Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year Creating!

Though the tiny studio is not quite put back together, I was able to squeeze in there for some much needed creative therapy yesterday.

Using this set from House of 3 (which by the way, all their Christmas stuff is 50% off til Friday!), Mini-Postcard 2010 Calendar Printable Kit, I made this:
I used the same concept to bind the calendar pages as I did in this post: Kickin' It Old School
The sparkly, dangly thingamajig is a vintage clip on earring. I can just picture it on a formally dressed middle aged 1950's housewife! The lace trim is from an old collar and that last bit I have of that. The rest is seriously old stash that is every bit as beautiful to work with as it was when I first came upon it. That label with 2010 on it? Very old Recollections. ~sigh~ I miss Recollections. The printed paper is old Autumn Leaves Foofala. ~another sigh~ I miss Foofala. At least I have this to remember them by. ;)
Have a Happy New Year! See you on the flipside!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top Chef Hometown Heroes

No, this isn't a Christmas post because there's no way I'm getting a table booked prior to the 25th, but I wanted to spend a moment bragging on 2 local star chefs, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio who were recently on Top Chef.

Michael ultimately won, but I've got to show my allegiance for Bryan since he co-owns VOLT Restaurant in Frederick which since it has been open garnered nothing but accolades from food & wine press. I've only been there for lunch a few times, but each time has been lovely. If you are ever in the Frederick area, let's make it a date!

And you should come to Frederick. I've got to brag on this little town. The downtown area is stellar with some great dining in addition to Volt as well as unique antique stores, boutiques, art galleries & more. The first Saturday of the month, stores & restaurants roll out the red carpet late into the evening for themed special events. Just a few weeks ago, Accessories of Old opened up downtown after moving from Bethesda giving vintage loving folks another haven of wonderfulness to drool over. (It's like a smaller Tinsel Trading!)

We first moved to Frederick because the housing prices were reasonable compared to areas closer to DC or Baltimore where we had been renting & the schools were decent. Very quickly, Frederick County worked its way into our hearts truly becoming home with all it has to offer and only a short drive (or Metro ride) to the major metropolitan areas.

The Top Chef attention has been exciting and a boon for Frederick. We don't 'know' Bryan or Michael, but we cheered them on and share in the excitement of our fellow neighbors. (I made the lime macaroons & those proved pretty special too)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Early Christmas Surprise

I apologize for not posting a winner to the Christmas giveaway sooner!

I had some flooding in my studio which is where my computer is. The floor cabinets are toast as are all the storage units that were against the outside wall. We had to take the computer down and move everything about while we cleaned the place out and dried things out, but the computer is back up & running. The studio will take a while longer to reassemble after repairs are made, but I'll live.

My littlest elf drew a name from Santa's boot and the winner is Janelle of Coasting Along! Janelle, send me your snail mail address and I'll walk on over to the bustling post office & get this bundle of vintage ephemera on its way to you ASAP.
More Christmas fun coming along soon as I dig myself out of the studio disaster....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The ADHD Christmas creation

~If you haven't already, leave a comment on the post below for a holiday blog candy giveaway!
Granny Panty Chic: Loopy for Christmas (and a giveaway)

I have two college students who are broke (and so are their parents), but they have the desire to give their friends (and their current squeezes) nice little gifts. With finals and their busy schedules, not only are they broke, but crunched for time as well.
When Heidi Swapp posted this super cool project with candles on her blog, Heidi Swapp Candle Project along with a quick instructional video, I thought it'd be fun to try it for myself, but now my son has asked me to pick up some candles for him to try his hand at as well. She used darling Santa brushes from House of Three. I printed out some images (including sheet music) I already had to try, got excited about the results and subsequently nearly cleaned Michael's out of their Christmas candles.
The best part for my college students is that each candle takes only a few dollars and 5 minutes or less to create.
Since these little projects too so little time, I had a few minutes to play at making a Christmas card.
Materials used: Oooooooooold Melissa Frances papers, text paper, vintage sheet music, creaft store poinsettias, Prima flower centers, Ranger Stickles and vintage glass glitter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Loopy for Christmas (and a giveaway)

This little project is straight from our childhood; a paper chain. Even now, children make colorful chains to count down the days to Christmas, my youngest child still among them.

The slight twist is that I used paper taken from an old French book "Les Malheurs De Sophie" (The Troubles of Sophie) that I purchased at the Porte de Clignancourt flea market in Paris. I looked the book up on Wiki and found that a film & ballet had been based upon it as well which is kind of cool. (forgive some of my photos, I think my camera is about to die since it also flipped out on me over Thanksgiving)
For my chain, I used 8 sheets from the book and cut them into 2 inch strips. The pages have a lovely, creamy aged quality and are still quite sturdy.
I used very basic tools, especially since losing my bone folder in a class, so I improvised with a rub-on tool. :)
After cutting my little pile of 2 inch strips, I scored a line down the length of each strip and folded them on the score line. ~This is a super easy project, but not the most mind engaging, so it's perfect to do while watching your favorite Christmas movie.~
Once all of the strips were folded in half lengthwise, I ran a line of glue down one side and pressed. While pressing the halves together, I also ran my fingers along the paper in a curling motion, so that when the glue dried, the strips would already be predisposed to forming a loop. (if that makes any sense, almost like curling ribbon)
Since I'm not the most patient of gals, I skipped the drying part and went straight into stapling my strips into loops connecting them as I went along. The Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher (or whatever it's called) is great for this. The little staples have a nice hold and fit the tone of the project.
When I had attached all of my loops together, I cut lengths of seam binding to tie to each end for hanging. The 8 pages translated into about 8 feet of paper chain. The glimpses of French text and aged paper would go very well decorating all through the year as well as Christmas time. If you'd like, you could also finish the edges of the strips with distress ink or vintage glass glitter, but be careful not to weigh the loops down or the draping effect might be lost.
Want to know about the giveway? Read on...
And now to give some elements of this project away! We all love happy mail, so I'm going to send someone 8 pages and 1 illustration from this vintage French book as well as seam binding in deep green, silvery white and red so you can choose which you would like should you decide to make a paper chain and use the rest for other projects. I also have a page or two of vintage sheet music and vintage Christmas cards & seals to tuck into this little package as well as some recently unearthed Heidi Swapp product that I likely bought more than once (hey, I get excited about cool stuff or some came in a kit).
To be entered into the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post. For another entry, link this post in your blog (but only if you want to share the opportunity with a friend or two!) and include that in your post. My trusty assistant will draw a name from Santa's boot next Friday, December 11th. Bon Chance!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Inspiration

Besides helping hubby finish up some shopping for his family, doing the Christmas cards, decorating the house and mailing out packages, I'm feeling pretty ahead of the game this year. ;) Sounds like a lot I know and it is, but compared with the frantic activity of November getting orders & events under control, December feels like a breath of fresh air.

Fresh arctic air. Brrrr, our balmy Autumn has finally decided to bid us adieu.

Here are some fun links for Christmas inspiration should you need it:

One Pretty Thing seeks out the best & brightest of the creative internet world. If you can't find inspiration here, we need to get you some CPR (Creative Pretty Restoration) quick!

Joli Paquet once again offers a vision of Christmas loveliness with new tutorials each Tuesday & Thursday as well as their coveted kits that will be offered tomorrow, Thursday December 3rd. Snap them up while you can. They are wildly popular.

Teresa McFayden is offering her yearly 12 Days of Comfort & Joy e-zine for subscription. Amy Hanna is a special guest artist and several downloads will also be made available throughout the duration of the e-zine. Wherever you see Teresa McFayden, you will see gorgeous ideas abound, so consider checking it out.

I'll be back tomorrow with a super simple tutorial straight from your childhood with a little vintage inspiration thrown in and a blog candy giveaway to complement the tutorial, so check back!

Sqeeeeee, only 22 days til Christmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A childhood dream

Don't laugh, but as a child, my favorite part of Thanksgiving wasn't the turkey or the rolls or even the pie and especially not the football. It was the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. I loved the balloons, the bands, the 'stars' that rode on the floats and even the glimpses of an excited crowd. The magic was even more complete when the parade heralded in Christmas with Santa ending the parade.

As an adult (woman) I really resented being stuck in the kitchen cooking while I knew the parade was happening. Sounds selfish, but watching the parade was the Thanksgiving tradition that was special for me.
Usually my sister and I take turns hosting Thanksgiving at each other's homes. We pore over the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit 2 months ahead of time. We review the recipes we've made before that were hits and finally, we plan a huge menu.

This year, we all decided to make a Thanksgiving detour to NYC for the fabled Macy's parade. It took hours of planning via email & phone calls, several hotel changes, tense ticket purchasing decisions and last minute tweaks, but it was all worth it in the end.
We started off our trip with a ride on the Polar Express (Amtrak) from PA to NYC where we were able to relax, stretch out and enjoy the trip rather than the hair-raising rides I've had into NYC via car with hubby at the wheel. We kicked off the trip with a visit to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular before the main event of the parade.

I won't lie, I got all weepy when the first floats and balloons came into view. The crowd is jaw-dropping enormous and excited. It's a party with over 3 million people. We had a great spot on the street thanks to hubby claiming some territory early in the morning. Better weather we couldn't have asked for and seeing the same excitement I have in the eyes of my children and my neices made for more teary moments. My sister and I had our fair share of screaming over the 'stars' we saw on floats, possibly most excited to see several Food Network stars on one float. LOL
And the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? No turkey was consumed, no pie was eaten. We did have a very nice meal at a restaurant not far from the parade route where the total for the meal was probably not much more than the total for groceries we purchase for the yearly Thanksgiving dinner (though hubby refuses to believe it, but he's never done the turkey day/hosting shopping trips alone). And the chief cooks were relaxed & no one had to do dishes. I'm not ashamed to use the cliche that the memories created on this trip were priceless. I hope you and yours were able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday as well. I am most thankful that my family went along with me on this crazy journey and even in their initial skepticism, fully embracing the magic in the end.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creatively Fighting Cancer

My blogging friend Jennifer has started a new Etsy store selling cards, etc to raise money towards fighting cancer.

I'm going to be sending her cards as I can put aside a few minutes to make them. If you would like to help, let me know or Jennifer know and we'll get you the info.

I think there is no question that ALL of us have had the ugliness of cancer touch our lives whether through the suffering of family & friends or through personal experience, but it can't take away our spirit & will to fight, to support one another and to find ways to creatively fight cancer.

Check out the Jennifer's Etsy blinkie to the right and join the fight!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

At The Movies

It seems that nowadays, you have to take out an equity loan to afford a simple night at the theater, right? In my town, it's $10.50 for a ticket. Add in popcorn and soda for another $10 (actually more) plus $10.50 for your date's ticket and you could've adopted a Worldvision child. The kicker is that with the quality (or lack thereof) these days in what Hollywood is churning out, I often walk out wishing I had that two hours of my life back.

Am I alone here? LOL

So, hubby and I don't often go to the movies. When we do we usually like one of the following:
1. Be a must-see on the Big Screen, i.e. movies like Iron Man (actually, I'll go see Robert Downey Jr on any size screen) or Lord of the Rings trilogy or most lately, Paranormal Activity.
2. Be an interesting independent or foreign film (which our town never gets). Comedies & dramas are usually saved until they come out on DVD unless we feel they are super special.
3. Have a movie pass or go to our favorite theater, Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA.

The Majestic Theater is almost too good to be true. We keep expecting to show up one night and find it closed. Nestled in downtown historic Gettysburg, the Majestic has converted part of its space into 2 small movie theaters that show independent & foreign films nightly for $7.50. Some seats are love seats. And they have a frequent customer card; buy 6 tickets and your next ticket is free. Can't beat that.

There are several decent places to grab a bite to eat within walking distance. Between the college students, tourists and natives griping about previously mentioned students & tourists, the people watching abounds.

But not all good movies have been Majestic only movies. If I watch a good one, I'm happy to give it a thumbs up.

Movies this year that were worth the ticket (or cable) price?
Bright Star ~ John Keats and Fanny Brawne as told by Jane Campion.
Adam ~with Hugh Dancy. If you enjoyed Lars and the Real Girl, you'll probably like this as well.
Sunshine Cleaning ~I first enjoyed Amy Adams in Junebug. Quirky & gritty, I liked it a lot.
500 Days of Summer ~Ahhh, almost perfect. Tried too hard in a few places, but on the whole about as good as it gets.
Food, Inc. ~Not a fictional film at all, but a thoughtful look at the business of food production. And before you think it's all hate on big biz, they actually paint Walmart (the favorite mega-villian) in a positive light.
Last but not least,
Taking Chance ~ If there were one film on here I'd recommend you watch, it would be this one. A thoughtful portrait into the journey home for a soldier lost in war. Hubby and I cried rivers throughout this one. Kevin Bacon does a powerfully understated performance here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Whooooo goes there?

I've had these packages of reproduction Beistle Halloween decorations for a looooooong time. They so neatly stack within the already enormous pile of Halloween postcards, papers, cards, etc that store within a special Halloween bin. And for the past couple of years I keep thinking to myself "Self, those repro Beistle decs would be fun to alter a little bit. Give 'em some oomph, some pizzazz and more importantly, some glitter."
Unfortunately the dark, rainy weather is making for a subpar photograph, but the idea is still there I hope. I started with a basic light cardstock weight owl Halloween decoration. Applied glitters & Ranger stickles liberally to the eyes, moon, branch and various highlight points.
Wait to dry. Eat some of the Halloween candy I'm supposed to be saving for Saturday.
Dedice that's not enough glitter, so choose more highlight points.
Wait to dry. KitKats are toast.
I took a little black glittered star, wired it and threaded it through the owl's perch. Darn, no candy break here. So, I gathered a length of crepe paper and attached it to the back to form a collar for my owl. There's glue there, right?
So, wait to dry. I'd hate to be allergic to peanuts because Reeses are straight from heaven.
Last step is to make a little Trick or Treat banner by cutting it, glittering it and attaching to my owl. Yes, more drying glue!
Wait to dry. Um, must run to store for more Halloween candy, but at least the owl looks good! If I had more candy, I might tackle another sign, but as it is, my waistline, nor my pocketbook needs more repeat episodes. For this year at least. There's always next H-Owl-oween!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baby Boo

Fall is usually my favorite season, but I haven't been able to throw my energy into it this year. The kids have noticed the distinct lack of Halloween decor & kind of freaked. Did this mean there wasn't going to be any Halloween themed sugar product in the house? What horrors!
So I spent a couple of hours making them a card...
Plain white cardstock, ancient Creative Memories circle cutting system, old Hero Arts stamps (one a Christmas stamp), Distress Inks, embossing powders, old paper, a bit of free hand cutting and the use of an embossing gun to 'burn' the edges of the skull. Not exactly frightful, but he's got a little bit of personality, eh?
Then, I have a couple of fellow Fright Loving Fiends, er, I mean, Friends, who are really into the holiday, so I had to make them something right ?
This card didn't take nearly as long, but I think it is a great deal more macabre than Mr. Skully Card. When hubby and I went to Paris, one of the places we visited was the Paris Catacombs where the remains from several Paris cemeteries were moved, 'artfully' arranged and are now a tourist attraction. The remains of several famous people of the French Revolution are stored in the Catacombs, including, Robespierre and possibly Marie Antoinette.Simple yes, but freaky fun. I used Sepia Glossy Accents to highlight the skulls and brown crackle paint around the edges to convey the dark, dank atmosphere of the catacombs. The glossy accents really make the skulls pop out of the photo.

Hubby and I were recently able to take in a little spirited fun. A couple of weeks ago, we went to an early showing of the movie, Paranormal Activity. I like to be on the edge of my seat for a good scary movie, but not slasher films. This is right up there in my top 3 Fright Flicks ever now. The others being The Changeling with George C. Scott and a toss up between The Ring or The Descent. Check out the trailer for Paranormal here: Paranormal Activity

Go see it and then lose some sleep like I did when hubby went out of town for a few days. You'd never imagine how many things so bump in the night when you're lying wide awake at 2:30 a.m. Bwahahahahaha....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you

I don't know how else to say it, but thank you to for the support, prayers and thoughts. Thank you for sharing your own stories. Thank you for the listening ears, the shoulders and the chocolate whether real or cyber.

We are still at the beginning of a very long journey.

But life goes on. It must.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't do sadness

A little over a week ago, we got the call a parent never wants to hear. My son had tried to harm himself. Thank God he wasn't successful in his attempt and has started to get help, but for now, each day feels as though we are breathing in heavy air. It's an intense labor we have no control over.

Hubby and I are tired. We each handle stress differently, so that is its own struggle.

Our daughters seem okay, but having been through similar situations, I know that 'not okay' is like milk simmering in a saucepan and 'okay' is the thin skin that forms at the top, easily broken.

I usually try to keep the blog on the light side, but in this case, I'd rather have all the prayer and thoughts I can muster for my child and my family rather than pretend that it's all 'okay'.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Makin' Hay While The Sun Shines

We've all heard the term "making hay while the sun shines". This is a folksy way of saying, you've got to get the work done while you can.

In August, when the garden is bursting, I've got to put in the work with the harvest while it's still going which has meant a very busy few weeks. Before, during and after regular work hours, I've been making tomato sauce, drying tomatoes, churning out pesto, roasting peppers, freezing veggies and more. This is what I get when I innocently plant a modest few plants around Mother's Day; paybacks for my naive ambitions.

But, it's therapeutic work. There's no denying, I've had a summer of the Drama Llama. Lots of situations out of my control, but which still very much effect me and those I love the most. Spending the time outdoors pulling weeds, propping up vines, picking fruit and bringing in the fruits of our labors opens up the mind to think, process and work outside the box.

This has meant precious little time to be artfully inclined in the tiny studio, but I feel no less creative when I'm chopping, stirring or tasting something that's been kissed by the sun and infused with great flavors. It's a different kind of process, but equally satisfying.

So, the tomatoes are still madly producing and the recipes keep coming...

First is one that uses the Tipsy Tomato Sauce as a base for Pizza Sauce. We make a lot of pizza and while some members of the family like less sauce and some like more, we all agree that this sauce is 'just right' for us. My son even took a jar to college with him last week.

Pizza Sauce
1 3/4 C. Tipsy Tomato Sauce
1/2 C. tomato paste
2 small cloves garlic minced
1/2 ts. dried oregano or 1 ts. fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 ts. dried basil or 1 ts. fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 ts. sugar
1/4 ts. salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and process for 15 seconds or until smooth. If you have them, in the summer use fresh herbs. The fresh basil, most especially, makes a difference in the flavor of the sauce, but dried always works. It's pizza sauce; not the Holy Grail.

Another great recipe is for Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes. This one comes from the tomato recipe collection I talked about with the first tomato recipe post. With some farm fresh corn and whatever protein you throw on the grill, this rounds out a very nice meal with full flavor...

Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes
2 large, firm tomatoes
3 T. dry seasoned bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 ts. fresh basil, chopped (just a leaf or two)
2 ts. fresh parsley
1/4 C. grated mozarella
2 T. butter, softened

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Combine the remaining ingredients and pack into the tomato cavities. Place on aluminum foil cute side up and grill for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are heated through and the cheese is melted.

~I've changed up the song playlist with some Back to School stuff. Am I imagining or did I feel the first cool, crisp hint of Fall in the air this morning?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top Chef starting tonight with a hometown favorite!

So yeah, we're all excited around this area to tune in to see Chef Brian Voltaggio competing on Top Chef this season!

We are blessed with an abundance of fantastic food in downtown Frederick, MD, among the best is Volt Restaurant. Wonderfully fresh, seasonal food from local sources. If you are ever in the area, check it out!

He's competing against his brother, Michael, too! No matter what high drama may ensue, the food at Volt is always a pleasure. If you get the chance, check it out!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And the tomatoes continue to roll in...

Busy day today, but I do have this simmering on the stove and it smells GOOD!
This is how you get sweet revenge upon a few killer tomatoes...

Tipsy Tomato Sauce

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1/3 C. olive oil

15 large tomatoes

2 C. red wine

12 oz. tomato paste

1 1/2 ts. salt

1/2 ts. pepper

4 ts. Italian Seasoning (Pizza Magic if you can find it)

Saute the onions, garlic and olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes, in a large pot. Rough chop the tomatoes and add to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced & thickened to your liking. I keep it simmering for hours until it's super thick and rich.

Freeze in pint jars or keep in refrigerator for 2 weeks.

We use this in so many ways: add a few more spices to create pasta sauce, pizza sauce, add some to soups & stews, make a marinara or use it as is for a mild, richly flavored sauce.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chalk it up to...

summer fun!
Every year my daughter and her friend spend a good part of the summer rambling around the neighborhood looking for 'something fun' to do because they are bored. They are old enough now to walk or bike to the library together or head off to McD's, ice cream stand, local market or even the old hardware store, but sometimes, it's the simple things in life that occupy their fancy.
Like a giant tub of sidewalk chalk...
More summer fun is measuring the rate at which one pumpkin vine and a couple of gourd vines are attempting to take over the back yard...Finally, one super early morning while the studio was still cool (there's no AC in there!), I played around for an Opus Gluei challenge...The challenge is called "Book 'em" and while I had visions of Cops, they really meant books! I made a small, hand-bound (sewn) book to send off with my daughter's friend as she goes back to her mom's once school starts. If you're looking for tomato recipes, don't forget to look through the last couple of posts!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Which one is the true gargoyle? 2nd post of the day

It is appropriate to combine my thanks at being able to travel to Paris with a few photos of one of the most famous houses of worship in the world, Notre Dame. As we walked into the great sanctuary, a children's choir was performing. Their voices filled the air, a perfect welcome to a place I had only dreamed about since I was a child.

What a testimony of faith that those who would begin the cathredral would carry on their life's work and pass away, knowing their vision would not be fulfilled within their lifetime, but knowing the vision was true and worth their sacrifice.

We were able to take a guided English tour throughout the cathredral which greatly expanded our understanding beyond any guidebook or poor interpretation of French signage. I had not comprehended all that had happened within these walls from its inception, to the destruction during the Revolution, to Napoleon being crowned as Emporer by the Pope and beyond.

This window is one of only a few original stained glass windows left in Notre Dame.
You are looking at art that is very nearly a thousand years old. Now picture the course of civilization over the span of a 1000 years that this window has endured... In order to go up to the bell tower and scale the heights of Notre Dame is another trip altogether with an enormous and excruciatingly slow line. Not knowing if I would ever return, I convinced hubbie to wait with me. (in front of us was in Italian family with twins who were fascinated that I have no pinky toenails. my college Italian still tries to hang on, hehehe)

A few hundred steps later, we come to the first level...Great views of Paris beyond...after a hundred or so more steps...the Chimera and Gargoyles I had previously only seen in photos (oh wait, that's the hubbie!) Rubble that has fallen from Notre Dame over the years lying abandoned...The back of Notre Dame, just a thoughtfully designed as the rest of the cathredral, but a photo without the hundreds of tourist (myself among them)...

The Attack of the Cherry Tomatoes, 1st post of the day

Remember that movie "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes"? I think a young George Clooney may have even been in that movie. It isn't remarkable enough to watch again, but I can stilll remember the song. In fact, it's playing in my head right now!

Well, we are under attack. By cherry tomatoes. Actually they're a super yummy heirloom variety called Brown Berry. I took some to church to give away and people thought there was something wrong with them because when ripe, they are a deep purple-brown. We pop them like M&Ms or dunk them in ranch dressing (cause everything's better with ranch, eh?).

One of my most favoritest (I swear that's a word) summertime recipes uses cherry tomatoes, so whenever possible, you will find me making it, filling a bowl and chowing down. This recipe is addictive in particular if you are an avocado fan or black bean fan too. The colors make this a gorgeous salad. The flavors make the recipe a keeper.

I won't lie. This recipe is directly from Barefoot Contessa At Home book by Ina Garten. I only change it up a few ways. What I love about her recipes is that they are, for the most part, simple and you don't need wonky, exotic ingredients to prepare them.

Without further ado, Guacamole Salad:

2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 C. red onion, small diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 ts. freshly grated lime zest
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 C. good olive oil
1 ts. kosher salt
1/2 ts. freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 ts. cayenne pepper
3 ripe Haas avocados, seeded, peeled and diced

Place tomatoes, peppers, beans, onion and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper. Pour over the vegetable and toss well.

Fold the avocados into the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room temps.

(hubby always feels the need to dip tortilla chips into this. I skip the chips completely, going for a bowl, a spoon and a quiet spot to enjoy)

Now, we're getting an attack from some Habanero peppers too. Help! What to do? What to do?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Of tomatoes and unlocked cars...

First off, I want to send a shout out to the Opus Gluei ladies. They had an enormous blog candy giveaway earlier this summer and I was a lucky winner. When Rosemary delivered this huge box to me, I was blown away. It was a creative Christmas in July bonanza! And being the shopaholic I am, I was surprised to find that with the exception of adhesive and a white pen (which we can never get enough of), all of these goodies were new to me.

Finally I was able to sit down and play with all of this fun stuff and made a sweet card using only goodies from the blog candy stash (except for 2 Stickles colors)...Even the bird stamp, inks and flower punch were in this box. And some of the paper is embossed or blinged ~ Love it! Made the card into a circle by using the old standby Creative Memories circle cutter. After folding my cardstock in half, I cut the circle leaving one side of it over the edge to maintain the crease of the card. Thank you Rosemary and Jana for a most fun collection of artsy crafty inspiration!

Now, about those tomatoes....

We've come to that wonderful time of year, long after the first exciting summer BLT, when we have more tomatoes than meals or time to deal with them. I've yet to start making tomato sauce, but that will be in the works this week. If you have more tomato plants than sense (like me), you may find yourself in a similar predicament. There are 2 ways to handle this; when you go to work, the gym, etc, bring bags of tomatoes and stash them in unlocked cars. One a particularly warm day, the lucky recipients will already have stewed tomatoes for dinner that night. Or get creative with your tomatoes.

I'm trying hard to choose the latter. Long ago and far away when AOL was still a baby, there were super-active gardening boards. I've always enjoyed playing in the dirt and the gardening boards were my first stop each day. We traded tips, stories and in late summer when the harvest overtook us, recipes.

The boards have been long gone since the Plant Nazis chased us out (another story for another day), but the recipes remain. One summer, everyone contributed their favorite tomato recipes which turned into a huge file that had to be emailed to us in 2 installments. That tomato stained file is one of my favorite places to turn to when looking for inspiration. Seeing the names of the contributors also brings back great memories of trading gardening wisdom and anecdotes.

I'll try to post tomato recipes throughout the rest of tomato harvesting season to help anyone else with a kitchen that's been overtaken by the summers bounty a little inspiration.

First up is a recipe for Italian Bread Salad. During the summer, we always seem to have all the ingredients on hand, making this a quick summer treat.

Italian Bread Salad:
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 C. croutons or stale bread cut into squares
1/4 C. feta cheese
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Put the croutons or diced bread in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Place the tomaotes on top of them and gently toss. Add cucumber, feta and basil. Lightly toss. Dress with vinegar and oil to taste. Salt and pepper to taste (the feta and balsamic adds a lot of acidity & saltiness, so start light on the salt). Tastes best if it sits about 15-30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There are not enough worlds

to describe Paris. Beautiful, gorgeous, decadent, historic all pale when attempting to distill the essence that is Paris.

Did I love it? Yes, there wasn't enough time. At the same time, I am so glad to be back home with my children, my comfy bed and my friendly potty (and I'm not embarrassed to admit that one).

One small portion of our trip was touring the Opera Garnier. Designed to show the patrons to their best effect rather than the performers; it was a place to see and be seen. It is also where the legend of the Phantom of the Opera began.
Box 5 has been his box for well over a hundred years. You can knock on his door, but you cannot go in. Here is a view of his box from below: The stage of the Opera Garnier is built on a slant, so that your view of the dancer's feet would not be obstructed. Because of this, the training halls were also slanted and dancers from the Opera Garnier were almost unable to dance on a flat surface. A new opera house was built for opera, but the ballets remain here.

Walking through the opera house with its guilded ornamentation, murals, frescoes and statues, I brought that 'feeling' home (certainly not the richness) to create an Opera Garnier inspired Christmas Globe.... Like the Opera Garnier, the globe is a bit careworn, but has not lost its glamour. I applied alcohol inks and metallic mixatives to the back of the globe to give it a hazy, aged appearance and also applied some metallic rubons. The base is a 4 inch tin that could contain a small gift or hold a circular album. The silver present came from Wallyworld and the tiny ornament is vintage. The tin is covered in Basic Grey and vintage lace. The ballerina began life with a blue dress. That was quickly changed with a silver Krylon paint pen. The floor upon which the ballerina stands is cotton batting covered in mica and vintage glitter. Altogether, I hope that come Christmas, I can gaze at the tiny ballerina frozen in her timeless world and remember the Opera Garnier.