Thursday, July 31, 2014

Quilting For The First Time

I have neglected My Little Blogspot, sorry!  I have an excuse though, we were on vacation to the Outer Banks, NC.  The boys enjoyed countless hours swimming in the pool, looking for sea shells in the morning, and of course eating.  We were able to visit a restaurant from one of our favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Ok, so back to business.  I am embarking on a new sewing project, quilting.  My sister-in-law has quilted for years and has even gifted a quilt to each one of my boys.  She is talented and has agreed to share her secrets. 

Now, my attempt will be very simple.  I have chosen four coordinating fabrics. Tracy figured out all the math for me, so all I have to do is start cutting my squares.  I plan on posting step by step pictures, along with her tips as I muddle through this project.

Here's what the fabric looks like and the lovely inspiration.  For my birthday, from a dear friend I received beautiful pillow shams.  Those shams are the starting off point to a bedding transformation!



Good-bye to the blue bedding of the last ten years, and hello green and pink.  I am super excited.....wish me luck ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Outdoor Updates

June was a busy month for us on the outdoor front.  We had an awning put up, a shed constructed, garage screens installed, and with mulching and watering the gardens are looking good. Oh, and last year we added a fence.

I believe our outdoor projects are done for at least two years or so ;)

Here is a before shot of the outdoor space.  When we bought the house, we were happy with all the landscaping that had already been done, along with the stamped concrete patio.  So we were able to use our money on "accessory items".


So here are a few pictures to show the progress.  First the shed.  We were able to match the siding and drip edge.  We picked a style that matched the lines of our house.  With a little painting of the doors, window boxes and shutters, it turned out really nice.

that's the shed all the way in the backyard
here's the close up
 
We matched the blue accents on our house with the awning, and chose a blue and tan stripe.


Finally, the butterfly garden is in bloom.  It's also attracting various birds which is very satisfying to watch.



What have you all been up to this summer?  Any outdoor projects of your own?  I would love to hear.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Adam's Hawaiian Birthday (part 2) / Puff Pastry Chicken Wing Appetizer Recipe


Yesterday we celebrated Adam's birthday with family.  Everyone came dressed up in their finest Hawaiian gear. 

I kept the menu simple with sliders, pulled BBQ chicken, deviled eggs, baked beans, fruit (compliments of my mom), and pasta salad (compliments of my sister-in-law).  We enjoyed the sweet treats and then Adam opened his presents.

It was a very nice afternoon.

I promised a recipe and I'll tell a quick story on how I came up with it.  First, I had decided on just munchies like chips and cheese balls for appetizers.  Then I was thinking maybe I'll do a hot dip.  After asking Jay, we agreed on Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip.  Well, after over thinking things (as I usually do), I thought to make it easier I would do chicken wing dip in phyllo cups for individual servings.  While shopping for the phyllo cups, I spotted puff pastry cups.  Yes!! This was it, and that is how this recipe was created.

ingredients (yields 24)


1 cup cooked shredded chicken
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. Frank's hot sauce
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 package puff pastry cups, found in the frozen food aisle

Combine cream cheese with hot sauce until smooth.  Fold in chicken and cheddar cheese.  Place into an oven safe dish.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Follow the package directions for baking puff pastry cups for hot appetizer.  In the same oven while the pastry cups are baking, place dish with chicken filling on another rack.  ( This way the filling comes out hot at the same time as the party cups.)

Once pastry cups are baked, remove from the oven along with the filling.  Follow the package instruction for knocking down the center of the cups with a spoon.

Now you have a place for the filling.  Gently spoon in the hot filling. If you have extra filling, feel free to eat with a spoon ;)  That's it, you are done!


This last step is very important.  STAND BACK!  These were gone in only a few minutes.  Enjoy!

So as I wrap up Adam's Hawaiian birthday party,  I have one word..... Mahalo! (thanks, gratitude) Adam had a great day, and thanks to everyone who helped :) 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Aloha! Adam's Hawaiian Birthday (part 1)

My oldest son turned nine a few days ago.  I still have not accepted the fact that he is growing up.  He is half way to being a legal adult....nope not thinking about it.  Every year, I let the children pick their party theme.  This year Adam picked a Hawaiian party.  We will be celebrating with family tomorrow.  Here's how the party planning is shaping up with the sweet treats:

Aloha!  We heard this so many times throughout the day when we were in Hawaii.  It has several different meanings, but basically it's a friendly greeting.  Another meaning of Aloha is embodying a spirit of kindness.  The locals will say a kind and generous person, has the spirit of Aloha.  This is the sentiment that Adam really loved. 

While we were in Hawaii, back in February, Adam said he wanted a Hawaiian birthday party.  He was thinking five months ahead, that's my boy!  His only request was he wanted a Ukulele cake.  OK, I can do that.  I have a guitar pan from when he was five.  We also brought home two ukuleles, so I have a model to go off of.  Adam settled on a red ukulele with pink palm trees on it.  Here is the finished cake.  (It's not my best work, but I still think it came out cute.)



Cake made...check! 

Now his cake is vanilla (his absolute favorite, just like mommy), but we have way too many chocolate lovers in our family to let that flavor go unrepresented.  I decided to make cupcakes with a beachy/Hawaiian theme.  I found this idea on Pinterest and it was too cute to pass up.  I made beach cupcakes with a sunbather. 

 
The cupcake is chocolate, frosted with blue vanilla frosting to look like water.  I used crushed animal crackers for the sand.  The beach towel is a fruit roll-up, topped with a teddy graham sunbather.  To complete the cupcake a few fish shaped sprinkles in the water and an umbrella. 
 
Chocolate lovers taken care of...check!
 

The last sweet element of the party planning is a take home favor.  Adam really wanted our guests to have something to take home as a "thank you".  He asked me this on Thursday....hmmm.  Well, I can whip up sugar cookies.  After perusing my cookie cutters, I found a shape that I could make into a sun.  They are all bagged up, ready to go home with the party goers.



Favors done....check!

Now I need to get some sleep.  I will finish up a few loose ends in the morning.  Check back soon, to see pictures from the party and a great appetizer recipe, Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Cups!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yes, I am That Mom!

Summer is upon us, and I am so happy to have my kiddos home with me.  I am that mom who loves summer vacation as much as the kids.  Every September I get depressed when it's time for them to return to school. 

While I enjoy summer time with the kids, and I want them to have fun (and they will), I don't want all their hard work during the year to go out the window.  My kids read all summer and will be doing activity sheets.  I received a little note home from the teachers regarding books called Summer Bridge Activities.  I went to Barnes & Noble, looked them over, and decided it was just the right amount of busy work.  (psst.... I ordered mine from Amazon because it was less expensive)

The books are broken up into simple daily worksheets.  Each worksheet has a sampling of Math and Language Arts.  They came in the mail today, and they are a hit!  The boys loved it.  Brandon even remarked that his teacher would be proud of him for exercising his brain.

I told Adam and Brandon this will be incorporated into their morning chores. Yes, I said morning chores.  During the summer their morning chores are as follows:

  1. Make their beds and tidy their rooms
  2. Brush their teeth after cleaning up breakfast dishes
  3. Practice their respective instruments
  4. Daily worksheet
These things must be accomplished before I hear the words, "Can we go outside to play?"  This way I am not raising my voice in the evening when everyone is tired.

Now, just so no one thinks I am a mean mother whose children have to do school work all summer with no fun, here are a few fun things the boys have to look forward to:

  • Darien Lake (hopefully for July 4th)
  • Summer trip to the Outer Banks, NC
  • Baseball game in Toronto
  • Food Truck night
  • Taste of Buffalo
  • Swimming in various family and friends pools

We plan on enjoying our summer, as I hope you do as well.  So, if you are interested in a little bit of busy work to keep their minds sharp, I do encourage you to check out these books. I don't receive any kind of compensation.  This is just my opinion from one parent to another on a good buy for summer time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Malted Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Summer is officially here!!!!  We are winding down with baseball and school, only to get geared up for soccer and summer fun. 

I have many fond memories of summer.  I spent hours swimming in our pool, sitting at my brother's baseball games, and attending picnics.  One of my fondest summer memories was going to our ice cream shop for chocolate malt milkshakes.  My dad was the only other one in my family who liked them, so I blame him for my addiction to them ;)

Today's recipe is based on that lovely summer memory.  I decided to impart that wonderful chocolate malt flavor into a brownie.  The result is delicious and crowd pleasing.

ingredients  (yields 18 to 24 small squares)

1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 c. malted milk powder (look for it by the chocolate syrup and cocoas)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate baking chunks (find them by the chocolate chips)

frosting ingredients

1 stick softened butter
1/4 c. malted milk powder
2 tbsp. milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. powder sugar
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips (melted)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a double boiler, melt milk chocolate chips with the stick of butter, and then set aside to cool slightly. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the cool chocolate mixture and combine. 

Slowly add the remaining dry ingredients.  Lastly fold in the chocolate chunks.

Pour the mixture into a greased quarter sheet pan and level with a knife.  (You can also use a 9 x 9 pan, brownies will be thicker and need to bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.)  Bake for 31 to 34 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool and prepare frosting.

In a mixing bowl cream together butter, malted milk, and sugar.  Slowly add the milk, melted chocolate, and vanilla.  Once combined, beat for about 5 minutes until very smooth and creamy.   Frost the cooled brownies.  Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thai Chicken Inspired Pasta Salad

About three years ago I discovered Panera Bread and it was love at first bite.  (I know a bit corny.)  It is a go to place for our family to grab a quick lunch or dinner.  One of my favorite menu items is the Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy elements in the salad.  So imagine my delight when I found the salad dressing for sale at our grocery store.  

Today's recipe is inspired by the flavors of that salad, but with a pasta salad spin.  I like this salad for summertime because there is no mayonnaise. It's quick to prepare and has a spicy kick, which is also nice along side of your favorite grilled items.

ingredients  (serves 2)

1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
1 cup pasta, cooked and drained
1 ear of grilled corn, cut off the cob
1 cup steamed edamame, removed from pods
1/4 c. sunflower kernels or chopped peanuts
1/4 c. to 1/3 c. Panera Spicy Thai salad dressing

In a large bowl mix all the above ingredients until coated with dressing.  Allow to refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.  Serve as a side dish or an easy lunch.

Remember to tell your guests that it has a bit a heat to it.  The last you want to do is to unexpectedly set someone's mouth on fire.  Also if you prefer the salad a bit spicier, add more dressing. 

The recipe given only serves two, as I use it for lunch.  This can easily serve a crowd by cooking a whole box of pasta, adding more veggies, and of course more grilled chicken.