Friday, April 30, 2010

Arbor Day


Happy Arbor Day! I thought it would be fun to celebrate it officially this year. We spent the day at work/school, so the official tree planting (and purchasing, hmm...) will have to occur tomorrow but we are celebrating nonetheless. 
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Speaking of tomorrow, I will have BIG news to tell you. See you then!
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PS: That's one of my tree sketches photoshopped :0) 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Wait For A Rainy Day?

Miss Amelia was very clear about what she wanted for her fifth birthday a few weeks ago: a G.I. Joe ship (yes, you read that correctly) and a Sleeping Beauty umbrella. She got both, but only one is photogenic ;).  
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April showers had not yet begun, yet she was anxious to put her gift to use. So, we headed into the backyard, fired up the hose, and made our own rain. We thoroughly sprayed the umbrella...and then the dog a little bit...and then perhaps each other just a wee tad...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Balance

This picture is one of my favorites. I snapped it at the hardware store the other day. I just love the balance of the gerbera, or "gerber daisy" as I prefer to say, set against such an industrial-looking background. This evening was an exercise in balance to be sure. We hit the mid-week slump hard, each of us having three very full work/school days in a row. To balance that no cooking was done this evening. No cleaning either. No crafting. No dish washing. No folding the clothes in the dryer that I have been ignoring since yesterday. What was done? Enjoying each other's company while eating take-out (and leftover püddy pie) and then snuggling on the couch to watch the second half of The Princess and the Frog. Balance indeed. Happy Wednesday to you and yours!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Work In Progress

This photograph shows the very early stages of a special project that I am currently working on. This work-in-progress is the first of several to be shown in this space over the coming weeks...all for another work-in-progress that's on a much grander scale. Stay tuned for details!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Baby and My Kids

Amelia just turned five, yet she will always be my baby. My kids? Well, I have several hundred of those by now. You see, my "kids" are my students. My post is late tonight because I was at an event celebrating students who are now graduating from high school (I teach middle school). It doesn't matter how long it's been since I have seen them, they are still my kids and love them to bits. My heart swells when they are happy to see me too! My heart was filled to the brim tonight when I gave hugs to my kids headed off to college and then came home and kissed my baby goodnight. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Graham Cracker Crust

Graham cracker crusts are my very favorite. They are so simple to make on your own and really so much tastier than the pre-mades; the minimal effort it takes to make one is worth it. Ina Garten's graham cracker crust recipe is wonderful because her ratio of cracker to butter to sugar makes for a crust that has a great flavor and texture. Once the ingredients are combined, you bake the shell for 10 minutes at 350 degrees to "set it." Then make whatever pie suits you!
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My favorite method for making graham cracker crust is to assemble the ingredients right in the pie pan. This enables you to keep every ounce of ingredient in the crust and not lose any in the transfer. Tiny hands are helpful in making this crust :) 
Today we made pudding pie (or "püddy pie" as Amelia calls it). It's really a quick version of chocolate cream pie where I make a Jello chocolate pie filling and then top it off with whipped cream. It is quite yummy, especially for a casual family dessert on a Sunday evening. 
PS: Ina's ratio differs based on the type of pie. My favorite is 1 cup graham cracker crumbs to 3 tbsp sugar to 1/4 cup butter. Happy crusting!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

High Tea with the Ladies

I had the pleasure of attending a grown-up tea party today with twenty fabulous women. My friend Elaine gathered together women who were all embarking on new frontiers: the personal, the professional, and the profound. The sense of warmth, community, and energy hummed with such a fantastic and inspiring gathering of women. What an honor it was to sit among them!

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. --Amanda Blake Soule, Soulemama
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Our moment from the week:
Jason returns from a week-long business trip to three girls who missed him terribly (one of whom is behind the camera ;). This family is SO happy that it is finally Friday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's In Her Nature

We took an extra-long nature walk today and will curl up with this book at bedtime tonight: 
It's exciting how many things have the opportunity to be second nature to this new little generation we are raising, where unfortunate habits won't have to be undone. Amelia already knows how and why to recycle, she already turns off the water when she brushes her teeth, and would never ever litter. She can reach the light switches now, so we will work on turning off lights when we leave a room and the CSA membership can foster her understanding that food comes from the earth and not the grocery store. 
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It has been quite a journey for us with the One Small Change project. If you'd like to read more about what we were up to follow the links: January; February; March; April
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Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Watercolors and Salt

My friend Kim, who teaches elementary school art, showed me a fun painting technique to do with kids: 
Watercolor paints sprinkled with salt. The salt interacts with the water, dispersing the pigment and making a cool design and texture. To me this seems like a great sensory experience to set up for little ones. I will say that clean up is slightly annoying, but we had fun : ) 
PS: Kim and her sister Karen blog about art education here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to Knit a Love Song

If I could choose one word to describe this book it would be...cozy. Reading it was like curling up in a blanket. Like many of the books I love, it has the perfect amount of romance, mystery, suspense, and craft. How to Knit a Love Song is the story of a woman named Abigail whose beloved mentor passes away, bequeathing to her a cottage on a beautiful stretch of California farmland. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, allowing Abigail to escape the city and pursue her dream of opening a knitting shop. The plot's catalyst? The land the cottage sits on is half-owned by a (handsome, of course) rancher. Both trouble and chemistry ensue (gotta love it!). 
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If you would like to read this one, send me a message via comment or email and this cozy read will make it's way to you : )
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PS: Author Rachael Herron writes the fun website: Yarn-A-Go-Go

Monday, April 19, 2010

Buttermilk Biscuits

Yum!!! These biscuits were the delicious result of the remaining buttermilk from the oven fried chicken fiasco. I went to Foodnetwork.com and searched for buttermilk biscuits (the only thing I could think of to use up extra buttermilk). I read through a few listings until I found one that used only the ingredients I already had: this recipe by the Neely's. 
I figured they would be yummy, it's the Neely's after all, but they were really really good. Like, eat two hot out of the oven while no one is looking good. Give them a try; you wont be disappointed! 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Blunders

It seems that in the quest for making a recipe slightly healthier I totally screwed it up! I wanted to make Ina Garten's oven fried chicken recipe, which always looks so tasty when she makes it. I got a little ahead of myself and bought boneless skinless chicken breasts. I didn't think anything of it; I even carefully marinated them overnight in buttermilk! It wasn't until I was in the midst of the (shortened) frying stage (that occurs before the oven stage) that I knew something was amiss. The breading was falling off of the chicken. Jason was the one who peeked over my shoulder at the stove and said "Shouldn't they have skin on them for the breading to stick to?" Oh, yeah...that would be the problem! Nevertheless, the chicken tasted good. Here is a picture of my chicken next to what it should have looked like: 
Poor little things. The good news? I ended up making a delectable treat with the rest of the buttermilk. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow friends.
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PS: By "rest of the buttermilk" I mean the remaining fresh buttermilk in the carton, definitely NOT the buttermilk that the chicken was marinating in. Just so ya know ;) 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pretty Pictures Post

Ok, so these pictures are not from my yard...not even close. But they were taken by me in the place where we bought other items for working in the yard today. It ended up being a nice day, with a bit of work outside, a little pizzeria and frozen yogurt fun, and some time poolside. I guess even fun can be tiring as Amelia requested a pajama day tomorrow. That sounds kinda nice actually....



Friday, April 16, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. --Amanda Blake Soule, Soulemama
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Our moment from the week: 
Little girls waiting patiently for their turn to sing in their pre-school musical. It was an adorable blast. Have a fabulous weekend everyone! 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Outside Still

Continuing on our March One Small Change, we have been enjoying the beautiful weather and making an effort to be outside as much as possible (before it gets "Florida hot"). Whether it be kicking the soccer ball in the evening or choosing an outdoor table at a restaurant, we are soaking it in. Isa the chihuahua has been included in most of the fun, even venturing with us on a beach trip this past weekend (her first time ever). She was very sand-interested and very water-terrified. Oh well!
PS: As you can see by the french fries our February One Small Change is in moderation!
PPS: Can't wait to get moving on April's CSA participation...the lettuces are first up and coming soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guess Who? Game

This was a favorite game of mine and my brother's growing up, which is why I purchased it a little on the early side for Amelia (it's for 6+). I figured we could play in teams to help her out. That's exactly what we did, but not for long! I did not realize what a fantastic learning tool I had...
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If you haven't played before: Each player chooses a mystery person card at random. Then you take turns asking each other yes/no questions in order to rule out the ones that do not apply (flipping them down on the game board) until you have narrowed it down to the other player's mystery person card. 
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At first we would think out loud, describing our logic: "Does your person have a beard? No? Ok, so that means I am knocking down all of the people with beards now." It was challenging at first, but soon she got the hang of it and started getting creative with her questions. It has been amazing to watch her logic and reasoning skills develop. Some serendipitous learning happened as well. She can practice reading by sounding out the names and we get to talk about how each one of us is different looking and special in our own way (very guidance counselor-y, I know ;). I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday = Family Game Night

Every Tuesday we have a little family tradition around these parts: an easy-to-make/easy-to-clean-up dinner (sometimes so easy it's purchased ;) plus family games. Amelia definitely loves it--she knows exactly when it's Tuesday. Pre-school games are pretty short so we play three times, letting Amelia decide which games and how many (about 20-30 minutes total). Recently we have started changing the rules for fun: for example, while playing Chutes and Ladders tonight we went up the chutes and down the ladders (I know, we are party animals!).  
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Here is a list of our favorite games so far: 
- Curious George Discovery Beach
- Puppy Pals Bingo
- Polar Bear ABC
- Memory Card Game
- Little Einsteins Dominos
- Guess Who
- Chutes and Ladders
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Guess Who is our favorite (more on that tomorrow). Other than than they are in no particular order except to say that Jason and I both groan internally when it's time for Chutes and Ladders (probably for the same reason we don't yet own Candy Land). 
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Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mixed Media Art for Amelia--Finished!

Here it is! I hope you like it. It was a labor of love for my little girl with lots of time spent cutting paper for flowers and other friends. It is acrylic on canvas, plus scrapbook paper layered using Mod Podge, plus a little Sharpie here and there for details. A layer of glossy Mod Podge was used over the whole canvas to finish (which explains the unfortunate sheen on some of the photos...I will have to get better at that!). 
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These guys are ready for their close-ups: 
It was a lot of fun incorporating all of Amelia's special requests. When I showed her the finished piece yesterday she said, "I love it. I know you worked hard to make me something special." I am not making that up. That's what she said. Who wouldn't spend hours cutting paper for a little girl like that?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Barefoot Sunday: Provençal Tomatoes

Hurray! I am finally making an Ina Garten recipe with the word Provençal in the title (those are the scariest, at least to me). Provençal means "from Provence," a region in France. I am building up to make the Provençal potato salad that's on the cover of the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. All in due time my friends...
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Anyway--tomatoes. These were very delicious, light, and tasty. Essentially, they are tomatoes stuffed with fresh breadcrumbs, scallions, and herbs and baked for about 15 minutes with cheese melted on top. The recipe called for Gruyère cheese, but instead I used what I had on hand for pocket book's sake (mozzarella)...which probably takes the Provençal out and puts the Italian in. Whichever! They were yummy just the same.
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The most serendipitous part of the recipe was slicing the tomatoes. From the picture, I assumed that you cut the tops off of the tomatoes to make the "cups." In reality, you carefully cut out the cores and then slice the tomatoes crosswise, thus getting two servings from one tomato. This was especially helpful now that the price of tomatoes is so high here in Florida (and probably everywhere). 
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Happy Sunday evening to all!
PS: This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook.   

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Felt Napkin Rings

A couple of weeks ago I read and then re-read this post by Amanda Blake Soule (Soulemama). I just love the way she feels about daily family gatherings and how she knows that making them special sometimes takes just a little bit of intention. Now her children have taken it on in spades, setting the "scene" for the family dinner table each night. See it here
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I fell in love with her personalized napkin rings, with her finding just the right one for each member of the family. I may still do that, but since I am quite impatient, I decided to make our own personalized rings out of felt scraps and thread in the mean time. I took orders for color and design and whipped them up on a lazy afternoon (they are only about 1.5" by 5" before joining the ends). The Soule family uses cloth napkins, which after reading about sound a lot more user-friendly than I previously thought. Hmm....
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PS: If hand stitching is not for you, google making your own felt napkin rings. There are many no-sew designs out there that are very cute. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Working Through The Weekend

Various kinds of work will be done this weekend. I have a few regular work commitments (chaperoning an 8th grade lock-in to start), plus housework of course, and then artwork (the best work of all!). I am hopeful to show you a finished piece on Monday once all is said and glued, so to speak.
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Tomorrow? A fun and quick sewing project that just might start a new family tradition. See you soon!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It Really Is No-Fail Whole Wheat Bread

While blog-cruising over Spring Break last week, I stumbled upon this blog post at Progressive Pioneer. I was intrigued because it made bread making look so easy. So far I had made my family's Italian bread, but never a sandwich bread and never using whole wheat flour. 
Let me tell you, if you have access to a Kitchenaid mixer (thanks again, Mom!), this bread recipe is simple, easy, inexpensive, relatively non-mess-producing, and delicious!!! Plus you feel really cool and amazing making bread from scratch when really all you do is dump ingredients into a mixer for a while. Just make sure you babysit the mixer--mine almost walked itself off of the counter while kneading. That would have been very expensive bread. Eesh.  
The best part was that the bread was so soft, and as the recipe stated "not dense," even Amelia gobbled it up :)
Give it a try! You'll be glad you did :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Flower Layer in Progress

Here is where I am with the last big project for Amelia's big-girl room:
After painting the background of sky and branches I began decoupaging cut paper for flowers and animals, meaning I cut the shapes out of scrapbook paper and then used Mod Podge and a foam brush to adhere them to the canvas. I purposely chose a Mod Podge with a gloss finish. Once I am finished with all of the applique (whenever that may be ;), I plan on coating the entire canvas so it has an even sheen all over.  Despite the tediousness of cutting out many flowers, I have had a lot of fun choosing coordinating scrapbook papers and layering them differently here and there; I have some ideas to share for similar projects as soon as this one is off of the easel and on the wall!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Girl She Used To Be

You will be tired after reading this book because you will have stayed up late into the night to finish it! The Girl She Used to Be is a page turner from beginning to end, hooking you into the story by the close of the first page and not letting go. It's the story of Melody Grace McCartny who, as a young girl, witnessed a crime that put her, along with her parents, into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Since then she has been relocated many times; sometimes due to legitimate threat and other times because she was restless, never finding fullfillment in the boring, safe 'characters' she portrayed to keep her safe. All of a sudden, a man connected to the original crime finds her and wants to help her. Should she trust him? 
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I didn't realize this book was written by a man until I got it home. I found that Melody's voice was clear in the book, and you couldn't tell that someone from a different gender perspective wrote the story. I went to David Cristofano's website to learn more about his writing process. It was very interesting how he developed the story, feeling like the main character should be a woman but knowing the writing challenge ahead. Alas, this is his first book so I cannot run out and get another story of his. I will say that as soon as there is another I will be very excited to stay up late and read it. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Beach!

We ventured out yesterday to our collective most favorite place ever, the beach. For generations, my family (no matter the city, state, country, or continent) has lived near the water. We are about an hour and a half from a "good beach" now and that's about as far as we are willing to go. Being raised in Key West, Jason and I share the twisted quality of becoming relaxed at the smell of rotting seaweed and the persistent, nagging squawks of seagulls. Amelia's love for it is not too far behind. With that in mind, we loaded up the car and headed out. 
It was not the sun-shiniest day to start with, but no matter to us. We could breathe. We were at the beach. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Barefoot Easter Sunday: Coconut Macaroons

I hope that you had a lovely, lovely day today. Here, along with the sequined chick that I promised to show you (see, he isn't so bad!) are Ina Garten's delectable coconut macaroons:
They were sweet, light, and tasty if you like coconut, and the recipe was a very easy one to let Amelia help with (really just stirring and scooping involved). After a while they got a little squishy and oozy, but that may be the Florida heat/humidity combo. In any case, when I make these again I will make just enough to eat right away.  
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I did finish the bunny late last night-Yay! I think she's super-cute, if not totally homemade-looking (but that's what I was going for, right?!):

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pro-crafts-tination

Procraftstination: putting off working on one craft to work on or begin another. 
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That's what I am up to right now. I think it's due to my love of starting new projects. Finishing is fun too. You know what's not always fun? The middle. So, instead of having some decoupage flower progress to show you today I have some bunny ears: 
Because I decided around 4:30 p.m. that I would like to put a little handmade bunny in Amelia's Easter basket tomorrow to complement the store-bought, sequined baby chick. You read that correctly: a sequined baby chick. It's cute, I promise. I'll show you tomorrow ;)
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And because I cannot possibly leave you with a photo of bunny ears on my lap...here is a picture of the gerber daisies I received from my family yesterday. Thanks guys!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Artwork for Amelia

This is the beginnings of the third installment of Amelia's big girl room makeover. It's a combination of an old favorite: acrylic on canvas, and a new interest: mixed media. In this case, decoupaging cut paper. I have done a few cut paper projects in the past, but never with canvas and never at this large a scale. 
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Layer 1: Background Sky
Layer 2: Branches
Stay tuned for Layer 3: Flowers--it's taking me a while to make solid progress with this layer...an hour or so of cutting out yields about 10 minutes of flower-gluing, so it's a bit of a process. Anything for my girl!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One Small Change: Joining a CSA!

We've saved the best One Small Change Project for last, my friends, though that was mere serendipity. First dramatically reducing our paper towel usage, then exploring healthy food options, and in March, opening the windows to breathe the fresh spring air. Now in home stretch to Earth Day, we are so excited to participate in a local CSA. 
"A what?" you might be saying, just as Jason and I did when our friend Joel tossed around the lingo during his last visit. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Essentially, a community of people financially support a farm operation (sharing in the risks and rewards). As part of our CSA season, we will be getting weekly deliveries of fresh, organic vegetables and fruit and-- get this--wildflowers. I love it! 
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I am not politically minded at all, so I have no musings on that matter. I am simply excited to have fresh, organic food for my family that did not travel far and wide to get to our table. I am also very excited for the culinary adventures that lie ahead (of the "What is a turnip and how does one cook with it?" variety). 
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I want to say thank you to Suzy at Hip Mountain Mama for creating such a meaningful, rewarding, and fun challenge for us all :)