Monday, December 17, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roast up some Pumpkin Seeds for a salty snack!

*Rosemary & Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:
  • Pumpkin Seeds (at least 2 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon Macadamia Nut Oil (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  •  1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Rosemary
  • Pepper to taste
First, remove the guts from the pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the pulp (using a strainer) and rinse thoroughly. 
Then, lay seeds on a pan to dry overnight. 
Preheat oven to 300%. Line pans with parchment paper.
Combine ingredients above with seeds. 


Lay all the coated seeds out on your pan and cook for 45 minutes (stir every 15 minutes).

Store in an air-tight container and enjoy!


*This recipe was modified from various other recipes online. Several things have been changed.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lending a helping hand! Habitat Style!

Lending a helping hand! Habitat Style!

On November 30th, the company that I work for volunteered in the Chapin, SC community with the Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity.

Here are some things I learned:

1. Painting is hard work
2. The employees at Habitat are hard working, nice people
3. Since the economy has been in the dumps, South Carolina's Habitat has been reduced from around 12 houses per year to only around 7
4. Clemson University builds at least one house during homecoming week every year. (Yay!)
5. The University of South Carolina hasn't participated in Habitat for Humanity for the last 7 years. (Boo!)

These are the facts (from a slightly biased Clemson fan). 

Seriously though, our team of 20 (18 employees and 2 spouses) worked to paint the interior (trim and walls) of two, newly built houses. These houses occupy two lots with several vacant (Habitat owned) lots in between.

Their goal is to build houses on the remaining lots in 2013...if they can get the donations and volunteers necessary. This is a great team building and community service opportunity for your company, sorority/fraternity, or church.

Our group was chosen as the Spotlight Volunteers! Check out the pics...


 (Note to self: never wear a mask like this for a picture again...ever!)


Visit their site for more information:  http://www.habitatcsc.org/

Monday, November 12, 2012

Easy Baked Pork Chops

Easy Pork Chops

This is a recipe that my mother taught me. It only takes 30 minutes and tastes great!
Ingredients:
Pork Chops (boneless or with the bone...it doesn't matter)
Half a bottle of Worcestershire sauce
Half an onion
Mushrooms (canned or fresh)
Water

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a casserole dish, place the pork chops. Cover with equal parts Worcestershire sauce and water. (I usually use half of a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce.) Slice half of a white onion and lay the pieces on top of the chops. Toss in some mushrooms. 

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and poke a few holes in the foil with a fork. Cook for 30-45 minutes (or until the pork chops are so tender you can cut the meat with a fork!)


Monday, July 30, 2012

Pans and Picks- Books I Recommend

Books Worth Reading:


Hopefully this will become more of an on-going recommendation for people that enjoy reading:

The Help (By Kathryn Stockett)
Ever finish reading a book and feel so sad that the experience was over? Yeah, me too! I definitely wish this book was even longer. This story, told in the voice of 3 different characters was a thought provoking, wonderful read. You don't even have to be southern to enjoy it! The movie adaptation is very well done...however, it simply didn't have time to capture all the humor and sadness that the author conveys in the book.

On the Island (By Tracey Garvis-Graves)
This shorter (novella type) book was such an enjoyable read that I found myself wondering about the characters when I had to put the book down (you know, when I had to actually work or maintain my real life). I would find myself wondering what would happen next! Basically, this is a story about a 30-year old teacher and the student she is tutoring getting stranded on an island. Do they survive? Do they learn to work together? 

The Hunger Games (By Suzanne Collins)
This young adult, science fiction trilogy (set in the dystopian future of North America) isn't really the kind of books I like to read. Not because it is young adult...I'm totally still considering myself and young adult! More because of the sci-fi aspects. The world, ravaged by rioting and wars, has been divided into 12 districts. Each year, a male and a female tribute are selected from each district to compete in the Hunger Games. This series follows Katniss Everdeen as she is chosen to compete in the annual Hunger Games (ie a televised fight-to-the-death). At the end of the first book, I couldn't help but wonder....how far off is this concept???

Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen)
Okay, okay....I know what you are thinking. That's a given...like when you are in an interview and they ask "what is your favorite book?" and you reply "War and Peace" just to sound worldly. But seriously...this is my favorite book of all time. I just re-read it again and followed it up by one of the (all of the sudden popular) books that is based on Pride and Prejudice. Death Comes to Pemberley (By P.D. James) and also Darcy's Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes (By Regina Jeffers). Both of these books take some artistic liberties with the story and what happens in between and in the future. If I had to pick which one I enjoyed better, it would be Darcy's Passions. Death Comes to Pemberley was a little sloppy, in my opinion and it had too much of Mr. Wickham in it. I haven't had the stomach to try out the zombie version of P&P. Anyone recommend it?

Water for Elephants (By Sara Gruen)
Wow...this colorful book follows a traveling circus through the memories of a elderly man. This book is sooo much better than the movie. The vivid descriptions, fast pacing, and flashbacks just don't translate as well on the big screen. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It truly was unlike any book I've read.

The Time Traveler's Wife (By Audrey Niffenegger) 
This book is so well written that I would love to sit down with Audrey Niffenegger and pick her brain about how she accomplished this. The story line jumps from time period to time period by chapter and is often a bit challenging to follow. I've discussed this format with other friends that have read this book and some say it is too difficult to follow and so they chose to stop reading. I was awestruck by the way the story flows and I would definitely read it again. It isn't a light beach read...so be warned!

Books that I am embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed...but are in no way real literature:

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed (By EL James) (that's right, I read all three...)
While the character descriptions were based off of Twilight characters Edward and Bella, that is the only similarity with these smutty, sexually-charged  books. I've never read trashy romance novels before. It's basically like watching a train wreck. You hate that you find yourself enjoying them...and yet, somehow you read all three in one week. Then, when you refuse to send them to your mother (out of embarrassment and disgust) you have to hear how she was denied at her local library b/c the books were banned there! Long story short, I gave her my copies and told her PLEASE...let's never discuss these books again!

Books that I will never read again....my apologies to these authors and their publishing companies!


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and the other two books in this series) by: Stieg Larsson
If I could go back in time and talk to the author, (he is deceased so, I can't tell him now) I would say: "Please Mr. Larsson! Edit your characters down to only the pertinent ones! Why so many characters?? This series was the most grueling series I have EVER READ! Sure, the main characters are dynamic and interesting and the idea of a strong female heroine is applaud worthy...however, this book is sexually graphic, tedious and if you have a problem with keeping up with a bunch of foreign names--don't read this series!

Angela's Ashes (By Frank McCourt) 
This best-selling memoir by Irish-American author Frank McCourt is well written. That really can't be denied. Another thing that can't be denied is that this book was the most depressing book I've ever read. UGH! Spoiler Alert! Children die, his father is an alcoholic, and life sucked for the McCourt family! What's that you say? He wrote another memoir after this called 'Tis? Yeah, I think I'll pass. Thanks...

The Shack (By: William P. Young)
This highly recommended christian novel was such a disappointment to me. I'm sad to say that I couldn't even finish reading it. The story was so lagging and predictable that I just couldn't pick it up again. My apologies to those of you who had a life changing experience! This is the first book that I quit reading. I used to feel like if I started reading something then I was committed to finishing it. This book made me realize that life is just too short to read bad books.

Suggestions? Thoughts? Disagree? I would love to hear what you think...I'm thinking of trying out the Game of Thrones series. Not sure though!


*The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely mine and are simply opinions...please don't sue me! :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Movies and TV Shows

5 Things I am tired of seeing in the movies and on the t.v.:

1. Super Heroes (specifically Spider man)
I mean seriously....how many times are they going to try to re-create that same story only to realize that they either cast the wrong director or the wrong actors? Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed a few of the comic book/super hero movies. (The Dark Knight and Iron Man) but I've seen a few pretty terrible ones lately (Thor)...

2. Titanic
Really? So, apparently we need to see the exact same film again in 3D?? I don't! I know what happens at the end. SPOILER ALERT: The Titanic sinks and Rose couldn't move over a few inches to share part of her life raft/wooden plank to save the life of her one, true love, Jack.

3. Cop, Doctor, Lawyer shows

Aside from The Good Wife (which I love), will someone please come up with a television show that doesn't have to do with these professions. 90% of the population works in a different field. I wonder how long it will take television networks to realize that their ideas are repetitive and American audiences are tired of the same old stuff regurgitated over and over again. Here are a few shows that don't have anything to do with cops, courtrooms, or hospitals: Lost (who else misses that show?), Glee, The Office, Once Upon a Time, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, True Blood, House of Lies, The Borgias, Happy Endings. 

4. Mysteries or Thrillers where they have to explain everything at the end.

I know, I know, Hollywood writers/directors think American audiences are dumb. I get that. I've definitely been sitting in a movie theater where a confused patron says out loud "I don't get it" or "What happened?" so I get that sometimes a lose plot line or unclear ending can be confusing. However, I completely despise how at the end of the show/movie when the conflict is resolved, the film flashes back to literally step-by-step explanation of how the clever protagonist resolved the mystery. (eh hem, The Mentalist, Leverage)

5. Happy Endings

I know that people will disagree with me on this one. American audiences feel unsatisfied when a movie ends without the boy getting the girl, or the kid beating the odds to save the day. Did you know that the end of Pretty Woman had to be re-filmed because test audiences booed when the successful lawyer moves on with his life instead of saving the prostitute from a life in the sex business. Yeah, unfortunately life doesn't always have a happy ending. I think movies should be a reflection of life...real and truthful. I think it sets a bad example for young adults and children. I wonder how many young girls, after watching Pretty Woman a bunch, thought that prostitution wouldn't be so bad. You meet a wealthy, attractive business man, make some money, fall in love, and then never have to work again!



Friday, March 30, 2012

How to make a Diaper Wreath

How to make a diaper wreath

My friend Julie is having a baby (Ella) in June. The last weekend in March we are going to Charleston, SC to attend a baby shower. So, we got her a traditional baby gift...but since she and her hubby are special friends of ours, I decided to make a diaper wreath. 
I really wish I would have made one for my new niece b/c I felt bad every time we went to the hospital and her door was bare...I even thought the store bought wreaths were cute on some of the other doors. Sorry Eliza! 
(that's my niece) 

 I will make it up to you in the future by buying you a ton of shoes and letting you do things without telling your parents :)

Materials: 
Wreath (wooden, foam, etc)
Cute diapers...preferably with a design on them (had to order mine online)

Baby accessories (wash cloths, toys, pacifiers)
Letters to spell out the baby's name
Ribbon (to decorate and fasten the diapers to the wreath or the wreath to a hook on the door)
More ribbon to cover up the rubber bands

Rubber bands (b/c the ribbon probably won't hold the diapers that well) 
Spray Paint (white and pink) the pink that I used was relatively hard to find but eventually I found it at Kmart!
Staple gun (not to be confused with a stapler could possibly use a hot glue gun)

So, b/c I wanted Julie to be able to use it at the hospital...I wanted to make sure it had the baby's name on it. 
I needed to find wooden letters (or her name spelled out) to go on the wreath in some way. 

I found my letters at a local craft store for 49 cents each. I found a wooden sign at the same craft store that said "Friends" on it. It was the right size so I just decided to flip the friends sign over and spray paint white. 



Then, I spray painted the letters (E-L-L-A) pink. I sprayed with several coats for the letters and the sign and waited for it to be completely dry. 
 I used Rust-oleum's Gloss Berry Pink.

Next, I spaced out the letters exactly how I wanted them and picked up each letter and applied the glue. I used wood glue (very lightly applied to avoid it running out on the sign) to secure the letters in place. Let this dry. 


Then, I flipped the sign over and stapled one end of my decorative ribbon to the back side of the sign.


For the wreath: I used a straw wreath because it was the right size for me. After I unwrapped it, I realized that the straw was falling out so I re-wrapped it with masking tape.

Then, I wrapped a diaper around the wreath and secured it with a rubber band.
 Repeat this until the entire wreath is wrapped with diapers.




Overlap the diapers slightly so that the entire wreath is full. 

Cover the rubber bands with ribbon and curl the ribbon with your scissors (if possible). 







Lay the name sign on the wreath to get the desired placement. Tie the ribbon (coming from the back of the wooden sign to the end of one of your diapers. 
Make a bow out of coordinating ribbon and attach to the top of the wreath.  
Tie some extra ribbon around the top rim of the wreath and tuck the knot under one of the diapers at the top. This ribbon will be used for hanging the wreath.  
And that's it! More challenging than making a diaper cake...but so cute!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Make a Diaper Cake

Sometimes, I just see stuff online and I think, "I could make that..."
Well, that is exactly what happened when I decided to make a diaper cake. I knew I was going to be co-hosting a baby shower for my good friend Carley and while thinking of possible decorations for the party, I decided to try my hand at making a diaper cake.

What you will need:
  • Cute package of diapers (I ordered the blue jean diapers online that came as a package of 96...that was too many but I used all but about 30.)
  • A bunch of rubber bands (to hold the individual rolled diapers together...oh, and don't even think about using scotch tape it doesn't work!)
  • A tray to set the finished "cake" on (I used a cheap plastic tray from the dollar store...just in case the mommy decided to take the tray with the cake.)
  • Accessories to decorate the cake with
  • Ribbon to cover-up the rubber bands and hold each tier together
  • Safety pins (or something to fasten the ribbon with)
First (and most time consuming), roll each individual diaper up and wrap a rubber band around it. I did this while watching t.v. several nights...because it takes a while and it is boring.

After you have rolled most of the diapers, gather the largest tier together. This might take 2 people... I just figured out how large I wanted the ribbon to be around the bottom tier, then fastened the ribbon together. Next I squeezed in as many rolled diapers as I could fit into the ribbon. Focus on making the tiers and decorate last.

After you make your tier with the ribbon around each tier, adjust the position of the ribbon to cover-up all your rubber bands.
Now accessorize! I used coordinating pacifiers to cover the safety pins and an inexpensive bib to cover up the bottom pacifier. I put a stuffed elephant on the very top and slid some jungle themed pacifier holders in the sides to give it some pop.

If you use regular, white diapers, some people will use baby blankets to cover each of the layers. As with any crafty project, it can be expensive depending on what supplies you choose to use! Since I used the blue jean diapers, I really wanted that color to show. This is one of those projects that you need to start working on at least one week prior to the event...otherwise, you will end up scrambling for supplies! I think these are easier to make for girls considering the availability of baby girl accessories.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Bubble Bath Baby Shower Punch

Bubble Bath Baby Shower Punch 

Ingredients:
  • 1 packet of blue unsweetened Kool-Aid (I used the mixed berry flavor)
  • 1 (2 liter) bottle of ginger ale
  • 1 (64oz.) bottle of white grape juice
  • 1 cup of sugar ( I used less than this and it was still really sweet...I suggest using a little more than 3/4 cup)
  • 8 scoops of pineapple sherbert
  • 1-3 rubber duckies
1. Chill ginger ale and grape juice over night
2. Remove sherbert from freezer 30 minutes before serving to soften
3. In a large punch bowl, combine Kool- Aid, sugar, juice and stir
4. Slowly add chilled ginger ale while stirring
5. Add 8 scoops of sherbert on top (this creates a foamy look...you need to do this just before the party starts so the punch will look nice)
6. Add ducks on top (wash them first!) 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cucumber Sandwiches- Recipe

Cucumber Sandwiches

Ingredients:
Low Fat Cream Cheese (1 package)
Dry Zesty Italian Dressing (1 packet)
Splash of 1% Milk (less than a Tablespoon)
Dill Seasoning 
Cucumbers
Pumpernickel Bread 

1. Set out cream cheese and do not use until it is at room temperature/or soften in the microwave.
2. Mix in dressing packet and milk and stir until well combined.*
3. Peel (if desired) cucumber(s) and slice thinly.
4. Trim the edges off each slice of bread and cut bread into small squares (just large enough to hold one cucumber slice).
5. Take a bread square and spread with cream cheese mixture, place cucumber slice on top 
6. Repeat step 5 until you run out of bread or cucumbers. 
7. Place neatly on a serving tray and sprinkle with dill seasoning. 

*Note: I made the spread the day before and refrigerated overnight and prepared the sandwiches the day of. This saved me some prep time while allowing me to still have the bread fresh and not soggy the day of the party. 

Recovering and Spray Painting a Bench

I've had this bench for over 12 years...it came with an antique vanity that my parent's bought. While the fabric was pretty and the stain was in good condition, I was just getting tired of looking at butterflies in my home office!

(Sorry! No photo...imagine a peach cushion with pink butterflies and dark wood stain legs...) 

 I purchased a piece of scrap, discounted fabric, some white spray primer (Krylon brand), and used some leftover black spray paint from a previous project so, this project cost me less than $5...

First, I removed my cushion from the bench with a drill. Next, laid my fabric over the cushion to make sure it was : a. the right size b. the right pattern direction and c. double check that the edges would fit with enough room to be stapled.

Next, I laid my fabric face down on my table and positioned the cushion. I took my trusty staple gun and stapled along the length of the cushion (note: I just left the previous layer(s) of fabric on there for extra cushioning) leaving the corners for last. Then I manipulated the corners to look just right and held it down while a helper stapled the fabric (not my fingers...). After I had the cushion re-covered, I took the bottom part of the bench outside with my primer and my gloss, black spray paint.

I set the base of the bench face down on newspaper and gave a light coat of the primer. On some projects primer isn't necessary before using spray paint, but I wanted to make sure this piece had nice even coats with little to no splotchy areas. 

I only did one light coat of the primer. It is not necessary to cover evenly with primer. I let this dry completely (5 minutes). Then, I took my black spray paint and applied one light dusting of paint, let this dry again and repeated about 10 times. I know that sounds like a lot but that is the trick to applying spray paint without splotches! 


What do you think? I considered using red gloss spray paint...but I decided to save money and just use what I had in my cabinet. It will be used for my piano that I am refinishing right now...stay tuned for pics of that!