May 31, 2011

Repurpose a Tablecloth Series: Outdoor Pillows


Unfortunately I can't take the credit for these myself-I have to give it to Ms. Martha Stewart.  I found this idea in her magazine years ago and have never really needed to try it but I always liked it.  Then I convinced my husband to pull this old swing out of the shed and hang it up.  Not only are my children thrilled with a swing big enough for the whole family but I also now had a reason to try making these fantastic table cloth pillows. SIDENOTE: one day the swing will be repainted and in prime condition.
So here is what you do:
1. Cut two pieces of tablecloth slightly bigger than the pillow you are using.  The tablecloth obviously doesn't stretch so make sure you have it big enough.  
2. Turn the tablecloth pieces right sides together and sew along 3 sides.  I used my serger but you can use a regular machine too.
3. Turn the "pillow case" right side out, poking out the corners and stuff your pillow inside.
4.  Now I am not going to lie-sewing the opening closed is the hardest part because the tablecloth slips and you can't pin it in place so what I found worked the best was to stuff the pillow down as far as I could then...
fold in the edges on the open side (about a 1/2"). 
5. Stitch the opening closed on your regular machine.  Mine was not straight-it was just pretty tricky (but I put that side to the bottom so who cares).

TADA!!!!! Decorative, functional, and waterproof (and kind of fragile in a way-you don't want them to get caught on something pokey or rip them because then they will be toast). NOTE: I was outside just today after having my pillows out for a few days and they get hit by the sprinklers and also got a bit of rain and one of them was soaked completely through-so I am thinking the waterproofness has it's limits-BE FOREWARNED.  I was bummed, but they are still cute-just if you are going to have them hit with lots of water maybe pick something else.

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May 30, 2011

Make Ahead Monday-Chicken Strips and Potato Wedges

What kid doesn't like chicken nuggets and french fries? (well actually I have met plenty that don't but I would think they are a minority).  I don't seem to have good luck buying frozen chicken nuggets (ever since I watched the first season of Food Revolution I have had a hard time eating most chicken nuggets) but I do have great success and luck with home made ones.  TANGENT-have I ever mentioned that our elementary school serves chicken nuggets for breakfast some times and finds absolutely nothing wrong with that seeing as how they serve pancakes on a stick for lunch sometimes?  I digress.  Why not make your own chicken nuggets and potato wedges to freeze and have on hand for easy lunches (I am all about the easy lunch people). 
Here is my favorite recipe for chicken nuggets or strips.
-chicken breast cut into desired pieces (try and keep the even in size so they cook evenly).  If you are using frozen chicken breasts or if you don't like cutting fully thawed and squishy chicken breasts, cut them when they are partially frozen-it is easier to cut and get the right sized piece and not nearly as squishy.
Marinade:
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp canola or olive oil
sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Coating:
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs (have you ever used these-oh you must try them)
-1/2 cup flax seed meal (I am not a health nut by any means but these add a bit of crunch and fiber all at the same time)
-1-2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (the powdered kind works fine)
-1 tsp salt
-1/4-1/2 tsp pepper (depending on the spiciness you want)
other seasonings if desired (garlic powder, Cheyenne pepper)
1 egg

 Cut chicken and place in a zip lock bag with all the marinade ingredients.  Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.  Beat the egg with some water in one shallow bowl.  Combine all the topping ingredients in another bowl.  Place chicken pieces in the egg wash, then in the coating mix and onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.  If you are going to freeze these then place the cookie sheet (after it has cooled) in the freezer to individually freeze them for about an hour or until firm.  Transfer to bags or containers to store in the freezer.  To reheat microwave or bake in a toaster over until heated throughout.  (I usually microwave for a few seconds first and then bake so they are crunchy).

Potato Wedges
5-6 potatoes (depending on how many wedges you want to make) washed and cut into wedge like pieces (mine never look real wedge like).
2-4 tbsp oil (depending on how many potatoes -use more if you use a lot of potatoes)
seasoning of choice (sometimes I just use salt and pepper, sometimes I use a barbecue seasoning, sometimes seasoned salt)
Place potatoes in a zip lock bag with the oil and seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Transfer wedges onto cookies sheets lined with parchment.  Make sure you don't over crowd the pan.  Bake at 410 degrees for about 20-25 minutes (watch though because if you have thinner pieces they may cook faster or fat ones need longer time).  To freeze these place cookie sheet in the freezer and individually freeze them until firm.  Transfer to baggies or containers to store in freezer.  To reheat microwave for a few seconds and then bake in a toaster oven until heated through out.
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May 26, 2011

I want to start by apologizing for the blurry pictures.  I did something with Picasa and I don't know how to change them. 
I saw this idea just the other day on Ucreate.  It was a feature of a spring banner made by Blue Cricket Design.  I fell in love instantly.  In fact I fell in love and thought, "why didn't I think of that.  I should have thought of that."  I hate it when that happens.  But it got my creative juices flowing once again-and they were not flowing at all this last little while so I am grateful.  I created a couple of my own.  Here is one for summer:

 And here is one for Father's Day.
 I am going to share a quick tutorial for my version of this fabulous idea.
Start with as many paper bags as you have letters in whatever you are going to spell.  For the Father's Day banner I trimmed about 2 inches off the bottom of the bags because I liked that size better than a full sized lunch sac.  I cut colored cardstock to go on each bag (4 x 5 1/2").  I also traced my letters on the wrong side of a piece of cardstock.  NOTE: if you are going to trace the letters on the wrong side, make sure you trace them backwards.  I never remember-I do it wrong everytime.
 I sewed my colored pieces of cardstock to the paper bags.  I angled each piece a bit different.
 Next I sewed my long piece of ribbon across the tops of the bags with a large zig zag stitch.  I left about 2 inches between each bag. 
Next add the letters.  I used glue dots to attach them.  I traced around each letter with black tick marks.  I think it makes the letters stand out more.
 Lastly embellish.  I used fish, moose, ducks and pine trees because my husband is really outdoorsy.  I added some ribbon scraps and buttons as well.  The sky is the limit really.

There you have it.  So cute.  Thank you Blue Cricket Design for some great inspiration.

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May 25, 2011

Red, White and Blue Dessert

I never can remember that May is a patriotic month too-I don't know why this year it came to my mind but it did and in enough time to share a quick and festive dessert perfect for Memorial Day or the 4th of July.

Berry Festive Shortcake.
 Have you ever had shortcake?  It is like a biscuit but sweet (well not overly sweet like a cookie or a cake).  You can do a search online and get about a million different shortcake recipes.  Here is one that I like.  When you get to the rolling out part try this: roll your dough no thinner than a 1/2 inch.  Then cut it with a star cookie cutter.  Shortcakes are one of those desserts that taste best fresh so if you know you aren't going to need a whole bunch, cut the extra out and freeze them on a cookie sheet.  They can be pulled out and baked later. 
 Place the ones you will use on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake according to directions.
To serve place your "red, white and blue" on a plate.  I used strawberries, whip cream and blueberries but you could substitute.  Add your shortbread on the side and serve. Simple, delicious and festive.
Happy baking.
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Egg tree makeover

 I made this tree for Ester last year and had great intentions on using it throughout the year but never got any decorations made.  This year after Easter (because I was way late getting Easter decorations put away) I decided to come up with something for summer.  I found some cute wooden cutouts I had of clouds and bugs and stars and decided to paint those up as well as make some watermelons and flags to hang on the tree.  I added bits of ribbon tied around some of the branches and added the stars with wire curls.  The end product is cute and bright and perfect for all things summer.



Next up is making fall decorations.
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May 24, 2011

Boy fabric

I don't know about anyone else but I have a hard time finding cute boy fabric at a decent price.  Seems like it is either a really dumb print or a print that is too large to use for small projects.  The other day when I was at the thrift store there were a bunch of cute plaid boy shirts.  I don't have a boy nor anyone to give them too but they were selling them for a quarter and I couldn't pass them up.  Then it occurred to me that I could use them for boy projects.  There was plenty of material in them that is usable for all kinds of sewing projects.
 Like these!!!  I'm keeping an eye out for other shirts that will work for binkie bags, bow ties, binkie clips and more.
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May 23, 2011

Make Ahead Monday-Super Easy Frozen Treats

And when I say super easy, I mean super easy. 
First up-homemade ice cream sandwiches.  These are not rocket science people-but in case you hadn't thought of it or thought they looked too hard here you go.  Get a package of cookie mix (or make your own but I am going for super easy here) and a carton of ice cream.  Bake the cookies according to the package mix-only you want to make sure they are not going to be super soft in the middle (they will not hold up well if they are).
 While the cookies are cooling scoop out some ice cream (this is about 3 decent sized scoops of ice cream and it was enough for the whole batch) into a stainless steel bowl.  This will help the ice cream to not melt immediately.  You want to let it soften until it can be stirred with a spoon.
 Then place a spoon of softened ice cream on one cookie, top with another and set aside.  If it is really warm you will want to make only a couple of these then get them in the freezer.  If it is cool in your kitchen quickly whip up a whole batch then return them to the freezer to harden. 
 After they are hard, I wrap each on in plastic wrap and then store in an airtight container.  Yummy cool treats coming right up!!!
 And now for a super no brainer-this is one of my favorite snacks from my childhood and continues to be today- easy slush!!!!  Buy your choice of juice (either in pouches or cartons) and place them in the freezer.
 When you are ready for a slush, take one out (let it sit for few minutes to begin thawing) then cut the top off the pouch or carton (cartons are a bit trickier), break up with a spoon and begin cooling down.  NOTE: don't tell your kids you are making these, just put the juice in the freezer-waiting for it to freeze in the first place is torture for a little kid).
Happy cooling off!!
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May 19, 2011

Doughnut Pops (for all the non Bakerella's out there)

I love Bakerella.  Her blog was the first one I ever started reading and I have envied her baking ability ever since.  I have tried a couple of times to make her cake pops but not with a ton of success.  But then I had a genius idea (which maybe someone else has had too) to use doughnut holes. The result: well you can't make them into cutesie shapes like Bakerella but they are super easy, and delicious; hey works for me.
Here is what I did:
1. Start by putting a lollipop stick into each doughnut hole.  (You could dip the top of the stick in some melted chocolate first for it to adhere better-I thought of that after but they still worked fine).  Lay them all out on a cookie sheet and freeze them.  If you are not going to need them right away, once they are frozen put them in a storage container to keep for later.  If you are using them right away, keep them in the freezer until right before you will dip them.
2. Melt your chocolate (or artificial chocolate coating).  I used almond bark-which by the way contains no almonds which I am highly allergic too.  I tinted mine with some paste food coloring.  This is a tricky matter, so if you want a color I would recommend that you just get the colored wafers that you can melt.  I happen to live no where near a place that sells those so I tried the tricky way. I also thinned it down with a tbsp of shortening.  Just be advised it is a good idea to read the directions on the package before proceeding.
3.  Dip your doughnut pops a few at a time, keeping the rest frozen.  Once they have hardened store in a sealed container in the fridge.
Beautiful!! (I love the swirls the candy coating made)
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May 18, 2011

Why Hello

Well I am officially back (not organized, not unpacked, not caught up) just back.  I am came home from Canada last week but was only here for 4 days before I left with my mom for Time Out for Women in Oklahoma.
We had planned the trip long before my dad was diagnosed with cancer and were both in a great need for a Time Out so even though things were crazy it was wonderful to go.  If you have a Time Out for Women in your area I super suggest you go.  It is so fantastic and wonderful and enriching.  I learned so many new things about myself and about being a wife and mother.  It is a 2 day event sponsored by Deseret Book with speakers and music all for women.  FABULOUS!!! I hope we can do it every year (wink wink mom and hubby).  Did I mention my husband stayed home with the girls so I could go?  I haven't heard so much quiet in 3 years.  Anyway now we are all back to reality-me especially as I see all there is to do after such a long absence from home.  My husband did not at all slip back into his bachelor ways while I was gone and got a lot of his "LIST" of things to do, done, which was fantastic.  But I have been out of my pretty structured routine (which keeps me sane) for about a month, not to mention I haven't blogged a thing for that time either so I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I was usually ahead by 2 weeks on posts and now I have nothing so please bear with me as I pick up some momentum again.  And on top of getting caught up on blogging I have this in the works (my garden which I managed to plant in a hurry one afternoon on my 4 days at home)
 My new flower bed in our backyard that needs planting
 These hideous weeds (which are in too many places) that need chopping
 I have this stack of wood that I need to turn into signs for my garden (only I am holding off because when I planted said garden, I was in such a rush that I pretty much immediately forgot what  I planted where-so I have to wait to see if anything comes up and then I can figure out what signs I need to make).
And there is the little issue of this (my craft room) which has fallen into major disarray. 
 I have gotta do some major straightening up before I can make a single thing. 
My little pumpkin is sick, I am trying to focus more on enjoying little moments with my girls, trying not to stay up too late so that I can enjoy moments with my girls, I am applying for a small part time job for the summer since my husband more than likely will not have a steady summer job this year, exercising etc, etc, etc.  I am a bit overwhelmed to say the least. 
And just a brief update for anyone that might be wondering, my dad is home from the hospital for a couple of weeks.  After 3 weeks of being there they let him come home the day before my mom and I left for Oklahoma.  I think he has eaten nearly everything he could get his hands on.  He will go back in a little over a week for another round of chemo at which time they will see if he has to stay or can come home after.  He has to do these really intense rounds each time (he gets 2 rounds of chemo and then 10 days later has a really intense round for the cancer that is creeping it's way towards his brain) and for those he has to be hospitalized.  We are just glad he is home.  It felt so depressing wondering if he would ever get out of the hospital in the first place.  Having him at home is like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise hard and cloudy place.  Thanks again for everyones thoughts and prayers.
And one last thing-I seem to have lost comments somehow.  Like I had posts that had comments and now they are gone without me having done anything-has that ever happened to anyone else?  Strange. 
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