Monday, March 30, 2015

Five Favorites

You know those little snippets in life that you come across every once in a while that are just the best ever and you fall unrepentantly head over heels in love with?

It could be a certain product, or a new recipe you've tried, or even a silly little habit that you just want to make your BFF.  You really can't beat it when you find something that makes life better, easier, or more fun.

So in that spirit, I decided to start a semi-recurring post of five of my favorites.  We're talking every once in a while...maybe a few times a year if I'm feeling it.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm not Oprah and most people won't give a flying !@#$ about what I like, but at the very least, maybe you'll happen upon a new to you discovery or be inspired to experiment with something you've never tried before.  You know, spread the joy and all that crap.  That's the goal, anyway.  Without any of the clout the Big O has!

Some of the favorites I'll share are looong time favorites of mine, and some might be new discoveries that I just can't live without.  I'll warn you now, I went full on nerd with the pictures for this post.  Forgive me.  So, here goes with my inaugural Five Favorites:

1.  L.L. Bean
This one is a long time favorite.  Granted, they can be on the uber preppy side, sometimes even sliding into the nerdy category...but the fact is they make excellent products.  I think I've been disappointed only once or twice in all the years I've been buying from them.  And I buy from them A LOT.  Not just clothes, either.  Furniture, accessories, bedding, you name it. Those Mainers know what they're doing!  High quality, primarily made in the US, and my favorite as an Alaska resident - free shipping!

2.  Aveeno Lotion
I have to thank my sister for this one.  When we found out we were moving to Alaska after living in high humidity Florida for years, I was scouting around for body lotion recommendations because I knew it would rapidly become a daily necessity.  This brand was suggested, and I use it every single day.  It's so light, and my favorite part is that it has no over powering scent to it, which isn't always the case with a lot of body lotions.  Love, love, love my Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion!

3.  Room Temperature Butter
Seriously.  It's a game changer.  No more fighting with the butter to spread it on toast or a muffin!  It's nothing but cooperative.  Come on - we've all had that moment of ripping through a slice of bread with a cold, hard ass chunk of butter!  Room temperature butter changes all of that.  It lives on the counter, happily waiting to comply with your every butter spreading need.  I can't go back.

4.  The Last Lecture
This is one of those books that stays with you.  It's written by Randy Pausch.  He was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live.  This man left a beautiful legacy and compelling reminders to all of us saps still slogging away at life.  The messages in his last words are unforgettable, poignant and lessons you'll take to heart if you're smart.  If you haven't read this one, go get it.  Trust me.   And get some tissues.

5.  Magic Hat #9 on Tap
Sadly, I haven't had one of these in quite some time.  It's just not a beer you can get on tap up here.  Not too surprising, considering it hails from Burlington, Vermont.  I like it in the bottle too, but there's nothing quite like a #9 on tap.  It just has a different quality than the bottled variety and was one of my go-to requests around town when I had easy access to it.  Tasty, tasty beer.  A favorites list of mine wouldn't quite be complete without at least one beer included!

So, there ya have it.  My first attempt at sharing "Five Favorites" with all 6 of you readers out there.  I know - the anticipation for another list of favorites is palpable, right?  Not to worry.  I'll bust out with a new list every so often.  Until then you'll just have to wait on the edge of your seat and wonder.

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Beer & Brown Sugar Pulled Chicken Sliders

Photo credit: By Morabito92 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I've been a little fixated with using our slow cooker lately.  I've made at least 4 or 5 meals with it over the last few weeks, and it's rapidly becoming a front-runner in my cooking arsenal.

It's got to be the easiest way to whip up dinner.  Dump all the ingredients in and forget about it! 

The slow cooker lends itself to hearty meat dishes, so this recipe for pulled chicken sliders seemed like it would be perfect for a long, slow braise in my new favorite kitchen tool.

The recipe is super easy & delicious. - And I kind of love that I found it on a blog called The Beeroness.  She's gotta have some credibility with that moniker, right?  Spoiler alert:  she does.  It's a damn good meal.

If you double or triple the amounts, it's perfect to cook for a crowd.  Not that we entertain much, but maybe you do!  If you'd like to give it a try, you can find the recipe here.

I followed the recipe word for word, and I used Guinness for the dark beer.  King's Hawaiian slider buns were my go-to for the rolls, and for a side dish, I went with a cauliflower mash.  Also known as "faux" mashed potatoes, and pretty much the only way I like to eat cauliflower. 

I love the texture, and as you know I can't say enough about adding freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano at every possible opportunity.  Do I have to say it?  Reminders never hurt:  King. Of. Cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano just can't help being the royalty that it is, and it elevates any dish you add it to. The recipe for cauliflower mash that I used can be found here. The only tweaks I made were adding a touch of whole milk because I didn't have any cream cheese, and I added a little bit of horseradish for some zip. If you've never tried cauliflower mash, you need to!

No doubt this was an exceptional slow cooker chicken dish. - You won't be disappointed with these stand out, simple sliders.  Now, go wrestle that slow cooker out from the back of your cabinets!

Ta-ta for now.

So good!

Monday, March 16, 2015

DIY Pillow & Linen Spray

Photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr, via Wikimedia Commons
Pillow spray?  Hell yes!  I'm fully in love with it.  I jumped on the essential oils band wagon not too long ago, and pillow/linen spray is one of my favorite do-it-yourself ways to use them.

I don't know how I went so long without it!  It freshens up your bedding and adds such a subtle, lovely scent to your sheets and pillows.  I started with using scents that are relaxing and conducive to rest and sleep.  So that meant oils like marjoram, bergamot, & lavendar.  Not all together, of course.

I mixed one version with marjoram and bergamot and one version with just lavendar.  I haven't decided which one I like better, but I love the bright, calming addition the scent adds to the bedding.

It's great to spritz on the throw pillows and couch, too.  Nobody wants their throw pillows to smell like head, right? 

There are lots of different combinations you could use that are meant to encourage sleep. - Along with marjoram, bergamot and lavender, there's sage, chamomile, sandalwood, and tons of others.  There are all sorts of online resources you can consult to formulate your own blends for pillow/linen spray.  It's really whatever floats your boat. The recipe is really easy.  All you'll need is:
  • 4 oz glass spray bottle (I used this one)
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 20-25 drops of preferred essential oils
  • Distilled water to fill the rest of the bottle
The vodka helps the scent to linger a little longer and not dissipate, but you can also use witch hazel for the same effect.

It's funny, the first batch of pillow spray I made, I used what we had on hand. - Which happened to be a pricier brand of vodka we had in the freezer.  The hubby was all, "What are you Jay-Z?  Spraying the bed with freaking Ketel One."

It was only for the first batch!  I got mini-cheapie vodkas from the exchange after that first batch, but that didn't stop him from using every opportunity he could to call me BeyoncĂ© or Jay-Z.

Of course, I had to get a little crafty with my spray bottle, so I made a label and printed it on a pattern of scrapbook paper I liked.

I love exploring new fonts, so I found one I liked - probably from - one of my favorite fun, free font sites.  I adhered the paper to the bottle with mod podge and then coated the outside to seal it.  Makes a cheerful little label for the pillow spray, dontchya think?

I know you feel like channeling your inner flower child now.  Come on, you know we all have one!

Give a little DIY essential oil pillow spray a whirl.  It'll crank up the atmosphere in your bedroom and maybe even help you sleep better!

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old-Timey Cocktails: Part III

How could I possibly do an "Old-Timey Cocktail Series" without including the Gimlet?  If there was ever a classic cocktail, strictly in name alone anyway, it's the Gimlet!  It just sounds so vintage.  I bet if you asked an average Joe or Joanna on the street they wouldn't even know what's in a Gimlet.  Of course I have no evidence to support this statement, but whatev.  Onward!

It's actually a really simple drink.  Just 2 oz of gin, 1 oz of lime juice (1/2 of a lime) & 3/4 oz of simple syrup.  Yep.  That's all.  In my researching travels, I found that it was a medicinal cocktail that was used to fight scurvy, and that it's also considered one of the forgotten gin cocktails. Time to bring it back, I think.  Cause you know, I have that power.

Not really.

The hubby was convinced a Gimlet came with mini-onions as a garnish.  I believed him for about a minute.  Mini-onions and the Gimlet definitely don't go together.  They're actually a garnish for another vintage, gin-based drink that also starts with a G called the Gibson.  The Gimlet is all fancy-style and can be garnished with a lime wedge or a cucumber slice.  No pearl onions there!

The Gimlet recipe in my go-to reference book calls for Rose's Lime Juice, which is a sweetened lime juice.  (sort of combines the fresh lime and simple sugar into one ingredient)  But, I like to use fresh ingredients, so I went with freshly squeezed lime juice and a simple syrup instead of Rose's Lime Juice. 

I pulled out the mini-strainer because I didn't want the pulp and pits from the lime to get into the mixture. 

Just like the Tom Collins, this one is another summer-y cocktail simply because of the citrus factor.  It would be a nice choice at a summer barbeque or backyard party.  It would probably go great with a pulled pork sandwich.  I think I might be hungry.

Anyway - there's your part 3 in the books.  Who wants to try a Gimlet with me now?  We've got to fight off the scurvy!

Ta-ta for now.

Cheers!  And hallelujah to another glimpse of the sun!  For about a half hour, anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Wreath

I'm hoping my St. Patrick's Day wreath survives Kodiak's "spring" weather this year.  Because last year's wreath?  It didn't do very well.  I kept it simple this year, but still a fun and festive decoration for the door on these seemingly unending rainy, gray days.  The dreariness is seriously heavy.  And as I might have mentioned before, it's freaking OLD.  So - a happy, Irish wreath for the door?  Yes, please.

I still have some old supplies left over from my teaching days, so I pulled out one of the shamrock templates I traced from a printable onto a manila folder eons ago to use for the wreath.  I'm 99% sure the last time it was used was for a St. Patrick's Day scavenger hunt for about twenty-five 7-year-olds around 15 years ago.  What?  I'm a crafting supplies hoarder.

The template was perfect for cutting out a bunch of shamrocks from different green patterns of scrapbook paper I had.  And yes, I still have little kid-sized scissors.  They tend to work better with smaller, intricate cuts than normal sized scissors.  And I'm a crafting supplies hoarder, remember?

I picked a few different patterns of paper in similar shades of green for the shamrocks.

For the wreath, I used a Styrofoam mold and wrapped green fabric all around it, securing it with pins and hot glue.  I just informally bunched up the fabric until it looked the way I wanted.  Sort of casual and scrunched.

I wanted to try and make the paper a little more weather friendly, so I coated both sides with Mod Podge to seal it before I glued them to the wreath.  We'll see whether that actually works!

I thought it could use something hanging in the middle, and I looked for a whimsical leprechaun that spoke to me, but no luck.  (See how I did that, there?)  I ended up just calling it a day after getting the shamrocks secured.  Maybe I'll revamp it later.

I hung the wreath using a piece of burlap in a simple, secure knot.

You've got to love the less than aesthetically appealing front doors they install in base housing, right?  I like to think the wreath helps a little bit in that department!

Aaaand one more pic for good measure:

So, Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Here's hoping my wreath doesn't get too destroyed by Kodiak's relentless rain. 

Ta-ta for now.