Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Calendar Recycling Project #2 Beads

I know that there are lots of people that already know how to make paper beads, but there are also many that don't! SO today is covering two things - recycling those calendars, and making beads! This is an easy project that kids can help with. I'll let you decide how old they need to be to help. I would let mine help with this one starting around 5 years old.

Supplies that are necessary:
mod podge (you can also use regular elmers or some other kind of craft glue, but I prefer Mod Podge)
toothpick, qtip, straws of various sizes

Since the toothpick, q-tip, and straws of various sizes are for wrapping the paper around to make the hole in the center, you should determine which size you want them to be inside. I chose the q-tip because I will be giving the beads to my 10 year old to make something fun with and she tends to use kinda thick cotton or hemp cording for making things. This size hole will go on the string nicely but not be too sloppy. :)

I cut off one end of the q-tip so that I wouldn't have cotton fluff interfering with the beads.

These are now ready to use for wrapping beads around! You can also use one to spread the Mod Podge on the paper if you would like.

Cut strips of paper that are slightly cut-in rectangles.

The one end should be much narrower than the other. Not quite by 1/2, but definitely narrower. The widest end is how wide your bead will be when it is finished. You can make your beads all different widths, or make them all uniform, that's up to you! But no matter what make them at least a couple inches long. The longer they are the more times the paper will wrap around and the more sturdy the bead will be when it is completed.

Spread Mod Podge on the back side of the calendar picture - the actual calendar side. Put it on starting about one rotation around your bead wrapping utensil down. So since I was using a q-tip I started the Mod Podge about 1/4" - 1/2" down the paper from the largest side. You start down a little ways because you don't want it to stick to what you're wrapping the paper around if you can help it.

Start rolling the paper on the q-tip (or whatever you're using!). The initial turn is the hardest to control, but after the paper is touching the Mod Podge it gets much easier since it's not sticking to itself! Make sure you completely coat the paper in a THIN layer. You don't want too much on here. It will squish out and make a mess. A little squishing is OK...but too much and you just end up having sticky gunk all over!

Once the bead is rolled you can either A) take it off the q-tip now and do a final coat of Mod Podge over top later or B) leave it on the q-tip and do the final coat of Mod Podge on it now. Taking the q-tip out will help the inside layers dry faster since air will get to the bead from the inside too. Keeping it on the q-tip is a little more convenient for doing the final coat of Mod Podge on the outside, but it will take a little bit longer to dry on the inside.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat! You'll end up with some neat, unique, and recycled beads!
P.S. How do you like all that glitter? Pretty great, right?! LOL I swear once you do ONE thing with glitter, everything is coated in it and you can't get rid of it!! This glitter is from weeks ago!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

French Onion Soup by Dishes

Welcome back to our monthly featured food guest, Ashley from Dishes!

As you may know from my previous posts, I have very little time for cooking because of work and mom responsibilities, but can never resist a yummy meal. A lot of my recipes start with the statement, usually out lout to my hubby, “Wouldn’t it be yummy if we could have…” Then I start dreaming of how I would make it, usually not even knowing how it’s really made. Luckily, it usually turns out alright. This recipe was born this way. Prior to having the craving, I would have told you I will never make French Onion Soup- it seems WAY too hard! It turns out, it was easier than I could have imagined. Give it a try and you’ll be impressed. This recipe will make 2 hearty but can easily be doubled.
So here are the ingredients and some possible substitutes:

 ¾ cup Red cooking wine (can substitute white)

French Bread (any bread you have on hand or croutons)

4 slices Swiss Cheese (I use this to keep the fat low and the flavor as close to the original as possible; you can use Gruyere which is the traditional, or you can try provolone or mozzarella if you have it on hand)

1 Onion

2 Cups broth (I use vegetable bouillon, but beef will give you a more traditional flavor)

1 TBSP butter

2 TBSP flour

Parsley and Thyme (fresh or dried)

Minced garlic

 The onions will take the longest to make, but you really don’t have the watch them. I literally put them on and ran to the store, which is a good 10 minutes away, to get a loaf of bread while they cooked. Cut the onion in half, lay the halves flat and make slices about as wide as your little finger. Melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low (my gas stove was set on 2), then add the onions, 1/8 cup parsley, 1 TBSP thyme, and minced garlic (only if you’re using fresh. If you use pre-prepared, then wait until you add the broth). You can add some Bay leaves if you’d like also. Do not stir! Go hang out with the family, and don’t worry if the onions burn a little. Just let them sit there for about 15-20 minutes, then stir once. Here’s a picture from when I got back to the stove:

 Cook onions for about 10-20 minutes longer (really, don’t worry if they burn a little!). Turn the burner up to med-high and add ¾ cup of wine so that it boils. Bring the burner down to a simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

At this point, there’s a few things we can do to save time later. Ff you have fresh bread we need to get it crispy. Turn your boiler on and put your bread in the oven for a few minutes each side until brown. You can do this simultaneously as your doing the other steps. You could also just use a toaster or toaster over if you have one available, but you may have to do several batches for smaller toasters. I burnt my bread a little, as you can see below, but you couldn’t tell when the soup was said and done.  *You’ll see foil over my pan in the oven because I hate doing dishes! You can reuse the foil and then throw it out instead of washing your pans each time.

If you’re using Bouillon cubes, put them in 2 cups hot water for them to start breaking down for a little later.

While you’re waiting on the oven to preheat for the bread, or while the bread is in the oven, add 2 TBSP flour to your onion mix and stir. Keep the onions on the burner for a few minutes longer to integrate the flavor into the flour. (By the way, check your bread if it’s in the oven, but keep your oven on broil for a little later.)

Now, add 2 cups of broth to your pot (notice we’ve only used 1 pot!). Stir it in and let it simmer for just a few minutes. 

Put soup into ovenable bowls, and top with your bread croutons and then cheese. I didn’t even chop mine up- just threw it on there.

Put into the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is browning and bubbly. Let it cool because it will be very hot. Then, enjoy!

Check out more recipes or contact me on my blog!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Calendar Recycling Project #1 Clothespins

Remember how I said (on Facebook) that you should save your old wall calendar if you hadn't already thrown it out? Well this week is just one of the reasons why!

I know, I know...Cute clothespins?! But why!? Well, lots of reasons, really! Clothespins are SUPER handy for FAR more than hanging clothes on a clothes line. I've only taken a picture of one way, but I can list MANY ways!!

Perfect for closing up bags of salad, candy bits, potato chips, _________ (insert bag here).
They can also be used for fridge magnets if you add a magnetic strip onto the back....useless around here since only the sides of our fridge are magnetic and most of that area is hidden. Or use them to hang up pictures your children have made along a wire or string (I love this idea and want to implement it!!). You could also use them to hang up pictures of your family along a hard wire shelf (I'll have to take a picture of this one later since I do this!). Use them to hang party decorations, or any other kind of decoration. You could even, *gasp!* use them to hang up clothes on a clothes line! hahahahaha I know, who would use them like that?!

Anyway, here's how to do it!

Items you need:

Clothes pins - I used 10 for this project, but you could use as many as you want! I got them as a large pack at the dollar store. VERY economical!
Your old wall calendar.
Mod Podge.
A surface to work on - I just laid out news paper...but in retrospect I should have used wax paper or something of the sort.
You might also want a paint brush to spread the Mod Podge...I just used my finger. I don't mind getting dirty/gluey and sometimes I think it's kinda fun! ;-)

I wanted this pretty tile design to show up on my clothes pins, so that's the part that I focused on during this project. Your design can be as large or small as you want. Just keep in mind that if your design is huge that it's going to look very abstract on the small surface of the clothes pin. If your design is small then you will be able to at least partially see it.

I know it's kinda hard to see, but there is Mod Podge spread on the backside of the calendar picture. It's on there kinda thick.

Start adding your clothes pins in a head to tail pattern. Lay one with the nose/tip/head/clamp (whatever you want to call it) facing one direction then lay the next one right next to it with it's nose at the same side as the tail/squeeze part is on the first one. Leave a very little bit of space between them.

Keep going until all of your clothes pins are attached to the backside of your calendar picture.

Cut around the area where your clothes pins are attached and flip over. Smooth out the paper on the clothespins as best that you can. It's ok if it's a little wet/wrinkly. Not a big deal! As it dries it should mostly fix itself.

This is a closer view of what I mean about nose to tail.

Cut apart the paper on the clothespins and carefully trim the paper as close to the clothespin as you can. The edge of the paper should now be flush with the edge of the clothes pin on all sides.

Once they are all cut apart paint a layer of Mod Podge on top of the calendar picture and along the sides of the part of the clothespin that the picture is glued onto (now the "top") and let dry. Once it's dry you can add the magnetic strip to the back if you would like.

And now you have some fun, recycled, and pretty clothespins to use for tons of other things! I wanted to make these before I did the pictures for the photoshoot for the outfit I made to follow along with Project Run and Play, but I didn't have time to.

P.S. Today is my birthday! And last night my sister brought me a totaly amazing cake that she made! She seriously needs to start her own bakery. YUUUUUMMMMYYYY!!!! :-D

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not a crafty post - a birth story instead

This post isn't a crafty one. If you aren't interested in learning a bit about my life and experience as a mom, that's fine. I totally understand!
A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to what is really a great blog post. And honestly, before 2 years ago I could completely relate.
But after the birth of our youngest my perspective changed a bit. My response to her posting was pretty long. Much longer than I had intended. "As a mom who's youngest had a very scary entry into the world, and who's future is still unclear, I can very much appreciate all the old ladies advising to savor every moment. I know that all too easily I might not even have gotten those moments with my little one. And that reminds me how much I should really appreciate ALL of the moments with both of my girls. The good ones, the melt downs, the ridiculous outfits they want to go out in public wearing, the times when I know it is || <-- this close to nap time but I have just one more errand to run so I will risk the potential insane, overtired, running, climbing, non-listening, almost 2 year old in the store and appreciate that I HAVE that child still with me to have to deal with her crazies. Not to say that I find it blissful and enjoyable to deal with those moments. But that I am so very thankful that my child is healthy and HERE to make me deal with those moments. To try to see those moments not as a test to my parenting skills, since I know I am a good parent, but as a test to my ability to cope and overcome and still be joyful that I get to do it at all."

On Feb. 19th it will be 2 years ago I gave birth to our youngest daughter with the help of my husband and a fantastic midwife. It was 3 weeks earlier than the due date, and even earlier than I thought it would be.

She was so little even the newborn hat was big on her.

The labor lasted technically about 11 hours since my water broke around 10:30 am and she was born around 9:30 pm. But there were pretty much no contractions, let alone any that would be productive, until around 7 pm; after my midwife had intervened to help labor along. The actual labor lasted only about 2 hours. And going from almost 2cm to a full 10 in that short of time was fairly intense. But being with people I loved, liked, and knew cared about me made it much easier.
Pushing lasted 8 minutes. Which is NOT long. And up to the pushing stage everything was beyond just fine.

See how skinny and tiny she is?

During the pushing something scary happened. My daughter's heartbeat kept getting lost. As in not there. It would be there, then gone, then come back. The last two minutes of that 8 minutes of pushing were the most scary. The heartbeat was gone more than it was there. The cord was wrapped around her neck 3 times. But my midwife could literally stick her fingers under the wraps between the cord and her neck - so it wasn't tight. The major problem: the cord had stopped beating.
While a baby is still attached, before being delivered and typically for a little while after, the cord is still beating. It's still supplying the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This time that wasn't the case.

Her cheekies were the first thing to chunk up. <3

My baby girl had just been delivered under slightly rushed circumstances in the last couple minutes, and was a strange shade of greyish pinkish white. Some sort of mix of the three colors.
Thankfully with rubbing stimulation, and blow-by oxygen (an oxygen tank turned on with a tube attached that would normally go to an attachment but instead is held at the nose/mouth) she pinked up and perked up.

Talk about scary first moments!! Another couple minutes of pushing and I might not have this amazing little rambunctious girl to chase down and pull off of table tops and book shelves.
Unfortunately the concern didn't stop there. Long story short, there was permanent "brain damage" on the left side of her brain. I say it in quotation marks because while there is physical damage she has definitely overcome it. She had slight right sided weakness in her face, arm, body, and leg that has seemingly been cured thanks to early intervention with a physical therapist. She is currently doing speech therapy. Not for a lack of her understanding what's being said, but for a lack of us being able to understand what she says to us.

Her first birthday.

But by no means does that mean she is dumb!! In a little over a month she will be two. She already knows how to count to 4, recognizes those numbers, recognizes 5 shapes, 7 colors, and several random letters. She is very dexterous, and extremely clever. And I swear she is soaking in everything and just waiting until she has the ability to communicate better before flooring us all with how much she really does know.

She is amazing. And a gift. You can decide for yourself who/what/where she is a gift from. I wouldn't change my birthing experience with her, even if I could. And I know that if it was a hospital birth nothing different could have been done. She was too close to being out when things started turning.

I don't always love the insane antics she tries to pull, but I appreciate them. I know how amazing it is we have her and her two sisters. And I'm doing my best to remember all of the moments. Even the ones that make me cringe today. One day those will be good stories! "You were about 2 years old and mommy had to go to the post office to send out orders. While I was attempting to stand in line you were trying to run away, climb in the trash can, zig and zag through the racks and stations, and then pull out every single large envelope for flat rate shipping there was. All in about 35 seconds. I was ready to pull out my own hair!" (true story!)

Little old ladies, here is one mommy that has always wanted to be a mommy, and is finally really starting to appreciate her kids even when life, and the kids!, are insane.

She loves her baby. Sleeps with her for every nap and bedtime.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

I was desperate for something different, but still pretty easy the other night. I found this recipe to use as a starting point. And of course I had to change it like I always do!

I started off by getting 3 cups of rice (dry) to 4 cups of chicken broth and 1.5 cups of water going in the rice cooker.

While that was cooking I made the cheese soup just how it is in the recipe - it was my first time ever making cheese soup! Not only that, but my first time ever making a roux! It was pretty easy, actually.

Cheddar Cheese Soup: (directly from the site)
Makes the equivalent of one can (10 ¾ ounces) of condensed cheddar cheese soup


3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat.

2. Gradually add flour and whisk constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

3. Slowly add milk, whisking to maintain smoothness.

4. Cook this mixture over low heat until thickened, whisking as it cooks (about 5-7 minutes).

5. Add the cheese and stir until smooth and well blended.

For the casserole I blended together the majority of the rice (I didn't quite use all of it, I wasn't entirely sure how much I would use and leftovers rarely go to waste around here!) and about 1.5-2 lbs of chicken breast all chopped into roughly 1" cubes, the cheese soup that I made, broccoli cut into bite sized pieces, and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup. I stirred all of that together and then added about a teaspoon and a half of minced garlic and a sprinkling of chili powder, and a sprinkling of parsley. Stir it all up again and then sprinkled on the french fried onions and a little bit more chili powder. A very light barely there dusting this time. Then popped it into the oven at 350 for 25 minutes.

While that was baking I used a medium sized pot to cook about half a large bag of baby carrots in butter and honey over medium heat. They need to be stirred semi frequently so that they all cook equally.

Thankfully it all finished cooking at almost exactly the same time! But sadly I took NO pictures of it. Since the main food was all a complete experiment for me I didn't take any. I should really know better by now. I think there have only been a couple of dinners I have made in the last 10 years that have NOT been worth remembering again!

Note to self: Always take pictures!! But if you clicked on the link above it looked pretty similar to their picture.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Criss Cross Soda Pop Tab Bracelet

I've seen soda pop tab bracelets here and there on the internet. I can't remember exactly where, so I can't link to them.
We really don't drink much soda around here so it took quite a while to get a handful of tabs to make a bracelet or two. Today I'm going to show how to make one doing criss crosses through the tabs.

You will need a nice length of ribbon, roughly 3/4 of a yard, and a handful of tabs.

Fold the ribbon in half and lace through each open end of the tab.

Leave a little bit of space and then tie a knot in the ribbon. Then add another tab by lacing one end of the ribbon under and through each side of the tab.

Take one piece of ribbon and cross it over to the other opening, still keeping it on the front side and putting it through to the back. Do the same thing with the other ribbon. Pull the tab down to touch the knot and pull the ribbon taut.

Add another tab by lacing the ribbon up underneath and straight through the back again.

Criss cross the ribbons over the top and through to the back again like you did before. Then pull the tab down and make the ribbons taut.

Repeat with as many tabs as you want until your bracelet is the way you want it to look. For this one I only added a few more so that there were enough to sit across the top of my wrist, but not come around to the back. Once you have as many as you want added on, tie a knot in the ribbon.

Put on your wrist (or someone else's) and put one of the ribbon ends through the loop you created at the beginning of the bracelet.

Finally tie a regular bow, and your bracelet is complete!

These are pretty quick and easy to make. They would be a pretty good little recycling project to do with your kids. I would suggest burning the ends of your ribbon - I couldn't find the lighter I always use (I only use lighters for crafts and candles... and I have no idea where it could have wandered off to!).

These would make fun, simple, cute, easy party favors, or a craft project for a party. Or to sell at an arts and craft fair at school for a fundraiser. Use wider ribbon for a slightly different look, or a combination of a couple of skinny ribbons, use scraps of fabric, lace, or the selvage edge of fabric, use your imagination!

Next week will be another method to use to make these. :) Have fun and recycle whenever you can!