March 30, 2012

Sweet Treat Friday- Strawberry Bread



This bread goes very fast in this house. So fast in fact that my husband rarely gets a slice, even with two fresh loaves made! My kids eat it all, I as well have to fight for my share of a slice and I'm the one who makes it!

There's several things that are awesome about this, besides the great taste. It's a quick bread so it's super easy to make. You can freeze it  for later , so when those strawberries come in by the pound and you have no clue what to do with them? Make this bread.

You can put together pre-measured bags for this the same way I do Zucchini bread. Make sure you label the bag with the wet ingredients and of course directions. This makes it even easier to make a double, even triple batch if you really had an overload of fruit. Raspberries work in a pinch as well.

Strawberry Bread


Ingredients

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs beaten
1 1/4 cups oil
2 cups of fresh strawberries chopped
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix well and form a well in the center of the mixture.
In a separate bowl combine the beaten eggs, oil and strawberries as well as the pecans if using. Mix together then pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Stir until well mixed, batter will be very thick.
   Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to wire racks.

My kids adore this bread fresh and warm from the oven. It makes a wonderful snack as well. Enjoy!






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March 29, 2012

Asparagus with Cheese Sauce



My kids love asparagus but once in awhile I'll treat them with some easy to make cheese sauce. It works great on other vegetables as well.



Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1-1/2 pound of asparagus trimmed.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook till smooth and slightly bubbly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook while whisking constantly until the sauce has thickened. Stir in salt and cheese until the cheese is melted. Set aside but keep warm.
 Meanwhile cook the asparagus. I usually cook  the asparagus in a skillet with some butter and pepper till tender crisp, but you can cook however you like. Pour the sauce over the hot asparagus and serve right away.

Really simple way to dress up some vegetables!

Enjoy :)


 
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March 27, 2012

More rain!

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The weather is just not working with me lately. Our spring break was filled with rain, rain, and you guessed it more rain. We're expected to get more rain all this week which just puts a damper on my garden plans.
When it isn't raining it's windy so let's just say little to nothing is getting done outside.

I have spent the last few rainy weeks making garden plans. Tons of them, then I re-write them. Then my kids get a hold of them and doodle or scribble, drop sauce or juice on it...and that makes me do it over again. It keeps me busy at least as the rain is getting to me.

Here watch the rain with me!
video
This was taking this morning from my back porch.


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March 26, 2012

“Raising Amazing Children (… While Having a Life of Your Own)” Guest Post by Author Deborah Drezon Carroll




Hello from the author of "Raising Amazing Children (... While Having a Life of Your Own)" Deborah Drezon Carroll:

Our daughter's wedding was a glorious event for us, as you might imagine. After it was over, though, one thing stuck in my mind. People, our friends and other guests whom we didn'’t know, repeatedly came up to us and said, "“Your daughters are amazing. What's your secret?"”
While that is a beautiful sentiment, and may even be true (if I do say so myself), I wondered: Are they really amazing? We have three daughters who are really just lovely people with good hearts and good souls. They weren't exceptional students (they were good students for the most part) or outstanding athletes (they did try, though); they didn't cure cancer in our basement, or discover the secret to solving the world hunger problem. They didn't win scholarships or attend Ivy League colleges. They just were good kids (most of the time but certainly not without challenges along the way) who grew up to be teachers.
And that’'s when I realized: maybe they are amazing.

If the goal of being a good parent is to do the job well enough for our kids to leave us someday and be happy people who are independent and live with integrity and decency, and if achieving that is amazing, maybe we were all amazing.
I thought about how we achieved such greatness.  What was our parenting secret?

My husband and I had both been teachers early in our careers. We learned a great deal about how children develop. We learned strategies for facilitating growth in young people by treating them with respect, trust, faith, and high expectations. And, when we had our first child we got some very good advice.

The advice was to find ways to integrate our child into our lives rather than turning our lives completely upside down to integrate ourselves into our child’'s life. In other words, we were advised to raise our kids while living life the way we loved it before our kids were born as much as possible. We were told to find ways to keep doing the things we loved so we could share them with our kids. And so we did. Whatever we did, we invited our kids to do it with us. From cleaning the house to traveling across the country on a camping trip (Yes, we did go on a cross country trip with three kids under the age of 5!), if it was something we did before we had kids, we did it with our kids. We tried not to give up any of the things that mattered to us before we became parents, we just found ways to incorporate our children into those activities.
As a result, our children learned life skills by experiencing life with us. They learned to love reading and writing as we do so they value education. They can do simple home repair, they all did their own laundry since they were very little, and each can negotiate a tight deal of any sort. They understand the value of work and the need to budget money as they watched us do both and learned by seeing our struggles and our successes. They learned compassion and caring for family, friends, and strangers as they lived both on a daily basis. In short, they learned how to live life by living it with us and witnessing the ins and outs of making a life work.

The simple tasks of everyday living provide parents with opportunities to teach children something of value each day. By inviting your kids to work alongside as you do things like shopping, housecleaning, gardening, cooking, home repair, traveling and more, you both win. You'll save time as you'll have helping hands to get the jobs done faster, your child will learn priceless life skills, and you'll all have more time to enjoy life together.
By incorporating your kids into your life, you get to continue living a life that makes you happy. Happy parents raise happy children. Your kids will thank you for it… some day!

Raising Amazing Children (…While Having a Life of Your Own). The title sums up our parenting secret.
To learn more about Debby and her book, visit deborahdrezoncarroll.com

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March 25, 2012

Grow More Food & Fight Climate Change: Black Revolution

You all know how passionate I am about gardening and finding safer more natural items to use within my garden and home. I want you to check out this Food Project on KickStarter about a new soilless growth media for plants. Containing biochar, coconut husk and compost. The point? Biochar is a charcoal soil made from waste that actually improves nutrient retention. It grabs onto nutrients normally washed away and improves the soil. Biochar also offsets CO2 and can help reduce the atmospheric carbon!

Here's a quick video that explains it better, after the video check out the project and even back it up with a donation!





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March 24, 2012

Potatoes- Goodness Unearthed





Not only are potatoes versatile for just about anyone's menu plans or likes, this spud has some interesting healthy facts behind it.

One medium sized potato is just 110 calories and is absolutely fat free and sodium free, making them more than just delicious! Potatoes provide you with 45% of your daily value of vitamin C and the skin provides you with more potassium than a banana!
   Research suggests that diets rich in potassium and low in sodium reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke. Potassium helps maintain your blood pressure, and it's estimated that less than 3% of American's meet the standards for taking in potassium. Scary thought isn't it? With just one potato a day you are one step closer to meeting your daily intake for potassium. Worried about Gluten these days? Recent studies show 3 million suffer from side effects associated with eating gluten. This spuds got your back though if you happen to be one of those people, potatoes are 100% gluten free!

Still not convinced potatoes are for you? What about being able to prepare this delicious vegetable in under 30 minutes? I'm going to show you how!

   I was given the opportunity recently to dig my hands into some potatoes and recipes to become a part of a Campaign for the US Potato Board, in which we were given a kit to use and put our own twist to some recipes in a chance to win a $200 gift card!

I'll share my recipe with you in a minute, first though I want you all to head over to http://www.potatogoodness.com/ and download their PDF copy of the a fun coloring book for the kids! My kids enjoyed it and the book also contains some yummy recipes in there. Get the kids involved in picking which recipe they'd like to make. The coloring book can be found here.  You can also find the US Potato Board on Facebook.

Now for the recipe. My kids picked the "Russet Potato Recipe" from the coloring book and I put my own spin on it. The original recipe called for 1 cup steamed broccoli in which I substitute with some greens fresh from my own garden! I also used a different cheese, but feel free to us whatever is on hand. We also got some potato scrubbing gloves, and a excellent masher that my kids could use to help out with this recipe.


Twice Baked Potatoes with Spinach and Greens

Ingredients

4 medium Russet potatoes
1 and a half cup of Spinach and another tender green such as Baby Mustard or Dandelion greens.
1/2 cup fat free sour cream (optional)
1 cup shredded four cheese blend (such as medium cheddar, monterey jack, asadero and queso quesadilla cheese)
Chives (optional)
Pepper to taste
Tablespoon oil

Directions
Preheat oven o 450F
Pierce the potatoes with a fork. Microwave potatoes on high for about 7 minutes . Remove and set aside till you can handle them, they will be hot!
While they cool heat up a skillet with your tablespoon of oil. Add your helping of greens and cook on medium till the greens are wilted and tender. Should only be about 5 minutes. Set these aside.
Potatoes-  After they are cool slice them lengthwise down the middle. Use a spoon to scoop out the center of each potato and put into a bowl. Mash the mixture with sour cream 3/4cups of the cheese until creamy. Add in the greens and mix gently. Scoop mixture back into the potato skins and top with remaining cheese ans sprinkle with chives. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes. (I actually broiled mine for about 3 minutes till the cheese was melted ) Which ever works best for you! They came out great!.



Be sure to head to both the USPB Facebook page and visit their website for fun recipes, interesting facts and so much more! You can sign up for their weekly recipe email as well, find that here and find them on Pinterest!


Enjoy a potato today!

**Disclosure- I received the products mentioned above , in order to write an honest review. No monetary compensation was received for this post. I did not have to write a positive review, Any and all opinions are and will always be my own.* 
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March 23, 2012

Sweet Treat Friday- Dandelion Salad



 Today's Sweet treat is a healthy salad using Dandelion greens!

Yes, those pesky "weeds" some people dislike so much. Quick funny fact, want to know why you can't simply pull those things up? Their roots are almost three feet into the ground. Unless you'd like to dig three feet deep, head over to my post and read up on these plants, maybe you'll change your mind about killing it.


 This is a simple salad to put together, use whatever dressing you'd like or none at all. The tangy pieces of oranges give it a brighter flavor. Make sure your Dandelion greens are fresh as well picked (if picking fresh) before the flower comes up, this is when the greens taste the best!

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients -

Orange slices, like Mandarin or Cuties and Clementines (two or one large orange with the slices halved)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
4 cups Dandelion greens (you can use arugula as well)
Romano or Parmesan cheese (shredded)
handfuls of chopped toasted walnuts (or pecans if you like)

Toss the scallions , Dandelion greens, oranges and walnuts together. Divide into servings, sprinkle with cheese to liking.  This salad would go well with any light citrus dressing.

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March 22, 2012

Not just a Weed - Dandelions



 Yes, the Dandelions in your yard everyone hates so much. Those weeds are what I'm talking about today. It's been coming up more and more in discussion with a group of friends of mine so I thought others may want to know the pretty interesting information about this plant.

Some quick facts about the Dandelions

 -Their deep roots (taproot) draw up nutrients from a different level than your lawn which means they are not in competition with grasses or other shallow root plants.

 -The roots act like a recycle plant, drawing up minerals including calcium depositing them near the top of the soil restoring much needed nutrients. While I wouldn't plant these next to my tomatoes plants as they can "hinder" some other plants from growing tall and robust, they would be perfect to plant before your summer garden. Plant Dandelions in between your garden seasons this way your soil is improved for better planting.

 - Worms are drawn to the roots

-They help other flowers grow and stimulate fruits to mature faster.

-The leaves and flowers are edible and the roots can be used as a coffee substitute, as well as a blood cleaning tea.

- They are a great source of calcium- almost as much as a half a glass of milk alone. They also contain a great source of Potassium, Vitamin A , C and D as well Iron and Zincs

 -Herbalists use different parts of the Dandelion for different uses, some include, a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine the body produces. The leaves are also used to help aid digestion. The flower is known to have some antioxidant properties and can help improve the immune system. There isn't a "on going" study for these plants, but they have long been used for generations. Native Indians have used this plant for all sorts of problems including gallbladder infections, liver troubles, upset stomachs even heart burn.


Eating the Dandelion Facts-

-Do NOT pick the Dandelions from a yard that's been treated in anyway. The best place to pick this plant? In the wide open fields. Grab your sneakers and head outside for a hike to find yourself some wild Dandelions. Unless you grow them yourself for eating purposes this is the safest way to gather fresh, edible Dandelion greens. While you are out there collect the Dandelions seeds so you can grow some at home.



-Wash them carefully

-These leaves can be eaten raw, they do not require long cooking times like other leafy greens (kale, or collards) They are called "braising greens" for their quick cooking time. You can sauté both the greens and flowers to add to any dish. The Flowers can also be made into jelly! They make a wonderful yellow dye as well.

-Best time to pick the greens to eat is before the yellow flower comes up, first signs of spring you should find the best quality Dandelions.


 Still think these Dandelions are just an annoying weed? Check back for some recipes I'm using with these pretty amazing everyday greens, but in the mean time - Think twice before trying to kill these helpful plants :)

Here's a recipe I used with Dandelions :)
 
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March 20, 2012

'MIRROR MIRROR'- Contest *CLOSED*

  
Relativity Media has a new film, 'MIRROR MIRROR'  which is opening March 30, 2012.
The film is a family-friendly twist on the classic tale Snow White, and stars Julia Roberts and Lily Collins.



A quick summary of the Movie


One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to life in the motion picture event, "Mirror Mirror".
A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins
(The Blind Side) as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts as the evil Queen
who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom.
Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical adventure comedy filled with The film also stars Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as the Prince and Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) jealousy, romance and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences the world over as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen.


*Giveaway Details*
What is the giveaway for? I can offer Five,  family four packs of tickets for the screening of MIRROR MIRROR in the areas of San Francisco , Sacramento and Santa Clara CA on March 28th.

Are you in the area? Want to see the movie? All you need to do is comment below and you could win! Again I can offer 5- family four packs of tickets. There will be 5 winners picked ! First 5 to comment will be picked, first come first serve. That's as easy as it gets! :)
Don't miss out!!

**Update** All tickets are claimed, Thanks for following!

 
 Jen- confirmed
 Man_of_Resin- confirmed
Melanie- confirmed
Melissa + - confirmed
 Please leave me your email or email me mburbage@sbcglobal.net



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March 19, 2012

"Can’t Wait" Sounds of South Africa from Grenadilla


We love music in this house. Music is a big part of our day, whether we are cleaning up, playing a game or reading a book there's some sort of music on. I even have music playing in the kitchen while I put together meals. My kids end up dancing along with me and singing with the music while they help bake.

I choose music of different styles so the kids are constantly being exposed to a wide variety. They enjoy pretty much all of it and can easily jump into a chorus in the middle of a store when they hear a song they like. My kids have even belted out a few tunes on our walks to school. The best time to listen to music? Just about any moment of the day!

Our new favorite album  is "Can't Wait" from Grenadilla (pronounce "gren-a-dill-a") The upbeat, fun and catchy songs bring sounds of South Africa right to our living room.

Can't Wait

My kids can already sing the "Doodle Doodle Doodle Doodle Doo" song that makes you just want to jump in and dance.

After the first time we listened to the entire album I encouraged the kids to try and pick out the sounds they heard within the songs. They could name most all of the instruments, and we all learned a new one. The birdlike pennywhistle! I was excited when my older kids said it sounded like a flute, but wasn't. We all discovered some new sounds within "Can't Wait." It's great to encourage the kids to stop and listen, then enjoy what they are hearing. Music is an amazing teaching tool with all ages.

If you are Looking for some fun new music to expose the kids too,  you should check out "Can't Wait" from Grenadilla which came out earlier this month. You can check out some of the songs and enjoy them right now here.  Encourage the kids to get up and dance, make music part of your day and enjoy new sounds! For more information visit, grenadillasings.com

**Disclosure- I received the products mentioned above ,  in order to write an honest review. No monetary compensation was received for this post. I did not have to write a positive review, Any and all opinions are and will always be my own.* 
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March 18, 2012

Garden Update- Stormy weather beat down..




So far this years summer garden has taken a beating. The squirrel oddly enough was only a small problem. This past week our area has been surrounded by non stop storms. Our yard had flooded and wind broke some trees again as it did last year. In the midst of this I lost 76 seedlings. My pea and beans are gone as well.  It's still early to start over for the summer garden but also it will be that much more difficult to stay on track.

Our weather chaos continued today, we lost power early this morning due to damage caused by the storm. It's still pretty windy and rain is on its merry way again. Spent most the day re-planting seeds and cleaning up the mess the storm left behind. It won't discourage me at all, in fact I have had to re-start several times over the last few years. A little wild weather and lost plants won't stop me!


There were survivors though, through all this craziness, most my winter plants made it through including Mustard.
This is the Mustard plant, below is a Large Leaf Mustard, or Mustard Greens. Both of which you can eat the leaves, but the above - Mustard, is the one you want for Mustard Seeds, the seeds you use in cooking. You can ground them up for ground mustard as well.

Large Leaf Mustard Greens
 
Mustard plant before it goes to seed

Once the plant goes to flower you wait till the seed pods grow. They will be almost 3 inches long, and will simply dry out sooner or later. Once they do, snip it off and open it up to collect the yellow mustard seeds. Since we had no power today I couldn't charge my camera, but the seed pods look just like this picture I took of some flowers. Same idea behind collection.

Crazy week I'm telling you! Always an adventure around here :)

If you keep up with my garden each week I'd like to have you head over to Mellissa, over at Something Like Life . Mellissa will be joining me in weekly garden updates, and you can track the crazy stuff that happens in each of our backyards. Last year Mellissa ended up growing a tomato out of a water bottle, it was pretty neat, you won't want to miss our weekly updates There's always stuff happening and who knows you may pick up some neat tips along the way! She's got some cute Cornish chicks that area already causing her some trouble !

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March 16, 2012

Sweet Treat Friday - I put Spinach in the Frosting!

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Oh yes, yes I did!
I put Spinach juice in sweet creamy white frosting and made my kids eat it. You know what? They LOVED it! Even after I told them what they just ate. Besides who would turn a cupcake down? I won't, that's for sure.

Natural food colorings are easier than you think. I found this one through Pinterest awhile ago and just so happened to need to today. We don't eat foods or drinks that come with any food coloring, or at least for the most part. Using everyday vegetables you can add coloring to cakes, even frosting or baked goods. The great post about using these items can be found here on Itsy Bitsy Foodies. The post is for adding it to the cake batter, but I applied the same idea to the frosting, perfect results.

Yumm

I used a basic White Creamy Frosting recipe then added 1 tablespoon of Spinach juice at a time till it started to take on the color I needed. More white powdered sugar was needed to off set the liquid but it came out perfect. Even better, my kids seriously had no idea there was even the hint of a vegetable in their treat today. Not a single complaint ;-)

Creamy White Frosting (From better Homes and Gardens)
Ingredients

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon extract (you can use Orange, almond or lemon, I just used french vanilla)
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
*If coloring use 1 tablespoons Spinach Juice at a time. Mix/beat well between additions unti it becomes the color you want.
*more powdered sugar if it becomes too watery.

Directions.
Beat shortening , vanilla and extract with electric mixer. Slowly add half the powdered sugar in beating well between additions. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time in between adding the remaining sugar. If coloring add in one tablespoon of the spinach juice and beat well till mixed, add more till it becomes the color you want, Add and adjust the powdered sugar till the frosting is to your liking, if needed.


 The frosting doesn't taste like spinach, though I bet if you kept adding it in to make it darker it would have more effect on the flavor.
  With the added juice it really leveled the sweetness of the frosting so in my opinion it came amazingly well. I would love to try the other vegetable juices in baked items to see how they stand up.

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day !
 
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March 15, 2012

Chocolate Inspirations, Easter Chocolates!

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 I love Chocolate Inspirations, they have something for everyone .With Easter is right around the corner, you should check out their All natural & gluten free Artisan Confections & Gourmet Vegan Confections that would be a perfect way to say Happy Easter! They have a brand new section just for Easter, here are some items that are available.


Gourmet Chocolate  Easter Bunnies
$12.00 
Large Gourmet Dark Chocolate Easter Bunny -Vegan & Gluten Free
Large Gourmet Dark Chocolate Easter Bunny -Vegan & Gluten Free
$12.00

1/2 lb Award Winning Easter English Toffee Gift Box
1/2 lb Award Winning Easter English Toffee Gift Box- $15.50

                                      

  Easter Gift Boxes – Available in ½ lb, 1 lb & 2 lb Sizes

1 lb Easter Chocolate Pecan Decadence Gift Box


Give Something Extraordinary Give Chocolate Inspirations!
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March 13, 2012

EcoSTORE USA "GET ON THE SHELF" Contest

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EcoSTORE USA has entrered in to the Walmart "GET ON THE SHELF" contest. With your support from voting for our video we want you to help us bring non-toxic, healthy products to the shelves of Walmart stores!
It's easy to vote, simply click this button  Vote in Get On The Shelf  and vote for EcoSTORE USA Voting ends April 3rd

EcoSTORE USA products provide safe, healthy alternatives to everyday brands, while at the same time featuring outstanding performance and value for the dollar.

 On February 1st, 2012, EcoSTORE USA permanently reduced their pricing from 25-50% depending upon the product. No waiting for a sale on their fabulous line of Household, Personal Care and Baby products. Also, all ecoSTORE USA products are plant and mineral based and free of toxic ingredients. That is why we like to say No Nasty ChemicalsTM.

What are you waiting for? Go vote to get them!


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March 12, 2012

The pest in my garden



You may or may not remember Mr. Nutter's, I've spoken about him before. He's a certain squirrel that will not leave me alone, or stay out of my garden.
 I planted beans and pea seedlings this weekend, only to have Mr. Nutter's dig them up and run off with them one by one. It was raining too which made it hard to keep him away. Tried everything under the sun to keep him out but he's sneaky !

This is him,

  Don't be fooled by his cuteness.


He sneaks up everywhere, and even comes from above!



He's highly skilled on fences



He likes my plants.


Also loves nuts!


Thinks he's cute, but he's not!



And....


He thinks he's invisible!




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March 11, 2012

Weekend Project- Finished Knife Block



The knife block is finally finished! My husband made two of them, as the first wasn't to his liking. This was the finished result!




I love it! It fits perfectly right near my stove and makes it easier to grab what I need to use. Before we had three sets of blocks because all my knives are differently shaped, so it was a hassle, not to mention the space they took up. Now all my favorite knives are in one place :)


You can check out the plans which I shared back in January here.
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