Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Maddie's Junior Prom

 Hi Friends!

I thought you might like to take a peek at a few pictures of Maddie before Prom.
 This year she went with her friend, Alex, along with a group of other friends who all went on the trip to France together.
 I loved Maddie's unique dress, and the fact that she wore her hair down this year.

 Her fancy shoes didn't even make it all the way through the picture session, though.  : )

Hooray for nights where you look like a glamorous movie star and get to laugh with good friends.

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce 13/52


Hi Friends!

I am not even kidding:  this week's recipe is the BEST thing I have put in my mouth in 2015. For real.  These tacos are so, so good!  The garlic cilantro lime sauce that goes on the slaw is the kind of taste that dreams are made of.  I want to make these tacos a hundred times this summer and serve them to everyone I love. They're that good.  This recipe came straight from Pinch of Yum.  We didn't change a thing.

For the Garlic Cilantro Lime Sauce
·         ¼ cup oil
·         ¼ cup water
·         ½ cup chopped green onions
·         ½ cup cilantro leaves
·         2-3 cloves garlic 
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         juice of 2 limes
·         ½ cup sour cream

For the Shrimp Tacos
·         1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
·         1 teaspoon each chili powder, cumin, and southwestern seasoning (see notes)
·         ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
·         2-3 cups shredded green cabbage
·         8 small corn tortillas
·         1-2 avocados
·         Cotija cheese and additional cilantro for topping
·         lime wedges for serving
INSTRUCTIONS
1.     Pulse all the sauce ingredients except the sour cream in a food processor. When mostly smooth, add the sour cream and pulse until combined. Taste and adjust as needed. Set aside.
2.     Heat a drizzle of oil a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the spices. Add the shrimp to the hot pan and saute for 5-8 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through.
3.     Toss some of the sauce (not all) with the cabbage until it the cabbage is coated to your liking. It should resemble a coleslaw - you want it to be enough sauce so the cabbage is weighed down a little bit. Use leftover sauce on top of the tacos or in other recipes.

4.     To serve tacos, smash a spoonful of avocado on the tortillas, top with a few pieces of shrimp, top with coleslaw, and finish with Cotjia cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Enjoy!
XO,
Vicki

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Few More Days of Making

 Hi Friends!

I am loving the 100 Days of Making challenge!  I thought I'd share days 4-7 here today.  I am posting my quotes on Instagram if you're interested in seeing them day-by-day.


I'm not sure if the words to my Alma Mater song count as a favorite quote, but I get to make the rules, so I say "YES!".

Are you doing the 100 Days of Making Challenge?  I'd love to see what you're doing--leave me a link in the comments!

XO,

Vicki

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

100 Days of Making

Hi Friends,

Who's up for a creative challenge?!?  On Monday I started a new one that I'm pretty excited about: 100 Days of Making.  You can read all about how the idea was generated, but the short version is to challenge yourself to creating 100 of something--one day at a time.
The creators of this challenge urge you to pick something you're passionate about.  I decided that I'd like to illustrate 100 of my favorite quotes.  I love quotes.  I collect them and recycle them all the time.  My Pinterest quote board is my most popular, by far.  I'm pretty sure I'll turn my 100 quotes into some kind of mini album, because that's just what I do.  :)

Here are my first three days:



The official kick off to the challenge was Monday, but the great thing is you can start any time!  Want to join me?  I'd love to see what you come up with with your creative awesomeness!  Here's to the next 97 creative days!

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: Lemon Pesto Penne 12/52

Hi Friends!

Got 20 minutes?  That's all it takes to throw together this really flavorful meal, packed with goodness and veggies.  Whenever I make a recipe that calls for loads of veggies, I feel like the world's best mom.  I made this last night before the big game, and everyone liked it.  John thinks we should throw some grilled chicken into it next time, which I think would make it even better.  I can't wait to try this again this summer made with tomatoes and basil from the garden.  The feta cheese is my favorite part of the whole thing--I love, love, love feta cheese (just like Isabella!).

Here's the super-easy recipe:

Lemon Pesto Penne 


INGREDIENTS
16 ounces penne noodles
2 C baby broccoli
1 16 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained 
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 C pesto
1/2 C feta cheese, divided
juice of 1 lemon
fresh basil, cut into ribbons

INSTRUCTIONS
1.     Cook the penne according to package directions. Add the baby broccoli to the pot of boiling water for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking. It should turn bright green. Drain and return to the pan over medium high heat.

2.     Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan with the pasta and baby broccoli; saute 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the pesto, half of the feta, and the lemon juice. Toss in the pan until well combined. Remove from heat and add the basil. Sprinkle with remaining feta before serving.
Enjoy, friends!
XO,
Vicki

PS I tweaked the original recipe found at Pinch of Yum.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Peek At Emily in London

 Hi Friends!

I'm just as excited to see Emily having fun in London this week as I was to see Maddie having fun in Paris last week!  Emily's spending her Spring Break "studying" in London--she's actually earning a college credit for her time there.  So far, she hasn't posted any pictures of her doing any school work, though. : )
Emily's trip is very different than Maddie's.   Emily is in London on a student visa, not part of a tour group.  That means that when she's not doing academic work, she and her friends are able to do anything they want.
Before she left, Emily planned an extensive tourist guide for herself (of course she did!) filled with all the things she wanted to do and see during her time in London.  She even squeezed in a trip to see Stonehenge:
She not only planned out the things she wanted to do, she planned out how she was going to get there and everything.  I'm so impressed!  : )
She said it's been pretty rainy so far, but there was a bit of sun the other day.  I love this blue sky photo she posted:
And this photo looks like an old-time postcard:
Hooray for studying abroad and new adventures and making new friends in far away places.

XO,
Vicki

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Report: March 2015

Hi Friends,

Oh, boy.  I read some weird books in March.  I tend to collect recommendations from all over the place and when I see a good book recommendation, I immediately put the book on hold at the library. Sometimes I'm lucky (like in February) and I get a month's worth of good reading.  Other times, I end up reading some odd books.  This month's books weren't all bad--none of them were awful--but I didn't fall in love with any of these books.  Here's what I read in March:
The King's Curse, Philippa Gregory (3 1/2 stars).  This was, by far, my favorite book of the month. I am a big Philippa Gregory fan---she is definitely the queen of historical fiction.  This book centered around lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.  
Friendswood, Rene Steinke (3 1/2 stars).  The writing in this book is so, so good.  The story lines are so, so sad.  Small town Texas characters and drama.
The Good Girl, Mary Kubica (3 stars).  Girl gets kidnapped, something happens, and then she returns home remembering nothing and answering to a different name.  (No spoilers--this happens in the first chapter).  What I won't tell you is how this one ends.  I literally didn't see it coming, not even a little bit.
Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm (3 stars).  Hmm.  It's rare that I read a book where I can't find a single character that I like.  The story is good.  The people in the story drove me a little bit batty.
The Fever, Megan Abbott (2 stars).  This book just creeped me out.  The whole thing just felt murky. Teenage girls mysteriously affected by some type of something that causes them to have seizures.  No one seems to know what is causing it.  Is it drugs?  The stagnant lake?  A vaccination?  Maybe it's because I have teenage daughters, but I just wanted them to find the cause and tie everything up neat and tidy and get on with life.

What did you read this month?

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken 11/52

Hi Friends!

I asked John to recommend a "genre" for this week's challenge, and he requested Asian.  I found this recipe for Cashew Chicken and knew I wanted to try it.  Every single time I go out for Asian food, I order Cashew Chicken.  John's not a big nut guy, so I wasn't sure he'd  be excited, but he told me to go for it.  This recipe is completely delicious, and really easy to make.  There is definitely a kick to this recipe, so if you're not a fan of a little heat, cut back or eliminate the red pepper flakes.

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks1/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 tsp black pepper3 Tbsp canola oil3/4 cup soy sauce6 Tbsp rice wine vinegar6 Tbsp ketchup3 Tbsp brown sugar3 garlic cloves, minced2 tsp grated fresh ginger 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 1/2 cup cashews

1.Combine flour and pepper in resealable food storage bag. Add chicken. Shake to coat with flour mixture. 


2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 3 minutes on each side. Place chicken in slow cooker.


3. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in small bowl; pour over chicken. 


4. Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Add cashews and stir. 


5.Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.


As always, let me know what you think if you try this recipe!

XO,


Vicki


I adapted this recipe and shared my adaptions.  The original recipe can be found here.

Currently


TIME: 11:15
LOCATION : family room
FEELING: good!
LOVING : the sunshine streaming through the windows
READING : It's What I Do
DRINKING : water, go juice, chocolate milk
ANTICIPATING : seeing Maddie's face tonight--she's been gone since the 20th!
LISTENING TO : my alternative rock station on Pandora
WATCHING : Better Call Saul, Blacklist
PLANNING : summer swim workouts
LOOKING FORWARD TO : Easter
CREATING :  Project Life spreads like it is my job--huge update later this week!
NEED TO FINISH : recommendation letters--they never end.  : )
WISHING : that Dad felt better
MAIN GOAL : Keep going forward!

What are you "CURRENTLY" doing? 
XO,
Vicki

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge: Easy Crockpot Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings 10/52


Hi Friends!

John posted this week's recipe on my Facebook page with a message that said, "We should try this." John's not a big social media guy, so I figured that if he took the time to share a recipe with me on Facebook, I'd better give it a try.  For those of you playing along with my cooking challenge, I know this is the second recipe involving Sriracha sauce, but I promise the honey takes a lot (but not all) of the heat out of this recipe.  These wings were incredibly tender and full of flavor--we will definitely be making this one again.  The original recipe was posted on The Slow Roasted Italian.  Our goal for next time is to make our wings look as messy as the one on the original recipe.  Practice makes perfect!

Easy Crockpot Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings


4 pounds chicken wing drumettes, frozen
3/4 cup Sriracha sauce (Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, the one with the rooster on the package)

3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
juice of one lime (about 1/4 cup)

In a 5 quart slow cooker on low add Sriracha sauce, butter, honey and lime juice.  Stir to combine.  Add chicken wings.  Stir until wings are well coated.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Remove wings from slow cooker and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Drizzle sauce from slow cooker over wings.  

Set oven to broil.  Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 2-3 minutes until the sauce starts to caramelize.  Remove from oven, serve and enjoy.

COOK’S NOTE:  If you like a thick sauce coating, transfer the sauce to a saucepan and boil it until it cooks down, approximately 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then brush or drizzle the sauce over the wings.

You can also layer the sauce on the wings.  Coat wings with sauce, broil for 1 minute, and then remove from oven.  Coat with sauce, broil 1 minute.  Add more sauce, broil until sauce is caramelized.

You can use fresh wings.  Cook time would be 3-4 hours on low or 1 to 2 hours on high.

Instead of cooking the sauce down and broiling it you can mix up 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water in a resealable container and shake it really well. Pour slurry into crockpot then cook an additional 30 minutes on high. 


As always, please let me know what you think if you try out this recipe!

XO,

Vicki

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Peek At Maddie In Paris

Oh my gosh, I love the internet!  What did we do before Facebook and texting and Twitter and Instagram?  Case in point:  these lovely pictures of my middle girl enjoying herself in Paris...while she's in Paris.
I love that pictures are appearing in my feeds of Maddie smiling and happy and loving the City of Lights.  Her texts are all so happy.  And that makes me extremely happy.
I didn't get to see Paris until I turned 40.  It was a trip of a lifetime (thank you, Christy!).  I am so glad John and I were able to make this trip happen for Maddie.
Soak it all up, baby girl!

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge 2015: Shrimp Scampi 9/52

Hi Friends!

Scrimp Scampi is one of those things that sounds all fancy and difficult to make, but I promise you--this recipe is super easy--and delicious!  I think it took 40 minutes, start-to-finish, and that included the time it took me to peel the shrimp. I served it with crusty bread, and everyone loved it.  I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Shrimp Scampi

1 1/2  lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 TBL olive oil
2 TBL garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups white wine, I used Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 fresh lemon, juice only
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 C softened butter
1 TBL parsley
1/2 C Parmesan cheese
Thin spaghetti, or other noodle of your choice

Heat cast iron skillet with olive oil over medium high heat.  Add shrimp and cook until tender and no longer translucent. Remove shrimp and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium.

Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to brown--it will make it bitter.

Add white wine and lemon juice.  Cook until wine is reduced by half.  After it is reduced, add the Italian seasoning.

Reduce heat to low and add butter.  Stir until melted.  Add shrimp back into the sauce.  Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over hot noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!!

XO,

Vicki

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Uncle Ken Cooking Challenge: Blueberry Bars 8/52


Hi Friends!

The sun is shining and the snow is rapidly melting, which of course, makes me pine for all things summer--especially blueberries.  My love for blueberries runs deep.  Although blueberries are not yet in season, I am starting to see them at the grocery store (hooray!).  I'm not sure if baking falls under the "cooking challenge" rules, but I went with it, since this is a new recipe and it features my favorite fruit.  These bars are a snap to make, and they are just as yummy as they look.  Enjoy!!

Blueberry Bars
(Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen)

Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs

Filling:
4 cups (2 pints) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbl. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375, and grease a 9x13 glass pan. 

In a medium bowl, gently toss together the fresh blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch.
In your electric mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, butter and eggs, and mix until the dough is moist but very crumbly. Divide the dough in half, and press one half into your prepared pan so you have an even layer of crust.
Then spread the blueberry filling mixture over the dough pressed into the pan. Take the rest of the crumbly dough and sprinkle it over the blueberries.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the dough has browned a little bit (watch the bars carefully towards the end of the baking time so they don’t brown too much and don’t dry out).

Let cool completely before cutting and eating!

As always, please let me know what you think if you try these out.  

XO,

Vicki


Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mom!

 Hi Friends!

It's another special day for the Hawley family--it's my mom's birthday!  Happy Birthday, Mom!  And for those of you keeping track, yes, we do have three family birthdays within a 10-day stretch! I saw this quote last week, and it made me think of my mom:

"The greatest acts of love 
are done by those 
who are habitually performing 
small acts of kindness." 
Victor Hugo

In honor of my mom's birthday, I present you with the following list: 

Top Ten Awesome Things My Mom Did for Me that Showed Me Great Love

10.  When I was in college, mom wrote me a letter each and every week.
9.  When we found out our beloved high school band director was going to be fired, Mom wrote a speech that she delivered to the school board urging them to reconsider.
8.  Mom cooked a fresh, homemade meal every day while we were growing up.
7.  Mom designed and sewed Emily's entire nursery set--comforter, sheets, draperies, pillows.
6.  Mom volunteered to be my Brownie troop leader when no one else would.
5.  Mom sat through every single football game I cheered at, no matter what the weather.
4.  Mom often sacrificed getting nice Christmas presents so that Tom, Christy, and I could get what we asked for.
3.  Mom always made sure we felt celebrated on our birthdays.
2.  Mom edited (and typed) every paper I ever wrote until I left for college.
1.  Mom taught me about unconditional love.  I would not be the woman I am today without having you to look up to as a role model.  
Happy Birthday, Mom!  Thanks for showing me in a million different ways how much you love me. I hope the year ahead is a wonderful one--filled with lots of love, laughter, and good memories!

I love you!

XO,

Vicki

Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Hi Friends!

Guess what day it is:  Friday--my favorite!  It's also my Dad's birthday! Happy Birthday, Dad! In honor of his birthday, I am going to reprint a post I wrote on my other blog about a trip my Dad and I took together back in 2007.  I am blessed to have all kinds of good memories of my Dad, but that trip is definitely one of my favorites.  I hope you have an amazing day today, Dad!  I love you big bunches!  XOXO

Favorite Memories Friday//Country Living Fair 2007

APRIL 1, 2011
Hi Friends!
Today I am happy to introduce a new series on So Very Vicki:  Favorite Memories Friday.  Each Friday I’m going to share a special memory with you.  I started this blog last year to serve as an on-line journal–a place I can record events and joys and memories.  I have so many wonderful memories.  By writing them down and sharing them with all of you, I feel like I can celebrate the goodness of the past.  Sometimes I will talk about big memories and sometimes it will be just a snippet of a good time.  I hope you enjoy this new series!
Week #1–Country Living Fair, Ohio 2007
My Dad and I love to shop for antiques together.  We can spend hours together slowly looking up and down the aisles of a good antique store.  Sometimes we chat along the way and other times we just stand side-by-side and quietly look.  Dad loves stores packed with tiny treasures tucked in display cases, while I prefer the stores that stock colorful kitchen items and fun toys and sewing notions.  Sometimes Dad shakes his head over the stuff I go ga-ga over (a rusted gate…a bag of old spools), but he always encourages me to buy what makes me the happiest. (Except that pink scale.  I really wanted that pink scale and he talked me out of it.  I’m still thinking about that darn pink scale!)   Some of my very favorite memories with Dad involve things that happened on our antiquing expeditions.  There’s been plenty of laughs along the way (What?  You only want $30 for that Bauer bowl?) and lots of bargaining along the way (but mostly by Dad; I’m still not very good at bargaining).
In 2007, Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a scary time, but thankfully, everything turned out well.  Right around the time he was in the hospital, I saw an ad in my Country Living magazine about their fair.  The fair was to be held in Ohio, so I knew the drive from Chicago wouldn’t be too bad.  That fall, we packed my mini-van, programmed the GPS and headed to Morrow, Ohio together, just the two of us.
Have you ever taken a road trip with just your dad?  I highly recommend it!  The long car ride gave us plenty of time to talk and laugh (stop looking at the speedometer!) about anything and everything.  We managed to get lost a few times (because obviously we’re smarter than the GPS, right?), but we finally made it safe and sound to our bed and breakfast.  We stayed at the Kirkwood Inn, which served fantastic breakfasts that we ate in the house’s beautiful dining room.
You know what I remember most about the Country Living Fair?  This:
Woo-wee!  The fair was packed!!  I’m pretty sure they weren’t anticipating such a huge turn-out.  There were people everywhere!  As far as treasure-hunting at the Fair, we didn’t find too many.  But we did have a blast going to the Antiques Roadshow tent.  My dad is an Antiques Roadshow fanatic!  He loves that show.  When I found out that the show was going to be webcasting from the Fair and that they were going to have appraisers there who wanted to look at audience members’ treasures, I knew I had to get Dad involved.  I sent the Fair an e-mail and a picture of one of Dad’s treasures and they e-mailed back and said, “Bring it along!  We want to look at it!”  The hour we spent in the Antiques Roadshow tent was fascinating–my favorite part of the weekend!  Folks brought in all kinds of things, including an antique coffin.  Seriously.  Some stuff was worth a whole lot, and other stuff wasn’t worth much.  Dad’s statue was worth about what he paid for it (we were secretly hoping it was worth millions!).
My favorite antiquing of the weekend actually took place at the local shops.  I found all kinds of treasures including a few aqua bowls to add to my collection and an old locker basket from a community pool in Texas.
My very favorite part of our whole trip were the nightly dinners we shared at The Houston Inn.  We went there every night.  It was right across the street from our hotel, and the food and service was excellent.  The Houston Inn is famous for its frog legs.  In fact, there are frog statues all over the restaurant.  My Dad was like a kid in a candy store when he found out about the frog legs.  Apparently, he grandma was quite famous for her frog legs and my Dad had many fond memories of frog legs dinners on the farm.   I wasn’t so sure about the frog legs.  First of all, they were huge.  Secondly, they still looked like frog legs.  By the last night, though, I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t try the frog legs (he would have never let me live it down!).  The truth is, they weren’t bad.  They taste just like…chicken.  : )  Those dinners together each night were the best–Dad shared all kinds of old stories and memories with me.  I loved it!
We left Ohio with a few antique treasures and a life time of good memories.  Any time with Dad is time well-spent, for sure.
Thanks for the memories, Dad!  I love you.
XO,
Vicki

Monday, March 2, 2015

Progress Report: OLW February 2015

Hi Friends!

Holy cow!  It's March!  I saw that quote this morning and I could completely relate. Christmas just happened, right?!?  The start of a new month gives me an opportunity to check in on my One Little Word:  Progress.  I still get a big bunch of happiness from coloring in my little circles every day after I make progress.  Thank you Elise!  
I am still plugging away on AbMat sit ups.  Perfect 28/28 in February! Woo Hoo!  I can definitely feel myself getting stronger.
I missed a few days of writing in February, but overall, I'm pleased with my effort.  I sent out a bit of actual mail this month, which I think is my favorite kind of writing.  I'd like to send out 15 pieces of happy mail in March.
Ah, the sugar goal.  This is definitely my hardest goal.  I wish it wasn't.  I'm going to keep plugging away on this goal.  Any day without sugar is a good day.

Last week I started wearing John's Fitbit, and it has definitely made me aware of my activity levels throughout the day.  I tell you what, there is no way you can accidentally get 10,000 steps a day--you have to work at it.  I am like a little walking goddess these days.  I'm excited to see how many times I reach 10,000 steps in March.  I'll keep you posted!

How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

XO,

Vicki