Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hardy, Healthy and Perfect Fall Eatin' Food.

I'm so excited that we have been getting a taste of some fall like weather here in our part of country. We can actually pretend that Autumn has arrvived here in Texas and it's not late November! Our weather around here is such a tease! I know that these cooler mornings wont last for long. In fact, today's afternoon high is supposed to reach 91 again. The crisper weather got me in the mood for one of my favorite comfort weather dinners. It's simple, healthy, delicous and perfect for fall. 

I've been fan of skinnytaste.com for ages. I have been following this lady's blog for years when I was on my quest to get healthier and help shed wieght after the birth of my second son. She follows the weight watchers points plan but even if you don't do WW's her meals are simple and delicous. This is one of my favorites and I make it all the time. It's flavorful and healthy. You can dress it up with chips, cheese, fresh cilantro and sour cream or eat it by itself. Leftovers are good served over rice or baked potatoes and it freezes great. I've made this for recooperating friends and new mommas. It's a nice simple go-to meal and 3 out of my 4 kids like it! 

Chicken Taco Chili 

3-4 chicken breast (I used 2 big breast and was fine)
1 onion, chopped
1 16oz can black beans (drained and rinse)
1 10oz bag of frozen corn (I always use canned)
1 16oz can Kindney beans (drained and rinse)
2 14.4 oz cans of tomatoes with chilies (I use generic rotel)
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
1 TBS of cumin
1 TBS chili powder
1 packet of taco seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion and add it to your crock pot. Drain and rinse your beans. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, sauce and seasonings to your crock pot and still well. Place the chicken on top and push down into the mixture. Cover and cook on high 3-4 hrs or low for 6-8hrs. When the chicken is finished cooking, shred it and adjust any seasonings.

All ingredents with chicken before cooked.


Shred the chicken with two forks, adjust seasonings and stir.

 Serve with chips, shredded cheese and fresh cilantro. SOOO GOOOD!

I can't wait for more comfort meals, sitting in front of the fireplace with a good book and my pumpkin scented candles. Happy Fall Y'all!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY easy envelope pillow covers, no really!

I'm not much of a sewer but asked for a simple sewing machine when I was pregnant with Angel-baby. I thought about all the sweet things I would make for her, like baby clothes, blankets, burp cloths, shoes, bibs. 24 hour morning sickness that lasted on and off for the whole 9.5 months mixed with pure pregnancy laziness stopped me from even getting my machine out of the box other then a couple of times to read the manual. I got a quick tutorial from my mother in law, the sewer in the family,  and can now for the most part can sew a straight line if I try hard enough. Over the last few months I have been breaking out my sewing machine and making SIMPLE projects. I made curtains and a runner. Nothing that consists of much measuring, cutting or fancy stitching. With a little bit of practice, I've gotten my confidence up to advance on to something a little more than simple hemming.

With my Family Room finally finished and in place, the last thing I needed was a few decorative pillows. I have a plethora of old pillows thanks to sloppy kids and dirty dogs. I just needed to recover them and update what I had. I didn't want to spend a lot since I know these pillows will follow suit like the old ones. After talking with a friend about making some new envelope covers, I looked up how hard it would be to try and sew an actual cover myself and found that it looked surprisingly simple.

First thing I did was buy a few yards of fabric from Walmart. Total spent was $8 and change for 3 yards. The material isn't the best but neither is my sewing. I figure once I get my technique down I will splurge on nicer fabric.

Measure your pillow to see how big you'll need to make the front of the cover. My pillow was 20x20. You will use one big piece for the front and 2 pieces for the back to make the envelope closing. You'll want the cover to fit snuggly. 

I measured and cut one 20x20 piece.
Measure and cut from your fabric the exact size of your front of your pillow. 

For the back cover you will need 2 pieces to create your envelope closing. Most people use a plain material for this and save as much of their pretty pattern material for other projects, like more pillows. I was out of any scrap material for my back cover so I used this navy stripe pattern that I bought. When making the back cover you will measure the length of your pillow plus add 6 inches. You want to have enough material to overlap and close the back of your pillow. The length of my pillow is 20" so my new measurement is 26". After you measure and cut the material for the back, you will then cut that one back piece into 2 separate pieces. I've seen other sewers cut the back into 2 equal pieces to make it as simple as possible. I've also seen where one piece is slightly larger. I guess it depends on your preference. I think the pillow covers stay closed better if the back has more of a 3/4 to 1/4 ratio closing. If you do 2 equal pieces then you will have 2-13" panels. I used one piece that was 10" and the other on was 16". 
After you have all your pieces cut, you will need to measure a 1/2" seam to hem around one edge of each of your pieces. Iron them into place and sew a straight line. 

After you sew your edges, lay the piece that you are using as the front cover pattern side up facing you. Next, place your bottom piece (I used the short piece on the bottom) rough side facing up on the bottom. Place your other piece on the top (I used longer piece on the top) and when everything is aligned with the edges pin it all into place. If you choose to to do 2 equal panels then it doesn't matter what piece goes where. 

Front side pattern facing you, pin the other 2 pieces ROUGH side up facing you.

Sew around the edges when everything is pinned into place.
When you finish sewing all the way around, trim any extra strings and flip it right side out and insert your pillow.

Voila, you're done! That's all there is to it. If I can do this, anyone can! These aren't perfect but they will do for a quick fix. The one great thing that I love about these covers, while they are simple to make they are also pretty forgiving. If your cut is a little off or measurement isn't 100%, they still look great! I can whip out a couple of these during nap time and the are simple enough for a beginner sewer to do. I love that! 



  New Addiction! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hello and Goodbye, Starbucks.

I love Fall and all the good things that go along with it. Speaking as a former Blue Ridge Mountain girl, this time of year always makes me yearn for cool crips evenings followed by brisk mornings. I miss seeing the mountainsides covered with beautiful fall foliage in vibrant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. Wearing my fuzzy sweaters with wool rag socks in the cool nights in front of a bon fire. Ah, good times! Here in Texas we have two seasons, boiling pot and who knew 85 could be so pleasant?! While I have acclimated to my Texas home after 12.5 years, I miss when this time of year is supposed to come around and we are still sweating in shorts and a tank top!

See what I'm missing, sigh.

I know when Fall has finally arrived around these parts not by the weather or changing leaves, but when Starbucks breaks out their Pumpkin Spice Latte. I'm a sucker for anything pumpkin. I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest from Recipe Girl and decided to give it a go. What could be better than making your own latte at home and forgoing the $5 and the gas. Here's her recipe. I substituted a few things to make it a bit lighter. It wont be as rich in flavor but I'm trying to watch my calories. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte
(yields 1 drink)

1/2 cup whole milk
1 TBS unsweetened canned pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot brewed, strong coffee
2 TBS half and half
1 tsp sugar or more to taste
whipped cream, optional

In glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, whisk together milk (I used 2%), pumpkin, brown sugar, spice and vanilla. Microwave for 1:30-2 minutes. Watch closely and remove it when milk is hot and frothy. (It will boil over, had that happen the first time I made this.)

1:30 was perfect for mine.

Pour the pumpkin milk into a tall glass or mug. Add hot coffee. Pour in the cream (I used fat free half and half). Add sugar. (I used my truvia sugar substitute.) Stir, taste add more sugar if desired.

Hot brewed coffee.

I used fat free half and half

truvia sugar subsitute

Optional but oh so good, add whipped cream on top and sprinkle with nutmeg. I didn't have any nutmeg on hand so I just used a dash of more pumpkin pie spice. Serve immediately.

So yummy and more pumpkin pie flavor than the original that I find a bit sugary. I like that you can adjust the sweetness level with this recipe based on your preference. I think there will be many more of these in my future. Another bonus, I bought all the ingredients for the cost of one Starbucks latte. Come on over for a cup of coffee, I'll make you your own! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Our Family Room's new updated look with mounted TV and open seating.

Hubby J, hung our flat screen TV up over our fireplace a couple of weekends ago and finally has all the wires, splitters, connections, remotes and components up and working along with a new sound bar and wireless subwoofer. I think that he is pretty satisfied with most of the wiring so we can go ahead and hide the wires now. I'm not even going to go into the logistics of this wiring operation. My input on this project was simply where to plug in the ugly subwoofer and how high to hang to the TV. If there is a option on our new all-in-one remote to make popcorn in the Hubble Space Station, I'm sure we may be able to do it. I'm just saying that's how this operation went down. I'm glad someone got all the brains in this family.

Here's what it looked like before.

Hanging the TV gave us more room to rearrange our over-crowded sitting situation. Plus we added back our focal point of the corner fireplace that we revamped a couple of years ago. That awkward corner wall was so hard to work my furniture around and keeping things symmetrical at the same time. I think I found a arrangement that works now. I was able to extend the family room by 3 extra feet when I moved my love seat to the other wall. Moving out our large, very dark and HEAVY, TV armoire lighten up things considerably in there. We rehung my crafty shutters that were hanging above the fireplace mantle over the new placement of the loveseat that is now directly across from the couch. My celings are 24 feet in this room and I needed something to fill in some of the dead space on the wall once the armoire was moved out. I bought this happiness wall decal from Hobby Lobby but I'm not really feeling it, not sure if I'll keep it. J built this super simple shelf and I used chalk paint to give it a aged look and to camouflage the cheap plastic trim he used. Total price for materials on the shelf was $18, not bad. I think it could pass for a Pottery Barn knock off for a fration of the price! That place is such a rip-off. The shelf anchors the wall nicely giving it all unified apperance even though everything is slightly off center. Shelf acessories where gathered from other parts of the room.

The round side table that I redid with chalk paint and a small storage ottomen from my bedroom went where the loveseat originally sat. I have a couple of pillows that I want to recover for the chairs and need to find something to display on the table. Not a prioity right now since Angel-baby is minutes from walking and I don't need anything else for her to get into at the moment.... Possible uncoming blog topic, steps to babyproof your home? discuss.... In my one and only tucked away corner I have a leaning bookself. It may get a coat of French Linen chalk paint to lighten it up a bit. I am also going to rework the odds and ends on this bookself. It's really a lot smaller than it looks and doesn't hold much. 

I finally feel like this room has it's own set style and flows better into the breakfast room and kitchen. It's not so cramped and we can all sit in here again. I'm also glad that we were able to finally  incorperate our fireplace and make it the big focal point of the room. It now feels cozier even though we've added more living space and created a more open arrangement. It just goes to show how important furniture arrangement is in making a room especially with all the open floor plans now a days. Go ahead and break outside of the box and move some things around. Just by switching the seating, I was able to create a new look. I wish every project was that easy!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Super Simple Supper. Crockpot Beef Stroganoff.

I love the easy connivence of my crockpot. Now that school is back in session (yes. yes. yes.), I plan to use mine more.  It's nice to be able to throw a handful of ingredients together in a matter of minutes and come back to a hot dinner a few hours later. Our afternoons are rather hectic around here. Two  boys get home off the bus around 3:40 followed by the 3rd at 4:15. Then snacks, homework,  papers to sign, flash cards to do and reading logs to be filled out quickly follow suit in a whirl.  Somewhere in between that time when the backpacks get emptied, lunch box duty happens (emptying out the containers from what they ate or in our case didn't eat) and water bottles to be washed out. The baby is up from her nap and needs to be changed AND fed something, the dryer goes off with the second load of laundry, the dog needs to go out and "oh yeah, what's for dinner?" I know it is the same story everywhere. I don't know what I would do if I had a full time job as well. My hats go off to all you hard working mommas! Crock pots are a blessing!I

I found this Beef Stroganoff recipe on a friends facebook page and thought I would tweak it up a bit to my liking. It probably takes a total of 5 minutes to put together and I served it over buttered egg noodles. If noodles aren't your thing you could serve it over rice. Add green beans or a side salad (or skip it all together, I did) and your done.

Super Simple Beef Stroganoff.
2 lbs cubed stew meat
2 cans Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of water
8 oz cream cheese
1 tsp of garlic salt
1 tsp of paprika 
1 tsp dried parsley 
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb of egg noddles 

Chop onions and garlic and add to your crock.  I didn't have any large onions so I used 1.5 medium onions. I seasoned the onions and garlic with a little bit of fresh black pepper and salt.

In a mixing bowl, add soups, Worcestershire sauce, wine, water, (if your not a wine drinker use 1/2 cup of water. I just like the flavor the red wine adds to the beef and also is a good tenderizer.) garlic salt, and paprika. Mix until well combined and pour over your onions.

Mix soup with your onion and garlic.

Next add your cubed stew meat to the soup mixture. I cut a few of my pieces smaller-closer to bit size pieces. Saves time later when I have to cut everything down for the kids anyways. push the meat down into the soup and cover. I cooked on high for 4 hours since I had a late start. You could also cook on low for 6-8 hrs. 

After 4 hours was up, I cubed the 8oz package of cream cheese and stirred it in. It helps to sit the cream cheese out until its room temperature so it melts a little faster. I added 1 TBS of dried parsley flakes and seasoned with more salt and pepper. Put the lid back on and let the cheese melt.
While the cream cheese was melting, I started my water to boil the noddles. When I had a hard boil going, add the noddles and cook 7-8 mins. Drain. I added a little bit of butter maybe 2 TBS and some parmesan cheese and severed the Stroganoff over the noddles. I would have added a package of mushrooms to this since I LOVE mushrooms but my kids don't eat them and I would have to pick them out for them and didn't feel like doing that.

Should have had a better picture but I started eating before I remember that I was going to take one of the finished product. Here it is after a bite or 2...
This was as much as a crowd pleaser as we get around here. Angel-baby and Boy #2 loved it. Boy #1 ate all the meat out and handful of noddles and Boy #3 ate the noodles. I had seconds, see why I need the treadmill. I definitely keeping this one on the menu to make again!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Easy DIY table update.

I've been rearranging my family room as J finally got around to hanging our TV over the fireplace this weekend. Yup, we've join in on that bandwagon. It was complicated but we needed more space in our over crowded family room.  Now we ALL can sit down and watch TV if the rare occasion were to present itself these days. By moving out our old and very large scale TV armoire, we were able to move the love seat and open up the flow of the room. There are still some wires that need to be hidden and a few odds and ends that I want to get together so more on that to follow later. The bonus about the new space is now I can bring back some of the things I had to take out to make room. 

I had these 2 round end tables that I bought years ago when we were in our first house. I bought them for a steal of a deal at Target's annual World Bazar sale. I think they were $45 a piece. They are in great condition and solid wood but a little dark for my taste now. I decided to use little bit of Annie Sloan's chalk paint in French Linen to make one of them a little brighter. Here's how that went.

Excuse the bathroom, it's awful and we plan to start on it soon.
Before, overall great condition.

I started with giving the table a good washing.

New color of choice, French Linen chalk paint.

I flipped the table over and started on the bottom so I could get my technique down before moving to the top. I started with light coats dry brushed on, stretching the paint as far as it would go before adding more paint. Less is more here. I was going for the distressed look.
To even everything out, I went over the thicker spots with a little bit of water. That's the beauty of chalk paint.

I let the table dry for a hour or so.

I chose to go over the dry paint with a wet cloth instead of sandpaper. I rubbed spots around the edges, base and legs where age naturally occurs just enough for the brown to show through the paint.

I went over the base with my Briwax in light brown. Working in small sections rubbing the wax into the paint and buffing it off to light shine.

When I reached the top, I felt like it needed a little something extra. I penciled by freehand our last initial. It wasn't center very well so I added the year we were married or AKA established, to fill in the space on the side and painted it with chalk paint in Old World.

After the top dried, I went over it with a wet cloth concentrating the edges of my lettering to cover any mistakes. 

 Finished with the wax.
I am debating about doing the second table since this one came out so cute but I'm not sure where to put it. I'm sure something will come to me. I love how simple this chalk paint is to work with. In 2 hours I totally transformed this table with a whole new look!