Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Junior Giants, Year 3

Trevor has been participating in Junior Giants for three years now. I can't say enough good things about the program. It's pretty much everything I think sports should be, but sometimes isn't. I love that it emphasizes teamwork, leadership, confidence, integrity and health. I love that it is non-competitive and that every child is encouraged to do his or her best. And speaking of his or her best, I love that it is co-ed, because Trevor's good friend Cailei was on his team this year!


We're already looking forward to Trevor's 4th year of Junior Giants!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cub Scout Twilight Camp

Another Cub Scout layout into the album! This is from Twilight Camp back in June.


As usual, I took a ton of photos, so it was a challenge to winnow them down. I tried to choose photos to represent the variety of activities Trevor and the other boys did. Choosing a color scheme was easy, as the camp theme of "Take Flight!" used patriotic colors. It's a nice change from the earth tones I often use for Cub Scout pages.

Monday, September 28, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #35 Ube Macapuno Candy

I've been browsing the Asian market again. It's a great place to find new-to-me foods, which is actually somewhat surprising to me. I grew up with Chinese and Vietnamese neighbors and close friends, our family hosted 4 Japanese exchange students when I was a kid, I had Chinese and Thai roommates and a Korean boyfriend in college, and I taught for 11 years at a school with predominantly Filipino students. All of the above shared their foods and culture with me on a daily basis. I've tried a lot of different Asian foods. Yet, at least half of the foods at the Asian market are completely unfamiliar to me. The challenge isn't finding a new-to-me food. It's deciding which seems interesting enough to purchase and try.

When I saw the Pastillas de Ube Macapuno, I was interested. The name translates to Purple Yam and Gelatinous Mutant Coconut Candy. How could I not try gelatinous mutant coconut?! I bought it. I'd assumed "gelatinous mutant coconut" was a bad translation, but no! Gelatinous mutant coconut is an actual thing. And it turns out that it is frequently paired with purple yam to make cake, ice cream, salads, drinks and more.


So how was it? Unfortunately, the candy was not as awesome as its name. Kelly described it as "not good, but not horrible" which is pretty much how I felt about it. I gave it a 4. Kelly said 5. Lisa gave it a 2. She didn't finish hers. Trevor and Steve tried some after Trevor got home from school. Neither of them finished theirs either. Trevor agreed with Aunt Lisa, rating it a 2. Steve was mentioning negative numbers, so I put him down as a O.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bunny Grapes and Olives

Happy International Rabbit Day! Technically, it's tomorrow, but it's never too early to celebrate. From the House Rabbit Society website:
On International Rabbit Day, we think about the many ways that rabbits bring joy to our lives, and also the many ways in which they are harmed, by hunting, eating, medical experimentation, product testing, fur-farming, and living isolated lives in outdoor hutches. House Rabbit Society's mission states that "ALL rabbits are valuable as individuals, regardless of breed purity, temperament, state of health, or relationship to humans. The welfare of all rabbits is our primary consideration. In line with our mission, we are against the exploitation of rabbits...Domestic rabbits are companion animals and should be afforded at least the same individual rights, level of care, and opportunity for longevity as commonly afforded to dogs and cats who live as human companions."
We absolutely adore our house rabbit, Trouble. Last year, I shared A Day in the Life of Trouble deRosier, which is a great place to start if you've ever wondered what it's like to keep an uncaged rabbit as a pet. (Spoiler alert: It's awesome.) I'd also encourage you to check out the rest of my rabbit-related posts, including rabbit-inspired crafts, foods and more.

Here's a quick and easy treat to make with the kids to celebrate International Rabbit Day. It's from Jacques Pepin, one of all-time favorite TV chefs. Be sure to watch to the end.


Happy International Rabbit Day!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #34 White Balsamic Cream

My sister-in-law, Lisa, is a travel agent who specializes in cruises. When she recently traveled to the Mediterranean, she asked if I'd like her to bring me back an interesting food. I'm not sure why she even asked. OF COURSE I want an interesting Mediterranean food!!

She attended my most recent new-to-me luncheon, where we tried Pichuberries and Green Boiled Peanuts. The third item we tried was the White Balsamic Cream she brought back from Greece. It was flavored with orange and lemon and it was spectacular. We tried it on raw veggies, crackers and fruit and it was excellent on all of them. I honestly think it might go with everything! I gave it a rare perfect 10. So did Kelly, who was very disappointed to hear that she'd need to go to Greece in order to purchase some. Lisa rated it a 9. It was really, really good.


I had some fun with the layout, making a ransom note inspired title from seven different partial sticker sheets. I don't like mixed-font titles when there are multiple colors also, but I don't mind (too much) if either the font OR the color is varied within a word.

I'll share new-to-me food #35 on Monday. Then only 8 more until I've finished the project, with almost 6 months to go. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be trying new foods beyond just 43. This has been too much fun to stop now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Great Popcorn Experiment of 2015

Jonna and I were crafting together recently, brainstorming kid-friendly projects for me to share here and on Fun Family Crafts. We tried out a few ideas, but nothing was really inspiring me. Then Jonna had an intriguing question: 
What would happen if we used food color to dye popcorn kernels? Would they pop up in a rainbow of colors? 
I was skeptical. Dyeing the exterior of the kernel probably wouldn't color the starch inside. But this wasn't the first time I doubted one of Jonna's food color suggestions; the rice-dyed eggs were totally awesome. Dyeing popcorn kernels was definitely worth a try.

I put some blue gel food color and popcorn kernels in a small lidded container. (Gerber baby food containers, to be exact. They are great for so many uses. I hound all my friends with babies to save some for me.) I shook the container until the kernels were coated.



I let the kernels dry in the container overnight, then poured them onto some parchment paper so they could dry completely, in hopes that the extra drying time would prevent my popcorn popper from being permanently dyed blue.

 
The following day, I put the blue kernels into the popcorn popper and plugged it in. Steve and Trevor gathered to watch. We waited....

... and waited.

Doesn't it seem like a watched popcorn popper never pops?

Finally, the kernels started popping....

Would they be blue????

 
Nope. If you look carefully, you can see that the inside of each popped kernel is indeed blue and one kernel has a tiny misting of blue on the exterior. I assume that's because there must have been one kernel that wasn't 100% dry.

 
Darn. I really wanted this to work!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New Responsibilities at Fun Family Crafts

It's been a year (to the day - weird!) since I last blogged about my jobs. Not much has changed with my Scrapbook.com job. I'm still writing product descriptions, both creating text for new products just entering the store and improving the copy on existing products. From item to item, it's either very easy or very difficult, depending on how familiar I am with the product and how thorough the information the manufacturer has provided.

In contrast, my job at Fun Family Crafts has continued to change and grow. When I started in December 2012, my job was essentially to find and/or write kids' craft tutorials. For a little over a year, I've been going through all the submissions we get and deciding if they are appropriate for our site. If so, then I rewrite as necessary to clean up the text, add the image, tag it with search terms, and schedule it, making sure to balance submissions to reflect seasonal interest, different ages, etc. At the beginning of the summer, my boss (the amazing Amanda Formaro) asked me to take on a few more responsibilities. In addition to what I was already doing, I am now going through all the tags on the site to clean them up, then creating round-ups of crafts by theme or material. Like any new task, it was overwhelming at first, but now it's my favorite part of my job. 

The first round-up I did was Minion Crafts. After cleaning up the tags, I chose my 10 favorite projects submitted to Fun Family Crafts, wrote about each project, linked it to appropriate site and then created a graphic. It was hard picking just ten. Minions are so cute!



Next up was Egg Carton Crafts. My goal was to show as many different uses for an egg carton as possible among the ten I highlighted. And even though there were some very cute versions among our 60+ crafts, I skipped right over the expected caterpillar crafts and chose more unique projects.

Then Back-to-School Crafts. I was really surprised to see that we have over 400 on Fun Family Crafts! 



Next, crafts made with rice or Rice Krispies. I chose five of each to highlight and it was tricky narrowing it down. There are some really cool rice crafts!

 
It took quite some time for me to separate out all the sewing (vs. no-sew) projects at Fun Family Crafts. But now the tags are all cleaned up... at least until someone submits something incorrectly again, which happens pretty often. We have more than 300 sewing projects for kids.



Making the Hat Crafts round-up was a lot of fun. I was surprised how many edible hats we had, like the baseball cap pinata cookies and the cowboy hat cupcakes below.



We also have a lot of Star Wars CraftsSigh.



Every once in a while, I choose one of my own projects as part of the top 10, like the bear pet rock in this Rock Crafts for Kids round-up.



I really enjoyed putting together this round-up of Pirate Crafts for Talk Like a Pirate Day.



I'm working on more round-ups to tie in with special days, seasons, and holidays, as well as ones based on specific materials used. You can see all of our round-ups here and our Special Days compilations here. There is something for everyone! Which reminds me... if you ever need a craft and can't find an idea here or at Fun Family Crafts, just let me know. I'm happy to see what I can design. I do love a good challenge!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Colored Rice Leaves, Take Two

Do you remember the Colored Rice Leaves craft I made a few weeks ago? I loved how they looked, but they were too fragile to use as I'd intended. An anonymous commenter made a great suggestion: Try setting the wire and rice on parchment paper, pour white glue over the rice, let it dry, then peel it off. So that's (almost) exactly what I did!

Materials: colored rice, Twisteezwire, white glue and parchment paper

Step 1: Form a leaf from the wire and glue it to a piece of parchment paper. Spread a thin coat of glue in the leaf and then pour colored rice over that. Let it dry completely.

 
Step 2: Brush off any excess rice. Then flood the top of the rice with glue, taking care to stay inside the wire.

 
Uh oh. It turns out that colored rice both swells and bleeds when it is flooded with glue. 



Not a problem. Just wipe up the excess. Or avoid the problem in the first place by adding layers of glue slowly over time.
 
Step 3: When the glue is completely dry, gently peel the leaf off the parchment.

 
Step 4: Use microtip scissors to trim the excess glue from the edges. This might not be an issue if you add the glue in layers rather than flooding it.


Now you have a durable, shiny, colorful leaf! So pretty!

Friday, September 18, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #33 Green Boiled Peanuts

I don't buy a lot of canned food, so that aisle has been a great place to look for new-to-me foods. I was curious about a can of Green Boiled Peanuts. When I saw they were labeled "The South's Favorite Snack!" ... well, I couldn't resist. Who wouldn't want to try the South's Favorite Snack?!

I was optimistic. I love peanuts. Dry-roasted, honey-roasted, made into peanut butter, and even raw (we grew them when I was a kid)- all delicious. I had no reason to believe I wouldn't like Green Boiled Peanuts. Until I opened the can. 

Let me interrupt myself by saying that I have visited the South on many occasions and have many wonderful friends with a Southern heritage. For the most part, they have impeccable taste. Or so I thought. If these Green Boiled Peanuts are indeed their favorite snack, I have seriously misjudged them. 

When I opened the can, I was overwhelmed by the smell. If you've been to a camp or institution that served overcooked, fat green beans from industrial-sized cans, you know the smell. The taste was similar. The peanuts were mushy, musty, soggy and salty. They weren't inedible, but they were a far cry from what a peanut could (and should) be. 

The three of us (my sister-in-law Lisa and friend Kelly) tried the peanuts straight from the can, then heated, following the directions on the can. Lisa had a slight preference for the heated version, while Kelly and I had a slight preference for the room-temperature peanuts. While heat seemed like it would help, it just made the overcooked green bean smell more intense. I gave them a 4, but in retrospect, I think that was too generous.

I'm smiling because I hadn't tasted one yet.

Southern friends- what do you have to say for yourselves? Are Green Boiled Peanuts indeed your favorite snack?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #32 Pichuberry

I've now made a habit of looking carefully at the produce aisle of any grocery store I visit. Every once in a while, I find an interesting new-to-me food for my project. Such was the case with Pichuberries. I'd never heard of them, so I turned to Google. Interestingly, Pichuberries have an official website. Equally fascinating, the name Pichuberry is always capitalized and is trademarked. From their site:
"The berries are small, round fruit, about the size of marbles or cherries. They have smooth, waxy skin that ripens from green to orange or yellow. Inside, the fruit is sweet and juicy, with many small yellow seeds. Pichuberries grow inside husks that assimilate small lanterns, as tomatillos do. In fact, the Pichuberry® fruit is sometimes associated with Ground Cherries and many people think they come from the same plant.
The difference is that the fruit of the Pichuberry® plant (Physalis Peruviana) has a different flavor and grows differently than the Ground Cherry."
Expect to be hearing a lot about the Pichuberry in the next year. I get the feeling that it's the next acai berry, in terms of popularity.


So how was the Pichuberry? Not what I expected! It is not a typical sweet berry. Instead, it has the texture of a cherry tomato and a very tart, yet pleasant, taste. The first was quite a surprise and I wasn't sure I liked it, but the more I ate, the more I liked it. I rated them a 7. My tasting companions Lisa and Kelly rated it 6 and 8 respectively.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

CHA Registration

Registration for the Craft and Hobby Association Mega Show opens today and I am so excited!


The show isn't until January, but I've been making plans for months already. Even though it will be my third time attending the CHA show, it's my first time registering on Day 1, which should greatly improve my chances of getting the classes and workshops I want. Last year, my CHA membership didn't go through until mid-December, so many of the classes I wanted had been full for months. 

I've been pouring over the Show Preview Guide, trying to fit in everything I want to do. As is always the case, I'm going to have to do a lot of prioritizing, as some of the most interesting and/or useful classes for me conflict with each other. Why is it always like that?! 

Here are some of the classes I'm planning to take:

SEO and Blogging...What the Heck is Google looking for?
If you are blogging, having a content calendar and posting strategy are not enough to make it onto the first couple of pages of Google. What is Google looking for anyway? In this session, Theresa Cifali and Ann Butler will share the top 7 things that Google wants to see on your blog, what that means and how it effects your rank. They will also share strategies to improve your posting, as well as tools to help you achieve your goals.
Google Marketing Boot Camp: SEO, Analytics and AdWords
In three hours, we’ll cover the basics of search engine optimization, analytics and AdWords. This intensive session will help you boost your web presence in organic search results, help you understand who is visiting your site and help you navigate paid advertising on Google. We’re going to cover each topic for about an hour with the goal of showing you what’s critically important to know and giving you the fundamentals of how to approach each area using real world examples.
Weave a Ring on a Mini Loom
Create a beaded ring using Clover’s Mini Beading Loom. Learn how to warp the loom, weave beads, remove the ring from the loom and understand finishing details. Take home the Mini Beading Loom and material needed to complete the project to make it again with customers in your store!
Attract Opportunity: Jump Start Your Brand!
In this action-packed hour, learn how to boost your brand and blog to become a go-to site for general market readership. Kathy will share her personal, successful tactics for attracting new business opportunities, time management, time boxing, brainstorming content, working with general market brands, social media reach, personal branding, media kit and more. This is a seminar for those who are serious about strategizing a creative roadmap for their business and are ready to put in the time to take action. Bring a pen and paper to take lots of notes!
Working With Bloggers
Learn about why you should work with bloggers, best practices, and how bloggers can compliment your marketing plan in this panel discussion. Panelists will be from various sectors of the industry, from experienced bloggers to manufacturer representatives who work with bloggers.

...

As you can see, most of the classes I'll be taking revolve around blogging, branding, and other business-related topics. While not as fun as hands-on crafting workshops would be, they're arguably more important to get me where I want to be and certainly areas I need to strengthen. Besides, I'll be spending 3 full days on the show floor doing make-and-takes at every booth that offers them. No shortage of crafting for me during CHA 2016!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Idaho Trivia

I had a request for the Idaho Trivia game I made for last summer's Family Olympics in Boise.  Quiz yourself and see how you would have done! (Questions were current as of July 2015.)


1) What is the capital of Idaho?

A. Albany
B. Boise
C. Concord
D. Dover


2) What food is mentioned on the Idaho license plate?

A. Peaches
B. Beef Wellington
C. Eskimo pie
D. Potatoes


3) What is the primary color of Idaho's state flag?

A. Blue
B. White
C. Pink
D. Tie-dye


4) What is Idaho's nickname?

A. The Nice State, because the people are nice
B. The Aloha State, because Hawaiian is spoken widely in Idaho
C. The Gem State, because Idaho produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones
D. The Blank State, because no one could think of a good nickname at the time


5) What is the state dance of Idaho?

A. Square dance
B. Rain dance
C. Chicken dance
D. Disco


6) What is Idaho's state fruit?

A. Bananas
B. Tomatoes
C. Feijoa
D. Wild huckleberry


7) How many cities in Idaho have over a million people?

A. Seven
B. Three
C. None
D. All


8) How does Idaho rank among the US states in size?

A. 3rd largest
B. 14th largest
C. 25th largest
D. 38th largest


9) Idaho became the 43rd state in what year?

A. 1812
B. 1850
C. 1890
D. 1930


10. What is the state bird of Idaho?

A. Desert wren
B. Mountain bluebird
C. River chickadee
D. Tundra roadrunner


11. Idaho has 3,100 miles of ____________, which is more than any other state.

A. Rivers
B. Sidewalks
C. Roller coaster tracks
D. Collapsed mines


12. Idaho is the #1 producer of potatoes in the US. For what other product does Idaho hold the title of #1 producer?

A. Corn
B. Cut flowers
C. Milk
D. Trout


13. What is the official demonym for Idaho? (name for people from Idaho)

A. Idahoan
B. Idahoite
C. Idahoer
D. Idahoensian


14. What furry mammal shares a name with the governor of Idaho?

A. Bunny
B. Squirrel
C. Otter
D. Kangaroo Rat


15. At 23%, what is the most common religion practiced in Idaho?

A. Catholic
B. Mainstream Protestant
C. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
D. Voodoo


.....................


OK, ready for the answers?


1) What is the capital of Idaho?
B. Boise


2) What food is mentioned on the Idaho license plate?
D. Potatoes


3) What is the primary color of Idaho's state flag?
A. Blue


4) What is Idaho's nickname?
C. The Gem State, because Idaho produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones


5) What is the state dance of Idaho?
A. Square dance


6) What is Idaho's state fruit?
D. Wild huckleberry


7) How many cities in Idaho have over a million people?
C. None (The entire state is 1.5 million. Boise has approximately 200,000.)


8) How does Idaho rank among the US states in size?
B. 14th largest


9) Idaho became the 43rd state in what year?
C. 1890


10. What is the state bird of Idaho?
B. Mountain bluebird


11. Idaho has 3,100 miles of ____________, which is more than any other state.
A. Rivers


12. Idaho is the #1 producer of potatoes in the US. For what other product does Idaho hold the title of #1 producer?
D. Trout


13. What is the official demonym for Idaho? (name for people from Idaho)
A. Idahoan


14. What furry mammal shares a name with the governor of Idaho?
C. Otter


15. At 23%, what is the most common religion practiced in Idaho?
C. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)


How'd you do? 

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Very Restricted Dinner Party

Imagine you're planning a dinner party. One of the guests responds yes, but offers to leave before the meal is actually served because she has just started an extremely limited diet and doesn't want to be a bother. She emphasizes that it is VERY limited and no one else would enjoy the meal if they had to eat only what she can eat. What would you say? Offer to make something different for her? Suggest she bring her own food and stay through dinner? Thank her for offering not to ruin everyone else's meal and let her leave early?

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE a cooking challenge. I insisted she tell me exactly what she could eat and told her to plan to stay through the meal.


Forbidden:

  • No fat or oil, including cooking spray or anything to grease a pan
  • No added sugar, honey, molasses or other sweetener except stevia 
  • No dairy of any kind
  • No nuts or grains of any sort
  • No potatoes, root vegetables, or broccoli
  • No alcohol, soda, coffee, or juice

Allowed:

  • 3 oz. of one lean protein (cannot combine two proteins)
  • 1 vegetable from a limited list (cannot combine vegetables or serve two in a meal)
  • 1 small piece of fruit from a limited list (cannot combine fruits or serve two in a meal)
  • salt, pepper and some seasonings 
  • vinegar
  • the juice of one lemon or lime squeezed over something
  • tea


I started brainstorming. My goal was to make something that everyone would enjoy and that would not feel like we were being deprived. Seeing as how I could (and practically do) live on bread and cheese and sugar, it wasn't easy! I should add that it was a very hot day, so my go-to of soup wouldn't have been a great choice.

Here's what I served:



  • 3 oz. of boneless, skinless chicken breast, rubbed with dijon mustard and sprinkled with lemon pepper and then baked
  • steamed green beans
  • a small dish of strawberries, heated in a little water and then mashed like applesauce
  • reduced balsamic vinegar (intended for the beans, but actually delicious with the chicken and with the strawberries
  • Wild Berry Zinger herbal ice tea (no sweetener)


It definitely felt weird not serving bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. In retrospect, I should have plated the food differently because there was a big empty space on the plate that is exactly where I would have put a starch. But other than that, the meal was very satisfying! I definitely felt like I met the challenge, which was undoubtedly one of the toughest I've ever done. I can't imagine cooking this way for more than one or two days in a row. Hats off to those who prepare very restricted meals on a regular basis. It isn't easy!

Friday, September 11, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #31 Yuzu Gummy Candy

Item #31 in my 43 new-to-me project is yuzu gummy candy. I've been wanting to try yuzu, the Asian citrus fruit, for a long time. I haven't been able to find the fresh fruit yet... but I'm not giving up. Trevor and I discovered yuzu gummy candy at the Asian market that was essentially yuzu juice, sugar and gelatin and I was happy to get that as a substitute until I find the fresh fruit.


I'm so glad I bought the candy. It is so good! I gave it a rare 10 out of 10. My friends who tried it with me rated it a 7 (Evangeline), 9 (Janelle) and 9 (Linda). I'll definitely be trying some of the yuzu juice concentrates and other yuzu products until I'm able to get my hands on the real thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

One of my Grandma's most charming quirks was that she actually preferred bread heels more than the soft interior slices. She's the only person I've ever known who would request heels for a sandwich. Everyone else I know only eats the heels if there is no other bread in the house. That's definitely the case for Steve, Trevor and me.

When we get down to just the bread heels, I toss them in a ziplock in the freezer. They're handy to have if I'm making meatballs or something else that needs bread crumbs. But I don't need bread crumbs nearly often enough to keep up with the ever-growing supply of bread heels. Usually when the ziplock fills, I pull out the heels, cube them, spritz them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle them lightly with seasonings and pop them into the toaster oven. I check them around 10 minutes, give them a good shake and pop them back in for another 5 minutes or so. We always have some of these tasty homemade croutons on hand.

That was the case the last time the ziplock bag got full. We didn't need more croutons, so I thought about what else I could make with the many bread slices. How about bread pudding? A cinnamon roll bread pudding! Yum! It was just as easy as the croutons and we all agreed it was fabulous for breakfast. 

 

Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

                          10-12 slices of bread, cubed               1/2 tsp. nutmeg
                          5 eggs                                                 2 tsp. cinnamon
                          2 1/2 c. milk                                       1 tsp. vanilla
                          1/2 c. sugar                                        1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
  

Butter a 13" x 9" baking dish. Add the cubed bread. In a bowl, beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the milk and the sugar. Add the spices and stir to combine. Pour the mixture over the bread, taking care to moisten all areas. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top. Bake at 375° F for approximately 45-50 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. It's good either way!

 
This recipe is not fussy. Increase or decrease the amount of spices, change out (or eliminate) the nuts, and don't be afraid to use different types of bread (I have a mixture of whole wheat, oat bread and sourdough in this one). This is not overly sweet. Try it with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze if you want something a little extra special. 

I have some ideas I want to try for future batches of bread pudding. Stay tuned... 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fair Wrap-Up

County fair season has come and gone, so it's time for my annual fair wrap-up! 

I'll start with Trevor. He entered 55 craft projects, 10 fine arts projects, his Pinewood Derby car, a tablesetting contest and a collection in two different fairs. Some of his entries were judged Danish, where each person is compared to a rubric and, in theory, everyone (or no one) could get 1st place. Other entries were judged American, where there is one 1st, one 2nd, and one 3rd place winner. He did very, very well.

Rather than show his many projects I've already shared here, I'll show two of the projects he made at school. Blue ribbons for both.





In all, Trevor got a Judge's Favorite for his Pinewood Derby car, 1st place in the live tablesetting contest and 1st for his collection. His remaining sixty-five items earned forty-three 1st place ribbons, seven 2nd place, and one 3rd. He earned just under $200 in premium money, in addition to the free fair tickets for entering.

Like Trevor, I entered items in two different fairs. Because I'm a fair judge, I'm very limited in what I can enter. Obviously, I can't enter categories I judge, so I usually stick with baked goods. This year, I wasn't able to enter baked goods at one fair because we were in Idaho during the delivery window. I entered a handful of craft projects that were far outside my judging areas (like the shoebox float, for example), along with the Follow That Recipe Contest, and a collection. All of my entries were judged American. 

I did OK, earning a few 1st place ribbons, a handful of 2nds and a 3rd. Here's my self-portrait. It placed 2nd in its category. I was happy with that. 



I earned significantly less money than Trevor did, but it was still a nice bit of pocket change. It probably covered all the tasty fair food we enjoyed during our multiple visits! 

As much as I love finding the items we entered at the fair, I love seeing what others have entered just as much. There is so much talent and creativity out there. As a judge, I get to see a small fraction of what is entered, so I try to take in as much of the rest as possible when I return as a fairgoer. I take a lot of photos and carry a notebook in case inspiration strikes. Often, Trevor and I see a project that we want to try together. A good example would be the Handprint Campfire that we made during Project CAT.

To wrap up the 2015 fair season, I'm going to share my favorite projects from each of the two fairs I visited. First up is this collection. Can you tell what it is?

 
It's a rock collection! I thought this was so incredibly clever. The dinner roll! The butter! The peas and carrots! The wine! It's simply adorable and so creative. Notice that it received a 2nd place and a Judge's Favorite. That baffles people sometimes. How can something be the judge's favorite if something else scored higher? Easily. The scoring is based on strict percentages and something that is more complete, made more perfectly, or (in the case of a collection) more informative will score higher, even if the judge actually prefers something else. 

These pigs were my favorite thing at the other fair. Aren't they so cute? And so clever! I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've seen a baby bathtub used as a craft item. Bravo!


The deRosiers are already looking forward to the 2016 county fair season!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #30 Banana Blossom

Number 30 of my 43 New-to-Me challenge was banana blossom. I didn't know banana blossoms were edible until I saw them at the Asian market. Each blossom was individually packaged and about the size of two mangoes end to end.


Such a pretty color!


Let's see what's inside!


You can see my iPad open on the table in front of me. I'd looked up "how to eat banana blossom" and was reading the preparation instructions as I cut. As predicted, when I peeled the first outer leaf off, a bunch of little bananas-to-be fell out. Cute! I'll try one! 


HUGE mistake. That was one of the worst things I've ever eaten. So, of course, I made my friends try one too.


The article I was reading said that banana blossoms are somewhat like artichokes. Peel off the outer, tough leaves to get to the tasty parts, which you can eat raw or cook. 


We tasted the inner part. Just as hideous as the first taste had been. I can't even describe it, other than to say it was bitter, sticky, astringent, and mucousy. Totally gross. My friend Evangeline, who grew up in the Philippines, kept saying that we needed to cook the banana blossom, that she'd never heard of it eaten raw. I did some more Googling, put on a pot of water, and got out the steamer. 


I cut the banana blossom in half to speed the cooking time. I put half into boiling water with a bunch of vinegar (which would allegedly remove the bitter taste) and put the other half into the steamer. 


After 20 minutes, I retrieved the blossoms, which were now soft. But the mucus was still there. Check it out: 


We cautiously tasted both the steamed and the boiled banana blossom. Both were just as terrible as the raw version. I don't spit out food, but I spit this out. All four of us agreed that the banana blossom should be rated 0... or lower, if such a thing were possible. 

Further research indicates that I should have soaked the cut blossoms in acidic water for a long time to remove the bitterness and the goo. I wish the first two seemingly-trustworthy sites had mentioned that! I'm not willing to buy another banana blossom and try again any time soon, but maybe someday. In the meantime, I can say with confidence that banana blossom is now officially the worst new-to-me food I have tasted, dethroning galangal (shudder). To add insult to injury, my cutting board is now stained black. Curse you, Banana Blossom! 


As disgusting as the banana blossom was, I do like the layout I made.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Twisteezwire Owl

After using the Twisteezwire for the colored rice projects last week, I made this little guy. I'm quite fond of him.

 
Materials: Twisteezwire (brown, cream, orange); buttons (large brown, small yellow, oblong brown), wire cutters

I used one 30" Twisteezwire to make the body and two wings (about 14" for the body and around 6" for each wing). After forming the wings, I twisted them securely onto the body. 

Next, I cut 2 pieces of cream wire, approximately 3" each. I threaded each wire through a small and large button, then through the button that makes the beak and twisted the two ends together. I attached each outside end to the junction where the wings and body meet.

Finally, I cut two 2" pieces of orange wire and attached them to the body with a cow hitch knot (aka lark's head knot - thanks, Google!). I snipped them off to a length I liked. 

I think I might hang him up with fishing line so that it looks like he's swooping.

Friday, September 4, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #29 Sunflower Seed Butter

The 29th food in my 43 New-to-Me challenge was Sunflower Seed Butter. I've had a lot of different nut butters over the years, but I'd never even known that sunflower seed butter was a thing until they tasted it on Spilled Milk. So I went looking for it and found it without too much effort. 

My friends (Janelle, Linda and Evangeline) and I tried it on plain crackers and were a bit underwhelmed. It tasted exactly like sunflower seeds, but desperately needed a bit of sugar and/or salt. We tried it with a tiny bit of grape jelly spread over the sunflower seed butter and that made all the difference. Yum! I rated the sunflower seed butter on its own as a 7. Janelle, Linda and Evangeline all gave it a 5. We all agreed that it was greatly improved with a little bit of jam. I tried it later on an English muffin and a sprinkle of salt and it was excellent. I'm not going to have any problem finishing the jar (unlike some other new-to-me foods that are lingering in the fridge...)

When I went to make the layout, I remembered that I had a piece of photo-realistic sunflower paper from eons ago. I glued my photo, title and journaling to a dark brown mat. I placed the mat on the sunflower paper and snapped a quick picture. I repeated this three more times, rotating the background paper 90 degrees each time. Here are the four different versions. Which would you have chosen?


I eliminated Option A first. I don't like the way there is a blank space in the bottom right corner. It looks off-balance. Option B was out next. It seems a bit top-heavy, plus the sunflower to the left of the number is competing with it. I debated between Option C and Option D. Ultimately, I thought one of the two did a better job of drawing the eye where I wanted it.

That choice was Option C. I like the sunflower center that sits directly above the title, drawing the eye in and forming a visual triangle with #29 and the large sunflower center on the bottom right. 


I should mention that Janelle took that photo of me a good 5 minutes after I started stirring the sunflower seed butter, trying to work the oil that had separated back in. It was hard work! I'm storing the jar upside down in the fridge now so I don't have to spend that kind of time stirring in the future!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

43 New-to-Me ... #28 Aloe Vera Drink

Growing up, aloe vera was something I put on my skin to soothe sunburns. I got burned a lot, despite my best efforts not to. Anyway, in my mind, aloe vera is a lotion, not a beverage. So I had to buy some and try it as part of my 43 New-to-Me project.

I think this was the hardest to rate of all the new-to-me foods so far. The taste was actually pretty good, but the gelatinous texture was so off-putting that I had great difficulty finishing my small sample. Like kombucha, the aloe vera drink is something I'd drink again... but only if I filtered it first. I gave the aloe vera a 4. My friends didn't mind the gross texture, rating it 6, 8, and 10. Trevor agreed with me. ("It tastes good, but why is it so gloppy?"). Steve declined a taste.


I had some fun scrapping this page. I'd served the samples to my friends in tiny little teacups, so I decided to cut one out to hold my title. It's completely out of proportion with the bottle of aloe vera drink, but I like it. I've never tried to cut a teacup free-hand before. The handle is a little lopsided, but I was happy enough with my first attempt that I stuck it to the page. In retrospect, I should have followed the Rule of Thirds and used a smaller strip of woodgrain to balance the layout better. Oh well. It's been enjoyable trying new things for this album and not really caring how each page turns out.