Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bag O' Bones

Awhile ago, before it was even Halloween season, I found this cute idea for a Halloween treat on Pinterest.  The picture was titled "Funny Bones".  I figured it wouldn't take much to recreate and throw together in my own way.  

What I used was a bag of mini stick pretzels (the thin ones), a bag of mini marshmallows, and white chocolate candy coating.  

Place a mini marshmallow on either side of the stick pretzel.  Heat up the white chocolate candy and roll each "bone" in the melted liquid.  

I refrigerated the bones for a nicer texture.  

 I picked up these cute candy corn treat bags from Target in the dollar section and made a handcrafted tag that says "Bag O' Bones".  

I'm hoping Mike will take them to work to share with his coworkers for a Halloween treat! They are yummy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Soph-a-loaf!

I've always had dogs in my family since the day I was born.  My first dog was a Golden Retriever named Murphy and he was one of the best dogs I've ever known.  I can't say I knew him very long, but what I remember of him...he was one smart, loyal, and gentle giant.  Since then, my family has had labs, dachshunds, a labradoodle, and a goldendoodle.  Never have I had a dog for my own or on my own for that matter.  

This past Saturday my mom, sister, family friend, and Mike were headed downtown to do a little shopping.  Mike and I had no idea we'd be heading home with a new addition!

As we parked we immediately saw Big Dawgs Rescue with a set-up of puppies next to a restaurant.  I fell in love with just one little girl with the sweetest face, the most docile personality, and soft tuxedo coat.  Her name was Lucy and I wanted to take her home.  

Mike and I have been talking about getting a puppy for awhile now.  Ever since I started working from home, we started to consider a puppy in our lives.  I wouldn't be home alone with a little furry friend, but with our busy schedules and weekends we decided...maybe it wasn't right just yet.  Well, when I was recently laid off...the subject came up again.  Maybe it was right time now.

Lucy came home with us Saturday afternoon as....Sophie...our first dog :-) 

She has been quite a handful as is expected with any new puppy.  She has been acclimating to multiple new environments and no longer has her litter mates as company.  She cried incessantly the first night but with each day and night she's getting much better in her crate and pen areas.  I think she's starting to understand those are her "safe places" where she sleeps and eats.    

I thought it would be difficult to start potty training her in an apartment setting, but the Potty Patch has been a life-saver.  She's getting better each day with much "potty-out" reinforcement.  Week one I wanted to be devoted specifically to potty-training and crate training.  Any more than that may be a bit much for a little pup to handle.

She loves to sleep and chew on toys and skin, so you have to always have a toy handy to place in her mouth.  She's learning what exactly a toy is and that all that's sprawled on the floor is hers.  We made several trips to the pet store to obtain a plethora of toys so she wouldn't get bored. 

She loves her bully sticks, but I think they are going to have to be for special occasions.  Those things get expensive, and she goes through them rather quickly.  Her favorite toy right now is a stuffed tiger she likes to retrieve and whip it around like it's a dead animal.  

(Sophie's First Bath)

I'm learning so much in this new role as puppy mom! It's exhausting, exciting, fun, and challenging!  And I love her sooooo much!!!
 (Sophie passed out)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Painting Pooh

Winnie the Pooh that is!

My sister and brother in law are having their first kiddo.  He/she should be arriving sometime at the end of March.  I can't believe I'll be an Auntie! I get the job description of spoiling this child rotten.  Woo hoo!!!

And to start, I knew my sister wanted a Winnie the Pooh themed nursery.  We were scavenging through my parent's garage looking for the old Winnie the Pooh book that I knew was there.  I was first inspired by all the great quotes and thought she should paint them on the wall of the baby's room.  Then I decided....I should paint the characters for her!

I started with Pooh!

I hunted down  a simple sketch of Pooh that I could look to in order to free-hand my drawing on canvas.  Thank you Pinterest!

I just looked back and forth for every little detail....the hardest part is getting the proportions just right.

So far so good...

Then, he needed a bit of color!


Next...I've got to figure out Piglet and Eeyore :-// 
Let's hope they turn out as good as Pooh did ;-) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Apples...

Since I have only used a couple of our Apple Hill apples for my mini apple pie recipe, I had some left over, and Mike's brother went to Apple Hill recently and brought us back another batch!  I needed something that would use a fair amount of apples.

Mike has been one busy bee lately with work and school, so I wanted to make something that would be a huge treat for him at the end of his day.  His favorite treat this time of year....caramel apples, hands down, no questions asked.  He'll consume as many as you give him :-)

Sooo, it was time to make some caramel apples!  I had my first go at caramel apples last year, when I unwrapped those individual caramels.  The caramel didn't turn out how I wanted.  It was runny and didn't stick very well to the apple.  You had most of the caramel at the bottom of the cookie sheet at the point of devouring.  Not good!

This year, I needed a homemade caramel recipe.  One that would be thick and sticky! I think I had found a good one as all the ones I had seen used the individual caramel pieces...but not this one.  The Tasty Kitchen had a recipe for what they call Grandma Betty's Caramel Apples.

I halved their recipe since I didn't need 12 caramel 6 sounded a little less gluttonous.

What You'll Need

6 Apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Gala)
2 Tbsp. butter (1/8 cup)
1/2 Cup of light corn syrup
7 oz. (half a can) of sweetened condensed milk
1 Cup of white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

First, wash and dry the apples and place sticks into the middle of each apple (I used skewer sticks since I didn't have Popsicle sticks, they work!). Butter a cookie sheet for placement of apples.

Mix all the other ingredients (besides the vanilla) in a medium saucepan and heat on med/low.  Stir constantly (you don't want burnt clumps).

When the caramel reaches a soft-ball stage, 235-240 degrees...

You might be going, "what's a soft-ball stage" because that's the very question I was asking.  I found on a wonderful site for candy makers called Baking 911 that "soft-ball stage" is when a drop of candy/caramel dropped into chilled water forms a soft-ball and then flattens quickly on one's hand.  I didn't have a thermometer to use, so I actually tested this out with chilled water.  Kinda messy but it worked because I think I got just the right consistency of caramel! You gotta use what you have ;-)

So once it hits this soft-ball stage, remove from heat and add vanilla.  Let cool for a few minutes.

Dunk the apples in the caramel and use a twirling motion to get all sides of the apple coated.  The last apples get a bit hard to cover, so I used a spoon to help the process.  The caramel will start to cool, harden, and get stickier so you want to make the dunking process a bit quick.

 Add any other toppings you might want...nuts, chocolate, toffee bits.  

The deliciousness factor is up to your creativity...or not, Mike loves his plain-Jane style ;-)

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread

My cabinets and refrigerator were getting down to the nitty gritty with suitable options for meals.  I even thought I had a great bacon wrapped chicken meal in sight...until I saw the bacon package in the freezer said "use by 13DEC2010"...not good.  In the trash that went.  Plan B...get resourceful!  I've become really good at finding recipes that involve ingredients I already have.  It's a bit of a search party and sometimes time-consuming but I always find some great recipes in the end. 

Let me begin by saying, I love pull-apart bread ever since my BF took me to Godfather's Pizza in Sacramento.  I once finished a Cinnamon Monkey Bread pizza all by my lonesome.  Look at could one resist??

(Image Courtesy of Godfather's Pizza) 

So...I had everything to make this Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread that I found on The Pastry Affair.  Sure, it was only a side to the whole meal, but with a salad it was just enough for a dinner for two.  

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread
Yields 1 loaf
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups barely warm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose (or bread) flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  
First, mix the yeast with the warm water in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is a bit frothy.  Add olive oil, salt, and flour to the bowl.  I used a kneading technique as I don't own a mixer of any sort.  Knead the mix on a lightly floured surface for about 7-10 minutes or until elastic.  Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel for about 1.5-2 hours or until it rises to double its size.  
In the meantime, combine melted butter, parsley flakes, and minced garlic in a small bowl and set aside.  
Then, punch down the dough and pull apart pieces that are the size of a medium spoon (I ball parked and did balls a bit smaller than my palm).  I brushed the butter mixture over each ball and placed into a round pie pan (the recipe calls for a bundt pan but I don't own one and this pie pan worked perfectly...I think a square pan would work just as well).  I was able to get three circular layers of dough balls in my pan.  Then I sprinkled the Parmesan cheese over.  Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for a half hour.  
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (I always take out was 25 minutes to perfection for me).  
Pull-apart and enjoy with a side of marinara sauce or ranch dressing!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Camp Okizu

Two years ago I was introduced to a wonderful organization called Camp Okizu.  My boyfriend had been a volunteer for many years and I was eager to be a part of it.  Camp Okizu is an organization that supports families/children affected by childhood cancer by offering peer support, mentoring, and recreational activities.  

Volunteers come together for weekends to week long stays where our sole job is to play with the children.  From zip-lining, archery and canoeing to playing board games, making friendship bracelets and fishing! 

The camp allows the families to get away from the daily burdens of chemotherapy treatments, hospital visits, etc.  At camp the kids are able to be kids and enjoy themselves.  

Because the families are already financially stressed due to the cost of treatment and the expenses inherent in the child's illness, the camp is free of charge to all the families involved from food/drinks to lodging and all the amenities.  However, organizations like Camp Okizu thrive from generous donations and events like the "Mercedez-Benz Community Stars" where Camp Okizu has a chance to win $25, 000.  Through Oct. 21, you can vote for Camp Okizu every single day.  

 So please go to in order to place a vote! 
Thank you!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Hill to Apple Pie

Just last year was I introduced to the fall phenomenon known as Apple Hill.  Now, I'll back up a few years.  I was born and grew up for a good portion of my life in Indiana.  I remember Fall as crispy cool weather where you are just about seeing your breath when you walk outside.  Having to wear coats alongside your Halloween costume which so ruined the purpose of the costume. ;-)  Where raking leaves (and your neighbors leaves) just to get the largest pile known to man was a FUN idea and then stuffing them into those cool pumpkin trash bags in the end.  But ultimately, to be able to travel up to Michigan to pick apples was one of my favorite Fall memories.  I remember getting barrels and barrels of apples and running up and down the aisles of the apple trees.  I even think we took our beloved red wagon like the one above in my logo to gather our barrels.  This was always what defined Fall for me and why I love it so much.  It's being with family, the colors, the foods, the activities, the weather, the holidays.  I love it all!!!

So back to Apple Hill...this place represents for me everything I love about Fall in Indiana.  Apple Hill is basically a ton of orchards all in one place.  Some have U-pick fruit besides apples like berries and pears, and others have U-pick pumpkins, cider presses, crafts, baked goods, picnic areas, etc.

Mike and I took our annual trip to Apple Hill this past weekend.  A couple things on my list when we go:

1) Must get an apple fritter from High Hill Ranch...although I've been told those at Rainbow Orchards put up a good fight.  (I'll have to try them next year!)
2) Barsotti Apple Cider - it's literally like drinking a liquid apple.
3) A couple caramel apples for Mike
4) Picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve for Halloween
5) Checking out all the country crafty goodness.

This year we actually went and picked some apples from Pine O' Mine knowing I was going to make some version of an apple pie.

I saw this wonderfully easy Mini Apple Pie recipe on Cookin' Up North, but I took some creative liberties as I always do :-)

Now, Laurie used one whole package of pie crust in her recipe.  I only used half since I didn't want to be eating 16 mini pies between the BF and I.  But sadly, I didn't notice this until my two apples were peeled and sliced.  Soo...that's where my creative liberties come in.

The Recipe:

1/4 Cup of white sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 package of refrigerated pie crust
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 medium tart apple (I chose Granny Smith's) cut into 8 wedges

First, in a small bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside, 1 tbsp of the mixture for topping.

Then, peel and cut the apple.  

On lightly floured cookie sheet, roll out half a package of pie crust.  Brush 1 tbsp. melted butter onto the surface.
With a pizza cutter, cut pie crust into 8 even slices.  

Sprinkle the large mixture of cinnamon/sugar onto the pie crust and use the brush to spread evenly over the surface.  

Roll one wedge of apple per pie slice.  

Brush the remaining 1 tbsp of melted butter on the tops of pies and sprinkle the saved 1 tbsp of cinnamon/sugar over the top of each slice.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  (More like 12)

Apple Topping: What is that you say? There's no apple topping in the original recipe?  Nope, there's not...but again, since I only wanted 8 mini pies I had some extra wedges to use.

My Apple Topping Ingredients:

1/4 Cup Sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
6 tbsp. butter
3 large spoon fulls of brown sugar
1 tart apple peeled and cut into small chunks.

An apple topping for the apple pie....a little guttenous?  Maybe, but I didn't want to be wasteful with my remains and to be honest, it PERFECTED the dish and took it to a-whole-nother level!

So take the butter, cinnamon, and sugars and heat on medium in a small saucepan until it boils and add the apple chucks.  Turn heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, the liquid will start to get a little sticky.  And pour over apple pies as desired.  I used a little drizzle technique.

 Enjoy and maybe add some vanilla ice cream! That would've really been the cherry on top :-)

A Fall Facelift

After a few years of my blog design being pretty much the same from the start, I thought it could use a little facelift.  I'm actually surprised it took me so long as I love a rearrange project!  The old blog layout having been so clean and white, I thought it could use a little color around here.  And I'm happy with the flanking cascading leaf columns.  Those of you familiar with the old look, let me know what you think of the new.  I think it's perfect for Fall!

And in honor of the new look...why not a homemade beauty recipe for a little "facelift" of your own?  It's really not as drastic as it sounds ;-)

I found this fabulous list of DIY beauty concoctions and recipes for an at-home spa treatment from Glamour magazine.  I bet every one's wallets love the sound of that!  Cheap and easy.  I grabbed a large mason jar I had lying around (yes, I actually have them lying never know when a mason jar project will strike!).

And the recipe is simple...

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Raw Oatmeal
1 Cup Olive Oil

Mix together the ingredients and you have an astonishingly amazing body scrub.  I was skeptical that the sugar would be as exfoliating as I would want, but it did the job and the olive oil leaves your skin highly conditioned.

WARNING: If you use this spa-treatment in your usual shower or bath...the bottom of the tub gets a bit slippery and filmy.  So be careful and rinse well!!

Relax and Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Along Came a Crockpot...

And all of a sudden I know how to cook...kind of.  I love that since I started working from home and now that I'm just home most of the day, I can really utilize my crockpot.  Not to say that I couldn't when I worked outside of the house, but I'm still hesitant to leave something plugged in and emanating heat for 8 hours of the day.  I don't want to be the one at fault for burning our house down. ;-) And because I haven't mastered cooking full-on meals, I've resorted to easing into my cooking escapades slowly by using the "slow cooker".  Ooh, the irony! 

My bf loves his meat just like pretty much every guy does, so when I found this Pulled BBQ Chicken recipe on How Sweet It Is, I knew he would LOVE it! And for someone like me who doesn't usually gravitate towards meaty dishes, it actually looked pretty darn delicious!  I used some variations in the way I prepared it, so I'll explain...

Jessica used 6 large chicken breasts in her recipe, but I knew that 1) it's just Mike and I eating this and 2) Mike can't stand leftovers (except for a good pizza or Hamburger Helper dish, and maybe this would be included but I didn't want to take my chances) so I decided to halve the recipe. 

Here's what I used...if you compare hers to mine you'll find I used some creative liberties in mine ;-) but I gotta say, it totally worked!


3 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Tablespoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
8 oz. of beer (yup same amount she used with less chicken just because the BBQ sauce I used was thicker than hers, so I wanted the extra liquid to thin out the BBQ sauce a bit)
1/2 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (about 14 oz.) 

So, while at the grocery store I thought for sure I saw "Sweet Baby Ray's" BBQ sauce on the recipe...well, I did...but it was the example of what NOT to use as it is a thicker sauce and may burn if left too long in the crockpot.  Because of the thickness of the sauce I used what I call a "thin" beer rather than the Amber kind Jessica used.  I used 8oz. of a Corona.  

I woke up rather late and the recipe called for 8 hours of crock pot 10:30 I was not about to be eating dinner at 7-8 at night.  No Sir-ee!

So, I poured the BBQ sauce and beer in the crockpot and stirred till both were evenly mixed.  Then, I seasoned the chicken with all the spices and added it to the crockpot.  I cooked on HIGH for about 1.5 hours before turning the crockpot to LOW.  I allowed the chicken to cook for another 2 hours before switching the crockpot to WARM for another 3 hours.  We were ready to eat at about 6! 

Every so often I would turn the chicken making sure all sides were adequately cooked and soaking up the sauces.  By doing so, the chicken started to pull away from itself on its own.  It really was perfection! 

I used a Colombo Potato Dinner Roll as the bun for our mini pulled BBQ chicken sliders.  And from my Best of Betty Crocker Magazine, I made a perfect bowtie pasta salad to go with the meal.  

Mike was definitely satisfied with my cooking choice and devoured 3 mini sliders in minutes!

And as promised...the apple treats are still a-comin! I will be making Mini Apple Pies tomorrow :-) I can't wait!

Friday, October 7, 2011


I've tried some interesting things with nails but never any sort of blending techniques.  Refinery 29 had a great tutorial on how to do Ombre style nails.  Feeling inspired and having been painting the last couple days, the painting continued today :-)

I chose a Deborah Lippmann shade called "Don't Tell Mama" as the blackish dark base.  It actually has a green shimmer in the bottle but translates more as a black.  I started painting in uneven horseshoe like patterns on my nails.  For the second shade I chose Essie's "Bahama Mama" which is a slightly pinkish purple.  Instead of keeping both colors separated on the nail, I actually painted the top half with purple, let dry and then painted a second coat of purple on the entire nail.  This I think blended the colors better without such a drastic color difference between the black and purple.  I finished with a clear top coat.

Much better turnout than I originally thought it would be!

And an update on yesterday's canvas painting... I ended up added more blossoms.  I decided, they are supposed to be Fall branches not Winter branches.  More foliage!

Tomorrow...the bf and I are headed to Apple Hill, so be on the lookout for some tasty apple treats to come!!

More Painting and Toffee

I've been wanting to decorate our master bedroom for awhile now and I've put up little things here and there, but I've been waiting to really decorate with wall art since I've wanted to find some bed side tables first. Well, the bedside tables still haven't been purchased and I've gotten a little impatient about the wall art.

I wanted to paint something myself since I had a few blank canvases waiting to be covered.  I found this simple artwork on Veetje and figured...I could do that!

I made sure the colors of the blossoms went with the decor we already have in the room: browns, golds, burnt oranges.  

I'm thinking it needs more's a little too simplistic for my taste.  The art needs to pop from far away as it's only an 11x14 canvas.  And of course, I want to recreate it so the sides of the bed are balanced.

My next project of the day was making Saltine Cracker Toffee.  One, I love toffee or almond roca (whatever you'd like to call it) and two, it's wonderful when you have everything in your cabinet to make it.  Well, almost everything ;-)  Luckily, I was making a trip to the store today so I just picked up Saltine crackers for this wonderfully easy recipe I found on The Girl Who Ate Everything.

And it goes like this...

What you'll need:
40 Saltine crackers
1 Cup of butter
1 Cup of brown sugar
2 Cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chopped Pecans (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Lay aluminum foil over a cookie sheet, set a layer of saltine crackers to cover the entire sheet.
3) Then, boil the butter and brown sugar in a pan for 3 minutes and until it is a deep caramel color.
4) Pour the  mixture over the crackers and bake for 5-6 minutes (the sugar will be bubbling).
5) I microwaved the 2 cups of chocolate chips for 1 minute and then spread the melted chocolate over the crackers.  Sprinkle the pecans on top if desired and let cool before breaking apart.

The amount of brown sugar/butter may have been too much as it never truly solidified but became more of a caramely consistency.  The final product was fantastic though with a cup of black coffee!

Perfect for dessert or....breakfast! ;-) 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things I'm Loving This Week

I check my favorite blogs in my bookmarks bar on a daily basis.  It's definitely a guilty pleasure and I look forward to this part of my day with excitement! While checking out the Ritzy Bee Blog I was enlightened about a fashion sketch artist whose page Inslee By Design has me mesmerized.  I had to look through every sketch and note card and blog post to see all her watercolor work.  I loved it so much that I got all into the painting mood...and failed miserably to draw and then paint a picture of my bf and I.  It served the purpose of more comic relief than anything else. 

 (Images Courtesy of Inslee by Design)

Freakin hilarious, no? As you can see, I can't do sunglasses it is!! Oh well, I tried ;-) 

This is the original picture that I went off of...not too shabby for my first go at it!

I'm pretty much obsessed with anything to do with Halloween right now but more specifically.... candy corn!!!  Some candy corn items I'm beyond obsessed with...

Candy Corn Teddy

(Image Courtesy of Build-A-Bear)

I found this candy corn dish in the dollar section at Target!! 

I found this idea from The Swell Life: take random glass bottles or vases and paint them with candy corn colors.  This is only my first bottle, and I want to gather a couple more randomly/odd shaped bottles to  make a little arrangement.  

I used acrylic paint instead of spray paint, as I like to use what I have lying around.  Worked great but has a different effect than the spray paint.

Please send over any candy corn creations or art that inspires you.  I'd love to see it!