Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 2012 Pinterest Inspirations

I used Pinterest a ton this month! Had several excellent recipes, too. Crock Pot Italian Chicken and Cafe Rio Chicken will definitely be making repeat appearances on our dinner table, and the Pork Chop Bake will be tweaked some and likely stick around as well. Hope you enjoy some of these!

Parmesan Chicken Salad - This was slightly disappointing. I will admit that I didn't use the mesquite grilled chicken recommended, so I might try it again. I just thought the mayo flavor overwhelmed the garlic and parmesan. I like my Almond Chicken Salad better (see Tried and True Recipes board).

Microwaving Ivory Soap - This worked beautifully! Luke loved it. Only took 30-40 seconds in our microwave. Definitely only use 1/4 of a bar or your microwave will be *full* of Ivory soap foam.

Chicken and Rice Casserole (no cream of something soup) - This was pretty good. Very similar to my tried and true version with cream of chicken soup. I think the addition of cheese to the topping was a little odd, but the rice part was very creamy and flavorful.

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Upside-Down Pizza Casserole - This was good, sort of like a pizza pot pie. I threw in some pepperoni after the ground beef was cooked. Would probably do half beef and half italian sausage next time. Not bad, though, and super-quick, which is what I needed tonight.

Crockpot Italian Chicken - There are a zillion versions of this running around, including the Angel Chicken. I picked this pretty basic version. Leah Finn calls it Chicken YumYum, and we agree. Quite yummy! We did rice instead of pasta and added 1/4 cup of chicken broth while cooking (have had issues with meat drying out recently). Might do 1/2 cup broth next time (or 1/4 broth and 1/4 wine) and try light cream cheese. Definitely a keeper, just can't eat it very often.

Easy Homemade Playdough - Excellent recipe/formula. Came together quickly, feels very good, nice and smooth. My 7yo really likes it, which is all that really matters! Not sure if it will last or how quickly it will dry out, but it's easy and cheap, so we can always make more. My color isn't this vibrant, but I used regular food coloring instead of the gel. Will definitely try that next time.

Pork Tenderloin - Marinated in olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, dry mustard, pepper and garlic. This was pretty good, though I think the balsamic garlic tenderloin was both better and simpler. I'd probably make half again as much pan sauce for a little extra. Overall, pretty good.

Ice Cream in a Bag (no machine needed) - I don't know why I'm amazed, but this actually worked! I think it could stand a bit more vanilla, would probably be better with heavy cream than the half and half, and I'm dying to try chocolate! Can't wait to try it with my son tomorrow.

Light and Tender Cream Scones - These were easy and good! Hard to beat that. I didn't have demerara sugar, so I just sprinkled with regular. Considering adding a bit more sugar (just 1 Tbsp) and some vanilla (not traditional, I know) next time. Worth keeping/using and maybe tinkering!

Condensed Milk Painting, Another pinner says: Dries shiny and beautiful. - It does indeed dry shiny and beautiful, though still a touch sticky. We had fun doing this. I think I liked it more than my 7yo, who is apparently not into painting so much (I think he's afraid he will get messy, which he hates). I used a muffin tin instead of ice cube trays.

Fail-Proof Pizza Dough - Well, it has to be largely fail proof if it worked for me! My first ever successful recipe that involved yeast. I can't say it was the best most perfect pizza dough I've ever had, but it was good. My picky 7yo son ate 5 of the 16 pieces, so it must have been decent. :-) Wow, I pinned this almost 6 months ago; glad I finally used it!

Marshmallows and Toothpicks - My son thought this was tons of fun! He doesn't usually get to play with his food, but for snack today, he was allowed to both eat and play.

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin - We enjoyed this! I didn't think a crock pot was the best place for a pork tenderloin, so I used pork chops instead. They were a little dry, but very tender. I also strained the solids out of the pot liquid and thickened it with a little cornstarch for a silky gravy, served over rice.

Crockpot Cube Steak and Gravy - This was quite yummy, not dramatically different from the "three packet" version (since I add cream of mushroom soup to that one), but it was a little less, um, zingy (and definitely less salty). We preferred the roast/stew meat to the cube steak, but at least we know this gravy combination is equally good.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Cake - This was just okay. I knew the proportions were off from what I think of with a typical cake, and it does say the recipe is Brazilian. It is very eggy, which makes the cake a bit rubbery. It's not bad, just different from what I am accustomed to. Not sure I really care for it.

Perfectly Shredded Chicken - In 20 seconds using the KitchenAid. Yes, this absolutely works! In fact, I am rather shocked at how stunningly well it worked. I wasn't really sure that it would, but it is fast and perfectly shredded. I took my chicken straight out of the crock pot and into the mixer. Briefly on stir, then 2, then 4. Took 20-30 seconds. Done!

Crock Pot Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken - I've never been to (or even heard of) Cafe Rio, but the recipe sounded good, so I tried it. It was excellent! We shredded it in the mixer and made "Mexican Pizza" with it (on top of tortillas), but the refried beans "blanded" out the flavor some. Will try it with quesadillas tomorrow. The chicken itself is excellent! Just need to find the right application (or might just eat it straight up next time).

Draw a 3D Hand - Trace the hand in pencil. With a marker, draw a straight line until you get to the hand. Then make a curve from one line to the next, then continue the straight line. This worked great, but it was more difficult for Luke to do than I anticipated, so he got a bit frustrated. Still, it was pretty cool!

Pork Chop Bake - This was quite good. Left out the green chiles (you know me), but otherwise made by the recipe. The pork with the french fried onions was especially tasty, and serving it with a bed of potatoes instead of the usual rice or pasta was a nice change of pace. Will tweak it some next time, but definitely a keeper!

Yes, June was apparently sponsored by Pinterest! LOL (I'm kidding. No one throw anything legal at me, okay? I was making a joke.) Lots of "camp" ideas and new recipes from there this month. Hey, it keeps me busy and not bored!

Currently feeling: like I pinned a bunch of stuff this month!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lunch with Loft-y Friends

It must be the month for having lunch with long lost friends. First, I get to see my friend Leah after about 5 years, and now Heather (whose frequent handle is lottloft, thus the title of this entry) and I finally have lunch like we've been saying we would for, oh, a couple of years at least. We live in the same town, for goodness sake! LOL My friend Annette, who lives in Arizona, has seen Heather at least once and maybe twice since I last did. Heather and I almost met up at Disney World this year, and I think we actually had one crossover day, but we already had commitments to be in different parks that day, so we didn't manage to cross paths. Yes, we apparently make things harder than necessary.

So, after literally months and months (and months!) of promising we would "do lunch sometime," we finally did. She introduced me to YEAH Burger, which was fabulous. I promised myself I would photograph my burger before I ate it, and then I completely forgot. I was overcome by the scrumptious smell! We also ate outside, seeing as there were no seats inside. Yes, on the day it was forecast to be 105F (40.5C).

(Note that the photo above was of the temp just before 5PM.) Believe it or not, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We were well shaded on a very deep porch (about 5 tables wide by 4 tables deep), they had multiple ceiling fans on high, there was quite a nice breeze (that almost blew us away a couple of times), and we sat right by the door, so we got a blast of cool air every time someone went in our out (which was frequently). We were surely "glistening," and it was probably 80-85 out there (26-29), but we weren't sweltering like we could have been under the circumstances. We chatted for quite a while at the restaurant, then retired to her house for the rest of the afternoon. When I got in my car to leave, the thermostat said 109F (42.7C). Ouch.

I've known Heather for at least 10 years now, probably more like 12. We met through the Teresa Wentzler Bulletin Board. We both went to Georgia Tech, and we're both Disney fans. We always have a great time when we do get together (well, I do, I won't presume to speak for her), you'd think we'd do it more often. We're both just busy people! But we have promised to try to make it at least an annual event, and we're shooting for quarterly. If we hit every 6 months, I'll be happy! LOL

Currently feeling: loving great food with great friends!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Super Summer 2012 - Mission Log, Day 8

Today was largely errand day, so not too many "campy" activities. After breakfast and Mythbusters, L played on the computer while I took a shower (I usually try to do that the night before), then we headed out. Hit a few stores, including Ulta, where I bought *nothing*! They had some OPI DS polishes *and* the new Layla Hologram Effects, and I still bought nothing. (It helps that those are $12.50 and $15.50 per bottle, respectively. Ouch.) We came home and ate lunch, then tried a little craft project.

The left of both photos is the first attempt by each of us. Turned out to be quite a bit more difficult for Luke than I expected, and mine's not so hot either (the yellow obviously doesn't work very well, and I had to fill in some huge gaps near the thumb due to my very not straight lines). Luke was extremely frustrated with his first effort, so we left it for a bit and then came back later in the afternoon. I put in the black "guidelines" on his second attempt, and he did the color lines in between, 2-3 color lines between each black line. Much better! I tried to get my lines closer together, but it limited the amount of space I had to "curve" in, so I don't think the effect is quite as pronounced. Oh well, it was a fun experiment, and we got to talk about optical illusions. (Yes, the idea for this came from Pinterest. Pin here.)

After being so good while we were shopping, especially at Ulta, and after being so disappointed and frustrated with the art project (before our second attempts), I felt he deserved to do something fun and special, so we headed to Steak 'n Shake. They have "Happy Hour" from 2-4 (AM and PM) on weekdays, where all drinks and shakes are half price. Vanilla for him, chocolate for me, no cherry on either.

We came home, and he played downstairs with LEGOs. Since DH and I won't be able to go out for our regular Friday lunch together tomorrow (I'm having lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a few years, despite the fact that she lives here in Atlanta!), he decided to take us all out for dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We haven't been there in several weeks (used to be a regular Friday lunch for us, but not lately), and it's been several months since Luke was there. Luke was asking the other day why we hadn't been in a while (because you whined and complained about it and stopped eating anything (even tortillas and cheese dip), so we stopped taking you!), so we may as well try to reintroduce it. He downed all three of his tortillas and ate nearly half the cheese dip by himself. Um, okay!

I just love when he puts his head on DH's shoulder like this. I know he'll stop doing it soon, so I'm trying to enjoy it, and photograph it. Not the best picture (cell phone plus backlit), but I still like it.

Currently feeling: colorful

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - June 27, 2012

Currently feeling: hiding from the people in the house

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Super Summer 2012 - Mission Log, Day 7

Well, another not-so-super slack summer day here. I didn't have much planned, and he was just having so much fun playing with stuff! He still got in quite a variety of activities today, just none of them "structured," and very few of them electronic. We did watch two Mythbusters, one with breakfast and one with lunch (voice shattering glass and Titanic suction/goldfish memory). Other than that and about 20 minutes of Bejeweled, it was LEGOs, wood blocks, playdough, or Star Wars figures. I offered various other things, but he wasn't interested. There was no Wii and no DS, since he wanted to play a particular game on DH's phone when he got home from work, so he saved his game time for then.

As I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook, I'm pretty sure this is what the inside of Luke's brain looks like. This is our basement. It pretty much looks like this all the time. He can leave the LEGOs out, however he wants, and all we have to do is close the door and ignore it! LOL I also had a few comments on the chairs. Those belonged to my late grandmother. They are just as fluorescent lime green as the photo shows, possibly even more so in person. I don't much care for the color, but I adore the actual chairs. They are vintage (at least 30 years old, probably more like 40-ish), but I also know from photos that this is not the original upholstery. They fit right into our vintage 60's era basement, though! I'll have them recovered eventually, whenever I decide to be a grown up and turn the living room from "the box room" into something actual adults have in the front of their home. I've been saying since we moved in that the living room was on the "5 year plan." We've been here 2.5 years now, and I don't think I'll have it ready 2+ years from now. Oh well! We plan to be here for a while, so there's time.

Hey, I just realized the little stinker got away without reading today! He'll have to do at least a little bit tomorrow to make up for it.

Currently feeling: happy with our mostly unplugged day

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie Muse Short: Brave

Image downloaded from

Pixar's Brave. I have been waiting for two years to see this movie, ever since I started hearing the slightest rumors of a plot line coming from Disney. I love Disney *and* Pixar, and I couldn't wait to see what they would do with their first female protagonist, and a feisty redhead at that.

I've been debating for two days what I should say about this movie. Having seen it twice now, I'm really no closer to being able to fully articulate my thoughts on it, but I will give it a try. I liked it, it certainly wasn't bad. But it was not up to Pixar's usual standards, in my opinion. That said, there have been several Pixar films that I was originally a bit disappointed in that have grown on me over the years such that I now love and adore them (Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo immediately spring to mind), so that isn't necessarily my final word on Brave, but my initial impression is being rather underwhelmed.

I will say that it is rarely a good sign when I can walk out of the theater (the first time) and think of at least three ways the film could have been much better right off the top of my head. Again, I stress, the film is not bad! It's actually much better than many films I've seen, recently even. But it was more Disney than Pixar, and some of the humor veered into territory that Pixar (and Disney, generally speaking) has thus far avoided, and I am especially wondering why they suddenly felt the need to "go there." This is a Disney/Pixar, not a DreamWorks! Keep it classy, people. The film itself is stunningly beautiful, though. Everything is absolutely lush and gorgeous (except when it shouldn't be, and then it is perfectly desolate). I don't think all the pieces of the film fully meshed, but again, it is far from a bad movie. Do be on time, please, as the short that precedes it (La Luna) is phenomenal! Typical Pixar, and absolutely wonderful. We did not see it in 3D either time, so I can't speak to that. (We're saving that extra $3.50 per person to see Finding Nemo in 3D in September.)

As far as whether or not to take the kids, I would definitely say it depends on the kids, their ages, and what they can tolerate. For my rather sensitive 7yo son, it was borderline too intense in some places. (Leah, it is *definitely* a no for G, since she doesn't handle peril well.) Even Luke himself said "I liked it, but it was scary sometimes." I know he cleared the seat at one point, nearly jumping out of his skin, and at exactly the point in the film that concerned me. I don't think it was too scary for him (time will tell tonight, I suppose), but it was right on the threshold. It also tells me I was right to withhold other films from him to this point (like The Neverending Story); he's just not ready. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of 7 year olds, and even plenty of 4 year olds, who could handle it just fine. You know your children, so you decide, but know that the film is rated PG, and deservedly so. Not for any language, but for "intense action sequences, peril, and some violence" (those are my words, not a quote from anywhere). The violence isn't bloody, but it is there, if that concerns you. Tread carefully if your children are young and/or sensitive.

There is a coda/stinger after the credits, so stay all the way through if that interests you.

Updated: As of about 9:30 PM, Luke has been up twice after being put to bed, admitting the second time that "sometimes when I see a scary movie, I'm scared to sleep." ::sigh::  I guess my being "overprotective" about what movies he sees isn't unwarranted. It's going to be a long night, likely several of them.

Currently feeling: underwhelmed, but still enjoyed it

Friday, June 22, 2012

TKO'd by Granite

Unfortunately, I mean that quite literally. We have granite counter tops in the kitchen, and on the back side of the "breakfast bar," the granite overhangs the lower cabinets by a good 6-8 inches. (You can see where this is going, can't you?) I was in the kitchen getting my drink ready for dinner, and I dropped my straw. It rolled under the bar, so I bent down to pick it up. Not thinking about what I had done to reach it, I stood up rather quickly.

WHAM!! I cracked the back of my head on the granite overhang so hard, I staggered. In case you were curious, in a contest between granite and a human head (even one as hard as mine), granite wins. Thankfully, I managed to only shout "ow." (Well, more like OOWWW!) I can't even imagine what it sounded like from the den, but it was bad enough that DH immediately put down his Wii remote (he was playing LEGO Batman with Luke) to come check on me. By this time, I was breathing heavily, trying not to cry (it didn't work), leaning on the counter, but I didn't lose consciousness or feel dizzy. It just hurt! I sat on the couch and put some ice on it for about 10 minutes. Then we ate dinner.

While we were eating, I had a few mild waves of dizziness, but I didn't feel that was overly startling or concerning, given the circumstances. I had DH check my pupils, and they were equal and reactive. But just as I finished eating, I noticed a spot in my vision. *That* concerned me! It was like a "flash spot" when someone takes a flash photograph, but no one had. I could see it more when I blinked than when I was just looking around, but I could still see it. I thought it might be an ophthalmic migraine starting, but it didn't behave like one. It just stayed there, in the lower right part of my vision, stationary and not changing in size.

So I called my private nurse line (a.k.a. my mom) to see if I needed to go to the ER. She asked about my pupils, and asked that DH check them again over the next hour. She also had me lay down and relax to see if the spot would go away, then call her back in an hour. About 15 minutes after we spoke, the spot went away, and the dizzy spells stopped. There was also much less of a bump on my head than I anticipated. By the time the hour had passed, I felt much better. So basically, I just "had my bell rung" and needed some time to recover, but no permanent damage. It sure scared me, though, and is not an experience I care to repeat.

Currently feeling: owie

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Super Summer 2012 - Mission Log, Day 6

Today's recap will be short and sweet, as there wasn't much to the mission for today. We got up around 8, ate breakfast, watched some Ninjago and Mythbusters. Then we packed a bag for Luke to take to my husband's office. After the pest control people came and went, Luke played LEGO Batman (a new-to-him Wii game), and then we met Daddy for a semi-annual Varsity lunch and afternoon at the office.

When we finished eating, the boys headed across the street to DH's office, where Luke will play toys and some DS while DH finishes work, then they will head over to Georgia Tech to play (usually ping pong, badminton or racquet ball, and some basketball) before coming home. And I get an afternoon to myself (which I "wasted" being perfectly lazy!). They'll be home shortly. Guess I should start thinking about dinner.

Currently feeling: what'll ya have?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Super Summer 2012 - Mission Log, Day 5

I did much better today! Luke got up right at 8. We ate a leisurely breakfast while watching some Ninjago, then he played Wii for about 45 minutes (which is an aerobic activity, the way he does it; I'll try to post some video, if I can find one). After that, it was craft time, but I had been a little too leisurely with breakfast and not yet prepared the paint. It was about snack time anyway, so let's combine snack and play.

Yeah, this was a great big "duh" when I saw it on Pinterest! I'd seen it done with toothpicks and gumdrops, but no one in this family likes them, and I didn't want to buy them just to play with if no one wanted to eat them (that's half the fun anyway, right, eating as you play?). The house did eventually become a sprawling ranch with a second story and a garage, but he ate most of it before I got a picture. Next up, another Pinterest idea: painting with condensed milk. It's supposed to stay shiny as it dries (I'll let you know). We prepared with wax paper and a garbage bag smock, and off we went.

Apparently painting isn't his thing because "it's messy, and I'm not very good at it," or so he says. I could only get him to do the one picture, and then he wanted to play. (I also think he'd already seen his new playdough colors and was anxious to get to them.) I didn't want all that paint to go to waste, so I made one, too. I'm pretty sure I had more fun with this one than he did.

Apparently, I have just been depriving him all these years by not having playdough? I had no idea it was his most favorite thing in the world! As you can see, I've made a few more colors since last time. He was *most* impressed with the white playdough. "Mommy, why did no one ever think of this before?!!" Well, I'm pretty sure they did, but thank you for the vote of confidence. I would (will?) also be the best mommy ever if I go pick up some black gel coloring from the cake decorating store and make some black; that would just blow his mind!

He played with that until lunch (apparently the red and yellow good guys teamed up against the blue, green, and white bad guys), we sang happy birthday to Kitty:

(No, I had no idea it was Kitty's birthday; at least he didn't ask to make a cake.) We watched a Mythbusters, which was the Alaska special, and we got to talk about the fact that Uncle Jacob was just there. Then he played some more Wii while I took a quick nap. Then it was time for our first major culinary experiment: homemade pizza dough! We got it all in the mixer, turned it on, and let it go.

Does your mixer try to walk off the counter when using the dough hook? I had to push mine back on twice! The dough was a little sticky coming out of the bowl. Not sure if I did something wrong. Just had to cross our fingers and hope.

What to do while we wait for it to rise? Play downstairs? Um, what about your reading? There was a fair bit of pouting, but he eventually picked out a book and read it to his cats. Tigger also joined in story time.

Okay, now you can play LEGOs downstairs. Have I mentioned how much I *love* having all the LEGOs in the basement? He can leave them out, strewn absolutely everywhere, and all we have to do is close the door and not look at it. I'll try to get a picture in the next week or so of just how much of a war zone it appears to be down there. Anyway, by this time, Daddy was home, and it was time to start the pizza!


And after:

Well, it did rise! Have I mentioned that I have never successfully made something with yeast in it? I don't know if I usually killed my yeast or what. And yes, I took the temperature of the water with a thermometer this time! 105 degrees, thank you very much. Nothing left to do but make a crust, which was actually much tougher than I expected.




Well, it looks pretty good.

Now, for the most important critic. He inspects and contemplates:

Then takes a bite:

The verdict?

He ate 5 of the 16 pieces (3 total pizzas, the big one pictured, and two smaller ones; he ate 5/6 of the one pictured), and I have officially been declared "the best pizza cook ever!" Hey, I'll take what I can get. It was good, a good contrast of soft and chew, though it was not the best pizza crust I've ever had. Still, *I* made it, it was good, and Luke loved it. Hard to ask for more than that. I might try some other recipes, but at least I know I have one that works and that I can successfully make. Go me!

Currently feeling: not yet an expert, but working on it