Monday, February 28, 2011

February Birthday Party

My husband and my mother share birthdays on Feb. 20th. We got to celebrate this year with a fancy cake and a fun group of friends.

I tried a new recipe for the birthday cake: Chocolate Raspberry Hazelnut.
It was delicious and beautiful. It would be a great cake to make for Valentine's Day in heart-shaped pans.

Hazelnut Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
mix in electric mixer for 2 minutes:
2 large eggs
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 t. vanilla

stir together these dry ingredients in separate bowl--
2 c. flour
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 c. finely chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Add 1/2 flour mixture to electric mixer bowl and beat on slow.

Then beat in:
1 c. low-fat sour cream

Add remaining flour mixture and continue beating.
Then stir in:
1/2 c. hazelnut-flavored liquer
1/2 c. hot water

Grease and flour two 9" cake pans. Divide batter evenly between the pans. Bake 22 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert cakes onto cooling racks to cool completely.

whipped cream:
beat with electric mixer until stiff peaks form:
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
set aside

chocolate icing
In small saucepan over high heat, bring
1 c. heavy cream just to a boil
remove from heat and add
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. Nutella spread
Let sit 1 minute, stir until smooth
Let sit 5 minutes until room temperature.

To assemble the cake:
Place 1 cake layer on cake stand;
spread with 1/4 c. seedless raspberry jam.
Spread 1/2 chocolate frosting evenly over jam.
Top with whipped cream.
Arrange 1/2 c. raspberries around edge of cake.
Top with remaining cake layer.
Spread with 1/4 c. raspberry jam and remaining chocolate frosting.
Sprinkle with more raspberries.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


My husband and I are very different. We like to go with the "opposites attract" theory.
While in Colorado, we doodled on our paper tablecloth at Blue Moose Pizza.
Our drawings tell much about us:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicken Rollatini

I like to try new recipes, but seldom are they "keepers." It seems that my tried and true, made-a-million-times recipes are the best. I recently tried this chicken recipe and we loved it. I tore it out of a magazine, but it was too long ago for me to remember where it came from.

Chicken Rollatini
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
pepperoni slices
6-8 provolone slices
18-24 asparagus spears
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pound each chicken breast to 1/4" thick.
Place 4 pepperoni slices, one cheese slice, and three asparagus spears in the center of each breast.
Roll up the chicken breast and secure with a toothpick.
Spread 1/2 c. sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan. Put chicken rolls in pan, top with remaining sauce.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 44 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday George Washington!

I am so inspired by George Washington. Beyond inspiration, I am extremely grateful.

The more I learn of this man, the more amazed I am at the sacrifice he was willing to make for our country.

Born in Virginia, as a boy he was a good student, was strong and ambitious, and loved adventure. His father died when he was eleven, and he and his siblings were left to care for his mother. He learned to work as a surveyor while in his teens and spent much of his time working in the woods measuring the land.

By age twenty-one, he was over six feet tall, strong and tough, but humble and caring. He was a public surveyor for the state of Virginia at this time, but became Major Washington when the governor of Virginia sent him to see a French commander at a fort near Lake Erie. Washington was to tell him that he had built on land belonging to the English and that he and his men must leave or fight. Major Washington had to travel a distance of 1,000 miles to the fort and back. He had to climb mountains and swim rivers--there weren't any roads to travel through what was called the Great Woods.

When he finally returned, after being shot at and nearly drowning and freezing to death, he was made a lieutenant colonel. Washington was then sent back with 150 men to build a fort and protect the same land from the French. In the process, he was almost killed.  He had two horses shot out from under him and four bullets that went through his coat.

The English eventually gained possession of the land from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River.  George III of England was now in charge of a lot of land, but needed to send more soldiers to protect it. He wanted to force the thirteen colonies to pay for the cost of keeping the soldiers. He tried a lot of different ways to force them to pay, but it didn't really go over that well. The colonists knew that they were being taxed without representation, which was against the law of England. They wanted the same rights as the people in England, and they were willing to fight for those rights. Remember the Boston Tea Party?

The colonists began to unify for the first time. The idea of fighting for independence, rather than just representation, was born. They started calling themselves American's. They started gathering weapons and powder. They knew they might be forced to fight. Then one night British soldiers killed seven Americans in Lexington. Remember Paul Revere? 

The fighting had begun. It was 1775. It continued and the leaders of the colonies decided George Washington should command all the forces of the American army.  By this time, he was living a quiet life as a farmer with his wife Martha. He gave up a very comfortable life at Mount Vernon to fight for the cause of freedom.

The fighting continued as Washington led the Continental Army against the British. They had a difficult time--they did not have ammunition, enough food, proper uniforms, etc. There were times when they were freezing and starving to death, but they fought on. So much was at stake!
 Remember Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas night in 1776?

A major turn of events happened about a year later, however. Benjamin Franklin was in France, convincing them to join us in fighting against England. Thank goodness they hated the British and the king agreed to help. They provided money, soldiers, and ships.  The War for American Independence lasted seven years, until 1783.  Great Britain signed an agreement giving the colonies their independence.

When Washington was certain the fighting was over, he returned to Mount Vernon, where he hoped to spend the rest of his life. He would have been over fifty years old. The war had been hard on him.

But the trouble wasn't over. The states began to quarrel. There was no strong central government. The states operated as 13 separate countries.

In the summer of 1787, the leaders of the country joined together to figure out a plan. George Washington didn't want to go, but he was so respected by all, that the Virginia delegates begged him to. They looked to him to pull everyone together.
That summer the Constitutional Convention talked and argued, until they had a plan that would establish the government of the United States. The Constitution was written behind closed doors and nailed-shut windows. When it was finished, Washington returned to Mount Vernon. He was almost sixty years old.
He wanted to spend the rest of his years with his wife, as a Virginia farmer.

Instead, the delegates who had signed the Constitution begged George Washington to be the first president.  They knew he wouldn't try to become the king of America. He said that becoming president was the greatest personal sacrifice he was ever called upon to make. But he accepted, out of duty to the people of his country. He was elected in February of 1789. He recorded in his diary, "I begin the presidency with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express."

As the new president, he established a pattern for other presidents to follow. He was humble and insisted on being called "Mr. President" instead of the suggestions of "His Exalted High Mightiness" or "His Highness the President." He only served two terms, knowing that America didn't need a President who stayed in power too long. He recognized that our Constitution should be what ruled the land, not the President.

When he retired from the presidency in March of 1797, he returned to Mount Vernon again. He died just over two years later. He had given so much to our country, when he really just wanted to be a Virginia farmer.   He was one of the greatest men in the history of the world. 

Celebrate his birthday today by saying the Pledge of Allegiance 
or singing The Star-Spangled Banner 
or flying the stars and stripes!  
Happy birthday to you, George Washington!

I  read these books to my kids as we studied George Washington and early American history:

George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster
The Story of the World vol. 3 by Susan Wise Bauer
Exploring American History by D.H. Montgomery

We love this picture book by Lynne Cheney:

My husband says this one is a "must read":


Friday, February 18, 2011

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

This is a great recipe for a busy evening, as long as you can get your hands on a roasted chicken. It was really easy and everyone liked it.  The recipe came from the September issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

1  1.75-2 lb purchased roasted chicken
1 med. onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 T. olive oil
1/3 c. cider or white wine vinegar
1/2 c. tomato sauce
2 T. molasses
3-4 T. seeded and finely chopped fresh red and/or green serrano chile peppers*
2 T. snipped fresh thyme
2 T. water
1/2 t. salt

6 kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

Cut the meat from the chicken, discard bones and skin. Use two forks to shred.
In a large skillet, cook onion in hot olive oil. Use medium heat and cook about 5 min.
Add vinegar and cook and stir 1 min. more.
Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Add chicken and stir gently to coat.
Serve on rolls with sweet pickles.

*I used long thin slices of sweet bell peppers instead of chopped chili peppers--tasted great!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When we went to Colorado in January, I read this book:
It is really good for me to read ideas from people who aren't "savers".  I get emotionally attached to many things in my home, and then I can't part with them.  I have to find the space to store them, and that can be a problem after a while.
Plus I'm a crafter. And a seamstress.  I have fabric and paint, ribbons and trims, papers and glue, ...
You get the idea.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful,
or believe to be beautiful."
--William Morris
19th century artist and designer

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I feel like I fell off the planet last week. In reality, I got a sinus infection and landed on the couch for a week. I am glad to be feeling better!

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Last week, Meggan and I worked on a fun and easy Valentine craft. We cut out approximately 25 medium sized hearts (using a punch would be a great option for this craft). I drew a heart shape, very lightly so it wouldn't show much) on a piece of cream card stock. Meggan folded, bent and distressed the hearts and then glued them on the paper within the pencil line. I framed it in a pretty frame with the glass removed, so that all the ruffley texture wasn't smashed. Very pretty!

Have a great day and make sure to give all your Valentine's some extra love today! <3

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bundle Up!

It's really cold outside, so make sure you bundle up!

(In case you're wondering...yes, this hat was made just for Mandie.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fancy Grilled Cheese

I got this recipe out of Quick Cooking in 2000, which is now called Simple & Delicious by Taste of Home.  It is a recipe that I don't make often, but we really like it and it's quick and easy. It tastes great with thin slices of tomato grilled on it and/or with tomato soup...yummy.

3oz. cream cheese, softened (I microwave)
3/4 c. mayonaise
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/8 t. seasoned salt

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo Organization--Part 2

Have you been working on organizing your photos?
That project is still not crossed off my list. I am determined to get to it this winter!

Here are some of my thoughts on how to handle all the different versions of edited photos, as well as what to do to make sure a computer crash never causes you to lose your dear photos.

Regarding edited photos:
When I print photos, I have a mix of edited and non-edited. It is always a bit of a challenge to figure out which one of the little thumbnails is the version I want to print.

For pictures that I edit, I save the new version with the word "edit" added after the file number. It looks like this:  IMG_123edit or IMG_123editBW. (Sometimes there are several versions of the original, i.e. a color version and a black/white or sepia version.) I include something in the new file name to help me know these details. Then when I am uploading to facebook, my blog, or my online printer it makes things much easier.

I keep the edited and original versions in the same folder on my computer, so that I can find the original easily in case I am not happy with the edited version and want to start over or make a change.

Regarding backing up your digital photos:
I have an external hard drive hooked up to my computer. It allows me to choose how often I want it to back up photos, and then it does it automatically. This protects my images from being lost in a computer crash. It would not save them from a fire or natural disaster.

My second "back-up" is my online printer. I use to print and then pick up at my local store. As long as my account is active, my photos are kept in my albums stored on their site. All the photos I have printed over the years could be re-printed, if I ever lost my files  or printed pictures kept at home.

I also use Picasa and Flickr, which are free photo-sharing sites. If you publish photos to an online album, they will be stored in a location separate from your computer. I only have a few of my photos stored in this way. It is really not intended for backing up photos, but some of my favorites are stored online.

One of the best options, there is a fee however, is online storage--websites devoted specifically to storing digital photos. I have not used any of them, but it's a great concept.  The files for all your photos are stored in a place separate from your home, protecting them from computer crashes, as well as fires, floods, and tornadoes.

Regardless of how unorganized your photo files are, get a plan for backing up your files. Don't be fooled into thinking your pictures are safe--a computer crash can happen without warning. You don't want any regrets when it comes to family pictures.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ellyn's bedroom {guest blog}

my mom asked me to "guest blog" about my bedroom makeover that i got as part of our new addition/remodel. i don't have very good before pictures, because our house/lives were pretty chaotic when they tore into my room. here are some snapshots of my bedroom over the past couple years:
the paint color was Dancing Green from Sherwin-Williams, which was my wall color for the past six years.
& i had carpet, which collected a lot of animal hair from all those lovely pooches.
another thing i didn't like about my old bedroom, was that not very many colors looked good in it--mostly just pink or green.

but now...

i have this:

my new color is Mesa Tan from Sherwin-Williams.
& i have lovely wood floors!!
now i don't have to worry when my dog pukes, or when my friends come over & would like their clothes to stay pet-fur-free. it is w o n d e r f u l.

<-- some little things i love, including an elephant my Nana won at a Bingo party & a box my mom brought back from New Mexico that holds roses from my uncle's funeral.

<--jewelry box my Uncle Jason gave me, & framed wallpaper from my mom's room growing up.

all of my furniture came from Target's Shabby Chic line about six years ago.
but i still love it.
the old telephone was from my Gramma & Grandpa's house.
the photo wall has been there for a few years. i just switched out a couple of the pictures, & some really need to be replaced still. (the middle one of me... yikes, i still had braces.)
& the tissue paper balls i made. you can get directions on how to make them here.
the ladder is from JBknacker. the store is full of old junk. its like a dream (i really like old things, if you can't tell:)  i painted the ladder aqua.
my dad & i made the peg board. i picked out knobs that i liked, or extras that we had laying around the house, mixed some paint together & painted the board, & he screwed the knobs in. thanks dad!

the framed fabric was my Great- Grandma's.
this wall is still in progress. i have several black picture frames waiting to be hung up. the wall will revolve around this picture:
the quilt is not new, but i'm too in love with it to ever part.
& the oval frame is from JBknacker, & then painted aqua.
i've been wanting to make some kind of fabric headboard, kind of like this one here.
but we'll see if i ever get to that...
the wire basket & the green table are also both from JBknacker.
& i made the hat box.
these are closet dividers that i made because... well i guess because i felt like being crafty!! but aren't they cute? i think my mom thought i was crazy for making them. i used cheap wooden picture frames, painted them, cut out scrapbook paper for the front, & Mod-Podged it on. i made six of them. if you wanted to make these for a real purpose, you could use them for a baby closet & put stickers on the divider to separate all the different sizes. or you could sort by color. or you could just put them in there to separate your sweaters from your t-shirts like i did. :)

now my project for this snow day is to make a bounty banner like the ones here.
i don't know where i'll put it, but what else is there to do? & i've ALWAYS loved the look.

now go drink a cup of hot chocolate & snuggle up with your dog.
its cold outside!