Pre-K Graduation and a Refreshing Teacher Gift

Where does the time go? The end of the school year is upon us! Gemma graduated from Pre-K today, and I was a bit teary-eyed as she performed her last preschool show and walked to get her certificate before shaking hands with her teachers.

pre k grad certificate medal

family pic pre k grad day

We have been very blessed to have such a warm, engaging preschool environment at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Preschool for the last three years. Gemma’s teachers over the years were always such a joy, offering their kind souls, encouragement, guidance, patience and smiling faces every day in each classroom. If you live in the Durham/Chapel Hill area and are searching for a wonderful preschool, I highly encourage you to check out St. Stephens!

To honor the Pre-K teachers at the end of this school year, the parents got together to give our three classroom teachers, a music teacher and the preschool director a fresh, practical gift they and their families can use throughout the year, especially during our warm summer months.

water infuser, citrus fruit and mint plant

We gifted each teacher with a water infuser/pitcher (Crate and Barrel) filled with lemons, limes and a sprig of fresh mint plus their own potted mint plant (Home Depot). We included a recipe for Citrus-Mint Infused Water, and the kids all autographed a special card.

Citrus-Mint Water

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 4-6 mint leaves
  • 1 half-gallon of cold water

Cut citrus into thin slices and remove seeds. Insert citrus slices and mint leaves into infuser insert. Fill pitcher with cold water. Insert infuser into pitcher. Chill in refrigerator. Sip and enjoy!!!

I also love these four recipes from Lauren Conrad (orange-lemon-lime; lemon-raspberry-mint;  lemon-cucumber-mint; and blackberry-cherry-lime). If you get bored with plain ice water, as I do, an infuser is a great way to offer your body nourishment with a wonderful flavor!

infusers and citrus fruits

citrus mint water recipe

teacher card

mint plant

gemma and teacher gifts

Special Notes:

  • Recycle those paper bags from grocery or retail purchases! Don’t want the Whole Foods logo emblazoned on a gift bag? Just use colorful paper (or some of your child’s drawings on paper) to mask the logo and create a fun, colorful bag appropriate for gifting!

recycled gift bag

  • When gifting a potted plant, be thoughtful of your recipient’s ability to transport (if it’s not going to their home directly). I made sure to drain as much water from the pot base before placing the pot on a stack of coffee filters (to help absorb moisture) and then wrapped the base of the pot in a plastic bag to catch additional leaks. You can then use ribbon or a bow to decorate the bag or pot and give it some flair.

mint plant prep

Strawberry Season and a Family Treasure

It surely doesn’t get any better than the taste of a warm, sweet strawberry eaten straight from the garden!

We’re in prime strawberry season here in North Carolina, and I’m super excited to take Gemma pickin’ this Friday. With her preschool schedule, Friday’s are the only day we can get out early to snag some good berries before the fields are picked clean.

If you’re anything like us, we pick way more than we could possibly consume (before the mush and mold set in thanks to our humid climate…more on this dilemma later). One year, we picked two flats (or 8 quarts)…we made a few pies and ate berries for breakfast (sliced on cereal), lunch (as a side dish), and dinner (with sweet corn and grilled chicken). A year later, my mom was in town, and we got so many strawberries I was able to freeze 6 quart-sized ziplock bags of them before they expired…and then it took a whole year of smoothies to use them up.

I hate to say I won’t make that mistake again…but let’s be real…I’ll gladly make that mistake again if it means I can indulge in locally grown, succulent strawberries!

While our real ‘field trip’ isn’t until this Friday, G and I cheated and grabbed a flat of berries from Jean’s Berry Patch earlier this week so we could share with you my grandmother’s famous strawberry pie recipe!

Oh, and here’s a trick for washing your berries so they stay fresh longer…“How to Wash Your Fruit” from the Made from Pinterest blog.

I truly hope you enjoy this family favorite as much as we do!!!

strawberry pie recipe

Grandma Bratland’s Strawberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (let stand to room temperature)
  • 1 pie crust (I prefer to use the Pillsbury pie crust from the roll section but you can make from scratch or use a frozen pie crust already in a foil pie pan, as well.)

Step 1. Bake pie crust according to instructions. Let crust cool completely. Here

  • Brush your crust with a coat of lightly beaten egg white to help give it a shiny, golden finish. Visit the kitchn for tips on how to achieve various results with different glazes, including this one: “Finishing Touches: How to Get a Perfect Golden Pie Crust
  • Cover the edges of your pie crust with aluminum foil to avoid over-browning of your exposed crusts. I typically bake per pie crust instructions, then remove the foil 2-3 minutes shy of total baking time…allows the crust to brown without getting too crispy.

strawberry pie shells

Step 2. In a mixing bowl, whip room-temp cream cheese until it reaches a spreading consistency. Carefully spread cream cheese mixture onto bottom of cooled pie crust.

Step 3. Cut 1/2 quart of strawberries into slices and place them (flat) over top of the cream cheese layer in pie crust.

layered strawberries on cream cheese base

Step 4. Cut remaining 1/2 quart of strawberries into small pieces and put in saucepan. Add sugar and cornstarch and cook ingredients over medium heat until sauce thickens and berries soften (approx 30 minutes).

strawberries sugar cornstarch  strawberry sauce

Step 5. Allow sauce to cool and then pour over previously layered berries in pie crust.

strawberry sauce in crust

Step 6. (WARNING: THIS IS THE HARDEST STEP!!!!) Chill 3-4 hours in refrigerator. After pie has set, slice and serve with homemade whipped cream (I like this easy tutorial from My Frugal Adventures) or Redi-Whip.

finished strawberry pie

I think this one’s a winner!!!

strawberry pie winner

 

 

 

 

Vintage China Cabinet

Last fall, in a moment of pure adrenaline, I snagged a china cabinet from our local ReStore. I had great expectations and quickly removed all the hardware, then let the poor thing sit idle in a corner of our dining room until last week. With our big, multi-family garage sale coming up this week, I knew I needed to give this beautiful beast a makeover and find her another home.

ChinaCabinet2014B_A.jpg

Luckily, the bones on this girl were solid, and I didn’t have any major issues during her transformation.

I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White on the exterior (and inside the lower cabinet) and Duck Egg inside the upper cabinet and inside the single drawer. She has some great lines and I love the lattice-work overlay on the glass doors. The medallion drawer pulls were in perfect condition and only needed a little CLR to remove some rust and shine them up.

She’s now listed on craigslist (for a mere $250) and will be on display this weekend. Fingers crossed she finds her “soul-home”!!!

Here are a few more pics showcasing her details and road to stardom:

ChinaCabinet2014B_A2.jpg

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UPDATE: (May 11, 2014)

I sold the cabinet!!! Yay! So glad she found a home and will be proudly displaying a Raleigh woman’s 1950’s-era bone china set in her dining room. It’s a little like letting go of a child. While I didn’t have a personal connection to the piece per se, it did take some blood, sweat and tears to get her into a valuable state, so it’s a bittersweet day. Now…what do do next???!!!

my love is…

I’m so excited to share this latest art project, entitled “my love is…”, which Gemma and I created for her bedroom. I wish I could share a fun story of how the theme came to be but honestly it was one of those “huh, that might be cute” ideas which slowly formed one afternoon as I watched Gemma paint randomness on a cold, winter day.

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She took great care creating a night sky, an underwater world, and a rainbow. So, after the paint dried, we embellished each one with glitter, sequins and foil, then stenciled some creative text onto each of the corresponding mats (included with the frames we bought). The main text is “my love is…” and the three art images read:

  • deeper than the ocean“,
  • brighter than the stars“,
  • beautiful as a rainbow“.

She loves seeing her artwork adorn her walls, and knowing we created this together makes me smile each time to walk into her room. This project is super easy, and the best part is your child’s artwork makes each piece unique!

Here’s a brief tutorial to help you create your own “my love is…” art installation. Great for a child’s nursery/bedroom or playroom.

Materials:

  • 4 –  12″ x 12″ (with 8″ x 8″ matte/window) picture frames
  • letter-sized card stock printer paper
  • paints, brushes, glitter, foil, glue (and any other materials you wish to create the art…like googly eyes!)
  • printer
  • nails, hammer, tissue paper, tape, level

Step 1. Let your child create three basic landscapes. If they’re on the younger side, you can embellish the art or feel free to leave it as-is.

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Step 2. While they paint, you create the text graphic “my love is…” in a Word doc (or freehand or let your child write it in their own handwriting!) and print on your 8.5″x11″ card stock paper. Trim paper down and affix in one of your frames.

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Step 2.  Insert each piece into the matching frames, including the “my love is…” text graphic. This is also a good time to write/stencil the corresponding text onto each mat board, as well (…”deeper than the ocean, etc.).

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Step 3. To ensure the frames are hung straight, here’s a little trick you can use. Cut tissue paper to the size of the frames (see above tissue peeking out from behind frames) and use a pen to mark the placement of the sawtooth hanger/hook on each sheet of tissue. Using a level, “hang”/tape the tissue to the wall where you wish to hang the frames. Hammer your nails through the tissue at the hook/hanger mark and hang the frames to ensure they are where you want them. Don’t forget to remove the tissue when you’ve got perfect placement.

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Hope you enjoy some creative time with your little one and cherish this art your child’s special space!

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Back in the Saddle with Big News and Shoe Goo (UPDATED!)

Well, hello there stranger! It feels good to be back online. I took a brief (2 months?!) hiatus from blogging to enjoy the holidays, travel and focus on my family. To say the last few months has been a roller coaster is an understatement.

To make the long story short…after several weeks of negotiations (and more than a few emotional ebbs and flows), my husband’s company was bought out by a well-known, publicly traded media company (click here to see press release). Woo-hooooo! It’s a win for both companies, and the team is excited to be part of a revolution in the industry.  I’m elated to have my husband back (physically, emotionally and spiritually, ha!), and Gemma is enjoying the extra attention and playtime she’s getting from daddy. We’re looking forward to a quick family getaway this weekend to Wintergreen (Virginia) to ski, ice skate and make great memories!

And while I’m on the subject of cold weather, we’ve had our fair share of freezing temps this winter…even a few snow/ice days (rare, for NC). While packing for our weekend trip, I found my favorite pair of snow boots. They are comfy, warm and unfortunately, the outer rubber shell has cracked. Honestly, I’ve only worn these boots a total of 12-15 days in the last 6 years!

When I first noticed the problem last spring, I contacted the manufacturer and learned the boots have a lifetime warranty for defects (and Columbia admitted these were a defective style). I was pleasantly surprised to get a brand new replacement pair of boots in the mail a few weeks after submitting my documentation. However, I was bummed I didn’t get to choose a comfortable style (to address my wide foot) or color (to coordinate with my existing winter wardrobe). The new boots are okay. Wouldn’t have chosen (bleh) brown or a boot with the higher ankle shaft (as the top of the shaft on the new boots digs into my calf when I walk). But they were free…so I really shouldn’t complain, right?!

old boots new boots

I’ve worn the new pair a few times (even despite the fashion-clash…oh, the horror! LOL) but held onto the old boots with hopes I might be able to repair them. So earlier this week I found myself fresh off an REI-run where not one, not two, but three employees were eager to help me find a solution to heal my broken boot.

cracked boot

We settled on a fix-it collection of 1) Shoe Goo (a waterproof adhesive/sealant; $6, REI), 2) ParkTool TB-2 Emergency (bike) Tire Boot (a thin, reinforced adhesive tire boot film; $3.50, REI), 3) Tenacious Tape Patches (round adhesive patches similar to duct tape; $2.95, REI), and 4) a 10-inch piece of bicycle inner tubing from the REI recycle bin (FREE thanks to the bike shop attendant).

boot repair options

After closer inspection, I decided the Shoe Goo and Tenacious Tape patches would likely be my best options. So here’s how my experiment went…

Step 1. Cleaned the surface of the boot. Stuffed the toe of the boot with paper towels.

Step 2. Used a popsicle stick to apply a thin layer of Shoe Goo to the open crack base layer and between all open edges of cracked rubber. Cut a piece of Tenacious Tape patch to roughly the size of the cracked opening and wedged that piece inside the opening to seal the inner soft shell and create a new base layer for the next step of Shoe Goo. 

Shoe Goo to inner shell

Tenacious Tape patch to create new base layer

Step 3. Used a popsicle stick to apply another layer of Shoe Goo between the layer of Tenacious Tape patch and the outer rubber layer. I made a make-shift compress using popsicle sticks and rubber bands to keep pressure on outer rubber layer and then let the first layer of Shoe Goo dry for 2 hours. Repeated this step and let dry for 3 hours before removing the compress.

Shoe Goo under compression

Step 4. Cut another piece of Tenacious Tape patch and affixed to entire cracked area to seal Shoe Goo, making sure to press all edges to ensure tight seal.

Tenacious Tape seal

"Fixed" boots

I’m hopeful this will give extended life to my winter boots, and our weekend on the mountain will be a great test of the waterproofing and durability/adhesion capabilities of the Tenacious Tape.

I’ll post a follow-up next week with the results of this project. At least I know I have a back-up pair of boots waiting for me at home if this doesn’t turn out as I hope it will! Until then, I hope y’all have a great weekend!! Stay warm and snuggle with your loved ones!

UPDATE (2/10/14): Despite my well-intentioned DIY attempt to fix my favorite snow boots, I am sad to report it was not a success. I can safely say the boot itself became an epic fail. Not only did the spot I fixed begin to tear around the edge of my glue/tape but new cracks began to open on the other boot (in no less than 4 different spots). Its clear the rubber on these boots was indeed defective (as Columbia admitted), and I was possibly too optimistic I could salvage them. I’m happy I got another weekend out of them before tossing them out. Now to break in my replacement pair (and just in time as we’re expected to get another bit of snow or ice this week…yay, grrrr!).

more cracks in the rubber

more cracks in the rubber 2

Special Delivery: Gift Cards

This year the families from Gemma’s preschool class combined forces to get the teachers gift cards to their favorite stores and restaurants for Christmas. Here’s an idea for how to package those cards and give the teachers a little something extra for all care and guidance they give our kids!

gift card boxwood planters

Materials:

  • Boxwood or other potted plant (We found mini boxwoods in wood planters at Trader Joe’s.)
  • Gift cards
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors
  • Optional: colorful tinsel garland, small ornament(s)

Step 1. Wrap your gift cards in pipe cleaners to resemble bows on a present. Wrap your gift card vertically with one pipe cleaner, leaving a long end to thread through a drinking straw. Wrap a second pipe cleaner horizontally from behind, twisting or making a bow with the ends on the front.

Step 2. Insert straw in dirt of potted plant; you may wish to cut your straws to create varied heights for the “presents”. Insert your pipe cleaner/gift card into a straw.

Step 3. (Optional) Tuck some tree garland around the base and add a few ornaments (we used a foam craft gingerbread ornament which Gemma made at home).

gift card boxwood planter

This is a fun way to package gift card presents for anyone on your wish list!!

Norwegian Krumkake

The holiday season is the best time to celebrate traditions and feed your soul. My celebration couldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned baked goods, and this year I’m including a family favorite which represents my Scandinavian heritage. Krumkake (krmk), is best described as a fancy waffle cookie and simply translates to curved cake in Norwegian.

Krumkake recipe

krumkake

My mother and grandmothers made this delicate treat each holiday season, and as a child I’ll admit it wasn’t the first item I chose from the dessert tray. No, I lunged for anything with sprinkles, chocolate or caramel. However, as an adult, I have come to love this crispy, sweet-tasting cookie and decided to make a batch myself. Lucky for you, I’m sharing my recipe (a slight variation from the one pictured above) and some tips you can use to make your own krumkake.

To make krumkake, you will need a special krumkake iron, available online from Villa Ware through Amazon or other specialty retailers (~$100). I received mine as a gift from my mother, who incidentally uses a traditional stove-top iron vs. my electric, non-stick iron. Your iron will come with a wooden cone to roll/shape the cookies. You’ll need a large cooking space, a timer, and a spatula to remove the cookie from the hot iron once it’s done. As you can see below, I wasn’t sure what type of spatula would work best. The slotted, stiff spatula did the trick.

krumkake_materials

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Step 1. Preheat krumkake iron. Grease iron with cooking spray or shortening.

krumkake_iron

Step 2. Beat eggs with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid mixer.

krumkake_eggs

Step 3. Add sugar, butter, vanilla and cardamom and mix well.

krumkake_sugar krumkake_butter

krumkake_vanilla krumkake_cardamom

Step 4. Add flour and milk, alternating a little of each and mixing well as you go. The batter should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter.

krumkake_flour krumkake_milk

Step 5. Spoon a tablespoon-sized dollop of batter in the center of each krumkake plate and close the iron. Let the batter bake for 30-45 seconds.

krumkake_batter

Step 6. Open the iron and use a spatula to remove the cookie from the plate and set on a towel/countertop. Use the wooden mold to roll the cookie into a cone shape. Allow cookie to set a few seconds before transferring to a cooling rack. The cookie will be soft when you remove it from the oven and will crisp up as it cools. Repeat until you’ve used all the dough.

krumkake_baked krumkake_baked spatula krumkake_roller krumkake_rolled

Step 7. You may wish to sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar for additional sweetness, or serve with berries, jam, whipped cream or Nutella. Be sure to store krumkake in a covered cake pan or other airtight container (to avoid humidity as they will stale quickly otherwise).

I love the traditional krumkake cone however I also love waffle cones with my fro-yo and ice cream. After making about half the batch, I decided to experiment a bit using some nesting bowls to create some krumkake bowls for my frozen delights. I was pleasantly surprised to see these turn out so well!

Instead of rolling the cookie on the cone, I simply placed the warm cookie over top of the smaller glass bowl, then cupped the larger glass bowl over the top to mold it into a bowl shape. I let each one cool for 30 seconds before transferring to a cooling rack, placing them upside down to keep their shape until they cool completely.

krumkake_glass nesting bowls

krumkake_bowl mold

YUMMO!!!

krumkake_fro-yo

Yield: 24

Special Notes: