Friday, January 31, 2014

Sweet Friday

Valentine's Day is just around the corner!  Here's a peak at some sugar cookie hearts I made last weekend for some of my favorite girls.  Whose names all happen to start with the letter 'J'.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Prepping for Love Day: 10 Minute Heart Garland

In keeping with my goal of celebrating more holidays, I'm trying to put a little more Valentine's Day decor around the house.  I wanted to create something fun & colorful for our entry way.  We have a cube storage shelf for keys, my purse & other things & when we moved in to our home, my mother-in-law gave us this pretty mirror that we hung by our front door.  Since we use this area every day, it's the perfect plea to add a little holiday decor.

I've always thought that this mirror would be the perfect spot for holiday garlands, but never have made any.  Well....after realizing that the hardest part of making a garland is picking out the paper, I'm going to be making a lot more.  They're so quick & easy!

Before starting, I measured my mirror, which came to about 3 feet wide.  Using that measurement, I figured out I needed about 9 hearts for the garland & 4 feet of ribbon, so I would have space in between the hearts.  Of course, you'll need to measure your space & adjust according where you're hanging the garland in & the size of your template.

Materials Needed:

- Scrapbook or printed paper (I used 9 different patterns, but using the same pattern for all of the hearts would be really cute too)
- Scissors
- Single hole punch
- Heart template (I used a cookie cutter)
- Clear tape
- Ribbon

Start by tracing your hearts onto your printed paper & cutting them out.  I used a cookie cutter as a template.  Super easy & I already had it!

Then, take the single hole punch & make two holes as even as you can on the top third of the hearts.

Once all the hearts are cut out & punched, cut your ribbon.

Weave the ribbon through the punched holes, leaving an inch or so in between each heart.  Secure the ribbon by placing a small piece of tape on the back of each heart, making sure you secure the ribbon to each side of the heart.

This is what it'll look like from the front.  Fun, right?

Secure all your hearts & you're ready to hang that bad boy!

Since these will not be hanging for a long time, I used a couple of pieces of painters tape to attach the garland to the back of the mirror.  Depending on where you're hanging your garland, you could use thumb tacks, poster putty or tape.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Prepping for the Day of Love: Ribbon Wreath

One of my goals for 2014 (Find all of my goals here) is to celebrate the smaller holidays more.  Valentine's Day is about a month away, which means it's time to start getting some decorations ready!

A couple of years ago, I made a fun ribbon Valentine's Day wreath for my sister's classroom.  I loved the outcome, but it was very labor-intensive.  Each loop had to be individually secured onto the wreath with a stick pin.  By the time I was finished, my fingertips were sore & I was tired of seeing ribbon loops.

Well, I had several half-spools of ribbon left over from that wreath & wanted to make a similar wreath for our door, but was not interested in spending hours & hours working one a single project.  So, I thought of using a wire wreath form & tying pieces of ribbon instead.  It would give me the look I was wanting & let me use all the different patterns & colors I wanted to incorporate.  The result was really simple to do & came to together sore fingertips either!

I started with a medium-sized wire wreath form from Hobby Lobby & about 200 ribbon pieces, each about 4 inches or so.  I really didn't worry about the length of the ribbon much while I was cutting; mixing up the lengths a bit helps keep the final look interesting, not uniform.  I had several types of ribbon in my stash, so I didn't buy any new for this project, but I know Michaels usually has a ton of cute holidays ribbons & if you watch, they should go on sale soon.

Then, while watching a movie, I just tied each piece onto the form in a random pattern.  I took each pattern of ribbon & tied all of those pieces onto the form before starting with another pattern.  I think it makes it easier to figure out where to put each piece, but it's totally up to you how you tie the ribbons on.

After I tying all of the ribbon pieces on, the wreath was pretty flattened, so I hung the wreath on the hanger & then spent a few minutes fluffing & pulling the ribbons to make them look full & pretty.  Simple to make, but really cute & fun.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 13, 2014

14 Goals for 2014

Each December I sit down & write out a list of things I want to accomplish for the following year.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't, but I do think making a list helps keep those goals in my mind...crucial for achieving those goals.  In an effort to boost my motivation & accomplish even more, I'm making this year's top 14 resolutions public!  What's on your list for 2014?

Photo taken by Krystal H. Mullins

1.  Add a veggie or fruit to every meal.

Getting enough fruits & veggies into my diet is something that I have a constant struggle with.  While I like most fruits & veggies, they are often an after-thought when I'm meal planning.  So, I plan on adding an extra piece of fruit or serving of veggies to every meal.  I also want to add produce to my snacks.  Normally, I grab a handful of nuts, or maybe a granola bar when that 3PM  hunger sets in, but with a little prep & thought, I can easily add an orange or apple or have veggies & hummus on hand for mid-day nibbles.

2.  Read more real books.

Since getting my iPad as a 30th birthday present from my husband Andrew, it has been my go-to.  On a daily basis, it's used to browse Pinterest, scan emails, read my favorite blogs & spend way too much time checking & re-checking facebook, twitter & instagram.  I've forgone reading real books & magazines for the ease of scrolling social media.  I love my iPad, but we need to slow down our relationship & start seeing other people.  I mean, I have an english degree!  If Texas Tech knew that I didn't finish even 1 book in 2013, they'd probably take away my diploma.  There's no better way to get a good night's sleep than by ending your night with a book & magazines are one of my favorite sources of inspiration.  I'm vowing to read 14 Books in 2014.  I'll be writing up a post of the 14 books I've picked a little bit later in January.

3.  Write blog posts more consistently.

I love writing about my food & recipe discoveries, craft & home projects & updates on what's going on in my life.  It's very easy though, to let writing fall by the way-side.  Writing about food, crafts & home as an actual job is a huge goal of mine, & it's time to start making that a priority.  In 2014, I'm planning to write at least 2 posts per month.  It's attainable, even in busy months.  

4.  Send birthday cards to close friends & family.

This one might seem weird, but it's one that I'm most excited about putting into practice.  Last year, we attended birthday parties for a lot of Andrew's family, as they live here in Austin & I think I sent birthday cards to my sister, grandmother & one aunt.  Not bad, but I felt guilty for not sending more cards out to those that we couldn't celebrate with in person.  I have a caldendar, it has most of my close relatives & friends birthdays on it & there's no reason I can't make the leap from facebook or text 'Happy Birthday' to a real card in the mail.  Receiving personal mail is always fun & I want to send some mail love to my favorite people on their special day.

5.  Take a photo of Andrew & I each week.

I'm great at taking photos of food we make, projects I'm working on & even deals that I find out in the retail world, but not so good at taking photos of my husband & I together.  One of the reasons we didn't send out Christmas cards this year was because we only had a few photos to choose from, most of those being selfies, a lot of them with us wearing sunglasses.  The best photo we had was taken in a Boston cemetary.  Doesn't really say Merry Christmas!  We both have iPhones that take excellent pics & we have an awesome DSLR camera with an easy-to-use self timer.  So, we're going to pretend we're 15 year olds & take a least one photo of us a week.

6.  Try a new recipe a week.

During the hustle & bustle of the holiday season, we fell into a terrible habit of eating take out several nights a week.  It's so easy to pick up food on the way home or head out for dinner after a long workday.  For us, it's not healthy & not cheap.  We end up spending way too much money & I don't make good choices when eating out.  I want the taco AND the queso....not the grilled chicken salad.  We've been slowly getting back to cooking at home & it feels good.  I love eating out, but it's so rewarding to make dinner yourself.  To keep out of the rut of making the same 10 meals all the time & help me come up with new ideas of my own, it's important to try new recipes.  When you're making new recipes often, your creativity flows & you start coming up with your own flavor combinations.  Good for a food blogger. :)

7.  Take our dog, Millie, for a walk every day.

Good for me, good for the dog.  A few minutes of exercise is something we can both always, always use more of.  Our house is part of a large neighborhood with lots of sidewalks & a greenbelt that our backyard opens up to; so this should be an easy, no-brainer.

8.  Clean it up.  

For just two people, we create a lot of clutter.  Add in a dog & cat & our house can get dirty quickly.  Right now, we let our house get kind of crazy before we clean.  I would like to get into the habit of doing a little bit every day, so the mess never gets out of control.  If we can do that, I shouldn't have to spend an entire day cleaning.  When I have to spend a whole day scrubbing, vaccuuming & dusting it just pisses me off.  Look for a cleaning schedule post coming soon. :)  

9.  Get my learn on.

Austin has a serious wealth of hobby classes.  Most of those only require one night of committment, making them easy to do & easy on the pocketbook.  I've taken painting (most encourage wine drinking!), cooking, baked good decorating & even craft classes in the past.  This year, I plan on taking even more classes that will improve my skills & encourage my creativity.  Fun & useful!

10. Appreciate nature.

With the exception of the scorching, humid days of summer, Texas, specifically, Austin has great weather.  It's good for the soul to be out in nature, so I'm making the effort to get out more.  And Andrew gets kinda cranky if he doesn't get a little outside time on the regular; making it an even better goal.

11.  Get something up on those walls!

We moved into our first home in May of 2013.  Within the first couple of days, we were able to accomplish a big feat: we painted the living room with the extra high walls, gave the kitchen a bright blue & painted the master & guest bedrooms.  Since then, we've made some more minor upgrades & have supplies to complete a few more, but we haven't made much progress on getting rooms decorated.  I think I have too many ideas in my head & don't want to do anything until I have everything bought and/or that's resulted in our walls remaining mostly bare.  In an effort to let go of having to have perfection, I'm going to go ahead & hang what we have!  What's on the walls may change as I tweak exactly how I want each room to be, but it's time to get past the 'just moved in' feel that's been lingering for way too many months. 

12.  Find a cause.

I am a very fortunate person.  I have an awesome family & good friends, plenty of grub & a great roof over my head...just for starters.  I should be doing more to help those who aren't as fortunate.  In 2014, I want to find a group, or groups, that I can devote my time & talents to.  One that are really helping Austin & it's dwellers.  I have a few non-profits in mind, but if you know of an awesome organization, I'd love to hear about them.  

13.  Mix it up.

My husband & I have a lot of fun together, but on 'date night' we often fall into the dinner & a movie standard.  We love movies & of course, love trying new restaurants, but Austin offers so much more in the way of entertainment.  I'd like to spend the next year finding some fun, different ways to enjoy my free time with Andrew.

14.  Celebrate the little holidays.

I love Christmastime & everything that goes with it: decorating the tree, hanging lights on the house, gift-giving, baking, etc. etc. etc. but when it comes to the other holidays, laziness often wins out & I don't really do much to acknowledge them.  Well, as a lover of ALL holidays, I'm making an effort to celebrate as much as I can.  What's life without celebrations?  That means more than just a wreath on the door for the 4th of July & more than just a cookie on Valentine's Day.  It's going to be fun! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Unexpectedly Delicious: Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

I am a New Years resolution maker.  When I set out to make my resolutions for 2014, spending less & saving more was near the top of my list.

Food is one of our biggest expenses; both Andrew & I love cooking, eating out & of course, buying the 'good stuff' veggies, imported cheeses, the big bags at Costco, bottles of wine we've never tried, etc. etc.  

So one of the ways I'm trying to curb spending is by going to the grocery store less.  The more I can keep myself out of the store & make do with what we have, the better.  Earlier this week, I had a craving for pasta.  Like, one of those 'if I don't have pasta for dinner TONIGHT I'll die' kind of cravings.  

I had originally wanted pasta with gorgonzola cream sauce, sautéed onions & steak.  Or maybe pasta with Alfredo sauce & peas.  Well, we were out of gorgonzola, regular onions, frozen peas & steak.  Hmm.  Both of those ideas where out.

We did have 1/2 a box of bow tie pasta, 2 leftover balsamic grilled chicken breasts from the night before, a box of frozen spinach & a bunch of well as a large container of heavy cream.  Close enough to satisfy my need for a carbs in a creamy sauce, right?  

Below is what I ended up making for dinner.  I wasn't sure how scallions would work, but they softened & 'melted' into the sauce beautifully.  This dish was definitely a success and definitely something we'll be making again.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken   

Serves 4

2 Cooked chicken breasts, thinly sliced (I used leftover balsamic vinegar marinated, grilled breasts)
1/2 Large box, bow tie pasta
1 Small box frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 TB Unsalted butter
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 Scallions, chopped 
2 TB Flour
Large container whipping cream
Large handful grated Parmesan cheese (I used the kind in the green container)
Salt & pepper to taste

Optional Toppings
- Toasted pecan or walnut pieces
- Freshly grated Parmesan

Start water boiling in a large pot for the pasta & cook pasta according to directions.  Begin defrosting spinach in a large colander, using a little cold water to help break it up.  

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat, add olive oil.  Once butter is melted, sauté scallions for a minute or two, just until softened.  Add in flour, whisking in to the butter/oil/scallions.  Let cook for a minute or so, until you san see the mixture bubbling.  Whisk in container of cream.  Let sauce simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened; stirring often.  Incorporate large handful of Parmesan & add salt & pepper to taste, continuing to stir often.

Once the pasta is cooked, pour over the spinach in colander to warm the spinach & drain pasta.  Incorporate pasta, spinach & chicken into skillet with sauce.  Keep heat on for a few minutes to allow everything to heat through.  Garnish with toasted nuts & freshly grated Parmesan if desired.  


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weekend Round-Up

It's 2014!  Wow, the year went by fast, right?  I hope you had a great holiday season!  I'm excited about the new year & hope that it's the best one yet...for me & for you!

The first weekend in January was a pretty great one, we went to game night on Friday, celebrated our niece's 4th birthday Saturday & today, we've been taking it easy.  I've spent most of the day up in my craft room & Andrew's been watching football, pretty perfect little Sunday if you ask me.  

Here's a glimpse of what I was up to food & craft wise this weekend!

On Friday we had game night.  I brought my cousin's wife's awesome Mexi-Corn Ranch Dip.  It's something different: a little spicy, a lot creamy & delicious with corn chips.  Thanks for sharing your recipe Jill!

On Saturday, I whipped up chocolate cupcakes with fun pink & white vanilla buttercream for our niece Zoey's 4th birthday.  It was so fun catching up with family & celebrating our sweet, playful Zoey!

Today I took a Christmas clearance find & added a little ribbon to make it work for Winter.  I found this pretty white wreath at Target after the holidays for $10.48 (Regularly $34.99).  I thought it'd be prefect for January.  I wanted to add a little personality, so I used a few glue dots (in case I want to change the ribbon later) to add this bright blue ribbon to the wreath.  The ribbon was actually left over from our wedding!