Sunday, December 27, 2009

And The Award Goes To...

A few weeks ago I received some wonderful Blog awards from several of my Bento Blogging Buddies. I'm honored that they thought enough of my little blog to pass on these awards.

Thanks so much ladies - I really appreciate it.

I received this adorable award from Susan at Hawaii's Bento Box

And this little cutie from Arkonite at My Bento Box and Sheri at Happy Little Bento

As part of the award, I'm supposed to share 7 (random) things about myself - so here it goes:

1) I was born in Germany while my father was in the Air Force. I can still understand a fair amount of the language, and speak it a bit. I would love to go back to Germany with my family to visit some day.

2) I have an unhealthy attraction to Tote Bags and Note Books (preferably spiral bound). For some reason I keep purchasing more even when I don't need them. They are just so colorful and cute (and usually inexpensive) I can't resist, but I'm working hard to curb my addiction.

3) My favorite color is Green. I remember hating the color when I was younger, so I'm not sure when exactly my taste changed. I think I noticed it first when I went out to purchase a neutral Tan colored sofa, and came home with a big huge over stuffed Green one. In my mind - green is a neutral!

4) I think every woman should know how to use a sewing machine and basic power tools...and if you can change a flat tire as well - that's bonus points.

5) I believe in Karma, the power of positive thinking, and making the best out of a bad situation (after an appropriate amount of time spent wallowing in self pity). It's what allows me to sleep well at night.

6) I have been to the Dr. Phil Show - in the audience, not as a guest.

7) I still have my 8 year old daughters crib in the attic even though I know she will be an only child. My excuse is that some day I will make something really cool out of it - I will - I really will!

Be sure and check out Susan, Sheri and Arkonite's blogs - they do some amazing bento work that I am constantly inspired by.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pretty Little Bench

I've been wanting to update this bench since I first got it several years ago. I never liked the chenille seat cover (way too plain).

and the carving on the front was too dark of a a contrast compared to the rest of the bench.

I ordered it on-line, and even though when it arrived it was nothing like what I expected (or remembered) - that little voice inside me whispered "no problem, that's an easy fix - just keep it - you can always change what you don't like".

That was at least 5 years ago, and I'm only just now getting around to making any changes. You would think my now I would have learned not to listen that that little voice?

The good news is, that the bench is now in the kitchen, and it was originally purchased for our dining room. If I had re-covered it immediately, it would need changed now anyway, so it's a good thing I waited. See - I can even rationalize my procrastinating.

I wanted to change the color, but didn't want to completely strip the good. I got out my favorite palm sander and went to town. Mostly just to scratch up the surface so a new color could be absorbed.

Instead of stain, I used a colored wax furniture polish. This stuff is great. I use it to distress and antique all kinds of new things (when I want them to look old). And I use it to add some color and life to all kinds of old things (when they need to be freshened up).

You just apply with a clean towel or rag, and then wipe it off. You can buff it for a shine, or just rub off the excess for a matte finish. Any bits left in the nooks and crannies will simply harden over time.

However, it's not the best thing if you just had a manicure. Luckily that was not the case for me. I suppose you could wear gloves, but getting dirty if half the fun.

By sanding down some of the dark stain around the front carving, and then adding the Briwax in a darker color all over, they blend together much better. I'm happy now.

Time to start on recovering the bench seat. This one was held to the frame with just a few wood screws. Once the seat was off - I had to remove the chenille fabric. That wasn't the hard part, I just pulled and it ripped right off.

The hard part was pulling out the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of staples left behind.

My parents owned an Upholstery Shop when I was younger - I was sure wishing I had one of their handy dandy staple remover tools right about now. I managed to get them all out with a butter knife and a pair of pliers.

The existing foam was in good shape, so I re-used that.

I layed the seat on the fabric to figure out how I wanted the pattern repeated and rough cut the fabric to size.

I added some cotton batting on top of the foam to ensure the edges would be soft and rounded (another Upholstery trick from my parents).

This fabric was a bit tricky to get it positioned just right. A solid or a smaller all over pattern would have been easier. Don't try a plaid on your first attempt - it will be very difficult to get perfectly straight.

There are lots of options on how to finish the corners. This is the method I prefer. It creates a soft little pleat on the underside, with a rounded top corner.

1) Pull the fabric across the corner and staple in place.

2) Fold over one edge and staple.

3) Fold over the opposite edge and staple. Voila! That's it.

All I had to do now was screw the seat cushion back onto the bench (hubby actually did that for me - smile).

The finished product. The wood color differences are subtle, but I like it much better. It's a warmer tone in a bit darker color, and I'm so happy the fabric now has some personality.

Here it is in the alcove of our Kitchen. That's "Little K" testing it out.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Party Invitations - (365 Cards Day 275)

I'm running a little late this year, but I did manage to get the invitations to my hubby's Staff Holiday Party completed and in the mail this week.

I think I might have spent as much time waiting in line at the post office, as I did making these invites. Note to Self: procrastinating is not a good idea!

Supplies: Solid & Swiss Dot Cardstock (Bazzill), Patterned Papers (Bo Bunny, Websters Pages & & Gypsies), Red Grossgrain Ribbon, Green Tulle, 2" Scallop Punch (EK Success). border Punch (Martha Stewart)

I broke out the sewing matching and added a little stitching. It was a bit tricky switching from straight stitch, to zig zag mid sew...but by the end of 12 cards, they were looking pretty good.

So sorry to the folks that will be receiving the first few that are not quite so pretty.

I printed up the "Party" sentiment on the computer, adding a polka dot circle border and punched them out with a 2" scallop punch. I used foam pop dots for some height. Added a ribbon (stapled to the edge for a little more detail) as well as some tulle for a little softness.

Inside the card reads: The cookies are all baked, the decorating is all done. Now it's time to sit, relax, and have a little Fun!

Right now my house is a complete disaster as I am in the middle of putting up the decorations. When my daughter read the inside of the invitation - she totally called me on it. "Mom, that's not true, you're not done decorating and we haven't baked even one cookie yet". My rational to her was that they would be done by the time the guest arrive - at least I hope so!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Much To Be Grateful For

I have so many things to be Grateful for this Thanksgiving. These are just a few that I have been reminded of this month.

Happy Thoughts, 2. Just the Girls, 3. Tchotchkes, 4. Time and Tolerance, 5. Wisdom, 6. Intervention, 7. The Beauty of Dance, 8. Reading, 9. Time Together, 10. A Helping Hand, 11. Sweet Girl of Mine, 12. Family History, 13. Going Green, 14. Slow Cooker, 15. It's Time to Decorate, 16. Glitter, 17. A Taste of the World, 18. A Table for Two, 19. Friends and their Babes, 20. Health and Well Being
(click on the links for more details)

Enjoy your day, however you choose to celebrate. We'll be letting someone else do the cooking this year and heading out to the Arizona Biltmore for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I guess that means I can get started decorating for Christmas NOW, since I won't be working in the kitchen.

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Little Bit of Bento

I had to laugh when Sheri at Happy Little Bento tagged me to post about what I do with the little bits and pieces leftover from making Bento.

Truth be told, I most often make lunch fairly late at night, when I'm tired. For some reason I think eating helps me stay awake, so the Bento Scraps usually end up in my tummy. That's not to say I don't have "plans" on what I think I should do with all the scraps, so I guess that's what I'll post about.

Depending on what I'm packing, and how decorative it is, the bits and pieces can vary a lot. This is a pictures I took of what my kitchen counter looked like one night after making Little K's Bento.

I called it "Bento Remains" - or as my Flickr friend gamene calls it "Bento Carnage".

But not all days are like that. When I'm packing leftovers, and whole pieces of fruit and vegetables, the leftovers are pretty minimal.

This is today's lunch. Leftover Potstickers with strawberries, blackberries, tangerine, tomatoes and cucumber flowers. The box I used is just a sandwich box found at the grocery store. I love the peek a boo heart.

And this is the only mess that remained.

So if you are thinking about getting started with a Bento Lunch (you know who you are) - give it a try. They don't always take a long time to assemble - my husband even said last night how fast this one came together. You don't have to have any special Bento boxes, and if you don't want to re-use or re-cycle your scraps - feel better knowing that mine often end up in the trash.

No pressure - go ahead - give it a whirl.

Since this all started with a tag - here are my thoughts on making use of Bento Leftovers:

1) Bread - I love feeding the birds outside my kitchen window, and it seems the bird feeders are always empty, so I break up the crusts into bits and toss them into a dish that gets put out for the birds in the morning. I don't throw it directly on the ground (gets too mushy and attracts ants).

2) Nori Seaweed - I keep 2 bags in the fridge. One for full sheets that I use for cut outs and punches, and the Other for smaller bits (or cutting mistakes). I love the peppery flavor of Nori and the little bits can be sprinkled on rice or veggies for a little contrast.

3) Cheese - This is one thing I don't usually eat up on the spot, probably because little K likes Swiss, which is not my favorite. I love the idea of keeping the bits in the fridge to use on eggs, or grilled sandwiches. We have a Hermit Crab that loves cheese, so he usually gets a treat from what's left.

4) Cold Cuts/Lunch Meat - Chop up into small pieces and keep in the freezer. Add to eggs, fried rice or Soup Stock.

5) Fruits - If I don't use the entire fruit (plum, apple etc), I usually make up a snack box (nothing fancy, just sliced or chunked). It either gets eaten after school, or in the car on the way to an activity. I'll add some cheese or crackers to the snack box just before we leave.

6) Vegetable or fruit peels - Veggie peels can also be kept in the freezer to be used in Soup Stock. I wish I had a compost pile, but it's still on the "to do" list, so these usually get tossed, or given to our pet crab or parrot.

I'm going to tag
MandLmom at Pigs do Fly next and ask her to share what she does with her bento leftovers!

Once you accept the tag, the rules are simple:

1) Please link back to the person who tagged you and add your name to the "tagged list" below.

2) When you have answered the question (which can be in any style/format you like), nominate another (one will do) fellow blogger (who is not already on the list) and pass the tag to your nominee.

If you (the selected nominee) has already answered this question in an earlier post (well done), then your job is very easy - just link the tag to your earlier post and pass the tag on as per item nos. 1 and 2 above. Alternatively you can update it (if you wish). Have fun :)



[Ps. No cute picture with this tag unless someone can generously suggest one which would be most appreciated! Hint, hint…anyone wanna sponsor or is just creative? All credits will be given.]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Butternut Curry Soup

I've really been missing my East Coast Roots this Fall. Wishing I could see the leaves change colors and waiting for the temperatures to cool down enough to be able to wear a scarf, or even long sleeves.

If it doesn't feel like fall outside, at least I can make it smell like fall inside - so I roasted up some veggies and made this delicious soup.

I was inspired by this recipe by Ina Garten, but I made a few changes. Not because I think I can improve in any way on what the Contessa has created, but mostly because I didn't have all the required ingredients on hand, plus I had a few more I wanted to include.

The vegetables were gathered up from the the fridge, peeled, cubed, tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then roasted in a 425 degree oven about 45 minutes or until tender.

After roasting, I pureed the vegetables with a stick blender (one of my favorite tools) along with some spices (curry powder, toasted onion powder, and garlic salt) adding chicken stock and a little heavy cream.

I get most of my spices from Penzeys. I used to order them on-line, or from their catalog, but now I live in a city where they actually have a retail store - I'm like a kid in a candy store. I never knew there were so many versions of even the basic spices, and they do a fantastic job navigating you through what could be an overwhelming spice journey. Not to mention they have wonderful recipes in their catalog.

When the soup was done, we added a few condiments - chopped peanuts, cilantro and toasted coconut.
I'm definitely feeling a bit more like Fall now.

Roasted Butternut Curry Soup

2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 head cauliflower, cut into cubes
2 apples (your choice) peeled, cored and cut into cubes
1 red onion, peeled and cut into cubes
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon toasted onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

Toss vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetable on a sheet pan and roast in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool slightly. Place roasted vegetables in a soup pot and add part of the chicken stock. Puree with a stick blender, adding the rest of the chicken stock until desired consistency. Add curry, onion and garlic powder/salt and continue to blend. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add heavy cream and stir until combined. Served with your choice of chopped condiments (coconut, green onions, cilantro, cashews, peanuts).
Disclaimer: I don't usually measure or keep track when I cook, so quantities are approximate to the best of my recollection. Go with your instincts and toss in what you like - including a little love!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Family Love

I'm so happy to have had my Mum come and stay with us for the past few weeks. We've had loads of fun together. Our closets are bulging, and so are our waistlines...and I can't wait to do it all again!


There is a cozy corner, in my heart,
All tucked away,
Warmed by the light of friendship's smile, and song
And laughter, gay.

A secret nook I keep, just for a favorite few,
And there is always Open House
Within that place for you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's almost Halloween....and believe it or not, I'm feeling somewhat prepared. I'm sure it's because my mother is here with me, and has been helping me bring to life all those crazy ideas that swim around in my head (what would I do without you Mum...Thanks!)

We've been busy:

Halloween Costume Made....CHECK
Boo Bags Delivered....CHECK
Fall Teachers Gift Created...CHECK
Class Treats Completed....CHECK
House Decorated Inside and Out...CHECK
Little K dressed in something Cute and Haloweeny for the week...CHECK
Creepy Bento Lunches Made...CHECK
Haunted Gingerbread House Baked....OOPS, didn't quite get to that one!

Here are Little K's lunches from the past few days to get you into the Halloween Spirit!

I've had so much fun not only making these...but being completely inspired by what other have done. Check out these cool Halloween Themed Bento Lunches. Now do you see why I just can't stop.

My Flickr Friend Texasmomof4 started the group on Flickr and I'm blown away with what everyone has come up with. I have a feeling there may be more Holiday Themed Bentos in the works.

Have a Fantastic Safe Weekend. Save a Peanut Butter Cup for Me!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Parent Teacher Conference - Survival Basket

It's Conference Week at Little K's Elementary School.

With budget cuts and staffing changes, many of the teachers have over 30 kids in their class (compared to under 20 just a few years ago). I've never been a teacher, but as a Retail Manager, I remember what it was like to give Employee Reviews to 30+ employees. It's draining, taxing and tiring - even when you're discussing positive topics. I can only imagine how it must be for the teachers who have to meet with 30+ families in just a few days.

With this in mind, we put together this little basket of goodies for Mrs. Simpson to get her through the week.

It's filled with Water to keep her hydrated - Tac Mints to keep her fresh - Fruits (apple, banana, asian pear) to keep her healthy - as well as some Raspberry Candies and Almond Poppy Muffins...because sometimes you just need something sweet.

Little K is just thriving in Mrs. Simpson's Class, and we can't thank her enough. Hats off to all the teachers out there who give of themselves selflessly to make our children the best little people they can be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over The Top Award

I recently received this Cool award from two friends. Susan at Hawaii's Bento Box Cookbook and MandLMom at Pigs Do Fly.

Whoo Hoo….my First Blog Award. Thanks so much Ladies!

The rules of this award are simple:

1) Answer the questions with only one worded answers (questions are below)
2) Thank the blogger who gave it to you over and over and over (that’s exaggerated a bit)
3) Pass it on to your favorite blogs

I hereby grant this award to:

Make Life Sweet

Magpie Ethel

Lucky Number 13

Our Crazy Fun Life

Now the questions:

1. Where is your cell phone? Kitchen
2. Your hair? Messy
3. Your mother? Here
4. Your father?
5. Your favorite food?
6. Your dream last night? Incomplete
7. Your favorite drink? Propel
8. Your dream/goal?
9. What room are you in? Office
10. Your hobby? Crafting
11. Your fear?
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something you aren’t? Minimal
15. Muffins?
16. Wish list item? Tripod
17. Where did you grow up?
18. Last thing you did?
19. What are you wearing?
20. Your TV?
21. Your pets?
22. Your friends?
23. Your life?
24. Your mood?
25. Missing someone?
26. Vehicle?
27. Something you’re not wearing?
28. Your favorite store?
29. Your favorite color?
30. When was the last time you laughed?
31. Last time you cried?
32. Your best friend? Gary
33. One place that I go over and over? Michaels
34. One person who emails me regularly?
35. Favorite place to eat? Cheesecake Factory (not my fault it’s more than one word)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fast Fix It

Before my Mum arrived, we did a little sprucing up around the house. Nothing like a visitor to get you to work on your household "To Do" list - right?
Nothing major, but lots of little things that no-one will ever notice like:
  • Scraping the old caulk from around the tub
  • Adding fresh white new caulk...ahhh it looks so clean
  • Cleaning off the mineral deposits from the faucets
  • Sealing the Granite counter tops so the water marks don't show
  • Repairing the silicone seal around the sinks

I feel better having done them - because I get to cross something off my list. Even if I'm the only one who knows.

One thing hubby and I did do - that is a little More noticeable (or actually, to make them Less noticeable) - was to paint the recessed lighting in our kitchen.

Our house is over 20 years old and has these lovely recessed fluorescent panels in the ceiling.

The lighting is the least of our worries when it comes to updating the kitchen, so having an electrician come in and replace them with pot lights is not going to happen any time soon.

Our solution?

Paint them white to blend in with the ceiling so they (hopefully) fade away, instead of drawing your attention to them with the dark oak frame.

I know - my father is probably rolling over in his grave at the thought of me painting over real Oak! In this case - I think it was necessary.

We also replaced the plastic diffuser panels. I didn't realize how yellow they had gotten over the years - and of course, they were a lovely bubble rain texture (Sorry, I hated them so much I forgot to take the picture before we smashed them into itty bitty pieces).

The hardest thing about this project was cutting the plastic panels down to size..apparently standard fluorescent lighting has changed over time and we had a bear of a time cutting them.

Did you like how I said "we". That implied that I actually did something on this project. Dear Hubby was the one standing on the stool on the kitchen counter painting the wood. I tried to cut the panels, but just didn't have the oomph (and I consider myself pretty strong), so he had to do that too. Does it count that it was my idea?

The kitchen is so much brighter now and I'm happy with the temporary fix results.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blame it on the Book Fair

I'm so sorry - I have been derelict in my blogging duties. I have lots of excuses why I've been absent lately, but today I'll choose just one to take the blame (because taking responsibility myself would be just too grown up of a thing to do, and it's always easier to blame it on something else).

I've been volunteering at Little K's school helping to decorate and set up for our Bi-annual Book Fair with my friend Marni. We were just talking the other day about how we got roped into this...errr I mean how we ended up volunteering for this job? The truth is, it's fun to do, we love working with the Media Staff (Hi Stacey) and it's a creative outlet. But it is a lot of work, and I'm happy to say, we are on track for a fantastic Grand Opening on Friday.

This years theme is "Destination: Book Fair. Read Around the World".

This is a close up of the main bulletin board inside the Media Center where the Book Fair is set up. Those red balls are Giant Push Pins marking the cities on our World Tour.

We can't take credit for all the clever decorations. Scholastic puts out a fantastic "How To" kit and even includes on-line templates and patterns for many of the ideas. Although, I have to admit, we often don't use them...because being the perfectionists that Marni and I both are...we think we can do better on our own, and so we sometimes try.

We made invitations for the Staff that looked like Passports. We try to keep the materials as low cost as possible, so the invites were made simply from construction paper and a few scrapbooking tools (punches and corner rounder). The "visa" stamps were created using MS Word.

The main entrance was decorated with images of children from various nations, with their countries flag and native greeting.

The Teachers Wish board is for families to purchase books to donate to the classroom libraries. Teachers fill out "request" of books they would like at the Staff Preview, so for the Book Fair opening, the suitcase pockets will be filled with wish list cards.

Scholastic provided a template for the suitcase pockets, but we chose to use a similar die cut from the scrapbook store. Much faster than cutting them all out by hand.

The tables are decorated with globes already owned by the school.

For several weeks the students have been coming in during free time and coloring Flags from all Nations. They were strung in banners above the book display tables.

Our attempt at a Hot Air Balloon behind the cashier table. Take another look - can you see it now?

Bulletin board borders were added to the cases and embellished with flags (found on a free clip art site and printed on cardstock).

Kids activities include Guessing Jars filled with Italian Pasta, Chinese Fortune Cookies and Mexican Tortilla Chips.

Hopefully you'll understand what I've been keeping busy with lately. My mom has also recently arrived for a visit, and we'll soon be off on a little road trip. But I have lots of projects lined up for Mum and I to do while she's here, so we'll be back to posting with a vengeance soon.