Thursday, January 16, 2014

Elmo Birthday Party!

For my daughter's second birthday, we really went all out since we didn't have a party for her first.  She loved Elmo from Sesame Street and so I scoured the Internet looking for all the Elmo related things I could possibly come up with.  Most were commercially packaged and cost a fortune!  I decided to see what I could make instead.

Here is a small collection of the things we made for her party:
These upcycled soup cans were painted to hold utensils.  I did create a stencil for the mouth to keep things even. 

I bought the red foam visors at a craft store and used craft foams sheets to create the face.  They were super easy to make and were much better than paper party hats! 

These cupcakes were really easy to make as well.  The eyes are large marshmallows, the mouth is half of an Oreo cookie.  The orange candies came from Party City, where I dug through their jawbreakers and just bought the orange ones by the piece.  The red and black frosting came was the prepared stuff from the tubes.  

The veggie trays were fun to make but don't give too much variety as far as the veggies go.  An olive floating in the ranch makes the perfect pupil to the eyes. 

What should you do with all of the Oreos left over from the cupcakes?  Add cupcake toppers to them with a bit of left over frosting.  Super simple and cute!

Every little girl needs a party dress.  We measured around her waist and cut elastic just a tad bigger.  Sew the ends of the elastic together into a circle.  Cut the tulle twice a long as as you need it, fold it in half and loop it over the elastic until the tutu is as full as you'd like it.  
The bow was simple as well.  Wrap curling ribbon around a dowel and put it in the oven at a low temp for about 20 minutes.  The curl will stay in the ribbon once it cools.  Glue it to a barrette and you have a party outfit fit for an Elmo Princess!

Most Amazing Homemade Pickles Ever!

I think I might need to rename this blog, if I decide I need to maintain it.  This post should start out like so many others- "Hey!  Look what I found on Pinterest and tried!"  I haven't posted in over a year but that doesn't mean that I haven't been trolling on Pinterest trying everything that seems like I might be able to pull off.

I have always had dreams of being one of those people who can grow a garden and can their own food.  Every year I start out with the best intentions and my garden grows good for a while.  Then it needs watering and I forget and everything dies OR I do great with the watering until school starts up, everything goes to seed and we don't end up eating what we grew.  Oh well, maybe one summer everything will come together how it is supposed to.

I found this amazing pickle recipe on Pinterest.  These pickles are absolutely perfect and they taste just like Claussens.  They aren't actually canned, just refrigerated in jars- which is a total bonus as well because I'm not sure I have the canning thing down.

This is the second year I have made them and the first time I tried to make relish.  I get everything I can at the local Farmer's market, because I can't grow anything I will actually eat.  The first year I made these, I had extra brine and I didn't want to waste it.  I had purchased some fresh onions along with everything else that morning so I decided to make pickled onions.  Umm, HELLO!  SO freaking yummy!  So now I make the onions every year too.

If you love pickles, you definitely need to try this recipe.  It is very easy to follow and doesn't need to be tweaked at all.  You will definitely be glad you did!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Healthy Alternative for Tortillas

I love me some tortillas but while trying to eat healthier,  they just don't make the grade.  Yes, they have the healthier versions, but they taste like paperboard to me.  So I fixed that problem, I make my "tortillas" out of egg whites.

I really stink at separating egg yolks and whites, so I cheat and buy the little carton of eggs whites.  I heat the non-stick pan and pour just enough egg whites to cover the bottom and I cook them on low until the top is almost solid as well.  The edges will most likely start peeling away from the sides when it is ready to turn.  I shake the pan to loosen the eggs and do the in the air flip to cook the other side.

When they are done, I let them cool and store them in the fridge.  They are good cold with lunchmeat wrapped in them, or use them to make your breakfast burritos.  They can even make a cold omelet on the go.

If you are a follower of the Point Plus system, using 2-3 egg whites will result in a points value of 1.  Works for me!

One piece of advice:
 Do NOT add anything to the egg whites while they are cooking.  They will not hold together very well.  Add everything to the inside after they are cooked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Colored Rice for Sensory Table, Class Project, and Decorations

20 pounds of rice in 6-1 gallon baggies

At the school I work at we do Math Integration- basically this means that our specials teachers come into our math classes and we co-teach, integrating both their subject (Spanish, PE, Music or Art) and math together.  Having only 4 specials teachers and 12 regular classroom teachers, we rotate them through our classrooms.  I have had a lot of fun with this.  With PE we played a super fun game the kids named "Mathsketball", I have a great song the Music teacher and I are going to teach the kids and Art just naturally lends itself to this model, but how do you integrate Spanish and fractions?  Today, Senora and I came up with a super fun idea.

It starts with this idea on Pinterest (doesn't everything these days?) on how to color rice.  The lady on the blog layered it into a red, white and blue pattern for a centerpiece at her 4th of July party.  Hello flag idea!

We have decided that we are going to give the kids directions in Spanish to create a flag pattern of a Spanish speaking country in a jar using layered colors of rice.  They will use either measuring cup measures or fractions of the jar in the directions.  This is going to be an absolute blast!  Our student have limited vocabulary in Spanish so they will have to find and translate words they know and take the math vocab (in English) they are learning to try and figure other words out.  For example, un medio is 1/2 and the kids just learned that the median is in the middle; it may seem like a big leap for these kiddos, but somehow I don't think they will have any problem.  They will use the information they have to draw a rough draft before they are allowed to fill their jars.  Not only will they need to add fractions with unlike denominators to create a "whole" jar, they hopefully will gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to be somewhere and understand few words of the language.

Coloring the rice was SO easy.  Put rice in a bag, add food coloring and a bit of rubbing alcohol, and shake up.  When it is evenly coated, spread out on cookie sheets to dry.  We heat our house with a pellet stove, so I set the cookie sheets on top of that and 10 minutes later the alcohol had evaporated and the rice was done.  Click this link if you want more specific instructions.  The best tip: when you can't smell the rubbing alcohol anymore, the rice is dry.  I dyed 20 pounds of rice into 5 colors (+ white which I obviously didn't have to dye) in less than 2 hours while eating dinner and bathing the baby; the most difficult part was waiting for it to dry.

I'm very excited to see what the kids come up with and when I'm finished I'm going to pour the rice into a plastic box for my kiddos at home to use as an indoor sandbox.  This is going to be a winning activity all the way around.  I will update after we have completed the activity.

Both the flags and the rice sandbox are a huge success!  We had so much fun!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I LOVE Photoshop...

I began a relationship with Photoshop a few years ago when I started getting creative with photography.  Since I really didn't know what I was doing behind the camera, I learned how to fix some mistakes on the computer.  It was then that I realized all the wonderful things that you can do in Photoshop and print out at Costco.  (I like Costco because their colors are great and they are cheap!)

I just started messing around with it and over the years (and many Google Help searches later) I have figured a few things out.

You can do just about anything with Photoshop.  I have made business cards and printed them out at wallet-sized photos, thank you cards:
    (Print as a 4x6 and write with a Sharpie on the back.  We did these with a Wedding Photo as a Thank you then too.)
Valentine's Cards: 

     (Print at 8x10 and frame.  Letters can be found here.)
Digital Scrapbook pages (Costco will print these at 12x12 for $2.99 in Colorado):

and latest, Birthday Invitations (of which I will make matching thank you cards after the party)  

I love that you can personalize everything and print out a 4x6 for $0.13.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Cleaning Stove Top Drip Pans....

I found this idea on Pinterest in a very round about way.  I was looking further into the blog where I found the Carpet Spot Cleaner and I found a link to The V Spot and her exceptional way of cleaning cooked on crap off of your stove top drip pans.

Of course I forgot to take pictures, but when I do it again I will update this post with photos!

Take your drip pans, put them in plastic zip top (not zipper/slider top) baggies.  Add a bit of ammonia, seal them up, and let them sit for 12-24 hours.  You don't need to soak them, it is the fumes that gets the crud off.

I put mine in bags yesterday after dinner.  I put them on the enclosed porch, in case they leaked I didn't want the smell in the house, and I let them sit until this afternoon.  I opened the bags and removed the cast iron burner things and the drip pans and scrubbed ever so slightly and almost everything peeled right off.  Mine weren't perfectly clean but it was below freezing last night outside so I'm thinking it didn't work as well as it could have had the bags been warm in the slightest bit.

My plan is to do this again this summer and let them sit in the sun all day to heat up, I'm thinking this will activate the fumes much better than the cold.  I will let you know how that goes when I do it again.

In any case, my stove top is much cleaner and I didn't have to use much elbow grease.  A success in my book!

Thanks to The V Spot and One Good Thing by Jillee

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bath Tub Paints

I found this idea on Pinterest (why do all of my posts start like that?) and I knew that I needed to try it immedately.  I found some shaving cream and put it into a cupcake pan, added a few drops of food coloring and stirred, and found two kids and threw them in the tub.

We had a blast!

A few observations:
1- The paint brushes were fun, but finger painting was much more fun.  
2- Wash hair and bodies first, the water gets yucky fast and it is much easier to use the shower head to just rinse the kids when they are done than to try to wash them (especially when you have a slow draining tub like mine.) 
3- As a bystander, be prepared to play with the paints too.  They are too much fun.  By the time we were finished, I was as covered as the kids were and I wasn't in the tub!  

When you are finished rub the shaving cream all over the tub (or have the kids do it) and rinse off.  It sprays off quickly and lightly cleans the tub on the way down!  

Thank you, Meet the Dubiens

Snowman Themed Day

We got quite a bit of snow recently and decided that we needed to build a snowman. My older daughter had a the great idea of building a snowman family. Needless to say we got started immediately.

While the rest of the family was putting the finishing touches on the family I went in the house and decided to continue the snowman building of my own. Using hamburger buns, spaghetti sauce, cheese, tomatoes, and turkey (we didn't have pepperoni or ham). I baked them on our pizza oven and there you have the perfect winter lunch!

Salad in a Jar

Two week old lettuce washed and packed on the same day- one in a plastic container the other in a vacuum-sealed jar.

I found this idea on Pinterest and I knew I had to try it. I have been trying to eat better but it seems that the better I try to eat, the harder it is for me to pack a healthy lunch. I don't have time every night to make a new salad and it seemed like if I packed them for the entire week, then on Friday they were just nasty. So when I found this idea, I was all for it. It works SO well!

I clean an entire package of 6 heads of Romaine Lettuce that I get from Costco (less than $5.00). I cut it with a plastic lettuce knife (highly recommended, it keeps the lettuce from browning so fast), spin it dry in the salad spinner, and package it into the jars.

The picture above has grated carrot in the bottom of the jars. I have tried vacuum-sealing the lettuce with broccoli and grape tomatoes but both of those get really gross by the end of the second week. So for now I'm sticking with carrots in the jars.

Once the lettuce is in the cleaned jars, I place the flat lid (without the ring) on the top of the jar and attach the Food Saver Wide Mouth Jar Attachment over the flat lid. I turn on the Food Saver and let it do it's work. I usually leave mine on anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute. When I take the attachment off, I check for a good seal by pulling on the flat lid gently. I then screw the ring onto it and put it in the fridge. From cleaning to last jar in the fridge is about 30-40 minutes; not bad for 2 weeks worth of healthy lunches.

In my experience as long as the lettuce is fairly fresh, the jars can last about two weeks. Each night, I add a small container of bacon bits, dressing, and other pre-cleaned veggies to my lunch bag and assemble in seconds the next day at lunch. I throw all the parts of the jar into the dishwasher.

There is nothing like a homemade lunch that didn't take forever to make!

Thank you Salad in a Jar!

Valentine's Day Cards

This year I decided to make my own Valentine's Day cards. I found this idea on Pinterest and instantly fell in love with it.

I took the photos, Photoshopped the text onto the pictures and then uploaded them to Costco Photo Center. For $0.13 a print, I had a very personal Valentine greeting for my daughters to give to their friends and for me to give to my students.

They turned out SO well that I'm planning a variation for Mother's Day, both from my daughters and my students! Yay!