Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Snapshots: Towns of Nicaragua

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

Amanda and I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua a few times when we first got married. It was a eye opening experience and something that I recommend that everyone who can do at least once. We have so many memories and experiences from our 3 trips there and we couldn't possibly hope to share it all in 100 posts let alone one.

     On our travel days we would go through many little towns and I was fascinated by them. I took a ton of photos of the towns and some of my fellow group members even joked that I had a picture of every street in Nicaragua (its probably not far from the truth). Below are just some of my favourite street photos from our first trip in 2003.

This street market is set up right by the main highway. It sold a variety of fruit and vegetables among other items.

This is a typical street in one of the larger cities. It was a mixture of businesses and residential houses.

Many of the streets had road works like the one near this auto mechanic.

Many resturants look similar to this one. We ate ate at this one for lunch one day and the food was pretty tasty. I had a chicken schnitzel, beans, rice and some vegetables.

A brightly painted exterior to an appliance store. Sadly we were just driving by or I would have ducked in to see how prices compare to back home.

Some of the smaller settlements would have just a few shops like in this photo.

I always looked forward to the bus rides in Nicaragua as there was always something new to see around the next corner. Every little village and town was just a little bit different and gave me yet another excuse to fill up my memory cards. Have you taken tons of photos of streets when traveling or is it just something that I do?

Friday, May 30, 2014

His and Her Five for Friday with Fuel Your Faith

Today, we are linking up with Jessica at Joy in the Journey, Lauren Elizabeth, and Hello! Happiness for the combo Five For Friday and Fuel Your Faith linkup parties.

This week's posts:
Saturday - Chalkboard Wall 
Wednesday - The Easiest Baby Back Ribs Recipe
Thursday - Deadly Animals of Australia - Dangers in the Water


The Scripps National Spelling Bee was on ESPN Thursday night. I love watching these kids strut their stuff and show off those spelling skills. I am hoping that I can find it online to show it to my classes next week. I think they would get a kick out of some of the words.

I actually found time to sew a couple of projects this week. I worked on some pacifier clips (that are up on my Etsy store if you know anyone who needs one) and a project bag for Amanda's friend. It's nice to have the time and energy to sew on a weekday. 

Tonight is GNO - Girl's Night Out!! A bunch of friends and I are going to dinner and then to see Maleficent. I am so excited to see this movie and I cannot wait for some down time. School has been really stressful because it is state-wide testing time. That is always tough on the kids and teachers. It will be nice to let my hair down, laugh, and enjoy a good movie.

It was nice to have an extra day off last weekend. Even though it was busy, it was relaxing and a much needed break.

What great things happened this week for you?

Happy Friday,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

His: Deadly Animals of Australia - Dangers in the water.

It is pretty well known that Australia is home to some of the most unique animals in the world. It is also home to many of the deadliest animals as well. It sometimes seems that if you watch a nature program on TV you sometimes think that the country is just crawling with them and its only a matter of seconds before something bites or devours you. The truth is that although many of Australia's animals are quite deadly they are normally afraid of humans and you have to do something pretty silly to get attacked. 

   Today's post looks to the coastline of Australia and will highlight some of the nasties that could await you in the water. We will skip the sharks for now even though they do earn an honourable mention, but there are not very many unique species of sharks that live exclusively around Australia that are known to attack humans. Below are a few of Australia's marine creatures that are best avoided and left well alone.

Blue Ringed Octopus: These little guys are usually found in rock pools along the beach and small enough for a child to pick up. When left alone they often blend in with their surrounding but if they are provoked or feel threatened they will display bright blue rings. If you happen to try and pick one of these little guys up you will likely get bitten and you may not even know as the bite is often painless. Should you get bit you will need to seek medical attention immediately as the venom is very deadly and total paralysis will set in within 10-15 minutes. Breathing will stop within this time and if assisted breathing is not administered death will soon follow. If a bite victim can rushed to a hospital and placed on an artificial ventilator they will likely recover fully as the effects of the venom are usually gone within 24 hours or so. If left alone these guys pose little danger so feel free to look at the pretty blue rings but do not pick it up for a closer look!

Box Jellyfish: These guys are next to invisible in the water and can provide a sting that is more painful than anything you have ever felt. Found in the tropical waters of northern Australia they are so dangerous many beaches are closed to swimmers during the Australian summer. It is one of the larger jellyfish and the bell can be as large as a man's head and the stingers can trail for several feet. Even when dead jellyfish or detached stingers can provide a painful sting. The venom is deadly and has been responsible for the deaths of at least 80 people in the last 150 years. If stung the recommended remedy is to flood the sting area with vinegar as it helps detaches the stingers from the skin and to seek medical attention. Its definitely best to check with the locals or heed the warning signs before heading into the waters in the tropical areas of Australia.

Stonefish: Thankfully these guys are rare but they can deliver a nasty surprise to anyone unlucky enough to step on one. Found along the coast of the top half of Australia, Stonefish are found partially buried in the sand. They do this to camouflage themselves from their prey but sadly this makes them impossible to see. They often will not move even if someone is about to step on them so it is recommended to wear good water shoes and tread carefully. The danger comes from a row of venomous spines that run along the top of the fish that is activated when someone steps on the fish. Although it is not as deadly as some of the other creatures around Australia's coastline these guys will do a number on the bottom of your foot and will make walking quite painful for many days. If you happen to step on one it is recommended to sooth the pain with hot water and to seek medical attention.

These are just some of the dangers along the coastline of Australia. Although they are out there most visitors to Australian beaches never encounter any of these creatures. I did see a Blue Ringed Octopus in a rock pool when I was fairly young and a dead Box jellyfish a few years later but knew enough to steer clear of them. As long as you take the proper precautions you should have an safe and fun time. Have you ever had an encounter with a deadly animal?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

His: The Easiest Baby Back Ribs Recipe ever!

Baby Back Ribs has been one of my favourite foods since I first tried them shortly after moving to the United States. I always thought that they were ridiculously hard to prepare and that the only real way to enjoy them was to go out to a good restaurant. One day I was talking to a work mate about how much I love ribs but I don't get them often as they can be quite pricey at the restaurant. She said that they were easy to make at home and just as good as the ones you get out at a restaurant. I was skeptical but I gave it a try and as promised, they are fall off the bone, and just as good as the ones in a good restaurant. Read on to see just how easy they are!

First I cut the racks in half so they comfortably fit inside a 9x13 inch/27x33cm pan. Lay them on some non stick aluminium foil. If you can't get non stick foil then you will need to coat the foil with non stick spray, otherwise the ribs will stick to the foil when they are cooked.

A little salt and pepper on each side of the ribs and then a generous helping of your favourite BBQ sauce goes on each side of the ribs.

Wrap the ribs up in the foil nice and tightly. This will keep the juices in and prevent them from drying out.

Place into a preheated 300F / 150C oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The house will start to smell good as they cook!

Unwrap the ribs (be careful not to burn yourself from the steam) and rub some more BBQ sauce on each side of the ribs. Use care when turning them over as they may fall apart.

Rewrap the foil around the ribs tightly and place back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, let sit for about 10 minutes and serve with your favourite side dishes.

Baby Back ribs (approx 1/3 to 1/2 rack per person)
1 bottle of BBQ sauce per rack.
Salt and Pepper.
Non Stick Aluminum Foil

1: Pre heat oven to 300F / 150C
2: Place ribs onto non stick aluminum foil that is in a 9x13 inch / 27x33cm pan.
3: Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs.
4: Generously rub BBQ sauce on both sides of the ribs and then wrap the foil around the ribs tightly.
5: Place into preheated oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
6: Unwrap ribs and apply more BBQ sauce on both sides. Rewrap ribs in foil tightly and put back in oven for 15 minutes.
6: Take ribs out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

It's that simple! I have made this for several members of my family and friends and its always been a hit. Try it for yourself and enjoy restaurant quality ribs at home for a fraction of the price. Have you ever tried making ribs at home?


Saturday, May 24, 2014

His: Saturday Snapshots - Chalkboard wall

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

A couple of years ago Amanda and I decided to paint a chalkboard wall in the hallway next to our front door. We had seen one at her sister's house and thought it would be a fun addition and a way to write messages to each other. We got some magnetic paint and some chalkboard paint from the store and started our creation.

Our original plan was to paint the entire wall that is taped off in this photo.

But it seemed like it was too much so we decided to make it a little smaller and taped off a smaller section in the middle. 

We found these wooden letters at the craft store and thought they would be a nice addition to the board.

These took about about 8 coats of paint before they looked good.

The magnetic paint went on first which was a thick gooey grey paint. I was not a fan of painting with it. Then two coats of the chalkboard paint and it was done.

We found some thin wooden trim and painted it black as a border so it would look more like a frame and not just a section of painted chalkboard.

The whole project took most of the weekend but it has come in very handy and we often leaves messages for each other on it. The magnetic paint did not work as well as we had hoped but it does work for very light items.

Have you ever painted a chalkboard wall or seen one?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

His and Her What's for Dinner Wednesday

We took a little blogging hiatus after the A-Z April Blogging Challenge ended. It has been a busy two weeks but we are trying to get back on track. 

That being said, we are returning to our regular schedule which means Wednesday is all about food - dinner food. Here is what we have planned for dinner this week. (Links are in the photos and the titles.)

King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese
 King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe
This dish looks amazing! Macaroni, cheese, chicken, and some seasonings - what's not to love!

Salisbury Steak Meatballs!%29
Salisbury Steak was a staple in Amanda's house growing up. This is one in the "Mom's Feel-Good, Comfort Foods" category. Pioneer Woman is also one of the best ever for amazing recipes so this one has a lot going for it. They should be great!

Balsamic Grilled Pork Chops
Amanda found Six Sister's Stuff through a friend and we have tried many of their recipes. Each one has been more delicious than the last. These pork chops, we are sure, will be as good as the others.

The final dinner of the week will be hamburgers on the grill with a side of fries. Can't go wrong with an American classic.

What's for dinner at your house this week?

Happy Eating,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

His - Living in America: What did you call that?

"What did you call that?" I have heard this phrase many times during my 12 years in America. Over the years I have learned to call several items by their American name, but sometimes I do forget and end up having to repeat myself and call it by its American name. Although there seems to be different names for things throughout life in America a fair share of them are associated with food. Below is a list of some of the items that have different names.

Capsicum: Capsicums are known as Bell Peppers in America. Most peppers are part of the Capsicum family including many of the hotter varieties like the Jalapeno. In Australia the hot peppers are known as Chilies. 

Rockmelon: I first came across something that looked just like a rockmelon on one of my first trips to a supermarket in America. I got confused because it was labelled as a Cantaloupe. I found out it was the same fruit after seeing one that was cut open.

Fairy Floss: Known as Cotton Candy in America this sugary treat is found at fairs across the world and is quite popular at many sporting events across the United States as well. I still prefer the name Fairy Floss over Cotton Candy

Jam: I had heard about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid when I watched TV. I never could understand the fascination with this combo as I knew jelly to be the jiggly gelatin product Americans call Jello. I found out that the word jelly is what Australians call jam. For all of those years I thought the kids were making peanut butter and jello sandwiches. Silly me!

Mince Meat: If you head to a butcher shop in America and asked for mince meat you will get a very puzzled look on the butcher's face. Mince meat is either known as ground meat or hamburger. Likewise don't ask for hamburger at an Aussie meat counter as you may get directed to the nearest McDonald's.

Dagwood Dog/Pluto Pup. These are known as corn dogs in America. They are named that since they have a corn meal breading around a hot dog. I am not sure why they are called a Dagwood Dog or Pluto Pup in Australia but the names in Oz sound much more interesting.

Devon: Devon is a very popular deli meat as it is cheap and many people like it. They call it bologna in America and I am pretty sure it is the same thing but can't be sure as I don't like either one.

Chook: This is technically a slang term but  is so widely used in Australia it might as well be the official name. Chook is what many Australians call chicken. I still call it Chook and once in a while confuse people who have not heard the term before.

Chips: This can be confusing when in Australia if you aren't paying attention. Chips can refer to the potato crisps that you but off the snack shelf (like Frito Lays) or can be hot chips which are known as Fries in America. I got caught off guard a few times when I dined at an American restaurant and saw that a sandwich was served with chips and didn't get the fries I was expecting. I have since learned to pay closer attention.

I am sure I have missed a few food items but these are the main ones that came to mind. Which ones are you favourites and why?

Monday, May 19, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Postcard Row, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco had been on our must see list ever since we got married. In early 2005 we were able to get a really good deal on the flights and hotel so we went for a 4 day weekend trip. We booked a few sightseeing trips so we wouldn't get lost and could make the most of our time there. The decision to take an organized tour was a smart choice as many of the attractions in San Francisco are spread out and parking can be a nightmare if you have a car. 

     One of the highlights on our city tour was a photo stop at the Postcard Row houses. The architecture of the houses around San Francisco was just stunning, but the Postcard Row houses are some of the most recognizable. They are often used in tourist publications and in the opening credits of the TV show "Full House". I particularly liked how the city skyline was in the background and that it complimented the houses in the foreground. It was only a quick 5 minute stop here but it was fun to be able to see these houses in person after seeing them on TV so many times.

Each section of the city has a park. That's where we were standing to take this photo. It was a beautiful park and the view was incredible. These houses are so picturesque. I couldn't get over how beautiful they were.

Having the park across the street from the houses made taking photos of all of the houses really easy and you were far away enough from them to give the home owner's some privacy.

How young do I look? Wow! I love this photo. I'm so happy we got to visit this part of San Francisco. I can't wait to go back!!

Have you been to San Francisco to see the Postcard Row houses?

Happy Traveling,

Saturday, May 17, 2014

His: Saturday Snapshots - Messenger Bag

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

A couple of months ago Amanda asked me if I could make her a messenger bag. Many of the ones she had seen in stores were not the right dimensions so making a custom one sounded like the best option. I thought it would take a few hours but it ended up taking a lot longer. I had never made a bag before, and I didn't use a pattern since I could not find a suitable pattern. After many hours I finished the bag on Wednesday evening and is the topic for this week's Saturday Snapshots.

 Amanda chose the fabric for the bag. The blue is for the interior and the outside is brown with a light blue print. Above is one of the pockets that went into the interior of the bag.

I padded the strap so it would be more comfortable to wear. I used some extra quilting batting that I had, and it was perfect for this project.

To give the bag some stability and so it would stand up on its own I lined it with iron-on fusing. I learned that I should have done this before I sewed all of this pieces together as trying to do it when the outside of the bag was all together was pretty tricky.

The interior of the bag has 7 pockets including one that has a zipper. The ones at the end are just the right size for your cell phone.

The completed bag with the flap open. It is able to hold a lot of stuff and is perfect for Amanda's field trip and as her carry on bag for when we fly.

The completed bag with the flap closed.

The bag took many hours to finish but it has all of the features, and is the exact size that Amanda wanted. It may be a while before I attempt another one but I am happy that I was able to create something this detailed just a few months after I started sewing. What is your favourite craft project that you have made?

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