The Punch Is In The Pillow

At work today, I introduced a new reading theme to my students– A Question of Value. As an opener for this theme, I had my kids create a collage of people or things they value. Naturally, they got me to think about my own personal values.

life values

This student blew me away with the maturity he displayed through this project.

My husband and family are always my most cherished, but today I thought about our home too. Specifically to this post, the value of coming to a home that is comforting and uniquely ours.

So what exactly makes our home comforting? Aside from the calmness I feel when my sweet pea holds me, we love the comfort of taking a load off on our couch. Whether we gather to watch a movie, a favorite not-to-miss show, or even an afternoon nap, our couch at times is the perfect setting for comfort to begin.

Lately our couch has been looking a bit drab though. In an attempt to spruce it up, and continue to make it a desirable place to rejuvenate, I thought about adding a punch of cheerful color through some pillows. The following step by step break down walks you through your very own DIY pillows.

Step 1: Create your own pattern with a lightweight paper, such as tissue paper, or use a store bought pattern.  (I happened to have a store bought at home already.) If you are making your own pattern, you will need to measure and cut out a desired size for a square pillow. For your top flap, you can begin by creating a standard triangle shape.

Step 2: Double your fabric by folding one end of your desired fabric inward. Use pins to secure pattern onto fabric.  Pin your square pillow pattern on the folded fabric side. (Note: My picture below shows both ends folded because I was making two pillows and wanted to save time and fabric by cutting two flaps with this fabric .)

pillow pattern

Step 3:

Cut your pieces out and remove pins. You will have two cut outs– one long rectangular shape, and one triangular shape for the flap. (If you doubled your fabric on the flap side, just cut down the middle in order to get your two flap cut outs.)

DIY pillow

Step 4:

Turn flap pattern side down and line up straight edge to one of the short edges of the square pillow cut out. Sew flap onto pillow cut out. Sew a 1/4” hem on the opposite short edge.

triangular flap

Step 4:

Fold pillow cut out in half with the pattern side facing the inside. Sew along both long sides of the pillow cut out. Next, fold in and sew a 1/4” hem around the flap.

hemming a pillow

Step 5:

Flip pillow case out so that pattern side is now out. Insert pillow puff or a pillowform into case.  Finally, manually sew a decorative button on the flap.

diy pillow

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Em & M: The Begining

I never had an interest in baking. For yeeeeears in fact I considered myself incapable of even properly baking a Betty Crocker cake mix. About a year ago however, my baking interest peaked and I was determined to loose my fear of baking. With my novice baker’s hat on, I marched into the kitchen with only one goal in mind: BAKE A DELICIOUS FRESH FRUIT TART. The final outcome: An instant first love connection. My gateway into a world of baking…

Several triumphant creations later begins a little Em (Emilia) & M (Martha) segment. A collection of attempted tarts and pies featured in Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts Cookbook.

Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts

Featured Item #1: Key Lime Pie

  • Difficulty-  Surprisingly, very easy.
  • Prep Time-  Takes a bit of time due to the juicing of the limes (roughly 25 min).
  • Bake Time-  30 minutes
  • Expense-  $7 (Wohoo!)
  • Tastiness-  Fans of tangy flavors with a hint of sweetness will LOVE!
  • Overall Rating- 5/5

modern key lime pieNote: Martha’s original recipe does not call for the addition of green food coloring. In fact, as I learned after committing this petit faux pas, altering a key lime pie’s natural yellow tint is frowned upon by culinary experts. Oh well… I am still learning. I do rather like the liveliness that the green tint brings to the pie though. =)

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Tile On Some Fun

If you love word play, you will love this very easy and quick scrabblesque project. Not only will you have hours of entertainment when company comes by, but it will also bring on some bonus home decor when left out as display!

word tiles

Materials:

1 backsplash tile sheet (with at least 100 tiles on each each)

1 permanent marker

What To Do:

1.  Remove tiles from sheet

2. Write in the following letters along with points on each tile

  • 2 blank tiles (scoring 0 points)
    1 point: E ×12, A ×9, I ×9, O ×8, N ×6, R ×6, T ×6, L ×4, S ×4, U ×4
    2 points: D ×4, G ×3
    3 points: B ×2, C ×2, M ×2, P ×2
    4 points: F ×2, H ×2, V ×2, W ×2, Y ×2
    5 points: K ×1
    8 points: J ×1, X ×1
    10 points: Q ×1, Z ×1      Source

displaying tilediy scrabbleDon’t forget to brush up on some rules before you begin your word play. Enjoy!

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May We Celebrate

I love any excuse to celebrate. Earth Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, Chinese New Year, Summer Solstice, et cetera, et cetera… You name it and I do at least one small thing to acknowledge the day.

Whomever began the big hoopla over Cinco de Mayo here in the states must have also shared in my enthusiasm to celebrate. Despite my love for celebrations however, as someone native to the country, I will share that Cinco de Mayo is not observed even in the most minute way in Mexico.

Wah, wah, waaaaaaaahhh…

I know, I know. Why the bashing? Did I not just mention how I love any excuse to celebrate? Well I do! But what I love most about celebrating is learning about the day’s origin and history that comes with it. After all, a holiday celebrated without appreciation for its true significance is not much of a special day.

Cinco de Mayo

"Battle of Puebla"- Alejadro Romero, 1987

Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistakenly observed as Mexico’s independence day. In actuality, the date marks the Battle of Puebla– a fierce battle fought in a town named Puebla against the French army. It is an important battle in Mexico’s history because they were outnumbered by France 2 to 1, but Mexican troops were still able to triumph. The unexpected victory gave the country a bit of a moral boost right when they needed it.

So with the reason behind the date now established, I look forward to celebrating on May 5th. Not because a battle was won (I tend to lean more on the side of peace not war.), but because it lifted the spirits of a nation. This Cinco de Mayo, I will celebrate and welcome unexpected victories for myself, my family, and friends.

sombrero

May unthinkable triumphs come your way too!

On the Menu

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A Tisket A Tasket

Here is a unique basket idea with two purposes:

  1. Holds delightful festive treats.
  2. May be reused to plant darling flowers or useful herbs.

Easter Planter's Basket

Here are the very easy steps to follow:

  1. Cut three 1″ x 12″ strips of paper for each basket/pot.  For best results use card stock or scrapbook paper.
  2. Use a glue stick to glue two strips back to back so that design is facing outward. (This will be used as the handle.)
  3. Wrap third strip around the top rim of teracotta pot and secure onto pot with tape.
  4. Create a handle with the strips glued together in step 2 by inserting handle into strip wrapped around top rim.  Secure with tape.
  5. Run scrap paper into a paper shredder, then fold back and forth to make “grass”.
  6. Fill pot with grass.
  7. Add a package of seeds and your favorite Easter treats.

easter basket tools

On the Menu

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A Hiking We Will Go

This past weekend a friend of ours invited us to join him on an early morning hike to Stebbins Cold Canyon, located west of Winters, CA. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the immense natural beauty we got to experience while going on this strenuous 1500 feet 5 mile loop hike.

In full disclosure I must admit I lacked a bit of enthusiasm at the beginning of our hike. As we began to reach our destination, all I could see from the inside of our car were small hills covered with nothing but grass– no wild flowers, no trees, streams, or animals to spot. I truly thought it would be a dud.

As we creeped through a metal gate to begin our hike however, the scenery instantly changed. It was very woods-like with a peaceful stream waiting to instantly greet us.

Stebbins Cold Canyon

As we continued the trail, we spotted some lizards, a waterfall, and a wall paper of vivid green vegetation all around. The trees provided very comfortable hiking conditions for us which I was very grateful for– especially when we had to climb what seemed to be an endless number of 1+ foot high steps.

steebin canyon steps

As we continued up the trail, the scenery changed from a woodland coolness to a warmer chaparral climate. Here we encountered butterflies, rain beetles, snakes (although only by sound, not sight), and lizards among many other species.

This darling of a fella even let us take a close shot…

stebbin lizard

The true awe-inspiring scenery came when we reached the top of the canyon and found ourselves nestled in nothing but nature for miles and miles around. Looking down we could see the trail we had just embarked on. Looking to the side we were presented with a gorgeous view of Lake Barryessa… a stunning reward for the labor we put into getting there. =)

overlooking Lake Barryessa

All in all, a highly enjoyable time spent with great company surrounded by a luscious natural scenery. I look forward in anticipation to our next hike…

Happy Earth Day everyone!  : )

And happy trailing too!

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Crème Caramel: Unifying People Globaly

Could there be any other delectable dessert that is found in such a gamut of regions world wide?

Yes. It is true. Crème caramel is not a treat that everyone enjoys. If you are anything like my sweet pea of a husband in fact, the idea of nibbling on anything custard makes you shriek. Sadly this delightful gem is just not for him. Exceptions aside, there is something to be said however for a dessert that is largely enjoyed throughout many regions of the world. I find it comforting to know I could visit many countries worldwide and have the opportunity to seek a familiar food that will most likely have only a small variation.

flan/ caramel custard

Regions where crème caramel is fully embraced:

  1. Argentina/Mexico- Known as flan. Variation: Usually served with dulce de leche.
  2. Venezuela/Brazil/Chile- Known as flan. Variation: Made with condensed milk.
  3. Cuba- Known as flan de Cuba. Variation: An additional two egg whites and cinnamon stick are added.
  4. Philippines- Known as leche flan. Variation: Made with condensed milk, and an extra egg yolk. It is typically steamed rather than baked.
  5. Vietnam- Known as báhn caramel or báhn flan. Variation: None.
  6. Japan- Known as purin. Variation: None.
  7. Italy- Known as crema caramella. Variation: None.
  8. Spain- Known as flan. Variation: Orange or lemon zest is added.
  9. United States- Known as caramel custard. Variation: May be served with fresh berries.
  10. France- Known as crème caramel.

So there you have it. Is it not wonderful to know that one sweet treat can unify us all?

On the Menu

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A Life Remembered

As April begins, memories of my beloved grandmother flood my mind. She has always held a special place in my heart. Perhaps being named after her helped create our instant bond. She helped raise me for the first few years of my life and showered me with so much love to last me a lifetime of sweet memories.

1983, Mexico- Grandma (Mama Emilia) pictured on the far right.

Along with cherished recollections of playing, singing, and visits to grocery stores, I also remember numerous times in the kitchen with my grandma. She was an amazing cook who introduced me to countless exquisite meals.

A favorite meal of hers (and mine!) was arroz con pollo y mole.  (Chicken and rice with mole.)

This authentic dish comes with a load of flavor and an intriguing legend. As the story goes, the unique dish originated in a convent in Puebla, Mexico. Upon learning that the archbishop would be visiting, the nuns became worried they would have nothing to feed him. With faith by their side the nuns did the best with the ingredients they had.

So… the nuns tossed all the spices and chilli peppers they had available and created the following:

Mole poblano which was made up of spices such as poblano peppers, ancho peppers, pasilla peppers, and chipotle peppers along with 15 to 20 other ingredients that were grinded down to create a powder.

On its own, the powder has a  bit of a kick. There is no need to be turned off by its collection of peppers however. This concoction of dried ingredients is combined with chicken broth, peanut butter, and CHOCOLATE to bring a perfectly enjoyable balance of mild spice and nutty sweetness.

Today the traditional mole dish consists of chicken served on a plate of red rice with mole sauce ladled over it. It is the perfect dish for any celebration!

So here is to celebrating my dear Mama Emilia. Your love and attention meant the world to me. You are forever celebrated and cherished in my heart.

On the Menu

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Afternoon Tea

A delicious way to indulge and spend time with friends.

But first, a little history…

Afternoon tea is a sweet tradition made a fad thanks to the 7th Duchess  of Bedford during the early 19th century.  It is said that upon feeling hungry, the Duchess requested to have tea and biscuits served one late afternoon.  (At that time, it was customary to only have two meals per day: breakfast and dinner.)  She took so much pleasure in the comfort of sipping tea and nibbling on delicate treats that she began to send invitations requesting friends to join her for tea.  Soon an entire nation of socialites opened their homes up to friends with two main goals in mind: 1. Savor delicious teas and treats. 2. Take pleasure in catching up with friends. (Want to learn more about afternoon tea and its history?  Visit  afternoontoremember.)

So with hope of bringing back this darling tradition of good food and good company, why not set a date and invite friends over for a treat?!  You can even throw in a whole new modern twist to your gatherings like the folks over at Crown & Crumpet.

On the Menu

CHEERS!

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