Monday, December 19, 2011


Minnesota girls looove hotdish.  When I was little My favorite was "Katie's Hotdish".  A hotdish, named in honor of my strong affinity... A concoction of elbow mac, cream of mushroom soup, hamburger, and canned corn.  Yum.  I have not had it in years.  I had dissimilar feelings towards "Red Hotdish"- elbow mac, condenced tomatoe soup and hambuger.  I would cry when my parents started making this entree. 

Nowadays, my husband is not open to the idea of hotdish.  I guess I can't blame the guy, I can certainly attest to the love-hate nature of hotdish.  Despite my husband's disinterest, I loooove to make the following hotdish- a modification of the recipe found on the back of the Stove Top stuffing box.
1 cup chopped chicken (I use the froze chicken breast pieces from Schwann's)
1 cups frozen vegetables (I use brocolii)
1/2 a can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 box Stove Top stuffing mix
1/2  cup mild shredded chedder cheese

1.Make stuffing according to the instructions on the box.
2.Combine remaining ingredients and place in an 8X8 baking dish.
3. Top with prepared stuffing
4. Sprinkle with Cheese
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Clicks

In college, I kept my baby Christmas tree up year round.  I had two sets of ornaments- Christmas and Easter.  The rest of the year, I celebrated the North woods (like many Minnesotans do)... FYI-if you're from MN, it's okay to have a fake pine tree adorning your home 12 months a year.  It's a lodge theme, I guess.  Anyway, nowadays, I live in MO, so I get to saver  my lovely tree for about a month, but after that it gets tucked under the stairs for the majority of the year.  For this reason, I feel compelled to document the beauty of my tree here, on the blog.  I also want to share some fun tips for making your tree look awesome in pictures!  If you have a DSLR camera, bust out your tri-pod and put that puppy on manual setting.  Make sure it's plenty dark outside and turn out all the lights in your home.  Crank up the camera's ISO AS FAR as it will go, set your aperture at 1.8, and select a shutter speed between 1/30 and 6 seconds (this is a broad range, but it will depend on how much ISO your camera has ).  Tah-dah:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DIY Christmas Gift: Vanilla Extract

Like most of you, every Christmas I'm on the hunt for a fun handmade gift to make. I scour the Internet (and my memory) for any ideas that are unique, easy, cute and fairly inexpensive.  This year, I came to the conclusion that I would be making vanilla extract.

First I bought 20 4-oz Clear Boston Round Bottles from Specialty Bottles and a 1/2 lb pack of Vanilla Beans from  1/2 lb is roughly 45 beans. I also got a handle of vodka. 

First you'll need to cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and then crosswise and divide them among the bottles. I used 3 beans for each bottle.

Then pull out your funnel and pour roughly 1/2 cup of vodka into each container.

Next - put on the cap and wait!!! Easy-peasy, right?

The steeping effect sets in quickly. The vodka goes from clear to a pretty amber color. Ideally the vanilla should steep for at least a month, till the vanilla is a dark brown. The longer it steeps the stronger the vanilla flavor.

For labels,  I did a google image search for vintage vanilla lables.  I found one right away that I liked and photoshopped a  list of ingredients along with a Christmas note from Joe and I over the physician's information (apperently doctor's distributed vanilla back in the day?)  Regarding word choice, I was utilizing these gifts for business collegues and older family folk, so I listed the ingredients as "Good Tidings, Ethyl Alcohol, and Vanillas Beans".  I also added a few bows with ribbon and raffia.    
  That's it!!! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Any Given Sunday

Happy Sunday!  The following pictures are for my sister!  We have been living in our house for about 9 months and she has not been able to come and see it yet (understandably- she has had few other things going on, like giving birth).  Anyway- here is the "before & after" of our living roomm and the guest bedroom.  Just like this post, there is a kitty hiding in one of these pictures, look closely, & you'll find Stella!

Living Room Before:
Living Room After:

Living Room Before:
Living Room After:
Guest Bedroom Before:

Guest Bedroom After:
That white couch is a hide-a-bed.  We thought about putting a full bed in there, but we figured a crib might go in that same room as some point, ergo we needed something that would allow for crib space.  PS- I'm not pregnant. 

I baked some of these this afternoon: 
These are Joe's Grandma's recipe, passed onto me by Joe's Mom- thanks Judy!
Zucchini Muffins
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp vanilla
1. Grease and flour bread pan or muffin pan
2. Mix all ingredients
3. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 60 minutes (muffins bake for 30 minutes)

I started school again this week.  I've finished one semester and I have 5 to go- woot.  I have class on Wednesdays which means I work from 8:30AM-3:00 PM and then I spend the next seven hours traveling to Columbia, sitting in class, and then traveling back home.  It makes for a bit of a long day, but I know people have done much more difficult things in the interest of furthering their educations.  I'm lucky to be doing this.
 I was talking to an old friend/higher-ed colleague on the phone  last weekend.  Her husband started working at a church this past year and she shared that she had observed how similar their jobs were.  She works at the University of Minnesota, which obviously doesn't have any religious affiliation.  I can't say I was too surprised by this, education and ministry have a history of being intertwined.  As a result, similarities are intuitive.  People that know better, do better.  Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had followed my original plan of working in ministry.  I guess I'll never really know.  But, I'd like to think that if you're in the business of challenging people to expand their knowledge, you're probably making the world an exponentially better place.  Knowledge will always be greater than ignorance. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Karma's Telling Me to Quit Watching Bacholor Pad

This is my first post from my new laptop!  I was watching a tv show on-line  in bed last weekend and I dumped half a nalgene bottle of water on my old one-opps!  I can't say anything bad about that old thing- it got me through my master's degree, my first job, my second job, the start of my third job, and my first semester of doctoral work- whew.  Rest in peace old lap top.  My cute husband bought some kind of cord on-line to get all my old files off the hard drive- what a guy- he is always quick to resolve my stupid problems! 

Alrighty- time for a recipe!  This is one I made up on my own for the most part.  I did consult for some guidance on the pesto sauce.

Pesto Pizza
1 roll of refrigerated pizza dough
Goat Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Veggies (Peppers, tomatoes, onion)
Kalameta Olives
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs pine nuts or almonds
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Special equipment needed: A food processor

1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor- I use the Magic Bullet. (If you are using almonds instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3 Unroll pizza crust onto a cookie sheet.
4 Spread sauce over the dough using a rubber spatula
5 Top with veggies, goat cheese crumbles (careful, this stuff is potent), and mozzarella cheese.

6 Cook in oven according to the pizza dough directions.

Is your husband isn't crazy about pesto and goat cheese, you might consider making a more traditional side for him... with regular pizza sauce, peperoni, and mozzarella cheese;) 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Librarian's Worst Nightmare: A Book Wreath Tutorial

It's been a while since I posted a tutorial!  Today, I'm going to share the process for creating a book wreath.  Warning- no decent books were harmed in the making of this blog post. Nor were any library books destroyed.  "Summer People" was a Target purchase a few years back.  I can't imagine re-reading this book or bestowing such a dragging story on any friends or family.  I always liked the cover though- this book finds redemption in it's physical appearance, ergo, it's perfect for the following endeavor. 

Here's what you'll need:
1 Styrofoam wreath (mine is 10 in)
1 book you're willing to destroy
1 package of stick pins
1 hot glue gun and hot glue
Paint (gray, brown, or silver)
1 Paintbrush
Now, for the process:
1. Paint the edges of the book using gray, brown or silver paint.  This will help the pages to look aged.

2. Carefully rip all the pages out of the book. 
3.  Fold each page accordion, fan style.  I made 5 creases in each page, folding the short way.

Here's my little helper, making a little weasel bed in a pile of  the finished pages.
4. Glue and pin one layer of fanned pages onto the back of the wreath like this:
5. Turn the wreath over.  Glue and pin the next layer around the outer side of the wreath.  Apply the glue on a small tab like this:

6. Attach the pages to the wreath using glue and pins with the tabs pointing up  towards the ceiling.  After this layer is complete, the wreath should look like this:
7.  On the next layer, continue applying glue on the tabs, however, this time attach the pages with the tabs pointing down. 
8.  Continue making layers with the tabs pointing up.  The final layer should be attached to the inside of the inner ring. 
You're done! Great decor for any literary enthusiast!

While I fanned the pages for my wreath, here a a few other options:

Making strips and ringlets:

Or a combination of rolling and fanning:
This book wreath will be hung up in our guest room on an antique window that we found under our basement stairs.  I'm really in love with antiques lately!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Corn is Knee High by the Fourth of July

Happy July everyone!  I haven't posted for a while so let's back up a bit... Missouri has had some crazy weather this Spring/Summer.  Thanks to everyone who sent text messages and called with concerns- luckily we are over 3 hours from Joplin.  My thoughts and prayers definitely go out to all those affected.  Rolla had some crazy skies the night of the storm:

My work with the Doctoral program started just as school ended so I'm getting used to life as a student again.  While classes didn't start until July- homework started May 10th.  The program is structured so that most of the reading is done before classes started- and read we did- over 800 pages in a month and a half.  Lucky for me- I read non-fiction most of the time anyway- so it was more an adjustment of scope rather than content.  Classes started last Tuesday and as soon as I finish this post, I'll be hitting the road for week two.  It is great to be back in the classroom, but it also feels like things have come full circle after putting so much energy into supporting college students in my job.  I am hoping to continue working on Friday's for the rest of the month.  This will help me keep up with projects and conserve some vacation time.

I refinished a dresser for Joe recently. We both kind of liked this piece "before", but we're certainly pleased with how it turned out "after":

The color is Better Homes and Garden "Seafoam" and I just rolled it on with a foam roller.  We also switched out the hardware and ta-dah-  Joe finally has a place for his socks!

Speaking of Joe- he has been worked pretty hard on the lawn this Spring. He actually did the majority of our landscaping in one day.  I was shocked to say the least when I came home to find all or our flower beds lined with boulders and some new mulched beds put in to cover up the old carport foundation.  We also planted some vegetables which haven't fared so well in the ground... my late Grandpa Julias would be sad to see our corn was NOT knee high by the fourth of July- too much shade!  However, our topsy turvy planters have proved to be more fruitful!  Here are some of the goods I'll be eating this week in class:

My parents made a trip down to visit last weekend.  We shot off fireworks and went on a float trip down the Huzzah River.  Here we are- having a good time!

Last, but not least- it's my baby girl's birthday today- she's 1!  To celebrate, Stella played outside in the backyard, ate a can of catfood, AND got to eat a little bit of birthday Twinkie!  Here she is- having a great day:

Carl was happy to help out with the Twinkie!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Katie's Pick: American Beauty Quick Cook Pasta

Holy Moly- it's May!  And I need to update this blog!  Well friends and family- today I come to you with a new series- Katie's Pick!  I plan to use this series to share a few of my favorite things!  If Oprah does it, why can't I?  Let's be clear though- you will not be winning anything.  Sorry.  I'm bad at mailing things in a timely fashion.  Bills and birthday cards taunt me for at least a week before they find their way to mailbox.  Anyway- I digress.  Here is my first favorite thing!

American Beauty's Quick Cook Pasta!
I'm a girl that loves having dinner parties!  At these parties two things normally happen:
1. I make something I had never tried to make before.
2. Our hyperactive smoke alarm goes off, albeit smoke.  It once went off when I was just boiling water.

Between the stress of not screwing up my  new recipes and our bleeping smoke alarm, a girl can only manage so much.  For this reason, I really and truly love American Beauty Quick Cook Pasta.  Why?  Because it cooks in 3 minutes.  Not 7.  Isn't that amazing?  Add some pesto or sundried tomato sauce and wow- what a fabulous side dish.

If you want to try it- here is a link to a coupon: 
Random sidenote- have you seen Extreme Couponing on TLC?  If I had a coupon stockpile, it would totally include the quick cook pasta.  And cat treats.  And razors.  And Powerade Zero.  I am not sure I can commit to stockpiling anything else at this time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Cheap Tricks: Homemaker's Edition

We bought a house a few months ago and it has been SO much fun doing projects and making it our own!  One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was install a tin ceiling in the guest bedroom.  My favorite coffee shop back home in Minnesota had a purple tin ceiling that really made the joint.  Our house kind of reminds me of that place- antique/ artsy/ shabby chic.    So a tin ceiling was a must.  They are so pricey though... who can spend over a grand on a ceiling when there are cats to feed.  I decided on a faux technique I found on the internet.  Initially, when I ran this by Joe, he looked at me like this...
and said- that's a project.  You have fun with that.  Lucky for me, I've been known to seize fabulous opportunities when they slap me in the face. Early in the ayem one fine snow day- the fine fella got on board with my plan:)  Never underestimate the power of a captive audience- emphasis on captive- hehe:)  Here's what we did:

1. Selected a ceiling to tin.  Removed light fixture:

2..Purchased Allen and Roth Paintable Wallpaper, Pattern:  Ceiling Tile
3. Covered the floor in with plastic drop cloths and soaked the prepasted wallpaper using this thingy:

3.For the next four or so hours we stood on these contraptions with our arms above our heads sticking and smoothing the wallpaper sheets:

We started out using really big sheets.  But- these proved to be more trouble than they were worth.  We begin cutting smaller squares and putting them up faster.  Here we are in progress:

5.  Finally- we finished! 

6. Over the next few days- half of the paper fell down- oh dear! We bought a bottle of boarder paste, which is technically used for hanging wallpaper boarders as well as a few tubes of seam repair.  This stuff did the trick.  Nobody ever said wallpapering a ceiling would be easy- not even me. 
7. Next, I ordered some paint off of Ebay.  I used Roman's Paintable Wallpaper Coating in Silver.  They used to sell this stuff at Lowe's, but I believe the product itself has been discontinued.  Hence the reason I ordered it off of Ebay.  USPS- pay no attention to this blog post... is it legal to mail paint?  My guess would be not-so-much, but I'm not totally sure. I applied the paint using a medium texture roller.  I ran out of paint and had to order a second can off of Ebay.  Nobody ever said this project would be a quick one either! 
So- here we are- the final product:

Overall- this was a heckuva project!  I might do one more glaze over the top to bring out the detail... we'll see!  For now- I'm happy enough to leave it alone!