Saturday, July 21, 2012

Playing at the lake

 This was our first camping trip as a family of four together and I took a bazillion pictures, here are some of my favorites. 
Shane kept saying the whole ride there, "I think this is going to be better than Disneyland!" He was so excited to go fishing, swimming and to do s'mores, of course.

My little rock collector. We'd walk this short trail from the cabin to the water 

 she was determined to see how many rocks she could carry back up the hill 
just a few more, c'mon thumb work with me
ehhh the heck with it!
At home we always use the gas grill, but I loved tasting the smokey flavor from the charcoal, we need to do this more!
We ate s'mores every night:)
Had some nice quite time with the Mr. before the kids woke up. It was so perfect and peaceful exactly what this mama needed!

Growing up I never really cared for camping that much, I can say I truly appreciate it now. Even though some of you might argue that bringing your flat iron, lipstick and cardigans with you is not really camping. (I can't help it, it's my mother's southern priss showin'). We enjoyed our time being close to nature and to each other, and hopefully setting a new tradition in place with many more memories to come.     

I love this one! 

Maddie chasing the ducks, they were teasing her, it was pretty funny to watch. We kept a good eye on her to make sure she didn't get too close to them. 
The girls hangin'

He was making her do the best belly laugh 
 one pooped baby
The boys building a moat 

Ahhh not a bad view to wake up to

I helped prep some meals, Shane did most of the cooking (okay... all), he is the Breakfast and Bar- B-Q master! My man has skillz!
This was his cabin french toast, he surprises me, we didn't have any vanilla so he used my french vanilla coffee creamer and I couldn't tell the difference.Way to improvise babe! 

We explored different areas of the lake, the weather was beautiful, packed snacks and took Maddie everywhere we went.  
Bubba won't you try my lipstick it's my favorite color? Shane "ewww no way!!!"

Dad gave Lily a little dip to rinse off all the dirt and sand stuck to her legs

Okay mom, one picture but then I'm getting in the water!
Captain Lillian

cold and tired kiddos
He caught three fish that day! Released two, dad barbecued the other, (shhh ...Shane and I didn't like it) poor fishy.
 Roasting hot dogs with sticks Shane collected just a ways from where we were fishing

Hmmm... yep look closely at the chocolate and you'll find evidence of Lily! 
Ooey gooey goodness!

A beautiful sunset 

So very thankful for a wonderful and refreshing time with the ones I love.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rick Rack Flowers and Apricot White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There's something about rick rack that just shouts playful and cute to me! Does it have the same effect on you, or am I just talking to myself on this one? These flowers have been on my 'to make' list for some time now. I first saw one in a cutesy little downtown shop where we live, it was attached to the front of an apron waistband, I thought to myself they'd make really cute hair clips.  

After attempting to make the flower myself and having no luck, I was happy to come across this easy to follow tutorial 

I made mine a little differently, here's how

I went ahead and purchased the medium sized rick rack recommended. 

Under $7 bucks not 

   So the baker in me wants to start by telling you to "preheat" your glue guns. I know from experience if I don't remember to do this first I'll get distracted waiting for it to heat up, make a neat little pile on the edge of my kitchen counter somewhere and leave it there, oh for say.... more than a day or two. It's the kids fault really, they always find me? 

I measured two pieces of rick rack and cut them at 20 inches long,  placed them under the foot on my sewing machine and twisted the two pieces together. I then clipped the bottom of the rick rack with an alligator clip so it wouldn't come undone as I was sewing. I sewed along one side.

 I began rolling adding smalls dots of hot glue along the way
when you come to the tail end, tuck and glue it to the bottom of your flower to secure it in place. 

 I wanted mine to resemble flowers more than rosettes 
so using my fingers I opened and pressed back almost every layer.

This is how I make the base of my clips

 I sandwich a piece of ribbon between an alligator clip

apply glue to the top side only and press.Glue inside the little dilly of the clip(where my thumb is,
 can't think of what that part is called) follow it around with a dot of glue on the bottom side, cut your ribbon.
There's a picture of what the bottom side of the clip should look like when you scroll down which is more helpful.

I used craft felt, cut a leaf and a circle

sandwich the felt circle in the clip

apply more glue, place your flower over and press.

                                            Don't mind the white thread I was being lazy;)

I clipped them to a Crape Myrtle in our backyard, but
the sun was shining directly on the tree where I was trying to take pictures and the colors weren't showing true. So I ran to the kitchen to find what I could use to block the sun, perfect, a cookie sheet should do the job. I'm sure I looked perfectly normal with a cookie sheet held high above my head in one hand, camera in the other, standing on my trampoline taking pictures of my tree. I heard my neighbor come out into his backyard, he began chuckling, I'm not sure if it was at me, but I couldn't help but think of how ridiculous I must've looked. Yep, that ought to clear up any suspicions of your neighbors thinking you're a wacko;)

Even so, I think it was worth it

I love how they turned out!

Apricot White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This is a cookie recipe I collected from online back in 2007, it's adapted from The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave. It takes me back to the summer I had my first baby, when Shane was just a few months old and his daddy worked a lot. Between naps, breast feeding and all the new mommy worries we stayed home, well,  a lot too during the first few months. I can still picture him in his swing there in the kitchen, rocking back and forth sleeping for hours at a time, in his little onesie with bare feet. I gained a mean sweet tooth that summer, (along with a few other things I'd like not to mention;). That and I could already picture our first Christmas as a family together and I wanted my cookie tray to be fabulous! 
So I started testing recipes, it sort of became my mission that summer to start a collection of recipes I could make for our family and for my own someday dream bakeshop. It's when I taught myself to bake, I say taught because the first zucchini bread I made was nothing but pitiful! Baking didn't come exactly natural to me, I think it has to do with the fact that when it comes to following directions, I'm terrible. Something in me always wants to guess the last 5 steps? My goof up was that I grated only the skin portion of the zucchinis off and tossed the rest? Who does that, I know? I won't go into why I thought I should do that it's just embarrassing. So it baked up a whole 3 inches high, at most, and sat on top of the microwave for about a week. I remember being so proud of it too because it tasted like zuchhnni bread, a little, it just didn't look like it at all! My hubby was so sweet about it, he would saw through it, piece by piece day by day, microwave and slather it in butter and tell me it was good:) Looking back I'd like to imagine he had a Rules and Secrets For New Husbands Handbook stashed somewhere, inside it would state under rule 
 If in doubt of her food and hurting her feelings, nuke it, cover in condiments, smile and say it's good.

Back to the cookie, creamy white chocolate compliments the sweet and tangy apricots nicely, it's a moist cake-like cookie. When I'm in the mood to switch it up, this is one that I go to.  

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3/4 cup is what the original recipe calls for but I prefer 1/2 cup of fresh or dried apricots)
4 ounces white chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks or 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350
Cream the butter and brown sugar in medium sized bowl
Beat in egg and vanilla
Add flour, baking soda, kosher salt in small bowl
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined
Add white chocolate and apricots, mix until evenly dispersed 
Drop tablespoons of batter onto ungreased cookie sheet
Bake 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned
Let the cookies sit on the sheet 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool

The recipe says it yields 26 but I usually get about 20 of what I consider as small cookies. 
I doubled the recipe, put to good use some fresh apricots I had in one batch and dried in the other, I only had white chocolate chips, so that's what I used. I like to chill this dough for about 30 minutes or so before baking but you can bake them right away if you can't wait, they're still yummy. 

If you're feeling brave, add a cup or so of oatmeal, a few pinches of cinnamon, and let me know how they turn out. I bet they'd make great bars.:) 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Heart Shaped Bird Feeder

 This was a fun activity to do with the kids and would make for a charming gift idea as well!

What I caught Lily doing the morning I was online pulling up instructions for the bird feeder. 

This picture makes me think of how an artist might stand back with a hand on one hip and ponder if they're truly satisfied with their work. I'm sure that's not what she's doing, but makes me smile to think so.

Supplies you will need

 3 cups of birdseed
2 1/4 ounce packets of unflavored gelatin
cookie cutters of choice 
 twine for hanging
 non stick cooking spray 


Sprinkle two packages of gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. 
Let it sit a couple of minutes until gelatin has absorbed the water. 
Heat 1 3/4 cups water in a pan, then add in the gelatin mixture. 
Stir until dissolved. Stir in 3 cups of birdseed.
Allow mixture to cool until gelatin is thick and coats all the birdseed.

Spray the top piece of your foil and the inside of your cookie cutter with non stick cooking spray. I placed my foil and cookie cutter on a paper plate, I found this easier when transferring to the freezer. When birdseed mixture is ready, fill cookie cutter with mixture and press down until firm.
I made two 5 inch heart shaped bird feeders and a few small butterfly's and had quite a bit left over to make at least another heart with. The original tutorial said she had enough for three 5 inch heart feeders.
Cut a piece of straw or whatever you have on hand that will substitute to make a hole for hanging. 
Place in freezer approximately an hour or so, or until mixture has set.
String with twine, hang and enjoy!

I tried a few mini butterfly shaped ones just to see how they'd turn out. I envisioned something like little spring ornaments we could try to adorn some blossoming tree in our backyard with, can you picture it? Kind of cute I thought, but they were just too small to make out what they were supposed to be. 

Since we made these in mid February we didn't have anything pretty to hang them on in the back. The trees still looked like sticks, so I asked the hubby if he would hold it over the daffodils sitting on our patio table for a somewhat of a "cuter" background. 

We eventually hung it out back where I could see it from our kitchen window and whenever I looked out at it, it made me smile. About a week or so later we had a couple of good windy/raining days and I noticed it missing. So the kids and I went out and searched the backyard for it, Shane was the first to spot it....... in Maddie's poop. So that's the story of the first bird feeder we ever made together.:)

Now that the weather is getting nicer and our Crape Myrtle's should start to bloom we may try making them again. Love to think we could catch some birds actually feeding from them and if I'm lucky, snap a few  pictures.