Saturday, June 28, 2014

Footprint Art for the 4th!

I've been doing handprint and footprint art with my granddaughters for years now.  I wish something like Pinterest had existed when my children were young, all I have are a few school projects they brought home. It never occurred to me back then to make our own.

Among some of the things we've done is Halloween art....
Ballerina tutus...
Christmas trees...
This weekend I had my youngest granddaughter and we did a little something patriotic.
If you know me you know that I'm super fussy about my house.  Paint, and a 3 year old in my white kitchen is a big leap of faith for me! But, we have so much fun!  Tonight we had a few disasters.  The first go-round I put her foot the wrong way on the canvas so the blue part of the "flag" was upside down. Off to the store to buy more canvas.  It was getting bathtime when we did the rerun.  Rather than washing her foot off in the sink I carried her into the shower and told her to undress.  I turned around to grab a towel and she had stepped out of the shower to take her shorts off.  Blue & red paint all over my bathroom floor and throw rugs!  Luckily, everything washed out!

We let the "flags" dry overnight.  This morning we painted the grass and did a fireworks explosion using the tines of a fork.  Both were easy for her to do. I painted the lines and stars on the foot. The top of the flagpole is her little thumbprint.
I think one of the best things about doing artwork with the kids is the sense of pride and accomplishment they have in their finished pieces. Avery was quite excited to show her Daddy his picture!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Strawberry Margarita Jam

Some days I wonder why I even venture into the kitchen...

My weekend plans included making this strawberry margarita jam.  On Saturday I ended up running around town with my Hubbers, we had our granddaughter Saturday night and all day Sunday.  Between household chores, entertaining a 3-year old, planting some flowers, swimming, etc. the jam didn't get made. My Hubbers was gone last night so I decided it would be a good night to spend in the kitchen. I should have taken into consideration a few factors, one being that it had been my first day back to work since our week-long vacation at the beach.  It was a hectic day answering phone calls, e-mails, tending to normal work. I was rather brain-tired and that became evident as I began to make the jam.

First, I forgot to buy limes. A quick dash to the store (a dozen for 98 cents!) and I was back home to juice them.
I prepped the strawberries, measured the sugar, got my jars and lids ready.  I read the recipe again and noticed I needed 2 packets of liquid pectin, I only had 1 in my cabinet. Argh, back to the store I ran!
This is really a simple jam to make but with all the interruptions I wasn't out of the kitchen until 8:30.  Usually jam making is a rather relaxing experience for me but not this night!

The jam was worth the miscues.  The jam smelled just like a strawberry margarita as it was cooking.  I was tempted to turn off the burner and drink it instead! The lime gives the jam a nice tangyness (is that a word?)  Though the alcohol burns off in the cooking process there is a distinct tequila taste to it.  This would be good with cream cheese and a bagel or crackers.  I will try it on barbecued chicken, too.

It's a nice change from traditional strawberry jam.  I know this will be in my annual jam-making repertoire.
Strawberry Margarita Jam

3 cups crushed strawberries
2/3 cup lime juice
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
4 cups sugar
6 ounces liquid pectin (2 3-ounce packages)

In a large pot, combine strawberries, lime juice, tequila and Triple Sec.

Stir in sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in pectin.

Skim off any foam.  Fill hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and affix lids.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (or, as my Grandma taught me, invert jars for 5 minutes and listen for "popping sound" as lids seal).

Let sit for 24 hours.

Makes 6 half-pint jars.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I May Have Gotten Carried Away!

When we bought our house 30 years ago, there was a pool and a fire pit in the back yard.  The pool we use.  The fire pit, for us, was a waste.  Our summers are too warm to have a night fire and in the winter we want to be inside around a fire!  Many years ago we filled it with soil and I planted lantana in it.  A few years ago we decided to do some brick work in the back yard, including removing the fire pit, so we ripped out the lantana.  One chaotic thing after another ensued and the brick work still hasn't gotten to the drawing board. Last summer the fire pit was bare and it didn't look very good.  This year I decided to rectify that.  I bought a package of mixed seed, designed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. 

I planted the seeds right after tax season ended.  At the time I remember thinking that if a little seed was good a lot would be better. I wanted a lot of color and visual interest for the area. As the plants started popping up and growing, my Hubbers would comment with things such as "do you think you have too much planted there?", etc.  Nah, it's all good, right?!! 

We now have a very densely populated and very tall patch of flowers, a lot of which are cosmos. We just came home from a week at the beach and I think the flowers grew over a foot in our absence! They are definitely attracting the birds, butterflies and bees.  I'm now getting comments from my Hubbers along the line of "I told you so".  Like I said before, it's all good, right?!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Love Affair With Hummingbirds

Hummingbird darts lightly through the world, spreading its message of joy and beauty, and teaching us to appreciate the wonder and magic of everyday existence. Hummingbird brings the gift of joy. Learn to laugh and be happy.
If you know me or visit my home, you know I love hummingbirds.  Not only do I have many feeders spread throughout our city lot, but my flower bed plantings were designed to attract the fascinating little fliers. Inside, many of my cross-stitched pieces are of hummingbirds. To relax at night I will often head to the backyard (usually with a glass of wine!) to sit and watch the birds flit around. They can be quite aggressive and territorial, actually can be quite loud.  It's really cheap and relaxing entertainment!

My sister took the pictures shown in this post (she is so talented), they inspired me to share my love of the tiny jeweled-birds.

Some interesting facts about hummingbirds:

A hummingbird's tongue is grooved to better capture the nectar from flowers
They take 150 breaths per minute
Hummingbird eggs are about the size of a jellybean
Hummingbirds beat their wings up to 50 times per second, explaining the humming sound they make
Hummingbirds can fly backwards
Besides feeding on nectar and sugar water, they eat a lot of insects and spiders, too
If you know anything about hummingbirds, it's probably the fact that they can't resist red. But red isn't the only color that attracts them. They are attracted to any nectar-rich flower, usually flowers that have tubular openings such as honeysuckles, trumpet vine, fuchsia and bee balm, to name a few. I have a large lantana bush and the hummingbirds are always zipping around it.

If you want the birds without the gardening, or in addition to, a hummingbird feeder is an easy option.  The sugar water is easy to make, use 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, and bring to a full boil to break down the sugar completely.  Once it's cool, refrigerate the unused portion.  There is no need to color the water with red dye, it's really not good for the birds and the coloring on the feeder will be enough to attract them. 
They love water, too.  My Hubby and I have spent many a moment watching the little birds frolic in our water fountains.

In our mild California climate we have hummingbirds all year long.  It's very enchanting to look out on a grey or rainy day and see a little bird sitting at the feeder. Mother Nature never ceases to thrill and amaze me!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Glampers for Robin!

A glamper is a person who engages in the act of glamping. Glamping is a blending of the words glamorous and camping.  Basically, it's camping with many of the modern conveniences and amenities.  Personally, that's my way of camping, too.  If we don't have full hook-ups when we're out RV'ing then I'm definitely roughing it!!

My cousin, Robin, is refurbishing an old travel trailer and turning it into her own "glamper". She's very industrious and crafty so she is doing most of the work herself.  She's painted cabinets, put on new counter tops, refinished cushions, made curtains and pillows. I don't think she's taken her glamper out yet for a trip but I do know that she is enjoying the refurbishment process. For Christmas she even got a new awning!

I ran across this glamper pincushion tutorial a few months back and knew I needed to make it for Robin.  She sews and crochets so I knew it would be useful for her. When she can't be out on the road she can be reminded of her little glamper!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dance Recital at the Park

Our two older grandchildren take classes at a local ballet studio, Juline School of Dance, the same one their Aunt attended in her youth.  It's a fantastic dance studio.  Besides the quality instruction, one of the things I love about the Studio is their end-of-year recital. It's held at a local park that has an amphitheatre. It's very organized, the dancing is wonderful, yet the whole recital retains a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the families picnic at the recital, street vendors sell ice cream, cupcakes, shaved ice, younger siblings get to run around and burn off energy, and we aren't stuck in an auditorium for umpteen hours. It all makes for a very pleasant summer evening.

As we are in the midst of a heat wave here our picnic needed to be light.  I saw this recipe online and was intrigued by it.  I love oriental chicken salads and this one has some unusual ingredients in it.  I was somewhat apprehensive about the dressing as it calls for a package of dry onion soup mix.  The online reviews convinced me to try it and we weren't disappointed.  It had a nice ginger overtone and the orange juice gave it a nice flavor, too. Our picnic companions all loved it. This salad will be added to my list of "go-to" recipes.

Mandarin Chicken Pasta Salad

1 teaspoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 ( 1ounce) package dry onion soup mix
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed

1 (8 ounce) package bow tie (farfalle) pasta

1/2 cucumber, scored, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red onion
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1 (6 ounce) bag fresh spinach
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin orange segments, drained
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

To make the dressing, whisk together the ginger root, rice vinegar, orange juice, vegetable oil, sesame oil, soup mix, sugar, and garlic until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the bowtie pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain, and rinse under cold water.  Place pasta in a large bowl.

To make the salad, toss the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, carrot, spinach, mandarin oranges, chicken and almonds with the pasta.  Pour the dressing over the salad mixture, and toss again to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pillowcase Dresses

I love to see little girls in dresses, especially in the summer.  I think dresses are cooler than shorts and tops and the girls look like girls! A few years ago I started noticing pillowcase dresses.  The original dresses are literally made from a pillowcase.  The band of the pillowcase becomes the self-made hem of the dress.  You make a casing on the top for ribbon or elastic, armholes and, voila!, you have a little dress in no time!  Or you can make the dress from fabric, mixing and matching, using different trims, hems, etc. They are very inexpensive to make.

The first dress I made was for my youngest granddaughter.  It is made from an embroidered pillowcase that my Grandma Fannie had made and given to me years ago. I knew I would never use the pillowcase on a bed.  Turning it into a dress made it more practical and we still have a family heirloom.
Most of the pillowcase dresses I make use scraps of fabric I have.  These two dresses, which I made this week, utilize leftover fabric from two quilts that I made my older granddaughters last Christmas. I got to spend a little creative time at my sewing machine, my granddaughter has some new dresses and I didn't spend any money!  How bad can that be?
The dresses are really quite plain and very easy to make. Their plainness makes them a blank canvas for decorative treatment. Here I used a ruffled grosgrain ribbon between the top and band of the dress.
I experimented with the ruffle attachment of my sewing machine with this dress.  I wanted a deeper pleat than I got so it's back to the drawing board to learn a little more about the attachment!
They can be appliqued. Instead of a plain band for the hem, rows of ruffles work, too!

Many tutorials exist on the web showing how to make these dresses.  The major pattern companies all make a pattern for the dresses, too. If you are a beginner sewer this is a great project to start on.  A few years ago I had a sewing session for my nieces. Next thing I know one of my nieces was whipping out little dresses left and right!
There is a charitable organization called Little Dresses for Africa. They accept pillowcase dresses and send them to Africa so the little girls have better clothing. If you have idle time on your hands it's a great cause!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strawberry Tart

We are getting into our hot summer days.  My visit to the strawberry patch found the berries a little smaller than earlier in the season.  They are still full of flavor and sweetness, though. Soon the heat will be too much for the local berries and I'll have to get berries at the bi-weekly Farmers' Market, where vendors bring in just-picked berries from the coastal area.
This tart is easy to fix and boasts a surprise chocolate layer tucked next to the crust, with a very creamy filling. You could make also make individual tartlets instead of one big one.

On this evening we took the tart across town and shared with friends, then gave the last two remaining pieces to our next-door neighbors.  I don't think I have enough willpower to avoid eating a second piece if it stayed in our home!

 Strawberry Tart

Pie dough (enough for 9-inch pie) or 1 sheet refrigerated pie dough
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 packages (8 ounces, each) cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (add sugar if you want sweeter)

Press pie dough onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Spread melted chocolate over bottom of crust.  Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes or until almost set. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, whipping cream and vanilla until smooth.  Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar.  Spread over chocolate layer.

Arrange strawberries over filling.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove sides of pan before serving.

I'm linking to Inspire Me Tuesday.