Monday, August 31, 2009

Jen's Sketch Challenge 08/29/09

Time for another Sketch for You to Try. It had been a few weeks since I was able to play along, so I sat down last night and started playing with the sketch.

For some reason, this was a tough one for me. I just could not find my groove....don't you hate it when that happens?

I started off with some Riding Hood Red and Chocolate Chip cs, which I stamped using Versamark ink with a flourish from SU! for the bottom panels and added some Riding Hood Red taffeta ribbon. Then, I grabbed my Bella Rose patterned paper and started cutting the additional panels. Where I ran into trouble was with the main, front panel. I just couldn't come up with a winning combination of stamps for that shape. I was having a major mental block and had to make a few attempts and still am not 100% satisfied with the end result. I stamped the flowers in Kiwi Kiss and Riding Hood Red and then found that it still needed something extra, so I added a couple of strips of Chocolate Chip CS and stamped a second sentiment and cut it out with my oval punch from SU! and added a metal heart accent from Colorbok.

This is my absolute favorite DSP of all time and I was really disheartened that I had such a hard time finding the inspiration that I was looking for.

Does that ever happen to you?

Baby Bib

I got this brilliant idea from my friend Donna over at Butternut Sage Designs to make a card cut out like a baby bib. Donna made her bib using very traditional colors (white, pastels) and displayed it with some adorable blocks and I just fell in love with the idea.

My friend Leslie is having a baby shower in a couple of weeks, which I will be unable to attend because I will be on my way to CA that afternoon, but I wanted to make her a card to go along with her gift and drop it off at the shower location so that she'll have something from us to open even though I can't be there in person. Leslie is very non-traditional, very modern, and does not like pastels. She even sent an exasperated status update to Facebook to this effect....something like, "Isn't there any bedding that is not pastel?" For this reason, I thought it best to steer clear of pastels in her card and instead went for a very modern vibe.

I cute the "bib" out of Chocolate Chip cs using my scalloped circle template in my Cuttlebug. Then, I cut a half-circle out of both the front and the back panels using my Marvy Circle punch. Next, I stamped the front in Versamark ink using my Distressed Hearts background stamp from Unity and embossed the hearts using some Zing embossing powder from American Crafts in Leaf. I just purchased a few bottles of this new embossing powder and the colors are so vibrant!!!!

I added a small strip of patterned paper from Basic Grey, along with a small circle out of the same pattern. Then, I stamped the "L" using some Distress Ink in Peeled Paint and sponged around the edges in Chocolate Chip ink.

I cut the pink flowers out of some Bazzil cs with my Cuttlebug and added a little bling from Kaiser and then finally added the sentiment from SU that I stamped in Chocolate Chip and cut using my word punch, also from SU.

The tops of the panels are secured with some pink brads and I added some green ribbon from Classic Traditions for the bib's straps.

Alcohol Ink Bookmark

I am having so much fun playing with my alochol inks from Ranger. I am so glad I dusted them off and started playing. They are messy and so versatile!

I made this little bookmark just because, but decided I am going to send it off with a card to a friend who has a birthday coming up. I started with a basic vanilla tag from Paper Reflections that I got in the Hot Spot at Archivers. Using Latte, Caramel, and Ginger alcohol inks, along with some gold mixative and some blending solution, I covered the tag completely. I dried the inks using my heat tool, then stamped the create image from Hero Arts using Staz-On ink twice onto the tag so that it would cover the whole thing. Next, I covered a vanilla flower from Hero Arts using the same ink combination and then added a black button and some Scrapper's Floss and then tied on some raffia ribbon and added some plain black ribbon to the top.

I just love the way the mixatives make this tag shimmer. The ink completely bled through to the opposite side of the tag, but it's still a really nice effect and actually gives the back of the bookmark some added interest. Just make sure that you are working on a craft mat or a piece of cardboard when using alcohol inks, or they will stain your work surface.

Thinking of You

A very dear friend of mine has been having some medical issues lately and it's really hard to be away from her and be so helpless. I made this card to send to her to let her know that no matter how far apart we may be, she is never far from my thoughts and prayers.

I found this fabulous create stamp from Hero Arts at Archiver's for 75% off. Why it was in the sale bin, I have no idea because it is gorgeous and is my new favorite stamp. Ok, it doesn't hurt that it is adorned with these beautiful butterflies, but I love everything about it!

I started with a piece of Basic Black cs that I embossed with my Cuttlebug. Then, I used this beautiful patterned paper from Little Yellow Bicycle for the bottom layer and for the scalloped circle. I stamped the Create stamp using Basic Grey ink from SU! and stamped onto Going Grey cs and then rounded the corners and adhered to the pp. The small butterfly is from Unity's Bevy of Butterflies new set (another fav!), the sentiment is from Hero Arts, and the small flowers are from Inkadinkadoo. I added some polka-dot ribbon from Colorbok and a little bit of bling to make it extra special.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cleaning Make-Up Brushes

I was reading Kristina Werner's blog this morning and she had another "things I'm loving right now" post. In her post, she mentions a make-up brush cleaning product and I was reminded that it's been a while since I cleaned my make-up brushes. I promptly went and cleaned them and thought I'd do a little post of how I clean my brushes.

Now, we all know that we need to clean our make-up brushes. They get make-up caked on them and who knows what kind of bacteria and let's face it - they are not cheap and if you want your brushes to last (just like anything else), you have to take care of them.

Cleaning my brushes takes about 5 minutes and they last forever! I start by taking a small dish and filling it with hot, soapy water. I then rinse each brush individually under warm water to get the bulk of the make-up off and then swish it around in the hot, soapy water, rubbing the brush against the bottom of the dish to get the soap in between the bristles. I rinse the brush again, and then use some MAC brush cleaner to condition the brush and then squeeze out the excess moisture, while shaping the brush before I set it out to dry.

I lay all of the brushes on a hand towel and let they dry naturally. That's it, 5 minutes and I have nice, clean brushes that I won't have to replace for a good, long while.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shannon's Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I love to cook. I mean, love it! I am a Food Network junkie and would go to culinary school in a heartbeat if we could afford it. I have no desire to become a professional chef, I just want to learn how to cook like one.

I most often cook from recipes. I do have a few of my own creations that I enjoy making, but haven't done as much experimenting as I really should. What I usually do is start from a recipe and make it exactly as directed the first time and then make modifications until I get it just the way I like it.

My enchiladas are one of the things that I make that didn't come from a recipe. They are my own and if I do say so myself, they are super tasty! I think the key is cooking the chicken in the crock pot.

I'm going to share the recipe here, and please feel free to try it out and even share it with friends and loved ones. I do ask, however if you do pass it along that you give me credit for it. Thank you :).

Ok, tip for you - I prefer making my enchiladas with corn tortillas. This is merely a personal preference. I like the taste and they are lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber than flour tortillas, so I always make mine with corn, but have always had trouble with the tortillas cracking on me. I thought if I bought them super fresh and didn't refrigerate them, maybe that would solve the problem. That did help, but I still had some cracking. Tonight I found the solution! A handy, dandy tortilla warmer. We got one as a wedding gift and in our old house, it was stored in some cabinets in the laundry room. Out of sight - out of mind. In this house, there is enough storage in our kitchen for all of our gadgets and serving dishes, including china, so I find myself reaching for things that I left untouched in the old house. So, I pulled out the tortilla warmer and wet a paper towel and placed it in the bottom of the warmer, then piled up 12 tortillas and topped with another wet towel and microwaved on high for 2 minutes. The tortillas were hot and moist and did not crack - not even a little bit. I did pull out one at a time and replaced the lid each time and I'm telling you, it was wonderful. They were like buttah!

Now, onto the recipe

4 frozen chicken breasts
1 large can of diced green chiles (17 ounces)
2 jars of store-bought salsa (whatever brand is on sale)
About 1/4 cup of sour cream (I use the light)
1 large can of enchilada sauce (I use the green)
1 bag (2 cups) of shredded Mexican cheese blend (I use the 2%)
Corn tortillas

Garnish (optional)
Chopped scallions
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped black olives

In the crock pot, place the frozen chicken breast (I use frozen because the water helps make the sauce that the chicken will cook in), diced green chiles, and 2 jars of salsa. Cook on low until chicken is cooked through, then switch to keep warm.

When you're ready to start preparing the enchiladas

Preheat oven to 375

Pull the chicken breasts out of the crock pot and shred with two forks. The chicken will be very tender and will most likely fall off of your fork as you are trying to pull it out of the crock pot. This is a good thing, that means it will be easy to shred and will be nice and juicy! The shredding is time consuming, but I prefer the shredded texture to just cut up chicken. This part is up to you, whatever your preference is.

After the chicken is all shredded, add the sour cream (I usually do about 2 heaping large spoonfuls) and about 4 large spoonfuls of the salsa/green chile mixture from the crock pot. Mix it all together with a fork and set aside.

Spoon the enchilada sauce into the bottom of your baking dish until the entire bottom is covered. Make an assembly line to start making your enchiladas.

Take a corn tortilla and fill the center with the chicken mixture. Top with a pinch of the cheese (I don't put much into the enchiladas, I save most of the cheese for the top) and roll up and place into the baking dish. Repeat until all of the chicken mixture is gone. Top the enchiladas with the remaining enchilada sauce and the rest of the cheese and bake about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and the sauce is bubbling.

Garnish with scallions, tomatoes, olives, or whatever toppings you like.

I serve simply with some vegetarian refried beans that I add a little bit of the sauce from the crock pot to for extra flavor.

Card for Jay's Promotion

Sorry for the poor quality on this photo. I took it at night and I usually try to take my photos with natural light. It's very grainy and now I remember why I try to take photos with natural light!

I was going to do a celebration card, but nothing was really inspiring me (he he) and then I looked at my July KOTM from Unity and thought this starts and sentiment would be perfect for a congratulations card. It's true, Jay does inspire me - every, single day.

I stamped the stars in Riding Hood Red and Basic Grey classic ink from SU and the sentiment with Faded Jeans distress ink from Ranger. I used some patterned paper that I got from Costco a while ago (I'm sorry, I am not sure what the brand name is) and cut out small squares and adhered to Riding Hood Red CS and took some chipboard stars from Heidi Swapp and sprayed them with Pearl Tattered Angels Glitter Mist and topped them with buttons that are tied with Scrapper's Floss. After I glued all of my panels down, I distressed all of the edges with Faded Jeans and Fired Brick Distress Ink from Ranger. I added some small silver bling from Michael's and then wrote some schmoopy private stuff on the inside :).

Jay's Promotion

On August 11, 2009 Jay was promoted to Lt. Col. He has worked incredibly hard and has done extremely well in his career. He is respected by those in authority over him as well as by those he is in authority over. We are so very proud of him. Not only for his dedication and commitment to his job, but for serving our country. Serving in the military is not a "normal" job. His life is not his own. He belongs to the Air Force and will belong to them until the day of his retirement. It's a sacrifice, but without men and women like him, we would not be able to live in freedom as Americans.

On Friday, there was a promotion ceremony on the base to honor Jay, and to allow his family to be present and allow him to thank us for supporting him in his career. It felt a little odd, to be honest....all we wanted to do was honor him, but the purpose of it was more for us. Everything is so structured and very ceremonial and first class all the way. Just to be in the room with all of these individuals in uniform, saying the pledge of allegiance together gives me chills.

Jay's mom and brother and cousin Doug and his wife Joanie drove in from Colby, KS to be there for the ceremony. We also took Kendall out of school early so that she could be there with us as well.

The proceedings started with the pledge of allegiance, followed by a very heartfelt, beautiful prayer. Yes, in the military at events, they still pray and I, for one, am thankful! No one walks out offended, and we get to invite God's presence there with us and honor Him for all He's done for us. It's a great way to begin! After the prayer, Jay's boss spoke about his accomplishments and told some witty stories about him. He hasn't known Jay for very long, but was able to prod some information out of some all-too-willing family members. He had no trouble at all getting Jay's mom and brother and cousins to dish some dirt! After he spoke, Jay's mom and I pinned on Jay's new pins signifying his new rank. Then, Jay was able to speak to each of us. He thanked his family for being there and presented his mom and Kendall and I with flowers and thanked those who could not be there physically - specifically Nicole, who was attending her first day of school, his dad and most of all, God.

It was highly emotional, especially not having Loni there with us. We all felt his presence, but he was missed. He's in a better place now, but that doesn't stop us here on earth from missing his smile and his laughter. Someday we will be together again.

I'm so grateful to be married to such an honorable man. He has integrity, dedication, loyalty, he's romantic and hilarious and I'm just so proud to be Mrs. Ketchum.

Congratulations honey!

After the promotion ceremony, we came back to the house for a champagne/sparkling cider toast and to open presents. Unbeknownst to us, it is customary for the promotee to give gifts to his/her family. Jay got Nicole a gift certificate for some riding equipment (her grandpa got her some riding lessons and she needed some gear) and he got Kendall a Fender electric guitar (complete with amp and all of the accessories) and I got a plane ticket to CA!!!! I am beyond excited!!!! I have never been so excited to go to CA before. I cannot wait to spend time with friends and family, and frolic in the ocean and have some seafood and In-N-Out. It's amazing the things you miss.

My husband is extra special! There was literally no parking in the parking lot and we pulled up right to the front to find these reserved signs. We felt a little like royalty.

Jay's mom and I pinning him on

Saying the oath

Saying things to make all of us cry

Presenting flowers and hugs

We are so in love

I handed Doug the camera to run back and take a photo of the cake before it was gone. One of the wives of a guy Jay works with made the cake and punch for us. It was delicious!

Our dear friends Alicia and Brian. Alicia worked with Jay at Vandenberg and moved to CA just two weeks before us. We're so glad to have her so close.

Jay with his mom and his brother Eric

Cousin Doug and Joanie

Wishing Nicole was with us

I put up just a few decorations. There are stars and some star garland hanging on the chandelier

And some stars on the wall


Opening presents

Red roses for me (mom got pink ones)

Sunflowers for Kendall

I had absolutely no idea what to give Jay for such a special occasion, so I made a collage photo with pictures of his dad

And included a love letter from father to son....I felt Loni give the words to me, it was really very precious. I know he is still with us and we miss him every day

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School Bookmark

Kendall is taking Literature this year, as part of her English curriculum. I loved taking literature, because I love to read. Kendall, however....well, not so much. Not unless you are asking her to read Twilight, in which case, she is all too thrilled to read. Why can't all books capture the attention of young, teenage girls like the Twilight series? Believe me, I understand the appeal, having just finished Eclipse this morning myself. But, I have always loved to read.

Since it's going to be a little more difficult for Kendall, I decided to make her a little bookmark to keep with her. That way, when she's being "tortured" with great literature, she will at least have a little bit of love in her book to take along with her.

All of the papers are from the SU! Bella Rose DSP series. I drew a grid on the back of the red dsp to align my circle punch to cut windows into the paper. Then, I adhered the paper to a piece of white cs and using my Stamp-a-ma-jig, I stamped the flower images into the top and bottom windows. In the center window, I used another pattern in the series and used the same punch to cut the paper to fill the window and then stamped the Sending You My Love image onto white cs and punched it out with my 1" circle punch and then adhered it to the center. I finished it off with a scalloped edge that I punched with my SU! scalloped border punch in yet another pattern in the series and adhered the whole thing onto some Kraft cardstock for extra re-inforcement. I then added punched tab on the top that I embossed with a flourish in white embossing powder for a little extra zing and a white brad and some Riding Hood Red ribbon.

I suppose it isn't going to make Kendall like reading anymore than she already does, but at least she'll have something pretty to hold her place ;)

Kendall Starts 9th Grade

Monday was the first day of school here. It's a bit earlier than in California, but the kids get out in the middle of May here, so they go back earlier. Poor Kendall got kind of short-changed this year, having gone to school in California last year and then having to go back early here, but she will get out in May next year.

She was understandably nervous, it being her first day at a new school, and starting off into the world of High School (gasp!) We picked her up on Saturday from her mom and spent the day on Sunday with Jay's family so that was a good distraction for her. We got home and got to bed nice and early. Another change for her (as if there wasn't enough already) is that school starts at 7:10 at her school. She started at 9:00 back in California, so we have to make sure that we adhere to a consistent bed time so that she can get enough rest.

Jay took the day off on Monday, so we both got up with her to wish her well on her first day of school and Jay walked her to the bus stop. Ok, not too the bus stop, but close to the bus stop. As close as he could before Kendall saw some other kids and told him it was time to leave. He did get a chance to pray with her before saying goodbye and he sent her off.

Her first day of school went really well. She made two friends and was finding her way around just fine. The first day there were only freshmen there and they got a tour of the school and had assemblies for the first part of the day. After school, we picked her up and took her to her ortho appointment. Nothing like hitting the ground running! She had a painful appointment because it had been two months, but she was a champ and held her head high and tried not to complain. After her appointment, Jay had to get a hair cut and then we suprised Kendall and went to Verizon and upgraded her cell phone. She had an older model that she had been using for two years, with little complaint. We decided that since she's in HS now and is using her phone to keep in touch with her friends, she deserved to get a new phone with a full keyboard so that she can text her little heart out. She's also welcome to use the phone, of course, but that is just not nearly as cool!

So, our little doll is now in High School and is thriving. She's come home every day with a smile on her face. Even yesterday, when she got a little lost - in the rain - coming home from the bus stop. She was still smiling. I hope this year is her best yet!

Estes Park

Jay and I decided to extend our weekend away to Heaven Fest a little bit, since it was our last weekend before we picked up Kendall. We got an inexpensive hotel in Loveland (Comfort Inn, I believe it was) and fortunately for us, we were too tired to care a thing about the room. The bed wasn't very comfortable, and the room was just so-so, but it was a place to shower and to sleep and we didn't have to drive all the way home that night. We got up Sunday morning and had breakfast at Panera Bread, thanks to John.

Oh, I should explain John to you.....Jay got a GPS for me for my birthday this year, which comes in handy a lot for a girl like me that could get lost in a chair. I don't know how I would have made it around when we first arrived here in CO without my handy little navigation tool. I happen to love Brittish accents and on the Tom Tom GPS, you can download different voices. We downoaded John Cleese's voice, so whenever we have the GPS running, John says, "turn right, then take the motorway" or "go straight on!" I get such a kick out of it and well, John makes getting around a lot easier and a lot more fun.

So, back to Panera Bread. We asked John to help us find a restaurant in the morning and we ended up at Panera Bread and had a yummy breakfast and then we headed out to Estes Park. Jay has been before, but it was my first time there. It was incredible! It might get exhausting hearing me say that all the time but the scenery here is all so new to me and I just love it.

We started off at the histroric Stanley Hotel. I love historic hotels (the Hotel Del Coronado is probably my favorite) and they were celebrating 100 years. Now, I have never read The Shining, or watched The Shining, but I had heard that the movie was filmed at the Stanley. I learned while I was there that Stephen King was inspired to write the story and actually wrote the book while staying at the Stanley, but the film was shot on a movie set and Stephen King wasn't happy with the final product, so he did a remake, which was shot at the actual hotel. The mini series was shot there. That's a little bit of trivia for your next party :).

After we left the hotel, we drove into the park and went on a couple of hikes. You could easily spend the entire day there (if not several days) exploring all of the different hiking trails, lakes, was so quiet and peaceful. It was a great ending to a fabulous weekend. I think the best part was spending time together. We are just the best of friends and I am so, incredibly happy that God brought us together.

I took this shot on the way to the park

The historic Stanley Hotel

You can't read the sign, but it says Celebrating 100 Years

Check out the view from the pool! This is in front of the hotel.

I thought these were real, but they aren't. They are still pretty, but I wanted to smell them and well, they smell like dust...

Lounging in the lobby

The ballroom

I love this staircase

This dollhouse appeared in The Shining mini series

Bear Lake

Doesn't this look fake? It's just too pretty!


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