Saturday, November 19, 2011

DIY Christmas Glitter Branches

After a lunch date recently, my husband was kind enough to check out all the beautiful Christmas trees in one of our local home decor stores. These are like the Macy's trees, absolutely adorably over-decorated and you would have to sell your soul to be able to afford to purchase the tree as is. Needless to say, I did leave inspired! I loved all the picks and oversized tree decor, so I was determined to create some of my own. Glitter is such a fun (and sometimes messy) way to get a lot of bang for your buck...especially for holidays!

I love branches for home decor...they are usually free, readily available, and make me feel like everything I own came from Anthropologie . I think these would be lovely for a vase or stuck in the tree or even create some smaller ones for wreathes. I plan on also glitter dipping some pinecones. These would also be fun for Halloween with black or orange glitter.

Here is what I did (with a few of my lessons learned in between):

You need: 
Branches (I used my handy fiskars pruning shears & hit the backyard for stick hunting)
                Glue (I used ModPodge (or make your own), cause it was on hand)
                Paint brush (to apply glue, spongy or bristle brush is ok)
                3 Posterboards (I had 1, but 3 would expedite the process)

Designate one posterboard for applying the glue to the branches. Use the other two solely for glitter. Lay the branch on one of the glitter posterboards and pour the glitter over it very generously. Then, move the branch to the 2nd glitter posterboard. Pour the glitter from the posterboard back into the container and repeat until your branch is thoroughly coated.

I tried using Alene's Tacky Glue Spray was a FAIL. It dried too quickly before I could apply the glitter. The overspray used up alot of glitter that ended up stuck to the posterboard.

The mod podge worked great and really made the branches super sturdy once it dried.

With one canister of glitter and one mod podge, you could make TONS of these branches! If you are put off by the price of mod podge, try making some at home from this recipe from Pinterest.

If you are put off by the mess of glitter, and like the look of shimmering branches, try some different finishes of spray paint until you get the look you are wanting.

Cinnamon Ornaments

The photo above is from the recipe on the McCormick website. I used their recipe & added 1/3 cup glue after reading some posts online. It made the dough stiffer and less crumbly. The dough does begin to harden after 30 minutes or so.  

Here is what all you need:
1 cup cinnamon + a little extra
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup white glue
cookie cutters
wax paper
rolling pin
ribbon (for hanging)

Get Ready!

The ingredients:
Mix 3/4 cup applesauce, 1 cup cinnamon, 1/3 cup glue in a bowl.

Have a rolling pin, cookie cutters, & a straw handy

Use a little cinnamon on wax paper to keep the dough from sticking and roll it out.

Use cookie cutters (stars, cross, angel, gingerbread man) to punch out shapes.

Poke a small hole in the top of each one for a string to hang it on the tree. Let dry a day or two on a cooling rack or cookie sheet.

These smell wonderful and our recipe made about 15 three to four inch ornaments.I am using twine and glittery ribbon to hang these. Hoping to package some up cute in cello-bags for gifts from the kids for teachers and grandparents.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween... Eli's Birthday Dinner

Argggg, Mate!

We have been celebrating Eli's birthday all week. He turned 3 today and this year has been so exciting now that he can grasp the concept of birthdays and all the festivities that go with it. I wanted to do something special ON his actual birthday so while I was at work today, I had a genius last-minute plan to whip up some Pinterest Halloween treats tonight. I made a list and scurried all around the store. We decided on mummy dogs, Jack-o-lantern cheese, & dirt cups. It dawned on me about the time the mummy dogs finished cooking, that I hadn't planned any side dishes. I diced up some strawberries too and called all that dinner.

Here is where the festivities began with cheesy jack-o-lanterns:


We took a break to play with one of the birthday presents for a bit:

Jack-O-Lantern Cheese & Mummy Dogs:

The dirt cups were a pretty big hit!

Any of these would be such a fun treat if you have time this Halloween weekend. I am also hoping to squeeze in making some Boo-Nana Pops too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bean Scooping

So you can probably tell that Eli really enjoys helping in the kitchen. If you have more than one kiddo, you could probably have guessed that Mabry wants to do everything her big brother does. Eli actually started out cooking dinner, but thought Mabry's cooking activity looked much more fun. I read about Bean Scooping a while back and it seemed completely impractical because of the mess. Kids are always making messes anyways so a "planned" mess seemed ok and it kept them totally occupied while I tried a new recipe from Pinterest
 I had part of a mixed jar of beans and let them go to town "cooking." I have figured out that area rugs are a good way to contain a mess to a certain area. I tell the kids they have to stay right there if they want to "cook," sometimes they need reminders, but it works well overall. This was on the mat in our kitchen, so I just gave it a quick sweep once they were in the tub after dinner.
 Eli liked putting them in the plastic jar and shaking it up like a milk shake.
 Mabry was more about spooning them from jar to pot and stirring.
This was a fun activity for both kids. Best of all, it was free since the beans were out of date anyhow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Toddlers in Triathlons

Ok, He is almost 3, so he may technically be a pre-schooler, but that wouldn't have been a very catchy title.Eli had his first triathlon race and did awesome! I wasn't there to see it in person but Daddy was sweet enough to make sure mommy got photos! Eli made Shawn change his shirt before they left the house so that they could match. Call me cheesy, but having a mini-me seems like an awesome idea.
I love you, Eli. Mommy is so proud of you! I love that our family is enjoying an active lifestyle and I think this was a great way for Shawn to share one of his hobbies on a much smaller scale with Eli. From what I hear, Mabry wanted to be right in the middle of it, so I am sure both will be in it next year which might drum up some friendly, sibling competition.

Home Made Ice Cream Cake

My Hubby's most favorite candy is Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and my son loves helping mommy in the kitchen so this was pretty cool. Not sure that I will do it again for the following reasons:

1. Our deep freezer is in the upstairs attic of our semi-detached garage and my inside freezer was too narrow to accommodate the 9 inch cake pans.
2. I was so tempted to buy everything Reeses Brand and to make it taste better than Baskin Robbins, so I spent alot of money on this cake because it has 500 ingredients.
3. It was pretty time consuming and we have a local Baskin Robbins where it would have cost less, I wouldn't have been sticky up to my elbows, and I wouldn't have a sore bum from running up and down the stairs.

All that aside though, it was a great fun time for me and Eli. He was thrilled to help with Daddy's cake. If you are brave enough to try the ice cream cake, I'll break it down for you how I did it (which is the very unprofessional, unefficient, yet tasty way).

 I baked a box cake mix in 2 nine inch round pans. Let cool and slice the hump off the top of each. I saved one hump to use as the top layer of the cake. I froze each layer between wax paper. While it was getting frozen, I let the ice cream soften (mix in candy if you like) and I lined the 9 inch pans with saran wrap. Scoop in the softened ice cream in the pans and squish out flat. Freeze until hardened. Then you are ready to layer. I did a layer of cake, layer of fudge topping (I read they do that at dairy queen) then a layer of Reeses cups, then ice cream and repeat til done. Refreeze cake until hard and then top with frosting and decorate (I used miniature Reeses). Freeze a final time to let decorations harden and then it is ready for wrapping in saran wrap and storing til ready to eat. We kept it about a week all wrapped up in the freezer. It sliced fairly easily with a knife that had been run under warm water. The hard work paid off, but this dessert is very rich! This recipe could certainly be simplified to be more budget friendly and less time consuming.

Next year, this is what Shawn is getting as his cake:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

10 Minute Dinner & Under $10 too!

I saw a recipe ad in a magazine & in huge letters, it said "Less than $2 per serving." I remember thinking "Big Whoop, everything we cook is $2 or less per serving and way yummier than that photo." This recipe cost me about $7.50 and made 6 HEARTY servings. We didn't do side dishes, but would have been good with squash/zucchini, salad, or french bread. I like that all the ingredients for this can be kept on hand in the freezer and pantry. Another perk was that it was easy...and fast.

I like fast dinners. Fast dinners that are delicious are even better. Fast dinners that have some nutrition value are the best....and when the kids eat it and the husband likes it too, it is even better! I baked 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (marinated in Italian dressing) last night, I chopped three for this recipe (I chopped and froze the other three). Having the meat part of a dish already cooked makes cooking nutritious meals much more realistic for our family.

Frozen Spinach ($1)
Pasta (FREE with a $0.50 coupon that was doubled)
3 chopped chicken breast (about $4)
1 Jar Alfredo ($2.50, definitely was worth it to get a better brand)

Put the spinach in a pyrex dish covered with saran wrap (no added water) and microwaved 5 minutes.
Boil Noodles. After you drain the noodles, add them back to the pot. Add chopped chicken, spinach, and Alfredo sauce. Be like me and stretch the sauce a little further by rinsing the jar with milk, half & half, or cream. Mix all together till warm and delicious. If you happen to have some fancy cheese on hand, add it on in there too (see below). We LOVE this garlic pepper on EVERYTHING. It does have a little sodium but not near as much as garlic salt (ick).
And Voila! Ok, my finished photos are never very impressive, but that is usually because I have two hungry kiddos needing my assistance by then. Trust me though that this would be a beautiful dish to make the next time you have a few guests....and you won't spend the whole night in the kitchen either.
Mabry and Eli loved this...even the spinach part. This will be one of our weekly meals, I may try fresh spinach next time, or broccoli, or zucchini....Oh the possibilities!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our First Family-of-Four Vacation

There are so many things that I could say about our week in Rosemary Beach. It was fun to see the kids discover the beach and the concept of vacation in general. We also enjoyed a little bit of time together as a couple since we had brought along our moms, we each spent time with our moms, and then we all had some fun together too. All that to say that an 18 month old and a 2 1/2 year old add a whole different spin to a beach vacation. We may try something a little different next year. It was fun and exhausting (mentally, physically, emotionally), so I'll leave it at that and keep our beach story simple. All in all, we made some fun memories as a family and were able to snap a few pictures to prove it:

We spent the week at the beach:
And we took Shawn's Mom for back-up:
And my Mom too:
Eli loved the beach which was a great relief since he normally doesn't like his hands to be dirty:
He had fun chilling like a beach bum:

Mabry was born to be a beach babe: 

They discussed important things like how much sand was in their swimsuits:

Then it was on to dig holes and play in the sand:

We girls just wanted to soak up the sun:

Mabry decided to check on Daddy's sand castle progress:

Night time came and it was time for crab-hunting....headlamps and all...

We even went to the aquarium which had lots of potential to be fun:

One of the highlights of our trip was that Eli got to see one billion tractors go back and forth from our patio since their was some construction going on. We only got to sleep til 7 a few days anyway, so the construction didn't bother us grown-ups.

We also did some shopping on the trip. I found the Ann Taylor Loft OUTLET and was in heaven.

Eli got to sit in a tree:
And Mabry wore a hairbow for 5 minutes:

...and that is our vacation in a nut shell. I can't promise I won't blog about this trip later on. It might be necessary for the therapy I need after being trapped in the car that long.