AccuQuilt 2017 Block Contest Grand Prize Winner!

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Another Dose of Inspiration, Please

AccuQuilt has had a yearly contest for the best block for several years.  I enjoy seeing what people come up with – mainly because my creative mojo isn’t always that exciting.  🙂

This year’s winning block is pretty WOW.  Check it out by reading the article:

What Everybody Ought to Know

I love the use of color and shape to make something so unusual and beautiful.  I also love the fact that all the shapes used are in my Mix and Match set.  Talk about Inspiration!

Categories: Crafting Quilting

Recipe Helpers

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Meals and Time

School is rapidly approaching.  Along with the lists of school supplies and clothes needed for the new year is the contemplation of meals.

There are ways to cut down time spent in the kitchen and avoid wasted food in the budget.

Fresh vegetables are a joy in season, but when the weather is cold and you don’t have a farmer’s cellar with vegetables put away for the winter, what do you do?

Make Use of Your Freezer

Take a trip down your grocer’s freezer aisle and see what is in stock in the vegetable section.  You should be able to find the tried and true items like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, mixed vegetables and broccoli, but look for the groupings of vegetables that have been cleaned and prepped for cooking.

PictSweet has a line of vegetables designed to help out the cook.  Peeled, diced (or sliced) and frozen, these bags of tasty morsels lend themselves to quick soups, stews, casseroles, and side dishes.

Birdseye has a line called Steamfresh that is designed to be prepared in the microwave.  They also have a variety of vegetables with different flavor profiles.  There are also lines of veggie made pastas and fries and tots.

NOTE:  All frozen vegetables can be prepared in the microwave.

Next check out the meat case.  Your grocer will no doubt sell large quantities of poultry and ground beef at good prices.  What this means is you can use these items as building blocks for meals that can be prepped ahead of time and tucked away in your freezer.

One of my local grocery chains has a pick 5 for $25 deal going most weeks.  You pick 5 items from a variety of cuts of mean or poultry and pay only $25.  It is a fantastic way to stretch the budget and fill the freezer.

Building Blocks?

Take five or ten pounds of ground beef, a bag of prepped onions, celery and carrots, some salt and pepper and a large skillet or two and a stock pot or dutch oven and brown all the meat with the additions. You don’t want to put it all in one pot, it will need room to cook and brown.  Drain and bag in one pound portions, labeling the bag adding the preparation date.  Tuck it into the freezer.  You now have five or ten separate bags of meat prepped for casseroles, stews, chili, or sloppy joes.

Or you could take five pounds of ground beef, separate it into two two pound portions and one one pound portions add one pound of your favorite sausage mix to each of the two pounds of beef and one half pound of sausage to the one pound of beef, add salt, pepper, garlic, onion and whatever you like in your meatloaf.  Mix, and bag in the size you prefer, label and tuck into your freezer.  You now have either 2 large and 1 small or 5 small meatloaves.  Or you could use a portion to make meat balls.

The chicken or poultry can also be precooked – I like to put a large flat of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into my slow cooker and cook until done.  I can either cut up the cooked chicken or bag individual pieces.  I now have the start to a pot pie or chicken and rice or a base to use for dumplings.

Freezer labels should include the following:

  • Item in the bag – chicken breast meat
  • Date prepared – 07/01/18
  • Seasonings included – salt, pepper, onion, garlic

If you prepare dump meals be sure to include the cooking instructions.

What’s Next?

This is going to take some time, but it will be worth it.  Really!

Now that you have taken that trip through your grocery store and found out what they have in stock, you can put together a list of all the family’s favorite meals.  Take your time.  Think about Taco Tuesdays and Left Over Nights.  Do you have Game Nights or Movie Nights?  Are there some meals your family really love?  Pizza?  Sandwiches?

Collect those ideas and your favorite recipes.

Boredom Killers

Are there particular brands of food you like?  Betty Crocker, Tyson and the like?  Check out their websites for new recipes and coupons.  For example, I love Near East rice pilaf, but during a recent trip to their website I found new products I wanted to try.  I made sure to add them to my shopping list – and bookmark the recipes.

Congratulations!  You now have the foundation of a meal plan that could take you through the school year.

Categories: Food

Treasure!

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There’s Treasure In That Box

As many of you know, I’ve been following Justin Scarred’s Randomland videos/vlogs on YouTube fore quite a while.  Justin has a passion for history and Disney (among a few other things).

A couple of months ago, Justin began working on a Disneyland Then and Now project.  The idea was to take old photographs taken in the park and compare them with the park as it is today.  Justin’s grandparents and his mom moved across the street from Disneyland back in the mid 1950’s.  They visited the park frequently and, as a matter of course, took quite a few photographs and slides.

To be fair, this topic was addressed last year, with a request to viewers to look for old photographs and, if they were inclined, share them with Justin who was planning on doing the comparison.

I can hear some folks shaking their heads and wondering what the deal might be, while others are digging through closets, under beds and out in the garage to see what they can find.

What they can find is pure treasure.

It’s Not Just About the Pictures

Photographs, old movies and slides are not just about the pictures, but about the time, place and people.  Family picnics.  Camping trips.  College graduations.  Birthdays.  Weddings.  Funerals.  Holiday gatherings.  Summer vacations.

As much as we seem to love our smart phones with the fancy cameras, we seem to be not saving as much as we used to.  Pictures are not always being moved to save and secure places or even printed out – even though that technology has vastly improved.

What is lost, among the detritus of images that were not really worth taking, are the memories.  First steps, first day of school, first day in a new home, and the like.

Justin’s project focuses on how Disneyland has evolved and changed over the years, an d he has done the research to back up what he shows the viewer.  But this type of project is not limited to one place; it can be done focusing on pretty much anything or anyone.  We might think about Junior’s yearly school pictures, but what about the family home and how it has evolved over the years?

The treasure in the closets, etc., is the memories of times past, people and places lost.  The reminders of the way the house smelled during the holidays or the way the decorations sparkled…or not.  🙂  In my stash, I have one of my family’s Christmas back in the early 1960’s.  It is a color shot, showcasing the decorations on the tree and the colors on the wrapping paper scattered around the room.  The image includes my father in those old part wire rimmed glasses that are so 1960 as to be painful.

I also have a copy of a photograph of my mother along with two of her sisters, standing side by side doing dishes in the kitchen.  Their backs are to the photographer and you can tell they are deep in conversation of what appears to be a silly nature.

All three are long gone now, but I remember the way they enjoyed being together, the fun they had.

As Captain Jack Sparrow said, “Treasure is not just silver or gold.”

Categories: Disney Musings

Welcome To Blueprint

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Turn your inspiration into action. We’ll show you how.

FREE 7 Day Bluprint Trial at Craftsy.com

I’ve been a Craftsy subscriber/member for many years. At the time, the idea of learning anything from home was a bit unique.

Craftsy was pretty straightforward: you purchased your class for a fee, received access to the class and all accompanying materials and kept the class in your archive for as long as you wished.  Class prices varied as did the length of the class.

I began my Craftsy adventure learning how to make chocolates and then ventured to learn more about quilting, sewing, paper crafting and a few choice cooking and baking techniques.

Overall, I liked the way I could learn at my own pace, stop and start over if I needed to, send comments and questions to my instructors – and get responses, all on my time frame.

The process of at home learning has evolved over the years and Craftsy has been either at the forefront or learning from others to incorporate ideas that makes their platform better and more user friendly.

Recently Craftsy debuted Craftsy Unlimited – their unlimited streaming service.  For a low monthly price, you could have 24/7 access to all the classes.  All the classes: cooking, sewing, quilting, fabric arts, art, you name it – the list goes on and on.

Today Craftsy Unlimited is Becoming Blueprint

Blueprint offers expanded categories like dance, fitness, yoga, art, and home decorating (plus all the original arts and crafts categories you love).

FREE 7 Day Bluprint Trial + 33% Off First 3 Months – Or – $20 Off Annual Subscription (through 8/1)

Why not take advantage of this great opportunity to see what Blueprint has to offer?  You might find just the right inspiration and instructor to get you started on a brand new adventure.  Or, you could rekindle an old passion that you’ve not explored in a long time.

I can’t wait to discover what Blueprint has in store!


FOOTNOTE:  I reached out to Craftsy and asked about the status of the original service.  I was advised that it is still available; individual classes are available to purchase along with kits and supplies.

Categories: Crafting

Recently Read

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I love to read.  It began with comics from the funny pages and evolved to an appreciation for a variety of genres.  I’m also a devoted audio book fan.  I normally listen to audio books, but they can also be found in paper or on electronic file (i.e. Kindle).

Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files

Recently I picked up a new short story collection by Jim Butcher called Brief Cases that focus on Butcher’s Dresden Files series.  Harry Dresden, in case you haven’t met him yet, is a wizard in Chicago.  Actually, I believe, he is one of the wardens who protect that area of the continent.  But don’t quote me, check out the series.

Butcher has an easy style that draws you into the worlds he creates, beguiling you into thinking this was going to be one sort of trip until you realize (usually too late) that it is another.  His world building skills are amazing and his characters multidimensional.

Dresden’s world is populated by a wide variety of folks, Human and other.  Each has a specific reason or purpose for being there and each has an interesting tale to tell.  Brief Cases is a collection of old and new short stories that cover a wide time spread in the series and a few are told by some of the side characters.  For me, it added a bit more dimension to the series.

The Cinder Spires

I recently began going through my collection of audio books and came across the first book in a new Butcher series; the Cinder Spires.  The book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, is in the steampunk genre; new to me.

Butcher is, as I may have mentioned before, a master at world building.  The Cinder Spires series is shaping up to be just as amazing and fun as the Dresden and Codex Alera series.

This book originally came out in 2015, and I’m pretty sure I have had my copy sitting on the cloud since then.  As it was my first foray into steampunk, it sat until I was ready to give it a try.  I’m glad I did.

As a fan of wind ships, sea stories, fantasy and the like, this one clicked quite a few boxes for me.  Add into it some sparkling storytelling and great characters, and you might see that it is worth the time to sit down with it.

I strongly recommend you check out Jim’s website as well as the books.  I doubt you will be disappointed.  Be warned, however, you could be setting yourself up for a wild ride.  Or many.  🙂

Categories: Audiobooks Books

Pinterest Post Double Dog Dare

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We all do it.  We visit Pinterest and put pins on our boards and think “I want to make that!” and then…

We forget about it.

Doesn’t matter how amazing the recipe, how beautiful the photography, how excited we are to find it…it ends up being forgotten.

Thought you were the only one?  LOL – nope!

So, all that being said, and because I am just as guilty as the rest of us, I suggest that the next time we plan a menu or think about a project we head over to Pinterest and check the boards we have been building to find at least one recipe or project to make this month.

Yes, I said MONTH because we all know how frantic and stressed we get at the idea of doing a new recipe or project every week.

Are you game?

Leave a comment about what you tried.  Double Dog Dare you!

Categories: Double Dog Dare Musings

5 Easy Tips for Summer Meal Planning

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Summer meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.  It can be creative and fun.

Too hot to cook?  Running out of ideas for things to eat that don’t involve trips to the drive thru?  Check these out:

1. Visit the Deli

Pretty much every grocery store has some sort of deli counter.  If you haven’t checked it out, make some time in your next visit.  Why?  Better quality cheeses and lunch meats than you will find in the general grocery area – and a few you won’t find there at all.  The prices may seem a bit steep, but when you consider cost per ounce along with quality you’ll come out ahead.

Look for:  Fresh salads; potato and pasta, not to mention broccoli and fruit.  Check out the lunch meats and cheeses.  These make great sandwiches.  Did you consider getting some prosciutto to pair with fresh cantaloupe?  Yum!  Same prosciutto can be used with eggs for a quick breakfast.  It cooks faster than regular bacon, too.

Check the deli for fried chicken and other comfort foods.  Mine makes The Best fried chicken (even better than KFC!) at a competitive price.  You can buy a family sized meal, too.

2. Don’t Forget Produce

I don’t frequent the produce section for regular veggies, but I do go for salad items, potatoes and fruits.  Pre washed items might be an idea, but if you get whole items and prep them yourself you will save a lot of $$.  Great way to work on knife skills, too.  🙂

Hit the local Farmer’s Markets for the freshest local fruits and vegetables.  You’ll get ready to eat (aka: Ripe) in season foods at good prices.

Think fruits and berries prepped and in a bowl in the fridge.  Great to snack on or add to salads, top ice cream or breakfast cereal.

3. Cook Ahead

I know, hot.  But consider this, if you buy a large batch of chicken to go on the grill, you can have enough for several meals.  Most chicken is good cold, or you can chop it up and put together a quick and tasty chicken salad that can be eaten on its own or chicken can be added to a bowl of greens.

Cook extra burgers, sausages or pork ribs and have them throughout the week.  You can chop up the pork to make pulled pork sandwiches.  Burgers can be broken up and added to the fixings for taco salads.

Not into grilling?  Pull out the crock pot and set it to cook overnight.  I like to buy a flat of chicken, add it to the pot and let it go for 6 – 8 hours.  Don’t add anything – no water, no seasoning.  It will cook to perfect doneness, be juicy and flavorful and you have a batch of chicken you can add to other dishes.

Do the same with pot roast or a turkey breast and you will have the makings for several meals.

NOTE:  Seasoning can be added, but is not necessary.  If you are considering using the meats for several dishes you might want to season when you prep the meals.

4. Hit the Bakery

Think sandwich buns.  Fresh artisan breads and rolls.  They will have better flavor than the standard bakery aisle fare which will make your sandwiches taste even better.

Think about that fruit you picked up.  Why not get a pound cake or angel food cake to serve with the fruit?  Don’t forget the whipping cream…  🙂

Bagels and English muffins are great for quick cheese sandwiches, too.

5. Experiment A Bit

Summer heat is not the best time for large meals.  Not everyone will be interested in a huge offering.  Why not get some yogurt and make some toast?  Nosh on cherry tomatoes or any other vegetable you like.  And if you aren’t sure, why not try a few?  Raw cauliflower or turnip taste different than cooked – some of us prefer the raw to the cooked.

Don’t forget to make a batch of iced tea.  The Domestic Geek has some seriously easy and tasty ice cream recipes on her YouTube channel.  No need for a fancy ice cream machine, either.

Happy eating!

Categories: Musings

Food Vlogs – Why I Enjoy Them

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It is no secret that there are thousands of recipes on the Internet.  I’ve been told that recipes are the biggest category of searches out there.  It may be a little better secret that in addition to food blogs, food vlogs are growing in number.

What Is A Vlog?

A ‘vlog’ is a video blog post.  They can be videos from established bloggers, food companies or just a dedicated group of people who prefer the video rather than the blog.

Some of the major networks also up load older shows onto YouTube so you can watch episodes from your favorite chefs (Mary Berry, Julia Child, etc.)

Adventure!

Why do I seek out food vlogs?  You can find some really great recipes, and if your vlogger is a good teacher, you can learn a few tricks in the kitchen as well.

A good vlog, like a good blog, offers ideas, inspiration, along with a dash of fun.

Foodie blogs often visit restaurants or food festivals to check out the offerings and sample the goods.  On the other hand, for those who are adventurous in the kitchen, checking out what is at the park offers the opportunity to recreate it at home.

My Latest Vlogging Binges

Anna Olson – She showed up on my YouTube recommendations and also on my Amazon Prime Video channel.  I like the way she teaches and her easy manner.  And the food!

Entertaining With Beth – One of my early YouTube discoveries, Beth is a French trained cook with some great ideas for easy entertaining.

The Domestic Geek – This one started out as a way of learning healthy meal prep and has morphed into some amazing recipes.

Magic Journeys – This one is more foodie than food.  They visit various restaurants and food stops in Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm and comment on the food they have tasted.  I find it a great way to get an idea of what is available, which is potentially essential if you are traveling soon and with kids, and what to look out for.

Inspiration, education, adventure.  Food Vlogs provide a lot of material to help you in your kitchen.

Categories: Food

Fabulous Refreshing Iced Tea

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I was raised on Iced Tea in the summer.  Granted, it was a slightly different version than the one I make now, but the tradition was started and continues to this day.

As I’ve learned through the years, Iced Tea is not a staple in every household.  Some folks have no idea what Iced Tea is – they drink tea hot, something I’m not exactly a fan of.

To be clear, I’m a purist; give me a rich dark tea with sugar and lots of ice cubes and I’m a happy lady.  I don’t particularly care for the flavored types, but every once in a while I might give one a try.  Unsweetened?  Yeah, I can do that, but prefer the sugar.  Lemon is optional.

These days I make my iced tea with tea bags and boiling water.  I do have a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker that does the job easier and with less mess than by using boiling water over tea bags.  Each works just fine.

Keep in mind you want to brew your tea stronger than you might want to drink as you will be diluting it with ice.  Unless, of course, you make your ice cubes with left over tea.

The Basic Recipe

Pour four cups of boiling water over two teabags into a heat-proof pitcher and leave for three to five minutes. Remove the teabags, and sweeten to taste by adding a little sugar. Stir in six cups of ice cubes until melted, or use four cups of cold water. Add in freshly cut lemon slices for some citrus zing, and keep refrigerated.

Sun Tea

If you are interested, this method is a strictly no electricity version.  Fill a gallon jug with cold water, put in 6 regular sized tea bags (be sure to clip the strings together so they don’t fall into the water) set the jug outside in the sun and leave it alone.  Keep an eye on it – once the color gets to where you like your tea, bring it inside.  Sweeten and cool as you like.

For the record, I have tried the k-cups to make iced tea.  I’m not a real fan.  I don’t care for the sweetener used in the cup.  When I make my tea, using the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker, I use Family Size bags.  Less mess, better brew.

There is nothing like a cold glass of iced tea on a hot day.  Refreshing, relaxing, satisfying.

Why not make a batch and see for yourself. 🙂

Categories: Musings

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