Complete Your Wardrobe With Only 10 Pairs Of Shoes – Seriously.

Do you have shoes, shoes everywhere but not a pair to wear?  My husband can’t understand why one woman would need so many pairs of shoes – he obviously doesn’t appreciate the nuances between flats, pumps, sandals, wedges – and don’t get me started on boots!  But recently I came across this video claiming that you can complete your wardrobe with only 10 pairs of shoes.
That’s right, 10.  Avowed shoe-whore that I am, I eyed this video with a bit of skepticism, ready to cry foul – but it turns out that these 10 suggestions are a good place to start!
Watching this I learned that not only am I lacking statement heels, but I also need to inject a shot of color into my shoe wardrobe.  Isn’t education wonderful? Check out the video below and see if you agree:

http://on.aol.com/video/how-to-complete-your-wardrobe-with-only-10-pairs-of-shoes-518576785

Valentine Heart Crayons

I saw this little nugget of truth the other day on Pinterest; who else can relate to this?

broken crayons

My 7th grader, who no longer has any use for crayons having graduated to Faber-Castell manga pens and markers, has a crayon collection dating back to nursery school.  Heaven forbid I should throw them away, because, you know, if the Crayola factory blew up and there was a worldwide crayon shortage, he’d be the man.  Crayon apocalypse not withstanding, I decided I needed them for this post.  This is a quick and easy craft that melts down old crayons to make new ones, in this case heart-shaped ones for Valentine’s Day.  A couple of these in a treat bag are a cute alternative to candy for the class Valentine’s Day party.  My son intends to give these to his younger cousins (but I think he might keep one for himself).

I used a silicone baking pan as a mold.  Get the crayons ready by removing the paper and breaking them up into small pieces.  Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

instamag3Fill the mold as shown and place in preheated oven for approximately 22 – 25 minutes, checking to see when they’ve melted all the way through; I used a toothpick to swirl the colors.

melted befoe and after

Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then put them in the freezer for another 5 to 10 minutes. When the crayons have cooled, carefully peel them out of the mold.

instamag

The crayons are easy for little hands to hold, and the swirled colors look great on paper!

v heart crayons

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day craft?  Let me know in the comments!

heart crayon final

All crayon photos courtesy of mommeetsblog.com

This craft was featured on inspirationdiy.com!  Check out this site for more great craft ideas or submit your own favorite craft here.

Empanadas Step by Step

One of my favorite dishes to make for special occasions are empanadas, or meat pies.  They are a traditional food in my family during the Christmas season and are always a big hit at parties and pot luck dinners.  When my son was in elementary school his Spanish class looked forward to them every year.  These tasty little meat pies are easy to make and you can tweak all the seasonings to your own taste.  The best part is you can do all the prep work the night before and fry them when everyone’s ready to eat.

Here I’ll take you through the process step by step:

empanadas step by step

Step 1:  The first step is to make the sofrito – this is the seasoning in which you will cook the meat filling.  You can use these measurements as a guide, there are no strict rules when making sofrito – at least not for me!  If you like a little more red bell pepper than green or more cilantro than flat leaf parsley, go for it!

2 red bell peppers

2 green bell peppers

1 Spanish onion

3 Roma tomatoes

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup  cilantro

Sea salt

Pepper

Ground coriander seed

Ground cumin

Packet of Sazon

I use the food processor to dice the veggies and then add the spices to taste.  I like to make a big batch of this and freeze it in small quantities (about 4-5 tablespoons) for use in soups, stews, beef and chicken dishes – I added 4 tablespoons to a pot of arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) I made for Christmas Eve dinner and it was delicious.

Step 2:  Now for the meat filling.  Start with 1lb. of ground sirloin or meatloaf mix, seasoned with salt and pepper or adobo.   Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan; when it’s sizzling add about 4 tablespoons of sofrito.  Stir that for about a minute and then add your meat, breaking it up and stirring until cooked through.

Step 3:  I use Goya Dough Discs for Empanadas to make the pies.  They’re readily available in most major supermarkets and should be easy to find.

Steps 4 & 5:  Place a disc on waxed paper on a cutting board to keep it from sticking.  Place about a spoonful of meat in the middle of the disc as shown.

Step 6:  Fold over the disc into a crescent shape, pressing down on the edges of the disc with your fingers to seal.

Step 7:  Press the sealed edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork to secure the seal.

Step 8:  Here’s what your empanadas should look like. I usually make them ahead up to this point and put them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook them, and make between 12 – 20 empanadas at a time.

Step 9:  When you’re ready to fry them, add enough canola oil to a heavy frying pan to cover the empanadas; heat the oil to sizzling and carefully place the empanadas in the oil; fry until each side is golden brown as shown.

Empanadas also make great appetizers:  cut the dough disc in half, fill and fold into little triangles as shown below.  They are easy to tailor to any taste level from mild to spicy and are always a welcome addition to any table – maybe add them to your Super Bowl menu this year!

empanadas final

Jeweled Candles

This is an easy craft that combines a few of my favorite things – candles, glitter and jewels!  It can be tailored to any color scheme or occasion, and when the candles burn down (if you even have the heart to light them, they’re so pretty!) you can reuse the jewelry components in your next project.  I went with a red, silver and gold theme for the Christmas season.

 

candle collage

 

Supplies:

  • Candles

  • Painter’s tape

  • Mod Podge

  • Foam applicator

  • Jewelry components

  • Hot glue gun

  • Glitter

Tape off your candle and apply the Mod Podge to the space in between; be sure to apply a thin coat – if it’s too thick the glitter will come off when you remove the tape (been there, done that). Sprinkle glitter on the Mod Podge and allow to dry (I gave mine about 2 hours). Carefully remove the tape and then use the glue gun to glue the jewels into place.  Here’s the finished product:

 

candle twins

 

I decorated a small table in my living room using a vase filled with leftover branches from our Christmas tree and two of the candles:

candles8

 

How are you decorating your home for the holidays?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Have a great craft you want to share? Check out Inspiration DIY, where my Jeweled Candles craft was featured!

 

inspiration diy

 

Easter Candy Nest

I’m certainly not one to turn away from a lovely Easter basket, but this year I wanted to make something a little different, and was inspired by a nest I saw in a tree outside my terrace.  With visions of chocolate eggs and chicks gathered cozily in a nest dancing in my head, I was off to Jo-Ann’s  for supplies. This is a small nest (the wreath is only 6″) so I made a couple of them to decorate the Easter dinner table. Remember, the bigger the wreath, the bigger the nest and the more candy it can hold!

To make this super easy little nest (it’s so easy you don’t need to read this, just look at the pictures!), you’ll need (clockwise): a paper plate, moss, a decorative butterfly, a grapevine wreath, and excelsior or raffia:

 

watermark4

 

 You’ll also need a glue gun (and don’t forget the candy!)

First cut out a circle from the paper plate and glue to one side of the wreath to make the bottom of your nest.  Wad up the excelsior or raffia to and glue it to the paper plate to start lining the nest; then, glue the moss on top of that. 

 

watermark2

 

Glue the butterfly onto your nest, add candy and you’re done!

 

watermark1

 

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

 

watermark5

 

Spring DIY: Lavender Salt Scrub

Lavender salt scrub

Now that spring has finally sprung and chased away this brutal winter, this is the perfect time to buff away that dry, winter-worn skin and reveal the glow underneath.  Reading about the benefits of coconut oil inspired me to try my hand at making a lavender-scented salt scrub incorporating this useful oil.

Here’s my easy DIY salt scrub that will leave your skin soft, smooth and ready for spring:

Ingredients:
Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt (lavender-scented)
Pink Himalayan salt
Virgin coconut oil

I took a really casual approach to making this scrub, so none of these measurements have to be exact; I just played around with it until it reached a consistency I liked. The container I used happened to hold about 1 cup of Epsom salts; then I melted about 2 tbsp of coconut oil in the microwave in 20 second bursts until it liquefied and mixed it well in to the Epsom salt; you can add more or less if you like but just make sure that it’s well incorporated into the salt.  I added about 1 tbsp of coarse Pink Himalayan salt for color (again, add more or less to suit your liking) and stirred with a plastic spoon until well mixed.

The coconut oil tends to harden after a while; just stir it again with a plastic spoon before you use it.  I like this scrub because it has a firmer consistency, and it’s not goopy like some scrubs where half of it slips through your fingers and ends up on the tub floor before you’ve had a chance to use it!  The heat from your hands liquefies the scrub nicely and it’s easy to apply to the body – I love using it on my hands, it’s makes them super soft and it smells heavenly!

before and after

From these before and after photos it’s obvious that someone needs a manicure – what better way to jump into the season than with a vibrant nail color – any suggestions? What beauty routines do you indulge in to spruce up your winter skin?  Let me know in the comments!

lavender

How Do You Handle Your Kid’s Middle School Crush?

broken heartWith Old Man Winter forcing yet another snow day today, my 7th grader will miss out on all the middle school drama surrounding Valentine’s Day. He’s been able to stay on the periphery of most of the angst, managing to move on from his own recent crush unscathed. Others have not been so lucky, like his friend who recently asked the girl he’s been pining over for months out on a ‘date’; she turned him down and he’s devastated, explaining his friend’s inability to finish that week’s Spanish homework!

While I’m happy my son feels comfortable enough to share his crushes and news of the latest adolescent happenings, I feel that 7th grade is too young for traditional ‘dating’, although I hear through multiple sources that this does happen.  I’m fine with him heading out in a boy/girl group to the pizza shop after school for an hour – it’s a way for the kids to socialize in a fairly controlled setting with a defined start and end time – but one-on-one dating or boy/girl groups at someone’s home unsupervised after school is off the table at this age.

Crushes are just fine for now – it’s a way to explore feelings and learn how to deal with them, both the happiness and the disappointment.  Learning to deal with rejection can be a fact of life at this age just as much as a growth spurt or a deepening voice.  How do you deal with your kid’s middle school crush? Through the fog and haze of middle age, I’ve been trying to remember how I felt during middle school; here are some do’s and don’ts I’ve been employing to deal with this sensitive subject:

Do:

Keep the channels of communication open.  Teach your child to be respectful of his/her own body, and let them know that even though it’s natural to be curious, feeling pressure to do something (especially if it makes them feel uncomfortable) doesn’t mean they have to act on it.  If a crush isn’t mutual, let them know it’s okay to politely refuse the other person’s unwanted attention.  And conversely, to graciously accept the fact if they are on the unrequited end of the crush.  It’s a painful lesson, but can save a whole lot of heartache if it’s learned early on.  Keep an eye (and ear) out for any behavior changes arising from a crush – learning how to keep a crush in perspective and not let it affect school work, friendships and family life is also important.

Don’t:

Don’t belittle or trivialize your child’s feelings – even though as adults we already know that this too shall pass, remember that they certainly don’t feel that way!  And nothing will close down those channels of communication faster than your child feeling that Mom or Dad can’t possibly understand what they’re going through.  Don’t ever, ever, mention a crush’s name outside the ‘circle of trust’ (mainly, that’s me) you’ve developed with your child. Discussing the identity of a crush with other parents is a tremendous no-no.  I’ve been on the receiving end of such information from parents with their kid standing right there – it’s embarrassing for me, so I can just imagine how the poor kid must feel.  You might think it’s cute, but I can guarantee you your kid does not – keep it zipped.  I know if my son doesn’t feel safe telling me about the little things, he won’t come to me with the big things – and right now, everything is a big thing!

Well, that’s it – it may not be much, but that’s all I’ve got so far. Please feel free to share any suggestions or tips you have in the comments, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Texts From The Edge Of Tweendom

With 2013 drawing to a close, my son is taking great delight in declaring 2014 ‘his year’.  It’s the year that the label of tween gets retired and he launches into full-blown teenager status.  I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen when he turns 13 – it’s not like he can start dating (not yet!!!!) or go to a bar or vote.

And he definitely can’t drive a car, as evidenced by the majority of texts exchanged between us.  Like I’d ever NOT pick him up, but it’s always nice to be asked. . . .

polite text editedAnd in a few short years when he gets his driver’s license this too will end, and I wonder what he’ll be asking me for then – but I hope I still get an occasional one of these. . . .

i love you text

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2014!

How Do You Handle the ‘Santa Situation’?

Santa clausWhen my son was younger I, like many other parents at this time of year, went to great lengths to weave the special magic that is Santa Claus – I supervised as he carefully wrote his painstakingly detailed letter to Santa, we waited dutifully in line at the mall so he could have his picture taken with the Big Guy, we thoughtfully left gingerbread cookies and milk for old St. Nick on Christmas Eve (and snacks for the reindeer, too!).  He believed wholly and unquestioningly in Santa, and as that belief was nurtured and grew year after year, I started suffering from what I call ‘Claus’-trophobia – a fear of the day when my son would question the existence of his beloved Santa Claus.

I was recently asked by FamilyCorner.com to write about this very subject – here are some points to consider when your child eventually asks you:  is Santa real?

Listen to their concerns: Lend an ear first before you begin any explanations.  Give them your undivided attention; if they come to the conclusion on their own, share with them the story about how you found out the truth about Santa when you were their age.  Kids are intuitive and sometimes know the answers to their own questions, and just need a sympathetic ear from parents.

Be prepared for their reaction: Some kids might take the news in stride, as I did when I found out the truth. My parents were a little sloppy in hiding the presents, so after finding way too many new toys under their bed one year the secret was out.  And I was okay with it.  As long as everything else stayed the same and I could still pretend that Santa was real even though I knew he wasn’t, things were cool.

Others may feel betrayed – as my son did when the curtain was pulled back on this part of his childhood.  To this day I still feel awful as I recall the hurt in his eyes as he incredulously accused, “you mean. . . you’ve been LYING to me all these years???”  Yes, that was a bad, ugly day.

And, some may cry. So. Many. Tears.  It can be a momentous event – having doubts, kids turn to their parents for confirmation of Santa’s existence, only to find out otherwise. Help kids feel better with an explanation that, although he’s not any one real person (but really mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, etc.), the symbolism of Santa Claus embodies the true spirit of Christmas – the joy of giving and putting others first.  Remind them how wonderful it feels to be with family and friends, the special traditions you share at this time of year, the significance of any religious customs in your family, and reassure them that there will still indeed be presents on Christmas morning!  Let them know that the Christmas spirit is very real, even if Santa Claus isn’t.

Enlist their help: This is a good time to let them know what an important role they can play in the preparations if they feel ready for it.  Now that they know “the truth,” they can help in making the holiday special for the younger members of the family. Recruit them to help shop, wrap presents and fill stockings. Have them help the younger kids with their letters to Santa. Asking them for their help in maintaining the tradition will add a positive new dimension to the experience.

A sympathetic ear and a positive outlook can help take the sting out of the big reveal.  After the shock wore off (and he was able to trust me again), my son began to enjoy taking a more grown-up role in the preparation and festivities of the Christmas season, and keeping the lie –  I mean, the magic – of Santa Claus alive for the little ones in our family (and the big ones, too!).

Have you had to face the “Santa Situation” with your kids yet?  How did you handle it?  Let me know in the comments!

family corner contributor badge

Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

I originally posted this Christmas cookie recipe back in July when we were in the throes of a sweltering heat wave and the chill of a winter’s day seemed like it was a world away.  Now that the thermometer has hit a crisp 29 degrees and we await a snow storm (and being that it’s actually the Christmas season), I thought I’d post it again.  I baked a third batch of this family favorite last night, this time adding red and green sprinkles along with the Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses.  The dough in this recipe freezes up nicely so you can make it ahead of time and pull it out when you need it.

cookie collage

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
Red and green sprinkles (optional)
 
 1.  In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking soda; set aside.  In a medium saucepan or double boiler, combine brown sugar, butter, and water.  Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate; cook and stir until chocolate is melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl; cool for 10 minutes.
 
2.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg into the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the flour mixture until combined.  Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.
 
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Roll some of the cookies balls in sprinkles if you wish.  Depending on the size you roll the dough, makes about 30-36 cookies.
 
4.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and gently press a Kiss into center of each cookie.  Transfer to wire rack and cool until melting mints are firm (I put them in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up the Kisses).  Makes about 48 cookies.
 
5.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container separated by layers of waxed paper for up to three days (if they last that long)  or freeze for up to 3 months.
 
cookie plate

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?  Post it in the comments!

My recipe was featured on Disney’s Spoonful.com in “23 Santa Approved Christmas Eve Treats” – check out the other great recipes here.

Photos courtesy of Mom Meets Blog