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african-themed appetizers, anyone?

last night's girls' night was a total success. we ate a lot, we chatted a whole lot and we made even more bracelets. i think wade and i are up to about 50 bracelets now (and i still have several friends that are sending more/making more over the weekend)! add a very long plane ride - and we'll have plenty to share with the kiddos! yay.

thank you so much for coming & making, girls!!!

of course, in the moment i didn't get my camera out! so i have zero pictures of the festivities and the lovely ladies that came to celebrate with me. :( wah wah. this is definitely something i need to work on. and a perfect excuse to have a round 2 girls' night.

i did however snap a few instagram pictures of the FOOD:

african appetizers!?! i was presented w/ quite a challenge coming up w/ an african-themed menu. and of course, i'm one of the crazy few that like to try something brand spankin' new every time i have company. lucky (this time) everything turned out super yummy!

so here's what i collected --- a yummy (and not too time consuming) spread:

1 // peppermeat kabobs (this was my favorite!)

ingredients:
- 2.5 lbs beef chuck roast
- 1 tsp meat tenderizer (not seasoned)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter (yes - peanut butter!)
- 2 sweet onions, cut into 1" pieces
- 2 bell peppers, cut into 1" pieces (i used an orange and a green for color!)
- 6" wooden skewers

1) rinse and cut your meat into 1" pieces. place in a freezer strength ziplock bag. add tenderizer, both salts and black pepper. zip the bag. then, roll the contents to mix well. marinate in the fridge for an hour or more.
2) add jalapeno pepper to the meat again rolling once zipped to mix well. place back in the fridge to marinate for an add'l 20 minutes.
3) add the olive oil and the peanut butter to the zipped back and again roll to mix. the peanut butter should evenly coat each piece.

4) alternate onion, peppers and meat on each skewer or for the carnivores in your life, make a few all meat skewers. place on a cookie sheet.
5) broil in the oven for 8-10 minutes. then serve!

2 // plantain chips w/ avocado banana dip

ingredients:
- a bag or 2 of salted plantain chips (i bought mine @ trader joes! or you can always make your own.)
- 2  very ripe bananas
- 2 avocados, pit and peel removed
- lemon juice

1) place the banana and avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher.
2) lemon juice to taste.

3 // strawberry lemonade (okay this isn't african - BUT it's my ultimate favorite party punch!)

ingredients: (for a group of 10 girls - i doubled this!)
- 1 pack of fresh strawberries
- 2 bottles club soda (approx 30 oz each)
- 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
- an orange, lime and/or frozen raspberries for garnish
- a bag of ice

1) wash and cut the stems from the strawberries. then in your food processor or blender, puree the strawberries. add them to your serving bowl or pitcher. (i have this ginormous anchor hawking heritage hill storage jar which is my favorite. and i server w/ a ladle.)
2) mix in the club soda and thawed lemonade concentrate.
3) add ice and your garnish. frozen raspberries are super pretty and float along the top w/ the ice. i also cut an orange and a lime into thin slices and drop them into the mix sideways. pretty pretty!

4 // krakelinge cookies w/ strawberry jam

ingredients:
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar + a bit xtra for sprinkling
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups of flour*
- 1 tsp baking powder

- chopped almonds (optional)
- fresh strawberry jam

*my fav gfree mix: 2c sweet rice, 2/3c potato starch, 1/3c tapioca flour + 3/4 tsp xanthan gum

1) w/ mixer, cream butter + sugar. add the 1 egg and mix well.
2) sift your flour(s) + baking powder (and xanthan gum). little by little add to the butter mix.
3) on parchment paper, roll aprox 6" long and 1/2 thick logs with the dough. loop them to make a figure-8 shape.
4) brush w/ egg yolk and sprinkle generously w/ sugar & almonds (optional).
5) bake at 400ºF for 8-10 minutes. transfer to baking rack to cool. serve w/ jam.

we also had butternut squash and chickpea cakes via cook eat live vegetarian. they were so yummy especially w/ the tomato chili salsa and the cucumber, cilantro and lemon raita. definitely a blog i will be cooking from again in the near future!



okay - now i'm super hungry!!! :)

african-themed food labels

tonight i'm throwing a little get together w/ a group of girls to celebrate our big trip next week. we're going to eat yummy african appetizers (don't worry - i'll share soon!), watch either ghost in the darkness or nowhere in africa AND we'll make bracelets for the kids.

my mom warned me to not get to OCD in my party planning - but who is she kidding!?! in another life - i'd like to be an event planner. :)

as a little preview - here are some quick african-themed food labels i designed:

(oh instagram photo!)

supplies:
someone w/ adobe illustrator
6" kabob skewers
something to sturdy your skewers (ie. gumdrops, cork or clay)


instructions:
1 // modify ... in illustrator, open the file and modify the labels to fit your menu! choose your colors. red, black, yellow and green are often associated w/ africa. but i went neon & PINK instead of red! girls' night and all!
2 // print ... i used hp premium photo paper in gloss for that extra finished look.
3 // cut ... you can either use the guides to cut out 2.5"x3" squares or carefully cut a border around the edges.
4 // tape or glue ... to the back of your skewer.
5 // add your something sturdy so that they stand (or press them directly into your item).

easy peasy! :)

a little update: i was having trouble getting these to stay up w/ just corks. a little super glue and a nickel did the trick. is that illegal?!?


packing for ethiopia!

r: pretty printed wrap skirts from one of my fav shops in nashville - pangaea

it's almost go time, people! we leave for ethiopia a week from tomorrow. and while wade is traveling this week, i've begun to get ready!

i tend to be a bit of an over-packer. and that's a wee bit of a problem when we're not only packing for ourselves but also soccer balls & craft supplies for the awassa children's project. and since i had a bit of a tough time finding a good packing list for a trip to ethiopia - i decided to share! (world travelers - i'd appreciate your suggestions/additions!)

the important stuff:
passport, yellow card, traveler’s checks and cash
plus photocopies of the following (1 for our money belt, 1 for our luggage & 1 for our parents):
- traveler’s check #s + refund info
- travel insurance policy
- passport #s
- emergency contact info
- bank/cc details
- camera + lens serial #s

a small medical pack: 
tylenol, hydro-cortisone cream, anti-histamine, malaria meds, imodium, dramamine, bandaids, hand sanitizer/wet-wipes, cipro, chap-stick

toiletries:
soap, shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste/toothbrush, razor, mosquito repellent w/ DEET (to be warn at all times), 50 SPF sunscreen (also to be warn at all times), light makeup and lotion

clothes (warm days/cool nights):
lightweight skirts or pants (i plan to wear a lot of wrap skirts!), modest short sleeve shirts (no cleavage!), a pair of underwear for each day, a few light sweaters (easy to pack and useful during cold nights), light waterproof jacket, comfy shoes (i'm thinking a simple pair of toms! easy to slip on and light to pack), head scarf, flip flops, a few pairs of socks, a swimsuit and a hat

xtras:
money belt, travel lock (for inside the hotel), camera + xtra digital cards, small flashlight/headlamp (power outages are rather common!), sunglasses, converter, phone charger, book, playing card, binoculars & ziplock bags (for xtra storage & separating your toiletries. spills - yuck!)

 
{we picked up a spibelt during our marathon training which will
work perfectly as a money belt under either of our shirts. smart thinking!}

we're still gathering up lots and lots of supplies for the kiddos: crayons/markers, construction paper, paper plates and more. and i'm excited to throw an african themed party this thursday with some of my girlfriends to make more bracelets! i'll post pictures. now to find some african themed appetizers!

guest blog // 3 tips to look & feel better

Hi - I’m Jackie and I'm excited to be guest blogging today on A Case Of The Mundays.

I have always had a passion for fashion - from shoes to makeup, nail polish to handbags, and everything in between! Coupled with that I believe that all women deserve to feel beautiful, no matter what circumstances they may be facing. Women are powerful beings ... we just need to realize it!

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/?ui=2&ik=b43cd94ce3&view=att&th=1370de35ee48c9d6&attid=0.2&disp=inline&realattid=f_h1qgpd6m1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P8wBctzVjIdp3Gd-sMC0Ieb&sadet=1336513390942&sads=t6SXq47FsX6Ni5Zrc3EDlElm8Ug 

In 2009, I began working as an advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, the web's most trusted resource for individuals who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families. I work with women daily who hear those devastating words 'you have cancer.' I've seen power in fashion and how it can enhance a woman's overall self-esteem. When we look good, we feel good. I've focused my work with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance to develop medical content with specializations in alternative care, cancer support programs, and beauty!

Here are 3 tips to help anyone look & feel better!

1 // WEAR FAVORITES!

Taking advantage of the latest fashions can make a person feel rejuvenated and energized. Adding a few new pieces to the wardrobe each season can spice things up and prevent closet boredom. But the benefits of an oldie but a goodie shouldn't be overlooked! Comfort clothes are as good for the soul as comfort foods! Combine a new camisole and sweater with a favorite pair of jeans for an everyday look. A soft, cotton t-shirt that's been worn thin can be paired with skinny jeans and a fitted blazer for an edgy, night-on-the-town look.



 
{source: wendy's lookbook}

2 // MAKE A STATEMENT!

Choose one statement-making accessory each day! Whether it's a bright, floral scarf, a glimmering pair of earrings or a hot pair of leopard print ankle boots, this extra-special addition instantly provides a feeling of confidence. This spring's hot items include large floral patterns, neon colors and funky tribal prints --- talk about bold & energetic!


{check out this great neon necklace DIY via a pair & a spare}

3 // AROMA THERAPY!

Scent can also be used to increase energy! Aromatherapy has been used successfully to help people feel better physically and mentally. Increase your energy with grapefruit or peppermint. Calm your mind after a long stressful day with lavender or vanilla. Treat yourself to your favorite scented candle, body oil or perfume and see how it compliments your mood!

mon-DIY: woven frienship bracelet

last night we had our year end celebration w/ the high school girls' bible study. it's hard to believe that i've been with some of these girls for 3 years now! and it will be even crazier next year when they graduate!!!

when we were planning how we wanted to celebrate the end of another school year - i mentioned that i'd love to have them help me make bracelets for the kids in ethiopia. they were so excited to help out! i love these girls. so we made an evening of it - complete with dairy queen!

{warning: give 7 high school girls embroidery thread and it will end up looking like the bottom right! that makes my ocd self itch. ha.)

of all of the friendship bracelet patterns i've stumbled on while preparing for our trip - this one is by far the easiest to teach and bonus: the quickest to finish! 


here's what you'll need:
* embroidery thread
* a small piece of cardboard
* something circular for your pattern (roll of masking tape)
* scissors, a ruler and a pen

trace a circle onto the cardboard and then cut it out.


mark the center of your circle. then with your ruler, draw a line cutting the circle in half. draw another line through the center making 1/4s. and finally draw a line through the center cutting each 1/4 in 1/2 making 1/8s.

3 // cut about a half inch in from the edge on each line.


finish your loom, by making a hole in the center.


now here's the toughest part - pick out your colors!!! :) you'll need 7 24" long strings. and it's probably easiest to learn with 7 different colors. tie them together with a knot approximately 2" from 1 end.

pull your knot through the center hole.


on the side opposite your knot, arrange the 7 strings by tucking 1 into each of the slits in your cardboard loom. there will be 1 empty slit. turn your loom so that the open slit is toward yourself.


count 3 strings to the left of the open slit. for me, this is the bright green string (above). take that string out of it's slit and move it to the open slit. that's it! now you just repeat.

rotate your loom so that the open slit is toward you, count 3 strings to the left, take that string out of it's slit and move it to the open slit ... and repeat, and repeat, and repeat!


a little test ... which string would we move next if the open slit was facing us (above)? ... that's right - BLUE. got it?

when you've weaved and weaved and weaved until the bracelet is your desired length, carefully remove each string from it's slit and tie them together w/ another knot. easy peasy!

take them a meal!

the summer i turned 25, we had a wedding every other weekend throughout the summer. now that i'm edging 30 - it's ALL BABY! :) 4 of my girlfriends have had babies in the past month - and 1 more is due any day now! would you believe it --- all had boys!!!

one of my favorite ways to celebrate each new baby has been to bring the new parents a meal. relieving the stress of "what's for dinner?" is possibly the biggest gift you can give a couple as they transition into new parents!

 
photo courtesy:  ellie miller

if you're like me, cooking for your own family can feel a bit overwhelming after a long day. so here's a little list of tips i've gathered to help you plan your "special delivery":

1 // take them a meal! everyone loves free food! it doesn't matter if you're a month after delivery or if there wasn't an established "meal plan". just do it! pick a meal that you're comfortable with and that transports easily. make sure that you double check with the family for any food allergies or dislikes. bonus: save yourself some time by making a double portion for your family!

2 // bring plenty of food. one of my sweet mommies had her parents, his parents, a brother & sister-in-law and 2 year-old twins staying with them after the baby was born. plan accordingly! besides, did you know that a nursing mommy needs to eat 2500 calories a day!?! plan a meal w/ 6-8 servings perfect for dinner and leftovers! as an added bonus, bring fresh fruit & pastries or a casserole for breakfast in the am.

3 // take your items in disposable containers. ziplock bags, foil pans, gladware ... easy to label & recycle or toss. better yet - the new parents won't have to worry about returning your dishware. they'll have enough on their minds already!

4 // arrive on time! 8pm dinners are unfortunately quite common around our house. but apparently that's not the case with everyone!?! :) deliver your meal table ready at the requested time. if you're a working woman - try signing up for a weekend shift or choose a make ahead recipe & prep the night before. i've found this enchilada recipe via real simple super helpful to deliver earlier in the day w/ heating instructions. (speaking of time - don't stay too long! they're probably exhausted and definitely hungry!)

5 // add a personal touch. come up with a theme like "date night" or pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers or fancy disposable paper products. and add a little note of encouragement + the recipe! of course, they are going to loooove what you cooked and ask anyways. ;)

maybe you don't have a new mommy & daddy in your life but rather someone grieving or in transition. a sweet friend brought me a meal the week after i moved wade to boston! i guess i was "love sick" and it meant the world to me.

thanks to takethemameal.com, we're talking not your grandma's small town baptist church meals on wheels anymore! talk about super user friendly and organized! as the coordinator, you create a password protected online sign up sheet. the profile can be shared on facebook or friends can be invited through email. both participants and recipient can reference phone numbers, driving directions, delivery times, food allergies and more. meal providers can select a date and enter their information including planned meal (perfect for eliminating duplicates), and then the site automatically sends them a reminder email a day in advance. genius!

more shelf space, please!

while the majority of my free time over the past few months has been spent in running shoes ... i continued with pottery 1 night a week. this was my second time taking the class through metro parks. and i think i'm beginning to find my style. and we're beginning to have quite the collection.

a few of my favorites ...



like everything else in our home, i tend to keep my pots simple ... almost primitive. i'm content with slightly imperfect shapes and love earth tones.

all three of these were made on the wheel. i'm learning, people! it has been slow - there might have been tears - but i'm learning, people! i really am! i'll be back soon to share a few of my "experiments". :)

our big race weekend.

we did it! we ran the st. jude country music marathon over the weekend!


1 // that guy ran his first full marathon - a very hilly and very hot 26.2 miles! and he is already talking about what he'll do differently next time! that girl ran her second half marathon (13.1 miles) - and actually enjoyed it! though she isn't quite sure if there will be a "next time". ;)

2 // we clean up well! amazing how a great big smile can mask achy feet and a bit of heat exhaustion! an icebath for him and a loooong shower for her - plus a little r&r while watching "princess bride" ... and we were good as new!

3 // great food, great drinks and even greater company. we were super excited and thankful to have friends alex and naomi in from boston. we started early at mad donnas for appetizers, margaritas and martinis. then made a brief stop at 3 crow bar before heading over to holland house. it was nearly impossible to tear us away from holland house and our fantastic lead bartender jeremiah blake; however we had reservations for our 2nd annual post-race dinner at merchants downtown. as ah-mazing as last year! we finished the night off with a little honky-tonkin' at roberts western world and some 90s sing-along at the big bang piano bar. basically your "idiot's guide to nashville" ... all this before 10pm!

4 // then on sunday ... we did a whole lot of nothing!

best part ... as a couple, we raised over 1K for barefoot ministries. and as a team, we raised almost 35 THOUSAND DOLLARS! pretty sweet, huh!?! that's scholarship money for over 300 students to go to church camp this summer and extra $ for further development at barefoot republic.

thank you to those that supported barefoot ministries & our run! :)
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