Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Favorite - Inspiring Photography

I thought that I would start to post on Friday things that I really love that I have came across, already own...just whatever I happen to fancy at the moment. First up I came across this photography site earlier this week, and let me just tell you that it completely took my breath away! I LOVE Disneyland and seeing this photos definitely makes me want to go there. Like right now.

Tours Departing Daily is a daily photo site of amazing HDR photographs of Disneyland. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the site.

Photo by Matthew Hansen

Photo by Michaela Hansen

Photo by Kevin Crone

But until I can go back, I will just visit Tours Departing Daily to get my daily fix (of both beautiful photos and Disneyland!), and you should too!
Photobucket

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

So thanks to a little prodding from my friend Melissa, I signed up for an online photography class with her that started a couple of weeks ago. And, this class started the same week that I got my new camera.

Whew....it's been a bit of a learning curve, (figuring out my camera & doing the lessons at the same time!) but I am so completely enjoying myself and what I am learning. I thought that I would share a couple of photos that I took yesterday afternoon while working on an assignment that was about shooting in manual. Yep, I am finally shooting entirely in manual! Yahoo!!






I can definitely see an improvement in my photos and I love having so much more control of my shots by shooting in manual. Now, I know these aren't perfect...but I am having so much fun practicing on my little guy and my pooch Roxy!

So, pretty much you will find me behind my camera for the next little while, because over the next few weeks I will be practicing, practicing, practicing! (I even called my neighbor last night and she is bringing over her daughter tonight for me to practice on...my little one is tired of mommy making him pose for her all of the time!)

Photobucket

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Have an "Eggs"celent Easter!

Just a little note to say "Happy Easter" to you and your family!


We had such a fun time on Thursday dyeing our Easter Eggs this year. As Caleb gets older, things like this get to be more and more fun...and he had been asking for DAYS for us to get going on the eggs. So as soon as Chris got home on Thursday we got out the stuff and got to work!


And the munchkin and his daddy even made me a special egg!



Isn't he a total ham?!?
(I think that someone is starting to like getting his photo taken again!)



Photobucket

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Pie with Pancetta & Basil

Last night I made my normally "Meat & Potato" kinda husband go out on a limb and try something new. Something not in his comfort zone (but totally in mine!) and try something a little different for him...Tomato Pie!

Now that's not a typical kind of meal in the Schell household. We usually do American fare of the easy variety...you know, the weeknight casserole's and crockpot meals. Pastas or something grilled. Tacos or enchiladas. Now don't get me wrong...I love trying something new. The husband...Not so much! But am I so very glad that he gave in and let me go off and try something new. Something a little different. Because the end result was so very, very good!

This dish is cheesy, tomato-y, and filled with flavor...definitely a great fresh summertime meal.  I made sure to use vine-ripened tomatoes to get as much flavor as possible. And, since it was a weeknight and I was on a time crunch, I just used a store bought refrigerated pie crust, but if you would rather, just substitute your own homemade one. I served it with a green salad and some crusty french bread. Delish!

I can't wait until my homegrown tomatoes are ripe...I know that this little dish will be making it's way back to our table over the summer as my crop comes in! I hope that you enjoy it!




Tomato Pie with Pancetta & Basil
Inspired by Simply Recipes

Ingredients
  • 1 9-inch pie shell 
  • 3 oz. thinly sliced Pancetta
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, squeezed to remove excess juice, roughly chopped, to yield approx. 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil (about 8-10 leaves)
  • 2 cups grated cheese (I used a combination of Monterey Jack & Colby, but it would be great with Sharp Cheddar or Mozzarella also)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of Frank's Hot Sauce 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pie shell in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden.  If you are using a homemade crust, freeze the crust first, then line the crust with aluminum foil and pre-bake it for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
2. Chop the Pancetta and saute in a small fry pan until cooked. Drain oil & set aside.
3. Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels or a clean dish towel.
4. Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-cooked pie shell with chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the cooked Pancetta and the sliced basil over the tomatoes.
5. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.
7. Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, from 25 to 35 minutes.
Serves 6

  Photobucket
This week I am linking up to: Hodgepodge Friday, Friday Favorites, Feature Yourself Friday, Foodie Friday, Whipperberry, La Bella Vita, Made by You Monday, Just Something I Whipped Up, Homemaker Monday, This Week's Cravings, Today's Creative Blog, Take A Look Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, Tip Me Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show & Tell, Trendy Treehouse, What I Whipped Up  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I love game night

The game Smart Ass
I'm a total dork, but I absolutely LOVE playing board games. And when my husband and I can get together with friends to play games and have a few drinks things can get hilarious. This past weekend we got together with our good friends the Moore's and this game night, just like others we have had, was full of fun and hilarious answers. First we played a game that was new to all of us, Smart Ass. (If you know my husband...it is seriously the game with the name that best suits him!)

And for once I actually won a game! (This is when you imagine me jumping up and down doing the happy dance, because I never, ever win at game night!! Yee-Haw!)

Scattergories
Next up we played a mean game of Scattergories. And this is when the funny happened. I think the drinks were starting to get to us and we all came up with hilarious answers!

For one game I used the completely wrong letter....seriously I don't even know how I did that. While everyone else was using the letter 'B' I was going on my happy way using the letter 'H'. (I mean, really who does that?!?)

And my friends, I have to ask, have you ever heard of the musical instrument "Hoboe"? Yeah, neither had any of us. (Well, except for a certain person...one who will not be named).

And then as we all got tired, a little tipsy and since we all were wanting to win we kept adding as many adjectives to words as possible to get extra points. Sexy slutty secretary, super secret special Safeway sales and the like. We also have people making things up and trying to sucker us all into believing that they are real. My husband's best one this game was creating a new magazine out of thin air...one named Operation Weekly. (Don't worry...we didn't let him get away with that one...the joy of having smart phones with internet. You can check just about anything out!)

Yeah...game night to us gets a little competitive. And argumentative. And fun. Lots and lots of fun!

Are you a board game lover like me? If so what are your favorites? My favorites are Sequence, Scattergories, Taboo and Balderdash.


And now a dedication to my husband...his very own copy of his magazine, Operation Weekly:


Yeah. As I said before, I'm a total dork. I made up a cover to his fake "magazine" just for him! I showed it to him last night and he loved it and thinks we should get it framed!

Photobucket

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Schell's are STILL growing!

It's time for a garden update! 

And my garden is still growing, growing, growing! Yep, you heard that right...I haven't killed everything yet!

I am so happy with my raised vegetable garden this year. The weather has been perfect down here in the desert. A little rain, lots of sun, a few cloudy humid days and everything is growing like crazy. I have tomatoes already growing on my tomato plants and my squash & zucchini have large broad leaves & blooms...I can't wait to begin harvesting!

On a small sad note: My cucumbers did not seem to want to grow. They sprouted up, grew to be about 1/2 an inch tall & them promptly died. I have since replaced them with 2 bell pepper plants, one red and one green. (Fingers crossed that they do well since they got planted a little late)

Here is what we started with about 2 1/2 weeks ago:




And here is my little garden as of this morning!




Doesn't everything look great! Hopefully I can keep everything alive when the heat begins to hit in full force within the next couple of weeks. I am thinking of having my husband create something that I can put over the top of everything to keep the 115+ degree sun from frying everything this year...I will have to talk with him to see what he can come up with.


Photobucket

Monday, April 18, 2011

iTunes Winner!!

I just pulled the winner for my little giveaway! And the winner is...

Comment #5: At Home With Michelle!!

Congrats Michelle...please make sure to contact me to claim your prize!
 


Photobucket

Friday, April 15, 2011

I got a new camera!

I am so completely excited to say that I have upgraded my camera this week! 

Drumroll please......

My new baby is a Nikon D5000!




I just got the camera earlier this week, but life has been a bit hectic so I have only been able to play with my new "toy" twice so far, for only about 5 minutes each time. But boy have I liked what I have seen so far...actually the photos on my last post (the Peanut Butter Cupcakes and my son) were taken with the camera and the images were straight out of the camera with no adjustments and I was pretty happy with the results! (Along with upgrading I completely switched platforms from an Olympus to a Nikon, so there will definitely be a learning curve while I figure out where everything is.)

The good thing about this weekend is that I will have the opportunity to take lots of photos. I have my son's soccer game, a few recipes to shoot, game night with friends and a birthday party all going on, so my new baby will be going everywhere with me while I figure it out!

Have a great weekend! (I know I will...I'm going to play with my new camera!)

Photobucket

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes



Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate.

Has there ever two flavors that go together as well as these two do?

Ever since I tried the recipe for the Snickers cupcakes, I've had all sorts of ideas for how to stuff other candy bars into my cupcakes and when I saw a post for peanut butter cup cupcakes over at My Baking Addiction I was so excited. It was as if she was inside my head...I've also been thinking about doing this and now I had no excuse except to try it out for myself!

Caleb enjoying the frosting!
The result was amazing!

These cupcakes were delicious and the little peanut butter cup baked into the middle is a great little peanut-buttery surprise. My son especially loved the frosting...I found him licking it off with a big smile on his face and then digging out the peanut butter cup to snack on! I hope that you enjoy them.

(The cupcake batter is the same doctored-up box mix from the Snickers cupcakes, just updated for the Peanut Butter Cups, but the frosting is new and peanut-buttery deliciousness!)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes
Inspired by My Baking Addiction

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
1 package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs; lightly beaten
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
24 frozen Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (must be frozen!)

Instructions for cupcakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line (2) 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners.
3. In stand mixer, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, vanilla and water.
4. Evenly divide the batter amongst the prepared pans.
5. Gently push a frozen mini peanut butter cup into the center of the batter and smooth the surface making sure to cover the candy bar with batter.
6. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.
7. Cool cupcakes thoroughly on wire rack.

Ingredients for the frosting:
3 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 lbs powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Instructions for the frosting:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and peanut butter on medium speed until fluffy. (About 2 minutes)
2. Slowly add your powdered sugar, thoroughly mixing after each addition.
3. Add vanilla and 4 tablespoons of milk (use more or less milk depending on what consistency you like). Blend on low speed until moistened.
4. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
5. Put frosting onto cooled cupcakes and garnish as desired. I used the giant French pastry tip from Bake it Pretty and added 1/2 of a mini peanut butter cup to decorate.

Cupcakes will last for 2 days in a well secured container in the refrigerator. Any longer and they will start to get stale.

Cupcakes...they seem to be all around me lately! Every new recipe that I come up with seems to be centered around them...but don't worry, this will be my last post about them for awhile. I'm ready to try some new stuff! (And so are my friends and family's waistbands!)

Ps. Don't forget to enter my iTunes giveaway! It ends Sunday, April 17th.



Photobucket

I am linking this recipe up to: Fireflies & Jelly Beans, Transformation Thursdays, It's a Keeper Thursday, Recipe Swap Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Social Parade, Hodgepodge Friday, Friday Favorites, Feature Yourself Friday, Foodie Friday, La Bella Vita, Show and Tell Saturday, Tatertots and Jello, Saturday Night Special,Meatless Mondays, Masterpiece Monday, Homemaker Monday, Strut Your Stuff, Motivate Me Monday, Just Something I Whipped Up, Made By You Mondays, Recipe Swap Sundays,Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, Cupcake Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday's At The Table, Tip Me Tuesday, Get Your Craft On, Sweet Peas & Bumblebees, Whatever Goes Wednesdays,  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Just a couple of iPhone photos from the past week!

Caleb's face in the one on the right is just priceless after he lost one of his balloons last night!

ps. Don't forget to enter my give-away for an iTunes gift card! It ends on Sunday, April 17th!
Photobucket

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New blog design, a thank you & a give-away!

I am so excited to finally unveil my new blog design! I have been working with Laura over at Eight Days Design on it and I am absolutely in love with my new look! She did such a great job of creating something that is so very me and it also shows my personality perfectly. If you are looking for something new...definitely check her out!

I also wanted to thank everyone for following and reading my blog. I can't believe how much it has grown over the past few months and just this week I tipped over into the 200 followers realm. I was so completely surprised and excited to see that happen...I just wanted to say "Thank You" to all of my followers and readers. You make me so very happy with all of your comments and kind words on my posts and recipes. It makes the time that I spend on here worth every minute. I originally started my blog as a way to keep in touch with my family all over the country and I never thought that anyone else would care about what I have to say or do.

With that said...onto my give-away!

As a way to say "Thank You" to you, I wanted to offer up a $15 iTunes gift card as a gift to my readers. 

There are three ways that you can enter, giving you more chances to win!:

1) Leave a comment on this post. Tell me anything...a little tidbit about you, about my new blog design, tell me that you love me.  Really, anything...just make sure to leave a comment.

2) Follow my blog & leave a comment letting me know that you are a follower of my blog. If you already follow me, just leave a comment stating that.

3) Follow me on Twitter and give me a shout out to tell me that you are there. There is a link to twitter on the left sidebar. Once you have done that, leave me a comment to tell me that you follow me on Twitter.

The contest will end at 8pm Arizona time on Sunday, April 17th and I will pick a person at random! Make sure that you leave a way for me to contact you, as I will email you if you won. Good luck!


Photobucket

Monday, April 11, 2011

My favorite photo app - Instagram

I am so completely in love with and obsessed with the iPhone app Instagram. I've been using for almost 6 months now and for just about every photo that I take with my phone I find myself using Instagram. It has some great built in actions that let you do some really cool things with your photos and I love trying out each and every one of them. Here are a few photos that I have taken over the past few months using Instagram. 


My beautiful boxer Roxy!

The munchkin at a school party

My holiday Buttons recipe

Beautiful winter sunrise at the park near my home

The kiddo rockin' out to music in the car

It's Wine O'Clock!

Snickers Cupcakes...yummy!

Another great feature of the app is that ability to be a part of a community of users. You can follow friends and see photos that they take using the program. It also easily links to Facebook or Twitter so you can upload your photos easily to share them with your friends and readers. I use it for taking "teaser" photos of recipes that I will be posting.

If your not already using it, you should check it out and join in the fun!

Photobucket

Friday, April 8, 2011

Seriously? I didn't know it could get any better, but it did!

Guess what I found at Walgreen's today?!?


Seriously, I just about had a heart attack.

Basically I wait all year to get peeps at Easter and then I horde them and slowly eat them until they get old, stale and hard as a rock.

It's like an addiction for me...a strange, obsessive addiction.

And now I fear that it will get even worse.

Because covering these little sugary, marshmallow wonders in chocolate just might create an even bigger monster this Easter.

Seriously, folks. Just...seriously. I don't know if I can even handle it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes


I am so excited that spring is finally upon us. It's been a long winter and I am ready for the sunshine and warmth that the spring brings. And the wonderful produce that comes along with the change of seasons!

One of my favorite things that finally starts showing up in the produce section of the local supermarket is fresh berries! The prices finally lower and I find myself buying whole flats of them. I use them for making fresh homemade jam, jelly, pies...just about anything that I can! So last week when the local market had strawberries at a great price I couldn't help myself from buying bunches of them. And I knew exactly what I was going to use them for (at least the ones that were left over after my husband and son found them in the fridge!)

All winter I have had a recipe rolling around in my head for cupcakes made with fresh berries. (See, I told you I was on a cupcake kick!) I knew that I wanted to use berries in both the cupcake batter and in the frosting and when I finally was able to make the cupcakes I was so very happy with the results. The cupcake itself was so light and fresh tasting, while the frosting turned out tasting like a strawberry milkshake! I hope you enjoy it!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Inspired by Paula Deen's Strawberry Cake

Ingredients for Cupcakes
1 package French Vanilla cake mix
1 package strawberry jello (3 oz.)
1 cup of fresh strawberry puree (from 1 1/2 cups whole berries)
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Directions for Cupcakes
1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.
2. Combine the cake mix, gelatin, strawberries and juice, milk, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down sides if needed.
3. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it 3/4 full.
4. Bake until cupcakes are lightly golden and spring back when pressed gently with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, place pans on wire racks to cool.

Ingredients for Frosting
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
4 tablespoons of unsalted
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree (about 3/4 cup fresh berries)

Instructions for Frosting
1. Blend cream cheese and butter in large mixing bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
2. Slowly add in 3 cups powdered sugar and the mashed strawberries. Mix on low speed until incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and blend until frosting is fluffy...about 1 minute. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup more sugar, if needed, to get a spreadable consistency.
3. Refrigerate, uncovered, until frosting sets, 20 minutes.

I frosted my cupcakes just using a disposable pastry bag with the tip cut off. (I couldn't find my large round tip!) You can also decorate with sprinkles and strawberry slices, if desired.

I am linking this up to: Idea Sharing Wednesday, Make It Yours Day, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show & Tell, Creative Share Wednesday, What I Whipped Up Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Cupcake Tuesday, Fireflies & Jelly Beans, Transformation Thursdays, Strut Your Stuff, It's a Keeper Thursday, Recipe Swap Thursdays,  Sweet Tooth Friday, Whipperberry, Foodie Friday, It's a Hodgepodge Friday, Tidy Mom, Friday Potluck, Friday Favorites, Foodie Friday , Feature Yourself Friday 

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Schell's Are Growing!

A garden that is!!


(Had you all fooled didn't I?!?)

Just like last spring I decided to plant a garden. Last year my husband built me a raised garden bed in our back side yard for me to plant in. It really is the only way to grow a garden here in the desert...and it gives you so much more control over what you are doing! You get to fill it with the best soil and you can plant your plants much closer together, thus getting a larger harvest for a small area. I also found that weeds are practically non-existent...I barely have to pull any! It is constructed with redwood and is 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep. We then ordered 1 yard of good soil from a local landscape supply company and I added a two bags of mulch from Lowe's.

This year I planted tomatoes, peas, carrots, green onions, summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. Everything has sprouted so far and for the time being they are all doing amazing. The peas were the first to sprout and everything else followed suit quickly afterwards, with my tomato plants already starting to bloom!

I can't wait to be able to collect my first items for harvest.


So is anyone starting to plant yet? Are you doing a traditional garden or a raised bed?

 
Blog Design by Likely Lola