Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Latest Card Swap

Teena is the latest card making victim. She had her first Stampin' Up workshop and even joined our card swap. She's already a die-hard, full-on, completely obsessed cardmaker! Welcome Teena!

Here are the cards from the swap at her party.

(L to R) Teena's first card - Great job!!!, Christie, Jessica, Teresa

(Back, L to R) Terrie, Karen, Shirley (Front) Stacey

Stacey's card was very unique. You pull on the flowers to reveal the card. So cool! Everyone did a great job with the Spring Flower theme. I didn't take a photo of my card because I already posted it in an earlier blog. I couldn't way.

But here's a couple cards I made a few weeks back and forgot to post. I like how they turned out.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Update on Book #2

I've completed the outline for the next book.  I have written quite a bit of the book so far but it's just various scenes that popped into my head and demanded attention NOW.  I still needed to secure the outline.  This morning I had a multitude of brainstorms that provided me with a complete overview of the story from beginning to end.  Up until now I'd been struggling badly with fitting all the ideas into place.  

One of the things I like to do for inspiration is to surf the internet for pictures.  I like to have visual references when writing.  Especially when I'm trying to describe things like clothing or rooms.  I try to keep my descriptions very short and to the point.  I hate it when writers go on and on with every detail and I don't want to be that way.  Having a picture keeps me focused.  

I have no idea how to describe the outfit below for Lyssa, but I love it.

And I would love to have my hero & heroine wear this to the wedding they're attending.  Again, I don't know how to put that into words but I'll do my best to keep it simple yet obvious.  If I can't, I'll shop someplace else for another dress.

Having the pictures also fuels my imagination and give me ideas for other stories.  Like the below pic.

I thought, "Well, if it isn't the Markison Security Team!  Morgan Taylor, Bill McLean (sporting some new facial hair?), Chase, Alex, and that new guy Marcus.  Lyssa hasn't met him yet."  Actually it's a picture of the Backstreet Boys.  I don't remember how I came across it.  I just click along and end up in some weird places.  But it gave me the idea briefly of putting the guys in a boy band.  Maybe when they were teenagers.  Chase, Alex, Bryan, and Bryan's younger brother, who you'll meet in Book #2. I ditched the idea though.  (At least for now!)

Additionally, you may have noticed that this blog post doesn't say Update on "Match Game".  That's because the title I originally chose for the second book in The Lyssa Winfield Mystery series has been scrapped.  I ended up changing one very important detail and now that title doesn't make any sense.  But the change was vital and for the better.  At least for this book.  It might be back for Book #4 or 7.  Not sure.  But I need a new title now.  Ugh.  Didn't care for "Match Game" for this book anyway.

This morning I was jumping around on tumblr, checking out my fave pic blogs, and I came across the below.  I just love it when I see something and it reminds me of "Game of Hearts."  It's a lovely visual of a scene that played so clearly in my head when I wrote it.  It still does when I re-read it.  I can see it all.

        He smiled down at her. “I’m still going to ask how you are.”
        “I know. And I’m fine.”
        “Not that I don’t believe you… ”
        He placed his hands on either side of her jaw and tilted her head towards him. Pressing his lips gently to her skin, he made no noise as he lightly kissed her forehead. He lowered his hands and remained standing close to her, looking down into her sparkling light gray eyes.
        “… but I like to check for myself.”

Makes me all teary.  I love my characters.

Oh, and here's a little Supernatural gif for my sister that I found while surfing.  I like it because it's funny.  I love finding this stuff.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Creamy Piggy Taco Crock Pot Soup

I created a recipe based on other successful crock pot recipes I've made.  To our amazement, it was freakin' good!

Creamy Piggy Taco Crock Pot Soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can Rotel cheap knock-off tomatoes, mostly drained
4 frozen thin-sliced boneless pork chops
4 oz lite cream cheese
1 bag frozen cauliflower
shredded cheddar cheese & sour cream (optional)

In a small crock pot (2.5-3.5 quart), mix soup, seasoning and tomatoes.  Add pork chops, pushing to the bottom of the crock pot so they're mostly covered.  Toss the cream cheese on top.  Cook on Low for 6-8 hours.  Stir the soup.  If the pork doesn't break up while stirring, pull it out and chop it up, then stir it back in.  Sometime mine does and sometimes it doesn't, but the meat is always done in 6 hours.  Heat the cauliflower as directed on the package and stir into the soup.  Serve in bowls.  Optional:  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top with a dollop of sour cream.

Serves: 3-4 people

Note:  As most of you know, you can use whatever cream-of soup you want.  If you substitute chicken, I wouldn't suggest more than 2 frozen boneless breasts, unless you double the recipe. Chicken boobs now-a-days are the size of Kardashian implants.  Use any frozen veggies you want.  My current addiction is cauliflower.  I add it at the end because I find cooking it all day in the crock pot turns it to mush.  I hate that.  So I just nuke it and add before eating.  I gotta have my veggies and this makes my soup a meal!

Theoretically speaking I shouldn't be eating this at all.  It's got diary products.  But we've noticed there's certain things that don't bother me as much.  This is one of them.  Honestly, this entire recipe was created to use up the 1/2 block of cream cheese that was in the fridge.  It was a leftover from one of Drew's Tastefully Simple parties.  I should have tossed it in the trash.  I tossed it in the crock pot instead.  Glad I did.  This was uber-yummy.  I'd try this recipe next time with non-dairy soups and fake cream cheese but those things scare the bejeezus out of me.  Some things you just have to say, "Yeah, no, I'll eat the evil dairy stuff instead.  Thanks."  Most non-dairy stuff is made of soy anyway and I'm more allergic to that than milk.

Ok.  I'm done rambling.  Have a good weekend!!!

Coming up later:  A look at last night's card swap!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Card Time!

Our last card swap was at my Stampin' Up Workshop in January.  I forgot to bring my camera and I haven't gotten the pics off Drew's phone yet.  The card swap theme was One Color Cards.  Here's mine...

Hard to see, I know.  It's a white owl on a holographic embrossed tree branch with white clouds.  It's much more pretty and impressive in person.

Last Wednesday Stacey & I made Valentine's Day Cards.  I didn't need any, but I'd seen this idea online and wanted to try it.  Wish I could remember where I saw that.  I really do need to bookmark those pages.

I'm quite pleased with it.

And here's my card for the upcoming swap at Teena's house on Friday. She picked a theme of Spring Flowers.

You can't tell, but the red outline on the flower is embossed.

I shouldn't have put the card up before the party on Friday, but it took me a long time to put nine of those cards together.  I sat hunched over the table for a couple hours and ended up with a very sore back and I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.  I have no idea how, but I was in hurtin' shape!  I was having so much fun making cards though I didn't even notice.

Worth it.  :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Perfect Crock Pot Roast

I can't tell you how many times I've been writing or cleaning or fighting with a cat on a Saturday afternoon and gone, "Dang nabbit!  I was supposed to put a roast in the crock pot this morning!!  Well, I guess I'll make it tomorrow."  Today I discovered how to do a roast in 4-5 hours.  And do it perfectly.

This recipe is really for two people.  But I imagine it could be tweaked for more.  I find that cooking time in a crock pot between a small roast and a big one isn't that much different.  That's the beauty of it.  You can always Google it too.

I had bought a cheap 3-pound roast from Aldi's this week, cut it in half, and froze each piece.  I took one piece and made the below...

Perfect Crock Pot Roast

1/2 cup beef broth
1-1/2 pound roast, frozen
1 package dry brown gravy mix
2 TBSP Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic (or chopped garlic)
2 TBSP Tastefully Simple Onion Onion (or minced onion)

Pour the broth into the crock pot.  I used my 2-1/2 quart Wilma Flintstone Memorial Crock Pot.  Add the roast.  Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the roast.  Cook on High for 2-1/2 hours, then cook on Low for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.  Devour.

This does not make a lot of juice in the bottom, but Drew and I doing care for the juice.  I find it too fatty.  We're not huge fans of gravy anyway.

UPDATE  I've been asked what kind of meat I bought.  It was the cheapest chuck roast at Aldi's.  Also, this doesn't make the kind of roast beef that you slice up.  This makes a yummy, moist roast that falls apart at the pull of a fork.  Lip-smacking good!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Eye Candy For My Fans

For my fans at University Physicians Ophthalmic Group (or something like that --- they're the Eyeball Divas!) in Johnson City, Tennessee.

I love my fans!!!

As she was explaining where she fell in the company hierarchy she noticed Alex walking in the door. She tried to convince herself that the quickening of her heartbeat was from the fact that he was probably going to interrupt her dinner date and had nothing to do with the faded jeans, black t-shirt and leather jacket he was wearing.

Model: Rajneesh Duggal
Photo By: The greatest photographer in the world!!  (I admit it.  I don't know.  But you rock for this!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rice Pasta with Peppers & Chicken Sausage

The fact that every other person on this planet seems to be allergic to some food has a positive benefit. The gluten, soy, dairy and sugar-free food industries are making some really fantastic alternatives now-a-days. Actually, there's nothing alternative about it.  It's still food. It's just food made from things you aren't used to.

Like brown rice pasta.  Specifically Tinkyada's Brown Rice Pasta.  It cooks up the same way as wheat pasta.  It looks like wheat pasta.  And it tastes like wheat pasta.  Sometimes non-wheat pasta can be mushy.  Tinkyada's is not.  It's actually pretty good and you can't tell the difference.

Laat night I made a dish that I liked so much I thought I'd write it down here.  As much to share with others as for me to remember.  I look up more recipes from my own blog than I do my recipe book.

Rice Pasta with Peppers & Chicken Sausage

1 package Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta Vegetable Spirals
2 package Wegmans' Apple & Onion Chicken Sausage
1 package tri-colored peppers (1 red, 1 orange, & 1 yellow)
1 onion
2 TBSP Stonybrook Delicata Squash Seed Oil

Slice the peppers into strips.  Dice the onions.  Saute both in vegetable oil.  I cook mine until they burn in the pan.  I would have roasted them ahead of time, if I'd thought of it.  Cook up the sausage, cut into pieces, and add to the peppers & onion.  Cook up the pasta & drain.  Mix everything together, drizzle a couple tablespoons of squash seed oil over the top.  Toss & serve.

If I hadn't been forced to eat gluten-soy-dairy-sugar-free, I never would have tried this recipe.  And that would be a shame, because this is really good.  And Drew loves it too.  What he loves more that I because I do the majority of the cooking now to make sure it's something I can eat.  (Lucky b'tard!)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Healthy Confession

Hi.  My name is Stephanie and I'm allergic to wheat, soy, cow's milk, and sugar.  

I'd like to say it doesn't suck, but it does.  I've been putting off blogging about this because it seems everyone has food allergies today.  And honestly, I get sick of listening to other people talk about it.  Just as I'm sure my friends are sick of listening to me.  I'm sick of listening to me, so why wouldn't they?!  But it sucks, so I tend to talk about it a lot in a positive light to cover up the fact that it really, really sucks.

I discovered I was allergic in August 2012.  I had been sick for almost a year.  I had terrible stomach cramps, intestinal distress, and a seemingly non-stop head cold.  Nothing seemed to help.  The better I ate an dieted, the sicker I got.  After the emergency NP at my doctor's office declared it was "ear wax," I decided to go see Ashley at the Riverview Wellness Center in Oswego.  A friend had urged me for months to go and I finally broke down and did it.  How much more stupid of a diagnosis could they give me than ear wax?

Ashley was amazing!  She spent over an hour with me (versus five minutes in a doctor's office with someone I'd never met) and performed a number of tests that seemed like voodoo, but they worked!  She informed me that my adrenals were under-performing, which was hurting my immune system and causing the never-ending cold.  Then she told me I have allergies to wheat, soy, cow's milk, sugar, and oats.  Actually, allergy isn't the word she used.  I'm intolerant.  My body just doesn't like it right now.  There was the possibility I'd get over these things after they got me straightened out.  But right now, those ingredients were hurting me.

I was so happy to have a diagnosis that wasn't ear wax (or related to being fat) that I cried.  I came home that day with some supplements to help me get back on track, and a very regimented meal plan to follow.

Three days later, I was better.

Yes, it happened that quickly.  No pain.  No cold.  No emergency trips to the bathroom.  I go to the bathroom a lot -- thanks to the gallon of water I drink everyday -- but at least I don't fear the trip now.

You might think, "Maybe it's just a coincidence."  Nope!  Because I haven't had a cold since.  Everyone around me has had the flu and all kinds of horrifying drippy diseases.  I have had none.  I'm seemingly immune.  In fact, at my month follow-up visit we discovered not only was my adrenals and immune system functioning perfectly healthy, but I could eat oats again.

The stomach pain?  I've had it a couple times since.  And all of those times occurred when I decided to eat something I wasn't supposed to.  Like last Wednesday night when I threw a bitter temper-tantrum and made a grilled cheese sandwich.  There's only three ingredients in a grilled cheese sandwich - bread, butter, cheese.  I can have none of those.  I ate it anyway because dammit!  I wanted it!

The next day I was at work when the pain hit.  Holy sh*t.  I had tears in my eyes.  It was the worst pain yet. I weathered through it and renewed my vow to never do that again!

So, that's my confession.  I decided to talk about it now because I've discovered some great new foods and recipes that I want to share.  I have since found friends and family with the same problem.  We like to share our allergy-free gourmet finds with each other.  I'll try not to whine about it too much.  It may suck, but feeling better is soooooooo worth it.

Oh, and I lost thirty pounds in the process too.  So, that's a nice little bonus.  :)

P.S.  I have to give a little shout-out to my hubby who has been unbelievably supportive.  When I had to tell him that my first batch of supplements cost as much as our car payment, his only response was, "Whatever it takes to make you feel better."  Yes, I had been that sick.  And he can testify first-hand how well it worked.  Thankfully I don't take as many supplements now and it doesn't cost nearly that much each month!  And the supplements were my decision.  They didn't force it upon me.  It was worth it.  It still is.