Monday, October 17, 2011

Fantastic Fall Pumpkins With a Chalky Twist

These pumpkins are so much fun for the whole family! 

Start with a faux pumpkin from the craft store.  Tape off the stem if you like the color, then apply chalkboard spray paint in fine layers.  You may need to apply 3 or 4 fine layers of paint in order to avoid runs and drips.
Once you've painted your pumpkin, paint on leaves and curly vines with acrylic paint.
Then write "Happy Fall", or "Happy Halloween", or "Welcome", or how about: "Happy Birthday"!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dessert Cups

I had a big family gathering a few weeks ago.  My (youngest) brother brought his girlfriend to meet the family.  It was sort of a big deal, but I didn't want it to be TOO much of a big deal.  I knew she was nervous to meet us all ( I served dinner for 28).

 I thought a fun dinner to lighten the mood would be better than a sit-down formal meal.  I decided on a Make-Your-Own Taco night.  It worked out really well.  I had big bowls full of condiments and sides, I made fresh corn, and used tomatoes from my Mom's garden.  We had planned several games to keep everyone engaged and talking. 

For dessert, I thought we may as well expand on the Make-Your-Own theme, and have a sundae bar.  We had hot fudge, caramel, sprinkles, candy, whipped cream, cherries, and all sorts of toppings.  I made these fun dessert cups to scoop the ice cream into. 

I took regular flour tortillias and used a cookie cutter to make smaller circles.  I slightly buttered both sides of the circle and then sprinkled on sugar and cinnamon. 
Then I pushed the circles into a muffin pan and baked them at 350 for 8 minutes.  They were perfectly crispy and just the perfect compliment to all of the dessert toppings.  The kids thought they were amazing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Observation at Mammoth Cave

Over the summer, we visited Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky.  
Mammoth Cave, as it's name suggests is giant.  It is with world's largest cave system by far, and they are still discovering other branches and making new maps to record recent discoveries. 

An interesting thing about the place is that it has been open for tours since the 1840's.  Hard to imagine.  Wealthy North Easterners  traveled  by stage coach for months to visit the place.  There was a small retreat type hotel, but the draw was the cave.  

The property above ground at the time was owned privately, and the property owners would have their slaves give tours.  Some of the slaves became known for their excellent tours and knowledge of the cave and it's many underground passageways.Some of these slaves earned enough money in tips to buy their freedom.
 Throughout the older part of the cave, there is "graffiti" left by these early explorers.  The slaves hoped to earn tips by allowing their guests to write on the walls and ceilings of the cave with candle smoke ( I think candles were made with fat at the time, so they were a bit smokier than ours today).

 What struck me most was the immaculate penmanship.  Beautifully formed letters in different fonts even!  The   skill of handwriting is truly lost.  I can tell you that my kids (all of them) can type better and faster than they can write.  This saddens me somehow.  It makes the writing from the 1800's look like art.
Here's the crew outside, peeling off their jackets.  It was 90 degrees that day, and it's always 60 something in the cave.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Best Fresh Salsa

I know your gardens are all busting with fresh tomatoes and herbs.  Here's something fresh to do with your garden surplus.

Here's what you'll need:
4 limes, 2 tomatoes, and onion, a pepper, a dash of salt, cilantro (not pictured) and the "special sauce" Lizano salsa.

While we were away this summer in Costa Rica, Renzo, a chef, showed us how to make this excellent salsa.

My kids loved Renzo.  That's a story for another day.

Here's what you'll need to do:
Chop all of the ingedients finely, add about 2 tablespoons of Lizano Sauce (found in the Mexican food section of the grocery) and stir. Serve with thick tortilla chips.  The result is an excellent salsa that you and your family will crave!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Well, They are Gone

My kids are off to school today.
I'm feeling a bit lost as I do every year.  More sad for myself than for them...they are off with their friends on new adventures.  I'm left with what I forgot to do, (pack snacks for my youngest two), what I wanted to do (have an unhurried morning) and lots of chores and organization that require more effort than I'm capable of right now.

It doesn't help that I think I'm coming down with a head cold.  I had a cup of coffee, so I can't go back to bed.  I feel like watching TLC all day, but that's not very productive, is it?

I've got lots of exciting projects and catching up to do here.  Can't wait to share all that has been going on.  I hope you'll understand why I took the summer off once I get into the move, the renovation of my 100 year old house, our amazing trip, and so much more!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm seeing...DOTS....

My Kids just love the mystery and suspense of these Lego minifigures.  These little bags are sold for less than $3, and contain a mystery Lego minifigure.  Each series contain a mix of great characters. The only problem is that your son can get the figure skater with the pretty outfit including a blue skirt 3 times in a row.  That brings some frustration and tears, I happen to know first hand. 
Alas, but there is a way around repeatedly buying the same figure, and possibly choosing the one you'd really like.  It is no less frustrating, and it may bring tears, but they will be your tears, not your 6 year old's!  Lego apparently marks the packages with a dot system that must be an internal way for them to know whats what. 
These very hard to see dots are at the back of the package, on the bottom seal.  Arm yourself with the following dot codes, and you'll have a better chance at getting the hockey player, or whatever it is that your little one just can't live without!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Get Some Strange Looks in Produce

It occurred to me that not everyone smells their cantaloupe before they purchase it.  I can't help it!  My Mom taught me most of these tips for buying the best of fresh produce:

Cantaloupe:  Smell it.  It should smell like cantaloupe. It should also be slightly soft at the stem area.  If it's green, you can leave it sit on the counter to ripen.

 Watermelon:  Knock on it.  If it sounds hollow, then, it's a good one.  The sweetest melons are cracked inside, and are ripe.  When you are knocking, if it sounds solid, move on.

Green Grapes:  Look for grapes that have a slightly yellow cast, particularly opposite the stem area.  They are the sweetest.  The really dark green ones are sour.

Pineapple:  This fruit should be yellow near the bottom.  I've also heard that you should be able to pull a leaf from a fruit that is ripe.  
Now I'm sure there are many more tips that I don't know about!  
What did your Mom tell you??

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I hope you all get to spend some time today enjoying all of the reasons why you are a Mother.  I wish you unexpected hugs and sloppy peanut butter and jelly kisses!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Use For Coffee

I needed a fresh centerpiece for my kitchen table.  I've always loved ivy, and this verigated stuff I found at Lowes was so sweet.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but I bought 3 anyway.  When I got home, an idea came together. 

I fetched 3 pots from under the kitchen sink, planted the ivy, hmm, still not right.  I found a tray and lined the pots up on the tray.  Problem:  the tray is white, and the pots are cream.  They clash a bit.  ENTER: Coffee!  I dumped whole coffee beans on the tray surrounding the pots.  It's perfect.  The extra layer of texture and deep chocolate color are just what this little arrangement needed.  Plus, it smells good.  Bonus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remember My Belt?

I wore my Boiled Wool Flower belt the other day, and I was reminded of how much I like it. 
It's perfect with jeans and a t-shirt (my Mom uniform). 

It deserves a re-visit with spring fast approaching.  This belt looks great with a breezy skirt too!
I'm linking up to my soul sister Jen's Linky party!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Horses in Pittsburgh

I was at a bakery in Lawrenceville recently.  I'm a sucker for a bakery.  I'll plan a day around a visit. 

So, the kids and I stopped at Dozen on a saturday morning, and on the way back to the car, I looked up and noticed the graceful horse that was above a beautiful arched doorway.  Upon further inspection, there was a date of 1888 in a brick keystone.  I'm sure this building used to be a stable. 

I loved the swirly carving at his neck, the aged look in his eye, and the moss on his nose.   He looks so magestic.

I remembered that I took his picture as I was thinking about what to get for my sister in law's birthday.  She runs a horse farm, and I never know what to get for her.   So. I made a canvas print for her of this photograph. 

Here's how you can produce an equally amazing canvas wrapped gift, or something perfect for your walls:

1.) Upload your photo to Picnik. Use all of their really cool photo effects to create and perfect the look of your photo.

2.) Go to Canvas On Demand, upload your newly created photo, and select which size canvas you'd like and how you'd like it wrapped or framed.

3.) Before you check out on Canvas On Demand, go to Retail Me Not for a discount code.  20april will get you 20% off!

Here's what I ordered:

I hope she loves it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bank Some Happiness

I was scrolling through my camera and my phone pictures this morning.  Any time I need a little happiness, I take a peek back through all of the funny and sweet and silly things that I've taken pictures of. 

I realized that I often take non-traditional photos.  Ones that are of the everyday goofiness and chaos and crazy that makes me happy.  Instead of only dragging your camera out on "special occasions" to take orderly family photos, keep it in your bag and take a picture of anything that makes you smile.  You'll love scrolling back through all of the captured moments.

The above is a picture of my daughter's chalky foot. Taken while in the midst of filling my driveway with art work.

Don't you just love blue candy?

Make your son feel like a Superhero even if he's just doing his math homework!

Um, well if you happen to run across a polar bear pelt, have your daughter stand in front of it's head and make a funny face!

Stick a piece of corn where your tooth used to be.

Take foam squares and stick them randomly to your face.

Take a picture of your elbow.  It really does look like...well, you know.

And how about this super happy toothless grin! It makes me smile!

Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm not good at saying "No"

I'm a Yes person.  Sure I can help. Absolutely, you can count on me.  Why not?  I've found that lately my desire to help out or pitch in has been to the detriment of my family and more importantly, to my laundry. 

I have been inspired by my painter to start a list of readily available and scripted excuses for why I can't do things.  Maybe if I just had a list nearby, it would be easier to get out of stuff.  My painter has a list as long as his arm of excuses.  Here are some that I've heard lately:

My daughter was sick and I had to get her from school

A tree trimmer got his truck stuck in my driveway.  He got unstuck by 11am, but by then, I had started to clean the garage

I have another job that is bigger than yours

I'm feeling foggy today

So, I need some more excuses for my arsenal.  What are some of your go-to's?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Help!....I can't stand it!

I know I shouldn't care.  I don't know why it's such a big deal...I'm just a quiet person.  I enjoy quiet.
 I ride in the car for hours with just my own thoughts.  Noise in the background makes me nuts.  For example, a TV that someone has walked away from hours ago, and was left on: makes me crazy. Any kind of Nintendo game constantly playing the same tune, or worse yet, the gun noise constantly: makes me nuts.

Click Here for credit for this perfect image. 

Here's the thing:  My daughter constantly hums.  It's a happy noise, full of tune and is her own personal song.  She hums in the car, while she's reading, during homework. It makes me crazy.  I hate to squelch her happiness, but sometime I snap.  (Then I feel badly)  What should I do??

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Steak Stew

I've been time challenged when it comes to dinners around here.  I was inspired by the giant Costco "stew meat" package.  I remember my Mom making stew when I was little, it was a really good one pot meal.  So, I brought home the ingredients, and drug out the crock pot.  BOY, am I glad I did.  Imagine my surprise when it turned out really good, and my kids were asking for seconds.  The recipie I used allowed for a lot of interpretaion (for example, it didn't call for carrots, but there were carrots in the picture of the meal). There were also other discrepancies with measurments.  I've cleaned it up, and revised it here:

Steak Stew  (Named By My Daughter...Who Loves Steak..)
1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp. flour, divided
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 lbs. beef stew meat
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
6 ribs celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tblsp. water
2 cups diced carrots

1.) combine the 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag, add the beef and shake until the beef is coated.  Place in slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients except the 2 tblsp. flour and water.
Cover and cook on low 8-12 hours, or on high 4-6 hours.

2.) One hour before serving, combine 2 tblsp flour and 3 tblsp water in a small bowl. whisk together and add to the stew mixture. Cover and cook until thickened.

This stew is excellent served with my Amish Cornbread.

Monday, February 7, 2011

BOY Valentines

Valentine's Day is nearly upon us.  Every year, my girls go nuts painting and primping and cutting and pasting and glittering their Valentine's Boxes.  Every year, my boys moan.

I found this very boy-ish valentine from Family Fun for my 6 year old to make for his class.  He was very excited to make them, and is now excited to give them.  They are far from the norm of sticky sweet kissy and huggy valentines!

Here's what you'll need to make your own fleet of vrooming dive-bombing valentine treats and toys all in one:

rubber bands, life savers mints, Smartie's and some stick gum.

I wrapped my gum in brown paper that I had stamped with hearts (note that I did the stamping with son could have cared less).

Take the rubber bands, string 2 lifesavers through the holes and then slide either end of the rubber band over the sticks of gum. Then slide a Smartie through the middle of the two lifesavers.

It's SO easy, and so sweet!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Custom Beads!

Well, we are at it again.  My husband is cranking out these custom made beads as a fundraiser for our kid's school. 

Each student designs his or her own bead with pencil and paper.  My very talented husband then creates each of their beads in glass.  We offer them to the parents for sale on an 18" sterling silver necklace accented with 2 silver beads. 

The fun is not just for the students at our school though, YOU can design your own bead too!  Or have your husband draw something, or have your 2 year old scribble a pattern, or design it yourself!  Visit my Etsy site to place an order.

They are terrific personalized gifts for Mother's Day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Did You Know You Could Make a Puzzle from a Photo?

My Mom has been crazy about "having a puzzle going" all winter.  I think ever since she heard that Barbara and George Bush frequently do puzzles together, she has been validated that this is a legitimate, even desirable thing.  The winter days are long, as we know, and she really enjoys finding a few pieces here and there.  Sometimes she saves the last 6 pieces for the kids so that they can complete the if that's not love...

You can order your own at, or any number of other sites.  Portrait Puzzles does have a very nice selection of sizes, and I particularly liked the "gift tin" option.  It was a great gift idea.