Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Up on the Wall

I am a slow decorator. We've lived in our house a year and a half and there are still walls with nothing on them. In fact I think I'd been warming up to the sparse minimalist look, but that ended over 3 weeks ago when I took down all the Christmas decorations and realized my living room was bare and borrrrrrrrrrrrring! So, I finally took action, and now there are things up on the walls - at least in the living room. And while I'm not sure what's there now will stay or that I won't add more, I thought I'd share my latest "project".

First I wanted to tackle the empty space on either side of our very large front windows. At Christmas I'd had an ornament wreath hanging on the left side and the Christmas tree in the right corner. Taking those things down made me feel as if something were missing. I'd remembered seeing this post on Little Green Notebook and I thought 2 of these might look cool in my living room, at least the colors seemed to go, and at only $4.50 a pop how could I go wrong? If it didn't work out I could always pass the goods along to my mother for one of her paper "quilts" or use them to wrap up a special gift. At least that was my reasoning. So I ordered away, they arrived shortly, I purchased 2 of the largest Ribba frame they make, and here you have it:
Ben was studying, didn't have the heart to ask him to move. There's not enough of him on here anyway.

I wasn't sure at first, but hung them on the wall anyway to give it a trial run. I like it. Inexpensive, easy, fun. And if something better comes along, I won't feel guilty replacing them :) Perfect. For now.

Then I had the problem with the wall above the entertainment center/tv console. Nothing had yet to occupy the space. That empty expanse of gray bugged me all the time. I was waiting for the perfect solution. It never came, and so one night last week I sat down and sketched this.

The plants, hurricanes, and family photos on the console were already there. The mirror was one I'd seen recently on Young House Love and the frames I'd seen at Ikea and really just added them in to take up more space. It's a big wall. No idea what I was going to put in them. I liked the sketch, showed it to Ben, he said, "looks good", and then I went shopping. Got it all up on the wall (without anything in the frames) and then pondered art. Etsy art, ebay art, homemade art. I'm on a budget. Hmmmm. I couldn't commit to anything. Then I remembered that I love silhouettes. And the silhouettes we have are in the master bedroom. Which nobody ever goes in besides us.

Time to bring out the silhouettes. There was a couple problems though - the silhouettes weren't the right size and were framed with an oval border. Solved that by scanning them in, downloading a free trial of Photoshop, photoshopping out the border, resizing them and printing 'em out. On regular printer paper. Maybe I'll get around to having them printed for real. Maybe not. I'm not sure I can tell the difference when they're up on the wall. Can you? But we only have 2 silhouettes, and not one of just Claire. Boo. Could I do it myself? Vaguely remembered a past post on YHL on DIYing your own. Looked it up. Looked up another. And attempted it. Took this picture of Claire:

and broke out my newly downloaded 30 day free trial of Photoshop. Followed the tutorials. Worked like a charm:
Man she has a big head.

Now for that 4th frame......a silhouette of a dog or cat that we don't own? Nope. Something to symbolize family? 'bout a tree? Okay! Googled 'tree silhouette' and came up with this free image:Oaks have nice deep root systems. Right? Symbolic of how stable and grounded and lasting I hope my family to be.

Downloaded it, resized it, added our last name and wedding date, tried to add 4 little brightly colored birdies with names and birthdates, failed. Not that good with Photoshop yet. Can you even do that with Photoshop? Oh well, good enough for me! For now.

Loving my "new" living room. The End. Phew!

Wait!!! One more thing. What do you think of that last picture? I've considered that maybe the wall's too blah. Needs more color. What if I painted the mirror frame? Or printed the silhouettes in a bright color instead of black. Something to match the pillows? or the lamp I scored from Homegoods? Thoughts?

Friday, January 21, 2011

First Steps

Claire took her first real steps on January 1st. She's been hesitant to keep it up and so we've seen gradual progress over the past 3 weeks. Last weekend while we were in Vegas (celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday) she got a little braver and walked across the area rug to Papa. Yesterday she caught the walking bug and has been practicing like crazy, cheering for herself when she's done. I've had a hard time catching it on camera but I got a couple of VERY short clips today while the girls were trying on some new clothes that we'd just brought home from Target. She loves watching herself on the video camera so much that she won't perform any more once I get it out. In the first clip she's crawling so fast after she falls because she can't wait to climb into my lap and grab the thing away from me. And in the second clip the look on her face is a mixture of excitement and anger because I haven't given it up to her yet and she's determined to take it away. Oh, and you might notice that large bruise on her forehead. Yeah, that's what happens when you're crawling too fast and slam into the corner of the doorway :(

Healthy Foods

This week I got to teach a nutrition class for our Tuesday night Relief Society meeting (or the-meeting-formally-known-as-enrichment). My focus for the class was on increasing fruit/vegetable and whole grain intake, and so we had a little sampling of some foods that are easy to prepare, healthy, and high in either fruits or vegetables or whole grains :) Here are the recipes that I shared.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

2 red potatoes, cut into 1” cubes
1 sweet potato, cut into 1” cubes
20 baby carrots
½ red onion
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 handfuls of green beans

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine prepared vegetables in bowl (leave out the green beans). Pour olive oil over vegetables and stir until all are coated. Stir in salt. Spread the vegetables onto a jelly roll pan (baking sheet with raised sides) in one layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in green beans. Add a little more oil if the vegetables seem to be sticking to the pan, stir and spread the vegetables out again. Bake for 40 more minutes (stirring halfway) or until desired tenderness is reached.

Vegetables are so delicious roasted like this! This is hands down my favorite vegetable side dish. I've included my favorite combination of vegetables, but really any combination of veggies you like will do. This is how I always cook asparagus and I LOVE how it brings out the sweetness of the carrots. Hmmmm, and the red onion tastes sooooo good - nice and crispy. I actually crave this dish! Weird, I know.

Tomato Feta Quinoa Pilaf

1 TB olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups broth – vegetable or chicken
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TB fresh parsley
¾ cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 TB chopped basil
1 TB lemon juice

1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and when warm add in the shallots. Cook for two minutes and add garlic. Cook until fragrant, around 30 seconds. Add rinsed quinoa and sauté for two minutes. Add broth, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 to 18 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for five minutes.
2. Stir in parsley, basil, lemon juice, tomatoes and feta. Enjoy!

This recipe also works well the next day turned into a cold salad. I just add a few more grape tomatoes and a bit more feta. Delicious!

Spinach and Fruit Smoothie

1 cup apple juice
4 cups fresh spinach
½ - 1 banana
3 cups frozen fruit and/or fresh fruit
1 TB ground flaxseed

Add apple juice and then spinach to blender. Blend until smooth. Add banana and blend til smooth. Add frozen fruit and blend again until smooth. Add flax and blend to incorporate. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

When I make this I use 2 different fruit blends from Costco for my 3 cups total of frozen fruit. I use 2 cups of the Kirkland brand berry blend (marionberries, raspberries, and blueberries) and 1 cup of the Wawona brand Spectrum fruit blend.

You may be tempted to cut out the apple juice, but this smoothie really isn't sweet enough without it. Of course you could make some other substitution for sweetness, but apple juice is what I usually have on hand so that's what I use.

Nutritional Information for ENTIRE smoothie (without added flax):
450 calories
~18 g fiber

1 Tbs ground flax adds:
35 calories
~2 g fiber

If you were to split this smoothie in half you would each get about 240 calories and 10 grams of fiber! As well as 1 serving of vegetables and over 2 servings of fruit! And it contains NO added sugar. Can't say the same for those fast food smoothies that are popular right now!

Bulgur Chickpea Salad

1 cup bulgur
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil / vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 cup chopped green onions
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ peeled, chopped cucumber
1 cup grated carrots

1. In a heatproof bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature.
2. In a small bowl, beat together oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pour over bulgur; and mix with a fork.
3. Place bulgur in the bottom of a nice glass serving bowl. Layer vegetables and garbanzo beans in this order on top of the bulgur: green onions, garbanzo beans, parsley, cucumber and carrots on top. Cover, and refrigerate. Toss salad before serving.

This is very light and fresh tasting. It is easily prepared before hand, and I really like it the next day as leftovers because the flavor is a bit stronger.

About 2 years ago I posted about how I was going to put my degree to good use and do a nutrition related post every Friday. Ha! This has been the first one since then :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting Young

Paige is at the age where she is happy to help with anything and everything. When I ask for her help she is quick to respond, whether it's throwing away a dirty diaper or grabbing a tissue. Unfortunately she is just as willing to help with tasks that I'd rather not have her help with, like loading the dishwasher and making dinner. Such a hassle! I don't want to discourage her from pitching in though because I know that soon enough she'll no longer be willing, so I try to find something she can do whenever I can. A few months ago she wanted to help with the laundry. I spent a couple of minutes teaching her how fold a washcloth and voila! She gets to help and is happy, I no longer have to fold washcloths and dishcloths, AND I have the pleasure of her company while I fold the laundry.Good enough for me!