Archive for May, 2011

With my son’s prompting I have decided to begin a new section to this blog. For a couple of years now we have celebrated various “bizarre and unusual” holidays as well as lesser known monthly events in this family.  It makes things fun for the children, my son’s whole reason for his prompting, as well as is a good educational tool for them and I’ll admit, also for me.

June is “Adopt A Shelter Cat Month”.  Anyone that knows me knows animals are very near and dear to my heart, especially those needing aid.  The two kittens in this picture are not shelter animals, but they would have been shelter bound if I did not take them in from the woods they were found in.  While it would be wonderful if you could find it in your heart to rescue and give a forever home to a shelter cat, I understand this is not always feasible.  Yet, there are other ways you can use your talents to make the stay for shelter cats far more comfortable and less frightening of an experience.

Local shelters often have no bedding or minimal bedding and no toys for the unwanted pets they take in, which often are numerous.  This leaves cats and kittens to sleep on wire cages, or worse, in their own liter pans.  Many welcome donations of bedding and toys for animals who have no one to care for them. Don’t fret if you are not the perfect seamstress, no animal has complained yet about uneven stitches or off kilter seams.   One only need browse the internet to find many sources, but I’ll offer you a few that I have used in past, and/or making presently for our local shelters this month. By the way, did you know that not only do homemade items help shelter animals relax but also have been found to increase their rate of adoption? For a few stitches and bit of fabric I’m more then happy to give them all the fighting chance I can give.

Remember in making the cat toys to add some cat nip to the stuffing to make it more appealing.  Also don’t fret about polyfil,  plastic grocery bags make a nice crinkle sound cats love to play with when used as stuffing material, also a good way to recycle them.

Fish Cat Toy

Catnip Mouse Cat Toy

Fleece & Cotton Cat Quilt

Small Pet Bed

Panda Stuffy

Bunny Stuffy

Teddy Bear

Bunny 2

Bunny 3


Stuffed Mouse

Now, lets get crafting.




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I was called to duty to make some desserts for the children at my son’s school for their End of School party this week.  Being on a time crunch already with a second Science Fair and a Gifted & Talented party as well as a few other things demanding my time, and my baking, I decided to make these up early and freeze them.  The nice thing about these cookies is they freeze well, hold their form and can be defrosted the day before you need them.

Couple nice things about these cookies, having them in the “sandwich” shape, little fingers don’t become excessively covered in frosting when holding them, and your can stack them atop one another without issue, making transporting several dozen of them far easier.  See? This Mom thinks ahead.

I wish I had a fancy name for them but I don’t.  They are simply sugar cookies (your own recipe or packaged mix), frosting (again your own or store bought), and decorative sugar or sprinkles (I used up some I had left from valentines).

Mix up your sugar cookies and roll into large marble size balls.  Swirl the dough around in white sugar to coat and set on your cookie sheet.  Use the bottom of a glass to flatten them evenly.  Bake according to instructions on recipe.  Let the cookies cool completely while making up your frosting (if using homemade).  Slather the frosting on back of one cookie, put second cookie on top and roll the “sandwich” in a bowl of decorative sugar or sprinkles of choice to coat frosting edges.  That’s all there is to it.  Quick, simple and can give a crowd of children a good sugar rush.  What could be more satisfying?

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Homemade breads especially items such as bagels, doughnuts, dinner rolls and English muffins intimidate so many to try to make them from scratch.  They shouldn’t, they are actually fairly easy to make.  I am a strong advocate of making your own bread products. While its true that economically they are far cheaper made at home from scratch, the real reason for myself is being able to control the ingredients.  I no longer need worry about artificial ingredients such as colorants or flavors, high fructose corn syrup or excess salt, fat or sugars which pack on weight and offer little else.

This morning I made up a large batch of English Muffins.  Some will be served with jam for breakfast, others will go into making homemade Egg “McMom” Muffins. Grilled cheese sandwiches or ham and cheese are another popular freezer food for quick lunches as well as quick individual pizza’s.  They store well, lasting up to five days on shelf, up to two weeks in refrigerator and several months in freezer.  From freezer you can just take them out and use them as needed.

Once you see how easy making your own English Muffins are, and try your hand at it the first time. You will never go back to store bought,  there is just no equal.

The first English Muffins began at “Staff” food in Victorian England.  There the family baker would use the left over scraps of bread and biscuit dough placed on hot griddle to create light, crusty muffins.  They soon caught on and English Muffin Factories began appearing in England and from this the term “Muffin Man” was formed.

There are many recipes for English Muffins and I will do best to post them as I make them.  Today and most times I stick to the old fashion, simple Muffin as it has so much flexibility in uses.

English Muffins – (20 muffins)

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp sea salt (salt)

3 cups flour

2 tsp instant yeast

Warm the milk to luke warm and beat your eggs.  Combine the eggs, butter and milk and whisk together.  Place your dry ingredients in mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix well on low speed until well combined.  Slowly pour your wet ingredients into dry ingredients and continue mixing.  You might find you need to add small amounts of flour to reach a clean consistency of pulling away from edges of bowl.  Continue kneading on low until dough is smooth and elastic. Once you have reached this stage remove the dough hook and cover bowl with damp towel.  Let rest and proof until doubled in size.  Dump dough onto floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness, cut into 3 inch rounds and place rounds on cornmeal sprinkled cookie sheet.  Brush the tops of the muffins with water and sprinkle tops with corn meal as well.  Cover and let raise for 30 minutes.  Preheat your un-greased griddle, grill, or cast iron cook pan to 350 F (175 C).  Cook each side of muffin 6-7 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Set to side to let cool, or serve with your favorite butter or jam.

Now see isn’t that easy? Go makes some for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.


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Yesterday I was busy making petite fours and had some left over white and dark chocolate melted.  As another item I was making was peanut butter/dark chocolate brownies I decided to use the chocolate to cover the brownies making a mock form of petite fours.  They are not the most elaborate as I used the hand dip method rather then the pour glaze method on them, but they sure taste good.

Peanut Butter/Dark Chocolate Brownies

1 cup butter, melted

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups Hershey’s dark cocoa

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cup flour

1 package chocolate pudding mix

1/4 cup peanut butter (I used creamy)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan.  To melted butter, add sugar and combine.  Transfer into bowl and add cocoa, salt, baking powder and vanilla.  Add the eggs, beating until smooth and then add the flour and pudding mix, stirring once more until combined.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth down.  Taking the peanut butter, add table spoons across the top of brownie batter in a haphazard pattern.  Using a knife, cut the peanut butter into the chocolate batter until it has a marble like effect with no thick peanut butter lines.

Bake the butter for 28 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Cut the edges of the brownies off, then cut into small squares and set on a cooling rack with some distance between each piece.


1 bag dark chocolate chips

1 bag white chocolate chips

1 tsp oil

Empty dark chocolate chips into microwave safe glass dish, add 1/2 tsp oil and melt for 1 minute.  Remove and stir until all dissolved…if you need return to microwave at 20 second intervals until all melted.

Repeat above with white chocolate chips.

Take your brownie pieces and dip them into the chocolate using a fork, or pour the chocolate over top of the brownies on the cooling rack.  Place in refrigerator to speed the setting of the chocolate process.

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Cool Down.

I had sent the children out to water the garden and flower beds.  Hearing screams and giggling I got curious and caught this.  I couldn’t resist and joined them, what a wonderful way to cool down from a hot day. Just look at those big smiles, they were having so much fun…ahh to be a kid again.

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This week my son had a very busy day working on his science project.  My daughter had a very rough time not being able to do the “big kid” stuff too and kept interrupting him.  It was obvious some running interference between the two was needed before it came to blows. Thankfully my “Rainy Day” box had just the answer.  Last fall I had stopped at a local yard sale and lucked upon a bin of sun-catcher kits thirteen in total for $1.00 a piece.  I of course snatched them up.  Walmart, Kmart, Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and many other places sell these kits for about $6.00 a piece, I supplied a link to JoAnne’s HERE.

The project is very simple, but it keeps children entertained for a few hours making it.  First let them paint the sun-catchers as they desire. I literally threw away the “paint by number” and let her use her own creativity.  Set them aside and let them dry while making the circle top.  Mine as you can see is not fancy, it is a ring cut out of a used milk carton, good way to recycle a bit.  I imagine I could have had her paint it, or wrap it with some scrap fabric to make it fancier, oh well, next time.

To the ring I punched four holes at the top, one on each “side” to which the hanging wires would be attached to.  I then punched eight more holes along the bottom around the circle.  I didn’t bother to measure or do anything fancy, more just eyeing it.  Once the holes were punched. I went ahead and added the string that it would be tied up with.  For this I wanted something that could sustain weather, I chose a fishing line, but the beading line would work well also. Cutting four 15″ lengths of line I fed it into the top four holes and knotted it securely. I also glued it to be sure it held.  I left the strings untied at top as I would be tying it directly to the branch.

I used the same process to attach the ornaments.  Pull the string through each ornament and knot it securely, then pull and knot it onto the ring.  Continue until all the sun catchers are hanging.

Now comes the most exciting part, with your child leading way.  Take the new sun-catcher windchime outside to the tree and hang it securely from a branch.  I love the soft “tink” sound the chimes make at the slightest of winds and the colors with the morning and evening sun shining through are beautiful.  Although, I think the most important part of it all, is the memories the sounds and colors provide of a little girls “rainy day” project.

On another note, my son was outside in the yard the other day looking for bugs to photograph when he happened upon this little cutie.  A small leopard frog had taken up home in one of my water garden beds.  I’m sure there is a more proper name then “bed” for these little ponds, but I don’t have one.  I’m fairly certain my water garden is about as untraditional as you can get.  There are no fancy fountains or preformed ponds, rather there are several flipped over plastic trash can lids set down into small recesses to make them ground level.  A few chipped pottery pieces also adorn out there of various depths and there is a larger heavy plastic “cooler” bucket for the deepest water source.

To help with the transition and more “natural” look, I added peat to the bottoms, through time the trees have added to that.  Some rocks and old logs rings cut off downed trees are used to make levels for smaller creatures, like the frog, to perch on or get out.  Also for birds to stand on to take drinks.  If you are concerned about mosquitoes in the stagnant water, mosquito fish are wonderful and can be obtained free from your local vector control office.  To help protect these air breathing fish from predators placing rocks allows them places to hide near, duckweed, algae, leaves and other sticks and branches make excellent protection areas.

So, the next time you dream of a water garden, or want ways to bring turtles, toads, frogs, snakes, and other wildlife into your yard and garden. Think out of the box, you will be amazed at the items you have laying around which will work perfectly.  As they say, if you build it, they will come.

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After a day of Science Fair projects with a sick boy, and a girl wanting to be entertained endlessly, I just was not up to making a major dinner.  The strawberries are starting to ripen, so they were the focus for tonight’s dinner, with both kids wanting pancakes and sausage it was easy to go from there.

First, take your sausage (one per person or half for smaller children), using either patties or ground fry in a pan on stove.  I prefer to make my sausage from scratch into patties.  This lets me monitor, and fake out the mind, on how much sausage is actually being consumed. I then use the spatula to return the patties into a rough ground stage once more.  In this way, my son who usually asks for two or more sausage patties finds he’s content with a single patty.  After browned, set to side on paper towels to drain.

Next make the strawberry pancakes, just mix up your favorite pancake mix or better yet, make up your own mix. Cut up 3/4 cup of strawberries into small cubes and add to the batter and prepare as you would traditional pancakes.

Place your bottom pancake on plate, add layer of sausage and top with your top pancake. Finish with maple syrup or honey,  sliced berries and dollop of whipped cream if you so desire.  Easy peasy.

**If you want to avoid the sausage all together, a nice layer of cream cheese between layers also is delicious**

My daughter offered her seal of approval on the meal, and a lap quilt I had whipped up from scraps.  She looks so angelic.

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Since my children have been I have never parted with a single article of their clothing. I have found I can use almost every element in another way.  As they have grown so have the options for ways to use them.  One of my favorites is old school shirts and this is the process I use to break them down.

Lay out your shirt on a big surface, be it a table or the floor doesn’t matter.  Take a good look at it and see where and what you can salvage while offering you the largest pieces of material available for other sewing use.

The first thing I remove is the collar, this stretchy band makes a excellent ankle and wrist cuff for winter pajamas.  As it is always a solid color, it can be used for both boys and girls.

Second to go is the thin band that wraps around the base of that collar, this along with the same style band often lining the shirts edges makes for wonderful stitching together and use for making rag rugs once you have a large enough scrap bundle.

I tackle the sleeves as my third step, cutting them right at the seam.  These semi circle pieces can be used to make new sleeves for younger children, sewn into newborn hats (wonderful for charities), as fabric to make slippers and booties (also wonderful for charities or for younger children), liners for winter mittens,  making garden gloves for small children, sewn into a cup shape for dusting, stitched into small bags with drawstring attached for gift giving or party favors, or you can just use the fabric to make smaller quilt pieces or quilted hot pads, placemats, etc.

My next step is usually to remove the main large panel from the neck line.  Begin by cutting up the sides, using care to not cut across the seams, you will be keeping the seams to use in that rag rug making I mentioned earlier.

Now picking a point right under the button holes I cut straight across, I do the same straight across cut in back right under the semi-circle with the size and care information at back of the neck.  This gives me two decent size pieces of scrap fabric.  This can be used for making new clothing for smaller children, doll clothing, quilt squares,  throw pillows, just think outside the box and you can come up with plenty of projects.

This just leaves me with the neck/chest region remaining.  Here is where I actually do throw away a bit of fabric.  I cut panels on either side of the V button holes and throw the button holes away.  I also cut the sections around the label area in the back of neck, throwing away the label section.  I imagine I could go through ripping the seams on the back area to separate the fabric layers, I don’t bother.   This leaves you a couple more small pieces that can be used in your mini quilt/quilts, or for making pockets, doll clothing,  toss-a-cross rice squares, etc.

That’s it,  the final step is a couple large Ziploc baggies to hold your rag scraps, elastics and a rubber maid bin to hold your material scraps.  I have set a goal for myself to use them.  Once the bin is full  I open it and remove the pieces. From this I cut out a quilt pattern and sew it together, each quilt representing another passing of time and growth.  Same with the seam bag, when filled I sew them together end to end and begin working on a rag rug or rag placemats.

There is one more trick I wish to pass along to you.  If you have a shirt you really do not like pattern of, style of material, or that is badly stained and not salvageable for reuse as fabric.  Beginning at bottom, cut 2 to 3 inch strips all the way up to the top of shirt.  You want them to come off as circles, cut the circle to give you a flat strip of fabric, sew these together into a long rope and use that to braid or sew yourself a new rag rug.  The stains, pattern, or material won’t matter.

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My son is doing a project for the schools Science Fair this Thursday, of course my daughter wanted to be involved and do a project for school too.  Explaining from her brother she couldn’t help him, and she was to young just sent her into streams of tears and a lot of “I’m to little to do ANYTHING!” moments.  What’s  a Mother to do? Why hold her own science fair at home of course.  I didn’t have any additional tri-fold boards like my son was using, but thankfully I did have some old cardboard pizza boxes stored in my “I might find use for this on a rainy day” closet.  Cutting off the top, it made the perfect place for her to make her own show and tell board, and was just the right size to not overwhelm her.

We have been doing a LOT of planting lately, and flower growing.  She wanted something cute like puppies and bunnies with lots of flowers.  Flowers, perfect!  Her idea for her project was born.  We spent the morning talking about what is needed to grow flowers all the while adding those elements to her project.  She had a great time and was so proud she could do a school science fair project all on her own.  Yes I helped a bit, but she did all the coloring and cutting and gluing.  I’m very proud of her.  The best part, we got to spend quality time with lots of laughs and smiles.

Going to admit, I have no clue what is up with that face, but that is one seriously mischievous look.

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I have a confession, I really like discarded tires.  They make wonderful rings around baby saplings and new propagation shrubs and roses.  Strawberry beds, flower beds, vegetable beds…oh the possibilities are endless. Best of all, they are usually free or very close to it.

I’ve used them for years to protect new saplings such as is shown with the baby orange tree from accidental lawnmower or weedwacker clipping.  Or to expand my supply of bulb flowers such as crocus, lilies, tulips and daffodils before separating and replanting in established beds.  They have become nurseries for vegetable and flowers in the transition stages. I’ve been known to stack two atop each other, fill with soil and stock full of tomatoes, single layer ones become beds for various lettuce, radish, or herbs.   Three high stacks make wonderful potato beds, in the fall, just kick over the tires and gather your hidden goods in their full glory.  You can arrange them side by side at various heights to display a rather unique look, paint them if you so desire to decor of your choice.  They work with limited landscape, or in areas where the ground just isn’t suitable for proper planting..IE:  flooded, clay or sand.  Next time you see a tire discarded at side of road, consider the possibilities.

**Yes, I did trim the grass around the lilies after taking that picture.**

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