Zoofari, Menu, Recipe Review, Shop News (too much?)

Before I start in about my menu, let me say that I had an exhausting but fulfilling weekend. I got to spend a majority of it with my nieces and a group of wonderful young ladies at the Birmingham Zoo. I got to watch this guy during most of my visit.

As well, I saw lots of pretty birds.
I love all the bright colors on this Lorikeet
These flamingos were more peach than pink and these three were involved in some kind of brawl
But, that was it for me and the animals as we had to be on the road to hear the Alabama v. Ole Miss game!! Roll tide!

Anyway, it's Monday once again and time for a new meal plan for the week.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal/grits, Juice, Yogurt w/granola & fruit, Waffles or pancakes from the freezer, Jam-filled almond muffins, Breakfast burritos

Lunches: Leftovers, PB&J, Tuna noodles, Chicken salad sandwiches, Cheese & mushroom calzones, Soup w/grilled cheese, Cheese pizza (from freezer)

Red lentil rice cakes w/roasted cauliflower & leftover orzo
Cheese ravioli in marinara w/salad


Recipe Review

From last week's menu
  • Black Bean and Cheese enchiladas with ranchero sauce: I've made quite a few black bean enchilada recipes since we started this low-meat thing. I think these were the best of the bunch. For one, I used whole wheat flour tortillas instead of corn. The ingredients in the tortillas were simple, though the ranchero sauce took up most of the time. However, I think it was worth that extra effort for sure! I will probably make these again.
  • Tuscan bean soup with shrimp: I'll admit that I was a little worried about how good this would be despite it being a Pioneer Woman recipe. I should know know never to worry about her recipes. It was wonderful and filling. I did use crushed tomatoes instead of diced as neither of us is big on chunky tomatoes in our soup. I froze what was left and may make this again.
  • Barefoot Contessa lemon chicken breast: This was pretty simple and definitely yummy. I used two large bone-in breasts as I couldn't find skin-on, boneless ones. It turned out fine. Even with only two breasts I had to cook these for almost 50 minutes. (Though I do admit that I know my oven cooks slower than others.) This recipe might just be repeated.
  • Parmesan basil orzo: I think Pat like this okay but I really, really loved it. It was a simple recipe that cooked while I took care of other things and it was divine. The touch of basil in it was inspired. I definitely will make this again.

Shop News

Beach Glam Necklace

On sale!
Perfect Wave Bracelet - 20% off
Green Ladybird Necklace - 25% off
Unique Delight Earrings - 15% off

I think that's plenty enough information for today. I apologize for getting carried away!

Focusing on Life 39: Your Best Shot

I thought about this prompt all week. I really did ponder what my best shot is/was.
Like my life in general, my mind turned to thoughts of the beach. I initially thought about my sunrise photos from Spring Break 2012, but I already shared some of those pictures for another Focusing on Life prompt. Then it hit me that the same picture I'm using as the background on my laptop would be perfect.

This was taken about three years ago when Pat and I vacationed in Aruba. I really love the sailboat crossing in front of the sun and the lovers embracing on the left.

I'm still not sure that this is my BEST shot, but definitely one of my most memorable. Make sure you check out what some of the other participants consider their best shot (check out the links below) and visit Sally's blog, The Studio Sublime, to see more about the Focusing on Life series.

Defining My Style: A work in progress

I've probably mentioned it more than either you or I care to admit, but I really struggle with defining my style. This fact NAGS at me all the time. Really, it's there. . .in my face. . .constantly. Yet, I've done hardly anything to remedy this issue.

That changed some this week. I don't know what snapped in me: the long suffering need to get this done; this post from Charlie at Clay Space on identifying your customer; the long process of editing pictures of pieces that I simply don't like; or divine intervention. However, there was an audible SNAP.

I removed a few items from my shop that I just didn't care for, I pulled some expired items from my "to be re-listed list" that aren't 'ME', and I made a new Etsy Banner that I think reflects me (or who I am, where I want to head right now) a little more.

I'm going to try to only list those items that I like, that I think my ideal customer would like, that I'm PROUD to say I made; and not the ones that make me cringe.

I've still got lots of thinking to do on this whole issue of what my style is, but this is the start. 

Here's something new in the shop as well. This definitely fits in with the direction I want to head.
Mountainside Necklace

Have you taken the time to think over these issues? How did it go for you? What other aspects do you think I should consider? Help!

Rolling Blog Hop Challenge Items

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Christine from One Kiss Creations. She wanted to know if I would be interested in a bit of a challenge. She explained that she had been out thrifting/antiquing and picked up a few items that she thought would be cool for jewelry-making. Christine was making a call out to a few other designers to see if they would be interested in this challenge too. The kicker? She didn't tell us what the challenge pieces were going to be. Of course, I was all over this. You may have noticed that I like working with unusual items, especially those found on a thrifting/antiquing excursion.

I received the jam-packed box from Christine last week. Here's what all was in it.
Vintage plastic beads in bright hues
Citrine, peridot, amethyst, aquamarine teardrop bead mix
This is a crappy picture, but these bits were all individually wrapped in bubble wrap
Here's a bit of a better look at the cameo pendant (LOVE!) and the three little bird pins
Some cool metal pieces: hand charms, silver-tone chain, neat gold tone clip-on earrings
There was a little baggie with these polymer clay beads and a few crystals
There was a HUGE baggie that had this triple strand necklace and the loose stone beads. Can anyone identify what those are?
For a beachy girl like me, these strands of drilled shells were just awesome to find in the package.
And last are the challenge pieces:
Vintage wood spools

Yes, WOODEN SPOOLS! I've already started on my designs for this challenge. I actually almost started on them before I got a picture of the blank spools in all their unfinished glory. Now, the blog hop for this isn't very traditional by any means. Christine only asks that we make something with at least one of the spools and then blog about it sometime between the last week of October and the end of November. The freedom of this blog hop has her calling it "A Rolling Blog Hop" (rolling is exactly what those spools tried to do when I took the above picture). So check back in and see what I made. I'll also try to share links to the other participants as they roll out their designs too. This is going to be fun!

Menu, recipe review, and a sale

Today has been all about desperately trying to get back into my routine. While there's still lots on my list to be crossed off, I'm proud to report that I have a meal plan after a couple of weeks without one. It makes me feel like the rest of the week can run aground just as long as I know what we'll be eating. Weird right? Anyway, here's the list.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal/Cheese grits, Juice, Yogurt w/granola & fruit, Waffles/Pancakes (from the freezer), Breakfast burritos

Lunches: Leftovers, Quesidillas (cheese/pizza), PB&J, Tuna Noodles, Soup w/grilled cheese, Cheese pizza (from freezer)

Mushroom Stroganoff w/green beans (I'm going to use a combination of these two recipes for the stroganoff and add some soy crumbles as well. We'll see how it goes.)
Tuscan bean soup with shrimp (possibly without the shrimp since I forgot to get it at the store)


Recipe Review

Though I didn't really make a menu the last few weeks, we did try a few recipes.
  • Crockpot brown and maple sugar pork tenderloin: This was pretty good. It got a thumbs up from the hubby but it still didn’t have the sweet flavor I thought it would. Being cooked in the crockpot made it a little dry, but it was fine overall. I might make it again.
  • Veggie and tofu stir fry:  - I ended up using broccoli instead of the bok choy as I couldn't find the latter anywhere. We really liked this dish, but there didn't seem to be enough oil in the pan so many of the veggies got a little charred, though I stirred it fairly constantly. As well, there wasn't much of the sauce, especially since I served this over rice. I'll likely make this again, but add more oil and up the amount of sauce. 
  • Fontal polenta with mushroom saute: This was really, really good. I could only find the pre-made polenta in the store so I rolled with that and sliced it, sauteed it in a little butter, and laid it in the bottom of a casserole dish. I used white wine instead of the lemon juice (as suggested in the comments) and added a touch of cream to the mushrooms. It was really good. Very rich though. I will probably make it again.
  • Broccoli cheese soup: This was pretty good and fairly easy. We consumed quite a bit of it. I may make it again. 
  • Mushroom soup: I think I've actually made this before. It came together fairly quickly and we ate it up. It is rather rich though with all the cream and cheese. I actually ate the leftovers myself and that's pretty rare for me. I will probably make it again, though it might not be often because of the extreme richness of it.
  • Grilled chicken with lemon basil pasta: This is a FAVORITE of mine. I've made it many, many times (with and without the chicken). The lemon and basil give it a light, refreshing taste while the cheese and cream make it decadent. It comes together pretty quickly also. The leftovers always get eaten no matter how much I make. It's delicious and will definitely be made again and again.
  • Crispy lemon tilapia: This is another recipe that I've cooked before. It comes together quickly and gives the fish a little umph. I'll use this recipe again I'm sure.
Whew. . .that was a long list. I do apologize!
I've got one more quick thing to add; I marked down a few items in the Etsy Shop this morning if you're interested.
One of the items marked down this morning.

I've got a pile of new stuff to be added to the shop but it seems to be taking me forever to get the pictures edited and the descriptions written, so please stay tuned! Here's a link to the sale section of the CraftyHope Etsy Shop

The Monster that Ate All My Time is Revealed (no worries; it's a fluffy, friendly monster)

Borrowing a line from the creepy robot/computer, GLaDOS, in Portal 2, "Oh, there you are."
Wait, that should be "Oh, here I am!"
I'd love to share some beautiful pictures of sandy beaches and frozen drinks as an explanation for my absence, but alas. . .no. I will explain that I recently took on a role with ZnetShows and have been working pretty hard to put out their first Glossi as well as make my own pieces for it and write up a bio to include in there as well. It's been a roller coaster ride, both scary and fun at the same time.

I was really happy with the pieces I made from the "Rings & Bling" challenge theme and thought I oughta share some of the other pictures I took of them for a better look.
These simple crystal and metal bow earrings are just too cute for words.

I'll admit that I hard a hard time with the skull chain, but I really love the patina I added to it.

The way these came together make me think of little fairies. . .three-legged fairies, but fairies nonetheless.

This bracelet is not really my usual style, but I still find it really cool. Maybe I need to re-make my usual style!

I worked forever on figuring out what to do with those little sea glass rings. I knew I wanted to alter them somehow and pouring resin into that one on the focal worked out just right.

These earrings were by far my favorite of the bunch. I'm not usually into making more elegant/evening wear pieces, but I love these. I especially like how the rings fit within one another so that they crisscross.
And, I just had to share another picture of them so you can see the luscious teal color a little better.

For more pictures of these as well as a whole bunch of other amazing designers' work, go check out Creative Spark and see what ate up so much of my time lately.
While I know I could have kept on editing it and editing it, I'm still pretty proud of how it turned out. Of course, not all the credit goes to me. There's a whole team of designers whose work and input really MADE the Glossi. Thanks to all of y'all! :)

Menu, Recipe Review, and a New Recipe (Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Mushrooms)

With yesterday being Labor Day, I shirked many of my usual responsibilities including worrying about the menu for the week. Oops! Here it is now.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal/cheese grits, Juice, Yogurt w/granola & fruit, Omelets, Jam filled almond muffins

Lunches: Leftovers, BBQ tofu pizza, Soup w/grilled cheese, Bean burritos, Pizza rolls, Turkey sandwiches

Crock pot brown and maple sugar pork tenderloin w/sweet potatoes & roasted cauliflower
Veggie and tofu stir fry over jasmine rice
Fontal polenta with mushroom saute w/salad & green beans
Cheese ravioli w/marinara sauce

It should be good! I'm linking up to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Recipe Review

Last week didn't go completely according to plan, so there's only one recipe for me to review right now.

Southwestern Broccoli Quiche:  For a quiche, this wasn't too bad. We both had seconds, but we didn't touch the leftovers. I may make it again, but not too soon as this was the third quiche I've ever made and Pat's response was that it's three times more quiche than he's ever had in his life. It seems I may need to find other meatless alternatives. . .sigh.


New Recipe

Last week I got the chance to test out a new recipe. It was something I was kinda craving, but couldn't find just the right recipe for it, so I made it up myself. I'm calling it Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Mushrooms (there's a complete list of ingredients and instructions at the bottom)
Gather ingredients and preheat oven to 350 degree (somehow there's no olive oil in this picture)

Remove stems and gills from the inside of the mushrooms

Chop these into smaller bits

Combine these innards with some chopped jalapenos and minced garlic

Mix cream cheese, green onions, 1 cup of grated cheese, bacon bits, and panko

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with olive oil. Place mushrooms empty side down on baking sheet and spray tops with olive oil (or lightly coat using olive oil and a paper towel.) Bake for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add your fat (oil, bacon grease, etc.) to a pan and heat it on Medium. Then add your chopped mushrooms, jalapenos, and garlic. Cook these until there's little to no liquid (about 5 minutes). 

Remove mushroom caps from oven and let cool while you stir together the jalapeno mix and sour cream mix until well combined.

Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture and top each mushroom with 1 Tbs of cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes (until sides of mushrooms start sagging/flattening)

They're not the prettiest things in the world, but they were tasty!
Here's the whole list of instructions for easier viewing.

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Mushrooms
Olive oil or non-stick spray
1 Tbs fat of your choice (coconut oil, olive oil, bacon grease, etc)
4 large portobello mushroom caps
1-2 Jalapenos (depending on your spicy preference), diced small
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup Green onions, sliced
4oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup Bacon bits (or crumbled bacon)
1 1/4 cup cheese, divided (I used both cheddar and monterey jack, but whatever you like is fine)
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Chop/mince veggies
  3. Remove mushroom stems and gills with a spoon and chop
  4. Spray baking sheet with olive oil
  5. Place mushrooms on baking sheet, tops up. Spray tops of mushrooms with olive oil (or coat with oil using a paper towel) and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  6. Bake mushrooms for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool
  7. Mix sour cream, green onions, 1 cup of cheese, bacon bits, and panko in a bowl.
  8. Heat fat on medium in a pan. Add jalapenos, mushroom innards, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes (until liquid cooks down)
  9. Add jalapeno mixture to sour cream mixture and stir until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Stuff mushrooms with the mixture and top with the remaining cheese
  11. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Winding down the 100DayProject

I awoke the other day with many thoughts about the 100 Day project and decided to jot them down here to share with you. Some of the bits I g...