Thursday, April 28, 2011

Budding Trees

You know how I mentioned before that I have this compulsion to take random pictures? Well, yesterday I couldn't resist the beautiful colors of the green budding trees against the gray sky (the fact that I was taking the pictures during extra long stops at Stop signs is besides the point).

The contrast was more amazing that these pictures can capture but you get the idea. And with our less-than-favorable weather continuing here in Chicago, it's nice to at least see Spring even though we can't really feel it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Loving Smoothies Lately

Smoothies are one of those things that are easy to forget but are worth remembering for sure! Simple, fast and nutritious...what more could you ask for? This is one of our go-to breakfasts in the Johnson household. Actually, it all started when my sister and I (another Johnson household) used to make them a ton together when we lived with them last year. Well, I guess the habit stuck.

Here are my suggestions:

I combine lots of frozen fruits (no need for ice, cause the frozen-ness works like ice too) with...

...some yogurt. I usually use some vanilla yogurt and kefir like this strawberry kind
(kefir is more liquidy so no need for extra milk either).

And you gotta have some bananas...makes every smoothie better.

There's really no need to add sugar cause the fruit and yogurt are sweet enough.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is It Spring Yet? Try # 2

Remember a few weeks ago when I declared it was Spring? Well, it turns out I was wrong! We have unfortunately had awful weather in Chicago this week. It snowed over night on Sunday so we woke up to slush on Monday...shouldn't happen at the end of April! Then every day this week was cold, rainy/sleety and gross! But being from Chicago, I guess this sort of thing is somewhat expected.

But today it is sunny with a high of 64. Might not sound so great to some but to us it is wonderful! So I'm gonna go ahead and declare again that it is Spring! (Although I think I saw a 30 or 40 degree day thrown in the forecast this week.)

One of my favorite things about our place when we moved in over the summer were the huge trees out our window. The trees and their green leaves fill up our whole view on the East side windows and they bring lots of chirping I was super excited to see the little buds popping up again!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Johnson Cheesy Potatoes

When I posted on Matt's birthday dinner there was a request for the 'Johnson Cheesy Potatoes' recipe. First of all, the reason why I refer to them as 'Johnson Cheesy Potatoes' is because there are also 'Wallgren Cheesy Potatoes'.

Different styles. Both delicious. Impossible to choose. Johnson style recipe comes to you from Matt's aunt Terry's book of recipes "More Simply Delicious" and the recipe itself is credited to Matt's great-aunt, Shirley Brundage.

The Recipe:
  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 1 (8 oz.) sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt (or you can substitute fresh garlic, I used 2 minced cloves)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (or a bit more if you love cheese like me)

The Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Peel and boil potatoes until fork-tender. If using fresh garlic, add to pot with boiling potatoes.
  3. Drain then mash potatoes with an electric mixer
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients except for cheddar cheese. Beat until fluffy.
  5. Pour into greased casserole dish and bake for 1 hour
  6. Add the cheese on top for the last 10 minutes of baking

I mean, how can something with butter, sour cream and cheese be bad?

Lovin the style at Houndstooth Saloon

Last night, Matt and I hung out and had dinner at Houndstooth Saloon. Fun place, good food and there were some good Chicago games on...Bulls AND Blackhawks won. Even a non sports fan like me can have fun watching games among Chicago fans cause they get so into it. But while everyone was watching the game, I was taking pictures of all the great design elements.

I literally gasped when I saw the ceiling...

Love how it was covered in book pages! Not to mention the lovely white chandelier.

Such a great idea...I'll definitely have to keep this in mind for a wall idea someday.

And I love the occasional illustrated page thrown in.

Another element I was lovin were the dark wood walls

And houndstooth wallpaper

And the wall sconces and faux bookshelf lined booths. There were some other things that I would have liked to take pictures of but taking any more pictures would have definitely made me look like a crazy person.

Oh, and lastly the string of lights outside.

At the end of the night we ended up with this caricature (I mean, I actually paid for it).
Does it look like us? Not really.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cousins Night!

A few times a year all of us Wallgren cousins and spouses/significant others get together just for fun. Most of us are living in Chicago right now which makes things easier. We were all so close growing up that it felt more like having lots of brothers and sisters rather than cousins. It's so great that we continue to be close and become even better friends as we get older. Family is such a wonderful gift.

But we weren't complete without Eric, Chad, Anne and Pete! Next time for sure.

Lots of laughs...the girls sat at the table for dinner.

And the guys hung out together in the living room. Don't worry, we came back together after dinner.

Speaking of parties, here are a few of my ideas for making them cheaper...

Use things that you already have around the house to add these soda bottles turned into vases.

Look for an international supermarket in your area and check it out. In my experience you can find super cheap produce at these markets (I got tons of lemons and limes for about $2).

Plus you can always find unexpected, yummy and beautiful treats at international these sweet and spicy dried mangoes from an Indian supermarket close to me.

Or these candy coated fennel seeds (I mostly bought them because of the colors but they were also yummy).

And lastly, Dan the Man...

On the same day as the cousins dinner I met this guy at our church rummage sale. I thought he was some random guy until I found out that we had something in common...we grew up in the same house! And actually his father grew up in the same house as well. His grandparents bought the house in 1919...whoa, almost 100 years ago! And since I just love connecting the present with it's history I asked Dan if I could take a picture with him (a little awkward at the time but totally worth it). Incidentally, this picture was quite the conversation starter at dinner (Kevin).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Roasted Garlic

So simple to make and so good. The flavor of roasted garlic is more mild than when you use garlic in other ways. You can use roasted garlic for many things...breads, dressings, marinades, sauces and with meat. This particular roasted garlic was used for a yummy bread appetizer.

All you need to do is preheat the oven to hot (400 or 425 degrees).

Take a whole head of garlic and cut the top off to expose the cloves...

Place the garlic in tin foil and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Pull tin foil over top to cover and place directly on oven rack for about 45 minutes.

Let cool then just squeeze cloves out...they are so soft that it is easy to do.

Make sure you get it all...and enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DIY Hanging Tea Light Holders

I saw some cute hanging tea light holders in a magazine but in the magazine they were hanging over a table. I immediately started to think how I could do it myself but it seemed too difficult to hang them over my table so I said to myself (out loud), "How can I make those in my place?" And my sister answered "in your window". Thanks for the idea, Linnea!.

So I did it and it was super easy! One trip to the hardware store, a few supplies and a few hours later...

Supplies: wire, wire cutters, tape measure, pliers (wire ones and larger ones)...

...chain of your liking (I used about 20 ft), hooks (I used six)...and oh yeah, votive holders (with a shape conclusive to being hung), and tea lights

I wrapped the wire around the votive holder for a rough measurement then removed votive holder and used the wire pliers to tightly wrap the wire around itself on one side.

I used the larger pliers to disconnect the chain and make six even pieces of chain. Then I strung the chain through the wire and used the wire pliers to wrap the wire around the other side (again, with the votive holder out).

To hang, twist hooks into the wall using tape measure if you want them spaced evenly. Then hang either at even lengths or different lengths. I went the different lengths route.

I love the warm glow candlelight gives off and this is a simple and easy way to add more to a room. Note: I would not suggest this if you have curtains! Fire hazard! (Maybe you should hang them over your table)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dead Man Eating Blog

Now here is an interesting blog. It's called 'Dead Man Eating Weblog' (click here to go to it) where someone has posted death row inmates' last meal requests before execution. First of all, did you know that they got a last meal request? (I didn't). I heard about it on 93XRT.

It's interesting to see the absolute last thing that someone wanted to eat. The requests range from nothing, to a simple BLT sandwich, to "two chicken-fried steaks, two fried chicken breasts, three fried pork chops, two hamburgers with lettuce, tomato, onion and salad dressing, four slices of bread, half a pound of fried potatoes with onion, half a pound of onion rings with ketchup, half a pan of chocolate cake with icing and two pitchers of milk."

I mean, did someone seriously eat all that?!? And in one sitting? It seems like there would be some sort of time limit. And scarfing all this down with a time limit does not seem enjoyable nor the way I would want to spend my last minutes before execution. Oh well, to each his own.

There does seem to be a theme among those who did request a last meal...complete indulgence. If someone asked for not just one but two hamburgers then you better believe they want a pint of ice cream with it. And why not! This makes me think of what I would ask for. So many foods come to mind (hash browns with cheese, cheesecake, loaded baked potato, Chicago style hot dog, steak with egg sauce from Ron of Japan, Lou Malnati's pizza) but maybe I would just want the traditional 'Wallgren Christmas breakfast'...SO GOOD...

Mmm, now I'm hungry! What you choose to eat?

Messy and Beautiful Multi-Colored Paper Banner

We had a 'Spring Celebration' party at our place last weekend. I took it as an opportunity to make fun food and decorate our place! I got my inspiration for this simple, beautiful and cheap decoration from Jordan Ferney's blog (check it out here) and then made my own version.

All you need is a pack of tissue paper, scissors, string and some sort of hooks to hang it (I used 3M hooks but you could hang on other hooks, nails, whatever)

Keep reading for further instructions and finished product...

To make streamers: take one sheet of tissue paper and fold in half hamburger way,
not hot dog way (remember that from elementary school?).

To make each piece different and random lengths, I cut each half again lengthwise at different spots before zig-zag cutting.

Zig-zag cut, leaving at least an inch at the end of each side to keep each streamer in tact for hanging. To further randomize, cut each sheet at different widths.

Hang each streamer on the string as you go otherwise you'll end up with tangled streamers all over the place. Decide what color order you want to hang them in beforehand and cut accordingly because it is way easier to string in that order if you're cutting in that order.

I had to start laying it all out on the floor cause it got too big for the couch. Next step is put the hooks up where you want them. I would suggest using at least four cause it'll slope a little from the weight of the paper so it's good to have reinforcement.

Ask a friend/husband/roommate to help hang it up then slide the paper carefully to even out all the colors.

Then step back and enjoy!

I love it! I'm gonna keep this up for as long as it lasts!

I even made a mini one for our front door.

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