Handmade Holidays III

I can hardly contain myself! Handmade Holidays is here again! This is the third year that Sew Mama Sew is doing this and it's just beyond wonderful. Every day for the month of November there are tutorials of great things you can make as gifts for the holidays. There are projects for every kind of gift recipient - kids, adults, crafters, students, you name it. In addition, there is a giveaway each day, which you can enter just by leaving a comment!

Last year I made several Christmas gifts using ideas I got from Handmade Holidays II. This year my list is hopelessly long. I'm hoping to make things for my nephews, godchildren and my own children, as well as gifts for my parents, grandparents and of course, hubby! However, I don't think I'll ever get started actually making anything because I've been spending so much time looking at all of the fantastic handmade tutorials!

I do hope you get to check it out and add some handmade items to your gift giving this year!


Saving dinner the homemade way

I found two boxes of taco shells in my cabinet and I could not remember exactly when I purchased them. The boxes did not have expiration or best used by dates anywhere on them, but did say the taco shells were in seal fresh packs, so I figured they were probably still good. There was a recipe on the back of the box for Taco Casserole that looked delicious, so I decided it would be dinner. The recipe called for taco sauce, which I did not have on hand, so I found a recipe for homemade taco sauce. It was extremely easy to make and tasted better than taco sauces I've purchased from the store!

The recipe also called for a packet of taco seasoning - another ingredient I did not have. Okay, so I should have gone shopping before deciding on dinner! Once again, I found a recipe for homemade taco seasoning. Very simple to make and tasted just like the premade seasoning packets I've bought in the past. I don't think I'll ever purchase taco sauce or taco seasoning again!

Okay, here is the best part of the story. After I prepared seasoned the cooked ground turkey and got ready to fill the casserole dish with the broken taco shells as directed, I noticed a funny smell. A smell coming from the just opened seal fresh taco pack. I thought I'd better taste a piece of taco shell and it was so NOT fresh! For a moment, I considered calling the poison hotline because I could not get the horrible taste out of my mouth! What's even worse, is that after searching and searching I finally found a production date of...

... 2005!

I threw the shells away, but then had to figure out what to do about dinner. I couldn't just serve a dish full of taco meat. I mixed up a cornbread batter and spread it over the taco seasoned ground turkey (to which I added corn kernels... just because I love corn). I baked everything at 400 for about 20 minutes, sprinkled cheddar cheese on top and had a tasty cornbread taco dinner!

Here are the recipes I used for the homemade sauce and seasoning mix.

Homemade Taco Sauce
1 can (8 ounces) unseasoned tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
hot sauce to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Let set for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.


Results Are In

I'm so proud of myself! I actually made the teething biscuits. I decided not to go with the recipe I posted earlier - I realized that it contains a whole egg and milk, two items which I am not ready to introduce to Lil' Cherub yet. At 9 months old, she has only had egg yolk - and though I know some say it's okay for babies to have whole egg cooked in a recipe, I'd rather just play it safe.
So I found another recipe which contained just four items!
1 cup of flour
1 cup of rice cereal
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
ice water.
I combined the flour and rice cereal, then gradually mixed in the cooking oil. I stirred in the ice water a bit at a time until the dough came away from the sides of the bowl. I rolled it out on a floured surface to the thickness of a cracker and cut it into strips. I baked them on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes - or until slightly browned. The recipe made several "crackers."

They are not very pretty, but Lil' Cherub seems to like them okay. If I had to change anything, maybe I would roll them out a bit thicker. They are hard - perfect teething biscuit quality - but also break very easily. That seems somewhat of a contradiction. Well, they snap right into pieces, but the pieces do not disolve very well. So I had to fish several chunks out of her mouth. I think if I made them thicker, they may not break so easily? She might be able to just hold onto them and gum them. I'm still pretty excited to have made them and motivated to try some other recipes!


Something to Sink Her Teeth Into

Lil Cherub has grown the cutest two little teeth. I'm sure she doesn't know what to do with them yet...though she has bitten me a few times already... Anyway, they are a reminder to me that she is growing so quickly! Babbling, crawling, cruising, eating lots of food to keep up with all of the energy she is spending. I made my own babyfood for all three of my little blessings. However, this time around I'm taking on a new challenge! She loves to eat toasted o's and graham crackers, so Ive decided to make my own teething biscuits and crackers . I found several recipes at a website that was a great resource to me with my first two blessings, I hope to try this one out this weekend and post pictures soon!

Baby Teething Crackers

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten

2/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

In food processor or in large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Blend in enough of the milk to form a dough that will hold together in a cohesive ball.

On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2 x 3-inch rectangles. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Stick each cracker 2 or 3 times with the tines of a fork. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the crackers are thoroughly dry. Cool on a rack. These crackers should be hard. If necessary, put them back in the oven for a few minutes.

Yields 10 to 15 crackers.

Tiny Troubles

I'm so frustrated.

Lil' Miss is in a Suzuki program. They use tiny instruments to teach tiny children how to make beautiful music. We had a rough first year - with Lil' Miss being disagreeable in her private lessons, uncooperative in her group lessons, and downright defiant in our practices at home. We did not want to throw in the towel, thus teaching her to quit, but by the end of the year we had definitely decided that we would NOT register for another year of torture.

Well.... over the summer, her private teacher assured us that Lil' Miss was on the brink of excellence. She apparently has a "natural talent" that is going to "take off at the speed of light" once she gets the attitude stuff under control. I certainly could not see this talent, but then again, I never played the violin. Clarinet from grade school through high school - but never touched a string instrument in my life.

We had a real heart to heart with Lil' Miss - as much as one can have with a five year old. She chose to continue and changed her behavior to show that she was serious. One of her little group classmates even said, "Last year she didn't do anything and now she's doing everything!" He received quite the formidable glare from Lil' Miss.

Today, however, she did not want to practice. She really doesn't want to any day, but will usually comply and then feel good about it in the end. Today she dug her heels in and refused. At every request there was a whine, groan or complaint. "Please fix your bow position." "Whhhhyyyyyy????" "Get your first finger on the A string please." "It iiiiissssss!" "How is your pinky supposed to be on your bow?" "I dooon't knooooow." Most certainly not like it is in the shot I took of her above.

After half an hour of this, I gave up. Asked her to put everything away and I left the room to wash dishes. She happily skippped away, read through a bag of library books and then began playing with her baby sister. I wasn't really mad before, but now I am fuming. She thinks she can get away with not practicing and just go play? But what am I supposed to do? Trudge through the practice while she whines and draws it out for over an hour? Should I forget the whole thing and try tomorrow? Should I save my sanity and just quit altogether?

I finally calmed down, called her back in, and got her to finish the practice. It ended on a good note...but seriously, did it have to be so difficult? I pray daily for guidance with the kids, but maybe I need to begin praying before each practice. Maybe we should start each practice out by praying together! That would not only teach her a valuable lesson about prayer, but also hopefully put us in the right spirit to get through it successfully. took me having to write this long post to figure that out!


Escape Cat

Our cat wants out.

At every opportunity, he escapes out the front, back or garage door. If the door is shut, he smashes his little face against it until the door pops open and quietly slips away. He leisurely sniffs around the porch, taking in the fresh air - until he realizes that he has been spotted. At that point he dashes off the porch into a bush, under the porch or some other place from where he cannot be retrieved. Once in a secure hiding spot, he will not respond to his name, toys, food, bribes or threats and only returns when he feels like it a few hours later.

I think this is all normal behavior for indoor cats, who are naturally outdoor animals. The only problem is that when we adopted him years ago, he was already declawed. This was one of the reasons we chose him, especially since my husband is very attached to his electronic toys and the wires they come with. This makes our cat's little jail break episodes life threatening. He could be attacked by another cat, dog or animal and would have a hard time defending himself.

In addition, I fear he may pick up outdoor "issues" and bring them into our home. Ticks hitching a ride, dirt tracked on the floor where the baby crawls, poison ivy oils on his fur, and who knows what else! Just yesterday he was seen fraternizing with some neighborhood cat. How dare he roll around with some strange cat and then saunter back into our home!

I am not sure how to deal with this problem aside from sending him to live with someone else. Any advice?