Saturday, December 14, 2013

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers & Skating Gifts

Are you having trouble getting your hands on some fun skater gifts?  Check these out:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

...and a GIANT Gingerbread House to Keep Them All!

Of course, we had to have a window box seat for the giant gingerbread skaters to chill while they waited for their skate program with the girls!  This bad-boy is roughly 8' tall x 6.5' wide but only weighs about 10lbs and disassembles to fit in the bed of my truck -- THAT was the tricky part!

These props always seem SO much bigger in my dining room than they do on the ice.  Just as a reference, remember the gingerbread skaters are roughly 2.5' tall!

If you'd like a tutorial on these, let me know and I'll make it happen. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Giant Gingerbread Skaters for Christmas!

Yes, yes...I know I've been slacking on the posts.  I'm working on it, I swear.  But I just COULDN'T let the holiday season slip by with out sharing these giant DIY gingerbread skaters with you!

The kiddo participates in her rink's holiday benefit show every year to raise money for our local charity, 6Stones.  The show is free and the entire community is invited to skate for free with Santa, Frosty, and the cast of the show.  It's a full day of fun for which the skaters prepare weeks in advance.

I like to volunteer to make props.  There's lots of excitement for me at the beginning and at the end, with lots of fussin'-and-cussin' in the middle.  I work late nights and long hours for weeks on props that will only be on the ice for less than two minutes.  My husband likes to stroll by and call out the length of the program just to hassle me.  "Minute, 17...", he'll say, meaning it will only be on the ice for one minute, seventeen seconds.  Truly, you'd think he'd know it's not a good idea to taunt a tired skate mama while she has power tools in her hand!

Anyway, back to the gingerbread.

Get Some Foam
I started with Owens Corning Foamular 150, 1" x 4' x 8' sheets of rigid insulation foam.  I found mine at The Home Depot with the rest of the home insulation products.  This is thicker than the kind I normally get, which is good for the durability of the props, but proved tricky to cut.  Beware:  The pink foam has fiberglass in it, so you'll want to suit up with the appropriate safety gear when cutting and sanding.

Create a Stencil
I free-handed a gingerbread man stencil and cut it from poster board.  If free-handing is not your thing, you could find a gingerbread coloring sheet and have it blown up at your local copy shop.  Mine are roughly 22" wide x 28" tall (without the skates) and I was able to get four cut out from one sheet with plenty of foam left over for another project.  Tape your stencil onto the foam with loops of painters tape and outline with a Sharpie marker.

Cut Out & Sand
I drilled holes in all the curved areas of the design since saw blades don't turn easily.  Practice on a scrap first to get a feel for it since the bit will walk when drilling foam.  I then used a drywall saw to do a rough cut about 1/2" outside my lines. (It's worth the extra work to do a rough cut, trust me.) Once you have all your rough cuts done, come back through with an electric turkey knife and cut them down to the line.

Your edges will be a bit rough, but no worries, they sand down beautifully with some fine grit sandpaper.  To get into the small curved spots at the base of the neck, I wrapped the tube from a pants hanger with sandpaper to create my own sanding tool.

Paint & Decorate 
I ALWAYS use Behr paints for everything.  They're the best in my opinion.  For these, I chose Rio Rust S190-6 in an indoor/outdoor semi-gloss latex and sprinkled gold glitter on the wet paint. The little cheek blush circles were made with some acrylic paint I had on hand.  The "icing" is just simply shiny, white tile caulk sprinkled with crystal glitter while still wet.

The buttons are Christmas ornaments I found at Hobby Lobby.  They came six to a package and happened to be the perfect size!  I just cut off the hanging loop and used a LOW-TEMP hot glue gun to attach them.  High-temp glue guns will melt the foam. (Ask me how I know.)   
Add a Tutu
My darling daughter made ALL SEVEN tutus (she's a good kid) using a technique like shown here:

You can stop there.  OR you can add some fun skate blades!  They're a bit tricky, and every blade has to be custom cut and fitted to each foot, so only do this step if you're a glutton for punishment like me.

Skate Blades
I used standard foam core board - like the kind used for school projects and often found with the poster board.

Again, I created a stencil with poster board allowing a long stretch at the top of the blade to make it easier to fit around the curved foot of the gingerbread.  I used a simple Xacto knife to cut them out.  You'll be tempted to go ahead and glitter them now.  Don't.  They'll be a pain to glitter once they're attached, but you'll be much more likely to get them attached properly if you heed my advice.

Line the blade up, draw some guidelines and cut off the excess.  Insert sewing pins into each of the stems, keeping them parallel to each other.  Cut off the heads of the pins with wire dikes. Insert pins into the foot, leaving a gap.  Apply hot glue (low temp, remember?), hold in place until adhered well.

To glitter blades, I coated with Polycrylic clear gloss, sprinkled liberally with glitter and let dry.  After they were dry, I put another coat of clear gloss to give it a little more durability.

I'm also creating a gingerbread house for these seven gingerbread skaters to hang out in until it's their time to skate with the girls.  Hopefully, I'll get the tutorial for that one up in time for your holiday decorating! (*fingers crossed*)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Breakfast: Fun, healthy, and portable!

Today is the first day of August and the official start of my back-to-school panic.  Where did the summer go?!

With our new dietary restrictions, all of our grab and go breakfast favorites are out of the rotation.  No more pre-packaged sausage biscuits, no quick and easy granola bars.  Ugh.

I started making smoothie sticks to replace the freezer pops we could no longer have and it occurred to me that they have all the makings of a fun, healthy breakfast.  Score!  I also like that I can whip up a double batch at one time and be done with the blasted blender.  (I have a love-hate relationship with this particular appliance.)

Get as creative as you want.  Variety is good - especially when it comes to smoothie sticks.  This is one of our favorite blends.  Think pina colada without the rum.  Here's how to make it:

4 bananas
32 oz. Vanilla Greek Yogurt (We like Chobani)
13.5 oz.  Coconut Milk
46 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 bag Frozen Pineapple Chunks
Freezer Pop Sleeves (I use these: )

Mix coconut milk and pineapple juice in a large container.  In blender, add half of the yogurt, two bananas, half the juice mixture, and half the bag of pineapple chunks.  Blend until smooth. Pour into freezer pop sleeves using a funnel and a steady hand.  Tie off ends.  Repeat with the remainder of the ingredients.  Makes about 20.

As I fill sleeves, sometimes I add to the mix for different flavors.  Orange juice, frozen berries, frozen mango are all tasty. We stick with the plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, but you could also add fruity flavors to mix things up.  They make great after school snacks and we even eat them for dessert - that's how yummy they are!

The cost of each stick works out to about 60 cents and each sleeve holds about one cup of wholesome smoothie goodness. For smaller children, using re-useable popsicle molds will make for better portion sizes and bring the cost-per-pop down considerably, although this recipe makes quite a lot so you'll need to adjust. 

Enjoy!  Of course, you may be compelled to explain to the other mothers why you allow your child to have popsicles for breakfast.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Dirty Little Secret

I have a dirty little secret that is eating me alive.  I know the internet is not the place to keep secrets, but the imagined anonymity makes me feel safe enough to confess.  Here, I won't have to see the disdain in your eyes when I tell you what I've been doing behind closed doors.

I've been baking bread.  From scratch.  (EEEP!)

Please, please, please don't tell my friends!  It's not my fault!  I wanted to buy the stuff on the shelf, but I can't do that anymore now that I have a newly discovered corn allergy.  (Yes, it has corn - even the white stuff.)

Here's another little secret:  It's SO stinkin' easy to bake bread!  And since I can buy all the ingredients at once and keep them in the pantry until I get good-and-darned ready, it works for me.  (I REALLY hate grocery shopping.)  But the other moms just wouldn't understand.  This whole baking from scratch thing (especially when it comes to bread), well, it's just not, um...acceptable among the busy mom crowd.  ("Who does she think she is?!  Martha-friggin-Stewart?!) 

My daughter digs baking so it's been good for some time together, but I cautioned her to keep "our little secret".  No one has to know.  "It's not that it's wrong, honey, it's just that,'s no one's business what we do in the privacy of our own kitchen."

Just in case you'd like to live a double life, too, I recommend this recipe for Gold Medal Classic White Bread.  You didn't hear it from me.

Oh, and make sure you save a couple of Mrs. Baird's bread bags before you come to the dark side.  I only wish I had thought of that sooner!

UPDATE:  New favorite sandwich bread recipe:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teacher's Gifts: More 3, 2, 1...Cake!

Here's another version of the "Emergency 3,2,1...Cake!" we gave to our beloved school teachers.  At around $3.50 each, we were able to give one to every teacher, including the gym, art, and music teachers.  The version pictured earlier on this blog were made for our church youth group's teachers.   

I added a tablespoon I picked up in a set at Dollar Tree which added, well, an extra dollar, but I felt it was important to make it easy for the teachers to get their chocolate fix.  I left the rest of the set on the ring it came with and decided it would be fun to donate the (incomplete) sets to the church daycare for use in their sand boxes & colored rice bins.

The cake mix* is simple:  
  • 1 Box Angel Food Cake Mix
  • 1 Box Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • 1 Box (large) Chocolate Pudding Mix
This is enough mix to fill about 3 1/2 pint-size mason jars.  You can add a cup of crushed Oreo's for fun, but I wanted to keep this version on the healthy side.  I took the time to figure out the nutritional info and was amazed at what a guilt-free treat this was!

After discovering it was fat-free, with just 108 calories and 2.5g total carbohydrates per serving, I decided it would be a great Christmas gift.  It will make the transition from holiday gluttony to healthy New Year's resolutions a little less painful!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Make Sour Cream Last Longer


I love, love, love having sour cream on hand.  It's so versatile!  I like buying the larger tubs, but hated having to throw out half of it when it went bad before it's expiration date.  Once I opened it, it seemed like it started growing black spots immediately. Turns out, there's a trick to keeping it fresh longer.  Only use a clean spoon dedicated to scooping and then smooth out the surface with the back of the spoon before putting it back into the fridge.  The dips and divots in the surface collect moisture in the fridge and that's what causes it to start growing mold.   Try it!