12.30.2010

goodies i wanta make on a quiet morning....

ok, so i wasn't quite as crafty as you were this holiday....
you were a busy little bee.
but i was DREAMING of being crafty.
and maybe now that the pressure from the holiday timing is off i may really be able to pull some of these off?!
maybe...just maybe.

i have ideas!
let's make some stuff!
for ourselves this time...
(click on the pictures for the links)
adorable wreath!


i LOVE these hats!
you just HAVE to look at the whole post when you click on this picture.
you are gonna pass out.


lets make ourselves these and run around the back yard!?
and also get ourselves a photo booth...just for us.
well, i guess the kids can try it too.





also, lets make our pantries look like this!

just some simple ideas for us to do with our spare time....
i am only half crazy dreamer lady, cause half of me really wants to do all of this...really.

thanks for dreaming with me favorite pal!


12.29.2010

Crafty goodness



Ya know the saying, "It is better to give than to receive?"

Well, this Christmas, I've felt so much JOY from giving. I think I may have had more fun making gifts than I ever have. And I couldn't blog about them because then I'd spoil the surprise for you and others!

I was in a whirlwind of craftiness, which means I didn't even photograph a bunch of it....oh well. Here are some snapshots of the fun I had (and did photograph).

1. Sweater wreaths....ya know, similar to the ones we made for our little baby tidbit and sold at our November boutiques (shall we make some up to be available for our blog friends??).  But these have one special piece....haha....the black and white striped wool at the top is indeed from a J.Crew sweater I couldn't bear to throw out. Now THAT'S recycling. I made two of these and was really happy to give them as gifts.




2. Birdie hoops....you get the big one! This idea was inspired by Jill and this post on her blog Pocket Full of Posies. She made some, offered the template, I printed it out, sized it for my hoops, and went to town!  Whew. I made 5 of these, and still want to make one for my big self.




3. My very own Christmas banner. Yay. You are my banner muse, little friend. Letters cut out of book pages, braided yarn for hanging, and felt. How I love felt. I bought the strand of teeny bells hanging above it at Cost Plus World Market. Aren't the bells sweet?




4. Then Remember these guys?  My 10 tins? I tried three recipes for them. The first was April's Peppermint Bark (ridiculously easy - she posted the recipe on her blog here ), Classic Peanut Brittle, and Macadamia Nut & Coconut Brittle. Both brittle recipes were from an old Martha Stewart special edition magazine I had kept called Handmade Gifts. The tins looked so pretty, lined with wax paper, filled with treats. But darn, I gave away all the Peppermint Bark-filled ones before taking any pics. I got the best feedback on those. Everyone liked it.






5. Oh, and the yarn rosettes. I have made about forty of them....I used some of them on the Birdie Hoops. Some others became gifts too, and the rest have yet to take shape into something. But SOON they will be headbands and barrettes and brooches. I can't wait.  I'll need your help with these, using all our new buttons and scraps....maybe making some goodies for a little nook in a local shop!! Maybe, just maybe....

All this craftiness makes me wonder: When are the kids going back to school again??

Ha ha. For now, I'm knee deep in Lego parts, train tracks, wooden beads, dirty laundry, cluttered counter tops, unmade beds....and rain streaming down the windows.

It's a kind of Christmas-break heaven over here, and I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Craftiness can wait a few more days.

12.22.2010

My go-to holiday breakfast

Hey Mrs. Reed....(does that sound too much like I'm addressing your mother-in-law?)...

I had to share what has become our family's traditional holiday breakfast (meaning we have this on Christmas morning and Easter morning....mornings when I'd rather be holding a camera than a spatula, and I let my oven do all the work).



And guess what? I have already prepared my Christmas morning breakfast for this year. It took about ten minutes of assembling.  If you don't have any inspirations for this year, you should try it. I think your picky people would love it.

And YOU will love it because I won't tell you exact amounts of the ingredients. It is so easy that it can be thrown together without a lot of measuring. Yes, I'm growing as a person.


Make-Ahead Holiday Sausage & Egg Strata
{a.k.a. one less thing to worry about}

(adapted from a recipe in this cookbook)

STEP 1: Line a buttered 9x13 dish with sliced up bread. (cut the crusts off if it is tough)

STEP 2: Sprinkle the bread with cooked, diced up sausage - I use an entire pkg of turkey sausage links, about one pound.





STEP 3: Mix together in a bowl 4 eggs, 2.5 cups of half and half (or milk or a combo), salt, pepper, and a small handful of dried or fresh herbs that go well with eggs. I usually use thyme, the recipe calls for sage. Chives would be great too.

STEP 4: Pour the egg mixture over the sausage and bread.

STEP 5: Cover the dish with shredded cheese.





STEP 6: Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until browning and puffed up. (If you're cooking it straight from the fridge, it will take a little longer.)

I can't show you my "after" picture because I'm not cooking it until Christmas morning, remember? So here is what the cookbook shows.





So my strata strategy, if you will, is this:

Christmas morning, wake up right before my kids do. Preheat the oven to 350*, and put the strata from the cold fridge into the cold oven. So it warms up as the oven heats. Grab the camera. Don't think about the breakfast during the next 30 minutes of happiness and kisses and shredded wrapping paper and giggles. Smell my breakfast being prepared for me...mmmmm.

Eat, relaxed, with my family at the table. Kids ask for seconds. Probably use paper plates. And we have enough hearty, protein-rich food in our tummies to last us until we arrive at someone's house for Christmas Day.

That, my friend, is a little peace on earth. 

12.20.2010

baby it's cold outside! (seven things you can still do when it's rainy)

well, not that cold.
but at least rainy.
i know you get very thrown off by rainy.
and you know that it is my favorite weather.
yet another lovable contrast with us.....
so this picture probably makes you sad while it makes me smile and rub my hands together.
we are a funny little team.

this morning i woke up to my three kids making a plan to go get donuts.
them three, and me.
yum.
so we got in the car,
but on the way, Jake saw a straggler box of legos, that i hadn't wrapped yet, in the garage.
he started asking questions and, well, i lied and told him it was for a give away to a military donations box at the gym (i know i know! so naughty! but i really did put a toy in that box last week!)
he slumped away, but not before i heard him mumble, "what a waste"......
ok.
what!?
he is not a jerk.
but that was so hideous to me.
what a waste!?!
i wanted to take back all his presents.
i wanted to lecture him for 5 and a half hours.
i wanted to take all the rest of the kids to donuts and leave him at home alone (not really...well sorta).
i got really quiet and we made LONG eye contact.
he knew it was suuuuuper wrong.
so they all got in the car and i ran in to grab my phone only to come back to a car full of screaming brats.
ella crying screaming that the boys told her they wanted to break her "dance party" cd in half.
the boys being mean to each other.
everyone was hungry, but this whole deal DOES NOT deserve the special treat of donuts right now!
so i put the break back on, grab three cuties and three paper cups (for them to put the orange peels in)
and say,"that's it, no donuts, this family has lost it's christmas spirit."
they ALL cry.
yep.
isn't that an awesome morning?

i am just quiet after that.
waiting to see what they'll do.
i go back and forth from feeling really bad about them being hungry to hoping that they feel a little discomfort, since they have been so hideous.
but i don't say a word.
then one by one they start to apologize.
to each other,  and to me.
they start to giggle and laugh and tease each other and then i finally join in and that was it.
this all happened between my house and the spectrum.
and so then we got out, and they were so completely turned around in attitude that i was inspired to take them on the carousel.

so here is the real point to my post.
7 things you can still do if it's rainy.....

ride the carousel.

splash in puddles

hold hands under an umbrella

get your crafts all lined up for craft week.

drink hot cider
 i know i know, you hate it, but doesn't this sign make you sorta want some? sorta?
ok.
then hot tea for you.

wear boots.

use my cute new phone case.
ok ok. i know you were with me when i bought this, but i just wanted to show off.


so there you have it.
when you are not making absolutely adorable gingerbread creations or some scrumptious healthy meal for your family while watching White Christmas with them (since i know your family will watch it with you), you should try these.

The Anti-Gingerbread House




Dude. Just the words "gingerbread house" make me uncomfortable. You know I feel very strong negative emotion about making gingerbread houses. The first one I ever tried to build was with my husband and three-year old daughter several years ago. It was so ugly. I mean the situation, not the house. Tension, arguing, sweating, and tears....I think mine. Not sure.

But anyway, they anger me, unless they are constructed with hot glue. And who can eat a gingerbread house with hot glue on it? Defeats the whole purpose.

So listen to how my story has a happy ending.

Once upon a time, there was this little guy in my cookie cutter drawer. He was homeless and that was sad.





But then, this guy's really nice owner with pretty red hair went to Cost Plus World Market the other night and bought him his first home.

 



Notice how beautifully FLAT it is. I'm calling it my Anti-Gingerbread House.

So tonight, I baked these. I know you totally want to borrow this thing.





It was super fun!! Happy memories. No collapsed walls. Not a single tear.





Lots of eating frosting. Sometimes directly from the baggie. There's beanie guy again. Yep. Still has it on, but even more adorable because he's doing a craft with us.



Here are some of my secrets, by the way:

1. Microwaved a jar of store-bought vanilla frosting for about 45 seconds so it was slightly runny. Spooned it into snack-sized zipper baggies.





Snipped off a TEENSY corner of the baggie with the scissors and taught my small people how to "pipe" this sugar glue onto the house and guys.

2. Used everything in the pantry that could be edible decor. Bought nothing new for the project. Valentine's day heart sprinkles, mint chips, marshmallows, (I meant to use coconut but forgot), mini candy canes, and American flag toothpicks were some of what I scrounged up.

3. Set up a city. Isn't it so happy? And two-dimensional, which is the best part.





{Notice how my husband's gingerbread guy is trying to get into my adorable house!}





His guy looks wasted, and has a broken leg. Look at his eyes. I'm sooo not letting that guy in.


But I AM linking up with Heather at Blessed Little Nest today for Life Made Lovely Monday.  Check her out because she and her little blog are seriously cool.

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12.15.2010

Do you see what I see?

Hey, friend.

Look who has been nestled amongst my Christmas decorations. It's because she's "Holiday Barbie."




Am I a bad mother? Why does my child own this??? And why does a toy have serious cleavage? And the dress! Sheeesh. Yes, I feel like a bad mother.

I think Christmas Barbie should be dressed like Mary from the first century, with no makeup, and certainly no platform heels.

THIS particular Christmas Barbie has been crashing office parties and making out with other people's husbands next to the punch bowl. She should be called "I'm on the Naughty List" Barbie.

But here's my battle: to make a big deal out of this toy to my eight year old then makes a big deal out of it. She's innocent. She DOESN'T see what I see. I just have to know, WHAT are you gonna do about the plethora of issues that arise once your innocent little baby girl wants Barbies?

I'm telling you. There are NO modest Barbies anymore. They are all looking like they spend every minute of every day up in the club!

So c'mon. Help me with some words that I can use to casually address the naughtiness of these plastic ladies who live in my home and amongst my decorations. Because those Santas are blushing.

12.14.2010

Cake in a can?

hello little busy bee!
you have been very creative lately!
i am having a bit of a creative block.
but that's ok. i'll get over it.

for now, haven't you tooooooatally wanted to try this?
baking yummy stuff in tin cans?!
come on!
everyone wants to do this!
right?
right?
well i did  it.
i mixed up a batch of pumpkin bread and poured a little bit of olive oil into the washed and de-labeled cans and swished it around.
then i just filled um about 3/4 full.
baked um on a rack with a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch spills (learned that the hard way ;)
and then when they were cool, ran a knife around the rim to remove them!
look how cute the round loaf is!


why to my kids love this stuff so much!?
those picky little eaters would chow down the entire batch if i let them!


why do they have their shirts off?, you may ask....
i actually had to make them get their pants on since they would run around in their underpants all day if i let them....but for pictures, we try to clean it up a bit.
pants are a must.
shirts optional.
also, jake has to be bribed to have his picture taken at this point in time.
and for this particular picture i had worn out the bribery card.
shoot to the hand.
isn't he darling.



so, it worked!
i am so pleased!
little round pumpkin loaves!
yay!
now to move on to the dessert for the party this weekend....
oh gosh. i just got chills, did you?
cause those things are gonna be the yummiest thing ever!
(don't i sound a bit like junie b, right now?)

12.13.2010

What do you get when you cross a dog with a rose?

Or my son's five year old version, "What do you get when a dog crosses the street... (pause, because he knows he's getting the joke mixed up somewhere...) with a rose in it's mouth?"

A collie flower.

This is the joke I've heard a gazillion times because it is printed on the side of the juice boxes from Trader Joe's. For some reason, that makes it the funniest joke in the world I guess, to receive that kind of honorable placement.

I know, it's not a funny joke. But it IS a good way to introduce this really yummy dinner that uses cauliflower! (did you see that cheesiness coming??)  

I've never appreciated or known how to prepare that mysterious, white broccoli-ish product known as the cauliflower. Raw cauliflower on the salad buffet - my primary exposure - is so gross to me. But this recipe has totally won my heart! And my tummy. And the tummies of those in my family.

You have to try it one night, because not only is it quick and healthy, my kids totally liked it and they didn't even know they were eating cauliflower. The magic is in the roasting. While the veggies roast, they assume a very nutty, carmelized, wintery flavor that is like nothing else. MMMMM. Here it is.

{borrowed from Everyday Food magazine. I have no idea what issue, because I ripped it out and put the page in my recipe book long ago.}  

pasta with roasted cauliflower, parsley & breadcrumbs

1. I preheat my oven to 475* while I core and break up into small florets a whole head of cauliflower. Also, I'm getting my pasta water ready on the stove.

2. Toss my cauliflower florets with 1 medium sliced up onion and 5 cloves of garlic, also sliced up. Oh, and 2 T of oil, salt & pepper. Spread it out onto a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and roast on LOWER rack for about 20 minutes, or until browned and tender. I toss it all once somewhere in that time.





3. Meanwhile, I pulse 4 slices of white bread in a food processor with a little oil to make breadcrumbs, then bake them on the upper rack until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (OR I just buy them.)





4.  Then I boil 12 oz. of some kind of shortish pasta - I used gemelli (the twisty kind), the recipe calls for cavatappi (the corkscrew kind), but really, who cares which kind of pasta you use, right?

5. Here are the most important ingredients. Parsley and good quality parmesan. You need 1/4 C of each.




I always try to have the real deal - parmigiano reggiano (parmesan from the actual Parma region of Italy) on hand - and not be stopped by how expensive it is compared to the gross kind that is only $3. The real kind makes such a difference, a little goes a long way, and the wedge lasts forever. And I can justify the cost because think about how CHEAP all the rest of these ingredients are. Even with my $9.00 block of good cheese, the dinner was under $15 for our family of four. And then my husband and I had generous portions for lunch the next day too. Six meals for $15. Can't beat that. Buy the cheese.

Then I grate about 1/4 C of it with another of my favorite cooking friends. I could sing a song about this friend, if I sang. My MICROPLANE! I have it in two sizes. Really fine and not-so-fine; those are my technical names for them. The one in the bottom picture is the not-so-fine. My finer one is more for zesting citrus and ginger. This one is perfecto for making delicate shavings of hard cheeses or chocolate or carrot...stuff like that.  

So you're done, except for the beautiful mixing!  When I strain the pasta, I reserve about 1/4 C of the water in the pot. Then mix in the vegetables and the parsley.





Top each bowl with a sprinkle of the breadcrumbs and a generous heap of cheese.





My little dude wanted his own side dish of breadcrumbs and basically covered his pasta with crunchiness. That was his favorite part.

I had seconds. I love love love it. Hope you do too!

12.08.2010

Look what I found!



Did you know I have this weird space at the top of my stairs with a door the height of a large gnome (and with a door frame on which I always bump my head) that we call the Christmas Closet? It's locked with a key that hangs out of small people's reach because I hide presents in there. (If you were my kid, I know you'd want to sneak the key!)

But other things are in there too. Here are some of the things in my Christmas Closet:

Seasonal linens that are out of season
Themed party supplies (luau anyone?)
A ceiling fan that never got installed
Kids clothes to be sent to consignment
Tubs of stuff I want to save (large pieces of fabric, kids' baby keepsakes)
and PRESENTS

....for Christmas, kids' birthday parties, people who need a sudden present like teachers or neighbors but not my mail lady...

And guess what else I found in there while cleaning it out?

THESE.




Aren't they so cute? I remember buying these two years ago after Christmas on super-duper clearance at a Joann's Fabric store. I think they were less than $1 each. I had 10 of them tied up in a plastic bag that I'd forgotten about and now I need YUMMY IDEAS.

Please share all yummy ideas for treats to make and give as gifts. Any good recipes for nut brittles? Truffles? Candies (that aren't too hard) or something like that? 

This recipe for APPLE CIDER CARAMELS from Our Best Bites sounds amazing. I may have to try it.

Santa may even bring you a box too!

Wait, that dude gets way too much credit, especially with my kids.

So you won't get a tin dropped down your chimney from a jolly old man in a red suit. I will bring you one my big self.

But to the door.
Maybe I'll even put jingle bells on my weiner dog and harness him to a red wagon filled with the tins.
That would be awesome.

12.03.2010

Your DC Advent


Happy December, friend!

Today I'm bringing you an advent calendar I made especially for you ;)

A whole entire month's worth of DC, your favorite beverage in the world.





You know why? Because I think you should live it up for this month. Drink DC until you can't drink any more of it. Then give it up! 

How 'bout that January 1st New Year's Resolution: No more DC addiction?

So here you go. One dose daily, for 31 days of December.
(And notice, there are really 32 - one for emergency use. When you REALLY need a second one....like maybe on Christmas Eve when you need to power it in preparation for the next morning. That's why it's marked with an "E" for Emergency.)





If you really don't feel like giving it up, read this on how much your risk of pancreatic cancer goes up after 2 or more sodas per week. Yep. 85%.

Or this, a pretty scary article on the chemical components of aspartame and what they do to you. Brain tumors. Altered brain chemistry. Depression. Arthritis. Grossness.

Then I watched two equally scary videos dealing with artificial sweetners and diet soda on YouTube. How aspartame was unanimously prohibited by the FDA for several years, until, it is implied, politics trumped science and it was on the market in no time. The videos showed cases of more brain tumors. People with major "diseases" like Parkinsons, or so they thought, that disappeared after stopping the DC. It even causes deterioration of the cells in your eyes, leading to the breakdown of one's vision.

Ok. I'll stop with the grossness. But you know I'm only going there because I love you.

I also love biology. But I love you more. I want you to see your babies clearly, and use that camera to capture the beauty that we all need until you are so old, you can no longer hold one up to your eye.

And I don't want any of those other bad things to happen to you either, particularly if they can be prevented.

I know you're a big girl, and I know you get to do what you want. But it was just one of my ideas....my never-ending ideas....one of the reasons you love me, right?

If you turn me down, at least I had a reason to use my new Martha Stewart "pinked circle" punch. Rad, huh? You can borrow it. Always keeping it real here on cake & cotton.


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