Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bow Making 101

I have posted a few projects that need bows and I will have a few more in the future that will require them as well. I have mentioned that the craft store will make them for you, but it really isn't that difficult to do. In my days of working at Michael's Craft Stores, I made thousands of bows; I even taught a bow making class for a while. 

I have a few recommendations on being a successful bow maker.  First, start off using wired edged ribbon. It holds it's shape and can be manipulated a lot easier than traditional satin. Secondly use a medium width ribbon, one that is 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches wide.  This way your hand won't get too tired holding a cumbersome amount of ribbon. Finally, don't get discouraged. Practice, practice, practice. Remember it's just ribbon and can be done over and over again.


3 yards of ribbon (wire edged preferred)
18 inch length of floral wire about 22 gauge (can be bought pre-cut or on a spool)
wire cutters
sharp scissors

Step one:  Cut about a twelve inch length of ribbon and set aside.  Unroll the length of ribbon from the spool and hold it wrong side up in your left hand with about two inches of ribbon toward you and the remainder away from you.

Step two:  Form a small loop by pulling the end of the ribbon towards you up and away so the right side of the ribbon is facing up (this is the center loop of your bow). Keep this loop pinched in your left hand using your thumb and index finger

Step three:  Now you start making your bow loops. While pinching the center loop in your thumb and finger, with your right hand make a half twist of the ribbon tail so the right side of the ribbon is facing up. Make a loop the desired size you would like. Pinch the ribbon behind the center loop. Repeat this process on the other side (remember to make a half twist every time you make a loop so the right side of the ribbon is always up)

Step four:  Continue making loops until you have an even number on both sides. Using 3 yards of ribbon, you will have approximately four loops on each side about 3 inches long.


Step five: Once you have all the loops, now it's time to attach the tails. Simply take the 12 inch piece of ribbon cut in step 1 and place it on the back of the bow behind all the loops. Finally, take a lenght of wire and feed it through the center loop, pull around to the back and twist to hold the bow together.

Step six:  Manipulate the ribbon loops until the bow is fluffy and desired shape.

tip: if you don't have floral wire, use a pipe cleaner to hold the bow together

Monday, August 30, 2010

Traveling with Toddlers

Today is Monday, and the start of getting back into our routine.  We are done with summer time travel and the kids will start school next week.  I am looking forward to getting back to our regularly scheduled program :o)  I have updated the Places To Go page with some handy travel tips.  Most of the tips are common sense, but I find sometimes we need to be reminded of stuff we may already know.

Tomorrow I will post instructions on how to make a bow, and don't forget on September 1st the cupcake of the month will have it's debut. So have a Happy Monday, and come back tomorrow :o)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (raspberry peach meringues)

The boys and I have landed back in Oneonta this afternoon.  I quickly unpacked the car with Jay's help (I caught him while he was home on lunch, perfect timing for helping me unload the bags) and am taking a few minutes to upload this weeks recipe for Wholesome Wednesday.  While I was home visiting, I went over to my in-laws for dinner and I volunteered to bring dessert. I knew we were having Chinese and I wanted to make something that was light and friendly to the waistline without giving up the pleasure of a satisfying dessert.  So without any further ado.....I brought raspberry peach meringues.

This recipe is very easy to make and has a nice presentation. People will think you went to an extraordinary amount of trouble to prepare it. The only caveat is, you need a little planning to make this.  The meringues are best made several hours ahead time (even the night before), in order to give them time to dry out and get crispy.  This recipe also has no fat or cholesterol, since you're using just the egg whites.  Here's how to make them:


4 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1 bag frozen peaches
1 bag frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Whip on very high speed with a mixer the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar until they form stiff peaks. (add the sugar slowly, about 1/3 cup at a time) Then add vanilla, mix about another 30 seconds.  Take the egg whites and scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and set aside. (if you don't have a pastry bag, fill a large Ziploc bag and snip just one corner off about a 1/4 inch and you'll have a homemade pastry bag)  Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Pipe meringue in discs onto the parchment sheets and bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

bake on a very low oven
Shut the oven off once the meringues have turned a nice golden brown and leave them in the oven to cool, this will take several hours.  Once the meringues have dried out they will be light and crispy, no longer wet or sticky looking.

In a separate bowl combine fruit with 1/4 cup of sugar and refrigerate for several hours. The fruit will defrost and the sugar with form a light sauce. 

To assemble the dessert, place a meringue on a plate and scoop fruit over the top. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.  Store any left over meringues in an airtight container and store remaining fruit in the refrigerator.  (yields about a dozen 3 inch meringue discs)

tip: never bake meringue on a humid or rainy day, they will never dry out properly

had to take a bite, YUMMY!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Handy Toothbrush

Over the last week I have visited the dentist as well as the boys.  Adam was wonderful for his cleaning and exam. We also discovered that he has his first loose tooth and is very excited about getting money from the tooth fairy!  Brandon while not as cooperative as Adam did well too. He is no longer tongue-tied, which is wonderful news, and his teeth and gums look great.  And for a little report on my visit, I held still and cooperated but now have entered into the world of sensitive teeth. So my much loved Crest toothpaste is on the shelf and I have to start brushing with Sensodyne.  Now that everyone is updated on our dentist check-ups, I'll get to the actual point of this post. 
Last Christmas, my husband's grandmother bought the kids toothbrushes that light up.  The brand was firefly and I thought it was cute enough. Not until I started using it with the boys, did I see the helpfulness of this product.  Basically, you push the end of the brush to activate the light and it stays on for about 90 seconds. This helps both the boys and myself to make sure they are brushing long enough.  It also saves everyone in the house from listening to me sing ABC's or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I have bought several more of these tooth brushes over the last year and just wanted to share with everyone out in the blog-o-sphere how handy they are.  It makes it fun for them to brush and anything I can do to make personal hygiene fun for toddlers, I am all for. 

p.s.  I also love the neon colored dental flossers, both boys let me floss them as long as they can pick their color :o)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Easy Fall Wall Hanging

Fall is approaching sooner than we think. For me I start thinking of fall in the early summer, not because I am wishing summer away but because I am a crafter. The fall craft show season starts the end of August for most crafters/vendors.  I don't get to do any shows in Oneonta, but my mom still helps me out in Buffalo while I am away.  I took inventory and decided to make some fall walling hangings. These are super easy to do and can cost as little as $10 worth of materials and about thirty minutes of your time.  I was super excited to share this one, because you can personalize it for your decor and really match your style.  These are done with silk flowers but can easily be done with dried for a more country inspired look.  Here's what you need to get started:

1 medium floral bush (about 10 to 12 stems on the bush)
1 small filler floral bush (about 6 stems, filler being leaves or tiny coordinating flowers)
floral wire and floral tape
3 yards of ribbon (wire edged is preferred)
wire cutters and scissors

All of these items can be found at a craft store, dollar store, and department store such as Walmart

  • First cut all the stems from the bush
  • Arrange like stems in like piles
  • Then decide if you want to hang the arrangement horizontal or vertical (the ones shown are vertical)
  • If you decide to hang horizontal make two equal bunches of flowers and filler and wrap at the bottom with floral wire to make a bouquet (just arrange the stems in your hand until they have a pleasant look to them) 
  • If you decide to hang vertical, make two bouquets as mentioned in previous step, but make one bunch slightly fuller (that will be the bottom)
  • Next take the two bouquet bottoms to meet in the middle and wire together, pictured below

  • Now all you have to do is add a bow in the middle and use the wire from the bow to make a loop on the back to use as a hanger.
  • If you don't know how to make a bow, when you purchase your ribbon at the craft store ask them to make a three yard bow for you. There is a fee for this, but it's minimal.
  • If necessary, gently fluff the arrangement (fluff = pull the stems into place until pleasing to the eye)
You can use these same steps for any season or holiday, by simply changing the kind of flowers you use. Go ahead and give it a try, and remember if it doesn't turn out the first time, just take it apart and start again. There is nothing that can't be redone, believe me I have redone a lot over the years :o)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (sneaky veggie drink)

After a long day of fair going and consuming food that was tasty but not so friendly to the waistline, I feel like I need to get back to basics of good nutrition. So for this weeks Wholesome Wednesday I decided to post my recipe for a sneaky veggie drink. I call it sneaky because it has a good amount of veggies that is disguised by the fruit in the drink.  Now just keep in mind it will not taste like a sugary smoothie. It has an earthy taste to it from the spinach, but a slightly sweet taste from the berries. Brandon loves to sneak sips from my glass, and I have no problem letting him, as it is filled with vitamins.  All you need is a good blender that can crush ice. I usually store this in the fridge for a couple of days, and drink about 16 oz for breakfast, to start my day out right!


1 bag of baby spinach
2 peeled uncooked beets
1 cup red grapes
1 cup of blueberries (i've used other berries too)
1 pear, cored
3 cups of water

blend all ingredients until smooth, and refrigerate for a couple of hours. it is best served very chilled.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup

In honor of my hometown and my recent trip I decided to post my recipe for Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup.  There is a restaurant called Danny's that has a soup that is delicious, spicy & bold called Chicken Wing Soup.  I had it at the Taste of Buffalo and have enjoyed it.  About a year ago, my husband's work had a "Souper Bowl". (Basically a contest of the best soups) I entered my version of chicken wing soup and came in a respectable second place.  The recipe has gone under many transformations from the original test pilot. I think the most recent version is pretty balanced in flavor and texture.  It can be made on the stove top, but honestly the easiest way is to pour all the ingredients in a crock pot and forget about it.  If you wish to cook it on the stove, just simmer the veggies first until they are soft and then add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for about an hour or so.  I use the crock pot, so I don't have to babysit the pot and it's hot throughout the day whenever myself or Jay is ready for it.


1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 cup chicken stock
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup of hot sauce (I use Frank's, and 1 cup is spicy, try 1/2 cup for milder)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder

Pour all ingredients into a crock pot on low for 4 to 6 hours. Serve with scallions, crumbled bleu cheese, or shredded cheddar. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Schedule Your House Clean

I am getting myself, the children and the house ready for our trip to Buffalo. Yes, I said the house too. I am one of those people who clean their house before I leave for a trip, so when I come home, it's all done.  I have to admit I have slacked a bit this summer with my cleaning schedule, and it's time I get back on track. So here's how I came up with a cleaning schedule and how it has made my life simpler.

Way back when, when I was single and had my first apartment I would work all week and clean for about an hour on the weekends.  Dusting, vacuuming, and straightening a 800 sq ft apartment was pretty easy.  Then I grew up a bit and bought a house that was 1500 sq ft. Still easy enough to clean on a Saturday.  Then it happened.......I had a baby. Oh my, I became obsessive about cleaning. Just the thought of my baby touching something dirty and putting it in his mouth made me very uneasy.  Still the first few weeks home I was managing pretty well. I would clean when he was napping and in his swing. Then I went back to work. I left early in the morning and wouldn't return until dinner time. I would come home nurse my baby, make dinner, give Adam a bath, nurse him again before bed and flop dead tired on the bed myself.  The weekends would come and go, and I managed to clean the bathrooms and kitchen and perhaps run the vacuum, but I wasn't happy with my whole house not being super clean. 

So I turned to my mom for help and she gave me the idea of a cleaning schedule.  My mom cleaned professionally for many many years. She had as many as six banks a night she would have to clean by herself. She shared with me that you can't do everything all in one night. So if you give yourself a schedule and stick to it, by the end of the week everything has been addressed. So, the next day I wrote out a schedule that I could stick to ( I even laminated it).  I assigned myself one or two rooms a day to straighten, dust and clean the floors. When that room was done, so was I.  It was tempting to go ahead to the next room just because I had time, but I stopped. By the end of the week, my whole house was sparkling. I found this left me extra time for Adam and myself, and I wasn't overwhelmed or too tired.  The other thing I realized, my house was actually cleaner than if I did it in one day, because I wasn't cutting corners to get done.

Now that I have moved into a 2200 sq ft house and two kids later, my schedule has changed a bit. I have to clean a couple more rooms in one day, but it all still gets done. I never worry if someone just drops by, because my house is clean and picked up. So here's a sample of a schedule that works for me. You can tweak it to fit your household, but give it a try, and you'll be surprised how easy cleaning your house can be.

Monday:  Dust, vacuum, dry mop, living room & family room

Tuesday:  Clean downstairs bathroom and Florida room (vacuum and mop)

Wednesday:  Clean upstairs bathroom and vacuum, dust, change sheets for master bedroom

Thursday:  Mop kitchen floors and clean on top of fridge, freezer, remove everything off counter tops and sanitize

Friday: Vacuum, dust and change sheets for both boys rooms

Saturday:  Dust, vacuum, dry mop dining room

Sunday: RELAX!!!!

As far as laundry, to stay on top of things I do about a load a day.  Everyday I pick up toys, but I also have the boys help with clean up to teach them about chores. Adam also helps to strip his bedsheets and Brandon will dust the baseboards for me in his room. I do a quick wipe down of kitchen counters and stove top everyday, but on Thursday it's a more in depth cleaning.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Creativity Box for Kids

I love the idea of letting children express their creative sides. In fact, recently I gave an art easel and art box full of paints, stickers, chalk, markers to my nephew for his second birthday. And for my own boys we have two art centers of all kinds of crafty stuff.  I think allowing children to make their own cards or wrapping paper for gifts is a wonderful idea. I also believe if you have a few useful items on hand, it can make a rainy day activity so much easier.

Today's message is about preparing your own art box and letting the children be the creative director of the projects. To get started buy or re-purpose a plastic storage tote or storage center. (I just bought a second tower with drawers and wheels at Walmart for under $10)  Then head on over to your favorite dollar store and go to their stationary aisle.  There you will find fun stuff like pipe cleaners, pom poms, colored craft sticks, construction paper, glue, glitter, decorative scissors, etc.  Stock up on inexpensive, colorful items. Once you make all your purchases, let your children help you organize the art box. The kids will be so excited and want to start creating.

Finally, make sure to take time to let your children make some projects. While Adam will make wrapping paper and cards, my younger son will just doodle on some paper. There  is no right or wrong to creating art.  It's a great time to have interesting conversations with your kids. It's also a terrific opportunity to practice cutting skills, pencil grips, and following instructions.  When the projects are complete, display them proudly in the home or give away to family & friends.  We mail cards all the time to family back home.


filled with coloring books & crayons

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays (tomato & cuke salad)

Ready for the second edition of Wholesome Wednesdays?  Today's recipe is quite simple, I don't think it even qualifies as a recipe.  I have been teased for years by my husband about my "famous" tomato & cucumber salad. He has told me it can't be called a salad; it's just veggies with salad dressing. I beg to differ and I love this salad during the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak.  I have been blessed with home-grown tomatoes and cukes from my parents garden and decided to make this side dish on such a hot day.

All you need to do is slice cucumbers and tomatoes into small pieces, similar in size. Add salt & pepper to taste and pour about 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. of Italian dressing (I use Good Seasonings). Toss, chill and serve as a side dish. For a different twist, add red onion, black olives, and feta cheese and now you're traveling to the Mediterranean.

Tomorrow I'll have a tip for getting crafty with the kids!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Short-Cut Donuts

It was a wonderful weekend in Oneonta. My parents came to visit, while my dad did some electrical work, my mom entertained the kids. We enjoyed going out for ice cream and going to Fly Creek Cider Mill.  We love the cider mill for something to do with the kids. (I will feature it in Places To Go  shortly)  One thing we love most at the cider mill, is the donuts. They are so delicious and I can't possibly think of how to copy them, but I can make my own special short cut donuts.

The boys love my short cut donuts.  I started making these a couple of years ago, when my mom reminded me of a recipe her mom used to make.  While my Grandma Wechter would make homemade donuts, she also made this quick version. I also used this opportunity to use a spice I had inadvertently bought, apple pie spice.  I had meant to buy cumin one day, and when I got home to make tacos I quickly discovered apple pie spice :o(  I don't make a ton of apple pies, so now I have to find ways to use it up, well here's a dandy.

This is how I did it:

1 package of large biscuits (refrigerated ones in the can)
vegetable oil
apple pie spice

In a pot add oil to reach about 3 inches up the side and turn on over medium heat (about 375 degrees)
Using a round cutter cut out a whole in each biscuit and slowly drop into oil. Cook for two minutes on each side and lay on paper towels to drain.

Mix 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 tsp apple pie spice in a dish and toss donuts to coat. Lay on a cooling rack to cool, store in an airtight container for a couple of days.  Other variations, dust with powder sugar, frost with chocolate or vanilla glaze & top with sprinkles.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Iced Coffee Delight!

Yesterday was a very stressful day of ups and downs for my little one.  Brandon has some tummy issues that we deal with daily, but the heat & humidity made him feel absolutely awful.  I spent most of the day cuddling and rocking him.  By 7 o'clock in the evening he perked up a bit (right in time for bed) and I was able to treat myself to a much deserved iced beverage. Now mind you the kids were still awake so it was a mock-tail, but could easily been turned into a cocktail.

I decided to make a vanilla iced coffee, reminiscent of the Dunkin Vanilla Iced Latte.  The ingredients are simple and takes about 2 minutes to make. I made mine using my much loved Keurig, but a regular coffee pot or even instant coffee will do.  Here's how to do it:

8 oz freshly brewed coffee
vanilla coffee creamer (i used italian sweet cream flavor by coffee mate)
whipped cream
chocolate syrup

start by brewing 8 oz of coffee over ice (i used a french vanilla iced coffee k-cup)

if not using a Keurig, at this point pour over ice. then add about 3 tbsp creamer

add whipped cream & drizzle with chocolate syrup

sit back, relax & enjoy

You could always add a shot of Kahlua or Baileys to make it a cocktail!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays (banana bread with only 5g sugar/serving)

I've decided I have to start organizing my thoughts & ideas for the blog. My brain has been flooded with tips, recipes & craft projects since I started writing the blog, one week ago.  So to calm my mind I have chosen to make Wednesdays a day I dedicate to wholesome, good for you recipes. What sparked this idea was an all-day baking extravaganza today. I went and bought the cookbook Eat What You Love by Marlene Koch (after borrowing it from the library I decided it would be a great addition to my cookbook collection) and today I did nothing but make recipes for the kids (and myself). I focused on breakfast and snack ideas; things that could be made ahead and frozen, then just microwaved for quick mornings.

Today's feature is Wholesome Banana Bread.  It's not a hard recipe, and with a few substitutions to a traditional banana bread, this little gem is full of flavor and has only 5 grams of sugar per serving.  Most people probably have almost everything in their pantry to make this bread, except perhaps the white whole wheat flour. This flour can be found in the regular baking aisle at the grocery store (I found it in Oneonta, so you can find it in your local store :o)

The kids love it and I have to say myself, it's a nice substitution for a traditional banana bread. I have discovered in the last few months, the more I cook without sugar, the more my palette is getting used to the lighter versions of my favorites. Now when I eat something laced in traditional sugar, it seems almost too sweet.  I hope you will try this recipe and look forward to Wholesome Wednesdays.

banana bread recipe

2 large eggs
2/3 cup splenda granulated sweetener
1 1/3 cups mashed banana (about 3 medium ripe bananas)
1/4 vegetable oil
1 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

in a large bowl beat eggs and splenda until pale yellow and tripled in volume. turn mixer down to low and add mashed bananas, oil, molasses and vanilla. in another bowl mix dry ingredients and make a well. slowly pour banana mixture into well and stir with spatula until just combined. pour into 9x5 loaf pan, lightly coated with cooking spray. bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes. (mine was done at 45) cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove from pan, allow to cool on rack.  serves 12

calories 160, carbs 24g (sugar 5g), total fat 6g (sat fat .5g), protein 4g, fiber 2g, cholesterol 35mg, sodium 10mg, weight watchers point comp:3

recipe and nutritional information is courtesy of Eat What You Love by Marlene Koch

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Simple Self Promotion

Todays post doesn't offer any new recipe ideas, craft tip, or new travel information. The purpose of this post is simple self promotion.  I was once told by an employer "you need to toot your own horn, because no one else will do it for you". So here's my attempt at tooting the blog.

I have a new feature called Subscribe to Me. All you have to do is enter your email address and then you will receive a validation email.  Validate it and you're on the "mailing list" for new posts. You will only receive an email if there is new activity to my blog. (your email won't be subject to any spam)

I realize a lot of the people who are viewing My Little Blogspot are not "followers" due to not having a yahoo or google email. This feature is a great way to keep track of new ideas and recipes without having to check in everyday. So please Subscribe to Me and pass my link along to your friends & family!  Also thank you to everyone who has sent me messages of encouragement; I appreciate it :o)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Anti-Stress Kit

Everyone could use a little less stress in their lives. Personally, taking care of two active boys, a husband, and a house things can get a bit hairy around here. Today's idea is just a simple little project that promises to put a smile on someones face. Now I can't take credit for this, as I received it as a favor during my church's women's group dinner, but it's a cute idea to pass along.

What you will need to get started:

marbles (found at the craft or dollar stores)
rubber bands
roll of string
Hershey kisses & Hershey Hugs
Small ziploc baggies (5"x3")- you can find these at a craft store or office supply store

You will need to place one of each listed item into a baggie. So determine how many stress kits you would like to make and buy accordingly.


Simply place one marble, penny, rubber band, eraser, piece of string about 3 inches long, Hershey Hug, and Hershey Kiss into a bag.  Close bag, print the poem below on card stock, and attach to bag.


Anti-Stress Kit

An ERASER to make all those
little mistakes disappear!
A PENNY so you'll never 
be completely broke!
A MARBLE for those
days you're sure you
have lost yours!
An ELASTIC to help you
stretch beyond your
A STRING to hold it
together when it's falling
And a HUG & KISS to
remind you someone
loves you!

Hand out these stress kits to co-workers, teachers, babysitters, moms, or anyone who could use a little smile. By gifting this small token, the recipient will know they are being remembered through stressful times. These kits are great as favors for a wedding or baby shower too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My New Obsession: CUPCAKES! (recipe featured on cupcake spotlight)

It seems like the world is being taken over by cupcakes, and I am on board with that.  Lately, there are new shows  and bakeries popping up featuring just cupcakes. I enjoy watching Cupcake Wars on the Food Network and DC Cupcakes on TLC. The obsession of cupcakes doesn't stop in our family with me, Brandon is hooked on them as well. For the last year or so, if you ask him what his favorite food is, he responds "cupcakes".  He would forgo any other food and eat them 24/7.  In fact, when we are at the grocery store, I have to zoom by the bakery department at mach speed to prevent the shouting of, CUPCAKES!!

So, I decided to give cupcakes their due props on My Little Blogspot. I will feature a cupcake of the month. Now, I'm not talking the generic chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with canned frosting. While there is nothing wrong with that in a pinch, I wanted these cupcakes to be a little extra special.  The first feature is a cinnamon scented cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and topped off with a cinnamon caramel drizzle.  Are your taste buds tempted???? The recipe will be featured throughout the month of August on the page simply named Cupcake Spotlight! Check it out and give them a try, I promise you will not be disappointed.