Can You Hear the Ocean?

I can’t, and I don’t even have a conch shell to hold up to my ear.  I did make this cute shell-fastened bracelet, though, to make me think of the ocean! Unfortunately, the shell is much too small to have ocean sounds.

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To make one, you’ll need some cotton yarn, a needle and thread, small glass beads, and a shell. And a couple of hours of mindless TV…maybe the Olympics…I get sucked into it every night!

DSC_0006 Cut a piece of yarn about 45” long.  Fold it in half, and tie a knot leaving a loop large enough for your shell to go through, but not slip out of.

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Thread the needle and double the thread, tying a knot at the end. Then just start beading…anchor the thread in the yarn, then go under the yarn, through the bead, over and under the yarn, back through the bead, over and under and on to the next bead.  Repeat about 200 times, until your bracelet wraps three times around your wrist.  I made mine about 21 inches.

To finish it off, a shell bead would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have one and couldn’t find one at the craft store.  So I dug this shell out of the bowl in the bathroom and used a nail and hammer to poke a hole in it.  It’s not perfect, but that’s part of the charm, right?  Then just tie your yarn ends to the shell.

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You’ll feel like you’re at the shore everytime you wear it.  Honest!

Peanut Butter and Veggies…Yum?

Trust me on this…this sandwich rocks.  I like a good ol’ PB&J just as much as the next gal (ok, probably more than most), but I wanted a sandwich I could feel a little bit virtuous about eating.

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Now, really, doesn’t that look good?  Instead of peanut butter, I slathered on a layer of Thai Peanut  Dip.  This stuff is fabulous with crackers, carrots, cucumbers, etc.  My hooligans love it, and, guess what?  It has tofu in it. Really.  Here’s the recipe:

Thai Peanut Dip

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup silken tofu
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne (I leave this out if making it for kids)

Whir it all up in the food processor until it’s smooth and refrigerate until serving.  It’s fine immediately, though…you don’t have to wait to enjoy it!

To make my favorite sandwich with it, I spread about two tablespoons on some twelve-grain bread, then top it with lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and shredded carrots.  If you’re a sprout lover, throw those on, as well.  I am not.

What makes this a great dip is that it has plenty of peanutty flavor, but the tofu cuts the intensity, as the lime, soy, cayenne, and garlic add a complex mix of flavors.  It all works. Enjoy!

Very Canny

I obviously have canning and preserving on the brain, since yesterday I made cards with Perfectly Preserved and today I have another canning related idea.

I found myself in need of a small gift for a friend (who, happily, loves chalkboard paint and Mason jars as much as I do). I was in World Market last week and saw packages of chalkboard labels.  Being a good little crafter, I thought, “I can make those myself!” So I did.

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Ya gotta love that the humidity is so high here today that the jars fogged up immediately when I took them out onto the deck to photograph.  Hey, at least the drought might be abated somewhat.  We actually have had real, measurable rain three times in the last week.  Of course, my garden is hopeless at this point because something (I think chipmunks) ate all my plants TO THE GROUND. Despite the fence.  Oh, well. I’m too busy crafting to grow things, anyway.

But I digress…These are so very simple to make.  I just punched shapes out of the chalkboard vinyl I can’t quit buying at Hobby Lobby.  Then I repurposed a plastic sleeve and cardstock backing from a Stampin’ Up! diecut folder, cut a piece of Orchard Harvest DSP to fit it, and adhered the labels (with their backing still attached) to the patterned paper.

After popping that into the plastic package, I just punched another label (the green one) and write what these fabulous things were. I added a package of those silver-lidded canning jars I love so much, and there you go…a perfect little gift set.

By the way, a set at World Market was $3.99 AND had no heart put into it. So there. I DID make it myself.

Perfectly Preserved

One of my favorite aspects of being a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator is receiving the catalogs a month (or more) before they’re available to the public. Of course, that means I am doubly anxious to get the latest and greatest in my hot little hands. Fortunately for me, demonstrators can order from the new catalogs a month before customers can.

With the advent of the new catalog program, we have a larger, even more tempting Holiday Catalog starting on August 1.  It runs until January 2, 2013.  I hope that will be enough time for me to think of justification for everything I want from it!  Starting on August 1, you can see it on my website (there’s the button, in the right sidebar). 

One of the stamp sets I wanted most was Perfectly Preserved, with images of a mason jar and all sorts of things to go inside it.  There’s even a coordinating Framelits die set so you don’t have to handcut those goodies!
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Also in the catalog you’ll find Core’dinations cardstock with a light center, perfect for embossing and sanding, as I did with the Woodgrain embossing folder here.  You can also get a peek at the Orchard Harvest Designer Series Paper that coordinates, as well.

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This card uses several patterns from the same DSP, as well as the new Window Frames Framelit die collection and the Festive Paper Piercing Pack.  

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And here’s a cautionary tale (or photo) of what happens when you use regular Classic ink rather than StazOn, then watercolor it.  While it’s not a bad look, it’s not what I wanted for my card.  I’ll use it on something else. 

In addition to tons of very irresistible stamps and supplies, the Holiday Catalog features bundles of coordinating items, giving you a 15% savings over individually priced items.  Those people at SU! are always looking out for your pocketbook, I tell you!

I can’t wait to start designing with the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas stamps, dies, and papers…but I’ll try to refrain from showing them, at least for a month or two!

Twenty Years Already?

My sister-in-law and her husband celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary yesterday.  My husband almost went into shock when I told him this.  Mostly because he didn’t realize we’re almost to nineteen.  He still thinks of us as a young couple, I think. Anyway, I hope my SIL opened their gift, since this post will ruin the surprise.

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I’ve made a couple of these before, as a wedding gift and for myself. I thought it would be a perfect anniversary gift. I first saw these platters in a magazine several years ago.  They were quite expensive…well over $100, if I remember correctly, so I was pretty certain I could make a reasonable knockoff.

I enlarged the photo there as much as I could, then sketched from it. There are also lots of birch tree sketches on Etsy and other sites that you can sketch from, since you’re not selling these and it’s just for personal use.

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Then I sketched it onto a piece of printer paper.  The hardest part of this project was finding a piece of carbon paper to transfer the design.  I had to take one from an old form from a move about ten years ago.

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These are the paints you’ll need.  After painting your platter, let it dry 24 hours, then bake at 300 for 30 minutes.  The directions say it will be dishwasher safe, but I’ve never tested that. It is, obviously, oven proof.  Michaels carries this paint.  The platter came from Walmart, but I’ve also seen them at Target.

I’ve seen recently on Pinterest that you can use Sharpies and bake them at 150 degrees for 30 minutes, but haven’t tried it.  I’m also not sure of how foodsafe that would be.

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When you’re happy with your design, use a dull pencil and press hard to transfer it, using the carbon paper, onto the platter.  Then just start going over it with the paint pen.

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See, it doesn’t look amazing yet, but the leaves can be strategically placed to cover any mistakes you make with the pen.  You can also use a razor blade to scrape off anything you need to. Not that I needed to and learned it that way or anything.

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To make the leaves, dip a small paintbrush in the jar of black paint, then paint little leaf shapes.  Practice on some paper first.  It’s easy once you get the hang of it.

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Add some lines in the bark and draw the heart with initials and the year, using the paint pen.  For the shadows, mix a bit of white and black paint and dab it on using a small piece of sponge or a cotton swab.  Again, practice a bit on paper before committing to the platter.

I love these paints for ceramics.  I have a whole set of sponged Christmas dishes that I made with red and green fifteen years ago, and they’re still perfect.  Of course, we don’t use them everyday, but still.  There are endless possibilities for things to paint with your personal style…try it!

Linking up to The Frugal Girls Chic and Crafty

Now to Organize the Hooligans!

Summer is such a paradox…time seems to be crawling by when everyone is home and bored, but then when I look at the calendar, school starts in six weeks. We’ve done a lot this summer, and from now until school, the hooligans have a week of YMCA camp, then a week of me entertaining them. They couldn’t keep it straight, so I made these calendars to help them out.

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I bought a wrought-iron plate holder at Hobby Lobby, then 3 brushed nickel document frames at Walmart for next to nothing. I “organize” us using Cozi, a great free program that the hubs can link up to via smart phone or computer.

That way, he knows what we’re up to, as well as any groceries I might need him to pick up on the way home.  In theory, that is.  He rarely checks Cozi, but as our kids become more involved in life, I think that will change. I hope.

Cozi allows you to color code each family member’s activities, which is really helpful to the kids when they’re looking at their week.  The iPhone app also has great list and note-taking sections, as well as a journal to write down all those funny little things that happen in life.  I always think, “I have to remember that” but now I don’t…I just type it into my phone! And Cozi even has a weekly menu plan for you. All for free!

DSC_0008Anyway, I just printed our calendars for the next three months and popped them into the frames.  They can easily be switched around as the month passes. Since they’re covered by glass, I can write on them with dry-erase markers if I need to add something.

Of course, I still have to answer questions like,”How many minutes do I get to stay at camp?” and “When will my birthday party be?” pretty frequently, but this definitely helps them know what to expect and what we’ll be doing on any given day.

Not that I’m a control freak or anything. Really.

Linking up to The Frugal Girls Chic and Crafty

Warning: Sugar Induced Coma Ahead

Last week, I tried a few new recipes to send in to my GI Joe’s office.  The potato chip cookies from Martha were only so-so…a bit bland, we thought. Then I made a couple of variations of Rice Krispy treats from Redbook magazine.

The Salted Caramel Treats were pretty tasty, but, again, not the contrast of flavors I expected.  You can find the recipe here. I’ll definitely try them again, perhaps with more salt.

Redbook also had another recipe, for a Rocky Road version of treats.  I modified it a bit by adding peanut butter chips and crushed potato chips to cut the sweetness.  These were proclaimed awesome by the hooligans and soldiers alike, and the middle kid even insisted they needed to be on my blog “to share with the world.”

He obviously has an exaggerated sense of my presence on the web. They are darned good, though.

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Krispy S’Mores Squares

Yield: 24 squares Prep Time: 15 minutes
¼ cup butter
10 oz mini marshmallows
2/3 cup Nutella
½ tsp salt
6 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup crushed potato chips

1. Melt butter in large saucepan. Stir in marshmallows until smooth and melted. Add Nutella, salt, and vanilla. Stir in cereal.

2. Line a 13×9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour cereal mixture into pan and press firmly into pan.
 
3. Spread marshmallow fluff on top, then sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

4. Preheat broiler. Broil treats for a couple of minutes, until marshmallows on top begin to brown. It doesn’t take long!

5. Let cool then cut into 24 squares.  These are super rich, so you may want to cut the squares in half. Or at least have a vat of black coffee standing by.

Click here for a printable recipe

Linking up to The Frugal Girls Chic and Crafty party

The One Where We Drove an Extra Fifteen Hours

We’ve been back from our summer vacation for almost two weeks now.  I think I can talk about it. Let me say, though, we did have lots of fun making some great memories.  Unfortunately, many of those memories happened in my car, traveling over 2500 miles and about 45 hours.

Here’s how that went down. We all drove to Oklahoma to see my family, a distance of 800 miles and 15 hours. IMG_0335We stopped in Springfield, MO, to play after twelve hours, even though the temperature was 106. Those hooligans scoff at the heat!

The GI Joe had Army bidness to take care of in Kentucky, so he flew there the day after we arrived in Oklahoma and spent a week.  Then he flew back to Wisconsin, to work a few days (and be all alone in our house, which I was most envious of). In our plan, he was supposed to fly back to Oklahoma on the 4th of July to spend a few days (he hasn’t seen my side of the family in over 3 years, thanks to deployments and such…or it always conveniently works out that way it seems).

IMG_4545 Meanwhile, we were having a great time in Oklahoma, spending time with my dad, largely doing things that involved the hooligans eating. My dad has a really rare form of encephalitis that suddenly took his memory about two years ago. He has some of it back, but lives in an assisted care facility.  The kids loved visiting Papa Tractor at his new place.

We also apparently cured the deafness in his right ear, as he told me while driving home from getting this ice cream with the kids, all hopped up on sugar and being hooliganish. We’re helpful that way.

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I thought the coolest part of our week was that the kids got to go to the day camp I attended.  I was a counselor there, as well, in junior high.  Five mornings a week, my co-leader and I were responsible for  teaching about twelve little girls archery, fishing, swimming, crafts, and horseback riding, and I got paid $15 a week. I thought I was living large, I tell you!

In this photo, it was the last day of camp and all the campers were waiting as the counselors threw $150 in coins into the pool for them to dive in and get. The noise level while waiting was insane. We went to Sonic for slushes afterward and the boys were counting their loot.  One got 14 cents and the other 24, I think.  They spent the afternoon plotting what they could buy with it.

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The oldest hooligan learned to jump off the diving boards, which thrilled him to no end. We don’t have outdoor pools or diving boards here in Wisconsin, so he was deprived of that. Swimming is his favorite sport, and, while it’s not pretty to watch, he loves to swim.

My aunt invited everyone to her house for a Sunday dinner.  My cousins’ kids are all intermingled with ours as far as age, so they could not have been happier, running wild on the farm. I’m pretty sure they ate something other than popsicles, but who cares?  I was having a blast getting to chat with the “grownups” instead of watching little ones for the first time in years.

Now comes the twist in our plans.  My father-in-law, who lives in Colorado, was hospitalized with a severe infection.  We decided that the kids and I should drive to Denver on Tuesday, then the hubs could fly there on Wednesday morning.  His ticket already had a connection in Denver, so it was easy to change. Again, I feel the need to point out that he was ALL ALONE to travel.  Envy. Sigh.

It’s about an eleven hour drive from my parents’ house to his parents’ house (or ten if you’re without kids and dehydrate yourself).  We stopped halfway, in Hays, Kansas, and took advantage of their fabulous public water park my friend Sarah (who’s from there) told us about. If you’re ever in need of a travel break, it’s well worth the $3 admission.  Waterslides, a lazy river, huge zero entry splash pad/pool, and a regular pool with diving boards.

When we started west again, the kids were all tuckered out and content to nap, read, and watch movies for the remaining 5 hours.
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We got there late Tuesday evening, and spent the 4th with that side of the family.  The hooligans love to visit (and terrorize) their great-grandma.  Nonna makes the best Italian knot cookies in the world, if you were wondering.  She’s in her 90’s and just an amazing, funny, and extremely tolerant woman.

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We spent the afternoon and evening at Frank’s sister’s house, where again the hooligans had fun running wild, jumping on the trampoline, and generally creating chaos. We ended the day by watching fireworks at one of the very few displays allowed in Colorado.  With all the wildfires burning, almost all fireworks were banned.  Even sparklers and snakes. But, seriously?  Do you think we give the hooligans things that could be turned back on us, flaming, even if it’s legal?

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The cousins got tickets for an old-fashioned family amusement park, Lakeside, so we went on night. The boys were pretty bored with the “little kid” rides (as you can see from their smart-aleck faces), but loved the smaller thrill rides.  I thought the plexiglass maze was the funniest part (I was watching everyone else crash into the walls), and was the designated rider with the middle kid on the roller coaster. It was his first time, and his emotions about it seemed pretty mixed.

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I also forced everyone back into the car to drive up to Georgetown and ride the loop railroad one day. It’s a good rule of thumb that the mountains are about fifteen degrees cooler than the Front Range (see…all that college was not wasted), but it was about 30 degrees cooler that day.  It rained, sleeted, and then the sun came back out.  It was perfect, after our long, hot, dry summer. Being flatlanders now, we were totally unprepared for such a temperature change (plus, I had packed for Oklahoma, not Colorado), so we even had to buy tourist sweatshirts.

One of my favorite parts of the Colorado leg of our trip was that I met a new friend.  I’ve gotten to know her through my blog, and she is a friend and coworker of my sister-in-law.  We met for coffee one day, and I wish I’d had the whole afternoon to spend, talking about crafts, knitting, and solving all the world’s problems.  As it happened, we only solved about half of them. But I’ll be back, Steph!  She gave me a fabulous tote bag from Ravelry.com, filled with more fabulousness…body butter and lip balm she’d made, lots of knitting she’d done (including an amazing circle with various shades knit wedges), and a super sweet card.  I love making new friends!

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As many times as we have crossed a border into Colorado, we had never stopped to take a photo.  I had the best of intentions as we crossed from Kansas to Colorado, but there was construction and we were rerouted onto the other side of the interstate. I mentioned this dream to the hubs, so on our way OUT of Colorado on I-76. almost to Nebraska, he insisted on stopping.

After a quick photo and bathroom break, we strapped in, settled down, and arrived safely home eighteen hours after leaving Denver. Whew. We are poster children for “I need a vacation from my vacation.”

“Serenity Soon” Glitter Bottles

I wish I had thought of these, but, alas, I found them on Pinterest.  They originally were designed to be bottles to help kids learn to center themselves and meditate, but they’ll be perfect for my hooligans as “serenity soon” bottles.  For the littler ones, it takes about 5 minutes for the glitter to settle, so they act as a timer for timeouts and give them time to calm down as they watch the glitter.

For the oldest, who has ADHD and mild Aspergers, they function to relax his mind and allow him to focus. All for a few bucks. Of course, the hubs and I also find them calming…kind of like watching an aquarium filled with fish, I guess.

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The blue one just started settling, the green is done, and the pink is about halfway there.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • SmartWater bottles (smaller size), labels and goo removed, using Goo Gone and hot soapy water
  • 3 oz (or so) bottle of glitter glue in your favorite color
  • Small tube of fine glitter in the same color
  • Alene’s Clear Gel Tacky Glue
  • E6000 (you didn’t think I’d do a project without it, did you?)

In the clean bottle, put the glitter and glitter glue, along with a bit (1 Tbsp or so) clear gel glue.  Heat about 2-1/2 cups water in measuring cup in microwave until very hot, but not boiling.  Add that to the bottle, and shake it like a madwoman until the glitter glue is no longer clumpy.  You’ll see what I mean.

Time it when you’re done to see how long it takes to settle.  The blue and green ones take about 6-1/2 minutes and the pink one only about four.  That’s perfect for my kids’ ages. The more clear gel glue you add, the longer it takes.

When you’re happy with the time, use the E6000 to glue the lid on. You don’t want sticky, glittery kids when they manage to open it, do you?

Also, the pink was more expensive glitter glue (because Walmart was out of pink) from the craft store and was much harder to blend.  So in this case, the cheaper, the better.  I think the dollar store has glitter glue, but didn’t have the fortitude to go there with three kids.

This would make a fabulous moms’ group craft, I think.  Counting the bottled water, the cost is about $4, but that’s because my glitter glue was $2 each. The SmartWater is important because they are the only completely smooth bottles.

The hooligans are completely fascinated with these, so much so that I called them Relaxation Bottles rather than Time Out bottles so they wouldn’t be trying for timeouts to get to play with them!

Find the original post from My Crazy Blessed Life here

Linking up at The Frugal GIrls
and Happy Go Lucky


Sufferin’ Soybean Succotash!

Here’s a little known fact…my GI Joe’s favorite vegetable is lima beans.  I know, right?  I found a recipe in Everyday Food last summer for a succotash made from edamame rather than lima beans, and he was quite disappointed when all the hooligans and I liked it better than regular old lima bean succotash. Oh, well, that’s the way we roll.

Of course, when I wanted to make it again this year, I had misplaced the recipe.  And Martha didn’t have it online anywhere that I could find. So I recreated it as best I can remember, and it was amazing.  I’m pretty sure the hubs licked his plate, it was so clean when he finished.

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I like the blend of flavors and, especially, how quickly this comes together.  Twenty minutes…really!  Everyone was so anxious to eat last night, I totally forgot to sprinkle a bit of feta or goat cheese on top…about 2 Tbsp per serving.  It’s excellent without, but even better with the cheese.

This seems like a long ingredient list, but it’s an entire dinner, with no sides necessary.  If you’d like, some crusty bread to dip in seasoned oil would be tasty alongside, though.

Chicken with Edamame Succotash

4 thin-sliced chicken breasts (or two regular, cut in half horizontally)
Marinade:
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    2 Tbsp brown sugar
    2 Tbsp lime juice
    2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
    2 Tbsp olive oil
Succotash:
    2 cups frozen edamame, shelled
    2 cups frozen corn kernels
    2 cups diced zucchini
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    2 tsp Italian seasoning
    Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled

1. In quart size ziptop bag, mix marinade ingredients and add chicken.  Let it marinate for half an hour or so.  Don’t marinate longer than an hour, or it will be too salty. 
2. In large saute pan with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add vegetables and Italian seasoning, cover, and let cook for about 8 minutes, then remove lid and let it crisp up a bit, 3 or 4 minutes longer.
3. While vegetables are cooking, heat a grill or grill pan until very hot.  Grill chicken for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked through. 
4.  To serve, slice chicken across the grain.  Top succotash with avocados and feta or goat cheese. Salt and pepper tomato wedges and serve alongside.

Click here for the printable recipe