Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chocolate Milk Pops

There is nothing like a fudge pop. Creamy. Chocolaty. Delicious. Unfortunately, I rarely buy fudge pops, and although I feel like I've pinned a million recipes for making fudge and pudding pops, they all require some amount of cooking, so yeah, I've never gotten around to making them. Until now...

This is not technically a fudge pop recipe, but it has the same creamy, chocolaty flavor, and it's as easy as mixing up a glass of chocolate milk! And just in case you're wondering, eating three of these guys is the same as drinking a small glass of chocolate milk. Just make sure to leave some for the kids!


Ingredients

2½ cups whole milk*
½ cup Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

Directions

To help the popsicles freeze faster, and prevent the chocolate from sinking to the bottom, place ice pop molds in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making the popsicles. Measure the ingredients into a container with a spout and mix well. Pour into ice pop molds, and top off with milk, if necessary, to fill the molds. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze. Makes 10 (using this freezer pop mold).

*I used whole milk for this recipe, but these should be just as good with 1% or 2% milk. Just avoid skim (it's too thin and watery). Most fudge pop recipes call for Half & Half or heavy cream, so even using whole milk, this version contains a lot less fat.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Simple Things

5/24/2012 10:08 AM - Nikon D700 | Manual | 50mm | ISO 1600 | f/2.8 | 1/60 sec 

Link up at Simple As That. (See all of my Simple Things posts right here.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today Noah and I have been married for 5 years! Time really flies when you're having fun...and buying a house...and having a baby. No wonder it went so fast! 

Photo by Liz Banfield

I'll be sharing more of our wedding photos next week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shade Garden

Every winter I save a few cuttings from my annuals to make my trips to the greenhouse a little less expensive in the spring. They sit in little jars on the windowsill above the kitchen sink and make me long for spring...especially by the end of the winter when the tiny clippings have turned into trailing vines! 

Cutting from a Wandering Jew Plant

This cutting was from one of the plants that did well in our front window box last summer. I always have a hard time finding plants for that box since it's almost completely shaded. There aren't many flowers that do well in the shade, so I tend to buy plants with pretty foliage instead. 

Chameleon Plant, Nonstop Yellow Begonia, and Charmed Wine Oxalis

This year I filled our window box with begonias, a Buttercup Ranunculus'Charmed Wine' oxalis, a Chameleon Plant, a fuchsia, some pale yellow petunias, dusty miller, and the Wandering Jew I'd saved from last summer.

Shade Garden

I'm hoping my little garden still looks this good at the end of the summer (please ignore the mud splattered widows), but I'll have to wait a few weeks to see if these plants survive in the shade.

Do you have any favorite shade plants? Know of any good plants to grow from cuttings? (I've also had luck with coleus, impatiens, fuchsias, and mint.) Any other tips for growing a garden without spending a lot of green?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Local Attractions: MN Landscape Arboretum

We've gone to the auxiliary plant sale at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on Mother's Day weekend for the last few years now. This year was no exception...only this time the weather was gorgeous (it's always been cold or rainy in the past), so we spent the rest of the day exploring the Arboretum's gardens.


We picked up some nice plants at the plant sale. I came home with a new peony and a gorgeous clematis, and Noah picked out a few little hostas for our front garden. We now have 10 different types of hosta in that garden!


Noah's mom brought our two nephews, who kept Abe happily entertained even while we were looking at plants. The boys had a ton of fun just running around being boys...no girls to slow them down! 


After stopping by the car to drop off our newly purchased plants, we took a stroll through the Arboretum's tulip gardens and experienced some major tulip envy.


Tulips are my favorite flower so you'd think my yard would be full of them. I've planted tons of tulip bulbs, but I think the squirrels must have dug them up because I only had three tulips bloom this year! 


They're also never this pretty. It's easy for me to get lost at the Arboretum since I want to take pictures of everything, so when I finally tore myself away from the tulips, I found that everyone else had moved on. I didn't know where they went so I started wandering around, and came across the azaleas which were in bloom.


Maybe I need an orange azalea in my front yard...


After admiring the azaleas for awhile, I called Noah and made plans to meet up at the Japanese maple near the entrance to the sensory garden.


Noah's mom took a picture of us in front of this maple tree a few weeks before we got married almost five years ago. It's one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. Last year we got a shot with Abe in front of the tree, so we decided to make it a tradition and posed for a quick family photo. 


Then we found another gorgeous tulip garden. What I wouldn't do for a garden like that! And this one is in front of the restrooms! I'm not even sure those toilets have plumbing... Tulip. Envy.


Since the boys were getting tired, we decided to take a short walk through the Woodland Wildflower Garden. It's a paved trail that's nicely shaded and at certain times of the year you can spot Minnesota's state flower: the pink and white Showy Lady's Slipper.


They weren't blooming this time around (I think they bloom around the end of June/beginning of July), but there were a bunch of these yellow lady's slippers.


This trail is great for kids because it has all these fun little trails and bridges that cross a tiny stream. It feels like a real hike...without the trouble of really hiking. 


Which brings me to other kid-friendly activities at the arboretum. Abe was pretty happy just running along trails (little did he know what he was missing), but on weekends, the Arboretum offers a bunch of different programs for kids at the Learning Center. There's also the "Under the Oak" nature play area just outside the Learning Center, built beneath the oldest tree at the Arboretum! And if you walk (or drive) along Three Mile Drive, make sure to stop at the Maze Garden. Not quite as large or confusing as a corn maze, but just as much fun!


The Arboretum is a nice place to visit any time of year, but I especially love going when the apple trees (usually mid-May), tulips (late April/early May), roses (June-September), and peonies (late May/early June) are in bloom. (Click here to find out what's currently in bloom.) I remember going to the Arboretum in the winter as a kid for their pancake breakfast, but did you know you can also go shoe-shoeing and cross-country skiing when there's snow?!

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers the following attractions and amenities (click on the links for more information):

           

For more information about the plants and upcoming events at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, go to www.arboretum.umn.edu.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Outdoor Fun

I love summer! Our deck becomes an extra room to play in, at least until the mosquitoes come out. Lately we've been playing with water...


...and ice. I love this ice excavation idea from Chasing Cheerios.


Abe liked it too but wasn't quite patient enough to "dig" his dinosaurs out.


So we threw the block of ice in a bowl of warm water to speed up the melting process.


We've also been using our deck as the designated "sandbox" area. We want to build him a real sandbox in the yard, but for now there are a few things I love about having a sandbox on the deck. 1. It's easy to clean up. 2. The sand won't kill anything on or under the deck like it will if we move it out on the lawn. 3. There's fewer mosquitoes and other biting bugs when you're up and out of the grass. But for real...


...his current "sandbox" is a plastic wrapping paper/under-the-bed storage box we had lying around. It has a lid which is nice, and it slides under the deck when we want it out of the way, but it's getting a little small for our growing boy (this picture was actually taken last summer!)...and it only has about half a bag of sand in it. He loves it though. Between the sandbox and his kiddie pool, we can spend the entire day out there if the weather is nice.


Have you ever built a sandbox? Or found a temporary solution that worked just as well? Any tips, ideas, suggestions welcome! I know it's probably crazy and impractical to put a real sandbox on the deck, but doesn't this just look magical? I want to play in that sandbox! And rinse off afterwards in the outdoor shower... 

Californians have all the fun.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Puzzle Redo

Kids love puzzles, and over time that love really starts to show. Gone are the days when wood puzzles were hand-painted...now they all seem to be covered in paper, which quickly starts to bubble and peel. A worn out puzzle is easy to fix though, and with a little work and some pretty paper, you can turn a thrift store or hand-me-down puzzle into a family heirloom! 


You'll need:

an old puzzle
pretty paper (I reused my old refrigerator calendar that I bought from Gallardoworks on Etsy)
sandpaper
Mod Podge (or similar glue)
glitter paint (I used Martha Stewart Glitter Paint in Golden Beryl)
paint for base coat (in a similar color)


1. Peel the paper off of the board and each puzzle piece. It's okay to leave some of the paper backing on the pieces (or anything you plan to recover with paper), but it will bubble if you paint over it. If the backing doesn't completely peel off, spray it with a little water and then scrape it off. 


2. If you're using solid colored or patterned paper, skip to step 3. If you're using a piece of art (like this old calendar), you'll want to lay the pieces on the back of your paper and hold it up to a window to determine where to cut. (I wanted to make sure I got as much flower as possible on each puzzle piece.)


3. Keep puzzle piece in place as you lay the paper on a table, and trace its shape onto the back of the paper. (You want to trace these backwards on the paper, so make sure the back of your puzzle piece is facing up!)

4. Cut shapes from paper and stick to puzzle pieces with Mod Podge.


5. Allow to dry, then use a nail file or small strip of sandpaper to sand down the edges of the paper. All the edges of your puzzle pieces should be smooth - don't want any paper cuts!


6. Apply a layer of Mod Podge over the paper on each piece to increase durability and help prevent the paper from dissolving if a little one chews on them. (Mine are completely coated on front and back and around the edges! I used the same sealing technique with the baby blocks I made for Abe. They're still in good shape despite being chewed on, so I'm hoping the puzzle pieces will survive a little baby slobber as well.)


7. To refinish the board, completely remove the paper following the instructions in step 1, then use sandpaper to rough up the wood a bit so the paint will stick better. (Test your paint on a small corner first. If the paint doesn't adhere to the wood you'll need to give it a coat of primer first.)

8. Paint board with a base coat in a color that is similar to the glitter paint you'll be using. (I skipped this step and had to apply 5-6 coats of glitter paint just to get decent coverage. The photo above was taken after 3 coats!)


9. After the base coat is dry, apply 1-2 layers of glitter paint. 


10. Cut pieces from leftover paper to fit puzzle cut outs (use the puzzle pieces as a template). 

11. Stick pieces to the board with Mod Podge and apply another layer of Mod Podge on top to seal them. 


12. Let all the pieces dry for at least 24 hours before putting the finished puzzle pieces on the board.


Oh, and if you really want to turn it into a family heirloom, add an inscription on the back. I used a black sharpie and wrote "To Abe, who can count 'One. Two. Free. Four. Tix. Teben. Eight. Forteen. Forteen. Fort-EEN!'" and added the date. 


If I could follow him around with a video camera all day I would. Since I can't I'll just have to write down the cute things he says...and the way he says them. 


Yep, in case you hadn't guessed, I think the toddler years are the best!