28 February 2011

Easter Tree

Last fall, I purchased a metal tree by Carolee's Creations at Memory Bound. It was intended to be used for Christmas but my plan was to make decorations for various seasons so that the tree could be used throughout the year. So far, I've decorated the tree for Halloween and Valentine's Day. Last week, I put together an Easter tree.

I've always loved vintage Easter cards so I decided to go with that kind of theme for my tree. With that in mind, I started looking for a set of eggs with the right kind of look -- not too bright and NO PINK, thank you very much.

I finally found a carton of 12 beautiful eggs at Pier One. While I was there, I also found some adorable porcelain bird ornaments which happened to match.

I replaced the birds' green and white ribbon with narrow cream satin ribbon. Then I attached the same satin ribbon to the eggs using a pin with a small round head and a bit of Glossy Accents glue to hold it in place. I let the pins/ribbon dry overnight, then the eggs were ready to hang on the tree.

Meanwhile, I found several vintage Easter card images on the internet. I chose a few to match the eggs and printed them on cream cardstock. There were plenty of vintage Easter cards to choose from, so of course I selected a few with kittens --as well as the more typical bunnies and chicks!

I re-sized the images in MS Word to fit these coasters from Memory Bound.

I purchased some vintage-looking paper at Memory Bound (these sheets are by Paper Loft) to put on the back of each coaster, then I cut all the pieces to fit. I used Tim Holtz Distress Ink around the edges then adhered the pieces to the coasters.

Finally, I added a bit of tulle and clipped the coasters to the tree.

And here is the completed tree! It's hard to get a good picture of it but hopefully you'll get the idea. It's fun to create many different kinds of decorations and completely change the look of the tree for different seasons throughout the year.

25 February 2011

Feline Friday: Baby Lily

I recently ran across 1,000 pictures of Lily as a baby and -- like any proud cat mom -- thought I'd whip out a few to share.

Truly, have you ever seen a sweeter face?

May I point out the tiny smile? And of course the sweet little paw pads? And the soft belly?

Anytime was a good time for a nap!

And here's one of my favorite photos of both girls!

24 February 2011

Recipe: Basmati Rice & Chicken Salad

I found this recipe a few months ago in the Penzeys Spices catalog. My mom used to get the catalog in the mail and now my dad passes it on to me when it arrives. I've found several good recipes in the catalog and even more on the website. Of course, I occasionally have to go to the local Penzeys store to pick up a few spices...or just to sniff around. That little shop is a true feast for the nose!

I've made this salad several times over the past few months and I have to say that it is now one of my all-time favorite dishes. It's one of those salads which gets even better after a day or so in the fridge so be sure to squirrel away some leftovers for yourself!

Basmati Rice and Chicken Salad
Penzeys Spices Catalog


  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown basmati rice (You CAN substitute brown rice but basmati is best!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (3/4 tsp. minced garlic)
  • 2-3 cups chopped cooked chicken meat, no skin (I typically use rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (4-6 green onions)
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (drain well if oil-packed) (By all means, use the oil packed kind!)
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh lemon rind
  • 1 16 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained
  • 1 8 oz. can or bottle artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 TB. lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 TB. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano

Cook the rice with the garlic, according to package directions. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes after cooking. Cool in a large bowl. Add the cooked chicken, onions, tomato, lemon rind, chickpeas and artichokes. Stir gently to combine. Combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix well. Drizzle over the salad to coat. Serves 6 (well, maybe!).

23 February 2011

A Silent Plea from the Cat

I can tell that it must be cold in this house because poor Tinsel is continuing to perfect her burrowing skills. First she constructed a series of Towel Tunnels and now she has moved on to Cat Caves.

Sheesh, can we turn up the heat already?

22 February 2011

These Peeps are Calorie-Free!

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Peeps, the sticky yellow marshmallow confections that probably no one should eat. Maybe I like the IDEA of Peeps more than the actual taste because, let's face it: They're REALLY sweet. Almost sickeningly so.

When Peeps start appearing in stores, I always think I want a box. But I only have to eat one Peep before I start to wonder why I bought them in the first place. I guess I'm drawn in by the cute factor...and that slightly crunchy, sugary exterior.

Maybe rather than eating Peeps, I should just amuse myself by putting them in the microwave. If you've never done that, you should. A Peep in the microwave balloons to the size of a basketball then quickly deflates. This makes for a delightful minute of entertainment. (Note: I would not recommend eating a microwaved Peep.)

But I digress! If Peeps aren't on your diet this spring, you should consider coming to my April mini-album class at Memory Bound. We'll be using the Peeps line by We Are Memory Keepers, and these Peeps are calorie-free! And even cuter than the marshmallow kind, I might add.

16 February 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Thanks to my friend Fonda for finding this sheet music on a recent antiquing trip. Something about it made her think of Lily. :)

14 February 2011

A Visit to B-Town

We spent another too-brief weekend visiting Daughter at Indiana University in Bloomington. This time, we took along one of her good friends from home, which made the trip even more enjoyable. We also got to meet a few more of her college friends. They're smart, funny, and incredibly talented -- and no doubt a big part of why she is so happy at IU.

Of course, we enjoyed a bit of music while we were visiting -- notably, a private marimba concert. What a treat it is to hear her play this beautiful instrument!

This semester Daughter is taking a string methods class. She serenaded us with "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and some lovely scales on the violin. We were duly impressed!

As usual, we also enjoyed great food during the weekend. Friday evening, we checked out a new Thai restaurant. Saturday morning, Spouse and I visited a coffee shop tucked away in an old house where the specialty was all different kinds of brioche. How about cranberry-date-walnut brioche with a mug of dark coffee? A very fine start to the day.

Saturday we visited Five Guys for burgers and fries. And more fries. The fries come in a large (nearly grocery-sized) bag. And they are way too good!

Sunday morning we enjoyed brunch at a place I've been wanting to try: The Runcible Spoon. It was exactly as I expected it to be -- very cozy and eclectic. And the bathroom (which has apparently been featured on the Travel Channel) was a complete delight. The bathtub has been made into a fish tank, complete with a running faucet and some very happy koi.

As always, the weekend passed too quickly and soon we were on our way back home again, feeling incredibly thankful that she is thriving at IU. We absolutely treasured every minute could spend with her while we were there!

Recipe: Orange Chipotle Chicken

We just returned from a wonderful weekend visiting our daughter at Indiana University. I'll try to post some photos from our visit tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's another recipe I'd like to share. If you're looking for something to make for dinner tonight, this would be a good choice.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned picking up a copy of Clean Eating magazine. I had Spouse look through it and pick out a few recipes to try. So far, everything we've tried has been great but this one worried me a little bit. I normally don't care to mix sweet with savory flavors, but I decided to give it a whirl. I was pleasantly surprised! This recipe is very easy to make and not overly sweet at all. It's another keeper!

Of course I forgot to take a photo of the completed dish at dinner that night, so here's a photo from the magazine. It didn't look quite this good when I made it, but it was close! :)

Orange Chipotle Chicken with Cilantro Rice
Clean Eating magazine)

1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided (I used regular salt)
1 tsp safflower oil (I used olive oil)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), rinsed, patted dry and pounded to 1/2-inch thick
Juice of 1 medium navel orange (or 1/2 cup orange juice)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (IMPORTANT! Use just 1 TEASPOON -- not 1 CAN, as I did recently when making a different recipe. YIKES!)
1 tsp orange zest
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 packed cup chopped cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, combine chile powder, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Tilt to coat bottom lightly. Season both sides of the chicken with spice mixture and cook for 3 minutes per side or until no longer pink in the center. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add orange juice and syrup to the pan juice and cook for 1 minute to thicken slightly (until it measures 1/4 cup liquid), stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in chipotle, chiles, and orange zest. Add chicken back to skillet and cook for 1 minute on medium-high heat, turning constantly.

In a medium bowl, combine rice, cilantro, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Serve chicken over rice and spoon any excess glaze over top of the chicken pieces.

11 February 2011

Feline Friday: Bullying Behavior

Let me tell you a little secret about Lily: As sweet and smart as she is, she's a bit of a bully to Tinsel. She never bites or hisses but rather bullies Tinsel by intimidation. For instance, if Lily sees Tinsel doing X, she wants to do X, too -- even if she has no real interest in it. It could be watching a bird out the window, sitting on a special chair, playing with a certain toy, or especially EATING -- she slinks up to Tinsel and moves in on poor Tinsel's territory. Tinsel does not stand often up for herself, so Lily generally gets her way.

And so it goes in the daily struggle to be the Alpha Cat at our house.

Recently I happened to catch this bullying behavior with my camera.

Tinsel was sound asleep in The Sunny Spot and Lily was nowhere in sight.

But Lily had followed me to the family room. She immediately spotted Tinsel in The Sunny Spot and wanted it for herself. She sauntered over to Tinsel and started moving into her space.

Tinsel growled and hissed at Lily. Lily batted back. This little back and forth continued briefly until...

Lily took The Sunny Spot.

Poor Tinsel sat in The Shady Spot, defeated and dejected.

I immediately picked Lily up and moved her from The Sunny Spot to The Fuzzy Bed. (It's currently sitting inside The Big Box which she has also claimed as her own.)

And I returned Tinsel to The Sunny Spot.

So peace was restored at our house.

(Until I left the room, at least.)

10 February 2011

Recipe: Lentils with White Wine, Herbs, & Tomatoes

Last fall, I read a wonderful book called Lunch in Paris and wrote about it here. I would not consider it a "recipe book" but rather a book with recipes -- and that's what I find so appealing about it. After I finished the book, I saved several recipes to try. It has only taken me five months to get around to making the first one -- Lentils with White Wine, Herbs, & Tomatoes.

This lentil dish makes a perfect dinner on a cold winter's evening. Keep in mind that it makes a LOT but the leftovers freeze well and can be made into a soup (see below). I also found out (after the fact -- should have checked first!) that Spouse is not a huge lentil fan but in spite of that, he still enjoyed the dish. Served with a green salad and a loaf of crusty bread, this is comfort food at its best.

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs, and Tomatoes
Recipe by Elizabeth Bard, from Lunch in Paris
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
4-5 small shallots or 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (I used shallots)
2.5 cups dried Puy lentils (I used whatever the grocery store carried - nothing fancy)
6 cups chicken broth
1 16 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, including some of the stems, chopped
1 bay leaf (fresh, if possible)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sour cream or creme fraiche
Chopped fresh cilantro
3 limes, halved

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and carrot and saute for 5 to 10 minutes until the onion is translucent.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil.

Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, parsley, bay leaf, and a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over a low heat with the cover ajar until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour.

(Can I tell you how incredibly good this smells simmering on the stove?)

The author doesn't mention anything about a CAT in the kitchen, but I think it always helps to have a bit of supervision.

Serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro, and (essential!) half a lime for squeezing. Serves 6.

The author suggests topping the lentils and sour cream with a pan fried or broiled salmon fillet for easy entertaining. Leftover freeze well. They also make great soup; just throw in a bit of extra broth and a dash of white wine and puree. Serve with the same condiments.

09 February 2011

Class Kits Inspire!

I believe that one of the most important steps in teaching a class is putting together a well-thought-out kit.

Although it can be time-consuming, I really don't mind putting together class materials because I believe that a good kit (together with a good set of instructions!) makes it easy for students to put together a project, either in class or at home.

There is also something about assembling kits that inspires creativity, sort of like a new box of crayons. All the "raw" ingredients are there, just waiting to be put together into a cohesive project! I get this feeling every time I go to a workshop or put together kits for one of my own classes.

If you've ever watched HGTV's "Divine Design", you might know what I mean. As designer Candice Olson works on her plans for a client's room, she piles all the selected materials in a wire basket -- fabric, wood samples, metal finishes, etc. All the ingredients for the completed room are there -- just waiting to be incorporated into the design. I love the look of materials in that basket!

I'm obviously no Candice Olson :) but I think the combination of colors, patterns, and textures in a packaged kit can have the same inspiring effect!

08 February 2011

So many pictures...

My box of photos from Shutterfly FINALLY arrived yesterday. You know you've ordered a LOT of photos when they're shipped in a heavy cardboard box rather than a flimsy mailing envelope.

My memories are apparently not in my head but are, in fact, inside this box!
That explains a lot!

Now my memories are in a pile on the floor!

Yep, you got 'em all! says Tinsel.

Although it may not look like it, there are nearly 500 photos in these piles. (Can you tell I have fallen behind in my photo printing?) To be fair, this stack of photos includes a trip to Florida. But there are also lots and lots of photos from IU football games. And you won't believe this, but there are NO cat photos in this order. Not a single one!

I ordered a a few enlargements of favorite photos. As I'm editing photos prior to uploading them, I try to think about how many I'll need for a particular event in order to tell the story. If one or two photos stand out, I'll print them as 5x7 or larger to use as focal point photos on layouts.

A couple of years ago, I started keeping track of the photos I've printed and want to scrapbook on a little chart. (This comes as no surprise to those of you who know me!) It's nothing elaborate but it helps me stay on track -- and it was especially useful when I was working on layouts for our daughter's graduation.

When facing a big pile of new photos (or even a box of old photos), it is easy to get overwhelmed, but I've found that having a "process" makes things go pretty smoothly. Here's what I do:
  1. Throughout a given month, I edit and sort my photos in Picasa. Each set of photos goes into a labeled folder on my computer.
  2. At the end of the month, I make a list (on my little chart) of the events/topics which occurred during the month which I want to include in the scrapbooks.
  3. I upload each folder of photos using the interface between Picasa and Shutterfly. (Picasa has interfaces with 15+ developers; Shutterfly is the one I'm using at the moment.) I note on my chart which photos have been uploaded.
  4. When the photos arrive, I check them off on the chart.
  5. I organize my photos by date into black photo boxes. I'm using these boxes because they match the color scheme of my scrapbooking area.
  6. As soon as I've organized my photos, I pull out batches of photos and put them -- along with matching cardstock, paper, and memorabilia -- into page planning sleeves. This makes it easy to grab one and start working on a layout whenever time permits. When I'm facing a big stack of photos, I tend to start by scrapbooking the "smaller" events (one or two-page layouts) and then work my way up to the larger (multiple-page events) so that I can feel more productive. (Yep, it's a psychological thing!)
  7. As soon as I've completed a layout, I check it off my list. That's always a good feeling!
With this set of photos, I'll be starting on a Florida vacation album. I'm going to try a color-themed and semi-repetitive design approach for that album, so watch for posts about that process in the coming weeks.

07 February 2011

Lily's Bigg Dai!

Hai guise! Mi hed iz SOO BIGG rite neow that it cannot fit throo da rales. Im feline kinda famuss!

Wanna no whyy???

Im so exsited becuz da nice peeps at Bell Outlet put mee on dare blog todai! Becuz i lernt to ring bellz for fuds and teeched miself to also ring a possum! Thx Bell Outlet!

Bell Outlet is far from mi howse but i wish i cud go dare sumtime. I can onlee imagyne how many bells i cud ring dare an how many fuds i cud git!

Hopefully other kittehs will see da blog post an also lern to ring bellz and trane der humans, too!

Luv, Lily

04 February 2011

Feline Friday: Possum Bells

Some of my faithful readers (maybe even all five of you!) may recall that a couple of years ago, I taught Lily to ring a bell for food. I tried a couple of different bell options at the time and found that Lily could most easily handle a cloth bag of jingle bells. She pushes the bag with her paw until it makes a jingle noise and I come running to dole out the tasty morsels. Tinsel has also learned to come to the kitchen when she hears the bells, although she doesn't ring them herself. This little routine is actually quite adorable and if you come to our house, we'll gladly give you a demonstration (much to Daughter's dismay).

For the past couple of years, Lily has been ringing the bag of bells regularly when she's hungry. In fact, she sometimes rings it so frequently that I have to put it out of reach.

Okay, we're coming to the point of today's post, so get ready...

A few days ago, I put Lily's bag of bells away due to Incessant Bell Ringing. That evening around dinner time, I heard "jingle-jingle-jingle" coming from the kitchen. Hmmm...What could that be? Lily's bag of bells was out of reach.

I rounded the corner and found Lily sitting in front of her food bowl where, much to my amazement, she was wiggling her POSSUM toy back and forth -- jingle-jingle-jingle!

Lily hadn't shown much interest in this new possum toy until she discovered the bell. Now she rings the possum AND the bag of bells -- whichever is more convenient for her, of course.

Here's the possum, up close and personal. Who knew he'd have such an important job to do?

And here's Tinsel, right on time. It seems she answers to Possum Bells, too.

Now when Lily first learned to ring a bag of bells for food, I have to admit I was pretty impressed. But I'm even more amazed at this new trick! Out of our vast array of cat toys, she singled out one with a bell quite on her own and -- in absence of her bag -- rang it, too.

Lily, you may go to the head of the class!

02 February 2011

Snow Day!

Here in central Iowa, we just caught the edge of the mammoth storm which has paralyzed the Midwest. If the wind would stop blowing, we might be able to get an accurate measurement of snowfall totals, but I'm guessing we got around six inches of the white stuff, on top of the snow we already had on the ground. It's nice to freshen things up a bit. :)

Here's a photo early in the afternoon shortly after the storm began.

A little while later, you could see it starting to accumulate.

And then the wind kicked in. I wish you could see the wind in this photo.

The wind eventually became so strong that it looked like the snow was coming down sideways. You'll just have to take my word for it.
And last night, it looked like we were in the Arctic tundra.

Remind me again: Why do we live in Iowa?