Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cheap Almost Acrylic Print

I am an avid Shutterfly user.  I love their books, cards, invitations, and gift ideas.  I also LOVE their acrylic prints (No idea what I'm talking about?  Check it out here ).  Sadly, they are wicked expensive (like over $100 on sale for a 16"x20").  I desperately wanted one to prop up on my mantle in the family room, but I just could not bring myself to spend that much when a picture in a frame would be a fraction of the cost.

I decided to focus elsewhere and was at Hobby Lobby buying beautiful barnwood frames for my "wall of Whiteakers" (If you are again confused, see the post on it here ) and I found the most amazing of things.  A "frame" that consisted of a piece of glass and a backing, held together by small clips.  It was $10. 

Long story short, I got my "almost acrylic" print for under $30.  I call that a win.
***Want to buy your own?  Hobby Lobby offers a few sizes online (here).  Or look for a store near you to pick one up!***
***Like my picture?  I printed it at http://www.shutterfly.com/ .  If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, you can even have one taken by the same photographer, my lovely cousin Tara.  Check out her blog at http://taralewisphotography.blogspot.com/ for more info!***

Monday, October 28, 2013

Caramel Crunchers

My family celebrated our October birthday's this weekend.  I am so lucky to have grown up with such a large loving group of people, but my children's Naners (long explanation, not currently relevant) will be the first to add that I am lucky to have grown up with so many good cooks!

I attribute my family being full of good cooks to two things:  First, my family is also full of creative individuals.  Our collective abilities include painting, spinning, crochet, knitting, quilting, jewelry making, photography, poetry, and on and on.  It is kind of ridiculous how talented my family is. 

The second and more important trait that resulted in so many good cooks is competitiveness.  Not in a bad "in your face, you suck looser" sort of way, but in a "I can't wait for all those bitches to eat my food and realize I am the superior cook" sort of way.  Just kidding.  Not like that either.  It is actually hard to explain, but I will try, just for you.

We love trying new things and are excited to find and create new recipes that no one has ever tried.  My family is great about appreciating a new yummy food and oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over it therefore,  everyone wants to make something that is new, exciting, and oooooh ahhhhhh worthy.  That is what I mean by competitive.

At the party we had stuffed pepper soup, borscht, white chili, roasted corn chowder, tomato bisque, Chicken gnocchi soup and paninis with fancy cheese (It was a soup theme.  Yes we have themes.  Don't be jealous.).  We also had a REAL lemon pie that my Aunt Anne made from a family recipe that includes directions like "some" "good amount" and "hot oven".  It was tart and lemony and fabulous. 

I made these bars and they appeared to be a hit, and I have to admit it they were pretty tasty.  They are a perfect combination of sweet and salty.  They don't require baking, so they would be a great summer dessert.  They are simple to make (don't be scared of making the caramel, it is easy) and go together quickly, especially if you have a helper to layer the crackers (perfect job for my 10 year old).

Caramel Crunchers
Club crackers (you will use almost the whole box)
1 c. butter (2 sticks, I use unsalted since the crackers are salty)
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. granular sugar
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used 1 sleeve's worth because it turns out, that was all I had)
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butterscotch chips
2/3 c. peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would be good too)
Line a 13"x9" pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray focusing on the sides.
Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of club crackers.
In a saucepan, melt butter.  I browned mine because I love the nuttiness it adds.
Add sugars, graham cracker crumbs and milk to melted butter and heat to a boil, stirring constantly.
Continue to boil 5 minutes.  Take off heat and stir in vanilla.
Spread 1/2 caramel (that's what you just made!) over crackers in pan.
Add another layer of crackers followed by the rest of the caramel and then a last layer of crackers.
Heat chips and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth.
Spread over the top cracker layer.
Chill at least and hour before cutting with a sharp knife.  I used the little indentations from the crackers on the top as my cutting guide to make even sized bars.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Most Com-fur-table Blanket

My kids are weirdos.  Maybe quirky is a better description...  Well...  Nope.  Weird.  My older son has what I would call a sensory... well I would consider it a problem.

I discovered it while working on my daughter's reading nook (if you missed that post, check it out here).  I bought a super soft, silky and dead free faux sheepskin at Ikea.  I thought it would be a nice place to rest her bare feet while reading in her big comfy chair.  Problem was, it never stayed in her room more than five minutes.  Her little brother would immediately sneak in, grab it, go to a quiet corner, strip off all his clothes and...


Yup...  Weird.  Realizing it was going to be a never ending battle to keep the rug in Emma's room, I decided to make Mr. Man a furry of his own.  Luckily, it is costume season, so the options were plentiful at the fabric store.  I let him choose his fur and a flannel for the back.  I picked a coordinating flannel for the trim and got to work. 

I bought a yard of fur and a yard of the flannel for the back, but they were different widths so I laid them out and cut them to the same size, squaring them up a little in the process.  I don't have the time or the inclination to be exact, so I eyeball it.  Mr. Man doesn't care if it's not perfect and neither do I.

I bought 1/2 yard of my edging flannel (just to be safe) and cut it into 2" wide strips.  Then I sew them together, end to end, into one long strip.

My iron was in the basement and my flat iron was handy, so I used it to press the seams open on my super strip.

To make the blanket all I did was sandwich my fabric, wrong sides together and sew on my binding.

A couple of hours and under $15 to make my little weirdo happy.  Unfortunately we may have a new issue..

It appears we have another weirdo in the making.
***Like my fabric?  Got it all at my local JoAnn Fabrics.***
***Don't know how to sew binding on?  Check out how I do mine here .***
***Want more kiddo blanket ideas?  Check out more of my blankets here , here , here, and here .***

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Emma's Reading Nook

I have been struggling to  help my 10 year old daughter to find the enjoyment in reading.  I thought I had her hooked when we found a series of books she loved.  Then we realized it was a new series and there were only four.  Then we found another, similar series.  Again, new and only a few have been written.  I tried old standbys (Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children), but she was not into them.  Sigh.

I decided to switch gears and try working not on the content, but the experience.  Emma is the oldest of three, with the younger two being boys.  I wondered if she would enjoy reading more, if it was her escape from testosterone, noise, fighting, and Batman on repeat.  So, I set out to create her own little quiet space.

I decided the perfect place was found in her room.  She has two adjacent corner windows that look out over a horse farm and would provide lots of natural light.  I found an appropriately sized, but still comfy chair and nestled it in said corner.  I placed a basket on one side of the chair to hold books, and slung a rose colored afghan my mother made her over the back to snuggle under on cool days.  Last, I found a faux sheepskin rug at Ikea to put at her feet for some softness and fanciness.

She LOVES it.  It is the perfect place for her to sneak off to when insanity is running high.  So, if you are having motivational issues  with one of your minions, maybe try this trick and see if it helps them look at reading in a different light.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Easy Initial Frame

I am finally getting around to decorating my new house.  We have lived here for over two years, but I went and decided it was a good idea to breed soon after we moved in.  My little guy is now almost one and I can occasionally find the time to get some things accomplished around the house.

One glaring issue was the huge barren expanse of wall above my family room sofa.  It kind of had me perplexed.  It needed a large piece of art and I am cheap.  So, I put it off.

While shopping for frames for photos for my grandma's 90th birthday party (sorry about the excessive use of "for"), I came across a fantastic weathered wood frame.  It got me thinking.  What about a GROUP of pictures to mimic a large piece?

I decided I needed six frames.  Now, how to fill them?  I have three kiddos, so they got half of them.  I was still pondering the other three when I was at the craft store.  I came across wooden letters and had an idea for an awesome non-picture piece.  It was super easy and added a focal point that was much needed.   Here is what I did.

I took the letter I bought and spray painted it bronze.

Next, using the cardboard backing of the frame as a template, I cut a coordinating piece of fabric.

I put the fabric inside the frame,

then used command strips on the back of my letter (in case I want to change the frame later)

and stuck the letter to the glass of the frame.  Be careful not to push too hard.  You don't want shattered glass everywhere.
Then I hung it on my wall with my other pictures.  Cute right?
***Like my frames?  Got them at Hobby Lobby for about $17 each.***
***Like my letter?  JoAnn Fabrics for under $5.***
***Like my pictures?  They are 11"x14" prints from http://www.shutterfly.com/ .***
***Oh, you mean you like the actual photos!  The top two and the picture of my daughter were done by my beautiful cousin Tara.  If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, she can take some for you too!  Check out her blog at http://taralewisphotography.blogspot.com/ .  She is AMAZING!***

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Easiest Pie Crust EVER

I come from a family of cooks.  Anytime we are together the conversation ALWAYS turns to food.  A great new restaurant, favorite food your mom made, best new recipe and on and on.

Today, I am sharing a recipe my Aunt Becky found.  She has been telling me about it for quite a while and I just now got around to trying it.

I have been using my grandma's pie crust recipe for years (see it here along with my recipe for chocolate chip pie).  Occasionally I suffer from amnesia and try another recipe, but the need for a food processor and pie weights brings me back to reality.  I don't have time to go to the bathroom, let alone babysit a baking pie crust that I still have to make filling for.  So back to my grandma's crust I would go.  I didn't think it could get easier until I tried this version.  No rolling or extra dirty dishes.  Winner, winner, pie for dinner.

Pat in Pan Pie Crust
1-1/2 c. flour+3 Tbsp.
1-1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. cold milk
Stir together flour, sugar and salt in pie pan.
Measure oil in a 1 cup measuring cup.  Add milk and whisk with a fork to combine.
Dump all at once into flour mixture in pan.
Stir together using fork, until no pockets of flour remain.
Pat out, using fingers across bottom and up sides of pan.  Flute edges if desired.
If you are baking to fill later, prick shell with fork and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winey Wednesday-Strawberita

A while back, I gave my review of Bud Light's new Lime-a-Rita (basically, it's awesome).  I loved it so much that when they ran out, I bought a box of the strawberry version...

Utter and total devastation.  I was expecting a fruity and fresh tasting pink concoction, but I got Dimetapp.  The lime version is light, crisp and fresh.  This stuff was heavy, syrupy and tasted like chemicals.  It.  is.  terrible.  Don't buy it.  Buy the lime.  I can't believe the same people make both.  Somebody dropped the ball on the strawberry team.  Boo, hiss.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cheater's Cafe Mocha

I love coffee.  I love the smell, the taste and considering I have three children, I am particularly fond of the caffeine.
I usually drink my coffee at home with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of cream, but I am also a fan of a good café mocha.  Unfortunately, I am not always able to drag my two smaller kiddos out to grab one from the local shop, so I came up with an easy to make at-home option.  You will laugh at the simplicity of my version, until you try it.  Then you will be impressed by my brilliance.

Cheater's Café Mocha
also known as "My children make me a shut in mocha"
hot chocolate mix
whip cream if you're inclined
This is made according to personal taste.  I will tell you how I like mine and give you a starting point.
Heat 1/2 cup milk in the microwave for about 1 minute.
While it heats, add 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix to your mug.
Pour hot milk slowly over mix, stirring vigorously to combine.
Top off with coffee (I use a Keurig set on the big cup).
If you want the authentic experience, bust out the Dream Whip for a topper.
That is it!  I know right?  You've been paying Timmy Ho-Ho's two fiddy for a cup of pretty much the same thing (minus the milk, gross).  You're welcome.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spice Rack on Crack

I love to cook.  If you did not already know that, clearly you do not spend enough of your precious time reading my blog.  Shame on you.

I have an asinine amount of food stuffs.  My pantry could comfortably sustain weeks without grocery shopping (they would be very boring, produce and dairy free weeks, but it could be done).  I also have a little bit of everything in the spice department, which has caused me a slight problem.

My house came equipped with a lazy Susan I decided was the perfect place to keep all my seasonings.  Unfortunately, this lazy Susan was made for someone who simply LIKED to cook, not one who LOVES to cook.  I had it filled to capacity and then some.  I ended up with duplicates because I could never find what I needed.  Then it was chaos.

I love Ana White.  She has a great DIY blog (http://ana-white.com/ check it out, I'll wait) and I get the updates by e-mail.  One day I saw this:

Door Spice Rack
I love, love, loved the idea of all my spices being at eye level and organized.  I wanted to make it.  Then I remembered.  I am a full time mom of a 10 year old, 3-1/2 year old and 11 month old, part time(ish) hairstylist, and my husband works ridiculous hours.  Sigh.  No beautiful homemade spice rack for me.
I knew this was the route I wanted to take in my pantry so I started looking for another (less time required) option.  I found these:
I knew this could be my solution.  I ordered four (yes FOUR) from Amazon and eagerly awaited their arrival (don't judge, it's the little things in life, right?)
They came, I easily mounted them on the inside of my pantry door and organized all my spices (By organize, I mean alphabetically.  Yes I'm serious.) 
Organization is a beautiful thing.
Jealous?  Want to have your own?  You can!  Order your own racks here.  Be careful when you install them so they don't bump the inside trim of your door frame (the piece that makes it stop in the right place).  Mine did a little bit so I had to adjust (meaning I sanded down the corner of the trim piece because I was NOT moving the racks.  They each have six screws.  NOT HAPPENING.)  I do have a couple of large spices that I bought at Sam's Club and they do not fit in these racks, but all the normal size containers do.  Happy homemaking!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Winey Wednesday

I know.  It's not Wednesday.  I don't care.

I bought this wine a bit ago and it has been sitting in my fridge waiting for a bad day.  My three year old was testing the limits of my sanity and I popped it open on Tuesday. 
I should have left it alone. 
The label says it is light and refreshing with a touch of zing that lets the fruit flavors rush forward.  It is slightly sweet with the flavors of pink grapefruit and peach.
The forward flavors were fine.  The aftertaste was the problem.  Awful.  I mean, just awful.  I dumped the whole thing down the drain.
If the after taste had not been a problem, the fact that it has a bottle cap would have been.  No resealing for this wine.  You would have to drink it all and let me tell ya, I would already have to be schnookered to think this tasted even remotely palatable.  This is a big thumbs down. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Preserving Precious Works of Art

I am a creative person.  I have bred creative people.  The largest of my smalls loves making me pictures and let me tell ya, some of them are pretty impressive.  I realize that these works of art are priceless and I want to keep them pristine.  Unfortunately, I don't have the wall space to keep them all in frames and protected, so I was on the hunt for an alternative.  I knew Modge Podge would get the job done, but the application method (paint brush) would smear anything done with pastel or pencil.

While hunting for spray paint at Menard's, I came across this:

Eureka!  Inexpensive (under $10), easy to find and apply, this was my answer.  Now, I keep a can of this on hand at all times.  Here is how I use it:

I lay the picture I want to spray face up in a dry, well ventilated area (my driveway).  Shake the can for about 1 minute after you hear the mixing ball rolling.

(Pretty impressive pictures, right?)
Spray a light coat 6"-8" away from the paper.  Wait a few minutes and apply at least one more coat (I do a total of 3).

Once dry, turn it over and repeat on the back.  Paper is porous and I want my pictures to remain as close to original condition as possible.
That is it!  So go round up all your little people's amazing refrigerator art and spray away!