Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jam, Jam, Jam!

For our wedding last May (omg can’t believe it’s been almost a year!), we made homemade blueberry jam for our favors, as I decided I wanted the favors to be Maine-themed and also something edible, since that usually goes over well with guests.  I designed the tags that went with each jam jar, so they would match my invitations and programs.  The jam turned out great, as I was getting compliments on it for months after the wedding! 

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My cousin just got married last week, and for part of their wedding gift, I made them a batch of blueberry jam and stuck them inside a cute basket I found at Home Goods.  Her hubby had requested I make some more jam for last Christmas as he loved it from our wedding, but unfortunately things are always busy around the holidays so I never got around to making any then.   I’m glad I was able to make some last week, but let’s just say I missed my hubby and bridesmaids helping me as making jam is very hard to do when you’re alone!  It came out fine, but the process was just a bit more complicated.   I will do another post on the jam making process, since I did take some pictures while I was making them.  Meanwhile, here’s the basket of completed jam jars:



To dress them up a little, I cut small circles of scrapbook paper, unscrewed the ring, popped the circle on top of the lid, then screwed the ring back on.  After fighting with Maggie to make her leave my ribbon alone, I managed to cut enough white ribbon to tie around each ring and then finish with a bow. 


Creepin in the background, waiting to make her move on my poor little jams 

Once I was done crafting, I left the basket of jams on the kitchen counter and then went back into the living room to watch some TV before going to bed.  I heard the cats in the kitchen, but figured they were just playing with their food, which is a regular occurrence in this house.  Little did I know that they were taking all the ribbons off my jam jars!  I came back into the kitchen to find 5 of the 6 ribbon circles on the floor and no kitties to be found.  Crafts and curious kitties just do not mix.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cake Decorating Class – Practice

Since I wasn’t too happy with my first cake, I decided to make another one after the cupcake class.  I made a basic vanilla cake, used some leftover frosting from the class and got to work :)   This cake was sent to Hubby’s work for his co-workers to enjoy after we each had a slice :) 



I’m getting better with frosting the entire cake…still not perfect, though – the sides in the above picture could have used more smoothing.  On this cake, I practiced doing the rose swirls, drop flowers, leaves and then of course a star border around the bottom.  Drop flowers are SO hard to do…still need to work on those.  I was pretty satisfied with how it turned out, though I would do some more flowers in the middle if I did a design like this again, instead of just one large flower.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Name Game

Another fun questionnaire! 

1. How did your parents decide on your name?
I believe they liked the name after watching a local newscaster who had the same first name?  At least I think that’s the story.  Little did they know this name would become VERY popular. Luckily I only had a few classes in school when there was a second Emily in class…it became most annoying when there was another Emily at work last year but she left after a few months.  According to the SSA, Emily  was the 24th most popular name in 1985, was ranked #1 from 1996 to 2007, and is still #6 of most popular girl names in the U.S.

2. Do your initials (first/middle/last) spell anything funny?
Nope.  Though, if I married someone with a last name starting with “F”, I would have been “ELF”.  Luckily I did not :)

3. Did you take your middle name from childhood or did you drop your middle name & take your maiden name as your middle name? (Or if unmarried, what do you plan to do?)
I kept my middle name from childhood, as it’s my mom’s first name.  If the middle name didn’t have any significance, I may have thought more about taking my maiden name.

4. Are you or will you name your children systematically? (ie, same first letter, same origin, etc)
Hmmm I don’t want any names that start with “E”, “J” or “C”. 

5. Did you decide on baby names as a little girl? Did you stick to them or change your mind?
Omg the names I liked as a kid were so weird.  I loved the name “Marie” when I was little.  Now I think it’s just a little too old-fashioned. 

6. Does your family have any names that have been passed down through generations?
My family does not…the only tradition I can think of is that my mom and grandma both took their maiden names when marrying and dropped their middle ones.  For Hubby’s family, I guess they did pass down his name since his grandfather also has the same first and middle names. 

7. Do you look at the meaning of the name or just the name itself?
Just the name itself.  Though it would be more interesting to actually research the meaning.

8. Do you name pets with human names or pet names?
Haha human names.  Ellie and Maggie are names I almost thought about using for future girls if we have them.

9. Are there any names that you have an affinity or dislike for based on a childhood experience/someone you once knew?
Hmmm…no one from childhood “ruined” a name for me.  But last year at work, I had to deal with this awful bride, Molly…I used to LOVE the name “Molly” and I just don’t know if I could name a girl that now, because that bride was one of the worst customer service experiences!  “Kimberly”  and “Sarah” brides also tend to have bad reputations. 

10. What are some of your favorite names & why?
For girls…I like Leah, Molly (have to get over the horrible bride, though), and Avery.  All of those names are fairly simple, easy to spell and were not that popular…except I just looked at the SSA site and “Avery” is now getting more popular, ranked at 39 from 2009 and “Leah” is ranked 28.  For boys I like Nolan, Drew, and Brennan.  Again, names that aren’t too hard to spell and are not extremely common, like how “Matthew “and “Michael” are.  For a middle name for a girl, I will try to use “Beth” as that was my grandma’s first name.  And I’d like to use “James” for a boy’s middle name since that’s hubby’s name. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekly Menu 3/28-4/3/11

I have been trying to do weekly menus for awhile, but I never write them down so it’s pretty pointless.  A couple blogs I follow post their weekly menus each week, so they inspired me to keep track of everything.  It will also be easy to link up to the recipes I use or any future recipes I’m going to try out. 


This week’s menu:

Monday – Bagel Pizzas

Tuesday – Caesar Salad Wraps

Wednesday – Chicken Burgers (from Trader Joe’s)

Thursday – Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadillas

Friday – Homemade Hamburger Helper

Saturday – Black Bean Pie (will be trying recipe from Sing for Your Supper)

Sunday – Pineapple Salsa Chicken

Inspiration – Travel Themed Decor

A few months ago, I bought this map corkboard from the Crate and Barrel Outlets in Kittery.  


map from Crate and Barrel Outlet

I had searched awhile for one with no luck and thought I would have to just find a map and get it framed at AC Moore or something.  Needless to say, I was beyond excited to find the map (Hubby probably thought I was nuts when I freaked out in the store).  It was exactly what I was looking for, since it was already framed, and I was able to put pins in the board to mark the destinations we have travelled to.  And it was only $20…not too shabby.  It’s now hanging proudly in the spare bedroom along with my other travel-themed decor.


I mark destinations with pearl-headed pins instead of using the little flag pins that Crate and Barrel includes with the corkboard.


I love my map but I saw this and thought maybe I should get a little more creative…

Above pictures from Creative Juices Decor

The canvas is beautiful and makes the map stand out so well!  I love 3D art pieces as they are more visually interesting.  This project definitely intimidates me, though.  I’m thinking of starter with something smaller to try it out.  This could be a good future project for the loft, since we don’t have a ton of stuff on the walls up there yet.  The more I think about it, I would rather keep my own map like it is and try the canvas with a picture of something tropical or a pretty flower.  More crafts to put on the list!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cake Decorating Class – 3rd Week

The third week of the cake decorating class was all about decorating techniques.  I think we used every tip included in our beginner’s kit, and there was a lot of frosting involved.  The thing I hate about Wilton’s frosting recipe is that it’s mostly shortening-based and therefore VERY greasy when you are trying to clean everything after.  I have to use tons and tons of grease-fighting detergent and I feel like it still doesn’t get rid of the residue.  I’ll probably stick to doing more cream-cheese frostings in the future.

Anyways, we finished the class by learning how to fill a cupcake.  I made a blueberry filling, but unfortunately it wasn’t pureed enough, so some of the blueberry chunks got stuck in the tip when I was trying to fill the cupcakes.  I managed to fill a few before getting too frustrated with trying to pick out the chunks with a toothpick.  Next time I know to definitely blend, blend, blend the filling! 

Here are the cupcakes in all their glory:

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I think they turned out pretty well considering it’s a bitch to make those pink flowers on the cupcakes in the top center and left bottom.  Those take lots of practice.  I LOVE making leaves, and the blue swirls on the bottom center are pretty easy to execute, as well.  The shaggy mum flower on the top right is not looking as full as it should but I would like to try those again.  We also learned how to do the huge swirls that cover the whole base which you can kind of see on the top left cupcake.

And here is what a few of the cupcakes looked like after you took a bite:

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I know cupcakes are a huge trend right now, but they are so damn cute and don’t take much time to decorate, which is a major plus as I don’t enjoy the process of frosting entire cakes :)  I’m excited to try some of these techniques out in the future!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blogger ABCs

I love doing these!  Found this on a couple blogs I follow and decided to do my own…

A. Age: 25

B. Bed size: King

C. Chore you hate: Oh man…all of them?  I would say cleaning the bathroom is the worst, though

D. Dogs: Uh, not really a fan…clearly I’m a cat person if you couldn’t already tell from yesterday’s post :)

E. Essential start to your day: A nice hot shower is the only way I can really wake up and feel refreshed

F. Favorite color: Blue

G. Gold or silver: Silver, though I am trying to get more into gold now

H. Height: 5’5"

I. Instruments you play: nothing currently…I used to play the flute in 4th & 5th grade but didn’t enjoy it much

J. Job title: National Affiliate Program Coordinator…aka a manager but our agents don’t like to admit it

K. Kids: not yet but maybe sometime soon

L. Live: as in currently?  now live in MA, grew up in CT

M. Mom’s name: Lynn

N. Nicknames: Em, Emstar

O. Overnight hospital stays: stayed in the hospital for a week when I had surgery to correct my scoliosis

P. Pet peeve: omg…I could probably think of a million.  Here’s one of my biggies: when people don’t know how to properly use “their, they’re, or there”. 

Q. Quote from a movie: ohhh this is so hard to choose just one!  Here are my favorites:

"In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."  -Juno

“So how does it happen, great love? Nobody knows... but what I can tell you is that it happens in the blink of an eye. One moment you're enjoying your life, and the next you're wondering how you ever lived without them.” - Hitch 

And even though Grey’s isn’t a movie, this is my absolute favorite quote:
"You know as well as I do it's not about what you look like, or your job, or how successful you are. It's about having people in your life that you love and who love you...that's all that matters." - Grey's Anatomy

R. Right or left handed: Right handed

S. Siblings: One younger sista

T. Time you wake up: 7:50 AM Mon-Fri (I can actually get ready in about 40 mins now, though sometimes I’m still late to work), usually up by 9AM on the weekends

U. Underwear: haha I don’t know how to answer this…I do wear them every day :)  And I have enough pairs to last me about 7 weeks without doing laundry…no lie

V. Vegetables you dislike: definitely mushrooms…also not a fan of asparagus

W. What makes you run late: um everything…fixing my hair and make-up, changing outfits, just procrastinating in general.  I’m usually 5-10 minutes late no matter where I go

X. X-Rays you’ve had: lots of x-rays of my spine…also some dental ones

Y. Yummy food you make: well hubby is obsessed with my homemade hamburger helper currently…I also make damn good pancakes

Z. Zoo- favorite animal: haven’t been to a zoo in awhile but I’d say a polar bear

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Babies

Since Hubby is away this week on business, I am spending a lot of time with my kitties :)  After all, who else am I supposed to share this king bed with?!  Here is a tribute to each of my babes.


I had been looking on Craigslist for kittens as soon as we moved into our apartment, since the complex allowed cats.  I found a listing for an adoption service that fosters their cats in homes and brings them to a local pet store each weekend for people to check out.  The weekend after Christmas 2008, we went to the store just to look…

I instantly fell in love with “Pansie”.  She was so little and had the cutest face.  She was gray and white and the markings on her were perfect, including her gray chin.

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One of the volunteers took her out of the cage she was sharing with her two sisters so I could hold her, and she  was instantly glued to my chest.  She was definitely coming home with me.

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Once home, I re-named her Ellie, as “Pansie” just wasn’t quite right :)  Ellie is a sweetie pie and wears a pink collar as she is most definitely the princess of the house (Hubby likes to say besides me).  She will only cuddle with you on her own terms, but once she’s in the mood for attention, she will not leave you alone.  She particularly loves laying right on Dad’s feet.  She’s a purr machine and you can always hear her across the room.  She also loves to talk and has a high pitched meow that always makes me smile. 

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Ellie Bean is a scavenger and will beg beg beg for human food.  She loves waiting for Dad to make lunch at night because she’s guaranteed some lunch meat scraps.  It’s rare when she’s not in the same room as you, but if you want to find her, all you need to do is shake the treat bag a little and she will come running.  Unfortunately Ellie also loves eating plastic…any kind of plastic…so we’ve had to baby-proof the house. 

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Her favorite toys are sweatshirt strings, cheapo Walmart mousies, and the decorative balls that sit in the bowl that makes up my dining table centerpiece.  She gets away with murder because she knows she’s damn cute. She is still my “Little One” even though she’s such a chub now. 

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There were two kittens left at the pet store – a "cow” kitty (black and white markings) and a tortoiseshell kitty (black and orange).  I felt horrible about leaving the third kitty behind as we only had room for 2, but the volunteers assured me there would be plenty of families that would only want one kitten and she’d be adopted soon.  I let Hubby decide which remaining kitty he wanted since my heart was set on the gray one, so he chose “Maddie”.  I wasn’t totally fond of the name “Maddie” as it reminded me too much of the bratty twin on Jon & Kate Plus 8, so I switched it slightly to Maggie. 


Maggie is a tortoiseshell colored kitty and apparently these cats are known for being trouble-makers.  I will come right out and say it -Maggie is such a shit.  She will get into EVERYTHING and has very selective hearing.  She loves opening up closet doors (the kind that hinge in the middle), even though she already knows what’s inside.  I call her my “little pup” because she she acts like a dog – seriously.  She follows you around the house and loves playing with the bouncy balls and catching them, though, she’s not very good at bringing them back.  She enjoys waking you up exactly two minutes before your alarm is scheduled to go off and will not stop licking your face…I really think she grew up with dogs in her foster home.

Kittens! 010This picture cracks me up because she was SO little then

Maggie is such a talker – I swear, we have legit conversations when I get home from work, like she’s so excited to tell me about her day.  She also tends to “moan” a lot when she’s snuggling or sleeping, since she needs to remind us she’s here and has SUCH a tough life.  I think Maggie’s a tomboy, but she’s very very very attached to Mom which makes Dad sad sometimes.

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I also have given her the nickname “Sweet and Sour Patch Kid” because she is totally like one of those commercials.  You know, when the Sour Patch Kid does something naughty and then makes up for it 2 seconds later?  Yeah, that’s so Maggie.  She will make a mess, swipe stuff from the table onto the floor, get into my arts and crafts supplies, etc, etc but then just a minute later she will be cuddling with you, nudging your face, and purring like she did nothing wrong.  She is completely ridiculous but always makes me laugh – I think she knows she’s funny.

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I realize everything I just wrote makes me a crazy cat lady but I am fine with it :)  I love my cats so much and seriously don’t know what I would do without them.  They are attention whores and quite the characters, but I wouldn’t want it any other way as they make me feel very loved. 

No, these are not in my house :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inspiration – Milk & Cookies Party Theme

Came across this adorable idea for a Milk & Cookies themed baby shower…

source for all above pictures

Even though this was for a baby shower, I think the theme could also be a cute birthday party idea for a little kid or maybe even an adult who loves cookies :)  And look at these Rice Krispie treat bars – smart way to eat them without getting the sticky stuff all over your hands!

Go to From Glitter to Gumdrops to see more of this wicked cute shower.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recipe – Sundried Tomato Chicken & Bacon Quesadillas

Seriously, who doesn’t love quesadillas?  You need just a few ingredients and about 20 minutes to create a quick and easy dinner.  Hubby LOVES this version I have made a couple times now, so this will definitely be a keeper for future meals :)  I use the Newman’s Light Sundried Tomato dressing that I bought to make the Sundried Tomato Bacon Chicken a month or so ago, and we always have whole wheat tortillas on hand because I eat a wrap for lunch every day.  You can easily modify this recipe if you have other dressings in the fridge.sundriedtomatoquesadilla3

We have a quesadilla maker that we received for a housewarming gift, so if you don’t have one, I’m assuming you would just need to pop these in the oven for about 10 minutes or heat them on a skillet on the stove until the cheese is all melty.  For this recipe, I cook the chicken and bacon ahead of time, so I really only use the quesadilla maker to melt everything together and brown the top and bottom of the tortillas.  What I love most about the maker is that it automatically indents the tortillas into sections so it’s much easier to cut later on.


- 2-3 tablespoons Fat Free Cream Cheese, softened

- 2 cups Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese

- 4 Whole Wheat Tortillas

- 2 tablespoons Light Sundried Tomato Dressing

- 2 cups Frozen Chicken Strips

- 2 or 3 strips Turkey Bacon

- Fat Free Butter-Flavored Cooking Spray

- Fat Free Sour Cream for dipping

Let’s Get Cooking!

1. Pour the sundried tomato dressing in a small skillet and heat the frozen chicken strips on low-medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes or so and turn often so all sides of the chicken are coated in the dressing.

2. In another skillet, cook the bacon on medium heat until browned on both sides.

3. Turn the quesadilla maker on.  Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on one side of each tortilla wrap.  Spray the cooking spray on the opposite side of the tortilla that does NOT have cream cheese on it.  Place the tortilla wrap onto quesadilla maker so that the cream cheese side is facing up.

4. Add half of the chicken and half of the bacon to the top of the cream cheese side of the tortilla.  Then layer on half of the shredded cheese and evenly spread.

5. Add the second tortilla to the top of the chicken, bacon and cheese.  This time, the cream cheese side should be facing down.  Spray the top of the opposite side of the tortilla with cooking spray.

6. Shut the quesadilla maker tightly so all the contents are smooshed together (sorry, can’t think of a more technical term) and heat for 5 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the top of the tortilla is lightly browned and crispy.

7. Take the quesadilla out of the maker and place on a plate for serving.  Add sour cream for dipping and cut the quesadilla into sections. 

8. Repeat to make a second quesadilla!  Make sure to shut off the quesadilla maker once you are done :)


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cake Inspiration

How adorable is this cake?????  I love love love the movie “Up” and was so excited to see these pictures.

Go here to see more of this awesome “Up” themed party!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Recipe Review – Homemade Hamburger Helper

Oh. My. God.  Go to Sing for Your Supper and make this recipe for dinner tomorrow tonight.  You will not be disappointed!  I didn’t take a picture as my version looked exactly like this:


Basically it’s a homemade, healthy version of Hamburger Helper.  I used fat free cream cheese, ground turkey and fat free sour cream and it was AMAZING.  Took about 20 minutes to throw together.  Definitely a 10/10!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cake Decorating Class – 2nd week

For the second class, our homework was to bring in a plain unfrosted cake.  Since I have never baked a cake before in a round pan, I was pretty nervous about this and bought 2 boxes of cake mix in case I messed up.  Good thing I did, because the first cake was totally uncooked through all the way, even though I thought it passed the toothpick test.  When I went to flip the cake after it cooled, the bottom half looked like pancake batter. 

So I threw that out, made the second cake, left it in the oven for a few more minutes, and did the toothpick test like 10 times.  This one baked well, but I didn’t use enough cooking spray on the sides so it stuck a bit when I tried to flip it.  When it was cooling, I went into the living room to watch TV for a bit and the kitties decided it would be fun to jump on the counter and investigate what I made.  I came back later to find my cake with little chunks missing – ugh!  I was so frustrated at this point, I just left it and figured it would be fine once I frosted it in class. 

Our other homework was to make 2 recipes of frosting – a thin consistency that would be used to frost the entire cake and then a medium consistency that would be used to decorate the cake.  I thought my frosting was fine but unfortunately I forgot to take it inside with me when I went to work so it was left sitting in my cold car all day.  When I got to class later that evening, it didn’t warm up enough and I should have mixed it with a little more water before starting to frost.  We had to dirty ice my cake first, as there were cake crumbs mixed in with the frosting.  Then I guess I added too much water to the frosting as it was very wet and took a long time to dry.  I wasn’t able to smooth over the imperfections with a piece of parchment paper or a paper towel as it was too wet and kept pulling off the cake.  This also made it difficult to do our design with piping gel, which basically is used to transfer an image onto the cake.  Let’s just say I learned a LOT during this class :)

I was not happy with my cake whatsoever from this class as I had so many issues with the baking, frosting, and decorating.  But practice makes perfect.  At least for next time I know  I need to spray my pans better and also to bring all my frosting in with me to work for the day so it’s kept at room temp.  Here are some pictures from my horrible disaster cake, even though I’m fairly embarrassed to show these:


Uneven frosting, too wet to properly use a piping gel transfer for the image


More uneven frosting and should have wiped off the extra before doing the star border on the bottom


The design on top came out okay…I’m not a fan of using elongated shapes on cakes, though

So class #2 was definitely a learning experience in all aspects of making a cake.  Hopefully these pictures will show my improvement over the next few weeks :)  Our homework for class 3 was to bring in several different colors of icing and cupcakes to practice more decorating techniques, so I will share more of that next time.