Monday, July 16, 2012

Pasta Primavera -- Quick and Easy

I'm trying to add a bit of healthy eating where I can these days.  I mean, let's face it, I love pasta, meat, and I have a insatiable sweet tooth!  Normally, when we would have pasta and shrimp for dinner, we would also add a fattening Alfredo sauce and buttered garlic bread to the menu.

Ooooooh, let's count the calories!  

Lately, we've been leaving off the bread, but I wanted to take it a step further last night.  My husband boiled some fettucini, sauteed some shrimp, and warmed up some Alfredo sauce.  I reached into the freezer and amazingly pulled out a store-brand bag of frozen Italian vegetable mix of squash, zucchini, butter beans, red bell peppers, etc., and made them according to the package directions for using a stovetop.  I seasoned them with an Italian blend from my spice cabinet afterward.  So . . . when it came time to eat, I scooped very little (probably 3/4 of a cup) of the fettucini on my salad-sized plate, about 1/2 dozen shrimp, and a hearty helping of the Italian vegetable blend, totally ignoring the Alfredo sauce.

Quick and Easy Pasta Primavera!
It was sooooo goooood, and sooooo easy, and best of all, it took little effort on my part to make a healthier dinner choice for myself.  I realize Food Network chefs may frown on my little bag of frozen veggies, but it's at least a start.  LOL Small steps, small steps, small steps toward a healthier body.  Go, me!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Concrete Patio Floor Facelift How to Project -- from Drab to Dramatic!

Drab. Drab. Drab.  That's the only word I used to use when I thought about the concrete patio flooring on our front and back porches.

Before picture -- as if you couldn't tell.

However, we were finishing up our goal of becoming debt free and didn't have excess money to spend on expensive improvements.  So . . . I had to be very creative, something I wasn't sure I could be when it came to eradicating the drabness of these floors on a budget by myself.

After "googling" (I just love how that name has become a verb) how to paint/stain a concrete floor, I ventured out to Home Depot for cleaning supplies, concrete stain, brushes, painter's tape, etc.  I ended up skipping the etching process as part of the prep work because I felt our concrete was "rough" enough to take the stain.

Here's a video I posted about it on YouTube:

I'm so pleased with the results even two years later.  We use this space constantly in the spring, summer (well, in the mornings and evenings when it's not too hot), and fall.

After picture -- dramatic indeed!  :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Piano Player

So . . . my daughter started playing hand bells in the junior choir at All Saints' Episcopal Church last year and wanted to branch out to the piano this year for Christmas.  I suspect it may have had something to do with her best friend Kayla playing the piano, but I didn't mind.  I grew up with a piano in my home but never learned how to play it.  I'm glad Katie was motivated, and at age eleven, I felt she was ready.

We went to a Raleigh Ringers concert in Atlanta earlier this year.
Katie is trying to lift one of the aluminum bells after the concert -- it's heavier than we thought at 18 pounds!

Here's a quick video of three songs and her recital piece -- it's under two minutes.  She positively LOVED The Lion King when she was younger and didn't hesitate to pick "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" as her first recital piece.  :)  Notice during this last piece that she isn't reading the music at all -- pretty cool!!

So, Katie's learning how to play the piano, and I'm learning how to make iMovies now.  We're taking small steps together!  LOL

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Odds and Ends Pictures: What to Do with Them

Pictures.   Pictures.   Pictures.

We all have them -- too many of them, in fact, especially in today's world of digital photography and the convenience of cameras in our cell phones.  Anyway, if you're like me, you have some pictures that might not make the cut into a photo album or scrapbook.  You still like them but have no idea where to put them or what to do with them.  

Take me, for instance.  A friend of mine, Worth (cool name, eh?), posted on Facebook that he was enjoying going through tons of old pictures recently while organizing them, so I decided to take my own trip down memory lane.  I happened to notice while browsing among my bazillion pics in iPhoto that I had three separate pictures where the person in the photo was looking downward when the camera snapped.  I really like all three and came up with an idea to group them together.

All three pictures (see below) are of different events/vacations.  The first one is of my daughter trying on a hand-me-down sweater from an older cousin and is truly one of my current favorite pictures of her, the second one is of me at a beach in northern Oregon, and the third one is of my son in the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island, Georgia.  What ties them all together is how we're all looking down in our respective poses.  

I came across a unique photo frame my brother had given me one year for Christmas that has a 3D effect and allows the pictures to slide around.  It had been hiding out in my junk room for years.  I printed out all three pictures and cut them to size for the frame.

I now have a cool way to showcase these commonly themed pictures that I like 
but didn't quite make it into any photo albums.  :)

Other Items:
  • Table from IKEA (Lack table for $9.99)
  • Pot and plant from IKEA (probably $10.00 total)
  • Amber-colored dish is really an ashtray from like 30 years ago that I think I won at Six Flags???
  • Candle is from Bed, Bath, and Beyond from years ago
  • Table runner is actually a gorgeous placemat from Pier 1 Import (sort of recent purchase)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries

I admit it.  I didn't like Brussels sprouts since early childhood based on the fact that most of my friends didn't like them.  This deep dislike of Brussels sprouts lasted for about 39 years until I finally decided to try one at lunch one day when a coworker brought steamed Brussels sprouts to work one day.

I.    Liked.    Them.

So . . . enter Rachael Ray and her book Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats .

I happened across this recipe for Brussels sprouts with bacon and dried cranberries.  I tried it and fell in love with it!  I mean, bacon makes ANYthing taste great, right?  

The recipe link above has all the ingredients listed for the entire 30-minute meal, so I've sifted through all of that for you so that you can enjoy this scrumptious side dish.  


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (twice around the pan), plus some for shallow frying
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 10-ounce boxes frozen Brussels sprouts, defrosted
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a few handfuls), chopped
  • Directions:

  • Start the bacon–cranberry Brussels sprouts by preheating a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes.

  • Add the defrosted Brussels sprouts to the bacon and onions, toss, and stir to combine. Add the dried cranberries and the chicken stock to the pan and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are heated through and the cranberries have plumped. Finish the sprouts with the chopped parsley.
I'll be honest, I don't always use the thyme or parsley leaves if I don't have them on hand, and this dish still ROCKS!  
Enjoy!  :)

Necklace Holder -- too cute!

I was browsing around Target yesterday looking for something to hold all of my makeup now that I'm rediscovering it -- you know with my Makeup Renaissance and all.  :)  Anyway, I happened up on the most adorable necklace holders.  I wouldn't pay the price for them (I want to say they were $20.00 -- I can't tell exactly from the picture), but they were too cute not to take a picture of them.

I'll have to keep checking back every couple of weeks to see if they go on sale!  :D

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Running to Stand Still

Responsibilities.  We all have them, some more than others.  

In the past sixteen months, I have experienced helping my stepmother with her massive stroke to which she has never fully recovered and still can’t use her right arm, starting a graduate program, worrying about my chemical/environmental engineer, Georgia Tech-educated brother who was out of a job for almost two years (the company he worked for folded in the economic downturn) and moving him out to Dallas, Texas when he did get a job with the EPA, taking care of my father through aortic valve replacement redo and gall stone surgeries, having my own biopsy of a lump, and working with my doctor to solve the mystery of why I am suffering from amenorrhea for the past nine months. 

Talk about the phrase "when it rains, it pours!"

As a side note, my doctor says I'm quite the enigma!  LOL  Seriously, though, we're trying to find out if it's stress-related, menopause, or something else entirely.  Believe me, I don't want Door #3 in my life.

In addition to all of these experiences, I continued in my roles as wife, parent of two active, honor roll children who are involved in soccer, choir, and music lessons, and educator of high school alternative students.  Indeed, spare time was quite the luxury.  Forget the metaphorical plate holding all of my responsibilities, I had to upgrade to an industrial-sized platter!  However, I still felt the need to challenge myself by enrolling in the specialist graduate program through Piedmont College.  One thing is for certain, the support I've been given by my husband and my developing spirituality have been nothing short of AmAzInG in helping me survive during these stressful months.

My makeshift "study nook" in our bonus room was my home base
for getting my grad work done these past 16 months.
See my blog post on Stash to Study for more on decorating this space.
Well, as we know, time stops for no one, and I have just three more classes remaining of  my last course to attend of my graduate program and will finish on April 24 and graduate on May 5.  I'm so excited!!  Hopefully, things will start to calm down after that!  It's totally been about taking small steps daily these last sixteen months!