Monday, May 31, 2010

A Memorial Day barbecue

Here we find ourselves, again enjoying a three-day weekend with warm(ish) weather and family nearby.

And again we're firing up the grill in preparation for chicken legs and potato medallions. We'll have coleslaw and s'mores.

It's fun.

But always on these holidays I think of those who are gone: Not because they had the opportunity to live a long life full of families and joys and fun of their own before going on, old and gray and satisfied.

Rather, these men and women are gone because they gave up that opportunity in an attempt to ensure we could enjoy this life of freedoms.

Stay aware, folks: Vote, protest the wrongs you see, stand up for those who can not. Because even if we individually disagree, this right to disagreement is not shared by all people on our planet. Hold this gift close to your heart and everyday remember that a soldier gave his or her life to pay for this gift.

Remember, too that many more soldiers who are gone were not born on this American soil. Those soldiers did not live in our United States or  fight within our uniforms. And yet, we also owe gratitude to those men and women. Many of these brave people, who wore a different flag on their sleeve, have helped us along our path to freedom as well.

We are not alone on this globe, nor is our little globe a peaceful place, not yet. Here's to the hope that next year, during our three days of barbecuing and parades, more soldiers all over the world are home with their families.

Maybe even all of them.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Broccoli and Potato Chowder

Our house often is brimming with potatoes and broccoli. We like both vegetables individually and combined, in addition to which they last nicely with little special care before cooking.

Recently though I realized that we had a lot of broccoli that needed to be used before it became fodder for the compost pile.

Our seemingly endless winter also made us wish for something warm and filling. So, I started searching the Interwebs for a recipe. And I discovered a million recipes for a broccoli and potato chowder with cheese. Or each separately, but no combined chowders sans the unnecessary cheese.

Before I receive a nasty "What? You don't like America? You don't like cheese?" e-mail ... cheese is fine. It's freakin' great, for the right dish. And sometimes to just nom, nom, nom.

Healthier meals, though, are made without cheese and, in the case of this recipe, you'll find that the white pepper adds a fantastic spiciness that cheese would compete with or flat ruin.

This actually brings me to the last important factor here: Do not use black pepper or even freshly-ground black pepper for this recipe. You want the white pepper. Trust me. I wish I had some foodie background or even a superb palate with which I could find the words to describe the importance of the white pepper. I possess neither. So, please, just trust me: White Pepper.

(Click on post header for recipe)

Time and vintage inspiration: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

Hi again folks! This week's Drunken Stampers Challenge suggests creators use time and vintage as inspiration.

Today I already had a little something in mind before I discovered the parameters of the challenge: Our goddess on the moon.

It's an image from a Dover Publications silhouette book. You've heard me talk about Dover on more than one occasion. Dover is a useful outlet for all sorts of design needs, from digital images to coloring books for the little ones. Dover is awesome.

So, the goddess: I ran across her at random in one of the Dover books and instantly adored her. She reminds me of the vintage Leonetto Cappiello ads ... which are cool enough, but they also seem to focus entirely on alcohol and tobacco products. Um. Woohoo (though I quit smoking more than a year ago ... the IDEA of smoking remains pleasing)!

Alright, enough with the "It's Saturday, I'm enjoying the home bar and craft room" randomness. Back to the project.

My goddess reveals time as a limited commodity: Something to celebrate and, you know, CARPE!

There you have it. A vintage-style image with a nice circle of glittery card stock set on vellum that is stamped with Making Memories lettering. This is set roughly 1/4 inch above the backer with craft foam (Yay! foam!) and a chipboard hanger on the back makes my little goddess perfect to hang above the vanity as a daily, erm, nightly muse.

The day is not nearly done and I'm already looking forward to the night's activities! Prost!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Distressed chipboard: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

This project has been in the works since the sensational ladies over at Drunken Stampers posted the Distressed chipboard challenge on May 22.

Between completely over-inking the chipboard during round one of distressing, causing an overnight wait before it dried, and changing the design half a dozen times, this project has been on my mind every day this week. And I'm glad it took so long.

First, if the process had been quicker I never would have remembered the acrylic stamp wings for the smaller hearts (or the hearts, for the matter). Next, the best part of this project would still be hiding somewhere in the creative haze waiting to be discovered.

You see, at roughly day four I was still very unhappy with the look of the chipboard "hardware" on this piece. I finally decided I'd try to do some heat embossing and if that didn't work ... start again.

Honestly I figured it wouldn't look good no matter what I did, so I carelessly grabbed the first "sticky stuff" I could see -- a bottle of Mod Podge.

I gooed each of the chipboard pieces with a Q-Tip dipped in the Mod Podge then sprinkled green emobssing powder here and there.

Still not really caring what happened I flipped on the heat tool and ... what's this ...Mod Podge and embossing powder cysts! Yay! My little chipboard hardware pieces actually look like oxidized copper and aged iron!

In case you'd like to try it yourself, just remember that more Mod Podge results in larger, crustier bubbles.

As for the remainder of the project: There are the small hearts from a Martha Stewart punch, the large heart and wings from Cricut Indie Art cartridge on a paper from DCWV Rockstar Mat Stack, and the backer piece which was put through a Cuddlebug with the Zebra print embossing folder.

OK ladies, give me another one! I'm ready!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A step along the way to a Drunken Stampers Challenge

The Drunken Stampers challenge this week, distressed chipboard, has been interesting so far.

And it surely will continue to be as my project is still unfinished. Depending on how many more changes I make, we should see a final product tomorrow? I hope so since that's the deadline!

Until I'm ready to post it, along with another post about a new recipe this week, I'm providing this photo as a little teaser.

Tease. Tease.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Use those scraps: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

The Drunken Stampers challenge this week asked designers to dig out the scrap bin.

I have three of these: A bin for die cuts and pieces that I have made, but had no designated use for or didn't want to use after I'd made them; a bin for small bits and paper with weird holes; and, finally, the I Can Not Possibly Throw This Away bin.

This week's creation made use of all three bins.

There's the fiendish skull with fiery eyes. He's from a computer game box My Guy was going to throw away years ago. I cut the skull and surrounding "frame" and ran it through the Cuttlebug ... sandpaper here, sand paper there. Done.

The skull backer is a piece of scrap from a card I made only last week. The shiny on this backer is from Distressed Stickles that I squirted on and rubbed around.

A cemetery fence, from my made-it-and-didn't-use-it bin, was originally meant for the DS Mardi Gras challenge (alas, drunken party chick won out and cemetery scene went into the bin).

The sign is a bit of roof flashing I'd run through the Cuttlebug awhile back, just to see if it would emboss.

So, there you have it folks. A skull and cemetery themed birthday card. All made from stuff out of the scrap bins.

See you next Saturday! Prost!

One week into salsa season

Last week we posted a quick cheers to Mother Nature and her willingness to continually pretend that we might one day have very green thumbs indeed.

That day, one week ago in fact, we tilled the soil, churning good in and bad out of our herb garden. We checked on the vegetable bed (two year-old beans had managed to sprout). And we triumphantly planted two tomato and one dill plants.

This was triumphant because it's taken us years only to get to the point that we thought MAYBE a tomato plant might survive, let alone produce deep red globes of salsa base.

So, to update you: Mother Nature has a damn fine sense of humor. The photo to the right here ... that one with the dead damn tomato plant. That's today (but it looked pretty much the same less than 24 hours after we'd planted it).

Turns out, Mama Green had to deliver another snow storm and several days of freezing temperatures. Damn again.

We do have good news, though: The vegetable garden has sprouted several onions and at least one corn stalk. We're still holding our breath on the potatoes.

And, the dill that we lovingly planted alongside the doomed tomatoes is pushing through: This second photo shows its fresh, spring-green sprouts pushing aside the dead bits.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Because I love-love-love summer challenge

Yes, yes those of you who know me are really giving this post the stink eye. I'm not a fan of summer. Agreed. I'm not trying to tell stories out of turn.

You see, Sheila over at She's A Sassy Lady is excited about hot weather and grasshoppers and mosquitoes, and she's celebrating the long-awaited arrival of sunshine with a challenge.

It's still OK for me to celebrate, too, since I do love one thing about summer: Barbecue. Slap any old vegetable or whatever else on the grill and I'm pretty happy. Even if it gets a little charred, even yummier.

So, here's my summertime tribute card. The grill and fixins' are on the From My Kitchen Cricut cartridge, the grass is from the 2010 Easter cartridge.

The corn and oven mitt are textured with Cuttlebug folders and Sharpie markers (I know, Sharpies).

If you look closely you'll see that the grill's coals are red hot ... or at least really glittery from Stampendous red tinsel embossing powder.

The butterfly embellishment is a glossy card stock die cut from the Dollar Tree. The overall card was created in Design Studio by welding the "Barbeque" sentiment with oval frame to the barbecue cut.

By the way, have all of you tried Smore's? My Guy introduced me to them only last summer -- all I can say is "No freakin' wonder people are always yammering about those things."

I like mine with a crispy-fried marshmallow.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Black and white: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

This final card is, I think, a neat project.

The idea of "grunged" embossing pleases me so much (thank you to Linda over at L3 for introducing me to this concept). Visually it's attractive, even vintage in appearance. And it's very tactile as sanded card stock results in a soft, fabric-like texture.

So, one has to wonder why I didn't begin here for this week's Drunken Stampers Challenge.

Well, start with the Cricut Summer in Paris cartridge. I really, really wanted to use the poodle and the Eiffel Tower. Then there's the "Bonjour" phrase from another cartridge, coupled with a fleur-de-lis Cuttlebug folder that's been needing a project application. On top of which I had some extra time today.

Hours, in fact, to alter and change and reset and redesign and ... before long ... we had arrived at complete crap. A lot of cool individual elements, but together ... crap.

I even hassled My Guy, who is himself feeling like crap with a bug sitting in his chest, for input to help me fix the first hot mess of black and white and black and white and black and white.

Poor guy. Imagine looking at a mass of black and white die cuts and embossing and glitter and flocking while you're sick. He probably wished he could call 911.

Luckily his face exhibited that wish and drove me to arrive here with this design that is simple and primarily black with highlights of white. The pressed embossing is derived from Sizzix folders with extra texture added by sanding the embossed images.

The sentiment is heat-embossed with "a la mode" sparkle embossing powder -- an especially cool product that only really works on black or denim blue.

It's also a cool effect that requires photography skills not possessed by anyone in this house.

Oh well, I'll get it all together at the same time one of these days.

Until then, prost!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Homegrown salsa 2010

This post is a short one, and only meant to cheer Mother Nature and her willingness to continue providing us with opportunities to again grow our own salsa ingredients.

Year after year we've tried, at our little Reno home, to grow some edibles. For roughly three years we have managed to grow some lovely herbs and an onion that is similar to a green onion.

This year we're again trying some other things: Yukon Gold potatoes, Vidalia onions, red onions, pinto beans and yellow corn. Just today a red onion has peeked above the soil and two beans we planted LAST year have actually sprung up.

Based on this we're very much confident that we'll be digging up SOMETHING this year, aside from parsley, that we can eat.

Now, with the additions I'm putting in the ground this weekend (tomatoes, dill, jalapeno peppers and cilantro), we're really hoping to serve our own salsa for My Guy's birthday in August.

Keep your fingers crossed, folks!

Oh, and after five years of care our tulips have finally made a brilliant showing, the hostas are beginning to peek out and the iris are budding.

New flowers this year are two decently-sized Asiatic lilies ... gorgeous blooms on them already ... I hope they bloom again before summer is finished.

Whew. Am I excited about the garden possibilities this year? Hell yes! When do I think this additional hobby will fit in? Who knows.

Rye bread meatloaf

Meatloaf is a popular dish at our place. Both of us like the stuff hot with veggie sides and leftover, cold, as sandwich filler.

Up until a few years ago we made meatloaves pretty much the same way our grandmothers did: Ground beef, milk, eggs, cracker crumbs, bake and eat.

After joining Weight Watchers about three years ago that had to change. Even the leanest of ground beef is so high in fat ... according to our program we wouldn't have been eating much for dinner. Maybe a spoonful.

We tried the WW-recommended ground turkey loaves. Um, eww. These were OK for sandwiches, but as a hot-out-of-the-oven dinner? Yuck.

The texture especially was undesirable -- I just don't think any cooked meat should be aptly described as gooey. After sitting in the fridge over night they firmed up, thus making the sandwiches edible.

Our fix was to make two loaves at once: Following a basic recipe, but mixing 1 pound of extra lean ground beef and two pounds ground turkey. This made the texture slightly denser and added a lot of non-turkey flavor without pushing it up the scale of fat and calories.

Then, early last week we accidentally discovered the best low-fat meatloaf fix EVER! I'd thawed the ground meats, gathered ingredients and realized ... shit ... no white bread or crackers or anything.

You know breadcrumbs, or something similar, are an important factor. The crumbs bind as well as thicken the loaf. So, out from the pantry came a loaf of rye bread. A few turns through the food processor and tada! Rye bread crumbs.

WOW! The loaves were dense and delicious out of the oven and made savory sandwich meat -- My Guy describes it as "bringing back that flavor."

He's absolutely correct. This version of meatloaf is low fat, with a bit of healthy fiber, dense and does a great job of pretending to be grandma's classic.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thinkin' of my mom: A Drunken Stamper's Challenge

WOOHOO! Check me out! Not only am I back on the interwebs and my blog, but I'm back at the bar! Whew. It's been a long freakin' couple of weeks people.

Thank you so much to everyone who waited on me and especially to a couple of people who actually checked in to make sure I was OK.

This is still a short post to essentially meet the Drunken Stamper's deadline for this week's challenge: Mother's Day card with photo of creator.

But, tomorrow and probably a bit through the weekend we'll be back with a few things that have been going on around our house.

In the meantime, you surely see my card here ... designed specifically for the Drunken Stamper's challenge, because my mom's card has been finished for a couple of weeks.

The handwritten text reads: "it is okay that I've never grown up ... it's okay that I've never been normal ... ask my mom, she knows ..."

And that photo you see, from my thrift store printer which is at least 10 years old with a toner (YES, toner) cartridge at least two years old, is me.

I'd guess about three years old, maybe four? Jumping on our Saint Bernard, Cognac. The pic was taken on the lawn of my favorite house ... the house I grew up in which burned to the ground some years back (long after we'd moved away), but was still horrifically heartbreaking for me.

Ah well, yes, I'll never grow up.

After a long week it's really damn near bed time, so I'll only stop for one more moment to say that the corner dots are Ranger Liquid Pearls and it's ever so pleasing to finally own a bottle of pearl goo.

Sleep well friends and we'll see you tomorrow: Refreshed, ready and reasonably rested for a new challenge and more posts ...