Saturday, February 11, 2012

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

This is a easy, healthy treat that blends up really fast.

Homemade Strawberry Banana Smoothie

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 3 peeled bananas
  • 2 cups milk or yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar or honey (more or less to taste)
Put all ingredients in the blender, put the lid on of course, and blend until smooth.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Family Fridays: Say Cheese

This past week, Nate and I made our first attempt at making mozzarella at home. At first, it seemed like every was going really well, but in the end we were only able to get the milk to turn into crumbly ricotta cheese. It was nothing like stretched mozzarella should be. I think that the citric acid and the rennet we used worked as they were supposed to, but the "fresh" milk here in China seems to have been pasteurized at too high of a temperature to use it for making mozzarella. We may try again using powdered milk or try to find a cow. Oh well, it was still a fun project to try to do as a couple.

Easy Valentine's Day Luminaries

This is the same idea as the candle luminaries I made for Christmas. I simply changed the colors and added a beaded heart ornament. Simple and cute!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

DIY Death By Chocolate

This is an amazing chocolate dessert that has been around a while, and goes by many different names. Whatever you call it though, it is amazing and really versatile. You can use all mixes and cool whip for a quick easy dessert or make everything from scratch to have the most control over taste and ingredients. You can vary the additions and change the flavor quite a bit. If you really don't even like chocolate (I don't know how that could be possible, but I hear some people don't), you could even just use the trifle idea and layer a different flavor of cake and pudding to create a whole new dessert. This dessert makes a lot, so it is great for company, and leftovers keep well in the fridge too, if you are only serving a couple. This would make a good Valentine's dessert for a chocolate lover.

Homemade Death By Chocolate Dessert Recipe

  • 9x13 pan of chocolate cake or brownies
  • 4 cups of chocolate pudding
  • 1–2 small packages cool whip or 1–2 cups heavy whipping cream (whipped)
  • 1–2 cups chocolate chips (or crushed candy bars)
  • extra additions like chopped nuts or fruit (optional)

  1. Prepare the cake and pudding according to package or recipe instructions and allow to cool. Whip the whipping cream or thaw the cool whip.
  2. Select a very large serving bowl. If you have a trifle bowl, this dessert looks quite elegant in one. But any other glass or ceramic bowl works fine also. Alternately, you can layer these desserts individually in small bowls, glasses, or jars. Using stemmed glassware for individual portions is another elegant look.
  3. Cut cake into chunks.
  4. Starting with the cake layer ingredients in order, creating three layers, ending with a smooth layer of whipped cream with chocolate chips or other additions sprinkled on top.
  5. Refrigerate until you wish to serve it and any leftovers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Easy Heart Wreath (No Hot Glue Required)

I've seen a lot of cute Valentine's wreaths on the internet, but most of them require the use of a hot glue gun, which I don't have. So I came up with a different way to make a tissue paper heart wreath, without any hot glue.

Easy Tissue Paper Heart or Heart Wreath

  • thin cardboard
  • pink or red tissue paper
  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • ribbon (optional)
  1. Cut the thin cardboard into a heart shape whatever size you like. If you want a wreath, cut a heart shape out of the middle of the larger heart.
  2. Use the hole punch to bunch holes all over the heart shaped cardboard, about 1–2 inches apart.
  3. Cut 3–5 inch squares of tissue paper.
  4. Take a square of tissue paper and twist it a little in the middle and stick in one of the holes. Repeat until the whole heart is covered with fluffy tufts of tissue paper.
  5. You can add a ribbon if you like for hanging on the wall.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Easy Valentine's Decorations: Love Blooms Bouquet

This is such a simple and frugal project, but I love the finished effect. You could use this idea for just about any holiday, but I think it is really cool for Valentine's Day because often love grows most during hard times. The pretty ornaments hung on simple branches seem to echo this thought to me.

An added bonus is that my boys got to help with this project in a way they actually thought was cool, which isn't the case with a lot of Valentine's crafts. My husband took them outside so they could hunt for sticks for me. They were so happy to present me with their beautiful bouquets of sticks when they got back.

After I had the sticks, I just trimmed a few to the desired length and arranged them in a vase. I tied a ribbon and beaded ornament around the base and then hung beaded and stuffed heart ornaments on the branches. I decided to also just loop some thread through some fake pink jewel and hang those on as well for added sparkle.

You could vary this project a lot, just by changing the container and the type of heart ornaments used. I think this bouquet turned out really cute.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Lantern Festival (元宵节)

Today is the last day of the Chinese New Year (known here as Spring Festival), and it is called Lantern Festival (Yuán xiāo jié, 元宵节). This festival is always held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month of the new year because it is the night of the first full moon of that year. People often go out to appreciate the moon, and round red lanterns are hung to light up the sky as well. Thousands of red lanterns decorate the city right now.

On this day, people traditionally gather with family or friends and eat a special food that is a ball of rice flour that is sometimes filled with sesame or peanuts. These are called tāng yuán (湯圓) and are eaten boiled in water, similar to the idea of dumplings in soup, but it is sweet like a dessert. The round shape of the moon and the tāng yuán symbolize family and togetherness.

Apparently, this is also traditionally a sort of Chinese Valentine's day to celebrate your sweetheart. Nowadays in China, there are three "Valentine's Days" though: Lantern Festival (Yuán xiāo jié, 元宵节), the Western Valentine's Day, and Chinese Valentine's Day (Qíng rén jié, 情人节) or (Qīxī Jié, 七夕節), which is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month and means the night of sevens. A friend of mine says this is bad news for Chinese boyfriends.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Family Fridays: Kunming Right Now in Pictures

Almost time for Lantern Festival

Western Hills

Another great view of the city

Awesome magnolias

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Easy Stuffed Heart Ornaments

For another simple Valentine's Day decoration, I made these cute stuffed hearts. I just cut out 1 heart out of a cute print, 1 heart out of black for the back, and 1 heart out of batting to stuff the heart. I put the print and the black right sides together, and then the batting on the bottom, and sewed around the heart with a small seam allowance, leaving just enough room open for turning. Then I clipped the dip in the top of the heart close to the seam to avoid bunching, turned it right side out, whip-stitched the opening closed, and added a loop of thread to hang it at the top. I top-stitched one of them but decided not to bother with the rest. Really easy, but I thought they turned out really cute too.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Easy Beaded Holiday Ornaments

This past Christmas, I made some beaded ornaments for the unique little Christmas tree I made. Now I am going to reuse the hearts for Valentines day decorations. Aaron (3 1/2) even helped a little, but older kids can do these fairly easily on their own. I remember one Christmas where my aunt brought lots of beads and wire and all of us girls, my mom, and my aunt would bead together for hours.

Easy Beaded Holiday Ornaments

  • small beads
  • wire
  • wire cutters
  • pliers

For most of the ornaments that I made this year, I simply strung a long series of beads to cover the wire and then twisted it into the shape I wanted. I then twisted the wire around to make a loop at the top and then twisted it tightly together to secure it. I often left a little extra and made small curls with the pliers. The hearts were one of the easiest shapes to make.

I also made some stars that were a little more complicated. For the points on the stars I made, I strung on a pattern of beads, ending with a large pear shaped bead. Then I put on one more small seed bead and threaded the wire backwards through the pattern of beads, starting with the pear shaped bead and ending with the small beads.


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