Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eat there: Hi-Tone Pizza Night

You know Jake and I are all about a bargain. I'd been hearing about Hi-Tone's pizza night for some time. My friend Kate works there and is always putting it on her facebook status. But it wasn't until I got the visual of this pizza via my favorite Memphis restaurant blog Dining with Monkeys that I felt that I MUST go. 

(side note: Dining with Monkeys is an awesome blog where the mom/dad combo take their "monkeys" out to eat at all these restaurants around town and tell how they fare for kids but I am a picky eater who really wants to try new restaurants so I consider myself a "monkey" at times and use this to try new restaurants! and now I follow the mom's regular blog too and think she is super cool. isn't blogland fun?)

So Tuesday night, we decided to head on over to Hi-Tone to try this pizza special. It is half off your pizza and they serve New York Style pizza (my fav). They've got all sorts of specialty pizzas (Italian, BBQ, Hot Wing, etc). We invited our friends Heather and Ed and were going to meet up about 7. Well as we were driving over, we realized that we were going to hit a bit of traffic because there were about 20,000 people letting out of the zoo (free Tuesday + MCS spring break, can't blame them) and so by the time we made the usually 2.5 minute drive to Hi-Tone in 10 minutes, I was ravenous. So what did we do? Order hummus!

 I happen to really love hummus and find myself very picky when it comes to hummus. Two of my faves in Knoxville (Tomato Head and Barley's) both had amazing hummus and I haven't found just the right thing here in Memphis. So imagine my surprise when this litle hole in the wall bar on Poplar has some of the best hummus I've ever tasted - and a plate of it, veggies, and pitas were only $3! That's what I'm saying. I'm going back for the hummus. 

Well after fighting the throngs of people, Heather and Ed made it and we ordered our pizza. One thing to note - Hi-Tone is first and foremost a bar/concert venue. We ordered at the bar (drinks and food) and there was really no "table service." You've got to expect that going in. Our bartender/server guy was very cordial but not exactly overly helpful. But I get it - it's a bar. So we order our pizza. Talk for a good 20 minutes (not exactly quick but we were chatting so it was ok), and the pizza comes out. 

 I was way too busy chowing down on it to get a pic of it in its beginning form but let me tell you - ridiculously amazing. It was HUGE. A large was originally $14 plus toppings at $2 a pop for a large but we got ours half off so our pizza ended up being something like $8.50. As a pizza lover, I can discern between a good pizza and an ok pizza. This one was good. 

Overall, I definitely recommend going to half prize pizza night at the Hi-Tone (across from Overton Park on Poplar by the Circle K). If you're really hungry, you could always order your pizza over the phone so it is ready when you come in. I saw some people doing that. We might do that next time. 

Kinder Surprise

Lately, I've had a craving for a treat I had a lot when I was little. They are called Kinder Surprises and my grandmother used to bring them to me from Germany. They aren't sold in the US because of FDA regulation (did you know no food can be sold with unedible things inside it due to a 1938 law?) but you can get them all over Europe. 

Kinder Surprises are little chocolate eggs (milk on the outside, white on the inside) that have a smaller, plastic egg inside it that has a toy inside that you assemble. These toys are always really cool and some people even have collections. As a kid, I always loved putting together the toys. 

But the toys aren't what I miss - I miss the egg itself. The chocolate is thin (like good European chocolate always is) and tastes so good. If you're travelling to Europe any time soon and see these, pick one or two up for me and bring them home. I'll love you forever for it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take a walk with me.

I love spring. Now, typically I would answer that summer is my favorite month. No school, camp is in session, bright blue skies, lake trips (anyone want to take me this summer?), ice cream - I am made for summer. But lately I've been digging spring. See, it is just a season of hope. All winter we're bogged down in cold (I am not made for cold weather - my bones hurt when I'm cold) and grey skies. We're stressed. We're tired. And yet when the first glimpse of spring comes, we dash outside, soak in the sun, and smile. I truly believe in Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder and know that I personally need lots of sun rays. Spring is a time of excitement and potential. As we plant our flowers, there is potential for beauty. As we emerge from our houses, there is a potential for friendship. I'm starting to finally meet a lot of our neighbors who, since winter was upon us, were not out and about and now are. 

Today I decided to take a stroll through my neighborhood. As you all know, I'm a big fan of Cafe Eclectic and wanted to try their homemade bread. While I don't necessarily promote the baguette I bought (too dry and tasteless), the journey there was quite enjoyable. Take a walk with me. 

I spent the afternoon on my patio in the back yard eating lunch, playing on the internet, and listening to the siamangs at the zoo hoot and holler. It was a beautiful day.

Spring Break Project #1

The first day of Spring Break brought the first project on my to-do list - tackling the front bed outside our house. It is technically half in our yard, half in the neighbor's yard (a rental house) but they haven't done anything about this particular bed and it was atrocious. Photo evidence:
 As mentioned in this post, one of my goals was to get this sucker back under control. It had rained most of Sunday off and on so the ground was perfectly moist, prime condition for the weeding of said bed. The former homeowner was a little cute granny gardener and under all of this mess were some really nice plants. So, on Monday of Spring Break, I put on my gardening crocs, got my tools, and dove right in. 
It was a morning of triumph (cutting down small trees), pain (thorns in the hand), and fright (creepy crawly things). The first thing I had to do was take my ole loppers and cut down the various TREES that were growing in this bed. I then tore at the dead things, weeds, and vines. This part was very fulfilling. I happen to know a little bit about yard work, thanks to my parents who fully believed in child labor. I find yard work to be theraputic. It is one of those chores that you do and can see an immediate difference. 
Now - I did get quite a scare during this particular morning, though. I was ripping out handfuls of weeds and felt something crawling in my hand. I looked down to see this:
 That would be a garden snake (after having been thrown into the grass out of surprise). Luckily I am not afraid of snakes, having owned three in my life (Rockjaw and Eyebrite were the best rosy boas a family could ever want as pets) but I did get a bit startled. Upon further examination, I decided to let him live out his life - on the other side of the yard. 
Yet, five minutes later and a little bit down the bed, I found yet ANOTHER snake:
I wasn't as kind to this one, as I flung it on the concrete. They are resiliant little guys - he slithered right off.

And yet we weren't done with the creepy crawlies. I had been finding little snails all in this bed - the size of an eraser at most. And then I saw this guy:
 I happen to really like snails - they are one of my trademarked doodles for when I'm bored. I think their little antenna things are just super cute. But this guy was HUGE. So I let him go on his way, after photo documentation of course. 
A few hours, a lunch break, and four industrial sized trash bags later, I was done with the bed (for now). I had unearthed irises, chrysanthemums, and other lovely (yet unidentifiable) plants. There were some (free) nice things in there. Once they bloom, I'll post pictures. And for the end result...
So now, for a before/after pic:
 Now we're just working on growing grass. We've got a good lawn of grass in the front but the back is a bit patchy and muddy. Good thing I put this on it yesterday:
 See how sad our back yard looks? It needs some grass. Stat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Make this: Mexican Rice

When I was in Knoxville, I used to make Mexican rice with a mix from Goya. Since moving back to Memphis, I haven't found any Mexican rice mixes that I liked particularly well - not nearly as much as the Goya rice, at least. So I decided to make my own Mexican rice. I looked up a recipe on AllRecipe - here's the one I used as a starting point. I adapted the recipe for my own tastes and really liked the result. 
The ingredients:

Long grain rice
Rotel tomatoes (well any diced tomatoes but these were Mexican flavored)
Vegetable Oil
Corn (I used canned- not pictured)
Onion (white, chopped)
Jalapeno (chopped, optional, could be jarred or fresh, I used fresh)
Cilantro (chopped)
Chili Powder
Ground Cumin
Chicken Broth

Step 1) In a large saucepan, saute the onions and jalapenos in the vegetable oil until the onions are translucent

Step 2) put rice in, coat rice in the vegetable oil, add tomatoes, corn, cilantro, cumin, and chili powder, stir

Step 3) add chicken broth (enough to cover the rice) and cook on medium high until boiling. 

Step 4) once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

The final product was a spicy but fresh tasting rice dish that didn't take too long or too much effort to make. Jake had marinated chicken in a tequila lime sauce and we cooked that with the rice for the perfect Mexican dinner. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Break Plans

Spring Break 2007 was spent on the Norweigen Majesty with eleven of my closest college friends from my sorority at UT. We cruised from Charleston to the Grand Caymans, Cozumel, and Key West. It was my first experience on a cruise and, other than being sea sick and overwhelmed about the prices on the boat, was an excellent experience. 

 Spring Break 2009 was spent on our honeymoon, staring off this balcony to Fort Myer's Beach (well and on the beach, the mini-golf course, at tons of restaurants, and strolling the boardwalk). I love the beach and the relaxation that ensues from being there - it is theraputic for me. I loved that trip we took last summer and thought it was the perfect honeymoon for us. 

Knowing how I spent 2007 and 2009, it seems that every other year lately has been a "down" year for SB. 2008 was spent at home in Memphis, enjoying my time with family and Jake since I was still in Knoxville completing my Master's, and planning our wedding. 2010 will be another "down" year and after the busy school year I've had, I couldn't be more excited. 

To hold myself accountable, I plan to do one project a day and blog about it that night. Here's my to-do list:
1) Finish Laundry Room
2) Finish office project
3) Tackle front bed in yard
4) organize g-mail and work inbox into folders
5) unpack more clothes 

I'm going to be at a conference Friday through Sunday and then will be spring-breaking Monday through the next Sunday. I'll let you all know how I do!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eat this: Cafe Eclectic's Crossaint


One of my favorite memories from when Jake and I went to Europe is an odd little one - buying our breakfast from the stand in the U-bahn station every morning. We travelled to Germany during our spring break my junior (his senior) year. We travelled to Frankfurt (well, really Geisen) and stayed a few days with my family there. We traveled to Koln with my cousins, went into Frankfurt, and toured that area. After that, we ventured off on our own to Berlin. I was sort of torn as to whether to travel to Munich or Berlin but am glad we went to Berlin because experiencing the capital of Germany, a place with so much history, was a wonderful experience.

When we were in Berlin, we were on a tight budget. I'd used my frequent flyer miles to get my ticket, bought Jake's ticket as a Christmas present, and we cut costs by staying with family and then in a hostel in Berlin. So we had to be very mindful of our money and one way we found to help with money was to buy breakfast from the stands so we wouldn't be as hungry at lunch. We'd buy a large bottle of water to share for the day and two crossaints. These stands were so cute - nestled in the U-Bahn (subway) station. I loved going there and getting our breakfast before hitting the pavement for the day.

Since being back in America, I haven't found a decent crossaint. Not like those there- they were flaky, buttery, but not overpowering in either manner. That has since changed. Last week, while at our favorite neighborhood spot Cafe Eclectic, I bought day-old crossaints from their day-old basket. For the next two mornings, I had the pleasure of reliving Berlin through my gastric sense of memory by ingesting the soft, chewy but flaky, just-right butteryness of their crossaints. For someone who doesn't even like breakfast, this was a great find.

ps - Jake took this with his iphone and our waitress walked up as we were taking the picture. She thought we were CRAZY or just weird.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A fun site to check out!

 Image from

Some of you may be familiar with GOOP, but for those of you that aren't, it is a fun blog/online newsletter sent out by the ever-classy Gwyneth Paltrow. Here's the link:

I stumbled upon it today and read a few entries. I really enjoyed her latest post, which was about Nashville. I signed up for the email list and will be getting her newsletter in my inbox. It makes me happy because it combines two things I love - blogs and famous people!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crock-Pot Cooking: Salsa Chicken

We've been making this recipe off SparkPeople lately and I wanted to share because I just chowed down on some of the goodness tonight. It's another crock pot one so always good for the diner with little time. Jake's on Spring Break and so he threw this in around 11AM and it was ready for dinner.  

Salsa Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
1 pkg reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1) put in chickens
2) sprinkle taco seasoning over chickens
3) pour soup/salsa over it
4) cook on low for 6-8 hours (ps it is ok if it looks nasty...)
5) remove from heat, stir in sour cream

Serve with rice.(just not as much as jake gave me)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

House Tour: Living Room part 3

The last time I posted my living room on here, I was very excited because I felt like the living room finally looked like someone lived there. And yet I still felt like it looked odd since there was carpet. 

Well, as you all know from this post, my brother helped Jake and I take out the carpet last weekend. So, after putting down the quarter-round and cleaning the floors with a little Murphy's Oil Soap, we've got ourselves a brand new living room:

 Of course, there are always more things to be done... but until then, I'm going to enjoy my new set up (it feels more inviting) and stare at my wood floors.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Staining this and that

I find that as I'm tackling projects, I am gaining confidence in my own abilities and also learning a lot about how to do things around the house. I came into home-ownership knowing very little. I could paint but not well, and found my biggest accomplishment to be changing the light bulbs. 

I don't consider myself to be a home-owner ninja yet, but I do think that I've made a lot of progress. Recently I tackled one of my biggest fears in home project world - stain. I had seen plenty of things being stained on HGTV but of course didn't really pay attention. So when it came time to stain my quarter-round for the living room and  the trim and doors for the new laundry room, I felt very overwhelmed. 

Having lived to tell about it (with the help of my super-knowledgeable and experienced mom and my good buddy Eric), I would love to break down the steps for the blog land so that maybe someone else will feel empowered to stain on their own. 

1) Purchase your supplies: this was an intimidating step for me. I went to Home Depot and got a pre-stain conditioner (this was a good idea), the stain color I wanted (took the old trim piece as a guide), and a polyurethane. We did oil based for our stain and poly but apparently you can do water-based. Don't know which is better so ask your helpful guy in the orange apron. I also bought a pack of tack cloths, which help take all the dust off after sanding. We had sand paper (we used 150)

2) After getting the supplies back to my house, I set up my work area. For us, this was our garage. Since we were doing trim and it was very long, we rested it on several boxes. Sawhorses would have been nice but boxes worked fine. In setting up your work area, you want to make sure that you're somewhere that is protected in case it starts to rain (our issue this weekend) and also that random crap won't fly at your sticky wood (our other issue). The garage worked nicely for us. 

3) Sand your wood. After sanding, get all the junk off with your tack strips.

4) Apply your pre-stain conditioner. We used scraps of an old t-shirt for this step. We poured the conditioner into a plastic bowl, then sopped the t-shirt in the liquid, then just lathered it on. Let that sit for about 15 minutes.

5) Mix your stain well. We used a plastic knife. You don't want to shake because that creates bubbles but mixing is very important because the pigment settles at the bottom. After the stain is mixed, you're ready to stain your wood. We used more strips of old t-shirts (not the same strips as before, but clean ones) and the plastic bowl trick. You get the stain sopped into your t-shirt and just brush the stain on with the t-shirt rag. You want to get a lot of stain on - to where it is real liquid-y. You'll coat evently going with the grain of the wood on the whole piece, then wait about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes or so, take another clean piece of the rag and wipe off excess. Let this sit to dry. Repeat this until you're happy with the color. 

6) After letting the stain dry (we waited about 6 hours), take a brush (either a new paint brush or one that has been used only for poly in the past) and brush on the polyeurathane. You'll let that coat dry and do as many coats as you want until it is as glossy as you want. 

We conditioned, stained, and poly-ed trim, doors, quarter road, and two pieces of wood for a desk for our office this weekend. I do know now that practice makes perfect! 

Lucky for me, my brother is extremely talented in carpentry, design, and home-repair after working for our contractor. He is an architect student and is going to be very good at designing and constructing homes. Ez was in town for spring break and he and Eric put down the quarter-round:

An artistic pic for an artistic guy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Coat Closet Project

With Eric in town, I was motivated to get a lot of projects done. One that I had been wanting to do for a while was to organize the front closet. Our coat closet is very deep and had been stacked with various home items since a major clean up in December when all the extras just got thrown into the closet. 

First, I took all our jackets and hung them up on the rod (innovative, right?). Then I stacked the paint cans on the floor in the back instead of having them scattered all over the closet. I took out two of the shelves against the back wall to use for another project and so this made our coat rack more legit (before, the coats were pressed up against two shelves). 

After putting away various things where they really should have gone, the coat closet was again possessing the ability to walk into - and with the recent ripping of the carpet, also was nice and clean with wood floors. It was time to implement my organization project: a pegboard wrapping paper station. 

First, I went to Home Depot and bought a 2X4 sheet of pegboard from their pre-cut wood aisle. This pegboard comes white and was about $5. I decided to take leftover spray paint and paint it turquoise. 

I also bought a bag of hooks and a set of three baskets. The total for all of that was about $10. With those supplies, I put the pegboard up in the closet on one wall and had this:


Sunday, March 14, 2010

A visit from Eric

This past weekend, a good friend of mine from college came to Memphis to visit. Eric is a 3L at UT Law School and we met as Orientation Leaders at UT in 2005. Eric happens to love houses and fixing them up and I happened to be tackling a big weekend of projects so he took the 6 hour drive to Memphis and helped me out. 

The projects I was working on were varied but all related to the house. They roughly could be summed up as:
1) staining quarter round and installing it in the living/dining room
2) staining new trim and doors around laundry room
4) creating a "counter" for the laundry room
5) creating an organization system for the coat closet
6) starting on the big office makeover

One of Eric's many strengths is that he is very accurate and perceptive so when it comes to projects, he is a hard worker and a bit of a perfectionist. He also knows how to do a lot of things I don't, so it was a fun, successful weekend of working on projects. 

Yet, in between those projects, we also found time to have some fun too. We went to Central BBQ for lunch on Saturday. I realized I've never blogged about Central BBQ and that is a travesty. When people ask about favorite bbq places in Memphis, my go-to is Central. I think their bbq has the best flavor and consistency and their nachos can't be beat. We even had it at our rehearsal dinner!

I absolutely love Central BBQ and it was one of the things I missed most about Memphis when I was in Knoxville. You just can't get bbq like that there. Central also is great because there are several different items on the menu that I like. Jake gets the wings and half chicken sometimes, and I like to get the plate with mac and cheese and green beans. Considering I'm a pretty picky eater, that means it is a good restaurant. 

Eric had been to Central BBQ several times with me and said that coming to Memphis, Central BBQ was a must. 

Other than Central, we also ate at Bosco's, Kooky Canuck, and Cafe Eclectic. So, even though we were working (very) hard on the house, we still had some fun times out too!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Make this: the discerning poor man's spaghetti sauce

What do tomatos, an onion, and 5 tablespoons of butter have in common? They are all you need to create a tasty spaghetti sauce. 

This simple spaghetti sauce has circulated the web - I saw it most recently on smitten kitchen's weblog. The sauce is super cheap, super easy, and very tasty. It is a very basic spaghetti sauce, nothing too fancy. If you're looking for a thoughtless meal that tastes good and impresses but is easy on the wallet, this is the one for you.


Noodles of your choice (I prefer Angel Hair pasta)
1 large can (28oz) of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large white onion, halved and peeled

1) So you throw all but the noodles in a large pot, put it on medium high, and begin to let it sit - it will do this for 45 minutes

2) As you let it sit, begin pushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot to smush them

3) as you go, it will get more sauce-y and less whole tomato-y. This is a good thing

4) put your noodles on to boil

5) after 45 minutes, taste and see if your sauce is ready. you might want to add a bit of salt to taste, but maybe not (I don't but they say to). 

6) take the onion halves out and toss them (or save them and chop them for a brushetta type recipe if you're having guests)

7) serve over noodles

It doesn't seem like 3 ingredients could ever make a sauce that tastes so good but they do. It is a clean, simple, easy recipe. Some people add parm cheese on the top, but not me - why mess with perfection?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We've got shelves!

Well here we are. All that stands between us and a completed laundry CLOSET are my own two hands, three cans (wood conditioner, stain, and poly), some baskets, and a little love. 

The contractor is officially done - the doors are on, the trim is up, the shelves are in. He reused two shelves from the old closet (the uppers) and created a "counter" out of old panelling turned upside down and mounted on a square stand. 

Tonight, while thinking about what to do for the counter (should I paint it and poly it?, stain it and poly it?, mod podge with scrapbook paper?, find cute contact paper?, cover it with an outdoor fabric?) I was looking at the bins that we just bought from Targ for our office project. And guess what - the blue dot matches PERFECTLY with Sherwin William's drizzle. And I love these bins. So you know where to find me this weekend - buying more polka dot bins at the Tar-jay. My idea is to do two of those bins mixed with two wooden baskets I already have on the bottom shelf and then use the upper shelf for serious storage (think wrapping paper, crafting stuff, etc). 

Until this weekend, though, its all on hold due to work stuff intervening. So until then, I'm leaving you with a teaser of the other thing I'm itching to get done: my floors!



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