Monday, July 9, 2012

Egg and Hash Cups

Eating an egg like a cupcake is always more fun...

Do you ever get in a quirky mood? 

The boys and I thought we would try something new for lunch.  We are stuck in a rut and needed to break the cycle of tuna sandwiches and ramen noodles.  Egg and Hash Cups fit the bill-  not for exotic ingredients, but for the presentation! 

We found this fun recipe in a cookbook that we use for camping.  I use it for several recipes on family camp outs from Full Circle Dutch Oven Cookbook by the Patrick Sisters.  I love using our dutch ovens, but a lot of the recipes are easily adapted to a conventional oven. 

Here is what you need to make this fun recipe:

  • eggs
  • 1 can roast beef hash (I am considering trying these with frozen hash browns next time)
  • foil cupcake wrappers
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • muffin tin or cookie sheet

To make these handheld brunch delights, you will need to do the following:

  • Place foil liners in the muffin tin or on a cookie sheet.  One can will make about 6.  Gently spray the inside of each liner.
  • Fill each cupcake liner almost halfway with the hash.
  • Crack an egg and cover the hash.

  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook in a 350 degree oven until the eggs are firm and cooked through.
  • Serve!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Patriotic Kitty

Happy Fourth of July!  Our cat is even wrapped up in the festivities.  Hoping everyone has a safe and fun Fourth!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Salt Glitter

Glitter makes everything better!

With that mantra, it's a bit distressing when my craft cupboard runs bare and there are no sparkles to be found anywhere.  When that happens, I resort to making colored salt to use in place of glitter.  It twinkles and gives your crafts a bit of shimmer without breaking the bank.

Here is how I make homemade glitter:

First, put the desired amount of salt in a baggie.

Second, add a drop or two of liquid watercolor or food coloring.  I prefer watercolor, but that is only because it is washable.

Third, seal the bag and knead the salt and coloring together.  Do this until the coloring is evenly distributed.

Finally- create!  We used this batch for 3D Firework Art!

3D Firework Art

It's that time of year again-  when booms echo and flashes of color fill the night sky.

I knew it had arrived when the firework ads came tucked inside the local paper.  These innocent pieces of advertisement are eye candy for the little pyros I call children. Coupons, BOGO's, and more laying there for the children to ogle.  They sit and meticuosly plan how they are going to spend their pennies and saved money.  The boys know every price from memory and know exactly which tent houses the cheapest sparklers or artillery shells.

Okay, I know I should be thankful they are using their minds to calculate and read... 

However, this momma has a short fuse and doesn't want to imagine the final cost of these "so-called" bargains.  Years ago, the food program my daycare uses provided a fun craft in their monthly newsletter.  This is one of the most fun Fourth of July crafts I have stumbled upon.  It keeps the pyros in the family happy and allows me one hour where I don't have to hear pleas to buy more parachutes.

To make 3D Firework Art you will need a few items.  Although, due to dire craft supply shortage, we had to get creative by making an alternative to glitter using salt.  Get creative and let your little ones create their ideal firework display minus the booms and high costs.

Here is what you will need:
  • black construction paper
  • glue
  • glitter or glitter glue (we used homemade salt glitter-  you can find out how to make it here)
  • squares of tinfoil or colored pieces of tissue paper
  • pencil

Here is how you make 3D fireworks:
  • On your black paper, use glue to draw shoots and explosions in the night sky.
  • Sprinkle glitter over the glue and shake off the excess.

  • Now it's time to add your 3D stars and blooms.  Take your pencil and place the square of paper around the eraser.  Pinch around the end and press it onto a dab of glue.  Carefully, remove the pencil and VOILA! 

  • Let the paper dry and display.

How do you like to celebrate the Fourth?  This is what I probably will face:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coffee Filter Butterflies

It was HOT!  So hot that the a/c hadn't stopped running and the children balked at the thought of going outside.  I had implimented a $1 fine for every person who left a door open and the masses started to complain.  Tempers started to flare and all the Curious George episodes on the DVR had been viewed.  By then, the temps pushed over 100 and we were in serious need of some cool fun.  I wasn't about to brave the sizzling concrete and crowded swimming pool, so I decided to crack out an old stand-by craft. 

I wanted to show the children how colors are mixed with primary colors.  I had the wee beasties form dots with markers on coffee filters.  Next, we added a drop or two of water.  As the water spread across the filter, the color broke down.  Now, they were able to see the the individual colors that comprised the original dot. 

Technically, this worked. 

However, two year olds are not interested in color spectrums or dissecting the formula for plum markers.  I demonstrated a few for the older boys and handed over the water.  They all created beautiful "stained glass" images.  The children enjoyed mixing new colors and getting their designs to run together. I did try to keep the patterns symmetrical, by having them only color one side.  

When completed, the butterflies flitter about and catch the sunlight.  To make these fun butterflies, here are the items you will need:

  • Coffee Filters
  • Markers
  • Water
  • Droppers or small sticks to "drop" water
  • Bobby pins-  but a lot of people use old fashioned clothes "pins"
  • String

Here is how we made our colorful friends:
  • Take your markers to draw or dot on one side of the coffee filter.  I folded the filters in half to create "hemispheres" and let the children choose which one to decorate when it was unfolded. 
  • Drop water on the colored side.
  • Fold over the clean side and press down.  The colors should transfer and duplicate the same design. Butterflies are symmetrical after all!  LOL
  • Unfold the filter and let dry.
  • When the filters are dry-  scrunch up or accordion fold the filters in the middle.  You are creating the butterfly's wings.
  • Slide a bobby pin down the middle.  I personally prefer bobby pins, because they are cheaper and sleeker than the traditional clothes pin. Use whatever you have on hand and prefer.
  • For large butterflies, use two coffee filters.  For small critters, use only one.
  • Finally, attach a piece of string and hang.

What did you make today?  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last Minute Wedding Centerpieces

It's June and that means weddings...  A LOT of weddings.

I was in charge of decorations and catering recently for a family member's wedding.  In the beginning we had originally planned on 100 people attending so we made a handful of centerpieces for each table. We placed white lilies tucked in white square boxes with a black ribbon tied around the middle.  Inside we tucked small red flowers and attached one red butterfly.  They were beautiful!

On the night of the rehearsal the bride calculated a final tally for the guest list.  Our total headcount almost doubled and that required a lot more tables.  A LOT! 

I live in a small community and the nearest craft store or Wal-mart is almost an hour away.  We were in a bind and the only stores open were the local Dollar General and Bomgaars.  While the wedding party practiced at the Church, I dashed to the Dollar General to see what I could find to make more centerpieces.

I did have a few leftover ribbons and flowers, but nothing substantial.  What was a girl to do?  Luckily, God was smiling down on me and I was able to scrounge up about 10 more centerpieces.

Here is a list of what I found:
  • $1.00 wine goblets
  • $1.50 bags of red and black potpourri
  • $1.00 small white pillar candles
Here is what I did:
  • I overturned the wine glass and hot glued the pillar candle to the base.  This added height and made the candles more secure. 
  • Next, I tied a black ribbon around the candle about 3/4 of the way up.  This allowed the new centerpieces to be cohesive with the existing ones we already had made.
  • Finally, we added interesting pieces from the potpurri bag around the goblet.  A few candles had roses placed inside the goblet. 
The candles added ambiance and additional soft lighting for the reception.  Everyone commented on their elegance and didn't believe us that we found everything at the Dollar General!  These easy and reusable centerpieces could easily be adapted to fit other themes and colors.

For more frugal wedding ideas, be sure to check out Cents and Sensibilities:  A Frugal Companion For Planning A Wedding.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Banana Cookies

Today was the official first day of summer, but the skies were overcast and promising rain.  I had a house full of boys and Netflix decided to take a vacation, leaving them craving something to do.  Luckily, a neighbor had some over ripe bananas that needed to be used so she donated them to the cause.  The boys LOVE baking and I thought we would whip up something special.

Our palates are nearing banana bread overload, so I scrounged around for an old recipe I found in a church cookbook years ago.  The recipe reminds me of banana bread, but the texture is unique and offers us a new twist. 

These little cookies are the right size for small hands and they are so soft and sweet-  Perfect for a rainy day!

Here is what you will need:
  • 2-3 bananas mashed
  • 3/4 cup shortening (we used half butter/half shortening)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour

  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons milk
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powder sugar
Here is what you do:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your cookie sheets.
  • Mix the bananas, shortening, brown sugar until creamy.

  • Add 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 cups flour.   Mix well.
  • Drop a tablespoon of batter onto a greased cookie sheet.  They will spread as they cook, so I spaced them about 2 inches apart.

  • Bake them for about 8 minutes.  They will be soft-  not hard.  You will want to keep an eye on them to keep them from burning. 
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

  • Prepare the frosting:  Bring 6 tablespoons brown sugar, 4 tablespoons milk, and 4 tablespoons butter to a boil.  Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 cups powdered sugar.  Mix and let set for a few minutes before frosting the cookies.

  • Eat and Enjoy!

Do you have any fun ways to use old bananas?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Let's Have A "T" Party!

One of my favorite preschool activities is hosting a letter "Tt" party.  It's also one of our favorite ways to showcase the letter "Tt". 

Last week, the children and I hosted a picnic tea party in our yard.  We donned our old fashioned dresses and hats for the festivities.  It was a wonderful time and we even took a picture of our feast to enter in a contest.  It may be old school, but there is something magical about tea parties. 

Here are some ideas for hosting your "Tt" tea party:

  • Create invitations and have the children practice writing the letter "Tt's" on the front and their names inside.
  • Use real tea service-  the children love using "grown up" cups and silver.
  • Serve foods that begin with the letter "T".  Listed is a sampling of your delicacies:  tiny triangle tuna sandwiches, Tootsie rolls, tarts, tangerines, taffy, tiny hot dogs on a toothpick, tiramisu, tic tacs, etc.  Get creative! 
  • Serve sugar cubes to mix with their tea.  I am probably going to get a lot of slack for that comment, but the children ADORE taking "one lump or two" and stirring their drink.  It's not an everyday treat and makes this activity memorable.
  • Dress the part.  Have participants dress in their finest or furnish fancy dresses, ties, hats, and gloves for the children to don.
  • Teach them basic manners.  I know this doesn't follow the letter theme, but take every opportunity you can to emphasis social skills.
  • Play "fancy" music faintly in the background.  We have a CD of piano compositions and classical renditions we rely on.
  • Have fun! 

    Do you have any fun ideas to teach the letters of the alphabet?

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Messy Marvins'!

    I just wanted to thank God for making children washable.  I would have thrown out my three sons a long time ago. . .  . .

    A good meal isn't great unless a child is wearing their food.

    What are you thankful for?

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Mother's Day Card

    I received this wonderful card from my middle son last year.  He made it at school and surprised me with it over a simple breakfast (toast and jelly) in bed for Mother's Day.  I thought it was sweet and delightful.  It was too cute not to share and I can credit my son's teacher with the sweet idea.

    *This simple card incorporates "coupons" and gift giving in one.  The card "creator" makes a bouquet of paper flowers with promises written on the stems.  A few examples are:
    • I promise to make my bed every morning without complaining.
    • This flower is good for one special chore.
    • Present this flower for breakfast in bed.
    • Redeem me for one night of dishes.
    *After your flowers are made, make your vase.  Cut a simple shape out of paper and carefully glue the sides and bottom to the card.  Remember to leave the top open.

    *Next, slip the stems into a slit at the top of the paper vase. 

    *You can write a special poem or write a fun story on the inside of the card to personalize the gift.  My son's teacher used a simple template for the children.  Here is what her inside reads:

    My Mom is as sweet as ____________________________________________.

    My Mom is as beautiful as _______________________________________________.

    I love my Mom, because ________________________________________________.

    *Spritz with a little perfume and find a special person to deliver your card to.

    Happy Mother's Day!

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Fish Sticks and Mojitos

    Tonight I had an epiphany of sorts and it all started when I sat down on the couch to feast on a reheated plate of soggy fish sticks and a frozen mojito. 

    I lounged there in my pajamas munching the mystery fish and watching MANOR HOUSE (a series that aired years ago on PBS).  It had been a typical crazy night in our house and finally, I had the boys fed and tucked snug into their beds. We had early morning activities, an early bus route, preschool, soccer games, and track practice.  I was exhausted-  so naturally I vegged out in front of the flickering tellie.

    It finally dawned on me that I was not accomplishing anything.  Well, I guess I was learning a little about Edwardian underwear and exploring the plight of a scullery maid. . . BUT was I "getting my business done?"


    Yes, I just quoted the television series THE MIDDLE.  I am not completely insane, but my sons and I watch that series every week.  Last night's episode was about accomplishing tasks in your life that matter.  It was a meaningful message with a sense of humor slapped on the side, but the theme must have stuck in my head.

    Yes, I have managed to juggle my family and keep everyone on track, but I was missing something.  I know this sounds selfish, but what was I doing to get my business done?  We have been doing a little remodeling and my oldest son was confirmed on Palm Sunday.  I have taken a self imposed hiatus from the blogging world due to being preoccupied planning a wedding and organizing Vacation Bible School. 

    Tonight, I have decided to saddle up and ride this horse-  I mean, blog again.

    So now I am left to ponder the world of Upstairs, Downstairs and my next blog post topic. 

    Maybe, it will focus on the sickening feeling I get whenever I hear Celine Dion's TITANIC love song.  Really?  Couldn't they find a different song for the 3D version?  It was bad enough 14 years ago during the first release when all the radio stations cued up the song every 15 minutes. 

    However, I am starting to channel my inner Bridget Jones and may need to seriously contemplate what exactly they put in a mojito.  Lime and mint?  These pouches are tasty. . .

    What will you do to "get your business done"?

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Cross Easter Basket Idea

    Easter is hopping up on me this year.  I have been stressed with planning my son's confirmation and keeping up with the family.  I didn't realize that we are only a few weeks from Easter Sunday until today.  I probably should have realized it, because of Lent. . .  

    Yes, it's been one of those weeks...

    This "cross" basket is an easy craft that works for all ages.  My children brought home a similar version from church last year so I used their simple idea for craft time this week.  We used simple brown paper lunch bags, but you can find printed and colored bags in stores.  The children also decorated their bags with stickers, markers, and crayons.  Get creative!

    Here's how we cut our baskets:

    First, draw a cross on one flat bag.  Have the cross fill the entire length and make it wide enough so it will not tear easy.

    Carefully, cut out the cross pattern.  Remember, you don't want to cut all the edges.

    Decorate your bags.

    Open the basket and fill with grass, eggs, or candy. 


    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Is Your Child's Speech Development Normal?

    As a parent I worry.  I stress about runny noses and small coughs.  I hover over scrapes and bruises.  I contemplate whether my son's have good friends.  I mull over processed foods and foreign chemicals in our dinner.  I lose sleep at night crunching numbers and comparing my bank account to the cost of college tuition.  Needless to say, as a mother, I am always fretting over something.

    One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was the fear my children suffered from speech delays.  I looked up resources on speech development and normal ranges for a child's word development.  I listened to every coo and babble, yearning to hear "real" words when my son's were smaller.  As a former educator, we were constantly being told about the importance of development during the early childhood years.  Even frequent ear infections as a baby or toddler can hinder later speech development. 

    I probably over reacted with my own children, although my youngest was a very late talker and sometimes struggles with his pronouns.  In his defense, it is hard to get a word in when you have two very opinionated older brothers.  I kept an eye on all of their development, but on occasion I did lose sleep over the matter. 

    As a daycare provider, I have witnessed children who require special speech services.  Sometimes a problem can be caused by large tonsils or how they move their tongue when forming words.  Hearing problems can also cause slow speech development.   A parent who feels that their child may suffer from a speech delay or hearing issue can get help and the earlier the better. 

    Did you know that most states offer FREE screenings and services for ALL children, even if they are not school age?

    If you think your child may need to be evaluated, call your local school district and ask about screenings and what is available to your family. I can't stress the importance of early intervention and the impact it will have on future education.

    Remember- all children develop differently and some basic sounds children will not be able to make until they are 7 or 8!  If you do have concerns, please look into it.  I have included some links that offer a basic list of "normal" speech guidelines. 

    American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-  How does your child hear and talk?  Typical Speech and Language Acquisition in Infants and Young Children

    LD Online-  Speech and Language Milestones

    If you feel your child's speech may be lacking-  RELAX.  You can get help and a lot of these professionals are wonderful.  I have dealt with several amazing speech therapists and audiologists that work small miracles.

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Tip Junkie Idea Round-Up

    One of my favorite blogs is Tip Junkie.  She has a wide collection of wonderful ideas.  Stop by and check her out.  Right now she is hosting a link to share great ideas with each other. 

    Tip Junkie handmade projects

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Cents and Sensibilities: A Frugal Companion For Planning A Wedding

    Free E-book for the Kindle!

    My first ebook is published on Amazon and is normally available for $1.00.  This is a straightforward guide for pinching pennies while planning a wedding.  I have also included several ways to incorporate a Regency Period/Jane Austen wedding.  Check it out!

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

    Need an easy dessert for dinner tonight?  A special treat for your Valentine?  Make these simple mini cheesecakes! 

    Cheesecake is a favorite among my family and friends, so we like to dabble with new recipes and flavors.  Sometimes our endeavors become time consuming and messy, but I thought I would share a tested method our family uses.  This is perfect for large families, gatherings, or times you just need a small snack to nibble. 

    Cupcake wrappers make these bites perfect for individual servings and transporting.  You can add different toppings like crushed cookies or swirls of dark chocolate.  Today we used a simple melted chocolate bar to create squiggle designs.  The children love helping and often requests initials, smiley faces, or hearts.  The sky is the limit!

    You will need:

    Oreo Cookies (we used the store brand, but use what you enjoy)

    3 (8 oz.) packages softened cream cheese

    3/4 cup sugar

    3 eggs

    melted chocolate, crushed cookies, crushed candies, or cool whip for toppings

    Here's how create your mini Oreo cheesecakes:

    Place cupcake liners in muffin tin.

    Set an Oreo cookie on the bottom of each wrapper.

    Beat together softened cream cheese, sugar, and eggs.

    Spoon mixture over the cookie.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the center is almost set.

    Cool completely, refrigerate at least 1 hour.

    Drizzle with melted or other toppings.

    Keep cool until served.

    What have you made lately?

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    How To Dry Wet Mittens and Hats?

    It's hard to believe it's January here in Nebraska.  We've had temperatures in the high 40's and even hit 70 the other day.  AMAZING!  This break in weather is a far cry from what we normally endure.  I decided to post a simple solution that we rely on during a frosty spell and when the snow flies. 

    A fun day spent romping in the snow is a favorite activity around these parts.  Bundling up to go outside is a necessity when temperatures hover around zero, but it left us with another problem. 

    Where was  I going to store all this gear?  Snow crusted hats, mittens, socks, boots, and coveralls clogged up my coat rack and almost all of the heat vents. Soppy mittens and boots were becoming a major eye sore and tripping hazard.  There had to be a better solution.

    Growing up, we would place our frozen mittens on the old radiator heaters at school or place them strategically over a furnace vent at home.  As an adult, now I had more children in the house than I did heat vents!  Ugh.  I won't even go into detail about how the boys would leave wet mittens in their backpacks or pockets.

    My solution:

    A Removable Hanging Clothesline!

    I was desperate-  so I finagled a simple indoor drying line out of a pair of new shoe strings and an old plant hanger.  Are you laughing?  I attached the two long laces by knotting them around the metal hanger.  Then I slid the hanger over the woodwork.  You could permanently attach the hanger using screws, but I didn't want to ruin our wood or look at it for 12 months a year.  Now, I have the children use clothespins to hang up their wet gloves and hats on the string.

    The mittens are paired and all in one convenient spot.  No more searching through piles of cold  knit to find a child's hat or running from room to room checking heat vents for a glove's partner.  We go to the mitten line and remove our air dried winter gear.

    Do you have any simple winter solutions?

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Crafts On A Dime: Crafting From The Indoors

    Indoors Crafting:  Finding The Art Inside

    This guest post was written by James Lander of, a site whose mission is to make couponing etiquette and techniques common knowledge.

    Back when entertainment wasn't as readily available as it is now, people relied on something else entirely for amusement- imagination. If you put your reservations and pre-conceived ideas aside and you may be surprised to discover that crafting either alone or with family, not only makes the time pass quickly, but can be very rewarding.

    A trip to your local craft supply store can be a little overwhelming. Supplies for projects abound and the price can be outlandish to say the least. However, like the crafter of yore you can find everything you need around either in nature or in your own home.
    If you've exhausted  nature's resources or the weather is too inclemenent to even think of going outdoors, there are a multitude of things that can be used as craft supplies around your home. It's a
    bonus to know that while you are spending almost no money on these crafts, you are also being "green".

    Why not paint some burnt out light bulbs and decorate them with old fabrics or felts? 

    It's amazing how something you might have thrown out carelessly can be transformed into Santa Claus or even an amusing light bulb portrait of a member of your family. If you are crafting with your children, using so-called household garbage rather than tossing it is excellent lesson, which will easily sink in while they are relaxed, and enjoying their own creativity.
    Why not try your hand at Paper Mache?

    The things you can create with Paper Mache are endless. From masks to piƱatas to figurines, it's an easy and versatile way to sculpt.   Although a little messy, the results are always worth it. What's more, you can make your Paper Mache sculpture for almost nothing. In fact, it may be the most economical craft of all!
    Supplies :
    • Balloons, Wire or Wadded- up Newspaper (or creating the basic shape of your sculpture)
    • Paper Mache Mix (see below or here for another paper mache mix)
    • Thin Strips of Newspaper
    • Acrylic paints (for decorating)
    Instructions :

    Make your aperture (basic sculpture shape) using whatever medium you are the most comfortable with.  Dip the strips of paper into one of the following mixes and lay it onto your aperture:
    Mix 1
    1/3 cup of white glue
    1/3-cup water
    Mix 2
    ½ cup flour
    2 cups of cold water
    2 cups of boiling water
    3 tbsp sugar
    Allow your sculpture to dry in a warm place for a few days and then decorate any way you wish.

    Exercise restraint and use your imaginations once and a while to source out amusement. Not only is this an important lesson to teach the next generation, you may find yourself strangely refreshed by the time away from the various screens in your home.

    Thanks for the great guest post and for more thrifty craft ideas check out the Crafts and Activities section here on Plain Graces!  Happy Crafting.