Craftsy – FREE online crafting classes

Craftsy-FREE-Classes

Have you heard of Craftsy? It’s FREE website that regularly offers FREE crafting classes. I saw today that they have a collection of cake decorating classes for FREE, which I think would be really interesting. They also have FREE recipes for cake decorating – like frosting, marshmallow fondant, gum paste recipe, and even a Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe!

The FREE cake decorating classes include:

The Hand-Painted Cake

Modern Buttercream Frosting Class

Basic Fondant Techniques

FREE-Classes-Craftsy

They have a lot of other FREE classes available right now – I’m seeing 27 FREE classes at this time. Everything from drawing, to knife skills to photography and more.

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Spring Cupcake Designs – 6 easy spring and Easter cupcake designs

Sping-Cupcake-DesignsPIN here

Easter and spring cupcake designs

To celebrate the first day of spring, I’m re-publishing my Spring Cupcakes designs, originally shared in 2013 . .

I’m not very good about decorating for holidays or going over the top with cutesy seasonal foods. But yesterday I had a wild hair and decided the kids and I should decorate cupcakes. I think it was the sunshine – it makes me do crazy things. I had fun getting creative with the kids trying to come up with fun easter cupcake designs for you. They are each 3 steps or less and EASY. We hope you enjoy them!

Step 1 – Your first step is make a batch of cupcakes. You can make them from scratch or make them from a box (like I did, there is only so much you can expect from a girl in one day).

 Baby-Chick-Cupcake-Spring-DesignPIN here

Baby Chick Cupcakes

1.) Frost it with yellow frosting (I used vanilla frosting with couple drops of food coloring)

2.) Dip in yellow coconut. To make colored coconut, put plain coconut in a Ziploc bag, add a couple drops of food coloring, close bag and mix it around until color coats coconut.

3.) Add two eyes. You can use dark colored candies, chocolate chips or I used frosting. Then add a beak. I used a Reeses Pieces.

I actually got this idea from my Parade magazine.

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Freeze juice in muffin pans for smoothies

Freeze-juice-muffin-tins-smoothies.jpgRe-pin it all here

Freeze juice for smoothies

We love making smoothies with our Vitamix. But we aren’t juice drinkers – so we often don’t have a carton of fresh juice in the fridge. So I started buying juice when I found it on markdown (read: super cheap) and I’d just take it home and freeze it in muffin trays (or ice cube trays) for use in smoothies as needed! It also works great if you need juice for a recipe!

1.) Pour fresh juice into muffin pans, mini muffin pans or even silicone molds
I found it was a little easier to pour juice into a 2-cup measuring cup and then pour into molds. I didn’t spill as much.

2.) Freeze for at least 24 hours

3.) Pop out juice and store in freezer bag
To pop out I found if I just set them on the counter for 5 minutes they loosen up. Or take a cookie sheet with sides and fill with hot water (in the sink) and set your frozen muffin pans in hot water – just a few seconds! It should loosen them right up.

4.) Pop them back into the freezer and when needed, pull one or two frozen juice packs out of the bag to make your smoothie!

Freeze-juice-muffin-tins-smoothies

Orange-juice-frozen-muffin-tins

Smoothies-freeze-juice-molds

Smoothies-juice-frozen-molds

What do you think? Good idea? What else could you freeze for your smoothies? 

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Construction Cake – Kid’s Birthday Cake Idea

Construction-Cake-DIY-ideasPinterest – Construction Birthday Cake Idea

Construction Cake – Kid’s Birthday Cake Idea

My friend Erika posted this Construction-themed Kid’s Birthday Cake on her Facebook wall and I was so impressed I had to share it with all of you!  She gave me permission to share a picture and she shared her tips for how she made it. She started her planning with the yellow and black CAT Construction Equipment.

Basic instructions:

1.) Make two 10″ round cakes and two 8″ round cakes. Use food coloring to dye the cake mix yellow and black and swirl together. Bake the cakes per the instructions on the box and freeze them overnight. Erika found that freezing the cakes helped with the frosting and decorating.

2.) The next day, make TWO batches of homemade fluffy chocolate frosting – 1 stick of unsalted Butter, 3 Cups powdered sugar, 2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tsp vanilla, and WHIP, WHIP, WHIP!

3.) For the the base of the cake cover a round piece of cardboard with aluminum foil. Start with one round 10″ cake, add a layer of frosting on top and sprinkle top with crushed Oreos then cover with the second round 10″ cake. Basically your stacking the cake – but putting a layer of frosting and Oreos in between!!

4.) For the top part of the cake, start with one round 8″ cake, add a layer of frosting on top and sprinkle layer with crushed Oreos then cover with second round 8″ cake. Just like you did with the bottom.

5.) Dig out a small crevice from top cake to make it appear like the diggers are. . .well digging. Frost rest of cake with the homemade fluffy chocolate frosting.

6.) For the number 2 (or whatever age is needed), print out a number 2 on your computer – as big as the cake. Then cut it out and place it on cake. Sprinkle crushed Oreos over  top of cake. Remove paper 2 when done – it should be Oreo-free like the photo.

7.) Using popsicle or sucker sticks and paper you can make signs to spell out a name. Erika used her Cricut to make the letters.

8.) Finish it off with Toystate CAT Mini Machine, 3″, 5-Pack (Amazon) pushing around yellow and brown Reese’s Pieces. Instead of piping (which can be tricky) – bead frosting around the bottom edge and top with Whoppers for a decorative edge!

What do you think? Isn’t it cool? What other ideas do you have things you can put on the construction cake?

you-rock-cupcakes

This cake reminds me of these Choco-Rock cupcakes with worm and dirt that I posted back in April of 2012!

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DIY Costume Ideas – Raggedy Ann, bag-o-popcorn, Pacman crew, LEGO man

Piper_RaggedyAnn Pin it. 

I know we’ve blown past Halloween, but I couldn’t move on without sharing some of the DIY costumes readers sent in this week. You’ll have to PIN them for next year, because they are some great ideas!

The adorable Raggedy Ann costume pictured above was sent in by Melissa. She writes, “ I love to craft, so I had the ribbon in her hair and on the straps of the apron sitting around the house already! I purchased some clearance white fabric from JoAnn’s for about $3 total.. And the dress was handmade by a friend who can sew and had fabric on hand. The hat/wig was crocheted, partially by a friend, and the yarn cost me about $10. Some lipstick and eyeliner that I already had completes the Raggedy Ann look! Not too shabby for $13!”

Baby-in-Bjorn-costume-PopcornPin it.

This Popcorn costume idea was sent in by Kylene, she wrote, “Since I knew I would be carrying my son while my older son goes trick-or-treating, I decided to do something that I could incorporate his carrier with. I decided to have him go as a bag of popcorn! The costume couldn’t have been easier, or cheaper. I took a white piece of felt I bought by the yard (on sale even!) and cut it to fit the carrier. I hot glued red stripes, also cut from felt, to make the bag. For the letters I printed out the text that I wanted from the computer and traced out on the felt. For the popcorn hat, I took a larger, stretchy hat and hot glued popped popcorn. All told, the costume took about half an hour to make, and cost less then $5. I received a ton of compliments during our town’s Halloween celebration, and we took 1st place in the costume contest!”

Pacman-Crew Pin it.

This adorable Pacman team was sent in by Clara, she wrote, “I bought the felt at JoAnn’s on 40% off deal so I made costumes for my family of 8 for a little over $10!  And we won the costume contest last weekend at Fred Meyer and got a $20 gift card.  And we did a simple tacking stitch so we didn’t ruin any of the shirts.” 

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Easy Owl Craft for Kids – Make your own line-up of owls, using cotton batting

Originally published last year, I’m sharing again!

This craft was a hoot. I couldn’t help myself, sorry. But it is true. I think these fluffy little owls are as cute as can be and it really is an easy, easy craft. My five- and two-year-old both loved it and I luckily had all the items here at home. I stole this idea from preschool.

I especially like how you can line up your kid’s projects – so you can have a long row of owls. This looks really cool in a classroom or a hallway at school.

YOU WILL NEED

Construction paper – black, brown, orange and yellow

Cotton batting or stuffing - From an old throw pillow or quilt batting. You could try cotton balls but I had a hard time getting them to stick together.

Garage sale price stickers - or you can just cut out round eyes from regular paper

Scissors

Glue

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U-pick strawberries – A fun, frugal, family-friendly activity

strawberries

Kerri, our amazing Rite Aid, QFC and Top/Haggen expert, shares her experience with u-pick berry farms! This post was written by her. Enjoy!

It’s summer in Washington which means that it’s time to start thinking u-pick. We love u-picking around here! If you haven’t tried it before it’s a fun family activity that helps you stock up on fresh, local produce often at a fraction of the cost. And it has the added benefit of supporting local farms and farmers while also getting to know exactly where your food comes from.

biringer

This week I had the chance to take my kids strawberry picking at Biringer Farm out in Arlington. We had a great time! The sun was shining and the plants were loaded. We picked a few flats and that night feasted on strawberries – straight out of the flat, with dinner and over ice cream. What we didn’t eat immediately got frozen to use in smoothies and desserts for the rest of the year. When we go raspberry picking we’ll do the same thing but also add jam making to the list (see our post about raspberry picking from last summer)

strawberry plant

If you’re interested in u-picking where you live, word of a mouth is a great way to find out good places to u-pick. If you ask around, people often have favorites that they’ll let you know about. You can also check out pickyourown.org. It’s a great resource for finding places close to home.

Here are some additional tips before you head out:

  • Call ahead. While many places have websites it’s always a good idea to call ahead to confirm hours. While you’re at it, ask about the crop, too. They can often tell you when the best time to pick is.
  • Bring containers. Many places provide containers for you, but not all do so it’s good to have them just in case.
  • Pick during peak season. Picking is so much easier and quicker if you don’t wait until the end of the season when there isn’t as much available.
  • If possible, try picking on weekdays when it’s usually not as busy as the weekend. Mornings are a great time, too.
  • Make room in your freezer. If you’re planning on freezing your berries it’s nice to have lots of room available.

strawberry container

Each year our family picks strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and apples. Our freezer gets filled literally to the brim with berries, jam and applesauce and we enjoy them all year long.

What about you? We’d love to hear your favorite things to u-pick and any tips you might have!

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Freezer Organization – Before and after photos from reader Roxanne

Before-Freezer-organization

After I posted photos of our freezer organization, reader Roxanne was inspired to clean out her freezer. She sent me before and after photos and this email:

“I loved your idea so much, I set out to organize my kitchen freezer – I don’t have any other freezer space, and my husband and I love to buy in bulk when we find deals, so you can imagine how out of control our freezer space had become. I’ve emailed you before and after shots, Heather, because I’m so proud of this accomplishment . . . in fact, after I finished, I was able to add 12 pounds of Italian and breakfast sausage that I’d packaged but didn’t have room for! Thank you for your great ideas; you are my inspiration!”

After-Freezer-Organization-boxes

Roxanne used my suggestion to organize her items using clearly labeled boxes. So much easier to find items!

after-freezer-door-organization

Jars and tall tupperware fit perfectly in the door!  Great job, Roxanne! It look fantastic. See my tips for how to organize your freezer here!

Organize-your-freezer-space

If you have before/after photos of projects or things you’ve organized, I’d love to see!

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Turn an old TV into a dog bed {reclaim, reuse, recycle}

OLD-TV-INTO-DOG-BEDPin it. 

I have an awesome sister. She’s my best friend. And she’s so creative (she gets it from my mom). She recently turned a very old TV into a classy little dog bed for my adorable little Beagle nephew Bailey, isn’t it cool? In honor of Earth Day – and the whole reuse, recycle theme – I’m telling you how you can do it!

What’s even cooler is she got the TV for FREE – people are giving these dinosaurs away! And the cost of paint was minimal.

Here are some basic instructions:

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How to clean stained cutting board {naturally}

Clean-a-stained-cutting-board

Clean a Stained Cutting Board

I have a nice big wooden cutting board. I LOVE this cutting board so I was super bummed when I stained it cutting strawberries for dehydrating. I should have used a plastic cutting board, but I didn’t even think about it. I should have cleaned it up right away, but I didn’t. So how do you get stains out of a cutting board?

I tried cleaning the stained cutting board with a hot dish cloth and it barely made a dent. Since it’s a food surface I didn’t want to use anything toxic. I found a combination of lemon, salt and baking soda worked pretty great.

Ingredients needed

Coarse, rock salt (that means big chunky salt. If you don’t have this, regular salt will probably work).

Baking soda

Lemon, probably only need half of a lemon

Clean-Cutting-Board-With-Salt

First sprinkle salt on top of the stain.  Using a lemon half scrub the salt. This will release lemon juice onto the stain and the salt will start to “scratch” away the stain. Add more salt and keep scrubbing if needed. For more abrasion you can use a toothbrush (a clean one) or a scrub brush. Be careful for things like steel wood that could damage the wood.

Clean-Cutting-Boards-with-Baking-Soda-

Then sprinkle baking soda over the stain. It will bubble from the lemon juice (exciting, right?). Then use an abrasive sponge or scrubber (I have homemade ones from grandma), scrub the stain. Lots of elbow grease. Lots.

After your done scrubbing – rinse cutting board off and wipe vigorously with a wet dish towel. Like you’re washing a dish. Then wipe down and dry. It’s important to DRY it well, sitting water could warp your cutting board.

Clean-wooden-cutting-board

TA-DA! It worked awesome at removing the stains from my cutting board. I do still had some remnants of strawberry on my board but it’s very faint. I decided I better save some elbow grease for the other cleaning I have on my list today – but I bet if you were determined this technique could get any stain out.  I bet you could also use some white vinegar – it would add a bit more of a disinfecting quality.

In the future, I’ll save myself the hassle and use a plastic cutting board for those fruits that are more likely to stain my cutting boards. Lesson learned.

How do you clean your cutting boards? How do you remove stains from your wooden cutting boards?

I got this tip from Food.com - they recommend using salt or baking soda, but I recommend using both! 

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