Sunday, March 31, 2013

Simple Suppers - Pork Lettuce Wraps

Looking for a really quick Asian inspired dinner?  Try these super easy lettuce wraps courtesy of Cooks Country magazine.  They are AWESOME!  I made some rice to go on the side and dinner was done in the time it took the rice to cook.  I made a few changes for ease and time.  The original recipe calls for a pork tenderloin that you grind up yourself in the food processor.  Yeah.  Not gonna happen.  Ever.  Use pre-ground.  Duh.

Pork Lettuce Wraps
2 Tbsp. oil
1 lb. ground pork (or chicken, or turkey, yum)
1/4 c. hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4" pieces
1-8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 head Bibb lettuce
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over med-high heat until just smoking.  Add pork and cook, breaking up with a spatula, until no longer pink.
While pork cooks, whisk hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, and chili-garlic sauce together in a large bowl.
When pork is cooked, add to bowl with hoisin mixture.
Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in now empty skillet over med-high heat until shimmering.  Add bell pepper and water chestnuts and cook until pepper softens (about 4 minutes).
Add ginger to skillet and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
Add pork mixture back to skillet, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened (about 1 minute)
Serve in lettuce leaves.
**You can find hoisin sauce and Asian chili-garlic sauce in the ethnic foods area of most supermarkets.
**Want something besides lettuce?  Try Nappa cabbage for a little more crunch.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

Today's selection is........

(I apologize for the crappy photo.  It's late, I've had some wine, and it is good enough)
This is a Malbec by Gaucho Spur.  The label says this "Argentinean Malbec is reputably rich in flavors of plums and cherries.  Notes of vanilla and chocolate carry this wine".
Hmmmmm.  Okay.  I will start with the smell.  It has a fairly strong, alcoholy (it sounds like a real word so it must be) smell.  I can go with the cherry and maybe even the chocolate, but this wine is pretty assertive (not necessarily a bad thing) and no matter how much I try, I can't find the plum or vanilla.  I really like the after taste of this wine, but I don't think I am a fan of "bite" (thank you to my sister-in-law for the suggestion of bite instead of burn) and this wine has some bite to it.  All in all though, a pretty good wine!
Next week:  Chardonnay with a pretty tree on it.

Crochet Backed Quilt

I love combining textures and techniques.  Baby blankets are a great way to do that.  They are small, and work up quickly so you don't feel like you are doing the same project FOREVER. 

I found this pre-pieced fabric when I was pregnant with my little guy.  I decided it would look really cute with a simple crochet backing and some yarn tacking instead of stitch quilting.  But I flaked on it.  Imagine that.  I picked it up a couple of weeks ago and decided to finish it.  Here is what I did!

First I made the crochet backing.  I worked it up in a simple double crochet pattern and made it about 36" square.  You can use any yarn, pattern or size you wish.  This is simply a technique.

Next, I laid the afghan down on the quilt fabric and pinned it in place.  Leave some extra around the edge just in case it shifts while you tie it together.

Now for the very repetitive and boring part.  This is where I lost interest and flaked.  Be strong!  Don't quit!  It is worth it. 


Using embroidery thread or yarn (regular thread is not strong enough), tie your blanket.  Go in through the side you want your ties to show on, being sure to catch the afghan on the back (this is what holds the two layers together).

Be careful not to pull the tail through!  I like to leave about a 3/4" tail.  Bring the needle back to front about 1/8" away from where you went in.
Pull the yarn through leaving your tail showing and tie the two ends in a tight knot.
Snip the long end that is attached to the needle, leaving a similar length tail.  Repeat like, a million more times.
**I put my ties at the corners of my squares to make things easy, but you can use any pattern you want, just don't get more than a few inches apart or it won't do it's job of holding the layers together well.
**It can be difficult to pull the yarn through the layers.  I use a lid gripper (It is a flat piece of rubber to help grip jar lids while you open them) to help me grip the needle.
Now trim the extra fabric around the blanket.
Cut your binding strips.  I cut mine 2" wide.  The ONLY reason I do this width is because I have a ruler that is 2" wide and it makes it easy to mark the strips.  I do not cut mine on the bias.  Bias is only important if you have curved edges.  If they are straight, save yourself some difficulty and fabric and cut on the grain.  Once you have them cut, sew them together end to end into one long strip.  Press the seams open.
Now all you have left to do is sew on the binding.  I use a 1/2" seam allowance.  Here is the way I sew my corners.  Once you sew it on, fold it over, turning under the raw edge, and hand stitch it down.  I know.  It sucks.  Do it anyway.  It is the best way to do binding.
Boom.  Done.
***Like this blanket?  Want to see a similar style?  Check out my Quilted Granny Square Blanket tutorial OR my Crochet Granny Quilt tutorial.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Simple Suppers- Unstuffed Peppers

Who has time to pre-boil, stuff and then bake peppers?  Ain't nobody got time for that (Overused?  Probably.  Don't care)!
Unstuffed Peppers
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 bell peppers, chopped (I used red, green and yellow)
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. garlic powder
1-1/2 c. rice
1-28 oz. can tomato sauce
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. water
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add onion and peppers, sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and cook until they begin to soften (3-5 minutes).
Add ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spatula, until no longer pink.  Stir in garlic powder.
Add rice, sauce, tomatoes and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until rice is tender.
Check seasonings and serve!

*I serve this topped with shredded cheese!* 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fitness Fridays

I have to believe that tank top season is right around the corner, even though it appears that little groundhog is a lying bast...  you know what I mean.  I was looking around for a cool arm workout and one of the most suggested moves was the push-up.  I came across this variation and though it looked cool so I tried it.  The difference is amazing!  If you have a hard time with regular push-ups, try this version, it is much easier to maintain your position without creeping across the floor (you know what I mean).

Lie on your stomach with your legs out straight and spread a few inches wider than hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor a bit to the side and in front of your shoulders. Straighten your arms and lift your body so you're balanced on your palms and the underside of your toes. Keeping your back straight, bend your elbows and lower your entire body at once. Rather than trying to touch your chest to the floor, lower only until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up.  I shoot for 10-15 reps starting out and work my way up.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

Today's selection was a suggestion by my grandmother.  She had SEVEN children.  Apparently she learned to appreciate wine for the same reason I have... it makes children less irritating.  She told me about finding a wine she loved and my grandfather buying it by the case.  I'm guessing he was banking it made husbands less irritating too.

When I told my grandma what kind of wine I thought I liked (crisp, light, a little sweet), she suggested Prosecco.  Since my grandma said I should, I bought some and drank it.

I bought Lunetta Prosecco because...  I'm sure you can guess.  It was on sale.  The label describes it as having "light aromas and vibrant taste".  Prosecco is a sparkling wine so I was expecting bubbles, but holy cow this stuff made me feel full of air.  It is VERY bubbly.  I was light and crisp and appley (It's a word I swear.  Don't give me a hard time, you knew what I meant didn't you?).  I am left wondering what it would be like in a punch type drink because it was a little too sparkly for my taste by itself.  I am thinking a Mother's Day party beverage...  I will let you know!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Healthy Quinoa Cookies

My WHOLE family is vacationing together in the Outer Banks this June.  It appears the reality of all of us looking at each other on the beach has begun to set in because we now have a family fitness challenge.  It even has a Facebook page, and considering the serious competitive nature of my family, this should prove an interesting venture. 

In the spirit of all that is healthy, I am sharing one version of my healthy quinoa cookies.  If you have not tried quinoa, go get some today.  It is considered a superfood and is gluten free.  Quinoa is a great source of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.  It is versatile and quick to make.

I have made these many different ways, but this is the basic recipe.  They are cakey and EXTREMELY moist so be prepared.  They will not keep very long due to this moisture, so consider keeping them in the fridge or freezer.

Healthy Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. water
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 banana, very ripe
1/2 c. applesauce (I used Kroger brand cinnamon applesauce)
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips
Combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed (12-15 minutes).
Mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add cooked quinoa.
Mash banana in large bowl.  Add applesauce, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla.
Stir quinoa mixture into wet ingredients.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Drop by the heaping tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Immediately remove to cooling rack.
Store in the refrigerator.
*For you Weight Watchers out there, two cookies (this makes 36 cookies) is 3 points plus.*

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

Just a little fun fact:  This is my 100th post!  It is a testament to my life that it would be about cleaning.  Being a mom is primarily about making food and cleaning that food, whether it be from children, floors, clothes or toilets.  Fun times.

Today's post is not so much "how to" as FYI.  Last fall I got a pair of furry lined moccasins better known as "winter time flip flops".  I love them.  They are easy to slip on and wear around the house but they are also appropriate for public use (even places besides Walmart).  Unfortunately, the point is to wear them barefoot, and they end up like this:

I am not a filthy person so don't pretend like yours look any different. 
I was terrified to try to clean them, but it had to be done (they smelled as bad as they looked).  So, I prepared myself for their ultimate demise and threw them in the washing machine with a load of towels (I didn't want them banging around in case, by the grace of God, my kids took a nap).  Here is what they look like now:
A little misshapen, but pretty darn good.  I was really surprised at how well they washed up. The fluff is fluffy again, the dirty spots are gone but the best part?
No more stink! 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Fitness Fridays

Today I am sharing a variation of the classic crunch.  I discovered it in a pole dancing class I took after I had my first son.  (For the record, pole dancing is GREAT exercise)  I tried to hunt down some pictures for you and only found one.  Since I have no one around right now to take a photo of me demonstrating, I will do my best at describing it.  I'm pretty sure I can handle it.  It is known as the clam crunch (sounds dirty) or the butterfly crunch.

This is step 2.
Step 1:  Lay on your back.  Bend your knees and touch the bottoms of your feet together making a diamond shape and resting your legs on the floor.
Step 2:  Place your hands behind your head and curl your head and knees up and toward each other, keeping the diamond shape with your legs.  Squeeze your tummy muscles as you go.
Step 3:  Return to the original position.
I really like this ab exercise because it works the upper and lower abdominals.  I try to hit 50 reps.  My baby ravaged belly needs it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slouchy Brimmed Cap (Crochet)

My daughter wanted a hat to go with her hot pink coat.  I wanted an excuse to make this super cute hat I found at  Every one's a winner!

She picked out the yarn which was just Red Heart Super Saver and coordinates with that VERY pink coat.  This hat is all single crochet and as long as you know how to read a pattern and can do math in your head pretty well, relatively easy.  I loved that you make a lining for the brim, giving it more stability.  I love this hat so much, I will be whipping one up for myself...  in a different color.

Here is a link to the pattern:

P.S.  Not to brag (Wait!  That's why I have a blog.), but I think my hat looks better than theirs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lacey Circle Scarf (Crochet)

I have been on a crochet kick lately.  I started knitting about 15 years ago and loved it.  My mother is a big hooker (hee hee) and makes the most beautiful afghans.  I guess I kind of assumed you were either a knitter or a crocheter er er er.  When I was pregnant with my littlest son, I found some of the cutest baby hat patterns and most of them were crochet.  I tried to guilt my mom into it, but she has this thing called a full-time job and my sister the personal trainer has already guilted up most of her time with work outs.  Therefore, I must crochet.

I was shocked at how easy it was to pick up.  I think the trick to either knit or crochet is how you hold your hands and maintaining proper and consistent tension so I was one step ahead of the game since I was a knitter.  I discovered that I could crochet much faster since the rows are usually wider.  I also discovered crochet is denser and stiffer making it great for blankets, booties and outerwear.  It is possible to crochet something lighter and softer, as long as you use the right stitch.

I wanted to make my daughter a circle scarf to wear on Friday's for spirit day at school.  She is delicate and I didn't want the scarf to overpower her.  I wanted it to be worn doubled up so it had to be soft and flexible.  I looked through some stitch options and here is what I came up with.

Lacey Circle Scarf
What You Need:
1 skein worsted weight yarn (I used Red Heart two tone)
Size K crochet hook
What You Do:
Chain 19
Row 1: (2dc, ch1, 2dc) in 5th st from hook *sk next 3 ch (2dc, ch1, 2 dc) in next ch* repeat to last 2 ch, sk next ch, dc in last ch
Row 2: ch 3, turn, (2dc, ch1, 2dc) in each ch1 sp across, dc in top of turning chain
Repeat row 2 until you have 72 rows total.
Sew or slip stitch ends together and weave in tails.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

My smalls like to help me clean.  Seems helpful, but as any mother knows, it's not.  I try to come up with easy and not messy things for them to do.  Dusting is my go-to, but squirting on the Murphy's and then wiping it all over is a bit involved for my big boy.  He really has a hard time spreading the oil around and keeps screaming "I need more squirt!" at me.  Like I said, not really helpful.

If you have looked at my blog much, you have seen that I make my own baby wipes.  If you have not checked that post out, you can find it here.   One day I decided to just give him a wipe to use on the table to make life easier and it occurred to me...  I could easily make furniture wipes using the same technique.  Awesome idea!  So much easier and neater than the rag method also a great way to occupy a toddler.  Here is my recipe:

Furniture Wipes

What You Need:
1/2 roll paper towels (I cut mine with a serrated knife)
1-3/4 c. hot water
1/4 c. Murphy's Oil Soap
Gallon size Ziploc bag

What You Do:
Mix together oil soap and water.  Place paper towels in bag and pour mixture over.  Let stand overnight.  Pull cardboard from center, it will bring the first towel up with it.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand you're done!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fitness Fridays

I do the grocery shopping alone (by alone I mean with a toddler in the cart playing games on a Nook to avoid complete meltdown and an infant in a MOBE strapped to my chest).  I do not buy crap because said crap would attach itself directly to my butt.  Any excuse my husband can find to go to Target or Walmart results in two things, a video game and crap.  Last night my husband came home with:

1. Chips Ahoy
2. Chips Ahoy with Reeses
3. Swiss Cake Rolls
4. Zebra Cakes

Really.  I saw the pile (because they did not magically find their way to the pantry, weird) and said:

"Do you like women with big asses?  I hope so or you will be a very sad man."

He grinned a really rotten grin which leads me to believe that yes, he is in fact a butt man.  So as I sit today dreaming of all the crap now living in my pantry (the put away fairy only visits when I am home, weird), I decided to post one of the most effective and dreaded exercises I know.  The Burpee.

This exercise goes by many names.  Cell block push-up's, squat thrust, the up-down and the list goes on.  Basically you squat (the kind to pick something up, not the exercise kind), jump your feet back into plank position, jump your feet back to where they started then explode up into a jump, then back down to start over.  This works EVERYTHING.  If you want to make it harder (stupid) you can add a push up while in the plank position.  These are crazy hard and exhausting so instead of a number of reps, I go for a minute and do as many as I can.  I am not going to lie, at the end of a minute, my jump back is more of a walk and my explode up is more like standing.  As creepy Tony Horton would say - Do your best and forget the rest!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tiffany Inspired Baby Ensemble-Bootie Edition

Last week I shared the pattern for the Tiffany Inspired Baby Cardigan (see that pattern here). 

Today I am sharing the pattern I used for the sweet little booties. 

They are fairly easy and work up quickly as they are done in worsted weight yarn.  I did the soles in one color and the body of the boot in another.  The spot you start the chain for the flap seems wrong, but trust me, it is right (I was a non-believer and I had to start over).  This pattern also offers a non-scalloped version for all the little men in your life.  I plan to make a pair for mine and I will share them with you soon!  Here is the link for the pattern.  Happy hooking!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

Today's selection is another gift from my sister and her lovely wife.

It is produced by Stellar Winery.  I am not sure if it is called "Live a Little" or "Really Ravishing Red" or both.  I appears to be enjoyed by voluptuous women and men in zoot suits, dancing in a field of flowers at night.  It is an organic wine and vegan friendly.  I am not sure how a wine could be vegan unfriendly.  Maybe they test it out on monkeys.  Can you imagine drunk monkeys?  They pick each other for bugs and throw their own feces sober, so I'm not sure where it could go from there...

Anyhoo, this wine had no description so I can only use my own which is kind of scary.  It is not deep at all.  I did not feel it had richness which is not necessarily bad.  It had no burn to it and was pretty light for a red.  I would consider it a pretty straightforward, simple wine that would be good with a meal, because it would compliment and not compete with the flavors of your dinner.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Treating Baby Eczema

My little guy has eczema.  It sucks.  He is such a sweet handsome little man, but he was so crusty, that was all you noticed.  He would wake up itchy and aggravated and mom guilt would set in (mom guilt definition: everything that ever goes wrong with your child is your fault because clearly you grew them incorrectly).

I tried anything I heard or thought would help.  I switched to "free and clear" laundry soap.  I ran a vaporizer all day and night.  I bought Aveeno for eczema and loaded him up.  Very disappointing.  I spent fifty bucks on Eczoderm wash, cream and lotion which helped, but didn't clear up his spots.  I started noticing he looked great the morning after his bath, but got worse as the day went on, so I started bathing him every 12 hours, following the bath with a healthy dose of Eczoderm cream.  Better still, but some patches still persisted. 

I hit the internet to read up on the condition to see if I could figure out a solution.  I quickly found out that eczema in little ones is thought to be the result of the skin not functioning properly as a barrier, which means the skin cannot properly maintain it's moisture resulting in skin so dry it turns into flaky, rough and sometimes oozy patches.  That explained why he was so much better after a bath and a lube up with the cream, I was mimicking the moisture barrier he was missing.  I kept experimenting and came up with a system that completely controls his breakouts.  If you are having the same struggles, hopefully it will help.  Here it is:

1.  Bathe no less than every 24 hours in warm (not hot) water, using a gentle cleanser like Exoderm.  Until his rough patches completely went away, I bathed my guy every 12 hours.  This replaces the moisture in the skin.
2.  Immediately after bathing, gently pat the skin almost dry.
3.  If needed, apply a small amount of over-the-counter cortisone cream, such as Hydrocortizone 10 for Eczema, to stubborn areas.  This will help clear up any lingering red bumps.  My pediatrician said this is completely safe for babies because the amount of steroids is so low, it does not absorb into the body.
4.  Slather on the Aquaphor, layering over cortisone cream if applied.
5.  Dress only in breathable cotton.
6. Wash clothes and blankets in free and clear detergent.  I use All Free and Clear.  I also use Downy Free and Sensitive to keep his clothes soft.
7. Run a humidifier.  Eczema usually flares up in the winter because of the dry air.

Here is a before and after of my little man.


I hope this helps another guilt ridden mother feel better!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

Cleaning products are like hair products.  You have a million of them under your counter, and you only use two.  I have learned to resist the urge to buy a new cleaning product and I have successfully whittled my collection down to a handful of my favorites.

I have a kitchen full of stainless steel appliances.  For years I have been cleaning them with Windex.  It's a reflective surface right?  It got the job done... a lot.  I was wiping down my fridge every other day to get off fingerprints.  In my fruitless search for a product to successfully remove hard water build up from my glass shower (see what I have tried here and here) , I came across actual stainless steel cleaner.  I bought it.  Not sure why, but I did.

A few days later, I remembered my purchase and thought, what the hell, might as well see if there is a difference.  I sprayed it on my smudgy fridge.  It was almost like a creamy spray, but it smelled like Windex.  Holy cow.  It must just be thick Windex.  Jerks got me to buy ANOTHER product for no reason.  Jaded, I started aggressively wiping my "Windex" off.  It did not just wipe off.  You really had to keep rubbing to get it off.  Hmmmmmmm.

Once I got it off, I looked at my REALLY shiny refrigerator.  It was beautiful.  Noticeably different from a Windex clean.  As a bonus, it seems to repel fingerprints (the label says it will, but in my experience, labels LIE).  My appliances are staying cleaner much, much longer than before.  Long story short, it works, so designate some cabinet space and get yourself a bottle!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Etsy Shop

My oldest son has been under the weather, throwing my whole schedule off..  When kids are sick, you get very little done, so my house is a mess, we have no groceries, and I missed Winey Wednesday.  I'm sure my liver is happy, but I feel way behind, so today I will brag (I mean that's the whole point of a blog right?) about what I HAVE gotten accomplished.  I opened my Etsy shop!

I have a stupid big yarn stash, so I decided to try to clear it out.  I found some cute ideas for baby hats, sweaters and shoes which are perfect for using up bits and pieces of yarn.  My kids can only wear so many hats, so I need to get rid of the extras somehow.  I decided to open an Etsy shop and see what happens.  There are only like 40,000 other baby hats for sale there, so I'm sure mine will sell like hotcakes, right?  Oh well, it's fun for me and who knows?

Here is the link to my shop:

And here are some pictures of what you can find there so far!

Gray and Gold Button Tab Baby HatGreen and Natural Button Tab Baby HatBlue and Gray Crochet Newsboy Hat
Rose and Pink Sparkle Baby Girl HatPale Blue Crochet Newsboy HatGray Crochet Newsboy Hat

Keep watching for new items!