Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Spend a Rainy Saturday Morning

It's the first day of Spring Break.  The kids are sitting on the couch, watching TV, in a comatose like state.  My hubby is still sleeping.  It's pouring down rain, and the dog doesn't even want to go outside.  For me, that means it's blogging time!  I've been changing up a few pictures on my sidebar this morning.  Now that I actually (kind of) know how to use my fancy pants camera, I think the pictures of my house are turning out much lighter and brighter.  Here are a few of the pictures, from my house, that I'm using.  I'm also linking to updated blog posts about the pictures. If you're interested in seeing and reading more, scroll down and you'll find them on the right side of the blog.







Well, that last picture isn't really my house.  I just wish it was.  That's from the Pottery Barn catalog.  I can dream, right?

Happy blogging!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What I Wore and Home and Family Friday

I just realized that I posted all about my road out of the depths of fever, infection, and doctor visits, but I didn't share any pictures.  I figured I'd better show you something from my week of rest.  So, I started thinking about all of the cute outfits that I pin on Pinterest. That lead to thoughts of people who post "what I wore Wednesday" pictures.  You know, those cute skinny girls who take a picture of their outfits in the mirror and tell us where they bought everything.

So, here's a picture of an outfit I pinned on Pinterest.  I don't actually own anything like this, but I'd love to!

Pinned Image

And here's another cute ensemble.  Don't you love the way they even include the fluffy Starbuck's drink?

Pinned Image

I thought I'd show you (Pinterest style) what I wore all week.  Day after day.  So here it is!

Yep, that's my basic long sleeve white t-shirt.  I believe they are from the Land's End department of Sears.  The yoga pants are the Tek Gear brand from Khol's.  The slippers in the picture are actually Uggs.  Mine are just the Costco knock-offs.  Oh, and don't forget the accessories.  The outfit wouldn't be complete without the water bottle and heating pad.  Ya know, just thought you'd like a glimpse into my life last week.  Feel free to pin that outfit onto your My Style Pinterest board, friends!

We're ready for Home and Family Friday.  I hope you've been crafty this week because I haven't.  Link up a project you've been doing around your home or with your family. I'd love it if you'd grab my button and become a follower.

The Land of the Living

Well, friends, I'm gradually coming back to the land of the living. I tend to be one of those people who get weird illnesses. My mother will confirm, that we practically owned our own wing at the walk-in-clinic, when I was a kid.

So, last Thursday, when I started coming down with something, I assumed that it was just another weird virus. I live in the petrie dish we call kindergarten. By Friday, when my fever was up to 102.5 and I was in bed shivering, I was starting to think there may be something wrong. On Saturday morning, I was told I had a kidney infection.

Who gets a kidney infection? Nothing to warn me this was coming, no pain or other infections, just BAM... kidney infection. On Saturday night the phone rang and it was my doctor's office. Now, you know it's never good news when your doctor calls on a Saturday night. She called to tell me that more of my blood work had come back and I wasn't just sick, I was REALLY sick. My instructions were to head back to the office on Sunday if I wasn't remarkably better.

Sunday rolled around, and we went about our day. By the late afternoon, my hubby had taken my son to a basketball game and I was home with my daughter. I was going downhill fast. I called over to my sister-in-law's house. (They live right around the corner.) My brother-in-law answered and I pathetically said, "I'm really dizzy. Can you take me to the doctor? And how fast can you get here?" Well, he got there pretty quickly, and even took my daughter home with him. Have I mentioned how good it is to have family close by? Thanks, Uncle Chris!

I spent the week in bed, or on the couch, watching way too much daytime television. One of the days, I figured that I had slept 19 out of the 24 hours. I wasn't very productive. I didn't cook, clean, bake, or even blog. I just rested.  I hate how much you sweat when you're sick!  I swear I dried my hair three times in one day when my fever was finally breaking. I was lucky to get out of my white t-shirt and yoga pants (my comfort outfit) on most days. Maybe tomorrow I'll wear real clothes, put on makeup, AND do my hair.  That'll be something new and different.

Next week is Spring Break, so I'll be well rested by the time I head back to kindergarten in April! I can't wait until I have some energy again! I have so many projects I'd like to do!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Having a Sister - It's a Good Thing



I've spent the past few weeks trying out recipes for the school auction.  I decided on the Salted Caramel Shortbread squares.  The auction is today (Saturday), so I knew I'd need to make the dessert on Friday night.  Well, on Wednesday I started feeling a little off.  On Thursday I was heading downhill, but not feeling horrible.  By Friday I knew I had a fever.  I was feeling pretty yucky by Friday afternoon, and by the time I got home from work my fever was at 102.5.  I didn't have time for this!  I had a dessert to make!

I called my sister. The conversation went like this.

Me - "Remember that time that you called me and asked me to make a really yummy dessert for you to bring to a party, because you were out on a motorcycle ride and didn't have enough time to bake?"



(Here's a picture of the homemade chocolate cake with homemade frosting.)


My sister - "Yes, what do you need?"

Me - "Remember how the party guests liked it so much and then you finally had to fess up and tell them that your sister made it for you? Well, can you make my auction dessert?"

My sister - "When do you need it?"

Me - "Well, you'd have to make it now.  I have all of the ingredients.  You can come shop in my pantry.  I have a fever and I'm just so tired."

My sister - "Sure.  I'll make the dessert.  Let me just pull the recipe from your blog and see what I need. Oh, and I'll need to you to go through and white out each and every auction book and then write my name in, so everyone will know that I made it and not you."

Me - "I'll just do a blog post and make the announcement."

My sister - "No, I really think I like the white out solution better."

Then came the texts. 

At about 8pm, on Friday night, she said, "Oh, no!  I just poured the caramel layer on top of the shortbread and realized that I forgot to add the sweetened condensed milk!"

At 7am, on Saturday morning, she texted to say, "We'll just keep your name in the auction books."

At about 7:20, I got the rest of the story.  She ended up going back to the store, getting home at about 10:30 pm, and started baking a new batch.  Several hours later, the bars were done.

Like I said, having a sister is a good thing.  She says we're even now.  She'll have to let me know how much the dessert sells for at the auction, tonight.  Turns out I have a kidney infection and I'll be resting for the next few days.

Thanks for saving me, Heather!  Have fun at the auction!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Home and Family Friday

Did you see Leanne's twist ties last week? I love this idea. It's quick, easy, and cheap! 
http://organizeyourstuffnow.com/wordpress/diy-twist-ties



It's time to link up your projects!  We'd love to see anything you've done around your home or with your family.  I would appreciate it if you'd grab my button and become a follower.  Don't forget to stop by a few other links and leave comments.  We all like positive feedback!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Pretty Table and Clam Chowder

What can I say?  Life has taken over this week. I know most people won't feel too sorry for me when I say this, but I have to work FIVE days this week!   I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get my laundry done, floors washed, or a real meal on the table.  I thought a repost of a pretty tablescape and a yummy clam chowder recipe was in order.  For the record, we did not have homemade chowder on a pretty table tonight.  We had leftovers.



I love clam chowder and I've passed this love down to my kids. My daughter is a picky eater, but one food she loves is clam chowder. I think it's a odd thing for a picky eater to like. Clams are an acquired taste. Since it's something I know we'll all eat, Sunday afternoon I decided to try a new recipe. I found a recipe that looked pretty good on the Food Network website. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mikes-clam-chowder-recipe/index.html
The kids were in a good mood so I convinced them to help me make the chowder.


They peeled and cut the potatoes (with my help).


This is my absolute favorite kitchen tool. It's a little mini chopper from Pampered Chef. I use almost daily to chop herbs, garlic, or onions. I don't think I could live without it. We used it to chop the thyme and parsley for the chowder.


They stirred and added ingredients. Then they lost interest. My son took the puppy to the dog park and my daughter drew pictures. I decided to get ready for Tablescape Thursday on Between Naps on the Porch.












It may not be anything fancy, but my kids thought they were royalty. I don't usually set a table quite like this when it's just the four of us. My youngest was so excited that her cup wasn't plastic! I love taking a simple soup dinner and making it into a special night for my family. Seeing their smiles gives me a joyful heart.

Here  are a few linky parties I like to participate in.

E-Course for Parents of Preschoolers

I don't talk about my work life too much on my home blog.  I reserve my home blog for cooking, baking, gardening, organizing, sewing, and fun stuff like that.  I write two other blogs, one for my kindergarten families and one about early childhood literacy.  All of my blogs can be found at http://www.homeiswheremystorybegins.com/.   My literacy and kindergarten blogs are packed with activities and resources for families with young children.  I'd like to share my new adventure with you!  It has to do with my work life, but I think some of you might be interested, or at least can pass it along to someone who may be interested.

I'm starting to offer E-Courses!  Here's how this idea started:

Every year, in October, we have parent/teacher conferences.  As a kindergarten teacher, it's a time for me to get to know families better, learn more about the kids, and begin to make connections.  I always ask families to tell me about their child's background, preschool experience, and homelife.  I have been quite surprised to find out that every year, about 50% of my kindergarten students do not attend preschool. FIFTY PERCENT!  That's a whole lot of kids who come to me with no preschool background.  Most of the time, parents tell me that preschool is just too expensive and they couldn't afford preschool.  Sometimes, parents have chosen to homeschool.  Other times, parents have just waited for kindergarten to start to let classroom learning begin.

I could hop on my soapbox right now and tell you all about the benefits of preschool, why I think it should be state funded for all families, and how standards have changed over the past few years making preschool absolutely necessary... but I'll save that for another post. 

Every year, at our conferences, I could see the need for a low cost preschool option.  I just couldn't figure out how to make it happen.  Finally, this year, it hit me.  I had recently taken an E-Course and loved it!  I was able to interact with the instructor, share photos with other moms and teachers, and learn at my own pace.  I could watch the videos in 20 minutes, after the kids had gone to bed, and still have enough time to think about how I'd like to use the information. 

So, I've decided to offer an E-Course for Parents of Preschoolers.  I'm calling it Enjoying Preschool at Home.  I will share videos each week, provide resources through suggestions and printables, and have a forum for parents to share ideas with other parents.  Each session will last 6 weeks, and cost $49.  It's a bargain price for 6 weeks of preschool! 


Enrollment will begin on April 1st, and the course will begin in mid-April.  It will last 6 weeks, taking us right to the end of May.  Spring is a perfect time to work with your preschooler.  The swimming pool isn't quite calling yet,  and there are so many wonderful thematic learning experiences in the Spring!  I'll be catering this e-course to the preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten crowd. It's great for parents of kids who are staying home full time, in part time preschool, or part time kindergarten. I hope you'll join me on this new adventure!  If you have any questions, please let me know.  If you aren't a parent of a preschooler, but know someone who would be interested, please pass this along!

Registration will be on April 1st, on the E-Course tab of my website.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kitchen Before and After

Sarah, our Thrifty Decor Chick Friend, is hosting a kitchen party this week.  I'm reposting my kitchen before and after so I can link up at TDC!  Enjoy!


I can almost say that my kitchen is done.  Almost.  I still have a few sewing projects to do, but most of the big jobs are done.  We have painted twice, first to yellow then to taupe.  The cupboards have been refinished to a less orange tone. We added knobs and pulls to the cabinets, painted the bar stools, and refinished the kitchen table.  The floors were refinished over spring break.  The granite tile and backsplash was one of our first projects.  I just couldn't live with the blue. 


I can finally say, "I LOVE MY KITCHEN!"
Here are some "before" shots.








What a difference!

Here's a picture with the new paint and valances too!

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An Experiment

I've really been playing around with lighting lately.  It's so hard for me to take indoor photos, when it's dreary outside.  The first picture was taken on Auto.  The flash popped up and you can see the shadows behind the flowers.  I don't really like that look.  The second picture was taken on manual, with no flash.  It still turned out a little dark, but I like it better than option #1.  The third picture was taken in RAW, which opens up a whole new galaxy of options in Photoshop.  I adjusted my white balance and played with the vibrance a bit.  I think this is my favorite of the three. 



Photography is challenging stuff!  I'll keep experimenting.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Welcome to Becca's Baking Blog. 
 (At least, that what I feel like my blog has been about lately.)

I have to say, chocolate chip cookies are my go-to cookie.  If we need a sweet treat, and I don't want to look up a recipe, I go for chocolate chip.  For me, it's quick and easy and the recipe is in my head.  Sometimes, we're looking to shake things up a bit.  If we're feeling wild and crazy, the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies will make an appearance. 

Here's the recipe:
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, beat margarine, shortening, peanut butter, and both sugars.  Add eggs. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating until well blended.  Add chocolate chips. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Just a little side note, this time I used Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  The cookies were a little more dense and look slightly darker, but by using whole wheat flour, they are practically healthy.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Happy baking!

Here are a few linky parties I like to participate in.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Twenty Minutes

What do you do when you have a spare 20 minutes?

I had twenty minutes to kill today.  My daughter was at a friend's house and my son was at baseball with my hubby. It wasn't enough time to start a project, so I figured I'd browse through Pinterest.  The first thing I came across was a post on taking photos of your pets. I was inspired.  So, I set up a mini photoshoot for Cookie and Cooper. 20 minutes is really all the pets would give me anyway.



Cookie just sat there and glared at me.  She didn't like sitting on the end table too much.  Cooper wouldn't make eye contact with me.  I think he thought he was in trouble for something. 


Now, let's see... black bunny, black dog... how about a black chicken?



Don't you think I need a couple chickens?
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Salted Caramel Option #2



I mentioned last week that I'm trying out a few new recipes.  I was asked to make a dessert for the school auction.  The desserts usually sell for a couple hundred dollars.  I made the shortbread salted caramel squares last week.  This week I tried a brownie with caramel topping.  We decided that the brownie should be drizzled with caramel and then topped with a little salt, to enhance the presentation.


So, here are the two options.  The one on the left looks VERY pretty and tastes really good.  The brownie on the right, isn't quite as pretty, but I think will look better with the caramel drizzle and salt.  My sister voted for me to make the brownie for the auction.  I'm kind of leaning toward the shortbread layered cookie.  I have one more recipe to try, then I'll decide.

Happy imaginary taste testing!
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Home and Family Friday

Last Friday, one of my favorite posts was also one of your favorite posts.  Sewing 101 from Tales From a Trophy Wife is a great tutorial on how to make a basic pillow.





I can't wait to see what you have for us this week.  We love to see recipes, home decor, arts and crafts, or any project you've been doing around your home or with your family.  I'd love it if you'd grab my button and become a follower.  While you're at it, come visit me on Facebook.  The link is on the right side of my blog.

Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Salted Caramel Heaven


The other day, I started pinning different salted caramel recipes on Pinterest.  Click here to see my Pinterest board. I was asked to make a dessert for the school auction, and thought salted caramel something might be good.  The shortbread salted caramel bars sounded really yummy, so I decided to try them out this week.  The verdict?  As one of my coworkers says, "O.M.G."

The recipe originally comes from Annie's Eats.  I made a few changes in my own version, but I'll walk you through it.

Ingredients


For the shortbread layer:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
***I also added a 1/4 cup of water to the mixture because mine was a little too dry.***



For the caramel layer:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
***I also added 1/4 cup of brown sugar because I like a darker caramel.***
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk


For the chocolate layer:

8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
***I used the whole bag of chocolate chips, because there's no such thing as too much chocolate.***
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
***I didn't use a full stick, just because it's a lot of butter. I cut it down to 6Tbsps.  Whew!  Think of all of those calories I just saved!***

Sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions


To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325° F. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. ***Add water if you do my version.***Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.)
To make the caramel layer, combine the butter, sugar (***both sugars if you're doing it my way***), corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set. I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes.
To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with sea salt. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.

Ya know how brownies never seem to cut smoothly and always look messy when you take them out of the pan?  Not these!  These are SO pretty. I cut them into rectangles, packaged them in little bags, and sent them off as gifts.  I wish I would have taken a picture, but life gets busy.  No worries.  There will definitely been another pan of these soon!  I haven't decided if this is THE dessert for the auction yet, but we're all enjoying the taste test!

Happy baking!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chalk Board Labels

Did you know that Staples carries the Martha Stewart line of adhesive labels?


I used them to label my ever-growing collection of different types of flour. (Yes, I really do use them all.)

My chalkboard pen is at school, so I had to use regular chalk.  Regular chalk doesn't look quite as crisp and clean as the pen.  I'll have to fix that.

Happy organizing.
 

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