Monday, September 29, 2014

Why I Meal Plan, plus Menu and Recipe Review

I don't think I've ever mentioned why I plan our meals each week. And, if I have it's been quite a while.

Back when I was working full time, I did my grocery shopping for the week or two weeks or whatever but never really had an idea of how I would use those staples. Each work day, I found myself constantly turning over ideas of what to make for dinner with what I had and eventually would have to run to the store on my way home to pick up an item or two that I needed for that meal. This happened day in and day out. It ate up so much of my time and was costly in gas and supplies. I felt like my life was consumed by what we were going to eat and then making it. It finally occurred to me that if I came up with a menu each week, my days and evenings would be free-er to consider other creative pursuits. In beginning my planning, I stumbled on I'm an Organizing Junkie's linkup and other meal plan sites that fueled this new habit. While I'm no longer working full time, I've continued to use my meal plan strategies because it limits that "What the heck are we going to eat" question from plaguing my thoughts to only once a week, the day I plan. It really has been a time-saver.

Breakfasts: Smoothies, Cereal, PB Toast w/fruit, Ham and cheese omelets, Monkey Muffins

Lunches: Black bean burgers w/sweet potato fries, Soup and grilled cheese, Chicken finger wraps, Cheese quesidillas, Creamy garlic pasta w/salad, Chicken salad sandwiches, PB&J

Dinners:
General Tsos Tofu w/green beans and rice
Homemade kitchen sink pizza (pizza dough in freezer) w/salad
Thai chicken breasts w/broccoli and wild rice mix

Obviously, I'm linking up at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.
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Recipe Review

Coffee Braised Brisket: The hubs really liked this recipe. I thought it was okay. I think he was just hungry for some real meat/real food. I'm not sure I'll be making this again though. I've got a couple other brisket recipes to try.

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Mushrooms: This is my recipe and I haven't altered it. As always, I love these.

Bowtie Chicken Alfredo: I loved, loved, loved this, It wasn't a very traditional alfredo sauce, but I really liked it anyway. Even without the ease of a microwave, the hubby ate the leftovers. I'd say it's a winner.

So, do you plan your meals too? Why or why not?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pinning with Purpose | Week 10

Another week has come and gone so it's time for

Each week, I pick out a few pins from my Pinterest boards and try to recreate them or use them for inspiration. And, I challenge you to do the same. Find a pin that gets your creative juices going; be it a craft tutorial, recipe, style inspiration, or organizational tip and run with it. I encourage you to share your results on your blog and then link it up here. I do ask that if you are going to link up here, that you mention it on your blog with a link back.  As well, if you want to pin anything seen here, please make sure you go to the original post to do it.

Let me start by featuring and thanking to two ladies who linked up last week.

Lorraine at Clamco Cottage showed off her beautiful Table Makeover

As for what I've accomplished. . .I still wasn't able to get to the French Quarter Cheese Ball so I'm going to postpone that one until I know I have an event/gathering that will be appropriate for it. However, I did take the time to print out these printables.
French postal graphics from Just Something I Made
Harry Potter Potions labels from Over the Big Moon
Vintage inspired dresses from Sweetly Scrapped 
See, here they are all printed out.
As for what I did/will do with them. I started by using one of the dresses in my art journal.
I'm tempted to use the Harry Potter labels for some Halloween crafts, but that's yet to be exactly determined. I know the French labels will also probably find their way into the journal too.

For next week, I'll focus on
I might have time to dip into some other pins, but I don't want to continue to push myself too hard. We'll see what becomes of the week. Now I want to see what you've done with yours.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On My Desk and A Wheely Hop

After the last two very non-creative, lack of eye candy posts; I thought it best that I change that by sharing some of the projects currently occupying my desk.

Alas, Earring Day has expanded past earring week and may turn into earring month if I'm not careful. These supplies still occupy a large portion of my work table.

I haven't touched the mixed-media, art journal supplies in a a week or two so I was aching to pull them out. I started on this page in my 'journal' this morning while I edited some pictures.

Lastly, something that used to resemble this (below) has my attention.
I've somehow failed to mention that several months ago Janet of Honey from the Bee sent out these wooden wheels to myself and several other jewelry artists as part of a challenge. 
She asked that we take these and transform them somehow into jewelry. The reveal is next week, October 1st, and I've waited until the last minute to work on it. Though, I've had an idea for a while as to what I was going to do.  Make sure to drop by next week and see what's become of my wheel. I can't wait to see how the other participants have transformed theirs!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review of Keurig 2.0 #HelloKeurig

Disclaimer: I received the Keurig 2.0 complimentary for testing and review purposes. However, the opinions expressed in this post are mine.

I don't think I could live without coffee in my life.

Actually, while I'm sure I could LIVE without coffee, my life would be a whole lot groggier and less tasty without that sweet, sweet nectar. And, I'd probably have a lot less friends. Anyway. . . A couple of years ago, my mom gifted us with a Keurig coffee maker and we haven't looked back. I love the variety of flavors and brands you can get in the k-cups. As well, making a single cup of coffee instead of a whole pot is perfect for our family of two. When I was given the opportunity from Influenster and Keurig to test and review the new Keurig 2.0, I jumped at the chance and was delighted when it showed up on our doorstep.

The setup for the machine was easy, including installing the water filter. (Our old one didn't have one of those.) After using the machine for a week or so, I did a little video review of it. . .yes, me in a video e-gads!

So now that we've had the machine for a few weeks, let me share with you some of the pros and cons of the Keurig 2.0

PROS:
  • The Carafe - While I do love the ease of getting a single cup, sometimes you may have company or need to fill a thermos. Having the carafe as an option is perfect.
  • Touch Screen -  I just have a thing for touch screens. Personal preference.
  • Customization  - Being able to change the color of the touch screen and water light is a silly little thing, but delights me to no end.
  • Auto Brew/Timer - You can set the machine to brew your cup of coffee any time of the day, perfect for for when you get up in the morning.
  • 10 Brew Sizes - From a single 4oz cup to a 5 cup carafe-full, you have the option to make as little or as much as you need.
  • 80 Ounce Water Reservoir  - This is the largest one Keurig has made. We don't have to refill it as often and that's fantastic for my lazy butt.
  • Sleek Design - I can't imagine the machine wouldn't fit in in most homes/kitchens.
  • Water Filter - This was easy to install and makes me feel better knowing it's in there.
  • Coffee Strength - The ability to customize my coffee so that it's a stronger brew is great as I do love me a nice, strong man cuppa.

CONS:
  • No Insulation - The carafe doesn't seem to be insulated or at least not well, so it doesn't take long for the coffee to cool down. This isn't  a problem if you're serving several people at once or transferring the coffee to an insulated container, but not so great for leaving it on your counter for a little while (especially while your microwave is busted).
  • Keurig K-cups Only - The machine scans all k-cups placed in the machine for the Keurig logo, not working on those without it. As well, I've heard that the re-usable self-fillable k-cups don't work in the machine either. I've already encountered this on two occasions as I wasn't paying attention to the cups

If you get the Keurig 2.0 you'll have to make sure the Keurig logo is on the packaging, else the machine will not brew that perfect cup for you, despite it having really nice manners most of the time.


With only the two cons to list, I'm pretty happy with the Keurig 2.0 and have learned I need to pay more attention when grabbing K-cups from the grocery store. I'll have to set up the old machine in order to brew that whole box I just bought but the new machine isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Now to enjoy another yummy cup of joe.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Menu Plan and Recipe Review

Though I made a meal plan last week, I completely flaked out on sharing it. I didn't want to make that mistake again this week.

Breakfasts: Cereal, Smoothies, PB Toast, Yogurt w/granola, Breakfast burritos, Waffles

Lunches: Soup w/grilled cheese, Chicken finger wraps, Cheese quesidillas, Tuna noodles, Creamy garlic pasta, Chicken salad sandwiches, PB&J

Dinners
Bowtie Chicken Alfredo w/green beans
Jalapeno popper stuffed mushrooms w/salsa rice and corn
Black bean burgers w/sweet potato fries

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Recipe Review

Baked Sesame Tofu Sticks with PB, tahini, and ginger sauce: I've made these before. This time around I made them without the peanut sauce on the side. The sticks were good, though Pat said he would have liked to have had the peanut sauce with them. Oh well.
Parmesan Potato Wedges: These went over so very well at my house. Please see Week 8 of Pinning with Purpose for my full review.

Italian chicken soup: I've made this before, and we really like the flavors in it. However, I forgot just HOW MUCH it makes. We both had our fill and there was still enough leftover to fill two gallon-sized freezer bags. I didn't even use all the pasta or chicken because my pot was almost overflowing already. It's a great, filling soup. Though, I only need to make it once a year as it makes so much!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough: Oh, this stuff was great! I ended up deciding to have pizza for lunch instead of dinner so I prepared the dough just after breakfast. It really came together so quickly. I love that it required very little kneading. Since the pizza was just for the two of us, I only made one pizza and froze the other half of the dough. As for the taste, It was really yummy. I do wish I had a rolling pin to get the dough a tad bit thinner so it will crisp up more, but otherwise it was great!

 Three Cheese Skillet Lasagna: I didn't realize until I had this on the menu (and all the ingredients bought) that it requires cooking in the oven and not just in the skillet. As my deep skillet has a plastic handle, it can't go in the oven. I improvised with a casserole dish instead. It worked out fine. The lasagna came together quickly and was yummy too. I might just refer to this recipe again.

Hashbrown Taco Casserole: This was pretty good. I used soy crumbles instead of the ground turkey and it turned out just fine. With our microwave still broken, the leftovers just sat in the fridge though. I might make this again. We'll see.

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese: I've been searching for a spaghetti squash recipe that we really like and just haven't found one yet. With my love of mac-n-cheese, I thought this just might be it. I used broccoli instead of the spinach since I don't like cooked/wilted spinach. The result was tasty, but still not THE recipe. I probably won't make this again. The search continues.

If you've got a GREAT spaghetti squash recipe, please please please share it with me. I want to like the stuff so much, but it just keeps coming out mushy. Now, what's on your menu this week?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pinning with Purpose | Week 9

It's that time again!

If you're new to Pinning with purpose, here are the details: each week, I pick out a few pins from my Pinterest boards and try to recreate them or use them for inspiration. And, I challenge you to do the same. Find a pin that gets your creative juices going; be it a craft tutorial, recipe, style inspiration, or organizational tip and run with it. I encourage you to share your results on your blog and then link it up here. Fun, right!?

Let me start by once again thanking Jenna from The Painted Apron for linking up last week with her really neat Farmer's Market Seasonal Chart.
Jenna's Seasonal Chart


As for my week, I was unable to get to all three of my selected pins for this week's Pinning with Purpose. My motivation was seriously waning and plans didn't work out as I anticipated. However, I was able to get to one of them.
The Wire wrapped wristlet tutorial from Shiny Little Things off my Jewelry tutorials board

Here's how this turned out:
I started with a pile of miscellaneous beads and the amount of wire called for in the tutorial.
It took a little finagling to get the shape right, and I did have to use a little extra wire in some instances. However, once I got one of them made it was hard to stop.
I got these three done before I had to stop myself and launch into my earring-making. This is definitely another design I'm glad to know since it worked perfectly with some of the bead soup that's been collecting for years.

As for next week, I'm just going to try to get to the ones I missed this week:
So that's it for me.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Earring Day Results | Part One

A couple of you asked to see the results of my earring day. Truthfully, it looks like it's going to be at least an earring week as I haven't made a dent in the supplies I'd gathered. In any case, here's what I've accomplished so far (ear wires will be added later, so they're really not quite done yet.)

While I'm happy with all of them, these two are my favorites of the bunch.

I've got a busy weekend ahead: grandmother's birthday, husband's band playing, football watching, and a play to attend; but I might just be able to snag some more earring-making in there at some point. . .maybe. What have you got planned this weekend? I hope it's a good one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Earring Day!

It's been bothering me for a few days now that I haven't had an 'earring day' in some time. Actually, earring days often turn into an earring week or thereabouts, but whatever. Basically, I knew it was time to get some earrings made as I'm drowning in a sea of bracelets and (most especially) necklaces.

The easiest way for me to get started is to delve into the beads. I went drawer by drawer (color by color) to pick out beads. I chose those whose numbers had dwindled to only two or three left. It makes it easier that way.

Once I had my bowlful of beads, I wanted and needed more texture, more mixed media to it. I started with the buttons and dug through my collection of button cards to find sets where only pairs remained. I like using the button cards for earrings because I know they all match.

From there, I dove into my hoard of other miscellaneous treasures to find some additional earring-sized accents.

Finally, I broke out the purchased art beads from (clockwise) Scorched Earth, Artisan Accents by Staci Louise, and Starry Road Studio.

Now my desk kinda looks like this.

All that's left to do is get all these amazing elements to combine into some amazing earrings. Wish me luck!

What's your method for gathering ingredients for a project?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pinning with Purpose | Week 8

I cannot believe another week has passed me by. It's been a fairly productive one, though it's never quite as productive as I'd like. I'm looking forward to starting anew and trying again. For now, let's get to the meat of this post.
If you're new to Pinning with purpose, here are the deets: each week, I pick out a few pins from my Pinterest boards and try to recreate them or use them for inspiration. And, I challenge you to do the same. Find a pin that gets your creative juices going; be it a craft tutorial, recipe, style inspiration, or organizational tip and run with it. I encourage you to share your results on your blog and then link it up here. Fun, right!?

Let me start by thanking Jenna at The Painted Apron for linking up her yummy-looking Zucchini Garlic & Gruyere Galette last week.
http://thepaintedapron.com/2014/09/04/recipe-box-zucchini-garlic-gruyere-galette/
You can bet that's been added to one of my Pinterest boards!

Now for what I had planned for this week. (Please go to the original sites to pin or otherwise share these images, above and below.):
Download and use the fonts from 1. 10 Favorite Font Combos from Yellow Bliss Road 2. Favorite Free Halloween Fonts from Ella Clair Inspired 3. Lovely Fonts from Ann Meer Design
Parmesan-coated Potato Wedges from MyRecipes
Yarn-wrapped print blocks from Print & Pattern's review of Print Workshop

Here's how they turned out:

I decided to break down the fonts and just use some of them to make a few images. For the Favorite Font Combos from Yellow Bliss Road, I made another Pinning with Purpose banner.
The Free Halloween Fonts from Ella Claire Inspired had me in a Halloween-y mood, so I went with it.

By the time I got to playing with one of the Lovely Fonts from Ann Meer Design, I went a little crazy with my photoshop.
I always love having a nice selection of fonts on hand for when the graphic design bug hits me. These new ones have definitely given me some more exciting options.

The Parmesan-coated Potato Wedges from MyRecipes were added to my menu easily enough. I had some red potatoes that needed to be used so I went with those instead of the recommended baking potatoes and sweet potatoes.
These came together well-enough, though I won't say they were easy (as coating anything is a bit of a chore.) However, they were a huge hit. Pat raved over them. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside as promised.
Of all the wedges I made, these three (above) were the only ones that remained. It was a good thing they did because I forgot to take a picture until dinner was over. Oops. Since the man loved them so much, I'm sure I'll be making them again.

Lastly, I've been obsessed with my Gelli Plate since it came in the mail. When I saw the yarn-wrapped block as part of Print & Pattern's review of Print Workshop I wondered how well that texture would work on the plate. Pat gave me a scrap piece of wood from his shop and I cut a length of yarn.
The first length wasn't quite long enough, so I re-wrapped it with a bit more yarn.
It didn't look like it left much of an impression on the Gelli plate,
but immediately worked well as a stamp.
The print from the Gelli Plate actually turned out better than I expected.
I'll probably use more yarn and something less. . .synthetic next time, but I think this worked well both as a stamp and as a texture tool on the plate.

Now to start planning for this week. Here's what I've selected from my boards to try out:
I'm looking forward to the week ahead and hope you are too.