Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May Flowers

It's been looking and feeling like summer. And I love it! We had an absolutely beautiful Memorial Day long weekend, and I soaked up as much sun and outdoors as I could. 

My "garden" is finally blooming and the poppies are stunning. I was thrilled to see the first one, with a burst of red-orange, and more on the way.

I use the word "garden" loosely, because each year I try to add one or two perennials to the flower bed in our back yard. Not everything has "taken", and it's disappointing when plants don't return the following year.

But the ones that do, make me happy. There's just something so beautiful about flowers in bloom, green grass, full trees and sunshine. More please.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIY Salad Dressing

I've been enjoying salads lately, and the dressing makes all the difference. Sometimes you don't want the stuff that's been sitting in your refrigerator for a year or two, if you're like us, and never finish an entire bottle. Sometimes I like to make my own dressing. It's quicker than you think, and you probably have the ingredients in your pantry.

If you have a mason jar (or any jar), it's even easier - you mix and store it all in one container. I learned that from Giada de Laurentiis.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good olive oil)
Balsamic Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
1 Fresh Lemon

Pour olive oil and vinegar of choice into jar. I use a ratio of about 1:1 or maybe a little more olive oil than vinegar. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (keep out the seeds). Add a semi-generous amount of fresh black pepper and salt to taste. Shake it up and pour over salad. 

I love balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I use red wine vinegar. If you store it in the refrigerator, be sure to take it out ahead of time, because the olive oil will solidify. Give it a good shake once it comes to room temperature. 

Summer is the perfect time to dress farm market and garden vegetables with your own freshly made dressing! 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Bye Bye Evergreen Bushes

Welcome to our home. Prior to this past weekend, if you tried to approach our front door, you might not be able to make it up the front steps because evergreen bushes would overtake you. My sincere apologies.

What bushes you ask? These bushes. 

Two giant evergreen type monsters that kept growing out of control, with no pretty way to shape them. 

The more I looked at them, the more they reminded me of Oscar the grouch. It's very possible that a trash can could have been hidden in them. Andrew hated them and has wanted to rip them out for a long time. We both were ready to see them go. 

Our weapons of choice: pruning shears, a knife, "lucky machete" (name that movie), a shovel and a giant crowbar.

Who needs a chainsaw when your husband has muscles like these? He did most of the work. I just helped.

The roots/stumps were the most difficult part. We dug, chopped and hacked them loose. Sweet victory! 

We couldn't believe the difference! Those unsightly bushes were taking up SO MUCH space. 

Now, we can actually see the front of our house (and the steps). We can invest in some more landscaping and hopefully make the existing beds look better. 

We haven't paid much attention to this part of the house, but we would like to. We haven't decided if we want to extend landscaping in front of the walkway, where the new empty patch of dirt is. Or if we want to plant grass and concentrate on the beds that are currently in place against the house.

We also have plans to paint the front door and possibly the shutters, along with staining the deck. What we really want, is to have "Yard Crashers" come help us, but I have a feeling that won't happen. 

Here's a look at the before and after, sans bushes. What an improvement! Now to figure out what to do with the rest of the space...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Things I Like

I've been diggin' a few things lately, so I thought I'd share them with you. First, a very tasty salad from Panera Bread - Fuji Apple Chicken. Or you can get the new Roasted Turkey Fuji Apple. It's got all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken (or roasted turkey), mixed field greens, romaine lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips and white balsamic apple vinaigrette. Sooo good. And that dressing - yum. 

JCPenny or JCP, has given their brand a complete makeover, including the look and feel of their stores, pricing structure and products. No more coupons needed, midnight madness sales or door busters. They have lowered their prices and they offer month-long values. 

I like their new "fair and square" positioning and revamped marketing. Their commercials, direct mail pieces and store signage are cute and clever. I'm also impressed with their clothing and merchandise. Each time I stop in, I seem to find something I like, and the prices are great. While browsing the sale/clearance rack, I found shirts for $4, dresses for $7 and sweaters for $6. I've even been pleasantly surprised upon checkout to learn that my items were even less than they were marked. Score! Well done JCP. I hardly used to shop there, now you can't keep me away. 

Conair You Curl XL Hair Styling Iron. I bought this curling "wand" a few months ago (from Ulta, when it was on sale) and I really like it. It did take a while to get the hang of using it. There's no clamp like a regular curling iron, so I had to learn to wrap and hold my hair without burning my fingers! It does come with a partial "glove" which I found difficult to maneuver with. 

It helps me get curls/waves like this. Some days are better than others. It does take a bit longer to curl all my hair, especially since my hair is so long. What's great though, is that the heat (up to 400 degrees F!) holds my hair for a long time. I usually still have nice loose waves through the next day. Definitely worth the effort. 

Ulta eye shadow in "Seashell." This is a really nice eye shadow. It goes on silky smooth and comes in over 90 shades! I used my free reward coupon last month to try this color. It's very pretty and perfect for spring/summer.

Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato. I think the chilled version of the caramel macchiato has been around for a while, but I only recently tried it. And fell in love with it. Of course. It's got espresso, vanilla syrup, milk and buttery caramel sauce. Hello! Certainly not an every-day treat, but a once-in-a-while-need-to-indulge treat. Thanks to my gift card.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mumu Turned Tunic

This is the story of how I turned a mumu that was 10 sizes too big, into a tunic I could actually wear. I was browsing at one of my favorite thrift stores a few months ago - I don't even know what I was looking for - when I saw this colorful medallion print silky dress (a.k.a. mumu), brand NEW with the tags still on it, for about $5.50. That was a lot of fabric for not a lot of money, and I was sure I could figure out something to do with it.

So, I brought it home, and then it sat in the closet for a few months. I thought about how I could re-fashion it into a dress/tunic - but would it work? More importantly, would I actually wear it out of the house? Couldn't hurt to try, right? 

I found the original dress online.

It didn't look all that bad on the model. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere near my size and it had this horrible gathering at the neckline and pleating down the front.

I'm kicking myself because I accidentally deleted the "before" photo of me in the too-large dress, but it looked something like this...

Eventually I decided to just go for it! The first thing I did was cut out the pleats! 

I sewed up what was then the front, and made a smaller v-neckline, and decided to turn the front of the dress into the back of the dress. 

All that was left to do was shorten the hem (I had to take about 12 inches off). 

This photo was my inspiration. A bold printed fabric with a chunky belt.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I actually received a number of compliments the first time I was brave enough to wear it! Not bad for a $5.50 refashion.

If you have a miscellaneous item of clothing you want to experiment with, I encourage you to try it! If something is too big or you don't like a portion of it, take it in or turn it into something else. Better yet, find something for cheap at a thrift store, and if it doesn't go as planned, you won't feel as bad. Don't be afraid - you might really like the result!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Easy Chicken Fajitas

Lately, we've been so busy at work, that dinnertime has turned into figuring out what we can make as quick and easy as possible, and hopefully it's healthy and affordable too. Sometimes that's a challenge. Last night we tried a new recipe that fit the bill. Easy chicken fajitas that were true to their name, found here. We tweaked the recipe a little. Add a side of rice and dinner is ready! I tried to snap a photo before I devoured these. They were good!

Cooking spray
2 bell peppers, sliced in thin strips
1 large onion, vertically sliced thin 
1 LB boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon chili powder (or substitute a PINCH of cayenne pepper)
1/2 teaspoon groung cumin
2 cans (10oz each) RoTel Original Dived Tomatoes & Green Chilies, DRAINED
8 flour tortillas (6 inch) warmed

  1. Spray large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and onion; cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet; set aside.
  2. Add chicken to skillet. Sprinkle with chili powder and cumin. Cook 4 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally.
  3. Return peppers and onion to skillet; add drained tomatoes. Cook 2 minutes more or until hot. Divide chicken mixture evenly between tortillas.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Walk in the Park

Today, we joined with a group of friends to support our local Walk for MS. A perfect morning for a beautiful walk through Genesee Valley Park.

There was a tremendous turnout. This is the first walk for a cause that Andrew and I have participated in together. 

 Our group wore green shirts. 

The park coincides with the University of Rochester campus. I've actually never walked this area before and I didn't even know it was there. Quite scenic. 

As Megan put it, "A beautiful day for beautiful friendships." 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy First Day of May

Happy May Day! No maypole, just three pink tulip amigos. They bloom every year, in this lone spot along the path to our front door.

They're the only flowering thing in our yard at the moment and they brighten my day when I arrive home.

This furry friend also greets me when I arrive home. Hola Chancho!