Archive for October, 2009


Halloween is just a few weeks away, so it’s time to decorate in a big way with mini pumpkins. Mini pumpkins make adorable jack-o’-lanterns and, not to be discriminating, jill-o’-lanterns. Don’t let their petite size stifle your creativity.


In lieu of carving, I use black paint pens and draw faces freehand directly onto the pumpkins. I find that paint pens work better than permanent markers, because they provide a deeper black.


To decorate mini pumpkins, first wash off any surface grime and towel dry. Be sure pumpkins are thoroughly dry before decorating.


Traditional jack-o’-lanterns have triangular eyes and noses and sawtooth mouths, because these shapes are easily cut with a knife, but with paint pens you can create squiggles and swirls for eyes and circles and ovals for noses and mouths.


Feel free to copy the faces that I have painted or use any design you like in pumpkin cutting stencil books.


The skies the limit as to how many different faces you can create on mini pumpkins. Raffia can be used as bows or hair for your jill-o’-lanterns. Curling or wired ribbon can also be used for special touches. I even have versions of Dracula (red cape underneath him) and Frankenstein. For dog lovers, I found a pumpkin with a long stem and used it as the dog’s tail.


Last year, wanting to bring Fall cheer to my husband’s co-workers, I created these little personalities and put one on each person’s desk. There are no two faces alike in this group!


Have fun creating petite pumpkins with personality!

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Quinoa and Shrimp Salad

P1080937_1Always on the lookout for healthy recipes, I found several interesting ones that use quinoa. Quinoa, which is pronounced KEEN-WAH, is a tiny Peruvian seed. Although it resembles couscous and can be served like rice, it is far more nutritious than either; quinoa is packed with all the essential amino acids. I saw this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman last year and have made this tasty and nutritious dish several times. Of course, like everything else I do, I had to tweak it a bit. Attractive mounded on a bed of leafy greens, it serves about six.

Here’s my adaptation of Ms. Shulman’s recipe:
Step 1: Basic Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water or stock
1/2 teaspoon salt (just a pinch worked for me)

1. Put quinoa in a mesh sieve and run under cold water to remove a bitter and protective coating on the seeds.

2. Bring the water or stock to a boil and put in quinoa seeds and salt. Bring water to a boil again, cover pot, turn down heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes or until seeds look translucent and tiny curly threads appear.

3. Drain liquid and fluff with fork. Let cool if using for salad.

Note: Cooked quinoa will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Dressing
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 T buttermilk (I used soymilk because that was all I had)
2 teaspoons of sweet soy sauce

Step 3: Salad
3 cups cooked quinoa (use all that was prepared in step 1)
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1-2 cups bay shrimp or as much as desired

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, ginger, garlic, cayenne, salt, sesame seed oil, canola oil, buttermilk, and sweet soy.

2. In a salad bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, scallions, cucumber, and cilantro. Toss with the dressing. Toss in the shrimp just before serving, so that it does not “cook” in the lime juice.

Here’s to healthy eating!

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Another week has gone by and it’s time for another Friday’s Fresh Five!

#1 A Worthwhile Quote:
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. – Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Roman Emperor and Philosopher

#2 A Market Tip from Bob (my dad)
Although oranges are available in the supermarkets year-round, their peak season is actually October through late March. When selecting oranges, look for thin, smooth-skinned ones versus thick and deeply-pitted ones. Always select firm and heavy oranges. Weight is usually indicative of the amount of juice in a citrus.

#3 An Economical and Environmental Tip:
Buy a foaming soap dispenser. These dispensers require very little soap product, thus saving you money, as well as, saving landfills from additional plastic garbage. I purchased my foam pumps from Solutions.com but any Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming Hand Soap pump can be refilled with liquid soap and water. Three tablespoons of liquid soap topped off with as much water as needed to fill the container and you’re set for at least a month. You’ll be amazed at how infrequently you have to refill these pumps!

#4 A Style Tip:
Accessories tell your story. I don’t remember where I heard this, but I like it. Whether it’s the red handbag slung over your shoulder or the way you tie your silk scarf, an accessory is an additional opportunity to express yourself. What’s your story?

#5 Do a Good Thing
Give credit where it is due. As you go about your daily activities and you come across someone who has been particularly nice or extraordinarily helpful to you, thank them or better yet tell his/her supervisor. It’s seems so easy to complain, but so difficult to give a deserved pat on the back.

Enjoy your weekend!

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The leaves are turning varying shades of brown and are dropping one by one. I’m not referring to the oak trees that line my yard, but to my tomato plants. It’s that time of the year when summer’s bounty comes to an end. Summer’s bounty? I hardly think my harvest qualifies to be called a bounty. Here’s an accurate recap of my harvest: My cherry tomatoes were not so cheery; my peppers were only a little peppy; my zucchini zeroed-out; and my cukes went cuckoo. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a brown thumb, a dark chocolate brown one to be exact.

Every year I have this primal need to grow vegetables and live off the fat of the land. This year I went to great lengths and purchased Earth Boxes after seeing the glorious ads of luscious tomato plants growing skyward and after reading scores of testimonials from people reaping bushels worth of produce. I set the boxes on the south side of my yard so they would receive plenty of nice hot summer sun. Following the directions exactly, by adding fertilizer strips and attaching drip irrigation lines to the water tube, I had great expectations. As each little blossom of potential fruit developed, I marveled at the miracle of nature. Then disaster inevitably happened. Appearing like a light dusting of snow on the leaves of my plants, white flies came from out of nowhere and sucked the life juices from the besieged plants. Bees started avoiding my crops. Were my crops inhospitable? I was forced to perform cross pollination on my zucchini blossoms using a not so scientific looking elementary school paint brush. Large and lovely tomatoes would form to perfection only to have their beauty marred by the ugly brown spots of blossom end rot.

My sister-in-law and I were lamenting the other day about the failures of our summer vegetable gardens. The only tomato plant that had performed well for her was a neglected rogue volunteer in the corner of her yard. I recited my gardening woes to her and humorously said that my husband and I could not live off the fat of the land unless we could survive on rosemary, which is the only plant that seems to grow without any effort on our part. She laughed and suggested I write a post on 101 uses for rosemary. That’s a challenge for the future!

Here’s a photo that puts my gardening skills into perspective. Although, I was very appreciative of my pepper plant’s effort to produce something, it was certainly not on a grand scale, especially when compared to it’s market counterpart!

I’d love to hear your vegetable garden “success” stories!

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Fall is in the air. Hooray! I love the cooler weather. I guess I should finally take down the heart-shaped Valentine’s Day wreath that’s on my front door and put up an autumn one! Four of my nieces have fall birthdays and the family recently had a collective celebration for them. I decided to carry on with my tradition of making personalized birthday cards and I used techniques that I posted about in my Recycling Blooms post. Thought you might like to see the crafty cards that I made for my oh-so-cool nieces.

The photo mosaic house and garden scene above I made for cute little Jessica by snipping free form shapes from old photos. Note the little white dog sitting in his dog house. That’s my little Romeo making an appearance. Inside the card balloon shapes with attached kite strings float in air to give her birthday greeting a festive look.

Artistic Kimberly also received a photo mosaic card, but hers was constructed to resemble a slice of birthday cake. I used a pig-shaped hole punch and a regular round punch to make the small pieces that were densely layered to create the illusion of a cake slice. Each piece was selected for its color value to provide the cake with an appearance of dimension and texture. “Birthdays are Nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake,” was a great quote I found for the inside greeting of Kimmy’s card.

Wanting to try something different for fashionable Lani, I clipped a photo of a model wearing a suit from a fashion magazine and redressed her in one of my own designs. I created an evening gown by layering shapes of black and red text from the magazine. This model proudly wears her label on the outside – note Dior is prominently displayed! Before adhering the model to the red card stock, I first ran the card stock through the printer so that it read, “Happy birthday to a gal with a style all her own!”

My niece Stacey is so much more than just a pretty gal, so I wanted to create a unique card for her by using photos of beautiful celebrities to create a face within a face look. According to my daughter, this card is a little scary looking, but I think the card’s sentiment pulls it together, “There’s more to life than just being a pretty face . . . There’s brains and charm and compassion and wit . . . And you have it all!”

With the cost of greeting cards rising, why not make your own?

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Hello everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for the positive feedback! If you like my blog you can subscribe to it by clicking on either “Posts” or “Comments” at the top right hand corner of my blog. A page will appear and there will be a section at the top asking you to subscribe to this feed using Google, My Yahoo, Bloglines, or Bookmarks. Select one of the programs and click on the subscribe button. I find Google or Yahoo both work well. New posts to my blog will show up on your Yahoo or Google home page automatically.

Something new to my blog every week will be my Friday’s Random Five post. Every Friday I am going to post five short random thoughts or ideas. David Letterman has his Top Ten List and Jay Leno has his Ten at Ten, so I figured I could do at least half of what they do! Hope this first installment of Friday’s Random Five gives you some food for thought.

#1 A Nice Thought:
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. -Thich Nhat Hanh-

#2 A Recycling Idea:
Straight from a Hints from Heloise column – recycle your empty tissue boxes by using them as trash containers in your cars. The cube size would be great if used in this capacity.

#3 An Idea from the Kitchen:
Peeling fresh ginger root is a breeze if you use the edge of a spoon and scrape the thin skin away. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to do it.

#4 A Fashion Tip:
This tip is for petite gals. Even though the oversized boyfriend look is really in vogue right now, keeping clothing proportions correct is essential for petites. Be careful not to wear your tops too long. Petites tops should not extend below the crotch. Remember this: The longer the top, the shorter the legs appear.

#5 A Kind Deed:
Take a bouquet of flowers over to a senior citizen’s care center and ask that it be given to a resident that needs some cheer.

That’s this week’s Friday’s Random Five. Have a great weekend!

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