Friday, December 13, 2013

Sparkling Cranberry Punch

Sparkling Cranberry Punch

This is a great recipe for punch for the upcoming holidays and get togethers!

  • 1 64 oz bottle of cranberry juice
  • 1 2 liter of Cranberry Sprite
  • Powdered lemonade mix
  • Optional - 1 bottle of pink Moscatto
Dissolve 1/2 cup of the powdered lemonade with a small amount of the cranberry juice.  Combine 1/3 of the cranberry juice with 1/2 of the Cranberry Sprite and the lemonade mix.  Chill and serve!  

If you're looking to make this an adult beverage, add 1/2 bottle of pink Moscatto before serving.  

To add a little finishing touch, freeze whole fresh cranberries and use instead of ice.


Hi everyone!  I know it has been some time since I've posted.  There has been lots going on here!

Winter has of course hit in Northern Michigan and we are busy preparing for and celebrating the holidays like so many.  We're also preparing for the arrival of our newest baby boy (who we are hoping will be here before Christmas)!

In addition, and a big reason why you haven't seen new content on my blog, I've been writing original content for other bloggers who are pretty amazing!  From time to time, I'll start sharing these bloggers sites so you can all see some of the amazing things being talked about and shared in the blogging world.

I hope to get back into posting more content to my blog as time goes on, so keep an eye out!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dining Room Update & Wall Decor

A couple of months ago we bought a new home.  There wasn't anything that "had" to be done but the designer in me was going crazy with some of the out dated wall finishes. 

The dining room was the worst where the walls were sponge painted in two shades of mint green and had a lovely (not) ivy border all around the room.  I first tackled the wall paper border which came down extremely easy.  The last home we lived in was fully wall papered.  Some rooms had 2 wall papers and a border.  We went through every room and removed the wall paper and painted.  After a couple of rooms and nightmares about wall paper, we decided to invest in a wall paper steamer like this one.

Wagner Wallpaper Steamer only $47.57 with free shipping from Amazon.  

Remember, as always with Amazon, Prices and availability are subject to change without notice.

It was well worth the cost and it made the ivy border removal a piece of cake!   

Once the border was down it was time to decide on a paint color.  My first instinct was to go with a color similar to the dining room in our previous home.  It was a medium khaki that opened into our red kitchen and I loved it.  The more I considered this though, I decided that this was my opportunity to do something different and exciting.   Instead of purchasing a gallon or two of paint, I went about mixing together some mistint paints we had left from our kitchen & bath business.  The result was a really great color that actually looks green, brown, or grey depending on the time of day and lighting.   

Here is a collage of the before & after of the room.  

Now it was time to decorate the walls.  In our last house, I had a rusty iron leaf wreath and some winery inspired canvas art above the buffet but it didn't seem right in the new space.  We also had a new black & oak dining set and an open oak stairway in the dining room.  I did have a large twig wreath I wanted to use but the wall needed something more.  I decided I wanted to add something with a modern touch to offset the slight rustic look of the twigs.  

I looked through Pinterest for a number of hours (that I won't admit to) for ideas and inspiration.   This is what I came up with.  

I had a few dollar store black picture frames and a bag full of mismatched silverware I'd found at a garage sale.  I played around with some layout ideas and set to work assembling my new decor. 

First I removed the glass from the frames.  I considered covering the frame back with scrapbooking paper but I liked the brown hardboard looking back.  With my hot glue gun,  I attached the pieces to the backer and to each other.  Once they were secure I added a twine bow.  

The other piece required a bit more thought and "engineering".  Again I laid out the pieces just how I wanted them but I needed something to mount them to.  I wanted to do this as an inexpensive project and wanted to avoid having to purchase anything.  I rummaged through recycling and came up with a metal lid from a jar.  It wasn't the right color and I wanted the background for the spoon art to have some texture.  I had some cork tiles left over from a previous project and liked the color and texture it added.  I cut it into a circle slightly larger than the lid and attached it with hot glue. I attached a metal picture frame hanger to the back side and then used the hot glue to also attach the spoons to the now cork covered lid.  

And that's it!  I decided on the placement and hung the wreath and my fun new dining room wall decor!

What have you created for fun decor in your home?  Would you like suggestions or ideas for decorating or paint colors?  Send me your decorating questions & photos and I might feature it on the blog!  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kid Food

Let's talk kid food!  No, I don't mean chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and mac n cheese.  I mean the challenges, frustrations, and all the other things that come to mind when you think of meal time with your kiddos.

How many times a week do you find yourself making 2 meals?  You make one meal for your little people that is "kid friendly" and one for you and your spouse or you find yourself eating the kid approved meal and wishing for something more.  Meal time can be such a challenge with children in the house.  Time around the dinner table should be fun and enjoyable and a place your family comes together to talk about the day's events yet many parents find themselves facing a fight as a picky eater refuses what's put in front of them causing this special family time to become dramatic and frustrating.  

Trust me when I say that meal times haven't always been pleasant in our house and there are still days when the ugly picky eater monster rears it's head.  My daughter has always been a good eater and not picky at all.  However, we went through a very difficult period with our now 7 year old son when he was younger.  Looking back it seems like years of dinner time fights, food not eaten, and finally giving in to making something special just for him.  We tried what seemed like everything!  He went through a phase where the only meat he would eat was chicken.  We ate A LOT of chicken, cooked almost every way you can think of.  After a while, I decided to get clever and night we had ham and I decided to tell him it was "pink chicken".  Much to my surprise, it worked!  He ate it excitedly and told me how good it was.  Well if this trick worked, certainly there must be other things to pull the wool over his eyes too.  We had venison one night and we told him that grandma had made this special "chicken" to look like bat wings for Halloween time.  We got really creative, let me tell you!  Although things slowly improved, there were lots of bumps in the road and many tears shed.  

Though the meat eating situation had gotten better, we were still fighting the vegetable fight.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you this.  My son actually cried because we touched him with a green pepper we wanted him to try eating, REAL TEARS!  You would have thought we put dog poop on his plate for him to eat.  There's another specific meal nightmare I recall.  Trying to change things up a bit, we made meat on a stick on the grill.  He'd had the same meat cooked the same way on the grill and gobbled it up but for some reason decided he was having no part of it after it had been on a skewer stick.  This occasion turned me into "mean mom".  We fought for hours and reheated it several times.  Finally we put it away and informed him that he would not be having anything else to eat until he had eaten this food.  At breakfast the following day, we made our usual Sunday morning breakfast but our adorable little boy had his dinner warmed up from the night before.  He still would not eat it!  This child truly may be the most stubborn little thing I've ever known.  So, the food got put away and come lunch time we reheated it yet again.  At this point I figured he had to be getting hungry (and catching on that this wasn't going to go away) and would eat it without a fight but noooo, he still wouldn't eat it!  We unfortunately were not home when dinnertime rolled around so we weren't able to see how the rest would have played out.  
Okay so enough about the nightmares, let me tell you some successful things we've done to change meal time in our home.  

I LOVE to cook and try new things in the kitchen.  I rarely make a meal the same way twice and we do a lot of "creating" in the kitchen.  I decided that if I could get my children involved in the kitchen and they could see me excited about cooking, then maybe I could get them excited about cooking and eating.  When they were younger, I started out having them sit at the island where I was preparing our meals.  As I chopped fresh veggies or herbs and prepped the other ingredients, they started asking to try new things...a piece of fresh cilantro, a chunk of diced onion, a slice off of a garlic clove, and different seasonings on their fingertips.  At the other end of meal prep, I started making sure the food looked fresh, fun, and colorful on the plate when it was served.  I know when we dine out that the presentation is a big deal.  Again, this seemed to make meals more fun for them.  It didn't take long for their imaginary play to turn to being "chefs" outside and making soups and salads and such from the landscaping and yard that they would serve to us.  About this same time, we started watching Master Chef as a family and this just added to the excitement about food and new things.  They began having their own Master Chef challenges with their landscaping concoctions.  

Now that we had the kids excited about food and cooking, we began letting them help with meal ideas and new recipes to try.  I think we made more progress with meals by letting them become involved in the planning than from any other effort.  We set aside a time each week to talk about what everyone might like to have and made a grocery list.  We set fun food traditions such as Mexican food Friday and each Friday had something like tacos, fajitas, or quesadillas.  The kids became excited about helping pick out ingredients at the store (and this was a good lesson on costs, savings, and comparison shopping) and eventually began helping prepare the meals they had helped plan.  

Earlier this year my daughter came up with some fun ideas to add to our Mexican food Friday tradition.  We'd found we were getting into a bit of a rut with our meals and were preparing the same things we liked over and over.  My husband and I told the kiddos that we needed to try some new things.  My daughter excitedly proclaimed that every Tuesday should become "Try Something New Tuesday" and on that note added that we should also have "Meatless Monday".  What an awesome idea from an 8 year old!  We got out cookbooks (one's with pictures helped a lot) and started pouring through them for new ideas.  This has been a huge success! 

This is a meatloaf "cupcake" with mashed potato "frosting"

When we try a new meal (which isn't always Tuesdays) we talk about it as a family while we eat.  We decide if it's a keeper or if it goes in the "never make again" file.  We talk about what we like about it, don't like about it, and what might make it better.  I remember hearing a neat idea some time ago that goes along with this.  When the family tries a new meal or dish, they all have a "thank you" bite (basically everyone give it an honest taste test out of politeness) and as a family they decide if it is a keeper or not.  If it's a keeper, they carry on with the meal and if not, they ceremonially take the meal to the kitchen sink and literally burn it to banish it from returning to the dinner table.  Cute idea. 

With the addition of new little ones in our home, we've made it a point to expose them to lots of different foods and flavors and to feed them what we are eating as a family.  We don't prepare special meals (except in food allergy instances) for the kids and everyone is expected to eat the same things, at the dinner table together.   Our 18 month old son sits at the table for every meal and will eat everything.  He uses a fork and spoon and the chatter is filled with the cutest little "thank you's" and "your welcome's".  Food isn't thrown on the floor purposely or played with.  He loves broiled fish and roasted cauliflower and had never "dipped" something in a condiment until about a month ago.  Teaching them at a young age to enjoy a healthy variety of foods is ideal.  

A few big tips and main points
  • Eat your meals as a family, in your home, at the table whenever possible (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).  This is SO important for so many reasons.
  • Encourage your children to be involved in the meal planning, grocery shopping (this teaches good behavior in the store as well), food prep, table setting, and clean up.  
  • Your children can only eat what you stock the cabinets and refrigerator with.  Don't complain that "all I can get little Bobby to eat is mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, and ice cream if these are the things you are keeping on hand.  Unless they're going to the grocery store and doing the shopping and making the meals, then you're the one in control here.  You're responsible for providing an appropriate selection of options for them to choose from.  You wouldn't let them where a bathing suit to school in December, right?  Think of this the same way.  Bathing suits are okay for certain occasions and so are chicken nuggets.
  • Set expectations for good behavior at the dinner table at home.  These expectations should be the same behaviors you want them to demonstrate in a restaurant or a home where they are a guest.  They won't understand the need for sitting still at a nice restaurant if you allow them to run all over the house poking bites of food in their mouths as they pass by.
  • Be the best example you can be by exposing your children to a variety of fresh, healthy, flavorful foods and make it a fun experience.
In closing, I'll share that my once very picky little boy and his adventurous sister are both now quite open to trying new things.  Earlier this year they willingly and knowingly ate pickled deer heart.  Yup, you read that right!  They still have their moments and foods they do not like or will not try (guacamole and avocado for some reason) but they are so fun to cook with and share a meal with! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Family ~ Children Learn What They Live

You might expect this post to be about how my husband and I live, what we teach our children,  the examples we set, our rules and expectations,  and so on.  While I might touch a bit on these things in this post, it's really more about my life as a child and the things I learned as I lived it and how it contributed to who I am today (and what my children learn from me).

I am the youngest of five children (with a 20 year span between myself and my oldest sister).  My parents have been married more than 50 years and have lived in the same home for over 40 years.

Spending my entire childhood under the same roof and returning for a day visit with my children to that same home is one of the things I lived that has become so important to me as an adult.  My parents made that house a home.  A home filled with memories and a place we're drawn to return to to make more memories.   My husband had never lived in the same place for more than a few years until we got married.  It's not something I can comprehend.   Every holiday, birthday, first day of school, high school dance, graduation open house, every special memory from childhood was made in that home.  I long to make that same type of home for my children.   We recently moved into a new home after spending five years at our last address.  It's an odd feeling to walk through the empty rooms, to hear the echos, and see the bare walls.  This was the first home my husband and I shared.  It was where my children made some of the first memories they'll keep with them forever.   It was where we brought our babies home to from the hospital.   Don't get me wrong.  I love the new place we call home and it feels like he right place for us to be but I dream of staying here until my babies are all grown up, maybe until their babies are all grown up.

Prior to my late teens and working an almost full time job after school, I can honestly count on 2 hands the number of times we didn't sit down as a family for dinner at the dinner table in our home or occasionally at a relatives.   I remember very few occasions where we "ate out" unless we were on one of a handful of vacations or out of town visits to see family.   Dinner was a home cooked meal that rarely included any type of convenience food (dad's a meat, potato, and veggie kind of man).  Meals weren't gourmet and didn't include a lot of variety from week to week but that didn't matter to me.  What I took away from that part of life is the importance of family, of food bringing people together (often to eat way too much).  We eat our meals at home, at the table...breakfast, lunch, and dinner every chance we can.  We cook together and plan our meals together.   We eat out on occasion but it isn't even a biweekly thing.  I'll never forget my daughter sobbing one afternoon when we were running late and we made her eat "fast food" instead of being able to come home and make dinner.  Sitting at the table, enjoying a meal together is important to me and it has become so important to them.  No matter the rush in life, we try to make the time.

My mother is an extremely creative woman and to this day I do not believe she gives herself enough credit for how talented she is.  I can recall endless hours of sitting around the kitchen table doodling with her and often a sibling or two.  She taught us the basics of drawing characters, flowers, animals, faces, houses, how to draw a perspective or in 3D.  There is no doubt my drawing ability and the foundation for a career in design came from her.  Her creative side didn't stop there.   In our childhood,  Halloween meant dreaming up a unique costume and mom making it rather than going to the store and picking something from the racks.  We used things we had and had so much fun.  Each year the Halloween box grew and items from years past might be recycled or repurposed.  Holidays meant beautiful handmade dresses that we wore for school programs and family get togethers.   Birthday cakes were never store bought but were made with love and special details to reflect our personality or age.  Our prom and homecoming dresses were handmade.  We would watch the Miss America Pageant and see a gown we loved then mom would find a pattern to adapt and just the perfect fabric.  Our hair was cut or permed (It was the 80's & early 90's) by mom in the kitchen.  There are lots of days that I'll be scrolling Pinterest for ideas and come across things my mom has been doing since I was a little girl.  From covering empty boxes with fabric, paper, or wall paper to all the hair braiding techniques to making new clothes from old, and refinishing furniture.   It makes me look back and truly appreciate all she taught me by example.  All of this is probably the biggest influence on my career path,  my creative passion, the things I enjoy doing most with my children and the people I hope they'll grow up to be.

Children live what they learn.  These are only a few of the things that molded and shaped me from the child I was to the grown up I've become.  What are you teaching your children by the way you live?  Who are you molding them to become as an adult.  What are you passing on to them that they will learn to pass to their children?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The First Day of Fall 2013

Today is the first day of fall 2013 and the weather here in beautiful Northern Michigan felt quite fitting.  The sun was beautiful but the cool breeze made the 60 some degree air smell and feel like a perfect fall day.  

We started the day by celebrating with family for my great niece's first birthday.  My daughter and I had spent a good part of yesterday making a special cake for the occasion.  I don't often get to make cakes for client orders with my children so this was a fun way to spend yesterday afternoon.  Here is a picture of the finished product.  I just love the colors!

I used a homemade marshmallow fondant to cover the cake, create the flowers, leaves, name, and the number 1.  This is the method and frosting I prefer to cover most of my cakes.  More on my baking adventure & the making of marshmallow fondant later.

After the afternoon's festivities, the family and I headed home to process and preserve some of the bountiful fall harvest we've been fortunate enough to be given.  Here in Northern Michigan, the fruit trees are absolutely loaded and those with gardens have had an extremely successful year.  

We have 2 pear trees that have branches hanging to the ground with the weight of the fruit, the concord grapes are more plentiful and juicy than I've seen, and family & friends have shared large, flavorful tomatoes from their gardens.  

Tonight we made a batch of pear sauce which is simmering in the crockpot now.  The whole house smells amazing.  It was quick & easy and will provide a healthy snack for months to come.  Here's what we did!

Pear Sauce
Clean, peal, core, and dice your pears into 1/4" - 1/2" chunks.  We did a small batch, using approximately 6 cups of fruit. 

Place in crockpot and cover with 1 cup of water.  I added 2Tbs of ground cinnamon, and a couple of dashes of ground cloves.  Set the crockpot to high and cook for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Once fruit is soft, remove any access liquid and mash.  At this point you can choose to can or freeze the sauce.  

Did I mention that the whole house smells amazing?

If you're interested in the cutting board and knife I used in this project, they're both great products.  

The Kuhn Rikon paring knives are great. They're a perfect size, easy to clean, and stay sharp forever!  You can purchase a set of 3 now through Amazon for just $24 and free shipping on orders over $25!  I paid $12 per knife so this is a great deal!

The cutting board is by Epicurean and is natural wood fiber based, dishwasher safe, and maintenance free.  It is a great cut and serve piece.  You can get this through Amazon for only $24.99 and free shipping on orders over $25.  

Remember that Amazon prices are subject to change without notice.


Welcome to Creating,  Cooking, and Kiddos!

Welcome!  I'm Racquel, wife, mother, designer, and now blogger.  At Creating, Cooking, and Kiddos I'll share with you creative ideas from crafts to home decor and design ideas, my cooking and baking creations, and my perspective on parenting with helpful tips, and often my day to day life of being a stay at home mom.

After 15 years designing and working in the field of kitchen & bath and interior design, I became a full time stay at home mom.  With a background in designing and creating, a passion for cooking and baking, and the incredible opportunity to be a stay at home mom to some really fun and amazing kids I have searched for a creative outlet and a way to share my passions and experiences.  

I'll be sharing creative ideas, photos, and how to's including crafts to do alone and with your kiddos, home improvement projects and design tips, and ideas to uniquely decorate your home on a budget by giving new life to old or inexpensive items.  

Since becoming a stay at home mom, I've taken a favorite hobby of cooking and baking to a new level and a way to supplement our family's income.  I'll share meal ideas and recipes, catering ideas, and my adventures in creative baking (all of course complete with photos).  

In 2008, I remarried and my husband and I have quite the blended family.  We probably would have the Brady Bunch shaking their heads.  Between the two of us, we have 6 amazing kiddos ranging from 22 years to 8 months and are expecting another beautiful addition in January.  Neither of us ever planned, expected, or really thought about having a large family but time has given us a truly incredible life filled with these really amazing little (and not so little) people.  I'll share a lot about our day to day life, how we parent, our expectations, favorites, faults, and more.  We aren't perfect and we learn so much every day but we get a great deal of compliments on our children.  We have chosen a rather old school or traditional parenting style in these modern times and seem to have found a method to the madness of parenting a large brood and babies very close in age.  Our way of parenting and life certainly isn't for everyone but I'm excited to share it just the same.

I hope you'll check back often to see what I'm sharing and what is new in our life.  You never know when you'll find posts from guest bloggers, crafters, parents, photographers, as well as tips for saving from those who know how to do it best, and links to great buys on various products for your life.

If you have comments, questions, tips, or ideas please feel free to share!