Thursday, June 30, 2011

Double Chocolate Torte

I shared this recipe at the CSI Project a couple of weeks ago.  
Be prepared for chocolate bliss!

 This recipe is easy and quick, but looks impressive and tastes decadent.  You will need a 9x13 size box of fudge brownie mix (along with the eggs and oil required to mix it up), semisweet chocolate chips, and butter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom of a 9" round baking pan, and grease the sides...I used cooking spray.

Prepare the brownie mix according to the package directions for fudge-like brownies and spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 38-42 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly touched.  Do not rely on the toothpick method, because if you wait until a toothpick comes out cleanly, the torte will be too dry.  You want it to be fudgy, and the toothpick will still be a little gooey at that point.

Once it's out of the oven, cool for 10 minutes.  Then invert it onto a serving plate, carefully peel off the parchment paper, and cool completely.

In a microwave-safe bowl or cup, melt 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips.  Nuke for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat.  It shouldn't take more than 1 to 1½ minutes.

Add 6 tablespoons of butter to the melted chocolate chips and stir until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Pour it over the brownie layer.  There will be plenty and you may have some leftover; save it if you'd like to use it for presentation.

Spread the chocolate until it covers the top and drips down over the sides of the brownie.


Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  If you like, serve with whipped cream.  I had some of the melted chocolate left over and used it to drizzle on the plate.

Enjoy!  Your guests will practically lick the plate clean and will never believe that it was so simple to make!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Earlier in the year I listed some goals I had, and one of them was to save enough money for new living room furniture.  I've also mentioned that I want to get an Ektorp sectional from IKEA.  I actually need a chair, too; together, the ones I want would cost $1248 (before tax and not counting the 600 mile round-trip drive to Chicago).

I have been checking craigslist regularly for any Ektorp item, thinking if it was a good deal I could manage with a regular sofa or whatever.  Not too many came up, and what I did see was already sold...they go fast here since we don't have our own IKEA.

Then last week I remembered Search Tempest, which will search all of the craigslists within the range you give it.  I put in 200 miles from my zipcode.

Lo and behold, 90 miles from us was a listing for an Ektorp sectional, less than one year old and in pristine, virtually unused condition.  The ad was almost a month old, and I was afraid it would be sold already, but it wasn't, and I got my sectional for $500, instead of $899 plus tax!

It has the black cover, instead of the light brown that I want.  But the beauty of Ektorp is that you can buy new covers relatively inexpensively.  The chair with the light brown cover I want, plus a light brown cover for the sectional will cost $548 (before tax).

That makes my total $1048.  How much do I have saved up?

That's pretty darn awesome.  And now I have a black Ektorp sectional cover for sale.  Know anybody who's looking for one?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Knock-Off Party

Knock-Off Party time!  You can link up any knock-off from any home decor catalog.  A few basic rules (more details here):

  1. the knock-off must be made by you
  2. please have a photo of the original item so we can compare
  3. please link back to me in your post (why? read this)  If you like, just copy and paste this into your post:  Partying @ Homebody
I wasn't on the ball this month with talking up the party ahead of time, but I hope there will be at least a few links.  You're welcome to use an old post.

Also, today I'm happy to have a guest poster.  Welcome Vivienne of The V Spot!  She has a simple, inexpensive and really cool knock-off to share. 

I love these candles from Pottery Barn.

{Photo removed at the request of Williams-Sonoma, Inc.}

However, even at the relatively reasonable price of $15, I still saw no need to spend that much…

In a previous post, I explained how I can use every single bit of my candles.  I did the same thing here, using old candle wax, wicks from the craft store and a few shells that I already had.

shells, candle, wicks, wax

Take the wax and put it in a microwave proof bowl. 

wax, bowl

In a perfect world, I would have had plain white wax for this project, but alas, it is not a perfect world.  However, some of the wax was my favorite Tuscan Basil scent, so at least my imperfect world smells like Tuscany.

Microwave the wax in 30 second to 1 minute intervals, gently swirling the wax in between heatings.  You will probably need to use a pot-holder to handle the bowl.

In the meantime, take the shells and prop them up/steady them.  I used rice on a plate to support them so they don't tip over.

shells, rice

Since the bottom of the shell is curved, you might need to bend the wick at an angle when you place it in the shell.

candle wick, craft

Take the hot wax (carefully!) and dip the bottom of the wick in the wax to anchor it in place. Then pour in the wax into the shell. (Carefully!) (I warned you guys a couple of times that this is hot, hot, hot.  Please be careful, and if you burn yourself please do not come crying to me, because I told you to be careful...mkay? Just sayin'.)

DSCN4081  DSCN4082   making candles, shell, wax

Let them sit and harden.  Clean off/scrape away any wax that might have run onto the outside of the shell.

I wanted to use sand like the picture in the Pottery barn catalog, but unless I wanted to vacuum my car’s interior to try and get some leftovers from our last beach trip (which I didn’t) or go over to the beach (which I didn't) I opted to use sea-glass type filler instead.

sea glass, shell, candle

It’ll work.

shell candle

The best part?  That they were pretty much free.

shell candles

Give it a try.  Cheap, easy, and it smells good too!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tuesday's Tips and Tricks

So, last month I told you about rinsing your cooked ground beef to lower the fat.  But what about something like meatloaf, that can't be rinsed?

Well, I've got a trick for that too.

I do buy leaner (90/10) ground beef when I'm going to make meatloaf, but that's still 10% fat.  

I line the pan with foil, and then I scrunch up another piece of foil and set it in the bottom of the pan.

After I form the meatloaf, I set it on top of the scrunched foil.

As the meatloaf bakes, a lot of the fat drains off into the scrunched foil, while the meatloaf sits above it on top.

I then just lift off the meatloaf onto a serving plate, and discard the greasy foil.

Got any favorite products, gadgets, recipes, shortcuts, or other tips?  Link them up here! 
  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • you must link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme
Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.

Linkytools has a new feature that I'm trying out:  it will not
 allow you to add your link unless my link is in your post. 
 Please copy and paste the following.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Messy Fun: Oobleck

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian liquid.  Don't ask me what that really means.  It's a liquid and a solid.  You can squeeze it into a ball, but when you open your hand it drips through your fingers. It's really messy, but it washes up easily with water.  If you are a fun mom, you won't really mind if your kids do it in the kitchen.

If you are a control freak like me, you'll send them out to the driveway.

Start with 1 part water and 1.5 parts cornstarch.  We had to keep adding cornstarch.

It's hard to stir.

Just start mixing with your hands.

It's drippy, stringy and gloppy.  You can pick it up.  You can drizzle it.

It's hours of fun.

My kids would still be out there if it weren't for the black thunderclouds that rolled in.

Happily for me, the rain will wash the mess away.  
Now that's fun for everyone!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Parade of Homes: Current Family Room

Slowly but surely I'm going to work my way through this house to finish off the Parade of Homes that I started over two years ago.  So far I've done the living room, and today I'll move to the family room.

Moving from the living room toward the back of the house, opposite the stairway, is a small hallway with the coat closet and the powder room.

Just beyond the little hallway is the family room.  The back of the house gets full western sun, which makes it very warm in the afternoons.  In the summer I keep the blinds closed in the pm, and we went ahead and installed a ceiling fan this year, despite the fact that it's a decorating no-no.  Sometimes practicality wins out (and I don't think it looks too bad anyway).

I have once again used my mad photo-splicing skillz to give you a broader view of the room.

I'm not sure why there is a flag stuck in the vent in the top right of the photo.

We have a gas fireplace; gas doesn't have quite the same ambiance as a crackling wood fire, but you can't beat the convenience of it.  Just flip the dirty wood on the hearth, no ash to clean out.

As an aside, my family has never been able to figure out which room I'm talking about when I say "family room" or "living room".  I'm not sure why...I've been calling them the same thing since we moved in three years ago, and it just doesn't seem that complicated.  A couple of weeks ago Craig said he figured out how he could remember it:  Family room/Fireplace.  This from a man with a doctorate degree!  Don't worry, he thinks it's funny too.

Almost everything in this room came from either a thrift store, garage sale, or craigslist.  It's funny how looking at things in a new way can give you a new perspective.  I've been kind of dissatisfied with this room for a little while; I guess I was just starting to get bored with it.  But looking at these photos makes me realize that it's not so bad after all!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tuesday's Tips and Tricks: Donating to Thrift Stores

You all know that I love to hit the thrift stores, for everything from clothing to household goods to decorating stuff.  But when those clothes have been grown out of, or I decide to change my decorating, I also donate to the thrift stores.

Make donating easier by keeping a clean trash can or box in the garage, lined with a trash bag.  As you come across an item to donate, toss it in.  When the bag is getting full, transfer it to your car and drop it off at the nearest thrift store next time you're out.

Got any favorite products, gadgets, recipes, shortcuts, or other tips?  Link them up here! 
  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • please link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme
Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.

**Sorry, everybody...there were some issues with the thumbnail list, so I closed that one to new entries and opened a basic list.

Summer Plan Mini-Series: Fun Stuff

{This is the last of a three part series.  See also Kids’ Chores and Rules and Consequences.}

A year ago, I confessed that I am not naturally a fun mom.  I’m very type A and really don’t like things to be messy or out of control.  So last year I tried to plan a few out-of-the-ordinary activities for the kids and I’m taking a similar tactic this year.  You won’t find anything wild and crazy here, but maybe just a few ideas to pull out of the hat when you’re desperate.

First is the Boredom Jar.  This is not meant to be a punishment, but if I hear “I’m bored”  I’m going to send them to the jar.  They can either pull a stick and do that activity or decide that they are able to entertain themselves after all.  Nothing too ground-breaking here; just some ideas to get them busy if they’re having trouble coming up with something to do.
  • play a board game
  • play solitaire
  • read
  • bake
  • go to the playground
  • write a story
  • write a letter to nana/papa/aunt/uncle/friend
  • play in the sprinkler
  • build a fort
  • put on a puppet show
  • ride bike/scooter
  • have a lemonade stand
  • etc.
The boredom jar will also be an option for children who are quarrelling, as explained in Rules and Consequences.

Like last year, we’ll go to the library once a week.  We will also take advantage of some of the programs put on by the library, like movies and popcorn, the reading program, an event where kids can read to dogs, and so on.

The opening of our subdivision pool was delayed this year, but once that’s up and running we’ll be there


We may do a few surprise ice cream runs.  After the kids are ready for bed, and when they aren’t suspecting it, we blow a whistle or bang a pot lid and yell “ice cream run!” and everybody piles into the van in their pajamas and we head to Sonic. 

And since I’m a control freak, I’ll try to plan an activity once a week that would give me hives if it happened spontaneously.  Last year we tie-dyed t-shirts.  Some ideas I have for this year include a shaving cream fight, making oobleck, diet Coke and Mentos…um, I’ll need some help in this department.  Maybe I’ll have the kids write a summer bucket list of things they’d like to do that I normally wouldn’t be too keen on.

Got any fun summer ideas?