March 29, 2013

Photo Frame Jewelry Holder

I've seen this project many times on Pinterest.  I'm not sure who the original creator of this idea is, but I love it.  I don't like putting all of my jewelry in a box, where I have to dig through piles of tangles necklaces and bracelets to find anything.  I don't wear jewelry that much, so I like it out where I can see it, then I'm more likely to put it on.  It's so pretty when it's displayed, don't ya think? It's like a piece of functional art, and what's not to love about that?

I wanted to display all my jewelry (I don't wear it often so I don't have that much) and that includes earrings.  The projects I saw on Pinterest didn't have anywhere to put stud earrings, so I created one.  I added the ribbon across the top to push the earring through.  It is only slightly a pain to try to put them on the ribbon without knocking anything else off, but for a person such as myself who uses it so rarely, it works.  Perhaps if you need to access the studs everyday, a different option would be a better fit.

photo frame without glass (The size is up to you and depends on how much jewelry you want it to hold. Mine is about 17''x14'' or so.)
paint (if you choose to paint your frame)
chicken wire (You can get this really cheap at the hardware store.)
hooks (I think I got mine at Target or the hardware store.  Once again, really cheap.)
staple gun
wire snips

Take the glass out of your frame. Paint your frame if you desire. I picked up mine for free at a garage sale without the glass and already painted, so it was perfect. I didn't paint the hooks on this one, but I made one for a friend's daughter and painted them the same color as the frame.  I think both look nice.  It's up to you.

Measure the bottom of your frame and then divide it by how many hooks you want to use.  Mine measures 14'' and I used 6 hooks, so put them every 2'' or so.  Use a ruler and a pencil to mark where you want the hooks to go. 

Using a drill with a small bit, drill holes where you want your hooks to go (I had my hubby do this part).  The holes will help the hooks go in much more easily, otherwise it's near impossible to screw them in. 

Using wire snips, cut your chicken wire just slightly larger than the frame opening.  Staple the chicken wire to the back of the frame in a few places.

Next, cut your ribbon slightly larger than the frame opening and staple that to the back of the frame as well.

Leave as is or adorn with a lovely flower, as I did.  Hang it on the wall, unload your jewelry, and admire your piece of functional art!

Photos: A Musing Mamma

March 28, 2013

Busy Jars

I made these little "busy jars" for the little ones for a road trip last year, and I still bring them out every now and again to keep them entertained (for as long as a two-year old's attention can be held!).  They are ridiculously easy and can be made with items you already have lying around the house.

Just add dry rice (or beans, lentils, cereal, oatmeal) to a plastic jar (peanut butter jars or something similar work well).  Fill the jar about halfway to three-quarters of the way full, then add various small household items or toys.  TIGHTLY screw on the lid (or use duct tape around the lid to secure).  Shake and enjoy! I will usually ask my kids to name what they see, or ask them to find certain objects that I know are in there.

Some ideas of items to include:
pen cap
screw or nail
penny, nickel, dime, quarter
bottle cap
small battery
a straw (cut a section off)
puzzle piece
items from Mr. Potato Head (eyes, nose, ear, etc.)
shoes from a Barbie doll
any little toy item will work!

Photo: A Musing Mamma

March 26, 2013

Breakfast Sausage Casserole

I *love* brunch. My family usually hosts brunches for Easter, Mother's & Father's Day, Christmas, or just because. Among the many delicious food items to devour there is usually this scrumptious breakfast sausage casserole.  I can't believe that a recipe as simple as this could produce the flavor that it does.  I think it comes from the sausage, but everything comes together really nicely.  This is a great dish to make the night before and cook the next morning.

This is an asparagus-potato casserole, which is similar and as equally delicious.

Breakfast Sausage Casserole
Serves 6-9

1 1/2 lbs bulk breakfast sausage
9 eggs, lightly beaten
3 C milk
1 1/2 C grated cheese (we use cheddar but anything similar will do)
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
3 bread slices, cubed

Brown sausage and drain. Mix with remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (if making the night before).  Pour into a lightly greased 9''x13'' pan and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until eggs are set.

Photo: A Musing Mamma

The Best Place To Buy Vanilla Beans

Have you ever made homemade vanilla extract?  It is amazing.  I made some for my friends and family for Christmas gifts using this recipe .  The fact that one bottle will last you a very long time has me hooked. Talk about saving a lot of money!

I needed a lot of vanilla beans so I scouted them on and let me tell you... it is the best place to buy vanilla beans. If you have ever bought vanilla beans at the store then you are well aware of how expensive they are.  You can buy them in bulk on Amazon for a very inexpensive price.  I purchased mine (Marky's Vanilla Beans) for $18.63 and it had 70-80 beans in it. That, my friends, is an AMAZING deal.  I had so many that I ended up giving the leftovers to friends and family also as gifts (after I saved a bunch for myself, of course). The particular ones I bought aren't available at the time of this post, but here is something similar, or here.

Now, go make some vanilla extract or homemade vanilla ice cream!

Photo: Ruth Dombrowski for A Musing Mamma

March 25, 2013

Cocoa-Peanut-Butter-Banana Smoothie

We are on a smoothie kick at our house.  This cocoa-peanut-butter-banana smoothie tops our list of favorites.  It's sweet, chocolate-y, nutritious, and sooooo delicious! We use Greek yogurt because the nutritional content is higher than other typical styles of yogurt. Our favorite is Fage, but any brand will do.  A 1-cup serving of the 2% version has 46% of a person's daily value of protein. That's amazing! (I don't get paid to promote Fage, I just love it that much.  Seriously, this stuff is great.  Look for a post in the future about all the awesome things you can do with it.)

This snack that is very nutritious for you, too. Just to name a few of the health benefits... the milk, yogurt, and peanut butter have some serious protein and vitamins, and the peanut butter has the good-for-you mono-saturated fat that will keep you satiated. We all know bananas are loaded good stuff like fiber, potassium, vitamins B-6 and C, and other vitamins.  Even the cocoa has health benefits. Did you know that 1 Tbs of cocoa powder has 7% of your daily value of fiber?  Not to mention the antioxidant properties of the cocoa, honey, and peanut butter.  So here's a snack you can indulge in while being health-concious.

Cocoa-Peanut-Butter-Banana Smoothie
Serves 1-2

1/2 - 3/4 C Greek Yogurt
1 C milk (any milk can be used... cow, almond, soy, etc.)
2 Tbs honey
2-3 Tbs cocoa powder
2-3 Tbs peanut butter
1-2 frozen bananas

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend.  We actually use a large plastic cup or bowl and the stick blender (our favorite is the Cuisinart below, which is so versatile and amazing).

The great thing about this recipe (and smoothies in general) is that you can customize them to your own taste.  Want it sweeter? Add more honey.  Want it thicker?  Add more bananas and/or less milk.  Not a fan of peanut-butter?  Take it out.  The options are endless!

*One tip is to slice the bananas before you freeze them. It's easier to blend this way, rather than trying to blend one whole frozen banana.

Photo: A Musing Mamma

March 22, 2013

The Best Places To Buy Children's Books

Unless I'm looking for a specific title that I need ASAP, children's books are something in our house (along with many other items) that I almost never buy new.  Most used children's books out there are actually in good condition and would do well in a second (or third or fourth!) home.  Here are some great places to buy them, just to name a few:

-Kids resale shops: This is probably my least favorite, as they tend to be on the "pricier" side of the lot, which still isn't pricey considering you'll probably pay around $2.00 per book.

-Kids resale events: Most places have kids resale events a couple times per year.  These tend to have a large selection and decent prices.  Some events even have a half-price day.  Just Between Friends (with locations almost everywhere) usually puts on a good one.  You can find other consignment shops & sales using Consignment Mommies or Kids Consignment Sales.

-Moms groups: If you belong to a mom's group or have a group of moms that meet up every once in a while, why not organize a children's book swap within your group? Tell members to bring 5 or so books that their kids no longer want or read, and everyone can go home with 5 new ones.

-Libraries: Most libraries have a "used book store" where they place books that they no longer need in circulation.  I've seen prices range from $0.25 - $1.00 per book.

-Goodwill / Savers / any other thrift store: These places are great because they tend to have a large selection for a very inexpensive price, with most around $0.25-$1.00 per book.

-Garage / Estate Sales: Another great place to find children's books.  Most people sell them for $0.10 - $1.00 per book, and most sellers will bargain with you if you ask!

Where do you buy your children's books?  

Photo: A Musing Mama

March 21, 2013

Caribbean Corn Bread (The BEST Cornbread)

Anguilla, home of the best cornbread recipe
Pineapple in cornbread?  Yes, pineapple.  And cheddar cheese.  Wait, what?  I know what you're thinking.  That's exactly what I was thinking before I had my first bite of this luscious goodness. But just wait.  Just wait until you try it.  You too will be a believer.  This cornbread is...I'm grasping for the words here... moist, and sweet-without-being-too-sweet, and cake-y and corny and everything that cornbread should be.  You can't directly taste the pineapple and cheese, but together it gives a certain ...something. The pineapple gives makes it moist and a bit sweet and the cheese lends a bit of a salty bite and it's just....mmmmmmm.  Everyone I serve this to can't believe how delicious and addicting it is, and they demand the recipe ASAP because it's that good.  And I am more than happy to divulge it because I believe that something this good needs to be shared.  It begs to be shared.  Recipes like this are born to spread the love and make mouths happy, and challenge people to try recipes with unusual ingredients.  Anyway, enough with the cornbread praise and on to the recipe.

This is adapted from my favorite cookbook "At Blanchard's Table:  A Trip To The Beach Cookbook".

Caribbean Corn Bread
Serves 8

1 C all purpose flour
1 C cornmeal
2 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 C sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 C canned cream-style corn
1/2 C canned crushed pineapple, drained
1 C shredded Monterey Jack or mild white Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9-inch square glass cake pan (or metal if you have it, but glass works best).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  While the mixer is running, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the corn, pineapple, and cheese, and mix to blend.  Stop and deliberate over the fact that you just put corn, pineapple, and cheese into the same recipe. On a low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until blended well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about one hour to and hour and fifteen minutes.  It should be golden brown on top, and a toothpick stuck in the center will come out clean when it's done.

Now, go make some Caribbean cornbread and spread the love :)

Photo: A Musing Mamma

March 20, 2013

Light-As-A-Cloud Lemon Mousse

I am a big fan of using lemon in my cooking and baking. This dessert gets an A+ from me.  Very light, very lemony, and very delicious! Adapted from Blanchard's cookbook (one of my faves...more on that later).

Light-As-A-Cloud Lemon Mousse
Serves 4-6

1 C. sugar
3/4 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. freshly grated lemon peel
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
assorted berries and whipped cream, for serving (optional)

On top of a double broiler over simmering water, combine the sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, eggs, and lemon peel. Cook, whisking constantly so as not to get lumps, until a thermometer reads 160 degrees. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge until chilled. When the lemon mixture is cold, whip the cream until you get soft to medium peaks. Gently fold a quarter of the whipped cream into the lemon mixture to blend, and then fold in the remaining cream. Spoon into individual glasses or bowls. Garnish with berries and sweetened whipped cream.

Photo: Ben Fink via: At Blanchard's Table: ATrip To The Beach Cookbook

March 19, 2013

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