Friday, December 11, 2009

The Winner is Cindy!

So the winner of the earrings is Cindy because I never knew about an Etsy mini before and as you can see I already utilized her tip. Thanks for the great info!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My New Jewelry Making Venture

In the last few months I have had less time, more frustrations, a few victories and a little peace of mind. All of this pretty much revolves around the start up of my little jewelry business. About six months ago I had the thought while shopping for earrings and finding none I liked, that 'Hey, I can do this myself'. So I started out small with a few supplies and crafted some for myself. Then I got the bug and started making more and more and added necklaces and bracelets to the mix and eventually some hair accessories too. Then the Holiday craft circuit started up and my friend Julee and I started setting up at some to sell our stuff, we share a booth she sells cute handmade kids accessories. Well surprisingly amongst the sea of other jewelry makers out there I have been doing pretty well and I kind of love it. So last week I started my big push on Etsy trying to break into that market since craft shows aren't really an all year business. Well I am frustrated to say the least, I have no idea how to market myself in this way. I have read countless articles but when it comes down to it there is just so much great stuff on Etsy it's hard to get your product seen. So that's why I need your help! Leave me a comment telling me your best Etsy selling tip and what your favorite item from my Etsy shop is and you will be entered to win these really cute Iris Earrings. These feature really pretty glass beads in shades of lavender and amethyst and an aqua blue faceted glass bead. they are on Sterling Silver ear wires.

I'll pick my favorite tip on Thursday Dec. 10th, so you have until 12 noon on the 10th to enter!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fudge Cupcakes With Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing

I've made these cupcakes twice in the last week, once for Sweet's Cake walk at school and once for my sister-in-law's birthday. They are with out a doubt my new favorite cupcake. They are also super easy peasy! I saw something like this on Rachael Ray but of course was too lazy to actually copy down the recipe or search for it, so I just made it up as I went along. There really isn't much to making these and best of all they use a store bought brownie mix as the base! So here you go:

Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing:

1 box Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix (this is the best store bought brownie mix I have tried) prepared according to box instructions, baked in 12 regular size cupcake liners lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake until a knife inserted comes out not wet, some brownie will stick to it but its shouldn't be liquidy.

Let cool, prepare frosting.

In the bowl of your mixer add one block cream cheese softened and mix until smooth. Add 1 cup all natural smooth peanut butter, mix until combined. Add 1 tsp. vanilla, stir well. Add 4 cups confectioners sugar, one cup at a time until well combined. Add apprx. 3 tbs milk, or enough to make a smooth pipeable icing, beat well. Transfer the icing to a piping bag or as I did in this case a plastic ziplock bag, seal and cut off one corner. Pipe a big swirl on top and add some cute sprinkles and your done! One of the best parts about these is you can be totally done with them in about an hour and I also love that it only makes 12 cupcakes a lot of times recipes make a huge batch and your stuck with way too many cuppie cakes!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hello Kitty Yoga Bag

So I think I posted earlier about the sweet Japanese fabric that I got from my cousin living in Okinawa, but in case I didn't I got 6 yrds of this awesome HK fabric, 6 yrds of Pokemon fabric, and a yard each of 3 different Ed Emberly prints. I've been searching for the right projects to use this cute HK fabric with since I love it so much. I used a tiny bit in my recent swap package, and after seeing how cute it was made into something I knew what I needed to do. I started taking Yoga classes this past week and my pretty pink yoga mat had nothing to ride in on its way to class, so one Amy Butler free pattern, some HK and coordinating red polka dot fabric and an hour later we have my awesome new yoga bag. I love being able to have things that are totally different from everyone else, I'm sure that is one of the reasons I took up sewing. Oh and by the way while you are checking out Amy Butlers Nigella Yoga Bag pattern look at all the other amazing free patterns she offers!

- Kim

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Well most of the crafting that I have been doing lately has come in the form of birthday decoration sof some sort or the other. In my house the months of May and June seem packed with nothing but birthdays. Bug turned two on May 28, my husband turned 30 on June 13, and Sweets will be 5 June 20, not to mention all of the friends and relatives with birthdays or events during these months. This past Saturday we had two parties, Sweets birthday for her friends at the Louisville Nature Center and my husbands 3oth, which his brother threw. So Friday I found myself knee-deep in cake making. I literally spent all day making cupakes, cake and other snacks for the parties. But they turned out good and everyone was happy, which is what really counts for me. This year for the cake making I tried out a new technique using cake mix. I basically just added dry pudding mix to the cake batter and an extra egg. It gives the cake great texture and it stays really moist. It's a really nice cake to decorate. Sweets got all rainbow themed food for her party and unfortunatley there aren't any really great pictures of the food but it turned out really pretty, we had rainbow cupcakes (vanilla cupcakes dyed different shades and layered in the cupcake liners), rainbow jello cups ( different jello flavors layered in small clear plastic cups, rainbow trail mix (pretzels, popcorn, raisins, cookies, m&ms), rainbow goldfish, rainbow sherbert, and rainbow rice krispy treats (regular rice krispy treat recipe, but added a scoop of Trix cereal). My husband got a Nightmare Before Christmas cake and Halloween cupcakes since his party was Halloween themed. So without further ado here are the not so great pictures taken at the parties. If you have any questions about the decorating process let me know. Oh and the husbands cake was mocha, I just used a store bought dark chocolate cake mix and substituted strong brewed coffee for the water, added chocolate pudding mix and extra eggs. The icing was chocolate buttercream with instant coffee powder mixed into the milk and between the layers I added store bought caramel sauce. Oh and check out the cool cupcake stand, I got two of them at a yardsale the day before the parties for fifty-cents each.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wonderful Wednesday

So I'm back.  School is over finally and things are starting to get back into a livable rhythm.  I've been trying to take sometime to get caught up on some neglected things this week and trying to get caught up on some enjoyable things as well.  So this week my suggestion to you for Wonderful Wednesday is to do something you enjoy.  Today I signed up for my first craft swap over on Craftster, it is something I have wanted to do forever and I'm so glad I finally did.  It's a Sanrio/Kawaii swap and I am super excited to get started, especially since I received 15 yrds of Japanese fabric from my cousin this past week.  I also finally made a Wist list.  I always see amazing stuff that I love online but then just bookmark and forget about, so hopefully now I can remember some of it when it comes time to buy or get presents (hint, hint).  Last but not least I am on my way to my first farmer's market of the season to enjoy some time outside with the kids.  So whatever little thing it may be, take a few minutes to breathe this week and just enjoy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cuban Sandwich

So I have been pretty busy lately with organizing the end of year events for Sweets school and haven't had a lot of time to get creative, but we still have to eat so I still have to cook. Which leads me to the Cuban bread, if you have ever had the joy of a good Cuban sandwich then you probably need no explanation about how freakin' good the bread is and if you are like me and could live solely off of bread alone than you will appreciate this recipe. My husband and I had the good fortune to live for a while near a grocery store that sold Cuban bread by the loaf and had been voted best Cuban sandwich in the city. We no longer live there but still get to enjoy Cuban food occasionally at a local restaurant. So I decided I could surely make it myself if I just tried and sure enough it is really easy to do, my recipe for the sandwich may vary some from some of the others I have seen, but then again they all seem a little different. I have to also add that after making my sandwich I went with my mom to a restaurant we shall refer to as O'Crappy's and ordered their new Cuban sandwich, I got two slices of hard as rock bread, dried out pork and ham that was so hard I couldn't even bite into it, dried up pickles (gross) and some bizarre tasting sauce that was pretty inedible. I think from now on I'll make it myself or go to the authentic Cuban restaurant. So with that warning out of the way I highly recommend you make this bread even if you don't intend to make a Cuban sandwich, we had it one night with some soup and it's good regardless. You can find the recipe for the bread here. I did change it ever so slightly by adding 3 tbs of vegetable shortening to the recipe, traditional Cuban bread calls for lard, which is not in this recipe, I can't bring myself to use lard so I substituted the shotening.

Cuban Sandwich

1 loaf Cuban loaf
1/2 lb thick sliced ham
1/2 lb thin sliced deli turkey
1/2 sliced red onion
yellow mustard
sliced pickled banana peppers
sliced pickled jalapenos
sliced dill pickles
swiss or provolone cheese slices (I used both)

Slice the bread open evenly spread out the ham and then top with the turkey slices and the cheese slices. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. On the inside of the top of the bread spread yellow mustard, place onion, peppers and pickles on top of meat and cheese, top with bread top. Slice and serve.

Wonderful Wednesday

Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday!!! Can't you see how excited I am about it being Wednesday? It's wonderful!! Okay, enough of that I'm just trying to get myself excited, but I mean Wednesday sucks, it's still way to far from Friday and it just seems like the longest day of the week for me. But I will try and persevere and keep myself entertained with some lovely finds from the web and of course I shall share with all of my friends out there. First up is a tute which I have used many, many times to make shirts and dresses for Sweets, it is a very easy versatile pattern that a beginner can easily tackle and it comes from one of my very favorite sites Just Tutes. Next is this adorable pattern for a kids picnic table, I haven't actually made this, since the kids already have one but the instructions look really simple. Then we have a giveaway and tute for a really cute red velvet clutch at Sew Christine. Last but not least today I leave you with my first of many recipes for a simple summer dessert. When I say simple I mean it, this dessert takes five minutes start to finish to put together but tastes so good. It's perfect for the warm weather when you hate to be stuck indoors cooking. Here is the recipe:

Lemon Icebox Pie

1 prepared graham cracker crust
2 boxes cream cheese
1 can lemon pie filling
1 tub of cool whip
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 c. confectioners sugar

In the bowl of your mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth, add half of the lemon pie filling, confectioners sugar and 2 tbs, lemon juice, stir until combined. Add 2/3 of the cool whip and lightly stir until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust and spread evenly. Top with remaining lemon pie filling and spread until even. Put a dollop of cool whip on top to decorate and sprinkle with a little lemon zest. Refrigerate for 4 hours.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Decorating Ideas

I have been very neglectful of my blogging lately, but in my defense I lost my card reader so I couldn't upload any pictures, but I finally found it today. Anyway I promise to be better about posting in the future.
So my hosting of Easter went over without a hitch and I was so glad for it to be over. It did get me thinking about my decorating scheme a little and I managed to get a few things redone before the brunch. The first was the top of my china cabinet, I had really planned on doing some sort of Easter display there, but on one of my thrift store trips I came across these two old milk glass mixing bowls and after picking them up I found a few more pieces of milk glass at the same store. So I walked around with the bowls for a bit trying to decide if I really needed them all the while keeping the other pieces in my mind. So eventually I could clearly see some sort of Martha inspired collection of milk glass pieces on top of my china cabinet. The only problem with this plan was that it was about a week before Easter and the only milk glass collection i had to speak of was the one in my shopping cart at the thrift store. So I bought it anyway, thinking I would try and hit some more thrift stores and maybe find a few more pieces. Well the original few pieces sat on my china cabinet looking pretty sad and bare until the Friday before Easter when I finally found time to do some shopping. I went first to my local Peddlers Mall since they have such a wide variety of vendors and lots of glass and pottery. Well I totally hit the jackpot and was glad I went there first. I found a few cute pieces as I walked around and they were all under 4 dollars apiece, but then I came to a booth that only sold milk glass. I almost literally squealed in delight. I picked out several pieces all a few dollars a piece. All in all I bought about five or six pieces that day and spent less than fifteen dollars total. I hadn't been to that peddlers mall in a few years but I will for sure be going back, the prices are crazy good. So anyway I know most people spend years collecting stuff, but quite frankly I am impatient and change my mind to often to devote that kind of time to a collection so I put mine together in a week!! The next thing I did was a little centerpiece for my dining room table. I made the table runner out of some beautiful home decor weight fabric that I picked up at Hancock's for four dollars a yard. Then I got these four glass candy containers at the thrift store once again for about a dollar a piece, and my thrift store had a bunch of them in different sizes. I then filled them with candy in colors to match the runner, yellow, orange and green. It looked as pretty as flowers in my opinion and my guests were able to snack on them, so none of the waste of flowers. I also think I may reuse these for the kids party putting m&m's and other bright colored candy in them. I hope you can take some of the ideas and put them to use for yourselves.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wonderful Wednesday

It's Wednesday again folks and I have some great tips and ideas to pass onto you. First up this week is my absolutely favorite new site skiptomylou There are so many terrific ideas here that I can't even begin to list them all, but basically anything you want to learn to do or events or occasions that you need ideas for you can find here. Make sure to check out the great ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week which is coming up. Next is instructions for making some sweet hair bows for your special little one here. I know everyone is starting to make their spring and summer clothing purchases, creations and refashions so why not make some cute hair bows to go with. Or if you aren't feeling particularly crafty check out these awesome hair clippies to buy from Aubrielle Designs Etsy shop. While you are making some stuff for the kiddos for spring why not give yourself a little something new too or refashioned that is. This tutorial for refashioning a thrifted sweater into a cardigan is one of my favorites and pretty easy too. Last but not least now is a great time to start planning some outdoor projects to share with your kids. I have wanted to make one of these garden teepees for a while now I'm just going to have to find some kind of vine that will grow in a shady spot. So here are some fun ideas to keep you feeling crafty this Wednesday and I'll be back soon with some projects of my own to share with you.


Friday, April 3, 2009

More Easter Ideas

I am seriously bursting with Easter ideas and plans and keep finding more great ones. So for today here are a few super fast and sweet ideas from my many bookmarked sites. I am going to use these sweet chocolate bunny place card holders to place in front of each dish to let people know what it is. Also I love this Mother hen and chicks table set that you can download and print out from Martha Stewart. I'm going to use the Hen for an arrangement of lilacs. This bunny box template is going to be used to package some candy for Sweets teachers if I can find the 18x18 inch paper it calls for. I have 12x12, but I don't think I've ever seen 18x18, may have to get creative with that one. Then there are these darling vintage Easter images that you can download for free here. These are so sweet, they would make lovely cards, place cards or whatever else you can think of. So it's not too late for Easter crafts with these quick projects that you can do with your computer and printer.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wonderful Wednesday

So we all know Wednesday isn't really wonderful, but hopefully I can make it a little better by sharing one of my favorite finds every week. There will be projects, cool items, recipes, blogs and you name it from all over the web. Hopefully these will help inspire you as much as they help me. The first installment is something that was one of my very first sewing projects and since I have some friends who are new to sewing, as I'm sure many of you are I thought I would share this project. It is a very simple pair of kid's pants that can be made with no pattern and can be embellished many ways or even turned into shorts, pajamas or capris. I have made dozens of these over the years using this tutorial and hope everyone else will too. It is found on a lovely blog called Handy Home Projects and is super easy to follow. Enjoy and happy Wednesday.


Quilted Easter Egg Garland

I've mentioned before that I am working on Easter Decorations for the house and trying to reuse and re purpose items in the process. This week I hit the fabric stash in my quest for Easter stuff. I have seen some cute garlands in the past on various sites and my daughter and I even made a birthday garland out of scrapbook paper that we have used for many a celebration. The problem with the paper ones is that they don't really hold up through the years. So for my Easter one, even though I initially got out paper to make it I switched to fabric in the end. So for this project I used scraps of fabric, ribbon, trim scraps, lace scraps, buttons and felt. Here is a quick step by step:

1.Draw a large egg on paper(about 6 0r 7 inches tall), cut it out.
2. Use your new egg pattern to trace out four eggs onto your felt, it can be any color.
3. Cut out the felt eggs.
4. Use your pattern to cut out 2 eggs shapes from each of your fabrics. This time add in a 1/2 inch seam allowance to each shape.
5. Cut a length of ribbon that will fit the space you want to display your garland, my window is about 36 inches wide and I used a piece of ribbon about 6 ft long.
6. Take your first two fabric pieces and sandwich a felt piece in between them they should be wrong sides together. Pin.
7. Slide your ribbon in between the layers leaving a tail hanging out long enough to tie around your window.
8. Sew all around the edges catching the ribbon as you go.
9. Do each of your eggs the same way, leaving an equal amount of space between each on the ribbon.
10. Finally you can leave them plain or embellish them as I did. I added scraps of trims and laces to two and then quilted over them. The other two have vintage buttons sewn on from my collection. You could also add ribbons, embroidery or anything else you can think of.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Art for the Kid's Rooms.

My kiddos are getting their bedrooms made over as their birthday presents this year. Every year we try to give them something other than a bunch of toys since they get this from everybody else. We usually do something big like last year we made them a playground and bought a new swing set to go in it. This year I knew right away that they would want new rooms. Well Sweets at least, Bug is still too little to tell us what he wants. When we moved into our house a year and a half ago we didn't do anything to their rooms, just moved the furniture in. They are both painted a boring pale tan color and the walls are bare. In our old house their rooms were so cute, we had really worked hard on both of them. So it seems like it is finally time, Sweets is about to turn five and start kindergarten and Bug will be two and moving to a big boy bed this year. So Sweets picked her idea out all on her own of course. We were at Lowes one day looking at paint samples (my kids love to do this for some reason) and she found a little booklet of ideas. In it were some of the loudest paint colors I have ever seen (and I painted my last living room orange). However there was one that was painted aqua and lime that she immediately fell in love with. This I can do, so it was decided. As for Bug I know I want to paint the walls orange and accessorize with brown, sky blue and lime green and of course his room will revolve around trucks since he's totally obsessed. So the big thing about doing their rooms is that I am determined to do it on a small budget and have it look great. I am going to post here exactly what I spend so that everyone can see that it's possible. For my first project I chose art. I saw in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago that Big Lots had canvases on sale for three dollars a piece so I went and bought three for Sweets room (11x14) and one for Bug(12x12), I also bought a much larger one for Bug's room(18x24) The 4 smaller ones were three dollars a piece and the larger one was seven. For Sweets I went with a woodland animal theme and drew up some different images till I was happy. I ended up with a skunk, a deer and a pair of owls. For Bug I used Alexander Henry's Traffic Jam fabric as inspiration for the large painting and a photograph of a Ford Econoline that I found through a Google search. I used acrylics that I already had so that part was free. My technique is one that even someone with no skills could probably do with success. Basically I draw my image onto the canvas with pencil and then trace it with a sharpie, when you paint over it you can still see the sharpie lines so you have something to follow, then it is pretty much just like coloring in a coloring book but with paint. After I have painted my image and it dries for a few days I go back and go around all the lines again with black sharpie to make it pop. For the big green one with the cars I just retraced the images in three shades of sharpie. The biggest thing to remember is to let the paint dry in between each section and before tracing and outlining with the sharpie. If you aren't artistically inclined you could very easily trace an image to start with.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Easter Brunch Menu

As I mentioned before I am hosting my first Easter for my family. I have decided to go with a brunch since a lot of folks have other plans for that evening. I have been searching through all of my sources deciding on what to serve and think I have it all figured out. So although I can't post pictures of any of these since I don't plan on doing Easter twice, I will go ahead and give you the menu and recipes and will post pics after the event. Hopefully this can help save some of you a little time and effort not having to plan a menu from scratch.

Easter Brunch Menu:

Country ham on buttermilk biscuits
Deli turkey on onion rye dinner rolls
Seven layer salad
Italian marinated salad
Mustard dill tortellini salad skewers
Veggie tray
Fruit salad or tray
Deviled eggs
Mini sausage quiches
Smoked salmon canapes
Asparagus and ham casserole
Shrimp salad in toast cups

Coconut cake- my mom is making this but I will try and get her recipe.

Lemon pie

Chocolate cupcakes with coconut nests on top- I'm using the recipe from my hostess cupcakes minus the filling. coconut nests are made by mixing melted chocolate with toasted coconut, shaping them into nest shapes and adding egg shaped candy, I'll put one of these on top of each ganache dipped cupcake.

Chocolate cups with fruit- I buy molded chocolate cups at the store and then fill them with sliced strawberries and frozen blueberries that have been tossed with a little granulated sugar.


Citrus Cooler

Lemonade with strawberries- I just cut some up and float them on top of the lemonade

There you have it, hope this is helpful for somebody.


Cheap Easter Crafts

So for the first time ever, I am hosting Easter for my family. I have always had a fondness for Easter, something about the pastel eggs, outdoor egg hunts amongst the fresh spring flowers and children dressed in their crisp Easter best. I have just begun to start to figure out my holiday decorating tastes these last few years. I went from a bunch of somewhat tacky, mismatched decorations for all of the holidays that were hand-me-downs from others to finally figuring out what I like. Simple understated character free decorations. These days I usually pick a room that my family will spend most of the holiday in, say the living room for Christmas and the dining room for Easter and just decorate that one room. This has worked so great for me since it means less work decorating every room and I don't feel overwhelmed by the decorations, I mean I work hard on my regular decorating so I really don't want to have to be removing it and replacing it for every holiday. So anyway that brings me to Easter, I really love all of the vintage inspired Easter decorations that I see and the beautiful spring colors, but I have only like two Easter decorations and I really want to have a pretty dining room for my Easter brunch, I need it to be Martha fabulous. The only problem is I'm trying to cut back on spending (aren't we all) and use and reuse things that I already have. So this past weekend I spent some time planning my brunch, coming up with some ideas for Easter craftiness and rummaging around in our goldmine of a basement. I finished three crafts including a door wreath and a door swag one for the front door and one for the back door. Both of these crafts cost me zero dollars. I found all of the supplies in my house and probably a lot of you have the same stuff floating around. I used this great tutorial to paint my plastic eggs, that's right I said plastic eggs, to look like chicken eggs or giant robin eggs if you like. It was a little time consuming and to be honest I seriously had my doubts about how it would turn out about midway through spray painting them. However in the end I was really pleased with the results. After my eggs were done I took an old grapevine wreath that was ugly and pulled all of the crap off of it and then glued some moss to it (yes I just happened to have some moss laying around in the basement) and then added the eggs, some I wired on and others I just hot glued. I love how it looks hanging on my front door. The next day I was once again rummaging in the basement looking for stuff I could remake and found some willow branches that my mother-in-law had given me, but you could easily just pick up some branches from outside. I cut them to a length appropriate for my door, arranged them into a shape I liked and then wrapped floral wire around them to secure. After that I wired and glued my eggs on and tied some ribbon, new door swag and it was free! The last thing I did was kind of a quickie project, I found a paper mache egg in our basement that was already painted in bright pink and orange, not exactly my taste so I gave it a makeover with some of the paint from the plastic egg project. Now it's very sweet and I love how it looks on my china cabinet. The only thing I did different from the tutorial on painting these was to use blue spray paint since we already had some in our basement. I also added some dabs of paint with a paint brush since I didn't think the toothbrush splatter was enough. If you don't have all of the items on hand for these projects you could easily get most or all of them at Wal-Mart or the dollar store for probably under 15 dollars. I have a few more free or cheap projects planned for Easter so check back soon for more good ideas and I'll also be posting my brunch menu along with recipes this week so you can start planning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Where to begin? I haven't posted for a whole week, but I've definitely been busy. I've been working out every day during the time I would usually spend blogging, trying to get in shape. I've actually started to really like working out, something I never thought would happen. I've also started to get the spring itch, it seems like every year around this time I start planning all sorts of must do projects in and around the house. I've got a list a mile long but I am slowly making a dent in it. This past week we got the closets cleaned out, the play room re-organized, I re-covered my dining room chairs and finally found a cute little cabinet/cart to use in the kitchen. My list of to dos before Easter still has me needing to make some secret pocket eggs, a new table runner, an Easter tree, new pillows, a couple of small rugs and a few pair of shorts for Bug. After that I have a huge list to get done before summer. We have Mother's Day gifts, re-doing both of the kids bedrooms, which will include painting, new curtains, pillows and some painted canvases, and then two kids birthdays in less than a month. Oh yeah and add into that getting our disaster of a yard into shape for the parties. I can only hope that it will all get done, and I'm sure that once it does I will feel a lot better and hopefully just be able to sit back and relax as much as a mom of an almost two year old and almost five year old can. For now I'm just going to share some of the things I managed to accomplish this week.

First up was granola bars for playgroup. These bars are pretty substantial and have about 220 calories a piece which may seem like a lot but they have a ton of good stuff for you and would make a good breakfast or lunch on the go, you could also half them for a low cal snack. I was really surprised by how good they turned out, I had a few people over when I made them initially and they each ate a few and commented on how much they liked them. Even bug who is almost two loved them (just make sure you only give little pieces as the nuts could pose choking hazards). So here is the recipe and I hope you enjoy.

Granola bars:

10 oz. mixed nuts -I used walnuts, pistachios and pecans
1 c. hulled sunflower seeds
3 packages instant oatmeal, brown sugar flavor
1c. dried fruit- I used a mix of cherries and blueberries
3/4 c. Splenda brown sugar
1 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

In a saucepan heat the Splenda brown sugar with the honey, vanilla and salt until sugar dissolves. If your nuts are not roasted you will need to roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes watching carefully. Mine were already roasted when I bought them. Place your nuts, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and berries in a bowl and mix. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the top and quickly stir to cover, mix until thoroughly combined. Add chips and stir. In a 13x9 inch pan lay a piece of parchment paper so that it overhangs the sides by a few inches. Lightly grease with spray oil pour mixture into prepred pan and evenly spread with a rubber spatula. place another piece of parchment on top and using a heavy pan press down hard a few times over the surface to evenly press the granola bar mixture. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely and use the parchment paper as handles to lift the cooled mixture out and onto a cutting board. Carefully remove the parchment and cut into 16 even pieces. Wrap tightly and store for up to a week.

Next is some yummy stuff that I made for a St. Patrick's Day dinner with my husband's family. I made some yummy homemade dark rye bread with a recipe found here. I also needed a good dessert so I tried to find something that would go with the theme of St. Patrick's Day but I also really wanted to add another recipe to the Cake Mix Challenge that I have going on. I had thought about making a Guinness Cake and was actually on my way to the store when I remembered the trifle dish that I got for Christmas. So in the store I put together an idea for what I like to call Shamrock Trifle and it will officially be March's entry into the challenge.

Shamrock Trifle

I box chocolate cake mix
1 c. sour cream
1 1/3 c water
5 eggs
1 box chocolate instant pudding 5.6 oz
1 box vanilla instant pudding 5.6 oz
1 package mint Oreo's
mint extract
1 c. mini chocolate chips
chocolate syrup
1 tub of cool whip
green food coloring
green sprinkles

Mix boxed cake mix with sour cream, water and eggs. Pour into two cake pans lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with oil. Bake at 350 degrees until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and then cut into 1 inch pieces. In two separate bowls prepare the puddings as directed on the back of the box. Into the vanilla pudding add 1 tsp mint extract and enough green food coloring to tint it a mint green color. In the bottom of your trifle dish place one layer of chocolate cake cubes, make sure to cover the entire bottom. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and 1/2 c. of mini chocolate chips. Pour the entire bowl of chocolate pudding on top and smooth out, making sure to get to the edges. Next place the Oreo's into a large plastic zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin, I like mine to still be nice size pieces so I just sort of break them up a little. Pour the Oreo's over the pudding. Next pour the mint flavored pudding over the Oreo's. Top with another layer of chocolate cake square, chocolate syrup and the other 1/2 c. of mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 4 hours and top with whipped topping and sprinkles just before serving. Serves 10-12.

I hope everyone has a very happy St. Patrick's Day and I'll leave you with this awesome picture of Sweets rocking out.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Triple Lemon Cake

It's my dad's birthday today and of course that gives me a reason to bake. Dad's not a huge chocolate fan, his tastes lean more towards lemon or coconut. Well we have had coconut cake lots over the years as this is my mom's specialty, so this year I went for lemon. I had an idea of what I wanted, a light, moist cake with a nice crumb and subtle lemon flavor, filled with lemon curd, and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting. Don't ask me why, but this is just what I had in my head. So I searched and searched for the right recipe, and ended using a cake recipe from Country Living, a lemon curd recipe from Martha and my own lemon cream cheese frosting recipe. I love the texture and flavor that the cake recipe has, it's just what I had in mind, a nice big impressive cake. The lemon curd is a beautiful recipe, it comes out so pretty and I think I may try to make some to jar and gift with scones. The only thing I would change is to maybe add a little more lemon zest and sugar, I really like a sweet, lemony curd. The frosting is pretty standard and I will of course give you the recipe. I'm just really amazed that I managed to get this cake done, Sweets was out of school today and for some reason the kiddos have decided to fight non-stop since waking. It's midday and I'm already exhausted, so glad that my husband is leaving work early today so we can go to dinner with my parents. I'm ready for the weekend!

Last but not least, I just want to give everyone a little tip involving bread machines, make sure you put it far back on the counter when using it, mine took a flying leap off of the counter yesterday while I was making dough. It managed to take all of my knifes off of the counter with it, and my chef's knife shattered, so I'm off today to purchase a new one. In light of my beloved bread machine almost coming to a disastrous end I've decided that she needs a name. I'm thinking Stella, but if you have any better suggestions let me know.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:

2- 8oz. boxes of cream cheese, softened
6 c. confectioners sugar
3 tbs. butter, softened
2 tsp. lemon extract or more to taste

Cream the cream cheese with the butter until soft and creamy. Add the lemon extract. Add the confectioners sugar 1 c. at a time. Add any food coloring if you want to tint the icing. I used sky blue for part of mine and left the rest uncolored for decorating.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

There's a Wocket in My Smocket!

Well the title is an homage to Dr. Seuss who's birthday was celebrated this week and the fact that Sweets read ten pages of "Fox in Socks" all by herself. You should have seen the looks on her dad and I's faces when she brought that book in our bedroom and started reading from it. In case you can't tell I'm busting at the seams with pride. So in honor of this and the fact that I really need to get started on summer sewing projects I set out to make my first smocket. I found this pattern a while back at themayfly and thought it was adorable and best of all totally easy. I managed to whip two of these out yesterday during Bug's nap. I made one for Sweets which I had to enlarge the pattern quite a bit on since she is wearing a size 5 and the pattern is about a 24 months or 2t. The other I stuck with the pattern measurements since it is going to my 2 year old niece, who is just barely a size 2t. I made both out of some great red and white polka dot fabric that I bought on clearance last year at Hancocks and still have about 3 yards of left. They are reversible so the other side is a solid black quilting cotton with some cute ladybug buttons that were in my stash. I really, really love this design, it is just so cute on. I'm sure I will be making many more for summer and I love that they can be worn into fall with a long sleeve shirt underneath as Sweets wore hers today. She has requested that I make her a pig/butterfly fabric, reversible smocket next time, so I guess I will have to make a trip to the fabric store since surprisingly I have none of either. I also took a few minutes and whipped up a new case for my sunglasses. I had made one before without a zipper, but it only held one pair and I usually have two and it also didn't really keep junk from getting on my glasses. Hopefully this new zippered version, that can hold two pairs will keep the various gunk that finds it's way into my purse off of the lens. If you are wondering what type of gunk could seriously be in my purse, well last week I reached in and found a half-eaten slimy apple courtesy of one of the kids, hopefully!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beignets or Powdered Donuts

Sweets loves powdered donuts, I mean loves. It's not a love we often indulge in, as a matter of fact she usually only gets them at her grandparents house. I have a feeling though that if she were given the choice she would choose those little powdery confections over just about anything else. She also always thinks that mom can make and do anything, she is quite the little fan club. So today she asked me on the way home why didn't I ever make powdered donuts. I explained that mom didn't know how, and she counteracted with the fact that she was sure I could learn. So never one to let the kiddo down I did some extensive Google investigating on the subject of powdered donuts and came across Beignets, which are a New Orleans favorite and tradition. They looked good and more my speed, so I thought I would give it a try, and Sweets is just happy to be able to help make her very own powdered donuts. I found the recipe and a lovely explanation of the history of Beignets at cakespy. I made the dough as usual in my bread machine (man I love that thing) and one recommendation I have if you try this method is to grease the inside of the lid, the dough rises up so far that it mad the lid pop open and some of the dough got stuck to the inside of the lid. The only change I made was to substitute 1/4 c. buttermilk and 1/4 c. cream for the 1/2 c. of evaporated milk that the recipe called for and the only reason I did that was because I had no evaporated milk.

On a totally unrelated note, Bug has suddenly turned mean. I guess we are hitting the terrible twos with a vengeance. He's still a few months away from that big number 2, but as we all know it's not so much age as attitude. Sweets never really went through the terrible twos, she pretty much skipped the tantrum thing altogether, I guess we were lucky. Although she is a major drama queen these days and is prone to pouting and whining for hours on end, at least she isn't punching, scratching, kicking and throwing things all while screaming at an ear piercing decimal right into my ear. I'm really hoping that this is just a little phase that he is going through because his vocabulary is still limited. I figure once he starts to get the ability to speak more clearly and in more complete sentences maybe he won't be so angry. I've pretty much tried all of the tricks that I have learned with him, holding his hands when he hits and so forth but he's not buying into it. I now know how other moms feel when their kids throw major tantrums in the aisles of the department store, in the last two weeks he has been face down on the floor of Kohls numerous times, but on a happy note he also spent about 5 minutes dancing in the same aisle to the music playing over the loud speaker and thoroughly entertaining some elderly ladies when he was finished. Oh if only I could get inside that little mind and figure out what he was thinking for a few minutes, I'm sure both of us would be a lot happier.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches on Homemade Rolls

This recipe has been a long time coming. As I mentioned before I have been trying to recreate some of my family's favorite foods. Well my husband has always been a fan of pretty much anything with the words "buffalo chicken" in it and a few years ago we started making our own buffalo chicken sandwiches. We started making them because we came across some nice hoagie rolls at Sam's and they inspired us to try our hand at these sandwiches. The problem is Sam's stopped carrying them about two weeks after we found them, typical. So for a few years now they have been our legendary sandwich that we loved and lost after such a short time. Now I know you are probably saying "geez, just buy some different rolls" well the fact is we are lazy, and the ones at our local grocery looked pathetic and we couldn't be bothered to look elsewhere. Well since I have finally started to conquer the dreaded yeast bread ( thanks to my handy-dandy bread machine) now seems to be the perfect time to resurrect our sandwiches. I'm looking forward to experimenting with this roll recipe for different sandwiches, I would like to try and make a rye version for our yearly St. Paddy's day dinner to use with Ruebens. For now here is the buffalo chicken sandwich recipe:

Honey Wheat Sandwich Rolls:

1 c. milk
1/4 c. buttermilk
3 tbs. melted butter
1 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. honey
2 c. bread flour
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. bread yeast
In a bowl mix the milk and buttermilk and then heat to between 110 and 115 degrees, I did this in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir in the sugar and yeast and let set for 10 minutes. In another small bowl stir together the melted butter and the honey. In the pan of your bread machine add both flours, salt, yeast and milk mixture, honey and butter and the lightly beaten egg. Set to the dough feature and let it do it's thing.

When the bread machine is done take the dough out of the pan and lightly punch it down, this is fun and I like to pretend that it is any variety of people who have annoyed me that particular day. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cut into four equal pieces, shape into ovals and cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. When the dough has risen use a sharp knife to make a slit down the center of the dough. Bake at 35o degrees for 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

1 c. Frank's Red Hot
3 tbs melted butter
shredded lettuce
sliced provolone cheese
ranch dressing
4 chicken breast, cut into strips
garlic powder
onion powder
red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c. flour
prepared sandwich rolls

Lightly spray a skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium heat. In a bowl mix together the flour, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder and salt and pepper to taste. Dip each chicken strip into the flour mixture to lightly coat. Cook in the skillet until no longer pink. In a plastic bag mix together the Frank's Red Hot with the melted butter, add in the chicken strips and shake gently to cover. Split your roll in half and on the bottom half spread ranch dressing ( I do this to taste if you like a little use a little, if you like a lot use a lot.) Place your chicken strips on top of the ranch dressing cover with 2 provolone cheese slices, place under the broiler to melt the cheese. When it comes out of the broiler, top with extra hot sauce, shredded lettuce and red onion.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Cake Mix Challenge

When it comes to cake mixes most people lay in one of two camps, either you love them or think they are a disgrace. Well, I do really prefer making my own cakes from scratch, but to be honest it's more of an ego thing than a real taste preference. I just enjoy the process of making them and the pride I feel when people are seemingly amazed that I made something from scratch. I do however realize that making a cake from scratch is a daunting, intimidating task for a lot of people. When you try out a new recipe you can never really be sure how it's going to turn out and there's the constant "is this cake going to be too dry" question. With a cake mix you are pretty much guaranteed success if you can follow directions. I also realize that a lot of people, myself included sometimes need a little shortcut to make everything fit in, or just want a shortcut so that they can watch 30 minutes more of t.v. I have made cakes in the past using box mixes and they have always been good and people have always thought they were homemade, and that is because a few years ago I figured out the secret to making a good box mix, throw away all of the directions and add your own stuff. I usually substitute sour cream for the water and always add in at least one extra egg, usually two. I also, depending on the cake flavor add in either vanilla or chocolate. I have heard of people adding in pudding mix and while I haven't tried it yet I'm definitely planning on it. There are really so many ways to dress up a store bought cake mix and all of this has led me to the "Cake Mix Challenge". This is entirely a challenge for myself, but hopefully some of you will play along. So every month for the rest of the year I am challenging myself to come up with a recipe for a cake mix that will be so good that nobody will believe you when you tell them it came from a box. That said, I do draw the line at store bought frosting, they are pretty much gross, they don't have real dairy products in them and that scares me and the texture is terrible, I have never frosted anything with them that didn't look terrible. I think they are just a bunch of oils and artificial sweeteners and colorings. Plus making frosting is really, really easy and only takes a few ingredients, so I really recommend that you take the 5 minutes and make your own. This month is very nearly over, but I have to get started somewhere and since it is my husband's grandmother's birthday this weekend I decided to give it a go. I had actually planned to make these cupcakes from scratch but when this idea came to me, I knew that they would be a good candidate for a box mix. These are a take on the famous Hostess cupcake that we all know and love. I figured I could make some that would at least be as good if not better. I also wanted to try out an idea that I saw over at Martha. Her cupcakes were just chocolate, no filling but the idea of taking the traditional white loops and making them into words was so cute I had to try it. So here is my version of a classic using a box mix.

Hostess cupcakes:

1 box devil's food cake mix- I used Betty Crocker, but whatever you like is fine
1 1/4 c. fat free sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/4 c. buttermilk
4 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate

Mix all of the ingredients together in the bowl of your mixer, fill 24 prepared cupcake liners each 3/4 of the way full and bake at 350 for minutes. When a knife is inserted and comes out cleanly remove cupcakes from oven and place on a cooling rack.


6 tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups marshmallow fluff (buy the big size, my grocery only had the small size so it takes 1.5 containers to get three cups.)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. confectioners sugar
cream to thin

Cream the butter in the bowl of the mixer, add the marshmallow fluff and vanilla, mix. Now as for the confectioners sugar, I usually just add confectioners sugar to any frosting until it seems the right consistency to me. I can usually tell when its right for either filling, frosting or decorating. So use your best judgment, this is just an estimate, you can always add a little cream to thin it out. It should be creamy like what is normally in a hostess cupcake, not like the consistency of buttercream icing. When the cupcakes are cool, place the filling in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, insert the tip into the center of each cupcake and fill until the cupcake puffs up a little. If some of the filling spills out the top, just use a knife to smooth it out evenly.

Chocolate Ganache:

3/4 of a bag of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

In a heavy pot placed over low heat, heat the cream just until you see steam rising off the top, do not let it come to a boil. Remove from heat. Place chocolate into the cream and stir until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. Let cool. You can either dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache while it is still slightly warm and liquid or you can let it cool some and spread it on with an offset spatula. I transferred mine to a small bowl and popped it into the freezer for a couple of minutes. However you choose to do it, ice your cupcakes.

Decorators icing:

4 tbs. unsalted butter softened
3 tbs. shortening
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
cream to thin

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of the mixer. Add the vanila and mix. Slowly add the confectioners sugar and mix until incorporated. You can add some cream if the icing is to stiff. This should be a consistency that is pipeable, sort of like toothpaste. Place the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a writing tip, or small round tip. If you want them to look like hostess cupcakes pipe 7 connected loops onto them (yes I counted the loops on a real one) if you want to write a special message on them just use cursive to mimic the loops on the real ones.

Final step; serve to your loved ones and enjoy the happy looks on their faces when they bite into the cream filling.

So there you have it the first entry into my "Cake Mix Challenge". Look for more to come in the following months.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Soft Pretzel mmmm......

I've been wanting to try my hand at soft pretzels for a while, I love those big warm pretzels that you get at the mall and so does my husband. I had also thought that this would be a good project to try with Sweets, but it turns out that they are kind of hard to get rolled out into a rope that you can make pretzels out of and Sweets got bored after the first one. I didn't dare try to make my own recipe for this one since I'm still pretty new to the world of yeast breads and am positive I would ruin them if I went recipe less. I made the mistake of forgetting to put the egg wash on these which kept them from getting that nice distinctive golden brown color that we are so familiar with. They still taste really good and a lot like the ones you buy, which is good because they took like two hours of my day to make. If I make these again I will definitely make sure that I remember the egg wash, since by the next morning these were chewy and a little soggy. I think the egg wash would hopefully seal them and keep them a little fresher for a day or so, I mean who could be expected to eat a dozen pretzels in one day. So here is the recipe I used and hopefully if you make these yours will look a little better.


Owl Apron

Okay I am a fabric junkie, I admit it. I can't go into the fabric store without wanting to buy something new. I've been trying to be good lately since I have a huge stash that I am trying to work through but sometimes a fabric is just too good. Fabric is just one of my obsessions along with pretty much anything vintage. Those are the two categories in which a good find can incite major heart palpitations. This fabric sort of did it for me in both categories, while not technically a vintage fabric I don't think anyone can argue that the design has a heavy 60's feel to it, with the owls and black light poster color scheme. I had really only planned on buying some broadcloth when I hit the fabric store yesterday, I was planning to make an apron for my husband's grandmother's 75th birthday this weekend and she, like myself loves owls so I had intended to use some fabric with owls that I already had. Well a 40% off sign later I find myself clutching a bolt of this lovely stuff and breathing heavy. I'm happy with my purchase since 1.5 yards is proving to be enough for an apron for my husband's grandmother, one for myself and I think enough left over for the wallet I've been wanting to make.
Okay so on to the actual apron. I knew I wanted a 50's housewife inspired half apron, I looked at a few commercial patterns but thought the idea seemed easy enough that I could make my own pattern, so that's what I did. It is lined with solid broadcloth, has two patch pockets on the front, has a orange and pink handmade bias tape waistband and orange bias tape ties. It is technically reversible although the green side is pretty boring, on the next one I make, which will actually go to my husbands grandmother I am going to add patch pockets in the owl fabric to the reverse side so it will be pretty either way. I am thinking of trying to make a tutorial as I make the next one if anyone is interested. So I am happily wearing my apron as I sit here and type this morning and will probably be wearing it for the foreseeable future, I just can't get enough of the fabric and of course who doesn't love a big swirly apron to make housework a little more bearable.