Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drying Lemon Zest

This week I got nine beautiful, organic lemons in my Door to Door box.  I am not an organic freak but I do like the idea of eating stuff that hasn't been doused in chemicals.  With citrus, we peel it so I don't generally worry about getting organic.  I had them, though, and since these peels haven't had a chemical shower, I decided to zest them.

I got out my new zester (Thanks, Brian!) and took all the beautiful zest off from the lemons.
You can put this stuff on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the oven for a few hours at 200 degrees or you can put it in your dehydrator.  I wanted to go to bed so I opted for the dehydrator.

The house smelled wonderful when I woke up!

I put the dried zest into a container and it's ready for use.

We mix it with pepper and use it on chicken.  I also add it to my tea, put it in desserts, mix it with rice, add it to salad and use it in marinades.  It has a lot of uses!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Best Ever Shredded Chicken Breast

How many recipes do you have that calls for shredded chicken?  I have a LOT so I like to keep bags of shredded chicken in my freezer for quick recipe additions.  I have a great way to cook the chicken breast so that it doesn't get dry or tasteless.  I also have a marvelous way to shred the chicken.


To cook the chicken breast, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat the bottom of a cake pan with olive oil.  Sprinkle in your seasoning of choice.  My go-tos are Lemon Pepper or a Penzie's Salt-Free Spice blend.  I am not sure what all it has in it but Paprika is the base.

Arrange your chicken breast on the olive oil.  Drizzle olive oil over the top of the chicken breasts, lightly coating them.  Rub it in and sprinkle your seasoning on top.

Put into the oven for fifteen minutes.  Take out and flip.

Bake for an additional fifteen minutes.  Remove and let cool in the pan for fifteen minutes.

Here's the genius shredding tip I found on Pinterest.

Put three warm breasts into your Kitchenaid (a 2012 Holiday-New Years thru Christmas-gift for me!!!) with the Paddle Beater.  Turn it on low and watch it for about three minutes.  Turn it up.  Watch the shredding action!  These have to be warm. . . I let them cool for about fifteen minutes and then shredded them at that time.

If you are thinking, "I don't have a Kitchenaid. . . will something else work?" I couldn't answer that.  I have no idea.  I would suggest you buy a Kitchenaid when your budget allows.  I don't know how I've lived without mine for as many years as I have.  They are marvelous appliances!

When I go to freeze the chicken, I put the equivalent of three breast pieces, shredded, into a ziplock bag.  I add a half can of either vegetable broth or chicken broth, depending on what I have on hand.  Push all the air out and freeze.  It takes minutes to thaw in the microwave and it's ready to go for your favorite recipes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Outlining Your Letters in Microsoft WORD

I love making my own bulletin board letters.  I also love using the same techniques to make letters for crafting purposes.  I've done this technique for my kiddos and for my Sunday School class.  There's a ton of great uses for this trick!

There are some really great fonts out there.  My favorite site for free fonts is  The fonts are absolutely free and they have some really cute ones.  They do have outline fonts but I don't like being limited so I look for fonts that would look good outlined.  Pick one and download it.

First step is to type your message in a Microsoft Word Document.  Highlight the entire message and increase your font size to what you want.  If you want to go bigger than 72 (the highest "preselected" choice), click on the font size ribbon and type the number you want.  Hit ENTER and it will be increased to that size.

To outline your letters  highlight them.  (Put your cursor on one side, click with the mouse and drag it to the other side.  It will be  highlighted in blue. )  Select  FONT in the Font Group.  Click where the red arrow is showing.

Click on TEXT EFFECTS in the pop up menu.

On the TEXT FILL menu, select NO FILL.  (Red Arrow).  Click TEXT OUTLINE (blue arrow).

Click SOLID LINE (red arrow).  Select the color you want (blue arrow).  I chose black.

Click on OUTLINE STYLE (red arrow).  I like to pick the line type (blue arrow).  I chose the double line this time.  I also like my lines to be a little thicker. . . I increased the width to 4 pt for this example (green arrow).
Click OK at the bottom of the screen.  Click OK again.

Your letters are outlined!  I've increased the letters to 600 for bulletin boards and single letter art projects.  I've printed out names as coloring pages and increased the font to 200 for those.  This font is called "Creative Block Bold" and is on the 1001 Free Fonts website.

The possibilities are endless!  You could use these letters as pattern pieces for appliques, printables for kids or as a single letter wall art piece.   Print out your letters on to vinyl and cut them out for a custom message for your walls.  I have printed out the kids' names and let them decorate each letter with scraps of ribbons, paper and cut outs.  You could also cut out the letters with a hobby knife and use it as a stencil. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Typing Bulletin Board

It's Spring Break and I have a few projects in the works.  This weekend, though, I've been working on new bulletin boards for my class.

I won't make a habit of putting school related things up on my blog but one turned out pretty cool so I thought I'd share.

We're focusing on typing this last quarter and I decided to make a huge keyboard.  I stole the idea got inspiration from a google image HERE>.

Here is my version.

I have a dark classroom with bad lighting and the photo was taken with my phone but you get the idea.  The keys are take out boxes hot glued onto paper.  I used push pins between the boxes to attach it to the wall.

The boxes are the 6x6 size which gave me a 3.5x3.5 sized key to work with.  I tried to be as straight as possible but I notice that there is some serious waving on that bottom row!  I tried a few ways to do this but found that it was easier to position and glue the regular sized keys on the box and then piece together larger keys with electrical tape.  That way I could try to keep it as straight as possible.

It took three NCIS marathons to trim the boxes, glue them on and then print out and cut the cardstock with the letters.  It took another twenty minutes to find enough black push pins and attach it to the wall.  From the photo, I realize I need to straighten out the letters at the bottom.

I also need to scrape hot glue off from my dining room table.  I accidentally dropped a key before it was over paper and it stuck to my table.

I now have 76 take out box bottoms, a hot glue mess and little pieces of foam all over my dining room floor but I also have a cool bulletin board.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I love St. Patrick's Day!  When I was a kid, my Grandma (Gibbons, by birth) used to send my sisters and me green carnations to celebrate the day.  After "the family feud", dad would continue to buy the carnations and tell us they were from Grandma.  To this day, I can't pass a green carnation without thinking of how much dad loves us.

Another tradition dad started was the green sparkling apple juice.  He would pull out mom's fancy wine glasses and pour the sparkling juice into it.  Lo and behold. . . it turned green.  He told us it was because he was Irish.

I do this every year for my kids.  Last year, Mr. Smarty Pants figured it out and told his sister.  I was going to skip it this year but they asked for it.  I'm not sure if it's the "magic" or what. . .

You need a bottle of sparkling apple cider (or apple juice, white grape juice, etc.  Something without color.)  You also need some wine glasses and some food coloring.

The night before, put one drop of green food coloring in your wine glasses, right in the center in that little well where the stem attaches.

In the morning, pull out your glasses, open your apple cider and pour the apple cider right on to the food coloring.  Even if it is dry, it will rehydrate and turn the drink green.  Goes in yellow, hits the glass and turns green!  Irish magic!

Toast each other!  Or, if you are in my house, find someone without green on and pinch them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flower Pens

This is a quick and easy craft.  It is also VERY cheap so if you need a group project, this is it!

For three dollars, you can have a nice bouquet of flower pens.

For less than three dollars, I was able to make ten pens. 

You need a package of cheap pens (75 cents at WalMart), a cheap bunch of fake flowers (97 cents at WalMart for fake carnations) and a roll of floral tape (95 cents, WalMart).

This is what a package of floral tape looks like:

The roll is green, slightly sticky and sticks to itself well.  Once it drys, it isn't sticky anymore.

Start by using a pair of scissors and cutting the top off from your pen.  BE CAREFUL!  I did this for the girls who were doing this craft ahead of time because it does take a bit of force and could really cause some damage if you weren't careful.

Remove your flowers from the stem.  I got cheap ones so they just pulled right off.

Put a dollop of hot glue right inside the top of the pen and shove the little part of the stem of the flower right in there.  I sort of pushed the pen innards aside so the flower could sit right on top.

Take your floral tape and start wrapping the pen from the bottom, up.  Use your fingers to smooth out any lumps, bumps or folds.

When you get to the top, either cut the tape or put your finger on it and snap it off. 

Finished!  The pens were easy to make and cheap so the girls could bring home a few.

If I do it again:

I would love to have a little bouquet of these sitting on my counter.  I am constantly losing pens in this house!  I see nice flowers at garage sales all the time. . . come spring I will start keeping my eyes open for a bunch I can convert.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tween Girl Party Games

The party was Saturday and Sunday we turned our clocks forward.  Apparently, I'm not into pre-planning.  If I was, I would have picked a different weekend for the party.  I'm dragging.

The party was fun.  The pillows were a hit!  It lasted two hours and was a success.

We started out making the pillows.  Because everyone finished at different times, I had a quick and easy craft for the ones who were done early to do.  They made flower pens.  (Post coming in three days!)

I cleared off the pillow mess and brought out three flavors of ice cream and five flavors of soda and let the girls make floats.  Some went back for seconds.  Some had fifths.  All enjoyed the floats!

And the games. . . oh, the games!  Those were fun!  I hit up the Michaels store for some fun prizes (they had a GREAT 50 cent sale going on) and wrapped them up so the girls wouldn't know what they were getting.  I had a good variety of fun little things and I awarded prizes to first, second and third place winners.  The games were all "Minute to Win It" style games.

Move the Cookie:  I gave each girl a cookie.  They had to put it on their forehead and move it to their mouth without touching the cookie.  If it fell off, they had to put it back on their forehead.

Balloon Blow:  I had three different colors of cups and the girls divided into three teams.  I put eighteen of each color of cup on the tables, mixed up, and gave each girl a balloon.  The girls had to blow the cups off the table using the air in their balloon.  They could blow it up as often as they needed.  The first team with their cups off the table won.

Suck up the Candy:  Each girl had a bowl of M&Ms and a straw.  They had to use the straw to suck up the candy and move it out of the bowl.  First three with empty bowls won.

Ping Pong Golf:  I took a to-go container and cut a hole in it.  The girls were given a paper plate and a ping pong ball.  They had to fan the ping pong ball into the styrofoam container.  I had to do two rounds of this. . . my kitchen wasn't big enough for all ten girls to go at once.

Static Head: I gave each girl a balloon to blow up and tie.  I gave them twenty seconds to create some static and then they had to let go of the balloon.  The balloon had to stay on their heads.  The last three standing got prizes.

At the end of the games I gave out prizes to the girls who had only one one or two prizes.  I called them the "best dressed", "best attitude", "cutest shoes", etc.  When everyone had prizes, they opened them all up and started trading.  That was fun to watch!

I am exhausted and I still have bits of balloon stuck to my couch.  I also have a floor to vacuum and dishes to be loaded into the dishwasher.  It was fun, though, and completely worth it.

If I do it again:

I would make sure to get some more prizes.  The girls had SO MUCH fun trading at the end!  Also, there was a bit of time at the end. . . we could have fit in another game.  The girls didn't notice; they played with the balloons and had a blast but I tend to like a bit of structure.  That, and I'm going to be finding balloon pieces all over for the next few weeks!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Flower Pillow

My daughter just had a birthday and we are celebrating with a party for her and eight other girls.  She wanted to do a really cool craft so we decided to make flower pillows.

These are fun and easy to do but the prep time takes a bit.

Start by drawing a circle on a piece of felt.  I doubled it up so I would only have to make one cut per pillow because I'm lazy.  Find three more circles, all smaller than the other, and draw those on the felt, too.  I used mixing bowls as my patterns.

Cut around the outer circle and sew it together, almost closed.  Stuff with fluff (I used the fake snow that was on clearance for 25 cents a bag at Michaels. . . yeah!) and sew closed.

On the "demo" pillow I made some felt leaves.  They didn't add much so I didn't cut any out for the girls to use.  If you want leaves, I'd recommend making them larger than I did.  I used the sewing machine to add the details.

Glue them on.

Cut out petals in three different sizes.  I eyeballed these.  You will need about twenty of each.

To add the dimension to the petals, I added a drop of glue and folded them in half.

I then glued them on, using a smaller petal for each layer.

I ended up using four layers of petals so I had to cut about forty of the medium sized petals.  If you do a smaller pillow, you wouldn't need as many.

To do the center, cut out some yellow circles.  I added a drop of glue in the middle and "squished" them together.

Glue those down with the edges facing up.

You are finished!

The prep time on these was obnoxious.  I turned on NCIS reruns and sat and cut petals for two hours.  With nine girls, I needed 360 of the medium sized petals and 180 of the other two sizes.  That could also be why I opted not to do the leaves.

When they arrive, each girl will be given the pillow that looks like a bulls eye and some fabric glue.  I'll have bowls of the petals out so that they can glue them on to their pillow.

If I do it again:
I would go a lot smaller on the pillows so that I would only need three rows of petals.  I would also find my fabric scissors from the get go. . . . someone borrowed them so I thought a pair of Scotch paper scissors would work just as well.  After the blister formed on my finger, I slapped a band-aid on it and demanded that my scissors be found.  If you are missing a pair of scissors, I would suggest looking under a ten year old boy's bed.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tip: Reusing Coffeemate Bottles

I know Coffeemate isn't the best stuff for you but, man, it is good!

I love the shape of the bottles and save them all.  One of my favorite uses is as a water bottle.  My husband cringes when he sees me carrying one in public but it works better than a fancy store bought bottle.  The lid is completely spill proof and I don't get too upset if one is accidentally left somewhere.  It's durable; the kids have kicked one across the van before (quite by accident, I've been told).  It's cheaper than a water bottle and a lot cheaper than bottled water. 

I also use them for snacks.  It is a great way to store homemade trail mix or, my favorite, mixed raisins. 
This is the the mix of chocolate yogurt covered and vanilla yogurt covered raisins I like to have handy.

The containers are great for holding little crackers (goldfish, anyone?), small candies, cheerios and anything that would benefit from being shaken out into individual servings.  The lids are spill proof and moisture resistant so I can keep a container in the car for "emergency snacking".  They are also great for movie night. . . fill them with popcorn and give one to each of the kids.  Keeps the popcorn from migrating all over the floor.

Coffeemate bottles are one of my favorite things to reuse.  What do you use them for?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Bit of Bragging

My daughter is definitely crafty.  Want to see what she did?

She turned a plain notebook:

 Into this:

Then, because she still thought it was boring, she added ribbon and made this:

I love it!