Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dry Erase Travel Kit

We have some road-tripping in our future this summer, and while movies and video games in the car are one of  the WONDERFUL advantages of being a mom in the 21st century, sometimes my kids need to unplug....but how? 

I recently bought a roll of this dry-erase vinyl. I only needed about 3 feet of it to put a summer job chart up for my kids, but I ended up with this 10 foot roll. So of course, thinking of some way to use it was in the back of my mind. 

Then I remembered seeing that Crayola now makes dry-erase crayons, pencils and washable markers, and it hit me-- I could make dry-erase travel kits for my kids.  

And these kits are extra-cool because....(drumroll).....The fabric covering the kits is also dry-erase.  Seriously. I used laminated cotton/oil cloth fabric to cover two of them and a vinyl tablecloth to cover the other two. They totally wipe clean when you write on them. Perfect for travel, too, because they wipe clean from spills. 

I didn't make all of them exactly the same way. The laminated cotton did well with the glue gun, but the vinyl tablecloth didn't do as well, so I took it to the sewing machine more. I will talk about your options as I go through the tutorial. These would be easy to customize to fit your own preferences. 
I hope this tutorial gives you a good framework to work with.

Dry Erase Travel Kit
You will need: 
  • One 8" x 10" canvas panel (this is the kind on a stiff cardboard--not wrapped on a frame)
  • One 8" x 10" piece of heavy cardstock or tagboard
  • Dry Erase Laminate 
  • Duct Tape
  • 13 x 38" piece of laminated fabric (oilcloth, laminated cotton, or a vinyl tablecoth)
  • Two 8" x 10" pieces of fleece, felt, or quilt batting
  • Glue gun; Glue sticks; Sewing Machine; Thread
  • Optional: Letter stickers to put names on the front

1. Start with this--the canvas panel. This 3-pack costs $3.  This project really begs you to make more than one. :)

Measure and cut a rectangle on the dry erase laminate that is about 1/2 inch bigger on all sides than the canvas panel.

2. Press the laminate onto the BACK of the canvas panel (so the canvas side isn't covered). Wrap the excess around to the canvas side. 

3. Tape the excess down with duct tape. 

4. Hot glue one piece of the 8"x10" fleece/felt/batting to the duct tape side of the canvas panel.  Glue the other to the 8"x10" piece of tagboard.

5. Lay your fabric out, right side down. Arrange the cardboard and canvas pieces, fleece side down, about 1 inch apart, 10 inches away from one short side of the piece of fabric.
6. Glue or sew a 1/2" edge on the short side of the fabric closest to the tagboard, as shown here.

7. Trim the other end of the fabric to 1" away from the white board. (Keep this trimmed piece for a later step.) Fold 1/2 inch over, and glue or sew in place, as shown.

8. This step can be hot-glued or sewn.  Obviously, hot gluing is shown here, but I chose to sew this step by my last couple.  If you are gluing, lay hot glue along the 1-inch space between the two boards... 

...And fold the fabric over, then press in place, with the excess making a lip along the left side of the white board. 
9. Hot glue this lip of fabric into place. 
10. Fold the right side of the fabric over the white board, and hot glue down.  
11. Fold the top and bottoms of the fabric and pin in place. Notice how I folded the corners in first. Sew this in place. I found that I preferred a zig-zag stitch for this. 

Here it is after the sewing.

12. Now glue down the top and bottom edges to frame the entire inside. 

13.  Using that piece of fabric you cut off of the end in step 7, cut an 8x10" piece of fabric and fold it in half to make your inside pocket. Sew up the sides, wrong sides together, then turn inside out. You can finish the top with a rolled hem, or serge it as I did if you have a serger. 

14. Now decide how you want your pockets to look for all the markers, pencils, crayon, and erasers, and sew lines through the pocket to form compartments.

Here is a close-up of how I divided my pocket. 
15. Glue the pocket to the inside of the kit. Hot glue was tricky on the vinyl tablecloth fabric, so I ended up using mounting tape on one of the kits. My hot-glue gun is old, and I have a hard time keeping the glue from suddenly coming out in large quantities (which melted the table cloth fabric). You may not have that issue.  Hot glue worked great on the laminated cotton. 

And it's done! My daughter didn't waste anytime putting it to use once I put some pencils, crayons and markers inside.  I used a piece of felt as an eraser. The dry erase crayons come with an eraser that works well, too. 

Here is one I made with the vinyl tablecloth. My older sons weren't wild about the light-blue chevron. They were cool with stripes, though. 

And here's proof you can write on the outside. This is the same as the one below with "Finley" on it. The marker wiped right off! 
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies

Aren't these fun?!  My mom gave me a cookbook ("Prize Winning Recipes from Current Customers") years ago that had a recipe similar to this one .  I adapted the recipe (called "Bowl of Berries") to create these Strawberry Shortbread Cookies. 

I could hardly keep my daughter's little hands away the entire time I was making these. She is usually my little helper, but today she just wanted to taste the entire time. (Except the green stems--she had no interest in those.) 

These are truly a shortbread--no eggs or leavening (baking powder/soda)--but with a strawberry twist. They melt in your mouth. And they are a joy to present because they look so darn cute.

AND...they are easy to make. Here's how:

Soak slivered white nuts (almonds, peanuts, or even pecans if you want to sliver them), in 1/3 cup water with 4 drops of green food coloring in it. I soaked mine while I was a church so 3+ hours, but I think 1 hour will be plenty of time. 

Drain the green nuts and let them dry on some paper towels.

Make the shortbread dough. Refrigerate it 30 minutes. Then divide it into 32-36 portions (mine made 32, but I had little friends tasting the dough a bit along the way. I may have tasted some too...after all, no eggs!). Roll the portions into balls, then taper one end to make a strawberry-ish shape. As you can see, perfection with the shape is optional. 

Now prepare two bowls of sugar sprinkles for rolling--one red and one green. Roll the dough into the red to coat all but the top. Dip the top in the green. Stick a green nut sliver into the middle of the green top.

Here they are all ready to go into the oven. They should be 1 inch apart from each other on the baking pan. I used a new silicone baking mat I ordered a while back from Pick Your Plum. It is pretty awesome, and I don't get paid for saying that. These cookies cooked beautifully, evenly, and didn't stick at all (no cooking spray required)--which is amazing since they were coated in sugar. 

Bake at 375° for 12-14 minutes.  They do grow a little (despite no eggs or leavening). A couple of mine ran into each other, but didn't stick together at all when I removed them from the pan (phew!).

A fun, delicious summer shortbread cookie that is a sure hit! Enjoy!

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies

1/3 cup slivered nuts (almonds, peanuts, or other white nut)
1/3 cup water
4 drops green food coloring

1 cup salted sweet cream butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 of a 3oz package of strawberry Jello
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Red sugar sprinkles 
Green sugar sprinkles

1. Place nuts into water in a small glass bowl. Add food coloring. Let sit 1 hour, or until nuts are tinted green.
2. Beat butter, powdered sugar, Jello, and vanilla in a bowl until creamy. Slowly beat in flour until evenly mixed.  Chill dough 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375°.  Divide dough into 32-36 pieces. Roll pieces into balls, then taper one end to form a strawberry-like shape.
4. Put red sprinkles in one small bowl and green in another. Roll the dough in the red sprinkles around the sides and bottom, then dip in the green on the top. Stick one green nut sliver into the center of each green top.
5. Place on a non-stick or parchment lined baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Hide-the-Clip" Ring Top Curtains

I FINALLY made curtains for our family room. I ordered swatches over a year ago and just couldn't decide, so I waited. And waited.  Then, a few weeks ago I decided on a fabric and placed my order. 

But my decision-making had only just begun. I had to choose my hardware.  

My favorite curtain hardware for function is probably the ring-top. It consistently slides smoothly and is a cinch to put up and take down.  Ring-top has NOT been my favorite for looks, though, because of the ugly little clips used to attach the rings to the curtains. 

I used these on some curtains I hung in our old house. Overall I was happy with the curtains, but I hated seeing the clips. I would arrange the curtains carefully to try and hide them. 

So, this time around I devised a way to keep those little buggers hidden. And it worked!

All you need in addition to your normal curtain-making supplies is some grosgrain ribbon. 

First, attach the gross-grain ribbon to the top of the fabric, 1.5 inches down.  You can put one big strip of ribbon all the way across, or you can measure out and evenly space pieces of the ribbon (as I did), so attaching the clips at even intervals later will be easy. I am using 7 clips, so I have 7 pieces evenly spaced. Both of my curtains are shown here, one with the top folded over because I used the first one I did as a guide for the second. 

Sew the ribbon on three sides , leaving the bottom open. (Bottom of ribbon will become the top when you fold over and make the top tab of your curtain, as shown here.)

Finish the rest of your curtain top, sides and hem. 

Now, when you hang the curtains, clip the rings on to the hidden strips of ribbon.

Good-bye visible clips!

Easy sliding and no clips in sight!

Ahhh. I am always amazed at how much curtains add to a room.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

Father's Day is this Sunday, which naturally makes me think of bacon. So I decided to take action.

Dates are starting to show up in the produce department. I found mine at Costco last week. And I bought their big brick of Raskas Cream Cheese (to use in another recipe, but it is a BIG brick). It is THE BEST cream cheese I've had.   I also had some cashews leftover from my trailmix recipe.  Adding some thick-cut bacon and honey to the mix, and I was ready to rock.

Pit the dates. Make a thin slice lengthwise to open, then the pit is pretty loose in there. Pull out each pit and discard it.   

Next, put a 1-2 teaspoon slab (depending on the size of the date) of cream cheese in each opened date. Then push a cashew into the cream cheese on each one.

Now pre-cook the bacon a bit by placing it between a couple of paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 1 minute. 

Here is the bacon after the pre-cook step. It is not crispy at all. It should be just starting to curl up at the ends.

Cut the strips of bacon into halves or thirds. I did mostly halves, but thirds for some of my skinnier dates.  It isn't an exact science. Wrap the dates in the bacon and secure through the middle with a toothpick. 
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can skip the parchment, but I recommend it if you have it.  Makes clean-up much easier.

Put a squirt of honey on each bacon-date roll.  This glaze is SO yummy when it bakes.

Bake for 7 minutes at 450°. Turn over each one and return to the oven to bake 5-7 minutes more, until crispy on the edges.

Tastes divine. And has a fair amount of redeeming value--that's whole fruit in there...whole milk in the cheese... a whole nut... and a whole bunch of yummy. 

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