Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Earmuffs for Mr. Snowman

This is such a cute sugar cookie idea. Simple enough for the kids to actually do all by themselves!
You will need sugar cookie dough, white frosting, licorice (Pull n Peel), mini chocolate chips, m&ms, orange gum drops, and life savers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Morning Sticky Buns

If you make these sweet rolls on Christmas eve, you can put them in the refrigerator overnight and they will be perfect to bake and eat warm on Christmas morning!

3/4 c. buttermilk, warm
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled until warm
3 large eggs
4 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt

1. Combine yeast and sugar in mixing bowly, add warm buttermilk, stir and let sit for 15 minutes or until yeast is bubbly. Add eggs, salt, melted butter and two cups of flour and m ix until smooth. Addremaining flour and mix until dough leaves the sides of the mixer but still sticks to the bottom of the mixer. If dough isn't doing this, add more flour 1 Tbsp. at a time until dough leaves sides. Mix until smooth. Place dough in an oiled blow and raise until doubled in size, about two hours.

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
4 Tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. pecans, toasted and chopped coarse

3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves (optional)
pinch of salt
flour for the counter
2 Tbsp. melted butter, plus extra for the pan

1. (The nut topping goes in the bottom of your 13x9 pan first. You will add the rolls on top, bake it, and then flip it onto a platter, so the yummy carmel/nuts is on top.) For the nut topping, bring the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the vanilla and pecans. Spread the mixture in the bottom of your greased 13 x 9 pan.

2. For the filling, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and roll or press into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle. Brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge. Press on the filling to adhere it to the dough. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Roll the cylinder over so that it is seam side down. Pat the ends to even out.

3. Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized buns, using a serrated knife. Arrange the buns cut side down on top of the nut topping in the baking dish. Let rise in a warm place until rolls have doubled in size, 1 1/2 or more hours. (If you want to eat these in the morning, make them at night, and stick in refrigerator overnight. They will be perfect for baking in the morning! The cold slows down the yeast.)

4. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until the buns are golden and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the buns cool in the pan for 5 minutes before flipping out onto platter. (Put platter or cookie sheet on top of pan, firmly hold edges of both pans, and flip them so the hot one is on top. Careful, it is hot!) Scrape any leftover filling onto the top of the buns.

Simple Christmas Kid Crafts

Here are a few simple Christmas crafts for kids. I always love the things they make with their handprints, and both of these use hands/feet. For the reindeer, trace both of your child's hands and one of his/her feet on a paper bag cut them out. The foot becomes the reindeer's head and the hands become the antlers. Glue them together, and add a red pom pom for the nose and googlie eyes. Or, let them color and decorate it. You could also turn this into an ornament by adding ribbon.

We made this for playgroup a few weeks ago and we made them again for the kids' Christmas cards. Use a sponge or stipple brush to put green paint on your child's hand and help them make a handprint. We also painted a small wooden star yellow and glued it on, but you could use a pipe cleaner, or simply yellow paper for the star. We cut a stem out of dark brown paper, and then the kids added sequins for the ornaments. We cut the tree out and glued it on a larger card. This was the girls' favorite one- "so sparkly and bootiful!"

Ambrosia Crunch

This is about the best sweet snack mix I've ever had. It is simple to prepare and sure to please the palate. Wrap it in cellophane bags with pretty ribbon for a great presentation.

3 c. rice chex
3 c. corn chex
3 c. cheerios
2 c. stick pretzels
2 c. peanuts
12 oz. plain M&Ms
12 oz. peanut M&Ms
12 oz. white chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients, except for white chocolate in a large bowl. Melt white chocolate slowly in microwave, one minute at a time at half power, stirring after each minute. Pour over mix and stir thoroughly. Pour onto waxed paper and let cool. Break apart and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ocean Cake

OK, my fellow cake-loving friends will laugh because they know how excited I get about making cool cakes for my kids' birthdays! This one was seriously so extremely easy and it turned out better than I had imagined. I found it (and many other fantastic cake ideas on one of our favorite sites, Perfect for any type of ocean or Hawaiian themed party.Simply use speckled Jelly Bellies for the rocks, Fruit By The Foot for the seaweed, and different gummy fish for the fish. The cheesy Ariel candle is to appease my sweet three year old, but I have to say it looked much cooler without it.

Pinecone Turkeys

We made these adorable turkeys at playgroup last week. Each turkey only requires a pinecone, a pom pom (fuzzy ball), a few pipe cleaners, some googlie eyes, small pieces of red and yellow felt, and some craft glue. (Martha Stewart had some great ideas this month on creating bird and mice ornaments out of pinecones too.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Homemade Sorting Toy

This is a simple activity for your 1 1/2 or 2 year-old. Mine has been loving little pieces lately; she has been sorting beads and buttons and the like. She kept bringing me a little bag of beads from my craft drawer so I thought we would put them to good use. We used an empty egg carton and turned it into a sorter. It costs next to nothing, keeps them occupied for a few hours, and if they tire of it after a few weeks, you don't feel bad tossing it in the recycling pile.

For this toy, you will need an empty egg carton, different colored felt, scissors, glue, and something to sort like beads or buttons.

Simply cut small squares of felt and glue them in the bottom of the egg cups.

Pour the beads in the lid, and ask your child to put them in the right spot.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I really love to recycle. And it seems Miss Emma takes after her mommy. She is absolutely sure she needs to have every single toilet paper roll, shoe box, and empty yogurt carton she can find. There are so many times where I don't have time to help her and I explain that we can't keep everything, (her room is overrun with papers and art projects as it is) but last night, I had time. So I obliged her.

measure and cut felt

Hot glue it on; add some ribbon or buttons

Decorate the lid with felt and puff paints. Now, you have yourself a super duper, nifty cylinder-shaped box for all of your treasures.

Turkey Sugar Cookies

The girls and I made turkey sugar cookies for Family Home Evening tonight. They were a hit! I now go against the core of who I am (made-from-scratch mommy) and purchase premade sugar cookie dough (for the lesson learned, click here), and it has been much more fun for the kids.

For this project, you need orange frosting, candy corns, m&ms, and a small amount of melted chocolate to dot on for the pupils.

My little turkeys

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pear Ghosts

Here's one more cute Halloween idea. I know it's late, but I didn't have time to post it earlier, and there's always next year, right?These are so simple- you just dip pears in white chocolate and when it's almost set up, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips for eyes. They look darling and taste so good! My kids loved them.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oatmeal for my Pumpkins

On holidays, I try to think of fun ways to serve food to my kids. Usually, it's the same old thing with a different presentation. So, this morning, I decided to decorate our bowls of oatmeal up (by adding orange food coloring and chocolate chips) and make them into pumpkins. The kids loved the look, but it was funny because since they aren't used to chocolate chips in their oatmeal, they didn't like it as much as I thought they would. Humph.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cheesecloth Ghosts

My mom made these with us when I was a child. We used to get them out each Halloween and they were a family favorite. I decided to make them with my kids this year and they loved it! Here are the directions:
Collect desired bottles or containers for the body forms. You are going to make the shape of a ghost, and then drape cheesecloth over it to make the ghost.

Scrunch up newspaper for the heads. Cover the newspaper with plastic wrap, so the newspaper print doesn't rub off onto your white ghosts. Or, you could try using foil instead.

Tape plastic spoons or the like to the sides to shape arms.

Cut out desired sheets of cheesecloth to drape over the figures. Two or three layers of cheesecloth makes the ghost look really good. (You can find cheesecloth at hardware and craft stores.)

Put Elmer's glue in a dish and add some water until it is thin. I probably used 1 bottle of Elmer's glue and about 1/3 cup water. (Martha Stewart uses liquid starch, and I read you can also use heavy sugar water. But Elmer's glue works great too and it's what we had on hand.)

After you dip the cheesecloth in the glue, squeeze off all of the excess and drape it over the form, one layer at a time, until you like what you see. (If I could do it over, I would have put foil or waxed paper down on the table instead of newspaper, because- hello, newspaper STICKS to elmer's glue and it was a pain to peel them off.) They need about one and a half days to dry thoroughly. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Our Table This Week...

When I hear other people say how much they hate to cook, I take it to mean that either 1- they are overwhelmed by the process of planning and shopping for food, or 2- they have no idea what to cook or don't have many good recipes. Maybe I'm wrong, but how can chopping fresh vegetables, or standing over a simmering pot of yummy soup be that bad? Personally, I love to cook. I love to menu plan and I love to try new recipes. Now, one thing I really don't like is having three kids with me in the grocery store and trying to purchase two weeks' worth of groceries. But I find if I have a plan in mind before I go to the store, the outcome is usually much better financially and emotionally for all of us.

If I don't have a menu plan, then I have to admit that finding the inspiration to come up with something nutritious and delicious that the kids will eat at the last minute is next to impossible. So, it is with this purpose in mind, that I decided to add the "On Our Table This Week" box on the right. I will update it each week with what I am planning, in case you need a little inspiration. And please, if you have a great recipe, send it my way!!! Note: I usually plan 5 meals a week, because on the other nights we eat leftovers or eat out, or on crazy nights we eat scrambled eggs or oatmeal or something.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tropical Pudding Cake

This cake is simply fantastic. Every time I serve it, people comment that they need the recipe. So here you go! It's light and refreshing, but really yummy. I got this recipe from an old Southern cook and it's sort of a "dump it all in and mix it up" kind of recipe. Easy and delicious!

1 yellow cake mix
1 can mandarin oranges, not drained
3/4 c. canola oil or butter
4 eggs
16 oz. cool whip
1 can crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Directions: Mix together cake mix, mandarin oranges, oil (or butter), and eggs until thoroughly mixed. Pour into two or three round cake pans. (Three layers just makes the cake look fancier, but two works just as well.) Bake at 350 degrees. For two pans, it takes 30-33 minutes; for three pans, it takes about 25 minutes. (Ovens vary, so be cautious. A sure way to dry out a cake is to overbake it. I like to err on the side of slightly underbaked.)

For frosting, combine cool whip, crushed pineapple, pudding mix, and walnuts and mix well. If cakes aren't cooled yet, put frosting in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Cool cakes, and frost between layers, sides, and top. I like to garnish with pineapple or walnuts. Last night I used raspberries, since I had them and it looked great. Just use whatever you have on hand. Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Egg-citing Idea

Yeah, the title is sort of lame. But the idea is cute! So the other day, Shan had boiled some eggs and put them back into the egg carton, unbeknownst to me. I was baking a cake, and you can imagine how strange I felt when I tried to crack the egg and it split in half and the hard yoke fell in the bowl. Sort of one of those twilight zone sort of moments. Anyway, it made us all laugh and I remembered something cute my mom has always done. When eggs are hard boiled, she draws silly faces on them and puts them back. Try it; it will at least make you smile when you open up the egg carton.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mother Squirrel

Hello, my name is Marisa and I have Food Preservation Addiction. No, seriously, I do.
This year, I had decided not to can peaches because things have been sort of hectic and I didn't think I had time. But driving home from the zoo the other day, I kept passing peach farms, with roadside stands brimming with gorgeous bushels of peaches. I could hardly stand it. My mouth was watering as I passed four or five produce stands and by the time I reached the sixth one, I had to pull over. So I came home with a bushel and a half of peaches and the process began.

As a child, I remember my mother and grandmother in our steamy, sticky sweet kitchen for hours at a time. At the time, it seemed to me like a lot of work, but I always had delicious peaches to eat any time I wanted. I also remember the first time I ate store bought peaches from a can, and I was stunned that people actually pay money for them.
Top 5 Reasons to Can Peaches:
1. Picking produce at the farm is half of the fun. The kids LOVE it.
2. It's easier than you think
3. It doesn't cost much
4. You can feed your family whole foods, with no preservatives
5. Eating delicious peaches all year!!
Just in case you want to try, here's what to do:

Supplies: (This can be expensive the first year, but after that, you can just reuse the jars.)
jars, lids, and screwbands
peaches (ripe and fragrant, but not overly soft)
water bath canner (a big back pot with a rack in the bottom-no more than $10)
canning tongs are nice, but I've never had them.
1. First, you are going to wash and dry the jars. You can use the dishwasher or do it by hand.
2. Then, wash your peaches.3. After your peaches are washed, you need to peel them. You can either peel them by hand, or blanch them in boiling water for 45-60 seconds. After they are blanched, use a slotted spoon to put them in ice water and when you peel them, the skins will almost fall off.

My little helper.

4. Prepare your syrup. I always use a light syrup, because if your fruit is ripe and sweet, you don't need extra sugar. I used 6 cups water to 2 cups sugar, but you can find charts for different syrups at or anywhere for that matter. You want the syrup to be hot when you add it to your jars, but not boiling.

5. Now, just peel and cut the peaches in half and put them into the jars. You want to fill them pretty tight, so simply tamp it down on a towel and the fruit will settle so you can fit lots in. Leave about 1/2 inch of space on top. (You can see from the pictures that I actually cut my peaches into sixths. I do this because I can fit more into the jars and my kids want them cut up when I serve them, so doing it in advance cuts down on dinnertime mayhem.)

5. Meanwhile, simmer the lids and screwbands in a saucepan, for sterilization and to soften the rubber on the lids.
6. Ladle hot syrup into jars to cover peaches, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup.

7. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. 8. PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes (for quarts), adjusting for altitude ( Remove jars and cool on a towel. They are HOT. 9. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

9. Label jars and stock your shelves.
A full pantry is joy to me. Just call me mother squirrel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muffin Tin Meal

Are you trying to come up with something to serve that is nutritious and new, but also that your kids will enjoy? Well I found myself in that predicament the other day, with not a lot of time, and I decided to cut up a bunch of good things and serve them al a carte in a muffin tin. It was the same old thing, but a different presentation and sometimes I think that makes all the difference. The kids loved it! I gave them all a bowl and toothpicks and away they went. In about 20 minutes, the muffin tin was empty and we were all happy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jack of All Trades

But a master of none. That is me to a TEE. Really. I think it's called the curse of creativity. There are so many wonderful fabrics, papers, foods, books, styles, projects, etc., there is no way to fit it all in. Not being able to "fit it all in" is one of the most crazy things of our day. Because no one can! And if we try, we will go nutty.
So, I try to prioritize, and when I have a few seconds, I dabble. I dabble in whatever suits my fancy that day. Usually in 10-15 minute increments, between running the kids to and from or following my two-year old around the house. My goals are much loftier than my completed projects, which has led me to an overabundance of good fabric, paper, ribbon, and cookbooks. One day I will get to it!!! I will, I will! I absolutely love to create and I'm realizing more and more how fulfilling it is. So, this personal blog is a way for me to share the goodness of cooking, sewing, creating, reading, and mothering with you.