Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Little Green Thumb

Oh boy, has this been a holiday whirlwind!  After Christmas, I spent a fun 3 days sick with food poisoning.  Yuck!  But now, I'm back to my old self and ready to start the new year (well, almost new year!) with something healthy for my body, and my family's bodies as well.

I've been wanting to start a vegetable garden of some sort for awhile now with my daughter.  I found this really awesome website called Sprout Robot where you can put in your zip code and it tells you what to plant and when to plant it based on where you live.  Cool, huh? Based on my zip code, now is a good time to plant broccoli, leaf lettuces, radishes, cabbages, peas, and a few other things.  I decided to go with peas because Olive loves them and I've heard they're pretty easy to grow.  I'm going to try cabbage, too, but that will be in another post.

We made a trip to The Home Depot and picked up our supplies: potting soil & seeds.  We already have a few pots.  The organic soil was twice the price of the other soil, so I figured I'd get one of each and mix the two together so I could save some money but get some of the organic goodness as well.

 Some cute toddler-sized gardening tools don't hurt to have either! :)

Let's play in the soil for a while...That sounds fun!

Let's pour some soil onto the already growing thyme plant...That sounds fun!

Finally, planting the pea seeds.  The directions said to push down 1 inch...We'll see how they do!

Make sure you water the new seeds! (With Mama's help to ensure the water gets on the seeds and not everywhere else!  Normally, I wouldn't care, but it was kind of chilly outside and I didn't want a soaking wet baby!)

Also, make sure you eat some tomatoes that aren't really ready to pick and are kind of sour and gross....Ay yai yai!

After all was said and done, she wasn't really interested in what we were actually doing.  Playing with the soil, eating growing tomatoes, running on the grass...yes, yes, yes.  But planting the seeds?  Not so much!  We'll see if she's more interested when they start to sprout and then grow actual peas.  After I put the camera down, we played around the backyard, finding worms, pulling grass, digging rocks, and getting dirty.  That's what she wanted to do, and when it comes down to it, that's what really matters.  Even though I want her to be interested in the process of growing the peas, she's more interested in other things, and that's okay.  I sometimes forget just how small she really is and I end up expecting her to want and to be interested in different things, when in reality, she's just a little 19 month old baby who wants to eat sour tomatoes and rip apart grass.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Salt Dough Handprint Ornaments

Christmas at our house is in full swing!  And by full swing, I mean I still have half my presents to complete (I'm making most of them) and all the presents to wrap.  Nevertheless, I can cross one thing off my list of things to do: Making salt dough ornaments!  I've seen a lot of different recipes and ideas for salt dough ornaments floating around the boards on Pinterest lately and after researching a number of them, I decided on a recipe that I really like.

Salt Dough Ornaments:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
3/4 cup warm water

Mix everything in a bowl.  Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes.  Yes, 10 minutes.  You need to do this because it helps the dough to become smooth and pliable.  While you're kneading, if the dough seems too sticky add a little flour as you go.  Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out as desired.  For the handprint ornaments, we pushed my daughter's hand into the rolled out dough and then used a bowl to cut a circle around it.  I used a straw to poke a hole for the ribbon and then used a toothpick to prick small holes for ventilation.  Place ornaments on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 200F for 4 hours.

After they were cool, I painted them with acrylic paint.  After the paint had dried, I sprayed them with clear sealant, which gave them a nice shiny look.

For something extra, I took a picture of Olive, cut it into a circle and attached it with Mod Podge to the back of each ornament.  After it was dry, I sprayed it with the clear sealant.

Stick a ribbon on it, and you have a personal, homemade gift for a friend or family member.  The ones I made are all for family members as a little something extra in addition to their main gift.  I really like the way they turned out.  Next year, of course, Olive will help with the painting and that's when they'll start looking really homemade!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pinterest Friday

Ah, Pinterest.  We've been having a love-hate relationship lately.  I love finding all kinds of great ideas, but I hate that I don't have enough time in the day to actual bring those ideas to life!  But not today people, not today - I actually made something!  Here's the original pin:

Homemade Sugar Scrubs
I've actually pinned a number of sugar scrub ideas with the plan for making them as Christmas gifts.  The scrubs that are linked to this pin look delicious enough to eat, but unfortunately, don't come with any recipes (you can pay to buy a book of the recipes...boooo).  I thought, it can't be that hard to figure out how to make a sugar scrub so I did a little research online and after finding lots of different methods, I came up with three of my own.  I plan on gifting them to a family member. 

From left to right:  "All Day Glow" Vanilla-Honey Body Scrub, "Pie in the Sky" Pumpkin Spice Face Scrub, "Wake Up Toesies" Peppermint Foot Scrub

I love the way each of the scrubs turned out.  They smell delicious, look like they cost a lot more than they actually did, and make your skin feel silky smooth.  Plus, the tags make them look extra cute and homemade.  Here's what I wrote inside the tags, along with the recipe.  (A note about the recipes:  The measurements aren't exact.  If it's too dry, add more oil.  If it's too wet, add more sugar.  If you want to use another kind of oil, go for it.  Experiment until you find something that you like.)

"All Day Glow"
3 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil (natural preservative)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp honey

Mix well and put in a jar.

"Pie in the Sky"

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix well and put in a jar.

"Wake Up Toesies"

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil
1 tsp peppermint extract
handful (6?) round peppermint candies

Mix everything well, except for candies.  Separate mixture into two bowl.  In a small bag, crush candies until they are finely ground.  Pour candies into one of the bowls and mix.  Pour pink and white scrub into layers into a jar.  Or....just mix it all together and call it a day.  It will still be just as good!

Happy Holidays and to hoping your skin feels extra smooth in the days to come!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Cookies...Mmmmmm...

For the past few years, sometime around Christmas, my family holds a "Cookie-Off".  We each find a recipe, bake our cookies, and judge to see whose tastes the best.  In the end, it doesn't really matter who wins.  It's more about having a tradition and spending time doing something you love with the ones you love.  And of course, gaining a few pounds in the process.  Kate Moss was once quoted as saying, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels".   Forget that!! I guess she never had a Cookie-Off in her house.  Poor, Kate, she doesn't know what she's missing!

Here are the cookies we created this year!  Enjoy!

Two-Tone Cinnamon Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

Made with love by...Me!
I really liked the way these cookies came out.  They're so cute!  They have a very mild sweetness and are very light feeling.  I tasted a few one before I put the glazes on, and they were still good, kind of reminding me of shortbread.  These would be great cookies for someone who likes their sweets to be, well, not too sweet.

Makes: multiple, depending on size of cookie cutter


1/2 cup butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 recipe Cinnamon Glaze (see below)
1 recipe White Glaze (see below)

  1. In a large bowl, combine butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds.  Add powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixture.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour.  Cover in the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter (whatever shape you like - I used a small heart with fluted edges, about 2 1/2 inches wide), cut out the dough.  Place cookies 1 inch apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges start to lightly brown.  Cool on wire rack.
  4. When the cookies are cooled, make your glazes:
    1. Cinnamon Glaze:  In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup chocolate chips, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tsp shortening.  Stir over low heat until melted.  Scoop melted glaze into a piping bag or Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.
    2. White Glaze:  In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup white chocolate chips and 2 tsp shortening.  Stir over low heat until melted.  Scoop melted glaze into a piping bag or a Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.
  5. Working with a few cookies at a time, spread the White Glaze over the top of the cookie from edge to edge.  Drizzle with the Cinnamon Glaze and use a toothpick to marble the glazes together.  If either glaze begins to cool in the bag, simply warm in the microwave for a few seconds.  Let the cookies stand until the glazes are set (about 25 minutes).
Surprise Cookies (from Martha Stewart)

Made with love by...My husband!
These cookies were decadent and so delicious!  Actually, they reminded me a little of those Snackwells Devil's Food cookies, which I love, only richer tasting.   They're the kind of cookie that you can have just one and be good...well, maybe!  If you're looking to make it easy on yourself, buy a chocolate cookie premix and a jar of premade chocolate frosting.  I'm sure the results will still be very tasty and you'll save some time! 

Makes: about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients for the cookies:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 bag jumbo marshmallows, cut in half horizontally

Ingredients for the frosting:

2 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add flour mixture and beat on low until combined.
  3. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, drop dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies start to spread and become firm. 
  4. Remove cookies from oven.  Squish a marshmallow onto each cookie, sticky side down.  Put back in the oven and cook about 2 more minutes until the marshmallows start to melt.  Cool the cookies on wire racks.
  5. To make the frosting, whisk the powdered sugar, butter, and cocoa in a bowl.  Whisk in milk and vanilla until everything is well combined.
  6. When the cookies are completely cooled, spread the frosting over each cookie, fully covering the marshmallow so it is hidden (hence the surprise!) inside.
Dainty Lemon Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies Magazine, 2002)

Made with love by...My mom!
I love lemon sweets.  They always seem so refreshing, like when you eat them somehow they aren't going to be bad for you.  Lemon is a fruit, right?  Anyways, these little lemon cookies are delicious and great to have on hand in your freezer.  You can just keep the roll and slice off a few at a time, when the mood strikes.

Makes: about 3 dozen cookies, depending on how thick you slice them.


3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract (optional)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
sanding sugar (looks prettier, but you can use regular sugar, too)


  1. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and beat until combined.  Add egg, milk, lemon zest, vanilla and lemon extract (optional) and beat until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can and use a wooden spoon to mix in the rest.
  2. Divide dough in half and shape each portion into an 8 inch (or so) log.  Wrap each log in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours.  
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut each log into slices, 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle slices with sanding sugar and set on parchment paper lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes or until edges start to become golden.  Cool on wire racks.

Almond Joy Cookies (adapted from

Made with love by...My stepdad!
These ended up being a pretty hearty cookie, reminding me a little of Ranger cookies.  My mom said they seemed like something you'd take on a hike... :).  I liked them, but to be honest, they didn't really taste like an Almond Joy.  I think it needed more coconut.  Feel free to play with the amounts of coconut, chocolate and almonds to find the right mixture for you!

Makes: 2 to 3 dozen, depending on how big you make them


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter together with the white and brown sugar.  Beat in the eggs one at a time and then beat in the vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture until well combined, using a wooden spoon if needed.  Add in chocolate chips, coconut, and almonds.
  4. Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, drop balls of dough onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Animal Diorama

I found these cute little plastic animals at The Dollar Store recently.  I've been wanting to get Olive some play animals like this and at $1 a piece, these sturdy, realistic animals were just the ticket!

Aren't they cute?  You may find the giraffe familiar - it was same one I used for the animal bookends I made in my last post.  I bought two of them.

The only problem is that they looked a little lonely.  I thought that they could use a habitat to live in, but being short on funds I needed to make one using things around the house.  Here's what I came up with:

I used a diaper box and cut off the top and one of the sides.  You can't see it, but I covered the outside with construction paper.  This isn't necessary, but Olive is obsessed with pointing at the baby pictures on the box and I didn't want that to overtake this activity.  For the floor, I used a piece of green felt and made little hills by stuffing some batting underneath.  The sky and clouds are painted with tempera paint.  I made 2 moveable trees out of toilet paper rolls and felt pieces.  I also made a little cave/hollowed out log out of 2 toilet paper rolls cut and glued together.  The whole thing took about 20 minutes to make and I had everything already on hand.

Yes, I know that it looks like a 4th grader made it for a school project, but my daughter loves it.  If she were older, I may have spent more time on it and made it "better looking".  Or maybe not, I don't know.  All I know is that it engages my daughter and it was $6 (the cost of the animals) well spent.  I have plans to make other habitats for the animals using more diaper boxes.  I'm hoping that we won't have too many diaper boxes before too long because we're trying to potty train my daughter.  So I better start holding on to them!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Animal Bookends

I found this idea over at Mad in Crafts while searching for cheap and easy crafts.  And boy, oh, boy, was it ever - cheap AND easy!  My husband and I worked together to make these two last night for our niece and nephew.  We're planning on getting them some books for Christmas and packing these cute bookends in with them.  I had everything on hand except for the animals and frames, so each bookend set ended up costing me a total of just $3!  Pretty cool, huh?

What you need:
- 1 plastic animal or car ($1 at The Dollar Store)
- 2 acrylic frames 5"x7" ($1 at The Dollar Store)
- hacksaw
- hot glue gun, super glue, or some other kind of sturdy glue

- Scrapbook paper
- puffy paint

How to make:
1) Cut the toy animal or car in half with the hacksaw.
2) Glue each side of the animal to a frame.
3) Done!

You could stop there or take it a few steps further, like we did.

1) The frames lean inward at a slight angle.  To help them behave more like bookends, we slowly and CAREFULLY held them over the stove flame until the plastic became warm and slightly pliable.  Then, we worked the bottom little by little until the frame sat more straight up, closer to a 90 degree angle.  Obviously, this is optional, but it helps the books to stand up a little better.
2) Insert a piece of scrapbook paper into the frame for a cute background.  Plus, the paper kind of helps to camouflage any messy gluing.
3) Add embellishments - I had some cute letter stickers and used them to spell the kids' names.
4) Add a few drops of puffy paint on the bottom of the frame, the side that it sits on, and let it dry.  We found that the frames are pretty light and adding the puffy paint helps to create a little bit of friction and keeps them from sliding.

I think these turned out so cute.  I plan on making some for Olives room.  Now, if only I can find a plastic cat...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Felt Christmas Tree

I actually posted this idea on one of my past Pinterest Friday posts.  I love the idea of a felt Christmas tree and I thought I'd share how mine turned out!  I bought the big green felt by the yard and I had everything else on hand at home - hot glue gun, felt pieces, ribbon, and puffy paint.

Here's the tree.  I hot glued a piece of brown felt to the bottom to make a trunk and then stuck the tree to our back sliding door with some of those Command sticky strips.  After about a day, the tree ended up pulling away from the sticky strips so I modified it by gluing a piece of cardboard to the back (not seen in this picture).  Then, I stuck the command strips to the cardboard and then to the glass.  Now, it sticks on great.  It's not as easy to store now, but the felt is so cheap, I could just toss it and make a new tree next year (I probably won't, but I could!)

Here are the ornaments I've made so far (Grandma and Grandpa made a few, too).  I plan on making more.  It was so easy and we made everything in one night.  They are all felt  decorated with ribbon, puffy paint and other felt pieces and stuck together with my trusty hot glue gun.  I made a few random ones and then a few things that would be familiar to my daughter.  Another thing - everyone says that felt is suppose to stick to felt.  I guess I didn't get the special kind because mine didn't!  The simple solution - hot glue a small piece of Velcro (the rough side) to the back of each ornament.  Now they are easy to stick on even for little toddler fingers.

Here she is playing with her tree.  She takes ornaments off and puts them on at random throughout the day.  She especially likes her straw "juicey" cup that she pretends to drink from.

A mommy friend of mine was over with her son the other day and had a great idea to make something like this for other holidays, too, like a felt egg for Easter.  Or maybe a big heart with lovey-dovey stick-ons for Valentine's Day.  I can hear the wheels in my head spinning!