Monthly Archives: December 2012

Carammmmmel Corn!

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Carammmmmel Corn!

This is one of my all time favourite recipes. I have played around with the quantities, and ingredients, and it is a very forgiving recipe. You can use brown sugar, or white sugar. I have also tried adding honey.
The ingredients are roughly….
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of corn syrup
a big bowl of popcorn
Start by mixing the sugar, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan and boil for a couple minutes

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Keep boiling until it gets an almost fluffy texture. While it is boiling, spread the popcorn out on a cookie sheet. If you want to make coloured popcorn, add a couple drops of food colouring right before pouring over the popcorn. But, honestly, I have had mixed success with the colour. Green colour works well, but I tried making some red last week, and after baking in the oven, it turned out more of a brown colour. Still tasted great though! Next time I am going to maybe try festive sprinkles…

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Drizzle the caramel over top of the popcorn as evenly as you can.

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Bake at 325 for 15 mins, stir then put back in the oven for about 15 more minutes. Use a spatula to scrape all of the caramel off the pan and use it to drizzle over the popcorn…you don’t want to loose any of the caramel on the pan!

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When you take it out of the oven, give it another stir to mix around any more caramel on the pan. Once it cools, it will clump a little, but you should be able to break it apart as it cools. Also, while it is still hot, I like to sprinkle some salt on top. It makes a huge difference…I love the salty and sweet combo! Enjoy!

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Christmas Bags

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I am one of the first ones to get into the holiday spirit in terms of decorating and baking, but I am not a huge fan of wrapping. I hate the huge pile of wrapping paper we toss out every christmas morning, and I hate the amount of time it takes to wrap all of the presents. So a couple years ago I tried this idea out, and sewed a bunch of small sized bags for stocking stuffers, and it has worked so well, I want to make some bigger bags this year. It makes wrapping so much easier, and doesn’t create any garbage, and can be used year after year. Each family member picks a different fabric, and I don’t even have to put tags on the gifts!
I have even given these bags as gifts, for other people to use for wrapping… it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
The best part is I have a special arrangement with Santa…I send him the bags, and he wraps all of the presents using the bags! After Christmas, the kids and I pack them in a box, and send them to Santa to use for next year!
To make these gift bags, you need a different fabric for each kid/family member, a sewing machine, and some ribbon or cord for the drawstring.

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Start by cutting up the fabric into squares. I decided to make a bunch of different sizes. Obviously, you need two pieces of each size, for a front and back of the bag

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Next, make sure the right sides of the fabric are facing in and you have to sew around the perimeter, leaving the top open (once again, seems obvious).
Because these bags are really not going to be used heavily, used once per year,and will probably never be washed. The bags do not need to have finished edges or seams. So here is the quickest way I have found to add a drawstring…
When you are sewing the first seam, fold over both sides of one corner, and sew right across the fold. This will be the top opening of the bag…

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you can sort of see in the top right corner…

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Then, cut the drawstring the right length to go all the way around the bag with a few inches extra on each side..

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What I do is I fold over the top right over the drawstring, and sew the seam. This way, I dont even have to thread the drawstring through.

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And, because I have already folded over that corner at the start, I have a finished opening for the drawstring. Here is a close up of the finished opening…

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Done, now only about 20 more to do!

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Here is another close up of the drawsing opening…it is a little easier to see with the blue fabric…

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Christmas Card Ornaments!

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A couple years ago, I found a great craft to make with recycled christmas cards (don’t worry, I’ll share it with you!) But then what happened is people started saving cards for me, then I had to find other projects to make and then, people started saving cards for me…it has been a vicious greeting card cycle! But the good news is that I have a couple fantastic greeting card crafts, and enough cards to last me a few years!
This website craftaholics anonymus had a really cute thanksgiving pumpkin, that I thought would be great as an ornament…here is the original design I saw

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So here is project number one…
You need the following materials:
Scissors, a hole punch, greeting cards, and paper fasteners.
Start by picking cards with interesting patterns and designs…Here is the one that I started with…

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Then, cut the cards into strips about 1 centimetre wide (for all you Americans, that’s close to 1/2 inch wide) and, punch holes in the top and bottom of each strip.

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The next step is to thread all of the strips onto a fastener, one at each end…

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Then, to open up the ornament, bend the strips so they form a curve like in the picture.

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And start spreading the strips out until they form a sphere. Your sphere is going to look different depending on the width of the strips, and the length of the strips, but here is what my first one looked like:

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It was so easy, I got excited! I went through the box of cards, and found a bunch of gold and silver cards.

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And, I made a bunch of gold and silver ornaments…

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The Absolute Best Recipe this Christmas…Pretzel Caramel Bark!

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I think around Christmas I look out for sweet treats, and for some reason, around the holidays it is ok to make and consume sweet stuff that you wouldn’t normally eat. That’s what the holidays are all about, right? Here is the link to a recipe I found that caught my attention:
mamasaywhat.com
Here is a picture…

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As usual I am going to try it out, but I am going to make a few changes…
I started with a cup of brown sugar and about 1/4 cup of butter…

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While we were waiting for the sugar and butter to boil, I had the kids spread out the pretzels on a cookie sheet.

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We let the sugar and butter boil until it changed consistency and colour. It took about 5 -10 minutes. I tested it on my tongue a couple times until it became crunchy.

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Then I drizzled it over the pretzels. I ended up stacking some of the pretzels because i didn’t have enough of the sugar and butter mixture to cover…

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Then I put the tray into the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes..While the pretzels were in the oven, I melted some chocolate chips in a double broiler.

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After I took the pretzels out of the oven, I drizzled the chocolate on top and sprinkled some red and green m&m’s on top.

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Here is what it looks like done…

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I have to say that I made these a week ago for gifts, and there are none left, and I didn’t actually give any away… they were that good! There is something about the mixture of sweet, salty, and chocolate on top! I feel another batch coming on!
***Update- Here is my batch #2…since the first batch never made it out of my kitchen, I made a double batch this time. I used red and green chocolate chips rather than m&m’s this time to make it more festive. Also, I quickly packaged this batch up in little bags for gifts right aftr I made it.

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Santa Snacks

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Once again, at work it is potluck time at work, and by 7:00, I really didn’t feel like baking up a storm…it’s only fun when I have tonnes of other things to do…when I have to bake under pressure, it loses some of it’s appeal.
So to make a long whiny story short, I needed something quick, easy, and good enough to serve at a potluck. So, I did what I always do when I need an idea, I looked on Pinterest. I found these ideas that I thought were cute…

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So I bought some Two-Bite Brownies, a container of vanilla icing, and a couple containers of strawberries.

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I filled an icing bag with the icing. A trick to filling an icing bag is to use a glass to hold up the bag, by folding it over the rim of the glass. My plastic glasses are the perfect size…

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Then I washed the strawberries and cut off the stems, so the widest part of the strawberry was flat.

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Then I spread out the brownies, and iced the tops, trying the make the outside neat, put the strawberries on top, then piped a pom pom “blob” on top.

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Repeat the process a few times and you have what I’m going to call, Santa Snacks.

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For the lunch, I washed the strawberries at home, filled the icing bag, then an hour before, I put them together, they literally took less than 10 minutes! I think they would look great on top of a cheese cake too.

Encyclopedia Tree!

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I am the librarian at my school, and I have been on a quest since I started to find uses for our numerous sets of Encyclopedias. The fact is that kids just don’t read encyclopedias anymore, why would they? They are challenging to navigate, out dated, and can’t even compare to the information available on the internet! Anyways, I tried to give them away, begged teachers to take them for art projects, but at the end of the year, I still had a couple entire sets. So it has been a personal challenge of mine to see how many different projects I could use them for. I have already made jewelery, flowers, vases, origami….
I was going to buy a tree for the library, but then I thought, why not make one?
All you need is….
a cardboard tube (the one I found was from a roll of fabric)
A few old encyclopedias
lots of tape
cardboard
I didn’t have a tree stand either, so If you want to make your own, you need some screws, four encyclopedias and a drill.

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To make the stand, I set up the encyclopedias the way I wanted them. I found that a pinwheel design seemed to be the strongest. So I predrilled all of the holes about an inch away from the top…

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Then, I screwed in on encyclopedia at a time, until I had a firm base…

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To make the tree, I started by cutting out four circles of cardboard, four different sizes. Then, I cut a hole in each of the circles…

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I put the rings on the base…

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Then, I started rolling cones of paper (ripped out pages of the encyclopedia) and I attached on to each level of the tree. I wanted to make sure the rings were spaced out the right amount.

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Once I was sure they were in the right place, I taped them securely in place. Then, I started rolling and rolling cones. I used a strong tape with filament to tape each cone onto the rings.

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Next time I make one of these, I will start from the bottom and work up! The next step was to fill up all of the spaces with cones.
Then finally, to make the top of the tree, I taped six cones together…

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Then, slid the cones over the top of the tree. Tada!

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Here it is, in my library…

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I think I am going to give the kids some red construction paper, and have them make some origami ornaments.
A couple people have asked if I am going to paint it, but I like the way it looks, I would also be concerned that the print would show through the paint. I might add some sparkles or glitter glue though!

T-shirt Wreath

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After making the recycle t-shirt scarves, I started thinking about what else you could make out of tshirts, and I came across a wreath made with tulle that looked like a santa suit. So I thought I could create the same idea, but with recycled materials.

All you need is a red t-shirt, and a coat hanger, and a few scraps of cardboard and a couple paperclips.

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With a sharp pair of scissors, cut the t-shirt across under the armpit, and cut the hem off of the bottom
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If you were going to make an infinity scarf, or end up with loops, you can just cut the t-shirt into strips, but i thought it would be easier to start with a continuous piece. So, here is how you can make t-shirt yarn. This yarn is fantastic to knit, crochet, or weave with! My mind is racing with all of the things I could do here!
So, to make a continuous strip, leave the side seams attached, and cut the t-shirt into strips about an inch or an inch and a half wide, being careful to stop cutting about two inches from one of the side seams like this…
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Open the t-shirt up and slip something in the middle so you can see clearly, and won’t cut through. I slipped in a piece of cardboard…
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Now here it the tricky part, to make it one continuous piece, you are going to cut the strips diagonally, so they attach to the strip in the row above…look carefully…
Start by making an end, by cutting apart one strip like this…
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Then connect the rows diagonally by cutting parallel to your first line like this…
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Keep going…
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Until you have connected all of the rows, and you should have one very long piece…
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Now for my daughters favourite part, pulling the strips! When you pull the strips, they curl around, making almost a little tube…So this strip…
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Turns into this..
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Here’s what it looks like pulled…
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To cut the strips into smaller lengths, all the same size, I folded a piece of cardboard, wrapped the strips around and cut it off at both sides
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Then, I bent the coat hanger into a big circle…
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And I started tying on all of the strips, just a single knot…
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Keep tying until you have covered the whole wreath..
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Then, to make the buckle, I used a scrap of silver paper, that I cut a hole in the center. And to make the belt, I used a piece of cardboard and covered in in black tape…
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I added a couple ho ho’s with the silver and black paper, and twisted a couple paperclips to attach them to the wreath. Here is the t-shirt wreath complete!
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I actually bought two t-shirts for the wreath…what should i make out of the other one?

Make Ahead Good Enough for Company Complete Dinner

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A couple weeks ago, I had some friends over for dinner that I hadn’t seen in ages, so I really didn’t want to spend the whole time they were here cooking and getting dinner ready. I searched for recipes, and came up with a menu where everything could be prepared ahead of time so that by the time they came over, all I had to do was put the food in the oven. I would make it again for sure! It was really great to have the time to sit and talk to my friends rather than be hiding out in the kitchen!
So when grocery shopping, you need the following:
5 pounds of potatoes
cream cheese
sour cream
cheddar cheese
green onions
bacon/ bacon bits
pork tenderloin
balsamic vinegar
garlic
olive oil
Rosemary
various veggies to oven roast (I used peppers, eggplant, zucchini, carrots onion, but you could use just about any vegetables)
Mashed and Baked Potatoes
Start by peeling 5 pounds of potatoes (I know…fun, fun, fun!)

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Cook the potatoes by boiling them for about 15 minutes, then mash them. Then mix in about 1 cup of cream cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, green onion slices, and as much bacon as you want. Spread it all out in a large pan, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top, and put into the fridge. It’s ready to put in the oven.

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Balsamic Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary
To prepare the pork, I always use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut off the fatty parts.

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Then, in a bowl I mixed together a couple cloves of garlic, about 1/2 cup of balsamic and olive oil, and I chopped up a few sprigs of rosemary.

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I mixed everything together and poured it over the tenderloin, and made sure the tenderloin was coated. Done. Now to find room in the fridge….

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Olive Oil Roasted Vegetables
I love vegetables cooked in the oven. Maybe it is because I don’t do it that often because I never have the time. But these are simple, once again, prep everything ahead of time. I bought peppers, red onions, asparagus, zucchini, carrots and eggplant.

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I cut everything up into bite sized pieces, drizzled some olive oil, and salt, and a little bit of dried parsley, and italian seasoning, then put aside….

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The best part about this dinner is that it is all ready! I served the dinner with some fresh bread and butter, and I guess I could have made a salad too But I just waited until my guests arrived, turned the oven on to 375 degrees, then enjoyed the time catching up!

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Got any old magazines or books laying around?

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Once again, I have to credit Pinterest for this idea…and I swear I have tried to find the website where I found it originally, but I can’t find it…
Anyways, when I tried this out at school, the kids were instantly interested and wanted to know how to make them. These are perfect to make out of magazines or catalogs!
All you need is an old magazine…that’s it…oh, and a little bit of free time, which I apparently have tonnes of! It’s funny how it works, but the more I have to do, the more creative I am!

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You start at the back of the magazine, and fold the top corner over so it meets the inside fold…

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Then, fold it over again…

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close the magazine and fold up the bottom…

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Then, repeat and repeat until you have folded the entire magazine..

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Then it will look like this…

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As you can kind of tell in the photo, I tried with a few different kinds of paper. I made a couple out of Archie Comics, magazines, paperback books that were falling apart, magazines, even scholastic flyers… The kids at home and at school loved doing this, I even had the Brownies make them to decorate our float at the parade next weekend…wait to see what we are going to do! We are making two christmas trees out of water bottles and recycled paper, and a garland out of pop cans. I also ordered a huge number of glow sticks on-line! I’ll take lots of pictures!