Educational Play Time

woodentoys

I love Etsy.  I love all the cool vintage things as well as the homemade items.  But, my budget doesn’t always stretch enough for my tastes in toys.  So instead of buying them, I realized it was super simple to make some of them.  After a large order from Woodworks Ltd. and picking up some Delta Soy Paints from JoAnn’s (found in the aisle with bottles of craft paint), I went to work.

My first project was these bowls with acorns and the stacking/nesting flower pots.  They’re the perfect size for a child’s small hands, and they allow her to match colors and learn big to little.  The whole thing (split into 2 sessions) took me maybe a couple hours max, and that was with wait time to do several coats of paint.

unsealedvssealed

Now, Delta Soy Paint says it self seals.  Ahem, I don’t exactly buy that.  So I sealed it with some homemade beeswax polish that I always have on hand.  You can tell in this photo the difference, because the top of the acorns are different.  I seal the whole piece, and it helps not just with the sealing, but the flower pots slide together much easier.

Not only do I love these colorful toys, but they’ve been a huge hit with E as well.  She plays with them nearly every day and it has helped with learning colors tremendously.   The acorns not only go in the bowl, but they also fit into the medium sized pot (with their little cap sticking out).  And the pots can be strung on a shoe string, working on motor skills.

I’ve been working on some other things, so stay tuned for simple projects you can do yourself for the fraction of the cost of buying.

Fajitas

fajitas

We recently bought quite a bit of strip steak when it was on sale.  Super tender, we’ve been eating steak just quickly cooked in a pan (we all eat it rare).  So I decided that it would be the perfect thing for making homemade fajitas.  I snapped a pic of the ingredients of some fajitas seasoning and then attempted to mix up some at home.  We cut up the strip steak into thin, bite-sized pieces.  Then I tossed them with a little olive oil and chili powder, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, cumin, black pepper, oregano and ground coriander.  That sat in the fridge overnight.

The next day I sliced up red onion and red peppers thin and then cooked them until soft in peanut oil.  Then I added the steak.  While that cooked I made up some chunky guacamole.  I also had cooked some basmati rice and mixed it with fresh lime juice and a ton of chopped up cilantro.  I had black beans that I had soaked overnight and cooked earlier on the ready.

I treated this like a burrito bowl: rice, beans, cheese, meat, guac, and sour cream.  Super simple to throw together (especially since we prepped ahead of time), so dinner was on the table by 7:30 (which is fairly early for us).  E ate it up and we had leftovers for lunch today.

I love creating meals at home that are as tasty as going out!

Sunday Supper: Pizza Edition

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Who doesn’t love pizza?  It’s a pretty universally loved meal, and easy to modify with what you have on hand.  This is the first simple pepperoni pizza we have done since moving back to the U.S. nearly 5 years ago.  We usually mix it up with all sorts of veggies, pesto, cured meats, etc.
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But tonight we just wanted it to be simple, so did some minced red onion, button mushrooms and pepperoni.  I make my own sauce, and we bought the firmer mozzarella from Trader Joe and shredded it in the food processor (so much cheaper than buying bagged and nicer).
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I’ve made my own pizza dough for as long as I’ve been making homemade pizza, using a variety of recipes.  Tonight I used the one that The Frugal Girl posted about last year.  It was tasty, but I will admit, even with heating the oven to 500F, my cold kitchen didn’t aid it’s rising, and 2 hours later it hadn’t doubled.  I used it anyway, and honestly it turned out fine.  To get the raised crust, I actually chose to roll the edges of my dough, and I loved how the edge crust turned out!
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Finally, I tried a different way of cooking it.  I saw a pin on Pinterest suggesting to use 2 pizza stones (one above the pizza and one the pizza was on) to imitate a brick oven.  I gave it a whirl because we have 2 stones already.  I thought it seemed to help brown the toppings well.  Our sensitive smoke alarms, however did not love the hot oven burning off burned on bits on the stones (it literally seemed to liquify things off), and E ran around shouting, “PIZZA! BEEP! BEEP!” over and over.  She’s well used to our smoke alarms shouting at us.
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We ended up with 2 pizzas with 12 smaller pieces each, so plenty for dinner, lunch tomorrow, and another meal on a tired evening this week.  (We do a lot of leftovers around here.)
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What are your favorite toppings?

Shake Shake Shake

riceshaker

I have found that I really enjoy homemade toys, whether by me or someone else.  We’re fairly natural minded when it comes to play things, and it’s usually cheap to make something yourself.  While visiting a friend recently, E became fascinated by a shaker she had made using a plastic water bottle and rice.  So, once home I quickly grabbed a plastic spice jar (an old Mrs. Dash), filled with some basmati rice and super glued the lid shut.  Looking at it, I felt it lacked something.  I grabbed a teal blue sharpie and drew raindrops on the sides randomly.  Handing it to E you would have thought we’d just gone to the toy store she was so pleased!

Easy peasy and a win!  Have you ever made homemade instruments?  I’m always looking for ideas!

Mardi Gras Pancakes

mardigraspancakes

A couple weeks ago for Mardi Gras, I decided on a whim to make King’s Cake Pancakes.  I’m still searching for the perfect little pieces to insert into the cakes, but wanted to honor the colorful fun.  Quickly mixing up our old fashioned pancakes, I simply added some of my Wilton food coloring to them.   We use a cast iron round griddle (with a heart in the handle) so they cook up quick, and we ended up with enough for the next day’s lunch!

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Old-Fashioned Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted

Mix up the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Then create a well in the center.  In a measuring cup or bowl, mix together the milk and egg, pour into the center of the well.  Then slowly, while whisking, add the melted butter mixing until combined.

On a heated griddle, use a 1/4 c measure and pour pancake batter on, cooking until bubbles have stopped on first side (that’s usually how I know it’s ready).  Cook both sides brown.  Serve hot with butter and maple syrup (or peanut butter and bananas!)

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* Trick:  pre-heat oven to 200F with a baking sheet inside.  Once a pancake is done, simply put it on the baking sheet.  It keeps the pancakes warm without drying them out and then your whole family can enjoy them together!

Hello There

bubbleblowing

I have blogged at Une Vie Chic for about 6 years.  And it’s been fantastic, a time to really grow and grow up.  I started writing it while living in England during the first 2 years of my marriage, and there was an ease to it…until there wasn’t.

noralaughing

My life changed drastically when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter E (just after my husband had deployed to Iraq).  I knew it would, but not to what extent.  These last 2 years have been wonderful for me personally, but as for my writing, I stalled.  No longer was my life just about food, wine, and living a chic life.  It’s more filled with declarations of “my mama!” and crashing blocks and drinking pretend tea.  And you know what?  That’s fantastic.  I tell my daughter that she is the greatest dream I ever had come true.  However, it doesn’t leave much to write about on a blog that was decidedly not about motherhood.  I thought about simply transitioning it, changing it up, but I knew that for me, I just needed to start a separate space.

snowday

So here I am.  I thought hard about what to name this, and after a while it just hit me.  Seeking Small.  A combination of my old life and new.  I’ve always blogged about slowing down and really enjoying life, but now the twist is that I have so much more to slow down for.  My house is often untidy, I run on strong coffee and prayers, but I am happy to say that I am most always up for building a castle or reading a book (and I’ll totally clear the sofa of stuffed animals for a friend to sit and chat).

My space here will be real.  There are days that I feel like there’s too much pulling me every which way.  Days where I make that cup of coffee in the keurig because it’s quicker and I have a child desperately wanting my attention.  Days where my husband gets home and I tell him that I’m going to need wine and a hot bath.  Those moments don’t take away from the beauty of this mess, they are just a part of it.  Life is messy and complicated and so often not anything like what you find on Pinterest (which I am thoroughly addicted to).  But it doesn’t have to be any less beautiful if you can look past the rough patches and realize that the season you are in has it’s own magic.

So I’m here, seeking the small moments and pleasures that we can all find if we just pause to breathe and take it all in.  Here’s a spot where you will find recipes (I love to cook and bake), DIY projects, and talks about what this season is bringing for me.  So, please settle into a comfy seat and stay a while.  This is my home, and I am so glad you’re here.