Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

We're spending a pretty low-key family day today. Normally, we go and celebrate with some friends, but everyone seems to be suffering from a case of the sickies this year. Nothing wrong with staying home and ring in the new year with your head on your pillow, waking up in time to watch the fireworks displays, then going right back to sleep!
Actually, we are getting out a bit today...started the morning by taking the boy swimming while hubby was coaching the boys swim team this morning. I had plans on doing that last week as well on the day after Christmas, but the raging ear infection put a stop to that. After nap time this afternoon, we're loading up and heading out to the zoo for zoolights. It's a tradition for us to go every year (back even since hubby and I were dating!), and each time we've planned on going this year, we've been rained out. Today though, the weather is nice, so we're going! It was either today, or we didn't go at all.  I'll post a couple pictures later.
In any case, hope you have a safe and happy new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Caper Chicken

The boy, 9 times out of 10 will ask me to make this recipe when I ask what he wants to eat for dinner.  He loves it that much!  This comes somewhat as a shock to me because he's such a picky eater.  Something about caper chicken though, he just can't get enough of.  We knew he loved it when I made it one time and gave it to him and not only did he eat all that I gave him, but he kept asking for more!  I think he had nearly polished off a whole chicken breast by the time he was finally full!  If he can polish off a whole chicken breast at 4, I fear for how much food he's going to be putting away as a teenager!
In any case, I originally found the recipe at  I love that site too!  If I'm trying a new recipe out, it's either something I've found there or on pinterest.  The recipe is listed here, and I don't have a picture of the final outcome of this one because we finish it off faster than I can take a picture!
I don't measure out the spices, and I always double the sauce because there just isn't enough if you follow the recipe exactly.  Serve over some rice, and with a side of green beans, and you've got yourself a meal!

Caper Chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I usually use for each of us, but have done as many as 5)
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried dill weed
3 tbsp butter
1/2 c. whipping cream (I just buy the small 1 pint container of heavy cream and use the whole thing...doubles the sauce)
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

Make sure your chicken is thawed completely before starting.  It makes the cooking process MUCH easier (trust me on this one...I somehow end up with chicken still raw in the middle for some reason and end up having to finish it for a couple minutes in the microwave and it just doesn't taste as good!).
Season (one side of) the chicken breasts with lemon pepper, salt, dill weed and garlic powder
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place breasts in skillet, (seasoned side down, and season the other side...the extra seasonings in the skillet give the sauce more flavor) and increase heat to medium-high.  Turn chicken every few minutes, until brown, then cook a bit longer until they're cooked through.  Remove chicken to a warm serving platter, and cover with foil (or if you're like me, put them on the plate WITHOUT foil and into the microwave for a couple minutes)
Increase heat on stove to high, and whisk in heavy cream (in the skillet), stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Stir until it is reduced to sauce consistency (it will bubble up a lot, and then settle down).  Remove from heat, and stir in capers.
Pour sauce over chicken and enjoy!

I make this with rice, and a little sauce goes a long way.  I've read that this is also pretty good served with pasta as well, but we prefer rice.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mashed potatoes and chili

AKA...what I make for dinner when I don't feel like cooking. Tonight was one of those nights. I developed a raging ear infection when we got back from all of our Christmas festivities. :( Why is it that illness always comes when I get a "bonus" day off work? Oh well. At least I don't have to take a sick day or vacation day for it. After debating for a few hours yesterday, I took a trip to the doctor and am now on antibiotics. The only problem is that I'm still not feeling great, and therefore not in the mood to cook anything that takes a while lot of effort.
Enter the quickest dinner in our meal rotation. Hubby introduced me to this while we were still dating. I thought it was weird at first, but quickly became a fan when he first made it for me. Seriously...easiest.meal.ever. It can totally be made more gourmet with mashed potatoes from scratch, and chili from scratch however, when energy is lacking, open a can of chili, mix up some instant potatoes and dinner is served! Top it with some cheese, or any other toppings you desire, and you've got a quick and filling meal when you have a busy weeknight, or a night when you don't feel like cooking!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season, I'd like to stop and wish a very merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Gift Tags

I try to make tags for the gifts we give at Christmastime every year.  Usually I have grand intentions, but the execution of said ideas doesn't fully come to fruition.  I remember a few years ago, I just took to using a sharpie and writing everyone's names right on the wrapping paper!  So much for cute, homemade tags!  Last year, I got as far as getting the tags punched out and then just scribbled the names on them.
This year however, I had a few extra minutes to add some finishing touches to them.  I think they turned out pretty cute!  I used my Creative Memories tag maker and punched out as many tags as I could get out of a 12 x 12 sheet of cardstock.  A quick dig through my stamps, and the perfect one was found!  Then, it was just a matter of stamping and embossing.  I used my versamark watermark ink pad, and some white embossing powder.  A blast of heat, and they were done.  All that was left to do was to write everyone's names on them.  They're not much, but I think they add just enough of a personalized, crafty touch.  If I can't find the time to make everyone's gifts, I can at least make some tags!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

I LOVE Pinterest!  I've found so many fun ideas there, and actually had a chance to try a few.  Well, this one pin in particular intrigued me.  I've always wanted to try making my own laundry soap and had seen this pinned quite a few times.  I figured I might as well give it a try.  I read through all the comments on the blog post and decided that it couldn't be too difficult to do and should last us a while.  If I could save some money on laundry detergent at the same time, I figured that would be a win!  I usually buy the big bottle of detergent and it lasts us quite a while.
To be honest, I'm really not sure how much we're saving or going to save because I hate doing laundry!  I do as little laundry as possible because a) I hate doing it, b) I'm never home to do it and c) I hate doing it!  Actually, maybe I should clarify that...the actual process of gathering up the clothes and physically putting them in the washer and dryer is easy.  Hubby does his own laundry and I wash my clothes and the boy's clothes, although give it another year or so and he'll be doing his own too.  It's the darn putting the clothes away that I just seem to never find the time to do!  I think I actually put clothes away 3 to 4 times a year, when mount laundry gets too high and when there's actually a day when there's nothing else planned and I go on a house-cleaning rampage!  The last time I put clothes away ended up in a trip to the hardware store after the bar in the closet came crashing down at 3am because of the weight on it!  The thing just snapped clean off the wall and made quite the racket in the middle of the night!  It didn't help that the wall support was also holding up the shelf in the closet either, and that was rather heavy as well.  The last 6 shirts I hung up did the poor thing in!  We discovered, in putting new brackets up that the closet rod was never hung level to begin with.  Funny what you learn about your house when random things start breaking and you have to fix them!

Anyway...the pin that I was going off of was here:

which led to this blog post.

It took me a bit of time to gather up the materials I needed because I wasn't really in a hurry, and every time I went into the store, they were always out of borax!  Eventually, I rounded everything up and had an afternoon where there were a couple of free hours for me to get it made.  The longest part was grating up the soap.  Since we've got a front loader, I not only grated the bar of soap, but ran it through the food processor as well to make sure that it turned into a really fine powder that would dissolve easier.  I also added in a bottle of Purex crystals to give the detergent a bit of a scent.

All that's needed for the soap is: (it can all be found in the laundy soap aisle at walmart)
3 bars fels naptha (I grated them up and then ran it through the food processor)
1 box borax
1 box washing soda
1 4lb box baking soda
1 tub powdered oxyclean (I used the larger, 3lb one)
1 bottle purex crystals (optional for a light scent)

I'm pretty sure we're going to have laundry detergent for a LONG time!  It only takes 1 to 2 tablespoons per load, and with as much detergent as this makes, a tablespoon is nothing!  I add the mix right in the drum when I do a load, instead of putting it in the soap dispenser on top.  I'm not sure why, but everything I read said to do it this way, so I do!  I finally found a big jar at walmart, and just had to make it look fun.  To be honest, I really was just looking for another glass etching project!  I don't remember what font I used, but I thought it looked fun.  I grabbed some spare vinyl, cut it out, weeded and put it on the jar, then let the etching cream sit for a bit before rinsing it off.  I'm pretty pleased with the result, and so far the soap seems to be working like every other brand of laundry soap that we've ever used.  As long as the clothes come out looking and smelling clean, it's a winner in my book!  Now, if I could just solve the putting-the-clothes away issue!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Chili

My mom used to make chili all the time when I was a kid (still does, actually), and I've always loved her recipe.  When I got married, I decided that I was going to impress my hubby with my mom's chili.  He'd had it several times when she had made it already, so he knew what he was in for.  My only problem with my chili-making endeavor, was that I had no clue really what I was doing!  Sure, I had watched her make it many times, but I never really paid attention to what went in the pot!  So began a series of phone calls that I would make to her (and at 31 years old, still do!) that when she answers the phone, the first words out of my mouth are "Stupid question from your daughter!".  We both get a good laugh out of it, and then I proceed to ask my question.
I digress...this particular question of how to make her chili recipe sort of left me baffled. I couldn't believe that it was that haphazard, and that easy!  The recipe I was given..."Go down the bean aisle at the grocery store and grab a can or two of each type of bean, a can of diced tomatoes, some pork chorizo, and a pound of ground beef.  Brown up the ground beef with some onion and garlic, then throw it in a pot with all the beans, tomatoes, chorizo, and whatever spices you want, bring it to a boil and serve."  I was couldn't really be that easy, and what the heck was chorizo?!  I've since learned a lot more about cooking, and have discovered that sometimes the best meals happen when you grab a whole bunch of things and just throw them into a pot!  That being said, the first time I make something, I'll follow the recipe pretty exact and then when I make it again, I'll change things up to make it better.
Since it was cold and slushing out this weekend, and I had a pantry full of beans, I figured that chili would be the perfect comfort food!  I didn't have everything that I needed for it, but it turned out pretty good anyway.  I like to refer to this chili as a good way to make space in the pantry.  I think I used at least 10 cans by the time I was done!

Homemade Chili
-1 or 2 cans of whatever types of beans you want (don't drain the juices):
  I typically use:
Chili beans (2 cans)
Kidney beans (2 cans)
Pinto beans (2 cans)
White beans
   There's usually a couple more types of beans that I throw in (black, great northern, garbanzo, etc.), but this was what I had in the pantry
-Diced tomatoes
-Tomato sauce
-Green Chilies (this was not part of my mom's recipe, but we like the extra kick that it gives)
-1lb ground beef
-Random seasonings (I use chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, cumin) to taste
-Pork chorizo

Brown ground beef with onion and garlic.  Drain (I usually rinse also because I don't cook with a ton of grease) and add to a stock pot with the beans, chorizo, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chilies, and seasonings.  Stir occasionally so stuff doesn't stick to the bottom and bring just to a boil.  Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Office Christmas Decor

I work for a small company, that at times is insanely busy.  At other times though, I'm all caught up on paperwork and I'm able to bring my cameo and my cricut in and get my crafty on.  My boss has mentioned several times when the decor is done that he really likes how it looks and is glad that my coworker and I take the initiative to spruce the place long as work continues to get done!
Christmastime has always been the main time that the office gets decorated.  Every year we add a little more.  This year, we decided to try vinyl.  I love how it turned out, and it was so much easier than cutting out, layering, and laminating a ton of paper.  We've still got the paper decorations from years past and while they still look good, we noticed that they faded A LOT!  Green and red just don't do so well sitting in the window!  By the time we pulled them down last year, the green had faded so much that it almost looked blue!  Note to self...don't use cheap paper in my scrapbooks!
Anyway, as I was saying, we decided to try vinyl this year.  We did a trial run over the fall to see how it would hold up, and we were very impressed.  It's so easy to work with, and fairly easy to take down.  The only downside is that you can't save it for next year once you take it down.  That's not necessarily a bad thing though...just means that we can come up with new decor next year!  Oh darn, another excuse to bring my stuff back in!
I really love how the windows turned out.  We used a combination of things that we had leftover that I cut out with my cricut last year, and things that I found in the silhouette store and cut out with my cameo this year.  Using the laminated paper cutouts on the inside of the window, and the vinyl cutouts on the outside, really gave the decorations a sense of depth too.
Now to come up with ideas for the rest of the holidays!

We used two different colors for snowflakes, cut out at various sizes.

 I loved this design as soon as I saw it and just had to use it!
 I loved this one too, and only did one for each window since it was a layered design.
 The whole window, well one of them.  The other one looks nearly identical.
 Paper/laminated cricut cutout from last year

I'm not entirely satisfied with how the pictures of the window turned out.  It's quite hard to get a good picture of the windows of the office because there's so much glare and reflection off of them.  Oh well, at least I've got something to look back at next year when we're decorating again!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Teacher Christmas Gift

It's a safe bet to say that I have a huge addiction love of vinyl.  I love the look of it, and the fact that it can be taken down from the walls without damaging them.  This also means when I feel like changing something up it's as easy as designing something new, cutting it out and putting it up on the wall.  It's also great for other fun projects.  
For thanksgiving with my family this year, we decided to have some fun and decorated some tumblers.  The tumblers with straws seem to be all the rage lately, and they're easy to personalize with a little bit of vinyl.  I had a couple of cups left over when all was said and done, so I decided it would be the perfect gift to give the boy's teacher for Christmas this year.  He didn't want to wait until this week to give it to her, so she got it for thanksgiving instead, but the thought was/is still there.  It was so much fun to watch him run up to her and give it to her.
I got the hint at the beginning of the school year that she loves teddy bears, so I figured that was a good place to start.  I happened to have a cricut cartridge that had a teddy bear on it, so I picked out a few colors and went to work.  An hour later, and I had a finished gift!  I used outdoor vinyl because it stands up to abuse better.  The cup can be washed and the vinyl won't come off.  I've heard that it will survive the dishwasher, but it isn't recommended.

I used the "Create A Critter" cartridge for the teddy bear, and then fired up my sure cuts a lot program (which isn't available anymore, and is the reason I now have a Silhouette Cameo) and picked out a font that I liked and cut it out.  Layers can be kinda tricky because the vinyl really likes to stick to itself, but working slowly and trying not to do layers that are too big make it a little easier. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Glass etching

When I was (very) pregnant with the boy, my middle sister got married. I was in the wedding party and as much as I wanted to help do things, at 36 weeks pregnant, there really wasn't a whole lot that I was physically capable of doing! There was one project that I was able to help with and it ended up turning into an addiction! She had toasting glasses for the whole wedding party, and had been working on etching everyone's names into them. Well, wedding day came and the project wasn't quite completed. Enter uber pregnant sister to finish the job! It was while I was finishing up the project that I discovered just how much fun glass etching was/is! The glasses turned out super cute, and I decided that if I ever got the chance that it would be a fun project to do again.
Fast forward a few years, and I still hadn't forgotten about that project. The problem was, I couldn't really think of anything worthwhile to do. One day a couple of months ago, I finally had a good idea for a glass etching project. I got sick and tired of how messy and disorganized that our laundry area had become and I went on an all-out cleaning spree! You know the type...the cleaning spree where nothing is safe from the garbage can, and you end up with stacks of random things that need to be put elsewhere. This whole cleaning spree was inspired by a mug that we had on top of the dryer. In this particular mug goes all the change, and other random knicknacks that end up in the dryer after a load of laundry is done...see where I'm going with this? I had found the perfect jar to use to throw all of our "laundered money" in, but there was no place on top of the dryer to put said jar, hence the cleaning spree!
Anyway, once I had the laundry area cleaned up, I finally got to work on my laundered money jar. I had some scrap vinyl left over from another project I had done, so I pulled out my cricut, threw a cartridge in, and made a quick stencil for the etching. I stole borrowed a paintbrush from the boy and grabbed my jar of etching cream and went to work.

After letting the etching cream set for a couple minutes, I rinsed it off, but it didn't look like it had set long enough.  I made sure that the jar was completely dry and put another coat of etching cream on.  This time I let it sit longer, rinsed again and pulled off the vinyl.

I ran downstairs, showed off my latest creation to hubby, and then proceeded to the garage to set the jar on top of the dryer.  I quickly put the change in there that had been collected in the mug (see that john deer mug in the background?), and left the mug to throw other random dryer treasures in!

I'm really not sure how much more change has been collected, or what is going to be done with the change that we collect.  I'm sort of thinking of letting it be a place that I raid for coffee money!  Finders keepers, right?!

Anyway, there you have it.  Glass etching...a quick and easy project that can really spruce up an ordinary jar.  Now, to think of the next thing that I'm going to etch.  I've heard that pyrex is a good candidate for that, but I just need to come up with something catchy to put on it!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movie night

We've only taken the boy to the movie theater a couple of times in his life. Firstly, because movie theaters are expensive and secondly, because he's 4, and therefore doesn't exactly have the greatest attention span! The other times we took him to the theater went ok, but the first one was in 3d and he never kept the glasses on, and the other one, he fell asleep halfway through. Lessons learned...don't take a toddler to a 3d movie, and definitely don't take a toddler to a movie when they haven't had a nap!
Being 4 now though, we figured he could sit through a movie if it could hold his attention. We decided to give it a try and had heard great things about Wreck-it Ralph. We had also heard great things about a new movie theater in town, how comfortable the seats were, and how reasonably priced it was. Since life has been so crazy lately, we took advantage of a relatively free day and had a family movie night. What a great night it was! The boy was completely into the movie, and hubby and I enjoyed it as well. We loved the references to games that we had either played as kids, or were familiar from our childhood.
I completely agree with a review that I read where someone had mentioned that they wanted to go and hook up their old Atari system and play some nostalgic games! My parents, I believe still have the Atari console that I remember spending hours playing on as a kid. I'm tempted to steal borrow it the next time we go over there for a visit! We'll most likely end up buying the movie when it comes out on DVD. I'm sure it will make a regular rotation on the boy's DVD player as well. All in all, movie night at the theater was a roaring success, and we'll definitely be making more trips in the future as special treats when good movies are playing.

A new blog...

I always seem to have several ideas floating around in my head to blog about. At the same time, I always second guess how much I really want to put aspects of my life out there for all the world to see. I have another blog, but I've become pretty guarded about what I put there because that one mainly keeps our family that we don't see often updated on what's going on. Maybe that's pretty selfish of me, and the point of having a blog is for people to read it, but it is what it is. So, I made the decision to start another blog to post about crafty stuff I do, pinterest projects (I'm SO addicted to pinterest!), and other random thoughts that I have about life in general.
So, I guess I begin (again) with a little bit about me...I'm married to the love of my life. We've got a fun-loving, sweetheart of a 4-year old boy, and a 6-year old lab/blue healer, who thinks she's still a puppy. I work outside the home as an office manager, a job I've had for nearly 10 years. On the side, I am a Creative Memories consultant and I run a tiny etsy store. In addition to that, I'm also involved on the worship team at our church. I play the piano and sing, and occasionally lead. Somehow, I find time to attempt to cook (mostly) wholesome meals, keep the house clean, have enough clean dishes to eat off of, and a pile of clean clothes to wear! In my spare time (haha!) I love to get my craft on. My family is the most important thing in my life, and I don't know what I'd do without them. I struggle sometimes with feeling like I've failed my family because I never quite get everything done like I think it should be. At the end of the day though, all that matters is that I love my family, and they love me enough to see past what perceive as my shortcomings and that's enough for me.
Here's to another blog, and hopefully enough time to keep up with it!