5.30.2011

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.

Check out the Stuff I Learned 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!

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






5.27.2011

A Storm is Brewing - Feedback Friday



Have you heard about "Storm"? It's a baby...I say "it" because "it's" parents have decided to raise "it" genderless. No one knows what "it" is except "it's" brothers, the midwives who delivered "it", and "it's" parents...and none of them is allowed to divulge the secret until Storm decides it's time.

Storm's parents have decided to raise their 3rd child genderless, not sharing the sex with others, as "a tribute to freedom and choice", believing they are giving Storm and their other children the "freedom to choose who they want to be". They believe the many choices parents make for their children are "obnoxious".

Both of the family's older two boys prefer long hair in braids or curls, love pink and purple, wear sparkly studs in their ears, and fingernail polish and are often presumed to be girls. The children prefer not to go to school because of the discussions their appearances spark. So, the kids are "unschooled" at home - a version of child-driven homeschooling with no books or tests driven by the child's curiosity and questions.

After reading the book X - a fabulous child's story, a book about raising not a boy or a girl but an "X", Storm's parents decided to try it out on their next child.



It's Feedback Friday...

What do you think of the notion of genderless child rearing?

Do you think that telling the world the sex of a child shapes who it is in a negative way?

Do you think a child can grow up this way with a more firm sense of self?

.

5.25.2011

Wood Floor Cleaner



My wood floor seemed to be developing a subtle haze shortly after it was cleaned lately. I think my spray on cleaner was creating some build up. So, there is only one thing to do...and it involves getting on your hands and knees!

Add a mixture of 9 parts white vinegar and 1 part warm water to an empty spray bottle and spray and scrub the entire floor surface with a terry cloth rag every few months or so to avoid cleaner build up.

Within minutes the vinegar smell will disappear and your floors will gleam!

.

5.23.2011

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.

Check out the Stuff I Learned 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





5.20.2011

How Smart is Your Phone? Feedback Friday

While visiting my brother and sister-in-law over Easter, we found ourselves in a store and needed to know the movie times for later in the afternoon. My sister-in-law forgot her phone and asked me to look up the movie times.

I asked her if she knew the MoviePhone number and she said, "Just look it up!". I said "I can't!" She said "What do you mean?" and I answered "I can only call people on my phone!" She looked confused.

We were facing a clear technology gap here! Well, I just got a text from Verizon telling me I qualify for an early upgrade to a Smartphone.

It's Feedback Friday, so tell me...

Do you have a Smartphone?

What do you use most of the apps for - to play games, check email, what?

5.19.2011

My Last First Communion



The rain here in Pittsburgh stopped long enough for my Munchkin's 1st Communion this weekend! I couldn't help but cry as I watched the children process down the aisle two-by-two looking like little brides and grooms.



We posed for some quick (awkward) family photos then ducked inside before the rain, for a late lunch.



Are you entertaining a large group this spring? Here is my menu that fed 27 guests:

Spiral Sliced Ham and Rotisserie Chicken Salad- from Costco for mini-sandwiches.

Aunt Marie's Dinner Rolls- 2 pans

Tortellini Salad

Juniper's Potato Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

**Toss spinach, sliced strawberries, pecans, and feta. Dress with poppy seed dressing.

Fresh fruit tray

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
with Cream Cheese Buttercream.

Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Sky High Cakes

12 ounces cream cheese, slightly chilled

1 stick + 6 Tbls. (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

3 egg whites

1. Place the cream cheese the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on medium until soft, fluffy and smooth. Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time mixing until smooth. Mix in the icing sugar and and vanilla beating until fluffy. Set this aside.

2. Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook the syrup without stirring until it reaches soft ball stage.

3. While the syrup is coming to temperature add the egg whites to the mixer bowl with the whisk attached. As the syrup reaches temperature set the mixer going on medium/low. Slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl, avoiding the whisk. Once all the syrup is all in increase the speed to medium/high and beat until the meringue has cooled to body temperature and a stiff meringue has developed.

4. With the mixer on low add the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. Once all mixed in increase the speed to medium and whisk the frosting until fluffy and smooth.

5.18.2011

Do You Neti?

I have been so sick this week with some sort of cold/flu that has me down and out! I don't like to take lots of medicines, so my Neti Pot is saving me!

What is a Neti Pot, you ask? It's this little teapot looking thing:



I got mine from CVS Pharmacy, but most health and beauty sections carry this item today.

Though the neti pot is new to us, it actually began in ancient India many centuries ago.

A neti pot cleans your sinuses, relieving pressure and congestion from colds and allergies. It kind of reminds me of when I used to spray saline up my baby's nose when they had a cold.

You add the little salt packet, fill the neti with lukewarm water, insert the spout in one nostril, then tilt your head to the side. The water will travel up into your sinuses and back out the other nostril, clearing everything in it's path.

I saw my first neti pot on a show with Dr. Oz and only just bought one about 6 months ago.

Do you neti?

5.16.2011

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.

Check out the Stuff I Learned last week...

This week, I showed you how to make a Breakfast Smoothie that will help you stick to your diet.

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






Breakfast Smoothie


The Big Guy and I have fallen off the wagon! Diet wise, that is. Whenever we need to straighten out and get back on track, the first thing we turn to is our Men's Health Abs Diet Smoothie recipe for breakfast.

This smoothie is so filling and healthy, and it really helps us to start our mornings in a healthy way. This recipe makes 2 servings so you and your spouse can share!

Abs Diet "Halle Berries" Breakfast Smoothie


1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup oatmeal, cooked and cooled
1 cup frozen berries
2 tsp. whey powder
6 ice cubes


Add all ingredients to blender and blend blend blend! Makes 2 servings.

5.13.2011

Excessive Force? Feedback Friday

Well, blogger finally unlocked. I lost yesterday's post so I'll try to rewrite it. In the meantime, here is my planned Feedback Friday:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



This Colorado mother is upset over the way her 8 year old son was treated by the local police during an incident at his school.

Her son, a second grader who attends a school within the same district as the Columbine murders, flew into a violent rage toward his teachers last month. He threw chairs and a TV cart and ripped wood trim from the walls while threatening to kill his teachers who were hiding in a locked office. The teachers called the police.

When the police arrived, the student wielded a stick and continued to be verbally abusive. The police opted to give him two squirts of pepper spray to diffuse the situation.

This was the third violent episode that warranted police intervention with this student.

It's Feedback Friday...

Do you feel that the measures used by the police to diffuse the situation were excessive?

Does your feeling change if you imagine yourself as this 8 year old child's mother?

What about if you were the parent of a classmate?

5.12.2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake



This is the cake I made for Mother's Day this year. It was so beautiful and so rich! We served 12 people and still had leftovers. This recipe is from the Sky High Cookbook - Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. (*I'm a little afraid of super high cakes, so I used 3 9 inch pans) Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl (I skipped sifting and whisked the ingredients in the bowl). Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean (9 inch pans baked for about 25 mins). Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (*After they cooled I plastic-wrapped and froze them to make it easier to decorate the next day.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (*I iced the entire cake with a very thin coat then refrigerated for about 30 minutes then applied the remaining frosting.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle (*it looked so pretty already I skipped this step).

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. (*I had lots of trouble getting the chocolate smooth at this stage. I just melted it and then added the half and half to the double boiler and whisked my hand off. It seemed like it would never come together to form a smooth glaze, but it did!)

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

5.09.2011

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.

Check out the Stuff I Learned last week...

This week, I showed you how to Remove a Tick from your kid's neck! Boy, I wish I didn't have to know how to do this!

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






How to Remove a Tick


Yes, I spent Mother's Day at the local MedExpress Urgent Care Center getting a tick removed from my son's neck! After lots of pulling and crying and comforting and screaming and hyperventilating (and that was just me!) we pulled at the tick with a pair of tweezers and promptly detached the body from the head (which was still burrowed in his neck).

Jump in the car folks, it's time to turn this over to the professionals!

This handy little tool, the Tick Twister saved the day:



Slide the tool onto the neck of the tick and twist, twist, twist ... makes for a quick and painless removal of the entire tick! Why in the world didn't we go there BEFORE all the drama? So, I'm going to Pet Smart tomorrow to purchase a few of these miracle tools for a mere $4.99. Got a tick? Click here: Tick Twister

In the meantime, enjoy this little ditty:


5.08.2011

Hope Studios This Week

Here are the orders that shipped from Hope Studios - the shop this week!



Whew!

Happy Mother's Day!

5.06.2011

10 Things I Hate About Your Blog



I love to read blog critiques and then reflect on my own blog to try to improve. There is a now defunct blog called 10 Things I Hate About Your Site that offered critiques to bloggers who signed up. I discovered the site too late and never got that harsh criticism I was looking forward to in some sado-masochistic way.

I do think that we, as bloggers, often shy away from any sort of criticism of other bloggers in this blogging bubble we live in - especially the "big" bloggers. My blog friend, Janet, and I were discussing that oftentimes readers will complement ANYTHING bloggers post- "they could smear cat poo on a canvas...frame it and hang it in the dining room and everyone would be in awe of their creativity." Have you ever found yourself doing that? I think I'm guilty.

Well, I think a healthy dose of criticism is good for the soul and since I couldn't get a critique from that blog I mentioned, maybe I should ask for it here!

I'll list my top 10 blog peeves and then you can critique my blog and then list some peeves of your own. What do you think?

10 things I hate about your blog:

1. Your avatar doesn't link to your blog. If you don't have your blog linked in your profile, I can't click over there to see who belongs to that lovely face I see over there in my "followers" box.

2. You don't have an email registered with Google. I can't respond to your questions, or make a little joke, or ask you a question after you comment!

3. Word verification, word verification, word verification...I cannot tell you how many times I just click off a page with word verification because I don't have time to mess around with it when I want to leave a quick comment. Blogger has tightened up their spam criteria and almost 100% of SPAM is filtered into your spam folder now. Try it! PLEASE try it!


4. The long list of blogs in your profile and half of them are defunct or private. When I'm faced with several blogs in a profile and I click on the first one that is private or not in use I get so frustrated! Did you know you can set your private and test blogs so they are invisible?

5. Auto-play music. I admit I jumped on this bandwagon when I first started my blog - thank goodness I came to my senses! Most people don't like the same type of music, or they are already listening to music, or sitting in an cubicle secretly reading blogs instead of working ... your music just ratted them out!

7. Your posts are written in one large paragraph. Break it up with space between ideas, many paragraphs are sooooo much easier to read!

8. You don't include photos. I'm not going to lie, I need a little fluff to entertain my brain. I like to see what you are talking about, even if it's a clip art photo of a concept. Show me pictures, it makes me happy!

Oh, BTW, check out how hilarious my son looked when he fell asleep during the long drive home from New Jersey:



See? Do it like that!

9. You only talk about your Etsy/Artfire/Whatever business. Dude, branch out. It's kind of boring and a little indulgent. It's not interesting to read about the same thing every day. Gain readers by keeping the topics varied, regular, and interesting, then those folks will see your "goods" when they visit you.

10. A cluttered sidebar. When I see random buttons from every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the sidebar all willy nilly it just looks messy and crammed. It makes me feel stressed, like I need to come over and clean. And I hate to clean.

It's Feedback Friday...

Now, it's your turn! Try to think of something (or a list of things) I could do to improve my own blog, or maybe just something that bugs you.

Also, what is your biggest blog pet peeve?
.

**UPDATE**

Okay, so far, here are the things I've changed based on your feedback:

1. I changed by feed back to full feed.

2. I added the buttons to allow you to Tweet or Facebook posts

5.04.2011

Re-using Costco Apple Containers



My boys LOVE apples, eating about 2-4 each day. Their favorite apples are the Costco Granny Smith apples that come in this molded container:

Going through 1-2 of these containers of apples each week led me to find uses for all these cool containers!

Here is what I've come up with - (note that many of these ideas could also help you reuse egg cartons too!)

Seed Starters - each seed has it's own little greenhouse!



Button/Bead Organizers

Paint Tray


Cupcake Transporter

A Mold for Chocolate Bowls
- drizzle chocolate over the inside of the depression covering the surface. Place in the freezer for a bit then carefully pop out a fun chocolate bowl for ice cream or desserts.

Bird Feeder - Fill with birdseed then insert string at the corners. Hang from the nearest tree branch and enjoy!

Penny Toss Game - number each depression then toss several pennies. The player with the highest score wins. This is also a great way to practice math with your kids!

Toy Organizer - wrangle in all those small pieces like matchbox cars, Barbie accessories, Legos...

Coin Organizer

Fire Starter Mold - fill the cavity half way with sawdust, pour hot wax from candle scraps over and you have the perfect starter for your next campfire!

Giant Ice Cube Tray - this would be perfect for your next party!

Christmas Ornament Storage

Do you have any other cool ideas for reusing these containers?
.

5.02.2011

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.

Check out the Stuff I Learned last week...

This week, I showed you how to make Bread!

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






 

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