Monday, January 26, 2015

our kitchen shutters are done!

Months ago I had blogged about how bad our reflection into our kitchen was off our neighbor's house, and how we were working on a solution of shutters.  Well the shutters are finally up!

I bought a set off eBay that fit almost perfectly.  Andy had to put in a little wood frame on the top and sides since the shutters were just a little smaller.  Then we attached the shutters to the wood frame.  It took us awhile because we really could have used a table saw...which we bought at Lowe's on Black Friday.  So here is what it looks like:

Here they are closed:

The hinges had already been placed when we got them, but we replaced the hinges.  Since they are old shutters, they weren't always perfectly straight, which is why they don't close completely flat and perfect.  But we leave them looking like this most of the time:

Doesn't the wooden frame on the sides, where the gold hinges are attached, look seamless with the window?  That is what Andy installed, then painted to match the trim.  I would have loved non-gold hinges, but they weren't available in a kit like the gold and were a lot more expensive, so we're mixing our gold and silver - heaven forbid!

That is the money tree Jeph got me when I had surgery last year, and it loves sitting there.  If you look closely in the picture above, you'll realize there are extra holes on the left side where the inside hinges look like they were installed and then moved.  We didn't fill the holes but left them as natural as possible. 

Below you can see how they look next to our kitchen cabinets:

The woods went well together without any staining or changing of colors.  They look very nice and we love them.  We only close them when the reflection is an issue. 

Hilariously enough, they were up for about three weeks before I realized the handle/knobs that we use to open and close them?  They are two different sizes!  We got them out of the same bin at Lowe's, and they are exactly the same style, but slightly different sizes.  Either one was in the wrong bin or one was an 'old' version and one newer.  In any case, we don't have any of the packaging, so that is just adding to the charm. :) 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

cubed steak under the broiler

As part of my wedding cookbook quest, and the quest for a good cubed steak recipe, I tried one my sister put into the cookbook that cooks the steaks under the broiler.  They turned out pretty and with good flavor:

All in all, it's a good alternative to the crock pot version that makes gravy, although that is still our favorite (recipe still to come once I remember to take pictures next time I make it).  Still not my favorite cut of meat, but tasty.  Oh - and smoky, so if your oven is by the smoke alarm, be prepared to wave a towel in front of it!

Seasoned Cube Steaks
1 cup soy sauce
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1 tsp dried minced onion
4 cube steaks (about 1.75 pounds)

Combine all ingredients into a baggie to marinate the steaks for 30-45 minutes in the fridge, turning once.  Drain and discard marinade.  Place steaks on a greased broiler pan.  Broil 4" from the head for about 4 minutes on each side, or until meat reaches desired doneness.

Super easy!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

my first crochet project

Back when I was about 11, my grandma taught me a crochet stitch - just one.  And I worked on a blanket for about 10 years, and I can't even remember if I finished.  A few years ago I looked at a crochet pattern and it's all abbreviations and Greek to me.  So I didn't think anything of it until Jeph introduced me to Craftsy, and man is that dangerous!!  They have classes on all sorts of creative stuff - typical crafts you'd expect like knitting, crochet, sewing, etc, but they also have woodworking, drawing/art, cooking, photography, cake decorating, and all sorts of categories.  For those who love creative projects, you will must set a budget for which classes to buy!

I signed up for a few, and the first one I started was Amigurumi (which I cannot pronounce).  It is the art of making small animals, and these were woodland creatures.  So here was my first creature:

Cute little bluebird, right?  It was looking like this up until the end:

Which looks more like a deformed little elf hat in blue.  But I then attached some wings, a beak, and eyes, then stuffed it, then it looked completely like a little bluebird!

The class honestly was super easy because it is ALL video based - so you see everything you have to do.  It comes with the pattern so you just get the supplies.  The best thing about Craftsy is that you get lifetime access to the classes so I can rewatch it as many times as needed - which is helpful because it explains reading patterns, how to do certain stitches, so it's nice even if I won't make more birds.

I really like the Craftsy video format and am trying not to buy too many classes before I complete them!  HA.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I love having appetizers as side dishes, right?  I tried a recipe from my Aunt Cheryl out of the wedding cookbook called "Cup-A-Cup-A-Cup".  Cool name, right?  It's because it has three ingredients, and one cup of each.  So the recipe is:
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup grated onions
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Mix well and bake in souffle dish for 30 minutes at 350.  Serve with crackers.

Easy, no?  Here is my finished product from the recipe I cut in half (since Andy doesn't care for onions, I was eating this on my own):

Overall I would say it was tasty, but I didn't love it.  That's most likely due to my feelings about mayonnaise.  I don't voluntarily put it on any sandwich or food, and when I order a sandwich at a restaurant, I ask for it without mayo.  So I can't imagine based on the fact that 1/3 of this recipe is mayo, that I would love it.  That being said, I ate it all over two days, so still tasty!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

soccer team analogy for employee survey results

Although I work in a library, which is not a typical business, I am often reading books about corporations, customer service, selling, marketing, etc.  There are also books about managing and leading since I supervise people as well.  In any case, there are often survey results about employees, and what I read as an example (p. 144-145) in "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" was fascinating. 
  • "only 37% say they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why
  • only one in five was enthusiastic about their team's and their organization's goals
  • only one in five said they had a clear "line of sight" between their tasks and their team's organization's goals
  • only 15% felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals
  • only 20% fully trusted the organization they work for"
Now, not only was this interesting in itself, but here came the fascinating part.  The book was using this example of how to make ideas stick and resonate with people so they were meaningful.  So instead of only using the statistics in the bullets above, Stephen Covey superimposed a human metaphor over the statistics as follows:

"If, say, a soccer team had these same scores:
  • only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs
  • only 2 of the 11 would care
  • only 2 of the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do
  • and all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent."
Talk about meaningful (and sad) to put it in that perspective.  Here's to hoping we all work in a place with higher scores!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

top recipes of 2008

As I mentioned in my post of top 2014 recipes, I am going back to do the years of top recipe posts that I hadn't done previously.  Up this time...2008 (starting at the oldest).  These are recipes that I pulled from old blog posts from the year 2008 - these are not recipes that I remember making that year.  My memory isn't nearly that good!

Our favorites (in no particular order):
These are recipes that we still make today because they were just that good!

Chipotle Barbacoa
Kory and I love Chipotle, so she included this in my wedding cookbook.  It is delicious and can be as spicy as you like depending on how much of the chipotle in adobo sauce you add!  Interestingly enough, when I first started the blog, this was my most popular recipe on there by far and often found by people searching to make Chipotle's barbacoa at home, but now it's the fourth post popular recipe of all time with 836 visits.

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
This recipe is so easy that it should be a crime for how good it is.  I usually use a tube of biscuits but you could always make your own.  It comes together fast and easy, which is perfect for breakfast or for dinner!  This might be my favorite breakfast recipe I make...and we make it on a regular basis.

Soft Pretzels
I was so proud that I made hot pretzels from scratch, and it was so worth it!  My mom now makes this recipe because it's delicious.  It does take some time, but perfect for a weekend. 

Sloppy Joe Casserole
This recipe is in Andy's top five things I make of all time.  We have it at least once a month if not more often.  If that's not enough incentive, this is my second most popular post of all time - the first of which is about a Kraftmaid outlet location. So this is my top visited recipe on my blog of all time with 2995 visits.  We use Manwich Bold in a can, but you could use any sloppy joe mix you love.  This is a great weeknight dinner.  I have started cutting it in half, which is using the full pound of beef but only one tube of crescent roll and putting it in an 8x8 pan so there are less leftovers.  The leftovers don't heat up great, but do okay if you put them in an oven to re-crisp up the crescent on top.

(I'm cracking up that this pictures were with my old electric coil stove...that makes me feel like they are very old...but have definitely stood the test of time!)

Overnight Scalloped Chicken Casserole
I remember the first time we had this.  It was so freaking good that the picture below as I was boxing up leftovers was the best I got....because we inhaled it!  I love this casserole.  The only reason I don't make it super often is that it requires already cooked off a rotisserie chicken.  And when we get a rotisserie chicken, we usually eat it right away!  But this definitely makes the top five.

Sharon's additions (in no particular order):
These are recipes that were super delicious, but I don't make super often.  However, I would highly recommend them to anyone and wouldn't hesitate to make them again. 

Pizza Bread
This is a favorite in the Edwards family and we often have it at my mom's when we go over for cards.  Although I don't make it a lot, I LOVE it!  I have a weakness for pizza, and this is a nice change from traditional pizza.  The reason I don't make it a lot is that I usually just cook frozen pizzas because they are easy and a "night off" from cooking.

Baked Fries
These are a great way to get french fries while being healthy.  The only reason we don't have this more is that Andy prefers baked potatoes more than these baked fries, and those are easier to make!  The picture below has the fries in addition to another shot of the sloppy joe casserole.

Garlic Bubble Bread
I made this for my sister and her family when they came to stay once, and it was a huge hit!  It's pretty easy and Warren even told Denise to get the recipe from me.  It comes out very pretty and delicious - I recommend!

Apple Strudel Dessert
I love apple desserts and apple pie is my favorite pie along with rhubarb pie.  So back in Ohio we used to go apple picking every fall, and then I'd make a lot of apple desserts.  This one is a big winner...tastes like an apple pie with a crumbly crust, but is easier than dealing with the crusts.  So a nice shortcut! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

granola recipe

Why must I burn every granola I bake?  Well, not every one but any that you bake low and slow spread out on a cookie sheet gets burned.  Honestly I believe it is issues with my dark rimmed cookie sheets since I have burnt two granolas (different recipes) plus a nut mixture. 

Here is the finished product, looking a little dark:

but honestly it wasn't burnt that bad.  I baked it for 18 minutes less than it called for and it was still that dark.  I still ate most of it because it wasn't burnt burnt, just overdone.  I mixed it in yogurt, and I liked its crunch.  Honestly it was very tasty, which is a miracle because I don't like coconut!  I did add a few mini chocolate chips because that's always good in granola!  Also, I had ALL intention of adding the sesame seeds, but I forgot.  What's hilarious is that I bought sesame seeds for a recipe a few months ago, and forgot to put it in that original recipe plus two since then.  So the jar remains unopened...what is my brain block when it comes to sesame seeds??

Overall I recommend this recipe as an easy granola, especially for yogurt.  I can't speak for how good it is in milk or in other ways, but tasty is tasty!  Here is the recipe, courtesy of my wedding cookbook! 

Granola (I cut it in half, but below is the full recipe)
8 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup sesame seeds (don't forget them!)
1/2 cup peanuts of sliced almonds (I used almonds)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ
(this is where I added some mini chocolate chips)

Mix the above in a large bowl.  Then add:
3/4 cup honey
3/8 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all thoroughly, spread in shallow pan, and bake at 300 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  (FYI if I made this again I would do it at 275 for about 30 minutes stirring every 10 to make sure I didn't burn it.  I originally did it at 300 for 42 minutes and it was too done.)

Can add raisins or dried fruit - best to do after baking so they don't dry out too much.  Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

christmas day photos

We had a nice, quiet Christmas Day.  When you don't travel and one side of the family sort of celebrates when you're together at Thanksgiving, and the other side of the family celebrates in June - Christmas is quiet!  We slept in, went for a run, showered, ate breakfast, opened presents, made a big turkey meal to have my parents over, played cards, then watched tv.  Which for an entire day is relaxing and fun!

When we opened presents, we both got fun toys and surprises!  I got a Bluetooth for my new iPhone, which is so awesome because although I love our OtterBox cases, mine is not comfortable against my ear while talking for any length of time.  I also got a hard case to keep it in my purse/the car, which is pink to match my phone - genius!  I also got a small spatula, which I really wanted, a candle (since we can easily light candles without a curious cat in our house anymore), and shoot I feel like I'm forgetting something.  Huh.  Doh - the movie Pitch Perfect - awesome!  The last thing was this super awesome knife holder:

Yes I was so excited I brought all my knives to the living room floor and put them in.  It's called 'kapoosh' and they make knife blocks without slits, so you can sort of put the knives wherever!  We saw it in a organization store somewhere out of town - maybe Nashville or on one of my work trips?  Anyway, it is filled with tiny straw-like pieces (think coffee stirrer similarity) so you just nudge the knife in there and no slots!  We had two knife blocks previously:

And a hodge podge of knives that didn't fit in the right sized slots, so this was an awesome solution.  One of these blocks/knives was a wedding gift, and we're keeping the knives, just not the block.  That was a big surprise because we saw the kapoosh in a knife store eons ago.  Andy has such a good memory for gifts.

I got Andy two add-ons for his Pathfinder game, which we love playing:

I also got him a fancy memory foam, cooling pillow, which was a big surprise for him.  We both bought pillows last year and mine is holding up well and his is not.  When we bought our new bed, he was sad it didn't come with memory foam pillows.  So I bought him one on Black Friday.  Then I got him an ornament from one work trip in 2013 that he did not go on (was going to give it to him for 2013 Christmas but that is when I made our credit card ornament for celebration of no debt!).  Lastly, I got him the Lego movie because it was SUPER cheap on Black Friday and we love watching cartoons!  We hadn't ever seen it, but for $3.99 for Bluray, it has to be at least that good.

Then we made basically a Thanksgiving meal for our Christmas dinner at 1pm and invited my parents over.  In the midst of preparing, I realized that my counter didn't look too hectic:

I used to be so intimidated by a big turkey dinner, but if you plan and schedule (yes, I have a written schedule of what time I do what and what time things go in the oven at what temp), it's easy.

This is the only picture I got of the three of them, so here it is even though it isn't great.  Dad was carving the turkey, Mom was 'managing' from the bar, and Andy was laughing at the comments between them. 

Yes, I invite people to dinner and then put them to work :)

My dad always carves the turkey so I continue to ask him to do it.  But I think he likes it because he samples as he carves, and my mom helped with the legs and wings.  We ate buffet style at the counter except for the rolls:

I love this picture above because it represents so many of our friends and family:
  • my parents were there, helped carve the turkey, and brought the stuffing
  • the platter under the turkey was my Grandma Jean's
  • the mashed potato recipe is my sister's
  • the sweet potato casserole recipe is Grandma Mary's
  • three recipes came from my wedding cookbook, coordinated by my oldest girlfriend Karen
  • the sweet potato casserole is in a dish we got as a wedding present from Dan (Andy's brother) and Cindy & family
  • the rolls (in the white lidded Tupperware near the top center of the photo) are my sister-in-law Tina's recipe
  • the crocheted trivet under the sweet potatoes was made by Andy's mom
  • the paper towel holder (you can barely see in the top left) and the pastry dough blender I used for the sweet potato casserole topping were both wedding gifts from my Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Timmy & family
  • the cookie sheet that we used to set the whole turkey on when it was done (not to mention the measuring spoons and cups used to make the potatoes and bread) were wedding gifts from the Kastners and Capetas, long-long-time family friends
  • lastly, the serving utensils for the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey are part of our silverware set, a wedding gift from my oldest friend Matt and his wife Lisa.
Huh, funny how a simple picture of food makes that many connections to the people we love!

Confession time: I do not have all my wedding gifts memorized.  I made a Google spreadsheet when we were getting married of the guest list and gifts so we could send thank you cards specific to what they got us.  I have kept it in Google Docs/Drive so I can access it online at any time, which is really fun because then I get to go back and look!  No way would I remember that much after 6+ years. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

grandma's ultimate chocolate chip cookies

There are thousands of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, but I only have one from my grandma (my mom's mom) in my wedding cookbook.  :)  So I made them one weekend, half the batch with chopped pecans and half without.  I use a cookie scoop so it makes them all the same size:

I don't know how I got along without a cookie scoop for years - I love them!  These are the cookies with the pecans, and they cooked up very lovely:

The cookies without the pecans spread a lot more, which was interesting.  So not as pretty, but still very tasty!

So overall this chocolate chip cookie recipe is delicious, but honestly tastes like most other ones I've had.  I can't really discern a difference between it and others, so I am keeping this one as my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe since it's my grandma's.  If you're looking to try a great recipe and by some miracle haven't found one yet, try this!

Also, we couldn't really taste a big difference between the ones with pecans and the ones without.  We have such unsophisticated palates!  HA!  But I will say I did not coarsely chop them but instead put them through my little nut grinder that is from about 1970, which made them much smaller.  I think I liked the nut ones better, which is weird because I usually prefer no nuts in my desserts!

A couple random tips: I use the Crisco sticks instead of the big tub - easier to use since the sticks are marked with all the measurements and you just cut off what you need like butter.  Also, I cooked these for 9 minutes on air-bake sheets and they were super chewy.  Like almost barely done in the middle, but we prefer soft cookies much more over crispy!

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies
this made 30 cookies with my larger cookie scoop
3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 1/4 c light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c coarsely chopped pecans (optional - if omitted, add an additional 1/2 cup chocolate chips)
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. beat shortening, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla with mixer at medium speed until well-blended
  3. add egg and mix well
  4. combine flour, salt, and baking soda, then mix into sugar mixture until just blended
  5. stir in chocolate chips and pecan pieces by hand
  6. drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough three inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet
  7. bake one baking sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-13 minutes for crisp cookies - do not overbake!
  8. cool for two minutes on baking sheet, then remove to foil to cool completely

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

showing warren some love

My nephew Warren has had some appendix issues these past few months - emergency room and a week-long hospital stay, then a scheduled follow-up surgery to remove it completely.  In any case, when he had his surgery in December, he was in the hospital only 24 hours, but I still send him a picture to show him we love him:

Thanks to Holly for the loan of her feather 'fraggle rock' headband.  Warren liked those and asked what they were - anything that kept his mind off his surgery before he had it was a good thing!

The great news is that the surgery went great and all is well and happy in Warren-land!