Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Easter Egg Tree

Ok I know. It's kind of cheesy. And hokey. I don't even have small children any more. Well, 1 out of 3, but even he doesn't care much about crafty things. But there is a creative side to me that doesn't get to express itself at work. (Creative accounting......nuh unh)

So I decided to become seasonal and festive and make an Easter egg tree! This is the first time I've ever done one. I also have to admit, I kind of stole the idea from one of my neighbors. I mean, not really, since the idea has been around for ages, but a house on another street has one and it's so pretty! So I thought I'd make my own.

plastic Easter eggs
small phillips head screwdriver
tree in front yard

Step 1:
Locate hole in top of plastic egg. Ok, I really had no idea if these eggs would have holes in them. I was prepared to make my own, but thankfully I didn't have to do that.

Step 2:
Poke phillips head screwdriver into hole to make it slightly bigger for the string to go through.

Step 3:
Cut off a length of string about 6-10 inches long. Depending, of course, on where you are going to hang your eggs. 

Step 4:
Fold string in half. Put looped end into top of egg. Using a toothpick, push the string through the hole until it is long enough to grab on the outside. Pull it through.

Step 5:
Tie a knot in the string on the inside of the egg. I kept both ends of the string together and just tied a knot onto itself rather than tying the two pieces together. Kind of like you do when you are sewing. 

Step 6:
Stand back and admire your work!

Step 7:
Repeat as necessary for the remaining eggs. 

Step 8:
 Loop the string around a tree branch so it will be secure if the wind blows too hard. I have to admit I didn't realize I should do this until I got outside. Some of my strings weren't long enough for the egg to go through. Those eggs are hung on very long branches and positioned closer to the trunk of the tree. (Because I was too lazy to go inside and redo them!)

Step 9:
Take pictures of all your hard work!

I apologize for the lack of sunshine. It was about to rain so I had to hurry back inside. 

Bonus pic:
My daffodils are blooming! Due to our harsh winter this year, the daffodils have been a little sleepy. They finally woke up and are putting on a wonderful display! These are my favorite flowers. When I was little, my grandmother had daffodils planted in a circle around the big oak tree in her front yard. I've loved them ever since. I have planted some at each house we've lived in. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fondue Foray

Tonight I made my first ever fondue! Not only was it my first time to make it, it was my first time to eat it. I was born in the 1970's when fondue was hot (ba dum dum). But for the first part of the decade, I pretty much stuck with milk, peanut butter sandwiches, and chocolate chip cookies. So I had never had fondue before. There were no Melting Pot restaurants around here either. Or if there were, my parents didn't take us there.

This week is Spring Break around these parts. Since it's tax season, though, I not only don't get a day off, I work LONGER hours since I don't have to pick the kids up from school. Sounds fun, right? Yea, well, you know......(insert joke about it being "taxing"....)

Anyhoo, last week I was trying to plan our meals for this week. I wanted to do something FUN being spring break and all....So I asked Alpha what we should do. Like maybe pick a theme. She immediately launched on to her favorite subject: American Girl. She said we should do a "doll a day" theme and fix a meal from one of the historical characters each night.

Well, for many, various reasons, it didn't exactly work out like that. Except for tonight! Tonight was the 1970's doll Julie! What did people eat in the 70's? Fondue!

The Recipe
Being that we're no longer in the 1970's, when I wanted a fondue recipe, I turned to Google. I used this recipe for the ingredients. I first looked for a recipe that didn't use wine, but the ones I found just didn't look that good. So I broke down and bought some cheap white wine. It called for cooking wine, but I've always read that you shouldn't cook with any wine you wouldn't drink. Since I don't drink wine at all, well, it's just really confusing picking out some wine....Here's what my local Walmart had:
Yep. Good old Post. And I don't know if this is a good thing or not, but I did NOT get carded when I purchased it. You know, they used to say they'd ID anybody who looked younger than 40, but I'm hoping they stopped that....Really hoping.....

So next, I had to chop up my cheese. I bought swiss and gruyere. I almost pulled out my mandolin or my Pampered Chef cheese grater. But then I remembered the BIG present from Christmas! My Magimix food processor! Shown here by my friend, Amy James. (sorry I didn't get a picture of it....and I would take one now but it's either still dirty or still drying.) Here is the end result:

I tossed the shredded cheese with the flour, like the reviews of the recipe suggested.

Next, I switched over to this recipe which shows you how to make fondue without a fondue pot. It's really quite simple. You just put one pan on top of another having filled the bottom one with water. Then you get the water in the bottom pan to simmer while the stuff in the top pan heats up. It's what a double boiler does, but I don't have one of those either. 

 Lastly, here is the finished product! Thick, rich, creamy cheese fondue! I think I got my cheese proportions off because it got really thick really quick. I had to add more wine! LOL! I ended up with half of the grated cheese left over. I've also got half the wine left over so we may have this meal again before the week is up.

I should also show you the french bread I cut up into cubes and served in a bowl. But this had taken about an hour to make and we were starving so I forgot to get a picture of it. We also didn't have the correct fondue forks, but the cocktail forks that came with my Oneida flatware are perfect for this sort of thing! Finally! A use for the little forks! 

Final Analysis: it was good! It had a different kind of flavor to it, but I don't know if that was from the wine or from the gruyere cheese. Now I need to find a restaurant that does it (if any are still around) and go taste some to see how I did. 

If you know what fondue is supposed to taste like, let me know! Haha!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pinterest and Me

Pinterest is the devil!

I would claim to have a love/hate relationship with that site, but it's more like a despise/detest relationship. If you truly need ideas for something, it's a GREAT resource. If you just browse it, you will leave feeling terribly guilty and horribly inadequate as a mom/woman/teacher/wife/friend/housekeeper etc.

I have read many, many blog posts and facebook status updates about how guilty women feel because they are not able to produce Pinterest-worthy holiday celebrations and Bento lunchboxes.  I agree with these women who denounce Pinterest. I like and repost their stuff.

And then I went and tried some of it on my own.......

So with that in mind, I post the following pictures only to show you a realist-mom's Pinterest attempts. I do NOT want to make anyone feel guilty or inadequate. Of course, after you see the pictures and read the explanations, you may just laugh. Which is perfectly alright. :)

 My first crafty attempt this month was painting miniature pumpkins. Aren't they cute? Well, in the spirit of "good enough", take a look at them again. The two orange pumpkins were supposed to be painted by my daughters. They never got around to it. The two green ones and one black one were painted by me and my 3 year old son. Precariously. Have you ever handed a 3 year old a paintbrush in your kitchen? Yikes! So some of the orange shows through. Definitely not Pinterest-worthy. I was also going to "bling" all 5 of the pumpkins. You see I only made it happen for one.

 Next up we have the Halloween-sleepover breakfast! The original picture can be found here. So the bananas worked out just fine. The oranges....well, do you really want to peel all of them? Who has the time? So I made our guests do it. :) Yep. I'm the perfect hostess!

 This next example is creativity at its finest! I should "pin" this photo to Pinterest and title it "Candy Corn Pumpkins!" Which makes it sound like I really put a lot of thought into it when all I did was go to our local nursery and notice that they had yellow and white pumpkins. Aha, those look like candy corn! I thought. See? I don't think Martha Stewart is going to have me on her show any time soon....

Our first ever CARVED pumpkins! Mine is supposed to say "Boo" but the B was kind of difficult. So I think it says, "Doo." Or "200." I can't decide. Beta carved the one with the face and did a really good job! So was I bested by a 9 year old? I'll let you decide......

 Now these.....THESE are true Pinterest Masterpieces! The ubiquitous toilet paper tube filled with.......

As I sat there during J4's naptime yesterday holding an exacto knife and carefully cutting eye holes out of the tubes, I thought, "wow, this is tedious." That's why I only did 6 instead of the 9 I had tubes for. (on a side note, you wouldn't believe how many rolls of toilet paper a family of 5 goes through in a week and a half.....)
 And if you look at this picture, it seems like they turned out pretty good! The thing was, you couldn't really see them from the street. You had to be right there nearly on top of them. Plus, Beta helped me get the glow sticks in by taping them. We didn't count on the unequal distribution of the weight of the glow stick so some of the eyes were looking towards the sky. But this one green one, and this one picture, make it look pretty cool.

My last Pinterest attempt was a total fail. But I don't have a picture of it. And I'm too lazy to go make one and upload it. It was the niblet ear of corn made out of a marshmallow and candy corn. I tried it. Really. The problem with it was that the candy corns kept sliding out of the marshmallow! I have no idea how they actually did it. I'm guessing they cut slits in the marshmallow and then "glued" the candy corns in with white almond bark. It certainly didn't work just by "sticking" them in. It was tasty, though!

So there you have it. A look at my guilt-free Pinterest-filled October! I've never tried this many Pinterest things at one time before, if ever in my life even. But I think in the spirit of "good enough" and "hey, at least the kids got fed and laundry got done," that everything turned out ok.

Now to start focusing on Christmas......Ugh.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Maymay Made It!

Hey, y'all! Check out this new blog and Youtube channel I found.

It's Maymay Made It!

This girl does crafting of all sorts. I watched her videos while I was making my latest deco mesh wreath today.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Resolve.....

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. Hate 'em. See last year's post for a whole rant on those.

So this year, I took some pictures. Hope you enjoy them!

Picture #1
Wal-mart has these huge bins full of toiletries in the middle of the store near the non-food section
Tonight, I read what it said on the side. 
"We're making resolutions easier to keep."
You have to wonder just what resolution they are making easier to keep while selling soap, deodorant, and body wash. 
I resolve to shower more?
I resolve to shower EVERY DAY?
(I don't think I want to know.) 

You ESPECIALLY have to wonder what resolutions they are making easier to keep when you see these displays 5 deep in the front of the store:

Picture #2
Be still my sugar-filled heart.......

Friday, December 21, 2012

Giving Up On the Perfect Christmas

Wow. It's been awhile since I posted anything. My how time flies. Of course the helidaze have started. You know - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Pretty soon we'll be on to Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and well, you know.

So I started out the Christmas season with my seemingly annual Bah Humbug attitude. Regular readers will remember my post last year about it. This attitude cropped up about 8 years ago, I think. I'm not really sure why. It probably has something to do with how much work goes in to getting everything ready for "The Holidays." As a mom, your to-do list is never ending. (as if it isn't long enough the rest of the year....)

So this year began like the past 8 years with me bemoaning all the commercialism, the decorations, the WORK.

And pretty much continued in that vein until last night.

I was watching NBC Nightly News as I always do. They featured a guy from somewhere (I looked for the link but it looks like there are only stories from Dec 19th. Not the 20th yet) who had started his own Christmas project. He and his wife started giving presents to those less fortunate. The next year, they got their friends involved. Then more friends began to help. Then more. Now they raise over $100,000 to buy food and gifts for the needy at Christmas!

Suddenly, it hit me!

Look at all the good things Christmas does. Look at all the needs that are met. All the wishes fulfilled. All the hopes and dreams that DO get to come true!

Is Christmas over-commercialized? Hell-to-the-YES. Does it focus on receiving instead of giving? You betcha. Does it cause people who can't afford mega gifts and elaborate Christmas displays to get depressed because they aren't able to "have Christmas" this year? Yeppers. Is that what God intended by sending His Son to earth? NO!

But Christmas does also bring out the good in people. People DO donate money and items to needy families. People DO help others. People who haven't warmed the back pew of a church in 6 months or more will suddenly come inside and see. They will hear the Good News. Yes, it would be nice if they'd come back in January. But you gotta start somewhere.

A couple of weeks ago, the Director of Lay Leadership and Missions at our church, Jody Farrell, published an article in our newsletter. Here is the part that really hit me,

 "Both church tradition and our American culture have created space for us to slow down and be reminded of the wonderful miracle of Christ coming into this world." 

The world gives us Christians so few things. Being a Christian in the world is hard. But at Christmas, the world actually GIVES US TIME to praise and worship our Saviour. How awesome is that? No other time during the year do we get that opportunity. Not even at Easter. 

When I thought of this newsletter article, and the NBC segment, I realized that while Christmas may not be "perfect" in my Pharisee-ical, "Christian" eyes, God still uses it. He takes the most imperfect of things, and uses it to HIS glory. 

Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound.
That saved a WRETCH like me!

We are all wretched, and what we try to give to God is wretched, too. But God still uses it. 

I may have given up on the "perfect" Christmas. But I haven't given up on God. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wendy-vore's Dilemma: Or How Michael Pollan Has Ruined Me

As most of you know, I've been on Weight Watchers for a year now. Yay! My "anniversary" date was in September. I lost 28 pounds in 12 months. Which is pretty good. (Although, there's this one lady at my meetings who has lost 56 pounds since January!!) I've still got about 8 pounds to go before I reach my goal weight. And I'm working on it.

In order to lose that weight (and keep losing), I've had to totally change the way I think about food. In my attempts at a paradigm shift, I read the book, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

That book has now ruined me. I will never think about food the same way again. 

Since I can't rehash the entire book in a blog post, here is Pollan's own synopsis of his work: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

By "food", he means real stuff. Like apples and blueberries. Not apple-cinnamon cheerios or Martha White "blueberry" muffins. He even goes so far as to list the ingredients on a loaf of Sara Lee's white bread and proclaim that it is not, in fact, bread, but a "bread product." He cautions against anything labelled with health claims. Real food doesn't need health claims and usually doesn't come with a label anyway.

I really can't do the book justice so you'll just have to go read it for yourself to see exactly what I'm talking about. 

So here is my own dilemma. In looking for "healthy" recipes for me and my family, I run across ones such as this frosting recipe from Hungry Girl

HG's Crazy-Amazing Cream-Cheese Frosting
1/8th of recipe (1 heaping tbsp.): 20 calories, PointsPlus
® value 1*

This creamy frosting tastes good on almost everything... Sweet stuff, anyway! 

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1/2 cup Cool Whip Free (thawed)

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix cream cheese with Splenda. Add Cool Whip, and stir well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread and enjoy!

Cream-cheese frosting for 1 PointsPlus???? Yes, please!!! 

But wait......fat free cream cheese? Fat free foods are made by removing the fat and then adding in sugar, gums, oil, and other things to make up for the lack of fat. 

Splenda? That's an artificial sweetener. They have a long history of controversy. Some people don't mind them and others avoid them like the plague. Personally, I refuse to eat them if I can help it. I think the jury is still out on their safety. Plus, isn't regular sugar (grown in a field, not a lab) better? 

Cool Whip Free? The same problem as the fat free cream cheese. This is no doubt made to taste the same as regular whipped cream by the addition of sugar and chemicals to mimic the fat that is usually found in cream. 

So which do I choose? I can make this version and only have to count 1 point for my daily points value. But it's filled with chemicals and "fake" food! But if I switch and use real cream cheese, real sugar, and real whipped cream, the nutritional statistics will be astronomical! 

What should I do??? 

At this point I am stumped. I try to strike a balance between processed food and whole food. I use low fat dairy products but nothing fat free. I avoid artificial sweeteners except for the trident gum and breath mints I munch on to keep myself from snacking all day long. I try to go for "real food" as much as possible, but some days, a Stouffer's lasagna in the microwave for 30 minutes gets dinner on the table when I'm tired and everyone around me is cranky. I haven't purchased Hamburger Helper or Homestyle Bakes at all since I read that book. 

In some ways, I am no wiser now than when I wrote this rant about food. I understand the objection to processed food now but I'm still lost as to which way is "better."

I would ask what anyone reading this thinks about my dilemma, but food philosophies are now almost as dangerous to discuss in polite company as religion and politics!

I think I'll just go have a glass of water.