Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicago is My Kind of Town

The last couple weekends have been an exercise in taking advantage of the city we live in. It started with a trip to the Lichtenstein exhibit at The Art Institute. Bob and I both love his art, and we figured we'd take a trip downtown to see the inspiration for our own apartment pop art (homemade by Bob).

It was interesting to see much more style than just the most famous works. We ended up buying a print of Alka-seltzer and are considering a place for it in our yet-to-be-created bar area.
After the art musuem, we took a walk through Millenium Park to reminisce about the proposal that took place there a little less than a year ago. No huge surprises for either of us occured that day, but we did spy signage for the concert in the park series. A plan was set. We would arrive in the late afternoon the following Saturday with a picnic and all the necessities, camp out and wait for "An American in Paris" to fill our ears.

I was able to use our brand new picnic basket, which a friend got us for my bridal shower. It is quite orange, you can't miss it! We packed it and our cooler full of gatorades, pear ciders, wine, crackers, cheese and sandwiches. The park was pretty sparse when we arrived at 3:45pm. But by 5:45pm the lawn was packed, not an inch of space by 7!

The concert was a blast, we connected with some friends and enjoyed the show from the lawn!
The next day Bob decided to help me cross one of my goals off my list - walk the SkyDeck Ledge at Sears - I mean Willis - Tower. We waited in about eight different lines alltogether, but once we got up there it was quite the sight to see.

The ledge gives you a chance to walk on air - jutting out a few feet from the skydeck, these glass boxes are a little bit scary, but also pretty darn cool.
How have you taken advantage of your home town offerings lately?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Banner Idea

When my sister had some errands in the city to take care of this past Saturday, I asked if my 3 year old niece, Ella, could be dropped off for a few hours for some quality bonding time with Aunt Lydia! We see her and her baby sister quite a bit, but we thought the one on one time at our house as opposed to Ella's home turf would help prepare her for more days like this and the eventual sleepover at Aunt Lyd's and Uncle Bob's house. Since she already does day care, waving goodbye to her mom for a few hours was not at all an issue.

Like any 3 year old, the attention span is a delicate thing. I wanted to come up with a couple projects to keep us busy. With the Fourth of July approaching, I thought Ella could make some decorations for the holiday to display. I sifted through my pile of stickers, brought out the crayons and prepared triangle cut cardstock in red, white and blue. Using alphabet stickers left over from my Every Holiday Blocks project, I spelled out "Happy 4th of July." 
Ella then got to work coloring and sticker-fying the individual flags. Bob and I even got to do a couple!
I taped the flags to white ribbon and stretched the banner across the fireplace to test out how it would display. 
In the meantime, Ella made a couple cards - one for her mom to take on an upcoming work trip and one for herself that we have been instructed to put in the mail for her. (When we were asked to address the envelope, she said, "will you undress the envelope?").
With multiple crafty projects under our belt before 9am, I would consider it a successful Saturday morning! Afterwards we headed out to the nearby playground for some outdoor activity. I think I need to get in better shape - keeping up with Ella is hard work! And not just physically - she's in her "why" stage. As in, "Why do you have that picture on the wall?" "Because Bob drew it." "Why?" Because we had a blank space for a picture." "But why?" And so on....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wii Have Success!

We moved into our new pad last October which makes it 8 months.

8 months to figure out how to connect our Wii to our wireless network. Granted, we were not spending a great deal of man hours on this project but it is a bit comical when I now see how easy it actually was to connect.

The main reason for the connection is to take advantage of our Netflix Streaming account. Last summer when we were sans cable or DirecTV for three months we lived off of our Netflix connected to the television. Let's just say we exhausted the Law & Order SVU choices!
 We had tried a few times to connect the Wii to no avail. We kept experiencing a "code 52030 error" that didn't seem to give any info with a google search. The router was set to the same setting as the connection on the Wii, the password key was entered correctly, the case senstive network SSID was spot on. Not sure what we were doing wrong!

We even purchased an ethernet cord for $4 off of Amazon.com to directly plug in only to then realize the Wii doesn't have an ethernet connection. Wah wah.

What never occured to me to search on for some reason was our specific internet provider. 

June 17, 2012
6:18pm: "uverse wii wireless" into Google.
6:18:30pm: Wii and Uverse - AT&T Community Support pops up as first search result.
6:19pm: Exact issue we are having is mentioned on the forum with a solution right below.
6:22pm: Connected. That was easy.

I at least feel good knowing that the solution is not very inate and I wasn't missing the obvious. Here's what needed to happen:

I checked the setting on the router by typing in the http:// address listed on the router. After confirming that it was set to "WPA-PSK (TKIP) and WPA2-PSK (AES)" I moved on to the Wii. Under the Wii settings I switched it to "WPA-PSK (TKIP)." Followed that up with the network key and voila, successful connection!
By 6:30pm I had found my favorite episode of The IT Crowd (The Work Outing) and clicked it on as a sort of celebration.
 It's the little things, you know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cheesecake, New York Style

I have to be honest, I am not sure I am going to be fulfilling a large percentage of those goals of mine I set out last year! What with the wedding planning overtaking many of my weekends, the goals (set pre-engagement) have sometimes taken a backseat. I'll be posting in late July the status report, but in the meantime I am trying to knock a few more out!

Make a Cheesecake. This sounded like a good plan for a Saturday afternoon, especially when it meant I could bring dessert to a family dinner!

I started with America's Test Kitchen's recipe for New York Cheesecake. We have been having great luck with the Test Kitchen recipes so I figured I wouldn't mess with a good thing.

The daunting task of buying 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese stood before me. Within one block of my house I have three little markets and a Walgreens that was built just in this last year. I doubted in my head that Walgreens would carry all of the ingredients I needed, including 5 blocks of cream cheese, so I went to the local grocery that we typically frequent. At $2.99, five blocks of cream cheese can add up. Later that day I ended up having to go to Walgreens anyway and glutton for punishment that I am I glanced through the dairy display to find that I not only could have found all the cream cheese I needed, but that I would have saved $6 because of a sale.

In retrospect, this story was not interesting enough to warrant this many lines of the post. Onward.

I started by using a food processor to crumble 8 graham crackers for the crust. Mix in a little melted butter and form agains the springform pan. I baked this for about 10 minutes and the kitchen started to smell wonderful! While that cooled, I got to work with the electric hand mixer.
5 blocks of softened cream cheese combined with the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, etc into a nice creamy batter.
After pouring into the pan, I tackled the chocolate mixture that would make this a marble cheesecake. This was as simple as melting 5 oz of semisweet chocolate chips with 1/4 cup heavy cream. America's Test Kitchen instructs to dollop the chocolate into the cake and then use a knife or spatula to mix it in.
With an oven set to 500 degrees it was definitely getting Hot in Herre. After 10 minutes in the oven at this heat, you knock it down to 200 for the next hour and a half or so. Our oven runs hot so I shortened this by about 20 minutes. The recipe states that this extreme hot to start helps give the cheesecake the carmalized looking brown top.

When I pulled it out I had a minor freak out. Why does it look like the cake has a top hat on??? The recipe does not warn for that.
After a minute or two the cake calmed itself down and eventually evened out. Whew!
The trick was to let it cool for more than a couple hours and run the knife around the edge to make sure it doesn't stick. A couple more hours in the fridge and then a half hour on the counter before serving. The springform pan came off quite easily on its own, and we cut into it with a dessert knife.
Amazing! I expected it to be rather dense, but it was so light and creamy. I did notice a lot of my chocolate settled at the bottom so I may want to check my methods when it comes to marbling!
Have to say this cheesecake deal was a lot easier than I thought it would be - I really only dirtied a couple bowls! It was more a game of cooling time than anything else! Goal accomplished!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

By the Numbers

It has been awhile since a wedding planning post, but don't let that deceive you - we have been hard at work at invitations, centerpieces, booking vendors and all of that fun stuff, but I haven't wanted to document too much ahead of the wedding. Partly superstitious and partly not to ruin the surprises for our guests!

However, since this blog makes it seem like all we have done is get our Save the Dates out, I figured it was high time to share another project.

We had a few brainstorms for how to do the table numbers that included painted wooden numbers, etched on the lanterns we are using for centerpieces or even put inside the lanterns themselves. Bob found our method walking the aisles of Walmart of all places! He picked up this set of mini canvas and easels for us to consider. A few weeks later we found ourselves at Blick throwing more than a dozen into the basket! You can see the originals in this shot from my craft shelf post. 
We ended up going a little larger canvas than the Walmart versions to help them stand out on the tables. The canvases are about 3 1/2" tall and the easels help them stand about 5" off the table.

The next step was figuring out how we would make the numbers themselves. After considering painting or stenciling on, we decided on using the map pages that we are going to try to pepper throughout the reception. I love the idea of a travel theme without being so overt that there are globes everywhere and tables are named for countries (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Enter an old atlas picked up at a second hand book store for $7. I am picturing a few paper flowers, backgrounds for the programs, etc.
Using the same font we landed on for our invitations - Peignot - I created number stencils. Eureka moment came after printing page 1 - I could save a lot of ink by just printing them as an outline and not filled in with black.
Funny tidbit about the font. The Wikipedia definition shares different media that have used this font and one example is "the first three seasons of The Jerry Springer Show." So we're in good company. More on the font when I post about our invitation design process!
Each page in this atlas features a state, country or general area of the world. We picked out a dozen or so pages that had special meaning to us: cities we have been to, countries we have explored, our hometowns and so on. I outlined the numbers over the preferred area and used scissors and an xacto knife to make a clean little number.
After a little bit of work we had highlighted cities like Chicago, Denver, Boulder and Crivitz (places we have called home); Cairo, San Diego, New Orleans, Rome and Florence (places we have traveled together) and Belize (our honeymoon destination!).
Until we know exactly how many tables we will need - dependent on those r.s.v.p. cards - I didn't want to overdo the work at this stage so only created numbers 1-10 for now. I did make stencils for up to 14 which is our high number for table possibilities.  One might think, "why make other stencils, all the digits are fall between 1-9?" I realized that two of the numbers together were too large for the canvas so I needed to downsize the double digits just a tad.Once the numbers were done, it was time to tackle the little canvases. Sticking with our color scheme of metallic gray, mustard yellow and navy blue, we painted the canvas a silvery gray and added navy and mustard stripes that echo our invitations.

A little bid of Mod Podge and the numbers were affixed.
The only thing left to try out is painting the easel itself. Likely a navy blue. We are planning on having white tablecoths with silvery gray runners, so hopefully the navy blue will help it stand out.
I painted all 15 of the canvases we have so it should be pretty quick to add a few more table numbers as needed. However, I can also see a few other uses for the extras: letting people know to sign the guestbook or maybe sharing the cake flavors. . .

Cross another project off the (rather large) list!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shelf Appeal

I had said in our post about our new entertainment center display that our shelves are a work in progress, and that progress has continued.
Last week we added a black and white framed photo that Bob took in his college years and had not yet found a home in our home. Just today we  found a little treasure at the Lincoln Antique Mall, a shop I have meant to stop at for months now.
I would not say we typically have a vintage decor style, but this Brownie camera spoke to me from its' shelf - and for $15 the price was right.
Add to the scene our new plant life which covers up the brick spot alongside the TV stand. We found a Massangeana Cane that was the perfect size at Gethsemane, our local flower and garden shop.
Still a lot of work to do, but we are on the right track!