Sunday, June 24, 2012

Simple Bruschetta

Since I have spent most of my time since school has let out in the kitchen, I've decided to add my favorite recipes to my blog as well as craft ideas. This is one of my family's favorite treats, and it is as easy and inexpensive as it is tasty... Which is good, considering how often they ask me to make it!

This bruschetta recipe has only 8 items on the shopping list, including the salt and pepper:

5-6 Roma tomatoes
One small package of fresh mozzarella
One loaf crusty French bread
A handful (10-12) large basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Your favorite pepper

Dice the tomatoes and place in a bowl. I like to slice the stem ends off the tomatoes and squeeze the seeds out before chopping. Then finely chop the basil leaves and add to the bowl of tomatoes. Toss in two tablespoons each olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as salt and pepper (to taste). Mix well and let rest for about 15 minutes, to let the flavors blend.
While you are waiting, thinly slice the mozzarella and the french bread. If you find that you bought the pre-sliced mozzarella (as I found when I opened the package this evening), you may want to slice them even more, or you may find yourself out of mozzarella when everything else is only half eaten... :)
Serve the tomato alongside the mozzarella and bread as in my picture, or you can go one step further and prepare individual appetizer bites by layering the bread with mozzarella then tomatoes and present on a platter. (A few extra basil leaves make a beautiful garnish...)
I'll be adding more of my favorite recipes this summer ~ if you try them, let me know! Especially if you add a little change here and there... I love a new twist on old favorites!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Toenail Polish for Hummingbirds and Bottles to Get Fingers Stuck In...

I love springtime, but it does make for more cleaning. Perhaps it's because everything outside seems so fresh and new, and smells so wonderful, that it makes us take a good look around, and say... "eeewwww!"

Between cleaning out closets (time to put those jackets away, and yes, find the car keys) I always have to find time to work outside.  While trying to get the flowerbeds in order, I noticed that the hummingbird feeders that had been given to us by very dear friends had gotten... well... rather gross. Apparently they had been left out in the sun, sealed up, with a bit of water still inside. Again, "eeewwww."

I had never realized exactly how hard these were to clean until I watched my husband try to get the mold and mildew out of those feeder bottles. Now, this man can rewire a light fixture in under 5 minutes, and can fix a car (sometimes in less than a day), but cleaning is not exactly his forte. Of course, he wanted to see if I could do better.  Nothing like a little competetion before the second cup of coffee to get me going in the morning!

Now, when I have a challenge, especially with someone watching, I can get a bit creative.  The biggest problem with these bottles is that the opening is so tiny I couldn't get more than a pinky finger into them.  After several more (or less, mostly less) successful attempts to get those bottles clean, I found a great solution.  I used a little bit ~ about a tablespoon ~ of dishwashing liquid and about the same amount of coarse sea salt, poured into the bottle with a cup of really hot water. Using a finger as a stopper, I shook that bottle until the salt had scrubbed the mildew out of the bottle. It took a few rinses to get all the dishwashing liquid out, but the feeder bottles are clean!

A little coarse sea salt and some dishwashing liquid...
shake it in a bottle too small to get a brush in, and the salt
will help scrub the inside clean.

Now, we have two kinds of feeders (thank you Margaret!), one simple glass bottle with six of the red plastic flower feeders around the bottom, and the other a beautiful artistic copper and glass piece. Unfortunately, the hummingbirds fight over the red plastic one and generally leave the beautiful one alone, mostly because the flowers on the copper one are not bright red, but a pretty antique peach. While I love this feeder, I would like the birds to use it, as well. A simple solution: my favorite bright red nail enamel on the metal flowers.  I will have to let this cure at least a week before it can go outside, but the red is so bright that now the hummingbirds shouldn't have to fight over the larger one!

I will have to let the polish cure for a few days before it can go outside
but hopefully the hummingbirds will like the bright red flowers!

One more thing ready for spring!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leprechaun Trap... I Mean, Present...

My daughter's kindergarten class made Leprechaun traps at home this week. Of course, I didn't see the paper until the last minute, so this is a quick and easy project you can make in an hour.

We started with a green "present" box from the craft store, and covered the sides in shamrock scrapbook paper. Then we cut out a drawbridge-like door from one side.  We lined the bottom and the inside of the door with a self-adhesive glitter foil, and cut "coins" from gold glitter craft foam. We made one extra-large coin with a hole in the center - this will be the "trigger" and the bait.  We cut a hole in the center back of the box, opposite the door, and two holes in the outside corners of the drawbridge.  Running a ribbon through the bait coin, we then put both ends of the ribbon through the hole in the center back of the box, making a loop that goes through the coin and out. We then brought the ribbon up and over the top of the box, and laced an end through each of the drawbridge holes, tying a bow with the ends.  Now when the leprechaun grabs that big coin and pulls, he closes the door on himself! Two pieces of self-adhesive magnet, cut from a strip, fasten the door shut when closed.  We finished off the top of the box with rainbow ribbon tied in a bow.

Not too shabby for a last minute school project!

Fun St. Patrick's Day Cards

While I don't scrapbook myself, I am addicted to all the stickers, stamps, papers, and other goodies that scrapbookers use - just call me a kid in a candy store!  So every now and then I have to find a reason to go use some of those goodies.
This little project was inspired by the four-leaf clovers we found in our yard. We found enough to give one to every child in my daughter's kindergarten class. We pressed them in wax paper and put them between the pages of a dictionary two days in advance. Then I got to have some fun!
Using stamps and embossing powder, we created the front of the cards.  We placed each clover in a small plastic bag we found in the bead aisle at the craft store, and used double sided tape to mount them inside the cards. Then we used an Irish Blessing stamps for the inside:

May soft be the grass that you walk on,
May fair be the skies above you,
May true be the joys that surround you,
May dear be the hearts that love you.

My daughter was so excited to have a four-leaf clover!
I love how children find the magic in the simplest things...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Special Request Rapunzel Dress

When I told a friend of mine that I had started a blog, she insisted that I put my daughter's last Halloween costume out to share.  (Thanks, Danielle! great idea...)
The story here is, of course, my daughter's infinite love of anything Disney, with emphasis on Rapunzel.  We had found some of the Deluxe Disney Princess dresses at the outlet a few years ago, so she's more than a little spoiled when it comes to her costumes.  She saw the Rapunzel dress at the Disney store, but said it wasn't as pretty as her other dresses.
I guess I'm making a costume.
In retrospect, I am so glad I made this for her, as it turned out fabulous. It was a lot of work, but as it was both a Halloween costume and a birthday present, I think I got off easy.

We had the fog machine running and the decorations
out. I love the way this picture turned out.
I started with the Simplicity Rapunzel pattern, but we couldn't seem to find just the right fabric. We ended up with a heavy purple satin for the vest, but added sparkle fabric paint, applied with a stencil and a sponge brush, in order to give the vest fabric a pattern. We actually have a full top under the vest, which required doubling the bodice pattern sections, and we added an extra sheer underskirt, also with sparkle fabric paint, this time in white.  I believe every possible hem in this dress has trim, either ribbon or lace. And the wig is actually a combination of three wigs, where I cut the weave on two of them and braided them into the main wig. Adding flowers and yellow glow lights (yes, her hair glowed, just like the movie) finished off the outfit.
I have to say, I had so much fun with this dress. Depending on the popularity or Rapunzel dresses this coming Halloween, I may make a few to sell.
Two more pictures to finish off, and then I really do have to go find those keys...

Yes, that's a glow stick falling out of the wig... this was
taken before I figured out to use the clear rubber bands
to hold them in place.

I wish I had a better picture of the dress itself. At the time, I had no idea I would
be writing a blog about my projects.  I ended up trimming the ribbon laces to shorten them,
and in this picture the dress is hanging a bit crooked. Still, it's the best picture to show the fabric
stencil on both the vest and the underskirt.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Springtime (and Thrifty!) Moss Letters

Decorative Moss Letters
Found on Pinterest, original source:

When I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I wanted one.  When I was next in the local dollar store, I found all the supplies I needed.
2 blocks of florists foam
2 sheets of floral moss
1 stem of white berries
hot glue gun and glue sticks

I started out using the WordArt function in Word to print a template for the shape. Using an kitchen knife, I carefully cut the foam block in half lengthwise, making it not so thick. Then I cut the three sections of the "A", and covered them with the florists moss, except for where the pieces glued together. After assembling and gluing the sections together, I added the white berry springs for some interest. I disply it on an antique sandwich platter I found at a flea market and added some porcelain rabbits I bought at Tuesday Morning ($2.99).  I'm still deciding whether the green moss would be better, but I did the whole project (not counting glue sticks) for $5.48. Not too shabby.

I find when working with messy supplies like these, it's good to cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil as a work surface, and use a paper plate to hold the hot glue gun. When you're finished, you can wrap the whole mess up in the aluminum foil and throw the whole thing in the trash! :)

My finished product
My template

Sharing and Thinks

Think left and think right, think low and think high! Oh, the thinks you can think if only you try!~ Dr. Seuss

It's hard to ask questions and even harder to answer unless you have a place to put them! Here's a place to share problems and possibilities, where everyone can answer. If you have a good question, I'll start a new thread...

Easy and Fun Party Lights

Another great idea that I've stolen from my mother! I love to have a little sparkle in my kitchen - something fun when we have people over.
I've taken an interesting wine bottle (I like this one, seeing as how my initials are A.A. ... no comments on THAT, please), some inexpensive Christmas lights, and a fun topper I picked up at the craft store, and combined them to add a little bling to the kitchen counter.  Please note: you really need the 20 light strand of Christmas lights, and make sure they are NOT connectible. The other end plug usually does not fit through the top of the bottle.

About getting started... and rabbits...

My idea in starting a blog was sharing my favorite projects, decorating and gardening ideas, recipes, and art inspirations.  I love finding inexpensive ways to decorate, projects I can do with my kids, and ways to update the things I already have in my home without spending too much.
My mom has always been such a creative inspiration - she can create the most beautiful smocked dresses, and at least half the curtains in my house have come out of her closets, where she had them stored from previous homes.
I love seeing a problem and trying to find a creative solution. For example, being a military wife, we have no idea where we'll end up next. It can get expensive buying curtains and furniture for the current house when you don't know if you'll be able to use it again in the future.  With the curtains that my mom made, I can adjust the pleats using a special tape she used, so I can hang them multiple ways on a variety of window sizes.
I also love checking out thrift and liquidation stores to find furniture to clean up or refinish. I have quite a few projects on the To-Do list, and look forward to sharing the mess, the process, and the finished product.
But I'm always looking for questions to answer, and new problems to tackle. So please, if you have a dilemma, share it! The online community is a great place to find answers, and it's even better when it's an answer to your specific problem.
One of my favorite quotes is from John Steinbeck: "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."  I can most definitely vouch for the truth of that quote. In starting a blog, and telling others about my projects, I am hoping it will give me some motivation to get these rabbits under control!
Time to get going... got to go find those car keys...

The Woman Looking for Her Car Keys

My mother once told me a funny tale about a woman looking for her car keys. We have laughed about it often, and it seems to apply to my daily life more often than not. Most of the things I manage to accomplish seem to happen while I am "looking for my car keys."  So to share the story that started this page...
A woman was looking for her car keys, so naturally she started with her purse. She couldn't find them there, but she did notice quite a few items in her purse that really belonged in the hall closet. Deciding to be proactive, she went to put them away, but the closet was so disorganized that she had no place to put anything.  In the spirit of being proactive, she started cleaning out the closet. Soon, she had a pile of things in the living room to put away, in the kitchen to be washed, on the stairs to go to the bedrooms and the laundry, by the door to donate, and in the dining room... for lack of a better place at the moment.
Heading to living room, she started getting the items put away, but was distracted by the stack of magazines that the kids had scattered on their way out the door. She sorted those into piles: to recycle, to donate, to keep on the coffee table, and some her friends might like. She found miscellaneous silverware she had been looking for, and a pile of toys that needed to go upstairs.
Taking the silverware to the kitchen, she washed it up and, while putting it away, noticed how dirty the silverware trays were. Hating to put clean silverware in the dirty trays, she took out the silverware, put it on a towel on the counter, and dumped the trays in the sink to clean up.  Unfortunately, her cleaning soap was upstairs...
Grabbing the toys from the living room, she headed upstairs to deliver the toys to their rightful homes and get the soap. Upon arriving in her daughter's room, she noticed that the shelves and bins were so full of baby toys that her daughter had outgrown that there was no place to put these new toys. Snatching up a shopping bag, she loaded up the bag with some of the old toys and took them down to put in the "donate" pile.
Of course, she forgot the soap upstairs. Taking a load of books and video games on THIS trip up the stairs, she delivered these to her son's room. Being a 10 year old boy, she couldn't see the floor for the dirty clothes. Setting the books and video games on the bed for her son to put away when he got home, she scooped up the dirty clothes and took them to the laundry room.  While she was there, she decided to go ahead and start a load of laundry. She sorted the clothes into several piles (no need to describe this... we've all been there), started a load of laundry, finally grabbed the soap for cleaning the silverware trays, and headed back downstairs to the kitchen.
She was hard at work cleaning out those silverware trays when her husband came home for lunch. Well, he tried to come home, but he couldn't open the door from the garage for the pile of things to be donated.  When he finally got the door open and surveyed the destruction, he asked his wife - very carefully - "what happened?"
She looked at him, confused, and said, "What do you mean, what happened?"
He looked around and asked, "What are you doing?"
She thought about it and said:
"Looking for my car keys."