Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Mardi Gras Bead Wreath and other Ideas for Mardi Gras Beads! Reuse, recycle and refurbish them!

Hello Everyone!
Well, Mardi Gras is officially here.

Am I the only one wondering where his hands are?  

That means starting tomorrow all of the parades will be done - at least until St. Patrick's day and you may have a bag load of beads that you really wanted in the excitement of a parade but now you have no idea what do with them.  Some beads are nice enough that, here in Louisiana, we save them in a box as our "good" beads.  These are the beads that we wear at balls with our formal wear. (No, I am not making that up.)  But for the other beads  almost all of us have a plastic bag full of beads that we are keeping for one reason or another--because it just seams wasteful to throw them out. -- but that we have no idea what to do with.
There are some who leave their Christmas trees up, take the ornaments off, and use their spare beads to decorate the tree and have Mardi Gras Trees.

This is not my tree and I did not take this picture, I found it on Pinterest.  Sorry to whomever I am not crediting.

I personally don't like doing trees for any other holiday but Christmas.  It just feels like I'm cheating on Christmas.  So I look for more ingenious things to do with the beads.
Below are some promising things that I found that I want to do, but have yet to try.

A Mardi Gras Bead Chandelier

This is something that I have saved for when I make my backyard oasis.  (I have such dreams for my back yard oasis.)
I want to make it in silver, turquoise or pearl and it will match my indoor/outdoor rug made out of recycled materials that I have been saving for just this project.
When I make it, and I WILL make it,  I promise I will post it again and share with you how easy or difficult it may be to create.
I think this is my favorite use of Mardi Gras beads because it is beautiful and practical.  The idea came from from one of my most favorite sites when I am wanting an inexpensive craft idea www.dollarstorecrafts.com.  The site contains crafts that you can make by upcycling items you can find at the dollor store.
Just click the link below to learn how to make the chandelier.

Melted Mardi Gras Beads

Aren't these pretty?  You would never guess they were made out of cheap beads.  And you could use them to decorate during Mardi Gras season.

Oh my goodness!  This is something that I want to try but, to be honest, scares me a little - but I do want to try it.   With melted Mardi Gras beads you can make bowls, lamp covers, wind chimes and I have even seen bracelets made out of beads that look like translucent bakelite.
I have included a link on how to do it, but for more ideas and how to's just google melted mardi gras bead crafts and a plethora of sites and ideas will pop up.


Mardi Gras Bead "Painting"

I have always wanted to try to make one of these, but I just don't think that I have the patience for it.
Here are some of my favorites that I have found.  I do think that I want to my best to imitate these.  I think I would like to make the lamp and the blue dog for my brother and his New Orleans room.

This may be my favorite Mardi Gras Bead painting ever!

We do love our fleur de lis here in Lousiana.

I think this would be adorable in a bathroom or, if you are lucky enough to have a pool house, in a pool house.  Or behind a large glass aquarium.

I tried to make this larger but then it was blurry.  Sorry.

Mardi Gras Bead Wreath

This is the wreath that I came up with. I added the red because there are red "beads" in the mask which are a little hard to see in this photo.  I also had Endymion beads that I wanted to add, but I think that it would look just as good without them.  Maybe better.  But I went with a Liassez les bon temps roulez attitude on this project.

This is a craft idea that I have actually done!  And am going to share instructions in this post.  The idea was first brought to me by a friend of mine.  I think that he got the idea off of Pinterest.  As you can see, his is more elegant than mine, and it only cost him about $12.00.  His is also larger than mine.  I was going to make this version but, I am embarrassed to admit, I am horrible at making bows.  They always fall apart. So, I will share how to make my wreath now and next year I will show you how to make his.  (After he shows me how he made it, and gives a me a lesson on how to make bows.)
Mine cost me $10 and either one of them are way cheaper and, in my opinion, far prettier than those that you can find in stores.

Lance Parker - Creator and Photographer


Sorry if this is hard to see.  It was pretty outside, so I made my wreath on our wrought iron patio table.

1 wreath form.  (I used straw because it was only $3.00.)
Mardi Gras Beads (You can buy them, but if you are from Louisiana just dig in your bead bag.)
1 box greening pins
1 Mardi Gras Mask or Mardi Gras Colored Ribbon
Ribbon (About 8 inches- this is just for hanging.  It is up to you if you would like it to be narrow like mine or wide and more seen while it hangs.

1.  Unwrap your wreath form and untangle your beads.

2.  Starting at the "top" of your wreath, pin a strand of beads to the wreath form using a greening pin. Wrap the beads around the wreath trying to space them as evenly apart as possible.
I did not measure my beads to make certain that I was wrapping them an equal distance apart, I just eyeballed them.  This wreath is not an exact craft project, so do what you like.

I did the color scheme of purple, gold and green - but you do whatever you like.  Keep wrapping until your form is covered in these "base" beads.  (For my wreath I used about about six strands of each color to cover my wreath form.  Depending on the size of the wreath you are creating, yours could take more or less.)
3.  You could actually finish with the "base" beads here if you so chose, but I decided that I wanted to play with textures a little bit by using different size and shape beads on top of my "base" beads.  I usually kept my strands in a loop and did not cut them to make one string.  Except in the instance of my "pearl" beads and my red heart beads.  You can make different designs by using double or single strands of beads this way - double you don't cut the strand of beads, single you do.
4.  Once you have put on the amount of beads that pleases you, add the mask.  I just tied it on with a ribbon and put it to the side.  But you could put yours on the bottom if you would prefer, but then you would have to hot glue it on.  I didn't have to glue it because the various textures of the beads kept the mask in place.  I liked the idea of not gluing anything because then I could more easily make changes and additions if I so chose for future Mardi Gras.  (Never know what other beads you're going to get!)

5.  You can stop it there.  But if you have some trophy beads that you would like to add to your wreath, such as my Endymion beads,  go ahead and put those on too.
6.  Tie a ribbon around the top and hang.

There you go!  A super simple wreath that you can make with beads you have now from the recent parades that you can store and use as Mardi Gras decor later for next year.

One more picture, because I couldn't resist and Easter isn't that far away.

I hope you enjoyed this post!
I'll be back soon.  Most likely with St. Patrick's day food and craft ideas.  Being Scottish and Irish, it seems that a St. Patrick's day post or two is a moral imperative.  But I should also be starting my garden soon and with that canning and soap making!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

King Cake Smoothies!!! And some other stuff I wanted to talk about.

Hello Everyone!
Oh my gosh, I haven't blogged in so long and I feel like I have so many things I want to tell you about, crafts I want to share with you and new recipe ideas to cook, that I don't know where to begin.  So, I am just going to start with some awesome things I have seen lately, and then I will move on to my recipe for a King Cake Smoothie!

First, I realize that I have been derelict in not showing pictures of my newest family member.  In December, my husband and I "rescued" a puppy.  He was a true Christmas baby and turned one year old on December 26th.  At first, he wasn't sure how to snuggle, but once he figured it out, he took to it like a pro and has now become one of my most snuggly babies. So, happy readers, please meet Morris, otherwise know as Moss or Moss the Hoss.

Part of the reason why I have not been consistently blogging in 2017 is because my husband and I were both cast in plays at Theatre Baton Rouge.  So we have almost constantly been in rehearsals most nights since December and will continue to do so until April.  At that time, we are taking a break and taking time to do the things that we enjoy that get put on the back burner when you have shows that you are doing.  And I will probably be able to get back to a more regular schedule for blog posts.
But, don't worry! It hasn't been all work and no play, my husband and I did take the time last week-end, during a four hour window  of free time that we had, to go brunch and look at a house for sale in the area. No, we are not in the market for a house, we love our house, but a friend told us about this listing and assured us that it should not be missed.
Oh my gosh!!!!  This house was amazing! It was built in the 60's and hasn't really been renovated since it was built.  The previous owners had just kept everything as pristine and true to period as possible.  Walking into this house was like stepping into a time machine and, if it would have been furnished, I would have genuinely paid to take a tour of the place.  There were several things that made me swoon, but there were three items in the house that practically had me fainting with delight.
     1.  The aqua tiles in the bathrooms.  I love these!!!  I really want to see if I can do something like this as a back splash in my kitchen.  So far I have only found glass tiles in this color, but I will not give up.

I must have something like these tiles in my life.
2.  The Murphy Kitchen!!!  I adore these but I have never actually seen one in person.  This Murphy kitchen was put in the pool house and is an idea I just may have to steal when my husband and I start creating our backyard oasis.  If you haven't ever seen Murphy kitchens they are amazing.  They have a sink, stove top, oven, cabinets and refrigerator all in one wall unit and take up the space of about one large closet.  In short, they have everything a kitchen could need if you have very limited space in your living area.  I love them and wish they would come back in style.
This one is the one in the house and it is missing a door.  I would find a replacement door and would probably save and spend the bucks to have a professional came and paint it white or aqua.  The refrigerator is under the stove top and the oven is under the sink!

3.  The drop down shower!
Everyone's heard of drop down living rooms, but I bet very few of us have heard or seen  drop down showers.  This is my husband in the shower envying the sheer amount of space you would have to get clean.  And don't you love the art deco railing?  This railing was an element found throughout the house and tied   a lot of the rooms throughout the house to one another.

I could go on and on about this house, but I have some other things to share.

In January, I sat down and did a rough outline of things that I want to blog about this year and things that I want to accomplish for the year.  I try not to make New Resolutions.  I prefer to make New Year's Goals. Last year, my goals were to start this blog, and to try to learn one new skill.  I am so happy to admit I succeeded with both of these goals.  This year, my New Year's Goals are as follows:
    1.  Make my blog easier to navigate so y'all can more easily find any recipes or craft projects that you are interested in.
    2.  Finish painting the trim and detail work in my house and finish the pub library.
    3.  Take one class to learn a new craft or skill.
    4.  Learn how to make soap and bar shampoo and other homemade skin care and cosmetics.
    5.  Find and create more delicious vegetable recipes to eat healthier throughout the year.
I have some others that I want to try to implement, such as flossing more regularly, but these are my must do five.
I am going to document what I find out and learn as I try to implement these items, so don't be surprised if I share some of my failures as well as my triumphs.

Now, on to the food!

A staple of Mardi Gras, other than beads, floats and parades, is King Cake.  In January, we actually have a king cake day.  Bakeries all over the state are kept busy making these delicious cakes, and, for the cakes that are notorious for being extra special delicious, you can wait in line and go into the bakery every day for a week and still not get the flavor of king cake that you are wanting.
I'm not going to lie, in Louisiana it is hard to get back to eating responsibly as soon as the rest of the nation. Don't believe me?  Let me break it down, we have Halloween (Candy), Thanksgiving (All of the Food Ever), Christmas (Cookies, Fruit Cake, Mulled Wine), and then Mardi Gras (King Cakes and Mardi Gras Balls).  This makes it next to impossible to be good.  So, to help myself stay on track, I have created this King Cake Smoothie Recipe!

King Cake Smoothie

I wish I could say that I came up with this delicious idea first, but the sad truth is, I did not. I saw that Smoothie King had a King Cake Smoothie and that it was good. 

I did not take this picture.  I am sorry to whomever I am not giving credit too, but I could not find any information when I found this picture about who took it,

But I thought that I could make one just as good or better at home,  After several test runs, this is the version that I decided was the best.  I have even had the cast of Theatre Baton Rouge's A Few Good Men taste test it for me and they all agreed that it was delicious and even smelled like king cake.
As always with my smoothie recipes, these ingredients are more like guidelines, if you want to change the amounts to suit your personal tastes, do it!  I find it is very hard to mess up a smoothie, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Note:  The amounts listed below are enough to make one smoothie in a small blender.  I like to use my bullet blender, as this makes the perfect amount and I don't have to pour what I make into another cup unless I want to.

I forgot to add pure maple syrup to this picture, but I do use it in my recipe.
1/2 to 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 to 3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 -1 whole frozen banana  (this depends on the size of your banana, if the bananas are small you may use two bananas, I know I have)
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. almond extract (sometimes I put more, it depends on the mood I am in)
1/2 tsp. - 1tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. pure maple syrup (or more to taste)

1.  Freeze your bananas.  I cut up my banana into to coins and put them between two layers of wax paper and put them in the freezer.  Let them freeze over night.  If you are not planning to use your bananas immediately, put them in an airtight container after they are frozen and keep them in the freezer.
2.  Put all ingredients in your blender and blend until ingredients are smooth and become the consistency of a firm milk shake.  Taste.  At this time you may want to add more milk, yogurt, almond extract, cinnamon or maple syrup to suit your taste.  DO IT!!!  The fluidity of the ingredients in smoothies is one of the things that makes them so awesome.  

This smoothie is so good, you will feel like you are being bad.  But you aren't!

That is all for this post.  Since I have the next few days off, I am going to try to get another couple of Mardi Gras posts up,  including instructions on how to make this Mardi Gras Bead wreath for under $15.00!

I may remove the Endymion beads from my wreath, I haven't decided yet.
I hope you enjoyed this post and Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Are you ready for some football?!?!?!?!? Super Bowl Party Recipes

Hello Everyone!
I have missed posting so much.  But I am back and plan on doing at least one blog a week until I have the chance to put up my next two week menu.  I'm going to make a horrible confession here...... I don't care for NFL football.  I do, however, love the Super Bowl.  Not the game so much, but I love to watch the commercials and the half time show.  As long as my husband and I have been together, and he doesn't really love football either, we have watched the Super Bowl.  Sometimes we go to other's homes and participate in their game day festivities and sometimes we decide to watch with just the two of us at home.  Whether at home or as a guest, I always make Super Bowl food and, over the years, we now have our own traditional dishes.  I would love to call it a meal but, the truth is, that none of the food is healthy enough to qualify as a meal.

Its an unfortunate truth for people in Louisiana, that the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras are almost as big a holiday on the calendar as Christmas and Thanksgiving.  Because of this, many of us don't even try to start our "New Year's" diets until after Ash Wednesday, it would just be pointless and miserable and require far too much self control.  With this in mind, I am going to give you some of my favorite Super Bowl recipes.  I apologize that I will not have any pictures to go with these recipes but, sadly, I will not be making these dishes this year because I will be at the theatre rehearsing for a show.  If I can't eat them, sharing them with you will be the next best thing.

One thing to note, these recipes, as written below, are written assuming that you are preparing for a Super Bowl party with more than two people.  If there are just two of you, these recipes are the rare exception where you can half the amount of ingredients and they come out just as delicious.

Bacon and Cheese Dip

I have had this recipe from the beginning.  I am sure that I pulled it from somewhere and doctored it to fit my own personal taste, but I couldn't tell you where I first found it.  This is one of my husband's favorite foods. It is so unhealthy and decadent that I only make it once a year. (Although I do try to use healthier alternatives in this recipe - so as not to have an immediate heart attack.)

2 packages, 8 ounces each, reduced-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded, reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded OR 4 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese  OR two cups of each
1 cup evaporated skim milk OR 1 cup half and half
2 tbsp. yellow mustard
1-2 tbsp. onion, diced
2-3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce (If you're feeling brave, do 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce)
1 pound bacon cooked and crumbled (You can use turkey bacon if you are trying to make this healthier.)

1.  Place all ingredients, excluding bacon, in a large slow cooker.
2.  Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until cheese melts.
3.  Stir in bacon and adjust seasonings as desired.

Serve with crusty bread or fruit and vegetables dippers.

NOTE:  This cheese tends to get thick very fast after it melts, even when kept on warm in the crock pot.  Depending on how long the cheese will be out, you may have to thin with a liquid.  I have done several variations of thinning the cheese and here are some of my favorites:
Stout Beer
Port Wine
2% Milk
The amount you will want to add to the cheese mixture will depend on how thick the cheese mixture has become.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I only discovered this recipe about three years ago at a friends party.  I loved his version, but it was a little spicy for me, so I made a few adjustments and came up with this recipe.  This recipe still has a kick, so you can always cut the heat by adding more Ranch and Blue Cheese dressing after the dip is done baking.

2 packages, 8 ounces each cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup buffalo wing sauce (I like Louisiana Buffalo wing sauce.)
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
2 cups cheddar cheese,  shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, Ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing and buffalo wing sauce.  Using a mixer (or a heavy duty spoon) mix until smooth and creamy, about three minutes.  (Longer if you are mixing by hand.)
3.  Fold in shredded chicken and one cup shredded cheddar cheese.
4.  Pour into a baking dish.  Top with one cup of remaining shredded cheddar cheese.
5.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until dip is warmed through.

Serve with tortilla chips, crusty bread, crackers or celery.

Corned Beef Dilly Dip

This is my FAVORITE dip.  I think I found it in a party cookbook published in the 1950's.  Everything about this recipe sounds horrible, but when you put everything together it is AMAZING.  To be fair, my husband likes it alright but thinks that it is a total waste of corned beef - he thinks that the corn beef could be better served in a hash with an egg with runny yolk served on top.  I have used leftover corned beef roast in this recipe, but it actually works better with canned corned beef.

1 can (12 ounces) corned beef
2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream - you can use low-fat sour cream
2 cups mayonnaise - you can use low fat mayo, but DO NOT use Miracle Whip
2 tbsp. onion, finely chopped (I usually mince mine)
2 tbsp. snipped fresh dill or 2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. Zatarain's Creole Seasoning (You can also use Tony's but I find that makes the dip too salty)

1.  Crumble corned beef into a large bowl.
2.  In a separate small bowl, combine the sour cream, mayo, onion, dill and Creole seasoning.  Stir until combined.
3.  Pour sour cream mixture over beef, toss to coat.

Serve with crackers or vegetables

So there you have it!  Some awesome dip recipes for Super Bowl Sunday.  I'll be back very soon to do some posts for Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day.