Book Review {and My Favorite NW Author}

Admittedly, I’ve had negative amounts of “free time” this fall, it seems, what with student teaching, kids in various afterschool and weekend activities, and just life in general.  I still need some time to escape, though, so I try to fit in at least a few minutes of reading for fun every night before bed.  It helps that the kids all have nightly reading minutes to get in, so we can all lounge around the family room reading.

Last summer, I discovered a great mystery series, set in Oregon, and written by Ellie Alexander, a Northwest author. The heroine of those books owns a bakery in Ashland, and the books are filled with wonderful descriptions of the town, the Shakespearean festival there, and recipes from the bakery.  I quickly read the books in that series, and while waiting for the next one to be released, found out that the author writes another series as Kate Dyer-Seeley.  These books follow Meg, a young writer in Portland, as she embarks on a new job writing for an extreme sports magazine. A lover of pink, Meg is game for anything (and a little clumsy) and often finds herself in dicey predicament in the outdoors, from an Amazing Race-style adventure in the Columbia Gorge to rescue training at Mt. Hood to windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge. .

I recently won a drawing for the latest in this series, First Degree Mudder, and received the book in return for an unbiased review…so that’s what this is! The book jacket reads:First Degree Mudder (A Pacific Northwest Mystery) by [Dyer-Seeley, Kate]

Back home in Portland, Oregon, Meg is ready to take her career as an outdoor writer for Extreme magazine to the next level. Lesser journalists sling mud—Meg plans to run through it. To train hard for Mud, Sweat & Beers, an extreme 5K mud run, she’s signed on with the Mind Over Mudder team, run by ten-time mud marathon champ—and former drill sergeant—Billy the Tank. But when Meg finds her tenacious trainer dead in the locker room, she has a sinking feeling someone may have been pushed too far. Digging through the hidden secrets at Mind Over Mudder is a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Meg will have to tread carefully, though—or she may soon be running for her life . . .

I believe this is my favorite of the four books in the series (so far).  Meg’s adventures are always entertaining, and I can see a bit of my younger self in her as she lets her self-confidence in her athletic abilities occasionally overload what her body can deliver. The characters are well-written, such as the friendship between Meg and her college buddies.  Her grandmother is a fun character, as well, as owner of a New Age shop and Reiki practitioner. First Degree Mudder differs from the previous books, however, with much less interaction with Meg’s boss and more time spent inside Meg’s head. I also appreciated that the subplot of Meg’s father’s mysterious death was further developed in this book than in the first three.  The mysteries are well-crafted and keep me guessing until the end. As in any good mystery, red herrings abound and I enjoy seeing Meg unravel the clues.

While I’m not sure the term “cozy” accurately describes these, they are a great diversion for a rainy weekend (or a sunny beach day!). As always, the book left me longing for a weekend escape to Oregon and outdoor adventure, even if it’s not of the extreme variety!

Check out the other books in the series, or the Bakeshop Series, if you’re in the market for a quick, entertaining read!

Scene of the Climb (A Pacific Northwest Mystery) by [Dyer-Seeley, Kate]Slayed on the Slopes (A Pacific Northwest Mystery) by [Dyer-Seeley, Kate]        Silenced in the Surf (A Pacific Northwest Mystery) by [Dyer-Seeley, Kate]

Meet Your Baker (A Bakeshop Mystery Book 1) by [Alexander, Ellie] A Batter of Life and Death: A Bakeshop Mystery by [Alexander, Ellie]On Thin Icing: A Bakeshop Mystery by [Alexander, Ellie]Caught Bread Handed: A Bakeshop Mystery by [Alexander, Ellie]

Organizing with Bullet Journals

I love making lists…that’s my happy place. When I first read about bullet journals this summer, I was immediately intrigued. They’re a little pricey, however, so I didn’t pursue that creative avenue. I may have already had a couple or twenty unfinished projects cluttering up my craft room. Then, when I found a pack of 6 Moleskine notebooks for less than $20 at Costco, I remembered the bullet journal concept.

It’s simple, really, and any notebook, composition book, or spiral would work. You can buy a journal already printed with a contents page and page numbers, but I’m pretty literate, so I was confident I could create my own from a blank notebook.  My middle schooler created one in math last year, in a grid-lined composition book. What a genius teacher…I didn’t realize that’s what a bullet journal is, but the method for notetaking and numbering the pages with a table of contents kept him organized all year, which is no easy task. Until he lost the whole notebook the week before school ended. But I’ve gone off on a tangent (see what I did there, with the math discussion?)Journal-Title-ChaosServedDa

“Throw kindness around like confetti” is one of my favorite phrases, so I used this sign from a Stampin’ Up! kit from last year, along with a few fun washi tapes, to embellish the front of one of the kraft journals. These are 7-1/2″ x 10″ journals, so can hold a lot of information. And lists.


At the top of the first page, I wrote “Contents,” then “Page” and “Description.”  I also seized an opportunity to use a couple more tapes, and sketched a little cross-hatched strip between them. I plan to add to the doodling, down the side of the page, as the table of contents grows.

Next, I simply added a page number to the bottom corner of the page, and started making lists and notes.  As my demonstration teaching approaches, my hooligans are most worried about what we’ll be having for dinner each night.  They’ve been learning to cook this summer, so they can each be in charge of a weeknight meal (with my supervision, of course). We came up with a list of 20 meals they can make largely without my help.

I also made a list of 20 family favorite meals.  A big drawback to my cooking magazine, blog, and cookbook addictions is that we rarely have the same meal twice, unless it’s really outstanding. There are just so many recipes I want to try!  I’m planning to use this list of favorites throughout the fall when meal planning, and I’m vowing to give up looking for new recipes until demo teaching is complete! We’re also going to be stocking the freezer with meals, so once school starts, along with gymnastics, swimming, and soccer, weeknights will (hopefully) be a little less hectic.

I didn’t photograph every page, but I’ve also made my Christmas list, vacation planning, and DIY projects for the hubs. See…it’s a very useful book!


I also embellished a black journal for demonstration teaching. I haven’t used it much yet, mostly just for jotting down questions for my host teacher. I anticipate that I’ll use it for deadlines for my culminating project, dates for school events, notes from my cohort class, and whatever else arises.


These journals are really fun to create. I’ve embellished the pages with washi tape and doodling, as I really make them my own. I like the page numbers and table of contents, rather than just flipping through a notebook looking for something I wrote down months ago. It’s one more step accomplished in my back-to-school list, too.  Of course, that list is right where I put it…in a bullet journal!



Creating Cards with Ombre Stamp Pads

Yippee!  I finally found some time to play with new Stampin’ Up! goodies!  I say new, but they’ve been sitting on my craft desk, taunting and tempting me, for about six weeks now. Hmmm, coincidentally since school ended for the summer and my hooligans began spending their days with me.  Anyway, I finally just decided to take a few minutes when I could, and I managed to create 3 cards using the new Ombre Stamp Pads.Ombre-Title-ChaosServedDail

I was super excited to see these pads in the 2016-17 Annual Catalog.  Years ago, the Kaleidoscope pads, which were multi-colored, were among my first purchases from Stampin’ Up!, and I loved them dearly.  These Ombre Pads are just decreasing (or increasing, if you’re a glass half full person) shades of Rich Razzleberry, Calypso Coral, and Bermuda Bay. The stamp set I used, Summer Sorbet, is especially designed to work well with the pads, so Princess Thundercloud and I couldn’t wait to try them out together. Our first experience was less than optimal, so I had to do a little research online at Stampin’ Up!

It turns out (this is a cautionary tale, so learn from my pain) that you tap the pad, then slightly move the stamp several times to fully cover it. When we oh-so-carefully (we didn’t want to blur the ink together, thinking of the multicolored Kaleidoscope pads) tapped straight up and down, it left lines uncovered by ink on our stamps. Once we relaxed a little (because the little pads inside the Ombre Pads are all the same shade, just varying intensity, so blurring the lines doesn’t matter), the stamps and pads worked beautifully together. IMHO, of course!Ombre-Hearts-ChaosServedDai

With this card, I also used the new Copper Embossing Powder…love the look!  The background is from the Serene Scenery paperstack, and the sentiment can be found in the Watercolor Words stamp set, which has become a favorite of mine.The tiny heart kind of shows the design on the other side of the woodgrain paper. The twine came from a dollar bin at some store where I spend way too much time.


This Hooray card uses the same two stamp sets, Summer Sorbet and Watercolor Words, along with a card base from June’s Paper Pumpkin and that same twine.  The doily and washi tape are craft store finds that have also been lurking around my craft desk, wanting to be used.

Ombre-Snowcone-ChaosServedD  This Happy Birthday card is just so summery!  Too bad the temperature has been above 80 about 3 days here this summer.  Along with Summer Sorbet and Watercolor Words, I used the Timeless Textures stamp set, which has fabulously versatile stamps to create fun backgrounds, like the watercolor wash and drink rings. The sequins were also surplus from June’s Paper Pumpkin. The base is just a Whisper White notecard, which is a very affordable, convenient thing to have on hand!  I think a pack of 20 cards and envelopes is only $6.00.

So there you have it…the sum total of my card-creating for this entire summer!  These really took less than fifteen minutes each (and that includes the thinking time to decide on layouts and such).  I love the new Ombre Pads, now that I’m schooled on how to use them…check them out if you’re on my Stampin’ Up! site!


Three Quick and Easy Summer Drinks

My hooligans are all away this week….two at sleepaway camp and one at Grandma Camp in Oklahoma.  That means I’ve had the week to do what I want, when I want.  The hubs and I have eaten out every night, watched “Bad Moms” (so inappropriate, but so hilarious), and been able to actually converse one on one in the evenings while walking the dog.  You know, rather than constantly reminding kids to skate/bike/skip on the right side of the street.  It’s been very pleasant. I’ve also had time to concoct a few beverages that may or may not contain alcohol…it’s up to you!  This week, mine do.


This one I didn’t actually create…Pimm’s Lemonade is a specialty at the Napoleon House in New Orleans, and I just tweaked it a bit. I first served this to my cooking club back in February when I taught a class on Mardi Gras menus. It’s perfect for summer, though (who am I kidding…I love it anytime!).  The Pimm’s liqueur may be a little hard to find. My amazing husband stopped at a big liquor store in “the city” on his way home from work. It’s also pricey…around $25 per bottle, but that makes at least a couple of pitchers of deliciousness.  Here’s how to make a single serving; it can easily be doubled, tripled, or made for a pitcher.

Pimm’s Lemonade

  • 1-1/2 ounces of Pimm’s (3 Tablespoons)
  • about 1/2 cup lemonade
  • about 1/4 cup seltzer water (I use lemon seltzer)
  • Tall thin spear of cucumber

Pour the Pimm’s over a tall glass of ice, add lemonade to fill 3/4 of the way, then top off with seltzer.  Use the cucumber spear as a swizzle stick, or give it a quick stir to combine.

Drinks-Blackberry-ChaosServThis Blackberry-Amaretto Refresher is a stroke of genius, y’all. My kids love the Izze sparkling sodas (and they’re really pretty healthy for them), so we usually have a big variety pack on hand. I was making a blueberry pie with amaretto in it and thought how fabulous blackberry and amaretto are together, as well. When I realized there were a few blackberry sodas in the pack, I just had to try it. It is the bomb, I tell you. To make yourself one, just pour a blackberry Izze over ice and add a shot of amaretto. See…I told you it was genius. It pairs well with popcorn for dinner, if you’re wondering.


Those other two drinks are really, really good, but this Lavender Limeade takes the cake for me.  Lime and lavender, on their own, are two of my favorite summer flavors, so I decided to combine them. I used some lavender syrup from Le Monin, but you can make your own following this post from last summer. It’s very easy to do. Like the Pimm’s Lemonade, this could easily be made as a pitcher of drinks. And I bet your friends would thank you!

Lavender Limeade

  • 8 oz lime seltzer water
  • 2 tablespoons lavender syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pour the seltzer over ice, add the lavender syrup and lime juice, and stir!  Garnish with fresh lavender, if you’d like.

I accompanied the limeade with a baguette slathered with gorgonzola and a plateful of fresh figs, some of my favorite things!  You could easily make this a cocktail by adding a shot of vodka or rum.  Vodka would make a sort of lavender Moscow Mule, and rum would be a bit like a lavender mojito (minus the mint, but you could add that, as well!).

We’re finally getting a few days over 80 here in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m sure I’ll find lots of reasons to make all of these drinks as summer winds down in the next few weeks. I hope you will, as well!



Confetti Banner {June’s Paper Pumpkin}

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned a time or ten how much I love Paper Pumpkin, Stampin’ Up’s subscription monthly crafting kit. If you’d like a creative escape for an hour or so each month, it’s totally worth the $20 cost. Of course, there’s a link on my Stampin’ Up! website if you’re interested…you can try it out for a single month, or choose other lengths of time. Anyhoo…June’s package contained the directions and ingredients for cards and/or a banner with confetti in each little triangle. Super cute. Banner-Heart-ChaosServedDai

I hadn’t come up with a good reason to make it yet, and then I read a fabulous blog post by my most favorite niece, who will be a senior in college next year. Entitled “Choose Love,” it’s about her efforts to make a difference by showing love.  It’s well worth the time to read it…check it out here, if you’d like (after you finish this post, or be sure to come back!). I was so impressed with her ideas, as well as her expressiveness, I thought she was in need of a care package. Okay, so actually, Princess Thundercloud was baking brownies with mini M&M’s on top for her before I read the post, but the post DID inspire me to make the package a little more special.  So I made a banner from my kit and included that.


The first step was to stamp the die cut circles and put letters on each.  I used Mint Macaron and Tip Top Taupe, alternating them.  The letter stickers were metallic gold. I also punched out a crafty heart from some gold sticker sheets I had on hand, because I like the slightly asymmetric heart rather than the ones that came on the sticker sheet.


Next, the instructions said to put “a pinch” of confetti in each little cellophane triangle. This nearly drove me crazy…next time I’ll use a teaspoon, so they’re evenly divided!  After the confetti was in the triangles, I put a letter-circle in each one and used the included washi tape (I know…washi tape and confetti in one project…woohoo!) to seal the open end, taking care to go all the way to, but not cover, the holes already punched.Banner-Filled-ChaosServedDaBanner-Taped-ChaosServedDai

After laying the banner out in the order I wanted, I cut a piece of gold and white baker’s twine about a foot longer than the banner pieces were. The kit came with plain white twine, but I wanted to use some gold and white that I had. It’s cuter, I think. Banner-Layout-ChaosServedDa Banner-Twine-ChaosServedDai

I threaded the pieces onto the twine, from front to back so that the twine stretched across the back of each piece, not the front.  I put a small (about 1/2″) piece of washi across the twine in the back so the pieces wouldn’t slide around, since I was planning to mail the banner.


It sounds like a lot of steps, but took less than half an hour actually…the same as Thundercloud’s brownies!  The boys made something, too…my middle kid made a card with a nice quote in it about love changing the world, and the eldest made a sign that said “If you need happiness, take one” then had tear-off strips along the bottom with “happiness” stamped on each. It was quite cool…I should have taken a photo of that…a good mom would have. We also tucked in a good book, some pretty-smelling lotion, and a few other little fun things. Banner-E-ChaosServedDaily

Oh, I almost forgot…I folded it, accordion style, and slipped it into one of the envelopes that came with the kit. I used the stamps from the kit, along with a quote from Mother Teresa from a retired stamp set, to make a pretty tag.  I then used a little more twine to attach the tag to the envelope. All in all, a fun little project!



Washi Altered File Folders

Folders-Title-ChaosServedDaI recently found myself with two problems.  I needed file folders for my student teaching stint in the fall, and I have collected so many cool washi tapes that I have nowhere to keep them, such as this amazing set from the craft store that matches my new planner (also justified as a student teaching necessity).

Folders-Tape-ChaosServedDaiLast summer, I found some file folders that were labeled backpack folders, and they were closed on two sides, like an “L,” with the folded side and the bottom sealed. I really like these, whether in a backpack or a totebag, because they stay closed. Of course, I couldn’t remember where I bought the ones last summer, so I had to improvise with some nifty teacher-ish folders I found in the Target Dollar Spot.  First, I used regular Scotch Quick-Dry Adhesive to glue the bottoms of each folder closed. Folders-Glue-ChaosServedDaiThen I thought, why not use a little washi to make sure it’s really secure (as well as much cuter).  I ran a strip of washi along the bottom, leaving the majority hanging over, so I could wrap it onto the back of the folders.


Folders-Backs-ChaosServedDaAfter running a bone folder over the washi tape overlap on the back, I flipped the folders to the front and added another, contrasting washi tape. Cuter by the step, right?


These just took a few minutes (maybe fifteen minutes for all six folders) and allowed me to use twelve different washi tapes from my stash. As a bonus, I now have super cute folders that will keep my calculus from my algebra papers when I bring them home to grade!

Don’t you need some folders that put the “fun” in functional for your life, too?



Summer Screentime Checklist

So my kids, while not thrilled, were at least mildly happy to see this Summer Screentime Checklist reappear on the frig this summer.

Screentime-ChaosServedDailyDuring the school year, we stick to the no screentime on weekdays rule, but in the summer, we relax it a bit.  When they’ve completed everything on this list, they get an hour of digital time. What they don’t seem to realize, at least not yet, is that by the time they do all these activities, combined with the “summer fun” activity or camp for the day, they’re pretty much wiped out and just want to read or go to bed!  I think they’ve completed their checklists 7 out of the 10 days they’ve been out of school, and they’ve played digital 3 or 4 of those.  That all makes the hubs and me very happy!

This list is not original…I’ve seen dozens of versions on Pinterest, but I’ve tweaked it to fit our family and created a free printable for you!  Simply click here to download it.  THe printable version doesn’t have the watermark on it, so take all the credit you’d like with your family. I printed ours on cardstock, laminated it, and used magnets to stick it on the frig. You could also trim it to 8×10 and frame it, if you’d rather.  Enjoy, and I hope it helps your family find harmony for the summer!


Mochas, Flowers, and Chocolate..a Perfect Gift!

Here’s a quick idea for a fun friend gift… I dropped this off at a friend’s house to celebrate the end of school (she’s a teacher). It would be a great hostess gift if you’re headed to a 4th of July celebration, too.061716_0006_MochasFlowe1.jpg

A bonus to this plan is that the mochas come in a four-pack, yet you only need two…someone has to drink those two extras so you can use the bottles.  I washed the empty bottles, after removing the labels by filling the bottles with hot water to loosen the adhesive. Then they peeled right off and I used Goo Gone to remove the residue. After the bottles dried, I embellished with washi tape and filled one with M&M’s. 061716_0006_MochasFlowe2.jpg

I had some daisies and Queen Anne’s lace growing out front, so I just snipped them and added them, with a little cool water and flower preserver, to the remaining bottle.061716_0006_MochasFlowe3.jpg 061716_0006_MochasFlowe4.jpg 061716_0006_MochasFlowe5.jpg

Ta-da…gift finished!


21 Seed Toast with Goat Cheese, Lavender, and Honey

I know, I know…you’ve fallen out of your chair with amazement that I’ve finally gotten around to writing a new post!  I’m pretty amazed myself.  As an excuse (or at least an explanation), since my last post in August, I’ve completed all of my coursework for teaching high school math.  Now all I have left to do is my student teaching when school starts in September.  I’ll graduate in December and be ready to teach all those reluctant math students (and hopefully at least a few who love math as much as I do!).Goat Cheese Toast ChaosServedDaily

But on with this post…my favorite local coffee shop, Schoolhouse Coffee, makes fabulous toasts.  Among their offerings, my two favorites are peach jam with sea salt and goat cheese with lavender and honey. I’m pretty sure you can figure out the peach jam and sea salt on your own, but I have a couple of tips for the goat cheese, lavender, and honey one. The shop uses fabulous fresh bread from an artisan bakery in Seattle, but I love Dave’s Killer Bread for the at-home version…usually the 21 Seed variety.

So, to make your own little taste of heaven, toast the bread and smear on a bit of butter.  Then, while it’s still hot, sprinkle about a tablespoon of goat cheese crumbles on each slice. I’ve tried using the goat cheese log, but it’s a little difficult to get to crumble (neatly), so I just buy goat cheese crumbles. Spread the cheese around a little, if you need to…it softens really quickly on the warm toast, so this is easy to do!

Drizzle a little honey over each slice.  I’ve been waiting to make this at home once the local berry shack opened with their honey for sale.  It is the best honey I’ve ever had!  Last summer, I bought a couple of pints, not knowing how good it was, then I was forced to hide it in the “way back” of the cabinet so the kids wouldn’t squander it.  I managed to ration it out until almost Christmas, y’all.

Anyway, back to the toast. After the honey, sprinkle some lavender buds on top, and enjoy!  Or impress your family with your gourmet creation.  I bought food-grade lavender at a little farm in my town, but it’s available in gourmet sections of grocery stores, or at farmer’s markets. Be sure you’re using food grade, though.

Now, I’m off to enjoy my last full day of alone time before the hooligans are released for the summer.  Hope yours is off to great start…this toast will guarantee that at least your morning starts off well!Signature_thumb.jpg



Quick and Easy Tea Towel Apron

I make no excuses for my love of tea towels (also called dishtowels, but I’d rather clean up from a delicious afternoon tea than dry dishes…at least in my mind, I live a high tea kind of life!). And my sister-in-law is kind enough to indulge and enable my addiction with fun and fabulous towels.  For my birthday, she sent a fun “Keep Calm and Bake On” tea towel, and I really, really didn’t want to relegate it to a drawer.  So, instead, I turned it into an apron!


To make one from your favorite tea towel, you’ll just need the towel, 2 yards of 1” to 2” wide ribbon (you want it comfortable around your neck, but not too thick to tie easily around your waist), and some fusible (iron-on) tape or needle and thread.

First, fold back triangles at the top, from about 4” in on either side and down about 12”.  The easiest way to make them equal is to fold the towel in half lengthwise, then tuck the triangles into the center.



At this point, you can cut the triangles off.  I left them, because I might want to take out the stitching and just have a towel again at some point.

Next, cut a piece of ribbon 18” long, and attach an end under the top of each triangle, either sewing it or using the fusible webbing tape.  Cut the remaining ribbon in half and tie a knot at one end of each piece to prevent fraying. Sew the unknotted ends to either side of the apron, just below where the triangles end on the sides. I tucked the ends under before sewing, to prevent fraying.


There you have it…a cute new apron in about 5 minutes. How much easier could that be?  And, I’m pretty sure my food tastes better (and my mood is definitely better) when I’m wearing an apron I love!