Sunday, April 29, 2012

A zen garden and various updates.

One of our favorite wedding gifts was this big beautiful rectangular metal centerpiece (it's 3 feet long). It's meant to be a reflecting pool (and it's beautiful that way). However, since it's still water, it get's grimy and nasty fairly quickly. Once a month, I had to dump the water out, wash all of the rocks, and then refill it; that got old fast.

Our solution was to turn it into a zen garden instead. I filled it up with sand, added a few of our river rocks, then played around to make the patterns (I used a serving fork since we are still looking for the perfect little rake). Now I don't have to worry about cleaning it, and I have a fun little zen garden to play in when I'm bored, or just need a relaxing little break.

Our new zen garden (top); reflecting pool with floating candles (bottom)

I also want to share a few exciting bits of bloggy news. I have finally created About meBlog roll & link parties, and Awards and features pages. Go check them out to learn more!

I am also signed up for two wonderful blog projects: Get Your Chef On, and Trading Blogs. Click on the buttons below to learn more about these exciting activities!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hearts and roses, oh my (treasury Tuesday).

I just adore these two sweet treasuries that Ilona Busch (from Nonoluna) curated last week. With Mother's day coming up (May 13th this year), there is a lot of great gift inspiration collected here. Click on the title under each picture to go to Etsy where you can buy all of these pieces. Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Creamy pink sauce and pancetta (recipe).

I made this pasta dish for dinner a few nights ago, and it was hearty, flavorful, and satisfying. It was also fast and easy to make, which is important on weeknights. The tomato gives the dish a nice bright flavor that prevents this from being too heavy, and I love the flavor the pancetta imparts on the sauce.

The base for this sauce is similar to the one I used in my brown butter cream sauce. I was making this recipe up as I went, so the measurements are approximate. I always taste as I go when I cook, so that I can tweak the flavors to my preference.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Numbers, colors, and shapes coloring sheet (printable).

Most of my days are spent nannying for two sweet boys (3 1/2 years old, and almost 2 years old). A few weeks ago, I brought some fun Easter coloring sheets for them. There was one sheet that the older boy absolutely loved; it was eight eggs, and each one had a color written above it. He had so much fun coloring in those eggs that I ended up making about ten copies for him (and he was still sad when they were all gone). 

We have been doing a lot of work on shapes and counting recently, so I decided to make a new coloring sheet for him that followed the same format, but used shapes and numbers. These were a big hit with the boys I watch, so I wanted to share them with you too!

Click on the picture for a larger version, then save to your computer (drag and drop, or left click)
I put a lot of work into this, so I hope that you will get good use out of it to. However, please only use this personal and/or teaching purposes (no commercial use). If you enjoy this sheet, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Thank you.

I link up to these parties.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Caramel surprise chocolate chip cookies (recipe).

To me, chocolate chip cookies are the quintessential homemade cookie. Delicious, easy to make, comforting, and great with milk! I made these ones extra special by hiding a gooey caramel surprise in the center of each cookie. These are amazing served a little bit warm, with a tall cool glass of milk. 

My cookie dough recipe is a modified version of the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, which is actually my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I slightly decreased the amount of sugar and chocolate chips called for to compensate for the extra sweetness from the caramels. You can use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, or even store bought dough if you would like (which would make these incredibly easy). 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Go play in the dirt (treasury Tuesday).

Go play in the dirt!
We've had such beautiful weather recently, and I just want to spend all of my time outside! I even got to go kayaking and swimming last week. Here's a picture I snapped with my phone a few evenings ago:
La Jolla Coves, CA (April 2012)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brown sugar cheesecake (recipe).

** Update ** Guess what?! This recipe was featured by Julie over at White Lights on Wednesdays! Go check her out!

White Lights on Wednesdays

I have a confession, I've been known to get a little carried away at Costco. For example, last time I bought 25 pounds of brown sugar (yes, twenty-five; that's 12.5 lbs for each of us). It's okay though, because I love brown sugar (I'm guilty of occasionally eating it by the spoonful), and I am confident I'll somehow manage to use it all up ;)

I received an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and one of the things I picked out for myself was a new set of spring-form pans. As soon as I received the new pans in the mail, I knew I wanted to make cheesecake; the brown sugar adds a subtle warm flavor that I can't get enough of.

The filling in this recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's cheesecake recipe in the Barefoot Contessa: Family Style cookbook. The texture turned out beautifully; it was smooth and creamy in the center, and firm at the edges.  I've loved everything that I've made from this book so far.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Fools' Day at our house (prank updates).

If you saw my other April Fools' Day post, you know I was preparing to some fun tricks for my hubby. Almost every prank was a success (he caught me while I was trying to set up the frozen computer screen trick, oh well). By the end of the day, the poor guy thought everything was a set up. We had lots of fun and laughs all day long though (I think I'm going to have to watch my back though next year!). 

I started with some fairly gentle, small pranks to ease him into the day:

1) I put tissue in the toe of his slippers so they didn't fit when he woke up and put them on. He came out to the living room all confused and half awake (he didn't realize it was April Fools' day yet!).

Yes, we are very mature and say "neener neener" to each other ;)
2) I used a sticky note to "break" his computer mouse. He always checks the news while he drinks his coffee, so I knew this would get him early. It took a minute to figure out what was going on, but when he turned over the mouse he busted up laughing and finally caught on to the date (poor guy was still trying to get caffeine in his system).

3) I also switched his computer keyboard settings to Dvorak (a different layout). His response, "What the moses?! When I type, my Ls are Ns, my Ss are Os, my DKDKs are ETETs?!?" He then tried to figure out the pattern to type. After a few minutes, I took pity on him and showed him how to change it back to normal.

When the hubby went to shower, there were more surprises waiting for him:

4) I put blue food coloring in his toothbrush bristles. I actually forgot that I had done it until I heard a loud exclamation followed by lots of spitting coming from the bathroom. I almost cried I was laughing so hard.

5) I left the shower set to spray (instead of coming out of the faucet for the bath), so that it would spray him when he went to turn on the water. I also switched the normal drain grate for the bath plug. He said he figured that out about halfway through his shower (to be fair, our pipes do drain pretty slow normally). 

There were also a few surprises hiding in the kitchen:
I see you!
6) I drew faces on the food in the fridge. I thought he would see this pretty early, but he didn't open the fridge until lunch. He grabbed the ketchup out for me (which we keep in the door), and didn't notice. I was really struggling to keep a straight face while he squirted ketchup on my plate. When he put the ketchup away, he finally saw the faces and we both cracked up.

Can you tell which one is soap and which is oil? (answer below)
 7) I switched out our dish soap for vegetable oil (I didn't wash out the soap container though, so there were still some bubble and a soapy smell; it also made the oil a little cloudy). His response: "Whoa! Why's the soap coming out so fast?!... Wait, why does it look weird?" I made him guess what I had done to it (he had to smell and feel it to figure it out).

**EDIT** Sorry! I just realized I never told you which dish soap was the real one.
The one on the left is oil, and the one on the right is soap.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fooled you (last minute April Fools' Day ideas).

from Pinterest (original source is unknown, if you know where this is from, please let me know)
In case you are as unprepared as I am for April Fools' Day, here are some great last minute ideas that can be done in minutes. I plan on pulling a few of these on the hubby, and I will definitely let you guys know how they go!

Below are some of my favorite ideas that I was able to find. There are lots of other great ideas on the linked sites (just click the caption under the picture to go to the source). I'm also collecting ideas on my Pinterest board.