Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kit's Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It is almost November, and it finally feels like Fall! So, this is the perfect time for Kit's Spicy Pumpkin Soup. Kit is not only a truly amazing woman, she is also one of the best cooks I know. (Thank you, dear friend, for this taste of autumn. I think of you every time I make it.)

This recipe is easy, nutritious and delicious:

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

1 T oil (I use olive oil)
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
4 c chicken broth (from bullion cubes) or vegetable broth
1 15 oz can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 c bottled medium spicy salsa
1 19 oz can chick peas, rinsed, (or black beans, if you prefer)
1 c corn kernels, canned or frozen

Heat oil in a 3 quart saucepan. Add garlic and chili powder and ground cumin. Stir over medium heat for one minute. Add broth. Stir in chick peas, pumpkin, corn and salsa. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes to develop flavors. Serve with cheese and sour cream.
Note: You can add cooked, diced chicken for the meat-lovers in your family.

This soup pairs beautifully with biscuits, yummy rolls, tortilla chips, or crusty artisan breads. For a sweeter mix, make up a batch of these easy Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins. (Make that three ingredients if you throw in a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips--which, of course, you should.)

1 Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz can solid pack pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake mix and pumpkin well with mixer. (Add chocolate chips, if desired.)  Fill muffin papers 2/3 full. Bake 14 to 17 minutes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Toddler Time - Making Patterns and Pictures with Shapes

These little beauties have been some of my best friends lately. My 2-year old loves to play with them. And the best news of all is that I found them in the dollar bins at Target. They are basically inch-long multi-colored shapes that come with multi-colored shoelace strings. My little girl does like to thread the shapes onto the strings (although I had to wrap tape around the top of the shoelaces a few times so that it was easier for her to get the shoelace through the holes). But I wanted to find different ways to use them. So I decided to make some basic pictures using the shapes that she could then use as patterns. I laminated the pictures I made and now she can play with them by putting the correct colored shape onto the corresponding one in the pictures. 

Below are some examples of the patterns I came up with. (Important reminder: I am NOT an artist or graphic designer nor did I spend much time creating these. I usually leave the crafty blog posts to my very talented sisters and mother. So don't expect amazing. I just wanted to give you examples of things you could do--and yours will probably turn out a lot better than mine. Luckily, my 2-year old can't see my artistic deficiencies....yet.)

My 2-year old has been having a lot of fun with these. She likes to put the wooden shapes onto the patterns and she likes to make pictures of her own by putting the shapes on blank white pieces of paper.

Another fun thing to do is string some of the blocks onto one of the shoelaces into a pattern: i.e. yellow star, blue circle, green star, red circle, blue star... and then have your child choose what shape should come next. Then they can recreate the pattern on their own shoelace.

Anywho, just wanted to share some fun we have been having at our house these last few weeks. There are similar things like this that you can buy, but they cost $15 or more...which isn't a ton, but I made mine for $3. So go find some jumbo lacing beads in the dollar bins and have some fun!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Toddler Crafts: Halloween Pumpkin

So I had the great privilege of nannying a sweet and precocious 2.5-year-old last autumn. Blue-eyed and curly haired, she was the kind of 2-year-old all mothers dream of having: beautiful, energetic, and very smart. It quickly became apparent to me that Hannah wasn't going to be content playing with the same toys and following the very same routine every day; I needed to find new and interesting things for us to make and discover together.

Ergo, I starting coming up with crafts for us to do together. I'm all about frugality, so I loved using materials that I either already had on hand or that are cheap and convenient to buy. I also needed each project to be toddler-friendly, something that could be completed before an eager little girl lost interest and without the prospect of incidental injury. I also found it helpful to theme our crafts around the seasons or upcoming holidays. Kids love holidays, right? And so do I! So, without further ado...

Halloween Pumpkin Craft
(for Toddlers!) 

 What You'll Need:

  • A new roll of toilet paper
  • Orange tissue paper
  • Green and black construction paper
  • Glue (or tape, if you prefer)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

For the pumpkin: Smooth out your tissue paper on a flat surface (I found that my particular sheet was large enough to fold in half). Place the toilet paper roll upright in the center of the rectangle (or square) of tissue paper. Starting with the center of one side, pull the tissue paper up against the side of the toilet paper roll and tuck the excess into the hole at the top. Continue to smooth the paper up against the roll and tuck it in the top until the whole roll is covered in paper. For a smoother look, you can pleat the tissue paper as you go.

For the stem: There are lots of different approaches here. You can fill in the top hole with a tuft of green or brown tissue paper if you have any handy. I personally like a more solid stem, so Hannah and I cut a long rectangle of green construction paper approximately 4 inches wide. We rolled it into a cylinder and put it into the hole at the top of our pumpkin to judge how thick we should make our stem. Once we determined the right fit, we glued the stem to size and put it back in the top hole. With the tissue paper packed around it, the stem didn't really need anything else to keep it in place. However, if you want a sturdy pumpkin, you can glue the stem to the cardboard toilet paper roll; you just need your paper cylinder to reach past the tucked tissue paper.

For the vines: Cut long, half inch strips of green construction paper. Place the end of a strip against the flat side of one of the scissor blades. With the end in one hand and your thumb keeping the paper in place against the scissors, pull the scissors up the length of the strip of paper (like you're curling  wrapping-paper ribbon!) Did you know construction paper curled like that? I had no idea. I like the effect, though. Glue or tape the vines to the stem (or if

All that is left is to cut out the jack-o-lantern features and glue them to the front of your pumpkin (meaning the smoothest part you can find, probably.) I let Hannah pick the shapes for the eyes and nose as well as how many teeth our jack-o-lantern mouth would have. She did an excellent job, n'est pas?

That's it! Our pumpkin Jack sat proudly on the mantel all the way into November, and we were awfully proud of him. You and your little one will be, too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pencil Skirt for 18" Dolls 101

One of the wonderful things about dolls is the way that they can bring mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters--females of all ages--together. This little tutorial can help with that in a couple of ways. On one hand, this is something easy that you can make for a little girl you love for Christmas--or "just because." If you are feeling even more adventuresome, it is something that you can make with your daughter. All you need is a small piece of fabric and about a foot of 1/4" elastic. It is that easy!

First, choose your material. You will need a piece that is 6 by 14 inches. I have gobs of fabric, so finding a scrap that size is never a problem. But even if you aren't a fabric junkie like I am, chances are you have a piece that big lying around your house--in an old skirt you never wear, in the leg of a pair of jeans your husband needs to throw out, or in the back of an old shirt. (If you haven't done much sewing, I would avoid using knits--like t-shirt material--because stretchy is harder to work with.) I used a scrap of black corduroy; denim is another great option because it goes with everything.

Start by folding in 1/4" of fabric to the wrong side of both long edges and zigzagging it in place to create a neat edge:

Choose one of the long edges, fold it over again, and stitch along the inside finished edge to create a hem. Be sure to back-stitch at both ends to keep the threads from pulling loose.

Fold the top of the other long edge over 1/2" to create a waistband casing for your elastic. Stitch it in place with a straight stitch along the inside edge. Be sure to back-stitch at both ends to keep the threads from pulling loose.

Cut a piece of 1/4" elastic 10 1/2" long. Pin a safety pin to one end of the elastic making sure that it is secure. Insert the pin end of the elastic into the waist-band casing and start pushing it along the casing toward the open end.

When you reach the point that your elastic is about to disappear, stop long enough to stitch across the end so that it won't pull through.

Finish feeding the elastic through the casing, unpin the safety pin--holding onto the elastic so that it doesn't slip back into the casing--and then stitch that end of the elastic in place. (Because the elastic is shorter than the width of the skirt, it will gather the skirt top as you feed it through the casing and sew it in place to create a stretchy waistband that will make it easy to put on and take off the skirt.)

Fold the skirt in half with right sides together, matching raw edges. Stitch a 1/4" seam from the top of the skirt to the bottom making sure to back-stitch both at the beginning and the end. (To help your skirt last longer, zigzag the seam edges to keep them from fraying.)

Turn your brand new skirt inside out--and try it on!