Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ahhh! No Interwebs! Ahhh!

Hiya folks, just a quick post from my desk ... at my office ... because a wind storm and multiple power outages fried our home interwebs on Tuesday.

I feel as if someone has stolen all of my digital things, and is standing outside of my living room window taunting me ... "Neener, neener, here's a perfect computer that YOU CAN'T USE."

So, I'll be back and hopefully before midnight Friday because I have a Drunken Stamper's card to post. :(

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stuffed dates -- A delicious test of patience

If you've never been to Cascal restaurant in Mountain View, California, you should make an effort to go.

Sit outside on a sunny afternoon and order the Tapas, specifically the stuffed dates.

These single bites of joy are comprised of dates, stuffed with cabrales cheese and wrapped with serrano ham.

While we've obviously been to Cascal and had the real thing, it's not always so easy to figure out how to make it at home. For one thing the real item is described as "grilled," but it's hard to imagine how they're grilling these tiny things (especially while it's snowing).

Next, I'm not driving all over town for this item and that item: I'm looking to make a similar dish with ingredients from the local grocery.

After a few tries we came up with what we're presenting today: It's easy and tasty and will impress the hell out of your friends. I promise.

We bought our dates at Costco (yes, we have enough freakin' dates to last a year). But we've also used the dates from Sun-Maid and they were great, too.

Cut each date on one side lengthwise, creating a sort of date butterfly -- similar to the way you would cut and open a baked potato.

Fill each date butterfly with crumbled feta cheese. Set aside your stuffed dates and prepare the prosciutto for wrapping.

If you haven't worked with prosciutto begin with a Valium or cocktail or whatever helps you relax -- this stuff is stuck together like pieces of delicate, greasy plastic wrap (you can have prosciutto hand cut in front of you, separated by little wax sheets, but the cost might be prohibitive for you as it is around our house).

Alright, after you've had your cocktail, count out half as many slices of prosciutto as you have butterfly dates. Cut the prosciutto slices in half and separate from one another (allowing the prosciutto to reach room temperature before trying to separate helps a tiny bit).

After you calm down from this frustrating activity, fold each piece of sliced, separated prosciutto so you have pieces roughly one-inch wide by three- to four-inches long.

Wrap each date with prosciutto holding the date closed and spike with a toothpick.

At this point we can suggest two final cooking techniques (use whichever you like or let us know what works for you).

Either throw the spiked nibbles onto your favorite cast iron griddle and brown them before putting into a 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes; or put them straight away into the oven for 20 minutes, doing a final "brown" under the broiler until the prosciutto edges are crisp.

Someday we'll try the "real" recipe with serrano ham and that cabrales cheese. Until then these little devils are easy (enough) to prep and cook and easiest of all to inhale in record-breaking, never-seen-food before time.

The final bonus? Dates are amazingly good for you. Good for you in that way appreciated by women of-a-certain-age (me and everyone I know).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lucky, lucky, lucky: That's me

I probably should have mentioned this luck before, but I'm a fairly new blogger and wasn't sure about appropriate blogging manners.

You see, folks, I've been very, very lucky the past few months. Lucky, that is, in addition to having a good life with a Good Guy and good family and good friends and good job and good home.

When you look around, and everything is basically good (as it is for most of us), it's hard to be especially lucky and say "Woohoo! Lucky me!" without worrying that what it SOUNDS like you're saying "Neener, neener! Look at me!"

So, here I'm finally sharing, "Woohoo! Lucky me!" I really hope you don't mind, and please, please visit the people who made me so lucky!

The first time I shouted "Woohoo!" was back in February. I won a completely awesome Be Mine package from a raffle I participated in at A Scrapper's and Stamper's Delight in my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho.

I didn't expect to win anything, and wasn't looking for the prize. I wanted to support a wonderful cause: Go HERE to read about Kennady and her family.

How cool is that? I won a prize of awesome stickers and papers and things AND got the opportunity to support a family in my own home town.

Alright, now we're up to lucky day number two. Everyday Cricut (used to be, I think, Holidays with the Cricut), led me to this second "Woohoo!"

While the Everyday Cricut blog focuses on creating with Cricut, it hardly ends there. You can get all sorts of ideas for layouts and color combinations and sentiments. Plus, they have frequent give-a-ways.

And I WON a March give-a-way! The prize turned out to be brads and rub-ons and buttons and card stock embellishments and stickers and papers! As I told the Everyday Cricut ladies ... winning ANYTHING is awesome, but I was stunned when I saw everything in this prize. Honestly. I'm STILL overwhelmed when I look at this stuff ... and it arrived at my house more than month ago!

Of course, I've since received one more prize that has left me aghast: The BoBunny Bag raffle. Again from my hometown folks over at Scrappers and Stampers, this prize included an adorable BoBunny bag along with more embellishments, paper packs, stamps, adhesives and other goodies than I've had in my hands at one time!

Is it OK to admit that I giggled like a fiend? A paper, glue and glitter-loving FIEND?

I did. A fiend.

So, thanks to all of you scrappers and stampers and gluers and glitterers who gave me a jolt of fun these past few months, it's been awesome having all of these things to play with, many of which are completely new to me.

For everyone else: Please help me share a thank you by stopping by Everyday Cricut and Scrappers and Stampers Delight (remember that SSD isn't only a storefront on a calm, downtown street in southern Idaho ... it's also an on-line store).

From the kitchen: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

The challenges at Drunken Stampers, such as this week's creative prodding (use something from your kitchen) are always a good way to get inspired.

I know this because I've occasionally felt I shouldn't participate with the drunken stampers. Not that there's something wrong (it's not holy crap, these people are ACTUAL drunks).

It's that I'm not a skilled, knowledgeable or overly-involved stamper (Hello, it's drunken STAMPERS?). There are lots of stamps and pads and ink and such around our house ... but not as much stuff for other paper projects.

In fact, we have more beading, sewing, candle making, knitting and clay modeling paraphernalia than we do for stamping.

However, every time there is another Drunken Stampers challenge I end up learning something new or use something I haven't remembered in a long time or am inspired to use an old and trusted tool in a novel way.

It's like your own personal inspiration team! So, I can't suggest often enough that you stop by the Drunken Stampers' blog and take a chance with Mr. Linky (post your project, silly, what'd you think I meant?).

Then run back over to me so I can tell you that my kitchen inspiration is behind the swirly black card stock screen, in front of the gold glitter foamie ... that's right ... purple plastic mesh from a package of shallots!

See you Saturday you inspiring inebriates!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Publication clippings: A Drunken Stamper's Challenge

This week's Drunken Stampers Challenge requires the use of a magazine or newspaper clipping.

Mindful of Earth Day later this month, the challenge asks creators to participate in a little reduce, recycle and reUse.

I love this challenge for several reasons: First, as pointed out over at Drunken Stampers, everyone has access to an old magazine or newspaper or phone book or junk mail with enormous text or brightly-colored images.

Second, it's incredibly interesting to see how others interpret an advertisement or photograph or headline -- what one person sees is not what another person sees.

Finally, advertising and editorial art and writing, done well, can be just as inspiring as Picasso and Shakespeare. I swear.

Which brings me to my creation that is not quite Picasso, but I like it: Especially the main image from a Kohler faucet ad (see, a well done ad can be amazing).

I framed out half sea-horse woman with a chipboard frame colored by pressing a green-ink stamp here and there. I used a Stampin' Around roller wheel named "It's Beautiful" with Very Vanilla ink over the green.

The remainder of the card are bits of text and images set at varying heights with 3M puffy stuff (I don't know what it's actually called).

Oh, I also completely lucked out with today's challenge when it comes to choosing a magazine: I happened to have a copy of Dwell from August 2008, covered in dust bunnies, hiding beneath some old sketch books.

Friday, April 9, 2010

No Designer Paper: A Drunken Stamper's Challenge

It seems a bit unfair to ask a bunch of paper crafters to create something WITHOUT designer paper.

But, that's just what they did this week over at Drunken Stampers.

If you take a look at the post they've already received several submissions, and show of their own of course. Go, take a look.

You'll see some really stupendous work that actually makes it seem odd that we're all spending money buying something we could make ourselves.

My version of designer paper probably looks like orange paper: It's not. I swear. It started as white card stock.

Then I rubbed peach Memories ink on the paper. Peach, not orange. Clearly. Click on the photo and you'll even see how it's nicely shabby-fied.

You'll also see the lovely "Life is good" text stamped in neat rows. Sort of neat rows. The text color is Martha Stewart pink geranium (it's really Hello Kitty pink -- why can't people get this right).

Anyhow I added a little pink glitter gel shadow on the back side of the lettering, cut my homemade paper to size, attached it to a brown backer with photo corners and cut a scallop-edge design with Kraft Edgers (I think I'm the only person alive still using those things, but I love 'em).

The embellishments are adorable, too, aren't they. Thanks to an SEI embellishment pack and some shiny rhinestones from, I'm guessing, the Dollar Tree, my little card is as pretty as some really pretty paper!

OK, honestly I do like it, but it's not that great. I'm feeling withdrawals from my glittery, shiny, fuzzy stacks.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ham and bean soup

Few dishes are tastier than a hearty soup. Perhaps this is because the very best soups and stews are a collection of what you already know is the favorite around our house: Hmmm, what's available?

It's the week after Easter, so you had to know we'd be looking at using some leftover ham along with a bone.

My Guy and I have become proficient at creating soups which are a combination of leftover ham stuff with some beans from the bean jar, water, etc., Crock Pot ... few hours later ... BEAN and something SOUP!

Of course we'd started a couple of years ago with my dad's recipe (suggested ingredients/technique) and veered wildly away into the land of "but, we don't HAVE any ..."

Anyhow, we steered back this week with a trip through Actual Cooking.

I found this recipe at (click anywhere in this paragraph).
Having plenty more available than two little cups of ham to chop up and a HUGE bone with TONS of yummy goodness still attached, I doubled the recipe ... then sort of played with the recipe. What a surprise, I know.

So, here's what I did: One very thick (read not well-cleaned) ham bone, four cups chopped ham, five carrots sliced, three large stalks celery chopped, two pounds dry great northern beans, bay leaves (I used five), two large onions finely diced, about five large cloves of garlic put through a press, tablespoon or so of white pepper, the mustard called for in the recipe (doubled) and some oregano. Oh, and salt. And some white wine -- we added a couple of tablespoons, I think.

Soak the beans as directed in the recipe, then add about half an hour to the "cooking" time. Also, if you prep ahead as I do, with each ingredient neatly chopped or diced and placed in its own lovely glass prep bowl ... try like hell not to drop the damn bowl into the already-boiling soup. The splashing will surely burn your arm and it's very hard to retrieve a glass bowl from a pot of boiling beans. Crap. Again. I know.

Yeah, so finish this up, ladle appropriate amounts into bowls for you and your family (if they've been nice to you today) and enjoy!

Now tuck this recipe into your binder or Internet favorites and refer to it as a basic starting point any time you have some leftover meats that need to be used ... think red wine, pinto or kidney beans and starchy veg's for red meats and white wine, great northern or garbonzo beans and carrots and celery for white meats.

Keep in mind, too, there are no experts in my house. No cooking, crafting, sewing, growing, ferret corralling or cleaning experts ... what you read here is advice.

Take it with a grain of salt and a swig of lager.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Autism Awareness: Cards for a fundraiser

Last week I dropped by Obsessed with Scrapbooking and discovered this Autism Awareness post.

Linked to a post on, the crafting mom of a daughter with autism suggested that fellow crafters might want to help out her daughter's Cricut-loving craft club by sending a handmade card to say hello or to be used as a part of an upcoming fundraiser.

Since the puzzle- piece ribbon represents "the mystery and complexity of autism," we were asked to include a puzzle piece in our creations.

If you know anything about me, you know that I can not pass up a request to take part in a deserving fund raising activity.

So, I noted to the original forum poster that I'd participate and immediately started to think about what I could create.

I landed on the idea of a puzzle piece representing the struggle each of us faces in life, without the added difficulty of learning or physical disabilities faced by people with autism.

Ultimately I decided that a primary goal for each of us, despite our personal hurdles, is to be unique while finding people who are like us ... our friends.

Here you have it, then. This set of six small cards has a Cuttlebug-emobssed puzzle piece with the Cricut-cut "hello friend" sentiment. The quote at the bottom of each card "Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle," is from Lewis Carroll. The printed paper is from Die Cuts With a View All Dressed Up, which I also used to cut a smaller puzzle piece to embellish the inside of each card.

Now, as this is my blog I hope nobody will mind if I give myself a little pat on the back: This set of cards is one of only five or six projects I can recall in my entire life in which the end product turned out very nearly the way I imagined.

Now in 3D!: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

Hello all! It's another Drunken Stampers Challenge entry! Yay!

And it's late! Yay again! I simply didn't have time to complete this project by deadline, however I couldn't skip it all together because I liked the idea so much.

The stamp for the "formal" entry makes me so happy: It's a wonderful image. My Guy describes this stamp as having a "beautiful soul." Awww.

Before I got to work on this card, though I started with a Dover Publications free coloring page Easter image. Just to be sure I'd be able to remember to color and cut in the correct places.

I colored the Dover pages with good ol' Sharpies and colored pencils, planning to have three layers: The background of tulips and leaves, the mid-level Easter eggs and the foreground bunny.

The shaded coloring and multi-layer techniques aren't new to me: My mom can confirm that I've been doing this sort of thing since I was a kid painting the cat and cutting the dog's hair.

Using a more mature, even somewhat sexy  image, though is reasonably new. I love vintage images, especially Victorian- and World War II-era art. That said ... I'm a sucker for Hello Kitty and Looney Tunes and Legos. As I believe I've previously mentioned, I have a hard time finding focus.

Anyhow, my point is that the stamp for the real submission speaks to the part of me who managed to grow up (it's a small part, but she's in here somewhere).

So, the stamp: It's a 3 1/2 by 5 inch Michael's Hampton Art wood-mounted stamp. The image was stamped onto white card stock using black pigment ink.

 I used watercolors for the portion of the image which emulates old parchment. Colored pencil was used for the face (grey), passport (pale blue) and map (pale green). I used copper-colored shimmer chalk for the compass.

The parchment and face are the background, with the compass and surrounding image in the middle. The butterfly, colored with Papermate Flair felt pens, is the foreground image.

Our house smelled as lovely as a forest fire last night after I burned the edges on the background and middle images, but it obviously had to be done. This also is what caused the brownish parchment to turn a bit more orange (I wish I'd taken a photo before the smoke alarm testing since the painting on that HAD BEEN beautiful). Oh well.

Finally, I added an "Explore" embellishment over the passport and mounted the entire piece on a small card, going without further artistry since I really want as much of this stamp as possible to be viewable.

Now I get to move on to this week's Drunken Stampers Challenge: No designer paper.

Right after I check the smoke alarm that is: It never did activate last night -- despite the house being filled with a card-burning haze.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Homemade pizza -- mostly

We like pizza, but when you live where we do the options are limited. One delivery chain will come to our house, but their pizza is pretty much a last ditch, starving to death, anything is better than nothing sort of product.

Then there's Papa Murphy's. They don't deliver, but they do have good tasting pizzas: Made primarily of real stuff. Still, planning ahead for one of us to stop before getting home ... what ... planning a-head. What the hell does that mean?

Plus, by the time we're thinking we want pizza it's usually one of two situations: Either I get home and realize that I don't feel like cooking or we've had a couple of pints and desire a filling, spicy pub-like meal.

Last night was a bit of both, so we had our first-choice pizza: Pillsbury pizza dough with our own toppings.

We start with the dough popping out of the package, scaring the crap out of me and continuing the fun by pissing me off as it tears and rips and basically falls apart.

Once you're past that part, though, it's only a matter of squishing the dough together and out and around until it's more or less a flat, rectangular sheet on a baking pan covered in olive oil.

Do NOT form a ball of this mess and then try to reroll it -- just pinch together the tears. This dough is more or less elastic until you form that freakin' ball ... then it'll only be a ball. Forever (or what seems like forever).

Put more olive oil on the top (I enjoy dumping a bit on then using my hands to spread/squish the olive oil on the dough).

Our herb and spice choices change every time, last night we used oregano, celery salt, garlic powder and freeze-dried chives (the fresh ones are buried beneath snow).

Finally, our toppings Du Jour were red onion, pineapple, black olive, diced tomato, feta crumbles and roughly 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack (I took the photo before adding the Monterrey to show off the pretty).

Bake as instructed on the *&^% Pillsbury package ... cool ... cut ... eat. Yum!

One of these days I'll post something about a fully homemade pizza with our own dough and everything. I know I will. One of these days.

Until then, the main bonus of the probably-not-healthy Pillsbury stuff is that it's good for a couple of months. Buy it, toss it in the fridge, use it after you've had too many pints to stand over a hot stove searing and steaming and sauteing.

Oh, and this dough makes super delicious pull-apart cinnamon bread, too.

Alas, we must save that for another day.