Spring Kids Craft, Edible Birds Nests

Denver Botanic Gardens.

Edible Birds Nests.

When I taught After School Enrichment classes for grades 3-5, one of the projects we made was Edible Birds Nests. I didn’t take good pictures–think sticky-from-marshmallows-hands–so credit must be given to D Magazine’s Jessica Jones for these project photos.

Edible Birds Nests are easy, fun and perfect for celebrating Spring. Need an Easter activity for a party? This one is egg-cellent!

Gather ingredients.

Mold chow mein/melted marshmallow mixture into a cupcake tin.

 

Once the Birds Nests have hardened in the fridge, pop them out of the cupcake tin and fill with jellybean eggs.

A teeny-tiny nest with one egg is perfect as a cupcake topper. (thanks, Jessica Jones, for the suggestion.)

EDIBLE NESTS RECIPE (yields about 12 cupcake-sized nests)

Ingredients:

•1/4 cup butter

•3 cups marshmallows

•5 cups chow mein noodles

•Cooking spray

•Candy to fill nests

Directions:

1. Melt butter and marshmallows together over medium-low heat. Remove from heat.

2. Add chow mein noodles, and mix til combined.

3. Spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray, as well as your fingers. Mold the mixture into nest shapes in the cupcake tin.

4. Place in freezer for at least an hour. Remove nests using a knife.

5. Fill with your choice of candy.

Source: DMagazine

Handsome Knit Men’s Scarf

No-Purl Ribbed Scarf

No-Purl Ribbed Scarf.

I used Merino Superwash so this scarf would be easy to wash and dry.

I used Merino Superwash so this scarf would be easy to wash and dry.

Inspiration piece from pattern posted on Ravely.

Inspiration piece shown with the pattern.

Cartridge Belt Rib

Searching for a handsome, masculine scarf, I found this pattern on Ravelry where credit is given to Purl Soho, a gorgeous yarn shop in Manhattan. This purl-less stitch is known as the Cartridge Belt Rib and is considered a classic stitch pattern. Purl Soho says,

This robust rib stitch produces prominent columns of elongated knit stitches separated by broad valleys of dense texture. The juxtaposition is not only fascinating; it’s beautiful too.

Happy knitting, hon.
MATERIALS:

Suggested on pattern–4 (5) skeins of Purl Soho’s Alpaca Pure, 100% alpaca. I used Sueno Worsted by HiKoo’s Merino Superwash, color Evergreen.
US #8 straight or circular needles – 5.0mm

YARDAGE:  436 – 545 yards (399 – 498 m)
GAUGE:  22 stitches = 4 inches in stitch pattern

FINISHED SCARF SIZE:  8 ½ inches wide x 64 (80) inches long

NOTES:

Slip all slipped stitches purl-wise.

This stitch pattern is worked over a multiple of 4 + 3 stitches.

PATTERN
Cast on 47 stitches.

Row 1: K3, *slip 1 wyif (with yarn in front), k3, repeat from * to end of row.

Row 2: K1, *slip 1 wyif, k3, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, slip 1 wyif, k1.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 64 (80) inches from cast on edge or until desired length, ending with Row 2.

Bind off in a k3, p1 rib. Here’s how… K2, slip the first stitch over, k1, slip the first stitch over, *p1, slip the first stitch over, [k1, slip the first stitch over] 3 times, repeat from * to end of row.

Weave in ends and block as desired.

Source: purlsoho.com

 

 

 

Manly Scarf

Manly Scarf

Manly Scarf

Hubby modeling the Manly Scarf.

Hubby modeling the Manly Scarf.

Nephew trying on his Holiday gift.

Nephew wearing his Holiday gift.

Despite its name, I worried this scarf wasn’t manly enough. Maybe it was the yarn or maybe it was the stitch, but I wondered, “Does this scarf look masculine?” I wasn’t convinced until Hubby tried it on. Yay! It looked great, and was ready to be wrapped as a gift for my nephew.

Happy knitting, hon!

Manly Scarf

Stitches are cast on for the entire length of the scarf, which is knit from side to side on a circular needle. Tip: Place stitch markers every 20 stitches (or however many stitches you like). This makes keeping track of the total stitches much easier. 

Yarn: The yarn used in the pattern on Ravelry was Manos del Uruguay Handspun Semi Solids, skein of 100g: 138 yards/126 m

4-5 skeins of main color

1-2 skeins of contrast color

Needles:  One US 10 (6mm) circular needle (as long as possible). Change needle size if necessary to obtain gauge.

Notions:  Stitch markers. One yarn needle for weaving in ends.

Gauge: 

In stockinette stitch, 10 cm/4 inches = 14-18 stitches

In pattern stitch, 10 cm/ 4 inches = 10-12 stitches

Pattern Stitch

Row 1:  Knit all stitches.

Row 2:  Knit 2 together to end.

Row 3:  Knit into front and back of every stitch.

Row 4:  Purl all stitches.

Directions:

Cast on 250 stitches. Work in pattern stitch until scarf has desired width. The stripe pattern is 3 pattern repeats in the main color, then one in the contrast color like this:

MC x 3

CC

MC x 3

CC

MC x 3

Cast off.

Notes:  Click the link under Source to see the original pattern, where the author of the pattern explains how to substitute the yarn. I used a different yarn than the one shown on Ravelry and since–gasp–I detest making swatches, I winged it, casting 250 sts and knitting to a width and length I thought looked good on a guy. (I know, very scientific!)

Source: Ravelry, pattern by Johanna K Sarten

 

DIY Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Go from this…

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to this…

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in four easy steps!

Four-Step Favors

Need a quick and easy idea for favors, goodie bags or stocking stuffers? These sweet-n-salty snacks are so yummy, my family couldn’t wait to eat the duds and broken pieces.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Ingredients:

pretzel logs

chocolate discs (click here to see Wilton’s Candy Melts)

sprinkles, cookies to crush and/or sparkly sugar

wax or parchment paper

Prep:

Pour sprinkles into pans with sides. I used several 9″ x 11″ dishes for different sprinkles. Line baking dishes with wax or parchment paper so finished pretzels can dry.

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave according to package directions. I used several flavors and melted one flavor at a time. (Tip. I microwaved the discs a little less time than recommended and stirred to finish melting the discs. Over doing it in the microwave causes the chocolate to get “sandy” and then it’s not usable.)
  2. Spoon melted chocolate over half a pretzel log.
  3. Immediately either roll the chocolate part in the sprinkles or spoon the sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Rolling is more efficient, but the melted chocolate drips into the sprinkles and makes the sprinkles globby. I ended up spooning decorations on top of chocolate.
  4. Line pretzels up on baking dish to dry. Drizzle melted chocolate over the bare half of the pretzel.

After all the pretzels are decorated, refrigerate them until the chocolate has hardened. Since I made these at night, I refrigerated them overnight (although they’d probably be fine in an hour) and wrapped them the next morning.

Melt chocolate in microwave.

1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave.

Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel, then spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.

2. Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel.  3. Spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

4. Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sparkly sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.

4 continued. Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were such a hit, I’ll definitely be making them again!

Happy Holidays, hon!

Warm and Cozy Knit Infinity Scarf

Honey Cowl.

Honey Cowl.

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I made this Infinity Scarf, called a “Honey Cowl,” last year and wanted to knit it again. This time, I followed the pattern for the shorter version. The Simplicity yarn color “49 Shades of Gray” has a hint of mint green and is a Merino wool blend. It was a pleasure to work with.

Happy knitting, hon.

Infinity Scarf, Honeycomb Cowl

Finished Measurements:  22 inches in length by 12 inches in width for short version (44 inches in length by 12 inches in width for longer version)

Yarn:  55% Merino Superwash merino, 28% Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 140 yards (128 meters), 2 (4) skeins (double check amount of yarn needed depending on type of yarn and yardage.)

Needles:  One US 8 (5.0mm) 26″ (66 cm) circular needle for short version or One US 8 (5.0 mm) 36″ (91 cm) circular needle for longer version.  Change needle size if necessary to obtain gauge.

Notions:  One stitch marker for beginning of round. One yarn needle for weaving in ends.

Gauge:  5 sts = 1 inch (10 cm) in honeycomb pattern.

Notes:  For an in-between size, 1 skein and 160 sts will create a 32 inch long by 8 inch wide cowl.  2 skeins at 160 sts will create a 32 inch long by 16 inch wide cowl.

Pattern Stitch:  Slip Stitch Honeycomb

Note:  When working rounds 2 and 4, slip as if to purl and keep yarn in front)

Round 1:  Knit

Round 2:  *Purl 1, slip 1 wyif* repeat across round

Round 3:  Knit

Round 4:  *Slip 1 wyif, Purl 1* repeat across round

Directions:

Cast on 110 (220) stitches.  Being careful not to twist stitches, place marker and join for working in the round.  Knit 4 rounds.

Repeat the 4 rounds of “Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern” above until work measures approximately 11 inches.  Make sure that you have enough yarn left over for the following:  Knit 3 rounds and bind off loosely.

Source:  Ravelry, http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/honey-cowl/people

 

Time for Pie (Gluten Free Dough)

Gluten Free Baking cookbook by Michael McCamley.

Gluten Free Baking cookbook by Michael McCamley.

Inspiration Photo.

Inspiration Photo.

Do you need a good gluten free dough recipe? 

This gluten free pastry dough recipe can be used for pie, quiche or other baked goods.  In this post, you’ll find ingredients and directions for making an Apple Pie as well as a link to a How To video I posted on You Tube.

Raw gluten free pastry dough doesn’t have the same sweet, buttery scent of regular dough but, once baked, the crust is flaky and delicious. Trust me, when this is served, there are no leftovers!

Happy baking, hon.

My Gluten Free Apple Pie.

My Gluten Free Apple Pie.

Click HERE to watch–Ta Dah!–my second, and short, How To Video.

Gluten Free Pastry Dough Ingredients

3 2/3 cups gluten-free flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 stick butter, plus extra for greasing (I used Crisco vegetable shortening.)

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)

Apple Pie Filling Ingredients

6 cups apple slices (I use a combination of Granny Smith and other varieties)

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

approximately 1 Tablespoon flour

dash salt

1 egg, beaten (used to brush on top of crust before baking)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degress F.

2.  Combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, salt and spices.  This mixture will give off a lot of liquid so use a slotted spoon when spooning into pie crust, allowing you to spoon the apple mixture without the excess liquid.

3.  To make the pastry dough, combine the flour, xanthan gum, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter (or vegetable shortening) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg and milk (or almond milk) and combine to make the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

4.  On a gluten free floured surface, divide the dough in two and roll each piece out to form a large circle*–one to line the pie plate and one to go on top of the pie. Line the pie plate with one of the pasty circles and add the apple filling.

5.  Add the second pastry circle as a lid and, using a fork, crimp the edges of the pasty all the way around. Pierce the pie in the middle a couple of times to let out steam during baking.

6.  Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

Serves 8

*I rolled out the dough by a)pressing dough ball down to flatten it, b)sandwiching dough between two pieces of wax paper, then c)rolling the rolling pin on top of the wax paper.  (Demo can be seen in the video.) If the dough sticks to the wax paper, you can spray the wax paper with non-stick spray.

**You can make this pie ahead and freeze it.  Let pie cool completely before wrapping in saran wrap and aluminum foil.  A couple of days before serving, defrost at room temperature.

Serving options:

Serve warm–after removing from oven, let cool about 20 minutes.

Serve room temperature–cool completely.

Rewarm defrosted pie– warm in a preheated 250- 275 degrees F oven, uncovered, until desired temperature.

Glass Class

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Glass rods in a Venice studio.

Glass fusing isn’t just for kids!

Thanks to a SCBWI meet up a few years ago, I discovered a fun place to fuse glass. Most recently, I visited Fire Me Up Studio in Cranford, New Jersey with my daughter and friends. We picked our projects, donned our goggles and gloves, and went to work scoring, snapping and breaking glass. We needed instruction. We needed patience. We needed a snack!

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Glass rods glued to a glass base. The glue burns off when glass is fired.

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My daughter’s rainbow design slumped into a bowl.

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Before. (Do you “see” my inspiration?)

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After. (If you guessed the beach, you were right.)

Fire Me Up Studio: Glass fusing as well as pottery painting, hand building and canvas painting, Cranford, NJ.

Glassworks Studio: A DIY glass fusing studio, Morristown, NJ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Raincoat Crisps, Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

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I had never heard of Raincoast Crisps until a friend served her homemade crisps with cheese as appetizers. I couldn’t stop eating them!  Thekitchn describes them perfectly.

“These crackers are thin, crispy, and packed with flavor. The raisins add their chewy texture and sweetness, while the nuts and seeds give the crackers substance. The fresh rosemary gives a breath of pine-y goodness to every bite, just like in the original crackers.”

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour (to make these gluten-free, substitute with gluten-free flour or rice flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk (to make these gluten-free or non-dairy, substitute with 1 ¾ cups almond milk)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup honey

1 cup raisins

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

¼ cup sesame seeds1/4 cup flax seed (ground)

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (I used dried rosemary)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. Add buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes.
  3. Add raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary. Stir until blended.
  4. Spray two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans with non-stick spray, then pour batter into two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove pans and cool on a wire rack.
  5. The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice really thin. When ready to continue baking, preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Slice loaves as thin as possible and place slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Tip. One loaf can be sliced and baked, and the other can be frozen to be slice and baked at another time.) Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip over and bake another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.

Yield. About 8 dozen crackers.

Source: Dinner With Julie

Tips from  thekitchn

–freeze loaves before slicing in order to get the thinnest crackers

–bake loaves in mini-loaf pans for the perfect cracker shape

–double quantity of rosemary if you love the rosemary taste

–replace half of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour

–plump up raisins before mixing them into batter if you want them to stand out more in finished cracker

 

American Flag-Inspired Cupcakes and Cookies

Hostess gifts idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. Wrap them in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

DIY Hostess gift idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. These funky melamine dishes are from SEED387. Wrap cookies in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

Need a patriotic-themed kid activity? Or are you in the mood to bake? Either way, enjoy this re-post.

Hon, you know what I like about a holiday besides spending time with family and friends?

 The built-in theme!

One of my daughters and I had fun taking the American flag colors to the extreme.  We baked red, white and blue sugar cookies and cupcakes.  Click here for sugar cookie and Royal Icing recipes.  My daughter decorated with flags while I tried my hand at tie dye effects. I used a toothpick to “drag” two or three icing colors from the center out, then swirled with the toothpick to create a tie dye look.

Patriotic Cookies

Patriotic Cookies.

Tie Dye effect.

Tie Dye effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Coloring on cookies.

Coloring on cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baking Day continued with red, white and blue cupcakes. 

We were inspired by Ziploc Bag’s Patriotic Piped Tri-Colored Cupcakes, but they turned out to be more challenging than they looked.  So, we abandoned our pastry bags and spooned the colored batter into baking cups.  The result?  Still patriotic, fun and delicious.

*Tip:  Wear plastic gloves because colored batter is messy and stains.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl vanilla.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl plain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Transfer three bowls of batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored strips.

3. Spoon batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored stripes.

 

 

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags at all.

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags.

 

 

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5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

 

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

American Flag Fun!

American Flag Fun!

DIY Graduation Party, Words of Wisdom

Proud of our grads!

Proud of our grads!

Miles of milestones.

Our Words of Wisdom Box was inspired by Advice Boxes on Pinterest. After the graduation party, one of my daughters Tweeted, “”Last night my backyard was basically a Pinterest board.” What can I say? I love a party and I love a theme. If I can combine both, even better!

Words of Wisdom Box

Supplies:

shoebox, wrapping paper, Exacto knife, index cards, scissors, pens, sign, frame, basket or other vessel

Instructions:

  1. Wrap a shoebox in wrapping paper.
  2. Cut index cards in half.
  3. Cut a slit in top of shoebox long enough to slip index cards through.
  4. Make a Words of Wisdom sign. (“Give advice to our new graduates.”)
  5. Set up box, pens, index cards and sign.
  6. Invite guests to be creative.
Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Words to live by.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

“Remember there are a thousand things you haven’t done yet.”

“Believe in yourself. Dream. Try. Do Good.
“Stay true to who you are.”

“Be confident. You are both great. (No tattoos!)”

“Always say yes to opportunities.”

“Never give up!”

“Find something to be thankful for every day.”

“Be a better student. Nevermind, you already graduated!”

 

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guest know where to drop their word of wisdom.

Wrap a shoebox, cut a slit in the top, provide paper and pens, and add a sign so guests know where to drop their words of wisdom.