Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Things That Happened in April

Better late than never. Here are some things that happened this month that didn't merit one post but altogether let you know a little bit of what we're up to.

Carson got this bookshelf from a sale his school was having - now it resides in the guest room. In case you're wondering, this makes a total of seven bookshelves in our home. 

While he was setting up books, he told me that he thought I could probably fit into this bucket. He was right. Getting up was more of a problem.

This was taken a month ago, but Carson's been busy researching, writing, giving lectures in undergraduate classes, presenting papers, and naturally doing a little light reading. I used to think that I read a lot. 

Told you this was random. The Yankee Candle outlet (I didn't know they existed) was having a really great sale, which landed me with 18 little candles and scented wax "tarts" that I'm using in my Scentsy warmer. We'll be set for a long time.

The snow shovel and the beach chair. Because you can never be too prepared. 

I keep green onions in water in our breakfast nook. Just snip off the tops, change the water, and they last forever. I added a basil plant to this little indoor garden and plan on adding some more herbs as it gets warmer.

My retainer cracked down the middle recently. For eight years I wore this thing faithfully every night, until it fell out of its case, onto the floor and I stepped on it. 

I just really like my co-workers. 

These things were found on Carson's night table. Always be prepared.

I'm not sure why, but he texted this to me one day. I don't even remember him using that thing.

Carson made dinner one night: a yummy pasta sauce, too much pasta and smoothies. I know that sounds like a weird combination, but it's basically a salad in a blender (spinach, carrots, an apple, protein and raspberries), topped with whipped cream to make you think it's not healthy. 

Mr. Diligent. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Deviled Eggs

For Easter, I made deviled eggs. They're one of my favorite Easter foods and actually not so difficult to make, so I'm not sure why I save them for that one time of year.

We dyed the eggs on Easter and then promptly (once they were dry), peeled them for their new lives as deviled eggs. Once properly memorialized on film, they really had no other purpose, right?

I cut them in half, took at the yolks and mashed those up (I'm pretty sure this tool is actually just for berries, but it worked great!), added some Dijon mustard (my fav), some salt and pepper and mayonnaise, put the yolk mixture into the egg white halves, topped those with paprika and voila! Deviled eggs.

We had some eggs that didn't want to peel correctly and were pretty mutilated, so those became egg salad, which we enjoyed as lunch for the next week. Same recipe there: Dijon, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. I usually add a little fresh dill but we didn't have any. Come to think of it, that would have been excellent in the deviled eggs too! Oh! And green onions!

Guess I'm going to have to make these again sooner than just next Easter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tutorial: Bow Ties

Here's another easier-than-expected tutorial. It began after I attended a baby shower with the CUTEST bow-tie theme for a little baby boy. There were bow-tie cookies, cupcakes, a cake, the napkins folded like bow-ties. Naturally, I was inspired. I gathered some supplies one night (actually the same night of the shower; Carson wasn't home so I stayed up late) and decided to figure out how to make some bow ties for ??? I have no idea. But they were fun and easier than expected!

My good friend Pinterest lead to a wealth of bow-tie tutorials. I opened a bunch of them and then sort of did my own thing. It seems that most bow ties have similar beginnings.

First, cut one piece of fabric to roughly 9 inches by 5 inches. I played around with this measurement after my first bow tie and decided I liked fatter bows. The end result will be half of whatever width you choose, which didn't occur to me until after I'd cut my fabric.
The second piece of fabric will become the tie to your bow. I think I ended up folding this in thirds, and I can't really remember the dimensions.

Fold the right sides together and sew a long tube, and sew up one end. Then, flip the whole thing right-side out, iron the other end down and top stitch it. You aren't going to be seeing where you sewed, so don't worry there.

Fold both sides in so that they meet in the middle. The first time around, I sewed a couple of stitches here to keep the sides down. The next time I made a bow-tie, I hot glued. That was easier.

Pinch into a bow-tie shape. Not all little folds are created equal, so play around with it

Stitch (or hot-glue) the folds in place.

Cover with center piece. I have no idea what this is called. I sewed it on the first time around and then went to hot glue. Much easier.

My mom sent me a million of these little pins awhile ago and I was finally able to open the package and put one to use!

I realized how easy these were after the first attempt and became a bow-making machine. I cut them out, sewed them and then finished them in a little assembly line. I realize that most of the final products don't look like bow-ties for boys - that's because I thought that they'd look cute on a headband or hairclip. I haven't gotten to that point yet, but these will make fun gifts. Try it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Days

Spring weather, at last! We have finally gotten the first warm days in Cleveland, and that makes me so, so happy! 
Last Sunday was so warm, that I don't think that there was a soul at church who didn't say, "How about this weather?!" at some point. It was sunny and 63 degrees that day. There was, later in the afternoon, a hint of chill in the air, so we did put jackets on. But that didn't mean that we couldn't bring our lunch to the park and enjoy a sunny day. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bacon Ranch Pasta

If I post a recipe on here, it's rarely healthy and I'm sorry to say that this is no exception! I promise that we do eat meals that are reasonably healthy quite often, just not when the camera's around.  I'm also sure that healthy adaptations could be made to this dish, but given the subject matter, things probably aren't going to get much better. Ps - it also didn't look quite so weird on our plates.

If you're interested though:
Bacon Ranch Pasta (adapted from Plain Chicken)

8oz penne
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons dry ranch seasoning mix (I used the kind for dip, not sure if there's a difference)
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/3 cup cooked bacon (I cooked a few strips and then chopped those up. It might have been less than 1/3 cup simply because I helped myself to a piece)
* 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I completely forgot to thaw chicken for this, so I didn't include it at all. Oops!)

Cook and drain pasta, set aside. Melt butter in pot, then add flour and stir for 30 seconds to a minute. Add milk slowly and cook until sauce thickens (it took awhile for this step - I had Carson stirring and poor thing thought his arm would fall off). Stir in ranch mix and cheese, until cheese melts. Add chicken (oops), bacon and pasta. Serve immediately, preferably with something very green and healthy.

This made 4 main dish servings but would easily serve 6 as a side dish.
It took less than 30 minutes to make (but we put our bacon in the oven to cook and it takes about 20 minutes, so in reality, it took us longer than 30 minutes).

Placemat Pillow

Ever made a pillow from a placemat? I've made several pillows for my house and a few as gifts doing this because it's cheap and really simple. 
If you thought that making a regular pillow (sewing two squares together) was easy, this is even better! Super easy to sew, extremely cost-effective, pretty, and hardly deserving of a tutorial. 
But just in case it never occurred to you to do this, here you are. It took me about 15 minutes to make.

You'll need:
A place mat. Make sure it's made of two pieces of fabric sewn together. This won't work if it's one-sided, for obvious reasons. Mine was from World Market a few years ago, but Target always has cute ones!
A seam ripper
Sewing machine or needle and thread

You'll begin by ripping about two inches out of the seam. I usually do this somewhere toward the middle, just because it's easier to sew it back up later, but do whatever you want. My placemat's two pieces had been held together with interfacing, so I had to rip the seam enough to stick my whole hand in there and unstick my pieces. Other pillows I've made this way haven't had that problem. 

Next, stuff fiber-fill into the opening. If you think it's fluffy enough, stuff a little more. I've accidentally made a few pillows too limp and they're no fun. 

Pin it shut

Sew away! It was a bit difficult to squeeze the stuffed pillow under the needle, but it worked out. I've used a needle and thread to do this many times, and the only difference is that this is much quicker. 

Admire your finished pillow! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Easy Chicken Recipes

Two recipes with similar ingredients, so I thought that they could share the same post. 
Basically what you'd need for either of these:
Can of crescent rolls
Cream Cheese
Shredded Chicken

The first is a Chicken Roll-up, something I found on Pinterest. The original recipe is found here
I didn't really do too many variations, so I'll let you click on the link if you'd like, but a few notes: 
1, don't make this with the small cans of six crescent rolls... they will turn out really dinky and small. 
2, I didn't use Monterey Jack cheese because I don't usually have it. I used cheddar, and it turned out fine.
3, I used a packet of ranch dressing mix because I thought that it would be nice and flavorful and it was! 

Next, as I said, the ingredients are very similar. However, this recipe is almost identical to one that my mom used to make when we were growing up. The only addition there would be green onions. I found this recipe here. I also purchased the correct sized-can of rolls, so they look like they're supposed to.

Suggestions: Green onions! Grilled Chicken instead of cooked chicken - love the flavor!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter 2013

We had a quiet Easter Sunday this year. 
Our church had two services just for Easter, and we accidentally slept in, so we went to the second one. The set-up of the service was different from normal Sundays. Our pastors took turns going through the gospel story, and after each segment, there would be a time of singing. I don't think I've mentioned this, but there are SO MANY talented musicians at our church. Never have I been to a church with such superb music. Anyway, there were a number of people from the congregation up there this week with instruments and it was so beautiful. Very neat to think about Christ's death and resurrection with the music swelling dramatically at each song. 
After church, we went by the grocery store to pick up more eggs and to grab something for lunch. We ended up just going to Panera, and then headed home. 
But first, we took a few pictures. These were taken on the campus of Notre Dame College (which I don't think is affiliated with the other Notre Dame). There's a statue of Mary to our left in the picture, but we didn't think that really belonged on Easter :) 

Tell us how you really feel about taking pictures, Carson

This was Carson's Easter basket. That is to say, it had fruit in it, but I emptied it out so that it could be his Easter basket for this picture. He got Peeps, Jelly Beans, mints and kitchen towels (he does the dishes and was saying that he'd like more dish towels around... and he was actually very happy about this gift)

Then we dyed eggs. Carson wore his game face for the occasion.

We had Easter dinner with friends, where we enjoyed lamb, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread,  deviled eggs (I provided those since they're my favorite), several casseroles, and apple pie for dessert. I didn't take pictures, but we did enjoy a great evening laughing and getting to know more people from our church.

Since we got this for Easter, I thought I'd share. This is the basket Carson's parents sent... such a great gift! And Carson ate absolutely everything (except the caramel corn) before I could get to it. One day it was filled, the next, empty. It came in a great wooden box that we love and will decorate with once I find the perfect spot! (this is the box I referenced in my last post)
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