Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What I'm Working On

Submitted by Michelle

My niece Sienna had a birthday in March and I am only about 37 days late sending her a gift. (I really need to improve on being more timely.) When she was here in February she picked out paper for a banner and so I made her one as a gift. Here is how it turned out.

I think it was worth the wait. Don't you?

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's For Dinner?

Submitted by Michelle
I wanted pizza. Pepperoni to be exact. But, in an effort to eat healthfully and be frugally minded, I opted for eating from my pantry and refrigerator rather than the local pizza joint. After all, I had all the fixings on hand for an appetizer style dinner which, in fact, is one of my favorites.

I grilled some asparagus and portabello mushrooms that I bought at the Farmer's Market yesterday. I dressed them simply with a balsamic vinaigrette that I made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. I sliced up a few yellow tomatoes and avocado, also fresh from the Farmer's Market and gave them a generous sprinkle of sea salt. To round out the meal I broke off some chunks of my favorite parmigiano reggiano and did of quick saute of spinach that I had on hand from my farm box. Again, I kept the saute simple by using butter, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Finally, I sliced an Italian boule that had parmesan and cracked pepper in it, also purchased at the Farmer's Market from my favorite baker.

David brought home a great bottle of cabernet sauvignon and we enjoyed our simple supper on the patio. The meal was satisfying and good for me and now that it is over, I'm glad I'm not weighed down by pepperoni pizza...though I can't promise I won't have it for dinner tomorrow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Crafts

Submitted by Michelle

A little known fact about this kindergarten teacher is that I used to teach high school and one of the subjects I taught was choral music. (I do play flute but there was no way I wanted to be in charge of an entire band.) 6 of my 9 years as a high school level teacher were spent conducting choirs, and though I had a great time and met some amazing students, I didn't really love conducting. I was fairly decent at it, but I much preferred to sing in the choir rather than lead the choir.

Fast forward to today. I'm in my 9th year as a kindergarten teacher and I totally love it. I think I've found my teaching niche. I've also found my crafting niche with Stampin' Up and this morning I had the opportunity to attend a stamping class rather than be in charge of one. Now, I truly enjoy holding stamping events but today it was such a nice change to be the attendee. I didn't have think up any projects or prep any materials or set up tables or handle little details. All I had to do was show up with my adhesive and $25.00 and I was able to sit for 3 hours and make things. I even got a yummy lunch, too!

My friend Patty was the demonstrator hosting the event and here is what we made.

Cute, right? Patty is my most recent recruit to Stampin' Up and as you can see, she is doing great!

Stampin' Up's statement of the heart is, "To do what we love and share what we love, as we help others enjoy creativity and worthwhile this we make a difference." I'm so glad I've found 2 jobs that I love and can make a difference in the lives of little and big people.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

Submitted by Michelle

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly.
"One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower
Hans Christian Andersen

I haven't been in much of a blogging mood lately, but I thought I'd let you see what is going on in my backyard...
and by my front door.
The photo of the climbing rose doesn't do the plant justice. The miniature roses are a gorgeous shade of pale pink and they make me happy every morning when I leave for work and return home in the afternoon.

Summer is quickly approaching and the desert heat will soon cause my roses to fade and pretty much disappear, but for now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor and my compost pile, which I will blog about someday soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Project 18 Years in the Making

Submitted by Linda

My objective over spring break was to learn how to use Imovie, and create a DVD for my son Tommy's high school graduation. Once I got all my old photos scanned, it was really pretty easy. My sister in law Renee helped me get the ball rolling, and my friend Rachel helped me do some trouble-shooting along the way.

I fell in love with Baby Tommy and Toddler Tommy and Little Tommy all over again. I actually think making a video like this serves as some sort of therapeutic process for mommies who are approaching the time when a child leaves home.

The video I created for his party is 16 minutes long with music, but I thought a 2 minute version may be a little more 'viewable' for those of you who may want to take a peek. In this movie, you'll see Tommy's school pictures, along with the pictures of him with his brother Nick by the front door on the first day of school.

For those of you who may be embarking on a similar project: My best discovery is that Costco will transfer 40 negatives onto a CD for $2.99 in an hour. Trust me, that is much easier than scanning from prints!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Giada's Salad

Submitted by Linda
Can you imagine what kind of fun Michelle and I could have had if our Spring Breaks were during the same week? Thankfully, our monthly stamp club is coming soon, so hopefully we'll have some great paper crafts to post.

In the meantime, Michelle has been relaxing and rejuvenating herself at the beach and I've moved back into my routines, which include teaching and feeding my family (among other things).

Thanks to Michelle, my boys are always having opportunities to develop their palates. Nick is more reluctant, but Tommy has learned to enjoy the nice foods in life (sometimes Tommy will ask me to make him a cheese plate, and he doesn't mean cheddar or monterey jack- he wants the nice parmesan, brie, etc.).

One dish that all the men in my life (including the one I'm married to) enjoy is a nice salad (as long as it is accompanied by a serious main dish!). I am happy to try new salad recipes, and the boys are usually happy to eat any salad, even with a wide range of ingredients added. Here is a salad from Giada De Laurentis that was introduced to us by Michelle. I like it because it is somewhat easy to have all the ingredients on hand. The peppery dressing is the perfect compliment to the zip of the radicchio.
Italian Chopped Salad
Giada De Laurentis

4 teasp. red wine vinegar
1/4 teasp. salt, plus more for seasoning
1/8 teasp. freshly ground pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups finely chopped romaine (from 1/2 head)
2 cups finely chopped radicchio (from 1/2 large head)
1/2 cup drained canned white beans, rinsed and patted dry
8 oil packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and chopped

Whisk the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil to blend. Add the lettuce, radicchio, beans, and sun-dried tomatoes, Toss to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with more salt and pepper, and serve.

Let me know if you like it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Submitted by Michelle
It's my last day at the beach. The weather is cold and windy. Perfect weather for a departure. The ocean is roaring, the surfers are gone and the beach is empty of people.

I'm sad to leave my peaceful spot but I think I'm ready to get back to my life. It is always good to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but in the end I'm always glad to get back to my cozy home and my dogs and my husband. There are some people who love to travel and consider the world their home. Not me. I like to put down roots and settle in. The home I share with David is indeed my favorite place to be, though the beach runs a very close second.

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. -- Jane Austen

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter at the Beach

Submitted by Michelle
For the beauty of the Earth, for the glory of the skies.
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies.
Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.
Traditional Hymn

On Easter Sunday I decided to take a walk on the beach. It always amazes me that this is my view as I start out.
What is it about walking and looking down? Am I afraid I'm going to trip? Do I not want to make eye contact with others? Am I enamoured with my tennis shoes? It seems to be a natural tendency to look down and I consciously have to remind myself to look up! And when I do, I see the most amazing things.
OK, maybe surfers aren't amazing works of nature, but they do make for a nice view.

Along my walk I saw lots of interesting things. This tree that appears to be falling over the cliff is pretty astounding, along with all the moss that grows on the bluffs and rocks. (During high tide it is not really possible to walk on the beach, hence the moss.)

I also loving seeing all the wildlife. I'm not sure what these birds are looking for in the sand but they are sure cute.
The tide was extremely low on Sunday so I was able to get to a tide pool area. There are several rocks that are usually covered with water but during low tide...
you can see this!
I didn't pay much attention in high school biology so I'm not sure if these are called mussels or what, but there were literally thousands of them.

Beach walking usually puts me into a contemplative mood, and yesterday I was reminded again of how blessed a life I lead. It just takes a little looking up, rather than down.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The View From Here

Submitted by Michelle
This is literally the view from my Spring Break living room window. David and I are in Encinitas for a few days to relax and decompress after a busy few weeks. I always find the beach to be so tranquil and peaceful and that is just what I need right now.

It is such a luxury to sit on a comfy couch and stare out at the ocean. And, if I feel like walking on the beach, the stairs are only a few feet away. You can sort of see them in the photo below.
I plan to do lots of reading, napping and rejuvenating. And, if I have something interesting to share, some blogging too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ribbon Junkie

Submitted by Linda
So I'll admit it....I am a ribbon addict. I don't remember exactly how it began, but in my adult life I've always felt that when it comes time to wrap a gift or put some ribbon on something, all is right with the world when I have the perfect ribbon in my supply stash.

My wonderful dad build the cool ribbon dispenser/holder (pictured above) several years ago, and at the time he said, "You'd have to have a lot of ribbon to fill this up!" I have filled it up........and have this much more artfully displayed in my craft room.
I think my happy addiction turned me into a full blown junkie when Michael's started having that Dollar Ribbon Bin. I can't walk by that thing without digging through it. As I was cleaning out my linen closet yesterday, I corralled this wider ribbon, which is usually reserved for gifts, rather than card making.
I've already mentioned Michael's (never buy ribbon there unless it's in the Dollar Bin or you have a 40% coupon), but I'm also a huge fan of Stampin' Up ribbon (since it matches all the card stock and papers), and I've found some amazing ribbon at the Container Store.

Now, in defense of my habit, I do use my ribbon all the time and it does continue to satisfy something in me that loves the upgrade that a nice ribbon can make. When I'm in the middle of a big stamping project, I usually have all the ribbon I need at my fingertips. And, there are worse things to be addicted to, right?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Redemption in the Linen Closet

Submitted by Linda
I probably should be embarrassed to post this for all of you to see, but in honor of Holy Week and making "all things new", I decided that I absolutely positively HAD to deal with my linen closet. For those of you who know me, I am 95% organized and keep my home pretty much in order. That 5% always catches up with me - I'm not always good at putting things away.

I learned a ton from my mom who is "BO" (born organized) and from the flylady (I've mentioned her before - she helps people declutter 15 minutes at a time, and really helped me stop buying uneeded 'stuff'). Click here to check out the flylady's website.

This closet houses linens, gift wrapping (boxes, gift bags, tissue, and ribbon), candles and vases. I now have easy access to my cello bags, shred, and ribbon! The good news is I ended up with a nice pile for the Goodwill, and now my linen closet looks like this!

Now I've accomplished at least one thing over Spring Break!!!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake - Old School Style

Submitted by Linda
Believe it or not, in our fair town of Claremont we have a strawberry patch within my 2 mile radius (actually, it's only 1/2 mile from my home).These strawberries are not cheap, but each and every single one is a beauty. This is where I go for berries for special occasions or to dip into chocolate. On Saturday, Craig bought some "just because", so I decided they needed some old fashioned shortcake. I will never say no to strawberries on angel food cake, or pound cake, but I learned from my dad that strawberries were meant to be enjoyed over shortcake. Here are the shortcakes I made, using my old standby cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens. I'm learning to use Michelle's favorite chef's recipes (Mario Batali, Ina Garten, Susan Branch), but sometimes the 'old but good' recipes are exactly what I'm wishing for.
For those of you youngsters who possibly missed out on 'real shortcake', they are similar in texture to a biscuit or scone, but sweeter.
In my perfect Strawberry Shortcake world, they are served with half-n-half in a bowl, instead of whipped cream. However, on Saturday night I served it up with whipped cream for those who preferred it.

Here's the recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup butter
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450.
In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles course crumbs. In a small bowl combine egg and milk; add all at once to dry ingredients and stir just to moisten. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface about 12 strokes. Pat or roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 9 biscuits with a floured 2 1/1 inch biscuit cutter (I used an empty clean soup can). Bake on an ungreased baking sheet in a 450 degree oven about 10 minutes or till golden. Split, butter bottom layers (I didn't add the butter here). Fill and top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve warm. Makes 9 servings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Surprise Visitor!

Submitted by Linda
Since today was our last school day before Easter, we had a surprise visitor in our classroom. The kids were so excited to see the Easter bunny (in fact, I lost all semblance of control when she came in the classroom). After school, I heard one of my kindergarten friends telling his mom, "We saw the real Easter bunny today!" Each child was given a treat, and then had their photo taken with the bunny. These three friends pictured above were too frightened to stand by the bunny alone, so I persuaded them to be in a picture together with me and the bunny. My friend Gillian, in the red jacket, has said before, "I don't like characters", so I was proud of her and the others for being brave enough to stand by the bunny for a pic.

This is one more reason why kindergarten is the "happiest place on earth"!