28 September 2012

Feline Friday: Lily, the Great Explorer

 The kitties recently enjoyed a long-awaited, much anticipated trip outside. Of course, they can only go out one at a time, and Lily had to wait her turn while Tinsel surveyed the back yard.

 After such a long wait, the minute Lily got outside, she could not contain her excitement! Oh, cement patio! How I love you!

 She listened intently to every sound, her tail in perfect question mark form. What's that, Mom?

Out in the yard, she imagined herself to be a Great Explorer.

Unfortunately, it's hard to be a Great Explorer when you have to walk through grass. It tickles, you know!

Squirrel on the radar:

Senior photo moment:

No worries -- our Great Explorer did not lose this fur in battle. She merely paused for a good brushing session and shed more than a little weight in fur!

After that, it was time to contemplate where her travels might lead her next.

Alas, it was back to the kitchen!

25 September 2012

Prairie in late September

  I've said it before: The BEST thing about living in our neighborhood is the large expanse of prairie that runs through it. I know that not everybody appreciates the prairie landscape and it would have been far more profitable to fill it with houses than native plants, so I feel very fortunate to have such a beautiful place almost right in our back yard. A walk through the prairie almost always clears my mind.

This summer's drought really took a toll on many of the blooming flowers. But prairie plants are tough by definition and regardless of the conditions, there's always sometime beautiful to see. With fall upon us, the grasses are starting to turn a warm, rosy color.

 Most of the flowers have gone to seed, but a few dots of gold black-eyed susan punctuate the landscape.

  There are remnants of yellow compass plants standing tall throughout the prairie.

 Of course, this is the season for goldenrod. The feathery flowers seem to glow with the late afternoon sun.

And the seed pods of milkweed plants are bursting! Monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive. I recently read that the drought seriously affected milkweed in Iowa, causing our annual monarch butterfly migration to relocate elsewhere to find food and shelter.

I'm looking forward to more prairie walks in the next month, as fall ignites the landscape with color!

20 September 2012

Feline Friday: Tinsel's Outdoor Photo Shoot

 Both kitties recently enjoyed a trip to the great outdoors. They each had a good brushing while on the patio, then they had plenty of time to nose around and check out all the interesting sights around the backyard. Today I'll share a few pictures from Tinsel's outdoor photo shoot.

As soon as we got outside, Tinsel stopped to look inside at Lily and brag a little bit that SHE got to go outside first! Naturally, Lily waited patiently for her turn.

Whenever we're outside, Tinsel's sole focus outside is to eat grass and other things growing in the garden. I don't allow much of this, as it always ends badly once she's back in the house on the carpet. And look! She has something growing out of head, just like Rachel Dratch's SNL character!

  But I digress! Out in the yard, Tinsel had a couple of very nice "senior picture" moments, including this one taken right after gnawing on a tasty blade of grass...

...and this one, my favorite. Tinsel, the Wild Huntress on a Red Leash.

It was a great trip to the outdoors. Smiles all around!

Recipe: Mulligatawny Soup

 I tried a new recipe this week from Clean Eating magazine. I've had very good experience with CE recipes and this one is another keeper! 

You'll see that this recipe contains coconut milk. Now I have an entire container of it, so I'm going to have to figure out what to do with it. I froze some of it, and I know you can use it on cereal and in coffee, in addition to curry-based dishes. I also know it works in desserts, but I'm not much of a dessert person so I don't think I'll be whipping up a cake anytime soon. Be aware that it comes in small cans, sometimes located in the baking aisle. So buy a can if you can find it. Unless you love coconut milk, then buy a carton. I tried to drink a cup of it and couldn't stand it, but it's very good in this soup! :)

This soup is perfect for fall and it smells GREAT! If you like Indian food, you'll love it. According to the magazine article, "mulligatawny" means "pepper water". The magazine goes on: "The soup is thought to have been served to the British stationed in India during the 18th century. It's typically a spicy, curry-based soup which chicken, rice, apples, and cream." The Clean Eating folks replaced the cream with low-fat coconut milk for authentic Indian flavor.

Note: If you're concerned about spiciness, this soup wasn't spicy at all. The Sriracha hot sauce is optional. Spouse used it; I did not.

Mulligatawny Soup
From Clean Eating Magazine 


1 cup brown Basmati rice
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion
1 leek
1 carrot
1 tsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp curry powder
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 Granny Smith apples (I used only 1)
1 cup low fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Sriracha hot sauce (this is optional-I didn't use it)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Prepare rice per package instructions then set aside.

2. Heat oil on medium high, then add cubed and seasoned (with salt and pepper) chicken to pot and cook until edges are golden brown (3-4 minutes). Remove chicken and set aside.
 Add chopped garlic, diced onion, sliced leek (no leaves), diced carrot and grated ginger to pot. Saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently. (This mixture smells really good as it cooks!)

 Add curry powder and cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. (OK, now it smells GREAT!)
3. Return chicken to pot and stir in stock. Bring to boil, reduce to medium, partially cover and and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in apples, coconut milk and lemon juice. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Add Sriracha to taste.

Note: At this point, I transferred the soup to a crock pot to keep it warm. 

4. Spoon rice into serving bowls and top with soup and cilantro.

14 September 2012

Feline Friday: Case in Point

In my craft room/office space sits a small framed English proverb: 

If you're a cat person, you surely know what this means. But if I'd somehow forgotten, I was reminded of it this week when I brought home a new ottoman for the craft space. The minute I carried it into the room, this happened:

Followed shortly by this:

 And then a fight broke out over which kitty really owns the new ottoman.
I guess I'll be keeping it -- as if there were any doubt!

13 September 2012

More from the Craft Room/Office

 In today's post, I thought I'd share a couple of things I really like about my craft space. Since finishing it up awhile back, I've found that I'm much more productive having an organized space that feels good. Not that I was a slacker, mind you :) BUT I do think I get projects done more efficiently in my "new" space. I'm also much better about tidying up since everything has a home now!

First, I recently ordered a vintage ad poster for my closet (yes, you read that right!) and I LOVE it! I've always had my eye on this print. When I started looking for a poster to hang in the closet I realized that the colors matched perfectly. Now the closet really looks like an alcove! The closet (which was previously stuffed so full you couldn't even walk inside it!) is now extremely functional. It's my favorite part of the space.

On a recent trip to Target, I also found the small metal tree (hanging next to the closet). I love the stylized design!

 Before I revamped the room, I had a lot of trouble working in the space at night. So I added two more lamps which make the room much more functional when the sun goes down. This small lamp in the corner is great for reading and creates sort of a cozy ambiance. Now I LOVE being in the space at night!
I moved my existing floor lamp so that it's close to my new table. This makes it easy for me to work at night. Notice that the blinds are pulled up so that the kitties can perch on the stool and look out the window while I work. :)

Now I just need a fridge and a bed, then I'll never have to leave! Just kidding...I think...

10 September 2012

Quick and Easy Hybrid Layout

I'm fairly confident I'll never be a true digital scrapbooker, but I am firmly entrenched in hybrid scrapbooking -- at least hybrid as I define it! Hybrid scrapbooking simply involves using the computer to create parts of your project. If you use the computer to generate your journaling, you're a hybrid scrapbooker!

I do that on nearly every layout...and sometimes I do a little bit more. In today's post, I'll show you how I used Microsoft Word and my wide-format printer to make a quick and easy hybrid layout. Actually, you can do this with ANY printer, so if you have a standard printer READ ON!

But first, a note about my printer. Oh, how I love my wide-format printer! I have an older model Canon i9900 which is no longer made, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll serve me for a long time to come. Epson makes a wide-format printer which several of my friends own. If you're looking for a great addition to your crafting, I'd definitely suggest buying one. Hands down, my printer is my favorite crafting tool.

One of the reasons I purchased this printer was so that I could print directly on my pages. Do I always choose to do this? No, not at all. It does take some time to set up, but I always love the results.

For this particular layout, I wanted a white cardstock base with a dotted border around the outside, much like pen stitching. First I created a basic Word document and used the Custom Size tool to set it to 12x12. So on my screen there was a digital equivalent of 12x12 paper.

Next, I created an 11x11 text box in Word and changed the border to dots. This is easy to do with any size paper and any type of printer. You just need to test to see how close to the edges of the page you can print. Click on the photo below for a closer look.

 Next, I created blank text boxes to represent the photos and cardstock pieces I wanted to add to my page. I planned to use a 5x7 photo so I created that box first. Next I created 3 boxes for cardstock pieces and aligned them with the photo box. By setting the text wrapping on each text box to "square", I could easily move the pieces around on the 12x12 "page" until I liked the arrangement. (I often play with text boxes to decide how to arrange things on a layout. It's a great tool for those of us who need a visual map!) Take a look at those 4 boxes below.

You'll also see that I included a logo on the page. I copied this from the internet and set the text wrapping to square so that it functioned like the text box, enabling me to re-size it and move it around on the page.

Finally, I created a text box for my journaling. Once all six pieces were in place, I printed the page on a test sheet. I use the back sides of older patterned paper for this purpose.

Once I was ready to print on my final page, I removed the border from the journaling box. I also removed the borders from the four blank text boxes. It's better to simply change the border to "no line" than to delete the text boxes -- text boxes can sometimes move when you don't want them to, so keeping them in place with no lines ensures that everything will stay put. Of course, you could print the page with the lines as guides for placing your photos and cardstock. I sometimes do that!

After printing out the page, I simply adhered my 5x7 photo and my 3 blocks of cardstock. This hybrid layout was done in almost no time at all!
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07 September 2012

Feline Friday: Warm Towels!

When warm towels come out of the dryer, Lily and Tinsel come running. It doesn't matter where in the house they are at the time -- they somehow SENSE that a comfy, cozy napping spot is about to be created. It doesn't seem to matter to them that they're getting cat hair on our clean towels!

Towel Time is the ONLY time that Lily will allow herself to be covered, and it's the ONLY time that Tinsel will willingly get this close to her completely "annoying" adopted sister. While they're tunneling under the warm layers, they're the best of friends...if only for a little while!

06 September 2012

September Update

 It's hard to believe that it's September already. I've had a very busy few weeks with class preparation, so time just seems to fly. 

I've also been working on a few other projects, 
notably the newsletter for the store where I teach. This next full-color issue is at the printer now. I'm always excited to see how the final product looks!
 I've also been trying to finish up some odds and ends in the craft room/office space. I ordered a vintage ad poster (reproduction, of course!) and was very excited for it to arrive. Unfortunately, the post office person STUFFED it into our mailbox and strapped a rubber band across the end of the box, crunching the packaging and damaging the poster.

As you might imagine, I was NOT a happy camper. A replacement poster is being shipped. I asked for it to be sent by UPS or Fed Ex so this won't happen again.

Over the long weekend I finally took time to do some scrapbooking. While I'm constantly working on paper crafting projects, I don't often take time to work on my own stuff. I've never done a very good job of balancing my work-related projects with personal projects -- I tend to be all work and no play! I know that I've got to do a much better job with this. Here's one of the pages I made, this one of Bailey's first day of class this year:

 I also made some cards to sell at Memory Bound, a few of which are shown below. These cards are for our Staff Studio, an area of the store featuring cards made by our staff. I enjoyed making these cards and hope to make a lot more in the weeks to come!

Here's to a more BALANCED fall!

04 September 2012

More Craft Room/Office Updates

 Over the weekend I set about putting some stray pages (actually a one-foot stack!) back into their albums. I'm not really sure how they got out of the albums in the first place, but it's sort of a pain to put them back! Of course this involved taking albums off the shelves (mind you, this is only a PORTION of the albums I have in this house...).

As I was doing this, I noticed that the bottoms of the binders were starting to get "imprinted" with marks from the wire shelves. I knew this was happening but didn't get around to dealing with it sooner. Unfortunately some of the pages inside the albums were starting to bend, too, so I had to take care of the problem.

 I went to our local hardware store and had sheets of plexiglass cut to fit each shelf. I tried this awhile back in the closet and have been very pleased with the results, so I knew that this would be a good solution to the problem. The plexiglass will provide a flat surface for the albums, hopefully preventing further damage.

 Over the weekend, I also purchased a new desk chair! I'd been on the lookout for an old chair, or a dining room chair I could have covered to match the room, but I'd also had my eye on this green chair from World Market. After stopping at the store to look at it several times, I finally decided to go for it. The color is perfect and it has the clean, mid-century look I was hoping to find in an actual old chair.

Notice that I did not tidy up the desk for this photo! Bailey told me that the last few pictures looked TOO neat and orderly, which is not at all the way the space normally looks! 

 I have three pieces of wall art that need to be hung and a few odds and ends that still need to find homes in the space, but otherwise it is very close to done! I'm finding that I'm much, much more productive now that I have a tall table and a spot for everything. I should have taken the plunge and done this long ago!


02 September 2012

A Few Fair Foods

Today I'm continuing with my series of photos from the Iowa State Fair. This time, it's FOOD! I really try to be a good girl at the fair and not eat much of the food, but there are a few things I have to have each year. Here are the foods I sampled during this year's fair:

1. Giant Cinnamon Roll from Buni's
 When my daughter was a little girl, she camped at the fair with my parents. At least once during the fair, she would hit the grounds early with her grandpa to get a giant cinnamon roll. They're so big that you really SHOULD share them...but who would want to do THAT?

Pecans or no pecans...the choice is yours. I opted for pecans this year. When you've already achieved that high a calorie count, what's a few more?

2. Pork Chop on a Stick
 I'm a latecomer to the pork-chop-on-a-stick party. The "stick" is actually the bone, and there's something about gnawing food off a bone that makes me feel like a cavewoman. For that reason, I don't eat ribs, chicken legs, or anything of that nature. But these pork chops are so legendary that a couple of years ago I took the plunge and tried one. I'll admit that they're quite tasty, if you can get past the bone thing.

3. Fair Square
Speaking of things on sticks, the Fair Square is a Rice Krispie bar on a stick. This year, they introduced a new variety with everything in it -- Oreos, potato chips, pretzels. Spouse bought one and thought it was yummy, but I did not care for it one bit. I'm not a fan of marshmallow creme, nor do I like to mix salty and sweet. If you like those tastes, you'd probably love it.

4. Lemonade Shake-Up
 I'm picky about my fair lemonade. I prefer the kind made with lemons and oranges, but this year I sampled lemonade from a few different stands. I concluded that not all fair lemonade is created equal. I still haven't settled on my favorite lemonade stand, so more sampling is in order!

 5. Grater Taters (also called Saratoga Chips)
There is surely nothing worse for you than these deep fried potato chips. The spiral-cut potatoes are still somewhat hooked together when they come out of the fryer, so you simply can't eat just one! Spouse always gets a plate and I have just a few.

 Once can only hope that all the walking I did during my seven days at the fair helped to neutralize the effects of this very-bad-for-you fair food. Good thing the fair only happens once a year!