Happy weekend, friends! It’s rare for me to post on a Saturday. Heck, it’s rare for me to post at all these days. But, I made these treats last weekend with good intentions of sharing them during the week so you could consider them for your Valentine’s baking. And now that the weekend is here I thought I’d share in case you have an itch to be in the kitchen. Or an itch to eat yummy treats. Or both.
Last Sunday I found myself with a pint of strawberries on the verge of going bad, so I needed to use them up and fast. And why not combine them with butter, sugar, oatmeal and white chocolate?
Strawberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Based on this recipe from Baked by Rachel
- 1.5 cups flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup white chocolate chips (for topping only)
- 2 cups of sliced strawberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all crust/topping ingredients (except the chocolate chips) in one bowl and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into pea-sized pieces and combine the ingredients together. (It will be a bit of a workout, which will help justify eating the treats.)
If you don’t have a pastry blender, I suppose you could use a couple of knives and work the butter into small pieces. The idea is that the crust/topping is crumbly, not well combined.
Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping and put it aside.
Next combine the sliced strawberries with the other filling ingredients and mix well. Then pack the crust mixture into the bottom of a well-greased pie plate (or 8×8 square pan).
Place the strawberries on top, then sprinkle the topping mixture and white chocolate chips over the strawberries.
Pop the pan into the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes and you should easily be able to slice the bars and remove them from the pan.
By the way, I had the fantastic idea of drizzling white chocolate over the finished bars, but I forgot how easily white chocolate burns and I nearly started a fire in our microwave. Oops! What can I say, my baking adventures are rarely flawless!
What kinds of Valentine’s day treats are you baking, buying or eating?
I have to admit that when I first found a tutorial to make these adorable fox plush dolls, I wondered if it would be too weird if I made a bunch to just hang out in different spots in our house. They’re just so cute and welcoming.
Unless you look a little too long at their doll eyes. Then they’re just weird. But I digress.
Instead of making them for myself, I decided to whip up a few foxy friends as Valentine’s Day presents for my two boy-o-boys. That’s a good cover, right? I’m making these for the kids.
By the way, I’m pretty sure that if you asked a fox what he really says these days, it wouldn’t be “hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!”** Instead, he’d reply with a sigh and an eye roll by saying, “please, isn’t there another woodland animal that is, like, so on trend now?” Yes, Mr. Fox, I’m sure there is. But I live on the edge of the Earth in Maine where trends arrive a year late thankyouverymuch, so you’re here to stay.
**in case this blog post stands the test of time and in the year 2025 someone is wondering what this “hatee-hatee-ho” business is all about, just Google “what does the fox say video.” If Google even exists then.
Using this well-written and photographed tutorial on A Beautiful Mess, I made these little lovies in less than two hours. I decided to go with a circle belly patch, plus some hearts, making them a bit unique. As for fabric, I opted for some soft red cotton and then comfy jersey material for the snout and hearts. That pretty blue is actually a super soft corduroy. It was just a matter of cutting a few pieces and stitching them together.
I even embellished the back, just a bit. The crooked zig-zag stiching adds some charm, don’t you think!?
Back to the creepy doll eyes for a quick sec. These were easy to find at my local fabric store and were just over a dollar for three sets of eyes. They have a snap/lock mechanism on the back, so you lock them on before you sew the front and back together. Once it’s stuffed, you can’t even tell there are doll eye screws and bolts in there, and then it’s super safe for the littles.
To get the eyes nice and symmetrical, I folded the front piece of fabric in half and cut a small slit through the two layers so that everything lined up nicely. A fox doll with crooked creepy doll eyes would be super weird.
While I’m talking about plush dolls for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d show you the sweet little Valentine’s Day pillow that my mom made for me when I was une petite fille.
Sweet, right? I’m not sure my boys will hold the same sentimental value in their little fox dolls, but who knows! Even if they don’t keep them forever, I might…
Are you making any Valentine’s Day projects for
yourself your kids or someone special? And are you totally over the fox trend, or still hanging on like me? Even if you’re not into the fox look, I’m betting this tutorial could be super versatile and could be adapted to make a dog, cat or other animal. Hmmm…now I’m thinking the possibilities are endless…
Okay, fess up. You’re like me and you loaded your refrigerator with all kinds of healthy veggies two weeks after your initial new year’s resolutions failed, right? Well, if you’ve been more successful than me with that whole eating-your-fruits-and-veggies thing then you’ll surely enjoy this recipe. And if you find yourself in the same boat as me, well, you can thank me as the zucchini is rescued from the depths of your crisper. You’re welcome.
You should have seen the face on my darling husband when this egg and veggie glory came out of the oven—it was akin to the face he makes while changing diapers.
See what I have to put up with around here?
My rationale: It has all things you like. Egg, cheese, zucchini, red pepper and potato. With that I got a “hmmmmm….I’ll try some” response, and then he was hooked (with a little ketchup drizzled on top, of course).
Interested? Here’s how you can whip this up for your family tonight.
- 6 eggs
- 3/4 cup liquid egg whites
- salt and pepper
- 2 TBS olive oil (I used the fancy-pants Tuscan Herb Olive Oil from my pals at Fiore)
- 1 large potato diced into small cubes
- 1 medium zucchini sliced and cubed
- 1 red pepper sliced and cubed
- AND/OR any veggie of your choosing
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese
Slice and prep your veggies starting with the potato. You can do one of two things with the potatoes. You can pre-cook them a little in a bowl in the microwave (I did 3 minutes) or you can add them to an ovenproof skillet in the olive oil for a few minutes. The goal? Get the potatoes a little soft so they cook along with the other ingredients. While your potatoes are in the microwave, cook your other veggies in the ovenproof skillet with the olive oil for 3-5 minutes, until they start to get soft. Then, add the potatoes.
Whisk the eggs, whites and salt and pepper in separate dish, then pour the mixture over the veggies and cook for 3-5 minutes over medium/high heat, until the edges start to firm a little.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top and move the skillet from the stove top to an oven pre-heated to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.
We each had a slice right away (even the baby liked it!) and then I transferred the frittata to a plate to store in the fridge. Now it’s ready for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Heck, maybe all three depending on how lazy I am this week.
Christmas as a parent is amazing. There is, quite possibly, nothing more fun than seeing your kiddos enjoy the magic. And, for a three-year-old who loves Thomas the Train, nothing is more magical than waking up to a train board under the tree on Christmas morning.
Behold, the train jackpot:
Santa and his workshop may get all the credit, but I don’t mind. I had a blast making this because I knew Ike would love it so much. It’s most age appropriate for Ike right now, but this was the primary gift for both boys. They each had a stocking and one other gift from Santa. Along with gifts from generous family members, it was more than enough.
After researching and looking at inspiration on other blogs, I decided to make a board with an attached track that slides on the floor and fits under our guest bed (the guest room is sort of serving as a playroom the majority of the time). At this stage, I knew the boys would enjoy playing with trains on the tracks more than assembling the tracks, so I attached them using small finish nails and some wood glue, but I did it in such a way that we could pull it apart someday so that when the time comes the boys can build the tracks of their dreams.
To make our train board I used:
- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway set (which was on sale for $72 when I bought it)
- 3×4′ piece of plywood (Home Depot cut a large piece to size)
- Self-adhesive plastic discs used for moving furniture
- 1 sample size of green satin paint
- Craft-sized tubes of acrylic pain in blue, black, brown and light green
- Finish nails
- Wood glue
The Melissa & Doug set came with engines and accessories, but it’s completely compatible with the Thomas and Friends wooden railway trains, so Thomas can shunt, bust his buffers and huff to his heart’s desire.
Side note: I’ve learned way more train vocabulary in one year than I ever new existed. No matter what you do, do not confuse a funnel with whistle or a freight car with a passenger car. Ike will correct you.
My first step was setting up the whole track system on the unpainted board (it took about 30 minutes using the diagram provided with the set). Then I used pencil to sketch where the water and roads would be, and took the tracks apart. Then I painted the road and water and covered the rest in green and brown. It was fully painted in less than two episodes of Breaking Bad. (BTW, do you think Santa watches Breaking Bad in his workshop?)
I added the roads on each side of the board thinking that the kids would like to drive cars on the board along with the trains, but so far they’ve been just obsessed with the trains and the tracks.
Once it was all painted, I reassembled the tracks. It’s a bit tedious, but comes together really quickly.
You might be able to see the finish nails in the pictures. I used one nail per piece and didn’t drive them flush with the track so that we can easily pull them out someday. They stick out just enough to be snagged by a small hammer or pliers, but not enough to interfere with daily train use. I also used wood glue to attach the risers (where the tracks go up) then gently nailed the tracks into each riser.
The red bridge and the cranes lift off and can be stored laying down so that the whole thing slides nicely under the bed. But so far it really hasn’t been put away. On Christmas Day Ike played with the trains for almost five hours straight—it was a hit! And it’s so fun to hear him act out different train scenarios—most of which involve crashing and one engine saving the others when they fall off the track. He’s all boy, with a flair for the dramatic.
And here’s where I give credit where it’s due to the other bloggers who helped inspire our train board: Young House Love, Reasons to Skip the Housework, and Preparing for Peanut. We all used slightly different approaches, so check them out if you’re interested in taking on this project.
So, did you attempt a major homemade gift this year, or did Santa really come through for you? And does anyone else have the Thomas theme song stuck in their head right now?
I could name this post so many things. Like: Ike turns three! Or: My First Foray With Fondant. Perhaps: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and Happy New Year! (All would be applicable for us.) It’s been a busy few weeks, to say the least, with Christmas fun, Ike’s third birthday, our sixth anniversary and the start of 2014. I hope to get caught up here on the blog eventually. And since the majority of the country is in a deep freeze this week, I think a snowman cake is an appropriate place to start.
I wanted to make Ike’s cake special because to him, at age three, birthdays equal CAKE and SINGING! Really, as much as he loves presents, he is mostly excited about cake at this point. After looking at different cake ideas, I decided on snowmen despite the Christmasy feel because Ike had grown particularly fond of snowmen after watching Frosty the Snowman who, of course, exclaims “happy birthday!” Plus, it was easy and I had all the ingredients. (BTW, I was inspired by Martha’s snowmen, I didn’t think up this idea on my own.)
This cake came together in a series of short steps over three days, though it could easily be done all in one day. We were heading to Vermont for some family gatherings and to celebrate Ike’s birthday, so I made the fondant snowmen on Christmas night, the cake and frosting the next day, and then assembled the whole cake on Friday night once we arrived in Vermont so it was ready for Ike’s birthday on Saturday.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my act together enough to take step-by-step photos, so if you’re interested in recreating this, you’ll have to use your imagination!
Here are the recipes I used for the cake:
- My go-to basic chocolate cake recipe
- Chocolate marshmallow buttercream frosting for the filling
- Marshmallow buttercream frosting for the outside of the cake
- Marshmallow fondant
The marshmallow fondant was surprising easy to make using melted mini marshmallows, confectioner’s sugar and a bit of water. It was really easy to work with, too, so I think I may be trying more with fondant in the future. It’s like a grown up version of Play-Doh!
After I made the fondant, I separated a few small pieces and used gel food coloring to create the different colors. I used black gel icing that comes in a tube for the eyes and mouth, and sprinkles of different sorts for the buttons. On the outside of the cake I used blue sprinkles, sparkling sugar and cinnamon dots to create the wintery scene. Oh, and I used tooth picks and wooden dowels to keep the snowmen standing and to keep hats and noses in place. Tres important.
The cake ended up being a huge hit with my biggest birthday boy. As different family members arrived, he proudly opened the fridge to show off his cake and exclaimed, “I’m fweee now!” It’s fair to say it made his day. We even let him eat two slices.
Have you tried making cakes with fondant before? And, seriously, you should try the chocolate marshmallow buttercream frosting that I linked above. It’s amazing.
Psst…looking for another cake idea? Check out last year’s sprinkle #2 cake!
Sometimes it really hits me that I have two children. I mean, obviously I know we have them, but there are times when I wonder how and when, exactly, we got to this place. Seeing our four stockings hanging in a row was one of those moments. Holy cow.
Of course, we can’t forget Frankie the dog’s stocking, which will be hung out of reach of his sniffing nose (it’s too easy for him to sniff going up the stairs!). But seeing our stockings alongside those of our two boys is just crazy.
It’s been fun making these stockings as our family grows. I’ve been saving this one long piece of red satin over the years to use for the hanging loop for all the different stockings as they come. It ties all of the stockings together since otherwise they don’t really match.
Somehow I’ve developed a taste for stockings that aren’t made with overt Christmas patterns. I’m not sure why. So this year I made a new stocking for Chris to replace the red and green velvet one I made for him the first year we were dating. Ike came with me to our local fabric store and he picked out the moon and stars fabric, so now Chris’ stocking has even more sentimental charm.
And it’s Lincoln’s first Christmas, so we picked out fabric for his stocking, too.
I also took the opportunity to embellish the stocking I made for Ike two years ago with some gold ric-rac. (BTW, ask a nearly-three-year-old to say ric-rac and you will be overwhelmed by the cuteness.)
And I gave my stocking some pom-poms. Because I’m the mom and I wanted pom-poms. Someone has to add a little femininity around this house of boys, right?
So, let’s now talk stockings. What are the traditions in your house? Do you wrap items that go into the stocking, or leave them unwrapped? Do the stockings hide until Christmas Eve? Or are you like us and display them throughout the month? Spill it.
If you have some kids on your Christmas shopping list this year and you’d like to do something homemade, I have just the thing for you: Chicken Bean Bags. Because every kid needs some toss-able chickens, right?
Well, even if these bean bags are not the most sought after gift, they sure are cute. I made these a few weeks ago for my nephew’s third birthday and they are perfect to link up to the Dare to DIY Homemade Gift Challenge!
I gave my birds some super cute tail feathers because, well, why not? Actually, you might recognize the trim from Ike’s robot costume, and the fabric is from leftover squares from Lincoln’s quilt. I’m all about using up those scraps leftover from other projects! Plus, I like the idea of non-traditional chicken colors—helps build the imagination, don’t you think? (I’m not a child development expert, though, so don’t take my word for it.)
These are super easy to make if you have beginner sewing skills. You essentially cut and sew two squares together, inserting the beak and other chicken parts into the seam before sewing. Then you fill the chicken with rice and a small amount of polyfil before closing up the last seam.
You can see a full tutorial here (the pictures are so good and the instructions are clear, so there was no need for me to repeat the tutorial here!) My chickens look a bit more complex because my fabric squares were made of two triangles, since they were left over from a quilt project. And I added the “tail feathers” to the back (which made for a very easy way to close the last seam).
I’m planning to whip up another set for Ike’s stocking since he seemed to like them. What do you think? Any kids on your list that could use some chickens? Oh, and if you’re looking for homemade gift inspiration, head on over to visit Michelle at Decor and the Dog for lots of inspiration at the Dare to DIY Homemade Gift link party!
It’s that time of year when most bloggers are showing off their festive mantels and I’m all like, “Hey! I don’t have a mantel to decorate but I have styled shelves!” You have to work with what you’ve got, right?
This year I’ve opted for a sweet pink and green theme for our three hallway shelves, featuring bright green ornaments, pink wrapped gifts and a little tassel and burlap garland that I whipped up (and will formally share on the blog another time).
I really like traditional Christmas decorations and colors for the majority of our house, so it’s fun to have this one small area to play with a different theme.
Poor Ike was a little dismayed and confused to learn the wrapped presents were empty. A few more years of watching me decorate and he’ll no longer ask questions, I’m sure. (“Just ignore my crazy mother,” he’ll say.)
Hope you’re enjoying the start of the holiday cheer!