Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 13 - My Coffee Cupboard Runneth Over

The cabinet above my coffee maker is a little over stuffed. I keep a supply of coffee, coffee filters, and mugs there. I also keep tea and hot chocolate mixes along with straws. It all sort of made sense at one time, but it has gotten really cluttered. My mission this week was to reorganize this cabinet.


I just emptied the cabinet to begin with and wiped it all out. After sorting through the mugs and choosing my husband's favorite ones, this is the group I had left to discard. Is it any wonder there wasn't room for anything? Who needs this many mugs for morning coffee?


When I was decluttering, I had to rescue this mug. It's one that a favorite student gave me many, many years ago. I kept this mug at school for years and had coffee in it every day. There are too many happy memories to let this one go.


Here's an item that is long overdue to be discarded. I haven't had a coffee maker that uses this basket type of filters in many months. These are being moved to the craft supplies.


After the purging and decluttering I found that I had an entire empty shelf, so I moved the to-go coffee cups from another cabinet over to this one. Now that makes sense, I think. I also added some small baskets to keep similar items together.


One basket is for coffee filters.


Another basket is for teas.


Hot chocolate mixes fill a third basket.


All those extra mugs can be donated and there are still plenty left.


The extra coffee is in the cabinet, but I filled one of my Fiestaware canisters with coffee and set it beside the coffee maker for everyday use.



I'm very happy with my coffee cabinet reorganization. It's so nice not to have everything crowded and stacked here, I just need to apply this to the rest of the kitchen.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Snake in the Easter Grass

Snakes are not everyone's cup of tea, but my grandson Landon is intrigued by them. He loves to read about them and learn all he can about the different types and where they live. For a six-year-old, he's quite the snake expert. When I saw a snake made from plastic eggs by Sarah at Sheek Shindigs, I immediately thought of him and how it would tickle him to find one in his Easter basket.



These snakes are very simple to make, and require only a few supplies. I did my snake a little differently than the directions at Sheek Shindigs, so check out those directions for some alternatives.


You can make the snake any length you want. For mine I used a total of 39 plastic eggs, but only two of them are used whole. The rest of the snake is made with only one half of each egg. I also used some elastic cord, and a small piece of felt for the tongue. Dried beans are used inside the egg at the tail for the rattle.


Each egg half needs a hole in the end to run the elastic cord through. My husband made the holes for me with his drill and a tiny bit, but I think the holes could also be made by using a nail. Make a hole in each end of the whole eggs. Start the snake by putting some dried beans in one of the whole eggs for the tail, then run the elastic cord through the egg. Tie a knot securely on the end. I also put a drop of hot glue on the knot so it would stay put.
Then just start threading the egg halves onto the elastic cord. When the snake is as long as you like, add another whole egg for the head. Knot the elastic cord on the final end. I also used hot glue to secure my whole eggs parts together.


Cut a tongue from the felt and glue in place at the front of the head. Use a Sharpie to draw some eyes for the snake. The snake is ready to slither right into the Easter grass.




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pound Cake Cookies

Spring has arrived, and these Pound Cake Cookies are perfect for the events that come with springtime. If you're hostessing a tea or a shower this spring you may want to serve a tray of these buttery little morsels. The recipe I used was adapted from Southern Living Homestyle Cooking.


 



Pound Cake Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon rum or 1/2 teaspoon imitation rum flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 36 pecan halves

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg yolk, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract. Combine flour and salt, then gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Cover bowl and chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on prepared pan. Press 1 pecan half on top of each cookie. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen.

 
Press a pecan half on top of the unbaked cookie dough.


 

 Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, cool on a wire rack.


 


Once you try these cookies you'll know why they are named "Pound Cake Cookies". If you decide to serve them to guests, have the recipe handy, someone's going to ask for it.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cream Cheese Jalapeño Sausage Pinwheels

These sausage pinwheels are a versatile dish that can be served as a tasty appetizer or as breakfast on their own or paired with eggs. I love recipes that make use of crescent roll dough, and I know many people make one version or another of these pinwheels. The recipe that I'm using is one that my sister first gave me, and I think my husband would be happy if I made these every day.








Cream Cheese Jalapeño Sausage Pinwheels
1 pound pork sausage
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 package crescent roll dough

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until browned, adding the jalapeño pepper to the sausage while it is cooking. Drain the grease from the sausage, then add the cream cheese. Stir over very low heat until the cream cheese is blended into the sausage. Spread the crescent roll dough out on a sheet of parchment paper, sealing the perforations and seams together so that the dough is in one rectangular sheet. Spread the sausage/cream cheese mixture over the crescent dough in a thin, even layer. Start rolling the dough up lengthwise, very carefully in one long roll. Refrigerate the roll for 20 - 30 minutes, or stick it in the freezer for a short while, this will make it easier to slice. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with aluminum foil and spraying with cooking spray. Slice the roll into sections about 1/2 inch thick, place the slices on the prepared pan. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the crescent dough is browned.

 

This recipe is simple, requiring only sausage, jalapeño pepper, cream cheese, and crescent roll dough.



Flatten the crescent roll dough out into one flat sheet and seal up the perforations.



 

Spread the sausage/cream cheese mixture in a thin layer over the dough.

 

Roll the dough up to form the pinwheels.


 
Refrigerate the dough after it is rolled to make the slicing easier.



Slice into pinwheels and place on a foil lined sheet pan.
 
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes.




I love the kick that the jalapeño pepper adds to these pinwheels. You could also use hot sausage if you wanted to turn up the heat another notch.



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 12 - The Mail

One of the most persistent and frustrating sources of clutter at my house is the mail. A new stack comes every day and often yesterday's stack is still lying where it was thrown the day before. Most of the time the mail gets thrown on the kitchen island - right in the middle of the kitchen - making the kitchen look cluttered as soon as you step in. My problem to solve this week is how to get the mail clutter off the counter without misplacing or losing those important pieces of mail that need to be dealt with soon or bills that need to be paid.

 

The solution to the mail clutter is an empty cereal box. I'm modeling my project after a nifty one I saw created on the blog There's a Hole in My Bucket.
 
First of all, before I make the project, if your cereal box has one of these coupons on it, please clip it off and save it for a school.



Many schools collect them. My grandchildrens' schools, both public and private, save them, and most of the schools that I have worked in over the years also collected them. At the last school I worked in, a ladies' Sunday school class collected these as a project for our school. So even if you don't have children or grandchildren who collect them, somewhere there's a school that will appreciate you saving them.


Now on to the project - I decided to turn the cereal box sideways to make it wider and not as tall. I cut the front down lower than the back, then taped the top closed. I used scrap book paper to cover it all over. It took most of 4 sheets. I also painted some small wooden letters to spell "MAIL" and then hot glued them to the front.
 
To finish it off I used two clip magnets at the top to hold it to the refrigerator, but to add a little more security I hot glued a large flat magnet to the back. This magnet was just one I had in the drawer with some advertising on the front.

 



Will this solve my mail clutter problem? I don't know. At least now I have a place to put the mail when it gets piled on the counter. I'm not sure that I'll be able to retrain "everyone" to use this container, but I'm going to try.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crunchy Pecan Chicken

This Crunchy Pecan Chicken recipe is one that I have adapted from my 2002 Southern Living Homestyle Cookbook. This is a good baked chicken recipe with a lot of taste and crunch from the toppings. The prep is simple and the clean-up is easy for this dish.




Crunchy Pecan Chicken
1 cup biscuit mix (like Bisquick)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with aluminum foil and lightly spraying with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine biscuit mix, pecans, paprika, salt, and Creole seasoning. Pour buttermilk into a separate shallow bowl. Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk, then dredge in pecan mixture. Place chicken pieces on prepared pan. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

 
To make this chicken recipe you will need biscuit mix, pecans, paprika, salt, Creole seasoning, buttermilk, and butter.

 

Combine the biscuit mix and pecans with the seasonings in a medium bowl. Pour the buttermilk in a separate bowl. Dip the chicken pieces in the buttermilk then dredge with the pecan mixture. Hopefully, if you make this recipe you will do a better job than I did getting it together. I was so intent on getting the chicken in the oven to bake that I forgot to drizzle it with the melted butter. The chicken was halfway through the baking time when I found my melted butter in the microwave oven.


With 25 minutes left on the baking time, I quickly added the butter and put the chicken back in the oven. I guess this recipe must be hard to mess up because the chicken turned out great anyway. It was very juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making a Tied Fabric Wreath

There may be as many ways to make fabric wreaths as there are crafters who make them. Some are made with short pieces of fabric tied on wire forms, others are made with squares of fabric pinned to straw forms, still others are made with pieces of fabric that are hot glued to a form, and the list goes on.


The fabric wreath that I have made is a tied fabric wreath using longer pieces of fabric.


 
I started with a 12-inch straw form. Once you select your form, then you need to cut a strip of fabric and test it to see how long you want it to be. The strip will need to be long enough to wrap all the way around the wreath form and tie in a knot with loose ends, so the thicker your form, the longer the fabric strip will need to be.


I  used pinking shears to cut strips of fabric 18 inches long for my form. It is not important that the strips all be exactly the same width, the width can vary. I used about 1/2 yard of each fabric to make the wreath.

 
Wrap the strips around the form and secure by tying in a knot. Keep the strips close together so that the wreath form is completely covered.



Keep working around the wreath, tying the strips of fabric and keeping them pushed close together. After all the knots were tied, I embellished the wreath with a small sock money.

 

My wreath was made to hang in my laundry room to go with the new ironing board that was made from the same print. My laundry room had absolutely no decor before, but now the little sock monkey will be keeping a watchful eye over all the washing and ironing activities at my house. I think I'll enjoy having him around.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Tote Bags From Place Mats

Tote bags have been my most recent sewing project, and these bags are put together with nothing more than ordinary place mats and ribbon. I saw this fun idea made by Daisha at The Family Scientista, so I pulled some placemats out of a drawer and gave it a try.


 

I felt like the first bag I made was going to be more or less an experiment, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. I used two white place mats that had been put away unused for several years.

 
For each tote bag you will need two place mats and a spool of ribbon.  These white place mats were not the best shape for the project, as they had the corners squared off. This caused me to need to vary from the directions a little.





Instead of making a narrow hem, I turned one end of each place mat down at the point where the mat became straight and stitched across for a top hem.


 
On the opposite end I cut the part off that wasn't squared up.




Unroll the ribbon from the spoon and cut it in half. Each half of the ribbon will be one of the handles for the bag. Take one of the ribbon halves and pin it to the right side of the place mat, starting at the bottom. I measured over 3 1/2 inches from the side.




 
Pin up one side, then down the other forming the handle. Measure and keep the ribbon straight as you go. Stitch near the edge on both sides of the ribbon. You'll do this for both sides of your tote bag. Then lay both sides of the tote bag right sides facing each other and stitch down the sides and across the bottom.


 

 Then pull the bottom seam of the bag even with the side seam and flatten it out forming a triangle. Stitch a seam across this triangle about 2 inches from the point. This will give the bag its shape from the bottom.


 
When you turn it right side out it will look like this and will be squared off on the bottom.


 

And that's all there is to making a tote bag from place mats and ribbon, so simple I couldn't believe how fast it was.


 
For the second bag I made I actually bought two new place mats. These mats were just an ordinary rectangular shape, so they were easier to work with. I decided that I wanted to change this tote to make it larger than the last one, so I didn't cut any of the fabric away. I also turned the place mats in the other direction so that this tote would be wider than it was tall.


 

 I hemmed the place mats with a small hem across one of the long sides. This will be the top edge of the tote.

 
For this bag I measured 4 inches from each side to pin the ribbon in place.



 

After pinning the ribbon in place, then stitch along each edge of the ribbon. As in the previous tote bag, then place the two parts together with right sides facing each other and stitch across the sides and bottom.



Then squish the side seam flat against the bottom seam and make a triangle; stitch across the triangle. Do this on both sides.

 

Another tote bag completely finished. The black one is quite a bit larger than the white one. The white one is the perfect size to slip in a couple of magazines and a bottle of water or even a couple of diapers and some wipes. The black bag is the kind you can load up. We took our grandson Landon to the zoo in Memphis today, so I loaded up the black tote bag with my camera, my wallet, keys, hand wipes, makeup bag, and sunglasses to take along.

These tote bags were an easy and fun project. They can be customized in any color combination you like, there are so many choices in ribbon and place mat colors. With summer coming up these would be great to make for taking to the beach too.