Friday, February 26

Whittier Art Show

We've been very lucky to participate in the 'Artist in Residence' program at the school these last two weeks. Our artist is local (from Girdwood) stained glass artist Jim Kaiser. Last week we worked on creating individual pieces with each of the kids. This week they each created an individual piece and then all of the pieces from each class were soldered together to make a collaborative class piece to hang in the classroom.

So here's Kelsey soldering the hanger on her individual piece:
And here's her piece:
And here's Stacy soldering the hanger on her individual piece:
And here's her piece:
Finally, here's the preschool class's collaborative piece:
Beautiful, huh?! More pictures over on Fotki, if you're interested!

This Week's Recipe--Chicken Fried Steak and Southern Biscuits


The Recipe

Scott and I have been watching Alton Brown on his show 'Good Eats' the Food Network lately. In our pre-cable days we loved to watch America's Test Kitchen on PBS, but we're finding Alton Brown fills that niche nicely! We've been trying lots of his recipes...and loving most of them! Recently we tried his Chicken Fried Steak and his Southern Biscuits.

To save space, I won't put both recipes here--you can get them from the links above.

Andrea's Kitchen
Scott made the chicken fried steak. He subbed spices for what we had on hand...I'm not sure exactly what he used, but I know we don't have thyme. I followed the biscuits recipe.

The Verdict
Yummity, yum-yummy! By far the best chicken fried steak I've ever eaten and the gravy was darn good, too! It seemed like the sitting for 15 mins before frying made it really crispy. The biscuits were awesome, too. I was happy with the biscuit recipe I was using, but I think it just got replaced! The girls loved it too, although they used ketchup instead of the gravy! :-)

Tuesday, February 23

Market Skirts

While browsing around for a simple project for Stacy to make for Kelsey's birthday (which I found, details here) I came across this tutorial by Dana over at MADE for skirts she calls 'Market Skirts'. I loved the skirts she featured in her photo for their bright colors, but didn't have much in the fabric stash that screamed skirt, but when I came across these two fabrics I liked the combo. The white is from Grandma Paul's fabrics and the black and white I bought for a quilt but never used it. It also made an appearance on the puppet theater I made for the girls for Christmas.

Anyway, I digress! They turned out pretty cute, I think! They were quick--the pockets took the most time. If you look closely you can see that I made buttonholes, but there are no buttons. I have some cute little buttons I was going to use, but I have 4 buttons and 8 buttonholes, so the math doesn't quite come out! Ah well--we'll be in town this weekend if I decide buttons are needed.

Family Photo


Well, what did you expect? People? Oh, silly you! You've met Scott, haven't you? Well then you should know better than to expect a family picture without much bribing and coercion!

These are the famed XtraTuf boots that are ubiquitous here in the 49th state. Apparently you can get them to top your wedding cake or just for your average cupcake occasion!

Anyway...we all love them! Not the most beautiful footwear ever, but some of the most comfortable, I promise!

It's Official!

Well the big day has come and gone and it's official now...Kelsey's 4 years old! This could easily turn into one of those "where has time gone" posts where I reflect on how quickly 4 years have passed since I held my tiny firstborn. I'd rather not make myself cry today though, so we'll save that for another time. Instead here are photos from each of her birthdays to make us all smile and think back.




She had a very fun day, from the time she woke up until she went to bed. There were presents, playing, cupcakes at school, presents, playing, presents, playing, dinner of her choice with chocolate milk, presents, and playing...well, you get the idea! :-)

Stacy again made my heart swell when she opened a package of alphabet beads from some friends and then first thing wanted to make a necklace for Kelsey. She has such a big heart!

Overall it was a fun and special day for all of us. Thank you all for your generosity in Happy Birthday wishes and helping us celebrate! Now...off to start planning for a certain April birthday...

Saturday, February 20

Birthday Sneak Peek

Today is birthday party day at our house. We've invited two families over for dinner and cake. Oh yeah, and ice cream, too!

Kelsey is beyond excited, thanks in part to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse getting her going first thing this morning by running the episode featuring Minnie's surprise birthday party.

It's not dinner time yet, but here are a few sneak peeks for you, faithful reader. Just don't tell Kelsey, OK?? :-)

First, the cake...And here's the purse that Stacy made for her. We followed this tutorial from Leigh Ann over at the Object Project.

And finally, what's a birthday without a crown? I used this pattern from Jessica over at Juicy Bits and sort of followed her tutorial. I didn't have the wool felt she used, but I had plenty of other scraps!


Now...let's party!!

Friday, February 19

This Week's Recipe--English Muffins





The Recipe
Ohhhh...I love English muffins! The recipe I have used before calls for a drier dough that is rolled and cut. It was OK, but not so tender and moist. This recipe is from Alton Brown (from the Food Network) and is yummy, yummy, yummy!

Ingredients

* 1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon shortening
* 1 cup hot water
* 1 envelope dry yeast
* 1/8 teaspoon sugar
* 1/3 cup warm water
* 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
* Non-stick vegetable spray
* Special equipment: electric griddle, 3-inch metal rings, see Cook's Note*

Directions

In a bowl combine the powdered milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, shortening, and hot water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool. In a separate bowl combine the yeast and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in 1/3 cup of warm water and rest until yeast has dissolved. Add this to the dry milk mixture. Add the sifted flour and beat thoroughly with wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

Preheat the griddle to 300 degrees F.

Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to mixture and beat thoroughly. Place metal rings onto the griddle and coat lightly with vegetable spray. Using #20 ice cream scoop, place 2 scoops into each ring and cover with a pot lid or cookie sheet and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and flip rings using tongs. Cover with the lid and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a cooling rack, remove rings and cool. Split with fork and serve.

*Cook's Note: Small tuna cans with tops and bottoms removed work well for metal rings.

Andrea's Kitchen
Hmmm...not sure how old this recipe is, but I haven't seen tuna cans that you can remove the bottom from in a while. After reading all of the comments on the Food Network's site, I went with the tinfoil rings. They're about 1" high and the width of a standard roll of foil. Four layers thick and then I used my stapler to staple them in to circles, the smooth side of the staple on the inside where the batter will be. Then I used a drinking glass to make them more circular. Spray them liberally with non-stick spray and they'll come off beautifully. I am seriously considering investing in some rings made specifically for this purpose.

Since I don't have a griddle, I cooked these on my George Foreman grill. I have to do them in two batches, but no biggie!

The Verdict
These muffins are very popular here, especially with Kelsey and Scott! Kelsey requests them almost daily, and Scott's happy to indulge whenever we have some around. One thing's for sure...they don't last long!

Now--try these for yourself, and let me know what you think! :-)



Wednesday, February 17

Birthday/Easter Dresses Part Two


Here is Kelsey's dress! As I mentioned earlier, this is her birthday/Easter dress. Both dresses need some last minute details--buttons on the back of the pinafore, zippers tacked down etc., but for the most part...complete! And it's not even the night before!

Birthday Excitement

Kelsey's birthday excitement is building! Her birthday is on Monday, but we're having her birthday dinner on Saturday, so she's got two countdowns going. We've invited two other families to celebrate with us. Kelsey's picked the main dish; "chicken on the bone" as the girls call it. The rest of us know it by its more traditional name, oven-fried chicken.

On our last trip to town she picked out Mickey Mouse plates and napkins, so I'm going to make her a Mickey Mouse cake. She hasn't decided if it will be chocolate or yellow just yet.

Stacy's pretty excited too. She and I made a purse for Kelsey, following this tutorial over at the Object Project. Super cute!

This morning Kelsey asked me if I would please wrap her presents so she could think about unwrapping them. I thought it was pretty cute, and I just may wrap something up for her after the girls are in bed tonight!

Monday, February 15

Birthday/Easter Dresses Part One


Every year I make my girls birthday dresses that double as Easter dresses. Since their birthdays are so close to Easter I make them one dress apiece and it does "double duty". I have fond memories of the Easter dresses my mom used to make my sister and I. It was a big deal to me and continues to be a big deal for me as a mom myself now.

I tend to go for more traditional dresses, so this year we have a dress and pinafore combo. The pictured dress is Stacy's. Because Kelsey's needed a bit of altering done to the pattern, I finished Stacy's first, so I could try Stacy's "from the pattern" pinafore on Kelsey's altered dress to see how much length I needed to add to Kelsey's.

Anyway...Kelsey's dress is soon to follow!

A Question for YOU!

Let's try something new! Leave your answer to the following question in the comments section below! Looking forward to hearing what all of you have to say!

Question: What is your oldest possession?

I *think* my oldest possession is a little ledger-type notebook that I got from Grandma Paul. Her mother used it to record births and deaths in the front and recipes in the latter part. I'd guess it's 90+ years old.

Sooooo...what's yours??

Saturday, February 13

Hobby Horses


Well, like all truly creative people (or so I keep telling myself!) I don't *always* get projects done on time. So here's a tardy Christmas gift for the girls that became a Valentine's Day gift.


I mostly used this tutorial from Create Everyday. Later I found this one from Disney's Family Fun which is awfully cute, too!

Hopefully they'll be a hit tomorrow morning!

PS--I know you're all jealous of my FABULOUS carpet! :-)

Friday, February 12

This Week's Recipe--Cheeseburger Cups

Cheeseburger Cups
I know the name of this recipe is odd, but I didn't name it! At our house we called them 'Cheeseburger Cupcakes' which is no less strange I admit, but anything with 'cupcakes' in the name is *much* more likely to be liked by my little ladies. Who eats muffins for breakfast? Not us! We eat breakfast cupcakes!

Anyway...on to the recipe!

This recipe and photo are from the September/October 2009 issue of Simple and Delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • 1/2 cup cubed process cheese (Velveeta)

Directions

  • In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  • Press each biscuit onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased muffin cup. Spoon beef mixture into cups; top with cheese cubes. Bake at 400° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 5 servings.
Andrea's Kitchen
I used grated cheddar instead of Velveeta.

The Verdict
Creepy recipe name, but YUMMY! Scott liked them and the girls ate them too! I had the girls help me roll the biscuits out flat before we put them into the muffin tin and then sprinkle the cheese on top after I spooned the meat in. They like to be involved in the cooking and it ups the likelihood that they'll like dinner. It worked today! A definite 'do over' for our family!

**update 6/5/10**
To make breakfast cups whip 5 or 6 eggs with a splash of milk and pour into the cups, on top of the rolled out biscuits. Top with ham, bacon, diced peppers, cheese, etc. Bake as directed above, checking eggs for doneness (they should be set in the middle, not liquid) before removing them from the oven. YUM!!

Thursday, February 11

Wednesday, February 10

Growing Up

Let's see if I can get this up today! I am trying to post M-W-F and once on the weekend, but life caught up with me yesterday and I didn't quite get everything on the "to do" list finished.

Last week I posted about the excellent day the girls had--playing together all day, hardly fighting. It was marvelous and I remember it well! But here's the thing...it was followed by another, and another, and another! Of course there are the occasional squabbles, but we've seen a big jump in maturity this month. It seems that Stacy's ability to 'play pretend' has reached a point that she and Kelsey are able to pretend together and understand each other. They've developed a number little games they like to play. They like to 'play baby' which involves one of them pretending to be a baby and one of them pretending to be the mom. They also like to 'play store' where Kelsey is the shopkeeper and Stacy and I are customers. She's got some business sense to pick up, though. She's a very generous merchant, always giving away at least as much merchandise as we've paid for!

So I guess it's true--they're growing up! And while I miss my baby girls, it's so much fun to watch them grow and learn!

Monday, February 8

10 Things I Love About Visiting Home

Now that we've been back in Alaska a while since our Christmas trip down south, I was thinking back to our visit and thinking about some things I really enjoyed about our visit. So here it goes!
  1. Catching up with family and friends
  2. Watching the girls reunite with Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, and Uncles
  3. Visiting our old pets--I'm so grateful for family who took them in! Even though it's tough to see them and have them not be "ours" it's wonderful to be able to visit them.
  4. A break from being the head meal planner and chef
  5. Doing laundry without rides in the elevator and trips up and down the stairs
  6. The quiet at night--between the railroad and the barges it's never quiet in Whittier at night!
  7. Darkness at night--it sounds funny I know--Alaska's got a reputation for being dark all winter, but if you've ever checked out the 14th floor webcam after "dark" you'll see what I mean! Those *bright* lights shine right into our bedroom!
  8. Shopping without rushing to catch the tunnel, hours in the car, and dragging the girls all over town in just a few short hours.
  9. Being away from home for a few weeks makes all the toys at home really fun again when we get back!
  10. The closer proximity to child care and stores means I get to run a few errands on my own--getting my hair cut, browsing the fabric store, etc.

Friday, February 5

Playing in the Snow

It's been snowing here for about 30 hours straight and we're under a blizzard warning until sometime tomorrow. About 2 feet so far, so the girls and I had to go out this afternoon and check it out! We enjoyed sledding--oddly enough we haven't been able to do this much this winter, but it was perfect today! There's a nice pile of snow on the west end of the building and burms around it to keep them out of the street--the ideal set up for two little girls! There are pictures up on Fotki, too--enjoy!

This Week's Recipe--Speedy Wheat Hamburger Buns

The Recipe

I've wanted to try hamburger buns for a long time so after much naptime Googling, I settled on this recipe to try.

Speedy Wheat Hamburger Buns
Adapted from Recipezaar by One Frugal Foodie

2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose or white bread flour
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the oil and sugar, and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.

Add the egg, salt, white flour, and 1 1/2 cups of the wheat flour, combining until it forms a soft dough. Add the additional 1/4 cup of wheat flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands (if you need a little more, that is okay too). Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes or so.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces, shape each into a thick disc, and place them on baking sheets about 3 inches apart.

Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Lightly cover the balls of dough and let them rest for about 10 minutes (or longer if you wish).

Pop them in the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Yields 8 buns

Andrea's Kitchen

I actually just followed this recipe--no changes!

The Results

YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY! I served them the first time with salmon burgers. The salmon burgers were not so great, but the buns carried them through! The next time we had beef burgers (courtesy of my George Foreman grill, my new favorite kitchen appliance!!) and they were every bit as yummy!

Wednesday, February 3

BIG Day in Whittier


Do you see it? Look closely at the picture. Now do you see it? Yes--you're right! Those are shadows and that's DIRECT SUN shining on Whittier!

If you haven't been reading the blog long, let me catch you up. As a result of Whittier's location nestled on the north side of the mountains we have not had direct sun in town since November! We have been blessed with lots of sun reflecting off the mountains across the way, though.

Welcome back, Mr. Sun! We've missed seeing you! We look forward to you bathing our entire town in your warm rays soon!

If they sold lottery tickets in Whittier...

...I would have purchased some yesterday--just to see if my luck would hold! I don't even know if Alaska has a lottery system, but it would have been worth researching. What a great day we had yesterday. What made it so great?

The girls got along. All day.

Yup! You read that right! No fighting, bickering, arguing, or nastiness. Just games and smiles and helping each other all day long. It was wonderful! If I had a copy machine for days I would have made 364 copies to last me all year long.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled 'programming'! :-)

Monday, February 1

A Trip to Town

Sooooo...you wanted to hear more about life in Whittier, huh? Well, one of the quirks about living in Whittier is the one-way dual-use tunnel that we have to use to access the outside world (for more about the tunnel visit here). The tunnel toll is $12 cash, or you can purchase a booklet of 30 tickets which brings the price down to $7.50 per trip. Leaving town is free--you pay to come back! The toll combined with the weather have made leaving town just for the heck of it pretty unattractive. We're saving up our trips for the summer when we can travel around Alaska more!

As a result of all of this, we've been going to Anchorage monthly to do ALL of our shopping. Yup, ALL of it! Well, except that part which I do on Amazon!! :-) So this weekend we found ourselves due for one of those marathon trips.

We took the first tunnel out of town at 7am. In a stroke of what turned out to be genius, I packed "Grandpa O's" (honey nut Cheerios) in baggies for the girls to have for breakfast in the car. This turned out to be great entertainment for at least half of the drive. Since it's over an hour in the dark it's pretty boring for the girls.

We arrived safely in Anchorage after a very foggy drive. Between 8:30 and 1pm we went to Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, B&Js, REI, JoAnn Fabrics, Costco, and Home Depot. Not bad, huh? We like to be driving home at nap time, so we caught the 2:30 tunnel back into town and the commenced all of the unloading and putting away. Thankfully the BTI is equipped with 2 loading docks and flat wheeled carts to facilitate unloading all that stuff and getting it up to your apartment. Good foresight on the part of the army, who originally built the building!

The girls spent the afternoon playing and then we had some friends come over for dinner with their 6 month old son. The girls always love a fresh audience and a baby!!