Saturday, January 28, 2012

Making Snowflakes

This has been a very unusual year here in the mountains, we have had very, very little snow.  So in the preschool we decided we were going to make our own snow.  I found this recipe that shows you how to make snowflakes from Borax and boiling water.  Here are the step by step instructions:

Start by boiling your water.  You don't really need to measure it at this point, you just need enought to fill a pint jar.
While your water is coming to a boil, you need to make a snowflake shape out of a pipe cleaner.  Here I used a white one so it would look like an actual snowflake. You then need to attach a piece of yarn to the snowflake and to a pencil or bamboo skewer so that you can suspend the snowflake in the Borax solution.  When we did this in the center, we used colored pipe cleaners.

Measure 1/3 of a cup of Borax.  Borax is an all natural laundry booster.  It is also used to clean many items in the home.  You can check out the 20 Mule Team website for other household tips.

Mix the boiling water and Borax completely.
Submerge the snowflake shaped pipe cleaner in the Borax water solution.
After the snowflake has been in the solution for a couple of days, it will begin to form crystals that attach to the pipe cleaner.

You can then remove the snowflakes from the solution and use them to decorate with.  They are not shelf stable, so they won't last forever, but you can enjoy them for the season.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Delicious Chicken Enchilada

OK, when your teenage son tells you something you make is the best he has ever had, well you just have to crow about it a little.  Last week I wanted to make chicken enchiladas, but didn't have exactly the ingredients my normal recipe calls for, so.... I improvised and it turned out wonderfully. I am going to give you a step by step tutorial of how I did this.  Sorry for not having pictures in the tutorial. I had no idea I would be posting this one until the last minute.  Next time I make it I will be sure to take pictures to add to the step by step.
Ingredients:  4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 medium onion, 8 oz cream cheese, Ro-tel tomatoes, cooking oil, 8-10 tortillas, 1 jar salsa,  1 cup sour cream, 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.
1.  Boil 4 boneless skinless chicken breast until cooked through (you can cheat and skip this step by using canned chicken).
2.  Saute one medium onion that has been diced in 2 tablespoons of oil until translucent.
3.  When chicken is cooked, chop it up and add it to your onions.
4.  Add a can of Ro-tel tomatoes and heat through.
5.  Add a 8oz block of cream cheese (yes you can use reduced fat or fat free to reduce the fat and calories).
6.  Once the cheese is melted and all ingredients are combined, fill tortilla shells (I use whole wheat to increase the nutritional value) with mixture and place seam side down in a 9x13 dish.  It should make 8-10 enchiladas.
7.  In same pan you just used for filling, pour one jar of your favorite salsa and add 1cup of sour cream (can be reduced fat or fat free) and stir until completely combined. 
8.  Pour salsa mixture over enchiladas.
9.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
11.  Enjoy!
This is a picture of the final meal.  It would be great if I still had preshoolers in the house I could teach the color yellow.  After teaching preschoolers for 13 years it is hard not to put a lesson into everything.    Also, don't you love the plate, it is from the Dollar Tree, $1. Love it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Polar Bear Puff Paint

This week at the preschool we are doing activities dealing with polar bears and penguins.  I did my usual seach of my favorite sites for activities that apply to our area of study for the week.  Not really sure which site I got this idea from (sorry for not giving credit where credit is due).  But I will give you step by step instructions on how my students and I prepared this activity for the preschool.

First we gathered our materials for making the paint.  All you need are shaving cream and school glue.  This worked great for us because we are out of white paint in the preschool and I was afraid we would need to add that to the mixture, but no, just shaving cream and glue.
You then mix equal parts of glue and shaving cream.  It looks delicious, just like cool whip.  We also made a polar bear template from and old manila folder.  We used a picture of a polar bear and traced the outline on the manila folder.  We cut the polar bear out and then taped the folder back together.

Doesn't the paint look just like a bowl of Cool Whip?

Next we used a pretty blue construction paper for the background of the picture.  We placed the template of the polar bear on top and used a plastic spoon to cover the template with the puffy paint.

Remove the stencil and Voila!  We then let the kids put their finger in the paint and make puffy white snowflakes around their bear.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Homemade Coffee Creamer

I don't know about you, but I am a coffee lover.  I have been drinking coffee all of my life.  I can remember being just a small child and sneaking and drinking Little Nanny's (my grandmother) coffee.  Funny thing is, she drank Nescafe instant, black and as strong as motor oil.  She could set her cup down and when she came back, it would be over half gone.  I knew better than drinking it all, she would have skinned my hide.  Why during the late 70's did people opt for instant coffee?  I can't stand it now.  Another story for another day I guess.

I still like my coffee black.  But for a special treat I like it sweetened and with cream.  My husband has never been a coffee drinker.  He will say "if it only taste as good as it smelled."  I think it does taste as good as it smells, I love it.  I am not sure when or why, but I got him to try coffee with one of those sweetened creamers like International Delight.  He loved it as long as the portions were 1/3 sweetened cream and 2/3 coffee.  I like having him drink it in the mornings with me, so I would pay the high price for those dairy creamers.  I also worried about what was in those store bought creamers.  One day as I was cruising through Pinterest, I came across a recipe for homemade coffee creamer.  I read through it and decided it would be a cheaper and healthier alternative to the store bought version we had been using. I am going to show you just how easy it is to make.  You will need the following ingredients:  sweetened condensed milk (you can use the fat free version), milk (I use skim), and flavoring of your choice.  You will also need a jar/container.  I used an old pickle jar because a pint jar is not big enough and I though a quart jar would be too big.  Whatever jar/container you use, make sure it has a tight fitting lid.  You will need a spoon to get all the sweet sticky goodness out of the sweetened condensed milk can, and a measuring spoon.
What you will need.

Empty the sweetened condensed milk in the container of your choice.
Use the empty can to measure the milk.  Fill the can as full as possible with milk.

Then pour milk in container with sweetened condensed milk.
Add flavoring of your choice.  Today I chose almond hoping to get the amaretto flavor.  I have also used vanilla.  I am sure there are many other flavors that would be great as well.  Someone I was talking to even mentioned using one of those coffee syrups.

Add 1tsp or less to milk mixture.

Place the lid on the container and shake....


and shake some more.  It take a while to combine all everything.

Pour the mixture in a pretty cup. (I always pour the milk first. You don't have to stir)

Add the coffee.  (Isn't that a pretty cup?  I love these.  I got them and some bowls and plates to match at the Dollar Tree. :)

It even has a little foam on top.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Monster Manipulatives

In the past few months that I have been blogging, I have posted quite a few post that deal with the suppers and thangs part of my blog, but very few that dealt with the youngans. I am giving you one for the youngans in your life.  I teach Early Childhood Education at a local high school.  This is a class that teaches high school students the basics of working in the early childhood profession.  I am also the director of our on campus preschool.  This is where my students work and practice the skills they learn in class.  So what I am sharing with you today is an actual activity I have planned to use with the preschool children this week.  We are doing a week of "Marvelous M."  Every activity that we do will begin with the letter M.  On Friday we have plans for several monster activities.  When I was making the plans I needed a manipulative (pre-math) activity to go with monsters.  I began my search on the Internet.  I was looking for printables that I could use to  make matching monsters for the children to practice their visual discrimination skills.  I didn't find anything that I really liked.  I knew I could free hand some monsters, but to get two free handed monsters that look just alike is near impossible.  Yes, I could have used the copier and simply made a copy of each monster so they would be exactly the same, but I had another idea. 
I decided I would free hand my own monsters making each one completely different.  They would be different colors and some would have legs and some wouldn't.
I cut them all out.  I decided some would have round eyes and some would have square eyes, some would have one eye and others would have two, some would have teeth, and some wouldn't, do you see where I am going with this?

I assembled the tools I needed to make the eyes, mouths, and teeth.  I free handed the eyeballs, squares and circles of varying sizes (monsters have these big uneven eyes so don't sweat it).  I used a hole punch to make the pupil of the eye and I mixed it up and made them of differing colors.  Then to make the mouths I free handed some black strips for the mouth and used decorative scissors with a jagged design to make the teeth.  A glue stick kept them all in place.

After I attached all their faces, I laminated them because I knew that after they were handled by 18 small little hands their faces would be falling off. 

You can have your children sort them by those that have legs and ......

Those that don't.  You can sort them by color, by those that have teeth and those that don't, those that have one eye and those with two eyes, those with round eyes and those that have square eyes. 

I hope you are inspired by these cute little monsters.  The old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" was sure the case as far as this activity was concerned. 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Repurposing an Old Window

In a past post I told you about redecorating my living room.  This has been an on going project.  I am very particular and get these ideas of what I want and won't settle for anything less than what I want.  That said, I still have a very large bare wall in my living room because I have not been able to find that one thing that makes me completely happy.  On a small wall I made a piece to hang.  I had an old window in the basement from a house we used to live in.  I absolutely love old windows.  I have been waiting for years to do something with this window.  So this was going to be the day that I finally did something with that old window. 
I started by adding hangers to my old window.  These I purchased at Wal-Mart.  They could also be purchased at a hardware store.  I don't remember exactly how much I paid for them, but I can promise you it wasn't a lot because my decorating budget slim to none.  They need to be placed evenly.  I used the panes in the window as my guide of where to place place them.  Then use just a screw driver to secure them.

This is the Martha Stewart Circle Cutter.  I purchased it several years ago at Micheal's.  I do remember I had a coupon so it was half off the regular price, but not real sure what that was, but would guess less than $10.  I used the circle cutter to cut circles out of turquoise, brown, and cream colored scrapbook paper.  One tip, I learned this the hard way, cut the inner circle first then the outer one or your cutter will not be resting on the paper and your circle will move making it impossible to cut the inner circle.
I placed the circles on the window where I wanted them.  Some of them I cut in half and rested along the edge of the pane.

I coated the window with Modge Podge (I make my own, you can see it in the corner of the picture.  I found the recipe on Pinterest).  Then place the circles back where I had them.

Coat the entire window with a nice layer of Modge Podge.  Be careful not to get the paper too wet because it will ripple.  You can see a couple of my circles did ripple.  If the do, just keep pressing them down with your Modge Podge applicator.

After the window was finished, I went a head and hung it on the wall.  I needed to put it somewhere to dry out of the way and this seemed like the best idea to me.

This is the finished project.  What do you think?  I am happy with it.  I would like to accent it with some smaller items.  I am thinking maybe some letters from our names, or spelling out the word FAMILY or WELCOME and painting it in coordinating colors.  I am open to suggestions. If you have an idea for something that would compliment my window, please share!!!

Y'all come back!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Black Raspberry Jelly, One of Life's Sweetest Pleasures!

All of my life there has been black raspberry jelly in the cupboards of any home I have lived.  When I was small my grandmother and mother would make many many jars of the beautiful purple spread.  It and apple butter where constants for biscuits, cornbread, toast, or peanut butter sandwiches.  We never bought jams or jelly, that is what city folk did because they were not as blessed with the bounty of fruit we country folks were blessed with.  Occasionally my grandmother and mother might mix it up and make some strawberry jam or peach jam if we had more than the freezer could hold.  There was always black raspberry jelly.  It is as much a part of me as going to church on Sunday morning.  If you have never had that sweet goodness in your mouth, you have truly missed out on one of the best of God's creations.  Just ask my middle youngan, he loves it.  He would eat it three times a day if I would let him.  He has been known to put in on ham sandwiches and if a little escapes from his biscuit he will take his sausage and sop it up, no joke.  After Little Nanny (that is what I called my grandmother) went home to be with the Lord, and my mom became too sick to make jelly any longer, I had to become the family jelly maker.  This tradition could not die.  God blessed me with a property that had wild black raspberry briers all along the edges and an aunt who used to run a berry farm.  So with my Aunt Betty's recipe and my God given berries I embarked on making jelly. 

This year my crop was very small.  So with a tip my aunt gave me, "freeze them until you have enough to make a run of jelly."  I squirrelled away all my berries in the freezer and left them until this week.  They freeze beautifully.  I didn't even wash them.  They are about as organic as you can get, no pesticides, no fertilizers.  I simply picked them and placed them in a gallon freezer bag.
Black Raspberries frozen in summer of 2011.

So after removing the berries from the freezer

I placed the berries in a large pot and poured 1 cup of water on them and let them thaw and warm so that I would be able to rob them of their delicious juice.

 After the berries were thawed and even a little on the warm side I put mashed them through a colander.

Other ingredients you will need:  6 cups of sugar and one box of fruit pectin.  You will also need about 6-8 small jelly jars.

I placed a measuring bowl under the berries to catch the juice.  This helps because you need 4 cups of juice to make the jelly.

If you are a little short of 4 cups of juice, you can make up the difference by adding water.  Does not effect the taste or out come of the jelly at all.  Next I strained the juice through another colander that was lined with paper toweling (I couldn't find my cheesecloth) to take out any stray seeds.
Next you will let the juice come to a full rolling boil and let it boil for 2 minutes.

While you are waiting for the juice to boil, you need to sterilize you jars and lids.  I always wash my jars in the dishwasher so they are really clean and then put them in the oven at 200 degrees to get them warm so they won't crack when you put the hot jelly in them and to kill any germs that could possibly still be on them. 
Clean Jars

Jars Warming in a 200 degree oven

You will need to place seals for you jars in a warm water bath.  DO NOT BOIL THEM!

You can also take this time to start your hot water bath that you will process your jelly in once it is in the jars.
You need to make sure you have something between the bottom of your jelly jars and the bottom of the pot, I have heard of them breaking from getting too hot.  I have just used a dish rag in the bottom before I bought this rack, works just as good.
You can also be getting your sugar measure out and ready to go in.
When the juice has come to a full rolling boil and boiled for 2 minutes, it is time to add the fruit pectin (Sure-Jel).
After add pectin, the juice needs to come back to a full rolling boil and boil for 2 minutes.

Then it is time to add  6 cups of sugar.

Stir the sugar in to the juice until it is completely dissolved.  Then you let it return to a full rolling boil for you guessed it, 2 minutes.

Now it is finally time to put this beautiful molten sugary goodness into jars.  I have pictured a couple of tools that really help in this process.  The one is a special funnel than helps you fill the jars without getting jelly all over the outside of the jar.  The blue one is a magnet on a stick pretty much.  This allows you to retrieve the jar seals out of the hot water without burning your fingers.

    Time to fill the jars.

Ad the seals.

Now the rings and tighten them down as tight as you can.

Into the hot water bath.

Cover and process for 5-10 minutes.
Let the jars cool in a draft free area.  You will hear this crazy ping, ping.  That is your jars sealing.  After 24 hours and they have completely cooled, press on each lid.  If it moves in and out, the jar did not seal.  This jar will need to go in the fridge to be used over the next couple of weeks.  Those that did seal are shelf stable for a year to eighteen months.
Now for the best part!!!! Bake you up a big old pan of biscuits (by the way, I already shown you how to do that), and ENJOY!!!