Joie de Vivre

Sweet snickerdoodles!  How is it possible that 2011 is over?

It LITERALLY started with this:
Baby Rhymeswithsmile - 1/1/2011, 7:43 AM
 What started as an 8.5 pounds bundle of tears screaming joy became this before too long:

February 2011
She didn't want to miss out on any fun.  So we hit the road.  First stop: Mountains of North Carolina.
March 2011 - Baby RWS meets Mommy's hometown buddies
Soon, it was this:

April 2011 - The Three E Cousins at 5 months, 4 months, and 3 months old
May 2011 - Family Graduation, Greensboro NC
May 2011 - Little Girl visits Mater Alma Mater, Greenville SC
Summer came along so quickly ... and Baby Rhymeswithsmile worked on with emotional responsiveness, mobility, and a keen interest in riding in the Blue Baby Chariot:

June 2011
July 2011
August 2011 - Dayton, OH
We tried this:
September 2011 - Relative Disaster because Car Camping
means Closeby Neighbors.   Whoops.
October 2011 - Again - disaster.  But this time we were in the woods,
so there weren't as many people to hear and be woken up
by the midnight screams of our sweet precious (she typed ironically).  
Fall.  Amazing.  Time with those we love (and are named after):
November 2011 - UNC-CH with Aunt Becky
And a Merry Christmas:

End of the year, already?  How did that happen?


Revisitation: Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bread - My most favorite recipe in the whole world
(originally posted in December 2008)
Makes 3 loaves
1 c. vegetable oil
3 c. sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 large can pumpkin
1 c. chopped pecans and/or 1 c. chocolate chips
3 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1 t. cloves
Mix oil, sugar, eggs, and pumpkin in large bowl.
Combine dry ingredients and pecans/chocolate chips in separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, stir until mixed.
Fill half-full either 3 well-greased 1-pound coffee tins or 3 well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

Sometimes I find it helpful to revisit the past.  Recipes help with that, because I associate certain memories with particular food.  This recipe for pumpkin bread is particularly momentous.  You see, I baked a batch of this when my sister-in-law had her first child in November 2008.  Yesterday, we celebrated this:
Look at this guy!  He's amazing.  Fun, smiley, and energetic - perhaps the best nephew I've ever had.  Happy Birthday To You, Sweet Boy!

I got to make him a birthday banner for this big year - and years to come!  I didn't get a picture of the one that I gave him (ok, well, gave his mama), but here's a second one I made that is going in my etsy shop:
Man, I'm pleased with how it turned out!  Upcycled: check.  Reusable: check.  Awesome: check (she said humbly).  Birthdays are so much fun, and it's exceptionally special to celebrate with those we love, knowing that we'll get to keep them close for years and years to come.

A little more birthday love goes out to this gal, who's holding my little gal:
What a hoot and a half she is! Cousin Becky: inspiring in so many ways, and one of the first people I want to call when something ridiculous happens because I know she'll share a hearty laugh with me.  Precious family, precious friend!

One more picture ...
 Who knew 10.5 months could go so fast? 


A New Roasted Vegetable

Old friends are awesome.  Old friends are special, and rare, and sweet.  Old friends take you to big-town grocery stores, where you can find things like this:

What a dear, sweet vegetable (not as dear and sweet as long-lasting friendships, but special nonetheless).  Why in the world has this little green gem gotten such a bad name for decades?  I think it's because of a deep cultural inability to do more than boil it into tasteless mush.  So sad.

I haven't yet told you what it is.  I'm going to hold out a little longer.  It's just so cool-looking and tasty, I don't want to negativize the relationship you're forming with the little guys just yet with any of your preconceived notions.

Here's what Longest-lasting Friend and I did with the grocery store find:

1.  Remove the little sprouts from the stem by snapping them off.  Cut off any tough parts of the stem that stayed on the sprout, and remove any small, yellow leaves.  Wash thoroughly.

2.  Give Little Girl a kitchen cabinet full of tupperware to occupy her, and thank Longest-lasting Friend's Mom for having a child-friendly kitchen.

3.  In a bowl, combine vegetable, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter, 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2-3/4 tsp. dried rosemary.  Stir with a rubber spatula until fully coated and delicious looking.  Spread onto a baking sheet or roasting pan.  Have you figured it out yet?

4.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until browned on the outside and soft (but not mushy) on the inside, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

5.  Enjoy the New Kind of Roasted Vegetable.  See, Little Girl likes them too.

Are you ready?  Brussels Sprouts.  There, I said it.  But they are delicous!  Give them a chance.


Pink Path Baby Quilt

I've been working on this custom order for the past few weeks, and it's finished ... just in time for a baby shower to welcome a sweet baby!

I'm so pleased with how it turned out, especially since I was working from a mental picture rather than a pattern.  Here's the back that I pieced from the leftover fabrics:

I used 1/2 yard of four different fabrics (the blocks on the front) and about 1 yard of yellow (I used two different yellows which may or may not show up in the picture).  The front blocks are 4.5"x8.5", the sashing in between is 1.5" wide, and the border is 2.5" wide.  I used standard 2.5" strips for the binding, piecing together all the different fabrics to get enough.  Now ... you can make your own!

I had just enough fabric left over to make a my favorite little bird toy to go with this Pink Path baby quilt.  And of course, not wanting to waste anything, I stuffed it with the fabric bits leftover from the quilt!

You could say I'm tickled pink.


True Southern Spirit

Fried Green Tomatoes

Take 4 or 5 medium green tomatoes.  Cut them into 1/2 inch slices.

Beat an egg in a bowl.

In another bowl, mix some cornmeal (maybe half a cup), some salt (a teaspoon?) and whatever other spices catch your eye (I used crushed red pepper and Cajun seasoning).

Dip the tomato slices in the egg, then in the cornmeal.

Now the fun part - fry them in about 1/4 inch of hot oil until golden on one side.  Turn them and fry until golden, then remove to a paper towel to drain.  Um, delicious.

I'm not 100% sure that I fall in the category of "all things southern" in the way that my friends and family members do ... but I think I've planted myself a little deeper in southernness with these green tomato gems.  They were surprisingly citrusy - and really, really good.

In the spirit of Loving the South, I'd like to direct you to my favorite girl cousin's blog, Local Townie.  She moved to Kentucky over the summer, and has found herself the recipient of some beautiful southern hospitality.  I love, love, love this gal!  You've got to read her story here.


Make A Pie Crust

Basic Pastry Dough for pies, tarts, and quiches
(makes 2 11-inch pie crusts)

Note: This does require a food processor.  I didn't have one for the longest time - but now I do, and it's glorious.  If you don't have one, it's still possible to make your own pie crusts but the methodology is a little different - I found some tips by doing a google search for "make a pie crust without a food processor" :)

2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. ice water

 Insert the metal blade and put the flour, butter, and salt in the food processor work bowl.  Process for 8-10 seconds, or until the mixture is like coarse meal.  While the processor is running, pour the ice water through the feed tube in a steady stream.  Stop processing as soon as the dough begins to form a ball (OK - better said "as soon as the dough begins to stick together").  Do not overprocess.  Divide the dough and any little scraps on the bottom of the bowl into two equal parts and put each into a plastic bag.  Work through each bag to press the dough together into a ball, then into a disc.

Refrigerate the dough for at least two hours or overnight, or freeze it.

Roll each disc of dough on a lightly floured surface to a cirle about 1/8 inch thick.  Press them into place in two greased pie pan.  Use kitchen shears to trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overlap beyond the pan.  Fold the overlap inside to form a double thickness on the sides.  Press the dough firmly into place, pushing the crust up a little bit above the edge of the pan to allow for shrinkage during baking.  Pinch the crust to form a decorative edge.  Prick the bottom and sides with a fork and refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill it with uncooked beans or rice.  Bake it for 12 minutes.  Remove the paper and the beans/rice, prick the shell again and bake it for 6 minutes longer, or until it is lightly browned.

Use for sweet pies or savory tarts and quiches.

So, I don't know about you, but pie crusts have been one of those things that I've just assumed you buy in the frozen food section of the grocery store.  I always thought that making it myself would be too much work (after all, who can really commit to rolling something to 1/8th of an inch thickness?  I don't have the time for that.)  But recently, I found myself in need of a pie crust, and it wasn't exactly a good day for grocery shopping (I could blame this on the baby, but really ... it was my lack of planning that made it not happen).  So, I pulled out the instruction manual to the trusty food processor, and found this recipe in the back.  I tried it.  And it wasn't hard.  In fact, it was surprisingly quick, my fingers didn't ache from trying to cut butter into flour, and I even got a break of a couple of hours in between preparing the dough and rolling it.

And yes, I got it to 1/8 inch thickness - WAAAYY easier than I thought it was going to be.

I haven't been too adventurous with this until today when I ran out of white flour.  So half of the flour is whole wheat.  And I threw some garlic powder in the food processor bowl just for kicks.

I'm in the middle of that 2-hour-chilling-of-dough-discs right now, so I can't tell you how it's going to turn out.  But I'm excited, and I think it will be the perfect homemade crust as the basis of this quiche that's our dinner tonight.

What are you going to use a pastry crust for this week?


Quilting Bee Winner

and the winner is ...

Susan M (referred to as "Mother of Rebekah S." in the last post)!  I believe the squares in the top left and bottom left are her creations.  Lovely additions to the quilt, Susan!  Thanks for playing along!

So exciting!


Quilting Bee Quilt

Put on your remembering caps.  Pull out a little blog post from June (eek - three months ago!) and recall that I hosted a quilting bee that involved 12" quilt squares in blue and a reveal date of early August.

Well, it's ready - finally!

I trust that you'll forgive me that it took a whole extra month.  You are, after all, very sweet and kind.  And let's face it.  You probably knew that there was no way I'd get it finished so quickly.  So, I appreciate your realistic view of quilting, and will strive to be better accomplished in realism in the future.

Here are some pictures of the little beauty.  It measures about 36" square - a nice little quilt to drape over a chair, to tuck your feet under on the couch, or to brighten up a room as a wall hanging!

I ended up collecting five squares that were predominately blue, and four that I like to call Blue Plus.  It made it really fun to place the squares together - I get a more traditional feel from the squares in the first picture, and I love the fun and funky attitude from the squares of the Blue Plus side.

I quilted it in an all-over meandering pattern.  I used a light blue-and-white stripe for the binding: very good choice, in my opinion.

I love it!

The best part of this is that the quilt goes to one of the lucky contributers!  I will post the winner SOON ... like, before 5 PM tomorrow!  Who will it be - Sarah E, Rebekah S, Mother of Rebekah S, Becky W, Daughter of Becky W, or Daughter of Paige M?  Stay tuned!


Etsy giveaway winner

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement, for checking out the rhymeswithsmile etsy store, and for being a part of something really fun!  I'm excited to announce the WINNER of the iPhone sleeve and iTunes gift card is Stephanie over at Thrifty Hippo!

Keep the store in mind if you're looking for something that looks good and saves the world, too!  Haha ... ok, maybe that's enough shameless promoting for right now.  But seriously ... keep spreading the word!

Can you think of anything you'd like to see in the shop?


Pickled Jalapenos

Have you had a chance yet to enter my rhymeswithsmile etsy giveaway?  No?  Well, you've got one more day ... so jump on that bandwagon and win yourself an iThing and a gift card!

It's that time of year when we have more peppers than we know what to do with.  I've decided to try my hand at pickling ... yes, pickled peppers really DO exist, and not just in the peck that Peter Piper picks.  I'm going to use this lovely recipe from my friend SB - well, really it's her sister Cat that guestposted about them.  I can't resist.  I've known this family for decades (yes, decades ... plural) and they all have fabulous taste in food.  So, yes.  Pickled Peppers for us this week, courtesy of Market 2 Meal and Cat.

Did you notice the Chinese translation of jalapeno?  Love it.


announcement and giveaway

You've been faithfully and patiently waiting for me to make my big announcement.  Well, here it is: the Rhymes With Smile Etsy shop is now open for business!  I'm sticking with "Rhymes With Smile" because saying it makes me smile (and I hope it makes potential customers do the same!).  You can access the shop by clicking on the above link or by going to http://www.etsy.com/shop/rhymeswithsmile.

With hundreds of thousands of items for sale on Etsy, I bet you're wondering how the RWS shop is any different from the next one.  Some things are the same - like, my items are handmade (with love!) and the majority are for house and baby.  But what makes Rhymes With Smile different is the twist - most of my items are upcycled.  The standard definition of upcycling involves taking items bound for the landfill and repurposing them to keep them in use.  Think recycling + creativity + oomph = upcycling.  What it means in my shop is that most of the items contain fabrics that used to be sheets, pillowcases, clothes - including skirts, jeans, shirts, headbands, ties, dresses, and sweaters - blankets, curtains, and decorative items.  When they no longer served their original purpose, they were UPCYCLED into the items I now have for sale.

Take this iPod/iPhone cover, for example:

In its former life, it lived happily as a gray wool sweater and a green flowered skirt (the lining you can barely see).  But then, the sweater got a snag and a shrink in the dryer, and the green flowered skirt ended up out of season and unloved in a thrift store.  I came to the rescue, did a little snipping and sewing, attached some velcro, and shazam - an upcycled iPhone cover!

Well, thanks for sharing in my excitement - many of you provided the encouragement that helped me make it this far.  But the fun isn't over!  As a thanks to all of you, I'm hosting a giveaway of the little wool sweater that could - also known as the Upcycled iPod/iPhone Cover pictured above - along with a $10 iTunes gift card!  You have up to three ways to enter:

(1) Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect and leave me a comment saying so (if you're already a follower, leave a comment letting me know that);

(2) Browse through the shop and leave a comment saying which item you like;

(3) Share the news about the Rhymes With Smile Etsy shop on your blog, and leave a comment with the link.

The giveaway ends on Monday, August 29th at 5 PM - and the winner (hopefully that's YOU!) will be announced Tuesday morning.



The Clock Story

So, here's the Clock Story.  

I got this clock from my neighbor.  It was in her yard sale pile, and she is a nice woman, so she just gave it to me.  And, no, it wasn't 1:16 when I took this picture.  The clock had stopped.

I disassembled it (I told her that's what I was going to do, in case you're wondering).  I decided to paint the frame with some leftover paint from another project:

And I found an old papersource calendar that my college roomate had given me for my birthday, so I cut up one of the pages and fit it onto the clock face.  Then I found the wrench in the tool box, and made sure that it showed up in the picture so that you'd think I was really hardcore about my re-doing of household items:

Finally, I sanded off some of the paint from the clock frame and reassembled it, hung it on the wall, and tried to remember how to tell time when there aren't big numbers to help:

That, my friends, is the Clock Story.

Tuna Cakes with Cajun Mayo

Tuna Cakes with Cajun Mayonnaise
makes 6 cakes

Cajun Mayo:
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. cajun seasoning

Tuna Cakes:
3 (5-oz) cans tuna
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
2 beaten eggs
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice

6 slices of bread, toasted
6 lettuce leaves
6 slices of tomato

Stir together ingredients for cajun mayonnaise and let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the tuna cakes.

Stir together all ingredients for the tuna cakes until well combined.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When hot, scoop 1/6th of the mixture into the pan, and pat it down with a spatula to about 3/4" thickness.  Repeat two or three more times (however many cakes can fit in your frying pan) and let cook for 4-6 minutes or until crispy and brown on one side.  Flip the cakes and let them brown on the other side.  When crispy on both sides, remove cakes to a paper towel and keep warm.  Do the same for the second batch (if you had a second batch).

To serve, spread each piece of toast with 1-2 tablespoons of cajun mayo (don't skimp.  You need this).  Top with lettuce leaf, tuna cake, and the tomato.  Serve immediately.

I don't think it's every little girl's dream to grow up and find creative ways to use canned tuna.  But, I find myself in possession of lots of canned tuna these days, so I'm constantly trying to come up with delicious creations that don't scream "CANNED TUNA!" during the meal.  Yes, it's been a challenge.  But not too long ago Southern Living featured something similar to these tuna cakes - so we tried them, and loved them.  (Yes, I said "loved" in the same sentence as "canned tuna.")  I misplaced the magazine but figured it wouldn't be hard to recall, so we whipped these up last night.  The tuna cakes were about the same as I remembered before, but I think we must've accidentally quadrupled the amount of cajun seasoning that the original recipe called for (we remembered the mayo still looking rather white the first time we tried it ... this time, it was definitely red because of the amount of spices).  All that to say, though - it was perfect.  The Mr. and I agreed that it was just the right amount of dressing to add moisture and a kick to the sandwich, but it wasn't too spicy or overwhelming.  We liked the nice balance of flavors.

I can't believe it.  I found a tuna recipe - nay, a CANNED tuna recipe - that I liked.


Dutch Baby Pancakes

Dutch Baby Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar
from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg (have I mentioned that I'm loving this book?  L.O.V.I.N.G. it!)

2 Tbsp. butter
4 large eggs
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. half-and-half
1/4 tsp. salt

Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 425.
Put the butter in an 8-inch cast iron skillet and place over low heat.  As the butter melts, use a pastry brush to coax it up the sides of the skillet.
Meanwhile, in a blender, mix together the eggs, flour, half-and-half, and salt until well blended.
Pour the egg mixture into the warmed skillet.  Slide into the oven, and bake for 18-25 minutes.  The mixture will rise and puff around the edges, like a bowl-shaped souffle.  The Dutch baby is ready when the center looks set and the edges are nicely risen and golden brown.  
Remove from the oven.  Drizzle - or splash, really; abundance is good here - with lemon juice and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.

A few updates:
Have I mentioned recently that I'm enjoying this book?  Especially after that seven-month long drought that sucked all literary life out of me (I've talked to a number of people who read that same book that took me seven months to read - and none of them liked it.  I wonder why it was so popular?), I'm savoring the relaxed read, the short chapters, and the invigorating style.  I'm a Wizenberg fan.  How did I not know about her and her blog, Orangette, until recently?

I'm working on the QUILTING BEE project - it's coming along nicely but it's not together yet.  I've got the top and the back pieced ... mostly.  Progress is being made - but August 1 came and went, and the quilt wasn't finished.  Sorry to those of you who have been sitting on the edges of your seats in eager anticipation (yeah, right - like would happen!)

Baby Rhymeswithsmile is scooting around.  She hasn't mastered forward motion, but she can go backwards like it's her job.  Well, I guess it is her job.  So she's doing great.  As I type this she's at my feet, on all fours, rocking back and forth and searching for little bits of dog hair on the carpet to put in her mouth.  This is fun.

And last but not least, the secret surprise announcement I've been teasing you all with for a while is coming.  Soon.  I'm working on it - as much as possible - and you'll know about it soon.  Cross my heart.


More anticipation

A friend told me that the anticipation had died down since I didn't immediately say what my big news was. Well, that might be the case.  That's OK.  I'm still excited.

And I'm still not going to say.  But I'll give you a few hints - and if you guess correctly, then you can be excited with me!

Hint Number One: There is a giveaway associated with this Big News.

Hint Number Two: Some of you already know what this Big News is.

Hint Number Three: I've talked about this before.  Now it's finally time.

If you automatically jump to "Hooray, there's produce in her garden!" - you are a dear friend, and yes, I will give you some cayenne peppers that have just turned red.  But that's not THE big news.

Keep those drum rolls rolling ...


Food Books

I got burned out on a book this spring.  I read, and read, and read, and it STILL took me six months to finish what I thought was going to be an easy read.  I just wasn't really into it, but I felt so committed that I couldn't give up.  Thankfully, I have a friend who helped to redeem me from the pit by suggesting two awesome books that she had enjoyed.  I highly recommend them if you need something lighter and maybe a little different.

The first is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It's narrated in letters back and forth between all of the main characters.  I laughed out loud a couple of times, and cried too, and then cheered.  Good vacation reading, indeed.

I just started the second one but I can already tell I'm going to like it.  It is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  I'm way inspired by this one.  Each chapter is about people or things she loves, and ends with a recipe that ties it all together.  I'm inspired, and I'm only three chapters in.
If you're looking for something to try out - and if you need something light and easily digestible - try these out!


Revisiting Oldies - Southwest Pork in Black Bean Sauce

I'm feeling a little nostalgic - family vacation in a location that has seen bits and pieces of my family for about 30 years will do that to me.  We've fit in everything from breakfast in bed to ukulele songs, and it's been a fun new twist on nostalgia.

Everyone's taken a different night to prepare dinner for the rest of the group - so I pulled out a favorite that I posted when I first started blogging, that I still love to make when I need food for a crowd.  Southwest Pork in Black Bean Sauce is tasty, easy, and makes enough for leftovers (very important when you're considering the company).

I've made this with chicken or steak instead of pork, and I've adjusted the amounts of corn, tomatoes, and black beans depending on what I have on hand.  It's a very forgiving, flexible recipe.

So, here goes - SWPiBBS (or, Southwest Pork in Black Bean Sauce)
1 to 1 1/2 lb boneless pork loin chops
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chili pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. paprika
2 (10-oz) cans mild diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use Rotel or store brand equivalent)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8-oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 Tbsp. oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cups cooked rice
Garnish: grated cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, chopped avocado or guacamole, flour tortillas

Cut pork into 1/2 inch cubes.  Combine cumin, chili pepper, garlic salt, and paprika in a large ziploc bag or bowl with lid.  Remove 2 tsp. cumin mixture and reserve.  Add pork to bag or blow, seal, and shake to coat.  Set meat aside.
Stir together reserved cumin mixture, diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn in a large bowl.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork and red onion, and saute 6-8 minutes or until pork is browned.  Stir in tomato mixture, bring to a boil, and stir in the cooked rice.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with grated cheese and cilantro before serving OR spoon mixture into flour tortillas and have each person garnish as desired.


big news

No, I'm not pregnant.

No, we're not moving.

The Mr. didn't get a new job, I didn't get a job, and we don't have another pet.

But there's a big announcement coming, and I wanted to drum up some excitement.



Quilting Bee - now the fun begins!

Just wanted to post a little update about the quilting bee - I have an awesome, perfect set of nine squares to work with!  Oddly enough, I only got one locally (thanks, Rebekah!) and the rest came from out of state.  Rebekah roped her mom into making two squares (hurrah!), my mom (sweet, dear woman) made two, a teaching buddy made one, and the remaining three are from a mother-daughter-daughter's friend trio I got to catch up with this week.  I am so excited to start putting them together.

I really want to show pictures now.

But I will wait.  You'll get a surprise.  I think August 1 will be the unveiling date.  Does that sound reasonable?


Four Squares!

I have four squares in my possession for my first ever quilting bee!  It's not too late to join in - read about it here: http://rhymeswithsmile.blogspot.com/2011/06/official-quilting-bee-post.html

I can't decide whether or not to post pictures of the squares I have, or just do one big surprise finale once they're all assembled and quilted.  What do you think?



I've been thinking for a while now that there are things I'd like to blog about that don't have a recipe to go with them.  Or, I want to post something about sewing AND cooking and don't want to bother with two posts.  SO ... ba da da dum ... I'm not going to do rhymeswithquilt anymore.  Just rhymeswithsmile - simple is best these days!

In other news, someone asked me recently where "Rhymes With Smile" came from ... my last name is surprisingly easy to spell, but surprisingly difficult for some people to pronounce.  So if someone asks I tell them it rhymes with smile ...


Summer Popsicles!

My friend Sherri over at Life of a Wife is doing this awesome giveaway of popsicle molds and a popsicle recipe book.  I desperately want to win.  Just once, I want to win something in an online giveaway.

So I'm upping my chances by destroying my chances.  I'm blogging about her giveaway to put my name in the hat twice, but the catch-22 is that you'll go sign up now and that's the end of my hope.  But how about this - if you win because you saw the giveaway on my blog, I will let you supply me popsicles all summer long.  OK?


Salmon with Cilantro Pesto

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto

Sprinkle 4 4-oz salmon fillets with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.  Cover and let sit in refrigerator for 2-24 hours.

Drizzle olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat.  Meanwhile, process 1/3 c. chopped cilantro + 2 Tbsp. olive oil + juice of one lime in a small food processor until smooth to make the cilantro-lime pesto.  Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.  

Place salmon fillets in skillet and cook on the first side for 6-8 minutes.  Turn each one and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until salmon flakes with a fork.  Spoon one heaping spoonful of cilantro-lime pesto onto each fillet and serve over rice with roasted vegetables on the side.

If you know me, you know I don't do seafood.  But recently, I've been culinarily challenged to try more fish, and have been somewhat surprised that I actually like it!  Don't get me wrong - I'm not eating fish every day - but every once in a while, it's actually refreshing.  I made this dish as a welcome home dinner for the Mister upon his return from the month-long Swiss adventure.  Fish is one of those things that he orders in restaurants because he never gets to eat it at home ... so, it was really a big deal that I made this.

It. was. delicious.  

I will be making it again.  I'm growing cilantro for this purpose ...



The Official Quilting Bee Post

Alright, so I've decided ... time for the quilting bee raffle to happen.

Here are your details.  Leave a comment if you have any questions!

(1) if you want to participate, you need to make one, two, or a bajillion quilt squares.  However many you make, that's how many entries you get into the raffle ...

(2) each quilt square needs to be blue and white.  Any blues, any whites.  I'll say MOSTLY blue ... if you plan on using a blue that has other colors in it, that's fine - as long as a stranger would look at the fabric and say "Yes, that's blue."

(3) you can use any pattern you want.

(4) the quilt squares need to be 12.5"x12.5" - a little bigger than you've probably made before, but just roll with it.

(5) the quilt squares need to be in my possession by Friday, July 1.  That's four weeks!  You can mail them to me (let me know if you need my address), drop them by my house, or send them via courier pigeon.  I might throw in your name twice into the raffle if your quilt square is accompanied by chocolate.  

Once I have the squares, you can bet that I'll work diligently to get them into a quilt ... but it still might be a few weeks after receiving them before the raffle drawing.  



Quilting Bee - again

I have been thinking about this quilting bee idea.  What if we raffled off the quilt ... if you make a square, that's one entry into the raffle.  If you make ten squares, that's ten entries ... 
So someone who makes a block will end up with a cool quilt.  

You like?

PS.  Thanks to Caitlin for being my lone participant so far!  Haha ... unless someone else joins in, Caitlin will most likely win a two-square quilt :)



Thank God for dirty dishes, 
they've got a tale to tell;
While other folks go hungry, 
we're eating mighty well.
With Home and Health and Happiness 
We shouldn't want to fuss,
For by this stack of evidence
God's very good to us.

This little poem is in a tiny frame in my parents' kitchen, right next to the sink.  I believe my grandmother clipped it out of a newspaper a long time ago and framed it.  I love this gentle reminder!  

I've been thinking a lot recently about the blessings in my life ... like these:

A cousin who graduates from Duke yet proudly sports her Tar Heel button 

A sweet baby girl who brings so many people so much joy

This guy who galavants across the Swiss Alps yet still calls to say he can't wait to come home

And some more things ...
... skype visits with my brother across the world
... homecooked meals by Mom
... projects like wallpapering a bathroom in maps, sewing baby girl dresses, and working on photo albums
... sweet time with family
... sweet time with friends
... friends who have babies (hooray for Hudson!)
... peppers, tomatoes, and herbs for the garden, and a friend who will help till the soil up!

... and last but not least ... YOU!  
I know ... I'm getting all sappy and sentimental.  I can't help it.  I just feel thankful and blessed!


Quilting Bee

Would you join me if I had a quilting bee project?  I've seen other bloggers do it, and I'm inspired.  Or maybe I'm just needing another project to keep me overwhelmed on my toes.

In my mind, it seems like it'd be simple: we'd decide on fabrics, a pattern, and a block size.  You could make one square or forty squares, send them to me, and I'd put them together with the others that get sent to me.  Then just a little basting and sewing action later and presto - a quilt.  Not sure what we'd DO with the quilt, but we could decide that in the process.  Give it away?  Auction it off?  

Let me know.

OK.  Goodnight, friends.

PS.  I'm thinking that this could be a summer project with a *hopeful* finish date of August 2011.  Thoughts?


Potluck Prep

One of my favorite things about the warm summer weather is getting together with friends over food!  I can't tell you how much I look forward to our potlucks all year long ... nothing like the hope of outdoor eating and fellowship to get me through the gray skies of February!  We'll be starting up our weekly potlucks in just a few weeks, and I've started to think about what potluck themes we want to recycle or try this summer!

Breakfast for dinner?  Mexican?  Garden fresh?  Birthday (this one is absolutely going to happen again, just so you know) ... 

Red foods?  Secret family recipes?  Foods I've always wanted to try?  Mongolian Delights?  Country Cookin'?  The Letter 'S'?  

Give me your thoughts!

PS.  One new one we're going to try is Dessert Night.  Eat your regular dinner at home (or don't), and come hang out for desserts and coffee on the lawn!


Cammy's Quilt

Have I told you about Friday Morning Coffee?  For almost three years now, I've been getting together with a group of girls every week at someone's house for coffee, a bite of breakfast, and fellowship.  What started out as six girls has blossomed into probably fifteen - and we've added new friends, dogs, and babies to the group along the way.  
I am excited about the recent baby explosion that has hit the group - we've got five new babies due in August and September!  This weekend we had a shower for Cammy, who's due at the end of August.  She's getting ready to move soon, so our "Friday Coffee" girls decided that we needed to make her a little something to remember us by!  So take a look at Cammy's quilt:

There were nine ladies who each did one block ... starting at the top left, the patterns are as follows:
1. Whirlygiggle by Valerie
2. Strips by Mary
3. Four Corners by Elissa
4. Strips by Cindi
5. Four Blocks by Katie
6. House by Andrea
8. Log Cabin by Meredith
9. Strips by Amber

I am SO excited by how this quilt really came together!  It was such a fun project, and I loved the puzzle of laying out the blocks and finally finding the perfect layout!  Katie helped me decide on the pink border (which was TOTALLY the right call), and Cindi provided the fabric for the back (sorry, no picture of that).
We hope that Cammy's sweet little baby girl knows that she has a lot of aunts who love her so much!

Alright ... and now a little picture of my block: 
True confession: this is the first block I've ever made that uses triangles.  I conquered my triangulophobia, and I'm so glad I did!  I'm itching to do whole quilt of these little beauties!

We love you, Cammy!


shoutout to sherri

I'm going to make these White Chocolate Cranberry Scones for breakfast tomorrow.  And I can't wait.  I'm so glad I found that half-bag of white chocolate chips in my freezer.

The recipe is on my friend Sherri's blog.  She has such a great blog and posts yummy recipes, tips, and fun adventures that she and her new husband have.  AND, extra bonus - she blogs like one should blog - you know, like every day.  

Check it out: Life of a Wife!


Oh My - Headbands!

Alright, I would like to apologise for the (ehem) short 6 month hiatus I took from this blog.  Unintentional. I'm embarrassed.  I'll use the excuse that I was pregnant, then I gave birth, then I recovered from the birth, then I had a newborn to learn about, then I fell in love with said newborn, then my husband had the computer every day at work, then I was too tired at night to blog.  

Lame-o excuses, right?  There are women out there who blog way more than I do, and have way more going on that I do.  I'm no rocket surgeon, people.  But I do what I can.

Alright.  I hope you're thinking, "Wow.  It's been 6 months.  She better have something great to show us since it's been so long."  And, well, here it is: headbands.  Using THIS tutorial.  That's right - six months of hiding out, and I produce a few baby headbands.  But whatevs.  

Baby steps.  I'll get back into this blogging thing.  Now, pictures of what I do ... I think you'll be waiting another 6 months for that.  

But again, I do what I can.  And right now, that means headbands.


The "It's About Time You Posted Something, rhymeswithsmile" Cream of Something Soup

Cream of Something Soup - makes about 3 cups (about 3 cans)

6 T. butter
1/2 c. diced onion, chopped celery, chopped cooked chicken, or chopped mushrooms
6 T. flour
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 c. milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in the onion (or celery, or chicken, or mushrooms) and saute for 3-5 minutes or until soft (for the vegetables.  If you added chicken, just stir for a few minutes).  Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Gradally stir in the milk and continue stirring until the white sauce is smooth and thick, and comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.  

Yes.  You can, indeed, make your own cream of mushroom soup.  It's so easy!  Just don't leave out the salt (like I accidentally did on purpose as a challenge to the mister's salt habit ... we ended up adding salt to our final dish, so it was a wash).  

Think of all the possibilities!  Casseroles, meats, and potato soup just got so much more homemade.  Yippee skippee.

And now that I've told you how easy it is to make Cream of Something Soup, you can tell me how easy it is to (ehem) blog more regularly.  I'm trying, I promise.  I've just got other things going on, like this:

I mean, if you had to deal with such preciousness all day, how could YOU find the time to blog with any kind of frequency?  


Roof With A View

I was going to post about how to make cream of something soup today, but instead, I found something more exciting to write about (if you're thinking, "What can be more exciting that cream of chicken soup?" then you are a dear friend).  

I have been featured as a guest blogger on Roof With A View, a blog focused on encouraging women in their God-given roles as mothers and wives!  Before you start to think highly of me, keep in mind that I blogged about the cookie-brownie recipe that makes me drool on sight.  

My first ever guest post ... and it has me drooling.
I can only hope to contain my spittle the next time something this exciting happens ...


Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 c. cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. pecan halves, finely chopped
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp. pure maple extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
sugar for sprinkling

Into a medium bowl, sift flours and salt.  Whisk in 1/2 c. chopped pecans and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth and light, about one minute.  Add the maple syrup, egg yolk, and extract; beat on medium speed until well combined.  On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined.  Dough should be smooth and pliable.  Flatten into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 1/2 hours or overnight.  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out rounds using a two-inch round cookie cutter (or smaller); place one inch apart on prepared baking sheet.  Brush tops with beaten egg; sprinkle centers with remaining 1/4 cup pecans.  Sprinkle the entire surface with sugar.  
Bake cookies until golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes (if cookies get too brown rotate the pan halfway through).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in airtight container.

I just got to host my first baby shower - a "Nesting Shower" - last weekend for my friend Chantry, and we had a blast!   We all had a lot of fun showering our sweet friend with food for the pantry, freezer meals, and diapers for the baby!  My mom came to help me (what you should actually read is this: my mom showed me how it's done!) and she made these shortbread cookies as favors.  She doubled the recipe and used a small (maybe 1.5") cookie cutter and ended up making 82 cookies :)  Definitely plenty of cookies for favors and a few left over to nibble on after the shower!

Nesting Cupcakes - I have to admit that the idea was not my own, but they turned out so cute!  Mom provided the cupcake trees, my new friend Sherri helped me make 3 doz. cupcakes, and Easter conveniently provided peeps and candy eggs!

um, yeah.

friends and family!  We love you, Chantry!


The Rhymes With Smile Gastronomic Philosophy

Santa Fe Enchilada Bake (adapted from a kraftfoods.com recipe)

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 c. salsa
1 (10-oz) package frozen corn
12 6-inch corn tortillas
1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook and stir chicken, onions, and peppers in large skillet over medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through (about 10 minutes).  Stir in salsa and corn*.
Cut tortillas into quarters.  Layer half the tortilla pieces on the bottom of a 13x9 inch casserole dish.  Spread half the chicken mixture on top.  Spoon half the sour cream and half the cheese over the chicken mixture.  Repeat layers of tortillas, chicken mixture, sour cream, and cheese, and cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.  

*I have now made this twice.  The first time, I stirred in the corn like the recipe said.  Then I found about 1/2 c. of seasoned rice in my fridge, so I threw that in too.  I believe there were some black beans as well that made it in.  The second time, I used seasoned ground beef instead of chicken, and I had the ingenious idea to puree some cooked carrots and a little bit of leftover sweet potato.  I used that in place of some of the salsa.  I also found myself without sufficient quantities of sour cream, so I stirred in 4 oz. (half a package) of cream cheese and cooked the meat mixture over low heat until the cheese was melted.  What I'm trying to tell you is this: throw in what you have, substitute what you don't have, and just go with it.  

This recipe was on the back of the Kraft Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese blend bag that I found myself in possession of not too long ago.  I used to overlook the recipes on the packaging but this time I decided to make these layered enchiladas.  They were pretty good, and it made a giant dish of food that I got to share with these ladies at our reBoonion (get it?  rhymes with reunion ... unfortunately, it's not original.  Thanks to my brother for that one):
We had this awesome, wonderful, amazing semi-surprise reunion with B (in the front middle) who's home from gallavanting the world for a few weeks.  Loads of fun.

What does this have to do with my Gastronomic Philosophy, you ask?  Well, nothing, except that the recipe made me think about some food mottos I've been adopting.  I'm ready when you are.

(a) If a manufacturer is willing to put a recipe on their packaging, it's probably pretty good.  Think about it: that manufacturer is staking their entire sales pitch to you on a recipe that can fit in a 3x3" square.  So you've got to believe they're doing some research and putting some thought into it.  It must be worth trying.  This is a new lesson I'm learning (I've made banana bread from the flour bag and salmon burgers from the can of salmon, too.  I have yet to be disappointed by this mantra)

(b) Along those same lines, when a restaurant names an entree after themselves, it's worth ordering.  My favorite breakfast at the local hippie vegetarian eatery?  The Gillie's Special.  Think about how Gillie's is putting not only their name, but everything their name stands for, behind their breakfast special.  Potatoes?  Check.  Eggs?  Check.  Salsa and cheese?  Checkity check.  Throw the buttery biscuit on the side, and I'm a believer in the fact that a sans-meat breakfast served by a hipster waiter can be awesome, tasty, and overwhelmingly filling.

(c) In choosing a restaurant - especially in a college town where good eateries are somewhat lacking - this is the best advice I've heard: look for the places that attract both old people and young people.  Old people don't put up with bad food.  Young people like cheap food.  So when you see both, you know you'll be getting good quality without paying ridiculous prices for it.  

(d) When all else fails, make Mexican.