Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Miracle Frooties

Travis and I like to think we're pretty adventurous when it comes to food. We will pretty much try anything once...twice if we like it. So when the opportunity to purchase some Miracle Frooties tablets arose, Travis jumped on it.

Miracle Frooties are a tablet made from a berry grown in West Africa. The berries contain a glycoprotein which binds to the tastebuds on your tongue, causing sour and bitter things to taste sweet. The effect is temporary, lasting up to 2 hours, and once it wears off, everything tastes as before. They have no side effects and are completely harmless. Because of this bizarre switch of flavors, some people host "flavor tripping parties", in which the host supplies sour and bitter foods for guests to taste after eating a tablet.

They came in the mail today and we decided that we were going to give them a try. After we put Penelope to bed, we prepared our arsenal of flavors from what we have around the kitchen.

We decided since these are 10x that we would split a tablet. The directions say to place the tablet on your tongue and very slowly move it around until the tablet is dissolved.


After the tablet dissolved, we prepared ourselves for the taste test. Here's the verdicts:

Vodka - Tasted like water that burns the back of your throat
Sour cream - Tasted like yogurt
Lemon Juice - Ever been to Chick-Fil-A, and they didn't add enough water to the lemonade to
                       dilute it down? That's what this tasted like.
Starbucks Hot Cocoa Powder - Super sweet, super rich chocolate
Cottage cheese - This didn't taste any different to me. Travis said he noticed a slightly sweet taste
Soy Sauce - Sweet, but still tasted like soy sauce and still salty
French's Spicy Brown Mustard - This was the biggest surprise. It tasted like honey mustard!
Distilled Vinegar - Tasted sweet until you swallowed
Red Wine Vinegar - Tasted like sweet red wine vinegar until you swallowed
Martell Very Fine Cognac - All you taste is the aftertaste, and you don't taste the alcohol
                                          (apparently we don't like cognac, who knew?)
Crown Royal - No flavor, and very little burn
Hendrix Gin - The cucumber and rose flavors that Hendrix is famous for was brought to foreground
                      and you could really taste the unique flavors. There was also no bite to the gin
Mini Chocolate Chips - No difference
Crispex cereal - No difference to me. Travis noticed a sweeter flavor
Cherry Craisins - The cranberry tang was gone, but they still didn't taste good
Golden Raisins - Tasted like...well, raisins
Frank's Red Hot - Tasted like a spicy banana pepper. I thought it was actually really good!
Sriracha Sauce (Asian Pepper sauce) -  The sour flavor in the sauce was gone and all you tasted
                                                                was the chili
Balsamic Vinegar - Tasted like a sweet vinaigrette dressing
Spanish olives - Tasted less tangy but still like olives
Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb Cheese - The garlic flavor in this was a lot sweeter
Laughing Cow French Onion Cheese - This tasted the same to me, but was slightly sweet to
Ketchup - Tasted really gross, like someone added WAAAAY too much sugar to ketchup
Grapefruit La Croix - La Croix is a sparkling water that is lightly flavored, and the berries made it
                                  taste like regular sweetened soda

All in all, it was a very fun experience! Next time I go to the grocery store, we're gonna get some more stuff we can try (Granny smith apples, lemons, etc). Who knows? One day we may host our own "Flavor Tripping" party! :-)

Bake Fest 2011

Merry After-Christmas! Was it a good one? Did you enjoy spending time with friends and family? Was the food awesome? Was Santa good to you?

For me, the answer is just yes. To everything. We had a great Christmas. It felt just like being in NH with my extended family. The fact that we replicated that feeling tells me it was an awesome Christmas. And of course, Santa was EXCEPTIONALLY good to Penelope. :-)

Perhaps one of the staple activities around the holidays is the baking of yummies. This year, I baked more than I ever have before. I enjoyed it, but it was quite stressful. So here it is! The breakdown of Bake Fest 2011.

1 batch of gingerbread men for Thanksgiving bake sale at the church
1 batch of gingerbread men for Christmas bake sale at the church
2 batches of gingerbread men for Candace and Fezziwhig Party
1 batch of gingerbread men to send to family
1 figgy pudding (yes, like from the Christmas carol)
1 baklava for the band
1 chocolate cake for Christmas Trifle

Each batch of gingerbread men makes approximately 4.25 dozen cookies. Weird number? It's because the number of cookies depends on the cookie cutter I use. The gingerbread men make 4 dozen, the ninjabead men make 4.5 dozen, so it evens out to approximately 4.25 dozen.

So 5 batches of cookies =  21.25 dozen = 255 cookies! That's A LOT of cookies! I also made a traditional figgy pudding, a baklava for the band, and a chocolate cake for a Christmas trifle I make every year for Christmas. Needless to say, I'm done baking for awhile!
Figgy pudding ready for the oven!
All in all, Bake Fest 2011 was awesome! I had a lot of fun baking, and loved decorating all those cookies. Although I have to admit, after awhile, they all sorta started looking the same (YOU try decorating 255 gingerbread men differently!!) :-) My new Kitchenaid mixer definitely helped!

Merry Christmas to me!!

So now that Bake Fest 2011 is over, what's next? Well, just a little thing I like to call "The Great Kitchen Clean-up 2011" :-)

What did you bake for Christmas this year?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's been awhile...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm still around. I have been baking LIKE CRAZY! So much so, that I've dubbed the past month "Bake Fest 2011." I also recently received and award from a friend! So excited about that! I will definitely get back on after the holidays and do a legitimate post! I promise! But for now...

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One of my favorite sites

In case you haven't figured this out, I love to cook, and I'm always looking for new recipes to try. There are a couple of goto sites I use on a pretty regular basis (, my, etc), but there is one that I always look at first. It's Gina's Skinny Recipes. Gina takes non-WW friendly meals, and turns them into healthy yumminess. Now, I'm no longer doing WW, but it doesn't change the fact that the recipes are awesome and taste super yummy!

Some of our favorites are:
Asian Turkey Meatballs with Line Sesame Dipping Sauce
    - So yummy, and easy too! And the dipping sauce is to die for!

Chicken Quesadillas
   - The sweet and spicy avocado mango salsa makes this recipe amazing!

Spinach Lasagna Rolls
   - Another staple in our house and SO easy to prepare...and Penelope likes them!

Low Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
   - Seriously, the best oatmeal cookie I have ever had! They don't even last 2 days in my house!

And these are just our favorites! There are so many more that I regularly make! And she is so nice. Have a question? Post a comment and she'll answer it, most of the time within a few days! It's like having your own cooking teacher! :-)

We made the Filetto di Pomodoro for dinner tonight. While we didn't like it as a spaghetti sauce, I bet it'll taste super yummy in other recipes that call for tomato sauce (like Spinach Lasagna rolls!). And it can be frozen for 6 months! Woot!

If you like to cook, and love lower-fat options for a lot of recipes, you definitely need to check out Gina's Skinny Recipes!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crazy Crafts: Nativity Advent Calendar

One of the biggest excitements for my brother and I at Christmas time was the Advent Calendar. We used to love opening up each of the little boxes on the one my mom had and listening to her read us a portion of the story of Jesus' birth.

As we got older, my mom started buying the chocolate Advent calendars that are available in stores. My mom would have us alternate who got the chocolate that day. Trust me, to a 10 year old having to share with her 7 year old brother, those off days were torture!

Pretty sure we bought this one at least once while I was growing up
I decided to try and alleviate that frustration for my future children by creating a calendar for each of them and filling the pockets with little trinkets, coins, cash, candy, etc. Since Penelope is the only child as of yet, she gets to be the guinea pig. This was originally going to be cat shaped, but didn't look Christmas-y at all, and just looked stupid, so it got turned into a nativity.

Crazy Craft: Nativity Advent Calendar

1 yard light brown felt
*Red felt
*Green felt
*Dark brown felt
*Golden yellow felt
*Bright yellow felt
*Blue felt
*Black felt
*Flesh colored felt
White fabric paint
Craft glue (I used Aleene's Tacky Glue)
Heavy books (textbooks work great!)
Sewing machine (optional)
3/4" Wooden dowel

*Walmart sells felt in 20 sheet variety packages that contain all these colors for $4. I used sheets from both the primary set and the bright colors set.

1. Light brown felt: 23" x 25.5" rectangle. Round a short edge if desired.
2. Red felt: Cut 2" x 3" rectangles (12 of them)
3. Green felt: Cut 2' x 3' rectangles (12 of them)
4. **Dark brown felt: Cut 1" x 23" strips (2 of them) and 1" by 19" strips (2 of them): Cut 2" by 3" rectangle
5. ***Golden yellow felt: Cut 23" x 4.5" rectangle; Cut an oval shape that fits inside the small dark brown rectangle
6. Bright yellow felt: Cut a star shape
7. Blue felt: Cut into a 3" tall shape of Mary kneeling
8. Black felt: Cut 2" by 12" rectangles (2 of them)
9. Flesh colored felt: Cut into a 3.5" tall shape of Joseph standing and praying; Cut a small circle for Baby Jesus' head

** If using the felt packs from Walmart: the felt pieces aren't long enough to satisfy the full 23" (they're only 12" long), so you'll have to cut extra 1" strips to match the length.
***If using the felt packs from Walmart: the felt pieces aren't long enough to satisfy the full 23" (they're only 12" long), so cut 4.5" x 12" (2 of them)

1.  Fold and pin a 1.5" edge on the short edge (opposite the rounding if you rounded) and sew near the edge of the fabric. This creates a casing for the dowel for hanging

2. Position the golden yellow felt on the opposite edge from the dowel casing (rounded edge if rounded).

3. Lay the 1x19" strips of dark brown felt at the casing seam line so that the outer edges are at 5.5 inches and 17 inches. This divides the top into fourths. Remove the golden yellow felt, and glue the dark brown felt in place. Place books (textbooks work great!) on top and let dry overnight. Also, glue golden yellow oval to dark brown rectangle, and glue small flesh colored circle to golden yellow oval towards the top to create a manger. Place a textbook on top and let dry overnight.
Step 3
  4. Reposition golden yellow felt on the opposite edge of the casing. It should overlap the dark brown strips by approximately 0.5". Pin and sew into place. If you rounded the edges, after sewing, trim the excess yellow felt to match the curve of the light brown felt. If using the felt from the Walmart packs, line up the edges in the middle and sew both into place. Run a little bit of glue down the center seam. This will help to keep the edges down.
Step 4

 5. Position 1"x 23" strips of dark brown felt along outer edges, starting at the bottom edge of the golden yellow felt and ending at the casing seam. It's ok if it doesn't quite make it to the casing seam. It will be hidden. Glue into place, folding the corners over if you rounded the edge. Place a book on top of the outer "beams" (and the center golden yellow seam if using Walmart pack) and allow to dry overnight.
Step 5

6. This step lets you place and pin things to make sure everything will fit right. Place black rectangles at the casing seam and angle them so that the bottom corners meet in the middle. Place the star in the center. Place the red and green rectangles, alternating colors, in between the dark brown "beams." You should be able to get 5 in each of the outer sections and 10 in the middle section. Place Baby Jesus in the center of the "straw" and place Mary and Joseph around Him. Place the remaining 4 red and green rectangles around them. Play with the arrangement until you're happy with how it looks and pin the rectangles in place.
Step 6 minus the Holy Family

7. Remove the black strips and the star, and sew each rectangle into place, sewing along the left, right and bottom edges, creating a pocket. Reposition the black rectangles, making sure not to cover any of the pockets, and glue into place. Reposition and glue the star into place so that it covers the seam between the black rectangles. Reposition Baby Jesus and sew the left, right, and bottom edges, making a pocket. Reposition Mary and Joseph, and glue into place. Place textbooks over the black rectangles, stars, and Holy Family. Allow to dry overnight.
Step 7

8. Using white fabric paint, write a number on each pocket (1-24; Baby Jesus is pocket number 25). You can go across or down, either way will work. If desired, write the child's name along the roof in fabric paint. Allow fabric paint to dry overnight.

9. Cut the wooden dowel so that its approximately 29 inches long. You want about 3 inches of dowel sticking out on either side.  Tie your ribbon to the ends of the dowel leaving enough of of a tail that you can wrap around the knot to hide it. Make sure you leave enough slack between the knots so you can hang it. If you give more slack, the calendar will hang lower.
Step 8 and 9

 10. Fill with treats, toys, coins, candy, whatever! The possibilities are endless!
Step 10
I hope you enjoy this tutorial. Please let me know if anything is confusing. This is my first time writing a craft tutorial! Thanks!

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Recipe Review: Chocolate Cream Pie II

Got a recipe you want me to review? Email me here

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you all had a wonderful day of cooking and eating and turkey comas! I know we did! Travis and I host Thanksgiving at our house every year, and it usually includes just my parents and my brother. This year, my aunt and uncle were able to make the trip and we had a fantastic time hanging out (especially since it was 66 degrees yesterday afternoon!)

Our Thanksgiving menu usually consists of a turkey (HUGE 22lb turkey this year!), stuffing, Memere's noodles, corn, rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce (which we made and then forgot all about this year!). For dessert, we typically do a chocolate cream pie. This year, I decided to make the chocolate cream pie from scratch. I found a recipe on that looked pretty good and decided to give it a go!

The Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie II

The Procedure:
First of all, let me say that I am always nervous about making new recipes for guests. Especially with ones like this. I like to make the recipe ahead of time so that I know what I'm doing when I make it for guests and I know that its gonna taste good. My family tend to be guinea pigs for a lot of my recipe endeavors. :-) 

For the crust, I bought a premade Keebler graham cracker crusts. I baked the pie crusts per the directions on the package (brush with eggs and bake for 5 minutes at 375). I pulled them out, put them on cookie sheets, and let them cool.

The steps to make the filling of the pie, which is essentially pudding, are pretty simple. I beat 3 egg yolks, added the sugar and stirred until well mixed. Then I added in the cocoa, salt and cornstarch. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, but all the reviews I read recommended using 4 tablespoons, so I followed the recommendations of the reviewers and used 4. I slowly added the milk (I used 1.5 cups whole and 1.5 cups skim) and stirred until about half of the dry mixture had dissolved. I poured it into a large pot over medium heat and began stirring until it boiled. It thickened almost immediately upon boiling. After removing the pot from the heat, I stirred in the butter and the vanilla and let it sit for a few minutes to cool. I then poured it into the pie crust, let it cool more, and put it in the fridge to set overnight. The next day I topped it with aerosol whipped cream and it looked so pretty...until the cream sorta deflated and then it wasn't as pretty.
Before the whipped cream deflated

The Verdict:
The filing was fantastic! It was rich and super chocolately, and almost tasted like cake batter. WAY better than anything you could get at your grocery store. The problem was the pie didn't set. It was more like chocolate cream soup. It was still a a hit (I made 2 and there was only half of a pie left), but I was pretty bummed it didn't set right.

The Low-down:
Make at least a day in advanced and allow to set in the refrigerator overnight - maybe even try the freezer. Definitely add more cornstarch, even more than 4 tablespoons.

Since it was so tasty, but needs some work, this one gets 3 out of 5 stitches

Friday, November 18, 2011

Recipe Review: Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce

Got a recipe you want me to review? Email me here!

I really had to keep an open mind with this one. I don't like an overwhelming pumpkin flavor, and there was enough spices in the pumpkin mixture that I thought it would mask it enough. I also am not a fan of bleu cheese and did not realize Gorgonzola cheese was a bleu cheese until the day I made it. I'm 95% sure I've had Gorgonzola before and liked it.

I found this recipe in my Cooking Light Cookbook I received for Christmas a few years ago. I like butternut squash ravioli, and thought that maybe this would taste similar. I decided since I was trying new recipes that I would be open minded and give this one a shot.

The Recipe: Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce

The Procedure:
I was surprised at how easy these were to make. I spread the pumpkin on a paper towel covered with paper towels to remove excess moisture. (Don't worry. It doesn't make them dry) Then I scraped the pumpkin into a bowl and added the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg. At this point, I took a little taste and it was pretty tasty. I was pretty hopeful.

I placed 2 tsp of the pumpkin mixture in the middle of each wonton wrapper (mine were square) and folded it up to form little triangles. I was only able to make 20 ravioli, even though the recipe claims to make 30. I placed them in a pot of hot water for 4-5 minutes (until they floated), removed them and kept them warm.

To make the sauce, I combined the milk and flour in a small pot and let it simmer until it thickened (about a minute). Then I stirred in the butter and gorgonzola cheese.

The entire process, start to finish, took about an hour.

The Verdict: No bueno. Let me start by reiterating that I am not a fan of overwhelming pumpkin flavors, but this didn't have much pumpkin flavor at all. I expected it to be sweet, but it was quite salty, probably from the Parmesan cheese and the salt. The wonton wrappers were all soggy and floppy and just didn't taste ravioli-y. And the sauce was the biggest disappointment. All I could taste was the bleu-ness of the cheese.

The Low-down: Although this was really easy and pretty quick to make, the flavors just didn't blend right. If I were to make this again (which I won't), I probably wouldn't add the salt to the pumpkin mixture. There's enough saltiness from the cheese. If you like pumpkin and Gorgonzola, you may just like this recipe.

For us, this gets 1 out of 5 stitches

Craft Experiment: Turkey Shirt

I recently joined Pinterest and have been introduced to the wonderful world of "things I plan to do someday". A friend of mine had pinned a really cute turkey shirt a couple of weeks ago, and after finding it again, we decided to make shirts for our daughters who are 3 months apart.

We gathered our supplies (t-shirt, ribbon, felt, thread), and we worked on the shirts while the girls chased each other, and the dog around the house.

The shirts were SUPER easy to make. We took a tupperware container and a small juice glass, and drew the turkey shape on the back of a piece of tan felt. We cut out the turkey, and hand stitched two buttons for eyes, and a small piece of orange felt for the beak

After the turkey was cut, we centered him on the t-shirt, and began pinning the ribbons underneath him to  make the turkey plumage.

Once the ribbons all seemed to be in place, we sewed around the ends of the ribbon to hold them in place.

After the ribbons were sewn in place, we placed the turkey in the center, and stitched him on. My friend hand stitched hers, and I used my machine. I started to hand stitch it, but I wasn't happy with how it was coming out, so I decided to use my sewing machine. Then we ironed on the girls names and viola! Turkey day shirts!

Isn't it cute? It was SEW easy! (ok. ok. I know. I'm lame)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe Review: Baklava

Got a recipe you want me to try and review? Email me here!

My great-grandfather was from Greece, and because of this, my grandmother used to serve all sorts of yummy Greek and Mediterranean foods. I fell in love with lamb at an early age, and now its one of my favorite meats. I also, fell in love with, a super yummy, sticky, sweet dessert - baklava. I've attempted it in the past and ended up with a casserole dish of icky sticky runny mess with no shape or crisp.

I've been wanting to conquer baklava, and it's always been in the back of my mind. I usually make a chocolate trifle for Christmas and was thinking about doing something different this year.

I did a search for recipes and found a TON! Some were like I had tried in the past, and some seemed a little amateur, and that made me leery. I finally tried and found one that they had tried in their test kitchen. I tend to trust "test kitchen" recipes because they're professionals, and if they're happy with how a recipe turns out, its gotta be a good one.

The Recipe: Baklava

The Process:
Making baklava is an art. There is a lot that goes into it, and its impossible to make a quick baklava (Trust me, I've tried). The recipe says 90 minutes of prep, and that's spot on. It took me an hour and half to get this thing put together and in the oven. I chopped up the nuts (forgot to rinse the pistachios) to make my filling and rolled out my phyllo dough. I trimmed my phyllo dough to fit in my 9x13 pan that I sprayed with baking spray. I melted my butter (2.5 sticks! EEK!) and began brushing each layer of dough as I layed each sheet down. 8 sheets later, it was time to put my filling in. I spread a heaping 1/3 cup of filling and then did two layers of dough.
Why yes, on the right, that is 2.5 sticks of butter melted...and I used IT ALL!
I think there ended up being 5 or 6 layers. Then I finished off with the rest of the phyllo dough, then put in the freezer for 10 minutes. It REALLY helped with cutting it. You cut it before so that the syrup gets all in it and it can soak it up. Then in the oven it went! Per the directions, I put a cookie sheet with water in it on the rack underneath the baklava (still not quite sure what that does?) After about an hour, I made the syrup. I was a little short on the honey, but I'm not really sure it made that much of a difference (I had 2/3 cup, and needed 3/4 cup). It was thinner than I expected, but still smelled and tasted yummy. Once the baklava came out of the oven, I poured the syrup on the baklava (it filled the pan!), let it cool a bit, and then covered it with foil to sit overnight. This morning, we had baklava for breakfast (ok, only one piece each, but still!). I used a spatula, and very carefully pulled each piece out and put them in muffin cups. The top layer is crispy and flaky, and all the syrup has been soaked up. The pieces aren't even, but oh well. Martha Stewart I am not :-)
42 pieces

The Verdict: There is nothing better than fresh, homemade baklava...and this is perfect. It is so tasty, flaky and gooey all at the same time. I believe I can now say I have conquered baklava.

The Lowdown: Make at least one day before. It takes awhile to make and prep, so make sure you've got plenty of time. Put your phyllo dough in the fridge the day before you make it so it can thaw.

This one definitely gets 5 out of 5 stitches
Baklava = 5/5

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recipe Review: Quick Pizza Margherita

We've been trying to eat more at home, but our recipes have been getting kinda boring. We tend to eat the same recipes over and over again. So for the month of November, I've been trying to add a new recipe each week for us to try. We both really like pizza, but don't like the cost (financial and nutritional) of having it delivered. Plus, we'd like something healthier for Penelope than Domino's.

I had a made a Tex-Mex Pizza last week (YUM BTW), and had a leftover pizza crust. I kept it in the fridge and decided that this week I was going to try this Quick Pizza Margherita that I found online. We both really like Margherita pizza so I figured it was worth a shot.

First off, here's the recipe: Quick Pizza Margherita

The recipe calls for pizza dough, but I used a premade refrigerated pizza crust I had picked up from Kroger last week. The outer crust was a little dry (my fault), but it was definitely still useable. Because of this, I was able to skip the first step of prebaking the pizza. I took the garlic, sliced it in half, and rubbed it all over my pizza, but I have to admit, I wasn't really sure how well the garlic flavor would come through (I LOVE garlic!). After slicing up the tomatoes, I layered them on my pizza dough, sprinkled on the cheese, and popped it in the oven. While the pizza was baking, I mixed together the oil and vinegar, and sliced my basil. The pizza smelled amazing while it was baking!

After it was finished, I pulled it out of the oven, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and basil, and drizzled the oil/vinegar mixture. I'm not very good at drizzling small amounts of liquid, so I didn't get as a good of coverage of the mixture as I would have liked. Either way, it smelled really good.

The verdict: OMG amazing! It tasted very fresh, and was super cheesy and satisfying. Plus, the flavors blended so well together that one flavor didn't overwhelm the entire recipe...and you could totally taste the garlic! :-) We will definitely be making this one again! I wasn't able to take any pictures because we ate it so fast!


The lowdown: Get a prebaked pizza dough and save yourself the first step. Fresh basil is also a must for this recipe. This one gets 5 out of 5 stitches!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another Finish

Boy, this has been a great week for finishes for me! I finished Penelope's P tonight! Woot! And tomorrow I frame shop!

Oooo! Sparkly!

 So what's next? Here's the rotation schedule that I jump into tomorrow:

RT1: Fractal 154
RT2: Quietude
RT3: John Wayne

Wish me luck!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stitching Rotation and Special Projects

October 30th has come and gone and now I am able to reveal the reason my cross stitch rotation had come to a screeching halt. On October 30th, the congregation of my church put together a special Pastor Appreciation service for our pastors. I stitched a special piece for them and had put everything else on hold to get it finished (a fact which I am still a little shocked about).

For Pastors Tony and Julie Crawford

Because it can get boring working on the same project for a year or more, I started rotating between pieces (I got the idea from here). It's been really great for me because about the time I start getting bored working on a piece, its about time to move on. I spend 10 hours working on each one and then I go to the next. It helps to keep things interesting. I had to put everything on hold to work on the piece for the Crawfords because there was a major time restraint. Now its finished, and hanging in their home.

So, where does that leave me in terms of my rotation? As you remember, or not, I currently have 4 pieces in my set. Fractal 154, Quietude, Antoine Holt Memorial, and P for Penelope. Two are BAPs (Fractal 154 and Quietude), and the other two stitched up very quickly and easily.

Currently, I am finishing up the Antoine Holt Memorial. I've just got the back stitch left to do on the eagle, and then I need to add the personalization, which I will do after I've gotten in contact with the family. In case you don't know, I'm part of a group of ladies (and probably some men) called the American Soldiers Memorial Project. We cross stitch and hand embroider memorials for fallen soldiers. My current soldiers name is Antoine Jermaine Holt.

I've also got to finish the beading on Penelope's fairy. I'm about halfway done with the beadwork and everyday, I'm getting more afraid that something is going to happen to the piece and I'll have to start all over. The thread I used isn't colorfast, so I can't wash it if it gets dirty or the colors will run.

Then there's a piece my uncle wants me to do for my aunt, and a lighthouse for a good friend, and eventually another soldier...So many projects, so little time!

So my current to do list looks like this (RT means in rotation):

1. Finish Antoine Holt Memorial and contact family
2. Finish P for Penelope.
3. Fractal 154 (RT1)
4. Quietude (RT2)
5. John Wayne (RT3) (piece for my aunt)
6. Another soldier (RT4)

I don't like to have more than 4 pieces in my rotation at a time. Since it typically takes me about a week to do 10 hours of work, each piece gets worked on once a month. Plus, if I save the 4th spot for another soldier, it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something because they tend to stitch up very quickly. It's possible I may deviate from this. I'll have to see...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recipe Review: Land O'Lakes Fall Harvest Muffins

We are no longer doing the Once A Month Cooking thing. We found that we were actually missing having fresh home cooked meals, and I was missing cooking and experimenting with different foods/recipes. The one thing we did like about it was making and freezing a bunch of muffins. Travis likes to take the muffins to work for breakfast. Enter "Once A Month Breakfast" :-)

Travis mentioned to me earlier this week that he was out of muffins and he'd like me to bake him some more. Armed with some muffin guidelines, I started my search. I first looked at an apple cinnamon muffin, and then found a cinnamon ripple muffin. Travis has told me before that too much sugary sweet early in the morning makes him feel yucky. I liked the idea of doing a fall type muffin, but wanted something that had less sugar, was healthier, and would keep him full, yet still tasted good and was satisfying. I modified my search and started looking for "healthy harvest muffins" and I found this recipe:

Fall Harvest Muffins

After getting Travis' approval of "mmmmmm!", I went to the store, got all my supplies, and came home and went to work with Penelope at my side claiming she wanted to help. Each batch makes 18 muffins, so I doubled everything so I could get 3 dozen muffins. I actually ended up with 3 1/2 dozen.

I chopped all my veggies, fruits, nuts, etc and got to work mixing the dry goods. Then I added the apples, carrots, nuts, and dried cherries. At this point, the mix got pretty thick, so I decided to use my hands to make sure I got all the flour mixed in with the yumminess.

Step 2

At this point, the batter was looking pretty good already (and smelling EVEN better!), but I still needed to add my wet ingredients to the mix. I beat my eggs, melted my butter, added my applesauce and vanilla, poured it into the mixing bowl, and stirred. I found that the batter was actually pretty soupy at this point, so I ended up adding an extra cup or so of flour to thicken it up. I put the batter in the muffin tin, and popped them in the oven. 21 minutes later, yummy muffins emerged.

Two muffins are in an oven. One says "Man, it sure is getting hot in here." The other one replies "HOLY COW! A talking muffin!!" 

I need to mention that during this 21 minute break, Penelope helped me empty the dishwasher and then began to play on our back porch.  She apparently got tired of waiting for muffins because she laid down on the edge of her pool.

Baking muffins is tough work!
We cooled the muffins, and Penelope took a nap. Then the taste testing began. I must say, they are VERY tasty and I usually don't like muffins like this. Travis had 2 when he came home which tells me that he really likes them. And most importantly, Penelope LOVED them and ate a half one by herself!

Penny approved!
The Lowdown: A little bit of prep work involved (cutting veggies, nuts, fruit). Batter was a little runny so add some more flour. Baked in 21 minutes, and then took about 30-45 minutes to fully cool. Taste AWESOME! I give it 4 out of 5 stitches

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cooking Experiment/Review: Surprise Pumpkin Treats

It's been a bit since I've posted. Penelope's been sick and we've been focusing on getting her better. On the weight loss side of things, I didn't lose any weight last week. In fact, I gained a little...and I do mean a 0.2 pounds. I'm not worrying about it.

I was going through the paper on Sunday and I found a recipe (and a coupon!) for Rice Krispy Treat pumpkins with chocolate candy in the middle, appropriately called "Surprise Pumpkin Treats." I thought they looked really cute and very easy. So I added them to my planner and decided to make them this week.

The directions started off just like any other Rice Krispy treat - melt butter in a pan, add and melt marshmallows. This is where the directions differ. You're supposed to add food coloring to the melted marshmallow to make it orange. Then you add the Rice Krispies and stir until well combined (easier said than done!). At this point, you're supposed to butter up your hands and shape 1/2 cup portions of the gooey-ness around chocolate candy (I used Reeses mini peanut butter cups). Once they cool, you coat them with green frosting to look like vines, and top with a green gum drop.

They were super easy to make, as the recipe promised. The hardest part was getting the Rice Krispies to mix with the marshmallow. And, they were very tasty! Because I had shaped the mixture while it was still warm, the Reese's cups melted a little bit and got all ooey gooey themselves! Travis had one and also liked them.

He did have a couple of complaints, however, which I tend to agree with him on. The gum drops I bought were "spice drops" so the green ones taste like spearmint. It doesn't taste bad, but its a weird flavor to go with the treats. Also, the frosting I used was the canned frosting (per the directions). While it was easy to decorate them, the frosting tastes like its been canned and doesn't really taste like frosting. We have a couple of ideas to remedy this and will be trying it out later (probably next week).

Fortunately, my sister wanted a couple tomorrow so she'll be getting some, and we've got band practice tonight so I'll be bringing some for my guys and Travis will bring the rest to work tomorrow, so they won't be sitting around my house all day begging me to eat them (Don't ask what happened to the last batch of regular treats I made...)

If you'd like the recipe for these, you can click the link below:
Surprise Pumpkin Treats

Monday, October 3, 2011


I forgot to mention this in the last post, but I've decided how I'm going to reward myself. I don't want to use food as a reward because that kinda defeats the purpose! So...I've decided to reward myself with items of craftiness :-) Here's the reward schedule:

Every 10 pounds lost = $10 gift card to Jo-Ann's or 123stitch
Once I hit goal = $30 gift card to Jo-Ann's or 123stitch
Total Jo-Ann or 123stitch = $100

BMI < 30: Massage

Week 1

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Current Weight: 214.6 pounds
Weight Loss: -5.4 pounds
Total Weight Loss: -5.4 pounds
BMI: 36.8

Week 1 is over, and I must say, I did pretty well. I lost 5.4 pounds! And this was sort of an off week. I didn't get to go grocery shopping last week so we ate out...a lot...and I still lost! That makes me happy, but I know that I can't do that every week. I really have to try at this.

I originally was going to do Weight Watchers (WW) again. But then, my friend from high school turned me onto (MFP). It's similar to WW in that you track everything you eat, but instead of assigning point values to everything, it just lets you count calories, fat, sugar, fiber, anything your little heart wants. There's a great iPhone and Android app...and its free!!

I decided to give it a try, since it's free, before spending $18/month for WW. Let me tell you, I'm ecstatic! I LOVE it! The app is freaking awesome and SO easy to use! It's nice to be able to look food choices up quickly to see the calorie amount and decide maybe I shouldn't eat that. And it has EVERYTHING! I was even able to search for "Publix ultimate" looking for the ultimate subs we get at Publix...and it was there!! Honestly, I'm shocked!

Plus! What makes the app even better is there is a bar code scanner. You can scan any food item bar code, and the app will automatically input all of the nutritional information...even for things that DON'T have the information listed (ie, K-Cups). That makes it so simple to use! I am truly impressed!

And let me just say, that I have the best husband in the entire world. When he read my last post (he didn't know I was writing it), the first thing out of his mouth was "I am in complete and total support of you and whatever you want to do to get healthy."  That comment made me feel like I could do it...before I had even started!

Typically, when I've done this type of thing in the past, I'll be all gun-ho in the beginning and then after a month or two, my interest/motivation/drive waves and I stop. I've figured out a way to combat that. I asked Travis to join MFP with me. He doesn't need to lose any weight but has been wanting to eat better, and keep track of what he's eating. He signed up this weekend and has been having fun tracking what he eats. It makes the whole process a lot easier when I know that he's watching what he's eating too. Plus, I've got my friend who told me about it supporting me too! And all of you! I really, honestly feel like I can do it this time! Here's to a healthier me!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Weighs 220 Pounds?

A 250cc moped

1 million dollars in $10 bills

An average adult male panda bear


I am officially at the highest weight I've ever been. I used to say that I was ok with my weight as long as I weighed under 200 pounds. Well, that's been blown out the window. I now weigh what I weighed at the END of my pregnancy with Penelope. But this time, I don't have baby weight to blame. I only have myself. I can sit here and say I'm shocked, and I don't know what happened, but that would be an absolute lie.

What I am is embarrassed. Embarrassed that my size 18 jeans are now getting too tight. Embarrassed that I get winded chasing my 15 month old daughter around and can't keep up. Embarrassed that I weigh 70 pounds more than my husband who is 3 inches taller than me.

I also feel ashamed that I let myself get to this weight and didn't really seem to care. I never thought I'd be ok weighing over 200 pounds, but apparently I am. Until now.

I have to change this for Penelope. I don't want my daughter to have to see me struggle with my weight the way I watched my mom struggle with hers. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin, with a healthy lifestyle, and high self esteem. That's not going to happen if she has a mom who hates the way she looks, and what she eats.

I have to change this for Travis. I want to be the best wife I can be, and I can't be that if I can't stand the sight of myself in the mirror. I want him to be proud of me and love my body. I want to be able to believe him when he says he does.

But most importantly, I have to do this for myself. I'm tired of not having any energy. I'm tired of having headaches, heartburn, back pain, and clothes that fit too tight. I'm sick of being the fat friend. I'm tired of having to wear clothes that hide my figure and not accent it. I'm tired of being ashamed of how I look in a bathing suit.

I've done Weight Watchers in the past and had good success with it (25+ pounds), but I've always made it a diet and not a lifestyle change. That's been the problem. I'd lose the weight and then "go off diet" and gain it all back, and then some. What I need to change is my mindset. I'm going back on Weight Watchers and I'm going to do it for real this time. I have to.

I'll be doing it online as it is much cheaper than going to meetings. Plus, I never found the meetings terribly helpful anyway. And I'm doing it openly. No more hiding behind my "diet." So, here's the statistics:

Current Weight: 220 pounds
BMI: 37.8
BMI Category: Obese
Final Weight Goal: 150 pounds

Now, I'm not putting a whole lot of stock in the BMI, because I do have a lot of muscle in my legs, but lets be honest. There's a lot of fat there too. The recommended weight for my height according to the BMI charts is 111-146 pounds. The average weight for women my age and height is 157 pounds. So I figured, I'll set my goal weight for 150 pounds, right in the middle. That's a 70 pound change. I can't even imagine myself 70 pounds lighter.

I'm going to take it slow and really make life changes. And I'm going to reward myself often to keep my motivation up. I haven't decided quite how yet, but once I do, I'll make sure to post.

So here it is. I'm ready to start. Here's to tomorrow and here's to a new me!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yay Vacation!...Sorta

We got back from Orlando this afternoon. My parents have a timeshare, so we make the trip with them every year around this time. It's usually a blast and we enjoy getting away from it all and relaxing. This time last year, I had a 3 month old who was still nursing and pretty content sitting in her car seat or stroller anywhere we went, and was ok with the pool, but not in love with it. This year, we had a very different experience.

It's an 8 hour drive to Florida from where we live. Last year, Penelope handled it pretty well, but it took us longer than 8 hours because we had to stop every 2-3 because she needed a break from the car seat. This year, she did great, although got pretty bored because she was by herself in the backseat with no one to talk to. Once mommy stopped driving, she hopped in the back seat and proceeded to entertain Penelope for 4 hours with silly games, books, and Cheerios because she refused to nap any longer than an hour the WHOLE DAY!

Mmmm! Cheerios!

We arrived Saturday night around 6:30p and let Penelope explore until 7:30p before we put her to bed. Sunday, we went and spent the day with my cousins. That meant, back in the car for Penelope. It was an hour and 15 minute drive to my cousins and she slept for most of it. Penny had a blast playing with her cousins, and we had fun hanging out, playing games, and going to the flea market.

"I <3 Scott and Tyler!"

Penny hadn't eaten much on Sunday and was pretty grumpy. We thought it was probably because of the long drive the day before, the weird nap schedule from the day before, and the fact that all 4 of her molars are wreaking havoc on the poor kid. We were pretty sure that was the problem...until 5:30pm...when she threw up her supper. We thought it was just a one time thing, but decided to skip dinner with the family and head home for Penelope's sake. Boy, are we glad we did! She fell asleep in the car and slept for an hour before waking up and proceeding to empty out the entire contents of her stomach...all over herself, her car seat, my mom, and Travis. Needless to say, she got a bath, mom and Travis took showers, and I called her doctor. The doctor told me to start her on water and Pedialyte for 12 hours, then slowly add bland foods (Bananas Rice Applesauce Toast - BRAT diet) until she's back on her regular diet.

She woke up Monday looking ok, but you could tell she still wasn't herself. She was wobbly and just wanted to cuddle all day long. I felt her teeth, and realized that on top of being sick, her gums were all swollen again. I gave her some Tylenol Monday night to help her sleep because of her gums, and she woke up quite a bit that night. Tuesday, I gave her more Tylenol for her teeth, and she seemed to be worse plus she was pulling on her ears (we have a long history with ear infections), so we decided to take her to an urgent care clinic.

Miserable sick baby :-(

The doctor at the urgent care clinic was awesome and told us that one of her ears was a little pink but nothing to really worry about because Penelope had been screaming from the second the doctor walked in. We explained that she had just had shots on Thursday and the doctor said that this could be part of it. She also did a strep test since Penelope's throat was a little red (also probably from screaming) and it was negative. The doctor said it was probably a virus and if she wasn't better in 2-3 days to bring her back. Enter massive headache for mommy. The last time Penelope was sick, I worried so much that I got shingles and it all started with a massive headache (NOT FUN!). I realized that maybe the Tylenol was contributing to Penny's lethargy, so I stopped giving it to her. After her Tuesday afternoon nap, she was feeling much better and decided to introduce herself to the cranes that hung out on our back porch.

By Tuesday night, she was feeling well enough that we decided to take a walk over the clubhouse for their "Sunset Celebration" - loud music, with DJs trying to get people to dance or play games. We realized that Penelope was going to be fine when we got to the pool area (where the "celebration" was) and Penelope made a beeline for the pool, crying and trying to fight daddy off because she wanted to go "neee neee"!!! She then proceeded to limbo with Memere, which was just really cute.

Careful Penny! You might hit your head!! :-)
On top of having a sick baby, Travis, myself and my mom both got a touch of what she had (and now my dad has it). It comes on very quickly. One moment, you're totally fine. The next moment, you want to puke and you have no appetite. Travis only had it for a day or 2. It lasted for 3 days for me and my mom. So by Wednesday, Penelope's back to her old self, but me and mom are still sick. So much for vacation.

By Thursday, everyone had kicked whatever nastiness we were feeling so we hit the pool...and Penelope LOVED it. The kiddie pool at River Island had a zero entry point and she spent nearly 2 hours walking in and out of the water, and trying to sit in the deep end...which she can't do because she's just too little (despite what she thinks!) We did the same thing on Friday before coming back to the condo and packing. We left at 6:30 this morning and arrived home just after 2pm.

All in all, it was a good vacation, although we mostly stayed in the condo because of sickness. Needless to say, mommy didn't get any mommy time and is now totally burned out. Thankfully, daddy gave mommy the evening off and gave Penelope a bath, and put her to bed. Now, if I can make this headache go away...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Craft Experiment: No Slip Grippy Socks

Results (cont.):
Both pairs of socks washed well without any notice of wearing. I understand its the first wash, but I wanted to make sure they weren't going to melt or crack with just one wash.

Again, both paints were equally available at Jo-Ann's. I did find more variety of Slick paint in a combo pack (6+) than I did the puffy paint, but either paint is readily available.

Penelope had a difficult time walking on our hardwood floors, and I wanted a way to modify her baby  socks to grippy socks without having to buy brand new socks with grippies. Between the two different paints, the puff paint seemed to do the job better than the Slick paint, at least for Penelope. I just finished 6 pairs of baby socks and am waiting for them to dry.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Craft Experiment: No Slip Grippy Socks

Experimental (cont.):

After the socks dried overnight, I had to puff up the puffy paint. Per the paints instructions, I used an iron on the hottest setting and steamed the socks until the paint puffed up. The resulting image looks like this:
You can really see the puffy on the far sock
While these were cooling, I put Penelope in the other gray sock with the black slick paint and watched her run around for 30 minutes.

The results are based on a number of factors: ease to make, cuteness factor, grippiness, washability, and availability of cute colors.

Ease of use:
Both socks were easy to create especially since I had a template from the dots already on the socks.
The puff paint was a little less easy because I had to use the iron to puff the paint. It only took a few minutes, but its not as easy as the paint and go that the Slick paint offers.

Cuteness Factor (Cf): Cf = Cc * Cs where Cc is the cuteness of the child and Cs is the cuteness of the socks.

Both pairs of socks are adorable and look adorable on Penelope. The blue pair match her outfit yesterday better than today, but that was not taken into consideration in this experiment.

Ok, seriously. The Cf is way high on both pairs.

While the black socks were cooling from their steam bath, I put Penelope in the grey socks (Slick paint) and cut her loose! In the span of 30 minutes, she slipped 3 times. In the span of 30 minutes in the black socks (Puffy paint) she slipped once. With a 3:1 ratio, the puffy paint is definitely the winner. However, there was a factor not accounted for when the painting of the socks was done. The dot pattern on the grey socks is more spaced out than those on the black socks, but there was more paint dots put on the grey socks. Also, because these are adult socks, the dots were bigger than they would be on baby socks. Once I use her baby socks, I should be able to put more, smaller dots.

Both pairs of socks will be washed this afternoon to test the washability.

We will be heading to the store later today to test the availability of the paint colors.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Craft Experiment: No Slip Grippy Socks


We have hardwood floors throughout the main level of our house. I do, indeed, love my hardwoods, but I've noticed that it's difficult for Penelope to walk on the floors when she's got socks on. She has some new socks that have grippies on them, but most of her socks do not. Since its starting to get cooler here in Atlanta, she's starting to wear socks more and is having more trouble walking.

I found this blog ( with specific directions (and REALLY cute designs!) on how to make grippy socks. This mom used Tulip Slick Fabric Paint, but I wondered if I could also use puffy paint, and which would work better. Armed with a girlfriend (who's also quite crafty herself!), we went to Jo-Ann's and I bought a small bottle of puffy paint and a small bottle of the slick paint.

I refuse to pay $15 for a pair of Baby Legs,. A $3 adult pair of knee socks work just as well!


I prepped Penelope's socks by putting an empty toilet paper roll down to the toes to keep the two sides from sticking together.  I decided that because of the color of the paints that I would do the white puffy paint on the black socks, and the black slick paint on the grey socks. I used the already present polka dots as my template for where to put the paint.

White = puffy paint              Black = Slick paint

Now, we sit and wait for them to dry. The bottles say it takes about 4 hours to dry, but I'm going to let them sit overnight to be sure. I really like this idea and I'm really hoping it works well. I know Penelope would appreciate it :-)