Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shoot y'all, I have been so busy, I forgot all about this blog!

So the country accent is forced for now but man I can't wait til a y'all comes out naturally without me even thinking about it!

We have had a fairly busy couple weeks and I am happy to say we are still just loving it! Last Friday we had our new friends over for dinner. Man do I love to cook and entertain for people. I made the carnitas from the recipe I had posted on here a whle back. I also made a small trip tip carne asada style, beans, rice, guacamole and salsa. It was a good food and great company and we are truly enjoying making new friends. I didn't take any pictures though so y'all will just have to picture what it must have looked like... friends sitting around a table stuffing their faces with Mexican food, laughing, talking and getting to know each other.

The unpacking is just about complete. I would be lying if I said that I, myself was completely done. I am not. There are still four boxes in the master bedroom that are sitting their and they are all mine. Chris and Allison of course unpacked and put their stuff away right away, while Gianna and I tend to get distracted while unpacking... whatever it will get done in due time. Here are a few new pictures.

Gianna's room. Needs a little help but we are working on it.

Upstairs family room.


Allison's room. This place is too big and quite frankly trying to decorate it is making me crazy.

an this of course is my personal favorite... my srapbook room!

projects that I am working on right now.

So I think that is it for now. Blogger has been a nightmare lately for me to upload pictures too, so I have more but unfortunately it keeps putting them out of order or making them so big they go off the page... ugh. Oh well you get the idea. The house is coming along nicely and I am back at work making stuff for etsy. Here are the two signs I made yesterday, one is a special order.

Speaking of etsy I better get myself back upstairs and finish the projects on my desk before I have to go get the kids from school. To see the signs and the others I have listed you can visit my etsy site here. Oh and if you want to share my blog or etsy site on facebook I would be real thrilled... shoot.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dinners and other stuff in South Carolina...

Now that we are getting settled in our new home in South Carolina (I love saying that I live in South Carolina by the way!) I am starting to cook in my new kitchen, which is working out so much better for me than the kitchen I had in Virginia.

I wasn't going to write a blog post until I had my scrapbook room unpacked and I could post pictures of my new workspace all ready to go... but then tonight I posted on facebook that I was making roasted artichokes with my dinner and a few people asked for the recipe so I thought I would oblige, even though I do not have any before pictures. Although I do have an image or two that I have snagged from Google images.

So today I had to run out to Target to pick up a few odds and ends (toilet paper and paper towels) and on my way back to my new home in South Carolina (told you I love it) I thought I might run into Whole Foods Market... I love that place! It was my first time in one, I know they have been around forever but I have been living in areas that did not have them. Anyway, short story getting way too long here. They had artichokes on sale 2 for $4.00 and lately I am attempting to be a not so extreme couponer and am not one to pass up a good deal so I grabbed 4. I then headed to the meat department in hopes of finding some yummy Italian sausage. In California my brother brought me Italian sausage from this Italian store that he shops at in the Chino area, it's called Claro's and their sausage is the BOMB. Whole Foods did have some mild Italian sausage so I grabbed four of those from the butcher and some good quality Parmesan cheese, lemons and a few other things and dinner was planned.

My dinner menu was going to be: cheating spaghetti, grilled Italian sausage with fresh lemon and Parmesan and of course the roasted artichokes. Growing up we did not eat jarred sauce. It was something that we made fun of other people for doing, my dad was absolutely grossed out by the idea of Ragu or Prego, so as I grew older I never considered buying jarred sauce for fear of my father, grandmother and great grandmother coming down from the heavens to beat me with a wooden spoon like old angry Italian people do. Then my cousin introduced me to Rao's Marinara sauce. It is expensive, about $8.90 a jar. But when I am in a pinch it is worth it. Sometimes I need more than just a jar so I cheat and I brown some green onions in olive oil at the bottom of a large sauce pan, add a little bit of garlic and then a large can of crushed tomatoes (do not use Hunt's, not good at all in spaghetti sauce) then I add my jar of Rea's and all the seasonings are in there. Easy peasy. Cheatin.

There it is, the best jarred sauce on the market, hands down. Try it, you will become a believer.

Ingredients for artichokes-
3 or 4 cloves of fresh garlic minced (this is enough for 4 artichokes)
about a tsp of Parmesan cheese for each artichoke
a fresh lemon for squeezing
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper

For the roasted artichokes, this is what I do, (I don't think I made this recipe up, I am pretty sure I got it from Rachael Ray or someone, I just don't remember). First- wash, cut and trim your artichoke. I cut the stem off, cut the top part of to make it flat across the top and then I trim all the leaves so that the artichoke opens up easily. Next get out a piece of foil big enough to wrap around and cover the artichoke. Set your artichoke in the center of the foil and sprinkle garlic, cheese, salt and pepper all over it, making sure to get all the seasoning down inside the leaves. Squeeze about a tsp or so of lemon all over each lemon and then drizzle with olive oil. Fold the foil up around the artichoke covering the whole thing. Place all artichokes in a deep baking dish and roast at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. Melt butter for dipping and serve.

This is a great vegetable to serve for company because the house smells so good while they are cooking, unlike most vegetables that make the house stinky.
In my dad's family everyone always made 'stuffed artichokes' which can be cooked the same way but instead of just sprinkling some seasoning on the artichoke you actually make a stuffing with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, fresh basil and salt and pepper. Then you take a spoon and kind of spoon the stuffing all over the artichoke, making sure to get inside each leaf. Again, you will want to drizzle olive oil of the top, probably a little more than you did in the plain ones so that the bread crumbs get moist. Cook them the same way and they are delish and you do not need butter or mayonnaise (who in the world ever, ever thought dipping an artichoke in mayo was a good idea. YUCK!) for dipping.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And the winner is....

I picked Gianna up from school and came home then,  I dug around looking for cute scrapbook paper to write the names of people who commented on my last post so that I could enter y'all (check out the country accent at work a week early) in a contest to win this sign
and then it occurred to me, 'I don't have any cute paper, it's all packed! What kind of paper do I have? Packing paper. Duh. 

some of my very favorite people are in that pile!
Then I thought it wouldn't be fair if I pulled the name out, wouldn't want to be accused of playing favorites. So I enlisted the help of Gianna.
Is the suspense killing you? 
and the winner is... Kevin Boyington! Congratulations Kevin! Hey I just thought of something... You could totally wrap this up and give it to your wife for Mothers Day! Woo hoo! Look at me saving you in case you forgot to get her something!
Thanks everyone for entering!
Gotta go now... lots more packing to do!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guess who's laughing!

Wow. What a crazy week we have had. I have not smiled this much in years. Not felt this content either. I know this is it. We found out last Friday that we are moving to Greenville, South Carolina. It is a great place. We went there last weekend and checked it out. I have been online researching it and every single thing I read says it is an awesome place to live. As a matter of fact, it was voted #4 place to live in the country a couple of years ago, and the town we are moving to (Simpsonville) was voted top 10 places to live by Family Circle Magazine last year. I have never lived somewhere that was voted a top place to live. I think that sounds wonderful!
As I was taking pictures this morning for my blog, for etsy and just for fun I snapped a shot of this, it's a print that hangs over our fireplace. It's by Rodney White, my very favorite artist. He always has a subliminal message in his artwork. This one looks like it says "Seek Happiness" but at the top it says "we tend to" and at the bottom it says "when happiness is actually a choice". Seems so obvious. Just choose to be happy. It's really not as easy as it sounds though is it? Well this time, I AM choosing it and it is choosing me too. This move, this new life is going to be awesome. This is going to be the place for us.

The movers show up a week from today, which of course means one thing...
we are once again living in the land of boxes! The funny thing is when we moved in to this house we kept all of our boxes... we have NEVER done that. We always get rid of them as we unpack them, Chris usually loads up his truck every couple of days and takes a load to the recycle dumpster. Not this time, this time we kept every single one. I think it was a sign, a sign that we weren't going to stay. We probably put it out there ourselves, but either way, it just wasn't meant to be!

On top of packing and planning I have been making signs for my etsy site. 
This was a special order for a customer... I am so happy with how they came out and can't wait for this sweet lady to get all of her signs!

In the next couple of days I am going to have to pack all of these up and move them to South Carolina... before I do I thought I would give one away on here. A little celebration gift for you because I am so stinkin happy. 

This is it. This message speaks to me... we all know I love telling my story and more than ever I am so drawn to my 'home' the place where my family is, where I find my comfort. I am so looking forward to getting settled in our new home. 
So what you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog (not on facebook) after this post and you will be entered to win. I will be picking at random with one of those random number generators (that I have absolutely no idea how to use yet, but I am sure my friend Kristy will help me). I will be announcing the winner on Sunday right here and on facebook. Good luck!

Well I should probably head downstairs and finish packing up my scrapbook room. I feel like I just UN packed it! Oh well I am happy to be doing it.

I thought I would just leave with a picture of the family having a little fun at our local bowling alley... shoot, it was a good night so I thought I would share with y'all. (that is me still working on my country accent, I figure we are moving even further south, I need to perfect it!)

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Things I might have taken for granted... from the obvious to the who knew?

Okay so I hate to think that I take things for granted, I mean who wants to think that? It's kind of a shallow, naive way to live but moving to the other side of the country has made me realize that I did indeed take things for granted... some of these things are going to make you say "well of course she did" and then other things are going to make you say "hmm, I never thought of living without that"... so here we go.

The avocado. The simple, readily available, at every grocery store in California, growing on your neighbors trees, available for your sandwich at Subway (no avocados at Subway here!!) fruit of the Gods avocado. I don't even think I started liking the avocado until I was l6 or 17 years old and once I did I found that they are one of my favorite foods. Here in VA they are like gold. They are never ripe at the grocery stores... it's real sad. 
What I would give to be able to roast a couple of these bad boys up for dinner tonight...oh Mr. Artichoke how I miss you so. When I come to California I will be eating these for breakfast, lunch and dinner and maybe shipping some back to VA.
Our pool. Oh some of you are probably laughing, knowing that I don't even know how to swim (that's right people I am a non swimmer, whatever. I grew up in Southern California and had a pool for most of my adult life and never learned.... but I still loved being able to have access to it, loved floating around on that blue raft that you see in this picture. Loved being able to soak up some sun with my kids and listen to loud music while we did. Oh those were the days. Here, to go swimming you have to "join" a pool and then swim in a public pool situation which if any of my readers grew up in Downey like I did the memories of the John Riley public pool on Old River still haunt me and public pools are NOT an option.

Friendly neighbors.. this is Hank and Karyn, our neighbors in Indio. I miss those friendly faces. Those were the days where we did nice things for each other and we talked when we saw each other outside. We all had each other's phone numbers kept in our contacts in our phones and called each other when we needed something. It was something I definitely took for granted. It's been 5 months and there is not one neighbor here that even knows any of our names much less has our number. Hank and Karyn weren't our only great neighbors, we had several and I miss all of them.

 So there you have it. Some of the things that I miss that I didn't really take into consideration. Who knew how precious those things were? Not this girl. I wish I would have known. I would have taken a little more time to enjoy them. Would have had a neighborhood swim/goodbye party where I served lots of guacamole and roasted artichokes... and then when the party was over we would have gone to dinner at No Da Te and had some amazing sushi... and then the NEXT day we would have gone to the Yard House for dinner.. (those are the two restaurants I am missing the most)

So if we are friends on facebook you probably saw my post last night about the recipe I made up. It's really simple, it's not a big deal but it was a big hit and if you are like me you are always trying to add new things to your repertoire so that the kids don't come home and say things like "oh man, tacos again?"

Lets call this dish 'sour cream and onion chicken'. (If I would have had some on hand I would have added mushrooms too btw). Please be patient here with the measurements, remember I made this one up as I went along.
4 to 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
equal amount of sour cream as the soup
about half a jar of green salsa (I use Herdez)
one medium onion sliced
salt, pepper and garlic salt
In medium sauce pot heat soup and gradually add sour cream, do this at medium heat so as not to curdle the sour cream (isn't curdle the grossest word ever?) add the salsa.
While the sauce is simmering take your washed and patted dry chicken breasts and lay them at the bottom of a baking dish. Season them with the salt, pepper and garlic salt. Cover them with the sliced onions.
After the sauce has been simmering for about 10 or 15 minutes pour it over the chicken and onions.
Oops I forgot to tell you to pre-heat the oven. (sorry) You will want to turn the oven on when you start the sauce. Bake at 350 for about an hour.
I served this with baked potatoes for me and Chris and the girls had rice (I only had two potatoes and we got priority) if I would have known this is what I was going to make I would have gone to the store and bought a fresh, green vegetable like broccoli or green beans too. The sauce is creamy and a little heavy so the vegetables would have been good with it. We all loved it and I will make it again. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh how I miss my friends... and Mexican food.

So I do miss my friends something awful and my girls have really, really been missing their friends lately. It has been sad to see. I just told Gianna last night that as much as she misses them she needs to be grateful for the time that we have had here together because it has brought our family so much closer. This was said after we took a nice family walk after dinner... a family walk where things like this were said "oh my gosh, mom I hate Allison for making us walk up and down these hills, to get revenge I am going to bake 90 brownies and shove them down her throat so that she can get fat" feeling the love? Oh and I might have said "Allison next time you are letting the chubby girl (meaning myself) pick the walking trail because this way that you picked is stupid... and so are you" this? is how we talk to each other. It's all in good fun and we love each other alot, but when your only friends are the other 3 people that live in your house it can work your nerves at times.

Before we took that lovely walk I made an awesome dinner (slow cooked carnitas) and now I would like to share it with you!
I absolutely can't take the credit for this, I got it from this months Taste of Home magazine. I have actually found a lot of good recipes in that publication. But instead of just linking you the recipe I am going to give you the play by play (with pictures!).
3 to 4 pound pork roast
3 garlic cloves (thinly sliced) <---- I did not thinly slice mine, way too time consuming, I just chopped it
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bunch green onions, chopped
fresh cilantro (1 bunch)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup tequila (I just added extra broth because I didn't have tequila on hand and here in VA it's like a chore to buy alcohol, whole different store... pain in the butt if you ask me so I just skip it)
1 cup salsa
2 cans green chilies
flour tortillas

gather your ingredients... what do you mean, why are their cookies in the picture, I have NO idea what you are talking about and no idea how they got there.

trim and cut your meat into equal sized pieces (I have no idea if this is important I just thought it sounded good) drizzle your meat with salt and pepper and then drizzle the olive oil on it.

This is my favorite kind of crock pot recipe, because you literally just dump all the ingredients over the pork. I used about a cup of the cilantro in the cooking part and then chopped the rest up to use when I served them
after about 8 hours on low remove the pork from the crock pot and use two forks to shred the meat
the other white meat... yum!
and then serve it up with warm flour tortillas, beans and homemade guacamole! It was a big hit, even with my kids!
I just warmed some up for lunch today. I just put some of the carnitas and the beans in a skillet and heated it on the stove and put it on my plate with fresh lime and cilantro and it was delicious! Which I have to say is a better choice then what I have been having for lunch lately.

hello? 1975 can you hear me? I am longing for my childhood apparently.
I may or may not have eaten a whole box in 3 days last week. By myself. Whatever, don't judge. I have nothing else to do! You live in this town with no job and your kids at school all day and then call me and tell me what you are eating for lunch.

Okay so that you know that I am not sitting around eating all day let me show you what I have made lately.
Not quite sure why it took me so long to make a sign that said "cheerleader" since I have one that lives with me... but here it is! It will be available today on my etsy site.

Custom order for a sweet family here in town.
I love making these boxes and filling them with fun little gifts to give to people. I think I might do a giveaway with this one on my blog.

So in the middle of writing this post I had to go pick Allison up from school and take her to the dmv to take her permit test... she passed, thank God! Here she is driving home. I don't think I have been that nervous since I started driving myself!
Have a great day!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It was a good weekend.

So I wouldn't necessarily say that I am failing blogging 101 but I am getting a D, which quite honestly brings back memories of my high school days. See the reason I am doing so poorly thus far is that I had a weekend that should have been photographed, I cooked, I crafted, I had visitors... it was all photo worthy and blogging worthy.... and yet? nothing. Not a single picture. Well I do have pictures of Allison and her girlfriends that came over, I guess I can include a couple of those for filler. I had fun hosting these girls and made some good food for them (that is where I should I have taken the pictures, although since I didn't take pictures I will link one of the recipes).
I made the Bang Bang shrimp, mojo potatoes, (copy cat recipe from Shakey's pizza) and my newly famous (made the recipe up all by myself) chicken wings. Shoot they are so good I feel like I should wear a tight t-shirt with an owl on it when I make them! It was nice to entertain and fun to have all this energy around the house. These girls are sweet and have taken my girl in and been very good to her since we moved here and I am glad she has them.

Before the girls came over Chris and I drove out to Fredricksburg (about 30 or 40 minutes from home) and explored a little. We found an awesome restaurant, called Firebird Grill. We haven't had a lot of luck here in VA with finding good places to eat so we were really happy to find this place.

Today the girls went home, we cleaned up and kind of just hung around the house. I got a sign started for a friend of mine. (I sure hope she likes it) Then we had our first California visitor! Woo hoo! She and Chris used to work together years ago and her daughter went to Kindergarten with Gianna. She moved to Pennsylvania (which who knew was only 2 hours from here? I mean I guess most people do but I sure didn't) so it was nice to have someone to commiserate with. Someone who understands what we are going through and pretty much has the same feelings.

If any of my readers tries to make the Bang Bang shrimp from the recipe linked above let me know what you think. It is also a copycat recipe from a restaurant out here called Bonefish Grill. I have made them a few times and they are always a big hit.

Hey wait a minute!!! Guess what? I can include the recipe for the mojo potatoes, because I already took pictures of the process LAST time I made them! Woo hoo! I think that just brought my blogging grade up to a C.
3 or 4 russet potatoes sliced into 1/4" thick slices
whole milk or heavy cream for dredging
a cup and a 1/2 of flour
about a tsp of your favorite all purpose seasoning, like Lawry's or Emerils
and a lot of oil. (yep that is the exact measurement you will need, alot)
(bare with me people, I don't measure anything. Ever. I promise if you stick with me these will come out delicious!
First lay all your slices out on a cookie sheet and season them a little with salt and pepper and a little of the seasoning salt
the dredge them a few at a time in the milk and then in the flour (you can't tell from this picture but the flour mixture has more of the seasoning in it too, probably a tsp or so and maybe some garlic salt. If you look to the left you will see that I lined a cookie sheet with foil and laid out the already covered slices (very neatly I might add).

then you just start frying those babies up in small batches as shown. As they come out of the frying pan I lay them on a paper towel lined cookie sheet to drain a little of the oil off. Since this process is sort of time consuming once I have a good amount of them done I put them in the oven to keep warm. Once they are all done I sprinkle them with salt and serve with ketchup, sour cream or ranch for dipping. 
This is what they look like when they are all done. Yum! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Here we go... again

Welcome to my new home! My new home for writing that is. If you don't already know, I have had another blog for about a year now. It is a blog about my life. In that blog I wrote about hard times, my mom dying, our cross country move from California to Virginia and how hard it's been. Sometimes writing it was therapeutic and sometimes it was just depressing. I have decided that I was done with that for now. I don't want to be Debbie Downer anymore, that is not me at all, it's just what we have been going through as a family and it's real and that is why I wrote it. Through this whole experience (which has been happening for about two years now) we have laughed. A lot. Sometimes it is the only way to cope. Most of the time it was how my family (growing up) got through the tough times. I love to laugh, and I also love to make other people laugh. So instead of looking for the light at the end of this long tunnel I am searching for the laughter... why don't you come along with me.
I also love to make things. I am a scrapbooker from way back and actually was scrapbooking for clients as a job for quite a while. Now I am making things and selling them on etsy. It's a new venture for me and one that I am really enjoying. I also love to cook. Since moving to Virginia I haven't been working, we have been on a tight budget and quite honestly I don't have a whole lot to do so I have been cooking... like a mad woman. I love to share recipes and I thought this might be the best way to do it. I am not going to share decorating tips, stories of my silly, mischievous kids, or stories of my faith... that is not who I am. I might talk about my kids but not in the "oh boy she is such a character kind of way" mainly because my kids are too old and that just seems kind of weird. I love to decorate but right now we live in a rental house that I totally am not happy with and am just kind of counting the days until we are able to move out of. As far as my faith is concerned... I have it, plenty of it (with this life I have had you have to) but I am not a preachy type person. I believe in the grace of God and I am so grateful for wonderful things in my life but if you don't that is your thing and I am good with it.
Sooo... there you have it. Hopefully in the near future I can help you make some good food, make you laugh and inspire you to make things and / or to go buy things that I have made! Thanks for reading and I look forward to a long run here at Laughter at the end of the tunnel.