Monday, April 30, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-April 30th, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas and links I've seen in the past week or so that made me laugh and smile. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays".

How fun would it be to make a pirate ship out of cardboard boxes and fabric scraps??? I'm thinking this may be on the agenda for my son and I next time there's a rainy day!
Source: via Crunchy on Pinterest

I love this idea for super easy, super intricately patterned nails (soak in alcohol, press against newspaper or a map!) I can't wait to track down a cool map to try it with!

I think this is a brilliant idea for serving apples and dip: use the apple as the dip bowl!!

And because I am in an appley mood-how fun is this idea for decorating applesauce muffins to look like apples? The gummy worms win me over for sure!

And in case you didn't see these yet, my favorite things from my own blog last week:

I made a new finger puppet pattern-pigs! It took about 10 minutes total per pig, so you can whip up 3 Little Pigs in the time it takes to watch an episode of Super Why!

And I have a giveaway going on for a fun new book, Rurally Screwed. It was a quick and entertaining read, so I highly recommend it!
Rurally Screwed

What made you laugh and smile in the past week?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rurally Screwed Book Review & Giveaway!!!

I recently got the opportunity to review a brand-new book that's pretty different from the stuff I usually read and review. It's called "Rurally Screwed" and here's what I thought of it-and how you can win your own copy!
Rurally Screwed
What it is:
Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love is a mostly-autobiographical story of Jessie K, a New York City magazine editor, who leaves her life of Manhattan parties and hot yoga for a chicken farm in Virginia when she marries the cowboy she falls in love with.

Who wrote it:
Jessie Knadler, a writer who worked for top women's magazines in New York before leaving for Virginia. She's written freelance articles for many prominent publications and also has a cookbook, Tart and Sweet, which was the only preserving book to make the top 25 cookbooks of 2011 list from the NY Times. She blogs here.

First impressions:
Honestly, I didn't like this book all that much, probably because I can't really relate at all to the lifestyle Jessie K is living at the beginning of the story. But she's undeniably likeable and funny from the start, even if you don't agree with her choices.

Overall impressions:
As the story went on, I liked and even admired Jessie K more and more. The story of her relationship with her husband, her attempts to fit in, and her exploration of her true identity and interests were all captivating. As a "for-real" Christian from the Midwest, it was funny to hear how someone unfamiliar with the subculture I've grown up in might view it. As a cautionary note, this book is definitely NOT for kids or teens. She mentions drug and alcohol use, casual and premarital sex, and porn, and curses fairly often at the beginning of the book. I thought the author did a pretty good job of not pushing her values on anyone else, but the references may still be shocking to some readers. Part of the story is her faith journey as essentially an atheist marrying a Christian and trying to explore whether she may someday "play for the Christian team"...but she doesn't yet, and as such, she doesn't exactly follow Christian standards for non-sinful behavior. If that bothers you to read about, don't read the book. Surprisingly though, I liked the book despite all that. At the end of the book, I felt like, if I lived in the same town as her, I could definitely be friends with Jessie K.

The Bottom Line:
Rurally Screwed is a gutsy, well-written, funny, entertaining book that I think most women would enjoy.

Win it:
To win your own free copy of Rurally Screwed, leave a comment below by Midnight on May 5th telling me the most unusual thing you've canned or preserved--or eaten after a friend (or stranger at the farmer's market) did. I think for me, it'd be deer meat from a deer my little brother killed. We ate it in tacos, like Jessie K and Jake in the book, and in chili. It was actually super yummy!

For extra entries, do any of the following and leave a seperate comment for each thing you do:
  • Follow me on Twitter as @CrunchyConMom
  • Follow Jessie K on Twitter as @RurallyScrewed
  • Tweet something like this: "I can't wait to read the new book @RurallyScrewed! I hope I win it from @CrunchyConMom's #giveaway here:" up to once each day (comment each time you tweet it!)
  • Visit Jessie's blog and leave a thoughtful comment on one of her blog posts and tell me which one you commented on. (once only)
  • Leave a thoughtful comment on another of my blog posts and tell me which one. (once only)

I'll use to choose a winner. Continental US only due to shipping restrictions. If I don't hear back from the winner within 48 hours of e-mailing them, I'll pick a new winner

Thank you to Berkley books (part of the Penguin book group), Jessie K's publisher, for providing both me and the giveaway winner with free copies of the book. I received no compensation other than the book.

Amazing Homemade Hamburger Buns

I'm attempting to bake bready 50ish times in 2012 and I'm posting lots of recipes & pics. I hope they inspire you to go bake something delicious in your kitchen too!

When I first saw the idea online of baking your own hamburger buns, I was a little bit skeptical that it would actually be worth it. But after whipping up a bunch of these puppies during naptime and baking them at dinner time, I'm totally convinced. These hamburger buns put the grocery store buns we normally eat to shame. And they really weren't hard.

chipotle chicken sandwiches on homemade buns...aka dinner last night

What you need:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tbsp warm milk
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3-3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp butter, softened
Buns rising-you can see I made them fairly flat so lots of meat would fit on each one!

What you do:
  • Pour the water, milk, yeast, and one cup of flour in the bowl you'll be mixing in
  • Add the egg, sugar, salt, and mix with the paddle attachment
  • Add the butter and 2-2 1/2 more cups of flour and mix (you'll probably need to switch to the dough hook for this step)
  • Knead 6-8 minutes (will be sticky but stretchy and supple)
  • Using spoon, remove dough from sides/bottom of bowl as well as you can and pour a little bit of oil in the bowl. Turn the blob of dough to coat it lightly with oil to prevent sticking while rising.
  • Cover bowl with a towel and allow to rise 1-2 hours or until doubled.
  • Form into 8 rolls and cover; allow to rise 1-2 hours or until doubled again
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until top is goldeny brown
  • If desired, rub a stick of butter lightly on top of each bun.
  • Cut in half and fill with a burger or other yumminess!
fresh out of the oven (already rubbed with butter)

My notes:
  • If you are starting with cold milk and water from your fridge/tap, I recommend measuring 1 cup of water in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, adding the cold milk, then microwaving the whole measuring cup for 45 seconds or so. If it's too warm, it will kill the yeast, so feel free to let it sit a couple of minutes before adding the yeast if you are worried that might happen.
  • I made my buns pretty wide and flattish and that seemed to work pretty well, but you could make them rounder and I'm sure they'd still be just as yummy.
  • If your rolls run into each other after the second rise, just tuck the sides in a little bit until there is space between them again. Try not to deflate the middles!
  • I tried replacing half of the flour with whole wheat flour and they didn't rise quite as much so they weren't as tall or pretty, but still tasted great. We will definitely make them with half wheat flour when we are making them for just our family.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pig Felt Finger Puppet Free Pattern & Tutorial

It's been a while, but I am excited to announce I created a new felt finger puppet pattern! Introducing:
First 2 of the 3 Little Pigs (I ran out of pink felt)

Basically, you cut out the main pig piece, the nose piece, and optional bowtie (I plan on making 3 little piggies and thought bowties was a fun way to make them different from each other), embroider on some details, and sew the front and back together. I also included no-sew instructions using puffy paint and tacky glue. I left their mouths fairly neutral, because I thought it would be weird for them to be too smiley if we ever want to use them to act out the story of the 3 Little Pigs, but you can make yours however you want!. You can download and print the pattern for free here.
My toddler carrrying around his new "treasures" in his overall pocket

I hope soon to create a Big Bad Wolf finger puppet, and I'll share it with you free too if I do. Happy Crafting!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-May Day prep edition (4/23/2012)

On Mondays I post links and ideas I've seen in the past week that made me laugh and/or smile! I hope they make you smile too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"

Next Tuesday is May 1st, "May Day" and many people still celebrate by putting baskets of treats and flowers on the doorsteps or doorknobs of their friends, relatives, and neighbors.  Here are some of my favorite ideas for May baskets:

Construction paper petals transform Tootsie Pops into a sprintime treat:

Colorful paper cones are easy and classic and oh so pretty:
Source: via solar on Pinterest

I wish all flowers had chocolate instead of pollen like these creative beauties:

This DIY printable makes it easy to make an adorable May basket:

And last but not least, colorful doilies make delicate and gorgeous May baskets in a variety of shapes...

What are your May Day traditions?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fun with the Holy Family Coloring & Activity Book review

I recently had the opportunity to review a fun coloring/activity book, Fun with the Holy Family and here's what I thought:

What it is:
Fun with the Holy Family is a 64 page-long coloring and activity book focused on Mary, Jesus, and Joseph's life together. The even-numbered pages are activities and the odd-numbered pages feature coloring sheets.

Who it's by:
This coloring and activity book was created by Virginia Helen Richards and D. Thomas Halpin and is published by the Daughters of St. Paul, a religious order of women faithful to the Catholic Church.

My impression:
I think this is a really fun coloring and activity book. I really like the way it covers the story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (up through his childhood-it doesn't go into his ministry beyond the time he ran away to the temple) and not just the Christmas story. I was impressed with the variety of activites like mazes, connect-the-dots, word searches, letter scrambles, matching, etc. I think there were activities that preschoolers could definitely do, like coloring and some of the matching, but there are also activities that would be challenging enough they'd be fun for older elementary school kids. The pictures are detailed enough to be pretty, but with plenty of empty space for using your imagination and your crayons. I think besides individual families that this is definitely the kind of book Sunday School teachers would keep for decades and photocopy over and over (after checking the license agreement carefully and following it-don't copy this or any other book without reading the license agreement and/or contacting the publisher for specific permission first).

  • Variety of activites
  • Good pictures to color
  • Great subject matter
  • Some activities too challenging for preschoolers
The bottom line:
This is a really cute coloring and activity book I highly recommend to Catholic families and Sunday School teachers.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Fun with the Holy Family. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whole World in His Hands Cookies with SunRidge Farms Chocolate Earth Balls

These tasty cookies are perfect for Earth Day or any day. Delicious cookies full of natural ingredients, with a nod towards one of my favorite children's song. They are super cute, taste great (a little bit reminiscent of graham crackers, but softer and fluffier), and remind me what a wonderful gift we have in this planet God gave us!

What you need:
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 chopped SunRidge Farms Whole Supreme Almonds* (see notes)
  • 1 SunRidge Farms solid milk chocolate Earth Ball per cookie
What you do:
  • Cream butter and agave nectar together
  • Add egg and vanilla and mix
  • Add flour, baking powder, and almonds and mix
  • Chill dough 2+ hours or until stiff enough to roll out
  • Roll out dough and cut hand shapes out using your kids' hands
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until beginning to turn goldeny brown
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then press one SunRidge Farms solid milk chocolate Earth Ball into center of each cookie
the patterns I made from my son's hands
My notes:
  • I measured out 1/4 cup of SunRidge almonds and then chopped them, and chopped it actually yielded more like 1/3 of a cup. It isn't necessary to be super exact-they'll be yummy whether you have a meager 1/4 cup or an overflowing one.
  • Be sure to chop the almonds finely enough to not be choking hazards for your little ones. I had to chop mine pretty finely to be comfortable feeding my 2 year-old these cookies!
  • If you want darker colored hands, try replacing some of the flour with cocoa powder and/or rye flour. Just make sure that the flour, almonds, and cocoa powder adds up to about 2 cups total
  • To make your own handprint cookie cutter, trace your child's hand with a crayon or pencil on a paper plate. Cut it out, and then use a paring knife (or let an older child use a butter knife) to cut cookies out around it. My son is almost 3, so if your child is much older than that, your cookies may need to bake longer, and if you are tracing a baby's hand, they may need slightly less time.
  • If you are worried about the chocolate balls melting, you can put them in the fridge while you are chilling the dough and baking the cookies.
  • Don't forget to unwrap the chocolates before giving a cookie to anyone too little to safely unwrap foil.

A huge thank-you goes to SunRidge Farms, who sent me several of their amazing products to try including the almonds and chocolate Earth balls I used in this recipe. They are a company with a serious commitment to sustainability and Earth-friendly business practices, but they never sacrifice flavor to do so. You can read my full review of the products they sent me here. The short version?: SunRidge farm's organic and natural dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes are as delicious as they are environmentally friendly. I didn't receive any compensation for reviewing their products other than sample products and warm fuzzy feelings.

SunRidge Farms Chocolate, Almonds, and Trail Mix Review

An inspiring company called SunRidge Farms recently sent me some amazing products to review and I'm super excited to tell you about them. Sun Ridge Farms, a company that focuses on sustainable farming and Earth-friendly business procedures whenever possible, specializes in natural and organic nuts, dried fruits, trail mixes, and candy. Here are a few of their products I got to try:

Organic Deluxe Trail Mix (celebrating its 30th birthday this year):
A mix of organic dried apricots, roasted peanuts, raw almonds, dried apples, walnuts, date pieces, sunflower seeds, and raisins. This was my favorite of the SunRidge Farms products we tried*.
Raw USDA-certified almonds ready-to-eat. They're also perfect for baking delicious dishes like my Whole World in His Hands Cookies! These almonds were my husband's favorite of the SunRidge Farms products we received*.
Hit the Trail:
 A mix of USDA-certified organic roasted tamari almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, raisins, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Milk Chocolate Earth Balls (looks like mini-globes, fun for Earth Day):
These solid milk chocolate balls wrapped in foil that looks like the planet Earth are as delicious as they are cute. We all gobbled them down, and they are the star of my Whole World in His Hands Cookies. *These were everyone's actual favorite thing, but since they are solid milk chocolate with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, it didn't seem like a fair fight. So I also told you our other favorites.
What's especially awesome about SunRidge Farms is that they try to promote healthy living and not just to produce delicious and healthy food (although they are great at that.) Some of their corporate policies towards that end include placing 2,500 American-made solar panels on the roof of their candy factory and warehouses, paying employees to ride bikes to work instead of driving (when I tell my Dad that he is totally going to wish he worked there), using biodiesel and hybrid vehicles for delivery and sales vehicles, and providing employee recreation facilities like a 24 hr gym and free yoga classes. And I love that they are doing all this stuff voluntarily. SunRidge Farms products are totally delicious and worth seeking out. They're available online and at many healthy food retailers around the nation.

I received free samples of the four products mentioned above for review purposes, but received no other compensation besides sample products and warm fuzzy feelings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cure for the Mondays, April 16, 2012

On Mondays I post links and ideas that made me laugh and smile in the past week. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"

How delicious do these easy overnight cherry Danishes look??? They are made with cherry pie filling, so it'd also be easy to sub in any pie filling you like, cream cheese, or fresh fruit to customize it for your family!

And I absolutely love this idea from Prudent Baby (and okay, let's be honest here, I pretty much love all their ideas): paint an ordinary baking pan with chalkboard paint, add some vinyl decorations if desired, and voila! a gorgeous chalkboard tray perfect for breakfast in bed or everday fun.

This looks like a great idea for someone who is too old to play with Legos but too attached to donate/trash them (like my brother who is almost 30...) Make your Legos into cute quirky fridge magnets!!

I think this idea is brilliant: put condiments into different compartments of a muffin tin. Reduces clutter on your picnic table and is heavy so it's less likely to get blown over!

What made you laugh and smile this week?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mothers of the Church: the Witness of Early Christian Women (book review)

I recently had the opportunity to read and review a new Catholic book, Mothers of the Church: the Witness of Early Christian Women and I'm excited to tell you what I thought about it:

What it is:
Mothers of the Church tells the stories of some of the earliest heroines of the Christian faith (all of the women featured lived and died by the year 500 at the latest.)

Who wrote it:
Mike Aqulina and Christopher Bailey, two Catholic writers with dozens of books under their belts, including this book's precursor, The Fathers of the Church by Aquilina

First impression:
I immediately liked the cover art, and upon reading, the introduction of the book. The authors have a great sense of humor and humility, and a knack for storytelling.

Overall impressions:
I think this book fills a much needed void in the market. While it is written at an adult level and I think adult women will love it (I did!), the subject material would also be appropriate in my opinion for many pre-teen and teenage girls (There is discussion of human sacrifice in the Roman arena without a ton of gore, and some minimal detail in mention of brothels, so use your judgment on whether it'd be appropriate reading for your own daughter.) I devoured books about Florence Nightingale, Betsy Ross, and Joan of Arc as a pre-teen and beyond. But there aren't many books about women worth emulating before a couple hundred years ago, and I know I for one would've been thrilled to have a book like this about heroic early Christian women!
I thought they did a great job of providing background on the social and political structure at the time these women were alive and an excellent job of using interesting primary sources (ancient texts by people who actually knew these women and sometimes by the women themselves-translated into English, of course). My favorites were the pieces written by the early Christian women themselves.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was its structure. The authors seemed to switch rather abrubtly from one remarkable woman to another, and the lack of transitions was rather jarring. Basically, they introduce each woman, then had some long quotations from their primary sources about that woman. And then they introduced the next woman. I would've liked some conclusion/transition paragraphs from the authors before moving on to the next woman, especially because when the authors did write (like the introductory paragraphs for each woman) I really enjoyed their sensibility and how they had a sense of humor without being irreverent. My only other complaint is that they didn't go into more detail on each woman. I admit to being a little bit of a history nerd, so maybe it's just me, but I would've loved a whole chapter on each woman with many more sections from the primary sources. I definitely found myself wanting more!

  • Great topic
  • Easy read
  • Well-written
  • Abrupt transitions
  • Some dark historical references inappropriate for kids
The Bottom Line:
This is a great book about some amazing women most Christians probably don't know much about. Definitely worth buying as a Mother's Day gift (especially for a Godmother present), and I also recommend it for teenage and college girls who are interested in historical women (I think it'd be a nice confirmation present or graduation present).

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post.

*Due to some sort of computer glitch, this book keeps inactivating on the Catholic Company website. If you can't find it on their website but want to order it, give them a call or e-mail them. They do have it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bathing Strike Strategies

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children's personal care choices.

Sometimes babies and toddlers decide to go on a bathing strike. If they’re pre-verbal, it can be hard to know what the trigger is-maybe stress from upheaval in other areas of life like a move, maybe the bath water was too hot or too cold last time, or maybe you’re in a new place and the bathtub looks and feels different. Whatever the cause, it can be frustrating to mom and dad, who still want their kiddo to look and smell cared for. Our son who is almost 3 has had several short phases where he refused to take a bath in the bathtub by himself, and here are some of the strategies we’ve tried:

Bathe with him

Sometimes a child going through a period of anxiety towards the bath will relax if he sees his mama or daddy bathing with him calmly. If you don’t want to do this nude for whatever reason, feel free to wear your swimsuit or undies. Your baby won’t care what you are wearing, or if your swimsuit doesn’t fit because you bought it before you were pregnant with them, or if you have awkward tan lines-they just want the security of having you right there with them.

Bathe him in a “pool”

This has been one of the best solutions for our son when he’s going through an anti-bath phase. Basically, we bathed him in his kiddy pool. We used regular old water plus a little baby soap (and some clear water ready for rinsing) and didn’t make a big deal of it. This worked best for us outside with swimsuits and swim toys, but we’ve also done it in the bathroom with towels on the floor to prevent slippage. But the word “pool” is in quotation marks because I use it loosely-we also used a big plastic storage tub at one point when he was unwilling to bathe in a new bathtub, both inside and outside the house. Basically, the novelty and the word pool are the important things here, because your kid will think of it as something different than the word “bath” that they’ve applied the negative connotation to.

Shower with him

This never worked with our son, but I have heard of other people (who I trust 100% were remembering accurately) having great success. One strategy is for Dad to take a shower, and in the middle, have Mom hand him the baby. He cleans the baby off quickly then hands him back. Some toddlers might be willing to stand on their own feet as long as they are out of the main spray. Our son clung to his dad in fear until he was close enough to me to reach for me instead. I think it made his bathing fear worse instead of better. But it was at least worth trying in my opinion.

Toys, Books, and Bubbles

Sometimes new toys, bath books, or even a new bubble bath can entice an otherwise bath-hostile baby or toddler into trying a bath. Be careful about bringing non bath toys in though, even ones that seem waterproof. We’ve discovered water still in Little People and plastic dinosaurs weeks after they went in the bath. It might still be worth it to overcome a bathing strike, but use toys designed specifically for the bath first when practical to do so.

Sponge baths

If you’re visiting relatives (or on a vacation with just your family) and your little one is unwilling to bathe in a strange place, sometimes the gentlest option is to basically just let them go without. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave them muddy and stinky. Just wipe them down with washcloths, and maybe even do different parts of their body different times throughout the day to be sneaky…and less stressful for them. The good news is, babies don’t get smelly nearly as fast as adults, and don’t really need to be washed as often to be socially acceptable. Sometimes giving them a break is the most gentle way to help them get past their dislike of the bath.

 Combine strategies

Mom playing in the pool with a new toy might be totally irresistible even if one trick alone would’ve failed to inspire a desire to bathe in your little one. Or maybe you just can’t figure out a way to wash hair without screams, so you do that separately or not as frequently. Anyway, these strategies can be mixed and matched to fit your family. Just trust your instincts on what your kid needs now!

So if your baby or toddler goes on a bathing strike, don’t despair. Pull a page or two out of my playbook, based on what you think will work best for your family, and try a few different things. And don’t stress-your kid will be clean again before you know it!

How does your family make bathtime fun?

 PS: I have a son, so I refer to babies/toddlers as male in general in these suggestions, but of course they would all be just as applicable to girls. I’m just not lucky enough to have any yet!
PPS: I am not a psychologist and am not attempting to offer advice here for children who have actual fears of water etc and may need professional help. These are just tips for kids who go through occasional anti-bath phases. Seek out a doctor or counselor you trust if your child experiences a fear of water for an extended period of time.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-April 9, 2012

On Mondays I post links and ideas I've seen in the past week that made me laugh or smile. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got "a case of the Mondays"!

I found so many great recipes that could use up leftover hardboiled eggs I can't decide what to try first!

These delicious looking bacon cheddar deviled eggs from Yummly
Source: via Crunchy on Pinterest

Or maybe these avocado deviled eggs from Eating Well, Live Thin(er)

Or even bacon n' egg salad sandwiches from Taste of Home

On a different note, how awesome is this idea for a summer party (or wedding!)??? Make your punch and serve it in a scooped out watermelon with spigot attached (I think the original idea was to put alcohol in it, but it is such a cute idea, it seems a shame to waste it on adults only-kids would be so amazed by it!)

And I think this is super fun: make a kitchen towel "cake" for a bridal shower (like the "diaper cakes" people make for baby showers!) and fill it with fun utensils etc. I won't be surprised if this is the next big trend in bridal showers the way that diaper cakes have taken baby showers by storm. And why not? It's cute, it's fun, and it's useful-a perfect trifecta!

Source: via Crunchy on Pinterest

Oh, and did you enter my giveaway!!! for Char Crust Dry Rub Seasonings? They are perfect for grilling meat, but they also work for baking, sauteeing, and even veggies. Later today I plan to try sprinkling some on some deviled eggs too...I think it's going to be amazing!

What have you seen lately that has made you laugh, smile, or want to run to your kitchen and start cooking immediately?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Felt Bunny Finger Puppet Pattern & Tutorial (repost)

I originally posted this in March 2010, but thought it would be fun to share it again! It takes less than an hour to do, so there's definitely still time to make one or more for Sunday. It'd also be a fun craft for an older kid with basic sewing skills (and could be made by a non-sewer with glue instead, although it wouldn't be as durable)

After how well my monkey finger puppet turned out, I decided to make more. With Easter right around the corner, I thought some seasonal animals would be especially fun. So here's my white Easter Bunny finger puppet:

I'm partial to white rabbits-I even had one myself in elementary school (I named her Rosebud and called her "Rosie"). But bunnies come in a variety of colors, so feel free to make black, brown, & gray bunnies too! If you do use a different color, consider putting an oval of white or cream felt on the tummy (like on the monkey finger puppet) for extra cuteness. Anyway, I used a combination of blanket stitch & back stitch to make this rabbit finger puppet and it definitely took way less than an hour total to do-maybe 15-30 minutes?

I'm planning to make a couple more springy animals-a sheep, frog, and duck, and I'm going to put them in my toddler's Easter basket. I'll post patterns for any that turn out well so you can try them too!

Click here to get to my free printable bunny finger puppet PDF pattern on google docs.

Nest Cookies (Sugar Cookies + Toasted Coconut)-repost

I originally posted this in April 2010, but it is such a fun idea I wanted to share it again!

Last year and this year both I made cookies that look like nests full of eggs. They are made of coconut-coated sugar cookies and peanut butter M&M's (although you can use any egg shaped candy as long as it has a hard candy coating to prevent akward melting. Here's How they turned out:

The great thing is that these cookies are super-cute, delicious, and easy! Just follow these simple steps to make your own nest cookies for Easter or spring in general (shopping tip: Easter is tomorrow, so if you are making these just for fun, you can probably find great deals on the candy during the early part if next week!)

What you need:
  • Shredded coconut
  • Ingredients for your favorite sugar cookie recipe. I like this one .
  • Candy eggs (I recommend ones without wrappers, or with the wrappers already removed)
What you do:
  • Toast some shredded coconut on a coconut sheet @350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
  • Prepare your favorite sugar cookie recipe.
  • Make balls of dough and roll them in the coconut.
  • Place the balls of dough on a cookie sheet and bake according to your recipe.
  • Place 2-5 egg shaped candy coated pieces into the center of each cookie while it's still warm on the cookie sheet. I do this immediately after taking them out of the oven.
  • Eat and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Healthier Hot Cross Buns

I wanted to bake some hot cross buns this week (although my cookbooks disagree on when they ought to be served-some say Palm Sunday, some say Good Friday, and some say Easter season in general), but with the impending sugar overload this weekend, I wanted something simpler and more hearty, than the hot cross bun recipes I found in cookbooks. So I tweaked and combined a couple of recipes, reducing the sugar and adding some whole wheat flour and making a few other minor changes, and here is what I came up with:

What you need:
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • a pinch or two of salt if using unsalted butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • up to 1/2 cup more additional flour of either type
  • raisins or currants to taste
What you do:
  • Pour the water and yeast into your mixing bowl and add a sprinkle of flour
  • Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, eggs, and melted butter and mix
  • Add the flour and mix
  • Add extra flour if the dough seems too wet
  • Knead 4-6 minutes
  • Allow to rise until about doubled, 1 -1 1/2 hours at room temp
  • Punch down and allow to rest 10 minutes
  • Shape into rolls and allow to rise until doubled again-30-45 minutes this time
  • Slash a cross into the top of each bun
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 14-16 minutes
  • Drizzle glaze on in a cross pattern (should go in the slash lines basically)
My notes:
  • If your frosting is running too much, wait until the buns are cool to frost, and/or add more powdered sugar to thicken the frosting
  • The dough will be sticky, even after kneading, because of the eggs, sugar, and butter. Don't add more than 1/2 cup additional flour if it seems fine other than sticky.
  • Since my husband doesn't like raisins and they are a choking hazard for my son, I only put them in a few of the buns. I mixed them in by hand after forming my son and husband's share of the rolls, then shaped my buns too. If everyone in your house likes dried fruit, feel free to add that earlier in the process, like right before you add the flour.
  • I ended up making 14 rolls, but you could certainly make them a little smaller-I was surprised how big they were when I actually ate one (they seemed smaller when I was shaping them...I guess because that was before they rose and then baked!)
  • I seperate eggs with my hands-just crack the egg into your freshly washed hand and let the white slip through your fingers! I keep the yolk and add them to scrambled eggs later that day or sometimes the next day. You can also make ridiculously unhealthy but delicious "norman butter cookies" with the yolks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Embroidered Jellybean Towel

I'm sewing my mom a kitchen towel every month in 2012 as her Christmas present for 2011, and I'm posting each month about the designs and techniques I use!

For April, I chose this adorable jellybean pattern that the amazingly talented Mollie from Wild Olive posted free on her blog last year.

 I decided to do it as a sampler, so I did a different stitch on each jelly bean! I used backstitch, running stitch, split stitch, chain stitch, stem stitch, and scroll stitch. I drew on the eyes with my water soluble pen, but then didn't stitch them because they just didn't seem to fit with the pastels when I tried it in black. I thought any color dark enough to show up well wouldn't work well with the pastels, and my mom isn't big on cutesy faces for decor items anyway, so I just left them out. But you can still see them in this picture from my tracing pen. Anyway, here's how my towel turned out:
I actually stitched it while feeding my toddler breakfast, so there is definitely still time to stitch one up for this weekend if you need something Eastery for yourself or as a hostess gift for whomever you are visiting!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cure for the Mondays...Easter edition!

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen recently that made me laugh and smile. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"! Since Easter is this Sunday, I'm devoting today's post to Eastery ideas.

This Easter I'm making these homemade bunny "Oreos" (chocolate sandwich cookies" to share with relatives. I think the trial batch I baked of them turned out really cute, and they were definitely delicious.

I love the idea of melting Jolly Ranchers into cross or flower shapes for Easter or anyday!

And how cool is Italian Easter Bread? Baking the festively dyed raw eggs in the braided dough nests cooks them just like hard-boiled eggs, but with a delicious pastry surrounding them. Beautiful and delicious!

If you haven't bought Easter grass yet, consider making it yourself! If you have scraps of colored paper around (I know I have plenty of bits and pieces of construction paper that were leftovers when I cut out big pieces for projects with my son!), shred it and voila-Easter grass!

And these eggs are so pretty I want to run out to my garden for some plants to use for dyeing!

Source: via Fay on Pinterest

(the original idea post is not in English so I'm not sure what they use for dye, but there are lots of good tutorials out there for idea, like beet juice and red onion skins and such. I've never seen the flowers+pantyhose idea before though!
What fun Eastery ideas have you seen lately?