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Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Upcoming Blog Series - Wedding Wednesday!

Alright ladies and gents...get excited and get ready because starting in September, I will be doing my very first series that I'm calling Wedding Wednesday!!!

When I began planning my wedding almost 4 years ago (we had a long engagement!) I had no idea what I was getting into. I loved weddings but I didn't know anything about them other than a) the bride is beautiful and b) a happy couple was getting married!



But then every time I went through another aspect of wedding planning I kept thinking to myself, "I should really write all this down. I can't be the only one who wishes I knew x and y." I even thought about blogging about it but I didn't know the first thing about blogs. At that point in time I thought blogging was something that hipsters did to whine about things. Little did I know how far that was from the truth and that a few year later I'd be just about obsessed with blogging!

So, as I approach the year and a half mark (and 8 years of being together) of my incredible wedding, I am finally going to write about it! As usual, I'll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly. My wedding day was so wonderful but there were definitely some things I would have liked to have changed and things that I wish had gone more according to plan. But truly, at the end of the day, I was married to my best friend and that was what mattered. I want to share everything I learned throughout the course of planning my own wedding (BEFORE Pinterest!) in order to help other brides. Wedding planning should be so enjoyable! Not so stressful that even the most mild-mannered bride turns into bridezilla!

Be sure to join me every Wednesday from now until...? for wedding tips, tricks, lists and how-to's! I hope you're looking forward to this as much as I am!

What are some wedding topics YOU would like to read about? 

And if you're a blogger, e-mail me if you're interested in doing a guest post with your best wedding advice/tips/stories/pictures! I'd love to have you!

Till next time,
Catherine

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Perk Up Wilted Broccoli

A while back we were walking through the local Farmer's Market as it was closing up (I had to work that morning so we almost missed all the vendors!) and one of the vendors was selling quarts of broccoli for only $1. There was nothing wrong with them, she was just ready to sell the last bit and head home. 

So, of course we bought some.

Silly me didn't plan very well and I let the broccoli sit in the fridge longer than I should have. It got a bit soft making me want to cook it even less.


But then after a quick Google search, I found out that (supposedly) all you have to do is put the stems in cold water for a few hours and voila! The crunch is back in the broccoli! 

Let's work together to make that the new phrase. Instead of something like, "There's a pep in his step!" it can be "The crunch is back in his broccoli!" 

No?

Ok.

But sure enough, it works! I placed mine in the fridge until I was ready to cook it and it worked like a charm! Try it next time you've got broccoli a day or two past its prime! 

Till next time,
Catherine

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lynchburg, Virginia Blogger Meet-Up!

If you're a blogger in the Lynchburg (Or even Roanoke and Charlottesville) area and want (or need for that matter) a night out, come out to Mangia and meet up with your fellow local bloggers!

Click HERE for more information from Virginia Bloggers.

If you're planning on going, leave me a comment with your name and blog name so I can connect the blogs/faces ahead of time. I hope we have a great turn out! I look forward to meeting you!!

Till next time,
Catherine


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Homemade Garden Salsa - Alternate Recipe

So you may remember my fresh garden salsa recipe from a couple of weeks ago. 


Just looking at these pictures makes me want some! 


Well, we've been making it as often as we can because it's SO delicious! While we were visiting family last weekend and after raiding my parent's and in-law's gardens, we made more! This time it was a little different though.


This time we didn't use tomato paste since they didn't have any. (Well, the first batch anyways, my mother-in-law ended up insisting on running to the store.) I was bummed at first that it might not taste right but one by one every gave it a try and before I knew it a whole bowl of it was gone! 


These pictures don't do it justice by any means but it was a beautiful and colorful "pico de gallo -esque" salsa and my in-laws devoured it! 


It just proves that going strictly by the recipe isn't always the best choice! Have fun, experiment! Try something new! With this salsa, just use my recipe as a starting point but turn it into your own! You can dice all of your ingredients rather than blend them, use more peppers, add hot sauce, etc. There are so many ways to make it your perfect salsa! 

Do you like spicy salsa or mild salsa? Restaurant style or grocery store brand? Chunky or smooth?

Till next time,
Catherine

Monday, August 19, 2013

Upcoming Blogger Conference - Femworking Conference in Northern Virginia

Have you been pining over Haven Conference photos and posts? Are you ready to take a big step in growing your blog? Want to meet bloggers near you?


Then mark your calendars for the Femworking Blogger & Small Business Conference! This conference will be held in Arlington, Virginia on October 26, 2013 so start planning now!

There will be so much to see, do, and people to meet,  network with, and learn from!

Click HERE to learn more. Sign up before September 1st to save $$$!

I'm hoping to go because this would be an INCREDIBLE opportunity for me and my little blog! I'll have to wait and see, though.

Anyone else planning on going? If I go, I'd love to meet up with you!

Till next time,
Catherine

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pinterest fail: "Quick" Refried Beans (from dry beans)

Ok I'm going to go ahead and start by saying...don't do this. Don't do what I did. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. 

I found this recipe for "quick" refried beans and thought I had happened upon some great secret. I read through a bunch of reviews, some good and some bad, and went along with it. I had a thought in the back of my mind that said, "I think this is too good to be true." I should have listened to that voice. 

Ingredients:

  • 1lb dry beans (I used pinto)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6+ cups water...add more as needed
  • 1 can of tomato paste (what?!)

Directions:


Grind your beans in a wheat grinder. 


Or blender. Or both. 


Mix all of your ingredients together in a large pot. 


Taste test for about an hour while trying to convince yourself it will get better.

"Hey...the ingredients list on store-bought refried beans includes tomato paste! I'll add a can of tomato paste." Whatever you do, don't do that.

Once you've given up on it getting any tastier, or less crunchy, go ahead and dump it all into the trash can. You gave it your best, champ. Good game.

Le sigh.

Live and learn. Or live safely and learn from bloggers who tried the too-good-to-be-true stuff first. 

Anyone have a GOOD recipe for refried beans from dried beans? I promise I'll take the time to soak them.

Till next time,
Catherine

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Ok so the envelope has been signed and sealed but it will be delivered soon!

What's in the envelope you ask?

The registration forms and payment for my very first 5k run ever! Not only that, but there's a form for my husband in there too!!

For those of you who know me, this is a big deal. I'm by NO means a runner. Yet, for some reason I want to be! I figured a 5k is a good, attainable goal to start with!

Last year, I wanted to run in this race because it benefits a local charity that I really believe in. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. My husband and I had tried starting the Couch to 5k program multiple times but had never gotten very far. So, the race came and went and we didn't go.

Recently I was talking with a good friend of mine about running a 5k. This friend has lost a LOT of weight and completely changed her life around in the past couple of years. She's a beautiful person who has inspired me to work harder to achieve my goals. She's stuck it out through all of the hard work, sweat and tears that come along for the ride when trying to lose weight and get healthy. She's truly an inspiration and I'm so proud of how far she's come!


So we were chatting about those fun color runs that come to town but there didn't seem to be enough time to fully train for one so she suggested a local run called The Hanover Safe Place Pumpkin Run at The Ashland Berry Farm in Beaverdam, Virginia. Beaverdam is the country North of Richmond. And yes it's as country as it sounds. The Hanover Safe Place is a wonderful organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence. I'm more than happy to donate to a worthy cause.

The Pumpkin Run will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2013. I figured if I started a 5k program now and stuck with it, I may be able to run the entire thing. Including this current week (2nd full week in August) it gives me 8 weeks. The iPhone 5k app I have is a 9 week program and the one Brian has is a 7 week program. I suppose we'll get there between the two! Plus, running it with a friend will make it more enjoyable! I'm not sure if Brian will run this one with me or not, though. 

(via)

So then at work I saw a flier for Rachael's Paws and Purrs 5k & 10k race! I knew immediately I had to do this one too especially since I missed out last year. 

The catch?

It's on Saturday, September 14, 2013. That's exactly one month from today. Only 4 weeks. Yikes!! What am I thinking???

(via)

I'm thinking I need to stop making excuses and sign up so that I can't quit training and sit on the couch instead. 

(via)

After our run tonight I filled out the registration forms, wrote the check and sealed the envelope. No going back. Even if I don't run the entire thing, I'm going to at least do my best!

(via)

Rachael's Paws and Purrs 5k & 10k will benefit The Rachael Horton Compassionate Care Fund. RHCCF was started by Gentle Care Animal Hospital in Forest, Virginia after one of their dearly loved employees and her husband died in a tragic house fire. Rachael Horton would use her own hard earned money to help clients that couldn't afford life-saving treatments for their pets. RHCCF was founded to continue her work.

As you can imagine, I'm more than happy to donate to a cause such as this one as well.

I'm still a bit nervous about running a 5k in 4 weeks, though.

Anyone in or near Lynchburg want to help calm my nerves and run with me? Sign up HERE!

What was your first 5k race? Any advice for a newbie? If you haven't run a 5k, would you ever want to try it?

Till next time,
Catherine

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Virginia Bloggers Club

I'm very proud to announce that Happily Ever Crafter is now officially a member of The Virginia Bloggers Club! They accepted me very recently and published my guest post introducing myself onto their blog. Click HERE to check it out!




I'm already meeting and connecting with other Virginia bloggers and I'm excited about where this networking group will take me! Thank you to The Virginia Bloggers Club for having me!

Till next time,
Catherine

Friday, August 9, 2013

Seeds of the Month Club {Giveaway!} [Closed]


For my second giveaway, I am thrilled to announce the prize is a year-long membership to the Seeds of the Month Club!!!

I was recently introduced to this company by another blog who had nothing but good things to say about it. That blog was doing a giveaway and I entered. Unfortunately I didn't win but now I keep up with Mike the Gardener through Facebook and the blog they have.

Seeds of the Month Club is a simple and fantastic program. For less than $38 you get a one year subscription. The first shipment includes 8 different packs of seeds! For the rest of the year you receive 4 packs of seeds each month. That's a lot of seeds for only $3.11 per month! Can't beat that price anywhere!

Here are the other great features of the membership:


I'm not sure what I love more...the fact that it's priced so well, the free shipping, the fact that they're guaranteed non-GMO or that it's all made right here in the good ol' USA! 


They send out a large variety of seeds, you'll always be pleasantly surprised when you open the mail box!


This is a picture from their Facebook page that a very satisfied customer sent in. Here's what Juliet Swedlund said, "Bought my Dad a Seed of the Month subscription for his birthday in March. Everything he has received so far has produced! Thank you!"


I love everything about this company. They're doing business the right way. They're also especially good about keeping up with their customers through social media. They have multiple Facebook pages too so be sure to check them out (and get more entries in the process!).

If you don't win, be sure to buy a membership so you can get a head start on your gardening for next spring! And remember, a Seeds of the Month membership is also a great gift idea!

DETAILS!
  • Prize: A one year subscription to the Seeds of the Month Club
  • To enter: Follow the prompts on my Rafflecopter widget below! The more you do the more entries you get!
  • Starts: Friday, August 9th, 2013
  • Ends: Thursday, August 23rd, 2013 at midnight
  • Anyone can enter!
  • The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Friday, August 16th, 2013! I will e-mail the winner to confirm. If I don't get a confirmation within 48 hours I will have to choose another winner, so  be sure to check back here and check your e-mail!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

Till next time,
Catherine

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or given a free membership for this giveaway. The company has chosen to provide this prize directly to the winner. All thoughts, opinions and reviews are my own.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grow: Tomato Plant Suckers - What they are and how to get rid of them

Have you ever heard that you should pinch the suckers off of your tomato plants?

You want me to do what to the what on my tomato plants?

I know, I know, I said the same thing!

Well after some research I found out that suckers are extra branches that grow between the stem and the branch of tomato plants. They rarely produce any fruit and just "suck" the nutrients up and not use it towards producing. 

Now my dad (who I view as a master gardner) said that he never pinches suckers off. Partly because he doesn't feel like wasting time but also because he said he never sees much of a difference. I, on the other hand, need all the help in the garden as I can so off with their heads! I mean, suckers. 


The stem of the plant is the tall, vertical part and the branch is the horizontal part. The sucker you can see right there in between the two. I try to scan for them any time I'm in my "garden" and catch them when they're very little but this one I let grow for a good photo explination.


To remove them, just grasp it as close to the stem/branch corner as you can, pinch it between your fingers or nails and pull.


Try to break it all at once and not let it tear. But really, that's all you have to do and then you'll have that yummy-nostalgic-but-kinda-gross tomato plant smell on your hands. You'll thank me later.


I was simply so excited when I was pulling those suckers because I discovered a couple of teeny tiny roma tomatoes starting! 


Here they are just a few weeks later. It felt like months. The anticipation of harvesting food from my little garden was ridiculous! I have since gotten two more romas but not much else. I have four roma plants and about five other tomato plants, some of which are grape and some are Big Boy but until they produce, I really don't remember which was which! Garden surprise!

This is my first year gardening on my own so I've definitely got a lot to learn! My poor little roma plants almost didn't make it because here in Drenchburg, sorry, I mean Lynchburg, it rained most of the summer! That was my first tomato plant lesson. Here are some of the others. 
  1. Tomato plants don't like a lot of water.
  2. Drainage is key.
  3. They love a lot of sunlight.
  4. Pinch those suckers.
  5. One plant per pot.
  6. Make sure those pots are big!
  7. They take a lot of nutrients so be sure to have good soil, compost or fertilizer!

What are some of your tomato growing tricks? What's your favorite tomato to grow and why?

Till next time,

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cook: Garden Fresh Salsa

This past weekend my husband was super excited to harvest a few jalapeños form his plants. Yes, his plants. He said he wants the 4 jalapeño plants to be his little project so, I don't touch 'em. Plus, I can't handle any hot stuff so it works out. 

So he managed to harvest three jalapeños that were just right (or so he says). I asked him what we were going to do with them. Brian said he was going to save the seeds from one for next year and eat maybe one slice. Well, what do we do with the rest? 


Make salsa!

I did a quick Google search to find an easy recipe that we had the ingredients for and came up with this one here. I definitely adapted the recipe to our taste and what we had in the kitchen but that's where I got my starting point. 

Disclaimer: This salsa is NOT spicy or chunky! I don't like spicy or chunky salsa. Fortunately for those of you who do, the method is only slightly different! Simply dice up your ingredients and stir them together rather than blend. And for spice, you can leave the jalapeño seeds or add in your favorite hot sauce! Easy peasy! 

Oh and this makes a lot of salsa! I got two full 16oz jars and two full 8oz jars. I used old salsa jars and jelly jars. I definitely want to double the recipe and then can it with my mom soon! Fresh salsa all year long would be fantastic!

Ingredients: 
  • 2-3 large tomatoes
  • 16oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of water
  • 1 can of petite cut tomatoes (or not, I had it so I tossed it in)
  • 1-2 jalapeños (I only used one)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder (or 1 onion)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley (fresh is great too!)
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (or lime. Fresh is best!)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
No tomato paste? No problem! Check out this version for an alternate way of preparing this!

Directions:



Cut up your produce. Remember to wear gloves and don't touch your face when you cut up the jalapeño! Remove the seeds if you don't like spicy salsa or keep them in if you're feeling brave!


Toss all your ingredients into the blender.


It's like a fiesta going on in there!


Blend on puree but only for a few seconds. It doesn't need much. 


Inhale and try not to drool into the salsa.

At this point do, break out the tortilla chips and do a taste test! Add more tomato chunks, hot sauce, another splash of lemon juice or whatever you want! That's exactly what Brian and I did. At first I tried to follow the original recipe just with extra tomato (in various forms) so it came out very tomato-y. So I added a little of this, a little of that and suddenly, it was just right! Since there is so much tomato in this salsa, it is very tomato-y but the best part is, you can customize this to your taste in no time! 


I put three of these right into the freezer so they would hopefully last us a little longer. The 4th one is now half empty. That's how good this stuff turned out! 


Oh and it looks so pretty too! I may need to just make this in large batches and not go back to store bought! Although, I do love me some Newman's Own Mild Salsa!


The tomatoes we used were from a friend's garden so we were so excited to use them in a delicious recipe! I think it would amazing for all of the ingredients to be straight from the garden! Mmm!



My plan for next year either at our house or my parent's house is to plant a Salsa Garden. It's one of those new things sweeping the internet. I think it would be really cool to do a themed garden like that, though. Or at least one section of the garden. Mine would have big tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, garlic, cilantro, and parsley planted in it.


If that chip looks funny you're right. It's actually a failed tortilla. More on that later.

What's your favorite brand of salsa? Do you make your own? What would you plant in your salsa garden?

Till next time,
Catherine

I linked up this post with Nourishing Treasures' Make Your Own Monday!

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