Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been baking chocolate chip cookies since I was a kid.  I wrote all about it in this post.  Then my son was diagnosed with celiac disease last November and was prescribed a gluten-free diet.  At first, I was enthusiastic about trying new flours and I was sure that I'd come up with some fantastic baked goods that were gluten-free AND delicious.  Well, after a few failures with the packaged "all-purpose gluten-free flour" baking mixes, I decided it was time to start experimenting with creating my own flour mix.

I used my own blend for the first time in my banana bread recipe.  (I find that baked goods that already have a bit of a texture to them are easier to switch to gluten-free without anyone noticing.)  Then I tried it again in my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I am thrilled to say that these cookies are delicious.  They are a bit less chewy than the original recipe (but maybe that means I baked them a tad too long?).  I had a couple people try them and they said they wouldn't have been able to tell they were gluten-free unless I told them.

Can't wait to try them?  Here's the recipe!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mix together with a whisk in a large bowl and set aside:
1/4 cup almond flour
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the following and beat until smooth and creamy:
1 cup softened butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (4 serving size) Jello instant vanilla pudding mix

Beat in 2 eggs.

Gradually add the flour mixture.  Then stir in a 12-ounce package of chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to Make a Fabric Princess (or Prince) Crown

My niece is going to turn two years old soon and we are planning a pink and gold party.  I thought she'd need a pink and gold crown to wear at her party.  I had made a couple blue and gold crowns for my sons when they were younger, so I used the same technique here.

The first step is to make a pattern.  I had a foam crown from Oriental Trading that fit my boys' heads and I traced it on to tracing paper to make a pattern.

Cut one each of gold and pink fabric.  To make sure my crown ended up looking symmetric, I folded my pattern in half and I folded my fabric in half.  Then I pinned the pattern to both pieces of fabric at once with the fold of the pattern on the fold of the fabric.  Both of my fabrics were thin so cutting through four layers at once wasn't a problem.  (I got my fabric from the remnant bin at JoAnn Fabrics because you need less than 1/2 yard of each color.)

Lay both pieces of the fabric crown, right side down, on a hard surface.  Fold up the bottom edge of both pieces a 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch and iron it so it stays put.

Pin the right sides together and sew around the whole crown except for the bottom edge.  Leave the bottom edge (where you ironed the hem) completely open.  After sewing, trim the tips off of the crown points close to your seam.  Then turn the crown right side out.

Stuff the crown lightly, using a pencil to push the stuffing up into the points.

Pin bottom sides together.  Topstitch along that bottom edge sealing up the crown.

Sew strips of velcro on the ends of the crown to hold the crown closed. (If you want a neater crown you should sew the velcro on the pink and gold pieces of fabric before you sew the crown together.)

And you're done!

I can't wait to see my niece with this crown perched on her blond curls!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Minecraft 8th Birthday Party

My son just turned eight and wanted a Minecraft-themed party.  There are plenty of great ideas out there on the internet.  Here's what we ended up doing.

Minecraft papercraft -- We used free printable templates found at  My boys chose several things they wanted to make, I printed them out on white cardstock and they went to town cutting and assembling. They made this lovely Minecraft display for the party all by themselves!

Birthday Banner -- I cut 3-inch squares out of kraft cardstock as the base, punched holes in the corners and strung brown ribbon through the holes. (For a few of the blocks, I used dark brown and green cardstock instead of the kraft just to keep things interesting.)  I found a "grass block" image online and used Photoshop Elements to create one 2x2 block for each letter I wanted for the banner.  The font for the letters is a free download on  Type the letters on the grass block, print them out, cut them out, and glue on the cardstock squares.

Torches -- I used a Minecraft wall torch template that I found here. I resized it for 8 1/2 x 11 paper and printed out two of them.  Once they were cut out, folded and assembled, I stuck them to the wall using straight pins and tape.  I crumpled up some yellow tissue paper to stick in the top of the torches to make them look more like they were on fire.

Pixelated Window -- My husband drew on the window with window markers to make them look like the glass you use in your Minecraft houses.  He also drew a creeper and a zombie face as well as a few blocks.

Steve and Zombie heads -- one of the talented guys in our youth group at church was Minecraft Steve for Halloween.  He let us borrow his costume for Steve and a Zombie made out of cardboard and paint.  (These became part of a game later!)

Food:  The world of Minecraft includes food so I decided our party menu should include things available in the game.

We served carrots, watermelon, apples, chicken (nuggets), and potatoes (french fries). To drink we had water bottles and "creeper juice".

The Choose Awesome blog has a fabulous blog post about hosting an epic Minecraft party.  The blog made my life so easy because she posted many of the free printables that I used for our party.

The "creeper juice" was some kind of sour warhead green drink that I saw on sale.  I used the water bottle labels from the Choose Awesome blog post and then modified them a bit to make the creeper juice labels.  The boys at the party were very excited about the creeper juice.

We had several crafts and activities planned for the party.  As the guests arrived they got to craft their own chest.  We provided brown paper lunch sacks and pictures of various Minecraft characters.  (Again, I printed the images from the Choose Awesome blog.)  They glued the images on their bags.  These became the party favor bags: I added some square candies (Starburst, Now and Later, Nerds) and the guests put all the things they made at the party into their bags.

The guests could also make a torch like the ones I made to hang next to the banner.  I gave them each a glow stick to put inside their torches, too.

Later, they could make a Minecraft pickaxe.  I found an image here of a diamond pickaxe and had several copies printed out for the guests.  The guests cut out the images and glued them on to cardboard axes we had cut out ahead of time.  Because cutting the cardboard (or foam board) required an X-acto knife, we did that job prior to the party so the kids wouldn't endanger any of their fingers.

Surprisingly more popular than the pickaxes were the perler beads.  Perler beads and Minecraft go together so well because they both have that pixelated look.  I had printed out a few examples of things other people had made out of these beads (thank you, internet), and let the kids use their imagination.  Here are a couple things my niece made.  Aren't they cute?

In between the crafting sessions, we had a game for the kids to play.  First, we had scattered some "diamonds" and "ore" around the yard (vase fillers from the dollar bins at Michael's).  The two teams had to gather up all their diamonds/ore and stash them in little square boxes (dollar spot at Target).  Later those boxes filled with treasure became each team's "flag" in a game of capture the flag.  To spice up that game a little, my husband and I dressed up as Steve and the Zombie and ran around trying to tag the kids.

Here's my niece in the Steve costume after I got too hot.

When it was time for cake, we had one more game for the kids.  In the game of Minecraft, you have to collect eggs, milk, sugar and wheat to "craft" a cake.  We made them find all those ingredients hidden in Easter eggs in the yard before they could have cake.

I made a square cake to look like the ones on Minecraft.

Happy birthday to my sweet eight-year-old.  May creepers never explode your house.

Edited to add .jpg files for the cake crafting activity:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Make Your Own Hunger Games T-shirt

I had this t-shirt from Old Navy and I decided to give it a little Hunger Games makeover.  The shirt already said "LOVE" but I wanted it to say "LOVE changed the game" with a mockingjay.

I ran a piece of dark t-shirt transfer paper through my cricut machine and cut out all the letters I needed. When you iron the letters on the shirt, they just remain white.  If you wanted a different color letters (or if you don't have a cricut) you could use your computer to print the letters onto the transfer paper and cut them out with a scissors.

For the mockingjay, I found the image online and printed it on regular paper first.  Then I taped a strip of dark t-shirt transfer paper over the printed picture and ran it through the printer again.  That way, I didn't have to mess up a whole sheet of transfer paper for my little one-inch image.

Once you get everything cut out, you just line it up where you want it on the shirt, and follow the directions for your t-shirt transfers to iron it on.

Then you can wear your new t-shirt!

Who's excited for the Catching Fire movie coming out this fall? This girl!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Easy Brave Party Food

My mother-in-law let the boys pick her birthday party theme this year and they went with Brave.  So I put together a relatively simple menu and gave each dish a Brave-themed title.

For the cake, I baked round cakes and frosted them to look like Merida's archery targets.

I used a couple bamboo skewers and some cardstock to make "arrows" to stick in the bullseye.

It came together pretty quickly and was eaten quickly, too!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

We were travelling on Father's Day so we didn't do anything elaborate.  But I found these free printable Dad glasses and thought they were great!  I printed them on black cardstock, cut them out, and taped them together.  All done!
Printable Glasses for Father's Day from Mr. Printables

My boys with their daddy

My brother and I with our dad

My brother with his two girls
So blessed to be with family on Father's Day!

Monday, June 10, 2013

End of the School Year Card

The end of the school year arrived in a flurry of field trips and soccer games so I didn't have time to make fancy teacher gifts this year.  Hooray for finding free printables on Pinterest.

Our PTO bought iPads for each classroom this year, so I bought iTunes gift cards for my boys' teachers and made a tag similar to this one from eighteen25.

My diabetic son has an aide who helps keep an eye on him at school.  I bought her a gift card from the gas station and made this card to go with it.

I've had the stamp sets forever from StampinUp.  The truck is from the "Loads of Love" set.  The "thanks a melon" sentiment was from the "Little Phrases" set and the watermelon was from "Mini Icons".

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Black and White Graduation Card

June means graduation parties and I was invited to seven of them this year!   Here is the card I made for my friends in the Class of 2013.

Since I was making seven cards for grads from several area high schools, I decided to make them all black and white instead of using the grad's school colors.  

The patterned papers are from Close To My Heart (For Always Paper Packet from the Spring/Summer 2013 Idea Book) The stamps are also from Close To My Heart.  I bought the 2013 silver charms from Oriental Trading.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May The Fourth Be With You

Star Wars was a big part of my childhood.  Same with my husband.  So, of course, we've passed that quirk on to our kids and we like to celebrate Star Wars Day every Spring.  Star Wars Day is celebrated annually on May 4 -- as in  "May the Fourth be with you".  Nerdy, I know.  But fun.

It was a busy day, but I managed to pull together a few touches to make our evening more Star Wars related. I  made "regular" food, but presented it in a different way to make it feel more festive.  Hamburgers became "HanBurgers" and grapes stuck on skewers became "FruitSabers".  I added blue food coloring to our milk to make it look like the stuff they drink in the movies.  

The cupcakes were the only menu item that took extra time, but I've been wanting to make Leia cupcakes ever since I saw a picture of them online.  I'm a (gluten-free) box mix girl, so they came together quickly. The mouths are heart-shaped sprinkles and I purchased the candy eyes in the baking aisle at Michael's.  The side hair buns are (gluten-free) oreo cookies stuck on with frosting.

 It's always a treat for the boys to eat dinner in the family room in front of the TV.  I told them to put out a few of their Star Wars toys to decorate the family room.  They were very enthusiastic about that project.

We watched Revenge of the Sith - which the boys had never seen - while we ate.  (We skipped the part where Anakin gets burned because I didn't want them to have nightmares!)

With  just a few easy modifications to our normal routine, I turned a normal day into a family fun day.  It just goes to show you don't have to create an elaborate party to make a memory.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Caution: Wet Paint

Something about the arrival of Spring makes me want to refresh my home.  This year, I decided that my bedroom walls had been blue long enough (12 years!) and it was time for a change.

We had remodeled the master bathroom during 2010 and had painted those walls a nice toasty beige.  The color is called Roman Plaster and it's by Behr.  The online picture makes it look more "greige" but it's actually warmer in real life. I decided to paint the bedroom walls that same color.
BEHR Premium Plus Ultra 8 oz. #UL170-11 Roman Plaster Interior/Exterior Paint Sample

Good-bye, blue.  Hello, beige!

Here are a couple "before and after" shots for you.  Just a warning, even the "after" shots show my room in "everyday mode".  I didn't fancy them all up for the internet.

In addition to the paint, we rearranged the furniture and even bought some new pieces.  The two white bedside tables and the lamps are from IKEA.  And that's my dog, Carl.  He's the reason I don't have fancy bed linens.

The old chair was thrown out (it was older than I am) and I moved a different chair into my bedroom from the living room.  The cedar chest is a family heirloom refinished by my mom and my grandpa.

I put up the same blue curtains and kept the same sheets and throw pillows.  And nothing is on the walls yet. So this is still a work in progress.  I'm keeping my eyes open for some art and some linens!  What should I get?  Should I change up the color?  Decisions, decisions.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Banner for Retirement Party

My dad recently retired so I made him this banner.
The scalloped squares were cut from kraft cardstock, the lacy squares were cut from a beige cardstock and the letters were cut from a chocolate brown cardstock.  All the shapes and letters were cut on my Cricut using my Art Philosophy and Artiste cartridges from Close to My Heart.
I sponged brown ink onto the lacy squares to give them more dimension.  And I sponged brown ink on the edges of the letters.  I attached the letters with dimensional adhesive to make them stand out more.

For the two end pieces of the banner, I chose to use hearts because my dad's last day of work happened to be Valentine's Day.
The beige hearts were cut using my Cricut and then sponged with brown ink.  The smaller items on the end pieces were stamped into beige cardstock, cut out with scissors, and attached.