Thanks for Stopping By!

WELCOME! I'm so happy you came to check out my little corner of the world! If you're not already a follower I hope you choose to follow Real Housewife of Maine as I have a lot of fun projects, recipes, and book reviews on the way! If you're already a follower, welcome back!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pinned Down: No-Sew Ruffled Tote Bag

So I've been seeing several versions of ruffled tote bags on Pinterest, and think they are the cutest. With a little one, even though I don't generally bring a diaper bag anymore, I still have to carry around wipes, clothing changes, snacks, random toys and found objects . ..  you know, preschooler "stuff."

After seeing several versions, all varying in complexity, I decided to make my own no-sew version of a bag. I have a sewing machine, but it usually just ends up frustrating me, especially when I'm trying to do ruffles.

To make my version of the bag you need:
Plain canvas tote bag (I got one at Hobby Lobby for about $3)
4 different, coordinating fabrics, cut into 3" x 24" strips (I used De-Lovely, from Cosmo Cricket)
Hot glue gun

After cutting the fabric using a rotary cutter, I "hemmed" the pieces using the glue gun. I folded over the short ends and adhered with glue, and then folded over about a quarter inch on one of the long sides and adhered with glue.

Starting at the bottom, I added a line of glue about 3-4 inches long (don't work too far ahead, since the glue will cool and harden). I adhered the unfinished edge of the fabric along the glue, gathering every few inches to make the ruffle. Continue to glue and gather across the bag, until you have a full ruffle.

Repeat the same process with the remaining fabric strips, hemming and gluing, overlapping each layer. At the top, I covered the unfinished edge with some recycled twill tape, and embellished with a rolled fabric flower. The whole thing took about 45 minutes.  In fact, it was so easy that I think I'll make a few more to give as gifts. They would be so cute as an alternative to gift baskets!

Until later . .. happy pinning!

Linked at:
Positively Splendid

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pinned Down: Best Stuffed Peppers Ever

Happy Monday! Hope your week is off to a great start!

So when I was a kid, my mother used ot make Stuffed Peppers for dinner every now and then. Her recipe was fairly traditional -- ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, cheese. They were delicious, and I loved them   . ..  so much that I added her recipe to my repertoire when I started cooking.

When I was cruising Pinterest, though, I found this recipe, boldly labeled the "Best Stuffed Peppers Ever." Curious, I pinned the recipe. I'm a sucker for anything called "best ever."

Then peppers and sausage went on sale at the Hannaford, and I decided to try them out. And holy moly, sweet fancy bananas . . . these weren't my mom's stuffed peppers.

Sorry, mom. I think I have a new recipe.

The recipe comes from the blog Cut Out + Keep, and calls for sausage instead of ground beef, and adds a delicious little spice called Sazon. Why I have never tried Sazon is beyond me. I found it in the international section of our sad little grocery store (which means it's probably not all that hard to get, since I actually had a hard time finding coconut milk at that store a few weeks ago). It's made by Goya, and has a nice little kick to it.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use regular Italian sausage instead of the hot, since the hot tends to be mean to me and aggravates my reflux issues. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter . .. and as the blogger says, total pleasure overdose. These really were the Best Stuffed Peppers Ever.  Here's how they looked:

Looks delicious, no?

Of course, the picky little one wouldn't touch these, so we had plenty of leftovers, which were just as delicious the next day. So I would call this another Pinterest winner!

Until later . ..  happy pinning!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Obsessions this Week

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone is having a super wonderful weekend -- I got to spend some fun family time yesterday, and we're headed to a snow tubing park today to take advantage of the foot of snow that fell the other day. Fun!

So here are my obsessions this week . . . and two of them are actually rather housewife-y. Go figure.

Purex Crystals
So I have a front loader washing machine, and if you have a front loader, you know about "the stink." Something about the design of the machines makes it easier for mold and fungus to grow in the machine (eew) causing the machine to stink -- which makes your laundy stink too. I clean my machine every other week with bleach, but I still notice an aroma, particularly on my towels. Maybe I'm just super sensitive?
Anyway, these little miracle crystals have pretty much solved the problem. A capful of these babies tossed in the wash (in the drum -- not the fabric softener or soap dispenser) makes everything smell nice -- and it lasts. Love!

Big Oven

Have you discovered Big Oven yet? It's kind of like, another favorite. Users submit recipes, other users rate them, you can store your favorites . ..  it's a super resource when you're like "What the heck do I do with this chicken?" I found a meat loaf recipe there last week that was A-mah-zing (as Penny on "Happy Endings" would  say)  . ..  especially considering I don't like meat loaf.

Considering the amount of snow we got this week, flip-flops might be a bit premature, but I don't care. I'm a flip-flop girl, and as soon as it gets near 50 degrees, I lose the socks and clogs and bust out the flops.
Last year I discovered Switchflops, and my life was changed. I probably have about 30 pairs of flip-flops (I'm not exaggerating) but with these, you really only need one pair. The straps are Velcro, and you can switch them whenever you want to match your outfit or your mood. And the straps are adorable (I have my eye on Carlouel -- it has a mermaid on it!) and vary from super simple to fancy-schmancy. Lindsay Phillips, the genius designer, has created several styles of shoes that all take the interchangeable straps, but my favorite are the Lulu. They are actually comfy -- I wore them for hours walking around Epcot last summer and didn't feel like I was going to die. I definitely plan to pick up a few more pair this year!

So those are this weeks obsessions . .. what are you loving this week?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blog of the Week: Chick Lit is not Dead

Chick Lit is not Dead

Like so many people, I fell in love with Chick Lit when I read "Bridget Jones's Diary" back in the late 90's. I actually read the now-classic on a plane from Boston to Denver, and literally lol'ed more than once. I was 22, just out of school, and thought "Finally, a book for me!"

Since then, I've read literally hundreds of books in the genre -- some better than others. For every Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin, there's a JW or EG knockoff, a book so fluffy and lacking in substance that I'm afraid it will blow away in a strong breeze.

And then the rumors started, the eye-rolling accompanied by the phrase "Chick Lit is Dead." No one wants books about girls about town, looking for love and happiness. No one wants pink covers and happy endings.

To them, I say "Whatever."

Which is why I LOVE this blog, "Chick Lit is not Dead." Liz and Lisa are awesome, highlighting the best in chick lit books and authors, proving without a shadow of a doubt that chick lit is not, in fact dead. It's just evolved.

I love this blog for so many reasons. The interviews, the highlights of new books, the insights into other thigns in the chick lit universe. If you like this type of book at all, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review Friday: A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

My literary tour of the South continues this week with Joshilyn Jackson's latest, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. Maybe it's just that we're in what feels like the longest, coldest time of the year here that's making me want to escape south of the Mason-Dixon line?

I read Jackson's Gods in Alabama a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and I'd heard good things about this book, so I was excited to read it. And I wasn't disappointed. A Grown Up Kind of Pretty is the story of three generations of Slocumb women -- Ginny, a matriarch at the age of 45, her daughter Liza, a beautiful, wild and troubled 30-year-old, and Liza's daughter, Mosey, who just turned 15. Ginny believes that trouble comes to the Slocumb women every 15 years, and her theory is proven correct when Liza suffers a stroke at the school picnic, and a tiny skeleton surfaces in her backyard when the willow tree is cut down.

Like the gnarled roots of the willow tree, Jackson weaves a complex story, equal parts mystery and family saga. Each woman tells her own story -- Ginny, and her desire to protect and heal her family while also finding love of her own; Liza, with a brain addled by the effects of a lifetime of drug use and the stoke, struggling to recapture her memories and communicate the truth to her mother and daughter; and Mosey, fighting the current of expectation from her mother, grandmother, and the small Mississippi town that had already labeled her as trouble before she even started kindergarten -- and trying to discover her true identity.

Jackson is a master of characterization, and she created three separate, but familiar, characters, that are familiar but not cliched -- and I loved them all. Despite the fact that their Baptist belt neighbors had dismissed the Slocumb women as whores, not worthy of kindness or forgiveness, Ginny, Liza, and Mosey actually demonstrate the Christian values of forgiveness, love, charity, and kindness more than anyone else. Some of their actions may fall within legal gray areas, but also beg the question of when is it okay to do wrong in the name of the greater good -- and when are appearances deceiving?

Jackson is a master of the clever turn of phrase, and some of her expressions and descriptions were laugh out loud funny. My only quibble with the book is with Mosey's chapters, which are heavy on teen slang and text-speak. While important for establishing character, I found it a little annoying at times -- maybe I'm just showing my age? At the same time, I found myself most engaged with Mosey's sections of the story, perhaps because they were the most action-oriented and revealed the most about the mystery of the skeleton in the yard and Mosey and Liza's backstory.

Minor quibbles aside, though, I loved this book and highly recommend it. Ginny, Liza, and Mosey will stay with you long after you finish the final page . . .I was actually sad to see it end.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pinned Down: Monogram Wreath

Morning all! Happy Thursday! Thursday mornings are always a little rough for me, since I usually stay up late to watch "Revenge." Seriously, if you aren't watching that show, you need to be. As much as I love my reality shows, "Revenge" is a reminder of why good scripted shows -- with actual actors -- will always be king.

Anyway, today I have another Pinterest-inspired project to share. Like a lot of people, I like to change my doo decor every few weeks, but wreaths are so expensive. I have a few things that I rotate throughout the year, but needed some new ideas.

I found this idea on Pinterest a few months ago, and loved it. And when I started to work on this project, I loved it even more. Super simple -- this took less than an hour to make!

Cute, no? The original version had more rolled fabric flowers, but I went with a simpler version.

To make this wreath you'll need:
1 18-grapevine wreath
1 chipboard letter (I got mine at Hobby Lobby)
Burlap (about 1/2 yard)
fabric (about 1/4 yard; I used a fat quarter)
glue gun

First, cut the burlap into a strip, about 2 inches wide, and wrap it around the letter, securing it with hot glue. This was one of those times that I wished my last name was an easy letter, like U or C, but I managed.

Next, make your rolled flowers. If you don't know how, there are a gazillion tutorials out there on how to do it. I simply cut a strip of fabric, folded it in half, knotted one end, and then rolled the fabric around the knot, twisting as I went. Add a few drops of hot glue every so often to secure the flower. Once you're happy with the flower, add your embellishments. I used some buttons that I stacked for interest, but you could use almost anything.

Finally, arrange the monogram and the flowers how you want on the wreath, and secure with glue. Add a ribbon for hanging, and voila! A pretty, easy wreath. You could adapt this wreath for the different seasons using different fabrics--I'm thinking about making a brighter version for the summertime.

The only problem I found with this wreath is that I have to hang it inside my mudroom. Fabric and chipboard + late Maine winter/early spring is a recipe for disaster. I'll have to come up with something else for outside.

Until later . . . happy pinning!