Sunday, April 28, 2013

Resolution: Paper-less - Before

This year I made a New Year's resolution to go "paper-less."  Not paperless, meaning getting rid of all the paper in my apartment (but if you want to do that, Small Notebook has some really good tips) - just less paper. I just wanted to get rid of the unnecessary paper I've been keeping, and to stop accumulating more paper by scanning and filing important documents on my computer.

This was the focus of my paper reduction project:

Most of that is from college (some are even from high school!).  I had so many binders that I kept half of them facing backward so I could fit them all on my shelf.  I also have a lot of photos, and some stationery that I haven't used in years.  

I didn't want to get rid of all my college papers - a lot of them are useful resources to me now.  But the way they were organized, they weren't accessible - I actually forgot a lot of what I had in there.  So I went through everything, scanned what I wanted to keep, and tossed the rest into the recycling bin.

Now I have a folder on my computer that is synced with Google Drive (I also have Dropbox but that's for my dance company's files), and one of the subfolders in it is for old school papers.

I also made a sub-folder for receipts - not everything, just stuff I can claim on my tax return.

So next I have to go through my photos. . . . 

How do you organize old papers?  Do you keep the originals, save digital copies, or do you toss old stuff?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Easy Delicious Shrimp!

My husband and I love shrimp.   We hardly ever eat it though, because I am bad at cooking it!  Whenever I try to fry or grill shrimp, I inevitably overcook it, resulting in tough, chewy shrimp.

One of my Facebook friends reposted this super easy recipe for shrimp, and guess what - it works!  Delicious, perfectly cooked shrimp.  As far as I'm concerned, I will never pan-fry shrimp again.

In case the link above doesn't work, this is all you have to do:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Melt a stick of butter and pour it in the pan.
4. Slice a lemon and layer layer it over the butter.
5. Arrange fresh raw shrimp over the lemon slices.
6. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the shrimp.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Voila!  Mine even looks like the "real" thing:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easter Deviled Eggs

Easter is a very important holiday for my family.  As Christians, we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and his victory - our victory - over death.  Easter also reminds me of college - my roommates and I started a tradition of having an Easter egg hunt and making fajitas for Easter dinner, and now that we're spread out all over the country, it's a way for me to remember them and all the fun we had.  Additionally, it was the day before Easter, four years ago, that Justin asked me to be his wife and start a new life together.  Finally, this year Easter fell very close to the one-year anniversary of my release from the hospital after near-fatal pulmonary embolisms.  So the holiday has lots of significance for us.

This year Justin and I had an Easter party and I saw the cutest recipe idea on Pinterest:

How sweet is that?!  I decided I had to try it.  Mine were not as awesome as the picture above (also I didn't have grass) but people still thought they were cute, and they ate them.

As you can probably see in the picture, my egg-peeling skills still need work.  I've heard that fresh eggs peel the best - I bought these on Tuesday and peeled them the following Sunday; I guess that's not fresh enough.  I also cooked them the Martha Stewart way (bring to boil, remove from heat and cover for 20 minutes, then ice bath) and peeled them under running water.  Does anybody have any additional tips for this?

After peeling the eggs, you cut off a small portion of the wide end to be a base, and then cut about 1/3 of the opposite end off to be the hat.  Here I ran into an unforeseen problem: often, the entire egg yolk was in the bottom 2/3 of the egg.  I am a deviled egg novice, so how are you supposed to scoop the yolk out without breaking the egg white? (Now I see why traditional deviled eggs are sliced length-wise).  If I stored the eggs upside-down - or rather, narrow side up - would the yolk float more toward the narrow end of the egg, and if so, would it stay there when boiled?

The next problem with this recipe is it is MESSY!  I didn't use quite 3 tablespoons of pickle juice (the minimum called for in the recipe), but I think that amount or perhaps 1/3 cup mayo is too much because the egg yolk mixture didn't hold its shape very well once I put the chicks' "hats" on, so their "faces" got very squished looking and the yolk mixture got all over the place while I was trying to fix them.

Also, the spinach "grass" is not just for decoration - if you don't have something to prop the eggs up, even though the bases are flat, they will tip over when you carry the tray.  Just a heads up.

Will I try this again?  Maybe, but I think I'll practice making regular deviled eggs first, and maybe get a melon-baller or something for that tricky yolk.  I think I'll modify the recipe a bit too to make it less squishy.

On the plus side, they tasted really good, and the people who don't have Pinterest were really impressed with them!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Wreath

I love my spring wreath!  It was easy to make and much cheaper than buying one.

I found lots of different grapevine wreaths on Pinterest, so I can't point to one in particular that was my inspiration.  These were my materials:
  • 2 branches of silk flowers from Dollar Tree
  • 1 bunch of fake grass from Dollar Tree
  • 1 grapevine wreath from Walmart - I can't actually remember how much it was, but I was surprised at how cheap it was because it's huge!  I am pretty sure it was under $5
  • 1 bird's nest from Dollar Tree
  • 1 bird accessory from Walmart (it was right next to the wreath, in the floral aisle)
  • There's a spool of ribbon, but I ended up not using it.  It's also from Dollar Tree.
The Dollar tree had several packages of the cute little bird nests, but every one of them had at least two of the eggs sunk in, probably during packaging and transport.  In a stroke of brilliance, I stuck a long needle through the end of each one and popped the plastic back out from the inside.  There was even a little hole in the seam of each egg already, so it wasn't at all hard to do.

Problem solved!

The flowers were easy to attach - I just stuck the stems into the wreath.  I didn't secure them with anything because they're wedged in pretty tight.

The flower branches will stick straight out unless you tie them somehow.  Floral tape would probably be best, and hot glue would probably work to, but I have a ton of thin wire that I use for just about every project so I can get rid of it.  So I wired the flowers to the wreath.

Once the flowers and grass are in the wreath you can still adjust them - the grass is kind of covering the flowers in the picture above so I pulled and twisted a bit to get everything where I wanted.  I also pulled a few of the grass pieces apart and stuck them farther up on the wreath.

 The bird's nest was tricky to attach without hot glue.  I wired it in very delicately.  Then when I hung it up on my door, I realized it looked weird to have the nest hanging vertically, so I re-positioned it.  If you use hot glue to make wreaths, make sure you know exactly where you want things to go before gluing.  Wire is a lot easier to redo than glue.

Finally, I attached the bird - it actually came with a little clip, but that wasn't very secure and it fell off, and then the clip broke off anyway and I had to tape it on.  Hot glue would probably be best for the bird.

I love the way my wreath turned out!