24 December 2013

A Christmas Poem

...a dear friend emailed this poem to me, and I wanted to share...

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "It’s really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

21 October 2013

GF Pumpkin Maple Bread with Pecan Streusel

Sorry it's been so long, friends! Things have been a bit hectic crazy around here, between DH being in and out of the field for work, a mini "deployment" of sorts, and an energetic 17 month old, oh yes, and let's not forget losing the past 3 years of photos because our computer crashed! (NOTE to readers: ALWAYS back up your important files! We had all our documents and music backed up, but not photos, which are arguably more important. Saddness!) Anyhoo, I hope to jump back into blogging with more frequency in the near future! For now, I hope you enjoy this autumn yumminess....

{Gluten-Free} Pumpkin Maple Bread with Pecan Streusel
...to welcome autumn...
Super simple- mix, pour, bake, yum!
This recipe was inspired by a Pinterest pin I'd found a while back {found here at Hot Polka Dot}. 

-- Bread Ingredients --
1.5 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten free baking mix (or regular flour)
1.5 tsp guar gum (or ~1 tsp xantham gum) (skip this if you're using regular flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 cup pumpkin puree (make sure you get 100% pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg beaters)
1/3 cup olive oil (or veggie oil, or applesauce)

-- Streusel Topping Ingredients --
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 TB flaxseed meal (or almond meal, or flour)
2 TB sugar
1/4 cup butter, chilled
1/4 cup chopped pecans

* I made my own pumpkin pie spice (as per THIS recipe), as it's something I rarely use so I didn't want to buy a whole bottle of it. The below mix will make 1 TB (3 tsps) of pumpkin pie spice!
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves

-- Instructions --
(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, placing the rack in the center of the oven. Line a 9" loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhanging the edges (so you can later lift the loaf out easily).
(2) Whisk the first 6 (or 5, if you're using regular flour) ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and whisk until just combined.
(3) Mix the first 3 topping ingredients together. Cut in the butter. Toss in the pecans.
(4) Pour batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with a knife or spatula. Evenly sprinkle on the streusel topping.
(5) Bake 30-40 minutes (mine ended up baking closer to 50 mins), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 mins, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.
(6) After cooled, cut, serve, and enjoy!

04 July 2013

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day, America!
May God bless our great nation.

{cards originally posted on my crafting blog, SK Studios, July 2011}

"I thank God for my life, 
And for the stars and stripes, 
 May freedom forever fly, let it ring. 
Salute the ones who died, 
The ones that give their lives, 
 So we don't have to sacrifice" 
- Zac Brown Band

29 June 2013

Quick, Cheap, & Easy DIY Patriotic Decor & Entertaining Tips

Hey all!! So, this year I'll be decorating vicariously through these patriotic photos... our Independence Day decor is all packed in boxes (from our PCS last July!) in the storage unit- boo! Anyways, so here I've gathered up photos from our previous years' celebrations to share with everyone! Included are some tips for decorating & entertaining on the cheap- hope you enjoy!

A few tips & ideas for quick, cheap, and easy patriotic decor...
(1) Medallion stars- 
Just 1-2 pieces of scrapbook paper, some adhesive and string to hang with, and you've got yourself instant big decor pieces! A simple tutorial is: {here(in between steps 3&4, snip the one end on an angle to get the more "star" appearance instead of smooth circle edge )
(2) Patriotic candle display- 
Just a mason jar, some colored pebbles or rocks, and a patriotic colored candle! This neat huge mason jar even has an eagle on the front, bought at Michael's a few years back. 
(3) Patriotic signage- 
Print out your favorite patriotic phrase onto vellum paper, attach to some patriotic scrapbook paper and frame. Being a military family, this is a common phrase for us, and perfect for a patriotic mantle: "Keep calm and soldier on!"  
(4) Patriotic yarn balls- 
Wrap up some patriotic-colored yarn into balls! Easy to whip up some of these balls whilst watching your favorite show or while chatting with a friend. 
(5) Star dishes- 
Dishes are great not only for serving with (of course!) but also for mantles! After Independence Day, decor goes on sale super cheap- one of the best times to grab next year's decor pieces! 
(6) Framed banner-  
So easy to change up for different seasons! Simply frame a piece of fabric or patriotic scrapbook paper and adhere a cute banner! Check out my tutorial: {here}
(7) Flag collection- 
It doesn't get much easier and cheaper than this! Pick your favorite pretty bowl and pour in a bag of toothpick flags :)
(8) Patriotic decorative branches- 
Easy to change out decor pieces with each season. For Independence Day, I added some flags, tied on bits of patriotic ribbon and added a tiny wooden sign (from Christmas Tree Shoppe). 
(9) Patriotic wreath (not pictured)- 
Create a wreath where you can change out the decor with each season. You can view my free Wreath Tutorial: {here}

A few tips & ideas for quick, cheap, and easy patriotic hosting and entertaining...
(1) Patriotic utensils- 
Easy way to add a little more patriotism to your cutlery- set them out in a patriotic container! Here I'm using a mug from Disney World's "Liberty Tree Tavern" (featuring Mickey and the gang waving Old Glory).
(2) Patriotic buffet decor- 
Fabric placemats or table runners and a few plastic colored stars strewn about add some patriotic color to your buffet. Again, after Independence Day, decor goes on sale super cheap- one of the best times to grab next year's decor bits & pieces! 
(3) Patriotic buffet signage- 
Add some color to your buffet- layer some colored paper, put a patriotic stamp or sticker on the edge, then write out the name of each dish!   
(4) Drink signage- 
Tie the name signage onto the end of  a wooden spoon and put the spoon in drink pitchers. It's also great if you need to stir up the drinks periodically, like homemade lemonade!
(5) Patriotic drinks- 
An cheap alternative to the cute (but expensive!) paper straws- most standard plastic straw packages include red and blue straws. Just cut them down to size of your cups (if need be) and tie on a bit of ribbon. 
(6) Dessert banner-  
Dress up your cake or pies with a simple banner strung between two skewers. For instructions, check out Step #16 in my Wreath Tutorial: {here}
(7) Patriotic dessert- 
Decorate the top of your cakes or other dessert with colored sprinkles or sugar to get in the Independence Day mood! Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries also add the perfect red, white, & blue touch!
(8) Fancy dessert dishes- 
If you don't have fancy dessert dishes, improvise! Wine glasses, mason jars, or just standard clear water glasses work just as well to serve up your yummy parfaits or ice cream. 
(9) Patriotic tiered buffet dishes- 
For a great tiered look to your buffet line, purchase some clear box photo frames, cut some scrapbook paper to size and place inside the frame. Stack the frames to create different layers to set out your dishes on! 

linking up here...
Favorite Projects of 2013 @ The CSI Project
http://www.findingfabulousblog.com/ DIY Show Off

02 June 2013

USA Patriotic Wreath Tutorial

Hey ya'll! Sorry I've been a bit absent- I'm taking the summer to {finally} finish up my Master's Thesis.

I wanted to share our Memorial Day/July 4th wreath that I made last year, but never posted over on this blog!! I've included a free tutorial as well!! Hope you enjoy :)

Sharing Here::
Favorite Projects of 2013 @ The CSI Project
Skip To My Lou Today's Creative Blog DIY Show Off Somewhat Simple Blissful and Domestic One Artsy Mama

30 April 2013

Mashed Cauliflower

So, better late than never, right?! Well it's been a busy busy past two months between DH's work schedule, birthdays, Easter, etc. and it's another busy two months ahead for the same reason! Little E turned one year old- crazy how fast the time went by! Anyhoo, I figured it's about time I shared the remainder of my St. Patty's Day recipes with you!

Mashed Cauliflower
a staple side dish in our family
prepared much the same as mashed potatoes but with loads of nutrients!

- 2-3 heads of cauliflower (or 2 frozen family-size bags)
- 1/8 c. half and half
- 3 TB butter
- 2 TB Adobo seasoning (or garlic powder)
- salt and pepper to taste

(1) Place cauliflower in a stockpot and cover with water. If using fresh heads, cut off florets into stockpot and cover with water.
(2) Bring pot to a boil, and cook until cauliflower is very tender and very easily pierced with a fork.
(3) Drain cauliflower and return to pot.
(4) Add remaining ingredients and mash together with a potato masher.
(5) Serve and enjoy!!

02 April 2013

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

OK, so I know I totally forgot to finish up my series on our St. Patty's Day dinner. Things got a bit hectic when the lovely in-laws came to visit and then the DH got sent out to the field unexpectedly- I'll finish up that series this week, k? :) For now, I'll share our fabulous dinner from tonight! It was inspired by {this recipe} that I found via Pinterest. 

Serves: 4 (as a side dish) or 1 1/2 (as a main dish)
Recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc. 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 of a medium pepper finely chopped
1/2 of a medium cucumber finely chopped
2-3 stalks of green onion diced
2 small tomatoes diced

Cook quinoa according to directions. Generally it's 1 part quinoa, 2 parts water- cooked just like rice, but prewash the quinoa to remove any sediment. Let quinoa cool slightly (I usually turn off the heat and start chopping my veggies while the quinoa cools!). Chop vegetables and add to quinoa, mix, and serve warm or chilled.

Tzatziki Sauce

2/3c plain greek yogurt
1 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 of a medium cucumber, finely grated
1 TB olive oil
dash freshly ground pepper
dash freshly ground sea salt

Mix in a small dish. Adjust spices to taste. We like a heavy garlic influence :) Top your salad with a dollop of sauce and enjoy! This goes great on gyros, a regular lettuce salad, a dip for potato wedges... the possibilities are endless ;)

20 March 2013

Brown Sugar Ginger Carrots

So onto the first part of our St Patty's Day spread! Brown sugar ginger carrots are a bit of a staple in our home! They pair well with most any other veggie or meat dish. We've also used maple syrup, sucanat, you could probably even use honey in place of the brown sugar! Feel free to experiment as you wish :)

* Brown Sugar Ginger Carrots *

1 lb. carrots
2 TB brown sugar
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
2 TB of butter
1/2 cup of water (or more)

*NOTE: this recipe easily doubles, triples, etc. So adjust to your family size and tastes!

(1) Cut carrots into smaller pieces, peeling the carrots if you wish. I usually cut the carrots in half lengthwise and then into thirds (and we leave the peels on for extra nutrients!).
(2) Add carrots to a medium saucepan. Add enough water to generously cover the carrots. In effect you'll be steaming the carrots, so you don't want them all completely submerged. You can always add more water later in the cooking process if they're getting low on liquid!
(3) Add butter, sugar, and ginger to saucepan.
(4) Cook over medium heat for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are easily pierced with a fork. Cook less if you prefer an al dente finish and/or for even more added nutrients!

18 March 2013

Disney Food- Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room

So we interrupt this week's special of St. Patty's Day food to bring you a brief run down of one of my favorite dining places at Disney World- the Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room in Epcot's world showcase! Here's a quick overview of what we had on this past trip..

 I made a meal of side dishes- green beans, cauliflower and cheese gratin, and mashed potatoes. I truly cannot tell you which was my favorite dish- they were all fabulous!! And let's not forget my decaf British Breakfast tea in the corner ;) The Twinings Tea Cottage is just across the street from the Rose & Crown- unfortunately they don't have much black decaf tea for sale there, but they have lots of herbal and fruit teas for me to peruse :)

DH got the Cottage Pie (essentially a Shepard's Pie, for those Irish ladies reading!). He's always enjoyed this dish! The last two years the chef made me a vegetarian/gluten-free version- delish!

For dessert, I had the Queen's Cake (hubby had my eggnog shooter though!). Unfortunately, I've had better flourless cakes at other Disney dining establishments, but it will certainly satisfy your chocolate sweet tooth in a pinch! 

DH had the Jaffa Tarts for dessert- orange-cream filled cakes with chocolate ganache. He found them quite tasty! (AJ over at The Disney Food Blog was asking about these today. She has an awesome in-depth article about the Rose & Crown- head on over and check it out!!)

The really neat thing about Rose & Crown is that you can get a great seat for the evening fireworks show, Illuminations (my favorite Disney evening show!). If you get the coveted outdoor patio dining location, you're set! If you're inside, or in a less perfect outdoor seat, we've had the waiters hold our food for us so we could scoot outside and stand on the patio to view the show! So fabulous!!

I'll come back and edit this post later to add on some more dishes we've had in past years ;)

17 March 2013

St. Patty's Day flag spread

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 

So last night we started our St. Patrick's Day celebrating by hosting dinner for some wonderful friends! Throughout the upcoming week I'll share the recipes that we created, including:
- baked asparagus with smoked cheddar {recipe}
- mashed cauliflower {recipe}
- brown sugar ginger carrots {recipe}
- potato leek crockpot soup {recipe}
- Irish soda bread {recipe}

For today though, I'll just leave you with a photo of our St. Patty's Day flag spread! Yummm-mmmy!!! Come on back tomorrow for our first recipe- Brown Sugar Ginger Carrots :)

27 February 2013

Interchangeable St Patty's Day Wreath

So today's post is a bit of a re-post from {last year}, but updated to include this year's wreath! When I created this wreath last year, I wanted it to be reusable, so all of the decorations are pinned on! Super simple solution to avoid wrapping twine around umpteen different wreath bases (I also use this wreath base for my Mother's Day wreath and my spring wreath)! So check out the original wreath and this year's wreath, and read on for a tutorial on how I made it!

  • styrofoam wreath base
  • festive fabric
  • yarn (for background and balls)
  • felt (for shamrocks and banner)
  • straight pins & 2 decorative pins
  • twine (I used The Twinery's cantaloupe)
  • eyelets
  • eyelet setter (I use a Crop-A-Dile)
  • ink (I used Stazon's timber brown)
  • stamps (I used Unity's February Kit of the Month 2012)
  • scissors (regular and pinking shears)

  • wrap the wreath in yarn- wrap a few times and then tighten, wrap a few more times, then tighten again, etc. This will ensure that none of your foam base shows through the yarn!
  • cut out circles from your festive fabric in varying sizes. these will be used to make the "flowers" (6-10 circles per flower)
  • put a straight pin through the center of each circle, and pin into the wreath. pin the centers of the circles close to each other to create a nice full flower. Continue pinning circles until you get a flower "fullness" that suits you :) most of mine are ~8 circles per flower, with some being fewer and some being more.
  • create your felt shamrocks (I used this tutorial here)
  • pin shamrocks to wreath using straight pins. I tried to hide the pins in some of the folds of felt near the center of the shamrock.
  • create yarn balls (good tutorial here) - I use two fingers to start my yarn balls, especially since the ones on this wreath are smaller, and I change directions every ~8 loops. Once you reach your desired ball size, carefully tie off the yarn.
  • pin balls to wreath with straight pins. I put the pin through a few yarn strands and then the knot where I tied off the yarn.
.: BANNER :.
  • stamp images onto felt and cut out with pinking shears (or regular scissors)
  • attach eyelets to each corner of felt and connect with twine
  • attach banner to wreath with decorative pins
  • hang wreath and enjoy! :)

.: Above :.
The final product from 2012 and the above tutorial!

.: Below :.
The final product for 2013! I used last year's shamrocks and yarn balls and added a few diecut shamrocks on crisscrossing twine. I also pinned on a small sign that has our apartment address (removed in the picture for privacy) as the numbering system is often confused by our mail carriers - easy and pretty solution to make sure they deliver packages to the right door!

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