Saucy Chicken Skillet

This chicken and sauce and vegetable combination is absolutely mouth watering! My hubby is not a fan of vegetables, but he loves this dinner. If he was allowed, he'd drink the sauce, it's that good! The best part of this meal however, is how easy and quick it is to make!

Alright, here we go!

Find the following delicious ingredients:

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) fettuccine, uncooked
1 Tbsp. oil
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb.)
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Cream Cheese, cubed
3/4 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

COOK pasta as directed on package.

MEANWHILE, heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken; cook 5 min. on each side or until browned on both sides.

STIR in cream cheese, broth, dressing, onions and basil. Cook and stir until sauce begins to thicken and chicken is cooked through (170°F.) Add snow peas and tomatoes; cook 2 to 4 min. or until snow peas are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Serve over the pasta.

Digital Toolbox: Lesson Three: Cropping an Image

The hardest part of cropping is simply deciding what kind of crop you want. Using the crop tool if fairly easy, most make it easy to explore a variety of crops. I'm using Photoshop, but you should be able to follow along with any editing program with a crop tool.

Step 1: Open the Image

I'm using a tutorial image from Complete Digital Photography
The focus of the image should be on the birds on the telephone wire.

Step 2: Drag out a Crop
Select the crop tool. In Photoshop, you can do this by pressing C. Click to define the upper left corner of the crop you want, and then drag out a rectangle to define the crop. It doesn't matter if you don't get it correct the first time, you can always correct it later.


Step 3: Adjust the Crop
A rectangle of dotted lines will appear, indicating where the image will be cropped. In Photoshop, you will have the option of masking out the uncropped part of your image. Blocking out the uncropped areas makes it easier to tell what your image will look like. In the control bar at the top of the screen, you can define the color and opacity of the crop mask, called the Shield.

An advantage of using the semiopaque shield is that it allows you to see what else is in the image.


The crop rectangle provides control handles at the corners, and in the middle of each edge. You can drag these to reshape the crop. Make any adjustments that you want. I clicked the bottom handle and dragged (or is it drug?) up to crop out the tree.

Step 4: Make the Crop
Press Return, or double click within the crop rectangle to accept the crop. Your image will be cropped and appear in a new, smaller window.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if you like the crop until you've accepted it. If you decide it's NOT what you want, undor and try it again.

This example uses a free-form crop, meaning the final image has a different aspect ratio than the original. There will be times, however, when you want to ensure that your final result has specific proportions and you'll want to constrain your crop to a specific crop ratio.


Step 5: Revert to the Previously Saved Version
I want to try a different crop of the image. Choose File>Revert to return to the original version.


Step 6: Configure the Crop Tool
I want to print this image on a 4"x6" paper, so I want to ensure that the final image has the proper proportions. Select the Crop tool. On Photoshop's control bar, enter 6 in the width field and 4 in the height field.


Step 7: Make Your Initial Crop
Click and drag to define a cropping rectangle, just like you did previously. This time the crop will be constrained to a rectangle with a 6:4 aspect ratio.

Step 8: Adjust the Crop
When working with the constrained tool, it can be difficult to get the crop exactly right on the first try. After you've defined the initial crop, you can then click within the cropping rectangle and drag the crop around to position it.

Step 9: Make the Crop
As before, press Return or double-click within the croipping rectangle to make the crop.


In Photoshop, you can open the Crop menu on the control bar to access the predefined cropping constraints.


Remember that you don't HAVE to crop to the same aspect ratio your camera shoots, or to any aspect ratios in your image editor. Very often, the best crop for an image has an unusual aspect ratio. Landscapes often look better with a long, skinny, panoramic crop, while other situations may look best with a narrow, vertical crop. The crop tool allows for great creativity, so don't be afraid to experiment! Don't hesitate to play around with different crops.

Things that make me smile...

This little guy right here. He has become such a little person, full of awe and wonder. I love listening to him laugh and talk to his friends when we're out at the bay. He can make me smile just by making my "favorite face". I love him.

Go Green Tip of the Week #2

It's time for another "Go Green" tip for all you eco-conscious readers! This week's tip brought to you by iVillage!

Beat Plastic Bag Guilt
Every year, we burn through an estimated 500 billion plastic bags worldwide, and most end up in landfills, in waterways, and floating in tree branches where the wind deposits them. Pretty. Fortunately, re-usable shopping bags have come a long way since cotton canvas and burlap. Tote your stuff home from the mall or the market (or even the beach) in Envirosax. They're compact and waterproof with reinforced seams, and each one holds about two plastic grocery bags' worth of items. Keep a lightweight five-pack of bright, beautiful bags in your trunk or glove box, and you'll never have to answer the old "paper or plastic" question again. And they're so pretty you'll want to use them for more than just toting your veggies home from the farmer's market. $35 for a pack of five at


Adobe Lightroom-Works for me Wednesday

I’ve heard a lot about Lightroom before, but always was intimidated by it. Why I am not sure, because I found it relatively easy to use. I’ve always used Photoshop 7, slowly learning all the jargon and lingo and different techniques. I was happy, I knew how to use the program, never gave it a second thought to upgrade or try something else. Until…I read that Lightroom had a free 30-day trial period. I decided to give it a go and now I’ll share my take on the program with you all. If you’d like to try it yourself, you can download it here.

The first thing I liked about the program is that it’s very visual. It’s more for photographers and not as much graphic design as Photoshop.

I had to figure out the jargon for this program too, but it was user-friendly! I simply had to click on File>Import photos from disk (Ctrl+Shft+I)
Up popped my picture!

Next I clicked on Develop over on the right hand side. Miraculously, a set of presets showed up on the right hand side below the little version of my picture.
I played around with the different presets. Notice how you can see a preview in the upper left corner under ‘Navigator’? Once I found one I liked, I clicked it.
Now I could click on the button that looks like two YY and see the before and after versions of photos. Neato!!
If you want to you can crop the picture easily too. The program overlays a cropping grid that can be customized. It also helps with the rule of thirds. See how my boy fits the rule? I decided to leave the picture as it is.
Now to save the picture! Simply choose File>Export (Ctrl+Shft+E).

Head on over to Rocks in my Dryer for more WFMW ideas!

Hash Brown Casserole

Do you enjoy having a hot breakfast at home? Hate having to slave over a hot stove making pancakes, eggs, sausage, and bacon? Well fret no more! I have a quick and easy recipe sure to delight everyone in your house.

The cast:
6 cups shredded hash browns
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup chopped onions (I use Ore-Ida frozen ones - because I'm lazy)
1 tsp salt (approx)
1/2 tsp black pepper (approx)
1/2 tsp paprika (approx)

I guesstimate on the seasonings. I can never find a measuring teaspoon.

Throw it all in the crock pot, stir it up, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4. Which would mean that you get up and cook this shit at like, 4 am so I recommend low for as long as you sleep instead.

Oh, and I've made it before with 1 1/2 cups of diced ham - it's pretty good.

Just Plain Fun!!

Click on any of the tests below to take them yourself! (Great way to pass the time at work, sshhh!)

This one is hilarious!

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Photography Basics: Lesson One

When first upgrading from a Point and Shoot digital camera to a Digital SLR, all the knobs and lenses and terminology can be quite intimidating. I don't have any tips to make it easier, other than to practice, practice, practice!

Today we'll start from the very beginning with exposures: apertures, shutter speeds, and ISO.

First, let's define these terms.

Aperture~an opening that is used to control the amount of light passing through the lens of a camera. Typically constructed as an expanding and contracting iris. Measured in f-stops.

values are the ratio of the focal length of the lens to the diameter of the opening in the aperture.

~a mechanism that sits in front of the focal plane in a camera and can open and close to expose the image senor or film to light.

ISO~a measure of a film's "speed" or light sensitivity. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film. Digital camera sensors are also rated using the ISO scale.

OK, good, everything is now perfectly clear right?

As you increase your shutter speed, you need to decrease your aperture. This lets in more light compensating for the fact that the shutter is open for a shorter time. This relationship is called reciprocity because of the reciprocal relationship between the two values. Apertures and shutter speeds typically double with each setting.

Confused yet?

The higher the ISO rating, the more sensitive the film is to light. A film with a higher ISO rating doesn't need as long of an exposure to make an image. A high ISO rating facilitates shooting in low light situations and in bright daylight with faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures. The drawback is that faster film means images with lots of grain.

ISO is the third factor you can control when using a digital camera giving them tremendous advantage over traditional film cameras.

Next topic: Shooting modes

How many men does it take to open a car door?

That is my question for you!

Saturday we went to the bay and this time all the men actually came along too! After spending a few hours together, they decided it would be a great idea to go back into town and pick up the leftover fireworks from last year's 4th of July party. Toto and George took the truck and headed back to get the remainder of the fireworks. (Usually there are no fireworks allowed at the bay, but the season hasn't started yet and we tend to get away with stuff! Thanks Silver Tiger!)

They came back all pumped up to have successfully made the trip back into town to gather the fireworks. Toto hops out of the truck, slams the door and goes to open the back door. In the meantime, George gets out of the passenger seat just as Toto yells, "Wait! Don't shut your door!" SLAM! Toto looks over and says, "I just locked the keys in the truck." Oh shit.

The four man brain trust gather around the fire to try to figure out how on earth they will rescue their precious fireworks from inside the locked truck.

"We'll just break open a window" says Toto.

"Nah, I think I can get it" Sational says as he walks around the fire looking for a piece of wood.

George and Silver Tiger looking confused as usual.
Sational finds what he's looking for and heads over to the locked up truck with the keys inside. The three remaining members of the male clan following behind him. He climbs up on top of the cab of the truck and begins trying to slide the metal rod between the window to unlock the driver door. Not to be left out, the other three stand around commenting on the effort.

"Oh, you're almost there!"

"I think you'll get it this time!"

"Oh! So close."

Several minutes pass by with this type of banter. The women and children are so used to their men's/dad's antics that they don't even pay attention.

Finally!! Shouts of "Way to go!" "I knew you could do it!" where heard. Sational had proved that he can break into a Dodge Ram. Thank goodness, now all those fireworks won't go to waste. Phew.
Now, the big boys can play with their precious be continued.