Before & After: 1940s Standard Line Company Cedar Chest

Last year, whilst scouring Craigslist for random cheap pieces of furniture, I came across a cedar chest for $45.

DH and I had been talking about putting a chest of sorts at the bottom of our bed. And while we had looked at a few of them from Craigslist already, we hadn’t found a GOOD one. They were either too short, in horrible condition, or too…. 1980s.

This one, however, was different.

The young man selling it said he had gotten it at an estate sale for $45. And his wife didn’t think it would work for their needs. It was apparent, from looking at his home, that it wasn’t as modern as her tastes 😉

He wanted to sell it for what he bought it for just to get it off his hands.

So we looked at it some. He assumed it was really old… but in looking at the hardware, I told him it was less than 100 years old. The hinges looked too new and too clean to be pre-1900.

And I was right! There was a small remnant of a tag on the inside of the lid…

After taking a piece of paper, and rubbing a pencil up against the tag for an impression, I got that it was the Standard Line Company. A Google search resulted in me finding out the company did, in fact, make Cedar Chests in Chicago, IL around the 1940s.

Huh. Well that’s cool.

An image search produced similar chests, but not a direct match. But an image of one made me realize that the bottom of the chest was missing a support bar. Doh. The legs were turned out a bit because of it.

But that’s nothing that we couldn’t fix. I mean… it had a certain charm! Look at those details!

So DH and I decided we’d fix it up. The only question that lingered was: to stain or to paint?

The piece was obviously covered in a veneer. Parts were chipping off, and due to a particularly rough ride in the back of DH’s car, we needed to wood glue on a piece from the lid.

I consulted a few bloggers who refinish furniture as their profession (Mandy and Rachael from Altard.com). They suggested, based on the photos and history of the piece, to paint it. It was worth between $80-$100 in good condition, and it wasn’t in “good” to me. I figured what we paid was what it was worth. And paint wouldn’t hurt it.

The piece did also come with a key… so it can lock 😉 COOL OLD KEY GUYS.

So off came the veneer on the spots that were chipping! And on went multiple coats of primer.

And we fixed the support beam! I’m not sure it does anything, but at least it’s restored to it’s original look/feel. Right?

Then the paint.

The back on the original finish was black. So we decided to keep it! Why not?

We aren’t sure what we’re going to do with the detail on the front of the piece yet. We sort of like the look of it being all the same color. But we have plenty of paint to return it to the original if we want to later on.

So there’s our piece! About $65 in the end. And well worth it. It’s a beaut!

Advertisements

Dinner: Chicken and Biscuits Recipe

Up until a few years ago, I had ZERO clue what Chicken and Biscuits was. The mental image was a chicken breast, some sauce and then a biscuit (a la Kentucky Fried Chicken) on the side.

This is so much more.

Think creamy stew, chicken bites, cheese (OH! The cheese!), and dumpling-esque biscuits on top. Baked together. Bubbling goodness of veggies mingling with a flavor explosion in your mouth.

It’s just THAT darn good.

And I have a dear, dear Wyomingite to thank for this recipe. It’s in a fairly regular rotation (every 4 months-ish) and was a recipe that I planned on cooking for a dinner guest this weekend. Except the dinner guest stood me up. So now I have lots of leftovers for work. Not complaining.

For a single batch of this recipe, you will need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked, chopped (I think 2 cups is a lot. I tend to put closer to 1.5 cups)
  • Assorted spices for chicken (see below)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 small onions or 1 large onion, chopped
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato, chopped
  • Bacon (However much you want… might I suggest 5-8 pieces?) cooked, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sweet peas, frozen
  • 1 can cream of chicken
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 can pre-made biscuits (You CAN make your own!)
  • 1 to 1.5 bags of shredded cheese (so 12 oz. total)

Step One:

Get your multitasking pants on.

Step Two:

Chop chicken. Place in bowl. Add chili powder, minced garlic, cracked pepper, SMIDGEON of salt, olive oil. Toss to coat. Place on heated griddle to cook while you do other stuff.

Step Three:

Chop bell pepper and onion. Place in another skillet to cook. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and oil so it doesn’t stick.

Step four:

Take chicken off skillet (assuming it is done). Put in a large bowl. Then lay out bacon on that skillet to cook.

Step five:

Chop tomatoes. Add to bowl. (Yes. Not cooked. They will cook in the oven! Promise!).

Step six:

Add frozen peas, sour cream, cream of chicken, milk, and onion/bell peppers to the bowl.

Step seven:

Take bacon off griddle, let it cool, chop, then add to bowl.

Step Eight:

You can add 3/4 of the cheese to the bowl if you have room. Mix well, then pour into greased 9×11″ pan or an 8×8″ if you’re doing a single serving. If you don’t have room in your bowl to mix, you can do what I did. Pour mixture in greased pan, dump cheese on top, then mix with a spoon.

Step nine:

Stick in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then pull this bad boy out and open your can of biscuits. Lay them out on top. If you have extras, just cut them and squeeze them in. They’ll taste delicious all the same 😉

Step ten:

Stare at the goodness you’ve created.

Step eleven:

Sprinkle rest of cheese on top of biscuits. Shove back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the biscuits are a medium-dark color.

Step twelve:

Let cool a bit before you dig in. It’ll be a soupy mess of goodness. Plating will not be pretty, but, rather, delicious!

This recipe, when made individual, serves 3-4. I doubled it here, and it easily did 6-8 depending on appetites!

On the topic of ear buds

On Saturday afternoon, at the corner of McCormick Place and Oakton Street, DH and I were waiting to turn right at a red light. A sign posted on the side of the street said, “NO TURN ON RED (when pedestrians present).” Seeing as how the weather was a beautiful 85 degrees, and that intersection was home to a bike path thoroughfare…. there were tons of people outside.

So we waited. Patiently at first.

There was a woman on a bike, one foot on one pedal preparing to push off, the other on the ground, holding her in place. She had a helmet on, biking shorts, and panniers on each side of her back tire. This woman looked like she knew bike safety and the rules of the road well.

Except she was in the middle of the lane. Not on the sidewalk. THE LANE.

When our light turned green, we were expecting her to leap onto her wheels and shoot off down the bike path. But instead, she just stayed there. Other folks who were riding their bikes in the other direction took off. Why didn’t she?

I honked my horn a few times. She didn’t even acknowledge me. She just stood there, leaned forward in her bike, and looked at the pedestrian crossing sign.

It was a big, red hand. Someone hadn’t pushed the cross button. But it wasn’t stopping anyone else from crossing…and I was being patient enough to let them all cross.

Here I am, at a stand still. I couldn’t go because she was blocking the lane, I couldn’t get her to move because she couldn’t hear me, none of the other bicyclists who were motioning for her to go could get her to budge either.

What. Gives. ?

So I slowly turned around her, honking my horn to get her out of the way. And that’s when I saw it: ear buds. In her ears.

Middle of the lane. Refusing to cross the street. Helmet on. Biking shoes. EAR BUDS IN HER EARS.

God forbid that an emergency vehicle whip past. Or someone scream bloody murder. Or someone try to save her from being hit by an on-coming car.

How loud would you have to have your ear buds up not to hear a car horn?

Pretty loud, me thinks.

And then it makes me think of all the other times that ear buds have annoyed me to some degree. At home when DH has them in to drown out noise and can’t hear me talking to him. On the train, when I can hear every word and musical note myself (isn’t that why THEY are listening and not ME?). Random passersby walking on the street. Kids on the school bus. Patients in doctor’s offices.

Why are we drowning out the natural noises of the world? Why are we listening to other people’s words and lyrics when we could be making our own? Why bury our thoughts in someone else’s? Is this world such a bad place that we need to occupy our mind by thrusting in plastic, poorly designed ear buds and overstimulating our senses?

I think technology is ruining some small pieces of us… and making us unaware of our surroundings. Being attached 24/7 to music makes us vulnerable to the world, detaching us from our natural sensors and leaving us helplessly tied to a drum beat or cymbal snare.

Save the headphones for the gym. Unplug once in a while, folks.

 

Fiends of Chicago: Wednesday, May 16

7:08 a.m.
The Purple Line train pulls into the South Blvd. station. Commuters start shuffling to the doors to wait for the familiar ding signaling their opening, and then the immediate mechanical voice that warns the doors are now closing. Mere miliseconds after the doors have opened. (Yep. Because you are expected to be nothing, if not light-footed and snappy, this early in the morning.)

A rather large woman who wears socks with her dress shoes, waits at the same door as me and one other man. I am obviously in the back. The man is positioned squarely in the middle front of this line. The Rather Large Woman is off to the side, between us. When the doors open, he will be the first to step foot on the train due to his position.

Or should be the first, because when the doors open, homegirl literally heaves herself into him, throwing him in my direction, as she stumbles on to the train to claim two seats: One for her big head, and the other for her body.

8:19 a.m.
The #2 bus stops at 60th and Ellis. When she boarded 20 minutes earlier, I spotted my coworker. Seeing as how I’m seated in the middle of the bus, in the aisle, I know she saw me (and if she somehow missed my mass of poofy, desperately-in-need-of-a-root-touch-up curls…wouldn’t she be on the lookout for co-workers anyway since so many of us ride this route?). As I get off the bus, I glance at others de-boarding.

A shoulder knocks into my lunch bag as I glance at my coworker, inches from my face, hustling to the sidewalk. I look to the ground where she bumped me. A borwn mass. I don’t think twice about what it is.

I instead look up at her. She’s hoofin’ it. And not looking back. And not even bothering to stop at the red light. And not bothering to wait for me. So I walk into work alone. With one soiled shoe.

10:00 a.m.
(Hilarious) Coworker mentions that at yesterday’s faculty meeting, a backpack was left behind. He opened it to search for backpack owner’s name. After finding it, he runs outside to catch said person.

He taps the gentleman on the shoulder:
“Sir? You left your bag inside.”
“I don’t have a bag.”
“Not big? Black? Backpack?”
“Well, I do OWN one. But it’s back in my office.”
“Sir, we opened the bag. It had a letter to you in it. We believe this is yours.”
“It’s not. I’ll bet you $10,000 it’s not. Mine is back in my office. Now leave me alone,” he growls.
(Hilarious) Coworker goes back into the meeting room. Rifles through backpack once more. Additional items (including car registration form) signal it is this man’s bag, unless someone is stalking him and making copies of his legal documents. Coworker brings bag back to office.

Now Growler Faculty-Member calls department. Says he left bag in meeting room. (Hilarious) Coworker asks for his $10,000. Growler Faculty-Member legit screams in the department.

11:23 a.m.
(Different) Coworker comes over to my cube, plops a mass of cake next to me on a Gladware lid and tells me to try it. Apparently the mass was once Gin and Tonic cake. With real booze. That doesn’t bake out.

It’s delicious.

11:23 a.m. and 30 seconds later.
(Another) Coworker pops her head over my partition and asks, “Whatcha guys got there?” and leers at the small tablespoon specimen of cake. I shove it in my mouth and reply, “Cake.”

(Another) Coworker pouts at (Different) Coworker, obviously saddened by the fact that no one will feed her, even though she is a) older and knows better than to beg for food, b) gets paid more than me and (Different) combined, c) eats her lunch from the candy dish every day, d) doesn’t have the foresight to plan ahead and realize that lunch comes at the same hour everyday.

(How the heck does she pop in every moment there is a morsel of food in the office? 6th savory sense?)

2:48 p.m.
(Yet Another) Coworker walks past my cube, muttering to herself and me, “I busted my pants.”

3:07 p.m.
Eat last slice of pineapple. See juice at bottom of bowl. Rather than drink juice from bowl, I pour it into my empty cup to drink it.

I take a biiiiiig swig.

Then spit all over monitor. Said cup was not empty. Just drank cold, curdled coffee with pineapple juice in it.

3:08 p.m.
Wipe residue off computer monitor.

Is it bedtime yet?

Random Monday: Concentration, Stress, and the Art of Being Busy

My eyes are trained to snap straight to my computer screen when my inbox dings. I  can answer multiple telephone lines while I fact-check and edit documents. I have set strict deadlines for materials and can deftly hole-punch, staple, collate and assemble binders at the drop of a hat.

Forgive me while I wax poetic about my busy work life. It’s not fascinating to most, and can be considered mundane to the average Joe. But I create almost a hundred binders filled with confidential material in a matter of days (which includes editing, printing, assembling and delivery).

This is only a piece of my life right now. I’m also juggling correspondences and planning for five VIPs who are coming to our graduation ceremonies next month. I’m literally in charge of getting them from their homes (across the world) to my building’s front steps.

Some don’t speak the same language as me. Some have never been to Chicago. Some can’t even point Chicago out on a map. I’m in charge of them for a handful of days here and planning all of this has been somewhat trying.

Top it off with designing posters and materials for a few other departments, fixing the printer, being a receptionist, answering phone calls, and trying to be the glue that keeps this office running smoothly…. I’m busy.

Busy.

I’m not overwhelmed. I handle multiple things like a well-oiled press. I can get things organized and cohesive in a matter of minutes.

Busy, but not stressed.

When I’m stressed, I get heated. My internal temperature rises, my eyes start to shift back and forth. I can’t seem to concentrate. My control and organization goes out the window while my shoulders sag.

Busy, but not stressed and definitely not overwhelmed.

There is a big difference. If I’m sitting at my desk, emersed in thought, typing quickly… it’s not because I’m rushing to complete something. It’s because I naturally type fast, I’m deep in concentration, and I’m working. I’m busy. I have things to fill my time and deadlines to keep.

So when I’m not smiling 24/7? It doesn’t mean something is wrong (So don’t ask). It doesn’t mean I’m stressed (So don’t ask). It doesn’t mean that I am ridiculously overwhelmed and need a vacation (The last part is true. But don’t ask).

Part of having a job, and having a job that you do well and actually enjoy, is that you are busy…and can handle anything that comes your way because you’ve been there before. You know what to expect. You can handle the unexpected.

But please, don’t assume that having a fake 24/7 smile plastered on your face means anything different. My brows aren’t furled, my lips aren’t snarled. I am simply a blank slate. I am busy, which is good for business.

What is it: Popovers vs. Yorkshire Pudding

I have been swamped this week, and am finally able to switch my brain back to blogging. I apologize for my absence!

This is one thing that I had zero clue about and had to open cookbooks and digital repositories to wrap my brain around: Popovers vs. Yorkshire Pudding.

I was first introduced to popovers by my (now) mentor and (then) 7th grade English teacher. I went to her house for brunch one morning and she served these delightfully crisp pastries that she called popovers.

Popovers are pastries that puff up when you cook them, creating a thin, empty shell. The insides are completely hollow! Yum! Perfect for stuffing with extras 😉

They are made in a popover pan (I went out and bought one because I saw them on deep discount at Target one day), but they can easily be made in oven-safe mugs, ramekins, or muffin tins.

The batter mixture, when thoroughly combined, is similar in appearance to that of crepes, but has a lot of baking powder/soda to make these babies rise.

Typically these pastries are eaten with butter, jam, syrup, fruits, or other sweets as a breakfast treat. But the batter is pretty versatile and they can be used with anything that needs a little extra carb action.

Yorkshire Pudding is a savory dish that uses popovers, and covers them in gravy. Sounds good, no? 😉 When combined with a roast, some green veggies, and the gravy, you’ve got yourself a hefty meal fit for chilly weather.

All the recipes I’ve seen for Yorkshire Pudding have the popovers shorter than normal. Typically the ones in this recipe are 4-5″ tall. (The ones I tend to create are 6-7″ tall). They’re often pierced when they start to rise so that they fall in on themselves in a middle and make a little crater. Better to hold the gravy juices!

Ever made a Popover?

If not, they are ridiculously easy, and within minutes they have a dramatic ‘pop’ in the oven. It’s fun to watch 😉

Until I can get the recipe my dear friend gave me up on this blog, I suggest you check out this site for the recipe!

King Arthur Flour Popovers

What is it: Bain-Marie vs. Water Bath vs. Double Boiler

One day, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend that contained only a link in the body. The link was to Cheeseburger in a Can. (Go ahead, browse the site. I’ll give you a second. Then come right back here, ok?)

My friend asked if I would ever consider eating a cheeseburger from a can, and I said I’d probably eaten worse. Like Spam. Or “Potted Meat”.

As you’ll see from the Cheeseburger in a Can link, the whole site is devoted to wacky cheeseburgers in general. But farther down the page is this image:

How to Cook a Cheeseburger in a Can

And at the bottom under Preparation, are directions to “heat the unopened can in a bain-marie for approx 10 minutes…” He wanted to know what on EARTH that was, and found it extremely enticing. He’s an outdoor man, himself, and wanted to ensure that when he stocked up on these Cheeseburgers-in-Cans, that he’d be able to finangle something to cook them in while camping.

Really. Because I think that’s just WEIRD. But I came back to him with a report.

Beka 1.8 Qt. Bain Marie

This is the right-out-of-the-store Bain-Marie. Essentially it’s two pieces: a pitcher-like device that heats up water (like a hot pot), and then a saucer or dish that fits over the top. It’s designed to keep foods warm, but not necessarily cook them. If you’ve been to a buffet of some sort, you’ve probably seen the industrial-sized bain-maries (below) that are used with multiple trays of food.

Ring a bell? Makes me think of a Chinese buffet back in Cheyenne, WY. *drools a bit* Sorry.

I don’t know too many households that have an actual store-bought bain-marie on hand, but I’m sure loads of restaurants have them. A traditional hot pot won’t work, unless you’re using the hot water for the next option.

water bath is a more popular choice. It’s wonderful for custards, creme brulees, cheese cakes, souffles, or any delicate dessert/pastry that needs to be moist to cook and rise. But the water bath can also keep whatever you need to warm…like a bain-marie.

To make a water bath, you fill a large casserole dish, or lasagna pan, or something fairly deep with a few inches worth of hot water. The water surrounds your filled baking dish. At this point you could just use the hot water to warm your dish…or.. stick it in the oven.

As this bakes, the water evaporates, creating a humid, steamy oven interior in which your baked good becomes moist and delicious. It also keeps the tops of the baked items from cracking, falling in or drying out.

(I’ve also seen this referred to as a Cheesecake Moat. Makes me wish I had a little heat-resistant dragon toy to throw in…alrighty…moving on.). 

Then, there’s a double boiler. It is typically used to melt baking goods: chocolate chips, peanut butter, candy, caramel, frosting, butter, sugar, etc; or to mix sauces so the flavors mingle together better.

This device can be done multiple ways, either by buying a double boiler in a store (a saucepan bottom that has a fitted bowl on top with a lid: the first photo), or making one with a saucepan and a glass/stainless steel bowl on top (second photo).

For our recent wedding, we got a double boiler, which holds more than the bowl I have been using. Depending on my mood (and whether I actually want to lug out my double-boiler), I’ll just use the second method.

I think my friend would be able to wrangle something out of a small pot he brings along for beans, and a metal bowl. He seems content to buy a stack of those canned burgers, and I am anxiously awaiting a report on how they taste.

Got a preferred method that you like to use? (Have you ever tried a Cheeseburger in a Can btw?)

It’s Thursday and This is Me

I woke up today and weighed 142.1 lb. I started tracking my food again. I just completely lost it for about two weeks. I ate everything in sight, including doughnuts, cookies, cakes, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury Creme Eggs, homemade ice cream, leftover wedding cake.

You name it.

It was amazing.

And then I started to feel blah. My tummy hurt. My energy was gone. I decided I needed a break from the gym too. Ya’ll, one bad decision almost always leads to another. So on Monday night I started tracking again. I did amazing, heaping piles of fresh fruit and veggies on my plate. But on Tuesday night? My eyes hit a Dove Chocolate, solid Easter bunny that my mom had sent me. DH was being polite since he ate the rest of the candy, and he had designated this one as mine.

I started at the ears and worked my way down his face. I hacked off his neck and was working around his shoulders when a thought came to me: Didn’t I already indulge in enough crap over the past few weeks? Was this bunny worth it? (The back of my head said yes… and I hated to leave something half unfinished!). So I enjoyed what I had already had, and forced DH to finish the rest. He tells me he didn’t mind eating the rest.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they wake up one day and say, “Damn. I’m getting OLD.” Things change.

I woke up sometime in the past few weeks and realized that I could no longer use the same Extra Strength Clearasil face wash. If I used it once, my face looked lackluster. Twice? My face felt face-lift tight. Three times and my face would flake into a million pieces. Even after the first or second time, a few days later my face would scale up and flake. And this happens with the Clean and Clear stuff. With regular bar soap, too.

Putting makeup over this was a nightmare. I’d be flaky before I even got out of my makeup chair. I’d look in the mirror and try to scrub off a layer of my face. Or cake on moisturizer to make it work better.

The only thing that appears to work for me right now is the Mary Kay Timewise Normal-to-Dry Cleanser. I just happen to be out of it right now. And I’m pairing that with a Biore face moisturizer right after. At night I put on a Yes to Carrots intense moisturizer (I don’t think this does much..but I still have some left and don’t want to waste it. It was expensive!).

I don’t drink as much water as I should. I don’t use any products with SPF in it. I don’t over-exfoliate. I try to eat a healthy diet (minus the aforesaid chocolate rabbit head). I’m just getting older and sensing that my skin is changing.

I’m having a moral dilemma with book buying. I just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (no longer reserving judgement. I’d give it a solid B+). I went through that in three days. So when I finished it, it was a natural thing to go on to Amazon and order the second. But since I’d finish that by Monday, I also added the third book to my cart. I was $20 in for what? Two books that I’d be done with next week?

I had already gone to the local used book shop. They can’t seem to keep The Hunger Games or The Girl with series in stock. They have none. Ok. Local library was next option! But they have AT LEAST a 3-month wait for them. Drat. So, pay the price if I want to read it seems the best solution unless I can get my panties out of a bunch and just WAIT.

I could pay for the Kindle version. Not only would this reduce books (Because who wants to BUY more books when they get rid of 150 of them?), but it would be green! No more clutter! No more waste! I just think that digital copies of books should be cheaper than physical copies. And they aren’t. On Amazon the books are often more expensive digital! Ooof. Anyone want to send me some books to read? I literally have none…

I’ve been married for 228 days. Nope. I don’t keep a running tally; I just calculated it really quick. Time flies.

And I am ridiculously happy to be married to the man that I am. He has dinner done by the time I get home. He helps with the house work. He understands my insane desire to go shopping at my favorite resale shop. He teases and taunts me about my book-devouring habits. He’ll give his honest opinion about whatever. He loves the curly hair. The random wacky glasses. The curly eyebrows. The fact that I mistook lip plumper for lip gloss and complained that my lips were literally on fire.

Yep. There are some things that I’m super happy about. And this ring on my finger is a reminder of him, more than anything. I think he did pretty good with that ol’ rock 😉 I think I might keep it. And him.

Dinner: Homemade spinach pesto

I was trying to get a DIY project done so I could post it here for you. I got out all of my picture frames, placed them on the floor, and then left them there for days. I can’t seem to bring myself to create a lot of noise late at night and hammer nails into the walls (we have neighbors…), and I haven’t sat down with enough time to actually lay out how I want them to look. It doesn’t help that the photos in those frames? Aren’t ones I want to display. *hrmph*

So instead of the DIY Photo arrangement I was planning, how about a homemade spinach pesto recipe?
I posted this photo not long ago:

And I *tried* to make it.

Turns out the recipe requires coconut milk, and regular milk just didn’t do. So I had to compensate a bit.
The original recipe is just through the picture. But here’s what I did below:

Ingredients: (all of these measurements are approximations!)
1 cup (ish) reduced fat milk
5 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili flakes
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp minced garlic
Big ol’ handful of spinach
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground black pepper
Pasta of your choice

Directions: 

Shove everything but the milk in a food processor. Slowly add milk. Add more spinach if mixture is too runny (a result of adding too much milk. It’s all about balance here!).

Toss with pasta. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Here’s what I came up with:

I thought the mixture was tasty, but with just the original recipe ingredients (sans coconut milk), I thought it tastes too lemony. Maybe the coconut milk was a must-have ingredient. I would try it again with it for kicks. This was a nice change from the sauces we normally eat!