Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April's Favorite Things

Wow, April has flown by!  Here's my loves from April...

1. I loved General Conference at the beginning of the month.  We actually got to watch all 4 sessions.  The timing is always so perfect.  It's always just what I need to hear to refresh my spirit.

2. I love this monogrammed pillow I made for our living room!

3. Our good friends, the soon-to-be Kerfonta's came up for a weekend visit this month and we had a blast! We had brunch at the State Farmer's Market Resturant and then took our first look around the market.  I've always wanted to go.  They are starting to get the good summer crops in.  We will probably wait a few weeks to go back since they aren't bringing out the zucchini, squash, and good tomatoes just yet. 

4. I got my view back! One of the things I fell in love with when we bought our house was the stunning tree top views we have from the living room and our master.  It always looks so dead during winter....I'm so glad the green is back!

5. I know, this painting.  Hold that thought for just a minute.  Last weekend, my parent's came up so we could celebrate my sister's birthday.  We had a lovely (and rather loud) dinner at Firebirds Friday night.  Saturday, we helped move some things out of Kelsey's apartment, since she is moving back home for the summer.  It didn't take as long as we thought.  While waiting to get hungry for lunch, we stopped by the NC Museum of Art.  Ok, now back to this painting.  Once Wesley saw it, he burst out laughing and said "Ok, this one I like."  He went on to explain that he would laugh at it every day if we had it because the bird is being attacked.  He is so crazy.  I should tell you that it is appropriately named: Swan Attacked by a Dog (1745) by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.  

Here's to hoping all of these April showers we've been having will bring some gorgeous May flowers.
I hope you all had a great month!

Linking up with Ashley

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chicken Spaghetti

Have you ever had chicken spaghetti?  I will confess that growing up, this was one of my least favorite things my mom made.  We called it "chicken tetrazzini" back then. And the weird thing is, I couldn't tell you why I didn't like it.  I liked all of the ingredients...spaghetti, chicken, mushrooms...there was nothing I had to pick out or around...I could just never finish it, and it was never something I asked for.  My sister loved it though, so we would have it on occasion.

A few weeks ago I saw my favorite, Ree Drummand, making a southwestern version on her show.  I pretty much LOVE everything she makes, so we gave it a try.  Oh my goodness...it's my new favorite!

I changed it up just a bit, including scaling it down (even though we like it, the 2 of us would never have finished the whole giant casserole dish that she makes!). I marinate the chicken in Italian dressing and either roast it in the oven or grill it. It adds a whole extra level of flavor! I also use red bell peppers instead of the pimentos and green peppers. You can make it ahead, and stick it in the oven before dinner the next night, or make it all in one go. Working full time, I usually plan ahead and make the chicken one night, throw it all together the next night, and then pull it out of the fridge the next night and toss it in the oven for 30 minutes.  That may sound like a lot....but I find it easier to split up the prep work. Here's my version:

Chicken Spaghetti
serves 4-5

4 chicken tenderloins (or 2 large chicken breasts)
Italian dressing
1/2 lb thin spaghetti
4 cups chicken broth (reserve 1 cup of the broth after cooking spaghetti)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/3 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 & 1/2 cup shredded Colby jack cheese, divided
1/2 t Lowery's seasoning salt
1/8 t cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing for at least 20 minutes.  (I like to have it sit overnight!) Roast in oven at 350 for ~15-20 minutes until done or grill, then slice once cooled.  Bring the broth to a boil and cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions.  Add water to the pot if more liquid is needed.  Once the spaghetti is cooked, remember to scoop out 1 cup of the broth and reserve for later.

If desired, toss the bell pepper and onions in some olive oil and saute on the stove in a medium pan for 1-2 minutes. (This will take the edge off of the raw vegetables, but still leave them nice and crunchy.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the spaghetti, chicken, peppers and onions, cream of mushroom soup, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.  Season with the seasoning salt and cayenne pepper.  Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.  Next, add 1/2 cup of the broth and stir.  If more liquid is needed, then add more a little at a time.  Pour into a 8 x 8 casserole dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly. Serve immediately and garnish each serving with cilantro if desired.

Bon Appetite!
Linking up with Molly and Carissa  and Melt in Your Mouth Mondays

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Letters

Dear Kelsey, I'm so excited to start your birthday celebrations tonight!!!! Year 21 is a milestone and I hope it will be all kinds of epic ;)

Dear Universe, this week I could have really used more time in my day. We should stretch the days out a few hours, don't you think? I'm thinking 27 hours would be spot on. That would give me enough time to exercise, spend time with the husband, and craft more at night without having to sacrifice sleep or my favorite shows.

Dear Friday, I never thought you would get here! I'm so glad you did because I have been looking forward to this weekend all week.

Dear Julia, I wish I had known you in person. I'm pretty sure we would have been really great friends. And, I would like to meet the person that doesn't agree with this quote. It's just so true!

Linking up with Ashley

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Imaginary Getaway

If I could get away for just a day...I would go here.  I may have to pull a Mary Poppins to get there, but I would do it in a second.  It seems so peaceful and relaxing. I could take a stroll around the gardens, and read in the shade.  Although I would definitely need an ice cold Coke to sip on...and maybe a few Dove dark chocolates to pull out of my pocket.

If you could go anywhere for just a day....where would you go?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

When I was growing up, my mom made these amazing chocolate chip cookies.  I can't decide which I liked better... being able to lick the beaters (sometime outside with the dog...prior to adding the chocolate chips of course!)...or having them fresh out of the oven, gooey and warm.  The recipe she used is from her old Southern Living collection...you know, the ones where each book is just about one thing.  Like poultry...and vegetables...and cookies and cakes.  

These are called Defense Cookies.  It's the recipe that apparently thousands of women used to make and send to their husbands, brothers, and beau's serving in World War II.  They would line the boxes with parchment paper and stacks of cookies and ship them over.  It's no wonder that this was the reception when the war was over and the men came home...
Well, maybe there were a few more reason's then that... ;) 
Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c Crisco
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 egg, beaten
1t vanilla extract
1 package chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans (optional)

Combine the sugar and Crisco in a mixer.  Mix until creamy.  In a separate bowl, add the flour, soda, and salt.  While the mixer is on low, slowly add to sugar and Crisco.  Mix well.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.  Yields: ~3 dozen. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

London Crush

No matter how my day goes... whether it is fantastic... or rotten... or somewhere in between... I love pulling out the iPad at night and dreaming and researching about what we are going to do in Europe this August.  The first place we are going is London, so I'm devoting this post to my top 5 things I want to do as soon as we get there. 

1. The National Gallery in London.  Of course, this art museum is at the top of my list. As I was perusing their site...mapping the exact pattern I will take through my favorite exhibits...I saw this painting on their 30 famous paintings list. It is The Haywain by John Constable, an English romantic painter.  Years ago in an art class, I actually painted this in acrylic. I can't wait to see the real one up close! 

2. SalisburyWe are definitely going to go on day trips to outlying villages.   Salisbury is one of them and it is so picturesque, has a beautiful cathedral, and Stonehenge is right outside.  All I need is the train ticket and a picnic lunch and I will be set! 

3. London Walks.  These are supposed to be fantastic walking tours of London.  The one I really want to do is Brunnel's Thames Tunnel, which includes some secret parts of the London underground. 

4. Highclere Castle.  How could I go to London, and not tour the filming location of Downton Abbey?!?  It will also be a day trip and I can't wait to walk around the "Crawley" home!  

5. Warner Brothers Studio Tour.  The Harry Potter nerd in me can't wait to do this.  We went to Harry Potter World in Universal Studios last summer, but I have a feeling this will be much better! I may or may not be re-reading all of the books  right now.... If it's wrong to love it so much...then I don't want to be right ;)

Linking up with Falling for Friday

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Monogrammed Pillow {DIY}

A few months ago I was at Pottery Barn looking for pillows for the living room.  Of all places, I end up running into the mom of one of my childhood friends.  She is an interior decorator that now does consulting work with Pottery Barn.  Small world, right?!? Of course, she asked what I was doing and as soon as I handed her my fabric swatches, she went to town. One of the pillows I got was this one:

It was on clearance and she had the fabulous idea of suggesting that I have it monogrammed to add some interest since it was a little plain.  Did she know that "just monogram it" is music to my ears?!?  The wheels started turning in my head and I decided that I could do it myself!

I've never tried iron transfer before but always wanted to, so I crowned this as my perfect project to try it out on.  I ordered Epson transfer paper.  It was almost as easy as 1-2-follow the directions. First, if you get inkjet paper, then use an inkjet printer.  I tried to cut corners and run it through my laser printer and it destroyed the paper.  No good.  Second, the tricky part with transfer paper is that you have to know which side is the side to print on and which side is the side to iron on.  The shinier side that had the smoother texture turned out to be the side to print on.  I downloaded this amazing font: Carribean Tool and set to town on my monogram:
Once I had it printed, I cut it out, leaving about 1/4 of an inch of excess:

Any of the excess, or negative space, you leave will transfer clear but still be the same shiny texture, which is why I wanted as little as possible. Then flip it over, get it straight, and iron it on! (Definitely follow the directions of your transfer paper!)
Once your done, let it sit and cool a good 2-5 minutes.
Then carefully peel it off
Now, take a step back and soak in your beautiful monogrammed perfection!

Linking up here and here 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jewelry Organization

In case you already didn't know, I hate clutter.  Of all of the things I have, jewelry seems to be the easiest thing to go from neat and tidy to mass chaos.  I'm such a visual person, so I tend to organize everything by color.

I got this jewelry stand a few months ago.  I love it.  It is such a great way to display some of my favorite pieces....which in this case are all of the ones that match the decor in our bedroom. It's become an art piece in the room!  I used to keep everything in the jewelry drawer that came with our dresser.  But I've gotten so much, that it was way too cluttered and I couldn't see everything that I had.  By pulling out quite a bit to hang on the new stand, it left plenty of room to spread out the remaining pieces.  Now everything has a perfect color-coordinated spot!

I also LOVE these Pinterest ideas too:
This is so cute and inexpensive to put together...just a shower curtain rod and rings.  And It's color coordinated so definite winner in my book!

Another great idea for a closet space...painted peg board with hooks!

Loving this shadow box organizer...imagine the millions of possibilities lining it with great craft paper or fabric.

I do love storing things away in drawers and I love this idea of using the separate cups and canisters to group your pieces.

This frame is stunning and another good example of how to use your pieces that match your color scheme as part of your decor.

Happy organizing!

Linking up with Shanna and The Vintage Apple 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Be the good

I found this quote a few weeks ago on Pinterest.  I haven't stopped thinking about it since.  It is so simple, but can be so profoundly meaningful in our lives.  Since graduating college and entering the workforce, my eyes have been opened to a world that I naively thought I would not have to encounter.  I knew it existed, but I was very content in ignoring it. I didn't grow up around bad language or dirty jokes, and I never thought that I would end up surrounded by it at work.  But with every job I've had, it's been there and it is so hard to shut out!  I will confess that I find myself slipping with a word or too at home.  I hate it!  And I know I'm better than that.

Being in nursing, I have also had to get used to being surrounded by illness and death.  I see firsthand how it can impact people's lives, the quality of life they live, and even their families. A few months ago I took care of a patient that was dying and saw my first code.  That patient did not make it either.  Growing up, everyone was pretty healthy, and I only attended one funeral before collage.  My great-grandfather died of pneumonia when I was 13.  He was 89.  Now, I see patients who have end stage renal disease and lose limbs before they are 50 because of smoking and poor health. Needless to say, sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

It can be easy and depressing to get wrapped up in all of the terrible things in this world. That is why it is so important to believe and know that there is good in the world, and realize that we can be part of it by being good ourselves.  After watching General Conference this weekend, I feel even more renewed and resolved to do this myself.  How do we make it in this world?  Know who you are, be it, and be it well.  Not only can we stand in holy places, but we can make the place we stand a holy one just by being the good for this world.  I loved this quote that Sister Dalton shared:

You can get the free printable here!
I hope you all had a great weekend.  I know this week is going to be great.  I can just feel it!

Linking up with Molly and Carissa 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shrimp & Grits

When I was home last Friday waiting for Wesley to get off of work, shrimp and grits sounded so good for lunch. I'll confess I had to call my mom to remind me how to make them.  Wesley isn't a huge fan so I didn't feel guilty at all whipping them up!  This recipe is a stacked version, so it can be easily adjusted for 1 or for a crowd.  Here's how to make them:

Shrimp & Grits
serves 4

1 cup grits (not instant or quick)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1 t salt
1 T olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups bell peppers, diced
2 T butter
24 raw shrimp, peeled and devined
2 t cajun seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup scallions, minced

In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth, half and half, and salt to a boil.  Add the grits and simmer according to package directions.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the garlic and peppers for 2-3 minutes, until tender, then add the butter and shrip.  Cook for about 2 more minutes, until all of the shrimp are pink.  Add the cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste.

Once the grits are done (they should be nice and creamy) scoop a serving into a bowl, top it with a handful of the white cheddar, and then a scoop or 2 (or 3 or 4!) of the peppers and shrimp.  Top it off with a sprinkling of those green scallions.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Weekend

Before I tell you anything about our weekend, I have to tell you this:  a few weeks ago I won my very first giveaway from Cake Dreams.  I decided to put it to good use for Wesley's birthday.  For my chocolate loving husband, we got a chocolate-chocolate chip cake with Oreo Cookies N' Cream filling and chocolate butter cream icing.  That was THE BEST chocolate cake I have ever had.  EVER. Hands down.  Sally truly is the best, and if you live in Raleigh, you should definitely go get you some!!

 Friday, we packed up the Highlander and made the trek down to Charlotte.  We had a huge, delicious lunch on Saturday at The Honeycutts, played games, had that fabulous birthday cake, and even had an Easter Egg Hunt. The girls got trampled by the boys in Pictionary.  I'm pretty sure they conspired against us.  I want a re-match with a newer version.  We kept getting words like tuning fork and oven pipe.  What the heck is an oven pipeOh, and I learned that our new favorite game is spelled N-U-R-T-S.  Our little niece Maddi was definitely the cutest one there!  

We spent Easter Sunday with my family.  Easter Sunday is definitely my favorite Sunday.  I love hearing the talks at church about the gift of the Atonement, and the messages of hope, forgiveness, and love.  
For Easter lunch, Mom and I had our traditional Easter favorite...lamb! Yum!! Wesley was treated to more birthday cake...this time red velvet cupcakes from SAS. We spent a lazy afternoon teaching my family how to play nurts and watching The Hobbit.  All of Wesley's patience finally paid off.  I've been averting him from buying it over the last month since I knew my sister was getting it for him for his birthday.  It flew by way too fast, but all in all, we had a great weekend.
I hope you did too!
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