Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For The Long-Distance Daddy

Father's Day is just around the corner and if you have a daddy that is not-so-close or, say, a few states away like mine then you are probably thinking a little ahead too!

I have been racking my brain for ideas for the man that appears to have everything. Shopping for dad is hard because (like my husband) if he needs or wants something... he buys it! I mean, when you make the money you can do that kind of budget shattering stuff.

For this reason at every holiday or birthday my dad gets one of the following items:
1. Mixed nuts
2. A tie
3. Some sort of unique bottle of hot sauce
4. A blog post (if I'm your daughter)
5. All of the above

I'm sure that was dandy from each of his 6 kids for the first 20 years, but eventually that's just got to get old! In an attempt of lazy creativity, I turned to tinyprints.com and their photo gift section. If you are not familiar with Tinyprints, they are a sister store to shutterfly.com, though I might actually like them more! Their design team is spot on with the times, and they offer so much cool stuff. Like, can I win a million dollar shopping spree to this store PUH-LEASE?! I'm really obsessed and they aren't even paying me to say that, it's true. What am I saying, you can check them out and see for yourself. Anyways...

I browsed their site for a while and eventually came to the mugs. It's my auto-pilot. After looking for a while, I decided to make a image in photoshop that shared all of the memories or things that reminded me of good ol' daddio, but then I got thinking... my dad doesn't even drink coffee... or hot cocoa even for that matter so why get him another mug aside from the fact that it's affordable and I can fill it with goodies?

Think Val, Think.

I want to share reasons I love him, but don't want it on a mug. Then as I scrolled the hallelujah chorus sang from above. I found it, by golly.

The cutest easel art where I, or anyone could write reasons we adore the boss.

I loved this because as much as I enjoy making items of my own design, sometimes it's nice to just click "add to cart" and be done with it.

... Wait... that's it? No tutorials? No DIY? Oh my faithful friends, do ye knowest me not at all?

That easel has to go inside something so I aimed my creative juices in that direction!
One dollar store box and some leftover scrapbook paper later, VIOLA!

And of course, I wouldn't forget the nuts ;)

Happy Father's Day to the loins of my fruit. (?... Nope. That doesn't sound right.)

Happy Father's Day Daddy!

If you are interested in getting rid of a little loose paper scraps for a royally cute gift box, then follow the tutorial below!

For starters, I stopped by the dollar tree and grabbed some gift boxes (they come in packs of 3) and then I measured the width for the white piece of paper that would be the collar. I cut it about 3 inches in height, and then snipped a slit down the middle. Then (as shown in pictures) I folded the flaps up until they were perpendicular to the top of the paper, and then glued the flaps down.

For the tie, I grabbed a piece of extra scrapbook paper I had in the huge abyss I have where paper goes to die. I cut it down to about 10 inches tall, 2 inches wide. Two inches down from the top, I cut a half inch slit and folded from the slit to the top corner of the tie. This will be the knot of the tie as seen below.

About an inch from the bottom of the tie, I put two little tick marks.  I measured the middle of the bottom and folded from that center up to the tick mark. From there I folded the flap down from the bottom of the "knot" down to the tick marks drawn for the bottom of the tie.

Finally the tie is sealed to the box with a little packing tape (lamination ghetto style.) The collar is glued to the box over the top edge of the tie. Fill with gifts, seal with love, and send to papa.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Give Me Brownies or Give Me Death.

After polishing off the last of the asparagus and practically licking the pan, my main man said so sweetly, "Now I want dessert." to which I responded ever so kindly, "Word."

There is just something about a Sunday night that makes the sweet tooth go crazy. It's funny because growing up my family had ice cream on Family night once a week, and got to lick the bowl of whatever treat mom made for a church activity, which was about the extent of our dessert endeavors in the Braun home. Don't get me wrong, my family had nothing against dessert, it just wasn't a common thing. (Which poses the question, why was I such a chubster?.... another story for another day.)

My husbands entire family (extended and all) makes chocolate chip cookies every sunday; a timeless and heartwarming Rushton tradition.

As for Ryan and I... Dessert traditions have yet to be established, though he will admit to a bit of confusion when chocolate chip cookies didn't appear the first few Sunday evenings of our marriage.

The point is, there is just something about a sunday evening that merits the desire for a little something something... I mean, I fully believe that in order to fully enjoy the Sabbath day, like, really make it a day of rest and relaxation, there should be molten chocolate something or another wafting through the air. In fact, I'll bet they even had a little sugar covered manna back in the day. Just saying.

 So, to husbands plea I said, "How about some zucchini brownies?" Because if you are gonna make a dessert, you'd might as well go with one of the healthier and equally satisfying recipes on the world wide Pinterest, AMIRIGHT?!

Ryguy didn't agree so much. "GIVE ME REAL DESSERT OR GIVE ME DEATH!" He bellowed pounding his fists on the table. So I shot him with a small Harry Potter killing curse and that was all she wrote.

At least, that's how I saw it. I suppose the conversation is up for interpretation.

Anyhow, after reassuring him that he would want for nothing after trying my zucchini brownies with the added bonus of also being vegan (a huge plus in my book) he agreed and skulked to his man cave. (Ok, so maybe he didn't skulk... but this is my story!)

So away I went, into the oven they baked, and to our bellies they reside. Seriously, for a vegan, veggie brownie, these are worth a try!

Gooey center, flakey crust, oh baby baby. No one would even guess there were healthy alternative ingredients in these, and I am super picky about those health fad recipes. It's gotta be the real deal for me to share.

Behold: the recipe via fitsugar.com (see the step by step pictures here!)


1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used half wheat and have oat flour)
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small zucchini
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
I added coconut, because I love it. Other add in's can include mallows, nuts, unicorn dreams... waitwhut?


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt).
  3. Place the zucchini in a food processor, and puree it as much as you can. Add in the oil and vanilla extract, and puree until smooth.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and mix until a thick batter forms. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
  6. Enjoy as is if you prefer a soft, cake-like consistency, but for a classic chewy brownie-like texture, wrap cut brownies in foil and freeze for at least an hour. Enjoy right out of the freezer.
These would be divine with ice cream, or in my case, a lil whip top (there are rice or coconut whipped creams for vegan options.)

And the best part? You can eat two. or three. Mildly guilt free :) 

Now, go! Eat and be merry!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Solemnly Swear That I am Up to... Partying!

A lot of people were/are Harry Potter fans, this is a fact. I grew up with the man. When the first movie came out and Harry turned 11, I was 11. I learned the spells, read the books, counted down the days until the movies came out on DVD. During the production of the Goblet of Fire, I'd come home from school and look for leaked pictures of the filming online. I participated in a virtual Tri-wizard tournament.  The more I write the more I can see my readers diminishing, but I am not ashamed. I freaking love all things Harry Potter. My husband doesn't know this yet, but he's planning a surprise trip to the Wizarding world of Harry Potter at Orlando Studios for our 5 year anniversary.

I'm getting sidetracked.

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to throw a Harry Potter themed party-to recreate the wizarding world, and by golly I've done it!

My main slice is turning 25 this week, and supposedly he is the ultimate potter fan. This was to be determined. All week I hid prepared treats and lied my way into making sure he'd be gone all day saturday, and with the help of his friend Matt, the surprise was unveiled!

I had too much fun planning this mother down to every small detail.

I spared you the picture of my toilet, but with in came directions to the Ministry of Magic. Because... duh.

First had a little photo op and embraced out inner Sirius Black. AWESOME.

Followed by LOTS of eating:

 Pumpkin pasties: Pumpkin choco chip cookies (one pumpkin bread mix, 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 eggs, chocolate!) Snitches: Lindor truffles in gold foil. Chocolate frogs: Gummy frogs dipped in chocolate!

Cockroach clusters: Chocolate covered popcorn. Moon stones: Rock candy. Gringotts galleons: Chocolate coins.
Polyjuice potion: Dr Pepper (naturally.) Truth serum: Water
Butterbeer: Cream soda, marshmallow cream, whipped cream (and one scalded tongue later...)

I even attempted to make homemade butterbeer on the stove, and it sucked. And burned my tongue. I may not taste real food for weeks. But everything else was WICKED ;)

After, we went to the sorting hat. Naturally. Matt's wife had to work so he was flying solo. He survived. haha

 Alex and Grant weren't too thrilled about being in Hufflepuff. Apparently that's where those with no defining characteristics go. Ryan was a little too stoked about Slytherin. My bad-boy!

After some Harry Potter Jeopardy (which Matt and Ryan pulled through for the win at the end) We decided to get our Quidditch on. Ya know, just a little evening fly around the yard. The technical term for this is "Pottering" and it's epic. Look it up, it's a real thing.

 To end, we played a game of chance called "Bean-Boozled".

Basically for every color of Jelly bean there are two flavors, one good and one bad. You spin a spinner and then pick the color it lands on. You could be picking up a peach jelly bean, or vomit (which I tried and it is worse then real vomit, I promise.) Nothing like a little Bertie Botts to set the mood. We caught a few videos to really immortalize the experience :)

(and for the record, even though I said boogers taste better than that jelly bean, I really don't know for sure! haha)
video video video

Mischief managed :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hummus Done Right.

My people. 

In an attempt to be more healthy and get in better shape, I've been sort of revamping the way we shop, snack, and eat in our home. With the exception of too many handfuls of mini marshmallows, and a box of waffle crisp on the weekend, we haven't been doing too shabby. With that, I've been cooking more and using more fresh ingredients than a chinese farmers market.

There are many recipes I've been testing out, and my main slice and I have already established a few favs (thank you, spaghetti squash!)

Even so, when I stumble across a winner, a rarity for a still novice cook, I can't help but shout from the mountain tops "Me man! Man make food!!!" followed by a Godzilla-worthy chest pounding.

This, friends, is one such recipe. I've been using it as a dip, sandwich and wrap spread, and I must say that I am pretty darn pleased with myself.

Granted, it probably costs close to the same amount to make from scratch rather than buy from the store if you don't have these things on hand (though you have leftover ingredients for days) and lets be honest, food just tastes better when you make it in your own kitchen and know EXACTLY what is going into it.

With that, I give you the recipe for roasted red pepper hummana-hummana-hummus!

1 - 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper ( I just sautéed mine on the stove.)
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sesame seeds
juice of half of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cumin
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. If additional liquid is needed, you may add a tablespoon or two of water.
I've had mine in an air-tight container for about a week now and it still tastes like I just made it.  Which means it is effing bomb. 

Make momma proud!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mormon Tacos and Kumquots.

My days have been luxuriously plain this last week. After moving into our apartment again, I've spent days organizing, and cleaning, and the OCD inside of me is deliriously happy because of it. Because I have this jobless free time, I've also been able to cook real meals which the man in my life naturally appreciates. Do to a health kick I've been going on (more info to come) I have been trying to plan meals, use new foods, and cook deliciously clean meals. The only thing is I'm a casserole, and meals that come from a box kind of girl, so there is a lot to learn. It's especially intimidating when we spend time at Ryan's house and I see the kind of gourmet cooking he grew up with... It's no wonder he's less than ecstatic about my tuna mac and cheese! Thanks to an online nutritional course through Stanford, and http://www.finefoodspecialist.co.uk/ I have been introduced to all sorts of fancy, hoity toity foods I aint neva knew existed! (Including, drumroll please.... 
A lot of gourmet CHOCOLATE)

Ladies and gentlemen of the courtroom, I give you Exhibit A:

I'm dying to know what that prickly pear tastes like. And since when was a kumquot a real thing? I definitely believed that was a word out of the Dr. Suess dictionary. 

Anyways, in a future alternative universe I will order my finest foods and ingredients from said site, of which would be served to me by my butler Arlo on a diamond encrusted platter... but ya know, my husband should probably be done with school before that happens. Even so, I've been able to really embrace the inner homemaker in myself, which both my husband and my tummy appreciate. 

Now, I will not come to a potluck and bring nothing to share so I offer you the most simple recipe from my holy grail of recipes. This recipe was taught to me by an employers wife who happened to be Mexican herself (shout out to Veronica Cisneros, a master in the kitchen!), so you KNOW it's gotta be good. So good, that my boss actually had it prepared EVERY day for lunch (and I'm sure still does!)

Without further ado, the ever-so complicated recipe of...

Tacos. (Lovingly referred to Chris McCombs as "Mormon Tacos")

I know what you are thinking, everyone has had tacos, what's the big deal? Well, I suppose it is just something you will have to try.

Corn tortillas
Coconut oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan and fry in)
Ground beef
Taco seasoning
Mexican blend cheese
Green onions
Picante mild salsa

The directions go as follows:

In a pan melt coconut oil. You will put a corn tortilla in the coconut oil and let a soak a little on each side so the tortilla does not crack. Then, fold the tortilla in half and place something in the middle to keep it open like a taco shell (tongs, a fork, or spatula work well). Golden brown them on each side and place upside down on a paper towel to dry and let excess oil drip off.

Then, cook your meat. I like to use veggie beef substitutes for a healthier option, but there's no denying the ground beef is gooooood. Flavor it with taco seasonings. Then, fill the shells with a little meat in each one. Stand them up on a plate and sprinkle with a shredded mexican cheese blend and nuke it in the microwave just enough to melt the cheese. You can also broil it if you think the microwaves gives you a third eye or something ;) I typically skip the cheese to make it more vegan/health friendly, but oh boy does it taste delightful with cheese! What doesn't?! 

After the cheesy tacos come out of the heating unit of choice, sprinkle sliced green onions on top, and finish it off with a few thin slices of avocado. 

Serve with Picante mild salsa. WHOOOO DOGGY. Those are some mean tacos. And versatile! I've had them with black beans, corn, chicken, and have yet to find a combo that isn't friggin good. 

Now, I know frying stuff doesn't exactly fit in the "healthy" category typically, but man it makes all the difference. I 100% understand southern cooking and their techniques now. haha

Anyways, I dare you to try these. You will not regret it!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hello Again, Let's Talk About Why I've Been Ignoring You.

Let's be honest. I've been avoiding you.

It's not that I don't care, it's just that I've been so underwhelmed here on vaca, that the thought of writing anything overwhelms me. That, and my life is about as interesting as dust collecting on the window sill.

Alas, I will update everyone on my latest obsession, which if you follow me on the Insta-gram or the Facebook you will probably have already seen enough of. Even so, here it is.

About a year ago I painted a calendar. And I loved it to pieces. I had the intent of framing each month in a simple and sleek black document frame from la dolla store, and to then create a gallery wall in my living room. Then, school caught up to me, I didn't have the digital design experience to fine tune it, and the year passed. Next thing I knew, my calendar was out of date and I had moved out of my beloved apartment in the ventures of higher educational requirements (aka student teaching.) 

With a move back to said apartment in Rexburg in about a week, and still I had these designs I painted over a year ago that I was not quite ready to part with. What to do with them was the question. The dates on the pages were for 2013, and frankly I wanted to use the floral scenes I'd painted for more than just a calendar. 

So, I put those bad boys into Photoshop and got rid of the old calendar dates, and played around with fonts. The possibilities were endless. Name placement cards, Table labels, invites, Calendars, handouts, quote backgrounds... call me conceited, but I've been loving these designs more and more. With a little help from google, I've managed to turn the various paintings into Microsoft Word header templates, PDF documents, and jpegs, and decided... hey, maybe I'm not the only one who may be attracted to this idea.

With that being said, I've decided to offer these designs with the digital downloadable files in my Valpo Studio Esty shop. 

With these templates, YOU can customize the page however you'd like, in the medium you prefer (ie word, photoshop, hand written, Picmonkey, etc.)

And if you really wanna be a pal, you'll help me spread the word! (What's that? You can pin the image to Pinterest by clicking on it? How conveeenient!)

To celebrate the event, I'm also giving you a free May 2014 calendar page (Using a not-yet-in-the-shop template!). Just drag to desktop and print :) As soon as I can figure out all that technical download bid-ness, we'll get an official download going. Or you can e-mail me and I'll send you the file. That works too.

I hope you love them as much as me, my mom, and my computer.
Happy Creating!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Because You Really Didn't See Enough People's Gifts Yesterday...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines day! For those who were single, that just means you didn't have to share your candy, right?! 

This was the 4th Valentine's Day since I met my now husband and the 3rd we've spent together (because he spend it with she-who-must-not-be-named one year (aka the man-stealing-mofohoe). 

So, in honor of my lover I continued with a tradition my mom has done ever since I can remember: The 10 things I love about (insert name here) card.
Let's pretend that you don't now know we are an annoying baby-talking couple, and that I've seen my husband's bum bum. Because, ya know, that would be TMI...

With that came a protein bar bouquet which I've coined "The Proquet". (I know, I know- so original.)

And for old time's sake here's a little throwback to our first Valentines day:

(awww he's just a wittle baby!)
 That Valentines day was the day I learned my man could COOK! So, I've forced him to make me that same delightful dinner every V-day we've had together since... except this one. We're living in a studio apt for 2 months in OC, CA while Ryan does an internship at PWC. Needless to say, we really haven't brought ourselves to buy any cookware or ingredients for such a short time. We are stingy. In fact, we sleep on a twin size futon on the floor (and love every spooning second of it!) haha

So this year it was stuffed crust delivery pizza. 
I had my man, my pizza, Netflix and a box of rocky mountain chocolates. I was the happiest girl you ever did see. 

Plus, he bought me my first massage! Stud muffin. 
It was the BEST. 

Speaking of stud muffins.... I made him this card:

And with an image like, I walked right into a Facebook bun-in-the-oven rumor mill! Whoopsie. haha You live and you learn, and sometimes you get knocked up. But not this time. 

I hope everyone's V-day was as good as mine!
(and if it wasn't, feel free to throw darts at a picture of my face :)