Friday, November 30, 2012

Decorating the Yard for the Holidays

I love to decorate. But I'm also cheap, um, I mean frugal. Yeah, that's a better word. I hate to spend money on Needful Things ;) So usually I just hunt around the house or the yard for what I need.

I take old Christmas decorations and pine cones, chunks of wood, whatever and use it/them out in the yard, like this:


Yep that's a golf ball I've spray painted gold

Then I simply stick the "decorations" around the yard in my pots, planters and raised beds. What an easy way to decorate and so cheap, I mean inexpensive.




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homemade Holiday Outfit

This year we're trying to limit the gift-giving frenzy. I don't know about you but, for me, I'm tired of racing around to find the perfect gift that the kids don't end up loving. So instead, I'm trying to make some of my favorite recipes, sharing some secret tricks and tips I've come across over the years when it comes to baking and I'm even sewing a few things and MAYBE I'll even knit a gift or two (small projects). Plus, I'm making my Christmas outfits this year.

Here is a sample of what I've made, (two sequined shirts, two skirts, a couple headbands and scarves and a quilt but I'm still working on some of my projects and I have a long way to go before I'm done.)

But take a peek. I'm no model but you can see that sequins go a long way and, sometimes, a little is more than enough. Don't worry, you can tone the sequins down with a dark jacket and pants and still feel sparkly and in the party mood:



And if you're feeling daring you can throw off the jacket and dance a little - well not me - I have the rhythm of an elephant in high heels, but you might want to dance.



I know this takes time too. But you can probably come up with a few ideas and share some of your skills, talents and abilities without investing too much time or money in the process.

Some of my projects are a secret (since I'm planning to give them away) but I'm willing to share a couple things I've been working on that are on the same line - homemade for the holidays.

Like I said, I wanted to have a couple new outfits for the holidays but didn't want to spend much money so what did I do? I sewed a couple skirts and shirts.

Here's what I made and how I did it.

I bought a yard and a 1/2 of skirt material on sale for about $9.00 and a yard of sequin material for about $3.00. Then I came home and laid out my favorite tank top on top of the black sequin material (yeah, I'm cheap and patterns are expensive - so I used what I had) and cut out the material. Then I repeated the process using the black tank as my pattern for a green tank top (see the layout above.)



I sewed the seams and WAH-LAH Christmas Outfit for $12.00. That's a deal - or maybe even a steal ;D

Of course my son said the flannel skirt (see below) I made looked like some granny thing out of a fairytale. He said it reminded him of something out of Hansel and Gretel.

But, "Wait," I said, "there's no granny in Hansel and Gretel - it's a witch."

He grinned, "Yeah...?"

So maybe it's not as fancy as some outfits gals have for Christmas but it's something new and comfortable. Plus, it fits me really well. And I'll be wearing it a lot.  (The picture isn't so great - I took it with my new phone and I'm just getting used to it - but here's a peek so you can get an idea.)


Then I made another skirt. This material came with the waist band already attached. "SEW" simple. All I had to do was cut it and sew the seam. Super-simple. Of course my son said it looked like something Minnie Mouse would wear. Oh well, I grew up a Tom-Boy and never was a fashionista. But it
cost less than $10.00 to make, that's like two cups of coffee at Starbucks. And, I like it.

I showed my sis and she agreed with my son. She said, "Minnie has got to go." Oh well, maybe people will see me and smile because I'm definitely going to wear it :D


How 'bout you? Have you made any Christmas gifts? Are you planning on baking? Share some secrets...? Or...what are you thinking of for gift-giving?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do Over - CAKE FAIL



Have you ever called do-over? I do, all the time. I try one recipe and if it's a fail, I have to try to fix it. Sometimes it's not a recipe but a design. Like my turkey cake. I made one cute cupcake but then had to super-size my idea.
But BIG isn't always better. As you can see, It didn't work so well.

First, my kids don't like fondant. And covering an entire cake with fondant, well, let's just say it doesn't taste as good as whipped cream and fruit (which is what everyone around here prefers) or frosting (second runner up.)

So, for Thanksgiving I made another cake and a few pies (yeah, we're pigs) and I redesigned my turkey. The fondant feathers in the first cake didn't hold up so well. They were droopy and looked seriously sad so this time I used construction paper to create the feathers and food quality shish kabob skewers. It worked much better.
And the cake still needs some work but this one turned out much better so I guess it's true, practice makes perfect  better.


How 'bout you, did you make anything special for the holiday feast? 



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Okay if you love books, like I love books, then perhaps you'd like to make a Dr. Seuss inspired blanket. Here's how I did it:

First you take the picture squares and sew borders around the edges. I chose to put two borders around each square and I used solid colors for the picture borders. Then I used strips of crazy quilt Dr. Seussian fabrics for the pieces between the squares.

I don't use stick pins very often because I always end up getting poked but binder clips work really well. See the left hand lower corner.



Then you piece the squares together using stripping in-between the blocks to space them out perfectly.

I made my center square super large because it had the theme on the block "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". But, believe me, this is not a good idea because the pieces need to fit together like a puzzle and if one piece is bigger than the rest, well it throws off the entire equation. Just let me tell you that my seam ripper was my friend.

Then I sewed a border around the entire blanket and put a soft cozy plush fabric on the back.

It takes a bit of time but not so much if you follow the quilting protocols. I've just never been so good at following the rules. . .  :D Still I think it turned out - at least it will be warm and comfy when we settle down on a cold winter night.

Great and EZ Homemade Pie Crust

I have a couple quick and EZ tips to help you make the best homemade pie crusts. What you'll need:

Tools: Pie tin (preferably glass), foil, wax paper

Ingredients:

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (keep 1/2 cup to spread on cutting board and over the top of dough so it won't stick to the rolling pin)
4 sticks of butter (32 tablespoons)
1/3 cup water
2 large eggs (reserve one just to brush over the top of the pie)

Mix ingredients together until thick and ball like. (Cut dough in half - one-half is for the top of the crust and one-half is for the bottom). Put a piece of wax paper on the cutting board, sprinkle some flour on the wax paper, roll out dough. Lift the wax paper and push the dough into the pie tin, carefully pull off the wax paper. Trim edges of dough to fit pie tin. Now repeat the process. Fill the pie with your pie filling and cover the top with the other half of the dough. Trim the edges with your kitchen scissors and pinch the edges together.
Tip Number 1: Use the aluminum foil. You'll need to wrap the edges of your pie so they don't burn. And, if your pie crust starts getting too brown, you can cover the entire top with foil to keep it from burning.

Tip Number 2: Roll your dough out on Wax Paper. That way you can flip the wax paper over on the pie pan and press it into place. You won't have any cracks or creases because the wax paper keeps the dough in place. Then simply trim the edges with a pair of kitchen scissors. Yep, that's right, I said kitchen scissors. I always have a pair handy.

Tip number 3: Pinch the edges of the dough to make whatever form/shape you want.

Tip number 4: Brush the top of the pie with an egg to give it a glistening, shimmering, glow to the dough.

Tip number 5: Never forget to pierce you pie so it can vent. Yep, that's right, we all need to vent, even our pies. :D


I made the holly out of leaf cookie cutters and a round hole cutter. I placed the pieces together to turn them into holly. But, you could use other cookie cutters to come up with decorative designs for the top of your pies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review Monday - Life of Pi

Over the Holiday we went to see The Life of Pi as a family.

It was a great holiday movie for the family but over all I would give it a C+ because it was a little slow. I loved the cinematography and the overall story but it felt like I was sitting for a long time.

Still I would say it was a worthwhile show to see.

How 'bout you - have you seen it? Did you enjoy it?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweet Christmas Ornaments

Who doesn't love ice cream and cupcakes? Even on a tree...?

Here's how to make these sweet treats.


Take real ice cream cones, put a bead of glue around the rim and place a glitter ball inside.
Then add a hook to hang the ornament.
You've got an inexpensive sweet treat to hang on your tree.

Next take cupcake papers, place a bead of glue around the rim and place the glitter ball inside.


You can add glitter or other embellishments to up the ante in the decorations.

My daughter and Fatina made these ornaments and I thought it was a fun, inexpensive way to decorate.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chinese Garden in Portland

Right in the center of the city tucked between the towering skyscrapers, if you look, you will find a tranquil courtyard modeled after a 16th century private home and garden of a wealthy family. The garden is meant to be a spiritual utopia. And walking into the courtyard was like walking into a serene setting. It was peaceful and soothing even on a cold rainy Portland day.

Every doorway and window is meant to form views within views and they were beautiful.


The walkways were formed from individual stones brought all the way from China.
It almost felt bad to be walking on such beautiful artwork.
The ponds were stocked with fish and as the water splashed from up above it sounded like musical notes playing for the fish and visitors.
After strolling through the garden, we went to the tea house and had a wonderful hot cup of tea.
I had the cranberry orange to celebrate the season of Thanksgiving.
It was a wonderful way to spend a cold Pacific Northwest Day.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

He's a Mean One

I was working all weekend on my quilt for Christmas. It's a Dr. Seuss quilt "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". I'm hoping to have it done in time for the holidays. I know, that doesn't leave me much time. "Sew" I'd better get going ;D

I should spend more time on it but somehow the holidays snuck up on me...again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Another Turkey

Okay this one isn't so great. But I made it in an hour. I didn't have much time to work on him. But he was a practice "bake" for the coming attraction. I had some inlaws heading away for the holiday and invited them over for "Thanksgiving" dinner. Actually we had homemade pizza and then a turkey for dessert. He was a yellow cake, simply covered in frosting and fondant.

Here's how I made him:

I took a cone shaped cake pan, cut the side flat and then frosted him. I'm planning to put some more time into making him better and embellishing the feathers for Thanksgiving but he was fun. I also had to use what I had on hand but I plan to have some orange and red fondant for the next go-around. I used bamboo shish kabob sticks covered in fondant to make the feathers.



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homemade Scarf with Homemade Buttons

I knitted this scarf and my husband took a seashell we'd found at the beach and turned it into a button for me. He drilled the center and inserted a metal "finding" to close one end. Here it is.

See how easy it is to use things you find laying around.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

This is a super simple way to use up left over meat and mashed potatoes.

I had a left over Swiss Steak (which is a cheap piece of beef.) But having grown up poor, I couldn't let it go to waste. This is what I did. I chopped up the steak and thickened the left over sauce (which was tomato paste and tomato sauce) with flour. Then I made a pastry dough and laid the dough out in my well-oiled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, which was my great grandmother's (seriously) we value food and good quality cooking utensils in my family. Then I filled the first layer with mashed potatoes, the next level was Tillamook Cheddar Cheese (Tillamook is the best in the world-in my opinion), then I put in a layer of sauce and meat (which I had cubed into bite-size pieces) then I added a scoop of sour cream and another layer of cheese. I pushed broccoli crowns down into the mix. Then I put the dough on the top and sprinkled it with seasoned bread crumbs. then I put the lid on and baked the pie for about 45 minutes, on 375 degrees. My oven cooks fast so it may take longer in a different oven. Then for the last ten to fifteen minutes, I poured a couple of tablespoons of melted butter over the top and broiled the pie - with the lid off to brown the top. I like my food a little crispy/crunchy but you could cook it until it suits you and your taste.

INGREDIENTS FOR SHEPHERD'S PIE:

1 Cup of left over meat (in a sauce-whatever sauce you like, mine was tomato paste and tomato sauce, thickened with about 1/2 cup of flour)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups of broccoli
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3 cups of mashed potatos

PASTRY DOUGH

1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cube of butter
1/2 cup water
1 large egg

Blend all the ingredients together until it forms into a ball then roll it out on a cutting board and shape to fit your Dutch Oven, baking pan, or dish.

I like the Dutch Oven because you can cover it and it forms into a pie naturally.

If you try it, let me know. I'd love to hear what you think.

Happy Baking!




Thursday, November 15, 2012

What a TURKEY

I love to bake. It's been something I've enjoyed since I was a little girl (that's one reason I run all the frigging time). I used to come up with some of the weirdest concoctions you ever saw, like black cookies - they were supposed to be purple - I loved the color even then - but somehow they came out black and they weren't even burnt. Luckily, I had hungry brothers hanging around the house and they ate even my major failures. And that was one Baking Fail! Todd said, "Who cares what it looks like? It tastes good." He might have been being kind or too hungry to know the truth.

So, when my kids were little I used them as my guinea pigs - just ask 'em they'll tell you. I tortured them with food that wasn't fairly fit for human consumption, like my no bake-crepes...yeah, go figure. Or my tortilla roll-ups. Not a pretty sight. When I said I was testing a new recipe they looked kind of like this little guy: SCARED!

But I think he came out cute.

Here's how I made him. First I baked the cupcakes.

What You'll Need:

Cupcakes
Candy Corn
Red gum drops
Frosting - brown would be best
fondant - brown
little eyes (you can buy them or make them out of fondant)

Then all you do is roll the fondant head into a ball plop in the eyes, cut up the candy corn for the beak and the gum drop for the snood (yet that's the red flap that hangs over the beak - the snood).



Then simply cut a circle of fondant to go over the top of the cupcake (glue it down with the brown frosting) and glue the head onto the cupcake using more brown frosting. Stab the candy corn into the butt - and WAH-LAH your miniature Thanksgiving Turkeys for that feasting day. (Tip: Glue the candy corn in by adding a dab of frosting to the point you stab into the butt).

Hope you all have a yumderful thanksgiving!