some are for sitting, and some for work, and some are even for sleeping in.   Now a days any room can be wall to wall to ceiling to wall windows, but I'm limiting myself to the most common idea of a sunroom, a glass-enclosed porch/addition to the side of a house.


The cool colors in this room are so relaxing.  I love the painted floor, and that it wraps you in this calming blue-gray color.  It is also nice that this space is integrated into the rest of the house, i.e. the french doors opening from the breakfast nook.



This room is from the blog Young House Love.  I love seeing a room like this that has been re-vamped by the owners themselves.  Reading Sherry and John's blog is really encouraging.  So many other photos I find are of absolutely gorgeous rooms but they seem so out of reach.  Seeing a couple of real people take their own house and turn it in to something beautiful makes me confident that one day I will be able to do the same.

SF Conservatory eclectic exterior

Speaking of out of reach look at this beauty.  I would love to have a space like this.  You can hang out outside with your guests, have a little BBQ, and if anyone gets cold or if the weather turns they don't have to flee into the house, they can still be apart of the fun.  This just makes for a wonderful entertaining space.

Crisp Architects traditional

This space is actually very similar to one at a "camp" I went to in college (it was like outdoor art camp for grown-ups, where you'd earn college credit . . . it was awesome).  The main house had a wrap around enclosed porch that had spaces for sitting and for eating, just like this.  Although it wasn't nearly as clean and put together as this one considering it was covered in art kids living in the woods.  

Blackstone Edge Studios - Philip Clayton-Thompson traditional porch

I never said it had to be a big space!  Even if a little sliver of the house was surrounded by windows and the nature around you (or the big city buildings around you depending on our location) would be amazing.  Having a view like this wouldn't hurt either.

How about you?  Do you already have the perfect sun-filled sitting spot? Or, do you live in dark apartments like me?  
Tell me, I want to know!

would you care for some tea?

This past Saturday I went to the baby shower I had made the polka dot blanket for. I don't think I've been to a baby shower since I was about 10.  I'm at that age, now, where everyone I know is getting engaged and married, but I'm not quite at the point where everyone is getting baby crazy.  So, my memory of baby showers was a house in the suburbs where everyone wore pastels and played games that involved cute plastic safety pins, while I stood in the kitchen eating handfuls of pillow mints (also pastel colored) waiting for anyone to tell me I could start eating sandwiches from the large platter from Subway.

This, however, was much much different from when I was 10.  It was tea at the Peninsula.  You don't even need to know what "The Peninsula" is to think that that sounds pretty snazzy (it's a hotel near the magnificent mile).  It's the kind of thing I would image that old fancy socialite woman from the Simpson's saying in her huffy snooty voice.

"Oh my word, the ladies and I are having tea at the Peninsula, whilst our husbands race their yachts"

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, It Was Awesome! I've never been to "tea" before, and it was just as I imagined.  Tiny sandwiches on tiered trays, individual tea pots, and to top it all off there was a string quartet playing in a balcony behind us.  Everyone looked absolutely lovely without wearing any pastels, I had so much fun, although I'm pinching myself for not bringing my camera, so iPhone pics are going to have to do:


My perfectly put together place setting


My very own tea pot filled with my very own choice of tea (Peninsula Chai - it was delicious)


Every tea cup had this decorative strainer so no tea leaves would fall into your glass.  When you were done pouring it sat in that little silver cup behind my tea cup.


Tiny finger foods! Some people tried to eat with a fork and it just turned into a mess, I stuck with the pick-it-up-and-shove-it-in-your-mouth method . . .much classier.


One of the ladies that helped put the shower together is allergic to nuts, so they made an entire tower of nut free mini foods.  Oh, and to the right you can see the little pots of spreads for the mini scones; whipped butter, jam, and lemon curd!


The Sandwich Tier


The Dessert Tier


And my favorite thing out of all the miniature foods:
The lemon meringue squares.
It was little shortbread cookie boxes with lemon curd inside and a meringue puff on top.  So, so, so good. 

I had the best time, and felt so classy and maybe a little out of place.  I think we might have been a little more disruptive then their regular crowd, but that's what made it so fun!!


farmers market

So, what did I do with my 20 Farmers market dollars this Thursday??

I got some great lookin' veggies, and some tasty tasty breads!!


Marble Rye!


Focaccia!


Goat Gouda!


Tomatoes!


Thyme! (Andrew asked me to get some fresh thyme so we can make chicken and 40 cloves for dinner soon, delicious!)


Sugar Snap Peas!


Purple Baby Carrots! (or as they were labeled at the market "real" baby carrots)


Oh Yeah that's a pretty good haul!!!!

I do have a question for you though.
Can you eat carrot greens? There are so many greens attached to those tiny little carrots, it seems a waste to just throw them out.  Can I saute them like I would some kale????

wishful wednesdays {individual and goofy bookshelves}

One thing this Lazy Lady does best is fantasize about the future.  I'm not very good at living "in the now," I'm always thinking about the next recipe we should make, or couch we should buy, or city we'll live in, or job I could have, and where we'll be in 1, 3, 5, or 15 years.  It's not really the healthy way to live, buuuut sometimes I come up with some really great futures. . . 

Alright, I knew it would happen sooner or later, and last week it did.  I missed a wishful wednesday.  I was so busy wishin' I forgot to pay attention to the day of the week.  I thought it was Tuesday for most of the day Wednesday, that's how intensely I can daydream.  So, this week I want to continue my thoughts on the ever so vast options there are out there for bookshelves.  Last time I was dreaming about floor to ceiling built-ins, but those aren't an option for people, like me, who rent a tiny apartment.  There is no space, and I have no authority to install something so grand (unless I never want to see my security deposit again), so for now those are a pipe-dream.

Though a wall of books won't be happening in my near future, there are still many other ideas to choose from.  I must say the morning man and I are pretty lucky considering our landlord lets us put holes in the wall.  I know of so many apartments with so many decorating restrictions: no painting, no nails, no sticky substances, no wallpapering (which I understand unless it's that new fangled "removable wallpaper").  That's why we were able to put up those floating shelves, just a little patch and paint and no one will be the wiser.  We also moved into our apartment literally hours after the previous tenants moved out so we were left with funky colored or dirty white walls (needless to say, our landlord doesn't care if we paint "Just as long as we don't touch the moldings!!!!").

These are some of the book shelves I've found.  A few I would love to have in my apartment now, and most are just too fun to pass up.


I would have these interlocking shelves in my house in a second.  They are fun and a little unusual.  I like the different finishes, and that the wood and painted sections are at different depths.


This one is fun, it's from a design company Estudio Breder.  This bookshelf was an idea they created in 2007.  The idea that went along with the "Equation bookshelf" was to provide a way to divide your things in the order of priority. 
{Equation help you [to organize (your life) in priority] order}


This one is my absolute Favorite!!!  This bookshelf is from Munkii, and it is called "Vintage."  In their own words:

The design of Vintage proposes the blending of the flamboyant baroque style with the simplicity of the contemporary approach to achieve a bookshelf that will be easy to adept to any interior settings.

I think this is one of the most beautiful bookshelves I've seen, but I love it because it still has a little quirk to it. It's so intricate, and unique.  I want one!!


This is just plain cool.  The forth of July is coming up, so I've got to show a little American pride.  The designer of this book case is named Ron Arad, and the title he gave this piece: Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.  So strange, so awesome, 100% America.

How about you? Are these just too weird?  Would you like something a little quirky on your wall? Are you more into free-standing bookshelves or floating shelves?
Tell me,  I want to know!

steaks and blankets {part 2}

On Sunday the man went off to work with his friend Jesse on some side projects at the shop.  When they were done they picked me up and we went shoppin'! Not for clothes, or gadgets, but for meat! 

First we went to Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop


We had an awesome lunch, I had a tuna melt, Andrew had a crayfish salad sandwich, and Jesse had the tilapia sandwich, and for desert we had a brownie that was like a brick of fudge.  Right then and there Andrew decided we were having surf and turf for dinner, so we bought some great looking shrimp.

Then our plan was to get some meat at the Paulina Meat Market but after parking in their empty parking lot we realized that they're closed on Sundays (whoops!).  So I suggested we go to The Butcher &Larder

 I've been wanting to check this place out for a few months now.  I first heard about the new shop when we had made reservations at a restaurant named Mado for our firm's Holiday Dinner.  As our reservation came closer the more rumors we started hearing about the restaurant (and not the good kind).  We soon found out that the chefs behind Mado, Rob and Allie Levitt, left to follow their passion and open a butcher shop.  I've read up on their blog and the more I learned about their shop the more and more I wanted to try it out.  Rob Levitt has a wonderful love and philosophy regarding butchering.  If you're at all interested you should check out the blog and if you live in Chicago you need to check out the shop.  I love what he wrote, these are a few snippets from various posts on his blog before and after he opened the doors of his new shop.  It was hard to choose so I mashed a few together:



Are people going to go along with my idea that, if I don’t have the ribeye you came in for I can sell you something else…maybe a little more interesting? Are folks going to expect to walk in and get 6 pork bellies and 2 hams? This ‘whole animal’ thing is intimidating. Animals only have so much stuff on them, and when it’s gone it’s gone until the next round of animals show up.

I have been talking for some time about my desire to be the friendly neighborhood butcher. I went on about getting people to understand our mission to cut and sell the whole animal, not just the obvious parts.

I have to remind myself that what we are doing is our idea of what a butcher shop should be, and we proudly stand behind it. Delicious, responsibly raised meat and house-made meat products reasonably priced, and a crew of good people you’ll want to get to know, and trust. I have always believed that if you have a strong idea you are willing to go all out and risk everything for it is the right idea. And if it fails, at least you have your pride.


We went in to buy some steak.  My first ever steak.  I only started eating red meat in December when, at that holiday dinner (we switched our reservation to Spring), I ordered scallops . . . scallops on a bed of ox tail.  I couldn't ask for something else considering it was my own fault for not reading the menu completely, and I had to be polite as I was in the company of the Company.  And to my surprise I loved it and I never felt sick.   It.  Was.  Delicious.  !!.  

So, here we were, buying New York Strip Steak.  The man behind the counter brought out a huge hunk of meat, there were no pre-cut, pre-wrapped, this-is-how-much-I-think-you-should-have portions, just a slab of meat.  He asked how thick we'd like.  We got two one-inch thick slices and were on our way.  Andrew kept squeezing the parchment wrapped steaks and telling me how they were so tender he could use them as a pillow.

They were beautiful:


As was the Shrimp:


Andrew began to prepare the surf (shelling and de-veining them), as well as the turf (cutting slits in the fat so the steaks didn't curl up, and seasoning them with salt and pepper):


I just sat back and watched, I wasn't about to pretend that I had any idea of how to cook a steak.


And since he was already on steak duty it just made sense that he do the shrimp too:



I must say, it was pretty good:

(I'm not ready to try rare yet, not sure if I ever will be)

Since Andrew did all the cooking (except the mashed potatoes, that was my job), I decided I'd make us a little dessert.

From this:


To this:



In 20 minutes!!! YUM! It was a great Sunday night dinner!!!


steak and blanket weekend {part 1}

For the first time in a while I had a very productive weekend.  One of the ladies I work with is pregnant and she's having a baby shower this coming Saturday.  I'm super excited about it, (the shower and the little one it's for).  Every time someone in our family has a baby my mom makes them a baby quilt.  She always picks the cutest little fabrics and they're never too cutesy or power blue/baby pink.  Since I took the "Mitered Blanket" class at The Needle Shop I thought I'd give it a go and make a blanket for my friend.  I went to TNS and got some fabric, it was hard to find fabric that would work for a boy, I never noticed before how girly everything is.

I decided to go with Polka Dots! A personal favorite.  This is what I made:

First cut two squares. The "feature fabric" is a 33 X 33 square and the back and border is a 43 X 43 square.  Then fold them in half and marked the center of all four sides on both pieces of fabric with a fabric pencil.  Then, lay the fabrics "pretty sides" together with the smaller square on-top and match the center of the raw edge:


Pin the edges together and sew along the pinned edge starting and stopping a 1/2" in from the feature fabric:


Next match up the centers of the raw edges on the opposite side and do the same as before:


On the next side match up the centers by holding the corners on either side and pulling.  The feature fabric will pull up and you'll see where the fabric meets up.  It might be a tiny bit off from the centers (not too much) but that's o.k.:


Pin the raw edges together, and sew from seam line to seam line:


Do the same for the last edge but when you sew, switch to a basting seam in the middle for about 6" (back stitching before and after), just enough space to pull the blanket through:


Next step is the corners.  To create the "Mitered" corners fold the blanket in half diagonally.  Mark the end of your stitch line with a pin and draw a line that makes a 90 degree angle with the folded edge. Like so:


This type of ruler makes it really easy, if you line up a 45 degree angle with the ruler on your seam line, it will create the 90 degree angle for you.
Pin this together and sew along the drawn line:


Trim the edges to a 1/2" seam allowance:


After you've finished all your corners lay the blanket flat and press the corner seams open and the edge seams out from the middle:


The next step is to open your basting stitches and pull the blanket right side out.  Push out the corners and lay the blanket out flat and even.  There is just one more step.
So the blanket doesn't completely loose it's shape when it goes through the washer and drier you'll need to sew a seam line around the entire blanket on the inner edge of the border (where the two fabrics meet).  This will also close up your opening from pulling the blanket through.  Pin along the inner edge of the border all the way around the blanket and sew your last stitches:


It is also recommended that you sew another square in the center of the blanket to stabilize the layers even further but my colors are so different that I skipped that step.  (I also skipped it last time and it's worked out fine).

Here's my Blanket!!!:


(I look a little creepy peaking out from behind the blanket, and my lack of make-up doesn't help)
(Just as long as no one looks at the baby like that I think we'll be fine)

Up close shot:


What do you think? Is it manly enough for a baby boy??  I know there's a little pink in there, but this baby will be secure enough in his masculinity to pull it off, I just know it!


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