3.31.2011

Balls 'O Moss



Well, it snowed here again last night. Seriously. If I can't look outside and see a little green, I'll have to "plant" some inside. Let's take down those tired candles:



And buy some supplies:



And hot glue bits of mossy moss all over the place!



I'm pretty sure gluing moss on stuff is a very reliable cure for spring fever! Check it out!

Two Twenty One's Mossy Ampersand:



Kimba's Mossy Basket:



If you don't have snow on the ground in your parts, you could even make a Moss Terrarium full of lovely greens!


3.30.2011

Tips for Visiting Universal Studios


I like to gather little tips to record when I visit someplace new to help make my second trip smoother. Here are a few things I picked up from my visit to Universal Studios this month.

Universal Studios Tips and Tricks


1. If you plan to visit the parks, it's best to get there early and leave early rather than arriving late and staying late. It's a giant pain to get up early on vacation, I know! But, you will have a much better time.

Now, I don't mean get there at 9:00 when the parks open...you need to get there around 8:00 - 8:15 to stand in line. They will let you in around 8:30 once the gates actually open and though they say the rides won't operate until 9:00 - we always rode before that.

2. Before you enter the general area of the City Walk, you will need to go through bag check. For some reason everyone piles up at the first line. Keep walking aaaallll the way to the right until you reach the furthest line from the parking garage. It moves much faster. Oh, and have your bag open when you hand it to the guy, but you knew that.

3. You are allowed to bring food into the park. Pack a lunch to save lots on cash. There are so many places to sit at a table and eat. In this respect, it was much easier to do this than in Disney.

4. If you want to really see Harry Potter and have any prayer of riding the Forbidden Journey ride (or shop for a wand, or get candy at Honeydukes, or taste a Butterbeer) you need to get a pass to enter the park an hour early. It's the only way. Even the lines to enter the shops are very, very long.

You can get this pass in a couple of different ways. If you stay on Universal Property, you can enter early and get a "fast pass" that works on many of the rides. We went on a time share tour to earn our ticket. We grumbled during the 90 minute presentation until we walked through those gates the next morning. Suddenly, it seemed well worth it!

If you get into Honeydukes to purchase candy, you can pay for it in the attached toy shop to avoid the long lines.

5. If you aren't interested in seeing Harry Potter, you can line up early to see the rest of the park. We got in line around 8:15 and the gates opened around 8:30-ish. We realized everyone was headed toward Harry Potter, so we hung a left and rode many rides far from Harry Potter alone!

6. Don't forget to put your bags in a locker for many of the rides. They do not allow you to put your bags in a pouch like Disney does. If you carry your bag through the line, you will not be allowed to ride. You will have to walk all the way back to the entrance to stow your bag.

The lockers were confusing to me and there is a sense of panic when everyone is running up to open one in a hurry! So here are my locker tips:

The lockers are operated by a touch screen located in each bank of lockers. You can stow your bags for free as long as you take them out once you exit the ride - this is confusing because there is a price scale for the lockers on the screen when you first see it. Just press "rent a locker" and it will tell you to place your finger on the light to be scanned. It will then tell you what locker to open. You can find your locker by the blinking green light if you can find the number easily. You won't be charged unless you leave your belongings in a locker after you ride.

Don't forget your locker number! You will need the number and your finger scan to get your bag back out.

Don't use the lockers right in front. Lines usually form at the first bank of lockers, but you can often move down the line or around the corner to find an open touch screen. You will get in and out much faster.

7. Don't wear your sunglasses on your head or tucked into the front of your shirt on The Mummy or on The Cat in the Hat. They will fall off and be lost. Ask the Big Guy about his $150 Ray Bans. Just sayin'.

8. If your kids are too small for the Harry Potter ride, you can walk along in the line to tour the castle. It's super cool.

9. Butterbeer is a cool novelty, but don't waste your money getting one for everyone. Our family of 5 shared one frozen and one regular butterbeer and it was plenty. It's rich and would be hard to drink a whole one. It's fun for a taste.**

10. They will try to scare you out of line for Jaws by telling you that you could get soaking wet from your head to your toes, but we had a wet butt from the seat and wet shoes from sitting in the front the second time. Unless something was broken, I can't see how it is possible to get that wet on that ride. Many people left the line after these repeated warnings.

11. Fievel's Playland looks like its for babies, but there is a really cool unmentioned water slide there the kids can ride down in boats!

12. If you stand in the front row of Twister, all the way to the left, they will dump a bucket of water on your head. Seriously.

13. If you are prone to motion sickness, you should take Dramamine or something before you ride. Many of the rides are simulators and I was ruined for the day after riding two in a row! Peppermint gum, ginger, and sniffing lemon slices can also ease nausea. You'll need it.

14. I don't know if it was a special for the day, but Finnegan's Wake did not charge for kids sodas if you ordered an adult beverage. Cha-ching!

15. It's a good idea to stick an extra Ziploc baggie in your things in case you ride the Popeye barges, the Dudley Do Right Ripsaw Falls, or Jurassic Park River Adventure. Lockers cost money there and your phone/camera/ipod will get wet.

Okay, that's all I can think of. Do you have any more tips for me?

**Come on back to visit on Monday to learn how to make Butter Beer!*

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3.28.2011

Tutorial Tuesday!

Hope Studios


Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday - If you are new here, this party is to showcase your weekly tutorials. What counts as a tutorial? Anything to Teach Me Stuff counts - a recipe, a kid's craft, a DIY project, how you got your baby to sleep through the night ... I'm not picky.

Our favorites Tutorials from last week.

My tutorial this week? Sour Cream Coffee Cake!

Please... (this is the part at the end of the commercial when the announcer talks real fast)

* Link up using the link to your actual post (not your general blog address) using your name and a the subject of your tutorial to generate interest.

* Add my button or a clickable link back to this post so everyone can join in.

* Visit and comment with all our friends. Show them some love! Meet some new friends! Learn something new!

Ready? Teach Me Stuff!

Hope Studios






Sour Cream Coffee Cake



Our last soul sistas get together featured Cook's Illustrated Sour Cream Coffee Cake. It was delicious and lovely looking with a cinnamon swirl...so delicious I never got a photo before it was eaten! Thank goodness they had a photo I could borrow from their fantastic website.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel
Ingredients

Streusel

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cold, cut into 2 pieces
1 cup pecans , chopped

Cake

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons softened butter for greasing pan
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (8 3/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt

Instructions

1. For the streusel: In food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, and cinnamon until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer 1 1/4 cups of flour/sugar mixture to small bowl; stir in remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and set aside to use for streusel filling. Add butter and pecans to mixture in food processor; pulse until nuts and butter resemble small pebbly pieces, about ten 1-second pulses. Set aside to use as streusel topping.

2. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10-inch tube pan (I used a bundt pan) with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Whisk eggs, 1 cup sour cream, and vanilla in medium bowl until combined.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add butter and remaining 1/2 cup sour cream; mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened and mixture resembles wet sand, with few large butter pieces remaining, about 1 1/2 minutes. Increase to medium speed and beat until batter comes together, about 10 seconds; scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Lower speed to medium-low and gradually add egg mixture in 3 additions, beating for 20 seconds after each and scraping down sides of bowl. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Using rubber spatula, spread 2 cups batter in bottom of prepared pan, smoothing surface. Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 cup streusel filling (without butter or nuts). Repeat with another 2 cups batter and remaining 3/4 cup streusel filling (without butter or nuts). Spread remaining batter over, then sprinkle with streusel topping (with butter and nuts).

5. Bake until cake feels firm to touch and long toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean (bits of sugar from streusel may cling to tester), 50 to 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rimmed baking sheet (cake will be streusel-side down); remove tube pan, place wire rack on top of cake, and reinvert cake streusel-side up. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours (we ate it warm and it was delicious!). Cut into wedges and serve. (Cake can be wrapped in foil and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

**I did the last step backwards and inverted it first onto a wire rack...streusel everywhere! Learn from my mistake :)

Extreme Personal Measures


3.27.2011

Sunday Funny

You probably saw this on the Today Show like I did:


3.25.2011

Dietary Allergies - Feedback Friday


The Today Show covered a story yesterday morning about a student with a severe peanut allergy attending a school in Edgewater, Florida.

The first grader, has a rare, life-threatening peanut allergy and can have no exposure to someone who has eaten a product containing nuts. "We're not talking about she will break out in a rash. We are talking about she will die, stop breathing." her parents told the website clickorlando.com.

To protect this student, other first graders had to wash their hands and rinse their mouths 3 times a day and teachers must clean students' desks with Clorox wipes.

Angry parents within the school believe their children were spending up to 30 minutes a day sanitizing themselves and their classroom rather than learning. Some parents are protesting that this student should be home schooled if her allergies are so severe that others (including children) are responsible for protecting her.

Due to the protests, the school changed the medical plan to washing hands and wiping mouths twice a day. A peanut sniffing dog was used to pin point areas throughout the school with peanut residue and those items were cleaned or removed.

The parents of the child in question say they feel bad for the classroom disruptions, but it's a matter of protecting their daughter. Her condition is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the school is mandated to provide her a safe environment.

It's Feedback Friday and if you have a school-aged child, I'm sure you have dealt with allergy issues, so let me ask you:

What do you think of the measures this school has taken to protect one child?

Have you had any allergy issues in your classrooms over the years?

3.24.2011

Vacation Awards!

If you have read this blog for awhile, you know I always return from these trips with an awards presentation and this year is no different. This year we reluctantly moved on from Disney and decided to give Universal a go. It's no Disney, but on the "up" side, we only saw 2 Pet Children (my kids have a game of counting them and yelling "Look at that kid on a leash!") and only one pair of Sketchers Shape Ups (sorry, they are my pet peeve)!

Favorite Park:



Hands down Universal Studios (vs. Universal's Islands of Adventure). This park was not as maddeningly crowded as Islands of Adventure and has lots of fun rides and shows for the kids. My 52 inch 8 year old could ride everything and we played there 2 days in a row from 9 am-7 pm. The kids cried to leave Islands of Adventure by noon because the over crowding made it frustrating and not very fun.

Laugh Until You Cry Award:



The Big Guy got dragged out of the crowd during a hip hop dance show and pulled on-stage. Hip hop and Big Guy don't mix! We joke that he is all about A.M. talk radio and country music, but he was a good sport. The guys running the show dubbed him "White Chocolate", the best nickname of our whole vacation!

If you aren't easily sickened by bad, constantly moving home videos you can check out the movie my son made on his Flip camera:



Creepiest Park "Character":



This dude outside The Mummy ride freaked me out! Let's just say he was no Mickey Mouse - he would sneak up behind you and wait quietly until you turned around and your heart stopped. He never cracked a smile and stared at you in a most disturbing way. I think he was trying to hypnotize me! Liked the ride - not the creepy guy!

The Most Brilliant Yet Most Frustrating Park Attraction:



The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing, realistic, fantastic...and utterly frustrating because of the crowds. This attraction exploded once it opened and interest hasn't died down yet. The entire area is constantly over capacity and park staff stands at the entrance turning guests away. They give you a slip of paper with a time to return so they can control the crowds. Ride wait times for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey were 115 minutes 30 minutes after the parks opened.

I'll post some tips for visiting Universal Studios next week and tell you how we were able to avoid these crowds.

Worst Luck for a Patient Photographer:



See this car full of people riding The Hulk? Well, I sat on a bridge with my too short younger boys waiting for The Big Guy and Firstborn to ride. I had a perfect view of this loop and took photos of the 6 trains that passed around the time they were to be riding to be sure I got them. Well, this was the train they were on and believe it or not, they are seated in the second row! The only row obstructed from view in all 6 photos! BAH!

Most Distracting Park Creature:



My two youngest boys were Ob. Sessed. with capturing one of the many lizards around the park. It held us up in line, it held us up while walking, it interrupted meals, it ruined photos. You can see my oldest son is just OVER it in this picture!

Nicest Surprise:



Poseidon's Fury was situated right outside Harry Potter and we ducked in to escape the crowds not knowing what to expect. The line was looonnnggg and we almost left several times, but I'm so glad we stuck it out! It was surprising and entertaining and well worth the wait...and I might have crapped my pants a few times during the show. Bonus!

Favorite (and only) Family Photo:



Yes, we are the sort of cheese balls that buy those photos they bring to your table at the Hard Rock Cafe. It's the only family photo we have! The Big Guy had sneaked off to buy beer rather than riding several rides (it was St. Patty's Day), so he is red faced and buzzed, I'm worn out and I had no idea my oldest was making that face until they brought the picture around!

Tutorial Tuesday is still rockin'! Hop over to join the fun!

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3.23.2011

Earring Solution

Are your post earrings always getting separated in your jewelry box? Keep the pair together by fastening them into the holes of a button. No more looking for the missing earring in a set! (Thanks Good Housekeeping!)




Scroll down to join in the Tutorial Tuesday fun this week!

3.21.2011

Tutorial Tuesday!

Hope Studios


Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday - If you are new here, this party is to showcase your weekly tutorials. What counts as a tutorial? Anything to "teach me stuff" counts - a recipe, a kid's craft, a DIY project, how you got your baby to sleep through the night ... I'm not picky.

Scroll down to see my favorite projects from last week!

Please... (this is the part at the end of the commercial when the announcer talks real fast)

* Link up using the link to your actual post (not your general blog address) using your name and a the subject of your tutorial to generate interest.

* Add my button or a clickable link back to this post so everyone can join in.

* Visit and comment with all our friends. Show them some love! Meet some new friends! Learn something new!

Ready? Teach Me Stuff!

Hope Studios






3.20.2011

Stuff I Learned!

Holy smokes, people! I came back from the vacation I sneaked off to and found over 200 links for Tutorial Tuesday! And they were all so awesome I decided to feature some of my favorites today:

Zipper Pouches



Felt Flower Headband



Striped Walls



DIY Stair Runner



Tree Mural



Swirled Ruffle Pillow



Yummy Clicks:

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Minis

Best. Breadsticks. Ever.

Fishing Cupcakes

Click Picks (last week's most clicked links):

#1 Pottery Barn Leaf Planter

#2 Spring Table Runner

#3 Cloth Napkins

3.18.2011

Luxury or Necessity? Feedback Friday

I watched this commercial on TV last week:



I saw a Feedback Friday topic.

Are cell phones a luxury or a necessity?


3.16.2011

A Lovely Egg



I've said before that eggs are my favorite food. I love them prepared any which way! While watching "Man Vs. Food" on the Travel Channel a few weeks ago, host Adam Richman taught me a brand new way of preparing an egg!

Want to learn?

Lovely Basted Eggs

Heat a non-stick pan with a bit of butter or non-stick cooking spray.

Crack your egg into the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons of water next to the egg.

Quickly cover with a tight fitting lid.

Turn heat down to medium and leave covered for about 2 minutes.

Slide egg onto plate!

This egg is so beautiful, so silky, so lovely! It's like a cross between a poached egg and a fried egg! It's heaven!

Don't forget to scroll down to join Tutorial Tuesday if you haven't already!
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3.14.2011

Tutorial Tuesday!

Hope Studios


Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday - If you are new here, this party is to showcase your weekly tutorials. What counts as a tutorial? Anything to "teach me stuff" counts - a recipe, a kid's craft, a DIY project, how you got your baby to sleep through the night ... I'm not picky.

Scroll down to see my weekly tutorial for Bean Bag Chair Slipcovers!

Please... (this is the part at the end of the commercial when the announcer talks real fast)

* Link up using the link to your actual post (not your general blog address) using your name and a the subject of your tutorial to generate interest.

* Add my button or a clickable link back to this post so everyone can join in.

* Visit and comment with all our friends. Show them some love! Meet some new friends! Learn something new!

Ready? Teach Me Stuff!

Hope Studios






Bean Bag Chair Slipcovers!

My boys have some plain vinyl beanbag chairs they really love to sit in. The blue didn't match our new space and they were a little loud and cold so I decided to dress them up a bit for our new basement.

I began by measuring for a pattern. Two 36 inch circles and one long strip measuring 110 x 12 inches:



I cut a 36" circle from brown craft paper. I made a perfect circle by going old school and looping an 18 inch piece of string around two pencils. I held one pencil in place in the center and made a compass out of it, letting the outside pencil draw the circle. (if that is confusing see how to draw a circle.)



I needed a few pieces of fabric to make up the 110 inch length. Once I had a long strip, I turned right sides together and sewed the short ends, making a big loop:



Next, pin then sew the edges of the first circle to the edges of the loop with right sides together. You will be sewing the edges of the looped 110" piece to the edges of the circle like this:



Repeat with the bottom circle, leaving about an 18 inch gap un-sewn so you can slip your bean bag into the the cover.

*Tip* I found it easiest to pin the circle to the loop methodically to avoid a bunch of puckering at the end. I pinned it in quarters first then filled in the pins in each quarter, to help spread out the fabric evenly - making a pleat with any extra fabric.

I stuffed the bean bag into the open side then whip stitched it closed. I had intended to use a Velcro closure but decided against it.

Before:


After:


Not perfect, but perfect enough... Warm and cozy, too!

Come back tomorrow to link up your own tutorials for Tutorial Tuesday!

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