Friday, June 29, 2012

Little Sparkler Wands (AKA sparklers for wimps)

Don't forget to enter the super awesome hand-drawn portrait giveaway!  Go here!

Are your kids as afraid of sparklers as my kids are?  Mini actually touched the hot end of one last year, so she probably has good reason.

But sparklers are fun!  They're great for twirling!  They're great for leading a parade!  They're great for writing your name in the air!  They're great for dancing!

So the best way to overcome the fear?  Make our own, of course!  Some completely safe, non-fire-y, non-panic-inducing, sparkly, fluttery, wavy, fun sparklers!  And since it's been a little over FOREVER AND A HALF since I posted a kid craft, well, we decided to do it together.

Ok, not QUITE the same.  They don't light up... BUT.  The kids had a ball regardless, and isn't that the important part?

You'll need:

Using the washi tape of your choice, cut yourself a nice long piece.  Like 18 inches or so.  Place one end at a diagonal on the end of the wooden dowel.

 Wind the washi tape around the dowel on the diagonal.  You'll have some uncovered dowel at the end.

Decorate to your hearts desire with... you guessed it... more washi tape!  (this is my son's design).

Pick out your ribbon. 

Cut your ribbon into 6-12 inch pieces, different and random sizes.  Cut some of your gold cord too.

Using yet another color of washi tape, begin taping your "sparkles" to the end of your wand.  Do three or less at a time.  Hold them on the end with one hand and wrap some tape with your other.  Leaving the tale of the tape long, 

add more ribbon and continue wrapping the tape. 

 Continue to layer the ribbon and cord on in a random pattern.  Wind the tape a little, place a ribbon.  Wind the tape a little, place a ribbon.  Don't just put them all on at once or you'll just have a big clump of ribbon.  This way it more fluttery.  And it looks nicer too.

Once all your ribbon is taped on, take YET ANOTHER pattern of washi tape and secure this over the previous tape at the bottom.  Just to make it extra... tape-y.

Take your lighter (and if you're my son you don't even need to be told to stand back) and singe the ends of your ribbon so they won't fray like the devil as your kids play with them.  Especially satin ribbon. 

 NOW.  NOW comes the HARD PART.  

Relinquish artistic control to your children.  Even if it means lumpy tape.  EEEEE! 

And there you have it!  Simple ingredients.  Simple steps. 

Simple fun! 

Happy (unscathed) fourth of JULY!! 

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What? You don't want your house splatter painted??

Looking for something fun to fill the summer days?  Starting to hear the horrible words, "I'm BORED!" yet?  If so, I've got an idea!

Not a completely novel idea, mind you, but an idea, nonetheless.  These pictures, this entire post, actually, is really from last summer.  (Look at how tiny they all are!!!)

I didn't get it posted quickly enough, though and summer faded into chilliness and it just didn't seem right to post this along with pumpkins for fall.   

I originally saw (and pinned) this from 30 Handmade Days.  You may have seen it there too, when Infarrantly Creative guest posted.  If not, I guarantee you've seen it around pinterest.

The only problem with that "original recipe"?  I didn't have washable tempera paint.  And I didn't have time to load up the kids and go find some.
So how did we get our sidewalks looking like this?

With a little substitution.
And that's it!  Just dissolve the cornstarch in the hot water really well, mix in the food coloring, pour it into a spray bottle and shake it up!

Grab a colorful basket from the dollar store,

And that's a wrap!  All your little spray chalk paint contained in one spot.  We kept ours out on our porch all summer long for endless fun whenever the kids wanted it.  Just be sure to shake them up each time you use them because the cornstarch can settle to the bottom.

I bet I know what you're thinking.  It's the same thing my sister was thinking when I brought this over to try at her house.  "FOOD COLORING???  What was SHE thinking?!?" But, BUT... no worries.  It literally washed right off the sidewalk with the next rain - which around here is pretty much ever other day.  We even accidentally got some on her house - which she was kind of hyperventilating about, and that came off too!

 Of course, you may want to wear play clothes you don't care much about.  You know.  Just in case.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Salad. And more salad.

I'm quickly running out of backlogged meals, which means I'll probably have to start cooking things that are blog worthy again instead of old standby's - yes, that's right.  I've been cheating Yummy Mondays lately.  See?  The blog's not the only thing to get the shaft...  I suppose it's a good thing.  My family will be excited not to have Idaho Spaghetti for the 5th week in a row.

So anyway... after looking through the following photos, I realized this was a night of salads. Unintentionally.  But still.  Salads worth making, though.  Just thought I'd point that out.

Starting off:  A fruity salad of my own creation - Banana-Berry Salad.  It's rather similar to this fruit salad of last summer.  But more healthful.

Banana-Berry Salad
1 package blackberries
1 package raspberries
1 package strawberries
3 bananas
1/2 C Greek Yogurt, Vanilla flavor
2 T C french vanilla dairy creamer (for coffee)
2 T milk

Wash everything thoroughly.  Cut up the strawberries and bananas.  Toss the berries and bananas gently in a bowl.  In another bowl, stir together the yogurt, creamer and milk.  Pour this over the berries and bananas and mix gently.  Chill.  Serve cold.

You might have noticed that I've been using some french vanilla dairy creamer in quite a few things lately.  The truth is, I bought it a while ago for flavored whipped cream, and since we don't drink coffee it's just been sitting in my fridge.  Not wanting it to go to waste, I've had to get creative in adding it to things.  Although, they all have the same general features... creamy saucy type things.  Anyway, it was pretty yummy, and the yogurt allowed me to not feel guilty about calling it a salad.  bug liked it very much, except for the "gross parts" which I assume meant the rasp- and black- berries since they have lots of seeds.

I found the Oriental Chicken Salad on Pinterest (of course).  Now, I know what you're thinking.  "Oh, that same old, same old raman/cabbage/almonds/crunchy salad-y thing but with chicken, eh?" (except maybe you aren't using a Wisconsin accent.  I don't know.)  But it's not!  Oh, no!  This is something new and different for us!  (name that movie...)  You can find the original on Cook Lisa Cook.

Oriental Chicken Salad

For the salad:
2 packages (3 ounces each) ramen noodle mix, Oriental flavor, flavor packet set aside for dressing
½ cup sliced almonds
1 package (16 ounces) tri-color coleslaw mix
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
6 green onions, whites & green, chopped
3-4 each, mini red, orange & yellow sweet peppers, cut in long strips
vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)

Heat oven to 350 F.  Break up the ramen noodles and place them and the almonds on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 6 minutes, or until the noodles and almonds turn light brown.
Place slaw mix, chicken, cilantro, green onions & sliced peppers in a large serving bowl.  Toss to combine.
Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  Scatter the toasted almonds and noodles on top and serve.

Vinaigrette dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 reserved flavor packet from the ramen noodles
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, pepper and one of the reserved flavor packets from the noodles in a blender.  Once combined, with the blender running, gradually blend in the oil.

We especially liked this take on a vinaigrette dressing.  It was very light and fresh tasting - not heavy.  Not overbearing.  The whole salad had a refreshing quality to it - very fresh, nice and crunchy.  All the tastes worked together and nothing overpowered anything else.  A nice balance.  Listen to me, holy cow.  I sound like a food critic.  Honestly, though, that really is what we all thought.  Well, except bug, who was just trying to figure out how to look like he'd eaten his dinner while still avoiding the peppers, the meat and anything green.  And mr who just thought, "Mmmm.  Gooood."  (Kidding.  He's much more articulate than that...)

And for dessert?  Another pinteresting find!  This one is Mint Brownie Cupcakes.  The original can be found at Simple Girl At Home, which was actually a spin off of Martha Stewart brownies, here.  Martha Stewart makes the brownies, Simple Girl makes them into cupcakes.  

I won't include the recipe, because the Martha link takes you right to it, and I added nothing.  But I will tell you my experience with these which includes a fair amount of disappointment.

The picture on Pinterest looks amazing.  Obviously.  Why would you pin it otherwise?  But my brownies did not turn out so fluffy and gooey.  In fact, most of the york peppermint patty centers cooked right out.  Much of the minty cream stuff hardened and glued itself to the cupcake papers.  Honestly, this could very well be all my fault.  Maybe I cooked them too long.  Maybe I beat them too hard.  I don't know.  All I know it, it was another Martha fail as far as presentation.  (remember how I don't like her?)

But, BUT, they tasted pretty darn good.  I suppose I can't write them off completely, because they were eaten - every last one.  I just don't think I'll be making them again, personally.  Too tired of scraping off cupcake paper to get to the chocolate.  Too opposed to accidentally eating more cupcake paper that didn't come off and went unnoticed.

I give the salads two thumbs up.  The cupcakes get one.  But, you can go ahead and see for yourselves.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Are you getting married soon?

Or know someone who is??  Well, you're in luck!  And not just because of the whole getting married thing, either.


Because.  I have this one friend.  His name's Jess.  He's an artist of all sorts, with his own graphic novel coming out soon.  And he just started doing custom wedding announcements, thank you cards and the like!  He offers amazing, unique, hand drawn, one-of-a-kind type of creations.  Let me show you.

Adorable, right?  I was just telling him how upset I was that he didn't start this 6 years ago... And I think this one's my favorite:

Ack!  So cute!

Here's some information, straight from the horse's mouth:

"I create custom hand-drawn and hand-lettered announcements, portraits, cards, and novelties (stickers, rubber stamps, tattoos, etc). I draw and letter on top of photos, as well as create all-original content, including: vintage silhouettes, decorative borders, and playful themes. While most designers and illustrators are only able to offer digital files (and let the customer figure out and pay for printing on their own), I'm able to print all my own announcements, portraits, and cards. I also have a 5-day turn-around time for all digital portraits. All announcements start at just $99 and I have a very simple Quote Request form on my site for brides, grooms, and families."

And because I just love this sentence from his blog:

"Weddings are something to celebrate and I love being able to take part by creating announcements, portraits, “thank you” cards, and novelties!"

SO, in honor of this totally awesome new endeavor, he has decided to GIVE AWAY one free single hand drawn portrait!  Right here, on my blog, for one of you!  Jess sells hand drawn portraits for all occasions - couples portraits for Christmas cards, portraits of your kid to hang on the wall or give to Grandma, portraits of the family dog, you name it!  He takes a digital photo and turns it into a super cute hand drawn rendition.  Want to see the double portrait we got of our kiddos?

Here's the photo:

Here's the portrait:

Seriously??  I love it.  Look at the detail - especially in their clothes... and he totally captured the essence of my kids with their facial expressions.  

SO.  Want to win a hand drawn portrait?  Here's how:

1.  Visit his website and take a look around.  Come back and tell me what portrait (or doodle.  Or design.) is your favorite.

That's it!  That's all you have to do!  The giveaway will run for a week, and I'll pick a winner next Sunday!

BUT, that's not all!  Because Jess is amazing, he wanted to offer my readers something special!  (There can only be ONE winner, but ALL of you can benefit from THIS!)

From now until June 30th, Jess is offering all of my readers 50% off their single OR double portrait orders!  That makes single portraits $100 and double portraits $150.  A steal of a deal!  Be sure to let him know you saw him on bugaboo, mini, mr & me when you place your order so he can give you the discount.

Also, be sure to check Jess out on FB, his blog, or his website.

And keep him in mind for your wedding needs!

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nope. Not pregnant.

Man.  Don't you hate it when bloggers take this break and leave you a note that's all cryptic and indecipherable and then you just assume they're probably pregnant like the rest of the crafty blogging world?  Oh, wait.  I did that.
Well, I think I'm ready to spill the beans.  I say think, because I'm actually writing this before the fact and scheduling it for the day I assume I'll be ready to spill the beans on.  Let's just hope that doesn't change because I hit schedule already and there's no going back.  (ok, liar.  Of course I could unschedule it.  But I plan on being far away from a computer and anything crafty on this day.  What's that?  Get on with it??  Oh.)

So the thing is, I'm not pregnant.  Just wanted to dispel the rumors I'm sure are circulating - at least in your head.

But I am...

having a book published.


That's me simultaneously being excited and freaking out.  Because, you know, it's kind of a big deal.  Ish.  I've never had a book published before, and you might have, so maybe you're all, "whatev."  But there's a ton of work to this book thing.

Don't get me wrong.  It's a lot of fun.  But, man, a TON of work!
I'm not at liberty to disclose ALL the details yet.  (I know, I know, what a TEASE!) BUT, I can tell you that it is craft related, I've been working like a dog on projects, and the whole thing will be out for sale in January!  Nope, it's not an e-book.  It's an honest to goodness book book.  Physical, something you can hold, buy in stores, etc.  Nope, I'm not making this up.  I was asked if I was interested and contained my inner Id long enough to write a very distinguished and pulled together email in acceptance, when in fact, I felt like saying:
"Am I interested?? Let me think, um, YES! PSSSHA!"
Or something.

It's so official, I needed a head shot.  I called my amazing sister.  She didn't disappoint.

So.  I am a mess.  I am tired.  My house is a mess.  I have forgotten what day it is.  And when I last washed my hair.

My kids are a mess. My blog is neglected.   And it's totally been worth it.  Seriously.  Even though I look like this:
On a good day.  

I've got three main steps down, and there's quite a bit to go still, so I'll let you know more about it in the ensuing months.  For now, though, I have a tiny break since I've finished up the last of my projects.  So I can finally take a shower!

And now you know.  It's a baby... BOOK!

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anyone have a paper bag??

Because I may hyperventilate.

Have you been following along with Delia Creates and Kojo Designs?  Right now they are co-hosting "Color Your Summer" for the second time!  It's a super fun series all about creating with color - recipes, crafts, kids, sewing, parties, tons of ideas in every color of the rainbow!

What fun!

What does this have to do with hyperventilating?  Well, you know how I love Delia Creates. It's not like I copy everything she does.  Or ask her to guest post over and over.  

But THIS TIME.  THIS TIME... I get to guest on HER blog!!!  Yep, I'm a guest for Color Your Summer!  It's kind of like going on Conan - except the host is way prettier and I don't have to leave my home office.  
My tutorial is coming in the final week of the series, but I wanted to give you a heads up and urge you to hop on over there and check out all the fun!

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hey, good lookin'... how bout some home cookin'?

I've got another quick Yummy Monday post for you!  I know: you're thinking "what is going on?  Is this all she ever does anymore??  Just FOOD POSTS???" and to that I will respond: "Um, hello?  Check out my hair stuff tackle box from Saturday!  Oh, and also, THIS, where I very politely forewarn all of you that I'm MIA for a while."
And three posts in like two weeks is MIA for me.

Now that we've got that out of the way... I'm sharing some good old

tonight.  Smoky Meatloaf, Best Ever Mashed Potatoes, and a little dessert I like to call:

I don't think you'll regret sticking around till the end.

So, first up, not to insult your intelligence or anything, but do you know that secret to super fast, super easy, super yummy corn on the cob?  It's water.  I kid not.  Of course, soaking them, wrapping them in tin foil and popping them on the grill is the MOST delicious, BUT I said fast and easy in addition to yummy, sooo... you soak.  You make sure they're wet when you wrap them in wax paper.  You put them on a plate in the microwave.  You cook for about 5 minutes a cob (depending on the microwave).  You let sit for a bit so you don't cook your hands when you take the plate out.  Done!  You knew that water thing already, though, didn't you?

SOOOO... Best Ever Mashed Potatoes.  I'm not meaning to brag, here, but these are the best potatoes I've ever made - and mr went so far as to call them (and I quote) "the best mashed potatoes EVER" which is how they got their name.  You probably already make them this way, but just in case you don't:

Best Ever Mashed Potatoes
Approximately 1 lb potatoes - yukon gold are the best, but purple will work too 
4 T butter
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C milk
1 package dry original ranch dressing mix
2 tsp garlic salt

Firstly, the above is a guideline.  You can adjust any and all to taste.  Also, you can just eyeball the poundage of potatoes.  Get a big pot.  Fill it a little more than 3/4 full of water.  Put it on the stove.  Wash your potatoes.  Cut them into fourths, throwing them into the pot as you go - skins ON.  When the pot is full, stop.  It's about a pound, right?  Turn on the heat to high.  Once the water starts boiling, set your timer to 15 minutes.  When your timer goes off, check a potato with a fork - the fork should turn easily.  Drain the potatoes.  Put them in your stand mixer or a large bowl.  Add the butter and mix until its melted in.  Add the sour cream and milk and mix well.  Add the seasonings and mix.  Done!  Yum!

Ok, not really novel, but they were good.

Ready for the meatloaf?  I'll just put this out there: this is what happens when you plan on making mr's mom's meatloaf for him and in the middle of preparation realize you have misplaced your BBQ seasoning which is ridiculous since it's in a huge jar and HOW DO YOU MISPLACE THAT???  Just sayin'.

Smoky Meatloaf
1 lb ground beef
3 C Cheddar Jack Cheese Its, crushed super fine (yes, they must be cheddar jack)
2 eggs
1 small can of Original V8 (the little cans that come in a pack of like 8? Yeah, those)
3 T chili powder (not to be confused with chili pepper.  Yes, I have done that)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Crush the crackers in a bag with a mallet - or run them in your food processor (though the mallet is more fun and gets out aggression.)  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Form the mixture into a loaf and put it in a loaf pan.  Cook for about 1 hour or until no pink is left.  Serve with ketchup or BBQ sauce or just leave plain.

It was pretty good, considering I was flying by the seat of my pants.  About two years ago I never could have pulled that off, so this whole cooking new stuff every week thing is definitely paying off.

And now, I bring to you, the piece de resistance.  

Oh, dessert.  Why must you be so delicious??

Chocolate Eclair Bars (no-bake!)
2 small boxes Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix 
3 C milk
8 oz cool whip
1 (16 oz) box graham crackers (you will have some leftovers)
1 (15 oz) container chocolate frosting
Mix together the vanilla pudding mix and milk.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with one layer of graham crackers.  Put half of the pudding mixture over the graham crackers.  Place a second layer of graham crackers over the pudding mixture.  Put the remaining pudding mixture over the graham crackers.  Place a third layer of graham crackers over the pudding mixture.  Heat the tub of frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften. (Don't forget to remove the foil seal first.) Spread frosting on the top of the last layer of graham crackers.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set a couple hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

If you have summer parties, potlucks, BBQ's etc. to attend this summer, let me suggest you make this.  It is super easy, requires almost no thought or effort whatsoever, and people will be raving.  People who are hard to impress.  Like your brother.  

OR.  You could PRETEND to make this for the BBQ, then "forget" it at home.  Swing by the store and pick up a bag of chips.  Then when you get home later that night, you can have it all to yourself - except for those few bites you share with your husband.  Eat it after the kids go to bed, obviously.

 I would like to point out that the number of photos alloted to each food item is directly proportional to the importance of said item to the meal.

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