a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Birdhouse Fence

Over the last few years we’ve been growing and propagating plants with the intention of selling some (to fund our garden habit) and keeping some to plant at the property.

Now that we’re on the property, we can start really making it our own.

We wanted a bit of privacy from the people driving down the road past our place so we thought the plants would be a great barrier. However, the thing we didn’t think about was that the plants are only about 2′ high right now and won’t really hide much.

So, we came up with a new plan — a small fence. We looked at many ideas to build, and those we could purchase, but decided to do something uniquely “us,” so off to the dump we went…er, that didn’t come out right, but you get the idea…

This birdhouse fence is what we came up with in the end. $5 worth of beat up old planks and boards, cut to look like various, old fence pieces,  screwed together with cross pieces on the back.  We added a couple of smaller wood pieces to make the three “birdhouse-looking roofs,” used bolts for perches, and heavy fabric cut-out pieces screwed on for the “holes/openings.”

All that’s left is to hang one of the recycled bird feeders that we made on a shepherds hook that Fred made from a salvaged piece of rebar and we are good to go!

image

We realize this won’t last forever but it should last until the plants have had a chance to grow – and we think it turned out really cute!

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Let’s hear it for stress eating!

I’ve noticed that when I’m really stressed out, I get cravings for particular foods. It’s not always for “junk food” but, today, it just wasn’t for a nice, big, healthy salad (Yeah. I lied. It’s never for a nice, big, healthy salad…). What I wanted was blue cheese & garlic fries. The more I thought about them, the more determined I was to have them. So, when I was out doing my errands today, I also stopped at the grocery store to get the necessary supplies. I felt like I was on a mission. Or, at least, like I was shopping like my parents were gone for the weekend…

photo-70Blue Cheese & Garlic Fries

  • 1 pkg. Frozen French Fries (I like the Ore Ida “Simply.” They’re still french fries but they make me feel better about gorging on them because they’re “natural”). Of course you could make your own, if you’re into all the peeling and cutting. My craving couldn’t wait that long.
  • Garlic Sauce (see below)
  • 1-2 Tbs. Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 1-2 Tbs. Bacon Bits (real or imitation, your choice).

      Garlic Sauce:

  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 Tbs. Minced Garlic (more or less to taste – just make sure everyone eats the fries if you use a lot…)
  • 8 oz. Whipping Cream
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  1. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the garlic & sauté until lightly browned.
  3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and add the whipping cream.
  4. Cook, stirring frequently (this can burn if left alone too long), until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Assembly:

  1. Cook the bag of french fries according to the package directions (I use the oven-method).
  2. When they’re done, put 1/2 of them, in a single layer on a dinner-sized plate (Of course this is for more than one serving! Y’know, unless no one is there to witness help you eat it. Then it could be just one…)
  3. Pour 1/2 of the garlic sauce over the fries, distributing evenly; add 1/2 of the garlic crumbles; sprinkle on 1/2 of the bacon bits.
  4. Repeat the same steps with the remaining ingredients. (I topped this with a dash of parsley to make it look prettier but, I think, chives would’ve added another layer of flavor. I will do that next time).
  5. Eat (forks are optional, but recommended, if there are other people around besides those who know you really well – and still like you, anyway).
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Not Pizza Casserole

I found this (rather intriguing) recipe while looking for “gluten-free” alternatives. It was originally called “pizza” but, in my opinion, it’s not pizza unless it has a yummy gluten-filled crust made with lots and lots of unhealthy white flour…plus, if I tried to pass this off as pizza to Fred, it just wouldn’t fly. Therefore, if it’s in a casserole dish, I have to call it a casserole, which is something Fred will eat (work with me on this, people…). So, here’s the “intriguing” part; the crust is made from cauliflower. I know, I know. I thought the same thing until I tried it. In fact, we’ve had it twice this week — and not just because I’m being lazy about cooking. It’s really that good. not pizza casserole

Not Pizza Casserole Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked, riced Cauliflower
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp minced Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
  • Pizza Sauce (any brand or homemade)
  • Additional Mozzarella Cheese (or a mix of Pizza Cheeses)
  • Toppings; I used a mix of on-hand veggies (broccoli, onions, sweet red peppers, black olives, mushrooms) but you can use whatever you like — and add meats, if desired.

Directions: (There are a few steps but, once you do it once, you’ll see how easy it really is!).

To “Rice” the Cauliflower: 1 large head will give you about 3 cups* (use only the florets).

  1. Using a cheese grater, grate the cauliflower florets (you can use a food processor but, if over processed, it could get mushy).
  2. Put the riced cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, on high, for 4-5 minutes. Take it out and give it a good stir.
  3. Cook it another 3 minutes or so (watch it – it will burn!), just until it’s done. It’ll still be firm but cooked through. No extra water is needed, there’s enough in the cauliflower.

*This recipe only requires 1 cup of riced cauliflower. You can either do the whole head all at once, using what you need for the recipe and store/freeze the rest (in the fridge it should be good for up to a week), or rice/cook only what you need (about 1-1/2 cups raw) BUT only cook 1/2 the time as stated above — as I said, it will burn (I’m speaking from very, very stinky experience on this).

Make the Base (Crust):

  1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees.
  2. Grease a small casserole or 9″ pie pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup cauliflower, egg and mozzarella. Add oregano, crushed garlic and garlic salt, stir.
  4. Pat it into the bottom of the casserole with a flat spoon or your hands.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Assemble the Casserole:

  1. Remove from oven.
  2. Add sauce, toppings, and cheese.
  3. Broil until the cheese has melted and is slightly browned.

I’ve gotten pretty savvy when it comes to testing new recipes on Fred. He’s no longer allowed to ask “what is it?” or “what’s in it?” He is, however, allowed to say “yes, I like it” or “no, I don’t.” This recipe, both times we’ve had it, has gotten a big “thumbs up,” so now it’s too late in case he finds out what it is…

 

(A big “thank you” to Eat.Drink.Smile for providing me with a lovely and delicious recipe to play with!)

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Single Serve Hot Buttered Rum

Well, it’s day 8 of my annual Christmas cold and it’s getting a bit tiresome. The zinc and C has helped but I’m thinking I need something more serious. Before I break out the (incredibly *gakky*)  Nyquil, I’m going to try something a bit more palatable. A Hot Buttered Rum should do the trick. Warm, creamy, soothing goodness.

Since I’m a light-weight, when it comes to drinking, I’m thinking one should do it for tonight. So here’s a recipe for a single serve. You can certainly adjust it to your taste…

hot buttered rumSingle Serve Hot Buttered Rum

  • 1 tsp. soft Butter
  • 1 Tbs. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar
  • 1 oz. Spiced Rum
  • 2 Tbs. Caramel Swirl Ice-Cream (or use other flavors)
  • 1/2 cup boiling (or really hot) Water

Directions

  1. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners sugar in a large mug.
  2. Add the rum, then ice-cream, then boiling water.
  3. Stir until the butter and ice-cream have melted.
  4. Serve warm.

Pretty simple, eh? Nighty-night all.

(Oh, and when you’re feeling better and have friends over or just want to do something special for yourself, try serving this in a brandy snifter or wine glass. Very elegant).

 

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Individual Mexican Hushpuppy Casseroles

*Whew* That’s a mouthful. Originally, this started as a casserole. Then I added the green chili sauce and Pepper Jack cheese to give it a Mexican flare. And, when I decided to bring these to a potluck, I made them into individual servings for convenience. Well, you can see where the lengthy title comes from…

Individual Mexican Hushpuppy Casseroles

corn casseroleIngredients:

  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 can (or 8 oz.) Creamed Corn
  • 8 oz. Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Butter, melted
  • 1-15.25 oz. can Whole Kernel Corn
  • 1-1/2 cups Cheese (my favorite mix is Cheddar and Pepper Jack)
  • 1/2 cup Onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2 (8.5 oz.) packages dry Corn Muffin Mix (I use the Jiffy Mixes)
  • 1/2 can (about 4 oz.) Green Chili Salsa

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Grease the muffin cups (this batch will make about 18-20 “muffins”).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, creamed corn, sour cream, melted butter, whole corn, 1/2 of the cheese, and onion. 
  4. Stir in the muffin mix just until it’s moistened.
  5. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.
  6.  Bake 30-40 minutes then take out of the oven (or until a knife, inserted in the center, comes out clean)  and evenly pour the green chili sauce over the tops of the muffins and sprinkle each one with the other 1/2 of the cheese evenly over that.
  7. Bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

*If you make this as a casserole, use a 2-quart dish and bake 60-70 minutes (or until a knife comes out clean).

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Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

Slow cooker + potatoes = easy and yummy. My kind of cooking!

I know there are a bunch of potato soup recipes out there but this one really caught my eye. Not just because I can toss everything into the crock pot and be done with dinner (well, almost for this one), but because the ingredients looked so interesting. This is made with cream cheese, one of my favorite 4 food groups (yes, cream cheese gets its own food group in this house…along with the other three; pizza, roasted broccoli, and ice-cream).

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

potato soupIngredients:

  • 2 lbs. Potatoes, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 medium Onion, small dice
  • 1 Tbs. minced Garlic
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans Vegetable Broth (or chicken, if you prefer)
  • 1/8 tsp. Black Pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. dried Parsley
  • Dash of Hot Sauce or Tabasco (optional)
  • 4 drops Liquid Smoke (optional)
  • 1 block (8 oz) of Cream Cheese
  • Optional Toppings: sour cream, grated cheese, green onion, crumbled bacon, or anything else you’d normally put on a baked potato (not sure chili would work, but I’d give it a shot…).

Directions:

  1. To the slow cooker add; peeled and diced potatoes, onion, garlic, black pepper, parsley, Tabasco, Liquid Smoke, and veggie broth.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours or until the potatoes are tender/done.
  3. Take out half this mixture and blend it with the cream cheese (either a blender or food processor — you want this to be fairly smooth).
  4. Add it back to the slow cooker and mix well.
  5. Season the soup with additional pepper and, if needed, salt.
  6. Serve hot with desired toppings (shown here is sour cream, cheddar, bacon bits, & green onions…oh, yum).

* Recipe adapted from The Magical Slow Cooker (thank you!).

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Fluffy, Puffy Clouds

It’s hard to believe it’s November. Not just because the year has flown by, but also because the weather has been so lovely this fall!

The other day my photo buddy, Crystal, sent me a text message “you want to go shoot a few pictures?” I tried, very hard, to keep focused on what I was doing but she won me over (not to mention the fact that she was sitting in my driveway when she sent the message to begin with…) and off we went to shoot photos. As always, I’m so glad we went.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a cloud fanatic. I can’t get enough. Each one is so interesting (okay, okay…interesting to me) and I, especially, love the big fluffy, puffy ones with the really well-defined edges. You know the ones I mean, right?

blog 8

Of course there’s also something to be said for the little cottony clouds, too…

blog 6

And, I admit, with views like this any clouds look marvelous!

blog 5

And let’s not forget the wispy, wind-swept clouds!

blog 7

Don’t get me wrong, I like blue skies (and even the grey ones) but there’s something magical about clouds…

 

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Halloween 2013

 

Well, it’s over…but it was great fun while it lasted! Fred and I won 2nd place at a local theater that was hosting a costume contest at their late night showing of “Young Frankenstein” (great flick!) on Halloween night. We went as “Sister Mary Eyebrows” and “Brother Dementias.” We were pretty scary and, I think if I hadn’t forgotten my ruler, we could’ve won.

witch

I got my witch done for the porch and our graveyard (aka “garden”) was a big hit. Everyone seemed to enjoy our hard work, with the exception of one little girl who, very loudly, refused to get out of the car to take a closer look. We even had one person knock on the door to ask for our email because he’d taken photos and wanted to send them to us.

Since it was an “old-fashioned” haunting, I thought I’d do old-fashioned photos of it. Hope you enjoy them!

vulture

grim

minion

blurry grim

cemetary

pumpkins

(Okay, so I had to add one with all of Fred’s really cool lighting!)

halloween yard

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Darn Good, Gluten-Free Cheesy Crackers!

There’s nothing better with a piping hot bowl of homemade soup than a handful of crackers. However, being on my “gluten-free” quest, I’ve not really found any store-bought crackers that I’m really crazy about. So, poking around the internet, I did a search and found this recipe on MyFieldsofGreen blogspot (link below). The only change I made was the cornstarch (I didn’t have any) and swapped it out with a half & half of potato and tapioca starches.

crackeraIngredients:

  • 8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 4 Tbs. cold, cubed Butter
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt (plus more to sprinkle on the top)
  • 3/4 cup Sweet Rice Flour (not to be confused with regular rice flour)
  • 1/8 cup Potato Starch
  • 1/8 cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1/2 tsp. Xantham Gum*
  • 2 Tbs. cold Water

*The original recipe says you can leave this out – but I wouldn’t. If you’re already baking GF, you probably have some on hand. If this is new to you, this is what replaces the gluten that holds “regular” flours, like wheat, together. It can be found in many grocery and health-food stores.

Directions:

  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor and mix until they’re all combined.
  2. Drizzle the water in until it comes together into a dough
  3. Chill the dough (10 minutes in the freezer or 30 in the refrigerator).
  4. Roll out the dough as thin as possible (I do it in “batches”).
  5. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut into squares.
  6. Place the squares, about 1/2″ apart, on a non-stick cookie sheet or flat pan.
  7. Prick the top of each one with a fork (this will help them cook flat).
  8. Sprinkle with Salt.
  9. Bake at 350F for 7 minutes, then turn the pan around, and cook another 7 minutes (this helps with any oven variances) — or until golden brown on the edges.
  10. Cool on a wire cookie rack.

 (While I really don’t think these taste like Cheez-Its, they really are a darn good (gluten-free) cheesy cracker!)

Here’s the link to MyFieldsofGreen in case you’d like to check out any of her other recipes! http://myfieldsofgreen.blogspot.com/2011/10/homemade-gluten-free-cheez-it-crackers.html

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“Heeeeere’s Reaper!”

Fred really is the perfect husband. Okay, maybe not for everyone but, for me, he sure is. I don’t know how many hair-brained ideas I’ve come up with and, even though I get an occasional “have you hit your head?” or eye roll, he’s never said “no” to any of them. The latest one, that I casually mentioned over breakfast a couple of weeks ago, was “I want to build this” and showed him a picture of my 8′ Grim Reaper. His response (ladies prepare to be totally  jealous of me) was “I’m off on Thursday so we can go get the stuff for it then.” What a guy, right?

I got the idea from the Grim Hallow website (thank you!) and adapted it to suit a limited budget and supplies already on hand. So, while Fred was making a frame from leftover 2×2’s, I constructed the “hands” out of wire coat hangers, paper towels, and duct tape. I started with a general shape, using the bent coat hangers (I used 1-1/2 hangers per hand) for the “bones.” I taped on wadded up paper towels to give the palms and knuckles some shape, then covered the rest of the hands with duct tape.

grim 8 hands

When the frame was done, I used pieces of chicken wire to get rid of the “square” look of  the wood. I used a staple gun to hold the chicken wire in place then just covered the whole thing in duct tape. )You could certainly skip the tape but I wanted to see where I needed to add more “bulk” so, for me, it was the right thing to do).

grim 7 tape over wire

grim 4

Originally, I was going to use paper mache with glue, water, & paper towels (I like paper towels better than newspapers — it’s easier to shape and mold) but I found that we had some leftover “casting” material from another project (yes, the stuff you use on broken limbs. What? Like no one else has this in their arts and crafts box?) so I used that instead, plus it dries much quicker. The head is a carveable foam pumpkin head measuring about 17″ high (though they come in different sizes and are available at many craft stores). I attached a piece of foam (the top of another styrofoam mannequin head) to the top of the “neck” with duct tape to steady the head (works well!).  

grim 2 cast with head

Once the casting was good and dry, I painted it. I started with a flat black then added some greens and browns. At one point it was a bit too “camo” for me so I added some more black. However, I didn’t realize that the new can of paint I grabbed was shiny black. Fortunately, I really liked the look so I left it.  I then clear coated the whole thing to help keep some of the Pac NW rain off while he was lingering in the garden…oh, I mean “spooky cemetery.”

grim 1 painted(Yes, that’s “little Frank” holding down the plastic tarp…ha ha!).

grim 10 by garage

 

Once he was painted, I carved the head, added a little black paint for “effect” and he was ready to go. Now it’s Fred’s turn to be wonderful again and get everything lit up! I’ll make sure to post night shots…

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