Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sara Jane: Microwave Caramels

Hey everyone.  Sorry I've been a slacker.  Our advent calendar kind of took over around here and its been fantastic :)  Tonight, the advent calendar insisted we go caroling with our lovely friends.  It was perfect!  

For our goodies plate that we handed out while caroling, I made a delicious and simple caramel that I had to share with you.  These caramels weren't the absolute best I have ever had but they were pretty stinkin' good and only took SIX minutes to make.  Yes, you read that correct.  SIX MINUTES!  I found the original recipe here.

6-MINUTE CARAMELS
Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar1/2 cup brown sugar1/2 cup light Karo syrup1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
sea salt

Directions:


First, line a dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking oil.  Next, Combine all dry ingredients in a large microwavable bowl.  Mix together.  Add butter.  You don't need to mix it in.  Just stick it in.  Then, in the microwave, cook for six minutes, stirring every two minutes.  Be careful when you take the bowl out...its going to get hot!  After your six minutes are up,
 pour into greased dish.  Again, the bowl will be VERY hot so be careful when you do this.  

After I poured my mixture into my dish, I sprinkled a good amount of sea salt on top because I like salt on my caramel.  If you don't like salt, omit.  

Since I needed my caramel to set quickly, I put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  After it had cooled enough that I could work with it, I took it out, cut it into little logs (about 2 inches by 1/2 inches) and wrapped them up in parchment paper.  

There you have it.  I hope you are all having a very enjoyable December.  

Sara Jane









Friday, December 14, 2012

Allison: White Chocolate and Candy Cane Popcorn

Hello again!  Just dropping in for a quick post.  I just decided to make some goodies on a whim.  Not really a good idea if you're home all day, and trying to lose baby weight.  Hmm...  But I have to share this treat with you!  I made this last year too, and it is so addictive:  White Chocolate and Candy Cane Popcorn.



Here's what you need:

*popcorn
*white chocolate chips
*candy canes

Pretty tricky, huh?  I don't exactly have the amounts, as I kind of eye-balled it.  Remember how I'm always talking about how lazy I am?  Well, I cheated and used microwave popcorn bags, and made the whole process that much easier.  The funny thing, is that both times I've made this, I've only had the single-serving-sized bags of the Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Corn (the low-fat/calorie kind).  It still worked great, and even added a little more flavor.  I think I used three bags (after burning one).




I then used a double broiler to melt about 1/2 a bag of white chocolate chips.  Once that was done, I poured the chocolate over the popcorn in a large bowl and used a rubber spatula to mix it together.

To allow the chocolate to cool, I poured it onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Finally, while the chocolate was still melted, I sprinkled crushed candy canes over the top.  I always have crushed candy canes in my pantry.  Never know when you'll need it!

Lastly, give it away quick, before you end up eating it all yourself.  I think the whole process took maybe 20 minutes (and that was with some snacking).  Enjoy!!



Allison

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Allison: Christmas ABC Book

Hello, everyone!  I know we've been a little unreliable lately with posts, but we're figuring it out.  This is our first Christmas with a blog, and the balancing act is a little tricky.


Today, I'm going to share the text from the cute ABC Christmas book that I posted some pictures of last week.  This was such a fun project to put together as it brought back so many fun memories from my childhood.  In case you didn't read my last post, this ABC book was a book that my Grandma Golda put together for each of the families of her children.  The book includes a Christmas card for each letter of the alphabet, with a cute sentence.  I remember sitting for hours and looking through this book.  Sara and I have had ambitions of recreating this book for year.  We've been collecting cards, but this year I decided it was time.  Sara had given me the cards she had collected, so I made her a book first.


It was really easy to put together.  I felt a lot of freedom to make it specific for Sara's family, and didn't worry too much about making it look exactly like my Grandmother's book.  You can find the text here.
I used the font "Harrington".



I found this photo album at Joann's for $12.99.  Of course I used a coupon and it ended up being closer to $7.  I also used my favorite little paper stamp to round the edges of the letters and text (also from Joann's).  As far as the lay out of the book... that's up to you.  Have fun with it!  The book only had 10 pages, front and back, (though inserts were available), so I doubled up on some pages.

I hope you all are wrapping up your Christmas gift shopping/creating (pun intended), and have some time to relax and enjoy the season.  Until next week...


Allison

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Allison: Christmas Projects and Ornament Books

Hello again!  I've meant to post various times the last couple of weeks, but it just hasn't happened.  But I have a few posts planned for the next week.

Christmas projects are in full swing here at my house, so I thought I'd share what I've been working on.  Since we've been married, I've wanted to make our own family stockings.  So this year, I finally started!  I've completed Brent's stocking and my stocking so far.  Two more to go!  Here they are:

Brent's stocking (left).  Allison's stocking (right).

Each ended up being such a quick project and so fun to make.  I'm excited to see all 4 hanging above the fireplace.

I've also completed an ABC book that I gifted to my sister, Sara.  We grew up with a similar book from my Grandma Golda, and Sara and I have talked for years about creating some new ones to give to our siblings.  I'm planning a post in the next week or two to share the great text with all of you so that you can make your own.  Start collecting Christmas cards!  Here are a few pages:





I've also been working on our immediate family's presents.  Both my family and Brent's exchange presents with one other sibling's family each Christmas.  I decided to add a little more stress to my life by making them myself.  I've wanted to make some kind of quilted project for my sister-in-law, Tammy (Brent's sister), so I made her and her family a Christmas tree skirt.  It turned out so cute and I hope their family enjoys it.


I'm currently working on a gift for the family of my brother, Briant, but I'm not ready for pictures yet.  And of course these cuties have kept me mildly busy.



See why I haven't posted lately?!  But the project I wanted to share this week, are these family ornament books.



Does your family buy special ornaments each year?  Or maybe you have ornaments that have been handed down.  I saw the idea on Pinterest to create a book with pictures of each special ornament and the story behind it.  That way, years from now, the story of each ornament can be passed down.

Making these cute books was super cheap and easy.  I found these little photo books for a dollar at Joanns, allowing me to change out the cover pages.  Then I simply scrapbooked a small page with the title of the book.  Easy!

Next, I took pictures of each special ornament, and through Powerpoint inserted the year and wrote out a simple description of the ornament and its significant.


I also think I might include a "family picture" of Christmas morning each year.  I'm excited for the day that my kids will look through their books each Christmas, as they hang their special ornaments on the tree.

I hope you're all enjoying your Christmas projects, and not stressing out too much.  Don't forget to remember the reason for the season.  Have a great week!


Allison

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sara Jane: Pumpkin Scones

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours was full of family and food. 

Last Saturday, I escaped for a few hours to go Christmas shopping.   On my way out of town, I stopped by Ruby Cakes, a bakery that only has Gluten Free and Vegan sweets and everything is delicious!  When I walked into the bakery, I spotted the scones.  They had a pumpkin/cinnamon chip scones that looked heavenly so I grabbed one and headed out.  The first bite into it was an explosion of flavors in my mouth.  Along with the expected pumpkin flavor was a syrup with seeds and nuts.  I can't even explain it.  I was floored by how yummy it was.  From then on, I have been wanting another one of their delicious scones but haven't had the time to go get one.  

The other night, several hours after Ruby Cakes had closed, I REALLY wanted a pumpkin scone so I attempted to make my own.  I altered my recipe quite a bit so I will repost the entire recipe here for you.  I basically cut my original recipe in half, eliminated the milk and added the pumpkin. 

PUMPKIN SCONES



Ingredients
*3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for hands and parchment
*1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
*1 1/4 tablespoons baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*6 Tablespoons shortening
*1/4 cup butter
*1 can of pumpkin (I can't remember how many ounces but use the smaller can of pumpkin)
*1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice

Icing:
*2 cups powdered sugar
*1/4 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the scones: In a mixer, blend dry ingredients, shortening and butter together thoroughly until mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the pumpkin and mix for about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.  If the mixture looks to be too dry, add a few tablespoons of milk; if it looks to be too wet, add about a 1/4 cup of flour.  Be careful not to overmix. Flour hands and shape dough into a large circle about 10 inches in diameter. Cut into 6 pie shaped pieces and sprinkle with sugar. If you want to do a shape, like I did, roll out your dough until it is about 3/4 inch thick and then use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven and let cool completely.


To make the icing: Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Mix for about 30 seconds or until thick. Drizzle scones with icing. Let icing harden before serving.


One more thing....I have a new favorite gift to give.  Sticky Grams.  They are soooo fun!  The site takes your Instagram pictures (which I am slightly obsessed with) and makes them into little magnets.  I received the few that I made for my in-laws yesterday and I can't get over how absolutely adorable they are!   Check them out!

Loves!

Sara Jane


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sara Jane: Test Kitchen

It seems I have been spending most of my days in the kitchen lately.  It always happens this time of year and....I LOVE IT!

Last week, I had my 6th annual Cookie Swap!  It was a blast.  If you have never been to or heard of a Cookie Swap, you really must find one to go to.  At my cookie swap, we each brought 6 dozen cookies and a dish to share.  Then, for a few hours, we ate, gabbed and exchanged cookies.  Always a highlight of the season for me!  I am already planning next year's event (too early???).

For today's post, I am being your test kitchen.  There are so many recipes on Pinterest that look too good to be true so I am testing them out for you.  Some worked marvelously....others not so much.  I will share the link to where the recipe is originally posted and then share with you any changes I made to the recipe and/or my review of the recipe.  Here we go....

PF CHANG LETTUCE WRAPS

I discovered PJ Chang Lettuce Wraps a few months ago thanks to my beautiful friend, Amy.  I am in love with them.  I would eat them daily if I didn't live so stinkin' far away from our PF Chang.  I have, however, been known to crave them and drive the 1.5 hour round trip just to be able to fulfill that craving.  Worth every mile, I tell you!

I always see recipes on Pinterest claiming to taste exactly like the original PF Chang recipe.  I found one yesterday that made my mouth water so today, I tried it.  The recipe can be found here.  I really didn't change the recipe at all other than I used ground chicken instead of whole pieces.  Does it taste exactly like the original recipe....no.  Is it good....yes!  I can't quite figure out what is different so I think I will go grab an order of Lettuce Wraps at PF Chang and try to figure that one out.  Do you see how much I love all you blogger friends :)


PUMPKIN BROWNIES

This next recipe I saw just a few days ago.  You've probably seen it, too.  Check it out here if you haven't.  You take one boxed brownie mix and add one can of pumpkin to it and bake it as you would normal brownies.

I didn't love this recipe.  In fact, I REALLY didn't like it.  Here are my thoughts.

1.  I love batter.  This batter was not good.  I mean, REALLY NOT GOOD!  That should have been my first clue :)

2.  The original recipe says to bake it for 25 to 30 minutes...it took me an hour and ten minutes to get the thing to set!  Even then, it was super gooey (and not the good kind of gooey).

3.  The taste just isn't quite right.  I love pumpkin and chocolate together but you couldn't taste the pumpkin.

Bottom line...I will not do this recipe again.  I would rather continue to make my brownies from scratch or, if I do use a boxed brownie mix, do it how they recommend on the back :)

SINGLE SERVE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE

I try not to eat many sweets so we usually don't have many sugary items in our house.  However, sometimes I get crazy cravings, usually involving chocolate, and when I do, I always go to this next recipe.  

Some people call it chocolate chip cookies in a mug but this blog has the best version I have seen of the single serve chocolate chip cookie (and believe me, I have tried several versions).  Does it taste exactly how a chocolate chip cookie SHOULD taste?  Not so much but it is really yummy and always fulfills my craving for chocolate.  I would change nothing about her recipe.  I only should warn you that you may want to have a glass of milk next to you with this dessert.


TAKE-OUT, FAKE-OUT BEEF & BROCCOLI

I don't remember loving broccoli as a child.  If my memory is correct, it was Allison who liked it.  As an adult however, I LOVE broccoli.  I actually have a post ready about my (and my children's) three favorite ways to cook broccoli...another day.  I really could eat broccoli for every meal.  Yum! So, when this recipe popped up, I tried it right away. 

The only thing I changed about this recipe is that after the meat was mostly cooked, I added 2 to 3 Tablespoons (I can't remember exactly but I think it was 3 T) of brown sugar to the meat and let it create a glaze on the meat.  It makes it have more of the Mongolian Beef flavor but I like the sweetness.  Other than that, I changed nothing!  Make sure not to let your broccoli cook for too long otherwise it becomes super soggy.  Serve over rice and maybe with this salad (which is also a fav of mine).

If you guys can't tell, baking/cooking brings so much happiness into my life.  I know there are so many people out there who really don't understand that but it is 100% true.  Just remember, like I have said several times before, its OKAY to mess up and order your favorite pizza instead.  That's how we learn and how we figure out what we like and don't like.  I will continue testing out recipes and get back to you with another Test Kitchen Post beginning of next year.  

QUESTION:  Are there any recipes out there that you're wondering if they really work?  Let me know and I'll try them out for you :)
Loves!

Sara Jane

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Allison: Fall & Baking

Hello!  Something amazing has happened this last week: Autumn finally arrived in Arizona!  Well, at least in the mornings.  That chill has hit, and I've had to pull out my flannel pajama pants, and socks.  Of course by about 11 am, it turns warmer, and I regret the socks.  Oh well.  But at least for the mornings, I'm happily chilled and ready for hot chocolate and a warm fire.  What else usually hits me around this time of year?  A desire to bake!  So I scoured my "Cookie" board on Pinterest and besides being embarrassed by how many pins are there, I found my new favorite recipe: 5 ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies.

I found the original recipe here, and had serious doubts about how good they could possibly be.  With the base cookie only consisting of peanut butter, sugar and an egg, it doesn't make sense, but it works and I may never go back to the traditional cookie.

Sort of forgot a before picture, but here's the aftermath.  

To make things even better, the cookies are dipped in melted chocolate, and then in chopped peanuts.  AMAZING!  The cookies literally fall apart in your mouth while the chocolate and crunch of the peanuts just add to the experience.

Here's the basic recipe:

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

Chill dough for half an hour.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

These cookies are a little brittle, but that gives you a chance to sample your work.  :)

I didn't have baking chocolate, so I melted 1/3 of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double broiler on the stove (a glass bowl over a bowling pot of water).  I also didn't have plain peanuts, but I had honey-roasted peanuts.  I chopped them up and they worked perfectly.

I hope the rest of you are enjoying the Fall weather and changing leaves.  Have a great week!


Allison


Monday, November 12, 2012

Lisa: Thankful!

Hello, again!  I hope everyone had a terrific weekend.  We did here with our foot of snow that fell from Thursday night till Sunday morning!  We made snowmen, forts, igloos and lots of snowballs!  There was even talk about sleeping in snow caves but I think we'll leave that for another time.  We didn't do sledding yet.  We are waiting till there is a nice base on our favorite hill up American Fork Canyon.  (Shaun, wanna go with?)  That is a favorite tradition in our home.  We sled and sled until everyone is thoroughly sick of it and then we have some homemade soup that we packed up with us.  Good times!

Two weekends ago, my family got to participate in a 5K in support of my husband's Uncle Dean who was just recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.  
Dean, on the left, with some of children and their spouses.

This uncle and his family are amazing!  Instead of looking at this as devastating, they have decided to pull together and be grateful for all that they have.  Being a family of runners and iron man competitors, they put together an opportunity for everyone to come out and support Dean with a Team IronDean 5K!  

My kids and their papa in the background!
My girls and husband after the race.

It was a cold morning but they had over 450 people out in support of Dean.  It was wonderful to see them and see their attitude.  They are inspiring!!

It was a great opportunity to have especially right before Thanksgiving.  It helped me to remember how an "attitude of gratitude" can change a life!  Earlier in the year, my family and I started a gratitude jar. 

 We write things we have done, things that are said and, overall, just things that we've experienced as a family and are thankful for.  We plan on opening it on Thanksgiving and reading them out loud.  

As the quote on the jar says, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of Life!"  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Lisa

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sara Jane: Thankful tree and Chicken Curry

November is always the month that I take a little more time to think about those things in my life that I truly am thankful for.  I know I'm not the only one because my Facebook feed is full of what everyone else is thankful for, too. :)  I enjoy reading what others are grateful/thankful for.  It makes me smile.

When my oldest, Penelope, was just a little baby, I started a thankful tree and have been doing it ever since.    It is nothing fancy.  I simply cut out a brown tree trunk with a few branches and then everyday in November, we each write something (or in Penelope's case, 5 somethings) we are thankful for on simple little leaves.  Our first tree was very small.  Now, with five of us writing thanksfuls on it, the tree has become quite large.  It takes up the entire side of my refrigerator.  Not the prettiest site to see but it warms my heart whenever I see it.


The tree looks quite bare right now but by the time November is through, our tree  (and refrigerator) is  overflowing with leaves.
Now, the fun part.  When November is through and it is time to put up all my fun Christmas decorations, we carefully take off all the leaves and put them in a labeled box.  Each year we have done this, I have simply put the boxes in storage.  This year, however, we are going to wrap the small box up and make it into an ornament on the Christmas tree.  I really think it will be fun to someday look at these when my children are grown.

Now that Penelope writes, it is really fun to help her spell out what she is thankful for.  
I can't leave with out sharing with you my favorite recipe.  Chicken Curry.  I never knew I liked chicken curry until several years back when we went to our friend's house for dinner and they served it. It was like love at first sight! Amazing! After this heavenly meal, the search was on for the perfect chicken curry recipe that I could actually make. While trying to use up a gift card at Borders, I found a rather intimidating Indian cookbook called The Complete Book of Indian Cooking.  It is now the ONLY curry recipe I use.  The recipe may look overwhelming at first, but don't be fooled. If you can follow directions, then you can make this recipe. The spices can be found at most supermarkets. I buy mine in bulk at a specialty store but I have also found them at Safeway and Albertson's (they just tend to be more expensive there).  If you really can't find the spices locally, try this ordering them online here.  The spices that are in this recipe are always in my cupboard now and I do buy them in bulk to make sure I ALWAYS have them.  I have made this recipe probably 100 times and have altered it a bit so I will give you my version of the recipe.  Here you go....

Chicken Curry


Ingredients:
4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves
6 green cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick (2 inches long)
3 whole star anise

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed (If you buy already minced garlic like I do, I add 4 teaspoons)
4 tbsp mild curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp five-spice powder
3 lb chicken, skinned and chopped into bite size pieces 

14 oz. Canned tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. Creamed coconut (sometimes I add an entire 14 ounce can for a more mild, soupy curry)
 2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a pan at a medium high heat and fry the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon stick, star anise, and curry leaves until the cloves swell.  About 5 minutes should do the trick.  You will know its ready when you can smell all the spices.
2. Add the chopped onion, and garlic and fry until the onion turns light brown. Add the curry paste, turmeric and five-spice powder and fry until the oil separates.
3. Add the chicken pieces and mix well. When all the pieces are evenly covered, cover and cook until the meat is nearly done.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the creamed coconut. Simmer gently until the coconut dissolves. Mix well. Fold in the chopped fresh cilantro, then reheat and serve hot.  I never find that this needs salt but if yours does, then add it.


We usually eat our curry over rice but lately it just feels like too much food so I eat it as a soup instead.  If you are feeling extra adventurous, try this naan recipe.  It is delicious and goes excellently with the curry.

We had extra tonight, so we gave some away.  
One last thing before I end my longest post EVER!  One month ago, we acquired our dog, Jack.  I have never really been a fan of dogs but seeing that my husband and children all wanted one, I thought it was probably time we get one.  We looked for months but couldn't find one that went well with our family.  Then one day, everything fell into place and Jack moved in with us. This dog is incredible.  He is gentle (well as gentle as a 105 pound boy can be) with the children and follows me everywhere.  He has melted my heart. So, today, I am thankful for my new buddy, Jack.  He has been the perfect addition to our family!






Allison: Fancy Cookies Part 2 & Giveaway!!

                                     ***************GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED******************


Hi again! This morning my friend, Amanda, and I were able to finish our cookies from yesterday. My two-year-old almost thwarted our plan with a runny nose, but we pushed on.  Modern-day pioneers, huh? :)


After outlining and "flooding" the cookies yesterday, the royal frosting had finished drying completely overnight and was ready for a little more detail. If you didn't read Part 1 from yesterday, here's a link. We used the same piping bag of frosting to add the veins on the cookies today. This part went really fast, though maybe I should have slowed down a little.  :)



I thought this was such a fun activity to learn, that it made me a little sad that I hadn't tried it earlier.  One of the many reasons I'm grateful for this blog, is that it forces me to be creative and to try new things.  We've had this blog up for a little over 6 months now, and just reached 15,000 views today!  That definitely deserves a giveaway to show our gratitude to all our friends, and new friends that take the time to see what we're up to.  So here's the question for today's giveaway:

What is something creative that you would love to try/learn, but have been too scared to actually do?

If you answer that question before Monday morning, you could win a mini-starter kit to decorate your own cookies. This kit will include:

Meringue powder (frosting recipe is on Part 1)
Disposable frosting bags
2-Tips
Gel food coloring

Thanks for sharing in this new venture.  And a HUGE "thank you!" to my friend, Amanda, for teaching me.  I can't wait to try decorating cookies again. Now I challenge you all to go out and try something new. Have a great day!


Allison

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Allison: Fancy Cookies Part 1

Hello, again! I'm so excited to share what I did this morning. For awhile now, I've wanted to learn how to decorate sugar cookies. I'm not talking pre-made frosting and some sprinkles. Instead I've wanted to learn the fancy decorating with frosting that wouldn't cause all my cookies to stick to each other, and fun details. I've watched multiple tutorials, and pinned too many pins on Pinterest, but have been too scared and lazy to try (that's a bad combo!).

Then this last Christmas, my good friend, Amanda, brought the cutest cookies to our church cookie exchange, and we made plans to make some together. Then we both got pregnant and life got a little crazy. The cookies would have to wait.

Now that we both have newborns, and our two-year-olds are playing better together, we thought we'd give it a try. Amanda originally learned how to decorate the cookies with this tutorial from Annie's Eats, making cookies using this recipe and the frosting with this recipe, also from Annie.  Amanda jokes that she feels like she knows Annie after watching tutorials and followings her tips.  :)



I think the hardest part to this whole process was actually trying it. I was surprised how easy it actually was, and how fast it went, once we got started. Prepping the frosting with food coloring and getting it to the right consistency can take a bit of time, but they turn out so cute, that the time is worth it.

This middle pic is me trying to help still while I was nursing.  :)


Nap time was quickly approaching so we decided to finish the cookies tomorrow morning. Make sure to check out tomorrow's post to see how they turned out.

If you're interested in trying these fun cookies, I strongly recommend getting a group of girlfriends together and giving it a try. I can't wait to see the finished product! Until tomorrow...  Oh!  I also think we have to have a giveaway to celebrate 15,000 views to our blog!  It's going to be a fun one, so make sure to enter tomorrow.  So mysterious, right?  :)


Allison

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lisa: Election Night

Hello, everyone!  Happy Election Day to you all!  My family and I are very excited about this time of year and today most especially!  My daughter got upset yesterday when she thought I was going to turn off the news because she just wanted to hear as much as she could about the elections!  It probably helped that when our ballots came in the mail this year, I let my two youngest help me fill in the candidates that we are voting for.  They feel invested and interested which is what I'd like to teach them about elections in America! To help all my children (and my nephew who is now living with us!) understand the importance of voting and our democracy, I have a few other plans for tonight.

First of all:


 I found a map that the children can color red or blue as the exit polls come in and we can tally the electoral votes.

Another thing is to have a dinner with red and blue themes:


Drinks of red, white and blue.

I have some food planned but no pictures yet!  I'll post them when I do.

Don't forget to get out and vote!  Have a fantastic day!

Lisa

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sara Jane: Christmas Cards

I know you're thinking, "Did she just name her post 'Christmas Cards'?"

Yep, I did.

I have Christmas cards on my mind right now. I am getting ready to order Christmas cards for my dad's business (Did I tell you I work a day a week at my dad's office?  Its pretty fun!) and have been playing around with my own Christmas cards for the last few weeks.  I thought I would share with you what I have been up to.

Recently my good friend, Annie, took some family photos for us.  It was a cold, rainy day but we went for it and got some really great shots.

This picture is perhaps my favorite of all she took because it captures, 100%, my little Penelope.  This picture makes me smile whenever I see it.


For our family Christmas card, I chose my favorite group shot, added some text and am now preparing to send it off to the lab so I have my cards plenty early and don't have to worry about them anymore.  I tend to like simple cards.  I have seen some beautiful elaborate cards but they just aren't me.  So, I did my own Christmas card using Photoshop and here is how they turned out...


I will have them printed on metallic paper.  If you've never seen black and white photos on metallic paper, you need to.  They are quite stunning!  My SIL, Amy, did my son's birth announcements on metallic paper.  At first, I was a little worried, having never seen it done before, but she told me to trust her and man, am I glad I did.  Anyway...I did a couple of test cards this past week where I had the lab send me the photos done a few different way which really helped me figure out what I wanted.

You're probably thinking that this is an awful lot of worry about just a little Christmas card.  It probably is but why send out Christmas cards to friends and family if it doesn't represent you and your family 100%?

Here are a few of my favorite sites to use when preparing my Christmas cards and when getting prints.

Tiny Prints - When I don't "make" my own cards, I always buy my cards from Tiny Prints.  I love all the different styles of cards they have for every occasion.  Their prices are pretty reasonable, too.

Replicolor - This is the lab I used to order my prints on metallic paper.  VERY reasonable pricing (trust me...I have done all the comparing) and the prints turned out very true to the original.  I have tried ordering from Walmart and other "local" photo labs recently and I am ALWAYS disappointed and end up having to go back in and return the pictures.  Replicolor lab is a great lab!

Winkflash - This is the lab I use to order my prints the rest of the year.  Their canvases are a great price and their photos never disappoint.

Photoshop - I do realize that Photoshop is not in everyone's budget but if you can buy it (or know someone who has it and will let you edit some photos on it), you can do some really fun projects with your pictures.  They have free month-long trials...check it out.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Sara Jane

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Allison: Tutu's and Superheros

Hello, again and Happy Halloween! I've been having so much fun preparing my kids' costumes this year. For Isla's first two Halloweens, Old Navy did all the work. But I really wanted to make something special for my girls this year. I grew up with an amazing mother that always made our costumes, and I'd love to carry on that tradition.

My older daughter has been completely obsessed with Tinker Bell for awhile now, so this costume was a given. I'd seen multiple tutu tutorials on Pinterest, and thought I'd give it a try.  I love the tutu that Sara shared on this post.  I followed the tutorial found here and only made a couple of adjustments. I used my ruler and mat to make the cutting of the strips a little easier. Tulle can be hard to work with, but this method made it more manageable.



I also alternated colors to add more dimension. I definitely recommend putting the elastic or ribbon on the back of a chair while you tie the tulle. This was very helpful and made the work go pretty quick.  Just be careful not to stretch the elastic too much, or you'll end up having to cut it down.  Overall, I love how it turned out!



To finish off her costume, I made two small tulle puffs to tie to her shoes, and bought a pair of white wings. The hardest part of the project was finding a green shirt to match. After looking at multiple stores, I decided I'd have to dye a shirt myself. I had never used RIT dye, but figured it wouldn't be too hard to figure out.  Once I discovered this site, it was a piece of cake, and came out the perfect color.

She looks a little dazed, but you get the idea.  :)

For Norah's costume, I kind of cheated.  I saw something about Wonder Woman on Pinterest, and sifted through a bin of baby clothes a friend of mine had given to us.  After finding something that would work, it only took a few sewed lines, and some felt to turn my baby into a superhero.  I am in love with the final result and had a lot of fun putting it together.  She was pretty much a hit at our church Halloween party.  :)



Wonder Norah!

I realize that today is Halloween, and these "ideas" don't really help you now.  But I figured tutu's and costumes are fun to play in all year round.  I hope you all have a safe and fun Halloween!



Allison

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sara Jane: Berry Crisp

For the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to serve a sweet friend of mine, who has been in need of a little extra TLC, by taking her dinner.  My sweet friend is gluten intolerant so I have challenged myself to find delicious recipes that are within her strict dietary guidelines.  I have had so much fun doing this.  You would think that cooking for 6 extra people would be difficult but it really has been so easy and quite relaxing.  I don't know how else to describe it.  I have LOVED every minute of it and have found some pretty yummy alternatives to foods we eat all the time.  I will be compiling the recipes I have made along with some other delicious finds in a blog for my friend.  I am sure she won't mind me sharing the blog with you when it is finished.

With each yummy meal, I have tried to make a dessert that goes along with it.  I usually alternate between a fresh fruit dessert and a gooey chocolate dessert.  Yesterday, I made a creation that I know isn't new to anyone but it was so tasty last night at 10:00 PM that I have to share it with you.


Berry Crisp

I call this "Berry Crisp" because you could use any berry in it and it would still be delicious.  We happen to have raspberries so that is what I used.  I would just make sure to adjust the amount of sugar you use if you use a less tart berry, like a blackberries or blueberries. 

The only way this crisp is really different from other crisps I have made is that I didn't use flour in the topping.  Last week, I made my friend an apple crisp and used quinoa flour in the topping.  I didn't like the after taste that the quinoa left so I omitted that this week and actually enjoyed it better than my usual crisp topping.  

Ingredients:

4 cups berries (I used frozen berries from this summer; fresh would be delicious, too)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want your berries)
2 Tablespoon cornstarch 
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375*.

Toss your berries with the cornstarch and sugar, coating the berries. Set aside.

To make the "crisp" topping, combined your oats and brown sugar.  Pour your butter over the oats/brown sugar and mix together.  It should be very clumpy.  If it isn't, add more oats until it is.

To assemble the dessert, I filled small jars 1/2 way full of the berry mixture and then topped them with the crisp mixture.  When you have both in there, you should have your jar about 3/4 full.  Leave some room so when the berries start bubbling they don't over flow.

I put the full jars onto a pan (to catch any runaway berry juice) and cooked them for about a half hour or until the topping was nicely browned.

Since I was taking these to my friend and not eating them right away, I let the jars cool for about 10 minutes and then capped the them with a lid and a band.

* I find that when I make berry crisp with just sugar, the juices are too runny.  The cornstarch thickens the berry juices giving it more of a sauce feel.  If you don't care for that consistency, omit the cornstarch and just use the sugar.  

*If you feel like you need more or less of the oats, sugar and/or butter for the topping, then adjust to what YOU like.  We like a lot of oats in our topping so I tend to put a bit extra in.

*Since I knew a jar portion would be too little for my hubby, I cooked his crisp in an cereal bowl that was oven safe and it was the perfect portion for him. 

I really am so grateful for the opportunity to serve and hope that I can always serve with a happy heart, even if it doesn't involve food :)

Loves

Sara Jane

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Allison: Halloween Treats

Hello again! Isn't my sister, Lisa, such a fun mom? I love reading about their fun family traditions. I can't wait for my little ones to be old enough to participate in and start some new family traditions.

This week, I thought I'd share one of my favorite treats to make almost any holiday of the year. I don't have a name for them so we'll call them holiday pretzels. I know I've seen these on Pinterest lately, but I've been making them for almost 10 years now, thanks to the Kitchen family. I lived with three sisters in college and spent a Thanksgiving with this amazing family, where we made these fun treats. I've been making them ever since (with a few changes).

Here's how you make them:

Step 1- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2- Unwrap A LOT of Hershey Kisses.



Step 3- Spread mini pretzels on a baking sheet and place 1 unwrapped kiss on top of each pretzel.

Step 4- Place the cookie sheet in the oven for about 2 1/2 minutes.

Step 5- Pull the tray out of the oven, and press one M&M down on each kiss.

Step 6- Allow pretzels to cool (or sneak a few while they're still gooey.  Yum!).

The finished product and my "helper".

See how easy that was? I also love this treat because little ones can help with the first part. I usually don't let them push the M&Ms down as the pan and chocolate can get pretty hot. I can't wait for my little ones to be able to join me in making these! For now, my two-year-old is way more interested in eating the supplies.

After having made these for years, I've found a few tricks or ideas to share:

- With all the different kinds of Hershey Kisses, you can definitely use more than just plain chocolate. The melting time may be reduced or extended. I usually open the oven and test pushing a M&M down in one of the kisses. If it doesn't go down easily, it's not melted enough.

- An even easier way to change the flavor is to switch out different M&M flavors. I've used peanut, almond, mint and any other fun flavor available. The holiday pack colors also make then more festive.

- Be careful not to let the chocolate melt for too long in the oven. The chocolate can over cook, causing the tip to harden and add a degree of difficulty to your project. I always set a timer since I've forgotten a batch in the oven more than once.

- Once the chocolate is ready, push the M&Ms down as quickly as possible. As the chocolate cools, this gets harder to do.

- Sticking the tray into the fridge or freezer will speed the cooling process (obviously). They also store really well in either the fridge or freezer in a Ziploc bag.

These are the perfect treat to gift or have at a Halloween (or any holiday) party.  But watch out... they're addictive!!  :)  Hope you all enjoy this treat and have a great week!

P.S.  You might see some day changes for the next few weeks.  For a little while, we'll now be posting just Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (I still went a day early... oops!).



Allison


Monday, October 22, 2012

Lisa: Eyeball Pie and Some Ghostly Friends!!

Hello!!  I am very excited about this time of year!  I love the fall and the beginning of the Holiday Season.  The cool weather, nice storms and the excitment for our traditions just makes it so enjoyable! 

I have a few traditions that my kids, my husband and I have formed over the years.  I tend to be the room mother of one of their classes so we have Halloween Parties at school that I am incharge of.  I try to have four stations that the kids rotate through: a craft, a food, and two game stations.  One of the crafts that we do that is very easy and popular (because it invovles candy!) is:

Tissue Paper Ghosts

These are super easy, especially for the younger children.  I think my sisters will remember these because we use to make them growing up!  They are simple but so fun for the kids to make and decorate the house with! 

Supplies:
Kleenex Tissues
Lollipops
Ribbon/Yarn
Sharpie/Marker

Directions:
Cover a lollipop with a tissue.  Tie around the top of the stick to keep the tissue in place.  Draw a face onto the tissue.  Easy.  You probably didn't even need instructions!
 
Another tradition that we do during the month of October is Halloween food.  We love to come up with scary/gross food to eat.  But not too scary or gross!!  I thought I'd share with you one of those recipes.  This one is called:

Eyeball Pie   

























Ingredients:
1 medium potato, shredded and drained (or just squeeze out the juice)
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 c. butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste
4-8 eggs

Directions:
Take 4 mini pie tins and divide the shredded potato between them.   Press the potato up the sides and bottom of the tin.  Drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of butter over potatoes in each pie tin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes begin to crisp.  Then, into the hashbrown crust, sprinkle bacon and cheese.  Over the top of the pie, add a cracked egg or two.  Salt and pepper the egg, to taste.  Finally, drizzle the remaining butter over the top of the eggs and put back into a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  It is really a nice breakfast treat.  My picky child even declared she wanted this every morning (but to be honest, she'd say that about anything with bacon!).

And finally, what is Halloween without decorations?  I love Halloween decor but not the scary stuff.  I prefer the cute!  One of the things I got last year were these

 Mummy Blocks


These are so cute and easy to make but they are one of my kids' favorite decorations!
 
Supplies:
Wood of any size
White craft paint
White fabric, torn into 1" wide strips
Googley eyes
Black craft paint
Sponge brush
Glue gun
 
Directions:
Take you wood pieces and paint white.  When paint is dry, wrap blocks with fabric, making sure to put a little bit of glue under the fabric each time your wrap it around the side of the block.  Next take your black paint and just dry brush the edges of the block and bandages, in the manner you see above.  Finally, glue on your googley eyes and there you go.  Simple and awesome!
 
Well, there are a few of our traditions for this time of year!  Hope you enjoy!
 
 
Lisa
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sara Jane: Pumpkin Bag Giveaway Winner...

Hey everyone.  Thank you for all your comments.  I love your holiday traditions you shared.

Alright, we have a winner for the giveaway...

Rebecca Wray!

Her holiday tradition was:

"My dad used to make a big pot of chili on Halloween night.  We would take a break from trick-or-treating and eat a bowl with some corn bread.  I love those memories and hope to do the same when my kids get older."

What a fun dad!

Rebecca, send your mailing address to fivecraftysisters.blogspot.com and I will get you the bags ASAP.

Thanks again, everyone!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sara Jane: Felt Pumpkin Bags

***Giveaway is now closed***

Have I told you how amazing my/our mother is?  Well, she is.  She always has been, too.  She was the mom who was always volunteering in the classroom.  She would give demonstrations at school on how to make bread or sew an apron.  She made (back when you could take homemade treats) birthday treats for the class when our birthdays came around (keep in mind she had 7 children).  She was very involved in PTA (her fundraisers funded the new playground when I was in elementary school).  She was/is amazing!

One of the fun things I remember her doing for at least a few of my school classes were pumpkin bags for Halloween.  She would spend hours cutting and sewing the bags and then stuff the cute bags with little treats and plastic spiders.  

A few years ago, I came across one of my pumpkin bags from my childhood.  At this time, Penelope was just beginning to understand how fun Halloween and other holidays were.  I made a pattern off of the bag, made 10 bags, and then Penelope and I took them to her favorite people (I think one actually made it back to my mom).  We had so much fun doing it that it has now become a tradition in my family and I hope to someday get to take a tray of them to my children's classes.

With special permission from my mother, I am going to share these bags with you.  Here we go...


First, you will need black and orange felt and ribbon for the handle.  My mom always used green ribbon so that is what I have used. First, cut out a pumpkin, a mouth, a nose and two eyes.  For the nose and eyes, I just cut random triangles so each pumpkin was different.  If you would like a copy of the template I used for the pumpkin and the mouth, either leave your email in a comment or email me at fivecraftysisters@gmail.com and I would be happy to send one to you.  I could not get the template uploaded.  Next, using your hot glue gun, glue on the eyes, nose and mouth making sure to leave enough room for a seam.


Next, you sew the pumpkin together, making a bag.  A few things to remember: (1) be sure to add the ribbon into the first few stitches, (2) make sure to back stitch the beginning and end and (3) make sure to keep the top open - You may be thinking "duh"...I've sewed the top shut before :)

I had quite a difficult time sewing these little guys this time around.  My thread kept breaking, my needle broke....needless to say, these bags are in no way perfect but I am sure the children who receive them will still love them.  I tried hot gluing the pumpkin pieces together and it worked really well.  I just like the look of the black thread on the orange felt :)



When you are finished sewing, this is what your bag should look like.


We like to fill ours with our favorite candy and I always add, just like my mom did, a plastic spider ring.  This year, we are also adding Dracula teeth.  



Penelope can't wait to hand out her favorite little goody bags.  



Now for the giveaway that I promised back here...

I will be giving away TEN pumpkin bags to one lucky reader (treats not included). 

All you have to do to be in the running to receive these is leave a comment on what your favorite holiday tradition is in your family.  This giveaway will close at 12:00 AM on Saturday morning.  That way I can mail the bags to you in time for Halloween.



 I hope you guys enjoy these bags as much as we do around here.

Sara Jane