Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Mantle

My grandma is the ultimate holiday decorator (see here and here). She recently handed-down some Easter decorations to me and I incorporated them into what I already had.

I'm loving how my mantle turned out for Easter.

My grandma gave me the little ornaments I used to make the garland and the figurines as well as the eggs inside the mason jars. I love decorating for holidays especially with things that have meaning.

Are you excited for Easter? I went shopping yesterday for an Easter dress or skirt and they are rare and hard to find! Any tips for finding an Easter-worthy dress?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birthday Candles Card

My friend's birthday was this past week and I made her a quick and easy card to go with some cookies. I got the idea from this card and remembered I had purchased these candles for this same friend's birthday last year. I rummaged them out of the back of our silverware drawer to find the candles and then broke out my glue gun.  This card came together in 15 minutes!

I liked the asymmetry with the candles. The ribbon hides the glue!

Next time I would use more glue, since some of the candles came loose on the way there! 

(I snapped these pictures on the way to my friend's birthday lunch--while stopped at a red light!! Say hello to my car, leg, and foot)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fast gluten-free, butter-free apple pie!

When my husband stopped eating dairy, gluten and eggs at the beginning of the year, we assumed the allergy trial would last two weeks. Sadly, those two weeks fell right over his birthday. (Three months later, he's just barely begun to try these foods again.)

Each month at work, they have a birthday party for that month's honorees, and they weren't going to run out and buy a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake for one poor person. He was okay with being left out, but I wasn't. So I decided to make him a surprise:

It's a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free apple pie!

The biggest challenge to eating around gluten, eggs & dairy is how they sneak into things. Obviously there's gluten in pie crust, and maybe butter (I'm a shortening crust girl myself). But the egg wash on a pie? The butter cubes in the filling?

So I went simple. My husband had already picked up refrigerated gluten-free pie dough which happened to also be egg- and dairy-free. (I joke that it's not made from real food.) I chopped up some apples we had around and tossed them with sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. You could use a dairy-free butter substitute, of course. (You still have to bake the pie almost as long.)

I also got to use my mini-pie pans, since it seemed ridiculous to bake a whole pie just for one person to eat. I brought it to him at work and surprised him . . . once I found him, avoiding the party.

This is less of a recipe and more of a technique, learning to substitute out allergenic foods. Instead of an egg wash, for example, I used almond milk (because real milk is another type of wash, right?) and raw sugar. That experiment didn't work as well, and the applies could have used a little longer to bake, but all in all, it was much better than foregoing cake.

Especially since my daughters and I got ice cream out of the deal.

What's your favorite way to surprise someone?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cleaning a Top-Loader Washer

As we were washing clothes the other day, we noticed a rather nasty odor coming from the washer. Yuck-o, right? So I looked up some ways to clean our top-loader washing machine. Most recipes called for bleach and vinegar. Well, I only had vinegar on hand and beside, bleach is stinky! After trying out what I found I think next time I would tweak it a bit.

2-4 cups White Vinegar
1/2-1 cup Baking Soda
Toothbrush that no one's using or will use ever again

That's it!

Step 1: Fill up your washer with the hottest setting temperature on the largest load. (My washer says HOT COLD on EX SUPER. I don't know why it says hot and cold but it was indeed super hot while filling it up.) After it fills and before it agitates stop the cycle.
Step 2: Now pour in the vinegar and the baking soda. Turn back on the cycle for about 3 minutes and let it agitate. Turn off the cycle again. Now we're going to let it soak for 1 hour with the lid open.

While this soaks, pop off the liquid bleach spout thingy and clean that out. WARNING: this may be really dirty and disgusting. I also cleaned the lid, the hinge behind the lid, and the softener component. Fun fact: liquid softner is bad for you clothes and machine. It can create build up on both. I pulled off the softener dispenser and got to work. There was so much grime on it I still couldn't get it all the way clean after scrubbing and scrubbing. I popped it back on and poured some vinegar down there and let it all soak. I also scrubbed the agitator a little bit which helped since I don't think our machine had ever been washed and probably needed more care than usual.

Step 3:  After the 1 hour of soaking turn back on the cycle and let the machine do the work. An extra rinse may be a good idea. I just wiped everything down after the cycle was over. Keep the lid open.

So pretty! I didn't even know the letters on the bleach and fabric softener dispensers weren't black...Gross huh?

A handy trick in making sure you don't have a stinky washing machine as quickly is to leave the lid open after you are done washing clothes. This allows the machine to dry out before mildew can start to grow. Also, clean your machine regularly. A cleaning trick is to use vinegar as a fabric softener instead of actual fabric softener.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LDS General Conference Toddler Attention Presents

Wasn't General Conference this past weekend awesome?! (Don't know what I'm talking about? see here or here or some awesome quotes from the weekend here) I have to share with you guys something- I have an almost 3 year old and a 6 month old and I listened to every talk. Store this away in the archives for October!

  1. I went to the Dollar Store on Saturday morning ( I had been planning to all week but I didn't end up making it until the very last minute) and I bought treats, coloring books, little toys, and other activities listed below. 
  2. I wrapped 6 things per session and divided them into bags. I did this so PB wouldn't open all the treats or activities in one session.
  3. We set a timer on my husband's iPhone to go off every 20 minutes. This was flexible. We started with a 5 minute timer so she got the concept. 
  4. We told her she had to be in the room and behaving to get the treat. She went off and played upstairs in the playroom for a bit. When she got back down we set a shorter timer so she could get another treat. 
It wasn't perfect but basically it took her the 20 minutes to get bored with an activity or eat her treat. If she finished early there were the activities she had already opened to occupy her. We brought in her little picnic table and she sat and did her activities at that table. 

She did awesome. I was worried that she would get upset that we were watching TV and it wasn't her show and Heaven forbid it wasn't "ELSA!" (Please tell me we're not the only ones that have watched it 20 times in the past two weeks). There were moments of mischief and she did take a good nap on Saturday so she had a bit of a break but overall it was a great experience.

Here is the list of what I bought:

  • Two coloring books (big flop she didn't want to color at all)
  • Velvet coloring sheet (like here but seriously don't buy it there because I got it at the Dollar Store)
  •  Magic Paint booklet (like here I got it at Michael's) 
  • Furreal Spinner (like here)
  • Jewelry Links (like here)
  • Candy- Fruity Tootsie Rolls, Airheads, fruity Mike and Ikes, Sugar Babies. I chose these because I could separate each one out into multiple presents
  • Snacks (not from the Dollar Store) Goldfish, animals crackers, fruit snacks

Here are a couple pictures we took of the girls.
In the #10 can there are crayons and she's painting with water in the bowl in the Magic Paint book she got

 I also pinned a bunch of other ideas found here on Wayward Girls Crafts' Pinterest page.
Here is a post from last year that we did as well. None of the Pinterest pictures are working but the links work. 

Do you have an idea that works for you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lemony Glazed Ham Steaks

Easter is fast approaching. Ham is a traditional Easter food for our family as it is with many others. This recipe can be used with leftover ham OR on the big day. Why not? It's also the fastest real dinner I've ever made. Seriously.

Two 1 lb ham steaks (you can purchase these in the deli section if you can't find them)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp mustard (honey mustard is a great option or adding honey to your mustard)
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp lemon peel, grated
1 lemon, thinly sliced

1. Preheat broiler. Assemble glaze: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice and lemon peel.

2. Place ham slice in a large broiling pan. Broil for 2 minutes; brush with some of the glaze and broil for another 5 minutes. Turn over and broil for 2 more minutes.

3. Arrange lemon slices on top of steaks; brush on remaining glaze. Broil for 5 more minutes or until glaze is bubbling.

Makes 8 servings, 225 calories each.

**You can also cook the ham in a skillet using the same instructions. When using leftover ham, spread the glaze on heavily and then heat it up in a microwave or skillet. The glaze prevents the ham from drying out.

(That's extra glaze on the plate. You'll want to LICK IT CLEAN!)

Recipe care of my husband's aunt. She graciously prepared a book of simple Sunday dinners and gave it to me. I'll be sharing more!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy birthday to me: Copycat Gourdough's donuts! (+gluten-free version!)

Last week was my birthday (and my baby's first birthday!). For my birthday, I decided I wanted food. My husband got me some gourmet cheeses, and we made some fake Gourdough's donuts!

If you're not familiar with Gourdough's, brace yourself. These gourmet donut creations from an Austin, TX, food truck are nothing short of amazing. Happily, a group of food bloggers was treated to dozens of Gourdough's to create homemade versions. I started preparations later in the day than I wanted to (and I'd already had pleeeeenty of sugar), so I went for the easy route and narrowed down my choices to two:

 The "Flying Pig"
Candied bacon and maple glaze
Copycat recipe from The Novice Chef

Cream cheese frosting, caramel apple pie filling, peanuts and caramel syrup

To make them even easier, I bought jumbo pop-tube biscuits. I used a small cylinder (about 1" in diameter) to cut out the middles on some of them, and left others whole to deep fry them.

They fry pretty quickly (though the yellow foam they make is kind of disconcerting . . . ). Within a couple minutes, our donuts were ready for assembly! The only other things we really had to make were the maple glaze and the candied bacon.

I have to admit: I've never tried maple/bacon anything. I like both of them, but I've been too scared to try them together. And of course they were amazing! The mix of salty, smoky and sweet—and of course fried dough—was amazing. Plus, these come together so fast, they're dangerous!

Gluten-free version!
We had some gluten-free pie dough in the fridge, so I kneaded and rolled that to make some flat donuts, which I fried (not in the same oil as the other donuts!). Since my husband was also off eggs and dairy, we were sure to use dairy-free frosting and omit the caramel syrup, which contained dairy. The maple glaze could be made with nut milk, too!

How do you celebrate?
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