Sunday, August 18, 2013

Confessions of a Crafty Momma: The Basics

One of my most favorite releases and past times is crafting. To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than tapping into my creative mind and busting out a cute wreath, a gaggle of hair bows, a set of painted nursery letters or a Pinterest-inspired project. It's relaxing, fulfilling and just plain fun.

Anyone who truly knows me, knows my true love of crafting, and over the years I've often had questions about what my basic necessities for crafting are. So this post is all about my recommendations for what you absolutely need to get started in tapping into your crafty self! Feel free to comment and add to the list!

A high temperature hot glue gun
For me, this is absolutely a complete must. There are generally two types of hot glue guns: low temp and high temp. While low temp is great for crafting with kiddos, low temp glue guns produce a bond that doesn't hold well for larger crafts like wreaths. A high temp glue gun will heat the glue to a much gooier, stickier adhesive that will cool slower and bond far better. Surprisingly, a decent high temp glue gun won't set you back much, running less than $10 for a mini-gun (which I prefer) at Michaels. Words to the wise though: the glue can and will burn! So be careful around kiddos. And when you're purchasing glue sticks, make sure you're buying sticks meant for the high temp gun.

A good pair of scissors
Again, this is an absolute MUST. There is nothing worse than trimming a scrapbook page with scissors that won't cut cleanly, or snipping a piece of ribbon with dull scissors that fray the edges terribly. Do yourself a favor and invest in a decent, sharp pair. You'll be glad you did!

A set of basic craft paints
Red, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, black and white. Acrylic craft paint is inexpensive, running between $.89 and $2.99 per bottle. You don't need anything fantastic or expensive, just a basic set because you never know when they'll come in handy! Technically, you can skip the green, purple and orange, but I always find it's easier to have those colors as a base rather than having to mix the base myself. You can lighten or darken them easily to the hue you want with the black and white.

Sponge brushes and a basic brush set
Sponge brushes are essential to a craft kit, for me. Especially when working with paint, they're easy to work with and realllly inexpensive, usually running less than $.50 a brush! The basic brush set can also be an inexpensive craft kit essential. Michaels carries a craft brush set with about 25 brushes for less than $10. They aren't they highest quality, but they serve their purpose when it comes to crafting, they're easy to clean, and I don't feel bad when I beat them up! 

Tacky glue
For no other purpose, specifically, than its a decent adhesive, it's inexpensive, and you just never know when it will come in handy....and it often does!

A lighter
Yep. A lighter.
Need to seal the edges of fraying ribbon? What about burn paper edges for a pirate map? The end of that cord bracelet you're making? Lighter.

A set of colored Sharpies
Another one of those "you never know" staples that you often end up needing when crafting!

From there on, you can add to your crafting kit depending on what you're doing! Since I dabble in a little of everything, you'll find a hefty ribbon stash, barrette clips, a heat embosser and scrap booking supplies amongst other stuff. I love picking stuff up on clearance or on sale at Michaels to add to my supplies and picking things up as I need them!

Hope you all find my list enlightening...haha! Here's to crafting!

Much love,
V


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Couch Dates

Since Derek got home from his deployment, we've tried to make extra effort to make our time together time well spent. Deployments and separations are often looming somewhere for us, so taking advantage of being together in the same place for any length of time is something important to us. It's not always easy, given that we've got a crazy-active 21 month old, his hours at work are rarely set in stone, and I'm generally running around and keeping so busy that by the end of the day, we all just kind of flop...but we still need to do it.

And while time as a family is most important, we have learned that we always need to take time for our marriage, too. Given the nature of Military marriages having to face the elements of separations, moves, uncertainties and life in general, Military couples face different challenges and stresses compared to civilians. And because of that, Derek and I feel that it's especially important to take time for each other, even if that time is spent sitting on our couch.

Since we aren't anywhere near family and have yet to find a babysitter in our neighborhood, "real" dates come few and far between. It's a real treat for us to enjoy a meal together, sans Conner, or to sit through a movie at the theater and split a popcorn. So Derek and I have come up with a suitable alternative (that sometimes, quite honestly, beats sitting in a movie theater) that makes a Saturday night one to look forward to.

Generally we start by keeping a list of movies we want to watch. We know it'll be a crap-shoot as to whether or not we will see it in theaters, so it's nice to have a list so we don't forget that if we missed it, we can rent it :) That evening, after the little dude goes to bed, we will go onDemand (or eventually when we get one, Roku), pick our flick, and get set up. Turn the lights down a little low, grab our favorite blanket, drinks and one of my popcorn recipes hot off the stove. Then we curl up in the comfort of our home, and enjoy a new-to-us movie together.

It's nothing fancy, by any means, but its time that is special to us. A chance to connect with each other in a manner that isn't changing a diaper or vacuuming chicken nugget off of the floor. It's making a night at home a date night...and who doesn't love dating their husband??

Date night popcorn :)

Seasoned
We don't have a Whirly Pop or anything similar, so my large pasta pot with a lid works just fine. If you have a stove-top popper, you can make the popcorn as usual or directed. For this recipe, cooking the popcorn with oil makes the difference in flavor, so don't skip it! It's not as good otherwise!

Drizzle olive oil in the pot, enough to coat the bottom. Then add popcorn kernels, again enough to coat the bottom. Turn the stove up to just above medium (on my gas stove, I turn the burner up to 6). When you start to hear the oil and corn simmer and begin to pop, grab the handles and continuously shimmy the pot back and forth on the burner (this will prevent the popcorn from burning) until you hear the popping slow to an almost stop.

Immediately transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and sprinkle with a little Johnny's Seasoned Salt. Mix the popcorn and sprinkle again, tasting as you go. Continue until your popcorn is seasoned to your liking.

Classic
For salt and butter popcorn, I don't find that oil-cooked popcorn is necessary. We have a bowl that you add kernels to and will air pop the corn in the microwave. Works well and only cost about $8 at Target!

Melt a few teaspoons of butter and have a sea-salt grinder on hand. In a large bowl, drizzle butter light over the pocorn and give a few grinds of salt. Mix and repeat until its to your liking. Don't forget to taste as you go!

Garlic Parmesan
This is another one that is best served stove-popped, so follow the popping directions from the seasoned popcorn. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl and gradually mix in the Parmesan mixture.

Enjoy!! And happy couch date night :)

Much love,
V

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?? Crispy Chicken with Herbed Cream Sauce

Ok, so this is one of my own concoctions from this past weekend. I had chicken breasts defrosted and needed to get crafty with a quick meal, and a little cream cheese came in handy to make the chicken and pasta spectacular!

So...
Crispy Chicken with Pasta and Pancetta Herbed Cream Sauce (sounds fancy, right??)

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups Italian-seasoned Panko bread crumbs
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 box of pasta (I used rotini)
8 oz softened cream cheese
About 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp minced garlic

Cook pasta.
In a pan, drizzle about 1 Tbsp of olive oil and heat on medium.
Scramble the egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, pour breadcrumbs. Dip chicken breast in egg, then coat generously with breadcrumbs.
When the pan is hot, add coated chicken breasts and cook evenly on both sides so that the chicken is fully cooked in the center, and the coating turns a nice, golden, toasted brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. 

Turn down the heat to low-medium (I have a gas stove, so I set it to about 4 for this). Throw in pancetta and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add cream cheese to the pan and allow to soften a bit more. Then add herbs and seasonings and mix well. Slowly add chicken broth to the mixture, to create a creamy, saucy texture. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes, until hot, well mixed and creamy.

On a plate, top pasta and chicken with sauce (you can serve side by side, or slice the chicken and serve on top of pasta) and a little asiago or Parmesan cheese.

(Side note: If you want to cheat on making the sauce, you can use the Philadelphia cooking cream instead, just add a little broth to make it saucy)


Yum! Enjoy!

Much love,
V



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Post: The Truth About Life After Military Service


The Truth About Life After Military Service

Change brings with it a whole host of unknowns and this is particularly true for those transitioning out of the military. Whether you are finishing a minimum commitment or retiring from the military, you have likely heard a barrage of rumors about the process of reentering the workforce. Rather than getting bogged down in this information, take the time to sort out fact from fiction. For starters, let’s look at a few common myths and the truths behind them.


Myth #1: The types of jobs available to you as a veteran are limited and difficult to find.
Truth: Military careers vary widely as do the types of skills veterans have honed during their time in the service. Because of this, many companies are interested specifically in hiring qualified veterans, and programs such as the 100,000 Jobs Mission exist to connect you with jobs at these companies. So far, the program has helped over 60,000 veterans get jobs with some of the top companies in the US.

Myth #1: Asking for a reference puts your colleagues and superiors out.
Truth: Most people who appreciate your skills and talents will be happy to give you a referral. Additionally, employers today understand that everyone has demands on their time. Many companies have partnered with services like JIBE that streamline the process of giving referrals and let you connect to your colleagues through social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.


Myth #3: Although programs exist to help you find a job, there isn’t a live person to whom you can go for help.
Truth: All post-9/11 veterans can receive access to a One-Stop Career Center in their area. Here, with access from the Gold Card, each veteran is eligible to receive training, test preparation, individual career counseling, job referrals and more. Veterans that choose to use the program will also benefit from some enhanced services including up to six months of follow-up.

Myth #4: Your resume should indicate that you are good at everything.
Truth: Who would believe that? No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. Your resume should be succinct and focused. Include all skills relevant for the job you want, but don’t exaggerate or overstate your abilities. Employers are in the business of hiring real people who can do quality work at a specific job.

Believing myths about the job market can defeat you before your search begins. Learning the truth about the job market and having faith in yourself will help you through the process. Let go of your fears and, with confidence, follow your dreams.

Emma is a mid 20-something year old with a passion for life, love, fitness, and helping others. She loves to be active and get involved in as many sport and community activities as possible. Emma is currently studying to become a Career & Life Coach, and loves to network with people from around the world! Check out Emma’s blog at http://smileasithappens.blogspot.com/!