Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jewish Quiet Book

The last week or so has been busy with the Jewish high holy days. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a nice dinner and eating apples with caramel. Today is Yom Kippur and A. and I are on our way to temple to celebrate this morning.

It is my first time going to Yom Kippur services and I know what to expect but A. doesn't. I have a bunch of things packed for him but on my quest to find activities, I came across the idea of quiet books. The idea is they are soft activity books that could potentially keep your child entertained long enough to be quiet. Have you seen them around?

I adore this Bible Quiet Book by Laura's Thoughts. The detail and attention is amazing. I love her Jonah and the whale one!

This Quiet Book by Strawberry Ruckus has the cutest 7 days of creation I have seen! I love the idea of flaps. A. still loves board books with flaps and doors.

I love the idea and I love the idea of A. having one for Temple. This of course, is not a simple craft. It is an involved one that will take time. I'll probably get it done in time for A.'s kids to play with it. But I wanna take the plunge anyways. I use to love making felt story boards for the classrooms I was in back when I was in college and this is only slightly more involved than those.

Plus, if I start right now, maybe I can get it done in time for Hanukkah. Which Hannukkah? I don't know but let's aim for 2012 which gives me until December 8th this year if I want to give it to him the first night.

I plan on posting how it's going as I go along. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baked Egg Cups

I'm still not a morning person so when I saw another way to cook eggs in the morning with even less prep than my Spinach, Tomato and Feta Egg Bake I was super excited to give it a try. It is essentially how I make eggs in my muffin tins but in souffle cups it looks fancier.

Apparently making eggs this way makes them eggs en cocotte. I don't know how to say that so instead, I am just calling them baked egg cups. I used souffle cups and put 3 eggs in each one because I only own 4 of them and had a dozen eggs to use up by today and didn't want to do this more than once. It makes more than enough eggs to share between two people.

They reheat just fine but don't do it on high power. The Husband did this and the egg whites exploded apparently out of the cup. I don't know how he managed it, but he did. So just wanted to throw that out there.

Baked Egg Cups
The consistency and taste was exactly like hard boiled eggs without the peeling afterwards! You can make the yolks runnier if you want by decreasing the time.

olive oil spray

tablespoon of milk; one for each souffle cup
12 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Fill a 8x12 baking pan half way with water. The original directions said to put a towel down so the souffle cups don't move around but I skipped this step and was fine.

Spray your souffle cups with olive oil spray. Place in the baking pan.

Put a tablespoon of milk into each souffle cup. Crack three eggs per cup. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Your eggs are done when they are firm but jiggly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!!!

Last year I talked about the best day ever. Well now, Wednesday was the best day ever. My Mom celebrated one more birthday.

Mom came over and played with A. for a while. He's at this stage where he doesn't want to smile or when he does, it looks forced. So usually we have to have him act silly so he looks natural.
We had My Brother, Sister-in-Law, Aunt and Mom over to celebrate. We munched on a taco bar and celebrated with birthday cake. While last year's mint chocolate bundt cake was great, I wanted to make a brand new cake for Mom. I used the chocolate cake recipe from Lulu the Baker's The Best Chocolate Cake Ever and the peppermint buttercream frosting from Bakingdom.

Mint Chocolate Layer Cake
I made this cake the night before and it was extremely moist. I had intended to originally split each cake but it was too moist and crumbly. I made the buttercream the day of and assembled the cake. I decreased the sugar amount just slightly on the frosting and found it to be perfect, though honestly, it tasted better the second day versus the first day. Also, do NOT overbeat it or your frosting will start to seperate. While it tastes okay, it's no longer pretty or spreadable and you'll want to start over because fixing it doesn't seem to work. Just saying.

Ingredients for cake
non-stick spray with flour

1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of strong coffee, room temperature

1/2 cup Andes Creme de Mint baking chips

Ingredients for frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Food coloring (optional - I ended up using only 1 drop)

Directions for cake
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8" rounds with the spray with the flour in it (just buy some, it's not that expensive and so much easier).

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking power and salt together.

Combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. The batter will be very runny. Pour the liquid mixture into dry ingredients slowly until smooth.

Bake each cake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Allow to cool before attempting to flip the cakes out.

Directions for frosting
Beat your butter for about 30 seconds.

Beat in the sugar and salt until combined.

Add the heavy cream and whisk on high for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Stir in the peppermint and food coloring.

Directions for assembling cake
I follow these directions from The Kitchen every time I make a layered cake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Follow up: DIY Yarn Wrapped Letter J

So I wrote some time ago about a craft/DIY I did. Where I wrapped yarn around a J and called it good. At the time I was pleased with my results and didn't bother to explain the process. Sorry folks, I'm lazy. Well fast forward to now and my J looks like this now.

Shit. It looks like shit now.

It's hard to tell in the pictures but the curve on the outsides of the J is all jacked up and now I'm pissy about it. So I decided to start again. And document a better way how to do a wrap a letter J in yarn.

Obviously while I'm doing a J, this approach would probably work for letters you want to cover in yarn that have curves like B, C, D, G, O, P, Q, R, U and any other letter that depending on your font, would have curves.

What you need

cardboard or wooden letter
hot glue sticks and gun

Time Commitment
Half an hour, if you you do it during your toddles nap time and your cat is asleep

My Cost Break Down
$2.49 - cardboard letter; mine was from Meijer but I've seen them at Michael's
$0.30 - cheap yarn, I used barely any at all of the $2.99 yarn I bought
$0.00 - *ribbon - I took the picture with the original ribbon but used purple in the end
$0.00 - hot glue sticks and gun, already on hand, but tiny ones run for around $6.99
My Total cost = $3.00ish dollars

The first step in covering a letter J is accepting that this letter is a pain in the ass to cover because of all the curves and straight across lines noted above. Also accept that the first layer or two will look yucky but keep going, it will come out okay at the end.

The biggest issue with wrapping letters with curves is that the first layer or so wants to keep slipping around the curves. This is annoying. The first time I just tapped it as I went but as I have now learned, tape + hot three season porch = bad idea. The tape started letting go and with it the tension I needed to keep my curves looking nice.

Solution? Hot glue. You can use it two different ways, both to bond as well as to create a gripping solution. First we'll use it as a gripping solution. Start by putting a thin zig zag, weavy layer on all of the places indicated in orangish-yellow above. You're trying to add texture here, not smoothness, so it's fine if your hot glue pattern isn't perfect. Let dry.

I didn't try this approach but I wonder if you could use rubber bands wrapped around the curves too for gripping? Maybe? I don't know, I don't own any rubber bands so I didn't try this. Someone let me know!

Start by wrapping your yarn over the top part of the hook. Start at the inside and wrap down. The first few wraps will go vertical but then begin wrapping around the curve. You may need to tack the yarn in place with some more hot glue.

After about four or five initial vertical wraps, you need to start wrapping the top of the hook and the outside bottom curve at the same time. This serves to cover both while securing them in place. Wrap vertically down from the top of the hook in the front and loop back around the back.

Now just keep going back and forth wrapping vertically and lopping around the curve. It will look messy.

Keep going back and forth between wrapping around the curve and wrapping the top of the J until it looks as jacked up as mine. Remember, this is just the first layer of yarn. Don't get hung up on your yarn looking pretty just yet but do watch that your thickness is fairly even. I still had to secure the very top strands of yarn at the top, even with wrapping it and having texture underneath, I still needed hot glue in each corner to keep it from slipping off.

Now we need to start wrapping the outside curve. Start from the bottom of the curve and wrap up the J. The best way to keep the yarn from slipping is to wrap at the bottom, then the top and then the middle. Keep going with filling in the gaps on the curve.

Now wrap the easiest part of the J, the straight part. Just wrap around it smoothing out that first layer you did on the curved parts. I don't know how many layers I used, I just kept wrapping until the top layer was how I wanted it to look.

Now comes the top of the J. I don't know if this would be easier or harder it it didn't have the line across the top of the J, but mine did. If your J doesn't, well your on your own from here.

If your J looks like mine, keep following along. The top of the J was honestly the biggest pain out of the whole letter and where I used the most hot glue. I also took the most pictures during this part to try and help explain what I was doing. I'm sure there's a better way but here's my way.

I started by wrapping the two pieces on the outside like above.

Then taking the piece of yarn from the front of the letter, I looped it behind and pulled it forward so it crossed on a diagonal.

So when I pulled the yarn tight, it looked like this. Side note, yes my nail polish is all chipped to hell. I considered taking it off but was too lazy.

Then I wrapped it around the back again, going in the opposite direction with the same kind of loop. This made an X on the front with my yarn.

I kept going back and forth in this X pattern until the top of my J was covered in yarn. The front ended up looking like this.

And the top of the J ended up looking like this.

Now that the top was covered I focused on covering the front. I was able to get this much yarn on before I had to bust out the hot glue gun.

I pretty much added a small layer of hot glue where ever I was going to put the yarn next. The last few wraps of yarn are fairly covered in hot glue. Be careful not to glue your fingers to the yarn. Not that that happened or anything.

Finish wrapping your letter in yarn and secure the back side with more hot glue. Now if you plan on just placing it somewhere, you're all done! If you plan on hanging it up like I am, then take a strand of yarn, tie it around the front so that it doesn't stand out and make a loop for your ribbon to go through.

Ta-da. And now you have very own DIY yarn wrapped letter J you did all by yourself! I'm sure someone else has a much easier way to wrap curved letters in yarn, but this is how my brain works.

*** Update 8/2013: And can we talk about how my brain doesn't work. This has been up for almost a year, BACKWARDS. My J was backwards in that last picture. Wow. I fixed it in real life but never fixed the picture. Oops. So not gonna lie, just went in and flipped the picture in photobucket. I promise I know how to write my J's!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Still love my 90's music

I have this thing where I get obsessed with one or two songs and play them on repeat, over and over again, until The Husband asks if I'm not sick of that song yet. Which is his nice way of saying he is sicking of hearing it.

What song am I currently obsessing about? Oh good old 90's Nirvana songs. In this case, Plateau which was actually a cover song. The song is one that was originally done by the Meat Puppets. I prefer Nirvana's cover.


I've always liked Nirvana but I am not what I would consider hard-core by any means. I like what I like from them and that's it. I can't rattle of facts left and center but have watched my fair share of documentaries on Kurt.

I remember the first time I saw Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was when it first showed up on Beavis and Butt Head. You see, I had a tv in my bedroom when I was 8, one I was not allowed to watch MTV on. So what would I do? I would sit with the sound almost all the way down and watch MTV. Back when they played music.

I remember watching the episode which apparently appeared in 1993 titled, Customer's Suck (thanks Wikipedia!), where they aired Smells like teen spirit. I do not remember being in aw or anything like that. No, instead I remember being confused as an 8 year old why the cheerleaders looked sad compared to what I thought most cheerleaders looked like. I do remember liking the song though.

But it wouldn't be until I was about 13 that I would actually have any of their music. I was also heavily into KoRn, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson and Godsmack as well. Let's just say I never went through a boy band phase.

So now, when I'm at work or even at home, I'm still always drawn back to the 90's. I asked My Dad once about this and he is the same way. Even though he likes newer music he always prefers the music he first started listening to. My Dad has always been obsessed with music, one of my first memories is singing in the back of My Dad's car at 5 to Queen, Kiss, Meatloaf, Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper. Maybe that's where I get it from.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Minute Toddler Road Trip

I live in a smallish town. We live within 3 hours of driving time to Chicago, Detroit and Canada, so honestly, it's "smallness" doesn't bother me now as an adult like it did as a teenager.

But sometimes we don't have 3 hours to drive some where to see something new. Sometimes I just want A. to get out and see different sights and smells then he normally does. I needed wonton wrappers for a recipe and figured, going to the local Asian market would be more fun for A. then schlepping to Walmart instead. So I loaded us into the car and drove 10 minutes for a "road trip". Not all "trips" have to be long. Especially with a toddler.

Turns out I was right! A. loved looking at everything in the store. The store is filled with products we don't normally see at Aldies and some we do.

He loved pointing out items he recognized and smelling ones he didn't.

He liked walking up and down the isles and pointing out things he would want to buy.

After grabbing the wonton wrappers, Hello Panda snacks and some drinks, we headed home. A. seemed to have a great time visiting a new place and I enjoyed eating those panda cookies. It reminded me that I need to do a better job in the future of taking him to new places. I'll just have to keep my eyes are ears open from now on!

Monday, September 10, 2012

I've got nothin

Sorry. I serouisly have nothing for today.

Here's some old cute pictures of A. I'm not sure I've ever shared.

What does it have to do with my house? Um... A. lives in my house. There you go.

Sorry. I promise I'll have something next week for around the house. I will even try to make it a non recipe, promise.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Blue dye pregnancy tests

This is a crazy rant. One filled with way more information than even The Husband or My Mom would want to know. One that comes from peeing on sticks each month that only remind you, you suck at getting pregnant.

You see, I tested this week with a blue dye pregnancy test, the one with the lines that form a plus sign. I have this problem where every month, whether I think I'm actually pregnant or not, I take a pregnancy test. And not just one. Oh no. I like to test early and often.

Both times I was pregnant, I just knew. I didn't have to question every possible symptom and twitch wondering if it could mean I was pregnant. Because as I'm fully aware, almost all early signs you might be pregnant are also signs you are probably getting your period, have food poisoning or your mind is playing a cruel joke on you.

I always use ones with two pink lines that are next to each other. I did for A.'s pregnancy and I used a pink test with my last pregnancy. They are easy to read. Even with the last pregnancy, while the line was faint right at first, it was a true and solid line that you could see that darkened within the time frame.

This time around with the blue test, even though I know they are known for evaporation lines or false positives, I was lured into them because they were on sale. Damn my thriftyness because that's exactly what happened. I got an evaporation line from a blue dye pregnancy test 9 days past ovulation.

The difference between a faint positive and an evaporation line? Easy, I could only see the second blue line in the test window (the vertical line) if I held it up to my eyes and tilted it just so in the sun light. Also the line was not solid and showed only in parts. The pink test I could see the line no matter how I held the stick and in any kind of light. This blue dye pregnancy test wasn't a positive. It was a lie.

I was beyond annoyed and angry. I was annoyed I tested early. I was annoyed my already crappy day at work was being concluded with a late in the day pregnancy test. So to prove what I knew was a lie, I took another one the next morning first thing and sure as shit, no line.

This isn't the same as with my chemical pregnancy. Where I tested positive at home, then my positives started fading and a blood test showed my levels were too low followed by a solid week of crazy intense bright red bleeding that seemed like it was never going to stop. Nope. Not even close.

It was simply a faulty test.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to school

So everyone and their munchkin started school yesterday it seems. Well not my munchkin. He started today.

Doesn't he look happy?

Yeah, I didn't think so either. Ya Ya took the photo and she said he would only allow so many, so that was the first one.

Followed by this one. Well at least he doesn't look in pain in that one.

I want each school year photo to be on the steps. That way, I can do the, wow, look at the difference. I mean, look at the difference between his picture from this year and the one from April 2011 when he first went to the 2's classroom.

And this was him when he started the 3's classroom. Yes, I know it's not on the front steps. It was January 2012, they were covered with snow, give me a break.

I can't believe how fast he's growing. A. has a new teacher this year and she seems fantastic. I have a teacher crush. She is a brand new teacher, with this being only her second year teaching. She seems full of energy and ideas and was so warm and friendly at the open house last night. I have great hopes for A. this year for school, not only his speech but also working on his SPD. I'm hoping his new teacher is more open to discussing his SPD and getting the OT involved again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mini chicken taco cups

Tacos are a favorite around our house. We like it pretty much however we can get it. So when I saw this picture of wonton taco's, a goodie but an oldie, I just had to make them.

These turned out perfect. Crispy and light. I made over 5 dozen of these and they only lasted us three days tops.

Mini chicken taco cups
I topped these with fresh sliced avocados and the pineapple salsa. They reheated okay the next two days but were definitely better straight out of the oven. The amount of ingredients below is what I used to make 60 of them.

1 lb of shredded chicken, seasoned to taste with either taco or fajita seasonings
60 wonton wrappers
1 8oz bag of shredded cheese - any kind you like

toppings of choice - sour cream, salsa, avocado, whatever you like

Spray your muffin tin well with olive oil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place on wonton wrapper in each cavity and press down making a cup.

Fill the cup half way with chicken. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 5-7 minutes each.