Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Spider Babies

So I was minding my own business, enjoying a regular Tuesday, when a sudden cry from my middle child came from somewhere upstairs. It was an urgent! "Mom... mom... MOM.. come HERE!" Each 'mom' getting progressively louder than the last, and so we all know that means - it's potentially super serious. So of course I go running up into her newly remodeled, grown-up teen bedroom. Under her loft bed we have hung up some pretty, sheer, pale blue drapes. And nestled in those drapes... up in a fold in the fabric, is a small lump of something black. Upon closer inspection as I take a few cautious steps forward.. I realized it was something much more terrifying... I felt my heart skip a beat.... it was this:

Oh hi!  I'm your worst nightmare!
What's this pray tell? Well it looks like a mama spider and her egg sac.. and what's worse than finding a mama spider and her egg sac?? Well how about finding a mama spider, her egg sac, AND that the egg sac has just burst open, and hundreds of tiny baby spiders are coming into the world, like right now!

I'll just give you a moment to shudder.

So, I've got like, two hot seconds to figure out what to do next because I'VE GOT EXPLODING SPIDER babies ready to infiltrate my house. I'm the only grown up in the house (#adultingsucks). I'm trying to remember... where in the heck did I get these curtains from? Amazon? Walmart? Did they come from Mexico? On slow boat from China?... Great! Now I'm thinking this was a stowaway renegade deadly Mexican spider, that had hidden away in the curtain lining until it was safe to have her babies and today was that day. ARG!

My two older girls head for the hills (immediately run as fast as they can down stairs to safety - thanks for the support ladies). I'm pretty sure they left a cartoon-type cloud of dust they moved so fast. 

My youngest is at least brave enough to hang out in the doorway, and even grabbed the vacuum and plugged it in for me (my new favorite child, and hey remind me to update my will).  My heart is beating out of my chest because they are HATCHING right now and moving away from the nest. I can't have a bunch of baby spiders living in my daughters room, because she will never EVER go in there again.

How am I going to do this from the WRONG side of the curtain? I'd have to climb behind and be in there WITH the spiders to be on their side. No way Jose.  I can take the long wand of the vacuum and slide it behind the curtain, and then I'm going to make tension on MY side of the curtain, and hopefully a miracle will happen. There's no way I can fail at this. If even ONE of them gets away, there's just no point of living in the house, right?!

Keeping this small for your safety

So I summon all of my courage and move the vacuum nozzle up towards the many, MANY spiders... and I am terrified to move in any closer.  What if the mama spider runs down the nozzle onto my hand? What if they all fall to the floor? As the barrel of the vacuum gets close to the area, it suddenly sucked the whole curtain area into the hose with a tremendous WOOSH!  

Holy CRAP what have I done!?

I just watch helplessly as the curtain is sucked further and further into the barrel of the vacuum wand. Can't I just leave it like this for the next 5 years?

Ever so slowly... I pull out the curtain with my hand that's on this side of the curtain (keeping the tension) and.. everything is still there. 


The spider was pretty ticked off too. Hopping mad actually. Running around in that tiny slot of the curtain. Then, I almost fainted. I was literally shaking. In hindsight it's probably not good to faint in front of an angry spider and her hundreds of babies...

Note to self, don't pass out in front of angry deadly multiple spiders.
How I summoned more courage at this point, I'll never know. I put the nozzle back up the back of the curtain, very close to the spider fortress, and I put more tension on my side of the curtain and the fold is the fabric is more open this time, and I'm going slowly because I want to make sure this is the LAST TIME I HAVE TO DO THIS... and POOF... it sucks in the whole area down into the barrel of the vacuum wand... and when I pull it back out I also kept applying tension and...

The whole damn thing was gone!

Mama spider, baby spiders, egg sac.  The whole nine yards!!!

I'm pretty sure Jesus himself made the spiders vanish because I absolutely don't know how all of them could be gone.

Thank you Jesus!!!
I'm doubting my success. I've still got the vacuum on and running. I planning on running it for a good 5 more minutes too, maybe until tomorrow. I'm scared they are stuck halfway down the hose... all the while, checking for spiders and baby spiders all up and down the curtains. Nothing.  Not on the floor, not above the curtain rod... like got them all in one fell swoop?!

I lock the vacuum rod back in place, hopefully sealing them to their doom. (And when I say HOPEFULLY I mean if there is any justice in the world they will stay in their little dust cavern for all of eternity)- or until my husband can dispose of the contents in a safe and responsible manner, probably out in the middle of the street, and shortly after that I can set the vacuum on fire.

You know, just to be really REALLY sure they are gone.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Loaded Baked Potato Soup - Instant Pot

Who doesn't love loaded bake potato soup?  All hot and creamy, topped with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese and bacon. Serve it with a crusty loaf of bread and you've got yourself a really hearty meal.  I have made this soup in a crock pot several times and wondered if it could be done in the instant pot.  After checking out a couple of recipes, and a few trial runs, this one turned out to be not only the easiest, but the best.

Delicious, yummy loaded bake potato soup!
 Note: I got this recipe from www.belleofthekitchen.com
 She also has a video play by play on her site which is super helpful.

2 Tablespoon butter
1 medium onion diced (or half bag of frozen chopped onions)
3 cloves of garlic minced (or a spoon full of diced jarred minced garlic)
3 cups of chicken broth
1 small can cream of chicken soup
4 large russet potatoes or 7-8 smaller russet potatoes chopped into 1 in cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoned salt 
   black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 cup of milk
2 cups of shredded cheese (i used mild cheddar and a jack/cheddar mix)

Cooked bacon chopped up, or real bacon bits
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese

Put 2 Tablespoon of butter into the Instant Pot and turn on "Saute" function.  Add in chopped onions and cook until soft (3-4 minutes). 

You gotta love the saute function!
Add in garlic and cook for an additional minute, making sure the garlic doesn't burn
Steamy garlic vision
Add in 3 cups of chicken broth, the small can of cream of chicken soup, stir

It's smelling pretty good right about now
Add in cubed potatoes, salt, pepper, to the pot.  Stir until well combined. 

Hey potatoes, are you really going to be fork-soft in 10 short minutes? Let's find out.

Place lid on the Instant Pot, turn the vent valve to "sealing" and cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes.  

My instant pot with it's new pretty cover
Quick release the pressure.

What it looks like when you open the lid
Meanwhile, stir together the 1 tablespoon of flour and the 1 cup of milk with a whisk until it creates a slurry and set aside.  

I think it's easier to add the milk to the flour than the other way around

Once the steam is completely released and the pin has dropped, open the lid and add in the slurry.  Turn to pot to saute and cook the soup for 4-5 minutes, until thickened. 

Hey we're getting somewhere! I also used my Pampered Chef meat utensil to help mush up some of the poatoes.
Stir in the two cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted.

Everything is better with cheese.
 Cook until thickened. Taste and season at the end.

Seasoning is the key to non-bland soups.
Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream, bacon chunks, and some extra cheddar cheese.  

Yummy loaded baked potato soup
Also a nice buttery crusty loaf of french break goes nicely as a "dipper" for the soup.

Activate smell-o-vision now.

Also toppings are key here, don't skimp!

The more the merrier!
My children are weird, well 2/3 of them are.  They don't like mashed potatoes, but they love french fries.  When my youngest said "What's for dinner" I told her it was "french fry soup with bacon"... and guess what? She bought it!  She had a whole bowl and proclaimed it "yummy"!  The middle child wasn't so fooled but I will still count this as a victory.  

The bread fell in, so sad we had to scoop it out - and devour it.
This was a very delicious and hearty week night dinner that the whole family enjoyed (minus one - there's always the one). I am always surprised how the instant pot cooks old school crock pot dishes in a flash.  You don't need all day to get all day flavor these days!  Hooray for science, and Instant Pots.


Thursday, April 04, 2019

Kid's Table Makeover (Ikea Laat)

What happens when your little girls grow up into tweens and teens? They want grown up rooms to match their new ages. My middle is turning 13 in a month and wanted her own room. We have a home office and we decided to turn most of it into her new room.  I'll show the full room remodel in another post, but I wanted to do a quick little tutorial on how to update the Ikea Laat Table into a cute, modern version of itself.

Easy Laat Table Makeover
The table itself we bought three sets of when the girls were little (they are so cute and came with tiny matching chairs). 

(Picture from Ikea website)
We used them for art projects, in the kitchen for tiny seating, and even lined them up for birthday parties tons of times for additional seating options for a crowd.

Seriously, we used these tables all. the. time!

Obviously 10 years later, our tables had seen better days. They had some crayon markings on them (got those out with a magic clean eraser) and they definitely had survived some bumps and bruises along the way (aka, they were very well loved).

Laat tables - well loved and more than a little worn out.
I wanted a quick makeover, and I knew the top was kind of shot, and decided that self-stick contact drawer paper (they come in a variety of cute styles and patterns) would be the easiest way to cover the top. I let my almost teen pick out the one she liked best and we cleaned off the top as best as we could.

The magic clean eraser did wonders on the crayon markings, but there were stills some dings and scratches along the top
My husband had the brilliant idea of flipping the top over onto the contact paper and tracing the exact shape in pencil (there are little notches at each corner).  

It really helps when you marry a genius.
Using two sides of the contact paper to "square up" I only had to draw a few lines to complete the shape. I cut the paper out with scissors, and then I used an X-Acto knife to do some fine trimming.

I used a sewing cutting mat to protect the kitchen table underneath.
After that my hubby helped me (it's good to have 4 hands for this part), we took a little bit of the sticker backing off and slowly unrolled the contact paper as the other person made sure it was going down in the right spots.

Hey, that's fitting quite perfectly!
Wow, that worked better than I anticipated.  Now it looks like a marble top.

Somehow it looks like it weighs so much more now...
The next step was to spray paint the wood bottom in a cute coordinating color for the room. She picked a light teal spray paint, and we took the pieces apart and laid them out in the back yard on some large cardboard pieces.  
*Actual paint used was Krylon Color Master Paint + Primer in Gloss Blue Ocean Breeze

This was coat #1 - I tried to balance the pieces to maximize paint-able space.
I started to spray paint, it was the weirdest thing. It was like the table had a force field impervious to spray paint.  It would sort of stick, but patchy-like. I got a little worried, and my husband decided to sand one of the smaller pieces to see if that helped.  It did a little, but not enough to make a big difference.  We let that dry and by the time we started to add the 2nd coat, it started to go on a little better. 

Doing light layers seemed to be the trick. I did end up using the whole can of spray paint to get the right coverage (thank you weird Swedish force field).

Once we let it dry for a few hours, it really started to look nice.

The only thing left was to put it back together.

The marble top slipped right back into the notches on the base no problem with the thin layer of contact paper
 ...and admire the results!
Hey, that's kind of pretty!
In the new bedroom, we had decided on getting rid of our old, red, 30 year old love seat that had been donated to us years ago, and replacing it with this smart little love seat that also had a fold out twin bed for sleepover guests.  I thought the new and improved Ikea table would make a nice "coffee" table for the love seat area.  When not in use, I keep it over by my desk for an extra work surface.

I love how it is matching elements in the rest of the room!
All in all, I am pleased how this little project turned out. 

We saved something from ending up in the dump, and now it has a brand new life in a "grown-up" teen room for many more years to come.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Llama Alpaca Birthday Cake

What do you do when your tween loves, Llamas/Alpacas, Laser Tag, and Sleepovers? Well you have a Laser Llama Pajama party for her 12th birthday, of course! My middle really wanted a llama/alpaca cake for her big day, because her new favorite things (above all of the things) are llamas and alpacas. I went searching the interwebs for some cake inspiration, and what resulted was the cutest darn llama face cake in the history of tweendom.

Is it a llama, or an alpaca?  We'll let you decide.

Here's a couple tips on how to make one for yourself. I am in no way a professional baker by the way, just a regular mom that tries to obtain her kid's wishes through baked goods. You will need:

Round cake baked with 2 (or more layers)
Top (roundish) part of cake trimmed off (save that part for the raised llama nose)
Frosting in white and whatever other color you want to make your llama
A few easy gel frostings with easy tips in black and pink for the facial features
The "grass tip" or Wilton tip (#233)
Pale Laffy Taffy, or vanilla Tootsie rolls for the ears

First, bake a two layer cake and stack the two layers. (Sometimes I will bake the cake the day before, let it cool, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze until the following day when I'm ready to frost. Frozen cake is sometimes easier to frost with less of a crumb coat needed).

We used two 8-inch round cakes and layered them with strawberry jelly between the layers
When you pull the cake out of the oven, there is usually a "domed" up section in the middle of the pan. Use your knife to level off the top of the cake to make it flat, but take the "domed" top and cut out a small round circle to be the nose of your llama (this will make it looked raised and three dimensional).  Place this little extra disc in the center of the cake for a visual on future placement.

Use the cut off top of the cake when you even it out to make an elevated llama nose
Frost top of your cake with white frosting.  Half of the llama's face will be white, with a "furry" blue layer around the frame of the face.

Place white frosting on the top of the cake.
Take your little extra dome piece and frost that while on a separate plate.

It's messy to frost the sides, but then pick the whole thing up with a fork or large spoon.
Move the domed "nose" to the center of the cake and using the grass tip (Wilton #233) start pipping little fur tufts all over the cake, being sure to leave an almost heart shaped white spot in the middle for the eyes, nose and mouth.

Squeeze near the cake and pull up quickly to make little sections of "grass" or "fur" everywhere.
My original intention was to try and make the fluffy fur all over the cake, however, when I got close to the sides, I realized that the frosting was falling over too much (thanks to gravity) and so I opted last minute to use the blue frosting and frost around the sides. 

Smooth sides and fluffy bottom
You can totally do the smooth sides in aqua right after you put the white frosting at the top near the beggning. I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants.  I went back after the sides were on and put extra "grass" at the top  and then went around the base and added grass there too.

After that you want to add the face.  I used black pre-made frosting gel in a tube (with a decorative tip) to make the lines for the smile and the eyes with those most adorable eyelashes.

The nose is a "U" shape with two mouth lines to make a smile, and then a large dot for the eye and three eye-lashes for fun
 Next came the cute little rosy cheek dots.

I love the pop of color in the cheeks

Next (and rather last minute) I wanted to add ears. We had a pineapple Laffy Taffy, but you could also use a vanilla Tootsie roll. You can either roll it around in a clean warm hand until you can shape it into a tear drop shape, or some people will microwave the candy for a few seconds to get it warm and pliable. 

Cute, edible ears

I sort of pinched the bottoms of the circles or teardrops to give it a more realistic look. I also put some extra frosting under where I wanted them to be to prop them up a bit.  Isn't this the cutest stinkin' thing you've ever seen?

Hello, I'm adorable

After that, there was nothing left to do, but party!

Bring on the party animals!
Happy 12th birthday Eva!

Light da candles every-ting all right!

They had the best time. We got a lot of OOOoohs and Aaahhhhs when her friends saw the cake.

Happy birthday to you....

So, if you have a llama lovin' tween in your life, a 4-H guru, need something for your Future Farmers of America party, or if you just want this cute face looking up at you at your next gathering, give this one a try. Let me know how it turns out!


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