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Whale Canvas Nursery Art

August 30, 2013

The past few months my main house projects have been putting together the nursery and a big boy room for my older son. I haven’t been much of a decorator in the past but this time I really enjoyed it!

I did a few crafty projects for both rooms and the one I wanted to post about today was some painted canvas art for the nursery. I saw the idea on the blog Simply Stavish when I was searching for whale nursery ideas. Then I googled the whale art a bit more and found another version on Full Plate Living. I loved the idea and thought it looked easy enough so I decided to go for it.

Here is how it turned out:

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I actually painted that! Can you believe it? It really was simple too.  I started with three blank 9×12 canvases.  I bought two 2 packs at Michael’s when they were 40% off.  Here is a similar item on Amazon: Artist Canvas 9×12.

Then I picked up some acrylic paint and paint brushes at Hobby Lobby.  The colors are phthalocyanine blue, pale blue and neutral grey.

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The brushes were a three pack of different sizes on sale.  I don’t know the first thing about brushes or paints so I just picked something that looked decent and wasn’t too costly.

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There was no way I was going to free hand draw the whale.  I know my drawing skills and they are terrible.  I asked Benzo to make me a stencil that coordinates with the wall decals we had purchased and he obliged.  He made me a stencil of the whale and the water spout in Photoshop, which I printed and then traced onto the canvas.  I did have to free hand the long line of the water on the middle canvas to extend the water up higher than in the decals.

The actual painting was quick and easy.  I just laid out some newspaper and went to work painting around the outside of what I had traced on each one.  I left the white part the color of the canvas, as in I did not paint it with white paint.

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I did the whole project in two evenings after my son went to bed, spending about an hour each night.  I absolutely love the way it turned out.  I had so much fun painting it, now I want to paint more canvases for our house.  I was thinking it would be fun to make different canvas paintings for different holidays and have a place in the house where I can switch them out periodically.  For fall I thought some falling leaves or a tree would be fun with shades of orange, red or yellow.  There are a lot of possibilities!

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

August 28, 2013

The night before I went into labor I actually made four jars of dill pickles. Maybe it was an odd pregnancy craving but I was very determined to make homemade pickles in those last few days. This was my first time making homemade pickles. I used the following recipe:

How to Make Dill Pickles @ The Kitchn

Benzo picked up eight “pickling cucumbers” at our farmers’ market. They are smaller and fatter than regular cucumbers. I sliced off the ends and then sliced them into spears and rounds.

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I ended up with four pint jars total – three of spears and one of rounds. So I doubled the spices and the brine in the recipe. Here are the spices on top of the pickles.

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The brine is only three ingredients. And I just so happened to have pickling salt on hand after making my own Neti-Pot mix. Here are the jars all sealed up with the brine.  I ended up with 3/4 of another jar full of leftover brine.

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I chose not to process the jars. The Kitchn said that the jars would last for a couple months in the fridge and I figured we would go through all four jars before then.

Without processing the jars, the pickling process was super easy. It took no time at all. I plopped the jars in the fridge and then my water broke about 8 hours later! Which worked out well for the pickles because they were ready to eat once we got home from the hospital. And WOW were they delicious. Nice and crisp with great flavor.

I am not a huge pickle person. I mean I like them but I don’t crave them. But I have found myself sneaking spears from the jar throughout the day. One jar is gone already!  I might try to snag some more pickling cucumbers at the market and make another batch before they are out of season.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

August 26, 2013

The cherry tomato plant in our garden would be 10 feet tall if we had stakes that high.  What is it about the small tomato plants that makes them grow like crazy?  We grew those small yellow pear shaped tomatoes one year and it was absolutely out of control as well.  Grew up and over the cage and then across the ground.  There was no stopping it!

So since we have an abundance of cherry tomatoes I have had my eye out for recipes that use a bunch all at once.  While Benzo likes to eat them raw, I’m never going to just pop one in my mouth.  I prefer my tomatoes cooked or mixed together with a bunch of other stuff.

I don’t remember how I came across this recipe but as soon as I saw it I knew it would be good.

Pasta with Kalamata Olives & Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce @ Epicurious

Kalamata olives, capers, feta and roasted tomatoes?  How could it be bad?  Benzo made this for us about a week before I went into labor.  He said that it was surprisingly easy.  Roasting the tomatoes takes awhile but that is all hands-off time.  He said the hardest or longest part was cutting all the cherry tomatoes in half.

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We ending up making a half recipe and it was just right for two adults and a toddler.  We left off the pine nuts just because we didn’t have any.  The end result was AMAZING!  Seriously so delicious.  I can’t wait to make this again.  Hopefully this week we will have enough cherry tomatoes for round two!

Little Brother is Here!

August 24, 2013
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Maybe he was just trying to keep up with big brother already, but little brother surprised us this week by deciding he was ready for the world 11 days before his due date.  (Big brother was a week early – I am a lucky mama to have two early and healthy babies.)  We are home and settling into a new routine as a family of four.  Since Benzo is a stay-at-home dad now, he doesn’t have to rush back to work like with our first son.  That has been very nice.  We have implemented “man to man” defense around here.  I usually take the baby while Benzo wrangles the older one.

We did do some freezer cooking in advance so we have some good meals stored up.  And with both of us at home for my entire maternity leave I’m hoping we don’t do too much eating out, though it is very tempting when you are sleep deprived!  Our garden is still going strong.  Lots of tomatoes and finally getting some bell peppers after a slow start.  We did not plant any lettuce or kale for the fall.  We decided taking care of a baby would be enough work as it is.

I am so excited to begin this adventure as a mom of two boys.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me!

Veggie BLTs

August 7, 2013
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Another simple summer dinner we’ve been loving on lately – BLTs made with veggie bacon!  We had this last week on Thursday and again last night.  I think I could eat it every other night.  It would also make an excellent lunch.

The key is this recipe for homemade veggie bacon from No Meat Athlete:

Vegan Bacon Recipe @ No Meat Athlete

It’s easy to make and full of regular ingredients.  We’ve pretty much stopped eating processed fake meats once I started paying attention to the extremely long and worrisome ingredient lists (other than the occasional Field Roast, which is pretty clean).  One batch makes enough for two meals for my family, though we could probably stretch it to three if we didn’t gobble down the extra pieces.  It freezes great post-baking, pre-frying.  And my 2 year old loves it.

I used three slices on my sandwich along with lettuce and sliced tomato from the garden.  We did use some Miracle Whip that’s been hanging out in the fridge.  Need to find a better alternative for that…..

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Benzo, who is a meat eater, really likes this bacon.  I also really like the taste and think it would be great in lots of dishes that call for regular bacon.  It’s really crunchy though so if you like floppy bacon you might not like it.  When I ate meat I always preferred my bacon extra crispy.

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We’ve been enjoying this sandwich with ears of fresh corn from the farmers’ market, shucked and boiled for 6 minutes.  Grilled corn would also be tasty.  I absolutely love all this summer produce!

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Parmesan Zucchini Rounds

July 31, 2013

One of our dinners last week consisted of pasta with the first batch of fresh homemade pesto from our basil plants in the garden.  I think homemade pesto might be my very favorite thing to eat.  Since we didn’t have a garden last year, it had been two years (!) since I last had homemade pesto.  Far too long.  I would’ve licked my plate if I hadn’t thought it would be setting a bad example for my son.

Side note – I usually make pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts because it is cheaper and I think it tastes just as good.

On the side I tried a new recipe – parmesan zucchini rounds.  It originally caught my eye because I thought it would be a good way to get my 2 year old to try zucchini.  Previous attempts of serving him sautéed zucchini with just oil, salt and pepper have failed.  I needed a new approach.  I followed this recipe exactly as written:

Parmesan Zucchini Crisps @ Food Network

Note that I am referring to them as “rounds” instead of “crisps” because mine did not get very crisp at all.  I used a golden zucchini from the farmers’ market.

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Although they were not crisp, I thought they turned out pretty tasty and Benzo and I agreed we would like to make them again.  One downside is that they were a bit labor intensive with dipping each slice in the breading.  I told my son they were “zucchini chips” and he amazingly bit right into one!  He didn’t end up eating a lot but I was ecstatic that he tried them.  And he even took more than one bite.  WIN.

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Easy Summer Dinner: Salad Niçoise

July 25, 2013

It’s been awhile since I last posted! We are really enjoying our summer and have been busy getting ready for baby #2. I thought I would share a quick post today on what’s becoming one of my favorite summer dinners – Salad Niçoise.

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It’s nice and light for hot summer nights and very quick to put together. You can do a lot of the prep in advance. The ingredients are a bit variable (if you google salad Niçoise you’ll see what I mean). Ours contained:

Chopped leaf lettuce
Hard boiled eggs
Green beans (boiled 6 minutes)
Cherry tomatoes
Potatoes (boiled until just tender)
Capers

You can also add tuna but we did not. We dressed it with a homemade balsamic vinegar dressing:

3T olive oil
1T balsamic vinegar
1/2T honey
1/2T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

I love that most of the ingredients can be found at the local farmers market where fresh produce is in abundance these days. In our salad the green beans and cherry tomatoes came from our backyard garden. The potatoes and eggs were purchased from local farmers. The lettuce, capers and dressing ingredients came from the store.

We’ve had this twice and I’ve enjoyed it immensely both times. I’m sure it will be on the menu again soon.

Have a lovely day!

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