Monthly Archives: January 2014

Quest to Read Them All – Haunted

As I continue on my Quest to Read Them All I’ve made it to the fifth book in Meg Cabot‘s The Mediator series, Haunted.

The Haunted

I’m not sure how I feel about this book.  It was as well written as any of Ms. Cabot’s other books; however, I don’t think it should’ve been a standalone book.  The 4 previous books each had a substantial independent plot while connected to the overall story of the series, that wasn’t really the case with this installment.  It seemed like Suze, the main character in the series – a teenage girl who interacts with ghosts, was more concerned with her love life than with helping the ghost of Craig Jankow move on.  She spent most of the book dealing with her feelings for both Paul Slater and Jesse Diaz.  The climax even centered around a huge fight between Suze’s two suitors, and Craig almost seemed like an afterthought.  The parts that I found most interesting were the introduction of another aspect of Susannah’s powers and the history behind Mediators.  I almost wish that the author would’ve just combined this book with the final book in the series, Twilight.  This book didn’t make me anymore excited to read the last book than I was before I read it.  It’s good that I’ve become invested in the entire series, because if not this book would’ve turned me off.

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Thirsty Thursday – Candy Flavored Vodka

Anyone that follows my blog knows that I love to play with flavoring Vodka!  I’ve made Cranberry Lime Vodka and Limoncello & Chambord.  The other day, while I was killing time looking through the Everything tab on Pinterest I found an interesting idea: Candy Flavored Vodka!

Now, no one in my house is a huge fan of peppermint, so when I read through the directions on the original pin and found that she got her idea from skittle flavored vodka I was super excited!  All those fun colors, and Gwen (my resident guinea pig) loves them!  I was off and running with the idea…

First I gathered my ingredients:  3 small empty jars, a medium sized bag of Skittles, and a giant bottle of vodka.

Candy Flavored Vodka Ingredients

Next I had to sort the skittles by color, or I’d end up with a muddy brown drink.

Sorting Skittles

Then I put the 3 colors I had chosen to use into the small glass jars and covered the candy with vodka.

be generous with the vodka

I left the Skittles to soak in the vodka for 48 hours.  I did shake the jars every so often (about once every 8 hours or so).

don't forget to shake it up

When the candy had all melted, it was time to mix a fun drink.  I took a small rocks glass and poured 2 fingers of my new made Skittles Vodka and then added an equal amount of lemon-lime soda.  It foamed and made a really cool looking cocktail.  I loved the green color, and may have to break these out for St. Patrick’s Day.  (I’m getting tired of Green Beer.)

Ecto Cooler!

What kind of candy would you turn into an alcoholic beverage?

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Oh What A Relief…

I’m currently on a mission to finish setting up housekeeping in our new place (mostly, because the sooner it’s done, the sooner I can start looking for our next adventure, but that’s a topic for another time…), and that means that I need to come up with some decorative pieces to hang in our currently pretty blah dining room.  We’ve never had a dining room before, so we’ve had to find, re-imagine or create all of the pieces for this room.  We built shelves to house all of Gwen’s bar stuff.  We refinished a curbside find to store all of my platters (Gwen thinks I’m a bit obsessed, but we shall see who is right the first time we host a party), what little china I have, and the antique linens I’ve been hoarding since high school.  We went thrifting and found a fabulous table and a great oriental cabinet at remarkably affordable prices.  We gathered chairs (all of which need/needed to be reupholstered) from eBay.  I love all of what we have going on in there now, but there’s nothing on the walls and the room looks unfinished, which is what brought me to today’s Pinterest project.

I was scrolling through the pins and found this cool piece:

I love the idea of a relief painting.  A relief painting is a piece of art that has multiple layers that stand at different depths from each other.  So, I decided to check out the pin; however, when I clicked on the image it lead me to a “this blog no longer exists page.”  Which meant that if I wanted to duplicate the project I was going to have to wing it.  Now I liked the premise of the picture, but we are so not the floral kind of family, and orange just isn’t my thing; which meant that I needed to tweak the plan at least a bit to create the piece I wanted for my dining room.

I decided to go with 3 smaller canvases (mostly, because we already had them on hand), an abstract design (because that’s much more in keeping with our style), and a plumy purple color (to match the aforementioned newly upholstered eBay chairs).  The first thing I did was gather my materials:  3 canvases, a bottle of white glue, a plate (or pallet) to mix the paint, some water, sponge brushes, and a couple of different paints to choose from…

relief picture supplies

Then we opened the canvases, laid them out on the table and freehanded a design on all three with the bottle of glue.  It was ok to do freehand, because we wanted something abstract, but if you want to have an end product that’s more precise, you may want to sketch out the picture before you apply the glue.

drawing with glue

Once we had a design we liked (that worked well together) on all three canvases, we let them dry.

let them dry completely

Once the glue was totally dry (you don’t want it to smear and mix in with the paint) we chose a final paint color and mixed it with some water, so that we could get a washed effect.

paint  add water  stir to combine

No that the paint was mixed and ready to go, we painted over each canvas completely.  We wanted the project to have an uneven washed effect, so we weren’t overly concerned about how streaky the paint looked.

washing the paint over the dry glue

After all three canvases were dry, it was time to hang them in our dining room.  I love how they look, and can’t wait to finish the rest of the projects for this room!

Don't you just love my impromptu office?

Don’t you just love my impromptu office?

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Tasty Tuesday – Creamy Mustard Chicken

This week we are continuing on our kitchen adventures and exploring new ingredients.  I wanted to try something different for dinner, and not resort to some variation of an old standby (pasta, pork chops, pot roast, chicken cutlets – all the things we grew up eating).  So, this week when I went looking for a recipe to try on Pinterest, I made sure that there were at least 3 ingredients included that I didn’t already have in my kitchen.  I found this recipe:

Looks yummy, right?  I thought so, and it called for tarragon (one of the few spices I didn’t already own), coconut oil and coconut milk.  That meant it was the perfect meal for the mood I was in…

First, I gathered all my ingredients (this even included a trip to the grocery store): 2lb chicken thighs, 1 can thick coconut milk, 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 large apple thinly sliced, 1 large sweet onion, 1 tbsp. dried tarragon, 2 tbsp. coconut oil, salt & pepper.

some of the ingredients

Then we made the marinade for the chicken: in a large bowl we combined the coconut milk, tarragon and mustard to make a creamy paste.  Then added salt and pepper to taste.

Use mustard to taste

Once it was combined, we added the chicken and mixed until it was all coated.  Then stuck the whole bowl in the fridge for a few hours to marinate before cooking.

before chicken  after chicken

When we made it to about an hour before dinner, it was time for the next step.  This is where we got to play!  First I got to experiment with coconut oil (it’s similar to lard and has to be melted, but much healthier for you!).  Then we got to use our mandolin!  I love this thing!  It makes extremely thin, even slices!  We used it on both the apple and the onion, then put them in the baking dish and added the melted coconut oil.

mandolin slicing  add coconut oil

Next we put the marinated chicken on top and stuck the covered dish in the oven at 350 degrees to bake for about 45 minutes.

oven ready

It smelled amazing when it came out, but the sauce had thinned out and was really runny when we served it.

table ready

I liked the apples and onions best, mostly because I’m not a huge fan of chicken thighs.  If we make this one again, I’ll have to mix it up and use thighs and breasts.  Also, it probably would’ve been better served over rice, instead of with a baked potato.

What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve ever used in your kitchen?

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Sunday Sweets – Peanut Butter Cup Crescent Rolls

We’ve been on a bit of a peanut butter kick in my house, and have been trying out some interesting recipes and snacks that have peanut butter as an ingredient.  It’s amazing the shear number of foods that have peanut butter in them.  I feel sorry for anyone with a peanut allergy.  Ahh, but I digress…  This week we wanted something quick and yummy for a brunch type meal, and I stumbled across a recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Crescent rolls on Pinterest.  They reminded me of the Chocolate “Croissants” I made around Christmas time, so I figured I’d give them a try…

The recipe was very straightforward.  I gathered my ingredients: Pillsbury Crescent rolls, peanut butter and mini chocolate chips (they melt better than the regular sized ones).

peanut butter cup crescent ingredients

Then I popped the tube of crescents and laid them out on a jelly roll pan.  Once I had the individual rolls set up, I added a glob (real technical and specific measurement, huh?) of peanut butter to each one.

adding peanut butter

Then comes the chocolate chips…

sprinkle on the mini chips

Then you roll up the crescents.  I’m so OCD I hate it when they don;t come out just right.  Don’t stress about that, just make sure that the sides are sealed, so nothing leaks out…  Don’t want to lose any of the yummy goodness, right?

oven ready

Then they go right into a 350 degree oven for 14 minutes.  They smell amazing as they are baking!  Just make sure that you are ready to serve them almost as soon as they come out.  They are definitely at hot from the oven kind of treat!

Peanut Butter Cup Crescents

Another quick and easy yummy semi-homemade sweet treat!  Any suggestions on what other fillings we can try?

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Snapshot Saturday – Horizons

The beginning of a new year welcomes self-reflection and plans of self improvement.  I have spent a great deal of time looking at the horizon recently, and forgetting the pieces that I need to work with that are more within my immediate reach.  So for this coming year, I am going to concentrate on the smaller things that I can change on an individual basis.  Here’s to looking to the horizons and working to make the changes we need to reach them!

photo 2

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Quest to Read Them All – United We Spy

Wow, I guess January is turning into a Young Adult reading month for me…  This week’s Quest to Read Them All book is United We Spy by Ally Carter.

photo (2)

This is the sixth and final book in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series.  We once again join Cammie Morgan and her friends as they try and stop the Circle of Cavan and her boyfriend’s mother from ruining the world.  The premise of the book is a bit far fetched.  The main character is a teenage girl enrolled in a super secret boarding school the specializes in training girls to become the next generation of secret agents.  Students enroll in the Gallagher Academy for Girls with hopes of working with the NSA, FBI, CIA, Interpol, MI6, and any number of other branches of the alphabet soup we use to describe the elite law enforcement agencies of the world.  The book is well written and keeps the reader interested, despite the aspect if fantasy involved.  That level of believability that Ms. Carter adds to something so incredible (or unlikely) is what makes her stories so entertaining.  She uses the same type of fantasy/reality possibility in her Heist Society books, too.  Carter takes an ordinary teenage girl and gives her this unbelievable life, that could possibly (no matter how remote the possibility is) be real.  What teen/preteen doesn’t want to imagine what it would be like to be a spy and save the world from a super secret group of bad guys planning to take over the world, oh and let’s not forget that the leader of the bad guys is your boyfriend’s estranged mother, that kidnapped and tortured you in an earlier book?  I’m sad to see the series end, but there is always the possibility of more books about Cammie or her friends as they grow older, even if they aren’t at the Gallagher Academy any longer, they will always be Gallagher Girls!

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