Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homemade Ornaments

I was in charge of the activity for playgroup this week, so I searched for a fun activity on-line to do. I found a great one and was all prepared. But sadly, that morning everything was iced over and traffic was HORRIBLE!!! I spend 1 hour in the car and only got 10 minutes away from my house. Everyone else was in the same boat, so I guess we will save the idea for a playgroup next year. But I figured I had already spent the time cutting 18 wooden discs from a tree in our yard, so I let my kids do all of them.

I got the idea here. and I also searched google images for "Christmas thumbprint art" for some other design inspirations. There were some very cute ideas and projects there too.
This is how ours turned out

The project is easy to figure out just by looking at it
  1. cut up a tree/branch into thin slices. (Mine was a little moist on the inside so I put them in the oven for an hour or 2 on 350. It made the house smell nice and piney.)
  2. sand them
  3. drill a hole for a ribbon to go through
  4. write the kids name on the back with the year in a permanent marker
  5. and let those cuties go to town with the paint
  6. when dry thread some ribbon through and hang on tree

New recipe site

I have been feeling tired of all of our regular meals that we have at dinner time and I keep looking for something new. Here is one of my favorites that I found this week.

Easy Creamy Mexican Skillet from My Family Meal Plan

It is sort of like a mexican stroganoff. It also reminds me of hamburger helper, but a packet free homemade version. Anyway, 3 out of 4 of us liked it. Give it a try and see how your family might like it.

I also think that I will enjoy exploring the website a bit more. They have a long list in the side bar of all their labels, so you can click on chicken, or ground beef, or whatever you want to find the perfect thing for your dinner.

I'll add it to our favorite recipe link list, hopefully along with some more gems that I find here :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts for Teachers-
Here are the gifts we are handing out to our Teachers this year.
We included 1 candy cane cookie, 2 squares of fudge and 2 sticks of our caramel. My oldest wanted to write notes to go with them. So we cut up some wrapping paper and she wrote on the back of it. She came up with the message herself "I am glad your my teacher." She signed it with a little heart sticker and her name.
Don't you wish you were her teacher now?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Bake-A-Thon

We have begun our holiday cookie/candy bake-a-thon. Every year I always tell myself I will make a bunch of treats, then package them up for friends and hand them out. I remember doing the same thing with my Dad when I was growing up. However, I don't think I realized then how hard that actually is to make, wrap and deliver so many treats to such a long list of people you want to spread some holiday cheer too. So most years, I start out with the intent to deliver holiday Joy to those I love but somewhere along the way i give up. I'm posting now to prevent that from happening this year. And to share this kid involved idea with those of you who might play this same game as me year after year.
We did Gingerbread candy cane cookies. The kid involved part was the candy cane dusting.
  1. I did the cookie cutting on my own
  2. While I did that I let the kids stomp the candy canes into dust. (I put the canes in a ziplock baggie and gave the kids something to hammer it with. Every once in a while there would be too many holes in the bag and we'd have to put it in a new bag.)
  3. When the candy canes were made into a small/fine dust I put it into a cereal bowl.
  4. Once the cookies were cool I striped frosting with a slanted icing tip (I used wilton #47)
  5. Then as soon as a cookie was frosted I gave it to one of the kids who dipped it frosting side down into the candy dust and then put it back onto the cooling rack.
It went great. I'm happy because they look so cute and the kids were happy because they got to help. You can see in the picture our first cookie (The one in the top right corner) has candy chunks that look a little bit too big. After we did it we realized that we needed to crush the candy up into finer pieces.

I also made homemade caramel and I gave fudge a try again.

Last year I made batch after batch of flops with fudge. I wanted to learn how to make it without just melting down a bunch of chocolate chips as part of the recipe or using marshmallow cream, I wanted to make "real" fudge. I had one that I think I burned, another that never set (like hot fudge for ice-cream) and one that was so dry it was just a bunch of crumbles.
Well this year my fudge turned out almost perfect (My Dad would be so proud :) my one and only problem was that at the very moment I turned off the mixer to pour my perfect fudge into the pan to cool, Gwen's school called to tell me that I missed Gwen's bus. In the 10 seconds it took to take that call the fudge began to set. I scooped it out of the mixing bowl and pressed it into the pan as fast as I could. I know that it will still taste great, but the top just doesn't have that beautiful look that fudge has when it is poured before it sets up.
So I guess next time I just need to pay better attention to the clock, otherwise Gwen's bus driver will hate me.

Happy candy making

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cookies and winter Hat

I made some new cookies this week for one of the girls little friends. It was her birthday and she and her sister have been asking their Mom for Strawberries all month, so I made some for her :)

To make the strawberry I used a fairy want cookie cutter and a heart cookie cutter. There is a tutorial here on how to combine cookie cutters to make a new shape of cookie.

This pattern is one I used to make Maggie's Winter Hat. She desperately wanted an adorable dress coat at Macy's for her birthday. She was so cute in it that I wanted it too. but it was expensive enough that I felt it was a bit wasteful when she did not NEED another coat. Well, I found a similar coat at the thrift store for $3, I think it was even the same brand as the coat at Macy's. Then I came home and recycled 2 old sweaters into a hat to match my thrift store find.
The pattern was fine, but Maggie's not a baby anymore so her head was a little big. I had to use the largest size and the smallest seam allowance I could. The sweaters that were reincarnated into the hat were a beige fleece sweater and a pink knit sweater I had tried to felt a few years ago.
The whole thing is cute, inexpensive and warm.
I also found a dress coat for Gwen, but I've been doing so many projects, I think I will wait a month or so before I begin a hat For Gwen.

Alice in wonderland costume

Maggie changed her mind about a hundred times regarding her Halloween costume this year. Anything Gwen suggested to her she said she would like to be. So we sort of made a game out of it. But for a long time she wanted to be a pioneer just like Gwen. But when we went to the store to pick out the fabric for her costume she saw a picture of Alice in Wonderland and told me that she wanted "to be a girl" (She has never seen Alice in Wonderland.) Luckily we already had black shoes, tights, a white apron from an old costume and some black ribbon. So all I had to do was make the dress. I'm hoping that now that she has the costume, she won't change her mind again.

We used New Look Pattern 6448. I didn't have any trouble with it and actually wished I bought nicer fabric so after Halloween I could add some colorful details so she could wear it to church and stuff because it looks cute on her. I will keep this in my pattern box and probably use it again.
I did deviate from the pattern a little on the sleeves. I'm all for an easy Cap sleeve, but Alice obviously has a sleeve with a little more umph. I'll have to do a tutorial on how I did it, but that day is not today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

pioneer girl costume

I have been working on SO MANY projects now that I have a space to do them. Many of them might be 1/2 done, but I love being able to create again! Here is one of them completed. Gwen's Halloween costume. I think I was thinking I'd make her an apron to wear with it, but now I think it doesn't need one.

I used Simplicity pattern # 3725. I didn't find it difficult other than the waistline. It was supposed to come to a point in the center of the skirt, but mine didn't work out. That has happened to me before. I guess I need to read the pattern more closely next time. There is a pattern for a bonnet, the one we are using is store bought.

Some of the other things I've been making:
-A winter bonnet for Maggie to match a dress coat we found for her at the thrift store
-A Mary Engelbreit embroidered quilt top
-A duvet cover to go with the the down comforter Grandma is getting Maggie For Christmas
-An Alice in Wonderland Costume for Maggie (She has never seen the movie, but she thought Alice was cute when we were flipping through the pattern books at the store)

Wish me luck, I got into so many projects because life was getting frustrating. I was feeling like the hamster who looks out of his glass cage while running on his wheel never getting anywhere and I wanted an escape. But now I feel like I've made more frustrations for myself because I've been ignoring the house for a few days and it will take me a while to catch up on housework. So goes my never ending battle to find time to nurture myself.

Spaghetti Sauce Recipe-Attempt #1

I always have a hard time finding spaghetti sauce that I like (I don't like the tomatoes to overpower it and I just want the sauce my mommy made when I was a little girl.) Going organic has limited our choices to pricey and expensive jars regardless of taste. So I went on Amazon and signed up for their subscribe and save program. I'm getting a few things including basic seasonless organic tomato sauce and I'm on a mission to search the web for a sauce recipe to spice it up, because I don't really like the taste of tomatoes, but always enjoy a flavorful spaghetti dinner.
I started with this recipe I found on I tweeked it a bit and enjoyed it at dinner, but thought it was a bit too hot. So I added another can of the seasonless tomato sauce and saved it in the fridge in an attempt to save the leftovers. And here is my game plan for my next attempt at some sauce. It is my version of the recipe link.

Spaghetti Sauce
3 -8oz. cans tomato sauce
1 bell pepper Pureed or minced
1 TBPS Garlic
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/4 cup Pureed Carrot or 1 carrot Minced
2 beef boulion cubes/ better than Bouillon or some meat depending on what you are serving with the sauce
1 bay leaf (To be removed just before serving)
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry Oregano
1 tsp dry Basil
1/8 tsp red pepper
1/4 tsp Black pepper
2 tsp sugar

simmer for up to 2 hours and serve or can.

Wish me luck for the next attempt!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Okay, so this may look dark and dreary, but this is my new work space at our new house. The guy who owns the house did a lot of wood working and actually built a lot of the house himself, so he has a ton of work benches and shelves down stairs in the unfinished basement. So I claimed some of them. I've decided that it doesn't look pretty, but on a hot day it is nice a cool down there and there is nothing else that goes on down there, so if I don't have time to finish my projects, I can just leave them right where I left off with out having to put them away and then pick up right where I left off when I have time for them again. And THAT is a beautiful thing.

I also got a new sewing machine with some birthday money. I agonized for a long time over what brand and type of machine to get. I wanted to get a machine that I could have forever (Bernina, Babylock, Phaff...) but they all were computerized machines and I was a little bit intimidated of that. My Mom had told me about this machine listed on Amazon and after looking into it ($167 and 700+ reviews giving it 4 1/2 stars) I decided that it would be perfect for me to try out these new fangled machines. Hopefully it will last me a while, but if it only lasts a few years like my other ones I now know that I can save up and buy a nice one with confidence.

And here is my first project on it. a Friend from Port Hueneme showed me a chenille blanket that she had made and it was beautiful, so I tried one too. I was really excited about it until my husband tried to find a nice way to tell me that it looked like a torture device to put a baby into vertigo. After taking a step back I realized he was right and decided I probably shouldn't add it to my pile of projects to hand out as gifts. But I'm glad I tried out the technique. My only complaint about the technique is probably the same of any blanket, it was so heavy that I was worried it was going to ruin the perfect tension on my sewing machine. (I HATE tension problems.) Anyway, here is a tutorial on how to chenille if you want to give it a try.

While I worked on the blanket my girls were constantly asking if they could have my extra fabric, so one night when it was just Me and Gwen in the house she found some long strips and asked if she could make a scarf out of them. I told her yes. It was easy and she was excited to help with the foot pedal.

We also put together this quiet time book. I had purchased the fabric at Jo-Ann's a few years ago, it had all the pages and the instructions on the fabric. We just had to cut it out, sew it together with some scraps of batting in between each page and it was done. It was so easy, I might do it again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pack out of our house in Port Hueneme

Our move has been going great,
The packers came to the house a week or 2 ago and got the house packed up by 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the moving truck came a few days after that and I was pleasantly surprised at how painless the whole thing was. I had cramps one of the days and I was actually able to lay down and take a 2 hour nap with out stressing out about all of the things I should be doing. Luckily it was a day that I wasn't having to babysit the movers.
But I still left a lot of little things to do until the last minute and I didn't get out and turn in the keys until 9:00 PM. Also, I thought I had been really good about not accumulating too many flammable items while living in Port Hueneme, but I still had so many extra cleaners/toiletries/flammable items that I had to pull out of the bathrooms, kitchen and garage.
Yet while I was cleaning the house I used mostly just powdered bleach and glass cleaner

My things to remember from this move are:
  • The cleaners I used were-powdered bleach with an iron handled brush, Oil soap to get off the built up grease on the vent for the stove hood and the built up grease on top of the cabinets, glass cleaner for the windows and mirrors, also the glass cleaner pads on a stick for the outside windows worked great too. And a bucket of water with a few rags. My only cleaning problem was the outside of the upstairs windows. I couldn't remember how to clean them properly.
  • try to avoid moving out during your menstrual cycle. I got lucky this time, but the next time it might not turn out so well.
  • Make sure to get the baby sitters for the days the movers are at the house and at least 1 day for cleaning
  • makes sure to get the hotel room starting on the day before the movers come. It makes life easier. (Note to Sam- the past 2 moves you have said you thought that it was a waste of money, and both times when the day finally came you were glad we had the room a day early so we could get our bags and stuff we don't want the movers taking to be out of the house.)
  • Make sure Sam takes the time off work to help out with the move. (Note to Sam-You had me do it on my own this time and I was able to do it, but you still had to take long lunches to go and get lunch for me and the movers and you told me you wished you took the time off so you could help more.)
  • You will be surprised at how much you can get done if you clean while the packers are there. Make sure to request that they start in the kitchen so you can start cleaning it by lunch time.
  • We had a good bye party for the girls at a near by park and it was SO much fun. It was a great way to say good bye to friends and I didn't have to worry about people messing up my clean house.
  • When people ask you what they can do to help, make dinner dates with them for the last week you are in town. It is a great way to say good bye and you can clean your appliances early. Just tell them you would be happy to bring garlic bread, or a veggie platter. (Some thing that you can just pick up at the store.) You will especially want to make sure someone will feed you on Sunday so you don't have to go out to eat on Sunday.
Good luck Bri of the Future. We seem to be getting better at this every time we do it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This photo does not due my most recent project justice. But here it is anyway.

I made it with some blocks my sister gave me and I'm giving it to a friend. Luckily Carrie was sweet enough to let me borrow her sewing machine so it could be done in time for the baby shower on Saturday. Thank Carrie!

And here are some of the cookies I made for our ward's talent show this weekend.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Polk a Dot dresses

I decided to get some family photos done last month. I knew I wanted my husband to wear his uniform, but I didn't know what I wanted my girls to wear. Luckily my Mom had given me some cute blue fabric with bold white polk-a-dots on it. So I pulled out some patterns and made some dresses for my girls. I used Newlook 6473 to make the dresses and I wanted them to have a sleeve on them, so I used the cap sleeve on Newlook 6448. And I added a bow to tie around the waist.

They turned out great, as you can see...

I measured the girls and the dresses fit. But I forgot to check the length on Gwen's and it was a little too short. (It looked fine for the photos, but she won't be able to wear it for very long.) Also, my machine is still broken, so this was another by hand project. It went fine, but I am really ready to stop doing everything by hand. I like to do some things that way, but not everything.

Also I was so tired of the project that I did a really sloppy job on the buttons so I could get done faster. I used those clear plastic rubber bands for hair as button holes. It did the job, but I think it would have been better if I had just done it right.

Another funny thing about making do in a bind is that this photographer lives near our old base, so we scheduled the photo shoot for a time when we were there for the weekend. Sadly I forgot some of the things I needed for the project and the material I used for the tie around the waist is actually material from a pillowcase I stole from the hotel. I guess I should call them and make sure they charged the missing pillowcase to my room. :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rachel's Whole Weat Bread

Here is a yummy bread recipe I got from a friend in Ridgecrest, CA. It makes 2 delicious loafs of bread. (This used to be posted on our family photos website but I needed to move it here for convenience.)

2 1/2 Cups Warm Water
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBSP Yeast
1/2 cup Powder Milk
3 TBSP Oil
2 1/2 tsp Salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups bread flour

  1. Mix water, Sugar and yeast together. Let sit for a minute.

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. If you don't have a stand mixer you'll need to get your hands dirty because it's too thick to do this just with a spoon. (This is the California recipe, but while living in Maine I've been needing to add an extra cup of flour for it to pull away from the sides of the bowl.)

  3. cover dough with a towel in a warm place and allow to rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.

  4. grease your hands and a surface to kneed the dough on. Kneed dough for just a minute to make sure the airbubbles are out. Form dough into 2 loafs and place into greased loaf pans (I ALWAYS use shortening to grease with because the bread NEVER sticks when I use it.) Put loafs in a warm place, cover with towel and allow to rise until double again (about 30 minutes.)

  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes and let cool. (If using a glass pan decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.)

  6. When bread is cooled, place in an airtight bag. Store in the fridge to prevent premature molding.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Deployment projects

When My hubby is away I spend most nights celebrating that the kids are in bed by curling up on the couch with a project while I watch my way through a TV series on DVD. Here are some of the projects I did over the past year while Sam was gone.

A counted cross stitch Tinker Bell blanket that I gave to a lady I visit teach for her new baby.

A stamped quilt top. I LOVE this one so much that I am keeping it in hopes that Sam and I finally have that boy we've been wanting some day.

And pillow cases. One of these I did while he was away, the other I did with my Sister in-law the last time I was home visiting the family.

Right now I have 2 projects going that I hope to finish soon. A baby blanket done with some quilt blocks my sister gave me a few years ago for my birthday that I have finally put together into a blanket. And another set of quilt blocks from my other sister.

Oh, and for those of you who love to watch TV series like I do, here is a list of some of the shows I have devoured over the last year on my lonely night at home and LOVED.

  • Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman

  • Robin Hood- BBC series

  • The Office

  • Outsourced

  • Sherlock- BBC series

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A real garden

someday I will have a real garden. I am hoping that when we move at the end of the summer our new home it will be in an area that is better for growing stuff. I've been trying to grow produce for the last 3 years, but I just have not had much luck.
Fist I blamed it on the fact that we lived in the desert and at the house we currently live in I blame it on the fact that 6" into the ground it is all just rock. I have a feeling that no matter where we live I will always find a reason that I can't grow food. However, I have made some progress. While living in our current home I have been able to plant several bushes and flowers and they seem to be doing very well. I am so happy with them and it gives me hope that someday this will be me...

...A cute, happy, thin, woman carrying the bounty of her garden home to enjoy for healthy meals and snacks. (Picture found on the sunset website)

I have been thinking about this mostly because it is expensive to buy healthy produce and to keep it on hand and fresh. Also we had a farmer who grew up in Idaho talk to us at a church meeting and he had a lot of good very random gardening advice that I wrote down in my phone and wanted to jot it down here so I don't loose it before I can use it.


  • If you buy a starter and transfer it to another pot, make sure the new pot is at least 3 times the size of the old one so it has room to grow.

  • Don't buy a big starter, it won't take off as fast as a little one.

  • Plant potatoes a foot apart

  • Plant carrots 10" apart

  • Any non root plant, plant 6" down

  • Any root plant, plant 12" down

Soil perfection

  • Amend is a great brand of soil additive

  • Don't use potting soil on it's own. Instead mix it with dirt, and soil additive.

  • If you plant with seeds, use quick start when it sprouts

  • After sprouting use fertilizer or manure once a week.

  • use 20/20/20 fertilizer or manure between when it sprouts and when it blossoms

  • Use 60/20/30 fertilizer after it blossoms

  • But DON'T over fertilize fruit trees or berries. Just fertilize the heck out of them when the first bud comes, then leave it alone!

Planting boxes

  • Do not paint the inside of the box

  • Do not use pressure treated wood, use redwood or bricks for your planter boxes.

  • You will want there to be feet on your boxes to prevent erosion and help with drainage.

So what do I hope to be able to plant? and what will I use it for?

  • Celery-salads, Ants on a log,

  • spinach-salads, I did grow this successfully already, but they were so small I never picked them until it was too late :( lesson learned)

  • zucchini- spaghetti squash, salads, to shred and hide in food

  • Potatoes

  • Tomatoes-spaghetti sauce, salsa, salads and sandwiches

  • peppers-salsa

  • lettuce- salads, sandwiches

  • Cauliflower- side dishes, cauliflower rice, snacking

  • Broccoli- side dishes, snacking

I think I should probably start small, and no try to tackle all this in the same year. But I know I am going to need some good gardening advise. Does anyone have a favorite gardening book or website they like to go to?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Minnie Mouse out fit

We went to Disneyland this week for my oldest daughter's birthday. When we went a few years ago, we saw a little girl in the tea cup line next to us wearing a pillowcase dress made out of red and white polk-a-dot material. It was so cute because she looked like a modern Minnie Mouse. So I wanted to do the same thing for my girls this trip. But my sewing machine was broken, so I figured I would just get a simple pattern and try sewing it by hand. I found this one for $1.99 and it went great.
I cut out 2 sets of pieces for a size 4. I made the first one the way the pattern said except I lined the bias tape right up to the edges on the neck and arm holes. It fit my 2 year old great. But I could tell that even with putting the bias tape 3/4" in on the neck and arm holes it would still not fit over the older one's head. (She has big poofy curly hair :) So I made some alteration to widen the opening for the head. And I also made the side seems a little smaller since she is a size 5 now.
Here is what I did to widen the neck hole.

  1. Cut the back/top pattern piece in 1/2

  2. Use bias tape on the raw edges that you just cut.

  3. use some 1/4" elastic to make a button hole at the top. When you add bias tape around the neckline it will cover any extra elastic and stitches you make here.

  4. Sew a button on the other side of the opening.

  5. continue with the pattern as indicated.

  6. When sewing the bias tape for the neck line, begin with the tape at one edge of the opening and end at the other instead of beginning at the shoulder seam like suggested in the pattern.

Here is the finished product. I think they are ADORABLE and I love them so much. And we will probably wear them again for 4th of July with some blue jean shorts or something.

Monday, April 18, 2011

eagle scout cookies & Baptism cookies

A boy in my Sunday school class earned his eagle scout award last month. So I made cookies for him so we could all celebrate with him in class. They turned out great. (Sorry the pic is sideways.)

This is how I did it.

First I cut the cookies out with a round cookie cutter. Before they got cooked, I make a paper template of an eagle and lightly traced it into the dough with a paring knife. Make sure that you don't go all the way through the cookie dough to the pan. Now put the cookies in the oven for the time indicated on the recipe.

Next use brown royal frosting to pipe along the marks you made with the paring knife. After that has set for a little while, fill in the center of the eagle with runny royal icing (flood frosting)

After that I did the stripes. I was worried I would make them all wonky, so I used some edible markers to make some lines ahead of time and they were a nice guide. But you don't have to do that. I filled one side in red, the other blue and left the middle blank. Once they were dry, I put them in bags and everyone loved them.

Baptism cookies-

Another cookie cookie that I did recently went unphotographed but was cute. A different boy in my class got baptized and he asked one of the other students to baptize him. (I know, my students are awesome!) They are both Mexican, so I did gingerbread men with little white jumpsuits. They were cute, but not as yummy as they could have been because with my time constraints I had to use frosting from the store.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook review

My husband his been very interested in the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. So I got the cookbook and tried out some of the recipes.

We have tried the:

Mayonnaise-It didn't turn out as we would have hoped

Root vegetable chips- A lot of work, we tried both frying and baking them. I think I'll just buy them next time.

Nut Crackers- My youngest and I eat them, but they were expensive to make because of the almond flour.

Summer squash noodles- we thought they were fine and will be using 1/2 regular noodles and 1/2 zucchini noodles the next time we make spaghetti.

Almond crusted poached eggs- cooked more quickly than I expected, yummy, but made a lot of dirty dishes.

Turkey Kebabs- We all liked these. I think in the future we will not bother with the kebabs and just cook them up like a patty/burger. the girls treated them like chicken nuggets.

My overall opinion of the cookbook is that it is for people who have the time to cook a lot and who enjoy cooking a lot. But it's not so much for the average household cook trying to get dinner on the table. It's no wonder they also came out with a second cookbook Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals. If that one ever comes into our library system I will probably borrow it, but as for this book, I will try to sell it online after I cook all the recipes I'm interested in.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sea Bee cookies:
I was asked this week to make some cookies for the single sailors my husband works with. I think they are adorable and don't want to forget the design for future reference.

I made a template for the bee and cut the cookies out with a paring knife. I cut the diamonds out with a template and large knife and the hats are made with egg cookie cutters.