Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recipe: The BEST Oatmeal Cookies

I really don't love sweets the way I did once upon a time.  I could take them or leave them entirely...except when these are around.  They are chewy deliciousness that I simply cannot resist.
Dawn’s Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 -1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (can be substituted or omitted as preferred)
½ large apple, diced
2 cups oatmeal (not instant packets - just plain oatmeal)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large cookie sheets. Cream butter and sugars in mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, beat together.
Add vanilla, baking powder and baking soda.
Add the flour.
Mix until well combined.
Mix in coconut, apple, and nuts.
Mix in oatmeal.
Drop on greased cookie sheets by the tsp., spacing about 2 inches apart.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Camping Themed Halloween Costumes: Campfire, RV Travel Trailer, Roasted Marshmallow, S'mores, Firefly

Every year, our family goes camping at some point around Halloween.  I remember doing it with my family when I was a little girl.  Now, it's a much bigger affair - my dad & step-mom, my sisters and their families, my family, and 3-6 other families of friends of ours. 
That being said, we have had a lot of fun in recent years choosing costume "themes" for everyone to participate in if they wish.  We've done Peter Pan, Gnomeo & Juliet, Night at the Movies, Despicable Me 2, and this year...is CAMPING!
I'm not going to lie, this year's costumes have been much more time intensive than past years, but they're SO cool (if I do say so myself.)  All 3 of our kids' costumes have a battery-operated light system incorporated, and now that I've done it, I may never make costumes without them.  It's truly an ingenious way to keep track of my kiddos as they trick or treat.
We have professional Halloween pictures taken annually as part of a charity fundraiser, so I had to have the kids costumes complete by October 4th.  So...they were mostly complete.  I've been making some modifications since then, and I've added a jar of "fireflies" to my daughter's costume, too.  It took me about 2-3 weeks to make their costumes.  (We don't have all of the professional images as of yet.)
I'll be sharing my "How to make a Campfire costume" as a bit of a series.  It was certainly some trial and error.
My campfire is trying to "hide" like his brother the travel trailer had only moments earlier.
He's not REALLY being eaten by his costume.
Campfire Costume made by LearningAsISew.BlogSpot.com


I've seen a lot of them out there on Pinterest and other places, but I took a few ideas and then created my own.  (A couple that were instrumental in forming my ideas were campfire costume from SavvyHomemade and this cauldron.  There are a few things I'd do differently if I had it to do again (which I have absolutely no intention of) that would make it less cumbersome, a faster project, and an even better final product.  So, don't do as I did - do as I say. 
1. Determine how big you want the campfire.  This may seem like it should be "built" around the size of the person, but remember that you want to be able to greet others, pick candy while trick or treating, and get through doorways (and fit it in your car if necessary.)  This being said, know that the "rocks" will protrude from your base all the way around, so account for them as well when determining the size of your base. 
2. I used a piece of foam board for the base, and it worked beautifully.  I will say that I should have made it smaller for my little guy.  It certainly has "wow-factor" as it is.  *wink wink*  I covered the board in aluminum foil to help reflect the light from the lights.  I'm not sure how much it actually helps, but it only took a couple of minutes.

3. I used orange wiffle balls  (red, orange, yellow, or white would work just as well) cut in half and placed them around the outer ring of the fire (not under the "rocks" but outside the actual "fire."  I wove battery operated red, orange, and yellow lights through the wiffle balls, and then tucked the remainder in through the hole in the foam board to be used later with the flames.  I affixed the battery operated pack to the foam board with the "on/off" switch facing the opening in the foam board and with the battery access on top.  I left an opening in the chicken wire for easiest access to the light's box.  (If I had this to do again, I would use an entire strand of lights for this part and a separate set for in the flames.)
4. I used chicken wire to create a general shape for the fire and give myself something to attach everything to.  The excess was tucked under all the way around (and inside) the foam board, and I twisted all sharp edges to prevent any sharp protrusions.

5.  I then sprayed Great Stuff foam insulation over the chicken wire outer edges and wiffle balls.  This was to create ash and embers.  I spray painted it white (leaving small spots of yellow) and misted it lightly with black spray paint to create a more realistic look. 
6. I used one (orange) pool noodle cut into 6 lengths for "logs."  You could use orange, pink, brown, red, or yellow, but I wouldn't try it with a green, blue, or purple noodle.  I spray painted them all solid with one color of brown.  I used a second color of brown to spray on some depth.  I finished with quick burst "stripes" of black to finish.  I cut tan foam circles and drew on them with a black sharpie to create the rings on the cut edge of the logs. I attached the logs with zip ties that I poked through the logs and then threaded through the chicken wire.

7. I took a piece of red felt and covered the bottom of the costume and tucked the edges around and into the "fire" side.  I used a good bit of hot glue to make this all stay. 
8. Rocks were created with a couple of different grey fabrics stuffed with crumpled newspaper.  If I had it to do again, I'd probably randomly spray paint the fabric before cutting it with different colors (white, brown, dark brown, and black.)  I sewed these closed, and then I attached them to the chicken wire.  Again, if I had it to do again, I would probably sew each rock to the ones next to it before I started attaching them to the campfire.  Be sure that you attach these securely to the chicken wire/board.  I added some black splotches to the rocks once the entire costume was complete, because they looked really blah compared to the rest of its awesomeness. 

9.  I followed what some of the other campfires had suggested for the actual fire (plastic tablecloths, colored cellophane, wires, spray adhesive.)  I do not recommend that; it was really time consuming, and ultimately it didn't "fill" the fire the way I had hoped.  If I were to do it again, I'd maybe make about 6 of those and make them fairly big to help give the overall fire some stable height.  Otherwise, there are other things you can do that fill it just as well, but with much less time investment.  I actually tried a few other things of my own, too, that I wouldn't recommend.  (I tried a glittered red tulle threaded through to fill in the chicken wire, and although the loose red glitter on the "ashes" was really cool, it took entirely too much tulle to fill the spaces.)  INSTEAD, I would make those 6 or so flames (taking into account the height of the person and where the costume will "ride" on their body) and then I would fill in the inner ring with a second set of lights leaving about 8 lights at the non-battery end to attach to the stabilized flames.  Then, I would use red and orange cellophane (often used to wrap gift baskets) to weave through the exposed chicken wire and under the logs.
10.  I used nylon straps, heavy duty Velcro, and felt (for the flames) to create straps to hold the costume on my little guy.  Due to the weight, I decided to have them criss-cross in the back.  Because of the Velcro, these are adjustable and can be moved around the chicken wire for best balance.
11.  Attach the wired cellophane flames between the logs closest to the costume wearer's body and affix the remaining lights to the flames.
12.  Use strips of cellophane or tissue paper (torn and roughly rolled) to create additional flames and fill in the "empty" spaces.  Use cellophane to cover any additional exposed chicken wire.

Campfire costume in the dark (with only 1 set of battery operated lights.)

13.  The shirt can be easily made with felt and can be no-sew if you wish.  Others have continued the flames all the way up to their head.  Others have made marshmallows on a stick as a hat for this costume.  That didn't work for our family, because my husband is actually wearing the marshmallow/stick on his head since we will be walking around with our little ones anyway. 

Happy camping!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummies!

Whether you want to make it all from scratch or use store-bought items, these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy kolaches are sure to be a Halloween favorite.
Easy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummies
  • Crescent roll sheets (I used regular crescent rolls and pressed them together, because our store didn't have any crescent sheets.)
  • Pumpkin butter (homemade is my preference, but store-bought works just as well. I use a modified version of this recipe. This could also be substituted with any jelly or other fruit butter.)
  • 3 oz. Cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used clear Mexican Vanilla)
  •  1 Tablespoon milk (more as desired) 
  • Candy eyes (or raisins, dried cherries or blueberries, or other candies)
  1. Whip cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth.
  2. Roll out crescent roll sheets on parchment paper and divide into 4 rectangles.
  3. Cut slits on left 1/3 and right 1/3 of each rectangle.
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture in center 1/3 of each rectangle.
  5. Spread pumpkin butter on top of cream cheese mixture.
  6. Pull alternating strips across the center of each rectangle leaving a slight opening near the top for the eyes. 
  7. If you are using dried fruit, you can place them in before baking.  If you are using candy for the eyes, place them in after baking.
  8. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.
To help save some money any time of the year, check out Raise.com! You can buy a gift card to get great deals when shopping for ingredients or sell gift cards for cash. This great new site lets users purchase gift cards for less than their value, helping to save you some extra money-- be sure to check out this site when planning to make your Halloween treats!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elf on the Shelf: Christmas Tree Costume with FREE Printable Template

This easy fun Elf costume could be used in many different ways throughout the season.  It can be sewn in a matter of a couple of minutes, or for a no-sew version you can use fabric glue or Heat-n-bond to make one. 

Have your elf hide amongst your Christmas d├ęcor, hold an ornament and "make like a tree", hide in a heap of small elf-sized-wrapped boxes, or hang out on a platter of Christmas tree-shaped cookies.  You can stuff the tree to make it puffy if you wish, too.
Click HERE for the FREE Printable Christmas Tree Costume Tem

By all means share this, pin it, print it, blog about it, but link back to this page and not directly to the printable links.
Check out our other Elf on the Shelf ideas and printables here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Elf on the Shelf: Do you want to build a SNOWMAN?

If your kids love the movie Frozen (or even if they just like snow), this is a fun easy Elf on the Shelf idea (and FREE Printable snowman parts.)
All you need is a roll of toilet paper and some scissors and tape or scrapbooking glue.  You can either cut out each individual piece or cut a rectangle around each snowman and attach them to a roll of toilet paper (with the toilet paper still on it.)  If you have some extra cotton balls (or even marshmallows), you can add those to your snowman scene, too!

Check out all of my other Elf on the Shelf ideas and printables, too!
As always, I encourage you to create some of the "super special" Elf surprises, and then trade them with your friends and neighbors so that the joy (and efforts) are shared!!!
By all means, share this, pin it, print it, blog about it, but please link back to this post. 
You can purchase all of my Elf on the Shelf printables in the store to the right for easy and immediate download.



Elf on the Shelf: Elf School - FREE Printable Chalkboard

I know it's still October.  No, I'm not suggesting that we need to forego Halloween or Thanksgiving, but I DO know that if I don't start creating new fun downloads now, there's no way I'll get through all that I want to in time for you to prep for the truly enjoyable time before Christmas.  If I work on it all NOW, then I, too, will be able to pull out an item from my stash each night once my own little munchkins are in bed.  NO STRESS - just Christmas fun.
Also, if you DO intend to have a postcard or letter postmarked from the North Pole from your elf BEFORE his/her arrival, then you need to do that NOW.  Here is a link to a free downloadable postcard and instructions on having it postmarked.
Today's printable is a free "Elf School" chalkboard to use with your elf.  You can frame it, you can print it on cardstock and leave it as is on a table.  I would suggest that you give your elf some white chalk and smudge his nose with some chalk dust.  (I don't like to get our elf's body dirty, because I know that I'm the one that will have to clean it.)  So all you really need is a piece of chalk and this printable!  (But feel free to take it as far as you wish with other "classmates", small notebooks and pencils - available at the party store, and other school-related items.)

FREE download HERE
Check out all of my other Elf on the Shelf ideas and printables, too!
As always, I encourage you to create some of the "super special" Elf surprises, and then trade them with your friends and neighbors so that the joy (and efforts) are shared!!!
By all means, share this, pin it, print it, blog about it, but please link back to this post
You can purchase all of my Elf on the Shelf printables in the store to the right for easy and immediate download.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pumpkin Recipes from Pinterest: Pumpkin Fritter Bites, Pumpkin Roll, Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

As you know from years past, I love my pumpkin recipes.  I thought I would try a few new recipes this year and see if there are any "must haves" that I was missing. 
Yes, I have made pumpkin rolls before, but sometimes trying a new recipe can show you how to improve upon your favorite.  So...here's what I've been making! 
(And I will say that even my children are already asking for my Pumpkin Maple & Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies with this rush of pumpkin goodies in our home, so the annual tradition has not been trumped...yet.  However, I think that they may all beg for pumpkin rolls annually, too, now.  They're just a weakness for me, so I don't make them often.)
Baked Pumpkin Fritter Bites Recipe
I saw the recipe for Baked Pumpkin Fritter Bites over on The Baker Mama, and I thought that they would be a great bite-sized treat for the adults and kids alike.  Seriously, how cute are they?
I never have "Pumpkin Pie Spice" on hand, so I substituted my own version.
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice recipe
1 1/4 t. cinnamon,
1/4 t. nutmeg,
1/4 t. ginger,
1/8 t. cloves,
1/8 t. allspice

I added 1 t. cinnamon and 1/8 t. nutmeg to the icing, and I cut the powdered sugar to 1 1/2 C.

I loved the "bites" fresh out of the oven after the first "dunk" in the icing.  If you do the second dunk, they don't keep very well and get soggy and gooey if you aren't going to eat them all immediately.  Next time, I think I'll omit the second dunk entirely.

See, I said next time, which means that I do intend to make them again.  I also think that next time, I may make some cream cheese filling with cream cheese, powdered sugar, clear Mexican vanilla, and butter, chill, roll into pea-sized balls and put them in the middle of each fritter bite before baking. 

 The heart shape in the center of my Pumpkin Roll was pure luck.  I've used many Pumpkin Roll recipes over the years, but this time, I tried Gimme Some Oven's recipe which is based off of Libby's traditional pumpkin roll recipe.  Again, I used clear Mexican vanilla, and I added a little more cinnamon and ginger - as well as a touch of allspice
If you've never made a pumpkin roll or are scared that it's too much/too hard, cast all of that aside and just DO it.  It's really NOT hard.  (The hardest part is flipping the cake off of the pan onto the powdered sugar towel, and...well, I promise you can do that.)
Be sure to liberally cover your towel with powdered sugar so that your cake doesn't stick to it.
I didn't try Gimme Some Oven's dental floss trick, but my pumpkin roll held up beautifully and didn't flatten when sliced.  Her trick is brilliant nonetheless (it just wasn't required this time.)
YUM!  This truly is one of my weaknesses.  I could eat the.whole.thing.

I love the Six Sisters blog, and so when I saw their Pumpkin Snickerdoodle recipe, I knew I had to try it.  When she says "chewy", she means it.  They are so incredibly soft and chewy! My favorite snickerdoodles are a little crispy on the outside, so at first, I wasn't sure what to think...then, I had a couple with my coffee, and I was in love.   I only used 2 3/4 C flour, added a little extra pumpkin, clear Mexican vanilla, and more cinnamon when I made them.  I smashed mine with the bottom of a glass to make them a little more consistent in shape and size.  Next time, I will do the same, but I'll also sprinkle on some raw sugar for a texture contrast after "smashing" them.