Thursday, December 19, 2013

Toddler Felt Christmas Tree

I made this felt tree last year, so my two year old would have something to decorate at Christmas. Epic failure. I spent an hour cutting everything out and he couldn't have been less interested in it. However, this year, he had a blast with it. I just put it on the floor. We just painted our walls, so I didn't want to tape it on there. Plus I didn't think the tape would hold the felt very well. We decorated, undecorated "opened" the presents under the tree and then did it again. And again. And again. I was running out of things to "open". This year it was a lot of fun, so I'm glad I didn't get rid of it. I bought the green felt by the yard on sale 50% off and I had some other felt scraps that I used for the ornaments and presents. I figure I can get it out every few days until Christmas for something to do on these cold, winter days.

Sorry for the crappy iphone pics.

Timeless Felt Christmas Ornaments

I made these ornaments years ago. Like about 20. I think they held up really well and were really easy to make. I cut the shapes out of felt, stuffed them with polyfill and blanket stitched them closed. The eyes are peppercorns and I made the noses out of orange Sculpey (which was a new product if I remember correctly). I hot glued most things except for the mouths and buttons. The reindeer mouth is an upside down heart with a circle on top. They are fairly easy to make and cheap to boot.

These are great to give away as ornaments or decorate a package with them.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BBQ Chicken Cheddar Pizza

I make homemade pizza dough all the time. At least once a week. It's so easy and so cheap. It's great for lunch or dinner. I'll do a pizza dough post soon. I normally make the usual, margarita. But I had some rotisserie chicken left from lunch and I thought it would make a great bbq pizza. I was right. It was super easy and sooooo good. I love caramelized onions, but my boyfriend, not so much, so I just did half. Sorry for the crappy iphone pic.* I actually took it to send to a friend of mine, not thinking about posting it. This recipe is so good, I had to share.

I recently made this pizza again on my new pizza stone and desperately needed to to retake this picture. That iphone pic is just awful, but the pizza was just as delicious.


Pizza dough - homemade or store bought
Cooked chicken (I used leftover rotisserie)
BBQ sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Caramelized onions (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

If you want to add the caramelized onions, make those first by slowly browning some sliced onions in a little olive oil in a frying pan. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Roll out your pizza dough to desired thickness. (I prefer thin, my boyfriend prefers thick, I go somewhere in between.) Mix the chicken with the BBQ sauce in a bowl. How much should you use? It kind of depends on how much chicken you have and how much you want on your pizza. Use your judgment. You can always add more. Sprinkle the cheese on top and add the caramelized onions. Notice they are only on half. 

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Argh! Pirate Costume

This year my son wanted to be a pirate for halloween and I was feeling particularly ambitious and thought I could actually make the entire costume myself. Let me put it out there that I am a novice sewer. I've never made a jacket or pants or anything similar, but somehow I thought that I was crafty enough to come up with something half decent that didn't cost an arm and a leg. In the end I got a pirate dress up costume for the hat and sword. I was going to get some dress up things for Christmas, so it worked out. Plus they were 50% off. I tried to make a hat, but it didn't come out so good. 

I started with the pants. I got some fabric from a friend's yard sale. I knew they would be a little short, but it's a halloween costume and I wasn't that worried about it. I followed a tutorial for pj pants and they were super easy and done in less than two hours start to finish. I had some elastic from another project laying around that I was able to use.

The jacket proved to be a bit more complicated and a few times I thought I was in way over my head. I started with one of my son's shirts as a pattern and went from there. I learned some things along the way, such as how to do a collar. When you have no idea what you are doing, it can be daunting. Plus I was using some felt that I got on sale, so I wasn't going to line it. I added some trim that I had lying around and some buttons from last years costume. (I needed gold buttons and it was cheaper to buy a men's jacket from a thrift store than to actually buy gold buttons.) Sorry for the bad iphone pics.

Fluffy Homemade Sandwich Bread

This recipe was pretty good, but I still wanted fluffier bread. 

For the last several years I've been eating fairly clean. Very little processed food, lots of veggies and fruits, whole grains and not a whole lot of meat. I've never been much of a meat eater, though. Mostly I use the theory that if it's not an ingredient in my cabinet or readily available, then I probably shouldn't eat it. I cut fast food out of my diet when I was in my 20's and I haven't touched a soda in almost eight years. That being said, I do like to cut loose on desserts now and again.

This is the bread I used in this recipe. So good and it makes your house smell delicious. 

Cutting out processed foods is really hard sometimes. It's really easy to pick up a pre-made item in the frozen section or just grab a loaf of bread, until you read the ingredients. I'm one o f those people that reads the list of ingredients of everything I buy. What ingredients should be in bread? Flour, salt, sugar or honey, yeast, milk or water and that's about it unless you add a few other good for you ingredients.

This is one of the earlier recipes that I tried with oats and sesame seeds on top. 

I've been on a quest to find really good sandwich bread for toast, garlic bread and of course sandwiches. I've made at least 20 loaves in the past few months with lots of different recipes. While they've all tasted good, some have been like bricks. I like the ones with milk or powered milk. I'm no bread expert by any means, but I think I've come up with the perfect recipe for what I'm looking. It's moist, fluffy, perfect for toasting or just slicing and eating.

My mom thought my bread was so good, I should give it as a thank you gift.

It takes about 5 minutes to make, an hour for proofing and 30 minutes to bake. I use rapid rise or bread machine yeast. I'm too impatient for the regular yeast. I like to make two or even three loaves in a day. It freezes really well, but never seems to last very long here.

3  to 3 1/4 c flour (my favorite is King Arthur)
1 -1/4 c milk warmed to about 120 degrees
3 T butter
2 -1/4 tsp yeast or 1 pkg
1 T honey
1 tsp salt
4 T ground flax seeds (optional)

Warm the milk and butter to 120 degrees. (For me I discovered this was two minutes in the microwave.) If you don't have a thermometer, it's like bath water, not to hot, but hotter than lukewarm.
Stir in the honey until dissolved, then stir in the yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it work it's magic for about 5 minutes.

Put your dry ingredients in a bowl or mixer. Add the wet to the dry until combined.

Scoop out the dough and put into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough form it into a loaf and put into a lightly greased loaf pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 27 - 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit about 10 minutes before turning it out on a cookie sheet for further cooling.


Tips and Tricks
So what does it mean 3 to 3 1/4 cups flour? The humidity that day really effects the outcome of your bread. If it's really humid out, you'll need more flour, less humid, less flour. I've made two loaves in one day with different amounts of flour and they both turned out great. The wetter one was just a bit harder to get out of the mixing bowl.

Use well oiled hands and the dough won't stick to you.

Instead of using softened butter, I just put it straight out of the fridge in the milk and put it in the microwave.

Why ground flax seeds? First off you have to grind them to get the oils from the seeds. The oils contain loads of omega 3's and fiber, plus it's believed in the prevention of certain kinds cancer. Originally my eye doctor told me to use flax seed oil as a supplement to help with my dry eyes over four years ago and it helped tremendously. I like to add it to foods when I can...smoothies, granola, spaghetti sauce, etc.

If your bread seems to get too brown on top, tent a piece of foil on top. Do not undercook it! My oven is a little finicky, so 27 minutes is perfect for it.

Wash your dirty stuff right away or at least soak it. Dried bread dough is like super glue.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wine Purse

Tell me this isn't the greatest box of wine you've ever seen?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hamper Turned Trash Can

A friend of mine was having a terrible time trying to find a trash can that was functional, yet stylish. So, she bought a black clothes hamper and found a trash can to put in it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Homemade Amish Soft Pretzels

Soft, buttery, delicious Amish pretzels are our Thursday special treat that we get from the Amish market that's only open Thursday though Sunday. Since I've been on a quest to eat clean for the past seven or so years and have been eating rather healthy for twenty or so, I thought I would try my hand at making them. I'm assuming the ones made at the Amish market are from real ingredients and don't contain anything that I can't easily pronounce, but I still thought I would see if they were any good and easy to make.

The thing about anything that you make from scratch is that it only seems to last a few days. This is also true of the pretzels from the market. Which again, makes me think that they are made from real stuff. I found a decent recipe on Pinterest (of course). And while they were pretty good. I have to admit that the ones from the market are better. Is it because anything that someone else makes is always better? Is it the type of flour they use? Is the butter they dip them in, that much richer? Who knows, maybe it's because they make a gazillion of them every weekend and they are professional pretzel makers. Anywho, mine were good and they did get eaten up rather quickly, but I'll take the Amish ones from the market any time. Also, I'll admit it, making them was a bit time consuming, but my three year old did have fun rolling the dough.

Here's the recipe I used. These are the ones from the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. I've never had these, but I think I need to make the trip over the bridge to try them out. They look tasty.

2 tablespoon yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup cold water
Coarse salt
Melted butter
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar, and flour. Mix well and let rise 15 minutes.

Divide dough in balls; roll each ball into a rope. Twist into pretzel shape.
Dissolve baking soda in cold water; dip each pretzel into the soda water. 
Place on well-greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Dip in melted butter. Serve warm with mustard or cheese sauce. Makes 12-18 pretzels.

Friday, August 9, 2013

St. Peter's Cathedral

This picture was taken with a dinky little point and shoot camera in 2004. It was always my favorite shot from that Rome trip.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Super Simple Bresaola Salad

When I lived in Italy I totally fell in love with this fresh salad. When I moved back to the States, I was thrilled to find all of the ingredients at Trader Joe's. I so wish there was one closer to my house. Love that store. Of course now I hardly eat meat and when I do it's almost never beef. So basically I eat this salad once a year if that now, but it's still good and really easy to make.


Parmigiano Reggiano - not that nasty stuff in the green can
Lemon juice - from a lemon
Olive oil

Spread the arugula on a plate. Top with torn bresaola and parm cheese. I like to shave mine with a vegetable peeler. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top and drizzle with olive oil. Eat!

How do you like my super classy paper plate? I wasn't in the mood to wash dishes. :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Love it!

I saw this in a storefront window in Philly. I'm in love with signs that say "Love" and marque letters and marque signs. I thought the pic turned out pretty good considering I took it with my iphone at night.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

All Aboard the Cow Train!!

I recently took my son to a local farm and they had a cow train. My son didn't want to go by himself, so I sat in the car in front of him. What a cute idea and a lot of fun. These were made out of plastic barrels. A great way to upcycle a plastic barrel.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Carrot" Snacks

I saw this idea recently at a local farmers market and totally want to steal it. Cheese balls and a green napkin. How cute!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cheap Bath Toy Storage

The bath toy storage bags seemed to get slimy pretty fast and at $14.99, I wasn't about to buy another one any time soon. even if it were really cute. So I bought a lingerie bag for $1.49, cut two holes in it and hung it on the shower caddy. I guess you could hang it up with suction cups if you don't have a shower caddy.

Wagon Re-do

My sister gave me her daughter's old metal Radio Flyer wagon. It had been sitting outside for some time and rusted quite a bit. Including rusting through in one pin hole spot. I wanted to use it for my son, but I know it will only be used for a couple of years before he outgrows it. so, I wasn't trying to be a perfectionist with this DIY. I started scraping off the metal that was falling off, but didn't have the right tools for the job. In comes my mom's boyfriend and poof, he did all the hard work for me. Thanks Ray! He scraped, then sanded the metal with Emory cloth. Then I got to do the easy part and spray paint the wagon. After painting the wagon red, I realized that maybe I should give the base a cost of black.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Powers of Baking Soda and Elbow Grease

I hate using harsh chemicals or really any chemicals of any kind. Even though the kitchen floor has been mopped with detergents, it still came up dirty. I thought I would try baking soda as an abrasive and poof, it came clean with minimal effort! You can see how grey the baking soda turned. Of course now that there's a clean spot in the middle of the floor, I need to do the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sicilian Streets

You just never know what you are going to see when you are driving in Sicily. We just happened to drive by this horse and cart. Who knew that people still used a horse and cart?

In Love

This is one of my favorite statues in the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. I did a little photoshopping with some sepia tones etc. I'll be posting some of my pictures from my overseas visits soon. Some photoshopped, some raw. I hope you like them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Quick Way to Fix a Cake

From disaster to success.

My sister was make a star cake and had a bit of a problem as you can see. So how were we going to fix it? Easy. We still had some cake that we had used to cut the star out of, so we mixed that with some icing - cake pop style - and molded it around the star points. Voila! Fixed.

Make an Easy Heart Scarf

Valentines was coming up and I thought I would make a scarf with hearts on it. I've seen some fabric painting projects on pinterest and I thought I would try one of my own. I wanted red paint and white scarf. I was lucky and found a plain white scarf on sale at Michaels for $5.00, half price, not to shabby. I got the paint at AC Moore. They only had metallic so I got that. I don't think it made much difference. I didn't have a heart stencil, so I made one from a heart punch and the lid from some nuts. That worked out nicely. I used a cheap foam brush and got to work. I measured every four inches or so and marked it with a pencil. If I did it again, I would do every other row of hearts upside down. It took about 2 and a half hours, a little longer than I thought it would take mostly because I wiped the back of the stencil after every heart. Otherwise, I would have ended up with red paint everywhere. I have another fabric painting project in mind and I think I will start on that in a few weeks. I'll take a picture with it on, so you can see what it looks like.