Friday, October 9, 2015

"You are my Sunshine" Stamped Metal Bracelets

I have recently become smitten with metal stamping.  I have found so many fun items on Etsy and project ideas on Pinterest, I just had to try it for myself. It is a fun way to personalize items. I love how it can range from very simple, to extremely complex with patterns and texturing.

I made this easy stamped bracelet for my first project. I have been singing, "You are my sunshine" to my children since they were babies. I already have the first line hanging up in their playroom and thought it would be perfect for a bracelet for my daughter. The key was to find something short and meaningful. It is amazing how fast you run out of room while stamping!

 As with most new craft endeavors, it requires a little practice and a few supplies to get started.

I suggest getting a nice and stable steel stamping block, tape, metal stamps in the font of your choice and a good metal stamping hammer.

I also tried this project with a small regular hammer and found that the stamps slid more and it was not as clean an imprint  (more double impressions). The specialty hammer gave me better control, a larger strike surfuce and didn't require much energy to make the imprints. Either will work, of course, but the specialized stamping hammer does have some benefits.

Since I wanted to create a bracelet, I also used a bracelet kit which included a bending form and metal stamping blanks.

To get started I selected my phrase, "You are my sunshine", removed the protective film on the metal blank, and used the tape to mark out the spacing. Check and double check that the stamps are turned the correct way. This was the first time I used the Bridgette font and I had a few mistakes!

Hold the stamps securely against the blank and give them a firm tap straight down. Getting the technique down was the hardest part.

But, save those mistakes and use the blanks for practice next time!

After stamping out the phrase, just remove the tape and rub a sharpie into the indentations. Rub away any excess ink and the lettering will stand out just a little more.

Then I used the bracelet form to bend the blank into cuff form.

Overall this was a quick and fun project. Once you invest in the initial supplies (stamps, hammer, etc.), the blanks themselves are pretty inexpensive. So, what would you put on a bracelet?

For more blog posts from The Brand Connection crafters:

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

e-Murderer by Joan C. Curtis

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review as part of Promotional Book Tours. All opinions and experiences are my own.

emurderer tour banner

On this anything but typical Monday morning Jenna Scali, who works part-time for a shrink, opens an email that depicts the brutal death of a young girl. On that same day the police uncover a dead coed two blocks from Jenna’s house. The e-murderer’s description creepily echos the death described in the newspapers. When Jenna receives other emails, she takes what she knows to the police and thus begins her journey in the path of the e-murderer. Her curious nature impels her from e-messages to dead coeds to a ring of prostitutes.

e-Murderer copy
With the help of her quirky friends, Jenna learns that she’s more than a conduit for the killer. She’s his target. New secrets unfold, and finally her love life takes a tumble when the true killer emerges.

THE E-MURDERER is a race to find a psychotic killer before he kills again. This new mystery series with a young female sleuth promises to keep you glued to your seat until the last page.
Buy on Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Kobo Books / MuseItUp Publishing

My Review

Oh, wow! With the cooler weather setting in and shorter days, a new mystery was the perfect book for me to enjoy over the weekend. I adore a nail-biter, and this story was one I couldn't put down. Bravo to author, Joan C. Curtis, for hooking me on her new mystery series. Yes, I can't wait to dive into her next installment.

The story was modern and mesmerizing! Really, I am not sure how you wouldn't be sucked right into Jenna's world and fall in love with her and her friends as she races to figure out "who dunnit?"

The author is giving away two prizes: One, a $15 Amazon or BN Gift card (their choice) and Two, a signed copy of the award-winning book, The Clock Strikes Midnight.

About the author:

Joan Curtis Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 6 books and numerous stories. Readers compare her to the great Southern writer, Fanny Flagg. “She writes characters and a story that will stay with you.” Her debut mystery/suspense novel, 

The Clock Strikes Midnight, won the silver medal for fiction/suspense in the Global eBook Awards for 2015 and is a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award. The e-Murderer won first place in the Malice Domestic Grants competition for new writers. Joan Curtis - RPLA_Finalist_Badge Joan has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She reads all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, mysteries, biography, and nonfiction. Mystery/suspense with a psychological twist is exactly the kind of book Joan loves to read.

"I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman's point of view with a destiny. Characters drive my writing and my reading." 

Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the Southern traditions with the eye of a Northerner. She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Athens, Georgia.

Author website: | Author’s blog: Facebook Author page: | Twitter page: @joancurtis

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Green Chicken Enchiladas - October Secret Recipe Club

Fall has started to creep into our little town. The leaves have started to change, fall and leave a delicious crunch under our feet. Today we took full advantage of the cooler weather for a family walk.

After everything that happened in our small town, Roseburg, OR this past week, I thought a little extra family time was called for. It has been amazing to see our area really come together with fundraisers, blood drives, and candlelight vigils. It will be a long road ahead for healing... or to feel completely safe again. But, I am still happy to raise my children here.

Of course, my favorite contribution to our family quality time is our family meal. for my October Secret Recipe Club selection, I found and chose the Green Enchiladas from Leslie's blog, La Cocina De Leslie.

Oh, boy! being assigned to Leslie's blog was quite a treat. Sadly, there are not as many peppers available in the fields right now, but I have so many of her recipes I want to go back and try next season. Next up I will be making her Swiss Chard Enchiladas... really! I have never thought to use Swiss Chard that way... but I have a never-ending in a neighboring field. Mexican cuisine is not something I have had many chances to make, but I always enjoy trying.

I hate to gush, but my selection this month is one you have to try! This Secret Recipe Club selection is going to be on heavy rotation this fall/winter. I had a green enchilada recipe in my box before, but this one knocked it out of the park. It had less cheese, but much more flavor with the homemade sauce. It is also a great dish to make and share with friends in need of a meal.

Since going back to work, I have needed to meal plan better and making up a few trays of these Green Enchiladas was perfect for helping to stock my freezer! I now have 2 extra pans settled in next to a few kinds of soup, freezer mac and cheese as well as an eggplant and pasta bake.

To make this meal go even faster, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken to shred. I love simple tricks to make meal assembly go faster. No, if you want to make everything from scratch, you can find recipes for corn tortillas and all sorts of other great dishes on Leslie's blog. Next time I want to try her recipe for red chicken enchiladas.

After creating the sauce, I warmed up the tortillas, dipped them in the excess sauce and layed them out for assembly.

This recipe called for Mexican crema or sour cream... and since I had sour cream, I went with that. I did try using Queso Fresco inside the tortillas though and it was fabulous! I don't think I will go back to boring old Monte Jack again.

Like I said, I was able to create 3 pans of enchiladas, one we devoured right away and the others I froze for future weeknight meals. I topped mine with more cheese, sauce, and olives. For serving, I garnished them with thinly sliced green onions.

The olives and green onions were my own addition. That is just how my family of 5 rolls. Feel free to add your own flare at the end. It's your dish, right?

They were gobbled up the first night. No leftovers. Is there a much better compliment than that? And luckily, since I have another 2 pans in the freezer, we have more Green Chicken Enchiladas in our near future. Many thanks to Leslie for her recipe!

Green Chicken Enchiladas
recipe from La Cocina De Leslie

You Will Need:
  • 1 lb. shredded chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 2 Poblano peppers
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1/2  medium yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 sprig cilantro *optional
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 1 doz. corn tortillas
  • Queso Fresco
  • Montey Jack cheese
  • sliced black olives *optional
  • sliced green onions for garnish

In a bowl, combine the chicken, sour cream and 3 tablespoon onion. Toss with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large skillet, heat the tomatillos. They should begin to soften and char slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor.  Then in the same pan, char the poblanos, 1/2 an onion and garlic. When the pepper is blackened on all sides, let it sweat in a covered bowl and remove the skin and seeds.  Add all this to the blender along with the chicken broth and optional cilantro. Pulse up till smooth and pourable. 

Cover the bottom of a 9"x13" pan with 1/3 cup of the sauce. Then get everything layed out to assemble the enchiladas. Start by warming a tortilla in a small skillet. Dip the warmed tortilla in sauce, then top with a scoop of the chicken mixture and a generous amount of Queso Fresco.  Roll up tightly and place the seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Top with more sauce, Montey Jack cheese, and sliced black olives... if you feel so inclined.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Just before serving I like to garnish with fresh green onions.


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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

See You Soon Broadway, by Melissa Baldwin

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review as part of Promotional Book Tours. All opinions and experiences are my own.
   Maris Forrester has a wonderful life with an amazing boyfriend and a fulfilling job. She’s happy and content . . . or so she thinks.

See You Soon Broadway ebook coverMaris has always had huge dreams of being on Broadway. Ever since her very first performance as a child, she has envisioned herself on the stage under the shining lights. Now she has to decide whether she should give up her wonderful life to chase those dreams. When her parents announce they are moving, she comes across a long-lost family treasure. She doesn’t realize that this treasure may hold the key to her future and to all her dreams coming true.

And if that wasn’t sign enough, a mysterious stranger throws another wrench in the mix at a dazzling rooftop party benefiting the Arts. These could be signs of things to come. But will she remain content in her perfect world, or will she step into the unknown world she has always dreamed of?

Buy on Amazon | B&N | Kobo

 My Review:

With great characters to build on, this story grabbed me. Who hasn't had a dream? Maris had a great life, a job teaching vocal lessons, a great boyfriend, but also a lingering dream. I think we all have that "path not taken" sometime in our life, but sometimes fate throws things at us to shake up our normal. Maris has to deal with what she sees as "normal" and figure out what she really wants in life.

I enjoyed the introduction of Beatrice, she was a great way for Maris to learn more about herself, as well as her grandmother.  Loved the Sound of Music references in the book, Melissa Baldwin has a lot of fun with her stories and references.

Overall, a fun and memorable read. Definitely perfect for a cool fall evening or weekend guilty pleasure read!
About the author:
Melissa Baldwin 2

Melissa graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications; she has always had a love for writing. An avid journal keeper, she took her creativity to the next level by fulfilling her dream with her debut novel, An Event To Remember . . . Or Forget. Since then she has written and published two more novels, Wedding Haters and See You Soon Broadway within 14 months. Melissa resides in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and young daughter. When she isn't writing, this multi-tasking master organizer is busy being a mother, wife, chauffeur, PTA President, and Fitness Trainer. When she has free time, she enjoys traveling, running, fitness, fashion, and taking a Disney Cruise every now and then.
Follow the author:
Facebook | Website  | Twitter  | Instagram | Pinterest | Literary Addicts 

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough - September Secret Recipe Club

My two oldest are back in school now, and even though that gives me a few more hours during the day, the dinner scramble is no less crazy.  This past weekend, yes the holiday weekend, I spent setting myself up with a stocked freezer. One of my go-to dinner cheats is whole wheat pizza dough.

You can always find a ball of it tucked into my freezer, ready to be dressed for dinner!

So when I was perusing Lori's blog, Lori's Culinary Creations, for my September Secret Recipe Club selection and came across her recipe for  whole wheat pizza dough , I knew that would be the recipe. I was hooked when I saw she ground her own wheat for it.

Grinding our own whole what has been a real treat! It has great flavor and texture... much better than that whole wheat flour you find on the grocery store shelves.

Lori's blog was a treat to read. She shares my passion for culinary adventures and she believes life should be experienced. She also shares my love of German food, and I will have to go back and try her recipes for Beef Roulade and Red Cabbage. Mmm...

So, again, her whole wheat flour recipe was what caught my eye. I love working with freshly ground wheat because it has all the wheat germ and everything right there. I have really enjoyed my WonderMill and recommend my whole wheat pancake recipe if you get the chance.

This pizza dough is really simple and fast to make. It is the perfect way to clean out the veggie bins in the fridge or complement those fresh garden tomatoes. This time around I went with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on one half, and eggplant and peppers on the other.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
adapted from Lori's Culinary Creations

You Will Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon pizza flavor (King Arthur's Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the remaining ingredients until the dough comes together in a craggy ball. Continue to knead till smooth. Add a little water or sprinkle of flour to reach a good elastic dough.

Let the dough rise for 2-3 hours, covered, in a greased bowl.

Prehead the oven and pizza stone (if you have one) to 375 degrees.

Punch the dough down and roll out. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before prebaking. Then brush the dough with olive oil and place on a pan sprinkled with cornmeal.

Top as desired with your favorite combination of sauce, cheese, vegetables and meat. Then finish baking for 18 - 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.


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Friday, September 4, 2015

Resin Bracelets with Dried Flowers

My daughter turned 6 this week, so I thought it was time to do a little more crafting for her. This project for Resin Bracelets with Dried Flowers is not appropriate for young children on their own, but she is in love with the finished product and has already asked me to make more for her and her friends.

Resin is not a medium I have used before, but it was pretty simple to work with. Of course, you will need some safety gear first. I suggest a good pair of eye protection (doesn't every crafter need pink safety glasses?), and gloves for working with the resin.

I also like to cover my work space with wax paper to catch any drips or spills.

Resin Bracelets with Dried Flowers

You Will Need:

  • Resin Jewelry Plastic Resusable Mold
  • Castin’ Craft mold release
  • An assortment of dried flowers and leaves
  • Envirotex Clear Resin Epoxy
  • popsicle sticks
  • 2 mixing containers
  • toothpicks
  • fine sandpaper
Start by prepping the plastic reusable mold. Give the inside a quick spray with mold release. Allow this to dry for 20 minutes, or as directed on the package.

To fill the bracelet, I got a whole variety of dried flowers and some small leaves to work with. Make sure your flowers are completely dry, any moisture in the resin will prevent it from setting properly.

For this project, I had everything ready before mixing my resin. Different brands call for different proportions, but this clear EnviroTex was a 1:1 ratio of resin and hardener. It needs to be mixed really well to set properly.

I mixed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides as I went.

Then I poured the mixture into my 2nd container and mixed again. Most of the problems people mentioned online were due to under mixing the epoxy. Don't worry, there was still plenty of time to make my bracelet.

Be careful when mixing. Mix too vigorously and you can add air bubbles to the resin. Mix gently, but well. A toothpick works well to pop air bubbles or bring them up to the surface. Then gently blow on the surface to pop the bubbles.

I poured a small amount of resin into my prepared mold. Then I started adding the dried flowers and leaves. I used my stirring stick and toothpick to push pieces into place. I wanted my leaves and buds to be evenly distributed around the mold.

After I was happy with my design, I left the resin in a dry place to dry. Mine started to become tacky after a few hours. I let it cure for a full 24 hours though before trying to unmold it.

My mold was slightly pliable, but it still took a little work to remove the finished bracelet from the mold.

My daughter was thrilled with the result. She already has some new ideas for things to put into her bracelets. We may even fill some with the paper beads she has been making!

I hope you enjoyed our little Resin Bracelet craft. Be sure to come back next month for the next #TBCCrafters craft post. They will be posted on the first Friday of each month.

Have you ever worked with resin? What do you suggest I try next?

For more fun craft projects, visit a few of my favorite bloggers:

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Monday, August 31, 2015

August Round-Up - A Walk in the Woods ‪#‎thebookclubcookbookCC‬

I was provided with a copy of The Book Club Cook Book to use for this year-long endeavor of reading and food fun. All opinions and experiences and individual book purchases are my own.

August is almost over and I wanted to share all the great things people have been baking/making this month for our Book Club Cookbook Cooking Club. I loved the creativity! 

This month I selected to make the Lemon Meringue Pie recipe inspired by the "viscous, canary-yellow wedge of lemon pie. ...yellow enough to give you a headache, sweet enough to make your eyeballs roll up into your head - everything, in short, you could want in a pie so long as taste and quality didn't enter into your requirements." from the book. I can still remember a multi-day hiking trip that left me dreaming of cheeseburgers, so I completely understood the draw of the thick, sweet pie. In short, it is nothing like jerky and trail mix.

I mentioned before that I just adore lemon flavored anything... and I was so excited to bake my own lemon meringue pie inspired by the book. I have to laugh that I was more worried about something going wrong with the crust and meringue. In the end, I was preoccupied with first day of school prep for my kids and planning my daughter's 6th birthday...  

...and my filling didn't thicken as much as I would have liked. So with a lovely crust, beautiful meringue, my filling was runny!

Oh, the humanity!

This is the point when I should probably say something about life handing my lemons... but, well... you know.

Luckily, this was one delicious mistake that no one minded eating. Even if it did require a spoon! Yes, it was still delicious... VERY yellow.... and sweet. Just as described in the book.

As for the book? I really enjoyed A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. The book is Bryson's account of walking the Appalachian Trail. Along the way he has a lot of adventures, meets a lot of interesting people and shares his journey with his friend Katz. It was entertaining as well as laugh out loud funny. I can't wait to see it in the movie theater with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Now remember, I invited everyone to come join me on this reading and baking adventure. There were some brave souls who decided to face the recipe or find other inspiration from the book. Well, I had plenty of folks step right up to the challenge! 

Here's what #thebookclubcookbookCC bloggers made with inspiration from The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Though from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp.

Everyone did an amazing job pulling funny stories out of the book or coming up with their own take on "lemon meringue pie".  There were many mentions of food in the book, so plenty of chances to find something for everyone.

Camilla, from Culinary Adventures with Camilla, who also happened to have started this cooking crew, created a Perfect Peach Cobbler. It was inspired by MacKaye's vision for trail shelters having more of a proper hostel feel.

Last month Camilla went on her family's annual camping trip - 10 days, 2 states and 5 campgrounds. It sounded like the perfect way to enjoy this month's book selection. I envy her the chance to read this book outside.

Emily from Life on Food created Trail Granola Clusters for her recipe. She had  read other work by Bryson before, but not A Walk in the Woods. She remembers seeing this book on her Dad's bookshelf though.

While reading she noted all the junk food mentions and decided if she ever embarked on such a journey, she would plan better for food. She would instead pack a lot of granola.  I really enjoyed her nut choices of almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts. That sounds far better than Hostess cakes for a long journey.

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm created this delicious egg salad sandwich. You have to check out why she was drawn to share this recipe after reading about the fridge that was filled with only egg salad sandwiches...  I just loved her addition of artichoke/parmesan dip in the filling. Brilliant!  That is one version of the sandwich worth stocking an entire fridge with!

Wendy enjoyed the reading this month's selection so much, she had a little incident with her morning cereal getting sprayed across the table due to one particularly funny episode.

Sarah from The Pajama Chef shared a fun recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie Puppy Chow.  I have to agree with Sarah, who doesn't love puppy chow? This was her version of the lemon meringue pie that wasn't as complicated and also probably didn't require as many dishes to wash up afterward.

A great snack, this treat bring together the fun citrus in trail mix form. Wouldn't this be fun to take camping?

Sarah from Things I Make (For Dinner) found inspiration in a particularly troublesome personality (Mary Ellen) who both Bryson and Katz have a hard time with. They joked that if they couldn't ditch  her, they could, "Kill her and steal her Pop Tarts".  So, the homemade pop tarts were chosen for her share.  These Maple Brown Sugar Pop Tarts look amazing!

I also have to give Sarah kudos for enjoying the book with her husband. My husband, and his love of the outdoors inspired my selection and I love they were also able to enjoy it together.

Now Shannon cracked me up with her selection. She thought way outside the "lemon meringue" box to bring us Red Hot Dogs and Moxie Soda. Now, as they traveled along the trail they mentioned some of the local foods like Maine blueberries. Since Shannon has already shared her blueberry pie recipe, she took the chance to introduce the rest of us to some other famous Maine foods.

I have to say, I have never heard of either of these but after her description, I am dying to try Moxie soda. What a great flavor combo! Maybe this cooking crew also needs a little food exchange. Anyone know if I can get a can on the West Coast?

And then Renee from Tortillas and Honey was awesome enough to dive right into the land of Lemon Meringue Pie with me! I have to say that her slice turned out much better than my sad little slider. Isn't this gorgeous?

She shared this pie with her mom who is a lemon meringue pie fan. I know if must have tasted as good as it looked because her mom had 2 slices! 

Check out the full Cooking Crew below:

A Day in the Life on the Farm      
Adventures in All Things Food    
Cheese Curd In Paradise               
Culinary Adventures with Camilla             
Life on Food       
Mostly Food and Crafts 
The Pajama Chef              
The Spiffy Cookie             
Things I Make (for Dinner)           
Tortillas and Honey         


This month Andrea at Adventures in all Things Food, this month's host, is giving away a copy of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us for future months, if you wish!

One of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy ofThe Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-Penguin. Giveaway runs from August 1st till August 31st at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

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*Disclosure: Andrea received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp to use in this year-long project plus the opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

Next Month

Renee of Tortillas and Honey will be the host next month (September). Keep an eye out for her invitation. I think I heard she will be pulling her recipe inspiration from A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines... but check out her invite to get all the details and join in on the fun.

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