Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birthday & Book Fun

Today is my sister's birthday!  Because Nichole is such a movie nut, I decided to create a cinema birthday bin for her--complete with microwave popcorn, Sour Patch kids, drink coasters, a gift card to Blockbuster, and a film reel for photos.    

But I couldn't send a gift to Nichole without also including something for her daughter (our niece), McKayla, especially since McKayla's last day of school was Friday.  She's now a 3rd grader!!

I whipped up this Happy Summer! card for McKayla, writing inside:

Hooray, hooray
It's almost time to play
For summer is on its way!

Accompanying the card are two books that I hope McKayla will enjoy reading this summer: Ivy & Bean Book 2 (I'd never heard of this series, but McKayla told me she recently read the first book and really liked it!) and Book #1 in the Boxcar Children series.

I {loved} the Boxcar Children books growing up--in fact, I distinctly remember wanting to live in a boxcar just like the kids in the story--and hope McKayla will enjoy them, too.

Bookworm J

Monday, June 21, 2010

Let's Play

After I wrote this blog post about my family's trip to John's Incredible Pizza, I was inspired to create a layout using the pictures Brian took of us on the Frog Hopper ride.

Normally, it takes me days (if not, weeks) to complete a layout, because I hem and haw over which paper to use, which photos to include, how to arrange everything, etc.  This time, I wanted the focus to be on the photographs, so I ordered a bunch of shots from Costco.  That way, I'd have plenty to choose from and could crop them down as needed. 

Next, I pulled out three dominant colors (green, blue, and yellow) in the photos and found papers in the same shades.

Then, I found a layout sketch (from TwoPeas) in my scrapbooking binder.  I find I can work much quicker if I have a sketch in front of me.  The sketch was just what I was looking for: photo-heavy with spots for five photographs.

Later on in the day, I went shopping in Roseville and got lucky.  While browsing Michael's, I found the "let's PLAY" title for just 98 cents.  It's just what I needed to finish off this scrapbook page.  

Carve out some time to play today. 

You'll be glad you did.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Harleys and Dads

Happy Father's Day to my dad, my FIL, my grandfathers, and all dads out there!

I've been eager to share this photograph ever since I shot it back in mid-March during a photography field trip in Old Sacramento.  But I've been keeping it under wraps because I wanted to surprise my Harley-lovin' Dad with it for Father's Day.

Initially, I was going to frame this photograph (which is SOOC), but after more thought, I decided it would be even cooler to have the photograph mounted.  A photography friend of mine told me about a company called Mpix, which can take your photographs and create all kinds of cool products.  

One of them is called a Standout.  To create a standout, Mpix takes your photograph and mounts it to a 1.5 inch thick lightweight Gatorfoam board.  (It's similar to a gallery wrap, but much more economical.)  All I had to do was upload my photograph to their website, select the size (8 x 12) and the side color I wanted (black), and place my order.  It was fast and easy!  And Mpix shipped it out the next day.

I'm hoping my dad likes it, and will enjoy looking at it (up on the wall in his garage?) for years to come. 

Wishing you a great Sunday with family!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Love

"The way to know life is to love many things."
--Vincent Van Gogh

I think Van Gogh was onto something.
I {love} lots of things.  
Today, I thought I'd list a few of them here.
Please feel free to share things you love, too. (Comments are always welcomed and appreciated!) 
The more love, the better.

I love...

Taking pictures.

My family.

Learning new things.


Country music.

Reading inspiring stories.

Eating Cool Whip right out of the container.




Hot chocolate.

Singing at church.

Reading comments on my blog posts.

Amy Butler fabric.

My hubby.

Real Simple Magazine.


American Airlines' commercials.

Romance novels.

The Office.



Surprising people.

Jim Halpert's expressions.

The Notebook.

While You Were Sleeping.

Quiet confidence.

Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Writing in my journal.

Famous quotes.




Tall trees.


My faith.







Red cowgirl boots.

James Taylor's voice.

Slap-stick comedy.


The Carpenters.

Patterned paper.

Ali Edwards' creations.



Croissants in Paris, France.

Van Gogh's masterpieces.

Ansel Adams' photography.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Kids giggling.

Watching live theater.

Viewing old home movies.



Craft fairs.



What do you love?


Friday, June 18, 2010

Pioneer Woman's Meatloaf

Yep, I'm back in the kitchen making another one of Pioneer Woman's fabulous recipes.

This time it's all about the MEATLOAF!!

In six years, we never once used our broiler pan at the old house, so I didn't bother to bring it to the new house.  Then, I went to make this meatloaf recipe, and learned that I'd need one.  Luckily, Brian had a great idea!  He recommended placing a row of forks in the bottom of the pan.  How smart is that?!  I asked him, "How did you think of that?" and he said, "I saw someone at the fire station do it."  :-)

I grabbed nine forks from the utensil drawer, flipped them over and lined them up, alternating the direction of the tines on each fork. 

Forming the meatloaf mixture into a free-form loaf was a bit tricky.  I molded it into the shape I desired on a plate, but then realized that I'd have to transfer it onto the forks.  Plan A: I gently picked up both ends of the massive loaf, but the whole thing started falling apart immediately.  Plan B: I was really wishing I could just slide it off the plate right onto the forks, but the loaf and the plate didn't see it that way.  I swear the hunk of meat didn't move an inch!  Plan C: Hunk by hunk and bit by bit, I reshaped the loaf on top of the forks.  It wasn't nearly as aesthetically-pleasing as my first creation, but when I covered it in bacon, all of its little imperfections disappeared.

Then, I poured one-third of the tomato gravy over the top of the meatloaf and popped it into the oven for 45 minutes.

When 45 minutes had elapsed, I poured another one-third of the gravy over the meatloaf and baked it for another 15 minutes.

When the timer went off, I pulled out the meatloaf and cut into to make sure it was done. 
Looks cooked to me!

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans...delicious!

I {love} food.


If you have The Pioneer Woman Cooks, you can find PW's Meatloaf recipe on pages 150-151.  I was hoping to post a link to her recipe here on my blog, but I've searched high and low and can't seem to locate it.  So, I'll do the next best thing.  I'll post it here, and hope that Pioneer Woman doesn't sue me.  Ha-ha!

Pioneer Woman's Meatloaf
Meatloaf Ingredients
1 cup milk
6 bread slices
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (Lawry's)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
4 eggs, beaten
8 to 12 thin bacon slices

Tomato Gravy Ingredients
1 1/2 cups ketchup
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Dash or two of hot sauce--more if you like heat (I didn't use any!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour the milk over the bread and allow it to soak in for several minutes.
3. Place the ground beef (or turkey), milk-soaked bread, Parmesan cheese, salt, seasoned salt, black pepper and parsley in a large mixing bowl.  Pour in the eggs.
4. With clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined.
5. Form the mixture into a loaf shape on a broiler pan (or a glass pan with forks on the bottom).  And don't forget the aluminum foil!
6. Lay bacon slices over the top, tucking them underneath the meatloaf.
7. Next, make the tomato gravy: Pour the ketchup into the small mixing bowl.  Add the brown sugar and dry mustard, and splash in the hot sauce.  (Or not!) 
8. Stir the mixture until well combined.
9. Pour one-third of the tomato gravy over the top of the meatloaf.
10. Bake for 45 minutes, then pour another one-third of the remaining tomato gravy over the meatloaf.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
11. Serve with the remaining tomato gravy on the side as a dipping sauce.

Monday, June 14, 2010

For Today: June 14, 2010

I love this simple documentation idea from The Simple Woman's Daybook via Ali Edwards' blog:

June 14, 2010

Outside my workshop window...the sun is shining, a slight breeze is blowing, and I can hear a few birds singing.

I am thinking...about all the possibilities this week holds. Summer vacation rocks!

I am thankful for...all of the blessings in my life.

I am wearing...a gray cotton dress from Nordstrom Rack (thanks to a shopping trip last week!) and black flip flops.

I am polaroids to hang on my workshop wall, a few scrapbook layouts, and my Week in the Life scrapbook.

We are Costco, Staples, and WinCo later today to do some shopping.

I am reading...Twilight. I'm curious to see if it lives up to all the hype. I'm only 25 pages into it, so the jury is still out. But it's fun to be reading it at the same time as my mom. And once we finish it, we're going to watch the movie together.

I am have loads of fun this coming weekend. Between having my family up on Saturday afternoon, dining and seeing a show in Nevada City that night, and hanging out with the dads in Brian's family on Sunday, it should be a really great birthday + Father's Day weekend.

I am hearing...Brian talking on the phone. He just told one of his best friends, "You're dead to me," and then laughed. Gotta love it!

Around the's quiet. Just the way I like it.

One of my favorite do right now is cook. (I'm sure you are already aware of that fact if you've been reading my blog as of late.) But my favorite time to bake is about 9:00 p.m. when it is pitch black outside. I'm a night owl (and I don't have to get up early right now), so baking muffins or making cookies in the evenings is such a treat!

A few plans for the rest of the week...Tomorrow, we're heading down the hill to see our Godson swim and have dinner with his family. Should be fun!

A few pictures to share...

Faux Polariod of McKayla (just white cardstock with a cropped picture attached)

My cluttered desk covered with my Week in the Life pictures and journaling cards. The red album (8.5 x 11), which will house these layouts just arrived today, so I'm eager to finish them.
I'll post pictures here on the blog-o when it is officially completed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Family Fun

Introducing--drum roll please--Flat McKayla.

Flat McKayla flew up from Southern California with her creator, McKayla, and McKayla's mom.

Boy was she in for a good time!

And when Flat McKayla was not posing for pictures, she could be folded up into thirds and stowed in a suitcase pocket.

Uncle Brian, on the other hand, cannot.

He's entirely too big to be folded into thirds and stowed in a suitcase pocket.

But he is always at the ready, doling out German toe locks to unsuspecting nieces.

Based on the grin on her face, I don't think McKayla minded one bit.

Later on in the weekend, we headed to John's Incredible Pizza for some food and fun.
McKayla opened a few birthday gifts....

...and Brian ate.
Okay, we all ate, but Brian was the only one with the courage to don this Pandamonium bib.
And as you can see, he rocked it!

Mom and McKayla

Aunt Susie and McKayla

After lunch, it was time to hit the rides.
The Frog Hopper was our first stop.

We went up, up, up...

...and then down...

...and then back up again!
I think Nichole and I were having more fun than McKayla. :-)

Mom and Dad had fun, too. They played several games of air hockey. I'm not sure who was victorious, but knowing how competitive they are, let's just say it was a tie!

I wish that Katie and Justin could have been with us to celebrate, but I'm thankful for the time we had together as a family.

Flat Jennie

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

McKayla Turns Eight!

It was a SpongeBob SquarePants party!

Of course, everyone had to wear their SB hat. (McKayla was nice enough to label each hat with our name, so we knew where to sit.)

Brian's hat string broke during lunch, so we were calling him "Big Head" Brian from there on out.

Ha-ha! :-)

(Gotta have pretty thick skin in our family!)

Speaking of Brian, here he is with the toothless birthday girl.
Or "Mono Loco" as he likes to call her.

I'm sure it's no surprise that McKayla had a SpongeBob cake. But it wasn't just any cake. It was a yummy ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Before we inhaled the cake, though, we had to sing to the birthday girl.

Aren't these plastic cake toppers--Patrick, SpongeBob, and Mr. Krabs--just adorable?!

Next, it was time to open gifts. McKayla's big gift this year was a Wii video game system!

And of course, McKayla and Pop had to test it out.
You know, to make sure it was working okay.

Here they are jousting! If my memory serves me correctly, Pop lost this round and fell off the platform into the sea. (As a spectator, my favorite part is watching the defeated player fly over the edge and tumble down into the water. I have a twisted sense of humor.)

McKayla also received this cool Password Journal from her Aunt Katie.

This password journal is pretty cool; it's like a hi-tech dairy. You don't use a key to open it. Instead, you select a secret word or phrase. The journal will only open when you utter that word or phrase. In fact, not only does it have voice recognition and password protection, but it also has an intruder alert. We never heard it go off, though, despite Brian's many attempts to open it. (See below for the story on that.)

Anyway, to set her password initially, McKayla ran down the hall to her bedroom, said the word quietly and then returned to the living room with her journal closed.

(We suspected that she might have used the default password, but we weren't positive.)

Each time McKayla wanted to open her journal and show us her writing, though, she had to do the same thing--run down the hall and into her room--for fear of revealing her secret password.

Come to think of it, maybe a key (like we had in the old days!) would have been easier...

And as if voice recognition and password protection weren't cool enough, each journal page appears blank until the user turns on the glow light and uses the magic pen.

Snazzy, huh?!

I think I want one for my birthday...LOL

Later on, McKayla set her journal down on the couch for a second, and Uncle Brian just couldn't resist picking it up. In typical Uncle Brian fashion, he tried repeatedly to gain access to McKayla's journal by guessing the password.

It went something like this:

Brian's first attempt: "UncleBrianisawesome!"

Brian's second attempt:

Brian's third attempt: "IwishIwasascoolasUncleBrian!"

Brian's funny and clever password attempts had us in stitches, and seeing McKayla's reactions was priceless!

Although Uncle Brian gave it his best shot, he never figured out McKayla's true password.

And chances are, she'll never tell! :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Baby Chase

On Easter Sunday, a dear friend of ours had this beautiful baby boy.

Let me introduce Chase. Isn't he just precious?!

To celebrate Chase's arrival, I bought this cute Easter bunny blankie. (I just couldn't resist being that he's an Easter baby!)

I also purchased these handcrafted burp cloths from my crafty friend, Alicia.
Aren't they fun?! Check out her blog for more examples of her work.

I hope Chase is spitting up and drooling all over them, and his mom and dad's shirts are staying nice and clean!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just how well do you know your partner?

As I was sorting through boxes of photos and keepsakes this week, I stumbled across a quiz that I had torn out of The Sacramento Bee.

I thought it would be fun to test my "Brian I.Q." and share (some of) my answers here on the blog-o. Below is the list of true/false questions. My responses are italicized.
If you have the time and inclination, quiz yourself and see how you do.

How well do you really know your partner?
To find out, answer these true/false questions from John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

__I can name my partner's best friends.
Yup; I've got that one in the bag!

__I know what stresses my partner currently faces.
Hmmm...I think I know this one, but I'll have to ask Bri when he comes home.

__I know the names of those who have been irritating my partner lately.
Ha-ha...could be me! :-)

__I know some of my partner's life dreams.
Sure, I know some, but I should take the time to ask him more.

__I am very familiar with my partner's religious beliefs.
Easy, peasy!

__I can outline my partner's basic philosophy of life.
Wow, what a question! Definitely looking forward to delving into this one with Brian.

__I can list the relatives my partner likes least.
Yes, I can, but I won't. :-)

__I know my partner's favorite music.
He loves old country music right now, and some days it drives me just batty.

__I can list my partner's favorite three movies.
Let's see...Top Gun, Rudy and Pulp Fiction?! (B: Am I right?!)

__I know the most stressful thing that happened to my partner in childhood.
Maybe Lori pushing him into a glass window. Just kidding!

__I can list my partner's major aspirations.
I can name a few off the top of my head, but I should ask him and see if I'm on target.

__I know what my partner would do if he/she won the lottery.
I always say, "When I win the lottery, I'll..." and Brian says, "Well, you can't win if you don't play." Ha-ha! So, if Brian played and won, what would he do with the money? Well, right now, I think he'd hire a teenage boy to help take care of our land and build himself a workshop where he could work with wood. Oh, and buy a bigger television for his man cave.

__I can relate in detail my first impressions of my partner.
Here's what I remember thinking when I saw Brian for the first time in Macy's at the age of 20. (We met at age ten, but my impressions then were quite different.) I thought, "Wow, he's tall. I like tall. Wow, he's buff. I like buff. And did he just call my name and say hello? Is he really talking to me? It's my lucky day."

__I ask my partner about his/her world periodically.
I need to be better about this!

__I feel my partner knows me fairly well.
Yes, maybe too well. He-he!

According to the article, if you answered true to more than half, you know what makes your partner "tick." (Math is not my strong suit, but I *think* 11 out of 15 is more than half. Woohoo!) If not, Gottman says to take time to learn more about your spouse to make your relationship stronger.

What great advice; I plan on doing so!

Have fun,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grami's Thrifty Meatballs

My paternal grandmother, otherwise known as Grami, made some mean meatballs.

Not just any mean meatballs, but thrifty, mean meatballs.

Why did she call them thrifty? Well, probably because she could find most of the ingredients in her pantry. With seven mouths to feed (plus Grandpa), she had to use what she had on hand.

If you're interested in making them, here's what you'll need:

1 lb. ground beef (Or use turkey like I did.)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup cracker crumbs (I used Saltines.)
1/3 cup milk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons fat for frying
1-10 1/2 ounce can of cream of mushroom or celery soup
3/4 cup hot water
4 ounces of mushrooms (Cut them into pieces or if you're like me, skip them altogether, so you don't gag!)

Let's get started!

First, throw the meat (beef or turkey) into a bowl.

Next, add some onion. (I prefer frozen onion, so my eyes don't water.)

Then, it's time for the uncooked rice to join the mix.

Okay, let's kick it up a notch by adding crackers (crushed), milk, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. That's better!

Then, use your *clean* hands to mix up the ingredients.
Shape the mixture into small balls.
And try not to get frostbite. Ooooweee--my hands were so cold! I think I should have defrosted the meat a bit more.
(I made the balls the night before, covered them with plastic wrap and refrigerated them to cut down on my prep time the following day. Good thinking, Mom!)

When you are ready to cook the meatballs, preheat the electric skillet to 340 degrees. Add fat. (Or spray on a bit of PAM and call it good.) Brown the meatballs on all sides.

When the meatballs are done, combine a can of soup and 3/4 cup of hot water.

Or how about a cup of water? I just looked at the picture and realized that I didn't follow the recipe to a T. You may want to add even more water if the soup needs to be diluted further.

Pour the soup and water mixture over the meatballs. Cover the electric skillet. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours at 220 degrees. Make sure to stir it occasionally.

Feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed.

I doubled it, and the 20+ people in attendance at my Grami's memorial devoured every last meatball. They went so fast, in fact, that my Aunt Susie didn't even get one. I guess I'll just have to make them again, now wont' I?!

Grami's Thrifty Meatballs are great served on rice or mashed potatoes.

These meatballs will make your mouth water, but they won't break the bank.

And each time I make them, I'll think of my Grami and all of the fun times we had together.

Bon appetit,
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