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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Nostalgia, Tears, Baseball & Food!

This past weekend was another busy one as my daughter graduated from high school and my husband had a baseball tournament, as well as his regular Sunday league game. And, some friends that recently moved to Nebraska were back in town for a visit, which was awesome!

So, first things first......... my oldest baby graduated. This is Hayley in her graduation dress (her awesome Aunt Kerrie bought for her) before the ceremony.

She's like "see mom, no big deal. We don't need tears!"

Then she was off to pictures with her friends before the ceremony.

I brought lots of kleenex to the ceremony because I knew I probably would not do well. My day started out a little emotional, just knowing what was about to come, so the tears had started early. I was in the basement going through an old desk looking for pictures of Hayley when she was younger. I came across this one of she and I at school for some function/achievement she did. The right side was about a week ago at her Senior Awards Ceremony.
Then, of all days, going through that old desk I came across my sister's graduation picture. As I've mentioned, I lost my sister 2 years ago to cancer. I flipped the picture over, and read "To Jill with all my love... Robin. 1983" And, as it's doing now, it got me crying.

Fast forward to the actual commencement ceremony, here is my beautiful graduate-to-be waiting to be called to collect her diploma.

My hubby & I so proud of her! Seems like kindergarten was only yesterday... she was reading at a 3rd grade level & the only kindergartener to enter a speech contest. She wow'd us back then and she still continues to wow us! She's weathered a {my} divorce & remarry with grace, survived open heart surgery while starting a new school her freshman year, suffered loss of loved ones, she's been a world traveler, a hard worker, a dedicated & involved student & athlete, and a great big sister.

The girls have a whole collection of these poses... seems an occasion would not be complete without one.
And believe it or not, I didn't shed a single tear at graduation. I must've ran out. ;) I will probably have a fresh supply when we go visit her college this week for registration & class selection. That means it's really happening and she's leaving me. Sniff sniff.

The rest of my weekend consisted of my husbands Home Talent League baseball games. Friday night and Saturday were tournament games and Sunday was his regular Sunday League game. I tell you, these guys are like family to me. You couldn't ask for a better group of guys to postpone any vacations for, spend oodles of gas money driving 2 vehicles all over for, weathering the freezing cold or the blistering hot for, and allowing them to "steal" my husband 3 days a week for for 4 months. My husband has managed this team for about 15 years I think, and has played for over 20. He missed his first game in 17 years the night Hayley graduated... hasn't missed since 1995 when he went to Germany. That's how hard-core he is about baseball. 

My hubby heads up before us since he brings all the equipment and has BP. The girls and I ride up later. It's become our tradition to take a "road trip" picture to every game. Our collection so far:

Hattie is in the back seat but she won't come forward enough for the picture. Abby has her drivers temps, so sometimes she drives. It depends on where we are going and if the Interstate is busy.

I won't bore you with all the details, but the Railmen won 2nd place in the tournament. YAY!

Since the guys had a long weekend of baseball..... regular Thursday night game, Friday night tourney, 2 tourney games Saturday and then regular Sunday league game, I decided to bring treats for the team. That, and the place we were playing was at a high school, so there was no concession stand for food or drinks. I brought ham sandwiches...

What is it about simple butter & ham sammies that are so yummy? I love ham sammies. I remember growing up that was my favorite part of going to a wedding was was ham sammies at the reception. When I say that, my kids look at me like where in the world did you go to weddings? Now, ha! You'd never find a ham sammy at a wedding reception.

And Garlic Pretzels. This is a snack that is so simple to make and it makes large quantities, so it's great for a large gathering....... or a baseball team LOL. They are so addicting, I'm warning you right now. ;) My daughter tells me they are the devil (they really mess with your breath!) and never make them again, but she keeps on eating. Everyone seems to love these pretzels! I'll share the recipe at the end.

And last, but certainly not least... THE best Chocolate Chip Cookies. They really are. And you can get the recipe here at Buttercream Bakehouse. Run...... don't walk.:)

I've made 3, 4 dozen batches in the last 2 weeks. My family can't stop eating them and making cookies is my least favorite baking item. The things we do for love.

We lost, but the guys were grateful for the snacks. I think my hubby is worried they will expect that at every game. He says it like it's a bad thing. ;)

Crowd Pleasing Garlic Pretzels

3 pounds of pretzels (not stix)
Enough oil (canola, grapeseed, olive, popcorn, your choice) to cover pretzels
1 tsp garlic salt
3 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp dill weed
1 package dry Ranch dressing mix

Dump pretzels into a large mixing bowl. Pour oil in to thinly cover all pretzels, stirring to coat, and add more if necessary. Add rest of ingredients, mixing well after each addition. It's best to let them sit an hour or so before eating to have the pretzels soak in the many flavors.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rhubarb Double Berry Almond Crisp

My husband mentioned the rhubarb in our garden was getting pretty stalky. I do not have a green thumb by any stretch of the imagination so I would not have been out in the garden to check this. I love using stuff that we grow, but I have to leave it up to the hubby to bring the stuff in and let me know when it's ready because I know nothing about gardening/outdoor/yardwork. I've never been one to keep plants alive in the house! I do have a little garden experiment going that I will share later if it works out. :)

This recipe was inspired by Raspberry Rhubarb Pecan Crisp that I found on Pinterest. I can't even really say if I've ever eaten rhubarb, I think last year my hubby gave his mom some to make something with it. But, the fact that it had a berry with it made me think I would try it. I found quite a few rhubarb stalks that were still kind of thin (after Googling how to pick & cut rhubarb I learned the thinner ones are more sweet) so I grabbed a bunch from the garden and headed in to make the crisp. 

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the prep and making of the dessert because I really hadn't planned on writing about it but it turned out so yummy I wanted to share. It's super easy - 2 steps of just combining ingredients, the filling and the topping. As you can tell my recipe name is different than the pinned dessert, as I thought I had raspberries and discovered that I did not, so I used 2 different berries. The original recipe also stated that the filling had a very runny sauce and I didn't want that. I like my filling creamy and my topping thick so I made adjustments. I also prefer almonds over pecans.

Look at that rhubarb berry goodness! Lets get started on making some!

Rhubarb Double Berry Almond Crisp (adapted from LivingBetterTogether)

3 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1 cup blueberries (can be fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 cups whole strawberries (fresh or frozen) chopped (I threw in food processor for a few pulses)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch

Add all above ingredients in a bowl & gently stir to fully combine. Pour into a smaller glass casserole dish, mine is 7.5"long x11"wide x 2.5" high and fit perfectly. Heat oven to 350F.

1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped almonds (again, in food processor for a couple pulses)
3 tbsp honey, divided

Combine all ingredients above in a bowl, using only 1 tbsp honey.

Spread topping evenly over the filling mixture. Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp of honey and sprinkle additional cinnamon if you'd like. (I did, but I think next time I'd leave off.) Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with ice cream. 


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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gift Idea for Teachers & Dad {or anyone!}

With the end of the school year coming up (our last day is this Thursday) and Father's Day around the corner, I wanted to get a tutorial written up on Mug Rugs. I know there's probably a million out there already, but I think they make the perfect teacher's gift and really, a good gift for dad (probably more suitable for a desk job dad, but no reason he can't use one at home!)

You might have seen my other postings on Mug Rugs here. I've used them as teacher's gift, graduation gifts, co-worker (or anyone's) birthday gifts. This is one of my personal ones and I love it!

I've even made one big enough to accommodate my 9x13 pans or cookie sheets when they come out of the oven. Yes, at that point it becomes a hot pad, but I hated having to get out 2 small hot pads for my big pan. I'd show you a picture, but by now it has stains on it that don't seem to come out and you can tell I use it a lot. I really should make another one. Those would make a great bridal shower gift! See, that's the beauty of making your own stuff - you can tailor projects to be any size you want for whatever you want to use it for.

So, first off - decide what size or shape you want your mug rug to be. It can be oval, circle, square, rectangle... it's up to you. Cut that shape out from a blank piece of paper. Then decide if you want it to have several different fabrics (good time to use up scraps!) like mine or you could have just one. I'm making one for my hubby from the girls, so I chose 5 coordinating fabrics, one being the plain muslin so I could sew the tie on that strip. I used my 0-3 mo. tie template from here. After that, you will need:

Fabric A (top) in your mug rug size
Fabric B (backing) in your mug rug size
Muslin (Fabric C) an inch all around larger than your mug rug size
Batting an inch all around larger than your mug rug size
Coordinating (or if you chose, something to make your quilting stand out) thread

I cut 5 strips of fabric 2 3/4" x 8". I then decided what order I wanted them in. Sometimes I spend way too much time moving them all around deciding how I want them and I just have to stop. It's ridiculous! lol. Iron your strips if necessary.

Then I sewed on the tie to my plain muslin strip using a zig-zag stitch.

 Next, start sewing your strips together, right sides together with a 1/4" seam allowance.

When you are all done, your top will look like this:

Next, press your seams flat. Flip over and give the right side a good press too.

Take your top and lay it on your batting. Cut the batting about an inch larger all around your top.

Do the same with the muslin, cutting it the same size as the batting.

Now you have a quilt sandwich, with 3 layers.

Decide how or what stitch you want to use to quilt. You can do squiggly lines, straight lines, pick a fancy stitch from your machine - again, up to you. I am going to use a zig-zag stitch and go right down the middle of each strip - except the tie strip. I don't want stitching going down the middle of my tie. So pin your layers together, I'm pinning in the "ditch" since I'm going down the middle of each strip.

Start your sewing outside of your top, in the margin of the batting....

also end in the margin of the batting.

Then I sewed in the ditch on each side of my tie strip.

Add the backing piece of fabric to your sandwich.

Take your mug rug template and position it on the sandwich. Try to get even on all sides.

Cut out around your template, I go about an inch around it if there's room. 

Now, flip your bottom layer so that the right side is facing up, and flip your quilted sandwich so that it's facing down. You could do this to start out before you cut, but I like to see my strips when I lay down my template to make sure I'm getting an even exposure.

I leave my template on when I sew as a guide.  Sew around the template, about 1/4" from the edge of the fabric. Leave a 2" opening for turning right side out.

Trim any of the bulk around the rug.

Next, turn right side out and make sure your edges are nice and tightly turned.

Almost done!  Head on over to your ironing board

Iron your rug nice and flat, getting the edges as smooth as possible.

Make sure your opening is nice and ironed flat too.

Then go to your machine and top stitch all around, making sure to close your opening.

See how fun they are to use? And no more wasting paper plates.

This was a project I did for Father's Day last year. I had the photo printed as an 8x10 and Modge Podge'd it onto a canvas for my hubby to hang in his office at work. It turned out really nice. He's a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and it was Hayley's idea to wear the hats and I {reluctantly} agreed.

This one I had made into the Father's day card for him:

What are some ideas you have done or are doing for teacher's gifts or Father's Day gifts? I'm kind of struggling this year for my first grader's teacher gift because she gave her a mug rug for Christmas and I've seen all kinds of neat ideas for gifts that include classroom supplies but she's retiring this year so it doesn't do any good to give her supplies. Any ideas?

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