Monday, November 21, 2011

BESTeam Promo: Africa theme

For this week's Boosting Etsy Shops Team promo, I found items that make me think of Africa!
No, I have never been to Africa, but I would like to visit some day! My grandfather has been there several times in the past decade, so I have various African treasures in my house :)

Elephant herd listing
Redemption Art

This precious elephant herd set really caught my attention - Elephants are my favorite!!!

Connie runs Redemption Art from Hawaii! She offers a variety of vintage goods found in Hawaii, many with island flair. Her items are perfect for any interior designer or homeowner.

Also see: Blog, Facebook page, Twitter

Tiger pendant listing
Absolutely Kismet

Doesn't this tiger-striped pendent make you think of the animals roaming the African wilds? This choker is made of braided hemp.

This South Dakotan shop sells wine glass charms, stitch markers, and hemp and beaded jewelry. She loves making items with practicality - whether in a family member's favorite color, or a wine charm that a friend will use often.

Also see: Blog, Facebook page

Shell bracelet/necklace listing
GMaEllen Crochet Gifts

Ellen makes so many lovely crocheted items, but I was drawn to her jewelry too! This shell necklace can be wrapped into a wrist or ankle bracelet - and it picks up the African theme. I would totally wear this on a day that I thought of Africa.

If it can be crocheted, Gma Ellen has it! Bookmarks, wine totes, baskets, earrings, ornaments, dish clothes, rugs . . . whew! A lot!

An interesting fact: Ellen's crochet work pays tribute to her Native Alaskan Heritage - what a legacy! :)

Also see: Blog, Facebook page, Twitter

Card listing
Empty on the Inside

This hand-painted card would be perfect for a thank you letter to a supporter of an African mission trip, don't ya think?

Annie is a artist from Oklahoma. She hand-paints the outside of each of her cards (available for any occasion!), but leaves the inside of each card empty (hence, her shop name). What a good idea!

Also see: Blog, Facebook page, Twitter

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BESTeam Promo: Red

I'm happy to be the newest member of the Boosting Etsy Shops Team on Etsy. We are a group of shop owners who promote each other, mostly through blog posts. Expect a weekly promotion from me :)

This week I want to show what I would buy from 3 specific shops to create a red birthday gift for my sister (her birthday was Friday). Here are my decisions:

headband listing
Veronica of Knitful Dezings makes lovely knitted headbands, hats, scrubbies, & loofahs, and cute felted bows!

My sister has beautiful wavy hair, and I know this headband would look great!

(If you like her work, keep checking her shop -- she is working on a plush doll collection that should be adorable!!!)

Also see: Knitful Dezigns blog

Card listing
Sandy and Sue (who are sisters) of Creativity Bugs make lovely cards, cube picture holders (you know, the pretty bases with curvy wire to hold a photo?), block calendars, party favors, and bath salts!

My sister loves butterflies!! This card would be a perfect addition to her gift!

Also see: Creativity Bugs blog

earrings listing
Lastly, what birthday gift is complete without jewelry? And these are gorgeous!

Jewelry by Jaynemarie has a large selection of jewelry: earrings, necklaces, and bridal specials. All of them are lovely!

The Swarovski crystals in these earrings are so eye-catching! Actually, I might just keep these for myself, instead of sharing them with my sister!

Also see: Jaynemarie's blog

Thanks for joining me on a virtual shopping trip!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why is it so hard to stay organized?


I love organization.
When people ask me for three things to describe myself, "organized" is always there.

Yet, my craft supplies are sooooooooooooo unorganized.
Figure that one out :P

About 6 months ago, I get married and moved into our current, tiny, one-bedroom apartment. It's the second story of a small house--an old, small house.
The apartment isn't as bad as it could be, and we've tried to make the best of it: installing more shelves in the closet, vacuuming the shag carpet frequently, getting creative with furniture placement.

The bedroom is the biggest of the two rooms (vs. living room), so it's also my craft/sewing room.
Either I have too much fabric, lace, and such,
or I don't have enough storage containers,
or I'm not creative enough with the current organization.

So, Tuesday, I worked a lot on organizing.

I pulled boxes out of our little recycling bin and turned them into easy-open storage containers!
Then I sorted my non-fabric things: laces, trims, ribbons, elastic, velcro, thread, etc.
There were some little plastic drawers in a stack, so I pulled them out and put them next to my sewing machine. They are now filled with things I need while sewing (above mentioned non-fabric items), in-progress projects, and to-do projects (complete with notes!).

I'm so proud of myself!

But, the bedroom isn't any less messy.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening: we looked at a little 2-bedroom house . . . and we loved it!
Second bedroom = sewing room!!!!!!!!

The landlord is the theater prof at our college (we both just graduated), and, on the spot, he hooked me up with a job as a costume assistant for the winter musical at the local theater!

Let me say that again, I have a job!!!
It's only for 3 weeks or so, but it pays about $300 a week. Awesome.
This job will totally make up the difference in rent (for the winter months, at least) between our current apartment and this house.

I am so excited!!!!
This means, 
I can finally get organized!

As long as everything works for us to move, we'll stay in this house for a year and a half--until my husband goes to grad school. 
So I can settle in, mostly.

Whenever I doubt God's goodness and provision, remind me of this!!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Amazing Stuffing

Oh. my. goodness.

I LOVE stuffing.

Seriously, it's the best part about Thanksgiving dinner.

And my favorite leftover . . . ever!

With everyone talking about November and the upcoming fattening holiday, I have been craving stuffing.

I recently purchased a Depression Era cookbook at a consignment shop, and I love it! So many recipes I want to try.

I actually read through the entire cookbook and marked recipes I want to try. Guess which recipe was at the top of my to-do list?


The cookbook called it "Wild Rice Dressing", or something like that.

Rice in stuffing? Never thought of that, but it sounded good.

And it was good!!!

I read this recipe about 20 times over 3 days, and perused my Betty Crocker cookbook's version of stuffing, as well.

I came up with my own version of the most amazing stuffing ever!!!

FAITH'S AMAZING STUFFING (as usual, measurements are approximate)

2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
1/2 to 1 loaf bread, cubed and dried (oven toasted works, too!)
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 large or 1 small/medium onion, chopped
1 apple, sliced or chopped (optional, but tasty!)
1/2 cup butter (or more, if you want it really moist--but 1 cup was too much!)
1.5 to 2 cups chicken stock (or water and bouillon cubes)
1-2 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
few dashes pepper (to taste)
handful of cranberries (optional)

1) While cooking rice and toasting bread, saute celery, apples, and onion in butter (in a medium-large saucepan).

2) When soft, add chicken stock, spices, and cranberries. Cook until bubbly. 

3) Remove from heat (or turn off heat) and add everything else. Mix carefully and thoroughly.

4) Transfer to casserole dish (at least 2 quart), cover, and bake until warm or longer. I did about 2 hours at 200 degrees. 20-30 minutes at 350 would probably do the trick.

Please, enjoy this as much as I did/am!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grilled Stuffed Burritos & Guacamole

Parker and I love Taco Bell. And that's probably an understatement.

When we were dating in college (this past spring), late-night Taco Bell runs got us through loads of homework and helped us bond. So American "Mexican" food brings good feelings :)

Our favorite American Mexican item is the XL Grilled Stuffed Burrito. But, at $5 a piece, it's just not worth it.

What's our solution? Make our own.

This is probably our favorite meal :) We use taco meat, the Mexican rice, re-fried beans, and cheese. Sometimes we add fresh chopped onions and peppers, too.

(I don't have many pictures, because my camera batteries died--I'll try to add more later)

Faith's Taco Meat Recipe (keep in mind that many of these are estimations)
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic or 1 tsp dried minced garlic
1 small onion or 1/2 medium, chopped
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp red cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
salt & pepper (maybe 1/2 tsp salt and few dashes pepper)

Confession time: we use canned re-fried beans and boxed Mexican rice mix. Only costs $1.50 and saves lots of time!

The rice cooks on it's own in about 10 minutes. So easy!

Yeah, I probably could come up with my own mix for it, but I'm usually in a hurry* when I make them, so this is much easier.

Rolling time!!!

I split all the ingredients between 8 tortillas. Especially the beans--who want leftover re-fried beans? Yuck.

And I hold the tortilla in my palm while I layer the fillings. I recommend leaving it on the counter the first few times, so the fillings don't fall out ;)

This is how I layer:

Then, fold it like . . . well . . . a burrito. One long side in tightly, then both short sides, then the other long side.

It's a grilled stuffed burrito, so we cook it on our George Foreman Grill.

Gotta dip it in something! We mix taco sauce and ranch. And/or pile on the guacamole.

Did I mention that we LOVE guacamole?!

We mix in lots of chopped onion, lemon juice, garlic (not too much), salt & pepper, spices (chili powder, red pepper, cumin), and sometimes tomato & green pepper (or salsa).

Some weeks, we become absolutely addicted to guac and make it every few days. The problem is, avocados don't grow in Indiana. So we pay $1.25 per avocado . . . and usually use 2-6 each time. It can break our small budget, so we severely limit ourselves now. Needless to say, we really enjoyed it tonight :)

*"hurry" means we want to eat as soon as possible, not necessarily that we have something to do afterward

Use Leftovers: Chicken Parmesan

A few nights ago, we had spaghetti for dinner--as in, real, meaty, homemade spaghetti sauce. Yum!

Parker claimed to be extremely hungry (and he probably was), and he convinced me to make an entire box of spaghetti noodles.

Bad idea.

We ate a lot, but not THAT much!

So, what was I going to do with the extra noodles and sauce? Make Chicken Parmesan!

I've always loved this dish, but this was the first time I made it myself. I used this recipe as a base, but I don't like measuring, so I did it my own way in the end :)

First, I skinned and boned my chicken thighs (which I got on sale at the grocery store! yes!)--it took a long time, but it was worth it not to pick out bones as we ate.

Then, I took a zip-top sandwich bag and mixed flour, oregano, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese inside (zip it and shake--so fun!). I put a thigh in the bag and coated it with the mixture. This method is the easiest way of coating, I think--just zip and shake!

The breaded thighs went into a skillet with some hot oil and browned up nicely :)

While those were cooking, I put half of my leftover spaghetti sauce into the casserole dish.

I had to add some water to my sauce, because I usually make it really thick, but the recipe needs more sauce than I had left. It worked.

Then I put the crispy thighs on top of the sauce.

You're supposed to pour the rest of the sauce on top before the cheese, but I forgot . . . so I put on the cheese slices first. I used pepper jack cheese, but *technically* you're supposed to use mozzarella. I liked it this way :)

Then, into the oven for a while!

While the chicken parm was baking, I made garlic bread!

Well, I didn't actually make the bread this time. I knew dinner would be rushed, so I picked up some cheesy focaccia  bread at the grocery store.

I sliced it and but it on the broiler pan.

For the topping, I mixed Italian spices (basil, oregano, and rosemary) into oil (butter works too), and spread it on top. Then I sprinkled it with garlic salt and broiled!

It came out nice ans toasted after a few minutes :)

And, presto! The chicken Parmesan was done, too!

I served this over warm spaghetti noodles, with green beans on the side.

I used the garlic bread to separate green beans and chicken parm, so the beans wouldn't be too saucy.

Of course, I spooned extra sauce on top. Gotta use all that sauce!

This was sooooo yummy!!! I haven't had that many food-related compliments from Parker in a long time. I feel quite accomplished :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mission: Birthday Present

 Exciting fact #1: Yesterday was my sister Rachel's birthday!!! The baby of our family is now 20 years old! Happy Birthday, Rachie!!!

Bath Abbey
Exciting fact #2: Rachel will be studying abroad (February thru May, 2012) in Bath, England!!! Yay!! Another world traveler in the family!

Niki & me at the Roman Baths
When I studied abroad (all over Europe), a friend took me on a day trip to Bath--and boy, is it beautiful! I'm so excited for my Rachel to spend time there!

Jane Austen Museum
Rachel has never flown out of the country, and I'd like to think that I'm an experienced traveler (wink), so I'm helping out as best as I can :D She will use my huge, sturdy, German-purchased suitcase, my electric transformer & adapters, and anything else I can think of.

Obviously, I want to give Rachel a birthday present that she can use in Bath! So I'm making her a messenger bag! It is sewn sturdily and has lots of padding--to stand up to airport conveyor belts & storage compartments, and everyday use :)

Here are some pictures of the work in progress . . .
 I bought nothing for this tote--everything came from my stash :)

The brown fabric was my grandma's, as was the dark blue pre-quilted.

The beautiful blue flower/butterfly fabric (did I mention that Rachel loves butterflies?) was left from an apron.

The polka dot ribbons were part of the favors from my older sister's wedding!

The finished bag!!!!!!

Check out the awesome pockets!

I inserted note cards into every pocket with special messages :D

I hope she likes it and is able to use it! Happy Birthday Rachel!!!