Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter Blues

Here we are, nearly to February and in a rather mild winter. Regardless of the fact that it's barely snowed here all winter, it's been blah and blech and blergh-y for months.

I miss the sunshine. I am ready for Spring. Although I arrived back in the US as Spring was bursting out last year, I think I became spoiled by already having had spring in London for a while and 3 prior years of early-ish season changes (at least compared to what I was used to in WI).

Just for fun, and to help hold things over until the seasons really to start to change (in March? April? I really have no idea about things in the NYC area), I grabbed some of my favorite Springtime photos from the last few years.

lovely girl, lovely sunset (77/365)
"what's she doing?"
bridge on the river cherwell

Now bring on the sunshine!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Project Life: week 4

4 weeks of 2013 have passed. I'm still going strong with Project Life and am having so many ideas roll through my head. It's fabulous!

This was the first week in 2013 that I have used an insert page (I became quite fond of them as I began PL in 2012). Here's the spread without the insert:
Project Life week 4

And here it is with:

I had a lot of Instagram photos that seemed just great to include this week (some mine, some Alan's), and I used the Design I page protector to add them. In addition to 4x4 photos, I also included a barmat from where we spent our Saturday night with friends.

The left side of the page focused a bunch on the Presidential Inauguration. I used a Slick Writer to add some journaling to the wide shot of the US Capitol building I snapped off the tv broadcast. Additionally, I included both the speeches cards that I shared last Monday.

On the right side, I enjoyed including a sweet text message from the husband sent on Burns Night. I used one of the Seafoam bi-fold journaling cards left flat and attached the screenshot of the text conversation to one side. Love that.

This project continues to be great fun. Check back later in the week for a "big game"-related freebie!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Lizzy!

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the 1st publication of Pride and Prejudice. Technically, that still wouldn't make it the birthday of Elizabeth Bennett (that would be 20 years earlier), but let's play along for fun. I read about this fun anniversary last week and then Ms. Magazine went and beat me to the punch with its story title today (a very good article as well). Oh, well. I'm still using it. :p

Today I present a fun round-up of amusing things P&P-related that one can find these days.

From the classic opening line...


...to a pulp novel approach...


...the characters illustrated...


...to a counting book for children...


...and pretty people and places...


...to the inevitable.


And just for fun (from my favorite film adaptation).


I love Jane Austen for her wit, her humor, and her wry observation. She was outspoken through her works and her words hold a lot of truth still today. There's a reason so many people love Pride and Prejudice (and it's not *just* due to Colin Firth).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eat Something Sunday: Not-so-basic Banana Bread

Quick breads are a favorite thing of mine. They are easy, they are great for using up bits and bobs (applesauce, bananas, nearly-past-it zucchini), and they're just yummy. Today, I want to share my take on banana bread. Mine isn't anything revolutionary, but I've called it "Not-So-Basic" as I add a bit in the spice department.

A note on bananas: Did you know that bananas are not fully ripe until they are brown and that we just happen to, culturally, like them yellow? Interesting, that. Brown bananas are at their sweetest. Whenever I buy bananas, one or two surely get to the oops-I-should've-eaten-them-sooner stage of brown. Growing up, my mother always tossed those 1 or 2 in the freezer for later bread baking. (To this day, that means that about 1/4 of the freezer space in my parents' kitchen is bananas...). It's a habit I have happily picked up. The bananas in the photo below were pulled from the freezer and later thawed in the microwave (though you can also do that in the oven on a low temp), but you can, obviously, use fresh ones!

Not-So-Basic Banana Bread
(adapted from joyofbaking)

Preheat oven to 350° F

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (if you find yourself using salted butter, you may want to omit/lessen this)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (oops...not pictured)
1 tsp vanilla extract (forgot to put this in the photo too...)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 large ripe (brown) bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 - In a small bowl, combine your dry ingredients. Mix them together and set aside.

2 - In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients. Be sure bananas are well mashed and eggs lightly beaten before mixing all together.

3 - Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. I like to do this in 2 additions. I use a wooden spoon or a fork to keep anything from getting lumpy. Don't overmix, but make sure all the dry ingredients have been incorporated and everything looks suitably gooey!

4 - Pour the batter into a well-greased loaf pan. (Here, I'm using a fancy one, but a standard 9x5 loaf pan gets the job done perfectly). Pop it into a 350° F oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly before turning the bread out of the pan. (Note: Mine has been turned out upside down as I used a fancy pan. If you use a regular loaf pan, you'll want to situate yours right-side-up in the usual bread manner).


Enjoy! It's delicious warm with a pat of butter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Project Life: Week 3

Here we go: Project Life week 3 for 2013. I've been really enjoying this project, and have kept a few things steady in the past 3 weeks - notably neatly writing with a pen instead of printing & ghost boxes with photo descriptions - but I'm not 100% sure I want to keep the boxes up for the whole year. I think labels and washi are more fun, really. The more I get a chance to look at other PL-ers' creations, the more I want to do a little more adding bits and bobs, sticking on letters, etc. etc. Sadly, 4 years abroad dealing with a very very limited supply stash (and having given most of my old stash away before leaving the country), I'm down on bits of this and that. I need to stock up again!

Anyhow. Here's my spread for Week 3 of 2013:

Why, yes, I did put a PL photo about PL...

This week included a job interview (which, sadly, didn't go any further than that - I was really hopeful and excited about this prospect) and I chose to blur the details of that out. I love that Project Life allows me to tell those little stories. I'd never make a "proper" scrapbook page about an interview or about the yummy burgers we ate for lunch on Saturday. But Project Life makes it easy to tell those little stories in a fun and simple way.

That's a tiny brown bag that fries were served in with our burgers. Adorable!

As I've just started working with a Core Kit, I'm still getting the hang of it as far as using the cards in beautiful ways, etc. But I'm having such a good time and doing Project Life has reignited my love for my 12x12 scrapbooks such that I've gotten SO much done in the past 2 weeks (and I've been using a lot of the smaller insert pages since I have a tendency to take & print way too many photos)! It's awesome.

I LOVE that my husband came home on Sunday afternoon gushing about a new-to-him coffee shop and pulled out a business card "for the book." We're doing this project a bit together and that is *marvelous*.

More Project Life next Tuesday. :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

He's the chief and he needs hailing

Today I had been planning to write a short and sweet post for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and share a little printable with you.

And then I watched the inauguration festivities.

I am personally a fan of Barack Obama. While he didn't thrill me during every moment of his 1st term, he did continue to keep my hopes up. And I have faith that he'll continue working for the good of all in his next term. Even though he was officially sworn in yesterday (as per the constitution), I think it fitting that today, the public holiday honoring the great works of Dr. King, is the day that the big public inauguration hoopla is happening. And the inauguration speech given by President Obama is really what changed my planned post today.

Now, instead of offering a simple quote card with a favorite line from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, I have also made a card featuring an excerpt from the lovely speech given this morning. This part of the speech made reference to 3 places that, for many of us in this world who believe in equality for all, hold a lot of meaning: Seneca Falls, Selma, & Stonewall. These are American places, but the things they represent are universal.

Anyhow. I'm rambling philosophical a bit. I hope you enjoy either or both of these cards today.

 photo speechcards_zpsccb5d8be.jpg
> > > Download them here < < <

And then, on a lighter note, the title of today's post comes from this excellent scene from the mid-90s movie My Fellow Americans. Ever since I first saw this movie (in the theatre), I haven't been able to hear "Hail to The Chief" without singing along. Enjoy.

I'll be back tomorrow to share my Project Life week 3 pages!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Eat Something Sunday: Cornbread-topped Taco Casserole


Casserole. That dreaded word that for many brings up memories of unknown leftovers and school. Last summer, while I was at my parents' house, my mom whipped up a dinner that involved a cornbread topping. Then this fall, shortly after we moved in, I had accidentally made a boatload of taco-seasoned beef one night. In searching for a way to use leftovers, I came across this mid-century classic and have since updated it a bit in my own way.

Cornbread-topped Taco Casserole

Preheat oven to 400° F

1 lb. ground beef (not pictured)
1 bell pepper (any color you prefer. Green is nice, but I had an orange one on hand).
1 small onion or 1 large shallot
1 cup frozen sweetcorn (or 1 small can)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 package taco seasoning
- water, as specified
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
- 1/2 cup milk note: this is more than specified on package
- 1 egg
(You don't have to use a Jiffy mix, of course, but they're about 40-50¢ and tasty)

*optional: shredded cheese for topping

1 - Dice the pepper and the onion


2 - In a small pan (preferably with a bit of butter), soften your onion. This step is optional, but I'm not a big fan of crunchy onions. You can soften your peppers a bit too, but most people like those with a little crunch.

3 - Brown your beef and prepare with taco seasoning mix as per packet directions. Be sure to let it thicken as soupy beef isn't what you want in this case.

Pull out your favorite large baking dish. Mine is a vintage Le Creuset casserole, but you could do this in a deep cake pan or even a small roaster, if that's what you have in your kitchen.

4 - Mix the beef and the vegetables (onion, pepper, corn, & tomatoes) all together. Press the mixture down firmly into the pan.

5 - Prepare cornbread mix, being sure to increase milk measurement to 1/2c (package specifies 1/3c) as you want the mixture to be a little thinner. Pour on top of the meat & vegetable mixture.

6 - Put the whole shebang into a 400° F oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown.

That's it! Is it the prettiest main dish? No. Is it tasty and filling? Totally!

If you like, you may serve it with shredded cheese (cheddar or a Mexican blend are yummy).

This isn't a fancy dish in any way, but it's delightfully filling and gets a good bunch of food groups all together! I hope you enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Make Your Bed

My mother didn't hand out a lot of marriage advice to me this Fall as I was getting ready for the wedding. A road trip cross-country to help us get set up in our new little home didn't bring many deep thoughts either. But when she saw our apartment, she gave me this one little gem: "Make your bed. Everyday."

make your bed

Totally simple, right? Well, I'm a chronic non-bed-maker. My whole life, I've just not been very good at doing it. But since November, I've embraced the bed-making! It doesn't matter if the sheets are pressed, or if everything is tucked just so. I just make it. Simply and neatly. This space we live in now is a quirky one. The building is a converted brownstone. So, while it's about twice the size of our 1 bedroom in London, it's much more open plan. Our living room/bedroom space is quite clearly the old parlour of the house. No wall or doors separate the spaces, just a pretty set of built-in shelves. To look at an unmade bed in this layout is to suck all the joy and life and energy out of the space.

My mom was right.

I told The Scot from Day 1 that I wanted to make a point to do this. You have no idea how much it has helped me feel like this space is calm and composed and together - even when it hasn't been.

Lately I've been reading about people doing things to help them be. Yoga, running, setting a daily routine, washing the dishes, etc. etc. It's different for every person. By nature I am a bit of a Muggy Maggie. It takes a concerted effort (plus the help of my excellent husband) to keep my kitchen clean (it very often is a mess of dishes and flour and junk mail on the counter). Laundry often has a hard time getting the whole 10 feet from my side of the bed to the hamper. Neatness takes thought.

My life is a bit all over the place these days. But my bed is made. And that's a start.