Taco Party: Marinated Grilled Steak Tacos with Guacamole

After finding a yummy taco recipe on Pinterest, Paige thought it might be a fun idea to have a taco party, blogger-style, with a bunch of us posting different taco recipes today.  I jumped at the idea because tacos are a frequent menu item around here, making it into rotation an awful lot in the summer.  We do different variations- sometimes grilled chicken, sometimes spicy ground beef, but then there's my current favorite: grilled marinated steak.

Every taco night around here starts with a batch of homemade guacamole and a big bowl of freshly shredded cheddar cheese.  For this version, I buy about a pound of beef round strips- the type that are best marinated for awhile in some fantastic sauce.  I'd like to tell you I have a fantastic sauce recipe, but on this one, I cheat:

I love this and it's great on both steak and chicken, and it makes the meat so tasty.  I marinate it for at least a few hours before cooking, but overnight is even better.  Grill off the meat on either an indoor grill pan or an outdoor grill on medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, turning, until it reaches your choice of doneness.  I always try and make it medium rare.  Just spread the guacamole over a warm flour tortilla, top it with meat and cheese, and it's ready.  It's a nice, simple summer meal, and I usually serve it with brown rice and black beans.

Are tacos on your menu often?

Make sure and visit the other taco partiers:

Friday Finds.

Happy Friday!  Can I get a big "TGIF"?  We've had quite a week here, starting with Greta's accidentally testing out a large rock in our yard with her nose:

It swelled up and turned purple but luckily it's not broken.  The doctor was able to poke around on it without her even fussing, so one bottle of bubble gum-flavored amoxicillin later and she's on the mend.  It's not slowing her down at all but it scared the crap out of her mom.  Add into that dinner company tonight, Gus's birthday party on Sunday, and his friends coming over on Tuesday and I'm looking at a hectic next few days.  Let's pause a minute and look at some pretty stuff.

Have you seen Heidi's new notebooks? All ready to capture your great ideas.

This necklace is already perfect for me.

One of my kids is going to have to have this loom kit.  I just don't know which one yet.

I'm still in search of a ring, and this is such a pretty color.

More fun:

I'm totally sucked into this site where two friends decide to date for 40 days and see what happens.  I got up to day 11 yesterday.  40 Days Of  Dating

Even though this is a "boy toy", Greta is totally going to need one.

This makes me a little sad. 50 brands you didn't know were owned by big companies.

Pretty stacking bracelets tutorial from Love Sparkle Pretty.

This looks like it would be a good book.

Slow cooker clam chowder.  Enough said.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Anyone have some great plans?

Strawberry Shortcake.

On Saturday we were invited over to our friends' house for dinner, and I was in charge of dessert.  It was hot, humid, and our oven hasn't been working properly, so baking options were limited.  The plan: one of my favorite quick cool desserts which is so easy and so yummy: strawberry shortcake.  There are so many options with this dish.  I try and go as fresh as possible, so I clean and cut up the berries and toss them with a sprinkling of sugar, make my own whipped cream (add two tablespoons of sugar for every one cup of cream, beating on medium speed until peaks form), and pick out a yummy cake option- pound cake, angel food cake, or biscuits.  All three are fantastic and just different enough to suit any mood.  Because our oven had been on the fritz, I ended up with grocery store bakery pound cake this time, and I have to tell you, it was super delicious.  Gus is becoming quite a good helper in the kitchen and we had this assembled in no time.  You can serve it individually, as shown above, but since we were traveling with is and it was for a larger group I just broke the cake slices into smaller chunks, then layered it in a large serving dish- cake, then strawberries, then whipped cream.  I got three layers out of it, so when you dig your spoon down in, you get a nice mix of each.  So easy and so light for a hot summer party.

What's your favorite summer sweet treat?

Feeling The Ick and the Great Unfollow.


Lately I've been feeling The Ick from some of my Internet followings.  Do you ever feel that way?

The Ick is that feeling you get when reading a blog, or someone's posts on Twitter or Facebook, or whatever other social media platform they're on and it consistently makes you feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, upset, irritated, or bummed out.  You wonder why you're following them, and you wonder how awkward it would be to unfollow them, so you don't because what if they notice and say something??  Do you know how that goes?

I thought I was the only one, until I said something to a few of my online besties, and it turns out they thought the exact same thing about the exact same people and posts (because it is, apparently, a small world after all).  There are several "big" bloggers with lots of followers or "big" sellers on Etsy who have made a name for themselves and who, in turn, offer advice, show off their accomplishments, and who interact mostly with their other big name friends .  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Everyone should be proud of what they've accomplished and I understand them wanting to share and would totally do the same thing, but I guess I feel like there's a time and a place and a way to say it so that it doesn't come off as bragging, uppity, snobbery.  And maybe that's just all in my head, but regardless, it's not making me feel great.

This week I had to laugh because one of the posts on the Etsy blog, titled "5 Ways to Define and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms," offered up this suggestion:

"2. Unsubscribe From Every Blog and Newsletter That Make You Feel “Less Than,” Icky, or Overwhelmed.

If it makes you feel icky, it’s not for you  simple as that. Nothing that you’re taking in should make you feel bad about yourself. Unsubscribe! Even if you think you should read it because everyone else is, or because they’re an industry expert, or whatever  if it makes you feel icky or small, nix it. Then bask in the feeling of empowerment that follows!"

Even Etsy defines it as icky!

Weeks ago, before this was even posted to their blog, I started doing some unfollowing.  I unfollowed bloggers whose posts were leaving me wondering why I was following them.  I unfollowed Tweeters whom I couldn't remember how I started following them, those who constantly tweets ads, or those whose blogs I just unfollowed.  Same deal on Instagram.  And it felt good.  All the inane posts and ads and annoying stuff virtually disappeared (save for a random retweet).  All the Etsy sellers getting the products out there in the market that are still hanging around in my head- gone.  Now I can focus on me, my shop, and the direction I want to take it without feeling behind or worrying that someone will think I'm copying their idea when, really, I just haven't had the time to make it myself.

Not only that, I started doing something crazy: I started talking to my followers.  Instead of following people I thought I should be following, I went through my Twitter list and I started tweeting to people who were following me, who already want to see what I have to say.  And you know what?  Every single one of them tweeted back, and I had a nice chat with every single one of them, and I instantly connected with a handful of new people, and I followed them all back.  I put myself out there by saying something to them when I normally wouldn't have- I'm a really, really good introvert.

This isn't to say don't reach out to new people, or people whom you aspire to be like.  This is just to say, if they're giving you The Ick, it's ok to unfollow them and it just might make you feel a little bit better.

Anyone else have this problem?  How did you remedy it?

Food On Friday: Summer Rice Salad.


We are hitting the portion of the summer where it is becoming a chore to cook.  We eat dinner at home just about every night.  Therefore, I have to come up with something interesting and tasty for dinner just about every night, and it's hard right now because the weather is warmer and we are busier with things outside and I don't want to be inside making something warm. And so, by the time the dinner hour rolls around sometimes I am scrambling for something to cook.  Like last night.  I needed something to accompany our grilled chicken and grilled summer squash, and we'd already had potatoes twice this week so grilled potatoes was out.  That pretty much left rice, but plain old brown rice just didn't sound fantastic, so I decided to spice it up and make a rice salad.

Out of the freezer came a 2 cup container of brown rice.  (Fact: I cook a whole 5 cups dry/10 cups cooked bag of brown rice at once.  If I'm going to boil rice for 45 minutes, I'm making a lot. It then gets divided up into meal-sized portions and frozen.)  I defrosted it and warmed it up and then started adding.  First I tossed it with some olive oil and the juice from half a lemon and salt and pepper.  Then I added a half of an avocado, a fresh garden tomato, 4 ounces of cubed fresh mozzarella, a handful of cilantro, some diced red onion, and some crushed garlic.  Sounds like an odd mix, I'm sure, but it was delicious.  Because the rice was warm to start, it got kind of melty/saucy, but it still tasted really fresh, and by the time I was done it was pretty much cooled off to the point that it wasn't a hot side dish, therefore perfect for a summer meal.  I highly recommend it.

What have you been cooking lately?  Anyone else avoiding the kitchen?

Decoupage Canvases {DIY}.

The wall decor in my workroom has always bothered me. We hung up a lot of things in there to help fill the space, but I was never really happy with their placement. A few weeks ago, I went to town and took down a bunch of stuff, rearranging a lot of it and eliminating some things that were just not working. The wall my sewing machine table is on had a cork board, two large fabric hoops, and a wooden ironing board I found at the dump, which I planned to paint and then sort-of did but I ended up hating it.  My degrees are on the side wall.  And while there's nothing wrong with this wall, it always ending up bugging me.

In the basement we had stashed away 4 large 18" x 24" painting canvases that we had gotten for free.  I measured, and knew they would be the perfect size to fill that wall.  But with what?  There was a neat tape/paint/canvas idea going around on Pinterest awhile ago and I almost did that when I remembered that I have a very large basket of fabric scraps that I could use, and since it is a sewing room, how neat would fabric look up on the wall?  I gathered some supplies and got my decoupage on.

Now this makes me happy.  It's so fun and bright and inviting.  I moved the cork board to the side wall so I can still pin up ideas and useful things, and it fills in the space much better.  The degrees came down, the hoops moved to another wall and the ironing board headed back to the dump.  These canvases were so easy, I thought I'd share.

You'll need a painter's canvas (the wood-frame-backed kind), spray adhesive, Mod Podge, disposable brushes, and fabric scraps (maybe not quite such a full basket).

Spray the adhesive onto the canvas and press your fabric scraps into place in a patchwork pattern, making sure all the ends are nice and stuck down.  I wanted to go for a rainbow effect and so I kept like colors together.  I also cut strips and covered the four edges all in the same fabric so they looked more finished.  Note: your fingers will get sticky.

Once the whole canvas is covered, let the adhesive dry completely.  This was an outdoor project since the adhesive can be a little stinky.

When everything is dry, use a disposable brush to cover the entire surface with Mod Podge.  I used the matte formula to help keep the flat look of the fabric.  I wanted all the edges to stay flat and I didn't want anything peeling up.

Once the Mod Podge is completely dry, they're ready to hang.

Now when I walk in I get a little reminder of each project those fabrics were used on.  It makes for a happy work space.

Roam Schooling

Last week I posted about this book I was reading, about one woman's foray into homeschooling.

I really loved the comments that you all left, talking about the pros and cons of trying such a system.  I still don't know if I could personally homeschool my kids, but I am intrigued by the idea.  

Anyway, I had just gotten into the book when I wrote my first post, but the other night, not yet ready to sleep, I told the husband that I was going to read "a little bit" and proceeded to polish it off just a little after midnight.  Oops.  I got sucked in on the background of homeschooling and those who are very extreme in their practice, to the point where the kids are not socialized at all.  It made for very interesting reading and I highly recommend the book.

My very favorite part, though, came at the very end of the book, where the author talks about "roam schooling" as opposed to home schooling.  Roam schooling takes on the idea that schooling does not have to be one or the other.  You could do time in a regular school building, take classes online, learn at home, visit the community college, the library, the community center.  You teach yourself by watching videos on YouTube (heck, hubby taught himself how to lay tile that way) and interact with others on social networking sites.  Because of our advancing technology, there's no telling exactly how schools will look in the future.  We know that our current system isn't the best, so maybe it's only a matter of time before the system changes into a workable system that actually gets people learning.  Isn't that the goal?

I came across this infographic the other day, and while it's a little long, I find it very interesting.

I don't know if I would jump all the way to free education because as we all know, it wouldn't actually be free, but I like the idea of putting our people first and making sure we are creating a nation of educated people.  The fact that so many people come out of college with huge debt is really sad, and the fact that so many never use their degree makes it even worse.  College could be cheaper if they eliminated all of the junk classes forced into each program to make you more well-rounded.  When you go to a trade school, you learn a trade.  When you go to college, you learn how to be round.  It doesn't make sense.

That's why I like this idea of roam schooling: you get to focus on what you want to learn, and then, you'd be more likely to learn it.  If you've ever been in a school lately, or have chatted with teachers, you may hear them talking about teaching to the different learning styles- visual, kinesthetic, etc.  This means that different people learn best in different ways- seeing something written out, by physically doing something, and so on.  Roam schooling would cover all that, and it seems like, in a better way.

I wonder if this could be the way we start moving.  Maybe we can finally make our education system more workable.

Would you roam school?