Sunday, December 11, 2011

Festive Outdoor Christmas Decorating

Yesterday on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I noticed some really striking Christmas decorations. In the evenings, you see a lot of pretty Christmas lights on houses and shrubs and those blow up figures. During the day, you notice evergreen swags and wreaths and red velvet ribbons and figurines. This year I am seeing a lot poinsettias sitting in planters and hanging baskets.

At first I wondered if they could be real but that's just not possible in this climate. Poinsettias like a warm climate of  about 60-70 degrees. They had to be silk or plastic and they were just beautiful.

I saw some arranged in planters sitting on steps and in hanging baskets on porches. They look best with a little greenery.

I made a planter for my own front step. I had a planter full of dirt still sitting outside from the summer. I stuck in some evergreen branches that we had cut off the bottom of our tree. I went to the dollar store and bought a couple of bunches of poinsettias and a large plastic candy cane and arranged them in the pot. I love the way it looks!

This morning I took some pictures of the poinsettia decorating in my neighborhood and will post some of the better ones including the pot I made. You can get really creative with these pots by arranging ribbons, ornaments, birdhouses, lights, etc. to your greenery.

Another great idea is to make a little tree from an old tomato cage. Just turn it upside down, secure it to your pot with some u shaped states or cut some from an old clothes hanger, wrap with garland, and decorate.





Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hot Chocolate Weather

The Crafty Cupboard

I am in love with McDonald's Hot Chocolate. It is so  hot and creamy and sweet. They add whipped cream and fudge sauce to it. A small nonfat serving with whipped cream has about 250 calories. The problem is, I've had a large one for the last two days. The large hot chocolate with skim milk has 460 calories so with whipped cream and fudge sauce, I'm probably looking at a 600 calorie drink. All the good foods have too many calories in them!  I wonder how many calories are in an eggnog shake? I'm not sure I want to know until I've had one because that will surely ruin it for me!

We had our first snow yesterday. It was only flurries but was very pretty. I love the first snow - hate it the rest of the winter. Snow puts me in the mood for hot chocolate.

Hot drinks are very soothing on these cold, dark and dreary days of pre-winter. They truly warm you from the inside out. Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cider, hot buttered rum - any of these can make you feel toasty warm.

It's quick and easy to make a cup of hot cocoa by dropping a package of hot cocoa mix into a cup and adding some hot water. However, with a little time and effort, you can make a truly rich and delicious cup of cocoa using a few basic ingredients.

Hershey's  Easy Microwave Hot Cocoa
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. sugar
2-3 tsp. Hershey's cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
1 cup milk
Directions:
Mix cocoa, salt, and sugar in a large mug.
Heat milk in microwave oven for 1 - 1/2 minutes or until hot.
Gradually add milk to cocoa mixture in mug stirring until well blended.
Stir in vanilla.
Variations: Use  up to 2 tablespoon of cocoa for a richer chocolate. Substitute artificial sweetener and nonfat milk to cut calories.

All Recipes.com has a variety of hot chocolate recipes and also some recipes of hot chocolate mixes you can make and give as gifts.

Here are some hot chocolate making tips:

 1. Using whole milk or cream will make a creamier drink but you will need to stir it more often as it cooks to keep from scorching.

2. Whisk until foamy to make a more creamier and tasty drink.

3. Garnish with marshmallows, whipped cream, cinnamon, coconut, hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce, sprinkles, or chocolate candies.

4. Experiment with different flavors. Try dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate powders or chips. Try adding different amounts or combinations of milk and cream. Add liqueurs such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier, peppermint schnaps, amaretto, rum cream, and Baileys. Add other ingredients such as a tsp. of peanut butter or a tsp of brown sugar.

There are a large variety of hot cocoa mixes that can be bought in grocery stores. You can jazz them up by using hot milk instead of water and by adding a dash of vanilla and any of the garnishes and additions listed above.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

The Crafty Cupboard
I love the taste and smell of gingerbread and gingerbread men are so cute! I decorate my kitchen with gingerbread men every Christmas. I have gingerbread towels, dishcloths, potholders, garlands, cups, ornaments and even a teapot. My family and friends love to give me gingerbread stuff for Christmas.

Gingerbread cookies are delicious. Gingerbread cookie dough can be quite expensive and time consuming to make. Spice and molasses can be costly. As an alternative, you could buy a packaged mix at the grocery store for $1.99 and Pillsbury has refrigerated slice and bake gingerbread cookie dough. Check out the free Pillsbury baking coupons on the web. You can print out and save a lot of money. Pre-made dough can be sliced and baked as well as rolled and cut into shapes.

I've always used the gingerbread cookie recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook. I like to roll out gingerbread men and decorate. It's fun to eat gingerbread men and kids love 'em. I did see a really cute cookie that I am going to make this year. It is easy and very quick to make. They are called Gingerbread Snowmen. You need a round cookie cutter or you can use a glass. You could also use the slice and bake method or even a drop cookie. Frost with white icing. Decorate the face with mini chocolate chips and a piece of candy corn for the nose.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gambling on the Rams



We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and even managed to get a jump on Christmas shopping and decorating so we decided to go to a Rams football game yesterday. One of the advantages of being emptynesters is that we can leave whenever we want - no planning or preparation necessary!

My husband and I love to gamble at the casinos in St. Louis. He loves to win and I just love to see how long I can play on $20-$40 dollars as I am not as lucky or skilled as he. We left early Sunday morning and arrrived at the Casino Queen in East Alton at about 8:30AM. We ate at the breakfast buffet. They have a lovely brunch for $9.99 per person. There is an egg/omelet station with all the trimmings plus a Chinese food station, a dinner station with sliced meats and side dishes, a salad bar, and a dessert bar. It is very, very good! We gambled for about an hour - didn't do very well although the Casino Queen boasted of having the loosest slot machines around.

It was raining when we arrived in St. Louis so we went to the Luminere Casino and gambled a little more just to kill some time until the game. We actually won some money playing slots and video poker.

We didn't have tickets to the football game. We thought we would try buying them on the street just before the game started. Here is where we got really lucky. We were walking across the parking lot and a man stopped us and offered us some free tickets that he couldn't use. We offered to pay him but he refused so we ended up with free tickets and they were just awesome! We were 5 rows up from the field on the 30 yard line. We could see everything!

The Rams play football in the Edward Jones Dome. The best thing about the Edward Jones Dome is that it is inside and you stay dry and toasty warm during the game.

The game was very exciting! Years ago, St. Louis was home to Cardinals who now belong to Arizona. There were many Cardinal fans present at the game which made a nice rivalry. The Rams scored the first touchdown early in the first quarter but eventually lost to the Cardinals 23-20. It was a close game and we were able to watch two extraordinary Cardinal players. We saw Patrick Peterson tie an NFL record and Beanie Wells set a franchise record.

We went back to the Luminere casino and won a little more money, enough for a nice dinner at Applebee's on the way home. It was a fun and relaxing trip - something nice to do on a dark, rainy, gloomy day!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers


Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. What a wonderful holiday! A day centered around eating the most delicous foods and no one is expected to diet.  Erma Bombeck said: "What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?"

What do you do with the leftovers?  Is it safe eat turkey and pumpkin pie all week?


According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration),  leftovers should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, should be cleanly placed in covered containers, and stored at the correct temperature of below 40 degrees in the refrigerator or 0 degrees in the freezer.

Once you get the leftovers into the refrigerator, most are good for around 3 days.  Recommendations: turkey: 3-4 days, gravy: 1-2 days, potatoes: 3-4 days, pumpkin pie: 2-3 days, and cranberries: 10- 14 days. So, you can make yourself a plate, cover it, and microwave or place in 350 degree oven until warmed for the first two days with the exception of gravy. Gravy needs to be boiled for at least one minute before eating. StillTasty.com has a really good guide for keeping and using leftovers.

Turkey, vegetables, and cranberry sauce can also be frozen and reused. They can also be recycled into soups and casseroles and desserts. Turkey Pot Pie is delicious and easy to make and can use up a lot your leftovers. There are many recipes on the web but you can simply mix about 2 cups of sliced turkey, a cup or two of vegetables, and a jar of turkey gravy in a sauce pan and heat. Place in a greased one quart casserole dish and top with 2 cups leftover stuffing or mashed potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cranberry sauce can be added to pancakes, muffins, desserts, or try one of these 3 drinks from Bar None: Hot buttered Cranberry Punch, Right Gin Christmas Punch, or The Gobbler. Tired of pumpkin pie? Make it into a pumpkin pie parfait using vanilla ice cream or vanilla pudding, or for a special dessert try this Pumpkin Pie Parfait  recipe which also uses pound cake, cream cheese, and cool whip.


I will confess that we love Thanksgiving leftovers almost as much as we like the actual meal but after a few days, we are ready for a nice cheesy pizza.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Creamy Potato Soup

A hot bowl of soup for supper can be very comforting during these dark, dreary, chilly autumn days.

I have been experimenting with soup recipes this month. I've never really had much success making soup in the past, but I have stumbled upon some awesome recipes this  month. Soup is easy to make. It is inexpensive. It is filling and can be stretched to feed a large family. Most soups taste even better when reheated and most can be frozen.

I found a recipe called Ultimate Potato Soup at allrecipes.com and tweaked it into my own which I am calling Creamy Potato Soup. It is delicious!

Creamy Potato Soup

Ingredients:
6 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
3 stalks cubed celery
1 onion - peeled and diced (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 15 oz. can chichen broth
2 cubes or tsp chicken broth granules
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups milk
2 oz. package instant mashed potatoes

Directions:
Combine vegetables, spices, broth, and granules in large soup pot and boil for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add butter and milk. Slowly, mix in instant mashed potatoes and simmer for an hour or more.

I added 1 cup of ham cubes for my meat loving husband. You could also add sausage, bacon, or cheese.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Prep

Just one week until Thanksgiving!

Have you bought your turkey yet? Just remember - if you buy a frozen turkey it can take several days to defrost in the refrigerator. A twenty pound bird can take up to 4 days to defrost.  You will need about 1 1/2 pounds of turkey for each person. There are faster ways but the refrigerator is the safest. A frozen turkey needs to be purchased no later than Sunday.

Turkeys are on sale this week as are potatoes, gravy, canned vegetables, cranberries, cool whip, rolls, etc. - just about everything you need for your holiday dinner. I bought 2 turkeys and a turkey breast.  My freezer is stuffed but I now I have a turkey for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas, and a turkey breast to roast for a January or February meal. I also bought most of the trimmings: rolls, potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.

There are many websites that can help you cook a turkey but I like the Butterball Turkey site.  It tells you how to plan the meal, how to cook it, how to serve it, and what to do with the leftovers. The Butterball site is loaded with good advice and recipes. They are also available by phone, Facebook, and Twitter. Best of all, they have free coupons and rebates for turkeys and other holiday foods.

Cooking a turkey can be tricky. You want crispy, browned skin with moist delicious meat and you need it to reach the temperature of at least 165 degrees to be safe to eat. That's probably why there are so many recipes and methods of cooking. 10 Weird Ways to Cook a Turkey is a funny article about cooking turkey. Some of them sound delicious!

To be honest, I have cooked turkeys that were not quite thawed out. You just need to be able to pull out the gizzards and stuff from the cavity and you can even do that after it has cooked for awhile. It takes an extra hour or two to finish cooking but you can end up with a very moist turkey.

Happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Middle Age Spread

Middle Age Spread – I’ve got it. I think I’ve had it since I was just a toddler. I am now in my first official year of menopause and beginning to panic about the size of my belly because it seemed to multiply in just one weekend last spring.  Very scary! When I was a kid, middle aged women wore stretch pants and large roomy tops and didn’t care about their tummies. They valued comfort. I have to confess that I am more interested in looking good. I know that sounds very vain but I’m not ready to look like a middle aged lady.

Doctors say the best cure is to increase your exercise, decrease your calorie intake, and strengthen your abdominal muscles. I didn’t see much improvement on this regimen but I’ve found a few other things that have helped.

Good posture seems to be critical to looking slimmer through the waist. Standing up straighter and sucking in the tummy is hard to do but the more you do it the easier it gets and the better you look. It is also an almost instant improvement if you can do it.

Avoiding foods that cause stomach bloating is helpful. The foods most likely to cause bloating are: dairy products, bread and pasta, high carbohydrate fruits and vegetables like apples, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, brussel sprouts, pears, and peaches, chewing gum,  artificial sweeteners, and carbonated drinks.  These are all my favorites so I have been experimenting with them. I have found milk to be my worst bloating problem. I really love milk and I crave it.  I do not like soy milk but I recently tried Silk'>http://silksoymilk.com/products">Silk Vanilla Almond Milk and liked it very much.  It was also very good in my coffee and scrambled eggs and cereal but the dark chocolate was the best. It tastes like a candy bar. I was surprised but it sure did decrease the bloating of my tummy. Almond milk is available at most grocery stores and there is a coupon available at http://silkpurealmond.com/# where you can also sign up for free offers.

Other things on my list to experiment with are: Pilates, Abs diet, and tummy control clothing.

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened. ~Jennifer Yane

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Felt Halloween Ornaments





My social and work life has been very intense lately so I decided to take last weekend off and rest. I watched a good part of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. I made Halloween felt ornaments as I watched. It was very relaxing and productive too I guess.


I loved Game of Thrones. I can’t wait to watch season 2. Like most HBO shows, it is full of passion and violence and of course sexual content. It is a fantasy of mythology, war, feuding, intrigue, lust, power, and honor. There are many characters and storylines so you have to really concentrate to figure how who everyone is and what is happening. I watched the first two episodes twice but I recommend reading the summary or watching the recap of season 1 at the Game of Thrones homepage. If you like most HBO programming, you will absolutely love Game of Thrones!



I love these Halloween ornaments. They are soft and cheery. They look adorable hanging in a window, wreath, or bare branch tree. They also make pretty gift package decorations. I made 6 sets and they are selling in my store: The Crafty Cupboard.



I found the pattern for these cute little Halloween ornaments in the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Craft magazine 1999. I altered the instructions to make them simpler. They are easy and inexpensive to make. I cannot share the pattern and instructions on this blog as they are copyrighted. You can buy a completed set from my store, The Crafty Cupboard, for $5.99 plus shipping.



If you would like to make a set, you could use cookie cutters or draw the free hand patterns and stitch them using felt, embroidery thread, ribbon, beads, and polyester stuffing. I would also be willing to copy the pattern and instructions and mail them to you for a small handling fee of $3.00 plus a stamped envelope. Email me if you would like your own copy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mums and Marigolds

We finally got a break in the weather. After days and days of hot humid weather, a cool front has blown in. It is truly a breath of fresh air! I had to make an effort to enjoy summer this year. Some days the water temperature in my swimming pool was 101 degrees!

It feels a little like fall. Everything is drying up and I saw an empty school bus drive through our subdivision as I took my morning walk. School begins on Wednesday here so I guess that bus was making a practice run.
Summer flew by fast this year. The official first day of fall is September 21st which is about 49 days away. It’s not too late to plant stuff in the Midwest. You can still plant cool loving, quick growing vegetables like peas, cabbage, spinach, and carrots. My garden didn’t do very well this year due to these long hot, rainless days. I will be putting in some peas and carrots this week. Fall flowers like chrysanthemums and marigolds can be planted. Some home improvement stores and nurseries will still be carrying plants that can be transplanted into pots and beds. There are some really good bargains on seeds, plants, and bulbs right now. The easiest plants to grow during the fall and summer are mums and marigolds. Mums and marigolds bloom late in the summer and continue to bloom well after the first frost. They come in beautiful fall colors. If you have a lot of ruined pots of flowers, you can replace them with some new soil and plants or just throw in some marigold seeds. Dwarf marigold seeds will flower in about 45 days just in time for fall, and you can enjoy the pretty green foliage until then. You can also plant shrubs and trees. Late summer plants may need a lot of watering.

Our state fair is this week. This weather will make it a much more enjoyable experience. I guess we should enjoy it while it lasts because I’m sure there are still some hot August dog days in our future!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Save Money on Paper Products!






Ouch!!!!

I spent $250.00 yesterday at Wal-Mart! I was shocked. Even though some of that money was on food items for my son who is away at summer school, most of it went towards household and beauty products. I can’t afford to waste money like that anymore. The cost of food and gas are outrageous and college is very expensive!

So, it is back to basics. First on the list are paper goods. We use a lot of paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, paper plates, garbage bags, aluminum foil, saran wrap, baggies, facial tissue, and cupcake papers. We can cut back or even eliminate everything but toilet paper, facial tissue, and garbage bags. Paper towels can be replaced with white wash cloths. You can buy around a dozen for about $5.00 at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store. You can use them for cleaning and wiping up spills. Put the paper towels away for really dirty jobs and set out a few wash cloths instead. Some people like to use sponges but I find wash cloths to more hygienic. Used newspapers can be used to clean windows and mirrors. Napkins and paper plates can be replaced with cloth napkins and dinner wear. This will generate a little more laundry but it is worth it. Saran wrap and baggies can be replaced by using and reusing leftover containers as well as old plastic containers and jars. Use Pam Spray instead of aluminum foil and cupcake papers. Comparison shopping for toilet paper, facial tissue, and garbage bags can save you money and they can be bought in bulk or on sale. Watch your toilet paper hanger. Some rolls of toilet paper have a wide hollow inside that allows the paper to roll off faster and if you are not careful you can find yourself tearing off more than you need. I do not care for using handkerchiefs but you could sure save some money there. Some people re-use plastic shopping bags for small garbage cans. Then you can just dump the contents into your larger bag.

Beware of the generic brands. Some are just as good if not better but there are a lot of bad ones.

I have done these things before and they have saved us a lot of money. It is easy to fall back in the habit of relying on paper products to make life easier. It's better for your budget and the environment if you eliminate or at least cut down on the use of these products. If you do use a lot of these products remember to recycle and reuse all paper items such as paper towel and toilet paper rolls, paper bags, newspapers, junk mail, and cardboard boxes. It is not as convenient as using paper products but once you get in the habit it is pretty easy and you will love saving money and helping the environment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recycled Coin Bank Project





Do you recycle?

I do. I wash and separate all my plastic containers, cans, and papers and set them out by the curb once a week to be picked up by our local recycling company. Yesterday I was looking at that stuff and I started thinking about trying to reuse these poor discarded objects. I realized that I could have a free box of “craft supplies” to work with every week.

I am very proud of my first project. I made a coin bank out of a Hershey’s Cocoa Box. I spray painted it and decoupaged it with some Cubs wrapping paper I had saved from a Father’s Day Gift. My husband loves it and has taken it to work and added it to his collection of Cubs memorabilia. He is putting his change in it every day.

You can use any kind of sturdy container with a removable lid such as drink mix jars, oatmeal boxes, salt boxes, or coffee tins. Any kind of paper can be used as well as photographs and greeting cards. Buttons, bows, beads, jewelry and other embellishments can be attached with a hot glue gun to the finished bank. I only had to buy a jar of Mod Podge Gloss Lustre. It is a water based sealer, glue and finish. A small bottle costs around $3.00 at Wal-Mart. It can be reused for many different projects. It is a very simple, fun, and creative project.

Coin Bank
Materials:

Sturdy container with removable plastic lid.
Paper cutouts to decorate box.
Mod Podge Gloss Lustre
Sharp scissors or craft knife
Paint brush
Sandpaper – optional
Spray paint – optional
Acrylic varnish – optional
Directions:
1. Remove label from container and wash thoroughly. Dry thoroughly. Carefully cut out a slit in the lid for inserting coins. You may have to poke some holes in the general slot area to make cutting easier.
2. Spray paint lid and container if desired in a color that coordinates with the paper or papers you have chosen to decoupage. Let dry.
3. Arrange paper over container to create the design you want. Apply a coat of Mod Podge to the container and then smooth your paper over the container. Let dry.
4. Apply 2-3 more coats of Mod Podge over container allowing to dry at least 20 minutes between coats.
5. Apply a coat or two of acrylic varnish for extra durability if desired.

Note 1: Lightly sanding the container before painting helps the paint adhere better.
Note 2: The bank can be decorated after the last coat of Mod Podge or varnish with buttons and other embellishments with a hot glue gun.

I had a lot of fun with this craft and am looking for more recycling crafts. I have ordered some books from the library and have some been looking at some web sites. This was my first time decoupaging and I think it is a lot of fun!




















Friday, July 8, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake












We are overloaded with zucchini and cucumbers right now. What do you do with all that lovely zucchini? I had a favorite chocolate zucchini cake recipe but I lost it. I needed to bake one today so I had to look for a new one. I tried this new recipe from Simply Recipes:



Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe
Ingredients:


• 2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
• 1/2 cup cocoa
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3/4 cup soft butter
• 2 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
• 2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
• Glaze (directions follow)


Method:


Preheat the oven to 350°F.
1 Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
2 With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.
3 Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.
4 Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly.
5 Drizzle glaze over cake.
Glaze: Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.



While it was baking, it smelled like heaven. It was easy to make. I substituted 1/3 cup orange juice for the zest and added chocolate chips. Instead of the glaze I just sifted confectioner's sugar over the top. It is moist and delicious. My family will never guess it was made with zucchini!



I found dozens and dozens of zucchini recipes – even a zucchini brownie recipe that I will be trying next week.



It is recommended that you blanch zucchini before freezing. Blanching inactivates the enzymes that cause frozen zucchini to become discolored and mushy. However, you can place a measured amount of shredded zucchini in bags and freeze to be used in breads and other baked goods.





Now, what do we do with all those cucumbers!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Silk Dyed Easter Eggs

A unique way to dye Easter Eggs is to use scraps of silk tied tightly around raw eggs before boiling. Look for pretty designs in men’s ties, scarves, boxers, and blouses – anything that is 100% silk.

I heard about silk dyeing from one of my customers. She bought a large amount of my men’s ties and wanted me to double check that they were all silk. She said she was going to use them to dye Easter eggs. I was intrigued so I googled it and found instructions at Martha Stewart.com. I tried a few this morning. I got some really pretty ones. I’m just not sure that they are safe to eat as they are dyed with fabric dyes and we usually use food dyes that we know are safe to eat.

Here are the instructions:
1. Wrap eggs tightly with a square of silk - pattern side against egg.
2. Wrap silk covered eggs with a square of white cotton or linen fabric (old sheet or pillowcase works best) and secure with a twist tie.
3. Cover eggs with cold water, add 3 tablespoons white vinegar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Note: I did mine for 25 minutes and I think they could have used a little longer.
4. Remove eggs using tongs to a paper towel covered tray and cool.
5. Carefully remove wrappings from cool eggs and let dry.

You can use blown out egg shells also but you will need to weight them down by putting water inside or weighting them down with a rock to hold them down in the water.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning Blues

Spring cleaning can improve your mood! Really! It is a lot of work but a clean, fresh, organized home will make you feel more comfortable, happier, and lighter. It is also good exercise and a good way to work off frustration. Cleaning is a satisfying task because you can see the results immediately.

You can do a light cleaning or go deep. I like to deep clean my house once a year and spring is the perfect time to get rid of all that dirt and clutter we have collected through the winter. I will then do a lighter cleaning in the fall.

I am busy with my yard and garden this time of year so I just do a little at a time. I do one room at a time and it can take me a month to six weeks to finish the house. And then I power wash the outside and wash all windows. I choose a room and move small furniture, lamps, pictures, books, plants, and accessories into another room after dusting or cleaning them. I take down curtains and pillows and wash or just run them through the dryer with a wet towel to remove dust. I clean out and reorganize the closets and cabinets. I take down and wash blinds and hang to dry. I take out the window screens, wash them, hose them off, and set out to dry. I now have a relatively bare room to clean which will be much faster to clean, more thorough, and you will be less likely to break anything. I take a broom and sweep the ceiling of dust and cobwebs. Sweep and/or wash the wall. Wash the inside windows. Dust the leftover furniture. Vacuum couches, chairs, and carpets. Shampoo the carpets. When cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, I will clean the tub, shower, toilet, sink, and appliances last. Then, I can “redecorate” the room with the stuff I have moved into a different room. It can make you feel like you are moving into a new and cleaner home!

It helps to have some boxes in the garage where you can pack up excess stuff for storage, donation, or trash. Help from family members or friends can make this an easier and more enjoyable task or maybe not. It is good for kids to learn how to clean and a good activity to do together. Playing some good upbeat music while cleaning will energize you and improve your mood.

House Cleaning Blues
by Ellen Bailey

I have the house cleaning blues
I look around and see so much to do
I look at the walls, the windows, and the floors
I see heaps of dust layered like boards.

What I need is a good house cleaning crew
But where to get one, I haven't a clue
I asked for volunteers,but none would relent
Their community spirit, it seems, had been spent.

I could wish for an occasional hurricane
For me, that may not be such a bad thing
I could raise the windows and open the doors
And be done with these house cleaning chores.

But hurricanes don't occur where I live
So its left up to me to clean this crib
I have devised a plan to get the job done
Since I can no longer depend on anyone.

My plan is as simple as it can be
One that is not very taxing on me
My walking shoes I will lace up tight
And from this nightmare I will take flight.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals Baseball vs. Raking Leaves

Today is the first home game for the St. Louis Cardinals! They are playing against the San Diego Padres. I love the start of the baseball game season. It means cold beer, hot dogs, and warm weather. Finally!! My husband is at the game right now with 3 of his friends. They got Champion’s Club tickets, The Champion Club has reserved outdoor seating but it also has an indoor lounge, 2 ½ hour- all you can eat- buffet, private restrooms, and 2 bars. The tickets were very expensive, over $200, but well worth it, especially in this iffy weather.

My husband is very likely having a lot more fun than I am. I am home. I just finished raking the front yard. We have 2 large oak trees which have produced an over abundance of leaves and acorns. The squirrels have been very happy this year. If you have a leaf blower and a leaf mulcher, you can make this chore a short one. I felt like raking and bagging them today. I like the quiet. I am sure I will be very sore tomorrow.

I found a few raking tips I’d like to share:

1. Buy a good rake. There are a lot of different kinds of rakes. Be sure you get a leaf raking one with a larger padded handle to reduce hand fatigue.

2. Raking is good exercise. Stretch before you begin and be careful not to strain your back or arms. Lift with your legs and avoid twisting movements. Cool down when you are finished.

3. Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects in the leaves and from getting blisters from using the rake.

4. Everyone has his or her own method of raking leaves. Most people rake them into small piles and put them into yard waste bags for disposal or other containers for compost and/or disposal. If it is windy outside, I try to rake with the wind into a fence or building wall to stop the leaves from blowing away. Otherwise, I rake away from the sides of my property into the center. I rake small piles of leaves and put them into bags.

5. Take frequent breaks. Raking is hard work. Stop once in awhile and just look around and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. Just breathe in the fresh air.

6. Economical tip: I keep a bucket full of water handy when putting leaves into yard waste bags. If you add a little water, you can compact more leaves into the bag. A bag will hold 3 times more wet leaves than dry ones. Just add a little water about 3-4 times when filling a bag and push them down as tight as you can every time. It costs us about $2.50 to get one bag hauled away so that is about a savings of $5.00.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Easter Egg Coaster Crochet Pattern

I've been making a lot of these Easter egg coasters. I like to decorate them with these little bunny appliques but you can also use bows, buttons, sequins, etc. to make them fancier. They are very easy and quick to crochet. Using an I hook, they are approximately 5 1/2 inches long and 4 inches wide. You can get a slightly larger one using a J or K hook. They also make nice appliques for shirts and bags.

Easter Egg Coaster



Materials:

I hook

Small amount of yarn

Note: Egg can be worked up in a solid color or in 3 stripes.

Instructions:

Chain 5.

Row 1: 2 Sc in 2nd chain from hook. Sc in next 2 chains. 2 sc in last chain. Chain 1 and turn. (6 sc.)

Row 2: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.

Row 3: 2 sc in first sc. Sc in next 4 sc. 2 sc in last sc. Chain 1 and turn. (8 sc.) Row 4. Sc across. Chain 1 and turn. (Change color if desired).

Row 5: 2 sc in first sc. Sc in next 6 sc. 2 sc in last sc. Chain 1 and turn. (10 sc.) Rows 6-10: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn. (Change color if desired.)

Row 11: Sc decrease in 1st 2 sc. Sc in next 6 sc. Sc decrease in last 2 sc. Chain 1 and turn. (8sc.)

Row 12: Sc across. Chain 1 and turn.

Row 13: Sc decrease in 1st 2 sc. Sc in next 4sc. Sc decrease in last 2 sc. Chain 1 and turn. 4 sc)

Row 14: Sc decrease in 1st 2 sc c last 2 sc. (2sc). Sc around eggs joining with a slip stitch into last sc decrease.


I also have a free Easter Bunny Coaster Pattern you can try out. It is very cute.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Easter Stuff


Officially it is spring, but it is getting a slow start here in the middle of Illinois. It is sunny but cold and we are expecting snow tomorrow. I got out my Easter decorations today. I thought it might raise my spirits. It did a little, but I forgot that I had thrown out a lot of them last year.


I went shopping to pick up some new kitchen towels and found cute little miniature trees, plastic eggs, and some stuff to make a new wreath. The trees are really cute. Each tree is about 15 inches tall and has white bendable wires in a pastel flower pot. I am using them for centerpieces on my kitchen and dining table. I decorated one of them with crocheted bunnies and the second one has glittery foam hanging eggs. I’m hoping to make a wreath tomorrow for my front door and hang some plastic eggs on my almond shrub if the weather is cooperative.


It has been a pleasure making Easter things the last few weeks. I love spring colors. I have been making sweet, little bunny appliques, potholders, and coasters.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Signs of Spring


Winter. I’ve had enough snow and gray, dreary days. I would like to see some greenery. My two young adult sons are at a Mardi Gras celebration in St. Louis, Missouri today. I’m sure that they are having a wonderful time. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday and signifies the beginning of Lent. Tuesday, March 8th is the actual date and Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. That means that Easter is only 6 weeks away and that spring is just around the corner!

My midwestern town of Springfield will start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this week. Everybody is Irish St. Patrick's Day! There will be lots of Irish food in the restaurants. McDonald’s is now selling Shamrock shakes. There will be a Sons and Daughters of Erin dinner this Thursday evening. The Sons and Daughters of Erin are a national group dedicated to preserving the customs and history of Ireland. There will be a lovely Irish dinner, beer, a performance by comedian Johnny Kavenaugh, beer, announcement of the Irish Man and woman of the year, beer, and door prizes. My husband and I are going. I think it will be a lot of fun. Saturday, March 12 is our annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. We are marching in it this year. I love to see the costumes.

March 20th is actually the first official day of spring. You may have noticed that the days are getting longer which is very nice. Any day now we will start to see the first signs of spring: robins, budding trees, crocus blooms. Coming soon.