Last Friday, I took the girls to Olive Berry Acres for some strawberry picking.  It's an hour drive, but well worth it.

We picked 15 lbs of berries, which did not seem like too much at the time, but was an amazing amount when we got home!

I spent most of Saturday preparing strawberry dishes, including Strawberry Malts, Strawberry Rhubarb Blondies (with basic modifications to make it dairy-free), strawberry shortcake, strawberry lemonade, strawberry jam, and strawberry muffins.  I still had some berries left, and at the suggestion of a friend, decided to make some barbecue sauce.  I followed the recipe from Closet Cooking and was pleasantly surprised with the awesome flavorful sauce!

Roasted Strawberry Barbecue Sauce

You will need:

  • about 4 cups of strawberries, capped and sliced into halves.
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP strawberry jam (we used the homemade stuff we made Saturday!)
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, chopped (this is from a can) (add more for a spicier sauce)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP ginger powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 TBSP cilantro, either freshly chopped or dried
Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees.  Lay out your strawberries on a foil covered baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, allowing the juices to ooze out and slightly carmelize on the foil. 


While the strawberries are roasting, mix the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan.  If you are using fresh cilantro, leave it out for now.

Bring these ingredients to a boil.  Add the strawberries and caramelized juices, scraping every last bit of deliciousness from the foil and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you didn't add in the cilantro earlier, add it now.  Pour mixture into a blender and blend until it has the consistency you like.  Pour sauce into a jar for storage or use immediately.

I used mine to enhance the pork chops I was grilling. The verdict:  Everyone liked it!  It was a great blend of sweet and tangy and spicy, giving the pork chops a wonderful smoky flavor.

Our Color Vibe day in pictures.  If you haven't done one before and don't have asthma, I would highly recommend giving it a try.  It's not timed and you can walk, run or dance your way through the 5K.
Before the run...  
After the run.

During the run.  Don't smile when you run through the color cloud or your teeth will turn blue!

Our team - The Rusty Runners

Her shoe fell off, so she just walked the rest of the way to the car with one shoe on and one off...

My grandmother turned 91 in April.  She is the last surviving of her twelve siblings and her whole family loved to play games.  In particular, they loved to play Scrabble.  I've made Grandma different Scrabble gifts before, but wanted to do something extra special this year.  I came across this quilt idea and, although I've never quilted before, decided to make something similar.  I semi-followed the instructions found here, but had to adapt a bit to make it look like a Scrabble board and to get it the size I wanted it.

I started planning this back in mid-January.  I used a spreadsheet to lay out the names I wanted to include:  Grandma's maiden name and the names of her parents and twelve siblings.  I drew up a scrabble board on the spreadsheet and colorized the squares so I would know which squares were which.  I knew I wanted to have "LOWDER" span the center square, so I started from there.  It took awhile, but I eventually got them all on.

Next, I counted how many of each color square I would need for both the front and back of the quilt and purchased the fabric.  I started out thinking to make 8x8 squares.  I thought I'd calculated the right amount but once I got cutting, I realized I had underestimated.  I used camel colored flannel for the lettered squares, and then red, dark blue, light blue, and pink flannel for the colored tiles and tan flannel for the blank squares. After two trips to buy fabric and batting, I finally began the process of cutting the squares.

Once the colored squares were cut, I cut a duplicate amount of batting, making each square 2" less than the colored squares.  I created "sandwich" squares by putting the together the correct colored squares with a batting square in the center.  The spreadsheet diagram came in very handy here, when I was trying to match the back color and the front color!  Once I had the sandwiches made, I sewed an "X" across the center of each sandwich.

While not quite as tedious as cutting all the squares, this was still extremely mind numbing.

After finishing the Xes, I realized that my squares were going to be too big, so I cut them down by an inch.  This resulted in a large scrap pile that was very soft!

Once I had the squares sewn and cut to size, I added up the number of each letter I would need and added it to the spreadsheet, making sure to note which letters needed to be painted on which color backing. Remember that the back of the quilt is a blank Scrabble board!  This was more challenging than expected, since apparently I have addition issues...

I used fabric paint and a letter stencil I found at JoAnn's to paint on the letters.

I couldn't find just the right Scrabble font, so I had to free hand some of the areas that were left open on the stencil, but I was pleased with the final product.

After letting the paint dry for two days, I began the process of painting on the letter values.  The stencil kit I'd purchased had the 2, 3 and 4, but no 1, so my husband cut one out for me!  Again using the spreadsheet as a guide, I added the number values to each letter.

Next, I placed the quilt squares in the correct order and did a rough lay out of the quilt.

I stacked each row into a pile and labeled the row number, so I could figure out which was which when I was ready to sew the rows together.

At this point I realized that by cutting the squares down, I had eliminated the ability to have a 3/4 inch seam.  Oops.  I ended up making 1/2 inch-ish seams.  I stitched each square in the row together, making sure to have the letters on the correct side!  Then I pinned the rows together to make sure that my seams for each tile were lined up, then I sewed the rows together.

As the quilt got larger, it was more and more challenging to get the bulk through the machine. 

When everything was stitched together, I began to cut the seams, making a fringe about 1/4 inch deep.  The fringing was a messy job.  Little pieces of thread and flannel were everywhere by the time I was done.  Since my grandma has dementia, I wanted to put a quilt label on so she would know who made the quilt and why.  I looked at the ones that were available at the store, but wasn't impressed.  I decided I'd try to make a simple one using some scrap material I had on hand and a fabric marker.  I used heat and bond to adhere the patch onto the quilt.

Once that was done, I ran the quilt through the wash to get rid of some of the threads and to give the quilt a basic "rag" look.  My mom and I then used a lint remover to take the lint and threads off of the squares before I wrapped up the quilt. 

Here's the finished product...

and back...

Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the trip to Michigan for her birthday, but the quilt was delivered by my parents and my aunt.  Here is Grandma with her new quilt.

My parents reported back that she was THRILLED with it and that it was helping her reminisce about her family and her childhood.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!  And - score - it fit on her bed almost perfectly!

My daughter Bug wanted to have a Minecraft sleepover birthday party this year.  As of this writing, there are no licensed Minecraft items for birthday parties - no plates, napkins, treat bags, balloons, cake toppers - nothing.  So, I scoured pinterest and the web, found some ideas and came up with a few easy projects of my own, too.  

Bug decided to make the invitations herself.  She used paper blocks that I cut to create a creeper face.  I used clip art and created the detailed inside.

Next up were the treat bags.

I purchased a six pack of small green fabric bags with handles at Hobby Lobby.  I used scrabble tiles and fabric paint to stamp the face of the creeper onto the bags.

 I then used the edges of a foam paint brush to darken the painted area.


Next up were the Marshmallow Peep Creepers, which I wrote about here.

We put the Creeper Peeps in the treat bags along with a square puzzle eraser and two Rainbow Loom Minecraft bracelets that Bug created - a creeper one she designed on her own and a Steve bracelet (see below) she made using this youtube tutorial.

Game wise, they kids brought tablets to play Minecraft, 

...but we also played pin the tail on the pig, using a block pig I made using multiple colors of pink and a square punch.  

Lastly, Bug wanted some kind of Minecraft cake.  I took inspiration from this cake and came up with a similar design that used dairy-free chocolate cake, homemade rice krispie treat blocks, and blue finger jello.  Making a dairy-free frosting that was the right consistancy and flavor for my taste was a challenge (and one I didn't expect), but it turned out pretty tasty.  For the topper, I used a fold-able paper cut out from Cyberdrone at DeviantArt which I altered slightly before printing by putting her face (pixelated, of course) over Steve's.  

Of course we used square green & black plates and green cups. 

And no party is complete without a mustache straw!

We had tacos for dinner and then served Twizzler bites and "window" pretzels to keep with the square Minecraft theme for late night snack. 

I think everyone had a good time and everyone went to sleep before 1am!!