Monthly Archives: July 2015

Stickers and more!

The weather has been quite sticky recently, which made us think of stickers! (Why wouldn’t it?) This week, we share some creative uses for stickers as well as our garden update, which includes a chicken recipe using patio-grown produce. And what have the bears have been up to this week?

STICKER USES 

We really enjoy doing creative projects and have found that among the most useful materials for these crafts are stickers. They are versatile, easy to use and fun! Don’t forget the kids – they love stickers!!! Here are a few of the ways we use stickers.

Personalized Cards:

IMG_4661 (2)IMG_4664 (3)

Use stickers to make ordinary cards special. In the example above, we made a card for Jo, who loves flowers and butterflies. We took a nice boxed birthday card (left) and added her name, butterflies and flower stickers to make it suit her style. For children, you can add their ages; for anniversary or wedding cards, add their names, dates, years married and more. Think outside the box(ed) card!

Frames: You can use stickers to personalize a frame for a gift or to create decorative pieces for your home. Here are 2 examples of items we featured on previous blog posts.

IMG_4109 (2) IMG_3236 (2)

The personalized frame (left) which we made for a friend’s granddaughter was featured in the post, “June is Bustin’ Out”, which we published on 06/13/15.

Our framed art with heart stickers was in the “Love is in the Air” St. Valentine’s Day post, (02/08/15).

Banners: We have featured several handcrafted banners on this blog and for a two of them, we used stickers. They are a great way to create a professional-looking banner with crisp lettering, while expressing your own creativity.

Here are the banners we made using letter stickers:

This banner is from the Academy Awards post, “Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!” (02/21/15).

IMG_3308 (2)

We shared this one in our post, “Happy New Year” (12/31/14). 

IMG_2949 (4)

Go to “search” at the top right of this page to find these blogs. 

Gifts: If a gift is too big to wrap (or you are low on gift wrap), one fun solution is to put stickers on the box. Here is a hostess gift we gave at a cookout last week. Rather than use a whole roll of wrapping paper, we emblazoned the box with a festive summer message and some inexpensive curling ribbon. Great for a casual gift presentation!

IMG_4652 (2)

Money saving tip!                                                                                                                                     We like to use quality stickers, but they can be a bit pricey. Before you head to the craft stores, always check their websites for coupons. You can get stickers almost anywhere – check discount stores for inexpensive supplies.

Sticker Box  

IMG_4679 (2)

More often than not, the sticker packages contain more stickers than you will need for your project, leaving leftovers. It’s helpful to keep your collection in one location. Why not create a place for them? That way, they will be easily at hand when inspiration strikes. We re-purposed an old cologne box to hold our stickers, but any good-sized container will do. This way, they are always ready to use!

GARDEN UPDATE

IMG_4701

The garden is doing great, and continues to provide enjoyment and nourishment. This week, our miniature marigolds have gotten taller, and peppers and tomatoes are in abundance. We were even able to give a few veggies to the hosts at the same cookout mentioned earlier. Tomatoes and peppers from our garden are included in the tasty chicken dish featured below. Oh, and in our ongoing veggie art series, here is this week’s masterpiece.

IMG_4700 (2)

Chicken, Peppers and Rice

We came up with this quick and easy recipe this week!

IMG_4659 (2)

You will need: 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 x 1.5 inch pieces; 1 medium onion chopped; 1 cup sliced mushrooms; 1 teaspoon chili powder; 2 tablespoon olive oil; 1 cup chicken broth; 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes; 5 shishito peppers (or 1 green bell pepper) chopped; red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

How to prepare: Saute onion and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until tender and set aside. Toss chicken breast pieces with chili powder and brown in remaining olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan with chicken, adding broth, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 15 minutes and serve over cooked brown rice.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 

“Be like a postage stamp. Stick(er) to one thing until you get there.” – Josh Billings (source:Thinkexist.com)

THE BEARS

Oh, my! Looks like the bears got into the stickers again!

(Great job with your signs, fellas!)

IMG_4687 (2)

Enjoy!

Roy & Kevin

Advertisements

Blog number 40! Summer stuff and black bean brownies?! Yup!

Welcome to our 40th blog post! This week, we share a recipe for black bean brownies, a craft project, a garden update and we see what’s up with the bear friends.

BLACK BEAN BROWNIES

IMG_4641 (2)

One of our goals is to eat more healthfully and we love to try new things. We heard about black bean brownies and decided to give them a shot. The black beans take the place of the eggs and oil in the recipe, resulting in brownies with less fat, more protein, iron, fiber and antioxidants. These brownies are very moist and tasty!

Ingredients: one boxed 18 oz. brownie mix, one 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed, one cup water, one cup chocolate chips and/or walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves (optional). We used chocolate mint leaves from our garden in the mix and in the picture above.

To make: Blend beans and water until smooth. Add chopped mint (if using). Combine with brownie mix. Add chopped walnuts and/or chocolate chips to the mixture. Bake brownies in a 13x9x2 inch pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly and cut into squares. Source: Allrecipes.com

To find out more about the healthy benefits of black beans:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/eating-black-beans-good-you-3605.html

PAINTING CRAFT

IMG_4596 (2)
We had fun painting and decorating the “beachy” home decor items shown at the top of this blog. We used acrylic paints in aqua and white to paint the unfinished pieces, adding a seaside feel. For the beach house collage, we chose shells and mini wooden cutouts and used hot glue to attach them. On the treasure chest, we created a wavy pattern using the blue paint as a base and white for the waves. All materials were bought at a craft store. These were fun to do and are a great activity to enjoy with kids.

GARDEN UPDATE

IMG_4623

IMG_4619 (2)

The tomato plants continue to thrive (last week we counted 173 tomatoes) and harvesting has begun. Crazy good! The basil plants we grew from seed seemed a bit crowded in the window box into which they were transplanted and we feared that may have been inhibiting their growth. After transplanting about half the plants into other pots, they are growing robustly!

IMG_4647 (2)

Sunny cherry tomatoes and shishito peppers! Some of this week’s crop!

BE COOL!

It’s been awfully hot lately. Here are some tips for staying cool this summer.

http://parentingsyrup.com/article/8-awesome-tips-that-help-keep-you-cool-in-the-summer

JOKE OF THE WEEK

How do you fix a broken tomato? With tomato paste! source: grandparents.com

THE BEARS

IMG_4638 (3)

This week, the bears are chilling under the shade of the “tomato trees” while visiting the flamingo.

Thanks so much for following our blog!

Enjoy!

Roy & Kevin

 

Summertime!!!

We like to create a beach house atmosphere in our home to enjoy year round. In the summer, we expand on the beach theme with some fun, additional decorations. This mid-summer week, we share ideas for refreshing summertime drinks, a couple of easy crafts using shells, our garden update and more.

IMG_4519 (2)

As the featured image shows, our library table has been transformed into a beach-themed summerfest. We love the lighted mini-palm tree shading two relaxing Santas and a lounging, swimsuit-clad lady. She was originally part of an ashtray belonging to Kevin’s grandfather, Gus. The ashtray broke years ago, but the lady endures! There is also on open Adirondack chair for unexpected guests. We started with a dollar-store rimmed tray and filled with “decorative stone granules from a craft store” (aka sand). For a closer look at any image, click on the photo.

FRESH AND FRUITY LEMONADE

IMG_4467 (2)

IMG_4477 (2)IMG_4488 (2)

A simple way to jazz up your lemonade is to add fruit!

We try to limit sugar, so we use a sugar-free lemonade mix, but use your favorite homemade, mix or bottled lemonade. The fruit adds a new dimension and is good for you!!!

For the blueberry lemonade: Use one-quarter cup of fresh blueberries per 16 oz. glass. Muddle (it means mash) half the blueberries and combine them with the whole blueberries and add to the lemonade.

The glass pictured above is rimmed with blueberry sugar that we received as a gift (thanks Chris and Bernard!). The sugar was bought at The Spice and Tea Exchange in Newport, RI (spiceandtea.com). Check out their website or look for flavored sugars at your local tea shop.

For the strawberry lemonade: Add two chopped medium strawberries into a 16-oz. glass of lemonade. Stir well, until the lemonade starts to turn pink. Garnish glass with a whole, split strawberry.

To make a pitcher of fruit-flavored lemonade, add a cup of fruit to a half-gallon of lemonade. For the blueberry version, use 1/2 cup mashed blueberries and 1/2 cup whole blueberries. For strawberry lemonade, chop the whole cup of strawberries and add to the lemonade.

Hint: Add sparkling water and white wine to make a refreshing wine/lemonade spritzer or vodka for a great summertime cocktail.

Hint II: Adding fruit to ice tea is a great idea, too!

A SHELL OF A GOOD CRAFT!    

IMG_4447 (2)   IMG_4437 (3)

IMG_4511 (2)IMG_4485

Decorating with seashells is a great way to bring the shore through your front door. Shells can be used to make a variety of items for your home decor. In a previous blog, we used shells to decorate a picture frame. This week, we offer two additional shell crafts. To create the bathroom cup holder, glue shells onto a ramakin and spray with sealer. (Hand wash only!) Another inexpensive, easy way to bring seashells into your home is to glue them onto clothespins. Our “Life’s a Beach” sign is attached to the curtain with shell clothespins.            Both items are simple and useful!

GARDEN UPDATE

IMG_4452 (2)

IMG_4461 (2)IMG_4456IMG_4454 (2)

A lot of growth in the garden this week! The marigolds we planted from seed are doing well, and the basil looks good. The pansies, well we are hopeful, maybe a bloom or two by fall! It’s a learning experience for sure. The shishito peppers are growing like crazy (we’ve harvested 15 so far and there are 20 in various stages of growth on the plant!), and the fragrant chocolate mint requires daily pruning. We have picked five cherry tomatoes so far from our tomato plants. Roy just counted the tomatoes on the vine, and at this point, there are 173 ripening tomatoes on the two plants! WOW!!

A VIEW FROM OUR WINDOW

IMG_4462 (2)

This is a view from our kitchen window. The hummingbird feeder, flowers and plants add a lot of beauty and color to our lives and help extend our living space.

SILLY PICTURE Here is a fun face picture we made using our home-grown peppers and tomatoes. Making veggies more fun!!!

IMG_4433 (2)

JOKE OF THE WEEK                                                                                                                               What do frogs like to drink on a hot summer day? Croak-a-cola!                                            Source: Bestfamilyadvice.com

IMG_4505 (2)

The Bears are enjoying a week at the beach!

Enjoy – but don’t forget the sunscreen!

Roy & Kevin

 

Let’s Be Independent Together!

We both have wonderful 4th of July memories of fireworks at Blunt Park in Springfield, MA, and Hubbard Park in Meriden, CT, picnics and celebrations with family and friends. We are pleased that our featured image is a combination of our holiday decor and some we inherited from Kevin’s mom, Irene. She shared our love of decorating! This year, we are especially glad to salute our country, in light of the recent historic Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality to all!

HOLIDAY WREATH      

                                              IMG_4298 (2)                                   

 

                                                             

 

IMG_4340 (2)

 

We made this easy wreath by attaching inexpensive artificial red, white and blue carnations to a wire wreath form. We trimmed the stems to 1- and 2-inch pieces and used them to attach the blossoms to the two rings of the form, then embellished the wreath with a patriotic bow. Using dollar store materials, we made this decoration for about $8.00!

 

 

 

POTATO SALAD

IMG_4261 (2)

 

IMG_3998

We have developed this potato salad over the years. It’s a tasty and healthier version than most recipes. The big change came a couple of years ago when we were making a batch of potato salad and realized we had only about 1/2 of the potatoes needed. We improvised by defrosting a bag of frozen cauliflower and adding it to the potatoes. We have seen recipes for cauliflower as a potato substitute for years but, frankly, we really weren’t interested. We made the salad and it was delicious, better than expected. Now cauliflower is a regular part of our potato salad, resulting in fewer carbs and calories. This recipe makes a big batch. The picture of the finished dish is only half of the recipe!

You will need: 3 lbs. Yukon gold or white potatoes, 1 lb. frozen cauliflower, 6 hard-boiled eggs, 2 stalks celery, 1 small onion, 2 and 1/2 cups mayo (we use low-fat Hellmann’s), 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1 tablespoon white vinegar.

  • Peel and chop potatoes into 3/4 inch pieces. Cook potatoes and frozen cauliflower in the same pot until fork tender. They should be ready 15-20 minutes after they come to a boil.
  • Drain and spread potatoes and cauliflower on sheet pan and place in the refrigerator (shown). This is a great way to quick-cool these items.
  • Put quartered onion and halved celery into food processor. Pulse 8 times or until roughly chopped. Combine in bowl with mayo, mustard and vinegar and set aside.
  • Peel and chop eggs.
  • When potatoes and cauliflower are cool, combine with eggs and dressing/veggie combo.
  • Allow to cool 2 hours.
  • Mix well, serve cold. Enjoy!

PATRIOTIC CHIP & DIP

IMG_4350 (2)

Red pepper/chickpea dip and white bean/rosemary dip served with blue tortilla chips make a tasty, patriotic appetizer combo that salutes America’s melting pot!

Our Red Pepper/Chickpea Dip is similar to hummus but has no sesame paste (not that there’s anything wrong with it)!

You will need: 1/2 of a 24 oz. jar of roasted red peppers; one 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed; 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest; juice of 1/2 lemon; 1/4 cup olive oil; hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Place all ingredients into food processor, process until smooth (about 10 seconds), chill and enjoy!

Check out this link for a great white bean dip. Kevin likes it with extra rosemary. We use 1/2 of the raw garlic listed.

http://www.food.com/recipe/white-bean-and-rosemary-garlic-spread-dip-140369

These dips go great with blue chips and/or crudite!

HOLIDAY DESSERTS

Here are some red, white and blue desserts which would make great endings for any Independence Day celebrations!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2015/06/26/red-white-blue-and-cool-desserts-for-your-fourth-of-july-cookout-no-flag-cake-required/

GARDEN UPDATE

We picked the first 3 full-grown Shishito peppers from our garden. We had 4 mature peppers, but, unfortunately, a bird or some other creature got to one before we did. We sautéed the three peppers whole and combined with zucchini slices – a delicious side dish!

IMG_4293 (2)

Marigold bloom!

One of our marigold plants, which we started from seed, has bloomed!

IMG_4341 (2)

JOKE OF THE WEEK  

What did Polly the Parrot want for the 4th of July? A firecracker!                                              source: Jokes by kids

ENJOY!!!

IMG_4310

Roy and Kevin

SPORTS UPDATE: The U.S. women’s soccer team has reached the finals of the World Cup after beating #1 ranked Germany, 2-0, in the semi-finals. They will be in the finals on Sunday against Japan in a re-match of the last Cup finals, which Japan won. A U.S. win would be the perfect ending to the Independence Day weekend! GO USA!!!