Friday, April 29, 2016

Food for Thought

Now, I love winter.  Love it.  My second favorite season.  But, now, even I'm over it.  If it needs to be cold, it can just rain.  

Yep.  Snow.  It's snowing.  Again.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Sunday.  Joy.  More wet, heavy, crap snow.  I'm watching it fall now and trying to judge when to go cover my flowers.  

The weather has postponed the annual school's Race for Education, but not the half day that came with it.  I'm running up to get the Girlie, later, who has an all-day class this weekend in prep for taking her CNA over the summer.  I think I'll probably have to get the tulips covered before I go.

We are definitely back in the comfort food cooking zone.  Again.  My menu from this week reflected the schizophrenic behavior of our Colorado Spring weather.  It also reflects my trying to cook to work with the restrictions hubby is putting on his eating.  There's no sweets, but not because I didn't make any, I just didn't make any with a new recipe. ;)

This Grilled Greek Lemon Chicken was made when grilling didn't require a parka and an umbrella.  It was light and fresh and moist.  It was Spring over hot coals.  The leftovers made a great wrap with fresh spinach, feta and some leftover sauce from this recipe.

This Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet looked okay; the results were not quite what I expected.  I seemed like it was more a filling for a wrap.  Turkey tends to crumble well, but that makes it hard to eat in a dish like this, which needed something more than mozzarella to hold it together - which is why it felt more like a filling, than a stand alone.  Fresh mozzarella might have done a sight better, being a little creamier when melted.  There wasn't enough seasoning for us.  I salted and peppered the crap out of it, and ended up adding chili powder, because even the pepper flakes didn't do enough.  I'm sure some of the lack of flavor is due to the lean nature of turkey.  With fat comes flavor.  And potatoes in general need more seasoning.  I liked the sweet potatoes, but you'll need a small dice to get them to cook in the time allotted.  I added a couple tablespoons of water to the pan while cooking the potatoes - this helped steam them and brought up the bits of flavor from the bottom of the pan. This recipe is a good base to somewhere, but it requires more work and experimentation than I feel like putting in.

This Salisbury Steak Meatballs with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes was everything the Turkey Skillet was not.  Full of flavor.  Warm.  Well sauced, well, gravied (I ended up adding an additional cup of Beef Broth to thin the gravy.)  I only had a pound of ground beef, so I cut down the ingredients in the meatballs by a third and got 28 meatballs.  The potatoes were creamy and a perfect base for the meatballs.  Raves all around the table.

I doubled this Honey Dijon Garlic Chicken recipe for an in-law dinner night.  They were moist and really flavorful.  I didn't have a stone ground dijon, so I used regular dijon and it worked just fine.  I loved the sauce from the drippings - garlicy without being a punch, mellowed honey and that bite from the mustard.

Pulling this Slow Cooker Bourbon Brown Sugar Pulled Chicken with Bacon and Brussels Sprout Corn Slaw came together faster than typing out its name.  I wasn't sure I'd have time to pull it off since I hadn't defrosted my chicken in the morning.  I did a quick pop in the microwave to get them partially thawed and threw them in the slow cooker.  I had boneless, skinless thighs, so I used two and a half pounds instead of four skinless bone-in (I couldn't find a conversion on how many I should have used.)  This fed way more than six - even with bone-in I think it would have fed more.  They were really flavorful - a sweet, tart bar-b-quey sauce.  The slaw was a nice fresh pop.  It was light and just creamy enough to hold it together.  Fresh corn on the cob is still some ways off for us here, so I pan-roasted some frozen kernels.  I'm sure, second day servings will be even better.  It is a sloppy eat, but well worth it.

I've got dinner and a dessert to pull together for tonight.  A son with a half day to get before heading up to get the Girlie.  Some fun mail is due in today.  There's a few de-clutter spots in the house to deal with.  The 15 y.o. has several things to get started this weekend, and will need much over-the-shouldering to be sure it gets done.  If I manage my time well, I might be able to complete the sorting project still laying where I left it two weekends ago.  

Or I may just become one with the couch.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Throw Back Thursday

Last week I spoke about how great the Smaller kit is for creating mini albums.  How wonderful minis are for giving you a great surge of accomplishment.  How fun they are to have around to flip through.  And easy.  So easy!

I mentioned this mini that I did several years ago, using the My Mind's Eye Boo to You line, from the October '09 smaller kit.  The photos are from Halloween 2006, when the kids were just wee ones.  Holy cow!

The album itself is small, maybe 3" tall, from Maya Road, chipboard with a chain to keep the pages together.  It was easy enough to take the album apart and trace patterned paper and cardstock to cover the chipboard pieces.  I alternated cardstock and patterned paper on the facing pages, depending on what looked best with the photo for that page.  I cut patterned paper down to use for small journaling blocks.  I used the B sides, because the patterns on B sides tend to be simpler, but coordinate.  It also means I'm not slowed down by digging through my stash.

Had I been shooting in digital, I would have printed the photos smaller.  As it was, I had to trim them down to fit; no biggie.  Less time messing with photos.  Added bonus, the photos were duplicates.

The rest was embellishing, and even that was minimal on the small space.  I used chipboard images, which were part of the kit.  I just messed around with them to see what worked and where.  The chipboard had an adhesive back, which I powdered (baby powder), where the chipboard hung over the edges of the album so that it didn't stick to, well, anything it touched.  

Journaling and a teeny bit of ribbon.  Boom.  Done.  Probably a couple hours.

With snow, again, moving in. . . Yes.  Snow.  Big, wet, plant crushing, branch breaking snow.  AGAIN!  All weekend.  Gah.  Maybe I'll just watch it fall while messing around with a a Smaller kit and a mini album.

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We Are

Just another quiet week.  I was a total bum over the weekend and did little more than what needed doing, like feeding the family and doing only the basic house cleaning necessary to keep from tripping.

  • Is it wrong that I look out the front door just to see these along the front steps?  Or stand by them and take a deep breath of hyacinth-filled air.
  • Why was finding a charcoal grey suit for a little boy so difficult.  For the record, it would seem only one company makes them.  One.
  • Girlie and her "dudes" hit Coors Field (photo cred:  Girlie)
  • It was a beautiful night for a Rockies game, and a win (photo cred:  Girlie)
  • Because Prom is tomorrow night and you don't know how to shine shoes.  When did this become a lost art?
  • Hitting the Boy Scout Show where your pack was sharing how to fold the US Flag, which are being sent to the Troops.
  • This is how all photo sessions seems to end.  And start.
  • The 17 y.o. and his date
  • See notes about photo sessions above. . . 
  • 2016 RV Prom Group 
  • This was the reason she came home in the first place (photo cred:  Girlie)
  • When the second fish, because the first fish seemed lonely, survives the night.
  • Making it work
  • Den Meeting for some wildlife watching at Majestic View Park
  • #CollegeLife vs. lactose intolerance (photo cred:  Girlie)
  • Not a good post to see in my feed the week before finals (photo cred:  Girlie)
  • Sometimes it just seems best not to question (photo cred:  15 y.o.)
  • Again. . .I'm not asking why.  Though these posts tend to increase tenfold when Girlie comes home.  (photo cred:  17 y.o.)
Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Stash Busting

Whether you've got diecut cardstock (like Bazzill's Just the Edge), pre-printed diecuts, or maybe you have punches and/or a die machine of some kind (electric or manual), chances are you've got one or two borders in your stash.

Borders are great.  I'm particularly fond of the pre-printed versions -chipboard, stickers and vellum; back in the day there were even felt ones.  I'm pretty sure I have all versions.  And I'm also pretty sure that I use them one way. . .as a flat out border.  Yeah, I'm creative like that.

Given my genius off-the-page creativity, I decided to look for ways to use borders beyond what I do so well.  My usual stomping ground, Pinterest, and as usual I was met with a plethora of ideas.

Bazzill and Doodlebug used to make precut cardstock borders.  If you go way back in time when every city had its own local scrapbook store, you could find huge diecut machines to make borders as well.  Sometimes you had an idea and it worked, and sometimes it didn't (thus adding a border to your stash), and sometimes the amount in a single package was just too much for one layout.  So, I found this cute sample of several borders, only a couple use a pre-cut border, but the ideas will still work.  It's all about layering.  The simple version of layering several strips, is good, but adding a bit of embellishment just makes it pop - and uses more stash!  Where you see the back mat (i.e. the purple cardstock in the top example) you could totally use a pre-cut scallop or zig zag peeking out at the top.

I have a couple border punches and I'm no more creative with them, than I am with any other border.  But it seems there's much to say about layering.  Layering another punch whether it's these snowflakes or another border.  It's about giving them some weight.

This simple border speaks to me.  I have several Doodlebug precut borders, their's were great because they had differing widths, and so i could totally do something like this - which also uses up more patterned paper.  Bonus!

This layout using multiple borders caught my eye because of the possibilities.  There's the whole, using a lot of patterned paper idea going on.  However, mix some of those patterned paper blocks with some of my precut cardstock, or preprinted diecut borders and BOOM.  Done and done.  Shoot, if you have leftovers from the packaged versions you could use up a lot.  Pull out a border punch, or four, and go to town.

Now, beyond this Pink Paislee Hometown Summer line being one of my favorites, they came out with coordinating preprinted diecut borders.  The downside, too many in the package.  At least to my unique way of using one border, for a layout.  This layout uses multiple borders from that package; four to be exact.  Imagine if it were a two pager?!

Add to these mind-joggers, you can trim down borders to layer under titles, photos or journaling blocks.  You can shorten them and put them in corners, layered of course to provide weight.  You can find some ideas in the Stash Busting Diecut Papers post HERE; particularly in the two sketches.

Go.  Create.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Food for Thought

We went from cold and 12" of snow last weekend, to 75 today, near 80 tomorrow.  Most of the snow is gone.  Thanks to the hubby, the bulbs I planted last fall survived the heavy snows and are all blooming:  tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and grape hyacinth.  My lilacs too survived, but blooms are still a bit out.  My blackberries are leafing out, which I think is too late to trim them, but they and the blueberries need netting before they bloom.  Birds will not win this year.  My 7 y.o. told me there are strawberries in the patch.  I have starters going in the kitchen, and if it's calm and warm enough, I'll put them out for some real sun.  I also have live plants of lavender and rhubarb to get into dirt this weekend, if not later today.

I think Spring is here, whether snow comes again (and it very well could) or not.  Spring brings lighter fare for meals, at least most of the time.  It also makes me dread the coming heat. . .but I shove aside those sweaty thoughts to savor the early Spring instead.

Much like the transitioning seasons, my menu wafts from warm and comforting, to light and fresh.  Check out the following if you're in need of recipes for your menu planning.

Hubby brought home a Costco-sized bag of brussels sprouts, which is a lot of brussels sprouts.  I still had some after using them in a recipe, and remembered seeing them used as a slaw.  I dug up this Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quiona Salad to serve up as a side.  It was good.  Fresh and light.  Hubby thought some chopped apples would be good in the salad.  The dressing was tangy, but I could have used more orange flavor.  It could have been the orange I juiced, but next time I may toss in some zest.  Leftovers with some sliced chicken would make a good lunch.

The boys had a couple things going this week so I needed something that would wait for them to get home.  This Slow Cooker Crack Chicken worked pretty good for those who weren't home at meal time.  I made my 40-minute hamburger buns, and used the mixer trick to shred the chicken (toss the cooked chicken into the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddled, let the mixer do the work.)  I used chicken thighs, they don't dry out like breasts in the slow cooker.  I also found the sauce to meat ration off for us.  Next time I'll halve the "sauce" ingredients.  The bacon is a must.  I tried slices because I didn't feel like chopping it, but I should have.  Crumbled would have been in every bite, but serve them on the side since they'll get soft in the chicken mix.  I would also check your seasoning before serving - ours needed a touch of salt and pepper.  It serves up well chilled, too, on a bed of lettuce or with crackers as a dip.  The blogger mentions it would also make a good filling for tacos or burritos.

I had this One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Sausage Alfredo Pasta on my menu before my husband said he was lightening his carb load in an effort to lose weight.  Bummer.  I made it and he ate half his regular serving.  This was creamy and rich and flavorful.  I used thighs in this, as well as they take on more flavor.  I don't like a lot of heat, so I halved the amount of cajun seasoning and then served more on the side for those who like the heat.  This one reheats well too, and you don't get the separation of liquids and fat, that sometimes happens with cream based recipes.

I love sugar cookies.  They are probably one of the few Christmas recipes I'll make during the year, though I don't make them cutter-cookies.  When I found these Amish Sugar Cookies I knew I had to have them.  And OH. MY!  They are really good.  Soft.  Buttery.  A little bit of crunch on the edges.  And they couldn't be easier.  I used the small Pampered Chef scoop (my go-to size for cookies) and it made a ton, 5-6 dozen.  I could eat them by the handful.

We (well most of us) like chicken and peanut sauce, so these Thai Chicken Tacos with Peanut Sauce were a must make.  They were fresh and light and just the thing for the weather heating up.  I used chicken tenders and mixed the cilantro with the cabbage, which was green because that's what I had on hand.  The peanut sauce is pretty thick, but super flavorful.  Because I was trying to help hubby keep processed carbs out of his meals, I warmed up some quinoa and mixed it with the cabbage and served the rest on top.  Because the peanut sauce was thick, I thinned it with hot water, which is how I dressed hubby's dish.

For some reason these Meatball Sub Bake casseroles were in my feed like crazy.  So I took it as a sign, pinned one and made it.  (Hubby got the meatballs and a salad.)  I made my usual marinara and kept the recipe as it was.  It was warm and cheesy.  The top got crunchy from the cheese and the inside was soft.  The only thing I'll do next time is add more meatballs.  The dough puffs up around the meatballs in such a way that once it was baked there weren't enough bites of meatball for me.

We have prom this weekend, a cowboy action shoot and girlie coming home to make sure her brother is as dapper as possible.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Throw Back Thursday

I've mentioned that the Smaller Apron Strings kits are great for Pocket-Page (i.e. Project Life®) scrapbooking, as well as mini books.  

I love minis for their instant gratification.  I would say most could be completed in an afternoon, though I have a couple December Dailies that took a weekend.  They are a great place to use extra photos or duplicate photos.  Keep them out for regular thumbing-through or rotate them in and out.  

The minis I've completed are mainly holiday-centric, 30 Days of Thankful or December Dailies, though I have others:  a small chipboard one from Halloween, a travel one I sent with hubby when he was on the road a lot, brag books for grandparents, etc.  I've got quite a few when I round them up in my head.  This, however, is not one of them.  

This mini was created by, then, Sous Chef Vicki Kelly, using the Smaller kit from 2009, and the Bella Blvd Swing Into Spring line.  I came across this line when I was sorting my own kits.  It's fun and bright.  I can't recall if I'd used it, but given that my now 7 y.o. was seven months old, I'm thinking it was intact.  I know I kept it, though.

Anyway, Vicki used the entire Bella kit to create her mini here.  The acrylic album was not part of the kit, though.  You can find, or you may have in your stash, mini albums in all shapes and sizes, from chipboard to a more traditional hard-cover album.  Shoot, go to the dollar store and get a flip book; minis aren't meant for the long haul.

Unfortunately, she didn't take individual photos of her pages, but you can get the gist of it pretty well.  She trimmed her papers to fit.  She kept her layout simple and used one photo per page.  Most pages are just the patterned paper or cardstock and the photos, but you can see where she's placed an embellishment here and there; the majority of embellishments were used on the cover.  The album is ring-bound, so she tied ribbon from the kit on the rings.  If you want more embellishments, it's a great time to mine your stash.

I've got a couple minis to complete and knowing how quick and fun they are, I'm now inspired.  

Go. Create.