Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8/29 - 9/4

Can you smell it? Can you feel it? FALL IS COMING!!! Saturday evening we built a fire in the outdoor fire pit and guess what I was wearing? Jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. It was wonderful. Summer is alright, but fall is definitely my favorite time of year.

Three days of my menu this week (Fri-Sun) have been planned for our camping trip. I'm excited for the little get-away and the long weekend means an extra day we get to spend with DH.

Monday: Bangin' Good Shrimp, whole wheat couscous, lima beans
NOTE: I know I'm *supposed* to be doing meatless Monday, but I'm swapping it for Tuesday this week. :)
Tuesday: Chipotle (Vegetarian Bowl)

Wednesday: Turkey Burgers, Baked Potato

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: (at camp) Foil Dinners

Saturday: (at camp) Smoked Pork & Turkey, Cole Slaw, Baked Black Beans, Pasta Salad, Veggie Tray and whatever other sides people bring

Sunday: wedding reception BBQ

In addition to our meals for the week, I'm also going to be making a freezer meal for our new pastor and his family. They're moving in this week and we want to make sure they have at least one week of heat & eat meals. I'm still not 100% sure what to make since I've never met them and don't really know their tastes. So far I know others are doing baked ziti and ingredients for tacos.

Any ideas for other freezer meals that would be a hit with any crowd?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

Whew! I'm managing to squeeze in a late post this evening. It's another edition of (drumroll please)...

I'm loving The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Peanut and I went there yesterday and had an amazing time! I'm so glad we bought a season pass. It expires at the end of this month, but we're definitely renewing. The zoo is so well-maintained, the staff is knowledgable and friendly and the amount of things to see and do are astounding. Thank you, Jack Hanna!

And I'm loving my little safari buddy. She is just the sweetest thing ever and we had such a fun day together. This is her with the statue of the baby elephant, Beco.

I'm loving the 60-Second Manicure Hand Scrub from Bath & Body Works. I received it as a Christmas gift, but hadn't used it yet. My friend Kim told me about it's amazing powers so I dug it out of my medicine cabinet and gave it a whirl. It's heavenly.

I'm loving The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I finished it on Monday. It's one of the most well-written books I've read for a long time. I didn't like the ending, but the rest of the book was absolutely amazing. No, I won't be seeing the movie in the theater because I hate going there. I'll wait for it to come out on DVD, but I don't have high expectations of it living up to the book. Have you read it? What did you think?

I'm loving Orly Bonder. It's a rubberized basecoat and it makes my DIY manicures last much longer.

I'm loving this Women's Boyfriend Cardigan from American Eagle. The website doesn't show this color anymore. Maybe I'd settle for it in navy?

I'm loving this cameo from Etsy Shop Love Spell Jewels. There's something vintage, yet modern about it.

Last but not least, I'm loving the reality TV shows that inspire me to be creative in my wardrobe, my home and my kitchen.

Project Runway
HGTV Design Star

Food Truck Race

Top Chef: Just Desserts

I can't wait to see what you're all loving this week! I get so much inspiration from all of you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8/22 - 8/28

We went camping this weekend. It was wonderful to get away, relax and enjoy family time. The weather was perfect. Warm, but not too hot. I was pretty tired, though, and slept for a really long time last night. That's not a bad thing, right? Today Peanut and I are resting up and getting some things done around the house so that we can go to the zoo tomorrow!

We're implementing Meatless Monday in our house starting this week. I lead one Weight Watchers meeting each week. The center where I work is starting a challenge/contest for our members to do this in their own homes. I can't wait to see the recipes they try and share what I'm doing in our home. I definitely get just as many new ideas from our wonderful members as they get from me.

Here's our plan for this week:

Monday: Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes

Tuesday: Unstuffed Yellow Squash

Wednesday: Chicken Noodles

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Homemade Sloppy Joes, Sweet Corn

Saturday: Cheeseburgers, Steak Fries, Lima Beans

Sunday: Homemade Pizza

Hope everyone has a great week! Good luck to all those moms (and dads) out there sending your kiddos off to school, especially if it's the first time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

A few months ago, my father-in-law's doctor told him that he needed to drastically reduce his sodium intake. One of the recipes my mother-in-law found and shared with me was for homemade taco seasoning with much less salt than store-bought.

I made my first batch a few weeks ago, tweaking the recipe just a bit to fit our family's taste. It's earned rave reviews used with both chicken and ground beef. Next time I'm going to try it with ground turkey.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chili powder
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (more or less to suit your taste)
1 teaspoon ground coriander 

Combine all ingridients. Store in a cool dry place in an airtight container (I used an empty bulk seasoning container, washed and dried first.). Will keep for up to 1 year.

Use 1/4 cup of seasoning mix to 1 pound of meat.

It's better for you, costs much less than the pre-packaged stuff and (in our opinion) tastes better. Win-Win-Win.

I'm linking up with the following fabulous parties:

Join  us Saturdays at for the weekend wrap 
 up           party!

sew many ways

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I'm loving the Rose camera bag from Jo Totes. Actually, love might not be a strong enough word. I've been a bit obsessed with these lately. I love the Teal & Pewter, but I think the color I love most is Marigold.

I'm loving TOMS shoes. They're the awesome company that donates a pair of shoes to someone in need every time a pair is purchased. The red canvas is my favorite style.

I'm loving sun tea, clothes drying on the line and the 12-mile bike ride Peanut & I took today. It's all thanks to Mr. Sunshine!

(photo from **Mary** on Flickr)

I'm loving these camera lens coffee mugs. Aren't they awesome? They include a lid that looks like a lens cap. Coffee and photography, two of my favorite things in one!

I'm loving this new clutch design from Gussy. They're made from an upcycled vintage house coat. Environmentally conscious AND adorable!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8/15 - 8/21

Week #3 of just cooking for Peanut and I. I hate not having my husband at the dinner table with us. Hopefully his schedule allows that in the near future. In the meantime, I'm trying to look on the bright side and prepare dishes I love or want to try, but that I know he wouldn't care for. Then, on the weekend, we make all of his favorites.

We have a busy week so lots of quick and easy meals on the menu. This is when having a freezer stash really pays off.

Monday: Chicken Baseballs, mac & cheese, corn

Tuesday: Brown Rice with Turkey & Tomatoes (from the freezer stash)

Wednesday: Chicken Parmesan (from freezer stash), whole wheat pasta, lima beans

Thursday: Tacos (I know we just had tacos last week, but I'm on a kick and craving them again.)

Friday: Hot Dogs and Brats at camp

Saturday: Cheeseburgers at camp

Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner (pancakes, sausage, eggs)

Happy Monday to all of you! Hope your week is off to a great start and that it gets even better.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fair Week: Day 8

The county fair had their closing ceremonies last night. Today there was a steady line of campers and stock trailers streaming out of the fairgrounds. It was also pickup day for the Home Arts building. All of my projects are now safe and sound at home. My winnings totaled $26! Not bad for something I did 100% for fun and for the love of crafting.

My final project to share comes from the Wreaths department.

I won 1st place on my diaper wreath! When I picked it up, the ladies at the booth said they received lots of comments on it throughout the week. That made me smile. :)

In case you can't tell, the wreath is made by tying rolled-up diapers onto a wreath frame using ribbon, then adding baby washcloths and other small toys or baby gear as embellishments. I've made these for every baby shower I've attended for probably the last 2 years or so. They're always a huge hit!

I definitely can't take credit for the creativity of this project. I learned about the process from my friend Shannon. She has fabulous posts detailing the instructions and materials. Check them out here and here.

I'm a little sad that fair is over. I love crafting in general and don't need ribbons or kudos to continue doing so. However, there's something about the excitement of entering projects in the fair that I love. I think it's because it makes me feel like a kid again. :)

My sister-in-law said it best on the way back from recovering our projects: "Only 358 days until time to drop off our fair projects."

Here's where I'm linking up with this project:

sew many ways

Join  us Saturdays at for the weekend wrap 
 up           party!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fair Week: Day 7

Today's project comes from the Pot Holders department. There's a funny story behind this one.

My sister-in-law and I are both pretty competitive. Okay, we're really competitive. Put the two of us together, entering against each other in the same competition and it gets pretty heated. Fortunately, it's a good-natured kind of competitive spirit. We take competition very seriously, but we're not going to genuinely get mad if we don't win.

Last year we jokingly bantered back and forth about our fair projects, but we weren't entering anything in the same categories so there was no head-to-head competition. My father-in-law said this was a good thing because he didn't want to witness World War III.

Fast forward to Christmas. My mother-in-law pulled out two identically wrapped gifts, handed one to each of us and said we had to open them at the same time. They were pot holder weaving looms, the kind with the plastic square of pegs and a bag full of brightly-colored loops. These particular kits were specifically packaged for kids and even said "For ages 5+" on the box. I'm not sure whether or not my mother-in-law meant them to be gag gifts, but my sister-in-law and I didn't take them as such. We both had the exact same thought when we opened them. "Game on!"

Guess what? I won 1st place! LOL

And in case you're wondering, my sister-in-law got 3rd. I'm going to guess there will be some purchasing of extra loops for a rematch next year. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fair Week: Day 6

Happy Friday! We have a pretty exciting weekend planned. I'm loving the MUCH cooler temperatures and praying the rain holds off.

Ready to see another of my fair projects? Of course you are! :) Today's department is Creative Card Making.

3rd place in the Get Well category. I found this idea on Pinterest and thought it was adorable. It took me about 5 minutes to make.

2nd place in the Christmas category. I actually made and mailed these cards for our first Christmas as a married couple back in 2008. Oh, the memories! I actually learned this design in a card makihng class. I love that it's Christmasy, but with a more non-traditional color palette.

I was a teensy bit disappointed that this card didn't place. I'm excited to actually send it to someone for their birthday, though. (It's supposed to be a vertical card. Not really sure why they displayed it horizontal.)

In the humidity, the adhesive holding the cardstock together on either side of the window let go and it was a hot mess in the display case. This is the picture I took just after completing the work. The saying and the cracker idea originally came from this idea on Pinterest. I guess it's better as a favor box gift than as a card. :(

I submitted a sympathy card too, but I didn't take a picture pre-entry and I couldn't find an angle to take a picture of it in the display case. It wasn't anything super facy so you're not missing out. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fair Week: Day 5

I've been a bit obsessed with fabric flowers lately. I've pinned tons of various ideas and tutorials, but have only gotten around to trying a few. The project I'd like to show you today is actually part of a necklace I made from this tutorial over at The Polka Dot Chair. The only change I made is to do 3 layers rather than 2. I originally tried to enter it in the Jewelry Making department, but they couldn't really find a category. They encouraged me to remove the necklace portion and enter it as a pin in the Home Sewing department.

4th place! This is a really competitive department so I was honored to have placed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fair Week: Day 4

Today's department is a brand new endeavor for me: Handmade Jewelry.

I won 3rd place in the beaded necklace category! This is my very first attempt at making beaded jewelry. What's even more exciting than that ribbon is that I discovered how much I really enjoy it. Jewelry making is definitely something I want to learn more about and do more. Like I really need another craft genre to add to my list. :) Still, it's fun to find something new that really excites you.

I'm linking this project up over Sew Much Ado for We Did It! Wednesday.

Speaking of link parties, I'm loving the tutorial that served as my guide for this project. I'm selecting it as my What I'm Loving Wednesday this week.

The tutorial is from Eighteenth Century Agrarian Business (ECAB for short). The instructions and illustrations were super easy to follow, even for a novice like me. I love it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fair Week: Day 3

I'm happy with all of my accomplishments at the fair this year, but today I'm going to share the department in which I'm most proud: Cross Stitch.

I've been cross stitching since I was really little and it's something I love to do. I remember looking at this department last year and thinking there's no way I could compete with this talent. Imagine my surprise when both of my pieces placed very well!

I won 1st place in the Small Picture (less than 5x7) category! This looks bigger than that, but that's because it's matted and framed in 8x8. If the design looks familiar, it may be because it came from the free DMC brochure in the aisle at Hobby Lobby. :) Or, if you've been a reader for a few months, it may be that you saw my post when it was completed.

Second place in the Medium Picture (5x7 - 8x10) category! It's hard to see, but that's a daisy and it says "Live Simply" across the bottom.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8/8 - 8/14

I'm taking a little break from Fair Week posts today to share my menu with you for this week. Don't worry! I'll be sharing more projects starting again tomorrow. I know you're on the edge of your seat. :)

I do have a quick update on my photography entries. My black & white still-life photo (the petunia) got 5th place and my animal picture (the penguin) earned 3rd place! There were SO MANY photos entered in the department and I just felt happy to have my works displayed.

Okay. Now for my weekly menu. It's another week of feeding just Peanut and I for dinner Monday through Thursday. Lunches will be leftovers or salad.

Monday: Linguini with Zucchini and Chickpeas (didn't get to this one last week)

Tuesday: Chicken Salad Wraps, Lima Beans

Wednesday: Weight Watchers Capellini

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Taco Night with loads of toppings

Saturday: Husband's Company Party - catering by Schmidt's Sausage Haus

Sunday: BLTs, salad

* * * * * * *

Recipe Reviews:

Last week I made two new-to-me dishes, both things I found on Pinterest.

Asian Noodle Salad from Pioneer Woman - This was pretty good. I think it'd be a good dish to take to a potluck. I subbed snow peas in place of one of the bell peppers and I used whole wheat linguini. The sauce had great flavor, but it was a little too oily for my taste. 

Greek-Style Egg Rolls with Garlic-Dill Dipping Sauce - These were really good and very easy to assemble. The shrimp makes them pretty rich, though. I ate two of them for dinner with a side salad and was definitely full. I think they'd make a better party food than they did a meal.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fair Week: Day 2

Today's department is Scrapbooks.

I love to scrapbook and frequently go to all-day or overnight crops. When it came time to select my fair entries, I discovered that I started a lot of albums this year, but didn't finish any. Instead I decided to enter one that's been completed for a couple years, but that I've never entered before.

This is an album I made to document my husband and I's trip to Washington D.C. in December of 2005. We were just boyfriend and girlfriend back then.

It didn't place. It was still on display, but they had it turned to the most plain page in the entire album. The rest of the album is better. I promise. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fair Week: Day 1

Today was drop-off day for home arts projects at our county fair. The volunteers did a fabulous job of making the process smooth and easy. That's no small feat considering the huge amount of projects that are exhibited each year. All 19 of my projects are now safe and sound in the home arts building for display all week. Judging is going on as we speak. *fingers crossed*

What did I enter? Well, each day this week I'll be posting my entries in a specific department. First up is Photography.

This was my first year for entering photos. I was reluctant to submit anything because this is one of the most competitive categories and I'm really just starting to learn about my camera and its settings. There's no fee to enter so I had nothing to lose other than the time I spent choosing mats, framing the photos and wiring them for hanging.

Here's what I entered:

Color Still-Life

Black & White Still-Life

Color Animal

Black White Animal

Color Landscape

Black & White Landscape

Color Portrait