Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cameras and Cowboy Boots- Most Popular Posts of 2011

I can't say that I am too sad to see 2011 go. It was a hard year in many ways. I am excited for 2012 and all the happiness I am hoping it will bring. According to Google Analytics, these are the top posts from Housewife Eclectic this year, some are even holding strong from last year!

1. How to make a Camera Lens Pal


4. How to make Marshmallow Flowers 
 5. How to make Spanish Rice in your rice cooker.
 6. How to make a Car Organizer and How to make a 10 minute Car Organizer.  
 7. How to make Satin Flowers.
 8. How to make a satin flower belt.
 9. How to make origami roses.

Happy New Year! See you in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Easy Cream Cheese Cherry Tarts


These semi-homemade tarts, are some of the easiest cheesecake like tarts you can possible make. They come together quick and you won't be able to stop eating them. I could eat a whole batch, if I let myself. :)

You will need:
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Nilla wafers

Cupcake wrappers

Mix all of the ingredients, besides the wafers, until they are smooth. Place the wafers flat side up in cupcake wrappers, in your cupcake tin. Place several tablespoons of filling on top of each wafer. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Allow the tarts to cool and then top with cherry pie filling. Then try not to eat them all at once. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stuffing Balls in the Crockpot



Take a break from traditional stuffing by forming it into balls. These portion-sized balls are great for entertaining at parties and quick serving at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

You will need:
1 loaf of bread
3-4 celery stalks, washed and diced
1/4 c. onion, finely diced
3/4 stick of butter
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
.1 egg, beaten
1/4 can of chicken broth

Tear all of the slice of bread into small pieces and dry in a 325 degree oven until the bread becomes crispy like a crouton.
Soften the butter and cut into cubes. Toss the butter, diced onion and celery with the dried bread. Sprinkle the sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper over the bread and toss.
Drizzle half of the beaten egg over the bread. Toss the bread, the drizzle the other half of the egg over the bread. Drizzle the chicken broth over the stuffing.
Form the stuffing into balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Place in a crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. Serve each person their own ball of stuffing!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Book Activities- Snowmen At Night

I have read Snowmen at Night so many times that I can tell you the story word for word without turning the pages. It is one of our favorite Christmas/Wintertime stories. 
This children's story depicts a young boy wondering why his snowmen doesn't look the same after he gets up the next morning. He then lists all of the things he thinks snowmen must do at night including snowmen races, drinking ice cold cocoa, snowball fights. 
My little girl asks for this book almost every night, giggling at all the silly things the snowmen do. We don't live in a place that ever gets snow, so she loves to read about all the snowmen that other people get to build. 

Activities to go along with the book:

After we read this book, we like to build a felt snowman, that we can build over and over again. 
If you want the pattern to be able to build your own snowman, you can get it here. It is a very sad pattern because it is before I learned to draw on the computer. :)



Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Layer Rainbow Jello


This 12 layer Jello is always so much fun to make. It is a rainbow of six different colors. It does take quite a while to make it, just because every layer needs to set, but it always gets quite the reaction from everyone who sees it and it is delicious too!

You will need:

  • A large tub of sour cream
  • 6 small boxes of Jello (purple, blue, green, red, orange, yellow)


Dissolve your first box of Jello in 1 cup of boiling water. Separate the dissolved Jello in half, into two bowls. Add two tablespoons of cold water to one and then put that bowl into a clear 9x13 pan. Place the pan flat in the fridge and allow to set for 30 minutes.



When the 30 minutes is up add 1/3 of a cup of sour cream to the other bowl of Jello that has been sitting at room temperature. Mix until well combined. Pour the new layer of Jello in the 9x13 pan and place back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Repeat until you have all 12 layers. Make sure the pan is as flat as possible when you put it in the fridge so your rainbow doesn't turn out crooked.


This Jello recipe takes quite a bit of time but most of that is just waiting for the Jello to set and the it is so worth it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to take "Glowing" Christmas Pictures


 One of my favorite things about Christmas is the lights. On houses, trees and of course in your pictures. Who doesn't love a kid all wrapped up in lights? These pictures are easy and perfect for Christmas display.

In order to take these photos you will need:
A camera that will allow you to control the shutter speed, flash
Christmas lights
tripod
cute kid

Set your kid up with the lights lit up around them. I only used one strand of lights, but you could use multiple if you want to. Prepare yourself with lots of candy and bribes. One of the keys to these photographs are low light and a slow shutter speed so if your subject moves a lot it will cause blurry photos.

Next turn off your flash. You don't want your flash to add the light you are trying to avoid. Below is a photo done with the flash so you can see how while it makes the image brighter it takes away that Christmas look you are going for.
As I was shooting these photos the lights in my house were off, just some window light coming in. After you are all set up start experimenting with shutter speeds. The slower your shutter speed the more light there will be but the more chance you have for blur. I have included the shutter speeds with the photos so you can see the differences.
 The above photo was shot with a 1/30 shutter speed.
  The above photo was shot with a 1/13 shutter speed.
 The above photo was shot with a 1/6 shutter speed.

The 1/6 shot was pretty much just what I was personally looking for, but you can go lower if you so desire.

Other tips for lightening up the photo:
Put your kids in light colored clothes, notice how much the white dress stands out.
Shoot the pictures against a light back drop. I had a particular vision in mind when I shot against the black but that vision aside if I was doing this again I would shoot against white.

Have fun making your pictures "Glow"!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to turn anything into a Christmas Tree Topper

The star or angel debate in my family is alive and well. We had an angel on the top of our tree for the longest time until my baby brother came along and threw a fit. Ever since then we have argued back and forth about what belonged at the top of a Christmas tree. Well, this year, I decided to throw all tradition to the wind and top my Rock N' Roll themed tree with an old record.

Making your own tree topper is easy and makes your tree looks more custom. All you need is a small-medium sized object depending on the size of your tree, an old toilet paper roll and hot glue. Now since my record was one of the smaller ones, I cut my toilet paper roll in half, but if you have a slightly larger object for your tree you might want to leave it in tact. Glue the toilet paper roll to the back of your tree topper and then slide it over the top of your tree. Be careful not to use an object that is too heavy or your tree will lean.
My Rock N' Roll tree is more complete with this record than it would be with a traditional star. What do you put at the top of your tree?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Candy Cane Ornaments- Perfect for Elementary Schoolers

My mom quickly discovered when we were kids that if she put real candy canes on the Christmas tree, they disappeared pretty quick. So instead, we put these candy canes on the tree. They are the perfect craft for a elementary school child.

You will need:
Pipe cleaners

tri-beads in candy cane colors

Cut your candy cane the length that you want it. Then add the tri-bead to it. It looks best when you add two tri-beads of the same color to each layer. Rotate between red and white (or your other selected colors). When you are done, bend the pipe cleaner back on itself and cut off the excess. Curve the pipe cleaner to look like a candy cane and voila a candy cane!

My mom used to put all the pieces to make one of these ornaments in a plastic bag and bring them for our crafts in elementary school She would hand each kid a bag and they could easily make the ornament with minimal instruction.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Make Baby Cherry Pies

Tis the season of pies. I love almost anything in miniature and pies are no exception. Cute baby pies are an easy, fun way to serve your pie this holiday season. First you will need to make your pie crust, I have a recipe for crust here.

Pull your crust out of the fridge and roll out as you would for any pie. Take a flower cookie cutter and cut your bottom pie crusts.
 Place your bottom crusts in each cup of a muffin tin. Spoon your filling in the middle.
Cover your small pies with a small circle of pie crust.
Bake the pies in a 350 oven for 8-12 minutes. You will have to keep a really close eye on them. As soon as the crusts turn a golden brown pull them out of the oven. Pop them out of the muffin tin and you have baby pies for all of your guests!

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to make 3D Origami Star Ornaments/Tree Toppers

 Origami is one of those things that my husband randomly loves. He has been making me origami for as long as I can remember, roses and boxes have been among his favorites and this week he started making me stars for my Christmas decorations. We like to sit and make origami while we watch movies and this week even though he hates being in pictures for my blog, he agreed to let me take step by step photos. So here is how to make these awesome stars that can be used as ornaments or tree toppers.


You will need:
a square piece of paper (in this tutorial we used 12x12 so you can see everything but you can cut your squares down to be smaller for ornaments)
scissors
a glue stick
a pencil

(Click read more to get the full tutorial!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Past Christmas Crafts

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Hey Friends! The Christmas season is upon us! I thought I would celebrate with a round up of some of my favorite Christmas crafts from years past! I hope they give you some inspiration. In our neck of the woods, it is is still 80 degrees out, so I can't believe I am posting Christmas ornaments. I can't wait to get crafting for this year!

Christmas Block Advent Calendar
 Christmas Tree from Pasta
 Melted Snowman Ornament
 Snowman Spoon Ornament 
 Reindeer Spoon Ornament 
 Mirrored Ornament 
Christmas Ornament Wreath
Candy Christmas Ornaments

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Christmas Giving Tree- A Service Centered Christmas

Want to win some AWESOME scrapbooking software? Go here to enter! (by the way it seems ironic that I am plugging a giveaway on a service post. I know.)

Ever since Black Friday I have been thinking about the materialism of Christmas. The store I happened to be at on Black Friday was chaos with greed. I couldn't even enjoy the fun of shopping as I watched people leave one of the stores in ambulances, I wondered what had happened to such a wonderful holiday.

 With Christmas comes  candy, delicious foods, presents and Santa. This year is the first year that my little girl is really getting buying into Santa. We talk about what she is going to ask him for when she sees him and how we are going to write him a letter. This year is going to be truly magical at our house, but even with the magic of leaving cookies for Santa, I want my little girl to see the magic of serving. The joy that comes from helping those around you.

This is our Christmas Giving Tree. He is nothing super fancy, just brown paper and paint but he holds the message I hope to teach my child this holiday season. The true joy of Christmas comes from serving. We have cut out a bunch of red circles and every day we are going to look for a way to help someone. When we do an act of service we write it on one of the red ornaments and stick it to the tree. A visual reminder to her that acts of service are even more important than presents.
I hope as you start your preparations for Christmas that you will find some ways to serve those around you. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Creamy Jello Salad

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Sometimes I think my sisters is a nicer reincarnate of Martha Stewart. If it is delicious, she baked it. If it is creative, she made it. I am lucky to have such a wonderful sister, because I get to glean amazingly delicious goodies from it. Here is one of my favorite recipes she has shared with my recently. It made the perfect addition to our Thanksgiving table and I plan to make it for Christmas too!

1 large box cook and serve vanilla pudding (It has to be cook and serve, not instant)
1 large box of raspberry jello
3 cups boiling water
1 tub of cool whip
1 quart of strawberries, washed and cut

Boil the three cups of water. Add the water to the pudding and jello, stirring until dissolved, then place in the fridge over night. Before you are ready to serve stir up the jello and then add the cool whip, mixing until well combined. Toss with the fruit and chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Perfect Pre-baked Pie Crust

One of the ways I make my Thanksgiving dinner prep a little less stressful is to bake my pies the day before. I always make a couple of pies for our small family and one of them needs a pre-baked crust. This is my absolute favorite recipe to use for pre-baked crust.This recipe makes two bottom crusts for pre-baking or one complete pie crust.

You will need:
2 and 1/2 cups flour (Plus a little extra)
2 sticks frozen butter (Just trust me and throw your butter into the freezer a few hours before you are going to make the crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6-8 Tbsp cold water
tin foil
rice or beans

Mix together the flour (minus the little extra), salt and sugar together. Cut the butter into small segments and add, mixing until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water, one tbsp at a time until the dough holds together. Split the dough into two equal amounts. Knead gently to form two discs, don't overwork the dough. Sprinkle each disc with flour and wrap in plastic. Place in the fridge for at least one hour.

Pull out your discs and roll them out into crust. Press the dough gently, adding more flour if you need it, into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim the excess. Place the crust into the freezer for about 30 minutes. This will keep your crust from slipping down the sides.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line the pie crust with aluminium foil and fill with rice or beans to weight the crust down. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the aluminum foil and weights. Poke a few small holes in the bottom of your crust with a fork and then return it to the oven. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let the crust cool before you fill it with your favorites!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WoW: Open a Link in a New Window -- Hallelujah!

If you've been hanging around here more than 6 months, you may remember that I am conceited and published my own Gospel (of Links) back in March. And, if you actually read that series, you may remember that we talked about using the fiery tags of HTML to make links open in new windows.

But now, the Google gods have listened and, hallelujah! No more do we Blogger-mortals have to manually add HTML to have a link open in a new window!

Now, when you create a link, just click the "Open link in new window" box:

So much better, right?

And to have an image link open in a new tab, just hover over the image and click Edit Link in the small menu that shows up, and then check the same "Open link in new window" box.

Note: this feature works for me whether I am logged in to Blogger or Blogger in Draft, so it appears to be a full-fledged feature and not a testing feature... let me know if you don't see it in your Blogger interface. :)

Quick review of when to use this new power (for good and not for evil)
When a link (image or text) is going to take readers outside of your blog, it's probably good to have that link open in a new tab. Meaning, it's my personal preference as a reader. But... you can read the full details here of why this may or may not actually be important to you on your blog.

And, if you're new or need a refresher, you can (re)read the my four-part Gospel of Links, According to Lu series:
Peace, prosperity, and happy linking!




Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of two sweet little things (except on the days that they aren't) and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Best Tomato Basil Soup

Cold rainy days make me crave soup. Any kind of soup, but particularly this one. I didn't grow up eating tomato soup, but my husband did and so I kept working on a recipe for it until I stumbled upon the right combination of tomato. This is one of our favorite meals and I probably make it once a week in the winter.

You will need:
12 ounces of tomato sauce (This is about 1.5 cans)
2 cups of chicken broth
1/4 tomato paste
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 lb of ground beef, crumbled and browned with salt and pepper
8 oz of small pasta shells, cooked according to package direction
1 tablespoon basil


Whisk together the tomato sauce and paste over medium heat until smooth. Add the chicken broth and milk, whisking as you go. Add the meat the and pasta, stir together until well incorporated. Sprinkle the basil on top. Serve immediately.

I love to serve this dinner with homemade rolls or bread sticks, or even in bread bowls. Soup is one reason I will always love the winter, or in our case, the lighter summer.