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Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Who loves cookies and humor about taxidermy? I’m estimating at least 6% of the population, that’s who. Doesn’t that pique your appetite? Let’s read and eat with my all-time-favorite-and-I’ve-tried-a-lot chocolate chip cookies (they are even healthified) and Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Both are delicious.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyLet’s whip up these cookies based on Bev’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe at Eating Well and then settle down with a good book. Maybe make some tea or grab some milk? Or tea with milk? Do people really do that still?

The only real differences between the original recipe and my version are:

  • I used quick oats instead of rolled oats, because I had some and can never tell the difference.
  • The I use whole wheat flour as the recipe calls for, but I usually use whole wheat pastry flour, or sometimes “white whole wheat”. The pastry flour makes them much more light and delicate, crispy around the edges but still substantial. Mmmmm. It isn’t always easy to find at the grocery store, though.
  • I used a bunch of random types of chocolate to use up my stash and to change it up.
  • I TRIPLE the recipe. Go big or go home – I’m not playing games here.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyThe first step of the recipe calls for grinding the oats in a blender or food processor.  Honestly, it’s prob not necessary to do if you don’t have one or don’t feel like it. Still, when I do I food process the oats into a course meal as shown in Exhibit A the picture above.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyDid I mention I used a bunch of random chocolates? Yep. Different recipes call for different things, and I end up with bits of everything. Since I tripled the recipe I needed 3 cups of chocolate. This included milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, another brand of semi-sweets, and chopped up baker’s semi-sweet chocolate. The melted chunks in the cookies are always so nice from the chopped stuff… mmm.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyIf you make an obscene amount of cookie dough (I’m pretty self-aware) there are several methods for what to do with it. Sometimes, I just spend an afternoon baking them all, cool them all thoroughly, and then freeze them in freezer bags with the air sucked out of them. Other times, I freeze the dough.

You can see above my method for what to do with the dough when freezing it. I keep in the bowl what I want to bake that day, then portion the rest into pieces of saran wrap which I wrap tight around the dough until it looks like a tube, then twist the ends. The dough-tubes can now be placed inside a quart-sized freezer bag. Just stick them in the fridge to thaw the night before you want to cookie-it-up.

BTW, I usually use a plastic straw to suck the air out of the bags. It’s high tech.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting Sunny

Strange bed fellows?

Yes, the above picture was posted to Twitter in May, from an airport lounge where I was waiting on a flight to take me to a job interview. I got the job – so I guess I may owe it partially to Jenny Lawson… and Junot Diaz. Probably not sharing the salary, but a sincere thanks seems to be in order.

Travel is totally exhausting, for me. I always have a hard time staying focused and energized. Usually I’m not that person who is reading several books at once, but on an airplane I like to pick two and switch between them. A combination of one book that is intense/serious and one book that is hilarious/irreverent seems balanced and provides some perspective when you’re considering a 5 dollar bagel while breathing in recycled air. Try it out sometime.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

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She is funny, and so is her book. So let’s just get that settled right at the start. Jenny Lawson is irreverent, charming, mildly concerning, and very entertaining. She makes your weird family feel at-least-normal-level-weird. Jenny somehow both self-deprecates and ego-inflates herself. It’s weird and sounds impossible, but makes for some well-rounded story-telling.

I’m not going to use the word “quirky” or say she is the “female David Sedaris” because everyone else has a million times. I will say it is just a good book, all comparisons aside. If you’re a fan of her blog (The Bloggess) you know how she works, and I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

If you aren’t a Lawsbian (the name given to her fans, though I’m not clear by who…) be honest with yourself before reading. If you like the idea of “edgy” but cringe at swear words or morbid dead-animal jokes, this is probably not your cup of tea. I don’t know why I keep talking about tea today either, let’s put that aside.

Loved the Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Check our Laurie Notaro (my favorites are this one and this one). She has been a fav of mine for years, and while a little less morbid and a little more raunchy than Jenny Lawson – it’s good times, for sure.

You can find the book here, or The Bloggess at her blog and on Twitter, where she is sort of omnipresent. If you’re just starting, try with this post – it’s a quick and accurate introduction.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.

PSS: If you’re interested in more Reading & Eating, check out this post.

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Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

I really love to read. I also really, really love to eat and the two end up coinciding frequently. I believe I obsessed over The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon while cuddling one of those giant cardboard boxes of Goldfish Crackers. I pretty much devoured both.

Considering a book can be paired with a snack like you can pair a wine with a fancy cheese, I thought it would be fun to try something new over here. I’ve done food recipe reviews and I’ve done book reviews, but never at the same time. So, let’s read and eat.

Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner | Painting Sunny

For me, Jennifer Weiner novels are a comfort food and a sweet indulgence, all at once. They are the quintessential beach reads, but also perfect for a cozy night in with a cup of tea and some sort of baked good. I think The Next Best Thing pairs very nicely with these warm, blueberry oatmeal muffins that are also indulgent, but from the Cooking Light website aren’t quite a guilty-pleasure. The paperback copy of The Next Best Thing was part of my Mother’s Day gift from Mr. Sunny – thanks babe, love you!

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

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I’ve long been a Jennifer Weiner fan, and my bookshelf serves nicely as evidence. Any time I read multiple books by an author, over time, I always connect more with some books than others. Among an author’s complete works, some books just feel fresher, sweeter, and more true to the writer as well as the topic. This is one of those books. Not since Little Earthquakes Everywhere (yes, my all-time favorite by Weiner) have I enjoyed one of her novels so much.

Ruth provides a new perspective, with a new set of challenges than the usual characters within Weiner’s books, or the genre for that matter. Like Little Earthquakes, it had light and funny moments and yet still retained a poignancy and insight into some very real hardships for women in our lives. The one note that fell a little funny for me were the antagonist supporting-characters. While Ruth is easy to love and can be the underdog you truly hope to see succeed, the starlets felt hollow and very much like the Hollywood stereotypes I’m accustomed to. Then again, Jennifer has been in real Hollywood and I haven’t – so maybe those stereotypes are more tackily true that I want to believe.

Speaking of Hollywood, when I read the Q&A and made the connection between Jennifer Weiner’s similar experience and the novel, I almost wished I had stayed in the dark. The storyline felt so original and effortless to sink into, I wanted to preserve it that way in my mind and not begin comparing it to any real-life drama. So, don’t Google it too fast, okay? The novel’s insight into the television-pitch process is fascinating enough, I promise.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins by Cooking Light


The original draw of this recipe was to find a healthy-ish addition to my kid’s school lunches and snacks that they would still find tasty. You know, they made a pretty tasty snack for myself as well! Warm out of the oven, the blueberries work well with the heartier density of the oatmeal and wheat flour, so don’t skimp on the berries. I make it a point to follow a recipe to a T the first time I make it, and tried to do the same here. The only change is that where the original recipe recommends using all-purpose flour and wheat flour separately, I went ahead and used “white wheat flour” for both amounts – it’s what I had on hand and I was in a bit of a hurry.

The batter comes out thin, but the muffins come out surprisingly springy and filling. The lemon zest was pretty crucial, I found – it added a fresher taste that kept the muffins from feeling too heavy, and made them smell divine.  They don’t have the lightness and sweet bliss of more indulgent, bakery-style muffins so keep in mind that to add that healthy quality, sometimes you have to adjust your expectations a bit. Still, I’ll be making them again.

Read & Eat: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins & The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner | Painting Sunny

Anyone else believe that zest can be like the glue that holds the recipe together? Read Jennifer Weiner’s latest release? Eat those goldfish crackers shamelessly straight out of the giant box?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.


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Operation Preoccupy the Preschooler: DIY Travel Activities

Well, we are getting close to our big move! In this case, big move = two long days in a car with little kids. and a cat. OMG.

So, I decided to take a couple evening hours this week and make up some DIY Travel Activities to keep the kids occupied on the road. While watching old Criminal Minds episodes, of course. With just a few supplies I managed to come up with four different types of activities, and some of those are multi-part – so cheers to at least 15 minutes of peace and quiet in the car!

DIY Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

The main ingredients are shown above, and I was also armed with a few basic supplies I had around the house. My goal was to make multiple activities with each of the supplies I bought. Mostly, I used:

  • Popsicle Sticks from the craft store ($2.99 for a large package)
  • 10 sheets of felt from the craft store, 25 cents each
  • Hot glue (I already had the gun and glue)
  • Printed out photographs (printed on our home computer on white cardstock we had)
  • Round yard-sale stickers (I had some leftover from a yard-sale)
  • A fine-tipped permanent marker
  • Scotch tape
  • A cardboard tube from a paper towel roll
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard cut into squares to fit the felt sheets
  • Optional: I bought a little plastic carrying case for about a $1.80 (originally $2.99)

The supplies above purchased from a craft store were all from Hobby Lobby, which is just the closest one to our house.

Below are pictures and a few notes on how each activity came together, along with a link to the original inspiration! The original tutorials from the blogs noted below are more in-depth than what I’ve written, so please show them some love and go check them out!

Project 1: Popsicle Stick Color Matching Game (almost finished)

DIY Popsicle Color Matching Game, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

DIY Popsicle Color Matching Game, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Original Inspiration from the summer popsicle activity tutorial at  at Roots and Wings Co.

What isn’t finished about these, you ask? They look so cute already! Well, for our 3 year old son who can’t quite read yet, having the colors written on the sticks is great… but having one side painted the color would be much more useful. I just have not had the chance to break out the paints from the pile of boxes! I have about 2 weeks left, so will have to get on that.

While you can’t tell from the photographs, the sticks are removable from the felt popsicle-tops. I’ll take them apart, and them the little guy will be responsible for matching them back up and sticking the sticks into the colorful tops.

DIY Popsicle Color Matching Game, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

I cut out one popsicle-shaped top out of the felt, and then used that as a template for the rest of the colors. For each color, I cut two pieces in order to make the front and back.

DIY Popsicle Color Matching Game, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Many of the tutorials online for this activity call for sewing the edges, which I have no excuse for not having done. Still, I had the hot glue gun at hand, so went ahead and glued these instead. It worked great! I put a dab of glue at the top, stick it together, and then ran a little down the sides (as shown above) then pressed the edges together firmly. Voila!

Project 2: Personalized Photo Puzzles

DIY Personalized Photo Puzzles, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Original Inspiration from the Father’s Day Craft tutorial at Impress Your Kids.

These were so so simple, y’all! A couple supplies, and they turned out super cute. Most of all, I love how personalized it is.

DIY Personalized Photo Puzzles, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

I chose pictures of things he loves (pictures of him and his sister reading in bed, or with his Dad at the park, with Grandma June, with his friend at teacher at school, of his cat, etc.) and threw in a couple random images such as a Tiger, for fun.

Above, you can see how I scotch-taped the backs of the sticks together. Then, I just flipped it over and hot-glued the picture down over the sticks careful not to get glue in bedroom the sticks too much. After it dried, I removed the tape and then used an Xacto knife to cut the pictures between the sticks until they were separate.

I’d like to come up with a nice way to store these… maybe sew a little separate for each puzzle? Or stick to the oh-so-simple snack sized plastic bags?

Project 3: Number Matching Pole

DIY Number Matching Pole, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Original Inspiration from the DIY Preschool Car Trip Activity tutorial at Simple Mal.

Again – this is almost painfully simple. We had a garage sale last weekend, so I grabbed some leftover stickers and numbered them, then wrote the same set of numbers randomly along a paper towel cardboard roll. This was awesomely easy. Thanks Mallory!

Project 4: Felt Board Scenes

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Original Inspiration from the Pinterest Board of Felt Board Stories from Marcy Bishir. Nice collection of pins, Marcy!

These were the most fun out of all of the projects. I had a great time sitting and cutting out fun little shapes in front of the TV. Some I took straight off of pictures I saw online, and others I came up with myself. Those felt squares are so easy to cut through. I would grab a full-sized sheet and then start cutting out elements and adding to it, “building” the picture was I went until I felt like it had enough pieces to be fun.

Here are some close-ups of my favs:

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting SunnyAll in all, I made 5 different “scenes” to play with. A “house” scene with a tree, lake, sun, etc.; an outer-space scene; a ” party food” scene with  pizza and cupcakes; an “ocean” scene with fish, a whale, and coral; and a holiday scene with a snow man, pine tree, and presents.

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

My strategy was to pick out a few colors I knew I wanted to leave full sheets of, as the “background” for the scenes (I chose light blue, white, green, and black). I wanted to make them firm enough for the kids to sit it on their laps and play with in the car, so I found some cardboard sheets from the back of photo frames I wasn’t using, cut them to size (shown above) and hot glued the full-sized sheets to those (shown below).

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Again, these were easy and fun and my goal is to bridge the age-gap and have scenes both kids will find fun the play with. We actually already have a “quiet box” of Haven’s that she loves, with a little felt girl cutout glued to one side and dress-up clothes of all types she can stick to the girl. It was a gift from her Aunt Norma, and we’re bringing that along to keep H amused as well.

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

This little carrying case was in the “art storage” area of Hobby Lobby, and I was surprised to see that the full-price for it was only $2.99. It expands pretty wide, too, and is so nice and bright. Since I had my Hobby Lobby iPhone app up and used the built-in 40% off coupon, it brought the cost down to just a bit over $1. This post is not sponsored, btw. For me, that was totally worth it to hold the felt boards and cut-outs. I stored the cut-outs for each scene in plastic quart-sized storage bags.

DIY Felt Board Scenes, Preschool Travel Activities | Painting Sunny

Want to know the other fun thing about this post? I got all fancy and tried the Katie Bower method for better small product photography. Seems so simple, but her tips totally helped. She is so cool.

Anyone else about to embark on a road-trip with kiddos? Figured out a safe and non-screechy way to transport a cat long-distance? Sit and cut out astronauts and pizza slices while you watch TV?

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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Introducing Ginger Dijon Salmon, Our Most Favorite Fish

For a few months now, every Saturday evening the husband and I make dinner together for just us, and it is usually this salmon with a ginger Dijon sauce. That sounds like it would get old, but with something this good we just never get tired of it. “Salmon Saturdays” even rhymes, so obviously that makes it more delicious.

This is really guest post, as the salmon recipe was created by the very own hubs. Thanks babe! He was inspired by this recipe, and went on to tweak it and add ground ginger, which is what catapulted it into the realm of fav recipes.

The roasted red potatoes are also so delicious. Mental Note: remember to bring those back up another day.

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

Can you see how delicious that glaze is?

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

The best part is the crispy edges, as seen above. I’m not a girl who likes things “blackened” under almost any circumstance, but with this a little bit of crunch is good.

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

(Full and concise recipe at bottom of post)

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 salmon fillets
  • 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (a little less)
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

This is so, so simple. To start, clean and prepare your salmon fillets then lightly coat them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. We use fresh ground pepper.

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

Whisk together the Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and ginger until smooth.

We are generally only preparing two salmon fillets, and have about half of the sauce left over. I keep thinking we need to find a way to save the rest, but generally come to the conclusion it wouldn’t be as fresh and good the next week so we continue to prepare it fresh each time.

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

Coat the salmon fillets generously with sauce, but not to the point that it is dripping off of them.

Broil on low until cooked to your liking. Mr. Sunny likes it well-done with no pink, so broils it for 14 minutes. This also makes the edges nice and crispy. To achieve the same affect with a more rare-cooked fish, I imagine you could broil it on high for less time.

We add another light layer of sauce to the top after it comes off of the broiler.

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon | Painting Sunny

Serve with your favorite sides. We often do roasted red potatoes, or baked potatoes, or mashed potatoes with a vegetable side as well. This vegetable side was from a frozen prepackaged mix, which we sometimes default to for convenience.

Anyone else have a weekly dish they never get sick of? Is it salmon? With half our family not eating meat but all of us eating fish, it is something we can agree on. Any tips on bottling up your own sauce?

Our Favorite Ginger Dijon Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 salmon fillets
  • 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (a little less)
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard

Clean and prepare your salmon fillets then lightly coat them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together the Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and ginger until smooth. Coat the salmon fillets generously with sauce, but not to the point that it is dripping off of them. Broil on low until cooked to your liking. For well-done, broil for 14 minutes. Optional, add another light layer of sauce to the top after it comes off of the broiler. Serve with your favorite sides.

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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Quintessential Chocolate Cake

This is less the unveiling of a new original recipe, and more a review of and shout-out to a classic one I stumbled upon. Not using StumbleUpon, just to be clear.

Last weekend, the daughter and I were lazing about watching Cupcake Wars (our fav show to watch together) when I suddenly felt a deep instinctual inspiration to get up and bake a cake. However, like I mentioned – we were being lazy. Obviously a trip to the grocery store for ingredients was totally out of the question. Instead, I challenged myself to make a recipe with only ingredients we already had in the pantry. After turning to AllRecipes.com (my usual go-to resource) I noticed that a very highly rated chocolate cake recipe had all these snarky comments about how it was just the one off the Hershey’s Cocoa box.

A) People can be so harsh with their recipe commentary. I mean, cool it people – she probably didn’t jack the Hershey’s recipe on purpose… it is a pretty obvious recipe. There are only so many ways to bake a cake. Sheesh.

B) It totally was the exact same recipe as the one on the Hershey’s container. I got up and happened to have a box of Hershey’s Cocoa in the house – yep, a perfect replica of the Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake.

Which is when I realized I had every single ingredient to make that cake. You see what happened there? The fates aligned…

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

… and it was delicious.

I know, I know – you should use the fanciest cocoa you can possibly afford for any chocolatey recipe, since the right cocoa can make all the difference. I totally agree. Sadly, my Discover Card often does not. So Hershey’s is usually what’s knocking around the pantry.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

The original recipe is located right on the back of the container, or here.

I’m not going to copy the entire ingredient list and recipe to this post since it feels a little redundant, and they have a better system for putting it in a print or email view. What do you expect? They are Hershey’s, and I’m a suburban mother of two and college administrator. It’s all about resources.

I will share my review of the recipe, a couple tips about how I made it quick and easy, and some pictures to make you crave chocolate cake. This story totally goes full circle here, people.

As you can see from above, this recipe does take more than a handful of ingredients… but not by much. They are also pretty much standard staple ingredients I would guess your average person has on hand, and I’m sure you’re totally above average.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

This is seriously no-lie a one-bowl recipe. I heart those. It also takes only a few steps to get the batter together, so the time between Food Network making you jones for refined sugar and having a finished, frosted cake is pretty reasonable.

You begin with adding the dry ingredients to a bowl (as shown above), mixing it up a bit, adding the wet ingredients, mixing it up a bit, then adding the boiling water. See how quick that is?

TIP: I highly recommended sifting your cocoa into the bowl. I did not, and regretted it. I redeemed myself by sifting the cocoa in the frosting and it was so much more consistent and easy to mix.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

Cool the cakes in the pans for a bit, then move to the cooking rack until completely cool. Or, if you are me, cheat and stick the rack in the fridge once it is mostly cool so you don’t have to wait an extra 10 minutes.

TIP: I use springform pans because they are the most straight on the sides, and I just think are easier to get the cakes out of. However, with a thinner batter like this one, I put foil around the bottom of the outside of the pan to catch any drips. I also hate to have a ton of pans in storage, so just using springform pans for all round cakes saves some cabinet space.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

In the meantime, let’s make some frosting. Since it is literally built into the cake recipe, I figured I might as well try it out. Look how few ingredients it takes! This turned out so creamy, I was more than pleasantly surprised. How is that even possible without butter being added? Color me impressed.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

See? Doesn’t it look melt-in-your mouth creamy and chocolatey? Okay, frosting doesn’t really photograph well on it’s own. I can’t tell if that picture is appetizing or not. I mean, if you didn’t know it was frosting… well, never mind. It’s delicious chocolate frosting and that’s that.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

I doubted there would be enough frosting to actually cover the middle, top, and sides of a full-sized two-layer cake so I skimped on the frosting in the middle, just to be sure I’d have enough to cover the whole cake. Well, I regretted that – it made a TON of frosting. I just couldn’t waste it, it was so tasty… so the sides and top ended up a little heavy on the application.

Quintessential Chocolate Cake | Painting Sunny

I love a fancy and modern recipe, but you know I love a classic one as well. Think of how many kitchens over the years have made this cake for an after-supper dessert! How many little kid’s birthdays have included this recipe? Okay, if you’re now feeling all misty-eyed nostalgic, go ahead an read this history of chocolate cake post from Nice Chocolates. Yes, I’m a nerd. A nerd on a sugar-high.

Anyone else discovering recipes right off the back of boxes? Which totally isn’t discovering something at all, since it is literally on the back of the box? It’s kind of like when you start using a trendy new word and then everyone acts like you’re crazy, and you realize it hasn’t actually been trendy since the 90s. And you better stop rolling the cuffs on your acid-washed jeans, too.

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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Before the Blog – Pinterest Inspired Projects, Part III

… and now, I am happy to introduce the final chapter of this three-part series. Just like Twilight’s Breaking Dawn or The Hunger Games’ Mockingjay, I know this ending was heavily anticipated. Just agree and let me boost my ego, please.

As I shared here and then here, I put together a list of projects I had completed pre-blog and pre-good-camera and it was so unwieldy I had to break it into three different posts to share with ya’ll.

These are all things directly from my Pinterest boards – please come visit me there, where you will see my own versions and the original inspiration for projects like these, and more. Let’s explore, shall we?

Project #11: Tea Clothespin Wreath

DIY Tea Clothespin Wreath | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the tea! tea! tea! kitchen wreath over at KOJODESIGNS.

This is just a little bit kitschy and a little bit practical; a combination I can totally get behind. I handled the clothespin portion of the project much like the original tutorial I linked to, but for the base of it I used a metal wreath purchased from Hobby Lobby for $3 (I believe on sale). The clothespins were $1 from the Dollar Tree, and I already had the paint and scrapbook paper so this was a $4 or so project for me, total. It’s hanging up in the kitchen being all kitschy.

Project #12: Sewn Office Planner Cover

DIY Sewn Office Planner Cover | Painting Sunny

DIY Sewn Office Planner Cover | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the Journal Cover Tutorial over at Bloom.

Like a lot of obsessive organized people, I have a favorite planner that I used to keep track of my to-do list. I actually don’t use a calendar one, as I like to use Outlook and schedule things electronically, but despite having an iPhone and iPad, I just haven’t switched my work lists or brainstorming over to digital. I wanted something cute and that fit very well as a cover for my otherwise very ugly planner.

Naturally, I decided to sew one myself. I’m so glad I did! My planner is cute, but it was also my first project using interfacing and was a really great introduction to it. (I’ve since sewn a t-shirt quilt).

Project #13: Sewn Lavender Sachets

Sewn Lavender Sachets | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the Lavender Sachets over at the Purl Bee.

When I pinned this from the Purl Bee, I did not actually think I would end of making them. I just couldn’t picture buying that much dried lavender, honestly. Who pictures themselves buying pounds of dried lavender? Not this girl. Then, one day at our local farmer’s market I stumbled upon a stand selling dried lavender and the realization I could mix it with much, much cheaper rice to make it a little less costly.

These are great – so easy to sew up, it is a fun quick project and leaves you with a great smelling closet. Yum.

Project #14: Spray-Painted Big Metal Letters

Spray-Painted Big Metal Letters | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the Anthro-inspired Zinc Letters over at Lolly Jane.

Okay, okay – I know. Everyone under the sun has made these. Wait, that is a seriously weird expression. Who is not under the sun? Or do they mean the half of the earth that the sun is shining on at any point? That is how the sun’s rotation works, right? Ugh, now I have a headache.

Anyway, this could not be easier. Just grab one of those cardboard letters at a craft store (pay for it before leaving, though), and spray it on down with metallic spray paint. Personally, I used the silver leaf spraypaint by Krylon and it worked great but was the worst smelling spray paint ever. A year later, I’m pretty sure it made my asthma worse. So maybe try out some different paints… but the project is worth doing, even if it is a little… well… trendy.

Doesn’t it look heavy? It feels weird picking it up.

Project #15: Children’s Nightgown, No Pattern Sewing

Children's Nightgown, No Pattern Sewing | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the Little Girls Summer Nightgown over at Our 3 Sons Plus 1.

This is a great way to whip up some quick nightgowns for a little girl, and a fun project to share on a rainy day. H picked out her own fabrics at the store, and unsurprisingly went for anything pink and eye-searingly over the top in pattern. The original tutorial linked to is so useful, and actually easy to use as a base to make changes from.

Since it was Fall when I made these, I used a warmer flannel material and to make sure it was cut in a shape and size that fit her, I used a dress that she already had and loved to determine the shape by laying it on top of the fabric before I drew out the shape and cut it. I sewed four nightgowns in total, and made the sleeves a little different on each, just to experiment. 1.5 years later, she is still wearing them but they are just starting to look a tiny bit worn.

Project #16: Color-block Metallic Picture Frames

Color-block Metallic Picture Frames | Painting Sunny

Originally inspired by the DIY Brass Frames over at A Thoughtful Place.

When I moved into my current office at work, I wanted to spruce up the frames for the family photos in my office. After running across the tutorial linked above, I loved the idea of brass-looking frame corners and thought I could probably do a spin-off to get the look. I used antique gold colored spray-paint by taping off the rest of the frames besides the corners before painting it. Then, I went a little crazy and did some “color block” versions like the one to the left, in the photo above. I actually made about 8 of these, but it was hard to get good pics in my messy busy office.

BTW, that picture of the Hubs holding our son as a baby is my absolute favorite. I smile every time I see it. Adorbs.

Well, that’s it for this set. Will there be more? Who knows what I will uncover as we clean and pack to move. I’ll be sure to share if I do! Anyone else love a good kitschy clothespin wreath? Wish I would stop saying the word kitschy? Tricking friends by asking them to pick up fake metal objects?

Please come hang out with me on Pinterest, too. I spend way too much time over there…

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!