Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sausage Ball Muffins, Faux Ice Cream

Another set of Snack Night experiments!

First I whipped up these Sausage & Cheese Muffins, which are supposed to be similar to sausage balls ~

Sausage Ball Muffins

These were very good, but much more light & bready than the dense sausage ball taste I was hoping for. I guess I'll have to try making real sausage balls one day!

And for dessert I made this faux ice cream I'd been drooling over for a while. Just mix chocolate pudding with Cool Whip & freeze!

Faux Ice Cream

It's toted as a 'light ice cream' if you buy light Cool Whip & sugar free pudding, but I just got the regular versions of both. I normally make pudding from mix, but since I knew I wouldn't be using the whole thing, I just grabbed a 4 pack of pudding cups. After a taste test, I ended up adding all four cups ~ not sure how much that measures out to in actual cups!

I love Cool Whip and chocolate pudding, so I knew I would love this. My husband was skeptical, but he was impressed & agreed it was really good. It came out rich & creamy, just a touch icier than the real stuff. Just make sure to let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before eating because it come out of the freezer rock hard!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Birthday Round-up

This year I mostly got money for my birthday, which is not a normal occurrence! I thought it would be fun to round-up the different things I spent it on to show you some of the stuff I am loving right now.

Besdata Smart Cover, in purple - I watch a lot of Netflix on my iPad while I'm cleaning around the house, and I was tired of having to awkwardly prop the iPad up. So far I'm really liking this $10 bargain cover, and the purple color is lovely (I won't be getting it mixed up with everyone else's!). The back piece also keeps the cover from falling off, which my husband's Apple cover does constantly. My only complaint is that the cover does not magnetically snap to the back of the iPad, but it hasn't really been a problem either.

iPod Nano, 3rd generation, in silver, 4G - I've been wanting an MP3 player for working out or walking around the neighborhood, but it didn't need to be top of the line. I shopped around on eBay & was able to find a 3rd generation iPod for about $30. I've spent the last week going through old CDs & adding them to iTunes, and finally got everything loaded on the iPod last night! I have about 450 songs and it looks like 4G will hold about 600 (not quite the 1,000 advertised).

Pentatonix, "That's Christmas to Me" - Speaking of music, I've been a little obsessed with this 5 person acapella group ever since they won The Sing-off in 2011. I've loved seeing their successes over the years ~ sold out concerts, #12 You-tube channel, and they were even in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade this year! Their Chirstmas album this year is great, but I *really* love last year's "PTXmas".

PTX, Vol. III - All three of their albums are on my Christmas list this year, and I had just enough money left to grab the 3rd volume for $5. Amazon has a cool feature that even let me listen to the album immediately after ordering the CD!

Suburbia - Justin's birthday is 3 days after mine, and we both chipped in some money for a board game. Ever since discovering Catan a few years ago, we have our family & friends high addicted to board games!  If you've only played games like Monopoly or Trivial Pusuit, you are missing out!

Little Big Planet - Now that we finally have a Playstation, ther are so many games to choose from! I'm starting out wirh some oldies like this and Katamari. What are your favs?

Lip balm stain - Lipstick has never looked right on me, but I found out that I can wear lip balm stains. And even when they wear off, they leave a nice tint on your lips for hours! I previously had two Revlon shades, "Honey" (mauve) and "Crush" (deep berry), which run about $5-6 on big-time sale. This time I tried Wet 'N Wild "Rico Mauve", and Jordana "Candied Coral" and "Rockin' Rouge" (red). These only cost $3 each at Walgreens, and I think I like them even more!

Born Pretty Store nail stamping plates - I've ordered studs from this super cheap site before & heard they make some good quality plates too. I picked up 02, 17, and 19 at $1.50 each. Shipping is free, but they do take several weeks to arrive.

And finally, clip on bangs! Girls, you have got to get in on this one. I felt like my haircut could use some bangs, but with little kids I knew I wouldn't be able to deal with the upkeep & they would just be pinned out of the way constantly. Search around Amazon & eBay and for $5 you can get removable bangs in your color, trim them however you want, and even style them with low heat. They even passed my skeptical husband's test once I'd styled mine!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pinky Spiral Manicure

How was everyone's Thanksgiving break? We had a productive, stressful, & also a fun week off. The first weekend the house got a much needed cleaning & we knocked off a few to-dos. Tuesday was my birthday, and my 4 year old helped daddy make me a nice breakfast & drew and awesome, giant birthday card (you can see my toes peeking below it). Then went to visit my grandma, which unfortunately ate up the rest of the day & we had to delay our dinner out.

11-14 Orson's bday card

We alternate Christmas & Thanksgivings with our two families, and this year Thanksgiving was at my husband's side. Our nieces complimented my nail art before, so this time I made sure to bring my stamping stuff and we had a great time stinking up the place, haha. I got them to paint their own base colors & then stamped three nieces, one sister-in-law, and my own nails. We rarely get to see our nieces, so it was nice to bond with them a little!

And it was nice to do a little nail art again! Since Pandora was born I've barely had the time or motivation to paint my nails. In the last year I've probably painted them about a dozen times, and on half of those I did some very minor art (like adding a few dots!). I need to get back to it!

Pinky Spirals Manicure

For the base I used Jessica's "Smitten Kitten" (though I would not recommend the polish, grab a different pink). I covered that with Sinful Colors' lovely "Pink Glitter", an awesome & cheap-o glitter topper. I stamped with Konad special black polish & Cheeky plate CH52. I was planning on stamping just a few accent nails, but the black spirals kind of took over & looked too different from the plain pink, so I stamped them all.

At the end of the break we celebrated my husband's birthday (he's 3 days younger), had some friends over to play the new Smash Brothers game, traded in the Game Stop money I've been hoarding for nearly 2 years & got a PS3 for $3, and I had a good time shopping around online with my birthday money. Now I'm impatiently waiting on the mail & hoping to drag out the Christmas decorations this weekend. The weeks are flying by!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Mad Love" Ambigram Logo

Have you seen the Mad Love shoes at Target? I bought a pair about a year ago & found myself staring at the tag, wondering what the brand name was & why was it so hard to read? Then I realized... it's an ambigram!

"Mad Love" Ambigram (not mine!)

And they do love their logo! You can find it on the hanger, on the tags, on the insole, sole, and even the metal buttons decorating the shoes.

The ambigram could use a little work, but I do still appreciate finding them out in the wild! For one thing, the right side of the V doesn't need to be short to look like an M... the L doesn't need to be disconnected at the top... the O could be rounder. As I was typing this out I couldn't resist making a few tweaks to the photo above to show you what I mean. (Original on top, changes on bottom)

"Mad Love" Ambigram Tweaks

Very small changes, but I find it a lot easier to read. What do you think?

As for the shoes... I'm not a huge fan. They are cute & cheap, but the back on my flats slumped down so that they are constantly falling off my heel. I'm always having to stop & wiggle/jam my heel back in. Very annoying! I'd be willing to try their boots or something if I wore different styles, but I pretty much live in flats or flip flops, depending on the season. ;)

Have you spotted any ambigrams in the wild?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2014 Halloween - Costumes & Food

I've been so busy posting all of the Halloween cuteness on the kids' blog that I'm a little late sharing it here! This year Orson (4 yrs) wanted to be a "pumpkin, with a little pumpkin hat" ~

10-14 Orson's costume, 1

2014 Fall festival, 9

And we re-used his old Ewok costume for Pandora (1.5 yr) ~

10-14 Panda's costume, 1

10-14 Panda's costume, 3

We were sick the two weeks before Halloween & had to re-schedule our party. Luckily everyone was free for the new date! We didn't dress up on Halloween, but did the day after for the party. I don't know if we will bother to next year though!

I dressed as Ariel (Little Mermaid), when she first gets her legs & wraps up in a sail ~

2014 My costume

Reference pic ~

Justin was Heisenberg from Breaking Bad ~

2014 Justin's costume

Reference pic ~

I didn't go crazy with the food this year but made a couple of things. Here are the creepy & delicious Mummy Meatloafs. Here are some general directions, and I used her Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf recipe. Yum!

Mummy meatloaf

I also made these Pumpkin Dinner Rolls that got bumped off of last year's line-up. They were very tasty & cute, but only a few really looked like pumpkins & the rest were blobs. The recipe made a *ton* & we ate these for days! I probably won't make this one again.

Pumkin rolls

Our friends brought over some Bloody Band-aid Cookies ~

Bloody bandaid cookies

And bloody cake!

Bloody cake

Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween! And now we are weeks away from Thanksgiving and multiple birthdays. Yikes!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

KK Slider Pumpkin

This year we all agreed that I should carve my pumpkin with a design from Animal Crossing, which I'm totally obsessed with lately. I decided to carve KK Slider, who should be pretty recognizable to anyone who's played the games before. Based on this picture ~

2014 Carving pumpkins, 6

And here it is alongside my 4 year old's pumpkin on our front steps (drawn by him, carved by dad). I guess little sis & the cat felt left out & decided to jump in the pic ~

2014 Carving pumpkins, 5

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

North Georgia Fair 2014

Last month we made our annual trip to the North Georgia Fair with my parents, in celebration of my mom's birthday. I mostly took picture of the kiddos ~

N Ga Fair '14, 12

N Ga Fair '14, 13

N Ga Fair '14, 16

N Ga Fair '14, 17

But I did lag behind a few times to snap shots of the long trail of colorful sky buckets.

N Ga Fair '14, 2

And before we left I requested a few minutes with the one thing I really wanted to photograph ~ the swing.

N Ga Fair '14, 18

N Ga Fair '14, 19

N Ga Fair '14, 20

I could happily take pictures there all day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Garlic Miso Chicken Wings

I'm always on the lookout for a good chicken wing recipe! This time we tried the Garlic Miso Chicken Wings from Just One Cookbook. If you've never cooked with miso you are missing out. I love that stuff!

Garlic Miso Chicken Wings

The flavor was good, but a little more subtle than I would like. If I made them again I would probably reserve part of the marinade to brush on at the end (or mix up something similar). But I'll probably just keep trying new recipes for the fun of it!

Last week the whole family had a miserable cold and we're still recovering. I lost my voice for 4 days! And cooked a lot of soup. One night my son got a fever, then my daughter got it the next night, so it seems like they caught something else on top of it. A few days later and now she's barfing from a stomach bug... I can't wait for everything to clear up! This is my son's first year at school and he's definitely been bringing something home about once a month.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chicken & Bacon Pastry Pockets & Japanese Custard Pudding

Friday nights we always have a family "Snack Night" and watch a movie. The food is usually an assortment of frozen snacky things that we heat in the oven, but I occasionally use it as an opportunity to try out some new appetizer recipes.

Last week I got a little adventurous & tried two new recipes! The first were these Chicken & Bacon Pastry Pockets from Our Best Bites. Every recipe of Sara's that we've tried has been a resounding winner! Unfortunately we haven't had as much luck with Kate's (2 women run the blog), but about half of hers were keepers too.

Chicken Puff Pastry, 1

I've never cooked with the pastry sheets before & thought they were a little pricey until I saw that they really made a lot of food. Of course the puff pastry crust turned out delicious! I wasn't sure about the 'chive' flavor in the sauce, but nothing was overpowering & it tasted similar to what you'd expect from a creamy pot pie sauce. These were very good!

Chicken Puff Pastry, 2

My one warning about the recipe ~ she said to use 2 tsp. of filling for each pocket. I tried that at first & ended up with about 1/3 of my filling left! I pried open the seams of the pockets & shoved another teaspoon in each one & that seemed like a much better amount. So ditch the teaspoon and just use a tablespoon of filler for these (3 tsp.).

For desert I turned to my other favorite recipe blog, Just One Cookbook. I've been itching to make this Custard Pudding for a while now, especially since they use such common ingredients like milk, eggs, & sugar.

Japanese Custard

Unfortunately every time I try to make anything caramel it ends up a burned mess, and this was no exception. They were not very sweet & would have benefited from the caramel topping, but I had to leave it off. We were not a huge fan of these & found them a little too eggy, but it's always fun to try something new!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Salt & Vinegar Potatoes

Salt & Vinegar Potatoes

We tried these Salt & Vinegar Potatoes as a side recently. The recipe's photo looks so good, but they were *painfully* tart. I'd like to try them again, but next time instead of boiling them in pure vinegar, I'll try half vinegar & half water to see if that mellows them out a bit.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alton Brown's Soft Pretzels & German Pretzel Dip

I came across this recipe for "Obatzer", a German dip for pretzels ("offered in every real Bavarian beer garden"). My husband is a big pretzel fan, but I'd never heard of a pretzel dip before & had to try it right away!

Soft Pretzels with Obatzer dip

We've made soft pretzels in the past, but were not in love with our old recipe, so I decided to try the Alton Brown recipe that she used. It was a real winner! The dough definitely rolled & stretched out much easier than our previous tries & they actually seemed simple to make. I find it odd that mine ended up covered in white stripes, but that is a minor complaint.

My husband liked the dip, but I was not a huge fan. I wasn't sure if it would be savory, sweet, or a blend of the two, but the main flavor seemed to come from the spicy onion. I do like the idea of a dip though, so maybe I'll have to experiment with my own!

By the way, this week I finally cracked open my copy of Animal Cross: New Leaf. Any players out there? We were pretty obsessed with Wild World, and this one is no different! If I get a little scarce around here you'll know that I'm probably out shaking trees or hunting giant island beetles. ;)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pad See Ew

At Thai restaurants I normally order Pad Thai, and I can make a tasty version at home, but I have a friend who swears by Pad See Ew. I did order it once, but the restaurant ended up being a dud & both of our meals were very bland, so I wanted to give it another try some day.

This recipe looked very tempting, so I decided to make it for lunches this week. (Looks like she has lots of other tasty & quick Asian recipes!) Thankfully our new house is less than 5 minutes from an Asian market (angel chorus), so I knew I'd have no trouble with the ingredients.

Chinese Broccoli

The Chinese broccoli was a new one for me! For the recipe she separated the leaves from the stem & then sliced the stem into thin sticks. The leaves were huge, so I ended up chopping them down a bit too. For 4 cups I needed about 3 stalks ~ but keep the leaves & stems separate, because she adds them at different parts of the recipe! The taste was similar to kale leaves and broccoli stems, but with a slight bitterness.

I had previously bought a bottle of "black/dark soy sauce" for Pad See Ew, based on a different recipe. But this one called for "dark sweet soy sauce", so I begrudgingly headed back to the store. I didn't find "dark sweet", but saw several "sweet" & am about 95% sure it is the same thing. I'm glad I ended up buying it, because that stuff is tasty!

Pad See Ew

The recipe turned out great! I didn't really make any changes, other than cooking the chicken longer because I forgot & cut it into bite sized pieces rather than thin slices. Next time I would add 1-2 extra Tbsp. of the sweet soy sauce for a stronger flavor (and darker color). Yummy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spray Bottle Manicure

One of my favorite nail art blogs, The Nailasaurus recently linked to this awesome tutorial video for creating a manicure that looks like a turquoise stone. You drip polish on the surface of water (similar to a water marble manicure), and then spray the polish to create a fun texture. In the video she used spray hand sanitizer, but I had a similar tutorial pinned where they used rubbing alcohol (Check out that link for a quick photo step-by-step). And for my very favorite version, she got an amazing spotty texture by spraying nail polish remover, but I think the change in texture had more to do with the sprayer.

I've had some terrible luck with water marbling in the past, but after that recent video I couldn't get this technique off my mind. All the recent moving, unpacking, and cleaning kept me from painting my nails for a while, but I had to give this a try! I decided to use silver as a base color, black for the details, and sprayed with nail polish remover.

My first attempt was not the best. The only nail I liked was the pinky ~

Spray Bottle Nails, 1st attempt (fail)

I wiped off everything but that one nail  and gave it another go (topcoat over your basecolor helps it come off easy). This time I aimed my nails at the more intricate textures and they turned out great!

Spray Bottle Nails, left

Wow! My favorite nail ended up being the middle finger on my right hand, so I had to include a picture of that. It was not easy to reach the button for this shot!

Spray Bottle Nails, right

Sometimes I ended up getting a very faint gray marbling rather than black, so I just sprayed some more polish & dipped it again. You can see the traces of gray on the ring finger here.

By the way, I tried painting my fingers around the nail with glue like the video, but only had clear Elmer's glue on hand. It didn't peel off quite as nice as she showed, but I was able to rub it off. For the right hand I just taped around the nail ~ much quicker, but more clean up at the end!

I was shocked that these were so easy to do, and they turned out *awesome*. Many times I'll spend forever creating some intricate nail art, and by the time I'm done I just feel "meh" about it. It looks good, but I just don't care anymore! It's been a long time since I've done anything that wowed me like these.