Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Comparing beds

Speaking of my grandma (in this post) I couldn't help but noticing how similar our taste can be sometimes. While browsing through her house and taking note (and lots of pictures) of things that inspire me, I just couldn't resist taking some pics to compare her bed to ours. I guess that saying may be right...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...or maybe I just had some good inspiration growing up. Check it out yourself...

My grandma's bedroom

And ours.

Here's another look...
My grandma and grandpa's bed...

...and ours. So similar, right.

And lastly, this is a picture of me from when I was little that my grandma has had in their room for as long as I can remember. And next to it is a wedding picture from when Matt and I got married.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Silver Tea Set: Before and After

Last July I scored a lot of good finds at an antique show at a high school in Eagle River, Wisconsin. One of them was this silver tea set. There was one booth filled with neon beer signs and retro bar paraphernalia. Amongst all the beer glasses and deer themed garb was this lovely silver tea set...and for super cheap!

My grandma was with me (who is incredibly knowledgeable in the area of antiques, more on that another time) and so she took a look and said that it was quality silver and a very good find (her guess is that it's from around the 1930's). She even offered to help me polish it eight months later I took her up on that offer! I thought I'd share the results...


My grandma scrubbing away


Here is a close up of the tray before...

and after...
So beautiful! I loved the tea set before but I'm glad I decided to shine it up. We left some of the pattern less polished because it really brings out the details.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Filet Mignon Roast with Red Wine and Shallot Sauce and Roasted Asparagus and Onions

It was Matt's birthday this week and he decided to request some of his favorite food rather than go out to a restaurant. He said as long as there was steak or beef and cheesy potatoes (Johnson style) then he would be happy. It turned out really good so I will definitely be making it again at some point. And I had forgotten how good Johnson style cheesy potatoes are!

The Recipe:
For the roast:
- Filet Mignon roast (I used a 1 lb. 'Steakhouse Marinated' one from Trader Joe's, if I hadn't bought a marinated one then I would have marinated beforehand)
- salt and pepper
- about 5 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces

For the Sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 3/4 bottle red wine (I used a Cabernet)
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons honey, to taste

The Method:
- preheat oven to 350 degrees, tie meat with kitchen twine in at least two places, season meat with salt and pepper and let sit out of fridge for about 30 minutes (to get to room temp.)

- put onion and asparagus into the bottom of roasting pan, toss with 3 Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper

- heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a pan and sear roast on high heat for a few minutes on each side or until each side looks like this...

brown crust=good flavor! It honestly smelled exactly like Ron of Japan in here while it was searing (Chicago people know what I'm talking about!)

- place roast directly on the bed on onions and asparagus and finish off cooking in the oven. It will take about 40-45 minutes to reach 145 degrees (medium rare) on a meat thermometer.

- when meat is finished, place on cutting board and tent with foil for at least 10 minutes before slicing (to keep all the juices in)

You can make the sauce while the roast is in the oven:

- heat last 2 Tablespoons olive oil in the same pan that the roast was seared in (to pick up the left over bits of flavor)
- add chopped shallots, season with salt and pepper, saute for a few minutes or until shallots are soft
- add red wine (take pan off the heat to do this so you don't start a fire!) and simmer on low heat until almost all of the liquid is gone (this will take the whole time the meat is roasting)
- remove from heat and add honey to taste
- to serve, slice meat and spoon some sauce onto each piece

The finished product...

Also, this was the first time we have ever used our china and nicer flatware! I know, a little late, right? It just feels too special to use or something but this special occasion and beautiful meal felt like the perfect reason to break it in.

And it wouldn't be complete for Matt without some chocolate. I wish I said I made this too but it is a store bought French Silk Pie. Oh well, it was delicious!

Happy Birthday Matt!

Extra tips:
- You can use a roasting rack instead of putting the meat directly on the veggies but I like the way the meat drippings flavor the veggies when sitting right on top.
- I roasted at 350 degrees cause I was making the potatoes at 350 but you could also do at higher temp. for shorter amount of time.
- My usual philosophy is that meat is always better with a good sauce but this meat was so good it didn't need anything extra. But when I do make this again I will probably try it with a different sauce just for variety's sake.

Alleys and Dumpsters

To add to the post below, aka taking random pictures during the day; here are some pictures I took behind the alley at World Relief. I love how the sun made these dumpsters and scraps look beautiful.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I don't know about you, but when I see something beautiful, no matter how random it is, I just have to take a picture of it. Kind of like the feeling that you have to tell someone when they have something in their teeth or it will drive you crazy. So I always have my camera with me (which is in serious need of an upgrade) for when these moments arise.

I usually end of looking like a crazy person in these moments...waiting for the bus, frantically getting my camera out, taking as many pictures as I can (of seemingly nothing to on-lookers) before the bus gets there. Oh well...I embrace those crazy looks.

So here are some pictures I took yesterday morning. I loved the way that the intricate branches looked against the background of the sky and how the light makes it look like a black and white photo even though it's not.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seared Pork Chops with Granny Smith Apple and Onion Sauce

Here's another Elsa original recipe. So simple but so good...enjoy!

The Recipe:
  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil (some for pork chops and some for sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

The Method:
  • Place pork chops on a plate and season both sides well with salt and pepper and the thyme. Rub 2 of the tablespoons of olive oil on them and let sit (out of the fridge in order to get to room temp.) for about 30 min.

The sauce: (you can start while the pork is marinating)
  • Heat small saucepan and add butter and the rest of the olive oil.
  • Once butter is melted, add chopped onions and apples and turn heat to low. Season with some salt and pepper.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar, stir and let saute/simmer for 20-30 minutes (stirring occasionally to prevent burning)

Back to the pork:
  • Heat a large skillet and cook pork on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes each side or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees (stick thermometer in sideways to make sure you are getting the inside temp.)
  • Once pork is done, remove and from pan and loosely cover with foil. Let meat rest for at least 10 minutes (to keep all the juices in)
  • To serve, spoon sauce over pork (see below)

Here are some pics from along the way...

First step: seasoning the pork

The finished product

I topped it off with my "go-to potatoes" (I'll have to post the recipe at some point)
and a yummy spinach salad

Extra tips:
*** (This one is highly recommended!) To give the sauce even more flavor, pour the sauce into the pork pan (after removing the finished pork) and continue to saute for a few more minutes. The sauce picks up all the left over flavor from the pork. Trust me, it makes a difference!

**** (This one is also highly recommended!!) To prevent the pork chops from curling up on the sides when you cook them (this really annoys me!), cut slits into the fat on the sides of the chops (at least three slits) before cooking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Saw this little scene today...

Kinda sad. Kinda creepy. I wonder what the story was here...why in the puddle? why one leg missing? why no clothes?

Oh well, I guess we'll never know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Windows

The good thing about renting is that every once in a while you get a call like "Hey, so we want to upgrade your windows for you. Oh, and we'll redo all the tile in your bathroom while we're at it." So you come home from work one day and the window fairy has come and gone (and has cleaned up after himself like he was never there).

Here is one of the old ones...

I have to say that I did like the old ones for their vintage features.

But I guess being able to properly open and shut your windows wins out over cool looking chains...but just barely.

Here are the new ones...

Old hardware

New hardware

Okay, the worst of our old windows was the one in the kitchen. I wasn't sad to see this one go. Look how dingy and dirty it was (and impossible to clean because of the metal grate on the other side).

And now it's gleaming! I couldn't believe how bright the kitchen became. Still impossible to clean but fine for now.

Out with old and in with the new. And no effort required on our part.

And for an update of our plans...we have decided to renew our lease and stay in our place for one more year. We went back and forth but in the end it seems like the best (and most realistic) thing to do is rent one more year. So that means we'll be in this place until June 2012.


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Warm Three Cheese Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato, Basil, Chicken and Creamy Balsamic Dressing

Long name but descriptive. Just looking at these pictures again makes me hungry. This is an Elsa original recipe...enjoy!

First the ingredients for the pasta mixture:

- 1/2 lb. of pasta (I used penne but it would work well with other kinds like rotini)
- 2 boiled chicken breasts, cubed (see boiling how-to below)
- about 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubed
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato, chopped
- 2-3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup goat cheese, broken up into pieces
- salt and pepper
- Creamy balsamic dressing (recipe below)

And now the method:

- boil chicken: put chicken breasts in medium saucepan, fill with cold water, bring pot to boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until thickest part of chicken reads 160 degrees on meat thermometer
- cook pasta until 'al dente', drain and set aside with lid on to keep warm
- while pasta is cooking, mix together...

- ...sun-dried tomato, basil, goat cheese and mozzarella cheese. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

- make creamy balsamic dressing by combining 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup mayo, some salt and pepper, then drizzle in about 3/4 cup olive oil while whisking (it's hard for me to put this into measurements though cause I do it by sight and make sure to taste!)

- add chicken to mixture. Season with some salt and pepper.
- add warm pasta to chicken and cheese/sun-dried tomato mixture and toss
- add some of the dressing to mixture and toss well (taste and add more to taste)
- top with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (you didn't think I forgot the third cheese, did you?), some fresh basil and a few sun-dried tomatoes

The finished product...

Extra tips:
- You can make the chicken a different way if you want. I like using boiled chicken for this recipe because it stays really moist.
- This method is for serving warm but it is also good cold or as leftovers. I like to save some extra dressing and toss a little bit with the leftovers to moisten up again.


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