Posted in Crafts, Sewing

Durable Recycled Kitchen or Garden Apron

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I do believe that Good Will will always be one of my favorite places to shop. Last week, I found inexpensive yards of quilting fabric, spools of embroidery thread, and an old denim, overall-style jumper that I quickly converted into a cute, durable apron for the kitchen and garden.
When traveling through the aisles of resale shops, always keep an open mind. Look for good quality items that can be reused or repurposed for further enjoyment. Make sure to carefully launder or dry clean your clothing purchases. I once bought a backpack for $1 only to tear it apart for the zipper and cool clasps and closures. I then used them to make a colorful floral tote. So look at everything with another purpose in mind. It’s a real money saving idea and I’ll bet you’ll be pleased with some of your clever creations!

Durable Kitchen or Garden Apron

Cut the jumper along the side seams. For this apron, you will be using the backside of the garment to make use of the rear pockets. (I always look for jumpers/overalls with embellished pockets.)
Round the bottom edge of the jumper back at the hem-line and finish raw edge with double fold bias tape.

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Cut two strips of coordinating fabric 4″x36″. You will sew these placing right sides together, sewing 3 sides; leaving one short edge open for turning.
Turn strips right side out, turn under raw edge 5/8″ and attach to jumper side seam at waist line. These strips will serve as apron ties.

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Cut two more strips 3″x14″ to make ties for the neck straps. You will sew these placing right sides together, sewing 3 sides; leaving one short edge open for turning. Turn strips right side out, turn under raw edge 5/8″ and attach to jumper at the shoulder strap. You may have to pleat the fabric to fit the shoulder strap width. Top stitch in place.

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Use decorative buttons, trims, etc. to further embellish your new apron.

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Posted in Baked goods, Food, lunch box

Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies

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A couple of months ago, I bought several boxes of instant oatmeal because I had about 10 Quaker Oatmeal coupons that I was able to stack with a great sale price, making the oatmeal nearly free! However, after using a few of the flavored oatmeal packets, my family agreed that we prefer my Hearty Crock Pot Oatmeal much better than the instant packets. Knowing that I would have to figure out a way to use up all the leftover boxes, I scoured the Internet for some recipe ideas. After experimenting with various ingredients and playing with quantities, I came up with my own recipe for Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies. These flavorful cookies are a snap to throw together and we absolutely love them for lunchbox treats and afternoon snacks.

Quick Mix Oatmeal Crunchies

6 packets of flavored instant oatmeal, any variety you prefer (I use a mixture of cinnamon, raisin and apple packets.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 tsp milk
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flour and oatmeal packets; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add in the flour and oatmeal mixture; combine thoroughly.
Roll dough into 1 1/2″ balls and drop on to lightly greased cookie sheets, about 2″ apart. Pat the dough ball to flatten.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly on cookie sheet, then finish cooling on wire rack.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Posted in Crafts, Gifts

Summer Herb Gift Basket

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To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. – Mohandas K Gandhi.

A couple of years ago, Jim built several raised beds so that we could grow our own produce to can, freeze, and serve throughout the summer months. Last week, I took a trip to my local garden center to pick out this year’s vegetable plants. I chose Roma tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, celery, peppers, eggplant, and cauliflower. I also grabbed some of my most often used herbs to plant in colorful patio containers.
Here’s a clever gift idea to give to a friend that appreciates the taste of fresh herbs and loves home cooking. For the past couple of years, I have made this for my mother-in-law so that she can grow fresh herbs on her condominium deck.

Summer Herb Gift Basket

Group a few of your favorite herb plants together, arrange them in an attractive basket, bucket, or patio pot. You can add seed packets and gardening tools if you’d like. Wrap the whole thing with cellophane*, secure with twine or raffia and gift it to a friend or relative. Attach a great recipe and you have a winning gift that is sure to please.

* Stock up on clear or colored gift wrapping cellophane right after the Easter and Christmas holidays when prices are reduced to as much as 75% off. Store and use for basket and food gifts throughout the year.

Posted in Baked goods, Desserts, Food, lunch box

Candy-Coated Triple Chocolate Brownies

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Late study nights and early morning swim practices have been a household routine these last several weeks. As the school year winds down, it seems that my children have been bombarded with advanced placement tests, college standardized tests, and final exams. Thinking about our busy schedule this afternoon, I realized that I haven’t baked a fun dessert in a while. Hoping to whip up something delightful, my Candy-Coated Triple Chocolate Brownie Recipe was the first thing that came to mind. A wonderfully sweet treat, sure to put a smile on anyone’s face!

Candy-Coated Triple Chocolate Brownies

2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 can prepared milk chocolate frosting
1/2 cup candy coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together first 4 ingredients. In a second bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and chocolate chips; mix into egg mixture, just until moistened. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until set brownie edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool for 5-7 minutes before spreading prepared frosting over brownies. Sprinkle with coated chocolate candies. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Posted in Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Food

Triple Berry Cobbler

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When frozen berries are on sale, I buy several bags and throw them in my freezer for smoothies, pancakes, spreads, and cobblers. Yesterday, I found a bag of frozen fruit in my freezer and I decided it was time to make my favorite Triple Berry Cobbler for dessert. This recipe bakes up more like a snack cake than a cobbler because the berries are evenly distributed throughout the moist, flavorful batter. I wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and send them off in lunch boxes so my family can enjoy the cobbler during their lunch hour. A simply delicious treat!

Triple Berry Cobbler

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
2 cups frozen triple berry fruit mix , no sugar added, partially thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ round baking dish or cake pan. In a large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir in butter, milk, vanilla and egg until smooth. Fold in triple berry fruit mix. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Posted in Crafts

Crafty Toothbrush Rag Bag

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A couple of years ago, I won a prize at the local county fair for my award winning blueberry margarita pie. I received a gift certificate from a local sewing shop. When I stepped into the shop to redeem my award, I was thrilled to see all of the sewing and quilting projects placed around the store for customers to view. I asked the sales clerk about a lime green bag that was perched on a shelf and she replied, “Oh, that’s a toothbrush project”. She proceeded to tell me how to assemble the bag and offered the directions from a rack of patterns. Right then I knew what I would spend my gift certificate on. I ‘m so happy to have learned how to make this simple toothbrush project.

Crafty Toothbrush Rag Bag

Old sheets or scrap fabric yardage
Toothbrush shuttle
Large safety pin
Decorative handle, optional

Gather up all of your old sheets or colorful yardage scraps; any width and pattern, preferably 3-6 feet long. Tear a sheet in half crosswise and make snippets at 1” intervals. Rip each sheet into strips 1” x 3 to 6 feet long. These are the pieces you’ll use to braid your bag. Start with about 20 to 30 strips and cut small lengthwise slits in both ends of each strip.
Cut the bristle end off of a toothbrush using a small hand saw. Shape the end into a dull point using rough sandpaper. Drill an oval shaped hole in handle. This is your modified toothbrush shuttle.

My husband was clever enough to cut down a silver spoon for me. He then drilled a hole in it to make a shuttle for the fabric.

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Thread fabric strips through the hole in the end of the toothbrush/spoon. Place one fabric strip with a small slit in the end on top of another fabric strip with the same slit. Bring the bottom strip up through the top strip and the tail end of this bottom strip through the same slit, then pull to form a knot. (This can be tricky at first, but remember that your main goal is to make a knot connecting strips together so that you can eventually form a continuous strip for your bag.)
Use a safety pin to secure the two knotted strips to whatever base you’ll be using, such as a fabric couch, bed spread or pillow. Begin actually braiding your bag by attaching your toothbrush shuttle to the left strip and bringing it over and then under the right strip, pulling it gently to form a knot. Make four of these knots to form the center of the bottom of your bag. Turn the base with four knots completely around so you can begin the braiding process; be sure to keep your toothbrush shuttle on the left side. Find the hole in the first knot and push your shuttle down through it, bringing it up and over the right strip and tightening it to form a knot; do the same with all four knots. Continue in this way adding more strips as needed. Once you have reached a desired size for the bottom of your bag, begin to decrease the number of stitches while curving the braid to begin to form the sides of the bag. Continue adding strips and braiding until you have reached your desired bag height. Tie a secure knot in the inside of your bag and secure decorative handles at the top edges of bag if desired.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Food, lunch box

Meagan’s Crunchy Homemade Granola

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If you’ve ever bought granola in the grocery store, you know that it can be quite expensive and it may be filled with lots of added fat and sugar. The beauty of making your own granola is that you can add anything you like so that it is tailor made for you and your family. Here is a recipe for the granola that my family loves. Meagan makes it on Sunday evening and packs it into a large airtight container so that it can be sprinkled on top of yogurt, fruit, or to be eaten with milk as a granola cereal. Once you’ve made your own granola, it’s hard to go back to the pre-packaged stuff on the grocery store shelf.

Meagan’s Crunchy Homemade Granola

6 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix rolled oats and brown sugar together. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, honey and vanilla. Pour over dry mixture and stir to coat. Add in chopped nuts, and sunflower seeds. (Don’t add raisins until after baking.)
Spread granola on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees, for about 30 minutes. Stir frequently (every 5-10 minutes) to ensure even baking. Add raisins when finished baking. Cool and break into small pieces. Store in airtight container.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Food

Mary’s Irish Scones

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My family has been making these scones for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to watch my mom make batches of these buttermilk scones without having to use a recipe. She would mix everything up by hand, then swiftly kneed and cut triangular shapes from the rolled dough. During the Lenten season, Mom would make several batches as we would have scones and tea for Friday dinner.
These days, I regularly make scones for my family. I, too, can make them without the recipe but I use a biscuit cutter to uniformly cut the soft dough into circular shapes. We often top the baked scones with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam.(Although, J and M prefer to top them with gobs of peanut butter.) After removing a batch from the oven, it isn’t long before they’ve all been eaten and everyone is asking for more.

Mary’s Irish Scones

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut margarine into flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, with pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in raisins and buttermilk until dough leaves the side of the bowl. Add more milk or flour as needed. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Kneed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Roll dough into a round about 1/4 to 1/2″ thick. With a biscuit cutter, cut scones and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Posted in Food, salads

Sensational Seven Layer Salad

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My husband’s Aunt Eileen used to make this salad for all of the family gatherings. She would use a restaurant style, stainless steel mixing bowl to prepare this magnificent tasting salad. If my memory serves me correctly, she used to put sliced radishes in her recipe. Oh, it was a special treat when Aunt Eileen arrived with this huge bowl of deliciousness.
She has since passed away but her memory lives on in all of us. Yesterday, I made this salad for a family gathering. As my daughters and I prepared the vegetables, I thought of Aunt Eileen and the cherished memories that I will forever hold in my heart.

Sensational Seven Layer Salad

1 head of lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp sugar or Splenda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp, crumbled or 1 (3 oz) bag real bacon bits
2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a glass serving bowl, layer lettuce, mushrooms, broccoli, and peas. In a separate mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar or Splenda, salt, garlic powder and marjoram. Pour this dressing mixture over salad mix. Top salad with the green onions, cheese, and bacon bits. Chill until ready to serve. Toss salad thoroughly just before serving.

Posted in Crafts

Cancer Awareness Bracelet

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Well, today is Mother’s Day and as I browse through various social media, I am reminded of how many have lost a mother or grandmother to cancer. This past December, my sister-in-law bought several cancer awareness bracelets at a local fundraiser and gave them to all of the women in our family for Christmas. Every time I slip this bracelet on my wrist, I am reminded of those that have suffered the effects of this terrible disease and those that have died from it. You will notice that the beads on this bracelet haven’t been laid out evenly or with any real design in mind, and that’s the real beauty of the bracelet. The true meaning of the colored beads shines as the actual design has no important meaning at all. If you are looking for a worthy fundraising idea or would like to make inexpensive, yet meaningful gifts for those close to you, this is a great way to support the fight against cancer and remember those who have lost the battle but live on in our hearts.

The following represent bead colors for various types of cancer.

Pink Breast Cancer
Purple Pancreatic Cancer
Gray Brain Cancer
Aqua Ovarian, Cervical Cancer
Brown Lung Cancer
Orange Leukemia
Light Blue Prostate Cancer
Black Melanoma Cancer
Yellow Childhood Cancer
Royal Blue Colon Cancer
Kelly Green Kidney Cancer
White Bone Cancer
Lime Green Lymphoma Cancer
Lavender Other Cancers

Cut jewelry elastic roughly the size of your wrist without stretching it, adding 1 1/2″ to knot the bracelet. Slip beads on elastic in no particular order, choosing colors to represent your individual interest. Tie a double knot to secure beads. Trim remaining elastic close to knot.