Monday, March 28, 2011

Triathlons and WhipperBerry

My husband competed in his first triathlon this weekend and he did much better then anyone dreamed possible. He absolutely killed all three sports and finished strong with a great time. We were all so inspired by his athleticism that the boys and I are signing up for a Tri in June. Eek!!!

Turns out you don't have to be near as awesome at the swim as coaches imply. There were folks dog paddling, swimming on their backs and even walking through the water... HUH??? I thought you had to have that perfect Michael Phelps thing going on. 

On Sunday we went to the pool and I was able to swim the whole distance in my silly, head-out-of-the-water "inefficient" way.  

And tonight I'm getting a new bike.  *SQUEAL* My friend Coralynn gave me the most wonderful book, Every Woman's Guide to Cycling so I've been plotting about what bike to get for a few months now. I wanted to be sure my back could handle cycling before we replaced my old bike and it turns out that bike riding (cycling is so serious) is just as much fun as it was when we were eight. Wish I hadn't let this fun passtime drift away as an adult.

And one last exercise related ramble, yesterday Avery and I had our long run and we ran 8.5 miles. We were both worried sick as 8 miles is one of our "walls". Instead of crashing and feeling exhausted we really enjoyed our time together. Afterwards we pounded down a Carnation Instant Breakfast (for him) and sweet milky coffee (for me) and then jumped in the pool and swam the kids triathlon distance (Avery) and the Sprint distance of 400m (me). After lunch we went for a bike ride. It felt really cool to do all three sports in one day.

As far as my health, it's been utterly devastating the last two weeks. Several days I couldn't even dress myself. I've gone back on the very lowest dose of pain meds with the farthest time between doses. It's great because I can do much better then just get through the day, lying down, gritting my teeth. I was especially pleased that by taking the meds, I was able to help myself get stronger (the swimming really does wonders for the shoulder pain) and when the meds wore off I was in better condition than before I took them. 

I need to be mindful that there is a place for medicine in my plan. Even if I don't like it. And that being able to function is more important then ideas and ideals.


I found Whipperberry last week. It's a really cute, seriously cool blog full of interesting projects, recipes and links.

And, lucky for me, they found me too *grin*

So I get to add a new feature button to my "Where's Nicole?" page, YAY!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sundays Are for Swapping

Lamb Craft
This spring lamb craft from Linette would be perfect for March or Easter.
A Shot of Spring - Kim dresses up her window with a little springtime crafting.

Creative Dreamer
Let's talk paper ... Some ideas about what kinds of papers to use for creative journaling.

Eileen - The Artful Crafter
Eileen reviews Chapter 4 of Cyndi Lavin's eBook, "Every Bead Has a Story"

Barbara Moore - Gourd Art
Bet you never would have guessed that Barbara is almost up to 100!

Made by Nicole
If you like Sticky Toffee Pudding, you're going to love this easy recipe for Arabian Date Cake.
Step one of a journaling house Cherie is making, using canvas paper and collage.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Make Baked Tortilla Strips

Our Best Bites is my new very favorite cookbook written by the authors of one of my very favorite blogs. My sweetie picked it up for me at Costco and I've been cooking up a storm ever since. So many great recipes!

Like this tomato soup. It's made with sun dried tomatoes, basil, cream cheese - oh, wow!

And they are the first cookbook authors that explained making a lattice pie crust in a way I could grasp:

But my very favorite recipe so far is Black Bean Soup, it's a Brazillian recipe that tastes sort of like a burrito in a blender... only AWESOME! The flavors of green chilies, beef broth and black beans mingle into a dish with tremendous depth. And it only has 125 cals per cup without add-ons!!!

(yeah, I was getting carried away with my food styling last night)

I think most people deep fry tortilla strips to top soups and salads with, but I HATE deepfrying. So I came up with a way of baking the tortilla strips that is delicious.

First, roll up a tortilla into a tube, like this:

Using a sharp knife, cut tortilla into thin slices:

Spread them out on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt:

Bake until lightly browned and starting to crisp. I hesitate to give you a time on this because you can bake them for five minutes at 400 degrees, one minute on broil or 10+ minutes at 350. My advice to you is to keep a close eye on them and stir them part way through. They burn extremely easily.

When they are done they'll still be pliable. Don't worry, they harden as they cool.

What's great about these tortilla crisps is that they turn into a noodle(ish) when stirred into soup. 

Hope you give them a try and check out the Our Best Bites cookbook if you see it. 

Linked up with:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cake #10: Carrot Cake

Dana from Made posted the most delicious looking carrot cake, complete with adorable pictures of her and her brood. Since I had some carrots I wanted to use up - the new bag was just waiting to be tagged in - we jumped right up and made it.

Carrot cake is a tricky one for me as I don't mind the taste of it but rarely eat anything with raisins or currents. Blecht. The exceptions to the no-raisin rule are steak sauces that have raisins indiscernably in their ingredient list. Walnuts compound my carrot cake issues as they're often found nestled in the delicious layers and I'm allergic.  When I saw a recipe that didn't have nuts or raisins we decided to give it a try.

The way the recipe was written, I was expecting a modest-sized cake. But when I started filling the pans, there was much more batter then anticipated. I took a chance and grabbed a third pan - good choice as all three were fairly full.
At dinner I asked my husband why we don't eat carrot cake since I hate cherries and I bake cherry pies. Turns out he hates carrot cake too. To be honest, I wasn't feeling too confident when I cut into the cake knowing that of the five of us, two hated the cake and three had never tasted it. This had FAIL written all over it.

And then we took a bite.


According to the family, we could eat this cake everyday for the rest of our lives and be utterly content. 

And what became of this giant cake I made on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon? Chris and the boys finished it off this morning for breakfast. I don't think I've ever seen a dessert disappear this fast in my life.

If you're enjoying my cake posts, be sure to click on the 52 Cakes Project tab above or the button to the left, I have them all in one place.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'd Rather Be Hated for Who I Am Than Loved for Who I Am Not

In one of the last class messages, Christy gave us permission to go in our own direction and I immediately set to work on this piece.

I wanted her to be surrounded in buildings

 and for her colors to blend in and suit her environment to such a degree that she appears completely at home and in her element.

Did anyone notice what the background was made of? I took all my years-old, half-filled cardstock sticker sheets from Scenic Route and glued them down with Mod Podge. They were a terrific textural and graphic background to build from. I also used a few scraps of patterened paper (hiding under all that paint) - my favorite being the piece with the hole cut out in the top right corner. It created a clock tower-esque image that felt very at home in my cityscape. To see it properly click on the top picture, at a distance it just looks like a white circular rub-on.

The quote is from Kurt Cobain

This is my entry into Gauche Alchemy's 'Julie Fei-Fan Balzer Style' challenge to use paint on top of patterned paper.

Linked Up With:


Monday, March 21, 2011

Cake # 9: Arabian Date Cake

On Sunday night we made Arabian Date Cake. When looking for a well-reviewed English Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe I kept running across references to Arabian Date Cake. It's made family style instead of individual servings. It also can be served warm or room temperature. This is a deal breaker for me because I hate fussing around in the kitchen with dessert while everyone else is enjoying their dinner.

The recipe did not disappoint. It was light and rich and delightful in every way. I haven't enjoyed a piece of cake so much in years.

A huge gushing thank you to leites culinaria and the book The Arab Table by May Bsisu

First off, these are dates, I didn't know what they looked like so I had to nose around the bulk section of our grocery store until I found the right bin.

Here's the recipe and my notes where I altered it:

For the cake

1/2 pound Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for the baking dish
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the topping

3/4 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons heavy cream


Make the cake

1. Place the dates in a heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup water to a boil, pour it over the dates, and let them soak until plumped, 10 minutes. Do not drain.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Coat a 7-by-11-inch baking dish with butter.

I didn't have this pan size, or anything equivalent so I went to JoAnn and bought a nice thick one from Wilton for under three bucks (with 40% coupon). This is the pan size used for brownies and biscuits... who knew?
Beetle shaped fruit of unknown origin (palm trees, aparently) make me nervous and they didn't look more appealing "coarsely chopped" so I plopped my immersion blender in and made a mush of them. Not so scary now!

3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a handheld electric mixer). Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside. Combine the dates and their soaking liquid, the baking soda, and the vanilla in a small bowl.

4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg and one third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour and beat until it is mixed into the batter. Add the date mixture and beat until well blended.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until the cake springs back when tapped with a finger, or when a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Using a fork, poke holes all over the surface of the cake.
Oops, I used the knife I tested the cake with. Oh well.

6. Preheat the broiler.

Make the topping

1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and cream in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until it bubbles slightly, about 3 minutes.

2. Pour this caramel syrup over the baked cake

My poked holes are gargantuan - not to worry, it all works out in the end.

 and then slide it under the broiler until the surface begins to bubble, about 30 seconds.

Immediately remove the dish from the oven.

Let the cake cool a bit; then cut it into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

We all thought this was possibly the best cake ever and I recommend if you try one cake that I've posted so far that this be the one. Serious Bliss!

Next time I think I'll use salted butter instead of unsalted and I think we'll reduce the amount of caramel topping by at least a quarter. I'll also swap out the heavy cream in the topping with fat free half n half. For reasons I can't explain, we like it better.

Don't mind the steel wool, Brayden was soldering... yes, my kid that has lit furniture on fire is now soldering. My hair is turning grey as I type this.

Recipe © 2005 by May S. Bsisu. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sundays Are for Swapping

I've joined a group of seriously talented crafty bloggers and will be doing a link swap on Sundays. This is a round up of their best ideas to share with you. If you see something you like, please leave them some comments. And if you're new here, thanks so much for visiting.

Most silk scarf painting/dying is done with a stretcher frame. But if you don’t want to spend the money on a stretcher and are not planning a detailed design, this easy dye method can yield beautiful results as well.

Kim's goal: 30 journal pages in 30 days. Take a look at her progress.

June shares a background technique for the visual journal journey going on!

Easter's just around the corner, so here are some yummy treats to get you started.

What to do when paint smears ... troubleshooting mixed-media meltdowns.

Cherie makes the third project from the fabric she bought for a quarter.

Barbara has some exciting news to share!

Cyndi posted a tutorial to show how she made her Bead Soup necklace!