Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Photography Series

I don't really do so called "resolutions",  goals are easier to achieve, allow for steps forward, and lessons learned. There is no option for failure.

There are things that I am very excited to make improvements on this year!  One of my 2012 goals will be to make a conscience effort to improve and broaden my photography skills.  I was inspired by Alex Beadon photography's site and her 365 project.

One of the reasons I started this blog in November 2011 was to challenge myself to grow and inspire more creativity in my life (more of my goals are on my About Me). One specific goal was to grow as a photographer.  I think moments are "easy" to capture, but I think any photographer would agree telling a story is more of a challenge. I think a picture can make the viewer ask what happened before, why is that, what will happen next.  So, with these pictures, I hope to also grow as a storyteller.

Some photos will be included under the tab Photography. Updates within posts will have the tag Photography.

Have an awesome and blessed New Year!

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* Quotes are linked to my Pinterest board titled "Be Inspired" via repins .

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lasagna without Ricotta Cheese

My lasagna recipe is a fav that has evolved over time. This recipe is so easy I should make it more often.  The short cuts I've found have helped simplify the recipe.

One of the challenges opportunities I have found in our family is that not everyone is a ricotta fan. And, I don't like lasagna based on cottage cheese (Ew-w-w!). So, I have made this recipe without either. It's cheesy homey goodness!  

This post is my first attempt at food photography, so you'll find me experimenting with the camera. It's been interesting and fun!


Lasagna With Italian Meat Sauce without Ricotta Cheese

Prep: 15 min.; Cook: 1 hr., 45 min.

Ingredients - Lasagna
1 (16-ounce) package dried precooked lasagna noodles
6 cup s(12 ounces) shredded Italian three-blend cheese*
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Parsley (about 1 cup fresh)
4 egg whites
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
6 cups “Italian Meat Sauce” 

Prepare noodles per package.

To keep the noodles moist, layer the noodles on a baking sheet with a wet paper towel between each layer.  Cover the top layer with wet paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Stir together ingredients through pepper and set aside.

Spread 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce in dish.
Arrange 3 noodles over meat sauce.
Top with half of cheese mixture and 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce and more noodles.

Top with remaining cheese mixture and 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce.
Arrange 3 noodles over sauce and top with remaining 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, at 350° for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes. 

* Notes
  • If I don't have enough cheese, I have used a Colby & Monterrey Jack blend. It's been a good substitute.
  • When spooning sauce over the noodles, it is important to cover the noodles completely with the sauce. Otherwise, the noodles will dry and be crunchy.

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Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

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Italian Meat Sauce Recipe

Italian Meat Sauce
This sauce makes about 14 cups, but only 6 cups are needed for the lasagna. Freeze extra sauce in zip-top plastic freezer bags, and use later for another meal. 
Ingredients - Sauce
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
1 pound mild italian sausage
2 large onions, chopped
2 medium-size green bell peppers, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 (26-ounce) jarred pasta sauce (I used a jar of Newman's Own Tomato & Basil and a jar of Newman's Own Marinara)
About ½ cup red wine (leftover from a prior meal is perfect)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp rosemary
4 tbsp oregano
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp red pepper (I used dried Thai chili peppers that we grew in the garden over the summer)

Add olive oil to a large saute pan.
Cook ground beef and sausage until meat crumbles and is no longer pink.. Drain well.

Pour sauce into a large dutch oven over medium heat.
Put red wine into pasta jars and shake. Add to sauce.

Using the saute pan that the meat was cooked in, lightly saute onion, peppers, and garlic until a very light brown (Just enough to bring out the favors).
Add meat in batches to sauce .
Add remaining vegetables to sauce.
Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Yield: Makes about 14 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

One of our family's traditions each year is adding the kids' handprints to our Christmas tree skirt.

I started this tradition in 2001 when my children were small.  It shows their growth and has evolved into a timeline for my family.   Each year's handprints have an "ornament" that shows the year. My remarriage in 2009 brought with it a blended family, so this skirt shows the addition of my two step-daughters.
Everyday a la Mode ~ Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

Growing hands and an expanding family has produced a very full tree skirt, so this year each I needed to add an extended border around the outside of the original skirt. Our handprints for 2011 will be added to the new white boarder section.

Now, there is a lot of space for hands that are continuing to grow (I hope my step-daughter's don't keep growing. Wow, does she already has big hands!). I can also see it someday having the handprints of our grandchildren (but not for a very, very, very long time.)

Everyday a la Mode ~ Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recycled Paper Bead Christmas Ornaments

This paper bead project is a great "recycling" project that turned out adorable!

My daughter's Girl Scout troop needed a holiday-related project that would correspond with their upcoming caroling event.

I choose a recycling / craft project for the troop after being inspired by  "{New-New} blog's recycling project" that resulted in beads made from paper. Pretty nifty idea! And, since it's a Girl Scout project, I can whip out my virtual soapbox and remind the girls of the importance of recycling. (I keep my soapbox in a virtual backpack so I can lecture my kids at any given time.)

I had planned to do a dry run of this project to see how long it would take and to see if the project was too difficult for the girls to do some of the bead molding. It turned out to be more labor intensive and time consuming than I had planned, so I scrapped the dry run idea and made the beads outside of the the troop meetings.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Travel & Photography Series: Berlin

This is the first in my occasional series on Travel and Photography.  I have been blessed to travel quite a bit in my career.  I'd like to share are some experiences and some of my fav pics from my trips.  My goal for these series is to share travel ideas and share photography that I've collected on my travels. I rarely get souvenirs when I travel. My pictures are my keepsakes. There may also be travel recommendations along the way.

You're welcome to join!  Feel free to jump in the conversation if you been to any these places. I also welcome feed back on the photos.  If you like, please let me know... it makes me happy so I can dance in my living room ;)     If you think the photo could be improved (via camera settings, Photoshop, etc), please speak up! The only way to improve is to learn from those who know!  So please share!

* This post may be updated occasionally to include new stories and newly filtered though photos (....only so much time.)

Berlin 2005

Old church that was hit in the war.
Buildings are still bullet riddled and fallen. I was told they didn't want to fix the buildings because it helped them to never forget.  It was very sobering to see, but their goal is effective.

Taken at the Memorial dedicated to the victims.

This building shows the damage that still exists.

 This building shows the damage that still exists.

And now for some artsy pics....

Berlin 2005
Copyright 2005 Everyday a la Mode

"Strolling Musicians",  Berlin 2005
Copyright 2005 Everyday a la Mode


This is one of my favorite photos.  The distant, sad look on this man's face is intriguing to me. He appears lost in thought. Notice that his accordion is taped up but continues to do what he enjoys.

"In the zone",  Berlin 2005 
Copyright 2005 Everyday a la Mode.

Camera used on this trip: Minolta Dimage Z1 3.2 Mega Pixels.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Wine Cork Wreath

Have a jar of wine corks that are looking for a good use? Mine found a home in a cork wreath!

Everyday a la Mode ~ Wine Cork Wreath (large)

This is a low cost project that uses a recycled wine corks, styrofoam wreath base, dried moss, wire, and hot glue.

And no, before you ask! I did not drink all of that wine! Two pregnancies during the project slowed its pace, but friends and family pitched into the supply. You can of course purchase corks if you don't want to wait to get a massive number of corks together. You can also make a smaller one...

I have made several of these wreaths! I've received so many compliments on them, so I made some for myself (of course) and some were gifts for friends. The time needed to complete the wreath depends on the size of the wreath.

Project Instructions
Use a styroform base to keep the weight down. Wrap wire (medium gauge) around the wreath base to make a hanger. Secure it tightly. 
Hot glue the corks starting in the center hole of the wreath, working in circles and towards the outside.  As I glued the corks to the base, I inserted dried spanish moss around the corks. The moss gives the wreath a more natural look and helps to hide the base. You will want to play with the placement of the corks. Since not all corks are the same size, they will not fit evenly. So you'll want to balance the sizes so it looks good.

I left some of the logo stickers on the some of the corks. I also turned some corks so the red from the wine is showing and some so the that wine opener hole is showing. I think these gives the wreath a more personal look.

Everyday a la Mode ~ Wine Cork Wreath (small)
Want to change it up for the holidays?....A way to add some bling is to wind ribbon in between the corks! In the past, I have added a gold net-like ribbon to my wreaths for the holiday season. I removed it last season, but may put it back in this week.  It adds a great sparkle!

Everyday a la Mode ~ Wine Cork Wreath (large)

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I was featured on FJI Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jute wrapped wine bottles ~ Ballard Designs inspired

I love Ballard Designs! Love, Love, Love! Especially their Covered Demijohn !
But at $54.99 (the sale price as of 2 Dec 2011), this was not meant to be.

While searching my fav blogs, I found a great post from Thrifty Decor Chick, which inspired me even more!

Using wine bottles I already had (because you never know when you will be inspired to do a new wine bottle project!), I created my version....

Jute - About $4
Wine bottles (or any glass bottle) - No cost (recycled)
Hot glue

Project Instructions
Soak the bottles to remove the labels and dry.
Starting at the top, wrap the jute around the bottle, tucking it under itself. Continue wrapping to hide its "tail" and dot with hot glue.

Then, wrap as you are inspired to! I love the green glass of the wine bottle, so I spun the jute down on some of the versions to let the light shine through.  Dot with hot glue to hold the jute in place.

When you get to the bottom, loop the jute under itself to lock it in place.

I also used an empty olive oil bottle and an old honey bottle for other versions. Any glass bottle you find interesting works great!  These bottles have raised letters on them, so it creates a more antique look, I think.

I love the color and texture of the jute!

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