Friday, January 31, 2014

Dinner with Kids

Let's be honest. It isn't always a picnic.  Dinnertime at our house is far from perfect but here's a few things that I do to survive it.

 After I've cooked dinner, my least favorite thing to hear is "I'm not eating that!" spoken with a bunched up nose. I refuse to subside on hot dogs, spaghetti, and chicken nuggets. As the mom I have 3 options:
1. I make one dinner, if you don't want to eat it you can go hungry.  This option doesn't really work because we all know that hungry children equals emotional meltdowns from all parties involved. Bedtime doesn't come soon enough in this situation.
2. Make your own dinner, then. PBandJ sandwiches do not provide adequate nutrition and won't expand their narrow palates.
Here's my third option.
3. Make layered meals-- meals that are assembled in steps and that can be consumed at any point along the assembly process. (Was that clear as mud?)

For instance: I've been dying to try that Baked Fajita recipe that I've seen floating around Pinterest. The one where you toss everything in a pan and bake it instead of frying it-- like this one.
So easy. So yummy! I will never fry fajitas again. Seriously, this recipe is a keeper. Try it. But would my picky eaters eat it...nope.
Two kids ate just a tortilla with sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. (I had them try a piece of the chicken on the side.)  Number 3 ate hers with all those plus some of the chicken shredded inside.  I ate the works. And then, for good measure, had a second fajita in a lettuce wrap to save a few calories. ;)  The plus for me: I only had to make one dinner.
More layered dinner ideas: 
Sweet and Sour Chicken over rice-- serve the sauce separate and buy good quality chicken nugget
Meatball Stroganoff-- pasta, meatballs, with the sauce separate
Baked Potato Bar-- add your own toppings
Hawaiian Haystacks-- add your own toppings
Chicken Alfredo-- pasta, grilled chicken, with sauce separate 
Individual Pizzas-- every makes their own
Tacos-- fill it with your favorite toppings
I also try to have at least one side that each kid will eat, whether it's fruit, veggie, or bread.
To really combat the complaining we had a sit-down conversation with the oldest two when they were 5 and 7. We came up with these rules and posted them by the table.
Number 6 is strictly enforced. I'm thinking of adding -- #9 Please clear your dishes from the table.
Got any more good family-friendly recipes or ways to teach mealtime manners?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wooden Heart

It's almost Valentine's Day.  Time for a romantic dinner (of pizza and popcorn) and movie (probably Pokémon or Pocoyo). Man, I can't wait 'til Son #1 is old enough to babysit. Hubby and I actually did get to catch a movie last night... in the basement... I rented Smurf's for the kiddos upstairs and we watched The Host downstairs. (A quick movie review: The Host stays real close to the book except you don't get a feel for time passing--everything seems to happen fast when in the book it was actually longer. If I hadn't read the book, I don't think I would have liked the movie much.) Anyways...

I wanted to show you this great wooden heart that my mom made me.

I'm in to simple rustic décor and my family room is patriotic in theme. It fits in great so I leave it up all year next to my wooden flag and just move it to the front door for Valentine's Day.

Here's the measurements for the trim pieces if you want to make your own.
2 @ 21 1/2"
2 @ 6"
2 @ 7"

Paint. Wood glue or nail the pieces together and add a little décor. A little twine to the top for easy hanging and you've got yourself some love.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pumpkin Muffins and Cookies

While going through the pantry looking for dinner ideas, I found a large can of pumpkin. It called for me to make it into pumpkin goodies. Son #1 wanted cookies. I wanted muffins. A quick google search provided recipes.  Luckily I had two spice cake mixes in the cold storage room downstairs.

Here's the recipe.

1 29oz can pumpkin
2 15oz spice cake mixes
lots and lots of chocolate chips

Mix. Scoop some cookies. Fill some muffin liners. Scoop the remaining into more cookies. Bake at 350. Don't burn 'em. Lick the spoon, 'cuz there ain't no eggs in it.

Glad I made cookies AND muffins, because you can't send cookies to school for lunches but muffins are A-OK, right? Right.
Also glad I found that can of pumpkin before spring. I think it's against cooking laws to bake with pumpkin and spice when it's above 60 degrees. Strictly a winter food. What's your winter comfort food? 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hello, again. I'd like you to meet my table.

One whole year.  Life just took over. I have huge respect for bloggers that can keep it all together. I am not one of them.  So I'm going to take things slower this year and see what happens.

A year in review.
Hubby still has a job-- God bless his employer! Two oldest boys are in school all day now, which just leaves Busy Bee and me at home. Why don't I have more time? Can't figure this one out.

Wanna see my huge project last year? Heard of Ana White? I'm in love with her site and ideas. We have been in our house for 5 years and my dining room was begging for a large table to replace the hand-me down we got our second year of marriage. While it had 3 leaves, it was old, chipped and water stained. I toyed with refinishing it but I really didn't like the shape of the table legs anyway.  Then I found Ana White's Triple Pedestal Farm House Table. Instant love. Sold my table for $20 (yep, that's all I could get for it) and told my hubby that I was going to build a table.  He bought me the wood needed for my b-day.  Then he left the project to me.

After receiving major help from my father and father-in-law, here's what we created. Ain't she a beauty.

 There was no way I was going to try to cut out 28 matching arches for the leg braces... not happening. Father-in-law suggested 2x4's at an angle-- and they look great! So much easier. The edge was supposed to have a recessed 1x2 around it, but that created a ledge that I was just not willing to clean-- I got young kids, 'member? I also wanted to be able attach my pasta press and wheat grinder to the table top (since my kitchen counters are too thick) so my father suggested cutting the edges at each end like shown above.

 The original plans called for a 9 ft bench on each side.  I chose to do chairs and 2 benches just over 4 feet instead. I can put them both on one side or one on each side now.  I also made my benches with cheaper 2x4 instead of 2x6 feet. To make them easier I just used a solid plank of wood instead of piecing the tops together to match the table.

See that beautiful knot.  I couldn't fill that with wood filler, but I didn't want it to pack with food either. I took a tiny paint brush to get some stain down inside and then used Glossy Accents to fill it in the crack. It sanded down beautiful and clear. Now I can still see those beautiful knots!

Now Ana's plans say $125 was the cost to build her table. The wood cost about that much for me. That didn't include the screws, wood glue, stain, and polyurethane coating. But including the benches I was about $200 for everything (minus the new tools needed) which is much cheaper than what I could have bought a new 9 foot table for.  It also didn't take me 10 hours like it took Ashley over at Shanty-2-Chic. More like 2 months! I probably spent 10 hours just sanding. The top was the most time consuming because I didn't want any cracks or seams for food to get stuck in. It was all worth it. I love my beauty. Thanks Ana!

ETA: How we attached the angle braces on the pedestals-
From longest tip to tip they measure about 9". My father-in-law drilled three 1/2" holes about a 1/2" or so deep.  After pre-drilling for the screws, we fastened them on using 3 inch screws for the top and bottom holes and the middle hole got two 6 inch screws (they were LONG!). Then we cut a 1/2" dowel to create some wood plugs. The middle plug was cut straight on both sides, but the top and bottom ones were cut with one side at an angle-- less sanding. I applied a little glue and tapped them into place. Then I sanded them flush. Not liking the space some of them had I used some stainable wood filler around the plugs (except for the braces on the underside of the table-- 'cuz who is going to look there?) and re-sanded.  Here's a picture and a super-nifty drawing ;)

Yikes! Look at the dust already! Oh, on the benches we just used one hole and screw in the middle.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Tree Card Holder

I use to tape my Christmas cards to the blinds on the back door.  I never found a card holder that I particularly liked-- one that look good with or without cards.

Enter some sticks, hot glue, and twine-- all things I have on hand in my craft room and outside on the ground.

I measured the blank wall I have in the hallway and broke my first stick to that length. Then I worked my way up, laying the sticks out on the driveway, making sure my sticks laid pretty flush to the ground (and thus the wall so I wouldn't inadvertently skewer someone).  I little hot glue and then some twine for extra security.

I love it. Now my mom wants one.  I love almost free crafts!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Christmas Candles

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas... and it's not even Thanksgiving! I don't think I'm going to be able to wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving.  I had to sneak in a little Christmas project and the 's Christmas Decor Challenge sponsored by DollarTree was the perfect excuse!

I was wandering the isle of my DollarTree when I came upon a new item. I snatched up 3 right away.  Faux wax LED Candles! They are plastic dipped in wax so they really feel/look like candles, except lighter.  Do you recognize them from my previous post on my new mantel?

I made them new collars in anticipation of my Christmas mantel. Here's what I did.

3 Faux wax LED candles ($1 each)
1 bag mints ($1)
2 sheets cardstock (red, white; on hand)
tissue paper ($1, on hand)
hot glue

I cut a strip of cardstock and glued it so it fit loosely around the candle--I wanted to be able to remove it. For the first candle, I hot glued mints around that cardstock collar in 3 rows.

For the second candle I cut strips of tissue paper sheets (about 2.5 inches wide), twisted them, and glued them around another cardstock collar.

For the third one, I used a glue stick to glue printed tissue paper around yet another cardstock collar. You could also use Christmas wrapping paper.  (Missed the picture, but you can see it below)

That's it... super easy, huh?

Then, do you know what I discovered? By setting the candles on a small objects of varying heights (I used a small playdough container and a cooking spray lid) and sliding the cardstock collars down, you create the illusion that your candles are different heights!

There are so many ways you could decorate the cardstock collars to change out your candles for the different seasons and occasions. Like these ones on my Thanskgiving mantel.

Happy Crafting!
*Linking up to Holiday Decoration Challenge

I Hate My Mantel...Remake

Yeah. It's looked about like this since we moved in. I keep finding things that I might want to put there, so there they sit. Maybe about that...this is cute...what about this here... ugh! I couldn't commit to anything. And nothing was coming together.

So it all came down!

I decided that I might have a commitment issue. I'm going to try switching out my decor for the seasons... then I only have to commit to 3 months (or less!). I don't want to break the bank, nor do I want to create a storage issue.  My goal is to have easy to store and/or versatile decor.

Here's what I came up with, and I only spent $4.50, with most of it coming from things I had around the house.

My friend gave me these cute indian corn cobs-- they are actually popcorn, and yes, I saved some to try and pop!  I took some cardstock to make a collar around these Dollar Tree candles.  A little hot glued and these faux wax LED candles look perfect. Best of all I can slip them out and make new collars for all the seasons. 

I saved the husks and glued them aroung a cardboard circle. My small pine tree was kind enough to lend me some pinecones for the middle of the flower.  I cut some colorful branches for the vase and tossed in some pumpkins to finish off the look. 

No time to create the fabulous large wood plaque I envisioned, so I covered my large picture frame with kraft paper and painted a thankful message.

I'm excited about how it turned out. Even more excited that I'm only committed to it for a few more weeks. You'll have to stay tuned for my Christmas mantel!  Christmas goes up the day after Thanksgiving at my house... how about at yours?