Sunday, April 29, 2012

Speechless Sunday

Via but that doesn't tell you much. Please let me know if you know the real source.
In honor of my little sister, whom I adore and find to be so inspiring, turning 22 tomorrow. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all lived like this?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Speechless Sunday

If you're any where in Oregon this weekend, I hope you have done a lot of this. I certainly have and am in love with the blue skies and sunshine.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Handmade Customized Toy Blocks

My half birthday was a month ago yesterday. It's a stretch, I know. I'd say I actually remember on March 15th that I am on the downward slope toward wrapping up another year about 25% of the time. Doing the math here, that means, I have remembered it is my half birthday on the actual day 6 times in my life. Sounds about right. Obviously, this year was not one of those cases. Anywho, it also means that a sweet baby girl in my life is well on her way to being 3, which I just cannot believe. We both decided that September 15th would be a lovely day to be born, 22 years apart of course. That being said, I have actually been meaning to share these blocks I made over a year ago for my little birthday sharer, Ellie. They were her 1st birthday gift from me and I didn't even come close to topping them this past year. I've got less than 6 months to step up my game for the big 3.

Before there was pinterest - how did I survive?! - I ineffectively bookmarked ideas on my browser. I can't even find the original post I used any more since I made these before I started blogging, but it showed how to make handmade customized toy blocks using stickers and mod podge. The tutorial showed cutting up a 2x4 for the blocks. Not having the tools or wanting to buy a 2x4, I thought I would swing by SCRAP in Portland and test my luck in being able to pick up scrap wood for cheap. Lo and behold, I came away with all this for only a couple bucks. (If you live near Portland, Oregon you must go check out SCRAP on NE MLK out because it can be a gold mine for crafts as well as kid projects. They have a great mission, too!)

Isn't that wooden spool awesome?

I went to Michels to look at stickers. I was drawn to an under the sea themed sheet and so I went with it. I gathered various other supplies from SCRAP (scraps of felt, googly eyeballs, mirrors) and  fabric, ribbon and paint from my craft stash to create the blocks.

First, paint your blocks (if you wish) and allow to dry completely. Then, plan out your scenes, or at least where you want to place each sticker, so you use them all. I did this by cutting the sticker sheet up and laying them out on the blocks before actually peeling the stickers off and sticking them onto the painted wood.

Once you decide where you want them to go, place them as you wish, mod podging over them. I was worried about my 3D parts of the stickers, but after 2-3 coats of mod podge, they were down solid. (And in fact, are still holding up to this day.) Ready to be bombarded by pictures? Here's all the sides of the blocks!

I used sand paper for the sand (mod podged over it) and cut the felt out to make the fish and seaweed, plus a googly eye!

This is one block, all 6 sides.

Here are all four sides of the long, skinny block. I used more sand paper covered in mod podge under the crabs and some white puffy paint for the waves above the turtle and whale.

Next is the front and back of one of the square blocks and the circular block. Those last two words are too much of an oxymoron, but I'm not quite sure how else to describe it since I don't think of them as cylinders, which I guess technically they are, just very shallow.

I covered one block with fabric, super gluing it on. This didn't work too incredibly well, so I wouldn't recommend it for a whole set, but cute enough for one.

You can't see in the picture below, but I had 3 small circular blocks/cylinders/whatever with little holes in the middle, so I painted them and ran a ribbon through them, tying it together.

I used a large recycled almond tin to hold all the blocks and spray painted it before wrapping a ribbon around it.

That's it! I did this project over a few nights, so as to allow proper drying time for the paint and mod podge. The tutorial I looked at did not paint the wood or make little scenes like I did. She just put one sticker per block, which works if that is what you want or don't have enough time to make little scenes. These really are super easy, slightly time consuming, mostly due to waiting for paint (if you use it) and mod podge to dry, but so worth it because they are one of a kind! I want to make another set! So many possibilities...other animals, seasons, food, letters, people.

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Speechless Sunday


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins

It appears as if I am on an every other month (ish) schedule with the Crazy Cooking Challenge hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking. I started in November, then February and now, April's theme is blueberry muffins. I am a sucker for muffins and throwing blueberries in there makes them one of my favorite types so I cannot wait to see all of the awesome recipes linked up this month.

I've been trying to eat a little bit healthier so when I found this recipe on Honey, What's Cooking?, I thought I should give it a shot. 151 calories and low fat from a moist muffin, what's not to love?

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups oatmeal (quick minute is fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners or grease/flour.

First combine the flour, oats, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, buttermilk, canola oil, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Then, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold to mix. Be careful not to overmix.

Finally, fold in the blueberries. Again, it's important not to overmix.

Divide the batter into your 12 cupcake cavities. These muffins do not rise much at all, so filling the cups to the top is just fine and should work out perfectly to fill 12 with the amount of batter you make.

Bake the muffins for 16-18 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool and enjoy! 

These muffins are dense and moist as promised. Plus, they're not as bad for you as your typical blueberry muffin!

I'm so thankful you don't consume calories by just oogling over the blueberry muffins recipes listed below.

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page. Go check them out for more inspiration!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How To Start A Book Club

After a handful of fun book club meetings, I thought I would share how the one I attend was loosely started and tips for sustaining the club.

1. Brainstorm a list of people who might be interested. Consider personalities and interests in how that will make up a discussion group.

2. Get an initial meeting date and time set up, then send out invites via email or snail mail. This invite could include a book to discuss the first month, or could just be a come-if-you're-interested-and-give-your-input-for-our-first-book. 

Designed by Michelle from The One With The Cupcakes

At the first meeting:

3. Have everyone introduce themselves and the types of books they typically enjoy reading. This is fun as you will see commonalities over what types of books best fit your group. (Our group seems to love historical novels, particularly related to WWI & II.)

4. Assign the next couple months/weeks worth of books based off of people's suggestions and settle on your dates. One member made bookmarks for us with the dates on the back and a quote on the front.

5. Discuss where book club will be held. Always at same person's house or a rotating host? Ours is always at the same house just because...well she is the most pulled together, stable one of the bunch. She will laugh when she reads that, but in reality, I'd say mostly it is because out of everyone, she probably has the best space for hosting a group.

6. If desired, have people sign up to bring refreshments. (Maybe one person for drinks, one for finger food.) Our first meeting just happened to have refreshments appropriate to our book, which was fun.

7. Decide if you want to have someone think of questions to answer, or use the ones that are often in the back of the books or easy to find online. This person will "lead" the meeting more or less. It can be a rotating basis, or whoever  We start with a few questions but are really good at getting off topic.

Tips for sustaining the club:

8. Do your best to stick to the schedule (dates/times/book selection) as it will be easier for everyone to follow, but be okay with being flexible to accommodate schedules. Obviously, everyone may not be able to come every month. For example, December was crazy since we meet on the weekends, so we didn't read a book that month.

9. Encourage everyone to come even if they don't get through the book. A lot of the time, they will still be able to participate with the limited knowledge they have. Of course this depends upon the style your meetings run - whether the discussion is heavily based around the issues in the book, the academic literary elements of the book or a combination of the two. Ours tend to lean toward the issues in the book, which everyone can usually voice their opinion on.

For other tips on running a book club, check out these tips, or Oprah's assistant's pointers.

A few of the books we have read  so far:

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First Time Whoopie Pie-r

For my birthday this past year, my friend Cara got me Wilton's whoopie pie pan. I am juuuust getting around to trying it out. Here's how it all went down.

I decided to test out the recipe on the packaging for both the whoopie pies and the filling. My trusty assistant baker, Addison, was very keen on being involved with every step. She is 3 and the way she says the words "whoopie pie" makes me laugh every time. She would laugh too, like whoopie was the coolest new word she had heard. Probably was at that moment in her life.

Wilton's Whoopie Pie (makes 12 pies, 24 cakes)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or spray your whoopie pie pan.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Add about half of this mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing on low. Add the buttermilk and continue to add the rest of the dry ingredients while mixing, until all ingredients are just combined.

The recipe says to spoon 2 T into each cavity, making each one 2/3 full. I did this and mine turned out way too big for my liking. Once assembled they were larger than a cupcake. I will stick to 1 T (maybe a heaping Tablespoon) from now on when I bake whoopie pies.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for at least 8 minutes before removing. Make sure the cakes are completely cooled before filling.  

Start making the filling after the cakes have been cooling for at least a few minutes so when you are done with the filling, they are ready to assemble.

Wilton's Whoopie Pie Filling (makes 2 1/2 cups, enough to generously fill 12 pies)
6 T butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (7oz) jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter with electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar and salt, mixing well. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Mix until blended well. Add food coloring if desired. Use immediately to fill whoopie pies. The filling can be refrigerated up to 1 week, but must be brought back to room temperature and lightly beat before using again.

I have a love/hate relationship with marshmallows. For one, I always want to spell the word with an e before the double l's so I get that annoying swiggly red line under it telling me it's wrong, just like every time I have typed whoopie on here. Anyway, I also find them weird. Not super descriptive, I know. But really, the only time I ever eat marshmallows is when I am camping and get to roast them over the fire. I'm also fairly certain I only like them at this time is because of the combination with graham crackers with chocolate and they are just campfire tradition.

That all being said, I will probably not use this filling again. Are all whoopie pie fillings marshmallow based? I feel like I've seen cream cheese ones...I'll have to do some research. Regardless, I do plan on using one of the best tasting fillings known to man I discovered a few weeks ago. Plus, I will probably try a new recipe for the pies themselves, just to taste test, you know.

This post is linked up to some of the parties listed under my Show & Tell tab at the top of the page.
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