• December 28, 2016

    December Round Up

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    Whelp, looks like I managed to miss most of December, huh?  *sigh*  My goal was to have a homemade Christmas, which we did… but I totally underestimated how much time that would consume!  So, here we are with the monthly round  up and I’ll try to touch on everything we enjoyed this past month!

    dining-room

    nativity

    As soon as Thanksgiving was over (ok, ok, ok… a little, teensy bit before it was really over) I pulled out all of my Christmas decorations and went to town on our house.  And since I felt like we needed a little extra cheer this year, I found a pencil tree to put in our entry way too!  So.  Two trees.  I threatened to put up a third, but lost the oomph to do it.  Ah, well, there’s always next year, eh?

    little-tree

    big-tree

    2015

    Then it was time to get started on my Homemade Christmas goal from my 30 before 30 list!

    ornaments-in-progress

    stitches

    The first craft I started was these beautiful Nordic inspired ornaments.  These became gifts for family and friends and were a lot of fun to make!  We also decorated our own home with them – we tried to stick to a red and white theme this year and they added something really special on the tree.

    cookies

    In addition to ornaments, we gave friends and family Christmas cookies.  I made so. many. cookies.  And I learned how to use a cookie press (I think I need one of my own now…) for Danish vanilla cookies.  Oh, and the bread!  I made eggnog bread  and monkey bread for Christmas morning!  I was in the kitchen a lot this December!  *nods*  So glad my folks took care of us for Christmas dinner!

    crafty-nativity

    Another craft project I worked on was this beautiful nativity.  I’ve always been frustrated that I can’t find a realistic nativity with Middle Eastern people – Jesus was not white, ya’ll!  Anyway, I loved the concept of the silhouettes, so that solved it all for me!  :)  Click here for full instructions and info on where to get the vinyl designs.  The last step is to spray the glass with Frosted Glass spray paint stuff… but it’s been so cold this December, I was afraid the temperatures would ruin the paint.  Next year, it’ll be frosty glass!

    socks

    Another favorite thing I did this month was the Secret Santa at work.  I always get too into it, but it’s really fun to spoil one of the amazing women I work with and let her know how much I appreciate her!  And I’ll admit, I kind of like being spoiled by someone else too!  Anyway, the most hilarious gift I received this year was socks with bandanna wearing corgi’s on them.  So silly – I really love them!  I think Ollie approves too…

    ollie

    I didn’t have a lot of time for things other than all the crazy Christmas shenanigans, so I didn’t really consume much media.  I did make it out to see Fantastic Beasts  and Where to Find Them early in the month and Rogue One the weekend it came out.  I also caught Hairspray Live on NBC and I read one book for book club – Yes Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson.  We stayed home a lot and watched old Christmas movies while I worked on crafts too, so that was fun.

    frosty

    And there you have it!  I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ve got for this month!  Sure felt busier than it looks like it was… but I learned my lesson!  I will start Christmas crafts way earlier next year!  I hope you enjoyed your holidays this year and felt the love of friends and family.  Best wishes for a safe and happy new year – see you in 2017!

  • November 9, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Resort and Luau

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    Did ya’ll remember to vote yesterday?  Did you cling to your tv/radio/social media to follow every second of the tally?  Well I did and I’ve got to say, I am ready for a break from the politics and drama and fear and sadness… I’m ready to go back to Hawaii.  Since that isn’t really possible, though, let me take you on a little trip down my memory lane and you can live a little vicariously through my adventure for a while!

    mermaid

    My friend and I went to Maui and stayed at the Grand Wailea resort.  She was there for a work conference and I was just lucky to get to tag along.  The resort was the fanciest, most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed.  We had a ground floor room with a view of the ocean and it was perfection!

    patio

    celebration

    The first night we were there we went to a luau.   I felt a little strange asking native people to put their culture on display in such a commercial setting, but I did enjoy the dancing and the stories that were told.  It’s amazing to watch!

    hula

    ribbon-dancer

    The second day we had to do some conference things and I didn’t get too many pictures.  It was pretty laid back and I got to touch the ocean for the first time in my life!  It’s so weird to me that some people grow up playing in the vastness of the ocean without a second thought.  I felt sure it would swallow me up if I stayed too long.

    fresh-fruit

    There is a small path at the resort that is lined with trees and plants that are all fruit producing which are maintained organically.  Because of this, you can literally just pick what you like and eat it right off the tree!  So, we had a little harvest party on our walk and a very kind man helped us reach the too tall star fruit.  It was glorious!

    gf-fried-food

    Another day we were there, I dragged my friend to a dedicated gluten free restaurant where I ate way too much.  I haven’t had fried food in 10 years… so this was amazing and horrible all at the same time!

    hula-statue

    I hope you’re enjoying my pictures and stories.  Check back next week for more of my trip!

  • September 14, 2016

    Tabbouleh Inspired Quinoa Salad

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    Now that summer is winding down and fall is nearly upon us, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with this simple, hearty meal.  Using tons of veggies right out of the garden with a little quiona and feta… this has to be one of the best things I’ve come up with so far!  And the great thing is, you can use this alone for a lunch or light dinner or you can serve it alongside a nice steak or pork chop!  It’s easy, versatile, and super healthy… what more could you want?  *grin*  I hope you love it as much as I do!

    Tabbouleh Inspired Quinoa Salad Recipe

    By Erin Published: September 14, 2016

      Now that summer is winding down and fall is nearly upon us, I've gotten a little obsessed with this simple, hearty meal.  Using tons …

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. suppliesGather Ingredients.
      2. Cook the quinoa (Rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then put in pot with 2 cups water (or 2 cups broth if you prefer) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat at let stand 5 minutes.)
      3. Cook the edamame according to the packaging and cut the other veggies.
      4. When the quinoa is done, add the edamame, chickpeas, tomatoes, green onion, parsley, mint and feta to the pot. Toss to combine.
      5. 4. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and toss until combined. Season with additional salt to taste if desired.
        yum
    • July 6, 2016

      Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

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      I’m an emotional eater.  I always like desserts, but I especially crave sugars when I’m sad or stressed.  I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream lately, partly because it’s been rough going for a while and partly because my recipe is delicious.  I’m experimenting with new and different flavors, but if you want the tried and true, all-American vanilla, here is my favorite recipe:

      Supplies

      1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream

      1 pint Half and Half

      1 cup Sugar

      1 Tablespoon Vanilla

      Toss it all in your ice cream maker, following the instructions for your device, and wait.  My ice cream maker requires that I combine the ingredients and chill in the freezer before starting.  Once it’s chilled, I can transfer it to the ice cream maker bowl and turn it on.  After it’s done, I pour the ice cream into a new storage container and then freeze it for a while to set.  Yours may be different, but it’s pretty easy-peasy!

      Pour

      If you want to add pieces of fruit or chocolate chips or whatever, you can do that when you transfer it into the storage container – just make sure to stir it up well enough that you don’t end up with everything on top or bottom.  I think you can also add it while the machine is stirring, but double check what your machine requires.

      Yummy

    • May 4, 2016

      Infused Water Recipes

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      If you are anything like me, you struggle to drink enough water every day.  And if you are like me, this next piece of information is going to blow. your. mind.: the old idea of 8, 8oz glasses of water every day is bunk.  It doesn’t take into account your height, weight, activity level, or anything!  A 100lb woman who works out for an hour every day won’t need the same amount of water as a 300lb woman who never works out, or a 300lb woman who does work out every day.  Makes, sense, right?

      So, how much water do you actually need to drink?  To find out, take your weight and multiply it by 67% (or .67) and the total is the number of ounces you should drink if you are not working out or spending the day in the sun.  So, if you weigh 130lb… 130x.67=87… 87oz of water every damn day!

      For reals.  And that’s just the base level – you should drink another 12oz for every 30 minutes you work out!

      When I learned this, I about died.  I mean, I don’t drink that much of anything in a day, let alone just water!  It felt so insurmountable at first that I almost gave up before I even tried.

      But then I didn’t.  I didn’t give up.  I tried really, really hard for longer than I care to admit and finally reached my goal water consumption!  I defiantly don’t hit it every day, but I’ve changed some habits and made water a priority, so it’s way better than it used to be.  To help me reach that goal, I tried lots of different things, one of which was flavoring my water like they do in fancy spas.  Mmm… fancy water.  Here are my two favorite water flavor combinations:

      Strawberry Cucumber Basil Water

      Strawberries

      • 1/2 sliced cucumber
      • fresh basil leaves
      • 5 strawberries, sliced

      Strawberry-Water

       

      Ginger Pear Water

      Pear-and-Ginger

      • 1 sliced pear
      • fresh ginger

      Pear-and-Ginger-Water

      Let ingredients mingle for a few hours and enjoy!  Hopefully having fancy spa water will help inspire you to drink more water and actually enjoy it!

    • March 16, 2016

      Easter Eggs

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      Dying eggs is my most favorite Easter tradition and reminds me of quality time I had with my mom and a good friend of ours while I was growing up.  I don’t remember how my mom’s friend got involved, probably because her boys had outgrown the tradition, but she became an integral part of our celebration.  It has now been years since I last dyed an Easter Egg, but it’s such a beautiful tradition, so I decided to learn a little more about the history behind it all and try my had at naturally coloring some eggs!

      My research has shown me that, like Christmas, many Easter traditions were borrowed from pagan celebrations and repurposed into something new.  Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth, so early Christians adopted them as a symbol for Christ’s resurrection.

      Understanding the coloring part of the tradition is a little less obvious as there are many different theories as to how it all got started.  Some believe eggs were decorated simply to beautify them in celebration of Lent coming to an end – eggs were not allowed during Lent.  Other’s believe Mary had eggs at the crucifixion and Jesus’ blood dripped on them – coloring them red – and so we color eggs red in remembrance of his sacrifice.  Other legends claim that Mary had the eggs with her and they miraculously turned red when she saw the risen Christ or, alternatively, when she told someone he had risen and he replied that Christ had no more risen than her eggs were red, so they turned red.

      Whatever the historical reason, I enjoy the tradition because it reminds me of home, of simple joys, and of familial closeness.

      Now, on the “show” part of this little show and tell!  *grin*  Because we try to eat cleanly and don’t buy dyes or foods containing dyes, we were determined to try and color some eggs naturally this year!  I didn’t have the time or desire to test lots of different recipes – frankly, I don’t even really like hard boiled eggs all that much – so we’re going to try good old Martha Stewarts recipes out and see what happens!  *grin*

      We decided to try to achieve pale yellow, light blue and chartreuse for our eggs.  There are a lot of other colors that require different ingredients and techniques listed on the website, so I would encourage you to check it out!

      Following the instructions given, we simplified them a bit and came up with the following:

      Pale Yellow: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons turmeric to a boil.  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

      Turmeric

       

      Light Blue: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 4 cups chopped cabbage to a boil (add more water and vinegar in their correct proportions if needed to cover the cabbage).  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

      Cabbage

       

      Chartreuse: Use the dyes already used for pale yellow and light blue.  Soak eggs in the turmeric dye for 30 minutes and remove.  Then, place in the cabbage dye briefly – about 5 minutes.

      Coloring-Eggs

       

      Eggs

      Pro Tip: When removing the eggs from the color, pat them dry with a paper towel – don’t rub!  If you rub too much, the color will come off!

      Expect a bit of variation with your eggs.  I don’t know what makes the color stick or not stick, but some defiantly turned out better than others and they were all done the same.

      Cabbage, turmeric, eggs, and vinegar all stink, so try to plan your egg dying time for when you can have an open window!  Otherwise your house will stink and everyone will wonder what kind of mess you’re making for dinner!

      I hope ya’ll give this little project a try!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the colors and how easy it all actually was.  Way more interesting and fun (as an adult at least… though, you could totally turn this into a mini science lesson for your kids) than the little kits you can buy!

      Easter-Eggs

    • March 9, 2016

      Greek Salad with Lamb

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      Sometimes you just need an easy meal that is healthy and quick, you know?  That’s not an easy combination to come up with, so I end up making my go-to easy meals kind of a lot.  I’m ok with that, especially with this Greek salad recipe!  The lamb makes it hearty enough for dinner, but the veggies keep it fresh and crisp.  I especially love this meal after a good work out at the gym.

      Greek Salad with Lamb Recipe

      By Erin Published: March 9, 2016

        Sometimes you just need an easy meal that is healthy and quick, you know?  That's not an easy combination to come up with, so I end …

        Ingredients

        Instructions

        1. ComponentsGather Ingredients.
        2. Cook-it-upCook ground lamb and season with oregano and dill.
        3. Greek-SaladFill bowls or plates with lettuce, top with cooked lamb, feta, olives, tomatoes to taste. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!

        Pro Tip: If you can’t find lamb or it’s too expensive, you can substitute ground turkey.  Or, for a more traditional and vegetarian option, leave the meat out altogether!  Just toss the oregano and dill with the lettuce and you’re golden!

        Pair with a yummy glass of pinot grigio or merlot and you’ve got yourself a classy meal that you can really impress your friends with!

      • February 10, 2016

        Romantic Fondue for Two

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        Ready for something really fun?  And easy?  And romantic?

        *grin*

        I really love fondue and am so excited to share my favorite cheese recipe with you!  This is a pretty basic one which is nice because you can totally add different seasonings, spices, and dipping ingredients depending on what you feel like doing and what you have on hand.

        You’ll need a fondue pot – we use an electric one similar to this and it’s been great!  I like that we don’t have to have an open flame at the table and that we can raise and lower the temperature easily as we cook and eat.

        I hope you have a romantic evening soon where you can enjoy this delicious meal.  If not, though, you can totally make this for a group of girlfriends too!  I mean, it’s mostly cheese and who doesn’t like cheese?  ha!

        Romantic Fondue for Two Recipe

        By Erin Published: February 10, 2016

          Ready for something really fun?  And easy?  And romantic? *grin* I really love fondue and am so excited to share my favorite …

          Ingredients

          Instructions

          1. IngredientsGather ingredients.
          2. Cheese-and-Corn-StarchCombine cheeses and cornstarch together
          3. Wine-and-SpicesPour wine and spices into fondue pot and heat over medium heat until bubbling
          4. CheeseStir in cheese - stir continually until melted to a smooth consistency; Lower heat to as needed to prevent burning while still keeping the fondue warm
          5. Dip desired foods into the cheese mixture and enjoy!
            Fondue
           

          Pro Tip: My favorite fondue dippers with this cheese are: granny smith apples, grapes, broccoli, and artichokes. 

          Keep an eye on the cheese so it doesn’t over heat and burn to the pan.

          Since you only use 1 cup of the wine, be sure to get one you really like so you can break out the fancy glasses and drink the rest!  This is a romantic meal, after all!  ;)

        • January 27, 2016

          Setting up a Gluten Free Kitchen

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          When we moved into our new home, my hubby and I discussed what to do in the kitchen to keep it safe for me to eat.  Previously, we had shared everything for both gluten and gluten free foods but, given the opportunity to start fresh with a brand new, squeaky clean workspace, well, we couldn’t pass it up!

          kitchen1

          Now we have taken the following steps to clean up our act and run a completely gluten free household:

          Step 1: Get rid of gluten containing food products from your pantry and fridge.  Sort through everything and either throw out or give away any foods you can’t eat.  This is a great opportunity to check expiration dates and get rid of old food at the same time.

          Step 2: Sweep away any crumbs or flour that may have collected in the pantry and fridge as well as the floor.  If you are using the same appliances (fridge, microwave, oven, etc.), deep clean everything the best you can.

          Step 3: Replace old, glutened up cookware and utensils.  When sorting through items to keep or be rid of, consider the following questions as it applies to each item:

          1. Is it made of porous material (wood, plastic, cast iron, stone, etc)?
          2. Are there chips or scratches in the surfaces where gluten can hide?
          3. Is it possible to clean every nook, cranny, and hole to rid it of gluten?

          Some common gluten catchers that you’ll definitely want to replace include:

          • Wooden and plastic utensils
          • Toaster, Bread Maker, etc.
          • Pots and Pans – especially non-stick and cast iron (replace with stainless)
          • Colander
          • Pizza stone
          • Cutting Boards, Rolling Pins
          • Cookie sheets
          • Cleaning supplies – sponges and brushes

          It is ok to keep glass, ceramic, and stainless steel cookware as long as you carefully clean it out with hot, soapy water.  We kept our pyrex storage containers, but got rid of the plastic ones and bought new lids for the pyrex.  We also replaced all of our cooking spoons, pots and pans, colander, cutting boards, and toaster.  Our bread maker was already only used for gluten free breads, so that got to stay!  :)

          kitchen3

          Step 4: Once you have your new gluten free kitchen set up, keep up on it!  Keep gluten foods out of your space as much as possible and don’t allow your new supplies to be used for those kinds of foods.  Clean your kitchen and appliances completely and frequently.

          kitchen2

          Now that  you have everything set up, you can look forward to feeling better and being healthier than ever!  Keeping gluten out of your home won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort to maintain your health!

        • December 30, 2015

          Christmas in Our New Home

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          Moving is hard, ya’ll.  Know what’s harder?  Moving right before Christmas.

          Oh. Mah. Gawd.

          Fortunately, I can tell you that we did survive and managed to have a nice Christmas and everything on top of it all.  We even managed to host a Christmas/Housewarming Party complete with homemade cookies!

          But certainly you aren’t here to hear about my struggles.  I know what you are really here for: pictures!  So, without further ado, here is what Christmas in our new home was like:

          I love getting hand written cards!

          I love getting hand written cards!

           

          Deer

           

          Flowers from my in-laws.

          Flowers from my in-laws.

           

          So much food!

          So much food!

           

          And, of course, an owl!

          And, of course, an owl!

           

          I hope you all had a wonderful, exciting Christmas and find yourself feeling very blessed in the new year to come!