Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fancy Nancy - Inspired Birthday Tea Party

Fancy Nancy is a household name for many families with 4-7 year-old little girls--including mine! And I welcome this darling, girly-girl created by author Jane O'Connor as she teaches my daughter to learn and use new vocabulary. Especially "fancy" words like GORGEOUS, ACCESSORIES, and ECSTATIC. 

So I jumped on the idea of having a Fancy Nancy-themed party for her fifth birthday. I haven't had this much fun planning for a party in quite a while. I guess I like being fancy, too!

I will share DECORATIONS, PARTY FAVORS, FOOD, and CRAFTS that I used at her party. Get ready to make your party a SMASHING SUCCESS! 

First I ordered the following items from Amazon: 

These darling little Tea Party Cups were economical and LOVED by all the guests. I wrote their names on them with a Sharpee using fancy, frilly handwriting.

I also ordered this Tea Cup Candy Mold to make as a treat for the girls to take home. You could serve them as a treat at the party, but since ours was held in late-afternoon, I decided to hold off as courtesy to the parents. :)

I also purchased Plastic Bags with Twist-ties, as well as Lollipop Sticks from Amazon so I would be good to go!

Here they are made up. I'm no confectioner, but the little girls didn't care about perfection! I just used melted white and milk chocolate chips to make the forms. 

You can't have a fancy party without fancy TIARAS! I was so pleased with these! They stayed on their heads because they were really just toothed headbands. 

And my final Amazon purchase was a package of Assorted-size Doilies.  It was amazing how much they added to the frilly, fanciness of the decor!

Now for our FANCY CRAFT: Paper Bag Purses
I used shaped scissors to cut rectangular holes out of paper bags.  Then I printed out the guests' names in a fancy font and glued them to each bag. 

The girls used stickers, washi tape, and lace tape to decorate their purses. This craft was a HIT! And it was a practical way for them to take home their teacup and lollipop when the party was over!

I found a couple of teapots at Goodwill to use in the decor.  The rest of the decor was stuff I already had around the house. I used fabric for the table cloths.

For food we served poppyseed muffins, Jello (in individual little plastic cups), and blueberries.
The "tea" was actually strawberry lemonade. :)

I ran out of time to iron my tablecloths. That was my one regret. But I LOVED using my grandmother's dessert plates (the ones with the flowers).  

I printed out a couple of pages: "Ooh La La" and a page of  "fancy words" from the Fancy Nancy books as decor.

Guests were also greeted with an "Oooh La La" at the front door, so they knew they were at the right house!

My favorite part was just hearing the little girl conversation as they enjoyed their tea-party!

Participating in these link-ups.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Healthy Ginger Cookie Dough Balls

Have you tried crystallized ginger?  I bought some the last time I was at Costco (in the snack/dried fruit section).  It has such a strong taste that I really only need one or two pieces at at time. And since I'm the main one eating it, I decided to try using it in a no-bake treat. 

These cookie-dough balls are like nothing I've had before. My entire family loves them. The ginger taste comes through well, but not overwhelmingly. It gives these a fresh-baked taste, even though they are no-bake! I've made two batches already--one I shared with a gluten-free friend for her birthday; the other I packaged cutely and gave to my son's teacher as part of her end-of-the-year gift. 

They can be whipped up--start to finish-- in just a few minutes.  You will need a food processor or good blender.

Healthy Ginger Cookie Dough Balls
Makes 18

3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped small (use your food processor if it is a strong one)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup nut butter, salted (I used cashew butter)

1. Measure oatmeal into food processor or blender. Pulse until coarsely ground. Set aside
2. Beat ginger, coconut oil, honey, and nut butter until well mixed. Stir in (or use cookie dough paddle on stand mixer) oatmeal flour, 1/2 cup at a time. If the dough becomes too stiff to add more oatmeal flour before you add it all in, stir in a tablespoon more honey/ oil. 
3. Form balls or use a cookie scoop to make heaping spoonfuls of dough onto parchment or wax paper. Place in refrigerator to set. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Noosa Shift Dress Pattern

I had the opportunity to test the pattern for this darling, comfortable and versatile dress. What a pleasure it was to work with Lindsey from Sew To Grow! I have only good things to say about this pattern.

The pattern fit true to the size requirements stated. It includes pictures with each step and is worded very clearly. I never used my seam ripper the entire time! 

I was able to customize the length of the dress to fit my long-waisted body with built-in adjustment lines on the pattern. This is a HUGE feature that too many dress patterns don't have. 

I made my dress from a printed linen, so it is light and airy for summer but not at all see-through--so no need to wear layers underneath. It is perfect for the heat of the summer! I am looking for a good deal on more fabric to make myself a second one. I like it THAT much! 

To purchase your own downloadable pattern: CLICK HERE.
Use code NOOSASHIFT for 25% off through June 19!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cooking in the Wilderness Part Two: Alcohol Stoves

I had never heard of, let alone cooked on, an alcohol stove until a couple of years ago. My husband started saving (read: hoarding) tuna cans. Then I bought a rare 12 pack of Coke, and he kept those cans every time one was used. Then he saved V-8 cans. Then little cans from sliced olives or mushrooms.  All the while he and my boys were making these stoves--and cooking on my nice countertops when there was a perfectly good gas range right behind them.

Needless to say, I wasn't into the can cooking thing at first.  But, I have seen the light (no pun intended---alcohol actually burns invisibly unless it's dark out--so there's no light to see...hahaha).  With multiple multi-day backpacking trips with my family now under my belt, I LOVE these little homemade stoves.  I decided to make a list---


  • They are FREE to make; they are made from used food cans!
  • De-natured Alcohol is a clean, cheap, easy to store fuel.
  • They are light-weight. Every ounce counts when your packing your own stuff!
  • My kids can each pack their own, and they can help make our food!
  • If they wear out over-time or get lost, no problem--just make more!
  • The varied sizes of cans make customizing stoves to fit specific pots easy.

I have nothing against some of the backpacking stoves that are out there.  We have friends who use the MSR Whisperlite Stove and are quite happy with it.  But if evaluated on the same points I outlined above, I would (and do) choose the alcohol stove route.

Tutorials abound on making these stoves. I will link to a few, and then I'll share some helpful tips we have learned through putting these stoves to real use in the wilds of Washington.

  • About a year ago, my oldest son made a post: How to Construct a Camp Stove from a V8 Can
  • This post from Andrew Skurka first taught us to make alcohol stoves. 
  • This post from Indefinitely Wild does an informative side-by-side comparison of alcohol stoves to expensive backpacking stoves.
  • This post from ZenStoves is the most comprehensive instruction on alcohol stoves we have found.


1. Paper hole-punches are meant for paper, not steel. Most tutorials tell you to punch holes in your cans using a regular old  $3 hole-punch (pictured on the left).  What they don't tell you, is it is VERY HARD to get enough torque to actually punch holes, they dull quickly, and they often break in the process. If you know someone who sews or scrapbooks, they may own a heavy-duty hole punch. This one (pictured on the right) is used for setting snaps and grommets. It has a variable-size hole punch and it ROCKS the other paper-punch's world. 

2. Wider cans for wider pots.  Since these stoves don't have variable settings (no high or low--just ON or OFF), you can adjust the power of your stove by the size of the can.  These are side-burner stoves so the flames jet out the sides. You don't want the flames going beyond the circumference of the pot they are heating. For larger pots, use a larger stove; smaller pots, choose a smaller stove. 

3. Wind Screens 4-1-1.  We used to pack a stiff aluminum windscreen made from roof flashing. It worked well, but it took up quite a bit of room and has sharp-ish edges, which isn't good for backpacking. Then my husband and boys used heavy aluminum foil and folded it into 3-4 piece thick rectangles about twice the diameter of their pots.  They folded those accordion style. Voila! Collapsible Wind Screens! 

4. Collapsible Stove / Pot Trivet: I began to wonder about my husband's hoarding problem when he started saving the heavy foil seals from my peanut cans. Then I saw them put to use on the trail. Brilliant man I married!  These stoves don't have little feet that put them an inch or two off the ground like store-bought stoves. So the flame is less than an inch from the ground. And here in Washington it is often muddy, and often cold or snowy up in the mountains. Other areas may be so dry, a flame that close to the ground could pose a fire-threat. The foil reflects heat back up into the pot, making the heating process more efficient. This simple foil trivet is an excellent piece to add to your alcohol stove repertoire. 

5. Fuel Storage and Use: We store our cans of fuel in a cabinet in our kitchen. It is odorless, so no big deal when we open it to fill smaller bottles to take camping.  We have found that any thicker-plastic bottles with tight-closing lids work well for carrying fuel on trips. Empty honey bears have been a go-to staple. The taller bottle pictured is from one of those Sparkling ICE Carbonated Waters

We bring along a little medicine measuring cup to measure the fuel as we use it. When you are depending on that fuel to cook your food, you don't want to waste a single ounce.  We have found that 20 milliliters will burn 7-8 minutes.  If we are boiling 3 cups of water for a meal, we will use 40 milliliters. This is enough to bring the water to a boil, and continue the boiling for about 8 minutes--long enough to cook most pasta, quick rice, or vegetables. 

6. Priming your pot: These are side-burning stoves, but in order to push the flames out those little holes in the side--and not just out the big opening in the top of the can--you need to prime your pot before setting it on the stove. This is done by holding the pan a couple of inches above the burning (invisible) flame. Hold the pan there for about 60-90 seconds (longer if it's really cold outside), allowing the bottom of the pot to heat and the flame to begin to move outward instead of upward. Then gently place your pot directly over the stove. 

The great and spacious internets are teeming with information on cooking with these homemade stoves. I don't claim to be an expert--we are definitely still learning as a family every time we go on a trip! But it has been so exciting to have had success with these stoves, I wanted to share our positive experience. I'd love to hear about any adventures you have cooking in the wilderness!

Be sure to check out my first and third posts in this series: 
Part 1: Cup and Pot Cozies

And another related post: 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cloth Dolls for Children's Hospital

I was recently privileged to become friends with Lindsey from Sew To Grow. She told me about Project Made, in which she is highlighting 28 days of people around the world sharing kindness and goodwill through their creative endeavors. 

Lindsey invited me to share a project, and I immediately thought of a community effort I was a part of through my church. The Relief Society ( the women's charitable organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in my little corner of the world was making cloth dolls to donate to the local children's hospital. 

These dolls are used by medical professionals as a communication tool for explaining procedures to a child or diagnosing a child's discomfort.  The child is then given the doll, and often a little hospital gown for the doll, as their own to hold and keep. 

As you can see, the pattern is extremely simple. The body and gown patterns can be found here:

Dozens of women sewed the doll bodies from fabric scraps, fat quarters, and extra pillow cases. Then last Saturday we met together to stuff them and sew up the final seam. 

By the door of classrooms throughout the church building, women could pick up unstuffed dolls to stuff or stuffed dolls to sew. As we listened to messages on subjects such as family relationships and charity from wonderful speakers, we worked. 

I especially loved seeing the joy of the women as they worked. Charity is always like that: Efforts to bring joy to others inevitably makes the giver as happy (or happier) than the receiver. 

As the morning went on, it was so exciting to see more and more completed dolls!

The goal was to make 125 dolls.  We were thrilled to discover that this incredible group of women far surpassed our goal, making a total of 288 dolls to donate! 

These sweet, important dolls are used in hospitals all over the world.  This is an excellent way to serve individually, in a small group, or as a larger community to bring joy to children in need. The materials are inexpensive, and the sewing is simple.