Sunday, December 30, 2012

Planning Ahead..

After Christmas, one of my favorite things to do is to start planning my garden for next Spring. This is usually spurred along because of the arrival of Burpee’s 2013 Plant and Seed Catalogue.  I have already marked some new things to try for this year and cannot wait until it’s time to start planting. Here are some of the awesome new and not so new things that I can’t wait to get my garden-gloved hands on..
The shining glory of the 2013 newbies..
prod003154_sm_b

Burpee’s Super Sauce Tomato
In their own words..
It’s SuperSauce! The new tomato superhero. A whole lot bigger, a whole lot better, a roma with aroma. Weighing in at 2-lbs., a whopping 5.5” tall x 5” wide, SuperSauce produces gallons of luscious, seedless sauce from a single plant harvest—one tomato fills an entire sauce jar. Very few people in the gardening world consider a paste tomato for anything other than to make paste or sauce. SuperSauce is extraordinarily delicious and versatile as a salad tomato, as well as having a distinctive quality in that its large segments of fruit often make a shape that is perfect for a meaty and tasty hamburger slice, quite different from the horizontal slice commonly used from a large round tomato.Easy-to-grow, indeterminate, disease-free plants yield a summer long supply of the exquisitely-flavored marinara, tomato gravy or meat sauce plus plenty for slicing and salads.
I cannot wait to get my hands on the seed for these!!
 
Next..
corn
The first ever sweet corn hybrid, bred for container gardens!
The name On Deck says it all. Stalks only get between 4 to 5 feet tall and produce  2 or 3  7” to 8” ears per stalk.  It’s revolutionary space saving gardening at it’s best and it will be mine.  Oh yes, it will be mine.
 
Peter Piper never picked these babies..
pepper
A new Pepper Hybrid that they obviously named after me.  Hot, Sweet Thing is a breed of Cayenne Pepper with one big change. It has no heat.  Yep, they kept all the smoky and sweet flavors of the Cayenne Pepper and took out the heat, so even my Mother will be able to enjoy it. This 30” plant grows bundles of  10 to 12 “ peppers in a multitude of beautiful colors.  I think these will be perfect for pickling also!
 
The Golden Egg..
squash
I love squash and zucchini and I was very excited to read about this guy.  The Golden Egg Summer Squash is supposed to be the best tasting summer squash out there, not to mention it’s compact, egg-like, shape which makes it perfect for smaller spaces.
 
So those are the 4 new vegetables that I plan on having make an appearance in my garden this year.  I will be ordering my seed packs soon..yes, even with snow on the ground..but a girl’s gotta be prepared.  Another thing I am excited about is the new raised garden I will be using this year. I actually ordered it last year, but it arrived too late to take advantage of it.  This year it will be front and center and I cannot wait..
bed
and an idea from Pinterest that I will probably be implementing …
pallet
I have lots of pallets at my disposal, so why not use them! I think this will be an excellent way to plant my On Deck Sweet Corn.
So there you have it. My plans thus far for my garden this summer.  Oh, it may change by the time Spring gets here, but it is so fun to day dream while the snow is flying. 
Be sure to check out www.burpee.com and www.gardeners.com for more plants and great gardening supplies.
Have A Great Evening.
love,
Val




Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Story

DSC_0271
The Saturday before Christmas started out just like any other.  It was absolutely nuts in the salon with everyone wanting haircuts and nails done before the big day.  Luckily, I was not so busy that I couldn’t stop for a  bathroom break..you laugh, but it happens.  As I was making clients look their best for Santa, I started to notice a little tingle in my chest, a little burn if you will, and thought to myself, “Oh great, probably getting bronchitis or something. Ugh.”  But the show must go on, so I finished up at work and headed home that afternoon to a list of stuff that needed to be done.
 
First on the list was wrapping all the gifts that we bought for the family we adopted. We had to drop the presents off that 5pm evening and everything still needed wrapped. So, I turned on the Matrix (I know, this movie just screams Christmas), sat in the middle of my living room floor and wrapped presents while my Hubby and kids slept all the while contemplating if I would’ve taken the blue pill or the red pill. (I’m thinking ignorance is bliss.)  I should have known I was in trouble when this activity started making me sweat, but hey, I had a sweater on and I was trying to understand all the overly complicated verbage of the Matrix…that’s enough to make anyone sweat, right?

Before long we were on our way to drop off our presents and finish up some very last minute shopping.  We decided to eat at Chile’s and I decided something was really wrong with me when I just couldn’t find anything that sounded good on the menu. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and when I came back, my three year old was sitting by himself in the booth with the “neighbor” couple talking to him.  I walked up and must have had a very panicked look on my face. I asked Christopher where Daddy and Ben were and he informed me that Ben had to “pook”..which means puke in Chris language.  The nice lady talking to him said that she promised to look after him while Adam made a beeline for the bathroom and that it had only been about 30 seconds since they left..thank goodness. Long story short, Ben tossed his cookies all over the bathroom of Chile’s and we got the heck out of Dodge asap. ..A  story we will probably tell at family Christmas get-together’s for the rest of poor Ben’s life…..our family is weird that way. 

Now, Ben wasn’t running a fever and had no other symptoms of illness and proclaimed that he felt just fine. So, I begged my Hubby to please, please, please just let me stop at Sephora for like 5 minutes to grab my last gift and then we could be on our way home. (Que the foreshadowing music) I have my purchase and I am waiting at the door for my Hubby to pick me up when my phone rings. Hubby says, “ I’ll be there in a minute, Ben’s exploding all over the parking lot and while I was pulling him from the car, he got me too.”  EEEWwww…kinda glad I missed that one!  I tell him no problem and step back inside until they picked me up.  After that, there was no passing go, no collecting $200 - we were going home. 

In the middle of all this craziness, I was feeling increasingly worse, but I had a sick kid to take care of so I pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to help my little guy as much as possible.  The big turning point was when I woke up in the night to help him out while he got sick once again and I told my Hubby that I thought something was wrong with the furnace.  I was freezing a couldn’t quit shaking...and as you’ve already guessed there was nothing wrong with the furnace.

I proceeded to get worse and worse over the next 24 hours or so and my poor Hubby got a real good glimpse of what single Dad life is really like, the good part being that our son was bouncing back really quickly.  On Christmas Eve, he hauled me to the doctor and I was threatened with a one way trip to the ER and an IV, which I graciously refused and promised to go home and try as hard as I could to push the fluids. I had the flu and was the sickest I have probably ever been in my life. Consequently Christmas was cancelled at the Winland’s.  Santa still came, but other than that, we did nothing. I have to give my Hubby all the credit for getting everything ready while I watched from a horizontal position.

I felt horrible laying there thinking about everything my kids were missing.  They didn’t get to go to Nana’s house for Christmas Eve or eat their normal big Christmas breakfast that I prepare, and I am pretty sure Christmas dinner included Doritos. It wasn’t what Christmas is normally like at our house at all.  I was broken hearted.

I was laying in my bed while my Hubby got the boys ready for bed that night, listening to them chattering about everything, when they ambushed my bedroom. They both climbed up on my bed and sprawled across my chest, with little chubby cheeks and sweet smiles. “We love you Mommy!” they declared and I told them I loved them too. Then my Hubby said, “Go ahead, tell her what you guys just told me.” In unison they both looked up with big smiles and said,”This was the BEST Christmas EVER!!!”

My eyes kind of welled just little and after they were tucked snug in their beds, my Hubby came back in the room and said, “See, you were so worried, but to a 6 year old and 3 year, just staying in your p.j.’s all day and playing with all your cool new stuff is the best thing in the world.” He then kissed my head and left the room.

I don’t think God gave met he flu for Christmas, but I’m pretty sure he used it to teach me a lesson. It doesn’t really matter if you eat the same traditional breakfast or do all the traditional things that you do.  Don’t get me wrong, tradition is wonderful and creates some great memories, but sometimes simple is best. Sometimes quiet is good. And maybe, just maybe, sometimes staying in your p.j.’s with your loved ones, watching movies, playing all day and eating Doritos can be the best Christmas ever.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just One More Cookie…

I am putting one more cookie recipe out before Christmas because
1. Why not.
2. Everyone’s jeans should be shrinking like mine.
3. Why not.
So, I give you..
Ooey Gooey Eggnog Cookies
DSC_0029
 
This is my spin on Paula Deen’s Ooey Gooey Chocolate Butter Cookies. 
Her original recipe is:
1 stick of room temperature butter
1   8oz. brick of cream cheese, room temperature
DSC_0023
1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 egg
Mix it all together and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then, scoop a 2 tsp. size ball out and roll it in powdered sugar and put onto a parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
 
I had the idea to turn these into Egg Nog flavor for a little Christmas cheer.
DSC_0024
Follow the same recipe except change the chocolate cake mix to a white cake mix and instead of one egg, add 1/3 Cup of Egg Nog and also add 1/2 tsp. of ground nutmeg.
DSC_0026
DSC_0027
Bake the same time and temp and there you have it. Quite possibly the best Egg Nog Cookie I have ever tasted in my life.
DSC_0028
My Hubby, who doesn’t even like Egg Nog, loves these cookies. They taste like birthday cake with a little Egg Nog flare.
Give them a try, they rock!
Have A Great Evening.
love,
Val

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DIY Gift Box

DSC_0018
After I made my jewelry the other day, I woke up and realized that I had nothing to put the jewelry in to give as a gift.  I rummage through my jewelry armoire to see if I had any extra boxes and I did not.  Great, now what is a girl to do?  Then a light bulb went on and I remembered that I pinned something to my craft board on Pinterest that would get me out of this jam.  It was a template for a DIY jewelry gift box. So I clicked my way to the original website and read a little bit more about it and decided that I could do it …I was going to make my own gift box.  So I printed out the template they provided and went to town.  So here is how I took a shoe box to a jewelry box with relatively little trouble..
Triangle Gift Box
I took just a plain old shoe box ..
DSC_0001
..and broke it down to lay flat.
I then traced my template onto the flattened cardboard.
DSC_0002
Once traced, cut out the newly traced cardboard shape. I found this was easier to do if I got rid of all the excess cardboard around the edges first, then I could go back to do the more precise cutting.
DSC_0004
You’ll notice that the template has a bunch of dotted lines.  This marks where the box will bend. For easier assembly, I went ahead and pre-bent those lines..
DSC_0005
Once those lines are all bent, you can begin gluing your box together..
DSC_0008
Place a bead of glue on the tiny triangles and then fold the sides up to meet..
DSC_0009
Hold them together until they set.  I used super glue, so this didn’t take very long at all. Once all the sides are secured then you can fold in the top and it should look something like this..
DSC_0011
I decided after I made this box that I wanted it wrapped. I don’t recommend this. I did however get it done and it didn’t turn out too bad..
DSC_0014
I copied the template again onto the wrapping paper.
Then I used Mod Podge and glued it onto the box.  This was messy, but once it dried, it looked pretty cute..
DSC_0018
I also made some of these boxes out of heavy cardstock.
DSC_0020
  I really liked it a lot better and I used tape instead of glue. 
DSC_0021
Either way, I think they are pretty cute and something fun to give someone for Christmas!
DSC_0019
p.s ..don’t forget to let them know you made it yourself!..
DSC_0016
Here is the template ..
handmade-gift-boxes-templates-1
feel free to download and start making boxes galore!
Have A Great Evening!
love,
Val

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DIY Statement Necklace and Earring Set

I’ve been making some new jewelry for Christmas.  The recipient of this cannot be revealed yet because she doesn’t know she’s getting it and she may be reading this blog right now, but I think this necklace and earring set turned out pretty good..
DSC_0657
Now, don’t think I have strung every bead and what not, it was actually a lot easier than it looks..
DSC_0651 copy
For the earrings..You simply start out with a head pin.  If you aren’t familiar with jewelry making jargon, a head pin is this..
headpin
 
You then pick out your beads…mine happen to be shiny, blingy crystal beads (surprise) and thread them onto the head pin in whatever order you prefer. You then snip off any access, leaving enough to form a little loop. 
You then take a split ring.
split rings
open it up and attach your beads and whatever earring hook you prefer. Then close your split ring.
In order to do the intricate work of opening and closing split rings and making loops, you will need to acquire some jewelry tools such as round nose pliers, wire nippers and needle nose pliers.  You can find these in any craft department or store that sells jewelry making supplies and they are relatively cheap.
DSC_0652
For the necklace I cheated a little and bought a full pre-assembled piece of a statement necklace because I wanted some bulk without the work..and it happened to be on sale, yippee!
DSC_0653
To the left is the 16” chain I bought for the necklace.  I used two split rings to attach the pre-assembled piece to the chain. I decided that I didn’t like the beads with the black cording on them with my design so I removed them and saved them for another project.  Then, I started adding my own beading to the necklace..
DSC_0655
I did this by using the same procedure as I used with the earrings.  I threaded beads onto a head pin and nipped off the access and made a loop. I then attached the beads to the chain with another split ring.  I did this several times using several several different designs of beading and ended up with something like this..
DSC_0657
Ta Da.  A blingy, fun set that I hope will make someone very happy! 
Have A Great Evening!
love,
Val
f

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Cookie

I made my absolute favorite Christmas Cookie today.  It’s kind of Christmas staple in our family and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. 
Governor Edgar Cookies
DSC_0667
Now, I know what you’re thinking …why are they called Governor Edgar Cookies?  Well, years ago, my Mother found this recipe in a newspaper and it stated that these cookies were the (then) Governor’s favorite and gave the recipe.  So, consequently I have no one to give the credit to for this recipe because I have no idea who originally put it in the paper.  They are the best, buttery and soft Christmas sugar cookie I have ever tasted and the best part is they are just a drop cookie, so no messy cut outs. 
Recipe:
Cream together 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted, room temperature butter and 1 Cup of sugar.
DSC_0639
  Add in 3 Tbsp. of milk, 2 eggs and 1 tsp. of vanilla.  In a separate bowl (or on a plastic cutting mat) combine 3 Cups of flour, 1 tsp. of cream of tartar and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda. 
DSC_0640
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until just combined, do not over mix.
DSC_0641
Scoop out onto parchment lined cookie sheets with a 2 tsp. size ice cream scoop and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. 
DSC_0642
DSC_0646
While those cool you can make the icing. Take one stick of unsalted room temperature butter, 4 Cups of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla and mix until well combined.  Add milk 1 tbsp. at a time until it’s the right consistency to spread onto the cookies.
DSC_0660
Once the cookies are completely cool, spread the icing on an don’t be stingy.
DSC_0661
The cookie is a perfect balance with this icing because the cookie itself isn’t super sweet.
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
Have a great evening.
love,
Val

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Pecan Shortbread

DSC_0637
I’ve been a busy bee this week getting ready for Christmas.
DSC_0645 
One of the things I started was my Christmas baking. I wasn’t quite as cute as the picture above, but I held my own.  I’ve pretty much decided to make three different types of cookies and some spiced nuts this year and so I finished the first two cookies on Tuesday.  Now if I could just quit eating them I won’t even have to re-bake any of them before Christmas, but it’s not looking good so far.  The first cookie I baked was..
Chocolate Dipped Pecan Shortbread
 
It’s a typical shortbread recipe, nothing fancy, but then they are dipped into melted chocolate which puts them right over the top.  They are delicious and healthy and have no calories
…..in opposite world. 
First take 3 sticks of unsalted, room temperature butter and beat it with your mixer.  Slowly add 1 Cup of sugar and let that beat until it is light and fluffy. Add 1 tsp. of Vanilla and mix again. Then slowly add in 3 Cups of flour and a tsp. of salt while mixing on low speed. Add in 1 and 1/2 Cups of finely chopped pecans. 
It looks like this…
DSC_0608
Then spread out some plastic wrap and put half the dough in the center, shaping it into a flat disk like so…
DSC_0609
Do the same for the second half of the dough.
Then, stack the disks in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.
DSC_0610
Notice how I placed the cookies dough right beside all the veggies.  That is so I don’t feel so bad about eating a dozen of them because I’ll just detox later with a salad.  Hey, it’s how I get through the day.
Once chilled, roll the dough out until it is 1/4 inch thick and cut into any shape that your heart desires. 
I cut mine into squares.  Lay them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
DSC_0611
Now comes the fun part..
Once the cookies are cooled take a 12 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and pour half into a bowl and pop into the microwave in 30 second intervals until it is completely melted, then add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips slowly into the melted chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted.  You can pop it back in the microwave for 10 second intervals to loosen up the second half of the chips, just be VERY careful not to scorch the chocolate or you’ve just wasted a bag of chocolate chips.  …and 4 minutes of your life.  It’s very frustrating, so don’t do it.
Dip half of the cookie into the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry.  Just after you’ve dipped all the cookies, you can sprinkle them all with some pretty and festive sugar. Voila ..Chocolate dipped pecan shortbread.  They’re delicious and addictive.






DSC_0637
I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!
Have A Great Evening.
love,
Val