Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homemade Tortilla Chips Recipe

What goes better with homemade guacamole than tortilla chips? This Cinco de Mayo, make them both from scratch!

Homemade tortilla chips by SweeterThanSweets

If you've never had homemade tortilla chips, they are so yummy but taste very different than the store-bought kind. A little more chewy and a lot less salty (but you won't miss the sodium!)


Tortillas by cbertel
Image: cbertel

corn tortillas
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush tops of tortillas lightly with olive oil. Layer 4-5 tortillas, oiled side up. Cut into eighths with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle a bit of freshly ground sea salt on top. Cook for 12 minutes.

Pour the chips onto some paper towels to cool (if you can wait that long). If you're not going to eat them immediately, store in a zip-top bag. When you're ready to dig into that guacamole, crisp them up again by putting them back into the 350 degree oven for a few minutes.

Guacamole and Tortilla Chips by SweeterThanSweets

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Celebration

Are you celebrating with the Royal family today? Here's my tribute to the wedding: a treasury full of "royal" blue finds on Etsy.

View my other treasuries

 Congratulations to Prince William and Princess Catherine!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guacamole Recipe

Whether for Cinco de Mayo or any day, I like to indulge in some homemade guacamole with my homemade tortilla chips! Want to make some like they do at your favorite Mexican restaurant? Here you go!


Guacamole by SweeterThanSweets

3 avocados
1-2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 red onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
handful of cilantro, chopped
salt and garlic salt, to taste

(Note the conspicuous lack of anything spicy. This guacamole is very mild, so even the kiddos will like it!)
Pit the avocado and scoop halves into a bowl.  Mash it up slightly but don't obliterate it into a soupy mess. (If you've never cooked with avocado before, there is a great tutorial on pitting and cutting them at Our Best Bites.)

A tip on ripening avocados: Put hard avocados into a paper bag and store in a warm place until they're soft when you squeeze them and almost black in color. If they're ripe but you're not using them right away, put them in the fridge and they'll stay at this stage of ripeness for a few days. (This same method holds true for a lot of fruits.)

Stir in tomatoes, lime juice, onion, garlic and cilantro. The citrus in the lime juice will delay the browning process. If you don't have any lime juice, you can use lemon juice or just save the pits and put them back in with the guacamole to delay browning.

Add garlic salt and salt to taste I use about 1/8 of a teaspoon of each, but start with a little and keep adding it until it tastes good to you. If you're enjoying this guacamole with homemade tortilla chips, you may need more salt since they're lower in sodium.

Guacamole by SweeterThanSweets

Enjoy with homemade tortilla chips or your favorite Mexican dish!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hope is rising

I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
-Matthew 28:5-6

New Orlenas Ladies Hope by tuyl
New Orleans Ladies Hope by tuyl

In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
-1 Peter 1:3

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
-John 12:32

Hope for Resurrection by AmandaRaeK
Hope for Resurrection by AmandaRaeK
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
-John 11:25-26

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday but Sunday is coming

Today is Good Friday.

"The worst and the best day of all."
-Beth Moore in Jesus the One and Only
Graveyard by Evgeni Dinev
Image: Evgeni Dinev

We are "celebrating" the worst imaginable thing happening to Jesus Christ. We are celebrating it because God's design was that sin could only be forgiven through sacrifice, and Jesus' life was that sacrifice once and for all of us. Despite our mistakes, despite our selfishness, and despite our continuing sinfulness, he died for us.

When you were dead in your sins...He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
-Colossians 2:13-14

He was forgiving us even while we were killing him:

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
-Luke 23:34
Golgotha by bela_kiefer
Image: bela_kiefer

But his death was painful, physically and spiritually.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").
-Matthew 27:46

At this moment in history, Jesus took on all of the sins of mankind, including my own. This was according to prophesies from many years earlier, such as Deuteronomy 21:23 and Amos 8:10. But the most striking of all the prophesies that came true on the first "Good Friday" is this:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering...the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed... he was led like a lamb to the slaughter... the Lord makes his life an offering for sin...For he bore the sin of many...
-Isaiah 53:4-5, 7, 10, 12

It is incomprehensible and somewhat disturbing to think about what we are celebrating on Good Friday. But we know that the story doesn't end there...

It's Friday but Sunday is coming.
-Sunday by Tree63
Cathedral by Simon Howden
Image: Simon Howden

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Places Every Kid Should See

Grand Canyon by Liz Noffsinger
The Grand Canyon
Image: Liz Noffsinger

I've been working on a 4-part series for my blog on Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Babies and I came across this article and this article on places in America that every kid should see. Here's a list of some of the places they recommended:

  • Grand Canyon, AZ
  • Redwood National Park, CA
  • Monticello, VA
  • The Freedom Trail, MA
  • Niagara Falls, NY
  • The National Mall, D.C.
  • Colonial Williamsburg, VA
  • Walt Disney World, FL
  • Ellis Island, NY
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY/ID/MT
  • San Diego Zoo, CA
  • Fenway Park, MA
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, ID
  • Alcatraz Island, CA
  • Independence Hall, PA

    Alcatraz Island by Paul Martin Eldridge
    Alcatraz Island
    Image: Paul Martin Eldridge

    I caught the travel bug when I was 20, so just reading this list makes me want to pack a suitcase or two! But I couldn't believe they forgot to include a few of my favorite family-friendly travel spots. Here are my suggestions to add to the list:

    • Yosemite National Park, CA
    • Route 66, CA/AZ/NM/TX/OK/KS/MO/IL
    • Hoover Dam, AZ/NV
    • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
    • Space Needle, WA
    • Plymouth Rock, MA

        2002 hawaii fast lava flow
        Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
        Image: schizoform

        What do you think? Any other places that need to be on the list of must-see locales for family travel?

        Do you have travel-related questions that you want me to answer in my Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Babies series
        Comment on this post or send me an email.

        Saturday, April 16, 2011

        Paint chip Easter egg garland

        I wasn't planning on decorating our home for Easter, but when I saw this tutorial on Modern Parents Messy Kids and then the next day I had to go into Home Depot... well, before I knew it, this happened:

        I love how it turned out! It seriously would've taken me just 30 minutes had I been able to work on this uninterrupted (which is rare with a 2-year-old in our home!). So easy, fun and basically free! I felt a little guilty nabbing all these paint chips but I bought something else to compensate. =)

        I did a few things differently than the tutorial because I didn't read the directions, just jumped right in... Since I was using Home Depot's paint chips with 4 colors, I just folded them in half after drawing the egg shape on one side so I could cut 2 eggs at once. (It looks like my egg shape was a bit smaller than hers.)

        Since I don't enjoy sewing by hand, I used my sewing machine to sew straight across the white line (with white thread, set to the longest straight stitch). It hangs pretty well, just had to use some double-stick tape on a few of the eggs. If you overlap the eggs just slightly while you sew, they won't twist and turn upside-down.

        I love the rainbow look of the tutorial, but I wasn't that organized and just did mine in a random order. Love this super-easy craft and Little Sweets does, too!

        Friday, April 15, 2011

        Tissue Paper Easter Eggs Tutorial

        Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        I know I said that Easter isn't just about eggs, bunnies and baskets, but my daughter has a thing for those plastic Easter eggs. She's been on an Easter egg hunt since last year... I could never round up all of the plastic eggs at one time to put them away, so for 12 months now, we've had plastic eggs halves under the couch, in the car, stuffed in toy purses... pretty much everywhere.

        It was time for some new eggs so I decided to make my own patterned plastic Easter eggs with some cute tissue paper I found at Walmart and some white eggs from Hobby Lobby for 34 cents a dozen!

        What you need to make your own Tissue Paper Easter eggs:

        Supplies for Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        plastic eggs
        Mod Podge
        tissue paper (or gift wrapping paper*)
        paint brush (1" wide is best)
        X-acto knife

        Total cost: $7 for 24 eggs
        Not including scissors and X-acto, since you likely have those already.
         Oriental Trading Company sells the white eggs online here, though not nearly as cheap as Hobby Lobby's 34 cents a dozen! Or colored eggs would work, too.

        We're going to work on some "solid" tissue paper eggs first. 

        Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        First, cut a strip of tissue paper about 1" wide, then cut into 1" squares. It takes no time if you stack several layers at once before you cut, but please don't measure... just eyeball it:

        Making Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        Brush a small amount of Mod Podge onto the back of one of the squares. No need to get all the way to the edges. Lay the square on the egg and smooth the edges down. Continue this process, overlapping the squares until egg is covered. (It will take 7-9 squares to cover one egg.)

        Making Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        When the entire egg is covered in squares, paint a layer of Mod Podge over all of it. I rested the eggs on water bottle lids while they dried.

        Making Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        It will look much prettier when it's dry, I promise. =)

        Now, on to the striped eggs. My tissue paper was already striped so I didn't need to buy all different colors to get this look.

        Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        Cut strips of tissue paper in whatever colors you want. My strips were about 7" long and varied in width from 1/4" to 3/4". Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the back side of each strip. 

        Making Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        Starting at the bottom point, apply each strip onto the egg, smoothing the edges as you go.

        Making Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        I found it very difficult to apply the strips width-wise (along the egg's "equator") and much easier length-wise. But I did a few anyway for a plaid effect and I don't think Little Sweets will notice that the strips are not on straight. =) You don't want to Mod Podge over the entire egg with the strips on it, but you may need to use just a little bit over the strip itself to hold it down.

        *Note: If you don't have any cute tissue paper or don't want to buy any, you can use any gift wrap you have laying around. Cut off a strip a few inches wide and soak it with water. Crumple it a little bit and carefully lay flat to dry. When it's dry, it will be soft and you can use it the same way as tissue paper.

        Tissue Paper-Covered Easter Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        When the Mod Podge is completely dry on your eggs, use an X-acto or other razor blade to carefully cut across the egg's equator so you can open them again.

        Now let's see how long it takes the kiddos to lose all of these eggs!

        Wednesday, April 13, 2011

        Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your...

        Resurrection Eggs!

        Resurrection Eggs by SweeterThanSweets

        If you're doing a countdown to Easter with your Resurrection Eggs like we are, start by opening the first one today. Including today and Easter Sunday, there are 12 days left until Easter... can't wait until the last day when the egg is empty!

        (Yes, I realize that age 2 may be too young for Little Sweets to really "get it" but it's always surprising how much they understand... and why not start teaching her the true story of Easter now?)


        Tuesday, April 12, 2011

        I'm Featured, You're Featured! (How to Get Your Blog or Etsy Shop Featured)

        {List is Updated as of 8/5/11}

        Do you want your Etsy shop and/or blog to get featured on some amazing and popular blogs for free? I've been scouring the internet to get my shop and this blog featured and I want to share what I've found with you!

        Here are my features from this past week:

        EtsyStrut Forum (no idea who posted this link to my blog, but I got 58 visits from it)
        and one more from a few weeks ago: Handmade Top 10

        These features have improved the visibility of my shop and blog noticeably. To prove it to you, here are the stats from Google Analytics (total views for my shop and my blog combined):

        Week of March 28th - April 3rd:
         430 visits

        Week of April 4th - 10th:
        1,277 visits

        Free advertising really works! Now I want to share with you a list of high-profile sites I've found that will feature you for free. I did the digging for you, so the links will take you directly to the page where they're taking submissions (click on the button to go to the homepage). This list is sorted by category but there is some overlap here, so check out every category:

        Craft Tutorials & Recipes:

        oneprettythingOnePrettyThing (one of my favorite blogs!) features several craft tutorials a day--just send Rachel an email with your url and description.

        Craft DIY Ideas Tip Junkie tells 40,000 Facebook fans about your craft tutorials, party ideas, decorating tips, printables and more.

        Totally tutorials tips tricks recipes how tos Totally Tutorials features one craft tutorial a day for their 4,400 followers to read.

        Fun Family Crafts 
        Fun Family Crafts will feature your tutorial or recipe in their visual library of free craft ideas from toddler to teenager.

        The Crafty Crow The Crafty Crow shares with almost 6,000 Facebook fans your kids' craft tutorials.

        Tatertots and JelloTatertots and Jello posts your crafty tutorial for over 14,000 followers to read! (You can also add your link to the linky parties and get some exposure that way, too.)

        Today's Creative BlogToday's Creative Blog features a new crafty blog each day. Just email her to have yours considered.

        Free craft projects at Craftbits.comCraftbits will show off your crafty tutorial for 60,000 newsletter subscribers to read!

        Make and Takes SpotlightMake and Takes: Spotlight showcases kids crafts, home projects and recipes

        How Does She?How Does She? shares your ideas, from craft tutorials to fashion to cooking to family life, with their 17,000 Facebook fans.

        Mod Podge Rocks 
        Mod Podge Rocks shows off your Mod Podge-y projectcs with 5,600 followers. Just send her an email.

        Celebrations at HomeCelebrations at Home has over 2,100 followers and features craft tutorials and party ideas.

        Craftaholics AnonymousCraftaholics Anonymous will feature your craft tutorials and printables for over 6,700 followers to read.

        Dollar Store CraftsDollar Store Crafts features (you guessed it) inexpensive craft ideas for almost 11,000 Facebook fans.

        ChildmadeChildmade has a "perpetual linky party" going on! You can upload your newest project any time you want and the favorites will be posted on the Childmade blog.

        CraftGawkerCraftGawker features your crafty projects for others to gawk at.

        FoodGawkerFoodGawker features your yummy recipes for others to (guess what) gawk at.

        IShareCrafts IShareCrafts will (guess what!) share your craft tutorials in a pictorial directory.

        IShareFunFoodIShareFunFood lets you share your fun food with their readers.

        ISharePrintablesISharePrintables lets you share your (wait for it...) printables with their readers.

        Oh! CraftsOh! Crafts has a network of sites that features crafts, recipes and weddings. Click on the appropriate site at the top of their page, then click the grey "Submit a cool link" button.

        U CreateUcreate features craft tutorials, recipes, home decor and party ideas for their 11,000 followers.

        Etsy Shops/Products:

        Craft GossipCraft Gossip shares your favorite Etsy shops, products and/or craft tutorials with their readers.

        HandmadeologyHandmadeology promotes your Etsy items and treasuries and relevant blog posts for their dedicated readers.

        Heart Handmade BlogHeart Handmade blogs about your Etsy shop.

        Handmade Top 10Handmade Top 10 is a fun site where you list 2 of your Etsy shop items in each category and then people vote on them. It helps you get free publicity and tells you how your item compares to others in a category (Select Type, then Open on the left margin to see which categories are currently open for listing/voting).

        The Handmade Gift GuideThe Handmade Gift Guide features Etsy treasuries full of handmade gift ideas.

        Parties and Events:

        Hostess with the MostessHostess with the Mostess has beautiful photos of every kind of party, as well as recipes, tutorials and printables.

        Design DazzleDesign Dazzle shares your party photos/ideas, crafty tutorials and room designs with over 5,500+ followers.

        TomKat StudioTomKat Studio shares your parties with almost 30,000 Facebook fans.

        Catch My PartyCatch My Party shares your incredible party photos and inspiration with their readers.

        Birthday Girl BlogBirthday Girl features your gorgeous birthday party photos.

        There are so many great blogs out there... If none of these are in your niche, here's how to create your own list of places where you'd like to be featured:
        1. Check out a blog you love. 
        2. See if the blog has a sidebar or a page with all the places they've been featured, then click on each of those sites that has featured them.
        3. Look around for a "contact me" or "get featured" option on the featuring blog.
        4. Submit your project and see what happens!

        Linky ToolsAnother option to get featured is to join up with linky parties, blog hops or contests. You never know who will find you that way... Just find a linky at one of your favorite blogs and join in!

        Any other great high-profile sites that you know of that I can add to this list?