Friday, February 21, 2014

Garlic in the Garden and Wooden Play Food

The sun has come out! I was beginning to doubt Orphan Annie's promise of the Sun Coming Out Tomorrow, after days of gray very rainy wet weather. But I was happy to look out my window today and see beautiful sunshine pouring in! I figured I had better head out to the garden while I had the sun break to check on my garlic plants, as well as make note of the general state of the garden. I spent the morning placing one of my seed orders and I have big plans for the garden this year. :)

Here are some pictures of my sunny garden, the little Narcissus have bloomed, and the little gnomes are peaking out from behind some spring weeds that have popped up, the sky is a beautiful blue!

I planted a bunch of garlic last fall, most of it is doing well, some were hit a bit hard by our winter blast earlier in the month, but I have hope that they will pop back.  It is definitely time to schedule some weeding before it gets out of hand! The elephant garlic in the top left hand corner are doing great, very large bulbs, and much larger than the other garlic, I am very excited to try it this year. My leeks which I planted last spring are still growing away, but have a bit to go, it will be interesting to see how they do, I have a very wonderful classic leek soup recipe that I am eager to make.

I love getting back out into the garden every spring, not to long until I can get my early spring planting done.

In addition to my excitement about the upcoming gardening season, I had a very enjoyable time last week with a three day visit from my young niece and nephew. We always have a fun time, and it is a good excuse to bring out some of Sarah and Joe's old toys as well as some of my own toy collections to play with. It was also a fun reason to purchase the beautiful Haba and Melissa and Doug Wooden Play food I have always been so fond of, but had no reason to buy!  I thought I would share some pictures of these wonderful toys, they are so nicely made and will last for years.

This first set is from Haba and is made in Germany, this is such a cute set. All the food comes in little tins, and each tin is full of tiny wooden play food, with very nice detail. You can click on the picture to see a larger image. My niece especially enjoyed them. I will say though that these tins are very tiny, with very tiny pieces, definitely only for older children as the pieces are a choking hazard, the tin says ages 3 and up, but I would wait until school age or only with close supervision. Since I collect tin toys and have always enjoyed miniatures, these are right up my alley, they look charming, and would be a nice addition to a play room.

The second type of play food I bought were Melissa and Doug brand wooden foods, the fridge and pantry sets, and canned food set. These were also impressive, and very well made, the fridge and pantry sets are all made of wood, the canned food sets are made of sturdy cardboard with plastic removable lids. These toys were perfect for playing grocery store. I can tell these will last a long time, I love the detail, and am partial to wooden toys.

I think it's nice to have a few good quality toys on hand, even when you don't have young children, it is nice to have something to bring out for younger relatives, and for visitors who bring little ones. I keep the toys stored neatly in my garage and coat closet so I can bring them out quickly when company arrives, and then tidy just as quickly when they leave. When my children were little it was so nice to know that when we would visit my mom or grandma that they had a special box of toys for the kids to play with. The kids really looked forward to playing with toys that they only got to play with at grandma's house. My niece and nephew are the same way, every time they visit they look forward to getting out the storage totes of toys, and it makes the visit fun for them.

The bookcases are transformed into a grocery store.

And my baskets become shopping totes.

Definitely a fun time!

Hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Here are my Amazon links to a few of these wooden toys.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day and Valentine Candy Robots

Happy Valentine's Day! 

We have had a fun Valentine's Day today, this year I had fun decorating the dining room with some vintage style Valentines, as well as this beautiful bouquet of flowers that Gary gave me, I love the dark purple thistle type plants in this bouquet, as well as all the vibrant colors! :)

A couple years back I found some very cute vintage style punch out Valentine's books, this year I decided to use them as decorations, I still would love to craft with them also! What I am really on the lookout for, and what I haven't found in the longest time, are the little Valentine activity type books I had as a child back in the 80's where you would cut out and make all sorts of Valentines, I had so much fun with those as a child!

Along with the vintage Valentines, I have set out some of my favorite little Valentine figurines. I really enjoy decorating for every holiday!

This year, my daughter Sarah, who is in her first year of college, and currently working as the assistant coach for the high school robotics team, decided to make a very cute robot themed Valentine goody for the robotics team members. These little candy and juice box robots turned out so cute I had to get pictures and share them with you.

This was such a cute project, and the robotics team really enjoyed them. I think these would be great to pass out in classrooms for Valentines day, and also as a great party favor for a robot themed birthday party. Here is a close up picture so you can see how they were made.

The different candies were attached to the juice box, as well as the googly eyes attached to the top little box of Nerds, with a hot glue gun. She used Starburst for the feet, Fruity Tootsie Rolls for the arms, and a little box of Nerds for the head. Very cute Valentine treat!

Valentines Day always marks the time when I start really looking forward to spring, last week we finally had our winter. The snow was beautiful, we had quite a bit more than last year, we all had fun playing in the snow, the dogs really enjoyed it too, our younger lab was running all around and catching snowballs the kids would throw for her, it was really cute.

We all bundled up and made a few snowballs, the kids made snowmen, it was also nice having a few days off from school!

I keep my birdbath dripper on year round, so the birds have water even when everything is frozen, it turned into quite the fun looking icicle cave trapping and coating the little gnome who stands near the birdbath in ice, it looked like something the White Witch from Narnia would do to our little garden gnome!

After a few days of winter it all melted and went back to our normal Oregonian rainy winter, and signs of spring are everywhere. Bulbs are pushing through the ground, the Robins are back and I even caught a glimpse of a beautiful thrush that stopped by my garden for a quick visit, I haven't seen one since I lived near the woods, so that was a nice treat. Today I was pleasantly surprised by a blossoming group of mini iris, I love these pretty little purple flowers. I am really looking forward to spending more time in my garden now that spring is on the way!

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lemon Puffs and Apple Cheddar Tea Sandwiches

Last Sunday I hosted my sister's bridal shower, we all had a wonderful time. The bridal shower theme was Vintage Floral, and we had a old fashioned luncheon with plenty of tea sandwiches and desserts. I made two new recipes for the shower that I wanted to share, Lemon Puffs, and Cheddar Apple Tea Sandwiches.

These are the Lemon Puffs, and the instructions to make them are extremely simple.

I was originally going to make Lemon Tassies that I have made in the past for tea parties, but as the evening before the shower was dwindling, full of other party preparations, I realized I would have no time to make them, and needed something easier. I had some puff pastry in the freezer, and I knew I still wanted to use the lemon curd I purchased, so I Googled recipes for puff pastry and lemon curd.  I found some good ideas and altered them a bit to come up with these little lemon puffs.  Here are my instructions.

Ingredients- 1 package Pepperidge Farms puff pastry sheets (2 sheets), 1 jar of prepared Lemon Curd, and powdered sugar

Thaw puff pastry on the counter according to package directions, spray a mini muffin pan with pan spray, preheat oven to 425 F.  Using a pizza cutting wheel cut each puff pastry sheet into 12 squares (for a total of 24), bending the sides of each puff pastry square fit them into the mini muffin cups, then spoon about 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon curd into each square, then bring all four corners to the center and pinch together to seal. Bake for about 10-14 minutes until puffed and golden, keep your eye on them in the last couple of minutes, I left mine in for a minute too long and the lemon curd started to bubble out and a few were ruined due to the burned sugar from the lemon curd getting too hot and bubbling out, luckily I caught them in time so I didn't ruin the whole batch! When they are done, remove them to a cooling rack, I used tongs to pop them out as they were too hot to handle, when the puffs are cool dust them with powdered sugar.  They were delicious, and so easy to make, definitely something I will be making again!

The next new recipe I made was an Apple Cheddar Tea Sandwich. I knew I wanted a new tea sandwich for the party, and I wanted it to have a slightly sweet element, I thought thinly sliced apples would be delicious in a sandwich.  These were very easy to make and a yummy addition to the tea sandwich tray.

Here are the instructions to make this easy tea sandwich.

Ingredients- whole wheat bread, a nice sweet apple variety (I used honeycrisp), margarine spread or softened butter, and a jar of Kraft Old English Cheese Spread.

I love these little jars of Kraft Cheese Spread, when I was little we would often have Kraft Cheese Spreads for sandwiches, including my favorite, the Pimento Cheese Variety.

To make the sandwiches, first core, peel, and thinly slice your apples.  The picture below shows the sandwich at various stages. First butter or margarine both slices of bread, this acts as a moisture barrier so the sandwich doesn't become soggy, then on one slice, spread a thin layer of the Kraft Old English cheese spread, then add a layer of apple slices, and put the top slice of bread on.  Using a sharp bread knife, cut off the crusts, then cut the sandwich into three long rectangles, then cut those each in half, you will end up with 6 little sandwiches from one regular sized sandwich, the smaller pieces were easier to eat, and stay together better.

I was too busy prepping everything to get great pictures, but here they are on the tray below, the little square sandwich off to the side.  Here is a link to the recipes for my other Tea Sandwiches.  I really liked the apple and cheese combo for this new sandwich, and I would like to try other variations and possibly use a raisin or cinnamon bread with apples and cheese as well.

Tea sandwiches are fun, even the little kids enjoyed them, they are just the right size for party nibbling!

In other news, winter has finally arrived here, we have had such a mild winter so far, hardly a speck of snow. When the groundhog saw his shadow on Sunday I was wondering when winter would arrive, and it seems it finally may have. We had one day of big fluffy snowflakes that didn't stick to the road, and tonight we are expected to have cold enough temperatures for the snow to stick. Here in the north-western Oregon valley we usually have mild winters, so when we get a storm every few years it really shuts things down because no one is set up to drive around in snowy weather. School let out today two hours early so no one would end up trapped at the school. Now everyone is excited to have a nice cold day bundled up drinking hot cocoa, and hopefully enough snow to build a little snowman! Just so long as the power stays on for most of the time, and it doesn't get too cold and dangerous on the roads, I am happy to have a little winter. :) I really feel for all of the people in other parts of the country having such a bad winter this year, I can only take it in small doses and am mostly dreaming of the sunshiny summer and getting ready to plan my spring and summer garden!

Our dog Zoey doesn't mind the big fluffy snow flakes at all, we went out for a walk and she was trying to gobble the snow flakes out of the air and was wondering what on earth was landing all over her, it was pretty cute! :)

Hope everyone is having a nice week, and stays safe in all this winter weather!

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Vintage Floral Bridal Shower Luncheon

My youngest sister is getting married this month and this weekend I had the fun of hosting her bridal shower. I really enjoyed planning this bridal shower and so I thought I would share our fun day.

First things first, every party starts with an invitation. I love paper crafting so I decided to make the invitations. I chose a simple design, and printed out the invitation in pretty fonts using my computer's basic word program, and printed them onto cream cardstock. I then cut them to size and glued them onto some pretty vintage floral paper, added some coordinating brads to the top and a stamped flourish on the bottom of the page.

I decided on a vintage floral theme for the shower after falling in love with some of the decorations I purchased from oriental trading company vintage wedding line. The decorations and plates matched nicely with the other decor I had planned.  I made little floral bouquets to decorate around the living and dining rooms and put them in the turquoise Heritage Ball Jars that I just love, you can find them in many stores or online at Amazon through my link Ball Jar Heritage Collection Pint Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 6.  I just saw they have green as well, I may need to add those to my collection. :) I also put out lots of candy in some of my coordinating vintage candy dishes, I loved all the color from the flowers, candy, and vintage colored glass!

When everyone arrived, we started with a nice little luncheon, I made plenty of tea sandwiches. You can read about how to make them in my tea sandwich tutorial, I will also be sharing some of my new recipes from the shower in a post later this week. I made some mushroom pinwheels and sausage pinwheels, and set out a nice assortment of olives as well as some Parmesan bread sticks.

I served ice tea and pink lemonade in large Mason Jar style drink dispenser (you can find a similar one through my link at Amazon Georgia Peach Mason Jar Beverage Dispenser). The cups were little jelly jars with pink and white striped paper straws, the jelly jars were just the right size for little glasses, and I am in love with paper straws and all the patterns you can buy them in these days!

After lunch it was time for games and activities. I knew I wanted games that were not too embarrassing, all the gals in my family are on the introverted side, so I chose two classic shower games that I thought we would all enjoy. The first game was Bridal Shower Price is Right. I purchased 10 household items at my local grocery store, all on one receipt so I would have the exact total.  Then, using the basic word program on my computer, printed out the game on cream cardstock in pastel ink colors in French Script font, and adding some bridal clip art. Everyone writes down their guess for how much each item costs and the person with the closest to correct total wins. We also played remember the items on the tray game, where you place a bunch of items, I had about 30 little items, on a tray and let everyone study it for a minute or two, then they have two minutes to write down as many things as they can remember, the person who remembered the most items is the winner.  For prizes I found cute tablets with matching pen and pencil sets from Target's dollar bins.

For the next activity I decided that a craft would be fun, so I found some cute wooden birdhouses at Michael's, and bought a bunch of paint along with paint brushes and paint trays for everyone, so we could paint birdhouses.  Before the birdhouses were painted I had them sitting along the center of the table as part of the table decorations. This was a fun activity, it was nice to sit and chat while everyone was crafting, and all the birdhouses turned out nice with all sorts of different designs and colors.

After we were all done crafting, my sister opened her presents, and then we all enjoyed treats from the dessert buffet. I made white cupcakes with pink lemonade frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I piped on dots for the the pink lemonade cupcakes and used a star tip for the chocolate cupcakes, and topped them both with little candy pearls.  I made a single layer white cake with pink lemonade frosting and topped it with a very cute mini cake banner. I set out plenty of little candy treats, and decorated the table with flowers, and a lace tablecloth, and put a cute paper fringe banner on the window above the table.

I also made some easy lemon puffs which I will include the instructions for in my recipe post to follow, and some cute little cheese cake shooters which everyone loved.

We all had fun visiting and enjoying treats, it was a fun day. I am looking forward to welcoming another member to our family, and this was a fun way to celebrate my sisters upcoming wedding! When everyone left I sent them with a little party favor. I found little metal buckets in turquoise color, and filled them with a little candy, a deck of pretty playing cards, an oriental fan, and a pretty matching turquoise rock candy stick. I always think party favors are fun. :)

I had so much fun putting everything together for this party, I loved visiting with my sisters and family and friends, altogether it was a very nice day!

Thanks for reading!