Saturday, October 20, 2012

Inexpensive Halloween Decor

I can't believe it's already half way through October!  I've been pulling out the Halloween decorations -some old ones from last year, some hand me downs from my Mom (who is moving and getting rid of TONS of stuff), and some new additions on the cheap. 

I came across some super cute FREE printables via (where else?) Pinterest and added those to some cheap-o frames from the Dollar Store.

Keep Calm and Scary On printable found HERE.  One Hour Broom Parking printable found HERE.

And, of course, some cobwebs and spiders -courtesy of the Dollar Store as well. 

You can pick up a bag of these small pumpkins at the grocery store (or other various gourds and maize) for only a few dollars.  They make a great addition to Halloween decor on a budget!

The Thanksgiving printable (My turkey, 'tis of thee) can be found HERE.  And the Eat, Drink and Be Scary one is HERE.

My mom gave me this cute painted wood skeleton too.  Plus I have my Halloween Wreath I shared with you last year that I still love.

What are your cute and inexpensive decorations for Halloween?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Strawberry Limeade Concentrate

 I found this Strawberry Limeade Concentrate recipe from Simple Bites via Pinterest and had to give it a try -after all, I had some strawberries from the garden that were getting a little too ripe.  It's pretty tasty.  I would tweak the recipe a bit -just that I would either add more cubes to the same amount of water, or just add less water than the recipe calls for.  It wasn't strong enough in my books.  But once I added more concentrate, I liked the results.  And it was super simple which is always a plus.  And for some reason I forgot to get a photo of the juice mixed up.  Darn!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dinosaur Party -Pinata

 Ok, so I am kind of  REALLY delayed in posting this birthday pinata I made for Carter's party (which was in July), but I had kind of forgotten about it after I did that LONG post on the T-Rex cake. 

Anyway, my boy wanted to have a DINOSAUR birthday party so I made this Shonisaurus pinata.  For those of you who don't know what a Shonisaurus is, it's an ocean dwelling reptile that lived in the time of the dinosaurs.... don't worry, I wouldn't know either if I didn't have a future paleontologist on my hands.  Haha. 

I used a balloon for the basic form.  I started by doing a bunch of layers of papier mache on the balloon. Then used crushed newspapers and LOTS of masking tape to construct the tail and snout.  I attached these to the balloon shaped body with masking tape.  Then attached some string to make a handle.  Finally, after more layers of papier mache, I painted it and added the fins using lightweight cardboard (cereal boxes).  Carter loved it.  I doubt anyone else knew what it was -they probably figured I didn't know what color dolphins are supposed to be.  LOL.  But they had fun beating it to death (yes, morbid, I know...)

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important step -cut an opening and STUFF it to the gunnels with candy and tiny toys (dinosaurs),  Hope you like it as much as I liked making it!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Foodie Friday - Cinnamon Burst Sour Cream Zucchini Bread

 I apologize for my lack of presence in the blogosphere this last while.  Ever since So You Think You're Crafty, I haven't seemed to be able to get back into the swing of things.  We had an AWESOME time on our trip to Drumheller and Calgary (other than me getting the 24 hour flu).  But I am sure glad to be home.  Chloe and I are now in Edmonton.  Surgery is in on Monday.  I feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster.  Some days I'm really excited to get it over with and get her on the road to recovery.... other days I'm terrified.  I have visions of her (stubborn, independent, strong willed girl that she is -and love her for it) pulling out IV's by herself or breathing tubes.  She does not like to sit still or be told what to do.  I know we have family all praying for her and that it will be ok.  I'm sure the nurses at the children's hospital have seen it all before -I'm more worried about the mom (aka ME) who hasn't see it all before.

Ok, enough about me -on to Foodie Friday!

My garden has been THRIVING this year.  Well, most of it.  I've given up on my tomatoes... but the zucchini is producing like crazy.  This is what I have in my freezer:

 Enough grated zucchini to last me what seems like FOREVER.  So my wonderful mother has been emailing me link after link of zucchini recipes! LOL.  She bought some cinnamon chips from The Prepared Pantry that she hasn't used yet, so she let me use them to make this recipe for Cinnamon Burst Sour Cream Zucchini Bread from the Prepared Pantry site.

And it was DELICIOUS!  It was so incredibly moist, plus the cinnamon chips melted, leaving behind cinnamon swirls that seemed to have a bit of crystall-y stuff that gave it a bit of crunch -if that makes any sense.

The only problem was one of my loaves stuck on the bottom of the pan, so this is what I got.  Next time I'll use CAKE RELEASE (see THIS post) -it hasn't failed me yet.

Here is a shot of it when it's cut.  Doesn't it look delicious?  I'm so glad I can add that to my list of great foods to make with my never-ending zucchini supply. 

Have a great Friday.  I have some other posts I've been working on writing up -because I've still been baking/cooking and crafting, just have been a slacker when it comes to actually doing up the posts.  I hope to try to schedule those for while I'm gone.  Although, last time I tried the scheduling stuff, it never posted it when it was scheduled.  We'll give it another shot.

The recipe is included below.

Cinnamon Burst Sour Cream Zucchini Bread 

(source: The Prepared Pantry)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini squash
1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together.  Fold in the sour cream, oil, and zucchini.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  Pour the batter into two well-greased (or greased and floured) loaf pans.  Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until done.  Cool for ten minutes on a rack before removing the loaves from the pan.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

SYTYC -T-Rex Cake Tutorial

So we FINALLY got a real surgery date for Chloe.  The surgery will be September 10th -which also happens to be Carter's first day of Kindergarten (*sniff*).  So that will be one more thing I have to miss.... I'm finally starting to get over it a bit, but I was pretty bummed.  I know he probably won't remember his first day of kindergarten, but it's my first child going to kindergarten and it was kind of a big deal for me. 

But I know Chloe needs the surgery as soon as possible -she is getting more and more tired.  It's weird -she's actually taking NAPS!  Almost every day for the past week or so!  And, for those of you who know her, that's saying a lot.  She doesn't usually slow down for anything. 

She and I will have to go up on September 4th for a Pre-Admission clinic and 3-D MRI in the days leading up to the surgery.  Wish us luck!  And pray that no stubborn, active girl decides to tear out her IV's (or breathing tube) on her own. lol (I don't know why I put LOL when I would definitely NOT be laughing if that actually happened... knock on wood).

Well, now that that is out of my system... Since I missed Foodie Friday this week, how about just reposting the T-Rex Cake tutorial that was posted at So You Think You're Crafty earlier in the week?  Sound good? Ok!

Here it is:

 First off -thanks to everyone who voted for me!  This is pretty exciting for me.

And secondly.... hold onto your hats -this is a lot longer post than I thought it would be.  All ready?  Ok, then here we go!

First things first - you need to bake some cakes. I used a cake mix (for this one it was a Funfetti mix) but I "doctor" it a bit to make a denser cake. Not only does it taste better than a plain cake mix, but it's also sturdier and will hold up better when stacked.

Here is that recipe
Beat together (like you normally would make a cake mix):
1 cake mix
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream

I baked 2 7-inch oval cake layers and still had enough for a dozen cupcakes. If you don't have oval pans, you could make a larger circle pan and just trim it into the shape you want. Oh, and pop on over to this post for a cake release recipe- it will make easier to get your cakes out in one piece -minus the mess that you get when greasing and flouring pans. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

So make sure those babies cool completely. You may want to let them cool and then wrap them well in plastic wrap and do the decorating the next day just to give the cakes time to settle (and you a bit of a break).

When you're ready to decorate, you'll need a board. You can pick up foam core sheets at Michael's or probably even Staples. Get the thinner stuff (I think it's 1/4 inch). You'll want to cut it with an X-Acto knife the shape you want your dinosaur head to be.  I traced around the oval cake (leaving about 1/4 inch extra all around to account for adding icing and fondant). Then I added on a snout shape to the front.

Next you will need to level your cakes. Use whatever you are comfortable with. My mother let me use her cake leveler. But you could level it out with a large knife. Or hold a piece of dental floss (unflavored!) TIGHTLY between your hands and, using a sawing motion from side to side, slowly work the floss from the far side of your cake towards yourself -keeping your hands as close to the same height as possible.

Put some frosting (go here for my Buttercream Frosting recipe) down on your board. Lay one cake layer on the board -cut side UP (smooth side down). Then ice the whole top of that layer. Place the other layer on top of the first -cut side DOWN. This way the top AND bottom are the smooth sides.

Now comes the part that takes a bit more creativity.  The oval cake forms the main part of the head.  You will need to sculpt the snout, round out the back/sides of the head, and make a "dome" for the top of the head.

I started off using Rice Krispie squares.  You can either use the store bought kind (those individually wrapped ones) or you can use homemade -whichever you prefer.  My mother had a ton of store bought ones, so we used those.  Whichever kind you use, make sure you squish them pretty well so they don't break down or fall apart.

I wrapped the rounded Rice Krispies around the back of the head and part way around the sides.  You will need to attach these with icing.  If they will not stay on well in certain places, a well-placed toothpick can work wonders... as long as you remember to take it out when cutting the cake!  Ouch!

I used more Rice Krispies to make a "dome" shape on the top of the head as well.

But I was running low on Rice Krispies (and was too lazy to want to make some homemade ones at the time), so we opted to make a kind of "clay" like you do for cake pops.  We had baked some cupcakes and a small cake with the extra batter.  So we crumbled up the scraps (from when you leveled your cakes) and the extra cake into a bowl.  Then add a bit of icing at a time -you don't want it too soft.  Knead if up with your fingers until it is moist and holds a shape.  Use that "clay" to sculpt other parts of your dinosaur's head.

I used a knife to shave down the oval cake near the snout to give it the right shape.  Using fondant tools (or your fingers or other kitchen utensils), make indents for the eye sockets and the nostrils.  Then make an indentation for the mouth.

Put frosting over the whole cake.  This is a perfect time to fill in any gaps or irregularities in your Rice Krispie parts.  Try to get it fairly smooth, but it doesn't have to be perfect since it will be covered up.  And I don't there were any dinosaurs with perfectly smooth skin and no odd lumps... but I'm no expert.

Now you will need your fondant.  You can use store bought fondant (make sure to use your 40% off coupon if you are buying at Michael's!) or make your own marshmallow fondant.  I made the marshmallow kind because it's cheaper and tastes way better, in my opinion.  You can add in some modeling chocolate if you like, but don't have too.  I added a little, but only because my mother (who teaches cake decorating classes) had some on hand and brought it over for me.  Don't you love moms?  She brought all her fancy cake decorating toys for me, gave me tips, and watched the kids the whole time!  She's basically Super Woman.  Anyway, if you make marshmallow fondant, make sure you err on the side of stiffness.  We had to roll it out three times and keep adding powdered sugar each time because it was too soft and was tearing.  If it's too stiff, add some shortening, if it's too soft add powdered sugar.  But go slowly -just add little bits of either at a time.

Use some fondant to make a rope like shape.  Use pieces of this "rope" (with the ends rolled to points) to make the brow bones over your eye sockets.  Shape them the way you want them.

Leave some fondant white, but color the rest pale green.  Now you're ready to roll it out.  Make sure your surface is well greased with shortening (you can use a clean table top or a rolling mat).  Roll it out so it's about 3/8 inch thick (and as even thickness as you can) and large enough that it will cover the WHOLE cake and hang AT LEAST to the table top.  CAFEFULLY lift your fondant and place it gently over your cake, making sure it hangs at least to the table top on ALL sides.  Then, starting at the top, slowly and carefully smooth out the fondant -working your way down.  You may have to lift it away from the cake in spots and then smooth it back down.  Make sure you shape it to the curves of your cake -getting it in the nostrils and eye sockets, brows and mouth line.  Once you have it smoothed all the way to the bottom, start trimming (with a sharp knife) the excess fondant from the bottom.  Smooth it to the edge of the board as well.

For the next part I found it easier to raise the cake up.  I had mine on a cake turn table, but added a sturdy, upside down plastic container that was smaller than the cake between the cake and turn table so I could get my tools right up to the bottom of the cake. 

I got out a large round shaped cake decorating tip and pushed it gently into the fondant all over -just to make a circular indent that looks like scales.  Do that over all the cake.  You could leave a bit of the eye sockets with no scales if you like.

Now comes the really fun part -seriously, I felt like a professional make up artist doing this.  Haha.
I used cake decorating "dust".  Mom had a big palette with all kinds of colors, but you can buy individual colors too from cake decorating stores or online.  You can also use non toxic colored chalk and grind it up... but that's a lot more work. 

Take a soft bristled brush (that has NEVER been used for paint!) or a NEW, CLEAN make up brush to dab and dust it on.  I did some dark red/burgundy and some grayish black in the mouth crease.  Then did the scales with yellows, greens and a bit of dark brown.  This is really all up to your preferences.  Start lightly -you can always add more, but it's harder to UNDO it later.  You can tap out some excess powder onto a paper towel so you don't get any dark streaks or large solid patches.  You can easily go back later to the paper towel and pick up some of that excess powder with your brush so you don't waste a lot.

After you have done that, you can add some sparkly (edible) dust in spots.  You can buy that at the same place as your other "dust".  I'm lucky in that I have my own personal "store" of supplies in my mother.  If you are really interested in trying it out and can't find any, jump over to my blog, The Crafty Conundrum and leave a message for me.  I'd be happy to ask the pro for you and let you know where exactly you can get your hands on some.

Now we can make the eyes and teeth, which will make your dinosaur even scarier!  For this I used some more fondant (white this time) and added a bit of gum paste (this is available in the Wilton aisle at Michael's).  Knead the gum paste into the fondant well.

Then I took two pieces the same size and rolled them into balls.  Then slightly flattened them with my finger.  I used a small ball tool (fondant tools) to make an indent where I wanted the pupils to be.  Then colored a tiny amount of fondant dark brown.

I made two tiny balls with the brown fondant.  Dab a LITTLE edible adhesive on the back of them and place them into the indents in the eyes.  Then flattened them down to the level of the eyes around them. 

Then put some adhesive on the backs of the eyes and attach them to the eye sockets.

Break up 1/4 tsp gum paste into 1 tbsp water.  Mix.  Store in a small covered container or jar at room temperature.
** Make sure to cover the fondant you aren't using in plastic wrap.  You can also coat it (very thin coat) with shortening with your hands before wrapping it, to keep it from drying out.**

Now take some more fondant and roll it into a long, thin rope.  Cut the rope into short pieces of varying lengths.

Roll one end of each piece to a point.  You can leave these teeth straight, or you can curve them a bit -it's up to you.  Put a dab of adhesive onto the backs of the teeth and attach them to the dinosaur's mouth.  You may have to hold the teeth in place for a few seconds to make sure they stick.

Now the final thing you need to do is put the cake on a board or cake stand.  You can use the thicker foam core sheets and cut the shape you want.  Then you have some choices.  You can wrap it in foil, cover it with fondant (use piping gel to stick the fondant to the board), or put ribbon around the edge of the board to hide the raw edge of the foam core.  Or you could even cover a cutting board or put it on a cake stand.  You can stick the cake on to the board using icing or piping gel.  And.... You're done! You made it! Hooray!

I went one step further -but it's not necessary -and made fondant letters with fondant molds to spell my son's name.

 I just love how it turned out -not TOO scary, but not too cute.  The boys loved it.  But they all fought over who got to eat the eyes and the teeth. LOL.

And if you made it this far, thanks for being patient with this long-winded tutorial.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cake Tutorial up at So You Think You're Crafty

The T-Rex Cake tutorial is up over at So You Think You're Crafty!  I will post it here next week, but if you're interested before that you can go over there and check it out. 

And while you're there.... don't forget to VOTE! Yahoo!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Foodie Friday #41 - Honey Chicken and Veggie Kabobs

It has been so HOT here (like humidex of 42 degrees celsius), so I had no desire to turn on the oven.  Instead I made these amazing Honey Chicken Kabobs with veggies.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, but adapted it a bit.  I made the sauce pretty much the same, just added some garlic powder.  And I used red, orange and yellow peppers, onions, mushrooms and grape tomatoes for the veggies.  Although I would skip the grape tomatoes next time.  They cooked way too fast so they were squishy by the time the chicken was done. 

They turned out great.  I love the sweet flavor of the honey marinade.  Yum! Definitely a keeper.  You should give it a try -you won't regret it.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Foodie Friday #36 - Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

I can't believe it's Friday again already!  Time goes by way too fast and I can't seem to keep up with it.  The weather here has been rainy for the last several days and so the kids are driving me nuts.  They go crazy when they are cooped up that long.  I still haven't had a chance to get my garden in because of the rain -but that's probably a good thing since it might snow (WHAT??!) here tomorrow!  Gross!

So here are some little morsels to brighten your spirits -chocolate is good for that.  How about some delicious No Bake Cookies?

 Combine the sugar, cocoa and milk in a sauce pan.  Bring to a rolling boil and then simmer for 2 minutes.

Add butter, peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal.


Spoon onto waxed paper and cool in the fridge.  Yes, it's really that easy!  And they are so tasty with a cold glass of milk. Yum!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk

Simmer 2 minutes after mixture comes to full rolling boil

Then add:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups oatmeal.

Stir together and spoon onto wax paper.  Put in the fridge to cool.

Join me every Friday for Foodie Fridays