Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy pumpkin pop treats

I love helping out with my kid's school.  Not only do they go to a great school with amazing teachers, I find it fun to stay involved.  At the preschool, I am the lead parent coordinator, helping to plan events and projects with the teachers and then being the liaison to the parents.  At the school aged-level with Abby I am a member of the PTSA, volunteering my time to plan events and different activities.  One of my sole duties is being the teacher appreciation chair where I plan small monthly things for all the teachers and staff to show them how much we love them!  I usually center this around food, and more specifically, sweets. This month I was feeling halloweeny and felt like making some pops.  I decided to make chocolate-covered marshmallow pops decorated to look like little pumpkins.  It was quite easy to make them, but I had to make 100, so it did take some time.

To make these little cuties, you will need:
lollipop sticks
wilton's candy melts in orange
black icing
green ribbon
wax paper
*if you are packaging them, then you will need clear cello bags and ties

I like the Wilton's candy melts the best for when I am candy coating things like these and also cake pops.  They melt super easy and come in every color.  I usually buy them at Joann's with a coupon :) One bag of candy covered about 32 mallows.
Begin by following the directions on the package to melt the candy.  I use a medium glass bowl and use 50% power on the microwave. I let it go for about one minute and then stir, then stir every 30-45 seconds.  When it is just about all melted and smooth, add the secret ingredient:
A dollop of Crisco.  I KNOW!  Dieters look away! This is one of the only things I use Crisco in, but it really makes a difference and gets the candy to be thinner.  You can only add this to make it thinner, if you added milk or water or something else, the candy would seize up and would be unusable.  I add a spoonful in, stir well, and then micro for another 30-45 seconds till its thin and smooth.  Take out the mallows and the sticks.  Dip each stick in the candy and then stick in the mallow.  You can place them in a tray or plate to dry for a min or two.  This helps to keep the stick inside the mallow when you are dipping them.  You do this with cake pops or oreo pops too.
I did it in batches because I was making so many.  After they set for a few minutes, begin by dipping each pop in the chocolate.
I use a large spoon to help scoop the chocolate around it and by the top.  I usually spin and coat at the same time.
When it's coated, take it out and hold it like so (see my awesome photo above- no, I'm really terrible at taking these kind of pics, but you get the hint).  I tap where my hand and thumb meet while spinning the pop to help get an extra chocolate off of it.  Then, place on a wax paper covered tray to let dry.
Continue on until all the pops are covered then let set for a while.  I didn't feel like clearing my whole fridge out so I just left them on my kitchen table. This works fine, it just takes longer.  After they are all dry, make the faces.
I used this kind.  Its super easy to use and already made.  Wilton's makes some too and its just as easy.  Make a cute face on each pumpkin and then let dry, again!
Boo, boo, boo, boo!
Cute, eh?  I'm not a perfectionist, much to your surprise, I am sure.  I don't care of all the faces aren't the same.  They are still super cute!
Once dry again, tie a little ribbon onto the pop.  I tied it up top and then pushed it down to the top of the pumpkin.
I individually bagged all the pops ready to pass out at school.  I WAS originally going to tag them all with cute little tags but by this point I was so tired, I just decided to make a little poem to hang up by the teacher's boxes so they would know where their delicious present came from.
Here's my awesome poem:
"Dearest teachers and staff-
Here's a little Halloween treat,
that'll be sure yummy to eat.
We appreciate all the hard work you do,
with only old pencils; none new.
So this little pumpkin is here to say,
thank you so much from the PTSA!"
I know, I know, super creative, right??  Ha, well, I don't think I'm becoming a professional poet anytime soon, but cute it certainly was.
Hopefully everyone likes their yummy and easy treat.  This was also very inexpensive to create and would make a great addition to a Halloween party or event. It would be fun to make them for different holidays and occasions as well.
Happy non-baking! :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Freebie Friday! (part one)

I have decided that my blog needs a "theme" day.  I shall start with Freebie Friday.  Each Friday (or almost each Friday, hopefully...) I shall share a project I did that cost me zero dollars or if I scored some freebies with my coupons, I will share the deal with you! 
Today, I am avoiding what I need to be doing (cleaning my bathrooms) and instead decided to tackle a small project that I have been wanting to do for a while now which was figure out a better way to organize my earrings and jewelry.  I don't wear or own too much jewelry, but what I did have was sitting in a tupperware container on my dresser.
Ugg, embarrassing!!  I can't believe I'm even sharing this!  Well, obviously THIS system doesn't work.  I've seen several different ideas on DIY jewelry organizers on Pinterest but haven't really had the time to do any.  Also, I have a few projects I'm getting ready to work on about the kids, so I really just wanted to find a simple way to fix this hot mess. 
I have several of these metal, white build-a-cubby shelf things in my house.  I have one in my hall closet and have used it to transform it into a linen closet, since this house didn't have one (DUR!) and another one in Jacob's closet to organize blankets on the top shelf and toys on the bottom.  Well, I had one square left.  I came across this while aimlessly strolling the house, not cleaning the bathrooms, and AWWWWWW....the craft gods spoke to me, calling my name!!  I could make this into a very easy jewelry organizer!!! 

So with this square and a piece of thick yellow yarn, I thee wed you to be a better way to see my earrings....
Voila!  Free, easy and neat.  I may make something different some day, but this will be good for now.  It cleaned up all those boxes on my dresser and made that look neater.  I just connected my necklaces on the square, but will probably buy some of those "s" hooks to hang on there so I don't have to unhook one if I want to wear it.
One thing this Freebie Friday project has taught me is that I need some more earring!  Time to go shopping, but I really should get to those bathrooms first...

Stay tuned for Freebie Friday part two a bit later today...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Felt flower headband for your little ladies

I have been promising Abby that she could help me with a craft and this was one I have been wanting to try out so I figured this would be a good one for her.  I think this headband turned out way cute and will be making more soon experimenting with different flowers!  Earlier I had given tutorials of different felt flowers, so if you need a refresher, scroll down!  Abby wanted to make the felt mum so that's what we did.

For this project, you will need:
headband, any type you wish
hot glue
As a quick reminder, cut the felt in a long strip, fold in half and hot glue it closed.  Using your scissors, cut along the non-glued fold, then roll it closed, gluing down as you go.
Abby made this flower all by herself so it's sticking up a bit more than I would've done, but this was her project, so I will have to let it slide :)  After you make your flower, cut a small circle, large enough to cover the base of the flower.
Glue the circle under the headband where ever you want the flower to be.  Then hot glue the flower on top of the headband. Note: please disregard my old hand. Ha!
Voila!  Very cute!  She was so proud :)  I'm sure you can see what I mean about the flower "sticking up".  It still looks very cute, but when I do more, I will be sure to roll it straight so the bottom is very flat.
I think these will be on my Christmas gift list to make for my daughters and nieces. :)
Happy crafting!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why I run

I am about a week away from my second half marathon.  I feel pretty good about it.  Part of me is looking forward to it being over because it's hard to find the time with David's schedule to run the long distance runs. I am up to 11 miles.  This week I'll up that a bit more, probably to 12, but that'll be it before the big race.  Once you run 11-12 miles, 13.1 isn't really that much farther.  Plus, the  adrenaline of race day will help to carry you though it.  If you are an inspired runner, I definitely suggest signing yourself for a race.  Maybe not a half martahon, but at least a 5 or 7k.  It gives you something to train for, a purpose to run.  It's also a cool feeling, all of those other runners around you, all that adrenaline pumping.  You also usually get a free shirt!!  As I train, I frequently think about WHY I run.  I wanted to share my reasons with you now, and they are probably not all what you think ;) Please note, these are in no particular order...
1. I run to stay thin.  I seriously wish there was some healthy and safe miracle pill that would make me lose 10 pounds and keep it off, but, alas, there is not.  So until some awesome scientist invents one, the really only way to stay thin is to eat right and work out.  As for eating right, I just try not to stuff my face with crap everyday.  And for exercise, there's nothing that burns more calories than a long run.
2. I run to get a break from my kids.  Ok, I said it!  I love my peas but often they make me batty.  Especially staying home, it's more often then not, just me and them and that alone is enough to make  a mama nuts!
3. I run to listen to my music loud.  Enough said.
4. I run to get better legs.  As I get older, my metabolism gets crappier and so do my legs.  So I run to try and combat that.
5. I run to train.  I am lazy.  Shocker, I know!  If I had the choice, I'd always pick the couch.  I just so rarely get to!  So that's another reason why I sign up for races  because it helps to keep me motivated. Otherwise the couch would probably win. 
6. I run to be healthy.  I don't want breast cancer.  I REALLY don't want it.  As most of you know, my mom passed of stage 4 breast cancer this past March.  She wasn't the most healthy person.  Smoked, didn't really exercise.  She was always blessed with "thin" genes though.  She may not have been healthy, but she always looked it.  She was first diagnosed in 2003 when I was in college.  It was awful, especially me being in AZ and her al the way in MA.  It sucked, big time.  But she fought it and went into remission.  My mom was nothing short of a fighter.  I know that I am awesome as I am today because of her, there's no doubt. Her best traits were passed down to me.  This past November, she got sick again.  Thankfully I went home for a good friend's wedding.  This was the last time I would see my mom like how I will always remember.  She was Mimi.  December we found out the cancer was back. March she was gone.  Just like that.  Fast.  It is the worst thing ever.  Still is.  These feels make me run. I'm 31 years old.  My sister, brother and I shouldve had 30 more years with her.  She was only 54.  I will always do anything in my power for my babies not to have to go though what I am.  So I run.
7. I run to be with my mom.  I know, sounds weird.  When I run, it's truly the only time in my day that I am not thinking about what else I have to do, who needs what, what's for dinner, what chores need to be done.  I don't think.  I just jam to my songs and I run.  It's when I do this, I feel like my mom is most with me.  Especially when I run really early and see the sunrise behind the mountains.  It always reminds me of her.  She, unlike me, LOVED it here.  Those dang mountains will always remind me of her.  I miss her every second of every day.  Running helps me to clear my mind and just be.  Which, as a mom of three, is quite hard to do.
I added hot pink laces for my mama this month.  Helps to keep me focused.
This is my very favorite picture of my mom and us.  It reminds me of me.  This what I do every day.  We were the same, her and I.
This is why I run.  So that I can carry on her legacy, continue to be a great mom like her.  To jam to my songs, to have great legs, to be healthy, not to get cancer.  What every your reason is, just do it.  Run.

Mama's apple pie

So I love pies.  I remember the first time I tried to make an apple pie by scratch.  I was about 6-7 months pregnant with Abigail and David and I had gone to Apple Annies for the first time and picked apples.  I found a pie crust recipe and tried it out...well, I came to learn that NOT all crust recipes are made equal!  After a few hours, and many tears (and a big pregnant belly) I bought a pre-made crust. A couple of months later, I gave it another go.  I found a simple crust recipe and over the years have tweaked it to what is it today. I've made this crust dozens of times over the years and it always comes out great and it is VERY easy to work with.  You can also use this with other fillings and not just apple.
Here is my apple pie recipe.  I hope you make it and love it as much as we do!
For the crust:
3 c. flour
2 T sugar
1 3/4 t salt
1c. plus 2T (2 and 1/4 sticks) unsalted chilled butter
8T cold ice water
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
This recipe calls for using a food processor to blend the dough.  Its very easy to use and much less mess!
Blend the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) in the food processor.  Cut up the butter into 1/2-1 in chunks and add it slowly, pulsing as it mixes.
As you add the butter, the dough will start to get thicker and may ride up the sides of the bowl.  You can scrape it down the sides as you go.
After all the butter is added, add in the apple cider vinegar and then slowly add the water.  Keep slowly mixing it and it will become more like dough.
Ta-da! Pie crust dough!  And clean hands!
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and begin to knead it.  This dough need very little work.  I just work it a bit.  If it feels dry, add a speck more water.  If it feels sticky, add a speck of flour.
Divide the dough in half and turn it into a flat disc.
Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least two hours.  This dough will hold in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.  After its done chilling (or chillin'- ha), take it out and let it warm on the counter for a bit before rolling it out.
For the filling:
6 apples (I use half granny smith and half golden delicious)
*cut apples into thin slices
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar (I like light brown)
1/4 c flour
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. nutmeg
You will also need one beaten egg white mixed with 2 T water for an egg wash for the crust and also 2-3 T. butter cut for inside the pie.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all the filling ingredients (except the egg and butter) in a large bowl and set aside.
Now its time to work the dough for the crust.  Unwrap one disc and turn out onto a floured surface.  With floured hands, knead it some to warm it.  Flour a rolling pin and begin to roll it flat. 
A few tips when rolling:
1. make sure your pin is floured or else the dough will stick.
 2. Don't roll "back and forth".  Just roll from the middle out towards the edges.
3. Use even pressure and try to make it as much as a circle as possible.
Make sure its larger than your pie pan!  When you are ready to place it in the pan, use this fancy trick: GENTLY fold the dough in half and then in half again.
Once folded, you can easily place it in the pie pan and then unfold it.  Gently work in so all the glass is covered.  I use kitchen scissors to cut off any excess.  Leave a bit on the edge to help make the crust.
Using a fork, make some holes in the bottom of the crust to help circulate the heat and then place the filling in the crust.
Yummmm...cut the bit of butter and place around the apples.  Now it's time to do the top crust.  Roll it the same way you did the bottom and then place the top layer on top.
Using your hands, make sure the crust is sealed around the edges. Cut an "x" vent and some holes around the top and then use the fork to make some pretty marks around the edge.  Use a pastry brush to put on a light egg wash on the crust and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on top.
Now, before you bake it, you need top make a "crust shield". 
 On the cookie sheet, lay flat a few pieces of tin foil and then place pie on top.
Fold the edges up around the crust but not touching the crust.  This will help protect the crust so it won't burn.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes and then unwrap the crust and bake for 30-33 minutes more.
Ohh, yummy!  Let it cool a bit before you cut into it.  Serve with some cool vanilla ice cream and enjoy your hard work! :) Next pie will be pumpkin!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Adorable Yarn Letters!

As you all know, I love yarn.  I really do.  David says we have too many yarn wreaths hanging in the house now so instead of making one for the girls room, I decided to wrap some cardboard letters for their room.  WARNING: this project takes a WHILE!  It's not difficult, just time consuming. It took me two evenings to complete.  I am also glad I didn't decide to make their whole names!

For these adorable letters, you will need:
Cardboard letters (I got them at Joann's)
yarn, one whole bundle per letter
glue gun
felt for the flowers, if you want them

Begin by cutting some small strands and gluing then to the outer edges, I just did the tops/bottoms of them.  This helps to hide the cardboard and also prevents you from having to use so much yarn.  Then beginning wrapping.
You will have to wrap in different directions to cover the whole letter. The H was easier than the A because the A has the little hole in the middle.  To wrap inside that hole I cut a super long piece of yarn that was still attached to all the yarn I had been wrapping and kept pushing the bundle through the hole.  After it was mostly covered then I hot glued the yarn to the back and then glued a new end down and continued wrapping.  These letters definitely have a front and a back, so don't worry about how it looks on the opposite side.  Now, I originally was going to hang them but the decided to just rest them on the bookshelf. If you wanted to hang them, you could hot glue a pretty ribbon to the back and make a hanger.  Or you could place them on a shelf, which would look nice too.

Here's Hannah's letter!

And Abby's letter!  She helped me make the flowers and wanted on rolled flower and two felt mums.  We added some small leaves for more color. I explained how to make both of these flowers a few blog posts back so if you need a reminder, just scroll down :)
So, if you decide to make these, just be prepared that they take a while to do.  These are very girly and now of course Jacob wants a J, so I will probably have another tutorial in the future on what I decide to do for his.  I'm thinking Mod-podged super hero fabric...
Happy crafting!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Girl's room re-do

So, our girls share a room.  I knew I always wanted to get them bunk beds when Hannah was out of the crib.  They would not only look cute but save some massive space! So over the fall break I decided to get it done and do a re-do of their bedroom. 
Here's what their room looked like before:
Cute, but busy and FULL.  They didn't have much space so play in there and lots of their toys were still in the living room, which i am slowly trying to weed out.  I painted this room 8 months pregnant with Jacob for Abby's "big girl" room. We upgraded her to a twin bed when she was 20 months to get the crib ready for new baby Jake.  So, although I liked the purple, I was tired of it.  We were ready for a change! 
I knew I wanted white bunk beds, to match their dresser and book shelf.  After much searching online and in some stores I found a nice and inexpensive set at (I know, I!?! It had great reviews and was a known brand) After I found the set, next came the bedding search.  I ended up finding a beautiful quilt set at on clearance and ordered two. It was more pink so I knew I wanted to go bold with the wall color.  After some deliberation I decided on a "tiffany blue", which was technically called Sweet Rhapsody by Behr at The Home Depot.  So I got to work!  Painting, trimming, decal applying, new art work...and **drum roll please** here are the final results!!
Here is their pretty new animal prints.  They look so cute on the blue walls!!
Here is the "baby corner". All this crap was in my living room so I'm glad to have it in their room!
And their beds!!!  SO cute, eh??  I think so.  They are the perfect size for them, not too high.  They LOVE them.  I also LOVE the bedding. It looks awesome with the walls!  It's a great color combo :)
Everything stands out more against this color, I am SERIOUSLY in love with it.  The owls are adorable too.  I wasn't sure where I wanted to put them because I originally thought they'd look cute in the tree but then Abby decided on this more "mod" tree so they didn't quite go together.  I finally thought they'd look cute above the doors and boy, was I right!  They look smashing up there!!
Under the bed, I'm using these baskets as stuffed animal storage. Neat and tidy, just how I like it. Also, Hannah has some wicked cute new owl sheets to boot :)

Baskets organized by toy type.  Two for babies, two for dolls and one for ponies.

Abby's "A" looks great up here.  Hannah's "H" is on the dresser.  Tutorial on these to follow tomorrow!
Overall, I am very happy with their room.  I think it looks just the right combo of "big and little" girl.  They love it too and are really enjoying their bunks.  Or "bonk beds", as Abby keeps calling them.  The only thing I still need is a new throw rug for them. I may just make one if I can't find one I like.  Yes, I said "make" :)
Thanks for taking the tour with me!  I hope you enjoyed looking at it! :)