Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Little Masterpieces

How tired am I of peeling scotch tape off my walls, you ask?

Very.

Very tired.

What makes it worse is that I just painted my walls, so I really, really, really don’t like peeling the tape off my walls when my little guys decide to display their works of art. I’ve resorted to hiding the tape. The problem being that I can’t find it when I need it because I’ve hid it so well.

Yes, I could hide my own Easter eggs and probably never find them all, but I digress.

The solution to my problem was quite simple. I needed to come up with a way to display their artwork, pronto.

I’ve seen several similar ideas on Pinterest, but of course I had to put my own spin on it.

This is what I came up with..

I took a 3/4 “ x 24” precut poplar board that you can find at any home improvement center for a mere $1 and change.

DSC_0150

and 4 clothespins that you can get for about a dollar pretty much anywhere they sell detergent. Actually, you get a big package of them for about $1.

DSC_0153

(I realize there is more than 4 in this picture, but one thing I have learned is to always have a back up.)

I then painted my board and my clothespins with these two paints..

DSC_0154

The one on the left is called Gray Wolf and the one on the right is called Champagne. I did two coats of Gray Wolf and one coat of Champagne.

DSC_0155

I then used my trusty Cricut machine and cut out the saying that I wanted to put on the board. I then plugged in my hot glue gun and went to work. This was the end result..

DSC_0157

Kinda cute, huh?

I just hot glued the clothespins onto the board.

You know I had to add some bling.

In this horribly blurry picture you can see that I added a touch of glitter to the clothespins. The picture mutes it, but it looks very sparkly.

DSC_0158

And the rhinestone. Everything must have a rhinestone. It’s a rule.

DSC_0159

I love the fact that it goes with my d├ęcor and doesn’t look too childish even thought it displays their little artwork. I simply added a 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips to the back and mounted it right to the wall.

DSC_0160

The kids loved it and couldn’t wait to add a picture.

DSC_0161

In case you were wondering, that is a Red-Eyed Tree Frog.

Duh!

(That’s the reply I got when I asked what it was so I thought I would pass it along.)

So, my kids and I both love the new artwork display and the best part, no more peeling tape off the walls!!

Happy Tuesday.

love,
Val

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grilled Italian Stuffed Pork Roast

My apologies that I have been absent the last few days. It’s the last week of school and it’s only rival is the week before Christmas in terms of craziness and busyness. Throw in baseball practices, work, church functions, preschool programs, and yard work and….well, I need a nap.

That being said, we still need to eat so tonight I threw together one of my favorite grilling creations for summer.

Italian Stuffed Pork Roast

Everyone I have ever made this for loves it. My kids even like it, which says something. It’s moist and packed with flavor..so good.

Start with a half pork tenderloin. This one is about 3 pounds and you will noticed I have removed any extra fat and connective tissue..

DSC_0103

Next, I butterfly the roast. I slide my knife in about two-thirds of the way down, length-wise, and I cut in about one-third of the way. I just keep cutting and rolling the roast until it’s completely flat like this..

DSC_0104

Here is a great tutorial on how to butterfly a pork roast..

Butterfly a pork roast

   Next, I marinate my roast for anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, the longer it marinates, the better. I love to use this wonderful salad dressing..

DSC_0105

This gives a wonderful flavor. I just throw the roast into a bowl, dump the dressing in and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit in the fridge for the desired time.

DSC_0111

When you are about ready to get your cook on, start to prepare the stuffing. In a little food processor or blender, mix 1 Cup of Italian Bread Crumbs, 3 large Roasted Red Peppers, and 2 heaping Tablespoons of Pesto

 

DSC_0109

and let’er rip until it’s all mixed up and looks..well….kinda gross, but trust me, it tastes really good..

DSC_0110

Then, lay your marinated roast out on a cutting board or large pan and spread with the stuffing mixture.

DSC_0113

Roll the roast over and secure it with string or if you don’t have string, some kabob sticks cut in half..

DSC_0114

Drizzle with olive oil and place on a medium high grill for about 30 minutes, or until the temp reaches about 160.

DSC_0116

I’ll just let you drool over these pics..

 

DSC_0123

DSC_0124 copy

DSC_0127

This is easy and economical yet special enough for entertaining. I hope you try it, it’s yummy.

Happy Wednesday.

love,

Val

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

No More Back Rubs

My Mother’s Day was wonderful and relaxing. All my guys and I spent the day cooking out on a fire and fishing and Momma got to take a long walk through the woods which was very peaceful…even if I didn’t find ONE mushroom..grrrr. When I came back from my walk, my littlest guy was perplexed as to why I would take off on my own.  “Where did you go Mommy?” he asked. “I went for a walk through the woods.” I replied. “Did you find anything dangerous?” he asked. “Nope.” I said. Then he declared, “Mommies aren’t supposed to go off without Daddies or boys, ya know.” “Well, okay then, I’ll keep that in mind next time.”I said.

It’s tough having three men boss me around.

It’s even tougher for them when I continually ignore them all.

When we came back home, my Hubby proceeded to assemble my Mother’s Day gift..

DSC_0043

My raised garden!! I love it and I have already planted my first row of green beans. No more bending over picking green beans! Which means no more achy back from picking green beans! Which means no more back rubs from my Hubby…..Hey wait a minute.

DSC_0044

Somehow I think my Mother’s Day gift wasn’t so much about Momma’s love for gardening as it was Daddy’s aversion to back rubs.

Oh well. I still love it and cannot wait to reap the rewards in a couple months.

DSC_0045

If you think you would like something like this, we ordered it from Gardener’s Supply. It was pretty easy to assemble, my Hubby did it all mostly by himself with relative ease and I only had to hold a board or two. It’s pretty awesome and well worth the money, especially if you’re working with small spaces.

I hope all the Mothers out there had a wonderful day like I did!

Happy Tuesday.

love,

Val

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Runners

Today I had planned on sharing a new crafty idea or perhaps my new flowers I had purchased and arranged in my pots, but these things will have to wait. I have a story that needs to be told and the writer in me will not leave me in peace. This isn’t so much a “Lucy” moment as it is a scene from a Stephanie Plum novel, but trust me…… it really happened.

 

My best friend and I run together at 5:45 a couple mornings a week.  She actually lives about 12 miles from me, so we meet at the park in a small town that is about half way for both of us. While this is super early, I find that it is really peaceful to run at this time.

Today was no exception. We showed up at 5:45, got out of our cars and proceeded to briskly walk for a warm up, which quickly turned into a jog. Normally, we steer clear of any main thorough-fares so we don’t have to worry about traffic but today we decided to stray from the norm. In an effort to lengthen our workout a little, we decided to take our jogging route along the main street (which is also known as Route 1) for the first time. This is not only the main street of this small town, but the main route everyone takes to get to work since it leads to the largest city in our county. We joked about how everyone will be so lucky to see us in our early morning glory, jogging along while traffic buzzes by.

So there we are, easily jogging along right in front of the library on the main street when out of the corner of my eye I see my BF’s arms flail in the air and she promptly disappears from my peripheral vision. I start to squeak out a giggle because I thought she was having one of those really graceful tripping moments when you flap around like a weirdo, but catch yourself at the last minute. All I could think to myself was that she was going to be so mad that she tripped on Route 1 with all this traffic going by…but it’s going to be so funny. Then I realized that she wasn’t catching herself and she continued down to the ground where she proceeded to roll on the sidewalk. This prompted a loud guffaw-like belly laugh from me because now she’s rolling on the sidewalk while traffic streams by and let’s face it, it just looked hilarious.

..and I should never, ever be hired as a first responder.

That’s when it started to hit me that her face didn’t so much look like she was laughing as it did crying and I finally got the words out, “Are you okay?” between laughs.

She wasn’t. In fact her exact words were, “NO! Oh duck, duck, duck, it hurts so bad! Oh duck, duck, duck.”  You may think that this is a strange time to play an extreme round of Duck, Duck, Goose but actually she wasn’t saying duck if you get my drift.

You know the awkward moment of feeling like a jerk for laughing while someone rolls around in pain? Yeah I definitely had one of those. But I shake off my moment and flip into EMT mode…which is basically offering to look at the injury while silently praying to not see something really gross. Turns out she sprained her ankle by turning it under when she stepped off the sidewalk and we weren’t going to have a Kevin Ware moment. Thank you sweet Jesus!

It was at this point that I realized that we were still on Route 1. That being said, I feel the need to explain a few things to people that are not from our area. The little town we were running in is known for their bar scene… to put it mildly. In fact, one of the most notorious bars sits right on the town square which was about a block North of where we were having our little “scene”. I think the only thing I need to say about this bar is this; the name of the bar is Julie’s Shooting Star, but it is often lovingly referred to as Julie’s Shoot and Stab by many in the community. That’s probably all I need to say about that, but I will add that it is often a fun pastime to witness the heavily intoxicated people walking home through town after a crazy evening. Everyone that has lived around here has a story or two about witnessing someone wandering home.

So..back to the story..I look at my BF and say,”Everyone driving by is laughing at the two drunk girls wallowing the sidewalk right now, we need to get you out of here before the cops show up.” Nothing like getting a drunk and disorderly at 6:00 in the morning …….and when your 33 years old and not 21, it’s not as fun as it sounds. She takes a deep breath and we get her up on her feet where she proceeds to hobble back the way we came for about 3.2 seconds before she realizes that she will not be able to gimp all the way back to the car…and as buff as I am, I don’t think I could piggy back it.

Next to the library is a cute little train museum that is actually an old little train station. It has all kinds of train paraphernalia around it, including a bright red caboose parked next to the building. We get her on her way to the caboose at which that point I say, “I will run back to the car and come pick you up, stay at the caboose.” So off I go, running like the wind, singing Eye of the Tiger in my head while I’m on a mission to save my friends life. Okay, maybe not life, but she needed me, man!

After about a block I was seriously rethinking the pace I had set for myself, but soon I was back at the park entrance. Normally, we would jog around the park, keeping to the sidewalks and side streets but this required a more direct route. I run right down the middle of the park, zeroing in on my car just on the other side of all the trees. An elderly couple eyes me warily as I breeze by on my mission.

I am running along, about halfway through the park when I see a pair of shoes laying in the grass up ahead. I thought to myself, some poor kid left their shoes..awe. But as I get closer I see they are little boy’s shoes and as I start to pass them by, I see they are Nike, black and bright green…..and they are practically brand new. Hold up! I back track a couple feet and grab them babies up. Sure enough they are the exact size my youngest son wears right now. Say What!? What are the odds of finding free, brand new, Nike tennis shoes in the park? This is unbelievable and I feel really sorry for the kid that is getting in major trouble this morning.

This was a sign.

This was meant to be.

I was so excited, I grab my phone to take a picture, because this has got to be posted on Facebook. No one will believe this. I feel like I won the lottery! I slide my thumb across my phone to unlock it and that’s when I see the last text message that was sent. It was from my bf. Crap! In my free-shoe euphoria I almost forgot that she is waiting on me to rescue her. So I football tuck the shoes and sprint the last 50 yards to the car, where I lay on the gas to go pick her up.

As I round the corner and pull up to the train museum, I can’t see her. I’m looking all around and she isn’t there and my heart stops. My first thought is that perhaps she was falsely picked up for solicitation, but alas her head pops up and she hobbles to the car. She sits down and looks at me and I ask her how she’s doing. She says,”Eh, it hurts but I’m more worried about how bad it’s gonna hurt later.” At which point I reply, “Well, let’s focus on what’s most important here.” And then I whip out my shoes from under the seat. “Look what I found in the park!!” Her eyes got as big as saucers as she says,”Whoa! Those look brand new!.” “I know, and they were just laying there…and the best part, they are Chris’ size!”

I could tell by the look in her eye at the exact moment she realized that I had stopped and picked up shoes in the park while she was sitting there in pain, patiently awaiting  my arrival.  She just shakes her head and says, “How does this stuff happen to us? I mean does this happen to normal people?”

I’m almost positive it doesn’t.

In fact you may be hard pressed to find someone who falls down, sprains their ankle and has to wait on a bright red caboose while her friend runs for help while curiously finding a pair of free shoes in the park all at 6:00 in the morning.

..and for that sentence right there, I had to tell this story.

Happy Wednesday.

love,

Val

Monday, May 6, 2013

French Macarons with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling

This week is National Teacher Appreciation week …and boy do we appreciate our teachers! I always say that I have complete respect for teachers because that is one job I absolutely could not do.

I don’t have the patience to be a teacher. Surprise, surprise……. I know. (My family is all chuckling as they read this.) So that being said, I definitely try to do something special for, not only my Son’s teacher, but all the teachers in his elementary school.

Since I am not ready to reveal what I am making up for Ben’s teacher, I will share what I am whipping up for the whole staff.

Like I said, I decided to do something extra special so I spent the day baking away on..

macarons 

I actually used Martha Stewart’s Recipe for the cookie. I linked her name if you would like to take a look at it.

Here is my ground almonds…

DSC_0027

 

I basically followed the directions exactly except I did one extra step..

After I ground my almonds and mixed them with the powdered sugar, I sifted the mixture really well to ensure a smooth consistency when I incorporated it with the egg whites. I feel this is a MUST do when making these delicate cookies!

DSC_0029

Here they are ready to be baked, they even look pretty like this..

DSC_0032

Once they sit for a few minutes they will smooth out, then you can bake them.

Something else that you will want to take into consideration is your oven. Every oven is different and you may have to do a test batch to see exactly how you should bake these. I found the best for my oven was at 350 for 12 minutes with the door open to the first catch. They came out pretty perfect with this method.

 

So then I went about making the filling..

I took 3 TBSP. of room temperature Butter and 2 TBSP. of Nutella hazelnut spread and whipped them together..

DSC_0037

I then added 1 TBSP of cocoa powder and 2 tsp. of brewed espresso.

DSC_0038

DSC_0039

Then I slowly incorporated 3 Cups of powdered sugar. If the filling is too stiff, add a splash of milk.

I then filled a pastry bag with the filling..

DSC_0041

and filled my cookies with the yummy chocolaty goodness. One tip! Be very careful when pushing the cookies together to make a sandwich, they crush very easily. If all goes well, you should have something like this..

DSC_0044

So delicate and yummy! Once you crack the delicate outside of the cookie, you experience a creamy goodness to die for.

DSC_0046

So I hope the teacher like there cookies tomorrow..and I hope I have some left to actually give them because I’ve been chasing all my men out of the kitchen this evening like crazy!

Happy Monday.

love,

Val

Friday, May 3, 2013

Aaaaa….aaaaa…aaachoo!

This week I have not been out of the house.

I did not go to the grocery store, which didn’t break my heart, but I didn’t get to go anywhere fun either.

The reason being is that it’s Spring in Illinois, which translates to crazy allergies for my family. I have been home nursing two little boys who sound like they have the plague because they cough like a baby seal on steroids. When you try to take them anywhere, people tend to give you the evil eye because they don’t want to get the plague. So we’ve sequestered ourselves as to not worry the rest of the population with our allergy induced hacking and coughing. We are now resorting to Benadryl and Zyrtec cocktails in hopes we can go back to real life next week.

So, today I am going to share some pictures that I have taken of my pretty flowers in full bloom. I got some great pictures after the rain and I think there is nothing prettier than raindrops on flower petals. So take a few minutes of Zen and smell the roses…or in this case, look at the tulips..

tulip4

 

tulip3

 

tulip2

 

tulip1

 

phlox2

phlox3

 

phlox1

lilac3

 

 

lilac2

 

 

lilac1

 

japanese maple

Hope you enjoyed it.

Happy Friday.

love,
Val