Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday: Recent Recipes

Last week I was able to double two recipes for freezer meals. Since they both made two dinners already, that brings our total up to 6 dinners that we’ve put aside in two weeks!! I can’t believe we were able to freeze a week of food that quickly.

I was really surprised how cheap & easy it was to double these meals. The first week groceries were slightly pricier than average, but last week we spent a normal amount, even with 4 extra dinners! Assuming things re-heat well, I definitely want to keep this up in the future.

Spaghetti Casserole

Baked Spaghetti Casserole, with roasted kale (2 dinners, pictured above) - The casserole was doubled for one of the freezer meals. My plan was to line one of two casserole dishes with plastic wrap so I could freeze it & then remove it from the dish. Later, when we were ready to bake it, I would remove the plastic wrap it & pop it in the same dish to let it thaw...

Unfortunately I remembered this plan about two layers in, so I went ahead and finished layering both dishes and then dumped one casserole into a freezer bag. No big deal ~ it doesn’t really matter if the layers are mixed, but I was curious to see how well the plastic wrap removal would go! (Don’t forget to leave out the French Fried onions to add on later)

Stuffing & Spinach Bake - plate

Turkey, Spinach, and Stuffing - We made this recipe using the “Cream of” substitute, and I also seasoned the turkey a bit (salt & pepper) and threw in a little shredded Mozzarella that we had in the fridge. It’s always seemed a little dry to me, so I was hoping the extra liquid from the mix and the cheese would help with that, but I think we’ll add in some extra water next time around.

Chicken Taco Soup

Cheesy Chicken Taco Soup (2 dinners) - This one was also doubled to make 2 freezer meals and it was a super easy one! We sauteed twice the chopped onions and then removed half of them to a freezer bag. Then as I was adding the other ingredients, I just had to dump one in the soup pot & one into the bag. I added everything to the bag except for the water, which we’ll add when we are ready to cook it. Then we just need to throw everything in a pot and bring it to a boil, cook for 6 minutes, then serve with the cheese & chips.

Bunny Rolls

Need a last minute Easter idea? My bunny rolls from last year are super easy to make!

Bunny Rolls, 5

I'd hoped to make a batch early enough to post new step-by-step pics this year, but it looks like I'll just be making 3-4 batches today. So many bunnies!

Bunny Rolls, 6

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Peeps Manicure! With Tutorial

Well, I'm a day late posting my manicure, but work has been eating up all of my time lately! This week I have some Peeps nail art, which is so easy to create with nail dotters!

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial (nail dotters)

1) The first step is to paint your nails with some fun Easter & Peeps colors. On my thumb, middle finger, and pinky I used Claire's "Candy Shop" for some sugary goodness. I've got Orly "It's Up to Blue" on my pointer finger and Color Club "Wild at Heart" on the ring finger where I will be adding the nail art. Clean up the edges, add your topcoat, and let dry.

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 1

2) Now grab your nail dotters (or make your own). I'll refer to the sizes as XS, S, M, L, & XL.

You'll also need some Peeps colors. Yellow tends to be very sheer, so I'm laying down a white base first. Draw a line with your S dotter to add two little ears at the top of each nail, about 1/3 the height of your finished Peep.

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 2

3) With the XL dotter, move right & left to create an oval shape for the head.

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 3

4) Then create a large oval for the body by moving the dotter around in a circular shape until the dot is large enough.

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 4

5) Here I layered my yellow (Color Club "Daisy Does It") over the white. You can either carefully color over the shape with the nail brush (mistakes with the sheer color won't show much), or draw it in with the nail dotters like before. I also added a shimmery color over the pink to help it match a little better (I have no good pinks!).

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 5

6) Using a dark brown or black, dot on the eyes and nose with the XS dotter. Let it dry thoroughly before topping with topcoat & you are done!

Peeps Nail Art Tutorial, 6

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday: Getting Things Done

Lots of plans lately, but little time to do them! Last week I ~

♦ Did some Easter crafts with Orson! First we made some sheep by tracing his hand print on black construction paper, cutting it out, and gluing on cotton balls, ears, and google eyes. (They did something similar in church nursery a while ago, just tracing the hand on normal paper, & gluing on cotton balls, not cut out.) I squeezed on the glue & he stuck the cotton balls down.

Orson Handprint Sheep '13

Then I printed out these bunny shapes from on colored construction paper (cut down to standard paper size). I cut out the shapes and did the glue again while Orson did all of the placing. Originally I had only printed two, but Orson asked to do another one right away.

Orson Easter Bunnies '13

♦ Bought Moroccan oil to help my hair's frizziness. Had this recommended forever ago, but did not really look into it until I noticed some coupons. So far... not really impressed. I might notice a slight difference right when I put it on, but no more than a brushing would do, and before long it's back to normal. I'll keep using it for now & hope that it helps over the long term (and it's hard to judge right now, when I've got weird pregnancy hair).

♦ Put together the new red cabinet and re-arranged our kitchen shelves, pulling out items to store in there. I searched many stores online looking for some totes/bins to fit on the shelves, but I'm not having much luck. I did discover that our diaper boxes are the perfect size, so I've got everything arranged in those boxes for now (and worse case, I can cover those with fabric if I have to!).

♦ Prepared to hang my nine 8"x10" frames on the wall above the cabinet, which you can see here and here at our old place. I found some large paper, taped it to the wall, marked the center, and then hit a snag.... I can't find the frames anywhere! I've checked the garage & basement, but no luck yet. Hopefully Justin can find them this week.

♦ Bought a travel bed for Orson. He's too long for his play-yard (playpen) now, so we picked this up last minute before staying overnight at a friend's house. Thank goodness he loved the new bed and slept good that night! It was a great price, and it folds up pretty small!

♦ Started my freezer meal experiment. 2 meals down, many to go.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday: Recent Recipes

No new recipes this week, but I have begun to experiment with freezer meals! This week we made...

Polynesian Chicken, 2

Polynesian Chicken (2 dinners, pictured above) - We also doubled this meal to freeze (for 2 more dinners). I actually cooked the two batches separately because this one is nearly overflowing in the pan, but it cooks so quick it was no problem. We poured it into a freezer bag (spread out flat in the freezer) and will make fresh rice the night we re-warm it.

► Lemon-pepper salmon with pan fried Asparagus & (instant) wild rice mix - 'Oily' fish is so good for the baby in the 3rd trimester!

► Grilled hamburgers with (frozen) steak fries & green peas (2 dinners)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday Manicure: Shamrocks

For a St. Patrick’s Day manicure I started with the blinding brilliance of Kleancolor’s “Metallic Green”. The plan was to stamp some wispy curls topped with some dark green shamrocks, but the curls got covered up too much.

Shamrock Nails

The curls were stamped with Bundle Monster plate BM-225 in Pure Ice “Silver Mercedes”. The Kleancolor polish tinted the silver to a golden color, as we’ve seen before. I then used some nail dotters to add the shamrocks with China Glaze “Agro” ~ one dot for the center and then four dots around that to create the clover. I also added a tail to each with the smallest dotter, but you could easily leave those off.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday: Getting Things Done

This month has been crazy busy so far, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down! It's exhausting. At least I think I'm finally over the terrible cold & just back to my normal allergies (and extra congestion from the pregnancy). Anyway, this week I...

♦ Pulled out the gumpaste and made some mints! The gumpaste was not too hard or dried out, but it did take a while to warm enough in my hands. After a while I threw it in the microwave for 5 seconds to speed things up! I love the combination of vanilla & mint, but it's so hard to find that flavor anywhere, so I've resorted to making my own candy a few times. I warmed up a chunk of gumpaste about the size of an egg and mixed in a few drops of vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract.

I rolled out the dough and attempted to use normal sized straws to punch out the mints, but they are WAY too tiny! Microscopic. I'm not sure how she used a straw to punch these out, because mine just stacked up inside of the straw with no way to remove them. I gave up on the straw pretty quick & cut the dough into tiny squares instead.

Vanilla Mints, 1

The results were mixed. The flavor was pretty good, but you could definitely taste the lemon juice in the gumpaste. Next time I will try adding in a lot more of the extract to try to cover it. After the recommended 2 days the mints were somewhat crunchy, but still not dry enough. In spite of those two things I kept snacking on them, so they didn't last more than 2 days around here anyway! I will definitely make these again, and have enough gumpaste left for another 2-3 batches.

Vanilla Mints, 2

♦ Made a full batch of the “Cream of” soup mix. This time I left out the pepper and halved the bouillon ~ we'll see how it goes!

♦ Printed out a couple of St. Patrick's Day coloring pages for Orson. He had fun with one but has not been into coloring as much, so I asked him if he'd like to glue on the picture instead and he was excited. I tore up strips of green tissue paper and we decorated some clovers.

♦ Made a green dinner for St. Patrick's Day, along with some punch and shamrock straws.

♦ Bought some storage! Target had two of the cabinets I wanted on sale last week, and luckily I had a ton of orders coming in. We bought two of these large "pantry" cabinets ($10 off) for craft storage in the basement. Later we'll probably buy a third, or 1-2 of the shorter version, but I wanted to fill these up first & see what we need. These were in-store only and a pain to get home in our tiny car!

I was also able to get this gorgeous red cabinet for some extra storage in our kitchen. Luckily they were re-stocked online so we didn't have to head back to Target. The cabinet was $30 off on sale with free shipping, which was awesome enough, but I also found a $5 off coupon code online and had a $5 gift card from buying diapers there before. It should be here tomorrow!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday: Recent Recipes & St. Patrick's Day Dinner!

No new recipes last week, but a couple that we've only made once & I had no photo of. Last week we made...

French Dip Crescents

French Dip Crescents with roasted Brussels sprouts (2 dinners) - These are so incredible, I can't wait to make them for a get-together! This time I grabbed two packs of lunchmeat only to discover that the bottom one was pastrami and not a 2nd roast beef! We made one type each night, and the pastrami ones were still good but not quite right for the dipping sauce. I'll probably type this up in My Recipe Book soon, mostly to combine the Au Jus sauce & crescents into one recipe.

Spicy Tuscan Soup

Spicy Tuscan Soup (2 dinners) - The picture doesn't do this one justice ~ I'll have to try again! I actually made this soup last week for lunch with my visiting mother-in-law, then realized we had nearly everything to make it a 2nd time. I did not mind eating it again so soon!

We always talk about how it would be fun to create some traditions for the smaller holidays, so I wanted to do something fun for St. Patrick's Day. Last year we made Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies & swore we'd do it every year after that, but Justin recently brought home some fundraising cookie dough and I'm already chocolate-chipped out! This time I thought it might be neat to have an all-green meal... something I'm sure older kids would enjoy, but I think Orson was still a little too young to find it funny.

Green Tortellini Casserole

Tortellini Casserole (dinner with guests, serves 4+) - The plan was to make this tortellini & spinach casserole with green tortellini, but the grocery store had few options. At that point it was too late to change plans, so I added a few drops of green food coloring to the creamy sauce to give it a light tint.

The tortellini also came in a pack about 3/4 of what I needed, so the casserole was much smaller than usual. I sent Justin out for some last minute sides & he came back with salad (yay green!) and garlic bread (eh, there were green specks?). Of course Orson had no interest in any of it, but he loved the...

Shamrock Punch

► Shamrock Punch - After dinner I mixed 4 cups pineapple juice with 4 cups Sprite and a pack of Lemon-Lime Koolaid for a fun, green drink. I got the idea for the shamrock straws here ~ there are no directions but you can probably figure out how to make them! Orson was very excited about the green juice & fun straws.

Salt & Pepper Shrimp Rice Noodle Bowl

Salt & Pepper Shrimp Rice Noodle Bowl

Whoops! Just found pictures for the Salt & Pepper Shrimp Rice Noodle Bowl that I posted about last week. The sauce was a very pale yellow, and very tart, so I added extra brown sugar to help give it a little color. While I was not a huge fan of this one, I will say this was very similar to a noodle bowl I had at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

7 Months

I gave my nails a week off so I have no manicure to share today, but I do have a new baby belly pic! Saturday I hit the 7 month mark, and last week was 30 weeks, so we've reached some nice milestones recently.

7 months (Pandora)

And my last 7 month belly pic to compare. I think I look a little larger this time, but I haven't gained nearly as much weight!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday: Getting Things Done

This week we did a lot of much-needed cleaning for a visitor, and I finally caught the miserable coughing cold the boys had a week or two ago. Unfortunately I was not able to tackle too many projects on my list, but I did get some researching and shopping done. This week I...

♦ Tried 2 new recipes and made an old favorite with the "Cream of" substitute

♦ Organized my jewelry drawer, mostly just straightening up Orson's mess! I need to go back and put rubber bands around all of the boxes for earrings, bracelets, etc. to keep him from opening them and dumping everything into a big pile.

♦ Made gum paste! I made a half batch of Cake Central's recipe (subbing light corn syrup for glucose) with the hope of turning it into these mints from One Good Thing by Jillee. It's been in the fridge a few days now & I'm afraid to check on it! (worried it will be all dried out) Fingers crossed!

♦ I forgot to post about this before, but a few weeks ago I tried roasting a spaghetti squash, following Childhood List's recipe. We love roasted Butternut squash, and most of the winter squashes, but I wasn't too fond of this one. The 'noodles' were a little crunchy, which makes me think it didn't bake long enough, so I may give it another try.

♦ The big accomplishment of the week ~ we saved all of the money needed for our medical deductible! (for the upcoming delivery) Now we have 2 more months to get a few things for the baby and the house before we lose my salary for a year.

♦ With that out of the way, I started shopping around Craiglist for a nice, white crib. I used to love pinning items from Craigslist on a private board so I could see the pictures, prices, and other info all together, but now Craigslist always gives me errors. Currently I have to throw together a webpage for that ~ annoying, but worth it.

♦ I've been scouring eBay for nice, small lots of baby clothing & have already found some awesome stuff! So far I've bought about 25 items for about $1.50-2.00 each. (I also picked up some larger warm PJs for Orson since he's growing like a weed.)

♦ I've gone over our recipe list & marked lots of meals that we might be able to freeze. Last time we had people bringing meals for 3 weeks after the delivery and it was a bigger help than we had imagined! Now that we're in a new city I don't think we'll be quite so lucky, so my goal is to double several of our meals over the next two months and put away half in the freezer.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday: Recent Recipes

This week we tried 2 new recipes, and tried the "Cream of" soup mix substitute in an old favorite ~

Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger Soup (2 dinners, pictured above) - This was *really* good, but a bit too rich (and in no way good for you). Next time I will probably use ground turkey in place of the beef and mix the flour with water instead of butter (which will cut out 3 Tbsp. of butter!). I may also use shredded cheddar in place of Velveeta because I'm not a big fan of the taste.

Salt & Pepper Shrimp Rice Noodle Bowl (1/2 recipe for 1 dinner) - Not bad, but not really what I was expecting. The sauce was like a light citrusy vinaigrette, while I prefer something a little thicker & sweeter. I did like the way everything was layered though, so I may try a new sauce if we make it again. As for this time, we made a few minor changes (dried herbs instead of fresh, red pepper flakes in place of chiles), and Justin has banned fish sauce from our house after a few bottles leaked (fish sauce smells like... I can't say that here).

Chicken Merriam with roasted kale (2 dinners) - Once again we used the "Cream of" soup substitute & noticed no difference! Now I need to make up a bigger batch of it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday Manicure: Black Knight Dupe with Starbursts

For a long time I've been hunting for a black polish with a little something extra to it. I had a nearly empty bottle of Sally Hansen "Black Diamond", black with a subtle silver shimmer, and I thought it would be fun to find something similar with multicolored glitter. It ended up being a long hunt...

When I saw Sally Hansen Insta-Dri "In a Flurry", I thought 'perfect'! It also happens to be a rather cheap polish, but I checked one drugstore after another with no luck. Then Pure Ice, a *super* cheap polish, came out with "Five-some". Even better! I checked a Walmart or two but never found any.

Black Knight Dupe with Starbursts (Cheeky)

Then I read that not only was "Five-some" actually a dupe (copy) of Butter London "The Black Knight" (a pricey one!), but you can easily make your own! Just mix the Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear "Rockstar Pink" that I posted before (about $4) half & half with a cheap black polish & you've got a match! I'd been eying that pink for a while already, so now I have two lovely polishes for the price of one.

In person the polish mostly looks black with a glittery shimmer of pink, teal, purple, and a bit of red ~ not quite as bright as in my photo. I stamped my nails with Pure Ice "Silver Mercedes" and Cheeky plate CH46, but didn't want to hide all of that pretty polish. I left my ring finger and thumb un-stamped and just dotted a row down the side of each nail to tie everything together.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday: Getting Things Done

This week I...

► Made the "Cream of" soup mix & tried it in a recipe.

► Tried the multi-purpose cleaner ("Cure-all") I mixed up last week. I did a lot of Googling first to make sure all of the ingredients would be safe to use on counters & then gave the kitchen a good cleaning. I really liked it! There is a slight chemically smell while you are using it (it doesn't linger), but I did leave out the essential oil which would have probably helped with that.

The most impressive thing I noticed ~ normally everything I use to clean our black stove leaves streaky marks behind, but it looked great with this cleaner. Even when I wiped up some spills with water later, it did not leave as many streaks behind. It also easily removed some hard water build-up in the bathroom.

► I also bought the Ace Hardware Stainless Steel cleaner that my aunt recommended for our fridge (she cleans houses, so she knows what she's talking about!) *Finally* I was able to remove all of those grubby fingerprints and the lines that the protective plastic film left behind (it was a brand new fridge). All that is left is the faintest trace of the worst fingerprints, but even if those never come off, I'm a happy camper!

► Got a lot of work done in the nursery! Or should I say the office/sewing room/storage/train table playroom that we are slowly emptying out to make a nursery...

GN baby clothes boxed

First I went through the last boxes of clothing in Orson's closet and clearly labeled some boxes for his too-big and recently outgrown clothes. There was a giant bag I'd set aside for a future consignment sale, but since we've moved I think it's headed for Goodwill (minus a few pricier items I'll sell or give to friends). Then I went through all of the gender neutral clothing I'd pulled out for the baby girl and sorted it all by size. I was able to fill up separate boxes with each size which are now labeled & in her closet (pic above).

With one trip a day I finally finished moving all of the craft stuff from that room to the basement. Most of the things left in there are larger items that Justin needs to move and/or go through (desk, file cabinet, etc.). Justin and I both worked in there a little this weekend ~ I went through all of the baby 'stuff' and separated it by age (newborn vs. eating solid foods) and reorganized the closet while Justin sorted through old electrical cords and moved out a few big things. There is still a little more to do in there but it is nearly empty!

► Edited the new set of eBay pics (mostly nail plates), figured out prices, and typed up all of the descriptions. Everything in this batch is ready to list this weekend (I like to list things on Saturday).

► Labeled the cords at my desk (computer, printer, etc.) ~ how did those sneak by me before? I didn't notice it until Orson climbed under my desk & out the back chasing our cat and something got unplugged ~ It took me a while to figure out what it went to!

► Typed up a file with all of the numbers on my cell phone. It was an embarrassing hassle when my phone died last time & I lost all of those! I also wrote down Justin's cell # and stuck it in my wallet in case I have an emergency somewhere & and am without my phone. We never use his phone so I definitely don't have that one memorized. (Of course his phone is usually off, or dead, or out of minutes, or left at home when I do try to call him, so I'm not sure how much help that will be!)

► And best of all ~ thanks to the tax return we were finally able to replace our stolen DLSR camera! I bought this red beauty along with the awesome & cheap portrait lens I had before and it all came super quick. I am so excited about all of the new advances & features this one has for the same price we paid a few years ago ~ it even shoots HD video! (Thank goodness you don't have to listen to me whine about the stolen camera anymore!)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday: Recent Recipes

This week the new recipe we tried was a "Cream of" Soup mix from 1 Orange Giraffe. My husband was not thrilled that it had to be heated up first to thicken (not just dumped in), but it did not take long and you know it's cheaper and probably healthier than buying a can! Personally I'd rather have a big batch of this stuff ready to go & not worry about picking up a can at the store. (One batch of this mix should make about 7 cans worth)

"Cream of" Soup Mix

I tried it out in the recipe below and it was so good! I was a little unsure how the mix would work work since the soup in the cans is thicker and about 1.25 cups while this makes nearly 2 cups, but the sauce in the finished recipe did not seem unusual and tasted as delicious as ever! The only difference I did notice was a slight peppery flavor from the mix that this recipe does not usually have. Since it's not normally in the soup (and our recipes often call for a certain amount) I think I'll leave it out next time.

► Ritzy Casserole Chicken with Roasted Broccoli (1 dinner + lunches) - Our recipe is similar to this one but I layer 1/2 crackers, chicken, sauce, crackers, and then butter. And of course this time we subbed the "Cream of" soup with the mix above!

► Chicken & Rice Soup with grilled cheese (2 dinners) - I followed the on-the-fly soup recipe I made with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving but used cooked, shredded chicken this time. Very good!

Chinese Roast Chicken with Coriander Rice with Roasted Green Beans (2 dinners) - Based on this recipe but multiplied enough to make 10 drumsticks. Orson *loves* this recipe!

I also made Chicken Mei Fun for lunches again. I've been slightly tweaking it here & there & it is getting pretty good!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Musical Gender Confusion

Several times recently I've been enjoying a song, then was shocked when I glanced at the video & discovered the lead singer was the opposite gender of what I imagined. "Oh, she has a lovely voice.... wait, no. That's a guy?!?" I was able to remember a few of these songs & posted the videos below so you can have fun guessing - guy or girl?

Warning - I could only find the normal video for the first song, so look away if you don't want to see the singer before you guess. The bottom two videos just show the album cover artwork througout.

Have any similar songs to share? There's always the classic Danke Schoen, but at least that was a boy!