Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beginning Loom Bracelet Tutorial - Simple hook and fingers method

Well, we finally broke down and joined the latest kid craze. That's right (no scoffing you cabbage patch, smurf, friendship bracelet people from the 80's and 90's), the Rainbow Loom/Fun Loom craft extravaganza is here to stay, and has made it all the way to our house.  Within one short afternoon my three girls had an armful of colorful bracelets they had designed themselves, and a bunch more to give away to friends.

Loom Bracelets are quick, fun, and the kids can make these themselves.
First, I have to hand it to whomever out there was sitting around their house a few years back and decided that little girl hair rubber bands (for pony tails) and a small crochet hook, could unit forces into what I can only assume is now a thriving mufti-million dollar business. (It's an America success story, by the way I just Googgled it, very cool).  Hey, I had hair bands lying around... I had crochet hooks all over the place... if only....

Well now that we are officially on the "band" wagon (pun intended) I immediately decided we were going to have to teach ourselves how to do this.  There were the trickier loom instructions that came with the loom and then some simple instructions that actually just used the small hook, your fingers and the rubber bands.  This is where you should start!  My hubby decided to try the original pattern on the plastic loom, while I tried the simple hook method.  Turns out they look the same as finished pattern.  I could crank out four bracelets with one daughter while he made only one on the loom. So for starters I am going to teach you the simple, by hand method, no loom required.  First, you will need to buy some packets of rubber bands. If you buy a loom kit, they will come with the rubber bands.

They come in many themes and colors.  Sparkly, glow-in-the-dark, shiny, with charms, without charms, and most kits should come with a hooking tool and some clasps.  There are two types of clasps.  The "S" clasp, and the "C" clasp.  Named for the shape they take.

Clearly, these are the "S" clasps
Next, you want to take your plastic hook that comes with the kit.  By the way if you do not have a hook, you can also use a small crochet hook (I used both a "C" and a "D" sized hook with no problem.

The white hook is the one that came with the kit.  The two above are my C & D sized crochet hooks.  My girls used all three
I am doing these instructions assuming you are a right-handed person.  If you are left-handed, reverse which hand you do this in.  Take the first colored rubber band you want to use, and make it fit inside one side of the small "S" clasp so the center of the rubber band is in the middle of the clasp, and you have to loops or "wings" sticking out each side of the clasp.

The "S" clams are a tight squeeze.  The only way to get a floppy rubber band into this small space is to pull it very thin and slip it through the crack.   Then you take the other end of the same rubber band and squeeze it thin through the same crack to get this loop on each side configuration above.  Place this clasp and first rubber band in your left hand and squeeze the two loops towards each other.

 Now, with your right hand, grab the hooking tool and slip it through both loops

This next part will take a second person.  I had my daughter put the next color band she would like on the end of the hook

She holds that firmly while I pull the pink band, through the black loops.  Once directly in the center of the black loops, I remove the hooking tool

Now you want to make sure that the band is not twisted at all, but slowly bring up the two pink loops together like you did to the black ones at the beginning.  Move your left hand up slightly to grab the pink loops firmly and you are ready to add the next color

They had decided they wanted a pink and black pattern, so choose another black rubber band and using the hook the same way as before, slip the rubber band into the center of the pink loops

Continue alternating between colors making sure the loops are not twisted.  Soon you will have a small chain forming from all of the interconnected loops.

We found that it was about 22 rubber bands to make a good child-sized bracelet that wasn't too tight or too loose.  Once you hit about 20+ bands, start measuring it against the wrist of your child and see if you need a few more or few less.

Now comes the finishing off part.  Simple work both loops through the other side of the "S" clasp.  You will have to do one loop at a time, stretching it thin to get each past the narrow opening of the "S" clasp.  Once together, your bracelet is finished!

Then you are ready to wear your new creation!

Now this hook and finger method works great if you have another person around to help load in the next color and hold it while you pull it through the loop before.  However the basic pattern directions on the loom will make this same loopy pattern and you can do them all by yourself.  I will show that in a next post.  We just wanted to master the basics first.  We were able to make a ton of bracelets and never even touched the loom!  By the way, the green bracelet in the picture above was given to my daughter by one of her friends.  It was also made on a loom and as you can see, has more of a woven pattern to it.  There are a ton of different patterns to master, although, I rather like the loose loopy look of the basic method we first tried.

Now, even if you are not a crafty person, and do want to mess with learning the loom, you can now still make bracelets with your kids and grandkids pretty easily with a simple hook, some bands, and some patience.   By the way, my hubby always makes fun of me about this, but once I learned the bare-bones basics of the loom, I went on youtube to find the prettiest (most advanced) pattern I could find.  It's the craft equivalent of going 0-60 I guess. What can I say I like to progress quickly!  I came across this lovely little number called a starburst pattern.  A nice little 8-year-old girl named Carrigan taught me how to do this:

Holy smokes, right!  Well it was quite intricate, with many steps on the loom.  Some of it looked like this:

I might have impressed even myself on finishing this one.  We made a couple of cute bracelets this way. They turn out more chunky on the top but I really like the way the star burst pattern looks when you are all done.

This more complicated pattern is exactly what the loom is REALLY great for.  But don't worry, we can "build" to this. For starters I would just try the simple hook and loop finger method and whip out some cute bracelets today!  Make them to give away for class Valentines instead of candy. Make them in your school colors, your favorite sports team colors - how about Superbowl team colors!  The possibilities and color schemes are endless.  Plus these are not just for girls.  I have seen charms and kits available with super heroes, Disney characters, pirates, and Cars too.  I'm sure this will be another one of those fun decade fads.  Years from now, the kids will be grown up and posting on Pinterest on a board dedicated to child-hood fads.  Remember that time way back in 2014 when we made bracelets out of hair rubber bands and wore them, traded them all over town....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Apple Spice Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

For Christmas this year I received a bundt cake pan from my hubby.  I've been dying to take it for a test spin.  I might have found the perfect recipe to share with you.  How does warm apple spice cake with cinnamon glaze sound?

It sounds delicious I tell you!!!
The best part about this recipe is that it is only four ingredients.  That's right just four.  Also, it does not contain any oil, but because it is replaced by fruit, it will be the most tender cake you will ever stick a fork into.  Here are the four ingredients: (full printable recipe found at the end of the post)

Apple Spice Cake

Spice cake mix
One 21oz can of apple pie filling
3 Eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the spice cake mix into a bowl.  Add in can of apple pie filling

Add in three eggs and vanilla

Mix well for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.  Make sure that you purposefully "run over" the large apple chunks as you go around.  They will break up into bite-sized pieces by the end of the mixing period.

Mmmm mmmm... fluffy apple spice batter with chucks of delicious fruit in the mix.  Next, you will want to grease (with Crisco) a bundt pan very VERY well.  Tap around a little flour and make sure the whole thing is covered well.  Bundt pans have a lot of nooks and crannies so make sure everything gets a good coating.

Pour the batter into the pan, making sure you rotate so it fills evenly.  This batter is slightly thicker than regular cake mix, so go slowly and fill evenly.

After that you want to bake it to box directions (mine was 40-45 minutes at 350º).  When it comes out of the oven, set it on the counter to cool.

Now here is the GREATEST TIP I CAN EVER GIVE YOU ABOUT BUNDT PANS... You do not want to leave this cake in the pan until it cools.  If you do, it will never come out (well, it won't come out in one piece).  What you do is set your timer for exactly 10 minutes after your cake comes out of the hot oven.  The pan will probably still be a bit to warm to handle with bare hands... but it is this EXACT time that you will want to turn your bundt cake out on the serving tray.  I use oven mitts, a steady hand, and a large glass plate.  Flip it over in one fluid motion and slowly lift up on the pan to reveal this masterpiece...

The cake will still be rather warm at this point.  Let it cool down all the way on the serving plate.  While it is cooling, we can make our simple cinnamon glaze.  You will need:

Cinnamon Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp (or more) cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
3-5 Tablespoons of milk

Pour 1 cup of powdered sugar into a smaller bowl

Add in 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla

Add in at least 3 Tablespoons of milk and start stirring.  The thickness of the glaze depends on you.  

I added two more Tablespoons (for a total of 5) to make a nice, thin glaze that would pour over the top of the cake and down the sides.  This next part was actually quite fun, but slowly, in a circle, start pouring the glaze directly over the top of the finished cake

The glaze will deliciously roll down the sides of the cake, pooling in the center and around the outsides, giving the appearance of a big, ol', over-sized donut.  Hello YUMMY!  When you slice the cake you will see the nice chunks of apple throughout.

A close up reveals that when the glaze dries, it gives that Krispie Kreme sheen to the top of the cake.

Try not to lick your screen here....
My eldest daughter absolutely LOVED this cake.  She wants it for her birthday cake 11 months from now (she's a planner).  Serve this apple spice cake as is, with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, or an easy dollop of whipped cream.  I promise you, everyone will be clamoring for more.

This recipe is loosely based off my other favorite four-ingredient cake recipe from the Cake Mix Dr., which is a chocolate covered cherry cake.  I'm planning on sharing that with you for Valentines Day.  Stay tuned!!

Full printable recipe found here: (click for link)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Preemie Jammies - Perfect for 18in dolls!

Just a quick little post that my daughters wanted to share with all the other girls out there.  We were given, by a family friend a few years back, the Avon version of American Girl dolls.  My girls love their dolls and this year the eldest wanted an official American Girl doll.  Since they are still a bit too pricey, I did a little research and found that the Toys r us version of the 18 inch doll (called a Journey Girl) had the softest hair and the best reviews (and for 1/3 of the price too - she's the blonde doll on the left).  Besides 18 inch dolls being pricey, their clothes and accessories can get pretty expensive too.  One day I was shopping in the kid's section and came across some preemie jammies.  They were so sweet and little.  I thought, wait a second, I wonder if these would fit their dollies?!  I bought a pair, brought it home, and that's when I discovered that preemie baby pajamas are an absolute perfect fit for 18-inch dolls!
Meredith, Natalie, and Erika are all ready for their slumber party

How adorable are these jammies?

Look, one of them even has little zebra faces on the feet:

Not to mention, my girls absolutely LOVE to wear footie jammies themselves in real life!

First of all, regular doll clothes can run about $10 bucks each.  Not to mention they are usually not that well made, and a tad scratchy.  These REAL preemie baby jammies are sometimes under $8 and are the cutest, softest jammies in the known universe.  My girls love snuggling with their dolls now and having pretend slumber parties.  Matter of fact, when we had a few birthday parties to go to these last few weekends, I found out their friends had received 18 inch dolls for Christmas, so we went out and got them all comfy jammies as one of our presents.

So if you have a daughter, granddaughter, or niece out there under 13 or so, check and see if they have an 18 inch doll they love and surprise them with this special little gift.  I also love to shop the clearance section after a holiday and you can pick up some very cute themed jammies for your dolls this way as well.  Enjoy, and happy snuggling.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Well, the 31 nights of different dinners is here again.  As a Christmas present for the last four or five years, I have given my husband the gift of a different meal every night for the month of January. We call it the 31 nights of different dinners (see full explanation of how it started here with the added benefits). The main rules are:  You can not repeat a meal within the month (thus promoting new recipes), and no left overs for dinner.  This leaves me with a pretty big challenge of meal planning for the entire month.  The great thing about this plan, is we do really try a lot of new recipes.  I just found a great recipe I wanted to pass onto you that not only one, not only two... but all THREE of my children liked.  That's right, we made Baked Chicken Taquitos!

Baked chicken taquitos... coming to a kitchen near you!
This made a very easy and quick meal.  By using left over rotisserie chicken, plus a few other common ingredients these baked taquitos literally whipped up in no time.  Here is what you will need:   (full printable recipe at the end)


2 cups of cooked/chopped up rotisserie chicken
Sour cream
taco seasoning
salsa (your favorite kind)
flour or corn tortillas (small, or if you have big ones, I cut mine down)
sea salt/seasoning
cooking spray

So first, place your 2 cups of chopped, cooked chicken into a small bowl:

Next, you want to add in a few spoonfuls of sour cream, a few spoonfuls of salsa, and a sprinkling of taco seasoning mix.  This is completely to taste, I would say about 2 Tablespoons of sour cream and salsa to start, and a teaspoon or two of the taco seasoning.

Stir it up.  It will need to have a wet/moist consistency, so after the initial stir I ended up adding a bit more sour cream and salsa.  You want it to stick together and be spreadable without being soupy. Taste the mixture.  Make sure to add more seasoning if needed.

Now, most recipes I searched for on line called for the small corn tortillas, which had a couple of extra steps to make them pliable enough to roll.  We, however, only had flour tortillas on hand, which ended up rolling a lot easier.  We did not just have regular sized flour tortillas lying around, but huge, monster burrito sized flour tortillas.  I figured you don't want that much tortilla because the taquitos would get tough on the outside with too many layers of tortilla dough.  I cut the round edges off, and then cut each large tortilla into two smaller rectangles.  They were probably 6.5x5 inches each.

If you have the small 6-inch round flour tortillas, skip this step
Take your chicken mixture and spread a few spoonfuls at one end of the rectangle.  You want to have a good amount of filling but not enough to sqwoosh out the sides.  Yes.  I'm making sqwoosh a word.  I just "added it to my dictionary" on my computer matter of fact.  My computer dictionary probably goes to group therapy for all the non-words I am teaching it.

Roll tightly, sealing the mixture inside as you go.  Place the taquito seam side down on a half sheet lined with foil or cooking spray (or both).

Continue rolling up the rest of the taquitos.  Make sure they do not touch when you lay them in the pan.  I coated the top of them with a light dusting of cooking spray, and then sprinkled the top with a little seasoning.  I used a couple of cranks of sea salt all over the top.  The sea salt really made it pop with flavor by the way, so don't skip that step.

These taquitos are about 5 inches long each
Bake at 425º for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.  I wasn't actually sure that just by baking them would make them turn out crisp... because in a restaurant these are usually fried.  Fear not though, because lo and behold they turned brown and crunchy as promised!

Pleasantly surprised crisp and crunchy taquitos!
The fun part of eating a plate of taquitos, is dipping them in different sauces.  You can dip them in sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, and guacamole.  For this dinner I wanted a more creamy dipping sauce than a chunky guacamole, so I cut up an avocado, added a dallop of sour cream and some seasoning salt and stirred it until it was smooth and creamy.

All that is left to do is serve them on a plate hot from the oven with a variety of dipping sauces and go to town! 

Everyone really loved these.  They turned out crispy, yet creamy on the inside.

I even got creative after serving the first few, and started cutting them on the diagonal and standing them upright like they do in Mexican restaurants.  I was SO surprised when my somewhat picky middle child (who does not eat tacos) walked over to the table, took a big bite of a taquito and said "YUM"!!"  Then proceeded to eat two more. Now if that is not proof that this is an easy, family-friendly recipe, I don't know what is.  Try these sometime soon and let me know how you like them.  I am definitely adding them into our regular dinner rotation!  Full printable recipe found here.  Enjoy!!

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