Memorial Day: Freedom Isn’t Free

May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Freedom Rock

Photo of Freedom Rock by Don3rdSE via Flickr

On this Memorial Day 2013, we are beyond thankful, and we honor the sacrifices made for us. We don’t express our gratitude often enough or loudly enough.

  • Thank you to everyone who has served our country and given their lives.
  • Thank you to all of the veterans who have protected us and made it back home safely.
  • Thank you to all of those servicemen and women who were wounded or disabled on our behalf.
  • Thank you to all of the families who kept the home fires burning while their loved ones protected us.
  • Thank you to everyone who is serving our country now; defending our freedom in the crazy dangerous world we live in. We pray for a hedge of protection around you.

Thank you all. We thank God for you.

~BigSis

Patriotic Dessert: Red, White & Blue Fruit Flag

May 26, 2013

Patriotic Dessert: Red, White, & Blue Fruit Flag

This no-fuss, festive Fruit Flag is the perfect patriotic dessert to take to your Memorial Day or 4th of July celebration!

I found this idea on http://pinterest.com/bigsistexas/ and it was super easy and fun to make.  You could make your flag larger or smaller, depending on the size of your platter. My platter was approximately 12″ x 16″ so I used fourteen 10″ bamboo skewers. To make this size, you’ll need 9 or 10 bananas, a couple of quarts of strawberries and one quart of blueberries.

Wash the strawberries and blueberries, cut the top off the strawberries and cut in half lengthwise. Cut the bananas into about 2″ slices and put a little lemon juice on them to keep them from turning brown so quickly.  Put the fruit on the skewers, line up your fruit kabobs nice and pretty on your platter, and your Red, White, and Blue Fruit Flag is ready to go!

(I made four extra skewers with just the blueberries on top and laid those in between the others to fill in the blue part of the flag.) You could also use large marshmallows for the white stripes instead of the bananas, if desired.)

We hope everyone has a very safe and Happy Memorial Day!

~LilSis

Easter Chicks Deviled Eggs

March 29, 2013

Easter Chicks Deviled Eggs

I first saw a photo of these cute little Easter Chicks Deviled Eggs on Pinterest several weeks ago so I repinned it to my LilSis Holiday Goodies board so I wouldn’t forget to make these for Easter. This would be a fun little project to get the kids to help with because these little Easter Chicks are sure to be the hit of the party! Let’s get started.

First, cut a little slice off the wide end of your boiled eggs to create a flat surface so the chicks will sit flat and not roll all over the plate. Next, on the narrow end, cut a wider section off, that will become the chick’s little hat; (about 1/3 of the egg). Carefully remove the yolks from the eggs and place in a bowl.

You can start with your favorite recipe for the deviled eggs; but for this little project, a very basic deviled egg is perfectly fine. It’s more about the cuteness of the little chicks than anything else.

For mine, I simply mashed my egg yolks, added a splash of pickle juice, a little mayo, ground mustard, and lemon pepper to taste. No reason to measure, just don’t use too much mayo or pickle juice because you don’t want the egg yolks to be runny.

When you’ve got your deviled egg mixture ready, just put in a plastic baggie and cut a little hole in the corner and squeeze the mixture into the egg.  I used capers for the eyes and little triangles of baby carrots for the beaks.

I got in too big of a hurry to take photos along the way, but if you need the visual instructions,  A Thrifty Mom website has some easy step by step photos.

Easter Chicks Deviled Eggs

These are fun, simple and inexpensive to make and almost too cute to eat, don’t you think?

Easter Chicks Deviled Eggs

Almost. :-)

 

~LilSis

Easter Craft Ideas: Artsy Dyed Eggs and Cross Painted Glass Marbles

March 17, 2013

Easter is just two weeks away, so there’s still time to get your Easter craft on! Gather your kiddos or friends, and a few supplies, and have fun creating!

Here is a recap of our favorite Easter craft ideas. Just click on the title for all the instructions and lots more photos.

Silk Dyed Easter Eggs

Natural Dye Colored Easter Eggs

Cross Painted Glass Marble Magnets

Easter Candy Gifts

~BigSis

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets for Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2013

Almost 2 years ago, I showed you how to make painted marble magnets with crosses. Remember these?

Glass Marble Magnet Red Cross

Glass Marble Magnet Green Cross

I’ve been making them for years, and I especially like to make them for Easter gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers. There’s another holiday coming up that lends itself perfectly to these little gifties though. Its Valentine’s Day, and that of course means we draw hearts!

The method is the same as I showed you for crosses. With the hearts though, I just freehand it instead of using a guide behind the marble. I’m not sure why I forego a guide with hearts. Maybe it’s a deep-seated psychological ideal that matters of the heart should be allowed to be free to become what they will, rather than following a template.

Nah, that’s not it.

I think I just like the imperfect nature of these drawn freehand and it kind of reminds me of making Valentines as a kid, back when we weren’t so obsessed with everything being perfect. Heart shapes are like pizza to me; even a flawed heart shape is still a happy heart! Bad pizza is still pizza!

If I could give you one piece of advice, however, don’t have 3 cups of coffee like I did before you start painting these! Shaky hands and this project don’t go very well together. Your hearts might be more imperfect than you expect!

I’ve tried a lot of different glass paints, and this time I tried a new one. I bought several bottles of Martha Stewart’s relatively new line of craft paints that are approved for a variety of surfaces, including glass. It’s called Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint, and I chose the pearl finish because I think it’s prettier than flat or plain glossy finishes on the marbles. I chose a variety of pinks and lavenders since it’s Valentine’s Day: Purple Martin, Eclipse, Fruit Punch, Pink Taffeta, and Antique Silk.

Martha Stewart Glass Craft Paint Painted Glass Marble Magnets

Martha also has a new-ish line of glass paint, but it’s slightly more expensive and I wanted to see how this multi-surface paint held up. You can air-cure both paints for 21 days, but you can bake the dedicated glass paint if you wish to speed up the process. For these magnets, neither is necessary since we don’t need the magnets to be food-safe or dishwasher-safe. I’m just reasonably careful with the marbles until the paint has had a chance to bond with the glass.

Overall, I really like Martha’s craft paint. The selection of colors is awesome – as you would expect from Martha. There are also metallic, gloss and glitter finishes in the line too. I would have chosen the glitter variety, but I think it probably would have clogged the tiny painting tips I use.

The coverage was great, and I didn’t get many bubbles which is fantastic. If I could change anything, I might wish for the paint to be the tiniest, tiniest bit thinner so that it took slightly less effort to squeeze the paint out of the itty bitty painting tip. On the upside, when I made dots they held their texture and didn’t completely flatten out.

So, let’s get to it! For more detailed instructions and photos, please refer to my previous post on how to make painted marble magnets with crosses.

The first thing we need to do is gently clean the glass marbles. I like to use straight white vinegar with a water rinse afterwards. Let them dry for a bit, and then dry each one to make sure you don’t get spots. Place them on a foil or paper towel lined baking sheet. Be careful not to touch the surface of the marble with your hands, just to make sure no body oils get on your squeaky clean marble. This will help ensure that the paint adheres.

Attach a metal glass painting tip to the nozzle of a plastic paint bottle. You can get the bottles and tips in a kit at many craft stores. Then just draw a heart, and fill it in with paint.

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet Lavender

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets

If you see any air bubbles form, try to immediately pop them with the painting tip. Allow the paint to dry, at least 2 hours, depending on how thick your paint is.

Once your first coat is dry, go back and apply a second coat. The second coat will be essential if your paint is somewhat sheer or streaky, but I think a second coat always helps to smooth and even out the first coat.

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet

I added one little twist with the hearts that I didn’t do with the crosses. I added a sprinkle of glitter to the marble while the second coat of paint was wet, and I like how it came out…sparkly!

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet 2c

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet 2

After the second coat of paint is completely dry, I flip the marbles over and apply a thin coat of shimmery white to the back. I think it helps to hide the magnet a little bit, but this is totally optional. My favorite paint for this purpose is PermEnamel in White Pearl. With the crosses, I used a variety of colors for the back of the marbles, just for fun and different effects.

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet Back

Once that background coat dries, it’s time to get dotty. Using a contrasting color of paint, just make dots all over the hearts with the same painting tip. On some hearts I just make an outline, but on others I go dot wild! Here are the finished heart glass marble magnets.

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet d1

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets d2

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets d3

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets d4

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnets d5

After your dots have dried, you can attach a magnet to the back and then decide how to package these little gems.

Heart Painted Glass Marble Magnet Candy Box

This is my favorite way. I think they look like little candy bon bons! I used a tiny paper candy cup tucked inside a clear plastic Wilton box that is often used for wedding favors.

You could also package the marble magnets in small drawstring organza bags with a bit of colored shred, or in a stamped paper mache box like I made for the cross painted magnets. Inside the lid, you could include a scripture that focuses on love, a verse from a favorite poem, or anything else that has meaning for you and the recipient of your gift.

Cross Painted Glass Marble Magnet

However you choose to package these heart painted glass marble magnets, I’m sure that everyone you give one to will appreciate that you created a personal handmade gift just for them! That to me is the meaning of the holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

~BigSis

Happy Veteran’s Day

November 12, 2012

 “Freedom is never free.” -Author Unknown

Happy Veterans Day 2012

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis

~LilSis

Happy Halloween

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from BigSis, LilSis and our Firkids!

(Not just Cats in Hats anymore since The Donald joined our family.)

New kid on the block, “The Donald” diggin’ Tom’s witch hat!

No one can rock Tom’s favorite witch hat like he does!

Sweet Ashy Poo Poo looking handsome in his Cowboy gear.

Gaby makes a perfect pirate in this ensemble.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

~LilSis

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

September 3, 2012

Fortunately, we both have the day off from work and will be trying to get a little R&R!

We appreciate all our readers and wish everyone a Blessed and Happy Labor Day. :-)

 

photo credit: maorlando on Flickr

~LilSis

Happy Independence Day!

July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

From BigSis and LilSis, we wish everyone a very 

 safe and Happy 4th of July!

~LilSis

Vegan Ranch Burgers

May 28, 2012

Yesterday’s burger – the U.S. Navy Bean Burger – got two thumbs up! Next on the menu…Vegan Ranch Burgers.

LilSis’ Spinach Turkey Burgers looked really tasty to me, and I thought they’d be pretty easy to veganize. I found this recipe for Vegan Ranch Burgers on VegNews and thought it would be the perfect place to start.

The base for the burgers is TVP (textured vegetable protein) and wheat gluten with a little panko. Flavors come from onion, mushrooms, garlic, dill, chipotle, parsley, nutritional yeast, tomato sauce and tamari.

I followed the recipe pretty exactly except for reducing the tamari by 75%, and adding a couple of big handfuls of fresh spinach. Sounds good, right?

Somehow I managed to mess this up. :(  Badly.

I started out ok. I got my mise en place done and started the mushrooms, garlic and onion sauteing. The TVP was nuked in veggie broth for a few minutes, and was standing by. Then everything went into the blender to whiz around. Sweet, this was going well! I’m kind of proud at how efficiently I’m cooking. Maybe I should do a cooking video?

Why isn’t this working? Maybe I need a little water; I did leave out 3 tablespoons of the tamari since it makes my eyes uber puffy. I add a couple tablespoons of water, and then a couple more, and a couple more, but the blender still won’t budge. Crap! What’s wrong?

Oh, oops. The directions say to use a food processor. Not a blender.

I dump everything into the food processor, and put the blender in the sink to soak. Now the concoction seems too wet. Maybe I added too much water? :(

Did I also process too long? The mix seems really really gluten-ish. Not in a good way.

I scrape everything out of the food processor, and put the processor in the sink to soak. Maybe the mix will come together if I just chill it for a while. That’s the ticket. I’m sure that’ll work. It works for cookie dough!

Half an hour later, I take the burger stuff out of the fridge and portion into 6 patties. I’m still hopeful that this is going to turn out well. I’m so confident that I even pull out my scale and weigh the burger balls so they’re all equal in size (5.25 ounces, if you care).

I don’t have a grill pan, so I oil up a couple of Green Pans, and plop the perfectly-shaped and evenly-weighed patties in. I set the timer for 10 minutes per side, as per the recipe.

So now the patties are sticking? I guess I needed more oil. I used my Green Pans though. For cryin out loud, stuff ain’t supposed to stick in a Green Pan!

I add a bit more oil and try to swish it under the sticking patties. The timer goes off so I flip the patties over, and set it for another 10 minutes on side #2.

I’m noticing that these guys are getting pretty dark. Too dark. They’re still way mushy though. I’m sure they aren’t done. I keep cooking. And cooking. Now they’re really getting dark. And they’re still wiggly.

Now I give up. I put/slam a couple of patties on a paper plate and nuke the daylights outta them. You just try being mushy now, you stubborn veggie patty nemesis of mine!

Finally! The patties seem firm. Only problem is, now they look like beef. And feel like beef. And they look nothing like the pretty photo on VegNews.

Vegan Ranch Burger Pile

 

I try to make the patties look pretty so you don’t see my disaster…

Vegan Ranch Burger

…but all I’ve really done is cover up the patty with avocado and tomato. The ugly is still lurking there in-between the avocado and the collards.

The bright point is that the flavors were pretty good. It didn’t taste “ranchy” to me, but it was tasty. Not hot and not too spicy; just a nice balance of flavors.

The main issue I had was the texture. First it was mushy, then it was too beefy. I know I took a bunch of wrong turns with this burger, so I can’t fault the recipe (I love you, VegNews). I’m finding though that my taste tends away from beefy texture that is too realistically meat-like. I probably am better off with burgers that don’t contain TVP or wheat gluten.

Vegan Ranch Burger Close

The other issue is that I dirtied up a ton of dishes, wasted some good ingredients, and took a big chunk of time out of my day that I could have spent on Pinterest! :)

And the worst part? It was all my bad. I’m sure this recipe works beautifully when the cook doesn’t screw it up!

The bottom line? I’m not gonna lie…I’m a better baker and LilSis is a better cook! I bet she could take this recipe and throw these dudes on her magic grill and they’d be freakin awesome! I’m gonna go make brownies now…this mess was stressful.

~BigSis