Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Judge the Soup By the Amount of Leftovers

Yum.  I just quite possibly made the world's best pot of tomato soup.  I've been seeking a recipe for awhile now that could stand up to my favorite restaurant versions and I think I finally did just that.  Usually when you see these many leftovers, it is a sign that the dinner didn't taste so good.  Here's what I got to say: don't judge the soup by the amount of leftovers because this soup was delicious.  I made one huge pot so that I could freeze individual portions for lunches during the week.  Not only was this soup delicious, but it is budget friendly as well.  We paired our bowls of soup with grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches.  My son said, "this tastes good" and we saw the bottom of his bowl (rare these days).   

Everyday foods has a version called classic tomato soup on their website and they also featured a similar version in their current magazine issue.  I just made a few tweaks.  Here is my version:

Tomato Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup flour
3 Tablespoons tomato paste (although next time I'll just use the whole small can)
2- 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes in heavy puree with basil
2- 14.5 oz cans of chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

Put butter and EVOO in a dutch oven, once butter is melted add diced onions.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.  Once soft, add garlic.  Season with S&P.  Add flour, cook for about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste, cook 1 minute.  Add crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream near the end before serving.

The soup moves fast once you start putting things in the pot.  To avoid the flour and tomato paste from burning, open up all your cans before beginning the cooking process and then just dump them in the pot when your ready for them.  Next time I might add just a pinch of sugar to the pot to give it just a hint of sweetness.  Because I used the crushed tomatoes, I didn't see a need for the immersion blender.  In a house where I am the dishwasher, this step saves me clean up time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Papertrey Ink February Blog Hop

Here is the card I made for the February Blog Hop.  My goal was to use as many of the new products I received in the mail this week as I could.  I stopped at four because I just couldn't bear covering up the cute scallops!

Card Ingredients:  PTI's Medium Scallop die. "Loads of Wishes" sentiment from Tiny treats: Birthday.  Banner builders die set.  I ran a piece of scrap paper through the smaller of the two banner builder dies.  I then cut several scallops with the medium scallop die and glued them onto the scrap paper.  Once filled I cut the scallops to the shape of the die (the hidden scrap piece).  I then ran a piece of brown paper through the die cut machine with the larger of the two banner builder dies.  I glued the scalloped piece to the brown paper and glued the border on top to finish the piece.  I glued all to a plan white card and cut the triangle out the bottom (sides and top measured perfectly with a 5.5" X 4" card).

Super easy.  Super cute. 

Questions & Answers: How did I get started?

PTI's: Glitter Strip Challenge

I thought I would take some time to answer a couple questions I have received in the last couple of weeks.

How did I get started with my papercrafting hobby?

I remember two very specific events happening.

1. I was graduating from college (first generation college grad) and my parents were throwing me a party to celebrate my accomplishment.  I went to the stores to look for invites and none of them were special enough for my momentous celebration so I went back to my apartment and created my own from construction paper.  The invites were shaped like a graduation cap.  I drew the tassel on with a gold marker (school colors are black and gold), on the back I simple printed up the invite details and mailed them off to all my friends and family.

2.  Approximately a year later, my husband (then boyfriend and roommate) was going to be leaving for a study abroad trip in Europe for a WHOLE month and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with myself while he was gone.  Man, what I would give for that kind of a break from him now, haha.   I decided to go to Barnes and Noble and find a good book to read while he would be gone but instead I found in their clearance section a simple rubber stamp set and I (and it) was sold.  I remember bringing it home and him say something on the lines of, "well don't spend too much on this because you're not going to stick with it and you'll just have wasted your money".  Here we are nine years later and not only have I stuck with it but now I "waste" OUR money on it.  I like to tease him that I stick with it out of spite.

How much money do I have invested in this hobby?

A lot.  I 'm sure it is even more than I think it is.   I live with a financial conservationist (nice way of saying cheap) and this topic comes up a lot.  To be honest (please don't tell him) I love him for his cheapness. I think it is one of his best qualities and I do mean that in a good way.  If I were going to be completely honest, I am also a financial conservationist in a lot of areas.  My papercrafting hobby is not one of those areas.  In order to be able to afford my hobby, I make sacrifices in other areas (like on my husband's clothes....just kidding).  I have a month spending budget of $100 and I usually go over that.  I've been looking at areas in my budget that I can cut so I can increase this to $150, it just hasn't happened yet...for now I just keep going over the $100 budget amount.  

Card Ingredients:  I made the spiral paper from Papertrey Ink's (PTI) Mini scrapbook series: library ledger and spiral punch from Stampin Up.  The red ledger is just drawn in with a red marker.  The craft tag was created with a tag die from sixxix.  The paper & pencil image, "you have the write stuff" sentiment, and blue frame are from PTI's Tiny Treats: Valentine.  The "friend" sentiment is from PTI's star prints set.  There are three different glitter strips added with two different sized double sided adhesive runners.  I used 3D foam to make the circle stand off the paper. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Directions Are For Other People

Mexican Lasagna

The only time I usually follow a recipe exactly is when I am baking and even then I don't follow them very closely.  I think directions were written for other people.  Yes, I'm one of THOSE people. That's me.  I think directions were written to confuse and frustrate me.  I view most recipes as a guide or a reference point and therefore rarely follow them exactly as written.  Tonight's meal was a perfect example of my independence.  Mel over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe  made this great looking Mexican Lasagna and I just had to tweak it before even giving hers a chance.  It was delicious.  I don't even need to try her version because I'll be making mine over and over again.

Mexican Lasagna 
makes enough for 6-8 people
preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 lbs ground turkey
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz tomato paste
3 Tablespoons cumin
salt & pepper (to taste)
28 oz tomato sauce
14 oz diced tomatoes, drained
15 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn
2.5 oz black olives, drained

12 flour tortilla
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz cream cheese

sour cream
green onions

In large skillet, cook turkey and onions.  Once meat is cooked, add garlic and cumin.  Once fragrant, add tomato paste.  Season with S&P.  Then add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, and olives.  In a 13X9 inch pan, spoon meat mixture into the bottom of the pan (enough to cover pan).  Cover with three tortilla (you might have to cut some in half to fit pan), top with more meat sauce, 1/2 cup of each of the shredded cheeses, and chunks of cream cheese (cut off pieces and scatter around the layer).  Repeat the process several times (I think I did a total of four layers).  End with meat sauce and remaining shredded cheeses on top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered with tin foil.  Remove tin foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Serve with sour cream, cilantro, green onions and a big glass of milk. 

Enjoy.  I don't expect you to follow my directions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Labor Intensive

HB Banner. Made by Ericka Stark.

Wow.  You know how you start working and then a whole hour just slips right on by?  If only real work moved as fast as our days off do.  This card was fairly labor intensive but it was worth the effort I put into it.  Isn't it cute? The girls in card class this month are going to have a love/hate relationship with this card. 

Card Ingredients:  I used Papertrey Ink's banner builders stamp and matching die set to make this.  The only part that is actually stamped is the yellow circle around each letter.  Speaking of letters, these letters are from Stampin' Up's Calendar Alphabet & Numbers set.  The white flower die and poke a dot background impression folder are both from Provo Craft.  The patterned paper is from DCWV Citrus stack.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

19 Minutes to Spare

Last minute baby gift with card

I put a lot of thought into the gifts that I give to other people.  I believe the gift that I bring is more important than the outfit I will be wearing, the style of my hair, and the shoes on my feet.  Sometimes it takes me several weeks or even months before I find a gift that I think is just perfect.   So what do I give someone when I only have 25 hours to plan the gift? 

Today's celebration was a surprise baby shower.  I find that a gift in this area is easy for me since those baby days are not too far in the past.  During my baby shower three years ago, I got a lot of great gifts, but one of the best and most memorable (and most used) was a diaper changing pad.  I like to pass this gift on to all the new moms in my life since I appreciated mine so much.  I did a couple hours of searching on etsy to find the one that I thought fit the style of the new mom and dad perfectly.  In this case, I think the mom and dad are classy and modern and I wanted to find a diaper pad that said the same thing (yes I can see the irony in find a classy poop pad).  I found just that in this super cute zoo print from dillybaby.   Since there wasn't enough time for me to have it shipped before the party, I printed a picture of the item and made a card to match.  I also threw in this totally awesome aromatherapy monkey that you can toss in the microwave to heat up.  I found this one at a local discount store but you can find them online as well.

I whipped this card up with 19 minutes to spare before we needed to leave the house.  That's just enough time for me to: get dressed, fix my hair, do my make-up, get a two year old up from his nap, take child and dog to their potties, wrap the gift, sign the card, yell at my hubby to hurry up, pack an extra pair of pants and underwear for our potty training two year old....and we were out the door.  Good thing that clock is set five minutes ahead!

Mod Zoo Card by Ericka Stark
Card Ingredients:  The elephant, alligator, and giraffe are from Stampin' Up's Wild About You set.  The owl and turtle are Stampin' Up's Fox & Friends set.  The flowers are a punch from Stampin' Up.  The embossing background is from quickutz.  I added some metal jewel stickers to the inside of each flower for a little pop. 

Butterfly Kisses

Butterfly Kisses: Birthday Wishes

I just love my butterfly stamps.  You know how sometimes cards are hard to make because they just don't come together very easily?  That was this card.  I really wanted to use the green patterned paper you see here from DCWV but I was having a hard time pairing it with another color.  I originally had the yellow and grey papers flipped around but the card screamed Green Bay Packers to me (being here in Wisconsin I'm probably more sensitive than most) but a simple flip of the papers did the trick!  This also goes with PTI's Make It Monday Challenge:  Vellum Sentiment Strip. 

All the stamps used in the card are from Papertrey Ink.  I used two different butterflies from the butterfly Dreams set.  The sentiment is from Everyday Button Bits.  The banner around the sentiment is from the Banner Builder set.  In addition to the stamps, I used the top note die from stamping up on the white paper and traced the grey paper a little bigger.  I used the butterfly die (the small one, I still need to buy their big one) and die cut the butterfly in yellow paper and traced the grey paper a little bigger.  I added some pretty Crystal Stickers and called it DONE.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vellum Sentiment Strip

PTI's Make It Monday Challenge. 

Here is my spin on this week's Papertrey Ink Make it Monday Challenge.  I stamped rain drops from the "Scattered Showers Additions" stamp set on a piece of white card stock.  I covered that card stock with a piece of vellum (front and back, no adhesive just loosely folded on).  I then stamped the saying and cloud on the vellum paper and tied it all together with some ribbon.  Super easy, super quick, and super cute.

Vellum proves to be very tricky to photograph!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who makes homemade Graham Crackers?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce with Homemade Graham Crackers

Who in the world would make homemade graham crackers when the ones in the store are perfectly fine?  I guess that would be me (sucker)!  This was a special gift for my husband.  As part of my husband's valentine's day gift, I made him some chocolate peanut butter spread and homemade graham crackers.  To be honest, I've been dying to make him this spread for a couple weeks now ever since I saw it posted on Smitten Kitchen.

To be completely honest, I thought it a little silly to bake him some graham crackers but I'm so glad I did because they are absolutely delicious.  I was going to buy a nice loaf of bread or some boxed graham crackers but that all seemed too easy.  I found the recipe in one of my all time favorite cookbooks: Martha Stewart's Cookies, but you can also find the recipe on her website here.

Of course, I had to make the chocolate sauce look pretty (but still manly) so I used some stamps from Papertrey Ink's Just the Ticket and Tiny Treats: Valentine sets and tied them with some pretty Martha Stewart baker's twine.  I also used a piece of scrap cork board to man it up a bit more.

Of course the picture down below is the gift he gave me in return and these are quite special to me because it is only the second time in the 13 years we've been together that I have received flowers (I think the chocolate peanut butter sauce made him financial vulnerable).  These babies will be sitting on my desk till the last petal falls.

My once in every seven years flowers

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ahoy There Matey!

Ahoy, Birthday Boy.  Stamps are all Papertrey Ink
Here's another submission for the Make it Monday Challenge from PTI.  I've been having a ton of fun making these cards these last few days!  I never seem to have enough cards laying around for little boys but here's one for my stock pile (AKA: my treasure).

Stamps: "Happy Birthday" is from PTI Just the ticket.  The pirate boy and saying are from PTI Tiny Treats: Birthday.

Dies: PTI  Limitless Layers: 1 3/4" circle Collection.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PTI's Think BIG Challenge

I Love You Card. Bottons & stamps from Papertrey Ink

This is my entry for PTI's Think Big Challenge.  This was a difficult one!  The buttons are from the custom mix vintage button collection.  The "I" is a modified version of a couple of their stamps an the "you" is a modified stamp from the "star prints" set.  I hope you find inspiration from this card.

Valentine's Day Kids Card

Valentine's Day Card: Kid Style

My son is going to love this card.  Heck, I love this card.  This card looks even cuter in person.  His Valentine's Day card is serving a double purpose this year.  It is also going to help the little guy learn those stinking colors already.  His response to, "what color is this" is ALWAYS "orange".  ALWAYS.  We like to pretend he color blind because it makes us feel better as parents.

I made this card using stamps from Papertrey Ink's Tiny Treats: Valentine set.  I love this set.  I use it all the time on cards for kids.  I just kept stamping images using alternating primary ink colors until I could stamp no more (ha ha, my husband wishes).

I'm positive my son will get this question right, "What color is the button?".  He colors my world (in more than just orange).

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Good Dinner.

Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs w/ MGD gravy

It is not a fancy dinner but it represents me in a lot of ways.  I'm a decent cook but it took a lot of work to get here.  When I left for college (um, 13 years ago) my only expert dish was a mean plate of spaghetti where the sauce came from a can (yes, I said can). That was the very first thing I ever made for my husband.  We both can't remember our first date together but we both remember that first home cooked meal like it was yesterday. 

Since we were both still living in the residence halls on campus, we borrowed a friend's efficiency apartment for an evening.  I was so nervous to cook for him.  The comment my parents made to me years earlier was weighing on my mind, "you better marry a chef because no one else is going to want to marry you if you don't know how to cook". I thought that night was a make-it or break-it kind of night.  In addition to the spaghetti and frozen garlic bread, I made him this dessert that was nothing more than those snack brownies cut into pieces and mixed in a bowl with chocolate sauce (from a can), cool whip,  strawberries, and bananas.  We ate it on my friend Jenni's bunked futon couch in front of her television and watched a movie on her VCR.  I asked him how the meal was and his response was, "fine, it was just spaghetti, it's not like you made it from scratch or anything". 

Tonight's meal wasn't a recipe.  That's the biggest change in my cooking.  As I have become more and more confident in my abilities I've been able to ditch the recipe cards.  Today I just threw some beef in the slow cooker and added ingredients that I like on (or with) a plain old burger: half of a red onion (I rarely cook without onions), two cloves of garlic, an {almost} full can of MGD beer (wink), the end of the BBQ sauce bottle in my fridge (probably 1/4 cup), and a squeeze of ketchup. I cooked the beef on high for approx. 4 hours.  Oh, and the potatoes!  My friends, I can cook some mean mashed potatoes, I can cook these delicious babies with my eyes closed. We'll get to my love of potatoes some other day.

Many things have changed and evolved in the 13 years we have been together but one thing has remained constant: I cook because I am always searching for more than "fine".  His response to tonight's meal: "good".

I'd love to hear from others.  Post your comments here and tell me why you cook.


HB: One cupcake at a time. Stamps: papertrey ink (PTI)

Doesn't this card make you want to run to your kitchen and bake something delicious? It certainly makes me want to dust off my muffin tins.  Of course, my cupcakes would need to be chocolate with chocolate frosting and my son would be in the background yelling, "Cha-co-lat please".   I love how he says that word.  He says it as though he has French blood running through his veins.  I'd only be so lucky if he were a famous pastry chef someday.

To make the card, I lined up the three frosting dies from PTI's cupcake collection die set on a piece of teal paper.  I then stamped random PTI birthday stamps onto a blank card (I traced with a pencil where the frosting openings were so I knew where on the white paper I needed to stamp).  I attached the blue paper to the card with foam dots to give it some dimension.  I used the cupcake liners from the cupcake collection die set and stamped them with a light pink ink on velum paper.  The candle flames are glitter adhered with a two way glue stick.  I hope you enjoy my creation.  This is also another entry for PTI's Make it Monday contest.

Those of you that attend my card classes, this is also a sneak peak of what the month of March will bring you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How I De-Stress

Altered coaster. Vintage Beer label Invite.  Stamps: PTI & Stampin Up
We all have different ways of coping with stress.  Some drink. Some smoke. Some ignore it.  Some eat.  I stamp (umm, at least today).

I LOVE the company papertrey ink (PTI).  Yes, I said LOVE.  If you were in my home office right now you would hear me say LOOOOOOOVE (can you hear it?).  This little company has the cutest stamp sets ever.  I LOVE them so much that I have decided to stop buying from that big in-home sales company (you know, the one located in Utah).  PTI has a special feature called, "Make it Mondays" and I decided to give it a try.

To de-stress this afternoon, I decided to make my own versions of the Go-To Sentiment Card.  Pretty cool huh?  I think I will be using this technique over and over again. I made a couple others but you'll have to wait to see those.


Stressful day

Today started out with a stressful bang.  My two year old son had a "minor" surgery today to correct his trigger thumb.  The word "minor" is funny.  For us medical dummies, the word "minor" is used to calm our fears and help us think that what is about to happen is no big deal. Wikipedia says the word minor means "not important".

No big deal? Not important?  Today was anything but and the patient was my little baby that I love more than anything (but all you parents already know and understand that). Luckily for us it appears that those medical professionals where right and he is on the happy road to recovery now.

I thought it only fitting that I start my blog about the very thing I love most: my son.  I'm about to be totally cliche but I don't care. He is my greatest gift and my best teacher.  Robert N. Munsc wrote this wonderful book that makes me cry each and every time my son asks me to read it to him.  It gets to the core of what being a parent is all about to me.  Baby, someday if you read this I want you to know,  "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be".