February 27, 2014

Taste This: Doritos Cheesy Chicken Casserole

I like that this uses chicken instead of beef like most Doritos casseroles.

     As a person who is not a fan of sour cream, this recipe was delicious. I think I am going to use a family sized bag of Doritos next time however. Needed a bit more crunch. Found this over at Plain Chicken. It was one of the meals we tested as a freezer meal and all that needed to be added before putting it in the oven was the crunched Doritos and the sour cream. Turned out great.

In the comments: have you ever tried freezing a recipe with sour cream in it? Did it keep well?

February 26, 2014

Clutter Buster: Digitizing Old Prints

     I got my first digital camera in April of 2004. My little brother was born in December of 2000. That's almost 4 years of disposable camera pictures that I took of my baby brother. I was a budding photographer and it shows in the piles of photos we have from before my brother was born, let alone all the pictures I took of him when he was a baby. Add in the pictures of me and my son as kids, the old family photos, drawings my son has done, and projects I've worked on - you get a lot of paper clutter. I have wanted to digitize all my old photos for a long time now and didn't have the patience to do so on a flatbed scanner. But then I found this for around $70: SVP 2-in-1 Combo Auto-Feeding Handheld Scanner PS4500 1200DPI Color & Mono with Docking. I have gotten over 1300 photos/documents scanned in less than three full days.

A close-up of just one of the many boxes of prints that needed to be scanned.

     What this means for me is being able to give away most of our old prints to family who will actually display or do something with them instead of let them sit in a box in the garage. It also means just trashing some old prints, yes - I did say trashing. Because I now have digital copies and will be making digital albums to print with all of the photos in them. This is three boxes or more of old paper clutter in my eyes and it's going to feel so nice to get it out of my home and into beautiful books for display. Another benefit means that I can now share old family photos with family members who will truly appreciate them over the internet.

One of my many albums with prints waiting to be scanned.

In the comments: do you have boxes/albums full of prints laying around not being looked at? If you had to guess how many photos do you think you have in print form only?

February 25, 2014

Snap of the Week: 006

Playing around with my new 50 mm f/1.4 lens and took a picture of one of the roses my husband gave me for Valentine's Day. I think this is honestly the dreamiest flower picture I have ever taken.

In the comments: what is your favorite object to take close ups of?

February 24, 2014

Weekly Obsession: Amazon Prime

     We recently ordered something on amazon.com and signed up for the free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime for the free two day shipping. Silly me assumed they'd send an email or something after the 30 days, and when they didn't they automatically took around $83 out of our account. After first complaining a bit about be taken by surprise, we decided to check out what this Amazon Prime was all about. We are heavy readers and my husband has enjoyed going through and downloading books to his phone to read later. Then we checked out Amazon Prime Instant Video - I was so excited to see all the choices for old cartoons and movies we love. We already have Netflix, but Amazon takes the cake for 90s kid cartoons. And $83 for the year isn't so bad - comes out to around $7/month for all the shows/movies, ebooks, and free two day shipping on our orders. We are paying around $8.70/month for Netflix. This new discovery is definitely my weekly obsession. I mean come on - we can now watch Degrassi, Doug, Miss Congeniality, and so many other amazing shows/movies.

February 20, 2014

Taste This: "Easiest Crock-Pot Roast Beef Ever"

     I originally tasted this recipe at my aunt's house for dinner one night. The gravy is to die for and you can really use any kind of roast you'd like. My husband and I use the Hormel brand tenderloins and my mom prefers a chuck roast. I'm unsure what my aunt used but she directed me to Eating My Words for the recipe. I do add a bit more water to the CrockPot when I make this because we like our gravy around here and it just doesn't end up with enough otherwise. Haven't tried doubling the packets and the water but I probably will next time.

In the comments: are you particular about where you buy your meat or what kind you get? Or do you just get what's on sale that day?

February 19, 2014

Clutter Buster: Coat Closet

     I had a very productive nap time last week. Along with all of my normal tasks (laundry, dishes, etc) I was able to complete a quick clean of the fridge as well as decluttering, organizing and cleaning out the coat closet and entryway. I do apologize for the poor photo quality in this post and I may take some other pictures and upload them later. Now I don't have any before pictures because I was just going with the flow and getting things done, but the after is a sight for sore eyes around here.

     We have a tax return coming soon and on our list of things to take care of is the fact that almost every one of us needs new shoes and boots. I had planned on just mopping the entryway today of all the snow and salt. But when you're in the groove you might as well use it right? I ended up FINALLY getting rid of the shoes, boots and hats that don't fit or have holes in them. Three pairs of my own shoes, one of my husband's, and one of my son's. This leaves each of us with just our snow boots which are all we wear - my husband and I even need to replace ours.

Those are toddler costumes I am trying to find a home for hanging in those bags, and my wall hook for my diaper bag came off recently so I am making due with a hanger until I can get to the store.

     The top drawer holds our hats and gloves, my son loves hats - and people like to MAKE him hats. So I had to be ruthless and get rid of the ones that don't fit him today. I kept one important handmade one and got rid of the rest. I need to convince my husband to get rid of some of his own hats. I have two, and one needs some mending - and the other is not for freezing temps. The middle drawer holds different bags that come in handy in the warmer weather when we are out and about a lot. The bottom drawer holds my husband's snow pants and our big bag for travel. I also weeded through our coats and got rid of a few that were too small for the toddler and a couple of my own I just don't wear anymore.

My husband's tool box on the top shelf out of reach of little fingers, and the tripod ready to grab on our way out the door.

     Our summer gear expanded - so I needed to expand the container holding it and just happened to have the perfect one on hand after going through my son's toys.

When it warms up outside I may put the hats and gloves in the bucket, and transfer the summer gear to the drawer set.

In the comments: do you have a coat closet? How many coats or shoes does each member of your family own?

February 18, 2014

Snap of the Week: 005

My best friend, taken with my new Canon Rebel T3i and 50 mm f/1.4 lens.

In the comments: what is your camera of choice? Do you have a lens you use more than any other on your own DSLR?

February 17, 2014

Weekly Obsession: MacBook Pro & Canon Rebel T3i

     You may have noticed that there were no posts last week. This is because my darling HP laptop that gave me 5 1/2 wonderfully speedy years slowed down to the point where I gave up attempting to type on it. It's in pretty bad shape, but I've been planning on replacing it for a while now and it just couldn't wait those extra couple of days for one of my obsessions for this week to arrive on my doorstep.

It wasn't scheduled to arrive until this morning, but imagine my excitement when it showed up on Friday morning instead.

     I am now the proud owner of a MacBook Pro 13" with Retina, that's right - I went Apple. I still have an Android though so we'll see how they jive. I have a feeling DropBox will still be my best friend for phone to computer communication. It's so clean and pretty. And I'm already getting used to the shortcuts vs the old Windows shortcuts. I'm pretty sure this is going to be a beautiful friendship.

     Last week's weekly obsession was going to be a pretty big one too so I will go ahead and just say it - I got me a Canon Rebel T3i and a 50 mm f/1.4 lens. My old camera must have been on it's way out a long time ago because there is such a huge improvement in my photos with this new model. Most of the improvement is behind-the-scenes in that I don't have to do a bunch of editing to get the photo to look the way it was meant to. With this camera, I just pop the memory card into my Mac and see if it needs one or two quick one-second adjustments and convert and I'm done. I can even use batch processing finally. With the old camera, I was spending around 5 minutes or more on EACH photo. This has me OVER THE MOON excited.

Jack is usually a pretty good model when I am testing something with a new camera, lens, or setting.

     For the first time ever I'm shooting in manual mode with RAW file types - and I'm getting the hang of it pretty well. It confused me slightly figuring out how to edit and convert at first but after I figured out the first couple I was on a roll.

In the comments: do you have an Apple, Windows, or some other kind of computer? Do you shoot in RAW with your camera?

February 6, 2014

Taste This: Baked Chicken Alfredo

     This is one of the meals that is on major repeat in our home. We do this the quick and simple way so if you are looking for homemade sauce, this is not the recipe for you. I do like to use garden rotini for this in an attempt to make it a smidgen healthier and a little easier on a gluten free tummy for a friend.

Serves 6-8 // total time 50 minutes

3 cups cooked chicken, diced (we use canned chicken in a time crunch)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup parmesan, grated
32 oz alfredo sauce
1 lb rotini pasta
1/3 cup bread crumbs (optional)
3 tbsp butter, melted (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the time on the package.

2. While cooking the pasta, combine the alfredo sauce and milk in a saucepan and heat until bubbling.

3. When the pasta is almost cooked, add it to the sauce along with the chicken and half the parmesan cheese.

4. Pour it all into a 9" x 13" casserole dish and top with the remaining parmesan cheese.

5. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. If desired, combine bread crumbs and melted butter.

6. Uncover. Top with optional bread crumb mixture. Bake for another 15-20 minutes uncovered or until casserole is bubbly and cheese begins to melt and brown.

In the comments: what sorts of short cuts do you take for your meal prep?

February 5, 2014

Clutter Buster: Toys

     For the last couple of weeks I have been having to remove my son's toys from his room in order to get him to go to sleep. This was never a problem until now and it's very frustrating to have to move the toys out of his room at night and then back into his room in the morning.

If I don't move them back to his room, this is what I get. And that is a You Tube'd episode of Bear in the Big Blue House: To Clean or Not to Clean.

     I'm still searching for a solution for his bigger toys and I will update this post when I figure that out - the goal is to be able to move only a few things at night before bed and have a toy-free room.

At the moment I have to move each of his bigger toys one by one and stick them in random places around my living room.

     To make this task easier, I bought a simple rolling laundry cart from WalMart and two dollar store baskets - total cost: $15.50. My son is very good at putting things back where he found them so this works out very nicely for us. We did a quick purge of his toys to get rid of the McDonald's toys (one of the not-so-perks of working there) and anything else that he didn't really play with. We do this on a regular basis so he really doesn't have very many toys most of the time and it takes no time at all.

Just the right height to fit under my counter and out of the way. The basket on the left holds his trains, and the basket on the right is anything else with wheels (cars, trucks, skateboards).

     Now keep in mind, we recently acquired this lovely train set - and there are only two engines and a few cars and tracks pictured here. But I have a bin with a minimum of 41 more engines, around 25 more cars, and 20 or so little trucks and tractors that can go on the tracks as well as enough track to cover my entire living room floor. But how I end up organizing that will be another post for another day.

In the comments: do your kiddos sleep with toys in the room? Do you use rolling carts for anything around your home?

February 4, 2014

Snap of the Week: 004

Our first real date since Aoife was born. It may be a sorta crappy cell phone picture, but it captures our day perfectly.

In the comments: how often do you use cell phone photos in scrapbooking or in frames? If you have kids, how often do you get out without them?

February 3, 2014

Weekly Obsession: Pentatonix

     This weekly obsession is more like a yearly obsession. The reason I am writing about it this week is because of a major step in an awesome direction. My obsession is Pentatonix and if you don't know who that is you need to look them up now... seriously, I'll wait. Done? OK. They posted on YouTube this past week the first video they have done for one of their original songs. Writing this feels bittersweet because my best friend and I had plans to go see them on the 11th of this month and it didn't work out, so I'm really sad about that. But hopefully we will get another opportunity. I am going to share with you a link to my favorite video of theirs,Evolution of Music by Pentatonix. The reason this is my favorite is because it really shows a good range of their voices and what they are capable of. I will also share a link to their recently posted video, Run to You (original song) by Pentatonix. I really hope you check them out because you are missing out if you don't know these guys.

February 2, 2014

2014 Digital Project Life Blog Circle: January Update

     Welcome to another stop in the 2014 Project Life Blog Circle. If you have been following along then you would have come from over by Lisa at Wariner Scraps. My main focus in creating this yearbook is to keep it simple and get it done, so for the most part my layouts are photo heavy and have the same theme. I don't use any of the pretty cards in these layouts because that would be another step of searching for 'just the right one' and it would take more time than necessary. I do use cards on both of my kids' baby books, and if you would like to see those I will be updating the layouts to these pages as I go along - Deklyn & Aoife.

     At the rate I am going my book will be around 300 pages and that is perfectly OK with me. I want to include as many photos as possible because otherwise what was the point in taking them. Make sure when you are finished here you head on over to see what Kristi at Seven Oh One Photography has been up to this last month.