Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Recipes

Since it has cooled down I have been pulling all of my favorite Fall recipes out of the box...and adding a couple of new ones.

This recipe is one of my favorite soups to make and to eat. Not only are soups great to come home to on a cool day, but they are great to keep in the fridge for a fast dinner, or freeze for a pre-prepared meal on a busy week night. This soup has very few ingredients and prep work which makes it a great "go to" recipe for me.

 

013

Potato Leek Soup
 
First, get a large stock pot and heat up a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. 
 
 
 
While that is heating up, prepare your leeks.
 
 



If you have never worked with leeks, then let me explain the easiest way to chop and clean them so you're not eating grit...unless you like to eat grit..in which case you should ignore what I am about to tell you.
I prepare my leeks by chopping them first, before cleaning them.  I cut off the end with the roots and then find the spot before all the green leaves start on the opposite end and cut them off.  I then peel off the outside layer and cut my leeks in half, length wise and then dice them up. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I then put my leeks in a colander and rinse them off as well as possible. I do this because it is impossible to rinse between all the layers of the leek without chopping it up first, and since commercial leeks grow in sandy, gritty soil,  you really need to rinse all the grit out a well as you can.
 
004
 
I then add the chopped leeks to the pot with a pinch of salt and begin to soften them up.
 
 
 
When the leeks are soft, add one 48 oz. box of low sodium, fat free chicken broth and 2 chicken bouillon cubes.
 
008
 
Then peel and chop about 2 pounds of golden potatoes and add them to the pot and bring the whole thing to a boil until the potatoes are cooked through.
 
007
 
Once the potatoes are soft, turn the heat down to medium. Then get out your handy submersion blender and go to town on the soup until it is creamy and smooth.  If you do not have a sub blender, you can transfer to a regular blender and then transfer it back to the pot. 
 
010
 
Once everything is blended, add a half cup of butter milk and a half cup of half and half.  Let it heat back up and serve with your favorite crackers or some freshly baked bread.  Yummy!  It's super easy and super delicious.
013
 
Hope you had a great Sunday!
love,
Val


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gilded White Pumpkin Centerpiece

I've had this idea rummaging around in my head for a few weeks.  ...I know, scary.  Actually, I've had a couple ideas, but I will share the first one with you today.  One of two things usually happens when I have an idea. 
1.  I make it happen and it's glorious.
2.  I crash and burn and never tell anyone it ever happened.  Unless my sister witnesses my failure.  Which results in many years of family get togethers where she will bring up the "Christmas Cookie Incident" and never let me live it down.
No wonder I need therapy.
I think it goes without saying that I've learned the hard way to do my experiments when I am alone.

My first idea is this..

Gilded White Pumpkin Centerpiece
 
 
 
This is so simple and easy to make and looks pretty cool if I do say so myself.
 
I purchased some foam white pumpkins from Micheal's, but you could use real white pumpkins if you wanted to.  I just like the fact that my creation will last forever so I used the foam pumpkins.
 
I also purchased a can of gold spray paint and I ripped off a leaf from one of my autumn garlands that I usually put out to decorate.  Once again, you could use a real leaf, if you can find one perfect enough, but I was in a hurry and didn't have time to commune with nature.
.

 
 
 
 
You then, start from the top of the pumpkin and lay your leaf down and hold it there with one hand.  With the other hand you want to spray the paint at the leaf in short bursts. 
A couple tips:
-You may want to wear a glove or you will have a gold hand.
(I learned this the hard way...but I did feel like a Bond girl for a few hours, until it started to flake off.  Then it was just gross.)
-You want to start at the top and work your way to the bottom or you may smudge your paint.
-Like I said above, spray the leaf, not the pumpkin.  This will give you the stencil effect you want.
 
 
Let the pumpkin dry thoroughly and then you will have something like this..
 
 
I did two more because I am using them as centerpieces for a party..
 
 
I think these turned out pretty well. I also think they would look cute in all kinds of different colors too. 
I hope you enjoy this idea and make it your own!
 
Have A Happy Wednesday!
love,
Val
 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

What the hail....?

Today is a sad day for me..

Let me start from the beginning. Yesterday afternoon I had a doctor's appointment.  I have been fighting a sinus infection since the Clinton administration and I was sick and tired of it.  I needed antibiotics stat.  So, I swung by the pharmacy, picked up my meds, grabbed up my babies from my Mom's and headed home just in time.  The storms were coming and I didn't want to be out when it all started. 

I changed into my sweats and assumed the position of a slug while I read my kindle and watched it rain like crazy.  Then out of no where, the skies opened up and it hailed like I have never seen it hail before.  It looked like a snow storm..only the cute little flakes would have put your eye out.  I've seen bigger hail, but not this much all at once.  It was amazing and it had me counting my blessing that we were all tucked in save at home. I then remained in the slug position for the rest of the evening with my kindle and proceeded to read until I was cross eyed and my hubby had to peel the kindle off my face as he came to bed. 

This morning I woke up feeling a lot better and cheerily got ready for work.  Then I stepped out my back door to this..

WAAAAAA!



*Sniffle*

In case you forgot what this looked like before mother nature unleashed her fury on my poor basil..

 
My cute tea cup planter is no longer with us.  He was so cute while he lasted. 
Fortunately for me, I'm sure next spring Wal-Mart will have more and for $20 I will be a proud owner of another tea cup planter.  ..but it still hurts.
 
 
 
One more thing..
 
 
As I was getting ready this morning, I looked at over at my flat iron and I was totally confused, here is why..
 
 


I have so many questions about this.
like...

How does someone burn their eye with a flat iron?
Were they trying to straighten their eyebrows?..eyelashes?
Has it happened so much that they thought it necessary to put a warning on the cord? (Eek.)
Did you just drop it and it smacked into your eyeball?
If you did drop it, wouldn't your first reaction be to squeeze your eye shut?
Can the flat iron not burn any other area of the face?  I feel this is a little unfair to other facial structures, like your nose for example.  I bet your nose doesn't want to be burnt either. Your nose would probably appreciate a tag on the cord too.
Has this really happened so much that they thought it necessary to put a warning on the cord? (double Eek!)

Hmm...
this warning has made me feel less than optimistic about my fellow man.
..and his ability to use a flat iron.
...not that I was feeling all that optimistic to begin with, after all, someone has sued because their coffee was hot.
So there you go.

I hope you have a great, and eyeball burn-free, Saturday!
love,
Val



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Fall, Y'All!

Today, I went to the Amish Auction with my friend Leigh.
This is the same Amish Auction I wrote about last Spring and if you don't remember, here is the link..
http://saintsandscissors.blogspot.com/2012/05/amish-auction.html

They had just a few pumpkins there..

Ok, they had A LOT of pumpkins there..


I went to purchase Mums, but I sure wish I could have gotten these two guys in my truck..

My boys would have been on cloud nine if I had brought these home.

( I have to apologize for the size of the pictures in the rest of this post..for some reason the editing program was being a little testy with me and wouldn't let me enlarge.)


I had to share this cute idea with you..
The only thing I could think when I saw these was that my hubby's boots would probably kill anything I would try to plant in them.  ....They're usually pretty stinky when it's time to throw them out. Actually, they are pretty stinky before it's time to throw them out. Ugh.

My friend Leigh had to show me the huge Indian Corn they were selling and to give you a frame of reference she is holding up a regular size bundle of corn next to it..
We entertained ourselves by making inappropriate comments about the huge corn.  I'll let you guess what we were saying...or you can come up with your own inappropriate comments..whatever works for you.

While we were looking around and deciding what we were going to bid on, I found these glorious little fellas..
Pumpkin and Chocolate Whoopie Pies..
A whole wagon full..
and for some reason, all of the sudden, I couldn't remember what we really came for.
 Mums?!...what Mums? 

I ended up going to the "purchase now" table and getting 4 whoopie pies because for some reason I didn't think it would be a great idea to bring all of these home with me.  They would probably make my jeans shrink.  I hate it when my jeans shrink.

So, now I have to figure out what to do with about 800 Mums and how to get my wind burnt face from stinging all night. 

I think I'll go eat a whoopie pie and I'm sure it will make it all better.

Have A Great Evening!
love,
Val

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birchbox September

Birchbox Sept

This month’s Birchbox has arrived!

DSC_0021

Birchbox wanted to highlight Fall 2012 trends so all of the samples reflect what is new this Fall.

First up…

Benefit Cosmetics foamingly clean facial wash and refined finish facial polish, full size $21-22

DSC_0030

The package claims to purify your skin with this glycerin packed cleanser and natural clay exfoliator.  I wish I could tell you it smelled nice, but I have a cold right now, so I will have to get back to you. I do love the few things I have tried from Benefit, so it sounds interesting.

 

Next..

Color Club Birchbox Custom Polish, full size $8

DSC_0026

You have no idea how much I love grey/slate hues on nails.  It’s an obsession. So, I am beyond elated that these colors will be back this fall.  I really like this color and will probably be applying it to my toes this very evening.  Be jealous of my podiatrial trendiness….but ignore my weird misshapen fourth toe on the right foot, I broke it on a free weight…...it’s a long story. (I am pretty sure I just made the word podiatrial up, make note so I get proper credit)

Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF, full size $32

DSC_0024

It touts that it is the “Swiss Army Knife” of your beauty lineup.  Hmmm….sounds dangerous. This is foundation, moisturizer, sunscreen and serum in one handy little tube. Besides the weird name (poor Dr. Jart) it sounds promising.

Kate Spade New York – Twirl, full size $18-80

DSC_0027

Since I like all things Kate Spade (what girl doesn’t?) I found this is no exception.  Twirl is a light blend of fruity and floral..which for me, makes the floral easier to tolerate.  Let’s face it…they had me at the gold embossed lettering.  I decided all things are better with gold embossed lettering.  That speeding ticket I was so ticked off about would have been down right exciting if it had been typed up in gold embossed lettering….. I think I’ll write the state an email.

Twistband Hair Tie, set of 12, $18

DSC_0029

Okay, I am about to save you $18.  Go to your local fabric store and buy some elastic, you know, the kind you would sew into clothing.  Buy a couple feet and cut it into 4 inch strips. Tie it together at one end and voila, you have a hair tie. You’re welcome and I will be patiently awaiting your thank you emails. Did I mention I don’t think these are worth $18?

And finally..

Drumroll please..

This has to be the icing on the cake…

Preferably buttercream and not that weird whipped cream stuff….oooo, or maybe cream cheese...mmmm.  Okay, I’ll stop.

Band-Aid brand Cynthia Rowley Dress Up Band-Aids

Yes, you just read correctly, they now have designer band aids.  If that isn’t ridiculous enough, these puppies will run you about $15 for a pack of 20.  No, I’m not kidding.  Here they are..

DSC_0022

There are so many things that make my head spin I don’t know where to begin.

1.  If you were going to dress up for an important occasion, why would you want a band aid that has gold chains on it? I would think you would want a band aid that blends in and isn’t too conspicuous, but maybe I am missing something.

2. Being a hair stylist, I have often thought that I should buy stock in Band-Aid.  We go through a lot.  But for $15 a box..I think I’ll bleed to death first.

3.  Did I mention the $15 for something that is only going to sop up whatever weird bodily fluid you are leaking!? It’s gross and unthrifty in one box….and in some countries it may be illegal…I’ll have my people check on that.  My people being a 6 year old, a 3 year old, and a dog with severe grass allergies that we lovingly nicknamed “itchy-scratchy”…so, it may take a while.

Alright, I think I am done.  It was a pretty good Birchbox this month…except for the hideously expensive hair ties and band aids.  I will now take my stuffy nose and go paint my toes. I should be a poet.

 

Have A Great Sunday!

love,

Val

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Learn To Love It

Back in January I made a resolution to lose weight and get healthy.
I know what you're thinking...
"Didn't we all?"
 But I vowed to stick with it if it killed me..and a couple of times I thought it might.
 Since January 1st, I have lost around 40 pounds and have went down 2 clothing sizes.  I feel better than I have in a long time and I know diet has a lot to do with it, but I have been exercising with more discipline than I have since high school.
I hate to exercise. 
No really, I despise it.
I believe if someone says they love to exercise they are either 1) lying 2) an alien or 3) a lying alien. To me, it's like someone saying, "Man, I loved being in labor for 12 hours and delivering that 10 pound baby. Sign me up again."..you know they have a wire crossed somewhere. That being said, I like to fit into my jeans and since I love to eat, I have to learn to love to exercise. I thought maybe if you're like me and love to hate to exercise, then maybe my journey might help you out a little.  Here are a couple of the things I do to try and enjoy working out....if that's possible.



 I love Tennis.  I love everything about it. I forget how much I love it if I haven't played for a while, but last night I returned after a few weeks off...it was great. Because of Tennis, I feel like I found a part of myself that I had forgotten about...I am an athlete and always will be. I played Volleyball and Basketball religiously all the way through school.  I loved playing sports and wasn't too bad at it either. But then, as it always does, life moves on and you graduate and go about your life. You don't get many chances to play Volleyball or Basketball after you're done with school, so I lost the part of myself that craved competition.

I got my son involved in a pee-wee Tennis clinic one winter and his instructor convinced my hubby and I to take a beginners course so, if nothing else, we would know the basics to help him.  Needless to say, I was hooked after the first class.  Since then, I have played on leagues and almost always do a "drills clinic" once a week. 

It's great because I exercise without thinking I am exercising. I am so focused on the sport itself that I forget  I am running around like a mad woman for most of the evening. I also forget how sore I get when I haven't played Tennis for a few weeks. Today, I was the weirdo in the grocery store, moaning while I pushed my cart. I vow, for the sake of my back muscles, right shoulder and inner thighs (which I find confusing) that I won't go that long without playing again. Amen.

So, I guess my first piece of advise is to find something fun, like a sport you enjoy to play, and go do it. Get involved with a group that likes to do it also, because if you aren't showing up, they are going to ask you why and where you've been...and then you will have to admit you've been at home on the couch watching American Idol and eating a bag of Doritoes instead of showing up to play...and that can get embarrassing...trust me.

I have also been running, about 3 days a week, in the mornings with my best friend. Since neither one of us had been doing much running, we decided to ease into it with a Couch to 5K program.  If you've never heard of it, it's a program that over the course of about 9 weeks, has you running a full 5K in about 25 minutes. It is actually pretty interesting because every week your workout is different so you never really get bored. It's also really good for people with joint issues because it's so gradual.

My BF and I catch up on our lives during the walking portions of the workout and end up laughing through some of the running portions, so the whole 30 minutes is over pretty quickly. It's not quite the torture I envisioned, so we have stuck with it pretty well.  If you would like to learn more about Couch to 5K just click on the picture below and it will take you to the same program that we have been doing.



I guess what I am trying to say with this is to find a friend to workout with and hold you accountable.  It also makes the time go by faster.  ...And if you're like me, you get to pretend you're Jillian Micheals and yell at your peon trainee to quit their pansy whining and start running.  ...In case you're wondering, my BF LOVES it when I do this.  A program that has defined workouts with a goal at the end works well for me, too.  I don't get bored and have a sense of accomplishment when I reach my goal.

So, maybe the few things I've learned about exercise will help you or inspire you...I hope. Or maybe you just get a good laugh at envisioning me yelling at my friend or walking around the grocery store like I just jumped off of my loyal steed after a day long ride. Whatever works for you.

Have A Happy Wednesday!
love,
Val



  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Marinara Sauce - bork! bork! bork!

I love making my own marinara sauce. I think it's because I love taking things from my garden and turning them into something delicious,  I love the smell in my house when it is bubbling away on the stove all afternoon, and I love dressing up like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets and prancing around the house, waving my wooden spoon.



 ..okay, I don't really do that.  But, I usually do make my sauce every year with the huge amounts of tomatoes that I get from my garden. Unfortunately, this horribly dry and hot summer did a number on my tomato plants and I have gotten maybe a total of ten large tomatoes all season.  Grrr..


In the midst of my frustration and depleted pantry wares, I have been using canned tomatoes to make my sauce...with pretty good results.  I realize that a lot of people have their own way of making sauce and, let's face it, there are only so many ways of putting together tomatoes, herbs and spices.  Today, I will share my recipe for marinara sauce with you and I hope you like it or maybe take a few ideas for your own.

Marinara Sauce
 
 
In a large pan (I use my Le Creuset 5.5 quart round French Oven but any good stock pan will work) heat about 4 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high and then throw in one small diced white onion and a good pinch of salt. When the onion is just starting to turn a light brown add in 2 or 3 cloves of finely diced garlic and stir around for a few minutes. When your pan looks like this..
 
it's time to deglaze the pan. I use 1/2 cup of chicken broth, but you can also use a 1/2 cup of really good red wine to do this. My kids will be eating this and regardless of what they say, not all alcohol cooks out of food, so I chose to use the broth. I pour the broth in and stir it around to pick up all the bits on the bottom of the pan.
Next add in a can of tomato sauce (14.5 oz), a can of crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz), 1 regular size can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 heaping Tbsp of tomato paste.
 
After it all starts to simmer, I add 2 Tbsp of a really good Italian seasoning, 2 or 3 pinches of red pepper flakes, 2 tsp of sugar and 1 chicken bouillon cube.  Let the sauce simmer for as long as possible before serving. A few minutes before serving, or adding it to pasta, throw in some chopped fresh Italian Parsley.
 
 
 
Here's a few tips I've learned along the way:
*If you don't have Italian seasoning, you can take equal parts of dried sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and basil and mix it all together and voila..you have Italian seasoning. Store it in a air tight container and scoop out as needed.
*The longer it simmers...the better it tastes. I usually make my sauce in the late morning if I am going to use it that evening so it can simmer most of the day.
*It freezes wonderfully so don't hesitate to double or triple the recipe. I usually get two batches of sauce out of the recipe as it is above.
*I put the sauce in ziploc freezer bags and lay them out so that they freeze flat, then they are really easy to stack up and don't take up a lot of precious freezer real estate.
 
Bonus...this recipe is a two-fer.  Love Vodka Sauce? Here is the same marinara sauce with a couple changes to make a wonderful, creamy, vodka sauce:
 
After your onions and garlic are ready to be deglazed, add a 1/4 cup of vodka to deglaze the pan.
Add all the ingredients, minus the red pepper flakes, like normal and let simmer. About 30 minutes before serving add a 1/2 C of heavy cream and 4 oz of Ricotta cheese.  You now have yummy Vodka Sauce to toss with your favorite pasta.
* Please be careful using alcohol near a heat source. You probably like having eyebrows and it would be unfortunate, not to mention embarrassing, to wait for them to grow back.
 
Okay, it's a three-fer..
Want some meat?..After you cook your onions and garlic and before you deglaze the pan, brown 1 pound of Italian sausage and 1 pound of ground beef in the pan.  Drain the fat and place the meat back in the pan and proceed to deglaze like normal. This can be frozen also.
 
So, I hope you try it and I hope you like it and..
 
Hefe-a A Greet Soondey! Bork Bork Bork!
(Swedish Chef speak for "Have a Great Sunday!")
love,
Val

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spiders Ruin Everything

This week was hard on this Momma's heart.
My baby officially started Preschool and he was soooo excited to finally get to go to school..you know, because he's obviously waited so many long years.

One thing I was proud of was that I didn't have near the anxiety about my little munchkin starting Preschool like I did when my oldest son started.

I was feeling pretty good about myself when we walked in and I helped him pick out his name tag...

and I had no problem helping him find his "cubby" and put away his book bag...

and it was fun helping him find a fun toy to play with..

but then it was time to leave.

I hovered. I stalled. I kept going back to check and double check.
Finally I said, "Bye baby, Momma's going to get groceries and I'll be back a little later, OK?"
Chris said, "yep" without taking his eyes off the awesome blocks that he found.
I said, "OK, be a good boy, I love you, bye bye."
Chris said, "bye" without taking his eyes off the awesome blocks that he found.
I then smooched his cheek and walked out the door, realizing that I ceased to exist, and he wasn't going to be scarred or upset.

I don't think he noticed

I sat in the car fighting the tears for a few seconds..
and then headed to the store where I wandered aimlessly, like I haven't done since before kids. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself.

Needless to say, he loved it. The ache in my heart eased a bit when I saw his happy, flushed little face excitedly talking about his first day when I picked him up.
He finally got to go to school.
The only thing that gave him pause was the big spider web that he found on the playground. He assured me that it was properly disposed of by his teacher, so all was right with the world again and playtime resumed without anymore scary spider incidents.

Spiders ruin everything.

I hope you had a great Friday!
Love,
Val

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Demolition

Today was a very exciting day in our household.  Any day that an excavator can destroy something and my boys get to watch it happen, is officially labeled an exciting day. I actually had my friend's little boy with me today, and boy did he love it. Ben was mad that he had to go to school and miss the action. Poor Ben.

We had front row seats as the house across the street was razed.




Obviously Lola wasn't as excited about it as the boys were.

What is the only thing that could be more exciting than an excavator tearing something up, I ask you?
A truck and trailer with teeth and an excavator.. it's twice the excitement ..and it's pure boy heaven!


They were so happy that they were vibrating...it was crazy..it was exciting..it was 2 and 3 year old mania..and then, like all 2 and 3 year old's ...they were distracted by dinosaurs...


and so the mania came to an end.

One more question...
How do you know you live in a small town?



When the neighbors get their lawn chairs out to watch the action...and sit there for 90% of the day so they don't miss anything. Hey, this is exciting stuff, man!
It's also hilarious..
and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Have A Happy Wednesday!
love,
Val