Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year Traditions, Both Old and New

A brand new year, already? In some ways, I'm blown away that another year has flown by. As the mom of one child who is a Senior, it makes me sad half the school year is over and he will soon be going off to college. (This is a topic I feel sure that I'll blog more about as the big graduation day approaches.) On the other hand, 2014 has been a little rough for our family. We have one child with some pretty big health issues right now, and it's been hard to accept that some things are truly just out of our control as parents. Kind of a transitional year to say the least... Therefore, I'm actually excited to say "buh-bye 2014, don't let the door hit you on the way out!" A brand new year = hope, a clean slate, a fresh start, and twelve months ahead of us with amazing possibility! Hooray!!

So, I have to ask, do you guys have any special traditions on New Year's day? The annual New Year's Day meal, perhaps? Or do any of you believe in the old wives' tale that you can't do any laundry on New Year's Day because it's bad luck? (As soon as I heard about this about five years ago, I quickly put it into practice! The last load is done before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st!)

As a true Southerner, I can tell you that collard greens, black-eyed peas and some dish of pork as always been on our dinner table come New Year's day. It represents good luck and prosperity for the new year. I always plan my menu accordingly, but the problem is that my kids are pretty picky and actually don't love either collards OR peas. (One cannot dine on pork alone!) Thus, I set out this year to find some recipes that might make these vegetables more palatable for them. I think I struck gold!

I love the author Mary Kay Andrews. She used to be a writer for the Atlanta Journal and lives in Georgia. Her books are funny and clever, and always take place in the south. She has created some memorable characters and also makes one want to just jump in their car and head to Savannah, Georgia for some antiquing! She also includes some recipes at the end of most of her books that somehow pertained to the story. (I'm a foodie, so I love that she does this!)

One of the recipes that I actually tore out of the book and saved was her Grits n'Greens casserole. I put it away a few years ago and made a mental note that I really needed to try this during the holidays. Well, today was the day -- and boy was it good! How could a dish that contains cream, bacon and parmesan cheese NOT be good? (Hey, keep in mind that I didn't say this was a healthy recipe!) It was a smashing success, and YES, even my kids really loved it! My Dad asked to keep a little bit for his leftovers after our New Year's lunch today -- and that's saying something coming from someone who takes his southern cuisine very seriously! It's definitely one our new New Year's traditions!

I want to share Mary Kay's recipe with y'all, as it's definitely unusual and very tasty! I did tweak it a little bit and added some fresh minced garlic to my collards as they were cooking. Additionally, I added some salt and a bit more pepper to the casserole mixture. Also, as I was eating my Dad's own homemade collards today that were seasoned with a little jalapeno pepper, I thought that would be a nice spicy addition to this dish as well! *Oh, and a big change -- I only used one stick of butter! I thought two sticks would just be too much. (Remember, collards are actually a super food -- I don't want to cancel out all the goodness!)

Grits n’ Greens Casserole

Ingredients:

2 cups whipping cream or half and half

8 cups chicken broth, divided

2 cup grits-not instant or quick cooking

1 lg. bag frozen collard greens

2 sticks butter*

2 1/2 cups parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon

Grease 13×9 casserole.

Combine cream and 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Stir in grits and cook over medium heat until grits return to boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and stir frequently to keep from burning, 25-30 minutes. Add milk if needed to thicken to proper consistency. If you’re Southern, you know what that is, if not, think of slightly runny oatmeal. While grits are simmering, cook frozen collards with remaining 2 cups of chicken broth til’ tender, about ten minutes.

Drain well in colander, squeezing out remaining liquid. Add butter, parmesan and pepper to cooked grits, and stir til’ butter is melted. Stir in cooked greens, and spoon into greased casserole. Top with additional parmesan, and crumbled bacon. Dish can be served at room temperature, or heated in 350-degree oven til’ browned on top.

I hope you all enjoy this, and I wish you a healthy and prosperous 2015! *Oh, and please let me know in the comments about your own New Year traditions! I love hearing how everyone celebrates!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Scrapbooking Really IS Therapeutic! Now get busy...

Today's blog post is about something that I do indeed love: Scrapbooking, and how therapeutic it can be -- if you let it!

Lately we've had a lot going on in our family. A lot of good things, some quite worrisome things (health issues, which are never fun) and just a lot of activity in general. (With a house full of kids, a lot of activity is definitely the norm!) It's easy to put fun hobbies on the back burner when you're busy with life, but I've learned that it's a very good thing to embrace the things you really enjoy when you're going through a rough patch. It's good for the soul...

A good friend of mine who has a child with a very serious illness once told me, "When I get bad news, I allow myself 24 hours to wallow in my own self pity -- then I know it's time to move on." This coming from someone with a child that has a usually fatal illness...? Wow. She is indeed an inspiration. Okay, so this tells me, "Get on with your life already; stop wallowing; do something you ENJOY, and remember, Power = Knowledge." That's where I am right now... it's time to get moving (and CREATING.)

A lot of things change over time, but the one thing that is a constant with me is how therapeutic I find art, crafting and scrapbooking. It's a great way to pass time (especially when you're waiting!) and it's a great treat to look through happy pictures and reflect on the little details that would be forgotten if they weren't documented in photography. Most of the time I put the emphasis on my family when scrapbooking, especially my children's big milestones (think Birthdays, awards day at school, Christmas, etc.) but sometimes you just need to scrap whatever it is you feel like scrapping! It doesn't matter if it's insignificant in the long run, or if it's something that only you will find super interesting when flipping through your album. (Case in point: my husband will one day look through this album and grimace when he gets to the page with the Luke Bryan concert ticket on it -- and after he sighs, he will then think, "Thank God she went with her girlfriends!")

A great album format for scrapping just the little things is the SMASH book. (You can now find these at Target, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.) Not only are these albums easy to find and inexpensive, they are graphically interesting and spiral bound. Even if you don't want to go to the trouble of shopping for one, you can make your own little happy album with a plain spiral notebook that you probably already have laying around...You can make it your very own album, and fill it chock-full of things that YOU find interesting, or little bits of memorabilia that simply make you smile!

I sat down today planning to scrapbook. I looked through Christmas photos (yes, I'm not a current scrapper) and then Spring Break photos. I frankly felt too much pressure when I looked at such important photos. I wasn't in the mood to over-think the layouts, or to write some amazing journaling that my boys would read (and hopefully re-read) one day when they have children of their own. Instead, I just wanted to enjoy the creative process, see pics that made me HAPPY, and reflect on really good times. I did just that -- and had a blast! Not only was the process fun, but I now really like the pages I did, and thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

I think everyone should have their own little notebook -- scrapbooker or not. It can hold all kinds of things: poems that inspire you, paint chips of your home color scheme (yes, I've made one of those for my purse!) Pinterest ideas, or your own little book of memories and inspiration. (Mine falls into many of these categories, and that's why I like it!)

Here's a little peak of what I accomplished today:

In life we may not have all the answers, especially when we definitely crave them, but we need to remember to enjoy the little things, and most importantly, to have Faith. I enjoyed some "me time" today here at my desk, just as much as some others may enjoy a good massage, a nice run (I cannot relate to that, ha!) or even a little mini-vacation. The important thing is to just get busy, and to do what you love!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Celebrate National Scrapbook Day This Saturday!

This Saturday is National Scrapbook Day! Are any of you doing anything scrappy? Maybe scrapbooking all weekend, or going to a crop? Well, if you don't have anything planned yet, I invite you to join me (and thousands others!) over at Big Picture Classes for a true NSD celebration! On May 3, the fun begins at 9am pacific time. There will be classes, and techniques, shown for 10 straight hours -- and lots of prizes!

There are many advantages to online NSD celebrations/crops:

1. You don't have to pack up all of your craft supplies and haul them somewhere!

2. You get instant inspiration from all the great scrapbooking talent, all at one place!

3. You can meet all kinds of interesting people who share the same passion for scrapbooking as you do!

4. You don't have to get out of your pajamas all day! :)

If you are not familiar with Big Picture Classes, please click the link here. It will take you to their website, and all you have to do is spend about a minute signing up for the crop and celebration! Best of all -- it's totally FREE!

I hope to see you there this weekend, and remember to tell your friends about it! I am in no way affiliated with Big Picture Classes, but I'm always amazed at the layouts I do at one of their online crops! It's extremely inspiring to be with like-minded individuals who share your love of cardstock, stickers -- and all things scrappy! :)

PS - If you participate, please come back here and let us know if you got a lot of layouts done! I truly believe that seeing others succeed in scrapbooking helps motivate us to get creative ourselves!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hurry Up, Summer!

Is anyone else tired of Winter? (Yes, I see all the raised hands; mine is raised high!) During these cold, snowy, gray days, it's sometimes difficult to be motivated to create. Lately I just want to curl up in front of the fireplace and read, or nap, or even watch endless loops of International House Hunters on HGTV. Oh, and occasionally get up to grab a cookie or a cup of cocoa.

Well, instead of viewing this month of February as Winter, I prefer to think of it as the time period in which I get my house (craft room included!) all ready for Spring fun! I have to focus on Spring and Summer get-togethers and pool parties; having friends over for dinner, lingering with a glass of wine on the deck, or simply day-dreaming about laying out by the pool this summer with a book in hand, great music blaring across the turquoise water and the sun providing that golden warmth we crave right about now. There is nothing wrong with dreaming about Summer. If that's what it takes to get through these next six weeks, then by all means indulge!

I did have a little "I'm thinking Summer" evening recently. I was stuck inside listening to the television, hearing all about the latest approaching Winter Storm, oddly named Pax. As the dread of more snow and cold grew, I happened to stop on QVC at precisely the right moment! They were having their Spring Accessories show. (How fortuitous!) In a short hour, I ordered an adorable Spring Green cardigan, a Clinique lipstick called "Pink Goddess," and an amazing white mother of pearl wristwatch! Can you tell I'm REALLY thinking Spring? And you know what? When that Spring Green sweater arrives, some day soon in the month of February, I'm going to wear it, and ROCK it! I'm not waiting for March! :)

Now, to help you focus on warm thoughts (and places!) and to get your mind off the crazy cold weather, I'm sharing some fabulous photos from our favorite Summer vacation ever! These photos were all taken on the 30A part of the Gulf of Mexico. If you haven't been to the Seaside/Rosemary Beach area, I highly encourage you to visit! It's an amazing place! Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Delicious Chicken Potato Soup!

Today I received my brand new Vitamix in the mail! I toyed with the idea of getting one for some time, but was on the fence, due to the price. Well, I finally caved when QVC had them on sale last weekend. I ordered the lovely turquoise color, and couldn't be happier!

After checking out a lot of Vitamix recipes, both online and in the Vitamix cookbook that came with the unit, I finally figured out a way to make a dairy-free, wheat-free, soy-free YUMMY soup for my son! It was easy to make, and perfect for this chilly Fall evening! You would never know this soup doesn't have dairy in it, as it's so rich and creamy! My son absolutely loved it! AND YES, you really can make hot soup in the Vitamix!

Chicken Potato Soup

1 cup chicken broth

1- 1/2 cups of coconut milk

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

4 medium organic baking potatoes, baked (skin comes off easily after baked)

small handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped with kitchen shears

3 chicken thighs (or one large chicken breast) - cooked and chopped

salt, pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and add chopped onion. Cook on medium low until onions are caramelized. Add chopped spinach and minced garlic. Saute until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from stove.

Combine chicken broth, coconut milk, and two potatoes into the Vitamix in the order listed. Place lid on Vitamix. Select Variable speed 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to 10, then to High. Blend for approximately 4 - 4 1/2 minutes.

Reduce speed to Variable 3 and remove the center plug section of Vitamix lid. Add the onion/spinach mixture, the two remaining cooked potatoes, and the chopped cooked chicken. Blend for an additional 30 seconds.

Carefully open Vitamix (soup will be hot.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 4 servings.

*Note: Please check your own ingredients and food products as labels/ingredients change constantly on food products. The photos above are the brands that I used, but may not be appropriate for YOUR allergies.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back-To-School Survival Kit

Now that school has started, who needs a "pick me up?" We're dragging here: early mornings, late practices, and homework to the wee hours... Ah, makes me miss Summer! However, I've come up with a great little treat for your teachers, your friends, even a spare stashed away in your car to get you through a rough week! They're super easy to make, and were really well received by my friends.

Just one little trip to the drugstore or Target is needed. I bought little first aid kits that are in the travel section, tiny hand sanitizer bottles, again in the travel section, a bag of Dove chocolates, travel-pack kleenex, sticky note pads, and some Starbucks coffee singles.




Add some self-adhesive labels and a black sharpie from the office section, and you're ready to go! Label each item depending on the "need" of the day. (My personal favorite is the chocolate and Starbucks instant coffee in the little ziplock entitled "The Long Days!)





I added all the ingredients to small gift bags, and made little monogram name tags with one of my scrapbooking punches and some stickers. Add a little ribbon, and voila: an instant inexpensive gift, that means a lot on one of difficult days!


*Wish me luck tomorrow: I have my first teacher conference at the Middle School -- hope it's not a "weepy day!" ;)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sometimes It Snows in April...

No, not really! Or at least in these parts. However, all it took was a cozy rainy Sunday and a Downton Abbey marathon on PBS all day to get me in the mood to scrapbook my photos that I took over Christmas. Now I know there are some over-achievers out there that did that back in, oh, December - but that's so not me! I do much better taking the photos during the holidays (or event, or vacation) and then working on the project once I have all supplies on my desk and printed photos in hand. It just seems to work better that way for me.

I've tried every size album imaginable over the last few years for my Christmas scrapbook. The first year I did my Christmas album in 12 x 12 format and worked on it FOREVER! Then another year I did a little 6x6 and I felt like it was way too small; I had to leave out many favorite photos. So this year, just like Goldilocks, I found the one that was just right: the lovely little binder from Simple Stories {Red Binder Found Here} It's the perfect size! They also come in numerous colors and would be perfect for so many different occasions. Not only is the size ideal, but you can do as many scrapbook layouts as you want, or you can simply add your photos straight to the included two-up page protectors and call your album done. Very versatile indeed.

First I gathered all of my lovely scrappy supplies from my Christmas stash:

Then I went through all my photos from December. I organized them chronologically, and then by occasion. It was great fun looking through these photos, and it made me realize how much has already happened this year. It let me know I was doing the right thing getting these photos in a scrapbook now, before the memories fade with all the chaos of daily life.

I started off with the title page, featuring our Christmas tree from this year. Then I went along and made more layouts with some of most favorite photos from the holiday.

**If you're new here, please note that you can click on the photos to make them larger, to see the detail. I had so many photos for this post, I tried to combine several layouts per photo.**

It was nice to have the option to do the photos in a traditional scrapbooking format (photos on a larger page) OR to just slide them into the "two-up" page protector that came with the album. This helped me keep this album simple and much less time consuming.

In an afternoon and most of an evening (while watching Peter Pan with my youngest son) I was able to complete our 2012 Christmas album. Here are just a couple more pages and some close-ups of techniques that may inspire you in your own scrapbook.

Remember that this is your album, that you can add whatever you'd like (note my Starbuck's drink sleeve that I received the first day of the Season that my favorite Creme Brulee Latte returned!) Keep your album simple, or if you're feeling really artsy one day, don't be afraid to mix things up. Most of all, START. As you can see, all of my layouts are very simple, but you know what? I love them, and feel that being able to look at this completed album with my children is the best gift ever -- even here in April.