Archive | October, 2011

One-Buck Wednesday: Point It Out, Baby!

26 Oct

Arrows: Universal, with their uncanny ability to point out direction no matter where one is in the world, never mind if one doesn’t speak the native language of whatever piece of this earth they have their feet planted in at the moment.

And therefore, yes, arrows do have a place in your marvelous creations!

Best of all, you get an entire set of them in digital form for just a buck today (the whole of this Wednesday till midnight Pacific Standard Time).

In case you feel the need to make a point or, you know, point out something ;), you might want to grab these for a buck:

JUST A BUCK TODAY! liv.edesigns Points of View Vol. 2 - Pencil-Thin Arrows

(Image is linked to my shop, so if you’re in the mood to spend a buck, just click on the image above 😀 Easy-peasy, right? 😉 )

This pack has 26 arrows (13 designs in black and white versions in .png format plus a complete brush set in .abr format for those who use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements).

And here is some wonderful eye-candy from the Amazingly Awesome JessicaSprague.com Creative Team!

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Brenda

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Sarah

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Jen P

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Reeta

Ah. I just love the gorgeousness these wonderfully talented ladies come up with!

So go ahead, grab these arrows, and use them to call attention… it’s perfectly legit (and awesome) to do it this way! 😉

And have a happy, ONEderful ONE-Buck Wednesday, my lovelies! xox

Songs for Sundays: When in doubt…

23 Oct

… BELIEVE. And don’t you let anyone bring you down. 😉

Reach deep within your soul and take that leap of faith.

Fly high and defy gravity, my friends! Happy Sunday!

A Magic Trick You *Should* Try at Home

21 Oct

It took about 10 minutes to make two plates full. And less than 5 minutes for everything to disappear. (Burp!)

Just like magic.

Magic in the Kitchen!

I still can’t get over it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen food disappear that quickly. Okay, granted my in-laws were over at my place, fondly called “Cafe Estebucks,” for the regular Sunday coffee-and-brunch but still, two whole plates worth gone in 5 minutes is quite a feat, right? 😆

You know how it is in those magic shows, where right before they perform some incredible feat, a deep, carefully-modulated voice warns ominously, “Do not try this at home.”  Well, today I’d like to take the opposite path. I dare you, my friends: Do try this at home!

Then let me know if everything disappeared from the plate in record-time as well. Deal? Deal! Awesome. 🙂

What You’ll Need:

  • French bread (I bought mine, but if it’s your kind of adventure to make your own, you can find a great recipe here)
  • French salted butter (I used Président Unsalted Butter, but really any butter that you love will do. Or you can skip it altogether if you’re on a diet :|)
  • Herbs: toasted chopped garlic, chopped basil, a tiny bit of freshly-ground pepper
  • Prosciutto or Salami Milano
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

How to Perform the Magic Trick:

1. Slice the loaf of French bread. Spread butter on each slice.

The bread and butter of magic

2. Add toasted garlic bits, chopped basil and a dash of pepper.

Sing as you sprinkle herbs because this is delightfully easy!

3. Thinly slice your fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella, you rock my world! (So does this cheese slicer)

4. Lay the cheese slices on top of your butter and herbs.

This kind of cheesy, I can take. ~lol~

5. Stick everything in the oven (about 5 minutes at 180ºC or 356ºF). Take the slices out when the cheese turns golden-yellow.

Golden Goodness

6. Bring out your prosciutto or salami milano and lay these on top of the now-crunchy bread with soft melted mozza.

Prosciutto ... Salami Milano ... Delizioso!

7. Serve on a plate and watch everything disappear in less than 5 minutes.

Et voila! Magnifique!

Magic!

Who’d have thought something so deliciously simple could be simply delicious? 🙂

Okay, your turn! Try it out and do let me know if you loved it! 🙂 And do have a magical Friday, my friends!

* Credits for stock photos I used to create the image of the magician-boy: Emitra & Gastonmag at sxc.hu

The Product of a Sleepless Night

19 Oct

Sleepless yet productive. Is that even possible?

I used to be able to go sleepless years ago without feeling the brunt of it… at least not immediately. Back in college, I remember a sem when I had, oh, probably 4 or 5 major subjects, all of which required a monstrous amount of research papers to be submitted before the sem ended. I went without sleep for 3 days straight, buoyed by a constant caffeine drip supplied in numerous cups, and though I walked like a zombie on the day of submission, I did get those papers in.

Moving not too far back, about 4 years ago when I started out at JessicaSprague.com, I used to be able to function on 2 hours of sleep (earning the nickname “alien” in the process, since I seemed to be awake and on the boards at all hours). I could sleep for 4 of the 24 hours of each day and still have all the energy to live both real life and virtual life completely.

Ah yes, those were the good ol’ days. But nothing lasts forever, right?

Without warning, age crept up on me and with one sweep of its arm banished the invincible energy of youth. Suddenly I found myself at the mercy of huge yawns and eyelids that wouldn’t stay open without toothpicks to hold them up. Suddenly the siren call of the pillow was louder, drowning out whispered temptations of prowling about online, learning and teaching and creating till the wee hours of the morning. Suddenly “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” was no longer some childhood saying that I could not relate to; it had become reality.

And so now, with the odd exception or two, I find myself crawling into bed when the clock strikes 2 hours past midnight (sometimes, shame on me, even before that, if I’ve had a particularly heavy day).

But, like I said, there is the odd exception or two, when sleepless nights are called for, whether by force of circumstance (deadlines! deadlines!) or by desire (ooh, I just can’t quit pinterest when there’s just so much eye candy tonight!) or by… ahem… school projects of the kids.

That’s right. I did say school project. 😐

My son needed to submit a parent-child project for his Religion class, which required him to make a scrapbook (Ding! ding! Did anyone say scrapbook? Move aside while I do a happy dance! 😆 ). This being the month of October—which for Catholics is the month of special dedication to the practice of praying the Holy Rosary, the kids were required to make a scrapbook on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, with images and 2 prayers to be written under each image: one from the child and one from the parents.

So my son and I set to work on getting the images the week before, in between reviewing for their exams, and trying to figure out how to word the prayers we would be creating for the project. We searched high and low on the virtual highways, and we hit the motherlode when we found this site, which had the most beautiful images (and multiple ones, too, for each mystery of the Holy Rosary. Squeal!)

That turned out to be a really good thing, because over the weekend, my littlest son got hit by the sickies, which kept him in a very uncomfortable state (and his parents in a very alert, concerned state) while he nursed a 40ºC fever that wouldn’t go down much throughout the next 2 days. So suddenly the plan to complete the project over the weekend turned into a plan to complete the project at the end of the weekend. And that is how I found myself laboring over the final production of the project way into dawn of the day when it was due.

But! As the famous bard says, all’s well that ends well. Thanks to one sleepless night of extracting my kid’s penciled prayers, doing layouts, printing, trimming, and pasting… voila! My son and I were able to submit our joint kid-parent project! Thank heavens!

I just have to insert this aside: I can’t even remember the last time I created a layout (not for lack of desire but purely because of lack of time. Scrapping is many wonderful things plus delightfully therapeutic, but with deadlines to conquer, both virtual and real-life, in my case it’s also often what gets pushed aside first in favor of chasing other speeding trains. I wonder if other designers share this experience?). Well, thanks to my son’s required project, that “scrap-less” equation has been reversed.

30 layouts. One sleepless night. Love it. 😀

So here’s what we came up with:

The cover:

And the back cover:

The title page:

And because the book I was using had more pages than required to house all the mysteries, my son and I decided to include a photo of the Pope praying the rosary (thank you, Google images 🙂 ) and another image of Our Lady with the rosary.

Another extra page housed yet another beautiful quote and then the individual pages of each mystery preceded by a “chapter page.” (Warning: Be prepared to be deluged by quite a number of images :lol:).

Phew! And that’s it!

Just something else I wanted to mention: I was incredibly glad that I stocked up on a couple of these 8×8 white hard-cover blank books (with awesome textured paper) from one of my favorite shops, Muji (minimalist, back-to-the-basics, filled with neutral colors, stocked with a large variety of products from stationery to food to clothes and gadgets… I can spend hours and hours in this place). I think I feel the need to go back and hoard some more stuff! LOL!

Hope you have a wonderful, sleep-filled night, my friends! I’ll see you zzzzzzoon… 😉

More In Store Monday

18 Oct

Mondays begin the week (mine began with a sleepless night, working on a joint kid-parent school project… sleepless since the entire weekend was spent taking care of my littlest one who was beset with fever ~ do I hear moms around the world groaning in empathy? :lol:)

Mondays are exciting, though, sleep or no sleep, because it’s the day our newest products debut at our shops over at JessicaSprague.com!

This week, I have three new products (related to each other, like triplets doing a debut 🙂 ):

Anyone who knows me knows that I love writing… though I must confess that my pencils and notebooks are covered with sketches of layouts and design ideas and plans leaving the rest of my literary writing adventures in the care of the keyboard (the fact that my chicken-scratch, long, pointy penmanship sucks is only one of the reasons why).

So it probably won’t come as a surprise that my latest products seek to bring the actual-writing-on-a-notebook dimension into the digital world. (My OC-happy desire to highlight and underline and ring around stuff is equally to blame, haha!)

Presenting the triplets: Highlight It!

First, the soft, gentle version:

liv.edesigns Highlight It Softly {Text Highlighters}

Next, the stronger, more-excited, bold version:

liv.edesigns Highlight It Loudly {Text Highlighters}

And lastly, the mother of all highlighters:

liv.edesigns Highlight It {Text Highlighters} Brush & Rub-On Pack

And here are amazingly squeal-worthy layouts of Sarah and Monica with the highlighters put to work!

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Monica

Layout by JessicaSprague.com Creative Team Member Sarah

So in case you’re feeling the Monday-itch to get some shiny new goodies, do feel most welcome to take a stroll at my shop (the images are linked!).

Hope your week is filled with happy highlights! 😀

Songs for Sundays: Imagine…

16 Oct

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

I dream of a world where peace reigns forever.

And a world where  all children (who possess a quiet wisdom that often surpasses ours as adults), born and unborn, are treasured for the gifts that they are.

Have a magical, peaceful Sunday, my friends!

One-Buck Wednesday: 4ever!

13 Oct

Well, it’s Wonderful Wednesday again, and you know what that means! It’s that day when you really can buy happiness for just a buck! 😆

This Wednesday’s Buck’o’Happiness is pretty awesome because our shop is filled with coordinating stuff from 9 JessicaSprague.com designers! In case you didn’t get to snag our birthday bloghop collaborative project last June, each of us is now offering our mini-kit for a buck so that you can actually pick one, two, three, oh heck why not all nine in the series, for a song! How awesome is that?

Here’s my part of the 4Ever Collab kit:

CLICK HERE to get liv.edesigns 4Ever Mini Kit for $1 today!

And here’s some awesome eye candy from our fabulous ladies on the Creative Team!

Layout by Jana

Layout by Miki

Layout by Jen P

Another Layout by Miki

Layout by Sheri

Layout by Kelly

Hybrid Card by Camille

Oh I just love the masterpieces that these marvelous ladies create! *happy sigh*

It’s always so inspiring to see memories preserved and stories told with my designs (hand on heart, it truly is an honor), so if you’ve created anything with my products, be sure to leave a comment with a link to where I can ooh and aah, alrighty? 🙂

And just in case my 4Ever Mini Kit isn’t part of your stash yet and you’d like to grab it for just a buck, you have till midnight today, Pacific standard time. Go right ahead and click RIGHT HERE (or on the preview of my kit) to go straight to the special 1-buck shelf! 😉

And have a happy rocking Wednesday, my dear friends! xoxox

Today’s Funny

11 Oct

It’s exam week in the kiddos’ world once again. That means all the decent hours of my every day are filled with tutoring and reviewing (leaving only the indecent hours for me to do all my design-related work 😕 ). But I’m not complaining, because spending time with the kids always inevitably leads to lots of laughs.

Case in point: while reviewing my 6-year-old boy for his Civics & Culture exam tomorrow…

ME: What are the basic needs of a family?

HE: Food. Clothes. Shelter.

ME: Excellent. Why do we need food?

HE: Because we’ll die if we don’t have anything to eat.

ME: Right. Why do we need clothes?

HE: Because it’s illegal to go out of your house naked. 

😯

Wahahahahaha! Priceless, the way a kid’s mind works.

Songs for Sundays

9 Oct

Because I’ve always believed all adventures and all paths and all the most important questions and answers begin and end with love.

May your Sunday be filled with adventures in love!

The Good Stuff

7 Oct

What’cha doing?
Stuff.

What’cha watching?
Stuff.

What’cha eating?
The good stuff.

Yes, people, that’s exactly the kind of stuff I’m talking about right now. Literally good stuff. Yummy stuff. Delish stuff. (You get my drift 😆 ).

But before I get to the good stuff, a little back story to explain why I think this stuff is good.

The hubs and I were talking over dinner last night (regular food for him and diet food for me) and I learned from him that studies say that people’s choice of food is a largely influenced by emotional experience. (Did I ever mention how I love being married to a guy who makes a living studying people? There’s always something new to discover each day!). I thought this made a lot of sense: think of two guys in a pizza joint with two girls they’re crazy for. One guy gets the girl; the other guy gets the bill. 😆  That would certainly explain why the guy who got the girl might develop an intense liking for pizza for the rest of his life, while the other guy might not ever touch pizza with a 10-foot pole.

But I mention that food-preference-emotional connection because it leads to this full disclosure: the reason I love stuffed tomatoes is not just because they taste dang good but also because they stir wonderful 14-year-old  memories.

Back in 1997, when we only had 2 (of what subsequently grew into 5) boys, the hubs and I went to Paris… but we didn’t have much money back then, so we would content ourselves with eating hotdogs from stands and an occasional meal in a resto. (Hahaha! Yeah, life was pretty REAL back then).

Me in Paris in September '97 - Stuffed with 3 layers of clothing and tomatoes 😉

Well, one evening, we discovered a resto that was tucked in the basement of one of the buildings near the hotel we were staying at, and the French guy was selling… (wait for it)… stuffed tomatoes! Man, I died. They were soooo good. Seriously. I was in stuffed-tomato heaven. And since then, I’ve always loved stuffed tomatoes.

So after experimenting in an attempt to recreate the taste in my kitchen recently, I was pretty thrilled to find out that my kids now share my hankering for stuffed tomatoes as well!

And just in case you’d like to get hooked on this good stuff too, I decided to share the process with you (note: make sure you have good experiences while preparing and eating this, because I wouldn’t want you to end up like the 2nd pizza guy :lol:).

The Essential Goods

What you’ll need to have on hand:

  • fresh tomatoes
  • ground meat
  • herbs and spices, including onion and garlic (chopped)
  • asparagus (optional, for those who’d like something to add color and more “chews” to the meal)

The Stuffing and the To-Be-Stuffed

Just a few side-comments here about the ingredients:
  1. Use the biggest tomatoes you can find. You’ll want as much space as you can get for stuffing them. Plus (dieters, pay attention!) – there is as much sugar content in a big tomato as there is in a cherry tomato. So in this case, bigger is definitely better.
  2. Make sure the tomatoes are freshly-ripened, with nice taut skins. It can be a total bummer to have to stuff tomatoes that are overripe and have flimsy skins, trust me.
  3. If you’re dieting, you’ll want to consider buying meat at the butcher’s shop and having them grind it in front of you. That way you can make sure that you’re getting real lean beef instead of fat-laden beef or a mixture of pork and beef. If you’re not on a diet, then you really don’t need to care about this, lucky you! 😆

Alright. All set? Now, on to the process!

Stuff It… Stuff It Good!

1. Wash all vegetables thoroughly. Then slice the tomatoes in half.

Tomatoes and their better halves (lol!)

2. With a spoon, core each tomato half. Don’t throw away the stuff that you remove! Just set that aside because, as your momma and mine always said, “waste not, want not!” 😉

Naked Tomatoes (lol!)

3. Season your ground beef liberally with herbs and spices that make your heart sing. Mix well.

I like herbs a lot, so I threw in Italian and Provence herbs, basil leaves, rosemary, toasted garlic bits, sea salt, pepper, and thyme.

Ground Beef with Herbs Galore

4. On a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, sauté freshly-chopped garlic and onions.

Sizzling garlic and onions

It shouldn’t take long till the garlic and onions turn golden.

Golden Perfection

Misto

Tip: Olive oil in spray bottles is convenient and great to cook with, but I prefer to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil which I transfer into this neat little gadget called Misto. You fill the Misto canister halfway with your olive oil, pump the cover a few times, and you have a wonderful, very light coating to fry and sauté with. (And it’s more cost-efficient since you don’t have to buy olive oil in spray bottles, which are usually more expensive than their bottled-liquid counterparts).

5. Remember the tomato insides that we scooped out? Now’s the time to use them! Drop them right on top of your golden garlic and onions.

Three's Company: Garlic, Onions, Tomatoes

Mix them as you continue sautéing. (The smells should make you swoon with joy right about now).

Sautéing and Swooning

6. When the tomatoes, garlic and onions are all mashed and mixed and exuding that wonderful autumn glow 😉 …

Well, hello autumn-colored yummies!

Drop in your ground beef (which you already mixed with all your herbs and spices).

Another one joins the club!

7. Mix the beef well with the tomatoes, onions, and garlic, tossing and turning till the beef is no longer red but not quite brown (more like a light orange color?). Take care that the beef doesn’t overcook. It should be juicy and soft (it’s going to be cooked well enough once it goes into the oven). Trust me, you don’t want well-done beef at this stage.

Keeping it nice, soft and juicy

Once the beef is a nice orange-y color, take the pan off the fire and transfer the beefy goodness to a plate (a hot pan continues to fry even when the flame is gone… but of course you knew that. 🙂 )

8. Take the empty tomato shells and start scooping spoonfuls of the ground beef concoction into them. Pat down to make sure every available space in the tomato shell is filled.

Ooh, we are stuffed!

Tip: Use the spoon to shape the top portion of the ground-beef filling into nice round domes. Just cos they’re cute that way. 😀

9. Gently lay the stuffed tomatoes in your baking trays and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Almost there...

Sprinkle the cheese stingily if you’re on a diet…

A bit o' cheese

… or liberally if you’re not on a diet (lucky you).

You're cheesy, honey.

10. Bake in the oven at about 180ºC (or 356ºF) for about 20 minutes.

If you’d like to add a touch of spring color to your predominantly fall-colored baked and stuffed tomatoes, I highly recommend this:

Steam or lightly boil a few asparagus spears in water sprinkled with herbs. This is super-easy to do and it’s a quick way to get more veggies in your meal!

Greens for the kids

And greens for mom (yeah, that would be me)

11. Serve the baked stuffed tomatoes while hot with a side of herbed asparagus.

Goodness! Stuffed Tomatoes!

Asparagus with a sprinkling of herbs

Want to know the best part of it? This stuff is not just good, it’s healthy too!  Yep, we’re talking about no unwanted baggage! Sure, you’ll lick your lips and pat your tummy when you’re done eating this, but you’re definitely not going to end up stuffing yourself with unwanted weight gain in the process, I promise.

Bon appétit without guilt! 😀

Pin It

PS. If you’re a food lover who happens to be on a diet, you might want to check out the brand-new blog of one of my dear friends (we shared many crazy adventures in college 😉 ). Click on the image below to get to her blog, dietribe (which has awesome photos of food, lemme tell ya).

A Diet Food Blog for Frustrated Foodies

Enjoy! (And if you end up trying this at home, I’d love to know how it turned out for you, so do feel most welcome to come back and hit that little comment box over on the left, right below this. 😉 You are awesome. )

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