Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pinterest Projects: F&B

Over the last few years, my "Let Me Entertain You" board on Pinterest has exposed us to loads of new recipes and party ideas. I've been pulling out my cookbooks and old Cooking Light issues less and less in lieu of heading online.

This past holiday, I grabbed the supplies for the Bubble Up Breakfast Bake after seeing the savory photos pinned to my feed. We headed to my sister's for Christmas, prepared to provide a tasty meal for everyone the next morning.
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But first, my sister had the same idea to get her pinspiration on for an afternoon holiday drink. I helped her make Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Lattes that even this non-coffee drinker really enjoyed.
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We started with 8 Tablespoons of pumpkin puree, 8 Tablespoons of vanilla (yes, even though that sounds like a lot!), 8 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon mixed in a bowl.
The pumpkin mixture was stirred into the crockpot that was filled with 6 cups of milk and 4 cups of brewed coffee.
This was simply heated up for a couple hours on high and then served with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick for garnish. Yum-o.
Now back to the breakfast bake. I'm a sucker for a good egg bake - I have a few recipes on hand from years past including this ham and cheese breakfast casserole. But this one was a little different, featuring biscuits along the bottom to give it some lift.

A tube of biscuits was cut up and lined along the bottom of a greased pan. A pound of sausage was cooked up and the grease drained. The cooked sausage was poured over the biscuits and sprinkled with two cups of cheddar cheese and a small can of diced green chiles. A whisked mixture of 6 eggs, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup milk was then poured over the bake. 
We cooked it for about 30 minutes in the oven at 350. Easy enough.
The biscuits were cooked perfectly and gave the bake a nice lift - something I had to see to believe after being suspicious of how few ingredients there were in this bake.
What Pinterest food are you feasting on lately? I've been busy pinning soups to make in these wintery months. A grocery list seems to be in my near future. . .

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Garden Variety

I had been hearing about the store Garden Ridge since the early days of reading Young House Love, but had never seen one in person. When we found ourselves in Naperville this past weekend picking up our new dryer from the Sears Outlet (more on that excitement in an upcoming post!), I asked Bob if we could pretty please stop.
I wasn't sure what to expect, just knew that it was supposed to be a decor superstore with put-a-smile-on-your-face prices. It was a little overwhelming to be sure, and it did not appeal to my anti-"Costco warehouse" sensibilities, but we definitely did not walk away empty handed. 

We've been looking for new couch pillows for awhile now. In fact, we went to Garden Ridge just a day after spying this beauty at West Elm and almost pulling the trigger.
I think we will still splurge on the West Elm design, but we decided to compensate our couch with a $10 solid gray and $20 larger stenciled guy found at Garden Ridge to save on some costs. 
With our existing yellow pillows, the couch already looks loads better than it did with our increasingly flattened green pillows (read about the origin of those pillows in happier days from this way-back-when post when I apparently still watched Glee).
The stenciling motif did not end there. With the pillows in hand, we wandered to the opposite end of the store only to find an ottoman that Bob thought would be perfect for the library. I have been poo-poohing the idea of an ottoman addition since I don't like the idea of the library area being too cluttered, but once this bad boy was in place even I agreed it helped make the space a little brighter. 
The cats instantly decided to model the new piece of furniture. First, the only shot I could get of Sonny sitting somewhat still. He rolled around on the top of this thing for about five minutes straight:
Then Fredo's turn to strike a pose:
Psst: Miss all the details on how the library came together? Check out the summary here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dismember 25th

We've spent the past month staring lovingly at our lit up, decorated ten-foot tall Christmas tree. . .while wondering in the back of our minds how the heck we were going to get it out of this apartment.
The time had finally come to dismantle the holiday decor. The plastic bins were brought back up from the storage unit and I filled them once again with bubble-wrapped nutcrackers, stocking holders and ornaments. When it came to the tree, though, we knew we didn't want to repeat last year's method. A year ago we somehow managed to manhandle the tree into the back of the SUV, leaving about five pounds of needles in our wake. With a taller and fuller tree this year, we didn't even think it would be feasible to get it back downstairs without a massive struggle. Too bad it couldn't wrap back up as nicely as when it arrived:
Bob and I decided to get our Dexter on and take this tree out, one piece at a time. We picked up a box of 42 gallon garbage bags and hedge clippers from our local Ace. Say goodbye, tree. At first, it looked like we just wanted to trim it down to make just enough space to watch TV from the kitchen.
And then things got serious.
This tree never stood a chance.
Bob cut and cut until the thing was more palm than pine tree.
We took 2 large bags of branches down to the car and followed with the big stick, wrapped at either end with garbage bags to try and catch the rest of the needles. We were left with a much cleaner trunk this year thanks to this much cleaner trunk.
Then we took it out in our boat and dumped it in the ocean drove to the nearest drop off location for recycling Christmas trees. Once ours was added to the heap, we brushed ourselves off, headed home and marveled at how much space we suddenly had in our living area. 
What do you do with your tree once mid-January rolls around? Do you drive it to the Christmas Tree Graveyard, burn it in the backyard, or perhaps sneakily throw it in the back alley dumpster like I did my first few years in Chicago?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

An Art Collection

For the last couple of years I have made an effort to make at least one of my niece's Christmas gifts. In 2011, I used mixbook.com to create a one of a kind story for her. 
In 2012, she opened up a suitcase to find a plethora of dress up clothes. 
This year I brainstormed on her latest hobbies to come up with a gift to remember. She has always loved drawing and coloring, but lately her creativity is really coming through. A few months back, I received a lesson in how to draw a fantastical insect she called a "Daisy Lime." Who knew! 

The kids table and shelf in the craft room is fully stocked with paper and markers, but at the rate she is going, the supplies dwindle quite quickly. So I set out to make Ella an "Art Box" for Christmas: one part trolling the aisles of Michaels, one part clicking through Amazon.com and one part trip to Target for the bin.
I found a pad of paper suited for watercolor paints and a How to Draw Monsters book on Amazon.com that I thought could help her work on her concentration skills down the road. A value pack of 50 washable markers, modeling clay, a set of paintbrushes and watercolor paints will help her explore different mediums.
I put together a pack of pom poms, googly eyes and pipe cleaners for potential 3D effects. I also added feathers and stickers, glue sticks and an 8-pack of colorful tape ordered from Amazon.
Lastly: her canvases. Michaels had packages of foam cut outs and cardboard "paper dolls" that were begging for decoration. I went through my own stock of scrapbook paper and filled a ziplock gallon bag with odds and ends for her projects.
The most homemade portion of this gift were two white tees I picked up in sizes boys' medium: much larger than Ella and her sister. Using fabric markers I wrote "My Art Shirt" on one and "Meant to Get Messy" on the other.
After the frenzy of Christmas had subsided, the kids let me throw the shirts on them as we headed up to the craft room the next day to dive into the art box.
Ella's masterpiece! 
What do you do with your kids' art? I love the ideas I see on Pinterest like scanning and shrinking them down into one giant print.
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Or scanning them into a bound book for each year.
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Some great options are out there to save the memories without filling an entire closet, prolific as children tend to be. Happy drawing!