Thursday, October 23, 2014

A New Shelf

A few months ago my son tossed a kitchen towel toward the couch and inadvertently broke a table in the family room.  For the record, the table was on its last leg anyway... literally.  I bought the little table for $8.00 at Goodwill and used it as an outdoor table.  When the weather turned rainy, I brought it into the house but didn't really know where to put it.  My daughter liked the way the table top spun and played with it a bit too much, leading to cracking.  I propped it in the corner and tried to make it pretty, while telling the kids to not put anything on the table because I had it balanced just right.

Onto the story about how a kitchen towel broke the table:

We had laundry waiting to be folded on the couch, including a few kitchen towels.  My son tossed a towel over to the couch and it hit the little lamp on the coffee table.  When the lamp moved, the table became off balanced causing it to fall, which then pulled the cords for the other lamps nearby and knocked those lamps off our taller shelves too.

Now that you know the story of How a Kitchen Towel Broke My Table, I can show you my pretty new shelf in the corner of my family room.

I looked all over the place for a medium sized table that had additional storage.  I was really looking for things like industrial carts that had a rustic feel, but all of those were too expensive.  A couple nights ago, we were at TJMaxx, killing a little time before a movie, and I spotted this little shelf.  It was just what I was looking for.  I wanted something a little taller, so I'd get better lighting from my lamp in the corner.  I also wanted something wood-toned but not matchy-matchy pieces.

I really wanted a place to store more "stuff" in my family room.  This shelf has room for a basket and blanket at the bottom, books and pretty jars, a few picture albums, a picture, and my new lamp that I bought with my birthday money.

I'm liking my pretty new corner in the family room!  It looks like it belongs there.

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake

Dear Sally Blake,

I've never met you before but I eat your pumpkin cake every year.  Somewhere along the road of life, you met my sister, fed her some of your yummy pumpkin cake, and she wrote down the recipe.  Eventually, I tried that pumpkin cake and thought it was worth adding to my recipe book.

Sally, I made your pumpkin cake for my family last week, like I do every year at about this time, and they fell in love all over again.  They tell me I should make it more often, even when it's not pumpkin season.  They tell me it's the best treat I could make on cold fall evening.

Thanks, Sally Blake, wherever you are.

Happy Fall,

And here's Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake Recipe:

4 eggs
1 3/4 Cup sugar
1 Cup oil
1 16ox can of pumpkin
2 Cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Combine wet ingredients.  Then fold in dry ingredients. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 pan and bake for 30-45 minutes.  Sally's recipe says to bake it for 30 minutes, but I've always needed 45 with my oven.  Remove from oven when the cake springs back when you touch the middle. Cool completely.

Frosting Recipe:

3 oz of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup of butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
a tiny bit of milk

Frost the cake with your cream cheese frosting and enjoy!  Thanks again, Sally Blake.  We love your pumpkin cake!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

White Chicken Chili - Super Speedy Style

It all started last week when my son said, "Remember that soup you made that had the crispy tortillas on top?  Can you make that again?"

I kept promising I'd make it, but the craziness of life kept getting in the way.  Emergency trips to the vet, shuttling kids to activities, and late nights working on school stuff consumed my time.  On Tuesday, I promised I'd make it, but the dog needed the cooked chicken breast (remember that vet visit) and I didn't have time to make more.  (I may be feeding him cooked chicken breast, rice, and broth for every meal but at least he's finally eating!)  With that promise broken, I PROMISED again to make it on Wednesday.  Wellll, I didn't actually remember that I had a staff meeting on Wednesdays and that I wouldn't get home until 5:00 and the whole family would need to be out of the house by 5:30.

I walked in the door at 5:10 and pulled up my recipe.  I was missing a few ingredients but I didn't want to let me kids down again.  My hubby and daughter were just about ready to walk out the door with empty tummies, but they grabbed a snack and said they'd eat at 7:30, after soccer.  I made my grocery list, grabbed my son, and headed out to the store.  We pulled out of the driveway at 5:20.  Now, friends, here's the amazing part.  My son had to be at church at 6:00 for Youth Group.  We drove to the store, shopped for our ingredients, drove home, prepared a fabulous homemade chili, ate, and got him to church by 6:00.  Chefs around the world would be shaking their heads at me, because quality soup/chili cannot be made quickly.  They take time to set and let the flavors mesh.  But, moms all over the world would be high-fiving me for this new record I set!! Yes, I've got my fist out waitin' for a fist bump!

Here's what I did:

I started by cooking a pound of chicken breast in the crockpot so it was one less thing to do when I got home. 

In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
Add 1/2 small diced onion, cook for 3 minutes
Add 1 clove of minced garlic, cook for 1 more minute
Add 1/2 cup flour and mix
Slowly add 1 cup of half and half and 1 cup of milk
Add 8 oz of light cream cheese
Add 1 1/2 cups of Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
This mixture makes kind of a mac and cheese type sauce.
Slowly pour in 3-6 cups of chicken stock (depending on how thick you like your chili)
Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
(or chop your own)
1 diced yellow pepper
(corn would be good too, if you are not a fan of peppers)
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper

It made a thick, yummy, cheesy, chicken chili that everyone loved.

My hubby says this recipe needs to go in our regular rotation. The kids both loved it too!
By the way, those little tortilla strips on top were just cut and tossed with olive oil and a bit of taco seasoning.  Then I baked them for about 5 minutes to crisp them up.  They were a perfect little topping for the chili.

Happy cooking!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Dining Room Decor

It's Fall, and I love decorating for Fall!  My dining room lends itself very well to fall decor.

With wheat colored walls, warm wood, and now new drapery panels, it's just a warm and cozy place.

  I needed something simple for my dining room table.  I'm always frozen with indecision when it comes to table decor.  I look online and in catalogs for inspiration.  Inspiration for my glass jars came in the form of a Pinterest pin in my Reggio Emilia board, rather than my home decor boards.  I love the way the light comes through this room and the transparent jars are just what my table needs.  In the spring, I filled these jars with fresh flowers. Now that I'm back to work, I knew I couldn't keep up with the real stuff.  For my fall display I used a few pinecones, some pumpkins, wheat I already had, and some leaves.  

My favorite thing about this room is that just about every time you look out my dining room window, you'll see my hubby and son playing basketball in the driveway.  The picture below is a bit dark, but I wanted you to be able to see out the window.  That little blur out the right window would be my guys playing 1 on 1. Hard to see, I know.

It's my furry guy's favorite room in the house too.  He loves keeping watch over his neighborhood.  I swear he can tell time because he will sleep all day, but when it's just about time for the kids to come home from school, he pops up and starts watching out the window.  

Happy Fall decorating!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Make Ahead Chicken Echiladas

Being a "new" teacher is tough work!  I put new in quotes because this is my 19th year teaching, so I'm not really new.  I'm just new in the district, since moving to Snohomish this year.  I have had a lot of new teacher meetings to go to, which means I'm home later than I was last year.  There are many nights when my kids need to be fed and out the door by 5:30, so my after school meetings are making it tough to feed my family a decent meal.

Last weekend, I was very proud of myself!  I spent a little extra time making meals to put in the freezer.  I left a note on the counter for the kids to put the enchiladas in the oven at 4:00pm at 400 degrees.  By the time I got home from my meeting, dinner was ready!  Oh, how I love it when a good plan works out.

I usually start by putting a few chicken breasts in the crockpot with some taco seasoning (Yes, I buy the package even though I try not to buy prepackaged stuff.). I let that cook all day and by late afternoon, I'm ready to assemble the enchiladas. 

Combine 1 cup sour cream with one can of Cream of Chicken Soup.
Add a package of taco seasoning to the creamy mixture.

Lay out a tortilla shell.
Spread a little of the creamy mixture on the tortilla.
Add cheese and chicken.
Roll it up and put it in the (greased) pan.
Think of it like a taco and build it like that.
You can decide how much meat, cheese, and sour cream you usually like.

Once you've used all of the meat, lay the enchilada in the pan and smear (that's a technical term) the rest of the creamy sauce over the top.  Top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes at 400.  The cook time will be longer if it is coming straight from the freezer.

I guarantee this is a family favorite in the making.
It's Sunday again, so I'd better getting cooking for the week ahead!
Happy cooking!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Decorating the Front of the House for Fall

It's here!  It's here!  The time of year has finally arrived for the front door Fall-ification.  Sometimes I jump the gun on this and my neighbor, Tammy, comes outside shaking her head at me.  This year I waited.  Ok, I didn't really mean to wait.  I was just forced to wait because my brother-in-law had our ladder and my fall boxes were up high in the garage.

I didn't do anything different this year.  I keep thinking I'd like to add something "Better Homes and Gardens-ish" but every year I put up the same decor. I still love it though.

My Boo and Eek pillows are back.  They have held up pretty well for the past 3 or 4 years.  I painted this burlap with fabric paint and embroidered the boo and eek fabric scraps.  Just a few weeks ago I noticed that they actually sell burlap fabric that looks exactly like this now!  I guess I was ahead of my time.

My front benches have seen better days.  They have been refinished more times than I can count and the seats are finally starting to break.  It kind of makes me sad to see them go.  I bought these in 2000, when I finished my Masters program. I think part or all of the set was given to me as a gift when I graduated.  I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I look at them, but they really are looking pretty shabby.  The chairs I have always pictured in the front of my house are white Adirondacks.  They just look so cottage-like and cute.  I can't decide if I need two chairs, a table, and a two seater bench, or if I should just get 3 or 4 chairs.  I would love opinions!!!  Either way, the hydrangeas need to be cut back a bit.

I'm kind of thinking I would prefer the same set up with the two chairs and a bench, but maybe it's just because I'm stuck in my ways.

My hubby bought me a few mums for my birthday and I always love the way they add a fall-feel to the front of the house.

One thing that is missing from the front porch this year is our built-in bench.  Unfortunately, it has rotted out and looks like it was starting to take the support beam with it.  Rather than replacing it with another bench, which we never actually sit on, I'm thinking we'll just continue with the railing.  It will still have a finished look and be much less expensive.

The rails were not there when we bought the house.  We added those on because the great-grandmas on both sides needed a little help getting up the stairs.

Ultimately, I think it would be cool to put a deck off of that side.  It would be so fun to put my Adirondack chairs there, surrounded by pots of flowers.  I don't think there is any way of convincing my hubby that a deck would be a good idea.  I guess I'll just have to stick with spindles. 

Happy fall decorating!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

8th Grade Photography Class

My son is taking 8th Grade Photography as his elective this quarter, and his mommy couldn't be more thrilled!  I live my life with a camera around my neck and the kids often complain that I take too many pictures.  My son signs up for photography and, all of a sudden, he can't get enough of it!!

I've been finding pictures on my camera card every time I pull them up.  I have to say, they are pretty good! Take a look.

Let me tell you, friends, that he's shooting in manual and doesn't even need a tutorial before he goes out.  He sets white balance, ISO, and plays with shutter speed and exposure.  Ummm, I think I had to take several photography courses before I was confident enough to do this! 

By the way, those are root beer bottles for the cowgirl birthday party.  We didn't serve them beer.  

One last funny story:

In response to a conversation about The Golden Hour, my son told his teacher that this hour is also known as, "The time my mom yells at us to hurry up and change our clothes and get ready because she's losing her lighting."

Yep, I'm creating fabulous memories for my kids!

Happy picture taking!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kids in the Kitchen

I really do believe my kids enjoy spending time in the kitchen with me.  I don't think they are just trying to humor me.  Over the weekend, I had both of my kids in the kitchen at the same time.  One was making lunch and the other was making dessert.  

My son made the pesto, basil, tomato, and mozzarella pizza.
(He even picked the tomatoes and basil from the garden.)

My daughter made her Cowgirl Cookies.  They have chocolate chips, M&M's and oatmeal.  The kids don't love the oatmeal, but my hubby and I thought it was a pretty tasty cookie!

Considering the CRAZY work week I had last week, having my kids do the cooking on the weekend was a great treat.  (For the record, my hubby did all of the cooking during last week's craziness.  So, it's not like I needed a break from cooking, I just needed a break!)

You've just gotta love having your kids in the kitchen!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cowgirl Cookies

My daughter had her birthday party at the beginning of this month.  She wanted a cowgirl theme - with no pink cowgirl stuff.  It was to be a red cowgirl party and she certainly had opinions of what she wanted this party to look like.  She found pictures of her perfect party and proceeded to plan out her list of important features.  There were to be red bandannas, root beer in bottles, and several very specific games.  Cowgirl Cookies were not on the list, but at the last minute (when I couldn't find pool noodles to make pool noodle horses for our race) I changed up one of the games to include making our own jars of Cowgirl Cookies.  I found the recipe on Bakerella.  I had every intention of cutting cute toppers, but we just ran out of time.

We made the jars with the dry ingredients.  To make the cookies, you just need to add the wet ingredients.  My daughter decided to make them on Saturday.  We poured the sugars in the bowl first and we added one stick of softened butter.  Once that was creamy, we put in one egg, 1 tsp of vanilla, and mixed it up.  Then we added the last of the dry ingredients.  We baked the cookies at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. 

My kids are not fans of oatmeal in cookies, but they ate them anyway and seemed to like them.

Here's Bakerella's Cowgirl Cookie recipe.  Please note that in her recipe, she uses melted butter.  I used softened butter and I also creamed the sugars and butter first.  I'm sure her way works just fine.  After all, she's Bakeralla, but I just did this my way because that's how I roll.  

Happy baking!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Classroom Chairs

I just realized that I never actually pushed the "post" button on this one!    We're heading way back to the lazy days of Summer when I had time to redo some old furniture!

What's the first thing you do when you get the keys to your classroom?  Spruce up the furniture with paint and fabric, and get ready to move in!  I've been waiting all Summer to get the keys to my classroom and now that I finally have them, I have to overcome my fear of the security system at the school and move in.  One more little project needs to get finished up before I take the plunge. My chairs need a makeover.  Today, I hit the fabric store, bought myself some chevron, and purchased a couple cans of black paint.  

My friend, Crystal, gave me these chairs a few years ago.  They needed paint and new seats.  They've been a perfect "homey" addition to my classroom, but the fabric finally gave out last year.  I'm always impressed with the difference paint and fabric can have on a chair.  

Happy chair sprucing!

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