Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mr. Goodbar Bites - So Easy

Busy, busy day getting ready for the big Easter egg hunt this weekend at Grandma and Pawpaw's.  We were all over the city picking things up.  It was warmer and the sun was shining and that was a very good thing.  We didn't get home until late, I was T.I.R.E.D.  and I needed a little treat.  I ate the very last Mr. Goodbar bite.  I did not share.  Not one bite.

I made them on Monday afternoon.  They are gone - every last one.  What does that tell you?  But, the good news is, I have enough supplies on hand to make another batch.  What can be better than chocolate covered peanuts?  Chocolate.  Peanuts.  Let me think.  Mmmm, not a whole lot.

These are easy, easy, easy.  No candy thermometer needed, prep time took just a few minutes.  I saw this recipe a while back on which is one of my favorite recipe sites.  She always has easy recipes that are super tasty.  I haven't made a loser yet.

Our two oldest grandsons spent the night on Monday night, so I made these for them (and us) to enjoy while we watched a movie together.  They ate their share let me tell you and I sent a large zip lock bag full home with them the next day.  We enjoyed the rest.  Dan ate most of them.  Really.  He did.

Here is what you need to make these.  You won't believe how easy they are.

Those are the sum total of ingredients needed.  Two items.  I got these at Wal Mart as she suggested.  One package of cheap almond bark (Plymouth Pantry brand) and a 14 ounce can or jar of cocktail peanuts.   The almond bark was $2.49 and so was the can of cocktail peanuts.   A total of $5.00 for a HUGE mound of delicious chocolate covered peanuts that she called Mr. Goodbar Bites.  Yum.

Here is how you make these babies.

Separate the squares of almond bark.  I simply used a sharp knife and pressed the point of it in the indents between the big squares.  They break right apart.  I put them in a double boiler over hot water and they melt very quickly.  If you don't have a double boiler, use a big glass bowl over a deep pan with about an inch of water in it heated to simmer.  Just stir until it all melts.  Now, open the can of peanuts and dump them all in.  Stir to coat all the peanuts.  Is that easy or what?

Now, using a tablespoon, drop mounds of the chocolate-peanut mixture on waxed paper and let them sit until they are firm and dry.  Took about an hour maybe.  When they are firmly set, peel them off the waxed paper.  Done.
If you want smaller mounds, use a smaller spoon.  I may make my next batch in smaller mounds so that I can put them in colorful mini muffin papers to make them pretty for Easter Sunday.

Look how delicious these look.  All those peanuts covered in chocolate.  It is an awesome combination.  They would be wonderful to add to an adult gift basket from "Mr.  or Ms. Bunny".  Just a thought.
The grandsons LOVED them.  Our 2.5 year old grandson came to stay this morning and the first thing he asked was "Grandma, do you have any more chocolate?"  They were quite a hit.  Nothing like the endorsement of a 2.5 year old.

You have lots of time to whip up a batch for Easter to share with guests or for giving.  Maybe, you should double the batch so you will have plenty for your own enjoyment.  You will be glad you did.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”  Charles M. Schultz

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giant Bubble Blower, Hand Held Bubble Blower and Bubble Solution Tutorial

 You are looking at this picture and wondering what in the heck is that?  It is a giant bubble blower!!  And you say "A what"?  It's a giant bubble blower.  Really.  We made these for our grandsons for Christmas with the idea that when it got warm outside (if it ever does) they could make GIANT bubbles with them.

Last August, while attending the East Nashville Tomato Festival, there was a man on top of a building blowing the biggest bubbles I had ever seen.  The biggest.  Not lying.  As a lifetime lover of blowing bubbles, I had to know how he was doing such a thing.  He was quite a distance up and all I could see was the top of two poles and what looked like a string between them and these giant "holy smokes" kind of bubbles.  They were simply rolling out of this contraption he had.
Sorry, it's not the greatest picture - wish you could have been there.  Needless to say, I could have stood there all afternoon and watched him, even in the blazing heat.

Let's discuss blowing bubbles.  Do you still love them as much as I do?  There is almost nothing I love to do more than blow bubbles. especially with the grandsons.  Listening to their giggles and oooohs and aaaaahs, is worth the spills and the mess.  Once again, you return to the wonder days of summer, sitting outside in the sunshine, watching the bubbles float through the air in careless abandon.  It is a joyous memory.

There were always bubbles in our cabinet when our children were growing up.  There were no reasons or excuses needed to head outside and enjoy some good old bubble blowing time.  Great memories indeed.

Now, we all know about those teeny weeny wands that come in bottles of bubbles and many times they are completely useless!  And, why blow teeny weeny bubbles when you could make HUGE bubbles!  I have found the solution to this dilemma.  I found this solution on in their diy section.  Thank you Lowe's.  Not only did they show how to make the giant bubble blower, they had a recipe for the bubble solution that is fantastic.  Thanks again, Lowe's.  Here is what you need:

1 36 inch dowel rod, 1/2 inch in diameter
2 3/8" inch eye screws
1 1.5 inch washer
cotton string cut in a 60 inch length
paint (not necessary, just makes them more colorful)

First, cut the dowel rod in half so you have two 18 inch pieces of dowel rod.  Place an eye screw in the center top of each dowel rod.  Paint them now if you want them to be colorful.  Put the washer on the 60 inch piece of cotton string and run the string through each eye hook (make sure the washer doesn't slide off) and knot the string together.  The string should form a triangle like in the picture above.  I knotted the string many times so it would not come apart while in use.

We added some colorful duct tape to the ends of the rods to help with grip in case your hands get slick from the soapy bubble solution (and for contrast).  Here is how they looked finished.  I wrapped the string around the rods so they wouldn't tangle when I wrapped them.
Don't you just love the bright colors?  Now to use them, this is what you do.  Place a good amount of bubble solution in a wide mouth container, like a bucket.  Dip the string (with the washer at the bottom) down into the solution holding the rods close together.  Step back, pull the rods apart and let the wind catch the solution in the string.  It produces amazing giant bubbles.  It may take a few tries to get the hang of it, but you will.

The older grandsons tried theirs out a few weeks ago when we actually had a warm, sunny Saturday and they really, really work!  I don't have a picture of the bubbles, but take my word, they are awesome.  The boys and their neighbor playmates played all afternoon giggling and squealing with total delight.  Yes, that was a good gift to make.  Now, I have to make one for myself so I can join in this summer when they come over.  I can't wait!

Also, I made hand held bubble blowers for all 6 grandsons so the younger ones would be able to join in the fun.  Their parents will have to use the big blowers for a while because three of them are under 3 and using the big blower will be difficult.    The hand held bubble blowers look like this.
They also blow good sized bubbles and the three year old and 2.5 year old can do it alone.  The older boys like them too.  They are a nice change from the giant blowers.

For these, I used 20 gauge copper wire and a bunch of beads of all variety.  They all love animals, and I found the adorable animal beads at Michael's which made me very happy.  Everyone has different animals so they know their bubble blower.  These are about 8 inches long finished.

I started by pulling out a long length of wire (maybe 2 feet).  I left a length of about 8 inches and  wrapped some of the wire twice around a metal tea container that I had.  It is about 3.5 inches in diameter.   I carefully slide the wire off the container and wrapped the longer length all the way around the two circle pieces so it looked like this.

This gave the "blower" part strength and stability.  Then, I wrapped the wire over and around several times where the base would be.  If you look closely, you can see what I mean.  Then, I put the remaining wire alongside the starting piece of wire and threaded beads on in a pattern that I liked.
Next, I cut another piece of wire, wrapped it around the circle above the beads several times and crimped the end with a pair of needle nose pliers.  I wound the wire around and between the beads in a random fashion to hold the beads in place and to give the handle even more stability.
The handles will bend slightly, but are stable enough for blowing lots and lots of quality bubbles!  They were all so colorful and pretty, one of our daughter's said they looked like heirlooms and she hated to use them.  : )

When I got to the bottom of the beads, I wrapped the wire around the bottom bead, several times, cut the wire going through the beads and the outside wire to the same length and curled them up with the needle nose pliers.  Done.

They take a little time and patience, but they are worth every minute.  They are original, unique, one of a kind bubble blowers.  It's kind of like having your own pool cue or ping pong paddle.  It makes you a bona fide, no nonsense kind of bubble blower.  

Here is the recipe for the bubbles.  We made up a large quantity of it and put it in plastic canisters so that they each had a supply to start with.  Here is what you need.

a bucket
11 cups water
4 cups regular Dawn dishwashing liquid
1 cup white corn syrup

Mix all ingredients in the bucket and let is sit overnight before using.  This makes amazing bubbles!

Now, if the weather will ever cooperate and warm up, we are going to have ourselves a bubble blowing good time.  Today, we are having snow flurries.  Hopefully, this is the last of this crazy weather and spring will finally come to stay.  

By the way, these would be really fun gifts for children or grandchild this Easter Sunday!  I'm just sayin'.  Maybe you should get to work now.  It is supposed to warm up next week (fingers crossed).

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Carried on a soft whisper
Of a breeze
Little bubbles float aloft,
Delighting little children
With such simple pleasures;
A kaleidoscope of colours......

Paul Holmes

Friday, March 22, 2013

Deco Mesh Spring Wreath

I missed posting this yesterday because we have been helping our daughter and her family move to their new home this week.  We got home late last night and it just didn't happen.  Grandma and Pawpaw were toast.   Therefore, I am sharing this today to finish up spring decorating here at the little yellow cottage (for the moment).

This deco mesh wreath is hanging on the front of our house and is very easy to make.  I also discovered something when making this wreath.  Up to this point, I have been using a wire wreath frame for deco mesh and it takes WAY more of the mesh than making it this way using a straw wreath for the foundation and greening pins.  If you don't know what greening pins are, they are "U" shaped metal pins using in floral arranging.  You can buy them in any craft store and they are super useful for straw wreaths and floral arrangements.

To make this wreath, I used a 14 inch straw wreath form.  I made big loops of deco mesh and pinned them to the straw wreath, first on the left, then to the right, zigzagging around the wreath.  Continue around the wreath a second time filling in the blank spaces.  Easy, easy, easy.  I used only 1 roll of the mesh which I found at Wal Mart cheaper than any place else.  It cost less than $15 for the whole wreath.  I have used as many as 3 rolls making other wreaths.  I like this way a LOT!

If you look closely, you can see the ribbon I used for extra texture and contrast.  The best part about this  wreath on the front of the house is birds haven't built a nest in it.  I love natural looking wreaths, but they always end up a mess because birds nest in them and you know what happens without my explaining.  It ruins the wreaths.  Oh well.
I didn't want to use Easter eggs because then the wreath is limited to the Easter season.  These flowers were in my stash and are colorful and work for the spring season.  The polka dot ribbon was in two pieces.  I saved it from last year.  Love, love, love recycling/reusing things.  I wove the  ribbon through the mesh and pinned it with greening pins.  The flowers are just randomly poked in the straw wreath base.

This whole project took about 20 minutes.  It couldn't be much easier and it is so colorful on the front of the house.  It actually shows up better than any wreath I have made to go on the cedar shake.  Yay!  Score one for the deco mesh.

Since spring is officially here and we are only one week from Easter, you might want to give this project a try for your home.  This mesh is super lightweight and is great to hang inside or out.  It comes in a variety of colors and can be found at Old Time Pottery, Michael's, JoAnn's, and Wal Mart here in Nashville.  It comes in two widths - 10 inch and 21 inch.   I used the narrower width for this wreath.  You can be very creative with it, there are no set rules.  Go crazy, use your imagination, have fun!  Let me know what you make.  Better yet, post a picture.  

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“Creativity is not so much a boundless well, but an all-you-can-eat buffet of elements for your creative endeavor.  Eventually you've eaten your fill, and it's time to digest and then make something.  But at some point, it will be time to return to the restaurant.         

Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring IS Coming, Meanwhile It's Wreaths, Egg Trees and Arrangements

So it's finally the first day of spring and an evil trick has been played on us.  Punxsawtawney Phil was oh so wrong about an early spring this year.  Blast that groundhog, he had everyone so excited.   There were flurries of snow falling when we came home earlier this evening.  SNOW!!  That is no way to start spring in my book, even though I remember when I was young it snowed on Easter Sunday one year.  Guess that is the uncertainty of springtime.  This too shall pass.  Hopefully.  Soon.

In the meantime, it looks like spring here in the little yellow cottage.  We are ready whenever it decides to officially warm up and trees begin to leaf out.  Some trees are flowering, forsythia are blooming, and hyacinths and daffodils are looking jaunty.  I know it's coming.  Just bear with my complaints.  I am getting older and impatient.  I want it all now!!

Let's talk about the inside for a minute.  The picture above is the top of the cabinet inside our front door that I like to decorate for seasons and holidays.  I made a beautiful moss covered wreath to hang on my shutters that have found a home on top of the cabinet.  It was so very easy to make.
I found a bolt of moss ribbon for lack of a better description at Tuesday Morning and it looks like this unrolled.
It had originally been $16.00 and I got it for $6.99.   I simply wrapped it around an 8 inch straw wreath and pinned the beginning and end with greening pins.  How easy is that?  I used one of the little bird's nests that came in a set of three and hot glued it to the moss.  Adding a little feathered bird made the wreath complete.  I hung it with a piece of hot pink double faced satin ribbon.  It took about 10  minutes to put it together and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!
See the straw wreath peeking through?  It makes me think of forest floors covered with moss, birds chirping in the trees as they sit on their nests, waiting for their babies to hatch.  That is one of the beautiful things about spring - all the newness of life.

Can you see my egg tree on the right?  Let me tell you how it came about - quite accidentally actually.  Our daughter moved to a new home about a month ago and she had some pieces she no longer wanted to keep and asked me if I wanted them.  Sure.  Everything is useful sometime right?   Her older sister had given this candle holder to her as a gift about 15 years ago when she was in a different decorating phase than now.  It came from Anthropologie and  looked like this.
It was sort of bronze with red glass beads and little birds on it.  It was pretty, but I decided to do this with it.
Spray paint can work wonders on just about anything.  This is the same piece spray painted white.  Like it?  Thanks.  And as soon as it dried, a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew exactly what i would do with it.  I made it an egg tree for Easter.
I decorated some of my sheet music eggs and sat them in the holders where candles normally go.  The little hanging eggs came in a package from the Dollar Tree.  It looks just like I hoped it would.

For the left side of the cabinet, I made a little arrangement that has a real earthy look to go along with the moss wreath.  I filled a dollar glass vase with some black river rock for weight and added some moss covered rocks.  Now, don't go and pay a fortune for moss covered rocks at some fancy schmancy store.  You can get packages of them from my favorite place - the Dollar Tree - along with the river rock.  Two dollars is all you need to spend.  If you need the vase, then $3.00.

The flowers are some that I had in my stash.  The spike gave nice height to the arrangement and looks like unmowed spring grass,  and the little pink and green flowers added color.  You don't need styrofoam to hold the flowers.  Just stick them in the center of the where the rocks all meet and you are done!  Maybe $5.00 total in the whole arrangement.

I used some more of the green burlap ribbon I found at Wal Mart to complete the vignette along with two little ceramic bunnies that I had.  Flopsy and Mopsy.  What story are they characters in?  Done.

Now, we are just sitting here enjoying all this "spring" in our house and waiting for the elements outside to cooperate.  Don't know about you, but we are ready.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“A Robin said: The Spring will never come,
And I shall never care to build again.
A Rosebush said: These frosts are wearisome,
My sap will never stir for sun or rain.
The half Moon said: These nights are fogged and slow,
I neither care to wax nor care to wane.
The Ocean said: I thirst from long ago,
Because earth's rivers cannot fill the main. —
When Springtime came, red Robin built a nest,
And trilled a lover's song in sheer delight.
Grey hoarfrost vanished, and the Rose with might
Clothed her in leaves and buds of crimson core.
The dim Moon brightened. Ocean sunned his crest,
Dimpled his blue, yet thirsted evermore.” 
 Christina Rossetti

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Mantel Ideas From The Little Yellow Cottage

 We are in the final hours before it's officially spring!!  It is tomorrow.  Really, really spring.  Hip, hip, hooray.  Now, if the weather will only cooperate and admit that it is spring by warming up and staying that way. It would be more than appreciated by most everyone.   Dan did mow our grass for the first time today, but it was mostly onions and sprouty things.  He also cut the monkey grass so it will come back all nice and beautiful for the summer.  Don't know what monkey grass is?  Neither did I until we moved to Nashville.  I had never heard it called that and don't ask me why it's called that because I don't honestly know.  I know it as liriope.  It makes lovely borders and there is lots and lots of it used in landscaping here.  It grows very prolifically.

Thought I would share some more of my spring decorations from the little yellow cottage.  Most of the pictures are of our mantel and the sofa table.  I reused some things from last year and created some new ones for this year.

The painted banner is new this year.  In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I used a lot of pink and green because it makes me think spring.  I painted the banner using acrylic craft paints and went with tulips for my design.  The banner itself is a linen like fabric I bought on a sale table at JoAnn's.  I cut it all into banner shaped pieces and pull out some when I want to create a new banner.  I just sketched some tulips on the fabric with pencil and then painted in the detail.  I am not Michaelangelo, just a craft type painter, but the tulips look so pretty on the mantel.  I chose the word "bloom" because it is indicative of spring, awakening, and renewal.  Here are some close ups.

 On the mantel itself is a beautiful bunny I bought last year at Tuesday Morning.  Mr. Bunny is surrounded by some of the left over lime green fun fur yarn from the wreath I posted about yesterday and some of the book page eggs I made.  I think that yarn makes awesome "grass" and it doesn't shed everywhere.  It can be wound up and used again next year.  Even better.

 On the right side of the mantel is my little blue bird and a little bird house that I purchased unfinished for a dollar at Michael's.  I painted it with Annie Sloane chalk paint and waxed it with dark wax to age it.  I love bird houses and bird cages.  Again, don't ask me why.  They just appeal to me.  The little bird's nest came as a set of three that I found for just a couple of dollars at Tuesday Morning.  Yes, I shop there a lot.  You can find some beautiful things at great prices.
Detail of the left side of the mantel.   I made the candle with writing on it by stamping some white tissue paper with a stamp that has french writing on it.  Cut the tissue to fit the candle, hot glue the seam.  Then using a heat source like a blow dryer, heat the tissue until it sticks to the candle.  Easy peasy.
Notice the green burlap ribbon that is on the mantel?  Found that at Wal-Mart in the craft section.  A bolt of it was only $4.98.  That is an excellent price if you have ever bought burlap ribbon and it is wired.  It made me happy, happy.

On the right side of the hearth is a sign that is really a cabinet door.  I painted the border and inset and lettered it with a beautiful zen saying that can be changed any time because the middle is chalkboard paint.  The proverb was chosen because it reminds me that we all need to slow down and not sweat the small stuff.  Beautiful things happen in their own time no matter what "we" do.

I made this sign from one of the $5.00 cabinet doors I bought at Habitat Re-Store a while back.  It has an inset panel that makes the border look like a picture frame which is awesome.  I painted the inset with black chalkboard paint so I can change the verse or thought when I want and it can be used vertically or horizontally.  The edges are painted with Annie Sloane chalk paint (which is NOT the same as chalkboard paint) and waxed with dark and light wax to give it an aged look.  It is done in duck egg blue which coordinates with the mirror to the left of the fireplace.
Doesn't that make a lovely changeable sign?  So easy.  No framing - just a little painting since it's all one piece.  The lettering was done with these.
These little jewels are chalk markers which you can purchase at most craft stores.  They are so much easier than trying to write with real chalk!!  My friend Jon K. told me about them when I saw a sign he had lettered and asked him how he did it.  It is wonderful when friends share information.  I had seen so many signs done on different blogs and wondered how in the world they did such fabulous lettering with regular chalk.  Chalk breaks and it gets all over everything, including your hands.  It's always too wide, or there is no point on the piece you want to use.  No matter how carefully you write, it is hard to be consistent.  These are super easy to use - like a marker - and they wash right off.  Perfect!
For the sofa table, I made a floral arrangement using a metal mesh basket I got at Target for $3.00 and some silk flowers from Michael's.  The basket looks like chicken wire which I love.  The hydrangea is one that I dried last fall.  I surrounded the basket with more of the book page eggs and some precious little moss bunnies that I found at Tuesday Morning.  They add an earthiness to the arrangement.

Look at those mossy little bunnies.  They are so symbolic of spring and new life.  They make me think of egg hunts and Easter morning and all the precious memories of our children and now grandchildren.  I miss those early morning egg hunts and all the excitement, don't you?
Well, that is the living room from the little yellow cottage for spring, 2013.  Hope it inspires you or gives you some ideas for things you can do to personalize your home.  Tomorrow, I will show you my favorite cabinet that I always decorate for each holiday and season.  It has several easy ideas for you!

I will close today's blog with a picture of the fireplace from a different angle.  Yes, I am pleased with how it looks.
These decorations will carry us through to summer.  I will remove the bunnies and make a few small changes, but that is all that will be necessary.  Consider using things that can serve a dual purpose when decorating, then you don't have to spend as much time, effort, and money each season.  Also, moving things around to a different location can make such a difference.  You don't have to keep buying new items each and every time.

 You have ideas to use, now go try something fun.  Happy Spring everyone.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.  Zen Proverb

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring "Grass" Wreath Made From Yarn

Here we are at Monday once again.  Hope your weekend was all that you wanted it to be.  We spent our weekend helping our oldest daughter and family move to their new home.  We are tired.  Thankfully, Saturday the weather was gorgeous - perfect for moving.  Sunday, it was a bit cooler.  Today, we had a toad strangler with hail at our house.  Good thing they weren't moving today.  Yikes.

It's March 18,  countdown to the official first day of spring on Wednesday, March 20 better known as the spring equinox.  Am I looking forward to it?  You bet I am, especially if the weather will warm up. Trees and shrubs are blooming, the grass is getting that icky sprouty uneven look where it is going to have to be mowed and soon.  Flowers are also showing their beautiful colors.  It's such a respite from the cold gray of winter.  We just need the weather to warm up consistently.  One day it's warm, next day it's cool.  Guess that's March for you.  Yes, I am impatient.

I got so eager for spring that I decorated the house last week just to make it feel more spring like.  I didn't want everything to be Easter decorations so I had to change everything again at the end of March.  So I went with a lot of pink and green which fits the season perfectly don't you think?

The wreath above is hanging on our back door and is the easiest wreath you will ever make in your life, even if you have NEVER made a wreath before.  A child could make this wreath.  I saw it on Pinterest and it really caught my eye because it looks like new spring grass ready all ready for some bare feet.  The little flowers add just enough contrast to make it oh so adorable.  I found this wreath on a blog called Capture the Details.  There are many variations on Pinterest, some with Easter decorations, but I liked this nice, fresh spring variation.

Here is all you need to make this.

1 foam wreath form (I used a 12 inch one, use any size you like)
1 skein fun fur yarn.  (I used lime green bought at JoAnn's)
I used some vintage trim I had that looks like daisies.  Use whatever flowers you want.
double faced satin ribbon if you want a bow.

Start by wrapping the yarn around the wreath form close together.  Wrap all the way around the form and hot glue the end to the back.  There was just a little yarn left over from one skein on the 12 inch form.  I used a seam ripper to lift the yarn out from under where it was wrapped so it would stand up as much as possible.  Hot glue your flowers to the "grass" wherever you want them to be.  Use any color you would like, just make sure they are small so you don't overpower the "grass."  Tie a bow if you want one and hot glue it to the wreath.  Hang.

This project could not be any simpler if you tried.  It is SO festive and makes me long for green grass and bare feet (at least flip flops).  If you want to add Easter decorations to it, go ahead.  It's your wreath, decorate it any way you want.  My thought was this will go all the way until summer without holiday specific decorations.

Give this easy little project a try.  It will give you "spring fever" for sure.  They could be made in different sizes and hung all over your home if you wanted.  It's a great way to bring in a breath of spring.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.   Helen Keller

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Easter Centerpiece - Paper Mache' Egg Tutorial

 You do realize that Easter is March 31st right?  Tomorrow we are halfway through the month, so if  you haven't started your spring/Easter projects yet, I am sounding the alarm.  It's time to get started!!!  This is the centerpiece I made or my dining table this week.  The book page paper mache' eggs are so much fun and may be one of my favorite projects ever.  You will want to try these for sure.  They are simple, beautifully decorative, and inexpensive.  Three great words don't you think?

It is vitally important to understand that I have glitter in my veins.  I am a true sparkly girl.  Glitter, sequins and rhinestones are my friends.  Now you understand a little more about me.  My centerpiece sparkles and that makes me happy.  If  you are not a big sparkle fan, don't put glitter on your eggs.  They are beautiful without it, just better with it in my estimation.

When I am walking through stores, there are things that catch my eye and I don't know what I will do with them at that exact moment, but they jump in my cart.  Did you ever have that happen?  Later, I discover the perfect place for them.  Always.  The little sparkly bunny came from Tar-jay (better known as Target) and it was available in pink and turquoise.  I liked turquoise so he came home with me.  He was $3.00.  How could I pass him up?  Obviously, I couldn't.

The basket was also in the cheap bins at Target for $3.00.  I bought a tall one and an oblong one.  They are metal and I used both of them immediately.  The oblong one was used for a floral arrangement, and the other is here in my centerpiece.  I was happy because I didn't want a wicker basket, but something you could see through.  Good old Target came through!

Now, for the paper mache' eggs.  Easy peasy.  I used the cheap plastic easter eggs for the base.  They are 18 for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree.  Every store has them this time of year.  I used a package of regular egg size and some smaller ones.   I used book pages from my Complete works of Shakespeare that I have been using for all kinds of projects.  This time, I used some of the engraving pages and they made fabulous eggs.
I know, they look kind of scary in the full page, but when you tear them into strips and apply them to the eggs they look downright awesome.
I added a little water color to some of them and some glitter to jazz them up just a bit.  I also used sheet music and regular book pages.  Look how awesome they look.
Oh, I really do love the way they look.  If you have never done paper mache', here is all you have to do.

Tear a bunch of pages into strips and then into smaller pieces.  Use Mod Podge or white glue and coat a plastic egg with it.  I just used my fingers.  Apply strips of paper to the egg and then smear some more glue over the top to make sure it sticks.  Because of the shape of the eggs, it is impossible to get all the creases out, but do run your fingers over the paper several times to get any air bubbles out.  Keep applying paper until the entire egg is covered (it can go in any direction) and none of the color of the egg is showing through. Run your hands over the eggs several times to get them as smooth as possible. I laid them on a plastic trash bag to dry.  Warning:  You will have glue all over your hands, but it will wash off easily or peel off when dry.

I had this beautiful glitter that I bought at Tuesday Morning for super cheap.  Glitter can be a little pricey, especially this super fine kind.  I paid $4.00 for all of this.  One vial of Martha glitter will cost more than that and you will use very little on a project like this.  These have shaker tops which I love.
After the eggs dried, I used some water color and applied it to some of the eggs so they weren't all white.  I made it very watery so it didn't cover up the print on the paper.  Then I applied a little more glue and sprinkled colored glitter on some of the eggs.  They are so pretty!
All of the eggs that don't have colored glitter have clear glitter applied.  They look SOOOOO beautiful.  I am sorry the picture does not capture how much they really sparkle.

To make my centerpiece, I used a little silver tray I already had from the Dollar Tree.  I wanted the centerpiece on something that is easy to move, since we put the leaf in the table often when we have company for dinner.  I used a package of green paper shred and covered the tray and the interior of the basket which I had placed on it's side.  I scattered eggs around and sat Mr. Bunny in the shred.  I added a tiffany blue bow from some wired ribbon that I already had and voila!  I had a centerpiece.

I made lots of eggs and will be showing you other ways to use them.  These could be made by children also if you are looking for a fun spring project.  Just make sure they are wearing old clothes or covered with something.  They will get glue everywhere.  If you filled the eggs with some kind of treat first and then paper mache'd them, they could be opened at an egg hunt or for Easter.  If you wanted colored eggs, you could used colored tissue paper and use the same process.  They would be gorgeous!

Here is the centerpiece from another angle.
Total measurements for the centerpiece is a little over 8 inches high by 15 inches long.  It is so colorful and sweet to look at.  I can't wait for the grandsons to see it!

The weather has been cool and yucky.   I decided to take matters into my own hands and create spring here in the little yellow cottage.  Our house is all decorated, wreaths are made and hung, and it is going to be 70 degrees this weekend!  Yahoo!!  It is time and we are ready for some warmth and sun.  Flowers and trees are starting to bloom and we started making plans for our annual egg hunt today.  Aren't you ready for some spring weather?  Hippity, hoppity, Easter's on it's way.  Let's get this party started!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Think spring rather than just Easter when decorating.  Most of my decorations will transition through spring.  This centerpiece will be easy to replace once Easter is over and I spent slightly over $10.00 on it and the eggs will be usable or years to come.  Think outside the box when looking at items to decorate with.  You don't have to spend a lot of money.  Just be creative.  donna

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cornbread From Scratch AND Cornbread Dressing - Two Recipes For The Price Of One

Hello friends!  It's a good day, no - it's a great day, when  you get two for the price of one.  At least I think it is.  Sometimes I make one recipe knowing there will be a great use for it in another recipe.  Like here.  Delicious cornbread made from scratch and leftovers used to make a fabulous cornbread dressing!  Oh yes, two of my all time favorites.

I am going to show you how to make cornbread like my Kentucky grandma did and how to make cornbread dressing like a true southerner.   Oh boy, oh boy, are they both fantastic!  We enjoyed cornbread with fried catfish two nights ago and tonight we had the world famous roast beef and dressing.  What?  Did I say roast beef and dressing?  I sure did!  Most of us think of dressing with turkey or chicken.  You mean you can have it with roast beef?  You can and absolutely should!  

This combination comes from my first job.  I started working at Mead Johnson and Company in Evansville, Indiana, the week after I graduated high school in 1966.  I worked in the Medical Research Department.  There was an employee cafeteria that served wonderful food for super reasonable prices.  I mean real home cooked food.  On Thursday, once a month they served roast beef and dressing.  The cafeteria was always absolutely packed on that day and you knew you had to wait in line for a while, but is was so worth the wait.  I don't know about you, but my mom always made dressing with poultry, we never had it with beef.  This is where I learned that not only could you have it with beef, it was one of the best things ever!

Let me walk you through how to make cornbread in a cast iron skillet - a true southern treat.  Don't get me wrong, I like Jiffy cornbread and I use it a lot, but it doesn't even compare with REAL cornbread.  Kentucky cornbread.  Southern cornbread.  The most important part is a cast iron skillet, corn muffin, or corn stick baking pan.  Yes, they come in cast iron.  It's vitally important for that fabulously crispy, crunchy crust on the outside.  No other baking pan will make your cornbread turn out this way.  Seriously.

I have a 10 inch cast iron skillet that I use to bake my biscuits and cornbread in.  Once you do it this way, you will understand why.  Example - do you like Cracker Barrel cornbread?  It's because they bake it in cast iron.  It is soooooo yummy.  Now, here is a BIG secret to good cornbread.  The oil that you use in the batter should be heated in the cast iron skillet, swirled around the skillet then poured into the batter.  This keeps the bread from sticking to the pan and makes for a better cornbread.  Why?  I don't really know, but it does and it is the way grandma and mom always did it.  So, I do it too.  

Here is what you need for the cornbread

1 1/2 cups self rising cornmeal mix  (that means it already has the baking powder and salt in it, so you don't have to add it)  If you can't find self rising cornmeal mix, look on line to find out how to make it.
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand and let sit for 5 minutes)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
*1/4 cup sugar  (we NEVER add sugar to our cornbread, feel free if you like it sweet)

Heat your oven to 450 degrees F.  

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and stir in the buttermilk, corn meal mix, flour (and sugar) until smooth.  Heat the oil in the pan (I do this in the oven for about a minute), swirl it around the pan and add it to the batter.  REMEMBER, HANDLE WILL BE HOT ON CAST IRON - USE A HOT PAD!!!!!
Mix the batter until smooth.  It should be pourable, not too thick.  If it seems too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more milk.  Pour into prepared pan. 

Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown.  
See, the batter is thick but pourable, like a brownie batter.   After you remove the baked cornbread from the oven, let the pan sit for a few minutes, get a plate and flip the pan over so the cornbread  can be cut and the beautiful crusty bottom becomes the top.  This is how it looks.
Oh my goodness, it is so good.  Eat it hot with a big slab of butter melted on it, or you could do it like my grandma always did for a night snack.  Crumble cold cornbread up in a glass of milk or buttermilk and eat it with a spoon.  Several of our family members had relatives who did the same.  Did anyone in your family do this?  Have I done it?  No.  Thanks.  It might be delicious, but I can't stand anything floating in my milk other than cereal.  Feel free to try it if you want.  Let me know what you think.

Dan and I enjoyed this wonderful cornbread with our fried catfish the other night.  Another reason for making the cornbread from scratch was so I could make dressing to go with our roast beef tonight.  Two birds with one cornbread.  Love it!  

If you like stove top stuffing, you are going to love this recipe!  It is super wonderful and so flavorful.  It's really easy to make if you already have the cornbread made and you want it to be a day or two old.  The dressing just works better with older bread, it doesn't get as soggy.

Here is how to make cornbread stuffing our family's way.

4-5 cups crumbled cornbread
3 slices bread, lightly toasted and crumbled
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp ground sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups beef stock (from a box or can), or a little more if needed.

Dice onions and celery.  Melt butter in a skillet and add onions and celery.  Cook until onions start to get clear - do not brown!  You want them to be crunchy in the dressing.

Crumble cornbread and bread in a large bowl.  Add 1 tsp salt and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. 
Remove onions and celery from the stove and add to bread crumbs.  Add salt, pepper, and spices.  Mix thoroughly!!!!  Add beef stock, mix thoroughly.  Taste before adding eggs.  Add anything you think needed now.  (I like lots of sage, you may only want to use 2 tsps ground sage if you are not a fan.)  Beat eggs with a fork in a bowl, add to bread mixture.  Mix thoroughly!  If the dressing seems dry, add a bit more beef stock.  You want it very moist before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.  Put all the dressing mixture in the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve.

Look at all the bright green celery and onions everywhere.  Yummmmmmmmo!  I like the vegetables to have a bit of crunch to them instead of being soggy.  That's why it is important not to overcook them in the skillet.  This reheats beautifully in the microwave in case you don't eat it all .  

Oh such succulent roast beef laying over that savory dressing.  I have to tell you, it was a wonderful meal!  Wish you could have joined us.  The really exciting part is, we have left overs for tomorrow.  I LOVE when that happens.  Give these recipes a try.  You are going to be cooking like a southerner in no time!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember: