Posted by: meshellzito | September 3, 2010

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

For me to conquer!  Ok…there are plenty that I couldn’t conquer.  But a few weeks ago, on our second trip to New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains, I conquered Mt. Washington (all 6,288 feet of it!).  Last year, dear readers (all three of you), we didn’t make the summit due to crap-tastic weather.  We were on a very difficult trail which was only made more difficult when the skies opened and it poured rain for 2 hours straight.  By the time we got above the treeline, the temperature was dropping and we were already exhausted.  Since the average temperature at the summit is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit even in the summer, we would have been in bad shape (most likely hypothermic) if we had tried to make it to the top.  This time, though, the weather was beautiful. 

Stoked!

only the beginning

Tuckerman's Ravine, from below

Don't go chasin' waterfalls...

Taking a break with Maxwell Edison.

At the summit!

Now:  What should be here is a lovely shot of JZ with Max, standing all accomplished looking by the summit sign.  But there was such chaos involving all of the shmucks who had driven to the top to get to the summit that it was impossible to get a shot.  Had it not been about 30 degrees Fahrenheit when we got to the summit, I might have been able to bear it long enough to get a picture.  I’m not saying that people shouldn’t drive to the top on the auto road (because we did it last year since our hike was rained out)…just maybe don’t be a douche and insist on having your picture taken by the summit sign when there are people who clearly just hiked all the way up.  You’re wearing flip flops.  Something tells me you drove here, sir.

But I digress…we headed back into town and went straight to the same restaurant that we ate at last year after hiking.  Again, I ate a steak the size of my face and a baked potato.  All was right with the world. 

The next day I surprisingly felt pretty good, so we headed to Attitash mountain for some more adventure.  I had almost forgotten about the charming signs you see in the area:

My favorite sign. Ever.

Brake for moose.  It could save your life.  Like…maybe, maybe not.

Attitash mountain is pretty great.  During the winter you can ski, and during the summer you can ride down the alpine slide (the longest alpine slide in the country, I’ll have you know!), or take one of their insane mountain bike trails, or try out their brand new mountain coaster (sadly, this was not open yet when we visited, and after checking the website, it looks like it’s still not open).  They have more activities available, but we were mostly interested in the mountain coaster and alpine slide.  Since the mountain coaster wasn’t open yet, we just went with one ride down the alpine slide.  Since I’ve never been skiing before, this was my first time on a ski lift!!

Only scary if you look down.

Crap. I looked down.

The end of the mile-long ride

There are no cameras allowed on the alpine slide, and I understand why.  You’re basically just sitting on a piece of plastic equipped with a hand brake, so if you’re not careful, you can just fly right off the track.  Luckily though, JZ stuck his camera in his pocket and snapped this picture of me just before the end of the ride.  It was pretty awesome!

So this trip was far more successful than last year’s, if only because I finally conquered Mt. Washington.  On to the next!

Posted by: meshellzito | July 25, 2010

All Amy Butler, All the Time

Well here it is!

As it turned out, I didn’t have enough fabric to make this into a duvet. I certainly could have bought some extra fabric and made a border around the whole top, but I wanted to keep the top the way it was. Rather than spend any more money on this, I decided it would probably be a better idea to just go ahead and quilt it.

As per Holly’s suggestion, I went with a simple quilting design. I quilted 1/4 inch from the seams on each side so as not to interfere with the beautiful designs of each fabric.

For the back, I used one of each of the fabrics (and repeated two of those to make four rows of seven rectangles—trust me when I say that you don’t want to know how long it took me to figure out the math).  I sewed them into rows and then sewed the rows together to make one big rectangle.  That’s about all I had left with the exception of a few more rectangles, so I needed to buy some extra fabric for the rest of the back.  It was hard to pick my favorite fabric!  So I went with this one:

I love it.  A whole lot.

For the binding I used an aqua colored Kona cotton, although I can’t say I remember the name of the shade I picked out.

On to the next project!

Posted by: meshellzito | June 3, 2010

On Jam and Other Important Matters.

I don’t know how it happened, but strawberry season is almost through. I don’t know about you, but I think I might cry. I feel like I missed it this year. And what’s worse is that I really wanted to make a few good batches of strawberry jam this year.  So far, I’ve only gotten one under my belt (literally). 

"would you say that I have a 'plethora'?"

I hit Stella’s farmstand on Saturday afternoon and bought 6 quarts of strawberries and then used every ounce of self control in my body to resist eating one whole quart before I got home.  I know—that would have been gross.  All that dirt and whatnot.  I don’t think I would have cared.  If you can smell the berries through the bags, they are going to be fantastic. 

The man who rang me up had a strange look on his face.  I said, “I’m making jam.”  And he replied, “Oh, good…because they’re almost gone.  Only one more week.”

Sweet Jesus.  Why don’t you just stab me in the heart next time, sir?

Fine.  So I went home and Sarah and I got to work:

Please don't lick the screen.

Ain't she purty?

Chopping strawberries is fun, ya’ll!  We worked quickly in this process:  cut 4 strawberries in half, then eat one of those halves.  Then we realized there wouldn’t be much jam if we kept that up. 

Squashed.

Red and aqua. My favorite.

 And then I went to get my sugar canister.  And then I noticed that it didn’t look like I had enough sugar for the recipe (which, by the way, was a lot of sugar).  So we decided we would look up a few other recipes and figure something out.  And what we figured out was that we didn’t really need all that sugar.  Less sugar equals less volume, sure.  And it may equal a shorter shelf-life, but let’s be honest here—how long would it take you to open up and finish off a half-pint jar of homemade strawberry jam?  Not long, right?  Right.

So here is what we ended up with:

Not nearly enough.

Eight little half-pint jars!  Good grief.  As we gazed upon those eight tiny jars and figured out who would be receiving one as a gift, we only had a jar each left for ourselves.  And we are greedy.  So it was decided that we would just have to do it all again next weekend (this time with the contents of a vanilla bean scraped into the mix).  

Lesson learned, friends.  Always make way more than you think you could possibly ever eat.  When it comes to things like delicious strawberry jam,  go big or go home.

Posted by: meshellzito | April 19, 2010

Coin Quilt

I started this quilt last Spring. Yes, that was a long time ago.  Let’s move on, shall we?  Anyway—I purchased a “jelly roll” from Spool because, well, it looked pretty and most of the cutting work was done for me already. It also helped that there was a coin quilt hanging on the wall encouraging me to give it a go myself. Well played, Spool…well played.

Quilting in progress.

The only complaint that I have about the jelly roll is that the fabrics are cut but not washed. So I had to wash all of the strips before I used them (there were quite a few red fabrics and I didn’t want them to bleed onto the other fabrics once I washed the finished piece—my momma didn’t raise no fool). Washing and drying the strips caused me to lose at least 1/2 inch off of each strip.  They also became one giant tangled mess because the edges frayed in the dryer and created an awful lot of loose threads.  I realize this always happens when you wash and dry fabric, but it took me about an hour to cut all of the pieces loose.  Once I trimmed all of the frayed edges off the strips, they were much smaller than when I brought the fabric home from the shop.  Oh well.  And then there was the ironing.  Woo!  That was fun.

I started to sew the coin strips together using the most random selection my obsessive-compulsive brain could manage.  It wasn’t easy for me.  I might have even shed a few tears in the process.  As I hung each strip up, I started to think of a good fabric to use for the sashing and borders.  I seem to always lean toward white, so I thought I’d try something different this time.  I love the color of linen, but I love the feel of it even more, so that was the natural choice.

Still quilting...

I was afraid the linen might be a little difficult to work with, but it turned out to be pretty easy, in fact (so easy that I am definitely going to make myself some linen skirts and dresses for the summer).

To baste the quilt together, I used my new favorite (and almost failproof) method—spray adhesive.  Now: I say almost failproof because I think I gave myself (and poor Holly) a contact high when I sprayed it inside the house. It was still Winter, so I couldn’t very well open up a window for ventilation. There has to be a better way to baste a quilt together without impairing everyone in the vicinity, right?

Quilting detail on back

Using the same quilting pattern as the baby quilt I made for Eli, I quilted diagonal lines through two of the coins, turned, and continued all the way down through the strip.  For the binding, I decided to go with a solid color.  I thought if I used a printed fabric, the quilt would be a chore to look at.  So I used Kona cotton, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the color.  Let’s just call it burgundy.

This quilt clashes with my duvet. Pardon.

 

Totally in love with those silver dots.

 

Neatly folded (probably for the last time ever)

 

Binding. Nice and simple.

 

Back view

This quilt is also never leaving my house. God, why am I so selfish?

Posted by: meshellzito | March 9, 2010

Words of Wisdom from Lloyd Dobler.

I think Lloyd Dobler said it best: “I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.”

So Lloyd Dobler isn’t a real person.  I don’t care.  Words of wisdom.  I’ve been thinking about these words lately because buying things that are “processed” is something I’ve been working on avoiding.  JZ had the great idea one day, and the way he described it to me reminded me of the speech above in “Say Anything.”  But essentially what he was getting at was that he wants to start eating mostly whole foods and try to avoid buying too many goods that come in boxes and plastic packaging.  This is a reasonable request, and to me, a great challenge.

We had a good start on this last summer with the vegetable garden of epic proportion (or at least a zucchini harvest of epic proportion).  Recently I’ve been planning out the garden for this summer (and it’s already overcrowded!) and what I’ll do with the harvest to make the most of all that hard work (canning lots of tomatoes, as well as peaches and other fruits from the local market, and making an awful lot of pickles).  Then I started to look around the kitchen and see what I could handle making myself. 

First up:  Bread!  Yes.  I’ve already mastered cinnamon-raisin bread, so I’m confident I can succeed in this.  It’s really not that tough to make one or two loaves per week.  A few weekends ago, I made Alicia’s Oatmeal Bread and it was beyond perfect.  Since then, it has quickly become a staple at the House of Zito.  It’s really a great weekend “chore,” unless of course your weekend is packed full of errands and birthday parties and other things to do.  I’m trying to keep my weekends as relaxing as possible, peppered with a few errands here and there.  It’s working beautifully thus far.

Now to make and tackle the list of things to try next:

  1. Yogurt:  I have a friend at work who makes her own, and now I’m determined to add this to my repertoire.  And I just purchased this to make the process even easier. (Warning: there is an annoying video playing when you click that link. Sorry.)  Apparently the trick to successfully making yogurt is to keep it at 110 degrees F for a number of hours.  This contraption does that for you.
  2. Granola:  I’ve made it so many times before, but usually just for snacks.  This time, it can be a change from oatmeal or other breakfast foods as well as an alternative to boxed cereal.
  3. Salsa:  Let’s face it—the fresh stuff is delicious, and I make as much of it as possible during the summer when the tomatoes are fresh from the garden.  The only problem is trying to figure out how to preserve it so I can make a good batch from the garden this summer.  I’m looking into this, though.
  4. Pasta:  Ok—so I’ve made pasta from scratch before (gnocchi are one of my favorites, and they freeze very well).  This is one of those things that just takes a little bit of time, but is so worth the effort.  However, I do see myself reaching for a bag of dried pasta when we have a really busy day.  Baby steps.

So here’s the thing:  I cannot live without certain junk food.  I’m only human.  Occasionally, I need to eat half a package of Oreos ( i.e., the time someone called me “ma’am” in an aisle at the grocery store…ugh).  Sometimes I crave Doritos.  And once in a while, I like to crack open a can of Spaghettios in the office kitchen and make my coworkers jealous.  Again…baby steps.  I’m not saying that I’m giving up on processed foods entirely, because that would just be crazy.  Girl Scout Cookies are processed, after all (but I’ll bet I could bake some delicious imposters).

So that’s all I’ve got so far.  What else can I add to my list?

Posted by: meshellzito | March 7, 2010

Self-pity.

Max sat in front of JZ the other day as he was reading the previous post.  When he looked at his image on the screen, he started to whine and cry.  He’s clearly ashamed of his actions and might think again before dressing up like a lady.

That hat makes my ass look fat. Never again.

 

The next time this happens, and it will happen again, I have to get a video of his reaction.  The picture is slightly blurry because I was laughing too hard to get a clear picture.  I’m still not sure what planet this dog is from.

Posted by: meshellzito | February 27, 2010

His Ears Were Cold.

"Help?"

 

This is what happens when Tammi comes to visit.  Poor, poor Max.

Posted by: meshellzito | February 15, 2010

You Make Me Live.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Naturally we had planned nothing, except to spend time together.  Yesterday morning, after eating breakfast and lying around for a bit, JZ suggested that we take a ride to the beach and then get lunch or dinner at Charlie’s (where you will find the greatest hot wings on the planet).  It’s been 5 years of excursions like these, and I really never get tired of them.  Some of our greatest days start off as lazy Sunday mornings, and suddenly one of us has an idea and quickly we’re off.  I would think the average person might say, “Why would you go to the beach in February?  And with all the snow?”  Because we can. 

First we stopped at Charlie’s, where we stuffed ourselves with clams casino, she-crab soup, potato skins, and a few wings.  I can’t believe I didn’t need any Pepto after that. 

Then, it was off to the boardwalk in Ocean City (straight to Jilly’s arcade).  Pinball!  I’m terrible at it. 

New Batman pinball game. YES!!

Then we walked out on the boardwalk for a bit, which wasn’t as easy as it should have been.  Most of the boardwalk was covered in about a foot of snow, but didn’t stop us or the number of other folks we saw that day (we even saw two people on cross-country skis…no kidding). 

First time I've seen snow on the boardwalk!

Snowy dunes.

We hopped down onto the beach and walked for a while (which, for once, was easier than walking on the boards).  

Me and Him. Him and Me.

Have you ever seen a snowman on the beach?

We walked all the way to the end of the boardwalk to take a look at the skate park and the amusement park.  A long time ago, JZ was trying to get me on some of the rides at this park.  I tried to explain the deal with me and motion sickness (which is to say, if the motion isn’t controlled by me, I’m nauseous).  I said, “I can’t go on anything that goes in circles.”  Easy enough, right?  Oh, or anything that goes upside-down.  Or too fast.  Or…well, the log flume is safe.  I can do hills.  Anyway, I said, “How about the ferris wheel?”  He looked at me, incredulously, pointed at the ferris wheel, and said “That’s the biggest circle I’ve seen all day.”  He’ll never let me forget that.

The biggest circle I've seen all day.

 My favorite part of the day?  Probably in the car when we were listening to Queen (I can’t get enough of Queen these days, hence the title of this post) and “Don’t Stop Me Now” came on.  JZ said, “I like when you sing and dance to this.”  That made me happy.  Of course, it’s hard to dance in the car, but I sang the hell out of that song.  And it’s nice to know my talent is appreciated.  Ha.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was as eventful/spontaneous as mine.  Or not.  Whatever works for you.  

xoxo

  

 

Posted by: meshellzito | February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Red Velvet.

I really love red velvet cake.  It’s just lovely.  And it’s the perfect vehicle for my favorite frosting: cream cheese. 

I’m not big on the whole celebration.  Every day should be treated like Valentine’s Day.  Every day, you should tell someone that you love them.  Except people that you just like.  Don’t go telling your boss that you love him/her.  Or the mailman.  He might become confused.  But, you know…your loved ones.  Tell them.

Anyway, red velvet…it’s just so…red?  Velvety?  Is that even a word?

Maybe it’s just the color, but I always think of red velvet cake when I think of Valentine’s Day.  I’m ok with that.  So I made quite a few cupcakes (and some mini-cupcakes) for coworkers, bosses, and loved ones (using this recipe from smitten kitchen).  It’s a good thing I made so many, because we’re having company for dinner.  Dessert is done!

Posted by: meshellzito | February 10, 2010

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Last Saturday we got about 3 feet of snow which kept me inside the house all day. (I should add that more snow is falling as I type this!)  I saw no other option than to bake some bread. Seeing as how JZ will eat an entire loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread in a day, I figured I’d throw him a bone (or a loaf, in this case) and make it for him.

Conveniently, there was a great recipe in this month’s Martha Stewart Living:

Thanks, Martha.

That doesn't look so tasty, but it's getting there.

I have to say that making your own bread is a pretty satisfying feeling.  It doesn’t really take a lot of work.  There’s more down time than anything else.  So while we were snowed in, JZ played some xbox games downstairs while I oscillated between the couch and the kitchen thusly:

  • Make dough, set it in a bowl on the counter to rise.
  • Assume the couch position.
  • Get up, go make a cup of tea.
  • Sit back down, drink tea, look out the window to see if it’s stopped snowing yet (it hasn’t), browse the internet.
  • Get up, check on the dough, get a snack, sit back down again.
  • Et cetera, et cetera…

Raisins added.

After rising for 1 hour.

I punched that dough in the face.

Rolled out to 8" by 10"

Somehow I missed taking a shot of the delicious cinnamon-sugar mixture after it was sprinkled on.  JZ requested that there be extra “good stuff” in the swirls of the bread.

Rolled up and pinched closed.

After rising for 1 hour, they're ready to go.

Fin.

Swirls!!

 I wish I had time to make fresh bread more often, because it was quite delicious (not to mention easy on the wallet).  It’s not that you spend that much time making the bread, but you certainly can’t leave it on the counter and go to the mall.  Hopefully I’ll find a way to work it into my weekends.  Included in the Martha recipe were variations on regular (but delicious) white bread:  multigrain, rye, and cinnamon raisin.  I would like to try the multigrain for sure, but I was missing a few ingredients that day. 

Now I’m hungry.  And since Valentine’s Day is this weekend (and because I have a snow day today!!!), that means I need to start baking some treats!  Stay tuned! 

xoxo

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