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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Chocolate Kiss Pie




Looking for a dessert to take to your next dinner party or just a quick "hello" for neighbors?  Here is a recipe that is very quick and easy.  The only real requirement is that you need to give it enough time to set in the refrigerator.  This yummy dessert only requires a few ingredients

1 1/2 cup Whole milk
1 small box 3.6 oz EACH of Devil's Food and White Chocolate Pudding
(I found Godiva brand!!)
1 8oz tub Cool Whip
1 6oz graham cracker crust
1 bag of Hershey Kisses


Pour 3/4 cup of milk into bowl and add chocolate pudding mix.  Whisk for 1 minute.  Stir in 1/2 of Cool Whip and spoon into crust.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Repeat the process with the white chocolate pudding mix and stir in the remainder of the Cool Whip.  Layer on top of set chocolate layer.  Refrigerate for addition hour (preferably more).  After fully set and shortly before serving, place unwrapped kisses over the top of the pie.  Serve cold.

Enjoy!

cindy

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe



I work full time outside of the home and last week I came home to the most amazing aroma!  My husband found this awesome recipe online.  It was so good, we had to repeat it again tonight - and it was even better the second time!!  It tastes just like those fabulous yummy appetizers you get at that famous Asian restaurant (clue - the name is on the picture).

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves minced garlic
1 diced onion
1/4 cut hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 Tablespoon Sriracha (optional)
1 (8 ounce) can diced water chestnuts
2 chopped green onions
salt and pepper to taste
butter or iceberg lettuce

We started by boiling boneless chicken breasts and then running them through a food processor after they cooled a bit.  Be careful not to overdo it, or your chicken consistency will be too fine.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks; drain the excess fat.  

Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha until onions are translucent, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the diced chestnuts and green onions until tender, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Spoon into individual lettuce leaves.  This is also great with tortillas, crackers, or on little slices of bread as a cute appetizer.  Add a kick to your scrambled eggs the following morning!  It reheats almost as good as when you first made it!  

cindy


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Quilt As You Go Patriotic Pillow


I've always wanted to do more quilting, but I'm pretty intimidated by the big projects.  I recently discovered an easier way to learn a little quilting by making pillow covers.  This technique is called "quilt as you go."  In the context of a pillow, all you need is a piece of batting the size of the pillow form and some scraps.  I made two pillows, but like most things, the second is better technique than the first.


Take the batting (here I started with a 14.5" x 14.5").  To keep it easy, all the scrap pieces should be 2" in width.  On this pillow I started out with a bigger center which will quickly get your scraps off center.  In the end, I trimmed this down to 12" x 12" to fit a 12" pillow form.  Sew the center piece on the center of the batting.  (You can find the center by folding the batting twice and then noting the center point.)  Instead of sewing around the perimeter, I used a wavy stitch and "quilted" lines across the center piece.  It's a great chance to try free motion, but I wasn't brave enough for that just yet.

Take your next scrap piece and line it up along the side of the first piece, right sides facing.  Sew a seam onto the first piece, directly onto the batting. Continue to add pieces around (see the diagram below for an order), trimming the length of each piece to match the next side of the quilted portions.  Quilt as you go allows you to do the entire quilt in a single step because you are piecing the quilt directly onto the backing instead of making a quilt top and then quilting the entire piece at once. 



For each piece you attach, immediately add the "quilting."  In these pillows I kept it easy, quilting straight lines parallel to the seam you just sewed.  The spacing doesn't matter as long as it's consistent.  Because the pillow is small, I just used the presser foot on the machine as a guide to line up the stitches.

The quilting lines should not be all in the same direction for each scrap.  Keep the lines parallel to the seam for a more interesting look.  Begin and end each line of stitching on the batting so there is no need to backstitch.  The hardest part is keeping the design square with the batting piece.  The batting provides one side of your pillow cover and if you quilt the pieces off center or not square with the underlying batting, your pillow won't look right.  You can see a little of that in my first pillow.

To keep things interesting, I changed the thread color as I started a new "layer" or "row" of scraps.  Notice the white on the initial inner square and blue thread on the outer layer.  On my first pillow, I used a plain canvas fabric to border the design, but quilted it using wavy lines.  Use whatever you need to as a guide to keep your spacing consistent.  Here I used a piece of blue tape that I readjusted for each row to create a visual guide.


Once you have covered the batting in scraps, you are ready to trim it around the edges. 
 

The finished cover should be 12" or 12.5" square to make a cover for a 12" pillow form.  The difference in size is a preference based on the fullness of the pillow form and how snug you like it to fit.  This one was 12" square (or 16" square for the pillow with the canvas border).  While I gave instructions on making an envelope pillow here, those instructions were for using one fabric piece.  When making a quilted pillow, you will need two other fabric pieces to form the back of the pillow.  Here is the chart which shows the dimensions for various size envelope pillow covers:

12" square = 12" front and two 9"x 12" back pieces
14" square = 14" front and two 10.5" x 14" back pieces
16" square = 16" front and two 12" x 16" back pieces
18" square = 18" front and two 13.5" x 18" back pieces
20" square = 20" front and two 15" x 20" back pieces

On the back pieces, make a 1" hem on one the longer sides on each of the back pieces.  Then with your quilted front piece face up, layer the two back pieces on top of the quilted front piece, right sides of the fabric facing each other.  The back pieces will overlap.  Sew a 5/8" seam around the 3 pieces.  Here is a finished pillow cover on both sides, inside out.  Notice the quilting stitches on the backside of the batting, which forms the front of the pillow cover.




Turn the pillow cover right side out, insert pillow form, and you're ready to go!

cindy



Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saving Money with Greeting Cards

If you're like me, you rush into a grocery store on your way to a party to grab a card.  It could be a birthday card, thank you card, new baby, graduation, whatever.  A card goes with the gift, or in the case of gift cards, a card IS the gift.  The right card is important, but it's always been the "extra" thing.  Recently though, the card has become an expensive part of gift giving.  Some of this can be attributed to the complexity of cards with sound and delicately cut designs, but let's face it - greeting cards are getting really expensive!

Recently, I decided that if a standard greeting card is going to cost $5.00 or more in a grocery store, at least I'm going to find something handmade and unique.  Look no further than Etsy.

Just search "handmade greeting cards" to find over 70,000 listings.  You can find intricate hand cut cards, hand drawn illustrations, funny cards and photo cards.  You can buy them individually or in sets and spend much less than you would at the drug or grocery store.  Here's a few I found (click on the link below the picture to visit that Etsy store):




Now if you're like me, about now you are saying - who buys greeting cards in advance??  I did, but as a set of general cards.  You can really save money this way too.  I bought this set of 8 cards of my choice for $20.  Even with the shipping costs added in that is less than $4 a card.  


I don't even have to make a stop on the way to my next party!  As an extra bonus, I don't have to worry about whether the graduate or birthday card recipient will be getting a duplicate card from another guest!

Have a few minutes?  Shop Etsy for a huge selection of unique greeting cards.  Buy from the comfort of your living room 24 hours a day for delivery to your door!  Support small businesses!

cindy

Saturday, June 9, 2018

One Week Until Father's Day . . .

I'm happy to report that my childrens' father is already secured for Father's Day and we are still a week out.  However, if you don't have a gift (or a plan), I have been in your shoes some most years.  Never fear, here are some great ideas for gifts Dad is sure to love.  Here are suggestions by category (links to products included):

Personal Care


Lillian Vernon Personalized Grooming Bag  $42.99 at Amazon
No more Ziploc bag for Dad!

Goby Brush Kit (Includes Subscription)  $50.00 at Goby
This includes a subscription for a new brush head every month (or whenever you tell them)


Harry's Winston Shave Set  $25 ($15 more engraved at Harry's

Loris Azzaro Chrome $40.95 at Amazon



Interests and Vices


Personalized Hammer  $21.00+  at Etsy


Personalized Humidor  $52.79 at Etsy


Cornhole Bags  $25.98 at Amazon
Assorted colors and designs for the man who loves to play cornhole



Unique Gifts

DNA Test   $69 from Ancestry.com  Find out Dad's ethnic background and backstory!


Holy Stone Drone  $279.99 at Amazon


Magnetic Wristband for DIY  $12.99 at Amazon

Holds all those little things he needs while completing the "honey-do" list!


Free (if you have an Echo)


If "Alexa" lives at your house, you can teach her to give Dad compliments on his special day.  It's very easy to do, and they provide suggestions as well as let you say exactly what you want.  If "Alexa" doesn't live with you yet, why not get an Echo Dot from Amazon?  They start at $39.99 and an Echo Show with a screen to view images and video is $149.99.

Hope your Father's Day is fun!

cindy  


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Holy Guacamole!



It's summer and nothing says summer snacking like fresh guacamole.  Fresh is the key here, so don't make it too far in advance!  The best guacamole is made to your taste - so don't sweat too much about exact measurements as long as you have all the ingredients.  Here's an easy recipe for my favorite summer pleasure.  This is enough for a big party, so feel free to scale back for a smaller quantity.

Ingredients

5 medium avocados
2 vine ripened tomatoes (plum tomatoes work well too) diced
3/4 c. diced red onions
3 cloves garlic
lime juice (I used two small limes)
3 Tablespoons cilantro
sea salt to taste
red pepper to taste

To start, you need to know the right way to cut and peel an avocado.  Here are the experts from the California Avocado industry with a short video to show you how:


After you have cut and peeled your 5 avocados, slice a few times to get this:


Notice the pit in there too?  To keep your avocados (and resulting guacamole) from turning brown quickly, keep the pit and stick it in the middle.  When you cover guacamole for storage, use a plastic cling wrap and make sure it touches the guacamole in the bowl.  Now, back to your recipe.

Chop tomatoes, onion, cilantro and garlic.


Go back to your avocados and squeeze the juice of two small limes over the top.  The key to your own special recipe for guacamole is lime juice and cilantro.  You can experiment with how much you use to get the taste you like best.  After adding the lime juice, gently MASH the avocados, using a fork or a potato masher.  Don't MUSH them.  The best guacamole is not pureed or even smooth, but has chunks of avocado.  MASH don't MUSH!

Add the other ingredients and gently stir to mix them.  Again, be careful not to mush your avocados or tomatoes.


And that's it!  Serve with your favorite tortillas or use on tacos or burritos.  Fresh guacamole doesn't have a long shelf life (more because of how it looks as opposed to how it tastes), so plan on making your guacamole the day of your party.  If you want to chill before using it, don't forget the tips about using the avocado pit and plastic wrap placed directly on the guacamole.  

Enjoy!

Cindy

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pinterest Try-It - Lemon Brownies

Here's a great recipe from "Gonna Want Seconds" that I found on Pinterest.  (If you are the one person left that is NOT on Pinterest, run, don't walk and get an account.  It's a life changer.)


It's that time of year when I'm trying to get rid of the last lemons on my tree and this recipe is SOO easy and yummy, you have no excuse not to try it.  These are not the same as Lemon Squares, which have a more gooey consistency. The consistency of these is really more like soft chewy brownies. In fact, if you prefer your brownies slightly more cake-like, add a 1/4 tsp of baking powder to this recipe.  I like mine chewy!

Ingredients
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 Tbl. lemon zest
2 Tbl. lemon juice

Glaze
1 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbl. lemon juice
2-3 Tbl. lemon zest


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8" baking dish with aluminum foil.  Use 2 pieces, so there is overlap on all sides.  Spray a non-stick spray on the aluminum foil.  This is an important step that I was so thankful for when I read the original recipe.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter and beat until combined.  I softened my butter in the microwave first so the combination would be smooth.



In a separate bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Use a fine grater for the zest and don't grate beyond the white rind on the lemons.  That way your zest is just yellow and not bitter.


Pour the egg mixture into the flour/sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the mixture into the lined pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  (You can do a toothpick test to check if they are done.)  Cool the brownies COMPLETELY before you glaze them.



Once the brownies are cool, combine the powdered sugar with half of the lemon juice (1.5 Tbl), stirring as you do.  Add the remaining lemon juice.  You want a thick, but pourable consistency with the glaze.  Apply the glaze to the brownies.  Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the top. 

I agree with the original recipe that your best bet is to refrigerate the glazed brownies overnight BEFORE cutting them or even removing them from the pan.  These are awesome cold.

That's it!  Super yummy, but be prepared to make several batches of these because they will go fast!

cindy





Sunday, March 4, 2018

Being the Perfect Air B&B Guest


When my family travels, we like to stay in houses instead of hotels, especially when we are going to be in a location for more than a day or two.  We've had great experiences with Air B&B and VRBO in locations from Hollywood, California to Bismarck, North Dakota. Some places are better than others, but I always try to keep in mind that this is someone's home, whether they are currently living in it or not. I also keep in mind that I am being rated as a guest and those ratings will be seen by property owners considering my request to rent their property.

So how can you be the perfect Air B&B guest? I have two basic principles - leave no trace, or if you do leave a trace, leave a good feeling. Think like a teenager after an illicit house party - make it look like you were never there. And, if you're so inclined, leave a little something behind to thank the owner. Here's how:

1. Take pictures of every room as soon as you get there.  We always check out the entire place when we get there.  It's easy enough to snap pictures while you take that initial tour. It will be a lot easier to get those little things like pillows, throw blankets and dishes in the right cabinets if you have pictures of the way you found it.

2. Carefully read and follow the owner's instructions about what to do before you leave. Each owner is different, but everyone likes to know you can follow directions. If you are staying for more than 24 hours, be sure to call the owner if you find any problems or have any questions.  Owners hate to hear complaints after you've gone, especially if they could have fixed them.

3. If you use up a supply of something, replace it. Most properties have some food staples, toilet paper, paper towels or cleaning supplies. You don't have to replace everything you use, but it's just a nice thing to do if you replenish one or more of the staples. Pay it forward for the owner and the next guest.

4. Don't leave stains or smells.  If you stain something and it is washable, take care of it. Likewise, if you stain something that can't be washed, don't try to hide it. If it's something small like a pillow, leave a little money or if it's big, like furniture or carpet, call the owner BEFORE you leave. Smells are tough too. I bring Scentsy with me when I can, but I can't carry multiple warmers in luggage. Airing out the house and some aerosol sprays can help, but be careful not to leave too much scent either.

5. Clean up. Some might disagree with me, but a home is not a hotel. You don't have to thoroughly clean the house, but at least gather up all the garbage. Clean the dishes and put them away. Make sure everything gets back where it was when you arrived. Strip the beds that were used and include the used towels. Wipe out the sinks and showers so you aren't leaving hair. Turn everything off and adjust the heat/cool settings where they were when you arrived. Again, be sure to follow the owner's directions.

6. Leave something behind. This can be as simple as a thank you note, a little candy, or a gift. Something for the house like dishtowels or cooking implements is a nice touch. If the owner has a guestbook, be sure to leave a nice note with some hints for the next guests about things to do.

I'm happy to have the option to stay in someone's house when I travel, so for me doing these little things is my way of expressing my appreciation and renewing confidence in good manners and kindness.

Cindy

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Valentine Heart Pillow


I found a pin on Pinterest that tried to replicate an Anthropologie pillow and this is my take on the same idea.  It's the basic Envelope Pillow Pattern in a neutral cotton fabric, with ragged edge hearts on the front panel. It's so easy to make and looks so fancy!

First, you MUST wash the base cotton fabric BEFORE cutting it or sewing the hearts on it.  You will also wash it after you sew the hearts on in order to create the ragged effect, but you don't want to find out after the pillow is complete that the cotton shrinks and your pillow form doesn't fit. Only after you wash the fabric proceed to cut it for the size pillow you want.  You can see the various sizes on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Mark the front panel of the pillow with pins so you know where to place the hearts. (The Envelope Pillow pattern uses a single piece of fabric for the pillow, so you need to figure out exactly where the front of the pillow is.)  You can do that in the third picture on the tutorial when you fold the fabric to make a square.  After finding the front panel portion, be careful as you sew the hearts not to sew on the "back" of the pillow.  

Now for the fun part - cutting each heart individually.  I did this without a pattern, but unless you are looking for uniform size hearts, you can't really make a mistake.  Cut a small square of your fabric, fold it in half, wrong sides facing with the raw edges to the left.



Starting at the bottom left corner (with the raw edges), cut diagonally up and to the right.

As you get to the right folded edge, curve back on the top to the left, turning the fabric in your hand.  Finish the curve with another diagonal (which will be the top center of the heart.


Open the fabric to see the finished heart. Easy!

Again, it doesn't matter what size hearts you cut.  Some of mine were thin (steeper diagonals) and some were fat hearts.  No matter how many hearts you decide to place on the pillow, be sure to take the time to arrange them and pin them on so you can see how they fit.


Now you're ready to sew. I used a contrasting brown thread so I could get the primitive look.  You are sewing these onto the right side of the pillow fabric, with the heart fabrics also right side up.  Leave a bit of a seam allowance so you have some fabric to "rag".  And take your time making those curves with the sewing machine, turning the fabric frequently.


This is what it looked like about halfway through sewing the hearts.


Once the hearts are sewn on, make some small perpendicular cuts around the hearts in the seam allowances, being very careful not to cut the seam.  This will help start the fraying process.  Wash the pillow and run your fingers over the raw edges of the hearts to help fray the fabric.  Don't worry if it doesn't immediately fray - it will over time and washes.

Finish the back of the pillow following the directions on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Insert your pillow form and enjoy your perfect handmade one-of-a-kind Valentine's pillow!


cindy