Thai Spicy Curry Chicken

This chicken curry is very easy to prepare, and tastes just like the curries you can order at Thai restaurants. As an added bonus -- you can make it all in one pot, so it's easy to clean up afterwards. It's even better the next day after the flavors have blended. This is best served with steamed white Jasmine or Bismati rice.
INGREDIENTS:

1.5 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons green curry paste (may make adjustments to your taste)
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 (8 ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup julienned carrots
2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small can pineapples, diced
1 zucchini, cubed
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

Over medium heat, whisk coconut milk and curry paste together in a large saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in chicken broth, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, pineapples, carrots and chicken. Season with fish sauce and basil. Simmer for 10 more minutes, or until chicken is cooked, yet still tender.

Yields 6 servings

Notes:

  • Add tomatoes or potatoes if desired.

Indian Naan Bread

This is a yeast raised East Indian flat bread with a chewy texture. We eat it with indian foods to cut down on the heat (spice) and to soak up the yummy sauces. Sometimes, if it's cooled off (the bread from the oven), I'll fry it a bit in a pan with a bit of hot olive oil. It leaves a great crisp texture to the outside while leaving the inside soft and chewy.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt, room temperature
1/2 cup melted butter
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put warm water in a small bowl, add sugar and yeast and stir until dissolved. Set aside for 5-10 minutes or until it foams.

Blend in the warm milk, yogurt and melted margarine. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds. Pour in the yeast/milk mixture all at once and work it into the flour, using your hands. Continue mixing, adding flour or water as needed, until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl.

Knead for 6 to 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand in a warm place to rise for about 4 hours or until doubled in volume.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees F (285 degrees C) or your oven's highest setting and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a large pizza pan or iron griddle on the rack and preheat. Also preheat the broiler.

Punch the dough down and knead briefly. Divide into six pieces and shape them into balls. Place them on an oiled plate and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let balls rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Roll out and stretch each ball until it is about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. Remove the pizza pan from the oven, brush with oil and place one of pieces of bread on it.

Bake at 550 degrees F (285 degrees C) for about 4 to 5 minutes until bread is puffed and has brown spots, then transfer to a wire rack, returning pizza pan to oven to keep hot. Place bread under broiler until 'charcoal' dots appear on the surface. Wrap finished bread in a towel while baking the remaining loaves. (If your pizza pan is big enough, try baking two loaves at the time.)

CHA is right around the corner...

I know. Really I do. You're tired of reading about CHA. Tough. I'm going to keep writing, so if you don't want to read about it today, you can click right over to your next blog. :)

Seriously, CHA.... fun fun fun! I've even second guessed myself on my choice to not attend this year. Part of me is dissapointed, but the other part (and slightly larger part) satisfied with the decision. There are a lot of companies coming out with incredibly fabulous products (or at least I think they'll be fabulously incredible - time will be the determining factor though). Here's a synopsis of the things I'm looking most forward to seeing, hearing, and reading about:

Maya Road: Of course, I'm biased. I've been able to play with most of the fun new stuff and have already formed an opinion (and an addition to) them. Maya Road is releasing an abundance of fabulous new products which include more chipboard albums, more sheers (paisley, anyone?), new acrylic stamps (more about them in a minute), new rubons (paisleys, hearts, and more!), new velvet stitched ribbons, new velvet die cut ribbons, AND... velvet flowers. Seriously awesome stuff. One of the coolest things about one of the MR stamps is that they are made to FIT the MR Foundations Chipboard. Yes, FIT them. Brilliant move on Deb's part to design that into the plan!

Luxe Designs: Surely, anything associated or inspired by 'Sex in the City' has to be good - right? Obviously, having a team mostly based in DFW (Kelli E. isn't here) adds to the coolness factor. I love that they've been doing sneak peeks on their blog each day leading up to CHA. I am very excited to see what this incredible team has up thier sleeves - and I can't wait to get their products into my hot little hands to play with!

Junkitz: Seriously - Teresa's Extreme Boy line looks so unbelievably cool. I can't wait to get my hands on it and create something out of the crazy photos I have of Thomas. I can't wait for Micheal to do something crazy so I can scrap fun photos of him too! The other two lines being released (Salsa Celebration by Stacey Panassidi and Be Fanciful by Janna) are beautiful too! They both offer something to every scrapper.

Technique Tuesday: As you well know, stamps hold a tender spot in my heart. Technique Tuesday stamps are one of my favorites. Their creative team always has something fun and exciting to share at these events (and of course I always HAVE to have each set).

Basic Grey: If you look at their papers, you'll fall in love too! All of their lines are gorgeous, and their products are fabulous. They're SO good that they're often imitated.

Autumn Leaves: Due to my affection for all things Foof-a-La, and Rhonna's acrylic stamps I'll be scouring the boards for every glimpse of new products from both of these teams. Foof-a-La isn't just a product line you know, it's an attitude.


Whoops.... there's more to share, but gotta get back to work!

P.S. The tile dudes arrived and our house is in full update mode! Photos later!

Maya Road Sneak Peeks

Okay gals, so starting today, you'll be able to find some fun sneak peeks of the new Maya Road CHA Winter product releases sprouting up on various message boards and blogs. Today, all of the designers will be sharing a canvas that we each designed of ourselves. Everyone started with the same 9"x12" canvas, was asked to include their name and a photo of themselves. Other than that, we were given free reign as to what products to use. Of course, it's a given that we'll use our favorite Maya Road products. On it, I've used two of the new products that are being released, in addition to some of my all time favorites!


Edited to Add: dag nabbit! For some reason blogger isn't letting me add photos from my work computer. Check back later today to see it - I'll try to get it uploaded from another computer at lunch or later tonight!!

Oooooh the Joys...

Warning: Lots of updating going on. It’s going to be a LONG post – so consider yourself warned!

In case you haven’t been affected – there’s a cold spell going around. Texas has been converted into an ice box, and people just don’t know how to handle it. Up here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, schools closed and/or are on major delays, offices are closing and some are staying open just to see who makes it in. Grocery shelves are bare – who knew that Cinnamon Toast Crunch was such a cold weather necessity!

The first of the north Texas storms started coming in last Saturday. It was just lots of rain and very cold winds. The problems started when the temperatures dropped at night, causing everything to start freezing. Sunday, it was still very cold and wet, but things were thawed out. Monday however, brought us LOTS of cold, hard rain. Tuesday was full of the same, so by the time Wednesdays chill arrived the weather was pure misery. The water hadn’t had time to evaporate yet, and everything was frozen. Bridges, overpasses, streets, sidewalks, doors, locks, windshields – everything was coated with ice.

When I first heard of the impending storm, I thought of Ohio winters. If an Ohio winter storm ever hit Texas, people would end up in mental institutions out of fright and worry. Seriously. It’s not so unusual to get 12” of snow in one night and not have schools cancelled or delayed. Everything runs just as normal, and they survive. Amazing isn’t it? Fortunately, things have finally started thawing out.

Yesterday, my co-worker team of about 60+ employees was reduced to 11. Nice, eh? There are some days where living 5 miles from work is not a positive thing. I would love to have been able to stay home and enjoy a "snow" day (err... make that ice day!) for once! Today, things seem to have thawed out. Everyone is back at work and life is chugging along.

With all of this cold, wet and otherwise yucky weather going on, I spent my birthday indoors (for the most part. I did manage to make it to church!), warm and toasty. We had a lovely dinner of beef and vegetable soup – crock pot style (still it remains the most used wedding gift!) accompanied by fresh bread. It was perfect for such a cold day, even if it was my birthday, and even if I had to cook it myself. Steve would have taken me to dinner, but quite honestly, it was TOO cold (I’m really turning into a Texas girl and leaving my Ohio girl behind!) and I didn’t want to get out of my warm, toasty, comfy clothes! I requested a rain check for dinner – it’ll be great to have for another day when I want to go out and he doesn’t!

My birthday was delightful – even with the nasty weather. I was able to catch up on some television shows I hadn’t seen yet, play in my studio, and work with some awesome new products that will be “released” next week at CHA.

Some of you have asked if I would be attending CHA-Winter this year, and I’ve decided not to. Attending as an independent Designer is a little bit different than attending as a retailer or as an exhibitor (i.e. service provider or manufacturer). I would be there to promote myself, my design capabilities, and work towards obtaining additional design contracts and work. Exhibitors are there to showcase their product lines to retailers and other sales force. Rather than taking their sales time up with my self promotion, I’m going to stay home and work on other ways to showcase my portfolio. I’m sure I’ll regret my decision when I hear of all the incredible new products that were released, and that I could have played with (or at least seen for myself). But, I’m okay with it.

My work will still be seen at CHA, although some of it will be un-credited. As a ‘public’ member of the Maya Road Design Team, you’ll be able to recognize my name and work in their booth – in addition to the other members of our incredible team. (Seriously, there’s some really fun and exciting stuff coming out there!) My work will also be displayed with other exhibitors, only without my name. That’s one of the great things about freelancing design work. I get to play with and enjoy using products, and using stock photos, but my name is not always attached to the project. For some, it’s not a great route to travel – but for me, it’s great and the arrangement works out well for us both.

By the way, sneak peeks of the new Maya Road CHA-Winter product releases start TODAY! Keep your eyes open! I’ll start sharing later today!

By the way, don't forget to check the Maya Road Design Team blog! Lots of great ideas were shared by the design team!

Super Bowl Chili

This is a hearty and spicy chili that is sure to hit the spot at a Super Bowl Party or on a cold winter's night. The key is in using name brand tomato soup; I have tried it with others but haven't gotten the same results. Your friends will never guess the secret ingredient. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 (10.75 ounce) cans Campbell’s condensed tomato soup
1(14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 - 5 tablespoons chili powder (depending on your personal taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 (15.5 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained (optional)
Cayenne pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Crumble the ground beef into a soup pot over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Drain off most of the grease. Add onion, red pepper flakes, and half of the cumin; cook and stir until onion is tender.

Pour in the tomato soup, chicken broth, and crushed tomatoes. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Pour in the beans, and season with remaining cumin and cayenne pepper; simmer for another 30 minutes. Now enjoy.

NOTES:

  • To cook this recipe in a crock-pot, just cook the meat and onions in a fry pan, and then add everything to the crock-pot. Great for pot lucks served with grated cheddar and oyster crackers
  • To try a different twist, add mild Italian sausage, or a hot sausage with the ground beef.
  • If you like a thinner chili, add an extra can of chicken stock.
  • For you Bulk Cooking fans - this recipe also freezes very well!

Amusement Park Cornbread

A good friend, who always has tasty food to share, gave me this recipe. I'm sure glad she did! It's SO good! It reminds me of good ole' home cooking southern style. It's a cake-y cornbread and is quite sweet but is quite delicious too! Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ cup cornmeal
1 1/3 cups milk

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8 inch cast iron skillet (see notes if you don't have a cast iron skillet).

In a large bowl, beat together sugar, salt, butter and vanilla until creamy. Stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cornmeal. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with the milk. Beat well until blended.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

NOTES:
  • If you don't have an 8" cast iron skillet, there are other options you can use. This recipe will make an 9"x9" square (baked at 375 for about 30 minutes), 6 jumbo muffins (baked at 400 degrees for 25 minutes), 12 regular sized muffins ( baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes), or a 9"x13" pan.
  • Try adding 1/2 cup of canned corn for a different tasty twist!
  • If you are gluten deficient, or have gluten problems you can still make this recipe! Use Oat Flour instead of the regular white flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthum Gum to hold it together (Oat Flour has no gluten). Bake it in an 8"x8" glass dish (be sure to grease it before putting in the batter).

Crack Up!!

My friend Heather posted this to her blog. It totally cracked me up! Don't you just love that silly diva pose? Those tree vines were not cooperative! :)


Cincinnati Style Chili

Before I moved to Texas, I live in Ohio. I fell in love with a restaurant called "Skyline Chili." Their chili is known as Cincinnati style and can be found all over southern Ohio. It is an unusual no-bean chili made with ground beef, cinnamon, cloves and unsweetened chocolate in a beef and tomato base. This is definitely NOT a traditional chili - it's more of a sauce. It's also awesome served over hotdogs or french fries.
It is best served over hot, drained spaghetti noodles with shredded cheddar cheese (also known as a Three-Way). Following are the traditional Cincinnati ways to serve your chili:
Two- Way: Spaghetti Noodles and Chili
Three-Way: Spaghetti Noodles, Chili, and Cheese
Four-Way: Spaghetti Noodles, Chili, Cheese, and Diced Onions
Five-Way: Spaghetti Noodles, Chili, Cheese, Diced Onions, and Kidney Beans

INGREDIENTS:
2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat both cans of beef broth in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add ground beef, breaking the beef up into small pieces as you put it into the broth. Using a spoon stir the beef to keep breaking it up into tiny pieces. Cook the ground beef in the broth until the beef turns to a solid color. Add onions, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, chocolate, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and red pepper. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

At this point you can serve it, however it is best if you refrigerate it overnight allowing for the flavors to blend and the sauce to thicken up.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve or reheat gently over medium heat.

NOTES:

  • If your chili isn’t as thick as you would like it, uncover the pot for last half hour and add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken.
  • If your beef pieces still aren’t tiny enough, put the chili into a food processor or blender to help.
  • For you bulk cooking fans - this recipe freezes well!

They say it's my Birthday....

I always think of this Beatles song when I hear someone say "I hear it's your birthday!" It always cracks me up for some reason too!

No, it's not my birthday, but it is coming up this weekend. My coworkers went all out for me this year - and it's been such fun! My desk is decorated with balloons, banners, and is loaded with tasty treats sure to destroy anyone's New Years resolution to avoid sweets or baked goods.
They took me to lunch at Anamia's - a local Tex Mex restaurant in Southlake. (Though we won't be going again for office birthdays. They stopped taking reservations and won't let us do call ahead seating. Bummer for everyone. Them because they're going to lose our business. Bummer for us because they make the best table side guacamole I've ever had).
They also did something totally new to me. They call it a "Money Train/Badge". When I walked in this morning, they asked where my money train was. I, being totally clueless to what they were talking about, had the deer in headlights look going on. They started to explain it to me, and this is what I understand of it. Basically, before you leave the house your spouse pins a large bill $50 or $100 onto your shirt (jacket or sweater). Then, as the day goes on your coworkers, friends, family and/or strangers from off of the street see the money and add to it. My first thought? Seriously???? They assured me that is how it works. Seriously. It's strange to accept all of these bills (and checks! SERIOUSLY!) from everyone. I have quite the little badge going on and it's funner than I thought it would be!
Since Sunday is my actual birthday anniversary (and yes, I'm still 29! We're celebrating the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday!), we'll probably do most of the celebrating tonight (Steve doesn't have to work) or on Monday (I don't have to work!).
I get to go and hang out with a few of my favorite papercrafting gals at our favorite scrapping place (newly named the Scrapbook Pad) on Saturday night. Before hand though, I'll get to spend a bit of girly pampering time with my favorite local friend, Heather, getting pedicures (though I think I'm going to spoil myself and get a manicure too).
In other news...
Steve and I have gotten serious about selling our house. I love our house (well, mostly). We're in a high traffic street though (1,200 - 1,500 cars a day). A lot of new development is getting ready to start happening on our road (they expect upwards of 3,500 - 4,500 cars a day on our street). It took me close to 15 minutes just to back out of my driveway to leave for work - and construction hasn't even started yet. So, I've started to agree with what Steve's been trying to say all along - there's going to be just to much traffic.
We've found a few houses we're intersted in looking at (all still in Roanoke) and we meet with the Realtor tonight to talk about our house, what we should do to it to get it into the best position for selling, and about what we want in our next home.
Steve's finally caught on that we'll need to get a small storage unit to load stuff in to while we're showing our house. We don't have a lot of stuff IMO (in my opinion), but the spare room closet is full, and my studio is also very full (but ORGANIZED!!!). They're both great rooms and need to be shown in the best possible light - so a storage unit it is.
It's scary, but exciting all at the same time!

Heather’s Healthier Cranberry Spinach Salad

This is a VERY popular salad with spinach, toasted almonds and bits of dried cranberries. The salad dressing is both sweet and tangy with sesame and poppy seeds. Though the original recipe is fairly low in fat and sugar - it was still too sweet for me. With a few minor adjustments, I was able to recreate the same taste and texture but with less fat and calories. "Spinach, toasted almonds and bits of dried cranberries are tossed together in a bowl and dressed with a sweet and tangy vinegar and oil dressing full of sesame and poppy seeds."

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup almonds, blanched and slivered
1 pound spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces (9 oz bag of baby spinach from your produce section works great)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup white sugar (Splenda worked great for us)
2 teaspoons minced onion (try grating it if you have eaters who don’t care for onions)
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ cup white wine vinegar (or other white vinegar)
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Toast the almonds quickly and without any fat! Put the almonds on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds on regular temperature. Move them around a bit and then microwave them for another 20 seconds. Let cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the toasted almonds and cranberries.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and vegetable oil.
4. Toss with spinach just before serving.

NOTES:

  • Try adding crushed sugared pecans.
  • This recipe is also fantastic with walnuts, pine nuts or pecans! Or you can also toast your nuts in oven: I just spread them on a baking sheet and baked them dry at 400 degrees for 5-8 min, watching to make sure they didn't burn. If all fails, I love using Almond Accents to save time.
  • Great additions to this salad would be crumbled bleu cheese, crumbled goat cheese, sliced strawberries (in lieu of the cranberries), crumbled bacon, or grilled chicken.
  • If you don’t have white vinegar, you can use all cider vinegar.

PSA: Check Your Pantry

Well, it's true. I was sick again. I had strep throat. Canyoubelieveit? [read that in a New Jersey accent/ Tony Soprano kind of voice] I declare, 2007 should be smooth sailing for me from here on out! I've had so many health/sick issues lately I deserve a break from myself.

Alrighty then though, onto my PSA (Public Service Announcement): Check your pantry! You might be shocked at what's in there beyond it's expiration or "best if used by" date. I know I was. My garbage men probably aren't going to be happy with me when they come next. Both of our cans weigh just short of a ton.

I don't remember what started my pantry check up, but it's amazing what I found. Seriously. I am a pantry person. I like having plenty of food in there. It's not just for emergencies (although it is a GREAT thing to have stocked pantry for), it's there so that I don't have to stress about what to cook for dinner. I know that I always have the ingredients I need available for some of my quick, never fail meals in my pantry. Not so anymore.

From canned foods (that I know I recently purchased - as in less than a month ago), to Steve's bachelor stash purchases (ewww... wonder why we never ate them... not), to cereals, jams, salad dressings, cookies, and canned vegetables and fruits. Seriously all across the pantry spectrum - they're all past their happy use date.

On the plus side, since I had to check everything out, I reorganized the pantry. It's never been so organized (and I doubt it ever will be again). Dry goods are safely in their Tupperware containers (I'm a Tupperware addict - it's genetic!). Baskets and sections are labeled,and everything is in it's place. I think Martha might even be impressed. I know my mom's would be!

Speaking of Tupperware, does anyone in the DFW area know of a consultant? The Modular Mates are on sale this month, and I need a few more.

ETA (Edited to Add): 1:48pm - One of the local scrap gals shared a Tupperware Consultants information with me. Tommorrow night Judy Schuldt will be coming over to give me a complimentary pantry planning. I'm looking forward to hearing her suggestions on how I can better organize our pantry. I think it's pretty organized, but any tips are going to be appreciated.

I told her that another area I need help in is organizing all of the lids and containers we use. I have a pretty good system for the lids (small lids in a small plastic pantry drawer, and the medium/large lids go into a large drawer). It's the various bowls, containers, steamers, deviled egg holders, etc, etc, etc that I need help with. They don't stack with each other, and they're everywhere!

I'll take a photo tonight of my pantry so you can see a "before" photo. I'll take another one when it's all finished!

Alrighty, here's the "before" photo. Yes, those hanging things are labels. I'd been trying to think up a convienient way to label everything without the expense of another pricey Container Store visit. Que in Stacey Julian's episode on Clique TV - and a plan is born!

2007: One Word...

This week, Ali sent out her creative newsletter and encouraged everyone to choose a word to focus on for the year. As she put it:

one little word
A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow. Last fall in issue two of this newsletter I wrote about the power of words and gave my top ten tips for getting those words down when you are scrapbooking. Today I want to introduce
you to the idea that a single word can be a catalyst for enriching your life as well as your scrapbook layouts.

Last year I began a tradition of chosing one word for myself each January - a word that I can focus on, mediate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life. Last year my word was something I wanted to bring into my life in a more tangible way. My word was play.

I thought a lot about play and what it means to me. I tried to incorporate it more into my everyday and on my adventures out in the crazy world. For me, it was a lot about living without fear - about being more open to experiences with an attitude of playfulness. The word play found its way onto many scrapbook pages and into many stories I told throughout the year.

Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2007? It can be something tangible or intangible. It could be a thought or a feeling or an emotion. It can be singular or plural. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you. This is not your mother's word or your spouse's word or your child's word - this is YOUR word.

One little word can have big meaning in your life if you allow yourself to be open to the possibilities. And here's one thing that is totally interesting: sometimes a word will pop into your brain and it will not make any sense to you right now. Give it some time. Let it percolate a bit. I have often found that our hearts speak to us in very unique ways. Maybe this is a word you need to hear but just aren't ready for it yet. Again, be open to the possibilities.

I've given the subject a lot of thought over the last few days. There are so many great words I'd like to focus on this year. There are so many areas in which I could improve. So many words that could be great and would all be beneficial. I'm torn between three of them though. They're all currently equal in motivation and in growth opportunity. Freedom, Respect, and Peace.

When it came down to choosing just one, it became really easy. By choosing Peace, I'm also choosing Respect and Freedom.

Peace from the trials that I allow to entangle me.
Peace from the things that keep me from showing respect.
Peace into my home.
Getting everything organized will bring me (and my family) peace.
Keeping to my goals, will keep me financially on target and will bring my husband peace.
By letting go of the things that cause me stress, resentment, and pain - I am allowing peace to once again reign.
By doing what I can to increase my health (and that of my families), I will help us all have additional peace.
My home is a refuge, and it should be a place of peace for everyone who comes here.
By doing the things that will bring peace into my life, I will also gain additional freedom and respect.

Peace is definitely the right word for me in 2007!

Deep Thought...

I read this last night on Cathy Z.'s blog, and it's been on my mind ever since.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

Someewhere, within me, I feel there is a considerable amount of truth in that statement. It's definitely something I have percolating in my mind. I'll come back when I have my thoughts more collected.

2007 Plans & Goals

I've been giving this subject some thought over the last week or so... so many things I'd like to see happen in 2007, but there are only just so many within my control. With that in mind, here are things I would like to see myself accomplish in 2007:

  • Like many of you, I'd like to cook more at home. Actually, it's not so much cooking more at home; it's cooking better at home. Normally, I do quite a bit of cooking (and freezing - LOVE my food saver!!!). Since we don't have children (currently), it's not as much of a struggle for me as it may be for some of you. I'd like to focus more on quick healthy cooking. For those of you looking for recipes, I'm going to document our successes on my cooking/recipe blog: www.frommykitchentoyours.blogspot.com
  • I'd also like to see myself lose a bit more weight - in my legs and hips specifically. I've been rather successful with my weight loss endeavors, but would like to tighten up and tone my legs. I'm trunky in that area, much of it is saggy skin and may not ever tighten up without surgical assistance but I want to make sure I do everything I can before going that route.
  • Perhaps, potentially, look into/pursue having a baby. Steve and I have been giving it a bit of discussion and in light of recent events have realized we're not getting any younger. We know we’d like to have a family of our own. Sometimes, the kids (Steve’s siblings) are like having our own – or so it seems. But, it's getting to the now or never stage....
  • I don't know if I can actually do it, but I'd like to run in some kind of marathon/race, or other event. I've never been a runner - I hear it's horrible on knees and joints. But I’ve also heard that it's GREAT for thinning out legs. So, I might give it a shot for a while to see how I do and how my body reacts.
  • I’m going to commit myself to get to know the women in my ward (church). I’m normally an incredibly outgoing and friendly person; I’m kind of quiet at church though. We have a VERY large ward, and knowing who is new and who isn’t is a daunting task. If I’m feeling lonely or left out, I’m sure others are feeling the same way. The only way I know of to change that is to get to know some of the women better, and make them my friends, or at least women I know.
  • I’m going to work harder to keep our home organized. In most things our home is pretty darn organized. I sometimes get teased about my pantry because it’s so…. Tupperware containerized. Our meals are organized. The bathroom (at least the guest bathroom) is organized and the “extra/spare” basket is sufficiently stocked. Other parts of our house though (namely the master closet, the guest room closet, garage, and my studio) could use a good tidying and reorganizing. Steve and I have talked about installing the Container Store closet system into our bedroom closet, perhaps now is the time.
  • I want to take more photos. Sadly, though I am a "professional" scrapbooker, I don't have many photos of our daily life, or even of our irregular life. I want to be better at documenting our life right now, so that later we can look back and remember how quiet and "easy" it was.
  • I'm challenging myself to limit the purchases I make. As I reorganize (and reorganize, and reorganize) my studio, I realize how much money I've poured into my hobby and how much I haven't actually used. I'd like to see myself actually use the products I own and slow down on buying the things I really don't need. We'll see how it goes. I'm not going to completely stop purchasing products - but I am going to give them a second thought.
  • Currently, I’m much more of an altered, home decor, mini album girl rather than a traditional scrapbooker. I'd like to see myself do more actual layouts. I'd like to actually get my wedding album done or even started!
  • Professionally, I'm going to continue freelancing but am going to limit my commitments. It was an amazing change (both mentally and creatively) when I reviewed my design contracts and commitments and chose to eliminate/retire from some of them. I'm going to focus on what I love about this great hobby/art - and go in the direction that it takes me.
  • I'm going to try and get back into teaching. I used to teach (back in Utah and in Ohio) for a few different stores. I also really enjoyed my time teaching and traveling with RP. A few opportunities have started to open up for me, and I'm excited at the possibilities they might bring my way to share my love of this incredible industry and hobby.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in 2007 - here's to it being ALL good!

2006 Ambitions.... revisited

A few days ago, I wondered what I thought would happen in the coming year - this time LAST year. So, I went searching for this post, and read it. Isn't it interesting to look back at what you wanted and compare it to what really happpened? I think so.

For starters, man I sure wrote awfully wordy posts loaded with big words - what happened to that part of me? I love learning new words (0ne of the items on my Christmas list this year was a "word of the day" calendar. Santa didn't bring it, so I'll hunt one down for myself). I love finding ways to incorporate them into my regular vocabulary. Given the state of my current vocabulary at times, and the creativity (or lack of) I tend to use I should try to revert to the way I wrote last year!

Here are the ambitions I had, and my reflections on them...
  • I will be ontime to work the majority of the time. (I am chronically late - to everything! Even if I'm out of bed at 4am, I can't make it to work on time. There are way too many funner things that I want to be doing! Well, I did get a new job, but only because of downsizing. My new boss is quite lienient in that she doesn't care what time you get in, as long as you give her at least 8 quality hard working hours. I do need to continue to work on timliness though. It continues to be a struggle for me.
  • I will read at least 50 books this year. (I've read two already, so I guess I'm in good shape there!) I know I managed to read at least 25 books. Mostly mindless reading with no purpose other than to entertain me. I did read at least 75 magazines though - so perhaps they'll balance each other out.
  • I will travel to Fort Smith, Arkansas and to Houston, Texas (and hopefully other places too) to play with my scrapbooking girlfriends - just because. I dind't do ANY of this traveling. How sad! Unfortunately, with my work schedule, they jsut didn't happen. I did, however, manage to make it to California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado at least once.
  • I will keep my house tidy. (I know, with only two of us, how can it possibly not be tidy? Believe me - it's not.) Yay! This one was accomplished! Granted, we hired a housekeeper, but man, she is SO worth it!
  • I will take photography classes at a local community college (I have a pretty good (maybe, it belongs to an ex boyfriend) SLR with lenses and stuff - but absolutely no clue how to use most of it.) Didn't happen. Just didn't have the time. I did manage to take a quickie class from Kristy at Enrichment night, and I did purchase a highly reccomended book on exposures that my friends promised would "change" my photography skills. I guess I should add that one to my reading list!
  • Take guitar lessons (I'd really love to be able to suprise the crap out of my dad and jam with him.) Ditto on the no time. Someday this will be awesome, it just isn't a priority.
  • I will focus on not eating crap, eating (and cooking) healthier meals, and on getting my body into better physical shape (meaning toning, and getting rid of excess skin - so gross! I'm not so focused or worried about losing actual poundage.) Personally, I think this one was accomplished. I did get into better shape (still have a saggy baggy bum though), but we do eat better (when we CHOOSE to), and I did do better in cooking healthier meals. This one will definitely continue on into 2007 though.
  • I will become a coupon queen. I'd LOVE to be able to save some money at the grocery store. We don't spend a whole lot on groceries, but if I can save anything at all, I'd love it! I did quite well with this goal, while I worked at it. Seriously, couponing is WORK. Hard work. I need to pick this habit back up, and get back into the swing. I still have my binder and all of the organizational/planning stuff I created last year so it shouldn't be hard. But, believe it or not, just cutting out the coupons on Wednesdays and Sundays AND getting them sorted/organized is a LOT of work. That doesn't even start to cover the time it takes to do price comparisons, price matching, and sale shopping! YIKES... I almost want to give up before I even start back up. I do know that I did save a considerable amount of money when I did it though (for instance, I walked out of Albertsons with a $40 bill with over $280 worth of groceries).
  • I will travel with my husband to visit our families (this is a HUGE undertaking! We have main family members in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Mississippi, and South Texas. That's a lot of family!) We did make it to California (Kim's graduation), New Mexico, Utah (Rowley Reunion), and South Texas. We need to try harder to visit our other family members. I'd LOVE to make it out to Mississippi or Oregon this year!
  • I will watch my spending, and keep my crazy purchases under control. I did watch my spending. And I kept spending. I did much better in some areas than others, but I think I've gotten things under a much more manageable control. We'll let Steve be the judge on this one.
  • I will clear out my extra studio stash, list it on eBay, and will be careful about maintaining a clear creative space. Oh boy did I do this - over and OVER again! I participated in at least half a dozen garage sales, kept my friend Heather in eBay business for a while, and STILL managed to have stuff left over! I'm definitely more thoughtful in my purchases now, and it's paying off!

Catching Up... Christmas, New Years, Hospitals, Birthdays, Work, Family & Food

Wow… there is so much to catch up on that it’s almost overwhelming! I suppose I should start where I left off…

I’m bummed. Our Christmas Cards didn’t go out. They’re going out though. I spent a lot of time working on them, but with my crazy work schedule they just didn’t get finished. I’m not going to chuck them – they’re just going to be late (or REALLY early for this year! Ha ha ha ha!).

Christmas was wonderful. My family (Mom, Dad & Scott) were able to travel into town and join us for the weekend. Kimberlee and her boyfriend, James, spent Christmas with us, and Thomas spent most of Christmas Eve with us. I believe everyone was pleased with their gifts, and I most certainly was thrilled! I received many gifts that will be put to much use during the coming year: A Kitchen Aid Mixer, a new iPod Nano (in hot pink no less), and another volume of Beste stories. Though all of these gifts give me GREAT pleasure, the Beste stories might possibly be my favorite.

My mother, ever the legend in many things, has been compiling “Beste” stories for the last few years and has gifted each of us children the written (and therefore “accurate”) rendition of many of our childhood stories and experiences at Christmas. It is SUCH fun to read through her memories, recalling the various events – and of course reminding her of how they REALLY happened. If you’ve ever been a guest at a Beste family dinner, you’ve undoubtedly heard the legend of the Wheat Waffle and its ensuing twists and turns (depending on the story teller, and their memory – or lack of). I am ever grateful that she has taken on the task of writing up our various stories and experiences for us. I’ve enjoyed reading them and I know that the others who have been gifted with “Beste” or “Heather” stories have enjoyed them also.

The week between Christmas and New Years is quite a blur. I wasn’t feeling well on Christmas Day. I really couldn’t pin point what was wrong, only that something wasn’t right. However, with realizing the hours I’d been working, one logically assumed it was just exhaustion. My parents left to travel south to McAllen, Texas (to visit Bekki and her family) on Tuesday morning as I headed out to work. I still wasn’t feeling well; in fact I was feeling quite horrid. I started shivering uncontrollably as if I was cold (though the temperature in my office was quite toasty – more so than normal) and decided that I ought to go home.

Well…. Long story short… I ended up going to Urgent Care later that night because I still was feeling rather “off”. After the gals at UC freaked out a bit, they sent me to the local hospital for blood transfusions. I am anemic. Actually very anemic. I have iron deficiency anemia and I also have sickle cell anemia (yes, I’m a white girl with sickle – loooooong story). Normally, I know to take additional iron right before during “that” time of the month to cover any deficiencies. My body was so low that there wasn’t anything that Urgent Care could do – they can’t give blood. They can’t do anything for anemia except tell you to take iron supplements. So, the hospital kindly hooked me up, added some B12 in for good measure, and gave my body the cocktail it needed.

It’s amazing how much better I felt after the additional blood, and how much WARMER I feel. I have SO much more energy. I’ve been taking extra iron each day (SLOW release – thank goodness), and it’s made a world of difference. Granted, it’s killing my intestinal tract, but it’s definitely worth it.

I went back to work on Wednesday. I managed to physically work 52 hours between Wednesday and Friday. I took Saturday – Monday off and didn’t give work a bit of thought.

My family popped back into town on Saturday afternoon and headed back out Sunday Morning (we’re a handy rest stop!). It was great to get to visit with them and enjoy their company again.

New Years Eve was spent quietly at home – and it was delightful. Steve had to work, so I comfied up on the couch and watched all the television I wanted (interspersed with more naps).

Yes, I made my traditional announcement on Christmas Eve. It is a joke in our family (No, I’m not pregnant), I always announce the impending date of my birthday, or the next anniversary of my 29th birthday. It’s always 3 weeks (or 21 days) from Christmas. This year, on January 14th, I’ll celebrate the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday. It’s now a joke – but I can’t break tradition!

I think that’s the quick end of a catch up. I still have much more to update on including incredible Secret Santa gifts, tasty Christmas treats, Old Fashioned Fudge, and goals for 2007. I’ll try to find some time to get them written up and shared!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!