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.