» April 2011 «


Grilled Vegetables


Grilling is one of the things I most look forward to about summer and this past weekend was perfect grilling weather.

Growing up, dad was always our designated grill master. I’d like to think I learned a few things from him throughout the years. However, I had never tried to grill the sweet potatoes before this past Saturday.

Prior to living in the south, I had never eaten a sweet potato. I suppose you could argue that I must have tried yams at Thanksgiving or something to that effect, but I am convinced it never happened.

In Tennessee, everyone eats sweet potatoes, also known as yams (although there is a difference between the two). Apparently, this root vegetable is some sort of nutrient super food, outranking all other vegetables in nutritional value in a 1992 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Anyways, all that to say, this weekend, we grilled our sweet potatoes and they were fantastic. We also grilled baby asparagus and zucchini (my all-time favorite grilled veggie).

Our simple and tasty grilling tips:

Using a brush, lightly coat veggies with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic and pepper.

Grill until tender.I know… it’s super complicated, but simple always turns out the best.

Another method for the zucchini is to coat with Italian dressing instead of olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic. Delicious!

Best of luck with your grilling days to come. May it bring you and yours closer together this summer.


I Flung the Tongue


Happy Easter! Seeing as we are so far away from home, Linda Doan, Aunt Willies Wildflowers, invited Jack and I to join in their Sunday afternoon celebrations.

The Doans have become quite famous in our little neck of the woods for a variety of reasons. Linda taught at Milligan as the health and fitness professor, Roy (her hubby), retired from teaching mathematics at a local school. They own a farm, raise and sell cattle, grow and sell cut flowers, and volunteer their time and home every week.

However, what the Doans are perhaps most famous for is their much anticipated cow-tongue flinging.

Yes, that’s right, today we flung the tongue.

Since Roy raises grass-fed beef, there are apparently a vast supply of cow tongues each year that the Doans are able to freeze and then thaw for various occasions.

The game concept is simple, throw or toss the tongue into a watering trough, moving farther back with each fling. If you miss, you’re out. Linda was today’s champ.

I was a complete failure at the game. I’d like to say it was simply because IT WAS SO GROSS, but, if I am being honest, I should really blame my more-than-pathetic flinging abilities. As you can see in the following picture, Roy was less than satisfied with my “touch as little as possible” flinging method.

I realize this post has almost nothing to do with crafts, but I thought you all would enjoy hearing about this unusual method of celebration.

And, if you are disappointed in the irrelevance of this post,I hope you are able to at least appreciate the beautiful East Tennessee scenery. Happy Easter!


Amaretto-Coconut Pound Cake


Took out my good ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook the other night and threw together a combination of recipes that were oh so tasty. One part pound cake. One part coconut glaze.

Pound Cake Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
5 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. coconut flakes (only if you are also making the coconut topping)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt cake pan with shortening. Beat sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs with electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Beat on high for 5 minutes.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a second bowl. Beat flour mixture into sugar mixture on low speed alternating with evaporated milk. Add coconut. Pour mixture into pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Or add a topping of choice, like this…

Amaretto Coconut Glaze Ingredients:

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. evaporated milk
1 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
3 egg yolks
1 1/3 c. coconut flakes

Mix all ingredients minus coconut in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 14 minutes, until consistency is semi-thick (like pureed soup). Add coconut flakes. Remove from heat and let cool about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally until consistency is spreadable.

Apply liberally to top of cake and enjoy!


Momma Tammy’s Spaghetti Sauce


My mom (momma Tammy) makes the best spaghetti sauce of all time. Even with the recipe, somehow mine is never quite as good as hers. Personally, I think the key to this yummy sauce is using ground Italian sausage instead of hamburger meat. The sausage is SO much more flavorful.

Despite my inability to recreate this sauce exactly, I thought I would share the recipe in the hopes of you making a sauce that is just as tasty. I have adjusted some of the ingredients to make the serving size for two.

Normally, momma Tammy dishes the sauce over spiral rotini noodles. If you are going to use noodles, you must use this kind. I don’t know why but it makes the dish so much better. You can also try my style, over garlic bread.

Ingredients:

1 package ground Italian sausage
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 green pepper
5-7 mushrooms sliced
1/2 red onion chopped
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 loaf french bread
Olive oil

Instructions:

Set oven to broil. Spread a thin amount of olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder and oregano over tops of slices. Place in oven about 5 minutes before sauce is completed.

Chop all ingredients. Place Italian sausage in frying pan with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until browned.

Add onions, peppers, and seasonings to meat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes after draining excess juice. Add tomato sauce (I like to buy one with some flavors added). Let simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

If the sauce looks watery, add 1/2 can of tomato paste (mine varies with the type of sauce I buy).

Once you have allowed time for the flavors to mix together, pull the bread out of the oven add sauce and enjoy!

A few tips for making Momma Tammy’s spaghetti sauce…

  1. The longer you let it sit on the stove, the better it tastes. One thing I always thought was excessive was the amount of oregano and garlic she added. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH! Every time she went to stir the sauce, she added more oregano and more garlic. Trust me, this is the key to a spectacularly flavorful sauce.
  2. Watch your bread. Our family is notorious for making a delicious meal and then forgetting our bread in the last 5 minutes. We almost always end up fanning the smoke alarms. A sure-fire way to ruin the finishing touches of a great meal.

Good luck and happy cooking!


It was a Wonderful Wednesday


Milligan College holds an annual day off of classes every spring called “Wonderful Wednesday.” In the past, this event has also come to be called, “Terrific Tuesday” or “Marvelous Monday”. A welcomed reprieve from studying for finals, Wonderful Wednesday is always a surprise for both students and faculty.

This year’s theme was “Come Sail Away…” The Campus Activities Board is in charge of planning activities such as water sports, food-eating contests, and various competitions around campus for students to participate in.

A few of this year’s highlights included a giant waterslide, go-kart races, bungee-jumping, putt-putt course, ultimate frisbee, dodgeball and volleyball competitions and much more.

Seeing as Wednesdays are my main Public Relations work day, I had the pleasure of taking pictures all afternoon! I met with various press members who stopped by campus to take a few pictures for the local newspapers and then, I too, walked around in the beautiful sunshine snapping a few photos while simultaneously burning my shoulders.

Certain family members,you know who you are, are always asking me for photos so, I thought I would share a few of my favorites from our wonderful day. Enjoy!


Sequin Shirt


“So, I saw these shoes…”

Those are 5 little words that my husband hopes to hear as little as possible yet rarely does. I am usually a very practical person, however, when I saw the shoes pictured below it was love at first sight.

Now comes the sad part, 4 months later, I still haven’t worn them. Why not? First of all, the college life is full of backpacks and trekking across campus through the rain, not exactly conducive to 3-inch heels. Second, I can’t find a fancy-schmancy ruffle shirt to wear with them. So, I attempted to make one.

The picture above is the finished product. I was originally not going to add the sequins at the bottom (pictured below) and just let it be ruffly but I preferred the extra sparkle.

I used this old tank from The Limited.

And cut 15 pieces of red fabric to fill the middle section of the tank.

Next, I folded each of the red pieces in half, lined them up side by side, and sewed across the top. Then I stitched the bottom edge. After the scraps were secured, I pinned the sequin strip over the stitching and sewed over the top.

Yay! A sparkly shirt to go with my fancy shoes.

Dressing up a shirt is simple. If you don’t feel comfortable messing with both fabric and sequins, try sewing just one strip of sequins across a neckline or add a few simple, straight, sequin stripes across an old T-shirt.

So, pull out your favorite pair of impractical shoes, throw on your newly bedazzled shirt, and have fun!


Potpourri Frames


While there are many aspects of our little apartment that we love, one downside to apartment-living is the “no painting” rule. A consequence of having no color on the walls, I am forced to craft more in order to brighten up the place. Oh shucks.

I was going through a junk box last year and came across a package of potpourri. At first I thought I would be typical and arrange the potpourri in a vase with a candle, always a nice touch. Instead, I came up with this potpourri art.

Our couch is dark green so the limey-green fabric in these frames contrasts well and helps the walls pop with color. Potpourri tends to be muted colors so I definitely suggest picking a bright and bold color for the backdrop.

Materials:

3-8×10 frames
6-5×6 pieces of fabric
1-package of potpourri
Tape or Hot glue

Instructions:

Overlap the frame backing with two pieces of fabric making the frayed edge visible (this adds dimension). Pull the fabric tight and tape or glue the fabric around the edge of the backing.

Next, scatter various pieces of potpourri over the fabric. I found that randomly dropping the pieces worked out much better than planned disarray.

Carefully place the glass and frame over the top of your potpourri. If you are very particular about your placing, you can always use hot glue to make sure the potpourri stays in place as you attach the frame.

Voila! You now have a unique piece of colorful art for your walls. There are lots of other materials you can use for a project like this so, as always, BE CREATIVE!


Early Morning Flowers


This morning I dragged my lazy bones out of bed at 6:30 and drove over to Grandview Christian Church, to help Linda set up for a workshop of sorts. Linda was guest speaking/teaching on the topic of flower ministries.

As the go-to-flower gal around Grandview, Linda is well known around church, which is how I came to work on the farm with her.

She faithfully donates her beautiful arrangements to Grandview services every week for all to enjoy.

Flowers are a wonderful way to get involved at your local church. Don’t grow cut flowers? That’s ok! You would be amazed at the variety of arrangements you can make with tree branches, grasses, and even weeds.

The pictures I’ve included are just a few from this morning’s workshop and should demonstrate how simple starting your own flower ministry could be. Enjoy!


Why I Craft


After an interview with the local newspaper, The Elizabethton Star, I was forced to answer questions I had previously never articulated. For instance… Why did I start this blog? What are my goals for the blog? What are my goals in life? How do I manage to fit crafting and cooking into my busy schedule? How do crafts tie into my nursing goals?

Since the interview, I have pondered these questions and realized perhaps you, my readers, would enjoy hearing the intent behind my creative endeavors.

Flowers:
My mother would say I was a born “artist.” Ever since I was a toddler, I have had a fascination with nature. Mom tells me we used to go on walks where toddler me would stop at each little plant or flower we passed and gently inspect every last detail of it. I was captivated by this simple beauty.

Photography:
Moving on to my junior high days, all I wanted was a “real” camera (a Pentax 35). I’m sure I drove my parents insane asking for one over and over but I was so enamored by life. There are so many beautiful facets of life that we never stop to appreciate or perhaps we simply never slow down enough to notice. A camera makes you slow down. A camera makes you stop and take notice and keep a record of the beauty that fills our days.

Painting:
Painting has been a more purposeful learning experience. I first began drawing with charcoals and pastel chalks and fell in love with the blending process. In high school I finally decided to take an art class in order to learn some of the finer points of perspective and that is where I fell in love with painting.

Sewing:
Sewing started much later in life. Jack’s mom, my sweet mother-in-law, is one of the craftiest people I know. The year we became engaged, she bought both me and my sister-in-law sewing machines. Up until then I had slowly been learning the craft of making baby blankets and had monopolized the use of her sewing machine. When I finally had my very own machine, there was no stopping me. I worked furiously to learn the basics of sewing and have since learned new techniques as I go. There is a lot to know about sewing, I fear I may never know it all, but I suppose that just keeps me plugging away at the task.

Cooking:
I have always loved cooking and anyone who knows me, knows I love to eat. In the past, this food obsession has usually played out with baking, mostly because of my insatiable sweet tooth. My mom was the baker in our family, my dad the cook. I have learned many valuable lessons from watching and helping them throughout the years. While I do love the actual eating part of cooking/baking, the beauty of food is an aspect we often overlook. Half the joy of baking for me is making the food look fantastic once it hits the plate. I love incorporating as many colors as possible into the food I make. Chef Curtis Stone says that color equals health (unless we are talking cookies and food coloring).

So how does all of this fit into my life now? Jack and I have now been married over three years and our lives are just as busy today as they were on that wonderful day three years ago back in Oregon. Actually, our lives are probably more chaotic now than ever. Between work, school, homework, broken down cars, friends, and bills, we are moving 24/7, not to mention trying to fit in time to spend with one another. So why add crafts and cooking to these crazy days? Simple. It is who I am.

It seems from those beginning walks with mom, I didn’t have a chance and I am grateful for it. Aside from Jack, crafting gets me through the day. I get excited every time I get to craft or cook. By no means am I an expert. I don’t claim to be the next Martha Stewart, I am far from her level of expertise. I learn new things every single time I pick up a needle, paintbrush, or mixing spoon. To me, creating new things, whether through food or projects, is relaxing. Creativity is a release from this crazy life we lead.

As an aspiring neonatal nurse, I know this will continue to be a large part of my life. The stresses of a busy life will dwindle but the role of a nurse holds many daily challenges in itself that will, at times, try my sanity. I know, as petty as it may sound, these creative endeavors will help get me through those rough days.

So, this is why I blog. This is why I paint and sew and cook. It is all for me, my sanity, my enjoyment. Is it selfish? No. It is realistic. I believe every person needs to find that one thing that keeps them engaged, gets them excited, pushes them forward, and challenges them daily. While I blog for me, I share my experiences in the hopes of inspiring others. It doesn’t have to inspire you to cook or sew, but I do hope it inspires you to be creative and find your own niche.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a bit about the passion behind this blog. Thank you for your continued support. I hope you stick around the site and come back to visit often.


Still-Life Chalk Art


Have you ever wandered down the art aisle of your favorite home decorating store and thought the images were overpriced and somewhat amateur? You think, a 6-year-old can paint a red circle in the center of a white canvas, right? I have spent many hours in these stores thinking I can paint this myself, and finally one day, I did.

Painting does not have to be a difficult or expensive endeavor. I firmly believe that almost anyone has the ability to make beautiful art for their home. The most difficult part of painting is learning to work with the paints. However, if the task of painting still seems daunting to you, I have another suggestion. Pastel Chalks.

Pastels are some of the first art forms I attempted when I was younger and I have recently come back around to using them.

For Christmas last year, I decided to craft some made-to-order art pieces for the women in our family. The picture above was made using a canvas, pastel chalks, and my fingers for blending.

This “painting” was created for Momma Mary (Jack’s mom). She has a shabby-chic look in her home and I thought the simplicity of the piece and the colors would match well.

I am fully convinced that anyone can make this still-life piece. The fruit shape can be accomplished free-hand style or by printing out a clip art fruit of choice. Simply print, trace, and fill in the shapes with your favorite color. Be sure to have a wet rag on hand to clean your fingers from time to time.

The pictures were very well received and are a great idea if you need an inexpensive yet thoughtful gift idea. Trust me, you can do this!


Edible Books Festival


In order to celebrate the nourishment that books bring to our lives, Milligan College library staff threw the college’s first ever Edible Books Festival at the P.H. Welshimer library. The event was a hit! It looks like next year the staff will throw a full-out competition due to all of the positive feedback.

Neither of my entries were as elaborate as I had hoped (this week was abnormally hectic). Jack asked me to make his entry since he works late Thursday evenings. I immediately said, “of course!” Unfortunately, I underestimated the precision required to make caramel apples. It will be a long time before I attempt those by myself again. Timing is key and between keeping caramel melted, crushing candy bars, and dipping apples, I did not have good timing. Oh well, I’ve learned my lesson.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-026-325x243.jpg ""Green Eggs" Cupcakes")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-026/) "Green Eggs" Cupcakes

Anyways, my “Green Eggs” entry wasn’t anything special so I am not even going to bother giving you the recipe. The icing was the same powdered sugar frosting from my previous Rummy Shortbread Cookies post, minus the rum.
Here are the other entries…

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-036-575x431.jpg ""Candide Apples"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-036/) Jack’s, oh so clever, “Candide” apples. He’s so witty.

And a few other entries that were both creative and clever…

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-030-575x431.jpg ""If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-030/) Kirstin Blackburn: "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-031-575x431.jpg ""The Illiad" (aka Book-la-vah)")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-031/) Meredith Sommers: "The Illiad" (aka Book-la-vah)
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-034-325x433.jpg ""The Invisible Man"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-034/) John Jackson: "The Invisible Man" (we gave him a hard time but it's pretty clever)
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-037-575x431.jpg ""The Very Hungry Caterpillar"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-037/) Mary and Grace Jackson: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-042-325x433.jpg ""The Giving Tree"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-042/) Melissa Nipper: "The Giving Tree"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-033-575x431.jpg ""The Lion and the Mouse"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-033/) June Leonard: "The Lion and the Mouse"

And there you have it, a few highlights from the first ever Milligan College Edible Book Festival. I am also including a little background information on the event for those of you who might be curious…

Judith A. Hoffberg originally came up with the International Edible Book Festival idea in 1999. Beatrice Coron created the Books2Eat website for participants worldwide to enjoy each others edible creations. The first Edible Books event took place in 2000 and has since taken off as an annual sensation.

Edible Book festivals take place on or near April 1 in honor of the French gastronome, Jeane-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s (1755-1826) birthday. He is famous for his book, “Physiologie du gout,” a witty mediation on food.