9.30.2013

Funny Car Ride



On the way home from Grandma and Grandpa’s tonight, I laughed pretty hard.  It started out with Miss E asking to play "The Guessing Game," which is her name for out simplified version of 20 questions. The rules are basically Miss E and me (or the Mr.) go back and forth: one thinks of an item (that isn't too hard to guess) and the other asks (mostly) yes or no questions until it is guessed.
The Mr. tells Miss E, "No, not tonight, Miss E."
"Why?"
"Because we're tired."
"But I'm bored.  I have to play a game to not be bored."
I say, "How about we play, 'Let's see who can be quiet and not talk for the longest?'"
"That's not fun!"
"Are you sure? I think it sounds fun."
"No! It's not even a game.  It's just a thing.  A boring thing.  It's a rule.  You can't take a rule and make it a game.  That's not fun."
"She's got you there," The Mr. says.
Miss E continues in the back without us listening too closely, but it goes something like this:
"Rules are not fun games. I need to play a game, or it won't be fun.  So you need to play with me. Play a game. Like the guessing game, because that's fun. You or Daddy can think of something, and I'll guess it.  I don't even have to think of something.  I'll just guess. Then will it be fun?"
"Maybe you can play by yourself."
Miss E is annoyed. "I can't think of something and then guess it.  That won't work."
Miss M pipes up then. "I guess! Is it a car?"
"Mom, that won't work."
"Is it a car?"
"But not me and Miss M, me and you mom.  It's not a game if it's just me and Miss M."
"Is it a car?"
"You guys play hide and seek all the time without me," I say. "And that's fun."
"But that's not the same."
"IS IT A CAR?"
"No, Miss M!  I haven't thought of anything."
"Well, think of something," I tell her.
"Okay, I thought of something.  Guess, Miss M."
"Is it a car?"
"No."
"Is it a guessing game?" Miss M giggles.
"No!"
"Is it a driver?"
"No." Then, excitedly, "It's an electricity line!"
Miss M joins in the excitement.  "I guess!"
"Yea, Miss M!" I say.
"Mom," Miss E says, "Now you have to play.  You have to play or I can cancel guessing.  We can play or we can cancel guessing.  Those are your choices.  Play or cancel guessing."
"I choose to cancel guessing."
"You can't choose that."
"You gave me the choices, Miss E.  I can pick 'cancel guessing.'"
"But I don't want to cancel guessing.  I don't want you to pick that one.  Oh all right.  I'll play with Miss M again."
"I guess!" Says Miss M.
"No you didn't."
"I guess!"
"Nah-ah."
"I guess!"
"I didn't even think of anything yet."
"Oh."
"Okay, I thought of something."
"Is it a car?"
"Augh! Miss M! Don't guess a car."
"Is it..."
"Nevermind.  It's too late.  There's our house."

9.18.2013

Top 5 (Life Changing--No Really!) Kitchen Tips, Tricks, and Tools

Scribbles & Dabbles: Top 5 (Life Changing) Kitchen Tips, Tricks, & Tools

There are a few things that I tell all my friends about when it comes to cooking. Some are small, some are big, some are tricks I use and some are just really cool gadgets that don't take up too much kitchen real estate.  I decided it was time to tell all my online friends, too.

I'm not making any money off this post.  I just get really excited about this stuff.  I'm kind of a nerd that way.

1. Pastry Cutter, Zester, Mandolin, Garlic Press
They say it's the little things that make the most difference, right? Well these little things make cooking anything from Mexican to Thai to meat and potatoes a breeze.  And for $20 or less (the pastry cutter is only $6), they are definitely worth the investment!
Pastry Cutter
Any time a recipe calls for cutting the fat into the flour (like pies and biscuits), this little number will make a quick job of it. Make sure you get the kind with the flat metal blades like this one.
You don't want this kind; they don't work nearly as well.
Zester
I find recipes all the time that call for citrus zest: orange zest (like wassail) or lemon zest (like lemon ricotta pancakes) or lime zest (like carne asada marinade). I used to use the small side of a cheese grater or a plane grater like this one.

But then you destroy your fingers trying to get all the peel off the grater.  When I discovered this kind of zester, my life was instantly better!
It's so easy to use and is incredibly effective and efficient.  Never. Going. Back.
Mandolin Slicer
I mostly use this baby for slicing potatoes and carrots for grilling or a quick sausage-and-potato skillet meal. You can use it for grating, making fries, or slicing anything from limes to potatoes.  There are definitely some more expensive versions of these out there ($50-$100), but this one (the picture will take you to the item on Amazon) will do any of the things I said above and it's less than $20.


Garlic Press
I use so much garlic! It seems like every other recipe I make calls for it.  Diced garlic.  If you've ever tried dicing garlic, you know as well as I do what a pain in the rear it is.  You have to cut the ends off, peel the dry outer layers off, then use a knife to cut it into the tiniest pieces possible.  Which would be slightly time-consuming, but not all that bad, except garlic is sticky!  Standing over the garbage waving my hand up and down trying to get a flake of garlic skin off my sticky fingers was one of my least favorite kitchen pastimes.

With a garlic press, you can avoid the stickiness altogether! You just take a clove, shove it in there and press.  It even comes with a little gadget to push the leftover peel out of the holes!
2. Pastry Mat
If you have ever tried to make pie or pasta from scratch and have gotten fed up with the dough sticking to the counter, this simple addition to your kitchen will blow your mind.
 The mat is made from a canvas material that has a wooden "dowel" through the top and bottom.  Two metal pieces loop around the dowels and hold the mat flat. It even has little hooks on the bottom that keep it from sliding when you roll over it with your rolling pin.  There is also a tube of fabric that fits over your rolling pin so it doesn't stick to the pastry either. You just sprinkle a little flour on and roll out your dough.  Simply amazing.

I've used this for pies, pasta, sugar cookies, and biscuits, and it's worked great every time.  When your done, you can just shake it out, or throw it in the washing machine.
3. Avocado Pits
This is a tip that made my jaw drop the first time I heard it.  Are you ready?

Avocado pits keep guacamole from turning brown.
image via pureblissnutrition.files.wordpress.com

No really.  If you make some  guacamole, just keep the pits from the avocados and throw them into the airtight container and it will keep for days.  That's right, days.

I don't know about you, but I could live on guacamole.  Love it.  But it's so nasty after it turns brown, I just can't eat it.  I rarely made it because I couldn't eat a whole batch in one sitting (nor would that be very healthy).  But if I can keep it in the fridge for a couple days, I can have it on sandwiches, nachos, or just pretzels for lunch for half the week.  Wahoo!
You can check out my favorite guacamole recipe here.
4. Pomegranate Seeds
If you like pomegranates, just watch this video.  It's not the pull-the-seeds-out-in-cold-water method. That method isn't any better than pulling them over the table.  It may be worse, actually, because my hands get cold.  The method in this video takes about 30 seconds.  Total.  Prepare to be blown away.


5. Gallon Bag
Sometimes you just have to fill a gallon bag with awkward-sized things.  Like when you're freezing strawberries--or asparagus.  The other day, I was snapping asparagus to freeze and putting them in gallon bags to freeze and I was getting annoyed with having to re-open the bag every time.

Then the lightbulb came on and I did this:

Just roll the top of the gallon bag and then it stays open. Amazing, right?
I'm probably not the first person to think of this, but I've never have anyone tell me about it, so I thought I would share.

That's it.  My Top 5 kitchen tips, tricks, and tools.  I hope they help you like they've helped me!

9.17.2013

DIY Color Wonder Coloring Pages

Crayola's Color Wonder products are a great idea. Your kid gets to use markers and you get the peace of mind of knowing that they won't destroy your table, your walls, your furniture, your books, the dog, their hair or anything else they lay eyes on with a magic color-maker in their hands.


But in practice they weren't as cool.  My big beefs with them were these:
  1. The color didn't show up immediately on the paper. My kids would get frustrated saying the markers "don't work" before the color started showing up.
  2. The color wasn't bright or bold.  It kind of got muted in translation.
  3. The color ran after a while.  If my girls drew something and we put it on the fridge to admire for a few days, it would end up looking like a watered-down version of itself.
  4. The regular paper got boring really fast, and the "coloring books" were expensive. $4.99 for 18 pages? My kids could go through that in two days!
Thus, we stopped using Color Wonders for a long time.

Enter Miss E's last birthday.  She received a small Color Wonder pack from her teacher at church, which she colored through in--you guessed it--two days.  Since the markers were still good, she wanted to keep using them, so we dug out our old pad of Color Wonder paper and she had some fun with it.

During this process, though, I was struck with an idea.  One of those "why didn't I think of that before?" kind of ideas.

We frequently print out coloring pages on the computer.  I can't afford to buy new coloring books every time Miss E sees a new movie.  So we print coloring pages off the internet.  "Why not do that on the Color Wonder paper?" I thought.

When I went to try it, though, it just so happened that they had used up the last of the Color Wonder paper we had bought 3 years ago. And the next time I went to Walmart they were out of plain Color Wonder paper--just the $5 coloring books in stock.  Finally a few weeks later, we found a pad on another shopping trip and I was able to try out my idea.

Here are the uncolored pages after printing:

Scribbles & Dabbles: Print your own Color Wonder Coloring Pages

I tried printing one with our inkjet printer and one with our laser printer.  They look exactly the same after printing, but the ink on the inkjet one ran when I colored through the lines too much.  It would have bugged me, but my 2 year old didn't care one bit.

Here's her finished Wonder Woman:


I noticed after they finished coloring that the colors seemed brighter.  The picture above was taken three days after coloring and the colors haven't run either, so I'm guessing Crayola has improved their technology since our first go with Color Wonders. I colored the Monsters U picture (below) today and was impressed with the vibrance of the colors again.

Scribbles & Dabbles: DIY Color Wonder Coloring Pages

If you would like to print your own Color Wonder coloring pages, follow the steps below.
1.  Find the picture you want to color online.  One of my favorite sites is www.coloring-book.info.

2.  Tear a page out of the Color Wonder pad. This is what mine looked like. The pages from it were 8x10 instead of 8.5x11.


3. Put the page into your printer's tray (take out any other paper) and slide the paper guide until it meets the paper.


4. Print the page using your browser's print function (not the website's or the pdf reader's).  This way you can specify the size of the paper you want to print on.

In Internet Explorer, you get to the print function by clicking on the cog symbol in the upper right hand corner.  In Firefox, you click on the Firefox button in the upper left.  In Chrome, you click on the three-line symbol in the upper right (then choose "print" and "print using system dialog at the bottom of the print options). If you use safari, I apologize.  My husband is anti-Apple computers.  He won't let one near our house.  Hopefully it's not much different than the other browsers.

Now I use Firefox as my browser, so this screenprint is from Firefox, but Chrome and Internet Explorer are similar. In those browsers look for "Preferences" instead of "Properties."


 Then click on the "Layout" tab at the top and change the selections to look like this:


Click OK at the bottom and then OK again. Voila! You have Color Wonder coloring pages with your child's favorite characters at a fraction of the cost of buying them pre-printed!

9.10.2013

Rules for Kenner's 1977 "Escape from the Death Star Game"

I know this is a rather random post, but for all the other nerd garage-salers like me out there, I decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

A few years ago, I bought this game at a garage sale for a couple dollars.


It had most of the pieces.  And it was STAR WARS.  Anything Star Wars is worth a coupe bucks, right? However, it's not really the type of game you sit down to play with your husband or a group of friends, so it really just sat on my game shelf for a lo-o-o-ng time.

Enter Miss E.  She is now old enough to love playing games.  And she is old enough to know that her daddy loves Star Wars (for some reason she doesn't believe I love Star Wars), so when she saw this game on the shelf we just had to play it.

It was then that I realized we don't have the instructions.  I'm pretty sure we had them when I bought it, but since the box is mangled, they must have gone the way of all the earth in one of our 6 moves during our 7 years of marriage.  Bring on the ever-popular Google search (by my husband), during which we found a lot of instructions for other "escape the Death Star" games, but not this one.  So we winged it.  But it bugged me.  So after the kids were in bed, I did my own search.  I didn't find any websites that had the instructions, but I found people selling it on Ebay who did a wonderful job of photographing all the parts -- including the instructions.

Since I had to type them up to print them out anyway, I thought I would put them out there on the world wide web for others to find.

There's my story.

And here are the instructions for Kenner's 1977 "Escape from the Death Star Game."  I copied these exactly from the rules booklet as pictured in the listings, including the bold, all caps and punctuation/numbering. (After typing these up, I'm thinking whoever wrote these rules back in 1977 thought the people playing this game were going to be idiots. Either that or he was going to take it personally if someone didn't win by EXACT COUNT. Haha)

Object
Be the first player to reach the Rebel Base after escaping from the Trash Compactor of the Death Star.


Equipment
Gameboard, 8 playing tokens, 4 Death Star Blueprint Cards, 4 Tractor Beam Cards, Spinner, and a deck of 52 FORCE CARDS.


Game Play -- 2, 3, or 4 Players
  1. Each player selects a color and places his two Tokens (Leia/Luke and Han/Chewbacca) on the matching colored area in the Trash Compactor.
  2. Each player spins.  Highest number goes first.
  3. Each player spins in turn and moves one of his two Tokens the number of spaces shown on the Spinner.  A MOVE MAY NOT BE SPLIT UP BETWEEN TWO TOKENS. Moves must always be made in the same direction and must follow the lines connecting the spots.
  4. If a player lands on a Blue Force Spot, he must draw a FORCE CARD and carry out the instructions.
  5. If a player draws a FORCE CARD that tells him to go to the Detention Block, he can get out by presenting a FORCE CARD that allows him to leave or by spinning a "3". If, after three turns, the player does not spin a "3", he may leave the Detention Block on his next turn.
  6. More than one Token can occupy a space on the board as long as they are not "like" Tokens.
    EXAMPLE: If your Han/Chewbacca Token lands on a space on which there is already a Han/Chewbacca, send the Token occupying the space back to the Trash Compactor.
  7. Before moving to the Millenium Falcon, all players must accomplish two missions.
    ONE -- Either Token must enter the Control Room by EXACT COUNT and acquire a Death Star Blueprint.
    TWO -- Either Token must enter the Tractor Beam Room by EXACT COUNT and take the card indicating the Tractor Beam has been turned off.
AFTER COMPLETING THESE TWO MISSIONS, TOKENS MOVE ON TO THE MILLENIUM FALCON IN THE FOLLOWING TURNS. Players must reach the Millenium Falcon by EXACT COUNT.
  1. When BOTH of the players Tokens reach the Millenium Falcon, he is ready to travel through Hyperspace to the Rebel Base MOVING THE TWO TOKENS AS ONE.
  2. The Millenium Falcon space is the only safe space on the board. However, if a players Tokens get sent back from Hyperspace, they only move back to the Millenium Falcon.
  3. The first move into Hyperspace is determined by the number spun  and Tokens may only move in a straight line from one of the 3 entry points.
    If you land on a Tie Fighter, you must engage in a Dogfight.
DOGFIGHTS
Spin to see if you win or lose {inside band of spinner}.
WIN and move one space in any direction.
{a} you may move to a Tie Fighter and continue to engage in Dogfights until you reach the Rebel Base
OR
{b} you may move to an empty space and wait for your next turn.
LOSE and you are sent back to the Millenium Falcon.

  1. First player to arrive at the Rebel Base by EXACT COUNT or by winning the final fight with a Tie Fighter, wins the game.

We will be glad to answer any questions concerning these rules.
Write to: The Product Manager, Star Wars Game, Kenner Products, 1014 Vine Street, CINCINNATI, Ohio 45202

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU