Friday, August 14, 2015

Creole Seasoning DIY

Have you ever visited somewhere and it just gets into your soul? Someplace you dream about going back to over and over? For me that place is New Orleans.

Last October my mother and I went to the Big Easy to celebrate her 60th birthday. A few months later I wen back for a work conference. There's no third trip scheduled (yet) but I just can't shake it.

The music. The people. The articheture. The food! All of it. So to help me stay connected to the city that stole my heart I try and make Creole and Cajun food as often as possible - from seafood chowder to red beans and rice. I love it all.

And being that everything is better homemade I found a recipe for a Creole Seasoning that can be used for everything! It's great. I mixed it up and bottled it and now I have a little bit of NOLA right in my cupboard.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunflower Seed & Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

I've seen these "protein energy bites" on a number of other blogs and on Pinterest. I've thought they sounded like a great idea - something easy to take to work for a mid-day snack, feed the nieces when they are looking for a nibble and even as a dessert.

Not to mention that it's a great activity for the kids to help you with too. My niece Ivy helped me with the latest batch. She loved pouring, mixing and especially rolling the balls in her hands.

There are a number of varieties out there and you can make them your own - almond butter instead of peanut butter, cocoa instead of chocolate chips, agave instead of honey. The options are endless.

My favorite that I've made so far is the Sunflower Seed Butter and Mini Chocolate Chip variety:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pinspiration Fashion

Pinterest is a huge resource for me. Whether for dinner recipes, ideas for stops on a vacation, DIY tips for the new house and of course FASHION IDEAS! Below are just a few of the outfit combinations I've found (p)inspiration for on Pinterest.

Great thing is that these have all been pieces I've already owned and just needed the push to put them together.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Corn Salsa

There's nothing tastier than a fresh, homemade, salsa on a hot summer day...well maybe add a cold beer to go with it.

So when visiting Southern California recently, I was excited to try my friend's corn salsa recipe. Delicoius by itself, on chicken tacos or with carnitas!

I've made some alterations to his original recipe (using fresh corn instead of canned and adding a tomato for a different level of acidity) I'm sharing with you my Summer Corn Salsa!

Monday, July 6, 2015

New House

We've been living in our tiny condo for six years now. There's very little storage (no garage) and we've really just grown out of it. So a few months back the family and I started looking for a bigger place.

A week ago we got word that we got a place (the rental market in the PNW is a killer these days and places get gobbled up just moments after posting)!!

We've already promised my niece she can ride her bike on our driveway

It's over double the size of our condo! Three bedrooms, two baths, a family room and living room (which I have plans for) and a nice large kitchen/dining space.

This only shows about 1/2 of the dining room.

I have plans for a butcher block to extend the breakfast bar (hooray for counter space),,,because we all know that I'll be spending most of my time here in the kitchen. We've already started planning the first family potluck! 

Aside from the kitchen (which tends to be the center of any family party) there is a beautiful backyard and deck that will be perfect for the nice weather we've been given lately. I can see the kids playing out front in a sprinkler or getting a bocce ball set for the backyard. 

Front yard.

Back deck.

You can't see it in the photo above, but there's a dog run on the west side of the house, as well as three large raised beds on the east side. I don't have much of a green thumb but that doesn't mean I can't try right? 

I'm also excited to have a blank canvas of a new place. I've already started envisioning turning the large living room into an office and library. I love having a space with no television. We have large beautiful dark wood bookshelves, an antique desk of my great grandfather's and a super comfy easy chair that will create and amazing reading nook.

Front foyer looking into my soon-to-be library
This also means that I'll have some great posts as I DIY my way through the new house. If you have suggestions for rental decorating tips, websites, other bloggers - please feel free to mention it in the comments below. I'm always looking for resources.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Seafood Chowder

In the last year I've visited New Orleans - once for pleasure and once for work. Both times I just fell more and more in love with the city. From the people, to the music, the culture and history....and of course we can't forget the food!

Seems like every restaurant had some in-house version of a corn seafood chowder. So when I got home, and those flavors were calling to me, I knew I had to make my own version.

It is a one pot wonder, where you can throw everything in a pot and then let it simmer on the back burner. Caramelize shallots, brown some andouille, boil potatoes and then just make sure to put your shrimp and crab in last. 

I'm still perfecting this dish, but every time I've made it my family gobbles it up and devours bowl after bowl. So obviously I'm doing something right.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Beach Vacation

It's just days away from Fourth of July and while some people are thinking of fireworks, camping, throwing some steaks on the grill.  For me it's a reminder that I can soon start planning a vacation!! Hooray!

This past Sunday we graduated 180 students - twice as large as last year and our largest class ever! In a few days we'll be welcoming forty new students (and then another 160 in September).

After weeks and weeks of planning, working long hours and being a tightly wound Type A... my boss has asked when I'm going on vacation. Hmmm. Where to go?

This past Memorial Day weekend my sister K and I headed to the Oregon Coast for a quick overnight at the funky beach B&B, with bottomless Mimosas and a few rounds of BINGO!

I may just need to head back to the Oregon Coast soon for a week(end) of no responsibilities, bottomless mimosas and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Blooms

Most people think springtime when you talk flowers blooming. Here in the PNW summer is also full of beautiful flowers in rainbows of colors.

I find myself with my phone out anytime I'm out walking - in my own garden, in downtown, on my way to brunch.

If you're interested in seeing more of my summertime blooms, follow me on Instagram or check out my artwork "CurveARTure" page on Facebook.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Crockpot Beer Chicken

Summer is quickly upon us - including BBQing, s'mores, splashing in pools and tall glasses of ice tea. Sometimes though you want the taste of summer and you don't have all the "tools".

For me, I don't have an outdoor grill. Our back patio just isn't large but doesn't  mean I don't want the flavors of grilled beer chicken!

So I found an online crockpot version! Which also rocks my world because then I'm not standing over a cast iron pan trying to cook on a hot day.

My family loved the chicken. It was juicy with just a slight tang. The one "downside" is with a crockpot you don't get the crusty skin like in an oven or grill.....but I suppose it is the "healthier" option.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Going on Safari

My sister Rose turned 24 this year. I'm not sure where the time has gone. I remember being 8 and my parents waking me to say they were headed to the hospital but my uncle was there to watch me. How we are suddenly twenty-four years later I'm not sure.

24 may not be a "big number" but we still wanted to do something special for our special girl. Was it a trip to the coast? Seeing Cirque du Solei? I eventually had a great idea!

We spent the weekend in Southern Oregon at the Wildlife Safari!! A drive-through animal encounter park, with animals wondering through the fields and (in some cases) blocking the roads.

The weekend we went just happened to be when they were celebrating National Endangered Species weekend - so all of the "extra adventures" you could purchase were only $10/each. We went to the Tiger Excursion, Hippo Encounter and feeding giraffes.

The true highlight of the weekend was a private in:


You heard me right. We got to give an elephant a bubble bath!! 

(Please know that the elephants have a large paddock but they have her behind bars for the bath for both her safety and ours). 

It was a beautiful experience - bathing her, feeding her, stroking her trunk. A once in a lifetime memory. I'm so glad we took my 6  year old niece (Graces' daughter) to go with us for an "Aunties Weekend". Hopefully it's something we all remember the rest of our lives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Avocado Cilantro Creamy Dressing

My family is always looking for a new recipe; something easy to put together quick after work, and these days something "cooler" during these warm days.

I found a refreshing Southwest Chicken Salad. Something simple - just chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes but then I topped it with this creamy and spicy avocado cilantro dressing.

I think it would even work as a glaze on the chicken, on top of carne asada tacos or make chunky (don't blend so long) and turn it into a great guacamole!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pinup Photo Shoot

Two years ago I attended a pin up class with Bettina May and loved every minute of it. So when I heard about a local photographer who did pin up photo sessions I jumped on the opportunity.

I even got my sister K to go with me! It was such a fun set (classical Coca-cola vintage memorabilia everywhere) and we brought a HS friend along with us as our private assistant. Haha.

Here are a few of my pictures.

While I loved the photographer, (although not impressed by her assistants and professionalism of the group). It was so much fun and I love the end results.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tomatillo Verde Salsa

Sure there are times when I go the semi-homemade route out of time and convenience, but we all know that homemade is best.

So when I needed some tomatillo sauce the for a recipe I thought "why not make it myself"?!

Let me tell you it came out delicious! I've used it on both chicken and steak; and it came out great. I initially included a jalapeno - roasted whole, and let simmer in the verde after blending. Feel free to omit it (as the recipe does below) or even blend it into the mix if you like it a little spicier.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Curves and a Camera goes Country

When someone asks me what type of music I listen to, I never really know how to answer. My iPod has everything from Broadway musicals (Mama Mia, Lizzie), jazz (Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis), Divas (Cher, Madonna) and Top 40 hits (Plain White Ts, Lady Gaga). However, I've jived to hip hop concerts, got my boogie on at an N*syn concert when I was a teen and there was a period of time when the majority of my CD collection was Country Western.

Yes, you heard me right. This fierce, curvy, vintage loving prima donna once sang along with Reba McEntire, danced to Shania Twain, and owned every album of Garth Brooks.

Now let's be honest. You don't have to be a "fan" of country music to know that Garth Brooks rocks! He bridged the worlds of Stetsons and Bravado.

So when I heard that he was back on tour....OMG. The little country girl inside me squeeeeeled!

I was also shocked with my sister K said she wanted to go! When I met K she was head to toe Goth! Even now, nineteen years later, while the black liner and spiked collars have tone down, I still never would have believed she wanted to go see Garth Brooks live!

We danced. We sang.
We got our picture taken with the headliner.

K even ended up with a playlist from the night!

We had an amazing night!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

S'mores Cupcakes

Nothing says "summer time" more to me that S'mores. Seems like summer hits and everything and everyone has something "smores" flavored - Starbucks, Oreos, etc. 

A few weeks back I decided that homemade S'mores Cupcakes were in need (we were celebrating family birthdays and S'mores are always a hit with my family). I saw that there is some cakemix company (Betty Crocker maybe/) that has a S'mores cupcake kit for sale. But I figured I wanted to try it on my own the first time.

Now, for me, I love baking but sometimes it is nice to do something semi-homemade. By that I mean buying the base of "whatever" and doctoring it up some so you make it yours. In this case I bought:

  • Pillsbury Marshmallow Fluff frosting (which was okay but I think I next time I'll use something else.
  • Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate cake mix (which I then substituted butter for oil and milk for water, giving it a fluffier - homemade taste). 
  • Mini marshmallow, Hershey's chocolate bars and of course Honeymade graham crackers. 

The process was simple. mix a little butter with graham cracker crumbs (just toss them in the blender) and smush into the bottom of your cupcake holders. Then pour a little cupcake mix and bake as instructed. 

Top with marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers. Ta-Da! Super easy and super delicious. 

My family just gobbled them up - even though they were VERY decadent! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In Need of Vacation

I don't know about where you live but for the PNW summer has arrived. We've bounced between breezy mid-70s to scorching low 90s. Mother Nature can't make up her mind. For me though, this temperamental weather has made me realize I need to plan a vacation. Somewhere with ocean breezes and drinks with little umbrellas. 

A few months ago I did get a work-cation along these lines. I was sent to St. Pete's Beach, Fl for a conference. It was my first time being on the western side of Florida and my first time getting to see the Gulf of Mexico! 

The resort the conference was at was right on the water. I walked on white sandy beaches to get between my hotel and the conference center. Almost every night was spent having dinner on the patio, listening to the live rock band play pool side and with a pina colada in hand. (Rough work I know). 

I didn't get too see much of St. Pete's or the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. I was there for work after all. But really when you're spending your days in small conference rooms discussing law and conduct disciplinary hearings for students, spending your evenings with the sound of the waves coming in your window is really the only way to go. 

Now to start planning my next ocean-side vacation.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Back & Berries

I knew it had been a while since I blogged... I'm not really sure if I felt like it had "only" been six months or if these last six months felt like a lifetime. The holidays always get a bit chaotic, followed by birthdays, researching homes for a move, and then busy season at work. Somehow what I thought was going to be a hiatus through Christmas and New Years turned into six months of no real creative outlet. 

Okay, maybe not "no" creative outlets. I've done a number of paintings, traveled a little, took some photos and have developed some very delicious recipes.

One of the most recent discoveries is Strawberry Mint Sorbet! So perfect for these warm (early summer) days we've had in the PNW. It's the perfect time for something cool and refreshing after a long day. This recipe is simple, four ingredients and satisfies a sweet tooth without being too heavy.