Monday, February 26, 2007

Missouri Walking Sticks

Ok, if you are on any kind of diet, STOP reading this now!!! This will kill any diet but sometimes you just have to do that!!
This treat is Bryan's favorite. We buy them from our favorite candy house. They are not cheap but we only get them at Christmas (Or Bryan does in his stocking and I get a bite).
They are called Missouri Walking Sticks. I decided to try to make some at home and save myself the torture of a trip to the candy store when I am not supposed to eat any of it.
Here is what I did.
1. Melt down some caramels. You may have to add some cream or canned milk to soften it a bit.
Stick 1
I didn't have any so I just made up a batch of caramel from a recipe I had.
2. Take long pretzel sticks and dip them in the caramel. Give it a good twist to cover the end.
Stick 2
3. Now roll it in chopped nuts. I used pecans.
Stick 3
4. Set the stick on a lined tray to cool.
Stick 4
5. Drizzle the end of the sticks in chocolate if you like. I like so I did. :o)
Stick 5
I guess my drizzle turned out to be more of a dip.
6. Now you are done.
Stick 6
Now are the confessions. Obviously, Mine don't look like the ones in the store. They do taste good, I think. The other confession is that the caramel I made had only a list of ingredients and no clear instructions. Soooo.... I ended up cooking it too long and they got rock hard when they cooled. As a result we had suckers not chewy caramels. Still pretty good though.

My Funny Valentine

Hannah's Valentine
This is one of Hannah's Valentines. I just love them. We cut out doggy bone shaped pieces of tissue paper and stuck a sucker through the center, twisted them and secured it with tape. She wrote her name on them and took them to Pre-school. She was so thrilled to get to do what the big kids do and have a "class party".
By the way, her preschool teach had her first baby this weekend. She had a little girl named Elli. Hannah is so excited. We made her a custom Piggy Bag. I hope she gets a lot of good use out of it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Monkeys

New Not So Sock Monkeys have arrived on the scene.
Red Monkey 1 Lav. monkey 2
These ones are actually making it over to my store. You can visit them here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

February Apron

Valentine Aprons
I finally have to photos of the February Apron ready to be posted. This apron was pretty easy to make but I had some learning to do.
First off, I thought I would be smart and cut out all the aprons I was going to make all at once. Well that was a mistake! As a result, the mistake I made was multiplied by 4, instead of lesson learned and mistake corrected. I never learn! too ADD. :o) As you can see there are extras this time. One went to my grand-niece, the lovely Miss Ana. The rest are for sale here.
This apron was a lot of fun in spite of my mistake. What I did wrong was guessing on the size and thinking that it would fit all 3 of my girls. Instead they all fit Hannah. Like she needs that many aprons. This is the second time I have made this mistake and Sarah and Caroline are getting a little impatient for an apron that actually fits them and isn't all about princess Hannah. :o) Sisters!

To get started you need to assemble your tools.

Fabric Cuts: (I am giving the measurements for children you can size them up to fit an adult. I am just not posting both as the child apron worked so much better for me.)
For the skirt: cut a rectangle the size you want - I used the width of the fabric (from salvage to salvage) and then cut it 13 inches long for my little girls.
For the ties and strings: cut 2 - 2 1/2" strips the width of the fabric (2 1/2 x 44")
For the bib: cut out a paper heart that fits your chest (remember to keep seam allowance in mind and make the heart slightly bigger. Fold the bottom edge of the heart (the point) up about 2 inches or so. This will fit into the waist band and there is not need to cut it out of your fabric.
size heart
Place the heart onto your fabric and cut 2 out (these can both be of your print or you can have one out of muslin)
Cut out  heart
heart lining
For the pocket: Cut out 1 heart the size you want for the pocket. This should be in a contrasting color.

Sewing instructions: (seam allowances are about 1/4")
1. Make the neck ties. Take 1 of your 2 1/2" strips and cut it in half. Take one of these pieces and cut it in half again. This gives you 2 - 2 1/2" by 11" or so strips. Fold these in half lengthwise and sew along one and and down the side. Turn them and press.
Sew Strap
2. Attach the neck ties to the heart. Take your 2 ties and position them on the top of the heart where they look good to you and pin in place.
Attach Straps
Now place the lining heart on top and pin in place. Sew around the sides of the heart.
attach lining
Clip the curves and turn and press.
clip curves Turn out
3. Find a good helper.
find a helper
This isn't necessary but nice to have! I couldn't resist this happy face. He came in and "helped" me sew this part.
4. Make the skirt. Take your skirt piece and remove the salvages. (why? Because as they are washed and dried the shrink up more than the rest of your fabric and will make things pucker over time. Not pretty.) I curved the edges of the apron to make it easier to sew. To do this, place a bowl on the corners and cut around it.
Round corner
Now finish off the edges of your skirt. You can do this several ways. My original idea (and the reason I cut the curved corners) was to put bias tape trim all the way around. However, I couldn't find the bag of 100+ tape trims I have. (you don't want to see my sewing room!!) Sooo. I went to option 2 which is to turn and fold and top stitch down. This works much better if you didn't already curve the seam. Yes my curve looks crappy. So on the second one I made I did a rolled hem edge on the serger. It looks much better.
Now you need to put a gathering stitch along the top edge of the skirt. Do this with 1 or 2 rows of wide stitches. I like 2 because it is more stable.
5. Now get your strings ready. Take the remaining 2 1/2" x 44" strip and cut it in half. This leaves you with 3 - 2 1/2" by 22" strips. Sew these together into a long string. I know this sounds crazy but trust me it works this way.
What this does for you is defines your waistband on a child's apron. On an adults apron you would do it similarly but you need much longer string pieces. You do the math for that. :o)
6. Attach the bib and skirt to the strings. Find the center of your string, skirt and bib. Mark it with a pin.
Layer them together. First the string, right side up. Then the heart, right side up and last the skirt right side down. (FYI- the heart is upside down in my picture here. I fixed it but forgot to take a new picture. Sorry)
Now adjust the gather of the skirt to fit inside the waistband section of your apron strings. Pin the layers in place.
pin on skirt
Now sew these in place. You might want to increase your seam allowance unless you like picking out your gathering stitch. I am too lazy so I widen my allowance here.
stitch skirt
6. Now you need to sew up the strings. I didn't get good photos of this but think you can figure it out. Take each string and fold it in half lengthwise. You will sew this up starting at the end of each string and going down the sides. Stop when you reach the skirt and back stitch.
Pin ties
Here I have folded the string and pinned it where the tie meets the skirt to remind me not to sew past this point.
Turn and press your strings.This is what your apron should look like now.
Skirt attached
7. Top stitch waistband to finish. Now fold the back of the waistband under and pin in place.
fold under waist
Now you can whip stitch this in place or if you are too lazy like me, you can turn it to the front now and top stitch the waistband. You will fold the heart part up now and stitch right across it.
8. Make and place the pocket. Take the heart pocket you cut out and place it on a square of muslin. Stitch around the heart leaving a space for turning.
Stitch pocket
Trim the heart and clip the curves.
Clip pocket
Turn and press. Top stitch around the heart.
Place the heart onto the apron where you want it and pin in place. Stitch around the heart leaving the top open.
Pin and sew pocket on
You're done
She is a doll! :o)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I got a package!

I got a box!
I love to get packages. It makes my day to find one in the mailbox or see the UPS or FedEx truck drive up. I sell just enough in my etsy store to buy things from other etsy stores. That wasn't my plan but it works.
Today I got a package that I have been wishing for for months. I got a Snap Press!
My Snap Press
What is a snap press you ask? It is for putting snaps on things that you want to have snap. I got it because I make cloth diapers and I want to put snap closures on them instead of using diaper pins or Velcro. (actually you can't use diaper pins on the diapers I make) I will be having a diaper making marathon in a little while with Rebecca and will post some pictures of the diapers and the wonderful snap closures. I can't wait.
I did get out the smock aprons I made and put snaps on the back of them instead of buttons. It was so fun and easy. I am searching the house for things that NEED snaps. The press resides in the living room and everyone bows to it as the pass because they know how happy it made Mama Byrd. Actually they just can't leave the thing alone. It is so shinny and new and fun to play with.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Really Big Buns

The Bun
Do I need to say anything about these buns? I think that photo says it all.
These are by far the best Cinnamon Buns I have ever had or made. I used to be the world's worst cinnamon roll maker and now I have to humbly say that I am a queen!
I don't deserve all the credit though. My good friend Coralee gave me the original recipe that I have played with to come up with this one.
These buns are not as bad as they appear. They are 100% whole wheat. They have honey inside instead of sugar. (that is a sugar glaze on top but not much and the buns are good without it) They also contain fresh ground flax seed. They are also not as big as that photo might suggest. That lovely bun is sitting on a beautiful plate my brother Joe made when I got married. You can seem more of is art work here.
Now for the sharing of this wonderful recipe and my dirty secrets for making health food taste so good.

Coralee's Cinnamon Rolls
2 Tbsp dry yeast (I always throw in an extra 1/2 tbsp for luck)
6 Cups whole wheat flour (I use hard white wheat freshly ground it makes a lighter bun or bread for that matter)
2 Tbsp gluten (this helps make your dough soft and fluffy because the fiber in whole wheat cut the natural gluten strands and this gives the dough a boost)
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup milk (scalded and cooled)
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp lemon juice (this is my secret weapon, lemon juice is a dough conditioner and makes whole wheat fluffy and soft and to die for, you can also use vinegar but I like the flavor of the lemon better.)
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
2 Tbsp ground flax seed (these add good nutrition and fiber)
More honey and some cinnamon
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix the 1/3 cup honey, eggs, milk, lemon juice, butter, flax seed, and 1/2 the flour mixed with the gluten. Beat well and add the yeast mixture. Mix and let rise for about 15 minutes. Add the rest of the flour and kneed the dough for 8-10 minutes. (I just do all of this in my Kitchen aide mixer rather than kneed. The dough is very sticky at this stage.) Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise once or twice. (about 1 hour)
Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out into a rectangle. Mix some butter and honey together and smear it on the two rectangles and then sprinkle them generously with cinnamon. Roll them up into a long roll. Cut the cinnamon rolls with dental floss for a clean cut without smashing the dough. Each log should yield enough rolls to fill a 9X13" cake pan, or a total of about 32 cinnamon rolls.
You can add raisins and nuts if you wish but my family won't permit that. I live with it.
Place the cut rolls into a buttered pan. Cover them and let them rise for about 15-20 minutes (long enough to pre-heat the oven that we forgot to pre-heat to 375 deg F. ) Bake them for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
If you want a glaze on them, add it right when they come out of the oven. My glaze is just a couple of scoops of powdered sugar, a lump of butter and some milk and vanilla.

I have an even more sinful cousin to this Bun,
The Orange Roll
for this you add the zest of one large orange (2-3 Tbsp) to the dough when adding the second amount of flour.
Form into rolls and bake as above (you can do the cinnamon thing or not, I like it so I do the cinnamon)
Frost these with light orange frosting:
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp orange juice concentrate (I use just orange juice if that is all I have)
orange zest
Powdered sugar (enough to make a glaze)
Ice them when they come right out of the oven so it soaks in and make happy gooeyness.
The roll
Here is another view of the bun and that lovely plate.

Pinewood Derby

the car
This year was Joe's final pinewood derby. He turns 11 in April and will graduate on to the scouting program. I can't believe he is that old already.
This year he put a lot of effort into his car and had a lot of fun working on it.
(it was a great incentive to get him to finish his home school work)
Joe didn't win (I think the track we were using had a problem with high centering because his car would shoot off way ahead of the others and then slow way down when it reached the 1/2 way mark.) He did have a ball though. He won the award for sportiest car. His did look the most like a car. I was glad that he had done it all himself. He got a kit and found some cool things to add onto his car and really had fun cutting, gluing, sanding, and painting his car.
Pinewood Derby
Here Joe is trying desperately to NOT look like a nerd. He is old enough now to be self conscious and is aware that when he gets in front of a camera that the nerd comes out in him from time to time. :o)
His mother thinks he is handsome.

Hanna's Dinner

I think I have mentioned before that I am having the kids fix dinner on Friday nights. This last week was Hannah's turn and she was so excited to get to do such a grown up job. She loves to cook and chose her 2 favorite things to fix, Ramen and Easy Candy. :o)
Here are her recipes/tutorial pictures of how you make these delightful dishes.

Easy Candy
all done
In a Saucepan mix:
2 C sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ C milk
½ c butter
Mix and boil for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add:
1 C peanut butter (your favorite - creamy or crunchy)
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
Mix it
Mix until the peanut butter is melted and mixed in.
3 C rolled oats ( in the past I always used quick oats but have found that Old fashioned oats are just as good and better for you.)
Mix in thoroughly.
Plop it
Drop by spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Place in the freezer to firm up.
Now is a good time to make sure it tastes right.
Taste it!
Storage has never been an issue so I guess after they are hard you can put them in an air tight container and store them in the freezer. If you keep them at room temperature they get grainy and I just don’t like that so we do the freezer. However, as I said before they don’t last beyond the day we make them.

This is a Bennion family tradition. It is fast and easy and kids can make it. We made this for family home evening and anytime we needed a chocolate fix. After we moved to Missouri I would make this when my mom and dad would leave me home alone and I would make it fast, put it in a plastic container and keep it under my bed. I would then wash up, dry and put away all the dishes so no one would know. I never told this to my mom until I found out that my Grandma Wood used to do the same thing when she was a kid back in the 1910’s with fudge. Snitching and hiding chocolate has a long history in my family. I think my kids are looking to the day when they can do this too. It is hard to sneak things past a sneaker though.

Ramen a la Hannah

  • 1 package of your favorite Ramen Style noodle soup mix.


Fix this according to the package directions. Tip for better ramen, don't boil very long so the noodles are more firm. They are better and more authentic.

  • Add-ons: Things you choose to add to your ramen. Here are some of our favorites:

Add ons

For a more adult flavor you can also add a drop or two of toasted sesame oil and about 1/4 tsp of soy sauce.

Real Ramen

This recipe actually comes from my Sister-in-law Miyuki who is a native of Osaka. She fixed this for us one Sunday and we were surprised at how well we liked Ramen again.

Boiled Pig

pork shoulder roast

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup sake (don't have it so use sprite)

3 Tbsp sugar

2 cups water


3 thick green onions cut into long pieces

1 inch chunk of fresh ginger sliced

5 spice mix just a pinch, (this is optional)


Stab the meat with a fork and tie it with string. Boil water, add the meat. Boil until white. mix the sauce and boil. Add the boiled meat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1-2 hours. Turn off heat and leave until cooled down. Slice and serve on Ramen.

Stir Fried vegetables

Chop up favorite vegetables: cabbage, carrots, celery, onions, broccoli, what ever.

Put a little oil in your pan and heat it on high. Add the vegetables and stir quickly to cook. Season with salt and pepper.

The Great Tree

We went on a drive to our favorite park last week and saw more of the dammage done by the great ice storm of 2007.
Split in half
This tree is tree is in the middle of the play equipment just missing all the equipment. The kids were really sad to see this tree broken like this. So many of the beautiful trees here have been destoryed. The park will be very hot this summer.
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