Thursday, September 29, 2011

Digital Christmas Cards 2011 (Sneak Peek)

Remember this color palette for my digital Christmas cards? Well I'm almost ready to show the collection that goes with it. There will be six total in this collection and I'm just hammering out some of the finer details. Be sure to check back next week as I reveal the other five digital Christmas cards.

As always these and many other digital Christmas card collections will be available to download in .psd format directly from my website. For those who don't have Photoshop you can still order a flattened .jpg file from me. Simply follow the directions on my website, email me the photos you wish to be used, and then once the template is completed you can print at the location of your choice.

I'm hoping to release a new collection each week during the month of October. What color schemes or styles would you like to see.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Substitute For Ricotta Cheese (My Latest Fiasco)

I should have known the second I saw this little guy in my kitchen that dinner was destined to be cursed. He wasn't just on the floor but on my counter... where I needed to work so I could make dinner. I am not an advocate of crawly things that jump and can't bring myself to get rid of them unless I have a vacuum and long hose.

That night Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna was one the menu, one of our favorite meals from the gals of "Cook Yourself Thin." Since the husband was gone for the moment I decided to find a different section of the counter to work at, away from Mr. Cricket, when I realized I had forgotten to buy the mushrooms. That should have been my second hint to give up on dinner for the night but I decided I would add lots of fresh zucchini from our container garden to make up for it. I had cooked all my raw ingredients and mixed up the rest of my lasagna mixture when I pulled out my ricotta cheese, which wasn't supposed to expire until the end of October. I had already used half of it in an previous meal but when I opened the lid I discovered the weird orange colored substance with an orange liquid on top. For those who don't know, ricotta is supposed to be white. I mixed it a little to discover that underneath the orange there was some white cheese.

I called my mom to see what her thoughts were and if she knew of a substitute for ricotta as I needed something with a similar texture. Her suggestion was cottage cheese, which I had already thought of and did not have any. Her next piece of advice was to call my grandparents who are farmers and have raised dairy cows before and made some of their own dairy products.

My grandma didn't know if my ricotta was good but told me I could make it from scratch. Say what? Sure enough there are lots of recipes online to make homemade ricotta cheese AND they look pretty easy. I had most of the ingredients but was lacking the cheesecloth. No homemade ricotta for me. Grandma's next thought was to taste just a little bit of the orange mass... um thanks Grandma for the suggestion.

I called one of my friends who lived nearby to see if she happened to have ricotta (since so many people have that on hand). She didn't but she did have some cottage cheese that was over three months old. I told her my dilemma and that I already had everything mixed. She suggested I try cream cheese which she did have and it wasn't old. Done!

By this time I had been on the phone for over an hour trying to figure out a solution and my next best option was strawberry banana yogurt. I cooked the lasagna and prepared my husband for the disaster dinner could be.

A couple hours later than planned and we finally sat down to eat. Surprisingly it wasn't too bad. Not my favorite but at least it was edible. All the nutrition went out the window but after so much work it was nice to have a lasagna on the table that wasn't completely liquefied or have a fruity taste to it.

After I got over all the trouble dinner had become I realized that there were some perks. I now know what things I can substitute for ricotta cheese if there is a next time AND I know that I can make it from scratch. That is going to go onto my list of things to try as making homemade ricotta would definitely help me learn how to be more self sufficient.

Anyone ever make ricotta? Do you have a favorite recipe or any special tips?

Help Me Win!

Ok this is shameless post but I promise I have a funny story to share with you later this morning. I am in a blog competition for my freelance job and the more people I can get to go to my money saving tip post the better.

If you have time click on the two links inside the post (they will be the words highlighted in my text, not the tags). These links will take you to a portal with great deals on things for babies and kids, some of which are as much as 80% off.

Going to these links even if you aren't interested also helps me out a lot!

Here are the three links.

Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you!

(Be sure to check back to read all about my latest dinner fiasco)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Container Gardening

This year I tried my hand at container gardening and have found that it is the perfect solution for those people like me who are renting or don't have a large yard. This year has definitely been an experimental year as I've learned things that work and things that don't.

For instance I started some of my plants like my tomatoes in the middle of April. Instead of starting them inside as starts I planted the seed directing into the container and brought my plants into the garage at night so they wouldn't freeze. By the beginning of July my tomato plant was still only a couple inches high with only two sets of leaves. I think had I started my plants inside where the temperature was consistent my plants would have grown a lot more in those two and half months. I've learned that most plant starts like the warmer temperatures at first. Once they get a few sets of leaves you can start to acclimate them to the change in outdoor temps.

I live in a particularly windy city, especially in early spring. I think in June we were constantly having wind gusts of at least 40 mph or more which was hard on tiny starts. Thus I had to start many of my plants over in the beginning of July and I moved my container garden from the south side of the house to the north where it had a little more protection from the wind.

In July I also started putting Miracle Grow on my plants once a week. All this does is to add nitrogen to the soil and I saw a huge improvement in my plants.

The photos above were taken in the beginning of August. My plants know are much bigger but thanks to a recent severe hail storm not quite as pretty to look at. Thus far we have enjoyed the following fresh foods from our container garden:

Zucchini (bush variety)
Green Onions
A Carrot
Green Beans
Strawberries (not shown, they are in a Topsy Turvy container in back)

I anticipate that we will continue harvesting the above as well as the following:

Rutger Tomatoes
Sweet Peppers
A Small Carrot Variety

Not too bad for the first year. The only plants I have failed to grow successfully for some reason are Spinach and Lettuce. I won't give up though. Next year's container garden will be much larger and more successful as I will have a better idea what to expect.

Do you have a garden? What are you growing? Any tips?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday's Moment (Sept. 26th 2011)

One of the reasons I decided to start creating semi-custom cards and announcements was to help others capture and preserve some of their special moments in a unique way. Thus I've decided to start posting every Monday some of my favorite moments or special things that are on my mind whether they happened yesterday or years ago.

Today's Monday's Moment is all about mi familia. I grew up the oldest as seven kids and wouldn't trade any of them for all the money in the world. I loved growing up in such a large family. This photo was taken right before I left for college. As you can see some of them were pretty young at this point. It's been hard for me to be away so much while they grow up. My youngest sister was only a year and a half and doesn't have any real memories of me living at home.

One of the questions I often get is, "Is it hard to have a relationship with your younger siblings?"
The answer is no. While I definitely have a different type of relationship with those siblings who are closer in age I still feel like I'm pretty darn close to the younger ones. My youngest sister and I have a pretty tight bond for being 17 years apart. I don't get to see any of my siblings very often, especially since we live at least 15 hours away but when we are together I feel like we pick up right where we left off. We laugh, play games, and always take a stroll down memory lane. When I get to see my youngest sister she often stays in close proximity with me, after all we do have a lot in common.

Of course technology helps with this as all of them are only a phone call away. My mom keeps me updated and will send photos to help me feel like I'm there. It's been almost a year since I've seen any of my family and I'm anxious for our upcoming trip to reconcile this.

I love this photo because it captures our personalities in so many ways. If you can't tell I was the diva of the family but my siblings took me just as I was and we had a grand ole time growing up.

Do you have a Monday's Moment you would like to share? Maybe it's a previous post you've already written? I would love to see what some of your favorite memories are.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Selecting an Interior Paint (Blue Kitchens)

When selecting an interior paint for a kitchen I have rarely seen blue on the walls or cabinets and seen even less that were actually done tastefully. Now I am not a blue hater in any way, in fact the Tiffany Blue is one of my top colors for an interior... in like a living room or bedroom. The honest truth is that blue is a tough paint color for a kitchen.

Blue is a color found all throughout nature in many, many shades. Why is a natural color like this so hard to incorporate in a kitchen, a place where we take raw elements (food) and make them into works of art?

It goes back to "tasting" your paint color like I described in a previous post. Other than blueberries what natural foods are actually blue? Not many that's for sure. Thus we don't associate blue with food. In addition the color blue can actually suppress the appetite.

Before you go selecting an interior paint in the blue family to help with your "diet" we have to discuss some of the other "feelings" that blue walls/cabinets in a kitchen can create. Like green, blue can be associated with "healing" which is one of the reasons it appears in a lot of doctor's offices. Certain shades can also be associated with depression. Because of the feelings fabricated and it's lack of representation in food, I think blue can make your food taste bland or make it less appealing. If you're still wondering why this would be such a bad thing when you're trying to lose a few pounds think about how hard dieting can be. The last thing you want is to have those select items on your approved list tasting even more insipid when you're fighting those cravings for refined sugars and greasy fats.

That's not to say blue can never be an option with selecting an interior paint for your kitchen. There are other factors to take into consideration such as the contrasting colors of the floor, cabinets, other walls, and lighting. It just may prove to be a difficult task when used in such a high volume as opposed to being used as an accent color through your use of accessories.

What has your experience been with blue kitchens? Have you found some that have worked? What feelings does the color blue extract from you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Digital Christmas Cards (2011 Color Palette #1)

It's that time of year again.... I know it is still only September but I'm already gearing up for the holiday season which of course means more digital Christmas cards. All of last year's digital Christmas cards are being uploaded to my website as we speak. You can also find that particular set on my Facebook Fan Page. However, I will be creating a lot more unique Chrismas cards to add to my collection. Above is just a sample of one of my color palettes.

If you know me, I am not a traditional person. I don't believe that all things Christmas must be done in red and green only. Instead I like to take vary color palettes and add spunk into the digital Christmas cards world.

In the next few months be on the look out for my latest creations, opportunities to win a free semi- custom holiday card templates, and much much more.

All digital Christmas cards will be available in both jpg and psd format and be designed in the following sizes:

4 x 6
5 x 7
6 x 7 1/2

If you are not a Facebook Fan already I would love for you to hop on over and check it out. The more fans and followers, the more prizes that will be given away.

What colors would you like for your family Chrismas card?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pinterest Projects (Gifts For Him)

I have successfully completed another Pinterest project, too bad it was a few weeks late. The husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary last month. If you are like me, your husband is impossible to shop for let alone surprise. Gifts for him are hard to find even online. I saw the idea on Pinterest to frame a piece of paper with the words, "Today I Love You" and then each day you fill in another reason with marker on the glass. The photo I saw was made more for a little child's room but the idea was perfect for an anniversary gift.

Thus I decided to create my own version and make it a little more masculine. My husband loves American History, Baseball, and is a Literature buff. Thus I combined all of those loves into my design.

The best part was when I gave it to him and he asked, "Are you really going to fill in something new each day?" It was honest excitement on his face.

He loves the idea, so I decided that I would offer this print download for FREE on my website under the "Download of the Month" section. It is available in an 11 x 17 size (meant to be trimmed down to fit an 11 x 14 frame) and 8 1/2 x 11 (also meant to be trimmed to fit and 8 x 10 frame).

Gifts for him don't have to be expensive. I paid about a dollar to have my 11 x 17 printed on cardstock at Staples and then the cost of my frame (which Michaels always has a good deal on with a coupon).

Now onto coming up with some more ideas for gifts for him as his birthday is just around the corner? Anyone else have a great project they would like to share?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Selecting an Interior Paint (Green Kitchens)

Photo Source: ercwttmn

Photo Source: Jasmine&Roses

If I were to ask you what paint tasted like you might give me a funny look and wonder if I myself have eaten paint and then wondered why. However, that is almost what we do when we select an interior paint color, especially in a kitchen. The mind is a very powerful thing thus when we see a color we associate it with memories we have where this color has been used. If it is a food color we can almost taste that food as we take our trip down memory lane. Green seems like the perfect food color, right; and since eating is typically the main activity for a kitchen it is a great solution... sometimes.

Photo Source:

Photo Source: urbaneapts

Photo Source: petyosi

So how do you know which greens to use in a kitchen? Always remember that in a place associated with eating we will remember how that particular green reminds of food, good or bad, before we usually remember other objects. Green can look fantastic as a paint color. It also may be better suited to use through the use of accessories as opposed to paint. It just depends on the exact color you settle on.

When selecting an interior paint for the kitchen you will want to take into account the value (lightness or darkness) of the other finishes being used. To do this I try and picture my room in greyscale. If the green of my wall and the brown of my cabinetry would be the same grey value I know I have a problem. The eye likes to see diversity when it comes to the different values of colors. My personal preference is to not use dark paint colors on the walls in a kitchen. However each person's feelings and association with any color will come from their own personal experiences.

If you were to see any of these greens what memory would come to life? How do these greens relate to food? Here a few associations I can think of:

Photo Source: Soon

Photo Source: dpstyles

Photo Source: frankenstoen
The scary science project in my fridge or pantry.

Photo Source: Seth W.
Baby food. I know it is just pureed by the thought of baby food peas makes me a little sick.

Photo Source: Andy Hay
The pumpkin that was left of the porch for way too long.

Photo Source: conanil
Walls that have seen too much moisture.

Certain shades of green remind me of some "interesting" memories I have growing up. I was the oldest child of many and have changed my fair share of diapers. Some were varying shades of green. If I were to paint my kitchen in one of those particular shades I think I might vomit just thinking about the smell. Speaking of vomit... You get the idea green can have some really gross associations.

Photo Souce: rgallant_photography

While selecting an interior paint for a kitchen we tend to associate colors with food first we also want to think about other spaces where green may be used. For example, green is often used in the hospitality and healthcare business. The last thing I would want is for my kitchen to remind me of my doctor's waiting room. For some reason food just doesn't seem as appetizing in a space that mimics anything related to a hospital.

Photo Source: mason bryant

Sometimes the fix is as easy as switching to a paint with just a tad more blue or a tad more yellow. Other times finding a different shade completely will make for the better option.

Thus when you have brought home your sample swatches and put them under the various lighting that you color will be exposed to ask yourself these simple questions.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I see this color?
How would my room look in greyscale?
What does this paint taste like?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pinterest Success (Office Accessories)

I do more than spend hours drooling over all the cool projects on Pinterest... I recreate some of them. I saw this cute idea to take the states where husband and wife were from and place them into a frame. As you can see I put my own twist onto it and Walaaa, you get this baby. These office accessories are the first to be completed and the shelf is not arranged quite yet how I envisioned but I couldn't wait to show you.

My office accessories and color theme are going to be a combination of the following:

Pale Yellow
Lt. Blue
Salmonish/Peachy Combo

I have several other Pinterest projects left to complete the whole look of my office but it's off to a great start.

Don't you just love Pinterest? Have you recreated any projects, if so leave a link, I'd love to come check out your works of art!

Tomorrow's topic is going to be using green in kitchens!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baptism Invitation Templates (Pink and Yellow)

Did you like yesterday's baptism invitation template? Well today's template is the sister, created with more feminine colors and design elements.

To be honest though, these baptism invitation templates could easily be changed into some other religious invitation such as a christening or baby blessing invite.

For those that have Photoshop this sweet little number is $5.00 for the psd. download and can be found at my shop along with other religious psd. downloads.

If you don't have Photoshop I will gladly add your photo to the template for $10.00 and send you the finished .jpeg. Just go to my shop to the "Religious" folder and proceed to the "JPG" section.

Next on the agenda is a discussion for two different colors used throughout kitchens and some techniques when using them.