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!!