25 May 2014

kids camping party ideas & printables


purchase this camping party invitation printable here.

school's almost out and my little ones are already gearing up to camp out in the backyard!! benji is getting old enough to enjoy hiking, going on nature walks, and even loves listening to spooky stories. (scooby do is on repeat these days, whether i like it or not.) thanks to his mountain man dad, my boys are learning about explorers and the great outdoors. since benji is nearly done with kindergarten, i started imagining up some fun traditions to help swing in the season of summer! my sister has a shaving cream slip n' slide party in her backyard. another mom loves pelting the kids with water balloons at the bus stop for a sneak attack water fight! i also like the outdoor movie idea of cozying up under the stars. i'm dreaming up a special cousins camp out, a perfect way to celebrate the summer, teach my kids the joys of the outdoors and give my siblings the night off.

throwing a casual (and often, spontaneous) party that focuses on the kiddos is key; no birthday cake or presents or too much decor to worry about, just pure fun designed with kids in mind. benji loves making lists and schedules, so i usually let him help me dream up our events. anticipation is half the fun. here's to happy campers!!


our brainstorming came up with these camp out party ideas...

flashlight fun / sleeping bag sack races / s'more brownies / daytime scavenger hunt / glowstick tag / dot to dot constellation games / nature walk / pajama dance off / lantern-lit bracelet looming / make your own trail mix / camper camper bear (instead of duck duck goose), paint wooden snakes (available on amazon.com) / mix up kool-aid bug juice / rope tug o' war / eat ants on a log, oreo mud pies, cheetos (fire flames) and mini hot dogs / nerf gun bullseye target practice / battery-operated candles / spooky stories...



find this camping party printable invitation in my shop! a scavenger hunt printable is also part of your purchase. please note: if you're not keen on hosting a sleepover, there is also a blank camping invitation included for you to write in your own information; whether it be for a family reunion, a scouts meeting, a group hike, a couples shower or a late-over for friends! customize this printable to suit your needs. 

22 April 2014

burlap pennant banner & full alphabet stencil



one of my most-pinned posts, this DIY Burlap Banner Pennant tutorial, features a banner template and stencil download which is so easy to print at home. my stencil has just been updated and now contains EVERY letter in the alphabet, not only the Christmas words that it previously did. now you can truly customize every special occasion with a burlap banner. (thank you for your inquiries and suggestions on this!)

visit my shop for the full details.

16 April 2014

give a basket full of sunshine


my friends and i wanted to give something bright & cheerful to another friend of ours. after some brainstorming, we came up with this sunshine basket!! each of us had only a short time to shop, so we split up and went shopping on our own, taking iphone pictures of our loot so no one purchased repeats. i loved going grocery shopping with only a single hue in mind, sunny yellow!! finding brightly wrapped treats and gifts turned out much easier than i had imagined. it was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts to see the sunny items we had each collected. the basket came together beautifully. even though the items may seem like a random grouping, the cheerful color scheme creates a cohesive sunshine vibe, which is exactly what we were hoping for!

12 April 2014

a blank page. a new post. refresh button.


hooray for handmade print available in my shop.

i hear / feel / watch my thoughts rumbling around in my soul (tumble dry) and i know i need to write them. just write them. just get them down. it's simple. easy peasy. i'm a self-proclaimed writer, i do this. this should not be hard. hurry and write something decent; a pretty prose or something completely imperfect. just write. you know you know how. you know you've done it before. (oh how full of writer's guilt i've been.) and then another must-do pops up, or a nose needs to be wiped and dishes need to be done or beds need to be made or naps need to be taken and the rhythm of my to-do list shoves out my last thoughtful thought and therein i miss a moment to reflect, write and learn something from the process. letting things spill from my head to my fingers to the page. often, words i wish to be written down are not unlike the loner striped socks that remain loosely out of place, scattered and without a proper home. yet they are still persistent enough not to be thrown out entirely. they lurk in the laundry room and elsewhere. my loner socks and tumbling thoughts (admittedly) haven't been properly lined up, paired up or folded into neat drawers for what seems like months. i'm calling myself out on this.

not to say that i haven't been living a fulfilling, exciting, filled to the brim, joyful life these past non-blogging months. oh i have!! there's so much to tell. no way i can catch up. i've been so fulfilled and busy and happy, i wondered if i really needed blogging at all in this season of life. i've thought a lot about that. honestly however my mind gains clarity when i write things out. to me, crisp keys on a typewriter is as calming as lapping waves of the bluest water on the beach. sitting here, my cluttered brain sits still for awhile and i remember what discipline and practice and vulnerability and creativity mean again. frankly i am more frightened of writing it all out there like i used to. i'm out of practice and feeling vulnerable to opening up. so stay with me. i'll braven up as i type along, i'm sure (i hope).

ever thanks for the encouragement and amazing connections i still feel from you. (so thoughtful to receive emails from those of you who were concerned about little ol' me!!) i can't even begin to tell you all the good things that have come from blogging. here i am, to start anew.

xo.

02 April 2014

my favorite tropical dessert: mangoes with coconut rice



it's a rare sight to see; me choosing a dessert that does not involve chocolate, custard, gelato, cake, cookies, brownies, etc. however, i do have a major crush on rice pudding (when done right) along with this delicious duo: coconut rice with mangoes. this is a delectable pairing, you cannot go wrong. basically if the word coconut is on a menu, i usually order it without hesitation. i'll eat a ramekin of this for breakfast (while my family has frozen waffles) and for a moment i imagine i'm on a tropical vacation. i justify the sweet and carb combo because we're headed out to the surf soon to catch the first waves of daylight... i snap back into reality as i sign paperwork, oversee homework, and push lego guys out of the way on my kitchen table. still, the mangoes and rice are the real deal. this recipe is so simple, you might start making it on a weekly basis. that's not so much a warning as it is an invitation.

Mangoes & Coconut Rice
Thanks to my darling friend Jamie Anne for this recipe!

1 1/2 cups white uncooked rice (Basmati or Calrose short-grain work great)
Cook rice according to directions and set aside. Then transfer rice into a larger bowl.

3-4 Mangoes (ripe, deeply colorful, firm but not too firm - like an avocado) **
1 (14 oz.) can pure coconut milk (I buy the 'light' version)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt

Combine coconut milk, sugar, and salt into small saucepan and simmer over low to medium heat until sugar is dissolved. This takes about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The milk will turn from milky white to a more clear color. Remove from heat.

Pour coconut sauce over your sticky rice. Stir to combine and allow to rest. The rice will continue to soak up all that coconut sauce and the flavoring will be infused into every grain. Do this at least an hour (or longer) to absorb the coconut milk. Meanwhile, remove skins and slice mangoes into bite-sized bits and place into separate bowl. Dish it up into pretty bowls; serve at room temperature. Add a few raspberries for a kicky, bright garnish.

Serves 6, approximately.

**The great news is they now sell mangoes by the jar!! I've seen them near the packaged salad kits. They are tasty, juicy, and ripe and take ALL the work out of this dessert. Seriously worth your money if you're short on time or terribly impatient when cutting mangoes (and / or have a toddler at your feet).

Note: Ladies especially seem to love this dessert. Take it to bookclub, a buffet or girls night out. It travels well, assembles easily and is a fun change from the usual monotonous sweets scene. Enjoy!



01 April 2014

simple & delicious chicken pot pie



when the april showers turn on and days don't feel quite like spring, i always feel like devouring something warm and packed with cooked veggies and homebaked. once i learned that the boxed up, processed frozen pot pies are possibly the worst thing available in the grocery store, i've been going through major pot pie withdrawals. and i imagined i'd have to buy pie weights to wrap my brain around a from-scratch pot pie recipe. however, this one is simple! no pie weights necessary. this features normal ingredients and you can easily find store bought crusts. i am going to try Trader Joes brand next time (i hear they are delicious)! ready set go, lets make chicken pot pie.

Simply Delicious Chicken Pot Pie
source: all recipes

1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, chopped
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (saved from cooking chicken)
2/3 cup milk

Two (9" unbaked) pie crusts

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain (saving liquid for broth) and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prep a 9.5" pie dish with your bottom crust. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture (should be thick like gravy) over and stir lightly to combine. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This is a super easy recipe to double. After adding the top crust and slicing little air holes, allow the pies to rest and cool, then stick one in the freezer before baking!


03 December 2013

DIY Burlap Pennant Banner tutorial


after researching plenty of burlap banner ideas on pinterest, i decided to gear up and make my own! as you may know, i like to craft, but i like my crafts to be speedy, perfectionist-free and without any sewing requirements whatsoever. this burlap pennant banner fit the bill! scroll down to see the easy step-by-step instructions.

this burlap banner is so simple to make and can be created in just a few hours with simple supplies. i'm excited to try different words and occasions too. i like to think it turned out pottery barn chic, but it's oh so cheap; less than $12 to do-it-yourself. (i created this tutorial well before christmastime, so please excuse the autumn table decor. i plan to swap out the photo eventually.)


gather up the supplies for your burlap banner:
+ burlap (lots of varieties and colors available at JoAnn's!)
note: one yard of burlap will make approximately 2 dozen flag pennants
+ stencil and flag template printed on cardstock
note: you can purchase my burlap banner template & stencil here for $5!
+ acrylic paint (mine was a creamy white called vanilla)
+ sharp scissors
+ glue gun or fabric glue
+ foam paint brush
+ fabric pen or permanent marker
+ parchment paper (to protect your table)
+ a couple yards of jute string or twine (my banner is 33" long)
+ a handful of pretty ribbons for the ends, about two yards total of each ribbon
mod podge stiffener product (or plain mod podge works too!)


do you know this handy burlap trick?? if you want to cut burlap straight, loosen one of the fibers and give it a pull. then you'll have a straight guide to cut your material. hooray.




cut out the flag pennant guide and trace it onto the burlap, creating enough flags for the word you choose (my template & stencil has the words: noel, cheer, joy, merry, peace and star all included). when cutting out the burlap flags, cut inside the black marker lines so your marking guides will not be on the final flag banner. print your stencils on cardstock and start cutting out letters (be patient with yourself.. just cut out the black letters and the rest of the page will be your stencil for painting. you'll need to save the circle and triangle shapes from the letters P and A and hold them in place while painting. a little tricky, but i believe in you. if you make a mistake and cut through the stencil, just print it again!)



for a fool proof method, tape the stencil over your burlap flag, eyeballing it in the center. be sure to leave room at the top of the burlap for the fold-over. now start painting lightly until you get the feel for it. i liked the look of a consistent solid paint, dab over and over until you're happy with the results. be careful to hold the edges so bleeding doesn't occur. let the letter flags dry sufficiently.



when the flags are all finished and dried, turn them over (spelling your word correctly and backwards) and hot glue gun the jute string to the burlap by folding the top edge over. be sure to leave adequate leftover string on both sides of your banner. (i used parchment paper to protect my work area, do not use wax paper or it will melt onto your banner!) if you'd like your banner to remain fray-free, use a fabric stiffener all over the flags or, at least, brush mod podge on the edges to help limit any fraying that may occur. allow to dry.


tie festive ribbons on each end and hang your homemade banner with pride! may your home be filled with peace and happiness this holiday.

17 October 2013

DIY caramel apples

this post is a repeat from last year. amazingly enough, i posted the original post on october 17, 2012 and here we are exactly a year later and i'm craving them again! tomorrow i'll be dipping gala apples and using a store-bought caramel to compare to the delicious homemade recipe you'll find below. (i'll add my notes about these options.) happy october!


dan's sister sarah taught me all that i know about caramel apples a few years ago on a family trip to sun valley. i finally had the courage to try them on my own, after a little refresher course from her a few weeks ago. you'll find her amazing homemade caramel recipe below. (after researching online, i found a few expert tips too, which i've included. please comment with your own if you have additional techniques!) i am posting this tutorial mainly to remember all of the steps and to readily admit that dipping apples is not as frightening as i once thought it to be. i hope you'll try them if you haven't already! i definitely want to make this a tradition (and improve my skills) each year. here we go!


we agree that green apples taste the best with the sweet toppings. i bought giant packs from costco. these were organic which means i didn't have to scrub so hard to get any shiny coating off of the apples. you want the apples completely cleaned off. sarah even uses a tiny drop of dishwashing soap to get the skins nice and clean. i read online that apple dipping experts use a bit of fine sandpaper (yes, real sandpaper!) on the apple skins before washing them to ensure a nice caramel coating.


dry and polish the apples until they gleam. they need to be very dry. any moisture will deter the caramel from sticking. all of this prep work is somewhat tedious (especially when you are working with forty-two apples!), but like i learned while painting the rooms in my house, prep work is oh so important for a job well done. no skimping! and whistle while you work!


stick the apples in the fridge overnight or at least for several hours. cold apples are best!


optional: gather all the stuff you'll need and head to a friend's house for the caramel making. it's much more fun doing something this messy and marvelous with a friend (bonus if her kitchen is big and fabulous too)! plus, her kids will entertain yours while you work. (see benji wearing star wars storm trooper costume below. he was in heaven!)


have one friend plant wooden sticks into each apple while the other starts the caramel in a heavy duty pot. i was too busy stirring and feeding and holding the baby to take pictures of the caramel bubbling (boy does it smell incredible). mainly you need to keep stirring it so it won't burn to the bottom of your pan. my candy thermometer was not behaving so we totally guessed on the firm ball stage. i dropped it in a cup of ice and didn't know what to look for, but it seemed good to me. for two newbies, we did pretty well! p.s. be sure to line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, not waxed paper! caramel will stick to wax paper. eek. experts pour the hot caramel into a clean metal bowl to allow it to slightly cool before dipping. obviously we skipped this step and just started dipping straight from the pan because we're adventurous impatient like that. luckily, it still worked like a dream. set the caramel apples in the fridge while you melt the chocolate.


now the really fun part. dipping and sprinkling! we had our assistant (my friend's super helpful and eager eight year old son) prep all of our toppings into separate bowls while we melted the chocolate. he even creatively concocted one bowl with all of the toppings mixed together for a 'suicide' type apple (always good to have options). you'll want the toppings ready to go before melting chocolate.

you can melt white chocolate in a double boiler, a pretend double boiler (does anyone really own a real double boiler?!) or in small increments in the microwave. whatever works. again, we threw caution to the wind and just started dipping after melting in the microwave. (hers had a special 'melt' button! if your microwave does too, you should be melting on a regular basis. you have no excuse. i am unbelievably jealous.)


some toppings to try: sea salt on plain caramel, crushed oreos, seasonal sprinkles, brown sugar & cinnamon, reeses pieces, candy corn, heath toffee, mini chocolate chips and then some. we had trouble with the heavier toppings sticking well; they just drooped down the chocolate. but the kids were happy to take those apples off our hands. i love the look of dark or milk chocolate dripping down the sides in a pretty drizzle design, but i ran out of energy for that final step. definitely will do it next time (you know, when seth is a year older and toddling around and pulling everything out of the cupboards and putting everything into his mouth. funny when you imagine things will be easier next time around...)


allow apples to set up in the fridge. wrap them up with cellophane, ribbon and tags. because everything is pretty with cellophane, ribbon and a tag! devour the apples or give them as gifts within 48 hours.

here is the recipe scanned in from my cookbook scrapbook. click and print out for yourself! enjoy!


02 October 2013

toll-house chocolate chip pie


images in my kitchen with iphone

a quick hello and a super simple recipe for your sweet tooth. happy october everyone!

Toll-House Chocolate Chip Pie

2 Eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
one 9" unbaked pie shell
whipped cream or ice cream for garnish (optional, but delisch)

Pre-heat oven to 325. In large bowl, beat eggs until foamy; beat in flour, sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Blend in melted butter. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into pie shell. Bake for one hour. Allow to set for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Note / This recipe is easily doubled. Bake two pies and freeze one for later!

p.s. another fall favorite recipe is this apple cake with best ever sauce. and of course we'll be having general conference trail mix this weekend. i can't wait.

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