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Punny Teacher Appreciation Week Gifts

by on May.04, 2015, under Craftables

As an adult, I’ve known a few teachers both as friends and family, and no joke these are some hard working professionals. Yes, they get the summers off, but for the other 9 months of the year, they are working many extra hours before and after the class bells ring. This year I got the wild hair to put together some gift bags for The Bean’s two Pre-K teachers for Teacher Appreciation week. They have been really good with her this year and I think they deserve the real credit in helping her to be selected for our optional out-of-district elementary school. Teacher Appreciation Gift Bag

Here is a list of printables I found for the gift items I put together yesterday, and one original that I created myself. I included an item for each day of the week along with a card signed and decorated by The Bean. She was very excited to hand these to her teachers this morning.

1. Thanks a Latte for All You Do by Longing for Home Designs: Starbucks gift cards are classic for teachers. And it doesn’t even matter if they don’t like coffee since Starbucks offers so many other things; teas, fruit smoothies, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, etc. When I am not feeling as creative as this, I usually just get a well-loaded Starbucks card for the teacher and call it a day. For this I used some medium weight tan card stock I had on hand. My local grocery store has a Starbucks inside it, so when I went to pick up the gift cards, I got two of the cup wrappers as well. I hot-glued those to the card stock and used tape to secure the cards inside of them.

2. Thank for Helping Me Sparkle by Love The Day:  Give the teacher a bottle of your (or your daughter’s) favorite glitter nail polish. Warning, this printable makes a bunch. I only needed two tags, but didn’t have the time or patients to mess with editing the PDF, so I just wasted the ink (which I hate) and let the whole page fly. These might be useful in the future for other gifts though, maybe a bridal shower thank you gift or a girl child’s future birthday goodie bags.

3. Your Were Mint to Teach by A Place Called Joy: Note this printable is just for the white label piece on top of the colored paper. I wanted to make it look a little more fancy and thanks to my scrap booking paper collection, I had no trouble finding some cute coordinating paper to make a full size wrapper for the Altoids tin. This could be used with any type of mint flavored treat – gum, peppermint patties, Mentos, star peppermints, Andies candies etc.

4. You Deserve a Break by Eighteen25: If you are over 30 (ugh, dating myself here) then you will surely recognize the reference to the Kit Kat bar jingle. If not, learn yourself something new. This printable is cool because it includes 2 sets of the individual pieces. The circle is separate from the ribbon, which ads a nice 3d element to the tag. If you don’t happen to have a circle cutter like it did, you might have some anxiety there, but not everyone is the perfectionist I am either, so maybe not.

5. Soak in the Summer by OhhShiny: One of the original gift suggestions from school was some bubble bath. Well when I was shopping, for whatever reason, the bubble bath section at my local store had be decimated. Only things left were a few bottles of store brand bath gel and trusty ol’ Mr. Bubble. While I did momentarily toy with the idea of getting them some Mr. Bubble to be funny, I ultimately decided I wanted to go with an item I thought they would really use, thus leading to me picking out some nice smelling bath body soak. After hours of wrangling toddlers, who wouldn’t relish a chance to relax and soak in a hot bath?? When I got to the point of assembling the gift bags I realized I had clever little tags for all the items except this. Since I changed from the bubble bath item, the tag I had planned no longer made sense in the gift context. I searched Pinterest and Google, and came up empty-handed for other pre-made gift tags for teachers for bath body soak. Thus, this original creation was born. I adapted the tag line from a holiday post I saw for bath soaks. A few minutes in Photoshop later, and this is what emerged. Honestly, I was ready for bed at this point, so this might not exemplify my finest work, but I thought, on the off chance someone else wants to put some bath body soak in a teacher gift bag, they might like these too. Pictured is a 3×5 size tag which is linked in the main entry above, but I made a page of smaller 3×2 tags also.

Soak Img

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Sauerkraut Sausage Soup

by on Dec.23, 2014, under Yummies

Sauerkraut Sausage Soup

When it gets cold and damp during the winter months, I start craving soup like many others do. This is actually a relatively new thing for me, since I have never been a big soup eater, unless I am fighting some type of plague. And up until just a couple of years ago, all soup for me came out of a can. Well thankfully I have found that I can make soup myself, and it is stupid-easy and tastes awesome when done correctly.

This recipe came to me courtesy of a co-worker who brought this to my office as part of an international pot-luck lunch that we held. I actually went back for seconds on this and then had to ask for the recipe. The flavor of the sauerkraut is present but not overwhelming. The ham and sausage add good texture and additional savory/salty flavors. While I dont know if I will ever get to make this at home (The Man does not like beans), it sure would hit the spot on this cold rainy gloomy day before Christmas Eve.

Sauerkraut Sausage Soup
 
By:
Type: Soup, Main Dish
Serves: 8
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

 
Ingredients
  • 1 48-ounce box of low sodium chicken stock. (there lots of sodium in everything else, so low sodium is the best)
  • 21 ounces of jarred sauerkraut with juices. (I prefer Claussen or Hengstenberg)
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (do not drain or rinse)
  • 1 can navy beans (do not drain or rinse)
  • 1 package of diced ham (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 package of kielbasa sausage – uncooked – cut into ¼” slices
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 whole Bay leaves
  • 3 teaspoons fennel seeds
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients into a soup pot or crock pot. Stir together well.
  2. Cook for 3 hours. You want the beans to soften up and the onions to cook, everything else is already cooked.
  3. Remove bay leaves just prior to serving.

 

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Sautéed Green Beans with Bacon

by on Sep.23, 2014, under Yummies

SGBB

I have been slowly and methodically working to introduce more green vegetables into my family’s diet. My husband does not consider himself a fan of most dark green or leafy vegetables, with the exception of salad. He will eat a good salad, but one can only fix salad so many times in a row before I desperately craves something different.

After winning him over to the delights of  asparagus with a family recipe that was passed down to me and then to brussels sprouts by an awesome recipe for Brussels Sprout Hash from my friend Michael Nolan aka The Garden Rockstar, I thought it might be time to try green beans. Our daughter LOVES green beans from the can. It’s one of the few veggies I know I can give her that we won’t have to fight about. I’ve missed fresh green beans very much and have reveled in ordering them at restaurants when offered. I am not crazy about canned green beans, but fresh…or even better yet, straight from my mom’s garden, boy howdy!

My strategy for getting The Man to try green beans was pretty straight forward….deception. Taking a queue from the Brussels Sprout Hash recipe, my thought was that the key to his heart would be bacon. Smother the green beans in bacon grease and top with crumbled bacon. He would be helpless to resist them. And I am happy to report, it work! So well in fact, he nearly ate half the pan of beans himself and declared that I am free to make these again anytime I desire.

 

Sautéed Green Beans with Bacon
 
By:
Serves: 4
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Green Beans, washed and ends snipped
  • 2-3 Slices of Bacon
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • ½ Cup Chicken Broth
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a Saute pan until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Do NOT remove bacon drippings from the pan.
  2. Over medium heat, add garlic to the bacon drippings and cook for approx. 1 minute until fragrant. Be cautious not to burn the garlic.
  3. Add green beans to the pan and stir to coat in the drippings. Add the chicken broth and stir to deglaze pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until broth evaporates, stirring every couple of minutes.
  4. After the broth is gone, cook for 1 to 2 minutes more to get just a hint of crispiness on the outsides of the beans.
  5. Remove from heat and crumble cooked bacon overtop. Stir to mix.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

 

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Mason Jar Salads

by on Jan.21, 2014, under Yummies

Mason Jar Salads

If  you’ve spent any time on pinterest recently, you’re sure to have noticed the current mason jar craze taking over feeds everywhere. Oh, you haven’t seen this?!? Well maybe I just have a few jar-crazy friends ;) Sadly, I too have now become another statistic to the mason jar epidemic.

It started innocently enough. The polar vortex has been bringing lots of cold air to my little slice of heaven in the south, thus I have been eating an inordinate amount of soup as of late. Soup is one of those weird things that I typically don’t think of as a ‘meal’ except when I am sick. Lately though I have actually been craving it, which is totally bizarre for me. Along with all this soup I still wanted something of substance to crunch on, thus the idea of a pairing salad with it. I know, revolutionary, right? Watch out world, I’ll be figuring out this whole ‘internet’ thing next!

Now I kept seeing these pins for salads in mason jars claiming that they stay fresh for days, and I finally had a friend share a post that made some sense for me out of these claims. It detailed how to layer your jar salad to keep things from becoming soggy and unappetizing. So off to the store I zoomed for salad fixing and some jars* to try this out.

So, according to eHow, the proper way to layer your mason jar salad (from bottom to top) to keep them fresh is as follows:

  1. Dressing (your wettest ingredient)
  2. Marinade-able ingredients. Examples are dried fruit, picked veggies, and/or root veggies like carrots, onion, or radishes.
  3. Wet Ingredients. Such as cucumber, tomatoes, corn, apple, or anything else that would make the lettuce go soggy.
  4. Dry Ingredients. Beans, meats, cheese, whole berries, etc.
  5. Lettuce and toppings. I am still experimenting if its works better to do croutons bellow or on top of the lettuce. This is also where you can include such things as edible flowers, nuts, or tortilla strips.

*Jars – I never realized how many different types of mason jars there are. I went with a wide-mouth quart jar, which has turned out to be just perfect. Easy to get things in and out of, and makes a good main entree salad serving size.

The great thing about these salads is, once you get the basics of layering down, they are infinitely customizable. Below are 4 salads I have made recently that I came up with off the top of my head. Don’t like something in my version, no worries, kick it out and replace with something you do like!

Taco Salad

My version was meatless, but you could easily throw some leftover taco filling or fajita meat in for some extra protein.

 

Taco Salad

Chipotle Dressing
Tomatoes
Corn
Avocado
Onion
Cheese
Lettuce
Tortilla Strips

 

 

BLT Salad

This salad was sooo good I wanted to do x-rated things to it!

BLT Salad

Ranch Dressing
Tomatos
Red Onion
Crumbled Bacon
Hard Boiled Egg slices
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Croutons
Lettuce

 

 

Strawberry Fields

I got so excited to eat this one, I forgot to take a picture before I got it out of the jar and started munching down!

 

 

Strawberry Fields Salad

Raspberry Vinaigrette
Dried Cherries
Sliced Strawberries
Sliced Apples
Honey Roasted Almond Slivers
Feta Cheese Crumbles
Lettuce

 

 

 

Greek Salad

Any excuse to add artichoke hearts to a recipe! Tangy and delicious paired with a lemon chicken orzo soup!

Greek Salad

Greek Dressing
Cucumber
Artichoke Hearts
Tomatoes
Black Olives
Red Onion
Feta Cheese
Lettuce

Update: After trying several iterations with the croutons in different places, I would definitely recommend them on top, or carried separately (I know, hassle). If your salad is not going to sit long before eating, they will remain mostly crunchy on top. After 24 hours in the jar however, then get kind of soggy. Personally, I just brought a small sandwich bag of them to my office to add at the time I devour my salad.

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Survive a New Year

by on Jan.02, 2014, under Miscellanea

Warning: This is a personal feelings post. I am about to get all existential up in here. No recipe or reviews today. If you are looking for those, feel free to skip this one.

So I just saw a little bit of wisdom on one of these ‘things I learned in the last year’ lists that overflow social network feeds at the beginning of every new year. It said, “Write like no one is reading” and my first thought was, “easy! I’m pretty sure no one reads my blog anyway.” So here I am, writing with the expectation that no one will really read my blather. If you can’t tell, I am feeling even more cynical then usual lately. Life is good in general, but there are always a few things in the mix that nettle me. I am not one of those perpetually cheerful people. I would say I am pretty average in that, I have at least as many ‘bad’ days as ‘good’ days. New Year’s Eve 2013 was one of the bad days.

To preface I just want to just say, I’ve never really gotten the big deal about New Year’s Eve/New Years Day. Yes, its nice to have a random day off work and a reason to hang out with friends/family, but as for as it being of any particular cosmic significance, I don’t see that there is much of note. It’s another day, just like all the ones before it and all those after. The Universe doesn’t care how we humans divide up the orbit of one planet around it’s star. Not even all humans can agree on how to divide it (i.g. Chinese New Year).  I’ve always thought of time like a river. It is a continuous flows regardless of any container our minds put increments of it in. The change from one year to another is rather arbitrary to me. Some like to use it as a chance to start over, wipe the slate clean, and/or mark the beginning of something new but I don’t see why those things can’t be done any other day. Every day is a new day that can be the start of new things.

Now for the more personal reflections about this most recent New Year’s Eve/Day. Not going to air any specific dirty laundry here, but I was just in a general bad mood after having worked most of the day on New Years Eve. At work I had to cover a position that I loathe, in addition, that morning I had gotten some distressing news about our mortgage, and while my husband (aka The Man) was off work and suggested going out for dinner, he offered no concrete plan of where exactly he wanted to go (I very much like to always have a plan). Also, this was the first New Years Eve I can remember where not a single friend reached out to invite us to a gathering of some sort. After coming home in a rather dark mood, The Man poked the bear one too many times and we had a nice explosive fight just before we were supposed to leave for dinner. We finally did get out the door, only to sit in general silence while eating an overpriced mediocre meal at a packed chain restaurant. We were home by 8:30 and The Man was in bed by 9, since he had to be up for work the next day before dawn. I rung in the new year alone, in bed, reading a book, and still generally pissed off with the world. Woohoo.

Don’t fret though, apologies where exchanged and feeling mended the next day between me and The Man. I keep thinking however, about the pressure (real or perceived) the usually exchanged expression of ‘Happy New Year’ puts on one. What if things are going on in one’s life that just do not make for a particularly happy new year? One of my close friends had just lost her mother to complication from Alzheimer’s 5 days prior, and while I know she would be trying, it was probably difficult for her to be really feeling ‘happy’ for the new year. I was unusually quite on my social networks, not really posting much about the New Year or my feelings, sentimental, hopeful or otherwise. A friend of mine posted the below comic and I think it is a perfect summation on the subject.

cyanidehappinessnewyear

So I said all of that to really say, to all my friends and family, Survive a New Year! Happy or sad, good day or bad, I will still love you just the same.

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