Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paper Flower - Paper Craft Technique

One of my goals this year was to give hand-made cards to my friends & family on their birthday. I didn't want to send everyone the same card so I began looking for new ideas. I was happy to find this paper flower technique in a magazine. 

Paper flowers are a great technique to use when you need to make a card in a pinch. The steps are simple and use a limited amount supplies. Also, they can be sent through the mail with standard postage.  

Tools Needed:
  • 1" circle punch
  • 1-1/2" circle punch
  • double-sided card stock
  • coordinating solid card stock
  • 1 brad
  • 1 small flower embellishment
  • scissors
Punch one 1-1/2" circle and one 1" circle from the solid card stock and set aside. Punch twelve 1" circles from the double-sided card stock.
Fold in the corners of six 1" circles to form the shape of a petal. Fold the other six circles in the opposite direction so an alternating design is showing on half of the petals. 
Using a dry adhesive begin adhering the petals to the 1-1/2" circle. Try to keep the top of the petal's aligned. It's okay if the flower doesn't sit exactly on the center of the circle because when your done the circle isn't visible. 

To finish the flower, lay the 1" circle from the coordinating card stock in the center of the flower. Using scissors pierce a hole through the center of both layers. Lay the flower embellishment on the circle and thread the brad through all the layers opening the prongs of the brad to secure.

To make the card in the example, I matted patterned card stock with solid card stock and adhered to a pre-made card base. I also added a 1-1/2" strip of patterned card stock to the left side of the card. Then, I punched a tag out of cream card stock and applied a "Happy Birthday" rub-on with 3 adhesive rhinestones underneath. 

The options are endless with this technique. You can increase the size of the flowers by using larger punches. You can add stems to your flowers using ribbon or even assemble a entire garden!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

I have been using this recipe for years and I'm proud to say that this is my husband's favorite meal!

This recipe makes enough for four. Or in our house it makes supper for two and leftovers for two! I like to have all my veggies and chicken chopped before I start heating the pan. I find that it takes the stress out of the meal. 

Tools needed:
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • large pot
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • mixing bowl

  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
  • 1 russet potato, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 rib of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbls parsley, chopped
Heat oil and butter in a large pot over a medium-high heat. Add vegetables and bay leaf. Saute until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add poultry seasoning, flour, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes. 

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. In the meantime, mix Bisquick, milk and parsley in a mixing bowl and set aside. 

Once boiling add chicken and return to a boil. Drop in 1/4 cup of biscuit mix at a time spacing evenly so they are not touching. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover for 4 minutes. Flip each dumpling and continue to cook covered for another 4 minutes. 

The soup comes out of the pot pipping hot, so I would plan to dish it out then wait about 5-10 minutes before eating. 

I hope this becomes one of your family's favorites meals too! Enjoy!
Dumplings when they are first dropped into the pot

Dumplings after they have been flipped and steamed a total of 8 minutes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A New Bag to LOVE!!

It all started with a new camera...

This January I bought my first dSLR camera. It's awesome, I just love it. However, when you buy a new camera then you need a new bag, new lenses, a new strap, larger memory cards, extra batteries, etc... You see where I'm going with this, right?

I knew a camera bag was at the top of the list. I wanted one that was cute and multi-functional. I did some research online and also referenced the purchasing section on Cori Derksen's blog. Ultimately, I decided on a Epiphanie bag. They had really great reviews and their bags are so cute you would think it was a purse!! 

Epiphanie bags come in five styles and really fun colors like teal, purple, red, fuchsia and gray. I was stuck between Lola and Clover. Clover won me over because it had a laptop pocket. I thought having the option of carrying my laptop would give me more bang for my buck since it will double as a carry-on when I fly. 

My Valentine's Day gift arrived exactly on Valentines Day... My husband had precise planning or he got really lucky. Either way, I was over the moon when I opened up the UPS package and found my beautiful bag!!
Pretty pink bag it was shipped in that matches the interior
Love, Love, Love this bag.
This is the inside. The dividers are velcro so you can make the pockets larger or smaller.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

ISO 1600, Shutter speed 320 & Aperture 2.8
What is better than a nice, hot bowl of soup on a cold day? 

Chicken tortilla soup is one of my all time favorites, however, I rarely order it in restaurants because I always compare it to mine and it's never as good. This soup is not too spicy and freezes perfectly. 

  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups of cooked chicken
  • 2 cups of frozen or canned corn (drained)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cans of chicken broth
  • 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes
Topping Choices:
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • grated monterrey jack cheese
  • chopped cilantro
  • fresh lemon juice
  • sour cream
  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Saute carrots and celery for 5 mins. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno to the pan and saute until soft. 
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and let soup simmer for 45 minutes. 
  4. Serve with your favorite toppings. 
It's that easy!! 
I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photography Workshop

I love taking photos!! Last month, I upgraded my camera to a Canon Rebel T2i, my first dSLR camera. I'm ashamed to say that I've only used it on auto. Today, I attended a fabulous workshop given by Cori Derksen and now my camera's on manual from now on!

Cori puts on a wonderful workshop. We started the morning talking about all kinds of camera settings and equipment. Cori has put together a awesome camera workbook that you get when you take her workshop or you can purchase it online. 

Some of the bullet points we hit on were:
  • ISO - ISO settings range from 100-1600. The type of light you are shooting in will determine your ISO setting. ISO 100 would be for a bright day. ISO 800 would be for shooting in darker conditions. The higher the ISO the more light your camera will let in. Set you ISO first then change the shutter speed and aperture during your shoot.   
  • Shutter Speed - Shutter speed is the speed at which your camera shutter opens. A slower shutter speed lets in more light because it is open longer. However, with a slower shutter speed you may get a blurred image because it will capture more movement. 
  • Aperture - The aperture is the opening of your lens that lets in light. This setting will determine the sharpness or blurriness of the background. A tip that Cori gave us was little number=little focus and big number=big focus. And also, try using the number of people that you have, use a setting of 4 for 4 people and 2 for 2 people, etc. 
The workshop was very hands-on. Cori set up a indoor and outdoor shoot with live models. We were able to put our newly learned skills to use. Not all my pictures were amazing but I did learn a lot and I ended up with a handful of really nice photos. 
    Below is a picture I took last month on auto and some photos that I took today at the class. I'm sure you can tell the difference. It is fun to be able to play with the light. I can't wait to practice
    I took this picture of beautiful Abby with my camera on auto
    Aperture 1/60m, Shutter speed 1.8 and ISO 100
    Aperture 1/250, Shutter speed 2.8 and ISO 100
    Aperture 1/400, Shutter speed 2.8 and ISO 100

    Aperture 1/400, Shutter speed 1.8 and ISO 100

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Baked Doughnuts

    There were mini-cupcakes, then whoopee pies and now there is baked doughnuts!! 

    I stopped by Sur La Table to check out their adorable Easter decor and found heart shaped doughnut pans on clearance. The pans were originally $10.95 and were on clearance for $5.75, what a steal! I just couldn't let that deal pass me by. 

    Tools Needed:

    • Doughnut pan
    • Mixer
    • Large Bowl
    • 2 Cooling Racks
    • 1-3 Shallow bowls for toppings 
    • 1 Gallon ziplock bag
    • Small sauce pan


    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 2 tsps baking powder
    • 1/4 tsps ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 2 eggs beaten
    • 1 tsp vanilla 
    • 2 Tbls melted butter or margarine
    • Nonstick spray
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray pan with nonstick spray. 
    Tip: When you are using a odd shaped pan, spray with nonstick spray and invert pan on paper towels so the spray will run and hit the entire surface of the pan. I always use this technique when baking with those cool Nordicware pans.  

    In large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Add milk, eggs and butter. Beat until just combined. Fill each doughnut cup with about 2 tbls of batter. 

    Tip: For ease, I rolled down the sides of a gallon ziplock bag and placed it in a bowl. I filled the bag with the batter and snipped a corner of the bag. Then, I piped the batter into the pan going around the heart twice. 

    Pan filled about 1/2 full
    Bake 4-5 minutes or until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan for 3 minutes before removing. Repeat with the remaining batter. Finish doughnuts with desired topping. 

    This is what the bottom of the doughnuts looked like before adding toppings
    Topping Options:
    -Glazed Doughnuts - 1 cup confectioners sugar, 2-4 Tbls milk & 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract. Combine in dish and dip each doughnut.

    -Cinnamon Glaze - Add 1 tsp cinnamon to above mixture

    -Cinnamon Sugar - Use 2 shallow dishes, fill one with 4 Tbls melted butter. Fill the other with 1/2 cup coarse sugar, 1 Tbls brown sugar & 1 Tbls cinnamon, mixed well. Dip all sides of doughnut in butter and roll in the cinnamon sugar mix.

    -Raspberry Glaze - 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, 1 Tbls milk and pink food color. (I didn't try this one).

    I set up a dipping station and also set cooling racks over paper towels
    Glazed Doughnuts with & without sprinkles
    Cinnamon & Sugar Doughnuts
    Here is my finished product!! A glazed doughnut, a cinnamon & sugar doughnut and a cinnamon glazed doughnut. 
    All of the doughnuts were tasty but my favorite was the cinnamon & sugar. I'm sure being dipped in butter made them extra good, plus I enjoyed the texture of the sugar. 

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Home-made Fried Rice

    This is one of my husband's favorite recipes. It makes enough for dinner for four or for two with some left overs!

    This recipe moves fast so I always make sure I have all my veggies chopped and ingredients laid out. Also, the rice needs to be cold so I make it the night before and throw it into the refrigerator. 

    2 cups - Cold Cooked White Rice
    1/4 cup - Chopped Onion
    1/4 cup - Chopped Carrot
    1/4 cup - Green Pepper
    1/3 cup - Diced Ham 
                  (I usually request a 1/4" thick slice from the deli section or sometimes I can find Hormel thick sliced ham in the meat section that is prepackaged)
    2 Eggs
    1/2 tsp - Garlic Salt
    1 tsp - Chicken Bouillon
    2 Tbs - Soy sauce
    2 Tbs - Vegetable Oil 

    Heat a wok on high-heat. Add 1 Tbs of oil to the pan (do not use olive oil). Whisk eggs in a small bowl. Scramble eggs quickly in the heated wok. Stop the heat and remove the scrambled eggs from the pan into a dish. 

    Return the wok to high-heat and add 1 Tbs of oil to the pan. Saute vegetables and ham until soft. Add garlic salt and chicken bouillon and mix well. 

    Next, add rice and soy sauce. Mix well. Remove from heat and add the eggs back to the pan. 


    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Pleated Circles - Paper Craft Technique

    I've been seeing these pleated circles everywhere and I can't get over how cute they are!!

    Recently, I read an article about how to make them and couldn't wait to try it out. I had to play with them a bit but I finally got it down. I really liked the creative liberties you can take with these circles. I listed some of the variations in the tips section. 

    Tools Needed:

    • Hot glue gun & glue sticks
    • 12 x 12" card stock
    • Paper trimmer
    • Scoring tool or popsicle stick
    • 1" Circle punch
    • Brads or stickers 

    1. Cut card stock to 12 x 1-1/2"
    2. Using the guide of a paper trimmer and scorer or popsicle stick, score the strip every 1/2" and fold it accordion-style. 

    3. Using a hot glue gun apply a small line of glue and connect the edges together; you will have something that looks like a pleated cylinder.
    4. Punch a circle from scrap stock and have it ready. Working on a smooth surface press the edges into the center until they meet in the middle, making a little tee pee. Continue to press down until your tee pee is flat, forming a circle. 
    5. Hot glue a circle to the back of your flower to help stabilize it. Flip it over and squeeze a little more glue in the middle. 
    6. Embellish the center of your circle with brads, smaller circles or stickers. I used 3 different brads on my example. I felt the easiest way to attach the brad was to clip the prongs off the brad and hot glued it to the front. 

    - I used my circles to make a card, however in the magazine they had sewn many circles together to form a garland. It was awesome, but I don't have that kind of time!! If you do, simply punch one or two holes on both sides of each circle and stitch them together. 

    - For smaller circles, cut the strip 12 x 1/2" up to 12 x 1-1/2"

    - For large circles, you will need to cut 2 wider strips of card stock (for example, 12 x 2-1/2" up to 12 x 4"), glue the strips together after you accordion fold them. 

    - Your accordion folds can be as wide or narrow as you wish.

    - I don't think I would recommend this project for kids. I ended up with 2 blisters on my fingers from the hot glue. Ouch!!

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Gourmet white-chocolate dipped caramel pretzels

    Who doesn't love a treat that is sweet, salty and crunchy??
    Here is a treat that you can make to celebrate Valentines Day or any other day of the year!!

    Tools Needed:
    • Cookie sheet that has been coated with butter
    • Pot
    • Pyrex bowl & pot or a double boiler 
    • 2 measuring cups
    • Plate
    • Fork
    • Mixing spoon
    • 12 pretzel rods broken in half
    • 1-14 oz bag of caramels unwrapped
    • 1 tbls water
    • 1 package of white bark 
    • Various sprinkles
    Set-up: Cookie sheet coated with butter or margarine. Two measuring cups. A Pyrex bowl filled with white bark. A plate to catch the bark drippings. A fork and mixing spoon. 

    Over a low to med-low heat, melt your caramels together with 1 tbls of water. If you have a microwave, heat the caramels and water until melted, stirring every 2.5 minutes. 
    Once melted, transfer the caramel to a measuring cup and dip each rod into the caramel. Leave about a 1/2 inch of un-coated pretzel for the "handle". Place each rod about a 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet. 
    Once the rods have sat for a few minutes, you will notice that the caramel has formed a pool around the bottom. To eliminate this, just roll each rod back and forth on the cookie sheet. 
    Next, fill a pot or double boiler about 1/2 full with water. Place the bark filled Pyrex bowl on top of the pot ensuring that the water will not touch the bowl when it starts to boil. 
    If you have a microwave there are directions on the back of the package for melting in the microwave. Bring the water to a rapid boil over a med-high temp occasionally stirring the bark until melted. 
    Once melted, pour your bark into the second measuring cup and dip each rod into the melted bark. I used the fork to scrap the bottom or the pretzel before placing it on the cookie sheet. This decreased the amount of bark that pooled around the bottom (see example). 
    Hold the rod over your plate and sprinkle with your decorations before placing them back onto the cookie sheet or a wire cooling rack.
    Pretzels that were not scrapped
    Pretzels that were scrapped
    I let the rods cool for a for a couple hours before placing them into bags and tie them with curling ribbon. Not including the cooling time, this project took me about an hour. The results are SUPER tasty!!

    Tips -
    Do not try to save yourself "clean up" by using wax paper. The caramel will stick to it even if you spray it with non-stick spray. See below