Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Feelin' Festive: 4th of July Edition

Seriously?!  I didn't think it had been that long since I've been here, but apparently it has been 4 months.  I won't go into why or make excuses, although I'm sure I could come up with some.  I apologize. 

I feel like I haven't had much time to devote to the things I typically write about--primarily cooking and crafting.  But, the other day our nanny said something to the effect of: "I am amazed by what you have been able to accomplish."  And when I thought about it, she was right.  In the midst of a busy work schedule, a 7 month old, travel and just the tasks of everyday life, I have still managed to do some of the things that I love.

Recently, a friend posted on her Facebook that she needed to stop spending all her time pinning things on Pinterest and actually make some of the things that she's pinned.  Good idea, Lindsey.  One of my favorite boards that I've been adding things to is my "Feelin' Festive" board, which is a place for all things that are holiday related.  With the 4th of July just this month, most of my pins featured glorious red, white and blue (a favorite color combo of mine, with or without the patriotic undertones).  So, on a recent weekend at our family's lake home, I managed to recreate one of my favorite pins--a rag wreath.  It was simple and turned out so perfect--every time I walk in my front door I have to smile.

The tutorial that I borrowed the idea from is great, so there's no need for me to redesign the wheel--just check out the instructions here.  I don't know for sure what size wreath she used, but mine is 19" in diameter.  I ended up using about 3 yards of fabric and my little bunting says "America the Beautiful."

I can picture myself making another one of these for the fall.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

Today, I feel the need to share just a few of life's simple pleasures.  I'll let them speak for themselves.
  • Green Beans with Lemon Pepper.  I was introduced to this amazing combination by my sister-in-law's mother.    It's as easy as that--cook your green beans your favorite way (steam, simmer, saute, whatever) and then just toss them with some lemon pepper.  Fresh, tasty and way less calories than the butter I would usually use.
  • iPhone "My Shopping List" app.  This handy, dandy app puts your grocery list in order by department.  Since I make my list by going through each meal for the week, it used to take me forever to do my grocery shopping---everything was on the list by meal.  Now, I simple put the item into my list on the phone and Voila!  Everything appears in it's correct category like meat, dairy, baked goods, fruits & veggies, etc.
  • Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.  Part parenting book, part cultural study, this book which compares parenting in the U.S. to parenting in France was funny, practical, and offered a little mental vacation to Paris.
  • Onion and Rosemary Focaccia Bread.  I made this from the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" book and it is delicious. 
  • Sunny warm days.
  • Bright Daffodils
On  slightly different note, I just read about this "My Favorite Things" party idea and would love to do one!  I love the idea of sharing all these little things with my friends!  Read more about it here My Favorite Things Party

Monday, March 5, 2012

One of my life goals...

Something I have always wanted to do is to enter something in a county fair.  Last spring, I started to work on a quilt that the further I got in the process, the more I was certain that it was my fair entry piece.  I should have finished it a long time ago--especially since I have had it back from the quilter since August and all it needed was the binding.  But, I just wasn't in the mood.

Well, finally during the course of several stolen moments the last couple of weeks I was able to get the binding put on and I am SUPER happy with the result.  It is something that I will be proud to enter in the fair and excited to hear what the judges have to say.  I used exclusively1930's reproduction prints to create this lovely, sunny quilt.  I don't really have a place to display it or use it, but I'm sure I'll think of something!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baptism Brunch

Baptism Day
 February 12, 2012
We recently celebrated our daughter's baptism and it was a wonderful day, surrounded by family and good friends.  Following the baptism service at our church, we enjoyed a lovely Sunday morning brunch at our house that gave me the chance to show off some new recipes (and include some old favorites!)

Pink roses for Charlotte and the baptism robe given by our church.
One of the things that made the brunch possible was my friend Melanie, who volunteered to be my kitchen witch for the morning.  Now, I had never heard of the term "kitchen witch" before.  Basically, it is a friend who comes over to your house and takes care of all the details of a meal which you cannot do because you are attending the event directly before (or I suppose they might also come so that you could be a part of something you were hosting). In any case, Melanie came over while we were at church to put the egg bake in the oven, slice and display all of the breads, adding the finishing touches to the table, and in this case, brought the dessert.  It was so wonderful to come home and, instead of rushing to get the meal ready, simply grab a plate and begin.  It took a lot of the stress out of the morning and I was able to really enjoy the time with my family.

To make the brunch special, I used a combination of favorites and then classed it up with a couple of what I would consider to be luxe additions. 

The Brunch Spread

Egg Casserole with Sage Sausage
Lemon Poppy Seed, Pumpkin and Banana Breads
Spinach Salad
Mixed Fruit Salad
Crab Cheesecake
Citrusy Champagne Sangria
Chocolate Truffle and Strawberry Cupcakes
Pecan Torte Coffee

Now, I don't know about you, but crab cheesecake and Champagne sangria are not "normal" brunch items at our house.  Especially considering that the cheesecake is garnished with creme fraiche and caviar, but these were fantastic additions that really added to the menu. My sister introduced me to the egg bake recipe a couple of years ago, and it has become a favorite.  It is easy to prep/make ahead and comes together very easily.

Laura's Egg & Sausage Casserole

    * 1 pound sage pork sausage
    * 1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent roll dough
    * 10 eggs, beaten
    * 3/4 cup milk
    * 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    * 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    * 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning


   1. Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

   2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

   3. Line the bottom of the prepared baking dish with crescent roll dough, and sprinkle with crumbled sausage. In a large bowl, mix beaten eggs, mozzarella, and Cheddar. Season the mixture with oregano, and pour over the sausage and crescent rolls.

   4. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, then lower to 325 and bake for 20 more minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serves 12

One of my  favorite moments of the day was when my husband and I gave Charlotte her baptism gift. 

Putting on Charlotte's little bracelet.
I wanted to get her something pretty, special, and symbolic.  So after a lengthy Internet search I decided on a bracelet from Tiny Blessings.   I loved how it has her name on it.  The pearls represent that she is a "pearl of great worth" and the tiny jewels symbolize that she was "bought at a price."  She doesn't wear it everyday, but I think that makes it even more special.  I am also excited that the company offers resizing at a very reasonable price so that as my baby girl grows, her jewels will always fit.

All in all, it was an incredible day that I will not soon forget.  Check other these links for some of the other brunch recipes.

Crab Cheesecake
(recipe is for Lobster, but reviews recommended both crab and shrimp as well)
Citrusy Champagne Sangria
(I used raspberries for the pomegranate--our grocery store didn't have them.)
Ginger Pumpkin Bread

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Slice of Nostalgia

My mom was an amazing cook and baker.  She knew how to make a meal special and how to find great recipes.  I know that my love of cooking and appreciation for delicious, home-y foods comes from her.  For a long time I have searched for a banana bread recipe that was as good as hers--dense, moist, and irresistible with a slather of peanut butter.  Unfortunately, none of the recipes I tried came close.

Finally, it dawned on me that I knew which cookbook my mom's favorite banana bread recipe came from and I remembered to ask my dad to bring it to me at Christmas time.  Of course, this cookbook, being a church fundraiser cookbook, has SIX banana bread recipes in it.  I figured I'd just start with the first one, and cook my way through them until I found the one. 

Then, as I started to look at the recipes, one of them jogged my memory.  It called for 1 2/3 cups of bananas...and for whatever reason I knew that this was the one my mom used.  Of course I had made it myself when I was in high school, but who would have thought, when all of the recipes were so similar, that was the detail that would stick.  I baked up a loaf and, behold, there was the long searched for loaf of golden goodness.

So, here's the recipe, courtesy of Marie R. Hartman and the St. Vincent DePaul Parish Council of Catholic Women from Seward, Nebraska circa 1988.

Banana Bread

1 3/4 c. Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. nuts (pecans or walnuts) chopped
1 2/3 c. banana, mashed
2/3 c sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nuts.  In a large bowl combine the bananas, sugar, vanilla, eggs and butter.  Fold in the dray ingredients, stirring only to blend.  Pour into a greased and floured 9x3" loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Ah, the perfection!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Blog Addiction & Truth-telling Serum

An exhausted early momma moment.
I have found that even with all my new momma duties, I have been able to keep up with reading books.  I am caught up for book club--The Happiness Project-- and have also managed to read a few others for fun on the side. (Thank you whoever created e-books and their amazing one-handed operationalism!!!) It has been a lot harder to keep up with my favorite blogs, mainly because the computer is designed for people with TWO free hands.

I hate the days where I don't get a chance to check in with all my favorite people (most of whom I don't actually know) via their blogs.  I think it is probably the combination of diary-magazine-conversation that makes blogs so compelling for me.

There are a lot of reasons to read a blog.  To keep up with people who live far away.  To get new ideas.  To get a little glimpse into the heart of someone who you will never meet that is something like you.  While I love the craft, cooking and quilt blogs that I look at for their wonderful ideas, colors and inspiration, they aren't the ones that really connect with my heart.

The blogs that truly connect with my heart are the ones who have figured out how to tell the truth about their everyday lives--they aren't sugarcoating things.  These people are the ones who have really helped me through the last two months of beginning to figure out momma-hood.  A lot of moms talk about how happy, glorious and amazing momma-hood is (and don't get me wrong, there are lots of those moments), but more often than not these early days have been exhausting, frustrating, anxious, and full of doubt.  Those women who are able to acknowledge those tough feelings are the ones that I want to check in with, because it is affirming.  It is a powerful thing to know that you are not alone and others have been there before and that it does get better.

I also love the women who know how to write about God in the midst of all of this.  Their words are graceful, hopeful, and a reminder to me.  They remind me that the antidotes to exhaustion, frustration, anxiety and doubt is rest, peace, hope and faith.  Their words have been life giving and helpful in these early weeks.  These are my favorite and I encourage you to check them out.

The Momastery
Becca Groves: My Life in Stories

Plus, only God knows when I'll get around to needing inspiration for a quilting project again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Image source

To say that a baby completely changes your life is an understatement.  And anyone who says that having a baby is easy is a big liar.  It is good though.  O, so good. It challenges you and pushes all kinds of boundaries that you thought you had.  Endless reserves of patience?  Not so much.  A clean, clutter-free abode?  No longer.  Pride in the fact that you never watch TV? Ooo...look "What Not to Wear" is on again.  That makes 7 episodes this week and it's only Tuesday.  Time to blog?  Huh, that was over a month ago already.  Yikes.  So, yeah, to say that things are different at our house goes without saying.  But being a momma is good and there are lots of great moments everyday. 

One of the things that has really been challenging for me is being able to cook and bake.  I love to cook and, before baby, it was my outlet.  I'd come home from work, rest a little by curling up with a book, and then dive into the cathartic and wonderful mode of making dinner.  Unfortunately that time no longer exists.  By that point in the day, Charlotte is most often tired, fussy and overstimulated and wants nothing more that to be held close and told that it will all be okay.  Of course, I can't even count on that by that time of day.

One thing I can count on though is a nice period of time in the morning while she naps.  Which has led me to explore more slow-cooker meals.  I used to poo-poo slow cooker meals as being for lazy people.  I would say to myself, "How hard is it to take 45 minutes to cook a meal?  Seriously."  Uh, yeah.  Now I know.  The good part is that I've discovered some yummy, quick to prep, and interesting meals.  Here's what we've tried so far:

Green Chicken and Rice Soup
Buffalo Chicken Soup
Creamy Crock Pot Meatballs
Pork Roast in the Crock Pot

They were all delicious and I highly recommend it.  The Buffalo Chicken Soup was my favorite of the bunch (put blue cheese sprinkles on anything and I'm a goner) and my husband really liked the Green Chicken and Rice Soup a lot. 

Of course, people with babies aren't the only ones who use a slow cooker.  My friend Melanie uses hers a lot because it makes dinner quick and easy when she gets home from work.  Slow cookers make tender, moist perfect roasts.  They are a staple of church pot lucks. 

There's a reason for that--slow cookers make life easy!  I don't know what took me so long to figure this out...