Thursday, January 31, 2013

DIY Fabric Heart Garland

I've been doing some more sewing lately. After doing some very functional sewing of diapers and mending I wanted a quick and easy project just for fun. This simple heart garland came together really fast and makes me smile.

Easy Homemade Valentine's Day Heart Garland

  • Assorted fabrics that won't fray easily (I used felted wool and fleece)
  • Sewing machine (although you could do this by hand with a needle, it would just take longer)
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  1. First I cut out a bunch of hearts free hand. The shapes and sizes vary slightly, but I kind of like it that way. I did make the same number of each fabric.
  2. Then I arranged them in the order I wanted to sew them in a big stack. I choose to make a repeating pattern since the shapes and sizes vary some.
  3. Then I sewed  them together using a straight stitch on the sewing machine. I started sewing point first and then just lined the next one up right behind. For them to feed into the machine smoothly, it seemed to work best to sew them point first and over lap them slightly with the next heart just under the one being sewn.
Once you have sewn all of the hearts together, you can hang it up and smile.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY Strawberry Jam Coffee Cake

"Why is it a coffee cake, when there is no coffee in it?" wondered my then three-year-old ever inquisitive eldest son when I first made this coffee cake.

Well, this cake goes great with coffee, but even if you don't like coffee (and my husband hates it) you'll love this cake. It goes great with tea, cocoa, or just by itself.

Homemade Strawberry Jam Coffee Cake Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional but very good)
Strawberry Layer
  • 1 cup strawberry jam (homemade or store bought)
Streusel Topping
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter (cubed)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Optional Icing
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional but very good)
  1. In a mixing bowl combine all cake ingredients and mix until well combined.
  2. Spread cake batter in a greased 9x13 pan.
  3. Dot the top of the cake batter with spoonfuls of strawberry jam.
  4. For the streusel topping cut together ingredients with a pastry blender and then sprinkle on top of the cake.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Mix together icing ingredients and drizzle on top of baked cake if desired.
Makes one 9x13 coffee cake.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Paper Heart Garland (Valentine's Day Decoration and Preschool Activity in One!)

Lately, if you tell my 4 1/2 year old you are going to do something (and it is something he wants to do) he will just keep asking you about it until it actually happens. So we made this paper heart garland a bit earlier than I had intended. That's OK, we'll just enjoy it a little longer.

Our version looks quite a bit different than the picture perfect Real Simple version that I got the inspiration from, but in the end I definitely like ours better, because my boys did all of the cutting, tracing, and stringing themselves. My 4 1/2 year old did all of the cutting, and my 3 year old did most of the stringing.

Also, my 4 1/2 year old was the one who decided we should write on all of these hearts. I wrote the words and he traced over them. We started just writing love and then added ἀγάπη (agape, love in Greek) and 爱 (Ài, love in Mandarin). Then we wrote a bunch of people we love (our family names, grandparents and extended family, friends, etc.). You could also write about what love really is, but I think we're going to do other projects later doing that.

Homemade Paper Heart Garland

  • Paper
  • Yarn or string
  • Tape and/or plastic straws for "sewing" (optional, but makes it a lot easier)
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Pencil
  • Markers (optional)
  • Other embellishments like stickers if desired
  1. Trace half hearts onto folded paper and let a preschooler who can be trusted with scissors cut them out.
  2. If desired write and/or trace words on the hearts.
  3. If desired put on stickers or other extra embellishments.
  4. Punch a hole on each side of the heart.
  5. String hearts onto yarn or string to make a garland. (I threaded the yarn through part of a small plastic straw that I cut at an angle for a "needle." This made "sewing" the hearts together much easier. You can also tape around the end to just make it a little stiffer, like the end of a shoelace.)
  6. Tie off and hang up the garland to enjoy.
You can see pictures of the steps below.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DIY No Bake Chocolate Pot De Creme

This dessert is like eating truffles with a spoon. It is rich and chocolatey and amazing. I like this version because there is no baking or water baths to mess with.

Well unless you decide to share with your kids, then you will need a bath to clean them up, because they will lick the bowls clean, but their faces will be full of chocolate.

Homemade No Bake Chocolate Pot De Creme Recipe

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate chopped or use chocolate chips (use a chocolate you enjoy eating without any extra sweetener, because there is no sugar in this recipe)
  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heat safe mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan slowly heat milk and cream.
  3. In a small mixing bowl whisk egg yolks.
  4. When the milk and cream begins to bubble at the edges, slowly add half to the egg yolks while whisking steadily. This tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from turning into scrambled eggs. Then add the yolk mixture to the saucepan and heat slowly until it begins to bubble at the edges again and thickens.
  5. Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate (though a strainer if necessary to remove any chunks of egg).
  6. Allow to sit for a minute and melt chocolate and then stir until smooth.
  7. Pour into individual serving dishes (small bowls, ramekins, jars, espresso cups, etc.).
  8. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to set.
  9. Serve topped with whipped cream if desired.

After eating, bathe small children.
Makes 6-8 small but decadent servings.

Monday, January 14, 2013

True Love Valentine's Day Free Printables

There are lots of cute Valentine's Day Printables out there, but I wanted something that focused only on the true definition of love. So in an effort to think on those things that are true and lovely, I made (with a lot of help from my husband, who actually knows something about vector graphics) these printables and want to share them with you. My valentine to you, a little early I know, but I wanted to make sure you could use these for a while if you wanted to.

Here are all of these images in pdf form that are set to print on standard letter size paper and should look good in an 8x10 frame. Or click on any image to be taken directly to that one file. If you want a different size you should be able to scale the image when printing the pdf.

These would all be cute framed, but I am also thinking about perhaps cutting apart a Love is... image or two and letting my boys glue the words onto other hearts or valentines. I am hopeful the Charity Chapter hearts will help us memorize this wonderful passage. Perhaps some of you creative people can think of other uses for these?



P.S. If anyone really wants the scalable vector graphics (svg) files to put into another file of your own let me know and I'll share those too.

Alexander at 3 Months

So Alexander is already a little more than 3 months old and growing fast, weighing in at 15 pounds and measuring 26 inches. I think he wants to keep up with his brothers and loves to watch them. He is growing more content to watch his brothers play from his happy seat in his basket (at least for short periods of time).

At few random things about Alexander at 3 months:
  • He is ticklish and can be quite giggly at times
  • He can hold himself quite steady now so he got to go on his first stroller ride (in the back of our double stroller with five point harness on)
  • He was not super impressed with the stroller yet
  • He is also not very impressed with any form of baby toy yet (but his brothers like his toys)
  • He favorite thing is to be held, almost all the time, and mostly by mom
  • He looks like a Puffalump in his yellow outfit that we use like a winter coat and so we get yelled at less here for not dressing him warmly enough (although even though this outfit was given to us by a Chinese friend and he has clothes on underneath, it is still not considered warm enough, because we are told that Chinese babies wear at least three of these puffy outfits here all winter inside and outside)
Wow mom, you made that for me?

Three brothers enjoying books

Alexander's first stroller ride

Thursday, January 10, 2013

DIY Strawberry Heart Muffins (great for Valentine's Day breakfast)

I made these muffins last year for Valentine's day and they turned out really delicious. I lightly adapted this recipe using my homemade strawberry sauce. Simple pureed strawberries would work as well or just use the original strawberry jam and milk. Anyway you make these they are sure to please your sweethearts.

Homemade Strawberry Sweetheart Muffins Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup homemade strawberry sauce or pureed strawberries (or substitute 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 cup homemade or store bought strawberry jam)
  • Extra strawberry sauce or jam for decoration if desired
  1. In a mixing bowl first combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Next mix in the wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Fill greased muffin cups. Spoon a small amount of strawberry sauce or jam on top or each muffin and drag a butter knife through to create a heart on top if desired. Here are pictures of this technique.
  4. Bake at 375 F for 18-22 minutes.
Makes approximately 18 regular sized muffins.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DIY Strawberry Heart Brownie Cheesecake Bars (perfect for Valentine's Day)

I made this recipe last year for Valentine's Day when I wanted a dessert that combined chocolate, cheesecake, strawberries, and hearts! This recipe is quite similar to these tasty Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies but makes a whole 9x13 pan and has a more brownie and less cheesecake ratio. You could also just use the swirling heart technique I show here to decorate other favorite cheesecake or bar recipes as well. If you used a package mix for the brownies and store bought strawberry sauce these would be quite quick to make.

Homemade Strawberry Heart Brownie Cheesecake Bars Recipe (and simple swirling sweetheart decoration technique)

Drop spoonfuls of strawberry sauce on top of cheesecake
  • 9x13 pan of your favorite fudge brownies prepared with optional 1 cup chocolate chips (use a package mix or this easy recipe for better than boxed brownies)
  • 2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened (or even homemade yogurt "cream" cheese works great)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Strawberry sauce or pureed strawberry jam for decoration (you could use store bought strawberry sauce or jam to save time and I bet this recipe would be great with raspberry as well)
Drag a butter knife through the middle of the circles
  1. Bake brownies according to box directions or prepare homemade brownies 9adding an optional 1 cup chocolate chips) in a 9x13 pan.
  2. Mix cream cheese, milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy and smooth. Pour cheesecake mixture on top of baked brownies.
  3. Now comes the fun part of decorating with swirly hearts that is so easy. Simply drop spoonfuls of sauce onto the top of the cheesecake mixture and then drag a butter knife down the center of the circles. With the 9x13 pan I made a grid and swirled the hearts in two different directions. But you could make each one swirl in a different direction or in a circle around a circular cake, however you like!
  4. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes until firm in the center (watch these carefully though as all oven are different and you don't want the top overly brown. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight, and serve. 
Makes one thick 9x13 pan of bars.

Close up of heart swirls before baking

Mmm chocolate, cheesecake, strawberries and hearts!


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