Monday, July 29, 2013

Easy Ice Cream Cake

Hi Friends! How was your weekend? I know that a lot of people don't like Mondays, but I am becoming a fan. Our weekends are usually so busy I'm thankful for a day at home! I got out my knitting stuff this weekend and summoned fall weather, apparently. Cool and foggy here for the second day in a row; so rare for hot Colorado in summer, we are loving a break! Anyway, enough blabbing, I have been wanting to share this super easy ice cream cake for a while so here it is! You can make this cake in five minutes and without turning on your oven, so it's perfect for summer.

Easy Ice Cream Cake

12 pack of ice cream sandwiches
1 tub frozen whipped cream, thawed 
magic shell chocolate sauce
chocolate chips/candy bars, chopped

How to:
1. Layer about 5 1/2 sandwiches in a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish, cutting to fit if necessary. 

2. Cover the layer of sandwiches with half the whipped cream, spreading evenly. Drizzle with chocolate shell (you could definitely use more, I just ran out).

3. Add another layer of ice cream sandwiches and top with remaining whipped cream.

4. Sprinkle your favorite chocolate topping on top. Chocolate chips, candy bar pieces, Oreos, etc. You could also drizzle with more chocolate shell. 

5. Freeze until ready to eat. I'd say at least an hour because you want it to get frozen together so it's easier to cut.

That's it! Hope your week is off to a great start!

You are loved!
- Haley

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Swim Robes

I bought the beach robe pattern by Dana of MADE, when it came out a couple years ago. I actually used it to make Thing One a fleece robe, rather than a towel one. But since he's been doing swimming lessons this summer we've had a lot more trips to the pool and I thought a towel robe would actually be really nice. Walmart had a great deal on towels a couple weeks ago so I bought some for $3.88, and planned to make the robes. Only I didn't go back and read that I should have bought two towels per robe and three packs of bias tape for each as well. Hmmm. Rather than get the "right" materials I decided I would just alter the pattern a little bit and see if I could make a robe out of one towel and use more of the existing hem to cut down on the amount of bias needed. Guess what? You totally can and in probably half the time! Here's how I adapted MADE's robe pattern (you can get it here for $8) to make a robe out of one towel and just three yards of bias tape.  

This worked for both the 18 mo-3T and the 4T sizes, but you have to line things up just right to make them fit on one towel, and make the most use of the existing finished edges. Some things that the original pattern says to cut on the fold I didn't, and other things that just said "cut two" had to be cut on the fold.
Rather than use the two overlapping front panels I traced the back piece of the pattern (it comes with just half the back). Then I taped both halves together to make one solid back piece. I cut out two layers and used this as the body piece for the front and back of the robe. I also traced a second sleeve piece so I could just lay them both out at the same time.  
I folded the towel in half, hamburger style and right-side-out, and laid the pattern out like so:
  • tops of the sleeves are cut on the fold
  • the hood is lined up with the finished edges
  • the bottom of the body piece is lined up with the finished edge at the bottom

Below you can see all the cut-out pieces. The hood is inside out, ready to be sewn together, and the body piece is two layers with the patterned part on the outside. This towel only had circles on one side so I had to make sure I was sewing the right sides the right way, but luckily if you cut it out folded like above all your pieces will be right. Warning: cutting towels is messy!! I was picking towels thread/fuzz off of things for days, even after vaccuming! You can see the blue in the carpet here.

The next thing I did was take the front body layer and cut it down the middle. For Thing One's I sewed on an exposed zipper that I happened to have. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on that because frankly, I wouldn't do it again. I wanted to try doing the zipper because I've never done one and an exposed zipper seemed like a good place to start, but it was a pain to make the zipper the right size and the towel edges still fray and get caught in the zipper some times. It looks cool and it does mostly work, but I would recommend using bias tape (like I did on the orange one). This was so much quicker.

If you cut it out like shown above, the only other cut pieces that have to be finished with bias tape are the sleeves. I sewed the robe together basically using Dana's tutorial found here. I like sewing the sleeves on first rather than last. I've done it both ways and I just think it's easier to do them first. I sewed the hood on just as the pattern shows, except for the blue one I did bias tape along the front collar before adding the hood, just to give it a little extra color.

On the orange one I did a lined hood because I had this cute frog flannel that someone had given me. Without doing the zipper, it was a pretty easy project. I don't have a serger, so I just zig-zaged all the edges when I was done. For the one with bias on the front I just made a little strap with towel scraps and sewed on some velcro. It works pretty well. I may add another velcro tab further around so it would wrap tighter, Thing Two's pretty skinny : )

If you want to make kids robes I'd definitely recommend Dana's pattern. If you want to use just one towel and less bias tape, then hopefully this methods makes sense. You could try to make your own pattern and use this method. To me it's worth it to have the measuring work done for $8, plus you get three sizes, and all the directions with pictures. She does such a great job with her patterns. MADE is one of the first blogs I ever really followed and I have appreciated a lot of her tutorials as well as some free patterns so I was happy to pay for this one. Plus you can use it to make a great house robe as well! My boys are loving their towel robes and I am loving not having to drag around as many wet towels. 
Happy Swimming!
- Haley

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fresh Food Friday: Green Beans

Hi and happy Friday! We are getting to the part of the summer where all our hard work is paying off in the garden.

Here's what we picked a couple days ago. Every day is a different combination. We have so many green tomatoes just about to turn. This year we are trying out a variety of colors we've never grown before we're growing  purple, red, yellow and orange tomatoes, and green and purple beans. I am loving the rainbow of colors coming in every day! 

I honestly didn't even know you could grow purple beans until maybe last year. They are doing great and we've probably picked even more purple than green. We planted about eight bush beans and six pole beans. The bush beans we started indoors in April, and the last couple of weeks we've picked a handful a day, with no end in sight! Usually every two days we have enough for a side with dinner. I love how prolific they are and how long they continue to produce.

All garden produce should be so rewarding. Plus they are easy for the kids to pick, and the kids love the overnight gratification; beans that were small yesterday will be ready today. They seriously grow in like two days! So there's something for them to pick every single day.

Now for how we eat them: 

This is so boring, but Thing one only likes soft veggies, so if we boil them he will eat them. I'm just glad he will eat fresh veggies from the garden. We got some wax beans from my parents' garden and I love the pretty mix. Heads up though, the purple ones turn green when you boil them!

Sesame Sauté
My favorite way to cook green beans is to sauté them in olive oil with salt and sesame seeds. 

Although Thing One only likes cooked veggies, Thing Two will eat them right off the bush! And actually they are great raw, especially if you pick them before they get too big. They are perfect for these appetizers, or just on a veggie tray with dip. We can make a pretty great veggie tray with zucchini sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, fresh green beans, and snap or snow peas all from our garden. We even throw some herbs in there sometimes as a fun garnish.

If I could only grow a couple of veggies, green (and purple) beans would definitely be one of them! I hope you have a great weekend! Happy gardening and green bean eating!

- Haley

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Reading Fun

As you know, we are big fans of *free* around here. Most of our summer fun involves taking advantage cheap or free community programs at the local museum, rec center, out-door malls and the library. The last couple years we have signed the boys up for the summer reading program. When you have a goal with prizes at the end, there's lots of incentive to spend 30 minutes reading instead of watching TV. Even Thing Two gets prizes (like a board book), if his parents read to him. 

I think it's important for kids to think reading is fun, not a chore. I posted a while ago about the book bags that I make for them sometimes, and our Eric Carle theme day. This summer I've tried to encourage Thing One to read all over the place and be creative with it. 

When he started getting board with his thirty minutes of reading time, I made him this:

A reading adventure map! The idea is to read one book in each secret spot. Thing One actually has a "reading tent" set up in his room all the time (just one of those little play tents), so that was easier that it sounds. We put a couple of pillows in the dry bath tub and he thought that was the best reading spot ever!

I also think it's important to show Thing One and Thing Two that even grown ups like to read. As hard as it is for me to fit reading in, I do want to read books; learn new things, and get fresh perspective on stuff. So I've tried especially this year put reading on my priorities list. It's still hard to fit it in, but I want them to see me reading and checking out library books too. Actually checking out books from the library is great for me because then I have a deadline. Even if I have six weeks to read it, that's a deadline and it keeps it on my to do list.
I just finished reading Unpoverty and One Thousand Gifts, both of which I recommend. They are the kind of books that refocus our purpose and give me the perspective that I unfortunately have to be reminded of all the time. Earlier in the year I read The Tehran Initiative by Joel Rosenberg am now racing a due date to finish his third book in the series: The Damascus Count Down. Next on my list are 7: And Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and When Helping Hurts. What are you reading? Any suggestions of books I should add to my list?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fresh Food Friday : Zucchini

¡Bienvenidos Amigos! We made it to another Friday! This week I have a special treat--it's a double feature: Fresh Food & Free Food! First we'll talk about what to do with zucchini, besides sneak them on to your neighbor's porch...

Part I : Fresh Food 
I'm cheating this week, because last year I posted a bunch of recipes for zucchini, and they are all still my favorites so I'm sharing them again. We went to a little kids concert today at our local library and the singer sang a song about what he was growing in his garden. It went something like: "I'm growing onions and zucchini, carrots and zucchini, lettuce and zucchini, green beans and zucchini..." Funny and true.  

Here's the links to each of these recipes:

Part 2: Free Food
Dress up like a cow today (Friday July 12, 2013), get a free entree or meal at Chick-fil-a. They are even nice enough to give you printable costumes. Find yours here and get all the details. We are planning to wear black clothes, so I drew some white spots for Thing One to cut out. He also cut out the ears, and we learned about "tabs." Turns out cow costumes make for good preschool scissors practice. Yes, my friends, everything can be turned into a life-skills lesson. : )

I hope are enjoying your zucchini and your free chikin! Have a great weekend!
- Haley

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Homemade Bug Spray

It seems to always be "a bad year for mosquitos" here.  Sometimes we even have a truck come and spray our neighborhoods late at night, and the last several years we have had multiple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus from mosquitos in our town. I also happen to be one of those people that steps outside and apparently becomes a cartoon steak, because if I don't have repellent on I get bit about five times a minute. That said, I hate the greasy bug sprays. So when I found this natural one on Pinterest (via Remodelaholic),  I was excited to see if it would work. After about a month of using it, my boys have only had a couple of bites, and whenever I am wearing it, the mosquitoes don't get me either, so I feel like it works! I've seen several different recipes for this, but decided to go with this one because it was simple and originally came from Country Living Magazine. I figured if they were going to publish it in a magazine, someone there hopefully tested it and found it to be effective. I didn't want to post about it until I had done the same. : )

I found the pure essential oils at several grocery stores. Even our King Soopers has a natural health section, so these are not hard to find, but you might want to wait until they are on sale. We got lucky and two of the three were on sale when we bought them. I bought both the witch hazel and the spray bottle at Dollar Tree, yes you can get witch hazel there! Here's the recipe I used:

Homemade Bug Spray

1/3 cup witch hazel
1/2 tsp lemon grass oil
1/2 tsp eucalyptus oil
1/2 tsp citronella java oil

I used a funnel to pour everything right into the bottle. It does separate, so it's important to shake the bottle every time before you use it. I keep one by the back door and one in the car. We went though a bottle in about a month (and we use it pretty much everyday). I think two bottles of witch hazel and one of each of the oils should be enough to make about four spray bottles, or a whole-summer supply.

I don't know if this is back-woods strength, but it keeps the mosquitos off in the back yard and at the park. It's nice to know exactly what I'm spraying all over my kids' skin.

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fresh Food Friday: Cucumbers

Hi! I hope everyone had a fantastic fourth of July! This Friday let's talk about cucumbers, shall we?

I have actually picked four cucumbers this year already! Here's some cukes we grew another year. This year we are growing cucumbers on a trellis, and it's been a win-win. The cucumbers are growing great, and we're happy they aren't taking up tons of ground space.

I guess this is the part where I tell you I don't like cucumbers. I like the flavor, just not the texture. So we try to get a little more creative in how we eat them. I know I just shared this cool cucumber soup recipe when we talked about herbs (because of the mint in it), but it is a great way to use up cucumbers and it's a refreshing lunch on a hot day.

Before we had kids we would often just make a bunch of appetizers for dinner. If you are looking for an appetizer to bring to bring to a party, try replacing the traditional veggie tray with a plate of gourmet-looking cucumber slices:

Cucumber Cream Cheese Appetizers
Mix fresh (chopped) herbs like rosemary, chives or dill into a block of cream cheese. Use a frosting bag with a star tip to pipe cream cheese onto cucumber rounds, or just spread a little on each slice. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and garnish with a few sprigs of whatever herb you mixed into the cream cheese.

Last week we were eating at Food Truck Night, and I had a cucumber soda, and we thought, maybe we could make this? So we did some experimenting and found not only could we make cucumber, but just about any flavor we wanted! It's a whole new world of soda, my friends. Here's the easy directions:

Cucumber Soda 

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cucumber
1 bunch of spearmint sprigs
sparkling seltzer water

(This is actually the cinnamon basil flavor....we'll get to that : ) )

Chop 1/2 the cucumber into small chunks. Slice the other half into thin rounds. Roughly chop a handful of mint. Stir sugar and water together over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved add cucumber chunks and chopped mint. Heat to just boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes or so, again stirring once in a while. Strain out the cucumber and mint, and store the syrup in an air tight container in the fridge until you are ready to mix up your soda. 

When you are ready to make the soda, fill tall glasses with ice and add 3 tbsp of the syrup, then fill with the sparkling seltzer water. 

Add a few slices of cucumber and a sprig of mint to each, stir well and enjoy!

 Here's a couple other variations we tried, take out the cucumber and mint and try:

Cinnamon Basil: cinnamon basil sprigs, and garnish with the basil as well.
Lavender Mint: lavender blossoms and a handful of chopped mint. Garnish with a sprig of each.

For our 4th of July picnic we set up a little herbal soda bar so everyone could try all the flavors. It was fun to do something different.

We are really enjoying our new herbal sodas, and I hope you will too! Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 1, 2013

4th of July Projects

We're getting ready for America's birthday, and I thought I'd just share some projects and ideas for the 4th. Last year we made flag pancakes and bald eagle treats. Here's another patriotic snack or lunch: corn dog bites with (blue) mayo, mustard and ketchup.

My husband and I went out for our biannual movie in the theater the other day and we saw Iron Man 3. After which, we realized we probably should have seen Avengers first...and Captain America. We watched both and now I'm a big Captain America fan. So, I decided to make Thing One and Thing Two Captain America tees for the 4th. Here's Thing Two's and I'll be racing to get Thing One's done before Thursday. I used my silhouette, freezer paper, and fabric paint. The red turned out a little dark, but I'm calling it "vintage." I gave Thing One the option to just wear a different shirt, (because hey that's less work for me!), but he begged me to make one for him too, because he said then they would match and I would think that is cute. [He's right, I will : )]

I've been meaning to make a bandana table cloth for a while, so finally made one. I wanted something patriotic to bring to the picnic, because we always bring a card table for the food. 

It's just four bandanas sewn together. I probably should have ironed it better before the picture, but you get the idea. It will be covered with yummy food anyway!

Our garden is in full bloom, and it's fun to be able to pick a red white and blue arrangement right from the backyard. This one's from last year, and it was mint with red dianthus, blue cornflower (or bachelor buttons), and white cosmos. This year's will probably be red roses and dianthus, light blue delphinium, and white cilantro blossoms. 

Have a very happy 4th of July! I'm so thankful to live in the Land of the Free, because of the brave. Thank you men and women who have served with honor, and families who have sacrificed and taken on more to allow them to do so. You are all heros, and I am truly grateful.
God Bless America!

Looking for more 4th of July ideas? Here's some fun from last year:

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