Monday, January 31, 2011

Simple No-Sew Puppets and Puppet Stage

Yesterday my youngest daughters joined me recreating something they did when they were little. We made puppets and a puppet stage. We are going to give it to my youngest niece for her birthday. We aren't done yet but here are very simple instructions for you to get your own Puppet Show started!

We started with three stuffed animals, though for some reason we didn't take a picture of the third one. He is a polar bear. Aren't they cute?

You will need some scissors and maybe a seam ripper.
The first step is to turn your stuffed animal over and cut out the bottom seam. Don't worry, the animal will probably get more use as a puppet!

Make sure you remove the stuffing from every area inside the stuffed animal. Also, depending on the ages of your children, you will want to check the steadfastness of its eyes or nose or any attached decorations.
Its that easy. Once the stuffing is out, you are done!

Next we worked on the polar bear...

It was fun; they're so cute.

Here are two of our puppets in repose:

Next you'll need a stage. This part even more simple than the puppets. You will need a curtain. Yup, a curtain. You can find one in your closet or if you need to, just stitch up a sheet so that it has a rod pocket. Next you will need a spring rod.

From Country Curtains

From Target

I know it sounds like you are putting up curtains on a window, but you aren't.

You will be putting the curtain up in a doorway! Just use the bottom of the cafe curtains. That is your stage. Make sure it is tight so that any exuberant little puppeteers have less chance to pull down the stage.

And you're done! That's it.
You probably have a great supply of puppets and you didn't even know it!

I hope you have a chance to do something creative today!

Candy-Filled Vase

I was so busy this weekend and today, I haven't gotten as much
crafting done as I'd like. But how cute is this...

I found the plans for this at A Craft a Day. She used a different style vase with a glass. You can find her tutorial here:

A Craft A Day

She has a fantastic blog with crafts and tutorials to make it easy for people like me, who just want to add a little fun to life, to be crafty, too. Please go check it out.

Here is the glassware I had when I started. Well, actually, even though I have several vases, nothing worked, so hubby and I went to the Salvation Army store. This glassware cost me $1.96.

Then I placed a smaller vase into one of the larger vases...
WHAT is wrong with this picture???

Right, well, I couldn't put the candy in!
The lip of the smaller vase matched perfectly to the lip of the larger vase.
So I tried a Starbucks Frappaccino glass... It worked!

Ta Da! I just added the candy and I was done. But I didn't have any fresh flowers (which really is the point of the vase...) but I did have fake flowers so I stuck them in. It doesn't loose its charm, and when I can get to the flower shop this weekend I'll pick up some great smelling carnations. And I will finish my other vase when I finish my Frappaccino ;-)

I hope you get a chance to be creative today!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simple Chicken Burritos

I love a simple recipe. Sometimes the list of ingredients just looks challenging, even if its not. The following recipe is VERY simple and needs only a few things.

These picture are terrible, despite my pretty Fiesta plates. Sorry, but the burritos still taste great!

I throw this together based on what I have in the cupboard. It reminds me of a restaurant burrito, which may not mean much to you, but I LOVE Chipotle Mexican Grill (and a little unknown Mexican place in Boston, Mass. which makes them even better than Chipotle's!). After making them so many times, I have a preferred plan for putting things together.

Simple Chicken Burritos

Package of soft flour tortillas
One whole green pepper, sliced
1/3 to 1/2 of a medium sized onion, sliced
Olive Oil
1.5 pounds Chicken Breast, sliced thinly
Taco Sauce (see below, OR use a package of Taco Seasonings)
One can Black Beans

I put about 3 T of Olive Oil into my pot and heat it up, then throw in my peppers and onions. After they've started to soften, the chicken goes in. At this point I sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper on top.

While the chicken is cooking I make the sauce.

1 T Chili Powder
1 t Sea Salt
1 t Garlic Powder
2 t Onion Powder
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
1/2 t Paprika

Whisk these ingredients together and add them to 3/4 of a cup of water. Heat gently to boiling while stirring, then turn down the heat and keep an eye on it for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. You can probably just do this right in with the chicken, but I haven't done that just in case I have to drain the chicken.

By the now chicken should be done, so drain the can of beans and add it to the chicken pot. Add the cooked taco sauce as well.

This should simmer for a bit, while you stir occasionally. At this point, if you didn't notice that you needed (or wanted) to drain the chicken broth from the pot, you can go ahead and add corn starch to thicken the liquid in the recipe. It won't change the flavor.

You're done!

I enjoy this on flour tortillas. My family likes to add cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and guac to this, but honestly I think it is so good just on its own!

I hope you get a chance to be creative today!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hot Bacon Cheese Spread

It's getting to be that time... Superbowl is almost here, and like many people, one of my favorite things about the game is the food. Actually, I sometimes think I like preparing the food better than eating it... Okay, wrong. That's not really true. I like both activities equally!

I was just over at You can check it out by clicking this link:

It is one of the blogs that my daughter Sas loves.

* * * * *
My daughter is 20 years old and is really really into crafting and decorating.
It was very flattering when she called me from college two days ago and told me she followed the directions for the Oreo Cookie Bites (found HERE) that I made the other day. She made them in HER DORM ROOM!

* * * * *

Anyway, a few days ago, Dana from posted a YUMMY looking recipe for Potato Broccoli Soup. Here is a picture directly from her blog, and if you click on it you will go right to the recipe:

I am definitely going to make this soup next weekend. Her comment that her husband isn't interested in soup unless you ADD BACON is exactly what happens here at our house.

Seeing this also made me think of one of my hubster's favorite recipes - he'll be thrilled if I add it to our buffet for the big game. Here it is:

Hot Bacon Cheese Spread

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise*
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 garlic clove, minced

This is very simple. You just throw everything together, and place it in an oven safe bowl and heat it in a preheated 350 degree oven until melted and heated all the way through. I have seen people put it in a bread bowl and it is delicious that way, but when I did that one time, the cheese mixture soaked into the bread and I feel that you can get more spread and better flavor by heating and serving it separately. Btw, plain tortilla chips are also great with this dip.


P.S. I'm so glad my daughter introduced me to Dana's blog - she's got tons of great sewing projects!

Kitchen Renovation

I wrote in my profile that I am NOT a decorator.

However, I am now faced with a daunting task:
I have an empty room (scary!) that needs to be renovated kitchen!
I am pretty timid when it comes to my walls, and it is only recently - since I've become a reader of some amazing decorating and craft blogs - that I've dared to do some decorating in my home. It is already looking better!

But today I need help with more than walls. I need to configure an entire room! We had a small wall separating a small galley kitchen from a parlor. I knew I wanted to tear that wall down. So when I was out of town with my family last week, my hubby tore it down and put up a joist and basically created a huge empty space! I thought I had some ideas set in my mind, but now that its here I can honestly say I have too many ideas to choose from! I can put the kitchen appliances anywhere I want, but I do need to have the sink on one of two walls. So other than allowing for doors and windows, anything goes!


Pictures to come...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crafting while Traveling (no scissors allowed!)

Flying from Florida to Pennsylvania...

I am getting ready to head home tomorrow. My kids are SO excited to get Mom back! Tonight my husband said they weren't eating until 9pm, because he is trying to finish a construction project in time for me to come back. No wonder they are excited, lol.

I have been at my sister's house for the past six days and I haven't been able to craft. I've been visiting with my family, trying to help a little with the care for our mother, who is just out of the hospital and recently diagnosed with Alzheimer. I've been keeping my mother busy, engaging her in cooking and cleaning. Even in her wheelchair! Today I asked her to sweep and Swisher the floor of the kitchen for me. She was happy to, and I think she felt she was making a difference. Just as with your children, I just didn't tell her when I went back over it myself while she was napping...

My sister asks if I always keep myself so busy at home, and I guess I do.

On the trip down here I took a direct flight, but still I knew I would have to be distracted for the first hour of the trip, and my print books and ipod books would not be enough to contain my antsy feelings. To combat this, I brought along embroidery thread and began to make a friendship bracelet. While I did bring instructions, it was hard to read them on the plane, and I had a little trouble figuring them out. Of course, this meant I didn't get it finished on the flight - I dozed lightly while listening to a book from:

The book was free. I got it, along with a few others, when I signed up for a 30 day free trial of the site (I just have to remember to cancel it next week, unless I decide it was worth it. I'm still not sure, but I certainly have enjoyed using it for this trip).

I am embarrassed to admit what I was listening to. It was a book created from the TV show "Castle". Take a look at Amazon and check out this book (you can click the book to go straight to Amazon).

If you watch the show, it actually has the ACTOR as the real author ! So funny!

The weather on this end is calling for heavy rain, and in fact, we had a tornado warning tonight. It went over the house and blew on by. The weather back at home is calling for snow! So I'm preparing (I was a girl scout - plan ahead!) for a delay while hoping we don't have one. Now what can I bring on a plane if I'm stuck on the tarmac for any amount of time? I wish I had asked this question earlier, so I could have gotten some suggestions...

For now, I guess I'll have to just enjoy knot-tying again, and listening to my book.

Have a great day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poker Table - Gift Project

Here is a fun project that makes a great gift!

This is a very simple poker table that can be stored behind a couch in a dorm room or an apartment, and pulled out when desired. To use it, you simply place it on a card table, a kitchen table, or even a coffee table.

We went to Home Depot in order to buy our wood. Sarah and I bought a thinner sheet of plywood, but I recommend a half inch sheet of plywood so that there is no question of its stability. It comes 4' x 8', so have the store cut it to 4' x 4'. The store won't cut the corners, so you'll have to do that at home.

To do that you will need to measure 14 inches from each corner and cut the same distance for each corner, creating an octagon from the 4' x 4' sheet of plywood. Now sand the edges of the octagon and save the cut corners for some project, or until the time comes when you decide you no longer need to have 4 exact wooden triangles for any possible reason. That would be what I plan to do...

Once sanded, take brown spray paint, and paint the edges
plus the area about 12 inches in from the outer sides.

Let this dry.

Take 1 yard of green felt and measure in on each corner by 10 inches.
This will create a felt octogan that will fit inside of the plywood octogan.

Now you will need to spray the felt with adhesive to adhere it to the wood. We used Krylon Spray Adhesive. We also sprayed it on the full center area of the plywood - on the area that was not painted brown. In order to do this we covered the brown painted areas in newspaper. I don't really know if you need to do this, because ultimately you are going to seal the painted areas. But we did it.

Center the felt onto the plywood and smooth it down.

Now glue down playing cards in any attractive pattern, onto the brown painted areas.
At this point you can paint varnish onto the brown painted area that contains the cards.
This will protect the edges and makes a nice shiny finish.

DON'T look at what surrounds the table...
yes, the weightbench used as a giant clothes hanger, etc...
 Ta da!! A present for your college kid, your friend, or a brother or sister... Sarah made hers for her boyfriend, and she liked it so much she made one for her brother.

Happy Monday!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Keeping Mom Happy - my mom has dementia

Sweater, n.:  garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. 
~Ambrose Bierce

Haide and Bob, ~1944

Haide, 2006
The big news is that my mother really does have dementia, and it happened within the last 4 months.  I last saw her 8 months ago, 5 months before her 86th birthday, and she was just fine. 

I live 1,000 miles from my mother.  Fortunately, my sister and her family, along with one brother, live near her.  I am thankful that I have been able to visit just about every year for the past 20 years.  My father died in 1998, and she has continued to be a vigorous and independent woman.  Then, just 4 months ago, she experienced a sudden unexpected brain seizure.  This necessitated a hospital stay, medical testing and lots of forced bed rest.  This was followed by two falls while being under medical care.  The falls required two surgeries, and more bed rest.  She had never had surgery before, and never had broken any bones.  But during all of this, her mind quickly went from alert to disoriented.  Like others who have experienced this, it is a shock.  There was no warning. 

After 4 months, my mother was finally released to my sister's home.  My sister bears the burden of care for my mother, though my mother has the benefit of full-time CNA's (until the money runs out...).  This creates a strain on her and her family.  There are also other money issues that have just been discovered, relating to other family members.  I never thought any of this would happen in our family.  Honestly, the medical issues are more easy to deal with than the disappointment over the money issues.  I pray that my sister and her husband have the strength and emotional and financial support that they need to shoulder this burden. 

This is when I wish didn't live so far away. 

I am currently visiting, trying to get some time in with my mother and ease my sister's burden for just a few minutes.  We are lucky that our mother DOES know who we are, even if she doesn't know where she is or what year it is (or what reality it is!).

"In search of my mother's garden, I found my own." ~Alice Walker

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen - Playdough to Make at Home

It's Thursday - Kids in the Kitchen Day!

Let's make Play dough!

I taught preschool for years, and I was always surprised to hear how many parents do not allow their children to paint or sift flour or do other important learning activities in their own homes.

Allowing your children to make messes and play with play dough is so important for your child's development. Fine motor skills are mastered and creativity grows. Concepts including texture and size and the five senses are explored without a word being said. In addition, creating shapes with play dough can become an academic AND fine motor lesson - teaching about circles and squares? Form one from play dough! Teaching your child how to spell their name? Help them to create letters using it.

You will need to make this for your child before he or she can play with it.

Here is the recipe:

3 cups of Flour
1 1/2 cups of salt
3 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
3 cups of water
Food coloring or packets of unflavored Kool-aid in various flavors

Mix and cook this over very low heat until not sticky to touch. It is easier if you add the food coloring to the mixture prior to cooking.
If you choose to add the coloring after cooking, you will have to knead it into the dough when the dough is somewhat cool.

Okay, now go PLAY with the kids!! The mess will wait, the kids will not!

Just a note: Be aware that the Kool-aid will make the dough smell good, even if it won't taste good.
Keep an eye on little ones who enjoy munching on things!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Giving the Rice Cooker its second try

Here is the second recipe I have tried for my Rice Cooker. I found this recipe on I have still been trying to conquer the basic rice recipe and I have found that adding a little extra water has helped.

Apple Rice Pudding

I wasn't looking for something with this many ingredients but it looked simple enough and of course, delicious, so off I went. Our youngest peeled and diced the apples and we watched it cook together.

It was terrific!

Apple Rice Pudding


  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 cup short-grain white rice (Carolina Gold is recommended)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla

Combine the first six ingredients. Start the rice cooker and let it roll. When it says it is done, add the remaining ingredients and start the rice cooker again. After it finishes then check the ingredients in the cooker. If it needs to cook again, then go ahead, otherwise add cinnamon and eat.

We didn't have to cook it another time, our apples were diced pretty small. And it tasted wonderful.

One nice thing about the website is that you can change the number of servings and get an updated recipe.

I'm still not sure if I'll end up loving the rice cooker, but I can see some possibilities. I'll keep you posted!


Sewing an Apron - My First!

I am having so much fun playing with my new sewing machine! I am NOT a sewer but I can't stop sewing! This past week I started and finished several projects. The one I'm most proud of is an apron I made for my sister.

She has no idea that I made it for her. I'm hoping she uses it for craft projects, but at the very least I hope she likes it! I made it from scrap fabrics that I had here at the house.

I didn't buy any patterns, but I did have instructions. They were from this book:

I'm not going to detail the steps too much, just a little. This is a great book. I can follow a pattern (if its easy) but I love to just stick things together and make it happen. This book allowed me to feel I was doing that, while at the same time giving me a detailed resource.

My husband is so funny. I showed him the fabrics and asked him how he liked the colors, and, diplomat that he is, he said he was not able to envision things from scraps of fabric. He wouldn't have an opinion until it was complete. Cute.

Oh well, I said I made it from scraps.

I think its a fun combination. Plus I love paisley!

After cutting out the squares of fabric I needed for the apron and the pocket, I zig zag stitched around both. Then I folded about a 1/2 inch on both sides and the bottom of the apron piece and hemmed them. For the pocket I also used the zig zag stitch all around - but didn't hem it. I folded the piece into thirds, then folded it one inch off the sides of each fold, in order to ultimately end up with pockets that open wide. Ironed all the folds, and at this point I folded down the top of my pocket and hemmed only that side.

With my use of lovely WHITE thread you can see exactly what I've done... After hemming, I ironed and pinned the folds in place and pinned the pocket to the apron and sewed it on. I used a cool stitch on my machine called a satin stitch. Anyone who sews might know it but not only does it look interesting, it is extra strong. I used this stitch for in between each pocket as well.

I had to use a different footer for my machine to do that stitch. Wow I may end up being a sewer, yet! (...Why doesn't that word LOOK right??? :-)

I think this little detail is very cool. Between the folds and the stitching, I'm feeling pretty good. Just don't look at some of my wavy stitch lines!! Viewing them is an example of why you should use thread that matches and doesn't contrast!

This picture below shows how I interpreted the instructions for creating a nice tight stitch line for when you are putting on the apron and pulling the sashes. They may not be straight but I believe I did it right!


Love it!