Monthly Archives: September 2011

Knock Off Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden) Review – Becca


Kelly found this recipe a few days ago by The Penny-Wise Mama. I told my husband about it and he just about ran to the store to get the ingredients to make it. He LOVES (putting it mildly), Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup.

Don’t get me wrong, OG’s soup is pretty good, but I’m not about to go there every time the husband has a craving for it (plus, those breadsticks will be the death of me, seriously!).

This recipe is super easy, incredibly cheap, and takes less than an hour to cook. For cold (well not so cold today), rainy days, this soup would be perfect. It’s easy enough to prep and cook for a weeknight meal, and makes enough to serve a small army.

I’m not going to post the full recipe, but if you want to know exactly what you’ll need, go check out Penny-Wise’s website. Most of the ingredients you’ll already have in your house, and the stuff you’ll need is easy enough to find at your grocery store.

I was excited to cook with kale, I don’t think I’ve ever used it before. Plus – I read a blog post from somewhere (sorry to whomever posted it!) about roasting kale. The bunch I bought was huge so I figured I’d use some for the soup, roast some, and save some for later. Score.

Prep is pretty easy. Dice up a bunch of potatoes, get your stock ready, cook the meat, steam the onions. Cook. Done! Cut down on prep time by enlisting some chopping help from the husbands or and older child. Younger kids would have fun de-stemming the kale (who am I kidding…I had fun destemming it!)

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I used my Pampered Chef large pizza stone to cook the garlic bread and kale. Glad I did too, because I was out of parchment paper! Next time I’d use less olive oil and maybe a tad less salt. The crunch from the kale was killer and made a great topping on the soup.

The soup…oh the soup! The soup was absolutely amazing. My husband and I were basically silent the entire meal, save for the clinking of spoons, slurping of soup, and sipping of wine. I’d make this a thousand times over and I don’t think I’d ever get sick of it. The only thing I did differently was used Herbox powdered low sodium boullion. I am not a fan of super salty things, so I don’t think I noticed a dramatic difference. I didn’t think it needed more (or less) of anything!

So, give it a try! Invite the whole family over, because you’ll have more than enough to stock up your freezer and send some home with guests! A crowd pleaser for sure and kind on your budget. Thanks for sharing this recipe with the world, Penny!


Two-Zip Hipster Tutorial Review


Awhile back, I found the fun and quirky blog, Dog Under My Desk while looking for local crafters and bloggers.  Erin has created several of her own patterns for cute items like a sling bag to carry her adorable little Yorkie in.  She is a crafter after my own heart, creating for the ones she loves and growing her business from there.  The ones she loves just happen to have 4 legs instead of 2!

When Erin decided to come up with a hipster purse pattern, she was looking for testers to try it out before she went to publish it.  Being a fairly good sewist, but never having made a bag before, I was lucky enough to be chosen to give it a whirl.  I then recommended Becca, who was pretty darn comfortable with making bags and purses, to give it a try from another point of view.  Here, for you, are our different takes on the Two Zip Hipster.


This bag has been, literally, attached to my hip since I finished it.  I get so many compliments on this thing!  One lady even asked me if it was a new Vera Bradley (which I’m sure had a little to do with my fabric choice too).

Although the pattern is lengthy, (32 pages in an Adobe file, though half of that is the cut and piece templates) I found that every photo and bit of information was useful.  Erin was careful to pick fabrics for her photos that easily showed the right and wrong side of the fabric and labeled everything in the tutorial meticulously to keep me on track.

Her suggestion for materials was spot-on too.  Erin recommends YKK zippers over Coats & Clark.  For my own purse I bought YKK ones, because that is what the small quilt shop I was at had in stock.  When I decided spur-of-the-moment at Joann to make a second purse, C&C was all they had, so I bought them.  If I had kept the 2nd bag for myself, I probably would be going back and ripping out the zippers to put in YKK ones.

I really think this purse is a great project.  If you even have a very basic knowledge of your sewing machine, this pattern is very do-able.  Like I said, this was my first bag.  I had never used sew-in interfacing before, and had only used fusible to back t-shirt quilts.  If you follow the directions, I am sure you can end up with a bag that looks store bought for less than half the price.  I can’t wait to make more.  If you’re a girl and you know me, you’ll probably be getting one for Christmas.

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For the record, the purses on the tree are made by Kelly, the other photos are Becca’s


Kelly introduced me to Erin virtually  – and  I must say, I’m so happy she did. I second the notion that my 2zip has been attached to my hip since I made it. The pattern is very well written, and even though I have some experience making bags before, I certainly learned some new, useful skills while making this bag (and it renewed my love of all things zip!).

The first 2zip I made was a lot of fun. Structurally it looks pretty good…my front zipper somehow managed to get a little lopsided, but I digress. Since the whole point of pattern testing is to, wait for it…follow the pattern, I did something I normally don’t do – used the pattern pieces. Here’s my beef with pattern pieces – I suck at using scissors. I can never cut the paper in a straight line, and never cut it on the right side of the line. So, I usually end up with a piece that’s anywhere from .25″ – .5″ off (especially when there is taping involved). Despite my crappy cutting ability, I still managed to put everything together. Pro-Tip: label every single piece of fabric and interfacing you cut. There are a lot of pieces and it’s easy to confuse them since many are very similar in size.

When the bag was finished, I was immediately in love with it. It’s so functional and sturdy, the only thing I wished was for it to be a bit larger. I went back and measured all of the taped pieces and emailed Erin asking her to confirm the sizes (the measurements were not in the pattern directions we were given)…I was way off!

Armed with the new information, I set out to make another bag. Oh darn, right? So happy I did, because this one turned out even better than the first…and it was bigger! Hooray!

Like Kelly, I received a bunch of compliments on the bag and I plan on making them as gifts, too.

Thanks Erin for letting us test your pattern!

If you’re interested, Erin’s pattern is available on her own pattern shop, or in her Etsy shop. The new pattern includes piece measurements in case you’re scissor-challenged like Becca.

Dirty Secrets


You know you’ve done it.  In the shower, on the bathroom sink, in the kitchen, and maybe even in the kids’ room while they’re not home.  No, not that (well maybe that too, but that’s not what I’m getting at here, you usually have to pay to read that kind of blog).

Cheater cleaning.  The kind you do when you haven’t done a lick of housework in over a week and your Mom calls and says “hey, I’m going to stop by in a little bit.”  Or when you realize you’ve been sitting on the couch all day watching all of the Twilight movies while your hubby went to work and you want to make it look like you did something while he was gone.

I decided we should all share our tips and tricks to help one another out.  The more productive we seem to be during our long days, the more time we have for fun stuff like crafting!  And it would be helpful when you have that last minute guest stop by.

Clorox wipes are one of my all-time favorite inventions for quick cleanups.  I use them for everything.  On the rare occasion that I run out though, I have been known to use baby wipes to clean up the bathroom counter, wipe toddler fingerprints off of coffee tables and clean up juice spots on the kitchen floor.

Between my kitchen and my living room, I have 4 junk drawers.  2 of them are low enough for my toddler to reach, so they are hers.  Rather than stashing the toys that are too small for Baby D to play with on top of my counters or tables, she throws her own stuff in the drawers.  I have also been known to fill an empty laundry basket with things that belong on another floor of the house and throw it in a closet until I feel like getting to it, or need to get something I’ve thrown in the bottom of it, usually about a week later.  Unfortunately, my big dog Buddy sheds so much that not vacuuming is not an option for me, and I have yet to find a shortcut around this.  I have, however, just thrown all the toys up onto the couch in order to be able to do a quick run around the room.  Big Sister C likes to help out with the cleaning too.  A dry Swiffer mop with 2 of the pole extensions taken out is the perfect height for her, and she is always happy to run around with the Swiffer duster and take care of the tables and bannisters for me.  Start those kids cleaning early!  The day she’s able to clean a toilet will be a celebration in my house!

Please share your own cheater cleaning ideas in the comments!