Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Someone's Been MIA

I know, I know. I've neglected the blog for a while. It's been a busy few weeks in the Sugar Crumbs household. Nothing but work work work around here.

(And by work, I mean the boys and I have been enjoying the summer and prepping for the big craft show in August.)

It's another sticky, humid day in my neck of the woods. Walking outside is like stepping in a sauna. Even the boys don't want to go out. This is particularly unusual considering they'd live outside if I gave them the opportunity. So with the humidity making a long park trip rather unappealing, we decided to bust out the craft supplies.

There's not a single person on the face of the Earth that doesn't love play dough. The delightful texture, the bright colors, that semi odd smell. And you can get a pack of 10 for about $10. Not too bad, huh?

Unfortunately, I'm far too ridiculous crafty to spend $10 on something I can make easily and for less than half the price.

You knew this was coming... DIY Play Dough.

There are tons of recipes out there for play dough. I've tried close to 30... yet this one is always my go to. It's comparable to store bought PlayDoh but I find it to be smoother and easier to play with.

All you need is a few basic kitchen ingredients.

Start by mixing a cup of flour, a tablespoon of powdered alum and 1/2 tsp of salt in a saucepan.

Stir in 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of oil. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat once the mixture is the consistency of mashed potatoes. (Oooor play dough... Duh, Erin.)

Add 2 tablespoons of vanilla and some food coloring. Mix it up a little bit.

This is the point that you'll want to remove the mixture from the pan and knead it until the color is uniform. I've never had an issue with staining from the food coloring, however, as a preventative measure, I always line the area with wax paper. Better safe than sorry!

Tada! Perfect play dough in less time than it takes to run to the store and buy a container. This makes a good amount so feel free to divide it up before adding color so that you can dye each part separately and a different color!

And what do the kiddos think?

They couldn't wait to get their hands on it!

Play Dough
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon powdered alum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • food coloring
Mix dry ingredients.
Add water and oil.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it form a play dough/mashed potatoes consistency.
Remove from heat and add vanilla and food coloring.
Knead to work in color.

Variations: Try adding different extracts for different scents. You wouldn't believe how calming it is to play with a bit of play dough that smells of lavender.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I like to think of myself as a 50s era domestic goddess...

And by that, I mean I love love love making casseroles. So you can imagine my excitement upon discovering French Toast Casserole a few years back. There's nothing quite as wonderful as the smell of french toast wafting through the house early in the morning.

And fortunately, getting that lovely scent is easy as ever.

Just grab a few mainstay ingredients, a bowl, a whisk and an 8"x8" baking dish and you'll be ready to go!

Lightly butter the baking dish and line with 5 cups of bread cubes. Typically, this equals out to about 8 slices of bread.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla.

Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and dot with butter or margarine. Allow the dish to stand for about 10 minutes. You'll want to preheat the oven to 350 at this point.

Of course, no french toast recipe is complete without a little bit of cinnamon and sugar so you'll want to sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar over the top.

After 10 minutes, bake at 350 for about 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

While you're waiting, catch up on some finger painting. You should still have some leftover from when you made DIY finger paints.

You should definitely, DEFINITELY sneak a peek at the casserole about 30 minutes in. Unless you can't make it that long. The heavenly aroma is irresistible.

Once golden brown, remove from the oven and enjoy!

French Toast Casserole

  • 5 cups bread cubes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Lightly butter 8x8 inch baking pan. Line with bread cubes.

Beat eggs, milk, 2 tbsp sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl. Pour egg mixture over bread and dot with butter/margarine. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve with syrup, fruit or whipped cream.

Try using different breads for some amazing flavors. Raisin bread is particularly wonderful, as is banana bread.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Ok, there were no lions. Or tigers, for that matter. Bears are another story, though.

So yesterday I decided to take a stroll through a local park. It was early evening, so the weather was mild and even the critters of the forest decided to come out and enjoy the woodsy trails of the park. I greeted squirrels and chipmunks, birds and bugs... But I never expected to stumble upon Milton.

Milton was just lounging against a tree when I walked by. Naturally, I was a little afraid, with him being a bear and all. However, his mischievous smile urged me to ask him to join me on my walk. He did look rather lonely.

Our first stop was at the swing set. Milton was very excited as he had never been allowed to swing before. He expressed with some sorrow that most people saw him and were too afraid ask him to play on the swings with them.

"It's terribly hard to tell a nice bear from a mean bear!" he explained to me.

After we finished at the swing set, we continued our walk. Milton wanted to see the ducks but the walking quickly made him tired. So we stopped and he hitched a ride in my bag till we made it to the pond.

Once we arrived at the pond, Milton was a little nervous about leaning over the edge of the railing.

"Will you please hold my paw?" he asked. Soon he was eagerly peering out over the water.

But bears will be bears and Milty was no exception. As soon as he saw a tree nearby, he was determined to climb to the top and pick the very best leaf.

It took a few different tries and a few different trees, but Milton's persistence was proven worthwhile as he proudly showed off his special leaf.

It was soon after that that I noticed Milty's yawning. I knew that the time had come for us to part ways though neither of us really wanted to.

"Goodnight!" said the little bear, as he headed back into the forest. "Come play again!"

Oh, what a lovely evening!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Art 101. AKA Finger Painting.

Ah, summer time. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the grass is greener than ever. It's the time of year that we all expect to spend ours outdoors, just enjoying those warm breezes.

Turns out Mother Nature has had a few other ideas in the past week or so. Just about every time my kids and I plan to head out to our local park, the skies grow dark and some form of rain or storm ensues. (Either I have the worst luck ever or really bad timing. Please, nobody clarify this for me.)

So what's a bored family to do when cooped up inside? Finger paint!

Few things are more fun than finger painting. Even the adults like to get in on the action around here. (And by adults, I pretty much mean me.) But we like to get a little more hands on with our fingerpainting. May I present to you DIY Finger Paints.

It's seriously one of the easiest activities ever.

Aaaand it doesn't hurt that all the ingredients are items you can find in your kitchen.

Start by mixing 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/3 cup of cornstarch in a saucepan. Gradually add 2 cups of room temperature water. Stir constantly over low heat until a thick gel forms. Then add 1/4 cup of clear dishwashing liquid and remove from heat.

Once the mixture has cooled enough to handle, divide into containers. This is the fun part. Using food coloring, color each container. I went with very common colors but feel free to go wild here. This is also the stage to mix in any additives. Glitter and scents make for very unique paints.

And the final step... Grab some paper and have fun!

Finger Paints
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup clear dishwashing liquid
  • food coloring
Mix sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Gradually stir in water.
Using a whisk, stir constantly over low-med heat for about 10 minutes or until mixture is a thick gel.

Add dish liquid and remove from heat.

Once mixture has cooled, divide into containers and mix in dye.

Finger Paint Recipe #2
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • food coloring
Bring water to a boil and remove from heat.

Dissolve cornstarch in a little bit of cold water and add to boiling water.

Boil, while stirring constantly, for about 1 minute or until mixture thickens.

Divide, dye and enjoy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer = Strawberries? (It's recipe time!)

It's that time of year again. You know, the time of year where you can't go more than 30 feet without seeing one of these signs as you drive.

I'll tell ya, normally I drive right on by these signs without even thinking of stopping. I'm just not a big strawberry fan. In fact, I'm not a fan of most berries. I know, I know. You're shocked. This year, however, I decided to enjoy the strawberry season (and support some local farms) by making a family favorite.

Strawberry Shortcake.

"But that's so boring!" I know. Trust me, I do. So let's up the ante and make it Strawberry Chocolate Shortcake. (Women around the globe are rejoicing. Wait... maybe it's just me who loves chocolate enough to rejoice.)

The recipe is simple. Mix your shortcake ingredients in a bowl, turn the dough onto a flattened surface and press it out into a half inch thickness. Then cut 3" rounds with a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter oooor you can be classy like me and use the rim of a wine glass. Place the rounds on a greased sheet and bake for 17 minutes.

While the shortcakes are cooking, you'll wash, hull and slice your strawberries. Toss the strawberries in a few tablespoons of sugar and put to the side.

Next, beat some heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla together for an amazing whipped cream. Unfortunately, I missed getting any pictures of this process. It's tough to take pics AND beat the mixture. (Please don't ask what happened when I tried...)

That's it! Assemble your shortcakes by slicing each cake in half and sandwiching strawberries and cream and adding a dollop of cream on the top. Garnish with a strawberry if you'd like

Finally, Enjoy!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in pieces
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 2 cups whipping cream (or heavy cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the over to 350 F and butter a baking sheet.

Sift together flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Mix with a spoon. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry mixture until the mixture takes on a coarse consistency. Stir the milk in until a dough forms. Don't be afraid to use yours hands to mix as the dough stiffens.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and press into a 1/2" thickness. Cut 6+ 3" inch rounds from the dough, place on the sheet and bake for 17 minutes or until the centers are firm.

Wash, hull and slice strawberries. In a medium bowl, toss with 1 tbsp of sugar. Feel free to add more, if you prefer a sweeter strawberry.

Pour the whipping cream into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium high till the cream forms soft peaks. Beat in 4 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla.

To assemble, slice each cake in half and places berries and whipped cream on the bottom half. Add the top portion plus more whipped cream and a crowning berry.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Already June? Where did May go?

So, I've recently had the awesome pleasure of visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. I won't lie... when I first thought of making the long trip there, to a garden, I was not enthused. I mean, I appreciate plants and flowers and all that but enough to make that kind of drive and pay $18 to get in?


Luckily, I had a reason to go and excellent company for the drive. Upon arriving, I wasn't all that impressed. That soon changed. Within minutes, I was discovering many of the gardens most beautiful spots. And amazingly, there are little hidden treasures all through out the 350 acres of garden.

Yes. 350 acres.

Beautiful. But let's face it... What are you really looking for in a garden?


Longwood did not disappoint. Between the 4 acre conservatory and the gorgeous rose gardens, beauty was abundant.

Whether or not you're a floral fan, you cannot leave Longwood Gardens without a deep desire to cultivate your own lovely little garden. Unfortunately for me, I was born with a dead thumb.

No, seriously. I have plants. I love them. They do not feel the same about me... I'm the only person in the world who can over water and under water in the span of a few days. I'd show you, but I'm too embarrassed.

So what's a girl to do when she wants to bring a little bit of that spring time flower feelin' into her kinda sorta drabby bedroom?

Bust out some craft supplies, suffer a few minor burns from a hot glue gun and Ta-DA!!!!

I have to admit. I'm pretty pleased with the ease and simplicity of this project. And luckily, I had all supplies on hand... 2 canvases, some paint, hot glue... and for the flowers?

Yep. Just a few cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes.

45 minutes, $8 in supplies with some awesome new wall art? I'm thinking "Score!!!!"

Yay for being a cheapskate DIYer!
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