Thursday, August 14, 2014

Working Girl

I am definitely not Melanie Griffith, I'd probably be closer to Joan Cusack's character, but I did get a job! I decided a blog post would be the easiest way to let everyone in on the good news, and it's a pretty cool story.

Brian is past his retirement requirement (say that 5 times fast!) and he is starting to see the light at the end of the deployment tunnel. He still isn't quite sure what his next adventure will be after the Air Force, but there's time to figure that out. We have also been having a few serious financial discussions, that combined with a future pay reduction had us thinking it was time for me to start bringing in an income as well.  I still want to be a SAHM and be there for my guys as much as possible, so nothing too crazy!

My first step was joining Jamberry nails as an independent consultant. I love their nail wraps and my nails haven't been naked since last fall!
I get a ton of compliments on them and my nails now grow like crazy and hardly ever break. If you are interested in checking them out you can go here

I knew that was not going to be enough right away to make the mortgage so I started creating my resume, searching online job sites and asking for prayer. One of my friends at church knew there would be a job opening soon and kept me posted. When the job became available, I met with another friend (who currently holds that job) to get the low-down. It would be perfect! Working with people I already know and like, minutes from the house, part-time.... well, almost perfect.... you see, it is working for the music director at our church, and I can't read music. At all. Completely illiterate. Everything else I was certain I could do, and I started asking how much of the job entailed music knowledge. I was encouraged that I could learn and that I would have help - but ultimately, an assistant tries to make life easier and I wasn't sure that was what I would be doing.

The very next day, after discussing the job responsibilities with my friend, I received a facebook message from another friend in my church fellowship group. She saw I was looking for a job and asked what I was looking for. I told her what my past experience was in and what I'd been doing lately and that I basically was after a part-time office gig.

We continued messaging back and forth, I then called her the next day so we could chat - what she is looking for is exactly the job I was wanting!! She is an audiologist and has been running her practice all on her own. Answering phones, scheduling, filing claims, everything that keeps an office running - but she's also the doctor! Talk about some serious multitasking skills. I described my 6 years working in the medical insurance field (although it's been awhile), doing customer service, claims benefits, all the things it entailed that would fit right into doing what she's needing so she can spend more time with patients and her family as well.

The best part... she is so incredibly nice! We have known each other for quite some time, went on mommy dates, and prayed for each other's families. I think we will have a great working relationship and I'm excited to have her as my boss. Not only does the job match my skills, but it is also part-time. I got a carpool set up this week for the kiddo, so by the time I officially start he will be used to the routine. Wow! It's so incredible to watch God work when you trust in his timing and allow him to handle the details!

Now, He just needs to find Brian a job!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wandering around pinterest and this post about "Tricky People are the New Strangers" popped out at me. So I followed the bunny trail and read the article. It is pretty good, you should read it. The comments following will drive you batty though, so I will warn you about that.

Basically it is an article explaining to parents why teaching your child "not to talk to strangers" just doesn't work. I completely agree. We never have given that advise to AJ as he needs to talk to strangers all the time and often it is us as parents encouraging him to do so.

As he is getting older he needs to gain the confidence to speak up when needed. We encourage him to ask questions, be assertive - that means speaking to strangers often. We have stopped ordering for him in restaurants, he is the one who needs to ask if he can make substitutions or ask for a refill. When travelling last summer we went through a drive-thru and our order was wrong. I gave him the receipt and sent him back in to get it fixed. It's a little scary for him at times, but he gets better each time and is proud of himself afterwards.

We also use times when we are out to teach manners. Not just please and thank you, but things like looking people in the eye, speaking up and not mumbling, asking others questions about themselves and really listening, holding the door and looking for ways to help someone else. The Boy Scouts call it "do a good turn daily".

These things don't just occur naturally for everyone, some need more practice than others for it to feel natural. So, look for opportunities everywhere and let your child feel a little uncomfortable every now and then. It's the stretching of their wings before they fly!

Friday, May 23, 2014

It's Summer! - Part three

Part of my summer that seems inevitable is the phrase "Mom, I'm hungry." Over and over and over and over..... you get the picture. Now, I have a boy, he's nearly 11 years old and I get that filling him up takes some doing, but here is a conversation that takes place multiple times a day -

AJ: Mom, I'm hungry.
Me: You just finished eating.
AJ: I know, but I'm hungry
Me: What do you want?
AJ: I don't know. What can I have.
Me: Fruit, string cheese, yogurt, carrots.... Goes away for 2 min ...
AJ: Can I have chips?
Me: No, you already had chips today
AJ: So what can I have?
Me: Fruit, string cheese, yogurt, carrots... Goes away for 4 min ...
AJ: Do I have to have one of those?
ME: Then what do you want????
AJ: Can I have dry cereal?
Me: You already had cereal today....
AJ: I guess I'll have some fruit. ... Goes away for 2 minutes...
AJ: Mom, can I have an apple?

AAAAGGGHHHH! Every. Single. Day. Over and over. So, I came up with something that I'm hoping will help us both end this cycle.

I did some research online for the recommended daily servings in each food group for an 11 year old boy. I grabbed a stack of colored index cards: red for protein, green for vegetables, purple for dairy, yellow for grains, and blue for fruit. Each index card represents one serving, listed on one are the examples of what is a serving is for that group. On others I have post it notes to list what we actually have in the house that would be a serving.

So now, I can take away the cards for what I'm planning for dinner, he makes his own breakfast and lunch most days and will take away the cards for these. The cards that are left will give him a better idea of what he should be eating for snacks. If he is picking something off of his cards and isn't duplicating something he's already had that day - he doesn't need to ask me!

Ahhhh, I can already hear the silence! Of course, we're not there yet. It will take awhile of us working together for him to be comfortable with serving sizes, combining groups togethèr, and knowing what food goes into what group.

I want to be clear, this isn't a diet. He's not watching his weight, counting calories, etc. He is allowed to not eat all the servings, or to eat more if he is hungry. This is just a learning tool so he can have a visual clue of what he should be eating daily and to try to introduce more variety! He forgets that he has more options than chips and cereal.

I also didn't include desserts, candy, sweets, drinks, etc. He's allowed them on occassion and can ask for them - but he doesn't need a constant visual reminder!

I hope this idea resonates with you if you are in the same situation. Use it as a jumping off point and tweak it until it works - then leave me a comment and let me know what's working for you!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's Summer! - Part two

I posted our summer schedule here, but now am expanding on a few things we have planned.

Part of AJ's schedule is a Daily Project. This could say "mom's daily project" because it's him helping me with whatever I want to get done that day. I have plans to go through closets, cabinets, rooms and declutter. Our laundry room needs a major clean out as does our small shed. Going through AJ's clothes and bookcases for stuff to donate. Lots of jobs that he can help with!

Another activity listed is Be Creative. Here are a few ideas of what we'll be doing:
Make abandon art (see below)
Plan and create a RAK (see below)
Make art for the hallway
Write a letter to mail
Create postcards to send
Plan a sleepover party
Science projects
Learn a new recipe
Get a learn to draw book and practice
Take pictures - scavenger hunt
Paint a project
Learn a new game

For our Be Active catagory we planned things for both at home and out and about. We are going to try and incorporate a RAK ( Random act of Kindness) each time we head out.

RAK ideas:
Hide $1 bills around the toys at the $ store
Tape ¢ to gumball machines
Gift for our mail lady
Gift for abus driver
Hand out homemade blessing bags
Hand out lottery tickets
Take a treat to our dentist office
Hand out flowers
Hide toy treasures at a playground
Tape popcorn to a redbox machine
Take crayons and coloring books to ER waiting rooms

Be Active ideas:
Wii fitness
Bike, scooter, skateboard
Night hikes
Library - Bookmans
Walk the mall
Picnic at a park
Water fight
Zoo, museums
Kidnap a friend
Chalk neighbors driveway
Abandon Art

Abandon Art comes from a group I belong to. You make original pieces of art (book markers, jewelry, clay figures, just about anything!), then when you are out you leave them for others to find. They are tagged with a card letting them know it is free and to take it or leave for someone else to find. The tag has a website where others can log in that it was found!  We plan on doing this when we go out as well, hiding book markers in library books, leaving items in bus stops, etc.

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas of fun things to do this summer. I'll be reporting back on how we are doing periodically! If this has inspired you to have a fun idea, please share in the comments. Thanks!

It's Summer!!

Today was our last day of 5th grade, so AJ's summer schedule begins tomorrow. We mostly based this on last years schedule since it seemed to work, but added a few things. AJ does so much better when on a schedule, I get asked a lot fewer questions and he knows what to expect.

We don't have a set wake up time unless we have somewhere to be. The morning part of the schedule is accomplished before lunch, his "break time" depends on how long he sleeps in and how long his morning activities take.

Make bed
Breakfast & 1\2 hour show
Personal tasks (dressed, teeth, etc.)
Dishes - unload dishwasher
Journal & writting practice - 20 min
Reading 30 min
Math skills 10 min
Fix lunch
Walk Cookie
Check recycling & trash
Daily Project
Quick pick up
** 1 hr Break**
Weekly chore
Be Creative
Be Active
Dinner prep
**Break until time to start dinner**
Feed Pets
Dishes - load dishwasher
Personal tasks (pajamas, teeth, etc.)
Read 30 min

His weekly chores this year are: Doing his laundry, cleaning his bathroom, picking up dog messes, dust and sweep, cleaning the microwave, etc.

The next post will be our ideas for the Daily project, Be Creative and Be Active! Stay tuned!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chicken in the Crockpot

My friends and I have been ordering boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Zycon foods for sometime now and we love them! Instead of adding another 10 bags of chicken to the shelves we are trying out some freezer crockpot meals. Most of them say to thaw for 24 hours before adding to the crockpot but I think it's mainly just to make getting the ingredients out a little less tricky.

None of these are our original recipes - we troll blogs and Pintrest looking for the ones we think our families will like and this is just an easy place to store them. If you see yours and want a link back to a blog or pin just let me know!!

We'll continue to add to the list and make notes as we try these out. Feel free to comment and leave more recipes!

Honey Sesame Chicken

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish

Combine everything but the garnishes in a ziplock bag. Freeze.

To cook, thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Place into crockpot and cook for 3 1\2 hours on low. Remove chicken and shred, return to crockpot and cook an additional 1\2 hour.  Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

Maple Dijon Glazed Chicken

1 1\2 lbs chicken
1 cup dijon mustard
1\2 cup maple syrup
2 T red wine vinegar

Combine in ziplock and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in fridge. Cook in crockpot at low for 8 hours.

Chicken Cacciatore

1 lb chicken
1 26oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped

Combine in ziplock and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in fridge. Cook in crockpot at low for 6-8 hours. Serve over noodles.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

1 1\2 lbs chicken
1 16oz bag frozen broccoli
2 - 16oz jars Alfredo sauce
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 4oz can sliced mushrooms, drained

Combine in ziplock and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in fridge. Cook in crockpot at low for 4-6 hours. Serve over Fettuccini noodles.

Mandarin Chicken

4 chicken breasts, chunky
1 bottle BBQ sauce
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1\2 red bell pepper, diced
1\2 green bell pepper, diced

Combine in ziplock and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in fridge. Cook in crockpot at low for 7 hours. Serve over rice.

Cilantro Lime Chicken w/corn & black beans

1 1\2 lbs chicken
Juice from 2 limes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 16oz bag frozen corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1\2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drain and rinsed
1 tsp cumin

Combine in ziplock and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in fridge. Cook in crockpot at low for 8 hours.

Slow-Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken

1 lb.  boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
2 Tbsp.  (1/2 of 1-1/4-oz. pkg.) TACO BELL® Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Tbsp.  flour
1  each green and red pepper, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup  frozen corn
1-1/2 cups  TACO BELL® Thick & Chunky Salsa
2 cups  hot cooked long-grain white rice
1 cup  KRAFT Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese
2  green onions, sliced

TOSS chicken with taco seasoning and flour in slow cooker. Stir in vegetables and salsa; cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).

STIR just before serving. Serve over rice topped with cheese and onions.

Italian Crockpot Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 Italian dressing seasoning packet 
1/2 cup water
1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
2/3 cup water
Enough rice to feed whoever is eating.

Place chicken in a crockpot and season evenly with Italian dressing.
Add the water and let cook on low for at least four hours.
When chicken is cooked all the way through, shred with a fork or in a mixer - just something to get it shredded.
Place back in crockpot and add cream cheese, chicken soup, and water.
Mix thoroughly and let sit for another 30 minutes.
Serve over rice.

Teriyaki Chicken

Medium to large bag of mini carrots
Red onion in large chunks
2 large cans of pineapple chunks, undrained
4 garlic cloves
4 chicken breasts
1 cup teriyaki sauce

Split between 2 bags and freeze. Cook on low 6-7 hours, adding additional sauce if needed. Serve over hot rice.

Shredded Chicken and Stock (I also cook this while I’m throwing other meals together)

4 large chicken breast
2 large onions, sliced
3-4 large carrots
4-5 stalks of celery
salt & pepper as desired

Chicken Tortilla Soup

-4 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts, not frozen
-1 can diced tomatoes (not drained), 14.5 ounce
-1 can black beans (drained), 14.5 ounce
-1 small onion
-2 Tbsp minced garlic
-1 cup frozen corn (or a 14.5 ounce can of corn will work too) – we buy our corn in the summer when it is really inexpensive from a local farmer and freeze it.  So, I just cut the corn off the cob and use it which is why you see whole cobs here.  If I didn’t do that I would just buy frozen corn or use canned.
-1 jalapeno, finely diced (vary to taste – this will be a little bit spicy – about medium heat.  If you like mild food start with 1/2 jalepeno).  You can also use canned jalapenos if you don’t have fresh on hand.
-2 limes, juiced OR 2 Tbsp lime juice (fresh will taste better)
-1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (dried will work if that’s all you have on hand)
-3 14.5 ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth (Note: this will make a relatively thick soup – if you want your soup to go a little further you can add an extra can of broth and make it slightly thinner but a larger batch)
-salt/pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp sea salt)
-Sriracha sauce to taste – just because everything tastes a little bit better with sriracha :)  (I used about 2 tsp)

Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Icelandic Souvenir

10 years ago...

The most important day of my life was the day I found out I was pregnant. I know most people may say the birth of their child is an important day, but that event was almost anti-climatic when compared to just one week earlier. You read that right, I found out I was pregnant one week before giving birth. I had always thought that only happened to teenagers in denial, but not to someone like me. I was over 30 and intelligent and I had just seen my doctor a month before, wouldn't he have told me I was pregnant?

My husband, Brian, and I were living in Iceland. He's in the Air Force and we were finishing up a three year tour and were sad to be leaving. Iceland is gorgeous and nothing like what most people imagine. Brian and I had already been married for almost 10 years and although we had been trying to get pregnant were told we would need lots of help to do so. We decided to put the idea out of our minds while living overseas and away from our families.

It was our last weekend on the island, we wanted to go sightseeing with friends one last time. Our desire was to visit one of our favorite waterfalls, Seljarlandsfoss, it is beautiful and you can walk behind it looking out from behind the cascading water. I was carrying both a video camera and our friend's four year old daughter, it was muddy and I didn't want her to slip. I was so miserable. I couldn't breath and felt completely out of shape. I had just been to see my doctor a month prior to this, complaining of tiredness, backaches, weight gain and swollen ankles. He had done a blood workup and determined I did not have diabetes or a thyroid problem. He advised me to lose the extra weight as he felt that was the root cause of all my other problems.

After getting back to the vehicle and complaining of my out of shape condition my friend asked me if I would take a pregnancy test. I laughed and said that I had just been to see the doctor and I'm sure they would have mentioned it. She persisted saying it was just a hunch and I finally caved in. The next morning I woke up and took the first test of the double pack she had bought for me. I read the results and didn't think I had done it right, I'd tried the direct to stick method and felt that there hadn't been enough contact, so the results were inconclusive. I waited an hour and then tried again. This time I tried the stick in a cup method making sure there was enough contact between the liquid and the tester. This one couldn't be denounced by operator error – it was definitely positive.

I was stunned. Well, I thought, that certainly explained a lot. I still had no idea how far along I was though. I called the base hospital and pleaded with them to come in on a Sunday and do an exam to see if I was in fact, pregnant. I was leaving the island the next weekend, headed out on a plane and back to the states. I'd be on vacation without medical care for over a month. They were so understanding and we headed right in. I had spoken to our friends and everyone was now placing bets as to how far along I was; first trimester with twins, second trimester, triplets...

Once at the hospital they were preparing me for an ultrasound when the doctor asked to do a visual exam first. My old doctor had already left Iceland and was now stationed elsewhere. With her next words my entire life changed. “Well, you are dilated to about a 4, my fingers are touching your baby's head, and you are having a contraction as we speak”. Is that what that was? That had been happening for a couple of weeks now, I thought I just needed to use the restroom – but then nothing would happen. Once I was finally hooked up to the ultrasound I was introduced to my baby. Not just the little blurry peanut shape ultrasound that everyone claims they can see is a baby, I was looking at a big baby head in profile! The best part was that it was father's day, I handed the ultrasound picture to Brian and while crying said “Happy First Father's Day”.

More tests were to follow. The measurements taken lead them to believe I was 39 weeks pregnant. “How far along is that?” I asked trying to divide by 4 to figure it out in months. I was told a normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, but because I was so far along it was too hard to know for sure. Because of the contractions and my lack of prenatal care they want to keep me longer for observation. I was laughing and crying at one point when my nurse came in asking me why I was making his monitors so erratic. Between the tears and hiccups I cried “I can't have a baby, I haven't read any books yet!”. He laughed and promised me this was something he could help me with. He came back with two books, one in each hand. The first, he read out loud “What to Expect When You're Expecting”. That one he threw over his shoulder and out into the hallway, sending me into more laughing hiccuping fits. The second one, “What to Expect the First Year”, he handed to me “I'd pay particular attention to the first chapter”, that chapter explained the process of delivering a baby.

This observation was followed up by an ambulance trip to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I had more tests and more consultations with Icelandic doctors to determine if I was actually ready to deliver. My contractions had stopped and they were considering letting me go back home. During another ultrasound an Icelandic technician was training another technician from Denmark. They were speaking English so when they were describing what they were viewing, and worked their way to the baby's sex, there was no mistaking it - we were having a boy! They were worried that I had wanted to be surprised and they had just given it away, “you can't surprise me anymore than I already am!” I laughed.

This is just the exciting beginning to our wonderful story. Our son, Alexzander, decided to hang in there for another week. I was briefly able to enjoy being pregnant without worrying that something else was terribly wrong with me and all indications were that the baby was just fine as well. In the meantime, we made tons of phone calls. Our families were so happy for us, although we were sad to be missing Brian's sister's wedding. We had to contact several military agencies making sure that they knew not to kick us out of military housing and off the base quite yet. We had shipped off our vehicle already and were living with only our two suitcases. We were told we'd be staying for an extra two months for our son's passport, thankfully between the baby gifts and borrowing from friends we had enough stuff to see us through. Alexzander decided to come one week later. The next Sunday morning my water broke and later that night I had a c-section. He was a perfectly healthy 8 lbs. 6 ozs. 20 inches long.

I've learned so much from this adventure. I now trust myself more and listen to my own instincts. I do not rely so much on intellectual knowledge, whether from a book or from a professional. I am also more open to the unexpected and the unplanned, knowing that something amazing could be just around the corner - a true miracle from God. I left Iceland with the best souvenir I could have ever imagined.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Advent Calendar

Happy December!! Did you think I had abandoned my blog? Me too. I have a lot to catch up on, but today I wanted to show you our new advent calendar!

I have gotten tired of the ones filled with small chocolates, and the Lego one we did last year, while it was a huge hit, was really expensive. I came across a picture on pintrest of this simple design and decided that I wanted to force my friends invite my friends to make them with me! The four of us got together the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to put them together and finished them just in time for December 1st. The days are all different for each of us of course, our families are all different - but that is what is so great, it is easily customizable to one child or multiple, boys or girls, gifts or activities, etc.  I'll post my calendar below.

The largest part of making this advent is the clothespins, I wanted them to be red and not have the hassle of trying to decorate them with ribbon or paper. I came across another pintrest post about dying clothespins using Rit dye. Perfect!

I wanted to make sure the clips came out red and not pink, so I used the whole box. Might have been overkill, but why not.
I used the directions for heat setting - first submerged all the clips in water, they float, so just make sure you give yourself enough room to stir. Then added the dye to two cups of boiling water to dissolve completely before adding it to the pot.
I cooked them at a low simmer, stirring every 10 minutes for 30 minutes. Making sure the ones on top spent time on the bottom to get the full dose.
This is about half way through the process - I read that they would dry lighter than when wet so I kept going for the full 30 minutes.
I laid them out on top of a few layers of both plastic and paper grocery bags to dry. They look great, my spoon was sacrificed for the process. :0)

We got together and painted the wooden bases, the glue gun worked just fine attaching the clips and rubber stamped on the numbers. A little distressing made it all come together!

Each day has a kid's Christmas joke included ....
Day 1:  Go look in your closet for something warm and green (a new green Christmas hooded robe to wear)
Day 2: A small caramel filled chocolate santa
Day 3: Go look in the coffee cupboard for a special treat (new mug and special marshmallows for cocoa)
Day 4: Let's have some fun by candlelight (a new game and a small sugar cookie scented candle)
Day 5: Let's buy a gift! (Money and a star pulled off the giving tree at school)
Day 6: Stickers
Day 7: Let's make ornaments to say thanks to those that help us! (ornament materials)
Day 8: Let's go shop for Christmas present for Mom (Street Fair that day, $ and Dad will help)
Day 9: Fun treat
Day 10: Light up Reindeer nose - to be used for the church's Christmas program
Day 11: Let's Whisk someone a Merry Christmas (Whisks and decorations to place on neighbor's doors)
Day 12: Let's go shop for your Teacher! ($)
Day 13: Caramel filled chocolate Santa
Day 14: Today we'll build a house (treasure hunt to locate gingerbread house supplies)
Day 15: Let's take Dad to the Movies! (Candy and tickets to the Hobbit)
Day 16: It's time to fill Santa's Sack and write a letter! (Writing supplies, special treat)
Day 17: Lego toy
Day 18: How can we bless someone? (List of ideas, $, small gifts to give away, etc.)
Day 19: Let's bake cookies for your class (Christmas sprinkles)
Day 20: Get ready for the Reindeer! (Special tube of glitter for Reindeer food and lego toy)
Day 21: Let's go shop for Dad's Christmas present ($)
Day 22: It's the Grinch's Night! (Movie & will have special green treats :0)
Day 23: Your new ornament is ready for the tree (ornament for this year)
Day 24: Christmas activity of your choice before going to look at Christmas lights (new CD to listen to)
Day 25: It's Christmas! (treasure hunt to one of his gifts)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August wrap up

August was so busy with back to school at the beginning of the month, cub scouts starting back up, working on the PTA newsletter again, a new Sunday school curriculum to prepare for - I felt I didn't have much time to do a whole lot of artsy stuff. But I did manage to work in a bit! 
 This is a new journal I made that I'll soon be working in. Here is a quick look at the inside pages:
I love that not only are they colorful, but they are all different sizes as well. I learned to put this together from a Letter Love class I'm taking with Joanne Sharpe.
I need to get in and work in it, I want to be caught up for her next class on Markers which starts the end of this month.

I also joined an ATC swap and made these four ATCs based on my favorite color:
I completely forgot to take a picture of my envelope swap exchange that went to South Africa! Oh well. And although I haven't finished this piece of jewelry yet, I did make another anklet:
One of our Color Bonus Lessons had us making tape, and I sort of went crazy! There will be more on this later if you'd like to learn more:

and finally... I made another ATC with a food theme:

Anyone know the movie that quote is from? One of my favorites!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Charming, as always

Do your remember this post about My Charms? I joined my first altered charm swap and made three general sets of charms and two Halloween ones.... well I got the swap back and am amazed at the talent and the variety I received!

Three sets of general charms:
Two sets of Halloween charms:
Aren't they wonderful? Some of them were even packaged so well I almost hated to remove them from their packages. Here are a few I took pictures of:

Those beautiful tags and charms above are from the swap host. You can check out her blog Ink Stains  to see all the charms from all the artists and even sign up for the Christmas one if you are so inclined!

A few things I learned from my first charm swap:

  • Packaging is the first thing you notice, make sure it is worthy of your creations.
  • Charms shouldn't be too big, or too small. You don't want others to feel like your charm is the centerpiece just because of it's size, but you also don't want one so small that it gets lost in a group.
  • Longer is better than wider. A little length gives interest in a group, width just crowds out the charms of others.
  • The back is important. Charms spin and move, the front isn't always what's going to be showing. Make your backs pretty as well.
  • Make sure your attacher (yea, not a word, but it should be) works with the swap you are joining. Some charm holders have small holes and while a jump ring or lobster clasp may work great, beads and unusual clasps will make your charm hang funny, if it is able to be attached at all.

All in all, it was a hugely successful swap. I had fun, learned a lot, received some amazing little works of art and am ready for the next one!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Confetti Breakfast Muffins, Confetti Tortellini Soup and One Hour Bread

I let you in on a secret... Confetti is a code word when I am cooking. It means "everything but the kitchen sink". As in; the refrigerator is full of things needing to be cooked, or things that have been cooked and need to be eaten immediately (leftovers). So rather than telling my family that I have no idea what I am doing, I just need to use up everything in some manner - I call it confetti. It sounds better than "Everything but the kitchen sink muffins" anyway. More festive.
So, I started these breakfast muffins with a dozen eggs, about 1/4 cup of milk, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. The rest is optional and just depends on what you need to use up. These have a generous cup of shredded cheddar cheese (generous as in it was probably more like a cup and a half). Then I had some veggies leftover from an appetizer I made (I threw the leftovers in the freezer)- bell peppers, green onions, broccoli, cauliflower. So I thawed those out and added them. I also had 1/2 of a grilled pork chop and 1/2 of a piece of steak. Those got chopped and added as well. I thought I had some bacon bits in the fridge, but couldn't find them so stuck with what I already had. This was all mixed together and divided into 20 muffin tins. 
Be sure to spray your tins with non-stick spray, no liners! Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until everything is set and browned.
Two makes for a satisfying breakfast. They freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave. I like mine topped with green chili sauce. Yum

Confetti Tortellini Soup
This recipe started because I had a pound of Italian sausage and a refrigerator in desperate need of clearing out (I'm seeing a pattern here!) The peppers and onions were pretty much a given. I browned the sausage in some olive oil, drained it leaving just enough oil/grease for the peppers and onions. I added a some fresh garlic as well. Then I went searching... a bit of kale, a few mushrooms, roma tomatoes, some leftover chicken and roasted cauliflower, fresh oregano that was looking pretty dodgy ... it all was then thrown into the pot. I started thinking of using it as a pasta sauce, but another look through the fridge and I had about 1/4 cup of beef broth and 1 cup of chicken broth that was getting ready to expire. Oh, and a package of fresh spinach. I started thinking of Italian wedding soup which has rice in it. I went searching for rice but came up with a small bag of cheese tortellini noodles. Perfect. Those were cooked up and tossed in with a bit of herbs from the cabinet (some basil, thyme, onion salt, bay leaf, parsley). It smells good and everything is coming together nicely.

At this point Brian comes in to see what I am doing. I was about to admit I had no idea and then I exclaimed it was "Confetti Tortellini Soup". He did a quick taste test and it was deemed a success! Until he asked me about the bread.... he knows I don't make soup without bread! I pulled out a one hour bread recipe and went to town. Everything was done just in time to pick up the kiddo from school and then pack up the Hubby and send him off to work. Whew. 

One Hour Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

5 1/4 cups of flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons quick-rise yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
2 cups warm water

I use my kitchen aid to mix, but a bread machine on dough cycle or by hand would work too. Mix all the dry ingredients together until blended. Incorporate the liquids. I slowly pour them into my mixer while it is going on a low speed. At medium speed blend together for 5 minutes. Pull out the dough and form into two large loaves. Let rise on greased baking sheet for 25 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees. After bread has risen, cut in slits and then bake for 25 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

Hope you enjoy! What kind of "Confetti" recipes have you tried?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Peridot and Garnet, Beads on a String

If you saw my last post you know I'm back into jewelry making mode! I had so much fun making my Butterfly Kisses Anklet that I started looking for a new project. 

The last time I was in CA visiting my folks I went to this great antique store with my mom. One of the things I found was some beads in a little baggie, the original piece of jewelry had broken. I loved the colors and knew it would be fun to reconstruct something.
I dumped the bag into a hole on my bead board and just started playing. Included was a large round metal bead, and a clasp - I just had to go from there.

I started by placing the large metal bead onto the center mark, then spacing out the larger garnet beads. Then placing the small garnet beads and the peridot beads to break it all up. Last were the small metal balls and finally the metal flower spacers. 

I just keep moving and arranging until I get a pattern I like that uses up the materials available. I have no idea though what my final piece is going to be. So I string what I have with a beading needle and thread, keeping it all together until I decide. (It is no fun to accidentally knock a bead board to the floor, trust me)
It ends up making a single strand necklace that would be about 22 inches. But what do you think I should make with it? 

Help me out folks! A single strand necklace? An anklet, bracelet and earrings to match? A multi-strand bracelet?? Thanks in advance for any ideas you have!! Comment below and then check back later to see what it ends of becoming....

Oh, and these are the birthstones for August (peridot) and January (garnet).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Butterfly Kisses Anklet

I need a new anklet. I wear mostly capri style pants all year long and am almost always sporting an anklet. I know from experience if I want one, I need to make one. If I were to buy one, it would last about a week and then I'd have lost it or would be fixing it. Why? Because I will wear it until it falls off my body. I wear it to bed, with long pants, in the shower... it'll need to stand up to a lot of abuse.

I realized I have been ignoring my jewelry desk for quite some time. Mostly because it was buried under piles of stuff I was busy with other fun stuff, but now I am ready to play. This is my unorganized jewelry making cabinet that I'm only a bit embarrassed for you to see..
and the edge of my jewelry desk with my tools on it:

Time to get to work! (This is not a tutorial, by the way. I'm not opposed to doing one if you'd like to see it (comment and let me know), but this skips a lot of how-to steps and just assumes that if you are here to follow along you already know basic jewelry making skills and where to buy supplies. It's more of a documentation of my process. Going from "I think I want to make this", through the planning and creating stages to the finished project.)

I pulled out my box of chains. I recycle old chains from jewelry I no long like or that has been broken, but I also have new chains in here as well. 
After rifling through it, I find some old chains and links that I think I might want to use:
I end up putting back the chain at the top. Too delicate for what I am needing. The larger chain on the right is not long enough, but if I add in the links on the left, it will work.

Now to come up with an idea. I usually go through my stashes of stuff and look for a focal point. Either a unique bead, a charm, or just a color scheme. I have been into butterflies lately and decided to make that the focal piece on my anklet. I find one large butterfly charm, and two smaller ones. I grab some beads in colors that make me think of butterflies and my bead board and start planning.

I usually make my anklets around 9 inches long before adding the clasp. Bead boards are great because of the markings and the grooves that hold everything. The large butterfly is in the center and then I space out the links and charms, knowing I'll be filling in with pieces of the chain I pulled out.

I use wire to make connections for the charms and to add beads to the design. I like to do wire wraps on both the charms and when connecting it to the anklet, it is so much sturdier than just a jump ring attaching it. These will only come off if the metal is worn through.
Cute right? (please ignore the Cheetos bag in the background :0) It looks great, measured it and it fits - but it's a bit boring. I wanted more color so decided there needs to be more beads and more dangles - a dozen should do it.
I won't tell you how long it took me to attach all the dangles, mostly because I don't know for sure - but the sustenance I'd gotten from the Cheetos was long gone.  
TA -DA! It's done! It looks pretty good on, however I can't get a good angle taking a pic of  my own ankle so you are just going to have to imagine it. Thanks for visiting, I hope you had fun seeing into the process. It was fun getting back to my jewelry... anyone need any earrings or anything??

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back-to-School Supplies

Photo credit:
I love back-to-school time, mostly because my favorite things in the world are now on sale! Paper, pens, art supplies!! Oh, the smell of a fresh box of crayons (the big crayola box with the built in sharpener, obviously!). 

I belong to a fabulous yahoo group where we discuss almost everything and every Tuesday one of the gals posts a Tuesday Ten to get us thinking, writing and discussing. This week it was back to school supplies and so I thought I would also include my list here for you all. I know I am not alone in this obsession, so please - comment below and let me know what your favorite back-to-school supplies would be! 

If you were starting back to school now (as an adult or as the child in your mind), what 10 things would you need  to feel ready for success.  

1. I'd have to start with a cool messenger bag with room enough to hold everything I needed, everything would be easily found and not get lost at the bottom and it would be virtually weightless despite the 20lbs of stuff I put into it.

2. My new wardrobe with be fairly monochromatic, ultra stylish and comfortable. It would make me look thinner and younger and I would always have quirky jewelry and accessories, such as scarves and a hat. A really great hat.

3. I would have wonderfully new transition glasses with a gorgeous frame and the right Rx.

4. A new netbook with all the bells and whistles and a gigaload of memory and never runs out of battery life. Purple or blue.

5. My iPhone would be loaded up with tons of great music, lots of helpful apps, and emergency numbers (kinda like phone a friend on that Millionaire game) people would be categorized by their expertise. Shakespeare, call Cheryl. Math, call Dave. Science, call Rick or Maria.

6. New art journal with pages already mostly prepped so I can pull it out and write down thoughts and quotes at random. 

7. This lunchboxIn the larger size with customizable magnets to spiff it up and the cool carrier.

8. A mo-ped or something similar. Easy to get around, great on gas and can park anywhere.

9. Lots of new pens in every imaginable color - the all write beautifully on any surface, never smear and never bleed through. Oh, and never ever would run out of ink!

10. New notebooks, binders - all with unique tabs, dividers and colors, every type of paper imaginable (graphs of every size, lined and unlined, parchment, etc.) 

11. 50 more IQ points :0)

I discovered after posting this to the group that I am not the only one who considers a crayon completely useless once it has broken or the wrapper has come off. A box with a color missing is also no longer good and needs to be replaced! (okay, as an adult I am now better and will use pretty much anything and even recycle broken crayons  - but the child in me cringes and cries.) My brother would purposely make me cry by breaking his own crayons. He was never allowed near mine! Yes, my poor mom had to buy us our own boxes.

I moved on from my crayon obsession (kinda) and moved onto pens. Oh, how I love pens. Trying to find that perfect pen. The color just right, how it glides across the paper, the weight of it in your hand, the ink that doesn't smear, bleed through or feather out. It is a lifelong pursuit. I love stationary stores that have isles and isles of pens in all various rainbow colors out on display and little pads of paper to try them out. I knew my friend Toni and I were soul sisters when we wandered into a wonderful such place in Iceland and spent what felt like hours trying out each and every pen they had. Such a satisfying way to spend an afternoon!

I'd love to continue this post, I could go on for hours - if you are still reading - Thank You!! Instead I think I'm going to head out to our local Hallmark store and see if they got any new pens in that I can try out. :0) You wanna come with me, I'll only be a quick minute... ha ha ha ha ha

Monday, August 13, 2012

Secret for a Happy Marriage

Brian and I will hit our 20th anniversary next year. I am going to give you one of the secrets to our happy marriage. Not the biggest secret, or the flashiest, but an important one, none the less.

Multiple Clocks

"How can having multiple clocks lead to 20 years of wedded bliss?" is what you are currently asking yourself. I'll try to explain.

Brian and my view on telling time is very different. Fundamentally different. I grew up in a house that was stuffed with clocks. My parents collect them. Friends from my childhood could tell you stories of my ticking house. There were clocks everywhere, each wall usually had at least one, if not five. The coo coo clocks and the Grandfather clock were the loudest, but they all ticked and chimed. (I could never get away with making prank calls to my friends, even before the age of caller ID). I like clocks that tick, clocks that chime, and clocks with hands.

My husband likes digital clocks. Now you are wondering how this constitutes a fundamentally different view on telling time. Well, here it is: Brian likes to know what time it is. Period. He will ask someone what time it is and what they tell him is good enough. He can look at the numbers on a digital clock and they give him all the information he needs.

I need more. I also need to know what time it isn't. I need to know within the framework of a clocks face, where my point in time lives. I don't need to know exactly what time it is so much as I just need to know where in time it is.

If someone tells me that it is 10:07am, my brain draws it's own clock so that I can envision that I'm mostly through the morning, but still a good bit of time away from Noon. I'm at the top of the hour, the hand not sitting stoutly on a thick line, but has just passed it and is lounging between the :05 and the :10 lines. I like the movements of a pendulum or a second hand, I like to see time as it passes. A digital clock going from 10:07 to 10:08 is so abrupt, almost jarring. I think I would have been good with sun dials and sand-filled hour glasses.

So, here is our secret. In the dining room there is a baker's rack where our microwave lives. It also has on it a digital clock, good for telling time while in the dining room. Sitting right next to it, is another clock, one with hands.

In our living room, we have a big unit around our TV. The shelf on top of the TV is also a good place to have a clock, or two:

(I'm guessing you are figuring out our secret.) 

In our bathroom there wasn't a whole lot of room. So this is just outside the door:
And this is inside the bathroom:

And although the clock on the stove and the coffee pot both work:

I also have this prominently situated so I can see it from where ever I'm standing in the kitchen:

I do miss not having a second hand on this one though...
There you go. That's our secret. "His and Hers" isn't just for towels. It makes a lot of sense in multiple areas of relationships. From our vehicles, choice of cheese, types of shampoo, and I've even heard of bank accounts - sometimes it is better to have a "his and hers". I'm all for compromising, overlooking the quirks of the one you love, sacrifice if need be - but if you can... why not just buy another clock?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Color Love Bonus #32

Hello my Color-Lovin' friends! This bonus lesson is taking it's lead from Joanne's Lesson 14 - Art Girls. I'm calling this "Fakin' Faces". This technique is not mine, don't give me any credit for it. If you do know who came up with it first, let me know because I'd love to give them credit. I've seen a couple of my favorite online art journalers do this and knew it would be perfect here.

This is a sneaky technique for those of us who shudder whenever anyone says the words "draw" and "face" together in the same sentence. Thankfully, for our class the face was more of a cartoon or caricature - but what if you want a more realistic looking face or are just too afraid to start off on your own...


In this lesson we are going to go looking for faces we can use to art over and give us a not-so-scary place to start. First grab up a bunch of magazines and start looking through them for faces. I find that ones right around the size of your palm are the easiest to work with. Not too small that you can't really make it your own, and not so big that - well, where you gonna put it?

Once you've pulled out a bunch of pages, cut them up. I left some hair on a few of mine that would have been much easier to work with if I had just cut it all off, but that is something you won't really know until you play around some.

Now, grab some paper and glue. I used bristol for this, although watercolor would have been fine. You are going to be using wet media on it so make sure it is something that will hold up to it. 

For gluing down the face I tried 4 different adhesives. The glue stick worked the best and left my page the smoothest, no wrinkles at all. The quick-dry adhesive was spread as thin as I could manage and only had a few wrinkles. I'd heard that gesso could be used as glue, and it might be true with other brands, but not this one. I thought I'd be saving myself a step but it overworked the magazine page.  There were quite a few more wrinkles, and I had to go back and hit it with the glue stick anyway. The fourth one was my matte gel medium. Lots of wrinkles, but it worked.

Now that your face is glued down, go over it with the lightest coating of gesso you can manage. You want to add that texture for your pens and paints to grab onto and lighten up the page a bit, but you still want to be able to see the person underneath.

Lightest possible application of gesso
Next, take one of your waterproof black pens and start drawing a face - right on top of the one that is already there! You can duplicate it as much as you'd like, or exaggerate and expand a little here and there.
you can see where the upper lip is drawn fuller
Take your drawing off the magazine page and start exagerating it even more. I added in some hair like Joanne had us do for our Art girls.

And the fun part... grab your colors - paints, markers, Inktense, etc.!
started out with tombow markers
Watercolor added to the background

Finally finished off with a cool quote
That's it! There are more samples below, including my massively epic fail! Playing around with this technique will teach you spacing, placement, shading and shapes. How many thousands of looks can be achieved with just two eyes, a nose and a mouth.

For those of you who don't automatically flinch when someone says "draw" - why not use this technique to go outside your comfort zone? Find pictures that are more ethnic than you are used to drawing, a wider bridge of the nose, fuller lips, Asian eyes instead of almond shaped or even ... *gasp* a man! 

More examples...

Should have either stayed with her own hair or cut it off altogether. 
And finally, the epic fail I promised you.... I tried twice and both faces now show up in my nightmares!
She starts out cute enough
and then The Joker gets to her....
trying to cartoon her up didn't help either! EEK!
So, even this technique isn't totally fool-proof! :0) One last picture before I go.. while looking for faces I came across this McDonald's add:

Isn't she awesome!! And notice - one eye is covered, so if you can't get your eyes to match, do hair instead. Just pick which eye you like the best and remove the other one altogether. Notice too that she has NO NOSE! I didn't even miss it at first, so going without is always an option if you are ripping your own hair out over an obnoxious honker. Love these lips. She is simple and I think the colors have a lot to do with why her face can be so minimal but still great. 

I hope you had fun! I have been enjoying everyone's process and all the additional classes and support. You guys are amazing! Now, get off your computer and go PLAY!!