Monday, November 28, 2011

What's for Dinner? Chicken Tetrazzini

What's on the menu to night for dinner? Recently we made one of Zach's favorite meals, chicken Tetrazzini.
At one point in time, I had his mom's recipe, but I lost it.  Thank you,! This was was equally tasty...considering we "sort of" followed it, as usual.

Not pictured: Cooking a mix of veggie noodles and regular spaghetti.  (Believe me...not just because the colors are prettier...because if I am going to make a pasta meal 3 times in one week, I have to at least try and make the carbs a bit more healthy.)  Added: Shredded Chicken.
 Poured on: (Yes, sideways!) the generously-mushroomed cream sauce. Also, slices of zucchini and peppers. I also used cheddar cheese instead because...that is what we had.
 Bake in the oven until browned and tasty:
This meal usually freezes well for us also.  One less meal for you to plan this week! Most of the ingredients are kitchen basics, except maybe the whipping cream, which has become a kitchen basic item for us! Its also a great way to get rid of leftover chicken (or turkey!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cute, Easy Ornament Idea

Happy Black Friday everyone! I'm scheduling this post ahead of time, because I think I'll be out bargain hunting on the actual day. And now the Christmas floodgates have officially opened, so I don't have to quickly switch CD's in my car to non-holiday when other people ride with me! :)

I saw this cute idea last year and actually made these then, but never gave any of them away. I got little containers of red and white buttons from Michaels.  I strung them, randomly, on some wire that I tried to form in a circle. The hardest part was figuring out the best way to hook it, and to hide the wire. I chose ribbon.  You cnan see in this photo I was only sort of successful. I may choose to re-do some of these and give them away this year.  But I also have the owls. How many ornaments can one person give away? How many friends want an endless supply of homemade ornaments?  *Sigh.*
Well, I think they are super cute. And if you're one of those crazy decorators who picks a "color theme" each year (or sometimes) this would be a cheap way to decorate your tree...and you could always re-use the buttons afterwards!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Last Ode to Fall

I know, I know - I am finally getting around to the fall blog topics. So I was lazy about uploading my camera pictures! One look at these gorgeous pumpkins and you'll hopefully forgive me.

Zach and I spent a Saturday afternoon in Half Moon Bay. First stop: Farmer John's pumpkin patch.
 I love all the varieties in shape and color they had there.
 Are these squashes? Next year I need to study up a bit more and figure out which of these things I can cook after I use them to decorate.
 More awesome pumpkins. Love the white one on the left. Actually all of them in this picture!
 Here are bunch of mixed breed (?) pumpkins. Kind of cool, in a scientific way. Not what I was looking for today though.
 We weren't doing jack-o-lanterns, but I couldn't get over how gigantic these pumpkins were.
 A couples picture because we have a grand total of 4 of these since getting 1,000 taken on our wedding day...
And lastly...where the pumpkins ended up! On the mantle.
Did you decorate with any pumpkins this year? Come on people...I know you all blog some pictures!!! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home Decor: Collage Wall

In our house, we have a long hallway leading from the living room to the office and bathroom.  Huge white space in a sorta-well lit area that was begging me for some color, especially inspired by variations online of this post. Since the majority of other photos in the house were all wedding related, I aimed to avoid that theme for the wall here. I wanted people to be able to find themselves on the wall when they come to visit. (Side note: We have zero photos of ourselves with many of our local friends. I need to get the camera out more! I just feel awkward and cheesy about it!)

So, what is not shown in these photos, is the mess on the fireplace I made for the probably 4 months that this was in work. I was collecting garage sale frames, painting all my old ones, cleaning the glass, and lastly, waiting to find pictures for them all.  (No problem on my side, but I figured it wouldn't be fair if none of the pictures are Zach's!)

So I painted everything black, then noticed a few of the frames didn't take the black so well. And it was an overwhelming amount of black. And I had this clearance bucket of aqua paint. So I repainted some.  The aqua wasn't glossy. So then I mod-podged those frames for some shine. (I know. Took forever. Hence 4+ months on the fireplace)

FINALLY.  Stocked up on command strips and ordered all the pictures and framed everything and put up the strips...and waited...the mandatory hour before you can hang things with command strips (this was the hardest part of all. And you really have to do it, since a picture, mirror, and mop-hanger have all fallen down after 6+ months because I did not follow that rule.)

So finally (again.) Here is the almost finished product!  I left some gaps in there because I want to put the letter "D" in one spot and I wanted to have room to expand with new photos.
 One of my favorites:
 View from the other side...
 Another favorite!
How do you use your photos to decorate your house?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Looking back to October: I can (could) CAN!!

Warning: another post inspired by Our Best Bites. I am seriously going to have to start tagging them!
So, Zach has a thing for homemade McIntosh applesauce.  We tried to get some of these apples from Apple Hill, but they HAD NO APPLES! No joke! Anyhow, some friends with an overflowing apple tree saved the day.  Raw, their apples taste close to McIntoshes. 

So anyhow. Inspired to do some canning.  Wanting to use fresh applesauce during baking. Not having any room in my freezer.  Enter: interest in canning. (Also goes along well with my obsession with glass jars.)

So the Best Bites website did an intro to canning, making it not seem as scary (and life threatening) as I previously thought.  So I checked out a book at the library with some additional instructions and gave it a whirl.
sanitizing the jars

clean apples waiting to be peeled!


faithful helper!

making a mess with all the "stuff"

stockpot where jars are processing, small pot where lids are being warmed, and the cooking applesauce. Holy stove usage, Batman!

See my jar in there?

fearfully removing my jar...

First batch done!
Phew! Summary:  A little more work than I thought, but stressful because I wasn't familiar with the process.  Despite the work, though, I think the results are extremely satisfying. I'm happy with it! Next goal to can: pizza sauce!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hotel Room Crafts: Sewing Christmas tags by hand

Time to post the results of my newest hotel crafting attempt! After the First Great Cricut Experiment, I wanted to finish up this idea since I had been carrying around. 
Prior to this business trip, I spent about 30 seconds rummaging for my sewing kit, any cropped paper I could quickly find, and some buttons.  

I decided on some snowmen and a Christmas tree. I just cannot resist snowmen. To make my paper-sewing easier, I used this pin (randomly in my sewing kit) and some stiffened felt (also randomly in there, holding the pin) to punch some holes in the paper.
Here's how my little man turned out. I couldn't resist trying to add a carrot nose with the orange thread. Then I couldn't resist adding brown stick arms.  When I get home, I MIGHT glue a little scarf on these guys, or a felt hat, or black sharpie eyes...we'll see. I think I will be gluing these to stiffened felt to act as a gift tag, decoration, or ornament...not sure yet.
I didn't have a pair of scissors with me (hello, using nail clippers to cut thread!) but I thought the torn paper look would work for this.
I rummaged around in my button bag and found the big brown one for a tree stump, so I decided to add a bit more decor to the tree as well.  I actually ended up liking these so much I don't want to give them away (to people who will just throw them in the trash. People who would use it as an ornament or something are welcome recipients.)
Here's the final tally.  I didn't feel like making my last snowman, but those 3 buttons are blue-ish and will be very cute.  These took me around an hour (?) from start to finish, including an interruption from the maintenance man who was not as concerned with the giant wet spot on my carpet as I was. Oh well.
any other ideas of what I could use these for?  When I have a few more colors of paper, I was thinking I could to some torn-paper holly (with red buttons) but I'd like a fourth idea so I can display them as a panel or something...please help!!!! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dinner Default: Skillet Meal

Today I bring to you yet another food post. Lately when I have been preparing these meals, I've been wondering if we will eat the same way once we have kids. For example, when we do skillet meals, I try to add all the vegetables we have in the fridge into the skillet, plus frozen bell peppers and onions.  Everything else gets chopped fresh.  It doesn't take a ton of time, but just something I think about from time to time. (NO, NOT PREGNANT.)  Like, "will I have time to make this from scratch?" Anyhow.

Skillet meals are our go-to meal.  We used to buy the frozen bags and add a veggie or two to the sauce to make it more homemade. Now I really prefer to make the whole thing from scratch, but it takes up more dishes that way.
For instance here we have 1 pot for pasta.  Cooked al dente a little ahead of the rest of the meal and then rinsed in cold water to stop them from cooking more. I do NOT pour oil on them at this point because I read somewhere that doing so makes the pasta not stick to your sauce.  I also have a second pan where I previously cooked up some sausages and am now cooking up the initial vegetables. (PS: Splurge on the baby bella mushrooms from Costco. They have so much flavor.)

Here are the rest of the items I am planning to add to the skillet meal. I didn't use all the broccoli but my main goal was to fill up this meal with mostly vegetables.  Notice the heavy cream - I didn't promise it was a super healthy meal! Anyhow I used just enough to pull it all together. (cough, must leave some for whipped cream on pie later.)  Plus cheese and sun dried tomatoes. YUM.  (Side note: Speaking of Costco, I only buy my sun dried tomatoes there. So much cheaper. But I do transfer a small amount into the smaller jar so it can stay on my fridge door instead of hauling out the giant jar from the back of the fridge every use. Same for minced garlic. I know, how bad is it to not use fresh garlic? I'm lazy.  Yeah, I canned applesauce but I don't buy fresh garlic. Go figure.)
 ANYHOW. So I added the cream to the cooked vegatables and let it simmer for a while. At the same time, I put the broccoli into my 2 cup pyrex and half-cooked them. Then I added the noodles to my sauce, mixed in the broccoli, put the lid on, and let it all finish warming up/cooking for 15 minutes until Zach came home.
This kind of meal freezes GREAT and it has tons of veggies in it. (Although, there appear to be a lot of noodles in this picture. Oh well, I did my best.)  Anyhow, I freeze these in individual meal sizes (yay portion control!) and Zach has them when I'm travelling, or I eat them when I'm too lazy to make lunch.
This is pretty much how we roll for skillet meals around here - we don't measure anything and try to keep it fitting all in the skillet.  Do you have any go-to meals -- and will you share them with me so I can try something new?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crafting with Garage Sale Treasures.

Recently I went to Michael's and wandered around for some inspiration.
Cool mirror, $89, I have a similar one in mind as a craft that should only cost $15.

I love snowmen, and bells. Couldn't resist photographing this ornament so I can try a re-make at home.

What's this? Another bell craft? And I have those exact bells (silver) at home!
 Enter: Garage saling with a favorite friend.  Yielded: One garlic press, one set of flexible flashy bracelets, and...
 and...$.50...A BELL!!!  I can't wait to try that 2nd idea with this guy. (And its huge!)
 And I got these beaded treasures for $1.  I know I mentioned that in my last post. Even if I don't use the beads, I think the jewelry parts are definitely worth $1.
So, with my bell ornament (soon to be, I hope) I'm going to have a problem. I already have enough ornaments to FILL my Christmas tree. (Thanks, Mom!) What will I do with this one? Gasp - get rid of an old one? Maybe incorporate some into my yet-to-be-designed mantle? Hm...any ideas?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hotel Room Crafts: Above and Beyond

I thought it was about time we had yet another hotel room crafting post. I planned a bit for this one, by bringing my sewing kit, a small bag of buttons, and some card stock. My plan was to sew some Christmas cards based on a Real Simple inspiration last year.
 But, I garage saled en route to Texas, and scored these beady treasures for $1.
 THEN...I got a late birthday present.
 Be.Still.My.Heart. A CRICUT! Ohmygoodness.  So much crafting at my fingertips now. (I can't wait to make one of these.)
 So, I I crammed my new treasure into my suitcase and hauled this puppy to Texas. Monday night I fired it up. Here are the results of my (very scared) first attempt:
 I was warned that the first several uses of a new mat are VERY sticky. Note the condition of my removed "1st cut" pieces. (No scraper yet, saving that for the Christmas list). The pile of scraps on the top right is the flower. That guy didn't make it at all.
 After this I took a second piece of paper and just pressed it onto the mat and pulled it off several times. Still big on the stickiness factor.
Then I (slightly less scared) tried my second set of cuts.  As you can see, they removed a lot better.
I'm so excited to have this! Thank you so much! And I'll never reach this level of quality in my "hotel craft" series again!! 
Next free night in my hotel room and I'll work on those stiched cards, though, so stay tuned!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Burlap Owl Tutorial

Today I am going to show you how to make a burlap owl ornament. I also plan to possibly use these as gift tags.  I was first inspired last year when I saved this Martha Stewart page, I just didn't have any burlap (now I do!) to try it out with.  Plus, one of my closest friends Jessica was visiting from Santa Barbara, so it was a great excuse to get our craft on!

I didn't bother saving the measurements from the magazine, so we just picked a can and a peanut butter container from the pantry that fit the sizes we wanted to make. We also make some patterns out of magazine paper to figure out our sizes.

Part 1: Cut out your circles!
 Part 2: Cut out all the pieces! (After my first one, I started cranking these out, assembly line style!
 We used regular tacky glue to stick on the wings. Note: For most of these owls, we used the stiffened felt, not just regular floppy felt.
 Part 3: Add nose. Oops, forgot to rotate this pictuere. *Sorry* this is a baby owl, I can tell from the smaller nose on this particular picture.  It was hard to figure out from the magazine example, but it seemed like the top of the nose should be at the top of the burlap circle. (or even higher, if you want to glue your eyes to the nose a bit.)
 Then I added eyes.  This picture is of the bigger owls, I can tell because miraculously the nose turned brown and long. (Notice that the Martha Stewart picture has an orange nose? Yeah, we missed that detail until we were on our last batch of owls. We thought brown and black was still OK though.) Also, here I have a lot of the eyeball on the burlap. Sometimes it is cuter to have it half off the burlap, but that makes it harder to  glue on. And, you want to cover up the tip of the wing too.
 So that finally, after snipping out teeny tiny feet, you get something like this:
 And then you make a bunch. We expiremented with pupil size. At first small was cute, then big, finally we realized that medium size was the best overall. Shown in this picture is an even smaller (red) one because they were TOO CUTE!
 Then Jessica dared me to make one as small as I could.  That is the smallest little red guy in this picture. Also, these are a bunch of Jessica's owls. Note the artistic wings (one has eyebrows!) and perfect circle eyes. She does a lot better than I do!!!
To make the owls a bit more sturdy, I stapled twine to a stiffened felt circle and glued it to the back of the owl. This is one of the first ones when I was thinking it had to be really, really, really secure...not thinking that 23 staples on the back of something is really, really, really not cute.  Later I capped myself at 3 staples per backing. 
 From here, after glueing to the burlap owl (No, the glue did not show through the burlap holes!) I wrote little notes on sticky paper and attached them to the back. Things like, "Gloria, it was a really HOOT to spend time with you on Sunday!"  (Please send me more owl related jokes.)  Then on the bottom I put, "PS: You can re-use this as an ornament or gift tag!"  I wanted my reciepients to know they didn't have to keep this little guy forever if they aren't into owls or something like that.