Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Liquid Sidewalk Chalk

I am totally in heaven this summer....and completely exhausted. All of you with more than 2 have my utmost respect. Watching 4 kids is wonderful...and exhausting. This week, I've been watching my niece, Peyton, and my nephews, Gabriel & James. They are terrific kids and thankfully, with it being summer, we've been able to do a lot of outdoor activities - which I love. Yesterday, we tried our hand at Liquid Sidewalk Chalk. This is so much fun!! My son, my nephews and my niece were all able to enjoy it - despite their wide span in ages. 

Photo from Pinterest
I, thankfully, had all of the items needed on hand - cornstarch, water and food coloring. Easy-peasy. I had Gabe help me mix the food coloring into the cornstarch/water mixture. That was a nice little bonus for him since he's the oldest and could easily get bored more quickly - having him be a part of the  chalk making made playing with it that much more enticing, I believe.

In DomesticCharm's blog, she talks about using gel food coloring as the colors would be brighter, but I did not have any gel food coloring, so I just used about 3 drops of the food coloring I did have, and the colors seemed plenty vivid to me. By the way, some of the colors were neon - hence the not as vivid, but definitely bright.

I made a double-batch of the chalk because I was pretty sure that with two 2-year-olds, there was bound to be a mess of epic proportion with spilling and tears. Thankfully, there was an epic mess - but not much spilling and no tears.

It starts...

Yes, it got messy but it all washes off very easily and there was no harm done. This made for a very fun activity.

Later on, while Cade & James were taking their naps, Peyton and Gabriel went out with the second batch of chalk that we had left and they had a blast, sans-2-year-olds, painting the rocks in our backyard.

This kept two 2-year-olds, a near 5-year-old and an 8-year-old entertained for a solid 30 minutes or more and required very little set up and almost no clean-up (other than sticking the paint brushes and muffin tins in the dishwasher). This is definitely something I will be keeping in my back pocket for future use. Hope you can enjoy it with your kiddos as well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

My father-in-law's favorite treat that I make is Rice Crispy Treats. Nothing fancy, but he makes me feel like the best cook/baker in the world with how much he seems to enjoy them. It makes me smile. My husband, on the other hand, isn't a big fan of them. But I've found a compromise: Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats!

Photo from Pinterest
It's the same rice crispy treats you've come to know and love but a little more fun with sprinkles and a little cake mix! So very quick and easy to make, it takes under 15 minutes and you're done, not counting cool-down time, but really...who cares about that??

All the ingredients you need
I don't use actual butter when I make these as my father-in-law is allergic to dairy, so we stick with margarine, making these treats dairy-free and (if you don't put in the cake mix) gluten-free as well! I generally use all but 1/8 of the bag of marshmallows to melt, but the last of the marshmallows I add when I mix in the rice crispies. I have a guilty pleasure for marshmallows, so finding not completely melted ones makes me happy. It's the little things...

Anyway, super easy, super quick, super yummy. I took these to a birthday party the other day and didn't bring any home...I'd say they were a success.

I personally prefer regular Rice Crispy treats, but I have yet to hear any complaints about these. Most people like them and my husband definitely prefers them. I'd call this a win.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dishwasher Safe Sharpie Dishes

My nephew, Mickey, is very dear to me. I seldom get to spend time with him, so when I do, I try to find a really fun project to do with him, and I think this was a winner.

But first, a backstory: Many moons ago (or just last year) I tried my hand at decorating a mug with a sharpie - something I, of course, discovered thanks to Pinterest. I later had my nephew, Gabe, decorate a black plate with gold & silver sharpies. He gave them to grandma, but after they were washed the sharpie had rubbed off! Tragedy!! I later found out that the mug I had decorated for a friend had also washed off. I rue the day I used a sharpie on any dishes!! This was, indeed, a Pinterest FAIL! However, I recently discovered something new on Pinterest; there are Dishwasher-Safe Sharpie Dishes you can make! What?! Can it be??? Indeed, my friends, it can. To check out more info on this, go to this blog.

These are the super fantastic, awesome, amazing sharpie pens you'll need to get if you want this project to work.

I let Mickey come up with whatever design he wanted. He decided he wanted to make this plate for his dad. We followed the instructions for getting the sharpies primed and ready for working, which didn't take too long and they still had a rather fine point to them, though not as fine as a normal sharpie pen would.

He decided he wanted to do a pattern. Mickey is really good at patterns, so that's what he worked on.

Getting started
Mickey probably spent a good 15-20 minutes designing and drawing on this plate and he did an excellent job. The squiggly lines were lightning (if I remember correctly) and the little circles were rain drops.

Also, I just have to gloat on my nephew for a moment. He can read and write and just turned 6 in June and hasn't started school yet. He wrote "Dad" and "Mickey" on the plate. I am way impressed with his smarts.

Now, for the test. I followed ScribblesfromEmily's blog as closely as possible and waited the 24 hours before putting the plate in the oven. After taking it out of the oven, I washed it in the dishwasher, just to see how it would hold up.

The colors changed ever so slightly to a lighter color, but otherwise it was as good as gold! Will I use this method again? Most certainly. I'm looking forward to trying it on my own and posting about that sometime. But, I am a sucker for involving my nieces and nephews because they enjoy crafting (or "projects") just about as much as I do. I think the only thing I would do differently is not put the sharpie dishes in the dishwasher. Obviously it works, but to maintain it's quality of color, I'd say it's best to just call these not dishwasher safe. That's my two cents on the matter. You can take it or leave it.

Either way, absolutely a fun project and ScribblesbyEmily's blog has an extensive post about making a far fancier mug than I may ever be able to attempt to do. Ok...I'll probably attempt it, but it's highly probable that it will not look nearly as adorable as the example she has on her blog.

I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to do this with my nephew. He amazes me with his creativity and his smarts. I'd recommend sharpie-ing a cup, a bowl, a plate, a whathaveyou, with your child if you'd like as well. They'll enjoy it and what a special keepsake for them to have or give to someone else.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Elmer's Glue, Salt and Water-Color = Fun For Kids!

First, a rant: I made a plate with my nephew, Mickey, recently and all of those photos seemed to have disappeared. Grrr...anyway, that post will have to wait for another day, unfortunately.

In the meantime, I will post about this project that I did with my niece and my nephew.

I am watching them this week during the day and thought it would be fun to do a little something with them each day. This little something required very little set up and was quiet so while my young son and nephew took naps, this activity was entertaining and quiet. To see how to do this, check out this blog.

I decided not to use plain ol' boring white paper and since I have loads of scrapbook paper, I pulled out some of that and the kids went to town with the glue.

While they applied the glue, I prepared the water with food coloring - using an ice cube tray so they could each have a bunch of colors.

The colors spread really nicely on the salted glue, but weren't near as bright as they were in jugglingwithkid's blog. My kiddos still enjoyed this immensely. Watching the color spread was the best. Gabe kept saying "this is just so cool!!" I think they enjoyed themselves. Obviously, the color spread better when the salted glue was more than just a dot but rather a continuos line. They really didn't seem to mind either way though - they still enjoyed it.

Afterward, we let their masterpieces dry. Once dry, the salt pretty much falls right off leaving not much of the art, but the kids didn't seem to mind. And, this still was at least a half hour's worth of entertainment that was quite enjoyable. I'd recommend this little was fun, easy and very little hassle to set up or clean up.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homemade Tarnish Remover

Yesterday I did something not-so-smart. Well, I'm fairly certain this is not uncommon for me...I do not smart things all the time. Be that as it may, I did something not-so-smart that I hoped was reversible. I put my shiny silver chip and dip platter in the dishwasher. *GASP* I had no idea that it would come out all black and tarry looking. My lovely, elegant platter that I rarely used because, honestly, how often do I need my chip and dip platter, was...grungy. Straight to Pinterest I went. "Help me, people of Pinterest! Is there someway to remove the tarnish without going out and buying something???" Short answer...."eh, kinda." To see how, check out this blog and this blog.

I wish I could show you the loveliness that was my platter before my laziness of not washing it by hand occurred, but, alas, I don't have one.

But, here it is after the dreaded wash. I wiped it down as best I could so that the black wouldn't smear on my hands anymore, so it's not quite as dark as it had been before that.

The first thing I tried was putting foil in my sink and laying baking soda down and then filling the sink with hot water.

Pre-hot water
This proved to be slightly successful, but I am pretty sure the water needed to be hotter, so I then started the whole process over and boiled the water instead. That seemed to be slightly more successful, but still it doesn't look shiny and new like I had hoped it would. It kinda looks like a fancy, old fashioned platter now.

Anyway, next I tried toothpaste, again to no avail. The difference was so very small that it wasn't even worth taking a picture of.

Consensus: If you are in need of a good tarnish remover and can find some Tarn-X, get it. That stuff works wonderfully; stinks horribly; but it works. My mom has used it for years. If you can't find that, this is an ok alternative...though, it certainly didn't give me back my beautiful platter like I would've liked. My next step is to try out Tarn-X again. Oh how I hope that will work!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken

One of my husband's favorite places to eat when I don't pack him a lunch for work is a local teriyaki place. A lot of those kinds of places are hit and miss for me, but this one is really good. If you haven't ever been to Love Love Teriyaki - you should. It's really tasty. Knowing my husband has a love of asian food, I decided to try my hand at it; in steps Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken.

Photo from Pinterest
The recipe appeared easy enough, but knowing I didn't want to make a ginormous batch of Teriyaki Chicken, I reduced the recipe to 2 pieces of chicken rather than the 12 it recommended. Drastic, yes, but we still had leftover chicken even after just using 2 pieces. I also halved the rest of the recipe, of course, and all of that seemed to turn out just fine.

Ewww...raw chicken...
I know, a picture of raw chicken; nasty...but, I wanted you to see that the sauce when halved still made plenty but not an overabundance for the chicken.

Anyway, after it cooked the 4-5 hours specified, I put the chicken on a separate plate and dumped the liquid into a pot to make the actual teriyaki sauce.

Once that was completed, my chicken was shredded, rice cooked and I had my vegetables all cut up, dinner was ready. I put some asian cabbage that we had from our produce CSA box on the side after I cut it up, put a little ramen noodles (without the seasoning on there) and called it good.

It looked amazing!! I wish it had tasted as amazing as it looked. It wasn't bad by any means, but it was very bland. Very, very bland. The sauce didn't seem quite sweet and spicy enough to me. It may be better to try a different sauce next time. The chicken was a bit dry as well. I thought that might have been because I didn't make enough chicken, but I've made it with more before and I still remember it being pretty dry. Anyway, this wasn't a complete bust - it looked beautiful. And, really, it didn't taste awful. Would I make this again? Well, apparently after a year or so I tried once more...but it is now going on my "tried and not lied but not going to try again" Pinterest board. It just doesn't satisfy the way I'd like. At least it looked pretty...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Best Chocolate Cake EVER!

Recently I had a few friends pin this recipe for a chocolate cake that I have actually made numerous times. I am in love with this recipe! So, when I discovered it on Pinterest, I had to write a blog post about it so that everybody could experience the great love for this chocolate cake that I have. Oh-so-yummy!
Photo from
So, honestly, I didn't get this recipe by going through Pinterest - I discovered it long ago on Which just so happens to have always been my go-to recipe box for new ideas until Pinterest came along. Although the pin that I saw this on is the same recipe as that of, it came from a different source, but since that's not where I discovered my recipe, I'm going with the site for you to view this recipe. So there! To check out how to make the best chocolate cake EVER, click here.

After seeing a few friends pin this recipe, I got a serious craving for this cake and thankfully - it's easy and quick to make. Well, it bakes for a long time, but the rest of it is easy and quick and doesn't dirty up too many dishes.

I didn't actually have the right sized devil's food cake mix, so I used a smaller one and that just made the cake that much more fudgey. So, just in case you were wondering - it will still work out nicely if you don't have the correct sized boxed ingredients that they recommend for the pudding or the devil's food cake mix.

I made this for our Independence Day dessert and took it over to some friends' house. It was devoured and only a smidgen was left. Probably just so none of us looked to be too much of an oinker. Unfortunately, I was so ravenous with this cake that the drool running down my face kept me from snapping a picture of it after it had cooled and been turned over.

But, here is a picture of the single piece that was left...split into two so I could graciously share with my husband despite my best efforts to hide the rest of the cake for only myself. hehe.

This cake stands alone. It doesn't need anything. I love homemade whipped cream, so I did have some of that on hand and I did put a dollop on the cake, but not because it needed it. This has become a new favorite for most of my family and myself. And, with my mom's birthday coming up next week - I have another excuse to make it! Yay for yummy chocolate cake! I hope you all enjoy this cake as much as I do. It is so good!!

And for a lighter version of the same cake - check out this recipe. However, I should warn you I haven't tried this - it was on Pinterest and looks incredibly similar and probably also tastes incredibly good.

Oh, and I should add that I made this for our pastor and his wife not that long ago and our pastor told me that his dad (who used to be a baker and loves to visit bakeries) would have been impressed with this cake. So, yeah...I'd highly recommend it - the son of a baker said so!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How To Freeze Cookie Dough

I love chocolate chip cookies - especially my mom's. Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious. She makes the best chocolate chip cookies around. And now, thanks to my mama, I do too. I stole her recipe years and years ago and now whenever I get the hankering, I can make myself a batch. The bad news is because I stole my mom's recipe, there is no need for her to make me cookies because I apparently can do it myself. D'oh!! Thankfully, if I look pathetic enough, my mom will make me some anyway. I sure have a great mom. I truly do try not to have her make cookies too too often for me, so whenever I make them, I make a double batch and freeze a whole bunch (probably about three-quarters) of the dough.

So, this post is a little bit of a cheat. I didn't get this idea off of Pinterest; it's just something I do and love and thought I'd share it with others.

I start out by making my cookie dough and then baking however many cookies I want. While waiting to put the rest in the freezer and making my batches of cookies, I generally put the dough in the fridge. It may not make a difference, but I think it keeps a little better that way.

After I've made all of the cookies I want, I get out my plastic wrap and my cookie dough and I get to work.

Don't mind the crayons and other crafties on the counter - my son and I were having fun right before I took a moment to make up the freezer dough

Obviously you will want to wash your hands first as you will be handling the dough. I generally use my cookie dough scoop and scoop a bunch into my hand and lay it out as nicely and neatly as I can onto a piece of plastic wrap.

Wrap it all up so it's completely covered and then get out another piece of plastic wrap and wrap it again. I generally wrap it a different direction than the first-time around to ensure that it is truly all wrapped up and sealed.

There you have it. All ready to go in the freezer and it takes up very little space. Because it is just my husband, my son and myself at the moment, this generally will give each of us 2-3 cookies. Well, honestly I don't generally make these until my son goes to bed. So selfish, I tell ya. Either way, it still makes enough cookies for me and my husband. However, if there is more of you in your family that you'll have to make for, you may want to use 2 of your frozen cookie dough rolls.

There you have it. Super easy and so nice to not have to make up cookie dough every time I have an inkling for a cookie - just pull out the dough and let it thaw for 5 minutes. There is no residual freezer-burn taste (and they have, at times - on rare occasions - been in the freezer for nearly 6 months) and they taste just like I had made the cookie dough that day. I love this trick. It's so nice to not have to go to all the extra work of making cookie dough just so I can satisfy that desire to have 2-3 cookies one evening. Besides, this is a great way to work on portion control. At least it always helps me. 

Hope you found this helpful! Have a great day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

DIY Batman Mask

My nephew loves superheros. He loves to dress up like them and play superhero whenever he can. If he can make something superhero-y, he's ecstatic. We've already made an Iron Man mask, so we decided to try something a little different this time - a Batman Mask

Photo from Pinterest
This was very simple to make, although since it was mainly just cutting, my nephew wasn't able to help much with it. No matter; he had a great time watching me create this mask and wearing it around afterward. I didn't have any black elastic, but I did have white - so we improvised. I'm fairly certain for a little project like this, white wasn't going to make or break the mask. I cut it out free-hand, although now I have my silhouette cameo machine, I suppose I could probably cut it out with that, and I may try that out next time.

Either way, it was quick, easy and way adorable. Unfortunately, my husband pointed out to me once he saw the pictures that the mask was on upside down. *Sheepish grin* Oopsy. Sorry to all you superhero geeks out there. HA! Who am I kidding...I'm fairly certain not many superhero geeks are reading this. However, if you are - my apologies - make sure the ears are on TOP; they are not a notch for a nose. hehe.

Upside down or not, my nephew is still adorable and you get the gist of what we made. Very simple, very quick and easy and very little cost. This is a fun little project for playing dress up with your boys...or yourself if you'd rather.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Roasted Garlic

The other day I posted about a really yummy roasted garlic, chicken & white herb pizza that I made and in that post I said I'd share with you how I made my roasted garlic.

This may be something that most people know already, but I was unaware, so this is for all of you who are also unaware. I didn't find this on Pinterest, but I did find it on the web. Check it out here.

Photo from Simply Recipes

I was surprised by how very easy it was to make. Cutting off the ends of the garlic cloves was probably the hardest part because they are all different in size and trying not to cut too much off of one while cutting some off of another proved a tiny bit of a challenge. It wasn't that difficult, but it was the most challenging part. I'm telling ya, if that is the hard part - making these is DEFINITELY a breeze. After it was all cut, drizzle it with olive oil, cover with foil and stick it in the oven. For more specific instructions, please refer back to the link above. I don't wanna be too redundant.

Once it's all cooked, your masterpiece is complete. All you have to do now is remove the cloves from the skin (which come out incredibly easy once it's been cooked).

Thankfully, my house didn't smell too garlic-y afterwards (I'm not a huge fan of the garlic smell), but I had some extra deliciousness for our pizza. I, obviously, didn't use all of the cloves on our pizza so I stuck the rest in a baggie and then put it in the freezer to save for another day. Hopefully that'll work out ok. Either way, these were incredibly easy to make and tasted delicious on the pizza. I've heard some people even like to eat it right out of the oven by itself...I'm not one of those people so I cannot begin to tell you if that's good or not. I will just have to trust others when they say that it is. So, next time you are needing roasted garlic, don't fret - make it yourself with very little effort.

Side note: Did you know that you can freeze fresh garlic and it lasts longer? My mom taught me that, and I know for a fact that it works, especially after being a pampered chef consultant and using garlic that wasn't fresh. My garlic (which I put in a plastic bag so it won't smell up my whole freezer) doesn't stale. So, if you are looking for a way to hold onto your garlic longer, you now know the secret!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How To Freeze Strawberries

I love produce season in Oregon! I love fresh fruits and vegetables. I love picking them. I love eating them. I love freezing them so I can have more of them later for our yummy smoothies. My husband recently asked me to pick strawberries and freeze them as that tends to be one of our go-to ingredients in our smoothies, so I got to work. I've never actually frozen strawberries before, other than just throwing them in a bag after they've been washed. They generally all clump together when you try to pull them out later and it can be quite frustrating, so I tried a new method this time: a method I, of course, got off of Pinterest. To see how to do this yourself, check out this blog. P.S., this is from some place in Oregon, which I found even cooler!
Mmmm...yummy strawberries
So, I made up my solution of vinegar and water. Seriously, I don't know if there truly is anything vinegar CAN'T do. It's awesome. Then I hulled the strawberries, rinsed them off and let them sit in the water/vinegar solution for about 20 minutes. It looks like in the blog they hulled the strawberries after they let them sit in the solution, but I thought this might be a bit easier and I doubt that it impacted the berries that much. My opinion: do whatever is easiest and most appealing to you. 

The berries taking a bath
As I said, I let the berries sit in there for a while and mixed them up every few minutes, then I pulled them out and placed them on a baking sheet. Another blog I read suggested laying wax paper down first, so I did that as well. I wouldn't recommend this. The berries actually came off of the pan better when they weren't sitting on the wax paper. The wax paper made it harder to pull the berries off the pan without having wax paper attached to them. 

Ready to be frozen
I, thankfully, had just cleaned out my freezer so I had extra room for my strawberries, so in they went. 

Frozen strawberries ready to be bagged
After the strawberries had frozen (I left them in there for at least 3-4 hours), I put them in ziplock baggies, labeled the bags and stuck them in the freezer for later use. 

I did leave about a pint of strawberries out of the freezer for eating with the angel food cake my son and I had made, and they were soft, but very tasty. I'd recommend using the vinegar/water solution whenever you bring home fresh berries - it makes them last longer! To read more about that, check out this blog. And if you are worried about them having a vinegar-y taste - no need to worry - you won't notice it at all, but you will notice that your berries are mold free for longer!

I also picked raspberries to make raspberry jam and washed them in the same solution. This is definitely something I will be doing anytime I get berries seems worth it to preserve the berries we have and make sure they are nice and clean. And now, I must go eat some berries. Ta Ta For Now.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How To Clean Mold

Ok, ok...I suppose I should do some cleaning Pinterest Tests occasionally...but don't expect it to happen too often! This weekend, my husband and I got our RV out of storage to clean it up and get ready for a hopefully upcoming camping trip. We don't actually have a trip planned, but I'm hoping someone will want to cancel at some point and we can swoop in and take their camping spot. Anyway, once we got our trailer home from storage, much to our dismay, we discovered the tarp that was covering our trailer did not do as good of a job at preventing moisture from getting in the trailer as we had hoped. Inside our lovely, 1986 trailer (yep, it's an oldie, but it's a goodie) was mold on our ceiling. Eek! Thankfully, there was no obvious leaking, it just had too much condensation and needed to stay a little warmer than it had, so no leaks means an easier (and far less expensive) clean-up job. Woohoo!

Whenever I've heard of cleaning mold, you do it with bleach, which wouldn't have gone over well since I couldn't be ingesting those kinds of fumes with my little baby bump, but I read something different on Pinterest and decided to give it a try: vinegar. Straight, undiluted vinegar. Who knew? Anyway, to read more about how to clean mold and why vinegar is a better option than bleach, check out this blog.

I decided to give it a go and was quite impressed with the results! Here are some nasty before photos.

Ewwww! Mold!
 After I took the picture, I sprayed the vinegar onto the mold and immediately wiped it off.
Sprayed and ready to be cleaned
After the wipe-off of the vinegar, you can see the results were pretty great.

I am amazing and so grateful at how well this worked! Especially because otherwise hubby would've been stuck cleaning the inside AND the outside of the trailer on his own. So thankful for safe alternatives!

I think I will need to have a second go at the bathroom as the mold in there was pretty awful.

Ewww! Even more mold!
There were still a few spots that probably needed a bit more scrubbing, but you can still see what a difference the vinegar made.

Our trailer certainly had that nasty vinegar smell for a little while, but not too long with all the windows open. Besides, I certainly think it smelt better than if we had used bleach. I'm excited with the results and how easy it was to get rid of the mold. Yes, there's still a few spots - but it's way better and I bet after another go, it'll be as good as new...well, as new as a 1986 RV can be. :) Anyway, I'd highly recommend this. Give it a try if you have the need and be amazed at the miracle-liquid known as vinegar. Seriously, is there anything it can't do??