Monday, May 31, 2010

Aunt Jo's Diner

Saturday night we created our own burger joint - my sister Joanna likes to make her own french fries from scratch so I took pictures of her working and I am going to share them with you!  They take a little bit of work, but are so yummy and not that bad for you because they are baked.  You will need:
8-9 baking potatoes
4-5 tsp of canola or corn oil
salt and pepper or Cajun seasoning
paper towels
cutting board

The first step is to peel the potatoes.  BONUS tip:  When peeling potatoes or carrots, line a bowl with a plastic bag.  Let the peels fall into the bag as you peel, then when you are finished tie up the bag and throw away!  Sure beats leaning over the trash can for 20 minutes.

Next cut the potatoes into strips and let them dry on paper towels.  Here is how to cut them.
Cut in half

Turn one half cut side down - cut in half

Cut each of those pieces in half, turn those halves onto their side.

Cut into 1/2" strips- try to keep them all uniform, this will help them cook evenly.

Let them dry for about 10 minutes - patting with paper towels as needed.  The drying process helps them absorb the oil.

Now, put them all into a bowl and pour the oil over the fries. 

Toss with a spoon to coat them well. 

Lay them onto cookie sheets in a FLAT layer - they only brown when they are touching the pan.
Bake them in the oven at 450 for about 35 minutes, turning them over as needed so they will brown on all sides. 
When they are done, toss them with the seasoning in a bowl- serve up along side a big juicy burger and a diet coke- who needs to go out?
 Have a great Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Do.....the dishes! Quick and Easy Wedding Gift- His and Hers Kitchen Towels

I feel like I am always using the words quick, easy, cheater, super-fast...but you know what? I have a little one to take care of and I know many of you do too!  We love to craft but often have to find the time while they are napping, or the hours between when they go to bed and when we go to bed...or the whole try-to-sew-with-one-hand-and-read-Very-Hungry-Caterpillar-while-talking-on-the-phone-to-your-mom.  Well, anyway here is a quick, easy, low-key gift idea that I made in 2 hrs today while she was napping.  I had to make it in that time because the couple receiving this gift is getting married tonight :)
Here is what you will need:

2 dish towels - once again I rely on good old TJ Maxx bought these two for $5
Scraps of cotton fabric
Sewing Machine/Thread

Lay out the "his" towel, and measure the bottom of the towel.  Cut a strip of fabric that length plus 4 inches (to wrap around the back).

You can make it as wide as you would like, just remember to have enough to fold the top and bottom of the strip down.  Press the strip.  Pin one edge to the back of the towel.

Top-stitch this part down.

Lay it across the top and pin it on the other back side.

Stitch that side, but be careful not to catch the top part.

Now pin the top part to the top of the towel.  Top stitch this on.  Press it well and voila! 
On to the "hers" towel.
Appropriately, the "hers" towel is slightly more complicated but definitely more beautiful.  Cut a strip twice the length of the bottom of the towel and twice as wide as you would like it to be.  (I pieced a couple scraps- since you are gathering it you won't notice the piecing). 

Fold it in half length-wise and press- also fold the ends in and press.  Top stitch just inside of the fold to hold it in place when it gathers.  Use a large basting  stitch and stitch across the top of your strip.  Pull to gather. 

Pin it to the towel and then top stitch in place.  Next use some kind of trim- I chose ric-rac- and pin it along the top of the strip. 

Stitch in place. 

 Good job!  Now go make a pair for yourself too!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are you stressed?

Currently, I am not.  But I know that it seems like EVERYBODY is stressed or tired or something.  Life is tricky- it takes a lot of concentration and energy.  Now ideally, we would all move out to the country, grow our own vegetables, ride our bicycles, and become yoga instructors.  However I know that may not work for some of here are my top 3 natural stress relievers.
Quick Fix:   Bach Flower Rescue Remedy - a blend of 5 flower essences that promote clarity, relieve stress, aid in coping with trauma, and quickly calm you down.  I love this stuff- I put four drops under my tongue and it works great.

Daily Dose:   Rhodiola Rosea- this is an adaptogenic herb that you can take every day.  It helps your body adapt to stressful conditions.  A great source of information on this herb is the book Rhodiola Revolution.

Long-term commitment:   Ultimately to reduce the stress and exhaustion in your life you must change your lifestyle.  A way to begin this journey is to exercise.  I love to do yoga.  I don't do it as often as I would like, but when I do it I feel so much better!  The website Yoga Today puts a free class on the web every week.  It's a great way to be a part of a class if you can't afford to go somewhere. 

So breathe deeply, drink a glass of water (and maybe a cup of coffee :), and try these tips next time you feel stressed.  Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"I feel like I've been wrestling an alligator..."

Okay, I really am in pretty good shape- but I am sitting here, literally breathing a little heavy after machine quilting this queen size quilt!!!  I machine quilted around the large squares, and then I will hand quilt around the appliqued bulbs.  Here is a picture tutorial of how to layer the quilt in order to get it ready to be quilted.
Lay the back of the quilt on the floor- right side down.
Be sure you have pressed your seams open.
Next, lay out your batting, if you are going to have a border- center it in the middle of your backing.  (I had 6" all the way around.)
Now lay your quilt front in the center of the batting.
Then get out about 500 safety pins and pin all three layers together - pinning about every six inches.  Now you are ready to machine or hand quilt!  This is how it looks so far-
Don't you feel like you just opened a jewelry box, or just walked into a candy store?  Oh Anna Maria, I love your fabrics.  Thank you for creating such wonderful, inspiring materials to brighten our homes.

Best Cinnamon Rolls I've ever made

Oh wow.  stop what you are doing right now and go make these cinnamon rolls.
(ok, you can finish reading this post first...) 
Over on The Pioneer Woman's blog, you will find the recipe for these amazing cinnamon rolls.  They make about a hundred, so I halved the recipe.
I also made these changes: 
I used half White Lily flour and half All-Purpose flour
When sprinkling the sugar on the dough, I used half - they were plenty sweet
In the frosting, I used vanilla extract instead of maple flavoring
I added toasted pecans to the top of some of the rolls after I baked them

This is a great thing to make for gifts or just if you are having a large crowd over for breakfast.  Have fun!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Poppa J's Tomatoes

This is Charlotte's Poppa J (my dad).
They have a lot of fun together.
Poppa J has a garden.
Charlotte helps him pick the vegetables that grow in his garden.
This year he has had exceptional success with his tomato crop.

Here are his tips:
  • Put the plants in pots
  • Use fertilizer stakes - he uses Jobe's
  • Pinch off the small stalks that grow in between the main stalk and the branching off stems.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to slice a mango

Mmmmmmmmmangoes :) Another lovely summer treat. Not just delicious- so good for you too! Did you know they contain:
  • phenols- antioxidants
  • high levels of iron
  • papain - a digestive aid
  • magnesium
  • potassium Yesterday we bought some at the store- 10 for $10. But, have you ever tried slicing a mango... and felt more like you were trying to wield a sharp knife around a wet piece of soap? Here is the solution for that problem. I once worked with a girl who grew up in Hawaii and this was her trick. Stand the mango up on the larger end (they have a slightly larger and smaller end- like an egg). The seed is in the middle running vertically. You will make two slices - one on each side of the mango seed. You end up with two little mango halves and the oval that contains the seed.Pick up one half and score a grid pattern into the fruit- first make vertical scores, then the horizontal ones. Don't cut all the way through the skin.Using a spoon, scoop out the little cubes that you have made, into a bowl. Easy breezy - you still have time to give yourself a pedicure before the company arrives :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

DIY Quilted Beach Umbrella Blanket

The grand finale of beach week is this SUPER EASY beach blanket. (This literally takes 45 minutes. I timed it. That was with Charlotte "helping".) So, I love going to the beach, and now that we have Charlotte an umbrella is essential. However, the umbrella is always on the outside of the blanket, shading half the blanket and half the beach...and I can never get the umbrella to stay up really well. This is my solution! A blanket with a hole in the middle, just for the umbrella:) Here is how I did it. You will need a twin-sized store-bought, cotton quilt (if your family is more than 3 people, I would suggest buying a queen or king sized quilt).
I bought this one at TJMaxx for $20. You will need a pack of grommets like these (no tool required). A pair of scissors, a pencil, a piece of string, and a sewing machine.
Lay the quilt flat on the ground. Fold the quilt in half from bottom to top, like this. Then fold it from right to left, like this. Tie a long piece of string around a pencil. Hold the end of the string down at the corner fold and stretch it taut (you are basically making your own compass). Draw a curved line from the left bottom corner all the way up to the top right corner, keep your string really taut. It should look like a quarter of a circle. Cut along the line you just drew. Now, leave it folded and take the grommet template and draw a quarter of it in the folded corner of your circle, like this. Cut that out-this will be the hole in the center of your blanket. Open the blanket. Follow the directions on the package and snap the grommet in place. Last step- using your sewing machine, blanket stitch or zig-zag stitch all around the edge of the circle. That's it! You have a fully shaded blanket for fun beach times!

Hope you've enjoyed Beach Week as much as I have! Have a lovely weekend.

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