Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Babies, Babies, Babies

I've got lots of baby showers to attend this winter so I've been busy hand-making all my gifts. Here are just a few I've done so far: pacifier clips (find tutorial here), bib and burp cloths (inspired by a craft I saw at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this summer, wish I could remember which vendor it was!), and my first ever quilt.

DIY Halloween Dress Recon

I love a good t-shirt recon but what about a dress recon? Whether it be a prom dress, brides maid dress or just that ugly, outdated dress you've had in your closet for the last 10 years, it's fun to see how creative people can be with their old dresses (click here and here to see some of my favorite recons). And what better piece of clothing to use but a dress. You've got lots of fabric to work with and the need to open up some valuable closet space. I've had just the old dress taking up way too much of my precious closet, and finally an excuse but, more importantly, a brilliant idea of what to do with it. For Halloween this year I wanted to be the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, mainly because my husband would make a perfect Mad Hatter. So I grabbed "the dress" and got to work. Here are the before and afters along with a few shots of my Mad Hatter partner-in-crime (which I also crafted and pieced together).



Friday, September 24, 2010

New York City, Food Edition: The Main Dish

I LOOOOOVE food, about as much as I love NYC. So when I had my first opportunity to visit the Big Apple a few weeks ago, I dove right into the food scene. I had everything from massive meat sandwiches to exotic Asian fruits during my trip. So join me in a tour of all things edible found in the heart of NYC: Manhattan!

I'll just say it right now, pizza was by far my favorite NY food. I could eat it every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even now, I still crave it. Some day I'll be back to get another slice of pie, but until then here are some of the best foods I had while hiking through the urban jungle.

This little slice of heaven was my first meal of the trip (not counting the cupcake). Ray's Pizza has a huge presence in the city so it was hard to miss it. Plus there was one just a few blocks from my hotel. It was destiny, as was this delicious slice of margherita pizza.

Stage Deli is located near the Broadway district and Times Square and also serves some of the best pastrami sandwiches in the world. I opted for this behemoth of a pastrami reuben topped with a ridiculous amount of cheese and an over-sized plate of fries. Luckily, my brother was with me and ate the other half. Be warned, these sandwiches are enormous, but also expensive (about $20 each). Clearly, they're meant for sharing. BTW, notice the deli mustard on the left. That's right, no yellow mustard here, only the good brown stuff with a bit of a kick.

Curiosity got the best of me so the following day I headed over to Carnegie Deli (Stage's rival, and only a block away) to give their pastrami a taste test. I had to find out for myself who had the best. Well, sorry Stage, but Carnegie wins this round. Sure, the plain pastrami sandwich doesn't look as amazing compared to the cheese and kraut covered 'wich from Stage, but their meat was insanely good and of better quality. Maybe it's in the meat making process, or the hundred's of celebrity photos staring back at me, but I was in pastrami bliss with this big guy.

When in Chinatown, dim sum is a must. These dumplings were teamed up with a few deep fried morsels as well, and a tall glass of sauvignon blanc. There's a lot of places to get your dim sum; Jung Fong, Golden Unicorn, Oriental Pearl, but these little pearls were consumed at the award winning Ping's Seafood.

If dumpling's aren't your thing, or you're looking for something a little more adventurous, I highly recommend ox tail curry. Instead of a side of rice, it comes with little mini fried bread loaves to soak up the juices. Boney and fatty, ox tail becomes a very tender and juicy meat in this unique dish.

Back for more pizza. I tried to get as much as I could before leaving. This time it was a slice of Hawaiian.

One last dinner before heading out so we decided to make a quick stop at Roxy Delicatessen at Times Square. I ordered a simple knish, but my travel companion, Kevin, opted for this hefty stuffed cabbage. It looked amazing and tasted just as good.

New York City, Food Edition: Sides and Snacks

Bagels are a must eat when in NYC. And if you can, grab a spot near Central Park, like right outside the Apple Store, and do a little early A.M. people watching.

When at the Carnegie Deli, instead of a basket of bread, I was given a plate of large pickles before my massive meat sandwich came. Yesss! Spicy and mild, they went great with the pastrami. And yes, we cleaned the plate.

I've never heard of a knish before, but I did notice it on many menus and at numerous food carts during my visit. I finally broke down and got a potato knish at Roxy Delicatessen. If I hadn't eaten so many meat sandwiches, I'm sure I would have gone for the meat knish, but the potato was substantial enough. With a side of sour cream, it was the ultimate comfort food.

After breezing through Toys R' Us in Times Square we stopped at the Candy Land candy store, and what is the one thing my brother manages to comes out with? Mexican Spice larvae and Salt and Vinegar crickets! Gross. I choked down a larvae, but that's where I draw the lines. Kevin, those crickets are all yours!

New York City, Food Edition: Bottoms Up!

All this walking and eating sure is exhausting. Rehydrate with a Brooklyn Lager from NYC's very own micro brewery, the Brooklyn Brewery.

Then, when you're in Chinatown stop in one of the many bakeries (there's practically one at every corner) to try a mango bubble tea. It's basically a mango slushy with large black tapioca on the bottom that you get to suck up through a jumbo straw.

If the idea of swallowing large, chewy, black balls freaks you out then reach for the lychee ice. Lychee is a super sweet Asian fruit that is a-ma-zing! Mmm, I'm feeling better already.

New York City, Food Edition: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

The moment I arrived in the city I bee-lined it to Magnolia Bakery, known for their yummy cupcakes. Some people call them the original cupcake trend-setters and credit them for starting the "cupcake craze" in the 90's. Some call them famous after their cupcakes and store front made an appearance on an episode of Sex and the City. I call them brilliant! Thank you Magnolia for giving me this chocolate cupcake, topped with the most luscious and fluffy frosting known to human-kind. This was a very good start to my four day food binge.

Macarons! The real deal straight from France. I nibbled on these sweet pastries at La Maison du Chocolate in the Rockefeller Center. The selection was vast but I somehow narrowed it down to the classic chocolate and a decadent caramel. Good 'ol chocolate is still my favorite.

You may be asking yourself what in the world is that in my hand. I'll solve the mystery now by telling you it's a tropical fruit called a rambutan and it's native to the Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. Where do you get these exotic little curiosities in such a faraway place as NYC? Chinatown! You'll find many a fruit and fish (both dried and fresh) markets in this exciting neighborhood. How did I eat it? Well, peel off the red spiky skin to reveal a juicy, white, fleshy fruit underneath. Then bite into it raw, it's the best, and only way to eat them. Just be careful of the pit in the center. How does it taste? Like a mild grape. Not too sweet, soft, and slightly chewy. More please!

While in Chinatown, you may as well head over to Little Italy since they are neighbors. It's amazing how one minute I feel as though I'm in Shanghai, then walk a block and I'm in Naples. Talk about high-speed travel. While in Little Italy you will be surrounded by the most delicious smelling cafes. It was hard to resist all the garlic and butter wafting in the air, until I came across a vendor selling cannoli's from her food cart. There's lots of characters and personalities in this neighborhood but this cannoli woman was my favorite (I love a bit of attitude with my afternoon treat). I insisted on the pistachio and immediately approved my decision with every bite I took. No regrets, except for the deep-fried calories I was packing onto my thighs. Eh, still worth it.

Well, I saved the best for last. New York style cherry cheesecake from none other than the famous Carnegie Deli. Words can not describe the heaven this cheesecake took me to. So, I will leave you to gaze at the image so you can indulge in your own fantasy. Love. *sigh*

Monday, September 20, 2010


Taking a vacation anytime soon? If so, Travelpology is a must stop blog before you take off. Everything from travel tips with Travelpology 101, to Travel News for up-to-date travel info, to Don't Miss Desserts in your favorite cities, and much MUCH more. And the best part, I designed all their web graphics!
Don't forget to friend Travelpology on Facebook and sign up for their twitter updates. You wont regret it. And even if you're not traveling anytime soon, you may still find something about your own hometown on there. I say this in a good way - Travelpology, you get around! *wink, wink*

Summer Meets Autumn Dessert

September is the month that summer says "good-bye" and autumn says "hello". During this transition I always feel a bit culinary confused. Are the apples ripe yet? Can I still order that asparagus soup? How many more avocados can I get before they're out of season? When are the pomegranates going to arrive? To answer all of my questions I've decided to look at September as the perfect month to try out some new recipes by fusing both seasons. This is how my Summer Meets Autumn dessert was invented.
My last visit to the farmers market proved that autumn is knocking on summers door. Less produce and more baked goods, squash, pumpkins, and meat. I picked myself up some angel food cake from an Amish stand, fingerling potatoes, a large sweet potato, and a handful of leeks. Potatoes and leeks to come at a later date. Instead I focused on the angel food cake. Here is how you make the Summer Meets Autumn dessert:

1. Break angel food into small chunks.
2. Top with late summer rasberries.
3. Poor maple syrup over angel food and raspberries.

That's it, dig in and savor the flavors of two of most wonderful seasons in one. And if you're looking for something a little more sinful, try adding hot fudge, rum, or a variety of berries such as strawberries, or better yet, chin-dripping peach slices.

Enjoy it while you can because winter will be here before you know it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lola's Island of Misfit Toys

Puppies chew...a lot. Which is understandable. Up until they are about one year of age, puppies are teething so they need lots of things to chew on, preferable not hands, toes, furniture, or cats. Lola is just over 4 months old now and her prime teething time has only just begun. So I provide lots of plush toys for her to take her teeth to. Most of the animals do not come out unscathed from this. Some actually lose their lives. But I do what I can to keep their heart ticking. Everything from face transplants to ear removals. Whatever it takes to keep both Lola and her stuffed friends going. Because of this, my house has turned into the Island of Misfit Toys. Meet it's inhabitants:

Red Horse and Mama Koala with a full face removal, and her little one, Baby Koala, with a brand new face (hope is in sight). Blue Ardvark with a new mouth and nose. Elmo with an eyeball bandage, Raccoon with a missing ear, half a nose and a full removal of all squeakers.

I'm sorry to say that shortly after Baby Koala's full face transplant, Lola swiftly took her life in a game of "chew face". Baby Koala, you will be greatly missed.

This I also needed to share with you. Lola being a sassy puppy, again. She discovered how fun it is to tear apart delicate things such as toilet paper. Well, at least it's better than grabbing the snotty tissues out of the waste basket. Who says puppies aren't like 2 year olds?

Friday, September 10, 2010

"The Suitcase"

Did anyone watch Mad Men last Sunday? O.M.G.! Best. Episode. Ever! Dare I say, best hour on T.V. ever?! It was better than last seasons season finale even. Don vs. Peggy. Peggy vs. Don. It was a highly emotional episode between two main characters who have had a strained relationship for years. Both experiencing life's ups and, at the time, downs. While feeling the pressure to come up with a winning campaign for their client, Samsonite, they've hit a crossroads with each other and the end result was a beautiful conclusion. What I found interesting was the time period in which this took place. Yes, we all know it's set in the 60's but this episode is set specifically during a time when civil rights was in full swing and Muhammad Ali (still being referred to as Cassius Clay on Mad Men) just won the boxing match against Sonny Liston with his quick "phantom punch" knockout. I couldn't help but notice how this famous and historical boxing match was a reflection of Don's life at the moment. Bravo to Matthew Weiner and all the people involved with creating this fantastic show. Everything about it is so impressive right down to the smallest of details. And if Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss don't win Emmy's next year for their performances, then they have better get a nice, well deserved pay raise.

Also, don't forget to vote at AMC for your favorite Mad Men style submitted photo. The winner gets a walk-on role on the show next season. Or enter your own photo for a chance to win. Why I didn't enter is beyond me, but I have had fun and been inspired just browsing the entries so far. Carly Simone from Phoenix, AZ (love the yellow shoes) and Nick Savine from Fayetteville, AR (you remind me of Paul Newman in The Hustler - minus the cig), you've got my vote!

And, if you're looking for a laugh, check out FunnyorDie.com for some genius Photoshoping (#2 is my fav). During last Sunday's episode, Don breaks down and actually sheds a couple tears. The blogging community decided to take full advantage of this, in a funny way. If you're a Mad Men fan, you're going to LOVE this. If you have no idea what Mad Men is (ah, crazy!) you'll still really enjoy it.

By the way, did anyone notice the look on Pete's face when Peggy and Trudy walked out of the bathroom together? Priceless!

Her name was Lola. La, la, la, la, Lola...

I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of my family. Lola! She's a smart and spunky Australian Shepherd who's quickly found a place in my heart (don't you just love her pink nose!). And also my reason for slacking on posting to Qreative Quail. Who knew a puppy could be so much work. She's now 4 months old and FINALLY potty trained, which means more time for me to put some focus back on QQ.

These last couple months have been exciting and I've got a ton of stuff to share. Along with the new puppy, I also ventured into a renaissance faire, took a trip to NYC, worked on some fun freelance projects, and have plans on attending the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this weekend. Oh, and I cut my hair and donated about 12 inches to Locks of Love, yay!

So except lots of new posts in the coming days/weeks. And a post on Lola every now and then. She's so cute I just can't resist!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shop New Glarus

Also known as America's "Little Switzerland", New Glarus is located about 30 minutes south of Madison, WI. Located among the rolling hills of Green County, it's the perfect weekend get-away no matter what time of year. My last visit happened to be during their annual Heidi Festival, in which the town celebrates their Swiss heritage and crown the Dairy Queen and Princess. There are many reasons to explore New Glarus, but this particular visit was devoted to shopping, and of course, beer.

Where to Shop and what to buy:
The Bramble Patch - Stock up on soy candles, maple syrup, and Polish Pottery.
• Brandi's Bridal - Buy your wedding dress here.
Edelweiss Bath and Body - Soaps, soaps and more soaps!
Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate House - The name says it all. Yum!
New Glarus Bakery - Authentic Swiss bakery.
New Glarus Brewing Company - Fill your fridge with this delicious beer (only sold in Wisconsin) and while you're there, stay a while by taking a self-guided tour while sampling their many award winning beers.
Roberts European Imports - Tons of Swiss, German, Austrian, and other European nation imports. Where else can you find Lederhosen, nutcrackers, cow bells, and fondue pots all in one place?
• Sugar River Shoppe - They have something for everyone here so start your Christmas shopping early.

Where to Eat:
The Glarner Stube
New Glarus Hotel Restaurant
• Puempel's Olde Tavern

Where to Stay:
• Chalet Landhaus Inn

What Else to Do:
• Attend one of their many festivals (I think eleven in all!)
• Eat, eat, and then eat again.
• Wash down all that food with lots of beer in one of their many European taverns.
• Visit their historical museums.
• Hike around New Glarus Woods State Park.
• Taste wine at the Primrose winery.
• Relax, and get a massage at Touch of Massage and Spa.
• See how many painted cows you can find around town (you'll know what I mean when you get there).
• Visit the New Glarus website for more ideas. 

I haven't been everywhere in New Glarus so please feel free to add to my list in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce

Tonight is the start of Mad Men's season 4. And to kick off the season I'm making a buffet of popular cocktails from the 1960's. Say hello to my little friends Old Fashioned, Vodka Gimlet, and Dirty Martini!

The Old Fashioned

• 2 dashes aromatic bitters
• ½ tsp sugar dissolved with a splash of water
• 1½ oz of bourbon whiskey (or brandy)
• 2 cherries
• 2 orange slices

Muttle cherry, orange slice, sugar, water and bitters at the bottom of the glass. Fill glass with ice. Pour in bourbon. Garnish with cherry and orange slice.

The Vodka Gimlet

• 1½ oz vodka
• ¾ oz lime juice
• ginger ale
• 3-4 lime slices

Pour vodka, lime juice, and a slash of ginger ale into shaker, shake and strain into glass. Add 3 to 4 slices of lime.

The Dirty Martini (my favorite)
• 2 oz vodka (or gin)
• 1 tbsp dry vermouth
• 2 tbsp olive juice
• 3 olives

Pour vodka, vermouth, and olive juice into shaker, shake and strain into martini glass. Garnish with olives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear Mom and Dad,

On behalf of myself and my four siblings (Anne, Cheryl, Kevin, and Matt), along with the numerous dogs, cats, birds, lizards, hamsters, gerbils, snakes, and fish. I wholeheartedly apologize for putting you through decades of chaos and destruction. Luckily, all children survived what is considered the most dangerous and, frankly, idiotic times of our lives...adolesence. Besides a few gray hairs, you both seemed to come out okay as well. However, the house, well that's another story. But in our defense, and considering all the parties and science experiments performed while you were away, the house is, after all, still standing. That in itself is an accomplishment!

Oh yes, remember the time Anne spilled the container of Seamonkeys down the back of the TV? I'm still amazed we didn't burn down the house. Or that one Easter when Seabear got into the box of Cadbury Eggs and left a number of large juicy bombs all over the house? Thankfully our great big dog survived. And the time when Kevin, Matt, and I got into the locked gun cabinet, pulled out the BB gun, and decided to pump a few rounds in our bedroom? Amazingly, no one shot their eye out. (I'm still not sure how we managed that feat, but take note all you parents out there, NOTHING is truly childproof. If there's a will, there's a way.) I could go on and on but I don't want to worry you with any more stories that you may not have known about (Ahhh, what BB gun???).

Again, what I want to say is sorry, from the bottom of our hearts. You did an amazing job raising us. The house on the other hand, has been left with more than just bruises (more like broken bones) and has seen better days. Now that we're all grown up and moved out you've finally been able to start investing back into the house. And I must say, the new roof, siding, side door, and bathroom look amazing! I can't wait to see how the kitchen turns out.

You deserve to treat yourselves for once, and the house will be as happy as the day I moved out. Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting us be kids back when it mattered...when we were actually kids!

Love to you (and the house)!


Paula, Anne, Cheryl, Kevin, Matt, and the jungle of animals you've taken in over the years.

Bathroom Before

Bathroom After