My Favorite Art Gallery

I have an amazing artist in my family.  His name is Noah and he’s not quite 4 years old.  I am lucky to get lots and lots of this amazing art from his preschool.  I thought it was only right to put these masterpieces on display.  Refrigerator?  Nah.  These beauties deserved a spot on the wall.  What a great way to show off my son’s creations and fill up a blank hallway wall too!  As he brings home more art, I can easily take out the old ones and put in the new ones.  Yes, that’s right an art gallery that is ever changing.  Pretty fancy huh?  Paint on Noah, paint on!

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Kiddo Birthdays… Planning #4

I can’t believe my little guy is turning 4 next week.  It seems like just the other day I brought that little blue bundle home from the hospital!  I love to celebrate birthdays…I don’t do over the top, just nice, homemade and hopefully special.  I made cute cupcakes for his first birthday and  train cakes for his 2nd and 3rd birthdays (my son LOVES trains).  This year I’ve vowed I’m not doing another train cake… they are SOOOO much work, so I’m looking for new ideas.  Because I have guests coming who are gluten-free and who don’t eat chocolate, I want to offer a variety of of cake so everyone is happy so the obvious choice is cupcakes again.  I’m still figuring out exactly how they will take shape but for now I’ll show you what the past three years have looked like.

1st birthday cupcakes decorated with pics of the birthday boy… so stinking cute!  I used this same photo on his birthday invitations so we had a little bit of a theme happening.

I also made a homemade birthday banner using the same photos from the cupcakes.  So much cuter than buying one of the pre-made kind from the store.  I think it added a personal touch and was pretty easy to do.

By his second birthday he had a major love of trains so I really wanted to create a train cake for him.  After lots of searching on-line for inspiration, this is what I came up with.  It was time consuming but I think he loved it so worth every minute. I melted white chocolate for the smoke coming out of the ice cream cone smoke stack.  Pirouette cookies for logs and chocolate covered raisins for coal.  The wheels are chocolate wafer cookies with a white chocolate candy attached.  The tracks are make from chocolate covered wafer cookies and black licorice.  Sugar anyone?

By the time he turned three he was still infatuated with trains so why not do it all again?  I basically put together the same cake as the year before but added one extra train car. 

This year I found some cute plates by Paul Frank at Target.  I’m using the blue and yellow colors to create this year’s theme.  Stay tuned for how it all turns out…
Paul Frank Round Snack Plate

Old Windows with a New Purpose

I came across some old windows in a 1950s cottage I bought to fix up a few years ago and just couldn’t bare to part with them.  At the time I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them but I knew they had potential.  I ended up turning a couple of them into picture frames and painting and hanging one on my son’s bedroom wall.  When I redecorated his room from a baby to a toddler room, the window came off the wall to make space for some new artwork so I had to find a new home for it.  We have this weird pass through opening between our family room and dining room/living room area that I could never figure out what to do with. So, I thought I could find a way to hang the window in this opening as a decorative room divider.  With some black chain and some cup hooks from Lowe’s, this is what we came up with.

I did a little searching on Pinterest to see what other unique window ideas people have come up with and was amazed at all the creative things I found.  Here are just a few of them…

Picture Frames

facetofaceframing
Pinned Image
charminglittlenest.com


Headboard
Better Homes and Gardens

Room Dividers
casasugar.com
Pinned Image
houzz.com
 Chalk Board/Message Board
Debbie Nichols @ amominspired.com
thediyshowoff.blogspot.com
Outdoor Decor
robomargo.com
Greenhouse
Pinned Image
robomargo.com
Mirror/Coat Hook
cozycottagecute.com

Home Decor
Pinned Image
somedaycrafts.blogspot.com
Pinned Image
thespeckleddog.blogspot.com

10 Favorite Kitchen Tools

Whether you’re in the workshop or the kitchen, you need to have the right tool for the job.  I have a lot of gadgets that are fun and help save me time but that I could probably live without.  Then, there are my kitchen tools that I use constantly and can’t imagine cooking without.  Here are 10 of my current favorites in no particular order.

1.  Alligator Chopper

I hate chopping onions.  It’s a hassle and it makes me cry 😦  This chopper dices onions perfectly in seconds without all the tears.

2.  Kitchenaid Mixer

This is a must have if you like to bake.  Great for mixing batter, dough, frosting, egg whites.  Fantastic!

3. Good quality chef’s knife

You have to have a good, sharp chef’s knife in your kitchen.  I use it for cutting everything except for bread (you need a serrated knife for that).  Keep it sharp and prep work will be a breeze.

4. Garlic Press

Like onions, for some reason I really hate peeling and chopping garlic.  A garlic press makes the job quick and easy.  No peeling required either!

5. Food Processor

Chopping, making pie crust, grating cheese, slicing, pureeing.  I use my food processor constantly.

6. Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

This is one of those tools that I don’t use every day but when I need to slice apples, this tool is amazing and saves SOOO much time.  Great for making pies, crisps, applesauce.  Peels, cores and thinly slices in seconds.

7. Whipped Cream Canister

I love this because it allows you to store whipping cream for weeks.  It used to be a special treat to have fresh whipping cream because you’d beat it and within an hour or so it would liquefy and had to be thrown out.  We use a lot more cream in our house because of this fancy little tool (not sure if that’s good or bad).  A dollop on a cup of hot cocoa, a bowl of ice cream, my son loves it on his bananas.  Yum!

8. Dutch Oven

This enamel coated cast iron dutch oven is so wonderful.  I make a lot of stew and soups which this is perfect for.  It’s great for browning meats and making one dish meals in too.  I have a Mario Batali which was less than half the price of a Le Creuset and I’m totally happy with it.  Le Creuset is definitely the Rolls Royce of dutch ovens but not necessary if it’s not in the budget.

9. Tongs

This is my go-to utensil.  They are so versatile, like a second set of hands that don’t get burned when they pick up something hot!

10.  High Temperature Spatula

This spatula is great for stirring hot foods and scraping out hot pans because it won’t melt and is resistant to staining.  I have one from Pampered Chef that I’ve had for years but you can find these in any kitchen store. 

Greek Meatballs

I think lamb is hands down my favorite meat.  It’s the thing I order most often when I’m out to eat at a nice restaurant, which now that I live in the burbs and have a small child, isn’t as often as I would like.  It’s one of the things I think about making for special occasions and holidays too.  It’s also great for a kick-back family dinner at home.  Depending on the cut of lamb, it definitely doesn’t have to be fancy shmancy.  These Greek meatballs are sooo easy to make and absolutely delicious (assuming you like lamb as much as I do).

Greek Meatballs

1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
3/4 c. plain non-fat yogurt
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbls. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 tbls. chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup of the yogurt, tomato sauce and mint.  Mix well.  Form lamb into 1 to 1 1/2 inch meatballs.  Place in glass baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350.  Remove meatballs from oven and pour off any excess fat from the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, 1/2 cup yogurt and mint.  Pour sauce over the meatballs.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake until bubbly, about 10 minutes longer.  Garnish with mint leaves or parsley.  Serve over rice.

Makes enough to serve 4-6.

Mommy’s Boots

I’ve wanted a pair of Frye boots for a long, long time.  I’m just not one to spend that kinda cash on my footwear normally. However, I finally decided it was time to splurge, why not?  I ordered myself a pair from Zappos.  I waited impatiently for 5 days (although it felt longer) and then they magically appeared on my doorstep.  I was so happy.  I had actually never even tried on a pair before.  I just knew they were meant to be.  Wrong!  Unfortunately after I slipped them on it became apparent that my generous Swedish calves and the slender shaft of my beautiful new Frye’s were not compatible.  Arggggh.  They did look pretty darn cute on my little guy though.  Kinda worth the wait just to see him in these.  Oh well, back to Zappos they went.  Bye, bye Frye’s.  Next time I’ll just try them on in the store to see if they fit before wasting so much time wishing!  Is there a moral to this little story somewhere???

Painted Picture Frames

So, you saw that I recently spruced up our home office.  I’m still smiling when I walk into that room and I’m keeping it neat and tidy with all of my new storage space (so far, so good although it’s only been a week).  One of the projects that I worked on in that room was taking a bunch of mismatched picture frames and giving them a more cohesive look.  I bought a couple cans of spray paint at my local home improvement store where there were more colors to choose from than I might have thought.  I picked out a pretty bluish green, darker but similar to my new wall color and also a glossy bright blue to add a pop of color but still go with the overall color scheme.  So easy to do… just popped the pics out of the frames and gave them two healthy coats of paint (front and back).  Then I popped the pics back in when they were good and dry (the glossy paint seemed to need a little extra drying time as it stayed tacky and showed finger prints quite a bit longer than the satin paint did). 

I love that I repurposed items I already owned and spent only a few dollars on paint for a totally new, fresh look.

Before…

After…