Thursday, April 30, 2009

This is Thursday

Today has been kind of a slow day here. I do have some fun things to show you all soon, but for now here are some things for you to enjoy. Well, I enjoy them.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Salt and Pepper Shakers Shaped Like Farm Animals Will Do That To You

I got a little sidetracked when looking for forks at The Salvation Army yesterday.
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But at only 99 cents it was a great distraction! They just make me smile.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

{Insert Clever Title Here} (or how to make broccoli cheese soup)

My brain has stopped working lately. It's a lot like placenta brain (you know, when you're pregnant and you get really absent minded - and let's be honest, stupid, because the placenta is sucking all of your brain power), but I'm not pregnant. Anyway, that's not what this post is about.

The last couple of days have been dark and overcast and rainy and cold. Which I don't mind - no really, being from Arizona, you learn to love dark, rainy days - because you don't see them very often, so they're a treat! Anyhow, so on days like that, it's best to curl up with a big fluffy blanket and read a book, or a blog or two, and then make soup or chili for dinner (I did both on two different nights - it was heavenly!) Unless of course, you have two boys who are driving you crazy and are in serious need of some energy release, then you go for a walk in between rains.
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But let's be honest, you end up loving it - even though it is windy and a little chilly. Someone was even out mowing their lawn, so it smelled nice too.
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Actually, it was really nice.
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But how could it not be with these little cuties?

Anyhow, before I get too sidetracked, this post is actually about one of my favorite soups. Actually, I really love soup, and they are all "one of my favorites", but broccoli cheese soup is just so yummy and I have perfected the recipe, just for you! So, here are the directions for the broccoli cheese soup that we had. Yummy, yummy!
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First, melt 5 or 6 tablespoons of butter in a big pot. Usually, I use unsalted butter. This time I think I used a mix because that is what I had.
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Then add an equal amount of flour and whisk, whisk, whisk so there are no lumps and cook it for about a minute or so.
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Then add some chicken broth. I used a box, plus about half a box of water and a couple of chicken bouillon cubes, plus another can of chicken broth. Then whisk, whisk, whisk so there are no lumps.
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Then add some broccoli. I like these bags of broccoli because all the washing and chopping is done for me. I used just one bag, but I could have used 2. (And bummer that the picture is out of focus!) Also, add some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to the soup.
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Then let your broccoli cook for about 10 minutes, or until it's tender.
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Next, add some heavy cream. Yum. I think I used about a cup. (I'm really bad about measuring.) It may have been closer to a cup and a half though.
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Next, start adding your cheese. I used about 4 cups of cheese. 3 1/2 cups of it was sharp cheddar. You want to sprinkle the cheese with about a tablespoon of flour and mix it with your fingers. Then add it to the soup a handful at a time and stir, stir, stir in between. The key to making sure your soup is not stringy with cheese but rather creamy with cheese, is the stirring!
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I also used about half a cup of Parmesan cheese. Normally, I like the Parmesan and Romano mix, but this is what I had. No need to mix it with the flour if it is already powdered. If I am feeling extra decadent, I also add some blue cheese, but you must make sure the blue cheese is the very best and not at all bitter, otherwise you will ruin your soup! The blue cheese should be coated with a little bit a flour also. At this point, be sure to taste it to see if you need anymore salt or pepper (or more cheese!). I usually end up adding more fresh ground pepper - I love pepper (and more cheese)!
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Finally, serve it up with some crusty sourdough bread. (Safeway's bakery has the best sourdough bread in the world! I am absolutely sure of this! But a good alternative is the frozen bread you can buy at Sam's Club. I prefer the roasted garlic kind.) Or Kara's garlic breadsticks are also a good alternative. And they're pretty easy to make, I just wasn't ambitious enough to do it this time. Here's the recipe for those:

Kara's Garlic Breadsticks
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 T. yeast
3 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the water, sugar and salt in your mixer (or bowl) then add the flour and sprinkle the yeast on top. Knead for 3 mins. Add 1/2 c. flour if dough is too sticky. Let stand for 10 mins. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1/2 c. butter on cookie sheet (or less. I think I use 1/4 cup). Roll dough out on floured counter about 1 inch thick. Cut into strips. Roll strips in melted butter. Place on buttered pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Let rise for 30 mins. Bake at 375 for 20 mins. Or until lightly brown.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Monday, April 27, 2009

So I Went a Little Crazy - Just a Little Though

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I saw these antique and vintage buttons on ebay last week and decided I needed to have them. There are such fun colors and shapes!
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But I don't really know what to do with them. I think I'd like to create some jewelry.
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Like rings or charm bracelets. And some of the smaller ones could be really cute dangly earrings.
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But I don't know where to start! I should probably Google button ring tutorial or something.
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But aren't they just fun??
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So many different pretty things to have so much fun with. But where to start?! Help!

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'm In Love (Again)

Remember that buffet on freecycle I didn't get? Well on Saturday night someone posted an antique dresser and I jumped! I was thinking about this post that said that drawers under the counter are more used than shelves and cupboards and another post that I am really bummed I can't find where a girl put a dresser in her kitchen. She removed the top drawer and put in baskets though. Anyway, I thought - "Ok, this is going to work!!" And oh, how well it works.

Take a look:
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Here's the baker's rack I had in the kitchen before. It was kind of pretty and it was kind of functional, but I didn't love it. There was a lot of junk and I don't like that.
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And I didn't like the way the stuff on the wall was arranged - actually, I really didn't like the way the stuff on the wall was was arranged.

But behold the after:
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The dresser is the exact same height as my counters. It's more narrow than a buffet though so it fits perfectly in the space. I am so in love with this. It's a little scuffed up and the veneer is coming off in a few places, but it was free! I can fix that other stuff. It's got a pretty curved front, the drawers slide super smooth and it's got a story. The woman I picked it up from said that it belonged to her father (who was born in 1933) and was used in his bedroom all growing up. I think I might love it too much.
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And now I also love the way the stuff on the wall is set up. Can you tell me you don't love it all too? I bet you can't, cause I bet you love it.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Friday, April 24, 2009

Me Thinks Me Love Thai

Tonight Randal and I went on the first date we have been on in a long time. First,we went to dinner at The Spice on Main Street in Ames where we had the best Thai food I have ever had (which isn't saying a whole lot because I haven't had that much Thai food, but it was really really good). Like, good enough that I am probably going to dream about it tonight. We got Chicken Pad Thai and Yellow Curry Chicken and shared both. In fact, it was so good, it was magnificent, awe-inspiring, delightful, splendiferous, and at least 3 more words that mean "really good." (Here's a little sidenote: I'm watching Craig Ferguson right now and this guy is possibly the funniest guy on late night tv.) But back to the Thai food. Yeah, it was heavenly.

Afterwards we were going to go and see a movie, but we had just missed all the start times and there wasn't anything playing for at least an hour. So, we went to Best Buy and Borders. At Best Buy they had a Macbook Pro, with a whole lot of very impressive features (that many won't understand or care about so I won't bore you), for a very very cheap price. Like such a good deal I would consider selling part of my liver for it. But alas, it's not me who needs a super computer (although I would make very very good use of one). At Borders, we gathered some books and sat in some comfy chairs to browse through them.

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Doesn't he look so scholarly and pensive?

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After taking a few pictures though he wanted me to stop. "OK, stop now!"

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"Seriously, stop! Arrrggg."

But I didn't get any pictures of the food, cause it wouldn't sit still long enough, it just wanted to be eaten! Anyway, so at the end of the night I have come to the conclusion that I love Pad Thai and I love Randal - a lot - both of them.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Newest Infatuation

I wouldn't call it a full blown obsession - yet. But these things are fun! Let me introduce you to ATCs, otherwise known as Artist trading Cards. These are little tiny works of art.

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This one is the very first one I have ever made. I sort of love it. It's so pretty. I'm sending it off to someone else though - it's a swap and the theme was "Crowns" - which I also love!

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This is one I received (one of two) - isn't it fun? I can't wait to do more! I'll be posting them on my Flickr, here's the photostream for them: ATCs - Artist Trading Cards.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Fitting Tribute

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It seems as if in honor of Earth Day, these gorgeous trees around town bloomed overnight. This particular one is from our neighbor's backyard. Isn't it just gorgeous?! Why doesn't everyone have at least one in their yard somewhere? All over our neighborhood, trees and flowers, and even critters have come out to celebrate Earth Day. It was a perfect day here. I hope you all enjoyed your Earth Day wherever you were.

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Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Mom Logic

Growing up, my parents taught me by example. They were in love and always tried to do their very best. They weren't perfect, but as an adult that has been the most defining characteristic that made them the perfect example of good parents.

My mom and I spoke different languages when I was a teenager. In fact, we still speak different languages, but we've learned enough of the other's that we can communicate pretty effectively. In fact, we're even friends. Good friends. But when I was growing up things were hard. (As they are for most during those painful adolescent years.) Yet somehow I grew up to be a confident and happy adult. Really happy. My mom (and dad) did something right - really right. Even though there were a lot of fights and a lot of threats to run away from home, I always knew that my mom had my back, that she loved me. I was a pretty obedient kid. I never got into any big trouble and my rebellious years? I'm embarrassed to admit this, but they involved watching "bad"movies, like Braveheart and Jerry McGuire.

I hope as a mom myself that I can teach my sons that being the best version of who you are, flaws and all, is the most important thing in life. And that embracing who are are and truly loving yourself will only make you a better contributor to your family, your community and society as a whole.

Being me is fun.
Being the best me is divine.
My mom logic is to teach that to my kids.
Just like my mommy taught me.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

I Wish I Didn't Have to Sleep

Then I could get so much more done. But I really love to sleep, so I don't actually wish that at all. In fact, I think I might go back to bed for an hour or two right now. I should probably do dishes though, and clean the office. Cleaning to office has been on my list of things to do for awhile. Anyway, I feel like I've been pretty boring lately. Sorry about that. I've just been super busy trying to get my house in order and get this new Etsy business up and running (I've dropped the prices by the way).

Anyway, here are some other fun things I've been working on or toying with - feel free to let me know what you think, in fact, please let me know what you think. I need some feedback and questions answered.

So I had another Etsy shop: MwaHooToo, but after making no sales I just abandoned it. I'm thinking of selling cupcake plates (like the one in the last post), jewelry, and pretty much anything else I get the itch to create. Anyone know how to build a successful Etsy shop? Is there a secret I don't know about? And truthfully, the biggest thing that holds me back is figuring out how to ship things economically. I hate going to the post office and I don't want to have to do that all the time. What is the easiest way to pack and ship things from home?

Next up, I really love Photoshop. Like really really really. I'm often getting questions about how to do this or that in Photoshop and I've been thinking about teaching classes somewhere. I wouldn't know how much to charge or anything and although I am a big proponnent of making money, I am thinking about offering some classes (for free) to the girls at church (and anyone else who hears about it and wants to come), since they are the ones who are usually asking. Just a quick survey then: How many of you have Photoshop and don't know what to do with it? How many of you want to know what to do with it and would come to a (free) class about Photoshop basics at church? And should I feel bad about taking bussiness away from the other things out there that would charge for it? And am I shooting myself in the foot by offering a free class? I could still look into teaching in the community. Let me know what you think.

And finally, I really want an antique or vintage buffet for my kitchen. Like a lot. I've been wanting one for awhile. And guess what? Someone posted one of freecycle yesterday! I was so dang excited! But, of course. I wasn't the first to respond so I didn't get it. Very sad. I also want my office to be clean and organized. (Did I already mention that?)

Anway, that's all for now. Thanks for listening!
Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Don't Like to Beg

But I'll do it anyway. Please, please, please, pretty please, go and nominate me for the Mother of All Bloggers. The deadline is tomorrow night and I only need a couple more nominations. So, please my dearries, go sign up on MomLogic (you don't have to be a mom), then visit my profile and leave me a comment that says "I nominate you." It's easy and I'll give you 5 points!

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things: Recycled Edition

I can't remember which post it was, but somebody asked for more pictures from stuff around my house (it must have been the Why I Do Fancy Things post). And because there are tons of things I love around my house, I thought I would do a series on my favorite things and show you some different stuff and why I love it. So, here you are, this first one is all about things recycled, found second hand, and loved into something wonderful and new.

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This Hebrew Bible my mom bought for me a couple of years ago (on ebay - she LOVES ebay). And I love everything about this from the tin detailed cover and inlaid turquoise to the crown adornment on the front cover and display stand.

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These are some of my vintage books. I love to read and I love things with a story and history and loved and used. The first stack of books are a collection of favorites - either writings or they way the book looked. The second stack is of Hebrew books. When a lady at church found out I read Hebrew, she passed these along to me. They are written in modern Hebrew, and at the time I was studying ancient Hebrew. So, while I probably could have understood most of it, I never actually tried. I was just too busy with school and a social life. Now, they're a good conversation piece and give me the opportunity to brag a little about how I used to know Hebrew. Sometimes people are even impressed!

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I just found this pretty little thing at The Salvation Army store in Ankeny, IA. I was pretty excited and now I can't wait to use it!

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Do you remember the bowl on the right from the fruit arrangements? Well, I was at the antique store on Main Street here in Ames and found it's big sister - for only 5 dollars I might add!! I was so excited!!!

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How many of you have acrylic grapes from the sixties and seventies? My mom has about a dozen of them in every single color you can think of. She bought most of them on ebay. She's even got a couple of sets from my grandmothers. This set came from Savers in Glendale, AZ. I miss that place.

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I found this lovely little jar in the same trip I found the green bowl. I'm going to paint it all Shabby Chic and put jewelry in it. I can't wait.

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I found this 4 strand necklace in that same antique store. It's absolutely divine and I can't wait to wear it to church on Sunday. (It was only $8!!)

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Sorry, you only get the bottom of these giant candlesticks, but here is another picture of them from when we first moved in. I love these huge candle sticks. I got them at a garage sale in Peoria, AZ. I think they were $10 for the set.

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I'm always surprised when I get a comment about these shelves. I thought they were so ugly when I first took them home from the office I worked at in Salt Lake City (they moved offices and got all new furniture so were giving away the old stuff, we needed more bookshelves so this was merely functional for us.) When we moved to AZ and had more room in our bedroom, we moved this in to be used like a dresser. When I found these baskets that fit perfectly, all of the sudden I didn't hate the shelves anymore. Of course I could only find 3 baskets in all of the Phoenix metro though. The darker one was a wedding gift. Anyhow, now the shelves sit in our family room and hold music books, toys, VHS tapes, and video game controllers. I really love these shelves and baskets, but I kind of have a thing for baskets in general.

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Randal brought this old hymnal with him when we got married. The brass music stand is from my parent's house. I wish I had a better place to display this though.

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Ahh, the pedestalled bowl that started it all. This wasn't recycled, it was Christmas gift from a friend, although I guess it could have been a wedding re-gift, but I doubt it and I don't care anyway. I LOVE IT! (And I love the friend that gave it to me. The jeweled fruit inside it is recycled though. I found them at second hand stores in and around Phoenix and I think some may have come from my mom's house too.

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This little cutie has a special story. One day, I went to Sam's Club in Glendale, AZ and saw this little guy sitting in the parking lot. I was tempted to stick it in my trunk, but thought somebody might come back for it. Well, when I came back out to my car after my shopping was done (nearly an hour later), it was still there so I figured it was meant to be. The leg had come off, but it was so easy to fix it's hardly worth mentioning. The drawer sticks a little, but considering it was free, I love it. Although, I would love it anyway.
The box sitting on top was a birthday gift from my grandmother. She said it was her mother's. Inside are a bunch of her watches (my grandmother's, not her mother's).
The lamp was in my room as a child. My sister has the match.

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Remember my love of baskets. I don't think I have ever bought a basket that wasn't at least half off or second hand. This one came from Savers in Glendale, AZ - I think - and I think it was $4. If you don't quite get the perspective of the size of this beauty, the bears inside are all LARGE bears, and it's sitting next to our regular sized fireplace.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of "A Few of My Favorite Things." Please tune in next time for all things inherited.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

PS - Are they any super fab recycled things you have laying around your place? Tell me about it, or leave the link and I'll create a list here at the bottom.