Thursday, February 28, 2008

Checking In!

School delays, snow days, a birthday and appointments have been keeping me busy. It's 4 degrees below zero right now so I'm going to make some hot chocolate and start to get us ready for work and school. I'll be back this weekend to chat!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

What's that for, Ma Ma?

That is the question Allison asked me today when I was baking a cake? I said "to eat." She said "No, I mean for who?" I said "Us." She said "Oh, I thought it was for the Fish Fry." Poor thing! I guess I don't do much baking for us. I'll have to change that! Anyway, I had strawberries in the fridge and it prompted me to make this cake. It has Allison written all over least the pink is for Allison.

I started by baking an eight inch two layer white cake. On top the first layer I spread out lemon curd. Next I sliced fresh strawberries and layered them on top of the curd.
Mmmm. Home made "Fluffy White Icing."
The "Fluffy White Icing" turned into "Fluffy Pink Icing" with pink sugar sprinkled on the top. Would you expect anything else in this house with Miss Allison?

Bye for now! I'm back to work today. :(

Have Fun!

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Warm Winter Recipe!

This is my last day of vacation from work. I'm going to be busy finishing up some things around here. So today I thought I would share a yummy easy recipe that I've been meaning to share for some time. The recipe is for Taco Soup and I make this in my slow cooker. It really is so fast and easy.

The participants: 1 pound ground beef, a small onion or dried minced onions, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of black beans, 1 can of whole kernal corn, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 small can (8 oz. I think) tomato sauce, 1 small can of diced green chiles, and one packet of your favorite taco seasoning mix. The heat of the taco mix is up to you. I use mild because of Miss Allison.

First take your pound of ground beef and place it in your pan. You could use ground turkey or chicken if you want but I like it with ground beef. By the way, if you are thinking that I stole the ground beef because the package says "NOT FOR SALE" or that I bought it on the black market, think again! My Dad raises beef cattle and generously supplies all of his kids with beef. Yes, I know I'm a lucky girl! I use my deep Cook's Essentials pan from QVC. I love that pan because it's deep and helps me keep my stove clean when browning meat. I HATE cleaning the stove top! Okay, getting back to the recipe. Add the onions to the pan. As you can see, I use dried minced onions and don't ask me how much. I just dump! You can use 1 small fresh onion diced if you like. Me? I'll stick to the dried onions for speed of preparation! Speaking of speed. I also pre-brown the ground beef most times. I'll brown up 3 or so pounds of ground beef on a day off from work, let it cool and then portion it out in my Seal-a-Meal bags and freeze it for later. Then it's ready to go for me to make meat sauce for spaghetti or pasta, taco soup, tacos (I'll add the taco seasoning to this one before freezing), lasagna (I use half beef and half sausage so I brown those together and label it "lasagna meat") and any other casserole or recipe I might need it for.

Almost done here!

Drain your beef and onion mixture. Look how little grease I end up with using the beef from my Dad's cows! After you drain the grease from the beef, put it in your slow cooker. TIP: I spray the inside of my slow cooker with a non-stick spray like Pam or something every time I use it. It helps with clean up. I'll be honest here. I'm frugal so I use the store brand spray. Unless of course I have a coupon (which my store doubles up to $0.99) for the name brand and it's on sale!
Now let's go and open all of those cans! Drain and give the black beans a water bath. Make sure you drain them well or your soup will be too watery.
Drain the corn. No need for a bath here; they drain from their own juice nicely.
Okay, now go and add everything to the slow cooker. You do not need to drain the kidney beans, diced tomatoes or chiles. Their jummy juices add to the flavor of the soup! As you can see I made mine pretty for all of you. Usually I just dump everything on top of each other!
Now stir it well! Marry all those yummy flavors together!
Now you have a choice here. You can either cook it for 8-9 hours on low or 4 or so on high. I cook everything on low because I use my Crock Pot on days I go to work. This is when the pre-browned ground beef comes in handy. Just dump, stir and cook!
Ta Da! The finished product! As you can see, it's a thicker soup or stewlike meal. Rachael Ray would call it a "Stewp" and that probably describes it perfectly. If you want it thinner and more of a soup, use the big can of tomato sauce. I personally like it this way. I serve it with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced green onions and those scoopable tortilla chips. Okay, okay, I don't usually use the green onions unless I happen to have them in the fridge. I bought them special here because...."no green is obscene" when plating a meal. It just helps to make it visually yummy!

Have Fun!
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Precious Child!

Just a pic today of my precious sweet child. She came to me yesterday morning with her carnations and asked me to take some pictures of her. I'm so glad I did!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

St. Valentine's Day Recap!

I wanted to post this last night but I just tired out! It was a great day and I had lots of fun! Feel free to click on any picture to get a close up. I've never claimed to be a photographer so be warned that a couple of the pics are a little blurry.

Curtis, Princess and I snuck a vase of 3 pink carnations into Allison's room overnight so she would see them when she woke up in the morning. She did and was so excited. She came down the stairs carrying them and said "Mom, look what I found in my room! I just turned over in my bed and they were there!" Yay! First mission accomplished!
I told Allison to go on the couch and cover up and I would make her a special surprise Valentine's Day breakfast. She asked a couple of times "Is it ready yet?" I was hoping I would deliver a breakfast that was equal to her anticipation. I made her pink heart pancakes topped with strawberry syrup, fresh strawberries, whipped cream and red, white and pink heart sprinkles all served on a pink heart plate. Her beverage of strawberry milk was served in a vintage pink and clear wine glass. I called her in and as she turned the corner she said "Ohhhh, this is the best breakfast ever!" Then she said "The kids in school are never going to believe this!" Yay! Second mission accomplished!
Yum! A breakfast for a Valentine Princess!
Here's the pancakes without all the stuff on top. I used my Wilton heart cookie cutter. I held it in the bottom of the pan and ladled in the pink pancake batter (red food coloring). I held it there until it was just about ready to turn over. The first one I filled too high and it puddled over when I took the cookie cutter off. Live and learn.
Allison in her Valentine's Day attire. I don't know if you could tell but she has hearts embroidered on her jeans and a rhinestone heart on her turtleneck.
Check out those socks...but ignore the shoes! I should have polished them before the picture! It so hard to keep up on them with all the winter snow!
She had me take a pic of her hair. Isn't she just the little model? Her ponytail holder had strands of red plastic hearts dangling from it. She picked out the red heart barrettes and the pink flower barrettes to add to the theme. She said the flower ones were okay because her shirt has a couple of flowers it so it matches. I'm thinking that I might be having a fashion diva on my hands here!
Posing with Princess! That cat is too huge for being only 10 months old!
Whoever said girl cats are smaller obviously didn't see this pic! I've seen full grown dogs that are smaller!
Allison gave her teacher and her helper each some chocolate covered oreos and chocolate covered pretzels. I found these cute plastic chinese takeout containers at Michael's for a buck each. Aren't they cute?
Yum! I should have made extra cookies! I could go for one right now!
I did the same thing this year for Allison's classmates as I did last year. Different school, different for me! I made pink heart shaped rice krispie treats. This year instead of using regular marshmallows I bought their pink strawberry marshmallows. I added more red food coloring because they weren't dark enough. Sorry the pic is blurry!
Here they are all packaged up and ready for delivery!
I volunteered to make the cupcakes for the Valentine's Day party at school. I also volunteered to help at the party. So MUCH FUN! I only wish I could do it all the time! Anyway, I wanted to make a heart cupcake cake so In my mind, both sides of the heart would be even and then I would need one for the point. Hmm, how was I going to bake that one extra cupcake without putting it in the oven all by itself in pan all by itself? I know! I'll make a cupcake pan for one! I used heavy duty foil, layered it 3 sheets thick and molded it in the regular cupcake pan. I trimmed the edges and voila, a cupcake pan for one!
Okay, here's the cake. I'm not as happy with it as I thought I would be. I actually needed 4 more cupcakes to round out the top of the heart and another one for the point. I set my perfectionist self aside and made due. I just told myself that they are 6-8 year olds and they don't care about the shape fo the cake! Now if it was a bridal shower cake or something like that, I would have made more cupcakes and made it perfect! Seriously, the thing the kids enjoyed most was being able to pull apart their cupcake from the cake!
Here's a pic of Allison at her desk at school. I took quite a few other pictures but I am not comfortable posting pics of the other kids without their parent's knowledge.
Allison's gift from Curtis and me. I LOVE the bag and the tissue paper. I found them at The Dollar Tree! $1.50 for the whole thing! Yes I know everything at The Dollar Tree is $1.00 but I only used 1/2 of the tissue so I still have some left over for next year!
My Valentine Sweeties!
Keep an open mind here! Curtis offered to take us out to dinner for Valentine's Day but I delcined. After working in restaurants all of my life, a restaurant on a holiday is the LAST place I want to be! Instead I made a special dinner. I made heart shaped mini meatloafs, pink redskin mashed potatoes (food coloring) and sugar (because of the sweet holiday) snap peas. Allison loved the pink potatoes...even though she thought I put strawberry syrup in them. Curtis commented they were good. I think he was surprised. The color didn't affect the taste it was just strange eating them I must admit. I sent leftovers in Curtis' lunch today. Who wants to bet that he'll be eating in his car today?
Here's my secret to making perfect heart meatloafs. I used the Reynolds Fun Shapes foil cups for baking. They were $1.00 at The Dollar Tree for a box of 24. I doubled them because they are really thin. You have to kind of build the shape. If you put a blob of mixture in it and spread it out it distorts the foil cup.
Here is the last pic and I am so sorry it's really blurry. I just had to share it with all of you! I made Curtis' plate up to take the picture and then called them in to dinner. As I looked at the table I saw this! The butter had melted a little and the solid part that was left was in the shape of a heart! How romantic!
Have Fun!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Greetings!

I'll be back later today with my valentine goodies but for now,
Happy Valentine's Day
from me to you!
Have Fun!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's STILL snowing!

Yes! It's still snowing! Ugh! School is closed again for the second day in a row after it was delayed on Monday for two hours! Normally I wouldn't care but I took a vacation from work this week. I took it to get some big projects done around the house. I needed to get some major cleaning and decluttering done. I needed to get some things organized. All of this can not be done with Allison around. She wants me to play or she wants to help me. I love when she helps but her helping me is sure to turn any job from a half an hour job to infinity! So for now I'll put my list on the back burner and enjoy my daughter. After all, she is what I wished for my whole life. If you stop by my house, please don't look in my closets, judge me by the stack of mail in the corner that needs attention or criticize me because of the growing laundry pile. It's not what life is all about.

Last night after Curtis got home from work, he took Allison sled riding on the little hill next to the house. I'm not so good at action shots but I still love them just the same. As you can see they are a little dark because we were losing daylight.
I think this is my favorite. It was one of the first runs down on the new sled. I think they were both shocked at how fast this sled goes.
Allison's hands are not that big! We couldn't find her gloves so she had to wear a pair of mine.
LOL! I just asked Allison what she was thinking when she covered her eyes. She said "I don't know. I wasn't thinking anything, actually!"
She's got her Daddy fooled. She wanted to play airplane going up the hill. She probably didn't want to walk up so she made a game out of it so he wouldn't notice he was being used!
"Hold on baby! There's a tree at the bottom of the hill"...which she ended up running into anyway!
Making a snow, I think she just was taking a break here.
I love the look on her face here. I'm not sure what Curtis was doing though. I think he may have realized she was headed for the tree and was going to try and stop her.
Have Fun!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Catalog Inspiration!

In addition to magazines, I also love catalogs. It must be a visual thing with me because I love to look at the pictures! These days the catalogs are beautiful! They offer me so much inspiration and ideas. I also tear pictures out of the catalogs for my reference binders. Thankfully, I really don't buy much if anything from them at all. Sometimes if I see something I really want but don't really need, I'll wait and watch their website. If I don't forget about it, I leave it up to fate. I wait for it to go on sale or even better on clearance. If it does and it's a reasonable price, I'll bite. Most times I forget about it so that proves I can live without it. So no harm done.

One of my most favorite catalogs is Pottery Barn Teen. Their stuff is gorgeous but way out of my price range! I did pick up this really cool tri-fold weathered frame thingy a couple of years ago to use in Allison's room when she gets older. It was one of those things I had to have. I think regular price was $89 and I got it for $25 on clearance. I was definately doing the happy dance!

Let me walk you through some inspiration from the Pottery Barn Teen catalog. All these pictures are from their website. The catalog shows so much more than some of these pictures but you'll get the idea.

At the very tippy top of this picture, there are pictures strung on a cord with those tiny clothespins you find in craft stores. Cool idea for when Allison gets older and has pics of her and her friends that she wants to display!

In the pic below they used a monogram in the room. I like that idea! I purchased a big papier-mâché "A" that I am going to paint and put in Allison's room. I also LOVE the idea of a small chandelier over the side table or in the corner of the room. It makes it so girly! I especially love that one but I better leave it up to fate...if you know what I mean!

I like the concept below but not necessarily the different squares. I think I would take cork squares, cover them with batting to make them cushy, cover the squares with different fabric, mount them on MDF and frame the whole thing out with molding.

Look how cute these boxes are below! These would be so easy to make! Can you just imagine them in the same fabric as the big square bulletin board? I would use some papier-mâché boxes that the craft stores carry and use spray-on adhesive to attach the fabric. Maybe embellish them with a little ribbon and gems. I can almost see them sitting on the dresser!

Oh my gosh! Aren't these original? A princess crown would be cute but knowing Allison, she would probably want a snake, shark or dinosaur!
Notice the box on the dresser...the same color family but different print.
This would be so easy to make! An old frame, batting, fabric and some of those vintage straight pins with the pearls on them.
When I saw the above frame, I thought to myself "Self, wouldn't a few of them be cute hanging on a wall?" ... and then look what I saw! Hey! Maybe I could work for Pottery Barn!
These next two items are things that I would love for myself. Unfortunately they are not on sale or clearance. :( I am hoping fate will intervien and at least the dress form gets discounted.
Hmm, this one would probably collect dust, right? See, I'm talking myself out of it already!
I received a new catalog in the mail the other day. It's called Ginny's. Luckily they have a website so I borrowed pics from their website to share with all of you.

What an adorably whimsical pedestal! I wish I had room or a kitchen big enough to store all the pretty things I see...and a pocketbook big enough too! The cupcakes in the picture also inspired me. They are gorgeous! I'll be attempting those soon!
Aren't these fun? They don't match my kitchen but boy are they cute!
I like the color combination though. Hmm, maybe a scrapbook layout in those colors. Okay, I love this! It's a cake pan that makes a huge cupcake. It is made by Wilton. This is so up my alley! Oh what I could do with this!
These kitchen towels are so yummy! They don't match my kitchen either, but I could see myself doing a whole mini themed scrapbook in the green, cream and burgandy.
Rachael Ray 5 quart hard anodized oval saute pan.
Oh how I would love this! My bathroom is not big enough for this but if it was I would have ordered this the first day I saw this in the catalog! I wouldn't even care that I would have sell my blood to get it! Do you know what it is? It's a "cat washroom"! The litter box fits in there behind the door! Love it!
Have Fun!
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