Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tomato Basil Pasta With Fresh Herbs

My 4-year-old is a pretty picky eater. She doesn't eat meat and turns her nose up at most meals in general. One exception is this meal. It is simple, easy to make and comes together really quickly. I love the fresh taste of this meals and I absolutely love that it is filling but meatless. We try to serve at least a couple meatless meals a week and this the perfect one for a busy night. 

You will need: 
16 oz Penne Pasta
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Fresh Garlic
1 can of tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
8 oz of cream
1 teaspoon Gourmet Gardens Fresh Oregano
1 teaspoon Gourment Gardens Fresh Basil

Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions. Saute the garlic and add the canned diced tomatoes, the herbs and the tomato sauce. Stir until well blended and heated through. Add the cream, stir well. Pour sauce over drained noodles in a large pot. Stir until noodles are covered. Add the fresh tomatoes. Top with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. 

I really love to cook with fresh herbs, but unless it is in the middle of the summer and I have my herb garden in the backyard, I don't often have the opportunity. That is why I absolutely love Gourmet Gardens fresh herbs. They come in tubes and keep for 3 months in the fridge or 6 in the freezer. I love that they let me cook fresh all year. They are so natural that a teaspoon of Gourmet Gardens equals a teaspoon of fresh herbs. I love that I can cook fresh without the herbs going bad. You can find Gourmet Gardens in the fresh section of your local grocery store. 

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This post was sponsored by Gourmet Gardens. All opinions and this recipe are mine own. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WotW: Take Control of Pinterest with Pinstamatic

There's no mistaking Pinterest is one of the hottest sites on the web right now. And if you're invested in social media at all, you know you need to have a solid presence on Pinterest. Unfortunately, Pinterest can easily become overwhelming. What do you pin? Where do you find the content? How do you find time to find fresh pins?

The real power of Pinterest for a blogger is in using it to promote your own content. After all, you've worked hard creating awesome projects on your blog – now it's time to let the world see it. But coming up with pin-able images can be time consuming and tedious.

Not anymore, thanks to the brilliant minds behind Pinstamatic. This nifty web app lets you quickly create pin-able images that look great and don't take more than a few seconds. Plus, the interface is so simple that there's virtually no learning curve.

Currently, Pinstamatic has eight features, all accessible from the main navigation bar:

  • Website snapshot
  • Quote
  • Sticky note
  • Spotify
  • Twitter
  • Date
  • Place
  • Photo optimizer
Every one of their tools can be used to positively increase exposure of and traffic to your blog. Take, for instance, the website snapshot. Simply type in the URL to a specific blog post and Pinstamatic will automatically generate an image of your blog (like an incredibly quick screenshot). Then, by simply pressing the Pin button, you can pin it to any of your Pinterest boards.

The quote and sticky note generators allow you to type in whatever you want and select from a number of styles to customize your quote or message.

The Twitter feature will automatically create an image utilizing your most recent tweet. This is a great tool to periodically use to promote your Twitter feed.

The photo optimizer is the tool that perhaps has the most potential for frequent use. Simply upload a picture (via your computer, Facebook or any number of other accounts) and then type what you want to appear above and/or below the picture. Pinstamatic will generate the completed photo, with text, for you.

In terms of ease of use and potential to maximize your reach, you really can't beat Pinstamatic. Give it a try. It's fast, free and easy. Oh, and make sure tweet a shoutout to them (@pinstamatic).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My 10 Favorite Picture Books

My little girl loves to read. We read every day and if she had her way, we would read these 10 books over and over again. We have read these books so often that I have most of them memorized, my husband has some of them memorized and even my 4-year-old has a few of them memorized too. Here are our favorite picture books to read as a family with links to help you find them. Linking up to The Broke and the Bookish.

Pinkalicious- My little girl is obsessed with this book, about a little girl who loves pink so much that she eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink. We love this book so much in our house that one of the nicknames for our 4-year-old is Pinkalicious. We also love Purplicious, which is about the same girl as the first book discovering that it isn't cool to like pink and finally deciding it is OK to love things that other people don't.

If You Have a Hat- This funny little rhyming book is an every day read in our house. We all have it memorized and I often use reciting it as a way to calm down my little one if she is throwing a tantrum. We only have this book in e-book form and we absolutely love that we always have it with us on a phone.

I Love You Stinky Face"But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?" A sweet little book about a mother's  unconditional love. 

The Runaway Bunny- Also a book about a mother's love, the little runaway bunny tells his mother about the places he is going to runaway to and the mother tells the little bunny how she will find him. It is a sweet story of love, one of our favorites.

The Paper bag Princess- Quite possibly my favorite princess book of all time. The princess ends up saving the princes from the dragon and then discovers he might not have been worth it after all. We LOVE this story in our house, it sends the message that appearances aren't everything. (The Kindle Version of this is only $1.89 right now. So worth it!)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? - Another book that is just fun. All the colors and animals always make my little girl giggle.

A Bad Case of the Stripes- A book all about not worrying about what other people think of you. Camilla loves Lima beans, but won't eat them because the other kids don't like them. It is about being true to who you are, instead of the people around you.

Snowmen at Night- A fun rhyming book with cute pictures that answer the question of why snowmen look a little droopy in the morning. This was my daughter's first favorite book and we read it all year long, even when there was no snow on the ground.

Fanny's Dream- Sometimes we discover our dream of being Cinderella at the ball, isn't what we really wanted after all. This book is all about discovering that even when your Fairy Godmother doesn't come, sometimes life works out just the way you wanted it after all.

If I Were a Lion- "I'm sitting in the time-out chair because my mother put me there. She said, "You try my patience, child! I do not like it when you're wild." This is one of my favorite books of all time, all about a little girl in time-out who is saying things could be a lot worse if she was wild like an animal. This is another one we have memorized and recite often. 
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Barbie Sleeping Bag From a Pot Holder

Barbie Sleeping Bag From a Hot Pad
My absolute favorite things to make, are the things that absolutely delight my 4-year-old. I love that little while after I finish a project for her, or her dolls when she thinks I am an absolute rock star. It is even better when that project took hardly any time or money.

My little girl has been asking for Barbie sleeping bags forever. My mom made me some when I was a little girl and after seeing them in a picture from my childhood, she would ask for some on a daily basis. I was looking for an easier way than making them completely from scratch, when I saw some large potholders in a local thrift store. For 50 cents a piece, I thought they might make fun sleeping bags.
Doll Sleeping Bag
 The pot holders I used to make the sleeping bags were about 9.5 inches square and they are just about the perfect size for a Barbie. I folded the pot holder in half and simply top stitched the long side and one short side. They took me all of a minute each and my little girl proclaimed them "the best sleeping bags ever."
Sleeping Bag for Dolls
We have been playing pretend camping all week and there is a tent for Barbies in the works. What can I say, I am sucker for a certain 4-year-old's smile. 
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Creative Showcase: A Creative Link-Up with Features

This weekend has been fabulous so far! Picnics, gardening, walking through the cemetery. It has been pretty much perfect. We are capping it off with a marathon of the new Arrested Development episodes later. What about you? Are you excited for the new Arrested Development?

 Here are some of my favorite link-ups from last week! 
 I am completely in love with this DIY Dahlia Flower Decor from The Happy Scraps. So pretty. It would look amazing in my little girls room!
 This gorgeous Shrimp Tacos from Warfield look absolutely delicious!
I love this Jellyfish Craft from Rae Gun Ramblings, it was used for a mermaid party. Love.

Now to this week's Creative Showcase. Want to be featured? Link up below!
Housewife Eclectic Creative Showcase

Some guidelines for linking: 
Become or be a Follower of Housewife Eclectic 
Visit other links
Link back to Housewife Eclectic with a button or a link. 
Link your favorite posts 

What have you been creating?

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Delicious Bread Maker Bread

I really love to bake homemade bread, but it is time consuming and I don't always have time for it. My mom bought me an awesome bread maker a few years ago and I have been using it whenever time is tight ever since. I have gone through a lot of bread maker recipes and this one is our favorite for basic bread. 

You will need: 
1 3/8 cups room temperature water 
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry milk
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Measure the water and the butter into your bread machine's pan. Layer the dry ingredients on top. Put the yeast in the machine last. If you are going to use a delay start of any kind, it is really important that the yeast is not touching the water. The best way to do this is to form a little well in the flour, similar to the way you do with mashed potatoes and gravy, and place the yeast in there. 

In my opinion, most bread machines tend to bake bread a little longer than necessary, so I always select the lightest crust setting on my machine, even if a recipe suggests something different.

 I think it is always a good idea to use specific bread flour when baking bread and I love King Arthur flours for just about everything. They make everything from all purpose and organic whole wheat to almond and hazelnut flour, even a gluten-free flour. I love that they have a flour for every recipe and every family. We love to use whole wheat pastry flour for a lot of things and when we lived in Texas we had a hard time finding it. King has it all there, convenient and easy to find. 

How about you, do you ever use a bread machine?
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(This post was sponsored by King Arthur Flour. All opinions and recipe are 100% my own)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Checking Off My Bucket List- My KSL TV Interview

I have a bucket list about a mile long. It includes visiting all 50 states, reading the entire works of William Shakespeare and the most scary for me, being on live television. Today I had the opportunity to check off that last one. Housewife Eclectic was featured as KSL News' Blog of the Week. I was a bundle of nerves right up until the moment the camera's started rolling and then a calm came over me and I actually had a really amazing time. Here is the interview. 

I want to thank all of the people at KSL and a few of my favorite bloggers and best friends in the whole world that made today possible.  Lu, from Just Lu for watching my rambunctious four-year-old, while I was on TV, Becky from Utah Sweet Savings and Marissa from Rae Gun Ramblings for being my cheerleaders behind the camera. I am so lucky to have some amazing friends.
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WotW: 10 Tips for Taking Better Cell Phone Pics

Tips for Taking Better Cell Phone Pics

I have a confession to make: I like Instagram. You're probably thinking, "Of course you do. Who doesn't?" The thing is, I didn't think I would. I mean, the very concept is ridiculous: a social media platform where people can post pictures of food, random street signs and selfies (can we all just agree to ban this word and type of photography as a crime against humanity?).

Far and away, most of the pictures are mediocre at best, but every now and then you come across a truly impressive picture and wonder how they were able to take such a cool shot with a camera phone. While it isn't impossible to take great shots with a camera phone, it does take some skill. So, without further ado, here are 10 tips for taking better cell phone pics

1. Know your camera. Before going out to conquer the tough shots, know your camera's features. Know what it does well and what it's not so good at. Learn if you can adjust white balance, exposure, or other settings. The better you know your camera, the better you will be able to put yourself in a position to take a great shot.

2. Lighting is essential. Position yourself in areas where you will get optimum lighting. Don't assume because the light is good to your eyes that it will be good for the camera. A good quick test is to squint your eyes and stare at an object in the distance. If it seems dark or out of focus, it will probably be similar to what your camera will take. While there's not a ton you can about lighting, you can take some test shots before going for the real shot so you know what to adjust. You can often adjust exposure settings or add the flash. A word of caution though: do NOT use flash as a default or your pictures will come out looking weird. Save the flash for when you really need it.

3. Keep your lens clean. It's something you don't think about, but chances are you have fingerprints, dust or other smudges on your lens. A quick wipe-down with a soft cloth before taking a picture can make a world of difference. If you ever let your child use your phone, you can almost guarantee your lens is dirty.

4. Get close to your subject. Camera phones are not very sophisticated and don't have a manual zoom lens, so you will need to get close to the subject to get any sort of good shot. Don't be afraid to move close, even at a public event. If you act courteously and with confidence, you will rarely be questioned as you move to the front. Also, do NOT use the digital zoom feature on your camera. Digital zoom loses clarity, resolution and file size as you zoom in.

5. Keep the camera steady. So many pictures are ruined by shaking. Some cameras do better with this than others, but there are things you can do. Stand with your legs wide apart for more core balance. Then, there are different ways to hold the camera to gain stability:
- Hold the camera at eye level, with arms out parallel with camera.
- Hold your arms tight to your side and hold camera at mid-chest level, using your chest to balance.
- Sit down and place the camera on your knees as a makeshift tripod.
Along the lines of keeping the camera steady, the longer you take to make the shot, the more tired your arms will get and the greater the chance of a shaky shot.

6. There's no such thing as the perfect shot, but you can get a good frame. Frame your shot first, well in advance of taking the picture you really want, and then fire away. It's a digital camera – you can easily delete the bad pictures, so take a few shots. This is especially important if it's a motion shot.

7. Speaking of motion, cell phone cameras do not handle motion well, but there are things you can do to potentially get a better motion shot. Position yourself ahead of the moving subject as it comes toward you, and angle yourself at a 15 degree angle from moving subject. This helps the camera find an angle to focus on and increases the odds of a clear shot.

8. Be aware of your surroundings. Before taking a shot, take into account the number of people, the background objects and potential distractions. So many good shots are ruined in the end because of extra noise that could have been avoided by taking two steps to the left.

9. Don't take your pictures within an app. While it may seem like a time saver to take the shot within an app like Instagram, resist the urge. Take it with your default camera and then move the picture into the app. The native camera is faster and better. Plus, there aren't the distractions that accompany the app, so instead of worrying about what filter to use, you can focus on getting a good shot.

10. Vary your angles. Try taking a picture at a higher or lower angle than you typically do (which is straight on). This makes for a more intriguing picture and will get your creativity going.

While these tips in and of themselves don't guarantee you a great shot, they are the building blocks of good photography in general. Mastering cell phone pictures takes practice. So go out there, have fun and take some amazing pictures. Just please, no more food.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 of My Favorite Book Covers

Today I am talking about book covers. A book cover doesn't necessarily say whether or not I am going to read a book, but if a book has a beautiful cover I am more likely to delve into it quicker. Here are some of my favorite. Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth-  My favorite part of this cover is the train in the bottom part of it. It just fits the story. On a side note, have you seen the cover for Allegiant? LOVE!

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo- I absolutely love this cover. The colors of it fit the story

Crossed by Ally Condie- I love the image of breaking out of the bubble, breaking out of the shell. Perfect for this second book in the Matched trilogy.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton- The swirling ground and flowing dress. It matches so much of what I had pictured in my head for this book.

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson- I find this cover mesmerizing, just like the book.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer- This cover is fun and so interested. Perfect for a Red Riding Hood retelling.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- This cover is haunting and captivating.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare-  This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and every time I saw the cover I was even more excited to read the book.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer- I love the story this cover tells. It might be one of my favorite covers of all time. It is so telling of the story, love and drowning in the world.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern- Another one of my favorite covers. I love the small details.
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Creative Showcase: Creative Features and Link-Up

If you follow Housewife Eclectic on Instagram, you can see that this week has been a crazy one. Signings with three different authors, lots of baking and some dumpster diving for pallets. What can I say? I have now officially jumped in a dumpster for a craft project. I think that is an important milestone. ;) On to some great features today! 
I am sucker for Biscotti and cinnamon, so putting them together seems like a perfect solution. These Cinnamon Biscotti Dunkers from Lemon Tree Dwelling look divine.
Small confession. Pizza is probably my favorite food. Ever. This Dessert Pizza from Rae Gun Ramblings, literally has my mouth watering. My favorite food combine with my favorite candies? Score!
I am completely in love with this Owl Birthday Party from Strawberry MommyCakes. It is darling and pretty affordable to pull together!
SomeCrafty, shows the transformation of this bed from plain to A Bed Fit for a Princess

Now to this week's Creative Showcase. Want to be featured? Link up below!
Housewife Eclectic Creative Showcase

Some guidelines for linking: 
Become or be a Follower of Housewife Eclectic 
Visit other links
Link back to Housewife Eclectic with a button or a link. 
Link your favorite posts 

What have you been creating?

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dried Framed Wedding Bouquet

 After I was married, my mom took great pains to hang my wedding bouquet so that it would be preserved for me to display in my house. She gave it to me when we got home for our honeymoon and I promptly put it in a box and forgot about it. Every time we moved across the country, I would find the box, make my husband swear it would reach our destination in one piece, and then forget about it again.

When we moved into our townhouse, I finally had some room to craft and I swore up and down I would finish all of the projects I always said I would get to. This was one of the first projects on my list. Originally, I  had wanted to use a shadow box, but I didn't love how expensive they were and I decided I really wanted the bouquet to stand out, not be enclosed. This is what I came up with.
 You will need:
Your Bouquet, or another bundle of dried flowers
a frame with a cardboard backing, big enough to display your flowers
satin or another shimmery fabric if your choice of color
paint, to paint the frame
white vinyl
thin wire
hot glue, scissors
 Take the cardboard out of the frame and lay it on top of your fabric. Cut around the cardboard, leaving about two extra inches on all sides.
 Fold the fabric over the back of the cardboard and hot glue.
 Cut the corners off on a diagonal, so they will lay flat on the back.  Glue them down.
 Paint your frame. I painted mine navy blue, my wedding colors were navy blue and silver and my roses are wrapped with some blue ribbon.

Add vinyl to the opposite corners from where your bouquet will lay. Pick any saying that relates to you. If you are a Harry Potter fan like me, "Always" is a great one. It is my way of being slightly nerdy without everyone knowing. 
 Thread your wire through the bouquet, preferably through the ribbon as well, to give it more stability. My bouquet is secured by wire in two places, but if your bouquet is really heavy, you might want a third place. 

Put the cardboard back in the frame. Lay the bouquet across the frame and poke holes in the cardboard where the wire hits from the bouquet. Thread the wire through the holes and twist them behind the cardboard. You are basically using the same concept that holds a Barbie doll in her package. So twist, the wires nice and tight. 

I am thrilled to finally have a way to display my bouquet and next time I move it across the country, my husband can't grumble that I have never done anything with it. ;)
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