Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oven Baked Skirt Steak Fajitas

While looking for future Pinterest recipes, I came across one that would be perfect for tonight's dinner, especially since I was making fajitas anyway.  But NOW, I'm making them in the oven (;

The original recipe is for chicken.  But I'm trying to use skirt steak for the first time.  My local grocery story has apparent stopped carrying meat already sliced for stir fry, so I asked the butcher if skirt steak would do (since it already LOOKS like it's supposed to be thin sliced)-- and he said it is, just follow the lines, and don't trim the fat from the meat or it will end up really, really dry.  Will do, kind sir (:

So here's my modified recipe:

Ingredients

2 packages of skirt steak, sliced as described above.
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

salt
pepper
onion powder
garlic powder
parsley
paprika
(use amounts to your preferences)

1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 of a large orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 of a large yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced

flour tortillas
Toppings-- cheese, sour cream, etc.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400.  Grease a 13x9 baking dish (I used a a bit of vegetable oil and a paper towel).  Put the onion, tomatoes, chilies, and peppers in the baking dish.



In a medium/small bowl, mix the oil and seasonings then put the meat in and gently mix it around with your hands to thoroughly coat the meat.


Add the meat to the baking dish, pouring the remaining oil and spices over the top, and gently mix it all together by hand.  (Yeah, I got that fork in the first picture to stir everything, but quickly realized it would be easier and more effective to do it by hand.)


Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  Open the oven and stir it to make sure it's going to cook evenly, then bake it for another 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.


I may never make fajitas on the cook top again!

Serve in the tortillas with topping of choice and enjoy!

We're Having Pizza for Lunch...Sort of

It's Saturday, so that means it's time to pick a Pinterest and give it a go (;

I decided we'd be trying the Pizza Grilled Cheese recipe.

We had potato bread on hand.  Then I gathered up the shredded mozzarella, pepperoni and the jar of tomato sauce I had in my fridge from my past pinterest recipe.

Heat the pan to medium while you butter (or in my case, margarine) two slices of bread.  You'll actually be building these sandwiches in the pan (:  So place the bread butter side down and sprinkle some mozzarella then top with pepperoni and about 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce and more mozzarella.


Butter another slice of bread and place on top.  When it browns on the bottom -very carefully- turn them over. Brown, cut in half and serve.


I'm learning that when I'm going to introduce new recipes to my boys-- making it some form of pizza pretty much guarantees it's going to be a success. (;

Friday, February 3, 2012

Calling All Bibliophiles!!

I know I've mentioned it before, but I -adore- reading.  For 2012, I've signed up for Goodreads and joined the online book club From Left to Write.  I'm loving it (:

And in the last 12 hours, I've been made aware of two amazing opportunities that I want to share!

First,as the due date is all of three days away, I want to mention World Book Night.

You sign up, committing to pick up 20 copies (provided by World Book Night) of one of the books from the list (and they are some great ones!) and on/around April 23rd -- you share the joy of reading, by giving those copies to light or non-readers and saying, "This book is amazing!  You have to read it."

You can register to join them here.  Registration ends on Monday, February 6th at midnight EST, so you still have the weekend to consider.

And the second, is from We Give Books.

You read children's books online-- and when you finish the story and click share, they will give a copy of that book away to a child in need!  And starting on Valentine's Day, you have the opportunity to help earn books from your child's school.

You can register to join them here.

And happy reading! (:

We're ALL Beautiful to the Right Person

This morning, a new image on an old theme started floating around my facebook page:


Last month, it floated around in this incarnation:


I can't stand either one of them.  In fact, I'm sitting here fuming about it.  (And I'm on the larger side of this particular scale that's supposed to 'empower me'.)

But here's the thing:  -HEALTHY- is what matters.

Whether that feminine shape is small and thin or large and curvy-- if she's healthy, THAT is what matters.

This sort of thing turns us women against each other.

Yes, larger women should be allowed to feel proud and beautiful-- but NOT at the expense of other women who are not shaped the same.  And vice versa!

We're -all- beautiful to the right person.

And the first person on that list should be ourselves.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Saw It On Pinterest

The other day, I was enjoying browsing Pinterest when I came to my board page and suddenly felt like a crafting and recipe idea hoarder....

So I decided I wasn't just going to collect things that I turn around and don't actually do-- I'd start doing them. Figure I'll try one of my crafts per weekend.

But the other day, I saw this image on Pinterest:


And since Thursday is typically our pizza night, I decided to give it a go.  As soon as I saw this picture, I couldn't figure out why I hadn't thought of it before!

But I had mini crescent rolls.  Basically, you follow the exact directions listed on the package.  Except before rolling them up, I started by putting a single spoon of sauce on them, then 2 pieces of pepperoni and a small sprinkle of shredded mozzarella.  Then roll them up and bake as directed.  It took less than 15 minutes from pulling the package of crescent rolls out of the fridge to pulling them out of the oven to eat.

The end results were nice, if not particularly pretty:


But they were delicious!


We'll definitely be making these again in the future, and I can only hope that my other Pinterest adventures will turn out as well (:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First Live Model!!

I have to admit, this was the class I'd been the most nervous about-- drawing from a live model for the first time.

I don't care about the lack of clothing.  What I was worried about is that when you draw from a photograph, you can get as close to it as you want in order to see the detail-- but with a live model, you have three complications.  The first is that a picture is -already- a two-dimensional plane.  It's pretty easy to translate it into a different media.  You don't have that with a live model-- you have to translate a three-dimensional object onto a 2D space.  The second is that, while you can get closer to see greater detail-- you also end up changing your perspective.  The angle of light is different.  What you -see- is different:  more arm, less leg, etc.  And my third worry was that live models have to move...but they may not end up in the same pose they were in... or they may be in a different location so you're right back to the changing light and shadows and what you see.

Fortunately for us, we had a wonderful model!  She was exceptional at being still in her poses (although, I guess I should call them -our- poses, as we were given turns to ask her to model in different ways--sitting, standing, etc.) and when she did have to move, she was also exceptional about getting back into her previous pose, or very, VERY close to it.

We started out with a series of 6 quick drawings, each a different student selected pose, each with three minutes only to complete.

I won't bother sharing those (lol).  They were pretty bad (;

Then we did a reclining pose for 20 minutes.  My view was very foreshortened.  I actually handled that part pretty well, but my drawing of the shoulders was off.  Not bad for a first attempt.

Then we had the rest of the class to work on another pose.  We were allowed to move our seats and choose the angle we wanted to draw from.  I chose to sit on the floor because I loved the way the shadow played across her stomach.


I was starting to detail the drawing bench she was sitting on when it was time to stop, but I'm actually pretty pleased with my first real drawing of a live model.

They Made All the Decisions

Over the weekend, for life drawing, we were required to choose three print outs of black and white sketches done by masters.  One of them had to be done in prisma colors.

When we set them all up today, Mr. Everette told us about a friend of his who does stone sculptures of figures. How his friend commented that when he based his figures on an image, it always turned out so much better than when he tried to make a person from his imagination.  Then he asked Mr. Everette why he thought that was.  And Mr. Everette responded, "Because they made all the decisions.  The proportions.  The angles.  When you do your own, you have to make 'em-- and you don't make nearly as good ones."  (;

We had to do three.  Here are mine:



I think I did the worst on the middle one (I'm not as comfortable with colored pencils as I am with regular ones), the one on the left is alright.  And I think my best was the third.


As I post these, I realize that my blog is going to choose one of these images to post on the main page.  And if I share it, it'll do the same.  And it reminds me of another conversation we had today about how in America, nude drawing is considered lewdly.

Yes, it's sensual.  But that doesn't make it obscene.

And yes, it's a little strange for one person to stand nude before the eyes of 17.  But the fascinating thing about that is that the model becomes lines--and shapes--and shadows.  Like drawing a flower.  Or a rock.

And anyone who goes to a museum is going to see nudes.  Very likely, they'll even see the works my poor copies tried to emulate.

And perhaps, they might glimpse them with a bit of an artist's eye-- for the curves and the highlights and the lines.  And then it isn't even lewd.  It's art.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Hearing Heartbeats

I have to admit that The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker inspired more than a single post!

Part of the joy of being part of From Left to Write is getting to read other people's posts that were inspired by the book.

I just finished reading, "Tot"ful Tuesday.

It reminded me of when I was about 11.  At bed time, I would lie awake in the dark, listening to the quiet and focusing on my own pulse.  I could track it from my toes, over the soles of my feet and feel/hear it moving up my body, until finally, I focused on it as it moved into my ears.

It was never so loud as when I did this.

At that moment, I literally heard my own heartbeats and could hear nothing else beyond them.  It was as though I was in floating in a dark ocean with the waves of myself crashing gently over me.  It was as though I was a singular audience for my personal drummer.

It was one of those moments when I felt larger than the confines of my mortal body.

And many a night, perhaps even most, I fell asleep, lulled by that familiar and comforting rhythm.

That may be why I've been drawn to belly dancing and why I taught myself the doumbek.

It makes me wonder if, while lying still in the dark, I will still be able to hear my heartbeats...or if I have forgotten how to listen...


When Julia travels to Burma to search for her missing lawyer father, she discovers much more than she expected. Join From Left to Write on February 1 as we discuss The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


I highly recommend this amazing story. Visit the author's website and order a copy of your own!

"Love is the Only Force I truly Believe In"

When I was 12, my family was preparing to leave Germany.  We'd been there for 5 years-- the longest we lived anywhere.  In the nights before we prepared to head back to the states, I lay in my bed and cried.

Afraid that I wouldn't be able to make new friends.

Worried that I was going to miss the ones I'd made, and suspected that an ocean was wide enough and the military shifting all of us around often enough to lose them for good.

And though I wasn't quite interested in boys yet, (In fact, they were still pretty icky.) I was afraid that I was going to spend my life alone.

That night, I dreamed that "M" waited for me at the Washington Monument in DC, and knew in my heart that I would never be lonely.

I woke up at peace with our moving to Georgia.  At the time, I took it to mean  that I would easily make new friends in the states and wouldn't lose touch with all my old ones.

The night after our furniture shipped and the day before we were planned to board the plane--my mother was reassigned...to work at the Pentagon.

Believe it or not, I didn't think about my dream at all.

We lived off base for a two years, waiting for a space to open up.  I had plenty of friends that I'm thankful to say I'm still in touch with on facebook...even some of the ones from Germany (:

But the summer of my tenth grade year, we finally moved on to post.

I've previously shared how my husband and I met.  What I don't usually mention is that his name is Mark.

The very afternoon when I first saw him, I sat beside him on the ride home from school.  I didn't know his name yet, but I was determined to find out.  (Have I mentioned I can be kind of forward? ...Particularly in comparison to my extremely reserved husband.)  Other than saying, "Hi," we didn't really talk.  But the next day, he caught up to me in the stairwell between classes, handed me a note, and turned around and vanished.  I finally knew his name!

And from there, I can't tell you when we became best friends.  We just -were-.  It wasn't long after that, that my dream repeated-- and I realized that -M-ark had been waiting for me-- not an hour away from DC!  (I'm not used to my dreams being quite so literal, but it's been known to happen.)

Even at 15, I knew that I loved him-- but wasn't ready to admit it to anyone, including myself (Boys were still a little icky.  (I was a really late bloomer.)).  I'm extremely grateful that my husband is a patient man.  We -finally- started dating in 1998.  And knew that we'd be marrying the following year.

The next summer, while my mother and I were making my wedding dress, my mother asked me to share how Mark had proposed to me.

I stopped what I was doing, looked up, blinked blankly, looked at Mark, who looked at me, we both blinked blankly, then I turned to my mother and said, "....He...didn't..... (glance at Mark)...We just....sort of...assumed." (and Mark nodded.)

When we spoke to the pastor, he told us that we'd have to set aside 2-3 hours to go through a book of questions with him before we'd be allowed to set the date.  We came in for our meeting, he flipped to the first page and asked, "So how long have you known each other?"

I looked at Mark, he looked at me and I said to Mark, "7 years?...8?"  And Mark said to me, "About 8.  That's right."  And we looked at the pastor in unison.

He immediately closed the book and said, "You're obviously not rushing into anything and know each other. I don't have any other questions."  And our 2-3 hour meeting took less than 6 minutes.

This Halloween, we will celebrate our 13th anniversary.  

I have known my best friend longer than I haven't.  And am thankful and blessed to be sharing my life with him.  And from that love, we've made two of my other beloved favorite people.

Like Jan-Phillipp Sendker's Tin Win, I also believe that love is the only force worth believing in.


When Julia travels to Burma to search for her missing lawyer father, she discovers much more than she expected. Join From Left to Write on February 1 as we discuss The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

I highly recommend this amazing story. Visit the author's website and order a copy of your own!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Gift of Mirth


So I told my husband last weekend not to make any plans for this past Saturday-- we were going on a date.  And he was coming with me to a play.  His parents let the boys spend the night, and we got all dressed up to go see the Troy theatre production of the Importance of Being Earnest.

I remember when everyone would get dressed up to see a live performance.  That doesn't seem particularly prevalent anymore.  And I have to admit, that makes me a little sad.  And perhaps a touch old-fashioned.

It was performed in a cozy box theatre, with audience on three sides.  The set was absolutely stunning!  I loved the decorative features around the edge.  (Part of the reason we came to the performance is that I'm taking Technical Theatre this semester, and we're required to attend and critique two of the shows on their technical aspects.)  So I was watching the ceiling and looking for the lights-- not a gel in sight.  This meant lighting would not be used to set mood.  My small complaint would be that I wish they'd used a greater variety in the pre-show and intermission music-- it sounded like a snippet of The Entertainer set to continuous repeat.  The woman beside me commented that she didn't know if she'd be able to stand it much longer--and I have to admit, it was starting to make me anxious--fortunately for both of us, the show began. And the chairs were set too closely together.  When there were no more people coming, house removed a chair from our row so that we could space away a little better-- they must have noticed we were a long row sandwiched together like sardines (lol) (;  We'd all made the best of it, but I have to admit, it was nice not to be sitting in a strangers lap anymore (;

The costumes were spectacular.  The acting as well.  And I have to admit, we all laughed -a lot-.  Some of the humor was very subtle.  Some of it was not.  They had a man performing the role of Lady Bracknell-- and he was =suburb=!  One of the absolutely funniest parts was when s/he was telling the daughter to go downstairs and wait in the carriage--and on the third repeat-- said it a commanding man's voice.  It was the only time HE was not a she, and it was perfect.

During the intermissions, I sat and watched the scene changes.  I was pleasantly astonished to watch the inside window turn around and become the outside window and the removal of the rugs become the reveal of the painted courtyard.  During the garden scene, I adored that the actors ignored the audience--sort of (lol).  Miss Cecily (pretend) watered everyone's shoes and tended her flowers as though we were her hedge row.  There was a swing set from the ceiling and I briefly worried that the first row behind them would be in danger-- but the stage manager, director and actors did an excellent job on boundaries and they were never in harms way of being swung in to.  I do think that the audience directly across from us may have had the worst seats-- a lot of the action happened directly in front of them--but the actors were facing away from them, so a lot of physical humor wound up being lost on them.

I also had that 'ah-ha!' moment when I realized the director chose to use music as the mood setter, but only for the blossoming romance between Miss Prism and the Reverend.

When it came time for the third scene change, I was greatly impressed with the trim and doors for the inside setting, and how easily and quickly they turned the windows back around, cleverly placed curtains and transformed it into a window seat.  The audience behind me and I had a really good laugh when 'the thinker' was placed on the table beside us.  First, because Troy University has a replica of that statue out on the main drive in.  And second, because this one appeared to have his fist IN his mouth (:

I was a little surprised that the tea spilled during the spit take/spill was NOT cleaned up--and simply covered over with a rug--especially since it had sugar in it and it makes the rug susceptible to mold, mildew, and bugs.  But I LOVED the drawing room set up!  A lot of antique furniture, beautiful gingerbread trimming, and lovely fabrics everywhere.  I'll admit to being a little covetous of the coffee table covering.  But since the pillows in the window seat were made with the same fabric, I suspect that the costumer made them--so I'll just ask her where she got the fabric (;

All in all, it was a two hour gift of wonder, companionship, entertainment, and above all, laughter and mirth.

Well done, Troy University Department of Theatre.

And thank you!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pondering the Path from Hook

Last night, when we took the boys over to Mark's parent's house before getting ready to go out, we caught the beginning of Hook.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102057/
It's such a good movie, I woke up thinking about it this morning and watched it on Netflix.

That was over 2 hours ago.  But it's still on my mind.

My first thought was that this was near the beginning of Robin Williams getting back in touch with his playfulness.  Hook.  Jack.  Jumanji.  All one word titles starring the body of a man and the heart of a child.  A reminder to all of us who've grown to find the play and use our imagination.

But then I was wondering about the lost boys.

This came out over 20 years ago.  They're all MY age.  What are they doing now?  Or have they become lost within the millions of people who are no longer pursuing the dreams of their youth?  If you actually click the link under the image above, you'll see that most of them haven't gone on to acting.

But if you're like me, you'll -also- notice that Dustin Hoffman's son is in this movie.

And then I was thinking about Will Smith and his son in The Pursuit of Happyness.

And I was wondering-- is this a case of fathers sharing their dreams with their children-- or their children latching on to what they know their parents love as a way to connect with them?

And why can't it be both?

And then, as these types of musings often do, I turned back to my own life.

I like to consider myself fairly handy at crafts and arts.  I have such picture clear memories of my Mother.  My Grandmother.

I can't be more than 5 and Grandma Betty has pulled a large roll brown paper out and stretched it across the  kitchen floor.  I remember enjoying the rustle of the paper as it was unfurled.  The crisp, clean sound of the scissors cutting it.  The excitement of a huge, new, unmarked piece.  It took up almost the length of the kitchen.  And drawing farm animals.  I drew a pink pig with a curly tail.  Grandma Betty was working on a barn.  And we filled it out, laying on the floor, sometimes draped across that massive paper.  Sometimes I would have questions, "What does a horse look like?"  "How do I draw a chicken?"  And Grandma Betty would lean over and answer-- to guide my hand with her words.  Or sometimes, she would draw one while I watched, then I would draw in more.

Then I'm 7.  My mother sends me to school with notes in my lunch box that tell me that she loves me and are covered in smiley faces.  And she draws the most amazing cartoon horses in profile.  I ask her to show me how-- and she does.  She draws the lines so smoothly!  So confidently!  My mother knows how to draw, and I am so proud of her for this.  And then she teaches me about the eye.  This is where the horse I had tried to draw was so very off from hers.  The pinpoint I couldn't find, but that I knew was somehow wrong.  I had drawn my eye like a persons as seen from the front.  But eyes don't look like that seen from the side.  Not only did my mother show me how to draw it--but she also turned her head and had me look at her eye. In this moment, my mother taught me how to -see-.

I'm no older than 8.  We've come back to visit with my Grandparents.  Grandma Betty has a wonderful buffet in her dining room.  And contained within it are a vast assortment of wonderful coloring books and tins of crayons.  She only has so many coloring books.  And Erin and I want to color the same page.  And so we are introduced to both patience and tracing paper.  We were never allowed to color directly in these wonderful coloring books-- only to trace out the image that we wanted-- and to color our tracings.  More practice in seeing.  More confidence in drawing the lines.  And the opportunity for another lesson, when I want to make my person tan like me.  But it's the early 80s.  Crayons and Barbie Dolls don't come in that color yet.  And my Grandma Betty teaches me how to make my own skin tones by layering other colors.

In all this assortment, there are memories of my mother teaching me to cross stitch.  Learning to read music and play the Entertainer on the piano in Grandma Betty's basement.  Listening to tape recordings from previous visits where Grandma Betty recorded me telling stories.  Singing with my mother.  Learning how to crochet.  Sewing my first pillow.  Or even desperately trying to figure out fractions while my mother is cooking dinner-- and her dividing pies and fruit and vegetables to help me understand in a visual way.

But amongst all these fleeting memories from my past are interspersed memories of my own children.  I briefly wonder if they love art for the joy it brings them or because they know how much I enjoy it?  And just as quickly as the thought comes, it's surpassed by the thought that it may have started as the later, but has clearly become the former.

And that thought makes me happy.  And it makes me more than ready to pick my darling boys up from their sleep over from their Grandparents.

Where I know that they too are forming bonds and memories that someday they will also ponder.  Perhaps after watching a movie much like Hook.