Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just Peachy

Please Note: This is my first attempt at food photography. Laughing is not accepted.  However, suggestions are.

Among all the reasons I love Autumn, fresh peach pie hits the top.

This is the only time of year peaches around here taste so heavenly.  It’s enough to make someone want to go to pastry school and learn to make more delicious and to-die-for desserts.

So I try my best to get my fill.

Tradition always begins with a drive to Brigham City, Utah for peach days.
We first stuff our faces with the most wonderful food found at Maddox Ranch House. The best in the State of Utah, in my humble opinion.

Photo found here
 They serve up a mean fresh peach pie, and that is what gets it all started.  I have to have more.

So we drive across the street to Paul's Patch, which is filled with mostly locally grown produce, and peaches as far as the eye (or at least camera) can see.  I buy a bushel, or two, or three.

My mother usually stocks up on tomatoes to make her famous bottled salsa.

The kids love this tradition almost as much as I do.

And I love any opportunity to get them excited about fruits and vegetables.

Even baby gets to join in the fun.  By the way, she isn't always just in a diaper and shirt.  We had a blow out.

So if I have manged to convince you that you need to try a fresh peach pie for yourself, let me show you how I make it.  You will think you have died and gone to heaven.

First, you need a crust that has been baked and cooled.  I must admit, I had determined to make 10 peach pie's, so I went ahead and bought Marie Calenders frozen pie crusts to save time.  But you can certainly be ambitious and make your own.

The next step is to make your glaze.  Add the ingredients (found at end of post) in a saucepan and heat on medium high heat, stirring continuously. 

Heat until it just begins to thicken.  Take off heat immediately.  I pour it into another bowl at this point so it will cool quicker.  The glaze must be cooled before you mix it with the peaches.  You don't want to cook your fresh peaches. 

Then slice up 6 or 7 peaches, depending on how full you want your pie.

Add your cooled glaze to the peaches and mix until all the peaches are coated.  Dump your peaches into the pie crust.

Now you need to make your topping.  Homemade whipped cream is a must for this pie.  It makes a huge difference.  Whip it until you have the thickness you desire.  I like it pretty thick, but certainly not to the point of butter.

Top your pie with the creamy goodness, and eat right away.  Or stick it in the fridge if you have that kind of self control.  Be sure to make a few extra, because they are just too good not to share.

And since I bought so many peaches, we can now enjoy them all year.  They are super easy to bottle.

And even easier to slice and freeze.  They don't need any sugar added when you freeze.  I just flash freeze them on a cookie sheet so they don't stick all together.  Then I bag them and we enjoy them in our favorite smoothie's all year long.

Baby loves her peaches too.

mmmmmmmmmmmm.  The taste of Fall. 

Glaze Ingredients:
2 cups warm water
5 Tablespoons of corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
If your peaches are a little dull in flavor, you can add a few squeezes of lemon juice or 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice in place of some water.  My peaches had so much flavor, I opted not to do this.  It turned out great.

Note:  This recipe makes enough glaze for 2 pies.

Whipped Cream:
1 pint of heavy whipped cream
1/4 cup of powdered sugar (or more to taste)
1 tsp. of vanilla

Put ingredients in a bowl that has been frozen for 1/2 hour, or longer.  Mix with a mixer until thickened.

Enjoy!  I would love to hear if you like it as much as I do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Art Smock and Mat - Easy as 1-2-3!

In conjunction with my daughters Little Artist Party, I finally got around to making my girls some much needed art smocks.

I wanted it to be very simple, and of course, kid friendly. Meaning they can put it on and take it off all by themselves. There are no tricky side or back ties to fiddle with. After having these around for a week, I'm not sure how we managed to create without them.

With the leftover fabric I had, I also made an art mat for them to cover the tables with. Much improved from the newspaper we used to lay down that would stick to the table like glue if any water or paint soaked it. And I am here to tell you that these are so easy, any beginner sewer can spit one of these out in no time.

Let me show you how I did it in 3 EASY STEPS!

But first, a little about the supplies. I picked up 1 yard of oilcloth from Joann's. Oilcloth has the ability to wipe right down. They don't have a huge selection, but I thought this fabric was perfect for the job. Bring a coupon! I neglected to check how wide it was, but it must have been 90 inches wide, because I managed to make 2 art smocks and 2 mats with the one yard. Not bad.

The other thing you will need is a package of double fold bias. I bought the little stuff, 1/4 inch. If you are making a mat, buy 2 packages.

Lastly, you will need a tiny bit of Velcro.

Step 1: Cut

1. You will need to cut a rectangle to the measurements of 34 x 15 inches. Adjust if you need to on length or width, but those are the numbers I used to fit my 3 and 5 year old's. I imagine they will suite them well for a few more years.
2. Fold in half lengthwise, and then fold in half width-wise. Mark the center of the smock with a pin.
3. Open it back up, (just the width-wise fold). Find something round you can use to trace the neck hole. In my case, I found the bottom of a garbage can that looked like it could serve me well. You need to have your hold large enough to slip over your child's head with ease. Test on scrap fabric if needed. Place half of your circular item in the center of your smock, on the fold, and trace.
4. Cut on your markings. You now have the shape of your smock.

Before I continue, if you want to avoid corners use that same rounded item and round out the bottom corners also. Your results will be as shown below. I did prefer this method when it came binding time.

Step 2: Bind

1. If you will notice on your store bought binding, one side is ever so slightly not as wide as the other. Place the smaller side up, so then you always know you are stitching the back as well. Start anywhere on your smock - anywhere except a corner. Put the binding in place as you sew along. Also, be sure to increase your stitch length a bit. This gives a more professional top stitching look.
2. When you get to corners, angle them and simply stitch right over.
3. When your ends meet up, clip on an angle and fold the raw edge inside.
4. Stitch and back-stitch closed.

Don't forget to bind the neckline as well.

At this point, your smock should look something like this.

Step 3: Closure

1. From the folded top, measure 8 inches down. Pin on both sides to mark that 8 inches.
2. Place a small piece of Velcro under each pin and stitch in on securely. Do this for both the left and right sides of the smock.
3. You could stop there but I decided to sew on a button to cover the Velcro stitches on the outside. The button is purely for looks.

Now wasn't that easy!

If you have some leftover oilcloth, you have to make one of these mats. I think I've enjoyed this more than the smocks.

Your dimensions can be whatever you would like, but mine came to 24 x 18 inches, and it seems to be perfect for holding artwork and paint plates.

You can square the corners,

Or round them.

Either way, they are going to love it.

But probably not as much as you will.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Little Artist Party

Well, we had another birthday, and she's 5 years old now.

Not sure what is harder to accept - the fact that she is 5, or the fact that I am the mother to a 5 year old. 

I decided that the best way to ease the thoughts of time going by too quickly was to immerse myself in party plans.  It worked pretty good.  If it wasn't for my husband constantly telling me I was going overboard, I wouldn't have had a single thought of reflection.

Of course his comments were easily shrugged off, when I remembered my thoughts from pre-motherhood days.  One of the things I looked forward to most about having children was the birthday parties I could throw.

And boy, did I have fun.  I’m not sure planning this party gets me an honorary MFA degree, but maybe some street cred with the five and under crowd!

Lucky for me, she was okay with the idea of a little artist party.  It's what I have wanted to do for a long time.  Or maybe I should say, lucky for her, because that is what I probably would have done anyway.

She surprises me all the time with how creative she can be.  Her favorite kind of art projects are ones where she is just given a bunch of supplies and she comes up with her own things.  I'm pretty sure she gets that from me.  I'm not sounding arrogant, am I? 

Now let me tell you a little bit about our party.

The extent of the decorations were paint splattered tablecloths, pom poms, paper chains, and balloons.  I spent much less time on decorating and baking, and much more on activities.  While searching for artist party ideas online, most ideas I found were just tables full of elaborate baked goods with more artificial food coloring in them than edible food.  Not to mention the party favors full of colorful candy.  Do we really want our kids to eat that stuff?  

So, I came up with my own ideas which involved a little less time in the kitchen, and more time in the craft room.

When each child arrived, they found their name tag.  I figured they had to have that so my helpers could know how to label their art projects.  I found those sleeves at Wal-Mart.

Then they grabbed a dollar store apron to cover their clothes in-case parents didn't see the memo about a messy party.  That and they all looked really cute in them.  The aprons were my splurge ;)

Then they went to the table and did some finger print art on their free grocery bags so we would have some place to put their completed art.

Those bags were taken outside

and filled with a box of crayons and a bag of candy so they wouldn't blow away.

I love 25 cent crayon season.

To divide all 15 crazy kids into groups (in hopes to maintain some order), I ripped strips of colorful fabric and tied it around their heads.  It came to 5 groups of 3 kids each.  It kept them together pretty good.

Then we had 6 art stations for them to rotate around to.  Each station had a color of the rainbow balloon so they knew where to go next.  This is also where I employed much help.  I called around for sister-in-laws, older girls in the neighborhood, husband, and my mother of course.  Boy was I grateful for their help!  Even with all of them, it was still a little crazy.

The toe painting station was a bit messy, but I think the kids loved it.  I tried to involve activities that as parents we try to avoid on a regular basis.

Another station was self named "Glue-it".  I just provided several items such as colored noodles, fuzzy balls, feathers, pipe cleaner and such, and lots of glue.  All they did was glue it on a piece of cardboard.  It was fun to see what they came up with.

Inside with daddy, they melted crayon on a piece of paper on top of a skillet on low heat.

The dad did a great job keeping little fingers from getting burned.

Then with grandma, they poured colored sand into baby food jars.  It seemed this activity was amongst the favorites.

We hot glued the lid on when they were finished layering the colors.  I found a pretty large box of so many colors of sand at hobby lobby.  It was 10 dollars for the box, but with a 40% off coupon I thought it was a smokin' deal.

This one is a little hard to see, but they made a tree trunk and branches with their hand and arm dipped in brown paint.  Then with wads of tissue paper they glued them onto their tree trunks.  I thought they turned out adorable.

Finally, they flicked paint onto a piece of paper.  My fence sure looked pretty after.  If you ever do this, make sure you get washable paint, by the way.

I just love this picture of my littlest artist after she was done with this activity.  I think most of the paint on her was a result of her little cousin who was getting a little too into it.  So cute.

Then we sat and watched as she got spoiled rotten with all those presents. 

After presents, daddy cut into the cake he made.  Yes, he made.  I don't do cakes.  I can only have so many hobbies you know.  I got into baking once, and the only result from that was a little too much around the waist.  He did a wonderful job though, and the kids loved all that cancer - I mean food coloring - I mean . . . cake.

For her gift from mommy (and daddy I guess, since he paid for it - wink) was a much needed organized art kit.  It's full of supplies for her creativity to run wild.  It's nice now that she doesn't have to ask for me to help her get out art stuff. 

She's been independently making messes ever since.

I thought the party turned out pretty good - though I will admit to having more fun planning it then the actual execution.  15 kids is enough to make any body crazy.
It was a memorable day.

And a memorable 5 years.

Come back next week to see how I made her an art smock and art mat to contain those messes!

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