Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cool Recipe: Low Cal Veggie Soup!

Its Wednesday and I'm just now getting back to my blog. I've been knee-deep in yardwork, pressure washing, packing and cooking. And then I was feeling really under the weather on Monday, so I took a sick day yesterday and caught up on some much needed zzzzzz's. Feeling tops now.

I plan to finish my PicMonkey tips this week - stay tuned for that!

But first I wanted to share a super easy, healthy recipe I love: Vegetable Soup!

I make a big batch of this - I freeze half for the future, and then eat the rest of the half during the week when I'm super busy and don't have time to cook. It's low calorie, so you can eat a huge bowl full (or two) and feel pretty satiated.

One knife, one cutting board, one pot and whatever veggies you have on hand!

1. Vegetables needed: celery, carrots, cabbage, green onions, cilantro*, bell pepper, zucchini (or squash), corn and green beans. Broccoli also works good. So basically any and every vegetable you can like. ;)   (I use canned green beans and frozen corn, because that's what I had on hand, but fresh work great too).

Other ingredients needed: chicken or veggie broth (or bouillon cubes) red chili peppers, one packet of Lipton Soup Secrets (chicken noodle), salt and pepper, garlic, and the secret spectacular ingredient: Sriracha Chili Sauce. (*Sriracha Sauce and Cilantro are the two must have ingredients. If you don't like them, then you probably won't like this recipe).

2. Slice the squash/zuchinni and celery into medium sized chunks. I use about half a bunch of celery, and one squash. I slice thickly, cause I don't like the soup to be too soggy doggy.

3. Slice the green onions including the white ends and the green ends. (Don't you like my official cooking terminology) and rough chop a huge handful of cilantro. Or two handfuls. Depends upon how much you like it. I could eat it raw, so I add a lot.

4. Dice a bell pepper up - any color works. I used red because they were on sale. :) Peel and dice a few carrots. I do about 3-4.

5. Slice-n-dice half a cabbage head. I cut out the stem a bit cause its so thick, and then I just hack at the cabbage (in half, then in half, and so on) until I have a giant mound of 1-2" chunky pieces. This is my favorite part, I feel like Ratatouille, showing off with my mad knife skills. (Not really, but its pretty hard to mess up cutting cabbage).

6. Throw all the chopped fresh veggies in a pot. Add a small handful of frozen corn and a can of green beans (drained). Then add broth to the pot until the veggies are covered. Or you can use water and a bouillon cube or two. I usely do a can of broth, a can of water, a can of broth, a can of water until its full. (Depending upon how many veggies you use - this could be 4-8 cans of broth.) You could do all broth for a stronger flavor if you like.

7. Add the packet of lipton soup secrets. This adds some flavor and a few noodles. I tried it with two packets once and it was too noodley for my taste.

8. Add red chili pepper flakes - a few if you're a spice wuss, or a couple shakes if you like the heat.

9. Add a few strong shakes of pepper, some garlic salt. (You can also add a dash of cumin.)

10. Grab your Sriracha Sauce. Say hello to it. Thank it for being the best thing ever - next to cilantro and Grandma's homemade bread. Make sure you say it with an Antonio Bandera's accent: Ssssssssss-raw-CHA!

11. Squeeze a little Sriracha into the soup. Add more if you are spicy like that. (Or keep it light so you don't kill your husband, and just add more to your individual bowl later)

12. Bring to a boil. Medium boil for about 10 minutes until its looking all steamy and bubbly and smells good. Then simmer for another 10 minutes (you can test it here and see how soft the veggies are. If you can gently pierce a squash, call it done.)

If you put lots of Sriracha in it, serve with a kleenex so you can blow your nose as your sinuses will be super clear soon. ;)

To make it a little more filling, you could add beans or pasta - but keep in mind that would increase the calories.

That's my easy veggie soup! If you make it, let me know if you like it. (I realize my instructions aren't very specific - so if you have questions let me know)

Happy Cooking!

~ K.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Seven: Home

Seven things I'm thankful for this Sunday:

1. Memorial Day is tomorrow, so I can't help but think of all the soldiers who so bravely gave their lives for our country. I'm thankful everyday to live in this great country, and thankful for the generations of men and women who have served our country.

A passage that really moved me, from the book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose, was a letter that one of the soldiers (David Kenyon Webster) wrote home: "stop worrying about me. I joined the parachutists to fight. I intend to fight. If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don't worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice." 

That last line gave me goosebumps. Their sacrifices are not forgotten.

2. I'm thankful to have a healthy (knock on wood), and wonderful horse. I had a great relaxing ride today. Haven't ridden in 2 weeks and sometimes she can be a little wild when we get back into riding, but she was really good!

3. Our new pressure washer! We picked it up on sale this weekend and I powerwashed our house and steps yesterday and it looked brand new. I was so excited. And I didn't even mind the constant mist of cold, dirty water spraying me the whole time - because it was over 70 degrees outside.

4. My husband finally having the weekend off from work - and he spends it changing the oil in my car, going with me to the barn, and doing a million house projects. As I sit here at the computer, drinking my tea, writing on this blog - I can see my man out there mowing the lawn....definitely thankful he's doing that. ha ha. And I'm feeling guilty for not helping him.

5. Mike's Hard Lemonade - the new Strawberry lemonade flavor. OMG so good.

6. That I got carded while buying Mike's Hard Lemonade. Woot woot. I know they have to card everybody, but this soon-to-be-thirty-year-old is going to pretend its cause I look soooo young. ;)

7. And finally....the thing I'm most thankful this week: we are back on track and getting the house! After some serious thinking, consulting with people who's advice we really believe in, and after some financial figurin' out- we are going to finance some of the cost to get city water and so we're able to get the house!! I'm soooo excited, and so thankful that it worked out. I can hardly stand it. (Good thing I am now seriously busy and have a million things to do before we move and to get our current home ready to rent - otherwise the next month would drag by.) We are just waiting for papers to be signed, rates to be locked, and then for closing. Yippppeeee.

What a week!!

~ K

Friday, May 25, 2012

Photo Editing: Round 2 - Landscape

Round 2 of fun photo editing with my new favorite program PicMonkey!

I snapped this photo of an abandoned school house on our roadtrip home from Idaho. I love finding old abandoned houses so I was very happy when hubby allowed a short detour to go poke around and for me to snap some photos.  I thought it would make a perfect subject to show some of the fun styles to use with Landscapes.

Photo Straight out of the camera:

First things I always do: crop it. In this case I wanted my car out of the photo, and I wanted the building less centered so it looked a little better compositionally.

The next thing I did was I used the "clone" tool to erase the tire and the utility poles in the background and just simplify this photo. (If I wanted to spend more time, I would also get rid of all the graffiti on the building). 
blech, eyesores

Totally optional - but it is a neat feature of PicMonkey (not quite as advanced as Elements, but it does the job especially for a simple clone job like this one).

Its a fairly easy to use tool - you just define the size and source, and define how close you want the clone tool. Then you drag it and will basically copy whatever your source tool is on. The closer the clone is to the source the better.

Doesn't it look better without the extra busyness from the poles and tire?

Option 1 - Slight Improvements
I used the Color Saturation tool and increased it slightly - just to make it look a little more vivid and richer.  Then I adjusted the Exposure, I increased the shadows to make it more dramatic, and slightly increased the highlights and brightness to make it more vivid and brighter.
A little better than the original shot.

Option 2 - Ol' Timey Rustic Feel

I wanted something kinda rustic and old looking. First I used the Daguerreotype effect (the Shiro option - its more brown/nature tones), and adjusted the fade so it wasn't so overwhelming.

Then I used Film Stock (Velvia option - its the most natural looking) and adjusted the fade so it was kinda subtle. Then finally I used the Urbane effect - one of my favorites, makes everything very rich, but I adjusted the fade pretty low because I didn't want too much of a dark edge (which this effect has).

I love this final look - think it would be pretty cool hanging up.
 Option 3 - Light and Bright Pioneer Washed Out style
 Starting with the cropped, color saturated photo, I first used the Intrepid effect at full strength (another effect I love). Then I used Cross Process (with Red, to keep the colors warm) but faded it out quite a bit. Then Dusk, a lovely soft beautiful effect, like the name implies - but it really weakens contrast and darkens it, so then I adjust the brightness and contrast slightly in Exposure after that.

Maybe I like this one even better......its peaceful.

Option 4 - More Dramatic/End of Days/Grittier style

I used Tranquil effect first, about half strength. Its the sedative of effects and just calms everything down.
Then I used Holga, which turns up the volume and adds some grit and darkness, with it slightly faded out but with the blur higher (that's what does the edge effects).

Then I used Film Stock (with Tri-x option, its black and white) - slightly decreased.

Finally I used the Cinerama effect. And just to get it a little better - I went an played around with the Exposure to get it a little brighter and more vivid. Then I realized it was looking a little too brown and sepia-like, so I went into Colors and decreased the temperature slightly.

It sounds like a lot of steps - but this process only took maybe 5 minutes, and that was mostly playing around with the fade levels of the various effects until it looked right.

a little more stylized and interesting (I think) than just plain black and white

So that's four fun ways to beef up a landscape photo. :)

I hope you'll try some of them out and see what you like - there are so many options! And of course, even using just one of the effects works great too (you don't have to layer multiple like I do above).
Happy photo editing!

~ K.

*Please note I do not work for PicMonkey, nor am I paid to endorse them. I'm just a nerd who loves getting artsy fartsy with photos and spreading the fun.*

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back to House Hunting, Sad Day

We've had to walk away from the house - the bank wasn't willing to contribute anything towards hooking up to city water and we are just not in a position (nor do we want to tap into funds we had planned for other things) to pay for it all.

We're going to put in a back up offer - in case they change their mind and drop their price. But it doesn't look good. I just have to say goodbye at this point.  Bye special house. Hope some person loves you as much and will make you as beautiful and fill your pastures with pals as we planned to. And I hope they enjoy paying every single cent to get great FREAKIN WATER to you!

I am soooo sad and frustrated and angry and depressed and just a giant blob of misery right now. 

Hi, my name is Debbie Downer, aren't you glad you stopped by my cheery blog? ;)

Its just one of the most frustrating experiences. I feel like we won't ever find anything quite as spectacular at this price point and time in our life- and to be soo close to getting it hurts so bad. There's still a little voice in my head (that doesn't care about risks and stress and logic) wheedling me.... just fork over the extra dough...its not that much......only a little bit more to get the house of your dreams....things will only be tight for a few months. Shut up voice!

I'm trying to listen to my hubby and remember that we have other responsibilities and we still have to have a life and that something else will eventually come along and it might be better in different ways.

But right now, I'm hoping for miracles to either happen with this house or for something better to come along.

Fingers crossed.

PS - I'll resume my photo editing series tomorrow - i just need some time to wallow. And to burn off my frustrations at the gym with a giant margarita watching Games of Thrones while crying on Kevin's shoulder.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fun with Photo Editing - Round 1!

I recently found an awesome free photo editing program that is sooo amazing and so of course I have to share!

As a side job I occaisionally take photos for people - mostly senior photos or family photos, and a couple of wedding receptions. I used to do all my photo editing with Photoshop Elements - because I'm too cheap to spend $500 on the real Photoshop and because Elements is like the "For Dummies" version of Photoshop and has basic editing on it. I do everything from basic edits to brighten/saturate/white balance, to more time consuming beautify steps like teeth whitening, skin touchs up, eye brightening, etc. And all those steps can be a little time I've been keeping my eyes open for something a little quicker to use that wasn't super expensive and hard to learn and didn't take me a gazillion steps and layers to get the looks I wanted.

And then one day....I tried PicMonkey and the clouds parted and rainbows filled the sky and butterflies danced and unicorns frolicked while I ran through the mountains my house singing.

It's an awesome photo editing program because:

1) It's free!
2) It's super easy
3) Its super quick for touch ups
4) Its super intuitive to use
5) It has super cool effects 

In a nutshell, it is super duper.

(And I am SUPER dorky, ha ha, but I'm really jazzed about how awesome and easy this program is. And did I mention its free?) And because I'm so excited, I just need to share - so I thought I would do a whole series of posts about how I use PicMonkey to edit the photos - in case you were looking for a cool photo program, or intidimated when it comes to photo editing. :)

Round 1:

Four quick ways to use PicMonkey to snazz up a simple dog photo and make it all sepia-ish and lovely.

Our lovely model Bailey - photo straight out of the camera, no flash.

Bailey, my aunts dog, in Idaho Falls 

First I cropped it - keeping the "Rule of Thirds" (golden ratio) in mind.

Option 1 - Subtle improvements.

I tried the Auto Adjust feature at first (sometimes I have really good luck with this feature!) but this time it took away the shadows of her face which is my favorite part of the photo.
So then I used the color saturation and bumped it up a tiny amount (4). (On all my photos I usually up the color saturation, contrast, brightness and highlights a bit - just to make them pop more. But for this one I just did the color saturation)

And then I went to "Touch Up" tool, and used the eye brighten feature and I used it on her eye, and her nose. You just click where you want it to brighten - voila!

Looks more Straight Out of the Camera/Natural - what I like usually.

Option 2 - Adding lightness and soft glow using "Orton" effect

For Option 2, then I went in and used the "Orton" Effect. At full strength (0%*) its way too much for me - I wanted something subtle and soft. So I adjusted the Fade to 81%, Brightness 62% and Bloom 61%. 

This is probably my favorite one - very natural, but soft.

Option 3 - Adding more light and softness using "Dusk" effect

I used the "Dusk" effect at full strength = 0%*. But then it was really dark (the small pic on the left, blech!) so then I went into exposure and increased the Highlights (to 30), Shadows (5) and Contrast (6). I just played around until it looked brighter and right to me. :)

*The scale is the only weird thing about PicMonkey that I don't quite get. Why is full strength 0%, shouldn't it be 100%?  Maybe 0% means 0% of the the original photo/un-effected photo is visible, and at 100% it means 100% of original photo is showing....? Someone want to explain this to me?

Ok, maybe this is my favorite.

Option 4 - More fancy pants/angelic ol' timey style

I used "Orton" again, set to 49%. (You're probably thinking again with the Orton?! But its soooo purty and I like how it makes things richer and brighter!)

Then I used "Cross Process" set to real rhyme or reason for that number, just  because that's what looked good to me.

As you work on photos I think you just have to play around a bit and find what looks nice. You can't necessarily apply the same scales and layers and have it look perfect with every photo. Plus, that's half the fun - stumbling across new styles!

A more stylized photo

So those are just four quick actions I like - there's lots more you can do! (I also use it write text on my photos and for graphics like I did in this post)

Next round I'll show you how I use PicMonkey to beautify photos of people - from teeth whitening, blemish fixing, etc - and more favorite effects of mine to really snazz up landscapes and more pet photos!

Do my steps make sense? And if you've tried PicMonkey, what effects do you like?

Happy editing!

~ K.

*Please note I do not work for PicMonkey, nor am I paid to endorse them. I'm just a nerd who loves getting artsy fartsy with photos and spreading the fun.*

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Seven: Friends, Family & House Update

Seven things I'm thankful for this Sunday:

1. My big extended, wonderful, (sometimes crazy) family. 

2. I got to catch up with my BFF from highschool Kate, who lives in NY, for a few hours yesterday. We haven't seen each other in nearly a year, but it feels like no time went by at at all when we're together and I had just the best time catching up with her talking about everything and nothing.

3. Sleeping in!! I slept in 'til 1pm today and it was glooorious. Don't judge. 

4. Pinterest. Is it bad that this is on my list practically every week? ha ha. But I just love it! Its so helpful! I have like a million boards now - from decorating ideas, to awesome cleaning tips, to cool craft ideas or just getting inspired looking at pretty horses - its ah-ma-zing!

5. Other bloggers/blogs out there. I get so much enjoyment, entertainment, comfort and inspiration from blogs. I'm still kinda shy about connecting with other bloggers, but I've been a lurker and fan of the blogs listed on my sidebar for many years. They are awesome and you should check them out (although you probably already do).

6. I held a chicken for the first time when I was in Idaho Falls and it was sooo cute! And it didn't peck my eyeballs out, although it was giving me a look. It was very silky and soft and makes me long to have chickens at the (hopefully) new house/farm. PS - Did you know their feet are warm?! I was expecting her to have cold lizard feet, but instead they were warm and kinda meaty.

7.  We're still in negotiations for the house we made the offer on! We aren't walking away...yet.

(Here's the long story: during the inspection, we discovered that the well is really not a functioning well. And this is after the bank - who own's the house for sale - had spent several thousand dollars fixing the well pump and putting in two new pressure tanks because they the thought the problem was just that there was low water pressure. WRONG. The well is 10 feet deep. 10 FEET DEEP! And there was maybe 5 feet of water in there.

 (If you're not very familiar with wells (a) count yourself lucky (b) most wells are hundreds of feet deep). 10 feet deep is basically a hole in the ground collecting storm water. Not good or safe. During the inspection we tapped the well dry in three hours -(when we filled the tub up the water was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sewer green. So gross) and the inspector basically said we would be out of water during the spring and summer months, and that this well was not adequate for a house hold.  <insert massive wave of disappointment and attempts to not ugly cry here> a nutshell, we're trying to get bids to see how much it would be to connect to city water and find out how much the bank is willing to pay for, and how much we can afford to pay for. Very stressful and to make matters worse, their is a back up offer on the house and the people are willing to pay 100% themselves to put in a new well - so we don't have much negotiating room thanks to them. Grrrrrrrrr.  But we are still working with the bank to see what we can make happen. So that is the house update - fingers crossed we get affordable bids. Otherwise its back to house shopping.)

What are you thankful for this weekend? Not being on well water? ;)

~ Kacy

Friday, May 18, 2012

Road Trip: On the Way to Idaho & Memories of Waterville

I love going on road trips, especially with my hubby. We do at least one long road trip every year (mostly to visit my family in Idaho Falls) and then usually we enjoy a few mini-road trips when we go out hiking. I love snapping pics (have I mentioned how much I love my DSLR? I LOVE it! Everyone should get one!). And I love the uninterrupted time in the car to just talk and laugh and be together.

There's something really nice about being in the car with your hunny, holding hands, chatting about nothing, and just taking in the world together.

coming back from a hike, Kev looks kinda doofy here - ha ha. I think he was mid-sentence.

Some of my favorite photos have been from roadtrips where we've stopped at scenic viewpoints.

Or I've just snapped them while we're hauling down the freeway.

Somewhere in Montana, road trip 2010

Usually I snap a lot of house photos too, where I screech "DREAM HOUSE!!" and tell Kevin to slow down. Which he never does.
Isn't this house and barn amazing! We drove by it when we went to the Tulip Festival in Skagit County 2 years ago.

But he is pretty good about getting out and standing for a photo. Sometimes begrudgingly.

From our oregon coast trip in 2008 - one of my favorite photos of him. Nevermind the fact that he's hiding a cigarette from when he used to smoke.

Or when we find a good place for a cheesy photo. (There's my cheese loving hubby hugging the sign! ha ha!) This was a few years ago when we did a road trip down to Bandon, Oregon and it still makes me laugh every time I see it.

So I was really looking forward to another fun road trip this year (Kevin worked 10 days straight so we really hadn't spent much time together lately).

 Except for:
1. We planned to get up at 3 am and leave by 4 am. Yikes. No likey. But we didn't want to cruise into town super late cause my sweet grandparents would wait up for us.
2. The house inspection didn't go so great on Friday (ugh, long story about the well/water situation, which I'll be sharing soon), and we had a lot to talk about and things to try and figure out, so just not a great time to be driving through mountain passes where we don't have cell reception.

But nevertheless, 3 am came and we finished packing, topped off our cats food and water, gave them kisses and finally hit the road at 4:45 am. (A little later than anticipated..but not too bad)

Here's what four in the morning looks like headed towards Steven's Pass. Its blurry because thats how my vision was for the first few hours of the drive. ha ha.

It's so crazy to still see snow on the mountains - it's been sunny and warm - but still up on those passes there's snow.

I don't remember where this was cause I started dozing off pretty quickly and just woke up here and there. I think I woke up briefly to snap a few photos, then back asleep until we got to Leavenworth.

We went on US-2 all the way until it hooked up with Spokane. Which I'm glad we did because it gave us the opportunity to drive through Wenatchee and Waterville, a place that is very special to me.

I'm going to digress here for a little while.

Waterville is a small little town, about a thousand people now, and nothing but a blip on a map for many people, but for me its a huge part of my history.

My dad's family is from Waterville and my Nana lived there the majority of her life, along with her sisters and extended family. She was the Waterville City Clerk for many years and I'm not exaggerating when I say she was beloved by many in the town. (You can imagine how much the city crew loved a gal who baked them cookies EVERY DAY for decades!) 

She was an amazing mother and grandmother and I cherish the relationship we had. I can't even put into words how much I love this woman.

Isn't she beautiful? Holding me nearly 30 years ago. (And dang, I was one ugly baby there...ha ha)
Tragically she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was in college. We knew something was off - she was forgetting things, having a hard time working the phone and just not her normal self.

The last few memories I have of her being semi-normal and "herself" are from my wedding in 2005. I'm very thankful I got to have her there.

Five years or so ago, we moved her from her home in Waterville to a retirement community closer to my Uncle Wayde and my Aunt Rachelle. Moving her out of her home, the home where I always felt like was a second home to me, and where every memory I have of her is there, was very traumatic for me - and I continue to grieve for that chapter of my life and for all those good times spent there with her.

Her Alzheimer's has since progressed so severely that she doesn't recognize any of us and she can't really speak or communicate. Its a heart ache that hurts me every day And so I get very emotional thinking about her and all the memories I have of Waterville, Wenatchee, Lake Chelan and just that whole area. I haven't been there since that weekend when we packed up her house.

So I wasn't sure how it would feel to drive through it.  Sometimes I tear up thinking about Waterville and my Nana so I was feeling a little anxious as we got closer - afraid of how it might hurt to see and smell and just feel that place again. Afraid of the rush of memories.

But when we drove through I didn't feel as sad as I thought I would be, and instead I was more excited to finally show it to Kevin and to share the place that he's heard so much about.

Driving along the Wenatchee River....
Turtle Rock - because it looks like a turtle head! Seeing this as a kid always meant that we were getting close to the road to Waterville.

On the road to Waterville. As a kid this canyon seemed epic. Still pretty steep and scary as an adult too. ha ha.

We used to play the game of who could spot Waterville first. It looks like this for a few minutes and then before you know it, there's the little town.

Windsheild bug count already in the hundreds.

Of course, I was too busy looking and didn't get the quintessential photo of the town.

Once we got into town it was crazy how not much has changed. Still the same farm houses.

This has been here for ever. I love that they still keep the paint looking fresh.

We drove by my Nana's old house. It looked sooo different, different paint, no flowers or shrubs. It looked so different that I didn't feel nostalgic or sad.
As a single mom she raised 3 kids in this 3 Bedroom, 1 bathroom house!
The town grocer. Its about as big as a gas station store, wtih just about the same amount of food stocked. ha ha!

The mean main street of Waterville. I can hear the Jets snapping their fingers somewhere.

The local swimming pool. I learned how to swim in this pool and spent about every waking hour of the summer in this. As a kid that diving board was Mount Everest. More than once I climbed up it to only stare down the depths so far away, and would totally chicken out and walk back down the rungs all red faced and embarrassed.

Kevin was cracking up when I told him:
"its maybe 7 feet tall!!" 

"Yeah, well I was 3 feet tall, so it felt huge!"

I can still remember the first successful jump I did off that thing. Victory felt sweet, despite the painful half-belly flop.  

We drove around a little more - pointing out the churches and school and the streets I rode my bike down. I was too enraptured to take many photos. It felt good to go back, but also a little bittersweet. We didn't have much time to waste, so we hit back on the freeway soon after.

Somewhere along the Idaho-Montana border. I think Montana is gorgeous and just heaven-on-earth. Kevin and I want to live there one day.

Look at that view! I'll live there in that house right on the bluff, thank you very much.

And then lots and lots of photos like this.....

I then dozed on and off for awhile, then drove for about 30 minutes while Kevin cat-napped, and then he took back driving and drove forever and ever and then some.  :)

Finally we pulled into G&G's house around 7 pm (their time, 6 pm our time). Glad for the road trip to be over! I think 13 hours of driving is plenty, don't you? 


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