Thursday, October 31, 2013

Secret Santa Apron Swap

It may be barely November, but from now until Dec 25, it's all about Christmas. Santa arrives at the mall next week and I can't wait!

I'm really excited to be participating in several holiday swaps this year. The first one is for a Secret Santa Apron Swap!

I have a secret swap partner who is just dying to know the answers to these questions...

What are your hobbies?
I blog. I sew collect fabric, cook, and try to catch a breath now and then.

What are your favorite colors?
 I don't really have one favorite color. I'm pretty open.

Do you collect anything?
I collect snow globes and snowmen.

Are you allergic to any fibers or animals?
I'm allergic to dogs.

 Do you have any pets?
 We have a cat, Josie, and a fish, Sushi.

 Coffee, Tea, or Chocolate?
 Hot Chocolate! Absolute NO NO NO to coffee and tea

What do you like to read?
When I have time to read, I enjoy SciFi and YA Fiction, especially dystopian  stories. My favorite book is Ender's Game.

Do you prefer Cookies or Candies as a sweet?
I love double stuff Oreos and licorice all sorts. I also have a soft spot for good quality DARK chocolate.

What is your favorite holiday treat?
hmmm...I like candy cane hershey kisses and toblerone. Oh and apple cider. For me, all of those scream Christmas treats!

Describe your favorite holiday tradition.
My favorite tradition is our Christmas morning cinnamon rolls. I make cinnamon rolls the night before and let them rise in the refrigerator. The cinnamon rolls bake while we unwrap gifts and we have breakfast when we're done.

I also love making my kids dress up for their Santa pictures. They know Mom only asks for two pictures a year, and this is one of them.

Another favorite is attending the Interfaith Nativity Exhibit at our church. Nativities from all over the world, plus beautiful music and at the end, a wonderful Christmas devotional.

Did you believe in Santa as a child?

When do you open presents?
Christmas Eve the kids open PJs, but everything else is left for Christmas morning. 

Do you put up a tree and when?

We put up our tree around Dec 1.

Does your tree have a theme?
We have THREE trees. The large tree in the living room is the one with the special family ornaments. I have a tree in the Grand Foyer that I decorate myself with a theme each year. This year it is animals. We also have a pink tree for the little ones to decorate and redecorate as much as they want!

What has been your favorite gift to give?  to receive?

Another tough one. I just love seeing everyone happy. I'm just really content to have some time by myself during the holiday LOL


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mustache Costume + Kiki's Delivery Service Cosplay

I know I am really late showing our Halloween costumes. That's because I've been so busy I did them today.

In fact, the church's fall festival started at 6:30 and I finished the costumes at 6:00.

Nothing like doing it all at the very last minute!

The boys' costumes were ... well... they looked a lot like their everyday selves. B went as a guy from Minecraft and The Boy was sick, so he didn't even dress up. Tomorrow, he's planning on wearing the same costume he wore last year and hand out the candy.

Little Miss wanted to be Pinkie Pie and I totally had a "pinned it, nailed it" moment with the costume. Here's the original blogger...

And here's what we ended up with:

Punky Brewster was set on being Little Dead Riding Hood. For this one, we just raided the costume box.

The most successful of our costumes this year belonged to Danger Girl and Leelee.

Danger Girl initially wanted to be a crash test dummy, but honestly, that costume was far above my skill level. So, yesterday she decided she wanted to be a mustache. She's a bit mustache obsessed lately.

I really love how this turned out. It's so fun!  The great part is, since I made it out of sturdy foam board, when we're done with the costume, it's going to make a really fun art piece for her room.  She really wanted a giant mustache pillow, but agreed that just hanging it on her wall would be fine, too.

Leelee's costume was one that had me pulling my hair a bit. She dressed as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.

The costume itself wasn't hard. But finding a pattern for a basic A-line dress was. I finally found a pattern Monday. When I came home and went to my sewing closet to get the pins, I found a stack of patterns I picked up at a thrift store. Three patterns in, I found the perfect A-line dress. So...I could have had this dress done much, much sooner if I had bothered to check the patterns I already owned!

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Strawberry Breakfast Rolls

We have a small little tradition with birthdays...on the morning of your birthday, I make cinnamon rolls. For some reason, this tradition doesn't apply to me. I never get cinnamon rolls on my birthday.

Punky Brewster turned 7 this weekend. Where has the time gone?

Her favorite food in the whole world is strawberries and I wasn't really in the mood for super sweet cinnamon rolls this weekend. Instead, I created these wonderful strawberry breakfast rolls.

I'm not one to reinvent the wheel. I started with a solid sweet rolls recipe and doctored up the filling and icing. You can really use your favorite cinnamon roll dough. I prefer Alton Brown's because I can do the hard work the night before, leave it in the fridge and then bake in the morning while everyone gets ready.

For the filling, I used 3 C frozen strawberries, thawed on the counter for about an hour, then mashed. I didn't want the filling sweet and syrupy. . . just the flavor of the strawberries without the sugar. I think it would be marvelous with chopped fresh strawberries, too. I'll  have to try that this summer!

Once the dough was rolled out, I spread butter across the dough, then spread the strawberries, reserving out about 1/4 C of the mashed berries.

Treat the dough as you would your normal cinnamon rolls: Roll it, slice it, rise, bake...whatever your recipe calls for. Because of the extra moisture from the berries, increase the baking time 5-10 minutes.

I was drooling over these right out of the oven. Still, any good sweet breakfast roll needs a bit of icing.

For the icing

1/4 C strawberries
4 oz Cream Cheese, softened
2/3 C powdered sugar

In a small bowl, blend the ingredients together on low speed. Spread over the sweet rolls!

This recipe only makes 12. For my family, I needed to double the recipe. The kids were fighting over the four that were left. Punky Brewster declared they were "the most delicious thing ever and can you please make these every day!"

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Spam Hawaiian Meatball Subs


Not the junk email.

The canned meat.

Once again my kids have stepped up to the plate at our local Spam cook-off and come up with a winning recipe. This year, B took third place and was asked to be on the local mid-day news show to demonstrate his recipe.

B was really surprised at how deep his voice sounded on the video! The host kept saying B won first, but he placed third.

The theme for the Spam contest this year was sandwiches. B loves meatball subs and his dad loves the Hawaiian meatballs over rice his mom makes. This recipe was a marriage of the two favorites, using grandma's Hawaiian meatball sauce. News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

He was pretty cute up there.

He had fun and was very excited to get checked out of school for this! I have a great friend who was able to take B to the studio and back to school since I had to substitute teach this afternoon.

Spam Hawaiian Meatball Subs

1 can Turkey Spam
1 egg
1/2 C panko breading
1/2 medium onion diced

1 small can pineapple tidbits
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 T corn starch

hoagie rolls

In a medium bowl, smash together spam, egg, panko and onions. Form in to balls. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together pineapple, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and corn starch.  Heat until thickened.

Place meatballs into hoagie rolls and top with sauce.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Outdoor Halloween Mantle

Part of our outdoor holiday decor involves decorating the fireplace mantle we have outside.

When we moved in, we found two extra mantles. We were able to locate where one belongs but still can't figure out where the extra one goes.

So, we put it outside and I get to decorate.

It's a great place to display my slowly growing zombie doll collection. So far I have Zombie Alice and Zombie Queen of Hearts. Maybe next year I'll add a Zombie White Rabbit or a Zombie Mad Hatter!

Everything else on the mantle was put together from dollar store items and recycled goodies like old frames and left over fabric.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

With two kids in high school, it seems like we always have some sort of project or study group happening at our house.

Recently, both The Boy and Leelee  had major projects involving creating videos for science. This was followed the very next week by Leelee having to record another video for German. It's crazy!

The kids have, thankfully, rotated whose house is hosting the project meetings and recording sessions. Feeding a house full of teens every Friday and Saturday night could get expensive very quickly.

Leelee loves hostessing her study groups because it's an excuse to make snacks. Like these Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. Think cinnamon cake with basic vanilla frosting sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

A huge thanks to Funky Junk Interiors for photo editing help!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes  
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
1 cup  margarine 
1 3/4 cups sugar 
4 large eggs, room temperature 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cups milk

1 T cinnamon + 2 T sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, soft flour baking powder, salt and cinnamon. 

In a large bowl, cream together margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Add vanilla.  Lower mixer speed  to low.  Slowly and add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Be sure it is fully mixed after each addition. 

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Cool completely before frosting. Then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Vanilla Frosting
1 C margarine or butter
3 C powdered sugar
2 t milk
1/2 t vanilla

Beat margarine until fluffy. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Once it is all mixed in, beat in milk and vanilla on high speed.


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Uncommon Goods Aquafarm

This is a sponsored post by me on behalf of I received compensation for this post, however, all opinions are mine.

Right now, there are less than 70 days until Christmas. Seventy days!

Some of you are thinking "Plenty of time!"

Not me. I'm in full on panic mode. In my head, Christmas season starts with Danger Girl's birthday and back to school. That's because we have her birthday, then the fair starts, two weeks later is Punky Brewster's birthday. And...about a week after her birthday...Santa arrives at the mall...which means I go back to work. Just after Santa arrives, Leelee has her birthday and Thanksgiving (same week) quickly followed by D's birthday...a week before Christmas.

I have to get all of my seasonal stuff done in between work and all of these birthday parties! S-T-R-E-S-S

That is why I really love shopping online for the holidays and birthdays. It makes my life 1000 times easier.

Needless to say, when Uncommon Goods approached me about their new stocking stuffers collection, I eagerly looked over their offerings. If you're not familiar with Uncommon Goods, get familiar with them. I'm a big fan of companies that look at the big picture: made in the USA, paying their workers a more than fair wage, and give back to the community.

Looking over the site at the stocking stuffers, I had to decide if I wanted to get something for myself or for the kids.  Even though my new phone  needs a new case  the kids won out.

For a moment, I really wished The Boy were taking guitar in school this year because the Pick Punch looks super fun! In looking at the calendar, it was between some great texture play for Punky Brewster or something animal and science related for Danger Girl.

I spent a lot of time looking at the  Aquafarm before deciding on it. I had some concerns about how difficult it would be to maintain. Not the tank part...the plant part. I don't exactly have a green thumb. And would it be something a kid could do herself?

Those were my questions going in and I decided to just take the plunge and see.

And I'm so glad I did.

The whole kit assembly does need adult supervision, but once it's actually put together, the Aquafarm is definitely something that is a good, kid-friendly project.

It takes time to set up, mainly because you need to equalize the temperature of the water. The instructions are very clear, too.

One of the best parts of the Aquafarm, is that everything but the fish is included...plants, rocks, and chemicals. But, they have your back on the fish, too. Included in the package was a coupon for a 99 cent male betta!

Say Hello to our new family member: Sushi.

Totally unintentional on the part of the company, but the packaging for this even helped Danger Girl with a homework project! She had to build a model of a Native American home...and the super packaging material was exactly the right shape and size! So, I guess you could say we recycled their recycled packaging!

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mythbusters birthday party

Danger Girl turned 10 not too long ago. Right now, her favorite show is Mythbusters and really wanted a party on that theme.

We started with these really fun invites (and here's the printable!)

And Leelee made a sign welcoming everyone to M5. (Really, she was looking for any excuse not to read her homework.)

I didn't make any really awesome snacks, focusing instead of some pretty fun activities.

The first order of business was to watch an episode of the show. We chose one related to the experiments we were going to do.

And, we completely ignored the warnings of "Do Not Try This At Home."

Trust me, this you can and should try at home...

Diet Coke and Mentos!

Each child had her own bottle of diet coke and dropped four mentos to get this awesome effect. I wish we would have had more than one per person. It was just so much fun! And because the experiment uses up all the CO2 in the soda, you can't reuse the soda once the mentos drop. The kids tried. 

After creating a totally sticky mess, the kids washed up for our next explosive experiment

Alka Seltzer Rockets

To decorate our rockets, we used this printable from Oh My Crafts

Basically, you take 35 mm film canisters and fill them with water or soda. Then you drop  1/4 of an Alka Seltzer tablet in, replace the lid and shake. These things really POP. We had to remind the smaller kids not to point the lid end at anyone.

When we ran out of Alka Seltzer, the kids had enough science know-how to figure out you can also launch the rockets using Pop Rocks.

For party favors, the kids were sent home with their own little myth to bust (and a reminder that I wouldn't actually send a dangerous experiment home!)

Danger Girl LOVED her party. L-O-V-E-D it.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

17 Brilliant Ways to Decorate with Contact Paper

Normally, when you think contact paper, you think the gross and disgusting stuff the previous owners a had lining the shelves. I know when we moved in to our first house, there was this awful 1980s era contact paper stuck to the cabinets. When we pulled it off it left a sticky residue. For me, contact paper was akin to wallpaper. Ugly. And needing to GO. YESTERDAY.

But, contact paper isn't like that any more. Thanks to creativity, contact paper can be used create many beautiful projects. Check out my Contact Paper Clip Board on Hometalk:

I'm really not sure which project is my favorite.

I love that people are using contact paper instead of vinyl in their cutting machines. I don't have one (yet) but contact paper is a much more affordable option.

Contact paper is also used to create removable yet sticky stencils. I sure have plans for that tip. There's a TARDIS closet clipped, and I may just use the tip to create a really cool mural :)

Head on over to Hometalk and be inspired!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Cornmeal Blackberry tea cakes

The fair is in full swing now. I spent the better part of two days baking and overseeing the kids baking for just one contest.

The first big contest was both a success and a failure all in one.

The contest was for teacakes.

Before baking, I asked what they meant by tea cakes. I quick google search revealed that the term teacake is pretty broad and varies by region. But, the basic definition of a teacake is a small sweet bun with dried fruit that is toasted or buttered.

Then again, there are also Russian Tea cakes  which are dry cookies covered in sugars , Japanese Tea cakes which vary from cookies to actual cakes but aren't very sweet, Southern Tea cakes which are essentially glorified sugar cookies, Victorian tea cakes are spongecakes, or if you ask Martha Stewart tea cakes are pretty much petit fors.

Heck, even Urban Dictionary has a definition: basically any small cake or cookie eaten with afternoon tea.

When I asked the person in charge what type of tea cakes they were looking for, she said that it was pretty much anything.

I thought I was good to go with my amazing Cornmeal Blackberry tea cake. It's amazingly soft, slightly sweet with a fresh blackberry in the center. It's one bite of mini cake heaven.

After the judging and my subsequent loss, I asked them what went wrong because my little cake was delicious. The judges thought so, too.

 But, they said I hadn't made a traditional tea cake. They judges read the same rules as the contestants and interpret them on their own. These judges were looking for the very best southern tea cake.  Yup. They wanted the very best sugar cookie ever.

 I wasn't the only one who brought in something other than a sugar cookie. We all lost together.

The somewhat ironic part of it: I entered in a fancy sugar cookie in another contest.

One that was called: Cookies.

I'll share that recipe later this week.

Instead, today you get my amazing Cornmeal Blackberry Tea Cake recipe.

Blackberry Cornmeal Tea Cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. fine- or medium-ground yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  1 containers (6 oz. ) fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 F. Make sure it's at 375. Any lower and the blackberries will sink!

Line 48 mini muffin tins with paper liners. 

In a small bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar. Set aside remaining sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine.

Fill each cup with a scant about 1 T batter. Place one blackberry in each muffin cup, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tbsp sugar.

Bake until evenly browned on top, 20-25 minutes.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Weeping Angel Costume

As usual my kids are picking the creepiest costumes they can think of.

This year, Danger Girl wants to go as Buster the Crash Test Dummy and Punky Brewster wants to be Little DEAD Riding Hood.

I haven't gotten started on those costumes yet, but figured I'd share the details on our costumes from last year.

Danger Girl was a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who. If you don't know the Weeping Angels, then let me explain briefly. You know those angel statues in cemeteries that are often seen crying? They are really monsters that are quantum locked in place. That means they can only move if you aren't looking at them. Even blinking means they can move. . . and attack you.

But they don't kill you. It's worse. The weeping angels send you back in time and live off your potential life energy.

Bottom line: Don't blink.

When we did Danger Girl's costume, we started with some grey fabric, a grey T-shirt, foam core from the dollar store, grey paint and LOTS of grey face paint.

This was for a 9 year old and not for a convention cosplay. It was meant to last one night.

We took the grey fabric and made a long grey skirt with a basic elastic waist. The top was done in an extremely basic tunic style: A rectangle folded in half, then a spot for the head was cut out. The tunic was placed over her basic grey long sleeved T.

Over her head, we made a bandana to cover her blonde curls. With school the next morning, we really didn't want to deal with washing hair color out. It was going to be bad enough getting rid of the grey face paint!

The wings were cut in a basic wing shape then painted. We used the fairy wings from dollar tree as construction inspiration:

 Our foam wings had a "bar" holding them to the back and elastic to slide over her arms.

Many people asked what she was supposed to be. That's pretty expected with my kids' costumes.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Puyallup Fair Scones

I spent the nearly two weeks in September back in Washington state visiting family. I had an amazing time. Little Miss went on her very first plane trip and took her first trip to the Puyallup Fair. We're supposed to call it the Washington State Fair, but c'mon...everyone still calls it the Puyallup Fair.

That's Pew-all-up, for those struggling with the pronunciation.

Little Miss had a great time looking at all the animals and insisted I take her picture...I couldn't resist when she stood next to the sign!

The fair also has a carousel that was opened in 1917. I remember riding this when I was a little girl. It was pretty awesome to see my youngest enjoying herself.

Of course, the very best part of the fair is the food! Earthquake burgers and scones are my favorites. In 2011, 1.2 MILLION scones were sold during the fair.

The scones at the fair come to you hot and filled with raspberry jam. And you can buy the fair scone mix at booths at the fair or at local stores in Washington.

One problem: I live on the other side of the country. I haven't had a fair scone in nearly 20 years. And yes, they were just as amazing as I remembered.

I brought scone mix home with me, but there's only so much I could fit in my carry on luggage.

So that means I needed to find a good copy-cat recipe for the Puyallup Fair Scones.

I didn't have raspberry jam, but that's ok... strawberry was just as delicious.

Puyallup Fair Scones

    2 1/2 C flour
    2 t Baking Powder
    1/2 C  Sugar
    1/2 t Salt
    6 T Shortening
    1/2 cup Milk
     Jam (raspberry or strawberry)


  Sift flour into a medium mixing bowl. Add remaining dry ingredients and sift again. Using fingers or pastry knife, cut in shortening. Create a well in the center and add milk. Mix together.

On a floured board, kneed dough gently to finish mixing.

 Divide in half.

Roll out each piece to a 3/4 inch thick round. Cut each round in to 4 wedges.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15-18 minutes on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.

Allow to cool about 5 minutes. Slice each wedge in half (though not all the way through) and fill with a generous helping of jam.

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