March 2013

A Little More Classy: Fabric Lined Cabinets

Yesterday, I showed off our living room and dining room, and revealed at how moving a little bit of furniture can transform a room. In the dining room, you may have noticed that  our Ikea hand me down cabinets looked a little more classy. That is because I lined the back of them with some fabric I found at JoAnn Fabrics for 40% off!

This is a project that I wanted to do for ages, and while I knew it would be a transformation, I cannot believe how much better these cabinets look.

I got a little help from A Thoughtful Place, and the quick tutorial on how to line cabinets with fabric. Now that I kind of had an idea of how to do this, I got to work.

First, I did the hardest part of the project, and measured the fabric to fit exactly to the back of the shelves. I did have a bit of an allowance because I thought it would be better to finish the edges to avoid fraying and also to make the edges perfectly straight.

As most of you know, I do not own a sewing machine, so it was time for Hem Tape again. Although, this time,  I had to use the non iron hem tape. The fabric I used is indoor outdoor fabric, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to iron it.

There are several no iron hem tapes out there (Fix it Fast). They work just like a double stick tape. First, you lay the tape where you want it on the fabric. Remove the backing. Then, fold over. It is very similar to iron tape, except NO IRON.

Once everything was measured and straight, I lined the fabric up, and hot glued it to the back of the cabinet with a large dot of hot glue in each corner.

NOTE: I could only do half of each cabinet at a time because of the shelf being in the way, so I only needed four large dots of glue. However, if you were using more fabric, or lining the back of an entire shelf, I would use more glue around the perimeter to make sure it stays in place.

Finally, I loaded the shelves back up.


I am so happy with this transformation! It was easy, inexpensive, and really made a big difference.

Living Room/Dining Room Updates

A few weeks ago, I announced that I was planning on painting the family room. Then, I talked about moving around some furniture, pretty much all of our living room and family room furniture.

Well… its done. All done. Whew.

Today, I’m going to be showing off the living room and dining room spaces.

Just as a reminder, here is what things used to look like.


Here is what everything looks like now.


The book shelves are where the kids toys used to be.


This is the dresser that we used as an entertainment center downstairs, but now it is perfect in the living room and holds all my table linens and extra serveware.


We rearranged the furniture a tad.


Then, I brought the desk back upstairs too. I finally have a place to sit and do a project, and then close the doors when I have to walk away.

Then we moved the glass cabinets into the dining room. If you look closely, I also added a little something (I will show you how I did it tomorrow).

I could not believe the transformation with just moving some furniture to different rooms. I feel like there is much more room, and better storage solutions for the space. My dream would be to have better seating and some more artwork, which pretty much means more projects 🙂

Have you every moved furniture and noticed a total transformation?

Rainbows and Clouds

I know that I am not the only one who has seen the various Pinterest photos of rainbows made out of fruit. They are all so adorable, and I thought it might be fun to make for the kids. However, I thought it might be fun to make some clouds too.

Instead of making clouds out of marshmallows, I whipped up a very easy and fruit dip that looks just like fluffy clouds.

Erin’s Cloud Fruit Dip
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 individual size of your favorite flavored yogurt (I used Chobani Strawberry)

In an electric mixer bowl with whisk attachment OR in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat whipping cream and sugar until whipped cream is formed with stiff peaks. Next, very carefully, fold in yogurt.

This was easy and borderline healthy.

Happy Monday!


Mariano’s, Family History, and Clover Quiche

Let me preface this whole post by saying, I have a thing for grocery stores. It is weird, I know. When I was a kid, my favorite thing was to join my parents on their weekly shopping trip. I loved checking out every part of the store. To this day, I love wandering around grocery stores thinking of all the things I can make.

Well, my favorite grocery store is here! It’s HERE! Mariano’s! For those of you outside of the Illinois/Wisconsin area, Mariano’s is a grocery store that recently made its way to my neck of the woods (no more driving to the city). It is like nothing I have ever seen before (for those that live in the upstate New York area, the closest comparison would probably be a Wegmans).

Mariano’s is a full service grocery store that carries all your favorite brands with prices comparable to other stores in the area, but it is unique with all the amenities they offer.

First stop, the wonderful bakery(two words: Chocolate Croissants).

The store also has great amenities that include gorgeous floral department, a fantastic deli, amazing produce department with an excellent organic section, and a fish and meat department that will prepare your fish and meat however you want for FREE while you wait. I think next time I am in a hurry, I will have them cook up some fajita mix, while I run and grab tortillas. Healthy dinner, on the go, and much healthier and less expensive than eating out or grabbing fast food!

Also, did I mention the do it yourself trail mix bar? Brian’s favorite trail mix is M&M’s, peanuts, and raisins. I surprised him with some trail mix, and made it just the way he likes it with extra M&M’s. Also, all do it yourself trail mix was a dollar off.

It also has a prepared food section with things to take home for dinner like homemade chicken pot pies or home made meatloaf. All you have to do is take it home and heat it up.

What I love most about Mariano’s so far is the convenience. They have a Hot Bar to pick up lunch or dinner, a gorgeous salad bar, (you can eat in the seating area or take home). Mariano’s also has a cafe (their French Kiss latte with Hazelnut and Vanilla is to die far),a smoothie bar, a sushi bar, a gelato bar, and fresh pizzas, BBQ, and sandwiches (the turkey with melted havarti cheese, arugula and apple slices is awesome) all made to order.

Typically, I don’t recommend grocery shopping while hungry, but at Mariano’s it is totally ok! Last Friday, I was able to tour the new store near me, and grab lunch for the kids. They had mac and cheese, fresh veggies, a fruit salad from the salad bar. To finish, I grabbed some fruit smoothies to keep them busy while we did our shopping (the police car shopping cart helped too).

Cheese is probably my favorite food group. My mother’s family is from the part of Ireland (Ballyporeen, County Tipperary) that is like the Wisconsin of Ireland, so it is in my blood to love all things dairy.

As you can imagine, during my tour of Mariano’s I quickly made my way to my favorite part of the store: The Cheese Section (which, coincidentally, is right next wine section my second favorite part of the store). I have never seen a cheese section like this before. They had six year sharp cheddars, smooth and creamy and reasonably priced brie, and a gruyere that was so wonderfully mild, I just HAD to use it in a quiche.

I grabbed a few other things and headed home to make a St. Patrick’s version of a quiche with lots of cheese as a nod to my Irish ancestry.

Erin’s Clover Quiche with Gruyere

1 frozen Pillsbury frozen pie crust
5 eggs
1/4 cup cream, half and half, or milk
2 or 3 scallions chopped
1/3 cup grated gruyere
2 tsp. fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

First, I carefully bent the metal pie tin into the shape of a clover by bending the opposite sides gently inward.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs, and add cream, scallions, salt and pepper and mix until well incorporated. Pour egg mixture into pie crust. Top with cheese and thyme.

Bake for 45 – 55 minutes.

I will be heading to Mariano’s again tomorrow. You know, just to hang out and get some cheese.

I was not paid or perked in anyway. I just love Mariano’s that much.

Linking up at Serenity Now for Weekend Blog Reading!


Chatting: Irish Soda Bread

This is a recipe that I can honestly say, I have only made once myself. It isn’t that it is difficult or time consuming. It is actually quite easy and a little different than a traditional Irish Soda Bread.


The reason I have only made it once, is my Mom makes it for everybody all the time, and therefore always has some in her house. She makes it when babies are born, when she is visiting a friend, when someone is sick, or when it is someone’s birthday. She gives it to the families of people who have suffered a loss, and people who have moved in next door. She brings it to people when she is stopping by for a chat. It is just what she does.
Last night, I stopped by to pick up the recipe to post, and of course she had a loaf that she has just made on the counter with the kettle on for tea. She grabbed my Grandma’s dishes, and we drank tea, ate soda bread, and had a chat. I’m so glad she lives only ten minutes away. It was nice to have her listen to my hellacious boot shopping trip with the kids or how we are in the middle of a project right now.
This recipe had originated with my Mom’s cousin Laura. We’ve been eating it all the time (not just on St. Patrick’s Day), and it kind of has a quick bread or cake consistency. If you slice it a little thicker and put it in the toaster it is delicious. Also, it makes two loaves, one for you, and one to share.
My favorite way to eat it is with just a little butter, a cup of tea, and a chat.
Laura’s Irish Soda Bread
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2-3 eggs (2 large 3 medium)
2 cups raisins
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 sticks butter (cold)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour two loaf pans, and set aside.
Put the raisins in a small bowl, and pour some very hot or boiling water over them and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside (this step is not necessary, but makes the raisins plump and delicious).
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Cut in butter, or mix until butter and dry ingredients are a cornmeal like consistency. Add raisins, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well incorporated.
Finally, add the egg mixture to the flour and butter mixture, and mix until just combined (do not over mix). Pour the mixture evenly into the to prepared loaf pans.
Bake for one hour or until golden brown.
Get your kettle ready and call a gal pal.

Reminders: Irish Wall

Last week, we finished painting the family room (will be sharing pictures soon), and I was putting back all the things on my Irish wall, and thought you’d all like to see a few of the beautiful things that remind me of my family.

What is an Irish wall you ask? When we were kids, my Mom put together a collection of all of the things people had brought her back from Ireland, her own travels there, and things she had collected over time. She put it all together and displayed it on the wall right near the front door. When I moved into this house, I really wanted to do the same thing, so I gathered up all my Celtic crosses, a map of Ireland, a few things from my Grandma, and a beautiful print of Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago that my sister gave Brian and I for our wedding (we were married there) and put together my own Irish Wall.

I have a few crosses that have been collected over time, the one on the far left is made of peat. My Mom bought it for me as a Thank You for house sitting while she was touring Ireland a few years ago. The one in the middle is made of Connemara marble. Friends of our bought it for us when they were in Ireland on their honeymoon.

This metal shamrock is something that my Grandmother had hanging in her house, and all my aunts and uncles have hanging in their house too. When I see it, I am instantly reminded of all the times we spent at her house.

I also have a map of Ireland that Brian and I bought in Savannah, GA a few years ago. This is kind of a little known fact, but there is a HUGE Irish population in Savannah, and the city has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country.

There are lots more trinkets, and reminders of family and travels. As I put these things back up on the wall, I day dream about when I get to Ireland someday. Hopefully soon.

What sentimental items do you have around your house? Do they have a theme?

Time to get back to work hanging all these things back up. Hopefully, I can have shots of the room for you next week.

LTYM Rehersal #1, Lucky Pants, and Family

When I think family, I think stories. Growing up, I used to beg my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, whoever I would be around to please tell me stories. I would want to know what it was like when they were kids, where they got married, what they ate, where they shopped, how they met, where they lived, where they worked, all their travels, all their jokes, all of their stories (when I think back on this, it is starting to make sense that I love writing stories now).

On Sunday, I walked into what unexpectedly seemed like a family reunion.


On Sunday, I met (in person) for the first time the rest of the cast members of the 2013 Chicago Show of Listen to Your Mother, and let me just say, I’m blown away. Not only by their words (which by the way were amazing, get your tickets, people!), but also because these women are awesome at life.

My niece, Emily has this saying, “I am awesome at life.” When she says it I smile, and agree with her. She is living her life her way, tries her best in whatever she does, and even if she fails, she is learning from the journey.

That is what I mean when I say these women are awesome at life. They are living life on their terms successfully and learning from the trials. These women who have shared a portion of their journey with me, carry themselves with such poise, humility, humor, grace, strength, and kindness. They are all extremely talented writers to boot (here is my second time reminding you to get tickets).

I was so nervous and scared walking into this room of women. I have to say I was pretty intimidated. I’ve only been “writing” for a short time, and I know there is a great deal I still need to learn. Also, after browsing some of their work, I was amazed by the talent, and thought, “Wow, I’m kind of not worthy, and definitely not funny or talented enough to be around this crowd.” (TICKETS!)

I bet you are all wondering what this has to do with my GREEN WEEK! Well, I wore my favorite kelley green pants. I wanted to wear something casual that would give me a little confidence, and since they are one of my new favorite things to wear, I thought they would do just the trick. After Sunday’s rehearsal, I’m thinking of calling them my Lucky Pants now. These women liked what I had to say.

While, the pants are cute, the kindness of the ladies was overwhelming, and it was these wonderful writers that helped me feel a little more relaxed an confident. Upon meeting just a few when I walked in, I knew I could take a deep breath, relax, and pretend I was at a family reunion.

To me, our little LTYM group is just that… a family. An eclectic and unique group of individuals with a nut (me) sharing our stories.

And to me, stories are family.

For more information on Listen to Your Mother click here. FOR TICKETS to Chicago’s May 5th Show, click here.

Green Week and a Tray Bake

This week, I am dubbing GREEN WEEK! I am going to share any and all things Irish leading up to one of my favorite days spent with my family. 

Today, I am sharing a recipe that has many variations in the US, but in Ireland is known as tray bake. It is one of those thrown together desserts that requires very little mixing and measuring, and is very easily thrown together.

It is graham cracker crust with a a variety of toppings and drizzled with condensed milk.

Today, I will be making a version based on this recipe that I recently saw on a fabulous Irish Cooking Blog, called Wee Kitchen. This is one of those sites that imediately makes me want to hop a flight to the Emerald Isle and see the house where my Great Grandmother was born, drink tea, and have a bowl of Irish stew. If you think Irish Cuisine is all things boiled, take a look at this site and see how diverse and wonderful it is.

Cherry Almond, and Chocolate Tray Bake

1 1/2 cups graham crackers crushed into crumbs
1/2 cup butter melted and cooled
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup dark or milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, almonds, and cherries in an even layer on top of graham cracker base. Finally, drizzle condensed milk over the top evenly.

Bake for 18 – 22 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Cool, cut, and serve. If it is still a little warm it is good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Snack Time: Cheesey Bread

Last week, I was in a cooking/baking frenzy. It was most likely due to the fact that I was procrastinating painting the family room. I knew that as soon as I started that project it was going to lead to a bunch of moving of furniture and our lives being topsy turvey for a week or so. We are in the middle of that project now, and I cannot wait to have a clutter free house.

With all the cooking and baking going on, I decided to make the kids a snack while they were helping me in the kitchen.
WARNING! This is one of those recipes that I threw together at the last minute, so I don’t have any accurate measurements for you.
First, I made this recipe for pizza dough that I made a few weeks ago. I then, rolled it out, and brushed it with some olive oil. Then I sprinkled some of my favorite Italian seasoning on the top, and a little bit of shredded mozzerella and parmesan.

This was one of the easiest hot snacks I’ve made, and the kids loved it. By the time Brian got home from work, there wasn’t much to share, so I guess I will have to make it again soon. 
It would be a great recipe to experiment. Some great combos would be:
– Chives and cheddar cheese
– Fresh herbs and garlic oil
– Sundried tomatos, basil, and fresh mozzerella
– Olives, tomatoes, red onion, and feta.
– Ripe pears, arugula, and gruyere

Do you have any ideas?

A Day of Firsts: SNOW DAY!

Yesterday, we got anywhere from 5 to 8 inches of snow.

We had a day of firsts. Since starting pre-school, this was the boys first official SNOW DAY! Since getting a new snow blower, this was Brian’s first real chance to use it. Since Caroline has been born, it was the first time she was actually able to play in the snow.

The snow day got called for everyone (Brian included), the night before. When we woke up there was no snow on the ground yet, so I ran to a new grocery store in town to check it out. When I walked out of the store, the snow was falling hard.

Brian made this ruler for the kids to see how much snow was falling throughout the day.

By mid-afternoon it looked like this.

While the kids were napping, I went outside and watched it the snow fall. It was so quiet.



Next, we bundled up the munchkins.

We played in the snow.



Then, they took hot baths and drank hot cocoa in their warm jammies. I loved having everyone home with nothing to do except play in the snow and snuggle on the couch. Why can’t every day be a SNOW DAY?!