Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puppy Love

About a month ago, Abe was given a mylar balloon at a baby shower we went to. He played with that balloon like it was his best friend...until it lost it's helium and I threw it out while he was asleep. He didn't seem to notice it was missing until a few days later when he started wandering around the house calling "ballooooooon!" 

When his dad came home on Valentine's Day, he ran to the door to meet him, then stood at the door and squealed as he watched Noah pull this balloon out of the car. Needless to say, it was a very happy Valentine's Day!

He's had fun running around the house with his dog, and this morning even asked to ride his "horse!" (Yep, he's still wearing his Halloween pajamas four months later.)

Maybe we should start looking for a real dog...although mylar balloons are refillable, right?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homemade Bubbles

In my house growing up, bubbles always appeared in our Easter baskets...along with kites, sidewalk chalk, and other "it's still too cold to play outside, but we really want you to play outside" presents. Our bubbles were usually gone by the end of the day, and that pretty much did it for store-bought (or bunny-brought) bubbles until the next year. Luckily my mom had a few tricks up her sleeve and, with some pipe cleaners and a little dish soap, she could make us disappear for awhile with a fresh batch of homemade bubbles.

You'll need:

2 cups water
1/2 cup liquid dish soap
1/8 cup corn syrup
large container for mixing

Pour all the ingredients into a large container and shake it up. (Empty milk bottles or Tupperware containers with a tight seal work great.) Allow the bubbles to settle for a few minutes before using. 

These bubbles worked great, although I noticed once the solution sat in the bottle for a couple of days, I had to shake it up to remix the solution.

Abe loves bubbles. Even before he could talk, he figured out where I kept the bubbles, and would sit there pointing up at the shelf waiting for me to figure out what he wanted. No wonder "bubbles" was one of his first words!

Of course, bubbles are even more fun when you have a friend to share them with!

You can always make your own bubble wands, but if you start out with store-bought bubbles, hang onto the wands after the bubbles are gone. Trust me, you can never have too many bubble wands!

Monday, February 20, 2012

King Cake

I wanted to make a king cake for Mardi Gras, and after looking at a number of recipes, I discovered that it doesn't really matter what you put in the cake but the dough is always the same - active yeast required. The last (and only) time I made a king cake the traditional way, it ended up about as dense as a bagel. I have no luck when it comes to baking with yeast, but everyone loved that king cake. It was hard to chew, but tasted great!

This time I decided to skip the traditional dough and use my grandma's potica dough instead. In fact, I basically just made an apple potica, minus the apples, and topped it off with a lemony glaze and sugar sprinkles in the traditional Mardi Gras colors.

Of course Abe couldn't care less what kind of dough I used, but he was all over the sugar sprinkles!

For the dough, you'll need:

2 cups flour
1/2 egg (This is what comes from dividing my grandma's recipe. I cracked the egg into a measuring cup, scrambled it a bit, then used half - about 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
extra flour for kneading

For the filling, you'll need:

3-4 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup cinnamon

For icing, you'll need:

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the sugar sprinkles, you'll need:

3/4 cups sugar (1/4 cup for each color)
yellow, green, red, and blue food coloring

1. Mix all the dough ingredients together. Knead dough for 15-20 minutes, or until dough is smooth and not taking in any more flour.

2. Roll the dough into a ball and rub the outisde with a little oil. Place in a bowl and allow to rest 1½ hours or longer so it can be pulled.

3. Once the dough has rested, cover your table with a clean sheet (I use a cheap one I picked up at Ikea that is dedicated to rolling out dough) and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough in the center of the table and roll out with a rolling pin until it is about 10 inches round. Brush with melted butter to aid in pulling.

4. Pull the dough until it is paper thin. Go slowly to prevent holes and tearing. The dough will cover about a 2x2 foot area.

5. Brush the dough with the remaining butter and sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar evenly over the entire surface.

6. Using the sheet to aid you, roll up the dough to make a long tube. If you slowly lift one side of the sheet, the dough will start to roll over on itself.

7. Carefully transfer the dough to a well-greased sheet pan and shape it into a circle. Tuck one end into the other, and brush the top with melted butter.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

9. Whisk together the powdered sugar and other ingredients to make the icing. Drizzle over the baked cake.

10. Mix a few drops of food coloring with 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until the colors are well blended.

If using red and blue to make purple, mix two drops of red with two drops of blue before adding the sugar, otherwise you'll end up with red, white, and blue sugar instead of purple!

11. Sprinkle colored sugars on the cake.

12. Insert plastic baby or pecan from the bottom and serve.

Whoever gets the plastic baby (or nut) makes the next one!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mardi Gras Coasters

Living in New Orleans for four years, I collected a lot of Mardi Gras beads, but when I moved back to Minnesota I only brought a small box back with me. I saved the ones that were rare or special (parade medallions, extra long or large beads, unusual shapes), and gave the rest away. Luckily I had a friend who was riding in a parade my senior year, and float riders always need beads!

Reusing beads as parade throws is great, but if you're planning to throw a party, why not recycle some of those beads to make these coasters! Great for Mardi Gras or any other holiday (use red, pink, and white for Valentine's Day...green and gold for St. Patrick's Day...red, white, and blue for the 4th of July). So round up some beads and laissez les bon temps roulez!

You'll need:

Mardi Gras beads
felt (cut into 3-4 inch circles)
fabric glue

Lay your beads out before cutting to measure them. Beads that are 24 inches long are the perfect size for making 4 inch coasters like the white one in the picture above. A 16 inch string of beads will make a 3 inch coaster. The smaller ones are fine for soda cans and plastic cups, but the 4 inch coasters are best for larger, more fragile glasses.

1. Find the point where the string of beads is joined together - usually two beads melted and mashed together to make one. Cut this deformed bead off the string.

2. If your string of beads has a small medallion attached, use a pair of pliers to remove the medallion and reattach near the end of the string. 

3. Cut a felt circle for each coaster and add a drop of glue in the middle.

4. Wrap the beads around the circle adding glue as you go.

5. Continue until you run out of beads; then lay on a flat surface and allow to dry overnight.

6. Once the glue is dry, add a few stitches to secure the beads to the felt backing. This step is optional, but it will prevent the beads from being pulled off accidentally, especially if you add a stitch at the beginning and end of the string of beads.

7. Trim the felt backing, if necessary, and your coasters are done!

If you live in New Orleans and would like to recycle/donate your beads, ARC (www.arcgno.orghas four drop-off locations:

925 S. Labarre Rd. - Metairie
5700 Loyola Avenue - Downtown
333 Sala Avenue - Westwego
3406 Hessmer Avenue - Metairie

ARC packages and sells the donated beads and other throws. If you are riding on a Mardi Gras float, consider purchasing some of your throws from ARC! For purchasing information or more recycling information call 504-837-5105.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Super Bowl Party

A couple weeks ago we had Noah's family over for a Super Bowl party.

Although we'd been planning to throw a party all week, we sort of threw this one together at the last minute... 

...so we served chili because it's fast and easy...

...and chicken wings, because you can't watch football without a plate of hot wings. Noah made the wings and spent the rest of the evening saying that he should have made more. He should have...they were really good!

I made a couple silverware caddies by painting two tomato cans with acrylic paint. I painted right over the paper label which looked a bit like leather once it was dry. 

With so many kids we knew we'd need a few games and activities to keep them occupied. My first thought was coloring pages. I found these football coloring pages and printed off a few helmets for the PatriotsGiants, and Vikings (since kids mainly just care about their favorite/home team). My sister-in-law said my youngest nephew has been carrying his pictures around ever since.

Next up was Super Bowl Bingo (found here). It was fun...and delicious.

My husband came up with the best game of the day. Pin the football for a field goal!

I made a quick goal post with painter's tape and a bunch of construction paper footballs. We blindfolded the kids, gave them a spin, and sent them on their way! Any football that made it between the uprights earned a prize.

I served microwave kettle corn in boxes I made by printing a football field on cardstock. I didn't want the boxes to be too tall, so I trimmed the paper after printing, and used the leftover strips for decorating the candy dishes for bingo.

We saved the sweets for the second half of the game. Grandma brought cupcakes...

...I picked up some Oreo footballs...

...and served my frozen football ice cream bars.

They were a big hit! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Conversation Hearts

I've wanted a laminator for years and finally bought this one for only $16.99 when it went on sale around Christmas. When it arrived I threw it in the closet with our unwrapped Christmas presents and it's been sitting there ever since! I finally tried it out on these sweet conversation heart dry-erase magnets. (If you don't own a laminator, you can get these laminated at your local copy store, or cover them with clear contact paper.)

1. Print out the heart template (available here), and cut out hearts.

2. Laminate the hearts and trim.

3. Attach a strip of adhesive magnetic tape to the back.

4. Write messages on front with a red marker. Regular markers will work, but the writing will smear if you touch it. Dry erase markers are less likely to smear, just give them a few seconds to dry. Use a damp paper towel to erase and add new messages whenever you want!

5. Attach to a card with tape or a second magnet and share the love!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Color-by-Number Valentines

Nothing beats a handmade valentine, but one that lets the recipient have a little fun isn't bad either. 

These color-by-number valentines are a sure way to keep kids busy...and a great way to get rid of some of those stray crayons that like to follow kids home from birthday parties and restaurants!

Just print the valentines onto cardstock, cut out the cards (I used these postcards which are perforated, so they were easy to separate), add names and Valentine's Day greetings on back, then cut a couple slits in each card and slide two crayons into place. (Complete instructions included with the PDF.)

Each hand-drawn puzzle contains a hidden picture or message. Color all the spaces marked with a 1 one color, and the spaces marked 2 with the other. If you come to a space with no number, leave it white.

These valentines are available as a free download right here. I included two options for the back of these cards. One option has a different Valentine's Day greeting for each card, and the other just has the to and from spaces with room to include a personal message. 

These were far more complicated to create than I originally anticipated, but they were so much fun. I hope you enjoy them!