Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Keep the Kids Busy This Summer Series Continues, Colored Corn Kernel Art Projects

Welcome back to our little "Patch-A-Heaven!" It's officially summer!! And we are loving it. Today I'm sharing a simple, inexpensive art project to keep the kiddos busy this summer. My kids love art projects of any kind. I have seen lots of kid projects using popcorn kernels glued to paper, but I've never seen anyone color them. So we thought we'd step up the art with some color!

To do this project you will need:
Popcorn kernels
Glue, we like Elmer's the old school white glue
Food Coloring
Card stock Paper
Zip Loc Bags and Paper towels

To make the kernels colored, just put about 1/2-3/4 cup of kernels in a Zip Loc bag, then put as much food coloring as you like into the bag also, just dropped onto the kernels. (We liked about 7-10 drops per bag) Then seal the bag, getting all the air out. Then squish and roll the bag (from the outside) around in your hands getting the color all over the kernels. The kernels absorb the colored liquid quickly and nicely. You can lay the kernels out onto a paper towel for a min. to absorb any excess color before using them for your project. And I would recommend that as it keeps little hands from getting colored too. In the pics my kids hands got colored because I let them do the dropping and then they put their hands into the bag to get kernels out and some color was on the inside of the bag. To avoid colored hands, just empty the colored kernels onto the towels instead of reaching in the bags.

Here she is adding the food coloring drop by drop. 

And now she is squishing the bag from the outside to coat all the kernels with color.
Working on his train tracks.

I love the look of concentration on his face!
Here are the kernels in the bag all colored.

Then allow the kids to use their imagination to draw what they want with the glue onto the paper and then push the kernels into the glue and allow to dry.

For my older kids I had them pick an object and then try to create it. One chose the shape of the State of Utah. I did the horse. And my youngest chose train tracks. It's also fun for the littlest ones to fill in a shape you outline for them. I outlined a balloon and my 3 year old filled it in. This is also a fun way to teach them patterns.

The best thing I find about doing these sorts of projects with kids, is that it encourages their imaginations and creativity, curiosity and they want to learn more!  When we were done they wondered what popcorn kernels look like when they are colored and then get popped....a project for another day I suppose!

He was pretty proud of his work!

Hope you are all having a super fun summer!

I had my cell phone there to remind her what the great State of Utah's shape looks like.

Until next time, much love from our little "Patch-A-Heaven!"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Easy, Inexpensive New Neighbor Welcome Gift

Hi friends! I've been working hard in my garden this year and I'm happy to say that it is paying off! I have an abundance of fresh, delicious produce. To share some of that garden goodness and say "Hello" to some new neighbors who have moved into our area, I made these really easy boxes with card stock, decorated them with lettering, using my Cricut Explore Machine, and filled them with fresh lettuce from the garden. I think they turned out really cute, so I thought I would share.

To make them you will need:
Card stock Paper, 12x12 size
Tape, I used a cute printed Washi Tape
Modge Podge as adhesive for lettering if you use a Cricut, and a sponge brush to apply the Modge Podge
Markers to write a cute note, or use your Cricut if you have one
And filler, I used lettuce

To make the box:
Make 2 marks on 2 sides of the 12x12 paper, on opposite ends, the lines should be made 4" in from each side and 3" deep into the paper. (Do this on both, opposing ends, leaving the other 2 sides alone)
Then cut those lines you drew. Now, fold the middle flap up at the end of the cut, do this on both sides, then fold the other two flaps up at the end mark also. Then you need to fold the outside flaps to create a fold on the bottom, long sides of the bottom of the box.

Here are some pics that should help with folding. Then you fold and tape to make the box.
I used my Cricut Explore to make text that says "Lettuce Be Friends!" I then Modge Podged it onto the boxes and then filled with fresh lettuce. This was an easy, inexpensive way to say "Welcome" to our neighborhood!

From our little "Patch-A-Heaven",

"Lettuce" all have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Potluck Pleasers, Episode 2, The Best Garlic Green Salad

Hi friends! It's getting hot outside and we are just a short time away (where I live) from home grown tomatoes!! This is one of my favorite things about summer...fresh tomatoes. I'm sorry, but tomatoes in the store just aren't the same. And to celebrate the thought of fresh tomatoes....I am sharing another one of my favorite potluck salads today! I love this salad in the summer...and so does everyone else!! I grow lettuce and sweet Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes in my garden and they are perfect for this green salad. I have taken this to many potluck gatherings over the years and it's always a favorite. I did not create it, I got it from my sister in-law and I don't know where it originated, but it's the best! And too good not to share!

My favorite part (besides homegrown tomatoes) is the dressing. It's simple, fresh, and delicious!
There are a few "rules" if you are going to try this recipe....Promise me that you won't use "fake" lemon juice (from a bottle), imitation bacon bits, or the kind of Parmesan cheese that comes in a can! Okay, glad I got that off my chest! This salad will NOT be the same if you use any of the above items. You may substitute your favorite oil if you prefer, just realize it will change the flavor too.

Here we go!


Romaine Lettuce, 2 heads, chopped
Bacon Strips, 8-10 cooked and crumbled
Parmesan Cheese, 1 Cup, grated
Cherry Tomatoes, 2 Cups, I like to cut them in half, you can leave whole if you prefer, I like a smaller bite.
Slivered Almonds, toasted (I put mine on a cookie sheet and use my toast function on my oven) you just want a nice light browning here, don't burn them!

Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, 1/4 Cup
Vegetable Oil, 3/4 Cup
Garlic Cloves, 4-5 minced fine (you can adjust the "garlicyness" on this if you want, I like 5)
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon`
Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon

I mix the dressing ingredients in a pint mason jar with a lid and ring and shake until incorporated. Then set aside until ready to serve. Cook bacon, let cool, then cut or crumble into about 1/2" pieces. Toast your almonds in the oven, on a cookie sheet, 400 degrees or so, for about 5 min. (this may vary so watch them!) you just want a light brown color. Wash and cut cherry tomatoes in halves. Cut lettuce into bite size pieces. All ingredients (except dressing) can be stored in same bowl, covered in refrigerator and when you get ready to eat, shake dressing, pour over and stir until salad is coated and well mixed, then serve. This salad does not keep well over night, (gets soggy) however you will rarely have leftovers!

Hope you all have a wonderful Summer and get out there and share some Potluck Love!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom, Growing a Garden and Some Kids Too!

Here is the boy and his trusty Aussie, sitting atop the hill we found.
Are you a gardener? It really is one of my most favorite things in the whole, wide world!! And for many reasons, such as; connecting with my creator through nature, even though I have been gardening on my own for going on 14 years now, it never ceases to amaze me that when hard, dry seeds are planted, that new life arises! It's one of the most satisfying things for the soul. It allows you to put effort, work, time, and energy in and then receive a gift of the harvest. It allows me special time with my children. Children, even when very small love to garden! If sprinkling seeds isn't enough, there's their curiosity of waiting to see if a plant will grow from that sprinkled seed. They just love to "help!" It's very bonding for a family to work and play together in a garden. It also gives children a great sense of responsibility and delayed gratification as they get older.

The planting time for an "early" garden (veggies that can handle a little frost and cooler weather) here in our area is Mar. 15. So we have been preparing for this by cleaning up any garbage that may have blown into our garden. Adding fertilizer and compost. Tilling the ground. And this year I am making some changes to my garden. I am adding some grow boxes. (I will do another specific post on how I made these, it's pretty rad and eco friendly!)

I only have one little one home with me during the day, while the other 2 are in school. He and I have such fun together! Today we had an especially fun day prepping and planting the garden. I have a super, duper neighbor who also likes to garden. Her name is Mary. She is an amazing gardener. We love to discuss our gardening "problems" (of course there are some "bad" things that come along with gardening such as pests, rodents, WEEDS)  or things that are working with each other. (It's very handy to have a friend or mentor who loves to garden to bounce ideas off of and learn from.) Besides my own Mother, Mary is the best gardener I know. I will introduce you to her more formally in the next, making grow boxes post. So Mary has this amazing store of worm compost. Basically she started it from a small bin and it has grown to about 25 feet long and 1-2 feet high of this beautiful black, worm created compost. She puts her table scraps (not meat or citrus) on the pile and the worms make it into compost.

The boy and I travelled next door to collect some of this wonderful garden gold! We rode on our trusty chariot (otherwise known as our Honda 4 Wheeler) pulling a little trailer. The boy loves to go on 4 wheeler adventures. Once we got there and were waiting for Mary, we spied a large muddy puddle (good thing Mom was thinking and had boy wear his waterproof Muck Boots!) and a big dirt pile. While waiting we made good use of our time splashing in the puddle, throwing gravel into the puddle, running through the puddle, running up and down the hill and observing our friends the bees who had come out of their hives to enjoy the nice day!

We loaded the compost up in our trailer. (Which means lots of shoveling and that's good for the winter flabs!) And headed back to our place with our "treasure." (The boy loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates so we role play and pretend a lot!)

Here's the one of the puddles he just couldn't resist! (I don't really blame him!!)

Here is my friend's gorgeous worm dirt!!

And these are the little guys I want to take home.

And this is called work cut out for me!! Lots of good shoveling!!

And my first contribution to the new compost bin!!

Then we headed over to our local Hardware Store for some red paint. I wanted the boxes to match our chicken coop that's just behind the garden and it's red. We painted our boxes and man was that fun! The boy and I started, and then his sisters joined in as soon as they got home. (yes...allowing children to paint is messy! But outside in the dirt in clothes you don't care if they get ruined...the many wonderful things that can happen! My middle daughter said to me "Mom, you are the best mom ever!" (I don't think this is true, but she says it every time we do something she really likes. And then she told me thanks for letting her paint because it was so much fun! They did a surprisingly good job and I love that they have fun helping me in the garden. (And I think it bonds us when I allow them to do "adult" things because they feel I trust them to do so.) I unloaded our treasure into our boxes (more shoveling, and yes, I will feel it tomorrow! It seems I have a case of the winter "flabby arms" going on!) And then we planted some seeds. This is probably my kids favorite part. And they like to sprinkle water over the seeds with small watering cans too!
Here is the little guy doing a smashing job on the paint detail! Only 3 yet he can do a lot to help in a garden.

I am working now to work less later. I am trying to get rid of some of my "trouble" weed spots and am putting down black landscape fabric and will cover with gravel in areas I'm not growing things (such as the perimeter and in between boxes) I do really well at keeping my garden weed free in the Spring and early Summer when all there is to do there is water and weed, but as soon as you add harvesting and preserving those veggies I run out of hours in the day and weeding is the first thing to go! So this year I'm making some improvements. I'll keep you updated in my changes. I'm excited!!

So until next time from my little "Patch-A-Heaven" I bid you farewell and hope I've convinced you to start a garden (if you don't do it already!) It really is a wonderful thing to do and so rewarding in so many ways!
While we were at it, we thought the old chicken coop that is behind the garden could use a new coat of paint, so we did that too.

I brought in a load of Dairy compost also to mix into the boxes and into the garden soil that won't be in boxes.
I love a man that can appreciate good quality, tilled up soil! Just look at him running his hands through it!!(I love to do that too!!)
We got our soil prepped, our boxes in and painted, then we planted them. They are now growing wonderfully! (I'll take some current pics and do an updated post soon!)

If you haven't tried a garden....I challenge you to start a small one, you will love it!!

Happy Planting!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pot Luck Pleasers, The Best Fruit Salad, Trifle Style!

I love me a good potluck! Heck...I'm a Mormon for goodness sake...we potluck after everything!
Whether it's a baby blessing, baptism, funeral, missionary farewell or homecoming... It's just what we do. We get together with our friends and family. Whoever is hosting usually takes care of the meat and then the rest of us bring salads and sides. It's great! And summer is upon us so it's the perfect time to get together for a BBQ or backyard potluck party with family or friends. But, then the always nagging question..."What should I make?" takes over!  So, today I am going to start a new mini series of Potluck Pleasers, meaning a series of blog posts where I will be sharing my favorite, tried and true recipes. These are the dishes that I have taken to many a potluck and they never fail to invoke "I need that recipe" and "who made that..." So maybe you need some new recipes to take to that get together. Well these will be the ones that are my best! I sometimes make up my own recipes, sometimes I just share ones that someone else came up with, sometimes I don't even know where a recipe came from, but I think good things should be shared!!
Here is the salad, trifle style.

The first recipe I am sharing is a fruit salad recipe that my mother has been making for years. I have no idea where her original version came from. The original recipe contained Maraschino Cherries. I like them, but I think it's better with Bananas instead so I tweaked it a bit. Here is my version. I also like to serve it "Trifle Style" just because I think it's prettier. It does not contain cake. (I know, bummer right?!)

Fruit Salad Recipe:
Ingredients you will need:
Cream cheese, softened 8 oz
White Sugar, 1 Cup for pretzel mix,  and another 1/2 Cup for cream layer/mixture and 1/2 Cup if you use real whipping cream for the top to sweeten the cream.
Cool Whip, the medium size, 16 oz or if you prefer the real thing, go ahead and use real whip cream it's good too
Whipping cream, 1 pint
Pretzels,1 Cup smashed
Butter, 1 cube
2 Bananas,sliced
Mandarin Oranges, two small cans, drained
Pineapple Chunks or Tidbits if you prefer them smaller, one large can, drained

First, Preheat Oven to 400 degrees, then, Crush, smash, roll over your pretzels with a heavy rolling pin on a cookie sheet until you have small pieces, set aside, melt one cube butter in sauce pan, add 1 cup white sugar when butter is fully melted, then add the pretzel pieces and stir until pretzels are coated, then spread the pretzel mixture out onto the cookie sheet as thinly as possible and put in 400 degree oven for about 7 min. This time may vary depending on your oven, you just want the sugar/butter to caramelize, but not burn. When caramelization has occurred, then stir the pretzels until they cool and stick together in little "nuggets". (You don't want to let them cool in a big sheet, they get really hard. So stir until the are in small pieces)

Now drain all the fruit really well. Allow to sit draining while you make the cream part. I like to mix the creamy part in my Kitchen Aid Mixer. I use the wire whisk attachment. Put the softened cream cheese in first and beat until smooth, then add a 1/2 cup white sugar and mix until smooth, then add the Cool Whip and whip until smooth.

If you want to serve Trifle Style, put about a 1/2 -1" of the cream filling on bottom of trifle bowl, then add sliced bananas, then another cream layer, then a mandarin orange and pineapple layer, then a pretzel layer, then another cream layer and then for the very top I used real Whipping Cream that I whipped added 1/2 cup white sugar and used it to put on top, I also reserved some of the pretzels for the very top.

If you want to serve this as a regular fruit salad it works well that way too. I would however suggest that you mix the cream, fruit and the pretzels in all at once, because of the delicate nature of the oranges they will not be recognizable if you mix the fruit in with the cream and then mix more as you add the pretzels. So just keep them separate (even in the same bowl) until you arrive at the party then mix gently. The pretzels are very hard when caramelized, but they soften in the salad the more they sit and will become soggy over long periods of time. They still taste good, just not crunchy.

This recipe has been my go to for fruit salad for years. And it's one of those that you will just have to get used to giving out the recipe!! Hope you enjoy and get out there and share some of that good potluck love!!