Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Star Wars Birthday Shirt

Yesterday I posted about the Star Wars paper snowflakes I was making for my son's birthday decorations.  Today, I'm showing you how I made one of them into a stencil for a t-shirt for him.

A tradition in our house is that I always make each of the kids a special birthday shirt to wear that day.  I have been reading about freezer paper stencils forever and just never looked into it.  I have used freezer paper to cut out quilt patterns and it works awesome, so I actually had some in the house.  You can buy it at the grocery store in the aisle with the cling wrap, etc.  (I could not find it at Target.)  Anyways, freezer paper has two sides, one paper side and one slightly shiny, smooth side.  You can sketch or print your stencil template onto the paper side, and after you cut it out, the shiny side, can temporarily adhere to fabric when ironed on.  This will anchor it and allow you to use fabric paint to fill in your picture.  I read one description of freezer paper stencils as "poor man's screen printing".  I am totally hooked, call me poor man if you will!

Oh, and you can totally cheat like me, I bought a 30 pack of freezer paper printer sheets on (you'll see why tomorrow).  If you have the time, you can take the roll of freezer paper and cut out an 8.5x11 sheet to fit in your printer- I did not feel like cutting out 20+.

When searching for ideas of what to print on the shirt, I came across a great tutorial at Dana Made It- clearly she's more advanced than me;)

Here's what you need to do:

Find a picture you want to stencil on a shirt, something without a lot of detail- unless you are a true picasso.  Print or draw the picture onto the paper side of the freezer paper.  I printed the template for the yoda snowflake on the freezer paper and cut it out with the exacto knife.  Hazel wanted to do a shirt too, so we printed out a big silhouette of Hello Kitty and cut it out.
Once your template is cut out, iron it onto a t-shirt, with the shiny side down, so it will adhere to the fabric:
Place a piece of cardboard under the layer of t-shirt you are stenciling, so the paint will not run into the other side of the shirt.  Using fabric paint (acrylic will work, but will fade a lot during washing)- you can get fabric paint at Michael's or Hobby Lobby- fill in the cut out part of your stencil.  We used sponge brushes to dab the paint in.
Let the paint dry for a few minutes, then peel the paper away and you will see your stenciled image on the shirt, hang it up to dry for several hours.  Once it is dry, place a thin piece of fabric over it, and iron it for about 30 seconds to heat set the paint so it will not fade during washing.

Here is the finished Hello Kitty, she insisted on putting a giant heart on it, since we did this the day before Valentine's Day.
Since my son was turning 7, I needed to add 1 more yoda into the picture, so I cut out a stencil of his head and place it in the center:
Considering he has worn this shirt about 7 times in the last two weeks, I'd say he loves it!

Stay tuned tomorrow for more Star Wars t-shirts!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Star Wars Paper Snowflakes

My son turned 7 last week, so the next few posts are going to be about his Star Wars Birthday party.  When my son told me he wanted to have a Star Wars birthday, I  got a little nervous.  I hadn't watched the movies in so long, and wasn't into them that much when I did watch them.  A few google searches later and I found some AWESOME stuff.  These paper snowflakes were among my favorite.

Picture it: me, an exacto knife, a snowflake template, and a cup of salted caramel mocha at 5 AM.  There was something peaceful about sitting there folding and cutting these little guys out in the wee dark hours of the morning (did I mention quiet morning because the kids were still sleeping?)

I had picked up a couple of kirigami books while living in Japan, but was too intimidated to open them yet (kirigami is Japanese for folding and cutting paper).  After successfully making these, I am hooked!  Be prepared for a lot more kirigami this year!

This is my favorite:
You can attach them to a string and hang them from the ceiling or tape them to the wall, either way, they are sure to stun your visitors.

I ended up only finishing three before the party, but I have found ten templates online.  I found them here at matters of grey.

You can see some photos below that I took and edited to show how to fold the paper once you print the template.  It was the only mildly confusing part.

First, print the template.

Fold on line labelled 1, keep the side with the shadow of the character on the top:
Next, fold back on the line marked back 1, it will look like this (the shadow of the image you will be cutting, is facing back for now):
Then fold back in on the line marked "in 2"(the shadow of the image you are cutting is facing you again).:
Continue folding back and in until you finish back 3, at this point, you will have a wedge shaped accordian like piece of paper.  Using your exacto knife, cut out along the outside of the grey areas.  Unfold and:
I am saving these in a special folder, I think we will hang them up every Christmas and each year, I will try to add one more to the collection!

Now, the real question, were these for my son or for me ;)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

36 Acts of Kindness

For my birthday, I did 36 Acts of Kindness.  Admittedly, once I announced I was going to do it, I started getting a little stressed out at how I would be able to do it.  I also kept coming up with ideas that cost a lot of money, and I didn't have a lot of money to spend.  As the day went on, things just presented themselves to me and it actually was very easy and fun.  I encourage you to do the same, even if you say you are going to do it in a week or a month.

I was originally inspired to do Acts of Kindness from Katherine Marie's Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar.  I was looking there for inspiration and somehow found myself here, which inspired me to celebrate my birthday this way.

Here's a recap of what Hazel and I did.

We even made t-shirts to wear that day:
I made small cards to attach to random things we left behind so people would know they were receiving an Act of Kindness.  These were inspired by some I found on pinterest, then while searching on google, I found the actual blog, and now that I want to link it, I can't find it.  Anyways, these were inspired by the others, but are my own design.
1) Gave away a copy of an awesome cookbook
2) Made homemade muffins for the teachers at the school
3) Bought coffee for the person that was next in line at the Starbucks drivethru
4) Left a box of coffee in the teacher's lounge at the school
5) Placed a $5 Starbucks gift card in a randomly chosen teacher's mailbox
6) Gave homemade whoopie pies to the single dad across the street
7) Brought homemade treats to the chiropractor and her secretary
8) Left kids magazine we were done using in the lobby at the chiropractor's
9) Left a small puzzle with a kindess tag on it on the table at the chiropractor's
10) Mailed a gift to someone in my family (no one in my family should be living without a muffin pan!)
11) Left a Hello Kitty pencil with a kindness tag on the table at the Post Office
12) Offered to help a man carry a large amount of packages into the Post Office
13) Left the tape I bought at the front desk of the Post Office for someone else that might need it
14) Bought a balloon and delivered it to a new girl in the neighborhood
15-17) Left 3 $1.00 bills around the Dollar Tree with Kindness tags on them

18) Let kids buy school lunch (a rare treat in our house)
19) Bought a balloon for Hazel's friend
20) I saw Jr. Mints at the register when checking out because I remembered my husband was craving them the other day
21) Took a friend out to lunch
22) Left a balloon tied to a bench with a kindness tag (I hope someone took it)
23) Gave the mailman a card and $20, something I forgot to do at Christmas
24) Left a bottle of homemade vanilla on a neighbor's porch
25) Left coupons that I wouldn't be using on the shelves next to the items at the store, for someone else to use
26) Gave a $5 starbucks card to the teacher that is always outside in the freezing cold helping with the carpool kids
27) Called my grandmother to say hi
28) Brought a batch of freshly baked cookies, some icing, and sprinkles to a neighbor for her son to decorate
29) Brought whoopie pies to gymnastics to share with the other moms in the waiting area
30-31) Taped $1 bill to the coke and water machine for someone that needed it to take it
32) Left a new travel sized pack of wipes in the diaper changing area in the bathroom at the park district
33) Donated money to the y annual fund
34) Dropped a bag of stuff at good will
35) Taped a smiley face sign in the bathroom at Barnes and Nobles

(I let Hazel help me with the smiles ( I thought some looked like frowns, but they really made me laugh in the end because they were so cute, and I knew if I was the mom that saw them hanging there, I would choose one of them)).

36) Let my teacher of my Lose your Mommy Tummy class know what a difference she is making in my life and how great she is

If you're looking for more ideas, I found this lens on squidoo, with 100 ideas.

Go ahead and try to do an act of kindness today- even a smile can make a difference in someone's day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cookbook Giveaway

Winner is: Corey - (expect that book next week!)  Since it was Addison's birthday, I let him draw out of a hat, so it was completely random.

And for my act of Kindness #1, I'm giving away a copy of a cookbook that I know you will love, Cook's Illustrated Cookbook!
WHAT!?  That's right, I'm giving it away on my own birthday, and I'm paying for it, it is not a sponsored give away.  I love their recipes so much, I want to share the book with someone else.

How to enter: (You can enter up to 2 times)

1) Leave a comment at the end of this post telling me what recipe you want to make but are afraid to try.

2) If you sign up to follow this blog, you can also leave a comment telling me you did so.

The winner has to be a US resident.

The deadline to enter is Thursday February 16, 2012.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Police Officer DIY Photo Valentine

My son loves cars, especially police cars!  When trying to decide what to do for his school Valentine's, it wasn't hard to guess it would have to do with cars.

The one challenge was he wanted to give Peppermint Patties as a treat with his Valentine's cards.

This is what I came up with:
We got the pj's at BabyGap last summer (I've seen similar ones at many stores).  The hat is part of our dress up collection.  I had him point to me like he was going to arrest me.

The police car is from another picture that I cut and pasted in using photoshop, which if you don't have it, you should be able to download a free 30-day trial and I know a lot of people use to do photo editing.  I printed them as 4x6 pictures at Walmart 1 hour photo.

I used an exacto knife to cut a line across the top of the police car (I left about 1/2 inch at the edge of the card).
I cut out red rectangles, 2.5" by 3.5" and attached them to the back of the card to create a pocket.  I found stapling to the bottom, and taping to the top right corner worked best.
I flipped the card around, slipped a Valentine's Peppermint Patty into the slot, then closed the right side of the card with a small piece of tape.
If you look closely at this picture, you can see in the front card, on his arm on the right, there is a tiny heart punched out.  I had a mini heart punch and I wanted to punch out a heart (you stole my heart), but the punch didn't reach far enough in to his chest and I didn't want to wrinkle the card.
I totally love how these cards turned out and I think I'm going to arrest him if he doesn't put this picture on a mug for me for my birthday ;)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cherry M+M Chocolate Cupcakes with Cherry Vanilla Bean Icing

Two weeks ago, I went to the store and just happened to end up in the Valentine's aisle.  I found cherry M+M's (and raspberry ones too)- have you noticed the weird seasonal varieties of M+M's that are on the rise around your stores too?  It reminds me of the Japan and their weird flavors of Kit Kats (green tea, corn, and potato to name a few).

I decided to buy them.  For some reason, I love buying cherry flavored stuff, but I don't eat cherries.  It was love at first bite. They are good to eat on their own, but add a nice zing to a chocolate cupcake.

Did you know that February is National Cherry Month?  Well, now you do, so go on, make something cherry today.

Source:  Chocolate cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes, icing- my own recipe

Oven: 350

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt
3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/8 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups cherry M+M's

10 TBSP unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp cherry extract (you can use maraschino cherry juice if you can't find the extract)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3-5 TBSP milk

1) Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare cupcake pans with liners.

2) In small bowl, whisk together hot water and cocoa powder until smooth, set aside.

3) In another small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt- set aside.

4) Melt butter and sugar in saucepan, until combined.  Place in bowl of mixer with paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-low until cool, about 4-5 minutes.

5) Add eggs to sugar mixture, one at a time.  Scrape down sides.

6) Add vanilla to sugar mixture.  Then, add chocolate, scrape down sides, mix.

7) With mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the sour cream, scrape down sides.  Add the remaining flour mixture and then remaining sour cream.  Scrape down sides, mix once more. Fold in the M+M's.

8) Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full of batter.  Bake 18-22 minutes for large cupcakes, 14-17 minutes for mini cupcakes.  Rotate the pans 180' halfway through cooking.  Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the icing:

1) Cut butter into 1 TBSP sized squares. Place in bowl of mixer and beat.  Add 1 cup confecioner's sugar, mix, make a paste.

2) Add in vanilla bean and cherry extract.

3) Mix in 1 more cup confectioner's sugar, scrape down sides.

4) Add 1 TBSP milk and 1 more cup confectioner's sugar, beat on medium.

5) Add 1 TBSP milk and 1 more cup confectioner's sugar.  Scrape down sides, beat again.  Try the icing, you may need to add 1/2-1 cup more confectioner's sugar for taste, and 1 or 2 more TBSP milk for consistency.  You want it to be thick enough to hold it's shape, but thin and fluffy enough to work with when piping it on top of the cupcakes.  Beat additional 2-3 minutes before using, this will help get it nice and fluffy

6) Pipe icing onto cupcakes, dot tops with a cherry m+m or two.
Happy National Cherry Month!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Upcoming Random Acts of Kindness

I'm turning 36 next week- on Valentine's Day.

I don't feel like I'm going to be 36, at least not how I envisioned it to be so "old" when I was a kid.  I don't feel any different than when I was 19 actually. Well, for my birthday, I decided it would be a good time to start thinking about this month's Random Act of Kindness.

I sat down to do one quick thing on my computer tonight and the next thing, I spent an hour searching for Random Acts of Kindness ideas on pinterest and through google (OK fine more than an hour).

I've said it before how so many people make it a point to be extra giving at Christmas, but there are still needs all year long.  My New Year's Challenge was to do one random act of kindness per month.

In January, I was a bit nervous because I hadn't found something to do.  Then, we got snow, lots of snow- and my son and I shoveled my neighbor's entire driveway (7+ inches of snow) and walkway.  (Yes, the next morning when he got home, he opened the garage and there was his snowblower)- he was still appreciative.

I found a post of a woman's Random Acts of Kindess Advent calendar and at the bottom, she had links from people who had also followed her idea.  This led me to a woman who did 38 Random Acts of Kindness on her birthday.  This led me to decide to follow suit.

So, next week, on the day I turn 36, I will commit 36 Random Acts of Kindness.

I've already got several ideas in my head, but I can always use suggestions, so if you read this before my birthday and you think of something, leave a comment.  And, of course, feel free to do your own Random Act of Kindness on my birthday as well.

I'll post the completed acts on the day after.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Multigrain Blueberry Pancakes

Let's just start by me saying, "these are the BEST pancakes I have ever made!"

It's no secret, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day!  I've actually been searching for a go to pancake recipe that I love for quite some time now.  I found a great one in Cook's Illustrated, but a few times that I made them, they came out chewy.  I want fat and fluffy pancakes!

News flash, if the pancake batter isn't thick (like oatmeal), you're probably going to get some chewy pancakes.  These pancakes are so good, I've made them three times in two weeks!  I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen over the summer, but for some reason, was hesitant to try them because of the multigrain- what a mistake!

You can't even tell there's rye or whole wheat flour in there.  Sometimes wheat flour makes things dense, not these.  I think the major secret is the 1 cup of yogurt in the mix.

With yogurt, rye flour, wheat flour, and blueberries, these pancakes give you a great start to your day.  (My kids LOVED them, without the blueberries).

Try them today, you won't be sorry.

Source:  Smitten Kitchen

Multigrain Blueberry Pancakes:

2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt (I've only used non-fat, she recommended full fat- can be regular or Greek)
2-4 TBSP milk
3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup rye, barley, or oat flour
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP + 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries

1) If not serving right away, preheat oven to 200', with a baking sheet inside.  You can place pancakes here to keep them warm and fresh until serving.

2) Melt 2 TBSP butter, add remaining 1 TBSP butter and mix in until melted.  This will help keep the melted butter cool.

3) Mix flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

4) Whisk eggs and yogurt in large bowl.  If you are using greek yogurt, add 4 TBSP milk, if regular, just 2 TBSP milk.  Whisk in lemon zest and vanilla.  Mix in melted butter.

5) Add dry ingredients to wet, mix until just combined.  Batter will appear very thick.  You can add another TBSP milk if you think it is too thick.

6) Heat griddle, add a little butter to grease the hot pan.  Drop batter onto pan in 1/4 cup portions.  Place blueberries on tops of pancakes.  When bubbles form on the tops, flip the pancakes, cook until sides are cooked through.  Place in heated oven or serve immediately.

Makes 8-10 medium sized pancakes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

DIY Homemade Little Debbie Be My Valentine's Cakes

Yay, it's February, bring on the heart related stuff!

I may have a slight obsession with hearts- my birthday is on Valentine's Day, do you blame me?

The downfall of the heart obsession is my weakness for Little Debbie Be My Valentine cakes.  When I lived in Japan, I would get so excited to receive a box of them as a birthday gift from home.

I have been thinking about attempting to make a homemade version for quite some time now.  Yesterday, I had three sick kids, so there wasn't a whole lot going on around here, so I finally made them!

The Little Debbie cakes have become quite a favorite of my oldest son.  When I was done, I called him over to show him them. His response : "Wow Mom, they look really good, but um don't you think it kind of makes you look like a copy cat?"  Ha ha.  After eating them, he decided mine were really delicious and he likes them better.

The pink chocolate doesn't taste quite the same as Little Debbie's, but homemade is always better- you know what ingredients you put in.  I searched for a recipe to follow, and I found one of a homemade zebra cake, so I used the filling recipe only from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.

Be My Valentine Cakes:

Cake- use your favorite vanilla cake recipe (box or from scratch)- I used this one, but I only used half batch

1/4 cup shortening (crisco)
1/8 cup marshmallow fluff
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1-2 TBSP half and half

1 14 oz bag pink melting chocolates
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
canola oil

1) Preheat oven to 350' for cake.  Make cake according to recipe you are using.  Grease and flour a rimmed cookie sheet (2 if using a full cake batch).  ( I made half batch of the cake recipe, so the filling amounts and shell amounts shown are for a half batch of cake.  If using a boxed cake, you need to double the filling and shell amounts).

2) Spread cake batter into cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

3) Let cake cool completely.  While it is cooling, prepare the filling.

4) For the filling, mix together the shortening, fluff, and vanilla.  Add confectioner's sugar and beat until combined.  Add in half and half, beat until light and fluffy.  If necessary, add in a tiny bit more half and half.

5) Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut heart shaped pieces of cake and set them on a platter.  Try to cut an even number of shapes.

6) Once cooled, spread filling on tops of half of the hearts.  Place remaining hearts on top to create a "sandwich".  Set the filled hearts on a platter and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

7) Place the pink chocolates in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 20 seconds, stir, repeat, until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Add a few teaspoons of oil - I used canola- to thin it out and make it appear smoother when dipping the hearts.

8) Remove heart cakes from the refrigerator.  Place a heart in the bowl of melted chocolate, using a spoon, pour the chocolate over the top of the heart and let it run down the sides.  Smooth it with the back of the spoon.  Using a fork, lift the heart from the bottom, and take it out of the bowl, hold it in the air for a moment to let chocolate drip off.  Place the cake on waxed or parchment paper to let the chocolate harden.  (If during the process, the chocolate begins to harden in the bowl, remicrowave for 20 seconds, then mix.)

9) When all cakes are coated with pink chocolate, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave for 20 seconds, then mix, continue until melted and smooth.  Place in a ziploc bag with the corner slightly cut off.  Squeeze white lines back and forth across the tops of the cakes.  Let it harden and enjoy!

Here's a little side by side comparison, which would you choose?