It’s Been Fun, Summer!

Brace yourself…this post is going to be like being invited over to a friend’s house and forced to watch a slideshow of all the fun they had. But, on the bright side, you can just click off here and not have to see it!  For those of you who are curious, though (I’m looking at you, grandparents!), here’s a quick recap of our summer o’fun.  I’ll be back blogging regularly in a week or so…after the chaos of school starting abates somewhat.

We began summer vacation with Father’s Day gifts…lots of homemade art for the Big Daddy-O!

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Then, the very next day, we sent our favorite GI Joe off to work for his last day in uniform after 25 years.

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Followed later that week with the official retirement ceremony. Good thing it was near Independence Day, so I could find patriotic gear for the hooligans to wear!

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We had a great small-town Fourth of July, watching a parade with friends in the morning, fireworks at home in the evening, then the big show on post to end the night. No one puts on a better fireworks show than the military!

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In mid-July, I delivered the oldest kid to his grandma in Oklahoma, and the hubs and I escaped on an Alaska cruise for a week.  The two little hooligans stayed home with a babysitter and had fun at a day camp all week.

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Some great friends picked us up from the ship, and we all went to a Sounders soccer game…which was all about the food for Princess Thundercloud!

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We brought unopened geodes back from Alaska for the hooligans…they had fun cracking them open!Summer-11-ChaosServedDaily

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For the second half of the summer, we went on an adventure every Friday.  Mt. St. Helens was the first stop, where we almost wore out the seismograph pad, seeing who could create the biggest tremor!

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We love the beach and lighthouse at Ft. Worden, just outside Port Townsend on the Olympia Peninsula.  Of course, the gymnasts did handstands and cartwheels everywhere we went all summer! (Can you see the two ferries in the background of the handstand photo? Cool, huh?)

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In case you think we don’t expose our kids to culture, we did visit the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Okay. so it’s not a lot of culture, but they’re little kids. That cone is supposed to represent a volcano. Maybe Mt. St. Helens, since a lot of glass has been made with that volcanic ash?

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We also drank Cotton Candy Limeades at the Spaghetti Factory, repaired the freezer after defrosting it with a hair dryer and hot water in water guns, and practiced handstand pushups.

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At the Nisqually Nature Preserve, we were rewarded for a long, hot hike with lots of bird and seal sightings…and wild blackberries for a snack!

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The waterfalls and drive along the Columbia River Gorge never disappoint.  We’ve even been there in heavy fog when you couldn’t see the long views, but it was still gorgeous hiking the falls trails.  This was a perfect day for scrambling over rocks and logs at Oneonta Gorge.

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The Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery were a perfect way to end the day in the Gorge. The two smaller hooligans and I entertained ourselves while the hubs and eldest went on the dam tour. Mostly by telling lots of bad dam jokes and playing chess. But what a view for a chess game!

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We wound up our summer with a day at the Sand in the City Festival in Olympia. Lots of amazing sand creations, crafts for the hooligans, and great music.  Summer-26-ChaosServedDaily

The kids went to Splish Splash Camp at the Y this week, so I got some studying done and they became a little bit used to a routine again. They don’t start school until Wednesday, but it’s a rainy weekend here in Washington, so we’re just playing board games, watching movies, and doing some relaxing this weekend. Hope yours is just as rejuvenating!Signature

Quick Avocado Tomato Salsa Fresca

I admit it…I usually buy my guacamole already made from Costco.  It’s organic, has few ingredients, and is delicious. And my kids use their chips like spoons to eat it, they love it so much!  The other night, though, I sent a kid to the garage refrigerator to get guac for dinner, and THERE WAS NONE!

Fortunately, I did have ripe avocados, jalapenos, cilantro, and tomatoes on hand, so I made a quick and yummy salsa that tasted like guacamole and salsa combined, one of our favorite things anyway. My friend Ana brought a similar one to bunko last month, and I think I came pretty close to her fabulous one.

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Avocado-Tomato Salsa Fresca

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced, or more if you like it hot!
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For the tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze out the juice and as many seeds as you can, so they’re pretty dry. Then dice them as small as your patience allows.

Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour or so. Or eat it immediately, if you’d like…it was really good then, but even better after it sat!

We had it with chips and also in tortillas with chicken I cooked in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa verde, then shredded. The whole meal totally rocked, but the salsa was the best!

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Upcycled Yardstick Table

I’m determined to complete a least a couple of UFO’s this summer. That’s Unfinished Objects, for those of you who don’t have this common crafting syndrome. Way back last fall, the hubs found an end table at the post thrift shop for $3. It wasn’t fabulous wood, or in fabulous shape, but for $3 he bought it and brought it home. He’s an extravagant, romantic fool!  I set it in my craft room, next to the overstuffed chair where I have dreams of spending an afternoon reading and drinking hot tea, and it quickly overflowed with other UFOs.  Well, I’ve worked my way through the stack on it this summer, so it was finally time to finish the table! And I love it!

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I bought 10 yardsticks and a half-pint of paint, for a little under $15.  Yardsticks are ridiculously expensive!  But $18 total for the table really isn’t too bad. I had a little Golden Oak stain on hand already, which I wiped on the yardsticks.

Here’s the table before I started working on it. I used a palm sander with with stripping sandpaper to knock off a bit of the finish, so the paint would stick. It took about 5 minutes. It took longer than that to find the sander and paper.  Then I painted everything but the top with the blue paint.  And forgot to take a photo of that step.

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When the paint was thoroughly dry (the next day, because the humidity here was about 423%), my favorite handyman helped me figure out the yardsticks for the top. Basically, you need to measure the yardstick with a tape measure to piece together the top, because when you cut with the compound miter saw, the blade width wreaks havoc with your straight sides.  So we measured and cut until the top was all covered.  I made sure to stagger the seams, so it didn’t look odd. This took about thirty minutes.Table-Measured-ChaosServedD

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We used Liquid Nails for the adhesive, and made sure to get the first piece on perfectly, then clamped it to dry.  Once it was clamped, it was easy to continue by picking up and gluing one piece at a time, pressing it against the previous one to keep the yardsticks straight. That took about ten minutes. Then I let it dry overnight.

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After the glue dried, the edges were a little uneven, so I used the sander again to even them out.

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I also ran the sander along random spots on the painted base to distress it a bit. You could do this by hand, but why bother when you can use a power tool?

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And what were my minions doing during all this craftiness?  Marathon chess games…on a cardtable over the firepit in the backyard. Silly kids!

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So in all, I (and my hubs) spent about an hour of actual work time, $18, and got to use a compound miter saw and palm sander. Oh, and the caulking gun with Liquid Nails. Fun quality time!  Anyway, there’s another UFO finished, and it’s perfect on my front porch for the start of school.  Now on to the next project!

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Magnetic Doodle Card

So you know I’m a sucker for the daily online crafting deal sites, right?  A few months ago, I ordered some cards with a magnetic doodle pad inside. And they sat in my craft closet. And sat. And sat. Then, over the weekend, I needed a card for my nephew’s birthday, and inspiration struck!

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This took about 2 minutes to make.  The frog background comes from a Mat Stack of back-to-school designs, and the birthday speech bubbles is just a card from a set of scrapbook journaling cards from the craft store.  I love these journaling cards for card-making…just pop them on the front of a card along with a little patterned paper and maybe an embellishment like washi tape or ribbon, and you’re done!Card-Supplies-ChaosServedDa

Inside the card, I wrote a little note.  You just shake the card to erase and then draw again!

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PickYourPlum.com has these cards pretty frequently, if you check out their daily deals.  Not that I’m endorsing them, or that they want me to…I’m just saying that’s where I found them.  I think they’re super fun for kids of all ages!

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Simple Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Let me say, right off the bat, that I know this is not real ice cream. It doesn’t involve an ice cream maker of any kind, and the texture is not the same as ice cream. But it does contain milk, cream, and sugar and is frozen, so I’m counting it. Not to mention that it’s darned delicious!

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This is a variation of a recipe from Kraft, but since I had fresh local raspberries on hand, I used them instead of strawberries. And I bet mine is better than theirs!

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) lowfat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can  (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup  whipping cream
  • 2 tsp.  lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 cups  fresh raspberries, pureed
  • 3 graham crackers, in big crumbles
  • Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Mix first 4 ingredients with mixer until well blended. Freeze 4 hours or until almost solid.

Beat cream cheese mixture with mixer until creamy. Add pureed berries to cream cheese mixture with chopped grahams; mix well. Pour into shallow dish, such as a pie pan. Freeze 6 hours or until firm.

Remove dessert from freezer 15 min. before serving; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly before scooping into dishes. Sprinkle with fresh berries.

Although it was a little bit of trouble to make, since I had to remember to take the first step out of the freezer before it froze completely, this was really simple to put together, and it was a cool and delicious end to a summer meal!

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Daily Gifts Basket

Last month, when the hubs and I selfishly took a vacation all alone, I decided to leave a little daily treat for each of the hooligans. If you’re not deserting your children, but still want to give them a little thrill, I think this would be fun for the last week of summer, or each day during Spring Break, or any other time you want some extra hugs!Treat-Basket-ChaosServedDai

The treats were nothing big…a pack of Big League Chew (The Sandlot is a favorite movie this summer), a bag of Cheetos, a new paperback, a small composition book and four-color pen, a package of Pop Rocks…that kind of thing. I made labels for each day and popped them onto the bags…I used an assortment of favor bag leftovers that I had on hand.

Getting a little present was a daily reminder of how much we missed them and gave them something to look forward to, since they opened them after dinner each day.  And, as I said, it was fun to get all those extra hugs when we returned!

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For National S’Mores Day…Nutella S’mores!

This was what I thought last year on August 9, the day before National S’mores Day…and it holds true this year! I love using Nutella instead of chocolate on s’mores because 1) the chocolate doesn’t always melt enough to be gooey, and b) I don’t like chocolate, but I LOVE hazelnut and chocolate. Anyway, here are my words of wisdom from last year…

Occasionally, I have a lightbulb moment, such as this idea for Nutella S’Mores.  I do love Nutella, and I thought it might be perfect on a s’more.  And it was!

By the way, tomorrow, August 10, is National S’Mores Day.  Uh-huh, it is. I Googled it. So use your day wisely and prep your supplies!

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As you can probably surmise, you just add a nice schmear of Nutella on one side of the graham cracker (and a few slices of strawberry or banana is delicious, too!), then use another graham to sandwich your toasted marshmallow and slide it off the roasting stick.

Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!

I even made a scrapbook page of our discovery…

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Perfectly Preserved Thanks

While this Throwback Thursday has never been posted before, I decided it still could be considered a throwback because it uses retired stamps. I love this Mason jar in the Perfectly Preserved stamp set, from Stampin’ Up! a couple of years ago. I’ve seen jar stamps from lots of other companies, though, so I’m sure you can find one, if you have a hankering!

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Supplies: Perfectly Preserved and Pocket Silhouettes stamp sets; Blackberry Bliss, Tangerine Tango, Old Olive, Pool Party, and Hello Honey classic inks; Pool Party and Whisper White cardstock; Moonlight Designer Series Paper Stack;

I really wanted to use the Blackberry Bliss ink for the jar, to match the printed paper, so it did run a bit.  But I still love the way this turned out, and the colors in it…perfect for late summer. I also love that it’s a mix of old and new…old stamps and the button, new In Colors and DSP.

And now I have to go get the written card in the mail, for a long overdue thank you to a friend!

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Quick-to-Knit Market Bag

This summer, the county I lived in abolished plastic bags at the stores.  We can still get paper bags, but I’m trying my best to take my own bags. I’ve become really good over the past 5 years or so, taking my bags to buy groceries. But I just can’t remember to take them into Target, Kohls, Michaels…where I buy things other than food. I even keep them in my car, but forget them when I get to the store!  I guess I’m just too excited about shopping!

Way back in college, I had string shopping bags that I used (I was already pretty crunchy, even then!), but they’ve gotten lost or perhaps disintegrated throughout the last few decades. So I decided to knit some!  I made one last summer, but gave it away before I took photos, so when I made this one, I took lots of pics.Bag-Title-ChaosServedDaily

I found a pattern I liked from Martha Stewart, at the Lion Brand site. I had impulse-bought (imagine that!) a giant skein of Bernat cotton yarn last fall, because I loved the colors.  It had 710 yards on it, which will make 2 of these Mini-Market Bags.  The name of the pattern is “mini” but I think they’re pretty generously sized.

You can download the instructions, but I found a few helpful tips as I knit.

1. The base of the bag and a few rows of the body are knit with two strands of yarn.  To do that, I pulled the end from the center of the skein, then the other from the outside.  If you were a good estimator, you could just pull from the center and pull out as much as you would need for those rows. But I’m not that good at estimating.

The starting directions from the website:

Base
With 2 strands of yarn held tog, cast on 24 sts.
Work back and forth on circular needle as if working on straight needles.
Rows 1-19: Knit.
Top
Note:
Work will now proceed in the round.
Set-Up Rnd: Knit, do not turn, pick up and k10 sts across short side of Base, 24 sts across cast-on edge of Base, and 10 sts across rem short side – 68 sts at the end of this rnd. Place marker for beg of rnd. Join by working the first st on left hand needle with the working yarn from the right hand needle.
Rnds 1-3: Knit.
Cut 1 strand of yarn, leaving a long tail to weave in. With 1 strand of yarn, beg with Rnd 1 of pattern, work in Lace Pattern until piece measures about 10 in. (25.5 cm) from Base, end with a Rnd 4 of pattern. Note: End with a Rnd 4 means that the last rnd you work should be a Rnd 4, and the next rnd that you are ready to work will be a Rnd 1.

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2. Once the base and the few rows of the body are started on circular needles, the lace pattern is simple to remember. It’s important to use a stitch marker, so you know where each row begins. The directions continue:

ssk (slip, slip, knit) Slip next 2 sts as if to knit, one at a time, to right needle; insert left needle into fronts of these 2 sts and knit them tog – 1 st decreased.

PATTERN STITCH
Lace Pattern (worked in the round)
Rnd 1:
*(Yo, k2tog); rep from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 2: Knit.
Rnd 3: *(Ssk, yo); rep from * to end of rnd.
Rnd 4: Knit.
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3. When the body of the bag is about 11”, you’ll bind off part of it and use the remainder to shape the handles, per the directions.

Shape Handle
Next Rnd: K26, bind off 8 sts, k26 and slip these 26 sts to a holder, bind off 8 sts – 2 sets of 26 sts for each side of handle.
Work rem 26 sts back and forth in rows for first half of handle.
Row 1 (RS): K2tog *(yo, k2tog); rep from * to last 2 sts, k2tog – 24 sts at the end of this row.
Row 2 and all WS rows: Purl.
Row 3: K1, ssk, *(yo, ssk); rep from * to last 3 sts, ssk, k1 – 22 sts at the end of this row.
Row 5: K1, k2tog, *(yo, k2tog); rep from * to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1 – 20 sts.
Row 7: Ssk, *(ssk, yo); rep from * to last 2 sts, ssk – 18 sts.
Row 9: K1, k2tog, *(yo, k2tog); rep from * to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1 – 16 sts.
Row 10: Purl.
Rep Rows 7-10 until there are 6 sts rem, end with a Row 8.
Work rem 6 sts as follows:
Row 1: K1, (yo, k2tog) 2 times, k1.
Row 2: Purl.
Row 3: K1, (ssk, yo) 2 times, k1.
Row 4: Purl.
Rep Rows 1-4 twice more, then rep Rows 1 and 2 once. Bind off loosely, leaving a long tail for sewing ends of handle tog. Rejoin yarn to 26 sts on holder and work same as for first half of handle.

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4. You’ll make the handles separately, then sew them together, a simple step. After they’re joined, the directions for the edging are simple.  It’s important to pick up as many stitches as you can, to fit all 78 in evenly. It seems as though you’re picking up way too many, but if you pick up too few, the edging will be too tight and you won’t be able to carry the bag on your shoulder. Trust me. I know.

FINISHING
Sew ends of handle tog.
Border
With RS facing and 1 strand of yarn, beg at handle seam, pick up and k78 sts evenly spaced around one side of handle and top of Tote. Place marker for beg of rnd. Join by working the first st on left hand needle with the working yarn from the right hand needle.
Rnd 1: Purl.
Rnd 2: Knit.
Bind off loosely.
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There…done! Don’t you need a couple? Each bag takes about 8 hours to knit. And listen to this blog dedication…see those first few photos, that look like they might be on a towel?  Well, they were taken on a towel, on our Alaska cruise.  It was the only what background I could find, and I didn’t want to miss photographing a step, or wait until we were home to finish the bag.  I had planned to spend a lot of time on our verandah, knitting and reading, and that’s just what I did…it was fabulously relaxing!

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Our Favorite Snack: Homemade Kettle Corn!

I am kicking myself for not figuring this out sooner.  As in, before we paid enough for kettle corn that we could have financed a college education. Making Homemade Kettle Corn is so easy…and inexpensive!  For less than a dollar, we make enough for the whole family (that’s two batches, by the way).

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The key, in my opinion, is a old-fashioned stovetop popper, the kind with a tight lid and crank to stir the kernels while they’re popping.  We bought ours a few years ago, when we discovered that the built-in microwave in our house doesn’t properly pop popcorn. Crazy, right?  Anyway, we invested in a stovetop popper (one with a metal gear on the crank, not plastic that’s grey to look like metal in the photos online…ours was around $40), and have been happily popping away ever since.

Then, the morning of the 4th of July, we were headed to a parade and had no snacks to take. We decided to pop up some corn, and I suggested we throw a little sugar in with the butter and oil…voila, perfect Kettle Corn!

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Here’s the simple how-to:

Homemade Kettle Corn

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1. Melt the butter and coconut oil in the popper over medium high heat.  Add the sugar and the popcorn and replace the lid. Crank and crank until the popping slows, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn it, since the sugar can make that easy to do!

2. Pour it into a bowl, salt it, and ENJOY!

See…I told you it was easy!  This has become our favorite snack, whether for movie night or to take along to a parade or hike.  That’s not even our dog in the photo below, but our friends’…she was happy to hang out with the hooligans and their popcorn, though!

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