Monday, February 28, 2011

Delicious. Enough said.

I went a little easy on myself tonight.  It's true.  Last week was so very crazy (tasty, but crazy) and this week... well, enough with the blah-dee-blah...

Sometimes you just need to cut yourself a break, right???  OK, so, now that THAT'S out of the way, I can tell you what the menu was:

Tonight's yumminess was brought to you by Kevin and Marsha (again.)  Suffice it to say that I'd really like to be in their family, especially when it comes time for dinner.  Their submissions to the cookbook have really been our favorites so far - although everything we've tried has been delicious (just so all you people I go to church with know...) with some dessert help from Kris.  For our side, I totally cheated AGAIN.  Yeah, I know!  I am turning into a regular cheater, cheater, bow-beater.  But I don't regret it.  

Dinner:  Orange Chicken Stir-Fry.
So yummy - and much easier than I was anticipating.  The orange chicken you get at the Chinese restaurant is breaded and fried - this stuff is NOT breaded - though still kind of fried.  Much healthier than in the restaurant and very tasty.  And do you know what the most amazing part was?  I did not even cry cutting apart the chicken breasts.  Granted, they weren't boned, so I could visualized an orchard once again, but still.  

Here's the recipe:

Orange Chicken Stir-Fry
2 C rice
3/4 C freshly squeezed orange juice (three large oranges)
3 T rice vinegar
3 T soy sauce
3 T light brown sugar
3 T cornstarch
1 lb (about) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
salt and pepper to taste
1 (10 oz) package of frozen broccoli
2 T veggie oil

Cook rice; set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch.  In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot.  Cook the chicken in the oil until done.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.  Add the broccoli and orange sauce mixture.  Continue cooking this over high heat until the sauce thickens - about 3-4 minutes.  Serve this over rice.

Side: Asian Salad.
Holy cow.  This salad was even better this time.  Unanimously agreed that it stole the show (no offense to the rest of the show).  I really can't explain to you enough how good it is, and even if I tried you wouldn't believe me.  So I'll just say, I got the recipe here.  And THEN I'll be kind enough to give it to you HERE, because you don't want to miss it, trust me.

Asian Salad
2 packages of ramen noodles, crushed
1 C slivered almonds
2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 C butter
1 head of napa cabbage, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3/4 C vegetable oil
1/4 C distilled white vinegar
1/2 C sugar
2 T soy sauce

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the ramen, almonds and sesame seeds and mix together.  Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn, until the mixture is golden brown.  Take off heat and cool.  In a small saucepan, bring the veggie oil, vinegar and sugar to a boil.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Boil for 1 minute.  Cool.  Add soy sauce.  In a large bowl, combine the napa cabbage and the green onions.  Add the ramen noodle mixture and mix, then add the dressing mixture and toss to coat.

Just a tip - you may want to either get TWO cabbages or reduce the dressing because both times I've made it now there is WAY too much dressing for the salad.  Napa cabbages seem really big, but there's surprisingly little cabbage on that big thing.  Also, I only use about half a bunch of green onions, not the whole thing and I think it's plenty.

Dessert: Peanut Butter Incredibles.
If you ask mr to pick dinner, rest assured dessert will involve peanut butter.  He's an addict.  I just let it be, because really, how destructive can PB be?  Has anyone ever died of PB overdose?  Actually, if you ate this entire dessert yourself, you might.  It reminded me of THIS dessert I made (also delicious) with the BIG exception of NOT putting my hand directly in the BURNING center of the bars.  

Here you go:

Peanut Butter Incredibles
1/3 Box of graham crackers, crushed
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 C peanut butter
3 C powdered sugar
12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or maybe a bag and a half, or so... who's counting?)

Combine everything but the chocolate chips and mix well.  Pat firmly into a 9x13 pan.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and pour them over the peanut butter mixture.  Chill for about 15 minutes.  Don't let it cool completely BEFORE cutting it or the chocolate will break off the top.  

You know what I liked the most?  It's no bake.

I didn't turn the oven on ONCE tonight.  Which means mr and I didn't get to have our normal monday night dinnertime discussion:
mr: Is there a reason the oven is on?
me: (chewing slowly) Um, mm-hm.
mr: BESIDES that you forgot to turn it off?
me: (thinking fast) Um... no.

So, you know, going easy on myself has a lot of benefits.  I don't run around like a crazed lunatic, I don't smoosh my whole hand into the dessert, I don't forget to turn the oven off, and I'm actually still hungry when it comes time to eat.  Who knew.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

Oh my gosh.

Guys, the voting is up over at So You Think You're Crafty.  You have to go check it out.  And vote.  I'd say, "Vote for me!!"  in a desperate plea, but I can't.  Submissions are anonymous.  So, you know, vote for your favorite and I'll just pray it's mine.  

Go on, go do it!

(I left you enough links, you should be able to find it.)

(Oh, and be sure to enter my blogiversary giveaway, too.)

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

Did you guess what today is??

Take a look at the header for a hint.

That's right!  It's my blogirthday!  Or, uh, blirthday!  Or... blog-birthday??  


One year ago to THIS VERY DAY, I started writing.  No, no, do not go back and read that post.  Well, you can if you want, but it has nothing whatever to do with my blog.  No, "Hi, how are ya?  This is me!"  Nothing like that... if you want that kind of thing, you'll have to read what should have been my first post ever.  Or maybe this post.

With all the quitting I've done in the past (and not the good kind either - not like "quit smoking" or "quit biting my nails" - neither of which I've ever done, actually...) I am honestly pleasantly surprised to still be here and still going strong!

Why am I still here?

Because of you.  I like you.

And because of me.  I kinda like me, too.  This blog has helped me to learn new things (like making a decent pie - last week excepted.  And what the heck shirring is.)  And it's helped me to become better at those things (and others - like photography and editing).  And it's definitely forced some much needed accountability on me. 

I really did need this blog.  I need to create, and I can see no better way to achieve that need at this current juncture in my life than this little blog here.  I get support, inspiration, kudos, and of course, sympathy when my head gets too big from all the support and kudos so I'm knocked down a peg or two by some enormous FAIL.  

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey.

Sooooo... do you want a birthday present?  I thought maybe.  And while I'd LOVE to give all 346 of you birthday presents, I'm still in the process of making 20-something barrettes, so let's be realistic, shall we?

One lucky comment below will win their very own BOGO (or rather MOGO) Birthday Wreath!  

Yep, just like that one EXCEPT slightly smaller and definitely more lightweight.  

What makes this baby MOGO?  (that means "Make One, Get One", by the way)  Because, of course, it is double-sided!  One color combo per side.  It's two wreaths in one!

Want to win?


Be a follower and leave me a comment.  That's it!  

The giveaway is open until Friday.  On Friday, March 4th, I will use to pick a winner.  The winner gets to pick their color combos for a customized MOGO Birthday Wreath of their very own, to hang and enjoy.

Oh, and if you want to make one, you can find the tutorial here!

Happy birthday, bugaboo, mini, mr & me!  

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photos and excuses.

A pretty good weekend here!  (Though I always come away from the weekend feeling like I got less sleep than I did during the week, if at all possible.)  It may help if at some point my children started sleeping through the night...

BUT, I managed to snap some photos.  And make a few rolled rose barrettes, for those of you who may care...  suffice it to say that my goal of getting them into the mail by YESTERDAY failed.  However, they are well underway and should be sent soon.  Phew.  

Here are my photos for this week's Sunday Scavenger Hunt at Ramblings and Photos:

Capture the Sky
Capture the sky??  Really???  In February?  I'll let you in on a secret.  Around these parts, the sky looks like the above from October until about May.  Gray.  Gray, gray, gray.  One humongous stratus cloud covering all the lovely blue.  Rarely starry, even more rarely sunny.  Sometimes MORE cloudy and often snowy.  So, taking a picture of the sky right now = boring.  I made sure to get some branches in the picture, to break up the gray.  I also added a little texture to the photo post-process.  Because, like I said, it was boring.
Nap-time: everyday, same time, same place,  no exceptions.  Except we don't call it nap-time anymore, we call it quiet time.  Because SOME people - no names mentioned -
do this all nap-time, instead of sleep.
This shot is completely luck.  Taking a picture of my cat is nearly as impossible as taking a picture of my children.  None of them ever stop moving.
I LOVE how full of life the kids are.  They really have an excitement and zeal that I've obviously lost... 
I call this:  The Dancing Bear.  Actually, I picked this one because I like how you can see bug's eyes behind the blurry bear.

The Trendy Treehouse Shutter Love Tuesday theme is "Swing". 


And I've got this golden oldie:

An addition:
A bloggy friend of mine is starting a new challenge to learn more about editing.  

I thought I'd try it out this week, since I have so much fun playing with picnik.  Since I really only play with photography at this point, I don't have any photo editing software, besides what's available on iphoto or online.  I LOVE picnik.  LOVE.

Here's her shot:

Here's my edit:

And I'm supposed to explain what I did with edits.  So, first I adjusted the exposure and contrast, manually.  Then I cropped it so that the cutie was all the way to the right.  Then I used the rotate tool to tilt the picture just a little, so that her head was in the corner of the frame.  I've learned that it's better to off-center your main subject, rule of thirds and all... Then I used the touch-up section to boost the blue eyes just a touch and used the eye brightener tool to add some reflection in both eyes.  I also added just a touch of blush to the cheeks - faded way down.  Then I used the "cross process" tool (I think it's my favorite) and faded it way out.  I think it warms the photo up a lot.  I used the "Fancy Focus" tool and centered it right on the eyes, so that area would be more of a focal point and the background would be faded and softer.  I used just a little bit of a vignette - made it smaller, boosted the strength a bit, and faded it down.  I didn't want the photo to be ALL vignette, I just wanted a little bit of a vignette at the edges to draw the eye in more.  And that's that!

If you use picnik at all, I really suggest purchasing the premium.  It's worth it.  There is soooo much you can do with it, and it's super user-friendly.  I know NOTHING - and I mean NOTHING - about editing, I just make it all up as I go.  But I've taught myself all the tools from picnik, so I'm pretty sure you could too!

So guess what tomorrow is.  Go on.  Guess.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Protein is disgusting.
I’ve been learning a lot about the food pyramid, thanks to bug.  As you're aware, he’s 3 going on 30, so he knows all there is to know about nutrition and just about everything else of importance.  
(An unrelated illustration of that fact?  Every morning he wakes up, comes to the top of the stairs and calls down, “I waked up!  I waked up because it’s lighter now!  It’s lighter now because the Earth isn’t turned away from the sun anymore!”  He is a scientist in the making.  And I thought he’d be an actor...)
A few food facts that I did NOT KNOW until having a pre-schooler:
There are three main food groups.  Macaroni and cheese, chocolate milk, and chocolate.  Anything else is just fluff.
Chocolate trumps anything else in terms of desirability AND being good for bug.  Except chocolate milk.  And chocolate animal crackers.  This may not be the case for everyone, because when I remind him that he has to eat things that are good for him, he claims, “It IS good for me.  Maybe not for you, but for ME.”  
So, it obviously follows: the rules of nutrition are fluid and malleable.  What is considered healthy varies from person to person.
Man cannot live on yogurt alone, but apparently little boys can.
What nutritional values you are lacking can always be made up for with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because they are “the best for you.”  (Besides chocolate, that is.)
Meat is really, really bad for you.  Unless you don’t know it’s meat.  Then it’s ok.  And also pretty tasty.
And my most recent discovery: protein is disgusting.  Really, really disgusting.
Last week I conceded to make macaroni and cheese for lunch, conditioned upon the inclusion of something more substantially healthy (or so I thought) like tuna.  Now, I am aware that some people are disgusted by the thought of macaroni and cheese with tuna.  I did not grow up eating mac and cheese this way, but tried it when I got a little older and think it’s pretty tasty (with the right tuna).  When bug asked me why I was making this little addition, I explained that it was good for him and after a long volley of “why and answers” I won the match with “because tuna has protein which makes us big and strong.”  Well, after the first bite bug refused his absolute favorite food ever and instead went willingly to his room for quiet time.  This, in and of itself, is remarkable and clearly demonstrates the aforementioned nutritional rule - protein is a no-no.  
As if to drive this point home, today when I asked him if he would like mac and cheese for lunch, he replied enthusiastically:
“YES!  But no protein!”
And before you send me to child services on grounds that I only feed my child mac and cheese and chocolate, I’ll have you know that I only OCCASIONALLY make a meal of both.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do your part.

Voting is now open!  Go over and vote for the Best of February on Saturday Mornings!  

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

More stuff you should check out.

What a week!  We, like most of the nation I suspect, have been struck down by a mysterious cold.  Luckily, the drippiness is passing, knock on wood, and we are finally getting back to whatever normal is around here.

I would like to take this moment to give you a few announcements:

1.  Today I'm guest posting over at Everyday Mom Ideas about how bug "FELT" like a pirate.  (haha - Oh, I crack myself up.  You have to go read the tutorial to fully understand.)  If you do read it, you can learn how to turn your kiddo into a full-fledged swashbuckler (and then he can sing bug's new favorite song from the Backyardigans which he has only ever seen ONCE at Oma's - "Ar, Ar, Ar.... A pirate, a pirate, a pirate says ARRRRR!"):

And you know, while you're there, you might as well whip up Julia's awesome pirate cake, because it's just that kind of week.

2.  My Strips and Scraps T-Shirt Vest made it into the February finals over at Saturday Mornings!  You HAVE to go vote for it!  Ok, you don't have to vote for it.  But it might feel sad and lonely if you don't.  Just sayin'.  Alright, fine.  Just go vote for something, will ya?

3.  This past week I have 
a) been to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and possible stitches (none needed after all, thank you!). 
b) caused two blisters on my fingers. 
c) electrocuted myself.
d) slipped on the ice while carrying a fragile project (you'll see soon) which popped my knee out of joint and made me stay up until all hours trying to put said project back together.
e) eaten entirely too much cake.
f) gone to the dollar store more times than is strictly necessary in one week for one person.
g) All of the above.

This is a multiple choice quiz, for reals.  Whoever guesses the right answer gets a prize.  No, not really.  I still have 23 barrettes to make!  But you should take the quiz anyway.

AND, just so you don't miss it (or you're new here...) CLICK HERE to see my latest tutorial.  It's another necklace made out of t-shirts.  BUT this one is the rolled rose bib necklace I promised loooooong ago.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

I use ratty old t-shirts a lot.

Well, you’ve been waiting patiently.  And I’ve finally finished it.  Despite all odds... ok, there really weren’t any odds against it.  Just lots of other projects and some falling asleep at unplanned times.  
OK!  Today you’re going to make a rolled rosette bib necklace.  

You can see the one I made for my sister here.

Now, a note or two about the style.  I like to use knit for my roses - it’s stretches and twists in just the right way, and I especially like that you can leave the cut edges unfinished because they won’t ravel.  I’ve mentioned before that I like my rolled roses to look shabby, not all clean and perfect.  I think the slightly jagged kind of rolled edges really look like the petals on a rose.  Plus, you can use old T-Shirts, and you know how I like a using ratty old t-shirt for projects!
Ok, these pictures, they stink.  It’s still winter, there’s still no sun and I still craft in the basement.  So, please forgive me.
This is what you’ll need:
knit fabric
thin beading wire
four crimping closures (that’s what they’re called on the bag, anyway.)
four jump rings
a clasp - I used a lobster clasp
needle and thread
hot glue gun

Cut your fabric into strips, all about the same width, but varying in length.  You want the roses to sit at the same height on the necklace, but you also want them to be different sizes.

Now, depending on the thickness of your fabric, you may want to fold it in half.  

Then take one end and fold it over on an angle.

Dab some glue so the roll sticks.

Then start rolling it.

Now, you can continue to roll the strip up, just twist it as you go.

Roll the strip about a half turn, and twist, and glue it to the center of the rose.

Roll about a half turn, twist, glue to the center.

Keep going.

I try to vary exactly where the twists happen, so I’m not twisting at the same spot on the flower every single time I turn it.  Just turn and twist to your own aesthetic.
Do this until you reach the end of the strip, or your flower is the size you want.
At the end of the strip, leave just a little unglued,
flip your flower over, spread a little glue on the tail and glue it to the back of the flower.  

Now just make as many as you’ll need for your necklace.

And lay them out to see how you want the necklace to look.

Try a few different layouts, 

until you get the one you want.

You may need to add or delete a few roses.
Take your felt and double it up (just fold in half and glue it together)
Start gluing the flowers to the felt, one at a time.

When they are all glued down, cut roughly around the bunch.

Now, fold the felt back to expose the areas between the flowers.

Dab some glue in between each flower, going just slightly up onto the side of the flower.

Carefully press the flowers together (so the glue doesn’t smoosh up to the front).
Do this between every flower.
Don’t skip this step!  It adds a TON of stability to the necklace.  See, it’s not so floppy and bendy now.

Now you can go around the bunch of flowers and cut the felt off more carefully so you can’t see the felt from the front.

Take your needle and thread and sew a jump ring to one end of the rose cluster, toward the top.

Then do the same to the other side.

Measure your beading wire to the right size - I used the highly technical method of holding the roses up to my neck where I wanted them, and then holding the wire up to the end and cutting it where it met in the back.
Cut 6 lengths of wire.  Three per side.
Take three wires and line the ends up.  Use the pliers to attach a crimp closure to the end. 

Then attach a jump ring to the crimp closure.

Now attach another crimp closure to the other end of the wires.  Attach that crimp closure to the jump ring that’s sewn to the roses.

Now take the other three wires, and attach a crimp closure to those.  Attach a jump ring and the clasp to the crimp closure.
Add the last crimp closure

and attach it to the jump ring on the other end of the roses.

Cut two ovals from your felt.
Hot glue them over the sewn jump rings, just for the sake of hiding our messy work.

And you’re done!
AND you're lucky.  I decided not to subject you to another slightly blurry picture of my double chin.  You’re welcome.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!
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