Lovely and Simple Lavender Syrup

I know what you’re thinking…why in the world would I need lavender syrup?  Trust me, you do!  A couple of weeks ago we went to the Lavender Festival in Sequim (pronounced “squim” ) on the Olympic Peninsula.  Sequim is in the rain shadow of the Olympics, so they enjoy many more sunny days than we do here on the other side of Puget Sound. That’s why they can grow such wonderful lavender…it’s hot and sunny!

Lavender Farm CHaosServedDailyThe day we were there, that certainly held true…we arrived around 11:00, and by noon were in desperate need of shade and refreshment.  The food booths offered pretty much anything you could name, combined with lavender for the event.  While the rest of my family stuck with boring Italian soda flavors (cherry, root beer, and limeade), I thought the lavender one sounded refreshing…and it was!  They all tried it, and were sorry they hadn’t chosen that instead of their pedestrian flavors. Of course, they kept trying mine, and I really got to do little more than eat the ice, by the time they were done!

I thought it would be a simple enough task to find lavender syrup here in the home of coffee syrups, but it proved impossible.  I did find it available to order online, but at $15 a bottle, decided I could make it myself!  AFter steeping some of the lavender buds I bought at the festival in a simple syrup, I made Italian sodas for the family.  They declared them as tasty if not better than the one we shared in Sequim.  It’s a new family favorite with popcorn for movie night!

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Lavender Syrup

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lavender buds (I used dried, but you could also use fresh)

1. Combine all in a medium saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Strain, using a fine mesh strainer, into a jar and refrigerate.  Syrup-Strain-ChaosServedDai

3. To make Italian sodas:  Fill a tall glass with ice, add 2 tablespoon of the syrup, then fill with sparkling water/club soda. Stir well to combine.  If you’d like a cream soda, also add a tablespoon or two of cream. Enjoy!

You can find loads of other recipes using lavender syrup with a simple online search…I’m thinking I need to try out a lavender mojito, or perhaps a lavender, vodka, and lemonade slush!

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Prosciutto, Basil and Balsamic Nectarines

Finally…a new post!  After being cajoled in person at Bunko and my neighborhood 4th of July party, as well as on social media, I found myself newly motivated to post today!  So thanks for the encouragement, y’all!

This is a super quick and easy recipe…Prosciutto, Basil, and Balsamic Nectarines.  I made a big plate of these for lunch yesterday, and, of course, just as I was sitting down to enjoy, the hooligans wandered in and “shared” them….good thing I’d made a lot!Nectarines-ChaosServedDaily

Prosciutto, Basil, and Balsamic Nectarines

· 3 nectarines, sliced into 8 wedges

· 8 wafer-thin slices prosciutto

· 24 small basil leaves, or 24 pieces of large basil leaves

· Balsamic vinegar glaze

Cut the each piece of prosciutto into 3 long “ribbons.”

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Place a basil leaf on a slice of nectarine and wrap with a ribbon of prosciutto.

Place in preheated skillet, with the side with the end of the prosciutto down, and let nrown. Turn and let other side brown, then remove from skillet.

Drizzle with balsamic glaze (and a little shaved Parmesan, if you’d like) and serve!

I had somehow run out of Parmesan, or I would have shaved a bit over the nectarines just before serving, using a vegetable peeler to make the shavings. Oh, and these are tasty with peaches, as well, if they’re in season where you live. These are really an appetizer, but I love them for a light lunch, too.

So I know you’ve been wondering (just humor me…I know you haven’t wondered!)…what’s up with the long absence from blogging?  Well, life, basically!  Nothing exciting or traumatic…I had a really tough semester, but finished 21 credits and passed (with flying colors…I have to brag a little, I was so stressed about these tests!) all my state- and college-required exams on math content.  I have two more terms of coursework, then a term of student-teaching, and I’ll graduate in December of 2016.  I’m so glad to have a light at the end of the tunnel!

My favorite GI Joe retired from the military last October and started a new job helping veterans transitioning back into the civilian world.  Then, just last week, he switched to a healthcare company, where he’s a strategic planner.  Whatever that means.  What it means to me is that he’s pursuing a new career course that still lets him help others, which makes him happy!

The hooligans are thoroughly enjoying their summer, sleeping late, spending a ton of time at gymnastics practice, swim lessons, and various day camps, and generally being kids.  I crushed their little happiness bubbles a bit yesterday when I told them summer is one-third over this Friday…but they decided they need to squeeze in more fun, if that’s the case!

We had a great Fourth of July…as usual, starting off with funnel cakes and berries for breakfast, a small-town parade, the neighborhood cookout, and fireworks on post.  I hope yours was amazingly fun, too!

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Crown of Thorns Family Project

Since tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and my kids are all old enough now to grasp the concept, I wanted to make a Crown of Thorns to help us to observe Lent this year.  When I explained the idea to them, they all seemed eager to participate.  The plan is that each time they do a good deed during Lent, they remove a thorn from the crown.  I’m hoping it will prove a good way to get them to think about their actions a little more than they usually do.

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The supplies for this are simple…a grapevine wreath (I found mine at the dollar store), some toothpicks, and some wood stain or ink refills to color the toothpicks. I put a few drops of Early Espresso reinker in a ziptop bag with a couple of tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, dropped in the toothpicks and made sure they were all soaking up the color, and let it sit for an hour or so.  Then I just took the toothpicks out and let them dry on a couple of layers of paper towel overnight.

Once the toothpicks were dry, all I had to do was randomly stick them into the wreath.  Ours is on a rustic wood-slice pedestal in the middle of the dining room table, so we see it everyday. I think I’ll be able to save the wreath and toothpicks to use year after year, too, so that’s a bonus!

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A Dozen Great Valentine Ideas

I thought I’d post some of my favorite Valentine ideas from the past…this year, we’re making the Cozy Toes Cupcakes for the teachers, and various non-candy class Valentines.  If you’re still looking for ideas, here are a dozen!

Teacher’s Valentine Treat Box

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Fortune Cookie Class Valentines

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Cozy Toes Cupcakes (with Fuzzy Socks)

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Lollipop 3D Valentines

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Significant Dates Love-ly Art

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Home Is Where the Heart Is Burlap Canvas Art

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Personalized Carved Heart Platter

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Easy Heart Mints

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Bee Mine Bit O’Honey Jar

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Dark Chocolate Cherries with Amaretto

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Bee Mine Honeycomb Canvas Art

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and, to make a baker’s dozen…Heart-Healthy Overnight Oatmeal in a Jar! It’s perfect for those you love and want to keep around for a while!Oatmeal-Jar-ChaosServedDail

And now, back to studying!  I’m taking my Math Content Exam next Tuesday, so send good thoughts my way, pretty please!

Pineapple Vodka Slushes

Finally…a new post!  What’s the occasion?  Well, I made these fabulous Pineapple Vodka Slushes that I haven’t had in a couple of years and I NEEDED to share them with you!

I hosted my book club last week, and we read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  It’s a wonderful, fairytale-ish book that will make you long to visit Alaska, with its lyrical descriptions of the wilderness. Anyway, I wanted the refreshments to have an icy, Alaska theme, so my friend Krista’s Pineapple Vodka Slush seemed perfect.  I know, pineapples are tropical, but the slush part fit my menu!

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Pineapple Vodka Slush

  • 8 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 liter vodka

1. In a large stockpot, bring the water and sugar to a boil and cook 3 minutes. Let cool.

2. Add all the other ingredients and freeze for at least 24 hours. I put mine in big plastic containers with tight lids to freeze it.  It makes about 16 cups of liquid, so I use two extra large rectangular Glad containers.

3.  After it’s been in the freezer for 24 hours, use a fork to “shave” it…just break it up into large flakes.  I scoop it into 8 oz. Mason jars, put the lids on the jars, and store them in the freezer until party time. Or until I have a light-night craving for one! This fills 20 to 24 eight-ounce jars, so it’s great for a crowd, and it gives you a reason to have extra boxes of Mason jars.

You can also top them off with a little ginger ale or seltzer, if you’d like to really drink them rather than use a spoon. Slush-ChaosServedDaily

The rest of our menu, if you’re curious, included smoked salmon with lemon pepper cream cheese and crackers, pecan tarts (because the heroine was always baking pies), snowflake-stamped almond shortbread cookies, pull-apart garlic cheese sourdough bread, and strawberries with chocolate mousse dip (because they ate moose through the winter to survive, but I didn’t want to search for a source of wild moose). Then my friend Patty also brought an amaretto cheeseball with pound cake cubes to spread it on, which was divine!

As you might guess, we enjoy good food along with our literary discussions.  I hope you’ll give these slushes a try…they’re delicious anytime of year!

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Happy New Year!

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And here’s what I used:

Mingle All the Way Stamp Set; Pool Party, Island Indigo, Crumb Cake, Strawberry Slush, and Daffodil Delight cardstock; Island Indigo Marker; Frosted Sequins; Island Indigo Bakers’ Twine; Fringing Scissors

Don’t forget, there’s a huge End-of-Year Sale at Stampin’ Up!…and it’s only through January 5, 2015.  Shop anytime at my Stampin’ Up! website!  There are some pretty amazing deals on stamps, paper, embellishments, and dies.  Not that I would be doing any after-Christmas shopping, of course. The Mingle All the Way stamp set (Item 135773) is on sale for only $12.59, regularly $17.95.  It’s a favorite of mine!

And, of course, I want to wish you and yours the most wonderful year ever! Happy 2015!

Merry Christmas, 2014!

I can’t believe Christmas is here already…I love this time of year, and I really love the last week before Christmas!  Since we ship almost everything to various parts of the country, I have to have all my baking, crafting, and gift-buying and –wrapping done at least a week ahead, which leaves Christmas week to do fun stuff with the kids, make neighbor and local friend gifts, and generally enjoy the season.

As you might know, I went back to college last January to work on my degree to teach high school math.  I’m loving school, and have completed 43 hours this year, but I find I can’t give the kind of time I want to my family AND my schoolwork AND this blog AND life in general, as much as I love all of them!  So, the blog is that thing that’s going to have to give, unfortunately.  I’m hoping to still do an occasional post, but it’s become a “have to” rather than a “want to” in my schedule.

I really appreciate all the support you’ve given me, and the great friends I’ve made through Chaos Served Daily, and I hope you’ll subscribe via email so you won’t miss anything when I do post!  And, until then, I wish you and yours the merriest Christmas ever, and a blessed 2015!

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Brownie Bark with Peppermint Fluff

I should call this Brownie Crack, it’s so addictive!  And you know I don’t really like chocolate, but the crunch of this Brownie Bark combines perfectly with yummy Peppermint Fluff to make it irresistible.

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For the Brownie Crackle, I wanted to copy the Brownie Brittle that you can buy almost anywhere now. Since I was in PJ’s, I didn’t want to drive anywhere, though, and figured it can’t be too difficult, right?  It’s really a combination of a thin brownie batter and the technique to make biscotti…double baking.   Here’s how you make your own!

Brownie Bark

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely chopped dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter, then stir in the unsweetened chocolate and stir until that is melted. Let it cool slightly while you make the rest of the batter.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, egg, and flour, then stir in the butter and chocolate mixture.

4. In a parchment lined jellyroll pan (a cookie sheet with a rim), pour the batter, then spread it out as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate over it.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, until just set, and remove from oven. Lower oven to 350. Let the brownie cool completely (about 30 minutes), then break into bite-size pieces and place back on the parchment lined pan. Bake at 350 for another 10 minutes, until crisp but not burned.

The Peppermint Fluff is a recipe from Lauren’s Latest…so delicious, like all of her creations!  I did adapt it a little, by adding more cream cheese so it wasn’t quite as sweet, since the Brownie Bark is quite sweet.

Peppermint Fluff

(barely adapted from LaurensLatest.com)

  • 40 candy cane Hersheys kisses
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 7 oz jar marshmallow crème

1. Unwrap all the kisses and place in a medium bowl. Microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until melted.

2. Stir in cream cheese, then fold in the marshmallow crème.  This is best served at room temperature, since the brownie bark isn’t strong enough for cold cream cheese and marshmallow crème!

Click here for the printable recipes

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Flannel Owl Handwarmers

Princess Thundercloud and I got our craft on last weekend, mostly because she has a gift exchange at her gymnastics party and handmade gifts were strongly encouraged. We came up with a cute and useful gift, though…Flannel Owl Handwarmers. Handwarmers-ChaosServedDail

To make some for yourself, or for cold little hands you might know, you’ll need just a few supplies:

  • Scraps of flannel
  • Thread and sewing machine
  • Rice, 1/4 cup per handwarmer
  • Essential oil, if you’d like (we used lavender in some and peppermint in some)

We freehand drew an owl outline, about 4 inches high and 3 inches wide.  Cut two of those for each handwarmer.

For the eyes, we cut 3 sets of progressively smaller circles.  The largest is a little more than an inch in diameter, and the smallest is between 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch. Then we cut some triangles for beaks.  We sewed all those on the front owl piece.  Actually, I sewed, my helper just placed them for me. Despite her suggestion that she operate the foot pedal while I held the pieces in place as the needle pierced all of my fingers.

Next, we sewed the front and back together, topstitching them, since you can’t throw these in the washing machine, with the rice filling, anyway. I left about 3/4 inch unsewn at the bottom to add the rice.

For the filling, measure a quarter cup of rice for each handwarmer into a bowl, then add a few drops of essential oil, if you’re using it, and stir to combine well. Fit a funnel into the gap in the owl’s body, and pour 1/4 cup rice into the owl body.  Then finish stitching it closed, either with the sewing machine or by hand.  If you’re using the sewing machine, don’t fill the body too full, or it’s impossible to sew shut on the machine.

We tested these by heating them for 15 seconds, then taking the dog for a walk…they worked perfectly to keep our fingers toasty!  We made enough to give to the recess duties, as well…I’m sure their fingers are freezing while standing out there watching my hooligans misbehave!

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Kid-Made Nativity Platter

If you’re a grandma or godmother to my hooligans, stop reading right now, or risk a spoiler for your Christmas gift!

For the rest of you, take a peek at these fabulous platters my precious angels made. (And, no, they’re generally not angels in any way).

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I found these great square dinner plates at Target..on sale, no less!  I don’t like them as plates, but they’re perfect as cookie platters for Christmas gifts. These didn’t take long at all to make, and, while they aren’t perfect, I think they’re charmingly handmade…and pretty impressive for 6-,8-, and 10-year-olds.

All you’ll need is a platter, a gold paint pen for glass, and the drawing you want to put on the platter.  Oh, and the hardest thing to procure…carbon paper!  I had to look through all of our moving paperwork from like 8 moves ago to find a piece!  Anyway, that’s all you’ll need.

I found a similar line drawing on line and printed it as a goal for the hooligans.  Then I assigned parts of the drawing to each…Princess Thundercloud did the star and rays, and the ground.  My middle kid drew the stable and Jesus in the manger. The eldest drew Mary and Joseph. And all without fighting…can you believe it?

I used the carbon paper to trace the drawing onto each platter, then the eldest went over it with the gold glass paint pen. We let them dry overnight, then baked them according to the directions on the package.  I think we put them in a cold oven and heated it to 375 degrees, then baked them 30 or 45 minutes, then turned the oven off and let them cool in the oven. I washed them a little too soon, to get the carbon off that was peeking out from under the gold paint.  A few spots got a little thin…but it was still pretty!

These are not microwave or dishwasher safe, but can be handwashed with warm soapy water and a soft cloth with no problem. And, really, would you want to use a scratchy pad on the Holy Family, anyway? I thought  not.

This was a fun project for the kids…it didn’t take more than an hour, and they were proud of the results.  Almost-instant gratification is always a plus! We made these for the grandmas and the kids’ godmother (who happens to be their aunt)…and I had them make an extra for us!  I’m so excited to use it this Christmas season!

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