Monthly Archives: October 2011

Carve-acious Creations!

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Our family’s big decisions this weekend were centered around pumpkins.  Should we paint them or should we carve them?  We debated the merits of both, drawing pinspiration from so many sources that it made our heads spin. Talk about fun, there are endless ideas, and some of them were way more intricate than the triangle eyes, nose, and mouth that my parents lovingly carved for us when my brother and I were kids.  Check out this clown pumpkin, is it not adorable? I would never come up with this sort of stuff on my own, gotta love the internet.  After much debate, we decided on two different carved designs: a cyclops and a cannibal.  The cannibal pumpkin is from a blog post entitled Halloween Dos and Don’ts, which positively cracked me up when I read it.  The cyclops pumpkin is from a blog called Lines and Color, which is all about, you guessed it, lines and color.  It has posts about all types of art, from comic books to painting, if you are looking for eye candy to feed your right brain.

Anyway, we already had pumpkins from our visit to a pumpkin patch, and now we had our pinspiration narrowed down.  Check, check.

Then came the yucky part: Cleaning them out.  Bllleegggg, the squishiness of the pumpkin guts makes me want to rub my skin off, so naturally, this was a perfect job for my Christopher.  I’m raising the boy up right, teaching him to kill the spiders and to take the guts out of the pumpkins. Future daughter-in-law, you are most welcome.

Then we drew (very rough) outlines of the carvings on the pumpkins with a dry erase marker.

We don’t own any fancy pumpkin carving kits, and I questioned how well we’d be able to carve the details on the tiny pumpkin.  My husband, always the thinker, came up with a great idea: He broke out the drill and the jig saw to get this job done. I’m sure millions of people have gone this route, and it makes so much sense that I honestly don’t know why my husband has never thought to use power tools on pumpkins before, but I’m glad he did this year, because it sure saved us a lot of time.

He used the drill to carve the mouth portion of this pumpkin, and as an added benefit, it pulled out some of the seeds on the way out, making it look like the pumpkin was throwing up.  Pretty cool, eh?  Yeah, we thought so, and we left it like that for effect.  He used a regular kitchen knife to remove the skin on the pumpkin to shape the eyes.

Then he fired up the jig saw and carved the large pumpkins.  The jig saw saved us a considerable amount of time, and we basically only had to use a knife to fine tune the carvings. Well inside of an hour later, we had these beauties:

We used toothpicks to secure the nose to the cannibal pumpkin, and to hold the smaller pumpkin inside of the larger pumpkin’s mouth.  Here’s how they look in the dark.  I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, despite the fact that you can’t see the terrified expression on the pumpkin that is “being eaten” 😉 Cyclops looks awesome when he’s all lit up though, so I was pretty excited to see how he turned out.

Christopher also put his right brain to work and assembled a pumpkin of his own.  I say assembled because he didn’t exactly carve it, and he used a pretty creative accessory.  Can you tell what it is?

Vampire teeth!! Isn’t that creative?  He cut the eyes and nose out of pumpkin bits that we’d removed from the larger pumpkins, and then anchored them with toothpicks. (Crafty kid we’ve got, huh? He was excited when I told him I’d post this picture of his pumpkin on the internet for him.)

So there you have it. Our Carve-acious Halloween creations.  Happy Halloween!  If you have pictures posted of your own carve-acious creations, post links to them, I’d love to see (and pin!) them!

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Buried in Jalapenos? Try this Jalapeno Popper Spread

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This year was the first year that we really worked at growing a garden.  We’ve grown tomatoes and lettuce in pots before, but this year, we actually grew a bunch of stuff at home and took on a plot at our community garden.  My go-to garden guru, my Grandpa, passed away last fall, so we were on our own in terms of planning what to grow where, and we ended up… a little crowded…

But, despite our obvious ignorance of things like plant spread and spatial relationships, our garden thrived to bionic proportions, both at home and in the garden plot.  At various points over the summer, we were moments away from dropping off zucchini and tomatoes on the doorsteps of strangers, “ding-dong-ditch” style.  Fortunately, friends passed along recipes as they helped us put our bounty to good use, and we managed to find plenty of ways to prepare the bushels of tomatoes, melon, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash than we harvested.  But what do you do with a bunch of extra jalapeno peppers?  Call us sissies, but we don’t exactly eat them raw as a side item.  And we’re still picking several of them a day… in hindsight, maybe 3 jalapeno plants was a bit too many to plant.

Although I do generally use one or two jalapeno a week in our various dinner meals, a dozen or more a week is about four times more than I can generally find use for.  Unless, of course, I’m making Texas style stuffed jalapenos, which we love.  Sadly, the size of the peppers we’ve grown is not large enough to easily make stuffed jalapenos, and just as I was about to give up and try to convince another neighbor to take some (I think they hide when they see us coming with produce in hand at this point), I came across this recipe. It called for canned jalapeno, but some of the reviews mentioned using fresh, so I of course pinned it, and not long after, I received feedback from a friend that it was a solid recipe.  So, I gave it a whirl.

First things first, though.  I had to alter a few things, given some of the reviews and comments, and taking into consideration the quantity of ingredients that I had on hand.  I figured, it’s basically cream cheese and mayonnaise.  It’d be practically impossible to screw that up, right?

Simple enough ingredients: mayo, bread crumbs (optional), parmesan cheese, cream cheese, diced green chiles and jalapenos (fresh or canned);

I obviously wanted to use fresh jalapenos, since that was the point of making this dip anyway to begin with, so I swapped a half dozen of those instead of using 2 ounces of canned. I chopped and deseeded the peppers, and then included the seeds from one pepper to spice up the dip a bit.

Chop the peppers up nice and fine, leaving more or less seeds, depending on how spicy you want the dip to be.

After I chopped up the jalapenos, I combined the mayo and softened cream cheese (I used whipped cream cheese, just because it’s what I usually buy) in my food processor, and blended it them together until they were really smooth. Don’t make fun of my food processor.  It’s really just an attachment that came with my blender, and it’s smaller than I would like, but nonetheless, it does a passable job making salsa and baby food and everything else that I use it for, so it earns my respect.

Then I added the green chiles and jalapenos into the food processor with the mayo/cream cheese blend. I only had a 7 ounce can of diced green chiles, so I went ahead and used the whole can.

Blend well.

After it looked well blended, I poured it into a baking dish, and added some parmesan cheese.

The original recipe just said to top it with parmesan, but I wanted to be sure it baked in, so I gave it a few good stirs.

Then,  on the advice of some of the reviewers on the original recipe, I topped the whole thing off with bread crumbs. I didn’t measure, I just sprinkled them on top.

These are Italian seasoned bread crumbs, because that's what I buy, but regular would work just fine.

The original recipe said that you could microwave this if you were pinched for time, but I decided to follow the baked variation, which was for 30 minutes at 375F, since I think that sometimes, good things really do come to those who wait.  And anyway, if I were going to microwave it, I probably wouldn’t bother with the bread crumbs, since they wouldn’t brown up anyway.

Hot and bubbly from the oven.

I served this as a side item with Ritz crackers and pretzel crisps that I got at the Pepperidge Farm outlet.  (Do you have one of those near you?  If you do, and you’ve never been there, hit them up ASAP.  My kids could live on Goldfish crackers if I let them, and they are a great motivating tool for His Majesty.  He’ll do anything for a “KRA-KA”.)  The main dish was portabella quesadillas, which my family usually gobbles up.  However, I think that my husband really ate his quesadilla that evening merely as an excuse to eat more jalapeno dip.  He covered his quesadilla with so much dip that you couldn’t even see the tortilla.  My oldest son ate his with a spoon. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they liked it.  Even His Majesty ate a fair share of it on his pretzel crisps.  Four thumbs up from me and my guys.

So, how did your garden grow this year?  Did you get buried in any large harvests, and if so, did you find any interesting ways to use up your extra produce?  Have you made this dip, and was it also a big hit at your house?

Word Play Wednesday

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One of my favorite things to pin are quotes, and Pinterest users have amassed an impressive collection of them.  Whenever I go on a pinning adventure, I never fail to find several that evoke emotion in me, be it a lump in my throat, an inspirational burst of energy or gratitude, or a belly laugh.  There are quotes that remind me to treasure my children, to thank God, to nurture my husband and friendships, and to laugh at my haters. It would be a disservice to not take some of those quotes from the board to the blog. So without further ado, here’s one that has stuck out in my mind this week.

Because seriously, where is time going?!  1990 was the first new decade that I celebrated.  I can still remember it being a big deal among my circle of friends, the new decade.  I think someone must have hit the fast forward button in my life sometime around 2000, because everything from that point forward just seems like a blur. I recently had a friend visit me from my home state of Michigan (Holla!!) and we reflected on the fact that we’ve been friends for 12 years. I can still pretty vividly recall BEING twelve-years-old, and now I’ve had a friend that I met as an adult that I’ve known for 12 years.  My best friend and I have been friends for more than 25 years.  That logically means I’m not 25 anymore.  Again I ask you, where in the heck is time going?!

For me, this quote reminds me that time passes in an instant, and is gone before we even notice it’s here.  Because of that, it inspires me to only put effort into things that will make me and my family happier, smarter, or otherwise better, than we were yesterday.  So why wait until New Years? Cheers to that!

Salud!

It’s the Great Pumpkin! Kind of…

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There is so much Halloween cuteness to be found on Pinterest that I had to make a separate board to keep my inspirations straight. Pumpkin carvings like this and snacks like this.  Don’t they just make you want to host a Halloween party?!  Plus, after I made the ghost feet canvas, and loved it, I didn’t want to waste any time getting on board making this adorable kid friendly craft . I wanted to get it up on the wall as soon as possible, so that I didn’t have to wait until next year to display it.   Here was my inspiration.

Is this not adorable?!

I’d already purchased the canvas in a bulk pack using a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby(making each 12×12 canvas cost about $1.20), and I already had brushes, spray acrylic sealer, white paint, and stencils from previous projects.  So, I stopped at Michael’s and grabbed four tubes of acrylic paint (two different oranges and two different greens) and a roll of orange ribbon with white trim to use to hang the canvas. By the way, educators, including home educators, get an additional 15% off every day at Michael’s, so bring your teacher ID or homeschool registration card if you want to save some extra money.  My out of pocket for this rang in just shy of $5.

Anyway, I brush painted the canvas white at night, after my boys had gone to bed.  I should have used a foam roller, like I did on the ghost footprint canvas, because it was quick and seemed to give really even coverage, but my roller wasn’t completely dry when I started this project, so I had to make due with brushes.

White paint on a white canvas... not much to see yet!

I did two coats of paint, letting it dry for about 30 minutes in between coats.  Then I painted a big orange pumpkin.  I just free handed it, starting small and then making it larger until I liked how it looked.

Then I did some stripes in a slightly darker shade of orange to try to show some depth, stenciled in the year, and let the whole thing dry overnight.

This is the first handprint art I tried with the boys since the disaster that was Father’s Day 2010, when His Majesty, then a mere 3 months old, screeched like a banshee and refused to humor me by opening up his hands.  Talk about a big fat, FAIL!  But this time, this time was going to be different.  This time, the project was going to go perfectly.  After all, our footprint effort had gone off without a hitch, so naturally, I was more than hopeful that this project would be a success.

Well, it wasn’t exactly as easy as I’d hoped.  My plan was to use Christopher’s hands to do the leaves first, and then use His Majesty’s hands to do more leaves in a slightly lighter color green, kind of overlapping them.  Seemed pretty straightforward, right?  Yes, except that Christopher is eleven years old, and his hands are officially almost as large as my own.  Which would have been fine, except that the pumpkin I painted was not large enough to make that work.  And because I’d already stenciled in the year, I would have had to paint over the stencil in a few coats of white paint, wait for it to dry, enlarge the pumpkin, wait for THAT to dry, and then do the handprint leaves. I was so bummed.  But then Christopher, the independent thinker that he is, suggested that we use his thumb as the stem of the pumpkin, and leave little brother’s hands to serve as the leaves.  YES, I agreed, that sounded perfect!

We started about the task of gathering His Majesty, who was clearly disturbed that he was not being granted the privilege of holding the paintbrush.  Luckily, he didn’t make too much of a fuss about it.  It was early, and mercifully, I don’t think he was fully awake.

Not exactly thrilled with his role in this project.

So, all was going well with the painting of his palm, except that when I got ready to make the first print, he closed his fist.  Tightly.  And by the time I’d convinced him (aka, bribed him with the promise of a banana) to open it, the paint was kind of dried.  So I had to repaint his hand, and then quickly press it to the canvas.  Anyway, we eventually got it, and the other hand, too.  And they looked pretty darn cute, despite some areas that would need some minor touch ups.

Then came time for Christopher to do the stem.

He expertly painted his thumb and made his mark on the canvas.  His print was even, and dark, a real 10+ thumbprint…but… do you see what we saw?

His beautiful thumbprint was positioned in such a way that it looked like His Majesty had a large 6th finger.  We laughingly examined it from all angles, and then Christopher suggested that we should scrap the stem idea and instead turn the thumbprint into a vine.  He was the brains of the operation, but unfortunately, I was assigned the task of turning his thumbprint into a vine… and painting leaves…

Eh. It worked out ok.  See the cute little handprints?  And those nice stenciled letters? Focus on those… Because I obviously need some practice making vines. And I probably should have googled images of pumpkin leaves before trying to paint them, considering that mine don’t look the least bit like them… but, we got it done (in under an hour), despite a few minor changes to the original plan.  Plus, we had some laughs about it, which I’m sure we’ll remember every year when I dig this beauty out of the Halloween box.

After it dried, I took it outside and sprayed it with acrylic coating, to seal the paint so that I can keep our creation for years to come.  The acrylic has to dry for 24 hours before you handle it, so it was another 2 days before I was ready to put the finishing touches on it and hang it up. I asked my husband to help me staple the ribbon to the back of the canvas, and I should have just waited for him.  However, I’m a little bit impatient, and in the 20 seconds of waiting on him, I decided to just staple it myself.  How hard could it be to use a staple gun, right?

Wrong.  What happened next was so disappointing, not to mention a bit scary, plus it made me mad, but didn’t kill or impale me or anyone in my family, so all is well.

I picked up the staple gun, squeezed the trigger, heard a loud crack, and then looked down to examine my handy work.  But there was no staple holding the ribbon to the canvas.  And just as I opened my mouth to ask my husband what kind of cruddy staple gun we owned, he turned the corner into the kitchen, and I realized what I had done.

I had held the staple gun incorrectly, and instead of attaching the ribbon to the canvas, I’d shot a rogue staple right through the center of the Great Pumpkin.

I wish I had a picture of the staple, but in the midst of my temper tantrum heartfelt expression of gratitude that I hadn’t shot myself in the eye/carotid artery/chest/whatever with the wild staple, it just slipped my mind.  I was pretty peeved that I had damaged the canvas, but my wonderful (and always calm) husband managed to remove the staple, and blend the paint on the pumpkin, leaving only a few traces of my staple gun mishap. He also stapled the ribbon to the canvas, and presented it to me for to display.

My reminder to not use tools without at least getting a brief how-to demonstration.

The staple gun does work to easily attach ribbon to canvas, assuming that you use it correctly.

After all of that, our final result looked like this.

Not too bad.  And, if you harbor a better understanding of spatial relations and staple guns than yours truly, it should be relatively easy to pull this off.  Obviously, if I can literally fumble through it, YOU can do it. I’ve gotten all of the mistakes out of the way for you now!

So tell me.  Have you ever had a creative snafu?  Did something that you created not turn out exactly as you’d hoped, but you somehow managed to pull it off in the end?  Have you narrowly averted a run in with a staple gun? Do tell. Please give me something to chuckle about that isn’t myself!

Jello Play Dough

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Oooh, do I have a recommendation for a fun activity for you and your kids today!  You may even have everything you need to make it in your kitchen already!

Jello Play Dough sounded like great way to kill some time inside, which is exactly what we needed on a rainy day earlier this week.  Both of my boys, eleven year old Christopher, and His Majesty, in all of his 19 month old glory, enjoyed playing with it, and it worked out great for me for two reasons: It made the soundtrack of my morning absolutely lovely to hear the two of them playing together, AND it gave me time to get some of my kitchen stuff done, while I simultaneously admired their jello play dough masterpieces.  It also scored bonus points because it was made with commonly stocked ingredients, and I didn’t have to make a special trip to the store.  I didn’t have any wax paper, but whatever, other than that, I had everything I needed, and I easily made it work.  It’ s pretty great to think that if we end up getting stuck inside unexpectedly due to weather or whatever might come up in our day to day chaos, I’ll have a quick activity option to whip up with hardly any advanced planning.

I wake up earlier than my boys even on our down days, mainly so that I can enjoy a shower and nice cup of tea (AND a Diet Pepsi) before anyone is awake and asking me for (or, in the case of His Majesty, demanding) anything.  It also gave me time to take a look at the original source, and figure out my plan of attack.  And speaking of the original source, what an amazing sight!  There are a dozen different play dough recipes, all a click away. I can’t wait to give some of the other recipes on there a try.

Ok, I digress.  Where were we? Oh, yeah, so, as I boiled my water for my tea and cracked my Diet Pepsi, I assembled my ingredients.

Gelatin (I had strawberry), cream of tartar, canola oil, white flour, salt, and water; Also, wax paper, to sit your dough on while it cools enough to handle it. 

Then I tossed them into a big ol’ bowl, mixing the dry ingredients before I added the oil and water.

Mix to an even consistency.

And you’ll end up with something that looks like this:

Nice and smooth

Then pour the mixture into a sauce pan and heat on low, stirring constantly.  The original source mentions that this will burn easily, so be sure not to turn the heat up too high, and remember to keep stirring it..

Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring…

Eventually, after about 5 minutes, the mixture will start to clump into a big old blob.  That’s when you know you’re on the right track.  When it is all clumpy, and there is no more liquid, you’re done.

Then, I ran into a bit of a snag, but no worries, I improvised, and all was well.  The first snag was that I got a phone call.  Kids sleeping + ringing phone = move quickly.  Turns out, it was one of my BFFs, and given that no one was awake, the opportunity for an uninterrupted conversation could not be passed up.  The second snag, which happened simultaneously with the first, was the realization that I did not in fact have wax paper, but rather, parchment paper. Oh well, I figured a stainless steel bowl and a fridge would do just as well to cool it down, and maybe even in time to finish it before the kids woke up.   It looked like this when I put it into the fridge:

Clumped together, no liquid, but still rather sticky. And hot. So let it cool before you touch it.

Well, the conversation lasted a while and when I pulled out the dough, it was nice and cool. In a further alignment of the stars, His Majesty was still asleep and Christopher was peacefully eating his breakfast and examining his daily lessons, without so much as a loud and intentional sigh.  So, I added some flour to the dough, and started to knead it as the directions entail.

I had to add a good amount of flour to keep it from being gummy. I just kept adding a little at a time until I got it to the right consistency; I’d estimate I added about a 1/2 cup.

About 10 minutes later, after slowly adding about 1/2 cup of flour a little at a time so as not to ruin the consistency, it was no longer sticky, was easy to handle, and had the perfect amount of play dough squish to it.  I couldn’t wait to let the boys play with it.

After breakfast, with the morning dishes looming in the sink, I figured it was the perfect time to let them have at it while I cleaned up.  It was an instant hit.

The dough didn’t stain our hands or the placemat, and while I wouldn’t intentionally get it on my clothing, it was very easy to clean up. The cost for all of the ingredients is be minimal, and making the dough took less than a half hour, not including the cooling time.

The original source says that it will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I put mine in a ziplock bag, and then put the bag inside of a tupperware, before popping it in the fridge, and it is still usable 2 days later, although I did go ahead and add a little more flour to make it less gummy.

All in all, the Jello Play Dough was a huge hit.  And it tided His Majesty over until it was time to play with his favorite toy of recent days.

Empty yogurt cups.  Do you have a toddler?  Start saving your yogurt cups.  You can thank me later.

So there you have it.  A quick, cheap, and easy way to entertain your kids, all with easily obtainable ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen.

Happy Pinning!

Ghost Feet Wall Art

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I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. Aside from the fact that the temperatures cool down to the point where I can come out of my air conditioned hibernation, this fall was even more exciting because I scored big on clearance fall decor at Michael’s last year , so I had some new decorations to put outside. But besides having all of the store bought tackiness outside that I can stand (scarecrows and witches and dancing ghosts and foam pumpkins, woot woot!), I found this idea (and here’s the original source ) that had me running to buy a canvas and some paint.  Oooh, I did I have some perfect feet in mind for this!

Can I just take a detour for a second and tell you that I have NEVER been the type of mom to be cool with paint + toddlers?  The transformation I’ve undergone during the last year and a half at home (since His Majesty was born) is just surreal.  Don’t get me wrong, I still thrive on order and routine, but I have made some vast improvements, even calmly standing by while His Majesty painted a few masterpieces at our local kid’s art museum a few weeks ago. Thank goodness I got over my anxiety over getting a little paint out, there’s so much fun stuff to make! Prepare yourself for some gratuitous cuteness. Awwwwwwww…

He looked pretty excited to be painting, didn't he?

Anyway, back to the Ghost Feet Wall Art.  Here’s one of the original source’s masterpieces.

Pretty cute, eh? You should check out her blog, and how she put a twist on another girl ghost footprint. So creative!

The original source mentioned that while you could do this on construction paper, but both she, and I, elected to use canvas rather than construction paper. I used a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby (Do you get their weekly emails?  There’s always a coupon for something, and they only send one email a week.), so a four pack of 12 x 12 inch canvas rang in at less than $4.79 (40% off of the regular price of $7.99).  I knew I was going to use the other canvas eventually, so I went ahead and got the four pack.  In fact, I had another Halloween kid created masterpiece in mind, so stay tuned for more on that later! Anyway, each canvas rang in at $1.20 pre tax, and then I hopped basically across the street to Michael’s where I  then purchased two 2-ounce tubes of acrylic paint (one in black and one in white) on sale for 67 cents, and a roll of black and white polka dotted ribbon.  Educators, including home educators, get an additional 15% off every day at Michael’s (bring proof that you are an educator to show at the register), so the ribbon total for those 3 items was about $5.  I already had a brand new roller brush to paint the canvas, and regular brushes to apply paint to my boys’ feet, so, I didn’t need to buy more of those, making my total out of pocket cost for the project less than $7.  Not bad!

Then, oh happy day, when I got home and gathered my brushes, I found an unopened pack of stencils that I had snagged on clearance back in the summer for something like 50% off the sticker price of $4.99!  I decided to use them rather than try to hold my usually-shaking-from -too-much-caffiene hands to the task of writing directly on the canvas.  Major score for something forgotten and then found at the perfect time!  Usually when I find something useful, it’s when I’m putting things AWAY from a project–doesn’t that drive you nuts?!

Supplies gathered, and ready to begin! Paint, brushes, ribbon, stencil, and canvas.

You may notice something is missing from this picture…something crucial to the project… FEET!  Yes, that’s ok. This was a two part project. I painted the canvas black at night (two coats using the roller brush) and then gathered the feet the next day, after the canvas was good and dry.

Using the roller was genius. It covered really well, and took only a few minutes time.

Here's the canvas after two thin, evenly applied coats. I let it dry for one full episode of Breaking Bad, so about an hour, before I applied the second coat.

After I applied the second coat, the hubs and I watched another episode of Breaking Bad (we were catching up on season 4… whoa, that show is SO GOOD!!) and went to bed, leaving the canvas out to be finished in the morning. And the next morning, we got started right away, before His Majesty was dressed, and when Christopher would have been happiest to remain sleeping.

Coat the little feet evenly in white paint. And then apply it to the canvas quickly, before it has time to start to dry.

Press their feet firmly onto the canvas. I was afraid that it would break the canvas to have them step directly onto it, particularly my oldest, who is almost as big as I am, but you could always try that method too. Basically you just want to get a good print of their little feet.

We did His Majesty’s print first.  He resisted, and fought back, but we bribed him with the promise of bananas, and he cooperated.  Not a bad print for a first timer!

Look at Christopher’s foot next to His Majesty’s!  Where does the time go? Hard to believe that Christopher’s feet were ever that small 😦

Two sweet feet

Something to note:  If your print isn’t even, or if you have fuzziness where the foot didn’t make a good impression, you can easily fill it in with more white paint to fill out your footprint. Likewise, if you end up getting the look of 6 toes, like on His Majesty’s print, you can fine tune it with a bit of black paint.  This is a very forgiving project. You could even paint all over it and start from scratch if you were so inclined. That’s why I didn’t worry about the white splotch that we got when we printed His Majesty’s foot– I knew it would be an easy fix. Plus, it’s kid art, so part of it’s charm (*I* think) is in the little imperfections.  I added the “eyes” using a cotton swab, and used the stencils to do the lettering.  I decided not to write the boys’ names, since it was obvious which print belonged to which kid.  Thinking more about this, you could also glue on wiggle eyes if you wanted to be really cool.

After you let everything dry again, you just have to attach your ribbon.  You can also just hang the canvas as is, and forgo the ribbon, too.  (Or you could hang the canvas with pop tabs.  Have you heard of this?  I tried a few months ago with some canvas that I painted for our bonus room, and it worked *like a dream*.  As in perfectly.  Although, getting the pop tabs off of the cans fully intact was not as easy as I thought it would be. Check out this source blog for more about the pop tab idea.) Anyway, I liked the idea of using ribbon, like the original source, so I asked my husband to attach it to the back of the canvas with a staple gun.

There’s when my husband suggested that we spray it with an acrylic sealer, which would allow us to hang it outdoors without worrying that the weather would ruin it.  Since we already had sealer, I figured we’d might as well, which then added a full day to the total craft time (it needed to dry for 24 hours before we messed with it again).

Anyway, after the drying period passed, he went ahead and stapled on the ribbon for me.

And Ta-dah!! Done!

Including drying time, this wasn’t exactly a 5 minute masterpiece, but it was about as easy as it gets to create, and pretty cheap to boot.  Plus cute.  And festive. Don’t you think?  This is something that will surely bring a smile to my face from year to year.

Have you created anything beautiful lately?

Manic Monday: Mexican Pulled Pork and Lime Cilantro Rice

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I’m convinced that it is a universal truth that Mondays are crazy days.

In my house, we all kind of have to reset ourselves after having had extra down time on the weekend.  Christopher muddles over the necessity of doing lessons, His Majesty wakes up asking for Daddy, and spends the first part of his day looking for him, and I have to catch up on whatever tasks I neglected over the weekend in favor of embracing and enjoying the extra time with my family, plus keep on top of my daily tasks.  Add that to the fact that homeschooling actually doesn’t involve as much time at home as one might assume, and it’s pretty nuts around here.

Because of this mania, Monday is often a crock pot kind of day.  And Pinterest is absolutely loaded with crock pot ideas.  One of our favorite crock pot dishes is Mexican Pulled Pork. It is easy, versatile, and delicious, plus, it makes so much that we end up with leftovers, which makes it even more spectacular. Plus, it is great if you work, because it has a long cook time.

The original recipe is here.  I change some things, specifically a few quantities of items, just for my own convenience. You’ll need these ingredients to start:

Garlic, diced green chiles, chilpotle salsa, cilantro, and a chunk of pork loin.

Plus, I love these:

Reynold's Slow Cooker Liners

They make cleanup a breeze.  We get them at the grocery store, down the aisle with the tin foil.

Ok, so chop your cilantro and toss it in the fridge for later.  I like to do as much prep as possible in the beginning of the day, so that when the 5pm “witching hour” is upon us, there is less to worry about. Then, stick a liner in your crock pot, throw in the pork loin (Mine was about 2.5 lbs, and made 6 generous servings).  I don’t cut it up in bite sized pieces.  It’s going to be shredded anyway, and after 7 hours in the slow cooker, it falls apart beautifully, so I don’t bother with the extra work and mess of cutting it into small pieces.

Anyway, throw in the intact pork loin.  Then add 3 cloves of minced garlic and the entire can of diced chiles (mine came in a 7 ounce can, so I went with that slightly reduced quantity) to cover the top of the pork, and the dump the whole can of chilpotle salsa over everything.  The original recipe calls for less, but I just don’t like to waste, plus, we like our stuff extra saucy, so it works out. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the crock pot, cover it, and turn it on.

7 hours on low. And then go about your day.

Towards the end of the the 7 hours, I always check the temperature with a meat thermometer.  Pork should be 160 degrees F.

The smell is amazing. My oldest son practically dances around the kitchen in anticipation of this dish!

Next, you want to make yourself some rice. I use minute rice.  I know, it’s not “real” rice. But rice is essentially just a nutritionally void filler, so I don’t really worry too much about the fact that I serve a modified substitute for it once a month.  Minute rice is easy.  I make 4 servings, subbing 1/4 cup lime juice for 1/4 cup water, and then I add 1/4 cup of cilantro like the original recipe calls for.While you’re waiting on the rice to boil, shred your pork with two forks.

Try not to tear the liner, though, or your easy clean up won’t be as easy.  Still easier than crusted on food, but if you can manage, go easy on the liner.

When the rice is done, you’re ready to dish it out.

Mexican pulled pork over lime cilantro rice. Topped with cilantro, because cilantro rocks.

Now, it’s delicious as is.  Except that I don’t eat a lot of starch (unless it’s really worth it, like movie theater popcorn, or an amazing dessert prepared by my friend Emily), so I always skip the rice with my serving.  Plus, yesterday was Taco Night at our house, and (because menu planning is such a great timesaving tool that prevents waste) I intentionally cut up extra toppings (tomato, cheese, avocado, and lettuce) and got out the salsa and sour cream.   So, my plate ended up looking like this:

That's what I'm talking about.

My son has put his pork inside flour tortillas and eaten it like a fajita before, and that was really good too. Like I said, it’s a versatile dish.

And it’s so good!

Now, all you have to do is clean up:

Pull your liner up slowly, in case you accidentally tore it.

No scrubbing required! Just a quick wash and you're done!

Wasn’t that easy?!

Anything to help Mondays pass just a little bit easier.

Happy Pinning!