Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Scavenger Hunt Game

This game was shared with me and I thought it was so cute that I wanted to put it on before the holiday and if I waited, you wouldn't have a chance to use it for a fun activity tonight! It would be great for boy or girl scouts or other young men and women parties or activities.

You have to have a sense of humor about it as it could be considered gross by some but younger kids think that stuff like this is funny anyway so here is the list of things they need to find.

Break the group into two teams and have them get a bag to carry the items back to the base. Give them a time limit of 1/2 an hour or so. Which ever team returns with the most spoil wins!

Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Witches Hair-Spaghetti Noodles
Bat Droppings-Dry Dog food pellets
Rotten vampire tooth-candy corn
Booger in a tissue -chewed green candy in tissue
Werewolf’s toenail-clipped toenail in a tissue
Ogar’s eyeball-grape or olive
Dragon’s scale-orange peel
Skeleton bones-2 toothpicks
Mummy’s wrap-5 sheets of toilet paper
Spiderweb-cotton ball that is stretched out
Frankenstein’s screw-loose screw
Rat tail-rubber tire that is cut to lay straight
Poison apple with a bite-apple with a bite
Remains of a ghost-dryer sheet like bounce
Old pirate map-napkin with an X marked on it

You can come up with your own additions. Kids come up with great ideas when they start brainstorming.

Hope you have a Happy and safe Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Times Up

I had plans to blog on some Kale I have been working on drying, blanching, freezing and still need to make Kale lemon chips. However, as I started looking at the pictures I took, scrolling through the photos of the week, I reflected on how much I do in a week.

This week, three kids have red ribbon week which means each day they dress up in a different outfit. For example, tomorrow is Duct Tape day. I have one wearing a shirt completely made out of duct tape, some wearing jewelry and another decorated a t-shirt and made jewelry of duct Tape. So, we had crazy hair day yesterday (her hair was cuter when we had the pot of gold and clouds in it but she already took it apart by the time I grabbed the camera), PJ day today etc.

Monday was wear red day. That starts off the day hopping, then, I was out of town for one day. I have been trying to clear out my garage of unwanted items so I listed a few things for sale which means photos, descriptions, calls, and answering questions.

Halloween parties x 3 were fun with pumpkin carving and costumes.

I noticed one of my toilets leaking and didn't know that you could change a gasket and washer between the tank and the bowl. However, after $20 in supplies, I changed it on two of the toilets only to come home and find two floods. Apparently the "made in China" instructions left out that the gasket goes on the tank bolt, not sitting in the hole on the bowl. After three trips to different hardware store and another minor flood, one worker took an actual tank out and showed me where it was supposed to go which solved the problem.

Washing all the flood towels didn't add much to the already large amounts of laundry from two girls that dance 3 hours a day.

I was very blessed to get several large banana squash along with a huge garbage bag full of Kale. I love kale in soups and grew it for years and always freeze it but mine didn't grow this year so I was very grateful for the kale. Cleaning, cooking, drying, baking freezing all the harvest has kept me up late nights. No complaining there as I am glad to have it.

I am on the board of directors for the local food bank and we are in the process of moving into a new building which I am helping to decorate along with getting plaques, awards etc. Calls and visits with a board meeting on Monday.

My third daughter has several things coming up where she needs at least 100 hours of service. So, she is helping with making calls, compiling lists and addressing the envelops for the upcoming food bank open house. I wrote her a script for her calls and got the numbers for the people she needs to call for addresses and emails.

I have been working on Christmas gifts as I am trying to make all their gifts this year. However, my oldest is returning from her mission to the Philippines in a few weeks and we will be having Christmas early due to the fact that the youngest girls are with their dad over the Christmas break. Some of the fun things I have been working on are personal paper dolls, utensil jewelry, charm bracelets from penny's we've squished at tourist sights, handmade afghans (made by my sweet friend Julie but we spent hours choosing yarn etc), and if I can find the time, t-shirt quilts. I have almost finished the utensil jewelry burning the midnight oil.

Along with normal homework and taxi service to study sessions and taking the girls to the house they are sitting for a friend while she is out of town, I have my youngest who wants to enter a contest for making an instrument for the Blue Man group. We worked on that one day.

Two girls dancing at halftime of the game this week and one performing in the drum line made for a few minutes to sit but trying to video and take photos at the same time doesn't make for good video or pictures. :-) I have the same issue tomorrow night when my youngest is a scarecrow in the fall review. (Just remembered I need to find her a scarecrow costume!)

Blogging and journaling this week I have fallen asleep in my chair more than once. Last night while reading a paper one had typed up for homework after we read scriptures together, I fell asleep at least 10 times while my older two girls laughed and laughed. I couldn't get through the paper until one of my sweet daughters rubbed my feet to keep me awake.

I'm sure I've forgotten lots but looking at this I can see why I am always so tired. I know one day I will miss the crazy days but for now, I look back and think, "How the heck did I do this with five girls in five different schools?"

But, as I look at the clock, I see my "times up" so have a great day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roasting Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

I love fall. The harvest keeping me busy, cleaning up the yard for winter, and looking forward to the holidays coming make it wonderful. Part of the fun is roasting pumpkin and squash seeds.

Since I was a small girl, I remember my mother roasting our pumpkin seeds. I have always enjoyed them. For those of you who have never done it, here is an easy step by step for you.

Scoop out the mush and seeds from the center of the squash or pumpkin so it looks something like this. You can roast the squash in so many ways. I usually wrap it in foil but this banana squash was so large I just roasted them right on the rack and it turned out well.

Once you have the mush and seeds, I like putting it into a colander or a bowl so I can add water. The water removes the mushy stuff while you squish the seeds out. I keep the mushy stuff for mulch in my garden and keep a gallon ice cream bucket under my sink for that type of thing. It usually gets dumped once a day or more during harvest and dehydrating times.

Once there are no more strings attached to the seeds, I dump them on a dehydrator tray or dry them on paper towels and then put them on a cookie sheet. I sometimes salt them. Other times, I will put garlic salt or onion salt on them. My favorite salt is "Real Salt" from Redmond Utah. It is mined from an underground mine and has minerals in it. They actually sell flavored salts such as garlic also.

I let them dry overnight on the dehydrator tray or I set the oven on about 200 degrees and put the cookie sheet in for about an hour. I move them around making sure they are drying. You can roast them at a higher temp for shorter amounts of time but you need to watch them closely so they don't burn.

Once dry, I run them through my fingers getting the dried skin off which is somewhat like a dried egg white. I blow gently on the seeds and the skins blow off into the sink or outside depending on where I do it.

I bag them if we will be eating them soon and they don't usually last long. When I have huge amounts, I put them in my trusty Tupperware. I have some from awhile ago and they taste fresh. I appreciate whoever invented Tupperware, my guess is I need to thank Tupper!

Happy Harvest!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who'd Have Thought? Soy Fish

Busy times going on this week at our house. Working on some repairs and didn't have time for much of a dinner so I opened some tuna..... or so I thought.

I used to eat tuna regularly but it doesn't taste like it used to and so we maybe eat it once in six months or so. I really didn't enjoy the tuna and started reading the label. It has soy as a filler. I took back the WalMart brand upset that everything has soy in it anymore. Soy is similar in make to estrogen and messes up the thyroid because they thyroid registers that you have excess estrogen in the body. This is mostly due to the soy having been modified genetically.

If you research, you will find and ever increasing number of Americans developing and allergy to soy because soy, soy protein or soy oil is added to almost all prepared foods. Now it is added to fish.

Many babies are allergic as infants because they are given soy formula. I have several friends whose children had horrible rashes for months they couldn't clear up because of loose stool etc. Finally after thousands of dollars of testing, they found she had an allergy to soy. At age two, she had to restrict most prepared foods because they all contained some soy product.

I pulled out the tuna I just bought to replace the ones I returned and pulled one of the same brand off the shelf in my storage room and even the two cans of the same brad were different. The Western Family off the shelf had soy in it. The case I just purchased doesn't. The only thing I can find that makes them different is that one is from Thailand and the other packaged in Vietnam.

They all have similar expiration dates so really, it is probably where the item is packaged as to the content of soy.

I will be more careful reading labels. Tuna is a high risk food do to the mercury content. They suggest pregnant women and children limit their intake of tuna. Now, after this new additional information, it is probably good to avoid it altogether if you are expecting.
Weird blog for a weird day!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Microwave Baked Potato Cooking Bag

Last year someone gave me a "potato bag" as a gift. I never used it. I don't often serve baked potato's for a meal as my kids prefer real mashed potato's. Over the past few weeks, I have had a few friends mention that they use them and thought I would give mine a try. They also said they work great for corn and muffins so they stay moist as well.

It worked well and the potato was soft and I just squeezed it and put toppings on. The kids used things from ranch dressing, sour cream, cheese, and Bacos to top their potato's. I just had salt, pepper, and butter on mine and it was wonderful. They were much more moist than when they are pricked with a fork and microwaved and they didn't get hard like microwaved potato's do. Mine were cooked and then two girls said they had to leave without notice and weren't back for a few hours. We reheated them and they were still wonderful.

I talked with someone about how they made theirs and these were some tips: Only use 100% cotton fabric and batting with no metallic in them as they can melt or spark and start a fire in the microwave.

They are now making a specific Tater batting made in the Warm and Natural line. You can get a yard for less than 3 bucks. You have to make sure that there isn’t any glitter or stuff in your fabric.

How To Make Potato in the Baker Bags:
Perfectly baked potatoes using a microwave and a fabric bag? Cute idea!
This simple bag creates a “just right” baked potato in your microwave. The inside is well done, yet moist, and the skin remains tender.
The bag will cook one to four medium sized potatoes at once.
Simply wash and dry your Potatoes. DO NOT PRICK!!
Wrap the potatoes in a paper towel and place in bag.
Microwave as instructed by the microwave manufacturer. Time will vary per microwave.
When serving, do not cut with knife, simply use a fork. potatoes will be very fluffy.
Let the bag air dry. ENJOY!!

Caution: Please do not leave unattended and make sure to use only 100% cotton materials.If your microwave is too hot to use the bags, either turn down in temperature or don’t use the bags (sparking, small burn hole problems in the fabric, or they can cause fire).

Here is a link to a site for the instructions. Be sure to use only 100 % cotton fabric. Use muslin on the inside as ours bled ink from the fabric through into the paper towels when it gets damp from the potatoes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Waffles - Banana, Nutmeg, Cinnamon Chip Gluten Free

I tired something new for dinner tonight. I needed to rotate some of our gluten free mixes so I made up waffles using the mix and added 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, a banana, and 1/2 cup cinnamon chocolate chips along with the other ingredients listed.

The smell in the house as they cooked was heavenly. They toasted up really well and the kids loved them. I covered one with "grade A" coconut oil letting it melt in and that was REALLY good.

My youngest enjoyed the taste so much she asked if she could add it to ice cream as the nutmeg, cinnamon and bananas reminded her of desert. She told her sisters when the arrived home they should try it that way. (She did have a baked potato first.)

I really should learn how to make the gluten free recipes from scratch. It isn't something I have found much time to look into at this point.

I am sure we will be making these again. I think any child with allergies would find it hard to even tell these are made without the wheat flour.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brownie with Easy Flavored Toppings

I tried something I have never done before and I haven't heard of anyone I know trying it. My sister makes wonderful mint brownies but I am not big on making the mint frosting that goes on top. I am lazy that way. So, today, I thought I would make mint brownies and use mint flavored chips for the top instead.

When I make my toffee, I put the chocolate chips on right after I take it out of the oven and just let the heat from the toffee melt the chips. I thought I would try that with the brownies. Since I have a few kids that have wheat and dairy allergies, I try to use the gluten free mixes or recipes as often as possible. I had never tried the gluten free brownies before. So, I made gluten free brownies.

The batter looked and had a similar texture to other brownie mixes I have used. The kids fought for the mixer beaters and enjoyed those and had no idea I was using anything other than the normal mixes I use. None said anything about it tasting different. It did bake up a bit more moist than other brownies but perhaps I didn't let it bake long enough. It did bake for the full time.

Not sure how my experiment would work, I sprinkled some mixed chips on one side of the brownies to see how they would work baked. After baking it, I pulled it out of the oven and sprinkled it with chocolate chips of different flavors and let them melt for a few minutes and then spread them with a fork.

Since some of my kids like nuts and others don't, I crossed a small section with crushed walnuts making a checkerboard pattern so it would look like I made several tray of different brownies.

I let them cool, cut them up and put them on plates. Each child has a different party this weekend where they were supposed to take treats. Since these brownies taste so wonderful, I doubt anyone would guess they are gluten free.

I think I have a new treat that is quick and easy that the kids can even make. If I had waited until the chocolate was actually cooled and hardened, I think that it would have help with the cutting of the pieces making them more uniform. I am definitely going to make these again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Puzzle Fun for All Ages - Part 1

Several years ago I came up with an idea to put magnets on the back of puzzles so you can do them and then store them when not in use half done. The first one I did, I took a child's puzzle to experiment with as it has large pieces and not many jig-saw pieces.

My oldest daughter collected "Wizard of Oz" stuff so I got one of her puzzles. I bought some sheet magnet paper which is sticky on one side. You have to put each piece of the puzzle on individually because if you stick the done puzzle on, there is no way to cut the magnet around the pieces. So, put the puzzle pieces on the sticky magnet paper as close together as you can but still able to get a pair of scissors between. Then, put in a good movie, get a small detailed pair of scissors with a sharp tip and get to cutting.

I tried using a razor/scalpel but it didn't do the round pieces well. As you can see from the back of the puzzle piece, it doesn't have to be perfect. As long as most of the back is covered, the piece will be even with the rest, not raising up or dipping down on one side.

The magnetic sheets can be purchased at a craft store but a few times I have found them at the local dollar store in the craft section. When I see them there, I stock up. I have used them for many things. With the sticky side, it makes it very easy to use. If you can't find one with sticky on one side, purchase double sided tape and use that to stick the pieces on to the magnet sheet. If you have some old magnet calenders or adds from companies, you can peel off their add and use glue to glue your pieces on and save some money that way.

Once you cut all your pieces, you can keep them in the original box. However, since it is a kids puzzle, I put them in a Ziploc bag and keep them in the bottom drawer in my kitchen so when I am babysitting, I pull it out and let the kids play. It is funny, when my older kids come home and the pieces are still on the fridge, they will do the puzzle. It is fun for all ages.

A puzzle a day........

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Creative Wrapping Paper

For many years now, I have gone to second hand stores or clearance sales to get my wrapping paper. I use old wall paper. Most of the papers are thicker than actual wrapping paper and don't rip so easily like wrapping papers do. I travel to most wedding, birthdays and Christmas parties about 3 hours each way so many times if I use traditional paper, by the time I arrive, it has several rips or tears in the paper. If I use a gift bag, it is squished in with all the luggage and usually ends up wrinkled and torn by the time we arrive. I don't always have time to wrap it when I get to our destination so this solution has been a blessing.

I usually pay between $0.25 and $1.00 a roll. They are usually larger rolls than regular wrapping paper and they are fun and come in themes. You can go into a wallpaper store and ask them for their old display books and you have hundreds of coordinated papers for smaller gifts. They have sports, Licensed papers, and baby through wedding papers. Usually you can get them for free but sometimes you have to pay a few dollars for them but it is worth it if you give many gifts. I have a very large family and a large church congregation so I am giving several gifts every few weeks so for me, it has been a blessing.

I wrap the gift as normal and I have many options for ribbon. I have many colors of curling ribbons, wedding congrats ribbons, satin or decorative ribbons, tulle, fiber decorative yarn, thicker string, raffia, hemp, twine and many other fun things. For this particular package, since it is for a wedding, I decided on tulle, sparkle decorative yarn fiber, and gold thread. I chose that route because the gift is a photo album and scrapbook supplies.

The last wedding shower I attended a few weeks ago, I used white wall paper, and her colors were apple green and dark plum purple, I used those two colors curling ribbon and fibers. It was very cute.

You can also get butcher paper or a roll of news print paper and have your kids do hand prints, stamps, marker art, body tracing tissue art etc. Here is homemade paper my daughter used last Christmas to wrap my present. I loved the personal touch. Note the amazing artwork! She must take after me! :-) I spent an hour looking for the picture of the whole paper. She did some beautiful art. I couldn't find it. Here is the front anyway.

There are so many possibilities.....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Suckers, Lollipops, and Flavorful Treats - Part 2

The recipe:

Suckers or hard candy treats:

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

food coloring

several drops flavoring

Put the first three ingredients into the stainless pan and start stirring. While it is heating up when you don't need to watch it so carefully, pull out a cookie sheet. Grease it. I use butter, you can also use Crisco or margarine. Then, you take the sucker molds, grease the inside of the mold making sure to get into the tiny areas where the sucker might stick.

Next, take a stick and place it in the mold and use a clip to secure the stick and mold. Place it on the cookie sheet making sure that all parts of the mold are flat on the cookie sheet or you will have some of the sucker come out on the bottom of the mold making sharp edges and overages seen on this ghost sucker. If this happens, I usually just tap the sucker on the edge of the cookie sheet breaking those extra pieces off before bagging.

Get your flavorings and your food coloring ready and then stir the mixture boiling for about 5 minutes. The boiling mixture will soon become silvery and not so clear. Have a clear cup of cool water near and drip some of the mixture into the cup. If you hear a "crack" and the mixture becomes string like in the water and is hard to the touch in the water, it is ready. If it falls to the bottom of the glass in a glob and stays soft when you feel it, it needs more cooking time.

You can see the strings in the water here if you look closely. The candy will get hard and be stringy in the water when it is ready.

Once it is ready, you take it off the heat and wait about 20 seconds. If you put the flavoring right in, it will boil off. Waiting a few seconds allows it to cool a bit. Put the food coloring in and step back as it will be boiling and sometimes will splash out. Stir in the flavoring and mix quickly. The mixture cools fast and needs to be poured into molds before it hardens.

Start pouring into the molds. It will still be boiling and the mold will look full because it has air bubbles. If you stop then, it will then fall and leave ridges that can be sharp. So, over fill them just before they would overflow and when the bubbles work their way out, the sucker will fill the mold. Pour quickly and don't worry about drops or strings that follow you from the pan, they can be collected at the end and put in a bag and used for ice cream topping.

Let the suckers cool in the molds until they are very cool to the touch. They will fold, melt, ripple and lose their shape if taken out early. Her is one taken out early and you can see the ripples in it and the head isn't "sharp" and crisp as the others. It is worth the wait to have them look smooth and "cute."

Once cooled, remove the mold, slide the sucker into a bag. Tie it off or close the zip. You can write the flavor on the stick or on the bag. However, Sharpie rubs off if the bag has any grease or gets warm from the sucker so I suggest writing the flavor on the stick. Collect the broken bits off the bottom of the pan and place in a bag for use as ice cream toppings.

You can double the batch but I find that the mix starts to harden before I can get all the suckers poured. Another thing is the kids like several different flavors. This mix makes between 12 and 20 suckers depending on the mold sizes you use. Unless you only want one flavor, it is easier to mix flavors with the smaller batch. Same goes for color.

Once all the suckers are poured, there is usually some left on the sides of the pan. I scrape the sides with the wooden spoon and run it under cold water making it a sucker spoon and let one of the kids suck it off. Usually whomever picked the flavor of the batch gets the spoon. I rinse the pan in the hottest water available to get off the mix before it hardens. It is really hard to get clean after it gets hard.

Each girl that came to our party picked out two suckers of each flavor. I had them make a bouquet with one sucker from each flavor. I gave them each a "thank you" note and had them write someone they wanted to show gratitude. We tied the bouquet with a bow and curled the ends and then went to deliver them. The girls got to keep the second bouquet. The girls all had fun and thanked me many times for having them over. I can see we will be doing this again. My other girls are already planning their "sucker" parties.

Here is to a flavorful day!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Suckers, Lollipops and Flavorful Treats - Part 1

For weeks now one of my daughters has been asking to have friends over and make homemade suckers. We make suckers several times a year. We then make them into "bouquets" and deliver them with "thank you" notes to people who have supported us, taught us, or have been kind to us.

The girls had a day off school today so we thought it would be a good day. There is so much information, I will make it a two day post. Today, I will focus on the items needed.

First you need Sugar, corn syrup, water and flavorings. I like a stainless steel pan and a wooden spoon. Stainless keeps the sugar from scorching and the wooden spoon keeps your hands cool. A metal spoon would get hot.

I bought most of my sucker molds at yard sales, second hand stores or when friends know I make them, they give me some. I have gotten some new with store credits but I now have at least one set of every sucker mold set available to my knowledge. We have one for each holiday and many all occasion sets.

Sometimes the sets have come with some clips missing, I made clips out of thick copper wire. They work fine.

Next, you need sticks. I can buy them in my town locally but there are marked up quite a bit from the bulk cooking supply stores. The same goes for flavorings. I suggest you look online at molds and supplies. The sticks are just over $1 for 100 at the bulk stores. Local stores may be more. They have several sizes and types. There are plastic sticks, paper sticks and short vs. long. Most sucker molds use the shorter paper type.

Flavorings can be acquired at many places. Sometimes I wait until the holidays are over and stores (pharmacy's usually have them) are trying to clearance them so you can get them a bit cheaper. I have gotten more popular and common flavors at the grocery store. Most berries, mint, coconut etc can be purchased in the baking section. The large cooking supply stores have the bigger bottles and many more flavors. Since we make them often, and I wanted to have them on hand for emergency preparedness, I bought one of each flavor we were missing last year as a Christmas gift for the girls. I typed up a list of what we had as it was frustrating pulling out each bottle every time to let them know what flavors we had available. It has come in handy.

If you have a food handlers permit, you can make and sell the suckers. I thought if times were tough, people cut down on buying treats but with all these flavors and stocks of the ingredients, it is a nice gift and could be an inexpensive treat that people would buy. I didn't use a full jar of corn syrup and only used 7 cups of sugar and we made over 100 suckers. The sticks were about $1.00 and the bags were about $1. A bottle of flavoring lasts a long time so once you have the molds, (which would be the biggest expense) it is a fairly inexpensive treat.

The bags to put the suckers in can be different. I bought several sizes at the local supply store. Sometimes the suckers are a tight fit. The bottom of the bag is open and you have to tie ribbon or put tape on the bottom to keep it sealed and sometimes they slip off or the sucker is a bit big and it is hard to get a ribbon around it. They are usually $1 for 100. They have three sizes, the larger cost a bit more.

Shopping around, I found zip bags in the craft section at Wal-Mart 100 for around $1. They have two sizes which are perfect for suckers. I like that I can seal them around the stick and sometimes you can fit the sucker and stick inside and seal it all inside the bag.

Now you are ready for the fun to begin!