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Phoning it in ’til Friday – Miss you! XOXO

I’m leavin’ on a jet-plane, but I do know when I’ll be back again. The end of the week. I’m off on a business-related trip, and with preparations in progress to move our family of five, I just wasn’t able to pre-write any posts. Yes, that count does include our cat.

In the meantime, here are some entertainment suggestions…

  • The most amusing blog to read in the world is obviously The Bloggess, in particularly the original Beyonce post. If you haven’t checked this out, say goodbye to the rest of your afternoon as you will immediately fall in love with her.
  • Visit me over on Pinterest! Who knows, I may be spending some of my return-flight-time pinning a few more things.
  • My favorite Tweet-Of-The-Week (that’s a new thing I just created now) was Ree Drummond having a pedicure done with a Dremmel tool. She is the most real person I’ve never actually met.
  • Check out my blogs to love list along the right-hand side of this page!
  • Listen to Pandora’s film score station while you clean your house or complete otherwise routine tasks. It adds a sense of epic importance and dramatic flair to anything. Sometimes it does make things creepy, though, so be warned.
  • Check out this picture of our adorable son Lo, courtesy of the husband. Does he not look like a CeeLo Green protege? Has to be the name:

Wish me luck on my travels, and I’ll catch you all on the flip side!


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Art For The Kids: Hang It Up

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” It’s always nice to start off a Japanese proverb, right?

Well, judging by my Pinterest account, I may be a little heavy on the vision and have room for some more action. Remember when I put together some little moodboards on kid’s rooms inspiration, including some ideas for art you can make, and then some ideas for art you can buy with cold hard cash. There are also some really fresh, creative ideas for how you can display that art (or other pretty things you have lying around the house). Let’s check it out.

Moodboard, Art For The Kids: Hang It Up | Painting Sunny


Five ideas for cool, creative ways to dress up your kid’s room should cover almost any nursery or playroom’s walls. Unless you have like… a lot of kids. Then you may have to do a little more research. In any case, I love these ideas and am certain at least three of them will be make appearances in my own little tyke’s spaces.

  1. Better Homes and Gardens, framed book jackets: How adorable is this? Most importantly, it demonstrates a family’s love of books. If you don’t have bright colored book jackets lying around, I bet you can make a color copy of books you do have, or find some printables online. Just hit up your kid’s bookshelf for inspiration!
  2. jan eleni interiors, The Jan Eleni Collage: Okay, budget-wise this might be the most impractical idea (ordering one from Jan Eleni costs $950 for the 40 image version – the standard sizes also include 70 or 112 images). I think my piggy bank won’t quite allow for this, but I do love the cool, modern feeling and how it takes so many different works of art by your child and puts them together in harmony. If I ever win the lotto…
  3. Infarrantly Creative, Game Board Storage Art: This isn’t just a cute idea for art, it’s a sensible storage solution. So perfect for a game, media, or play room. Since most of the games haven’t changed a lot visually, it also fits great in a vintage-vibed nursery.
  4. Young House Love, postcard shelves: Yes, YHL does everything well. How sweet are these shelves, and the little images on them? There are so many ways to change this up, to fit what you have on hand and what is sentimental for your own little family. Building my own shelves used to scare me, but this would be so worth it.
  5. Shanty 2 Chic, color frame with clip: Don’t want to commit to just one piece of art? Not a problem! Change out your photos, kids artwork, even cool clippings from magazines. The kids themselves could get involved updating these with their newest creations.

Any other out-of-the-box art displays? What would you put up on a postcard shelf? Have $1k just lying around, and didn’t know what to do with it until now?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish

Anyone else have issues spelling zucchini? I seriously never get it right. That one little n seems so lonely, I just want to add another one… Anyway, this dish was so easy, so affordable, and so healthy – I was pretty skeptical at how it would taste. It was, in fact, delicious. The black beans are a boost are protein in the otherwise vegetarian dish.

Both the hubs and I went back for more. I won’t say it was a hit with the kids, because to be honest they just will not get on board with anything they can identify zucchini in. Kids are weird.

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

I pinned this recipe from ReadySetEat ages ago, and immediately forgot about it. So glad to have rediscovered it this weekend!

I changed it up a little bit to suite our taste and pantry, so the recipe shown right here is not quite the same as the original one. I normally try to give the original recipe a shot first, but I try to switch out white rice for brown rice and I don’t eat bell peppers (slight allergic reaction to the green ones which makes me disdainful of all the bell pepper varieties.)

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

Let’s raid our pantries! Concise recipe at the bottom of post.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbl canola oil
  • 3 medium zucchini’s, quartered lengthwise and then chopped.
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar jack, just ‘cuz)

Note: The taste is really, surprisingly good… but I like things kicked up a notch, so next time I will add more seasoning. BTW, I really do think Hunt’s fire-roasted tomatoes have the best flavor, and the least weird-tomato-parts in the can.

The reviews at the original link had a bunch of suggestions for things to add or alter, and they sound delicious! This is a great recipe to experiment with.

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

Heat your oil in a large skillet over medium heat, until it is shimmery but not smoky.

Add your zucchini and stir to coat it in oil. Cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

When the zucchini is mostly done but not-quite-cooked-through, add the black beans, tomatoes (without draining), and the water. Stir well.

Increase the heat to high, and allow it to come to a boil.

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

When it has come to a boil, add the rice and stir well.

Cover the pan, and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for 7-9 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Sprinkle with cheese! Isn’t that always the best part?

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish | Painting Sunny

Anyone thinking of a good acronym for this dish? ZBBR does have a fun ring to it, I think. Anyone else avoiding those weird tomato parts in cans? Nothing is worse, I swear. Ideas for veggies to toss into this dish?

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet Dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbl canola oil
  • 3 medium zucchini’s, quartered lengthwise and then chopped.
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar jack, just ‘cuz)

Heat your oil in a large skillet over medium heat, until it is shimmery but not smoky. Add your zucchini and stir to coat it in oil. Cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the zucchini is mostly done but not-quite-cooked-through, add the black beans, tomatoes (without draining), and the water. Stir well. Increase the heat to high, and allow it to come to a boil. When it has come to a boil, add the rice and stir well. Cover the pan, and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for 7-9 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with cheese!


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On The Right Track: DIY Train Board (Video Tutorial)

Beyond excited = me sharing this, finally! Our son Lo’s birthday was this past December, and I spent the week beforehand in a mad rush to finish this DIY train board in time for his party. Well, it was sort of finished… all but the sealer that would make it possible for him to play with it without destroying the paint in 2.1 seconds. Living in Indiana, naturally the weather didn’t warm up enough to seal the table with any sort of ventilation until… 4 months later. This was not instant gratification.

Lo really liked his little round-a-bout Thomas train set (seen below in top-right corner of the pic) so we knew we wanted to expand it at some point. We hit up Amazon for a Melissa & Doug track set that came complete with another train, and is compatible with both Thomas and Brio train sets. M&D always saves the day…

Check out this beauty!

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

The kids have so much stuff, we like to brainstorm gift ideas that capitalize on something they already have. Instead of more toys, they end up with better versions of what they had. Well, last Fall Young House Love posted their own DIY train board and the little idea particles in my brain sudden came together. The idea of making the table flat, so it can more easily slide out of the way? Genius.

YHL was the most spot-on tutorial and inspiration for me, but some other Pinterest-worthy ones are at Bits and Pieces of the Better Life and little house blog.

Want to see it in action? It is holding up great, and the kids play with it almost every day… and I put that fine art degree I’m still paying off to good use. Gotta get my money’s worth.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

Here is the “before” picture. I assume it was part of a kitchen counter, maybe the top to a kitchen island? I discovered it in the old-kitchen-construction area at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for something like $12 as I recall. I love that place so much! I gave it a quick rough-up with very grainy sand-paper.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

This blog has helped me to test my comfort-level a bit, but I am still camera-shy. Irony being ever-present in my life, my husband really enjoys photography and actually does videography work occasionally. It comes in very handy sometimes, but means I’m frequently ducking behind a potted plant.

Well, he must have psychically realized I would soon have a blog, and as I worked on this project he filmed it for me. Let’s all ignore the fact that I am basically in PJs and might not be wearing any makeup. Yikes.

You can briefly see where I sketched it out on paper beforehand, and how I filled in the areas.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

As you can see from the video, I sketched an outline on the board of what landscaping I wanted. I used acrylic paints, brushes, etc. I already had on hand. If you’re doing this, you can find really affordable options at most craft stores, and for this project could get away with only a few colors. I was going for a slight hint at realism, so did a bit more blending of colors.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

To finish off the edges of the table, I used painters table pressed down very tightly over the edges of my painted area, using plastic trash bags to cover the main surface (as seen above). I then used the color Seaweed by Krylon Indoor/Outdoor paint in gloss finish. It is a very natural looking color, so fit the bill.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

See the damaged area in the middle of the table, pictured above? Well, that’s what I get for letting him play with it before it was sealed. There were quite a few scratches in the paint, so I busted out my blue and green paints and did a quick touch-up and let it dry for about 20 minutes.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

I used Old Masters Interior Water-Based Poly-Urethane in Semi-Gloss for the sealer, which was highly recommended by my paint guy (at our local Bloomington Paint & Wallpaper store). He said it was safe for something a child would frequently touch, and pretty much fume-free when applying. I was really impressed with how true that last part was. Painted it right in the kitchen (not while cooking) and it was fine! It only took maybe 1/10 of the quart so I have a lot left for future projects. I applied it with a foam mini-roller.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

The directions recommend letting it dry two hours after each coat, applying three coats, and lightly sanding it with low-grit sand-paper between coats. I was nervous when sanding, but it turned out just fine.

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

Here she is without the train parts, all finished!

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny

My favorite part is the ocean, for sure. The little white flecks along the break-line just bring the whole thing together. I would totally take a train ride along this coast!

DIY Train Table | Painting Sunny … and the classic helicopter view. The track just barely fits on the board, but stays put pretty well considering we chose not to permanently attach it to the board. It can be put in several configurations, so we wanted to keep our options open.

Any other must-see train tables and boards out there? Preferences on track brands? This seems to be a BIG deal on the internet, with Brio and Thomas having die-hard fans. The Melissa and Doug version being reversible and the much more reasonable price bought my loyalty! I’m thinking a play-kitchen will be next on the kids big-gift list…


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Life and Bloomington and Mahi Mahi

Last Saturday, Haven was in her children’s Theatre & Drama class here at IU, while Mr. Sunny had to go into work. This left the little man and myself free to have fun and explore the town for more than an hour together – a rare occasion!

Obviously, we spent our first 40 minutes perusing Target. That is classic Bloomington on a Saturday morning. Eventually, we made our way back to the IU campus and snapped some quick (iPhone) pictures of Lo in some of the campus hot-spots. That night, we broiled Mahi Mahi. If you are just here for the Mahi, scroll down!

We are going to miss you, B-Town!

Bloomington Love | Painting Sunny

Hav’s class was in the Theatre department attached to the Neal Marshall Black Cultural Center and the IU Theatre reception hall. So, we strolled around there for a bit. They have such wide-open spaces and great views!

Bloomington Love | Painting Sunny

Lo especially admired the artwork. Let’s pretend he isn’t touching it. Please don’t call security.

Bloomington Love | Painting Sunny

If you’re from IU, you know this sculpture of Hoagy Carmichael near the famous Showalter Fountain. Lo was seriously freaked out by him at first, so I had to walk around knocking on the guy’s head to show he was hollow and not a real person. The statue’s head… not our three-year-olds.

Bloomington Love | Painting Sunny

Speaking of the fountain, we explored it a bit too but it was the last cold-ish weekend before they turned on the water – so it’s not so very impressive looking.

Broiled Paprika Mahi Mahi | Painting Sunny

Alright, alright…  on to the Mahi Mahi. Didn’t it turn out pretty?Broiled Paprika Mahi Mahi | Painting SunnyThis was our first time making this fish, but it was on a great sale at our local Kroger in the fish department. The fish-man highly recommended it, so we thought we would give it a try. We started by making sure it was fully thawed, lightly coating both sides with extra-virgin olive oil, and placing it on a lined baking sheet.Broiled Paprika Mahi Mahi | Painting Sunny

This is not a full recipe post because I didn’t really use a recipe. I was just too tired and hungry angry hangry to follow one. After a brief Google, it did seem as though many of the recipes called for broiling the fish with lemon juice and paprika. Which I conveniently had on hand.

A little lemon juice and paprika were rubbed on top and voila! Amazing.

Side note: the sweet potatoes were cooked in the crock-pot, with no liquid added. I love to do it that way – amazing and convenient. Amazivenient. And, Coming Monday there will be a BIG post where I will show off a project long in the making. Exciting!

Anyone else trying out a new fish? About to say goodbye to a town they love and start a new adventure? Leave their baked potatoes in a crock-pot all day?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Ice Ice Coffee

Okay, that pun just had to be done.

I really, really love my coffee. Actually, I didn’t even drink coffee until I was 27 or so… I made it through two college degrees and a one baby before I started. By the time our son turned 4 months old, I was hooked on a pretty large coffee every morning. I feel like Nancy Botwin on Weeds… well, minus a few character details.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

While I love coffee in general (and yes… Starbucks in particular) my favorite is iced coffee. When I am if I were Oprah, it would be one of my favorite things. Buying Starbucks every morning is not a fiscally responsible decision, however. So last year I went on the hunt for an iced coffee recipe, and via my Pinterest, found this iced coffee recipe  by Craving Comfort. It is easy, affordable, and we lived happily ever after.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

I like my coffee strong, particularly when iced, so when the ice melts it stays strong. I do not, however, like it sweet. Which is weird, because I am fueled almost entirely by refined sugar. For some reason sweet beverages are not my thing – I like unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water instead of soda, and dry wines. I’m a weirdo. So, I do not use the Sweet Cream portion of Craving Comfort’ recipe, even though I am sure it is delicious.

My version of events is here, and is tweaked a bit from the original pinned recipe just to accommodate what I have on hand and works best for me. For some reason, I just never have cheesecloth around.

The Supplies:

  • 12 oz. bag of coffee, choosing one that is good cold-brewed (see note below)
  • A very large bowl
  • 6 quarts of water
  • Something to strain with (cheesecloth or coffee filters in a strainer, or a permanent coffee filter)
  • A ladle
  • Pitchers or jugs
  • A cloth large enough to cover the bowl

Note on coffee choices: Over time, I have tried out various coffees, and I do believe that some are better when cold-brewed than others. There are coffees I love brewed hot that just don’t translate well in the world of ice. My favorites are any of the blonde roast Starbucks coffees or Dunkin’ Donuts original roast. After that, Starbucks Breakfast Blend. I love flavored coffees, but they turn out weird iced. That’s just what I’ve found that works best – please experiment and let me know how it goes!

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

The beginning is the easiest part. You take your bowl and fill it full of approximately 6 quarts of cold water. Make sure you still have a little room in the bowl!

Empty the entire 12oz bag of coffee into the bowl. Yes, I know this is scary. Please just trust me… it will all work out fine.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

I like to stir the coffee into the water until moistened. This might not be necessary – I once got distracted and walked away from it, and when I came back 20 minutes later it had all sunk to the bottom perfectly. I may just be a control freak.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

When your coffee is all saturated with water, cover it with a cloth and leave it overnight or for 8-12 hours. I tuck the ends of the cloth under the bowl just a bit, so it doesn’t sink into the coffee.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

After the appropriate amount of time has passed, grab your jugs! Wait, that sounded wrong. Totally wrong.

Get your pitchers out, and your straining device and ladle.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

I use the gold permanent coffee filter that came with my coffee pot. My personal method is to wrap the cloth around the bottom of a pitcher to catch drips, use one hand to hold the filter over the opening of the pitcher, and the other hand to dip the ladle into the bowl. See above photograph! My best tips are:

  • Keep the pitcher close to the bowl as you ladle the coffee.
  • Go slowly.
  • Try not to get a lot of coffee grounds in the filter.
  • When you run out of liquid at the top to ladle up, just grab the bowl and very carefully pour the last of the liquid out of the bowl into your strainer. Seriously, be careful though since if you tilt the bowl too far you have a cold mess of coffee grounds.

If you find you’re making a mess, keep in mind it just takes a bit of practice. Actually, after the first time I was able to do it without dripping any coffee at all, really. You’ll get a knack for it.

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

This is how much I get out of one batch. Not bad, huh? It lasts for daaaaays…. as in, at least a week and a couple days… maybe 10? For me, the cost is $6 for the entire batch, since I usually get the coffee on a good sale and stock up then. A vente iced coffee with non-fat milk from Starbucks is something like $3.49, so this saves me approx. $28.90 for that many large coffees. Not bad!

Ice Ice Coffee | Painting Sunny

If you wondered what to put the iced coffee actually in, I have a lovely Tervis mug my mother gifted to me, which I use every single day. I love it. And My Mom. I don’t have the actual Tervis straws but need to grab one. I think one of these is something like $14.99 from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. It keeps things cold forevs.

Anyone else thriving off coffee and desserts all day? Have a good iced-coffee recipe? A particular coffee I should try out?

Happy Wednesday!

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Lemony Spaghetti

I almost made a Lemony Snicket reference, but it really felt like a stretch, you know? Like, “Lemony Spaghetti’s Series of Tasty Ingredients” or something. Nope, really didn’t work.

This recipe sort of worked, and sort of didn’t. I believe some people will love the tart and different flavor. Others will find it slightly strange if you’re used to red sauce, pesto, or other more common pasta sauces in the U.S. I was looking for some lighter summer pasta recipes, and found this recipe on Food Network, from Giada. This post is not sponsored in any way, BTW.

I will say, it was easy and affordable; so why not give it a shot sometime when you’re in the mood to experiment?

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

NOTE: I halved the recipe from the original source, and omitted the basil as I sensed my children would reject it. Let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb spaghetti noodles
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbl unsalted butter (this is my own addition)

Of course, choose some yummy sides to go along with it!

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

Start your pasta to boil, and cook according to instructions to achieve al dente status.

Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

After the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain the spaghetti and stir into the oil/cheese/lemony sauce.

I found that the lemon stood out a bit too much, so I stirred 1 tbl of unsalted butter into the noodles and it gave it a softer taste.

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

Viola! That was easy, wasn’t it?

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

Of course, having a good vegetable side is key with pasta. I grabbed some baby portobello mushrooms I had on hand, and a handful of asparagus.

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

I heated about 2 tbls of olive oil in a pan, and tossed the asparagus and sliced mushrooms in with the oil. I then let them cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, turning them once during cooking to get them nice and crisply cooked through.

Lemony Spaghetti | Painting Sunny

If nothing else, it sure looks pretty.

Anyone else try this? Please let me know how you respond to the taste! I couldn’t decide, I think I really just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Any other light summer pasta dishes I should try? Please share! There is only so much pesto a girl can eat! Okay, that’s not true. There is never enough pesto.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.

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