Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sage's Birthday Gift

My two oldest kids were invited to a birthday party adventure this weekend and I needed to get creative with the gift. After some brainstorming for options, we settled on candy- lots of candy. Candy is always popular with 14 year olds, or so I have been schooled by my OWN 14 year old. So keeping that in mind, I thought I would dig out my stash of drink carriers and look for something creative to hold the candy. I just happened to have a quart canning jar that would fit the bill. One of the other crafty things I keep noticing on other blogs and in the hands of friends, are those clear eco-cups that have been decorated with die cut vinyl. Very cute!! I just recently made my own and thought that I could make one of those to put in the other side. Seemed appropriate for a drink holder, right?? Off I went, crafting the night away after a quick trip to Hobby Lobby for the cup and some ribbon and Winco for the candy. As of right now, the kids are still at the party. I can't wait to find out what she thinks of it!

Crafting the Solar System

Making the Earth pretty
Today was a busy day for us, here in the Avila house. Lots going on, for sure. One of the more fun things was special crafting time with my Sophie. She was given the option last week of doing a weeks worth of homework, or making a solar system and not having to do homework at all. Sophie chose to make a project. (That's my girl...)

The painting begins
We bought the supplies last weekend and slowly started doing prep work, such as titles and planetary research. This morning we worked together for a couple hours and she finished up rather easily. It is really lots of fun to see kids majorly enjoying the learning process. I now know that she can tell you all the planets and their orders without even looking. She may even be able to say them without the infamous joking about the "unfortunately named" planet. (Oh come on now, don't tell me you don't know what I mean...)

I was really proud of all her work. Even the work she did on her face,  "just to look like a real artist."
Sophie, the REAL artist

The final result!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We found the Leprechaun's treasure. I repeat. We found the Leprechaun's treasure! Mission successful! My youngest son is a kindergartner this year and his teacher is wonderful. She sent home a story/activity called "The Legend of the Leprechauns." 

She had them put together a box and then decorate it and set home instructions as to what to do with it. He was very excited at the prospect of being able to keep its' contents when he found it after it had been hidden the night before. Well, all he had to do was follow the trail of tiny leaves to the treasure box where he was rewarded with the goodies. 

He was most impressed with the Leprechaun sized greeting card. He figured their hands must have been really tiny if a card had to be that size. He also wondered if the coin was real gold since its' glitter was flaking off (oops, busted...) Also, he was surprised to know that even Leprechaun's steal pieces of gum from mom's purse. I think he felt sympatico or something. Like, "heck yeah, Leprechauns! Extra Strawberry Banana is my fave too!" (Too cute...) As for the emerald ring? I guess it is time to plan a wedding. He has the engagement ring already, don't you know. ;-) Overall, a very excellent experience for such a young treasure hunter. I have a feeling that he will be talking about it for some time to come. And now, we plan to enjoy the corned beef and cabbage dinner and avoid being pinched. All is right with the world. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pork Spring Rolls

I thought since I am getting into Spring mode, I would add a recipe that we enjoyed again tonight for pork spring rolls. And yes, I understand that the only thing they have to do with Spring is, well, the word SPRING. Whatever it takes for me to get inspired to make them is ok by me! I will fess up, though, and let you all know that the recipe comes from the back of the egg roll wrapper package. Not very glamorous, I know. But I'm not ashamed. ;-) I do, however, change it here and there as I make it to suit my family's taste, but overall it is the same and one of the best versions I have ever had. VERY yummy and super easy too. I always thought that spring/egg rolls were way to hard for an average home cook but am happy to report that they have turned out well every time I have made them. I hope that you get a chance to give them a shot. I can imagine that you could make them vegetarian by using tofu in place of the pork or by adding chopped up water chestnuts and extra veggies in place of the meat. Seems like it is more about the seasonings and sauce than the vegetable or protein ingredients. Happy Spring! :)

Pork Spring Rolls

1 lb ground pork, browned and drained and crumbled
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/4 lb bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 pkg egg roll wrappers
vegetable oil for frying

Stir fry meat, ginger and garlic over high heat until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Add cabbage, bean sprouts, carrot, green onions, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in oyster sauce. Let mixture cool. Use 2 tablespoons filling for each egg roll and roll up so that all ends are sealed. Wet finger and run along edge of wrapper to help adhere edges. Fry in 350 degree oil until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.

Linking up to Shanty 2 Chic Super Supper Party. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's almost Spring!

Last Fall, I bought a wreath stand at Pier One. I had many plans for what I could put on that puppy. I figured I would get sick of seeing the same thing and would be inspired to make new creations for every season. Figured it could be my crafting catalyst... Well, so far, that hadn't exactly happened. UNTIL... I got another crafty bug this week and decided to make some Spring decorations and more specifically, to do a wreath for my fancy shmancy holder. I did a little bit of internet trolling, ummmm, I mean SEARCHING for wreaths... and found a few inspiring ideas at The Casabella Project and at Blue Sky Confections. I have been seeing burlap used in all sorts of ways lately and I have also noticed a trend in alphabet letters and numbers, so I figured that would be a good starting point.

I started at Dollar tree but wasn't all that excited by what they offered at that visit (which is a rare thing,) so, I ventured over to Joann's and picked up a few things. They practically had their whole store on sale since it happens to be "National Crafting Month!" Didn't even really know there was such a thing, but figured it was serendipitous.

I started by wrapping the "A" in twine, a little tedious, but piece of cake once I figured out how to keep the hot glue off my fingers. (Ain't that the truth...)

Then I cut a piece of burlap, long enough to go around the perimeter of the wreath form and the glued it down. I kind of gathered up the edges as I went along to give it a nice, well... gathered look. I glued it down on the back as I overlapped the edges.

Here is how it looked all covered. Just in case you wanted to see the magic that is a burlap covered wreath form. ;-)

Then I started making a gazillion little fabric flowers. If you haven't made these before, there is a trick to them. I, however, don't really know that trick so I found myself winging it. A LOT. I started by cutting some strips of pretty spring colored fabric, about 25 inches long and about 1 inch wide and then cut some circles of burlap and started twisting and adhering the fabric strips (wish I had some felt handy 'cuz I probably wouldn't have burned my fingers as much as the glue exuded itself through the holes in the burlap.)

Next is to start arranging, rearranging and then arranging again, all those little flowers you made. Oh, and don't forget to embellish. You must embellish! ;-) I added some flat backed pearls, some colored rhinestone brads and some seam binding ribbon leaves. I just played around with the placement until I liked what I had. I ended up needing to make another flower or two because I had some that just didn't live up to my (relaxed) standards. Last step was adding a ribbon to the A and attaching a ribbon for hanging. Then I still questioned whether it was done or not. I had a couple of suggestions for adding another flower or something to the letter. I see what they are saying, but I am not sure if it would look too busy or not. As it is, there is a lot going on. Not sure if I want to complicate it or not. If I feel bored later, I may play around with it some more. Who knows. But the crafty bug has a short life span and there is still much to be done before he goes away. Thanks for stopping by and visiting. See you next time!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hollywood tourists

Wow, here it is March and it doesn't even really seem like February happened, it went by so fast. Let me fill you in a little on what we were up to last month.

In the Avila house, we had sickness after sickness after sickness with a nice little vacation thrown in the middle. Everyone, literally, passed around whatever virus was in our area. We all thought we were finally past the bad stuff so we decided to go to Disneyland one more time before the kids' annual passes expired and we thought we'd throw in some additional Los Angeles sight seeing as well. We only had one issue with the youngest son's asthma flaring up, but other than that, it was a great long weekend as a family!

We finally were able to see some sights in Los Angeles that we hadn't visited before. Neither myself nor the kids had ever been to the walk of fame or Grauman's Chinese Theater and I knew that they would enjoy it, so we went and took a stroll up and down Hollywood Blvd. It was definitely a tourist trap, but something I think California residents should do at least once. We also saw several film studios while we were down in that area too. The kids were very excited to see the Nickelodeon building where they film iCarly and some of their other favorite shows. If it hadn't been a Sunday, we would have looked into a tour. Maybe another time.

We got some pretty cool photos as well... The kids love their Chuck Norris "facts/jokes." Like, Chuck Norris  once killed 20 men just by shouting "bang!" You know, those sorts of things. Hahaha. So they were  really happy to see his star.

They just thought it was cool to stand in the exact spot as the celebrities had once been.

We happened to be there on the day BEFORE Alec Baldwin was scheduled to get his star. Oh well...

I did find Marilyn Monroe's foot and hand prints in the cement in front of Grauman's theater and was completely shocked at how tiny they were. You always hear that she was a bigger girl but it is hard to believe when you see such tiny prints. I was cracking up at my foot in comparison to hers. I mean, I do have bigger feet, but  mine look completely ridiculous compared to hers. Seriously funny stuff. Here is proof:

Don't say I didn't warn you. ;-)

I had also never really been able to fully see the Hollywood sign and as we were walking, I looked up and low and behold, there it was! Not too impressive, if you ask me. It was kind of like, yep, there it is. Not sure what the draw of it is. Just another LA thing, I guess. Still glad to see it better. I tried to snap a photo and couldn't get a great one, but here is something at least.

Yes, it is the tiny white words on the mountain in the middle of the photo. More interesting to me, is if you will notice on the upper walkway, at the top of the photo, there is a film crew. Still weren't able to figure out what they were filming, but we were there the day of the Grammy's so we were fantasizing that they were filming some additional footage for that and we were just "lucky" enough to see it. Made us feel better anyway.

While we were in tourist mode, we thought we would try to locate the famous Pink's Hotdog stand. Heard about it a lot and have seen in profiled in plenty of Food Network shows so we thought we would give it a shot. We found it. We did. I promise. But my camera didn't cooperate and I was trying to drive so we didn't get a great shot. What we did discover is that the line is ridiculously long ALL THE TIME and if you have 4 hungry kids, you just smile and keep on driving to the nearest Burger King. Sorry Pink's. Maybe next time.

We also thought a good and educational thing would be to take the kids to La Brea tarpits and the Natural History Museum, so we headed out in that direction. I had no idea it was located on the USC campus. Did you know that? We spent a little bit of time driving by and ooohing and ahhhhing at the coolness that is an actual well respected college (hint hint kids...) We talked about what it would take to be able to attend such an awesome establishment. The kids were not very impressed. Shoot. It was worth a shot at least. ;-)

As it turns out, there are lots of really cool things surrounding the Natural History Museum that we hadn't counted on. In fact, we never even made it to the museum we were looking for. (Typical for us Avila's.) We did, however, spend our time at a cool place called California ScienCenter. Super interesting exhibits and the kids thought it was amazing. One of the best things about it was that it was FREE. Yep. Free. We just gave a donation of $4 because that is what we had handy. They had a walk through aquarium, and exhibit with crash test dummies, all kinds of really really cool things. My favorite was probably the science of fear exhibit. Talked about why we are afraid of things and the processes our bodies go through. They allow you to proceed with facing your fears in monitored ways. Like, for instance, if one of your fears were the fear of falling, they had this one display where they could secure you to a padded table, raise you up and then drop you down onto a big pillow like cushion. I guess that was to prove to yourself that you could fall and not be injured. Fascinating to watch the people go through it. Then they took video during the experience and you were able to view their faces on a screen outside the room. Pretty interesting, if you ask me.
I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are ever in the area. We will just have to schedule another trip to see the tarpits. We had too much fun at the ScienCenter. Loved it.

One of the kids favorites was the weather exhibits. In it, they had a hurricane simulator. For $2, you could be encapsulated and subjected to hurricane force winds. They all wanted to see what it was like, since we don't get hurricanes in the central valley of California. We just had to let them try it. Pretty intense looking, but they said it was fun. Go figure. Don't think they would feel the same way in a real one. ;-)

Got a cool photo of them "enjoying" themselves. Notice the 67 MPH winds on their way up.

So along with a couple of typically beautiful days at Disneyland, we finally got to see some of the other things that are down in LA. Plenty of other things to see down there too. Can't wait to get a chance to go back. Love that city. :)
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