Thursday, April 29, 2010

Macro

 

** All photographs have an embedded watermarked

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day



Today the entire country will be celebrating Earth Day. Earth Day is where as a nation, community, and as a family, we make a concentrated effort to take the necessary steps to be more diligent about conservation and the energy we waste in our daily lives.

For the last four years my family has changed the way we do things in our home. We have changed out all of our energy guzzling light bulbs and changed them out to the more energy efficient bulbs. Every plastic container gets washed out and put into the recycling bin along with every newspaper and envelope mailed to us. We are using more cotton towels in the kitchen rather than paper towels. It may be small steps, but every step we take is a step in the right direction. make the change in your home today.


Here are a few ways you can start today:

Change out incandescent light bulbs to high efficient bulbs

Change out your old windows for more insulated windows

Change out your old washer and dryer for a high efficient brand

Use power strips for all you heavily used outlet sockets

Turn off lights when you leave a room

Set your thermostat to 78 degrees during occupied times and 85 degrees when your not

Turn of equipment on nights and weekends when not n use

Use a energy saving setting on printers and copiers

Install solar panels to your home

Take a shower that is no longer than ten minutes

Contact your local home or utility center for rebates to upgrade to a more efficient home



Happy earth Day and remember change starts with you!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FIVE Hour Tour


Last Saturday I went to a book signing for the Pioneer Woman's Cookbook by Ree Drummand.  I was excited to get to meet  her and get a signed copy of her cookbook.  I had never been to this particular book store before and didn't know what to expect.  Little did I know my book signing adventure would turn into a five hour tour.  



As I walked in the door of the book store I was greeted with Ree's picture.  I headed to the counter to purchase my cookbook.  When you purchased your book you received a letter for a group you would be assigned to to get into line for the signing.  I was in group H, which meant I would have a bit of a wait till my group would be ready to get into line.  My poor husband had no idea what he was getting himself into!  I decided to roam around while I waited and I discovered a whole new world in this book store. 



They had several restaurants to grab a bite to eat at, tons of tables to chat and play games and below the book store there were stores to shop at.  



I decided to grab a table and sit and read through my book.  I happen to sit at a table with another "Pioneer Fan", which is what they called us over the load speaker and I began a conversation with the woman at the table.


 
 Meet Staci, from Kennewick, Washington.  Staci drove three and half hours, by herself, to be at this signing.  Staci had arrived at the book store at 1 PM in the afternoon and the signing wasn't until 5 PM.  She had gotten into group E, which wasn't much further away from my group.  You are beginning to get the idea of how many people were at this signing.  We began to waste away the time talking together.  She was sweet, friendly and it helped to pass the time with her.  It didn't matter that we had just met, but it always takes one common thread that pull people together to bond and ours happen to be Ree.  

We chatted and not long after another couple arrived at our table with their cookbooks and we  all began to talk.  It was like the time when I was young, much much younger, when my girlfriends and me would line up in the early morning hours to score tickets for a concert, except this time round I got to sit on a chair indoors, away from the rain outside.  

The table began to discuss the recipes in the book and which ones we had attempted and we were successful at.  About an hour and a half later they announced they would be lining up group E and we said goodbye to Staci.  My husband came to my table and sat down to do the wait with me till they called my group.  We continued to talk, ate California Rolls from the Japanese restaurant and by then the "Big Band" showed up to play for the crowd. You heard me right.  Every Friday and Saturday night the bookstore puts on a show with bands and the community can come and dance for free.  I couldn't believe it, in one place they had books, food, stores, bands, and signings.  I had wondered how the book store had arrived at their name and it wasn't until I saw the banners they had hanging up.



They were building their book store around one place, the community, in which they were located and to bring everyone together under one roof.  Well, their concept made an impression and the community latched right onto it.  By the time the band started to play the place was packed with people ready to dance.  I sat and watched a variety of ages of this community dance to the big band sounds and enjoying themselves thoroughly.  I decided to get some air and a few moments of quiet time and before I knew it it was time for my group to get into line.  My husband accompanied me in line so he could take pictures of me talking to Ree while she signed my book.

Okay, here is where it gets weird!  My husband always picks the perfect time to say the dumbest things to me.  I am three people away from getting my book signed and he turns to me and says, "You're going to start blabbering at her aren't you?"  I wasn't nervous to meet Ree, but now he had done it.  He made me feel insecure about my sometimes ranting I do when I get nervous.  What had started off to be be no big deal turned into an insecure tennis ball match in my head of me talking to myself, "Your gonna screw it up now.  Your gonna blab and embarrass yourself and say something stupid!"  Well, it worked and I did!


Ree was lovely, friendly and just as beautiful in person.  If she thought anything about my crazy nonsense talk, it doesn't show in her face.  I am glad I got my book signed, and  got to meet Ree, even if it was on a five hour tour!

I do have to say a special thank you to my husband for hanging in there with me through a very long wait, for taking the pictures of Ree signing my book and whom I suspect has a crush on her (do see me any in any of the pictures? I'm just sayin'), and for being the same nut job I married and still love after ten years of marriage, even with his morphed idea of funny. 



The best part of my five hour book tour?


All of it!




All photos have been watermarked

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


Mmmm... Brown Sugary love!


Okay, you might say, "What is so new about Pineapple Upside Down Cake?"

Nothing really, but I have two good reasons to make this cake and share...

First:
Monday
is Pineapple Upside Down Cake day.

Second:
It is my brother, Brian's, favorite cake and it happens to be his birthday!


Happy Birthday Brother Fry!
(Inside joke, don't ask)



There are a two common ways to make this cake; by scratch or by the box. I have made this recipe both ways. Today I am going to cheat and do it by the box, but I am going to give you some new steps you might not have thought of. Don't worry, I will include a recipe to make the yellow cake by scratch. Lets get stated.




1 Box of Yellow Cake Mix
2 - 3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Can (20 ounces) of Pineapple Chunks, save a portion of the juice
1 Jar of Maraschino Cherries
Brown Sugar
Parchment Paper



Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

New Tip:
When you go to mix the boxed yellow cake together, substitute a portion of the water with some of the pineapple juice from the canned pineapple. My boxed cake required 1 1/3 cup of water and substituted the 1/3 portion for the pineapple juice. Too much juice and it will change the recipe. I also add a teaspoon of vanilla extract just for a little push.

New Tip:
I also use a professional cake baking pan. They are taller than the average baking dish on the general market and think this cake looks better fuller.

Place the butter in the baking pan and place t in the oven to melt. When the butter has melted take it out of the oven and this is when you have to work quickly, so the butter doesn't cool and congeal.



Place the pineapple chunks in a nice pattern along with the cherries. I don't put too many cherries on the cake, which think can be overwhelming.

New Tip:
Most versions of this cake use pineapple rings or crushed pineapple. I don't use either. It is harder to cut through the rings when serving the cake and they usually slide off the cake leaving other pieces without any pineapple and I think the crushed pineapple has too much liquid in it to give a chance for the brown sugar to settle. With the chunks you can slice through the cake without issues and each piece you slice has pineapple in manageable bites.

New Tip:
Place a ring of the parchment paper around the sides of the pan. This Helps to slide the cake out when it comes time to flip the cake over.



Sprinkle a good amount of brown sugar over the entire cake pressing down the brown sugar around the edges and through out the cake. This will help to secure a solid cake top.

Pour in the entire cake mix over the pineapple brown sugar mix and place in the oven to bake for 40 minutes.

New Tip:
If after 40 minutes the top of the cake is still wobbly and the toothpick test comes out wet cook for 5 more minutes and then turn the oven off and leave the pan in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes. The heat will continue to bake the wet part of the cake without burning the rest of the cake.

If you use the smaller baking pans then half the cake mix between both pans and cook for 30 to 35 minutes.




After the cake has finished baking and cooled enough I still like to slice the top off the cake for an even bottom layer. This cake didn't necessary need a cutting, but it certainly helps in the flipping process.



This cake doesn't always land perfectly on the plate without falling apart, but man is it worth the process!


Yellow Cake Mix
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk or Pineapple Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla



All photographs have been watermarked

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tomato Basil Pizza


This is what pizza should taste like!

Today was my husbands birthday and he has been asking me to make him pizza from scratch. Now I have no problem cooking any of his requests, but the idea of making the dough by scratch really doesn't set my heart afire. But, it's his birthday and I want him to have a special birthday. I hated the idea of wasting great ingredients if the pizza dough was horrid. I love Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, and one of her favorite meals is her homemade pizza. I trust that she test drives all her recipes and so I used her pizza dough recipe for my husbands birthday dinner request. I decided to photograph my process and you can see my pizza turned out just as hers did. Lets begin!


1 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast
1 1/2 Cups Warm Water (105 - 115 Degrees)
4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil



Here was my only mistake... the water was too hot to add the yeast.

Wait for it to cool between 105 to 115 degrees!



In a medium to large bowl I added the flour, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. and then added the yeast after it has mixed well with the warm water to become active.

Now I am not a rich girl and I would love to have one of those fancy smancy mixin' machines, but I don't. I just used what God gave me at the end of my arms. It was sticky and messy and all over my fingers, but it got the job done and it looked just like Ree's dough.



At this point rub olive oil in the bowl and fold the dough into a ball with a bit of olive oil over, so it won't stick to the bowl. I used my dough right away, but if you decide not to use your dough be sure to put plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and place it into the refrigerator.



Since this recipe yields two pizzas you will only need half of the dough to start your first pizza. Using either a cookie sheet or pizza stone and begin to shape your pizza by spreading out the dough into your desired shape. Next drizzle olive oil all over the dough and place generous helpings of basil on top of your pizza.


Package of fresh basil
2 Fresh Mozzarella Balls
2 - 3 Fresh Roma Tomatoes




Add your mozzarella.




Add your tomatoes. 



Add any extra mozzarella and add some Parmesan cheese.

Place your pizza in the lower half of your oven in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the dough looks golden brown.



I have to say this was a tasty pizza and the dough was great. More important is that my husband was in pizza heaven and said, "This is the best pizza!" and two bites later he then said, "This is a really good birthday meal." and then he kissed me! Mission accomplished.

Enjoy!



All photographs have been watermarked.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cowgirl Collection


Snuggle up with our NEW

Giddy Up Girl ~ Love Me Lovey

from our

Cowgirl Collection!




All photographs have been watermarked.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cowgirl Collection



Giddy Up Girl!


The newest in our Simply Bella Baby collection in baby chic for girls




All photographs have been watermarked.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Did You Know?


Did you know... 

You should sleep at least ONE hour for ever TWO hours you are awake?

Some research says that lack of sleep ages you while others state it doesn't, because you will age at the same consistent daily rate no matter what.  Doctors have stated that at the very least an adult should get no less than 6 hours of sleep every night.

Lack of sleep in children can be very critical to their growth and overall performance in their school work.  Without a full nights rest for your child it has been proven that is harder for them to concentrate in school with symptoms of hyper, disagreeable, and sometimes extremes in behavior.


So, what is considered a full nights rest for a child?


Newborns:
Between 16 to 20 hours of total sleep a day, divided equally between the daylight and night time hours, spending 3 to 4 hours of the sleep at a time.

6 to 12 months:
About 11 hours a night with a 2 - 3 hour nap during the day.

Toddlers:
Between 10 to 13 hours a night, with or without a nap, depending on if the child gets overly tired.

Preschoolers:
Between 10 to 12 hours, with or without a nap, depending on if the child gets overly tired or at age 5 years they don't really require a nap at all, if they are getting their full 10 - 12 hours a night.

Teens:
Between 8 - 9.50 hours a night.  As your teen progresses through puberty you might find that they require and will sleep upwards to 12 hours, especially if they are active.


One of the most important guidelines for a successful sleeping regimen for the entire family is to establish a healthy night time ritual of getting ready for bed and sticking to it.


Nighty, night!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Deviled Eggs




I have made several versions of this recipe, depending on my mood and the ingredients  I have on hand, but this one seems to be the one my family loves best. 



12 Eggs, hard boiled
4 - 6 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
2 - 4 Tablespoons Sweet Relish
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Dry Mustard
1 Tablespoon Dill Weed, plus extra for topping


In a large pot, place the eggs and cover them with enough water (about 0ne inch) above the body of the eggs.

Boil the eggs for 15 minutes from the starting point from when the water begins to boil.  This time frame has always produced a perfectly boiled egg every time.

Pour out the hot water and under cold running water slightly crack each egg and peel the eggs immediately.  I have found if you peel the eggs right after they came out of the pot the shell and membrane comes right off rendering a smooth egg.

With a clean, sharp knife slice the eggs in half, placing the egg white on a platter and the egg yolk into a bowl.

Clean your knife under hot water between each egg you cut.  This will help to get a clean cut on every egg.

With the backside of a fork smash down the egg yolks until the yolks have a smooth consistency.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until the filling is smooth.

To give the deviled eggs a finished look I fill a cookie press with the filling, which give the deviled egg a finished look.  If you don't have a cookie press fill a plastic sandwich baggie with the filling and snip a tiny piece off the end of a corner (enough for the filling to squeeze out of it) and fill the egg shells.

Sprinkle a small amount of the dill weed on top of the egg to decorate.


Happy Easter!



All photographs are watermarked.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Color of Eggs





I can smell the vinegar.  I can see yesterdays newspaper layered across the kitchen table to catch the occasional spill from the coffee cups filled with that magical colored water that would consume our white, hard boiled egg and turn it into masterpieces of egg-art.  All of  my brothers and sister gathered around the table waiting, timing our egg bath and having to move your color clockwise to the next awaiting dipper. Always the contest to make the egg that would stand out above all others.  It's Easter and it wouldn't be the same if we didn't celebrate the memories of it by dying eggs. 

Although the prepackaged store dye is easy to use and comes in a convenient package , I prefer a homemade recipe to dye my eggs with.  The ingredients are simple and depending on your color preferences, you can create almost every variable shade possible.  So, spread out the newspaper and get started!





Peach to Salmon
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
1 Drop of Red Food Coloring
1 Cup Boiling Water

Pistachio to Green
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
1 Drop of Yellow Food Coloring
2 - 4 Drops of Green Food Coloring
1 Cup Boiling Water

Light Yellow to Canary Yellow
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
2 Drops of Red Food Coloring
1 Cup Boiling Water

Robins Egg Blue to Dark Blue
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
1 - 2 Drops of Blue Food Coloring
1 Cup Boiling Water




Boil your eggs for 15 minutes, starting at the time the water begins to boil.  This insures your eggs are cooked on the inside.  Cool and dry your eggs completely before you begin the dying process.

Your color preference is determined by the length of time you leave your egg in the dye.  The shorter it stays in the dye, the lighter your egg will be and the longer your egg stays in the dye, the darker it will be.  To achieve the colors above I kept my eggs in the dye 5 - 7 minutes, keeping the yellow in one minute longer that the rest.



No matter what colors you choose to make your eggs have fun doing it.  Make the memories for your child to carry to adulthood, which I know will be recalled when they are sitting around the table with their children making new memories like the ones you created with them.


Happy Easter!



*Since these recipes require boiling water there is always the chance of receiving a potential burn.  With anything always use caution, especially when children are participating.  I see no reason why the water can't be hot instead of boiling to reduce the risk of a burn.

All photographs are watermarked.