Sunday, August 21, 2011

Monogramming Made Easy!!

It has been a while since my last post.  So much has happened in the past few months, moved into a new home, traveled to LA to play a show with Saliva! We also had a huge and fun CD release party to officially introduce our new CD to the world, and so much more.  I will still be very busy for the next few months with lots of gigs all over the state, but I hope to get back to writing here more now that we are settled in our new place.  So I thought for my first post in so long time I would share some pics and an idea that I used from my wedding a few months ago....

Sometimes personalizing somethings in your home is nice.  It says this is the home of the...let's say McConnell's!  However my idea was not orginally intended for my home.  When we got married one of the things I wanted to incorporate was the "M".  Being such a do it yourself gal I made all most everything for our wedding including our monogram napkins and gift boxes.  After buying an "M" stamp and not getting the results I wanted I proceeded to hand paint the letters.  Then my genious husband suggested..."Why don't you just get a stencil and do that instead?"

Light bulb moment...I can just make my own stencil!

Here is the great part I used a plain old paper plate to do so.

All you need is the design to trace on the paper plate. Once it is on the plate cut the letter out using an exact-o knife.  Then you are ready to start stenciling. I used a pouncing sponge.  I would like to point out this stencil will not last forever it will start to absorb the paint, but I got at least 25 impressions from just 1 plate.  And since it was free I could easily make this as many times as I needed.

Sneak Tip: I ordered my napkins online( I don't remember from where, so do a little Google research to find a good company).  I ended up only spending $2.99 for a set of 5 linen napkins. I ordered 5 packs for a total of $14.95. Or if you like $0.598 per napkin. That is way cheaper than you can find in any store. Then I bought some gold fabric paint at the craft supply store for $3. That was it.  My homemade monogram napkins cost less than $0.65 to make, just renting linen napkins alone are $1 a piece. I not only did I get to keep my napkins, but I can now use them when we have guests over for dinner or for a special occasion!

This technique would also work well on any flat surface or to monogram sheets.  It will not work on towel's because of their fabric.  But get creative with it and I'm sure you can find a bunch of things to personalize!
Here are a few pictures of the project from our wedding that I hope you enjoy that my wonder friend and photographer took. You can't really tell from these angles but the red napkin's under the gift boxes were monogrammed as well.

P.S. I did all of the table designs myself, and the fabulous runners I used were... Wrapping Paper!!!

Have fun being creative - Amber

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Garlic Monkey Bread

Bread making does not have to be hard.  Even without a bread maker you too can make great bread at home.  If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer it is super fast and easy with the dough hook attachment.  But you really don't need one, you will just have to mix with your hands for a little longer.

I came up with a great no fuss recipe that came out better than any store bought garlic monkey bread.


3/4 cups water
1/4 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of butter
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 garlic salt
1/2 minced garlic
1 tablespoon of pesto (store bought, saves time and is delicious and keeps well in the fridge)
1 package active dry yeast

Combine  water, milk, butter in sauce pan and warm up, (do not boil!). Combine all dry ingredients, spices and yeast in bowl  (reserve 1/2 cup of flour). Slowly add the warm liquid. Mix together then add the last 1/2 cup of flour until completely combined into a nice dough ball.  On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough about 10 times.  Take a large bowl and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, cover and let rise for about 1 hour.  The dough should double in size. Take dough out of bowl and punch down.  Next divide the dough up and roll into 1 inch balls. Gently place in a bunt cake pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Let the dough rise in the pan for another hour. Lastly bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. Turn out of pan and let the bread cool.

Pull apart add butter if you like and enjoy.

Not only is making bread easy but it makes the whole house smell good while its baking!

I hope you will try and make your own bread every so often. Even if it isn't this recipe, there are a lot of great and easy recipes just waiting to be tested. - Amber

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trust Me Ladies You Need These!

It is now graduation season and with summer parties all around I recently found myself in a predicament.  I went to a graduation and when I arrived I had to park almost a mile away.  You guessed it I was wearing heels and by the end of the night I was in such pain I wanted to soak my feet in ice water.  I had seen these neat little things called instant flats in the grocery store and had wanted to get them.

After this last incident of pain I decided to get them! I found mine at Save Mart of all places and they were very reasonable. I really love the fact that they come with their own little bag and they fit very easily into my purse.  You can get them online too! Dr. Scholl's Fast Flats, Size 7/8.

If most of you don't know I am also a musician and I often wear uncomfortable shoes for a long period of time.  But now I have my little slip on shoes with me at all times to keep my feet from hurting and getting blisters.  It beats the fuzzy slippers I usually wear to and from gigs! I have no idea how long these will last or how many uses you can get out of them.  But for $10 a pair, even if they only last a few times it will be worth it.

How I have happy feat - Amber

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super Quick Healthy Turkey & Black Bean Chili!

For quite sometime I have loved to take classic favorite recipes and tried to make them healthy.  This post is going to be dedicated to my mother.

I can always remember her trying to make sure we ate healthy things. She was the kind of mom who always bought whole grains and wheat bread even before it was popular.  Our breakfast cereals were usually a choice between Cheerios, Shredded wheat, Cream of Wheat, Malt-O-Meal and unfortunately Grape Nuts(sorry mom still hate that stuff).  It was only so often that we got a real treat like Lucky Charms. There was always fruit and a glass of milk to go with it. Vegetables were always present and I don't remember eating out a lot growing up.

She was and still is the busiest mom I've ever know, not only was she a teacher, she was getting her masters and then her doctorate all while never missing a softball/baseball game or a band performance! So Thanks to my mom who started my love of food and healthy living! I'd like to think that is why I now take it to the next level.

Now for the tasty stuff.

This recipe is just one of my many chili varieties. This one is great because it is super fast and it only needs one pot! Time is saved by using a few canned ingredients, which help keep the dish moving. This one is packed with good stuff for you too!

Topped with cheddar cheese and a bit of sour cream!
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 can rinsed black beans
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 yellow onion diced
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 green bell pepper diced
2 tablespoons chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot brown the turkey, then drain if needed.
Then on medium heat add the onion, peppers, and garlic to the turkey.  Let it cook for about 3 min. Then just add all the canned goods and spices.  Let it all cook together for about 15 minutes turn heat down if it starts to boil too much.

Then serve!

Quick Extra Tip; What is chili without cornbread?
I love to have warm buttered cornbread with my chili.  So I always have a box or two of the Jiffy Corn Bread mix in my pantry.  Yep that's right I love Jiffy mix!  It's quick and easy and you can make cornbread muffins or pan style in just minutes.  And rather than try to track down the best cornmeal (the good stuff is hard to find) I buy this box mix for around $1.

Happy Chili Day - Amber

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What Happened to The Art of Letter Writing?

Technology is a great thing if you don't let it control your life.  I think one of the negative effects technology has had on us is the loss of good old fashioned letter writing.  I still love to write hand written notes and cards, it says I took a little extra time to think about you.  I have collected stationary for a long time and every time I have a chance to write a card or letter I do.

Today I am posting about the lost art and how you can bring it back with little effort and a little extra personalization.

I love the dollar bins at Michael's! I can get great stuff and a ton of inspiration for just a few bucks.  I had in my stationary box a pack of blank ivory cards I found a while back.  So I decided to get the glue, paint and what ever else I could find to use and get my creative brain working.

Here are a few that I have made.  Trust me when I tell you these will make someone feel much more special  instead of the ones you pick up last minute at the gas station.

When we were kids we always made home made cards and our mothers loved them and treasured them forever.  So why does that have to stop as we become adults?  It doesn't. I'm not suggesting you get out the box of crayons and color away.  But there are beautiful ways to decorate them yourself.

Hope you get inspired to write a thoughtful note soon - Amber

Saturday, June 4, 2011

You Can Make A Closed Door Look Nice Too!

Living in an apartment can really stifle your decorating creativity.  I'm not sure how it works in other parts of the country but where we live walls are never painted anything other than white or light beige and you aren't allowed to change them. That is just one of the many irritating things that come with living in an apartment. But none of this means you can't have a cozy place to call home, and if you are creative you can make it look better than it really is.

I got today's idea from another blogger that I love Kandee Johnson, she comes up with lots of great stuff. So thanks to her my own creativity was sparked.  She recently did a post about a D-I-Y flower ball.  I have seen them online and in stores for $7 or more. I have a lot of art supplies, so I had everything I needed at home already including a lot of left over silk flowers in my closet.  I decided to take Kandee's how to and make a smaller version with some added ribbon to hang on my hall closet door.  It was very easy, and it really added a nice touch to my bland hall way.

All you need is a styrofoam ball.
A glue gun with some extra glue sticks
Some ribbon and flowers.

I glued the ribbon on first so I could cover the ends with flowers. Then I started to glue away.  (Tip: take off all the the stems and leaves)  Once I placed the flower I also pushed a little so the back of the  flower head went into the the ball to give it an extra sturdiness.

Here is the final result. Hope you like it as much as I do !

- Amber

Friday, June 3, 2011

That stuff is really stuck on...

If you're a daily cook, or even a once in a while cook, you know about the yucky burnt on food that gets stuck to pans. It doesn't matter what kind of pan either it happens to them all.  Since I cook with special stainless steel it happens quite often. I'm not talking about burnt food either, it just happens with certain foods.

(If you are wondering why I use stainless steel pots it is because of the health advantages. If you have ever seen a non-stick pan get over heated and start to fume that is a bad place to be.  Those fumes are toxic! Those pots and pans release chemicals into your food as well not just when they smoke.  Take a good look at one of yours if you have one. Are there any scrapes and scratches? Most likely the answer is yes. I'm not trying to sell you any new pots and pans, this post is not about that but I want people to know that those are bad news.)

Now for my tip of the day!  How to get that stuck on stuff off your pan.  I have to give this great tip up to my grandmother who I saw use this method for years without understanding why she did it.  My Grandmother to this day still uses cast iron pans for everything, plus she is almost 80 years old and has been cooking for longer than everyone who reads this blog has been alive.

And the magic secret is

TA-DA, Soap and Water.

Haha hehe you thought it was going to be a miraculous revelation?  But in all seriousness.  These are all you need, but it is how you use them that will make all the difference in the world.

Before shot with last nights dinner still stuck on
Start by keeping your pan on the stove burner. Add enough water to the pan so that you get about a 1/4 inch of water in the bottom.  Squirt a few drops of liquid dish soap and then turn the burner on low and let the soapy water slowly heat up the pan to a simmer.(you will probably need to find something else to clean for few minutes) then I use an already dirty spatula to gently scrape the bottom of the pan. Presto-chango it will all come up.  Next just wash the pan like you normally would.

The After!!
As I mentioned before I had watched my grandmother do this for years until one day I asked her why she always had the pan on the stove heating up soapy water.  I am sooo glad I asked, because now it saves me a ton of time

Have Fun Not Scrubbing - Amber