• March 26, 2014

    Spinach and Artichoke Bake

    Feature-Image

    I feel like it has been a really long time since we did a new recipe!  Today, I picked one of my favorite recipes for comfort and coziness.  This meal is super easy to make and is loaded with yummy veggies… and lots of dairy.  You can use less cream cheese if you want, I just find that using 8 oz makes the dish a little more dense and it seems to hold together better.  You can also use whatever noodles you want, I just prefer Quinoa noodles because quinoa is packed with protein, fiber, and iron.

    The original recipe was found at: http://www.budgetsavvydiva.com/2012/02/spinach-artichoke-baked-pasta/  and modified.

    Spinach and Artichoke Bake Recipe

    By Erin Published: March 26, 2014

      I feel like it has been a really long time since we did a new recipe!  Today, I picked one of my favorite recipes for comfort and …

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. IngredientsGather ingredients and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
      2. NoodlesCook pasta according to the box.
      3. MixtureIn a large bowl, mix sour cream, cream cheese, Italian cheese, lemon juice, onion and garlic powder. Add pasta and combine.
      4. With-VeggiesNext, stir in spinach, artichokes, salt, pepper, and most of the Mozzarella
      5. Ready-to-BakePour mixture into casserole dish and sprinkle the rest of mozzarella cheese on top
      6. DonePlace in the oven and bake until golden brown on top – about 10 or 15 minutes.
      7. YumLet sit for a couple of minutes after taking it out of the oven so it will set. This makes it easier to cut and serve.

       

      Pro-Tips:

      If the cheese just won’t brown on top, switch over to the broiler for a minute – be careful not to let it go too long!

      You can use real diced onion and garlic if you prefer it to the powder or salt… I just really hate chopping onions.  *grin*

    • March 19, 2014

      Feeling Stressed

      Sunset

      I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” – Tina Fey

       
      Can I just say that I am pretty blorft this week? Things have been crazy at work (understaffed and those of us who are there are making up for it with much more significant workloads) which, of course, makes things harder to maintain at home as well. I can’t really go into details (really annoying, I know. Sorry!), but I do want to share some thoughts regarding stress and self care.

       
      There are many different ways that stress can manifest and affect our lives – each person has their own inherent coping mechanisms as well as their own breaking points. What may drive one person into utter madness may not be meaningful to another. What I’m learning right now is that this is okay. It’s okay if I can handle more than another person. Or not as much as someone else. The important thing is that I listen to myself – body, mind, and spirit – and take care of me.

       
      I have a ridiculously high work ethic topped off with a huge case of perfectionism, so taking time away from something else to take care of me is really hard. I like to work. I like my job. I feel satisfied when I complete tasks and know that they were done to the best of my ability. Sometimes, though, there is just too much to do. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and I ought to take a time out or find a way to care for my own needs before continuing with whatever is causing my stress. After all, if I don’t take care of me, who else will?

       
      Since self care is not my strong suite, I have been researching and trying different methods of relieving stress. Hopefully you can benefit from some of my findings and ideas.

       
      In the Moment Self Care/Stress Relief

       
      Take deep breaths. Sounds silly, but this is actually pretty helpful. If you tune out the rest of the world for a minute or two and just focus on breathing, you increase the oxygen flowing to your brain. You also provide a small break for your brain to rest and reorganize before continuing with the stressful situation. This is great for social situations when you’re uncomfortable and need a quiet way to cope.

       
      Use essential oils. Essential oils can be smelled, used topically, and some may be consumed (do some research before jumping in to ensure its right for you). Lavender, chamomile, and frankincense are commonly used to help people relax and find calm. I find lavender to be very comforting, so when I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I use a little lotion on my hands and pressure points to help.

       
      Make a list. I love making to do lists. It can turn a pile of paperwork (or dishes, laundry, and vacuuming) into something organized and manageable. Once I have a concise, organized list, my brain is suddenly free from the fear of what I might be missing and can focus again on whatever I’m supposed to be working on.

       
      Long Term Self Care/Stress Relief

       
      Exercise and eat right. You had to know this one was coming, right? Right??? But really, getting your body in motion (even just a short walk or sitting on an exercise ball) makes a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I hate exercise. I’ve never been to a gym. But, walking my dog after work really gets my mind in a good place again so I can be present at home. Endorphins are your friends. Eating right is pretty self explanatory… if you eat crap, you’ll feel like it. Poor nutrition also affects the ability of your mind and body to function. Seriously, just eat something green once in a while.

       
      Pray or meditate. Take a little time to focus your energy towards God or a helpful mantra. Just let yourself be quiet for a little while. This is easier said than done, I know, but if you can make it a habit, your spirit will thank you.

       
      Plan something fun. Have a girl’s night, go on a date, or curl up with your favorite book. Just take a little time for enjoyment! Plan for it and keep that time as sacred as any other meeting or chore you have. If you aren’t taking time for fun, then what’s the point in everything else?

       
      All of these ideas are just that…ideas. There is no magic formula to living a stress free life. What works for me won’t work for everyone. The best thing I can suggest for when you’re feeling blorft like Tina and me (yup, I’m totally on a first name basis with her… she’s my bestie) is to try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else. And once you’ve found what makes you feel better, do it a lot.

    • March 12, 2014

      Basement Project

      Supplies

      Recently I mentioned a project that displaced me from my office area and wreaked havoc on my life for most of February.  I also mentioned that I’d share that project with you.

      So, without further ado, here’s my shiny new basement!

      We went from this:

       

      Before

       

      Ugly-Walls

       

      To this:

       

      Base-Coat

       

      Fireplace

       

      To this:

       

      Full-Wall

       

      Finished-Wall

       

      The accent wall is my very favorite part of the whole room.  I had never stenciled anything before, so I was pretty fearful that it would be a disaster… but I think it turned out pretty amazing.  I had the help of a great friend which made the process bearable and so much easier.

      If you would like to achieve a similar style and aren’t sure where to start, let me advise.
      First, you need the following things:

      • Stencils (two of the same if you can swing it financially)
      • Paint
      • A little roller with a foam pad (not the regular furry pads)
      • Tape
      • A level
      • Your best friend (or at the very least, someone who you don’t mind getting a little up close and personal with)

        Paint-Can

      The first thing you’ll do is pick a spot on the wall to be your starting point.  It doesn’t really matter where, but it is best not to start at a corner or at the ceiling or floor.  You see, most houses aren’t actually square and most walls are really crooked.  By picking a point in the middle of the wall as your starting point, you will create the illusion that your wall isn’t wonky.

      Once you have your spot picked out, go ahead and use that level to make sure your stencil is straight.  Then you can tape it to the wall and start painting!

      When you load the paint roller up with paint, try not to get too much paint soaked in.  We found that loading the roller and then rolling the excess off on paper bags helped immensely.  The rollers worked best when they were a little tacky, not soaked with paint.  If you can, I would actually recommend doing a trial run on another wall you haven’t painted yet or a piece of cardboard.

      Once you have your first stencil down, it’s easy to move along by just matching up the correct points on your stencil.  Smooth sailing until you hit a wall or window.  Then, you need your best friend to bend and hold the stencil up for you against the wall so you can push your roller in and cover wall to wall.  I suppose you can do this yourself if you needed to… but it was so much better with someone else to help and hold things in place!

      So, you just keep after it as best you can and after a while, voila!  There is a beautiful, stenciled wall!

       

      Up-Close

       

      Pro Tips:

      More complicated patterns show mistakes less readily than simple lines.

      Choosing colors that are similar also show mistakes less readily than two contrasting colors.  However, choosing colors that are similar also makes it really hard to see when you’re actually doing the painting.

      Make sure you have really good lighting, it will help SO MUCH.

      Using two stencils helped the process move much quicker than just one would have.  As you paint, some will seep under the stencil and end up on the other side… by having two stencils, we were able to let one dry while we worked with the other.

    • March 5, 2014

      Not Lent

      Flowers

      Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent for many believers around the world.  Now, I am not Catholic and I didn’t grow up practicing Lent, but I really like the idea.  I like the notion of fasting and using your time and energy to focus on God and gratitude rather than on that thing you gave up.  The only problem is, Lent has never really worked out for me.

      Maybe it’s because I never had a community to share in the experience or others to share in the greater connection to God.  Maybe it’s because I tend to find other things to fill that new free time with.  Maybe my dedication level wasn’t up to par.  Maybe I just need something a little different.

      So, this year, I have decided that I want to add something in to my life instead of taking something out.  In an effort to find beauty and gratitude in the day to day, I will tweet something I’m grateful for every day until Easter.  I am also going to follow the reading plan found here.

      My thought is that by making these things a priority, things that are less important will just naturally fall by the wayside.  So, rather than entering into the Lenten season denying myself chocolate and facebook only to replace those things with gingersnaps and pinterest, I’m going to purposefully and intentionally seek God.  Hopefully this plan will be more fulfilling and beneficial to me than my past attempts at Lent.

      However you celebrate the season (and even if you don’t), I hope you find beauty and peace everywhere you look.  I hope spring brings new joy to your heart.  I hope you take a little extra time to smell the roses.