Make Your Own Halloween Tea Lights

>> Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I was thumbing through my latest issue of Family Fun Magazine when I came across instructions for turning ping pong balls and battery powered tea lights into spooky halloween eyes. I quickly did one eye ball. Then I found orange ping pong balls that afternoon and thought why not create miniature jack-o-lanterns? So I did. Then 9yo, owl-obsessed, Thing One asked if I could make him an owl...with a spooky tree. So I did. Then the ideas from the kidlets kept pouring in.

Lights On
Lights Off
The Entire Set In Action

Now Barbie has a jack-o-lantern.
If you want to make your own all you need to do is cut an X in the bottom of the ping pong ball, pop it over the "flame" on the battery powered tea light then create your design using permanent markers. Super, super simple. You can also use a pencil to draw your design first and make adjustments since the pencil marks erase off the ball easily. Similar, but not nearly as attractive, single blinking eye battery lights sell at Target for $2.99 each. My boys were full of praise for me when they saw the Target version...and its price. I already had battery powered tea lights on hand but my local Dollar Tree also sells two packs, batteries included. And the ping pong balls can be found for around $2 for an 8 pack at the grocery store or big box stores. My neighbor even tells me she saw them at The Dollar Tree.

I think I may need to do this at Christmas, too. Glowing Christmas trees, or candles, or ornaments, or angels...

I was so in love with my first three creations I took a quick video to share with my friends on facebook. Unbeknownst to me, my man snagged a video of me. Oy. Enjoy the Behind the Scenes.


Chewy Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Brownies

>> Monday, September 27, 2010

I love brownies. Seriously. Love. Brownies. I could give up all other desserts in favor of brownies. The only way I do not like a brownie is with nuts. Do not do that to a brownie. It is an offense to the chocolate perfection. I know this; the brownies speak to me. The brownies also spoke to me when I first saw the Ultimate Edge Brownie Pan. They told me to buy it. The told me if I bought it they would bake. I resisted their cry until the day my neighbor shared she too had been hearing the voice of the brownie. We decided to co-own the best little brownie pan that ever was. 

This past weekend I realized I'd been holding the brownie pan of awesomeness hostage too long and needed to send it next door for a few months. But before I let the pan go I had to make one more batch. Why I didn't turn to Martha's Baking Handbook, I do not know. Instead I made these...


Baking Martha's Black and White Cookies

Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook Black and White Cookies
Prior to my adventure to bake recipe number 5 out of 173 in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, my knowledge of the Black and White Cookie was limited to the Seinfeld episode. I see this cookie occasionally in glass bakery cases and recall Jerry's assertion to "look to the cookie" for racial harmony. 

“You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.”

Sadly it seems this New York specialty cookie was born not to show us how everyone can get along but as a way for local bakeries to use their leftover cake batter for extra profit. A little extra flour was tossed in with the batter and a cookie was made. Regardless of why this cookie exists, I'm glad I got to know it. Cake never tasted better as a cookie.


Because She Likes Blue

>> Friday, September 24, 2010

The purpose of this blog is to be an outlet for sharing the things I make and bake. This entry is off topic from that but I thought still worth sharing. And if you wanted to tie it back to craftiness, I did make the girl. *wink*

One of my favorite local thrift stores has everything half price each Monday. This past Monday my 5yo daughter looked through all the Barbie dolls to see if there was one worth buying for 50¢. Among all the similar shaped blonde dolls, my girl found a doll she liked. A beautiful ballerina doll. She was very excited. That evening before bed she asked me to help her name her new doll. I tossed out a few names: Brittany,  April, Joy, Tiana...

"Stop. Mom, why did you say Tiana?"

"Because you like the Princess and the Frog movie and that's the princess's name."

"I know why you said Tiana! Because this doll wears BLUE and Tiana likes blue and wears BLUE! I like blue too!"

Blue Ballerina, Rainbow Bear and Ariel hanging out in Princess Fierce's Room
For just a split second I was afraid my daughter was going to draw a different color connection. But children just don't think along those lines unless adults color their perceptions. I can't change the history of race relations in America. I was not a party to the injustice done before I was born. But what I can do is a small thing with a huge ripple. I can raise my children to not see skin color first. To not see skin color as an indication to the type of person behind it. My kids obviously notice we all have different skin and hair color. But to them there is no difference in the person beneath. We're all people worth getting to know. There's more information given by the color and type of clothes we choose to wear than the color our bodies were born with.

My daughter likes to tell people she's five now but knows things her mom doesn't. She  likes to tell strangers that kids can teach adults things too. It's truer than she can comprehend. Children can teach us so much but we also must be so diligent to make sure we teach them the right things too.


Recycle Organization: Pretty Boxes

>> Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I have this great IKEA furniture piece in the dining/sewing/craft/homeschool classroom. It has ten large cubbies that are perfect for school needs as well as dining room needs. I'd been looking for the perfect baskets to put in the cubbies for each of my three kids' individual schooling books. I needed something just the perfect size, nothing plastic or cartoon character adorned; and it couldn't cost a lot since I needed three. I sincerely believe you can share your home space with your young children, make it personal and not sacrifice style. But finding these baskets was proving to test my beliefs. Until late one night when inspiration struck.

I don't have pictures from the steps but these boxes would be easy and cheap to make. I started with the free priority mail shipping boxes from the post office. I wrapped each box in left over wallpaper from my powder room. In Adobe Illustrator I created a design featuring each child's name and printed it on label stock. After attaching the name labels, I cut clear contact paper to cover the entire box and make it more durable with multiple handlings. On the bottom of each box I attached fabric chair slides so the boxes wouldn't gradually remove the finish from the wood being pulled out daily. Inside each box I taped an empty toilet paper roll to hold pencils. You don't have to homeschool to use these boxes. I think they would be a perfect way to corral all the essentials needed for  homework in the kitchen, dining room, family room or bedroom too.
I created the brown shape with their names on the computer and printed them on label stock.
An empty toilet paper roll taped in the corner is the perfect place to hold pencils, markers, scissors or rulers.
The best organization is functional and attractive. These boxes are perfect; from school to dinner in seconds.
My inspiration for these boxes is actually from myself. I'd made boxes like this last fall when we took a road trip to California. I knew the kids would need somewhere to keep their personal belongings in easy reach on the long trip cross country. I made the boxes the night before we left from the shipping boxes in the basement and wrapped each in birthday paper suiting each child's interests. Covered them with clear Contact Paper to protect from spills and rips. Taped a large solo cup in the corner to hold pens, pencils, crayons, small trinkets. Those boxes were a trip lifesaver. They could move from car to tent or motel room in a flash. And the heavy duty boxes coupled with clear Contact Paper made them durable. They survived two weeks on the road without a single rip, tear or stain.

The original version of these boxes I made for our road trip to California last year.


Recycle Crafting: Toy Horse Bedding

>> Saturday, September 18, 2010

Princess Fierce loves horses right now. For her recent fifth birthday she received some toy horses and was using an old shoe box as their bed. Great imagination muscle but not the most durable bed nor could all the horses lie down together in the small box. Her older brother told me I needed to buy her a toy barn. I had a better idea that would cost me no money, look pretty in her colorful room and give me more much needed practice on my sewing machine.

I bought a set of Melissa and Doug wooden food for two dollars at a yard sale a few years back and knew one day the crate it all came in could be repurposed.
I rescued it from the basement and added a fresh coat of gloss red spray paint left over from another project.
Next I sewed "straw bed" pillows. Confession time: the original plan was just one large pillow in the box. But my measurements were off and it was too small. So I cut it into smaller pillows to not make waste. The pillows are a golden leaf pattern on one side made from a fat quarter I bought out of the Michael's clearance bin for 25¢ for some future use. The back side is a soft cotton yellow from an old sheet I bought for $1 at the thrift store, expressly for fabric use. They are all just lightly stuffed with fiber fill so they can be very flat and squishy.
Princess Fierce likes to use the smaller straw pillows for feeding her horse.
Everyone checking out their new crib.
Princess Fierce is happy her horses can now rest together.


Creature Corner: Schnauzer Luchador Caterpillar

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

The other morning my oldest calls me outside to see an interesting insect he's found. This is a common cry in our house. We love inspecting insects. Mother nature puts the most amazing shapes and colors into these tiny guys. This time he'd found a strange looking, tiny caterpillar.

Such a bright, vibrant green.
With the furry barbs on it's "face"  and eye mask I think it should be called the Schnauzer Luchador Caterpillar.
After we took the pictures I  turned to my favorite insect indentification website, What's That Bug (dot) com. Turns out this is a Saddleback Caterpillar and guess what? It stings. All those hairs carry a venom that produces a very painful sting that can even cause nausea. Whoa. Glad we didn't touch it but just admired from afar.
Look but don't touch. Danger, danger on all sides, Will Robinson!


The Buckeye Cupcake: Phase One

>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today's my dad's birthday. He's impossibly hard to buy for on a normal year but this year when he and my mom are working to downsize their home; he's even harder. While brainstorming things he liked my friend posted a link to a cupcake with a peanut butter truffle in the middle on my facebook page. An idea started to smolder. My dad loves buckeyes. He loves them so much it's the only thing he asks for from me at Christmas each year. What if I made a buckeye cupcake? I already have the Martha Stewart Marble Pound Cake with White Chocolate Glaze in the oven that he handpicked for his birthday. But I have a few hours still. I have all the ingredients to make buckeyes. I have a box of chocolate cake mix. Not ideal but maybe with some additions...

Since I was dealing with box mix I substituted whole milk for the water and added in some chocolate fudge sauce.
I froze the buckeye centers before dropping them in the batter. They were warm all the way through but not melted. Yum!
This idea needs some tweaking but phase one was a success. I'm thinking the next version needs to have a chocolate glaze on top, slightly smaller buckeye centers rolled in cocoa. Mmmmmmm....


Baking Martha's Cookies: White Chocolate-Butterscotch

The first time I baked these cookies was back in late July when the friend that picked the recipe off facebook was coming over for a playdate. Perfect timing to check another recipe from my quest to bake all the recipes in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook off the list AND send cookies home with my friend and her kids so I wouldn't eat them all. At 5 Weight Watchers points per cookie, I did not need multiple temptations on my counter.


Baking Martha's Key Lime Tart

>> Friday, September 10, 2010

This adventure in baking my way through Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook is brought to you courtesy of my friend's pick on facebook. His random page selection was for Key Lime Tart with Candied Key Lime Slices, how fancy sounding. 

My introduction to key lime dessert is not nearly as fancy. It all began one late night when I was sixteen and first tasted key lime pie at the local Denny's. My young, inexperienced, very finicky palate was hooked on that bright green, creamy concoction from the first forkful. Did you know you could buy a whole pie from Denny's? You can. And I did. Often. I even took them to parties. I was seriously obsessed with that pie. It wasn't until a few years later that I came to understand all key lime pie was not like Denny's. Or that it wasn't even supposed to be green. Or that some people prefer it with *gasp* meringue! The horror! As I matured in age and taste buds I began to appreciate real key lime pie. It is one of my favorites. My man likes to bring me home slices from all over town if he's at a late business dinner. I've not been in a Denny's but once in the twelve years I've been a vegetarian. I'm not even sure if my first pie love is still in the frosty dessert case. 

I'm going to admit I'm not a pie baker. It's the crust that gives me heart palpitations. So I was happy this wasn't a pie but a tart so I wouldn't have to fuss with dough. However, after I read the recipe I realized Martha did want me to make my own homemade graham crust from a DOUGH! What? I considered it. But after frustration finding another rare ingredient not clearly labeled such. *deep, calming breath* I nixed Martha's suggested crust. I rationalized this was acceptable change since I will still have to make the Graham dough when I bake the homemade Graham Crackers in the Baking Handbook on page 90. Now what crust should I do? A google search led me to this pretty blog for the same recipe but a different crust. I used hers and I was very pleased. This was such a brilliant crust for key lime pie. The addition of key lime zest is inspired. Thank you, Evan, whoever you are. 


Making Darth Fairy

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It all started with a google search that returned unexpected results, as so many things in my life do. I don't even remember what I was searching for when the picture of a pink princess Vader showed up. But the damage was done. My Princess Fierce saw it...and wanted to be it. We had an old pink dress from Halloween 2008 that I knew could be repurposed to this end so I told her I would make her one for Halloween. But then Princess Fierce did something better. She sparked her own creativity and decided instead of being a Princess Vader she would be...Darth Fairy! And she needed it created before Halloween so she could wear it to our annual viewing of the Dragon*Con parade on Labor Day weekend. 

For three years now we've taken the kiddos downtown the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to watch the Dragon*Con parade. The first year we barely made parade time and the kids were sad they weren't in costume like so many other specators. The next year we arrived sooner with two clone troopers and a fairy in tow. 
Two Clone Troopers on a MARTA Train last year


Make Me A Sandwich!

>> Thursday, September 2, 2010

My 9yo boy is obsessed with owls after reading the "Guardians of Ga'hoole" series and learning about the upcoming movie based on the books. So things have been about owls all year. It's gotten to where I'm seeing owls. And several days ago when I took a slice of bread out of the bag, instead of being perturbed at its extreme dip on top I saw the makings of an owl. And with a few cookie cutters, cheese and pepperoni I made Thing One an owl sandwich. He declared it the best sandwich ever. 

The Owl Born from Bent Bread
But I erred. I raised the bar on cute food because today during lunch as I'm sliding hoagie rolls out to make sandwiches he asks for another owl. Sorry, boy I can't make an owl out of a hoagie roll...
wait a minute...
grabs knife...
grabs provolone and cheddar...
grabs camera...
The Barn Owl and Cheese
I'm definitely affected by the owl love. The bread just looked like a barn owl with its bottom taper. This time next year I might be building elaborate owl bento box lunches. Look out!


Baking Martha's Heavenly Angel Food Cake

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I grew up eating the most fabulous yellow cakes with buttercream frosting made by my mom. She spoiled me to ever enjoying a grocery store cake. Blech! Funny thing is, my mom likes cake but hates frosting...even her own fabulous buttercream. It's a crying shame. But what my mother does like is cake with berries and cream. In my progress toward baking everything Martha, I found a Classic Angel Food Cake recipe in the Baking Handbook. That settled it, she would get a homemade angel food cake with homemade vanilla whip cream and fresh macerated berries. She was excited; she'd never had homemade angel food cake. I was trepidatious but determined. *whispers* I did buy a box of Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake mix just in case. But hold on for a photo adventure and see why that box is still in my pantry and what I learned along the way.

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