Friday, September 16, 2016

Cookies Shortcut

Have you ever seen break apart cookie dough and wondered if you can do it from scratch?

I did and am so glad I didn't have to pull out my rolling pin for all the cookies I made!

What you need:
a square or rectangle pan that is smaller than your freezer bags
parchment or wax paper
your favorite cookie dough**

I made my friend's mom's spicy molasses cookie dough. I picked this one b/c the recipe is for A LOT of cookies! I always forget to half it until I get to the flour and go "that's a lot of flour...oh yeah - this is their Christmas Plate cookie recipe and it makes 12 dozen (albeit small, thin) cookies." I made this recipe so that I could try out a few options. The one thing that I did not try out is cutting and cooking them immediately - the spices need to meld with the dough.

So anyway, I lined my small aluminum baking pan with waxed paper (I'm out of parchment) and pressed 1/8 (by weight) of the dough evenly into the pan which gave me about a 1/4" sheet of dough.

Then I experimented a bit:

Option 1: the dough sheet

I pulled out the waxed paper and dough, wrapped it up and put it in the gallon sized freezer bag. When I took them out to bake, cutting the cold dough cracked it a little bit. It is a dry dough though - same thing happens when I roll out the cookies.

Option 2:  pre-scoring the cookies

I pulled the dough sheet and waxed paper out of the pan, cut about 3/4 thru the dough, wrapped it up and put it in my gallon sized freezer bag. This way actually worked out better - the squares pretty much broke apart without much chipping and cracking or crumbs.

Storage Option A: Fridge

The store bought ones come refrigerated and my rolled dough recipes all include chilling 4+ hours in the fridge. This option went as expected.

Storage Option B: Freezer (cook straight from freezer)

This also went as expected - longer cooking time, a bit undercooked in the center.

Storage Option C: Freezer (thaw and cook)

The only problem with this option is that I did this in the humid summer of Virginia - I set it out to thaw and there was a lot of condensation so the dough was a bit soggy... oh well... It will be fine to do in the winter when it'd dryer or maybe put in a towel into the freezer bag to collect the dampness - I'm up for other suggestions!

**Note - this works better for a dryer cookie dough. I did try it with the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe and it was more difficult to push into the paper-lined pan, broke when I cut it and stuck to the paper. However, I have now looked up how to make shaped chocolate chip cookies and will be trying these recipes:

1.  use less or no leavener (baking soda or baking powder) so it won't spread as much. They will rise a bit anyway because of the egg. I'm not sure that's helpful here as it still has a wet dough.

2. cut down on the liquids (1.5 sticks butter instead of 2, 1 egg instead of 2) and reduce the leavener (3/4 tsp baking soda instead of 1 tsp, no baking powder) (

3. experiment with your own recipe!

My Funny Square Cookies!

Friday, April 22, 2016

April Bulletin Board

I had so much fun with this bulletin board! I decided to set it up like one of those fabric memo boards with the ribbons pulled across and held in place by buttons. It turned out great!

The events that we were advertising were:
Earth Day
Field Day
Library Night
Author visit
5th grade program
Kindergarten Registration Day
Special Olympics Little Feet Meet (not pictured - they had some tee shirts that we stapled up a few days later)

The (mostly) finished product

It started from here - measurements, planning and placement! I love that I have these grid sheets left over from teaching!

I forgot to photograph the homemade stencil (a poster board frame with clear contact paper cut out in damask stencil) but here's the work it did - I let it dry over the break and put up the rest when school was back in session.

Field Day sunglasses and pennants and the "buttons" for the memo board - old Earth Day poster themes!

Kindergarten registration - what's more fun than crayons?

Library Night theme was a campout!
I have been working on my Etsy shop too! I created 2 new bonnets of my own pattern (one was to match a pair of booties someone had received and has been sent out and the other hasn't been photographed yet - my craft room is a mess so I haven't had room yet!), made some custom requests for various customers (sloth scarf, anybody?) and this bonnet and booties set!

Monday, February 29, 2016

New Bulletin Board

I did not plan any of these events so I don't have a break down of how-tos but I did design the bulletin board this month (our PTA bulletin board coordinator has left the school).

So March is a busy month - sort of... there's basically 10 days of being busy in the middle of the month! I'm already planning next month's to go up before Spring Break. I think I'm going to do like one of those fabric covered cork boards with the ribbons...

So, here are the events represented:

March Madness Boys Night Out at SkyZone (Mar 10)
Lucky Clover 5K and Fun Run (Mar 12)
Scholastic Book Fair (kicking off at the 5K - Mar 12 to Mar 18)
Yard & Bake Sale benefiting our SPED team (Mar 19)

The bulletin board that the PTA decorates is 8'x8' - that's a lot of space to cover and it needs to be eye catching and informative.

Out of all of this board, the one piece that has the best story (and has already gotten the more compliments) is the RAINBOW! When I was in the beginning planning stages of the board, I woke up in the middle of the night with a great idea - and woke my husband up to tell him about it talking a mile a minute! Here's my directions:

1. Cut 3 inch strips of bulletin board paper.
2. Fold just the short edge into 3rds and glue to a strip of cardstock or poster board. I put a weight over the edges (ok, a rectangular trivet upside down) to hold into place while it dries.*
3. When the glue is set, twist the paper into a tube, fold the edge into 3rds and glue onto another strip of cardstock or poster board remembering to make an arc (the bottom color - blue/purple - will be shorter than the top color - red). Place a weight on that side until the glue is set.
4. Cut 2 clouds to hide the glued edges.
5. To hang it up, staple the cardstock down and then adjust the twists in the tubes so they are even. Open up one of the twists in the center of the rainbow and staple the back side, readjusting the twists to hide the staple. Repeat for each color. Depending on how big the rainbow is, you may need to staple in several places to make it secure.

*You can always substitute staples for glue

The shoes are kind of a hit as well! I knew I wanted shoes on the 5K part so I searched for a "sneaker template". I found this template on an LDS crafting blog but it was highly applicable once I got rid of the religious part. Actually, the whole blog has fantastic simple crafting ideas that can be applied to a variety of events!

I'm looking at this board and realizing how I could have done it better - isn't that always the way? Anyway, doing it again, I'd put "March Madness" across the top on one line and bring the SZ logo behind the brackets. I would have then had room to move the yard sale sign up a bit and for it to be more of a square (we decided book fair needed a bit more room than originally planned so squashed the yard sale square a bit intentionally). This would give me a little bit more room to have the yard sale sign. I had originally planned to have the other side of the brackets be the teachers names (they're written on smaller cardstock) but it didn't look right when I got there - better to over plan than under plan...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Revisit the Bulletin Board

see my previous post about movie night here

Two years later and I'm still using the same bulletin board materials!  I got some film boarder and changed the movie but it's still the same foam projector and curtains!

Here's a problem I had and the solution I came up with - how do you hold on the foamboard projector? It kept falling down. We tried staples, pushpins and last year (don't tell the office manager) duct tape... This year, I brought florist greening pins and a pair of wire cutters with me. I cut about 1/2 of the length of the pins off which made them about double the length of a staple but the gauge is not much thicker than a pushpin. I tapped them in with the wire clippers and the projector is really stable! What are your tips and tricks for bulletin boards?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top 10 List: Things This Mom Does that Nobody Notices

Above all the other jobs I have, I am a wife and mother and run our household. My husband has grown to see the advantages of the way I run the house (phone alarms, baby! and lots of them!). My kids are getting older - growing in independence and wisdom like they should - but seem stunted in ways that they can help care for our home even though I have a chore chart. Last summer, I came up with a chart of what was expected of them every day and every week before they were allowed to do what they wanted/request an activity or before we left the house for whatever activity we planned (pool, library, Here is the list:
Empty Dishwasher, Sweep Kitchen, Tidy TV Room, Bring Down & Start a Load of Laundry, Tidy Upstairs Bathroom, Tidy Hallway, Turn off Bedroom Lights, Plan Dinner, Eat Breakfast (yes, I did have to remind them to eat breakfast - this is not a problem during the school year as it's part of the routine but over the summer, there's a looser routine)
Clean Toilet & Sink (2), Sweep Entire Downstairs, Vacuum Bedrooms, Mop Kitchen, Mow Lawn (it's really small and since we have a man-powered push mower, even the little one can do it), Bi-Weekly: bring recycling to curb (trash is backyard service)

As you will read on, a lot of these chores are on my list of things that nobody notices. I thought having the kids do them would help them see them and the value of them but, alas, it did not help.

1 - Sweep the kitchen. Yes, it is a chore that I have technically delegated to my children but they never do it without a significant amount of nagging or picking fights while doing it (dishes person is in the way of the sweeper, they fight and BOTH LEAVE THE ROOM!). Also, we picked up a couple of evening activities - soccer, Tae Kwon Do, cub scouts, girl scouts, PTA, volunteers - and it leaves less time in the evening. I'd also rather not start off my morning with nagging so I've taken to sweeping after they leave for the bus. I could totally make this an after school chore but that would mean spending the day stepping on crumbs and dirt (shoe-free house). I have the kids sweep on Sundays when we're doing the rest of the deep house decluttering. One actually said to me, "Mom, there are way less crumbs on the floor than there was last summer." SMH
2 - Pick Up the Trash That Doesn't Make it into the bin. Really, do I have to explain this further? Sometimes, unnamed people leave trash on the counter next to the bin. Sometimes they are adult unnamed people. There's no top on the trash can and I'm usually pretty good at taking the trash out before it gets too high so there's no explanation for this. I understand the paper/plastic trash that sometimes falls on the ground next to the bin - static, funny air currents and such - but on the counter next to the bin is just as much, if not more work. This doesn't count the trash that's left willy-nilly around the house.
3 - Recycling. This kind of goes with trash but I find it an entirely different category and my husband is pretty guilty of this. I try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. We actually don't often have a lot of trash (this month is an exception b/c of all the tissue use with allergies) as I buy in bulk to reduce packaging, bring my own reusable doggy bag, use fabric sandwich bags, compost and recycle as much as can be recycled. I used to have to do it all but I moved paper recycling indoors to the laundry room and after considerable effort and nagging, everyone helps with that. But plastic and glass recycling have not been
4 - Clearing the Breakfast Table. Along with sweeping, I end up clearing the breakfast table after everyone gets on their buses. I'm the only one home during the day so the one one it will bother for 7 hours (x5 days per week - that's a lot of time to build resentment). My 8 year old cereal eater is the biggest offender since he is decidedly not a morning person and struggles to get out of bed, chose clothes (we've tried picking out clothes the night before and a week at a time and there are tears of "but I don't want to wear that now" - please, Chesterfield County, decide that uniforms are a good thing!) and get downstairs in time although the girls and hubby often leave their plates out too.
5 - Find the Dirty Dishes that Missed the Sink. I have a "No Food or Drinks Outside of the Kitchen" rule that's so rarely followed that I put up signs and caution tape last spring. I was tired of finding plates, cups bowls and silverware, not to mention packaging trash, in the living room without anyone noticing. The kids do the dishes and will sometimes even miss dishes that are on the table or next to the sink so I walk around the downstairs and bring all dishes to the sink while the dishes are being done. I should walk around hubby's office b/c I've noticed that we are missing quite a few drinking cups since he started this online class...
6 - Gardening. Did you know that you actually have to do some work regularly in the garden to keep it looking like it does? The big projects they notice, like the brick that I laid recently, but not one noticed the 30 bags of mulch I put down or the fact that I weeded and mowed the lawn and planted that huge flat of annuals that will probably die before the summer heat really hits. I need to buy a wheelbarrow...
7 - Sweeping outside. As I've mentioned before, we live in a heavily treed neighborhood. We get tree litter (sticks, leaves, seeds, "helicopters", acorns, gumballs, flower petals, etc) constantly and the dense squirrel population likes to dig in planters year 'round so I sweep the porch, side steps and deck often - at least one of those a day. It helps keep inside cleaner b/c they're less likely to track stuff in. The other day, I asked my kids to sweep the side steps before it started raining and they said, "but we just did that a couple days ago!" SMH
8 - Maintaining the Calendar. Other than the fact that it's necessary to maintain a calendar if you have to consider another person's schedule, it's thankless anyway. The kids don't notice that I maintain it, and make sure that they get to their activities, that I get to things that I need to get to for them, that hubby and I get to places for us (think doctors and dates).
9 - School Supplies. I maintain the bucket-o-supplies. It's actually grown from one bin to one bin and a box. I make sure they have paper, pencils, and erasers. No one ever tells me when we are running low so I have to consistently look at supplies that I do not use!

10 - Planning, Shopping for and Making Dinner. No one notices those parts, they only remember when I don't do those things...

Visit my Etsy Shop at where I can make any number of baby hats, sweaters, blankets, fabric sandwich bags or hairbows!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Can it be Spring Break Yet? fact, it IS Spring Break 2015! OOPS! I didn't plan!! GAWK!  This is where friends and family come in really handy.

Day 1: visit an amusement park with my sister. I'm not really a roller coaster rider so I don't think about going to amusement parks - which isn't to say that my kids have never been but it's usually with my husband and usually to a park that specializes in shows - but my sister LOVES them! It was her daughter's last day of spring break and the only day the kids breaks overlapped so we took them to Kings Dominion outside of Richmond, VA (hey - it's right by my house, everyone I know has season passes including my sister who lives several hours away!). I haven't been there in 15 years. Paramount is no longer a sponsor so the "Scooby Doo" roller coaster is no longer called "Scooby Doo" (it's the Woodstock Express) and the Rebel Yell doesn't run backwards anymore (those are the 2 that I ride) and what happened to the Wayne's World area? Plus there's like 3 roller coasters I'd never heard of. Anyway, I've apparently raised kids who don't like roller coasters either so I think we bored my sister and niece! But I did the spinny rides that my sister can't stomach with my niece so there's a tradeoff.  I think we'll go back some day!

This was the end of the day when sis and niece had run for one last ride on the big roller coasters

My little guy driving like a pro!

2/3 of my crew - my sis took one of my kids on the roller coasters while we explored the less "thrilling" areas of the park

all 4 kids got a seat together on the carousel but had to go again b/c one didn't go up and down :-(

Day 2: Bowling with friends. It's wet and rainy. I'm sore and tired from the day at the amusement park. I had a Living Social Deal that expires at the end of the month - 2 hours of bowling for 6 people. Add in friends and $1 hot dogs - totally awesome day!

Day 3: Clean rooms, shop at Costco. Okay, this is boring but needs to be done

Day 4: Meet Daddy for lunch and the art museum. We're members of the VMFA so I got us tickets to their special exhibit: Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower

Day 5: ??

Weekend: SOCCER!

So anything that you guys can think of for that last day? HELP! I only have a couple days until then!

News in the Shop:

I have a couple of RTS (Ready to Ship) items available. I made these so that I could take photos.
large preemie - 11" head circumference

0-3 mo

3-12 mo

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Gardening

I live in Under A Shady Tree - well, actually, lots of shady trees...

This makes it hard to grow grass...


 We have moss and some of this pretty stuff! 
(I wish I knew what it was called because I'd plant more)

 So I focus on the garden beds.
Last year, I worked on the back yard - I laid a brick border in part of the yard and transplanted liriope to edge this garden space. This is where we have the most grass so I had to put of a folding fence so we wouldn't mow the monkey grass!  Did I mention that we have a lot of trees? Ignore all the leaves - they work as cheap (free) fall mulch for the beds and keep the backyard from being a mud pit all winter. 

This year, I started on the front bed.  I have A LOT of liriope (monkey grass) that really is beautiful and it spreads quickly so I thin it out a bit before it really starts growing.

I transplanted it to the shade garden under the front yard trees.

It doesn't look like a lot right now but liriope is one of the easier plants to transplant and takes very easily. Next year, it will be as full as the backyard edgeing (which was thinner when I planted it).

I also updated the brick raised bed on the other side of the driveway.

The 3 layer brick was constantly collapsing so I tore it down and put up a taller paver that is only a single layer - far less chance of stray bricks. In order to do this, I did have to grade the area a little bit. The bed was mostly empty - it gets some sun so it's where I plant my bright flowery annuals - so I made it a little bit smaller. Unfortunately, the plastic edging material was cracked in several places and I was unable to reuse it but I got some nice composite material and I'll be reusing the bricks in the back yard for edging material on the other side of the yard! Or maybe on the far side of the front yard - I haven't done much there yet...

add brick here (backyard)? 
or here (other side of the front yard)?
I'm unsure of what I want to do in this garden bed at the top of my driveway. I was cleaning it out the first year we moved here and I accidentally picked up a small brown garter snake thinking it was a stick - that was the last time I did anything in here, as you can see. It's full of vinca vine which is really pretty this time of year with it's purple flowers (but that spreads like crazy), lined with liriope and has a host of daylilies that don't bloom b/c they don't actually get much sun here come summer (shady trees, remember).

EDIT: I made a decision on the bricks - I put them in the front yard and will put irish moss seed down next week. Here's a photo of the bricks: