Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Look what Santa brought me!

A Kindle ebook reader! It's awesome. I've been very busily listening and reading books for the last few days. I've also joined an audiobook service called Audibile and a the library service called Overdrive. It's so cool to be able to tuck the thin little tablet in my purse and take a virtual library along with me while I'm out and about. And the text to speech feature is super cool, even if it does sound oddly like Stephen Hawkings. But the coolest thing I think is the fact that you can put pdfs on it. I've downloaded a ton of sewing and knitting patterns, no more trying to keep up with a paper pattern. Woo Hoo! Love the Kindle!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday's Meal

Growing up in Texas it is traditional to have tamales during the holiday season. I've been jonesing for some real Texas flavor and I came across the recipe to make my own delicious tamales. It's a bit of work, but the results are so worth the effort.

The meat filling
1 (4 pound) chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 cups diced green chile pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 (small bottle hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Tamale Dough
2 cups masa harina
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard
1 (8 ounce) package dried corn husks

Trim the roast of any excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer it to a slow cooker, and sprinkle the onion over meat. Season with chile peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast. Cover, and cook on High for 6 hours, checking to make sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 to 4 hours, or until meat is totally tender and falls apart.
About 30 minutes before your meat is done soak the corn husks in a bowl of warm water. In a large bowl, beat the lard with a tablespoon of the broth until fluffy. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt; stir into the lard mixture, adding more broth as necessary to form a spongy dough. Drain the water off the corn husks and then spread the dough out over the corn husks to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Place one tablespoon of the meat filling into the center. Place tamales in a steamer basket. Steam over boiling water for approximately one hour, until masa is firm and holds its shape. Make sure steamer does not run out of water.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A little light reading

I have to admit it. I got sucked in...I broke down and went to the movies and saw "New Moon". I can't say that I actually liked it. In fact I thought the acting was pretty bad. Nonetheless, I have a borrowed copy of "Eclipse" that I've been reading. I'm still not sure what the appeal is. I find Bella to be immature, self absorbed and annoying. Edward seems very controlling in a creepy kind of way. Jacob? Well aren't there any other girls around La Push or Forks for him to lust after? But, I have to confess it's been kind of nice to spend a little time in Forks away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

I'm taking a brief hiatus until after the new year. Not to say that I won't blog from time to time, but I know that I have tons of other distractions right now with the holidays upon us. I want to spend this time focused on my family and enjoying the season. I hope you're enjoying the season too and I'll be back strong in the new year. See you in 2010!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Working on getting back into the swing of things. The holidays really have me spinning, but I'm making my list and checking it twice. I only have one more item to purchase and my shopping is done. Next up I'm doing a top to bottom winter clean so we can decorate the house. Also I need to start sewing up O's dress. I'm planning to either make the Feliz dress from farbenmix or my friend Dawn's Annika dress. I'm heading over to the Patsy Aiken's sale tomorrow to see if there's any Christmas fabrics for sale. I haven't been doing much stitching lately (more knitting) but I will definitely get back to it since I miss it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Meal

During this time of parties and festivities I thought I'd share a tasty cocktail for you to whip up. It's definitely a party in a glass!

Strawberry Fusion

1 jigger of DiSaronno Amaretto
1 jigger of Skyy Infusion citrus vodka
1 jigger of X-rated passion fruit liqueur
2 oz. of fresh strawberry puree

Mix all together in a shaker with ice. Drain into a martini glass, garnish with a slice of strawberry and enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday's Meal

Well, Thursday is Thanksgiving and for many years I've been the official chef of my family's Thanksgiving day feast. I used to fry the turkey. Even though it's so delicious, it's a big hassle. It's also kind of expensive if you're just doing one turkey since you have to use so much oil. Anyways, for the last few years I've been brining the turkey. It's oh so tasty and if you've never tried it, I highly recommend it.
Here's a simple brine recipe to get you started. It should make enough brine for a 14lb bird. Enjoy!

Turkey Brine

1/2 gallon apple cider
2 cup dark brown sugar
11 bottles of dark beer
2 cup sea salt
1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of cloves
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried savory
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves

You will need a non-reactive container large enough to hold the turkey. In a stock pot over medium heat combine all the ingredients except for the beer, bring to a low boil. Mix well until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Let it cool. Transfer to your container and add the beer. Place your turkey into the container, make sure the cavity is filled with the brine. Cover with ice and soak the turkey for overnight. Ideally if you can get your container into the fridge that would be better, otherwise make sure that you keep it cold with ice at all times. On the day you're ready to cook it, remove the turkey, pat dry (discard the leftover brine) and cook as directed. A brined turkey will cook somewhat faster so be sure to use your meat thermometer to monitor for doneness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm in training

A group of my friends want to train and run a half-marathon. I might have mentioned once or twice that not only am I not a fan of exercise, I detest running. They want me to sign up for the race too, but I haven't decided if I will. I have however decided that I will challenge myself by training for the race. I think it's a great way to change up my workout, plus it'll be fun to share my progress (or lack thereof) with my friends. I'll keep you posted. The race isn't until April. I downloaded a training schedule and it says it should only take me 10 weeks to train. Uh, yeah...I better start right now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

True to form I started off with a bang and then lost my steam. What am I referring to you ask? Well, I'm participating in a swap on Ravelry and I have yet to finish my swap item. I was super excited and began working diligently on my swap item in the summer, but I lost interest and it's sat incomplete. Well, the week of Thanksgiving is when we're suppose to have these in the mail. Panic time! Actually, not to be too hard on myself, I did finish the original item I had planned to swap. I was just not thrilled with it and I started a second item. It was going along swimmingly until I lost my mojo for it. But, a fire has been lite under my butt because yesterday I got my swap package from my partner and not only was it the loveliest hand knitted shawl, but she included so many other items that I'm ashamed to send her my poorly knitted attempt. However, I can sew and I have some sewn items that I'm sending her and I hope they will overshadow and make up for my knitting. I will be in high gear over the next few days to get this stuff in the mail by Wednesday. When will I ever learn?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Meal

In honor of my eldest son, S. who loves a sweet potato pie and always wants one baked at the holidays, I thought I'd share this recipe. I prefer sweet potato over a pumpkin pie. But I don't think it would be a problem to substitute pumpkin if that was what you preferred.

Sweet Potato Pie

1 (1 pound) sweet potato
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup light whipping cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 45 minutes, or until done. Cool them and remove the skin. Mash apart sweet potato in a large bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, whipping cream, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until utensil inserted in center comes out clean.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

I'm helping to collect books for a book drive for Project Enlightenment. I will spend the day sorting and boxing up the books I've collected. As a lifelong book lover I'm so happy to share that love with the next generation. I've been so amazed at the generosity of others!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday's Meal

Nothing like a bowl of soup to warm you up. This is a delicious version of an Italian wedding soup. You can do a quickie version and use store bought meatballs if you prefer and it will still be great!

1 pound ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups spinach - packed, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup seashell pasta
3/4 cup minced carrots
1 tbsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, garlic powder and onion. Shape mixture into 3/4-inch balls and set aside. In skillet over medium heat brown the meatballs. Drain on paper towel and set aside.
In a large dutch oven heat chicken broth to boiling; stir in the spinach, pasta, carrot and meatballs. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, at a simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente, and meatballs are no longer pink inside. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oh Jillian!

Those of you who know me IRL know that I am not a fan of exercise. But, alas I have realized that I'm not naturally blessed with a slim physique or fast metabolism so I work it as hard as I can. I try to keep my workout routine fresh by changing it up every few months. I recently started running (well, actually it more of an old people jog). However since the spring I hadn't been doing much strength training so I decided I needed to pick that back up. I knew of Jillian Michaels from "The Biggest Loser" and I've heard great things about her 30 Day Shred so I decided to give it a try. Let me just say I don't know if I'll actually lose 20 pounds in 30 days, but it truly kicked my ass! I consider myself reasonably fit, but I was panting for dear life half way through the program. I'll definitely try it again. I haven't purchased it yet though, I got it off ExerciseTVondemad. I'm going to see if I want to stick with it for awhile before I throw down my $10. But, for anyone looking for a quick intense workout, her dvd is definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hey everybody, you want to make a quilt?

I'm very interested in doing a group quilt along beginning in the new year. Since I first saw it I've wanted to make the Denyse Schmidt Single Girl quilt. I would love it if a bunch of you out there would quilt along with me. I already have a couple friends who plan on working on the quilt with me. I'm super excited. The pattern goes from a baby quilt to a king size so there are tons of options. I'm having fun searching for fun fabrics to use. I'm going back and forth between some Heather Ross fabric I have and some fabric I had planned to use in another quilt. Maybe I'll check out a couple local quilt shops or perhaps I should shop my stash (now there's a novel idea!). Drop me a line if you're interested in joining in. I hope you'll join me, let's get quilting!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Sheesh! I'm working on trying to catch up. I was buried under the Halloween costumes (I still need to get it together and post a picture! what a slacker!. Now, I'm hard at work on Christmas gifts. We're going to see family for Thanksgiving so the pressure is on to knock out some of these gifts so I can take them with me. That won't leave much time for much else since I'm a notoriously slow crafter. I've got a long list of holiday sewing planned to...now just to find the time for it. Sometimes I wish I could clone myself, lol.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday's Meal

Last week was so crazy around here that I didn't blog at all. But never fear, I have 2 recipes for you this week to make up for that. I hope you enjoy them. The first is my adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Fried Chicken recipe. She suggest boiling the chicken in the milk. I don't do that step. I use a an old fashioned cast iron skillet and cook the chicken slowly uncovered over medium heat. I do however love her two dip method for coating the chicken, it yields a deliciously crisp crust. The second recipe is from a coworker. It's deliciously decadent and I've dreamed about it ever since she bought it to a potluck we had a work. Yummo!

Fried Chicken, Me and Nigella
1 whole fryer chicken, cut up
3 to 4 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, for frying
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder
2 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, place chicken and cover with buttermilk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight if you can). In a large skillet over a medium heat melt the shortening, heating to about 325 degrees. In a large zip-lock bag, add all the seasonings, breadcrumbs and flour, shake to combine. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Place each piece of chicken, 1 at a time, in the bag and shake to coat the chicken. Place each piece of chicken on parchment paper to rest for about 5 mins. for the coating to settle on the chicken. Then dip chicken into the eggs to coat. Place the chicken back into the flour to coat for a second time. Repeat this method on remaining chicken pieces. Place each piece of chicken into hot oil, allow the pieces to have enough room as to not overlap. Cook slowly uncovered until the skin crisp and golden brown in color and no pink juices remain when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot with all the fixings.


1 German chocolate cake mix with pudding in the mix
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 can of condensed milk
1 package of light caramels
1 bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix the cake according the the directions on the box. Divide the batter in half. Add 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup of condensed milk to the first half of the batter. Pour into a well greased 9 X 13" pan. Bake for 30 mins. In a medium saucepan melt the caramels, 1 stick of butter and the rest of the condensed milk. Pour over the cake. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Pour the remaining cake batter over the chocolate chips and bake for an additional 30 mins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

I feel like a broken record, but I'm still doing some sewing on the Halloween costumes. Last week was busy busy and I didn't get quite as much done as I wanted. I also have to admit I was distracted by my efforts to learn about pattern drafting and fitting so I've been doing a ton of reading on the subject. I'm gearing up to make myself a fitted jacket/coat. I have decided to use this project to work out my aversion to making a muslin and taking the time to properly fit the stuff I sew for myself. I know that I'll need to make adjustments for a wide back, full arms and low bust (lol!). I am a tshirt and jeans kind of girl, but I do love beautiful clothes and want to make some for myself. I'm really excited to have a challenging project. I mean I sew for O., but there's no real challenge there, she doesn't have figure flaws to combat, lucky girl.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Meal

It's getting cold outside and that has me thinking about a good bowl of soup. My husband adores all things Italian so I thought I'd share this one with you all. Enjoy! Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and serve with a crusty Italian bread, delish!

1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
5 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 zucchini, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 (16 ounce) package spinach fettuccine pasta
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Drain fat from pan, reserving 3 tablespoons. Cook garlic and onion in reserved fat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, broth, basil, and oregano. Transfer to a crock pot, and stir in sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, and parsley. Cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain water, and add pasta to the slow cooker. Mix well and simmer for a few minutes. Ladle into bowl and top with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm attached!

As you might recall I have several vintage machines and because of that I have tons of machine attachments. I've never really tried to use them. Oh sure, I used the walking foot, zipper foot and the occasional blindhem foot, but never ventured much beyond those. Well, I happened to catch sight of a nifty little book the other day at JoAnn's called "The Sewing Machine Attachment Book" and using my 50% off coupon I purchased it. Not only was it quite informative, but also full of sewing machine trivia that I enjoyed learning about. I learned all about those mysterious feet I had in my sewing box and just how to get the most out of them. It's the secret of how sewist of the past could turn out incredible items with out the aid of modern gadgets such as sergers. I've discovered I lurve the hemmer feet. It's too cool. It makes the tiniest hem without ironing or anything. Perfection. My success using it has inspired me to break open that box and check out some of those other feet too. I'm off to experiment more. Since I have some holiday sewing planned I can see using the ruffler or pleater in my future. Fun times!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Continuing on the Halloween sewing. It's a perfect day to be at the machine too since the weather is rainy and gloomy. I've finished the Cinderella costume for which I was pronounced "the best mom ever!" I'll get a picture posted as soon as the weather brightens up. I've started working on E.'s costume. It will be pretty quick and then I need to make something for M. I'll finish this stuff up in the next week and then start planning for the Holiday sewing. I still have a few gifts to sew up and I'd like to do an outfit for the kids to take the picture for our family Christmas card.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday's Meal

So, not much of a meal today, but recipes nonetheless. I try whenever possible to use the least amount of toxic chemicals in my home. I'm also frugal and you can make your own cleaners for pennies so that's a big plus in my book too. I have collected a few basic recipes through the years that have served my needs well. The Internet is a wonderful resource to find great cleaner recipes. Search under words like nontoxic or green cleaning to get tons of information.

Multipurpose Cleaner

12 oz. of water
1/3 cup of rubbing alcohol
1 tsp nonsudsing ammonia
1 tsp dish washing liquid
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake well and use on all kinds of surfaces (except painted or marble)

Another Multipurpose Cleaner

1 gallon water
1/2 ammonia
1/4 vinegar
2 tbsp of baking soda

Mix all together in a gallon size bucket. This is great for cleaning floors and bathrooms

Glass cleaner
3 1/2 cups of water
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup alcohol

Pour all ingredients into an empty spray bottle and use on any glass surface.

Laundry Powder

1 bar grated fels naptha
1 c washing soda
1 c Borax

Add all ingredients to a clean 16 oz. container, mixing well. Use the amount of powder recommended by your machine. You may need to experiment to determine the right amount you need.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

So today I'm feeling crafty. I'm working on finishing O's Halloween costume (I just have to put in the zipper and hem the dress) and also making a hip Halloween inspired outfit for her to wear the week of Halloween to school. I'll start on E's costume which shouldn't take much time since it's basically the top and hat only. M. still hasn't decided what he wants to be though, so I need to do some brainstorming. I'm also hard at work on the prize from my next giveaway. This time I decided to do something that has a little bling. I hope you'll like it as much as I do. Stay tuned, I hope to have a picture posted by Friday.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday's Meal

Have to get dinner on the table in a hurry? Well this delicious casserole combined with rice or egg noodles will fit the bill.

Imperial Chicken Bake

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I like Italian breadcrumbs)
1/3 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp minced parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 clove of minced garlic
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp of paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Dip chicken in milk, then dredge in seasoned breadcrumbs. Place in lightly greased 13 X 9 casserole dish. Combine butter, garlic and lemon juice; drizzle over the chicken. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until tender and no pink juices come from chicken when pierced.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

It's that dreaded time of year where I spend many hours chained to my sewing machine turning out Halloween costumes that take hours to produce but will be worn for a brief time and then tossed aside without a backwards glance. Today I will try and finish O.'s costume and plan to get started on E.'s soon. I know it seems early, but I'm such a procrastinator that if I don't commit to working on it now and put it out there for all to see I will find myself up all night on the 30th of October trying to finish them. I still have to figure out what M. wants to be. Knowing him he'd probably just as soon stay home and hand out candy. So, that's it...I'll be doing nothing but sewing, sewing, sewing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where's my high?

So I started running about 5 weeks ago with the help of the nifty Couch to 5K running app on my iphone (love it!) and I have yet to experience that fabled "runner's high". Instead I spend the entire time thinking "I'm going to vomit!". I'm so not a runner. The only payoff I've gotten is that when I remember to wear my heart rate monitor I can see how many calories I've burned during my half hour of agony; and as I'm dying the entire time with my heart ready to leap out of my chest, it's a lot. I'm serious, where is my freakin' runners high? I mean how long, how far and how fast do I have to run to get it? I really admire those people who say cheerfully, I run 5 miles a day. I don't know if I'll ever be one of those people. I'm up to running just under 2 miles and I have to psychic myself up days in advance of my proposed run. It's really pathetic. So, I ask if you've seen my runner's high, that you send it my way. Fast!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday's Meal

I love to share great recipes that have been shared with me. This recipe comes from a coworker. What I really like about her recipe is that unlike a lot of fruit breads it's not super sweet, yet is still moist and delicious. A perfect blend.

Rose's Rockin'Banana Bread (makes 2 loaves)

5 very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup butter
3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Puree bananas. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs to the creamed butter mixture and mix until well blended. Add the banana puree to your mixture. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour to your banana mixture, Then add baking powder, spices and the vanilla. Mix until well blended. Add the remaining flour and mix well. Add raisin now if desired. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans. Bake in oven for approximately 50 mins ( a fork inserted in the middle should come out clean). Let stand for approximately 15 mins. then remove from pans. Cool completely, store in airtight container for storage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

The big paper chase. Ugh...mail! Even though I do most of our bill paying and banking online we still have an insane amount of mail that comes in. I have to admit I'm very bad about just letting it pile up until it starts to bother me. Well, it's bothering me so I will be shredding it today. Fun times!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And the winner is....

Gosh, doing a giveaway has been so much fun! The old adage that it's better to give than to receive really is true. I've gotten great comments on my blog and by email. I already have my next giveaway planned so be sure to check back on the blog from time to time so you don't miss out. Alright, enough blah blah blah, let's get to the good stuff, the winner is.

True Random Number Generator Result: 2 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Congratulation! According to my list it's Shea. Shea if you want to email me your contact info I will pop this into the mail to you. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday's Meal

You know my family's love of all things Italian. Well, I love anything that combines Italian to form a hearty casserole. This dish is quick and easy, plus it's freezer friendly.

Cheese Stuffed Shells

1 lb of Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 pkg. of frozen chopped spinach, well drained
1 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese, softened
1 egg, beaten
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
2 cups of shredded mild cheddar
1 cup of ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to the taste
1/8 tsp of ground nutmeg, optional
20 jumbo shells, cooked and drained


1 (29oz)tomato sauce
1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp of Italian season blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of oregano
salt and pepper to the taste

Prepare a 13 X 9 inch casserole by greasing it, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Brown sausage and onion in skillet. Drain and then transfer to large bowl. Stir in spinach, cream cheese and egg. Add one cup of the mozzarella cheddar, cheddar cheese. Add ricotta, Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg (if desired); mix well. Stuff shells and arrange in your prepared casserole. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. Spoon over the shells. Cover the casserole and bake in oven for 40 minutes. Uncover; cover with the remaining mozzarella. Return to the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Serve with a salad and garlic bread. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Very first giveaway!

I'm so excited! I thought and thought...what do I like to make? What can I give away? Then it came to me. I love to make bags. So for my first give away I will give away a bag. Nothing fancy, just something useful with fun fabric. Something you could use to run to the library or the farmer's market. You know an all around bag. So, that's what I'm going to call it. The fat dollar all around bag, fat dollar because it's basically made from 4 fat quarters...get it? It's quite generously sized as you can tell from my modeled photo (thanks O.) and when I say you could go to the market with, I mean you can go to the market with it. There's no pattern to it. I just cut up some fat quarters, made a square bottom bag, lined it, put some pockets on the inside and did some cute knotted handles to give it a bit of zing. Can't remember where the fabric came from, although I think the dots came from the Patsy Aiken's outlet. Post a comment to enter or go crazy and subscribe to my blog. I'll pick a random winner on Tuesday. Good luck.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Small is beautiful

We believe stories are valuable, no matter how many people read them.
We believe following your passion is more important that watching your site
We believe in the handmade, the first try, the small start, and the good
We believe that small is beautiful.

I think that's so profound. The small is beautiful manifesto is something I believe 100%. In our society we're encouraged to be competitive, to strive to be the best, to want more, bigger, better. But, by who's definition? I really enjoy blogging and I've tried hard to resist the compulsion to change my purpose for blogging. Sometimes it's easy to feel inadequate when you stumble across a blog that was started a year ago and is seeing huge traffic. Why them and not you, you might wonder. But, this blog is not about seeing huge traffic, or advertising or making it my life. This blog is about aspects of my life that I wanted to share, whether it's just one other person who visit, that's okay with me. I'm doing my thing and doing it my way. My life has been enriched immensely by the small things I've learned from blogging and the incredible people I've "met". Pass it on, small is beautiful!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Work on Wednesday

I've decided to spruce up my front door area. I've started by painting the front door a nice brownish red, I just need to put on one more coat for good measure and to paint the trim around the sidelights white. I wish I had the forethought to take a picture of the front door before I started, but use your imagination, it was white. I can't decide between my heavy ceramic welcome plaque or a fall wreath (which I'd need to make). I'm thinking of stenciling "Welcome" on the front door, but perhaps stickers would be better. I did find one of those tin buckety things that you can stick flowers and greenery in at the the thrift store. I think for now I'll use that and put some faux autumn greenery in there (JoAnn's is having a sale 70% off). I've got two metal urns that I spray painted black that just need some greenery in them. I purchased a new welcome mat from Tuesday Morning. I need to trim back the bushes a bit too (we're not very yardy around here). I'd love to get a wrought iron bench or something to put near the front door. It's kind of hard because we have a colonial front. I have some window boxes that I also purchased from the thrift store, but I can't figure out where to attach to the bay window in the front.
So, I'm working on that and hope to have a completed beautiful doorway to share with you soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey, didn't I see that in a catalog?

I've recently been checking out a ton of home/diy blogs. While they are full of great ideas and talented folks. I'm having a bit of an issue with them. I can't seem to find anyone to relate to style wise. Where are the blogs from folks living in architecturally challenged tract homes in the burbs? Where are the homes and ideas from people who don't try and copy every page from the latest Pottery Barn, Ballard Design or Crate and Barrel catalog. I know these are uber popular and I think these bloggers are very talented. But, I am honestly just sick to death of that whole look and the endless sea of imitators. I keep hearing that Living Colour song "Cult of Personality" playing in my head. I mean is that what design is all about? Maybe I've been watching too much Project Runway and Design Star lately, but haven't I seen this all before? I struggle with this. A lot. I have a love hate relationship to some degree I suppose. I want to be inspired. I want style on a budget. I just don't want my place to look like your place or good forbid PB's place. When I got my first apartment I think I had a sort of contemporary style. Lots of glass; minimalism to some degree. Then I went through the requisite country modern and shabby chic phases. Forever and ever I thought my style was eclectic and perhaps it still is. But you know in my old age (lol!) I think I've become...gasp, a traditionalist. Okay, perhaps a new traditionalist. I like dark wood and clean lines, but I don't want to look like my room leaped off the pages of Pottery Barn. I mean it's fine for some, but it's just so...well, so you know Pottery Barn. I don't want a room that is matchy matchy. I want a room that is unified yet still unique. I like mixing pieces from different eras. I have a fondness for items from the 1960's and 70's. I love skinny exposed legs on furniture. But I also love color and comfort. I love thrift and rehabbing stuff. I don't like spending a lot of money on stuff. It just doesn't make sense to me when you have four young children and three of them are boys. Am I wrong to feel this way? Am I missing something by not waiting with baited breath for the newest Crate and Barrel or Ballard Design catalog to land in my mailbox? Don't get me wrong I know there's a place out there for that stuff. Perhaps it's my age beginning to show. I no longer need my style defined for me. Let's face it, I like what I like. I don't care anymore if Better Homes and Garden's ever comes knocking on my door to photograph my perfectly designed and decorated home. But, if I see one more linky loo that says "Ballard Design knock off..." I think I'm going to scream...loud! Can't it just be "cool rehabbed dresser by me"? Yet, I want to be inspired hence how I came across all the blogs. So where are they? Where are you suburban living free thinking decorating wannabees? Get to posting people, so you know...I can copy you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday's Meal

You know how I love a casserole. So here's a stick to your rib one. Enjoy!


1 1/2 lb. of ground beef
2 (8oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1 green pepper, chopped finely
2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tbsp vinegar
3 oz. of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of sour cream
1/2 med onion, minced
1 (10 oz.) pkg of egg noodles, cooked according to package
1 cup of mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 X 13 casserole dish and set it aside. Brown ground beef. Add onions, celery, green pepper, salt and garlic powder. Add the soup, tomato sauce and vinegar to meat mixture, simmer for approximately 15 mins. In a small bowl mix the cream cheese and sour cream together, add it to the cooked sauce and blend well. Place your cooked noodles in the casserole dish and cover with your sauce mixture. Stir to be sure all the noodles are covered. Top with cheddar cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 mins. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes are until cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Alrighty, so last week I told you I was planning a kitchen reno. Well, so far I've gotten my craft paints and counter top samples to use for inspiration. Since our cabinets are white I opted for a lighter looking inspiration stone. Today I'm going to practice my technique and pattern on a piece of leftover luan. Having never done something like this I want to be sure it looks good before I slap it on my counters. I have not purchased the envirotex yet, but I've found it online at Amazon and overstock. I'm hoping I can find it at JoAnn's and use a coupon to get it. I have one that's 50% off so that would be great. I realize that this is going to be an involved process and will probably take me awhile to execute. I'll be sure to keep you posted on my progress and of course let you see pictures of my finished project.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday's Meal

This recipe was shared with my by one of my co-workers. She swears it's super easy and oh so delish. So, I thought I'd pass it on to you. If it doesn't live up to the praise, just blame it on Kellie, lol.

Marvelous meatloaves

1 lb of the ground meat of your choice (beef, turkey, pork or chicken all would work)
1 6 oz. pkg of stuffing mix
1 cup of water
1 tsp garlic powder
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin pain with cooking spay and set aside. Mix the meat, stuffing, water and seasoning until well blended. Press into 12 muffin cups. Make an indentation in the center of each with a spoon or your thumb. Fill with barbecue sauce. Bake for 30 mins or until meatloaves are done. Top each with desired amount of cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until fully melted. Remove from oven and serve on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes along with a green salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

After Shea posted her budget saavy kitchen reno on Ravelry, I'm highly motivated. So, what am I doing today. Going shopping for the supplies for my own kitchen reno. Bye Bye boring white, hello granite! I need to flip through some magazines and head to Lowe's to get a sample to use as my inspiration. Then I will gather up all my coupons and head off to A.C. Moore and Micheal's for the craft paint. I have plenty of paint around here to use as my base coat so other than the craft pants, sea sponges and Envirotex I don't have anything I need to buy (Ok, so I need to buy a lot, but I'm still thinking that it should be under $100). Can I just say how much I love the internet. Always a great idea out there ready to be shared. I hope mine turns out half as good as Shea's.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Meal

We've had a pretty mild summer here and I'm itching for the fall to come. I just love sweater weather. I may have also mentioned before that I love soup. I think it's good any time, don't you? Anyway here's a yummy recipe for you. Try it out now or save it for when there's a nip in the air.

Loaded Potato Soup

4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup of flour
4 green onions, sauteed (save a bit for a garnish)
12 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (save a bit for a garnish)
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup butter
6 cups of milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Bake potatoes, cool and then scoop out the inside. Melt butter in a large dutch oven, add flour and stir until smooth, cooking about a minute. Gradually add the milk. Cover and cook over medium heat until thick. Add the potatoes, onions, bacon, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. If it seems too thick just add a bit more milk and stir until desired thinness. Serve and top with a doolop of sour cream, onions and bacon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I heart this!

It's a yarntrainer! Ain't it nifty? I am currently knitting a little hoodie for O. using some stashed yarn I've had forever. I think it's some Bernat I got from A.C. Moore, it's at least a pound and it's super soft. It kept losing it's shape and becoming a tangled mess even though I had it crammed inside a ziploc bag. So remembered that I had seen these before. I trotted off to JoAnn's coupon in hand and scored one for $5. Best $5 I've spent in a long time. Oh and while I was there I picked up the latest issue of SewHip (also using a coupon, $4, woohoo!). Anyways, I'm loving the yarntainer so I thought I'd pass on the recommendation. Go out and get one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Baby it's cold outside, not really but it's cold in my deep freezer. We have a huge deep freezer in our garage. While I love it and could store a nearly endless supply of red label meat in there, occasionally you have to dig down deep to make sure some block of mystery meat from the dark ages isn't hiding in the bottom long forgotten. So, I'll be donning my gloves and doing the fun job of cleaning out the freezer. On a side note, if you don't have a freezer you should get one. Mine has paid for itself many times over. I can take advantage of sales, buy stuff in bulk, cook and freeze meals and still have room to spare. It's really saved us from eating out nearly as much and I think it's made our diet a healthier one. Even a small one would be great. If it doesn't save you some money, you let me know about it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's your style?

So, I've been watching past seasons of Project Runway on Bravo and this topic seems to come up a bunch. It's the question of personal style. Do you have a signature style? Hmmmm...is styleless a style? I don't know, I used to be much more of a H.M. kind of a girl premotherhood. Now I can barely be bothered to run a comb through my hair or wear something other than an all purpose tshirt. When I think about it, my style is probably casual, which makes a lot of sense. My life is casual, my home is casual. I'm not fussy. I'm not frilly. I'm not about the bling. Let's face it, if I could wear a tshirt, shorts and flip flops all day every day that would be my idea of bliss. Yet, part of me dreams of being more stylish. The only thing that seems to be holding me back is that it seems like an awful lot of work. I mean just the time involved, beejeez who has time to put on makeup every day. But, I think I should do a little experiment. I will put on makeup, do "something" with my hair and dress in something other than one of my many tshirts for 30 days. I want to know a couple things. First, can I actually do it? Secondly, will it make me feel differently (I've heard that it will)? Thirdly, will my new stylish sensibility carry over into other aspect of my life? Will my cooking become more refined, my home more photo shoot ready? Will my knitting and sewing skills reach new heights? Will I become a yarn snob? Bye bye acrylics, hello cashmere! We shall see. I'll report back to you and let you know just how stylish I've become.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday's Meal

You know we love ourselves some Italian food at my house...or at least what we consider to be Italian food. You know I have a fondness for inexpensive meals too. Well this meal isn't necessary the most inexpensive you'll whip up, but it is one of the yummiest. I mean honestly what could be better than chicken paired with ham and cheese, yummo!

Chicken Prosciutto

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast
6 thin slices of prosciutto ham
6 slices of provolone cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp parsley
3 tbsp dried basil
3 tbsp oregano
3 tbsp rosemary
2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Marcela wine
1 cup of sour cream
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Flatten each chicken breast to about 1/4 " thick. Now for each chicken breast do the following: layer the Parmesan cheese, sprinkle salt,pepper, garlic, all the herbs, 1 slice of provolone and 1 slice of prosciutto ham. Roll up each chicken breast and insert a toothpick in several places to hold it together. In a large skillet add olive oil. Heat to medium and add the prepared chicken. Brown on all sides. Lower your heat, whisk the wine and sour cream together and pour over chicken. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from pan, remove the toothpicks and serve with pasta or garlic mashed potatoes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chalk it up!

Here's what I started with.

All painted up and drying outside

At home in the kitchen. Love it!

Always one to reuse what I have to make something new. I decided to make a chalkboard for our kitchen. I used some leftover luan, a can of chalkboard paint, some stickers I got from Joann's on clearance for $.97 and white paint pen. Presto chango...chalkboard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Well, that was uncomfortable

Hoarders, have you seen it? It's a new show on A & E. I had heard about the show. I didn't really plan to watch it since the few times I've seen stories about Hoarding on various talk shows I'm very disturbed by them. Anyway I was surfing the net and stumbled onto the A & E website and they had full episodes online so I thought I'd check it out. Oh holy Jesus! I realize that it's a mental illness and a compulsion, but I have to admit that I was so completely uncomfortable by the thought of living like that I couldn't stop talking about how awful it was. In fact I was so traumatized that I couldn't even watch the entire episode. I have a thing about chaos. It fills me with panic. Don't get me wrong, I love stuff. I love to thrift. But, this was something much, much more. In episode one there was a family with three kids and they were existing (not living) in absolute and utter squalor. I think it was the thought of the kids living like that really pushed my button. But, I have to admit that wasn't even the worst of it. One of the people was a food hoarder. Use your imagination and you can just imagine how awful it truly was. I commend A & E's effort in trying to bring this affliction to light. It's extremely sad. I had a Home Health patient once that I think was probably a hoarder and it was something to behold. I think his started with his decline in health and simple inability to care for himself. Seeing that show helped me understand him a bit better.
One positive that came from watching the show is that I'm even more motivated to continue to purge and organize. In recent weeks I've gotten rid of boxes of books, magazines and clothes. I'm proud of myself. The frugal part of me is often in direct opposition with the part of me that desires order in her life. One thing I've come to realize about organizing and purging is that it's an ongoing process. You have to always be doing it. But, the fun thing is if you get rid of some things that just gives you an excuse to go shopping!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Now that my bookshelves are looking spiffy, I think I should tackle my magazines. I tend not to get rid of them even when I know that I won't read them again. I need to though, especially since I recently started subscriptions to Real Simple, Southern Living and Family Circle. If I don't start purging some of these soon I will be overrun with magazines. I will either take them to the share box at the library or post them on Freecycle. First though, I need to go through them and see if I need any of the recipes or articles for inspirations. I really love the recipes in Southern Living, those people are my kind of cooks. No skimping on flavor or pretending the food is health food, lol. So, that's what I'll be doing today. Oh and I'm starting day one of my Couch to 5k running plan. That should count for work shouldn't it? I just downloaded the app for my iphone. It's super cool. You can run it over your itunes so you can use your own playlist and still hear the prompts that tell you when to walk or run. I hope it works, I'd really like to lose at least ten more pounds and I think the only way I can do it is to really change up my workout routine (notice how I didn't mention change what I eat). I've also started doing yoga to take the place of working out with weights (there's no kind of strength training like supporting your own body weight to kick your ass!). That should pretty much take up most of my day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm going to do it!

I've said before that I'm not a great knitter, but I do so enjoy it and in any craft I enjoy I endeavor to try and challenge myself. Recently I've been working on a simple garter lace shawl for a swap. I'm getting more comfortable with the process and I've decided to make a Clapotis. I've wanted to make one forever but was intimidated by the thought of it. But I have some great charts and there's a forum on Ravelry completely dedicated to Clapotis so I'm going to go for it. I have some yarn I bought many months ago from Tuesday Morning. It's Araucania Atacama and it's just gorgeous. In fact it was that yarn that pushed me into getting a ballwinder and swift since the yarn comes in hanks and needs to be wound into a center pull ball for me to work with it (just ask me how I found out). I can't wait to get started but first I need to finish my current shawl project. It's for a holiday prayer shawl swap I'm participating in. I'm a bit nervous to subject my knitting to someone I don't know, but it's all with good intentions so I'm trying to do a good job on it. Here's a picture of my current shawl project in progress. At the rate I knit I probably have about 3 more weeks of knitting at least. But it's getting there. The pattern is from a book I got from the library, I think it was called "Traditional Knitted Lace" and the pattern is a simple garter knitted shawl. It's a very versatile pattern and simple to memorize. I'm sure I will make it again. It would look fabulous with a really funky sock yarn. That would really show off the open pattern of the lace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday's meal

We love pasta. But sometimes I get tired of a red sauce and want something a bit different. Here's a yummy change of pace to tempt your palate. Oh, and you might notice I don't precook my noodles, but if you prefer you can cook yours according to the package.

White Chicken Lasagna

1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
4 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, diced
2 (16 ounce) jars Alfredo-style pasta sauce
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 (16 oz) ricotta cheese
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cook spinach according to package directions; drain. In a skillet over medium heat cook onions and garlic until softened. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, onions, garlic and one jar of Alfredo sauce, stir together. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese and drained, cooked spinach, and stir.
In a 9 x 13 casserole, place one layer of lasagna noodles, edges overlapping. Pour chicken and Alfredo sauce mixture over noodle layer and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded mozzarella over chicken mixture. Top with another layer of noodles. Spread spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Pour 1/2 of remaining jar of Alfredo sauce over spinach mixture, spread evenly. Sprinkle another cup of mozzarella over sauce, lay on the final noodle layer and top with remaining 2 cups of mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with foil, bake for approximately 50-60, until beginning to bubble, remove foil and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

I may have mentioned before that our home would be considered small, especially for the area we live in. In reality we thought this was our starter home and we would just be here about five years. Ten years later, we are still here. Most of the time it's fine. However, sometimes I feel like we could use more space. We have this really awesome although underused covered patio that I would like to fix up to extend our living space. Finding a couple of chairs for free got me started. They have rattan backs and that says casual outdoor living to me. But I'm still in the market for a bigger table and some other things to really do it up right. I've been browsing through tons of flickr groups and sets to get inspiration. There's really some great ideas out there. Now just to do it on a budget. I think my project today will be to create a virtual "inspiration board" depicting my plan. This will be my first time creating one like this, although for years I've kept a home inspiration notebook. We'll see how it goes. I'm not the most computer savvy person out there, lol.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday's Meal

When I was growing up I would visit my Grandmother every summer and sometimes at Christmas. One of the most vivid and cherished memories I have is that I would always spend time with my Great Aunt Juanita (my Grandmother's sister) and we would bake cookies. I don't ever remember my grandmother and I baking and oddly enough I don't even recall baking with my mom, but I remember baking oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies with my Aunt. I remember how excited I would be and how I couldn't wait for them to cool so I could have them with a tall glass of cold milk. For years I've tried to find the exact recipe that she used. I think I finally have and I couldn't wait to share it with you all. It takes me back to such a happy time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups of flour
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins
1 12 oz. pkg of chocolate chips
1/4 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs one at a time, mixing well. In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients, mix well to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture. Stir in raisins and chocolate chips. Drop dough about 1 inch apart on a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake approximately 15 mins. or until golden brown, but don't over cook them. Remove from oven, let cool and then remove from cookie sheet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What every DIY/Crafter needs...

Having picked up a cute toolbox on the cheap recently at the thrift store it got me to thinking about what every crafty diva should have in their own perverbial tool box.

So here is my must have list. It's by no means all inclusive, but it should certainly get you started if you don't know where to start.

1. A glue gun. I have both a low heat one (for when I do crafty stuff with the kids) and a molten lava hot one for when it's just me and I want something to stick forever.

2. Staple gun. I swear by my electric one. I've stapled many things and it's just a great tool to have on hand for reupholstering things or making budget friendly art work.

3. palm sander. You never know when you will need to sand something or get the yen to refinish a piece of furniture.

4. Tape measure. Great to tuck in your purse so that when you're out and about and come across that to die for piece of furniture you know whether or not it will fit your space

5. A hammer. You know, so you can hammer things.

6. X-Acto knife. A great tool for cutting picture mats and various other items.

7. A level. Preferably one that's a couple feet long, but I'm quite fond of my 12" one for hanging small items.

8. Phillip's head screw driver. So you can screw something when you need to. It's also nice to have a flathead one, but phillip's head screws seem to be more common.

9. A drill. It's make hanging things such as shelves and curtain hardware so much nicer.

10.Paint (spray paint and latex.) I always shop those mistints. You just never know when the perfect color will follow you home. Spray paint is nice to change the look of smaller items lickety split. It's fun to unify a group of mixmatched items by using color.

11. Flashlight. So you can see.

12. Sewing machine ( or at the very least a needle and thread). It's a skill everyone should know at least the basics. You'll be amazed at the amazing pillows and window treatments you can make without much skill under your belt.

13. Miter box. Great for making your own molding to embellish furniture or your walls.

14. Double sided adhesive mounting tape. To hang things to the wall without using nails or attach fabric to an item.

15. Blue painters tape. Great to tape off when painting or to use as a place marker to figure out where to hang pictures on the wall.

Hope this little list helps you on your DIY journey. Go forth and create something.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

Books! Books have always been a huge part of my life and as a ferocious reader I have way too many. As you all may recall, I love a good thrift deal and generally books at a thrift store range from $.50-$3 or 4. Never one to pass up a good deal I've gotten some awesome books for personal library. At the same time though, I have amassed more books than one person could ever need and more than I probably will ever read in this lifetime. So, that's what I'm doing today. Packing up books I won't read or won't read again and passing on the gift of literature to someone else. I'll post an offer on Freecycle. I'm sure there will be some takers as like me, most people enjoy a good book.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweet Deals

Not that I'm an enabler or anything but Amazon has been running awesome deals on magazine subscriptions. I just got a Real Simple magazine subscription for the insane price of $5 last month and now I see they have Country Living for $5. Sweet! I'm getting it. There's a bunch of other magazine deals too. Not all of them are for $5, but definitely deeply discounted. Go check it out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday's Meal

I make a lot of pizza in my house. It's one of the few things that E. will eat consistently and it's pretty inexpensive and quick to do. I own two pizza stones and two bread machines so that helps the process go a lot quicker. I can toss the makings for dough in oven on my way to the gym, when we get back the dough is ready and lickety split lunch is served. I like making dough in the bread machine vs. by hand (hence the two bread machines), but you can make this recipe either way. So, lately I've been trying to make the switch over to a pizza dough recipe that uses some whole wheat flour rather than just white flour. Trying to be semi healthy, lol. I have found that I prefer the white wheat flour over regular whole wheat, but you can use whichever wheat flour you like best. I have to admit that I prefer the texture of the whole wheat pizza crust over a white flour pizza crust and believe it our not the kids haven't even noticed the switch. I buy my cheese in large quantities and use leftover pasta sauce and I can make 2 pizzas for under $4. I think that's pretty good, don't you?

Sort of Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

If you are using a bread machine to make your dough add the ingredients as listed and use the dough cycle. Remove the dough when done and follow the directions for rolling out your dough.

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out a ball of dough with a rolling pin to the desired size and thickness (If you want 2 thin crust pizza, divide dough into 2 balls). Place on a well oiled pizza pan or seasoned pizza stone. Top pizza with your favorite toppings. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

Here's a tip. We like a thick crust pizza so I usually prebake my crust for about 8-10 mins. without toppings and then remove it from the oven, add my topping and bake for another 10 or 12 minutes. This way I have found my crust is cooked completely through. I probably wouldn't do this if I were doing thin crust pizzas.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tales from the cookie jar

M. is a die hard hardcore chocoholic and I think his most favorite chocolate fix is homemade chocolate chip cookies. I have to admit, they are pretty tasty, but they've become somewhat of an obsession with M. He reports to me frequently the status of the cookie jar, but it's in such a way that might have you wondering, um...does he want me to bake more? Our conversations generally go something like this with M. peering into the empty depths of the jar: "There's only three more cookies left, someone should make some more." Me: "M., would you like me to make some more cookies." M: sly smile and a nod. So, I find myself employed part time as a Keebler elf. I guess there's worst occupation to have. Here's a tasty recipe to make with your own cookie monster.

Chocolate chip cookies

1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add pudding mix, eggs one at a time and vanilla. In a small bowl combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

It's been a blur of activity around here lately getting everyone squared away and back in school. Looking around I realize that I've neglected my house cleaning routine. That's right, I have a routine. I think I'll take today to get back on track and spiff up my abode. So...I'm off to scrub the toilet. Fun times!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race relations in America?

The topic I'm writing about is sometimes difficult to discuss, but I think it's an important one and that we as citizens of the world don't talk about it enough. Before you begin reading this you need to know that I'm going to talk about race relations. It's not meant to offend anyone, but it is how I feel. You don't have to agree or understand it. You may have been one of the people that felt after Obama was elected that America had embarked on a new chapter of equality unprecedented in our history. I have to admit I was not one of those people. I was a skeptic. I wanted to believe, but you see I live in a world where things like this and this happen. So perhaps my view is a bit colored by my life experience.
I don't think I'm your stereotypical woman of color (if there's even such a thing). Or maybe I am since most of the woman of color I've known are strong. They are resourceful and self reliant in a way I've never seen in women who are not of color. I'm not passing a judgement here, I just think we've had to be like this because the plight of our men left us to care for our families in a way that other women haven't had to. I'm kind of crafty and domestic, but not because I read about it in some book or a group told me I should be. It's because that's what I knew growing up and that's what made the most sense to me. I had a very thought provoking conversation with one of my white co-workers recently. Let me explain a few things. I grew up on military installations. I wasn't really aware of racism or discrimination on the basis of color until I was much older (college age). It was very shocking and disappointing to me. I mean I had friends of all colors and felt accepted and valued by them for the person I was. Fast forward to present times. I moved to the south. Don't get me wrong, I love it here...now, but it was like falling back in time and not in a sweet Pleasantville way, but more in a Jim Crow kind of way. Moving here really changed my world view and made me a more cynical person than I was. I still have friends of all colors, but I probably am more aware now of our cultural and racial difference than I ever would have been if I never lived here. In fact when I encounter certain experiences I generally wonder if race is a part of it. If I'm treated a certain way such as being ignored in a store by the employee or followed around the store to determine if I'm shoplifting, I always wonder if it's because of the color of my skin. I don't want to think that way, but it happened so many times that it became the norm and perhaps I even came to expect it. It's the little things that chip away at your humanity, things no one considers to be harmful, but when stacked up tall, you realize that the assaults can leave a wound that never quite heals over. For example I've noticed in my work place some people can make caustic albeit funny remarks and their remarks are perceived as harmless and witty. If I behave in a similar fashion I'm thought of as the angry neck rolling finger pointing "big" black woman that will kick your @ss if you cross her (just for the record, I've never been in a fight in my life!). It weighs on me mightily. Often I feel isolated and separate from other women. They don't get my life (and perhaps I don't get theirs either). I mean how could they really and should I expect them to? There's no need for them to extend themselves to understand my world view is there when the world is set up from their prospective. Most images seen on television, most images in magazines...what's considered the norm is not my face. Society helps perpetuate that we are still separate. You rarely hear or read a story discussing a white individual that points out in fact that they are indeed white. But you rarely if ever read or hear a news story pertaining to a nonwhite person that doesn't disclose that fact. It seems that it's essential that we know that the person is black or Hispanic or the story has little merit. I find it a bit ironic because really we are all probably more alike than we are different, but where is the impetus for us to discover that? We all want the same things. To be happy, to love and be loved.
I remember having a conversation with another white co worker about why she wouldn't attend an HBCU to further her education. To me, why wouldn't she? She'd get a great education and because she was a minority on campus she'd have an abundance of funding options. Her response was she wouldn't feel comfortable. How ironic. All my life it's been expected that the world I live in is suppose to feel "right" to me. Most of the times it's fine, it doesn't bother me and I too take it for granted that this how life is. Sometimes though, sometimes I feel something inside of me that objects to this and makes me a little...well, I guess the best word I can use to describe it is sad and maybe just the tiniest bit alone on this planet.
And yet as a mother I am still hopeful. Each time I send my children out into the world I am hopeful for their future and that their experiences will be different. I am hopeful that they will be judged not by their skin, but by their character, their own abilities and by all the gifts they have to offer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday's meal

I love fish. I would eat it every day if I could. Alas not only are we not near any decent bodies of water (and once you've gone down to the docks to get the fresh catch somehow getting it from the grocery store isn't quite the same) but, Mister is allergic to seafood. Even though the planets have aligned against me, occasionally I get an overwhelming urge for some catfish. I like it best fried. I know that's not very healthy, but there it is. It's super easy to do and so delish I could just eat it straight from the frying pan with nothing but a fork, lol.

Southern Fried Catfish

1 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 pound catfish fillets, cut in strips
1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon Old Bay or the seafood seasoning of your choice
Enough vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, salt and pepper. Place the fish in bowl making sure to coat each side, and set aside to marinate.
In a resealable gallon sized plastic bag, combine the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder and old bay seasoning. Add fish to mixture, a few fillets at a time, and tumble gently to coat evenly. Lay the fish on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and let set for 10 minutes before frying. Heat oil to medium high (365 degrees f)in deep fryer or skillet deep enough to fully cover fish. Deep fry fillets until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Fish should be slightly crisp outside, and moist and flaky inside. Remove and drain paper towels.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cheap fun! Fabulous Friday Find!

Always on the hunt for a good deal I couldn't resist when I came across this Whirley Popper for $2.99 at one of my favorite thrift stores. It makes absolutely delicously perfect popcorn. Yummo! Plus the kids had loads of fun turning the wooden handle. It even pops up almost as fast microwave popcorn to boot. I highly recommend it as a fab find!

Flights of fancy!

So, I've been on this major spray painting kick. Wondering about all the things I could tackle with my trusty can of spray paint. Just yesterday I was dropping off a donation at the local thrift store and I wandered in to check out the offerings. I hit pay dirt. Coming out with 5 sweet little bird figurines that I promptly painted white. Five tropical colored fish plaques that will get hung in my newly painted powder room. A Longabergerish basket to corral the many shoes we own and best of all a nice solid wood collapsible craft table. The top is not in the best condition, but since I plan to place a cutting mat on it. I won't bother trying to paint or refinish it. I scored all this along with a huge zippered canvas tote bag for under $30.
Check out some of my loot below.

Here are the birds prepaint redux. I have to note that O. was disappointed in the monochromatic scheme of my make over, but M. declared that they looked great!

Fabulous craft table. It's got wheels and it folds out to 48" of work surface. Score! Like I said there's some water damage or some such to the top, but who cares? Not me.

Talk about the perfect accessory. After we finished repainting the bathroom M. observed that it was just like being underwater and that we needed some fish on the wall. When I saw these little plaques I knew it was meant to be and M. was thrilled as punch.

Our old shoe collector lasted about 10 years. So finding this Longaberger knockoff for $3 was enough to have me singing a happy tune. Especially after seeing just how hefty the price tag is for a basket of this size.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Work on it Wednesday

There's just a few days before my younger children head back to school. I have lots to do to get ready so that is what I'm working on. Making a last pass through the closets and dressers to see what needs to be purchased. Reviewing the school supply list and shopping for what's needed. Cutting hair and otherwise getting them spiffed up. I also want to update my home management binder and the file box I use to keep kids stuff (you know all those forms and papers that have to go back) organized. So, I'd say that should keep me busy enough for the next day or two.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is craft the new black?

Recently I have stumbled across an insane amount of craft/diy/home decor blogs. It's like it's the new "black" or something. Everyone is doing it. You're not cool unless your crafty. It's actually find it really validating. You see, I was crafty years before it was "the thing". If I have to be honest I was crafty when it was kind of geeky and weird...now suddenly I'm hip and cool without having to change a thing about myself. I'm slightly amused. I sort of think with the economy people are thinking more about how they can feather their nest or create things that are personal without going into debt. You now have sites like Etsy that give home artisans a venue to sell their wares. As a society we are thinking more about how to keep what we have or make a little coinage doing something that we love. I think it's a throw back to the concept of local artisans hawking their wares in a central market place. I've observed that there are a great deal of sahm's who have jumped on this bandwagon too. I think it's empowering in a way that is separate from being a mom and I so get that. Plus it really gets the creative juices flowing. I've even observed it in my "real" life. Several enterprising women that I know have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering their wares and talents to the public. You go ladies!
I think about my own craft/diy journey. I've been sewing off and on since I was in junior high school. I've always dabbled in some type of creative pursuit; knitting, cross stitching, jewelery making, ceramics, you name it and I've probably tried it. I love creating stuff. In terms of my home and diying it I think it's simply my nature. I'm pretty frugal and I love to thrift shop. Sometime I've joked with my friends and family that I'm the idiot savant of thrift. I can generally see the potential in something that someone has cast aside. I get a visual in my mind of how it would look painted or tweaked...in a new color, with new fabric or hardware. That's a gift I tell you, lol. It's fun and rewarding to see the diamond emerge from that lump of coal I brought home. Plus I get to try out new skills. I can teach myself to paint furniture, use power tools, rewire lamps and other machinery. I get the satisfaction of knowing I did it myself and while it might not be perfect...it's really perfectly fine in my eyes. I've also come to think of it as an educational pursuit. I left academia long ago, probably to never return. But, I still want to learn new things. Crafting/Diying provides me with ample opportunities with my home as my laboratory. My latest interest is my yard and gardening. I know nothing, but with the Internet and all the talented folks online I feel like I've just signed up for a master course. Wish me luck. Hopefully you'll be seeing a beautiful yard and garden emerge over the next year or so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Meal

One of my most vivid memories of growing up was making homemade ice cream with my sister. We'd all sit around the dining table sharing laughs and the goodness of that favorite summer treat. The recipes we always used were simple and no cook. We'd add in various seasonal fruit for a change of pace, but what I remember most was the delicious taste of simple homemade vanilla ice cream. Vanilla is still my favorite. I realize it's an indulgence to have an ice cream maker, but there really isn't anything better than homemade ice cream. I'll give you a hint, if you check those thrift stores, you are bound to find one on the cheap. So go out and grab one and have a bowl of homemade ice cream and remember me.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

2 quarts half-and-half cream
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

Combine all the ingredients in freezer container of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.