DIY flip flop cookies!

This is a super easy no bake cookie platter.  I saw a few of them on Pinterest when I was looking for food ideas for my daughters birthday pool party.  Aren't they so cute??

What you need:
1 pkg of Nutter Butter cookies
1 tube of decorating frosting (you can buy a smaller one that has a tip at the end)
40 pieces of sprinkles or pieces of candy

Lay out all your butter butter cookies.  Attach a frosting tip on the end of the tube of frosting or just open it if you bought the smaller one with a tip at the end.  Draw a 'V' in the bottom half of the nutter butter cookie.  Press a sprinkle or small candy at point on the bottom.  Let the icing harden and then stack them onto a platter!

Voila!  Wasn't that easy?  I did them the night before and Saran wrapped the platter so it was all ready to go for her party the next day!


Make It Yourself! Easy pasta salad

I love a good pasta salad!  Who doesn't love a quick and easy recipe?  There are so many variations you can do but my absolute favorite is this Italian pasta salad.  I've seen pre made tubs of it at Whole foods, Costco, etc and I always think 'hey I could make that'.  Well I finally got around to doing it and it really is easy!

What you'll need:
1 pkg pasta
1 can black olives (sliced)
1 can artichoke hearts (cut into smaller pieces)
1 English cucumber (sliced and cut into quarters)
1/2 onion (diced)
1/2 jar sundries tomatoes (sliced)
1/4 pkg sliced salami (cut into quarters)
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
Italian dressing about 1/4 c

There is a little prep with dicing or slicing the ingredients but it can all be done while your pasta is cooking.  

Cook pasta al dente according to instructions.  Drain and pour into large mixing bowl.

Add in your veggies and Italian dressing.
Mix well then add in salami and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle some black pepper and serve.  If you prefer it cold then pop it into the refrigerator for a couple hours before serving.  

The best part of making pasta salad is you can always add other ingredients or omit ones that I used to suit your tastes or those of your guests.  This served 6 people.  Enjoy!


Car Shopping

Recently I delivered our fourth child and that meant we had outgrown my SUV.   So it was time to go car shopping!  The idea of getting a new SUV was exciting but the actual process of test driving and negotiating gave me a headache.  Over the last few weekends my husband test drove almost every third row SUV on the market today.  Some were instantly crossed off while others remained possibilities.  

My requirements:
-seats 7 passengers
-4 car seats (1 booster, 1 forward facing car seat, 1 rear facing car seat & 1 infant car seat) preferably with latch attachments
-safety driving sensors 
-city select double stroller fit in the trunk
-large cooler (yeti) fit in the trunk
-kids could get in and out themselves

It was a tall order and our preferences came down to the Ford Explorer sport and the Honda Pilot touring.  In the trunk both SUVs impressively fit our yeti cooler and city select double stroller.  Both SUVs fit all 4 car seats however the ford explorer only had latch attachments for 3 car seats.  In terms of safety features and pricing they are very comparable.  The Honda Pilot touring has a rear entertainment option included, a couple extra ports for charging gadgets and more cup holders however the Ford Explorer sport drove a bit better feeling more more powerful and tighter handling.

In the end the Honda Pilot was the winner because they have a push button that moves the second row seat forward so my kids could climb into the third row.  The second row could also fit 2 rear facing car seats (peg perego infant seat and Diano radian car seat) with latch attachment which we found no other third row SUV could accommodate.  The latch attachment wasn't a deal breaker it is just easier for me to install or rearrange car seats.


Make It Yourself! Easiest homemade bread

This is seriously the easiest homemade bread recipe!!  If you have ever wanted to try making bread at home this is your go to recipe!  You must try this beautiful golden crispy goodness.  

found the recipe on a blog called It's always autumn and here is the link:  http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2016/02/12/homemade-artisan-bread-easiest-bread-recipe-ever.html

All you need is:
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix it all up, cover and let the magic happen.

After 6 hours or more or after the dough has risen transfer it to a floured baking sheet and knead a few times.  Let it rest for 30 minutes or so.  

Preheat oven to 425f and warm Dutch oven or oven safe container for the bread to cook in.  Coat with oil and transfer dough from cookie sheet into warm container.  Cut a cross cross on top.

Bake for 30 mins covered and 15 mins uncovered.

Tada!  Now grab some butter or jam or whatever your go to spread is for bread and dig in.  Enjoy!!


Luray Caverns & Shenandoah National Park

My family and I drove out to West Virginia to explore the Luray Caverns. 

The caves were easy to navigate since there was a tour guide and paved walk ways.  It was just under 2 miles so my kiddos 6, 4, 2 were able to do it.  My 2 year old got tired towards the very end and hubby had to carry him.  I was also 37 weeks pregnant and did just fine.

Afterwards we took skyline road to drive through a small part of Shenandoah National Park.  

The trees were still mostly bare and we didn't do any of the trails.  We stopped at a few overlooks but mainly we just wanted to check it out since it was on our way.  Next time we will have to plan to do some hiking!


DIY Fancy X Farmhouse Dining Table!

I've been wanting to build some new living room/dining room furniture for a while now.  I have loved looking up plans on Ana White's site as well as Shanty2chic to get ideas.  Their collaboration for a fancy x farmhouse table was #1 on my list.  I love the look as well as the reasonable price especially compared to anthropolgy's $$$ retail store price tag!  Check out their free wood plans here.  

Well it was a total shock when last month my hubby looked the plans over and decided to help me build one!  I was over the moon thrilled since I'm about 7 months pregnant and most everyone thinks I'm nuts for wanting to build new furniture now.  My reasoning is, well that's why I want my hubby to do it!

The plans were pretty straight forward and we just followed it step by step.  He picked up the wood from Home Depot and got to work on the cut list.  It helped to work as a team so one person could square off when needed, glue and hold the x feet pieces in place while the other person screwed or nailed it together.  Our only big hitch was when we built the matching longer benches we didn't check the placement of the feet.  When it was all done we weren't able to push the benches under the table!  We wanted to be able to tuck them in so we had to remove the feet and redo that step.  Otherwise this wasn't a hard first wood furniture project to do together!  Here are a few pics during the building process (ignore my messy garage):

It was also the first time either of us had used a kreg jig and it was definitely worth buying!  We bought the small junior kit and it worked well for the steps that suggested using one.  I picked up the kreg jig R3 kit from lowes or you can always order it off amazon which can be found here.  We used it to attach the table top to the base instead of using L brackets underneath.

He planed a few areas to make it more even and sanded everything down really well.  Next, he applied wood conditioner before staining to help the wood absorb it more evenly.  I bought this minwax pre stain wood conditioner (pictured below) and that can be found here.

Then we applied two coats of red oak 215 minwax stain (we waited 24 hours between coats).  The wood conditioner did help out with staining it more evenly.  We tested it before hand on scrap wood to see if it made a difference and it did!

 He applied three coats of minwax semi gloss polyurethane to seal it. iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=stylesipler-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000LNTXUO&asins=B000LNTXUO&linkId=7c477ed31a15c97df896b237ee365966&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF">
    </iframe>   He waited 24 hours between coats and he lightly sanded in between too.  We left it out to dry for two or three days before setting it up inside our house.  

Overall it cost us a bit more than $65 as suggested by Shanty2Chic since we needed to buy the kreg jig, wood conditioner, and a second can of both stain and polyurethane (I had 3/4 of a can of each already) in addition to the supply list.  I love our new dining table!  It'll fit our soon to be family of 6 plus a couple of guests.  Now I've just got to figure out how to decorate it!


4th birthday party at Chick Fil A

We celebrated A's 4th birthday party at one of his favorite places.....chick fil a. Besides the chicken nuggets his favorite thing is the indoor playground and with the weather being pretty cold outside here on the east coast this was the perfect place!  Some of his preschool friends came to celebrate with him and he couldn't of been happier.

I made a few goodies for his friends to take home!  The sugar cookies with royal icing (tutorial can be found here) is the same as I've made in the past.  I used some blue americolor food gel to get a pretty blue color so I could pipe on the number 4 then I just put sprinkles on the rest.  I created a label for the cookie bags on my computer to print out and staple onto the top of the bag.  I also made a label for the bubbles to thank his friends for coming.  The happy birthday pennant is the same one I've done for their previous birthdays and I just taped it on the wall (tutorial can be found here).  I bought a red velvet cake from Costco and the candle/cake topper and the punch balloons are from target. 

This was a really easy birthday party to host.  No clean up and an indoor playground for the kiddos to run around and play!  The staff was super helpful and the place is nice and clean.  I ordered a small tray of chick fil a nuggets, a large tray of chicken cool wraps, a gallon of lemonade, and a gallon of sweetened iced tea for the parents to snack on.  I ordered individual kids meals for each of the kiddos.  They all seemed to have a good time and A was one happy kiddo!


Make It Yourself! Best Vanilla Cupcakes!

For my sons 4th birthday he wanted to bring vanilla cupcakes with blue frosting to school.  In the past I have tried about 3 recipes for vanilla cupcakes and they have either been too dense, too sweet or just not as good as the 'box'.  This time I hit the nail on the head!  My hubby finally said this cupcake recipe was better than the box!

I found the recipe on this website called hub pages or you can find the original post here.  I added an extra 1/4 c of 2% milk otherwise I followed her instructions and they turned out great!

Her recipe is:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla (add more for a super-vanilla taste)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Bake at 350f for 15-18 mins.

I made a buttercream frosting, added 2 drops of blue food gel and piped it on top.  I felt like making them 'fancy' so I did a rosette.  The rosette is really easy you just start in the middle then circle around until you reach the outside edge.  

My son thought they were so pretty and couldn't wait to bring them to school to show his teacher and friends.  


RH Inspired Pipe Shelves!

Restoration Hardware no longer carries these modern industrial looking shelves but regardless they were pretty pricey to say the least.  I love the look of them but not the price tag!

This project is super easy and quick!   Measure out the space so you know how much wood you need.  For this particular project I had a scrap piece of wood that worked perfect for the empty wall space on my kitchen wall!  We cut it in half and sanded it down so the edges of the wood were smooth.  I didn't bother to stain, distress and/or seal but you could if you wanted a certain wood color or look.

We went to Home Depot and picked up 1/2" pipes that were 10" long, 1/2" floor phalanges and 1/2" end caps from their plumbing department.  I needed 4 of each and since they were already black I didn't even need to spray paint them.  The floor phalanges got screwed into the wall with 4 screws each (those we already had).  We marked out where each was going and used a level to make sure it was straight.  We also weren't able to match the wall studs on both sides so one side needed drywall anchors before attaching 2 of the floor phalanges.

Then attach the pipes and finally the end caps.  Remove any stickers and lay the wooden boards on top.

Done!  Well then someone has to clean up.  I snapped this picture before I cleaned up the drywall mess....


Non candy Valentine's Day treats!

This year I decided to send a snack rather than candy into school for Valentine's Day.  Every year the kiddos come home with a shoe box or bag stuffed full of candy and trinkets so I thought it would be nice to send something other than candy.

They chose apple sauce and chips.  I know it's not the healthiest of all snacks but it's not candy so win-win, right?  I hopped online to search what was out there.  I was surprised to see so many options!  These were their two of their favorites so I'm going to print them out and stick them onto snack sized bags of chips for my daughter and attach them to apple sauce squeeze packets for my son.  Plus, this looks super easy!

I found the chip label from a blog called eighteen25 or click here.  I added a heart background as well as my daughters name.  I think it made it a bit more girly and saved her from writing her name on each one!

The apple sauce or awesomsauce tags were found from a blog called dimple prints or click here.  I chose the one on page 3 because the apple had a mustache!  Then I typed my sons name on each one.

Print and cut out the labels.  Pick up your favorite snack sized bag of chips and/or apple sauce containers and tape on the 'notes'.  Quick, simple and best of all easy!  

Happy Valentine's Day!


DIY Chinese Red Envelopes

Happy Chinese New Year!  It's the year of the monkey.  I thought it would fun for my kiddos to bring some chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil to share with their friends at school. I remember those being one of my favorite things when I was a child during our Chinese New Year visits to the older relatives.  I asked their teachers and they both said it was ok to send these in.  I was planning to just send a bag of chocolate coins then thought it might be neat to send them in individual red envelopes for each student.  

After looking at the Asian grocery store I didn't find any I liked.  They were all very elaborate and busy so I went online to look for a template.  I found one on a blog called Lil Country Librarian or click here.   I needed to edit the file so I could fit two envelopes per page rather than one.  I also added the Chinese character for monkey, a picture of a monkey and the year.  Then I printed them out, folded in two of the three tabs, glued, put two chocolate coins into each one and then folded the last tab over on top.

What you'll need:
Red paper
Printer for a template
Glue stick
Chocolate coins

The kiddos really liked them and were excited to take them to school to share with their friends!


Make It Yourself! Whole wheat bread

I decided to give bread making a try.  I've been trying to think of things that may be better homemade and bread was one of the items on my list.  I found this recipe from the blog Jenny can cook or click here.  Her recipe is by far the easiest and simplest that I've seen from searching online.  But best of all it's worked the three times I've tried it!  She also has a you tube video so you can follow step by step and see exactly how everything should look.

Here's her recipe:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bread flour or all purpose flour (I used all purpose)
2 teaspoons or 1 packet of instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup 1% milk heated to 120f for instant yeast (I used 2% and microwaved it for 45 seconds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg (room temperature)
*1/4 cup additional all purpose flour if needed 

In mixing bowl add in flour, yeast, sugar and salt

Stir in milk then add in oil and egg

Beat on high for 2 minutes

Switch to low speed and add 1/4 bread or all purpose flour slowly until dough forms a mass

Remove dough and place on floured surface to knead 50 turns

Cover and let rest 10 minutes

Shape dough into greased bread loaf pan

Cover and let rise in a warm spot until 1" taller than bread loaf pan (about 35 minutes)
*Since its cold here on the east coast I warm my oven to 100f then turn it off and place the covered bread loaf in to rise.  For me it take about 40-45 minutes.  

Bake at 375f for 30 minutes (after 15 minutes cover loaf with foil tent to prevent over browning)

That's it!  Super simple but delicious homemade whole wheat bread! I've made a fresh loaf on Sunday for the past three weeks and each loaf lasts us the week.  I leave it wrapped in foil on the counter and just slice what I need to make their lunches.  My husband and kiddos love it.  I like knowing what's in it and that I was able to bake something they enjoy.


DIY haircut

Ever thought of cutting your own hair?  I've been debating whether or not to try as my hair is long overdue for a trim.  The plus side is I would be saving a ton of money if I am able to pull this off.  There is also no real downside because if it looks terrible I'll just go to a professional to fix it.  So after researching different techniques or ways to go about cutting my own hair this is what I think I'll try.

This ponytail haircut looks fairly simple and easy to do.  The long layers or long layers with a boost in the back seem like safe bets!  The picture and instructions can be found on the blog how to hair girl or with this link.


DIY kitchen soap cake stand

This easy and simple DIY will make a good spot for your kitchen soaps, sponges and etc.  I've make cake stands before to use at parties and don't know why I haven't thought to use one next to the sink.  It's a cute way to organize and keep the sink area less cluttered. 

I headed over to goodwill to find a decent side candle stick and ceramic plate.  I was able to find ones I thought would work well for my kitchen for only $0.99 each!

Clean and dry the plate and candle stick holder.  Turn the plate upside down, use some super glue to rim the top edge of your candle stick, then turn and place it in the middle of your plate.  Hold the candle stick down onto the plate for 10-20 seconds.  Leave it to dry overnight.  

Voila!  That's it.  Easy peasy, wasn't it?  Now just decorate with your favorite soaps, sponges, etc.  


Founding Farmers in Washington DC

Founding Farmers in Washington DC on Pennsylvania Avenue is one of the four restaurants owned by the farmers restaurant group.  We went to have dinner there and their motto of 'natural and quality' rang true in our meal.

We ordered the bread appetizer with fig, prosciutto and marscopone as well as the cornbread skillet with honey butter.  The fog, prosciutto and marscopone was my fav but hubby liked the cornbread more.  

Next, we had the fried chicken salad, short rib entree and boneless rib eye entree.  For sides we chose red skin mashed potatoes, pearl pasta and green beans.  All three were delish but if we go back my picks would be the fried chicken salad and boneless rib eye over the short rib entree.

The kiddos loved the food too!  The service staff was helpful, friendly and best of all quick.  With the kids in tow I was worried about having a long wait without a reservation but we were seated quickly (less than 30 minutes) and with food on the table shortly after we ordered.  We are definitely going back to explore more of the menu!