31 January 2014

Feline Friday: Mi Bisee Dai!

Hi, its Lily!!! 
Mi mommeh is letteen me rite dis blaug post todai. Im sorrie if i haz typos. i do not haz thums.

Todai i want to shair all about a dai in mi lyfe! Contrarie to populair beleefs, i haz a verie busie lyfe! As u will see, i am in charge of lotz of thingz!

Furst i wake up earlie so i can get mommeh up. She lieks to wake up at 3:30 in da morning so she can feed me!!!

 Den it is tyme to go to wurk! I liek to sit on da desk whyle mommie wurks on da computor. Sometymes I dress up to go to wurk but mostlie I don't ware cloz. But 
don't worrie, Mommie wares cloz.

After wurk it is tyme to rest. I liek to slepe in dis sunnie spot every dai for mi napp!

Den it iz tyme to do laundrie!! Do not wurrie...mi mommeh maed mee git out rite after she taked dis pictur!!

Den it iz tyme to dri da laundrie. I liek to do dis wif my tung. I lick all of da t-shurts!

 Den mommie sez dat we haz to do laundrie all ozer again!!!

I also liek to tri out da warm towelz!

Den mommie sez dat we haz to do laundrie again!!! Wee do a lot of laundries at our howse!!
 Sumtymes I do crafs. I speshellie liek nitteen.

  At da end of mi bisie dai, i am verie tired! Goodnite!

Wryte bak!!!
Luv, Lily

29 January 2014

Book Shelf Organization

I've been sorting through boxes and tubs in our basement, trying to make room for the stuff I brought home from my parents' house. I had some books stored on open shelving in the basement storage room and decided that wasn't the best place for them, so I embarked on a big SHIFTAROO -- moving books from one place to another and packing up books we don't need right now. This ended up being a bigger task than anticipated, which is the story of my life these days!

Anyway, we've got some great closed cupboard shelves on either side of our fireplace which were full of stuff which didn't really need to be housed there. (Trust me, it was so bad that I didn't even take a BEFORE picture!) I decided the shelves would be perfect for some of our books...if they weren't so darn DEEP! As you can see, the shelves are deep enough to accommodate two rows of books, but I absolutely hate arranging books that way because you can't get to the back ones easily.

(Yes, I kept my old Childcraft books! I absolutely loved them as a little girl -- and still do!)

So I thought about ways to use the space more efficiently and came up with the idea of using baskets for smaller books. (Now I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this idea...but this is the first time I've ever thought of it!) I purchased several small baskets from Target (just $2.99 each) and filled them with paperbacks. This plan ended up working perfectly: Just lift out the baskets to get to the books in back!

I used a slightly bigger basket to accommodate my collection of childhood storybooks. I love that I can just lift out the basket and see them all! :) At the back of this shelf, I gathered up all of our yearbooks and put them in date order, as part of my attempt to put our books together by subject, too. I haven't employed my friend Mr. Dewey Decimal just yet, but I'll admit that I've considered it! Handling books brings out my inner librarian. :)
So after the big SHIFTAROO, I'm very happy with how these shelves are being utilized now! If you have deep closet shelves and lots of books, maybe this idea will work for you, too!

28 January 2014

Recipe: Chicken Korma

 Friends, I have shared a few Indian recipes on my blog, but the one I'm sharing in today's post is truly the BEST one I've ever made! Okay, I know I say that every one of my Indian recipes is the best, but this one really IS the best! It is so good that Spouse even shared it with an out-of-state friend who subsequently made it and loved it! He even sent Spouse a picture, so you KNOW it's a great recipe! If you want to try Indian food, this is the recipe.

You might be intimidated by the number of spices, but there is really nothing unusual in this assortment. I've been doing a lot of Indian/Moroccan cooking and have amassed quite a few spices, so I was pleased that I actually had everything on hand for this one! If you don't like spicy food, I'd suggest cutting the cayenne pepper by half.

Serves 4 

1/2 cup almond slices or slivers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced or grated ginger
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (if needed)
  1. Grind 1/2 of the almonds in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, reserving the other half until Step 4.
  2.  In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, and cloves.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet (14" is ideal) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the chicken and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it's mostly white, about 2 minutes. Add the almond-spice mix and stir to coat the chicken and onions. 
  4. Add the yogurt, bay leaf, and brown sugar and allow the chicken to simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce has thickened. Add the salt and pepper and adjust with more salt if needed. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the remaining almond slices and chopped cilantro, and serve. 

 You'll just have to trust me when I tell you how delicious this is. My pictures don't do it justice!

Look at these beautiful spices! When a recipe starts out with this much color, you KNOW it's going to be good!

I wasn't sure how to grind the almonds without getting out my big food processor, then I remembered this little device I found in my parents' house last summer. It was perfect for grinding the almonds!

This is the chicken simmering away in a big pan. Oh, the aroma! Be still, my heart! Special thanks to Bailey for the awesome heat-proof spatulas. It's great to be able to cook without melting your spatula! :)

Oh, look! Here's my little helper, waiting for something to accidentally drop on the floor!

Who, me???

And here it is after the yogurt has been added. This creates a very rich sauce, typical of the Indian food I've tried.

My food photography leaves a lot to be desired but rest assured, this dish is fantastic! In an Indian restaurant, you would probably enjoy it with basmati rice, but I had couscous on hand and that worked just as well. If you're looking to branch out with your cooking, give this recipe a try! I can't wait to make it again!

27 January 2014

Salad Toppings?


 In order to entice Tinsel to eat, I typically sprinkle her food with a few Temptations Cat Treats. Recently a scary thing happened: I reached into the pantry without looking and grabbed a similarly-shaped bag. Before I realized my error, Tinsel had Science Diet - Santa Fe Style!

As they say: Be afraid, be very afraid! It's just a matter of time before I sprinkle Temptations on our salad! :)


26 January 2014

Fun Packaging Idea!

For Christmas, my daughter gave me two work-out shirts to use when I go to the Dreaded Fitness Place. I love the shirts, but I especially love the creative way she packaged them -- in clear mason jars! She knew I could use the jars in my craft space. Such a simple and fun idea! 
Thanks, Bailey! :)

25 January 2014

Album: Summer Camp (Part 2)

Warning: Today's post is very PHOTO HEAVY! But as promised, I wanted to share a few photos of the scrapbook my daughter completed -- start to finish -- over Christmas break. I'm so proud of her not only for completing this album, but for taking the time to write all of the details that will truly make it a treasure in the future!

This album details Bailey's summer as a counselor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. She had a fantastic time, and I think the album truly reflects that!

We started planning the album when she was home for a very quick week at Thanksgiving. She chose a Doodlebug Storybook 3-Ring Album at Memory Bound (rather than the We R Memory Keepers binders I normally use) because the Doodlebug blue was the best match for the camp colors. :)

 Bailey is very much a task master, diligently keeping track of each page she completed. And every time she finished a page, we had to look at the entire album from start to finish...just to give her credit for all of her work!

Bailey spent a lot of time thinking about how to organize her album. I consulted a little bit on this and helped her think through how to pull it all together. Sometimes I acted as the "prep cook" -- cutting paper as she directed and tidying up. I loved having her in my craft room while she worked on her big project!
 She actually completed the cover page last, when she was almost out of time and ready to head back to Indiana. We chose a few favorite photos and put them into a collage using Picasa.

 Her album starts out with "formal" camp pictures from each session, including the large professional pictures shown below. She also had the forethought to take a picture with all of her cabin girls for each session.

 Special note: The rest of these pictures are in no particular order. (This will probably make Bailey freak out a little bit!)

In addition to the formal photos, Bailey had a ton of great "everyday" shots to use in her album. She added a few SN@P cards here and there for color and to fill in some of her pocket pages. Here she used one as a title.

 Over the summer she took pictures all around the camp. This layout features details about her unit. I love how she wrote so much about it!

 Bailey mixed up the page sizes in the album, using a few 8.5x11 and 6x8 page protectors here and there for variety. The canoe trip page below was going to be a small one but due to a cutting error on my part, the completed page didn't fit the page protector. (So much for Mom's help!) So she mounted it on a larger background and now it's one of my favorites!

I love how Bailey incorporated her handwriting along with computer journaling on her pages. It gives the album a fun, casual feel.

 This is another favorite page, detailing her toilet plunging experiences -- a life skill she apparently did NOT learn at home!

I'll never forget the day Bailey called me from Michigan, screaming and crying incoherently. Turns out she had encountered a snake while alone on security patrol in her unit! I have always felt that journaling is the most important part of scrapbooking, and I guess she has taken that to heart, as she wrote out all the details of that terrifying tale! :)

On the same page is a photo of Bailey SWEEPING the woods. I actually took that photo when I was visiting camp because I could not believe my eyes. She was clearing a path so that leaves wouldn't get tracked into the cabin. :)

 Throughout the summer, Bailey took pictures of the little details in her cabin, including the signs on the wall.

She kept all of the drawings and notes from her campers and worked most of them into the album. The purple piece below was created by one of the art students. We copied it at Memory Bound so it would be safe to include in the scrapbook.

 Bailey made good use of pocket pages. They enabled her to use a TON of photos in the album.

She made sure to take photos with the camp sign! Can you tell this girl is the daughter of a scrapbooker? Proud Mommy Moment!! :)

What a great time the counselors had! They tucked water bottles under their hair for a Dr. Seuss-like look! Love these photos. :)

Here are some photos of her with her boyfriend, who worked as a Unit Director.

These mustache stickers were perfect for Mandatory Mustache Monday pictures!

As you can see, she kept a consistent color theme throughout the album. Her page backgrounds were mainly kraft and blue, with a few very simple patterns thrown in. Bailey wanted to keep the color scheme reflective of the colors at camp -- blues, browns, and greens.

We looked for ways to incorporate the artwork which hung on her cabin walls. We copied it at Memory Bound and used it for page backgrounds.  

 These are photos from one of the art shows which I got to attend during my short visit to camp. Students created an "undersea" world from fibers, shown in the photos at the left. It was truly amazing!

Music was a big part of the camp experience. I'm glad she remembered to take a few photos to represent that aspect of the summer!

 Of course, she and her fellow counselors shared a very special bond, as shown in these goofy pictures! :)

 The counselors recently met up for a reunion at a music educators' conference, so Bailey added those photos to the album.

By the end of Christmas break, Bailey had a completed album documenting her wonderful summer camp experience! We carefully packed it in her carry-on bag and she toted it back to Indiana where she has had the opportunity to share it with her friends. I'm so happy she took the time to make this great project! It will be a treasured keepsake for years to come.

24 January 2014

Feline Friday: Rude Awakening!

I came upon Lily enjoying a peaceful nap on her scratching pads. Such a sweet sight!
Her head fell right off the edge! :)

I couldn't help but laugh! Sorry, Lily!

23 January 2014

Snippets of January

Today's post is a series of unrelated topics...snippets of a month that is going by very quickly! I can't remember a time when I've been more ready to begin a new year, and by all accounts it has started out pretty well.

 First and foremost, how did I live without this machine? The Spotbot Pet sucks up evidence of the stuff that comes out of either end of your cat or dog! :) It works great and couldn't be easier to use. If you've got a cat or a dog, GET ONE.

This little opossum recently stopped by our yard to snack on some iris leaves. I think he's absolutely adorable but many of my friends do not! Turns out opossums are very polarizing: Either you love 'em or you want 'em annihilated. I hope he knows he is always welcome in my yard!

On another note, this cute little girl had her 21st birthday this month! Truly, we could not have been blessed with a more wonderful daughter. What a joy it is to be her mom. :) 

This is the current state of my craft room. It has seen a lot of action lately, necessitating quite a lot of clean-up. Although I try to be tidy as I'm working on projects, it just never seems to happen. I do clean everything up as soon as I'm done with a project so I can begin with a clean slate every time. Just wish it would stay that way!

This month I unearthed the porcelain tea set I've had since I was a little girl. My mom always stored it in the high cupboard above the stove, and on rainy days we would carefully lift it down and have tea and cookies at the kitchen table. When I unpacked it, the memories came flooding back. Spouse brought me a Kleenex then suggested we wash up a few pieces and try it out. It was such a treat to enjoy a spot of peppermint tea from these cups once again.

 Here's to a quiet and productive start to 2014!