Saturday, July 30, 2011

Super Saturday

Sorry about the absentee-ism lately. I was cut off from the internet for about a week and then I got to play catch-up. Here's the final step in that catch-up process... My last two JS projects for the month:

First up we have interactive place mats. It's The Girl's job to set the table for dinner and I've been thinking a lot about how to help her do a nice job correctly. I came to the conclusion that an interactive place mat was the way to go and started looking for linen place mats that I could embroider the elements of an informal place setting onto. I made a template/pattern for the embroidery and got to thinking, "why worry about embroidery when I have access to so many fabulous + fun patterned papers?" So for fun I started dropping papers onto the template. Loved these ones from the Early Bird Paper Pack by Cosmo Cricket. Perfect. I printed them 11 x 17 and had them laminated at Staples [have I told you about Staples? I'm going to have to do that. Remind me. Heidi Swapp is brilliant]. I love them. I love that they are wipe-able. I love that they want to set the table now because it's like a game. And I love that they are now learning how to do it correctly.

Isn't that the cutest card ever? I seriously keep looking at it and thinking, "Who can I send this too? What kind of party can we have so I can send this card to someone?" Around here we talk quite a lot about inviting various families from the area over for dinner so we can get to know them better. Lately the boys have been wishing for a party for no reason. A few years ago Sarah Neuberger from The Small Object made printable fill-in-the-blank invites that I flagged for my to-do list. When I saw Cosmo Cricket's The Boyfriend Elements tags I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Love it when random things line up just so. I made a template and dropped them in. Easy Peasy.

I'm sure you'll see these projects again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


one: Evidence. I am getting the biggest kick out of Nisa Fiin's [of Splendid Fiins] new Evidence line. When I saw the first group I immediately thought I'd make a field journal for the boys to document their summer adventures. Lucky for me, I am a procrastinator, and while this project floated around in my head Nisa was busy making even more great stuff for the line. And I saw this tutorial for making little books. It's perfect. So here you go. A very cool book of field notes. I'm over at Mouse, Paper, Lovely with a photo filled how-to today. Come visit!

1. watermelon hands, 2. outside of the dugout tonight...., 3. red.3, 4. red.4, 5. red.5, 6. Untitled, 7. spinning summer records, 8. day 5 red boats santa cruz, 9. day 5 taffy, 10. Untitled, 11. red seasonal goodness, 12. poppytalk red: summer shoes, 13. cherries, 14. red1, 15. IMG_1986, 16. GreyLemon SummerColor Rainbow4, 17. rainbow.1, 18. friendships over the rainbow, 19. summer rainbow, 20. rainbow.4, 21. day 4 rainbow (ceiling lights), 22. beads, 23. Ferris wheel2, 24. rainbow, 25. hot air balloon, 26. Carnival, 27. balloons, 28. Summer Rainbow 2, 29. Making our own pot of gold, 30. 100 Colours, 31. IMG_9576, 32. hot air balloon - it's summer!, 33. rainbow weekend., 34. IMGP8931, 35. play-doh, 36. poppytalk rainbow: beaded

two: Color Week. How come I always miss it? It's on the someday list. I love looking at all the beautiful photos!

ps. The Splendid Fiins Evidence Paper Pack will be available next Monday at Jessica Sprague!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Make It Do

So the other day my kids had a lesson on the food guide pyramid complete with art project. Really. I had nothing to do with it. They sat down at the table - the two younglings on one side and the older "teacher" on the other - and they had a lesson. I was here, working on the computer, and listening [occasionally throwing a comment or two in].  It was decided by the teacher that they would do one food group every day this week. Today they did grains. What does this have to do with my established Make It Do series you might be asking...
In my mind, talk of grains led to thinking of sprouts. In fact, it keeps popping up. See, the other day I was at the neighbor's house getting a can of tomato sauce. While we talked she took out a jar of sprouts and proceeded to rinse them. Of course we started talking about sprouts... And for the past few days I've been reading Whole Living Magazine and there's a recipe with sprouted quinoa so they were already on my mind a bit. And then I remembered that Mom gave us a sprouter for Christmas last year. Awesome. So here I am. A sprouter [as of three days ago]!

Did you know there are pages and pages of information/research touting the benefits of sprouts? For example, did you know that there are 10 to 100 times more enzymes in germinated grains and beans than in raw fruits and vegetables? Sprouts abound with antioxidants, they are full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. When a seed sprouts, stored food & enzymes needed for growth of the mature plant are mobilized. Protein, carbohydrate & fat is broken down (pre-digested) to free amino acids, simple sugars & soluble compounds. Vitamins, including A, B-complex (B-12), C, E & K, increase to meet the growth needs of a young plant. For example, B-complex in wheat increases 600 percent, vitamin E triples & vitamin C increases six-fold. Vitamin C in a 100 gram serving of peas goes from 0 to 69 mg. in 48 hours! Essential minerals - calcium, magnesium, iron & zinc are supplied in organic form, "chelated" for better assimilation.

So now I'm asking myself, "why haven't I been eating/feeding my kids sprouts all along?" I think I thought it was complicated. Apparently it isn't.

This is the sprouter I have. Three days ago I put in 1/4 c quinoa [that's quinoa - pronounced keen'wah - in the first photo] and filled it up with very warm water to soak for 3 hours [I set a timer because I knew I would forget]. When the beeper beeped, I emptied the water, put on the lid and sat it on  the counter. It's called the EasySprout and it's supposed to speed up the process. 24 hours later this is what they looked like [I put some in a jar so you could see them better + I love the photos you'll see in the link below. I wanted some of my own]. My kids love them. I want to try beans next. I love bean sprouts in stirfry.

Don't have a sprouter? Here's a great link to a very simple + kid friendly sprout project. All you need is a mason jar, breatheable fabric [like cheesecloth or a piece of a pair of old nylons], a mason jar ring and, of course, seeds. But not the kind you buy for the garden. Those typically have stuff on them.

In comparison the only real difference is time. With the jar you have to rinse the sprouts 1-2 times per day while the sprouter claims the airflow is such that it's not necessary to rinse at all. It also claims that my quinoa sprouts will be ready in 12-24 hrs, but Whole Living says quinoa takes 2 days in a jar. I suppose there is one more difference: You probably have everything you need to start sprouting in your house right now [wheat berries/lentils/black eyed peas/pinto beans, etc], but you would have to order a sprouter if you wanted one - there are endless options available.

What does one do with sprouts anyway?
•Add to tossed salads
•Use in coleslaw
•Try in wraps and roll-ups
•Stir-fry with other vegetables
•Blend with vegetable juices
•Stir into soups or stews when serving
•Top omelet or scrambled eggs
•Add to sushi [because, you know, we eat that all the time :)]

ps. Want to know more? Here's a great link with tons of info about sprouting at home.

pss. the photo above shows the stage we ate them in. I read somewhere that the most nutritional stage is 1/4 roots. I'm not convinced that what I'm seeing is roots. I'm working on doing more research to see how to go about getting them into the bigger great on a sandwich stage. The sprouting at home link in the postscript is the place to learn it I think. Just a matter of time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


one: Nine Already? Cosmo Cricket has a new line out called Salt Air. It's pretty fun! Since *I* got a fish for his birthday I decided to use it to do a page about his birthday. Not that you can really tell it's about his birthday, but that's how I do things. That little ticket on the right is his party invite [we took a bunch of kids to see Rio at the dollar flick so it's a movie ticket - the template is in the box. You're welcome!] and of course, the fish. I made the line and the clips were extracted from a photo. And, yes, I'm obviously still the white paint lady. Maybe I will always be. I like it alot.

two: glitter. Thanks to my friend Cannwin.

ps. The Man doesn't think it really looks like glitter.  :(

pps. know where "cue the sparkle" comes from? I'll make you a customized sparkle element of your choice if you can guess right! After I wrote that *I* said I had to change the color of the glitter. He thought the green glitter was for him since it's his favorite color.

ppps. If necessary, I may limit the number of elements and do a random drawing to choose a few winners. I don't forsee that happening, but you never know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Girl Friday

Yesterday my friend Cannwin posted a list. And you all know how much I love lists. Then I got an e-mail from BPC [Big Picture Classes] with a great "I" list. And the boys are currently working a list. Hmm. I think the universe is telling me it's time for another list :). Like I need an excuse. Here goes:

I was not going to post today.

I am going to the dentist.

I think I should take better care of my teeth so I don't have to make special trips to fix problems.

I wonder if that protective mouthwash really works...

I wish I could snap my fingers and have everything fly to it's place [like Mary Poppins].

I save everything. It's annoying. And counterproductive to my organizing wishes.

I always sit things down on the nearest surface and forget about them.

I can't imagine living in a clutter free home.

I believe it's possible

I promise to make more of an effort.


photos credits: Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living

I love the look of a clutter free home.

I do.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Make It Do

So... Apricots. Did you know the apricot is a native of China and has been cultivated for over 4,000 years? Today, the United States produces close to 90% of the world’s apricots, most being grown in California. Apricots are an excellent source of betacarotene (vitamin A) and also provide vitamin C, iron, potassium, and fiber.

I am of the opinion that the best thing to do with apricots is to make jam. And as far as jams go, apricot is one of the easiest. Right up there with strawberry. A couple of weeks ago my grandpa called and said he had some apricots if I wanted them. Um, yes please. Fast forward 38 half-pints later and I've got a few things to say about jam making.

The instructions that come in the pectin box are lame divided into two sections, laid out so as to accomodate many types of fruit and include both jam and jelly instructions. Translation: I messed it up. Every time. If you tend to get overwhelmed with too much information and resort to skimming instructions until you feel like you have the gist of it [like someone else I know] I suggest translating the recipe portion into a simplified form like this:
  1. In a large sauce pan mix X cups pitted + chopped apricots with 1/X c lemon juice. Gradually stir in pectin*. Add up to 1/2 tsp butter to reduce foaming if desired. Over high heat bring mixture to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir constantly.
  2. After the fruit/lemon juice/pectin have reached full rolling boil stir in entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to full, rolling boil. Boil hard X minute(s). Stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Proceed with preserving instructions.
I'm not going to get into the preserving instruction. Basically it's hot jam into hot jars topped with hot lids + process for however long it tells you to depending on what you're preserving. If you would like more information + a video to get you started go here.

*A word about pectin. There are way too many different kinds. For this project I compared two:  Ball Original and MCP Premium. They are both 100% natural fruit pectin, both are in powder form, they call for the same amounts of fruit per batch, and they both make jam.

As far as differences go, one word pretty much sums it up. More. and not necessarily in a good way. The first thing I noticed was that although they call for the same amounts of fruit the MCP recipe calls for twice as much lemon juice and 1 c more sugar per recipe. Also, after adding the sugar the MCP boil time is 4 minutes vs. 1 minute for Ball. I always add the butter to reduce foam [+ I think it gives a little bit of flavor - though that might just be wishful thinking] the Ball recipe hardly foamed at all and I didn't feel the need to skim anything. The MCP recipe had loads of foam. I could have had an additional jar processed with what I skimmed in foam [ps. don't toss the foam! Even though there's too much air for it to preserve well, it tastes good spread on toast etc. so put it into a bowl or jar to put in the fridge].  The batches I made with MCP also set up way more than I like. Probably because of the longer cook time.

MCP = more lemon juice, more sugar, more time, more foam, and more set. Ball won this contest. Anybody compared Ball to another brand? I'm curious.

My intent for this post is to show that anyone can make jam. And I don't think you really have to be uptight about it. I've made huge amounts [multiple batches all in the same night] and small amounts when I barely squeaked by with enough fruit and got 6 or 7 half pints out of it. I'm a winging it kind of girl and I fairly stink at following instructions. I've messed up more batches of jam than you can imagine. We always eat it and it always tastes good. If it seals properly it even keeps for a year or two. This time I insisted on mixing everything together before cooking. Every single batch. Even though I realized on the first batch that I wasn't supposed to. Hmm. They're fine. They're more than fine, they're yummy. A little too set up for my taste - I like my jam slightly runny - but they sure taste good.

So there you go. Make some jam. Do. It's incredibly empowering + satisfying to store up foods that you've prepared yourself. I love looking at my jars of jam. I smile every time.

ps. There are so many  things to be made + preserved using apricots. Bottle them, dry them, make fruit leather. My mother-in-law bottles the blended up apricots and calls it nectar. She mixes it with orange juice for breakfast. It's yummy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

No Roman Candles

Joe Dirt: So you're gonna tell me that you don't have no Black Cats, no Roman Candles, no Screaming Meemies?

 Kickin' Wing: No.

 Joe Dirt: Oh come on man, you don't got no Ladyfingers, Buzz Bottles, Snicker Bombs, Church Burners, Finger Blasters, Gut Busters, Zippedy-doo-das, Crap Flappers?

Kickin' Wing: No, I don't.

Joe Dirt: You're gonna stand there, owning a fireworks stand and tell me you dont have any Whistling Bungholes, no Spleen Splitters, Whisker Biscuits, Honkey Lighters, Hüsker Düs, Hüsker Don'ts, Cherry Bombs, Nipsy Dazers, with or without the Scooter Stick, or one single Whistling Kitty-chaser?

Kickin' Wing: No.

Joe Dirt: Why?

Kickin' Wing: Because Snakes and Sparklers are the only ones I like.

I have never seen this movie. I searched firecracker quotes and found this. I think it's hilarious. Totally made my night. Long night that it has been. I am finalizing one of the most fun projects I've done in a while. I am testing firecrackers. Well... not firecrackers exactly. These ones you explode inside the house. So. Much. Fun! Right before Christmas I found a pack of party poppers in the clearance section at JoAnn's. 75% off. Score! I have always been secretly curious about party poppers. In my closet they sat. Then sometime around March I flagged this Oh Happy Day tutorial about how to make confetti invitations with party poppers. Serendipitous don't you think? This year my boys are obsessed with 4th of July decor. They have cut + colored bunting and flags. Stars and firecrackers. I realized that it's time to make firecrackers.

I give the tutorial **** stars out of five. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. The photography is wonderful. The idea is brilliant. I just couldn't get the thing to explode using the closure method she chose. Though, admittedly, I didn't have label paper so the failure could be entirely operator error. The method that worked best for me is the one the inventors intended. A tiny piece of paper tape. Really tiny. Like 1/8" or even 1/16". It's the only thing that worked in my trials [in a moment when you are unwrapping the label from the tube you may find a very long piece of tiny masking tape that can be re-used as your closure]. I used Jordan's guides to make a template with masks so you can pretty it up any way you like [I used Elle's Studio USA Vintage Journaling Tags]. The template is in the box.

Here are my suggestions:

Follow Jordan's instructions through step 3 [though instead of cutting a new circle piece/ topper I just peeled the label off. It doesn't look very pretty, but it's covered for the most part anyway. Also, before removing the wrapper make a mark or something to indicate which side goes up. I thought it would be easy to remember, but I kept having to check].

*If you're using Jordan's printable labels I would cut the top 1/2 inch off. If you're using my template/masks the cut lines are marked for this.

Step 4: Start with the circle top. Use a piece of clear tape approx. 1/2 inch wide to make a strong hinge approx. This way only one side of your top will pop and you won't lose your lid. You don't need to stick it to the tube yet, just let it hang out there. It is easier to decorate the top if it's not attached.

I really liked the look of the wrapper folded on itself. I thought it had the look of a firecracker. I mimicked this by using the 1/2 inch remnant. I smeared the top with glue and proceeded to make pleats around the top. Fold and stick your way around the top, following the shape of the circle as closely as you can. If you want a fuse just poke a hole in the top and feed your yarn or whatever through and tape it down on the underside. I think it would be fun to find some more realistic looking fuse. Mine's not looking so pretty. Hooray! I have this super fun paper cording from the girls birthday packaging. Vintage Fisher Price record player = Love.

Step 5: Stick your label/wrapper around the tube. I used a glue stick and sealed the full seam with clear tape. Stuff it with confetti. Jordan has some great photos of the mechanics and how to reassemble those.One thing I think she missed pointing out is the notch. You'll need to be aware of it when you lock the spring down. This photo is of the locked in mechanism and a decent view of the notch mentioned. To put set mechanism into the tube you will just have to use your muscles and press it in. I thought it would screw in but it doesn't. It's a snap. Other than that... Yay! Happy 4th of July from my ragamuffin children!

One more thing. You'll need to tape the top closed after stuffing. This is where the tiny piece of paper tape/ painters tape comes in. Did I mention tiny [see photo above]? If it's too thick [or too sticky] it won't release. Notice we had this problem on one of them in the video. It was a brand new unhandled piece of tape. As a precaution I would stick + unstick it a couple of times in the future. Enjoy!