Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sneak Peek: Bedroom Redecorating

Dwight and I plan on doing a series of updates to the house, mainly cosmetic, but a few larger things. Installing new flooring being the biggest change (to come).

First up on the agenda was our bedroom. I used my wide angle zoom lens (18-135mm) to take these photos because my usual lens (35mm prime) is too narrow to capture enough of the room at one time. Wide angle = distorted walls. Eh. Whatcha gonna do?

Right now, redecorating has involved paint. We went from a darkish green to a pale grey-blue. It's SO much brighter. I just love it. We're also painting the furniture. Dressers and bedside tables. We bough ready-to-assemble (and finish) tables years ago and never finished them. Rather than paint the ones we're using now, we'll leave those as is and put them in the guest room where the unfinished tables used to be. Got that?

Anyway. Here's a gander at the progress so far:

From the door into the room. Vanity is to the left, bath to the right and behind.

From the far corner just seen in the previous pic. The bathroom is through that door next to the dresser. Check out the TV. How awesome is it that I caught the movie at that exact moment? Yes, that's Star Wars. (And yes, that is a ridiculously large TV for a bedroom. You should have seen my face when it showed up.)

From the corner with the TV, facing the vanity.

So. Many. Drawers.

Ah, daylight pictures. So much better.

I just took this one tonight. I forgot to take a "during" vanity shot along with the others. Probably because of all the drawers in the way.

It's looking good-ish. I'm loving the color and the brightness of the painted furniture. Now if we could only find decent replacement handles. We need 4 knobs (no problem there), 16 - 3" on center pulls (again, piece of cake) and 6 - 3.5" on center pulls (DOH! There are only about 3 styles to choose from. In the entire WORLD. *sigh*) Wish us luck.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Winner!

Congratulations to ...

Tasty Eats At Home, winner of the $40 CSN Stores gift certificate!

A big THANK YOU to everyone that stopped by and left a comment. Hopefully I'll be able to do more of this kind of thing in the future. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's that they say about necessity?

malcom in ottoman

Ah, yes. It's the mother of invention. Well, I can't say I really invented anything, but the fact that my cats torn the every living you-know-what out of the ottoman liner made it necessary for me to replace it.


I've got cats, see. And these cats have claws, see. (I don't know why I'm talking like a gangster from an old movie, so I'll stop.) And cats with claws like to scratch things. They're *mostly* good about where they scratch since they do like to use the officially designated kitty scratching cardboard thingies, but sometimes... they go after the furniture. (see pics below with loveseat in the background - notice the lovely scratch marks along the bottom *sigh*)

I really didn't care that they torn up the ottoman liner. It's a cheapo piece of furniture from Target and you couldn't really tell the bottom was ripped out. That is, until the liner became so frayed that chunks of it were hanging down. The really funny thing is that once they'd scratched it up enough, the cats realized they could GET INSIDE.

Oh, there's not much a kitty likes more than a little hiding place in which to hang out and/or sleep. They all took turns in there until it became just too darn holey. I watched as Malcom climbed in—and then kept having an arm or leg come popping through one of the many holes. He gave up, and I finally caved.

I'd been meaning to rip out the useless liner for a while and after witnessing Malcom's frustration, I went to work. I had some random pieces of heavy fabric stashed away and found just about the perfect match. Although the ottoman is brown, the sofa and loveseat are a mustard yellow, so I figured it would work just fine. Plus, you can't really see it anyway.

looking in

So from the top, you have your basic ottoman. Nothing special.
ottoman plain

But bend down a bit, and you can see this:

The tell-tale bump. A kitty has found the newly refinished secret hiding place.

malcom in ottoman2
Oh, Malcom was a happy kitty.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My First Giveaway!

I've been wanting to do something like this for a while and was recently presented with the perfect opportunity. With the help of the good folks at CSN Stores, one of you lucky readers will win a $40 gift certificate to use on anything from dinnerware & bakeware, to home decor & furniture, to health & fitness items. They have 200+ websites from which to choose. It's pretty incredible!

I know I would have a tough time choosing! As usual, though, I head straight for the bakeware.

Oh, the possibilities. Four different cheesecakes all at once? Bliss!

Or what about this? A creme brulee torch with ramekins. Not JUST for creme brulee. I'm picturing lightly toasted marshmallow frosting on a s'mores cupcake. Mmmm... toasty. 

Don't get me started on this wine rack. It's fantastic. And the price? Equally fantastic.

So what would you pick? Think about that while you leave a comment; you'll be entered to win the one-time-use $40 gift certificate to use as you wish at any of the CSN Stores' 200+ websites. This contest is for US and Canadian residents only since CSN can only ship to those two countries. 

Be sure to leave an email address so I have a way to contact you!

UPDATE: If you're not comfortable leaving your email in the comments, simply post a comment here, then let me know via email (somethingshiny {at} verizon {dot} net). I can't contact you if you don't have an email or blog listed in your blogger profile or don't post it here. If you've already left a comment without contact info, email me. THANKS!

Bonus Entry: Twitter about this giveaway (with a link to this blog entry) and come back here to let me know in the comments. Please tag your tweet with @something_shiny so I can track it.

I'll pick one winner at random from the comments list. This contest will run until 7PM EST next Tuesday, August 17, 2010.

Good Luck!

Contest is up! 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #35 — Sunflower Seed Rye (kind of)


Well, it was SUPPOSED to be "sunflower seed rye" but I had a complete brain dump at the store and bought PUMPKIN seeds. So... I made Pumpkin Seed Rye, and let me tell you it was a tasty mistake.

pumpkin seeds

I'm (very, very slowly) baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a number of us have finished). Want to learn more about it? Check out the following links:

Well, folks. I started this post on May 24. Really. Needless to say, I've completely forgotten what I was originally going to write, so let's keep this short and sweet. (But not short on photos, because I have a bunch of those – as usual.)

First, let's talk about my sourdough starter. I no longer have it, and I'm not really sure how that happened. I went to look for it so I could give it a feeding... and it was gone. Completely disappeared from the fridge. The only explanation I can think of is that someone (*cough* Dwight *cough*) cleaned out the fridge one day and away it went. Que sera sera.

But before it went AWOL, my starter was a vigorous beast. It literally blew the top off its container, distending the lid completely before finally popping off. Obviously I should have put it in a larger container after that last feeding!
starter blowout side
starter blowout top

After combining a portion of my starter (R.I.P.) with the rest of the ingredients, I added the seeds.

PSR-dough with seeds

And popped it into a container to double.

PSR-in bowl
(Vigorous starter in action – with some help from commercial yeast. This bread has both.)

Check out the gluten strands on this bread. So cool.
PSR-gluten strands

Next, I divided the dough into two equal portions...

...poked a hole in the center of each, and formed a ring. The shaping of this one is really fun.

Then you take a small dowel, or something similar (I used Wilton cake support dowels), and press it into one side of the ring.

Repeat this process with each side, making sure to flour the surface a bit so the dowel doesn't stick.

I put both shaped rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet, covered them with plastic wrap, and let them proof until roughly double in size.

Unfortunately they deflated a quite a bit when I transferred them to the peel. Bummer.
PSR-on peel

But they baked up nicely, if a bit pale.

But the taste was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed this bread, with its chewy crust and flavorful crumb.


Friday, August 6, 2010

This Spatula


If this spatula were to break, or anything else untoward happen to it, I would cry actual tears.

The end.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dangerously Decadent Cupcakes


I had to come up with a shorter name for these cupcakes because "Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Center and Peanut Butter Frosting Dipped in Homemade Magic Shell" is technically correct but WAAAAY too long, don't you think?

Besides, Dangerously Decadent Cupcakes is also accurate given the various individual and combined components. I'm pretty sure these should come with a warning. Something like: These are so rich and delicious, you are advised to eat at your own risk; death by cupcake is not out of the realm of possibility.

Dwight and I were invited to a cookout last Saturday which gave me the perfect opportunity to test out a cupcake idea on some willing guinea pigs. I've found that most people don't really care that you're testing a recipe on them, especially if it involves cupcakes. And chocolate. And peanut butter. So I looked up some recipes, combined various ideas together and came up with these.


I'll list the recipes below and provide a link for a printable recipe as well (NEW FEATURE ALERT). I plan on adding printable recipes to archived posts, but it'll take me some time. In the mean time, I've condensed the ridiculous amount of photos I took into some collages. Individual photos are at my flickr photostream if you just can't get enough choco-peanut butter goodness.

cake collage

First things first: The Cake. I found this recipe from Cook's Illustrated featured on a number of blogs. It comes together a bit like homemade brownies, using bittersweet chocolate, cocoa and butter all melted together then added to an egg-sugar mix. Next, you add the rest of the ingredients, the usual suspects like flour and leaveners, but this recipe also includes sour cream. Another level of richness to an already heady lineup of ingredients.


As you can see, the batter is very thick and almost fluffy. It's not like a typical cake batter. I used my large Pampered Chef scoop to get the batter into the paper liners (which are adorable, don't you think? psst...I got them at Michael's).


But did you see what I tucked in the batter? Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I used the dark chocolate ones, but you can use regular, if you prefer. Based on a suggestion I found while browsing for recipes, you can freeze them for 20-30 minutes prior to baking. I did, but I'm not sure what difference it made. Maybe the centers would melt a bit if left room temp? As it was, mine stayed pretty much "as is" except the outer chocolate melted, creating these cute little divots.


These divots are evident when you cut down the center like I did for the first photo. When you're shoving them in your face, though, you never even know it's there. You could easily pipe a dollop of frosting in there first then pipe the swirl if you just can't handle the thought of there being even a smidge of wasted frosting coverage.

Next came The Frosting. Oh, my. This frosting. It's incredible. It's made of butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar and whipping cream — what's not to like?


I used my Wilton 1M tip, filled a disposable bag, and went to town.

Heaven, whipped into a pale golden fluff.


 If I'd stopped right there, these would still be amazing. But I had an idea – take the peanut butter cup idea and apply it to the frosting. Let's dip 'em in chocolate coating. So I went looking for a homemade "magic shell" kind of recipe. I knew they were out there (Google it - there are a number of variations) but what surprised me was that the secret ingredient wasn't paraffin–my suspicion–but coconut oil. Why coconut oil, you ask? Well, because it's solid at room temperature. It's melting point is 76°F so keep it below that, and you've got a (relatively) solid chocolate shell. Granted, it stays much more solid on something really cold like ice cream, but put the cupcakes in the freezer before dipping and keep them in the fridge after, and you're good to go. (Which also means this wasn't the BEST idea for a cookout recipe, but I didn't hear any complaints.)

dip collage

(Oh, goodness. All of that dipping took me back to my Dairy Queen days—back in the olden days. You know, High School.) The dip was a little thin, but Dwight had the best idea "Why not dip them twice?" Done and done.


I packed them into my (really crappy) cupcake carrier and we headed off to the cookout.

eating collage

They were a big hit, with kids...

and dogs alike. (Don't worry, she only had a some of the frosting, and a tiny bit of chocolate.)

Now let's get to the recipes!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes 
(with Reese’s PB Cup Center)
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes approx 12 (I got 15 out of it with plenty of batter left on the sides of the bowl for me to enjoy. What?)

8 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1/2 cup (1.5 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (or regular if that’s what you’ve got handy)
3/4 cup (3.75 oz) All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup (5.25 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream (you could use reduced fat, but really…why bother)
12-15 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line tin with cupcake liners.

Combine butter, chopped chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl. Microwave 30 seconds then stir. Microwave at 15 second intervals until smooth. (It only took me the first 30 seconds plus 15 more before it was smooth and glossy.) Don’t overheat! Alternately, you can get fancy and use a double boiler, or a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Cool until barely warm.

In small bowl, combine flour, soda and powder.

In a medium-ish bowl, beat the eggs then whisk in the sugar and salt. Add the cooled chocolate mix, beating until smooth and well combined. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Whisk until fully combined. Add sour cream, mixing well, then add remaining flour mixture, whisking till flour is fully incorporated and batter is thick.

Scoop batter into lined tins using you preferred method—spoon, ice cream scoop, measuring cup. Place a mini Reese’s cup in the center of each cake. Press into the batter until nearly level with the top.

Bake 15-20 minutes (original recipe said 18-20 but mine were most definitely done at 15 minutes). Check doneness with toothpick. If it comes out clean, you’re good.

Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then move to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Printable Recipe Here

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from browneyedbaker.com
Easily covers 18 cupcakes, and that’s if you have a heavy hand.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 - 2/3 cup whipping cream (heavy cream) adjust as necessary - add more if it looks like it needs it. Go wild.

Beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Add cream and beat until light and fluffy. Give it a few minutes to get nice and pale and lovely. Lick the beaters. No, really. Do it. It’ll make you feel like a kid again.

Spread onto cooled cupcakes or pipe with your preferred decorating tip.

Homemade Magic Shell
Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

3 regular size Hershey bars, broken into smaller bits
1/2 cup coconut oil

Combine chocolate and oil in small, deep bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. The oil will have melted, but the chocolate will still be partially solid. Microwave at 15 second intervals until the mixture is smooth. It won’t take long.

Pour over ice cream or dip frosted cupcakes that have been in the freezer at least 15 minutes. Take cupcakes out just a few at a time. If you’re double dipping, place cupcakes back in the freezer for a few minutes before re-dipping.

Enjoy! Sure, it’s not exactly health food, but it’s got to be at least a little better for you than the processed stuff in a squeeze bottle.

Just for the record, I had plenty of this left over after double dipping 12 cupcakes–a good 1/2 cup or more left. It’ll keep in the pantry for a while, but if you put it in the fridge, it’ll turn solid and you’ll need to nuke it before using.

Printable Recipe Here

I hope you made it all the way through that post; it was a whopper. And let me know what you think of the printable recipes. Do you want them with pics, or do you prefer text only. What about the size? Is full page good, or do you prefer recipe cards? 

Let me know in the comments!
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