Friday, December 10, 2010

Quick and Easy Crocheted Scarf Pattern





The bulky new chunky yarns are wonderful for knitting or crocheting quick accessories. Bernat Softee Chunky yarn was on sale this week at Michaels at the price of 2 - 2.8 oz. skeins for $5.00 and it comes in a variety of colors and color combinations. Using an ombre color creates a stripes. This yarn is 100% acrylic and is machine washable and dryable. Two skeins are just enough to make a simple scarf that is 6 ½ inches wide and 54 inches long. You can crochet a whole scarf in 2-3 hours which makes a nice last minute gift or quick replacement if you lose your scarf.

Easy Crocheted Scarf

J hook
2 – 2.8 oz skeins of Bernat Softee Chunky yarn or
5.6 oz chunky yarn .

Instructions:
Chain 16.
Row 1: Single crochet in second chain from hook and across to the end, chain 2 and turn.

Row 2: Half double crochet across, chain2, and turn.

Repeat row 2 until you have about 56 inches, then chain 1.

Last row: single crochet across, cut yarn, and weave in end.

This makes a nice warm scarf. You will need another skein if you want to add fringe or another finish to the ends of the scarf. You can also use two strands of a thinner yarn held together. This is my own pattern. Crochet Pattern Central has a lot of other good scarf patterns .


It looks like it is going to be a long, cold winter this year. We’ll probably need a couple of warm scarves to get us through.





Thursday, December 9, 2010

Easy Gift Idea for Mothers and Grandmothers


A hand decorated sweatshirt or bag with a child’s hand print or foot print can be a much loved and appreciated gift for a mother or grandmother. It is also very easy and can be inexpensive. Your child will also enjoy making a gift.

Choose a blank sweatshirt, canvas bag, potholder, apron, Christmas ornament, photo album, or garden stone. Hobby stores have a wide variety of these items. Buy a bottle or 2 of acrylic paint. Spread some newspapers on a table and pour some paint out on a paper plate and spread it around in a circle large enough to fit your child’s hand or foot using a brush or plastic spoon. Have some paper towels ready for clean up. Choose a time when your child is well rested and feeling cooperative. Dip their hand into the paint and press as hard as they can onto the item. You might want to let them practice with water on a paper towel first so they can get an idea of what they’re supposed to do. Wash hands or feet immediately with warm soapy water. After the print dries, you can let them add their name or you can do that yourself and jazz it up too. For a fabric item, you will need to set the paint after it dries for 24-48 hours. Place a piece of wax paper over the paint and press lightly with a hot iron. Carefully remove the wax paper.
My son made the potholder in the picture 14 years ago! I get it out every year for Christmas. I love it! It reminds me of when he was a sweet, little boy.
I found a couple of good decorating ideas on the web. The first is an Angel theme sweatshirt from About.com. The second is a cute reindeer made from a footprint and hand prints from eHow.com.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Santa Claus Coaster Crochet Pattern


Materials:
Small amounts of yarn:
Peach, red, white, blue
H hook
Face:

Round 1: Beginning with peach, chain 3 and join. Chain 3, 5 dc in ring, switch to white, carrying peach along, and make 6 more dc in ring and join to top of chain 3.

Round 2: Switch back to peach, (carrying white) chain 3, dc in same stitch, and make 2dc in next 5 dc (should be peach). Drop peach and switch to white and make 2 dc in last 6 dc(should be white) and join to top of chain 3.

Round 3: Continuing with white, chain 1 and single crochet in first peach dc. 2 sc in next 11 dc. (24 sc made for hair.) “Chain 1, sc” in next 12 dc and join to top of chain 1. Chain 3 and turn. Sc in chain one space. Chain 3 and sc in next space around to end of white sc. (Beard)

Hat:

Join red with a slip stitch to the 3rd sc above beard on the right side of the coaster. Sc in next 3 sc. Hdc in next 2 sc. Ds in next 2 sc. 2 tr in next sc, 3 dtr in next sc, 2 tr in next sc, dc in next 2 sc, hdc in next 2 sc, sc in next 2 sc, and slip in next sc. Finish off red. (Note: this will work if you have 24 scs. You can place a marker in the top and count down if you end up with more or less than 24sc.)

Pom Pom

Attach white with a slip stitch to middle dtr and chain 3. Make 2 dc in same stitch. Slip stitch into same stitch. Carry yarn to the back and fasten off.
Make 2 French knot eyes using blue yarn.
Abbreviations:
Sc: single crochet
Dc: double crochet
Hdc: half double crochet
Tr: triple crochet
Dtr: double triple crochet

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Easy Christmas Gift: Make a Bookmark



Giftgiving at Christmas can be a difficult and expensive task. It is truly the thought that counts but my thought is that I don't want to disappoint anyone. When I give a gift, I want the recipient to know I was thinking about them. Just about anyone could use a new bookmark and they can be personalized to fit the recipient. Handmade bookmarks are a perfect gift. They are quick and easy to make. They are inexpensive. They are fun to make. You can make them fit a personality, be a reminder of a shared memory, or just be a useful marker for a book. They can be given alone or with a book.
The simplest bookmark is just a rectangle of firm paper to mark a page. Used greeting cards work well alone and when attached to card stock papers or large satin ribbons. Recycling is a double gift that gives to nature as well as to a special friend.
Choose a sturdy piece of paper or greeting card picture and cut out a long rectangle. The average size paperback is approximately 4 X 7 inches so a bookmark should be less than 7 inches long and about 1 ½ - 2 1/2 inches wide. Decorate your paper with cutouts from greeting cards, stickers, paint, stamps, a comic, charms, or pictures. Pictures can be photocopied and cut into shapes and glued to the bookmark. Write a message on it. Leaving it plain is fine too. If you want to protect your bookmark from wear, you can put some heavy, clear tape across it. Clear packing tape works well. Next, you can punch a hole through the top and thread a piece of ribbon, yarn, rick rack, or lace trimming through the hole and tie a knot to keep the trim from falling out. You can also thread a pretty button through your yarn or card.

Bookmarks are a great gift. You can never have enough because they are easy to lose and they eventually wear out. Taking time to make a personal bookmark for a special friend can be a thoughtful way to show your friendship and love for that person.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rotten Bananas









Banana Bread can be a cheap and easy gift to make for Christmas presents!

If your bananas turn brown before you can eat them, there are several ways you can use them. There is no need to throw them away if they are too mushy to eat. You can make banana smoothies, muffins, bread, pudding, cream pie, a banana facial, and even a banana hair conditioner. Even better: bananas can easily be frozen for future use. Just peel, slice, and freeze in a container or bag.

Banana bread is fun to experiment with and makes a wonderful Christmas present. You can add nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter – there are hundreds of combinations. For gift giving, you can bake it in a festive tin foil pan or simply wrap it in saran wrap and tie it up in a pretty bow.

The secret to making a moist, delicious banana bread is to use overripe, mushy bananas and to take care that you do not over mix the batter. Mix dry ingredients separately from wet and then blend together just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. I will share my favorite banana bread recipe. If I am gifting this bread, I will usually butter the pan well and flour with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. I might even drizzle a little vanilla frosting over the top for decoration.


Banana Bread
Mash 3-4 ripe bananas and combine in bowl with the following ingredients:

1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar

In a separate bowl, combine the following ingredients:

1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup walnuts

Blend flour mixture into the banana mixture and spread into a greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool and remove from pan. (This recipe is from Simply Recipes.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweet, Spicy Gingerbread


MMMMM!!!! Gingerbread!

Nothing smells better than sweet, spicy, gingerbread cookies baking in the oven and they are so delicious!

Gingerbread is an old European tradition. It was first made by monks to celebrate special occasions. Ginger was one of the spices brought to England and France by the Crusaders. It was used as a preservative and baked into cakes and added to meats to make them last longer.

Today we celebrate Christmas with decorated gingerbread cookies and houses. Gingerbread is good any time of the year.

You can make easily make gingerbread from scratch. There are hundreds of recipes on the web. Most of the recipes call for a lot of spices and molasses so they can be expensive to make. About.com has a recipe called a Shortcut Gingerbread House and Cookie Dough Recipe that looks pretty easy and uses a spice cake mix for the base. You can buy mixes and kits that work well too. You can make houses, cookies, cake, muffins, even pancakes.

Here is a gingerbread pancake recipe that I like:

Gingerbread Pancakes
Ingredients:
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ cup fat free milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp. oil
Heat nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Combine the first 6 ingredients in bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture and stir until just mixed – do not over mix. Pour ¼ cup of batter on skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles begin to form. Flip, and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup or whipped cream. You can even make them in the shape of a gingerbread man by spooning out the shapes on your skillet for head, body, legs, and arms.

Just as delicious as IHOP and will help use up some those expensive spices if you bought them for cookies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Cranberry Magic

Cranberries have almost magical healing properties. These pretty little berries were used by Native Americans to make poultices for healing wounds. Eating cranberries can help prevent infections, increase blood circulation, act as a diuretic, prevent skin irritation, and prevent dental decay. They are high in vitamin C and antioxidants and they are low in calories. An 8 ounce glass of Ocean Spray Cocktail has 130 calories and contains 100% of the daily recommendation of Vitamin C. There are many different varieties of cranberry juice including a pomegranate/cranberry mixture which is delicious!

There are hundreds of cranberry recipes and making cranberry sauce is incredibly easy. Fresh and canned cranberries are on sale this week in many grocery stores. Here is an easy recipe for making your own cranberry sauce:

Ingredients:
4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Wash cranberries. Bring water and sugar to a boil in sauce pan. Add cranberries and simmer on low heat until berries burst – about 10 minutes. Add pecan, orange zest, or spices if you prefer. Cool at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes 2 ½ cups. I like to use half strawberries and half cranberries in my sauce.

You can store cranberry sauce for about a month in the refrigerator so it is one dish you can make ahead of time. Leftover cranberry sauce can be added to your morning oatmeal or yoghurt. There are many recipes for cranberry bread, muffins, cake, and main dishes that use cranberry sauce. You can also make a beauty treatment with those leftovers. Cranberry facials are very good for oily skin. Just mix together equal parts of cranberry sauce and honey. Spread over face and leave for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water.

Raw cranberries make pretty decorations too. They can be arranged in jars with candles. Fill a glass bowl with water and add some fresh cranberries and floating candles for a festive centerpiece. They can be strung together with dental floss for a pretty garland. They can be glued to wreaths, candles, and styrofoam balls and cones. See oceanspray.com for more decorating ideas and crafts plus delicious recipes. Cranberries make very festive Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Turkey Centerpiece


This turkey centerpiece is quick and easy to make, inexpensive, and can be made in a variety of ways.

Basic materials:
Orange
Suckers
2 googly eyes or buttons
Scraps of orange and red felt or construction paper
Serrated knife
Glue
Plate or platter.

Lay orange on its side.
Insert sucker into top front of orange for the head
Insert 5-7 suckers into the back top of the orange in fan shape for the tail.
Slice a small amount off the bottom of the orange so that it can stand up straight and place on a plate or platter.
Cut a small triangle from the orange felt or paper for the beak and two teardrop shapes from the red for a gobbler.
Glue googly eyes, beak, and gobbler to the sucker head and let dry.
Variations:
1. Insert pattern of cloves into orange for a more textured turkey before inserting the suckers.
2. Insert small feathers for the tail instead of suckers.
3. Arrange loose cranberries, small acorns, or candy corn around base of turkey.
4. Cut a small pilgrim hat from felt or construction paper and glue to head.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

I don’t know if the Pilgrims ate sweet potatoes on that first Thanksgiving but most of us like to serve them with our dinner. My mother used to open a couple of cans of sweet potatoes, put them in a baking dish, top them with some brown sugar and marsh mellows and bake until they were nice and brown and gooey. Unfortunately, it was not a very tasty dish and it put me off sweet potatoes. I didn’t start liking sweet potatoes until I had a baked one in a restaurant. Now I love them. I buy the wrapped and ready to bake sweet potatoes in the grocery store. You can microwave them in minutes and add your favorite toppings.

Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make a sweet potato casserole. Last year I was feeling lazy so instead of peeling, boiling, and making a sweet potato casserole, I washed them, wrapped them in foil, and baked them in the oven along with my turkey. After about an hour and a half, they were nice and soft. I pulled them out of the oven and let them cool just a little. I sliced them in half, scooped out the pulp, and mashed them with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. They were amazingly delicious! However, if you do need a prettier dish for company, this sweet potato casserole is easy to make and tastes delicious. It also has some crunch to it.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients:
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup flour

Peel and cut potatoes into chunks. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat until tender (about 20-25 minutes). Drain and return to pot. Mash until smooth. Cool 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt half the butter. Using a large bowl lightly beat eggs and then beat in vanilla, melted butter, and sweet potatoes. Transfer to casserole dish. Combine sugar, pecans, and flour. Work in remaining butter with fork until pea sized crumbs form. Sprinkle over potato mixture and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Candy




Do you really need to fill a candy dish full of candy so soon after Halloween? I do. I like to have candy around for all occasions. It’s good for the kids and for adults who don’t care for pumpkin pie.

Here is a list of some of the candies I like to have around for Thanksgiving: candy corn, Melocream Pumpkins, Melocream Autumn Mix, chocolate turkeys, and orange and black jelly beans. There are also harvest or autumn themed M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, and other treats. They look pretty and festive and can be used to decorate cupcakes, cookies, cakes, Rice Krispie treats, and other desserts.
It is also fun to make treats out of candy.

Pilgrim Hats are easy to make and are a fun activity for children. You simply place a small drop of frosting on a round chocolate covered cookie and place a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup on top. Draw a ring around the hat with a square if you‘d like your hats to have a buckle or simply attach an orange m&m or tic-tac with a drop of frosting. I found this idea in Woman's Day magazine years ago and we make every year.

Oreo Cookie Turkeys are fun to make and can help use up your Halloween candy.
Ingredients:
24 Oreo Double Stuff cookies
12 miniature peanut butter cups
12 malted milk balls
1 cup candy corn
4 ounces chocolate frosting
4 ounces white frosting
red food coloring.
Place one Oreo cookie as the base. Put one teaspoon of chocolate frosting on top. Place one small peanut butter cup on its side so that the top and bottom are perpendicular to the base -- and stuck in the frosting. Place a teaspoon of chocolate frosting on the top(widest part) of the p-butter cup. For the second cookie. Stick some candy corn into the oreo 'stuff' along one edge for the feathers -- pointy side down. They should fan out around the edge. If you have trouble doing this, you can help them stick with some white frosting. Place this second oreo cookie (the tail) on it's edge and sticking to a dab of brown frosting on the back of the peanut butter cup. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on top of the peanut butter up (for the head). Place a malted milk ball on top for the head. Take a small amount of the white frosting in a separate dish. Mix in red food coloring. Use a toothpick with the white and red colors to place eyes, and wattle. You can pinch off the small pointy top of a candy corn and dip it in brown frosting for the beak. This recipe and picture comes from Recipezaar.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Free Crochet Turkey Pattern


Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away. Today I am sharing one of my turkey crochet patterns. I like to put these in the Thanksgiving cards
to be mailed to our relatives who won't be coming home for Thanksgiving. they are very quick and easy to make.
Thanksgiving Crocheted Turkey
Materials:
Small amounts brown, red, and variegated yarn.
G Hook
Small black bead or wiggly eye

Body:
Using brown, chain 3 and join.
Round 1: 8 dc in circle. Join to top of ch3.
Round 2: 2dc in each dc of round 1. (16dc)
Weave in ends.

Head:
Join red with a slip stitch in any dc from round 2.
Chain 3, 2dc, chain 3, sl in same dc.
Weave in ends.

Tail:
Join variegated yarn to the 5th dc back from head with sl.
Chain 5 and join to same dc with slip stitch.
Chain 5 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 7 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 7 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 9 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 9 and slip stitch to next dc.
Weave in ends.

Feet:
Join red with a slip stitch to 2nd dc away from end of tail.
Chain 3, slip stitch in next dc.
Chain 3 and slip stitch in next dc.
Weave in ends.

Finishing:
Glue black bead or wiggly eye to head.

Suggestions for use:
Glue turkey to a magnet or napkin ring.
Sew to clothing, napkin, placemat, bag, etc.
Attach a ribbon and hang from cabinet knob.
Glue a bar pin or use safety pin to attach to clothes.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giants vs. Rangers


The World Series has begun. The San Francisco Giants have won the first two games at San Francisco. The next three games will be in Texas beginning Saturday, October 30th.


I’m a Cub fan and in true form I usually root for the underdogs so I am favoring the Giants in this race. Their players have a lot of character and are very entertaining. Pitcher Tim Lincecum looks like a 12 year old who needs a haircut. He is nicknamed “The Freak” because he pitches right handed and bats left handed. He is an excellent pitcher whose specialties are 90-93 mph two-seam fastball, a sharp breaking curve ball, a slider, and a four-seam fastball. He is a slight figure with large ears and long hair and he really does look like an adolescent. He seems have a razor sharp focus when he pitches. Relief pitcher Brian Wilson is a very eccentric person with a dark black lumberjack type beard. He is a powerful pitcher. Then there is the Giants third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. He is nicknamed Kung Fu Panda from when he scored a run by jumping over the tag of a catcher during a game against the Dodgers. Giant’s fans are going wild wearing fake dark beards and Panda caps to support their team.


I am having the best time watching this series. It is just fascinating! I like the Giants. They are quirky, off-beat, unconventional and just charming. I am especially looking forward to watching the game on Halloween. That should be very interesting and I don't think we will be disappointed!


Go Giants!!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Witchcraft


Witches have a bad reputation. They cackle, they are ugly, and they cast spells using horrible ingredients like bat wings and frog’s eyes. I think they are fascinating and I have found some interesting witch trivia that explains some of the symbols associated with witches.


Black Hat: Black is considered to be a color of power and is worn by religious priests, nuns, and rabbis. Black is a color that absorbs energy and light. The cone shape is thought to direct energy from higher dimensions down to her mind and body.


Black cats: Cats are rumored to have nine lives and supernatural powers. They are mysterious and can see in the dark. They are a perfect familiar, or spirit to aid in casting spells.


Broom: The broom was the mode of transportation for ancient witches. A broom is supposed to symbolize the ability to blend home life with travel to spiritual dimensions.


Full moon: The moon is a symbol of mysteries. High energy occurs when the moon is full and this is the most powerful time for casting spells.


Cauldron: Cauldrons have long been associated with fertility, abundance, and rebirth. In general, cauldrons symbolize female power and are perfect for casting spells.


Folklore is very interesting and some of it is very logical and even a little believable. Regardless, witches are a very important ingredient in celebrating Halloween. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she wanted to dress up as Big Bird from Sesame Street. I spent hours sewing a Big Bird Costume for her and it was adorable. Halloween night came and she changed her mind and wanted to be a witch. She was inconsolable. I had to make her a witch costume using black construction paper for a hat and a black garbage bag for a cape. She was so happy!


Witch Hat Cookies are a cool treat you can make from Fudge Stripe Cookies, Hershey’s Kisses and a little frosting. Dab a little chocolate frosting in the center of the cookie and place one Hershey’s kiss in the center.


Witch’s Brew Punch is another necessity for Halloween. Any kind of punch will do. The fun is all in the presentation. You will need a black cauldron type punch bowl or a scary looking bowl to serve it in and some dry ice to make it smoke.


Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Treats







My three favorite pumpkin treats this month are:



1. Pumpkin Pie Mini Blizzards from Dairy Queen. I just discovered that they have 370 calories in them but 14 grams of fat. I guess that’s not bad for a weekly treat. They are sweet, spicy, and creamy and have little bits of cookies. MMMMMM!!! The best!



2. Pumpkin Spice Latte. You can find those at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and some gas stations. Hot, creamy, and spicy. A grande at Starbucks has 380 calories and 13 grams of fat.



3. Edy’s Slow Churned Pumpkin Ice Cream. I found this at the grocery store and I just love it. It is a smooth creamy ice cream flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. A half cup has only 100 calories and 3 grams of fat. Awesome!



These treats are seasonal and won’t be available for long so enjoy them now. I found a few more homemade treats but I don’t know if they are as good as the first three.



Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer
Combine 2 cups powdered coffee creamer, 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl and whisk together until well blended. Pour into an airtight container (it is ok to reuse the original creamer container), tapping on the counter to pack it down. (Examiner.com)



Pumpkin Facial
Blend 4 tsp. canned pumpkin, 1 tsp. milk, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. brown sugar. Apply to damp skin and relax for 5-10 minutes. Wash off with cool water and pat dry. (Woman’s World Magazine)



Pumpkin Ice Cream
2 quarts softened vanilla ice cream
1 can Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Mix
Combine ice cream and pie mix in a large bowl and stir until blended. Freeze in an ice cream maker or put in the freezer for 2 hours, beat for 30 seconds with a mixer and refreeze for 2 hours. (Verybestbaking.com)



Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins
Mix 1 box devil’s food cake mix with 1 can pumpkin (not pie mix). Scoop into greased muffin pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Very moist and chocolately and low in calories. (Bakespace.com)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Has Arrived

It is a cloudy, gray, gusty day today. The wind is blowing all the beautiful leaves off the trees. Fall has arrived . Fall is a beautiful and sensuous season. Red, orange, rust, yellow, and brown are the colors of the changing leaves, grasses and flowers. Orange pumpkins sit on porches and doorstep lit with yellow light from candles. Full moons and starry nights seem brighter due to colder, crisper evenings. The wind blows, leaves rustle and crunch underfoot and fires crackle in fireplaces and cooking pits. You can smell the smoke from hot dog roasts and fireplaces. Mini candy bars melt in your mouth. You can enjoy a hot spicy cider, a freshly roasted hot dog or a warm soothing bowl of soup. Fall is a fabulous time of year!

I love fall but it is a lot of work. Outdoor furniture and decorations need to be put away. Fall decorations need to be set out. The yard needs to be cleaned up. The leaves must be raked and bagged or mulched before they start finding their way into the house. Leaves have to be fished out of the gutters. Everything needs to be winterized and protected because winter is just around the corner. And, the biggie, Christmas is only 2 months away.

I have a difficult time with this because I always feel like I need to get everything done at once. Then I find more things that need to be done. It is a game I can never win. I am concentrating on slowing down and enjoying each task as I do it. I might not get everything done but I have a good time doing it.

Relaxing activities to do in fall are: take a long hike and enjoy the colors of leaves, curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book and a cup of cider or tea, make s’mores, bake a loaf of pumpkin bread, or watch a game of football. Breathe that cool crisp autumn air.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saving Money on Main Dishes

I am old fashioned. I plan all my meals around the main dish which is usually meat. My husband loves meat. When he cooks, which is rare, he makes 3 different meats and maybe green beans and a potato.

Meat is the most expensive ingredient in just about every meal. Here are five ways to save money and serve delicious, home cooked, nutritious meals.

1. Buy less expensive cuts of meat.
2. Stock up on meat when it is on sale if you have room in your freezer.
3. Stretch the meat in your main dishes by cooking casseroles, soups, and stir frys.
4. Stretch the meat in your main dishes by adding rice, noodles, and grains to your meat.
5. Have a cheese, egg, or bean main dish meal once a week.

I myself buy inexpensive cuts of meat and use my freezer to stock up when meat is on sale. Steaks, pot roast, turkey, and ham are rare treats and bought only on sale or for special occasions. Here is what I buy and how I use it:

BEEF
The cheapest cuts of beef are hamburger and round steak. I like to buy huge quantities of lean ground beef and round steak. I make hamburger patties and divide the rest into one pound packages and freeze in separate packages for easy defrosting. Ground beef will keep for 3-4 months and round steak will keep 6-12 months. (Put in freezer bags and wrap with freezer paper or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.) Hamburgers, chili, tacos, meatballs, spaghetti, pasta dishes, and casseroles can be made easily from this supply of ground beef. Round steak can be simmered, barbequed, or marinated and it can be made into vegetable soup, pepper steak, stir frys, Swiss steak, or chicken fried steak – there are dozens of recipes to try. Just remember that round steak needs a little tenderizing. Add some vinegar or tomatoes or tenderizer before or during cooking.

PORK
Pork chops, sausage, and pork tenderloin are my favorite money savers. Pork chops and pork tenderloin can be frozen for 3-4 months and sausage is good for 1-2 months. Pork chops can be fried, grilled, simmered, or shake and baked. Pork tenderloin is delicious cooked in the oven or crock pot. Sausage can be used in pasta dishes, pizza, breakfast dishes, or cooked with red beans and rice or peppers.

Chicken
I buy large packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, canned chicken, and rotisserie chicken. It seems like you get more meat for your money than if you bought whole chicken parts unless you find a really good sale on them. Chicken breasts can be frozen for 9 months. There are many, many good chicken recipes. Rotisserie chicken is usually cheaper than roasting your own chicken and the leftovers can be used in soups, salads, sandwiches, and casseroles.

Fish
I don’t really care for fish. Once in a while I will buy a few fresh catfish fillets from the grocery store and fry them or eat a can of tuna for lunch. Tuna noodle casserole is a very good money saving main dish.

Cheese and eggs
Pasta dishes, frittatas, pizza, or even breakfast for dinner are all good money saving meals. Eggs cannot be frozen but most cheeses can be frozen for a month or longer.

Beans and rice
To be honest, it is hard to find a bean or rice dish that tastes very good without meat but there are a few.

Lunch Meats
Ham, turkey, and roast beef make good sandwiches but are pretty expensive. Limit purchases of these items and try to eat leftovers, soup, and peanut butter, tuna, or toasted cheese sandwiches if you are trying to save money. Hotdogs are a good value but have little nutritional value so they shouldn’t be served frequently. Cold cuts and hot dogs can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Easy Bead Bracelet Pattern


Easy Bracelet Pattern

Handmade bead bracelets are easy to make. You can make one for every outfit or give them as gifts. Handmade bracelets make very inexpensive and personal gifts. I have been making Halloween and Christmas bead bracelets this week. Beading is addictive and fun. I have hundreds of different kinds of beads and buy more every week. For best results, choose 2 or more coordinating beads. You can use plastic or glass beads.

Materials:

.5mm elastic cord
Craft glue
ruler
8mm beads
6mm coordinating beads or e beads
Alphabet beads (optional)
Charms (optional)
1. Measure your wrist. The average wrist is about 7 1/2 inches. and the bracelets will stretch another 1/2 inche if necessary.

2. Cut a 10 inch piece of cord to make a 7-8 inch bracelet. You will need about 2 extra inches for tying a knot so if you need an 8 ½ inch bracelet you will need a 10 ½ inch cord.

3. Arrange beads on cord. If using alphabet beads, start by putting your word or words on first and then arranging beads evenly on either side. (Hint: It is nice to have at least one wide mouth bead ending your strand because you can hide your knot inside it. Many of the silver and gold colored beads have wide holes.)

3. When you find a combination that looks good, tie a double knot and put a dab of glue on it. After the glue dries, trim the ends. The knot can be hidden inside a wide mouth bead if you have one by putting a drop of glue inside the bead and pushing it in with a toothpick. Dry.

I love making bracelets. It is a fun and creative activity. Contact me at jewelgirl22000@yahoo.com if you would like to buy a personalized bracelet.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Caramel Apples

Caramel apples are back in the grocery stores!

I start craving caramel apples about this time of year. You can buy them in grocery stores and candy stores but they are really easy to make. You can use any kind of apple. You need apples, a package of caramels, sticks, and milk. Using the microwave oven is the easiest way to make them.

Wash and Skewer 6 apples with a wooden Popsicle stick and chill overnight in the refrigerator or place in the freezer for a couple of hours before coating.
Place caramels and 2 tablespoons of milk in a deep narrow glass bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir until smooth. Dip apples. Twirl to coat. You can use a knife to spread the melted caramels more evenly. Reheat caramel mixture in the microwave if it starts to harden. Place on cookie sheet covered with buttered wax paper. Cool in the refrigerator (334 calories per apple).

The apples can be refrigerated and double dipped in more caramel or melted chocolate and then rolled in candies, nuts, mini marshmallows, or cookie pieces. You can drizzle them with melted chocolate, white chocolate or melted butterscotch pieces.

You can really have some fun with caramel apples! Fancy caramel apples can be sold at bakesales, bazaars, and flea markets and used as decorations and gifts.

For more ideas on decorating apples check out Amy’s Gourmet Apples - an awesome online store featuring dozens of kinds of decorated caramel apples. http://www.amyscandykitchen.com/page.cfm/164#Caramel Apples.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Save Money on Groceries


I’m a little unreasonable about buying groceries. I almost feel like crying every time I go grocery shopping. Prices seem to rise every week. Sometimes I don’t buy everything on my list because I think the price is terrible. I think that if I wait another week it might be on sale. It’s a gamble. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.


When I was in high school, I took a class where we had to plan a week’s worth of meals for a family of four using sale ads. We could only spend $30. (It was quite a while ago!) It was a fun game and with 25 people in the class, we all learned a few tricks. Treating grocery shopping and meal preparation like a game makes it a little more fun. The goal is to spend as little money as you can and see how long you can make your weekly groceries last while feeding your family tasty, nutritious meals.


Here are ten ways I save money on groceries:


1. I shop once a week and I use a list. I use an old envelope and I put my coupon collection inside and write my list on the outside as I run out of items or think of things I need. When I am ready to go shopping, I look through my pantry and refrigerator to see if I’ve forgotten anything and then put the envelope in my purse.


2. I search the Sunday newspaper and internet for sales and coupons from the stores I patronize. I clip coupons and save them in an old envelope to be used for grocery shopping that week. I use a different envelope each week.


3. I shop at discount stores like Aldi and Save a Lot. The quality of these stores is very good although you might find items that are not to your taste. The Aldis in my town have very good, cheap produce and bread products but my children do not like their frozen French fries.


4. I bought a chest freezer so that I could buy meat, vegetables, and frozen foods in bulk when they are on sale or at a wholesale store like Sims. It also gives me plenty of room to store leftovers, extra loaves of bread and rolls, and even potato chips and milk. You can buy one for less than $200 at Best Buy.


5. I buy generic and house brands. I especially like most of the generic and house brands at Meijer and Shop and Save stores. They are less expensive and some are even better than brand name items. My family does not like generic cookies, cereals, and waffles. You just have to try different items and see if you like them.


6. I keep my pantry stocked with fixings for cheap meals like spaghetti, noodles, tacos, chili, soup, beans, bouillon cubes, canned fruit and vegetables, crackers, and popcorn.


7. I make a lot of foods from scratch and try to cook breakfast rather than buy expensive cereals and frozen breakfasts. You can make your own pancakes and waffles from scratch: a simple recipe using flour, sugar, salt, oil, milk, eggs, and baking powder will make delicious pancakes and waffles in minutes can be found in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Cooking from scratch takes a little more time but is more nutritious than using mixes or frozen foods and can save you money.


8. I try to buy milk, soft drinks, and even eggs on sale at gas stations and convenience stores. I also stock up on seasonal items at holidays. There are a lot of foods on sale during holiday weekends.


9. I keep a supply of freezer containers to store leftovers. Most foods will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and a few weeks in the freezer. You can make tasty soups, casseroles, and omelets out of leftovers.

10. The last few days before grocery shopping can be a challenge. You have to creatively use your leftovers and pantry staples to make ends meet. I usually end up serving canned soup and sandwiches, beans and wieners, a casserole, or sometimes even a breakfast meal of eggs and pancakes.

It is all in the presentation!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Comforts of Dog Days


Well, folks, it is the dog days of summer around here! Hot, humid, sticky, take your breath away weather. Comfort is hard to find. You will find yourself sweating in the coolest air conditioning and even the water in swimming pools is too warm to be refreshing. Could this be the hottest summer on record in your area? It is very possible.

The term “dog days” comes from the early Roman association of hot, sticky weather and the appearance in the sky of Sirius, the “dog star”. The “dog star” is the brightest star in the sky and is in the Canis Major constellation, which means large dog. In the northern hemisphere, Sirius rises and sets with the sun from about July 3rd to august 11th. It actually has nothing to do with heat and just coincides with heat and humidity in most regions.

Need comfort? Here are ten ways to seek comfort for those hot, sticky, boring days of summer:

1. Dress in light colored, lightweight clothing. One of the hottest places in the world is in the desert of El Azizia in Libya. The people wear loose linen clothes. Wear the least amount of clothing you can and choose loose, light clothing that breathes. I can vouch for cotton. I started wearing only cotton when I was going through menopause and it helps. There is also specially designed clothing for hot weather wear available developed by Nike and Adidas and other companies.

2. Drink, drink, and drink some more. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they are dehydrating. Drink water, lemonade, fruit punches, and decaffeinated ice tea and use lots of ice.

3. Eat light refreshing foods that are easy to digest and have a high water content: soups, salads, sandwiches, fruit, chicken, cold cuts, and cheese. Eat small meals and avoid salt.

4. Enjoy some ice cream, popsicles, etc. Make a root beer float or smoothie. A cool treat is very refreshing.

5. Visit a water park or swim in a pool. Getting wet cools your body temperature even if the water temperature is not as cold as you would like. It is the evaporation of the water off your body that cools you down. Take a swim or a lukewarm shower. Apply cool water compresses to your wrists or neck.

6. Go to a movie. Movie theatres are usually cool and dark and are a very entertaining way to while away a hot summer afternoon or evening.

7. Do your chores early in the morning or evening when it is not so hot outside. Save yard work until a cooler day. Use the microwave oven or crock pot for cooking.

8. Anticipate fall. Read up on the new fall shows on tvguide.com. Just thinking that the cool, crisp, fall weather is just around the corner followed by a possible cold and dreary winter can actually bring relief for summer misery.

9. Go shopping and enjoy cool air conditioning while preparing for back to school and fall activities. Looking at the fall decorations at craft stores and the fall clothes in the department stores can also remind you of the beautiful, cool, fall weather to come.
10. Hot summer days are an encouragement to slow down and relax. Read a book. Take a nap. Go to an outdoor concert or picnic. Have your morning coffee outside. Take an early morning or evening bike ride around the neighborhood. Breathe. Enjoy. Savor the last, shrinking days of summer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Budget Basics

The economy stinks! How many times have you heard this or said it yourself? Tough times are here and having a household budget helps immensely.

Ten years ago, when I quit my job as a medical technologist, I had to set up a very strict budget to prove to my husband that I could afford to quit work. At the time we were raising 3 children. I set up a budget we could live with and have stuck with it to this very day! Here is what I did:

I bought a notebook and pulled out our old check registers and analyzed where our money went. I did pages of utilities, groceries, insurance payments, taxes -everything we spent money on. Then I started making lists of what we needed to pay for and what we really didn’t need. In the beginning, I had to cut it down to the bare necessities. I cut out entertainment, meals out, and other unnecessary purchases. Then, I worked out a budget based on when we got paid and when our bills were due. I bought another notebook to keep track of our expenses.
We get paid twice a month. The first paycheck must cover groceries and miscellaneous for two weeks, car payments, utilities, and credit card payments. The second check must cover groceries and miscellaneous for the last two weeks of the month, the mortgage payment and the three savings accounts that I have set up to cover taxes and insurance, Christmas and birthdays, and retirement. Most of our health and dental expenses are reimbursed through a flexible spending plan set up by my husband’s employer.

You have to exercise discipline and planning but budgets really work. You can’t consistently overspend and you have to be diligent and creative. Currently, we have an excellent credit rating and are credit card debt free. Our cars are paid off and we are putting our last child through college using the money we would be spending on car payments. We can even afford to take a nice vacation every year.

Most experts advise people to live within their means. Know how much money you take home and plan accordingly. Reduce wasteful spending such as magazine subscriptions, movie rentals, meals out, and impulse shopping. Evaluate each purchase to see if you really need the item and are getting the best deal.

Here are a few helpful hints to get you started:

1. Credit Card Debt: STOP using credit cards immediately. Minimum payments are a necessary expense and should be put into your budget. Try to pay more each month on the card with the lowest balance until you pay it off and then apply that amount to the next lowest until you have them all paid off.

2. Grocery and miscellaneous expenses: This includes food, sundries, gas, meals and snacks out, dry cleaning, and other small expenses. Calculate what you need or can afford to spend in this area. It may help you to manage these expenses by using cash only. That way, when you run out of cash, you are done spending until next paycheck. Also, cash can be further divided up if you want to allocate some of it to different things or spit it between yourself and your spouse.

3. Think of your budget as a game you are playing. Strategize how you can save more money each month.

4. Research ways to save money by reading articles on the internet and at the library. When I first started out, I read a whole collection of books from the library written by Amy Dacycyn called the Tightwad Gazette. Check with your employer about money saving plans like the flexible spending accounts and other pre tax deductions.

Caution: There are many wonderful websites devoted to budget planning on the net but use good judgment and do not give them too much personal information!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MLB Baseball Bead Bracelet Store


I have just opened a new store today called The MLB Baseball Bead Store at http://sites.google.com/site/mlbbaseballbeadbracelets/.

I make and sell 30 different kinds of baseball team bracelets. Each bracelet is made from mostly glass beads in traditional colors and plastic letter beads. Each bracelet is strung on an elastic cord and measures approximately 7 ½ inches. Custom sizes and teams can be requested at
jewelgirl22000@yahoo.com.

Bracelets sell for $5.75 each and shipping is $2.50 for 1-3 bracelets.

Wearing a baseball bead bracelet is an excellent way to show support for your favorite team. They also make wonderful gifts and are very inexpensive!

Coming soon: NFL Football Bead Bracelets!!!!!

Bonus savings coupon: 25 cents will be taken off your first purchase now through August 3rd, 2010!!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Christmas in July


Christmas in July!

Is it too hot to be thinking about Christmas?

Target, Sears, and Toys R Us are having “Christmas in July” Sales this week.

Target will have 500 items on sale tomorrow, July 23rd starting at 3 am ET. The sale is online only and is called the Back in Black Friday sale. There is a preview on their website available now.

Sears.com and Kmart.com have a Christmas Lane department on their sites featuring Christmas decorations. Christmas Lane is supposed to be open for the whole month of July. Ornaments are 20% off at Sears and 30 % off at Kmart and they both offer free shipping on all orders over $39 for the week of July 18 - July 25th only. Kmart has layaway. Sears will be displaying Christmas items and playing Christmas music in some of their stores until July 25th.

Toys R Us has a Christmas in July sale too. They offer free shipping on purchases of $49 or more. Some Toys R Us Stores are having a similar sale. Check their website to see if the store in your area is participating but the sale ends July 24th. Games, toys, and action figures are at their lowest prices of the year.

I am also having a Christmas in July sale in my eBay store. I am happy to learn that I am not the only one. There are many other Christmas in July sales occurring on eBay.

When my children were young, I shopped year round for their gifts. July and August were always good months to find clearance items.
Can you remember how short and busy the Christmas season is? Shopping in July would be a good way to get a jump start on the season and to spread out the expenses.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chocolate Cravings

Yesterday, I heard on the news that chocolate prices are expected to increase. A hedge fund manager has bought up most of the supplies of chocolate in Europe which may cause a shortage on the market forcing the price to go higher. Prices were already on the rise due to a decline in production in Africa. The growing season is almost over for the year. People who use a lot of cocoa powder and chocolate chips might want to stock up. Most baking chocolate and chocolate chips can be stored for about 18 months at 60-68 degrees if properly sealed. An opened can of cocoa can be stored for about a year on a cool, dry, dark shelf.

As you probably know, I adore chocolate. I have a “chocolate problem”. Sometimes I crave it and eat too much. Usually I just don’t allow it in my house but now I am experimenting with eating low fat chocolate in order to try to satisfy my cravings without gaining a lot of weight. I eat chocolate fat free pudding and have tried several of the 100 calorie packs of cookies. I have also found two new low fat chocolate recipes. So far, it is working well for me.

The first recipe is really easy and has only two ingredients: a cake mix and a can of diet coke. Simply mix the two together and spread in a greased cake pan and bake according to the directions on the box. I use a Pillsbury Moist Supreme Devil’s Food Cake Mix and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. It is a delicious, moist cake and when cut into to 16 pieces has only 120 calories per piece. It tastes even better the second and third day. It can be topped with frosting (more calories), fruit, or fat free whipped cream. You do this with a brownie mix also. You can experiment with different kinds of cake mix and diet soda. Diet cherry soda and yellow cake mix is very good.

The second recipe is a healthier version of the 5 minute chocolate cake in a mug recipe from Spark Recipes. Here is my version:

Mix evenly together in a microwave safe 4 cup bowl:

4 tbsp. flour
5 packets aspartamine (equivalent to 4 tbsp. sugar)
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. baking powder

Add to dry mixture and combine evenly:

2 egg whites
3 tbsp fat free milk
3 tbsp. applesauce
1/8 tsp vanilla.
Cook for 3-4 minutes in microwave until set. Cool and eat.

Makes 2 servings but the whole cake is about 286 calories. I like to add a few walnuts and chocolate chips which push the calorie count significantly up. It tastes kind of like a chocolate sponge cake but the melted chocolate chips give it more of a lava cake taste. It satisfies my cravings and is actually quite filling.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Penguins Are Cool!



This weekend I have been crocheting penguin appliques. I sew them on potholders, bags, and hats. I love penguins! They are so cute! I am selling both the appliques and potholders in my store right now and the potholders are on sale for a week. Christmas will be here before we know it!

Last summer we went to the zoo in St. Louis and visited the Penguin and Puffin Coast Exhibit. It is an amazing place. You can see several different varieties of penguins and puffins. At the entrance is a rocky outdoor exhibit with a waterfall and you can see several penguins if is not too hot outside. Inside the building are two domed rocky landscapes showing the natural habitat of penguins and puffins. It is an open exhibit with acrylic guard rails being the only barrier between you and the penguins. You can walk through the exhibit and watch the animals swim and play. There is usually a lot of splashing going on and it is fun to watch both the penguins and the visitors. It is also a good place to cool off on a typical hot and humid summer day in St. Louis. The temperature of the house is around 50 degrees year round.


The St. Louis Zoo is open every day beginning at 9 am and closing most days at 5 pm except for summer weekends where it stays open until 7 pm. Admission is free but there are minimal charges for some of the exhibits. The Penguin and Puffin Coast exhibit is free.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Strawberry Daiquiri Heaven


My favorite drink is a frozen strawberry daiquiri. I also like strawberry margaritas. Daiquiris are a very refreshing drink on a hot summer day. I like to sip one in the pool or on a Friday afternoon. I usually make them from a mix but I thought I might try making some from scratch because I have a bottle of rum leftover from my last trip to Jamaica and some frozen strawberries in my freezer. All you really need is rum, lime or lemon juice, ice and strawberries. You don’t even need a blender. I found a variety of recipes at www.strawberry-daiquiri-recipe.com/


Easiest Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri
1 ½ oz. rum
1 ½ oz. lemon juice
4 strawberries
1 tsp. sugar
Pour rum, juice and sugar over shaved ice in a cocktail glass and garnish with strawberries.

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri in a Blender
2 oz rum
1 oz lime juice
6 ice cubes
4 strawberries, sliced
2 tsp sugar

Blend all together in blender until smooth. Serve and enjoy with a strawberry slice.

Pitcher of Strawberry Daiquiris
1 cup light rum
3/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 (16 ounce) package frozen whole strawberries

Pour rum and lime juice into blender container. Add sugar and whirl to dissolve. Drop frozen berries into blender container, a few at a time, blending until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses.

These recipes and more can be found at strawberry-daiquiri.com. There is also an article about how the strawberry daiquiri was invented. During Prohibition, Cuba was the place to go and many new drinks were invented using Bacardi rum. The main ingredients are rum, lime juice, and sugar but there are an infinite amount of variations.

I also found an easy Strawberry Daiquiri Cake recipe from Betty Crocker that looks very festive and delicious. It would also make great cupcakes.

Strawberry Daiquiri Cake
From Betty Crocker

Cake:
1 package Betty Crocker® Super Moist® white cake mix
1 ¼ cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 box strawberry jello
1 tbsp. grated lime peel (need about 5 limes for cake and frosting)
1-2 tsp. rum extract

Lime Frosting
1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting
2 teaspoons grated lime peel

Garnish
8 fresh whole strawberries

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with shortening and lightly flour, or spray with baking spray with flour. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, eggs, gelatin, 1 tablespoon lime peel and the rum extract with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.

2. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

3. Stir 2 teaspoons lime peel into frosting. Spread frosting evenly over cake. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Just before serving, cut each whole strawberry in half, leaving leaves on. Garnish cake with strawberry halves.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ice Cream Cone Crochet Pattern


I'm still obsessed with ice cream. I have created an ice cream cone coaster and want to share my pattern:
Ice Cream Cone Coaster

Materials:
H hook
Small amount of yarn in the following colors:
Tan (cone)
White (scoop of vanilla ice cream)
Red (cherry)
Beads or sequins (optional)

Ice Cream Scoop
Beginning with white:
Chain 4
Round 1: Make 11 dc in 4th chain from hook. Join to 3rd chain from beginning.
Round 2: Chain 3, 2 dc in each dc around. (24dc)
Round 3: Chain 3, *2dc in first dc, 1 dc in 2nd dc*. Repeat ** around. (36 dc). Break off yarn and weave in end.

Cone
Using tan:
Chain 15.
Row 1-2: Sc across, chain 1. Turn. (14sc)
Row 3: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Sc in next 10 sc. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (12sc).
Row 4: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 5: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Sc in next 8 sc. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (10sc).
Row 6: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 7: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Sc in next 6 sc. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (8 sc).
Row 8: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 9: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Sc in next 4 sc. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (6 sc).
Row 10: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 11: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Sc in next 2 sc. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (4 sc).
Row 12: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 13: Pull up a loop in each of the first two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Pull up a loop in each if the last 2 sc, YO, and pull yarn through all 3 loops. Chain 1. Turn. (2 sc).
Row 14: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.
Row 15: Pull up a loop in each of the last two sc, YO, pull yarn though all 3 loops. Break off yarn and weave in end.
Arrange cone over ice cream scoop and sew in place.

Cherry:
Using red:
Chain 4. Make 6 dc in 4th chain from hook and join to top of chain 4. Break of yarn leaving a long end for sewing. Arrange on ice cream scoop and sew in place.
You can sew on sequins or beads for sprinkles.
For a double decker: Before sewing on cherry, attach second color or flavor with a slip stitch to first white double crochet on the right side of the cone. chain 3 and repeat the following pattern around to the other side of the cone: 2 dc in first sc, 1 dc in 2nd dc. Weave in threads. Complete by sewing on the cherry.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sweet and Simple Cupcakes for the 4th of July


Baking a batch of cupcakes for your 4th of July celebration is an easy way to make your holiday special! Cupcakes are easy to make and decorate, easy to transport, and look very festive on your table. They are also easy and fun to eat!

The easiest way to make cupcakes is to go to the grocery store and choose a cake mix and a couple of cans of white frosting and look for red, white, and blue decorations. You may be able to find red, white, and blue or star spangled cupcake papers, sugar cake decorations, and tiny flag spikes. You can buy blue and red sprinkles, colored sugar, jellybeans, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, blueberries, maraschino cherries, strawberries, or raspberries to use for decorations. Be sure to buy some food coloring and cupcake papers if you don’t already have any. Remember, your theme is red, white, and blue.

Bake your cupcakes following the recipe on the box. (Hint: adding a teaspoon of vanilla to a store bought cake mix will make it taste more like homemade.) Use foil, plain white, or even themed cupcake papers. Cool, then frost with white frosting. Tint the remainder of the frosting blue and red and spoon into decorating bags or plastic bags with a small hole cut into one corner. Decorating ideas include: 1. Make an assortment of red striped cupcakes and blue stars. (Make stars in a x shape with an extra line drawn through it like an asterick.) 2. Red stripes with a large blue star in the center. 3. Make a huge daisy on each cupcake with a blue center and red petals. 4. Make red and blue plaid cupcakes. 5. Write USA on frosted cupcakes. 6. Make red or blue spirals. 7. Make red and blue polka dot cupcakes using blueberries and raspberries. 8. Add colored sugar, sprinkles, candy or fruit to plain white frosted cupcakes or to any of the above in any pattern you like. Arrange on a large tray or paper box. An assortment of different designs looks best. These ideas will also work if decorating sugar cookies.

You can make a flag cupcake centerpiece by arranging 24 cupcakes into 4 rows. The bottom row should be frosted red and the next row up should be frosted white. The third row should have 3 red frosted cupcakes and 3 blue with the blue ones to the left. The forth row will need to have 3 white frosted cupcakes and 3 blue. Add some frosted stars to the blue cupcakes and you will have a lovely flag decoration!

These cupcakes are a simple, delicious, decorative, easy, and inexpensive holiday treat!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Ice Cream Cake



It has been a very hot and humid spring here and summer has just begun. I can’t stop thinking about the cool, creamy taste of ice cream.

I love to run through McDonald’s and get a vanilla ice cream cone. I just looked up the calorie content and it is not too bad: 150 calories and 3.5 grams fat. All in all it is not a bad little snack.

I have an easy and delicious recipe for Ice Cream Cake. My family loves it. You can use any combination of ice cream and cookies and you can decorate the top with any kind of toppings, sprinkles, candies, or frostings.

Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:
½ gallon ice cream
1 stick of butter
1 package of cookies

Put ½ gallon of ice cream out to soften.

Crunch up a package of cookies in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin and pour into a 13X9 inch pan using enough to make a crust. Save some to put on top of cake if desired.

Melt 1 stick of butter and pour over cookie crumbs.

Press into a crust. Spread softened ice cream over crust.

Cover and freeze overnight.

Cut ingredients in half for a 9X9 inch pan.

I am just thrilled that the USA Soccer team won the other day. We have an awesome team! They will be playing again on Saturday against Ghana. Go USA!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Soccer Excitement




I can’t remember being this interested in World Cup Soccer before. It only takes place every 4 years for one short month. It began June 11th of this year and will end July 11th. I love watching it. There is so much action and the men are so hot!

Today at 10 am ET, the fate of the USA soccer team will be decided. They will play against Algeria. GO USA!!!! I still cannot figure out how the scoring works. You get 3 points for a win and 1 point for a tie. How do you get a negative number? Beats me, but I love watching these cute guys:

Lucas Neill is a hot, sexy, Australian. He is 32 and has gorgeous eyes. Australia plays today at 19:30 BST against Serbia. His shirt number is 2.

Joe Cole plays for the England team. He is 28, married, and a father to new baby Ruby. England plays Solvenia today at 1500 BST. Joe is number 11.

My favorite is Cristiano Ronaldo who is on team Portugal. He is the most interesting of my five favorites. He is a skilled player who has scored one goal for Portugal and received a yellow card. He is only 25 and has appeared in commercial ads for Coke and Armani underwear. Portugal takes on Brazil on June 25th at 1500 BST. Ronaldo is number 7.

France had a lot of cute players but they were eliminated yesterday. What a shame! There are many other hot men to watch on almost every team. Oguchi Onyewu on the USA team is pretty awesome. Check out all the players at: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/players/index.html .


I just made a new batch of soccer bead bracelets yesterday and they are for sale in my EBay store. I will be wearing a USA one today.

GO USA!!!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Today is the first day of summer. It has been so hot and muggy here that you almost miss winter! I fear my electric bill. Due to the weather and my hot flashes, I keep turning the thermostat down, down, down……. We finally got our pool opened but after 5 days, the water is warm as bathwater. I am thinking of making some huge ice cubes for it. I could fill some clean, empty coffee cans and milk cartons with water and put them in the pool after freezing them. That might cool it off a little!

I am addicted to strawberry lemonade. I had my first glass at O’Charleys a few weeks ago and have been trying out recipes. This is the one that I like so far:

STRAWBERRY LEMONADE
Printed from COOKS.COM

1 10oz. pkg frozen strawberries
1 6oz can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 1/2 cups water
1 16 oz bottle soda water or ginger ale
dash of grenadine syrup (optional)

Thaw strawberries for 20 minutes or until they begin to soften slightly.
Place all ingredients in blender and serve as-is or over ice cubes.

Are you watching World Cup Soccer? It is very interesting although I haven’t quite figured out the scoring yet. There is a lot of action and a lot of cute guys to watch. I am making some team bracelets and I really like them.

Summer is finally here!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Garage Sale

I’ve been working all week getting ready for a garage sale. We are empty nesters now and we feel the need to simplify. We have too much stuff. We’d like to move in a few years and it would be nice to have less stuff to move. Since our subdivision is having its annual garage sale, we decided to try to make a little money as we clean out our closets and attic.

Getting ready for a garage sale is an ordeal. Deciding what to part with can be very emotional. You have to make really tough decisions. Certain things trigger memories of better times. I am allowing myself to keep one plastic tub per child. I am putting school work, art, and favorite toys and clothes in these tubs. I also have several tubs containing their books, toys, games, and trophies which I will give them when they get their own permanent homes. One down and two to go!

I am one of those weird people who actually enjoy cleaning and organizing but it hasn’t been fun. Last weekend we cleaned out our attic. My husband broke the ladder into the attic which we will have to have rebuilt. He dropped several boxes of glasses and they shattered all over the garage. I am still finding pieces of glass. Everything in the attic was very dusty. I spent most of yesterday washing stuff. And now the weatherman is predicting rain all weekend. Bummer!

My garage is now full of boxes. I will be pricing things and arranging them on tables today. I hope I can avoid getting emotionally attached to these things and can put them up for sale as planned.

If the garage sale is successful, I will have a few bucks and a clean garage. If not, I will be hauling a lot of stuff to the Goodwill or Salvation Army Shop! Either way, my reward will be a nice clean garage and attic.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Garden Flow

I love this weather. Cool, crisp mornings and evenings and warm, sunny afternoons. I have been working like a dog – cleaning up my yard and planting flowers. There are four things I like about gardening: fresh air, sunshine, the ability to immediately see results of your labor, and getting so involved in the work that you are able to forget about everything and really enjoy yourself. It is a very satisfying hobby.

It can be addicting. New ideas for improvement constantly keep popping into my head. My middle aged body and my budget can’t keep up. I ache all over and my pockets are empty. I am happy to have a few rainy days to rest and regroup. It is early in the season and I still have plenty of time to do whatever I want to my yard.

Gardening takes patience. It can be a very relaxing and rewarding hobby if you let it. You have to be careful not to get obsessive about it.

I was very disappointed in my vegetable garden this week. It is a small little garden encased in 2 foot fence to keep out the rabbits. I can’t get a tiller in it so I have to work it with a shovel or garden fork. This year it was full of roots and huge dirt clods and I even found some rocks in there. I don’t know how those rocks and roots got there. Anyway, I turned over a layer of dirt and then chopped up the clods with a hoe but it still was too rough to plant. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I quit for the day. My back hurt and I was frustrated. We got a little rain that night and the next afternoon I hopped back in there with my hoe and I raked and chopped mindlessly until it was nice and smooth. The rain has loosened things up and the raking back and forth really smoothed it out. I was able to plant seeds and pepper plants. I was so happy.

I had forgotten about “flow”. Flow is the state of being where a person is totally immersed in a task. They lose track of time and forget about the world around them as they focus completely on what they are doing. It is very calming and satisfying.

Lesson: Have patience. Break down difficult tasks into a couple of days. Establish “flow”. I will try to remember this all summer as I work around the yard.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring is Here!


I hope you had a great Easter! My new ham and cake recipe were awesome! The ham smelled so good while it was baking and tasted delicious. The cake was perfect: pretty, delicious, and low fat!

Spring is finally here! Warm sunny days, thunderstorms, and greenery everywhere you can see. Some of the flowering trees are beautiful this year! I am spending the rest of this month cleaning out my closets and garage for the huge garage sale our subdivision will be having the first weekend of May and cleaning up the yard.

It is so hard to decide what to keep and what to discard. I can only do a little every day because I have found that I am emotionally attached to some of my “stuff”. A lot of my things bring back memories of when the kids were little. I have to be really tough about getting rid of things and only have the emotional fortitude to do a little at a time. It’s going to take awhile. I’m trying to do a little spring cleaning at the same time.

My husband and I are going to start cleaning up the yard this weekend. It is supposed to be a beautiful, sunny weekend and we’re hoping to get it all done. The grass looks like a jungle. We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the grass is really long and there are lots of pesky weeds already that need to be pulled. I highly recommend Preen for weed control. You can sprinkle it among your flower beds and mulched areas and weeds will not sprout. It doesn’t hurt your flowers. Preen saves you a lot work. I used it last year and I think it is a wonderful product.

There is a lot of work to be done this time of year: cleaning, gardening, mowing, weeding, getting out the window screens and lawn furniture, washing the window, etc. There are also a lot of things to enjoy: eating lunch outside in the warm sun, a long scenic walk, playing golf or watching a baseball game, eating fresh strawberries. We love these warm spring days!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to everyone!

It is Good Friday and a beautiful spring morning. We are expecting hot weather today and thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. Easter should be sunny and warm.

I have cleaned my house, made a beautiful spring wreath for my front door and a large Easter basket for my children, and bought groceries for my Easter dinner. My youngest son is home from college for the weekend. I am going to relax and enjoy this day. Tomorrow I will bake Easter Egg Cookies, color eggs, and bake a spiced ham. I am trying a new recipe that was in our newspaper Wednesday and I will share it with you. It sounds delicious!

Roasted Fresh Ham with Maple-Spice Glaze

8- to 10-pound bone-in fresh ham, preferably from the shank end, any rind removed
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup

Put the ham in a large roasting pan, preferably one that's shiny enough to reflect lots of ambient heat and not so flimsy that it tips when you pick it up. Set the oven rack as high as it can go and still afford the ham at least 2 inches of head space. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Smooth the spice mixture all over and massage.

Cover the whole kit and caboodle with aluminum foil, shove it into the oven and leave it alone for 3 1/2 hours, while you go do whatever it is you do when a big, sweating hunk of meat is roasting in your oven.

Peel off the aluminum foil. Baste the ham with about half the maple syrup, preferably using a basting brush. Take it easy so you don't knock off the spice coating. Use small strokes. Or just dribble the syrup off a spoon.

Continue roasting the ham, uncovered this time, basting every 15 minutes or so with more maple syrup as well as any pan drippings, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone registers 170 degrees, about 1 1/4 hours. If it starts to singe or turn too dark, tent it loosely with foil, uncovering it just at the last to get it back to crunchy crisp.

Transfer the ham to a cutting board and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before carving.


On Sunday, I will roast a turkey breast and make mashed potatoes and gravy, garlic and parsley pasta, green beans with bacon, corn, and rolls. I will reheat my ham. I am also making an Angel Lush Cake for the first time. I sampled this cake at the grocery store and it was delicious!


Angel Lush

Ingredients
1 (20 ounce) can DOLE crushed pineapple, in juice, undrained
1 pkg. (4 serving size) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Fat Free Sugar Free Instant Reduced Calorie Pudding & Pie Filling
1 cup thawed COOL WHIP LITE Whipped Topping
1 (10 ounce) package round angel food cake
10 fresh strawberries

Directions
1. Mix pineapple with its juice and the dry pudding mix in medium bowl. Gently stir in whipped topping.
2. Cut cake horizontally into three layers. Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on serving plate; top with 1-1/3 cups of the pudding mixture. Cover with middle cake layer and an additional 1 cup of the remaining pudding mixture. Top with remaining cake layer; spread top of dessert with the remaining pudding mixture.
3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Top with strawberries just before serving. (from Kraft)


Friday, March 26, 2010

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed: March Madness


Sixteen Teams are going to the Big Dance this weekend: Northern Iowa, Michigan State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Syracuse, Butler, Xavier, Kansas State, Kentucky, Cornell, Washington, West Virginia, Duke, Purdue, Baylor, and St. Mary’s. Syracuse, Xavier, Cornell, and Washington were eliminated yesterday. Today we will eliminate four more teams. The remaining “Elite Eight” will be whittled down to 4 teams for the “Final Four” playoffs next weekend.

Four possible Cinderella Teams have emerged: Northern Iowa, Cornell, Washington, and St. Mary’s. Cornell and Washington have already been eliminated leaving Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s.

Cinderella Team #1 is the Northern Iowa Panthers. Northern Iowa beat Kansas in the first round wrecking my bracket and many others. What a shake up! The University of Northern Iowa has never played in the Sweet Sixteen before. They have excellent defense this year and guard Ali Farokhmanesh has become a star this week after scoring the winning 3 points last week. Northern Iowa is favored to win over Michigan State tonight for their next dance in the Elite Eight.

Cinderella Team #2 is St. Mary’s of California. This is St. Mary’s first trip to the Sweet Sixteen too. The St. Mary’s Gaels (knight or warrior) are a cool, confident team who seem to get better every game. One of their best players is Omar Samran. The Gaels also have 5 Australians on their roster. The Australians add to the team’s confidence. They are not intimidated by the bigger and better teams in the NCAA. St. Mary’s will be playing Baylor, who is favored to win, this afternoon for a spot in the Elite Eight.

It is exciting and full of surprises. Everybody loves the underdog but only time will tell who is going to be wearing the glass slipper this year.!

It’s madness!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Decorate Your House for Spring


Although the calendar says it is spring, it doesn’t look very much like spring around here. The trees and shrubs are bare but starting to bud. Daffodils are starting to peek up out of the ground. The robins are back and birds are busy singing and building nests. Spring is in progress. I have some ideas of to how to make your home look and feel more like spring. You need to bring in the sunshine after that long, cold, dark winter!

Welcome spring with a pretty floral wreath on your front door. If you are feeling creative, go to a craft store and buy a grapevine wreath and an assortment of spring flowers, ribbon, birds, nests, or gardening tools. Arrange the items on the wreath and attach them with a hot glue gun. An old rake also looks great hanging on a door. It can be painted and embellished with flowers, ribbons, and other springtime items. You can also buy a completed wreath in almost any department or craft store.

Decorate your yard with an Easter Egg Tree. Tie plastic eggs, bunnies, ribbon, birds, and flowers to a small bare tree or shrub. Fill an empty planter with plastic eggs and a plastic bunny or decorative wooden stake.

Buy a tulip or daffodil plant to use as a centerpiece for your dining room table or as an end table decoration. They can be planted outside after their foliage turns yellow and will probably bloom in a year or two. No guarantees!

You can also bring a spring blooming branch inside and force it to bloom early. Cut a branch and slit the bottom of the stem. Rinse in lukewarm water and arrange in a vase of water in a cool, low lighted room. Change the water daily until the buds are ready to bloom. You can then bring them out into a brighter room but they will last longer if you keep them out of direct sunlight. Change the water every other day and mist the blooms to keep them from drying out. It will take 1-2 weeks before they bloom. Lilacs, spirea, dogwoods, fruit trees, pussy willows, and magnolias are good for forcing blooms. Most will have a lovely fragrance too!

Spread some sunny yellow around your house: a throw, pillows, candles, a vase of flowers, towels, dishes, and potholders will bring in the sun!

Celebrate spring with foods that remind you of sunshine and spring. Brew some sun tea. Make some lemon poppy seed muffins for breakfast. Make a seasonal spring dish using asparagus, lamb, mushroom, sugar snap peas, strawberries, lemon, or rhubarb. Make a special dessert for spring like a daffodil cake, strawberry shortcake, or cupcakes decorated with pretty spring colors. There are a lot of awesome spring recipes for spring dishes at Family Fun (http://familyfun.go.com/spring/spring-recipes/).

The look, smell, and taste of spring will lift your spirits especially on those dark, cold, rainy spring days. Bring in the sunshine! I love spring!