Friday, April 29, 2011

Week One

Week one of the new monthly meal plan has been modestly successful. It's definitely helped me to stay on track with our budget and I think my hubby has enjoyed the meals we've been having. On this week's menu was:

Monday: Baked Tilapia with rice and steamed veggies.

Tuesday: Kung Pao Chicken. My hubby would eat this every week... So would I!

Wednesday: Leftover ham and another potato strudel.

Thursday: Was going to be a baked pasta dish, but we were out shopping and decided to get fast food.

Friday: Taco Hotdish (that's Minnesotan for casserole, don'tcha know).

Weekend: Pizza, finish leftovers, and possibly a roast for Sunday.

Happy Eats!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

For the New Baby

My brother and his wife are expecting their first child soon. This new little one will be the first grandchild for my side of the family. I can't wait!

And I can't sit still, so I made the little one a blanket.

It took a few trips to Michael's before I found a pattern I liked. Here was what finally inspired me.

I used Lion Brand Cotton Ease in colors similar to the pattern's colors. My brother and sis-in-law are keeping the baby's sex a secret, so my color choices had to fit for a boy or girl. What I loved about working with this cotton and acrylic blend was how soft and plush the finished blanket felt when it was finished.  Plus, it's totally machine washable and dryable to make momma's life easier. I even crocheted a test swatch to check out how it held up to being washed. It did great.

This was my first time crocheting a granny square. I couldn't quite "get" the stitch at first, but after a few rounds it was super easy.

And it was fun to see the effect of the color changes as the blanket grew.  After figuring out how the granny square worked, I'll admit that I didn't continue following the pattern.  I have such a hard time sticking to directions- I prefer to just get started and see where I end up.

Here's where I ended up.  A soft blanket for the new baby. Sadly, I don't have a great full shot of the finished blanket, but here's most of it.

What things do you do to welcome a new baby?  Any family traditions that you follow?


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Easter is definitely one of my favorite days of the year. I love the music, the weather, and the joy that permeates the holiday. The old has become new! And the darkness of Good Friday has been replaced with irrepressible joy. Jesus has conquered death. Can you imagine the disciples seeing the unbelievable? Jesus resurrected as He promised. He has conquered death and my heart. He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Up from the Grave He Arose

1. Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!


2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!


3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!


Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Dinner

In the past couple years, one of the ways my cooking has been expanded is through my marriage. Specifically, I've gone from a surviving-on-sandwiches single woman to a what-can-I-create-tonight wife. I never thought I could do it. My cooking pre-hubby was focused on survival. Now, though, it's motivated by the challenge of finding delicious recipes that will satisfy the hubby and save us money, too.

With this in mind, here's a preview of some of what we'll be having on Easter: ham and potato strudel. Yum, I can't wait to start cooking. The potato strudel sounds especially appetizing and I'm excited to work with puff pastry as an ingredient (link here for the recipe). And to save us some money, I bought an extra large ham now while they are discounted, and I plan to use the leftovers in the months ahead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just Out

At our local bookstore today, I got a flyer on new books coming out. Two that looked interesting were:

Lost in Shangri La
A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
By Mitchell Zuckoff

From the flyer: "May 13, 1945. Twenty-four U.S. soldiers stationed in Dutch New Guinea pack into a C-47 for a sightseeing trip over a lush, mysterious, newly discovered valley. Unable to navigate the dense tropical clouds and steep mountain faces, the pilot crashes the plane deep in uncharted jungle. Only three injured passengers, including a WAC, survive. How they attempt to save themselves while caught between Japanese troops and hostile headhunters, what happens when they encounter a Stone Age tribe that had never seen white men or women, and how they are finally rescued is at the heart of this amazing true story." -- Lisa Howorth, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Reviews can be found here.

The Story of Beautiful Girl
By Rachel Simon
From the flyer: "One stormy evening in the late 1960s, Martha, a retired school teacher living alone in her farmhouse, opens her door to find a young couple from the nearby State School for the Incurable and Feeble Minded on her doorstep carrying a very new baby. Martha has time to feed and clothe them, and they have time to locate a hidden space in the attic in which to hide the baby before the authorities appear. The man escapes, and as the young woman is led away, she leans into Martha and says, 'Hide her.' To her own astonishment, Martha agrees to keep the baby and in that moment readers give up their hearts to these four remarkable characters and the story of the next 40 years of their lives." -- Jeanne Regentin, Between the Covers, Harbor Springs, MI

Other reviews can be found here.

Here's to many hours of happy reading!

P.S. Curious about our local bookshop? You can find it here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Stew

I made this for dinner tonight. It's my first meal from the new monthly meal plan. Speaking of that, here are before and after pics of that process. I added ingredient lists to help me shop with less hassle, too.


The recipe is from an in-flight magazine, but it can be found here, too. I modified the original based on my larger meal plan and our tastes. Here's how I made it.

Moroccan Chicken Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed Tomato Soup
1/3 cup raisins
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1. Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pot.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until they're tender-crisp. Add the cinnamon and curry and cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the soup and half can of water and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the pot. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Stir the raisins and chickpeas in the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the almonds.
4. Serve over rice or couscous.

The verdict? Yummy!

Happy Tastings!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Something New

This afternoon I'm working on something new: a monthly meal plan. Since the start of the year, we've been working to whittle down our monthly food costs. The process began with a budget which led to couponing (thanks Coupon Mom and Money Saving Mom) which led to building up a pantry. Next, with my hubby's encouragement, we've begun trying to replace buying processed foods with our own from scratch items when possible. For example, he makes pasta and bread for us. I make broth. I know, not nearly as exciting... But it's good broth! Next up on our list of things to try: monthly meal planning. I have been wanting to get started on this since the beginning, but it's seemed like an overwhelming task. Well, not any more. I've got the house to myself, my recipe binder beside me, some online inspiration, a stack of coupons and I'm ready to start planning!
Wish me luck!

I want to make this!

I was cruising the web this afternoon and saw this super cute take on the granny square. I really want to make this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Latest Creatures.. err, Creations

I've spent the last couple nights finishing some Easter gifts for my nephews. I tried to think of animals they love or that we talk about a lot with them. One is a huge shark fan, so I made him a... shark. I found a photo of a knit shark and used it as my inspiration. One really fun thing about this project was getting to try new crocheting techniques. For my second nephew I crocheted a frog. I never could find a pattern or example I loved, so I just made my own comical one.

This is it.

So after many months of hemming and hawing about whether to try starting my own blog, my hubby took the first step for me this morning and set up this blog. He knows I love reading blogs- especially The Pioneer Woman and Young House Love, but the thought of keeping up with regular posting is daunting. Yikes! But, as with other things in life, the only thing I can do is take it one day at a time. I hope you will enjoy reading my reflections on being creative and trying new things. And if I can possibly live up to my dreams- I hope you'll leave inspired to do something creative today, too.