Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Advent Paper Chain

This is what I've been up to today: an advent calendar paper chain. On the back of each paper chain link there is a Christmas activity for us to do like baking sugar cookies, watching a Christmas movie, or making homemade ornaments. I got the printable sign from The Tom Kat Studio and the printable paper chain links from The Paper Mama. Both printables are free!

  1. Go buy our annual "special ornament" from Hobby Lobby.
  2. Decorate the Christmas tree.
  3.  Make paper snowflakes.
  4. Make homemade Christmas ornaments.
  5. Build a (paper) snowman.
  6. Have a Christmas music dance party!
  7. Make a nativity.
  8. Eat a candy cane
  9. Write a letter to Santa Claus.
  10. Check out some Christmas books from the library.
  11. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  12. Christmas coloring pages.
  13. (My sister-in-law's birthday) Make a birthday card for her.
  14. (My birthday) Make a birthday cake.
  15. (A cousin's wedding) Drive out of town.
  16. Make Christmas cards for friends.
  17. Play some board games as a family.
  18. Read the Christmas story in the Bible.
  19. Sing Christmas carols.
  20. Make homemade hot cocoa with marshmallows and whipped cream.
  21. Pop popcorn and watch Christmas movies.
  22. Bake Christmas cookies and other treats.
  23. Decorate cookies and gingerbread houses.
  24. Read "It was the Night Before Christmas."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Save Money with Homemade Laundry Soap

A lot of people I know might balk at the idea of making your own laundry detergent, but if you hang out on Pinterest as much as I do, you'll have noticed that there are a lot of people who do this. But it is surprisingly easy and will save you money.

Here is my recipe for laundry soap:

Dry Laundry Soap Recipe
2 cups Arm and Hammer washing soda
2 cups 2 Mule Team Borax
1 cup baking soda
1 bar of Fels-Naptha, Zote, or Ivory soap, finely grated with a cheese grater
Mix together and store in a Ziploc bag or sealed container of your choice.  Keep in a cool, dry place. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.  Use an additional tablespoon for larger loads or heavily soiled clothing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Slow Cooker Country Style BBQ Beef Ribs

This is a super simple recipe that will feed about 4-6 people.

Slow Cooker Country Style BBQ Beef Ribs

What You Will Need:
  • about 3 pounds country style beef ribs
  • 1 (17.5 ounce) bottle your choice barbeque sauce
    (I used Kraft Honey Hickory Smoke flavor barbeque sauce.)
  • 1 medium or large onion, thinly sliced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika
  • onion powder
  • vegetable, canola, or olive oil
Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel, liberally sprinkle the seasonings on, and rub in on all sides. Brown for about 1-2 minutes on all sides on the stove top in a large skillet in the oil. At this point we are not cooking all the way through, just browning ONLY. This is to lock in the juices and flavor of the meat. (You can skip this step, but you will notice a difference in the flavor and texture of the ribs.) Arrange the ribs in the bottom of the slow cooker and dump in the sauce and onions. Lightly turn the ribs to coat in the barbeque sauce. Cover and cook on low for about 6-8 hours.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yesterday for Halloween we carved a Jack-o-Lantern. He was fantastic and quite dapper. In all honesty, it was the first time in my entire life that I've ever carved one. Yes. I know. Sad. But my children will know the joy of carving a pumpkin for Halloween! When you carve the pumpkin, don't throw away those seeds. I found a bunch of recipes online for roasting and toasting those seeds, also called pepitas.

Pumpkin seeds are also very healthy for you, containing many vitamins and minerals and are high in protein. Check out this link for all the ways pumpkin seeds are beneficial to your health. If you have never eaten them before, the best way I can describe them is that they taste like a cross between popcorn and sunflower seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

What You Will Need:
  • the seeds from a pumpkin or two
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt or garlic salt (or your choice of spices)
As you can see, I don't have specific measurements for the ingredients because different pumpkins net different amounts of seeds. After you've removed the stringy pulp and rinsed the seeds in a colander, coat the seeds in the oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread the seeds in a cookie sheet and roast at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Turn and flip the seeds with a spatula and roast for another 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Removed from the oven and let cool. Enjoy this super healthy snack!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Strawberry Lemon Breakfast Cake with Lemony Glaze

This is a modification of a Glazed Lemon Berry Poundcake recipe that I found online here. Instead of plain all purpose flour, it has a combination of all purpose, whole wheat, and ground flax seed for added texture and nutrition. If you don't have these, you can just as easily use all purpose flour.

Strawberry Lemon Breakfast Cake with Lemony Glaze

I used a Bundt pan, and I forgot to flour it, so when I flipped it over half of it stuck! That's why the photo doesn't look quite as good as it should, but I assure you that it tastes fantastic!

What You Will Need:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan or a Bundt pan. First, cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, just until incorporated, then stir in the sour cream. Fold in the strawberries. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. For the lemony glaze, whisk together the 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Drizzle over your cake and serve warm!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

I discovered this recipe by accident, thumbing through one of my aunt's random cookbooks. I am really adventurous with food and cooking, so I decided to try it. I absolutely loved it, and I now make it at least once a week. I made a few modifications based on what I had on hand, and this is what I came up with. It is super healthy, and only takes about 20 minutes to make.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

What You Will Need:
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley, OR 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup quick cooking couscous
First, saute the onion, carrots, green pepper, and zucchini in about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter for about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the cabbage, tomato, spices, and stock. Stir, lower heat, and cover. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the couscous. Cover and let it sit for about five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Homemade Robot Halloween Costume

If you are on the search for a last minute Halloween costume for the kids this is the way to go. It takes about 2-3 hours to make including paint and glue dry time. There really is something special about a homemade costume that a store bought costume doesn't quite have.

What You Will Need:
  • cardboard box, large enough to fit over your child's shoulders and cover his/her torso
  • scissors and/or X-acto knife
  • silver spray paint
  • large round flat metallic sequins will small hole
  • small square metallic sequins
  • plastic juice or milk bottle caps
  • Spare Parts brand vintage gears scrapbooking embellishments (optional)
  • white paper or cardstock
  • black permanent marker
  • red marker
  • clear glue (I used Elmer's gel glue.)
  • silver metallic pipe cleaners
  • small plastic headband

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012
 This project is entirely customizable. If you have a little girl that wants to be a pink and purple robot... by all means, get that color spray paint.

  1. Cut a large circle in the top of the box using your X-acto knife. I used a bowl to trace a circle on the middle of the top of the box.
  2. Cut arm holes on the sides using your X-acto knife.
  3. Bring your box outside and place on top of some scrap newspaper, so you wont get paint everywhere. Remember to follow the instructions on the spray paint can, and paint the box. The paint we used had a dry time of about 10-15 minutes, but said not to handle it for 2 hours.
  4. After the box is dry and ready to work with, you've come to the fun part! Decoration time. Glue the small square sequins along the sides to look like bolts or screws. Glue the large round sequins down where ever you like to look like lights or buttons.
  5. For the meters, trace circles on white paper and cut out. Decorate with black and red marker. Use your car speedometer for inspiration.
  6. For power buttons, decorate juice or milk jug caps with permanent marker and glue on. Make sure you have plenty of glue and it is all the way dry before putting it on the kids! Our button fell off because he kept grabbing it. You may have to hot glue this piece.
  7. I also used Spare Parts brand vintage gears scrapbooking embellishments to decorate one of the robot costumes. Use what you can find around the house, or check out your local craft store. Maybe you'll find some neat stickers that look like electronics or buttons. It doesn't hurt to look.
  8. If you want, you can write on (or even print off with a futuristic font) a "name" for your robot. I wrote on one costume MiniBot 1.0, and for my little one MiniBot 2.0. Everyone thought it was hilarious. Be creative.
  9. For antennae, thread one of the pipe cleaners through the silver small holed round sequins. Though the hole is really, really small, it is possible. (I promise!) Twist the pipe cleaner around the headband and do it again.
  10. Wait for all the glue to dry and go trick or treat!
Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012
Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Music of the Day

"Payphone" by Maroon 5
"Lights" by Ellie Goulding
"Stereo Hearts" by Gym Glass Heroes
"Drive By" by Train
"Wide Awake" by Katy Perry
"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Goty
"Secrets" by OneRepubli
"We are Young" by Fun.
"Viva La Vida" by Coldpla
"Rhythm of Love" by Plain White T's

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Muffin-Sized Onion Mushroom Quiche

I was poking around the internet trying to find a good mini quiche recipe, but every recipe I found was different and needing different ingredients. So with some smooth workings on my part, I combined a variety of different recipes to make my own. The inspiration for the saltine crust comes from Paula Deen's Mini Onion Quiche recipe. The rest of the ingredients are a combination of different quiche recipes that I found.

Muffin-Sized Onion Mushroom Quiche
Makes 12

What You Will Need:
  • 3/4 cup saltine crackers, smashed into fine crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 large button mushrooms
  • cooking spray or 1 tablespoon butter or oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup-ish of shredded cheese (I didn't measure this.)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Liberally spray a standard muffin pan with cooking oil. Mix the cracker crumbs and melted butter until crumbly. (If you've ever made homemade graham cracker crust, this is just like that.) Evenly distribute the crumb butter mixture to the muffin pan and press down with a shot glass or spoon. Next, saute the mushrooms and onions with a little cooking spray or 1 tablespoon butter or oil until the onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes on low to medium heat. Whisk the remaining ingredients together, except the cheese.

Spoon about a tablespoon of the mushrooms and onions into each muffin tin. Pour in an even amount of the egg mixture into each muffin tin, but do not fill all the way to the top, as they will rise a little bit. Top with a sprinkling of cheese. Many recipes I saw used swiss, cheddar, or a blend. I used mozzarella, but this is a great way to customize to your personal tastes. I didn't really measure this, but I guess it was about 1 tablespoon per quiche. Pop into the oven for about 20-23 minutes or until just slightly brown on the sides. After you take them out of the oven, immediately run a knife around the edges, and carefully remove to a wire rack to cool. Or if you're really hungry, you can just eat it out of the pan. That's okay too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Set of Pumpkin ATCs

One Saturday I went to Owasso, OK for the Oklahoma ATCs group from that meets monthly. We had a Halloween themed trade, and these are the cards I made for that theme. I used black art pens in a variety of thicknesses and colored pencils. Each one took around 15 -20 minutes to make.

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal: The Perfect Autumn Breakfast

Since I am a homeschooling stay at home mom, I try to provide a as healthy as possible breakfast for my kids. I try to avoid pre-packaged stuff whenever possible... well, mostly. We still enjoy a bowl of cold cereal about once or twice a week, but I digress.

Oatmeal is one of my go-to breakfast options for the kids. Now my 5 year old is super picky, but fortunately, as he's getting older he is a little bit more adventurous with his food. I asked him if it was okay for me to put cranberries in our oatmeal this morning and he said it was okay. I was shocked! As I am typing this, he's saying, "Mmmm! This is good!" I kid you not! So here is my five year old boy approved oatmeal recipe.

Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal
Serves 3-4

What you need:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 heaping cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried cranberries (you can substitute with raisins if you want)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (you can substitute with pecans if you want)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons ground flax seed (optional... this adds extra fiber and protein)
  • milk (optional)
Salt and boil the water. Stir in the oats, cranberries, and spices. Reduce the heat to medium. Slowly keep stirring until it starts getting a little thick. Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, and flax seed. Turn off the heat. If you like your oatmeal a little more creamy you can add in milk as desired, but personally, we don't use it. Serve while hot!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Cranberry Orange Sauce

One of my good friends told me about this fantastic recipe. He had seen it on an episode of America's Test Kitchen and you can find the original recipe here. I love to cook and experiment with food, so I decided to try it out. I love pork loin, and what better way to eat some than with a brand new recipe!

What you will need:

  • 1 14 ounce can of whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 strips of orange zest, with the pith removed
  • 4 to 5 pound pork loin
  • cooking spray, olive, or vegetable oil
This recipe is ridiculously simple. Your first step is to stir together the cranberry sauce, juice, dried cranberries, and cinnamon in your slow cooker. Add the strips of orange zest on top. To make the orange zest, just use a vegetable peeler and slice a strip approximately 3 inches long. Try not to cut too deep as the white part between the orange and the skin, also called the pith, is very bitter. 
Then get a large skillet and lightly spray with oil. (I just used a stir-fry pan because I don't have a flat skillet. I know, I know. Being the cook I am, I need to get with the program.) Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on the surface of the meat and rub it in. Brown the pork loin about 3-5 minutes on each side on medium to high heat. Browning enhances the flavor!
 Now to the easy part! Put the meat on top of the cranberry orange sauce and set to low for 4 hours... and wait.
After 4 hours are up, remove the meat from the slow cooker, set on a platter or cutting board, and tent with foil. Wait around 10 minutes for the meat to rest.

For the sauce, wait for about 5 minutes for it to settle and the fat to rise to the top. Spoon the fat off the top with a spoon. Remove the pieces of orange zest and throw away. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and simmer for around 10-12 minutes, reducing it down to around 2 cups.

Slice the pork and serve with the sauce! Bon appetite!

Music of the Day

"I Just Wanna Run" by The Downtown Fiction
"Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright
"Upside Down" by Jack Johnson
"Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve
"The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
"Fly" by Sugar Ray
"All the Right Moves" by OneRepublic

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn Day Photography

Random photos after church.

My son Cameron playing in the yard.
Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Walnut Tree changing colors beneath an azure Autumn sky.
Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Self Portrait
Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waterfall Photography

I am an amateur photographer. Eventually, I would love to get a decent professional camera, and take some photography classes. Until then I will have to settle for my plain Jane 12 mp Kodak EasyShare C182. Either way I enjoy photographing everything, particularly nature, food, and, of course, my kids! The following photo was taken near Branson, MO by the fish hatchery by Lake Taneycomo. It was a beautiful area filled with fly fisherman fishing for trout released into the lake. That same day we saw a red fox dart across the road in the same area. I love nature and photographing it is a pleasure.

Copyright Kristin Duncan 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012


Zendala - A perfect blend of zentangle and mandala.
Here are my zendalas that I worked on today. I used a CD to trace around to make a 12 cm across circle (that's around 4.75 inches for those that don't know metric). I used Sharpie and a black art pen.

Kristin Tip: For those that want artwork that will last a long time, do NOT use Sharpie markers as they are not acid free and will discolor over time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Howling Wolf ATC

Created for MoonDog17 for the MMH Forest Animals Any Medium thread on AFA.
Took about 30-45 minutes and was made with black art pen and colored pencil.

Apples are Red ATC Swap

Here are my Zentangle inspired apples artist trading cards for the Apples are Red My Love swap over at

Each took around 30 minutes- 1 hour to create and were made with black art pens and colored pencil.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Palm Trees ATC Swap

I just got back in the saddle at AFA (that's the ATCs for All forums) making artwork for the first time in about 6 months. I've been so busy, but I'm really glad to be doing my artist trading cards again. I joined up in the Hand Drawn/Painted Palm Trees swap and here are my entries. All 3 were created using colored pencil and black art pen, and each took about 30 mins to 1 hour to make.