Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Owls

Each year I try to think of an ornament that is small and flat and will fit in a Christmas card.  I send them out to the friends and family that we do not get to see very often.  This year, I was inspired by Diversions to create this cute Christmas Owl ornament.

They have a pattern that can be found here.

Due to time constraints and general lack of organization on my part, there was no possible way for me to get all of my ornaments done in time to mail them out with the Christmas cards this year.  So, if you would like a Christmas Owl ornament, and I haven't already given you one, just message me!  I'll send one right out to ya.  There's plenty to go around, I just can't promise that they will be there by Christmas.

Happy Holidays,

~Amy  :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Goodies

Sometimes my crafting/baking endeavors are incredibly successful.  Other times, not so much.  Things tend to be a little bit more romantic and festive in my head than they are in real life.  Kinda like last night when I said "Wouldn't it be so much more fun to hand-dip your own Oreos in white chocolate rather than buying them from the store?"

The answer is no.

It is, however, sticky and messy and tedious.  But since white chocolate dipped Oreos are one of Brett's favorite holiday treats, we'll consider it a labor of love.

Here is my one crowning victory:

And oodles of other not-so-attractive hand dipped Oreos.

No worries, though.  Even the ugly ones are still quite tasty.

These hand dipped pretzels, were much easier and less sticky and less messy to make, not to mention much more my style:

 Salty+Crunchy+Sweet=Holiday Happiness.  :)

Christmas Ornament Spruce Up

I was feeling a little bit bored this year with the Christmas ornament balls that we use as filler on our Christmas tree, so I thought I would spruce them up a bit. (Spruce--how's that for a little Christmas tree humor?)

 Here are the necessary ingredients:

-Plenty of ornament balls. I went to Big Lots and got the cheapest ones I could find. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Plus, then there's no love lost of you mess one up or drop one on your tile floor and it shatters into a million pieces. Not that I have any experience with either of those scenarios.

-You will also need some puff paint (craft glue would work too) and some glitter.

Fortunately, I still had my outrageously overpriced glitter on hand from last year's ornament project.

Then have at it! Use your glue/paint to create whatever design strikes you and then sprinkle with glitter.

After it's all dry a little rinse gets the excess glitter off.

Here are a few of mine:



A word to the wise: When you rinse off your ornaments do not use hot water. The hot water will cause the mysterious substance that makes the ball colored to come off. Again, not that I have any experience with this. 

I'm just sayin'. It could happen.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Deck The Halls

Christmas decorating has been in full swing here at the Vowles house.

 We went last week and picked out a Christmas Tree from Target.  It wasn't quite as exciting as years past when we have cut down our own tree, but we love our tree nonetheless.

We got the tree into place...
And then we strung it with lights and garland.
Now it's looking more Christmasy!

Finally, we hung our ornaments, and voila!
Bed, Bath & Beyond talked me into these festive red placemats to help our table be more Christmasy too.

(Have I told you about this table?  It was a $50 Craigslist find that we couldn't be happier with.  Definitely a good replacement for our other table that did not survive the move!)  

They also talked me into some cinnamon scented pine cones that I used to make this DIY centerpiece.  I just filled a pretty bowl with the cinnamon scented pine cones and added a few sprigs of glittery flowers from Michael's and you have an instant centerpiece! 

More Christmas-related posts to follow.  Happy decorating, everyone!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Ok, so I will tell you up front that I am not the biggest sweet potato fan. Never liked them. However, I was recently inspired by Homemade Iowa Life (a blog I discovered) to try out a recipe for them for Thanksgiving.

Oh. My. God.

These things are absolutely delicious. No amount of description could possibly convey how amazing these are. They are the perfect blend of flavors and spices, without being overly sweet. Definitely a new holiday favorite.

-2 cups all purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
-3 eggs
-1 15 oz. can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-small marshmallows, if desired


1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 standard size cupcake/muffin cups with paper cups and set aside.

2.) In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

3.) In a large mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds.

4.) Add sugar and beat on high until light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes.

5.) Add in eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.

6.) Add sweet potato and vanilla, beating until combined.

7.) Add in dry ingredients and continue beating until all ingredients are combined. The batter will be thick.

8.) Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes.

9.) Remove cupcakes from the oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar while they are still warm.

The cupcakes were absolutely delicious and perfect at this point, but since it was Thanksgiving and all I thought I would add some marshmallows. If you wish to add marshmallows, pile a few on top of each cupcake and stick the whole pan under the broiler until the marshmallows are nicely toasted.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I have had many many many requests for my Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe. The trouble is, that it's not in a cookbook, it's in my head. So, this evening when I made this soup for dinner, I took the time to write down the ingredients and steps.


-1 white onion
-2 celery stalks
-1 medium carrot
-2-3 cloves garlic
-16 oz. frozen broccoli flowerets, thawed and chopped into 1" pieces
-32 oz. vegetable stock
-4 tbsp. butter
-4 tbsp. flour
-1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
-1/2 teaspoon Lawry's salt or regular salt
-1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper or regular pepper
-Dash of ground nutmeg (optional)
-Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Chop onion, celery stalks, and carrot and set aside in a bowl with 2-3 cloves minced garlic.

2. Make a roux out of 4 tbsp butter and 4 tbsp flour.

3. As the roux begins to thicken and bubble, slowly stir in 32 oz. of vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

4. Add in your onion, carrot, celery and minced garlic and boil over medium-high heat for approximately 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Mmmmmmm... I guarantee you it smells delicious at this point.

5. Add in broccoli, salt, and nutmeg. Continue to boil until broccoli is tender and cooked through.

6. Stir in 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream and simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes, or until hot.

7. Garnish with cheese if desired.

This soup is deliciously thick and hearty... perfect for chilly winter nights.


Dear Bougainvillea

Dear Bougainvillea,

Because it's Monday. And because I'm feeling silly. A haiku in your honor:

Dear Bougainvillea
I love you for your beauty
But not for your thorns.

I had completely lost all memory of what a thorny beast this pretty plant can be. That is until I had to trim some out-of-control vines by our front door the other day. Hopefully the fact that it is "winter" will keep those crazy vines at bay for a little while.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My New Best Friend

For those of you not familiar with Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) you should really check out her blog. It's a lot like mine...only better...and way more people read it.

Anyway, shortly after arriving in Arizona, I discovered that Ree would be holding a book signing for her newly released cookbook at a bookstore in Tempe.

I had to go.

I did have a couple of questions about the book signing, so I decided to send her an e-mail...and she actually e-mailed me back!! I'll edit it down to the important parts for you:

Can you believe it?? She's looking forward to seeing me! She wants to be best friends... I just know it. ;)

So, me and about 500 of Ree's other closest friends all flocked to the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe with the hope of getting our cookbooks signed.

I waited around for about 2.5 hours for my turn to get my book signed, and they weren't even halfway through the group at that point. Sadly, I did not get to meet Ree. I really wanted to take a picture with her, but I will have to settle for this fuzzy-picture-taken-from-across-the-room.

Fortunately, I was able to leave my book to be signed by her at a later time. Here's what she wrote:

I will enjoy! I can't wait to get started on some of her fantastic recipes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Recent Craftiness

I haven't had much time for my usual crafting lately, but I have managed to create a project or two. Amanda's birthday was a couple of weeks ago. When we were in Bloomington together she mentioned how she hates having to wait for her hair straightener to cool off before putting it in her suitcase. I hate that too. Fortunately, I recently came across a pattern to make a heat-resistant travel curling iron/hair straightener cover, so I thought I would give it a whirl.

That black elastic strappy is there to hold the cord. I am pretty pleased with the end result. I may start taking orders for these babies. ;)

Another recent craft was the product of my own imagination. Brett & I always seem to have the painful "what do you want for dinner" conversation every week before going grocery shopping. THEN halfway through the week we forget what we planned on making. Does this happen to anyone else? We would also think of an item we needed from the grocery store during the week, but by the time grocery shopping day rolls around we have usually forgotten it. I introduce to you my solution:

I made a weekly menu that has a space to write what is for lunch and dinner. There is also a section for dinner ideas for next week to help us avoid trying to figure it out at the last minute. At the bottom I have included a section for a shopping list. It truly has been wonderful. I'm pretty sure I'm a genius. The best part is that I laminated it with my handy dandy laminator so the whole thing is dry-erase! Did I ever tell you that Amanda gave me a handy dandy laminator for my birthday? Oh man, that thing is a Godsend. You have no idea how much I like to laminate.

But wait! There's more! (I feel like this is an infomercial) It also happens to be magnetic! Here is a picture of it so that you may bask in the practicality of it all:

I might start accepting orders for these things too. :)

Anyway, the moral of the story is that the agonizing "what's for dinner" conversation is no more. No more unnecessary trips to the grocery store either.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chernobyl Farms

I have no idea what's in the soil in our backyard, but holy cow check out the size of this zucchini:

Who says you need pesticide to grow awesome produce?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Vegetable Garden

Brett & I woke up early this morning to get outside and start working on our vegetable garden. While Brett readied our planter beds I planted some cilantro (shockingly difficult to find)...

...and basil seeds in pots to grow in our sunroom.

Wow. Look at those hands...looks like I'm bringing filthy back...only I don't think Justin Timberlake ever sang a song about that.

I also potted some strawberries and started seeds for watermelon and zucchini.

After that the tomato plants went in. This year we planted 1 roma and 1 cherry tomato plant.

Next, I planted a few rows of broccoli, followed by jalapeno and red bell peppers, and some onions.

Then this cute little bunny helped me plant some impatiens in my window boxes out front.

No, not really. But there was a cute little bunny, and I did plant some pretty impatiens. See?:

We also cleared a patch in our yard where we will be growing sweet corn. We are expecting a ton of rain this weekend (possibly 4+ inches) and we were worried that heavy rain would wash away our newly planted seeds, so that will have to wait.

More garden updates to come. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brett & Amy Update

Hmmmm...what to blog about? It seems as though Brett & I have been stuck in the doldrums of Winter lately...but I'll try to scrape together a few things for this post. ;)

First...I cut my hair!! I cut about four or five inches off. I really really like having it short again. It makes me feel ready for spring.

Brett cut his hair super short, too. Not on purpose. There was an incident. He got fed up with his hair so rather than go get it cut, or wait for me to do it like I sometimes do, he decided to cut it himself. He has done this before without a problem, but this time the guard fell off of the clippers while he was cutting, resulting in an extremely short strip being carved right down the middle of Brett's head. The only remedy of course was to make all of his hair the same length. So he was walking around with very short hair there for a while. I unfortunately don't have a picture of that, so you will just have to use your imagination.

Last week was my mom's birthday, which was kind of sad, but Brett made it fun by sending me beautiful flowers at work and then taking me out to dinner, because he's awesome like that.

I made another skirt out of some adorable fabric that I am in love with. It's just a simple drawstring skirt, but I can't wait for it to be warm enough to wear it.

Brett is studying for Part 3 national boards. His test is on Sunday, so he has been holed up at the library a LOT lately. You know your husband is in grad school when the big spring-break decision with his friends is "should we go to the Bettendorf or Fairmount library today?" This has been the view around the house for a while now:

He takes the test on Sunday, then he takes Part 4 in a few weeks, then he is DONE WITH BOARDS. Hallelujah.

Meanwhile, Moose has been up to his usual antics:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Crafty-Goodness

I have to brag. I'm so excited. I actually made my own skirt. I have been toying with the idea of making my own clothes for a while now, but I wasn't sure I could do it. It turned out that it was much easier than I thought, and I'm quite pleased with the result.

Weekend Update

Nothing too terribly exciting has happened here recently. Just the usual. Brett finished his 8th trimester last week. 8 of 10 down. That means he is 80% doctor. We both are having a hard time believing that our Palmer experience has gone by so quickly.

I wish I could tell you that we are jetting off to Tahiti for Spring Break, but sadly that is not the case. We will be staying here in Iowa, working (me) seeing patients (Brett) and shoveling snow (booo!). We got an inch or so Friday night, but nothing to get too excited about.

My relentless crafting continues. I was inspired by this fabric to make an apron. I think it turned out quite adorable. It's springy and fun and I love it. <3

Now I have begun to work on those previously mentioned place mats for our sun room.

Last night we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner with some friends and our friend Amber's parents who are in town. If you have never been to Cracker Barrel you need to find one (they're around) and go. Seriously, yum. Funny Story: We were running out of room for plates, so we decided to consolidate our two plates of bread into one plate. I was trying to be polite by not touching the food with my fingers. Here's what happened:

Brett: Why are you using your fork to move the bread?
Amy (In a frustrated voice): Because I'm TRYING to be POLITE and not use my fingers!
Clay: Isn't that the fork you used to eat your salad?

OOPS. Oh yeah. Forgot about that. I felt like a retard.

Yesterday Brett & I made the extra effort to get all of our errands done so that we could stay home and do absolutely nothing today. So that is the plan. This house needs to be cleaned, but we'll see about that. ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fabric Love!

Let me just say that if it were possible to be genuinely in love with a fabric, this fabric would be the one for me.
As a general rule, fabric has to be dirt cheap-like, they practically have to be giving it away- to be added to my fabric stash. This fabric was a recent exception to that rule, but if there were ever a fabric that says "Amy" this would be it.

To make up for the rule-breaking, I found this juicy little number for $.79! No projects planned just yet, but if you know me you know that won't be an issue.
I was shocked to learn today that Wal Mart is eliminating their fabric department!!!! Sad day. :( Now what? Oh well. Due to total fabric liquidation, two yards of this textile loveliness came home with me for under $3!!!! I am having visions of pillows for our sun room and coordinating place mats...

It was a good fabric day. ;)