Insta-Friday


It's Friday! It's a long weekend. Are you crafting? DIY-ing? I, for one, have already been highly productive today by venturing into the scary room shared by my 3 boys. It's either quicksand or the Twilight Zone in there because things go in and never come out. I already deserve 923 brownie points for not only entering but helping them do a deep clean so.... I plan to be a lazy lizard for the rest of the weekend.

Here's what else I've been up to...

Loving on my toothless wonder! Too bad she lost those front teeth by falling off of her bike at Ashleigh's. An Auntie's job is never done! Thanks Ash!

Taking this one for an upper GI scan. Boo, no fun! But, she was a trooper and looks far too cute in a hospital gown.

Reliving a favorite childhood hobby. Olive fingers!

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of my in-laws! They are just as in-love now as they were then. They are an inspiration!

Seeing Les Miserables in San Francisco. It was amazing of course! And I'm thinking the movie is going to be crazy good. I can't wait!

Cheering on the new intern at dad's work. They had lunch together and didn't invite me. But, I'll forgive them. It's Daddy daughter time.

Swimming as much as possible! PS this one is queen of the crazy, teenager picture faces. And she's only 8. Hold my hand people!

Back to school! Back to the grind of early mornings, backpacks and pencils everywhere, and going through a loaf of bread every other day. This year the stats are: college freshman, high school sophomore, 6th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade and little monkey.

And back to school means back to 1.25 hours of kid free time so there is hope of crafting/exercising/reading/cleaning/napping/eating a treat in my room by myself/blog-surfing once again. Oh yeah!

Painting Chocolates


I shared my chocolate painting experience a few weeks ago with Stephanie's readers on Somewhat Simple.  I wanted to document these details with my readers too!  I hope a few tips will help you!


Chocolate painting was a classic activity around my house growing up.  My mom taught us how to make chocolate pops before cake pops were around!  Chocolate suckers are such an EASY treat to make and it is a really kid friendly activity to do, just for fun!   I made these little baby booties for the nurses at the hospital after I had my last baby.  (I had to stay a while due to complications).  I put them all together in a blue painted pot and they made a fun bouquet.  These things are way faster than cookies or cake pops if you're in need of a quick gift.

I've collected several chocolate molds, but even when I don't have exactly what I need, chances are that they make it.  If you don't have a specialty cake and candy store near you, they sell them at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, JoAnns, etc.  But online you will find countless different versions.  They usually cost about 2 or 3 dollars each.

You may notice that some are clear and some are white.  The difference is that the clear ones are made for chocolate and the white ones are made for hard candy making AND chocolates.  (They have a higher tolerance for the high temps involved in candy making).  But both kinds, can be used for molding chocolate.  

You can use any kind of chocolate you'd like.  If you are using high quality chocolate, it is a good idea to temper your chocolate.  The wilton candy melts seem to be widely available and conveniently come in many colors!

If you want to buy white chocolate and color it yourself, you need to make sure you use an oil based color.  Water based food colorings, like the ones I use for frosting will ruin the chocolate.  I like to use Americolor oil candy color.  

There are a few ways to melt your chocolate.  You can melt it in a double broiler, or in the microwave but the trick is not to over-heat the chocolate or it will bloom.  (Chocolate bloom is when it dries with a white-ish swirl or film on it.  It is fine to eat, but doesn't look good).  My best trick to prevent bloom when I'm using the microwave is to heat it by 30 second increments (usually 2 or 3) and then stir until it is liquid, then I add more chocolate to cool the temp back down and stir until it is liquid again.  It is more scientific to use a thermometer, but with some experience, you can usually tell by looking at it.  

I use this 1970's hot plate, the same one I used all growing up.  This bad boy is going strong!  It keeps an even warm temperature.   Painting your molds can take a while, depending on detail and it's frustrating when the chocolate doesn't stay melted.  When this one sees it's last day, I will be getting something like this hot plate!

When I'm doing multiple colors, I melt them easily in a cupcake pan!

When I'm just doing a little bit, I just set my bowls on the hot plate.  If you don't have a hot plate, you can use a skillet to create a warm water bath and put bowls in that (being careful not to let any water get IN the bowl- it will ruin the chocolate).  The key is to find a way where you don't have to reheat your chocolate a lot while you take your time painting the molds.  

You can "paint" your chocolates with a food-safe paintbrush, but I prefer a simple toothpick.  You layer your molds starting with the bottom color and working up.  Pop it in the freezer between any colors that are touching.  These can be simple or very intricate, depending on the mold and how you choose to interpret it.  

Another thing that is often helpful is to cut the molds up so that you can paint the detail on a couple while the others are freezing.  It keeps you from having down time, waiting for them to freeze.  
Here are some of the chocolate suckers my kids and I have made as Valentines.  



I'm passing this tradition on to my kids because it's a keeper!  There is a chocolate mold for every occasion and holiday and chocolate suckers make a perfect gift or favor for birthdays and showers!  Grab a mold and a bag of chocolate next time you're out and give it a try!  

VTech Switch & Go Dino Review

I'm so excited to write this review for VTech today!
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We received three different Switch & Go Dinos™ from VTech, and my son may as well have thought it was Christmas. He was ecstatic at the sight of these!
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And the excitement hasn't stopped since. He has played with these for hours in the few short days we've had them. He has told me multiple times how much he loves them and even my husband said, "I haven't seen him like a toy this much in a long time! That review will be easy to write!"

These cute things easily transform from a dinosaur to a vehicle in just a few simple steps. My son quickly discovered all of the cool features. In dinosaur mode, action buttons play interesting facts about each dinosaur, providing kids with fun and enriching playtime. And because they are made by VTech, you know they are infused with technologyand high-quality electronics, Switch & Go Dinos come equipped with an LCD screen for customizable animations.
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They really are the cutest little toys! He played and played and played and played until he zonked out in his little "dino fort." (He escaped under the piano and called it a fort).
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These toys were such a success that it made me want to get them for every little boy I know who is having a birthday soon. There are seven kinds and they start at just $15.99. My son and I both have put our stamp of approval on these and would highly recommend them to a friend.

I am beyond excited about the opportunity you all have to enter the Show & Tell Switch & Go CONTEST! We are talking a LIFETIME SUPPLY OF TOYS and THE WINNING VIDEO WILL AIR ON A VTECH COMMERCIAL ON NICKELODEON! I hope you guys enter a video. I would love to see you win this!

VTech is challenging kids to transform their imagination through the Show & Tell with Switch & Go Contest. Here's what you need to do to enter:

*upload a 15-30 second video to the VTech Facebook page of your child’s home-made Dino creation. In the video, your child can show VTech their new Dino by drawing, building or customizing their existing Switch & Go Dino. Don’t forget to tell about the cool things your Dino does! What does your child's Switch & Go Dino sound like? Encourage your child to name it and share its roaring sound effects.

*Let your child choose 1 of 3 ways to show-off their home-made Dino creation and record it on video:
1. Draw: They can use markers, crayons, paint or pen to sketch your creation on paper
2. Build: They can use foil, paper, cardboard, or any non-branded household items to build your Dino
3. Customize: They can update their own VTech Switch & Go Dino with accessories and fun props to give them a new image!

*From October 8 through October 19 cast your vote for the coolest, most creative and fiercest video…
One grand-prize winner will get a kids lifetime supply of educational toys from VTech. And your video will air on a VTech commercial on Nickelodeon, which you can watch at your very own viewing party with your friends and family. And VTech will also transform your living room into the ultimate Dino den!

Here is the video I made of my son's drawing. I asked him to draw his idea of a dinosaur that transforms to a car. This was taped before he ever had the toys!

I'm so happy I got to be part of this review. VTech has given my readers a huge opportunity to win (be sure to enter by clicking here), and the Switch & Go Dinos have made one happy boy at my house!
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To see other bloggers' reviews and unique Switch & Go dino videos, please visit the VTech brand page on BlogHer!

Microwave Jello Popcorn

I have been making Jello Popcorn for years.
Even before Pinterest if you can believe it.

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Now I know there are lots of jello popcorn recipes out there and I'm sure they are lovely but, in my humble opinion, this one is the best because....

1. You make it in the microwave! Don't even get my started on my enormous electric bill this summer. Let's just say I am no longer doing laundry, watching TV or using the oven. Until further notice. So any snack I can make in the microwave without heating up the house is golden.

2. This recipe takes about 10 minutes. So it is my go to snack when kids bring friends over. (And I figure costs less than $3 a batch) Bonus!

3. I always have the ingredients on hand.

4. It can be color coordinated for any holiday, occasion or event. Ashleigh made pumpkin popcorn balls here.

5. EVERY SINGLE TIME I make it, someone asks for the recipe. And I don't brag about my cooking people. I never want to set myself up for failure. But everyone loves this popcorn.

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Start with a big bowl of popcorn in a microwave safe bowl. I use my air popper. Approximately 12 cups.

In a medium size microwave safe bowl melt one cube of butter.

Add 3 oz. jello powder. Any flavor. (Half of a regular box)

Add 1/4 cup light corn syrup.

Stir and put the bowl in the microwave for one minute. Stir. Microwave another minute. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds. Stir. Whenever the mixture is still boiling after you stir, its done. Your microwave may vary. So keep doing 30 second increments as needed.

Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and stir into mixture. It will get frothy and lighter in color.

Pour this hot (be careful) mixture over your popped popcorn and stir to generally coat. It's hot and can be a bit messy. Just try not to have any big pockets of the jello mixture.

Put the whole bowl of popcorn into the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir.
(It's actually easier to stir at this point and the jello coats the popcorn better.)
Another 30 seconds. Stir. Another 30 seconds. Stir.

Now this is where I stop but you may have to experiment with your microwave and personal taste. The more you microwave it, the crunchier it will be, but you run the risk of burning it.

When you feel you have pressed your luck far enough, pour the popcorn on to some parchment (or your counter cause you're lazy)

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Let it cool and look for any kernels that slipped by. In just a few minutes it's ready to put in a bowl and serve.

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I made no less than 30 batches of Microwave Jello Popcorn during this summer. And I won't even go into how many of those batches I ate myself. Insert chubby cringing face.

Insta-Friday

I'm linking up with Jeannett again!  My addiction to instagram is getting more severe by the day.  Here's a few from the last month or so.
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Here's a few sugar cookies from a a bee themed cookie bouquet I made.

You mess with my head Hobby Lobby!  When you display Halloween and Christmas things in June, it stresses me out.  I have so much to do before I get to all of these holiday details!
 

Our 3rd annual messy party at church was a success!  My kids obviously embraced it.

Here's a few fun messy hair-do's that I styled.  I tried to fill requests!

I got a fabulous new batch of milk glass!  Why am I so obsessed with this stuff?!  I just want more!

Summer was full of kids swapping rooms, creating forts and having sleepovers.  I was pretty surprised when my daughter managed to put her trundle mattress in the closet all by herself!

I wasn't really on board with the Vitamix purchase and I was really weary of spinach smoothies.  But I have to say that the blender has gotten used multiple times everyday and I love this green smoothie:  1 huge handful of spinach, 1 cup green grapes, one teaspoon agave syrup, juice of one lime and ice.  

The kids playing in their "hot tubs."  I love it when they get creative!

I'm obsessed with blueberries lately.  If you've tasted California berries, you understand.

My latest crafty adventure has been learning to screen print.  I love learning new things and I so I ventured out to LA to take a class!  I'll be showing you more soon!

Here are my darlings on their first day of school.  How did the summer go by so fast?

And just today my new sewing machine arrived!  (Happy birthday to me).  I can finally do all of the sewing projects I've been saving up!  First project up is a quilt for my niece!!!  It's coming, promise!

That's all for now!  Have a fantastic weekend!  

Baby Caramel Apple Cupcake Toppers

My kids went back to school last week.  It's taken me a week to adjust to the change in schedule.
But I won't tell you about carpools and backpacks, I'll just tell you about the treats.
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I saw this idea for little caramel apples on Celebrations.com, from Lindsay at Dollhouse Bake Shoppe (click for original tutorial) It was so darling, I had to try it!
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You know how I feel about the pretzel and caramel combo.  It is salty sweet heaven!  And dipped in chocolate just tops it off.  And it was so easy to do, I can explain it in one picture!
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The treats I made were easy!  What was not easy was sending my youngest off to Kindergarten!
It is so bitter sweet!  (I'm mostly bitter-j/k).  I'm sad to see him go everyday, sad that time with my littles is going waaaaay to fast, and sad that I won't have a sidekick everywhere I go.  But in trying to focus on the positive, I just may be more on top of the blog with all my spare time, I might have the laundry folded and put away everyday, or I might get around to finishing my craft room.
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I've got big dreams for my kids and myself this school year.  And you can't go wrong starting the year off with darling little apple cupcakes!  I hope all of you are off to a great start this school year too!


p.s.  I saw some similar ideas for little apples and cupcakes.
Check them out and get your apple creativity flowing!
Apples made of oreo truffles- How Does She

Halloween Wreath with Poppyseed Projects!

 Kathryn and I were lucky enough to meet the ladies of poppyseed projects at SNAP!  They are so fun and were such great teachers at our class.  We became instant fans of their products and have a wish list/idea list a mile long.

I shared a little Halloween project I made with one of their frames on their blog and I wanted to share it here with you too!  You all know that I am never 3 months ahead of the game in my holiday crafts...(I'll go back to procrastinating in a sec) but I was itching to do this, once the idea sparked!  I had seen lots of frames turned into wreaths and I knew the poppyseed frames would be perfect for a 
wreath-ish situation on my door.  

I am completely in love with the Jaxson frame!  I want one in every room of my house.  I ordered the 11x14 but they come in many sizes, bigger and smaller.  I feel like you could make it look formal and classy or cutesy and fun, depending on how you use it.  I went for the cutesy look this time.  It came unfinished (and ready for endless possibilities).  

I gave it a few good coats of orange spray paint.

Then I gave it some subtle stripes with a pearlized glaze.  The stripes can look almost white or almost non-existent depending on the angle you look at it.  I used blue painter's tape to make this quick.

I had grabbed this ribbon from Costco about a week before this project, not knowing what I was going to do with it.  But I knew it would look good with anything Halloween.  It looks like a roll of spiderwebs!  I also got out my stash of cheesecloth because that gauzy stuff reminds me of mummies.

I made a hot mess of this stuff and it resembled a bow-ish thing. 

Then I found these little clip-on spiders at Michael's and knew they were the perfect finishing touch for my Halloween door.  They are already attached to a clip.  The stars were aligned to make this easy!

I clipped them right onto that ribbon and cheesecloth and called it good.  

This is one of the easiest projects I've done.  The frame is so stinking cute to start out with, that anything you do with it will turn out awesome!  

I'm already scheming to repaint this once Halloween is over.  I have so many other ways to make this look good and so many other holidays.  Can you imagine this polka-doted at Christmas!?  I sort of want to paint it silver metallic too.  I may as well just order a couple more!

Never-ever have I been so prepared for Halloween!  (Thanks poppyseed girls!)
If only I had my kids' costumes ready, I might just win a medal.  
(Or maybe not.   I've been watching too much Olympics).




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