Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quick and Easy Strawberry Shortcake

Technically, I shouldn't be eating strawberries because of my kidney issues.  But, it's strawberry season, friends!  I can't live without my fresh berries.  I haven't made my big trip up to Biringer Farms yet.  That's on next week's To Do list.  But, I did run across these local berries at Central Market the other day.  I couldn't resist.

I whipped up some shortcakes using the following recipe.


2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream



Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with Silpat baking mat.

Whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the butter and work into the flour, using your a pastry cutter.

Add cream and egg to the dry mixture and stir with a fork. Drop 6 mounds onto the baking sheet. You can roll and use a biscuit cutter, if you prefer.  I like a more rustic looking shortcake. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Slice the shortcakes in half.  Put some sliced berries inside and on top.  Top with fresh whipped cream. (I used my new Cuisinart hand blender, with whisk attachment, to whip up the cream.)
As I was taking pictures of my beautiful shortcakes for this blog post, I realized that I was shoving all of my kitchen mess out of the way, so you'd just see all of the berry yumminess.

They looked so pretty, but then I looked around my kitchen.  We had just finished dinner.  I had made lemon garlic chicken and lemon garlic salmon, Rice A Roni (my daughter's new favorite side dish), steamed broccoli, and homemade bread.  Just so you all don't think I have this perfect little tidy kitchen at all times, I thought I'd share these pictures. 


Yep, that's just life.

Happy cleaning!
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Friday, June 29, 2012

I Love Leap Frog - My First Review

I've mentioned my love for Leap Frog products many times on my blogs, here, here, and here.  Since my other blogs are devoted to teaching and literacy, I've always posted about the Leap Frog products over there.  Well, I'm so excited about today's post that I'm going to put this on all of my blogs!  If you're here for a great recipe, decorating tip, or to find out what's happening in my garden, you'll just have to be patient. 

I've never done a product review on my blog before.  I'm not opposed to bloggers who do product reviews or have sponsors,  but I have never really felt like I had the time, energy, or blog presence to pull this off.  My blog has grown over the past few years, and as I started thinking more about it, I decided that I'd consider it.  When I was offered the opportunity to review products for LEAP FROG, I thought about it... for a nano-second!  Honestly, I love everything Leap Frog touches.  I think the company is brilliant.  My kids and I love their products so much that I have started using them in my kindergarten classroom, telling parents about them at Parent-Teacher Conferences, and buying multiple sets of their products for small group work.

Here are the products that were in our box of items to review.

I've seen commercials for the Leap Pad Explorers.  They look like a kid version of an ipad.  To go along with the Leap Pad, we were sent the new Brave game.

There was also a Tag reader pen and the new Brave book.

If you haven't seen a Tag Reader pen before, it's kind of like a magic wand.  Each time you touch a word, it recognizes it and reads it to you.  You can also have the entire page read to you and play games.  The book looks and feels like a real book.  The pen brings to book to life.  It's really amazing.

Well, you can imagine that it was like Christmas at my house!  When I agreed to do a review for Leap Frog, I thought they would be sending me the Brave book, and that's it.  WRONG!  Oh, my goodness, my neighbors could prbably hear me scream with delight, in my excitement. 

As I said before, I had seen the Leap Pads on comercials.  To me, they looked pretty cool, but I thought my kids might not think so.  My son is 11, and my daughter is 7.  My son wasn't too interested in trying it out, but he was excited to help me set it up. I was surprised when my daughter told me that it was just like a Kindle Fire or a Nook.  To her, it had the look and feel of something a grown up would have.  She was very excited to have this all to herself.  I think it's the perfect for her age.

My son immediately set up the names in the Leap Pad and figured out which games and apps were on it.  We were both a little frustrated by the amount of time it took to get this up and running for the first time.  I will say, though, that the directions warn you that it could take 30-45 minutes when you connect it to the computer.  It didn't take quite that long, but I was excited and didn't want to be patient. 

Once it was finally up and running, I tried to go back in and change the names. (The reason behind this is a very long story and I won't make you listen to it.)  I could not figure out how to make this change.  I played around with it for about 15 minutes and then I finally gave up.  When my son came home again, I told him what I was trying to do.  He made the change in about 3 seconds flat!  It's a good thing I have an 11 year old in the house to solve my tech problems!  For the record, it was a "user issue" and not a problem with the Leap Pad.

My daughter's favorite thing on the Leap Pad is the drawing app.  She also really loves to take pictures with the Leap Pad.  I have to say, that's a pretty cool feature.  She took her new Leap Pad on the road with us.  I have always packed Leap Frog products in the car when we go on road trips.  Even if my kids just spend 30 minutes playing learning games or reading, it's better than sitting there bugging your brother or sister. 

They sent us the Brave game to try.  There were a few moments of frustration, when I heard, "I can't find the key!"  Pretty soon, she passed the Leap Pad over to her brother, who helped her find the key so she could move on.  When I asked what she thought of the game, she told me that it was pretty fun.  She has come back to the Leap Pad many times over the past few days.  Sometimes she plays the Brave game and other times she tries other apps.  She wanted to read a book, but there was only one book built into the Leap Pad.  Ozzie and Mack came with it, but she has read that book more times than she can count, with her Tag reader.  That was her favorite book in preschool.  I told her I'd have to get some books to put on her Leap Pad, because that's what I'd really love to see her use this for. 

The Tag Reader is something we've been using for many years.  I think I was the first person in line to buy this when it came out.  Seriously.  I was so excited when I heard about this.  My excitement hasn't faded.  This year, I bought six Tags, six cases, six headphones, and as many Tag books as I could find for my classroom.  We do something called Daily 5 in kindergarten.  One of our 5 components is "listen to reading" and the Tag readers are perfect!  The kids put their headphones on, have the book read to them, or read it themselves.  If they are stuck on a word, they touch it with a pen and the word is read out loud.  It's such a brilliant invention.

She read the book once through and has come back to it many times.  There are games and activities to play in the book as well. Surprisingly, my daughter hasn't played the games too much.  She's really excited about reading right now, so she spends most of her time actually reading the book! 

***Side story:  Both of my kids have enjoyed creating their own sentences with the Tag.  When you touch a word, it's read outloud.  So, the kids find words to make silly sentences, touch them one at a time,  and then add their own if they need to.  Their favorite sentence to have the Tag read is, "I ripped my pants."  Lovely.  Only my children would take a wonderful educational product and turn it into something to giggle at.***


I've purchased Leap Frog products at Target, but I find the best selection at the Leap Frog website.  I really love their headphones, because they are made for little people.  Being a teacher and a mom, I know a good fit is important.

I haven't checked it out too much, but the summer camp on their website sounds pretty cool too:
Summer Camp

So, overall, I'm in love with the Tag and Leap Pad.  They are sturdy, made for kids, and easy to use.  Set up took time, but not my time.  I just had to have it connected to the computer for a while. My 11 year old isn't interested anymore, but the Leap Frog products are PERFECT for my 7 year old daughter. 

Now, if only Leap Frog would like to make my classroom a Leap Frog product test classroom, life would be complete.  I'll keep my fingers crossed on that one.

Happy reading!
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1.This post is sponsored by LeapFrog. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Burnin' A Hole In My Pocket

I had a few gift cards that seemed to be burning a hole in my pocket.  I had gift cards at Macy's and Williams Sonoma.  As much as Mama needs a new pair of shoes, Mama really loves her time in the kitchen too! So, I bought myself a new 1/2 sheet pan and Silpat.  (The set on the left is old and the set on the right is new.) 

New is pretty.

I also bought a Cuisinart hand blender.  Ooooh, that's so much fun!  We've used it every day since I brought it home.  My kids love smoothies for breakfast, and I just made some fresh whip cream with it to go along with dessert.

My kitchen is my happy place.  I can't think of more exciting things to buy, when you have gift cards burning a hole in your pocket.  Wow.  I can't believe I just admitted that.

Happy baking, whisking, chopping, and smoothy making!
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Using Shells as Home Decor

It's time for a little summeritme beachification around the house. I have a large collection of shells and sand.  I've been collecting as long as I can remember.  Every time we go on a trip, I fill a baggie with sand to bring home.  I'm also on the lookout for cool shells.  Most often, I buy the shells at an aquarium or gift shop.  When I started collecting, I remember my mom asking what I thought I'd do with all of my shells and sand.  I can only imagine her frustration as I carefully packed my box of sand and shells as we moved to a new house, moved off to the dorm, lived in an apartment with no storage, and all the while having my special treasures in her garage. I saved my special collection through high school and college, and that's when it finally came in handy.  I now have 3 large paper boxes filled with sand and shells, that I store in my classroom.  Every year, during our beach unit, I break out the boxes and the kids start exploring with amazement and wonder.  (Shells really are amazing if you stop and think about their beauty.) At the end of the unit, I pack everything back up in the boxes, but I bring a few of my favorite shells home for the summer.

A few weeks ago I went to our brand new Hobby Lobby and found some small glass bottles.  My kids and I filled them with sand from my collection.  This picture shows sand from two different beaches in Hawaii and one from the Bahamas.

On my way home from Hobby Lobby, I stopped by my favorite store, Goodwill.  I found this shadow box.  It was meant to be!  I had the little bottles and a box full of shells waiting to fill this perfect little shadow box. My kids filled it up and we hung it in the family room. 

Then, I moved onto other parts of the family room.  I filled my wire basket with shells and pulled out a few of my Seaside photo books.

I saved a few of my big shells for the side table in the family room.  The conch shell was a souvenir, brought back by my mom, from her honeymoon in the Bahamas.  Another Seaside photo album and a few more shells finish off the beachy look.

See, mom, those collections I had as a kid really did come in handy!

What do you collect, friends?  What do your kids collect?

Happy Beachification!

Linky Parties
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I was dodging raindrops to run outside and take this picture.  It poured all day long, yesterday.  It felt like fall and I was craving hot cocoa.

The good thing about the rain, is that my garden is very green and lush.  The plants love all of this water.

The newly planted grass seed is very happy too.

The bad thing - it's summer and it's been raining nonstop.

Now for the ugly.  Here's our 7 day forecast for the Seattle area.  Looks like we'll be getting a little break today, but then it's back to rain.

Happy Summer.
Kind of.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day Dinner

Annie has been a pleasure to work with in kindergarten this year.  She has made excellent.... oh, wait. 

 Sorry!  Wrong program.   I thought I was still writing report card comments for a minute there! 

I'm ALMOST DONE friends!  Just a few more days of teaching and I'll be basking in the sunshine and relaxing.  Well, I live in the Pacific Northwest so we can scratch that part about the sunshine. 

What I really wanted to share with you today is my Father's Day dinner menu.  My hubby is the absolute greatest dad!  I wanted to make him a few of his favorite things for Father's Day.  My cousin's wife always makes Cowboy Caviar when we visit the farm and my husband LOVES it.

It's not my favorite.  The food is all mixed together and touching, but I know he likes it and sometimes it's not all about me.

So we had Cowboy Caviar (recipe to come later), Bar-B-Que Ribs (another food I won't touch with a ten foot pole), Caesar salad, and garlic mashed potatoes.  That's my son in the background, tucking his napkin into his shirt, preparing to get messy.

Oooh, and I almost forgot about those baked beans.  Honestly, I've never eaten baked beans, but something that looks like canned dog food is a food I can live without.

To top off the meal, we had P-Dub's blackberry cobbler.  My hubby is a fan of every P-Dub recipe I've tried.  I, on the other hand, don't think blackberries belong in dessert.  CHOCOLATE is dessert, not berries. As cobblers go, this one is really yummy, even though I would have loved a big chocolate cake.  Again, not my day.... Father's Day.

I will happily share these recipes with you when I'm feeling a little more rested and my brain is functioning properly.  Eventually, this school year will come to an end and all of my work will get done.  It always does.  With any luck, the sun may come out too!

Happy Belated Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


This pretty set of dishes belonged to my great grandmother.  It's not fancy or expensive, but I think it's beautiful.  The pieces are worn, from many years of use.  I have about a dozen dinner plates, almost as many salad plates, and a few special pieces like the vegetable server below. 

The really great thing about this set is that there is an identical set of these dishes.  You see, my great grandmother and her sister had identical sets of dishes.  That way, when they had large dinner parties they could share the dishes they needed.  Isn't that brilliant?

Well, my sister and I thought it was a fabulous idea.  If our great grandmother made it work, then we certainly could too!  My sister and I lives just minutes from each other and we take turns entertaining when we have family parties.  Our family has traditionally enjoyed sit-down-dinners when we get together.  There are 20 of us.  Twenty. Twenty dinner plates.  Twenty salad plates.  Twenty dessert plates.  You get the idea.  I don't know about you, but I don't have room to store all that, plus serving pieces! Our arrangement for sharing works out perfectly.

We both have a full set of Friendly Village and we each have a few serving pieces.  At Thanksgiving, I pack up my dishes and drop them at her house.  At Christmas, she packs up her dishes and brings them to my house.  We live close, so we don't even wrap the dishes.  We just put them in a box and take them for a little drive.

I absolutely LOVE these dishes.  They are perfect for winter holidays.  You're probably wondering what we do for the other holidays and family parties.  Don't worry, we have the same everyday dishes and serving pieces too. 

Our great grandmother and her sister had a pretty smart idea.  Sharing is such a good thing.

Happy entertaining!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Antique Linens

Yesterday I shared the little pitcher my grandma gave to me.  Thinking about things my grandma has given to me, reminded me of the linens she gave me when she moved into assisted living.

These linens remind me so much of her guest bedroom.  My grandparents always had two twin beds, with white bedspreads, in their guest bedroom. The pillows in the guest room were rarely used, which is probably why they were the fluffiest pillows I've ever seen.  Someday, when my kids are grown, maybe I'll have two twin beds, with the same white bedspreads in my guest room. 

My grandma had stacks and stacks of hand stitched linens.  I can't even begin to image the time it took to make pillowcases like these.

My favorite tablecloth almost didn't make it home with me.  It's a tan, linen cloth, with muted reds and yellows in the print.  At the time, it seemed a little drab to me, but I'm so glad I have it now.  As you can see, it matches well with the accessories in my kitchen.

Ooooh, here's another favorite.  I absolutely LOVE this table runner.  Very few pieces, that came from my grandma, were done with reds.  I adore the red and black in this!  This runner spends most of the summer on my kitchen table.

So, what do you do if your grandma doesn't have a collection like this to pass down?  The antique stores are filled with pieces like these!  They are usually very inexpensive too.

Happy shopping!

Monday, June 11, 2012

This Little Pitcher

I've always had a love of things with history.  I love going to the thrift store and searching for someone's treasures from the past.  It makes me even happier when my treasures come with my own family history attached.

My grandma gave this little pitcher to me in 1998.  She typed a note for me, so I'd always remember where this came from.  It reads, "This little pitcher was given to my mother on her wedding day, January 28, 1915."

A little pitcher, given as a gift to my great grandmother, almost 100 years ago.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sew Your Own Camera Strap - Tutorial

I met so many nice people at the BlogHer conference.  One of the things people commented on the most was my cute camera strap.  A few blogger friends had cute straps, but almost everyone had the standard black strap that came with the camera.  I started explaining how to make the camera strap a few times, but then just said, "Oh, it's on my blog.  Check out the sewing tab and you'll find it."  Here's a repost for my new friends who are coming to find the tutorial.

I promised a tutorial on how to make a camera strap cover, so here it is!  This is probably the easiest sewing project ever.  If you can sew a straight line, then you can make this.

Let me start by saying that I have a standard Canon camera strap.  It's just the basic strap that came with the camera.  Depending on your camera strap, you may have to adjust the length or width of your pieces of fabric. 

I chose two complementary fabrics.  One fabric will be for the inside of the strap and one fabric will be for the outside of the strap.  I also bought some fusible fleece, to add a little structure and padding.  Fusible fleece is just what the name says.  It's fleece that is fusible on one side.  It feels a little rough on the fusible side, and it's easy to tell which is which. 

Cut 1 piece, from the main fabric, that measures 2 1/2" x 25 1/2".
Cut 1 piece, from the complementary fabric, that measures 2 1/2" x 25 1/2".
Cut 1 piece, from the fusible fleece, that measures 2 1/2" x 24 1/4".  (Note:  I cut my fleece 1 1/4" shorter than my fabrics.  If you are using a different length strap, just subtract this amount from your length.)

Fold the ends of the fabric pieces over 1/4 inch and press.  Only press the short ends of the fabric.  I sewed  these ends down, once they were pressed.  You could use a zigzag stitch, two parallel lines, or a decorative stitch.  I chose to do two parallel lines.

Then, you're ready to add your fusible fleece.  Take the fabric that you want for the inside of the camera strap and lay it face down (wrong side up) on the ironing board.  Lay the rough side of the fusible fleece onto the fabric.  Follow the directions that came with your fusible fleece.  Mine said to iron on the fabric, not the fleece, so I needed to flip the entire piece over once I had it centered the way I wanted. (Remember, you cut your fleece slightly shorter than the other pieces.)

Here, you can see that I flipped the fabric/fleece and I'm ironing on the right side of the fabric.  The fleece is underneath.

Now, you're ready to pin and sew.  There are very few projects that I actually take the time to pin  This is one project that I needed to pin.  I just didn't want anything to shift as I was sewing.  Place the two pieces of camera straps RIGHT sides together.  Your fusible fleece will now be attached to one of your pieces.  RIGHT sides together means that the pretty sides of the fabrics are facing each other. Using a 1/4" seam allowance and a straight stitch, stitch down the long edges of the camera strap.

Ok, here comes the hardest part of the whole project.  Your fabric will be sewn into a tube, open at both of the short ends.  You need to turn the fabric so the pretty sides are on the outside.

Once you get it turned, press it and get ready for the last step.  To give the camera strap a more finished look, I used a straight stitch and ran all the way down the length of the strap.  I used a 1/16" seam allowance, and did this down both sides.  I like the look of a contrasting thread, so I used white thread.

In this picture, you can see the two parallel lines, across the short ends, that I sewed in a previous step.  You can also see the straight stitch down the left side of the camera strap.  The 1/16th seam allowance is really tiny, but just sew slowly and it'll be great!

Just like that, you're all done!  I've made a couple of these straps now and have one suggestion if you are new to sewing.  If you are not confident in precise rotary cutting or perfectly straight stitching, I'd cut your pieces slightly bigger.  (Maybe 1/16" or 1/8" bigger.)  I'd hate for you to get finished with your camera strap cover, only to find that you can't actually fit your camera strap inside of it!

 I hope you'll give this project a try!  Let me know if you do!

Happy sewing!

Linking to these fabulous parties!

One Artsy Mama

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