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Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheeseburger Cups

I wanted to share a recipe with you that we all really liked. 
I am sure I'll be making this again and again and again. 
A big thank you to Michelle at Decor and the Dog for introducing me to this yummy main dish. 
 I modified their recipe slightly for my family.

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 tubes buttermilk biscuits (20 biscuits)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup mustard (I used a mix of yellow and spicy)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Shredded cheese

Step 1: Press a biscuit into the bottom and side of each space in a muffin tin. 
My muffin tin is non-stick but if yours isn't, then spray it first.

Step 2:  Brown and drain the ground beef.  Add ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce to the beef. 
Scoop into the biscuits and top with shredded cheese.

Step 3:  Cook at 400* for 15 minutes.


Even Brennan, who doesn't care for hamburgers, went back for extra helpings!

Bubble Wands

Last year I saw these homemade bubble wands at Rhonda's blog and knew we had to try them out.
This weekend we got all the supplies and made two different versions.  These were a hit!

The supplies cost $7 to make two wands.  Plus the boys got to use Dad's tools in the garage.  Bonus!

For two wands you need:
2 48" Dowel rods - cut in half
4 eye hooks
2 washers
Cotton string (the thicker the better)
Distilled water
Regular diswashing liquid (not Ultra)
Liquid glycerin (find this at a pharmacy)
We got everything at Lowe's exacept the glycerin

You cut the dowel rods in half and then attach eye hooks to each end of the rods.

You then cut the cotton string into one 35 inch length and then another 70 inch length.  Slide the washer on the long string and attach both strings to either eye hook.

In this photo you can see how thin the cotton string was.  This was the only thickness Lowe's had. 

So once you get everything attached your wand should look like this. 

In a bucket you mix 6 cups of distilled water and 2 cups of Dawn dishwashing liquid and stir without creating a lather.  Then you add the glycerin.  Rhonda's directions called for 5-6 drops.  Other directions online called for 5-6 tablespoons.  We ended up adding about 4 tablespoons.  I don't think it's an exact science.

Then you dip your wands in the bubbles and walk backwards, making huge bubbles!

The thin string got tangled up pretty often so David bought thicker cotton string at Wal-Mart and the boys replaced the string on their wands,
omitting the washer this time. 
It worked much better. 

Day 2

Of course, they have my mopping bucket now and I suspect we'll keep adding water, detergent and glycerin to continue making lots of bubbles this summer.  So I guess that means I'm off the hook for mopping for awhile :)

Thanks to Rhonda (my Razorback friend) for an awesome summer outdoor activity!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fixing Up a Neglected Deck

We have a deck off our bedroom that we have never, ever used. 
It's really sad because it's a nice sized deck and it's very quiet in the backyard where it faces.
But, we've just neglected it for going on 7 years.

Birds have pulled stuff off the side of the house. 
Those leaves are from last Fall (if not the Fall before that).  So sad and neglected! 
I decided to turn it into a usable space.

The first thing I did was sweep it well and then I put down a fresh coat of stain - the same stain I had left over from our front porch staining project earlier this year.

I was amazed that cleaning and staining took less than 45 minutes.
Why hadn't I taken this on before??

Then yesterday Brennan and I took a trip to Lowe's where I picked up these two Adirondack chairs and the little plant.  Sooo much better!  And I love that blue.

Brennan and I sat out and read for a little while until it got too hot.
As soon as the temperatures dip down a little, I plan to sit out with an iced tea and read!
And maybe David and I can enjoy it in the evenings?

Befores (left) and Afters (right)

Total Costs:
Stain, Yellow Pot and Table $0 (used what I had)
Chairs $37 for 2
Plant $1 on clearance at Lowe's

From Neglected to Purposeful, Pretty Space - Priceless!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recent Summer Recipes

I'm enjoying having some of my favorite recipes on the blog because I then can find them quickly!
We've made a few good recipes lately that turned out to be delicious, so I wanted to share them.
By the way - I rarely make anything that I know my entire family won't eat.
I relieve myself of that headache because meal planning and cooking for a family is stressful enough at times!

Olive Tapenade
My favorite food in the world is party food. 
I love appetizers and this is one of my all-time favorites. 
I've made tapenade before but this recipe that I found on allrecipes.com is awesome. 
I've passed it along to several friends who've loved it as much as me at the many parties I've taken it to.
I modified Deb's Tapenade slightly but you can find the recipe at this link.
I made this when my friends came over to serve alongside the fruit and creamsicle dip. 

I did not add the red bell pepper.
And once it is all mixed in the food processor and poured in a decorative bowl, I add about 1/4 cup more olive oil for a thinner texture. 
This is sooo good with your favorite thin cracker. 
Even my boys will eat this up.

Roasted Potatoes
When I posted about my dry-erase menu board two people emailed asking for my potato recipe.
It's just easy roasted potatoes.
We are getting lots of red potatoes each week at our CSA and this is how I cook them.

I quarter or half the potatoes so they're about the same size.
I put them in a bowl and add some olive oil, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

this is before I tossed it all together

Then I toss them onto a baking dish and bake them at 375 for about 30 minutes.

When they look roasted and you can pierce them with a fork, they're done.
I like the texture of Kosher salt on these potatoes vs. table salt.
Mmmm delicious and they go with everything.

Caprese Salad
My boys are not big tomato eaters and I don't force the issue because they are really good eaters overall.
But caprese salad is almost enough to tempt them.
This is my all-time favorite salad.
It just makes me happy to see it.

There's really nothing to it. 
We grow basil so that's always on hand, and of course plenty of tomatoes this time of year. 
I pick up whole mozzarella when I think of it and this is ready to go.
I drizzle a little olive oil and Balsamic vinegar down the salad and add just a touch of salt and pepper.
Love it!

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
My friend Mary made chimichurri sauce and posted it awhile back and it looked sooo good. 
I decided to try it out, hoping the family would like it.  We're not big steak eaters.
But this was really, really good.  I even dipped my roasted potatoes in it.
I'll definitely make this again.

Brennan helps me cook often.
Here he is zesting the lime for the sauce.

You can find the full recipe at Mary's link above. 
Mine turned out a little thin.  I think I didn't pack the leaves when we measured them.
Nevertheless - it was so good.
I think it would be great as a salsa on fajitas, as a marinade, or with beans and rice.

Mmm...can you tell I really liked this?

Pasta with Broccoli
I mentioned Gina's Skinny Recipes recently.  I really like her blog and have bookmarked many of her recipes.  This is another one that we made just tonight to eat alongside salmon.  You can find the full recipe here.

Gina calls it "Easiest Pasta and Broccoli Recipe".  I love that it's all made in one pot.

You cook pasta and broccoli together in boiling water, drain and then add back with cooked garlic, Parmesan, seasonings, and olive oil.

We went with ziti but David thought angel hair might work well too.
I made it al dente and my family likes it a little softer but we all thought it was a great dish.
Brennan had 3 helpings (along with two pieces of fish).
He's quite the eater.
I meant to take a photo as it was finished but we dug in and it wasn't until I was putting the leftovers away that I remembered!  This will be great with lunch tomorrow!

And, just a reminder that there is plenty of time left to link up to our What We're Reading Linky Party.  Just click here.

Bon Appetit!

What We're Reading #6!

Welcome to July's "What We're Reading" blog party! 
Ricki Jill and I are avid readers and love to hear about the books you are reading. 
A friend once told me "There's no better gift than a suggestion of a good book."  I agree! 
So link up your latest reading post below.

Because we traveled in June I actually read a lot this past month.  Here's what I've been up to.
I really should keep up with where I hear about certain books in my to-read list on goodreads.com.  I am sure I'll remember when I put it on the list, and then I rarely do.  Case in point - A Discovery of Witches by Deborha Harkness.  I gave it 3 stars and did enjoy the writing.  The author is a university professor and this is the 1st of a 3 part series.  I am not sure I will read the other two when they come out.  Recommended for:  all you Twilight lovers.  Lots of readers like this because it's a more grown up series involving witches, werewolves, etc.

When we were planning for our trip to New York City last month I knew I needed a guide to help me plan our days.  On amazon this Frommer's guide had the highest reviews so I ordered it.  And it did not disappoint.  I gave it 5 stars.  Not only was it arranged really well but it had tons of tips, maps, and suggestions for off-the-beaten-path excursions.

I read this second Flavia de Luce mystery while we were in New York City.  I thought it was fantastic.  I might have liked it better than the first.  Flavia is an 11-year old budding chemist who gets herself in all sorts of scrapes in 1950s England.

And here is another that I cannot remember where I picked up the title.  But I'm so glad I did.  It's similar to The Hunger Games but set in Chicago in a dystopian time in the U.S.  It's very highly rated on goodreads.com as well.  I'm looking forward to the others in this series.

Confession:  I had never read a Jane Austen novel until July 2011!
I know all the movies and story lines but I had never sat down and read one.
For Mother's Day David and the boys got me the anthology of her 7 novels and I finally sat down and read one.

I chose Emma because my book club is reading Pride and Prejudice later this year and because Emma is the inspiration for one of the best movies ever made:  Clueless! (I unashamedly love Clueless)

I enjoyed Emma but did get bogged down in the language just a little.  It doesn't help that the book that I'm reading from has tiny print and it's a reminder that this 40-year old really needs to get some good reading glasses.  ugh.  It's hard to actually like the character Emma, but one can certainly sympathize and relate to her.  And of course, Mr. Knightley is awesome.

And I ended my reading marathon this month with the latest Stephanie Plum novel - Smokin' Seventeen.  I love the humor and will always read this series.  But I really get deja vu with these books.  The mystery story lines are always different, but really, are they?  And Ranger vs. Morelli.  I get sucked into that little triangle with these books.  I'm hoping Katherine Heigl does Stepahnie Plum proud in the movie coming out sometime next year.

Because you asked last month, I'll tell you that the Litwits (the local, really fun book club I'm a member of) is reading The Hunger Games this month.  We meet next week and I can't wait to hear how everyone liked it.

So what have you been reading lately?
Please link up below!

Happy Reading!
~~Bonnie and Ricki Jill

You can find my previous book review posts by clicking here

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dry Erase Menu Board

Last year I made a really simple dry erase board that I could use as a menu board in the house.  I got lots of comments and emails about it.  I loved how quick it was to make and how useful it could be.  The problem is - it was large and rather obtrusive.  And after the fall I was going to have to change out the fabric.  So I put it away and haven't used it in months.

But the need for it was still there.  As I've mentioned before our evenings are usually pretty busy with swimming for Brennan and tennis for Thomas and meetings and social things for David and me.  And David comes home at different times depending on what he has going on at work.  I really want to have a family dinner each night but it's really hard sometimes.  Planning ahead is critical.  But it's also important that if I'm not here, everyone knows what the dinner plans are. 

So I decided to make another menu frame.

I took a 4x6 frame that I had on hand and put a piece of cream card stock in it.
Now I can use whatever color dry erase marker that I have on hand and let everyone know what the plans are for dinner.
My boys ask when they're eating breakfast what we're having for dinner.  I don't always know at that point, but when I do know, I can update the frame and we can all plan around it.

I really like the smaller size. 
Does what it needs to do but isn't in the way.
Best part - it took me 2 minutes while watching a movie with David and Brennan to get it done!

Don't forget that Ricki Jill and I are hosting our What We're Reading blog party tomorrow, right here!  So please join us and share your latest reads with everyone!

I'm linking up this week: