How to Make a Chocolate Spread from Scratch

Homemade Chocolate Spread

Necessity is the mother of… making things from scratch. I’ve found this to be true time and again. In the past, the need usually arose from the mistaken notion of having a better-stocked kitchen. Finding that, contrary to my expectation, I didn’t actually have pancake mix, confectioner’s sugar, apple pie filling, tortilla, taco seasoning, et cetera, et cetera, and having already made and announced plans that required them, I had no choice but to turn to the Internet for a solution. Recipes and tutorials always unfailingly came to my rescue.

We just had a full weekend and failed to do the groceries then and so Monday was met with a meager cupboard. I had planned to make pancakes from scratch, but found that my husband had visited a nearby bakery the previous night and came home with a passel of pan de sal (tasty local rolls considered a breakfast staple in the Philippines).

Okay, that worked. It meant I didn’t need to make pancakes. We had butter and blueberry jam, so we had something to put on the rolls. Nonetheless, I was primed to make something that morning. Also, I had to deal with picky eaters who had certain preferences.

Around here, the favored sandwich spread was either peanut butter or Nutella. Unfortunately, we were out of both, so I had to be resourceful. I had peanuts, but they were garlic flavored. I had no hazelnuts except ones embedded in chocolate bars. I had loads of chocolate chips though. I had butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla extract… I could make a chocolate spread.

I had to make some choices though. I had Hershey’s milk chocolate chips and Nestle Tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips. I had Dutche cocoa tablets (side note: I have a couple of Dutche products in my kitchen, which means my eyes frequently come across the brand name, which then means I usually find myself singing “Pass the Dutchie”) and Swiss Miss instant cocoa mix. Since my recipe will be using sugar, I decided to go with the less sweet options.

This is the recipe I ended up using:

Homemade Chocolate Spread

Ingredients:

  • ½ C sugar
  • ¼ C water
  • 1 T grated cocoa tablet
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • A stick of butter (½ C), cubed
  • ½ C semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Mix sugar, water, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Continue stirring over heat until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat.
  • Add vanilla extract, butter, and chocolate chips. Whisk until chocolate chips and butter melt and the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour into a container. Don’t worry that it’s too runny. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the fridge for two weeks.

Like I said, it’s a chocolate spread, so don’t expect it to taste like Nutella. In any case, it was a hit with my family.

I have to tell you though, making things from scratch is quite addictive. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and self-importance, kind of like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he made fire. If I had the time, I’d prefer to make most things from scratch. Nothing hardcore though. I’m not quite up to milling my own flour. Stop that thought. I was just talking to my husband about making our own brown rice flour and corn flour for when we finally go gluten-free, casein-free. At any rate, I’m not ready to pioneer a settlement in some lost frontier.

What are the things you have made from scratch? Do you enjoy the process? Or do you prefer the easier route? No judgment here. We’re very much familiar with the demands of modern living. Let us know your thoughts.

How to Clean Crayon Marks from Walls

Yesterday was the first time National Homeschool Day was celebrated here in the Philippines. My family celebrated by meeting up with other homeschool families in our area.

Homeschooling, no matter how outsiders view it, is a brave choice. The challenges it presents are tremendously tough. You get the sense that you can’t afford to screw up because you’ll only have yourself to blame, and how can you live with that?

Well, obviously, with a lot of self-directed mercy. More often than not, we’re our own harshest critics, but well-seasoned parenthood is peppered with mistakes. That’s a confused application of figurative language, but anyway… Veteran parenting is the kind that seems easy, that suggests you’ve arrived at expert level but – hah! –   I’m not holding my breath trying to get to that point of parenting bliss.

I get the feeling that it doesn’t really ever become easier. The challenges are new and just as intense as we graduate to new stages. If it really does feel somewhat lighter, perhaps what basically changed is our attitude. We’ve learned to be more forgiving of ourselves. We’ve learned to choose our battles. We’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff, like crayon marks on the walls.

That was some segue, lol. At any rate…

We have cream walls in our home, the perfect canvas for a small, exploring hand wielding a crayon (or a pencil, or a marker, or my favorite eyeliner…).

Who needs wallpaper when you have little vandals running loose and wild inside your house, right? I have veritable murals.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that they’ll eventually learn not to draw on the walls. While they haven’t yet, I’ll just have to enjoy a little bit of toddler graffiti at home.

We could, of course, clean up those wall scribbles, but if you’re like me and a little bit lackadaisical in keeping the house presentable, it would probably take you months before you get around to it. 😀 Why bother, right? A neat and immaculate home lasts all of ten seconds. It’s a losing battle I just don’t have the energy or will for, lol.

Through the years, I’ve learned to be happy with “relatively clean and tidy”. There are maybe two times a year when I think I want ten seconds of an uncluttered, spotless home and make the effort. That’s sporadic enough for me to convince myself that crayon-marked walls have a certain charm to them. 😀

If you can’t live with those crayon marks, however, of if you’re finally getting around to erasing them, here are some ways you can go about it.

You’ll need a wash rag or a tea towel for every method, but the main cleaning ingredients are:

  • Method 1 – milk
  • Method 2 – toothpaste
  • Method 3 – baby oil
  • Method 4 – water and baking soda

Watch how successful my daughter and I were with each one in this video.

As it turned out, crayon marks aren’t that hard to erase from walls. After we made this video, we also tried with some plain water and soap, and the marks came off pretty easily as well.

Basically, we learned that we didn’t need to make a big production of getting rid of those crayon marks. The high difficulty level of the task was all in my head. Now, I don’t know about markers and pen ink. We’ll attack those marks next.

Btw, the video. It was our first video-making effort, which you can probably tell. It’s one of the skills my daughter is interested in acquiring (she says she wants her own YouTube channel), so we’re exploring it together. Just from this one, she has learned to use so many features of a basic video editing program. She was definitely more comfortable and knowledgeable in navigating her way through it than me.

She wanted to do a bunch of other fancy things, but I convinced her to keep it simple this first time. We also removed the music we’d initially put in because we learned that there’s a certain caveat if you use something from the YouTube audio library. I don’t understand it all that well yet, so I thought we’d better not use any music for now. I didn’t want to use music from elsewhere either until I look into copyright issues, so it’s just our voices and the hum of the AC, lol.

I promise, next time, we’ll use a better camera, a tripod, a mic, and my husband’s help. He actually knows how to edit videos, but he’s been busy. In any case, my daughter and I had a lot of fun floundering our way through this experience. 😀

That’s it for this post. What’s your attitude toward toddler graffiti? What method do you use for removing them? Any advice on video-making? Let us know.

Fun and Fascinating Ways to Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

Dr. Seuss Day is tomorrow, March 2. On this day in 1904, the beloved children’s book author Dr Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachussetts. He adopted his pen name Dr. Seuss when he was still a university student in Dartmouth. That’s what he is most known for, although he also used other pseudonyms such as Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, and Theophrastus Seuss.

From his name, Dr. Seuss is obviously of German descent, and if you know the most basic of the German language, you’ll know that Seuss should rhyme with choice and not choose; however, Dr. Seuss didn’t mind the anglicized pronunciation it popularly took on since it rhymed with Mother Goose. 🙂

I grew up loving Dr. Seuss books, even if the Cat in the Hat often stressed me out. 😀 Now, I’m happy to share the “obSeussion” with my kids. My 10-year old daughter, who’s all about being silly, can’t get enough of the rhymes. The two younger boys love the cadence of these rhymes when being read to, and they definitely also enjoy flipping through the pages and looking at the illustration.

In our family, children’s books do not remain in pristine condition. They also usually don’t stay in the bookcase either. I’m not one for keeping things that were meant for my kids out of their reach. Unfortunately, this means that some pages have rips, scribbles, drool marks, etc. Even the board books are far from damage-proof. This means that our Dr. Seuss books all bear the evidence of my kids’ fondness for them. See?

seuss books

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But that’s just me. Different families, different values, different ways of doing things. 🙂

To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday, the US assigned the date National Read across America Day. We’re not in the US, so we can’t observe that. 😀 Having said that, we’d definitely be reading our copies of Dr. Seuss’ books. We’d do other activities as well.  The day’s going to be pretty full. I should’ve made it Dr. Seuss week instead. Here are some of the things I’m including in the day’s program:

green eggs

  • Breakfast of green eggs and ham while listening and probably singing along to songs from Seussical the Musical. (I can paint the ham, but I think I’ll limit the food dye to the eggs. If you want to use something natural – although mine is store-bought “natural” food color – you could puree broccoli and mix it with beaten eggs for a green omelet.)

  • Dr. Seuss books read-aloud from my ten-year-old and our homeschool puppets. (save One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish for later)
  • Visit to Seussville.com for games.
  • First movie (Cat in the Hat).
  • Crafts: truffula trees (pipe cleaners and yarn pompoms), oobleck (homemade slime, basically), Cat in the Hat mask (construction paper and markers).


seuss-oobleck

  • Afternoon snack of homemade goldfish crackers while reading One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. (makeshift mold using a strip cut from a foil dish or soda can)
  • Second movie (The Lorax).

That’s going to be it for our Dr. Seuss Day, which I think is already plenty, but we love Dr. Seuss, so it’s all good.

Do you plan to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday? What activities will you do? How do you make your green eggs and ham? What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Mine is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Let us know in the comments section.

 

How to Effectively Transition into a Prepper

Inuit elders warn that the earth has shifted. They say that that their sky has changed. The sun and moon rise from different places than they used to. The sun is higher and warms up more quickly, giving them longer daylight for hunting.

They say that the Sun, the Moon, and the stars have all changed, affecting not only the temperature, but also how the wind blows. This makes it hard for the Inuit people, who inhabit the northern regions of the US, Canada, and Greenland, to predict the weather, something that is essential when living in the Arctic.

This warning happens to coincide with all the recent extreme weather events as well as the increased activity happening in the Ring of Fire, including the frequency of active volcanoes going berserk and large magnitude earthquakes occurring along the Ring of Fire.

This portent of doom and gloom, unscientific thought it may be, has definitely caused some disquiet to those living in the area. Californians buzz about the San Andreas Fault, which could unzip all at once with “The Big One”, making the entire state fall into the ocean.

Closer to home, we brace for the havoc that the West Valley Fault is expected to wreak. I live in Marikina so you can probably understand my concern. The experts say that the fault is ripe for a serious quake.

It doesn’t help that oarfish have been washing up ashore. Japanese myth has it that this “sea serpent” is a messenger from the sea god’s palace and is a herald of earthquakes.

Now, I listen to what the scientists say, but I’m not one to dismiss what the indigenous peoples and the animals are saying either. In this case, however, all parties are warning of impending catastrophe.

We could leave, of course, settle elsewhere, but we’re reluctant to disrupt our lives for a disaster that may or may not happen. And where would we move, anyway? Is there a place that is truly safe? So, we’ve decided to stay put, but we’ve also chosen to prepare as much as we can in the event that a devastating earthquake does occur.

We’re putting together an emergency earthquake kit, which includes:

  • Food and water (canned fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish; crackers and other packaged snacks with a long shelf life; camping food, etc.)
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Portable radio (better yet, get a flashlight radio – we won one  at our church’s Christmas raffle, and it’s really nifty)
  • First aid kit (include dust masks)
  • Rescue tools (wrench, hammer, crowbar, rope ladder, fire extinguisher, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous supplies for comfort and hygiene (sleeping bags, pillows, toiletries, wet wipes, paper towels, garbage bags, disposable plates/cups/cutlery, busy bags for the kids, etc.)

Of course, there are other things that need to be done. We need to train the kids on what to do if the quake strikes, identify safe points in the house and other places, fortify the house against intense tremors, etc. In short, it’s time to channel the preppers.

If you’re interested in learning the ways of preppers or survivalists, the following are some manuals, beginner’s guides, etc. available for free on Kindle at the time of this posting. You can get some good tips from the LA-specific manual as well.

Be it a looming earthquake, a supertyphoon, or even a zombie apocalypse, it’s good to be prepared. Are you the type to be ready for any eventuality or do you prefer to simply wing it?

*This post has affiliate links.

Practical Ways to Make Use of the Lavender in Your Garden

lavender

We don’t have a lot of outdoor space so we make do with container and vertical gardens. We don’t really have any ornamental plants at the moment, just ones that offer medicinal, gastronomic, and culinary value. I’d say that they are still pleasing to the eye even if they’re not strictly decorative.

Generally, we can eat or cook our plants. This is probably the reason why my husband, as he rearranged the pots hanging from our wall grid, asked me what the lavender was for.

I’m not sure what his intent was in asking that, if it was out of idle curiosity or if it was more pointed, but it got my back up and made me defensive.

I knew lavender was useful in so many ways, but at that moment, my brain shut down and I couldn’t come up with one practical purpose the plant has. As I fitfully stammered my way into a passable reply, my husband cut in, “Besides smelling nice.”

Rats! Aromatherapy was going to be my first point too. My mind hummed. It cried, “Food! He cares about that!” I knew lavender was added to cakes and other sweets, but I regret to say that I wasn’t able to make my case for lavender that day. I don’t remember why. Our children are master disruptors. No conversation between my husband and myself doesn’t get interrupted sooner or later.

The next time he asks though, I’ll be prepared. With bullet points too.

Having lavender in our tiny garden is smart because we can use it for:

  • Lavender tea – It calms you down, soothing anxiety and relieving stress.
  • Lavender-infused desserts – This may sound like eating something that tastes of soap or perfume, but did you know that lavender is actually one of the ingredients in herbes de provence? I also got to try a vanilla-lavender-honey ice cream in France and it was absolutely divine.
  • Lavender sachets – These are for scenting drawers and closets, especially where I place the kids’ pajamas. Lavender is known for inducing sleep and relaxation, so it helps to have their sleepwear smelling of it. I personally don’t need it as I pretty much pass out from exhaustion every night. What I need are stimulatory scents that help keep you awake such as mint and cinnamon.
  • Lavender nosegays – They not only serve as home décor placed in vases or hanging from a hook somewhere, they also make the house smell lovely. Lavender keeps on looking fresh even after it dries.
  • Lavender beauty and health aids – If you need to calm down, try rubbing lavender between your fingers and then massaging your temples. You could also use lavender and water as a facial mist. Honestly, there are so many benefits offered by lavender that there is an abundance of possibilities when it comes to its use.

Now that I’ve got my answer prepared, I can pretty much guarantee that the question of lavender’s relevance shall never arise again.

What about you? Do you have a lavender plant? Where and how do you use it?

Three Fun Ways to Celebrate Crêpe Day

One of our homeschool quirks is that we like to learn about and celebrate silly or obscure holidays. For February 2, we had several options. Groundhog Day, Crêpe Day, Dogsled Day, and Play Your Ukelele Day are just some that I can recall from the list I consulted.

Groundhog Day and Dogsled Day weren’t very relevant to us since we live in the tropics (although we still discussed Groundhog Day to satisfy the kids’ curiosity). We don’t have a ukulele for the moment so we couldn’t play one even if it was just the kind of holiday we’d have liked to observe. Crêpes, on the other hand, are something we enjoy eating, and I had several ideas for expanding on this occasion.

Crêpe Day, as you can probably guess, originates from France, a part of the La Fête de la Chandeleur or Candlemas. Now, I’m not Catholic, so I’m not the person to ask if it’s also celebrated here or elsewhere. Supposedly, however, it commemorates the day when Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.

There must have been some sort of Christian-pagan fusion in the celebration since the crêpes were mainly associated with the time of the year. They were made to use up the extra wheat before the next harvest. They also were supposed to look like the sun, so making them was a kind of salute to the coming warmer season.

At any rate, you gotta eat crêpes on Crêpe Day. That’s the part of the celebration we were all looking forward to, but we could definitely make other parts of the celebration fun and engaging too. Here are some of the activities we had on Crêpe Day that made it even more fascinating for us.

1. Learning French Chandeleur proverbs – I’m a confessed Francophile, so I love any old excuse to spout off French sayings. My eldest who’s 10 can already appreciate the beauty of the language, and while we’re officially studying Spanish and not French, it’s still fun to expose her to the latter. Here are two of the easier ones to remember:

À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur.
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens.

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte.
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost.

2. Flipping crêpes – There’s a French crêpe-throwing game that sounded fun, but it also sounded like a potential waste of good food, and since we avoid doing that as much as we can, I decided to come up with an alternative. Flipping crêpes is even more fun than flipping pancakes since they’re thinner and lighter, yet wider. The kids basically had a go at just one crêpe, holding the spatula over the table, so even if they missed (and they did several times), it still wouldn’t get dirty.

3. Coming up with a signature crêpe – We concocted our own crêpe filling. We didn’t have a lot of time by the time we got around to this. We also didn’t have much in the way of ingredients, so we stuck to the common options. Next time, I’ll prepare better and supply them with a variety of food items. These are what we came up with.

Banana with Nutella

Banana and Nutella on Crepe  Homemade Banana Nutella Crepe

Ham and Cheddar Cheese

Ham and Cheddar on Crepe
Homemade Ham and Cheddar Crepe

This is the recipe I followed for making the crêpes themselves.

Basic Crêpes

Ingredients
• 1 C all-purpose flour
• 2 eggs
• ½ C milk
• ½ C water
• Pinch of salt
• 2 T melted butter

Directions
• Whisk flour and eggs together in a large mixing bowl. Add in milk and water gradually, stirring until well-combined. Beat in salt and butter until smooth.
• Heat a lightly oiled frying pan over medium high heat. Pour about a fourth or a fifth of the batter on the pan, depending on how big your pan is. Tilt the pan in a circular motion, taking care to evenly coat the pan’s surface.
• Let the crêpe cook for one to two minutes until you can easily loosen it from the pan. Turn it over and cook until the bottom side is light brown.

If you’re interested in learning about fun holidays and observances, try checking out Brownielocks.com. Here’s the list for the month of February.

Do you like crêpes at all? Which kind is your favorite? Would you consider observing Crêpe Day next year? The above suggestions will hopefully give you a good idea of where to start. What other ideas would you recommend to observe this holiday? Would your rather celebrate Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday, which falls on February 28 this year) instead of Crêpe Day? Let me know.

And remember that it doesn’t have to be Crêpe Day for you to get your crêpe on. You can have fun with crêpes anytime you want to.

Happy Food: Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

mini cinnamon rollsHow does cinnamon affect you? They say that it’s a very healthy spice, and while I’m sure that’s true, cinnamon usually has another kind of positive effect on many people. Its smell and taste evoke the atmosphere of Christmas. This is certainly true for me. I just love the aroma of baking with cinnamon. Cinnamon rolls also happen to be a personal happy food of mine as they bring memories of breakfast at my aunt’s home in Fresno. There were always sinfully delectable gooey buns/cinnamon rolls glazed with cream cheese frosting from Costco. I hear they’re not available anymore, so that somehow motivated me even more to bake some myself. 🙁 Anyway, I initially had the inspiration to make homemade ones when I passed by a Cinnabon and saw an employee making a batch. It didn’t look hard to do at all. So, anyway, the other day, I finally got around to making some. It only took me about 9 months to get around to it, hee.

This is the recipe I used (as usual, no yeast since I’m scared of the thing — I have, in fact, used it in the past to make bread, but haven’t mustered the courage lately to use some again):

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Filling
4 T butter
1 C brown sugar
3 t cinnamon

Dough
2 C flour
2 T sugar
4 t baking powder
1 t salt
3 T butter
1/2 C milk

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 T butter, softened
1/4 C cream cheese
1 C powdered sugar
1/4 t vanilla extract
dash of salt

Make the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to form a kind of coarse paste. Spread about half of the mixture over the bottom of a 9×9 pan.
For the dough, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter. Gradually stir in milk to form a soft dough. Divide dough into 4 balls. Roll out each into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread filling on the rolled out dough, and then roll dough up into a coil. Cut length of dough into 6 small pieces (up to you really how big and how many you want to make). Place on top of filling in the 9×9 pan.
Bake for 15-20 mins at 400°F.
For frosting, combine butter and cream cheese. Gradually stir in powdered sugar. Add vanilla and salt. Dollop over rolls while they’re still warm. Recipe makes 2 dozen mini rolls.

mini cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting

Do you know those Costco gooey buns I’m talking about? Do you prefer a simple milk and sugar glaze on your cinnamon roll instead of actual frosting? Anyway, cinnamon rolls are best eaten while warm and fresh from the oven, in my opinion. Ours certainly didn’t last long. Next time, I’ll try adding chocolate syrup just like they do at Cinnabon. Btw, these make great tea fare too.

Healthy Snack: Hummus and Chapati

hummus and chapatiMy husband grew up in Dubai and often has a hankering for Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dishes. I love food that’s rich in flavor, so I’m usually ready to fall in with these cravings when he has them. Something from his childhood that we can easily make at home is hummus, and except for the tahini, most of the ingredients are easily accessible here. Many suggest using sesame oil as a substitute for tahini, but, fortunately, Mark found a jar of the real stuff at the nearby Indian deli while buying some samosas and tamarind sauce for me (that time, I was the one with a craving).

Last Sunday, our age group in church was tasked to lead the fellowship activity and they’d decided to do cooking tutorials. I was assigned to demonstrate one recipe, so I decided to do hummus. Of course, hummus is really a dip, so I needed to add something with which to dip. I was all for just cutting up some carrots and cucumbers, but Mark nixed the idea, saying we needed something really bland to make the flavor of the hummus stand out. The guy knows his hummus, so I bowed to his expertise. The obvious choice was pita bread, but since it’s not the easiest bread to make (working with yeast intimidates me, if you must know), I thought chapati would do just as well.

Here are the recipes I used:

Hummus

A 450-gram can of chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
juice from 1 lemon
4 T tahini
a garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling before serving
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cumin
2 to 3 T water
Dash of paprika before serving

In a blender or food processor, mix first the lemon juice and tahini, then follow with the minced garlic, salt, cumin, and olive oil. Pulse and then add the chickpeas. Blend the mixture, adding water to reach the desired creamy consistency. Scoop out into the serving bowl, drizzle some more olive oil on top and then sprinkle with paprika. Recipe serves 4.

Chapati

2 C flour
milk
salt
2 T oil (I used olive oil, but it can be vegetable or canola)

Put flour in a wide container, make a well in the center and add milk as well as a dash of salt. Start mixing, adding milk until the dough is just the right consistency for kneading. Add the oil, and then knead. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into golf ball-sized pieces. Sprinkle with flour and press down into discs. Roll flatter using a rolling pin until the discs are about 4 inches wide. Put in the pan over medium heat until the surface starts showing some bumps. Flip it; the other side should show some brown spots. Flip it again when the bottom side starts showing brown spots as well. Using a folded kitchen cloth (or, in my case, a clean cloth diaper), press down on the edges of the chapati to make the center puff out. When it has sufficiently ballooned, it’s ready to serve. It does deflate once taken off the fire, so don’t worry that it goes flat again. This recipe makes about 12 pieces.

Hope these recipes can be of use to you. What else do you dip in hummus? Have you tried using tortilla to substitute for pita? Thoughts please.

Sour Days: Pack Rat Forced to Declutter

Things around here have been on the sour side lately. I know I was supposed to just post about the sweet stuff, but this is related to the whole blogging endeavor. There was a recent decree to get rid of all the garbage that was accumulating in our pathetically small space, so with reluctance from me and copious tears from Marguerite, we got rid of several Pringles cans that were going to turn into this (although ours would have been a small toy sorter – LPS, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Jewel Pets, Lalaloopsy, etc.) or this, a rather pretty (I thought so anyway) fabric kite that I had sewn with my own hands (it was declared, nay doomed, by the declutter villain to remain flightless because of some principle about aerodynamics), the beginnings of a cardboard dollhouse, the beginnings of a recycled mirror using faux wrought iron frame like this, bags of used wrapping paper and gift bags that we’d been slowly recycling (we hadn’t needed to buy gift wrap at all, thanks to that bundle), the black beret I’d bought in Paris (because it wasn’t doing anything except gather dust bunnies), fabric scraps that were going to be used for various crafting and upcycling projects… Aargh, it literally pains me to go through this list so I’ll stop. I could put the mess away, and sometimes, they are properly stored, but the kids usually take some of the materials out, especially Marguerite who’s super imaginative and finds ways to have fun with all kinds of junk, and we all just get so tired of putting them away again that they’re just gathered on some surface until the next time (probably ten minutes from that time) we need them. So good luck to all my future upcycling, recycling, and crafting blog posts; they’ve been thrown out alongside the clutter.

I admit that I do tend to be messy. Growing up, I had maids to pick up after me and until now I’m still learning that all those household chores won’t be magically done for me. When we moved to this space, I curbed my creative recycling compulsion because it would have caused an issue with people who don’t share the same convictions about reducing, recycling and reusing. However, when we started this blog, I thought it was understood that I’d expect certain liberties about crafting materials and recyclables (you know, clutter) because I’d be posting about these projects. Now, I’m clearly disabused of this notion.

I’m unhappy about having been forced to give up the clutter. It makes me wonder about values and sacrifices, when two sets of the former are unsynched and when the latter are made grudgingly. So, in effect, the lesson in waste reduction I was hoping to instill in my kids turned into waste itself and got thrown out with the rest of the “garbage”. Sigh. I’ll probably post this, but I won’t be promoting it in social media.

Look, I’d already taken a picture of the cardboard scraps I’d used for the dollhouse in prep for that blog post. The structure was already built; it was just a matter of decorating and furnishing it. Hopefully, it was found by somebody who’d bother to finish the work.

DSC_2964

Tea Fare: Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, Plus My Loot from Dainty Mom

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting in Paper Chic Studio Candy Cups

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting in Paper Chic Studio Candy Cups

My daugther and I are big on tea parties (Cameron is ready to fall in with anything that involves eating), which is why I’m always trying to learn recipes for possible tea fare. This is actually the first time I attempted cupcakes, although I’ve made lots of sheet cakes in the past. I wanted to try something simple so I chose to make chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting. Here’s the recipe (it makes a dozen):

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 C flour
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C butter
1/2 C milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix the dry mixture to the butter mixture in small portions, alternating with the milk. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop batter into muffin liners until about 3/4 full. Put in oven and bake for 15-20 mins or until the tops are golden brown. Cool before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1/4 C softened butter
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C confectioners sugar
2 T milk
3 T cocoa powder

Cream butter until fluffy. Add vanilla, and then beat in half of sugar and half of milk. Mix well. Beat in the rest of the sugar and the milk. Add cocoa powder. Feel free to add sugar, cocoa powder or milk until you’ve reached the desired taste and consistency.

Notice the really cute candy cups from Paper Chic Studio? They’re some of the prizes from the bundle I won from Martine de Luna and her DaintyMom.com’s Anniversary Contest. I’m so pleased to share that this post won, thanks to Martine’s son Vito who drew my name. Naturally, I was ecstatic when I found out, especially since I never win in raffles and this sort of things. There’s usually something about my name or my number that repels the hand of the person assigned to draw or even those random number generators. 😀 Anyway, the bundle includes more lovely loot from Paper Chic Studio, an adorable owl board from Dwell Studio, a yummy-smelling cologne from Plains and Prints, Mustela goodies (which are perfect for Cameron’s super sensitive skin), a very chic hat from Honey Baby, and a clever product called Aqueduck from Babies to Toddlers. There was also an additional gift pack from Breeze Philippines, which was really welcome.

prizes

breeze pack

Besides these, the other winner, Aimee of I am Aimee Diego, and I also got a tea date with Dainty Mom Martine. It was a real delight to meet these two ladies. Overall, it was a really great pre-Mother’s Day gift. Thanks so much, Martine!

Tea Date with Martine and Aimee

Tea Date with Martine and Aimee

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