Archives for the month of: January, 2013

I love fresh fruit … of almost every variety! Today was a super stressful, frustrating, depressing and otherwise horrible day, and I didn’t feel like cooking but needed something to eat when I got home. I decided to make a quick smoothie and I didn’t want to put any processed ingredients in it. Here is what I made … it turned out awesome! Sorry, I forgot to take pictures.

Smoothie:

  • 2 oranges, juiced (about 8 oz.)
  • 5 frozen strawberries
  • 12 frozen organic red cherries
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup fresh kale, chopped and stemmed

Whirl it all together in the VitaMix or whatever other blender you have. So simple and it doesn’t have any sugar from juices and it’s a massive amount of fruit and veggies! Enjoy.

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Here’s a great recipe that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! I’ve seen these awesome push-up pop holders that remind me of the push-up pop ice cream treats (do they still make those?!) all over Pinterest and other blogs, so I was out to find them.

I had a 50% off coupon for Joann’s and I found a set of these holders made by Wilton (like this).  It cost roughly $7.50 for the set after the coupon and they’re dishwasher-safe so I thought it was worth it. 

I love red velvet cake and so do my Life Group friends, so I wanted to try it for our get together this past week. I love, love, love cooking without recipes for everything except baking. So because of that, I used Bakerella’s recipe for red velvet, except I used 1 (vs. 2) ounces of red coloring … I can’t imagine how “red” this would taste with that much color! Anyway, I baked it in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan for about 40 minutes. 

I did use my own cream cheese frosting (although I didn’t use a recipe, it’s probably very similar to any other one you can find). Here’s what I put in the frosting (really easy … just combine all together and mix on medium-high until it’s really light and fluffy): 

  • 12 oz. (1 1/2 blocks) of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 

I also saw Wilton makes “Mini Whoopie Pie” pan that they say is perfect for the molds, but what the heck, I didn’t see the point; I just used the mold itself to cut the cake (I cut the cake into two layers so each piece of cake in the push-up pop is about 1/2-1/4″ thick). 

These were a big hit and they were super easy! I can’t wait to use these molds again. I’m thinking cheesecakes, tea sandwiches, tiramisu, etc. The possibilities are pretty endless! 

Here are a few extra pictures from the process:

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Mixing the wet and dry ingredients.

 

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In the oven.

 

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The finished cake.

 

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Close shot of the red velvet push-up cake pops.

 

I love reading my best friend’s blog and have enjoyed seeing and hearing about her “10 Minute Craft Dash” that she started a while back. I decided I’d try to do it and so here you go, my first entry!

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The colors were (excuse my potentially inaccurate crafting color descriptions) slate, moss and light pink. I love these colors, but everyone who knows anything about me knows that I’m incredibly indecisive.

I don’t make cards very often (OK, really at all) so my entry isn’t a card, but rather a cute little “taggie” security blanket. I’m the proud auntie of a hilarious little girl (16 months) and will soon have twins nieces/nephews added to the mix (coming in August), so I love sewing things for them. Since I don’t know if the twins are boys or girls yet, I’ll just keep this on hand … and if they’re boys, I’m sure I’ll find someone to give this to!

The blanket measures roughly 13″ x 13″.

*Please excuse the crappy iPhone pictures … I need to get myself a new digital camera!*

CD_1 Photo Jan 20, 12 24 10 PM Photo Jan 20, 12 23 48 PM Photo Jan 20, 12 22 36 PM

I have to say, this is the quickest that I’ve ever sewn something start-to-finish … I started the clock and had to cut all the ribbon, fabric and backing and then get sewing! I misjudged how much fabric I had, so I had to do stripes of the grey background instead of the two-piece diagonal triangles I had planned. I also originally planned to do three ribbons on each side, but with the time constraints, I settled for ribbons on just two sides. I think it turned out pretty well anyway. I didn’t look at the clock when I was sewing so I was hoping I was still within the time limit!

The time it took me:

Photo Jan 20, 12 21 21 PM

Here’s a list of some things I personally love and think you might will, too! I’m hoping to post from time-to-time in categories, whether it’s music, food, local spots, products, gadgets, etc.

Since I spend most of my day at the office (who doesn’t?!), today’s list is comprised of some of my favorite office and/or work-related items. What are your go-to favorites?

  1. Page-Up Document Holders: These things are awesome! They hold a piece or two of paper at just the right angle so you can read and type simultaneously, or do what I do and leave an important list propped up. It’s way better than getting piled under every other piece of paper.
  2. BackJoy: By no means am I a doctor, chiropractor or other medically intelligent person, but with my share of unsolved back problems, this little support works pretty well. I started having horrible back pain in high school and college, and unfortunately still do (and sitting for most of the day doesn’t help). I bought my BackJoy from Bed Bath & Beyond and use it semi-regularly.
  3. OXO Good Grips Pocket Stapler: Not sure if the inventor of the stapler ever won any awards, but I love this mini must-have. My desk gets cluttered with enough other things and I like having a stapler within reach. Only downside is due to its size, it doesn’t hold nearly as many staples as a traditional stapler.
  4. Energizer Premium USB Wall Charger: Let’s face it, anyone who owns an iPhone knows the battery won’t last through the day (OK, maybe if you don’t touch it at all while at work). I like this charger because its cord is a decent length and the actual unit can be used to charge any other USB device. Also, the cord wraps around the hub of this charger, making it quick and easy to transport or throw in a work bag.
  5. Royal Apothic Holland Park Hand Creme: I love hand creams, especially if they smell good and aren’t greasy. I found this one at Anthropologie and I hope it never gets discontinued! I love the scent and it keeps my hands moisturized without being too heavy or oily. It is a bit pricey but I figure it’s worth it if I use it multiple times every day.

I felt adventurous tonight while planning my weekly lunch menu, so I tried to think of something familiar and leave room for some innovation. Most people plan dinners and bring leftovers for lunch, but I’m pretty much the opposite: I love planning lunches and then eating whatever is left for dinner.

Anyway, so I knew I wanted to make something spicy and because it’s been so cold outside (super icy but not snowy … yet), I also wanted something hearty.

Here’s a recipe I came up with tonight. It’s simple, healthy, relatively fast and it turned out well (although I’ll admit, it is quite spicy)!

Usually, I try to avoid using canned products, but since I wanted something quick and easy, I gave-in and used canned (although, I did make the stock from scratch using the carcass from a Costco rotisserie chicken).  Also, I chose kale because it holds up well even after being cooked, unlike chard or spinach.

Let me know what you think!

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Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale and Bean Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 package (4 links) Aidell’s Italian chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped jalapenos, drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) tri-color beans, drained
  • 1 can (14. 5 oz) northern white beans, drained
  • 4 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a Dutch oven (I use my beloved Le Creuset … well worth the money!), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the chopped onions and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes.

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Add the chicken sausage and brown, about 5 minutes.

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Add the garlic, tomatoes, beans and jalapenos, stirring occasionally until excess liquid from the beans and tomatoes has evaporated.

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Add the chicken stock and sugar. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. After 20-30 minutes, add the chopped kale and remove from heat. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

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I didn’t have any, but this would go excellently with some rustic bread!

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**Note: I love the heat, so it’s not an issue, but if you can’t handle it, you can either use less jalapenos or replace it with chopped green chilies.

I made this mug for my best friend from college, Molly. Her birthday is later this week and I wanted to do a DIY gift for her. She lives in Wisconsin and I’m in Seattle, so I thought this idea would be fun. I love how it turned out and hope she enjoys it, too!

Here’s a quick overview of the supply list and steps to make a mug like this:

  • White ceramic mug (I purchased mine from Fred Meyer)
  • Sharpie pens (I used the traditional fine print ones in black and red; I wanted to make the hearts pink but my pen was defective)
  • Image of whatever you want to put on your mug (I just used Google Maps on my iPhone)

Here’s how I did the project:

  1. Determine what you want on your mug. My friend lives in Wisconsin and I live in Washington, so I just needed to find the basic shapes for both states. I just searched on Google Maps! 
  2. Draw the shapes on the mug; I freehanded mine and (very) surprisingly, they turned out nicely. I definitely didn’t inherit the artist genes the rest of my family has, so I was pleased.
  3. Trace over the initial drawing until it’s the thickness you like. I wanted my state outlines to be pretty thick, so I went over it 3-4 times.
  4. Using a colored Sharpie, draw a heart nearby the city you and the recipient of the mug live.
  5. Draw little dashes from each heart to the other. Of course from Washington to Wisconsin there isn’t a funny squiggly mark, but I added it for a fun little touch.
  6. Place the mug in a cold oven in the middle of the rack. Turn the heat to 350 degrees and “bake” it for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the mug cool for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove (be especially careful not to smear the ink; since it’s warm it might be a bit wet) the mug and place on a potholder. Cool completely.

**The mug is ready to use, but be careful not to wash in the dishwasher and/or use a heavy-duty scrubber to wash as the ink might fade. 

Here’s another Auntie Approved post! My niece was outgrowing her infant car seat and so we decided to purchase a new convertible car seat for her to use when she comes to visit us in Seattle.

boobear

One of my biggest pet peeves is when car seats are installed incorrectly or when the buckles aren’t tight enough. I guess this comes from my many years of babysitting and nannying … being responsible for someone else’s child(ren) has made me super cautious about safety, especially when traveling in the car.

Before my niece and sister came out to visit (they live across the country), I did a lot of research on which car seat to purchase. I really love the Britax line of car seats, but as infrequently as my niece visits, it didn’t seem worth the extreme prices of that brand. I opted for this car seat: Graco’s My Ride 65 Safety Surround.

Graco My Ride 65 Safety Surround in Capri

Here are some of the reasons why it’s one of my Auntie Approved products:

  • It has lots of cushy padding in the seats. So many car seats lack this and it’s hard to think of a kid having to sit in a plastic shell for extended amounts of time. This seat features body pillows and head cushions, which can easily be removed as the child gets older and bigger.
  • It fits in the car, both in rear-facing and front-facing modes. We drive a standard size SUV and it’s incredible how hard it can be to get a car seat to fit properly, even with a “big” car!
  • The buckles and straps adjust easily. Of course we haven’t used this on a daily basis, but we haven’t run into any problems with the straps twisting or buckles jamming.
  • It accommodates kids for a long time. My niece is just over 20 pounds right now, but this will fit her until she reaches 65 pounds, which is typically (here comes my nanny knowledge again!) when kids can use a booster. Why buy more car seats than you need to?!

Some things I wish this car seat had:

  • Better LATCH installation attachments (like this); these work, but it’s difficult to remove the car seat from the car once it’s installed. These ones work more like a carabiner vs. the ones (that I like) that work like a seatbelt. 
  • No-thread harness straps (like this); again, not a big deal since we don’t use this all the time, but if it were for my own child, I’d probably want something that I don’t have to re-thread as the child gets taller.

I used to laugh at people who made their own everything; you know, the people who make their own soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, baby wipes, etc. I mean, what’s the point of doing that?! Usually the point is to either save money or “be green” … neither of which I needed to do in the past.

Well, karma has come back to bite me and I find myself dabbling into the whole DIY product realm. Not as extreme as others and definitely not to “be green” (disclaimer: I try to be responsible and sustainable when possible, but I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to do so). I’m trying to save money so I can payoff my final student loan and so making my own things has been a good way to save some extra cash.

Today’s project was making my own body wash. I find that personal products are some of the most expensive things on store shelves, which makes sense from a marketing standpoint because we all need to use them to a certain extent. Body wash didn’t seem like a product that I’d be compromising a lot with, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Here’s an easy step-by-step process:

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Get three bars of Dove moisturizing bar soap (see note below).

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Grate all of the soap; I just used a cheese grater, which worked fine.

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Slowly add the grated soap into the boiling water.

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Gently stir the soap into the water. Allow the soap to dissolve completely. Make sure you stir gently to avoid excessive sudsing.

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Place in a large container and transfer to a bottle once cool; I used a large Ball canning jar to do this and saved a Bath & Body Works body wash bottle to use for refills.

So far, so good! If I like the results from this (as in it gets nice and sudsy, remains squeezable from a bottle, etc.), I don’t think I’ll need to spend money on store-bought body wash again!

Supply List:

  • 3 Bars of Dove Moisturizing Soap
  • 6 Cups of Water
  • Cheese Grater
  • Cutting Board (or other surface to protect counters or tables)
  • Large Pot

Savings:

  • Dove body wash: $5.99 for a 24oz. bottle
  • Dove moisturizing bar soap: $5.54 for a 4-pack (enough to make a total of 64oz. of body wash)
  • You save about $3.90 by going the DIY route!

*Note: I tried this once before using Target’s Up & Up brand of bar soap and it didn’t work with the ratio of water and soap. The final product was a large clump of slimy soap gelatin. This time I used Dove green tea and cucumber moisturizing bars. 

SkipHop: Mate stay-put plate + tray

First up as an Auntie Approved product is this really cute modern plate, fork, spoon and placemat set from SkipHop! My niece was given one of these for her first birthday and it’s easy to use and clean. It’s cute mod style is awesome too!

It’s available online and at many retailers including Pottery Barn Kids, Target and Babies R Us.

Well, here it is, my first Living Andante blog post! It’s taken me long enough quite a bit of time to figure out what exactly I want to blog about. I word-craft every day as an assistant account executive at a local PR company, so sometimes I don’t feel like writing after a busy day at work, yet I enjoy it so much that a blog makes sense.

You might be wondering what types of things you’ll see here on the blog. As the title Living Andante implies, this is a blog about taking life in stride, one step at a time. With my background in classical music, I wanted to incorporate one of my favorite musical terms. Andante means “walking pace” or “moving along.” That said, I’ll be posting everything from life updates, crafts I create (with the time I don’t have), musical discoveries, things I love about Seattle, culinary concoctions and more. One thing you’ll quickly learn about me is that I’m a proud auntie to an amazing little toddler girl, so naturally I’ll post some of my favorite “Auntie Approved” kid-friendly products and places.

What are some things you’d like to see on here? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Until next time …

tHe fiCkLe piCkLe

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