Monday, August 29, 2011

Life-A Manifesto

I found this online and it really spoke to me so I thought I would share :)

Millionaire Brisket

Over the winter, Chris and I tried something new...we ordered our beef by the quarter of the cow (technically a half of a half). There is something so comforting about knowing where your food comes from. In this instance we know the family who raised the cow. Once we decided that we were in, I spoke to the butcher to determine how we would like our beef cut and packaged. We talked through each cut of meat: steaks, roasts, hamburger, how much per package, how thick the steaks and roasts, ect. When we came to the brisket, I decided to get it as I was told "it's great in a crock pot"....well see Exhibit A:

and in 2009 we were in NC.

And yes, that is my roasting pan for's the only thing in the house big enough to hold this thing.

I want to know what size crock pot these people have because there is NO WAY this would fit in mine :) So instead, we threw a birthday party for Chris with a bbq theme! Last year we did beer can chicken and in 2009 he was in Afghanistan and in 2008 spent his birthday in NC.

Brisket, spicy beans, potato salad, slaw, corn bread and pie. Needless to say, everyone ate well!

I used a recipe from BBQ University on PBS (remember, no cable in our house) and it turned out great. We did modify the recipe slightly by searing the brisket on the grill but then finishing it off in the oven. I know, not proper BBQ technique, but I work with what I have...which is a gas grill and an oven.

Also, we had GORGEOUS weather, perfect for dining outside and throwing a few corn-hole bags. I'm so glad because fitting all 16 of us would have been a squeeze in the house, we could have done it though.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the food because they are the only ones I have of the entire party. Once the guests arrive and food is served, I spent time with the birthday boy and family!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mug Rugs

My newest sewing obsession is a small, easy project that I can create using scraps, Mug Rugs! I love the Wonky Starburst pattern I found at Stitches and Scissors. There are even more ideas at Two More Seconds!

You can use these little mini-quilts for just about anything: snacks, potholders, coasters and they have so much personality! There's lots of freedom here, create any size and shape you want. I kept mine less than 8 inches in either direction. Here's a few that I threw together this week:

Warm colored Mug Rug:

Cool colored Mug Rug, creating the front panel:

I used fusible fleece for some padding:

Quilted it together:

Added some binding:

Finished Product!

So now that I've got a couple, who wants one? Leave a comment letting me know which one you would prefer and I'll draw one person and mail it out :) Deadline August 31!

Look at yourself after watching this

Having a hard day? Maybe things are going the way you planned? Watch this video, No Arms No Legs No Worries featuring Nick Vujicic to gain some perspective and BE THANKFUL. I know that I am.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wine Bottle Gift Wrap

While shopping one day, I saw a cute wine bottle gift wrap and decided to make one of my own using scrap fabric: Super easy and quick project, just sew a rectangle to reach around the bottle and sew the ribbon into the seam to tie a bow :)

A Pie for Mikey

I read an article on CNN this week about a foodie blogger who recently lost her husband and it really touched me. As often as Chris and I are separated geographically, I could not imagine him being gone for the rest of this life. She created a blog post about his favorite recipe for Creamy Peanut Butter Pie and asked others to make it in his memory for their loved ones. So here's my attempt to honor her request and show a little love to my husband after another week of living in Cleveland and commuting 2.5 hours home on the weekends.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

Making the crust:

Adding filling ingredients (love Krema peanut butter and it's made in Columbus!)

Filling mixture:

The completed pie

Stuffed Shells

After we got married Sharon, my mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook shared with me favorite family recipes and this is one of them! I did edit the recipe a bit to add spinach and sausage to make it a bit more hearty for my husband. Every time I make it, I put a pan of shells in the oven and one in the freezer...and this time I doubled it making FOUR pans of shells (one for dinner, one for Chris to take back to Cleveland and two for the freezer).

My treasured family cook book:

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb of spicy Italian bulk sausage
1/2 package of jumbo pasta shells
1-27oz jar marinara sauce
1 egg
15 oz ricotta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, fresh and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

This is how we chose to package our sausage, we bought bulk pork and beef this year. I love knowing where my food comes from!

Start by sauteing sausage in skillet and once almost done, add drained spinach and cook until done. Remove from heat to cool.

Cook pasta shells according to package directions, drain. Spray bottom of baking dishes with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl beat egg. Stir in ricotta, spinach and sausage mixture, parsley and 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese.

Spread one cup of sauce in bottom of baking dish. Fill cooked shells with filling mixture and arrange in baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over shells.

Top with remaining cheeses.

If you are putting a dish into the freezer, this is my method: write directions on the foil with a Sharpie so if the husband is the one in charge of dinner, the instructions are attached. (I learned this trick making meals for other military families when babies were born, people were sick, ect).

Bake, covered in foil, until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.

Finished product (well, this is what it would look like if your husband got stuck in traffic and you got side-tracked by another project and cooked it for 1.5 hours...oops)

But it still tasted yummy :)

What are your favorite family recipes? I'm always looking for new ones to try:)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Itty Bitty Booties

I made these itty-bitty booties for our friends Missy and Bryce's soon-to-be-here little girl and am so happy with the outcome. The process, on the other hand, was a bit trying. The pattern came from Amy Butler's Little Stitches for Little Ones and only had two pieces...who knew it would be so hard?!?!?! (I think I need more photos and/or diagrams to follow in my patterns)

First, I sewed the wrong side together...

And had to rip out the seams:

Then I sewed the right edge of the side:

Then I put the Velcro on the wrong side...

And fixed that:

Finally, I got the first piece put together and pinned to the bottom piece:

And the final product, so adorable:

With the coordinating burp cloths:

Ready to mail to Colorado Springs (we went to visit them in January, to read about our trip, click here):

Can't wait to see photos of baby C enjoying her new booties when she gets here :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Marathon and the shoes that fit like a foot glove

Well, I guess I’ve spent too much time with my wife over the last year as it seems that she is starting to rub off on me. No, I’m not going to start sewing cute little projects or learn to bake cookies with whole grain flour. It’s much worse than that… I’m going to run a marathon. Yeah it’s pretty crazy I know, but I guess it’s going to happen.

I wasn’t ever a fan of running up until the end of my time in the Army. It’s much nicer being able to choose if and when you are going for a run, and also how far. Rather than running the standard 4-5 miles for PT in the morning I can now run however fast or slow I feel like, whenever I want. Lately I’ve been getting lazy concerning my workouts and I felt like I needed something to focus on and motivate me to get up and active. After we ran the Ruckus in Pittsburgh, where Sonya broke her hand, I decided that I needed to sign up for another race and keep the momentum going.

Now a marathon may not seem like the most logical choice, but I guess it was more of an “If not now, when?” sort of reaction. So I now have my training plan set and will start to put the miles in, in earnest. The marathon is on October 16th in Columbus if you wanna come watch. I wouldn’t recommend it though, I’ve been to a couple races as a spectator and it’s pretty boring. You only get to watch and cheer on the person you came there for once or twice during the race. But come on down if you want. I’ll be running the full 26.2 while Sonya clocks in another 13.1 miles in the half marathon.

Along with deciding to run the marathon I made another running related decision and bought a pair of Vibram 5 fingers. Now before you think that this is something dirty (I’m talking to you Dar) these are actually a pair of “shoes” that have much less padding than normal and force you to run with a more natural gait. I like my Nike Free running shoes that mimic barefoot running, so I decided to give these a try.

They definitely feel different, and I can tell a difference in my running style as well. You take much shorter steps and land on your midfoot instead of your heel. I can really tell a difference by the fact that my calves are on fire by the end of the run. I have only worn them a couple of times so far, and I’m working to ease myself into them, but I don’t think I’ll be wearing them for the marathon quite yet. Stay tuned to the blog, I’m sure Sonya will post some interesting stuff concerning the race, and I might put something else up as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Attack of the….Squirrels

Our little garden (which you can read about here), specifically our tomatoes, has been under assault recently. First there was the day that Lila decided that a fresh-from-the-vine-tomato sounded delicious for breakfast. Yep, our DOG actually took a tomato from the vine and ate it…when I saw her all I could do was laugh and take this photo:

Then shortly after, the neighborhood squirrels noticed our bumper crop of fresh tomatoes and the temptation was too much! They are courageous little guys (um, not exactly the words we have been calling them but this is a family friendly post) to brave our two ferocious attack dogs to get to the garden. One morning when I let Lila out there was a squirrel sitting on the back deck with THREE tomatoes that he was enjoying and he took off with all of them. Every time a tomato starts to turn a nice red color, they would get snatched by, once again, these courageous little guys.

Our tomato jungle, yeah, I don't know what happened either but they are OUT OF CONTROL:

We’ve received many suggestions on how to keep our tomatoes safe:
• Leaving the dogs out all the time (there would have been some unhappy campers)
• Surrounding the plants with human hair
• Rodent control (example: traps or other methods)

In the end, we went to the hardware store and bought cherry tree netting and stakes. We gathered all the plants together and staked the netting around the plants. I’m happy to report that, thus far, it’s working!

Gathered and netted tomatoes:

Finally, a few for us...well for Chris as I don't even like tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kale Pesto-Three Many Cooks

I've been trying to use up the FRESH herbs from our garden and found this recipe from Three Many Cooks for Kale and Almond Pesto. I'm a big fan of both pesto and kale so I decided to give it a try. Chris isn't a fan of pesto (too garlicy for him, no matter how little I put in) so now is the perfect time to whip some up! I made a few adaptations to the recipe but it still turned out great:

Makes about 2 cups.

1 bunch kale (about 12 leaves or 9 ounces), rinsed thoroughly
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup whole, raw unsalted almonds (I used pistachios, they were on hand)
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup cold water (I used 1/3 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. (I removed steams before blanching, much easier!)Submerge all the kale in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until bright green but still crisp, 30-60 seconds. Drain the kale and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Dry the kale thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel. When dry, tear or cut the kale leaves from the thick, woody stem.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the kale leaves, Parmesan, almonds, basil, and garlic; pulse until well combined. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil first and then the water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. And add more oil or water, if necessary, to reach desired consistency.

Pesto will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks (longer if you float a little oil on the top). And it can be frozen for up to 6 months.

I'm having it this week and freezing 2 jars for later :)