My Not-So-Green Thumb

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I have a knack for killing all things green.
I guess it’s just part of who I am.
When I was in college, my brother had this beautiful hanging ivy. It was huge. It was gorgeous. It was heavy. Its name was Phil.
After Andy got married, he and his wife moved to Utah. They couldn’t take Phil. So they left him in my not-so-capable hands.
This lovely, huge, gorgeous plant was dead within six months.
My brother still hasn’t forgiven me.
But I love plants. I want a garden. I want our house to be pretty and colorful and bright.
So this year, I’ve decided to tempt fate and plant flowers in front of our house. 
I even planted some in a pretty green pot to put by the back door.
We planted African Daisies:
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But my absolute favorite is the Desert Rose:
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You couldn’t kill this thing if you tried. It only has to be watered once every two weeks.
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It’s a beautiful thing.
I also decided to try to plant tomatoes. Last year, we planted a vegetable garden but it was not a success. Hardly anything grew and it was terrible.
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So, I thought I’d try the Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter!
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James helped me hang it just outside the back door.
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I love a man with a drill… bit…
You know what I mean.
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Sorry, honey.
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Voilà!
Isn’t it cute?
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Ah, the fruits of a hard day’s labor. Dirty fingernails.
I’ll let you know if when I kill something!
Here’s hoping for a green thumb!

Outta Here

Happy Thursday!
I’m leaving town today to head south to the state journalism convention in Austin, Texas.
While there, I get to hang out with my good friends Nancy and Morgan, who are celebrating their birthdays in the next few weeks!
So, I thought I’d bring some goodies with my luggage:
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Birthday Cake Sugar Cookies
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Praline Brookies
Don’t those look yummy?
I may come back weighing 20 pounds heavier.
Now don’t you worry — I’ll post the recipes and step-by-step instructions just as soon as I return.
Gives ya something to look forward to, huh?
I know, I know, I’m a tease.
Hope you all have a great weekend!
Adios!

Daddy’s Girl

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Kaylee likes to sleep under blankets.
Most of the time, you can’t see any part of her.
But there’s one way to know that the lump on the couch is actually a beagle in disguise.
Poke it.
Yeah, that’s right. Poke it. And you’ll hear this in response:
Uuuuuugggggghhhhhhh.
Until you’ve been privileged to one of the beagle groans, you can’t really understand.
After a while, she starts to emerge.
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You see that pillow in the background? Yeah, that’s for her.
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Beagles have such a hard life. Especially this one. All she does is eat, sleep and poop.
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Doesn’t it kind of look like she has to poop? 
Ok, that was a little much.

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James just can’t resist that cute puppy face.
I think it’s ’cause they’re so alike.
In fact, when Kaylee was a puppy, we took her to Puppy Kindergarten. During the first class, the trainer had us go around the circle and asked each owner to share something that they had in common with their dog.
Most of the other owners talked about how their dogs enjoyed walks and they did too. One guy even said that both he and his dog liked to have their tummies rubbed.
James told the class that both he and Kaylee groan when disturbed in their sleep.
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He keeps on showering her with affection.
I’m totally not jealous.
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She smooches him right back.
Ok, ok. I’m a little jealous.
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She’s totally Daddy’s Girl.


Hoppy Easter!

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I made some super-cute bunny-shaped sugar cookies to send some cute kiddos for Easter.
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I used this recipe for the cookies and icing.
I found these cute cookie tins at Michael’s.
While I like the Glacé icing, I’m anxious to try my hand at Royal icing. I think it will have a more polished look when it’s done.
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I’d just like to wish you all a “Hoppy” Easter!
PS – No actual bunnies were harmed in the making of this post. I can’t say the same, however, about this one…

The Predator

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This is our cat, Frosty.
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She’s 12 years old. I got her when I was in eighth grade.
It may not look like it, but she’s a fierce predator.
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Every morning, I get up and go let her and the Minions outside to potty.
She climbs the fence and off she goes.
Lord knows where.
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Lately, she’s been bringing back little surprises from her adventures.
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Apparently, there’s an infestation of rabbits in our backyard.
And Frosty has made it her job to get rid of them.
By decapitating the babies and leaving their bodies (or what’s left of them) on the back patio for me.
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Yum.
James discovered our first “surprise” early one morning as he was leaving for work. He ran back in the house to tell me that Frosty had left a dead rabbit at the back door.
Then he left for work.
And left the dead bunny for me to deal with.
Did I mention that I love my husband?
My mom says that Frosty’s just “feeding her family.”
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I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on having headless baby rabbits for dinner anytime soon.
If you’re concerned at all by the grossness of the topic we’re discussing, let me just tell you: It could be worse. 
James wanted me to take a photo of the bunnies to post on the blog.
I declined.
Aren’t you glad I’m writing this blog and not him?

Not Me Monday

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.
As for me, I have *not* been a complete work-a-holic. I mean, a well-adjusted 24-year-old like me does *not* drag her butt in the door at 7 p.m. every night and refuse to cook dinner for her loving husband.
And that same well-adjusted 24-year-old has her priorities completely in order. She does *not* ignore her computer and e-mail when she should continue working. She does *not* pick up a book meant for teenagers and escape for hours in its pages.
And she certainly does *not* stay up waaay too late catching up on episodes of Castle.
Castle: The Complete First Season 
Isn’t Nathan Fillion a dream? I did *not* just say that.
 Most importantly, she does *not* neglect her blog and only post once last week. 
I deeply apologize to all of my adoring readers. 
::crickets:: 
Well, I apologize to myself and maybe my mom. Oh, right. She doesn’t read either. :)
Happy Monday!

Not Me Monday

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.
As for me, I’ve been a little busy today. It was my first day back at work since Spring Break. It was a *long* day.
Yesterday, I did *not* spend the whole day reading. I would *never* do such a thing, especially after pitching a fit because my husband ignores me and only plays video games when he gets home for work.
I was so upset, I told him that he had to move his laptop from the living room into the Nerd Cave. It’s still sitting in his corner of the living room. But, to give him credit, he has *not* played video games on it in several days.
So back to yesterday. I did *not* stay up until Midnight reading because I *had* to finish. It was such a good book:
Shiver
 And then today, I did *not* stop at Borders in between appointments to pick up another book to read:
The Hunger Games
So, so good!
And now, I’m *not* going to leave you hanging with an insubstantial post just because I am dying to go pick up my book again.
Happy Monday!

Never Eat Yellow Snow

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But if it’s white, it’s fair game.
At least for Kaylee.
Yesterday was the “First Day of Spring.” Yeah, right. It started snowing last night and didn’t stop until noon today.
This is TEXAS, people. It’s not supposed to snow. I am not a cold weather kind of gal, and this weather is killing me! I mean, first there was our White Christmas. A few days later, it snowed again.
Then, there was the Great Snowstorm of 2010, where we got 10 inches of snow in a 24-hour period.
And now, this.
Whatever happened to Global Warming?
I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready for sunshine and spring flowers.
Ah, well. The pups enjoyed it.
James convinced Kaylee to fetch snowballs. It was so funny to watch!
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She wasn’t too sure about it at first.
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She had to give it a good sniff.
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Then she tentatively took it in her mouth.
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And off she went!
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Sometimes, she doesn’t really understand the whole “bring it back to you” part of fetch.
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Doesn’t it look like she has some treasure and she’s trying to get away?
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It was fun trying to convince them both to go out and frolic in the snow.
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Kaylee just mostly harassed Georgie, though.
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Georgie knows how to have a good time on his own.
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Even if he does just chase after imaginary flurries.
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I love this shot of Kaylee… she just had to get every last bit of it off her nose!
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Kaylee had such a good time playing in the snow.
She just doesn’t understand my aversion.
And neither does my Canadian-bred husband:
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After all, he was the one feeding her the snow.
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Here’s hoping for warmer weather! Fingers crossed!

Thoughts

Expect no pretty pictures from this post. 
Today, I’m simply sharing my thoughts.
This week has been a welcome relief in my life. It has been so nice to sleep as long as I like each day, to sit on the couch in my jammies and write blog posts and lurke message boards and read books.
It has been so long since I’ve just been able to breeze through a book for pleasure.
I missed that.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life, and I love my job. But sometimes, it’s nice to have no obligations.
I’ve cooked just for the pleasure of it. I’ve read just to know the story. I’ve gone out in the sunshine just to play with the puppies.
It has been so nice.
And now, it’s coming to an end. 
There are so many things waiting for me… contracts to complete, paperwork to fill out, questions to answer. I’ve procrastinated all week, just basking in my freedom, and now I feel like I’m behind again.
It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.
There are so many things I still want to do with my free time. I want to make Easter packages to send to my neice and nephew. I want to decorate Twilight-themed sugar cookies for the New Moon DVD release on Saturday. I want to plant flowers in my yard and purchase a tomato topsy-turvy grower.
But instead, tomorrow, I will work. I will fill out paperwork and create pages and scan artwork. 
And soon, so soon, it will be the end of the school year and I’ll have all summer to bask in my freedom.
Then, I will find things to do around the house to occupy my time. Books to read. Recipes to cook. And the cycle will begin all over again.
I’m so thankful that I was able to find a career that I love, something that is new and exciting and different each day. 
I am thankful for the freedom of a flexible schedule, even if it feels like I can barely make it through February and March.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and this week helped show me that.
So now, I’m going to go read some more and plan my cookies and think of things other than work. 
For next week, the work begins again. 
I can’t escape it. 
And right now, I’m okay with that.

My Favorite Color

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Green is my favorite color.
So, I thought I’d share a very St. Patrick’s Day-ish post showing you just a few of my favorite things.
Luckily, James’ favorite color is also green, so he puts up with my collecting. :)
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This is one of my favorite purses. I reminds me of spring!
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This colander was the first green dish that I bought. Now I have lots of green dishes!
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Like these plates. This was our everyday china that we registered for our wedding. We have dinner plates, salad plants and cereal bowls in this color. Love them!
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Love these glasses! I found them recently at Target. The green matches our dishes exactly! Score!
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Gotta have dish towels to match the dishes…
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This canvas is one of my favorite wedding presents. It was given to us by my friend June. It has our wedding date on it and a “B” — I like collecting B’s now, too. :)
Hope your day is filled with lots ‘o green and no pinching!

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

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This meal is delicious. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time. It’s so simple and easy to make. Seriously, go make this right now. :)
Louisiana Chicken Pasta
Adapted from: Newlywed Nibbles
The Cast of Characters:
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1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked and cubed
2 Tbsp of butter
8-10 oz of bowtie pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. water
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Directions:
Put 1 Tbsp of butter and the olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium heat. Add the cubed chicken and season with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning.
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Cook the chicken thoroughly, until the edges are golden brown.
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Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. Add the rest of the butter to the skillet (don’t clean the skillet first) and throw in the bell pepper and onion.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water according to package directions.
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Add the Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well and cook until the peppers and onions begin to soften.
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Meanwhile, add the cornstarch and water to a small bowl and whisk to combine.
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Once the peppers have softened, add the whipping cream to the skillet and mix well.
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Simmer until the mixture starts to bubble.
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Add the cornstarch mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. The sauce will really start to thicken.
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Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, along with the chicken and tomatoes.
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Stir well.
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Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped tomatoes.
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Doesn’t that look yummy?

I Have A Plan

A menu plan that is.
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Lately, I’ve been reading the What’s Cooking message board over at TheNest.com. I get lots of recipe ideas and advice from the super awesome ladies over there.
One thing many of them do is a weekly menu plan. I figured since it’s Spring Break and I have time, I should jump on the bandwagon!
First, I printed out the menu/grocery list from here.
Then, I decided what recipes I wanted to make for dinner this week:
Wednesday: Dr Pepper Pork Chops
Thursday: Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Friday: Frozen Pizza (original, huh?)
Saturday: Chicken Tostada Upside-Down Bake
Sunday: Meatloaf
I’ll link back to the recipes once I’ve made and posted them. And on Sunday, I’ll let you know how well we did in sticking to the plan.
Hopefully, this will help save money as we’re not eating out every night. My grocery store bill for this week was $108, but I had to buy some staples, like corn starch and Cajun seasoning, etc., that I haven’t had a need for.
Maybe next time I won’t have to buy those things, too.
And the leftovers will be great for lunch.
What do you think? Does it help to plan your menu in advance? Any recipes you think I should add to my repertoire?
Happy Tuesday everyone!

Chicken Parmigiana

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Yesterday, I decided to make the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Parmigiana for the first time ever.
Chicken Parmigiana is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I love, love, love it.
But let me just disclose this right up front — the sauce in this dish is *sweet*. And I’m not a fan of sweet marinara sauce. I like my marinara tangy. So, even though I love and admire the Pioneer Woman, I will continue to search for the perfect Chicken Parmigiana dish.
You’ve been warned.
Chicken Parmigiana
The Cast of Characters
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4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1/2 cups Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
3/4 cups Wine (white or red)
3 cans (14.5 Oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cubes Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Spaghetti, cooked Al Dente
First, put the chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and pound to thin with a kitchen mallet. I’m not fancy like that, so I used a heavy can.
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Mix flour with some salt and pepper and dredge the chicken breasts in it.
Put the butter and Olive Oil in a large skillet and warm on Medium heat.
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Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook until one side is golden brown.
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Flip ’em over and brown the other side.
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Once they’re nice and toasty, remove them from the skillet and set aside.
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Now, *don’t* clean the skillet. Chop up the onion and garlic and add it to the juices.
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You want it to be nice and golden.
Let’s pause for a moment so I can tell you about these super-awesome herbs I use. 
I like fresh herbs just as much as the next gal, but I have to buy fresh herbs each time I use ’em cause they go bad before I have a chance to whip up my next recipe.
So, I found these freeze-dried herbs at our local grocery store. They’re great, because you use just as much as you would fresh herbs (You know how you have to use less if you use a dried herb? Not a problem with these!). Plus, no refrigeration required — just stick ’em in the cabinet and use them the next time you need ’em!
Here’s the garlic…
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And the parsley…
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Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
Here’s where you add some white or red wine to the onions and garlic.
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I like a little wine with my dinner.
I used some of our wedding wine. We still have about a dozen bottles of it in the pantry.
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It’s a sweet Riesling, which probably didn’t help with the whole sweet marinara sauce. Oh well. You live, you learn.
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Give it a minute to reduce and cook off some of the wine. You want it to be a nice golden brown color when it’s through.
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Now, add in the crushed tomatoes.
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Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
Stir in the parsley and drop in the breaded chicken breasts.
Cover the chicken with shredded Parmesan cheese and cover the pan. Cook on low for a few minutes to let the cheese melt.
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Serve with spaghetti topped with sauce and the chicken.
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Enjoy!



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