Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Love Notes Jar - "The Many Reasons Why I Love You"

A couple (or three) years ago, I stumbled across a Valentine's Day craft by Nicole of Visual Heart for "52 Things I Love About You" made from a deck of cards. It was clever and fun and since Valentine's Day was months away, I pinned it for later and promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to the present. Mr. LH had been feeling down in the dumps. He began questioning himself at work and home and his self-confidence needed a bit of a pick-me-up. He tends to be a pretty sentimental guy and I knew the "52 Things I Love About You" craft would be something he would appreciate. Except I couldn't stop at 52. The more reasons I wrote down, the more reasons I thought of to add.

Sappy reasons.
Serious reasons.
Funny reasons.
For-His-Eyes-Only reasons.

It was too many to make into a deck (or three) of cards. I wound up with over 300 before I started actually thinking of how to incorporate all these "Love Notes" into something both attractive to look at as well as convenient and easy to read.

Someone had suggested putting their reasons into a jar on slips of folded paper. I liked that idea but instead of paper, I decided to use wooden nickels.

A couple years ago I started a "Date Reminder" project using wooden nickels (I'll get around to posting about this some time. I actually finally finished the project only a few months ago). The nickels each had a name and an important date (birthday, anniversary, etc) printed on colorful paper and decoupaged to each side. That same idea would work well here. I could write "I Love You Because..." on one side and have my reason on the other.

I had several other prompts as well:

"I Love You Because..."
"I Love..."
"You Are..."
"You Make Me Feel..."
"I Thank You For..."

Those prompts made it easier to come up with so many reasons. I also added some quotes as well as short happy memories from our past. Those just had a heart on one side with the quote or memory on the back.

I purchased Wooden Nickels on Amazon. I found bags of 200 wooden nickels and bought 2 bags of them. You can also purchase bags of 100 nickels.

I made a template on PowerPoint for 1-1/2 inch circles, the diameter of the wooden nickels, and began typing in all my prompts and reasons.

Everything was printed out onto scrapbook paper (make sure your fronts and backs match) and then cut them out. I would highly recommend you invest in a 1.5" circle punch if you do not already have one. This tool made quick work of all those circles. I can't even imagine having to cut all those out by hand!!!

The next step was to get all those wooden nickels ready. The edges were painted with white acrylic paint. Spray paint would have been much faster but I already had the acrylic paint available and I was impatient to get started (and not having to buy something else is a "win" in my book). A sponge brush worked much better that a paint brush for this.

I would paint about 50 circles at a time (over long sheets of wax paper). By the time I finished painting the batch, the first ones were dry enough to Mod Podge all those little circle cutouts to the wooden nickels.

  1. Brush a light coating of Mod Podge onto the wood surface.
  2. Place the paper circle on the wooden nickel and adjust it so it is even all the way around.
  3. Press a bit on the paper then Mod Podge over the paper being sure to cover the sides and the entire top.

I did a couple coats of Mod Podge per side. 2 or 3 light coats are better than one thick coat.

The paper circles were just a smidgen larger than the wooden circles so I trimmed them down with an exacto knife. This took a while with so many circles, but it was a nice semi-mindless activity to do while watching TV (but you are still wielding a sharp object so pay attention!).

Once trimmed, I did another coat of Mod Podge on both sides and let it sit and cure/dry for several hours. Mod Podge can tend to be a bit tacky to the touch even after drying. This causes them to stick together which can ruin your project. To prevent this, I placed all the circles in my food dehydrator for a day. They came out very dry and I have had no issues with them sticking together since then.

Colorado is a very arid region. If you live in a more humid area, or if you don't have access to a food dehydrator, you can them give your circles a top coat with clear acrylic polyurethane sealer.

Another critical part of this project was finding the right jar. It had to be big enough to hold all the wooden nickels, wide enough to easily reach into without worrying about tipping the jar and attractive enough to have out all the time. I originally thought I'd use a large half-gallon mason jar, but it seemed more rustic than what I was going for (I'm country/traditional and Mr. LH has more modern/contemporary taste) and I wasn't sure the opening would be wide enough for Mr. LH's arm.

I wound up finding a glass vase at Joann Fabric and Crafts for $19.99 (only $10 with a coupon!). It had a wide opening and thick sides. The top was also angled so it seemed to invite you to reach into it. And all 340-something wooden nickels fit into it (with a little room to spare)!

My sentimental guy loved it!

And you know what? It's not just for him. If I ever get mad at him for whatever reason, I can reach into the jar and remind myself of all those reasons I fell in love with him and why he's still the one.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Not A Native (But I Got Here As Fast As I Could)

This is the only bumper sticker I have ever wanted to purchase in the last 20 years:

I finally found one in a gift shop on our recent trip to Mt. Evans. There was no question about it...the bumper sticker was going home with me.

Want one? You can buy it from Sandy online at

Although most people I've met in Colorado come from somewhere else, we seem to agree (with just a few exceptions) that there is no other place we'd rather live.

Yes, the winters can be fierce. Yes, the summers can be devastatingly hot and dry. Yes, living anywhere near the Denver Metro area can be super expensive. But Colorado is so beautiful and so awe-inspiring and so unlike anywhere else that it makes you want to stay forever.

Of course, that is my opinion.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Pico De Gallo - Fresh From The Garden

One of my favorite things about having a garden is the ability to have fresh Pico De Gallo. Of course, I have to wait until late August for the tomatoes to fully ripen, but by the time they are ready, I'm still harvesting plenty of jalapeno peppers and the last of the cilantro.

I make Pico De Gallo at least once a week. For most of the year, I use store-bought tomatoes or even canned petite diced tomatoes, whole jalapenos I've frozen, dried cilantro and store-bought onions. It's good, but the fresh Pico de Gallo is worlds better! We could easily make a meal of it, and often have when the "Pickles" are elsewhere and it's just Mr. LH and I for the evening.

Pico De Gallo

2 cups of fresh diced tomatoes (or one can petite diced tomatoes, NOT drained)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 TBS finely chopped fresh cilantro (or 1 tsp dried cilantro)
2 tsp lime or lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
(or you could substitute 1 to 1 1/2 tsp total lemon pepper seasoning for the lemon juice AND the ground black pepper) 
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour to let the flavors meld together. Serve with tortilla chips.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Apples Chips, Apple Bits & Apple Powder - Dehydrating Apples

When I have a farm... (lots of my sentences start like that these days)

Anyway, when I have a farm I will definitely plant fruit trees on it. I will plant every type of fruit tree I can find that will grow in my altitude and hardiness zone. And I will start with apples.

Last week, Sprouts Farmers Market had a wonderful sale on Gala and Granny Smith apples and I left the store with several bags of them. (I even met a lady there that was buying loads of them for her horses)

Of course, some of those apples would find their way into lunchboxes, apple fritters, fried apples and hand pies, but the rest would be dehydrated into apple chips, apple bits and even apple powder for use later when apple harvesting season is over.

With my handy-dandy apple peeler/corer/slicer, I can quickly get apples into the dehydrator. I searched everywhere for an apple peeler at thrift stores and yard sales before I finally gave up and purchased one. Mine has a clamp to keep it firmly attached to my table top or counter edge, but you can get one with a strong suction cup instead like this one on Amazon. It's really just a matter of preference.

The apple peeler is not a necessary tool, but it makes the peeling, coring and slicing go so much faster. And it's enough of a novelty that the "Pickles" don't mind helping me with it.

Once the apples are peeled, I cut the whole apple in half making half-slices. I prefer the rings, but the half-slices take up less space. If you want to make rings, slice through only one side of the apple once it's peeled. Here's a detailed YouTube video you can watch that will show you how to make the apple rings.

The slices are dipped in lemon or pineapple juice diluted with water and then placed in a single layer on the drying tray.

Some of them are sprinkled with cinnamon before drying.

Dried apple chips make for a tasty and healthy snack and are great for trail food, too. You can also use them in baking. Just re-hydrate the apples with some water for use in a pie.

Some apple slices get chopped up into smaller pieces and are dehydrated into tiny apple bits. These bits are great on oatmeal (add them to your DIY Oatmeal Packets) or in granola. You can also top your cereal or yogurt with dried apple bits. Add them to your muffin batter, cookies and pancake batter too (you may need to add a bit more liquid to your recipes to help re-hydrate the apples a bit).

The apple skins that are removed by the peeler are also dried in the dehydrator until they are crispy.

Once they are dry and crispy, they can be ground in a food processor (or blender or coffee grinder) into a powder. This powder can be added to tea, smoothies, pancake or waffle batter, or to anything else where you want to add an extra punch of apple flavor. It won't dilute foods like cider and juice can, but you will need to use more powder to get the same "oomph" of flavor that cider will give.

I dry my apples at about 130 degrees. It takes several hours to dry them. If I fill the dehydrator in the morning, I usually don't turn it off until around dinnertime. I like my apples to have a bit of "chew" to them like raisins or mangoes you might buy in a store. The Boy likes his apple chips to be crispy like potato chips so his dry for much longer.

Once the apples have finished dehydrating to your likeness, let them cool down before storing them (they get more crisp as they cool).

Note: The dehydrator I use is a 9-tray Excalibur I received second hand from my mom. I've been using it for about 10 years and my mom had it for about as long before getting a new one and giving this one to me. It's has been wonderful and I highly recommend it!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Catching Up

Wow! September is already half over!

I've been pretty slack in tending to this blog in the last month. I'll need to devote some time in the next couple of weeks to writing in more detail about our end-of-summer activities.

Aside from a brief mention, I never wrote anything about The Boy's scout camp in late July / early August.

The scout group had to deal with miserable weather for the first half of their week (lightening, hail, downpours...) but everything turned out great in the end. When we visited the camp for "family night" , we noticed that The Boy, who is usually very shy and quiet, seemed to have really blossomed during his week at camp. He's already excited about next year!

As the end of summer break neared, we couldn't get away for several days in a row for a "proper vacation". We planned a couple of back-to-back day trips instead. On the first day, we headed into the mountains visiting places along the Lariat Loop like Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater and Buffalo Bill's Museum and Grave.

The following day, we piled into the car again. Driving just a few minutes east of town puts you right smack in the middle of nothing but prairie. That's where you'll find the Aurora Reservoir.  The Arapahoe County Fairgrounds are also nearby. We took advantage of a coupon offer - car admission, 2 hours pedal boat rental and lunch for four for $30.

Aside from the pedal boats, there were row boats, kayaks and canoes for rent, hiking trails, picnic tables, a playground and even some sand and a swim area. It was as close to the beach as we could manage on short notice but no one minded. Spending time out on the water was incredibly relaxing.

School started on August 18th. It was a little more difficult this year getting into the school routine again. The Girl started her first year in middle school and The Boy is a freshman in high school so there were a lot of big changes and adjustments for both of them.

The Girl had her 11th birthday last week. It was a small, quiet family celebration (my favorite kind) and as always, I made her birthday cake. She's is really into Pokemon now so she wanted a Pokemon cake. She also wanted it to be a Tres Leches cake. I made this recipe for Coconut Tres Leches Cake from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. It's REALLY good. Not too sweet.

To decorate, I "drew" a Pokemon ("Charmander") on her cake using an image I found on Google as a template and guide. Colored shredded coconut and a smidgen of additional icing were used to "color in" the drawing.

The "garden" looks a little shabbier than it did a month ago, but it is still producing beautiful tomatoes!

I've been using them as I need them and freezing the rest whole until I have enough to can. I've heard freezing makes the tomatoes easier to peel (just thaw and slip the skins off) so I plan to experiment with that this year. If it doesn't work, I'll just toss it all into the KitchenAid strainer attachment and let IT do the work. Side note: If you think you will ever need to grind your own meat, the KitchenAid strainer with the additional grinder attachment is worth it. The grinder works great for making my own ground pork.

The pole beans rebounded after their dismal summer. I might get enough out of these plants to actually manage a side dish before fall!

The last hail storm in August pretty much decimated the large zucchini plants. But beneath the prickly, punctured, shriveled leaves, I noticed some new growth and several tiny zucchini!

Our days start an hour earlier now (The Boy has to catch the school bus at 6:30 in the morning!) and while having that extra hour is wonderful, I feel like I haven't quite gotten my own routine worked out yet. I still feel incredibly rushed...perhaps because of my too long "to-do list".

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