Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Last Meal

If I am ever in a situation where I am being offered one last meal, these will make the list.

I went through a little phase where I was making Cinnamon Rolls... a lot.
I have a pretty easy dough recipe and Cinnamon Rolls are good, so it just naturally happened.
Then one day I was making Spinach Artichoke Dip and thought to myself,
"Hmm... I wonder if putting this cheesy dip in dough would be be good?".
What a silly question... OF COURSE it would be.
And so, Spinach Artichoke Rolls became my new obsession.
Make them today
 (or come to my house and have one of the leftover's from book club last night... actually there will be none left by the time you get here so scratch that idea).



First, the dough:

Buttermilk Rolls 
(This recipe was given to me a few years ago from a lady who was willing to invest a little bit of time in some of us young moms and teach us the ways of old... okay, really just how to make awesome bread.) 

3 3/4 Teaspoons of Yeast
1/2 Cup of Warm Water
4 Tablespoons of Sugar
5 1/3 Tablespoons of Melted Butter
1 1/2 Cups of Buttermilk*
1 Tablespoon of Salt
1/2 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
4 1/2 Cups of Flour

*If you don't have Buttermilk, you can substitute it with regular Milk and 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice.

Set oven to 400 degrees.

I have a Bosch Universal Plus so making dough is a pretty easy task... put the dough hook in and add all the ingredients.  Any mixer should work; if you don't have a mixer, I think this dough would still be pretty simple to make (and pretty forgiving) and a great arm workout.

Once all the ingredients are mixed together, knead for 3-4 minutes (medium speed on a mixer).  Then take the dough out, shape into a ball, and let stand for 15 minutes.

(If wanting to use for rolls, the next step is to roll into balls and bake for 15-20 minutes. Easy!)

While your dough is standing, start preparing the Spinach Artichoke Dip/Spread.

Spinach Artichoke Dip/Spread

2-3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Large Cloves of Garlic, Minced
8 Ounces of Fresh Spinach
1/2 Cup of Milk
8 Ounces of Cream Cheese
8 Ounces of Quartered Artichoke Hearts
2.5 Ounces of Shaved Parmesan
A Small Block of Mozzarella 
A Couple Dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
A Little Dash of Ground Pepper

Saute´ the Garlic in the Olive Oil for a few minutes, add Spinach and saute´for a few more minutes. Add Milk, Cream Cheese, Parmesan and let melt, continuing to stir. Once completely melted add Worcestershire Sauce, Ground Pepper, and Artichoke Hearts, let simmer and try not to sneak any.


Back to the dough... roll into a huge, pretty thin square. Spread the Spinach Artichoke Dip, completely covering the dough. Take the edge and begin rolling, just as you would if making Cinnamon Rolls. Roll into a log and slice into as many pieces as you'd like.  I bake these in a 9x9 pan, so I usually slice them into nine rolls (however, they are HUGE and could easily be sliced into, oh... probably 18! So, it just kind of depends of your mood, and who all will be eating them.). Place the rolls into the baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes, switch the oven setting to Broil and grate as much or as little Mozzarella as you'd like over the tops... I like a lot. Broil for about five more minutes or until Mozzarella is getting a nice toasty brown.


Serve these hot; you'll find that there actually won't even be an option to serve them any other way because they will be out of the pan and into your belly in seconds! So, enjoy those seconds... and then have another one.




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toddlers think I'm cool...


...as well as these inanimate objects that I personify to make myself feel REALLY cool.
Have a great day!
We will be.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Meatballin'

Well, first, that title makes laugh.
Secondly, I've been on a major meatball kick lately. As in... I crave meatballs.
Yeah... I know it's weird. 
So, here are two of the dishes I came up with to satisfy my addiction to balls of meat.



Remember the P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps?? I ate these up so quickly that I forgot to use the "Special Sauce" that went along with it, leaving the sauce feeling as though it was not special at all*.  Not being one that is prone to waste, the sauce was going to be used. And so, the "Special Sauce" that was once only looked upon as an enhancement to a meal of chicken and lettuce, actually became the savory juiciness overwhelming the mouths of Meatballers everywhere. And they became known as Sweet Asian Meatballs.

*I also didn't use all the ingredients in the original "Special Sauce" recipe and I added my own ingredients; leaving the Sauce struggling to find its own identity.

Sweet Asian Meatballs

1 1/2 to 2 Pounds of Ground Beef
1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup of Water
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons of Ketchup
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon of Mustard
1 Large Clove of Garlic, Minced
1/4 Cup of Mushrooms, Minced
1/4 Cup of Onions, Minced
1 Large Egg
2 Cups of Bread Crumbs


Set oven at 400 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl; shape into meatballs, however big or small you like your meat balled up; place meatballs in nice and neat rows on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. 

Serve these up hot and steamy with some Garlic Fried Rice while watching your favorite Jackie Chan movie and laugh the night away.

My second recipe was created out of a sheer need to just create something one afternoon and they actually ended up being really good. They are now known as Parmesan Basil Meatballs.

Parmesan Basil Meatballs

1 Pound of Ground Beef
1 Tablespoon of Dried Basil (when using fresh herbs, use three times the amount of dried herbs)
1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Large Clove of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup of Shaved Parmesan 
1 Large Egg
1/2 Cup of Breadcrumbs

Set oven at 400 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl; shape into meatballs (I prefer smaller ones in this recipe, so that I can have as many as possible in each bite of Angel Hair); place meatballs in nice and neat rows on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

As I whispered up there in the recipe, I prefer to eat these with Angel Hair and my Homemade Marinara and like to enjoy one meatball per bite. And I like to have lots of bites to enjoy.

These meatballs freeze nicely, too, so make a bunch and enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Personal Faves - Families


And last, but not least... the family portrait.
Working with families can be really fun or really not enjoyable at all.
When you're with a family who all genuinely enjoy one another it makes for some really great shots; I'll let you imagine what it's like if they don't.

I love getting families to have fun together and to just be silly with one another. It's awesome when you happen to get EVERYONE in the picture actually smiling. The picture of the three men and a baby is one of my all-time favorites as it's displaying four generations of men all bearing the same name.

So, I hope you've enjoyed these.  
Share which ones stand out to you... I'd love to hear your opinions!


My Personal Faves- Moms


I actually hadn't planned on this being a category, but in looking through all my images these just make me happy.
Besides snagging my perfect mate, being a mom to our kids is THE BEST, most incredible blessing in my life. HANDS DOWN. I could seriously go on and on about the awesomeness of it... hmm, actually perhaps I will save it for another post... no I WILL save it, because it's THAT awesome.
I just love every single one of these images;
holding up your own little bundle, kissing him EVERY chance you get;
juggling them in your arms (along with everything else in life);
holding her as close as you can once she's turned into the lovely person that you knew she always would be and hoping she'll just stay there for awhile.

Please enjoy My Personal Faves - Moms.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Personal Faves- Kids

OOOOOOOOOHHH! I love em'!
Kids are possibly my most favorite to photograph... and here's why:

1. They could care less if you're trying to get the best shot of them 
(unless it's their Senior Portrait and then you better be getting THE most incredible shot possible! Who doesn't want to hand out an autographed photo of themselves, turn to walk away and then overhear their classmate telling another classmate how FINE they are??? 
Or see it hanging in their mom's living room a few years down the road and think, 
"Daaang. I was fine.").

2. They could care less that their mom went out the night before to find the perfect headband or the perfect shoes to go with the perfect overalls... both are coming off as quickly as they can get their hands on them.

3. They know how to have fun and kind of like having someone there to document how awesome they are as a superhero, or how twirly their dress is as they spin around.

4. They just love life.

5. They make me laugh... and laugh... and laugh.

Please enjoy My Personal Faves- Kids.


My Personal Faves- Bridal and Weddings


I've had the honor of photographing several weddings of different friends and family members. Like I said in the last post, I love LOVE, so you can imagine what I'm like behind the lens during a ceremony of vowing ones life to another! These images captured some of the absolute best moments; the Bride getting ready (I love the picture of the completely cool and calm Bride smiling while her Mom is looking at her watch in the background); Dad, smiling from ear to ear, giving his daughter's hand to another; and the kissing, because seriously, that's really all you want to do that day. You just can't get enough of it!!
Please enjoy My Personal Faves- Bridal and Weddings.

My Personal Faves- Couples


Through the years I've collected a little stash of photos that just make me smile.
I love LOVE; I'm a major, I mean MAJOR, hopeless romantic. 
I also love having the opportunity to capture little moments that will forever be remembered by a simple photograph.
So please enjoy with me the first post of My Personal Faves.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here's Why Sisters Are Nice To Have Around


They find you treasures like this!!!!
Remember these chairs?? My sis-in-law found this matching planter while scouring Antique shops for her own finds!!  I could not believe it. 
And I love it.
Let me just let you in on the conversation that took place as she handed this to me... my husband, my brother/her husband, her and I were all standing together on the porch:
Sis: "Well, I have something for you."
Me: "Whaaat? What is it??" 
( I had been inside, so cue running outside at this point.)
Sis: "I found this."
Me: "OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! Where?? I LOVE IT!! Oh my goodness!"
At this point my husband and brother are just looking at it wondering what the big deal is and then both realize that it matches my set of chairs on the front porch.
Brother to Sis/His Wife: "How did you even remember what these chairs looked like??"
Me: "Uh... because she's a girl."

Brothers are nice to have around for A LOT of reasons... but they do not remember the patterned detail in your porch chairs, store it in their mind, and then recall it when they see the exact same pattern in something else... and THAT is why sisters are nice to have around.

Pinterest Projects aka You Win Some, You Lose Some



Ah, Pinterest... my carpal-tunneled wrists hate you, but I love you so SO much. Pinterest is a great resource for one who is looking for some inspiration overload.  
I pinned this Doily Lamp and knew exactly where I wanted it in my home.  I set out on my mission to find the perfect doilies for this project, and I found a lot... a lot of expensive doilies nestled in vintage dresser drawers found in the nooks of wonderous Antique shops.
I wasn't wanting to spend a lot on this project, so I decided to mull it over in my mind while I went and looked at some fabric, because looking at fabric solves most all my problems in life.
I was at a little shop near my home, with the doilies set aside in the back of my mind not on the fabric forefront, when all of a sudden... I FOUND THE PERFECT DOILIES!
They were in a plastic bag on the scrap table calling out to me,
"Nicole, we are the chosen ones; take us, use us, make us yours."
So, I snatched them up and paid the $12 price tag, looking over my shoulder wondering if anyone else even knew of the treasures that the scrap table held. Since I was the only one in the store, I assumed they didn't and skipped out the door with delight.
Fast forward one week later (yeah, I don't know how I waited a week to complete this!), my super-cute-pregnant-with-her-first-baby sis-in-law is over (while our husbands and a few other hooligans were out pokering it up in the garage...), and it's the perfect time to do a project.
I thought I could make this project a bit easier and just starch the doilies... uh, no. The starch did not work at all. And so, at 11 o'clock at night, after we had already had numerous fits of laughter, we decided to follow the directions and use paper mache´. So easy, so quick. 
(Two cups of flour, two cups of water, one tablespoon of salt... mix together, paper mache´around a blown up balloon.)
My sis then asked if I wanted her to use my blow dryer to help the drying process, which of course I was all for. A few minutes into it, the balloon that the doilies were paper mache´d onto BURST... in my sister's face... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. 
Oh my goodness, that line of "HAHA's" doesn't even begin to describe the hysterical laughter that took place. It was so funny.
We got ourselves together and quickly blew up another balloon and got paper mache√≠ng and thought it best to just let it hang dry overnight. It wasn't quite dry in the morning so I set it outside for a few hours and it dried up perfectly. I sprayed it with a coat of paint (it was really pretty unpainted, but if you looked close you could see the residue from the paper mache´, and now it matches some of the other treasures in the room) and hung it.
Oooooh, and it is beautiful! I really love how it turned out.
(I also only did a semi-circle around the balloon rather than the full circle so that it could hang more easily from the ceiling.)
So, this project is a WIN.

This project, however was not.



I pinned this Homemade Air Freshener and decided to change some things up. I have an abundance of herbs, so I decided to use my Rosemary and Lemon Verbena rather than purchase these oils, and steep the herbs and then use that water in the recipe. I did purchase some Sweet Orange oil and used it with both herbs. I feel like if I tweek this some more, it will work eventually, but this round it did not.  It's a gelatin mix and for some reason, these just didn't gel completely.  I have a feeling it has something to do with when I  added the oil. They do still smell good and look pretty... so I guess it's not a total loss, but definitely needs some work!




Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chalkboard Table


I've had this little table since I was a child.  It's been in the Rascals room lately and then recently moved to their play area.  And it just doesn't do anything for me. 
So I decided it needed some work.
I remembered that we had some chalkboard paint, found it, and went to town!
I sprayed it with three coats and then let it sit for 24 hours. I also had this fabric sitting around waiting for its time to shine so I sewed some pockets on the side and then Krazy glued it onto the table (I was a bit concerned about how the glue would hold up to the little crazies, but it has so far.)
And it's a hit... not only as a table to draw on, but also for a place to have tea and a place to hide.

PS:
I also entered this project into the Krylon Dual Duel.
Go over and vote!!  You can every 24 hours.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raises

My little brother (he's 26... hahaha, but will always be my little baby brother!) was over last night along with a few other gentlemen (visiting my husband... I don't often have, actually never have, gentlemen visiting me!) and we were talking non-chalantly talking about getting raises at their places of employment, and I chimed in that I hadn't received a raise for awhile. My brother looked at me and then looked over at my latest little bundle and replied, "You just got a raise. Think of all the new joy you get everyday." (Timeout for a sec while I bawl my eyes out...)

Before I had kids, I was in the financial world for eight years beginning when I was nineteen, working my way up. I received a performance review each year and was then given a raise each year.  That's how the corporate world usually works. And I loooooooved my job. I worked on the customer service side of things and loved building new relationships through that; loved seeing the same customers each day and getting to know their stories. I loved it.  But that was not my calling and I knew it. Everything in me wanted to be at home growing a family, investing in THOSE little souls each day.

2006 was the last year that I was working, and I was managing my own small branch. That year also brought my first two pregnancies, both of which ended in miscarriage. The emotional/ mental pain that penetrates you when that little soul leaves your body is mind-shattering.  However, with pain comes growth, and with suffering comes hope, two things I've now learned to run towards rather than away from.

At the end of that year, I left and stayed home for awhile and then began working for a non-profit organization and then soon found out I was pregnant again. I stayed until my third trimester and then left to be at home hoping to get a bit prepared for the life changes that come when having a baby.  Once she was here, I realized that nothing really prepared me. She was amazing in every way and completely overwhelming. The growth and hope that sprang forth from that new relationship must have looked pretty good on my "performance review" that year, because 18 months later I received my first "raise", another incredible little soul embodied in a very chubby, sparkling blue-eyed girl. And life again was amazing and overwhelming bringing more growth and springing new hope each day.

And now 22 months later, another "raise"... another little soul embodied in a round little belly and spiky hair and bearing a striking resemblance to his very handsome blue-eyed father. And again, life is overwhelmingly amazing and amazingly overwhelming at times, but it's exactly what I've always wanted... and really, what I need. I thank the One who gives generously and takes away knowingly for each of the "raises" that He's given me and not given me for each one calls me to know Him, love Him, and seek Him each passing moment.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A little Lemon Verbena shake-up!


I made this fruit salad a couple weeks ago; blueberries, grapes, and apples... nothing too exciting from the fruit world.
However, I then decided to trek out to my little herb garden (it's basically out my back door, not too much of a trek) and check out what it had to offer.
It was a toss-up between my dead-from-the-heat-coming-back-to-life Mint, or my out-of-control Lemon Verbena. I thought the lemon flavoring might add an interesting kick and it did not disappoint.
The berries and grapes tasted the same, but the apples soaked up that lemon flavoring and it was such an interesting, delectable taste as you bit into each one.
If you're looking to shake things up a bit in this last bit of Summer, this is a must-try.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Help me win!!

One of my new fave blogs, Vintage Revivals, is doing an AWESOME giveaway with Krylon Spray Paint.
So, I entered my Rejuvenated Porch Chairs and I need your votes! (I know there are some WAY cooler projects than mine buuuuuuuut... you know me!  I'm your friend!!)
PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAASE go vote!!
Although, I wouldn't mind winning the 18 cans of paint from her, but you can't help me with that... that's all on me.
So, click here and look for Nicole S.'s Rejuvenated Chairs.
images

A Coffee Table that's really a Dinner Table


I've had this little table for years.  I found it at my most favorite Antique Shop  here in town.  It was much taller when I bought it, but we saw it working better as a coffee table so we cut off it's legs. It was a very nice shade of blue as well, a bit worn, perfectly made for our living area.
Fast forward a few years and there are a few more people in this house... 
tiny people; 
sticky people; 
dirty little people. 
Our house was built in 1927 and is really quite small.  But I love it so.
One of the issues that we've run into with a growing family is that is has no specific place for us to dine in.  There's a room off the kitchen that could possibly work, but there's no way an actual dining table would fit in there, so we make due.
Actually this table makes due.
Our children sit around it at each meal and it was beginning to really show.
Plus, as the house is slowly being re-decorated it was inevitable that this table would also need a slight makeover... and so it was given one.

I stripped the top hoping to unmask some hidden beauty;
it was beautiful in its own way, but not exactly what I was hoping for.
But I immediately recalled that I had some translucent glaze that I've used for different paint jobs throughout our home and gave it a whirl. And I really like the way it turned out.
The legs were painted with some leftover paint; the vintage glass knob was bought at Hobby Lobby on a day that was destined for me to be there when it was 50% off; and the two coats of polyurethane were also leftover from another project.
So... this little makeover cost me a whopping $2.14, which is my kind of makeover. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Good eats!

P. F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Photo by Bergy
P.F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps
First things first, I made these for dinner Saturday night. I made them for myself, my husband, and a friend of ours. My husband let me know right off the bat that he DID NOT like lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang's; our friend did his best to not cringe as I told him the menu.
Both men LOVED them... alright 'love' might not be the term they would choose to use to describe how they felt. That's what I was hoping for... for both of them to stand up from their seats with looks of complete satisfaction and bewilderment and actually say, "WE LOVED THEM!". What actually happened was me asking if they liked them and they both nodded and replied, "Yeah, pretty good."
And that was enough for me.
Now I, on the other hand, LOOOOOOOOOOVED them. 
They were so incredibly good I seriously had to control myself from licking the pan.
So, make them... soon!

Now, the REAL reason for this post:
These ingredients have to be some of the best matched ingredients I've ever combined.
I call these Chocolate-Infused Oatmeal Craisin Goodness, because that is literally, exactly what they are.
8 Ounces of softened Butter
1 1/4 Cups of Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup of Sugar
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups of Flour
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
3 Cups of Oats
1/2 Cup to 1 Cup of Craisins
12 Ounces of Chocolate Discs* (at least 60% cacao content)

Set oven to 350.
Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla on medium speed until creamy; add eggs and continue beating until light and fluffy. Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly mixed. Mix in oats and Craisins. Stir in  chocolate discs.
Roll into balls and flatten slightly onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.** Now I would let these cool slightly, just so your mouth isn't burned by the goodness that is about to overtake it.  I want you to have the best first impression possible.

*If you're unable to find chocolate discs at your local grocery store, check your nearest health food store.
**I always bake these until the middle is just slightly underdone.

So, there you are. Enjoy this goodness. Share this goodness!!!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chairs in revival


One weekend afternoon a few months ago, I was out... 
by myself... 
in an Antique Mall. 
It was divine.
I was out looking for some chairs that I could set outside on my porch that weren't plastic and weren't expensive.  However, I was also on the lookout for anything else that caught my eye so I was there for quite awhile. And as I was rounding the corner slowly losing hope, I saw these folded up and tucked away. And hope swooped back in like a bandit.
They were a little beat up and a little rusty, but they're metal and the detail on them is beautiful (side note: I'm ALL about the small details!) and the best part... they were $10 each.
So they've set on my porch in their fading beauty now for a few months and I was finally motivated and inspired to bring them back to life (another side note: that motivation/inspiration may also have had room to come back once my most recent little nine pound rascal made his entrance into this world!).
Ooh, and I love them! The detail in them now shines and demands you take a seat. I love it.

But the madness didn't end there.
I had some other chairs inside my house that were also needing a bit rejuvenated. And so they were.
You'll be seeing these again off and on.  About six months ago, I began redecorating my house. And then being pregnant while mothering two toddlers kicked in and the redecorating came to a major halt. But I'm back in gear now and will be updating as I go.  These chairs sit in a little room off my kitchen which has been the first room to be revived. Stay tuned.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Victoria


My most recent photo session was with this go-getter.  Victoria is ALWAYS up to something new.  Seriously, you need something done, email me and I will get you her number and it will be done within the week, possibly the day!
She is the founder of Generation Moms which you should check out at:
for recipes, savings, and tips for everyday life as a mom.  
Her most recent venture (and reason for this fun little session) is a jump back into the world of fashion and advertising. The way this girl works... you'll be seeing her on magazine covers across the country... or better yet, on the cover of her OWN magazine that I'm sure she's already got brewing up in that head of hers!

Let me just start by saying...

My mind works SO much better at two o' clock in the afternoon rather than two o' clock in the morning! Let me also just put out there that I'm extremely visual and somewhat of a perfectionist.  So, in getting the design put together for this blog, it had to be EXACTLY what I saw in my head.  Mt first attempt at this was in the wee hours of the morning when all my Loves were snuggled sweetly in their beds which is where I also should have been.  Because it's now three days later, in the daylight, and things came together so much more quickly and with much less frustration.  And so we begin...

I've had a family blog since the birth of my now three-year old (wait... I have a three-year old?!?!? Still astonishing to me every time I hear, say, or write it.), but it's mainly just pictures and stories of the funny little antics that take place in a home where the majority of people are toddlers or younger... oh yeah, and it's written from the perspective of my three-year old daughter.  It's fun and entertaining, but I kind of wanted a place for my perspective and so this blog was created. I also wanted an online portfolio of sorts for my photography and all my other little creations, so here it is.

Oh, and the name "she laughs"? I seriously laugh at everything.  Going back to the "I'm extremely visual" line up there... this enables me to also have an extremely vivid imagination so when someone is speaking to me or I'm reading something my mind is feeding me all kinds of images... and most of them are just incredibly funny.