31 January 2011

Crunchy Chicken

Busy weekend for us since my parents were visiting. I haven't really done anything crafty in the last week, so I thought I'd share an old stand-by recipe I started using in the past year...which I guess makes it not so old, but whatever. You only need three things: boneless chicken breasts (or strips), honey mustard, and those french fried onion things that you use for green bean casserole. You should use honey mustard for sandwiches, not honey mustard salad dressing. I think the salad dressing would be much too runny.
  1. Squirt a bunch of honey mustard (HM) on a plate or in a tupperware dish. 
  2. Dump a bunch of crunchy onions (COs) in  another dish.
  3. Roll the chicken around in the HM.
  4. Roll the chicken around in the COs.
  5. Put them on a pan. Bonus: cover the pan in foil and then you don't even have to mess with cleaning the pan! 
Cook time depends on the cut of the chicken. I always at least halve breasts because they take forever to cook otherwise (it seems like forever when you're hungry anyway). Oven should be around 375 and cook anywhere from 10-25 minutes. Just make sure the chicken isn't pink and isn't burnt and you should be good to go.

I've also had success using crunched up Sun Chips. Perfect for when you only have crumbs left and nobody really wants to eat the last of them. Just remember your hearing protection if they're still using those terribly loud bags.

If you're looking for something even easier, go to the nearest Trader Joe's (or TJ's as we affectionately call it) and pick up some Mandarin Ginger Chicken from the freezer aisle. That stuff is AMAZING!! And I'm pretty sure that's the right name, if not it definitely has mandarin in the name and it's in an orange bag. We've had it twice in one week before. Just pair it with some brown rice and you have a meal.

Here's what we were busy doing this Saturday:

Seeing whales. Well, more precisely, seeing parts of whales. Unfortunately I didn't catch any Free Willy jumps, but then again these were gray whales so that probably isn't their style. It was fun though. If you ever go on a whale watching tour in central/northern CA, dress much warmer than you think is necessary...and have fun! :)

26 January 2011

Playing Catch-Up

Number of blog posts started in the last week but not posted (or even halfway complete): 3

Number of hours I spent on the phone for work yesterday: 2 and 1/2 (with only about a 15 minute break in the middle). Did I feel like I was melting into a pile of blahness in my chair after being on the phone for so long? Yes.

State of our house: eh, not terrible but definitely not ideal (see birthday cooking mess below)

Birthdays: Bro-in-law's bday was last week...and his card is still on my desk...hopefully he knows we didn't forget about his birthday all together, it took us over a week to decide what to get him.

Hubs' bday was yesterday and a success, I think :) Although one present won't be here until Thursday. I'm telling myself that just means he gets to stretch the celebration out for the whole week! And here's the aftermath of cooking three meals plus a cake yesterday:

Whittled it down to just a few dishes last night, yay! 
PS - Do you see the lack of counter space I'm dealing with? I knew it wasn't much, but seeing this picture made it stand out even more. There's not really much available space on the other side of the kitchen either unless there are no clean or dirty dishes (no dishwasher, sigh). Also, now I feel compelled to do a post about how much we love our house because we really do. But when you live in a house that's almost 102 years old you have to put up with some annoyances of the things that give it character.

On a happier note - some other birthday highlights from yesterday:

Happy Birthday Hubs! You're awesome and I wish I could've
given you the day off of work yesterday for your bday! I'm especially thankful you 
were born because I got the best husband anyone could hope for out of the deal!

No icing on the cake due to icing failure
FYI almond extract is not always a good substitute for vanilla extract. 

Rather than mush together bits and pieces of three unfinished posts into one (you're welcome) I'll try to just wrap up with my new cleaning strategy. I say try because I'm finding that I have a terribly hard time staying on topic when I write! Guess Hubs is right about my train of thought being all over the place when we're talking :/

I don't like doing dishes, therefore the kitchen is rarely spotless. I don't really have a good excuse for the rest of the house. So I have a new game plan. I'm hoping that by putting it on the internet I'll stick to it because if it's on the internet, it must be true. Hah.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Spend 20 minutes each evening picking up clutter and just generally tidying up the place.

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
Dishes. Do them. 

Alternate between vacuuming and moping/cleaning tub and toilet.

So I'll let you know if this pans out. I'm hoping to have a sparkling house from now on and live happily ever after :) I think I can still get the happily ever after either way and we'll just have to see what happens with the sparkling house.

24 January 2011

Grab Ball Toy

So there's a chance this is old news to some people, but somebody recently showed me a grab ball they made. I promptly started scouring the internet to find it, and found the pattern...for free! Here's the link: Grab Ball Tutorial. The tutorial was a little confusing at some points for me, but I'm also pretty new to sewing. A little tip if you want to save time (read: you're lazy and/or some steps in sewing patterns seem pointless and time consuming) here are a couple things I skipped. I didn't press any seams, actually I rarely ever press any seams on anything. I guess it's a wonder the stuff I make even turns out. I also didn't trim any of the corners off. I mean what's the point of that really? You're going to stuff the thing, so what's a little extra fabric on the inside? I used the plump version of the pattern. Here's how mine turned out!

I used snuggle fabric, which made for a very soft and snuggly ball. It was a little harder to work with though since it was so plush. If you want to avoid extra hassle and LOTS of fuzzies everywhere on everything that even thought about being near the fabric, you should go with something else. Sorry I didn't take more pictures during the process. If you want to imagine that I did, just picture that ball, not stuffed and in pieces, and little pieces of yellow fluff eeevverrrywhere (including my hair on one occasion).

It's a good project to do if you craft in spurts because you can just finish one section and easily come back to do another one later without having to figure out where you left off. Overall though I was thrilled with how it turned out. I'm thinking the plump version might be a little more forgiving if you make minor mistakes or your seams aren't totally straight because everything ends up smooshed together. I actually liked it so much I thought about making one for me and my husband. We don't have kids, but it is pretty fun to throw around...What? We had to test it to make sure it was safe (and fun) for the baby who's getting it as a gift. :)

22 January 2011

I ♥ Saturdays!

I know you're all dying to know about our Saturday routine (ha! probably not), but today I'm really relishing our Saturday so I thought I'd share. Here's the run-down:
  1. Wake up around 8:30ish. 
  2. Hubs goes for a run with a couple of his buddies from the run team, I check Facebook on my phone in bed until I feel like getting up. Then I head to the gym to hit the elliptical for 45ish minutes and watch my guilty pleasure...16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom. Terrible I know, but hey it's on the TV in front of the elliptical so it's not really my fault.
  3. Next is First Awakenings. What is First Awakenings, you ask? Only the best breakfast restaurant ever (possibly a slight exaggeration, but it's gotta be in the top 10 ever). I could probably write an entire blog just about this restaurant. We go every weekend. And we only eat out once a week, so obviously we like it enough to make it our one outing every week. We've been so many times the parking attendant knows us and just waves us through. They have pancakes the size of dinner plates and a breakfast burrito that's about a foot long. You can get three of those giganto pancakes for about $8. What a deal. Ok, I better stop because I really could go on for quite some time. We go with about 6-8 of our friends and...ahh...I feel good just thinking about it. :)
  4. We try to do some sort of fun thing/take advantage of living in a vacation city. Today was the aquarium. Thanks to my aunt for the membership, so we get to go for freee! (And not feel obligated to stay the. entire. day. because we only get to go once.) Short hikes are also popular, especially on days like today that are absolutely beautiful (68 and sunny today). Before you get too jealous, keep in mind we only saw the sun like once every 2 weeks during the summer, it was terrible and foggy and cold. Apparently winter makes up for it. 
  5. Then we're tired so we come back to the house and chill. Mess around on the computer (we're probably just too cute with our matching macs hehe). Now Hubs is taking a nap and I've been playing the Wii. 
  6. Commissary comes next (if we don't get lazy), but it closes at 7 so we don't have all day like we did when we shopped at Wally World.
  7. Not exactly sure what we'll do now that football season is over. As I was trying to remember what came after getting home from the grocery I realized it often included watching football on TV. Guess tonight will be a surprise!
So that's our Saturday. Even though I work from home, I still welcome the weekend with open arms because it is, after all, work even if I do get to stay in my jammies half of the work day. Thanks for letting me gush about loving where I'm at right now and our little weekend routine. :) I would probably be sewing right now, but the sewing machine is in our bedroom and I'm pretty sure Hubs would not be pleased if I went in and turned all the lights on to sew! I hope everyone has a lovely lovely rest of the weekend!

PS - as I was proofreading this, I thought of about 5 more things to say about First Awakenings, but I'll spare you. I'm starting to feel slightly bad since it isn't very likely you'll get to eat there anytime soon. Just know its really really good!

Here's what I'm linking up to this weekend if you want to check it out:

21 January 2011

Recap as promised

Well, I've been feeling uninspired and haven't really wanted to blog about Hearst Castle, but since I said I would I guess I must. Not that it wasn't interesting and fun because it definitely was both of those. So here's a very quick rundown -

2 1/2 hour drive down, filled with some really great scenery. Glad I wasn't driving :)

I'm constantly amazed at the different colors of the ocean. These two pictures are taken within an hour of each other.

 Mr. Hearst had lots and lots of mulah so he built a beautiful huge retreat in the mountains near the coast.

How would you like to have a pool like this?? And it was heated, can't get much better than that.

 Happy and thankful it was warm and sunny!

Only 40-something rooms in here...no big deal.

On our way down the mountain we got to enjoy the sunset :)

So that's the shortest tour of Hearst Castle ever. If you're ever in Central California, I recommend it (the actual tour, not my 5 minute version). It's a little pricey, but there's no shortage of cool things to see at that place. He had lots of antiques imported (like those columns at the pool...those are from the 1st century!) and the history they tell you about his life and the house (if you can even call it just a house) is really interesting. And he sounded like a nice guy and very hospitable, which makes (in my mind) the story that much better.

Ok, that's all I've got. I'm loving all the crafty blogs out there, so maybe I'll try out a new project soon!

19 January 2011

Valentine's Garland

If you haven't noticed, I'm into free or cheap inexpensive craft ideas. If I wasn't, I'd be spending wayyy too much money on doing crafty things. This particular idea cost me nothing. And lots of other creative people probably thought of this before me, but when I was trying to pack up the last of the Christmas stuff last night (I'm a little behind, I know) I had an idea to use up the tons of leftover candy canes we had laying around.

pile o' candy canes

If two candy canes are side by side, they naturally form a heart (or one backwards "r" and one forwards "r," but that's really not what I was going for with Valentine's day coming up). So I decided to make a garland for the mantle with candy cane hearts! Like I said before, novel idea to me, but I imagine it's probably been done before. So I got out the hot glue gun I got for Christmas (yay!) and assembled hearts.

  heart assembling - quick and easy, just 2 dots of glue

I suppose this is my attempt at being artsy after I finished assembling 
the canes - note: in case this wasn't obvious, leave the wrappers on. 
Nobody wants to deal with a sticky mess o' candy canes!

Next came the hanging...er...assembling and putting up the garland. I would love to say this part was super easy and took no time at all, but I don't think I'm very good at knots. So it wasn't super quick and easy, but it wasn't terrible either. I just used thread because I didn't want to see a big string. Using cute ribbon might be easier to tie and deal with, but I didn't have any cute valentiney ribbon on hand. I basically just looped the thread around the inside point and tied a knot so they wouldn't all slide down to the center. I ended up having the garland come back up to the mantle in the center because those candy cane hearts were surprisingly heavy and I was a little worried about my thread. I used clear packing tape to hold the tape up, so fancy, I know. Here's the finished product!

Please forgive my bare mantel, still transitioning after Christmas
(read - I don't really remember what I had on the mantle 
before Christmas, so I'm having trouble redecorating it)

Really, the possibilities are endless with the candy cane heart thing. One year I made cupcakes with mini candy cane hearts on top (definitely can't take credit for that idea, it was in Real Simple - I can't get enough of that magazine!). They were really cute, you unwrap them and melt them in the oven for a few minutes so they stick together and are a tad flatter. Bonus - go buy your mini candy canes after Christmas and get them for 75% off. If you happen to try that, use parchment paper or wax paper otherwise your pan is going to be in bad shape afterward! 

Later this week - highlights from last weekend's outing. 

16 January 2011

Super Easy Valentine's Day Project

And by super easy, I mean really. super. easy. And free! What more could you want in a project? I was wanting to sew and work on something crafty, but I was missing a few supplies for the other project I was in the middle of. So I decided to do something Valentiney since we don't really have many decorations for that holiday. Here's how it started:

Hand towel we bought when we got our house here before our stuff arrived, part of a shirt that I've been cutting up for various projects, heart cutout (from clipart on the computer), scissors, and totally useless fabric pencil. When I tried to trace the heart onto the shirt with said pencil it wasn't really working, so I tried harder and got a very faint line. After I cut on the line, I got the heart on the right:

Apparently all of that extra trying made me stretch the fabric a lot, so I gave up on the chalk pencil and just held the pattern on the fabric while I cut (not a good idea, I know). I cut out five hearts and then sewed them on. I told you, super easy :)

I made the hearts a little wider than would fit in a straight line, so I staggered and overlapped them a little. I did the bottom row first then added the top hearts. I didn't fold the edges under or anything, just sewed them right on. I kind of like the edges a little unfinished, I think it looks quaint. Here's the final product:

(I promise the edges are rounded on the tops of the hearts, since it's fairly thick terry cloth the hearts don't always lay completely flat)

I might still add smaller hearts inside the hearts that I already did, but I haven't decided yet. If you don't have much experience sewing (and really, even if you don't have a sewing machine), you could still do this project. Hand sewing seems tedious and slow now that I use a machine, but this wouldn't require a ton of stitches and you wouldn't have to make the stitches very close together. The first couple hearts were a little challenging around the curves (I'm still a newb on the sewing machine), but definitely doable. I also have a little disadvantage because my machine is about 50 years old and the knee pedal can be a little temperamental. Happy creating everybody :)

14 January 2011

Christmas Aftermath

So last night we finally took our Christmas tree down and to the curb. Apparently here they will just pick it up off the curb with your trash. How nice! First, let me address (make excuses) why we are just now doing this. We were out of town for a little over two weeks, so there was definitely no way for us to take it down/throw it away before January 3rd. Then I apparently lost all track of time for the last week two weeks. Yesterday I told Hubs I needed to remember to water our bonsai tree and he got this shocked/horrified look on his face. Here's how it played out:

Hubs: shocked look
Me: What's the big deal, our landlady watered them the day we got back and it's only been a wee.....
Hubs: It's been 2 weeks.
Me: ...... *eyes get wider* ......  I need to water the plants!

Not sure where one of those weeks went, but I'm starting to get way off topic. Back to the tree excuses. This is only the second year I've ever had a real tree and I had NO IDEA how many needles it could/would shed if it died. Last year the tree didn't stick around in our apartment as long because we had Christmas on the 5th, Hubs left for basic training, and I moved in with his parents shortly after that. Ok, I'm done making excuses. We waited forever to get rid of the tree and then witnessed half of our tree leave itself between the tree stand and the front door on its way out. 

And now....my first attempt at making a movie in iMovie!

-sorry it's on YouTube instead of directly on the blog, the blog apparently did not like my video and didn't want to upload it-
Hope you enjoyed, it's definitely not perfect but I'm ok with it for a first try. That was the life of our Christmas tree in a nutshell...minus it's life on a tree farm and riding back on top of our car from Home Depot. Sorry I didn't turn more lights on for the video, it was late so I just grabbed my camera and didn't bother setting anything up. We, along with the help of our hand vac and vacuum, probably scooped up at least a grocery bag full of needles. The black areas on the top 2 or 3 stairs, yeah those are needles, not just a shadow!

A word to the wise: don't leave your Christmas tree up for eight weeks. It will not live, and you will have a big mess.

11 January 2011


I can't remember now what exactly gave me the idea to make a socktopus for my cousin for Christmas, but at some point I decided it would be the perfect gift. You may still be thinking, "Socktopus...what in the world is that??" That's perfectly normal because I haven't seen a whole lot of socktopi floating around.

A socktopus (plural: socktopi - hey I get to create the plural form if I made it up, right?) is based on the concept of a sock monkey, but it's an octopus instead of a monkey...I'm thinking that last part might have been obvious by now, but there you have it in case you were still wondering.

I wish now I had taken pictures during the process, so I could make sort of a tutorial. Unfortunately, I can be a little overly focused when I'm making something and the fact that I might want to remember how to do it later / blog about how I made it didn't even enter my mind at the time. I started with four new pairs of socks. It was a little tricky trying to find cute knee socks in boyish colors, but it worked out in the end. I used fairly thin socks, and it might work out a little better if you can find thicker socks to use. The socktopus will probably feel sturdier with thicker socks.

Ok, now that I've started writing steps two different times and ended up erasing them I realize it's a little too complicated for a short blog post. Basically I used the tube part of all of the socks for legs - you get 2 legs per tube. For the body, I attached two feet from one pair of socks. I left one of the socks I used for the head completely intact (meaning I didn't cut the tube off, so those two legs were already attached to the body). Then I stuffed everything and attached everything. I used a book on how to make sock monsters that Hubs got me a couple years ago to figure out how to make the mouth.

So there's the very quick and dirty explanation. :) Confused? Well I would be if I hadn't made the thing! If you want to know how to make it, I can give you a more detailed explanation. It really isn't that hard because I had only used my sewing machine a few times before I did this. Hopefully everyone hasn't totally given up on me at this point because now I'll finally get around to pictures!

Just chillin' in my office chair.

Socktopus waiting to be wrapped for Christmas.

Thankfully, the present was a hit. Although I'm not sure who liked it more, my cousin or everybody else. Hard to say since he can't talk yet, but I'll take the slobbering all over socktopus' head as a good sign!

10 January 2011


I finally finished our wedding scrapbook...hopefully I'm not the only one who took a year and a half to finish something like that. I actually only had about four pages left for the last several months. In my defense we've had a lot happen in the year and a half since we got married -- After we married and honeymooned, Hubs got all of his stuff moved into the apartment. It seemed like once we finally settled into a routine Hubs decided to join the Air Force (and by Hubs I don't mean that I had no input because I did). Anyway, when he left for basic a few months later I moved in with his parents, then stayed with my parents for a few weeks after his graduation. I had all of these plans for tons of things I would get accomplished while he was gone with all of the extra time I would have, but I didn't seem to have much extra time. A lot of that "extra" time must've been eaten up by letter-writing when I wasn't at work (ok, and sometimes when I was at work). So basically that whole tangent is just to say that I was planning on finishing the wedding scrapbook when Hubs was at basic, but I don't think I even got the scrapbook out between all of the moving and letter-writing. Then we moved from Tennessee to California (no big deal...ha!). I can hardly believe we've almost been in California for a year, it really only seems about half that long!

Speaking of where we live, we ventured out on a hike last weekend. We went to Jacks Peak (don't know why it isn't Jack's Peak, but oh well). Hubs had been on a run there before, but didn't really get to take in all of the scenery. Jacks Peak is the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula and it has some awesome views! Thankfully it was mostly clear when we first got there. Who knew that in "sunny" California it would be foggy most of the time? Not me. But my issues with the weather here are a whole different story! We enjoyed each other's company, as always, and really enjoyed figuring out what spots we were looking at through the binoculars. I'm kind of glad we waited until now to go up there since we have a pretty good sense of where things are and what they look like now. Here are a few pictures from our hike: 

 Toward Monterey, Seaside, and Marina

Other half of Monterey and maybe a little of Pacific Grove

This is from the top, it was pretty bright outside 
so the scenery below is a little washed out

If you ever happen to be in the Monterey area, this is a pretty cool hike if it's clear. And have no fear, if you aren't very into hiking/aren't in great shape you can park almost at the top (you just have to pay 4 or 5 bucks). If you park lower, there's definitely more walking, but it's free and the first picture is from where we parked so the views there aren't too shabby either! I hope everybody had a good weekend. I think I've just set a record -- two blog posts in the span of a week. :-o We'll see if I can keep it up!

07 January 2011

I'm a terrible blogger

Not quite as bad at blogging as I am at video games (at least that's what I'm telling myself), but really bad. I seem to only be able to blog in spurts, and whenever I see a really cool blog I think, "Wow, I should do that!" And I try to figure out how in the world they make their blogs so cool, but I usually give up after a few unsuccessful attempts. Maybe it will get better, but if you've somehow stumbled on my little blog lately...sorry it's bordering on pathetic.

We had a great trip the last two weeks to visit our families. We'd been counting down for months, and were so excited to see everyone! I met one of my cousins for the first time, and we got to reconnect with lots of friends we hadn't seen in almost a year. My high hopes for this particular post are already fizzling because the plumber came to fix our bathtub and totally derailed my train of thought. Crossing my fingers for a high quality post coming soon! I've been excited about sewing lately, so maybe I can share some projects I've worked on recently :)