Sunday, December 15, 2013

An unintended blogging break

Well, well, certainly has been a LONG time since I last posted anything!  It was unintended, that's for sure!  Summer was great, and after vacation life got somewhat turned upside down.  To make a long story short, I was laid off from my job that I had held for nearly 10 1/2 years.  It created quite the upheaval in our lives, but it turns out that it was a blessing in disguise.  To tell the honest truth, I wasn't happy where I was.  It was time for a change.  While the change didn't happen the way I wanted to, the steps were all God-ordained and orchestrated.  I had a lead on a couple of jobs at the time of being let go.  One of them fell through, and the other one took a bit more patience!  I feel so fortunate that while I had applied for unemployment and got that ball rolling, the timing worked out where I didn't even get a single check!  It was a very trying couple of weeks.  I sent out probably close to 30 applications/resume's.  During that time, I also had the blessing of being able to do some real, much needed deep cleaning on the house!
In my days at home, I also faced rejection after rejection of the applications that I had submitted.  Talk about a blow to one's self-worth!  I am so blessed to have an amazing, loving, supportive husband who stands by my side and is my biggest cheerleader.  Truth be told, while it was quite the stressful time for us, we were also both completely at peace in our situation.  The day that my severance pay was up was the day that I got a phone call from the other lead on a job that I had been waiting for!  I started at my new job the next morning.  Several hours after that phone call, I received another phone call for an interview, and in the following weeks, received at least half a dozen more phone calls for interviews.  Truly, when it rains, it pours!  I've been at my new job for 2 months now, and I'm absolutely LOVING it!  It is a position that is completely different from my previous job.  There's nothing much that I'm doing in this job that really fits into my skill-set from my previous job, and I'm perfectly ok with that.  With as much as I don't do so well with change, this is a completely welcome change for me.  I gained many, many computer skills in my previous position that I can easily keep up on by just tinkering around on the computer here and there.
While my dream is still to be able to be a stay-at-home momma, right now it's just not feasible financially for us to do so.  Hopefully someday that dream will still have a chance at coming true.  Through everything that has happened over the last few months, I know that ultimately God has a plan for our lives and orchestrates our steps.
As far as posting here, I hope to be able to get back to more consistent posting again soon!  Once the hustle and bustle of the holidays have passed, things should settle down and I can get a more solid routine going again!  Until then, from our family to yours, I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Creative Memories Update

So, I don't really push my Creative Memories stuff here.  I'm really just not a pushy person.  However, in light of recent events over the last few months with them, I figured I'd share some information about what I know.  I'm just a lowly base-level consultant.  I do it because I love the albums and tools.  I haven't found any that are at the same quality level out there.
In any case, here's what I know as of this point:
The last chance ordering period ends July 31st.  This is for albums, pages, page protectors and tape runner refills. (These items are made in-house and they will make as many as are ordered.  It will take weeks or even a couple months for them to get everything out)
August 9 is the day when persona orders need to be in their hands.
August 21 is the last day to use product certificates, as well as the last day to order any other while supplies last product
August 31 is the day that all personal consultant sites, as well as will be taken offline
September 23 is the last day for any orders in the digital center
A new company is relaunching on November 1.  What this company will have for a product line has yet to be made known.
Now you know what I know.  I don't push it here, but if you need any product, there's a link to my site over on the sidebar on the right.  I'm still trying to determine if I'm going to stick with it when the relaunch happens.  Only time will tell.
Since google reader doesn't work anymore...
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Friday, July 26, 2013

How to get melted crayon out of clothes

Or, more appropriately titled... "How I spent one of my vacation days!"

So, it's been a while!  I have a good excuse though.  I've been on vacation and absolutely LOVING it!  Granted, I love any day that I don't have to go to work, but vacation is extra special!  It's been busy and full, and I wouldn't change anything about it.  Well, maybe how I've spent today, but it's entirely my fault.
I finally got around to doing a load of laundry (remember, the chore that I hate?!), and when I went to pull my clothes out of the dryer this morning, I was horrified to find that I had washed and dried 5 crayons with my very full load of laundry.  That's what I get for not checking my pockets!  Both the dryer and my clothes were covered with crayon wax.  It is somewhat fitting with the streak of bad luck we've been having around here this week.  I was able to find clothes to wear today fortunately, and hubby spent some time doing a google search to see what we could do to salvage my clothes.

There were a variety of solutions that we found, and I wasn't looking forward to spending the whole day scrubbing all of my clothes to get the wax out.  I decided to try a few different solutions to see what was going to work the best, since I had a lot of clothes to work on!  I also wanted to use what I happened to have on hand here at home.  I didn't necessarily want to run out to the store.  We have plenty of cleaning supplies here.  It's just a matter of finding the right combination!
First step was to get the dryer cleaned out.  That was straight-forward, easy!  All we did for that was to clean up the big pieces of crayon that were still left in there (and also on the lint trap).  Once that was done, we ran the dryer on the highest heat setting for about 20 minutes.  I checked it after 10, because I was still sorting through my clothes at this point.  When the wax had softened enough, it was just a matter of wiping it out with a paper towel.
The next step was working on my clothes.  I'll preface these solutions with the disclaimer that I'm lazy and impatient!  Anything that took a ton of elbow grease didn't rank too highly in my efforts to continue!

First up was using the iron and a paper towel to soak up the wax.  I've heard many wonderful things about this method working out wonderfully.  Unfortunately, it didn't work worth a darn for me!  It melted the wax a little, but didn't do anything to draw it out of the clothes.  I don't know if I didn't have the setting right on my iron, or if I didn't iron long enough, but it just didn't work.
Next up was trying the baking soda/water paste mixture.  I mixed some up, and spread it on the clothes with a toothbrush and it was a big, fat, flop!  Moving on...
In several of the solutions I found, I was dumbfounded to see WD-40 was a solution.  In my head, I assumed that the stuff would leave a grease stain.  I tried it on a sock, and to my surprise it actually somewhat worked!  Spray a bit of WD-40 on the stain and let it set for a few minutes.  The next step said to rub laundry detergent into the clothing as well and then rinse it out.  Well, I didn't have the laundry soap right next to me, and I wasn't too keen on my clothes smelling like a garage!  The sock felt greasy and smelled quite strongly even after rinsing it out a lot.  Nevermind the fact that it was going to take at least 5 cans of the stuff to go through all my clothes!  I imagine that if I would have had the laundry soap next to me it may have helped with the smell and the greasy feeling.

The winner for me was to grab a bin, fill it up with HOT water, and mix in half a cup of borax and some vinegar.  (I happened to have some borax sitting around from an activity I did with the boy a couple weeks ago...remind me to post about that sometime soon!)  The first batch of clothes was a test run to see if it would work.  I threw in a few articles of clothing and let them soak for a while.  I think it ended up being around 45 minutes because I had to wash the dishes to make room in the sink!  I knew that borax is a good cleaner...I use it in my laundry detergent, and I don't have dirty clothes.  I was astonished at how well soaking my clothes in this worked though!  All it took was a tiny bit of scrubbing with a toothbrush and it mostly came right out!  The blue crayon was a bit more stubborn, but the orange pretty much disappeared!  I will say that the crayon didn't come completely out of my socks and underwear.  Truth be told, I'm not too entirely concerned about that.  No one ever sees them, so if they've still got a couple of stains on them I'm not going to sweat it.

Next step was to put the clothes all back in the wash.  Wash on the hottest setting and then inspect each piece before putting them in the dryer.  I used double the amount of detergent that I use for a normal load for good measure too.  A few clothes had to go back in through the wash a second time because the crayon didn't all come out.  Out of a whole load of clothes, I'm not going to complain about not being able to salvage all but a couple of things. (Picture of the after of a few clothes will be coming later)
In most of the solutions that I had found, it seemed that people had top loading washing machines, making it easier to let things soak.  Since I've got a front loader, it's a little more difficult to do that, hence the bin for soaking the clothes in.
Thank you, google for your many solutions for everything!  Here's another listing to add to the "how to get crayon out of clothes" search!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Counting to 100 flashcards

Who would have known that a boy would be so excited about flashcards?!  Since he's going into kindergarten in the fall (sniff, tear!), we've been working on some kindergarten prep workbooks over the summer to keep up with what he learned in preschool this last year.  While the workbooks have been great, I felt like we needed something that was smaller and that we could just pull out at any time.
I decided last night to make up some flashcards real quick, counting 1 to 100.  There was nothing difficult about this project at all...a stack of 3x5 cards, a keyring, a hole punch, and some markers!  In addition to just writing the numbers on each card, I also spelled them out.  Figured we'd keep up on the letter recognition as well as number recognition!
For about half an hour last night, all he wanted to do was go through the flashcards!  We counted to 100, spelled out a few numbers, and then had him identify random numbers.  When he was done and it was time for bed, he asked if he could take them to his room and put them by his bed so that they "could watch him sleep".  (There's a backstory to the objects to watch him sleep that I'll tell another day!)  While in the car this morning on the way to swim camp, he begged to take the flashcards along and was shouting out numbers to me the whole ride!  At some point, I'll let him practice writing his numbers on the cards too.  Here's to keeping up with education over the summer!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ramen Salad

Whenever we're invited to a potluck or party, this is my go-to recipe for what to bring!  If my family was bigger, I'd make it more often, but it makes so darn much that we never finish it before it gets mushy.  It's the one dish where when I bring it out, everyone goes "Oh, I LOVE that salad and I'm so glad you brought it!"  It's another easy recipe and is easy enough to make up either a day ahead of time, or a couple hours beforehand.
Here's a tip...I've found it's way cheaper to go to the bulk section in the grocery store for the slivered almonds and sesame seeds than to go to the spice section.
Here you go!

Ramen Salad

1 head cabbage
1 cans white meat chicken
2 pkg chicken ramen
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. slivered almonds

For dressing:
1/2 c. oil
1 tsp seasoning salt
2 or 3 tsp sugar (to taste)
3 tbsp. vinegar
seasoning packets from ramen noodles

1. Shred cabbage
2. Brown almonds, sesame seeds and crushed ramen noodles (~250 to 300 degrees in the oven (keep an eye on them and mix them occasionally.  Once they start to brown, they brown fast.  It normally takes around half an hour to 45 minutes in my oven))

3. Drain and add chicken to cabbage

4. Mix oil, vinegar, sesasoning salt, sugar and ramen seasoning packets in a separate, small bowl for dressing
5. Toss in almonds/sesame seeds/noodles and dressing just before serving  (the noodles start to get soggy after a while, but it's still delicious the next day if there's any left!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Porcupine Meatballs

Time for another recipe!
This one is a staple and the ultimate comfort food for our family.  The recipe comes from hubby's grandma, and she says that I'm the meatball maker in the family now because she likes how I make them even better than how she does.
I always double the recipe so that we have leftovers to eat the next day.  They make a great lunch!  I'm all for simple recipes with few ingredients!

For one batch:
1 lbs ground beef
1 egg
1 box beef-flavored rice-a-roni

In a bowl, mix the beef, egg, and rice from the rice-a-roni.  In a largeish pot, mix the amount of water needed for the rice-a-roni (2 1/2 cups) and the seasoning packet.

Form the meat mixture into balls, about a small handful per meatball
  I always double the recipe, so this is 2lbs meat, 2 eggs, and 2 boxes of rice a roni
Start bringing the water/seasoning mixture in the pot up to a boil
Very lightly brown the meatballs in a skillet with enough oil to keep them from sticking to the pan

Put the browned meatballs into the pot with the water/seasoning, and bring to a boil.
I know this picture looks absolutely gross, but they turn out delicious!

Cover and boil the meatballs for 45 minutes to an hour (or until the rice is cooked through).  This finishes cooking the meat as well, so don't worry about putting raw meat in the pot.
While the meatballs are cooking, whip up a batch of mashed potatoes for a side.  I sometimes heat up some green beans as well for a full meal.
Use the liquid left in the pot as gravy over the mashed potatoes and enjoy!
This isn't exactly a quick meal, but it's easy enough and works for weeknight dinners as well as weekends!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Here fishy, fishy!

Man, I am so not good at this whole blogging thing when life gets busy!
Today, I have a story about paybacks...and an apology to my parents for everything I ever did as a kid!  I know they were snickering "paybacks" watching this all unfold over this past weekend!
This past weekend was Viking Fest...the smalltown festival that every small town has every year celebrating whatever it is that they celebrate, complete with the carnival rides and games.
Well, hubby is the president of one of the local Kiwanis clubs, and his club had a booth at Viking Fest this year, serving roast beef sandwiches.  He had signed up to work the booth for the weekend, and I figured I'd tag along and help since a) they needed help and b) if I wanted to see him at all over the weekend, then this was how it was going to happen.  The boy tagged along because everyone in the Kiwanis group loves him, and we weren't going to leave him with someone else over the weekend.  We do things together as a family, including service things like this.  Being 4 1/2 years old, it is a whole heckuva lot to ask of him to be in the booth all day, so we got him a ride bracelet for the carnival so that we could take breaks with him and let him be a boy and have fun.  It's a whole lot cheaper to get the ride bracelet for unlimited rides than it is to buy ride tickets at $1 apiece, and the "cheapest" ride being 3-4 tickets.  Carnivals are such a ripoff!  I digress...
Anyway, I took the boy over to the carnival first thing when it opened.  We had already been working at the booth for 3 hours, and he was getting squirrely.  We walked over, and he saw the fish game...I told him "NO FISH!!!"  He replied, "ok, momma" and went on his merry way to go on all the rides his heart desired.  After about an hour or so, it was getting to be lunch time and I decided that we should probably go back to help in the booth again since they were probably going to be busy.  He agreed and back to the booth we went.  After about an hour or so of him yelling "Roaf beef sammiches!  Get your roaf beef sammiches!" out the window of the trailer, a fellow Kiwanis member (and one of the boy's favorites) said he needed a break and took the boy with him over to the carnival to burn off some more energy.
Remember my "no fish!"?  Well...imagine mine and hubby's surprise when the boy comes running back to the booth with a bag of fish in hand, and our friend laughing his butt off about it!  We both let out a groan and a huge "NOOOOOOO!!!!!"  This got everyone laughing at us.  It was now our turn to be the parents that their kid brought back a bag of prize feeder fish to!  Being the good and loving parents we are, after our shift was done for the day, we took him up to the pet store to get all the necessary equipment for a fish (or two).  When we got to the register to pay for everything, we were informed that the tank we got was much to small to house the fish.  We got a long story about how it's a myth that feeder fish only grow to the size of their environment, and blahblahblah.  (I beg to differ because my sisters and I did the exact same thing to my parents, and we had 6 feeder fish in a 10 gallon tank, and they lived for 15 years.  When one died, the rest would get just a little bit bigger)  We honestly didn't really care because we didn't want fish in the first place.  Goldfish, while relatively easy to keep, are dirty!  We were then informed that we could surrender the fish to them and get something else.  We were steered toward a betta fish because it can live in the size of tank that we bought very easily, they don't get much bigger, and they are relatively low maintenance.  Hubby agreed...he had had a number of betta fish, and goldfish growing up and said that hands-down they were easier to keep.
In honor of our good friend, say hello to Mr. John...
The only problem was that unbeknownst to us, Mr. John was sick.  We got home that night and put the fish in his new tank, and gave him some food...only he never ate the food.  We chalked it up to a little bit of shock being in a new environment and him getting used to a new home.  A few hours later, and he still hadn't eaten and I also noticed some sort of cottony fluff growing on his tail.  A google search and several websites later, I discovered that a lot of fish fanatics say that bettas are finicky and not easy to keep.  What do I know...hubby then told me to stop googling things and to ignore what people say on forums.  You sure do find a whole range of stuff out there!  Anyway...we went to bed that night, and when I checked on Mr. John in the morning, he had more fungus growing on him and wasn't looking too good.  By this time, hubby was already back at Viking Fest for day 2, and the boy and I were going to join him there a bit later in the day.  I decided to make a trip to walmart to get some fungus treatment for the fish and pray that it would work.  I warned the boy that the fish was sick and that this might not help.  Sure enough, by the time we got home that evening, Mr. John was no more.  The boy was a little upset, but not inconsolable.  We promised that we would get him a new fish the next day.
Fast forward to the next day after work and we're back at the pet store, dead fish in hand (bowl), and we're looking for a new fish.  While bettas really are relatively low maintenance, they do enjoy water that's a bit warmer than the room temperature that water is in our house.  We tend to keep our house on the cool side, and with a fish that apparently likes water in the 70-degree and more range, it wasn't going to happen unless we had a heater for the tank.  After asking many, many questions, and scrutinizing over every betta they had in there, we left the store with a new fish, a small tank heater, thermometer, and fungus treatment (in case this fish got sick).
Say hello again to Mr. John...
The boy decided that he wants to name every fish he gets "Mr. John".  4 days later and we're still going strong with this Mr. John.  He's happy and healthy and has a voracious appetite!  I'm not sure if it's sad or if it's funny when the boy mentions on the way home every afternoon that he has to go check "to see if Mr. John is dead" and then very happily yells "Nope! He's still alive!".
So...we're now fish owners for the time being.  As much as we love animals, we don't plan on adding any more to our family any time soon!  A dog and a fish are more than enough!
Also, to my mom and dad...I'm sorry for bringing home those fish from that halloween carnival all those years ago!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tulip Festival

The month of April is a crazy one for our family!  It's full of anniversaries (both happy and sad), work, gardening, spring cleaning, and just generalized busy-ness.
One of the things that we make sure to do in the month of April is to visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  It's a family tradition for us, and in the last 14 years, we've only missed 2 years.  Tulips are one of our favorite flowers, and we love going and looking at all of the different varieties that there are.  It's gorgeous to just drive and look at the acres and acres of tulip fields.  There is a display garden that we walk through as well, and it never disappoints.  Even though we probably picked the stormiest day to go, we were still able to get some decent pictures.  Hubby got even better pictures than I did (I'll be the first to admit he's AMAZING, even if I'm slightly biased about it), but that won't stop me from showing off some of the ones that I got!
Enjoy the beautiful flowers.  I'll be back soon with some crafty projects and some recipes.  I've tried some pretty good ones lately!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Checkerboard Cake

When I discovered this checkerboard cake pan set, I knew that I had to pick it up!  It looked like so much fun!  I happened to have a coupon at the time I found it at Joann's so I grabbed it.  The cake pan sat there in the kitchen, mocking me for about a month until I finally had some free time to actually pull it out and use it!
When the day finally came to make the cake, I decided to let the boy help me out too.  He had a great time mixing up the cake batter and helping me pour it into each of the pans.  I let him pick the colors to do for the cake.  He picked one of the color combos that was shown on the box...yellow, pink and purple.  He wanted an easter cake!  I think it turned out pretty well for the first attempt at using it.  I definitely see it getting used quite a bit in the future.
It takes 3 boxes of cake mix, so it makes quite a bit.  I did each box in a separate bowl, so that I didn't need to divide it out for each of the colors after the fact.  One of these days, I'm going to find a recipe so I can make cakes from scratch.  Until then, boxed mixes work just fine for me!  To make each color, I used my icing colors...just a little bit goes a long way!  Food coloring will work in a pinch too, but that has a tendency to make the cake batter a lot thinner consistency.  In order to keep the batter from seeping under the ring divider, you want to keep it fairly thick.  The most challenging part was putting the batter in each section of the divider while it was in the pan.  I'd read reviews of people putting the batter in bags and piping it in, but pouring it slowly from the bowl worked pretty well for me too.  There was enough batter left to make a dozen cupcakes as well.  We certainly had our fill of cake in our house for a week or so!
I made a double batch of icing in order to have enough to put between each layer and cover the cake.  I've discovered that I prefer to make my own icing over buying the cans from the store.  It just tastes so much better!
For an experiment to see how to use the cake pan, I was pretty pleased with the end result.  I can't wait to make it again sometime (and for someone other than just my family to eat) and see the expressions on people's faces when they cut into the cake!  It's a lot of fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sloppy Joe Biscuits

The inspiration for this recipe comes from a TV commercial.  I saw a commercial for sloppy joes, and they showed putting the mix in refrigerator biscuits.  My first thoughts were "I've got to try that" and "Why the heck didn't I think of that?!".  We enjoy sloppy joes for dinner, but they're just so messy to eat!  I told hubby that I was going to make it for dinner one night and he thought it sounded good too.  The only thing I didn't have on hand were the biscuits, but that was an easy fix after going to the store.  A simple, 4-ingredient meal...perfect for a busy weeknight!

Make the sloppy joe stuff using the directions on the can (brown/drain 1lb ground beef), mix in sauce and warm through.
Flatten out the biscuits so they'll hold a couple spoonfuls of the sloppy joe mix.  Fill the biscuits with the sloppy joe mixture, and fold them over into a pocket.  Cook in the oven for the recommended time on the biscuit can.  I put cheese on top of the biscuits too (if I would have remembered to put cheese inside, there would have been cheese inside as well).

Enjoy a less-messy version of sloppy joes!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Superhero cape

Every boy needs a superhero cape! I decided a few weeks ago that the boy finally had one of his own. I perused pinterest and had a basic idea in mind of what I wanted to do. Last week, I loaded the boy up in the van and took him down to Joann's (trips that alway make hubby cringe!) to go pick out some fabric fornh7s superhero cape. The fabric pattern choices were all his! I tried to tell him that maybe the patterns he wanted wouldn't quite go together so well, but he wasn't to be swayed from his choices! A yard of each was more than sufficient, and made a cape that will last him for years to come!
This weekend, I had a couple hours to sit down at my sewing machine and I was able to get a pretty cool cape whipped out!  Even with my fairly basic sewing skills, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
I started out by cutting out the "Super J" logo for the back of the cape.  I had some sheets of felt laying around, so I grabbed a couple of pieces that would go with the material.  I wasn't sure what shape originally to use as a shield, but ultimately decided on a circle because I had some paper plates that were the perfect size to fit on the felt!  I traced around the plate and cut out the circle in red.  Then, using the same plate, I drew a J and cut that out to trace onto the felt as well.  I traced the J backwards so when I cut it out, any marks that were on the felt would be on the back.

Next, I cut out a rough pattern of what the cape was going to look like.  I grabbed the boy and measured how long I wanted it to be by holding the material up to his neck and seeing how much I was going to have to cut off the edge.  Once I got the first piece cut, I laid it on top of the other piece and cut out the inside piece.

Yes, those are some BUSY patterns!  BUT, it was what the boy picked out!  I couldn't sway him into picking something solid that would go with the train print!

I then pinned/sewed the felt to the fabric that was going to be showing on the back of the cape.

Step number next was sewing the inside and outside pieces together.  With right sides facing, I sewed up 3 edges together, leaving the top open so I could turn it right-side out.  After trimming the seams back and turning the cape right-side out, I decided to add a finishing touch and top-stitched around the 3 sides, again leaving the top open.

The next step was figuring out how I was going to finish the top and still have a way for it to attach around his neck, with room for him to grow as he gets older.  I decided to fashion some bias tape out of some of what was left of the train fabric, since the train side was most likely going to be facing out most of the time.  I made it long enough to have a tie on each end of the neck.  The edges that weren't on the neck were just sewed together, and then I stitched the edges closed.

At that point, we were able to call the cape finished!

He didn't take it off for the rest of the night, and ran around the house, yelling "Super J to the rescue!".  I'd say that the superhero cape was a hit!  I made it big enough to fit him for many more years to come.  Heck, it even fits me!  When he was done saving the world, he told me to put it on (with the other side facing out, of course!) and instructed me that Super Momma was now to rescue him from peril!  I certainly hope that I can live up to the Super Momma title for a while longer!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ginger sesame chicken

Ok, so food photographer, I am not!  The problem is, it's hard to take pictures while I'm cooking!  My energy is more focused on making sure that I'm reading the recipe (when I read recipes), or that I'm not burning the food.  Generally I have my phone in the kitchen next to me and can grab a quick crappy cell phone pic, that does the food no justice at all, but a picture of something is better than a picture of nothing! 

Anyway...Ginger Sesame Chicken...another favorite in our house!  One that is pretty easy to make, but at the same time, one that I don't make nearly often enough.  When I do make it, it's gobbled up pretty quickly.  I found the recipe in a cooking magazine a few years ago.  I can't remember which one it was, but the recipe is as follows:

1 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. maple syrup
4 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 c. chopped green pepper (Doesn't have to be green pepper.  I often will use orange or yellow peppers)
1/2 c. chopped onion
Hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients until blended; set aside
In a large sillet or wok, stir-fry chicken in 1 tbsp. oil for 4-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove and keep warm
Stir-fry green pepper and onion in remaining oil for 2 minutes.  Stir cornstarch mixture and add to the pan.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened.  Add chicken; heat through
Serve with rice
Makes 4 servings

Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm back!

So, since this here blog doesn't get read tons, my absence most likely wasn't noticed!  In any case, we've been so insanely busy the last couple of weeks, that blogging has been the lowest on the list of priorities.  Simply surviving has been what life has been about lately.  The reason why?  Hubby was coaching boy's high school swimming this year and championship season was the last couple of weeks with districts, and then state this past weekend.  I'm totally going to brag on my hubby here for a bit...he had a great group of boys swimming for him this year, and took the largest team to state that the school has ever had!  I'm an insanely proud wife, but we're all insanely tired too!
I decided that I wanted to make something for the team, since the banner somehow went missing partway through the season.  The final product turned out pretty close to what I had envisioned too!  I love it when projects turn out like that!  I used my silhouette cameo, and spent a couple hours getting everything cut out.  After that, it was just a matter of getting everything layered and stuck down.  The font I used was "varsity", which I was able to find free online.  By the time the state meet came around this past weekend, a couple of the parents had donated some money to get a new banner made up.  The new banner looks really sharp, and they'll have it for next year now too!  I think the boys appreciated the fact that at least for the district meet that they had something up in the stands.  I don't know though...they're teenage boys!
State went pretty well.  There were 2 relays and 4 individual swims...the most that this school has ever had go!  I may be biased, but I think that my hubby is a pretty great coach!  All but 1 swim made it back for finals on the second day, and the team placed higher than they ever have.  Although the season ended on a high note, I think everyone was ready for it to be done!  I can deal with a 3-month swim season!  After years of age group swimming, and having meets once, if not twice a month...EVERY month, having 2 weekend meets in 3 months is a pretty good deal!

Since we both had the day off work today, we made the most of it and had a much needed family day in Seattle.  We took a trip over to Seattle and took a ride on the great wheel.  It was a bit spendy, and the views would have been better had it been a completely clear day out, but it was fun nonetheless!  Since the wheel is pretty new, we decided to go for a ride just to say we'd done it.  After that, we had dinner and then came home.  I love family days, and we make the most of them when we get them!
Here we are in our gondola on the great wheel!

Tomorrow means back to work, and getting back into a "normal" routine...whatever that is!  I'm looking forward to things somewhat settling down for a little bit!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Creative Memories tools coming in March!

I love all my Creative Memories tools!  Of all the stuff that's out there, you just can't beat the quality of their tools or albums.  You truly do get what you pay for in the industry.  I love when new stuff comes out and get especially excited when they release new tools.  The new shape maker tool is one to get excited over!  While I still love all the original shape maker tools that they came out with, but I don't pull them out very often.  This might be just the thing to get me to pull my old shape makers out, especially if these new shape makers are a different size than their old ones were!
Along with the new shape maker tool, there's several more products coming in March to get excited about, including a new cricut cartridge!  I can't wait until I can get my hands on them!  If there's anything you're interested in, be sure to visit my Creative Memories site.  You can find a link to my site over on the sidebar on the right.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Melty Beads

Does anyone remember these things?

Melty beads!
I remember making lots of projects with these darn melty beads when I was a kid.  In a state of nostalgia last week, I picked up a few, ok a lot of these when I was at JoAnn's looking for my next project to do.  I had the boy with me, and I got him all excited about making fun stuff with them.  I've discovered a few things...those darn beads are a lot harder to work with when your hands are bigger than they were 20 years (yikes!) ago!  Also, the things that you can make are a lot more intricate than they were back when I would make things with them!  Seriously!  3-d projects and everything!  The only things that I ever made were things on the square and circle pegboards.  I think I figured out how to make a heart.  I do remember having a lot of magnets made out of these beads all over the refrigerator.  Feeling ambitious, I picked up one of the 3-d project kits.  Oh.My.Word., did my back hurt after being hunched over the table trying to follow the pattern and make sure I had the right colors in the right place!

Seriously!  Look at these patterns!

This was one of the easier ones.

I do have to say though, they look pretty cool when they're done.  I've still got a few more to go until I've got this whole set finished.  The poor boy wants to help so bad with this one, but the patterns are so complicated with the different subtle shades of color on a few of them.  It's somewhat hard for him to manage the small beads too.  I think if I would have picked up a kit with the larger beads, that would have made a difference.  Heck, maybe the larger beads would have been easier for me to pick up too!

3-d projects...who knew?!

I decided to pick up some off-brand $1 kits at Michael's thinking that maybe those ones would be a little easier for the boy to make.  While they're certainly easier, the quality isn't that great.  They didn't melt as nicely as I would have liked, and a lot of the beads split while they were being melted too.

All that being said though, it's still a fun project.  The boy is waiting for me to finish with the kit so that we can "make our own designs" with the rest of the beads.  So far we've done pretty well keeping them contained.  There haven't been too many that have spilled on the carpet (yet).  I'm fearing the day when one of us gets a little too excited and doesn't pay attention and knocks the whole container over onto the floor.  I'm not sure whether I'm going to cry or laugh if/when that happens!  I did read though on the manufacturer's website that there's this cool little "vacuum" that you can get to clean all the beads up!  I might have to look into that if I can find it!  Meanwhile, I think I may have to stock up on some smaller containers to keep all the different colors separated out.  It takes more time digging through to find the right color than it does to put the beads on the peg board.
Hubby asked me what exactly I planned to do with all of these once I was done making them all.  I stared at him blankly and retorted that the grandparents were all going to get magnets made with love by the boy for Christmas this year (Mom, you've been warned)!  At least these will be cooler than the (lack of) designs that I came up with as a kid!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stir Fry

I'm not going to take any credit for this recipe.  This was taught to me by a good friend of ours who had come out to visit from Chicago a couple of years ago.  We picked him up from the airport, and then hubby had to go to work, so I drove him around and did some sightseeing around the area.  He decided that he wanted to treat us to dinner the first night that he was out.  Hubby is still kicking himself that he had to work late that night and missed it!  I've made it many, many times since then, and I've been able to get the flavor pretty darn close to what was made for us.  Never again will I go back to using frozen veggies for stir fry...ever!
I know that using fresh ingredients makes a huge difference when cooking.  I had just been using a frozen mix for so long, that I didn't know any better.  We love a good stir fry, and I make this often for dinner.  Lately, I've been mixing it up a bit and adding different ingredients just to see if I can improve on it even more.

Mmmm...heaven in a skillet!

Anyway, this is real easy to make.  I don't measure anything in this one.  I know I've got the seasonings right by what it looks like and by what it smells like (yes, I am known to cook by smell!).  I wish that I could upload what it smells like!  You will need the following ingredients:

1-2 chicken breasts (can also use shrimp, which I would if hubby were a shrimp fan!)
1-2 broccoli crowns
1 bulb (yes, bulb) of garlic
1 sweet onion (I use half, depending on the size)
1 red onion (I use half, depending on the size)
Peppers (I use a combination of red, orange and yellow to give the dish color)
Sunflower seeds
Red Pepper Flakes
Olive Oil
Soy Sauce

Chop up chicken and all veggies into bite size pieces and put in a skillet.  Add olive oil and soy sauce; enough to give everything some liquid to cook in and have some sauce for the rice.  Toss in some sunflower seeds to your liking.  Add cumin and red pepper flakes to taste (the more you add, the hotter it gets).  Stir fry until the chicken is cooked through.  Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

The last couple of times I've made this, I added a can of water chestnuts to give it a little bit more crunch, and it was amazing!  If I knew what a fresh water chestnut looked like and how to prepare it I'd use fresh, but canned worked for me here.  Next time I'm thinking of adding some green beans and/or some baby corn.  Stir fry is an easy dish to experiment with.  There's not much, other than over-cooking, that can be done to ruin stir fry!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Kid's Pajama Pants

I will be the first to admit that I am not a great seamstress.  I know enough to get through a project.  Patterns sometimes tend to confuse me.  My mom used to make clothes for my sisters and I when we were younger, and I always wanted to learn how to do that too.  Other than starting to sew a pair of uniform pants together in girl scouts when I was in middle school, I've mostly taught myself everything I know about sewing.  One of my strengths has always been in spatial reasoning, and I can usually fudge how to put something together.  My mother-in-law, knowing that I was the crafty type, gave me her sewing machine back when hubby and I were still dating.  She was a crafty person, but had no clue how to sew.  I think she told me that she had either never used the machine, or had maybe used it once or twice.  I had somewhat of an idea how to sew.  I figured I was at least doing something right when I figured out how to get the bobbin filled and the machine threaded!  My first projects were blankets, and all that those consisted of was either putting a finished edge on some fleece, or sewing some binding to the edges.  There was one time, back when hubby and I were dating, that he was working in construction and needed a work apron.  I thought up a pattern in my head and went to work.  Not having a clue what I was doing, it turned out pretty well, and he wore it all the time when he was at work.
Anyway, I like to peruse pinterest for random projects to do.  I've got a board filled with sewing projects.  One of them caught my eye because it looked pretty easy.  That particular pin I found was this one:

After reading through the easy step-by-step directions, they looked easy enough to make, so I made a quick trip over to JoAnn's to pick up some material.  My first stop was the remnants bin, to see if I could find something cheap to do a first run on (just in case I screwed something up).  Since I had the boy with me, I asked him what kind of pants he wanted.  It was no surprise to hear him say that he wanted Thomas!  I found some fleece, and bought a couple yards.  I figured I could get a pair of pants out of it for him to wear now, and then have enough left over to make him another pair of bigger ones later.  I would make up a tutorial here, but seriously, the pin that I linked to is great!

The first pair I did were the green ones.  Using a pair of pants that fit him as a pattern, it didn't take too long to get them cut out and sewn together.  The longest part of getting the pants made was making sure that I had everything lined up correctly so I could cut them out.  I have a bad habit of not pressing my fabric, and also not using a measuring tape.  I tend to eyeball everything.  Sometimes, eyeballing things comes back to bite me!  The green pants ended up with one leg being a smidge shorter than the other.  Even so, it doesn't stop the boy from wearing them all the time!  He's growing so quickly right now that most of his pants end up looking like highwaters.  Having a pair of pants that had one leg a little shorter than the other didn't really matter much!  They were a trial-run, and just being used for pj pants anyway!  My second run was with the Thomas material.  I purposely made them longer so that he could wear them longer, and also so if I did happen to short one leg, it wouldn't be as noticeable!
Overall, I don't think I'll ever use another pattern for making pajama pants.  This one was so easy, and I had both pairs of pants finished within an hour total.  Can't beat sewing 2 seams, and then rolling over the top and the bottoms to finish them off!  As is typical with fleece, they get softer with each washing.  I did notice the other night that one of the seams had come apart, but it didn't take anything to pull out the sewing machine and fix them up real quick.  I think the next time I make a pair of these I may double-stitch each seam, just to give it a little more strength.