One Year Ago Today

If you didn't know me one year ago today, let me tell you what was going on.  I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and we were expecting a freak and sudden snow storm.  We have rarely ever had snow in Connecticut in October, let alone a foot or more in one shot.  The power went out at about 4:20 that evening and didn't come back on for seven and a half days.  It was cold, the yard was destroyed, and, oh, yea....we ended up having a baby toward the end of it.  (You can read more here and here.) 

We never thought such bizarre weather would happen like this again, but one year later to the day, it's a monster hurricane.  Though we are lucky to be on the fringes of it this time, everyone is in panic mode.  Gas stations had lines for days, people were out buying up batteries and water, and generators once again cannot be found anywhere.  You lose power for a week and it affects you greatly.

Right now the wind is whipping and gusting from time to time, and it has been raining steadily for a few hours.  We are thankful that it is not snow this time, no matter what happens to the power.  One big concern here is that anything that snapped in the trees last year that didn't get removed could come down on the lines this time.

I hope that everyone in the path of this storm stays safe and I wish a fast return to electricity for anyone that loses it.

Holiday Guest Posters!

I need you! 

I'm looking to do a holiday series of posts and would love 
to have some of my fabulous readers as guest posters.

Topic include:
  • Holiday craft/decor/etc. DIY or tutorial
  • Holiday recipe
  • Your holiday traditions
  • Handmade holiday gift finds: kids, home, guys, cards, decor, and so on
 I have several amazing posters already lined up- would you like to join them? 
If you're interested and would like more information, please leave me a comment with your e-mail
or e-mail me at miloandmollyshop @ gmail .com

Also, there's just one week left to join in the Handmade Holiday Swap!
There are 16 of us exchanging handmade goodies this holiday season so far.
Have you signed up yet?

Toasted Ravioli

When I make a soup or stew, I often have leftovers (or sometimes make extra just so) that I freeze to have for supper another night.  This is particularly helpful on those days where we are busy almost into suppertime and I don't feel like making anything.  However, if it's leftover soup, I want to have something with it.  You need to have a little something extra with soup, you know?  The other night I planned to reheat this wonderful sweet potato and lentil soup and I made toasted ravioli to go with it.

They are so good and so incredibly easy.  Here's the thing, though, and I hate to burst your bubble: they aren't really toasted- they are good old fried.  It's just one of those fancy names to make them sound even better than they actually are.

I think I found a link to the idea on Pinterest but I tweaked it to suit my own needs to make it fast and easy.  So here's what you do:

Toasted Ravioli

One package fresh pasta ravioli- I used Buitoni's Quattro Formaggi Angnolotti (do not use frozen ravioli- see not below)
One egg
Italian-flavored breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
Marinara sauce, for dipping

Heat your oil over medium-high heat in a deep pan, using about an inch of oil.  In a shallow bowl or plate, sprinkle breadcrumbs.  In another bowl, crack your egg and beat it slightly.  Dip the ravioli in the egg to coat, and then roll the ravioli around in the breadcrumbs until the are covered.  Once the oil is heated, working in batches, add a single layer of pasta to the pan, frying until the crumbs start to turn a golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Be sure to flip them to get both sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with marinara sauce on the side.

*Notes on frying:

1. I read in Cooking Light magazine awhile ago that deep-frying is not as bad for you as it's made out to be as long as you do it properly.  This means that the oil is up to temperature and when you put the food in, it starts to sizzle right away.  The sizzling is cooking the coating and sealing the food in.  If the oil is not up to the proper temperature, and doesn't start sizzling immediately, then your food is sitting in the oil, soaking it up.  Despite this, I wouldn't go around deep-frying things every day, but on occasion should be alright.

2. There are a few ways to check the oil's temperature.  The safest one is a candy thermometer.  The oil should be around 375 degrees for this recipe.  The easier, faster, and more dangerous way is to flick a drop of water into the oil.  Oil and water don't mix, especially hot oil, so the water will cause the oil to pop if it's hot enough.  The problem with this is that if you put too much water in, it can really explode all over the place.  We've had this happen, and the floor ends up slippery, and I worry about it getting into the burner flame.  We probably shouldn't do that anymore.  But I tell you this to explain that because of the oil-water combustion, this is why frozen ravioli would NOT be a good idea.  Please use fresh pasta (usually found in the deli case)- it's a lot safer and easier, and they probably taste better too.  Be safe and do it right and you can enjoy this:


Showering the Baby

Yesterday was finally the baby shower for my BFF that I mentioned on Friday.  It was a very lovely, smallish affair and I had a very nice time chatting with friends I don't get to see often enough.  It was nice to be able to sit, chat, and have someone both make me food and clear away the dishes.  It doesn't take much.  I also didn't take any pictures, except one Instagram of the table flowers.  Oops.

However, I have lots of photos of my handmade gift, which I have been working on forever, or maybe it just seems that way.  I am generally a good handmade gift maker, just not a good handmade gift planner.  Gus's birthday gift quilt this past year was finished right around midnight on his birthday eve.  I didn't want to repeat that, so I actually planned and starting working weeks ago.  The plan was for a quilt and some bibs and burp cloths.  And then I added a few things.

Because they aren't finding out what the baby is going to be, they went with a yellow and gray theme, so I picked out the gray bundle of Seaside fabric by Riley Blake.  I loved the feminine/masculine play on the patterns.

I based the bibs on ones that we have for Gus and Greta, with a velcro closure around the neck, and a nylon lined pocket for easy cleaning.  There actually ended up being 4 burp cloths in all.

As for the quilt, I am so thrilled with it.  I wanted to do a chevron stripe quilt, which I thought would be slightly complicated for me, having only made one other quilt, but I followed this awesome tutorial that I found on Pinterest, and it was so easy (relatively speaking).  There are actually no triangles involved in the design, so that helped a lot.

There was a little bobble in the lineup right in the middle, and I didn't notice it until I was done piecing the top, but I left it.  It's a handmade gift and I think it gives it character.  Or at least that's what I tell myself.  This is truly a baby quilt- it didn't even take up a yard of fabric for the backing, but it will be perfect to lay baby on now and could make a good blankie later.

I also ended up making a little flannel lovey backed with the softest cuddle fabric ever, and a little giraffe toy made with the quilt's backer fabric.  Tied up with a yellow ribbon, it made a pretty stack!

I'm so pleased at the way they turned out, and it was so nice to celebrate such a happy occasion.

How was your weekend?

Oh, It's Friday!

Friday is here!  Hooray!  That actually means nothing to me anymore since there are no Fridays for me, but it does mean that hubby will be home the next two days, which is awesome.

Here's what's going on over here right now.  Most of it is making me crazy and I don't know which thing to focus on when I have a scant amount of free time.

1. We are painting our kitchen cabinets, which I may have mentioned (ha!).  If you follow me on Instagram, you know we have been painting, and painting, and painting.  Four coats in all of primer and paint, and we've only gotten the cabinet bases done.  All the doors and drawer fronts are in the basement.  Not painted.  Or primed.  The bases we have only been able to paint when the little ones are in bed because paint and little hands do not mix, which means we have been painting roughly from 8-10pm and that is no fun.

2. Baby shower this weekend!  My BFF in real life is due with her first baby in December.  Baby unknown gender will be following a yellow and gray theme, and I decided to make all my gifts.  Yes, make.  I know.  But for once I started early and the pile is done.  I'll share more of that on Monday.  You may have seen a sneak peek on Instagram.  Just know that after painting the cabinets I then would head to my sewing room to work on gifts.  Yep, after.

3. I am doing my second craft show next weekend, so in addition to the gift-making there has been the product-making.  I have a huge list of stuff I want to have made.  I am kind of making a list for what I'd like to accomplish each day, not leaving it all to the end, which is helping, but still, I am feeling overwhelmed.

4. Keeping up with Etsy and blogging.  In trying to do all the IRL stuff, I want to make sure that I'm here and paying attention to my blog and shop.  I still can't seem to manage to do both well.  If you haven't read these two posts this week, please do!  Handmade Holiday Swap / Free Advertising and Guest Posts  I am so excited about both and I think they are great ideas and I'm looking for people to join in and interact.  I've gotten back to almost everyone who's contacted me so far.  Bear with me- I promise I'm going as fast as I can.

5. Once the craft show is over, then I have to make/alter Halloween costumes and get a birthday party together because Greta is going to be one.  Was that a fast year for anyone else?

I feel like my mind is going in too many directions at once- at the household chores/kids/cooking thing isn't even factored in.  I'm looking forward to getting through some of these big events so I can have a little bit of a breather before the whole Thanksgiving-slides-into-Christmas time gets here.

What's going on in your life right now?  Any big events making you crazy?

New Friends, Old Friends, and Presents

I have been doing a lot of thinking.  
About my blog, about networking, about advertising, and about connecting with people online.  

Pardon me if I ramble for a minute.  I promise I have a point.

I have met some amazing people here in the interwebs, and even though we have not met in real life, I would definitely consider them friends.  If you blog or have an online shop or business, or participate in any of the other thousands of types of social media out there, then you understand about connecting with people and making friends online.  These are the people you chat with, always visit their blogs, respond to their tweets, repin their ideas.  Your own little group.  As I bounce from blog to blog and watch my Twitter feed go by, I notice that certain people always respond to others.  They sponsor each other's blogs, they buy each other's stuff.  Some of them have been lucky enough to meet in real life  This is fantastic, but some people find this clique-y and don't feel like they can break into an already-formed group.

And so all this starting me thinking.

I have been thinking, semi-seriously for awhile, about paying for advertising on other blogs.  As my shop grows and as my blog grows I thought it might be nice to put myself out there in other venues.  Perhaps larger blogs are the place to start.  I debate on whether it's worth it, and if, indeed, it will it help.  I see offers of free advertising that doesn't actually turn out to be free, which is seriously disappointing.  It's hard to make a decision.

I have been thinking of doing some kind of a swap for the holidays because it's fun to send to and receive things from people.  I was initially thinking a card swap, but I have seen so many other cool swaps out there, I wanted to try and think of something more.  I often have ideas like this to try and connect with other people out there, but they don't usually take off.  I want to do something that will work.  But what to try?

And so, as I lay awake at night running my large to-do list around in my head, making plans for new products, thinking of what needs to be done the next day, and sort of wishing that just the act of thinking about stuff would actually accomplish the items I've also thinking about all of this stuff.  It's been mulling in there, stewing for awhile.  And finally, I came up with an idea.

An idea to connect some of the friends of friends that I have online 
as a way to introduce us to each other.

Starting ASAP I would like to offer free advertising here on my blog.  Totally free.  No money exchanged, no product reviews, no giveaways required, nothing like that.  If you have a blog or an online shop and would like some promotion, I would be happy to have you here.  I would be happy to do an interview, but I would also like to do a series of holidays posts, with ideas from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  I would love to have a series of guest posts offering tutorials, DIYs, or recipes of some sort.  I would be happy to put your button in my sidebar, or give you a quick shout-out in a Finds post.  And I definitely want to do a swap- a handmade holiday swap.  More details on that tomorrow.

The only thing you need to do is tell your friends.  If you do a post, invite them to come by and read it.  Send them this link and tell them it is free advertising.  Tweet this out or pin it on Pinterest.  So your online friends can meet other groups of online friends.

Because you never know who you're going to meet.

This is not the largest blog, but I have fantastic readers, and
you never know who will read your post or see your button.

And who wouldn't like some new friends?

If you're interested in one or more of the above suggestions, or if you have an advertising idea of your own, please leave me a comment with an e-mail address at which to contact you, or send me an e-mail at miloandmollyshop @ gmail . com.  I really hope this idea takes off.

Good for a Laugh

I didn't really have a post planned for today, so I was thrilled to see this graphic on Pinterest last night, which caused me to crack up immediately.  I'm sure at least one of you can relate.

Pretty Dishes

I figured that right in the middle of the kitchen disaster would be a good time to share my favorite dishes.  The cabinet doors are off (ahhhhhh!) so I could get some good shots.  (Relatively speaking.  The only day we've had sun in the past week or so, we weren't home all day.  Typical.)

This is Polish Pottery, which started with my mom and aunts collecting it, which turned into me and a few of my cousins collecting it.  It is gorgeous, heavyweight pottery that is hand-painted by artisans in Poland.  Each piece is quite intricate, detailed on both the inside and outside.  When the hubs and I got married we decided that instead of registering for china we'd ask for a set of these dishes instead (building on all the serving stuff we already had) because they are perfect for both everyday and formal use.  I really love the rounded mugs because they hold a ton of tea at once, and I love the mix-and-match style of it all because you get so many different patterns but they all coordinate.

You can find this style online on ebay and other places, in gift shops, sometimes in TJMaxx/Marhsall's/Home Goods, and if you happen to watch, sometimes on QVC.  The lady who most of this stuff if from sells on QVC and sells out in record time, but we happen to live somewhat close to her warehouse so we can go pick what we want.  It also makes for lovely gifts.

I can't wait until it is all behind its lovely glass doors again.

My Kitchen Is Driving Me Crazy / The Reno Begins

Ever wonder what it would be like to have an open kitchen with nothing hidden behind doors?  No?  Well, let me tell you how it is.  It's AWFUL.  I feel like I'm going insane.  I keep wanting to close the doors but there ARE NO DOORS.  Plus I feel like we have so. much. stuff.  But we really don't!  We're not hoarders or anything.

Additionally, we tried to keep the baby out to keep her from pulling everything out, but she managed to weasel her way through our elaborate blockade:

Apparently small children can crawl under things like that.

Anyway, we are going to rid ourselves of the brown "coffee glaze" cabinets by painting them white.  If all goes well, I'll let you know how we did it.  We are also going to trade in the vegetable back splash and the "stone" Formica counter tops.

Perdy, huh?

Down on the Farm

We spent the morning on a preschool field trip to a local farm.  Fifteen three-year-olds plus a few siblings and parents and two teachers.  We were quite a group.  They had a great time- feeding the animals in the various pens, including the smelliest pigs ever, chickens, llamas, ostriches, goats, sheep, and rabbits; a hayride pulled by a large tractor; and finished up with a snack.  Plus, Gus and I picked out a few pumpkins to take home.  The only thing that was slightly annoying was the grandmother next to me on the hayride who started to spout off on the upcoming election.  I kind of wanted to push her off the wagon.  Talk about the wrong time and place.  Thankfully we had absolutely gorgeous weather and equally gorgeous views, so that made up for it.

Happy Friday!

It's a Mudroom!

We have been working our behinds off trying to get the mudroom finished by our designated finish date- by the end of September.  Well, we did it, but it's been cloudy so it was hard to take pictures.  Our entry hall started out cramped, crammed, and dark.  It ended up light, bright, and totally huge (ok, not huge but bigger).

The original entry hall featured the washer and dryer butted up to a former coat closet made pantry.  I don't think I got any pictures of the room intact (oops) but the washer and dryer have been out of the space since around January 2011 anyway (see basement finish) so there wasn't a ton to photograph when we started.  That, and it's such a small space that the photos are at very odd angles.  I'll do my best.

The pantry sans door (the entry door is off to the right):

Entry door and window:

 Pantry closet removed, you can see the plumbing from where the washer and dryer were:

Coat hooks located conveniently behind the entry door, and also too closely spaced together:

 Cram-jammed pantry closet.  This is just the bottom half:

The pantry door.  Notice how it cuts off the rest of the room when open.

If we just got home from somewhere, between hubs, me, Gus, Greta (then in the infant carrier), and Casey the poodle were all struggling to get in because that closet took up so much immediate space, even though it wasn't a large closet.  We also wanted to add a half bath for guests since our house only had two bathrooms, one upstairs and one in our master bedroom when we closed in the wall.

The results are fabulous and I just want to hang out in there.

From the kitchen- the entry door:

I made the curtains.  I bought this modern mod fabric to make a handbag.  I think I like it better in here.

We decided to reuse the hook racks, spacing them out a lot more.  The bottom one is just low enough for Gus to be able to hang his own things up.  The chalkboard is from the dump.

Baskets for the gloves and hats that are everywhere in the winter, and a boot box to store shoes and sit on.

This small cabinet I found at the dump unfinished.  The inside has our phone chargers, and we hung it right next to a plug.  Key hooks at the bottom.  New shutters on the window.  Awesome free printable from pen & paint on the wall.

New half bath!

This whole space feels so much bigger to us, even though it's the same size, and we even stole a few feet for the bathroom.

Next up- the kitchen.  Hubby's out buying cabinet repainting supplies as we speak.