Monday, December 31, 2012

The best of 2012

I'd like to finish out the year by reviewing my Most Popular Posts in 2012.  I'll have a separate entry for  the Top Recipes and Fisher Price Posts.  Today it's a combo that to me defines the "Odds and Ends" part of my blog.  There is a little bit of everything on this list.

5. 1st Birthday Party - Pink One Theme - At number 5 this entry was all about my baby-girl's 1st Birthday Party and the Pink "One" theme that we used.  I made her carrot cupcakes from scratch and we used those pink balloons the next day for a photo shoot.

4. Vintage Fiesta Relish Tray - This beauty was an amazing (and valuable!) gift from a friend.  Made in the mid 30's-40's this relish tray is a Fiesta Ware find.  I keep it out all the time just to admire the bold color and deco shape.

3. Heaven is Here book memoir By Stephanie Nielson - I've done a few book reviews this year and this one was the most popular.  I love this book and follow this blogger.  She has quite the inspiring story of overcoming a horrific plane crash that almost ended her life.  She's gone on to celebrate the daily joys of motherhood.

2. Baby Float - A Summer Must Have - I'm a little surprised that is was the 2nd most popular (non-recipe or FPLP) entry.  I guess I'm not the only one that searched for the perfect baby float this year.  Who knew?  We still love our float and a part of me is hoping it will continue to work for us this next spring/summer.

Now for the most popular entry of the year (and this one was the most popular, above recipes and Fisher Price).

1. Make Your Own Diaper Pail Deodorizer - So I guess I'm not the only one with a stinky diaper pail!  Who knew?  This entry had the simple do-it-yourself diaper pail deodorizer directions.  I had another entry with a Christmas Version.  Since this is so popular I'm thinking of selling the deodorizer in my Etsy store.  Would you buy it? :)

There you go, the Best of 2012.  Have a great New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roasted Zucchini, Mushrooms & Onions

Sometimes subtle changes can make a huge difference in a recipe.  These changes may be accidental like when I made chocolate chip cookies without flour.  Oops.  And sometimes they are intentional, like today's little recipe.

The other night I was uninspired by our usual steamed zucchini so I decided to branch out and try a different roasting recipe.  The only major difference between prior recipes that we've tried (and liked by the way) was the addition of dried Italian seasonings.  Who knew?  Those tasty little buggers did just the trick.  The veggies were gobbled up.

Roasted Zucchini with Mushrooms and Onions
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick ( about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 yellow onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 -3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (I just ground sea salt over the pan)
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with olive oil.
2. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix well.

3. Spread the vegetable mixture over the bottom of the sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Stir the vegetables and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until they are tender and nicely browned. Serve hot.

I served these little beauties with our Christmas dinner of steamed crab legs (yum yum).  They were a perfect pairing.  

This will probably be my last recipe of 2012, here's to another year of good eating!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fisher Price Friday - Spinning (bike) Bell

We had some wonderful vintage toys appear under the Christmas tree this year including the Play Family Western Town #934, Puzzle Puppy #659 and a bunch of Little People board books.  However, before I get to those lovely toys I'd like to show you a fun vintage item that my daughter received for her fifth birthday.  It's the Fisher-Price Spinning Bell #40110.  Designed for use on bicycles or tricycles this adorable little bell (and other characters like it) was made in 1992-1993.

The bell is fashioned after the Chunky Little People, the figures made after the classic little people (post 1990) but before the current little people.  There were three bells made; a Lucky dog (he came first), a Police Officer and this little Girl with Blond Hair.

The bell works by simply spinning the little girl around.  It makes a great chiming sound and I absolutely love that my little blond girl has a blond bell!

When I first heard about these bells I looked online and could find hardly anything about them and absolutely none for sale.  I think they are quite the find!  We are very happy with our bell and thankful that a online FP friend sold one just in time for my daughter's birthday.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

3 Things to do with Christmas Cards after Christmas

Despite my earlier misgivings we did end up receiving quite a few lovely Christmas cards, most of them photo cards.  I am enjoying these sweet smiling faces and I don't know about you, but it's hard to put them in the recycling bin after the New Year!  Last year I read about the most marvelous way to keep them in an organized and useful way.  I have that and 2 other ideas to share with you.

1. Make a coffee table (photo) book:  Using a hole punch and a couple binder rings (found at Target, Staples, etc) make a coffee table book.  You can leave it out year round or bring it out at the holidays.  My daughter loves looking at the photos from past years and comments on how everyone grows.

I made two different sized books since the skinny cards didn't fit as well with the big ones.  I also put several years together.  Depending on how many cards you get each year you may want to combine years as well.  This year I'll be starting over with a new "book".

2. Use the photo book as a through-the-year prayer reminder:  This is the best idea from my friend Beth.  Each week you flip the book to a different family and pray for them.  A great way to get your kids more involved in praying and it's also a way to get to know your friends and family.  This is especially helpful if like me all of your family and many of your friends live in other states (or countries).  You can take it further by contacting the family/friend ahead and asking for prayer requests, letting them know that you'll be praying for them the following week.  Isn't that the best idea?

Now last but not least.  If you have one of those fancy-newfangled smart phones you can...

3. Make the card the contact photo in your phone (or iPad):   That way when they call you see their lovely faces.  Just take a photo of the card and add it to your contacts.  I love this idea and when I get one of those newfangled smart phones I'm definitely doing it!  Santa did bring me a iPad mini this year so I'll try it on there.

So there you go, three ideas to keep those beautiful cards from the recycling bin.  Do you have any other great ideas?

Linked on: The Shabby NestDelicate ConstructionThe Frugal Girls

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas - From the Vintage FPLP

Merry Christmas!  It's a lovely morning with the 909 Play Family Play Rooms family.

Little brother is enjoying his new rocking horse and sister is eyeing the presents under the tree.

The family was lucky enough to have some snow this Christmas.

Some local kids came by in their sled.  (little people toboggan ornament)

Merry Christmas from our Little People Family to yours!

To see more of the Play Family Play Rooms #909 go here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Light Tradition

My eldest and I have a Christmastime tradition of driving around and looking at Christmas lights in our community.  We started when she was little on the way home from an evening Christmas concert and have done it ever since.  Two years ago we added a Circle K stop when I was desperately craving of all things a hot-dog on Christmas Night (in my defense I was pregnant with her sister).  Usually we just drive around but tonight we got out a couple times to look at the lights up close.

Our own neighborhood had a special display of luminaries.  Hundreds of them lined up all around one of the little pocket parks and down a few of the nearby streets.  Just lovely.   I hope we can join them in setting up next year!

It was a memorable outing and next year we'll bring little sister along too (she was at home sleeping). 

Happy Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hummus from dried (or canned) Chickpeas

I made my first batch of hummus today in my brand-new Christmas present, a 9 cup Cuisinart Prep 9 DLC-2009CHB food processor.  How is this possible on December 23rd you may ask?  Well, I have a confession.  In my family we open Christmas presents early, this year it was on the 22nd.  The longest we've made it is till the 24th.  Why you may ask?  Only because we can't wait.  Ha!

So I decided to christen my new machine by making hummus which is usually gobbled up by myself and my children.  Today of course the baby shook her head no, but I'm not taking it personally, she'll want it tomorrow.

I made this recipe using dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans from a local heirloom farm.  However, you could use canned as well.  To use dried chickpeas simply soak them overnight in a bowl.  Rinse and drain then boil/simmer on the stove (covered in fresh water) for 1-1 1/2 hours until fork tender.

Basic Hummus (garlic and lemon)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups drained cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or you can used canned
Some of the liquid from boiling the garbanzo beans (or from the can)
2 teaspoons cumin
Pinch of ground coriander
5 tablespoons tahini (I found mine at Trader Joe's)
Juice of three large lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if you need it
Optional: Paprika sprinkled as a garnish

Using a Food processor (or blender) puree all the ingredients until it’s creamy, it may take longer than you think.  You can add the cooking liquid or additional olive oil (or lemon juice) to make it the consistency that you prefer.  Also add salt to taste.

That's it!  We used ours as a dip for dinner with fresh veggies and pita chips.  The baby normally eats it plain by the spoonful!

Now, what to make next with my new lovely Cuisinart?  Any recipe recommendations for me?

If you want your own Cuisinart check out Amazon, you could even get it for Christmas. You know, if you're one of those people that wait until the 25th. ;)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fisher Price Friday - The last of the Hallmark Ornaments

Today on Fisher Price Friday I'd like to show the final three Hallmark Fisher Price ornaments.  I started my collection just last year (I'd somehow missed that Hallmark had been making them since 2007!) and was able to get the last of the 14 this month, just in time to decorate my tree.

From L to R:

2010 - Zookeeper Says
2008 - Play Family Farm
2011 - Snoop 'N Sniff

First up was my white-whale the Play Family Farm from 2008.  This was the second Fisher Price ornament Hallmark made and is currently the most expensive to buy on the resale market.  They go for around $80-$100 online, a bit cheaper without the original box.  If you're patient you may find a good deal (I got mine on Amazon) but keep looking because the prices are going up and up on this one.

The barn has doors that open, and just like the original the left door "moos".  The loft doors are permanently open and show a rooster and a hen inside.

Outside the silo there is a black pig hiding behind a fence post.

Here is the ornament next to the big #915 Play Family Farm.  Note that my silo is not from the #915 but from the newer #2555 (the size/shape is the same but the lithographs differ).  Otherwise the pieces are the same as the ornament including the little black pig.

The top of the ornament has the same lithograph as the big one, happy farmer and all.

Inside the barn is the farmer, a wife and a white and brown cow.  Note that the farmer's wife in the ornament (and I replicated in the big one) is not original to the farm.  She should have a white bun not a yellow ponytail.  Otherwise it's the same down to the farmer's red cowboy hat and yellow scarf.  Isn't it a beauty?  Ah, my new favorite ornament!

Next up is The Zoo Keeper Says.  The original See n Say toys were made by the Mattel company starting in the 1960's.  Mattel merged with Fisher Price in the 90's so current See n Says are made under the Fisher Price name.  

I don't know much about the See n Say toys but this little ornament works when you pull the tiny string. Whatever animal it was pointing too makes that sound.  This toy has become my daughter's favorite to play with.  I often hear wild animal sounds around the house as a result.

Last but not least is the Snoop 'n Sniff from 2011.  This ornament was released in a limited quantity.  There were two other ornaments released in 2011 as well (Play Family House/Lil' Movers Fire Truck).  For some reason I decided that I didn't need the Snoop 'n Sniff last year, a decision I regretted this year!  Fortunately a fellow FP friend sold it to me so that I could complete my collection.

I don't have a full size Snoop 'n Sniff, our only dog is the Snoopy #693.  The ornament is the little version of the #181 Snoopy Sniffer made from 1961-1980.  It has legs that move up and down when you push it.  The little ears are leather-looking.

The top of the dog has a tiny little FP logo.

The tail is made out of a tiny little metal coil just like the big one.  I love how he seems to be watching you no matter which way you put him.

So there you have it, I've shared all 14 Hallmark Fisher Price ornaments.  I hope you've enjoyed looking at them as much as I enjoy having them!  For prior entires look hereherehere and here.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roasted Green Bean "Fries"

I realize that I just posted a green bean recipe but I had to share this one too.  If you aren't up for a complicated recipe this one is for you, it's easy-peasy.  This was my first time making it and I was surprised at how good it is!  One reviewer said that it was an alternative to french fries and I thought, "yeah right".  But I have to tell you, if you bake them long enough to get crispy they are indeed QUITE tasty and not far from fries.  Make sure you don't put too much olive oil on them (which can make them soggy) and bake them so that they look pretty brown and shriveled.  Trust me, that's when they're just perfect!

Roasted Green Bean Fries
1 lb fresh green beans
1 tablespoon olive oil (or just enough to lightly coat beans)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
*optional 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash, dry well, and trim green beans. Put green beans on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Use your hands to be sure all the beans are evenly coated and spread them out into 1 layer. Roast for 20-40 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until beans are fairly brown in spots and somewhat shriveled. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Portabello Mushroom Green Bean Casserole Recipe

If you're looking for a holiday dinner side-dish recipe look no further.  I found this lovely take on a traditional green bean casserole recipe from my very favorite grocery store.  Yes, that's right, Trader Joe's.  It was on the back of a fried onion pieces box and in case you don't have a TJ here is the recipe.

Portabello Mushroom Green Bean Casserole 

1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bag sliced crimini mushrooms (I used a box and sliced them myself instead)
1/4 sweet onion sliced
24 oz Green Beans 
1 box of Cream of Portabello Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 can Fried Onion Pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet; add mushrooms and saute until they become soft and lightly browned.  Add onion and continue to saute until soft and lightly browned.  Add green beans and saute until heated through.  Add soup and water to skillet, mix and heat through.  Add mixture to a small or medium size casserole dish.  Top with cheese and fried onions, place in oven and bake until cheese melts and becomes warm and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.