September 28, 2011


Risa - this one's for you!

A No-Sew Dinosaur

Materials (here's what I used for a 3T dinosaur):
Sweatsuit in an appropriate dinosaur costume
1 sheet white felt (9" x 12" is the standard size for all felt)
1/2 sheet black felt
1 sheet eyebrow/hand/foot claw colored felt
4 sheets spike-color felt
1/2 yard coordinating fabric (felt, fleece, something hefty but not heavy)
Fabric glue
Craft glue
Safety pins
fabric stiffener (optional)
belt (optional)
Cut spikes from spike-colored felt leaving a 1/2" edge on the bottom of the spike. I folded the felt in half long-ways (like a hot dog bun) to cut two strips of spikes from each sheet.
Slice the 1/2 border up just less than 1/2 inch at the apex of each spike (see pic above to make that make sense.) This creates tabs you can use for gluing.
Folding the tabs back and forth, start gluing the spikes down the length of the hoodie, starting at the very top of the hood. Alternating the tabs helps the spikes to stand up. Fabric stiffener may be used to keep spikes standing up, too.
Continue gluing spike strips down the length of the hoodie.
Let dry. I used some extra lumber and veggie cans to help keep weight on the tabs while they dried.
Using your favorite circle or oval-shaped household object, trace the shape onto white fabric. Cut out for the eyes. Using a small circle shape, cut out the black circles. Cut the eyebrows. I went freeform on those bad boys. To make sure they were matching I folded the felt in half and cut both at the same time.
Glue onto the side of the hoodie. Let dry.
For the tail, cut a a piece of color-coordinating fabric slightly longer than the wearer's legs and bum (small of the back to the ground.) Shape into a rounded triangle.
Follow the same pattern of spikes down the tail, starting about an inch down from the top (as not properly illustrated in the pic above.) Alternate sides with the tabs again to keep the spikes standing out.
Let dry.
Optional accesories: Teeth for the hoodie. Cut triangles with gluing area.
Cut claws for the hands and feet. To do this, I used felt the width of the legs (for the feet) and the arm bands (for the hands)
To put together, glue or pin the tail straight into the pants or a belt. Pin or glue the feet and/or hand claws on.

That's it. Easy peasy.

Trick or Treat!

Moose Tracks:
I chose to make this a no-sew dinosaur. If my kid were a dinosaur for Halloween I'd probably revise the steps to include sewing the spikes on.
There's two different glue listed in the materials section. That's because my fabric glue randomly chooses to hate felt. So I often reinforce my gluing with craft glue.
The hoodie can be worn well after Halloween. Because of this, I choose to pin on the claws and teeth. Toddler Moose can rock the dino hoodie at preschool now without the "extra" stuff in the way.
The tail hangs rather limply in the pictures above. It will for you too. This would be where you could "shape" the tail using spray fabric stiffener and following the directions on the bottle. If this were to be Toddler Moose's Halloween costume I'd likely use stiffener to give it some pop.
To get even more creative, I'd probably give the dino a cute belly, too. I'd use a large oval of felt on the belly of the hoodie. And I'd cut out smaller circles of a coordinating color to glue onto the oval. For the "costume" above I'd probably go with a green belly the same color as the spikes and then use darker green spots. And if it were cute, I might even put a few dark green spots elsewhere on the hoodie. But don't go overboard!
The fabric I used for the tail is felt. It was a random find in the remnants bin at the fabric store. For the purposes of this tutorial, it worked perfectly. In real life I'd likely use felt or fleece. Canvas or something like it would be too stiff. The cottons and other light fabrics would be too light. Play it by ear. You can always make it better with fabric stiffener. That stuff's awesome.

You can do it, Risa! I'll be needing pics of Toddler Wild all dino'd out.

September 26, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

This has got to be Mr Moose's favorite snack. And it's so easy to make, because I always throw in whatever's around.

White mushrooms - stems removed
Brick cream cheese (4oz will do - but 8oz is easier to find) - softened
1/4 C sour cream per 4oz cream cheese
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
~1/4 C bacon pieces/bits/whatevers
seasonings from around the house (parsley, garlic, oregano, cheddar cheese, pepper flakes, parm cheese, chilis, etc etc etc)

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place mushrooms on sheet, bottoms up.
In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
Place filling mixture in a piping bag, or in a plastic zip-top bag. Snip off the end of the bag to create a piping bag.
Fill each muchroom cap generously.

Broil the mushrooms on low until brown on top.

Moose Tracks:
In the past I've skipped the sour cream and used a bit of Ranch dressing.
Sometimes I don't add any cheese or spices. Just the basic ingredients.
No two batches are ever the same. And they're always yummy.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Toddler Moose has decided he needs to be a spider for Halloween. Easy-peasy. I just need a 6-armed sweatshirt (his legs are the other two), some black pants and a bunch of eyes. Toddler Moose has the pants. It was the rest I needed to make. So I did.

2 pair men's black socks
Stuffing (like Poly-fil)
Black ribbon
Sewing materials or fabric glue
Black Hat
8 Googly Eyes

Optional materials:
3 pair cotton gloves
felt in a matching or coordinating color
Lay out the sweatshirt and the socks to create six arms.

Using a seam ripper or scissors, rip the side seams where the socks will intersect the sweatshirt for a total of four openings.

Stuff the socks with stuffing.
Invert sweatshirt (if not already done.) Place the stuffed socks inside the sweatshirt, oriented so the heel of the socks faces up (toward the neckline.) Pull the end of the socks through the open seams. Glue or stitch in place.
Cut off excess sock material from the inside of the sweatshirt.

Invert sweatshirt with socks. Tie ribbon around the lower socks to keep them attached to the sweatshirt's sleeve. Sew or glue ribbon onto/into sleeve.

Decorate sweatshirt as you like. For my formal little spider, I cut a bow tie out of felt and glued it on. I also stuffed gloves with polyester stuffing and glued them on the end of the socks.
Hat (not really pictured): Glue large googly eyes in a cluster to the front of the hat.

Moose Tracks:
When we actually go out trick or treating on Halloween, Toddler Moose will be sporting black pants, black shoes and white gloves on his hand.
His girlfriend will also be a spider. Her spider has purple gloves, a girly purple bowtie and feminine googly eyes (the kind with fake eyelashes.)
Had he asked to be a "scary spider", I would have used red felt and given Toddler Moose an hourglass belly for a black widow.

Trick or treat!

Soda Jello

Promise me you won't spend $2 on name-brand jello flavored like your favorite soda or fruit juice ever again. PROMISE ME!

Soda Jello. It's 1/8th the cost of name brand. and I promise it's just as easy. Check it out: the kid likes it. you will too.
2 C Soda of your choice
1 pkt gelatin (like Knox gelatin)

In microwave safe glass/bowl, heat 1/2 C soda until it boils.
Combine in bowl with gelatin. Stir for 3 minutes or until gelatin is fully melted.

Add in the rest of the soda (up to 1.5 cups). Stir to combine.

For prettier jello, let foam dissipate before putting in fridge.
Let cool for 4 hours, or until set.

Moose Tracks:
You can do jigglers by either adding more gelatin to the same amount of soda, or just use less soda.

This recipe can be done with fruit juice of your choice. Equally yummy.

September 24, 2011

Kool-Aid Cookies

You heard me. Kool-Aid cookies. There's something so unique about Kool-Aid, regardless of flavor choice. And these cookies use that to their advantage.

You're probably still thinking to yourself, "Moosie. Did you really use Kool-Aid to make cookies? Are you playin' me?" I present to you the evidence:

An opened package of unsweetened Kool-aid.
1 pkg (0.16oz) unsweetened Kool-Aid
1 2/3 C sugar
1 1/4 C softened butter
2 lg eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 C flour (packed)
1/2 C sugar for rolling

Cream butter, sugar, and Kool-Aid
Add eggs, one at a time. Mix well.
Combine flour, salt and soda (I never do this step.)
Slowly add in the flour.

Preheat oven to 325

Roll dough into 1" balls (I use a 2tsp cookie scoop.)
Roll dough balls in sugar.
Place cookies 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes or until the edges begin to brown slightly.
Let cool no more than 1min on baking sheet before moving to a wire rack.

Moose Tracks:
I dislike doing dishes. So unless it's amazingly critical I just add in ingredients in order after the eggs. It hasn't really made a huge difference in most baked goods. It can, but you have to know the recipe and how ingredients interact to catch it before trying and failing once.
The cookies above our Fruit Punch Kool-Aid cookies. If/when I can find unsweetened watermelon Kool-Aid I'll be making these cookies again.

Moose Fail

Alrighty. I agreed - somewhere on the right-hand side of your screen - to share my adventures in baking. And, that doesn't always mean they'll be successful. As much as I deny it, I have to accept that fact that i'm human and I make mistakes. It's okay; you are too.

So, this misadventure is the Pinterest-famous Mini Kiss Pie. I'm pretty sure they have a different name on each board it's pinned on. but nonetheless, it's a little bite-sized pie using simply pie crust and a Hershey's kiss. What's to mess up, right? They started out so very promising.

They started out normal. I followed the recipe to a T. And I don't usually, so this is big!

But, this happened:
Even the best of the bunch looked horrible.
So, I'm calling this one a bust. Not because anything's wrong with the recipe. The recipe's great. It works. What went wrong here was my choice of Hershey's Kisses.

If you ever go find the recipe out on Pinterest or the interwebs, just keep in mind one thing: DO NOT USE THE CARAMEL HERSHEY'S KISSES!

I did because it's what I've got at home. And I wanted to try these. But I didn't stop to think about what I was actually doing. Caramel, when baked, is molten. Think about it: Remember that time you made turtle brownies and tried to sneak a nibble fresh out the oven? Remember how you cursed and ran for the sink and had to put out your sizzling lip and/or tongue? Yeah, that's caramel.

Caramel heats quickly and to a high temperature. Which means the softened chocolate isn't much of a containment device for molten caramel. And the end result looks a little something like I posted above.

It's not a total loss - Mr Moose is enjoying cleaning up the casualties from this baking war.

September 22, 2011

Moose Dropping

If Moose Tracks are my notes along the way in any given post, then a Moose Dropping must be a random post containing neither crafts nor foods. Sometimes it'll be tips and tricks. Other times it'll be general notes from the Moose herself (btw - it's always the Moose herself. I haven't shared my blogger password with anyone, nor given them access to post on my blog.)

Photos: I'm not a photographer. In fact, I'm nothing like a photographer. My camera of choice is often my cell phone. I don't set up shots - I take them as they come. My shots aren't professional. I don't spend hours making sure the subject is perfectly placed and lit. Nope. I point and shoot.
What this means for you: My photos are real. The fallen cake, the goopy glue on a craft, the splotchy fabric, the misadventure in creating. All are real. Love 'em or leave 'em, but choose to deal either way. Much like I tell my little Moose (<- that's plural), you get what you get.

And hey! If you're reading this and you're not Mel (as she's obligated), then THANKS! Hope you're enjoying, learning and growing. I appreciate it.

Apple Bread

Sometimes I screw up a recipe so bad it becomes something good. One big-a$$ wrong becomes a right, I suppose. This is just another one of those times that's true for me.
Generally speaking, sugar is considered a "wet ingredient." In some recipes it doesn't matter. In muffins and quick breads it does. Dry ingredients go together and wet ingredients go together. Then the marry to make carb-loaded euphoria. Well, when you do it the wrong way with quick breads, you end up with something dry as hell. And, at least for me, that always leads to experimentation.
Only once have I ever thrown something away instead of trying to salvage it with experimentation. It's just not something I do. You shouldn't either. Be brave. Experiment. In the kitchen (and elsewhere - but that's not the point of this post.)

3 C flour
2 tsp apple pie spice
1 Tbsp cinnamon *see Moose Tracks
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 C applesauce (that's 2 of the kid-sized cups)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum or rum extract (optional)
1 tsp orange peel (optional)
2 C apples - cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 C walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350
Mix together all the dry stuff.
In a separate bowl combine oil, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, extract and orange peel
Stir it all together
Fold in apples and walnuts.
Divide mixture between two greased 8"x4" bread pans
Bake for 40-45 min or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Let sit on wire rack for 10 min.
Remove from pan and enjoy.

Moose Tracks:
Most autumn-flavored things are enhanced by a few drops of rum extract. I personally don't drink, and don't often have alcohol hanging around the house. So I use extract. But, when my own desire to bake and my orders from customers mean I'm likely to be doing lots of pumpkin and/or apple baking, I buy a nip of rum for this sole purpose. Go ahead, add a few drops to your next pumpkin pie. I promise - you won't regret it.
Spice... especially spiced breads or cookies... the recipes just don't do it for me. I don't want a hint of spice, or an after-flavor of "hmmm... maybe that was cinnamon." Spice it up! Recipes like this are the perfect place to try a bit more spice. Or maybe even a different spice. Cloves, all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg. You can't go wrong with any combination of those (in moderation. The whole bottle would likely be "wrong" for a few loaves of bread.)
Orange peel - I used the dried stuff from little glass jars in the spice aisle. I keep a stock of lemon peel and orange peel on hand. A bit of citrus brightens up fruit and/or vegetable quick breads like you wouldn't believe. Trust me on this one.

Get Well Now

Unfortunately I have too many friends in the hospital right now. Some of them are in quarantine for being radioactive. And that just sucks. So I can't really give them anything permanent (radioactive things tend not to be allowed to go home after the person is not radioactive). So, I created some cards for them. I remember seeing something similar on Pinterest (and needed something easy to do from the comfort of my desk at work), so I scanned my memory and made up this:

Band-aids. Googly eyes. Sweet smiles. Can't really go wrong.

September 21, 2011

Ice Cream for dinner?

I decided to surprise Toddler Moose with breakfast for dinner. When he sat at the table he got so excited because it looked like an ice cream cone. Sure, it wasn't the healthiest meal, but the smile on his face was worth it.

Eggo Waffle
Chocolate Sauce

Inspired by this

Autumn Brittle

I stumbled upon an Autumn Brittle recipe on Pinterest, I read through it and thought "Meh - it's a good start." I'm sure it's a lovely Autumn brittle, but to me Autumn must have certain smells. And certain flavors. And this brittle from there just didn't have it. So, using that recipe as inspiration, I've created my own recipe. Hope you enjoy!

1 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 C golden brown sugar
1 C water
1/2 C honey
1/2 tsp salt (see Moose Tracks below)
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 C almonds
1 C cashews
2/3 C dried cranberries
3/4 roasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 C shelled sunflower seeds

Step 1: Combine sugars, water, honey and salt in a large stockpot (trust me here - the large stockpot is necessary. Ask me how I know.) Clip a candy thermometer on the pot. You'll need this - unless you know the water method. And if you do, good for you! It's how I learned. Now I rely on the candy thermometer. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir every few minutes.

Step 2: Boil mixture until it reaches approximately 250 degrees. Add in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well.

Step 3: When sugar mixture reaches 302 degrees/Hard Crack stage (lower temperature if you're at higher elevations) , remove from heat and add in - all at once - the nuts, butter, dried cranberries and seeds. Stir to combine.

Step 4: Turn out onto a foil-lined, greased jelly roll pan. Use spoon or spatula to spread the brittle as thin as possible.

Step 5: Let cool. Break into small chunks. Enjoy.

Moose Tracks:
I skipped adding the salt, as the almonds and cashews I used were already salted.
If you run out of honey you can use light corn syrup. It works in a pinch.
Don't skip on the size of the pot. It took me hours to clean my stovetop off when I underestimated my cookware needs.
Boiled sugar in hot. Don't get any on you. You'll rue the day.
You can add the cinnamon and nutmeg at the beginning, but it'll result in a burnt smell of the hot brittle. It doesn't greatly affect the taste, but it makes the house smell bad.
Next time I make this I'll likely try different nuts and/or seeds.

September 20, 2011

The nerdy rainbow

Playdough's the greatest thing ever, unless you have to actually pay for it or try to get it out of the carpet. But that's part of the risk with playdough, right?

Ever make homemade playdough and have it be dry and crumbly - almost a one time use sort of thing? Me neither. I have no interest in wasting my time that way. But, I'm all for making playdough if I know it'll last. And this recipe will.

1 C flour
1 C water
1/2 C salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cream of tartar
food coloring

Combine everything in a saucepan. Heat until mixture starts to clump up and pull away from the sides of the pan,stirring the whole time. When it's all doughy, remove from pan and knead until cool. Store in an airtight container.

Moose Tracks:
Liquid food coloring creates pastel colors (or runny playdough if you use enough). The vibrant colors I achieved were done so by using icing gels. Wilton sells them. They're little jars of concentrated colored gel. They're lovely.

Because Baby Moose and Toddler Moose love to help me in the kitchen, I made sure to knead the dough until it was only warm. Then I split each batch in half and let them have at it.

The cooking time ends up being a good two-ish minutes. This stuff is easy peasy.

Each ball in my ROYGBIV-like rainbo up there is the equivalent to one batch. For comparison purposes, the bags are quart size.

Lemon Pull Apart Bread

Mr Moose is a sucker for lemon bread. I'm a sucker for baking as soon as a hint of briskness hits the air. We're made for each other.

I found this lemon pull apart bread on Pinterest.
Yeast breads are a PITA where I live. So, it was a true labor of love to make this for hubs.

The pic is before adding the tangy cream cheese frosting stuff. Honestly, it's not necessary. It added a little something, but the bread was awesome without it.

Next time I try this (which'll be a while, as it's a yeast bread and you already know how I feel about that,) I'll be modifying the recipe to make orange pull apart bread. Mr Moose doesn't care for orange too much, but it can't always be about him.

Jet Pack

Toddler Moose (my reluctant model here) can spend hours "flying" around the house. I asked him if he's like some assistance in flight. He lifted his shirt, pointed to his bellybutton and said, "I put the gas in here, Mommy." Then he turned around and pointed to his bum. Then he giggled "It falls out here!"
Well, if that isn't a conundrum I don't know what is. So, I developed this jet pack to help him with his leaky gas issues.

Step 1: Spray plastic bottles with plastic primer (I used Krylon Fusion). Let dry.

Step 2: Spray bottles with your favorite silver spray paint (doesn't have to be plastic specific.) Let dry.

Step 3: Adhere bottles to a piece of cardboard, approximately the width of the bottles next to each other. Let dry.

Step 4: Use ribbon to create backpack-like straps. Adhere. (I used duct tape. That shiz works for everything!)

Step 5: Cut crepe paper strips to create flames. Glue the tops of the strips to another piece of crepe paper. Let dry.

Step 6: Accordion fold the top strip of the flames. Glue to the inside of the bottle tops (which are actually the bottom of the jetpack.) Let Dry.

Step 7: Run around the house making flying sounds with your mouth (or let your kid handle this step)

Moose Tracks:
I used the 1.25 liter bottles of Coke products that can be found for about a buck at most big box stores. They have a cool shape, if you ask me. the straight cylinders of 2liter bottles work just as well.
I cut the tips of the crepe paper to make it look more like flames. Toddler Moose doesn't really appreciate that touch, but it makes me feel better about it.

Snail Mail

I recently had a friend in need of some cheering up. So, I decided to send her a card (I think Hallmark calls 'em "Encouragement" cards.) Since I was sending it via snail mail, I figured sending a snail would brighten her day, too. Who doesn't love to get something in the mail? Not me!

cut your favorite color(s) felt into 1" strips.
Wrap the felt around itself, creating the shell of the snail.
Glue ends to hold it together.
Glue another strip to the bottom of the roll, gluing the seam of the shell down.
Customize the tail and face of the snail using scissors.
Glue on your favorite googly eyes.
Hand bend the face down.

Friend should get this cute little guy in the mail later this week. I hope it brightens her day like I expect it to.

The Best Chicken Nuggets Ever

Rumor has it these taste just like Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets. They're yummy, but not the same, for sure.

1 lb Chicken, cut into 1" cubes
1-2 C milk
1 C flour
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp salt & pepper, each
Canola oil for frying

Place chicken cubes in sealable plastic bag (Ziploc) or plastic container. Cover with milk. Let sit overnight in fridge, shaking up the contents a few times.

When ready to fry, heat oil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Oil should be at 375.

While the oil is heating, combine flour, powdered sugar, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Drop chicken into flour mixture and shake or "mush" bag to coat chicken. Drop a few coated chicken pieces into the oil, allowing it to cook thoroughly (mine took less than 3min per batch.)

Drain cooked chicken on a paper towel-lined plate while the rest of the chicken is frying.

Discard any leftover milk and/or flour mixture (chicken germs - ewww)

Serve with your favorite dip

Moose Tracks:
I'll likely try adding different kinds of spice to the flour mixture next time I make these. Perhaps some Spike - it's my favorite spice mix to add to chicken dishes. Someday I'll blog about my "healthy" friend chicken. Spike is the winning ingredient there.

This recipe is based on a recipe I found on Pinterest (original recipe here). You'll know this in future posts because I'll tag them with "Pinterest".

Pirate Party Invitations

So, Toddler Moose requested a pirate party for his fourth. Fair enough.
I struggled with what to make for invites when a Twitter friend suggested a message in a bottle. Okay, I could make this work. First step: Drink 10oz of bottled water for every invite you need to make. This can take a couple of days. Fair warning.

Step 1: Distress vellum for invite and name tag
~Wrinkle vellum - try not to tear it too much
~Using an ink pad, dab the re-flattened vellum - Don't be too perfect with this
(I used two different colors of ink - a dirty linen and a coffee stain color
~Spray vellum lightly with water
~Iron flat with a warm iron (no steam)

Step 2: Prepare burlap to be printed on (see this: Printing on burlap)

Step 3: Print invites & name tags on vellum; Jolly Roger on burlap

Step 4: Cut burlap to approx the width of the water bottle label. Rip vellum to give it a "rough" edge

Step 5: Glue Burlap around bottle (10oz water bottle from Walmart). I made sure to glue the skull opposite the manufacturer's stamp. I also didn't bother to remove the label, as the label provided a nice white backdrop when looking through the bottle.

Step 6: Use your favorite ribbon to thread through the name tag and around the top of the bottle (I removed the ring leftover from the cap)

Step 7: Add sand to bottle. I used about a 1/4 cup per. I also made sure to let the sand dry a bit.

Step 8: Roll up invite and shove it in the bottle.

These invites are best hand-delievered. If they must be mailed, "cork" the bottle - either with a real cork or the plastic bottle cap.

Invite wording (in the coolest ol' English font I could find)

Ye be invited
to join Captain Moose's crew
He'd like to celebrate
his fourth birthday with you
Chart yer course for [insert address here]
On [insert date here] at half past 10
Grub and Grog will be provided for ye treasure seekers
Deserters only 555x555x1234