Friday, November 28, 2014

Land of Shining Water -MN Series was looking for a book series based in Minnesota, and stumbled upon "Land of Shining Water" series that came out last year in 2013. Written by Tracie Peterson these books are a mix of christian historical fiction with a touch of romance of course. 

What really appealed to me was reading these inspirational stories about women back in a time when Minnesota was really just starting to develop.  As a Minnesota native familiar with the areas that serve as the settings in the books, the plots transported me to a simpler time and left me with a sense of awe of just how much changes. Surrounded by Scandinavians, its cool to see links to our past and the culture our ancestors may have been exposed to.  An easy way to get a dose of MN historical culture these books are a great wintery read. for instance the first book. An ice business in MN that shipped ice around the country, makes perfect sense right?! And yet I never knew that factoid or really thought about it, until I saw the movie FROZEN that has captured everyone's heart. And ironically read about that career in MN history from this book soon after watching it. And then since my husband's family grew up in St. Cloud MN reading that story hit close to home.

The Icecutter's Daughter:
Merrill Krause enjoys the family business, harvesting ice during the brutal MN winters. Rurik Jorgenson arrives in their small town to join his uncle doing carpentry, and he soon crosses paths with Merrill.  While they are determined to start a new life, the past is determined to damage their relationship.  Can they learn to trust God - and each other - and embrace the promise of love?

The Quarryman's Bride: in St. Cloud MN Emmalyne Knox and Tavin MacLachian were destined to be together...until the tragic deaths of Emmalyne's sisters.  Family tradition mandates that the youngest daughter should remain single to care for her parents in their old age, and now that daughter is Emmalyne.  Bound by obligation, yet yearning for a future together, can Emmalyne and Tavin dare to dream that God could heal a decade-long wound and change the hearts of those who would stand in the way of true love?

The Miner's Lady:
Based in Ely MN, the Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families.  Chantel can't deny the attraction that flares when she's with Dante Calarco.  But when a tradgedy at the mine occurs, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel's hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ancestry Collage

Collages are a big thing right now.  When it comes to photos I've always been a fan of taking and displaying lots of pictures. Growing up my room was overloaded with decorative frames, and in college I would cover closet space, desk space, bulletin board space with friend and family pictures. Now that I have my own place, that hasn't changed at all. I wish I had more space, but for now I settle with changing out certain photo collages as the seasons change.

One set of photos that I wouldn't be changing out is this ancestry collage wall! My mom has had this displayed in their dining room for years. A great mix of history, family, and vintage, this ancestry wall is a fabulous idea for dining or living rooms.  This has always been a conversation piece, and inspires lots of story sharing.  People always enjoy looking at family traits and seeing what traits have remained through the generations. Pretty fun to see who looks like who, especially for those great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents you might not have had the chance to be blessed with meeting.

A fan of history and ancestry this decoration is something I can't wait to be given in a few years. Already I have planned who else I'll be adding to the wall now that my husband and I are married. Currently the wall showcases my grandparents on both sides, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents.  Soon I'll be adding both Dave and my parents to the mix. And don't forget Dave's grandparents too!

It's a cinch to make; the difficult part being able to obtain old family photos. But once you find them, it's much more fulfilling to be displaying them in your family home then letting them sit in an old photo album!  My mom decided to take the route of finding very similar colored frames, which considering the black and white or sepia photos the black detailed frames make the photos POP! It may be hard to tell from the photos, but each frame has intrinsic details that when viewed closer add more interest then just solid black frames. Plus, fits the inspired vintage look!

Just a recommendation, on the back of the copied/original photos make sure you label who is who.  When you start to get into the older generations it can be difficult to remember, and that's something you don't want to forget. So start compiling those family photos! 

This Thanksgiving and holiday season is the perfect time to connect with family, reminisce and gather some family history to display in your home all year round!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Cocktails and Crafts

Just before we launch into all things Christmas... I'd like to spend just a bit of time talking about Thanksgiving decor and Thanksgiving goodies. Here are a few ideas for your Thanksgiving weekend including a craft idea for the kids and my favorite fall drink for the adults!

For the Adults: Cranberry Cocktail

- Gin
- GingerAle
- Cranberry juice
- Lemon
- Lime
- Cranberries

1. Fill the bottom of the glass just over 1/4 full of gingerale. Add 1 shot of gin (or more!).
2. Fill the remaining part of the glass with cranberry juice.
3. Squeeze one lemon and one lime into the glass. Add ice.
4. Garnish with some floating cranberries.

Another easy Thanksgiving cocktail is champagne and cranberry juice topped with some pretty floating cranberries. Cheers!

For the Kids: Turkey Craft

I did this craft with my little girl's group and I can attest to it still looking cute on my fridge a couple of weeks later. I told the girls to collect the leaves of their choice and then think of things that they were grateful for. As we did the craft, each girl shared a little about their blessings.

- Construction paper
- Glue
- Markers
- Leaves

1. Cut a large circle and a smaller one to make the turkey.
2. Glue the leaves in a feather fan pattern behind the larger circle.
3. Decorate as desired!

For Family Dessert Fun: Pumpkin Rice Krispies

- 1 bag of candy corn marshmallows
*Note: You can also use normal marshmallows and use food coloring to make the orange coloring
- 3 tbsps of butter
- 6 cups Rice Krispies
- 1 bag of tootsie rolls

1. Melt butter in a pan over low heat.
2. Add marshmallows and if needed, food coloring.
3. Slowly begin to add Rice Krispies until fully added and remove from heat.
4. Allow time to cool before handling. Roll into balls.
5. Shape to get the desired pumpkin shape.
6. Cut tootsie roll in half and add to the top.

Friday, November 21, 2014

DIY Famous Couples Art

There have been a few oddball crafts that I have been working on while trying to set up our new home. I had purchased a picture frame for our guestbook that we ended up not using. However, it matches the color of our bedroom so I wanted to make use of it. I ended up looking high and low for a print that would fit the 11.75 x 36 frame and could not find a single one that I liked. As usual, this lead me to the conclusion that I needed to make something of my own.

Famous Couples Art

I used a paper cutter to get even strips of white paper and then used the purple for the matte color. I thought long and hard about the famous couples that I wanted to include. I fancied some of the following: Darcy and Lizzy, Popeye and Olive, Beauty and the Beast... the list goes on. You could also theme your art, ie. Disney couples or Biblical couples. I also chose to include "Mr and Mrs" in the middle. Another cute idea is including the couples name, ie. "Joe and Lisa."

I wrote different fonts with a sharpie for each strip to make it visually interesting. Let's just say that my husband was super proud of those little details. At first, he didn't believe that I wrote them... is my normal handwriting that bad??

Now we have a sweet little piece in our bedroom and I do not have to feel guilty about an empty frame laying around. I also love the fact that this art was free, so if I ever find something to take its place, there will be no hard feelings or second thoughts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Taco Bell Quesadilla Sauce

Everyone has guilty pleasures and pleasant indulgences. Unfortunately, we call them indulgences because we really should not take satisfaction in them often. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a cupcake every day. But I try to exercise some will power!

One of my fast food favorites is Taco Bell's quesadillas. Recently, my husband has been into homemaking well known sauces. He found a recipe online for Taco Bell's quesadilla sauce and we decided to try it. The first batch was good but I adjusted the recipe a bit the second time we made it. The second batch was incredible! It only makes three standard sized tortilla quesadillas but that is probably a good thing.

Taco Bell DIY Quesadilla Sauce: 

- 1 diced jalapeno
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1 tlbsp hot sauce
- 3/4 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp chili pepper
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients today and when ready, spread onto the inside of a tortilla. Add desired toppings, we usually add cheese and diced cooked chicken.

This sauce is truly awesome. Give it a try and make that fast food quesadilla indulgence a little healthier and more cost effective!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stickball DIY Wedding Centerpieces

It is all in the details. 

When it came to wedding planning, I was ALL about the details. I knew that many of these details would be lost on our guests but that didn’t deter me. I was bound and determined!

I knew that I did not want flowers as our centerpieces. As beautiful as they are, they can be pricey and I wanted to have some personal, crafty touches in our space. Someday soon I will share the whole set up but for now, I will focus on one piece of the centerpieces: Stickballs. 

Not sure that there is a technical name for these babies. They look almost like a sea urchin (Target has some similar décor right now, which made me oh-so-proud!). But they were a blast to make and not too difficult, although a bit time consuming.

I had found an image of a similar décor piece quite some time before the wedding and knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate it somehow. Once we got engaged and we had set a date, I immediately started working away. We had three different centerpieces with different stickballs used in each: one large stickball, two purple stickballs of varying sizes or one gold stickball.  

- Different size Styrofoam balls (I found a huge set of 50 on eBay for an affordable price)
*Note: Try to make sure that the Styrofoam balls are over 1 inch. We found the ones that worked best were between 1.5 and 3 inches.

- Craft Sticks (I found large boxes of 2500 on Amazon for under $5)
*Note: Do not use toothpicks unless you are okay with sharp ends

- ModPodge or craft glue
*Note: You can use hot glue but it gets a little stringy. It would be cute if you’re going for a Halloween look!

- Spray Paint
*Note: Find something that is silk, floral and foam safe. I learned the hard way and had some of my gold paint erode the foam, making the whole stickball collapse.

1. Start by pouring glue onto a paper plate. Add some glue to the end of each craft stick and insert it into the Styrofoam ball until it feels sturdy. Some sticks may need to be pushed in farther than others before being secure.

2. Insert craft sticks in desired density. I did a variation of some being fuller and others being more parse. I tried to add more sticks to the larger Styrofoam balls to give a variety of looks.

3. Let glue dry before spray painting. Paint so that all the wooden sticks are coated. You may need to move the stickball around quite a bit in order to get it completely covered.

That is how easy these were! While the directions are simple, be warned that they are a bit time consuming. I had a few lovely helpers during my several months of crafting. But it is easy to work on them while watching a show, talking on the phone or with a glass of wine while catching up with friends. 

I absolutely loved the look of these on the wedding day. They were simple and dynamic at the same time, not to mention light and easy to transport to the reception set up! And we had no guilt about tossing most of them afterwards. Of course, I kept a few for our home. I may have to whip up a few more for Christmas décor, I am already dreaming of how dashing they would be painted white with some jazzy glitter!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homemade Mozzarella Sticks

This recipe is absolutely awesome and one of our favorite things that we have made in awhile. My husband has a ridiculous love of mozzarella sticks, they are his go-to appetizer. I dislike buying them from the grocery store since they have hardly any nutritional value and frankly, aren't that satisfying.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and floated it by Joe. His eyes got HUGE and we quickly ran to the grocery store to get all the supplies.

These are not only amazingly delicious but they are also much more fresh and healthier than other options. And an added bonus, they took less than 15 minutes to make. We will be making more!

- Mozzarella sticks
*Immediately put these in the freezer. They must be fairly hard or they will not keep their shape while cooking.
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Whisk egg in its own bowl and set aside.
3. Add flour to a bowl and combine bread crumbs and seasoning in another bowl.
4. Half all of the cheesesticks if you haven't already.
5. Dip each cheesestick in the flour, followed by the egg, followed by the bread crumbs and seasoning mix.
6. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes. Flip each stick over and cook another 5 minutes.

Seriously so yummy! We had a little marinara with these and they were fresh and tasty. We had these as an appetizer to our Bang Bang Chicken. Highly recommend with the husband stamp of approval!

Bang Bang Chicken

Having people over for dinner is always a great excuse to try a new recipe. Of course, there is always the danger that it turns out terribly and then you have to order a pizza later... but in my mind, it is worth the risk!

Hosting dinners with my husband is turning into one of my most treasured past times. Joe has not ever been much of a cook (although he has always made a mean bacon and eggs breakfast!) but when we are responsible for dinner, he is ready and willing to pitch in. We crank up the music as flour, spices and sometimes knives fly all over the kitchen. 

We recently were able to host some of his family for a small dinner. We decided last minute to try some new dishes and thank goodness, they turned out perfectly!

Bang Bang Chicken

We thought this was going to be spicy but in fact, it was pretty mild. I think I would add a bit more hot sauce to the batter next time around. The sauce was tasty and would be easy to whip up anytime you'd desire.

- 1 pound chicken
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tblsp hot sauce
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil

- 2 tblsp sweet chili sauce
- 2 tsp hot sauce
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1 tblsp honey

1. Preheat a frying pan with the vegetable oil. Grab a bowl and mix buttermilk, corn starch, flour, egg and hot sauce.
2. Cut chicken into large cube sizes. Dip chicken in batter and then cover in Panko bread crumbs.
3. Throw them into the frying pan and cook 2-4 minutes until the outside is brown and crispy and the inside is fully cooked through. Continue until all the chicken is cooked. Serve immediately.
4. Mix sauce in a bowl and set aside. You can either drizzle over the chicken or put it on the side as a dipping sauce.

We served this with salad, potatoes and homemade mozzarella sticks. I used it on my salad the next day at lunch and while not as crispy, was still quite flavorful and scrumptious.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mini Apple Pies

I ran across these beauties while searching for a fast and easy fall dessert. These are so awesome. You will feel like a chef when you pull them out of the oven! They are beautiful and scrumptious and perfect for a brisk fall evening.

- 4 apples (Makes 4 servings)
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon 
- 2 Tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 Packet of frozen pie crust

1. Start with cutting off the tops of the apples and scooping out the insides. Collect insides in a bowl and throw away the seeds and core.
2. Preheat oven to 400 and allow pie crust to defrost.
3. When ready, combine sugar, cinnamon and apple inside in a bowl. Scoop the mixture into the hollowed middle of the apples.
4. Cut strips of pie crusts. I used puff pastry so that it wasn't too dense. Layer the strips on the tops of the apples.
5. Place a layer of water in the bottom of a sided baking dish. Put apples into the dish.
6. Cover the tops of the apples with the melted butter, try to brush the pie crust. Add some cinnamon sugar to the top.
7. Bake for 35 minutes or until tops of the pastries are golden brown.

They were a hit and I will definitely be making these again next fall. Nothing beats few ingredients, quick recipe, fresh food and amazing results!