Tuesday, February 26, 2013

fancy cakes

Well, hi.  Been a while.  I could give you a lot of excuses about how I'm under the weather, how I'm continually exhausted, how this always leads me to apathy and a lack of desire to do anything, but I'll spare you this time.  Suffice it to say that after some rest, I've decided to force myself back into the saddle with the hopes that coercion will lead to feelings of motivation.  (Crossing fingers?)  

I've got pancakes!!  That's what I say at lunch time if I want the kids to get super excited.  I'm not sure what it is about pancakes, but it gets them every time.  I want to make sure the kids actually eat lunch or dinner?  We have pancakes.  And oddly enough, we pretty much NEVER eat them for breakfast... 
I'm glad they eat them like crazy (and I mean it - little mini can put away 5 or 6) because I happen to LOVE pancakes.  mr just tolerates our obsession as he'd rather have french toast (ew).

So, I've got two fun ways to dress up your pancakes, if you're into that sort of thing. 

AND, even though I'm showing you my fancy cakes, I'm going to give you my foolproof recipe for basic pancakes too - you know the pancakes that never fail.  Woo hoo!  Three recipes for the price of one!

First up, the Hawaiian inspired Aloha Cakes.  They probably aren't very Hawaiian at all... oh well.

Aloha Cakes
2 C Bisquick
1 C coconut milk
2 T coconut oil
1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Mandarin oranges/juice
macadamia nuts
Optional: maple syrup

Mix the first seven ingredients really well.  Heat a pan or skillet over medium heat.  Pour a few spoonfuls out, wait until it starts to bubble, then flip with a spatula.  Cook until golden.   Serve with mandarin oranges and some macadamia nuts sprinkled on top, pour a little juice/syrup from the oranges on.  If you'd like, you can also serve it with a little butter and maple syrup.   

They were a hit!

But not as big a hit as these awesome Almond Joy cakes.  Please note that the nuts in the photograph are cashews, not Almonds.  We ran out of Almonds the day I decided to take pictures of these cakes, of course - why wouldn't we? - and I had to improvise.  Just note, it SHOULD be almonds.

Almond Joy Cakes

2 C Bisquick
1 C coconut milk
1 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla 
2 eggs
chocolate chips
shredded coconut
EITHER: Chocolate syrup OR maple syrup

Mix the first seven ingredients plus about 1/2 C of chocolate chips together well.  You can add more chocolate chips to taste.  Heat a pan or skillet over medium heat.  Pour a few spoonfuls of batter on.  Wait until it bubbles and flip it, then cook until golden.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle some chocolate chips, coconut and almonds on the top.  Serve with homemade chocolate syrup or maple syrup.

They were gone almost before I knew it.  (of you're doing chocolate syrup, click that link up there.  You won't be sorry.)

In case you don't care for fancy cakes, and want something more of the plain variety, here's my basic recipe - which is bisquick's recipe, but fancied up a smidge.

Basic Cakes
2 C Bisquick mix
1 C milk
1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Mix it all up.  Cook them on the skillet or pan like normal.  Serve with butter and maple syrup.  Yum!

Hope you like them as much as we do!

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our recycled Valentines


Sorry things have been so quiet around here lately... I mean, I know I resolved at the beginning of the year to cut myself slack when it came to posting - I'm dedicated to striving for quality posts and not just dribble.  But when I said that I still expected to be posting more than I have been.

There's more than our fair share of not feeling the greatest around here; by all of us, myself and the mr. included.  Plus my computer is really wonky lately.  Oh!  And I suddenly became hopelessly addicted to

and mr agreed to watch

from episode 1 (so even though I've already watched them all, I'm all over that.)

Anyway.  Just thought I'd give a quick rundown of bug's Valentines.  He's super excited to hand them out.

I stalked pinterest for a while, looking for ideas.  I gave bug a few different options (all of which you can see on my Valentines Love pinterest board) and ultimately he went with toads.

I was trying to creatively keep Valentine card costs down so we decided to recycle.
bug practiced writing names.  I used fun duct tape to cover the ugly boxes.

bug picked out some green scrapbook paper from my stash and helped me trace circles which I then turned into lilly pads.  They're attached to the cardboard with double sided tape.  I used our super duper low temp "cool glue" gun (it's made for kids) and attached the frogs - I tested it first to make sure that the toads would come off and the glue wouldn't stick to their feet.  The low temp ensures that the glue doesn't adhere very well, so it worked like a charm.

And bug has his "toad"-ally cool Valentines.  Just the way he wanted.

Check out the original one I found here.

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tales from the Crib - Give them a Break.

("Tales From the Crib" is my semi-regular Friday ritual.  What's "Tales From the Crib"?  For that, look here.  Then look here.  "Things My Two Year Old Taught Me" morphed into "Tales From the Crib" early last year in order to include more children and more ages.  Considering the growth of my two bugs, I thought the change was appropriate.)  
Give Them a Break.

I was driving the kids home from school in near-blizzard conditions when from the corner of my eye I saw a car barreling from the left.  He had a stop sign and I had none, but I put on the brakes, fishtailing around in the slushy snow because it appeared he wouldn't try to stop.  Thankfully I slid to a halt before the other car rushed past, driving much too fast for conditions and - as I had anticipated - ignoring the rules of the road completely.  In that moment I had a few choice words I ached to let loose, but bit my tongue as my son asked, "Mom, why did you stop so fast?" And without hesitation I informed him that the other driver was insanely stupid, that's why.  He was in shock, because I had, apparently, said a naughty word - "No one should call anyone stupid!" He stated.  And of course he's right, but aren't there exceptions to the rule?  A stupid driver in a blizzard perhaps?
I thought about it.  And thought some more.  And remembered a speech I was priveleged to listen to at a women's conference a few years ago.  I don't even remember his name, but the man speaking gave us a tip.  He said he was trying to avoid harsh judgements and losing his cool, and that because it was often hardest to do this when driving, he had adopted the habit of giving everyone else on the road the benefit of the doubt.  "They're probably on their way to the hospital," he thinks time and again as other cars cut him off, speed past or don't merge properly.  "Yes, that's it.  They're on their way to the hospital."  And if he thinks about the "what if" he's less likely to run off at the mouth with uncharitable things he'll regret later.

This memory popped into my mind's eye with applicable situation after applicable situation blending in a mosaic of "what ifs".

Are you that person?  The one who holds the door for the struggling mother, carrying a baby with a toddler and two older kids in tow, only to then say with a hint of superiority and not a bit of amusement - "Wow.  You have your hands full."  Do you witness kids in pajamas and princess dress-ups and swear "never me."  The one who raises her eyebrows at the temper tantrum mounting from the two year old in the produce section and shakes her head at the way a parent does - or does not - handle it?  Do you avoid the check-out lane with the harried looking cashier who doesn't seem to have a nice thing to say to anyone?  Are you smirking in self-righteousness while watching the girl trudge through the snow to the store, sweatpants tucked into scruffy boots, scraggly hair disheveled and unkempt, with no hint of makeup, let alone shower?  And when you see someone haul 6 kids through the store while grocery shopping - each begging for a different snack or antagonizing a sibling - do you roll your eyes?  

Because I think I have been that person.  Not on purpose.  Never intentionally.  But I believe I've made snarky comments about the crazies who roam Walmart in their pajamas.  About how I wouldn't go out in public looking like so-and-so.  I think I may have rolled my eyes a time or two when accidentally happening upon a private disciplinary discussion between mom and toddler.  I think I have.

Have you?  Ever?  Just once?

I think you should be careful.  I think I should be careful.  Because, inevitably, those kinds of thoughts and actions will turn us into hypocrites.  You never know when "those people" you avoid or disdain or raise your eyebrows at will actually be YOU.

This morning, I felt awful.  Was I throwing up or sick with the flu or otherwise nearly incapable of getting out of bed?  No.  I just felt awful.  Physically, I was queasy. Mentally I was exhausted.  And after the battle of "brush your teeth and get dressed" was waged (and won!) with my son, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't broach another battle - with my daughter OR myself.  And so I did it.  I tucked my sweatpants into my boots.  I put my hat on over hair that wasn't brushed or styled.  I put gum in my mouth instead of brushing my teeth.  And I strapped my daughter into the car seat with boots on over footy pajamas and a lovely white princess dress under her coat along with the other two little hooligans and THAT is how we went to school.  With the other perfectly coiffed and manicured mothers.

And I refused to feel guilty.  I refused to allow myself to feel judged.  Some days are perfectly coiffed.  Some days are smudged mascara.  For everyone.  No one is exempt.

None of the other mother's knew what kind of morning we'd had - nor what kind of week or semester.  Just as we have no idea what kind of day that girl in the sweatpants and boots at Walmart had either.  

The mom with her hands full?  She likely doesn't need anyone to point that out to her - let alone with such smug indifference.  Maybe the mom toting the kids in dress up clothes is simply picking her battles.  Maybe the parents with tantrum-y two year olds are doing their best.  Maybe they've tried it all.  It could be that their pediatrician or child psychologist suggested a new approach. Perhaps the cashier in the check out lane just lost her best friend to lung cancer.  Maybe her dog died or maybe she just doesn't know where rent is going to come from this month.  That girl all disheveled and unshowered?  Maybe she's been up all night with a sick kid and now she's picking up medicine.  Heck, maybe SHE'S the sick one.  Or maybe all of her jeans are just dirty.  The person hauling around 6 rowdy kids could have a babysitter who fell through or unexpectedly run out of milk or maybe, just maybe, she LIKES having all 6 rowdy kids at the store with her.

The point is, we don't know.  So give them a break!

I guarantee this will not be the last time I take my kid out in pajamas.  And it will likely not be the last time I leave the house in comfy pants.  You won't ever see me shake my head at that mom pushing around the boy in batman footies, ever again.

Perhaps we should be just a little softer with others, and just a little kinder to ourselves.

(If you eat ice cream for dinner, I won't judge.)

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A touch of Cupid.

It's been a long time since my last wreath.  And to think, mr used to call me the wreath lady!  I guess I got the obsession out early in my blogging-hood.  In any case, I used my Vintage Romance Wreath inside this year, which meant I needed a different Valentine wreath for outside.  I was determined to use only what I had on hand, which determined many of the materials and the amount of materials I used (for instance, my original idea involved felt, but I didn't have enough red, so I switched to card stock.) 

I wanted to incorporate arrows, and eventually all of this led to: 

To make your own, you'll need:

(I decorated the sticks randomly by using double sided tape to hold down the ends of the yarn or twine and wrapping it around different sections.  But if I did it again I'd probably use hot glue.)

1. Cut a heart shape out of car stock.
2. Decorate the heart with washi tape - both sides.  Poke a little hole in the middle of the top of the heart and string it with twine.
3. Take the inside hoop of the small embroidery hoop and secure the heart to the hoop with the twine.
4. I just looped the twine around and tucked the heart through.

5. Cut two templates - a triangle shape and a triangle with some long pieces cut out as pictured.
6. Cover a rectangle of card stock in washi tape.  
7. Cut out four triangles and four funny looking triangles.
8. I cut two each out of stripes and two each out of solid red.

9. Cut slits in the end of the dowels.  On one end, they don't have to be very long, but on the other end the slit should be at least an inch long.
10. I found it was easier to do with this small saw attachment for my craft knife.
11. Put a dab of hot glue in the middle of the bottom of the triangles and slide them into the short slit.
12. Put a dab of hot glue on the point of the strange looking triangle and slide them in the long slits.

So you've made some fun looking arrows!

13. Now, take your arrows and glue them to the small embroidery hoop with the heart in it.
14. Just hot glue the bottom of the triangles right to the hoop.
15. Now you can begin gluing the skewers point side in to the hoop between the arrows.
16. Continue gluing the skewers around the hoop in between the arrows.

17. Take the inside of the large embroidery hoop and tie a length of twine around it.
18. Flip the wreath over to the back and spread glue in a line on the skewers where the large hoop will touch them.
19. Lay the hoop down and press it into the glue.
20. Only put the glue on the skewers, then you can go around and secure the hoop to anything that isn't stuck well, including the dowels.

21. Flip the wreath back over the the right side.
22. Glue the outside of the embroidery hoops over the existing embroidery hoops, sandwiching the skewers between.

And hang her up!

Looks like cupid's been at our house.

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Valentine's Gift from Little Hands

It's time for another installment of:

If you missed it, you can read the low down on this "series" here.  
As with many of these gifts, it's not really a new idea - at all.  But we did try and put our own little spin on it AND turned it into a Valentine's gift.
It's cheap, takes minimal materials, and can be done by a 3-4 year old with ease.  Perfect.
It involves a large bag of fun shaped plastic beads - that my kids happened to get for Christmas.

To start with, you'll need:
heart shaped plastic beads 
Pipe cleaners

That's it!  Truly!  It would also be helpful to have little containers to order your beads and a scissors.  As for pipe cleaners, you can use the normal skinny ones or the fluffier ones, both will work, though the fluffier ones are harder to photograph well, so I learned.

 1.  Divide out your heart beads by color into separate containers.  We stuck to your typical Valentine's colors.
2.  Bend one end of your pipe cleaner into a loop and twist the end around a few times to secure it.
3.  String your beads on.
4.  This part is really good for helping kids understand how to make patterns!

 5.  Don't make your bracelet too long!  Keep in mind the wrist you're making it for!  For an adult sized bracelet, you'll fill up almost the entire pipe cleaner, leaving 2 or 3 inches of a "tail".  For a children's bracelet, it really depends on age, but we left about 4 or 5 inches free for my 5 year old.
6.  Once you've left your tail free, bend that end of the pipe cleaner around and make a knot, pulling the knot tightly and pressing it as close to the beads as possible.
7.  Tuck the end of the pipe cleaner through the loop you made in the opposite end and pinch it tight.
8.  Cut the excess  off.

All you have to do to get the bracelet off and on is pinch the ends so they come apart, then clasp them together around someone's wrist!  Super easy.  You can take them on and off without fear of breaking them of contorting your hand and you don't have to make them extra large so they fall right off.  No extra pieces needed for a nice, tight clasp!

And bug could even twist the loops himself and manipulate the pipe cleaners exactly how we wanted them.  He was so proud of himself!

Here's our Valentine version, made entirely by bug with no help!

Of course, you could also do different bead shapes.  Put them together in a monochromatic scheme!  This one is still good for Valentines Day with pink hearts and stars:

 OR, you could put two green hearts with their bottom point together (string one upside down, then the other right side up) with a white star between for a Lucky Clover St. Patty's Day bracelet!

The stars can be strung in red, green and white on a fancy sparkly green pipe cleaner for Christmas...

 and the hearts can be put together in orange and black for Halloween.  Bug says the black hearts look like bats.  What do you think?

This one is, of course, bug's favorite.  He decided on this pattern all by himself.

But I'm partial to this one, which we made using all the pastel colored hearts.  They look like little conversation hearts to me, without the writing, of course.

And though I like to give my kids direction when doing crafts and making gifts like this, I know there's something to be said for giving them free reign:

Make some for Grandmas, aunts, and moms for Valentines Day!

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!
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