Friday, July 29, 2011

Plastic Bag Storage

*Disclaimer* I want to say upfront that this is not my original idea.  I don't remember which blog I saw it on but I think it is genius.  With that being said, shall we proceed?

We try to shop with re-usable shopping bags as much as possible, but it does not always work that way and sometimes we come home with a collection of plastic bags.  I usually shove them all together and hide them in a closet until I get fed up with them.  I always intend to recycle them, but unfortunately it just doesn't always work out that way.  Those little fabric sleeves are nice but I think the bags tend to get stuck in them and occasionally cause fits of stomping on them in the floor (hypothetically of course).

So...I saw a brilliant post on a link party one week where a blogger was folding her plastic bags like a flag (or a paper football) and storing them in a glass jar on her counter to be re-used as needed.  I think it is such a neat and orderly option to reigning in these plastic hooligans.

Once they are folded, they are also the perfect size to store one in your purse for an emergency and a couple in the glove box of your car.

If you don't know how to fold a flag or paper football, I will try to explain it below:

1. Fold the bag in half - length ways

2. Fold the bag in half (length ways) again.

3. Starting at one corner, fold the corner over to meet the edge so it makes a triangle.

4.  Continue folding the triangle up until you have folded all of the bag.

5. Tuck the loose edge into the pocket of your triangle.

6. If these directions are as thoroughly confusing to you as they seem to be to me, Google flag folding and I'm sure someone else will be able to better explain the technique.

File this under "Why Didn't I Think of That?"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pirate Party Preview

Just a sneak peek at what we have in store for our upcoming Pirate Birthday Party.

Plenty of more swashbuckling action to come.

Hmm...what could we be doing with these???

Biscuit Donuts

I came across this recipe last week and I thought - fried biscuits?  Count me in!

I woke up Saturday morning and since I had all the necessary ingredients I decided to go ahead and give it a whirl.

The ingredients couldn't be simpler - 1 can of regular biscuits (not flavored, not flaky), enough vegetable oil to cover 1/2 the biscuit when placed in the frying pan and powdered sugar (red ceramic chicken optional).

Take each biscuit and use your fingers to make a hole in the center, pinching the edges.

Heat up enough oil in your frying pan (medium high heat) to cover half the biscuit donut.  Place in the pan and cook until golden brown, turning once. 

I found that I had the best luck using a chopstick to turn the biscuits.  It was easy to manipulate the golden mounds of dough and keep them from splashing you with oil.  Also it didn't pinch them like tongs would.

Once the color of perfection, allow them to drain on a paper towel.  Pour powdered sugar into a brown paper lunch bag, add the donut and shake until it is adequately covered.

Then, devour.

Now, I don't expect these to replace Krispy Kreme by any means.  And they are more like a little funnel cake than a donut, but who doesn't love funnel cakes?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Creative Gift Wrap Ideas

To continue our theme from yesterday here are some creative gift wrapping ideas.  And while this is geared towards Christmas these could really be altered for multiple occassions.

I love a well wrapped gift.  I like to give someone something that they get pleasure from just looking at it before they even know what "it" is.  It lets the person know that they are special enough for you to put forth a litte effort.

Here are a few ideas.

The first tip is not a wrap idea per se but a strategic suggestion.  Start wrapping early.  This way you avoid the stress of sitting up on Christmas eve wrapping all of your gifts to go under the tree.  I tend to shop early and I have found that if I start wrapping items as I start shopping my holidays are a lot less hectic.  In order to make this successful you need to keep a good list of who you have shopped for and what you bought them so you aren't peeling back the tape on everything to see if it is the tea pot for Grandma or the shaving kit for your Uncle.

I love this next idea from none other than Martha Stewart.  Use potato chip bags!  Cute, right?  Thrifty and green - got to love that combo.

Using natural objects for embellishments is always a welcomed idea.  Collect shells while you are on vacation and store them for this year's gifts like this idea from Real Simple.

I like to save my Christmas cards from previous years and use the front of the card as gift tags.  Simply cut the front of the card, hole punch, tie a ribbon through and sign it.  You can sign the back of the tag or use a pretty gold paint pen to write on the front.

The next idea is one of my favorites - use the sheet music to Jingle Bells (or any other Christmas carol) for wrapping paper!  That is really cute and so creative.

Is there a gift you need to mail?  How about replacing the styrofoam with peppermint candies?  This idea could also be used if you are placing a smaller box inside a larger box to throw off the recipient.

I hope you will try out some of these ideas for your celebrations.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas in July

For the next several days I will be posting Christmas in July ideas.  Can you believe we are this far through the year?

I actually bought my very first Christmas gift yesterday - a Melissa and Doug Band in a Box for K.  How long do you think she will have it before I regret that purchase?

I love all things Martha Stewart.  I've been a fan since she first started out.  She has come out with some really adorable ideas for Christmas crafting.  Now is a great time to start on some lovely handmade gifts, before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

First up this really sweet Sock Dog.  How can you not love that face?

He would make a cute gift.  Ooh, could you imagine a fleet of these antlered cuties attached to a little sleigh???

I really L-O-V-E this next project.  It would look so great on my table.  I can imagine using it for spring holidays as well.

And last but certainly not least - don't these candles look super chic?  These would make delightful teachers gifts, co-worker gifts, favorite blogger gifts (just saying).  Everyone uses candles in their house either lit or just for looks.

So there's your inspiration for holiday spirit for today.  Break out those glue guns and get cracking!  We'll be hearing the jingle of sleigh bells before you know it.

Tomorrow I will highlight some creative gift wrap ideas.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Soaking Beans

Dried beans are an economical choice for a meal (and a meatless meal at that) and don't we all need something economical these days!?!

I'm not much with a pressure cooker so my only option for cooking dried beans while I am at work is in the slow cooker.  This requires me to soak them overnight.

Well I have found a new use for my salad spinner - it is perfect for soaking beans.  My salad spinner has a lid, an outside solid plastic bowl and an inside basket with holes in it.

I just sort the beans, place them in the basket, place the basket in the bowl, fill with water and put the lid on. Easy, peasy!

Once the beans have soaked overnight I just remove the basket and pour them into the slow cooker.  It's nice to have the bowl and strainer all in one gadget.

Granted, draining your beans in a colander is not a huge burden and doesn't take a lot of time, I think it's good to find other uses for your kitchen gadgets.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Birthday Countdown Calendar

K is so excited about her birthday.  At almost 3 she lacks a concept of time.  I remembered how much she loved the Advent calendar we use at Christmas and thought a Birthday Countdown Calendar was in order.

I used one piece of canvas, different colored felt, Velcro & a little paint.

You can chose to paint the canvas if you want but I really didn't think it was necessary.

Decide how many days you want to countdown.  We chose 15 days and decided we would use felt balloons.  You could do stars, flowers, candles on a birthday cake - the possibilities are endless!

Decide on a shape and cut out the pieces from felt.

Assemble the pieces on your board.  I experimented with different layouts - in rows, in a bouquet, scattered around the page and decided I liked them in a row the best.

Once you have your shape laid out, attach Velcro to the back of the shape and the corresponding spot on the board.

Number your shapes and paint the title at the top and you are good to go!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Caprese Salad Bites

I just love a good Caprese salad.  Fresh, quality Mozzarella, red ripe tomatoes, the pungent flavor of basil a drizzle of Balsamic and a little sprinkle of sea salt on top.

That's your recipe right there.  Nothing to it - just simple, quality ingredients that make for an elegant appetizer and great light summer dinner or side dish.

I like to serve this as an appetizer.  I assemble them on porcelain Won Ton soup spoons.  These are great for one bit appetizers.

For this particular arrangement I drizzled some Balsamic salad dressing (I like Ken's Steakhouse Balsamic vinaigrette) in the bottom of the spoon so that is the last thing to hit your tongue.  Top that with some cut up Bocconcini and a cherry tomato sliced in half.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt and some small shreds of basil.  These are so good. 

I finally had to move the tray to a higher point on the table because K swiped a spoon full every time she passed the table. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mickey Mouse Party

So as you know, we are in full throttle birthday planning mode for K's Pirate Party!  And it is coming at me hard and fast.  I am a little stressed about getting everything done but super excited for it to happen.  (I'm kind of giddy about getting to share it with all of you, but in due time my dears)

For K's second birthday we had a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse party. 

*Disclaimer - the party was by no means photographed for a blog tutorial so please forgive the pitiful pictures.  I will still attempt to provide as much detail as I can...*

First of all - Invitations.  Really, I don't have anything against store bought invites.  I have even been known to use them in the past, but I don't prefer them.  We actually went a really low maintenance route for K's invite.  I took an image of Mickey and the gang and photo shopped K into the picture and had them printed in a local photo lab (i.e. Wal-Mart).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Snow Cone Cupcakes

We are obviously on a cupcake trend this week.  But it's hard not to be with so many great cupcake ideas out there to find.

I love making snow cones and have a tabletop ice shaver that my darling husband bought for me.  So I was so excited about these Snow Cone Cupcakes!

Check out the instructions here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Banana Split Cupcakes

Cupcakes are so cute and especially chic right now.  The folks at has a lovely twist on the mini cupcake craze - Banana Split Cupcakes!

These would be perfect for an Ice Cream Social themed birthday party.  So adorable!  Find the instructions here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

This recipe is in regular rotation at my house.  The original recipe is from Betty Crocker.  It can be found here.  It is certainly good enough as is but we like to change it up just a little bit.

* 1 package of boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
* 1/3 - 1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
* 6 cups frozen (thawed) Southern Style Hash brown Potatoes
* 1 cup sour cream
* 1 can cream of celery soup
* 1 can cream of mushroom soup
* 1/2 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing
* 1/2 cup shredded cheese
* 2 Tbsp melted butter
* 1 sleeve crushed Ritz crackers

Toss chicken in hot sauce.  Combine potatoes, soups, sour cream, cheese & dressing.  Spoon into greased (Pam spray) 13x9 baking dish.

Place chicken on top.  Sprinkle with Ritz crackers.  Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 20 more minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is no longer pink.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cow Appreciation Day

Have you "herd"? Today is Cow Appreciation Day.  Seriously.  In order to spread a little bovine love, here are some cow inspired ideas to help you celebrate today.

Paper Folding Cow

TP Roll Cow

Cow Sock Puppet

Bento Cow (so cute!)

Hope you enjoyed this round-up of cute cow ideas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

DIY Tutu

This afternoon K will take her very first ballet class.

So in honor of her new adventure I want to encourage you to make a tutu for your Prima Ballerina.  You only need two things - elastic (enough to go around the child's waist) and tulle in your choice of colors.  You can always add embellishments as well if you would like.

Measure the elastic and tie it in a knot or stitch the ends together, whichever you prefer.

Stretch the elastic around a book or binder.

Cut the tulle into strips based on your child's height.  Stack two pieces of tulle on top of each other and either tie it around the elastic or fold the pieces in half and pull the ends through the loop so it secures the pieces around the elastic band.

Continue all the way around the elastic.

Once you have finished you can add a satin bow or large flower to the center of the band.  One of the prettiest examples that I have made was a tutu made with dark purple and lavender tulle.  We then glued small silk violets all over it.  Of course, I gave it as a gift and never photographed it...

Another option is to make matching tutu's for dolls.  For a Barbie use a hair rubber band.  For a larger doll, use thinner elastic and follow the steps above.

Photo courtsey of Family Fun

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pea-Free Layered Salad

I happen to love peas.  Those tiny little green globs of sweetness goodness really appeal to me.  In fact, K loves them too.  My husband, not so much.

So here is a new take on layered salad that does not involve peas.  The dressing is not sweet like traditional layered salad either.

Feel free to use whatever veggies you would like but these are the ones that we like:

Layer #1 Leafy Green Lettuce

Layer #2 Carrots

Layer #3 Cucumbers

Layer #4 Yellow Bell Peppers

Layer #5 Mushrooms

Layer #6 Cherry Tomatoes

Layer #7 I like to top it off with more Leafy Green Lettuce

Layer it all together nicely.  Okay, pretty nicely minus that one rogue cucumber that wanted to get out of line.  Mix the dressing up the day before but don't pour it on until you are ready to serve or you will have an ugly soggy mess. (Hmmm, how would I know this...)

Here is the recipe for the dressing.  It's really more of a guideline.  I like to play around with the seasonings based on what I am serving that day.  And you can adjust the mayo, milk and sour cream ration based on personal preferences - thinner or thicker, tangier or milder. 

1 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/2 package of Ranch Dressing Mix (or more to taste)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp All Purpose Seasoning Blend (again, more or less to taste)

After putting the dressing on the salad, you can top with shredded cheese and bacon if you would like.  Yummy, yummy, yummy!