Monday, February 28, 2011

Put a pin in it

If you’re a designer, then you’ve probably already heard of Pinterest. If not, jump on the bandwagon and join the inspiration fun. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, and Pinterest is an easy way to catalog these ideas digitally. It is essentially a virtual pinboard to catalog all the awe-inspiring and interesting images you find scattered across the Internet. I finally joined a while ago and have been adding to my boards along the way. All you have to do is request an invitation to begin pinning, or you can just browse everyone else’s boards without ever signing up.

If you want to see what inspires me, check out my boards and follow me at Some of the boards I’ve started so far are: Dreamy Travels, House Love, Inspirational Design, Fashion Finds, Crafty Creations, Good Laughs and Yummy Eye Candy

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Untangling the interwebs

What did I do last weekend, besides recovering from vacation withdrawal and cleaning up projectile vomit? Yes, my poor husband had the stomach flu last weekend and strep throat the weekend before. Thankfully, his state of perpetual illness is finally over. Anyways, this post isn't about vomit...I actually took a free online CSS training class from It was a good review of some basic html and gave a quick, simple overview of the basics of CSS (cascading style sheets - for the non-techies). A free replay of the CSS Quickstart class is available online here if you're wanting a refresher or would like to learn more about web design. My goal is to be able to add web design to my list of skills and graduate to a real, grown-up blog and website that I create from scratch (more or less) after this one is no longer applicable when I turn 30.

Web design is something that you learn by doing, and there are literally thousands of free tutorials online to help guide newbies. Here are just a few great sites that I've found so far:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cookies the Italian way

I would have to say that I have more of a salt tooth than a sweet tooth. Normally, I would much prefer a bag of chips over a sugary dessert. I am embarrassed to admit that I “may or may not have” devoured almost an entire bag of chips in one sitting. However, I will often get the hankering for a sweet snack. In my opinion, the greatest dessert ever created is crème brulee, but I’m a little apprehensive about torching my food…so I’ll start off making desserts that require a little less fire-wielding experience. The recipe I tried this week...pizzelles! What are pizzelles, you ask? Well, that’s what my husband asked. They are Italian cookies that are similar in texture and taste to a waffle cone…not overly sweet, crispy, light, easy to make, plus they’re pretty and look fancy.

This recipe only calls for a few ingredients that you’ll probably already have on hand, but you’ll definitely need to have a pizzelle press to make these. I have been wanting to try to make these for a while now and found out that my mom happened to have an old one that she never used, so I got mine as a hand me down. It worked fine and I can’t complain because it was free, but the pizzelle iron didn’t create the ideal pattern and texture that I would have liked. However, that didn’t stop me from wolfing these things down like they were devoid of calories. Keep in mind that even though they may taste relatively healthy-ish, they do contain a stick of butter – that’s why they taste so good. I have had my eyes set on this one for a while, but I don’t really feel like it’s that practical to buy an appliance to make one thing (kind of like those quesadilla makers, which we actually have because it was a gift). However, after realizing just how easy pizzelles are to make, I may just use the rest of our credit card points to get a new pizzelle iron.

    •    3 eggs
    •    3/4 cup white sugar
    •    1/2 cup butter, melted
    •    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    •    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    •    2 teaspoons baking powder
  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and blend into the batter until smooth.
  2. Heat the pizzelle iron, and brush with oil. Drop about one tablespoon of batter onto each circle on the iron. You may need to experiment with the amount of batter and baking time depending on the iron. Bake for 20 to 45 seconds, or until steam is no longer coming out of the iron. Carefully remove cookies from the iron. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
  3. For chocolate pizzelles, add 1/4 cup cocoa sifted together with flour and baking powder, 1/4 cup more sugar and 1/4 teaspoon more baking powder. I find that for the chocolate mixture, the iron must be well oiled to start and then brush on more as needed.
Nutritional Information: Calories: 102 | Total Fat: 4.5g | Cholesterol: 37mg

Below is a free printable recipe card for your recipe file.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The buck stops here

With tax season around the corner, it's that time again to start thinking about personal finances. Being able to handle finances is such an important part of life and can have the power to either control you or give you freedom. It’s something in which everyone needs to take personal responsibility, and better sooner rather than later. Thankfully, I am generally pretty cheap thrifty, and I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to not have to carry any debt, other than our newly acquired mortgage (which we plan to pay off in seven years). Saving money has always come naturally to me, so much so that it sometimes feels like I’m just hoarding it away. My biggest issue is the investment part of finances. Of course, I pump some money into my 401(k) at work and have a Roth IRA, but I don’t really have any other investments and don’t pay attention to where my investments are going. I choose a basic risk model and let our financial advisor do the rest. My goal is to become more involved with investing in the stock market. Also, by May, I should have enough saved up to buy a new (or new to me) car with cash.

After scouring the internet for good personal finance websites, I found quite a few that were interesting and useful. Here are just a few to get started:

Another good site for helping with saving is called SmartyPig. This is a free online savings account and tool that helps you reach your savings goals faster and easier. The design and graphics of the site are cute and clean, as well as being user-friendly and easy to navigate. For those who want to make savings a social experience, you can share your goals with your family and friends on different social media platforms, like Facebook, and solicit donations. A big added bonus…a highly-competitive interest rate comparable to current money market rates, and all you need is a low $25 opening deposit. Also important to note: all accounts are FDIC insured, so your money is backed by the government even if the bank were to fail. I haven't signed up yet, but we plan to open up a SmartyPig account to save up for our 5-year Hawaii anniversary.

While money and finances are important in life, it's more important to not let it consume our lives. The Bible addresses money more than 250 times, so God has something to say on the matter. The next verse on the memory verse list, of course, relates to money and possessions.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” - Hebrews 13:5

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Judging a book by its cover

Yes, I'm guilty of judging a book by its cover. But can you blame me when the covers look like this? I've been eyeing this collection of Penguin Classics hardcovers ever since I saw them last year. I finally placed my Amazon order last week and they appeared at my doorstep today! Another bonus is that I got them for free from our credit card points...score!

I envision them beautifully accessorizing a bookshelf in my office area...well, once I purchase said bookshelf. In the meantime, I supposed these books will serve a greater purpose than merely being aesthetically-pleasing dust collectors. My goal before 30 is to read at least three classic literature novels I never read in school. The novels I've chosen (maybe a little for their covers): Emma, Little Women and Wuthering Heights. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to add to this collection...isn't there a holiday or birthday or something (President's Day) coming up (hint, hint)?

My new lovelies and a pretty hourglass I bought this week

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Checkmate my mate

Learn how to play chess with my husband - check (mate)! Chess is a game that has the reputation for being reserved for only intellectuals and those with extra letters or abbreviations after their names. Not so though, it's not just for geeky, smart kids, and you don't need a PhD to learn how to play. However, it does take patience and concentration. I think that's why I never bothered to learn until now. I'm easily distracted...ooh, shiny...and enjoy games where talking isn't frowned upon. One game can last for what seems like an eternity, and not like in the Monopoly kind of way...more like, the Quiet Game when you're 3-years old kind of way. 

My interest in the game of chess stemmed from my husband and his affinity for the game. He is actually one of those intellectual types whose idea of fun is sitting in a silent room by himself so he can think. Yikes, sorry hubby! Well, of course I want to try to understand and enjoy some of his hobbies, so that's why chess, water skiing and snowboarding are on the list.

For a while now, the hubs has been lusting over a fancy, new, marble or wood chess set...but who wants to pay $100 or more for one of those things? While we were in Mexico during our cruise, we spotted some marble/stone ones at one of the numerous shops designed to lure in tourists like us. These chess sets were actually pretty nice, with an array of colored-stones and varying shapes, and they were a decent we left Mexico with our one and only souvenir from our trip.

We were finally able to use it on our last sea day before returning stateside. That day was actually rainy and kind of cold - perfect for napping, reading a book, playing a game or relaxing, so most of the entire ship retreated inside to the warmth. We followed suit and found a cozy little area at the front of the ship to set up our riveting game of chess. I am happy to report that I not only learned how to play chess, but I also beat my husband the first time I played! Happy Valentine's Day to my brainy husband!  
Are you wanting to learn how to play chess, too? Basic rules can be found here.

Also, along with the theme of chess, the next verse deals with patience. Psalm 37:7 - "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." This is such a great reminder in this world we live in. With all the chaos around us, we are urged to be still, be patient and wait for Him.

Download and print a 4 x 6 of this verse here or save it as your iPhone wallpaper by clicking on the image to the right and saving it to your phone. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

From sandy beaches to snowy plains

I'm baack! My husband and I returned on Sunday from our 7-day Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit. We were blessed to enjoy the beautifully warm weather, clear turquoise waters and sandy white beaches. Meanwhile, the rest of Snowklahoma endured the blustery cold wind chills and were trapped in a foot of snow. Of course, a second storm hit just a few days after we returned home, but we hear it was nothing compared to last week.

Here are just a few photos to quickly recap some of our exciting adventures. Things I get to check off my list: scuba diving (now I have to get certified) and learning to play chess with my husband (I also beat him too). Plus, some of the other things I did were definitely list-worthy and may be replacing others. 

Cave tubing in Belize
Scuba diving for the first time in Cozumel

Feeding and swimming with manatees in Cozumel

Feeding iguanas in Roatan

Ziplining in Roatan