Thursday, October 6, 2016

From Placemat to Pillow

Lilly and I were out shopping the other day and made a stop at World Market. While I didn't wind up getting many things (I think I always over-hype WM in my head and when I actually go its sort of a let down...same thing happens with Trader Joes), I saw some really cute placemats and immediately thought back to one of my earliest pins. I remember reading that Bower Power post back before Pinterest existed and I had to save bookmarks to my favorite blog posts. Kids today will never know what that was like!

DIY pillows from Bower Power
I've been wanting some new pillows for my living room for awhile (if you look closely you can see where our dog Mickey has scratched at the square pillows that came with the couch - there are loose threads everywhere), but considering we might be moving, I didn't want to spend a ton of money when we aren't sure what our next living room will look like. These placemats were $4.99 each, and I knew I could make 2 pillows for under $20. A quick stop at Michaels on the way home for some fiberfill and I had two new throw pillows that afternoon.

All you have to do is use a seam ripper or small scissors to open a hole between the two layers of fabric, stuff with fiberfill, and sew it closed.

I used an 8 oz bag of fiberfill for each but probably should have opened a third bag and stuffed them a little more. Also, my stitch work wasn't my best, but its at the bottom and you wouldn't notice unless you looked real close.

When I went to look on the WM website to link the placemats, I couldn't find them but I did see throw pillows in this pattern available for purchase. For $20 that would have been a lot easier, but I was able to make 2 pillows for about $15 ($10 for the mats and $5 for the fiberfill w/coupon).

I am thinking of ordering some new pillow covers for the square came-with-the-couch pillows from etsy, but they would need to be thick to cover the existing pattern. Anyone have any favorite shops for pillow covers? I am thinking of maybe some seasonal covers like this or this and switching them out for Christmas.

I actually have a couple more placemats I bought years ago for the same purpose. Since they were for the office couch (the old army green microfiber monster Joe and I first purchased together probably almost 10 years ago) I just never made it a priority. Now that I have some extra fiberfill maybe I will get those over with this weekend - stay tuned!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Slow Cooker Fall Off the Bone Ribs

Happy Monday! Today I am sharing a quick post on a recipe I have made a couple of times over the summer. Joe requested ribs a few times and after some initial hesitation (I don't like eating meat off a bone), I did some searching on Pinterest and found the perfect recipe. I mean if they fall off the bone I don't need to worry about biting into a bone, right? Enter Carlsbad Cravings' Fall off the Bone Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs!
Carlsbad Cravings Slow Cooker Ribs
It wasn't quite as easy as some other slow cooker recipes as it involved making a rub and sauce and searing the meat in the oven before putting in the cooker, but the effort was worth it. I actually prepared the meat and the sauce the night before, stored in the fridge, and popped it all into the cooker in the morning.

I don't have many photos because my photography skills are pretty poor especially when compared to Jen's.

Verdict: Although time consuming, the first time I made these ribs they were absolutely perfect. The meat was tender and fell off the bone as promised. I was afraid the preserves in the sauce would be too sweet, but it all came together deliciously. The second time, I may have left them in the oven a little too long (I had way to much going on in the kitchen and multitasking isn't my strong suit) and in the slow cooker a little too long and they did't come out quite so well. Still very good, just not as perfect as the first time. I am not sure how often I will make these once I am back at work, but they are perfect for a summer Sunday when you can enjoy the smell of them cooking all day.

Fall off the Bone Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
recipe from Carlsbad Cravings
(my notes in red)

  4 lbs baby back pork ribs

  Spice Rub:
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for more heat)

  • Barbecue Sauce:
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup seedless blackberry preserves
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons reserved Spice Rub (from above)
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional)* I didn't use this

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Cut ribs into 6 sections then rinse and pat dry.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together Spice Rub ingredients. Remove 1 tablespoon Spice Rub to use in your barbecue sauce. Rub all remaining Spice Rub evenly all over the meat then place ribs on prepared baking sheet. Bake ribs for 15 minutes ON EACH SIDE (30 minutes total) to sear meat.
  4. Meanwhile, add all of the Barbecue Sauce ingredients to a medium saucepan and gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce and refrigerate to use after ribs are cooked. (I did all this the night before and stored the ribs in a pyrex dish in the fridge overnight).
  5. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray (I use a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner - not as pretty but sooooo easy for cleanup) then add a thin layer of remaining barbecue sauce, followed by ribs. Layer sauce then ribs until complete, tossing to coat as needed to ensure ribs are evenly coated in barbecue sauce.
  6. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or on LOW for 7-9 hours OR cook until ribs are fall apart tender. Rotate ribs once during cooking so they cook evenly. Cooking time may vary between slow cookers.
  7. When ribs are tender, remove from slow cooker and brush with some Reserved Barbecue Sauce if desired or use sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DIY Fall Wreath

Happy First Day of Fall! Its still in the 80s and humid here in NJ, but I have been holding off on fall decorating long enough. I pulled out all the fall decor boxes from the attic last week and realized I don't have anything to hang on my door that's not Halloween related. Like I mentioned in my last post, we are thinking of listing our house in the spring so I have been trying to use some of my maternity leave to spruce some things up to make it more appealing for buyers. I just finished up painting the front door (but sort of made it look worse so now Joe has to fix it - oops!) and the outside trim around the door and window. I also washed down the outside lights and got rid of all the scary spider webs. It all looks so nice - its just begging for a new wreath!

I have been pinning non-seasonal wreaths for a bit - like this one, and this one but ultimately decided to use this one as my model:

Everyday Wreath from jennyCmoon on Etsy
I went to Michaels and just sort of wandered around looking for a "V" that would work and then found a coordinating ribbon and flowers. I love how the ribbon, V, and oak leaves all had hints of red and gold. I spent a little over $20 for all of it (including the wire):

First I glued down the V (using some E6000 we already had) and starting laying out where I wanted the hydrangeas to go.

Next I used the wire and ribbon to make a bow, but hated it (way too big!) so started over.

This bow is way too big - time to redo!

Once I was happy with where I placed everything, I wired it to the wreath. It was easiest to start with the bow, then work my way out. In places where I couldn't get it very tight, I followed up with some glue to make sure it was really secure. The leaf steams tucked into the grapevine wreath really well so they were easy.

And here is the finished product (and you can clearly see where I messed up the door - I filled in a crack and could not get it sanded smooth. I figured the paint would hide the imperfections, but I was wrong!):

Once I get the rest of my pumpkins up and some mums on the porch, I will post on more fall decor. I am also itching to do some pumpkin baking - although if I have any chance of fitting into my work clothes in a few weeks perhaps that's a bad idea!

For now I am off to get my first PSL of the season and pray for some cooler less humid weather!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Is anyone still out there?

So....its been a while. I don't think Shannon or I planned to give up blogging, it just sort of happened. We were both busy and happened to miss that our domain name expired. Neither of us is very computer/website savvy so we had no idea how to get it back (without paying a bunch of money) and honestly had little drive to do so. 

But...its been a few years and I started to get the itch to share some projects again. I looked and saw the domain had expired once again and was able to snatch it up. It took me about 3 weeks to figure out how to link it back to our old content, but I think it is all back. 

A lot has happened in the last few years: Shannon changed jobs, moved into a new apartment, and has taken up running. I had another baby (a girl - Lilly) almost 3 months ago, JJ is now 4 (almost 5) and just started PreK, my company's office moved, and we are considering trying to sell our house and move a little closer to family. All of this means we have a lot of things to write about.

So there's a quick recap on what happened and some updates on our lives. We're not putting any pressure on ourselves to have a blog post published every other day. We will post when we have the time and have something we want to share. Hopefully there are still some readers our there to follow along - and if not at least we have the ability to access our content as we need. Be on the lookout for a new post soon.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Labor Day 2013 Recap

I realize summer is over and everyone has moved on to pumpkin spice lattes and apple picking, but I have a couple posts still to go covering summery things, so please bear with me. Plus, it is supposed to by 90 degrees in NJ today so it definitely still feels like summer here! 

The week before Labor Day Joe and I decided to throw a last minute, impromptu BBQ. We knew a lot of people would probably already have plans, but we wound up with a decent crowd. I decided to give a couple new recipes a spin.

First up was this Loaded Baked Potato Salad I have had pinned for over year:
Source: Dishing With Leslie
I attempted to double Leslie's recipe, but probably did a little more than double with the potatoes. As a result, I am not sure I had the right ratio of potato versus dressing.

Clearly Leslie is also a much better food photographer than me.
The Verdict: It was ok. I think I threw off the ratio since I only doubled the wet ingredients. I also undercooked the potatoes a little bit. I am just not that good at making a good potato salad. I would say I would try it again because I think its a great recipe, but I would probably be better off just buying it next time.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad
recipe by Dishing With Leslie
4 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped chives, divided
8 strips of bacon (6 for the salad and 2 for topping) cooked and crumbled
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
Serves 4 - 6 (Simply double list of ingredients if you need a larger serving)

In a small bowl, mix together your mayonnaise, and sour cream. Make sure the two are completely combined and then add half of the chives, cheese, and pepper. Taste mixture to see if you prefer some salt. (I usually add a dash or two.) Let chill in fridge for a bit. Meanwhile, peel and cube your potatoes in to bite size pieces. Put in a large pot, cover with water, and boil until fork tender. About 20 minutes. *You need to keep an eye on them. If they cook too long you'll end up with more of a mashed potato consistency when you mix them with the sauce.

When potatoes are ready, drain and let cool just a bit. *Let them cool a lot if you plan to serve chilled. Put potatoes in a large bowl or dish and combine with sour cream mixture. Fold in most of your crumbled bacon. Top with remaining half of chives and remaining crumbled bacon.
*See Leslie's post for some helpful notes.

Next up was this delicious looking Caprese Pasta Salad:
Source: Simple Scratch
Laurie grows her own basil, but I just picked some up from the foodstore. I can barely keep my flowers alive - I would hate to see what I could do to herbs! I couldn't find orecchiette pasta, so I settled on small shells.
Again, my food photos are crap, but it was night so it was dark and this is the best I could do.
The Verdict: I thought it was delicious. I am a sucker for anything with balsamic vinegar though so I may be biased.

Things to Consider: I used a whole pound of pasta and just tried to balance out the right amount of everything else. I probably could have used a little more dressing, cut the mozzarella a little smaller and added more tomatoes (I used only one package). Next time I would try just using less pasta as we had more than enough. I will definitely be making this again though - it was so easy and delicious! 

Caprese Pasta Salad
recipe by Simply Scratch

2 cups dried Orecchiette Pasta, cooked as directed on the package
1 pint Grape Tomatoes, quartered
1 container Fresh Mozzarella Pearls {or 1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed small}
1 cup Fresh Basil, sliced into ribbons
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
2 Cloves of Fresh Garlic, squeezed through a garlic press
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

In a small bowl squeeze two cloves of garlic through a garlic press. Pour in balsamic vinegar and whisk. Continue to whisk while slowly, pouring in the three tablespoons of olive oil in steady stream.

Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water. Add the cold pasta to a bowl along with the quartered tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls and basil ribbons.

Season with kosher salt and black pepper and drizzle with desired amount of the balsamic vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste preference before serving!

I hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend and is settling into their fall routines. JJ had his first day of "school" (which is really just mom's day out type program my aunt is taking him to twice a week) this week. He loved it and I am so excited for him to meet some new little friends and work on his social skills.
I promise I will get to some pumpkin recipes soon! 
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