birthday express…

I have been busy with the fabulous festivities of a boy turning 3! We celebrated Finn’s 3rd. birthday this past Friday (hence, no post). The day started off with a VERY early morning wake-up…(I went to bed at 1 AM – so it felt VERY early to me!) – I should say, a sprint down the stairs is how it actually started – and I wasn’t the one sprinting…

presents

I had been up, late the night before, creating a train cake complete with wheels, track, cargo and a chocolate covered smoke stack. Not the best time of day for photographs…hence the not so great lighting…

train + little people

Then busy wrapping presents and helping Michael hang streamers, blow-up balloons and create the party atmosphere so vital to the morning ‘of’ that I had no time to post…

presests + bear

nemo

…it was a lovely day of simple pleasures… breakfast and opening presents (just the three of us) then a drive down to Portland to visit to the children’s museum – funny enough, serendipity and its willingness to ‘give’ – gave us free passes to the museum – Finns birthday was ‘Free day’ at the children’s museum – we had no idea, what a fun surprise for us (and our wallet) – as Finns’ grandparents and great-grandparents met us there too!

future farmer? fireman finn

little chef

Celebrating a birthday doesn’t have to break the bank. I picked up streamers, balloons, wrapping paper, fun party napkins and plates all from the $1 store. I baked the cake, prepared the icing (no food coloring used) and purchased small amounts of candy (for the cargo) from my local health food store (no chemicals here)… the total cost was about $15, a far cry from a store or bakery bought, chemical laden cake…The passengers are from Finn’s train set as are the little trees and house.

Going out to eat after the museum did cost more than dining at home, though we wanted to celebrate with family who had traveled so far to meet us in Portland – so out for Mexican it was! Appetizers to share kept the bill low (relatively speaking) and decorating the table and chairs with balloons, party hats and festive napkins made it fun – being able to enjoy the cake in the restaurant made the night complete!

Decorating your house for the morning of is easy enough (use stuffed animals with leis or party favors to stand in as friends – until the real ones arrive), hang streamers, balloons and birthday banners. If your going to have a party at home – keep it simple and remember, bouncy castles aren’t a requirement for fun – creativity is. Kids love bubbles, art supplies, music, face painting and fun food – so why not keep it simple while keeping your budget in tact?  Happy Birthday little man – I’m so happy you chose me to be your momma!

handmade with love

Is your christmas tree in need of a little handmade love? Well, if so, here are three simple (and inexpensive) ideas to do with your kids or for yourself…why not bring out the child out in you this holiday season?

1.Bake-art dough

Bake art dough is not edible, but it’s a super fun project for kids and grown-ups alike. You can use cookie cut-outs or design your own. Bake, cool and decorate. Use non toxic paint, markers, glitter, tissue paper, ribbon…whatever your fancy. We kept things simple – paint, glue and sparkles, perfect for 2 year old (or 40 year old) fun!

All you need is; 

2 cups unsifted all purpose flour

1/2 cup salt

3/4 cup water

Decorations/art supplies

Ribbon or metal hook to hang with…

How to;

Blend flour and salt, add water and stir. When water is mixed in, work dough into ball. Knead dough for about 5 minutes, or until the consistency is smooth and pliable. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour, if too watery, more flour…

Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to 1/8″ thick.

2.dough rolled

Cut out ornaments and place on cookie sheet.

3.finn printing

Using a straw, make a small hole near the top of each ornament – before baking.

Bake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes – or until completely baked through.

With spatula, remove baked pieces, place on cooling rack and allow to cool, completely.

Decorate till your hearts content…

4.christmas ornaments

Wrap carefully once the holidays are over and store in a dry place.

*These also make sweet gifts for friends and family.

Write the year it was made on the back and by whom, it makes for a lovely keepsake…

2. Pinecones, glitter + ribbon 

Another beautiful, and nearly free idea – pinecones. Decorate with glitter and hang with ribbon.

5.pinecone ornament

*This idea is also great for gift wrapping. Notice the ‘cookie’ cut-out decoration in the background, they look wonderfully festive on the tree…

3. Thrift shops

You just never know what you might find. I recently found these beautiful decoupaged vintage christmas balls (a set of 12 – each one is unique).

7.thrift find8.santa + pipe9.christmas ball6.box

Complete with ribbons and storage box, for only $12. If you love thrift shops as much as I do, then you know the feeling – it’s like being a kid in a candy shop. What’s not to love?

Magic abounds…

enjoy.

cranberries for Christmas

Orange – cranberry cake that is. This is a fabulous recipe! Definitely worth the time, which really isn’t very much – it’s the chopping of the cranberries which is a bit time consuming – but hey, pop on some great music and chop away…Try it, you won’t regret it – everyone loves it! Plus, it’s easy and won’t break the budget, even though your taste buds will tell you otherwise…

Gift Idea – make small loaves, wrap in simple wax paper, tie with twine (or red ribbon) and add a sprig of greenery – who wouldn’t love that? Extra bonus, include the recipe.

Happy Holidays.

finished cranberry-orange cake

Orange-Cranberry Cake

What you’ll need;

cranberry-orange cake ingredients

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel

1 recipe orange glaze

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan (I used a square 8×8 pan – I don’t own a tube pan – though I’d suggest using one if you have one – if not, improvise, like I did); set aside.

dry ingredients

2. In large bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, soda and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup sugar; beat until well combined. Add eggs; beat until well combined. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.

cranberries folded in

4. Toss cranberries with 2 tablespoons sugar; fold into batter with orange peel. Spread cake batter into prepared pan.

cooling on rack

5. Bake 50-60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack.

finished cranberry-orange cake

6. Spoon orange glaze over cooled cake. Let stand until glaze is set. Makes 12+ servings.

cake slice

Orange Glaze: In small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel. Add 2-4 teaspoons orange juice to make drizzling consistency.

half eaten cake

Enjoy

I came across this recipe in a magazine years ago… I neglected to make note of the magazine (and it’s nowhere on the page)… Whomever the credits go to, they are deserved. Thank you, this is delicious!

granola go-go bars

Granola. I love it. I love its’ simplicity. It may be enjoyed on its’ own, on top of yogurt or ice cream, or simply as a breakfast cereal or late afternoon snack with tea…whatever your fancy. Here’s a basic recipe for granola bars.

3.5 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup chopped almonds

1 egg beaten

2/3 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup sunflower kernels

1/2 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Butter, then flour (sides and bottom), a 15 inch X 10 inch X 1 inch baking pan (or thereabouts…). Combine oats and almonds in bowl, toss, then add to prepared pan. Bake at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, or until toasted, stirring occasionally.

toasting oatmeal

While that is going on, in a large bowl combine the egg, butter, honey and vanilla. Stir in sunflower seeds, coconut, cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon.

granola ingrediants

Stir in oat mixture.

mixed-up

Butter and flour pan again (if necessary) then press mixture into pan.

pressed in pan

Bake at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.

granola bars

Store in an airtight container, if they last that long!

yum

The best part of this recipe – I always love recipes where ingredients can be substituted or omitted, without affecting the overall taste – is the variety of ‘additions’ which may be added or not. You could try using raisins, dried apricots, chocolate chips, flax… use what you have on hand and relax. I made these without the coconut, because I didn’t have any…they were still delicious! Want to make them a bit festive? Drizzle chocolate sauce over top, once cooled, before cutting…

Granola bars on the go – perfect for anywhere and anyone as these are gluten free (if you dust pan with gluten free flour of course). Baked with love – not only better for your budget, but better for your body.

enjoy!

quiche – perfect for everyday

Quiche.
I’m especially fond of its’ versatility. It may be enjoyed warm or at room temperature; it may be prepared ahead of time and frozen or made fresh – though fresh is best; it may be served for lunch, brunch or breakfast and the ingredients can be just about combination of cheese, meat and or vegetable you can think of – not to mention it’s delicious, easier than it looks and fairly inexpensive to make.

Here’s a basic version, adapt as you wish.

For the crust;
Make a single crust (or buy if you prefer).

Need a recipe? See here. Chill dough in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll on lightly floured surface. Size to fit pie plate. Lay sheet of aluminum foil (shiny side down) or parchment paper over the bottom and up sides of crust. Fill with beans, rice or pie weights. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out paper/foil with weights inside. Using a fork, carefully prick the entire bottom of crust and then return to oven for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the entire crust is nicely browned. Let cool on rack. Crust may be made a day ahead of time (simply wrap and store in fridge) and or freeze to use at a later time…while crust is baking assemble your ingredients and begin sauteing your veggies…

1.Saute 1/2 cup chopped onions until browned add 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms and then 1/2 cup chopped broccoli – fresh or frozen.

2. Place sauteed veggies on bottom of baked pie crust. Add a good pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh herbs if you have. Parsley is perfect for just about any combo.

3. Whip 8 eggs with 1/2 cup cream, milk or half and half. Pour custard (egg mixer) over veggies (and meat if using). Top with sliced or grated cheese if desired.

4.Bake in 375 degree oven until the filling is browned and set – about 25-30 minutes. If more time is needed, simply cover quiche (including crust edges) with foil, lightly, and check for doneness periodically. This prevents over browning of the crust.

Bake, chop, saute, mix, pour, bake – that’s it.

More combination ideas – artichoke hearts, garlic, kalamata olives and feta or try diced fresh tomatoes, basil, sauteed onions and goat cheese or add spinach, swiss chard, broccoli or cheddar to any of the above – meat lovers may also like to add cooked sausage or fried chopped bacon…combine what you love.

Keep it simple – prepare a crust ahead of time and use ingredients you have on hand. Quiche. Any time, any day – especially perfect for weekend guests and brunch. Bloody Mary’s anyone?

enjoy.