Friday, December 25, 2009

[Project Lunch] Tuna Pasta Salad

The beauty of pasta salads is that they can be made ahead of time and pulled out later to be enjoyed, which makes it the ideal dish to bring into work. Since I had a bunch of leftover ingredients waiting in my fridge to be used, the timing was perfect to make one of these for Project Lunch. The ingredients are relatively inter-changeable, but I always like adding celery, since it gives the pasta salad another texture dimension: crunch.

[Project Lunch] Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna Pasta Salad
* 1 lb pasta shells, medium
* 2 cans (5 oz) solid albacore tuna, drained & flaked
* 4 oz black olives, sliced
* 1 1/2 onions, medium, cubed
* 8 oz grape tomatoes, halved
* 3 ribs (1 cup) celery, cubed
* 3/4 cup mayonnaise
* chives, chopped
* kosher salt + pepper
* oregano
* olive oil

01. Bring large, heavy-bottom pan of water to a boil.
02. Add pasta and return to a boil; cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.
03. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise and flaked tuna, until properly coated. Add olive oil as necessary to thin the mayonnaise down.
04. Add celery, onions and olives to tuna mixture. Add mayonnaise and olive oil as needed.
05. Add s+p, oregano to taste.
06. Add pasta into the mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
07. Add chopped chives and cherry tomatoes; toss ingredients again.

Price Check
$ 0.89, Pasta (@ 0.89 for 1 lb)
$ 1.30, Albacore Solid Tuna (@ 0.65 for 5 oz)
$ 1.00, Onions
$ 0.30, Celery (@ 2.27 for 32 oz)
$ 0.55, Black Olives (@ 1.10 for 6 oz)
$ 1.25, Cherry Tomatoes (@ 4.98 for 32 oz)
$ 0.50, Mayonaise
$ 1.33, Chives (@ 1.99 for 10 oz)

Total: $ 7.12

Tips & Tricks:
* If the pasta salad is dry, just add a 1 tbsp water to revive the salad.
* Any pasta shapes (e.g., spirals, penne) will substitute well for this salad.
* Left-over rotisserie chicken is a good substitute for tuna.
* Half the cherry tomatoes & pre-chop the chives, but pack them separately. Add to the pasta salad right before serving.

Verdict & Lesson's Learned:

:) Both boys liked it and it makes it a perfect dish to tag along to work.

:( One boy could pass on the celery, since he isn't a fan of celery-tasting things. Maybe carrots could be a celery substitute and still add the crunchy dimension.

:) I like how fast this dish is to make and how portable this lunch project was.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meet Franzl, the Bavarian Bear

Every year around Christmas time, my company supports the "Toys for Tots" drive. It is a national organization, but the donations directly go to the surrounding community. Everyone at work is encouraged to participate by either donating new toys or donating money (if they do not have the time to shop), and one of the co-workers then goes on a spending spree at Toys R Us with the donations. Usually local volunteers, like the volunteer fire department, will then come pick up all the donated toys with a big truck and we have a huge send-off.

To kick off all this excitement, my company hosts a "Dress a Bear" competition. Anyone who wants to participate can pick up a bear, dress him up with either store-bought clothing or self-made means, bring him back, and then display him. The dressed bears are then put up for a vote, and best bear wins the creator bragging rights.

Like every year, I picked up a bear -- except forgot that I was going to be out of town for a business trip. So my delinquent bear snuck in for a group pose with the rest of the bears a week after the competition. No one taddle, so it's ok. And Mr. Bear will make one child happy -- which is all that matters :)

I'd like to introduce my Mr. Bear as actually Franzl from Bavaria. And like any good Bavarian citizen, he sports a cute pair of home-made lederhosen and a matching "Schlapphut" (floppy hat). Since Franzl is sensitive to animal rights (being a bear and all), he's wearing faux leather!

[Toys for Tots] Franzl, the Bavarian

Actually all the sewing credit goes to my co-worker who did this bear with me (teams are allowed). I gave creative direction and she did the grunt work. If it wasn't for her and her awesome sewing machine, he would have still been a naked little bear right now, since I knit and crochet about 1/100th of the speed she sews. So if you like what Franzl is wearing and have always dreamed of owning your own designer faux lederhosen, just leave us a comment.

Just kiddin'

But I hope you enjoyed meeting Franzl. And I hope he will bring big smiles to one special little boy or little girl this Christmas season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

[Swapping Sisters] December Swap

If you already saw the other Swapping Sister posts and were wondering where mine went...they posted early! Can you believe them?! Just kidding. I ran late creating my card and was struggling to balance my holiday prep, work, and guest hosting from China. But, dear Swapping Sisters, it is my new year's resolution to try harder to be on-time.

So for the Swapping Sister's second card swap I actually made a card (more like three, but who is counting?) To top it all, this is my first time creating cards solo. Stamping Around and crafting with an instructor doesn't really count, since there is always a teacher to tell me what to do next, and there is a prototype card to show me what it should have been.

Just a quick disclaimer: this post contains three cards and it's quite long. If you just want to see the pics, just scroll on through or head over to my flickr page for more pics. If you want to re-live my n00by card-making journey, read on.

This time Swap Sister Laurie sent out supplies which included a few fun items: Bazzill's Blue Swiss Dot paper, Quick Quotes' Pink Striped paper, Making Memories' Polka Dot paper, ribbons from Martha Stewart and Michaels, blue brads, pink buttons and a fun metal flower.

To make matters sweeter, I was visiting Belinda for a very extended weekend. And being at Belinda's is like being in stamping/crafting heaven. It means that I got to play with hardware and learn new technique. Let me just say that after this long weekend, my Christmas wish list just grew a few feet... ;)

The first card is a simple "thank you" card. I knew I wanted to use the pink ribbon as my sentiment. From there everything kind of fell in place: pink pairs well with black, and the polka dot paper had some nice shades to match the whole get-up. So out came the 3/4" circle punch to pull out the perfect shades of dots from the polka dot paper for the card. I also ran the black cardstock through Belinda's Cuttlebug to emboss the "Spots & Dots" design on the card to tie the dots and circle theme together. My "cherry ontop" was the metal flower embellishment.

[Swapping Sisters] December Swap
Paper: Black (Recollections), Polka Dot (Making Memories)
Embellishments: Pink Thank-You Ribbon (Martha Stewart), Metal Embellishment Flower (Making Memories), Dots and Spots Embossing Folder (Provo Craft)

I quickly found an assembly problem when the ribbon went down onto the black cardstock. It was too sheer for the sentiment to really stand out, so I cut a piece of white cardstock strip to match the width of the ribbon and backed the ribbon onto it. And voilà, the ribbon is able to convey it's message.

The second card is an ode to the Quick Quotes pink paper and my Swapping Sisters. I have been dying to ink up my "Trendy Girl" set from Sweet & Sassy Stamps, and Belinda generously shared a stack of pattern paper that she had. I used various select regions parts of the paper to design three of the purses that I pulled from the set, leaving her with funny-shaped holes in the most random parts of the paper ;) Additionally, the border punch adds a nice "girl" touch. At that point, the black card stock felt too much, and I corner-punched the bottom edge to trim a bit of black away. I also knew I wanted to use the white ribbon to create the winning pink-black-white classy color combo and went about to create a fun non-tying ribbon. (Ha, just ask Belinda how horrified I get when tying ribbons -- they always look lopsided and sad!)

[Swapping Sisters] December Swap

For the sentiment, I tried stamping it with a cream color pigment ink onto the pink, but that didn't show very well, since this pink has loads of white stripes. So I decided to stamp it with black and punch it out using a 1 3/4" circle punch. On a side note, I chose to rotate the paper for the sentiment, so that the white stripes were horizontal, rather than vertical. This allows the sentiment to stand out more from the background pattern.

Incidentally, the previous night, Belinda and I played with the Glimmer Mist that she picked up and we tried it on black paper. That stuff is awesome and created a nice subtle shimmer effect, and since I didn't want to "waste" that piece of paper, I punched out a scallop to back the pink circle, so that I could add a layer between the pink background and the pink circle. The shimmer gives it an extra dimension without actually adding another paper layer.

The card needed some "white" to balance, and since I discovered the awesome-ness of eyelets and I need to make use of my newly acquired crop-a-dile, I decided to "frame" the sentiment with some white eyelets. I like how it gives it a little playful touch. At this point I thought I was done, but the polka dot paper looked so neglected, and I liked how the dots had different patterns and textures printed on it. So I punched out the dark pink ones, and created a background paper. This of course meant that I was able to use the whole and non-whole circles.  Yeah -- I like to do things backwards ;)

[Swapping Sisters] December Swap
Stamps: Trendy Girl (Sweet 'n Sassy Stamps)
Paper: Black (Recollections), Pink Striped (Quick Quotes), Polka Dot (Making Memories), various pattern paper
Ink: Black (Staz-On)
Embellishments: White Ribbon (Michael's), Floral Lace Edge Punch (Martha Stewart), Corner Punch (EK Success), 2" Scallop (Marvy Uchida), 1 3/4" Circle (Stamping Up!), Gold Glimmer Mist (Tattered Angels), White Eyelets (Making Memories)

My stay in Pittsburgh made me miss the warmer weathers. I drove in a snowstorm, walked around in the cold to run errands, and when I was inside staying warm, I watched it snow. This was probably why I avoided the Bazzill blue swiss dots paper. However, while I was working on another paper craft project, the little penguins from the imaginisce "A Shore Thing" line kept looking so happy. So the inspiration to make a fun summer card (in the middle of December) starting coming together.

I secretly had so much fun embossing the first card, I wanted to find any excuse to play with the Cuttlebug some more. I love love the d'vine design and decided it mimics the water waves at the beach. I knew I wanted to use the white ribbon to separate the swirl and non-swirl part of the paper, which became my base.

Pepé and Pia (yes -- I gave my penguins names) were stamped onto white cardstock and colored with pencils. Belinda happened to show me the neat blending trick with odor-less mineral spirits, which I immediately put into use :) Just don't try to watch TV and blend at the same time! The penguins were my only chance to give the card some bold, warm colors to offset the cool color background. So their swim gear and accessories were colored in yellow, reds, oranges, and pinks.

To give it a whimsical take, the penguins needed to be positioned so that they pop off the card. The perfect way to create that effect is to pull out some nesties to provide a "frame" for the penguins to leap of. I liked the large scallop nestability and then happily pulled out the Cuttlebug again. I felt that the penguins needed another layer or so and my eyes strayed to the chalk paints that Belinda pulled out for me to play with. Penguins, fun background, and chalks! The shade of blues in the box were perfect and I set out to look for swirl stamps among Belinda's collection to create that background, so I could emboss the stamp onto white paper and run the chalk over the design. The penguins looked happy, and to make them look warm, I added a little sun (yep, it was punched out from the polka dot paper!).

The card needed a cute sentiment to tie it together and would be perfect in conveying a "just sayin' hello" message. I found two sentiments "hello" and "friends," where I masked out the "s" on the latter word. In addition, I drew in the comma and exclamation point, trying to mimic the style as much as possible. Did I fake it well? I tried a little paper piercing to emphasize the word "friend," but could have just as easily left it out. To tie it all up together, Laurie's blue brads were the last perfect "blue" addition to the card.

[Swapping Sisters] December Swap
Stamps: Penguin Dude (imaginisce Snag 'em Stamps), Penguin Chick (imaginisce Snag 'em Stamps), Swirl (?), Doodle Flower for Sentiments (Sweet 'n Sassy Stamps)
Paper: Black (Recollections), Light Blue Swiss Dots (Bazzill), White (The Paper Company), Polka Dot (Making Memories)
Ink: Black (Staz-On)
Embellishments: White Ribbon (Michael's), Square Blue Brads (Making Memories), Scallop Nestabilities (Spellbinders), d'vine Swirl Embossing Folder (Provo Craft)

Now that you have made it through my long post, I really want to add one more quick thing: i owe a big thanks to my girl Belinda! Without her toys and her quick techique demos, I would not have been able to create three fun cards. I had a blast hanging out and playing, and because of that, I know exactly what new hardware I want to acquire :)

To help me feel less bad for posting late, do me a favor and hop back to these awesome posts to see what these creative girls have created:

Interesting take on the same supplies, right? I love how everyone uses and emphasizes the colors of the paper differently!

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