24 July 2017

Scrapbooking: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Album

I've been on a mission to make some big progress on the extreme backlog of scrapbooking around here. You'd think that since I work for a scrapbooking store, I'd be totally "caught up", but that is FAR from the truth! In fact, I'm one of the most "behind" people I know!

The reason for this backlog is that I simply haven't carved out time for it. But I'm pleased to report that I have been doing much better about that lately, and seeing progress motivates me to keep going. 

I've been working on my chronological family and genealogy albums and making some progress, but this week I stepped away from those projects to finish up one that has been languishing on my work table for far too long -- my Wizarding World of Harry Potter album.

When we went to Florida in 2010, I planned to make two albums. I finished the first album (Disney and Universal) but hadn't started the second, even though I had printed the photos and bought the supplies. Go figure! So I decided that I'd try to knock that project out in a few days.

The first step was to organize and sort the photos and figure out the general order of the album. In this process, I discarded a lot of blurry or repetitive prints. I've decided that I've got to be much better about photo selection (read: ruthless editing!) going forward to keep my scrapbooking backlog more manageable!

Seven years ago, right after the park opened, I purchased a good supply of Harry Potter papers. I'm so glad I did, because much of it has been discontinued. In surveying my box of supplies, I was happy to discover that I had plenty of paper to complete this project. (I used every single piece, and even all of the stickers. YAY!) 

I almost never use themed paper, but I really like this set. The paper designs made it easy to put together the pages with minimal embellishments needed.

 I started by laying out the pictures that corresponded to a certain paper.

Since I didn't have enough paper for every single page, I used matching cardstock to fill in the gaps.

I decided that for efficiency's sake, I'd assemble all the pages first, then go back and write the journaling. This part of the process took only about 1.5 days' time -- quite enjoyable whilst listening to the HP movie soundtracks on repeat. I'm always surprised at how much I still enjoy scrapbooking -- when I make time for it!

 After putting the pages in sleeves with notes for journaling, I started working on the titles and journaling blocks. I got some assistance from my daughter, a rabid Harry Potter fan, for details on some photos. I also used the Universal Studios website to supplement my own information. Of course, it would have been easier if I hadn't waited SEVEN YEARS to make this album! :)

I've found that the most efficient way to do my journaling is to create text boxes in Word for all the pieces that need to be printed on the same color.

These pieces were all printed on kraft cardstock. I cut them out, inked them, and adhered them to the pages.

I'm using just a few smaller or pocket pages in this album, such as this 6x12 sleeve. The back side is a great spot for the park maps, making them easy to remove.

As it turned out, we visited the park on opening day! We had not planned this at all, but the opening date was moved back several times and happened to coincide with the day we planned to go. It was incredibly fun being there on the first day! I hope to go back when it's not quite so crowded and see the original attractions again -- plus all the new ones!

It was really fun to "re-live" the excitement of the big day!

I'm in the process of adding in a few supplemental pieces, such as this map...

...and this article I found online which describes the crowds and media frenzy surrounding the opening of the park. I always like to add a little context to my albums, often from articles I find online.

I'm pretty excited about the progress I've made in just a couple of days' work! I have finished about 1/4 of the journaling, which makes the end of this big project within striking distance! Hope to finish it up soon and will share photos of the completed album.
Yay for FINALLY getting some stuff done! 

When finishing projects feels so great, I have to ask myself: Why haven't I made time for this before???

23 July 2017

Garden Update: Late July

Now that my gardens have been planted for a few weeks, I wanted to share an update about how they're doing. It's been a challenging time in the past couple of weeks with very high temperatures, necessitating daily watering. I've recently cut back on watering to every two-three days. Eventually they won't need much (if any) watering at all but since we're dealing with new plants and transplants, I want to give them a good start! Overall verdict: So far, so good! :)

In addition to the extreme heat, our area has also been hit very hard by Japanese beetles. These pests are covering the linden trees along our street, eating the leaves from the top down. We've elected not to treat the trees with pesticide because of the number of trees affected. The good thing is that the pesky beetles are so interested in the trees that they're leaving the rest of my plants alone!

 So far, everything in this bed is still alive and doing well. I'm concerned about the spacing of a few plants, but we'll see how they do going forward. 

I'm thankful that we have a very long hose on each side of the house so I can water all the flowers without dragging the hoses through the beds. There are only a few new plants that have to be watered with a watering can.

 The area on the side of the house was not part of this project and needs some work. I had a couple of transplants added to the bare spots but next spring it will need some tending. One bright spot: My grandma's tiger lilies. After last winter, I lost a few but those that remain are blooming well.

   This second bed is doing really well, but the new rose that had bloomed profusely no longer has buds. I have a second rose bush with no blooms so after researching online and talking with the Earl May guy, I think it must be a soil nutrient issue. I'm deadheading and just started feeding them so we'll see if that helps!

 Here's the other side of that same bed. I'm really happy with the variety of plants and textures here. My liatris, which were split and transplanted, are finally standing up and starting to bloom.

 This skinny bed along the garage is finally starting to show signs of life. The geraniums at the front all have leaves now (instead of brown stems!) and the lilies are almost all emerging. The peony at the right end is doing well and I'm anxious to see it bloom next spring.

The small hydrangea bush at the other end of this bed has just bloomed! We planted it last fall and for quite some time this spring, it appeared almost dead. It was very slow to leaf out but once it got started, it really took off!

 Although I haven't had a huge amount of blooms yet, I have had enough to make several small bouquets like this one I recently gave to a friend -- zinnia, coneflowers, daisies, and lavender, with mint and oregano to fill in around the edges. As long as I have flowers to cut, I'm happy!

21 July 2017

Feline Friday: Treat Thief!

I guess you know you're a crazy cat lady when you start keeping cat treats in your nightstand drawer. I'm not sure if it's a really bad idea or the best idea I've ever had. 

Either way, Lily certainly knows where the bedtime treats are kept and will wait expectantly by the nightstand until I dole out her nightly rations.

This week, I left the drawer open for a minute and came back to find her actively trying to steal treats. Even though it was a Little Bit Naughty, I had to document her valiant efforts because, let's face it...she's pretty cute. :)

#1 -- Lily confirms the location of the treats with help from her super senses. Right ear tilts weirdly to detect sounds of treats rattling in the drawer!

#2 -- She stands higher on her tippy toes so she can get a good look at those delicious treats! YUM!

 #3 -- She's going in! SUCCESS!

14 July 2017

Feline Friday: Bandit Strikes Again!

It's been quite some time since we've had a Corner Cupboard Crime around here but this past week, the suspect struck again! 

The corner cupboard has two pull-out racks which hold several (somewhat dusty) baking dishes. When the racks are pulled out, as they were on this day, there's plenty of room for entry. But when the racks are pushed back in, the suspect can find herself in a tight predicament! :)

On the day in question, the cupboard door had been left open, which presented the PURR-fect opportunity for the so-called Corner Cupboard Bandit to sneak in! Rumor has it that it wasn't nearly as easy this time for her fit into the Corner Cupboard as it used to be -- on account of the suspect's WIDE GIRTH! :)


Luckily, Kitchen Patrol was on duty and quickly apprehended the suspect for snuggling! :)

07 July 2017

Feline Friday with Rory


  Rory, my daughter's kitty, recently got a harness! At this time, Rory is only going out onto the balcony because, as you can see, she is a bit cautious about this outdoor business. She wants to be with her meowmy at all times, which is a very good thing!

 All the sounds and smells are a bit overwhelming!
 Those big eyes are taking everything in!

 Could she be any cuter???

30 June 2017

Feline Friday: A Trip to the Vet

 Lily had to go to the vet this week for a quick check-up and vaccines. It was really hard to get out the carrier, because the last time I used it was the final time I had to take Tinsel to the vet. :(  We miss our sissy terribly!

Unlike Tinsel, Lily walks right into the carrier and makes herself comfortable. She's even very sweet on the drive across town. I caught some pictures of her at a stop light.

She shoved her nose through the door and wrapped her gum casually around the bar!


 She didn't really make a peep until we arrived at the vet. You can see by the look on her face that she suddenly realized we were not going out to dinner!
 Lily was quiet as could be while we were in the waiting room. Dogs, cats, and even a ferret came through and she didn't react at all. In fact, I thought she was going to take a nap. I HAD A BRIEF, PROUD MOMENT! What a good girl!

 But once we entered the exam room, she turned into a MONSTER. I'm not exaggerating. 

As usual, she became a hissing, snarling ball of claws! We had to dismantle the carrier and wrap her in a towel to extract her safely. 

She looked kind of like this, but with 1,000 sharp claws!
 As I've noted before, Lily's file is marked "FEISTY". The vet even suggested a light sedative next time!

I was mainly concerned about Lily's weight. She had to be weighed in her carrier, then the weight of the carrier subtracted. Yesterday's verdict: 11.5 pounds, up only a little from 11.4 last time. Ideally, she should weigh around 10 pounds, but the vet said it would be OK if she just stays at her current weight. We're working on that...

Naturally after we were done, she climbed right into the carrier and transformed back into her sweet little self for the ride home.

Gotta love our little Jekyll and Hyde kitty! :)

28 June 2017

New Recipe: Banh Mi Rice Bowls

Awhile back, Spouse and I went to a popular local restaurant and I ordered a banh mi sandwich for the first time. It was seriously one of the two best sandwiches I've ever had (the other being a Cuban sandwich at a place which is sadly now closed). The freshness and crunch of the vegetables against the richness of the pork (protein options vary) really appealed to me. And of course, THE BREAD. You just can't beat crusty French bread, in my opinion!

If this is a new sandwich to you, here's a quick description and picture.

What is in a banh mi sandwich?
The Vietnamese sandwich, sometimes called a "bánhsandwich", is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, jalapeño, and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as coriander, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon.

I recently ran across a recipe for a Banh Mi Rice Bowl on Skinnytaste, an attempt to make this sandwich a little less carb-intensive. Now it's debatable how many carbs you actually save with the bowls (which include brown rice) versus the sandwich, but OH, MY GOODNESS...this recipe is fabulous in its own right! Even if you only make the pork and use it in another way, it would be great. 

I've hesitated to try making traditional banh mi sandwiches because the recipes all seemed a bit time-consuming, but this one calls for putting the pork in the crock pot which makes it super-simple. Other than grating the carrots (which somehow turned my kitchen into a war-zone!!!), it was a very simple process. AND SO GOOD! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Banh Mi Rice Bowls - Skinnytaste


For the pork:
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
For the pickled carrot:
  • 6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 radishes, cut into matchsticks
For the bowls:
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced English cucumbers (about ½ small)
  • 1 small jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves


  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker. Combine the garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce and brown sugar and stir to dissolve, pour over the pork.(NOTE: If your slow cooker runs hot, add 1/4 cup water). Cover and cook on low for 6 hours until the pork is very tender, turning once half way through if desired. When the pork is ready, shred the meat. Reserve the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, while the pork is cooking, make the pickled carrots and radish: In a medium glass bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Add the carrots and radish and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Drain well and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. To assemble the bowls, place 3/4 cup rice in each bowl, top each with about 2 1/2 oz pork, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce then top with the 1/4 cup shredded cabbage, 1/4 cup pickled carrots, 1/4 cup cucumber, sliced jalapenos and cilantro.

27 June 2017

Garden Project: Finished Spaces

I'm back for the second part of my "finished" garden posts. I say "finished" because anyone who enjoys gardening knows that it's always a work in progress! But I'm very happy with how things look so far.

 We've had gloriously beautiful June weather since last week, which is a huge blessing because late June is not the best time to be splitting and moving perennials! The cooler weather (and evening rain!) has given the plants a bit of a cushion to get settled in to their new spots.

Here's a tour of the newly planted garden spaces, starting with this small area which doesn't look so great! There is a row of tropically colored Asiatic lilies along the fence. As you can see, they're very floppy because they were in bags past their normal planting date. The bulbs are in good shape but the plants may not do much this year. In the front are transplanted cranesbill geraniums which were seriously pruned back. They don't look great right now but I don't think you can kill them! On the left end of this bed is a small hydrangea bush. On the right is a Bowl of Cream peony, a first for me.

This second bed was expanded last summer, so much of the area in the photo below is new. This space includes a variety of new and transplanted perennials.

Stepping back from the area, you can see that the taller plants are toward the top of the slightly mounded bed. We split my massive clumps of liatris and spread them across this portion of the bed, along with a few other taller plants including a false indigo.

We split and moved sedum and iris along the back side of this bed.


I also have some butterfly bushes (small orange blooms below) and a new rose bush in this space. There are a few clumps of Lady's Mantle in shady areas toward the front of this bed.

This third bed was completely re-worked and I'm anxious to see how it does. The bright green plants at the bottom of the photo are lime coral bells which I hope do well in this spot.

 Near the center of this bed are Siberian iris, another new plant for me. We also added several clumps of cone flower to this area, including a new orange color for me -- Tiki Torch!

  This bed was also expanded last summer, so there was quite a bit more space to fill. Again, the larger plants were split and/or moved from their existing spots. On the corner is my largest pasque flower, which has now been split and moved to three different locations. It's a really interesting and beautiful flower so I hope it does well!

For now, I'm watering every day and keeping a watchful eye on all the transplants. I'm using deer repellent spray around the perimeters of the beds and so far, nothing has been eaten! 

I already have a few blooms and am looking forward to many more, as these are meant to be cutting gardens! :)

 The "new" garden space is so much fun and I'm enjoying all the birds and butterflies I've seen so far. I'm anxious to see how the plants progress over the summer!

Happy gardening!