The Pioneer Woman and My Version of Chicken Florentine

One night a few years ago, I stumbled upon a blog called The Pioneer Woman. I heart her. She’s a city girl who met and fell in love with a real life cowboy. Originally, it was their story that captivated me. First written on her blog, this true-life love story called Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is available now in paperback – it’s really good, but lately, I’m more taken by her recipes.

At least once a week I go to her website www.thepioneerwoman.com to find a new recipe to try. They never fail me. In my quest to become a better cook and to eat healthier, I’m experimenting with new ingredients and spices that are often like a foreign language to me. My confidence in myself as a cook is expanding in that I am now not afraid to make changes to recipes.

As you know, I love to juice – one of my favorite juice recipes is green juice with an ingredient of baby spinach leaves. Up until this point, I’ve never used baby spinach leaves for anything other than juicing or salads… until last week that is.

Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta. It looked delicious with the bonus of being easy and healthy. The recipe uses cooked spinach and I discovered I had no idea what I was missing! I’ll refer you to her website for the recipe – that’s only fair I think, but I will tell you that I made an executive decision to add two ingredients – mushrooms which I sautéed along with the onions and a can of sliced olives which I stirred into the chopped mushroom stems – I was so glad I did! So yummy! Have you tried any new recipes lately? xo Amy

Click here for the Pioneer Woman’s Recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta

P.S. She has a new cookbook out that looks pretty good too! It’s called The Pioneer Woman Cooks. She scared the heck out of me at Wal-Mart the other day, ha!

P.S.S I am not being compensated for this post… I just really love her recipes!

Go Get Yourself Some Flowers!

“A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.”  –  Vita Sackville-West

It’s been such a joy walking outside this last month and cutting fresh flowers from around my yard. Aren’t the lilacs above beautiful? I found them right outside my front door.

Before the lilacs bloomed, there were daffodils sprinkled throughout the woods in my backyard…

And for Easter Dinner I snipped branches off a tree in our side yard for our table…

What a difference fresh flowers make in a home! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so busy I forget to really look at whats around me.

I’m betting that if you walk outside with a pair of scissors this weekend, there’s something you can snip to bring a little joy to your home!  No? Then go and buy yourself a fresh-cut bouquet today- It’s Friday!

Yesterday I was so excited to kick off this trip with a visit to Kati for a facial! Ahhh… My face feels like butter today! I love this quote on her wall…

Don’t let your moments slip away this weekend! Take a breath, hug someone you love, be a glass is half full kind of guy or gal and count your blessings – they really are all around you! Moments become memories… Make them count! xo Amy

Guest Bedroom, Wedding Ideas, Back in Florida, Owls, Fifty Shades of Grey, Crazy Birds and a Landscape Log

I’m back in the sunshine state to work with Gigi and thought I’d take a breath and say hello! Isn’t that container grouping (photo above) on her side patio adorable? I was busy earlier this week working, getting ready to travel and doing last-minute things at home before I left… things like making sure my poor abandoned husband has food, clean laundry and a blank check to pay for the golf league that starts this week – the last being most important.  I’m in the middle of lots of projects around my house, but I’ll have to wait to share them till I get back and have time to finish them! Projects like a guest bedroom, making a workstation for my office/craftroom, using milk paint, experimental wedding decorations and more! Here’s a snap shot of this week!

I found this fabulous chandelier at The Ohio Valley Antique Mall for $69.00 and finally hung it along with the ceiling medallion in a guest bedroom…

Isn’t it pretty? I am in love with it! The room is finally starting to take shape!

As I said the other day, I am addicted to exploring Pinterest for Wedding Ideas for Ashley and Greg’s big day. One thing she has said is she wants lots and lots of candles on the tables. She also likes some of the DYI  tissue paper flowers we’ve seen. I’ve been playing with all kinds of ideas. One was flowers made out of wax paper – I decided to give it a try…

It has potential, don’t you think? I really like effect of the wax paper back lit by a candle, I’ll show you that when I get back home.

Yes. I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a New York Times Best Seller. It’s a book that some are calling mom porn. Really? I don’t think that covers all the bases… I know women ranging from 23 to 75 years of age that are reading/loving this book and being a mom has nothing to do with it. Okay, well yes, its a bit racy. Some might say naughty. Others will say trashy.  Literary critiques will say not well written. I say lighten up, loosen up and enjoy. I got it for the plane and yes, in retrospect, I should have covered it in brown paper, haha! All I can say if you want to get lost in a highly charged story about romance, sex, sex and sex… run out and get this book. Warning: Like Hunger Games, it’s a trilogy. Be prepared to read two more. I am getting the second one for the trip home. Yes. I. Am. Don’t judge me.

When I got off the plane, I made a new friend who hung out with me as I waited for my luggage…

Nothing fazed this guy.

And before I left Cincinnati, I had to stop my car and take a photo of this guy…

He wasn’t moving either. Crazy birds. Speaking of things that have wings…

GiGi picked me up from the airport and when we got to her house, the first thing I did was look for the baby owls who last time I was here, looked like this…

But their nest in the Banyan Tree was empty…

GiGi took a photo of the tree right after I left last time…

Do you see one of the parents on the large branch?Look underneath it… someone has ventured out!

I couldn’t find them anywhere… and then I looked in the back yard, up in a really, really tall tree…

One of them is sitting at the top right at the end of a branch – he’s just a dot. Our babies are growing up!

Next week we have several garden projects to do including one that involves this…

and these…

Say tuned! Have a great day! xo Amy

Papaya Smoothie with Pumpkin Spice

This morning I discovered I had a Papaya I needed to eat – it was getting pretty ripe. It wasn’t a fresh one off GiGi’s tree pictured above, but it still tasted pretty good! Instead of using it to make my morning fruit juice I decided to make a smoothie in my blender. I do love smoothies and this one was pretty darn good! Here’s the recipe…

Papaya Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

  • Large papaya cut up – seeds and skin removed
  • 1 cup of milk, almond milk or vanilla flax milk
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • Very generous dash of pumpkin pie spice or you can use cinnamon
  • TBSP of flax seeds
  • TBSP of chia seeds

Slice the Papaya in half and remove seeds…

I find that a grapefruit spoon works really well to get the seeds out…

If you don’t have one of these handy little spoons, you really should!

Next, scoop out the insides. I forgot to take a picture… sorry, I was hungry and a slacker, I know… but I sliced the halves long ways, then cut away the skin.

In a blender, add the milk, papaya, pumpkin spice, vanilla, flax and chia seeds…

Place the lid on the blender, flip the switch and mix it till smooth!

I did remember to take a photo before took a sip… wasn’t that thoughtful?

It’s gone now and it was delicious.

As far as I can figure, this smoothie has less than 300 calories and chock-full of good things including 391% of daily recommended vitamin C… guess I’m good on that for the day! Try one! I think you’ll like it!

She said Yes!

I hope you like Weddings. I really hope you do, because I’m going to be talking a lot about weddings all through this year and into the next! I’ll still be talking about decorating, organization, cooking, gardening and what ever else pops into my head, but now we get to add wedding planning to the mix! Yay!

Meet Ashley…

Isn’t she adorable? I admit I’m just a tad prejudiced! She’s my favorite daughter. Okay, I can say that because she’s my only daughter and she really is adorable, isn’t she?

Ashley has always made me proud. She’s kind, sensitive, smart, athletic, generous and always thinking about someone else. She excelled in school, played volleyball, basketball, softball, was a cheerleader and volunteered lots. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati and has settled into a job that keeps her really busy. Pink is her color, she thinks she’s a princess and has always dreamed of happily ever after with her prince and little prince and princes running around. She is pretty, fun, tall (5′-9″), opinionated, confident and best of all, she’s in love!

Meet Greg!

Isn’t he handsome? The key thing here is he is as nice as he is cute! He’s a fireman at two different departments, smart, athletic, tall, (Ashley can wear 4″ heels and still be shorter!), adventurous, confident, from a big family, loves his mom and best of all loves my daughter! I knew that he was the “one” when he surprised her one day (for no particular reason) with a set of pink golf clubs. He said he wanted her to learn how to play so they could golf together. How awesome is that? Most guys are wanting to get away to the golf course, he wants her to join him. I love that!

I told Ashley a few years before she met Greg, that she should be patient. I told her that she would know when she met the right one, that it would be worth it. She got a little upset with me at the time, but I felt that it needed to be said. I told her that the guy that was the “one” would work as hard at making her happy as she did at making him happy. She told me a year after she started dating Greg she now knew what I meant… that Greg was the “one”. That makes me happy.

The first week of January Ashley asked me to go to dinner with the girls – Greg’s Mom, one of his sisters, his brother’s fiance and a friend. I was debating on if was going to go, until Mike said Greg had called and was stopping by for a cigar and to “talk about his future with Ashley”. My heart went pitter-patter… I was a nervous wreck! Haha! I immediately texted Ashley and said I would be there. She had no idea he was going to propose and I had to work really, really hard to not let on. Greg and Ashley had talked about rings, but she thought maybe he would propose later in the year.

I saw Greg right before I left for Olive Garden and gave him a hug, got all teary-eyed and probably made a fool out of myself. I was just so darn happy for them. He said he was going to ask her on top of a snow-capped mountain the following weekend while on a ski trip with friends. The cutest thing about it all was how nervous he was about the ring. He picked it out and designed it all by himself. He wasn’t nervous about asking her to marry him or talking to Mike… he was nervous about if she liked the ring… of course she L.O.V.E.D it. Loves it, loves it, loves it. He did good. She tells me all the time that it is perfect and it is.

Greg also told me before they left for the ski trip, that he had asked his mom to have an engagement party for them when they got back – isn’t that the nicest thing for him to have thought about that?  I helped out with the food for the party and along with some other things, I made some really yummy white chocolate raspberry filled cupcakes. I’ll share the recipe for those next week!

On January 14th, 2012, they officially became engaged…

Yay! She was is so happy. We are so happy for them and of course now we are officially planning a wedding. The goal is to have her dream wedding within a budget…should be a snap, right? Pinterest has my head spinning with tons of great ideas! I see lots of fun DIY experimental projects in the future!

I asked Ashley if her and Greg would mind if I blogged about their journey from “Yes” to “I-Do”! …she said I could! I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I’m going to! I’ve got lots of ideas to share with you already and would love to hear any of your favorite one’s too!  xo Amy

I Cooked a Falafel Burger and I Liked it!

If you told me a year ago that I would try my hand at making a Falafel Burger, I would say… “a what?” What the heck is a Falafel Burger? As you may know, I’ve been slowly losing weight, eating healthier and juicing. I am eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans – less meat and chicken. I was a meat lover. Loved steak, chicken, processes, grilled… you name it, I loved meat.

Did you notice I said loved? What changed? Well, I still kind of sorta like it, but there are few things coming in between me and my meat. One thing is simply that I’m finding new protein sources that both taste good AND are healthier alternatives to meat. I had subconsciously cut back on eating meat or chicken to just a few times a week and realized I was okay with that. I was still getting protein from juices, nuts and beans.

The other thing is a bit more complicated. My love affair with meat began to unravel when I watched the documentary Food Inc.. Then, last month, GiGi made me I watched a horrific documentary called Earthlings. You can click on the link to watch for free. Anyway, it’s horrific in that it’s a true documentary of everything animal-related and it unveils some really horrible things that I could not have imagined even in my worst dreams. It’s THAT bad. It covers “pet stores, puppy mills and animals shelters, as well as factory farms, the leather and fur trades, sports and entertainment industries, and finally the medical and scientific profession”. Even now, I can’t eat a piece of  meat without thinking about it. The thing is, I H.A.T.E.D. it, BUT, to not watch would be like putting my head in the ground and I am not about putting my head in the ground. I now truly appreciate words like cage free, hormone free, pasture raised. Argh.

When I went to Epcot a few weeks ago – I was starving, but determined to eat healthy. I had just watched Earthlings and anything with meat was not an option. GiGi ordered a Falafel burger – she’s a vegetarian. I was feeling a bit adventurous, and said “I’ll take one too!”. At that point, all I knew was it was green and looked like a burger. then I discovered it tasted pretty darn good. I really, really liked it. Turns out it’s a made of chick peas/garbanzo beans, onion, parsley and a few other ingredients. I thought it would be a fun recipe to try at home.

This past Friday night I asked my parents to have dinner with Mike and I. Little did they all know they were guinea pigs for my new recipe 🙂

Here’s what was on my table and the recipes…

Falafel Burgers with Cucumber Sauce and Strawberry Spinach Salad with a balsamic dressing

FALAFEL BURGERS W/CUCUMBER SAUCE: Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

Cucumber Sauce (prepare first and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving)

  • 1 (6 ounce) container plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber – peeled, seeded, and finely shredded
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or grapeseed vegenaise (vegenaise is a delicious alternative to mayonnaise found in the refrigerator section of Whole Foods)
In a small bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Falafel Burgers

  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs

In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don’t use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin.

In a food processor, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth.

Note: It really didn’t get smooth, just finely mixed. I added extra parsley, I would not do that again. It was too much.

Stir the mixture into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed…

Form 6 balls and then flatten into patties. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil and place patties on sheet. Lightly spray top of burgers as well. Note: Mine is lined with a Silicone Baking Liner.

Yes, those are some chick peas that you see… some didn’t get mashed. It still tasted good, so don’t stress if you miss a few!
 Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes –  flipping them halfway through.
While they are baking, prepare the salad:
Strawberry Spinach Salad
Layer the following:
  • Romaine torn into pieces
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Chopped onions
  • Sliced avocados
  • Dried cranberries
  • Almond slices
Serve with a balsamic or strawberry vinegarette
Since I knew my husband was going to be difficult, once the burgers were done baking, I threw them into a pan with a spritz of olive oil and lightly browned them on each side so they would look more like fried burgers.
 
Note: If you would rather fry them, the original recipe says: Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides.
Serve on a bun with the cucumber sauce, lettuce, onion, tomato and a sprinkle of freshly shredded cheddar cheese…
The Verdict:
Mike: “The salad was good”. He didn’t say, but basically didn’t say it, but he never wants to eat them again. He bet me that even the dog wouldn’t eat them, but my dog loved them, haha! He would have been more verbal, but it was our anniversary and he was trying to be nice… smart man, yes?
My Dad: He thought they were good, a bit different. He ate every last drop… mostly I think, because he loves me.
My Mom: She really liked them… admitted she was a bit worried when she heard what I was baking, but was pleasantly surprised.
Me: I really loved them. I added a bit too much parsley and that was a mistake, but overall, I really loved them!
So, what do you think? Are you going to try them? Let me know what you think if you do! xo Amy
P.S. Stay -tuned for some organizing idea, wedding news and more this week!

Five Kitchen Tools I Love

Over the last few years I’ve discovered that I enjoy cooking and baking. I’m having fun exploring spices, recipes, gadgets, appliances and more. It wasn’t always that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cooked for my family for many moons, but as a family, we were always on the run – running to baseball, football, cheerleading, volleyball, track… you name it, we were running there. As a result, we rarely sat down to dinner together, not because we didn’t want to, but because we were just busy running. Dinner was almost always on the fly. For the longest time I believed boxed or frozen food was faster and more convenient.

I  admit I was pretty much in the dark  about spices, fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits. Back then, I was the queen of frozen food and microwaves.

Today, I realize that it’s possible to create simple, clean, healthy meals  just as fast and they are soooooo much better. Better, in that it tastes better and better, in that it’s better for you. If you visit my kitchen today you’ll find very little frozen or boxed food and lots of fruits, veggies, rice, nuts, beans and potatoes.  I find I enjoy discovering new recipes and trying foods I have never tasted. My taste buds are beginning to crave vegetables and salads. Bread is less appealing. Well, okay, not really about the bread… but if I do eat bread I try to make it whole grain.

As I explore the world of cooking, I find myself getting excited about gadgets. A day in the kitchen is so much nicer with handy little gadgets that really work!

Here are five tools I’ve discovered that I think you might like:

Not your mother’s SPATULA: This spatula by Good Cook is amazing. My Aunt went on and on about it and I was like yea, yea, yea… until she bought me one and I promptly fell in love. Now I buy them for other people – it’s that good. It gets every single drop out of a bowl in one quick sweep. I won’t use any other spatula.

ROTARY SIFTER: When I started making cakes and icing from scratch, a lot of recipes required sifted flour. I dutifully attempted to sift with my little sifter… you know the one… it has a handle that you squeeze…. and squeeze…. and squeeze until you feel like your hand is going to fall off. I never sifted flour again. That is until I discovered this

This baby simply requires you to turn the handle and as you do, it effortlessly and smoothly sifts your flour – fast. Here’s a peek inside…

The wire ball rolls through the flour and voila! Done. No finger cramps, no aggravation, no wasted time.  Now I actually look forward to sifting. It really is about having good tools!

AVOCADO PEELER/CORER: We have been trying to add more avocados to our diet – they are really good for you and oh so yummy. We mostly toss them into salads. Tonight we had a romaine and Spinach salad with onion, sliced avocado, strawberries, cranberries, almonds and a dash of parmesan, topped off with a balsamic dressing. My oldest son’s girlfriend gave me us the cutest basket for Easter with a bottle of wine, chocolates, egg-shaped rice crispy treats stuffed with M&M’s, grapefruit spoons (she knew I was looking for them) and this handy little tool

Yes. She’s a keeper.

Of course you could core and peel without this, but why? This little tool is just so handy. Simply slice the avocado long ways all the way around, then use this end to pop out the pit/seed…

Then use the other end to scoop out the insides of each half…

Not only does it scoop out all the goodness, but you’re left with perfectly beautiful slices. So nice!

STAINLESS STEEL SCRAPER, CHOPPER, SCOOPER: These are simple little tools, but I love scooping up chopped veggies and such in one big sweep and then dumping them into whatever I’m cooking or sauteing…

I like the bigger one best for scooping, but the smaller one is nice too – I like to use the flat end of it to get crumbs off my tablecloth after a dinner party. I really don’t use either of them to chop – I prefer a sharp knife for that.

Last but not definitely not least…

BATTERY OPERATED SALT & PEPPER GRINDERS: I love freshly ground sea salt and pepper, but manually grinding them was kind of a pain… that is until I got these…

I love these tall boys! A bonus is these came with a base for re-charging – no batteries to replace! Love them.

Do you have any favorite gadgets in your kitchen? Have a great weekend! xo Amy

P.S. I blogged about these products because I genuinely like them! I haven’t been paid or compensated to write this!

Recipe: A Sugary Scrub for a Delightfully Soft You!

Are you ready for swimsuit season? Is your skin silky smooth? If you’re like me, the answer to both are a resounding no! I can’t help with bathing suit issues, but I can help you get silky smooth skin!

Whenever I go to Florida to work with GiGi, one of the highlights of the trip is a visit to our friend Kati. She’s a Licensed Esthetician in Clewiston  and West Palm Beach – a visit with her is nothing short of amazing. Kati does facials, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, waxing and more.

If you’ve never had a microdermabrasion session, you don’t know what you’re missing. Basically, it sloughs off the dead skin and leaves your face feeling like a baby’s butt silky smooth. Make-up goes on better, your face glows… it’s just awesome. I highly recommend it for anyone, even if you’re in your twenties. Trust me on this… you will love it. Add in a gentle Pumpkin Chemical Peel (doesn’t make me flaky) and you will think you are in heaven. Really, you deserve this treat. You will thank me.

Speaking of treats, the last time I saw Kati, I asked if she minded if I shared her recipe for an amazing head-to-toe sugar scrub with you and she said she didn’t mind! Isn’t she sweet? She really is the best! Kati sells the scrub at her office, but since most of you can’t get there, I thought you might want to make your own at home! She uses it on her face and body everyday! Apparently it works, because when she told me her age, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Kati commented on yesterday’s blog after I mentioned her scrub and said this…

I use this every night in the shower. It is a wonderful way to exfoliate your entire body. I even use this scrub on my face. The sunflower oil leaves just enough moisturizer on your body without feeling greasy

Enough talk… here’s the recipe!

KATI’S SUGAR SCRUB:

You will need:

  • 15-16 oz of sugar
  • 4 oz of sunflower oil (or Safflower oil if you can’t find the sunflower) Note:  you can add more if you want, but even though it looks dry, it really isn’t)
  • 4-5 drops of the essential oil of your choice.
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together. The mixture will appear dry, but it really isn’t. You can add more oil if you want, but try it first before you do! I couldn’t find Sunflower Oil and Kati said Safflower oil will work too! I got my oils at Whole Foods.
Put mixture in a jar and enjoy!
A word of caution: Shower floors may become slippery! Make sure to rinse well! If you make as a gift, add some ribbon or twine and a disposable baby spoon to use as a scoop!Let me know what you think if you try it! I think you’ll love it…  Thanks Kati! xo Amy

A Love Affair with Mason Jars

I am having a love affair with Mason Jars. It started innocently enough. I bought my first set at Wal-Mart when I started juicing to keep my juice fresh when carrying to work or on the run…

I also use them to store and freeze soup like my favorite minestrone soup mix I love to make  lately. Chances are if you live near me and get sick, I will bring you a jar of this

I heart this soup mix. I don’t add meat or pasta, but do add some vegetable base, carrots, celery and onions. So good.

Then I discovered the short one’s with the large opening…

They hold as much as the other ones… I use them for juice and soup too, but they are also perfect for the homemade sugar scrub I like to make – I’ll share that recipe with you tomorrow!

Last month I was frustrated with all the celestial tea boxes I had in my cabinet with tea bags inside that weren’t individually wrapped and thought, hmmmm…. what can I use to keep this tea fresh?

The mason jars are perfect! The only problem was I wanted to stack them on my shelves and they really are not designed for stacking – they are very slippery on the bottom. My solution? Rubber shelf liner.

I had some and traced the outline of the lid…

Then cut a square around the outline…

I folded it in half…

and then in quarters…

and then cut along the outline…

It’s a simple way to get a pretty good circle!

Place it on top of the lid, add a jar on top and voila! They stack quite well now! Yes, I know they need cute labels, but for now my trusty little labeler came through in a pinch…

A few weeks ago I had to buy these adorable little mini jars…

I had pinned this recipe for personal pies from The Family Kitchen

and this one for an Eggnog Spicecake Trifle from Today’s Nest on Pinterest

and thought they would be perfect in those petite mason jars with a pretty ribbon or twine, don’t you agree?

When I was at GiGi’s, she needed containers to store her chia and flax seeds on the counter for quick access and guess what she used? Yep! Mason Jars. I tried it at my house when I got home… Double adorable in that basket, don’t you think?

When at GiGi’s we also made meals in a jar for on the road – check out these from Big Red Kitchen

I know if I went to Pinterest, I would find a hundred thousand million more ideas for these inexpensive jars! They just make my heart pitter patter! What do you use them for? Amy xo

Creative Seating Ideas for Your Garden

I have a few more landscape photos from our trip to Epcot earlier this month to share. There were so many great ideas there – it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in Orlando! Here’s a few garden seating ideas we saw plus a couple I found around the web…

We spotted these adorable table and chairs cut from logs…

I really love the burlap chair covers! Do you see those round discs on top of the table? Kids loved them! So simple, yet their imaginations ran wild with them!

GiGi had some trees taken down in her backyard a few years ago and made something very similar to the ones above…

Don’t you just love the naturally heart-shaped benches?

Then we saw these log chairs at Epcot…

And both of us said hmmmm… because we knew she had this in her backyard…

So when we got home, she had Tony break out the chainsaw…

And look what he did…

Doesn’t it look great with the grouping that was already there?

Don’t toss that old metal chair frame and leaky garden hose when you clean out the garage! Check out this creative idea…

I’m going to keep my eye out for an old chair frame and do a tutorial on it… it would be so easy to do!

Look who we spotted lounging around…

What a great conversation piece!

I really like using nature to create seating within a garden and love, love, love this chair I found…

And if you don’t happen to have a spare boulder lying around, you might want to look around at what you do have…

This simple chair mixed among the plants and pathway seems right at home, don’t you think?

What creative seating ideas have you seen? Have a great day! Amy xo

Treat Yourself to Some Indian Coffee this Weekend! Yum.

This is our friend Dr. Nune…

.

We just adore her. She has never met my son, but the other day she heard him talk on a video and she asked me if he snored. Really? She also asked if he was often tired, hyper-active as a child, had enlarged tonsils and gets multiple throat infections each year. After I picked myself up off the floor, I promptly called my youngest son who recently graduated from The Ohio State, landed a job and moved to NYC. He confirmed that the answers were all yes and is now going to look into having his tonsils removed as soon as he gets settled into his new job. All that just from hearing from Dr. Nune listening to him talk. Interestingly, she said that many children who are hyper-active will calm down after having their tonsils removed – I had never heard that, have you?  As a young adult, she thinks a tonsillectomy may help him get a better night’s sleep and ultimately have more energy throughout the day. It’s good to have a Doctor for a friend 🙂

Anyway, after dinner the other night we made some Indian Coffee. When I started juicing a few months ago, I cut back my daily intake of caffeine to almost zero, so it was an extra special treat to have a cup of java. Indian coffee has a sweet, frothy, deliciously creamy whipped taste – much like cappuccino, but there’s no need for a fancy schmancy coffee machine. Indian coffee is make the old-fashioned way and you really ought to try it this weekend!

This is what you’ll need for one cup…

  • 1 tbsp of instant coffee or coffee powder (the finer the ground the better)
  • 8 – 10 oz Milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 2 tbsp of sugar (or a tbsp of sugar + a packet of sweetener)

Directions:

Heat the milk until just under boiling and then simmer to keep warm.

Grab a mug and add 1 tbsp of instant coffee

Add 2 tbsp of sugar – it’s the key ingredient for making the froth

Blend the two together

Now add a teaspoon or less of milk (or you can use water) and vigorously mix with a spoon…

It will be wet and crumbly like this…but flex your muscles and just keep mixing, and mixing, and mixing. And mixing… trying to incorporate as much air into the blend as possible. The secret is to not add too much liquid… and to keep mixing!

Before you know it, it will be lighter in color and thick like mousse.

Stir in the heated milk and then it’s time to really fluff it up!

Pour the coffee into another container…

And then pour it back into the cup. Repeat this about 6 or 8 times till you get a really nice cup of froth!

Then sit back and enjoy! Yum. It’s really very good.

Are you cooking anything special for the holiday weekend? I just got done exploring some recipes and have a few new one’s to try! Here’s what my menu looks like…

  • A traditional Honey Glazed Baked Ham
  • Spinach and Romain Salad with a strawberry vinaigrette
  • Individual cups of Mac and Cheese ( I tried the recipe once and it was a fail – adjusting some things and trying again!)
  • Twice baked Potatoes – made this this before and it was a big hit! Of course anything from the Pioneer Woman is the best!
  • Whole Grain Rolls
  • Yellow Cake with a Cooked Chocolate Icing – both from scratch and new recipes I’m trying
I am most excited about the cake because I am going to decorate it like this one that I found on Pinterest
Don’t you just love it? I’ll let you know how everything turns out next week! Have a great weekend! xo

Have a great weekend! xo

Quick Weekend Project – Organize your Refrigerator

You’ll be seeing lots more organizing projects here in the future when GiGi starts blogging with me over the next few weeks. Why, you might ask? Well, lets just say GiGi is compulsively obsessed addicted … well, let’s just say she loves to organize things. Well not really things, really everything. She loves to organize closets, refrigerators, garages, cars; basically nothing is off-limits.. And it’s not just her things. Chances are if you invite her over for a visit, she will be organizing and re-arranging your home within the hour. She just can’t help herself.

Just ask her friend Jean. She’ll tell you when she comes to visit, Gigi literally doesn’t stop till the sun comes up. Jean wakes up to find closets, drawers and more re-arranged with a place for everything and everything in its place. She’ll think she has discovered everything Margie organized until she opens up her purse and finds everything color coded and organized down to the pennies. True story.

GiGi invaded our friend Dr. Nune’s home a few months ago and organized it from top to bottom. There wasn’t an area left undone.  Dr. Nune will tell you her newly organized home has changed her life, she is so happy with all of it!  GiGi and I stopped by tonight for some Dosa’s (a traditional Indian lentil/vegetable protein crepe), scrambled eggs, salsa and homemade yogurt. For a special treat after dinner, we had Indian coffee. I’m going to show you how to make it soon, promise! It is so darn good…it’s a bit of work, but sooooo worth it! The drill sergeant GiGi of course had check out if Dr. Nune was maintaining the “systems” she had installed…

Yep, that’s GiGi’s finger…just a few things were out of place 🙂

I clicked a few photos so you could see her refrigerator. It’s a pretty quick project to do this weekend and it makes such a difference! Here’s some tips to get your refrigerator organized!

At the top of refrigerators, milk and juice boxes tend to block each other along with other items on the shelf. A small turntable and glass jars ensure that everything is accessible. You can find the glass Frigoverre jars at HomeGoods or The Container Store – the key is to transfer your liquids as soon as you get home from the market. Always store the containers on the turnaround whether they are full or empty. It is their “home”, so they always stay there. Gigi used a rubber band and round key tags to label the contents. Not only does it work well – it looks great too! The turntable has a 11″ diameter.

The turntable is also perfect for condiments. Here’s a larger one that GiGi uses in her fridge for condiments…

GiGi also likes to use glass containers to store food such as vegetables, soup, leftovers and more because they are the safest choice to store food. A second choice would be to use airtight plastic containers, but make sure they are a no.5 – you can check it on the bottom of the container. The best kind of containers have straight sides (as opposed to cantilevered) and are either square or rectangle in shape. Why? Because they fit well together and waste the least amount of space. The rule is to fill your fridge with the containers and LEAVE them there, whether full or empty. It’s really a great system, as you don’t have to waste space storing them in your cabinets.

Check out this drawer….

I love using the $1.00 office organizer to hold the cheese and dressing packet. Think outside the box and find things that will keep items together and in an easy accessible place. Look for items you can use that you already own or check out the dollar store. It doesn’t have to be expensive to live an organized life. Ziplock baggies work okay in a drawer, but if you need to store them on a shelf, a clear container works better.

If you have items such as bread, bagels, over-flow fresh vegetables or fruits, etc. put them in a bin rather than leaving to sit loose on a shelf. A bin is easy to pull out and access. Using a clear container is a bonus as it makes it easy to see to see the contents.  Hidden items tend to go to waste. Out of sight, out of mind as they say…

What do you think? I’d love to hear any other refrigerator ideas you have! I organized mine a while ago, but I think I’m going to switch to the glass milk jars, too. I’ll show you pictures when I’m done! xo Amy

What I Know about Happiness…

Today is Wednesday… we’re halfway through the week and heading to the weekend. Are you happy today? Someone was venting to me yesterday about some really legit horrible things that a formerly significant other had done to her. She is right, he was pretty hateful. She also is at a pretty unhappy point in her life. I understand how she feels. But here is what I know…

Happiness is a choice. No one can make you miserable unless you allow them to. You have a choice to be happy right now or to waste a precious day being miserable.

Let me repeat the most important line of this post…

No one can make you miserable unless you allow them to ~ from Self Matters, by Dr. Phil

That line changed my life years ago. It really pissed me off when I first read it, because all of a sudden I was not a victim – I was responsible, but once I realized that I was in control of my life and of my happiness, I ran with it. Sadness, anger, frustration, hurt… are feelings we all experience at times in our life.  I think it’s what you do with them that matters. I’ll give you that a good cry can be healing, but mostly… it’s best to pick yourself up, look around you, move on and feel the joy of today. I choose happiness today, do you? xo Amy

P.S. Whether you love or hate Dr. Phil, Self Matters is one of the best books I have ever read. There are some great exercises to help you understand yourself going back to childhood, how you react to situations and more. If you are “stuck” in your life, looking to grow as a person or in an unhealthy relationship- this is a great book to read

P.S.S. If you want to be inspired by a pretty special blogger, check out Ashley over at Lil Blue Boo. She is creative, a gentle soul, looks for Joy in everyday, a mom and battling cancer. I look forward to reading her posts everyday!

Fun Ideas for the “Kids” in your Yard

Ready for more landscaping ideas from Epcot last week? Some are for kids of the little version and others would are perfect for kids just like us!

The tent above is too cute, isn’t it? The frame is bamboo, but you could use branches from any tree. The greenery is also bamboo, but you could use all kinds of plants including jasmine, vining flowers and more. I found directions on how to build the one below using long bean seeds for the vine…

Click here for Directions!

I have a spot under my deck that I am planning on landscaping this year and have a great idea for an old window I bought from my friend crafty friend Sue who is opening up a shop called the Rusty Bucket at a local antique mall in a few weeks. I’m going to hang my white window frame from the bottom of my deck, add a window box and plant some flowers that love shade. I think it ‘ll be a great way to create a garden “room”. I’ll share the details when I do!

I love tunnels for kids in gardens and along pathways… it would be so simple to re-create the one below with some twine, stakes and chicken wire. This uses bamboo, but I’ve seen gorgeous garden tunnels with flowing vines or even pumpkin… how fun would it be to play in it all summer and then harvest pumpkins in the fall?

I discovered some directions for the larger tunnel below from Thrify Fun that is pretty cool…

      

Here’s an inexpensive and easy project… Two clay pots – one large, one medium, a draining tray and some paint = instant bird bath!

A playground at Epcot has these man-made steps leading up to the slide…

Look at what GiGi did last year with some logs she had from a tree that was cut down…

I love the look of an english garden with mazes, hedges and wildflowers. I’m pretty sure I cannot duplicate this…

BUT… I’m pretty sure a version of this is possible…

It’s possible, yes?  Don’t you just LOVE this? I am going to try my hand at hedges this spring. Love it.

I love layers of color and texture in a garden, don’t you? This was one of my favorite layers in the French City of Around the World

A bit of advice. Don’t go if on a strict diet. You will blow it. At least GiGi and I split one.. there are no words for how creamy yummy this Napoleon was, but I digress…

If you have a fence in your garden or want to add a section as a back drop for some of your plants, this is so fun! A few old garden tools, some cans of spray paint and voila…

Darling.

Speaking of darling… There was a Fairy area that was so whimsical. Tucked into the plants were little fairy houses perched on logs. I have some indoor birdhouses that I don’t use any more. I’m thinking I could decorate them, spray with varnish to protect and sprinkle them throughout my side yard. Would that be fun?

So what fun things are you doing in your garden this spring? xo Amy

Ready to Fly, a Goat Show and a Mystery

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a great weekend! I’m still down in Florida and watching the adorable baby owls get ready to leave their nest. They left a dusting of tiny owlette feathers under their nest over the weekend – apparently this means they are getting ready to fly. They are so darn cute. Their big round eyes just look down at me whenever I come to say hello. Last week they would peer out at us from inside the nest. Now they are venturing out onto the branch to see the world. Take a look…

I admit have to stop myself from walking outside every hour to see if they have taken their first flight!
Gigi and I did lots of things this weekend, one was a first for me – we went to a goat tailgate show to see her grandchildren Grayson and Loring show their goats. I love tailgating for Ohio State Football Games (O-H!), but had no idea people tailgated at Goat Shows – how fun! I will admit that I was pretty clueless about both 4-H and Goat Shows, but I left pretty impressed. What a great way for kids to get involved and grow!
My friend Lisa of Pick Me Yard – Grayson and Loring’s mom, will probably blog about it soon and give you all the details, but here are my observations…
Adorable is a word you could use all day. These kids get up in the morning to feed, clean and milk their goats – what a great way to teach responsibility! They adore the goats and the goats adore them. To see them interact is, well… adorable. Here is Loring with Pearl telling her to be a good girl and to follow her lead. According to Loring it’s easy to show a goat, you just have to show them who’s in charge.  P.S. I want pink cowboy boots just like hers…
This is Grayson with Daisy. He did such a great job showing his goat, guiding the little ones and helping out with the show. When you’re showing your goat, they should stand strong with legs stretched apart and a bit behind them with the tail out.
Here’s Grayson talking to the Judge. One of the most impressive things I saw is the judge talks to every single child. Kids share what they know about their goats and answer any questions the judge may have, the kids have to be prepared for this interview. They also have to ALWAYS keep their goat between the judge and themselves… it’s like an ongoing dance as the judge walks around the arena and the kids constantly change their positions.
Here’s the Judge talking to two of the PeeWee’s… This is some serious stuff for Loring and her friend Ty…
It’s a family affair at the Goat Show – even the babies come along for the day. This little guy is only a week or two old…
The coolest thing families with Milk Goats is they have fresh milk daily when the mom’s are finished nursing their young. They use it to make cheese, creamy fudge and soap.
Of course after a hard day’s work at the fairgrounds, you need some food!  We brought some yummy vegetable soup that Gigi made. I love to use mason jars to bring juice to work and this worked perfect for a tailgate. You can visit Krista and Jen who have some great recipes for Jar lunches.
Overall it was such a fun day!
So here is a mystery… Gigi ordered this amazing kitchen tool and put it away in a drawer. She re-discovered it the other day and we can’t figure out what it does. The “bolt” is not threaded, doesn’t come off one end, but comes off the other. We have no idea and can’t find it on the internet. It’s by a company called kuchenprofi. It’s driving us nuts! Check it out…
Have a Great Day! Tomorrow I’ll have some more landscape ideas. xo Amy