Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stuffed Green Peppers or Stuffed Any Vegetable

I get a loud and honest Yummy out of my son every time I make my stuffed green peppers.  There is nothing that warms my heart more than a long "mmmmm"  or a "yummy" from my kids.  And the sprinkles on top of my sundae is hearing my husband enjoy the meal too. If your family doesn't like green peppers, you can use any vegetable you want.  The really yummy stuff is the "stuffed" part.  That is the part of the meal that gets all the accolades. So if your family doesn't like green peppers, try large hallowed out tomatoes, zucchinis cut lengthwise and hollow out, eggplant cut lengthwise and hollowed out, or red peppers which are high in vitamin C and much sweeter than their green brother the green pepper.  But in the end, if they only eat the inside and a little bit out the outside, it is still a great easy weeknight meal.

Stuffed Green Peppers


2 cups of rice  (white or brown)
1 package of ground sirloin (about 1.5 pounds more or less) 
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (dried basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and sage)
* mommy hint - if you don't have a pre-made Italian seasoning -- just use a couple of dashes of oregano -- or skip this step
 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
14 - 16 oz can of tomato sauce (depending on brand you use size varies, and it doesn't really matter)


First step -- start making rice (white or brown your choice).  Now start making the meat part of the inside.  Get your pan hot over a medium flame.  Add olive oil and chopped onion.  Once they are translucent, add chopped garlic.  After a minute and before garlic turns brown, add ground sirloin and brown. Add cinnamon *mommy hint - the cinnamon doesn't add sweetness; it adds a great warmth to the background of the dish.  Add Italian seasonings and salt and pepper. Once meat is cooked, take off stove.  In a large bowl mix meat add rice (just enough so that there is a good ratio of meat to rice -- eyeball it.) Then add tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Once mixed, it is time to stuff your peppers or family prefered veggie.  First prepare your veggie to stuff.  If you are stuffing peppers, cut top off and take out seeds and ribs.  After preparing veggie, stuff them.  Place stuffed pepper like little soldiers in a high sided casserole dish. If you have extra stuffing, place yummy meat and rice mixture around the peppers.  To help keep dish moist, add some water (about a 1/3 cup give or take) to bottom of casserole -- right on top of extra meat and rice mixture.  Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese to top of peppers.  Cover casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour -- depending on how crunchy or soft you want your peppers to be.  I cook them for 45 minutes then take the cover off for the last 15 minutes of cooking -- I like to have a nice crust on the top.

Buon Appetito -- I hope your family enjoys it too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Minestrone Soup

It has not been a particularly cold winter in Chicago this year.  And we haven't had any Chicago style snow.  I know what you are thinking -- I am cursing all of Chicago to some ugly snow drifts. I am not trying to do that; I am just letting you in on my thought process.  So even though it has not been very soupy outside -- my family was still feeling soup weatherish. I had never made minestrone soup.  I know what you are thinking -- crazy isn't it?  An Italian girl who likes to cook who has never made minestrone soup -- it is odd.  So I thought I would give it a try.  Here is my first attempt at the Italian classic.

Minestrone Soup

4 strips of bacon, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 carrots cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
1 box of chicken stock (low sodium)
8 cups of water
6 bullion cubes
2 potatoes cut into chucks
one half of a cabbage cut into bite sized pieces
1 bag of fresh baby spinach/ or 1 bunch of Swiss chard
2 zucchini cut into chunks
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind (this is not needed, but adds a great saltiness to the background)
salt and pepper
2-3 bay leaves
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (one can mashed into a paste)
digitali pasta noodles

Heat a large stockpot, render the fat from the chopped bacon.  When bacon is crispy, add onions, carrots, celery, and some olive oil.  Once veggies are soften, add garlic and let flavors combine for one minute. Then add box of chicken stock, water, bullion, and bay leaves. Add in the rest of the veggies: potatoes, cabbage, spinach/or Swiss chard, zucchini, tomatoes, and one can of beans (mashed with a fork to a thick paste). Salt and pepper to taste.  Add cheese rind if you have one. After about one hour the veggies should be cooked, now it is time to cook the pasta.  Add digitali or any short pasta and cook for the amount of time designated on the box.  Once pasta is cooked, add the second can of drained and rinsed beans to the soup. It is ready to serve.

I have to say that it turned out so well that my husband made me write the recipe down while we were still sitting at the table eating dinner.  He didn't want it to become another one of my "lost meals."  A "lost meal" is a meal I created and didn't write the recipe down, so I cannot recreated it perfectly.  He knows if I didn't write it down then and there, he might never have that version of the soup again.  It has happened to him too often, so now he makes me write recipes down before they become lost too.

Nonna's Moist Pound Cake

My Nonna used to make this pound cake all the time. She made it for holidays and regular days alike.  It was a staple.  She made it in a tube pan, but my mom says that she made everything in a tube pan.  My mom bought me this Wilton long loaf pan for Christmas.  I love it.  One of the highlights of the pound cake is the yummy buttery golden crust on the top of the cake.  This is why I wouldn't suggest using a bunt pan; all the yummy buttery golden crust ends up on the bottom of the cake. That is one of the reasons I love my new pan; it allows for more yummy buttery golden crust. 

Here is the long Wilton loaf pan.

This recipe couldn't be easier.  It is a traditional pound cake: a pound of butter and a pound of sugar.  But it is worth every calorie. The batter is thick.
This pound cake goes great with a cup of coffee. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do in my family.

Nonna's Pound Cake

1 pound of butter (4 sticks)
1 pound box of powdered sugar
6 eggs (add two at a time)
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons brandy extract
2 teaspoons rum extract

Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Then add two eggs at a time.  Add extracts and flour.  Place batter in a greased large loaf pan, two smaller loaf pans, or a tube pan.  Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 20 minutes (if using one large loaf pan or tube pan).  If using two smaller pan, you might want to start checking it around 45 minutes.

Enjoy your coffee break - you deserve! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farro Salad - bye bye pasta salad!

Farro Salad

Farro is related to the common wheat we eat; it is especially popular in Italy. It is an ancient grain called emmer wheat.  Once boiled, it has a chewy firm texture and a nutty flavor.  I have to say I just love it.  The farro I buy takes about 20 minutes to boil. Farro can be used for salads, soups, side dishes, or as a main entree.

Since I started making farro, it is my new go-to for a cold salad instead of making a pasta salad. It is always a hit.  I also make it for myself and the kids for weekday lunches.  I make a bowl of it, store it in the frig, and it is a great side to a sandwich or it can be a lunch in itself.  It is nice to have on hand if a fellow mommy stops by; it is easy to pull out and lunch is ready.

So depending on what I plan on using it for, that determines what veggies I put in it.  If I am making it as a side to a family meal or a party I can use items that should to be consumed the day I make it or the next day.  If I am making this for myself and the kids for the week, I use veggies that will stand up to a longer stay in the frig. In the recipe below I will note veggies for a long frig stay (Lfs) vs. short frig stay (Sfs). You can create this recipe for your family's likes and needs.

Farro Salad


1 cup of farro, boiled per directions on bag
shelled and boiled edamame (soybean) - Lfs
Kalamata olives - Lfs
red peppers, chopped - Lfs
carrots, chopped - Lfs
cucumbers, deseeded and chopped - Sfs
cherry tomatoes, whole - Lfs
feta (or any cheese you want -- ricotta salata works well too) - Lfs
baby spinach - Sfs
defrosted, frozen sweet peas - Lfs
zucchini - Sfs

*any veggie you want (make it your own)


Boil farro according to directions on bag, drain, and set aside. *mommy hint - if making it to serve right away, you might want to stick it in the frig to cool it down.  While farro is cooking, I start to assemble veggies in a bowl and make my dressing.  So when the farro is cooled, I toss it all together and dress it. It is so yummy -- bye bye pasta salad.

1-2 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
5-6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Put mustard, vinegar, a bit of salt, and a bit of pepper in a bowl. While mixing with a fork or wire whisk, add oil in slowly.  Taste -- add more salt or pepper if needed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Make Robots out of Toilet Paper Tubes

What do you do with your leftover toilet paper tubes?  Recycle?  How about re-purpose?  I got this idea from Disney Family Fun magazine; now there robots were more advanced than my kids' robots, but you get the idea.

The kids painted the toilet paper tubes with Do-A-Dot markers.  My son painted his robot's eyes with liquid paper "Wite-out"(the one on the left).  My daughter had me draw a face for her robot (the one on the right). We taped antennas on the robots and curled pipe-cleaners around a pencil to get those crazy arms.  My son decided on his own to grab a paper towel tube out of the recycling bin to make an extension for his robot.  Kids, you have to love watching their brain work.

Anyway, now my son saves leftover toilet paper and paper towel tubes.  He has fun decorating them with his sister, and I love watching them be creative.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Making a card means more than buying one

I was reading (in true mommy form) a free magazine that was sent to my home -- flipping through it kinda reading and kinda looking at the pictures.  Anyway I saw an ad for women clothing that used an Eleanor Roosevelt quote that I had never read before. The quote was," a woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until she gets in hot water."  I liked it so much that it made me pause and reread it.  I thought what a great quote.  I pulled the ad out of the magazine; I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I knew it was good.

Then a few days later I was chatting with a girlfriend.  She was going through a difficult time. As I listened to her story, I could hear the pain in her voice; I could hear the tears in her heart.  Yet she was so strong.  She had to be for her child. And I thought to myself -- no matter how much pain a mommy is in, when it comes to her baby; she is stronger than she ever thought she could be.  Where does that strength come from?  And then I thought of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote.  I had a use for that quote.

I was going to send my girlfriend a note.
Not an email.
Not a text.
Not a phone call.
A written note sent through the US  Postal System.

I took a plain card and used a scrapbooking edge punch to decorate the sides of the card.  I taped a tea bag on the outside of the card and stamped the words "Thinking of you" on the card.  Then on the inside I wrote Eleanor Roosevelt's beautiful quote and wrote a personal message from me to my girlfriend.

I have to say it turned out as I thought it would; she loved it.  My girlfriend said it was a thoughtful and warm gesture; it was the exact message I was trying to convey to her.  I highly recommend using this quote and idea for a little note to one of your girlfriends.  Or using one of your favorite quotes on a card that you have created; it is the personal touch that I believe means so much more.  Any of us can go to Hallmark and buy a card, any of us can text or email a friend to check in on her when she is feeling down. But making a card -- nothing special -- but the act of making something yourself for someone else says,"you are worth my time and energy."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Making Playdough and Outside Chalk Games

As a stay at home mom, I am always looking for activities to do with the kids.  My kids wake up at 5 am and go to sleep around 7 pm.  This is a long day.  We have made homemade playdough in the past, but this by far is my favorite recipe I have used.  First of all the cooked playdough recipes are far better than the non-cooked recipes.  Here is the best one I have landed on:

Homemade Playdough
2 cup flour
1/2 cup of salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups of warm water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
food coloring
scented oil (optional)

Put all ingredients in a pot and cook over low heat until it comes together as a smooth ball. If you want you can add some peppermint oil or lemon oil.  Who doesn't like nice smelling things, but you don't have to.  Take it off the heat and take playdough out of pot and let it cool on your counter.  Once cool enough to handle, kneed until smooth.  Cut into four equal parts.  Now the fun part.  Use food coloring to dye each section.  The kids love doing this part.  When storing, I place plastic wrap around each ball and then put each ball into a sealed plastic baggie.  Then I put all the baggies in a Ziplock plastic container.  I  know it seems like a lot of protection for some playdough.  But you can keep this for a long time if you keep it airtight.

Outside Chalk Game

We had a lot of fun with this direction following game. And what kid doesn't need to practice following directions.  Get four or five different colors of chalk.  Make a start box and a finish box across from each other. For example start with blue.  Make a blue circle (big enough for  kids to jump into) jumping distance from start box.  Then continue making a circle path to finish box.  Then do the same with the next color.  Keep trying to intermingle the colors so it is fun for the kids to jump.  Always make sure each color path has a safe jumping distance to the next circle of its color.  Lastly, you sit back and start to call out directions for the kids to follow.  You can make them follow each color path or you can mix up the colors like Twister. Have fun outside.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

My husband loves chicken pot pie.  Trying to perfect this recipe took quite a few times.  One time the potatoes inside were raw.  One time the inside was too dry and not creamy enough.  One time I needed more veggies and the wasn't enough pie crust. I used a frozen pie crust, but apparently I didn't use enough my husband said, "to qualify this recipe as a pot pie."  So I tried again -- and triumph.  This recipe was a big hit with my triumvirate: husband, son, and daughter. All three loved it; the final recipe I am sharing has enough veggies, solved the potato issue, and has plenty of the pie crust.

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients: (this makes two pies or one 9x13 pan)

3 Chicken breasts/ or roasted chicken from the store/ or turkey breast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion
1/2 cup flour
4 cups of chicken stock (one box)
frozen veggie mix (I use sweet peas, carrots, corn, lima beans)
frozen green beans
3 small potatoes, diced / or use frozen breakfast potatoes (this way you don't have to peal and cut)
salt and pepper

2 packages of refrigerated pie crust (each package has two crusts) 4 crusts in total ( I use Pillsbury)


First thing you have to do it start cooking the potatoes.  The first time I made this I tried to use uncooked potatoes, and they weren't cooked by the time the crust was finished.  So I had to choose par cooked potatoes or burnt pie crust. Hence it is a good idea to start to cook potatoes in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Once cooked, put potatoes off to the side in a bowl. Next, if you have raw chicken, cook the chicken in that same pan with some olive oil.  If you bought roasted chicken from the store or are using left over chicken or turkey from a previously dinner, cube it up.  *mommy hint-- this meal is something I usually make to reuse left over chicken or turkey.  But you could start from scratch if you would like.  Once chicken is cooked, cube it and place in potato bowl.

Now it is time to make the sauce. Place 2 Tablespoons of butter, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and diced onion in a pan.  Once onions are translucent, add flour -- it will form a paste.  Slowly add warmed chicken stock until you have a sauce that is the consistency you like.  If you want it to be thicker, add some cornstarch, but the sauce must be bubbling at that time so to not have a lumpy sauce.  If you want it to me thinner, keep adding stock or a bit of water if you used all your stock (no need to open a new box).  Add salt and pepper. * mommy hint - Taste it!  You have to see if you like the taste of the sauce.  You may need more salt.  This is the time to make adjustment.  Once you decided on your sauce taste, add chicken, potatoes, and frozen veggies (add as many as you feel like your family wants or needs).  I also add frozen green beans.  The inside is finished.

Lastly, it is time to assemble pot pie. If you are making this recipe in a pie pan, cover the bottom of pan with crust.  Then fill with your pot pie mixture and cover the top with a pie crust.  Pierce some holes in the top of the crust to vent pie. *note -- this filling makes 2 pies, so if you want one pie - cut recipe in half If using a 9 x 13 pan, cover the bottom with 2 pie crusts (this takes some geometry -- don't let anyone tell you high school geometry doesn't play a part in cooking -- every once in a while I have to whip it out) Fill your pan with your yummy filling.  Then top with two more pie crusts.  Pierce top to vent your pot pie. 
* mommy hint - you can make it all the way to this point a day ahead of time and then 
cook it. This is the perfect make ahead dinner.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes until crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

This is a corner piece - look at this beautiful crust -- yummy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sweet Little Easter Lamb Cake

I have always loved those sweet little stand-up lamb cakes you see for Easter. You know the ones I am talking about; they are usually covered in swirly icing or white coconut and lay on a bed of green coconut grass and jelly beans. With my little ones at three and almost two, I look at each holiday as a time to create memories with new traditions.

My dear girlfriend Lene (Ilene), has made a lamb cake for Easter for her family for years.  Her kids are grown now, yet they still come over to celebrate Easter and look forward to this very special lamb cake.  It is always striking to me how powerful and important traditions are, especially when those traditions are begun and continued throughout a little one's childhood.  The traditions parents start and foster throughout a child's life are the same traditions that keep them coming home.  Everyone wants to hold on to the positive warm parts childhood. 

It is part of our make up as humans.
It is those traditions that create the foundation of a child's memory.
It is those traditions that help to create the stability in a child's life that help him to feel safe and secure.

So when I have a desire to create a tradition like making the lamb cake for my kids for Easter, it is not really about the cake.  It is about creating memories, traditions, and stability in my children's lives.

I went out and bought my Wilton Stand-up Lamb Cake Pan at Joanne Fabrics.  I immediately called Lene for the perfect lamb cake recipe; of course, she had the perfect recipe - the 7-up pound cake. It is a 1950's classic pound cake that was known for its light and airy texture because of the soda. It gained popularity again as a bunt in the 1980s.  It has a lemony taste and the perfect texture needed to stand up to the cake pan.

I was set; I had the idea, the pan, and the cake recipe. Then why was I so nervous about making a mistake and my cake flopping.  It was my first attempt at creating a tradition for Easter, and I didn't want it to flop.  Of course the only one who would know that it flopped would be me because the three year old and the two year old would have no idea what it was supposed to look like.  Plus, they are kids; they just get excited when they are about to eat cake -- any cake. I called Lene three times during the baking process.  Call #1 What temperature do I bake it at -- your cake directions or the pan directions?  Call #2 How do you tie the pan up? It only has one set of holes -- won't the cake be forced open on the other side?  Call #3 The back of the lamb's head isn't round - it is flat -- what do I do? In the end, Lene said to follow the directions she gave me for the cake, tie the cake pan in three places to secure it, and it doesn't matter if the back of the lamb's head is flat. She calmed me down - as usual.
Here is the recipe:

Lene's Sweet Little Lamb Cake / 7-up Cake Recipe

3 sticks of room temperature butter
3 cups of sugar
5 eggs
3 cups of flour
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
3/4 cup of room temperature 7-up


*mommy hint - you will have extra batter if you make the lamb cake.  So you can make cup cakes or another small loaf pan cake. 

Use a standing mixer. Beat butter and sugar until creamy, about 20 minutes. Add each egg one at a time. Mix in flour and lemon extract.  Fold in by hand or on your slowest speed the 7-up.  Place cake in your well greased and floured pan (lamb pan if its Easter). Tie your lamb pan around the neck, body, and through the manufacturer's hole to secure pan from moving up during the baking process. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 50 - 55 minutes.  Check cake. If toothpick comes out clean (use the manufacturer's hole), take the back of lamb pan off and finish cooking for 5 - 10 minutes. Total cooking time should be about 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes.

For taking lamb cake out of the pan follow the directions that are given to you when you buy the lamb pan.  Take cake out of oven. Let cool for 5 minutes. Put back of pan back on.  Flip the cake over so it is sitting on its back side and wait another 5 minutes.  Then take face of lamb pan off, and let it cool off for about 4 hours before completely taking it out of its pan and decorating it.

Well, those are the directions to follow. Lene has been making this cake for years without as much as a hiccup, let alone something as tragic as the lamb being unable to stand (like the cake pan promises) or  I hate to say it, losing the sweet little lamb's head.  I cannot say the same thing for myself.  Time for me to be honest.  I called Lene during the baking process to make sure I didn't make any mistakes.  When the little lamb came out of the oven, I knew there was a problem.  It didn't rise as much as I thought it would.  Hence the base of the lamb was half as big and sturdy as it was meant to be.  But I pushed through and started to decorate my-flat-back-no-rise-lamb-cake.

Everything was going well; the sweet little lamb was turning out so cute. I finished; I was about to take a picture. Then it started to happen.  It fell on its very flat back.  I put it up.  It fell again.  I put it up.  It fell again.  I started to panic.  The kids and my husband came into the kitchen. I could feel the anxiety building in my chest. I yelled to my husband to help me; I said, "help its falling!" He said, "what's falling?"  I said, "are you kidding? The lamb -- can you not see it is falling on its back and its about to lose its head!"  He starts to panic because he doesn't want to see me so disappointed. He started to prop it up with some carrots from the frig.  He started to take a picture of the sweet little lamb before it lost its head --- I hate even typing that -- but it is true. It was about to lose its head!  There was panic and stress in the air.

AND THEN IT HAPPENED.... Not what you are expecting.  It was my three year old son.  Above my husband and my stressed voices you could hear my son's sweet voice saying,"ooooh it's so cute.  Take a picture of me next to it. Take a picture Mommy."

His sweet voice and request stopped me in my tracks.  It wasn't about the cake.  It was always about my kids and their memories. As far as he was concerned it was a perfect little lamb ready for a photo shoot.  He thought it was cute even with the carrots supporting it from behind.  In that moment, that is all that mattered to me.  I stopped running around trying to save the cake; I started taking pictures of my kids, Aidan and Zuzu, with the sweetest little lamb cake that was ever made.  Looking back at the situation now (with only 12 hours of hindsight), I already know that this unstable little lamb cake will probably always be my favorite cake because of the lesson my son taught me.

Our kids see their world as wonderful; they see life as wonderful.  They are not looking for perfection. I am not sure when that changes, but I know it does. And that makes me sad.  But for now, I know I want to try to see life through my kids' eyes. I want to stop looking to be perfect and stop looking to fix things. I simply want to smile and appreciate everything and everyone around me.  And every once in awhile I'd like to stop and say," take a picture of me next to..."


It is all about the memories; it is not about the cake.  What was your "lamb cake" this Easter season?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Made Two Dresses and a Skirt; Sew Can You

Let's start off by saying I am not a seamstress even by loose definition.  When I first got married, I bought a sewing machine because that is what I thought I had to do.  I was moving into a home with the man of my dreams -- and all homes have sewing machines.  Or at least I thought they did. My mom had a sewing machine, her mom (my Nonna) had a sewing machine, and I guess I translated that to mean I needed to buy one.  I mean that didn't fall under the tasks for my new husband.  That was going to be part of my wife domain.  I guess I never stopped to think about the little side note that I didn't know how to use the machine.  I bought the machine thinking that I was woman, and I would be able to figure it out.  The only sewing experience I had was one semester class in high school.  I knew I could sew a square pillow. So I bought the machine.

It sat on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks.  It took me days to figure out how to fill the bobbin and how to threat the machine.  Once I figure those two things out, I put it in a closet in the basement and waited for the time to use it.

It has been 7 years since that purchase.  My daughter is turning 2 this summer.  I am not sure what came over me, but recently I wanted to sew.  Sew something. Sew anything.  I was looking through the Hanna Andersson catalog with all those adorable outfits for kids.  And I came across this dress they were selling--a pillowcase dress. You know how they tell little stories in catalogs to help put you in the mood to buy -- it is like foreplay for buyers.  Anyway they told a nice story about how Swedish women used to make dresses for their daughters out of old pillowcases so that nothing went to waste.  Gold -- I struck Gold.  I knew what I was going to sew.  I thought this was an idea that my lack of skills could bite into. I decided I wasn't going the old pillowcase route. I was off to Target!

Sewing Experiment #1: Pillowcase Dress (modeled after Hanna Andersson's dress)

I have to say it was pretty easy.  I made a mistake on the bottom when sewing the ribbon on, so I sewed a cute button over my mistake.  For about ten minutes, I kept staring at my mistake. Five minutes after that, I kept looking at my cute embellishment -- the button. *mommy hint - don't be hard on yourself when trying something.  Just see your mistakes as a opportunity to get creative. The armhole was a bit tricky.  But with a helpful hint from a Wheeling High School Home Ec. teacher (I went back to my roots -- asked a high school teacher) I was able to finish.  The key to the arm holes was using double faced bias tape.  It turns beautifully around the curve of the underarm.  Who knew that?   I didn't -- remember I don't sew; I just own a nice sewing machine.  With the addition of a couple of ribbons to create the shoulder straps, I was done.  Here it is; if I can make it, so can you.

Sewing Experiment #2:  Tube Top Dress

I started this dress because I was at the fabric store buying thread and ribbon for my pillowcase dress. And I saw this no-brainer fabric. It was already sewn in that scrunchy tube-top style on the top.  The dress on the right I didn't even need to sew the bottom of the dress.  It was a short fabric bolt made for a little girl with Disney's Ariel the mermaid on the bottom.  All I had to do was sew the dress up on its size and sew ribbons on the top to hold the dress up around my little girl's neck.  The dress on the left was made from a longer fabric bolt, but in the end all I did was measure my daughter and cut the dress accordingly.  Then I sewed the bottom of the dress, sewed up the side of the dress, and again added the ribbons to hold the dress up.  Talk about easy to make.

Sewing Experiment #3:  A Skirt for Mommy (modeled after a skirt I wear all the time)

Lastly, I was feeling confident. I have a favorite knockaround skirt I love to wear in the summer. It is a khaki knee length cotton A-line skirt. I bought some cute cotton fabric and a piece of elastic. I laid the skirt on the fabric and cut it out an inch bigger, so I could sew it.  I sewed the sides and the bottom.  Then I had to make a waist band.  I made the band a bit bigger than my waste so when I sewed it, it would be the correct size.  Then I made the elastic one inch smaller than my waste, so the skirt would stay up.  Lastly, I sewed the waste band with the elastic in it on to the skirt and literally one hour I had a new favorite skirt.  Here it is.

I have to say there is an incredibly satisfying feeling that comes over you after creating something from scratch. Knowing that you created this item out of fabric and thread. You did it.  At one point it wasn't clothing and now it is.  It is exciting.  That feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating something has nothing to do with gender.  All people no matter their sex -- no matter their age --- feel great after creating something from parts.  If I can make these, I know you can.  Get sewing and see what you can create. Feel the satisfaction.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Yogurt Treats for Kids and Yourself

I have always liked yogurt. But since I have had kids, yogurt has become my friend.  My go to item.  My kids are 3 and 1 and they view yogurt as a treat.  Even plain yogurt.  I know what you are thinking.  I am a cruel mom who doesn't give my kids ice cream and REAL treats.  But that isn't the case.  But I have saved yogurt as a treat and haven't let them know that I change up the presentation on them all the time.  Sometime they eat straight from a bowl, butttttt other times I freeze it in different ways.  And presto I have a new treat.

Frozen Treat #1: Yogurt Pops

I bought these fabulous little jewel pop forms made by Tovolo. You can buy them online, at Land of Nod, or from Sur La Table -- or I'm sure you can find them all sorts of other places.  I fill them with yogurt, and they freeze perfectly.  The kids love going into the freezer and asking for "pops" - so cute that is what they call them.

Frozen Treat #2 Frozen Dots
Use a zip lock bag as a pipping bag. Place yogurt in baggie. Pipe nickle sized dots of yogurt on wax paper or foil that is on some kind of pan or flat plate that fits into your freezer. I use a 9 inch round cake pan because it fits into my side by side frig/freezer. Freeze your little dots.

Once frozen, peal them off and store in freezer.  When you give your little ones a small bowl of these frozen treats, trust me they will not notice or care that it is simply yogurt in yet another form. My guess is that you will even enjoy popping a few; I know I do.

Frozen Treat #3 Yoplait Whips

I cannot take credit for this idea.  Yoplait came up with it; I just listened and took the advice given to me from their commercials.  These are great frozen.  Just freezer and enjoy.