Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 14 Posts of 2014

 I can't believe 2014 is already over. It was a crazy year for Housewife Eclectic. Lots of fun projects and recipes. Frozen was a big part of Housewife Eclectic this year, as was Doctor Who. What would blogging be without a little geek throw in? Here are the top posts of 2014 in no particular order.
 My daughter loves these Elsa and Anna Hair Bows. We still live and breathe Frozen.
 Technically part of 2013, this post went live just about a week before the end of last year and it was far and away the most popular this year. Who doesn't want an Frozen Anna Cloak?
 We went on a crazy Egg Roll spree in 2014 and these Chicken and Kale Egg Rolls are a favorite for sure!
 This was one of my favorite posts of the year. This  25-Day Christ-Centered Craft Advent by Lorene really captured the spirit of Christmas.



This 3D Metallic Pumpkin Art  was a surprise favorite for me. I didn't think I was going to love and then I ended up leaving it up long after the holiday because I loved it so much.
 This darling crate shelf still hangs in my bathroom. I love it!
 My daughter still absolutely loves this Glitter Elsa Shirt, in fact, I have made two my sisters.
 This Green Enchilada Chicken Soup is definitely a favorite in our house. Yum!
 This Halal Guys Copycat Recipe is so good. I am hungry just thinking about it!
I love to make Valentine's Printables and this You Make My Heart Glow Printable was the most downloaded this year! 
These Travel First Aid Kits are so easy to make and perfect for on the go! 

 We make these Leprechaun Rainbow Cupcakes every year. They are a favorite for sure!
 These Road Trip Lego Boxes are perfect for any vacation!
We still spend a lot of our time singing What Does The Fox Say, don't you?

What was your favorite post of 2014
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Monday, December 29, 2014

A Slice (No, Roll) of Heaven: Pizza Egg Rolls



What would happen if you took two legendarily unhealthy foods and combined them? No, I'm not talking about the freak of nature turduken, or bacon donuts, it's something even better: pizza egg rolls.

That's right, the deliciousness of pizza tucked inside a flavor-packed egg roll wrapper. It was something I'd daydreamed about for weeks before gathering up the courage to try it. After all, if it was horrible, would it ruin pizza and/or egg rolls for me?

Thankfully, the pizza egg rolls turned out incredible! In fact, they are in contention for one of the top three places among the many different egg roll concoctions we've tried on this blog this year. And the best part? They're fast and easy.

One of the frustrating things about homemade pizza is the time it takes to prep the dough. Plus, getting the right ratio of toppings to crust can be challenging, often resulting in a heavier than anticipated pizza. But pizza egg rolls eliminate both problems, making an already portable meal even better.


INGREDIENTS
Egg roll wrappers
Pepperoni
Black olives
Green bell pepper
Mushrooms
Mozzarella cheese
Marinara sauce (for dipping)



PREPARATION

  1. Slice up your favorite pizza ingredients into smaller-than-normal sizes. The toppings must fit in the wrapper without jutting out and ripping the wrapper.
  2. Place your favorite toppings, in desired amounts, down the middle of the wrapper. Be careful not to over-stuff. Be especially careful not to add too much cheese. (While cheese may be one of the best things about a traditional pizza, it can quickly get out of hand in a pizza egg roll. You want more toppings than cheese. Add cheese last so it's more of an afterthought than a necessity. This will help with balance and avoid how boiling lava hot cheese can get in an egg roll).
  3. Roll up the egg roll, sealing the ends with a little bit of water.
  4. Fry in pan of 1" vegetable oil on medium heat until sides turn a golden brown. Turn once during frying.
  5. Let the oil settle and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  6. Dip the pizza egg rolls in marinara sauce.
In all honesty, pizza egg rolls resemble more of a calzone than a pizza, but they are delicious. The crispy egg roll wrapper works as a perfect, light crust. Because cheese is downplayed, the toppings have the opportunity to shine. And serving with room temperature or cold marinara sauce offers a nice contrast to the usually hot pizza sauce.

Seriously, these are some of the fastest egg rolls to create, perfect if you want to try egg rolls but are afraid to make the plunge into a food that can seem daunting. They're a hit with kids and adults. We're fast approaching party season (New Years, Super Bowl, March Madness, etc.) so give these egg rolls a try at your next party. Or don't and eat them all yourself. It's OK, we won't tell.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eight Down, an Infinity to Go: a Love Story

This is not a sponsored post. This is not a post about crafts or recipes or special deals available only to readers of this blog. It's a post about love. So if that's not your thing, check back again tomorrow. If it is your thing, hopefully I don't mess this up too bad.

While we're busy going through disclaimers I should probably clarify this post isn't written by Debra, the owner of this blog. This is her other half (I won't say better because we all know that's not true).

I decided to take over posting today for one special reason: love. You see, eight years ago today, a much younger, dashing and handsome version of myself married Debra and she became my beautiful wife. Ah, cute, right?


Eight years is a long time. It really is. If there weren't this important date to reference I probably wouldn't even remember what I was doing eight years ago. But that's the beauty of love and marriage, isn't it? It gives us reference, perspective and aligns our life priorities with the things that really matter.

While I realize eight years are a drop in the bucket compared to those couples who have been together for 30+ years, these have been the most meaningful eight years to me. And it inspires me to work toward those 30+ years with my sweetheart.

In eight years, we've been through a lot together. We worked together. We graduated college on the same day. We had our first child just days before graduating. 



We dealt with the stress of having a new child to care for without a solid job (thanks, recession of 2008...). We spent weeks apart as I received training to become a teacher. We moved to Texas together to start a new life. We had no friends or family there, but we had each other. We survived the rigors of teaching and the bizarre world that is South Texas. 


We clung together as my wife's health steadily declined to the point where she was bed-ridden and the doctors had no clue what was happening. We rejoiced when a nurse figured out the problem and my wife's health returned. We shared grief at the thought we wouldn't be able to have another child as a result of the complications of that long illness. 

 We struggled with leaving Texas, moving back to Utah and looking for a new job. We moved to a city we never thought we'd like, only to find we really love it. Just as things were solid, we figured life was too boring so we decided to try for another child, even though we knew it wasn't likely. Miraculously we had our second daughter, but not before a challenging and extremely painful pregnancy. Now, eight months after the birth of our little one we are feeling the effects of eight months of sleep deprivation.


We've been through a lot together and through each challenge, success, birth, job and move, there's one thing that's changed: our love.

Wait, wait, you dummy, that's supposed to be the constant, don't you know anything about love? 

Probably not, but let me explain.

I used to think love was a constant, but it's not. Love changes. It can either increase or it can decrease, but it rarely stays still. It's also directly proportionate to the amount of effort you put into it. That’s right, to the amount YOU put into it.

When we were first married, I thought the measure of love was how much the other person devoted to you. But you can’t control that. The only thing you have control over is how much love, time and commitment you are going to invest in the other person. Is it possible then that you devote far more than the other person? Sure. It’s a risk. Love is risky business. You expose your heart and have to trust you’ve chosen to be with a person who sees your heart as precious and will take care of it.

And thankfully I have.

I can easily say I love my wife more today than I did when I married her. Geez, there you go again, being unromantic…

This isn’t to say I didn’t love her then, because I did. But love increases or decreases, and my love has increased. In the shared challenges and experiences we’ve had, our love has forged solid links binding us together. Perhaps this was no more evident than during our three years in Texas, isolated from most other support systems. We had each other. Was that going to be enough? When we started, we didn’t know. But each day, as we relied on one another, our love became so strong. We knew we could weather any challenge, and there were plenty of them.


We’ve both changed over the past eight years. Sure, we’ve physically changed, but our personalities have changed too. I once heard it said a woman goes into a marriage expecting her man to change, but he doesn’t. And a man expects the woman to stay the same, but she doesn’t. It’s a rather cynical way to look at marriage, but it does highlight one important thing: some things change and some things don’t, but your love MUST change — it must increase.

My wife has changed over the years. Some things have been difficult for me to get used to. This blog, for instance. As she got more and more involved in this blog, I found myself resenting it, hating it. I felt this pulled her away from me. While I’ll admit I still feel this at times, I’ve also come to realize this blog allows her to express herself and to showcase the amazing things she does. It brings her great fulfillment. So even though it’s a change I wasn’t expecting, it’s one that our love has still grown through.

I do love my wife. I love her more today than eight years ago, and I expect to love her even more eight years from now. If not, what’s the point of this journey called love? I also think she’s more beautiful today than eight years ago. To be sure, she was radiant and exquisite eight years ago. She looks at herself and the scars that mark the advent of our children into the world and surely must wonder how this can be, but I don’t wonder. I know. She’s beautiful. She glows. Her eyes sparkle. She gets that wicked, mischievous smile that makes me grin. She makes goofy kissy faces at me.

She’s my wife and I love her.

So as we celebrate eight years, I propose we tip that eight on it’s side and continue on our journey toward an infinite number of years together. Because anything short of that’s just not enough.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Planes Propeller Cookies

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PlanesToTheRescue #CollectiveBias
There are few things we love in our house more than the Pixar movies and Planes is no exception. My daughter is so excited to get the Planes Fire and Rescue under the Christmas tree this year and so we decided to make Planes themed cookies to leave for Santa with a big glass of milk.
These sugar cookies are so easy to make and the best part about them is they don't need to be chilled! For the sugar cookies you will need:

 Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup shortening (not the butter flavor)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Cream the 1 cup of shortening and the sugar together. Then add the eggs and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a dough like consistency. Roll out the cookies with a rolling pin and use a cup to cut the circles for your planes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees. Allows the cookies to sit on the cookie sheet until the sheet cools. 
I love using royal icing on my sugar cookies because it just looks so pretty. Royal icing is some of the easiest frosting to make and my daughter loves putting it into squeeze bottles to decorate with. For the royal icing you will need: 

 Royal Icing


  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons water at room temperature
Whisk all of the ingredients together until well mixed. After everything is mixed, separate the icing into separate bowls to color the frosting. 

 I prefer the gel food coloring because the colors are more vibrant. Add a toothpick full of gel to your icing and mixed well.
One of the benefits of royal icing is that it will completely set on top of your cookies, making it the ideal icing to use if you are going to take a plate of cookies to someone. The one downside to the icing setting on top of the cookies is that you need to decorate your cookies quickly after you spread the icing on top of the cookies. I used small peanut butter cups for the center of the propellers and then fruit candy for the propellers. 
My daughter has quite a few Cars toys but she really wanted Santa to bring a few Planes toys this year. Right now at Walmart they have some of the Planes toys on roll back just in time to get them under the Christmas tree. The products on roll back include Disney Planes Flight to the Finish Speedway Rollback to $24.97. The  Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Die-Cast Vehicles, 3-Pack Rollback to $14.97. The Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Deluxe Talking Vehicle Assortment Rollback to $19.97  and Planes Character Assortment die-cast set and the Disney Planes: Fire
and Rescue Character Assortment die-cast set both at $4.97. My daughter picked out one of the die cast sets for her little sister as her sibling gift. 
Are there going to be Planes under your tree this week?
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

5 Ways To Keep Your Kids Learning During a School Break



Before my husband worked in public relations, he was a middle school teacher. He always lamented going back to school after Christmas every year because he was going to have reteach and reinforce things the students had been taught before the break. He was always amazed how much information they lost over the break. We didn't want this to happen to our daughter, so we have set aside a small chunk of time, about a half hour a day, to practice the skills she was working on before the break. Here are some of the things we are doing.

1. Reading out loud. There is something magical about reading with your kids, no matter their ages. My mom read out loud with us until we left the house. She started with books like The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and eventually graduated to reading us Great Expectations and Tarzan. I read Great Expectations much earlier in life than I ever would have since we were reading it all together.

2. Puzzles and Memory. We love picking up puzzles at the dollar store to do together. Since my daughter is 6, we try to keep them to less than 100 pieces and we work on them together. We also love to play Memory. We have a classic literature set that we love to play with, and a Strawberry Shortcake set. I don't think it matters what your set looks like as long as it is working your child's brain.

3. Playing I Spy. If your child is working on shapes, make them point out shapes. If they are working on multiplication, make them count things while you are out and about and then multiply them. I Spy can be adapted to just about any elementary grade. For my daughter, we make her sound out words and spell signs to us.

4. Salt or Sand Tracing. Writing, reading and math all become a lot more fun when you are drawing them in sand. I buy my sand in small bags at the dollar store and keep it in a long disposable tupperware container. We draw math problems and sight words in the sand for practice.

5. Osmo. Osmo pairs with your iPad to create learning games that work all different parts of your child's brain. My 6-year-old absolutely loves it because she is getting to play with the iPad and I love it because she is learning.


Each Osmo comes with word tiles to play word games and Tangram tiles. There are all sorts of different settings with each game. With our six year old, we love to play the game where she has to sound out the beginning of the word and place the correct beginning letter on the table in front of the Osmo.

My daughter's favorite game is Tangram, where the app shows her something she needs to make out of the tiles and she has to make the tiles resemble a swan or a cat. I was afraid it would be too advanced for her, but there are different levels and as she gets better she just moves up the levels. The video below shows her playing a Tangram level by herself. You simply set the iPad in the base, clip the mirror onto the camera of your iPad and load up one of the apps to play a game. In Tangram the app will show you the picture of an object and you recreate it with the Tangram pieces.


Sometimes I feel like we have all of this wonderful technology and we use it for mind-numbing videos and other things that just eat up our time. I love that useful learning tools, like Osmo, allow her to see technology as a wonderful tool that can be fun AND educational. We limit technology in our house, but I will pretty much let her play with the Osmo any time she wants and it will occupy her for hours.


Osmo is really easy to set up. You just need to download the different game apps onto your iPad and attach the little mirror clip to the top of your iPad and it is pretty much ready to go. The base is adjustable so it will fit any generation of iPad or the Mini, like I have.

We have loved Osmo in our house and I would recommend it to anybody with kids who wants to help turn technology time into learning time.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Easiest Snowflakes



My daughter loves to make snowflakes and I can't tell you how many times I have looked up online how you are supposed to fold a pieces of paper to make a snowflake. When I discovered this way of making snowflakes I was floored! It is SO easy, all you need is a stack of coffee filters which you can find at the dollar store and some scissors. These are so easy, my 6-year-old can make them all by herself. I have made a simple infographic to help you out!
What are some of your favorite traditions to do with your children?
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Easy Minifigure Ornaments -- that won't damage the figures!


Hello again! Lorene here with one final (for now) addition to the Doctor Who tree -- minifigure ornaments! Debra has quite the collection of Lego-style Doctor Who minifigures, so I wanted to find a way to hang them on her tree -- without damaging them, so when Christmas is over, they can go right back to the regular collection.

And, thanks to my overachiever gene ;), I came up with not just one but THREE different ways to hang minifigures on your Christmas tree (or elsewhere), and no minifigs were harmed in the making of these ornaments. (And PS: Debra's gonna need a bigger tree to fit her whole collection!)

How to Make Lego Minifigure Ornaments (without damaging the figures!)

Option 1: Leather Cording


This was my first idea, sprung from the knowledge that Lego minifigure hands are just the perfect size to hold electronics cords. I doubt that was a coincidence ;)


But instead of holding a charger cord, these little guys hold their own ornament hangers! Just cut a 6-inch (or longer) length of 3mm round leather cording (I found mine, called leather lace, at Hobby Lobby) and stick one end in each hand with the arch over the figure's head.

Option 2: Ribbon and Metal Tubing Lanyard

For your average minifig, option 1 works just fine. But what about those suave minifigs who need their accessories? Christmastime is a perilous season for Whovians, so you certainly don't want your Doctor hanging around without his sonic screwdriver. Enter option 2: a simple ribbon lanyard with a section of metal tubing for your figure to grasp firmly.

The basic concept is the same as a shoelace aglet (the thingy on the tip of the lace), only instead of just threading a single lace into the aglet, you thread the two ends of a loop through the tip. A million thanks to this tutorial here for the information that I needed about how to do this!

So, you'll need

  • hollow metal tubing, 1/8 inch (I bought this multi-size pack at Hobby Lobby and used the middle size - you only need 1/2-5/8 inch for each ornament lanyard)
  • thin ribbon (mine is 1/8 inch satin ribbon)
  • a hammer and sharp nail
  • a small fine-tooth saw
  • sandpaper
  • tape

(Step 1)With the saw, cut 1/2 to 5/8 inch sections of the tubing -- you want 1/2 inch minimum, because you have to have enough length for your figure to have an un-flattened section of the tubing to hang on to. If you have a vice grip, that would probably be better, but I just used two scraps of wood with the tubing taped to them. The tubing is pretty easily bent and smashed, so use care that you don't damage it beyond use. 

(Step 2) Sand the ends of the cut tubing sections. I just used our little household hacksaw, so mine were really rough. A finer saw would definitely give better results, but this worked. :)

(Step 3) Cut a 6-8 inch section of ribbon, and, while holding both ends together to form a loop, wrap the tape tightly around the ribbon ends. Leave some tape over the edge of the ribbon to form a sort of tape needle to help you thread the ribbon through the piece of tubing. 

(Step 4) Slide the ribbon into the tubing until the tape is completely covered by the tubing at the top (you'll trim the bottom later). 

(Step 5) Tape the tubing to something sturdy, like a scrap of wood, and lightly hammer the very tip of the tubing (to give the nail a little bit more surface to grab).

(Step 6) Hammer the nail into one end of the tubing to pierce the metal tube and pinch the ribbons inside. (I found that it was easier if I .) 

(Step 7) Repeat for the other end, being sure to leave the center section round and lovely for your minifigure's hand to grip well. Trim the bottom end of the tape or any ribbon. 

Hand it to your favorite Doctor or mini-figure, and away you go!



Option 3: Display Blox and LEGO Lifting Rings


Many of the character building collector sets come in display blox that are Lego-compatible, so why not put that to use? (You can also purchase Lego style single minifigure display boxes various places online, such as eBay.)

All you need is a lifting ring or two and some ribbon or string. I purchased my Lego lifting rings on eBay very inexpensively, which I was glad for when I received them and realized I would need TWO for each ornament since the Doctor Who display boxes do not allow for the lifting ring to be centered on the top of the box! But one on each side works well, or if you have a figure that faces the other way (like this Dalek), you can get by with just one. 

I used about 8 inches of ribbon to string through the two rings and tie a knot at the top -- use more if you want a bow or anything fancy. 

And just because it cracks me up... one more photo: the mime in the box! :)
(PS: I'm not sure he's actually a mime but it tickles my funny bone so we're going with it...)

So, what do you think? Are you going to have a Lego-filled tree now?

Check out the rest of the Doctor Who Christmas tree here

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of 3 kids and wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She happily shows up here at Housewife Eclectic a few times a month, when the creative bug strikes in between projects at her awesome job as a virtual assistant. You can check out her other projects here on Housewife Eclectic, or her former blogger life and projects over at just Lu.