Wednesday, December 26, 2012

DIY Salt Dough Whirligig, Buzzer, Button Spinner or Buzzing YoYo Toy Craft

So I had this idea….
(This phrase is how most of my random crafts and projects begin.)

There are many names for this toy but I will call it a whirligig.

I grew up with one of these toys and I adored it. My aunt crafted mine from wood and painted it. I did a bit of research and found out that this is one of the oldest children’s toys around. Apparently the Native American children played with a version of it dating back hundreds of years BC. According to the local news “Vintage toys are IN this Christmas” so, hey, it’s “trendy”. I wanted to make a whirligig with my 5 year old over the holidays but I’m not a carpenter. I’ve tried making them before with large buttons but was never happy with them. But I like salt dough…


This is me and my kids DIY version of this vintage toy.
Warning: Keep this toy away from long hair, the resulting tangle would be Epic.

I always use the Busy Bee's Kids Crafts Salt Dough Recipe found http://www.busybeekidscrafts.com/Salt-Dough-Recipe.html. I halfed the recipe for this craft.

Materials
Flour
Salt
Warm water
Nylon rope (or other kind of rope)
Tempura paint and brushes

I picked up this rope at my local hardware store. 



























To make it somewhat educational and since I didn't know what size circle I wanted to make it, the girls and I used difference size plastic cups to cut our circles. We measured and found cups with a 2 inch, 2.5 inch and 3 inch diameter to use. 



My littlest "Helper"


Poke two holes in the center of each circle with kabob skewers. 

Before they went into the oven

After the oven

My oldest helper painted them for us


Finished product, a salt dough circle with two holes and rope threaded through. 

To finish the edges so they wouldn't unravel I sealed them with a flame. 

All three sizes worked but we decided the 2 inch circles were our favorite.

When you twirl it you want to keep the sealed rope edge in your hands away from the circle. Hold the rope in both hands and spin the circle until it is wound tightly. Next pull the rope tight enough to make the circle begin to spin, next leave some slack in the rope so that the circle can spin in the other direction. This continues the back and forth spinning or whirligig motion of the toy.

I made a short video demo as an example. 



My Ugly / Gaudy Christmas Sweater DIY Updated Version

I finally managed to find LED battery operated Christmas lights to add to my sweater for this year's sweater party. Target had these lights, 15 on a strand with some that blink. 

I had hoped that putting these lights on the shirt would be super simple...but I was wrong. I had to cut small holes and then hand sew them into place to keep them from falling out. The time and effort were completely worth it! I kept the battery pack in my back jean pocket and the lights worked fabulously! They were "Festive". 


All sewn in and ready to roll


"Oh"! LOL


Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Ugly / Gaudy Christmas Sweater DIY


Last year I won the ladies ugly sweater contest at a dear friend's party with this howling ugly creation. 
I made the sweater with things I already had around the house and I did not buy anything. 

I only wish I had added battery operated blinking Christmas lights to the tree. 

To complete the look I wore pick-tails with the matching green bows, sewed green bows on my shoulders and wore green sparkly bulb ornament earrings. I still Shudder when I look at this picture!


If you want to create a sweater so ugly people's eyes bleed to look at you, here is how I made mine.
Be sure to see the update I posted, I added lights to make it more "Festive". 


To Do It Yourself Ugly Christmas Sweater 
Second hand sweater or sweater you will donate to the cause
Red tinsel or any other color
Contrasting color ribbon (I had the kind of ribbon with wire built in to help it hold the shape.)  
Small ornaments 
Needle and thread (I used my hand quilting thread because it is stronger than regular thread.)
Optional - sewing machine
Pins
Thimble
Basic sewing skills
Know how to make a small bow

For the Barrettes:
Two barrettes
Two twisty ties (the kind you get off bread loafs)


Pin the tinsel in whatever shape you like. I made a triangle shape. Sew the tinsel by hand into place. I confess that I did use the sewing machine to sew some of the tinsel on with the zig-zag stitch. However, it was problematic. I kept breaking my sewing machine needles and ended up hand sewing a large portion. Sew a bow or something else on top of the tree. Once the tinsel is in the desired shape, sew on the ornaments. 


Note: when I sewed the ornaments on I sewed them to where they hung by their thread. In other words, the ornaments had free movement. That way if you shimmy or move quickly, the ornaments swing! Hahaha
Completed sweater with additional bows on the sleeves.



For the hair barrettes I made small bows and used twisty ties to attach them to the barrettes.

Remember! We are going for Ugly, Tacky and Gaudy. Nothing has to be perfect or symmetrical. I intentionally left the hair the bows different sizes to add to the awkwardness. Let things be sideways and imperfect. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Busy Woman’s Thanksgiving Insider Tip

I LOVE holiday food (love, love, love it) but I always felt like Thanksgiving and Christmas are way too close together to kill myself cooking so many different things twice. So here is my insider tip. Make all your awesome casseroles and desserts only once. Make a double recipe of your cornbread dressing, broccoli casserole, mirliton (chayote) casserole, corn casserole, green bean casserole, Mississippi Mud Pie, pumpkin pie, etc. Buy some disposable tins from the store to keep it all in the freezer. Use common sense of course, not every food freezes well. The ones listed above are the ones I make and freeze. I started doing this a few years ago and it works very well for me. I’ll cook a fresh turkey and ham for Christmas but the desserts and casseroles I simply thaw out. This way I can spend more quality time with my little ones.
As an added bonus, here is my fully loaded cornbread dressing recipe.

This is what it looks like before going into the oven.

Angela’s Loaded Cornbread Dressing Recipe

6 slices of bread torn into pieces
1 whole chicken fryer boiled and deboned (save broth)
6 boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
2 chicken bouillon
1 lb Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage – (regular or sage)
Corn bread (3 boxes of Jimmy or 2 recipes of another brand like Aunt Jamima, cook as directed)
1 bag bread stuffing (any brand: Pepperidge Farm, Oroweat, etc.) will use 2-3 cups (maybe whole bag)
2 chopped bell pepper
5 stalks celery chopped
1 large onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 raw eggs
1 Tbs parsley or some fresh if you have some on hand
1 heaping tsp sage
Salt & pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste

Boil eggs. Boil chicken until meat is falling off the bone. Prepare cornbread recipes. Remove chicken from pot, let it cool then debone. Keep the broth. Skim off as much fat as possible from broth and mix in 2 chicken bouillon cubes. I usually cut the larger pieces of chicken up with a knife. When finished deboning, put meat back in the broth to keep moist until you are ready for it.

While the chicken is cooling chop all vegetables and peel and slice eggs. In a skillet brown the breakfast sausage, breaking it up as you cook. Add and sauté celery, onion and bell pepper. When everything is translucent and the celery is tender mix in the cream of mushroom soup, parsley, sage and garlic powder. Once blended remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This recipe will make about two 9x12 inch pans of dressing . Spray the pans with Pam and set aside.

Strain out the chicken meat from the broth. In a very large bowl begin mixing everything together (with the exception of the raw eggs) including the remaining ingredients: cornbread, stuffing, salt and pepper. Hold out the bag of stuffing until very last. As you mix everything together slowly start adding the chicken broth to the mix. Slowly add the bag of stuffing and broth until it reaches the desired consistency and taste you want. Once it is the taste you like, add the two raw eggs. I like my dressing very moist so the consistency will be juicy.

Spread the dressing into the pans, cover with foil and place in oven, after 45 minutes remove the foil cover. The dressing will be done in about an hour when it is cooked all the way through and golden brown on the edges. If it starts getting too brown on top cover loosely with foil. I always freeze the second pan.

Enjoy my recipe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Curry Casserole



With Thanksgiving around the corner I thought I would share a holiday feast favorite. This recipe has a bit of history. I was making the original version of this 15 years ago with it swimming in mayo and Ritz crackers. At some point I decided to add noodles, skip the crackers and go a little more healthy. This is what I believe to be the "Perfect" incarnation of this dish. 

1-2 large package(s) frozen broccoli florets (depends on the size of the bags. If you don't use it all, Hey, more steamed broccoli for later. It's a win, win!)
4 chicken breasts cubed or whole Rotisserie Chicken deboned if you are in a hurry
1 large onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup lower fat mayonnaise 
2 tbsp lemon juice or fresh squeezed lemon
Heaping 2 tsp curry powder (more if you really like it)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper (or black pepper, it is the same thing minus the color, i.e. bleach)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
3 ½ - 4 cups cooked noodles (I use an entire box of whole wheat elbow macaroni)
1 cup hot water with 2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved 

Cook noodles as directed, set aside.  Cook broccoli but leave firm, I sometimes microwave it.  Cook chicken and onions in a skillet then add the cup of water with the two dissolved bouillon cubes in it. While the chicken is cooking, combine chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, and white pepper in a large bowl.  In a large bowl combine this mixture to the cooked noodles. Next add the chicken and onions and lastly add the broccoli.   Once everything is well mixed, place in a large casserole dish.  Cover with cheese. To keep it from drying out, I always cover the dish with aluminum foil. This recipe is very forgiving to modifications.
Bake in a large casserole dish for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. 
Rotisserie Option                                                                        Raw Chicken Breast Option




Steaming tons of Broccoli


Cream of Chicken, Curry Powder & Ground White Pepper


Yes it looks strange, mix it together anyways along with the lemon juice

Have your "helpers" assist with spreading the grated cheese on top

Finished Product



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making Homemade Slime and Glow in the Dark Slime


The girls and I decided to make homemade slime. For this I used the directions and recipe from the Domestic Charm Blog
Note: I tried three different recipes, and this one is the best. I found the white Elmer’s glue easier to make into slime than the clear or the blue gel glues Elmer’s makes. I tried all three kinds and found the white glue more forgiving. To make it GLOW, all you need to do is add Glow-It when mixing the glue and water.

Materials 
Borax
Elmer’s Glue
Food Coloring (whatever color you want)
Water
Bowls
Measuring Cup











Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eight Lower Calorie Food Options I Can't Live Without

I am always on the lookout for good tasting lower calorie food options to incorporate into my life. So here is a combined list of some of my favorites that I can't live without.



Stevia Extract. This stuff is the BOMB and it is zero calories. I find using a dropper is a better option when adding it to coffee and tea as a sweetener. 

PB2 I have never been a big fan of Peanut Butter but a lot of that had to do with the amount of calories. 2 Tbs of it is only 45 calories and 1 gram of fat, all the protein without all the fat and calories. It is a powder. You use 2 tablespoons of the PB2 powder to 1 TBS of water and you have legit peanut butter. They have two flavors: regular and Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Let's just say the Chocolate is my favorite. Unfortunately, only one store in my town sells it so I buy in bulk. I can't live without it! You can order it here at www.bellplantation.com
(1-17-2013)  I have two small updates regarding PB2. First, this stuff is AMAZING sprinkled over homemade vanilla flavored Ice Cream. Secondly, my newest favorite breakfast / snack food is one slice of double fiber bread with 2 TBS of PB2 smeared on it. It is the perfect fold over sandwich. Another option is to add sliced banana!  

Truvia Baking Blend is great for basic baking and much lower calorie. However, you should  experiment with this before making a baking masterpiece for guests. I have found my homemade fruit cobblers will not rise as much using this but they still taste amazing. 


This is my hands down favorite fat free salad dressing. Only 35 calories for 2 Tbs and it is yummy! Actually, I like nearly all of their dressings. Maple Grove Farms www.maplegrove.com

Chocolite Protein Bars. I need a high protein diet and am forever frustrated over the high amount of fat, calories and sugar in the typical store bought protein / breakfast bars.  They are only 95 calories, 9 grams of protein here and they taste good (especially with coffee). There are several flavors. One head's up, they are very crumbly so watch out if you are wearing something you don't want possible chocolate smears on. Again, only one store in my town carries these. :( However, you can order them online and look at their other products http://www.healthsmartfoods.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=20


Oroweat Healthful Flax & Fiber bread. This is my favorite health bread. It has 4 grams of fiber, only 80 calories and other healthy ingredients. For me the most important item is the 5 grams of protein per slice and that it is delicious. The bread tastes so good to me that I toast it and don't put anything on top. One slice of bread here is practically a meal for me. 
http://www.oroweat.com/sub-category/health-full® If you can't locate this, any double fiber bread is a good healthy carb/bread option.


Gnu Bars. There are 9 delicious flavors. I find they are so filling that I can often only eat half of a bar. For one bar 140 calories, 3 grams protein and 4 grams of fat but here is the kicker - 12g Fiber.

Teavana is one of my latest addictions (They have a tea for everything!). Okay, so it isn't technically a "lower calorie food" but it keeps me going. The Mate teas give you energy, cut appetite and promote weight loss. When I'm getting too tired and still have more to do I'll make a Mate tea.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sometimes you need a dinner like this one, a Cheese and Fruit Tray with Pate.


While on vacation this summer my girlfriend prepared a yummy cheese and fruit tray for us. It was so much fun that I've decided to start doing them myself for my family. So every now and then we have a simple and delicious dinner like this one. No slaving away in the kitchen for hours, prep time is about 10 minutes tops. Find a local market that sells good cheese like Gouda or Brie, which are my favorites, or sample some new ones. For fruit I suggest grapes, apples and whatever other fruit you are in the mood for. Grab a selection of thin crackers like Keebler Toasteds Party Pack http://www.amazon.com/Toasteds-Crackers-Party-Assortment-12-Ounce/dp/B000AYGYOC. Last but not least grab some Pate.  I know, you may be thinking Pate?! Yuck! But not so, that stuff is AMAZING!!!  You should absolutely give it a try. If you like wine, grab a bottle of that too.  



My Ingredients:
Grapes
Apple Slices
Crackers
Pate
Gouda Cheese
Brie Cheese
Bottle of Wine
ENJOY!!!



Friday, August 10, 2012

Thought for the day: Don’t underestimate the power of Kindness. You may never know how much your kindness meant to another. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ” ~ Leo Buscaglia


Friday, July 20, 2012

Louisiana Crawfish Alfredo Pasta


It has been a while since my last post and I promise to post some kind of craft soon but in the meantime I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes. Here is my version of my good friend David’s Louisiana Crawfish Alfredo. He taught me this recipe years ago and I’ve made a few modifications over the years. This is a family favorite and I share it with his permission. Because this is a pain to print with all the photos, I've inserted the recipe again by itself at the bottom of this post. 
Louisiana Crawfish Alfredo Pasta
(or Louisiana Shrimp Alfredo Pasta)
1 Stick butter or margarine
8 Tbsp (aka 1/2 cup) flour - added slowly 
1 Pint half and half cream (1 pint = 2 cups)
1 Pint whole milk (1 pint = 2 cups)
2 lb. peeled raw shrimp or crawfish 
1 Tsp minced garlic
Green onions (1 bunch)
Sharp cheddar cheese block 16 oz (divided into thin slices)
Sliced Baby Portobello mushrooms (optional) 
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
Garlic Powder to taste
1 tsp Oregano
Fresh Parsley if you have it, 1/2 Tbsp if using dried Parsley
1/4 tsp Crab Boil (Must have ingredient)
Salt & Pepper to taste

On low heat melt butter in a large pot, slowly add the flour one tablespoon at a time with a whisk. Be sure not to leave it as it will scorch. 


Making the Roux 

Mixing in the flour, stirring constantly


You will make a golden colored roux, mixing until you have a thick sludge.



This is almost to the golden color we want (not brown)


Slowly beginning whisking in the milk and cream, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth. 

 

In a separate saucepan add shrimp or crawfish and cook on medium-low heat. 

 

You will cook the about 4 minutes. Next add the minced garlic, green onions and cook another 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Once everything is cooked drain the saucepan in the sink to get rid of the excess liquid. 

*Note: Be sure not to overcook your shrimp or they will get tough. The should be just-turned pink. 

Once the shrimp/crawfish mixture in the saucepan is drained, add that to the milk mixture in the large pot. 

 

On medium head begin adding slices of cheddar cheese a few at a time. Once those slices melt add a few more slices. Taste occasionally, you may not want to add all of the cheddar. Stir frequently. 

While stirring in the cheese, add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, oregano, parsley and crab boil.  


Once everything is mixed together and to the desired taste and consistency, the sauce is ready. Serve over Angel Hair pasta or Spaghetti Squash. The dish goes very well with buttered French bread.
Enjoy


Easy to copy and print version of the just the recipe:
Louisiana Crawfish Alfredo Pasta
(or Louisiana Shrimp Alfredo Pasta)
1 Stick butter or margarine
8 Tbsp (aka 1/2 cup) flour - added slowly 
1 Pint half and half (1 pint = 2 cups)
1 Pint whole milk (1 pint = 2 cups)
2 lb. peeled raw shrimp or crawfish 
1 Tsp minced garlic

Green onions (1 bunch)
Sharp cheddar cheese block 16 oz (divided into thin slices)

Sliced Baby Portobello mushrooms (optional) 

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
Garlic Powder to taste
1 tsp Oregano
Fresh Parsley if you have it, 1/2 Tbsp if using dried Parsley
1/4 tsp Crab Boil (Must have ingredient)
Salt & Pepper to taste
On low heat melt butter in a large pot, slowly add the flour one tablespoon at a time with a whisk. Be sure not to leave it as it will scorch. You will make a golden colored roux, mixing until you have a thick sludge. Slowly beginning whisking in the milk and cream, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth. 
In a separate saucepan add shrimp or crawfish and cook on medium-low heat. You will cook the about 4 minutes. Next add the minced garlic, green onions and cook another 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Once everything is cooked drain the saucepan in the sink to get rid of the excess liquid. 
*Note: Be sure not to overcook your shrimp or they will get tough. The should be just-turned pink. 
Once the shrimp/crawfish mixture in the saucepan is drained, add that to the milk mixture in the large pot. On medium head begin adding slices of cheddar cheese a few at a time. Once those slices melt add a few more slices. Taste occasionally, you may not want to add all of the cheddar. Stir frequently. While stirring in the cheese, add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, oregano, parsley and crab boil.  
Once everything is mixed together and to the desired taste and consistency, the sauce is ready. Serve over Angel Hair pasta or Spaghetti Squash. The dish goes very well with buttered French bread.