Thursday, January 24, 2013

I mustache - Do you like to cross-stitch?

Over the next few posts I'll be featuring some of the handmade Christmas gifts I made this year. The first is this fun mustache cross-stitch I made for my buddy Travis, the owner of a truly lovely mustache in his own right. My mom taught me to cross-stitch when I was probably about 10, but I hadn't done anything with it in years. Enter Pinterest. (This is pretty much how all my crafty adventures begin these days). I stumbled across an awesome pattern from a website called Hancock's House of Happy that featured vintage Pyrex patterns, which I love (another something I got from Mom.) That pattern is great, but hard. So when I saw this mustache pattern, I put the Pyrex on hold and started this one, hoping to finish by Christmas. (Which I kind of did. We didn't see Trav until a couple of weeks after Christmas, so that helped, because I started ANOTHER cross-stitch in the mean time... more to come on that later.) This pattern is great for a beginner or someone who hasn't cross-stitched in a while, because it is just straight stitching and only one color. Perfect for the mustache-lover in your family.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Best Books I Read in 2012

I read some great books in 2012. My original goal was to read 50 this year, but with a new baby and all, I didn't quite reach my goal. I did read 30 books, which is probably a more realistic number for me anyway. These are my 6 favorite books I read this year. This isn't really a "Best of 2012," because only half were published this past year. You can see all 30 books I read on this Pinterest board: Books I Read in 2012.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green, 2012. 

This was probably my favorite book I read in 2012, which also happened to be published last year. You've probably already heard a lot about it, as it has been on all kinds of "best-of" lists. It is a young adult novel but is a great read for anyone. It tells the story of two teenagers with terminal cancer. Doesn't exactly sound like a light-hearted read, I know, but in John Green's hands it is moving, engaging and entertaining. Like all the other books listed here, I consider it a quick read because I could not put it down.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed, 2012. 

Wild was my favorite non-fiction book I read last year. You have probably heard about this one, too, since Oprah selected it for her new book club. This is a memoir of  Cheryl Strayed's hike on the Pacific Coast Trail, which is similar to the Appalachian Trail but on the west coast. But really the book is about more than that. It is about Strayed's struggle with the death of her mother, the disintegration of her marriage and her struggle with addiction. Though I'm not a backpacker myself, I am married to one, so I have enjoyed reading accounts like this before (such as A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson), meeting the friends made and places seen along the way. 

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett, 2012. 

State of Wonder weaves a complicated story about a doctor's work with a tribe who lives on a remote section of the Amazon River. I kind of stumbled across this book by accident because it happened to be available as an e-book from the library when I was looking for something to check out. I had read Bel Canto by this author a few years ago and enjoyed it, so I checked this one out and was very glad I did. Patchett has a unique style of writing, almost poetic in a way. But beyond that, State of Wonder also has a fascinating plot that will leave you wondering what will happen next. 
Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen, 2007. 

Early in the year, I kind of lost my interest in reading. The baby was coming in March and I was busy getting ready and scouring What to Expect When You're Expecting. But a few weeks before the baby was born, I discovered Sarah Addison Allen. All of her books were available as e-books from my local library, and I read all 4 of her novels in less than a month. They are all great, but it just happens that Garden Spells was my favorite of the 4. These books were made for me. They all take place in imaginary small towns in Western North Carolina, where I was lucky enough to live for 2 years and I hope we settle back down there one day. They also all contain elements of "magical realism," where small bits of magic are weaved into otherwise realistic stories. I am not usually a fan of what is called "high fantasy" because I tend to get confused when reading about entirely new worlds and creatures. But the little touches of whimsy in these novels brought a smile to my face. Ms. Allen's next book is due out this year, and I can't wait! 
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray, 2011

Beauty Queens was definitely the most fun book I read all year. I have read several works by Libba Bray, and have really enjoyed some and really not enjoyed others. But I think Beauty Queens is her at her best. The satire is spot-on and it is laugh-out-loud funny. It was one of those books I wasn't sure I wanted to read in public because it made me laugh so much I thought people might think I was crazy. 

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley, 2010

This is the second in the Flavia de Luce series of mysteries. Flavia is an 11 year old chemist with a knack for solving crimes in her English countryside village. I read this along with the others published so far in the series last year, and this was my favorite. I adore books and tv shows that have kind of quirky main and peripheral characters. My best example of this is always Gilmore Girls, because you kind of know all the townspeople and they all have their own funny backstory. So the village in these books is a little like Stars Hollow, and that always keeps me coming back. I think the next in this series will be published sometime this year as well. 

I'd love to hear which books you read and loved last year. I'm always looking to add to my to-read list!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

World's Most Delicious Instant Rice

Quite by accident, I managed to create a really tasty side dish last night. I was already planning to make rice, and thought, "Blah. Plain rice. How can I make that more yummy?" I had bought a large bag of pecans at the store yesterday for something else I am making this week, and as I thought about it I remembered that I had heard of pecan rice and that sounded pretty good. So I kind of threw this together and IT. WAS. DELISH. The best part? It took about 15 minutes from start to finish since I used instant rice. (Sorry there's no picture, I didn't think about that until it was all gobbled up. I'll add one next time I make it.)

Here's what you need (this is for 4 servings of rice):

Instant rice (or the real stuff if you're an over-achiever)
Chicken broth or chicken bullion
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup of pecans

Cook the rice according to package directions, using chicken broth or water with chicken bullion instead of just water. (Don't skip this and use water, it won't be anywhere near as good.) While the rice is cooking, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Chop pecans to small pieces and then toast them in the skillet with the butter. WATCH THE PECANS CLOSELY and stir frequently. They will burn quickly. I had to do this step twice because I stepped away from the first batch for literally about 90 seconds and burned them. After about 5 minutes of cooking the pecans, remove them from the heat, but keep them in the skillet so you don't lose any of that yummy butter. When the rice is done, add the pecans and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013

Hello world. Happy 2013 to you all. Well, it's a new year and that means it is a new chance to try to revamp this blog. I have a lot of goals for 2013 and I hope this blog will help me keep track of them and share my progress. Some of my goals so far:

1. Create an inventory and open an Etsy shop.
2. Take and be in more pictures with my family.
3. Get organized and prepped for our next move (coming in August).
4. After reading 30 books in 2012, I hope to read 36 (3 a month) in 2013.
5. Purge some of our possessions, particularly my clothes that I can't/don't wear anymore.
6. Follow a budget.

So, as you can see many of these goals lend themselves to being tracked on this blog. I hope to throw in some fun things as well and just use this blog as a place to find and share things that bring me joy. Happy New Year!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Meal Plan for September 17-21

I am really excited about my meal plan this week! A nice thing about shopping at the commissary is that their prices on meat and produce are pretty stable so I don't need to try to plan my meals around what's on sale this week. It gives me a little freedom to just try new recipes that sound good!

Monday: Grilled Chicken, Corn Cakes and Cucumber and Carrot Salad

Tuesday: Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup, Salad, and Cheese and Chive Biscuits

Wednesday: Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings, Green Bean Casserole, and Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Thursday: Dinner out with a military spouses' group

Friday: Spicy Sweet Glazed Shrimp, Cheese Grits, Sauteed Zucchini

All the links except for the cheese grits on Friday are new recipes. I can't wait to see how they turn out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 Months Old

Addie is 5 months old! Technically, she was 5 months old over 2 weeks ago. But some months I get a little behind on getting the picture made. Ah, well. This is my favorite of the bunch of 5 month shots. I just can't get enough of that sweet face! At 5 months old she is almost sitting up on her own, she has learned to blow bubbles and she started eating cereal! She is such a big girl!

Easy Cheesecake Pie

This is one of my favorite desserts because it is easy, it is fairly healthy, and you can switch out the cheesecake for lots of other flavors! Here's the recipe:

2 cups of milk
1 large or 2 small boxes of Cheesecake flavored pudding (sugar free if you'd like)
1 tub of Cool Whip (sugar free or light if you'd like)
1 Graham Cracker Crust

Whisk together milk and pudding until well mixed. Fold in Cool Whip.  Pour this mixture into pie crust. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Top with fruit if you like (I like it with raspberries).

 See? So easy! And there are all kinds of flavors of pudding you can use in place of cheesecake: banana cream, chocolate, lemon, coconut, butterscotch, whatever.