Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planter Umbrella Stand

     When we first moved into our house, we bought a cheap dining table and chairs set for our patio. As the years went by, we realized we didn't even eat dinner out there. A couch and chair set would be more comfortable to sit on and we could get a fire pit too. We bought the set last year, and quickly realized that our patio gets no shade! It's on the north side of the house, so it's in full sun all day. We bought a nine foot umbrella that matched our new set and thought the problem was solved. It wasn't. We didn't have a heavy enough umbrella stand to support such a big umbrella. Then we built a wooden box to fit around the existing umbrella stand and put sandbags on top to weigh it down. It worked OK, but it wasn't pretty and it wasn't movable. We needed to be able to move the umbrella since we have sun all day.
     I looked and looked for an affordable umbrella stand, but I couldn't find one that we could afford that would support a nine foot umbrella. So, we had to make one. I found this tutorial on the Internet, and then I got some ideas on how to make it my own. Now, we have a decorative planter umbrella stand that can be moved throughout the day. I estimate it weighs about 200lbs, which is slightly higher than what is recommended for a free-standing nine foot umbrella. The best part is we only paid about $60 for the whole thing...not $150 if we would have bought a premade stand.
Pay no attention to the fact that we need mulch!
What you'll need :
5 gallon bucket
PVC piping - I bought 5 ft and used about half of it
plastic spray paint for your piping if desired (it will be white if you don't paint it)
1 sandwich bag
50# quikcrete bag
plant dolly
big planter pot
Sandbags (we already had these!)
potting soil
plants (I used geraniums and sweet potato vines)

  • Cut the PVC piping to desired length. We cut ours to just under the hole the umbrella pole pops into. It sticks out of the pot about 18 inches. Spray paint if desired.
  • Put a sandwich bag over one end of the PVC pipe to make sure concrete doesn't go into the bottom of the pipe. Put the PVC into the bucket (with the plastic bag to be buried in the bucket)
  • Mix quikcrete as directed. We dumped some in and dumped some water in and mixed, then repeated until the whole bag was in the 5 gallon bucket.
  • Make sure the PVC pipe is level. You don't want your umbrella to be tilted. Hold until starting to set and doesn't move anymore. Let that set overnight.
  • The next morning, put your big planter on the dolly. Put the 5 gallon bucket into the big planter. Be sure it's in the center of the planter.
  • Pour sand around the 5 gallon bucket. Be sure to leave at least 6 inches (depends on the type of plants you are going to use) for your potting soil at the top!
  • Pour potting soil over the sand.
  • Plant your plants and water thoroughly.
Previously posted:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menu Plan May 27-June 2

     Memorial Day weekend seems like the unofficial start of summer. School is out, not that it affects me this year. The Indy 500 and all it's festivities are in full swing. Pools are opening. The first cookout of the season are held. The list could go on and on.
     While we didn't venture downtown to go to the Indy 500 this year (it was so hot!), we did watch on TV. Although, here in Indy, you can't watch the race on TV until after it's over because they want you to buy tickets and go. Of course, we already knew who had crashes and who won before we even got to start watching. The rest of our weekend will be filled with celebrating May birthdays with several friends, three of which have birthdays in May.
@ Indy Airport while seeing my uncle off to Germany
This is what happens when you ask a three year old to smile...

Here's the plan for the rest of our week:
General Tso's chicken with Brown Rice (sauce from Trader Joe's)
Best Ever Mac N' Cheese for cookout
Chicken Salad
Grilled Burgers with homemade buns
Benihana! Thanks for the birthday coupon
Dinner out with visiting family

Other stuff we'll be eating:
Hashbrown muffins
Banana bites dessert (recipe to come)
yogurt parfaits

Linked up to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday

Monday, May 21, 2012

Menu Plan 5/20-5/26

     We had a surprise visit from my Uncle Steve, who lives in Germany, last week. He only comes to the States every three or four years, so it was very exciting to see him. He noted that the last time he was here, I was pregnant too. I hope that is not the case every time he visits! We were all sad to see him go, though communication through the Internet does seem to help a little.
     The hotter it gets, the less willing I am to be adventurous in the kitchen...or even be in the kitchen at all. For the sake of our budget, I force myself to prepare things for the grill so J can cook them or make quick meals at home. That's what you can expect to find with this week's menu.

Add caption
Taco Salad
Chicken Veggie Pasta
Enchilada Casserole
Grilled Chicken on Salad
Gen Tso's Chicken with brown rice (bottled sauce from Trader Joe's)
Omelets & Toast

Hashbrown Muffin Cups
Peanut Butter Apple Wraps
Egg Scramble
fruit & yogurt parfait

linked up to Menu Plan Monday

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kid's Summer Gift - Under $10

     Now that Miss E is getting older, she is getting invited to a lot more birthday parties for friends. This can get expensive, but it doesn't have to be! This weekend, we'll be attending a party for a little girl who is turning 4.
     I think the easiest way to pick a gift for someone is to start off by thinking of a theme. I thought a gift focusing on summer fun would be appropriate since it's the middle of May. I like to buy gifts for people that can be used outside, if possible. Everyone has all kinds of toys for inside, but outside toys generally take up less space and are so much fun after being stuck inside all winter. I let Eden help pick out what she would want to play with outside, and we tried to keep in mind that the receiver may be sharing these gifts with older siblings. We started off at Target, and then headed to the Dollar Tree. Everything could be bought at either place if you wished. I also used a gift bag that we already had, but you could buy a bag, pail, or other reusable bucket/basket.
What's in the gift?
First from Target:
     Del Monte Fruit Chillers $2.14
         Freeze Pops that are mostly fruit puree, very little added sugar
     Sidewalk Chalk $1.00
Dollar Tree:
     Hopscotch Kit (I was a sucker, and bought one for E too!)
     Mini Pinwheels
     Water Balloons w/ faucet spout
     Ice Cream shaped bubbles
     Jump Rope
     Flamingo Sunglasses
The total? $9.47

A Watched Pot Never Boils...Over

     I have had to limit my Pinterest to only what my friends post on there. Otherwise, I would be on there all day. Seriously. I can't be the only one with this problem.
     The other day I saw a post for preventing the water from boiling over by simply placing a wooden spoon on the pot. Somehow, the wooden spoon collects just enough heat from the boiling water to prevent overflow. I had to try it. It didn't seem like a skinny wooden spoon would really prevent the crazy mess that usually occurs when I boil water.
It worked! The bubbles would come all the way up to the spoon, but when they touched the spoon they receded a little. They never came out of the pot.
I found this tip and several others on this blog. I'll be trying out a few more of them!

Previously Posted:
One year ago: Texas Caviar
Two years ago: Kicked Up Oatmeal Cookies

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Strawberry White Chocolate Scones

     The u-pick berry farm just opened up with strawberries. We took Grandma, and ended up with about eight pounds of strawberries. I think last year, we only had about four pounds! We may have gone a little overboard. If you are wondering how we will keep all these fresh, I saw a great tip on Pinterest. I soaked all the berries in a 1:10 vinegar/water bath, then let them all dry before putting them in a bowl in the refrigerator.

  We've already started using them for snacking, this recipe, and a top secret recipe to be revealed later. I'm sure there will be more to come. If you can't wait until the new recipe posts come out, check out some from previous years. Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins (part of the inspiration for these scones), Strawberry MuffinsFrozen Yogurt Pops, Strawberry Shortcake, Freezer Jam (with honey!), Crepes, Summer Salad, Strawberry Pie, Strawberry Dessert, and Baked Oatmeal.
     I've been wanting to try scones for some time now. I've been a little afraid they would turn out to be dry, and there is nothing worse than a dry scone! Finally, I found a recipe and got up the nerve (and energy) to give it a shot. As I mentioned above, I was inspired by my favorite muffin ever, the Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Muffin. When I saw this strawberry chocolate chip scone recipe, I knew just how I would make a couple of changes. One change was to use white whole wheat flour, but I also switched out the chocolate chips for white chocolate chips. As I looked all around for scone recipes, I noticed some called for a LOT of sugar! In the end I was deciding between this recipe and another. Even though this one uses refined sugar, it only calls for two tablespoons. The other recipe I found used maple syrup for the sweetener, but needed a third of a cup.
     These scones were very flavorful and moist. I'm so glad I finally got around to trying scones. I'm not afraid anymore, so you might see some more recipes in different flavors.

1-1/2 cups flour (take out 3 Tbl if using whole wheat flour)
2 Tbl brown sugar
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbl butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup strawberries, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cups chopped almonds (omit if desired)

  • Preheat oven to 425* and cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Sift together all dry ingredients. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbles.
  • Whisk egg yolk and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir until dough pulls together. Don't over mix.
  • Fold in chips and strawberries. 
  • Put on floured surface and pat into a large square. Cut into four squares, then cut those smaller squares into triangles to end up with eight scones.
  • Place on baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes.
  • Store in resealable bag. Reheat to serve.

Nutritional info/scone: 
283 calories, 31 carbs, 17 fats, 5 proteins, 12 sugars, 4 fiber
If you omit the white chocolate chips, the sugar content is greatly reduced:
227 calories, 23 carbs, 13 fats, 5 proteins, 4.5 sugars, 4 fiber

Previously posted:
One year ago: Chocolate Cinnamon Muffins with Banana
Two years ago: Oprah Biscuits

Linked up to:
 Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Sweet Temptations, Sweet Treats Thursday, Crazy Sweet Tuesday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for Saturday

Monday, May 14, 2012

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

     Today is reveal day for the Secret Recipe Club. This month I was assigned to Wendy's blog La Phemme Phoodie. Besides mostly gluten-free and egg-free recipes, she discusses restaurants and gives information about all things related to food. I really enjoyed digging in to her blog this month.
     Though most of the recipes on her blog are gluten-free, there are several that aren't. I didn't really look into it, but I think you could substitute the flour of your choice without many changes to the recipe. Once I got to the point where I needed to decide what to make, it was a tough decision. I found this peach pie, peanut butter brownies, a simple stir fry, and the pancakes that I ultimately decided on.
     If you have been following me for a while, you know I'm a sucker for breakfast foods...especially those of the pancake or waffle variety. Actually, one of those appears weekly on our breakfast table. To make this fit in with my new focus on eating "real food," I altered the recipe slightly by using whole wheat flour and honey instead of refined sugar. The result was a light and fluffy pancake that was not overly sweet. Our previous blueberry pancake recipe was very good, but so rich, I've never even put it on the blog! This was just the right amount of sweet. The blueberries were just perfect (I used Wyman's frozen wild blueberries), but you could use any type of berry you wanted.
    In case your curious, here is the nutritional information for each pancake (1/3 cup scoop of batter each): 152 calories, 24 carbs, 6 fats, 4 proteins, 8 sugars, 3 fiber. I still haven't found a guideline about how many of each category you should eat at a given meal, but this seems to be pretty consistent with other breads...with more fiber because of the whole wheat flour. The sugars came not only from the honey, but also from the milk and blueberries too. Ideally, I've heard you should eat carbs and sugar with protein so that it doesn't affect your blood sugar levels as much. As you can see, I didn't have any turkey bacon today!

Previous posts from
1 year ago: Choco-Scotch Pull Apart Bread
1 years ago: Taco Casserole
Add caption
Makes about 12 (1/3 cup) pancakes
1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey (I like Wildflower honey the best)
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

  • In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • In another bowl, beat eggs, honey, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter. 
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients into a lumpy batter. Do not over mix!
  • Heat griddle, and spoon 1/3 cup batter onto it. Sprinkle the top of each one with about 1 tablespoon of blueberries. 
  • Cook 2-3 minutes per side

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ants on a Log

     We are eating ants on a log today. Eden says, "No, you don't eat bugs." I said they weren't real bugs, but she was still skeptical. In the end, she enjoyed her lunch and we got a little school time in too.
     This post is brought to you by the number 4. There are 4 carrots, 4 apples, and 4 ants on 4 logs in this lunch. We counted them all. We added the carrots and the apples together.
Don't be put off if you have a nut allergy. Just substitute peanut butter for one that fits in with your diet.
Ants on a log recipes can be as simple or as complex as you like:
celery, peanut butter, and raisins or craisins (for red ants on a log)
celery, cream cheese, cinnamon, and craisins or dried blueberries or tiny chocolate chips or granola
celery, nutella, tiny marshmallows or nuts (much less healthy!)

Most of these options are kid-friendly, but you can adapt the traditional food to a more adult friendly fare too:
celery, hummus, roasted peppers
celery, cream cheese, paprika, roasted peppers and/or pine nuts
celery stuffed with chicken salad

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese

     When we got our assignments for May's Crazy Cooking Challenge, I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to use. I had seen it almost a year ago and never made it. The recipe had just been sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
     You may have seen my post from last summer about bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers. They are pretty much my favorite tailgate, cookout, or Superbowl snack. When I saw Keith's recipe for a jalapeno popper grilled cheese, I knew the only thing that could make it better would be to add bacon to replicate the flavors in my favorite snack. I think, Keith from Closet Cooking, might agree too. He has several recipes on his blog that are based off a jalapeno popper.
    Basically I followed Keith's recipe as written, except for adding in the bacon. I agree that biting into a raw jalapeno would have created a texture issue with me, so I'm glad he thought of roasting them first. As expected, I loved this grilled cheese. My husband has requested it twice since I made it toward the beginning of April! It took longer than a regular grilled cheese, but it was worth every minute of it...and burning my tongue on the Jalapeno juice that was on my finger from slicing them.
     Myfitnesspal tells me this recipe might be one for occasional use only. Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you would rather not know...759 Calories, 56 carbs, 48 fat, 27 protein, 6 sugar, 3 fiber (oh my!) In case you're curious, if we would have used our regular wheat bread, we would have only saved 80 calories!

What I posted:
1 year  ago: Corn Starch Ice Cream
2 years ago: Breakfast Pizza Pie

makes 1 sandwich (so adjust according to how many people you're serving)

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and halved
2 slices sourdough bread
1 Tbl butter, softened
2 Tbl cream cheese, softened (use the real stuff so it will melt!)
2 slices bacon, cooked
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1 Tbl crushed tortilla chips
  • Place peppers on baking sheet, facing down. Broil until outer skin is blackened, about 10 minutes.
  • Place in sealed container until cool enough to handle.
  • Remove the skins by pinching them off.
  • Butter the outside of each slice of bread, and spread cream cheese on the inside. Sprinkle half the cheddar on top of the cream cheese of one slice. Top with jalapenos, bacon, crumbled tortillas, the rest of the cheese, and the other slice of bread.
  • Heat a griddle or non-stick pan to medium.
  • Add the sandwich and grill until cheese is melted and bread is golden, about 2-4 minutes per side.


Menu Plan May 6-12, 2012

     As you can see, the blog transformation is mostly complete. I hope you are enjoying the changes, which I think reflect me a little better. I'm still updating the recipe index to include the earliest posts. It has been interesting to go back through those posts and see recipes that I have forgotten about.
     My husband won season passes to the zoo from work a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, we went with two of our friends. It might have been the hottest day of the year so far! We didn't like eating much after that, so we had a simple dinner: eggs and toast with lots of water.

Here is the plan for this week:

Crepes with chocolate sauce
Oatmeal sweetened w/ honey
Muffins of some kind

Cheese sticks
trail mix
yogurt and fruit

Dinners (leftovers for lunch):
Eggs and Toast
Cheesy Chicken Pasta
Bean Burritos
Tomato Basil Burgers
Aztec Chicken 
Wedding food

linked up to OrgJunkie's  Menu Plan Monday

Friday, May 4, 2012

Honey Blueberry Muffins

     I just got a new half -gallon of our favorite Wildflower Honey. The honey farm is way off the beaten path, but it really does taste so much better. You could spend an afternoon there if you wanted to take tours and things. We just like to go in the store and taste the different honeys and honey products like peanut butter and flavored whipped honey (cinnamon is our favorite.) They do sell this honey at the farmer's market nearby in the summer and at the State Fair in the fall, but if you run out before then you can go to the honey farm itself or order online (and pay shipping). I just hate to pay shipping.
     When we stopped by this time, I picked up a little cookbook that has honey recipes. I thought this would be useful since I'm trying to cut back on the amount of refined sugars we eat. There are so many recipes I want to try. I chose blueberry muffins first because we love muffins, and they are great quick and easy breakfast. While these didn't completely cut out refined sugars, far less than normal was used in this recipe when compared to others. These were very good and moist muffins. I made them last night, and they were just as good this morning when we had them for breakfast. I will definitely make these again!
     Myfitness pal says the nutritional information per muffin is 138 calories, 22 carbs, 5 fats, 3 proteins, 11 sugars, and 1g fiber. This is a lower calorie, lower sugar choice than the previously posted, but delicious Peanut Butter & Banana muffins. Keeping track of this nutritional information is really eye-opening! Things that seem relatively healthy pack a lot more calories than you think. I don't want to be a crazy calorie counter, but I do want to reduce the amount of sugars I eat. I have a feeling the two are going to go together. That being said, both of these muffins (blueberry and peanut butter banana) are completely made from scratch and would be considered  "real food." They have to be healthier and more delicious than store-bought chemical laden muffins!
Makes 12 muffins
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups flour (take out 3 Tbl for whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries (I used wild frozen since they are out of season)

  • Cream butter, sugar, and honey. Add egg.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture along with the milk.
  • Fold in berries.
  • Bake at 375* for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

other sweet breakfast muffins we have made include:

Craftiness: I Love You This Much!

    I mentioned in my post about changing my blog name that I wanted to write a little about doing preschool at home. I have a teaching degree, and taught third grade for 7 years. That, however, does not make me an expert in early childhood education. I don't push it...Hey, I don't even do "preschool" every day. I try to do what I can with the time we have. One of the reasons I "retired" from teaching was to stay home, and the cost of childcare in our area made that an easy decision. I would be spending all I made to put her in childcare. So, we do preschool at home...which also helps us afford ballet lessons, but that is another story for another day.
     This morning we had a crafty day. It was really a multipurpose craft, since we were making a card for a family member who has been in the hospital. I saw this card on pinterest and thought he would just love it! I let Eden trace her own hands, which as you can see turns out to be monster hands! We might need to work on that a little more. She cut the straight strip and folded it  to make the accordion inside the card, and she wrote the letters for the hands of the card. Now, our card doesn't look as pretty as the original version we saw, but she tried her best and did it all herself! Of course, we took pictures along the way, so we could give those with the card.

Previous Posts:
1 year ago: Quesadillas
2 years ago: Shortbread Cookies

Special Note

For the present, anonymous comments are not allowed at Robin, Restored due to the large number of spam comments that make it through Blogger's spam filter. I'm sorry about those of you who comment as Anonymous and sign your names. I'll try later to enable the function again.
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