Friday, April 22, 2011

{Make this!}
Simple .but adorable. doll-clothing hangers
A perfect Easter basket stuffer!

I have finally come to the conclusion {I got REAL with myself!} that I do indeed work best under pressure. Which is probably why quick, easy and cheap {but CUTE} projects just really, really appeal to me. {and why I procrastinate like no other....} Oh, you too? I don't think we are that un-common. And do you, perchance, have an American Girl doll lover in YOUR house? {or really, a doll lover of any kind?}

{I have TWO! - it gets.... a bit.... PRICEY!}

If the answer is yes, then this may be just the last minute craft you've been looking for... I made these today and I am planning on sticking them in my girls' Easter baskets. {we are not doing much - if any - candy this year - ahh! the HORROR!}But if I know my girls, they are going to squeal with delight when they see these!

doll hangers -  finished 

Doll-clothing Hangers!

Ready to make your own? Gather these supplies:
doll hangers - cup hooks

7/8" cup hooks {I purchased this pack of 100 from Walmart for less than $5} Depending on what your hangers are going to hang on {size of closet or armoire rod} you may need to get a bigger size hook.
doll hangers - craft sticks

Jumbo craft sticks {the ones that are about the size of tongue depressors. These are also from Walmart.}

doll hangers - paint

Paint {and paint brushes}, scissors and any type of fast drying, permanent glue {I used a hot glue gun because I DO LOVE TO USE HOT GLUE!}

doll hangers 04

Each hanger takes one cup hook and three craft sticks. First, mark the middle of ONE of the sticks with a thick marker swipe.
doll hangers 03

Now, using sharp scissors, make two cuts on eitther side of your line, in effect cutting out a small piece of the stick {making a notch}
doll hangers 02

Now, put glue all over both of those pieces---

doll hangers 01

... and glue to the top of one of the still intact sticks.

doll hangers - glue cup hook

Now, fill the area where you cut the craft stick away with glue and stick a cup hook in there.

doll hangers -  glue ready

Cover that layer with a whole lotta glue....

doll hangers -  glue top craft stick

And cover with the third stick. Wait for the glue to try and you are ready to paint, as you wish.

doll hangers - finished 02

I have one daughter who LOVES pink {Kenny} and one daughter who LOVES yellow {Piper}. These are all set and ready to gift. YAY for EASY PROJECTS!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

{Make This!} A flourless chocolate cake
{gluten free living}
It doesn't taste like sadness!

flourless chocolate cake - yummo

Since we decided to go gluten free as a family this past January, I have really tried to modify our family {food} traditions to not only be as healthful as possible, but also super yummy. Because, really? NO ONE wants their child's birthday party memories to taste like sadness and deprivation, right? While thinking about what type of cake I could make for Kennedy's birthday {this was in February}I stumbled across a bunch of flourless type cake recipes. And these made me think back to my 16th birthday, when my dad took me for lunch at a local {fancy} Italian food restaurant, where I tasted flour-less chocolate cake for the first time. I remember it being heavenly. So, I attempted one for Ken's birthday, with great success. And then again, yesterday for Camden's birthday. Please note two things. 1) This is SO to die for, you don't need to be on a GF diet to appreciate it and  2) No one should EVER have to eat Betty Crocker's gluten free cake mixes and think they are acceptable or delicious. They are neither. They are gross. They taste like sadness. Betty should be ashamed of herself. And at 6 dollars a box? Arghhhh! There are so many better things out there, you shouldn't to think that is as good as it gets. 
flourless chocolate cake - ingredients

Start out with these ingredients:
*1 {12 oz bag }gf, high quality bittersweet chocolate chips {or baking chocolate squares}
*1 cup + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
*1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
*6 eggs
*1 cup gf unsweetened cocoa powder
*1 tablespoon half & half {you can substitute any kind of 'milkish' drink}
*1 tablespoon honey
*1/4 teaspoon gf vanilla extract

flourless chocolate cake - parchment paper

Also, gf cooking spray, parchment paper and a 9" spring-form pan.
flourless chocolate cake - parchment paper - trace circle

First, you need to prepare your pan. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of your pan. {I trace the bottom and then cut out the circle. Because I suck at cutting circles, free hand. So. Not. Martha.}
flourless chocolate cake - spray the pan

Now, spray your whole pan with cooking spray.
flourless chocolate cake - prepared pan

And stick your perfectly cut circle into the pan. You pan is now ready for the party. Set her aside for a minute.
flourless chocolate cake - chocolate chips 

Now, measure out 8 ounces of your chocolate.  
flourless chocolate cake - melt chocolate and butter

Cook the chocolate chips and 1 cup {2 sticks} of the butter {cut up} over medium-low heat, stirring often, until melted.
flourless chocolate cake - melt chocolate and butter 2

Stir. Stir. Stir. Don't burn, burn, burn.
flourless chocolate cake - my assistant

It really REALLY helps if you have a cute kitchen helper named Brighton :)
flourless chocolate cake - melted chocolate and butter

When everything is melted and it looks like this ^ carefully transfer to a large bowl.

flourless chocolate cake - add the sugar

Add sugar and mix well. {worst picture EVER and I only took one. Sorry.}
flourless chocolate cake - add the eggs

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
flourless chocolate cake - add the cocoa powder

Sift cocoa powder into bowl {ahem. or not. I hate to sift. my cakes have still been delish.}and stir until blended.
flourless chocolate cake - batter is ready for the pan

Your batter is ready to bake! So easy, peasy!

flourless chocolate cake - pour batter into pan

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until cake has risen and top has a crust. The cake should be firm-ish in the middle when done.
flourless chocolate cake - cool

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. {or... the top of your gas stove that is rack-ish}
flourless chocolate cake - invert the pan

Then, invert on your serving dish and remove the spring form pan.
flourless chocolate cake - cool on cake plate

Is your mouth watering? OMG This cake is SO YUMMY!
flourless chocolate cake - mmmmm cake

It has the BEST texture! Now, let the cake cool completely - for like, an hour? You can speed up cooling by sticking it in the fridge. Yeah. I know, I am a last minute girl, too :)
flourless chocolate cake - make the glaze

To make the SUPER EASY glaze {make it when you are ready to glaze your cooled cake} take the rest of your chocolate chips {4 ounces) and butter {3 tbsp}and melt over medium low heat. {Don't tell Chef Ramsey, but I use the same pan from before WITHOUT WASHING IT! Ahhhhhh the HORROR!}
flourless chocolate cake - make the glaze02

Remove from heat and then, just stir in the honey {1 tbsp}, half and half {1 tbsp} and vanilla {1/4 tsp} and mix until combined.
flourless chocolate cake - spread the glaze

Pour the glaze onto the center of the cake.

flourless chocolate cake - spread the glaze02

Use your spoon to gently coerce the chocolate to the sides of the cake. I like it to drip over the edges a bit.
flourless chocolate cake - spread the glaze03

It will look like this when you are done. Now is the time to add chopped nuts, if you so choose. {while the glaze is wet.}
flourless chocolate cake - happy bday camden

Now, chill the cake {uncovered} for 30-60 minutes and enjoy. And oh, my. You WILL enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do this! {A family CHORE STORE}

Today I had the ABSOLUTE PLEASURE of going over to my gal-pal Heather's house, where we set up her very own family 'Chore Store'. Oh.... don't know what a chore store is, you say? Keep reading!chore store signage

We started our own family chore store about 2 years ago. Whilst complaining about what dreadful beasts my children were whenever I asked them to do ANYTHING around the house, my friend, Sharyn mentioned that one of her mom-friends had tried this with her pack of 6 - and I was immediately smitten with the idea! I had seen the power of a ticket counter in action at both Chuckie Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza, so I pretty much KNEW this concept would work for my family. And it DID! So, here's how it works.

chore store hanging the signs02

Make chore lists for each of your kids with daily and weekly jobs. Associate payment amounts in ticket form for each chore. We did daily and weekly chores on one list. Because these are framed behind glass, the kids can easily use dry erase markers each day to help them remember what chores they've done and haven't. It helps if you keep a separate accounting of jobs completion if you don't plan on doling out tickets daily. {But its really kind of fun to hand out 'paychecks' every day at the beginning :)
chore store hanging the signs

{We worked REALLY, REALLY hard to make sure the frames were spaced just right and total level..... OMG I AM TOTALLY LYING! Heather is my kind of hammer-er! She eyeballs it, hammers impetuously and occasionally taps the tops of nails to keep things on the level. She is balls-to-the-wall in the hardware department and I LOVE IT! Level? We don't need no stinkin' level!}
chore store jars of goodies

Now, go buy stuff you know your kids want. Stuff that speaks to them. Cheap stuff from the dollar section TOTALLY WORKS! Well, maybe not for teenagers, but definitely for the younger crowd. Now, decide what each item is worth.
chore store bucket and toys

For Heather's store, we figured out that each ticket should roughly be worth about 25 cents. But some of the really cool stuff she knew her kids would LOVE? Bumped up those prices. More bang for your buck, totally. See that red bucket? It's full of coupons for 15 minutes {each} of computer/video time. Genius!
chore store wha it looks like to a kid

Doesn't this make YOU want to come over to Heather's house and get your chore on?
chore store extra ticket opportunities

There is also room for extra chore OPPORTUNITIES! For real? My kids were BEGGING BEGGING BEGGING to get to do extra chores. {ahh, the power of cheap, plastic toys.....}
It is a beautiful thing...
chore store coupons
A few last pieces of advice:
*Make sure your kiddos initial their tickets when you give dole them out. Totally prevents the "HE/SHE TOOK MY TICKET" issue. *Also, you will probably want to establish a safe place to keep tickets for each child. Nothing more heartbreaking than to lose saved up tickets... *Also, I encouraged my kids to talk about pooling their tickets to buy bigger ticket items that benefit the lot of them {like a coupon for a night at the movies or a new game} It is a great lesson in learning to work together :)
chore store basket of merchandise
Heather has this great basket to keep everything together, up and out of the way until Saturday mornings when her little chore store will be open for business. I imagine she'll get her receipt book and bags out, set stuff up so it's ready to go at 9 am {because don't we all hate when our favorite store doesn't open on time}greet each little hard working customer with a smile and thank them each for a job well done! {Oh, and we rotated who got to shop first}
heathers living room

And by the way, isn't Heather's house delightful?heathers sitting room
Every room.
heathers easter display
Every nook and cranny. ... Maybe I just WILL move in. Heather, any chance there will be FABRIC stocked in that chore store????? :)