Printable Portrait Frame

Max came home from school the other week with a cute little project that I thought I would adapt & share.  It’s easy and versatile- I basically just scanned a fancy picture frame that can be printed out & filled in by little (or big) budding Picasso’s and Kahlo’s:

 

Or, if you prefer, some oval fussiness:

You can either print them out onto white paper, then let your little (or big) person draw their masterpiece within the frame, or, go a little further and print it on a color paper of your choice, cut out the middle, & frame around an existing drawing. 

Just click on the above images to open them in a new window & print- I tried to get them the right size for printing, but you may have to resize beforehand- I would recommend doing a “print preview” to see if it needs adjusting, which you should be able to do from the preview screen.  Let me know if you need help, & I’ll give it my best college try.  Feel free to make several copies to give art projects a little added flair.   This is Max’s self-portrait:

I was also thinking these frames might be cute for other paper projects, such as collages, silhouettes, etc.  Have fun.

*** Update ***

You’ll have to resize the images from your print preview screen to at least 150%, but no larger than 167% for the rectangle, or 187% for the oval to get the most out of your 8½” x 11″ sheet of paper.  Sorry for the confusion!

I’m Loving/What’s Your Gadget?

I have not been doing a lot of crafting lately.  Ok, “not a lot” = none.  Jackson, the sweet little boy that he is, has been struggling with sleeping on his own, which has kept me up in the wee hours, and thus made me ready for bed every night essentially before it’s even dark out.  I have never been much of a night owl, but generally, before #3 child came along, the time after the kids went to bed has been my work time.  *Sigh*  I will get back to it again someday soon…

Anyway, I have been doing more cooking lately.  I have always liked to cook & experiment in the kitchen (it’s the cleaning up that I can do without).   Bill likes to cook, too, which is why, at Christmas time a few years back, I started a tradition of stuffing his stocking with cool culinary gadgets on which we wouldn’t normally splurge for ourselves.   And hey, it doesn’t hurt that I happen to use these gadgets as well (I’m selfish that way, but hey, I figure it’s a win/win).  In years past, among other things, I have gotten him extra-nice spatulas, silicon pancake molds, and a garlic wheel (which in theory, seemed like it would be really cool, but actually ended up being a dud). 

Last year, he returned the favor and got me one of the things I am now unable to live without:  my OXO Salad Spinner by Good Grips.  This thing has single- handedly changed the way we eat.  I used to never make salad, because I hated the washing of the lettuce, then the drying.  I can remember practially using up half a roll of paper towels just to dry off a head of lettuce leaves.  I’m not really one for bagged salad mixes, so it was enough to keep me from making it regularly.  Now, thanks to my gadget, we have it almost every day, and we’re probably a bit healthier for it. 

I realized the other day that there is another kitchen device that I have become completely dependent on:  my garlic press.  I tend to go a little nuts when it comes to garlic.  If a recipe calls for 2 cloves, I’ll most likely put in six.  Yeah…. maybe this is why I don’t have more friends.  When we first got married,  I was lucky enough to recieve a really nice press for my bridal shower, and I have been using it ever since.  In my opinion, not all garlic presses are created equal.  Again, I have to hand it to OXO for creating something that is comfortable and doesn’t take the strength of a sumo wrestler to use.  The problem?  After 7 years of use, it finally pressed its last clove and went to that great garlic farm in the sky.  The funny thing is, it didn’t break at the joints, or some other place that would make sense, but the actual metal broke right in half!  And this wasn’t some flimsy little garlic press, it was heavy-duty.  The point where it broke had to be at least a half inch thick.  I guess I don’t know my own strength, yuck, yuck. 

Anyway, believe it or not, I did have a backup (I know… it’s sick).  I scoured through my drawers and found it:  the lesser press.  The red-headed stepchild of the garlic pressing world.  No rubberized handles.  No comfort grip.  If I put more than one clove in at a time I basically have to jump on the thing to get it to press.  Now, you may be wondering why I don’t just buy minced garlic in a jar?  This is where I get all persnickety:  jarred is just not the same as fresh.  Yes, I am a garlic snob– and chopping it won’t do, either.

I do feel somewhat guilty, in these economic times, when people are losing their jobs and having trouble putting food on the table, getting all fussy about a garlic press.  But it could be worse, I could be addicted to Gucci (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’, garlic is a little easier on the wallet).  As I’ve been ‘suffering’ these past weeks with an inferior garlic press, I’ve been thinking–  Does anyone else have a gadget, etc. that they have come to depend on?  I’m not necessarily talking about cooking instruments, just something that you can no longer live without?  If so, please share, I’d love to hear.

Crafty Folk and a *Little* List

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of getting together with some local crafters for a little holiday trade party- such fun!!  Traci of Tremundo hosted, and it was a really fun way to meet some of the other members of the Philly Etsy Team, & acquire some new art/craft. 

And… our little encounter is featured on the Philadelphia Etsy Team Blog today…. imagine my surprise when I go to the site, and my big, fat pregnant  face is the first photo– Oh, photogenic I am NOT!!  And what’s up with that hair? Ok, I’m done being vain for now….

All in all, I think I made out.  I traded some of my humble house ornaments, a onesie, and a couple of hats for some original art, notecards, earrings, a necklace, a felted hedgehog & owl, a crocheted Christmas ball, and a mini-tote bag.  Oh, and I stuffed my face, too- not a bad way to spend the day  🙂 

If you’re local and looking for some last minute gifts, searching “Philly Team” on Etsy can bring up lots of great local artists who can probably still ship many items in time for the holidays. 

Speaking of the holidays, still on my “to do” list, in no particular order:

  1. trim/decorate the tree
  2. address/mail holiday cards
  3. finish decorating the outside of our house
  4. finish shopping for 2 kids, a baby, a husband, various other family members, friends, and their kids
  5. finish a few orders for hats, a bag, pillows, and shirts
  6. finish a quilt
  7. figure out what I’m making for Max’s teacher gifts
  8. have a baby
  9. wrap gifts for 2 kids, a baby, a husband, various other family members, friends, and their kids
  10. make a pear & gorgonzola foccacia
  11. pull out all the baby clothes from the attic & do several mammoth loads of laundry
  12. various Dr’s appointments
  13. get Wyatt’s 2 year picture done (yes, I am 6 months late– but this way, I can call it his 3 year picture, too- see?  Pretty smart, huh?)
  14. bake, bake, bake
  15. attend Max’s pre-school holiday show
  16. move all of Wyatt’s clothes into Max’s room, and move all of baby’s clothes into Wyatt’s room
  17. have bunk beds delivered/installed
  18. have a bathroom vanity/cabinet/light fixture installed
  19. paint & trim said bathroom
  20. paint/trim kitchen back splash & grout tile (I think living with it for a year half-done is long enough)
  21. finish curtains for the baby’s room & Max/Wyatt’s room
  22. clean, clean, clean
  23. make gifts for my own kids, which originally included heat pads, puppets, felt play food, new hats, and treasure boxes, but at this point may have to be pared down a bit.
  24. attend a Hanukkah celebration
  25. get my hair done
  26. pack my overnight bag
  27. clean off the rear-facing car seat, pack-n-play, and bouncy seat
  28. vacuum out the car & put third row seat back in

Wow, typing it all out really makes it seem like a lot.  This list should make anyone out there who is feeling a little behind feel a whole lot better!  I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff, too.  Maybe I won’t get it all done, but I think I have a better shot now that it’s in black & white.  How is everyone else doing- are YOU ready?  🙂

An Economic Challenge and Another Giveaway

It seems these days all everyone in this country and really, all over the world, is talking about is the economy.  October saw the US unemployment rate sore to 6.5 percent.  Every day, more and more jobs are being outsourced to other countries in an effort to save money.  Maybe I need a little education here, but, how can a country support itself if its citizens cannot support themselves?   The holidays are right around the corner.  Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  Are you feeling it?  Abundance is everywhere, if you’re willing to look for it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a little smarter about our finances.   I am interested in hearing about everyone’s money-saving tips, or if it’s even an issue for you.  They can involve how you’re adjusting your holiday shopping, ways to recycle/reuse items you already have, or just general everyday strategies.  I’m sure there are some great, “outside the box” ideas out there, and since we’re all friends 😉 , let’s share!

In the spirit of my Potluck post, I’ll pose the same challenge.  Leave a comment with your strategies for keeping more of the cold hard stuff in your pocket (that’s what she said), and you’ll be entered to win a prize.  Once I have confirmed my last recipient has gotten her prize, I will post what you are playing for this time (yes, I was late in sending it out, but I assure you, that won’t happen again!).

Also,  I would like to modify the rules a little to be fair.  Each comment you leave will be worth one entry.  You may leave more than one comment, but you will only be entered again if you leave another tip.  Also, if you have a blog and link to/mention this blog and post, that will get you another 5 entries.  If you link my Etsy Shop, yet still another 5 entries.  The prize will again be something handmade, like I said, I will get more specific once I have confirmed my last recipient has received hers. Contest will close at 8pm EST on Friday, November 21, 2008.

So, without further ado, I will get started.   First, let me say that when I talk about & share the things I make, I’m not trying to make anyone feel inadequate, nor I am looking for accolades (don’t get me wrong, I  *love* hearing your feedback, it’s just not why I do it).  I simply love what I do, and I like to share. I feel blessed for that.  I feel dually blessed that, although I wouldn’t say I am at the point of making a living at it, there are wonderful people out there that are willing to appreciate and support my passion.  For this reason, I do appreciate the fact that I am able to make a lot of holiday and other gifts and (arguably) save money at the same time.  I’m not sure if you can call this a tip, but it’s one thing I do…

Ok,here we go.  I despise credit cards.  That’s not to say there isn’t a hefty balance on mine right now, but I will do everything I can NOT to use it.  I also know enough about myself that if there’s cash in my pocket, that spells trouble, so very rarely do I carry cash.  I try to pay for everything with my debit/bank card.  This keeps my spending in check, because basically, if the money is not in my checking account, I won’t spend it.  We use direct deposit, and take advantage of the fact that they will split the deposit into separate accounts.  This might sound backwards, but since I use the debit card for everything, it allows me to make sure I’m not spending the money that should be going toward monthly bills.  Once or twice a month, when I’m paying bills, I transfer the money that I need from the savings to the checking, and it’s all taken care of.  Ah, the beauty of online banking!  I also pay everything I can online to save paper/stamps/time.

Speaking of credit cards, there are some great point- earning programs out there.  I know a friend of a friend who bought a car on her credit card, (which she paid off the following month) because she knew it would earn her enough points to take her European vacation!  So smart!  That’s like, free money.  I love free money.  Like I said, I’m not a fan of credit cards, but I there are two other programs that I use:  Upromise and MyPoints.    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Upromise and how it works.  If you haven’t, basically it allows you to register your credit cards, bank cards, grocery cards, etc. and certain restaurants, stores, and manufacturers in turn give you a small percentage of what you spend on their products/services, which can then be converted into a 529 plan for anyone’s college tuition.  I have to admit, I pretty much let this run on auto pilot & don’t actively seek out as much savings as I could. There are a lot of online shopping resources that I could/should be using that would contribute a lot more than my grocery purchases, but hey, it’s still free money. 

MyPoints works in a similar way, but you don’t have to wait quite as long for the rewards.  You basically sign up for their emails, and get sent various opportunities to earn points by visiting websites and taking surveys, if you want.  It’s totally free, but it does take longer to earn enough points for rewards this way.  If you want to earn points faster, you can shop through their website at various online merchants to earn a greater percentage of points.  You’re also entitled to special member discounts, etc.  I figure, if it’s something I need to buy anyway, why not earn the points?  I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping this way in the past, as well as for myself at Amazon.com, drugstore.com, and Overstock.com.  And I’m always looking for who’s willing to throw in free shipping, especially now that the holidays are approaching.  Anyway, so far with the MyPoints program, I have earned enough to purchase myself a $100.00 MP3 player from Circuit City, and various gift cards for restaurants and retailers like Old Navy, Regal Cinemas, and Bath & Body Works…. all for free.  Do I sound like an infomercial?

On the homefront, since we can’t afford new windows, this year we bought the plastic coating that fuses onto the windows with a hair dryer to keep the drafts out– not sure how/if it will affect our energy bill, but it’s worth a try.  I’m also finally, after over a year, getting around to hanging curtains around the house, which will hopefully help as well.  We also are in the process of insulating our attic and outside doors.   

I would share more, but I feel like I’ve already written a novel- so let’s hear from you!  I will try to update later this weekend with more info on the prizes- Good luck, and have a great weekend!

Will you come to my potluck?

This is my 100th blog entry!  Woo-Hoo!   I know it’s been going since February, but I still am having a hard time believing that I’ve actually had that much to talk/write about 🙂  Anyway, I’ve been wanting to have a little potluck party of sorts, and what better time to celebrate than with my little mini bloggy milestone.

What do you bring to a blog potluck, you might ask?  Well, those who know me well know that I am not the most organized person in the world.  I’m not horrible, but I could use some help.  That got me to thinking that everyone can probably use some help in that department, no matter how “together” you may be.  So here’s my idea– let’s have an idea exchange… what little tricks/tips do you use to make your life a little easier?  This could be anything from household to kids, automotive, beauty, etc.  It doesn’t have to be an organizational tip, either, just something that others might find helpful.

I’d also like to use this as an opportunity to get to know some of my lurkers.  I know you’re there– I see you in my stats, Lexington, KY.   And you, too, Lees Summit, MO.  Don’t be shy- I love visitors! 

As incentive for all of your good ideas that I am anticipating, I would also like to mention that there will be a giveaway at the end of this post.  Nothing big, but someone will be randomly selected from the comment section at 8 p.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 24th to win something festive from me.  But you have to leave at least one tip.  If the random number generator selects a commenter who did not leave a tip, I will keep going until it does. 

So I’ll get us started.  Some of my tips are my own, some I’ve adopted from other sources.  Hopefully I can remember everything that’s been rattling around in my head for the past couple of days.  Maybe some of you already do these things, but hopefully somebody finds them helpful.

  1. First, a cooking idea- my secret ingredient to give sauces a little extra zing and creaminess?  Sour cream.  We always have it on hand here, and added to spaghetti sauce, it’s sort of like a mock vodka cream sauce.  Also, I add it to cream soups instead of milk when I’m using them for sauces for things like chicken pot pie, beef stroganoff, etc.  Yummy!
  2. That reminds me of another secret ingredient for quick weeknight meals.  What do you do when you have some leftover chicken, ham, beef, etc., but maybe not enough to make an entire meal?  Make it stretch- fry it up with some onions and/or other veggies you like & throw it all in with some prepared pancake batter & shredded cheese and fry ’em up like you would regular pancakes.  You can even throw in some sour cream 😉  
  3. I’ve probably shared this before, but I’ll include it because it’s something I use all the time.  Max is a great eater- he eats a wide variety of fruits & veggies, can be coaxed to eat his meat at dinner, and doesn’t have a problem with whole grain breads, etc.  Wyatt, on the other hand, is quite the challenge.  Apart from cucumbers and tomatoes, the boy will not eat his veggies.  He does, however, like spaghetti with red sauce, so I started cooking a whole bunch of veggies in with the sauce until they’re tender, then pureé the whole thing in a blender to give him a nice little vitamin boost.  I’ve added stuff like carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, peppers, squash, you name it.  It’s also a great way to use up that frozen spinach nobody will eat.  Just be careful with adding too many greens, because it will change the color of your red sauce to brown.
  4. In the past, I’ve been a big time waster, especially when I know I only have 10 minutes or so before I have to be out the door.  Since I hate to clean, I’m also not the best housekeeper in the world.  So I started playing this game with myself:  What can I get accomplished in 10 minutes?  I was amazed to find out that I could get the bathrooms wiped down, or all the beds made, or the dishwasher unloaded.  If I put a time limit on myself, it not only makes me work faster, but it also makes the chore seem not so daunting.   
  5. This is one I swiped from the DIY network.  My kids are really into hard boiled eggs.  I learned from DIY that if you save the water from boiling your eggs, let it cool, then use it to water your plants, they really benefit from the protein boost.  I can’t verify if this really makes a big difference, but if you’re going to be watering plants anyway, why not re-use the water?
  6. Here’s one from the Queen of Clean I plan on using, since I’ve made several scratches in our floors lately:  To repair hardwood floor scratches, simply take a crayon the color of the floor and rub it on the scratch to fill the gap. Turn a blow dryer on high, heat the area where the crayon was applied and buff with a soft cloth
  7. Finally, this one is a little gross, especially to bring to a potluck, but I can attest, it truly works.  I learned this from angry chicken.  Apparently, to get rid of a wart, you don’t need to go to the Dr. and have it burned off, dug out, etc.  Just soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar & put a band aid over it every night for a week or so & it will eventually shrink & disappear.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve had one on my arm for about 5 years now…. why haven’t I gone to the doctor to just have it removed?  I dunno, but I have tried several over the counter remedies, and this is the only thing that has worked.  It does sting a little at first, but within a day, I could see a difference.  A week later, it’s just little scab healing nicely.  Sorry to gross you out, but hey, it helped me!

So, that’s all I have for now.  What helpful little morsels can you bring to the potluck?  I’d love to hear!

Spread some joy

So, sometime over the next year, I’m very excited to be the recipient of a wonderful little something from Sarah C .  Sarah is super talented, and she did a stupendous job on our miniswap, so I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for this fun little exchange (although, please keep it small, Sarah, I know post from Down Under can be quite pricey!).

Would you like to recive a gift from me???

Three players will have a chance to get a surprise from me, on a surprise date, in the next 365 days. Here are the rules:

1.  Leave a comment on my blog that says you want to play. The first three folks to comment will get a gift from ME.   (If I don’t know it already, let me know how I can contact you, an e-mail is fine.)

2.  Do the same thing on your blog!  The first three commenters who commit to doing this on their blog, too, will get a surprise from YOU at a surprise time in the next 365 days!

Nothing in the rules says the special something you send has to be handmade, so don’t feel like you have to be particularly crafty to play along.

I love getting packages in the mail.  Doesn’t this sound like fun?

** Footnote:  I would like to add that if certain spouses happen to be among the first three to leave a comment, the gift is still up to the discretion of the giver, and special requests, (i.e. those of a sexual nature), are to be regarded only as such, and by no means an obligation on behalf of the giver. **

Lazy Cookies and the Best Dang Chicken I Ever Made

I used to enjoy cooking a lot more.  I’d find exotic recipes that sounded interesting & delicious, and maybe have a few oddball ingredients, like coconut milk or something, but that didn’t deter me.  Sometimes these dishes would take a couple hours to prepare. In a way, it was fun to make a mess of the kitchen, all for the sake of trying something new.

Then I had kids.

For obvious reasons, I don’t quite have the time that I did in the past to devote to culinary exploration.  That, and there’s usually at least one little person hanging on an extremity while trying to cook over a hot stove.  Not to mention, they just don’t care that freshly shaved ginger root adds a much better flavor than the powdered alternative.  It’s just yucky.

So began my quest for quick and easy, stripped of all flavor, get it on the table before someone has a meltdown, meals.  Usually our repertoire consists of spaghetti, breakfast for dinner (brinner if you watch SCRUBS), fish sticks, and fries.  Anything else at this point is a crapshoot.

Most nights I don’t plan ahead, and last week I had some chicken that I was clueless as to what to do with it.  Something made me look on the back of my box of cornstarch, and I saw a recipe for “Crispy Fried Chicken”.  Now, usually I steer away from any recipe that has more than, say, five ingredients, because nowadays our pantry is usually pretty bare, and I just can’t be bothered (yes, I am lazy like that).  While this recipe breaks my 5 ingredient rule, I think I was intrigued by the claims of “crispy”, since I’ve never really mastered the breaded chicken thang.  I scanned the recipe, and thought, “This is never going to work, how do you get crispy fried chicken from a mushy mess of glop?”  But, do you know what?  It worked, and it was awesome!  Even the kidlets ate it, and they are chicken nugget elitists.  So here, friends, is the recipe, from my box of corn starch:

12 precut chicken pieces                1/4 tsp black pepper

1 egg                                               1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp vegetable oil                           1/4 c water

2 tsp soy sauce                                1/2 c all purpose flour

1 tsp salt                                          1/4 c corn starch

1 tsp sugar                                       1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp poultry seasoning                vegetable oil

Wash & cut chicken.  Mix together egg, 2 tsp veg oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, seasoning (I used fajita seasoning), pepper & garlic powder in a large plastic freezer bag.  Put chicken in the bag & shake, coating each piece. Place bag in fridge for 1 hour.  Add water to chicken.  Mix flour, corn starch, and baking soda together and then place the mixture into the bag with the chicken.  Shake the bag, again coating each piece (this is the globby mess I was referring to).  Heat oil in skillet & fry pieces until light golden brown, turning occasionally.  Drain on paper towels.  Enjoy the awesomeness

 

 

Another favorite of mine I have come to refer to as “Lazy Cookies”.  We just made these yesterday, and I have to say, this recipe even surpasses my 5 ingredient rule by only having 3 ingredients.  And clean-up couldn’t be easier.  As long as you like/can eat peanut butter, this one is a no-brainer:

1 egg

1 c sugar

1 c peanut butter

Beat egg & sugar together until smooth, add peanut butter & mix.  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet about 2″ apart, and flatten with a fork.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes until golden brown.  Makes about 2 dozen.  Yummy!

 

We just happened to have white chocolate chips on hand, so we threw them in, too.  Talk about instant gratification- these were so easy & delicious, and were done fast enough that I was able to keep the wee ones distracted while they baked. 

Cookies + super easy = WIN/WIN