Saturday, March 31, 2012

Project MCP - March

At the beginning of the year I decided to participate in MCP Project 12.  You can find many of these type of photography challenges on the internet .  Some are Project 52, some are 365.  Basically, you take a picture every day, week, or month.  Some projects have themes to test your creativity while others are just a challenge to get out and take pictures.  I chose one that had a theme/assignment to test myself a bit.  I also chose a 12 month project because it seemed easier to commit to.  I knew I had the time to take 12 decent pictures a year.  For some reason or another the particular project I chose changed in March.  I guess participants who previously participated didn't like that photos were no longer shared on a Flickr group.  And I guess some people wanted more of a challenge.  In the month of March the project was revamped.  The photos are now shared on a Flickr group.  I do like that better than sharing them on individual websites.  It allows others to comment more easily which I think is helpful.  The project now also has four themes per month instead of one.  You don't HAVE to submit photos for all themes (or any for that matter) if you don't want to.  There are so many people involved know one would know.  So, without really wanting to, I'm now a part of a Project 52.  Well, Project 44 since January and February were just one picture per month.  At the end of each week the MCP blog features a few of the photos from that weeks theme.  I was pretty excited when I saw that my 'Guess What?' photo was featured this week!  Can you guess what it is?  At the end of each month I will try and share the photos I submitted on the blog. 

March Week 1:  Take a photo from a high vantage point

I took this while standing on the seating on our deck while Gilbert sat below.  I actually just held the camera out and snapped the photo (while bribing him with treats).  I got a lot of comments from people liking the crop.  Funny thing is, I didn't crop it! 
March Week 2:  Using natural light

I would say that most pictures I take are natural light photos.  I hate using the flash; whether on camera or my external speedlite flash.  I only use the flash indoors or at night.  I even avoid taking photos at night because I hate the flash!  This is a photo of our Christmas cactus sitting on the kitchen table in the middle of the day - the only time we get much sun inside the house in the winter.

March Week 3 - Demonstrate the word 'transition'

This is a daffodil transitioning from closed to open while the sun is transitioning from day to night.

March Week 4:  Guess What?  Take an up close photo...close enough that the subject is abstract.

This was hard to do since I always KNEW what the photo was!

You can see this photo featured on the MCP blog here:


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Favorite Things - Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

I think I'm in love with a bald man with a gold earring.  No, Mike didn't shave his head and get his ear pierced.  I'm talking about Mr. Clean.  The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to be exact.  We have white baseboards (and doors and cabinets) and they show every scuff mark known to man.  I've tried scrubbing the marks off with various tools and cleaners and nothing seems to help but three coats of paint.  I recently read that the Magic Eraser was a good tool to get those scuff marks off and they weren't lying! It worked on various scuff marks on the baseboards, walls, doors, and the painted paneling.  It took off some colored marks (I really have no idea where the orange crayon looking stuff came from) on the walls.  Much to my surprise it took off a clear drip stain on the kitchen cabinet that I've been working on for years!  It even took off a little bit of my shellac nail polish (I was using the eraser quite a bit and my manicure is already two weeks old so it wasn't a big surprise. Just make sure to wear gloves if you're concerned.)  I can't believe this product has been around since 2003 and no one has told me of it's amazing capabilities!  My only complaint?  I wish I had bought the economy pack!

     Before: 2" scuff mark on baseboard

       After: 4 seconds and it's gone!

Now excuse me, I must hunt down more scuffs and gunk in my house!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Recipe: Slow Cooker Lasagna

I love my crock pot.  LOVE it!  So much so that I might marry it if you were allowed to marry kitchen appliances.  Sorry blender that whips up delicious smoothies and margaritas.  Too bad electric skillet that makes perfect pancakes.  The crock pot is my one and only.  But don’t ask me to choose between the three crock pots I own!  What’s better than coming home to dinner already prepared and (mostly) ready to eat?  The prep time for crock pot meals is usually minimal as well.  That’s my kind of cooking! 

A few weeks ago I tried something new.  Crock pot lasagna.  I haven’t tried many casserole type meals and have never made pasta in the crock pot.  I was a bit sceptical, but I figured if it was coming from the Taste of Home Slow Cooker Cookbook it had to be decent enough to try.  We were not disappointed.  Mike even expressed his favourable opinion of the dish without being asked, “So, did you like that one?”  I usually don’t like to bake a full pan of lasagna because it’s too much food for the two of us.  Sure, the leftovers are still good, but you can only eat leftovers so many days before despising that meal.  I could freeze the leftovers, but, eh, that’s sometimes too much effort than I’m willing to put forth.  This meal made the perfect amount for the two of us.  If I remember right it made a little more than 5 meals.  Of course, it was so good we probably ate more than we should have and we still wanted more!



  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (26 ounces) herb and garlic pasta sauce
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 no-cook lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese


  • In a large skillet, cook the beef, green pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in pasta sauce; heat through. In a large bowl, combine the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Spread 1 cup meat sauce in an oval 3-qt. slow cooker. Break one lasagna noodle into three pieces. Layer 1-1/3 noodles, 2/3 cup meat sauce and 1 cup cheese mixture in slow cooker. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining sauce.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until noodles are tender.
The only change to the recipe that I might make is to add some more seasoning or use a tomato sauce with garlic and onion or Italian seasoning already added just to give it more kick.  I think I also used a full 16oz container of cottage cheese (why save a measly 4 oz?) and let it cook for more than 5 hours.  I’d have to ask Mike about the latter as he’s the one responsible for setting the crock pot in the morning.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review - Finn McGuire's Irish Pub and Grill

Since this is the week we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, my first blog post will review an Irish restaurant that recently opened in Hales Corners.  Finn McGuire's Irish Pub & Grill took over the space that previously housed Brisco County.  They closed down for a few months to remodel and we anxiously awaited its opening since we love having nearby restaurants to choose from.

Finn McGuire’s Irish Pub and Grill is, as its name implies, modelled after a pub in Ireland and the inside is nicely decorated with an Irish pub feel, or what I imagine one would feel like.  There are two large bars that both have multiple televisions with which you can catch whatever big game is playing at the time.  The waitresses are decked out in short plaid skirts with knee high socks.  Personally, I don’t care for the look, but, eh, at least I’m not the one who has to wear that get-up to work.  The atmosphere is casual and friendly, similar to Champp’s Americana, with current and not so current music piped overhead.

The meals we have had so far (Rueben, French Dip, Chicken Wrap, Pastrami Sandwich) were both average to above average.  The menu isn’t huge, but it contains a nice array of sandwiches and burgers and a few typical Irish entrees that vary by the day.  They also have homemade chips which are pretty darn good.  I’ll take homemade chips over French fries any day!  I believe all sandwiches come with chips/fries, a small container of coleslaw, and a pickle.  Most are in the $8 range.  I swear that on our first trip the prices were a bit cheaper which added to the restaurants appeal.  You don’t find many places with $7 sandwiches anymore.  But, after looking online I found a different story.  Maybe they increased prices already?  Or maybe it was just a figment of my imagination.  Regardless, the prices are reasonable.  They also have all of your typical Irish beers and ciders and the menu has a list of layered beer drinks if you can’t decide on just one type of beer.  On Saturday nights they also have a live band.  We’ve never ventured out to see this as it starts at 10pm and we’re old and ready for bed by then!  But, it’s a nice late night entertainment option in an area that doesn’t really have any.

On our first trip we were deterred from going  at the sight of the packed parking lot...and the fact that we couldn't find a spot to park.  We later realized that it seems to be a pretty popular after work hangout and because of this, the parking lot shouldn’t be a judge as to how long the wait will be.  Many of the people inside are just hanging out at the bar and not waiting for a table.  Even if there is a wait, with two bars you can probably easily find a spot to sit and enjoy a black and tan or a Guinness.

My only big complaint is that their service has much to be desired, with our second trip being worse then our first...empty drinks, food came but no utensils, not bringing or offerring to bring the check when plates and glasses were empty.  I have a feeling the waitresses are newbies still learning the ropes.  Maybe it was the first busy night for our waitress.  If I was an experienced waitress I wouldn’t work somewhere where I had to wear an ugly skirt with knee high socks either!  We’re hoping that in time these waitresses will learn the ropes and the service will improve because it really is a much needed restaurant in this area.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Finn McGuire’s a 6.  It’s close to home, the menu offerings and prices are good, and it has a nice casual atmosphere unlike other restaurants in the area.  This rating would be bumped up to an 8 or 9 if the service was improved.  I’m sure we’ll stop in every now and then because of its convenience and casual style and  I can only hope that they stop making the waitresses wear those silly skirts so that they can find more experienced help.