Black Bean Soup

1 white onion

1 garlic clove

2 cans black beans (drained)

1 can petite diced tomatos

1 can beef broth

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Small sprinkle cinnamon

Olive oil

Heat olive oil in pot on medium heat. Dice onions and add. Cook until beginning to brown, then add diced garlic. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, tomatoes and beef broth. Stir. Rinse black beans, then add to pot. Stir. Bring to boil, then let simmer 15 minutes. Add a little water if you want more liquid. Use immersion blender to purée soup, leaving as many large pieces as you’d like.

Serve over rice, topped with shredded cheese.

Cottage Pie (beef instead of lamb, so not Shepherd’s Pie)

Made with things I wanted/needed to use up in my kitchen.

Filling:

1 lb ground beef

1 10 oz bag frozen onion/carrot/celery blend

1 10 oz bag frozen peas

1 10 oz bag frozen corn

1 14.5 oz can beef broth

1 6 oz can tomato paste

1.5 tbsp Worcester sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Onion powder to taste

Dry thyme to taste

Topping:

4 large potatoes or 8 small potatoes 

1 stick butter

Milk as needed

Garlic powder to taste

Salt to taste

Shredded cheese

Instructions:

Brown ground beef on medium heat. Drain and set aside. 

In same skillet, add a little olive oil, still on medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add frozen veggies (corn/carrot/celery blend, peas, corn). Place lid on top to help cook faster. Stir occasionally. 

While the frozen veggies cook, peel and quarter the potatoes. Add to salted water in pot and set to boil. (Lower heat to simmer to prevent bubbling over.)

Back to the veggies. Add your ground beef, then the beef broth, Worcester sauce, tomato paste, and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder) to taste. Stir until well mixed. Leave lid off and allow liquid to cook down, stirring occasionally. 

When a fork easily pierces the potatoes, drain water. Add butter to potatoes and let the butter melt almost entirely, then begin mashing. Add milk as needed. Salt well, and add garlic powder to taste. (I like to mix with a whisk after mashing.)

In casserole dish, add filling. Top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. 

Optional: Use broiler to crisp cheese and add some browning on top. 

My adult tonsillectomy experience

After countless years of bad sleep, I finally resolved to get my large tonsils out at age 24 so I could breathe easier. The doctor confirmed this was the right course of action after looking at my tonsils and exclaiming, “If I had these tonsils, I’d get them out!”

My surgery was scheduled less than a week later. I of course immediately turned to the Internet and read everything I could about the procedure, which meant plenty of horror stories. This, coupled with the doctor’s warning of possible arterial bleeding, kicked my anxiety into overdrive (thankfully, unnecessarily).

I arrived the morning of the surgery, bleary-eyed, wishing I could have a chicken biscuit, and grateful for my parents’ company. There were two babies ahead of me on the schedule, but the overall wait for both prep and surgery was actually quite short.

After changing into my surgery gown and cap, a wonderful nurse named Brenda covered me with two heated blankets, completing my transformation into a happy little burrito. It was pure bliss.

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Wall Art: Fox Silhouette Cutout

Ingredients

1 Old picture frame
1 Old, unused cardboard box (optional)
3 Pieces of scrapbook paper
1 Black poster board
1 X-Acto knife
1 Paintbrush
Tape
Paint
1 Old newspaper

Instructions

1. Take out the glass and backing from the frame. If the backing is missing (like mine was), cut a piece of cardboard from the box to use instead. Spread out some newspaper and place the frame on it. Paint one coat of paint and let dry.

2. Find a silhouette shape you like. Copy it onto the back of the black poster board with a pencil (I taped a sheet of computer paper to my computer screen so I could trace the silhouette, then cut it out). Use your X-Acto knife to cut out the silhouette from the poster board, and place face down.

3. Cut strips of varying width from the scrapbook paper. Place the strips along the silhouette cutout in whatever pattern you like. Tape them down.

4. Place the glass, your new artwork and the backing into the frame. Hang and enjoy!

Bookcase to Hutch

In my quest for furniture for my then-future apartment, my mother graciously offered up several pieces from my parents’ home. Most were fine as they were, but one…well, it just needed some love.

Below is basically a before picture of an old nappy-holder-turned-bookcase. All I had done thus far was take off the doors (notice the holes) and a wee bit of paint.

To get the paint off, we applied paint stripper very generously. Whenever you handle paint stripper, be sure to wear gloves and shoes. This stuff HURTS if it comes in contact with your skin. Heck, this stuff stung even if it just got on my gloves! But it was efficient and cut down the time of this project considerably.

After scrapping and stripping and scrapping and stripping, we finally got down to the original wood. I patched the holes from the doors with some wood putty, then sanded this bad boy down.

We painted the outside with a nice teal color (Sea Glass, I believe it was called), then stained it so the color wasn’t too distracting.

We then painted the inside with a sort of golden yellow. I decided not to stain the inside, since I didn’t want it to be too dark once I put a back on the hutch.

Here’s the almost-final piece in my apartment. Once things were added to the inside, I was glad I didn’t stain it, since it would’ve ended up looking too dark. Notice I haven’t put a backing on it yet, but I will soon. I need to pick a fabric that I’m going to just stretch across the back and staple in place. I’ll use that same fabric for pillows and/or curtains in my living room.

Fans and Farewells

To start off the last week of class, we created a fan-shaped arrangement. These are often used for sympathy, because they convey a sense of comfort. All of the line elements lead into a focal point, with the whole design being centered. Overall, a very safe arrangement to make.

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To end the class, though, we had free(ish) reign. We “ordered” our materials and came up with our designs completely on our own, with no guidance from our professor. Some people didn’t really have enough materials to make the centerpiece look full, so they were scrambling. Luckily, I was not one of those people.

Also luckily, I got white spider mums…which gave me the chance to paint them! That’s right, there’s spray paint specifically for flowers. The only downside? I still have some of the paint on the thumbnail of the hand I held the flowers in.

The purpose of this arrangement was to create something fun — whimsical, even — for a (fake) garden party. The lily grass crisscrossing the arrangement really helped, especially with the hot pink flowers and green button mums.

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Oh so fancy

This week, things got fancy. Like, high class, high heels and high prices fancy.

From Ikebana International: Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is more than simply putting flowers in a container. It is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It is steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature.

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That big red flower? It costs six dollars. Seriously.

Next up, formal linear. Like Ikebana, these arrangements are expensive. Why? Because the skill and creativity necessary to make these arrangements are worth the price. There are no set rules — the designer just has to have that special talent.

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