February’s Paper Pumpkin

I continue to be ridiculously excited each month when I open the mailbox and see my Paper Pumpkin box from Stampin’ Up! waiting for me. I can hardly wait until the kids are in bed and my favorite GI Joe is engrossed in his iPad in the evening, so I can have a little creativity escape.  This month’s kit might just have been the best yet…gift bags and the supplies and stamps to embellish them!

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In the kit were five kraft bags, 10 ribbons, precut pieces for the medallions, a Stampin’ Spot in Pistachio Pudding, bakers’ twine, and a whole passel of tiny clothespins.  Oh, and the instructions, of course. And all of it some of my favorite colors: Pistachio Pudding, Coastal Cabana, and, always a great neutral, Crumb Cake.

It made my eye a little twitchy, but I let Princess Thundercloud do some of the stamping and assembling the medallions.  The circles with letters were already printed, so I just had to figure out what I wanted to say on each bag. We stamped the green zigzag circles in one of two patterned stamps that came in the kit. The eye twitches began as she was assembling the layers, which I was hoping to have centered. Oh, well, they’re pretty close.

We made bags that said “Yippee,” “Happy,” “Hello,” “For You,” and “Thanks.” I had enough paper circles and letters left over to make “Celebrate,” so we adhered those to a plain kraft bag I had in the gift bag drawer.FPP-Extra-ChaosServedDaily

These would be simple to make without the Paper Pumpkin kit…just a bit more work to cut all those circles and print or stamp all the letters.  I’m so glad Stampin Up! did those steps for me!

If you’re interested in subscribing to Paper Pumpkin (there’s even a great try-it option), you can visit My Paper Pumpkin.  And don’t forget that it’s Sale-a-Bration time, until the end of March, and that means FREE stuff for every $50 you order.  You can shop to your heart’s content on my Stampin’ Up! website, or, if you’d like a catalog, send me an email and I’ll get one to you (hooligansmom at gmail dot com). There’s lots of cute stamps and accessories to be had, people…and only during Sale-a-Bration!

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TBT: Knitted Shamrock Dishcloths

I love these dishcloths I made last year for St. Patrick’s Day, and, as luck would have it, I find myself in need of a couple of new ones.  There’s nothing better than an evening spent knitting while catching up on all those TV shows hanging around on my DVR…after I have all my schoolwork done for the day, of course!.

Since I made coasters with hearts in them earlier this year, I’m a little fascinated by the patterns achieved by simple knits and purls. I think it’s because it’s a little like counted cross-stitch, which I did (a lot) during my GI Joe’s deployments.

For St. Patrick’s Day, I found a pattern online for dishcloths with shamrocks. Yippee!

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Isn’t that cool? I also made one using a rainbow yarn, but the pattern is much harder to see and I wasn’t as pleased with it. But it’s still pretty nifty!

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These take one ball each of cotton yarn, and, per the pattern, I used Size 3 needles to make it more closely knit so that the pattern stands out more.

You can find the pattern from Kris Patay at Kris Knits here. Each dishcloth took about 6 hours to knit, but I’m pretty slow (and I was watching DVR’d programs so had to keep fast-forwarding though commercials and losing my knitting rhythm. Don’t judge.).

The plethora of free knitting patterns online is a source of never-ending wonder to me…all you have to do is Google and suddenly you have more ideas than you can possibly knit in a lifetime!

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Two Tasty and Easy Eggplant Recipes

Recently I’ve needed to make some changes in my life, in the things I eat and the amount I exercise.  Those two years in Wisconsin, enjoying the products of the state, have taken their toll! I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I sit in front of my computer, blogging or studying, for the majority of my day. Anyway, eggplant turns out to be an excellent choice for healthy eating. It’s low in calories, high in nutrients, and helps lower cholesterol.  Really!

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I love grilled eggplant, but am not crazy about traditional eggplant Parmesan (and, really, all that breading and fat negates any benefit).  I came up with not one, but two delicious toppings for roasted eggplant that have become favorites of mine, especially when the kids are at school and I can eat what I want without comments from them.

For either recipe, start by roasting your eggplant. Eggplant-Roasted-ChaosServe

Cut the end off the eggplant, and cut it in half lengthwise.  Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray and place the eggplant cut side down on the sheet.  Roast at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the skin looks a little wrinkled and you can easily pierce it.

Remove from the oven, flip it over, and top it with either of these toppings.  Broil for one to two minutes, just until the topping is bubbly.  Then all you need to do is enjoy it!  I eat this as an entrée, but it’s so low calorie, could also be served as a side dish with grilled chicken.  It’s pretty filling all on its own.Eggplant-Topping-ChaosServe

Topping 1:  Parmesan and Herbed Bread Crumbs

  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • garlic powder

Mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan. Sprinkle garlic evenly over two roasted eggplant halves, then divide topping over the two halves. Broil for one to two minutes, until bubbly.

Topping 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Tomato, and Basil

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan

Mix everything except Parmesan and spread on two eggplant halves. Top with Parmesan and broil until bubbly, one to two minutes.

I hope you’ll give them a try…I might just share one of my other favorite eggplant recipes, Sesame Eggplant Salsa, one of these days and then you’ll be all excited to try it, since you love these so much!Signature

TBT: Cherry Pies for George Washington’s Birthday

These little cherry pies are so delicious, and the kids love them (as if they normally don’t love anything sweet!).  They take a bit longer to make than one big pie, but they’re so much more fun, I think they’re worth it…and the crust is crunchy all the way around never soggy on the bottom. And who wants a soggy bottom? No one, that’s who.Anyway, here’s my post from last February with the yummy recipe for the filling added, since we no longer live within reach of Door County cherries.

Yes, I know the whole cherry tree story about George Washington is fiction…but I prefer to ignore that in order to justify making (and eating) cherry pies for his actual birthday, which is this Saturday, February 22.  I’m an ostrich when it serves my purpose.

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For those of you lucky enough to live somewhere with access to great premade cherry filling, use that, by all means! Pies-Jar

I’ve used the same recipe for cherry pie filling for as long as I can remember, from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (the one with the red and white checked cover).  I think I’m on my third copy of that cookbook, I’ve use it so long! Anyway, to make the cherry filling:

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups fresh tart cherries, pitted, or 2 cans, drained
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 drops red food coloring, optional

Directions

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the cherries, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in food coloring if desired. Yield: 4 cups.

The only other ingredients are two pie crusts (I made my own, but store-bought is perfectly fine), a beaten egg, some powdered sugar, and a bit of sparkling sugar to sprinkle on top.

First, roll out the dough slightly thinner than a pie crust…you want it just thick enough that it doesn’t tear when you pick it up, but not so thick it’s doughy when baked. Use a bowl or other round object about 4” in diameter to cut out circles of dough. You can get about 12 circles from two pie crusts, rerolling your scraps.

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Spoon a scant two tablespoons of filling onto one half of each circle. Resist the temptation to overfill…they’ll leak for sure if you do, then you’ll get even less filling left in them! Dip your finger in a beaten egg and run it around the outside of the dough circle, to help it seal.

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Fold half of the dough over the filling and seal with a fork, being careful not to puncture the dough. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet (with a rim, just in case you have a leak!).

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I also have a heart-shaped pie press that I ordered a few years ago from Martha Stewart. I use it to make a few of these, because the kids like the smaller, heart-shaped ones better. They’re kind of a pain, though, so go right ahead and only make round ones. Here’s how to make the heart-shaped ones:

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Place a tablespoon of filling on rolled dough, cut out one heart and put it over the filling, then press down with the pie press. I always have to reseal them with a fork, and they still tend to leak.

Bake the pies at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until barely golden. Remove from oven and let cool. Make a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Dip the tops of the pie in the glaze and place back on the parchment to dry a bit. While glaze is still wet, sprinkle with sparkling sugar if you’d like.

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See… those hearts didn’t stay sealed. At least no filling leaked out to be wasted!

My grandma Dixie used to make fried apricot pies for holidays, which were delicious. My mom then inherited the making of the fried pies, and began baking them rather than frying. She uses store-bought rolled pie crusts, and she rolls them so thin she can make 16 out of two crusts. Someday I’ll be that good! Until then, I’ll just enjoy the crunchy crust and the ooey-gooey, oh-so-good filling. Hope you do, too!

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Homemade Color Catchers

Okay, before you roll your eyes and think I’m completely insane, just let me say that it took me almost two years to actually take the time to make these Homemade Color Catchers since I bought the supplies. I kept thinking, “Really?  Do I really want to invest the time to make these when I can buy them?”  Alas, one rainy Saturday, I just decided to take the plunge. Mostly because I was tired of seeing the unopened washing soda box in the laundry cabinet, and a little bit because I really didn’t want to go to Target to buy a box of the real thing. Color-Catcher-ChaosServedDa

I think store-bought Color Catchers are a tad pricey…we pay about 20 cents each for them here in Washington, which isn’t outrageous, but a lot more than making them myself. I tend to just use them with the kids’ clothes, because most of our clothes have been washed so often that they don’t bleed much anymore. But when the hubs does the laundry, he uses a color catcher in every load. So I’m always out when I need them, it seems.

Anyway, here’s the super simple method I used:

Supplies:

  • Washing soda
  • White flannel (or other 100% cotton fabric)

That’s it, really.

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Cut your flannel into rectangles roughly 6” x 8”. I used pinking shears to reduce raveling and lint. I made 35 from 1 yard of fabric. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of washing soda in 2 cups hot water.  Soak the cloths you cut, then wring them out and hang them up to dry.

To use your dried color catchers, just toss one into the load of wash.  They can go through the dryer with the load of clothes.  You can continue reusing them, but you’ll need to soak them in washing soda and hot water each time and let them dry.  Once they’re absorbed a lot of color, throw them out and start with fresh white flannel. I wash about 5 loads of clothes a week, so this set of color catchers should last a couple of months, since I don’t use them for every load. I think that’s totally worth the 15 minutes I spent making them.

I’ve read lots of suggestions online to use old towels or washcloths instead of buying new flannel, but I think those would put a lot of lint on your clothes, which would be especially noticeable on the dark loads you’re using color catchers on.

These seem to work as well as store-bought ones, but, to be honest, I still semi-sort our clothes into lights and darks. I don’t separate out whites, though, and our whites seem to stay white when I use these.

So, bottom line, if you’re feeling crunchy and want to save a little money as well, give these a try.  I’m really glad I finally got around to it!

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One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

Yep, it’s true.  You can go from “Man, some fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls would be perfect on this cold, cloudy day” to “Ta-da!  I’m so impressed with myself!” in an hour (give or take a few minutes). I was extremely skeptical that this recipe would really work in an hour AND taste like they took hours to make. But they were excellent, as it turned out!

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I slightly altered a recipe I found on All Recipes to speed these up a bit. I think the buttermilk is essentially to make the dough the right texture, so don’t substitute milk mixed with lemon juice…get the real thing!  I also used rapid rise yeast instead of regular, so that I didn’t have to wait ten minutes for it to proof. And if all that sounds like gibberish to you, just follow the recipe below and you’ll have perfect rolls!

One-Hour (-ish) Cinnamon Rolls

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages rapid rise active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45degrees C)
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted
  • 1-1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  • ¼ tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Heat buttermilk (on stovetop or in microwave) until warm. Pour the buttermilk and oil into the yeast mixture; mix well.

2. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir the flour mixture into the liquid 1 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 20 times. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a large rectangle. Spread the brown sugar and butter mixture over the dough, roll up into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Slice into 1 inch pieces and place cut side up in a lightly greased 10×15 baking pan. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Mix glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Add enough milk to make it the right consistency for drizzling. After removing rolls from oven, let stand for 2 to 3 minutes before drizzling with glaze. Serve warm.

Click here for the printable recipe

These actually took about an hour and fifteen minutes, start to finish, but that’s a wait I can stand for the fresh, cinnamon-y goodness that results!

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Throwback Almost-Thursday: Cozy Sock Cupcakes

I loved these clever gifts we gave to the teachers for Valentine’s Day last year (and the bus driver and everyone I could think of that might need warm fuzzy socks).  So I thought sharing them again might be a good idea.  They were superquick to assemble and didn’t add calories to anyone’s day!

This one time on Pinterest….so many of my craft projects start that way! But seriously, this one time on Pinterest, I saw some cute fuzzy socks all packaged up to look like a cupcake (here’s the original pin). No, they’re not real cupcakes…but they are awfully cute!

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I couldn’t find large cupcake holder, and I just couldn’t make regular ones fit properly, so I made my own cupcake wraps, used them to line a clear punch cup, and then rolled the socks up to look like icing. It really was harder to write that all down than it was to make them.

You’ll need some 12×12 paper and a spare plastic punch cup. Cut the punch cup down the side and around the bottom to make a template for your paper. Trace it onto the wrong side of your paper and cut it out. I used some Designer Series Paper from Stampin’ Up’s clearance rack.

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You could tape it into a punch cup at the point and call it good. But I fancied mine up a bit, cutting along the top edge with decorative scissors then running it through my crimper. I love my crimper. It adds texture to so many paper projects.

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I taped the paper inside the cup and rolled the socks up tightly, making them look like frosting, and placed them inside the paper-lined cup. And took a photo in the snow on my deck, just to emphasize how perfect cozy, fuzzy socks are this time of year.

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I popped them into a Valentine bag, stamped a tag, and tied it on using bakers’ twine. Thoughtful teacher or friend gift…checked off the to-do list!

Five-Minute Valentine Gift and Tag

Maybe it’s because my favorite GI Joe loves Bit O’ Honeys. Or maybe it’s because I had to write a five-page paper on an issue I felt was important and I chose to write about the mysterious disappearance of honeybees (I can send you a copy if you’re concerned, too). Whatever the cause, I have had bees, honey, and Valentines on my brain lately. So I made this cute tag you can download for your honey.

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The color is a little wonky in the photo…again, I blame it on the sunshine!  But, anyhoo, you can see the idea here…I just cut out the tag, rounded the edges, and used some cute washi tape to attach it to the jar.  I had some wide striped ribbon that completed the whole thing.

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click here to download the hot pink one

Bee Mine Red

or click here to download the red version.

I used a corner rounder on mine, just for fun, but left the downloads with square corners to make them easier for you to trim. But if you have a corner rounder punch, it just finishes off the tag a little bit more!

If you can’t find Bit O’ Honeys (I finally found mine at the dollar store, after looking at every grocery store around), you could just tie this to a jar of local honey (don’t laugh…someone in the hubs’ office has in-laws with an apiary, and they discuss honey a lot around the water cooler!…and the jar the gave us for Christmas was the best honey ever!). I also used the “Bee Mine” sentiment one year when the hubs was deployed and I sent a new pair of two-way radios to him…back then the only color choice for Motorola was yellow and black, so they looked like bees. Anyway, if your sweetie needs some walkie-talkies, here’s the perfect tag for a yellow-and-black pair!

Oh, and I just thought of this…what a fun classroom Valentine with a couple of honey sticks (you know, those plastic straws filled with flavored honey) threaded through it! Too bad my hooligans already made theirs for school.

Hope you’re having a sweet day!

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Teacher Valentine Treat Box

Now you know I’m not going to let a holiday of any sort pass by without sending a little treat to the teachers, right?  Because you know that my hooligans make those teachers earn their pay!  And I’m eternally grateful, because it means I don’t have to homeschool them.

Anyway, the kids like to give the teachers something handmade, so I came up with these boxes (which I found at Target’s Dollar Spot, of course) filled with a few treats. Treat-Box-ChaosServedDailyI also found push pins with pink plastic flags on them there, and we bought a box of tiny binder clips to split between the three boxes, as well as mini sticky note pads to split.  Oh, and a bag of kisses. No, not all the kisses fit. I sampled the rest to make sure they were fresh.

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I had a set of Valentine washi tape from Pick Your Plum (how fortuitous!), so we spent a half hour or so adding washi to the push pins and binder clips, just to say we made something in the box. Plus, the pins and clips were pretty cheap looking without embellishment. Well, they were cheap, so what did I expect???

Anyway, we found a package of three binder rubber bands at Target, as well, and the hooligans have three teachers, so that worked out well. Plus, there was one blue, yellow, and white instead of pink, and we needed one for a guy teacher. Yay!

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I think the teachers will like these, and be able to use the boxes afterward to organize things in their desks. The cost came to a little under $5 for each, which I thought was a reasonable amount for a small holiday!

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Our Class Valentines

You’d think we could just make the same Valentines this year that we made last year, since we’re at a new school and all. But, no, the hooligans wanted something they’d never done before…so here’s what we made!

The kindergartener put together some cute robot boxes from Stampin’ Up! that I had from a few years ago, and we found robot-themed notepads at Target to go in them, along with a little box of crayons.  Super easy and she was so impressed with herself for folding all those boxes (and it gave me time for a second cup of coffee).

E-Val2-ChaosServedDailyE-Val-ChaosServedDailyVal-Robots-ChaosServedDailyThe second-grader chose bouncy balls for his classmates.  I found a simple download for the labels and small ziplocs at the craft store (in the jewelry-making section), so that was another easy Valentine.

Val-Balls-ChaosServedDailyWe found the labels at The Crafting Chicks, if you need some for yourself!

My fourth-grader spied these cute fortune cookie erasers at the Target Dollar Spot, so we just put them in a bag along with an actual fortune cookie and added a tag.  My kids love fortune cookies, and the fortunes, so these were perfect!

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And, guess what?  You can click here to download the fortune cookie tags I designed.  They print 6 to a page, and we just printed them on white cardstock. If you can’t find the fortune cookie erasers, you could easily just have the real fortune cookie and attach the tag directly to it. Or I’ve seen fortune cookies dipped in melted white or dark chocolate (just halfway) then sprinkled with Valentine sprinkles.  Once they harden, pop a couple in a bag and you’re done!  Our school doesn’t allow homemade treats, so that won’t work for us, but I know some schools still do allow homemade things.

I love making, I mean helping the hooligans make, Valentine treats for their friends.  I’ll really miss that in a few years…maybe I’ll just spoil my own high school math students then and make them treats instead!

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