Friday, June 15, 2018


Lately, I have been

...hand-cutting circles. Lots of them. Like so:
These were cut from the remnants of the May Hip Kit Club main kit. It's a great way to use paper scraps as well as accents that might not seem to work with one's page themes but that can totally work with one's color scheme. 
...painting -- and not just for crafting purposes. I'm actually painting walls in my actual house, with actual trips to an actual hardware store involved. The gloomy gray hallway is being painted a lighter, warmer color -- Craft Juggler from Behr. If I survive that, the kitchen is next. Over the past two days, I've been procuring supplies and watching tutorials. By this time next week, I hope to be paint-covered and proud. 

...trying not to binge-watch the entire second season of Queer Eye in one sitting. It's impossible, I know. I love this show. Just watching the Netflix trailer made me cry. 

...reading the Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. The first book was incredible, pulling me in right away and leaving me nearly breathless with curiosity and anticipation until the end. I'm almost halfway through the second book, Torch in the Night. It's just as engaging as the first. HIGHLY recommended! chili AND eating it. This is a big deal. I hate chili. I've hated it all my life, and every time I think that I should give it another chance, I taste it and cringe.  Then, a few weeks ago, my husband was coerced into entering a chili contest at work. We had never made chili before, as the only time chili ever appears in our house is when it is in a take-out container for one. Still, I love to cook, and I love my husband, so I compared recipes, looked at the common elements, and modified a recipe that uses accessible ingredients, incorporates lots of heat, and is based on my idea of how chili should taste.  It actually worked -- he won the contest with a pot of chili that a coworker dubbed "Netflix and Chili." I even tried some and thought, huh, not bad. 

A few days ago, my husband was craving chili again, and since I'm the one on summer break, I volunteered to make it for him, not planning to eat much at all. I made a few more tweaks to the recipe and included super-fresh veggies from a local farmer's market. I ended up eating four bowls of it!  I share with you the recipe, in case you, like me, hate chili but want to give it another chance. (This is the halved version of the recipe, since the first time we made it, we needed to use multiple pots to hold it all!). 
 2 tablespoons olive oil
0.5 pound ground beef
1 pound chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (reserve some seeds) 
1 pasilla pepper, minced 
2-3 Thai bird chiles, minced (seeds left in)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1  15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (Cento is a good brand)
1.5 cups seeded and diced Roma tomatoes
1-1.5 c. diced Maui or other sweet onions (two small onions)
2 diced red bell peppers
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed 
1.5 cup beef broth (approximate)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional or to taste)
grated sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese (optional)
Heat Dutch oven or heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil immediately followed by ground beef. When ground beef is nearly browned, add the cubed steak, garlic, jalapeño and pasilla peppers, and Thai bird chiles (and a little salt and black pepper to season, if desired), and sauté until the steak is seared, about 3-4 minutes.  
Add water. When it reaches a boil, add cumin, chili powder, ground chipotle chili pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
Add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, stirring to combine. Simmer uncovered for five minutes on medium-low, and then add the fresh tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Simmer uncovered on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender (check to be sure onions are clear — alternately, include the onions earlier in the process after searing the beef). Stir occasionally, as mixture will be thick. 
Add black beans and 1 cup of beef broth and continue to simmer uncovered for 20-minutes. If a thinner consistency is desired, add the additional 0.5 cup of beef broth. Let simmer uncovered until you are ready to eat (we let it simmer for about 45 minutes - 1 hour after adding the beef broth). Add cilantro, if desired, just before serving.  
Ladle into bowls, top with cheese, and serve.  

...making my way happily through the ICAD challenge. Here are the two most recent cards (days 14 and 15). 



  1. Thank you for the book recommendations, I've been looking for another fantasy series so I've downloaded these :)

    1. I love them! I'm on book three now, and am still really into the plot and characters. Tahir is a terrific writer.

  2. I love your scrapbook layouts and the real way you write (I am also an English teacher...haha) and lurk around your blog because I relate to SO much you say. =). Enjoy the rest of your summer.