Friday, June 29, 2012

Independence Day Wreath

With Tropical Storm Debby hovering over the Tampa Bay area, I was forced to finally acknowledge that I still had my Christmas wreath up. It's not being lazy, I just didn't have anything else to put up until Halloween. So I decided to take my soggy Christmas wreath down and come up with something for the fast approaching Independence Day holiday. I came up with this simple wreath for less than $1.  Yep...that's right.  Under a dollar!
While picking up some supplies at the local box hardware store, I snagged some pipe insulation for 78 cents. I had some duct tape already and of course I knew I had some scrap red, white, and blue yarn. I just simply single crocheted around the ring.
Add some felt stars and voila! A very inexpensive door decoration. It's nothing fancy, but very patriotic. Now my Christmas wreath can dry out and take a break for a few months. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's for Dinner Wednesday - Meatloaf

I've heard that the best recipes are the ones in your head that you don't have to look up. I'm not sure I agree with that because my head is always so full of stuff that I can't remember how much of each ingredient to put in. That could be a problem - ha! However, I don't think I have ever made meatloaf the same way twice. It started with a recipe and then just grew from there.

Meatloaf is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. Usually that dislike stems from a bad experience with a poor serving. I've had some pretty bad meatloaf myself, but I won't mention where it came. Not too long ago, my mom bought me a meat loaf pan and now I really like meatloaf even more.
It has these ridges in the bottom of the pan and little holes for the excess grease to drain into a nested pan under it. This makes all the difference in the world. I can't stand greasy food. Plus, with the grease gone, you are left with a moist meatloaf that doesn't fall apart when you serve it. There are several versions that you can find in stores and online. Even Rachel Ray has one.
Rachel Ray Oven Lovin Meatloaf Pan
So, are you ready for my meatloaf recipe?

Sweet 'N Savory Meatloaf
1lb ground beef (I use whichever has the least amount of fat)
1 can Rotel
3/4 cup Oats
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all together and place in meatloaf pan (don't grease it!)

Glaze Topping (increase as needed to cover your loaf)
1 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Mix together and spread over top of your meatloaf

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Remove Aluminum from Oven

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was going to finally get the oven cleaned? Well, I finally did. Let me start at the beginning. Not too long ago, we got a new oven. So pretty! One day, I thought I was being smart by lining the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil to catch the spills on a particularly messy dish. What I didn't know was that newer oven models have a heating element in the bottom. Oops. So, my trying to keep my oven nice backfired. The aluminum foil adhered to the bottom of oven. 
I managed to get some of it up, but a lot of it remained. I tried everything on it, but nothing would get it up. Then I found something on the web and I thought it was worth a try.
How to Remove Aluminum from Bottom of Oven
The next challenge was finding the materials to do this. I looked at Wal-Mart and Publix, but they didn't carry it. I finally found what I needed at Home Depot. The solution? Drano Kitchen Crystals. Who would have thought?

I just sprinkled some into the bottom of the oven.
Then poured in a little water.
You can see how the chemicals are reacting to the aluminum foil.
Before you know it, this stuff really starts going! It's kind of pretty, don't you think?
Be forewarned, this IS a chemical reaction so you need to take precautions. You should wear gloves (oops, I didn't) and make sure you have plenty of ventilation. I started the exhaust fan up before I put in the crystals. It's not horrible, but it does smell like ammonia and does smoke up a little. Just don't go putting your head in the oven. Also, with the reaction, the water really heats up, so be careful in the next few steps. 

I used a wooden skewer to push the solution around to be sure all the aluminum was up and then poured some vinegar in to neutralize the chemicals.
Use paper towels to sop up the mess (I did remember to use gloves here) and then dispose of them promptly. I bagged mine up and put in the trash outside to remove all lingering smells. I then used a solution of vinegar and baking soda to really clean it all out.
Much better, don't you think? There are still dark marks where the aluminum adhered to the metal, but I can live with that. You just never know what you can discover on the Internet, so get out there and find something new!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Debby Does Tampa Bay

When I was a kid living in Colorado, there was a big controversy of a topless doughnut shop called "Debbie Does Doughnuts" which was playing off the "Debbie does..." porn movies. It's so fitting that the tropical storm we have been dealing with in the Tampa Bay area is named Debby. She's just sitting out there in the gulf, not really moving. It's all the news channels are talking about, but it's not really a big deal. Hopefully, it will run it's course and just move on without causing any real harm.

Saturday gave us about 3 inches of rain in the afternoon, with a little wind. Sunday, however, really let it pour. By mid-afternoon, we had 4 inches in the rain gauge.
My poor Crape Myrtle is just drooping from the weight of the rain. 
I'm sure all this standing water is going to breed tons of bugs in a few days. My poor yard is so saturated that it's starting to resemble a pond.
At the end of the day, it's time to empty the gauge again. 8 inches and still counting. The forecast is calling for three more days of the same. Good thing I took swimming lessons as a kid. Too bad I can't share some of this with my friends and family in Colorado. You all are more than welcome to some of it! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gala Cosplay

Pinkamena decided to attend the MetroCon Gala in her new dress. All I can say is that I'm glad it's over. I don't mind sewing, but making these costumes without a pattern is not my cup of tea. It's hard enough to teach someone to sew WITH a pattern. Not to mention that K1 swore she wouldn't make another costume. I knew she was lying when she said it the first three times and I said it before here.
This time it started with her drawing.
We started with the top. It began as a tube top, but turned into a tank top when she remembered how awkward she felt in the last costume without straps. Let me tell you...making stripes diagonal is no easy task!
After deciding that fur would be too hot and itchy, we went with a soft tulle around the neckline and finished it off with a stuffed bow.
A simple bow was added to the shoe, which already had a bow on top. I'm glad knit doesn't fray, because I was getting tired of finishing all the edges off and we were running out of time.
Luckily, K1 was able to work on her little candy details while I wrestled the scallops.
She made these cute little candy corns out of felt.
Aren't these lollipops just darling?
And here is the scalloped edge. I actually ended up drawing her lines with chalk and letting her sew it together.
These scallops were a little easier since I just made them using small vertical gathers.
Don't you just love these little candies I crocheted? I found the pattern by accident while browsing the Ravelry site. You can find the pattern hereWell, it came down to the wire, but we finished it in time for the Gala.
She swears she's done with making costumes...yeah, right. I don't believe it this time either.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TOT Training Week 12

It's officially summer, but I think the weather showed up to that party a bit early. Every day it just keeps getting hotter and our traditional afternoon shower pattern has arrived. We need the rain, but it can get heavy and be accompanied by lightening. Plus the humidity only increases when the rain hits the hot pavement. 

I am now in week 12 of training for the runDisney Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-milerI have successfully completed two 5.5 mile runs. Actually, the last one was pretty good. I used the roller before the run, got out 30 minutes earlier (to beat the heat) and felt really good. I wish I could say the same about my 2 mile run earlier this week. Not what I would have expected, but the weather really plays a crucial role in my running.

More good news this week. I finally have my thyroid levels under control and I also have brought my cholesterol levels into normal status WITHOUT medication. I was warned that my thyroid disorder could wreak havoc on my cholesterol numbers even if I was careful with my diet, so this was an unexpected surprise. Keeping the healthy diet and sticking with the running program seem to be what works for me.

This weekend will be the increase to 6 miles. I think I need to find a better route, because my current one isn't the mileage I thought it was and I hate adding on at the end. It's too tempting to quit early, so I need to finish when I hit home. No more rounding the block again. I found some other useful tips online. Go here to check them out. Do you have any useful tips of your own? Post your comment below...I'd love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Honey Garlic Chicken

If you like flavor then this is the chicken for you! All I can say is W O W. I was so glad that I found this recipe. It might be a tad on the spicy side, but the flavor is so amazing that I may only cut back slightly for the kids' sake. They liked it as well, but you could tell that it was a little overwhelming for their pallets. Otherwise, it was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
Photo from Rock Recipes
Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken Breasts
4  large boneless chicken breasts

Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and using a meat mallet, pound the meat to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Alternatively, you can slice the breasts by placing them flat on a cutting board and using a very sharp knife to slice them into halves horizontally.

Sift together:
2 cup flour
4 tsp salt
4 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Make an egg wash by whisking together:
4 eggs
8 tbsp water 

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dip the meat in the flour and spice mixture. Dip the breast into the eggwash and then a final time into the flour and spice mix, pressing the mix into the meat to get good contact. 

Heat a skillet on the stove with about a half inch of canola oil covering the bottom. You will want to carefully regulate the temperature here so that the chicken does not brown too quickly. The thinness of the breast meat practically guarantees that it will be fully cooked by the time the outside is browned. I find just below medium heat works well. I use a burner setting of about 4 1/2 out of 10 on the dial and fry them gently for about 4 or 5 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.

Drain on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before dipping the cooked breasts into the Honey Garlic Sauce. Serve with noodles or rice.

Honey Garlic Sauce
In a medium saucepan add:

2 tbsp olive oil
3 – 4 cloves minced garlic

Cook over medium heat to soften the garlic but do not let it brown. Add:

1 cup honey
¼ cup soya sauce (low sodium soya sauce is best)
1 tsp ground black pepper

Simmer together for 5-10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Watch this carefully as it simmers because it can foam up over the pot very easily.

Head on over to Rock Recipes for more great ideas!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crocheted Hot Pad

Yesterday I was blindsided when I went for my annual physical. Somehow, my records were actually looked at and they discovered that I had not had a tetanus shot in 12 years. There was no escaping it. Plus, with the outbreak of pertussis in our county, they decided I needed the full DTP vaccination. Yea me. "It's going to hurt," they told me. Duh.
I managed to make it through the rest of the work day, but the pain was bad enough that I didn't feel like doing anything that required me to move my arm AT ALL. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to learn a new crochet stitch as I only need one hand to do that.
Recently, I pinned a new pattern to my Pinterest Crochet board. The idea is to create a double thickness hot pad in one stitch. Kathleen @ Miss Abigail's Hope Chest does a great job explaining the stitch and provides images to help you along. In fact, the instructions were clear enough that I was able to pick it right up and not tear out any bad stitches. I think I might even use this style to create some place mats. Want to try it for yourself? Go here. Be sure tell her hello from me!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Egg Cooker

We aren't HUGE egg fans, but when I need hard boiled eggs the last thing I want to do is stand over a stove and then wreck my fingers peeling them. When the Eggies came out, I thought, hmmm...maybe this will work.
Folks, don't waste your money on this one. It was awkward, messy, and didn't work very well at all. If all you are going to do is chop them up, it might be ok. They sure as heck do not look pretty when you take them out and there are a ton of pieces. Too much!
For my anniversary this year, my mom and kids got me the Cuisinart Egg Cooker. I was skeptical at first after the Eggies. You have to pierce the eggs with a little tool that is attached to the water measuring cup. I just knew I was going to crack the eggs and make a mess, but I didn't. It requires very little water (a few tablespoons, depending on how many eggs you are making) and you don't have to watch it to make sure it doesn't boil over. 
It was quick, easy, AND they were easy to peel.  No more torn up eggs! I fell in love instantly. Clean up was a breeze until...
I dropped the lid, while drying it, on my porcelain tile. For those of you who don't have tile, be assured that anything you drop on it will shatter. I contacted Cuisinart that day and asked if I could just purchase a replacement handle. I was surprised that they would only sell me the entire lid for $15. I think I will come up something else, but I'm a little disappointed that they couldn't be a little more accommodating. However, I am still pleased with the product and plan to continue to use it. I'm even thinking about trying to make Eggs Benedict for the first time. Who knows?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's for Dinner Wednesday - Slow Cook Ribs

As busy as I am, I'm always on the lookout for a good crock pot meal. This one wasn't half bad. I like sweet BBQ ribs more than I do smokey ones, so this recipe fit the bill. I found it on If you have never checked their site out, you really should. There are tons of ideas and readers leave comments with tweaks to the recipes to make them even better.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs

4 pounds pork baby back ribs
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups ketchup
1 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Season ribs with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan. Brown in oven 15 minutes. Turn over, and brown another 15 minutes; drain fat.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Place ribs in slow cooker. Pour sauce over ribs, and turn to coat.
Cover, and cook on Low 6 to 8 hours, or until ribs are tender.

Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shake It!

I love going to the mall. It's my favorite place. Ok, if you believe that, have I got a deal for you (ha ha)! There really isn't any place I wouldn't rather be than the mall, but there are times when I have to suck it up and go. Lucky for me, this little jaunt has a silver lining. A shake shop!
You can smell the sugar when you step in the door, which made me a little nervous and slightly dizzy. Or that could be partly from the bright pink and yellow decor.
Just about every topping you could ever imagine and endless combinations. You can even choose yogurt instead of ice cream.
All the shakes are made to order, so the girls love that
there are games available while they wait.
I think she likes it, too. Even I had to admit the fresh fruit was amazing. However, the shake wasn't the biggest hit of the outing.
If she could have got away with taking him home she would have. *sigh* Maybe she'll outgrow this fascination. Soon.