Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's Cooking? Chicken Pot Pie & Chocolate Galore!

While I continue to procrastinate about writing other blog posts, here's a quick and easy update about some of my current FAVORITE (and EASY!) recipes.

First up is an absolute family dinnertime classic: Chicken Pot Pie. This is the recipe I grew up with, and because of that, no other pot pie will do. This is my favorite- even compared to much fancier and more complicated versions.


Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Ingredients:
  • Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust (you will need top and bottom)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey - we just boil frozen chicken breasts until done
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
Directions:

Heat oven to 425°F. In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened. Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Place dough over filling; unfold. Trim, seal and crimp or flute edges. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. ENJOY!

Next up is the BEST BROWNIE RECIPE EVER! Jason and I were literally BLOWN AWAY by how delicious these brownies were. I have an unwritten rule in our house that we are never without a brownie box mix. I mean, you never know when you are going to want some brownies right? Well this past weekend, for the first time in our marriage, I wanted brownies, and yet was without a mix! I couldn't believe it! So I started searching for recipes online that I had all the ingredients for, and came across this one.


BEST BROWNIES Recipe (aka- I'm never buying a Brownie Mix again!) 

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter, melted 
  • 3 cups white sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (You can omit these if you don't have them around...)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. ENJOY!



Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies Recipe
These were a big hit both at our house and at Bible Study this week. Just wanted to mix it a up a bit from the same old Chocolate Chip - and these fit the bill!


Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 2
 cups peanut butter chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the peanut butter chips. Drop cookies by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until set. ENJOY!

Until Next Time,
Laura 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Musical Creation with Garage Band Jam Pack


A few months ago I posted a blog regarding some musical musings that I was involved with producing.  It was an original arrangement of an old hymn recorded on my keyboard and edited on the computer.  Well, it's been sometime, but I've finally finished another composition.  This one is not in anyway related to the first and I'm pumped about it!

Back in August I celebrated my 26th birthday and since I love music I asked for a special present.  I really wanted a Jam Pack expansion for Garageband, the program that I am currently using to record all of my projects (which is really a depiction of what is always going on in my head...which can sometimes drive Laura crazy ;)  But I really like programs like this because I can get all of my ideas down in concrete before I forget about them.  Anyway, the Remix Tools Jam Pack was on my list (there are I think 5 expansions) and my parents came through.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  So I loaded this new expansion on the mac and got to work.  It was almost overwhelming.  The massive increase in digital  sound effects, drum tracks, synths, etc was ridiculous...in a good way.  But it took me several days to see all what my new capabilities were.  After figuring everything out, I got started.  I had this idea for a single with a smooth beachy feel and a driving beat.  I also had 3 chords in mind to go off of with shadows of a potential melody.  Very vague I know, but thats kind of how composition works.  You have some general ideas, you start putting them down then you get more ideas and eventually everything comes together.

So after several weeks of working in my free time composing, arranging, recording and editing.  The single came together.  I am really happy with this track because I got to record some improvisation tracks on the piano which I don't do often.  I'm much more comfortable improving/playing jazz on sax because that's the instrument that I studied jazz theory, etc on.  But the cool thing about music is that theory is theory and so it applies across instruments.  So I finally got to improv on the keys...so sweet.  I'm also really excited about the editing.  I was able to engineer the sounds I was thinking in my head and when imagination meets reality, it's like drinking a vanilla milkshake on a warm Sunday afternoon in a park.  Finally, one of my favorite parts of the song:  the BRIDGE!!!  It came out better than I expected.  So I am pretty proud of this single.  The name of it is called "Seabeams on the Sunshore" and it captures a blend of laid back beachy jazz with driving deep house beats.  I hope you enjoy it and feel free to leave feedback!  I now present my original recording...Seabeams on the Sunshore! Enjoy the listen!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Verses to Encourage You to Read the Bible

I'm linking up with Kelly's Korner today with the topic: "Show Us Your Life: Favorite Bible Studies & Devotional Books."

As a Christian, it is really important for me to get to know Jesus Christ more and more each day. I know that one of the best ways to do this is through reading the Bible and praying. No matter how badly I want to be diligent as both of these things, it seems as though things come up all the time to distract me from my study of the Word of God. I believe that it is spiritual warfare. I just found this quote and thought I'd share it with you.
"There are two major reasons it is so difficult to develop the discipline of a daily quiet time. First is the influence of the flesh. Keep in mind that your old nature is opposed to daily quiet time... Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable your new nature to overcome your old nature in this battle.  
The second reason is resistance by Satan. The devil opposes your every effort to please Christ. His strategy is to rob you of daily quiet time joy, to complicate your time schedule by keeping you up late at night and making it hard for you to get up in the morning, to make you drowsy during your time with the Lord, to make your mind wander, and otherwise to disrupt your meeting with Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to retain the devil."  - Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials, page 37
I love these verses about spending time with God. I might come back to this post for inspiration when it is hard to get out of bed! 
James 4:8 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 
Psalm 1:2 ESV
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 119:11 ESV
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:9 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 
Matthew 6:6 ESV
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Mark 11:22-24 ESV
And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
I also believe that there is special power in getting up early and spending time with the Lord. I found this great list of verses about seeking Him in the morning
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35) 
"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:3)
"But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice." (Psalm 55:16-17)
 "But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble." (Psalm 59:16)
 "But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you." (Psalm 88:13)

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love; that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (Psalm 90:14) 
 "It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night..." (Psalm 92:1-2) 
 "Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD." (Psalm 101:8) 
 "My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." (Psalm 130:6) 
 "O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress." (Isaiah 33:2) 
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23) 
 "In the morning the word of the LORD came to me" (Ezekial 12:8)
Finally, I wanted to share a really awesome resource that has helped me with reading the Word. Visit www.youversion.com and just start exploring. It is an AMAZING site that has tons of reading plans, commentaries, and a really easy to use Bible reading online platform, that lets you read the Bible in practically every translation (even side-by-side!)

Here's a screen shot if you choose to read on your computer:

And here's how I typically read (on my phone). YouVersion even can read every bit of the Bible to you if you prefer! You can even download translations of the Bible for when you don't have an internet connections! You can download the app here: http://www.youversion.com/mobile/iphone
Until Next Time! 
Laura 

It's Fall Y'all! My Favorite Fall Decor, Food, and Fashion!


Fall is in the air! In Augusta, that means we've hit a chilly low of 60 degrees! Maybe more so than the cooler temps is the fact that it has been cloudy for the last 5 days or so. This gets me in the mood for the these fall "must-haves"....

Fall Decor
Fall Wheelbarrow with "Welcome" Sign 
I just paved the way for this one by pulling out a really nasty looking bush by our front door. Make way for cute fall-"ish" wheelbarrow! 
Jason is actually debating about building one of these for me. It will probably look more like this:


Next up: Fall Porch
~I like the subdued colors in this one~
~Love the garland and wreaths. Maybe a tad too many pumpkins though.~
~I'd be surprised if I made it through the season without splurging on some mums.~

Gotta Have: Fall Wreath


Project to Take On: Fall Initial (I hope this is as easy as it looks!)
Fall Food
Butternut Squash Soup (also tried and true)
This fall, I'm also going to try to my friend Angelyn's recipe: Maple Roasted Butternut Sqaush with Pancetta, Garlic, and Sage.  

Fall Fashion
I'm ready to bust out the coats and sweaters! Do I have clothes like this? Not really. Would I wear them if I did? Probably not. But a girl can dream! :) 


Until Next Time,
Laura 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weekend Recap: Soup Kitchen, Yard Work, and Movies Galore!

This past weekend (Sept. 9-11), we played it pretty low key. Since last weekend, we were at the lake, and next weekend, I'll be in Savannah for a Bachelorette party, we decided to soak up the fact that we had almost no plans for the entire weekend!

On Friday night, I went to the gym and did some hard core weight lifting. I really pushed myself and was sore like 3 days later! The plan is to do the same routine tonight, we will see if that happens...Right now, I'm doing a combo of weight lifting ideas from the Abs Diet Book, P90X, and some stuff I have seen other people do. I have never fully committed to a program like P90X, but I do know that my company is doing a Fitness Challenge starting in October with some prize money involved, so that should help motivate me! I do really enjoy the P90X videos, but lately it has been so hot outside (and inside our house), that I can never get myself to do it. Also, I don't have the DVDs, so I think I might ask for those for my birthday...


On Friday night, we were both kinda tired, so we decided to watch a movie on Netflix. One of the streaming options was "Whip It". It has the girl from Juno in it and it was a really cute move. It felt really indie - but I like movies like that. You should check it out - especially if you have Netflix. It is about the Roller Derby.


The next morning, we went to Golden Harvest downtown to help serve lunch at the Masters Table with some people from our small group. At the Masters Table, we serve the people like they are at a restaurant - which was a pretty cool idea. We had a good turn out of volunteers (we actually had too many - which I guess isn't such a bad problem!) Turns out, they need a lot more help during the week (between 10:00-1:00) than they do on Saturdays. But we had a great time learning more about the ministry and getting a chance to spend some time with people from our small group outside of church. 

On Saturday, we hung around the house, getting some of our "Maintenance Items" done like laundry, cleaning, bill paying, grocery shopping, etc. Then we watched the infamous UGA vs. USC college football game. We recently cancelled cable and were left without many option to watch the game! Luckily, ESPN3 came on, and after some research, we discovered that we could use PlayOn on our Roku to get ESPN3 on our TV. We were pretty impressed with ourselves that we got the game on the big screen without paying for cable!!! 

On Sunday, we had more time to relax and do yard work. I read an article in the Augusta Chronicle that said you should water your trees and bushes with a bucket of water (not just a sprinkler) since it has been so dry lately and the sprinkler water doesn't go deep enough for those plants. Well that little project took a least and hour. I also did some weeding while Jason clean his car inside and out and even waxed it! It was a beautiful day outside and not too hot, so we really enjoyed being outside. 

On Sunday night, we decided to watch another movie (this one inspired by the 2 week free trial we have of Epix on our Roku). We watched "Morning Glory" which I first saw in Charleston with my mom and sis. The movie is totally hilarious and fun to watch. The main character is a Type-A-to-the-Max morning show producer played by Rachel McAdams. This movie flew a little under the radar when it came out, but I definitely recommend it! 


Until next time,
Laura 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday - Internet Nerd Version


If you're an internet nerd like I am, there's a few that I'm loving today that you just gotta try!

{1} Picasa
For a free download, you can lots of your photos on Picasa. They are synced up to the web instantly. And best of all, when you're blogging, you can select photos from your Picasa account. We quickly ran out the free space allotment, and bought 20GB for $5/year. I love to have ALL of my photos in one place. I upload photos that I want to share onto Facebook. Also, with Picasa you can set your security settings. Some albums you can make public and share with the world, others you can share only to those with a secure link to the album. I even use Picasa at work to share internal company photos.


{2} Pinterest (Follow me at http://pinterest.com/lbaareman/)
As mentioned in this post, I too have joined the Pinterest wagon. I used to get tons of home decorating magazines that I got for cheap online (at Amazon for example...) and I would never have time to look through all of them. My goal was to eventually sit down and clip out photos of my favorite rooms or decorating ideas and make an "Idea Binder". Well, this goal eventually turned into a closet full of old magazines that was driving Jason crazy (he finds joy in getting rid of things, and I can be a pack-rat, go figure...) Well, with the invention of Pinterest, I threw away all my old mags, and now I keep track of things I like and decorating ideas online (clutter free!).

My favorite thing to do on Pinterest is just scroll around, looking at cool things that everyone (or just my friends) have "pinned" and shared with the world. I typically will do this as a good distraction while Jason and I are watching Pawn Stars or The Office reruns on our Roku.
*P.S. - if you need an invite, I'll send ya one!*


{3} Picnik
I use Photoshop at work all the time. That program was made to be difficult to use! For the last 5 years, I have been wondering why there isn't an easier to use (and cheaper) Photoshop out there. Well, turns out there is! I love Picnik, and use it for work all the time. Another great option is FotoFlexer.com. I just used Picnik to make our new header - how do you like it?


{4} Mint:
Although we still use our trusty Excel Spreadsheets to keep track of our budget, I have recently discovered some pretty cool features that Mint has to help us with our finances.

  • It's completely Free!
  • You can load ALL of your accounts (credit cards, home loans, checking accounts, investments, etc.) into one place for easy access and calculation of your net worth. 
  • You can view all of this instantly via the Iphone App!
  • Mint will send you weekly summaries of your financial performance 
  • Mint will also send you email alerts (if you want) about bills that are about to be due.

So what are you waiting for? Check it out!


{4} Free Web Fonts
I absolutely LOVE fonts. Maybe because I'm in marketing and spend a lot of time trying to make things look "cool" - but I still would be shocked if everyone didn't find the following website AMAZING! Google has provided TONS of free downloadable fonts here: http://www.google.com/webfonts. I have since been using Maiden Orange on lots of work projects. Google also makes it easy to incorporate these fonts into your website.


{5} Youtube (Favorited Videos)
If you already have a Gmail Account, you can connect it with Youtube, create an account, and start favoriting videos and channels. I love that I can keep track of the videos that I love, save some for later, and even subscribe to channels and be emailed when they have a new upload.

So here are some of my recent favorites:


That's all Folks! :) 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bachelorette Adventures in Breckenridge!

After a spending a few fun-filled days with my family in Hilton Head, I headed to Atlanta on Wednesday morning to fly to Denver to celebrate Amy's wedding festivities! Amy is my best friend from High School and I was so excited to get to be a part of her special day! Best of all, there were lots of other fun activities leading up to the wedding that I enjoyed with her and her other bridesmaids.

Wednesday was a big travel day. I woke up early to make it to Atlanta in time. It took about 4 1/2 hours to drive, plus I had to stop on the way to pick up a last minute gift for Amy. I made it to the airport with time to spare, and spent an hour or so eating lunch and getting ready to board. *Side Note* I was a big ditz and booked the flight to Denver for the week AFTER Amy was going to get married! Luckily I was on the phone with her one night a few months before the wedding and realized that I had booked my flight a week too late! After an hour or so on the phone with Travelocity Customer Service, I was able to change my flight - for a hefty $100 fee! Next time I will be MUCH more careful when booking flights - for some reason I thought that there would be no fee involved! *Side Note #2* I'm started to get REALLY annoyed with all the airline fees! I had to pay like $40 just to check a small piece of luggage - really!!!!?

So, after a yummy lunch of Atlanta Bread Company in the airport - and a nice phone conversation with Jason (about all the things I was missing in Hilton Head :( ), I boarded the plane. After some time spent with "The Heart of the Matter" (okay...not as good as "Something Borrowed" or "Something Blue"), I made it to the Mile High City I had heard so much about! Amy was there to pick me and Colleen up. It was great to see both of them and me and Colleen were lucky to have the bride-to-be drive us up to Breckenridge (about 2 hours from Denver - where our cabin for the Bachelorette Weekend was).

 When Colleen, Amy, and I arrived at our AMAZING cabin, we were greeted by bridesmaids Becca, Heidi, and Katie with lots of Bachelorette paraphernalia. Here's Colleen, Amy, and Heidi getting ready to make our sushi dinner!

 Makin' Sushi...
 I learned a lot about making homemade sushi...still need to convince Jason that raw fish can be tasty :)

 Ingredients...

Jamming out to Pandora along the way... 
 Becca was the sushi master...





 Amy and Colleen cutting the sushi with the dullest knife ever! 
 Katie, Becca, and Heidi getting ready to dig in! 
 Me with the bride-to-be and Colleen
 Yummy! 
The ski lift / course right outside out door 
The cute cabins from the outside 
 After lots of talking and staying up late, we headed to bed. The cabin really was adorable. It was right off the ski lift- but we got it for cheap since it was the off season.

The next morning, we had pancakes for breakfast and got ready to go kayaking. I wish I could remember the name of the place that we went... The lake we kayaked in was absolutely beautiful. It was surrounded by mountains. The crazy thing was that it was COOL outside - like highs in the 70s! Plus, the water was cold! I never really did get used to this, given that I had just left like 100% humidity Hilton Head with highs in the 90s and water that was super warm.

 We saw some ducks diving in head first for their lunch! 


 The girlies

 Obligatory "jump" photo
We put flowers in our hair... 
 Amy and Maid-of-Honor Katie (she's from Atlanta and we rode the same flight on the way back!)
 Me and my partner Colleen
 Walton Girls reunited! 
After our kayak ride (mine and Colleen's boat had a mind of its own and kept going in circles...haha), we had a picnic lunch and then headed back to the cabin, and spent some quality time at the hot tub. Who knew that in August I'd be anywhere cool enough to be in a hot tub in the middle of the day!? The cool temperatures were a bit misleading and we all got sunburned! After that, we helped Amy out with some last minute wedding crafts. Amy, Colleen, and Becca made two hand-made garters that ended up being adorable! The rest of us helped paint some chalkboard directions signs for the wedding and reception.

Working diligently. *Note to Self* buy some of that chalkboard paint - it's awesome!
 Trying on the garter! :) 

 All decked out! 

That night, we went out for Thai food to celebrate Amy's last nights as a single lady! We then came home, gave her some bacheloretty gifts - sorry, no pics! ;) The next morning, we proved what amazing bridesmaids we were with a 4 mile run (more than a mile above sea level! - FYI - that's TOUGH for us Georgia Gals!)





Next Up - all about the Wedding! Stay tuned!

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