The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

14 Oct

Ergonomic sewing

Posted in Craftin', Healthy Body on 14.10.12 by Octopi

Hidey Ho there Mess Hallers (i.e. Mom and whatever random peeps stumble across this). This last year I’ve been focusing on alternative ways to approach holistic health. I’m gettin older, yo, and need to keep body and mind in top condition.

Life Changes
I recently started going to the chiropractor, and as I’ve been focusing on ensuring my spine is in proper alignment, I started thinking of my lifestyle and activities that probably don’t help maintain proper alignment.

One of these is the “hunched over the laptop for the entire day” activity. Can’t be good for the ol spine, right? So I pimped my workstation set-up so my posture is better. Check it out:

Pimped out set-up


Key features
* Laptop on a stand so screen is up in front of where my face actually is
* Bluetooth keyboard
* (now Bluetooth) mouse (I have a fear of numerous/tangled cords: cordophobia?)
* Credit to my friend Chris at work cuz I totally stole the setup he had already figured out

Now that I had all these fancy devices, I need to protect them when I travel, so I made some felt cases for them. I was feeling ambitious so also tried my hand at “sewing drawing” for the first time.

Case #1

A case for my long board, er keyboard. Get it? A surfboard on my keyboard case? …. Yeah


Case #2

A house for my mouse. Self-explanatory.


Mess Hall over and out

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15 Apr

Tofu cheesecake fo u

Posted in Makin' Food, Substitutes on 15.04.12 by Octopi

Hello. My name is Melissa and I have a sweet tooth.

Hello. My name is Melissa’s ass and you can tell how Melissa’s willpower has been doing by how large I am.

Yeah, I inherited the dreaded sweet tooth from my Dad. Well, I’ve come to realize that I just don’t have enough in me to deny myself of tasty, sugary goodness. I’ve never subscribed to the idea of eliminating stuff from my diet anyway – I’m more of an everything in moderation kind of gal. Which just leaves the moderating.

So I’m switching stuff out, thinking there have GOT to be some healthier options out there to satisfy the craving….including things, dare I say, healthy/good for you?!

So, tofu. Never baked with it before, so this was a first. This is NOT a vegan recipe, so adjust accordingly if necessary. Inspired by this recipe. It got a thumbs up at a recent gathering of friends, so here goes:

tofu cheesecake


– 8-10 full graham crackers. Stick them in a plastic bag and beat the crap out of them until pulverized. Or if you have a fancy machine for such purposes, have at it.
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1/4 tsp. almond extract (really, just use a little splash or it’ll be overwhelming)
– 1 12-ounce package extra firm silken tofu. Don’t use the refrigerated stuff. Use the stuff in the little boxes or similar. Also, pat the extra water off it with a paper towel or clean absorbent kitchen towel.
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 tbl. Tahini or almond butter. I used tahini but next time I’d probably try the almond butter.
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp. lemon extract (I’d suggest trying real lemon and some zest instead)
– 1 tbl. Cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbl
– Small container blackberries
– Spreadable fruit (blackberries)

Makin’ it Happen
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees

– Mix syrup and almond extract into graham crackers.
– Pat the graham cracker mix into the bottom of a (sprayed) 9 inch cake, springform, or pie pan.
– Bake for 5 minutes or so, then let cool for 10 min.

– Mix tofu, sugar, tahini/almond butter, salt, lemon extract, and cornstarch mix.
– Mix until very smooth!!
– Pour mix on top of crust.
– Bake for 40 min (give or take) until pretty firm or edges are light brown.
– Cool (ideally let it cool and spend some quality time in the fridge overnight or at least a couple hours).
– Spread a light layer of spreadable fruit over the top. Sprinkle blackberries on top.

Enjoy! I bet this would be great with some lemon curd on top too.

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26 Mar


Posted in Craftin' on 26.03.12 by Octopi

Early season warm weather is the perfect time to get some mundane outdoor tasks done. I took advantage of the global warming these past couple weekends to paint the floor of my porch. It was becoming a desperate situation.

While I was at it I was inspired by geometric patterns in rugs to paint a “rug” on the newly painted floor to jazz things up a bit.


During (quel difference!!)

Ooh la la. Peacock inspired!

Happy spring project-ing!



12 Feb

Farmland is Sparkly

Posted in Craftin' on 12.02.12 by Octopi

Hi all – thought I’d share my most recent crafts-capade.  In the past I’ve had commitment issues….as in I’ve had trouble committing to buying permanent artwork for the living room.  My solution was to buy three blank canvases and keep switching out what I’d display on them.

Iteration 1: Origami Butterflies.  I spent several weekends/evenings a couple winters ago tucked in safe from the cold with a nice bottle of whiskey, Netflix, some fine selections of fancy paper, and a YouTube video on how to make origami butterflies.  The result was about about 50 butterflies flitting across the canvasses.

Iteration 2: The poster prints.  Over the years I’ve amassed some pretty nice prints from the Flatstock poster show at Pitchfork.  Take poster. Put it up. Repeat X 2.  Done.  That was a pretty easy one and almost not worthy of being called a project.

Iteration 3: Farmland is Sparkly paillette-palooza.  Inspired by the Holiday Club exterior sign here in Chicago, I thought, let’s get a little sparkle going on.  A paillette, by the way, is a small shiny object applied in clusters.  Armed with about 3,500 little sparkly paillettes, I set out to cover those canvases with three images of farmland.

Makin it Happen

  • Pin paillettes to canvas.
  • Don’t mess up the pattern.
  • A thimble-like device is helpful so you don’t hurt your fingers trying to poke the pins through.

Here’s the start of one of images – I set an even distribution at the sides and then worked toward the middle.

And this is the final product!

And, for sense of scale…



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02 Oct

Green tomatoes….red, not fried

Posted in Urban Farming / Gardening on 02.10.11 by Octopi

Hi Mess Hallers!  Hope you are enjoying some lovely fall weather!  The brief little diddy that follows is suggestion for making any green tomatoes you may have still clinging to the vine a lovely shade of red.  Enjoy and let me know if it works for you too!

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21 Aug

Zucchini Magic

Posted in General, Makin' Food on 21.08.11 by Octopi

Every once in a while I get an epiphany about how awesome something REALLY is.  I’ve mentioned kick-ass properties of spinach, and now want to spread the love about zucchini. 

I mean, how many other vegetables can you make sweet AND savory goods with?  This morning I cleaned out the inventory of this splendid veggie at the neighborhood market to embark on a fantastic adventure of tartes AND bread.  This post is a focus on the tarte

You know it’s OK to cut corners when cooking, right?  Cuz it’s taken me a while to be OK with that.  As long as you are in the kitchen whipping up some tasty goodness, it’s totally cool to cheat a little bit and maybe NOT make the crust from scratch or whip up some homemade pesto that you only need 2 tablespoons of in the recipe.  So, without further ado I present…..

Zucchini Tarte With Gruyere Cheese and Herbs (inspired by recipe)


  • 2 lbs fresh zucchini, thinly sliced (4 cups – I had 2-3 monster zucchs, which seemed to be enough)
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (garlic fiends may want more)
  • Whatever tasty herbs you have laying around the house or are growing for consumption!
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese plus a little extra for topping (or similar cheese)
  • 1 (8 ounce) packages crescent roll dough (cheaters never prosper….except sometimes)
  • This makes ONE tarte – I doubled up to make more…

Makin’ it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
  • CRUST:  Unfold crescent dough from the tube and press dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a tart or pie pan to form a crust, pressing gently to seal any perforations; spread crust with pesto.
  • FILLING:  In a large skillet, saute the zucchini, onion, and garlic in the olive oil until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly before stirring in the beaten eggs and cheese.
  • Transfer the filling into the shell and spread evenly; sprinkle the top with a little extra grated cheese.
  • For easier clean-up put the pan on a baking sheet in the oven to catch any overflow.
  • Bake at 400 F until set and crust is golden, about 16 to 19 minutes.
  • Remove to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes before removing sides of pan (if using tart pan – you may need to run a knife around sides of crust to loosen).
  • Let it rest another 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  • Good served warm, cold or at room temperature.  This probably freezes well too.
  • Tasty goodness!

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13 Jun

Fitted Sheet Folding Jamboroo

Posted in General, Usable on 13.06.11 by Octopi

Melissa teaches the world how to fold a g.d. fitted sheet.  This is something that Ariel never, ever knew.


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10 Jun

Matchmaker: Plant Pairings

Posted in General, Urban Farming / Gardening on 10.06.11 by Octopi

Hey, Spinach.  You are awesome.  You are SO versatile, you can go in salad or get cooked up or ANYTHING.  You know, I know somebody who I think you’d really get along with.  Her name is Strawberry.  I think you’d be really good for each other.  Plus you’d be fun to hang out with together (in my salad!) – should I give her your number?

Plant pairings.  Probably easier than human match-making.  I came across this really helpful little table from the recent Organic School Project e-newsletter.  It lists a plant and then other plants that it grows well with.  So if you are still getting seeds in dirt, keep these in mind.

From Organic School Project: “When paired appropriately, companion planting can be advantageous, resulting in higher yields, disease reduction, and pest management. Such partnering is even said to help maintain soil quality, as is seen with the Native American tradition of planting corn, squash and beans together.”

I’ve even got edibles and inedibles cohabiting in rail planters: a couple strawberry plants are hanging out with some pansies as I type, and they seem to be getting along really well…I think they just gossip about the other porch plants all day.  (Old Man tomato plant shakes his head).



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17 Apr

Pea Soup….HAMMM

Posted in General on 17.04.11 by Octopi

This video is from the other weekend but finally just got a chance to post.  You may want to turn your volume down a bit, we got pretty excited (girls + higher decibals = sorry).  Pea soup kids, straight from A’s family recipe!  Super easy, you don’t even need to measure out ingredients.  So, despite our obvious thoughts on how the soup made our place smell, you should know that it’s worth it.

Happy Pea Souping!

Ingredients (as per the video, don’t miss it!)

  • A bag of peas
  • A wad of ham
  • Handful of carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion
  • Bay leaf
  • water (enough water to cover about 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the rest of the ingredients in the crockpot.  A put in 3 inches above and it was too much)
  • Bunch of pepper


Makin it Happen

  • Dump all the ingredients in the crockpot
  • Cook on low for 8-12 hours (since ours was overnight it was pretty long, but it may not need that many hours)
  • Smoosh the ingredients all up in the crockpot at the end so it gets all nice and smooth
  • Eat up!

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16 Apr

THE closet

Posted in Build or Fix, Healthy Home on 16.04.11 by Octopi

Everybody has one. THE closet. The scary one that all the ransom shit goes into but never comes out. It’s a big freaky monster and you know as you walk past it one day that monster is going to come alive, pull you in and slowly eat you over decades like that one thing in Star Wars.

This is our closet…

Don’t judge.  But hey, after a couple hours of hard-core organizing, a new shelving system and a MacGyver’d shelf in the laundry area (using some 1X4s and some leftover closet shelving), I’m pretty psyched about how easy it is to find everything and to be able to actually walk through/into the space!  Check it out….

So tis the season to get rid of stuff you don’t need and take a load off your house!  The Mess Hall already feels so much lighter.



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