Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Adorable Snowmen - made from Dollar Store socks!

Well there have been many recipes and crafts on the back burner that I need to share with you as the holidays approach at top speed, but I thought I'd start with some of the cutest little snow people that we made as gifts for teachers and family members over the holidays last year.  They were so fun we made them this year as well. 

No-sew snowmen made out of dollar store socks!
The best part about this craft is, that it's great for adults and kids alike.  I had just as much fun making these (if not more) than the girls did.  The other awesome aspect to this craft, is that it only requires a few simple items from the dollar tree, a few other craft supplies, and no sewing!

Snowman made from socks, customize one for every style and taste.
Look how cute these little guys are!  I got this idea from pinterest a few months back, and not only were these the craft at my daughter's 12th birthday party, but many family members, teachers, and friends each received a custom snowman just for them.  Here are the items you will need:

Note: You can also use "lost" socks at your house that you can't find the pair for.
White (long) men's socks (sold in packs of 2 at the Dollar tree)
Fluffy socks (stripes work best, and also no ankle-length or grips on the feet)
Rubber bands
Rice (I bought a 20 lb bag of rice from Walmart)
Pearl stickers (I could only fine white, so we colored them black with sharpies)
Hot glue gun
Tall narrow cup (to pour the rice in the sock) and funnel

Cotton balls or jingle bells
9x13 pan to catch all the rice

Take out one men's sock. The part you are going to use is not the foot part, but the section that would go up the leg with the ribbing.  With sharp scissors, cut about 1 inch past the end of the ribbing, close to the start of the heel.  Place the toe part of the sock aside.

Each two pack of men's socks will make 2 snowmen.
Turn the sock inside out and gather the thickest end into a tight "flower" pinching together the ends and put a rubber band around the top several times to secure.

Turn the sock right side out again, with the rubber band end tucked inside.

The rubber band inside will now be the bottom of your snowman

Fill a tall cup with uncooked rice.  

We found that this tall water bottle was narrow and the perfect size to slide a sock over. A thin, tall travel coffee mug would work as well. We used a funnel to help the rice go into the right place.  Oh we also used a 9x13 pan under all the rice activity to help keep rice from flying all over the kitchen.

The 9x13 pan saved us a lot of sweeping up time later
Place the open end of the sock over the top of the cup and gently flip over.  Carefully let the rice start filling up the sock.  It will look like there is too much rice, but if you push the bottom of the sock down a few times as it is filling, it will stretch/widen out and more rice will fit.  

You don't want to overfill the sock, because rice will start to come out the stretched out holes.
At the very end, carefully remove the cup without letting the rice fly all over the place.  There should be about an inch of sock material at the end.  Leave enough to gather together.

Once the sock is full of rice, it is quite mold-able to the shape you want.

Push the sock down again until you can gather enough material at the top to cinch another rubber band in place. 

Your snowman project will look a little fat and flabby at this point.
At first the shape should look like a pear, with a wide bottom, going up to a narrow top.  Now you can shape the "head" of the snowman by squeezing in slightly above center to form two "balls".  

This will give your future snowman a "peanut" shape
Place a rubber band around the head (this will be hidden by the "scarf" later on), and the Mohawk at the top will be covered up by the hat.

Make sure your head is a good proportional size.  Readjust the rubber band if necessary
Now the fun part, to make the scarf and hat from the fluffy fuzzy socks.  Pick out one you like and you are going to make a few cuts.  

fluffy socks from the dollar tree work great for this project. (no ankle length or grips on the bottom)
Start at the tip of the toe and measure up 4-5 inches, before the heel and cut across.  This will be your little hat. 

Here's a little map of your cuts
You will get four pieces out of one sock.  The hat from the toe, the neck piece (part of the scarf) from the top of the sock, and then a scarf tie to make the scarf more realistic looking right below the neck section, and then there will be an extra piece you don't need made up of the heel area.

Take the toe part of your sock and flip over a bit of the bottom to form a brim (fuzzy socks have a lot of fluff, we pulled off a few fuzz balls as we went to make them look neater).

Now you have a cute little hat for your snowperson.
Find the cutest "face-looking" side of your head and pull the hat down over the top to see how it fits. Adjust the width of the brim if necessary.

This little guy is from the first year we made these.
Now for the scarf.  Take the end of the sock where the elastic is, and cut a strip at the top there about an inch wide.

The "neck" part is at the very top of the sock.
This will be the scarf that goes around the neck and hides the rubber band. Place your scarf over the head of your snowman.

The elastic at the end of the sock will help keep the neck part of the scarf in place
Cut another strip right up to where the heel starts (see map above)
This will be in a ring, but cut the ring open and make one long strip for the scarf. 

Making this a longer strip will help make the scarf on the snowman look more realistic.
Run this up and over the elastic neck ring to make it look like the snow person has tied their scarf up and the tassels are hanging down.

So hat, elastic neck scarf, and longer scarf is tucked up and under the next area.
Now you pretty much have a super cute snowman!  If the scarf tassels are too long, you can trim them up a bit until they rest near the bottom of the snowman.

Here's our guy from last year looking all dapper.
You can also choose to tie the loose long scarf piece to the neck scarf for a tied scarf look, or you can leave it flat and wide for a different look.

The snowman on the left has a tied knot for his scarf, the one on the right the material is just slipped through the neck one.

All we need are some eyes and a few embellishments. I found these pearl stickers in the craft section of Walmart.  

The only color they had was pale white, so we just used black sharpies to make them "coal" colored.  

Stick them on to your snowman's face. These are sort of a stick once and don't touch them again kind of sticker. You really can't move them around because they will lose their stick.

 Too big of an eye makes them look a little wonky, so test a size out before you stick.
We picked a few coordinating buttons and hot glued them to the snowman's body.

My daughters teacher told her she loves blue and purple, so that's the color scheme here.

This last part for the hat is optional. The hat does tend to stick straight up, depending on how long it is, and so to make it look more like a floppy Santa/Elf hat, I took a little blob of hot glue and touched the tip of the hat to the side of the hat and held it a few seconds.  

Snowgirl fashionistas.
To cover up the little glue spot, we took some puff balls and/or jingle bells and hot glued them to the top of the hat. 

Here's a shorter hat with the pom pom straight up, and here's a hat where we glued a little part of the hat over, for another cute look.
It really gave them a finishing touch. 

You can also use jingle bells, pom poms, anything you want.
My daughter and friends had a blast making these little guys a few years back as the craft for her sleep over birthday.  They loved picking their favorite colors and they all turned out really cute.

A fun party craft for kids that are a little older, otherwise you will have rice EVERYWHERE.
Also when the girls were making these for their teachers, they picked their teachers' favorite colors or sports team colors. I made a few for my mom in her favorite Seahawks colors and some for my Sis-in-law who's high school colors (she's a teacher) are purple and gold.  So fun.

Sports team colors for a customized gift... Here are Seahawks, and Sumner Spartan or WA Huskies school colors.
The teacher's this year just loved their personalized gifts.

The girls had fun designing these little guys to the tastes of the people they were making them for.  We even used them to decorate one side of our fireplace mantle, which had a snowman theme this year.

We had a blast making these little guys, and it's not too late to make a few for some last minutes gifts for friends and family. Not to mention, if your kids are home on winter break and need something to keep them busy, this little craft could be right up your alley.  Let me know if you make any of these and post pictures of how they turned out!

Have a great holiday season! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Intant Pot - Chicken for Tacos

Will the wonders of the Instant Pot never cease? So here's a scenario: You've been busy all day, and suddenly it's 5 o'clock! Did you plan something for dinner? Well of course you didn't, it's been a crazy day! Is there going to be other humans depending on you to whip something up regardless?  Why yes, yes there is.  Enter the Instant Pot. It will take FROZEN Costco chicken breasts and turn them into a meal in 15+minutes. That's right, you heard me.  Once again defying the laws of cooking physics, the Instant Pot will save the day.

The Instant pot: Cooking frozen chicken and saving one dinner at a time.

This is what you will need:

4-5 frozen Costco chicken breasts
1 cup of your favorite salsa
1 cup of water
1/2 cup taco seasoning (also from Costco)
Salt and pepper to taste.

It's super easy. Plunk down the frozen breasts into the bottom of the pot.

The "clang" the frozen chicken hits the pot is somewhat unsettling, but oh the payoff in a few short minutes!

Dump over the salsa, water, taco seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Chicken Taco meat, it's almost too easy

Seal the lid and plug in the machine. Hit the "Poultry" setting which will give you a default time of 15 min on high pressure.  Let the pot do it's thang.

While the chicken is coming up to temperature, you can run around and chop some lettuce (for taco salads), grab some sides like chips, shredded cheese, olives, chips, and salsa, or taco shells for the kids.

After the 15 minute timer goes off, let it sit for about 5 more minutes (wait time optional, if you're in a rush) then release the steam valve and pop that baby open as soon as you are ready.

What you will see when you open the pot.  The little globs of fat is what I remove before shredding
Take the chicken out of the pot and shred on a plate with two forks or a knife and a fork, depending on how you like your chicken chunks. I make sure at this time to also remove any fat or veins, or anything unappetizing so it's just chicken.  I also take a peek a the liquid back in the pot and skim off any unmentionables.  

Shredded chicken from frozen - We're living in the future people

Place the shredded chicken back in the sauce and stir. See if it needs anymore seasoning and then you are good to go!  

Mmm good for tacos, taco salads, burritos, nachos....

I use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the liquid and serve.

You can also drain off most of the liquid while you are shredding if you want less moisture

After that, just scoop some into a taco shell, plop on some shredded lettuce for a taco salad, and stack your favorite toppings on top.

An easy meal and a tasty one too.
My kids used to only eat ground beef tacos, now we've expanded their horizons.

It's great the next day with left overs too, or bring some to work for lunch with a "taco salad kit" and make your co-workers jealous. My hubby loves doing that.

He'll send me pics profusely thanking me for "Taco Salad 2.0"
My daughter made chicken and cheese nachos for lunch the next day on her own, so that worked out well.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Chicken and cheese nachos by my 14- year-old
This quick journey from completely unplanned, sad, and frozen, to fast, tasty, and fabulous makes the whole family happy! While at the same time making YOU feel like a hero because you literally pulled this dinner out of thin air (making you seem far more reliable than you actually are and pretty much all around awesome). Thanks Instant Pot!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Turkey Bread Rolls

Last year we were in charge of bringing rolls to Thanksgiving. After a bit of searching, we came across these cute little turkey rolls that the girls wanted to make. Feast your eyes (pun intended) on: TURKEY BREAD ROLLS

Turkey bread rolls are beautiful... fun to make... AND delicious!

Are these adorable or what?  The best part is the the kids can help make them!

The nice thing about these rolls, is that you can make them from frozen pre-made bread dough, which is great if you are busy with other Thanksgiving day prep. We bought the 5 pack of Rhodes frozen bread loaves and used them to make our turkeys.

One thawed Rhodes bread dough loaf.
The original recipe from the Rhodes kids baking blog (not there now) wanted you to defrost the dough over night in the fridge in a greased covered container or some sprayed wax paper and then roll them out into a circle...

then cut the circle into 6 wedges.  

However, I found it very difficult to get the dough to WANT to be rolled from an oblong shape into a round shape.

New solution!  It's easier AND it makes more sense:
Roll the dough out, elongating out the original "loaf" shape.

Expanding the already there "loaf" shape was much easier!  And makes more turkey rolls per loaf.

Now take your pizza cutter and cut zig-zag triangles until you have 9 wedges.  Each dough loaf will make 9 turkeys!

One loaf = 9 turkey rolls.  Those odd shapes at the end you can form into a wedge shape later, because it's dough.

Once you have your wedges, take some kitchen scissors and snip some 1 inch cuts in the wide end of the triangle to make the tail feathers.

Snip one inch down and about one inch wide strips.  Four cuts makes 5 "feathers".

Next, in a greased muffin tin, place the triangle wedge down in the center of the muffin creator.  The "tail feathers", or the wide part of the triangle you snipped cuts into should go up the side of the muffin tin and a little over the side.  The "beak" or pointy end of the dough should go up the other side of the muffin cup and poke out of the top.

You kind of cram the dough down to the bottom of the muffin tin, then spread out the feathers and turkey head

Since these overflow out of the cup, we ended up placing them in every other cup, so they'd have a chance to rise and bake. 

I love my larger 24 muffin cup pan, it's great for a million birthday cupcakes, or these!
 Place covered in a warm place and let them rise for an hour.

Shhh - rising bread taking place

Once they are a little puffier, it's time to bake. Place in an oven at 350ยบ for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. 

Cute lil' turkey rolls
FYI - Since the original link isn't there (I called Rhodes today to let them know, so maybe they will re post it) but check them at 20 min see if they need more time.

Close up from our first batch
Brush with a bit of butter while they are still warm.

You've heard of ducks in a row... these are turkeys in a row
They turned out really cute and the girls had a blast making them!

Oh this is funny. The first loaf we did, where there was only six wedges from a circle, the turkeys were HUGE and blew up like fat little monsters. Ha.

These turkeys are here to PUMP... YOU UP!
(We put those guys at the very bottom of the bowl and left the prettiest ones on top).

Such a great little baking project.  You can make these ahead of time and heat them up on the big day wrapped in some foil while the other sides are heating up and the turkey is resting. 

The kids will love to contribute to the holiday festivities. Not only do they get to help with the food prep BUT also impress their cousins on their baking prowess.

A big bowl O' turkey rolls for you and yours.
Let me know if you make this with your kids, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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