Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Busy busy busy

So sorry you haven’t heard from me in a while! I’ve been super duper busy with photos, work, choir, homeschool and a hundred other things. I am going to take the rest of December off to focus on family and all the important things. Have no fear, I will return in January with a vengeance and will probably have all these crazy stories ready to bust out of me. Thanks so much for understanding!

Happy Wednesday.

love,

Val

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Random Things That You Don’t Need To Know, But I’m Gonna Tell You Anyway

I’ve had a horrible case of writer’s block lately. Every time I come up with an idea for a post I think to myself: no one wants to read about that. Add on top of that Homeschool, Photography, and the Salon and you have the perfect storm of craziness. I think we all know the best way to get over a block is to just start writing….about anything…so that’s what I’m doing tonight. Here are 5 random things that you don’t need to know but I’m gonna tell you anyway..

 

1. I’ve been addicted to making scarves.

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No really.

I’ve made at least 4 in the last 2 weeks and I get a little twitchy when I run out of yarn. I have no idea why but it’s kinda been my thing. On the bright side, my fingernails are looking fabulous.

2. My fingernails are looking fabulous. Well, maybe not fabulous, but better than normal. I am a habitual nail picker, biter, destroyer. It’s my nervous tick. When my hands are busy (see #1) I tend to leave them alone. It’s a win win.

3.  I am also addicted to reruns of Will & Grace. I tend to do a couple loads of laundry every evening and I take the dry laundry and sit on my bed, watch T.V. and fold til my heart’s content. Now normally I don’t watch much television but why I am sitting there, I turn it on for a few minutes. It’s during this time that I have run into reruns of Will & Grace and I find myself laughing hysterically. Now, I look forward to watching every evening and everyone is happy because their underwear drawer is always full. It’s also a win win.

4. I’ve been busy getting ready for 5 photo shoots in the next couple weeks. I’ve been putting together several new backgrounds and learning some new trick on Photoshop. My eyes are now crossed from all the screen time. ..not really.

5. I feel like I’ve been waiting on Thanksgiving forever!! I don’t know why but it seems like it will never get here. I love Thanksgiving. In fact, it may be my favorite holiday. I need me some turkey and I need it now! I’m not sure I can make it another week.  *sigh

Alright, that’s all for now. I know you’re super glad I shared all that nonsense with you but hey, it could have been worse. I could’ve told you about how I haven’t shaved my legs for two weeks.

Oops.

Sorry.

Happy Wednesday.

Love,

Val

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How an Engineer Peels an Apple

 
A few weeks ago my Mother's apple tree was going crazy with apples. There were so many that the tree was losing branches that were too weighted down with the apples so they were breaking off. Needless to say about every 3 days or so, I would bring home a 5 gallon bucket of apples.

The deal in my house is that if you want a pie from this Momma, bring me the peeled apples and it shall be done. So a couple years ago my Husband bought a hand crank peeler to make the job easier. Well, this year the handle broke off the peeler and the Hubby wasn't very happy about that.

One Sunday afternoon the Hubby and my son Ben decided to get the peeler out and peel the whole bucket so I could make several pies up. I told them that is fine with me but they better get to peeling cause it was going to take a while. I was in the kitchen doing... something, who knows... and the guys were outside quietly peeling away, when all of the sudden the door whips open and down to the basement they go. Two seconds later here they come back up the stairs with the drill and Ben is laughing hysterically.

At this point I was mildly curious, but not enough to stop whatever it was that I was doing. A few minutes later, when I heard the drill and still the hysterical laughing, I decided it was time to check out just what was going on out there. So here is what happens when you tell an engineer to peel apples....

 
Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
 
Happy Sunday.
love,
Val

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homeschool Update

So homeschool is going well.

It’s been almost 2 months since we’ve started and I have to say it’s been a wild ride. I think I’ve finally figured out how to balance my life at home with teaching. My family is particularly happy about this since the laundry piles were getting a little  out of control for a while. Now their underwear drawers are fully stocked once again so everyone is more at ease.

I have to say it isn’t as weird as I thought it would be. In fact it’s surprisingly normal. One thing I really like about homeschool is that everyday things become learning situations. A trip to the grocery is a great way to learn about money and prices. If we go to the bank, I have my son write out the deposit tickets. There are hundreds of situations that now become teachable moments in our lives.

There are also fun things we try and find to do. Last week the local community college had a family science night that the math and science departments put on. It was quite impressive and my kids loved it so much that they didn’t want to leave.

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Every station was set up with something scientific for the kids to do. One station was set up so they could make slime, another station they could look at worms through a microscope.

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At the station above, Ben was identifying fossils with a magnifying glass.

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Chris (my little dragon) is trying to identify what the picture is. Then, the girl put a special mirror up to the picture and you could see a ballerina dancing.

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Above, the kids were learning about cells.

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I think these pics speak for themselves.

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Here the boys made paper helicopters and made them fly with a fan. In Ben’s words, “It was awesome!”

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The boys also got to make rockets and then launch them and see how far they would go. They voted this as the best thing they did all night.

There was so much to do that we couldn’t possible do it all in one evening and we literally had to pry the boys out of there to go home. There are things like this all the time going on in our community and they are wonderful extras for our homeschool family.

I’ll keep giving reports on how we’re doing.. and hopefully they are all good!

Happy Wednesday.

love,

Val

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

It officially frosted this morning in central Illinois so that means it’s time to make soup! Actually, I think it’s time to make soup when the temp hits about 60 degrees because for one thing, soup is so easy. Two, it can sit in a crock pot and simmer all day so it’s ready when you want it. Three, well, it’s just warm and cozy so what’s not to love?

I made Chicken Gnocchi Soup to warm us all up and it was delicious so I thought I would share the recipe. It’s loosely based on Olive Garden’s recipe, but as you will see, I add a few special things to mine. For those of you who don’t know what Gnocchi is, it a wonderful little potato dumpling. It’s so good, and what’s even more wonderful is that now you can pretty much find it in any grocery store known to man.

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First, I baked 4 large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. I actually did this in the crockpot early in the morning and threw them in still frozen, but feel free to use your oven. From a thawed state it would take about an hour in a 375 degree oven.

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Time to gather ingredients. You’ll need EVOO, spinach (fresh or frozen), 2 chicken bouillon cubes (low sodium), 1 stalk of celery, 1 cup of chopped carrots, 4 or 5 button portabella mushrooms, 1 small onion or half a large, 2 cloves of garlic and Rosemary (fresh is best if you have it). Not pictured:  1 can of evaporated milk and 2 cans of low sodium chicken broth, 1 Tbsp. of fresh Thyme and 1 TBSP. of fresh Sage.

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Chop all of your veggies to around the same size so they all cook evenly.

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In your soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.

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While my oil was heating, I decided to add one more veggie. I quickly chopped up about half of this Butternut squash and added it to the pile vegetables.

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Soften the celery, carrots and onion for about 10 minutes until fragrant and the onion is translucent. Don’t forget to salt them.  In the meantime, I threw the cubed squash in the microwave for about 5 minutes to give it  a head start.

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Next, add in the mushrooms and garlic and squash.

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Then, pour in the broth and 2 cups of water and the bouillon cubes.

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Once it comes to a nice simmer and all the veggies are cooked, add in a cup of frozen spinach or about 3 cups of fresh spinach, your baked chicken (cubed), the herbs, and the can of milk. Let it all come to a simmer again and then add in the gnocchi, cooking by the manufacturers directions ( I think it takes about 10 minutes).

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Once the gnocchi is done, it’s ready to serve..

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…or you can throw it in the crock pot for later like I did. This recipe freezes well also so feel free to make it in large quantities.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Happy Tuesday.

love,

Val

Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Pallet Accessory Station

I’ve been harboring an idea in my head for a couple months and this last weekend I finally had the time to act on it. You see, I have detested the jewelry armoire in my bedroom for a long, long time. I HATE when I am getting ready to go somewhere and I have to dig and look for earrings or a necklace. It’s just irritating. Then one day I pulled a drawer out and it broke in my hand and from that point forward, it’s fate was sealed. It had to go. Pronto.

I desperately needed something that displayed all of my jewelry so I could look at it all at the same time and something that made it easy to put the jewelry back where it belongs. So I started looking online for something that would work. I found several different things, but then I saw the price and had a mini heart attack. If you know me very well, you can guess what happened next. I started thinking about how I could create what I needed myself. I also thought about what materials I have available to me (preferably for free) that I could use to create my project. We all know by now that I have a plethora of pallets available to me at any given time, and so an idea was born.

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I confiscated a 30x30 inch pallet from my family’s business and started sanding. I think I ended up sanding it a total of 3 times, each time using a finer grit sand paper, until it was smooth. I then washed the whole thing down, removing any saw dust and dirt.

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I then gave it a very sloppy coat of white acrylic paint and let it dry thoroughly. I then “antiqued” it with this stuff…

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Martha Stewart Tintable Antique Effect and Martha Stewart Satin Craft Paint in Gray Wolf. I simply mixed the antiquing medium with the paint in a bowl until I achieved a a very thin paint. I then applied the paint mixture over the dried white paint on the pallet and then wiped it off quickly, doing small sections at a time. I let this dry completely.

After the pallet was dry, I turned the pallet over and attached a metal grate to the back. You can find metal grates at you local home supply store already cut into lengths of various size, They are usually in the section with all the garage and tool organization supplies.

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I also hot glued some industrial burlap to the back.

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I also attached two metal hangers on each corner of the pallet.

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I then flipped the pallet back over and screwed in cup hooks at various places along the painted boards.

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Here is the finished results so far..

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I took my masterpiece in and had the hubby hand it on the wall. I then proceeded to fill it up and empty that evil armoire.

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You’ll notice the burlap is perfect for pins, broaches, and post earrings.

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The metal grate is great! (Pun totally intended) I can hang my chandelier earring from it.

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The cup hooks hold all my necklaces…

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..and I even attached a dowel rod at the bottom with some extra large hooks for bracelets and scarves.

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You’ll also notice that the top provides a great shelf for my perfumes and ring holders.

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It was actually easier than I thought it was going to be to create this accessory station and now that I have it, I’m not sure how I lived without it!

 

Happy Monday.

Love,

Val

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finally Fall

I finally got around to decorating my yard for fall today..yippee! I usually do this in September but with being a new homeschooling family, it just didn’t get done. No worries though, I went all out today so I thought I would share my efforts with you.

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In the picture above, I pulled out all my old, spindly petunias. I then went and took some cuttings from my hydrangea and stuffed them in around this pumpkin. I hope it’ll look even more fallish as the hydrangeas brown. …or they could all just get blown away by the next big storm, but hey, I should get an A for effort.

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It’s a rule that I always have to implement a scarecrow into my autumn d├ęcor. So here is my little “fall scene” in the front of my house. Since I live on a main and very heavily traveled road, I like to go all out.

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This is a window box on my garage window that over looks the patio. I left a few of the summer plantings in since they still looked great and then shoved a few pumpkins in to fill it all out.

And of course, it wouldn’t be fall without…

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…our first load of firewood. My Hubby and I spent a little while this evening stacking this all up. It’s a lot of work, but there is something wonderfully cozy about that first load of wood all stacked up and ready.

Happy Tuesday.

Love,

Val

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

I really, really, really wanted something sweet the other day and since it’s Autumn, that something needed to contain pumpkin. The only problem was that I really didn’t have a lot of time to start cracking eggs and warming the oven so I came up with a plan. I would make something quick, easy, and absolutely no bake. This is what I came up with …

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Here are the ingredients..

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*missing from this photo: Pumpkin pie spice

So first up, you mix 1 large box or 2 small boxes of vanilla instant pudding with 2 Cups of cold milk and let set up for just a few minutes, then add in 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 can of pumpkin. Set it back in the fridge and let set until you’re ready for it.

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Next, mix one, room temperature block of cream cheese with 2 cups of powdered sugar and half a container of cool whip and set that aside.

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Finally, grab a trifle dish or in my case..a 7 x 9 inch glass Pyrex baking dish and line the bottom of the dish with Ginger Snaps.

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(You could crush these up and make a more “crust-like” layer, but I was thinking it was quicker this way.)

Get all of your ingredients lined up..

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..and start layering, starting with half the cream cheese mixture, then half the pudding mixture and then more Ginger Snaps.

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Make sure when you are spreading the layers that you get them all the way to the edge so you have a very pretty layering effect on the side of your dish.

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Start all over again with the remaining ingredients. On the very top spread the last half of the cool whip and sprinkle with some crushed up Ginger Snaps.

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Pop back in the fridge for a few minutes and then you’re ready to serve.

It’s super simple and super yummy and really hits the spot with that pumpkin craving without all the baking.

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Happy Sunday.

Love,

Val