Friday, January 24, 2014

GROW YOUR BLOG 2014 -- Welcome!!

Greetings, blog guests!  Welcome to my tiny little corner of cyberspace.  My name is Barb and I’ve been blogging since about 2009.  My blog focuses on the multitude of hobbies and crafts that I’m interested in, including cross-stitching, sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, card-making, other paper crafts, and photography, as well as cooking and recipes.  In general, I do NOT blog about my personal life or include personal photos in my posts.  At the top of my blog, you’ll find tabs separating the recipe posts, as well as crafty tutorials and cross-stitch finishes.  A "Gift Ideas" tab is in the works. 

With respect to cooking and recipes, my focus is on things that taste good!  Well, I guess there’s a little more to it than that.  I work full-time outside of the home as an attorney (I work in tax policy), so I love recipes for quick and easy dinner entrees, and I especially love good recipes for the slow-cooker.  Beyond that, I am always collecting recipes for interesting finger foods, appetizers, and desserts – these come in handy when I’m planning to make snacks for the big game, as well as those times I need to bring a treat into the office.

So that you can see what I’m all about, here’s an example of one of my crafty posts, a tutorial I posted awhile ago on how to make adorable painted plant pots.  Polka Dot Flower Pots  And here’s an example of a recipe post, showcasing a delicious and easy muffin recipe I discovered over the holidays: Cranberry Muffins  Finally, here’s an example that will eventually appear on the “Gift Ideas” section of my blog – a recipe and cute presentation idea for an easy and budget-friendly spiced tea mix, perfect if you like to give just a little something to your co-workers at Christmas:  Hot Spiced Tea Mix 

If you like my blog, I’ve tried to make it easy to subscribe or follow.  There is a subscription gadget to the left, as well as a separate gadget if you’d like to follow my blog by e-mail.  I love following blogs by e-mail, as I’m more likely to take the time to click a link right from my in-box, especially if the title of an update post has really caught my eye. 

So, welcome to my blog, and I sincerely hope that you’ll find something you like here.  Please feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you think -- I would love to hear from you! 

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Caesar Salmon

I work full-time, so I am a big fan of easy dinner recipes that are also quick to prepare, even on a busy weeknight.  This is one of those recipes.  In fact, it is so simple that it really isn't even a "recipe."

We love salmon at my house, but it's pretty expensive, so we don't have it as often as we'd like.  But, when it's on sale in the seafood case, I always take advantage!  This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy salmon.

You only need three things for this entree, and they're shown in the picture above.  You need a nice, big salmon fillet (I prefer fresh, but frozen and thawed salmon is fine, too), some Caesar salad dressing, and bread crumbs.  Now, you can really "do your own thing" with these ingredients.  If you want to use low-fat Caesar dressing, that's fine (but I wouldn't use the fat-free).  If you want to use panko bread crumbs, or Italian bread crumbs, or if you want to make your own bread crumbs, great.  It's all good.  But the Caesar dressing is the key to this preparation.  Caesar dressing is full of yummy flavors like garlic and pepper and Parmesan.  So really, the dressing is doing all of the seasoning for you!

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the salmon in a shallow baking pan (you can spray with cooking spray first, if you like).  Then, spread some of the dressing right from the bottle onto that beautiful salmon fillet.  How much?  Well, that depends on how much salmon you have.  I usually use about 1 to 2 tablespoons of dressing for a pound of salmon.  But more or less is just fine.  Oh, and you don't need to brush any oil or butter or anything else on the fillet first.  The dressing has enough fat in it to keep the salmon moist.  I don't even salt and pepper the fish, because I think the dressing provides enough of both, but if you want to add salt or pepper, this would be the time to do it.

The next step is to sprinkle some bread crumbs over the dressing-coated salmon.  Again, use as much or as little as you like.  Now, if you want the top of the salmon to be all brown and crunchy, you can combine your bread crumbs with a little melted butter and toss before sprinkling them over the fish.  I actually prefer to do this, but my very weird children like it when I use just plan bread crumbs, right from the container, no added butter.  (Yeah.  Ever wonder if your kids are really yours?  This is one of those times.)

So, that's it!  Now all you do is pop the pan into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or so, until the salmon flakes easily and is done all the way through.

I like to serve Caesar Salmon with either buttered noodles or some kind of rice, and a green vegetable or salad.  Oh, and if you have any salmon left over, it is delicious for lunch the next day, chilled and flaked over top of (dare I say it?) a big Caesar salad (or any salad, really).  Yum!!

Caesar Salmon

1 lb. salmon fillet (fresh or frozen and thawed)
2 T. (or more) Caesar salad dressing
3 T. (or more) plain or seasoned bread crumbs
2 tsp. melted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place salmon in a shallow, greased baking pan.  Brush with dressing.  Combine bread crumbs with melted butter (if using) and sprinkle over top of salmon, or sprinkle with crumbs right from the package.

Place baking pan in center of oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.  Be careful not to overcook!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christmas (Cards) in January

I don't know about you, but every year, I plan to make all of my Christmas cards, and then somehow, I end up not doing it.  But, you know, it's NOT just "somehow" -- there 's a definite reason for this yearly failure.  I have plenty of supplies and plenty of ideas, but what I always run out of is time.  You too, right?

The thing about Christmas for me is that, while I love the whole season, I'm always wary of losing some of that love if I start "doing" Christmas too early.  Making someone something that will be Christmas gift (a rag quilt, for instance) is perfectly fine to do many months ahead, but doing something with an overtly Christmas theme, such as making cards, doesn't feel right until, say, after Thanksgiving.  Kind of like decorating the house doesn't feel right 'til then.

Well, I'm going to try to abandon that mindset this year, because there simply isn't any way that I will ever be able to make even a small number of Christmas cards between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The only way it will work is if I start making those cards earlier than what "seems right."

So, in that vein, I've already started thinking about Christmas card designs for next Christmas!  I like to make a couple of different versions of a basic design, so I started looking for a simple design that could be adapted in any number of ways, and came across a basic tree design made with different Christmas-y papers.  It occurred to me that not only could this cute little tree could be made out of many different combinations of papers, but the resulting card could also be embellished in a number of different ways.

Above is the first card that I made.  I used a little gold adhesive gemstone on the top of the tree, and the "joy" is a die cut I made using my Quickutz (yes, I still use mine!).  I really love this combination of papers and colors, and the contrast of "joy" done in white.

I like how this one came out, too.  Three different green papers for the body of the tree, and since the background was so simple, I figured I could get away with using a really busy print for the middle part of the tree.  A star brad tops the tree, and the snowflakes were made using a Martha Stewart punch.  (BTW, she has GORGEOUS snowflake punches!!) "Holiday" is a punch-out from some random set I had, but you could use most any type of sticker, or print out a greeting on the computer using a favorite font, too.

And here's the last version that I made.  The tree is embellished with different sizes and colors of star brads, then I used one of the gemstones for the top of the tree.

I"m happy that I've at least gotten a start as to what I want to do for cards this coming year.  I can't promise when I'll get around to actually making them, but I"m going to try to let go of that self-imposed "no activities 'til after Thanksgiving" restriction.  So, I'd love to know -- which version of my card do YOU like best?


Monday, January 6, 2014

WIPocalype 2014 -- First Post!!

Although I don't make New Year's resolutions, I am definitely a goal-oriented person.  And I am also the kind of person that likes to have goals with respect to hobbies.  Not to stress myself out, or to make my hobbies into things that "have" to be done, but simply because, for me, goal-setting works.  I get more done when I've thought about my goals, and written them down, than when I just "wing it.".

That's why WIPocalypse 2014 is perfect for me.  I want to make sure I keep up with my overall goal of cross-stitching more in 2014, so WIPocalype will help me do that.  I love the idea of checking in once a month with progress pictures, and being free to change my list of things I want to work on, or finish, in 2014.

So, without further ado, here is the list of cross-stitch projects that I intend to work on in 2014.  Some of them are current WIPs, but some will be new starts.

1.  Spring Queen by Mirabilia
2.  Liza’s Bouquet by Ginger & Spice
3.  Tyler’s Lion by Long Dog Samplers
4.  Angel of the Morning by Lavender & Lace
5.  Christmas Flourishes by Mirabilia
6.  Apostle’s Creed by My Big Toe Designs
7.  Afternoon Nap (Bucilla kit)
8.  Seasonal Birds (Bucilla kit)
9.  Albero Felice by Alessandra Adelaide
10.  Little Sheep Virtues by Little House Needleworks
11.  “My House” ornaments (Little House Needleworks) for Brandon and Brian
Spring Queen, Liza's Bouquet, and Tyler's Lion are all current WIPs.  I have all of the supplies for Angel of the Morning, Christmas Flourishes, and Apostle's Creed, and I just ordered fabric and pattern for Albero Felice.  For the Little Sheep Virtues, I want to stitch these all on one piece of fabric, so I've ordered the fabric and a couple of the patterns to get myself started.  I have a mini-goal of stitching one of the Little Sheep patterns each month.
That feels really good to get that all written down.  It is a very snowy and ice cold day here in Michigan, so I think I'm going to make myself a nice hot cup of coffee, and sit down and stitch!

Friday, January 3, 2014

One Little Word for 2014

Choosing "one little word" to focus on for the new year has been all the rage for the past few years.  I rather like the idea, because I am not the type of person to make New Year's resolutions -- I don't like making promises to myself that it's likely that I can't fully keep.  But the idea of "one little word" is broader, and I like that.  One idea representing a goal that is important to me, that I've decided to keep in both mind and heart throughout the upcoming year.

So what's my "one little word" for this year?  Simplify.  As in, try over the course of this year, to simplify my life in ways that are meaningful to me or truly helpful.  Here is a great quote I found from Hans Hoffman:  "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."  Hans Hoffman was a German-born American abstract impressionist painter of the early 20th century.  Here's one of his works:

It's pretty fitting that an abstract artist purposely focused on simplicity in his work, isn't it?  But Hoffman's was not a random focus -- instead, he chose simplicity as a means to help him get to what is necessary, to cut through the riff-raff and find what's important.  I find Hoffman's quote deeply inspirational.

Oh, and that image of Charlie Brown and Linus at the top of the post -- that's another image I am going to keep in mind this year.  I saw the Charlie Brown Christmas special this season for the first time in several years.  I had forgotten how meaningful it really is.  Charlie Brown manages to find the spirit of Christmas in a lonely, forgotten little tree, and Linus, standing under a spotlight on a stage, cuts completely through the commercialism and materialism of Christmas by reciting a few verses from the Biblical Christmas story.  "And that's the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown," Linus concludes.  Yeah, it is.

Simplify.  My "one little word" for 2014.  What's YOUR "one little word"?