Sunday, July 3, 2011

Baked Potato Salad

Ah! The baked potato. It's an American staple! It's everywhere... restaurants, fast-food joints, your kitchen and your momma's kitchen.
And it's one of Hubby's favorite foods. He, like most, has a special way he likes a baked potato... cheddar, bacon, butter, sour cream, salt, pepper & chives.

A few years back, I found a baked potato salad at a grocery deli. It had all of those ingredients! But... it was awful. It was greasy (insert scared face here) and the potatoes were far from being cooked (still hard!).
It didn't take long for me to pull together my own recipe. After many test runs (with the hubby taste-testing and offering suggestions) we have the best potato salad ever! The Hubby asks for it often and requests I make it for any barbecue/pot luck function.

So, without further ado (and rambling) I present our perfect Baked Potato Salad. It takes a bit of time, so make it the day before an event.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm a fish!

Yesterday, Hubby and I went with two friends and their kids to Lake Jocassee in South Carolina. The lake was fabulous and the weather was equally fabulous.
An incident of lost prescription sunglasses (yes, husband, I'm talking about you here) led to snorkeling & diving for our well-spent money... now lying on the bottom of the lake. Good news... the glasses were found! Luke had to drive a mile from the lake to a dive shop and rent snorkeling gear, but they were found.

And after our property was safely back on the beach, we enjoyed the snorkeling mask.

And it's here in the story where I get nerdy and gush about how much fun I had.

The hubby has seen and experienced more of the world and has special skills under his belt, like snorkeling. I barely know how to swim (self-taught, thank you!).
So after a quick lesson on how to use the mask and breath with the mask on, I was out in the lake looking for treasure. Our friend called us Jacques Cousteau since we were off for most of the trip searching & diving for underwater treasure.

I was most exciting about getting a fish-eyed view of the lake. I was giddy, to say the least, looking for other fish friends and marveling about how odd & mystical it was under the water. I see, now, what Jacques was after all those years ago. It's an amazing world down under the water. I only saw rocks and plants, but I was fascinated nonetheless.

Our backs are sunburned, but we're already talking about our next underwater adventure. And only now, am I interested in snorkeling in tropical waters.

It's time to save money and take a trip to Jamaica or Cozumel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Gerbera Daisy in My Kitchen Window (Blooming Well, I Might Add!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LET'S TALK ABOUT :: m. ranae designs

I'd like to talk about my home business.

I design & sew bags, wallets and other accessories. Other stuff includes pouches, makeup bags, purses, lunch bags and other weird stuff that doesn't fall under the "accessories" title.

I've been working from home (not exclusively yet) since 2008. I sell on Etsy and in person (sometimes at a craft show).

Even though business has been slow this year (mainly because my production has been slow), I still love it and hope I'm making bags well into my 200th year.

I have an m. ranae blog you can visit, but I'm gonna stop posting there and post here exclusively. But you can still find me in a few other places on the web. Follow Me, Like Me and be my friend (even if you're not buying).

My Main Website

My Etsy Shop



Soon-to-be-former Blog

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Boxy Cosmetic Bag - Tutorial Review

I love searching the internet for tutorials on how to make things... blame the Martha Stewart in me... I love glue, scissors and glitter.

So recently I made my mother a cosmetic bag and I decided to try a new tutorial.

This one was from Skip to My Lou. It's a great craft blog with tips, tutorials and other fun stuff. The tutorial was for a boxy cosmetic bag... it's like origami almost and when you're done, it's in a box shape.

Now this was an easy tutorial, but not for a new seamstress/seamster. This is best used by someone who's been around the sewing block. And the renegade in me didn't follow the instructions precisely. The changes I made include:

  • I put a layer of interfacing on the outer fabric.
  • I put a layer of fleece on the inner fabric.
  • I cut all my seams with pinking shears.
  • I added a little handle.

Overall, it was fun and created a nice bag. The blog has other fun tutorials (some recipes and others that don't involve sewing). So please check it out... and check back here... I'll be sharing more of my finds.

Ta-Ta for now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When I Grow Up

ca·reer [kuh-reer]  – noun
a person's progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking.

When we are children we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up. As children, there are so many basic answers (we don’t yet know that there are thousands of choices); fireman, teacher, astronaut, nurse, doctor... maybe even tattoo artist.
Then as we get older and a little more realistic, our answers become more like paleontologist, lawyer, math teacher, computer programer... and maybe still, tattoo artist.

When I was young I wanted to be an actress. I don’t remember anything other than wanting to be an actress... up until I was in high school.  This is quite laughable now because I have no desire to act AT ALL! Part of me would like to be a singer-songwriter (and honestly, I was once), but acting is not really me. Now my friend, DeeDee... she’s a real actress. She’s in plays all the time and she even went to New York to try and make it big. She’s back in North Carolina now, but she is still a real-life actress.

As a teenager, I really couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to be. But I knew how the system worked; Must. Go. To. College. Almost everyone in my senior class was planning on going to college and I wasn’t gonna miss out on the fun. I eventually decided that I wanted to do special effects makeup for movies. After some research, I learned that it helps to have a degree in cosmetology (especially in the skin care field). So I decided to first go to cosmetology school then move to California and attend a special effects school.
This plan did not work out... life happened and I ended up in a community college studying music education. And I only lasted one semester (I dropped out).

After that I worked at a bakery and eventually as a writer for a newspaper. A few more jobs later and I’m now in customer service. And despite, I’m not at all interested in going back to college. Most people are working in a field other than their college degree. And many people are working superb jobs with no degree. Of course, there are those jobs where you need a degree; teacher, nurse, doctor, astronaut.

I’m not sure what I’m getting at with all this... it could really be just late-night ramblings (it’s almost 2 in the morning).
But I look back sometimes, wondering if the right choices were made and these days, I have no regrets. I’m not an actress. I never mastered the beautiful art of special effects (or a prom up-do). I no longer write art & entertainment articles. I don’t frost doughnuts. I don’t flip burgers.
I’m simply a customer service representative... oh! and I sew bags from my own patterns.

That’s it. And that’s okay with me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Yum... Tuesday Night Cookies

So... um... yeah.

Tonight I decided that I was craving something sweet.

After a futile search in my fridge & cabinets, I decided there wasn't a thing that seemed like desert (I guess if hard-pressed I could eat jelly by the spoonful).

Then it occurred to me that I was being a wimp. I'm probably a close descendant of Betty Crocker and it would hurt dear Aunt Betty if I didn't whip up a batch of something.

Now let me insert a little bit of wisdom here, I've always been the girl that had flour, sugar, eggs & butter in my cabinets... just in case. You never know when you're forced to make cupcakes in order to win the affections of kidnappers, the IRS or worse, zombies. So I ALWAYS have basic ingredients for baking on hand. Join me, you won't regret the space that flour takes up!

So after a quick search on the internet (remember, I steal recipes all the time) I found an awesome recipe for soft oatmeal cookies.

So, without further ado (and rambling) I present yumminess.


1 c. butter (I used low-cal margarine with awesome results)
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. white sugar (or sugar substitute if you're saving calories for a rainy day)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps. ground cinnamon (I put two whole teaspoons, because I'm a rebel)
1 tsp. baking soda
3 c. quick cooking oats
Optional: Cup of Raisins or Nuts (this step is not allowed in my house... Luke Skywalker might be upset if he takes a bite of a cookie and a raisin is staring back)

In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar & brown sugar. 
Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla. 
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture. 
Slowly mix in oats.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet (I used pan spray). 
Roll dough into walnut sized balls (obviously, I think walnuts are huge!). 
Place dough balls approx. 2" apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. ALWAYS try 8 minutes first... if the edges are browned but center looks undone then they are ready. This makes for a super soft, chewy cookie.
Allow cookies to cool completely on rack (this step is the hardest for Luke Skywalker).

BET 'CHA DIDN'T KNOW: Eggs are so important in recipes! For example, in meatloafs they help all the ingredients stick together. In the cookie recipe above, they also help the ingredients stick together and keep the cookies yummy-moist.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kraft Helps Me Cheat in the Kitchen

I love to cook!
I am a foodie, if you will... a genuine "yummy, put it in my mouth now!" kind of person.

But more importantly, I'm lazy & cheap. I may like food, but I can't afford the finest cheese around and I sure as hell don't have time for 8 hour pot roast every Sunday.

What I can afford and do have time for is what I call cooking cheats. For instance, 8 hour pot roast takes an hour less when I use canned potatoes.
Is it the way grandma made it? No! But grandma was crazy, so that's a poor example.

And the best place to find cheap, easy recipes that I can steal... Kraft Foods!

Oh! How I love thee... and let's count the ways!
  1. They use basic, everyday ingredients.
  2. Most recipes can be done in 30 minutes or less.
  3. It's easy to substitute or find new ways to make it tastier (just read recipe reviews).
  4. The recipes feature products from Kraft, but it's easy to substitute off-brands of similar items.
  5. Wife tested... husband approved. Good recipes for families (a.k.a. hungry husbands).

Seriously, this place is the bomb. They use to send out a free magazine/cookbook every 3 months, but they started charging for that (and remember, I'm cheap). But you can still find all the old recipes and new recipes on the website for FREE!

So sign up... get yourself a virtual recipe box and start your ovens. You won't regret it.

I know it sounds fishy, but Kraft did not pay me to say all these nice things. 
I really do think they're awesome. 
And I'm gonna prove it by sharing one of my favorite recipes from the site.

What You Need
4 tomatoes (1-1/2 lb.), chopped
1 cup  cooked fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
1/4 cup  chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeƱo pepper, chopped
1/4 cup  KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing 

Make It
COMBINE all ingredients except dressing in large bowl.
ADD dressing; mix lightly. 

Mara's Tip: I always use one can of corn instead of making fresh corn. It's easier. Go me!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Reveal All My Secrets?

Hubby & I moved from Nebraska many years ago and we did it for many reasons. The top three reasons are: we wanted a more exciting place to spend the rest of our lives (nothing against boring ol’ yellow Nebraska); we wanted to live around people that are more open-minded (my insincere apologies to small-town Nebraska); and I was sick of everyone knowing or thinking they know my business (damn gossip-hounds).

Nebraska... in all it's yellow glory.

After moving to North Carolina I became quiet & secretive. I lack a large number of friends... I keep in touch with some back home, but in general, I keep to myself.
And this is a no-brainer, but it’s hard to trust your inner-most thoughts with just anybody.
So I live the life of a loner (and I love it).

I just have to warn you... this next part is sad. It’s depressing. You might cry... I might cry. And you might feel sorry for me. But don’t... please. That always makes it worse. And I sure as hell don’t want you worrying about my mental health. That will just piss me off... and I don’t want to be mad at you.

Carrying on now...

Days became dark. Not because I was alone, but because I was diagnosed with severe infertility. Hubby and I wanted children, but couldn’t have them.

Expensive & failed medical treatments led to depressing thoughts of “what will happen to my legacy when I die?” It became all too real... when I die who will remember me? Who can say they knew me? Did I pass on any information? Who will make my favorite recipes? Who learned how to sew from me? Who was touched by my presence on this earth? Without children, who will carry on my name & heritage?

I only came up with one bleak answer... no one.

Now, listen up, I haven’t completely given up on having kids. I hope it will still happen, but I’ve decided that I’m too cool/awesome/bad-ass to go down in history as “just some lady... nothing to look at here... move along... just some dead lady.”

So why am I revealing all my secrets? Because I gotta tell someone... just in case.

Now stop your sniveling... we’re gonna learn how to make muffins or something.

Approximately 6.1 million couples in the United States have difficulty conceiving. That's like... a lot.

Rolling in Clover