31 March, 2009

Castles, Pizza & Silly Faces in North Carolina

The J-man & I just got back from visiting some of the loveliest people you'll ever meet. They reside outside of Charlotte North Carolina in a small town called Concord in case you were wondering where lovely people live. I knew Cristina (pregnant lady in middle of picture below) in Pensacola during my school days. Talk about laughing till your face falls off! Oh my. Did we ever.

Here we all are in Jon & Cristina's living room. Let me introduce you:
We have lovely Aletha & her husband, my Jordie-English mate Simon. Jordie means you're from Newcastle (pronounced Noo-cassell if you're Jordie). Cristina (prego with third child, a little boy) & her husband Jon (brown-sugar-with-butter-on-toast extraordinaire)

Simon & I share the red-head gene. Did you know it's recessive?

Meet Ms. Chloe. She's three.

We decided to pull faces the best way we knew how.

Check out the skillz

Tongue face

Tilted-head with tongue-face and itchy eyebrow action shot

Pixie face

The J-man and I in front of the Enchanted Castle.
Taken by 3-year old Chloe.
By far the best photo taken so far. That's ok, I can take being beat by a three year old. No really, I CAN.

This is Baby Mia
Soooo, you got me.
Wispy baby hair, pinchable cheeks...
Big brown eyes & pizza on the face?
Ohhh, you've got me so good
Great. Now come the cute dimples
The torture

Ok, that's it. Put a fork in me. I'm done.
The cuteness is too much
By the way, baby Mia is the best head banger out there. Especially when riding in the car. Something about sitting down and being strapped in really helps the technique. She's only 15 months old. A natural for sure.
It was such a fun weekend seeing all these people! It really felt like no time had passed, yet somehow Cristina has two babies and one on the way. I think she's secretly an optical illusionist. Makes sense.
Of course we HAVE to visit again so I can return purple bunny to Ms. Chloe (more to follow on him in the next post).
Thanks to Cristina & Jon for showing us such wonderful hospitality! We love you guys.

24 March, 2009

Sweet Potato Chips

So today in Grace's Cooking Class we are going to attempt to make homemade chips (or crisps if you're English. Chips are actually Fries to us, thus you understand why the clarification was needed).

To start you will need a beauty of a sweet potato, similar to this:

Then you'll need to choose your tools carefully. This was an experiment for me so I started out with a cheese grater, small knife and fruit/vegetable peeler.

**Broadcast Interruption** Here is a nice portion of portugese sausage for you to feast your eyes on and salivate a little.

Next you want to peel your potato. Now I chose a sweet potato because I had some on hand. You could also try a regular potato, turnip or squash. And if there are any other root vegetables out there I missed, you could use them too.

There was a lot of action peeling this sweet potato.

Whoosh. This is like an action movie.

Once peeled, you need to slice very thin pieces of the potato. I started using the small knife. Only thing was I yielded quite thick pieces/chunks of the potato.

Then I tried the cheese grater, which wasn't bad, but the pieces were quite thin and scraggly.

Then a genius moment happened (they don't happen often which is why it was so momentous). I cut the sweet potato in half and used my fruit/vegetable peeler to slice the pieces. As it was in half I was able to get a nice chip shape AND have better handling of the sweet potato as well. With the knife and cheese grater I was slightly concerned about chopping my thumb off. I defintely recommend using the peeler.

(Can you see all the scraggly pieces cut by the cheese grater?)

Then you want to give the 'chips' some flavour so I did a mix of salt, Pepperman and Carl's (a very southern all purpose seasoning given to us by our friends Brush & Reesey - thanks guys!)
(Just to clarify that is J-Man in the background not a cheeky monkey. It's an easy mistake to make)

So spread out your 'chips' so they have enough space between each other.
Another item to add is a sprinkling of oil. Either that, or a spray of PAM would work too.

Set your cooker to 200 or 250. You'll have them in there for about 30 mins, 45 mins or even an hour depending on how thick you cut your 'chips'. They cook slowly like this so they get thoroughly dried out and 'crispy'. (So that's the English connection. Crisps are called as such because they're CRISPY! Oh the revelation is too much).

Keep an eye on them just so they don't get burnt round the edges. It's also good to turn them over frequently.

Here is the final result! A nice collection of crispy, salty, homemade chips.

These chips are a lot healthier than those you find in the shop AND you can cater the flavour how ever you fancy. The time consuming part is slicing the vegetable, but other than that it is an easy option. A great way to con those kids ('kid' also encompasses fully grown hairy husbands).
Have fun experimenting!
Love Grace

10 March, 2009


So the day came, oh so quickly! I went for my interview and exam yesterday afternoon. When I completed both and passed, the interviewer asked if I was available today for the official swearing in ceremony. I paused, took a moment and said 'yes I think I am!' Typically I would have had to wait at least two months to receive a time & date of the ceremony.

waiting, waiting!

the sign says we're in the right place

sitting next to chin liu lee, who is styling the beginnings of a neatly manicured asian flat-top

the officialness was almost too much

these folks were overtaken with excitement

I would like to take a moment to apologize for my white-pasty-opaque-ness, you see it was 80 degrees today which gave me no time to prepare for a dress, not even time for spray-on tan.

we were all shocked (and in absolute awe) that they actually played a video to the sound of Lee Greenwood's song 'I'm proud to be an Americannnn', it was hilarious!


So it's done! I'm official! 4.5 years' worth of forms, fees and waiting. What a huge blessing. :-)

04 March, 2009

Pork & Sweet Potato Skillet Meal

Hey all.

So I found this very quick and easy recipe in a Whole Foods money saving newsletter. I thought I'd give it a shot! We're always trying new things to make it interesting. And also because I aspire to be a chef of iron man proportions.

This is meant to be a very inexpensive recipe especially when you buy the items listed. I, however, in my great culinary wisdom, purchased pork TENDERLOIN at $8.99/lb. Thus this meal is not $2.89 per serving as quoted in the newsletter, instead $6.00 per meal.


canola oil
1/4 cup of chopped onion
2 pork chops cut into cubes
sweet potato
1 cup white wine or water
1/2 tsp dried thyme

chop up the pork and sweet potato into cubes

the pork was looking a little 'blobby' today

coat the pork in the salt and pepper

i used our favourite seasoning, pepperman

it's at whole foods and you really should buy some.

pop the oil, onion and pork in the skillet

once nice and brown, pour in the cup of vino

add the sweet potato and thyme then cover to simmer until the potatoes are tender (approx 20 to 30 mins)

this angle made my first 3 fingers look the same length. i would like to clarify that they are not. each are at least 1/4 inch different in size to each other. i measured.

the juices will then combine and thicken

your entire house will smell lovely

as there is wine involved in the recipe you may as well play some classical music

when ready, just serve as is. you could add a salad or maybe bread.

the j-man had a cornbread muffin to compliment his meal. that's how he rolls.

02 March, 2009

Before and After: Garage as Quilters Paradise

I saw this post from Lifehacker.com, a blog I follow. This crafty lady converted her garage into a fantastic quilting studio! It took $1,200, five-friends and 3-days to complete the project. To have a crafting studio to put all my knitting, painting, jewellry, cards etc in would be a dream! It would be like I was an official crafter. I could almost make it my job and quit my day job! Well almost. (Don't panic J-man - I shan't be making any rash decisions here even if it is a Monday). :-)

Here's how you build a workable full-time quilting space from a living room and garage packed with moving boxes, giving 3 generations of east-coast family some breathing room in their newly-combined west-coast home:

• 3-day weekend
• 5 friends
• $975 worth of TROFAST storage from Ikea: 8 tall shelf units, 6 short shelf units, 51 small buckets (perfect for small fabric squares), 30 medium buckets, 8 large buckets
• $150 dumpster rental
• 4 levels of 6-foot Elfa shelves (already in the garage)
• 2 existing bookcases (for decades worth of quilting magazines and books)
• 36 squares of FLOR carpet, "bright stripes" and "bright solids," on wicked clearance sale, less than $15/6, found by scouring 5 different Target stores in Southern California
• 1 existing Koala sewing table

The end result of all the labor is both highly functional and visually appealing. It wasn't a dirt cheap or simple fix, but the final product definitely shows that real effort, planning, and investment was put into the project.

The completed quilting room keeps 50+ years of quilting materials all in one space, with great indirect light from the garage door and spot lighting at the sewing table ... Privacy for the quilter in the garage. Safety for the pre-schoolers in the house. Sanity returned to the family.

01 March, 2009

Snow Day!

So we left church this morning and much to our surprise it was snowing hard! We snapped some shots on our phone to document the momentous moment. If only this happened on a weekday instead! :-)

Hmmm, a bit of 'snow-druff' there...

The snow driver ready to face it!

The car became a cave!

Snow in the courtyard

Now we're at home drinking hot chocolate and watching Wall-E! Nothing like being snuggled up and cozy when it's cold and snowy outside. :-)

P.S. Wall-E is a really sweet movie, definitely recommend it!

Happy Sunday all!