I decided months ago that I would rather stand when I am crafting things. So at the end of April I replaced the table in the closet of my craft room with a taller one. I bought a file cabinet off of Craigslist, which Sean spray painted green for me.
The television set was mounted on the wall and one extra cord gave it the option to be a computer screen...because accessing ideas on Pinterest can be completely essential to the creative process.
I have made more stuff at this table in the last three weeks than I had made in the six months before it...maybe there is something to this whole standing up thing.
The watercolor splatters I shared last week were actually thank you notes for my birthday gifts, but I didn't want to share the whole thing since some of the individuals that received them read this blog thing. Every time I get to craft up a set and send them off I cannot help but think how darn lucky I am.
He got them for his thirteenth birthday and he has worn them constantly up until just a couple months ago when all of a sudden they hit the hallway counter right outside his room, which is code for "I've grown out of it".
My friends, who all have little kids are constantly trading off hand-me-downs. We have had a joke that one day, when their kids are older, I will be able to pass down the infamous yellow skinny jeans.
But the truth is I am never getting rid of them. It was in this pair of jeans that Mac discovered his love for all things fashion. Nowadays he is watching fashion videos every spare moment he has. He is a voracious consumer of information on the topic and dreams of being a stylist. So I am keeping them and, on the day he finds his dream job, I will bring out the yellow skinny jeans that were the beginning of it all.
As I'm guessing you might know by now, I love wrapping up lots of piles of gifts during the holidays.
Then a few months later it's springtime and I get to wrap one more pile. My mom's birthday always falls right next to, or sometimes on, Mother's Day and it is one of my very favorite reasons to wrap gifts. Love you Mom.
This week I was notified that I had been given an outstanding professor award from the disabled student services department and that I had missed the ceremony. To say I felt like the most reprehensive person to walk the earth is an understatement. In addiditon to apologizing a hundred times, which they were exceptionally kind about, I hoped the situtaion might be made a little better with a batch of brownies. We learned about these caramel brownies around ten years ago now from a math teacher I worked with when I was a high school instructional aide and they are easily a top five favorite family recipe around here.
14 ounce bag of individually wrapped caramels
2/3 cup of half & half – divided in half
Package of German Chocolate cake mix
½ cup of butter, melted
6 ounce bag of chocolate chips
Set oven to 350 degrees, melt caramels and 1/3 cup of half & half until smooth (it is not neccesary to stir constantly). Mix remaining half & half (1/3 cup), melted butter & cake mix with electric beater. Divide mix (it’s really thick) into 2 parts, spread ½ in 9x13 pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes. Take pan out of the oven, top with chocolate chips, then caramel mixture, and then rest of thick batter (batter best if dropped on in pieces since it’s too thick to spread without mixing everything up). Return the pan to the oven to bake for another 20-25 minutes (closer to 25) and make sure to cool completely.
A nice and neat house is ridiculously important to me, so you can only imagine Sean's surprise when he came home from work yesterday to find me in my craft room happily splattering tiny watercolor droplets all over paper with no regard for the carpet below. Not sure how I came to the decision that making a mess was a good idea, but it sure was fun.
This past Saturday was one of my favorite national holidays. I celebrated by spending all day scrapbooking. Miraculously I cranked out thirteen pages.
I should do this way more often.
This is my favorite skirt...it's my first day of class skirt and has been my interview skirt and I am really, really hoping it continues to be my lucky skirt. I wore it yesterday when I walked back on to the campus of the community college I attended. I spent the last day on that campus all the way back in 2007 dreaming of the day I would walk back on for a job interview...and yesterday was my chance.
I decided awhile ago that to celebrate my birthday I just wanted to have ice cream sundaes and play some games out in the backyard. Sean was really awesome about putting everything together and set up a sundae bar with all my favorite toppings...homemade whipped cream, heath bars, caramel sauce, oreos (that have been crushed, combined with melted butter and frozen so they are like a cookie crust) and my mom's fudge sauce. It was really nice to have family and friends stop by and just hang out for a little bit. Too bad every Sunday can't be a sundae afternoon.
Oh and here is my mom's fudge sauce recipe. It comes together easily, reheats really well, and is the most wonderfully rich chocolate sauce you'll ever taste.
Mud Pie Fudge Sauce
2 squares Bakers unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk (whole carnation, not fat free)
Use a double boiler to start melting chocolate squares. Add butter and sugar. Slowly add evaporated milk. Cook over hot water until it is thickened. Stir occasionally…it takes awhile to thicken. This recipe makes a small amount, so you might want to make somewhere between two and four batches at once.
Last year I had a giveaway on my birthday and decided to make it a tradition, so I packaged up three little favorites to share today. I am obsessed with this super wide roller ball pen, a roll of my most recent favorite washi tape pattern, and a little Starbucks gift card since I continue to be utterly addicted to iced caramel mochas.
I would love to hear if you have any newly found favorite items...or you can always leave a "pick me". I will do a drawing for the little sewn sack of favorites on Friday afternoon.
Thirty-six was a darn good year and all I can hope for from thirty-seven is more of the same. Here are a few numerical details*...
2 graduations//15 years with Sean//7 trips to the beach//19 recipes actually cooked out of the thousand I've pinned//15 times we watched Mac cheer//1 Watercolor Class//3 couch camp-outs//27 cards made//3 drafts of my resume//2 orders of cheese fries at Shake Shack//114 photos Instagramed//0 Facebook status updates//1 broken tooth//4 rooms in the house rearranged//1 dream job that I wanted since I was twelve years old.
*a few are rough estimates
This weekend there was the tiniest bit of scrapbooking. There was a fair amount of rearranging (including my indoor garden). There was some cauliflower cooked and tasted for the first time (Mac and I like broccoli better). And there was some $25 Craigslist file cabinet and John Deere Green spray painting.
When the topic of cheer banquet invitations came up at a board meeting a couple of months ago, of course I volunteered to make them. How could I resist? I had an idea for them...and then the days and weeks quickly started ticking by. A 6:30am email from the booster board president last Friday arrived kindly checking on how the invitations were going and asking if I needed any help.
Which is the really nice way of asking, "When the heck will they be in the mail?".
We took my idea of making little fabric pouches in shool colors and started on Saturday night...I wrote a list of all the things we had to do for the three dozen invitations. There were twenty-one steps, but to be fair that last one was, "Mail the darn things".
And, thankfully, the whole list is checked off.
It's administrative professional's day and I just had to do a little something for the two women in the Sociology department office. So Sean baked a batch of cookies for me and I wrapped them up in fabric bags and layered together a little tag for each.
I wanted to say thanks for helping me get everything ready to teach my first class, taking the time to kindly answer any question, ordering me a pile of textbooks to choose from, running to put a note on my classroom door the day I got stuck in awful traffic, telling me about the secret routes to get around traffic and many, many more helpful things.
Thankfully the first few pages are already full...mostly for school, but ideas nonetheless. Summer is coming up fast though and I am dreaming up of all kinds of ideas. I want to catch up on over a year of scrapbooking. I want to finish the three crochet projects that have been abandoned. I want to make a 100 of the recipes I've found on Pinterest. I want to rearrange a little, clean out a lot, and plan ahead. Oh and maybe exercise too.
I pretty much do this every time...come up with lofty summer goals and then accomplish almost none of them.
This summer is going to be different though. After all, it's written down in a cute notebook.
You can download a 4x6 copy of this print...Ideas Grow Here
Using butterfly fabric to put together little administrative professional's day gifts for the Sociology department. Rearranging various household supplies since we finally painted an old locker from Mac's room that has a new home in our entryway...so happy to have cute new storage. And then cranking out three dozen cheerleading banquet invitations as fast as we possible can.
It'll be a little extra busy around here, but a week that includes reorganizing and crafting doesn't sound too bad to me.
Sean was asked to bring fruit salad to the baby shower he attended at school on Monday. I had a recipe for "Secret Fruit Salad" (which I happened to mention last week) from Rachel Schultz's blog saved on my breakfast board on Pinterest. The secret is two tablespoons of vanilla pudding mix which adds the perfect little extra amazing deliciousness to the fruit salad.
Something so simple made me marvel once again about the magic sharing collective that is the internet. I will never, ever tire of being inspiringly inundated with ideas whenever I want them.
I have a big glass jar that holds blank note cards. I rarely send these, because most people know that I am pretty crafted obsessed and I always worried that they would think, "Why didn't she make me a card?"
Finally today I realized this is pretty ridiculous...who really cares if the cute card that arrives in their mailbox is homemade or not? So I dug into the jar to send off a thank you note to a friend that had us over for dinner last weekend and send a little letter to catch up with another friend.
I figured by the time I stuck on address labels, postage stamps and, of course, a little washi tape to seal the back there was an acceptable level of cuteness.
My sister celebrates her eighth birthday this week, so we sent a bunch of watercolor supplies all wrapped up with rainbow yarn.
Then Sean had a baby shower to attend at school today for the teacher he shares a classroom with. Since he was the only guy attending, I made sure he walked in with an extra girly gift.
I often consider the details to be incredibly important and I usually manage to enjoy the most inane bits of whatever I am working on.
This weekend I worked on an overhaul of my resume. Or since I am in higher education I get to say "Curriculum Vitae", which sounds way more fun until you actually have to spend time on the darn thing. Font size, spacing, wording, margins, headers and footers changed pretty much thousands of times.
And I figured out that is way too much detail, even for me.
One of the best organization items I have around this house are magnetic strips. I have one mounted under the cabinets in our kitchen to hold recipes up out of the way while we cook. I also have a couple on our "bar". This really used to be a wet bar with a never-used sink until my father-in-law took it out for us, but we still call it the bar for some reason.
This is where we hang anything we don't want to forget...coupons, receipts for something we need to return, the bracket Sean totally beat me at this year, tickets for upcoming events, my brother-in-law's heating and air business cards, invitations, and a sheet with our neighbors phone numbers.
The neighbor list gets used a lot...for instance last week I called Mr. Kelly to let him know I had some homemade split pea soup for him and we called Todd to ask if we could borrow his ax.
In case you have your own command central somewhere in your house I put together a neighborhood contact sheet to download...
That way you can quickly get in touch for super important stuff like soup and axes.
Last night, as Sean and I were out walking, I came up with an idea for a class activity. By the time we got home I had completely forgotten it...thankfully I was able to retrace our conversation to come up with it again.
Since I am trying to save all these thoughts and ideas, I am a little overly obsessed with notebooks and pens right now.
Which is completely a matter of practicality, right? Surely it has nothing to do with my neverending love of school supplies.
I wish we got enough light in our house for a fiddle leaf fig tree to thrive like it does in this awesome bedroom.
It doesn't exactly need to be cooked, but the secret ingredient in this fruit salad sounds ingenious.
I want to make something with watercolors...they have been abandoned for the last couple weeks.
I found this recipe via Cook's Country which I learned about from my brother. A dinner side dish that included cream cheese sounded like a really good idea to me. I tried it out for dinner one night and only made half the recipe since it's just the three of us. We will definitely be making this again...and it'll be a great side dish the next time we are hosting a dinner.
Green Rice Casserole
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion chopped fine
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1 ¼ pounds frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups long-grain white rice
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Cover and remove from heat.
Pulse bread, Parmesan, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarsely ground, 8 to 10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Combine spinach, cream cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in now-empty food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
Spread spinach mixture in even layer in 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle rice evenly over spinach mixture. Sprinkle cheddar over rice. Pour broth mixture into baking dish, cover tightly with double layer of aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove casserole from oven, remove foil, and stir to redistribute ingredients. Return casserole to oven, increase temperature to 450 degrees, and continue baking uncovered, until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes, Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture over top and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let casserole cool for 20 minutes. Serve.
A friend from grad school got married this past weekend and we gave them a couple baking sheets off their registry. Of course I couldn't quite leave it at that, so I gathered a few of our very favorite cookie recipes and printed up a little stack of cards.
I also did this a few years ago when we gave loaf pans as a wedding gift. And just like last time, I made a PDF in case you'd like a copy of the cards... Download Cookie Recipe Cards
This week has included a hike, a late morning bagel and iced mocha breakfast in bed, using a Groupon to share a four course lunch, buying flowers for the backyard, making crab cakes at home, a trip to the beach, and eating cupcakes at almost midnight.
In other words, it was pretty much a totally wonderful week.
In my last order of absolutely necessary scrapbook supplies I ordered three each of several cute little paper bag styles, since they were priced individually. Instead I was sent three packs of twenty five. I called Two Peas in a Bucket to make sure they were all mine still, despite the enormous mistake made in my favor, and they said yes. So having seventy five bags of each style means I get to share a bunch with you.
I have put together twenty envelopes with 15 bags (three each of the five styles) to giveaway. If you would like to be in the drawing for an envelope please leave a "pick me" and please make sure that you have shared a current e-mail address that you check often. I will randomly select twenty people on Saturday morning and, instead of announcing everyone on the blog, I will email you directly to get your mailing address...hopefully this will help streamline the process a little.
I don't hike. Nature scares me.
Sure, I appreciate it's beauty and all, however I also know how dangerous a simple day hike could be. I went on one at age fifteen with my dad, his girlfriend, my sister, cousin and a friend and it turned into a terrifying three day search and rescue for my dad's girlfriend and my young cousin. There was a freak early season snow storm and hundred mile an hour winds...it was the first story on the evening news, on the front page of the paper and they were not sure they would be found alive. Thankfully, they were okay, but spent months recovering from hypothermia.
Needless to say, I have barely gone out into nature since.
However, yesterday I was willing to fill a backpack with some supplies and wander down a trail (a whole half-mile away from our car) into the great open wilderness of a local regional park in order to see a grove of Redwood trees...
Honestly, I was still kind of (unreasonably) scared, but it was worth it. Since we live in the land of palm trees it was amazing to have a chance to stand in the dappled shade of actual trees. Maybe there is something to this whole hiking thing after all.
The very first thing Caleb did when he walked into our house this past Easter Sunday was hug both Sean and I and thank us "for having them over for brunch"...he is just that heart-meltingly, wonderful kind of a person.
We are incredibly fortunate to get to walk each year in support of Caleb and everyone on the Autism spectrum. And now the sun is setting around here so it's time to turn on our blue light...
Today we had exactly five hours of spring break together before Mac left with his Dad on a week-long trip to Hawaii. We decided to spend it playing miniature golf and winning tickets in the arcade.
The sun was really bright, it was super breezy, the course was pretty run down, the camera lens was way too zoomed in, the camera battery died, my phone said it was too full and I could not take more photos...it pretty much reached a comical level of impossible photo taking.
Regardless of my incessant need for documentation, we had fun together and that was the whole point anyway.
We also went miniature golfing together six years ago, the day before he left for another trip to Hawaii...I cannot get over how little Mac looked then. I guess that's why I want photos of everything...time just goes so fast.
There were peeps on a stick for a centerpiece (idea from here). There was our traditional omelet bar, belgian waffles with fresh strawberries, and honey baked ham. My brother brought a lemon bundt cake. My sister cranked out ham salad for us all to take home. My mom spoiled us all with gifts. We searched for at least a hundred eggs in the front yard. And we laughed so hard we cried. It was a really, really great family celebration.
I cannot thank you enough for sharing your ideas...and especially your kind words. It makes me so happy to hear that you are happy with this crafty/food/life hodge podge...and how haphazardly it develops at times. I loved your suggestions and they have totally helped me brainstorm ideas and how to get a little more organized with this blogging stuff.
As for the giveaway, it goes to comment #9...Christi; March 28, 2013 at 12:27 PM. Christi please e-mail me your address.
There will be another giveaway next week. I ended up with way too many of a certain craft item so I get to share it with twenty people!
When I was lucky enough to get to start teaching a second class about a month ago, I caught myself thinking like a parent expecting their second child. "Will I be able to devote the same time and energy?" "Will I be good at taking care of two?" "Will I love them as much?"
And I do love them just as much. So when my first class received Valentine's that offered a couple extra points on a test answer they may be worried about, it was only fair to make sure my second class got the same treat...just for a different holiday.
I saw this sentiment a couple months ago and realized it pretty much sums up the experience for me. As I am sure you can tell, I don't plan much of this blogging stuff out...most of the time I am just living and then sharing it.
For instance, over the years, I have had a bad habit of never really mentioning that I have a blog. Friends here and there have discovered it, puzzled because they had no clue. Heck, even my own mom had to find it on her own. I guess something I invest a little time in almost every single day ended up fitting in so seemlessly that it often does not exist in my consciousness.
Lately I have been so focused on developing ideas for the two classrooms that I am lucky enough to lead each week, that I feel like I am lacking ideas a little around here. As much as I am completely and totally enamoured with throwing my mind and soul into planning lectures and participation opportunities (in one class we have already done twenty-two different activities and it's only halfway through the semester), I want to make sure to keep going with all the other creative pursuits too.
That is why I was thinking I need to do a little more planning around here. Maybe a few brainstorming lists, a calendar or something to help re-infuse some good old-fashioned crafty enthusiasm. If you have any ideas/requests for something you'd like to see I would really love to hear them, it would be a great motivation to start making something in addition to all the sociological class activities.
And it's not very fair to ask for something without offering something in return...I filled a little priority mail box with some fun supplies to share. I'll do a random drawing for it late Friday afternoon.
My small space has had a few little items added over the last couple of weeks. There's something about the change in season's that always has me wanting to fix things up.
Sean and I had a mutual friend in college and his mom made amazing, marinated grilled chicken. We have used this recipe countless times over the years and call it Mrs. Benanti's chicken. This is one of Mac's favorites except he once mistakenly called it "Ben Menanchi's Chicken" and the name stuck. We grilled this up for one of the cheerleading team dinners we hosted last fall and I figured calling it Ben Menanchi's Chicken wouldn't make much sense so instead I went this...
Pinapple Marinated Grilled Chicken
Nothing big happened this weekend...just a bunch of little things that made for an awfully nice couple of days. We fell asleep on Friday night at 8:30pm. Mac and I went to lunch with his dad after Mac's second tumbling class. I made these sandwiches for dinner. Sean baked cookies. There was a trip to Target for these chairs for the backyard. We got Mac's packet filled out for cheer tryouts this week. I didn't do any grading like I was supposed to. Lots of college basketball has been watched...and my bracket just may be beating Sean's at this point.
Hope you had a weekend filled with lots of good stuff too.
In this week's version of "Nora is still obsessed with watercolors", I drew wonky scallops and got to work coloring them in. I see them cut out and used as a border on a scrapbook page...assuming I can resume an original hobby, now that I have managed to start a dozen more of them.
Next up is trying to make my own version of Orla Kiely's multicolored stem.
1. A couple weeks ago I invested in a couple sets of these hangers after my sister suggested them. They really do make an enormous difference.
2. In case you didn't know, always save your Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. They will accept a coupon for each item in a single transaction...even if they're expired.
3. Then I made my second annual visit to the tomato sale, which means this year's tomato garden will hopefully have eleven thriving varieties.
4. It was sorority sleepover time again last weekend. That meant a lot of green, purple and spinach artichoke dip.
5. In prepping a class on socialization I discovered the public restroom etiquette of males. Love that sociology really will analyze every aspect of our lives.
7. Countdown to spring break is on...t-minus nine days. I mentioned to Sean tonight that we should build a small bocce ball court in our backyard with our week off. I spent a little too long researching them today.
8. That is when I wasn't studying the intersection of masculinity and bathroom protocol.
9. The best thing I accomplished last week was covering the dark blue couch in my little craft room with an old tapestry. Don't know why that took me years to think of.
With springtime officially starting this week, big glasses of iced tea are sounding awfully good. I have been making simple syrup to sweeten iced tea for awhile now, but I haven't tried flavored syrups. We have a couple dwarf meyer lemon trees in our yard that are actually starting to produce reliable little crops, so I picked a couple, read a few recipes, and came up with this...
Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice
Take a paring knife to peel off pieces of lemon zest being carefully to just get the yellow zest, not the white rind. Squeeze one or two lemons to get a third of a cup of lemon juice. In a small sauce pan combine sugar, water, lemon juice and lemon zest pieces. Bring mixture to a simmer while stirring often. Once the sugar is completely dissolved into the liquid remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain zest pieces from the syrup and store simple syrup in the refrigerator.
Would we be best friends one day, my sister would have probably have been kind and said yes. I would have probably rolled my eyes and said something snotty.
Needless to say, it took quite a few too many years for me to figure out that I have a really good sister. Thankfully, nowadays there are plenty of phone calls, recipe suggestions, question asking, shared interests, political debates, sarcastic jokes, and handbag purchase consultations.
And I've rarely told her how grateful I am for all of it, so I especially wanted to on her birthday. I wish I could go back and tell that mean older sister that she shouldn't waste so much time before realizing how lucky she is.
Pretty sure I've been wearing green for a week straight, we went to an Irish music concert with my mom last night, there were Lucky Charms for breakfast this morning, there will be stew and my favorite soda bread-ish recipe, shamrock cookies have been baked, and the Clancy Brother's will play all day long.
Hope today is lucky for you too!
My mom taught my sister, brother and I plenty of fantastic recipes, but this one just might be the very best of them. It is a great substitute for the ever-present ranch dip, but is just as simple to mix together.
We like a very generous amount of dill, but you can start with one tablespoon and see what you think. Simply mix together all the ingredients with a hand mixer. Keep in mind if the cream cheese is not room temperature it often does not mix very smoothly. The flavors intensify when this is made in advance. Overnight is usually ideal.
You can serve dill dip with anything, but our family tradition is pretzels and/or carrot sticks.