Monday, September 30, 2013

My perfectly, un-perfect FRAMED canvas print!

The Headlines:

I'm doing a boy baseball room.

I bought a canvas print.

For the most part,  I'm not a fan of canvas prints.

Let's FRAME it!

OOPS.

So, it's been established... I'm PICKY!  We're in the midst of doing my little boy's room.  That post to follow... but one of our projects within the room seemed simple enough to me.  I bought a vintage looking baseball canvas print (at yes, that fabulous store, Home Goods) that I thought was so cute and at such a good price!
But when I got it home it just bugged me.  



It was totally boring.  Canvas prints may work in some circumstances.  Such as, perhaps grouping multiple, "like-type" canvas' together.. but especially in this circumstance, where I thought it may anchor the wall above my sons bed... it would not.  It needed to be more grand, more wow!  So, I thought, let's put a frame around it!  4 boards, slapped together - no biggie, right?  Sounds easy enough, to me?!  But when I innocently mentioned this to BP (my husband) he was not on the same easy train as I was... he informed me he wasn't doing it.  He said, his time versus the cost was not worth it.  

So, I did what he said, I priced it.  Went to a store, Michael's, gave them the size and explained what I wanted (which by the way, pretty much didn't exist at their store...  a wide like RED, rustic looking 4 inch frame).... anyways, the worker said ballpark for him to do that would run me about $400-$450.  And he said other stores may charge more.  When I reported that back to BP he had a change of heart.  This, you have to know, is only because it's his son's baseball room, which he has a special place in his heart being that he played little league through college.   He set out to do it.  

Honestly, it was NO ride on the easy train like I thought - so, because by definition this blog is only supposed to give you easy projects - I apologize.  But, he did it!  Here's how: we went to Home Depot and bought 4 boards of 4" wide pine at 3/4" thick.  He used a miter saw and cut the appropriate dimensions.  He then screwed the pieces together to fit like a frame, applied wood filler and painted it.  But he cut the wood diagonally.  He said, if he could do it again he'd cut just 4 boards, meaning 2 longer vertical and 2 shorter horizontally to form a square.

Here's how it turned out. 


Something's off isn't it? I didn't notice it at first either but yes, it's crooked on the bottom left hand corner as you look at the frame.  See, look closer.


But after all his hard work, this picky chick knows when to let it lie.  It still looks great and my son is happy!  Maybe someday, we'll alter it.  And until then, perfection is sometimes over-rated.  After all, it's the quite un-perfect "Leaning Tower of Pisa"  that draws millions to see it every year!


Also, it does protrude from the frame a little bit.  I really don't mind this.  BP wanted to basically make 2 frames so it would be equally thick but I nixed that plan.  I told him... I wasn't that picky!   Hee hee.

**  Hey, if you like this, there's more where that came from!  Go to the home page and put your email in the top, right hand corner where it says "follow by email"... every time I do a new post - it will let you know!  And thanks ahead of time!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fake "Make" your Salad Dressing!

The Headlines:

I Love major yum salads. 

There's an easy way to make any salad major yum.

Try this (it's faking making dressing)!





So the one thing BP (my husband) knows I do really well is make salads.  They're fun to come up with different combo's to suit the season.  They go with everything: steak, ribs, fish.  They even stand alone if you add some hearty elements.  Hamburger, beans even apples.  We make all kinds of salads here.  Salmon caesars, taco, "antipasti" types, southwestern style, bbq, dried cranberry & nuts... the list goes on.  But I'm not here to teach you how to make a salad.  Though the next time I do, I can certainly pass it along. Until then, I have a trick to make any one of your salads a crazy master piece.

This...



I know what you're thinking.  That's just 2 store bought dressings.  Hidden Valley Ranch and Bernstein's Restaurant Italian.  And you're right it is.  And to be honest, on their own, in my mind they do quite a nice job.  But together - it's like magic.  We had a friend (a guy) actually... over for dinner during Monday Night Football (go figure).  I made a spinach salad kind of like the one you see above.  He was fine to eat it but when I combined the dressings for him - and after he took a bite, his response - no joke - "This is the best salad I've ever had!"  He was so surprised that it was that good - it was cute actually!

I will tell you the Italian is hard to find sometimes.  Not every grocery store carries it.  So search high and low.  Also, if you switch it out for another Italian dressing the results will be along the same line but just not as great.  And there in lies today's post.  Simple but awesome.  Try it this weekend with almost any salad combination.  You'll be glad you did!

And for the record, someday I really will make my very own salad dressing.

If you like this, there's more where that came from!  Go to the home page and put your email in the top, right hand corner where it says "follow by email"... every time I do a new post - it will let you know!  And thanks ahead of time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Moms w"h"ine Night!

The Headlines:

Moms need wine.

Moms need to w"h"ine.

How to do your own Moms w"h"ine night.


Last Spring, I started what I like to call a w"h"ine night for moms.  Because, let's face it.... we could all use a little wine while we wHine about our lovely children.  Well, a good time was had by all last time so I decided to bring it "Back to School" style!  Glad I did...




Now, the problem with being a perpetual entertainer is 2 things: one, it gets expensive and two, it's a lot of work.  Like you, I never have any time.  And this picky chick likes to make parties just right.  So, for years I have invited people over and done the whole menu myself.  I like the control, I like to plan them per the season, I like to decorate around them.  Yea, not anymore.  I have decided that, in some cases, I'll let people chip in.  In this mom's night, I did the mom-tini's, wine and spinach salad bar.  Everyone else brought one thing each.  It worked like a charm.

There were 10 of us in all so we had a LOT of food.  A bacon dip, an oyster dip, a spinach dip, a 5 layer dip (guess we're a little dippy), fruit, cheese and olives, salmon, a candy bar... the list goes on.  I've decided I think people want to bring things to your house when invited.  It makes them feel like they are more a part of the event.   So, yes, I relinquished control just a bit and it felt good.  That Friday afternoon, I was able to attend my daughters daisy "bridging" ceremony... leave from that and come directly home to throwing a party that took just a little prep earlier in the day.  It was awesome.

Here's what I did do:

Mom-tini's

They were so pretty... a deep turquoise green color (since we're still in our summer style - which btw, is on its way out next weekend), made with blue curaƧao and pineapple juice among other things... but while I was in love with their look... I wasn't in love with their taste so I will not be passing on the recipe.  As one picky chick, it just didn't do it for me.  But everyone drank theirs before...

Moving on to the W"h"ine Bar


And the Salad Bar...


I'm really annoyed with myself....  I didn't get a pic of the whole spread... but what can I say?  I was having a good time!

By the way, a couple hours before the gathering I discovered a  really easy idea to apply to any party.  Use your frames to make food and drink signs.  Easy.  


Finally, when the night was over and all the w"h"ining had been heard.   It was time to go... but don;t forget a parting gift!


These were branch pencils.  I'm sure you've seen them.   Perf for a "Back to School" w"h"ine  night!



Success!  SO fun, so easy, we are definitely doing this again.  Super glad I got over my control the menu thing and let everyone help... it means I can do it again sooner, knowing it will not be as difficult as a typical party is!

Now, go out and create your own w"h"ine night and let me know how it goes!   





Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ugliest cake you'll ever LOVE!

The Headlines:

Needed a last minute cake.

Looks super ugly.

Tastes major yum!

Recipe for ugly, yummy (chocolate & caramel) cake.



So it was my parents anniversary last week and they came into town to watch my kids while my husband and I "jetted" off to the Laguna, California area. They actually arrived on their anniversary so, the night before, I figured the only proper thing to do was to bake them a cake! But I had no time.  Now, if I haven't mentioned this before -- think I'm picky -- you should meet my mom!  Oh my goodness... nothing pleases that woman. Well, not nothing but WOW - I know where I get it from!  But  one thing she loves is chocolate... goooood chocolate!  So I decided a super easy,  quick chocolate cake that tastes like you're visiting heaven for a day would be in order.  Easy.  Ha! Remember, I don't cook - so this is never an easy task.

But today... it was...

Ooooey Goooey Chocolate & Caramel Cake


It took about 15-20 minutes of actual work to make this cake happen.  Love that!
And look how pretty it is.... here.  Yea, I set this up.  I'm picky so I like things to look cool, remember? 
When it's an actual cake... there's just no beauty in it.  See below.  It kind of looks like a lump of coal to me. 




Cake 
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
8 large caramels cut into pieces or 16 medium pieces

Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
16 ounces (give or take) confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
you can add come caramels in here too but not necessary 

Heat oven to 375, use butter wrapper to coat a 15x10 inch baking pan.  Put butter, water, cocoa in saucepan.  Heat until boiling then remove from heat.  Add flour, sugar and salt.  Stir in sour cream, baking soda and eggs.  Stir until blended.  Pour into pan.  Place caramels into mix like shown below.  Then take spoon and cover with batter in pan already.  Bake 22-24 minutes.







When the cake is done, start on the frosting.
For the frosting,  kind of the same thing... place butter, milk and cocoa in saucepan.  This is where I also added more caramels but, like I said, that's up to you!  Heat until boiling, stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla.  Spread on cake while it's still warm. 


I know, it's not gorgeous... but that's not the point of this cake.  Use this, when you're short on time but high on taste!  To make things worse, I was going to use frosting to write an Anniversary message but it didn't work so I found random candies in my pantry.  Again, I know... it's not very pretty.  But I promise you, the taste will make up for it.  An idea:  maybe throw some ice cream your guests way because it's rich!  Almost brownie like!  



Side note, if you make this cake without the caramels... it won't be quite as gooey and more cake - like.  I prefer the gooey version! By the way, the picky mom - loved it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Halibut Better Than Tuna!

My family loves a good tuna sandwich but let's face it... they're school lunch material.  So when I want to "up the ante" a bit...  this dish does not disappoint!  Everyone loves it for dinner or as a fun addition to an afternoon party!  And as always... it's easy.

Halibut "Salad" Sandwich


The key with many of my dishes... as this is nothing new - I know lots of families do it... we grill most of our meat on a weekend, then vacuum seal it up and put it in the freezer.  We may have an actual family, outdoor BBQ twice a month but we grill a bunch up for the weeks in between.  Therefore, this dish centers around the grilled halibut we did a while ago...

1 lb Grilled Halibut
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 shallot diced 
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up in a bowl, plate with lettuce, spinach or some apples for a fun twist (like that afternoon party we were talking about)!  Use a DARK BREAD... trust me, it just tastes better that way!  My kids (even the picky one, chows every bite!)  Major yum!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

End of summer (birthday) BBQ

In Arizona, our end of summer is hardly here.  But since my daughters birthday is usually over Labor Day Weekend we often end up hosting some sort of BBQ for all of our enjoyment!  This year was no exception.  But I got sick.  So, my husband, as usual... did most of the cooking.  I won't highlight the whole menu - just the parts that stood out!  That always, at our house, begins with a cocktail!  This weekend we did a traditional margarita.  It is, by far, the best marg, I've ever had.  Why is it better than most?  I may have said this before:  all cocktails have to have at least one fresh ingredient or to me, yes I'm aware I'm pickier than average, it just doesn't cut it.  Sorry. Our margaritas are made with real lime juice.  Not the mix.

Mother of Margs

  
25 oz lime juice
750 ml of tequila
6 oz agave nectar
5 oz orange liqueur (we used Maison Prunier Orange Liqueur but Grand Mariner works too)

Very simply drop all those ingredients together into a pitcher... and mix.  Rim glasses with salt at least an hour prior to making drinks (it hardens and stays on so much better that way)... I used colored salt because how much cooler looking is that...?  Then, put ice in glass and shake up one margarita at a time.  It should produce 8-10 drinks.


Also, don't be afraid of the color at first... it looks like this when there's real lime juice.  Not very pretty. But once it gets shaken, as you can see above... it becomes much better looking.  One more thing:  it's strong.  Good but potent and sometimes people think it's so tasty it kind of catches up to them and catches them off guard.  We always serve in the beginning of our party!    

Next, my Cali-schetta. I love avocados with margaritas and any summer event!  Plus, I AM from the state!  It's different than our guacamole but not by much.  

Cali-schetta






Baguette, cut on the diagonal, brushed with olive oil and toast
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 medium tomatoes
2 avocados 
yellow onion
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
lime juice
salt and pepper

Mix it all together and serve on the bread.
Then we had normal sliders for the kids and some more adult sliders for the adults.

Salmon Sliders



Wild caught Sockeye Salmon
garlic salt
alder smoke sea salt
(alder smoke wood chips)- optional
spinach & onions (for sandwhich)
horseradish-dill mayo

First make the mayo, day before or earlier in the party day
1/2 cup mayo
8 tablespoons prepared horseradish 
2 tsp fresh dill
2 tsp fresh chives
salt to taste

Combine ingredients and refrigerate.



Prep the salmon earlier in the day.  Place salmon in pan covering the fleshy part with garlic and alder smoke salt.  Then place in fridge until about 30 minutes before grill time.  Take out and let sit to warm in kitchen prior to grilling, indirectly, on 250 degrees for about 2 hours.

When done with fish... toast buns and plate!  Tasty, refreshing, easy "adult" alternative to a typical slider day!

The highlight of the night... at least for the kids... was, by far, the cake.  It was, after all my daughters birthday but this was not a "party" for her.  I told her no OFFICIAL party this year so this was her un-official one.  But a girl's gotta have a cake!  The kids came and asked what kind it was... chocolate or vanilla and when I said confetti they were like, gulp,... huh?  I had no idea how it would turn out but when I asked what they liked best about it (because I thought the frosting was to die for)... they said - the cake.  And that, my friends... is purely due to those sprinkles (in the batter)!




Here's an easy way you can do it... get your favorite vanilla cake recipe and add about 4 cups of sprinkles.  I used 2 nine inch circular baking pans so it was 2 cups per cake... then of course used frosting in between the cakes to layer it. Frosted the puppy and then added colored nonpareils on top!  Success... at least according to a 7 year old!  I have to admit... the inside does look pretty cool!