Okie Suz

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cost of Groceries

Has anyone else been noticing the cost of groceries lately?  I'm curious about where my household ranks against the average grocery bill.  I came across this report from the USDA.  It's from 2009 and food prices have definitely increased, but this still gives you a good point of analysis.
Where do you fall in the chart? USDA Average Grocery Bill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ice Castles

Are you surviving the heat?  I am by staying out of it.  ::)

Create an icy kingdom with your kids with one ingredient: water. Freeze up some shapes and get your kids building — like sand castles, only colder. For building advice, read on:

Building Blocks

Everyday items can make some pretty cool building materials.

Juice boxes with their tops cut off: Just rip them open to remove the ice.

Deli tubs, yogurt containers, and other plasticware: the more variety, the better. If the plastic is flexible, the ice is easier to get out.

Ice cubes: Use at least 3 trays, and more than one size if you have them. Stack cubes like bricks, leaving a few gaps for windows if you want.

Silicone bakeware: Bendable silicone makes ice a snap to remove — just invert the tray! See below for products we like.

Ice molds and butter molds: Look for fun shapes, like stars, hearts, and even holiday themes. They're often made of silicone or flexible plastic, like the ones we mention below.

Cool Ice

Fun products to embellish your crystal palace:

KitchenAid Silicone Mini Muffin Pan ($40) and 6-in-1 Mini Loaf Pan

$33, kitchenaid.com (shown, top left)

These pans come with what's called a sled, so carrying water-filled trays to the freezer is easy. Stack up several muffin shapes to make towers, and use the loaf pan to build big bricks for foundations or walls.

Lekue Silicone Flexible Mini Cake Pan and Pyramid Pan

About $12 each, amazon.com

These trays make narrow bricks, great for columns and doorways, and pyramid shapes top off turrets perfectly. The silicone trays can be a little unwieldy when filled with water, so try placing them on a baking sheet until frozen.

SiliconeZone Ice Cube Trays and Chocolate/Butter Molds

$6, laprimashops.com

Make fun shapes to decorate your creation, from snowmen and santas to spades, hearts and clubs.

Construction Zone

Building outside in cold weather will help the castle last longer, but using a cold cookie sheet lets you build indoors and contain drips.

Mist ice water from a spray bottle to help the icy pieces stick together, or try packing gaps and crevices with snow for a good seal. No snow? Make your own with an ice shaver (we like Back to Basics Electric Ice Shaver, $20 backtobasicsproducts.com).

Architectural Advice

The classic castle: Try using large, square pieces (like juice-box shapes) to form a rectangular foundation. Then, on all four sides stack up several rows of ice cubes like bricks, packing with snow — your mortar. In the corners, use round shapes (from yogurt or deli containers) to make turrets or lookout towers. Top off the towers with irregular pieces (and a bit of imagination): A broken ice cube could be a flag or a soldier standing guard.

Icy Estate: Upgrade the classic castle by adding a guest house or landscaping. Pile up several cone or pyramid shapes to make evergreen trees, or make fences out of a line of ice cube shapes, like stars. Use other fun-shaped ice or butter molds, like snowmen and hearts, to embellish front yards or adorn walls.

Urban Design: Make an icy cityscape by forming several towers of varying heights and sizes. This is perfect for younger kids, since it's essentially just stacking.