Archive for October, 2008

Friday Foodstuff - Flavored Applesauce

Friday, October 31st, 2008

It’s apple time!

Well, really I guess apple season is coming to an end here in Pennsylvania, but since I’m always a bit behind on these things we are just making our applesauce this week.

The great news for me this year is that the twins are old enough to use a paring knife and thus I make them do some of the cutting of apples.  I let them help, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch them much.  Jarod was using the knife as though he was going to gut the apple or perhaps a finger.  But hey, no trips to the emergency room, so it was a success.

The best part of applesauce is that it is really easy to make.  All you need is apples and water.  Now if you’re like me and want to experiment with different flavors, you an also add in cranberries, dried apricots, berries, prunes or pears.

So lets get started.

APPLESAUCE

You need

A pot to cook the apples.  The size of the pot depends on how much applesauce you want to make.

Apples.  We use two or three different kinds for variety.

Water.  Or you can use apple cider, apple juice, cranberry juice or another juice to add extra flavor.

A blender. If you want smooth applesauce.

Or a potato masher if you want chunky applesauce.

Apricots, pears, strawberries or any other fruit you think you’d taste good mixed in with the apples.

 

Put about 3 /4 of an inch of liquid in your pot.

Peel, core and slice the apples in quarters.

Put the apples in the pot.  (add any other fruit in at this point too)

Cover the pot and simmer the apples till they are soft.  (about 30 minutes)

Mash and stir the fruit to desired consistency.

Or Scoop the fruit into a blender and blend till smooth. 

 

Tip:  You can add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla or other flavored extract to your applesauce, but since we give a lot of ours away we generally make it with just fruit and then let each person add on what they like when they eat it.

Applesauce is a favorite in our house so we can a lot to have over the winter.  Plus it is a popular item in our gift baskets of homemade stuff that we give out to all our relatives at Christmastime.  This year we have made plain, prune (Alexandra’s favorite) and apricot (my favorite), and I think I’ll make some pear before I’m done. 

Day of Wonder - Wallpaper

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

 

I wonder how this wallpaper was ever in style.  Even more so, I wonder how I grew up with a normal sense of color with this super seventies wallpaper adorning our hallway.

The scary part is, it’s still here.

And even scarier, my parents still like it and won’t let me get rid of it.

Help! 

Kids and Dogs

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

 

Being a mom I always enjoy reading stories about normal kids who do really neat or amazing things. I especially like to read about kids who are kind and thoughtful beyond their years.  Children that strive to help the needy and do for others even though there’s lots of other fun kid things to do.  Add that to my love of animals and you’ll see why I love the group DAWGS of Dalhart, Texas. 

 

The Dalhart Animal Wellness Group was started by an elementary school teacher and her students when they asked why dogs had to be killed, and what they could do about it.   Their story, and that of their dedicated teacher, Diane Trull is quite inspirational.  It shows how everyone, including children can make a big impact on the world around us.

 

 And if you’d like to make a difference for DAWGS and help the Kids do such a wonderful thing for Homeless Dogs, you can do it for free! 

 

Just visit Care2’s Favorite Animal Shelter Contest and vote for DAWGS and you can help them win $10,000.

Homemade Gift Baskets

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

If you’re trying to save money this gift giving season then start thinking gift baskets.   They’re a great gift for a family, a couple or an individual and can be made very personal and inexpensive too. 

 

We’ve been doing this every year for about 10 years for the relatives who already have everything they need (or we just don’t know what to get them) so we’ve come to discover what is most appreciated.

Since gift baskets can be so unique and filled with many different things (we try to stick to mostly homemade items), I’ll just cover the basics of preparing the boxes for the goodies today and go into details of some items you can put in them in future posts.


First, to save money we skip the baskets and dress up a few cardboard boxes in the sizes we’ll need.  The boxes can be decorated in lots of different ways and can become the best dressed gift under the tree.  We’ve decorated our boxes a number of different ways over the years, depending on what I had on hand, and how much time I had to work with. Here’s a few you can try.

Use white or brown craft  paper and then hot glue on holiday embellishments like pinecones, and real pine branches and small ornaments and stuff. They always look homey and festive.

Have some old white sheets or old worn Christmas table cloths.  Cut them up and line the boxes with them and allow the fabric to flow over the edge.  Add a ribbon bow and you’re done with the ‘basket’.

Have bored kids?  Then here are two great ideas.  They’ll have fun and be so proud.

Give them some acrylic paints and let them paint solid colors or designs on the boxes.  A blue box with white paper snowflakes glued on is pretty, or try basic red and green.  (just be sure to let the green dry before you start the red….red and green mixed make brown).

Or, give them modge podge.  Or mix elmers glue and water to a thin consistency.  Then they can apply wrapping paper scraps, construction paper or tissue paper to make very colorful boxes.


For the goodies, we have put in everything from quick breads and cookies to homemade candies, jams, food mixes and a few bought packaged food items (flavored teas, coffees, hot cocoas, etc.) we got on sale. 

 

Just think outside the box and personalize the box to each individual or family and watch as everyone digs through your gifts excited to see what they find next in their special Homemade Gift ‘Basket’. 

 

Check back next week for details on some goodies to include in your baskets.

Go Phillies!

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I would like to thank the Philadelphia Phillies for the dark circles under my eyes and the extra pounds I’ve put on while staying up past midnight all through the playoffs. 

All I can say is they better win the World Series tonight.  I need sleep.

Making Pillowcases. Great Homemade Gifts.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Ok, bear with me a minute while I gush over pillowcases.  I love pillowcases…something about having your own fun pillowcase that doesn’t match the curtains or the bed ruffle, but its just so you, and since you have to look at it every morning and nighttime shouldn’t it be something you like to look at.  (At this point throw in any significant other joke you can think of.)    But really, these are my absolute favorite gift to give anyone, from our 88 year old grandparents to my kids and teenage nieces. They are simple to sew, only take a yard of fabric and everyone loves them!

Fish, guitars, deer, princesses, ballerinas, pandas, elephants, sports teams, comics, the list is endless..  A yard of 45 inch wide fabric generally costs between $4 and $9 and often you may find something you like on sale at a local craft store and find a yard for just $2-$3. 

If you have a specific pattern in mind, then your best bet is to look online.  . There are lots of fabric websites out there, I often search for fabric by simply typing in ‘tomato’ (whatever you’re looking for) fabric. Some online stores that I’ve have bought from are, J and O Fabrics and Fabric Depot.
My least favorite part of making a pillowcase is the ironing.  To me it’s the most time consuming part and so I often will do 3 or 4 cases at once and get all the ironing over with.

First lay the fabric out and then fold down the top edge (the longer edge) about 3 1/2 inches, that will be the fold part of the pillowcase.

Iron that seam.  (I always spray the area I’m about to iron with spray starch or water to get a good crisp seam.).

Next, tuck under the rough edge of your new fold about 1/2 inch and iron that seam.  Here’s what the 2 ironed seams will look like…..

Next sew in about 1/4 inch from the edge you just folded. 

Then fold the fabric in half with the right sides together to form the pillowcase and iron that fold.

Now sew in about 1 / 2 inch along the two rough edges.

For extra strength, I have found that doing a zig zag stitch along any rough inside edges after they are sewn together with a straight stitch will keep it from fraying.)

Turn the pillowcase right side out and you are done.

 I have given dozens of these as gifts over the past 5 years from everything from birthdays, Christmas, Anniversarys and simple thank you gifts and everyone loves them because they’re so personal.  

I mean, who doesn’t want their own special pilly case, just like when they were a kid.  Really, forget the gifts….make some for yourself first.   Here at our house we have Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July pillowcases to use seasonally, of course the kids have about 15 each, and even the dogs have their own pillowcases with bunnies and cats on them. 
 
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

An award nomination?

Friday, October 24th, 2008

 

Our Kidoozy.com Where Kids Create site has been nominated for a Love this Site  award in the play category at Divine Caroline’s.  Yeah! 

If you enjoy our site with all of our homemade gift projects and videos we would love it if you would just click to put your vote in.  Thanks!

Friday Foodstuff - Peanut Butter Apple Dip

Friday, October 24th, 2008

 Dig In!!

OK.  I’ll admit that the real reason I got all the apples was to make applesauce.  Of course, that was over a week ago, so I’ve since started using the apples other ways. 

Generally, the kids love apples any way I serve them however there’s nothing quite like the fun of dipping food in some other food.   Tasty and potentially messy at the same time.  I used to make an apple dip using cream cheese, but Jarod has developed a dislike for cream cheese so we needed an alternative.  We’ve now found a dip everyone loves and it is super easy to make.

 

You need:

3 /4 cup of creamy peanut butter (you can adjust this according to your taste)

2 cups of cool whip

1 /8 to 1 /2 cup milk (depending on how thin you want your dip)

Beat it all together with a mixer, slice your apples and dig in!

Here's What You'll Need to Make This Delicious Apple Dip

 

 
 
 
 

 

Warning, this dip is addictive and some people, yes me, have a tendency to continue to eat this until they have a tummy ache. 

 

 

 

 

Making Pinatas

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
      

The piñatas were a big hit.  Pardon the pun.  They are always the kids favorite part of the party (go figure, give kids a stick and let them beat on something and they’re happy), which is why I’ll be stuck making them for the rest of my life.  I shouldn’t complain, they really aren’t that hard to make, just messy, and they have to be made over the course of a few days due to drying of the paper mache and then drying of the paint.  And the kids can do most of it themselves now…with a little adult supervision so the whole kitchen doesn’t end up paper mached.  This year even baby chipped in.  If you’d like to make one yourself I’ll list out the steps we do. 
Get some good pictures of your creations.....before they get destroyed!!
Get some good pictures of your creations…..before they get destroyed!!
Blow up balloon, easy enough.  Tear strips of newspaper about one half inch wide by 10 inches long, don’t get picky, it doesn’t matter.Just in case you needed a visual on what torn up newspaper looks like.  These are the strips.    

Pinata Paper

Pinata Paper

 

  

 

Make mache ‘glue’.  3 cups hot water and 1 cup flour, add more flour to get a thick glue type consistency.  (you can do this with cold water and more flour, but it won’t get as smooth.) The messy part.  Flour and Water make the glue. Place the balloon in a heavy bowl, to keep it from rolling away while you’re working on it.  Dip strips one at a time in mache, get excess off and smooth onto balloon.  

Paper Dipping

Paper Dipping

 

Paper Mache’ing’ the Balloon:

 

Cover the balloon once.  You can cut an opening for the piñata later or leave one now.

For the second coat of paper mache we use colored comics or in this case grocery store ads that are regular paper (not the smooth shiny ads), it’s our little trick so that we know we haven’t missed a spot with our second coat.

Don't forget to leave an opening!!!

You can leave an opening or you can cut one out later. Using colored paper like the sunday comics will help you see that you have covered the whole thing with a second coat.

If you want to add additional shape features to your balloon you do that now.  This year we kept it simple and I didn’t add any, but in the past we’ve added ears and a snout shape for a pony, or a tail for a fish.  

 

Fish (easy) and Frog (not easy at all) shaped pinatas

Fish (easy balloon shape) and Frog (not easy) the legs and eyeballs are added on with crumbled up paper and extra paper mache.

 

We use paper towels balled up into the necessary shape and then wrap it in aluminum foil to hold its shape, then we paper mache it on with two or three coats.  It is time consuming and sometimes difficult which is why this year we went with basic balloon shapes.   I could’ve done the other point to the football, but took the easy way out and made it sitting in the grass made of tissue paper.

 

The third and final coat of paper mache is white paper towels so that when we go to paint it we have a more even colored base.

The quality inspector at work....

Our quality inspector at work....the final paper towel layer looks good.

Now you wait. 

The balloons take about two days to dry. 

Once dry, you can paint your balloon.  We did brown for a football, and 3 shades of blue for the sky background for butterflies this year. 

When you’re done with painting, cut three sides of an opening about 4 by 5 inches to fill the piñata.

Next remember to put your string to hang your piñata, yes, I have forgotten to do this…that’s not good.

Over the years we have learned that this is a crucial step, or your piñata string will tear and your piñata will fall.   With this in mind we tried several ways to do the hanger and have found the following system works best. 

We get a 30 inch piece of heavy duty string and put either end through a small hole (the holes are about 4 inches apart) we’ve punched in the piñata.  We then tie a big knot on both ends that will be in the piñata and not fit through the small hole we strung it through.(Do not be tempted to just loop it thru the piñata, this causes the string end to pull towards each other and ‘cut’ through the piñata when it is being hit.)  We put duct tape on the knots to make them very large, and then duct tape the knot inside with 2 pieces of tape to keep the holes from ripping open.  Sounds a little complicated, but it’s not, and it really does keep your piñata hanging for the hardest of hits.

For filler we don’t believe in much candy and we try to stay inexpensive, and the stuff can’t weigh much or your piñata will be too heavy.  

 Some items we’ve used have been packs of Kool Aid, hair ties, little bouncy balls, individual licorice packs, smarties candies, lots of stickers (see post from oct. 13 for free sticker ideas), colored pencils or markers (taken out of their packs), and a folded sheet of bright paper with a star or grand prize written on it, and that person gets a special prize.

We put some crumbled up paper in the piñata and then throw in the candy and try to distribute it throughout so it’s not all in one place.

Next, we close up the opening and seal it with clear packaging tape, or duct tape if you choose to glue some colored tissue paper over it.  This year we used duct tape and left it exposed….that was the back of the piñatas.  The kids didn’t mind and the piñata police weren’t coming so I thought it was ok.

Next find a good tree or laundry post and hang up your piñata and start hitting.

Our only rules are that the birthday kid goes first followed by youngest to oldest.  Three hits each, unless you see it’s coming apart too fast and then give them just two hits each.

 

 

Stationery and Jack ‘O Lanterns

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
What do Stationery and Jack O Lanterns have in common you might ask?  Well, when we are all sick, like today, and don’t have much mental energy to do a lot of schoolwork, we like to do crafts and make gifts and stuff.  And technically, it is still school, the art portion.

Hunting on the internet for new ideas, I found the directions for some adorable jack o lanterns made from baby food jars on http://www.skiptomylou.org/2008/10/10/halloween-votives/. 

  

 

Cute Little Jack O Lantern Jars

Cute Little Jack O Lantern and Ghost Jars

The kids had a  ball making these although I had a dilemma because I don’t like to burn candles.  Lucky for me I stumbled upon some new battery operated tea light candles at CVS.  They were less than $4 for a pack of 6.  Now I don’t have to worry about the kids and fire and they can turn their jack o lanterns off and on whenever they like.

 

  

 

Jack O Lantern Jars with Battery Powered Candle

Jack O Lantern Jars with Battery Powered Candle

 

 

Alexandra Making Sure the Candles are Safe

The quality inspector making sure the tealight 'candles' are safe.

 

The stationery is a care package gift for my niece who is spending the semester in Scotland.  Her mom was sending over a box and asked if the twins would like to put something in it.  Stationery seemed like the perfect thing she can use, and it’s simple and fun to make.  Plus it’s not messy.   For directions just visit http://kidoozy.com/project_page.php?ID=47 and you can make your own stationery and matching envelopes for some inexpensive and very cute gifts.

Homemade Stationery adds a personal touch

Homemade Stationery adds a personal touch

Hopefully we’ll all be feeling a bit better tomorrow, but if not, it will give us time to get a jump start on some Christmas gifts this year.