theCOZYgreenCOCOON

Headed towards back to the basics living.


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Strawberry Pretzel Squares-my ‘classic’ messup!

Mmmmm, I wish mine looked that pretty! Nope, this is what mine turned out like.


Have you ever had these? Their a classic. Strawberries, jello, cream cheese, cool whip and a slightly salty pretzel crust. Yum, right?  I remember the first time my mom made these. I was in the second grade and she got the recipe from a church lady who brought it to a potluck dinner. It was an instant hit with our family. (Gina do you remember these?) In fact my brother started requesting them for his birthday. Actually his 34th b-day was yesterday. I was feeling a little guilty for making them just cause he wasn’t here to offer a piece to. Ah, I guess that’s what I get. I think some people call that karma, no?

I was so happy making them too. I even bought fresh strawberries instead of frozen. So proud of my fresh springtime treat. Just waiting in the fridge for DH to get home and I’d slice him a piece like Martha Stewart (minus the apron-haven’t had time to sew one yet). Everything was going along just fine until I got to the fourth step. After you make the jello you’re supposed to let it cool in a separate bowl and  THEN you add the jello over the cream cheese. I was so busy thinking of  the fresh strawberries that I poured the still warm jello over the cream cheese. Everything looked fine. But when I took a peek in the fridge (you know, just in case it had magically set up in 10 minutes) the jello had burst through part of the cream cheese layer and leaked down to the pretzels! So long crunchy salty pretzel crust! Hello gummy red gunk!

In trying to see the positive side at least the strawberries, jello & cream cheese we’re good. DH bravely ate the ‘crust’ if that’s what you could call it. Poor guy-his wife is  pregnant so  I think he didn’t have much choice or else he ran the risk of a SOBBING pregnant wife. Don’t envy him there!

These really are delicious and they really are easy. Really! You should give them a go. Just make sure you let the jello cool first to avoid the jello being swallowed whole faster than  food down a certain pregnant woman’s stomach that I know when she hasn’t eaten in over 2 hours.

(Imagine false chirpy voice here) Happy baking!

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

The Goods

2 cups finely crushed pretzels
1/2 cup  sugar, divided
2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1-1/2 pkg.  (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup  thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
2 cups boiling water
1 pkg.  (6 oz.) JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
1-1/2 cups cold water
1 qt.  (4 cups) strawberries, sliced
The Grind

Heat oven to 350°F.

Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter. Press onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan. Bake 10 min. Cool.

So far, so good.

Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and milk until blended. Stir in COOL WHIP; spread over crust. Refrigerate.

Still on track.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 1-1/2 hours or until thickened (spoon drawn through leaves definite impression). Stir in strawberries; THEN spoon over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

OH! No, no, no! Say hello to the island of floating cream cheese!

Well I hope my pics haven’t totally discouraged you from making this. If so just return to the picture at the top of the post. They really do turn out that way-well if you follow the directions that is (= Enjoy a good piece of this for me will ya?


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Earth Hour 2010

There are times when I write a post and I think to myself: “Hmm…does this particular thing matter only to me or would someone else find this of importance or interest?” I honestly can’t say I know the answer I guess. We all have different interests and that’s one of the things I think makes the world so great! It’s full of creative, crazy, amazing people-some blonde, some brunettes, some short, some tall, some can run really fast, some talk really fast-but in the end we’re all just people living here on this planet going about our daily lives. And I’d like to think that makes us all interested in what’s going on with the Earth.

Speaking for myself at least it seems like life will just  go on as it always has. Sure I recycle and I unplug unused electronics. I grow a garden so I can have lots of fresh organic produce each summer. I’m even getting ready to try and get a compost bin started (more to come on that soon, promise). I do these things because I’ve heard that we need to be more responsible and take care of our planet or it may not be there for future generations. (For myself at least) I think it’s really easy to feel like these small acts of eco-friendly living don’t make much difference. I feel a little alone out here sometimes.  And sometimes I feel like people are staring at me as if I’ve grown two heads when I start talking about  getting rid of all my paper towels or not using plastic of any sort in the microwave.

If you’ve ever got that feeling or those looks for doing something “green”  then I want to encourage you to join people all over the world-over a billion last year-by  participating  in Earth Hour this Saturday @ 8:30pm local time. To me, it’s a chance to see how my one individual action joins with other’s actions to make a really big impact. Basically, for one hour you don’t turn on any lights at your house. (It’s a very visible sign that many people care about our environment.Whew!)  by participating you’re actively saying there needs to be a change in our environmental practices-that you care about our planet and its future-however extreme or not extreme you imagine it will be. The promotional  video is worth a watch as it shows some really famous places like the Eiffel Tower and Egyptian Pyramids going dark. Pretty awesome to see!

Okay, so what to do with that one hour in the dark? ( I assume the no lights policy includes TV’s and pc monitors too.) Well, I’ve got plans to have candlelight dinner with my husband (ooh-la-la) and then head out and look at the stars for a while. Honestly, when was the last time you really stopped and studied them?


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Butterflies-Blog Specimen No. 1

I love butterflies. Love them. (But I’m guessing you already knew that based upon the blog name I chose.) Winter is doing its darndest to hang on this year its seems, but I’ve noticed an abundance of springtime ideas around the blogosphere. And you know what that means? Butterfly crafts, butterfly candies & cakes, butterfly pictures, and butterfly stories-especially now that Easter is almost upon us. Oh, I couldn’t be happier! So just thought I’d share this fun craft idea I found over at The Year of Story.

It looks super easy and yet the simplicity of it is what makes it so perfect. Basically its just involves a craft punch, pretty paper, some glue and a frame.  I so want to make this. There’s a butterfly punch at Wallies’ that I’ve had my eye one for a while now. I know just where I would put my paper punch collection of beauties: in my future little girl’s room! Now if only I knew whether it was going to be a little girl or not….hmmm….perhaps I could go ahead and make it and if it turns out to be a little boy then I could somehow find a spot for it in my in-progress craft room…… or maybe I should make two… just in case…


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Mini Tour of Taos

First impressions can be wrong.

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Such true words to depict my recent visit to Taos, New Mexico. Previous passings through this small little New Mexico town famed for its artists and ski valley had given me the impression that Taos was rather overrated. Thanks to my adventuresome and curious sister I know it’s actually a rather fun place to spend the day.You just have to be willing to do a little pavement pounding and expect a little New Mexico culture to rise up and meet you along the way.

We started with one of the main squares and stumbled upon several local artists, collectors, restaurants and a hodge podge of shops.My most favorite shop by far was called “At Home in Taos. ” We must have spent a good hour in this shop. It’s filled with those little treasures & trinkets that make you feel like you’re a kid in a candy shop when you’re little. Everything begs  to be admired and touched.  I have to admit the  eco-friendly offerings really had me that much more in love with the place. Check out some of the unique goods I found.

Proceeds from these hand crafted baskets from The S.P.I.R.A.L. Foundation help fund medical care and education in Vietnam and Nepal. And they're made from leftover food wrappers-love it!

Also loved these!

Wine bottle toppers made from bottle caps and leftover metal scraps.

And these “Pop-Top” Bags had me drooling-how creative!

Did I mention all the pretty prints to drool over?

But it wasn’t just a one stop shopping expedition! We also found shops with beautiful and colorful spanish influence.

Festive Maracas!

Cheeful Pillows!

Fun, Woven Hacky Sacks!

Also found some green friendly crafts in several of the other stores.

How about a reclaimed Picket Fence Bench?


Or garden decor from old spoons and garage tools?

One of my favorite ideas was reusing old license plates. I’ve been trying to think of something to do with our collection for years!

And lest you think it was shops, shops and no atmosphere I thought you might enjoy the glimpses of nature that surrounded us.

Just beyond the square but not out of reach!

And the guitar player strumming in the warm afternoon sun!

All in all it was a really nice way to spend the day: A little lunch, a little window shopping, a little music and last but not least a scoop of ice cream or chocolate treat! A great glimpse of spring!


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Unplugged

Unplugged!!! That’s been me for the last week! It wasn’t exactly expected, and I had a few withdrawals at first but honestly, it wasn’t THAT bad! Okay, maybe I should back up just a bit. I just got back from Spring Break vaca with my family. Now I know what you may be thinking. Oh, spring break! I bet they went somewhere warm! Well….not exactly. Although there were a couple of really beautiful sunshine-y days in there. With a day trip to Taos-more pics on the fun shops we found tomorrow! We actually went skiing/snowboarding up in Angelfire, New Mexico. At least everyone else did. I pretty much tagged along for the ride and hung out. Let’s just say I’m by no means and expert skier and probably would have fallen a few-wait, make that MANY times! Skiing and clutzy preg-o woman not a good mix!

I’d like to say that our trip was one last hurrah in the snow for the winter season but alas no luck! We received 8 inches of snow while we were gone and its actually snowing as I’m typing! Can you believe it? Yuck! So I thought I’d share with you a few ideas that I’ve used in the past and am definitely going to implement  this year to get myself  by til the warm weather really sets in. Or if your spring break isn’t  here yet (i.e. Jill) then maybe these ideas will keep you goin’ til then. If you’re lucky enough to be having beautiful weather-I’m so happy for you!!! Please soak some sunshine in for the rest of us! My bones are cold, so cold!

10 Ideas to get and keep that springtime feelin’:

  1. Dream a little dream. Plan a garden. Even if you’ve only got room for one pot out on a patio or a few herbs on a windowsill. Let your imagination go wild. Write down all the plants you want, the supplies you’ll need and where you’re going to put the plants. You’ll be ready when the weather is.
  2. Buy some seeds. Look up the last frost date in your area.  Then go and buy at least one seed packet that you could start now. Herbs are great because they grow year round and can stay on a windowsill all year if you choose.
  3. Find a south-facing window-if not at your house find a building with big tall windows and a great view. Just sit there in the sun and soak it in. Imagine how the landscape will look in a few months.
  4. Find some new body wash. Those that smell like coconut or the “tropics”, turn the heat up in  the shower, maybe throw on some tropical music or “ocean waves” in the background and suds up while imagining that just outside your door the sand and the palm trees beckon.
  5. Try adding just one new decorative item to your house –maybe it’s a new cheery shower curtain or a couch pillow that adds a pop of color. Something that just cheers you up every time you see it. Even if it’s just a candy dish filled with jelly beans or chocolates wrapped in those soft pastel colors.
  6. Get out and go for a walk or a bike ride if the weather allows. Find something-anything-that reminds you of spring and just stop and study it for a minute. Maybe it’s that smidgen of grass eeking its way to the surface. Or maybe it’s those laughing kids you can hear playing in their backyard finally loosed from winters’ confinement. If it’s still below zero outside your house then try finding a museum full of beautiful art & photography showcasing gardens and outdoor scenes.
  7. Change your screen saver. There are dozens and dozens of offerings on line-many free- of beautiful spring images. It will bring a smile to your face every time you turn on your pc. (Here’s a link to a bunch of other links I’ve had a lot of luck with in the past. Hoping they’ll do a spring/summertime round-up soon!)
  8. Declare next weekend as “Spring Break” even if it’s weeks away. Serve up fresh fruits and veggies, make yourself a margarita or fresh-squeezed limeade. Grill if you dare! Crank up the heat (I know it’s not earth friendly but sometimes you gotta live a little) and throw on some shorts, a tank top and some flip-flops. Who knows maybe digging out your summer clothes will help you to see what you need just in time for those fantastic Memorial Day sales.
  9. Which brings up another point: Even if it’s freezing still in your area most stores don’t seem to know it. Go ahead and try on those cute new sundresses and fun t-shirts that are sure to be hitting stores soon. Now you know what you like, you can keep an eye on them and wait for that killer sale.
  10. And last but not least buy some potted flowers. You know those ones they always sell as Easter gets closer and closer and filled with tulips or daffodils. No you didn’t do the work last fall but you can still enjoy the beauty this spring! They should last you just long enough until the real thing gets here!

Here’s to spring! May it come quickly! If you’ve got any ideas that just really make it spring for you I would love to hear them-I can use them all-NO MORE WINTER!


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Granola Energy Bars

To know me is to know I love to anything involving granola, nuts, and dried fruit. Of course you would also know that lately I just haven’t had the energy or motivation that I’m accustomed to. (It’s almost as if my body has a separate project of its own going on!) So when I found this recipe for homemade energy bars I stopped and took a closer look.

Let’s see…variety of nuts (check), variety of dried fruit (check), oats (check), cinnamon (yum-check,check)

Almonds & Raisins & Cinnamon, oh my!

and oh, wheat germ (check, check, check).

All pretty typical healthy ingredients, none of the additives usually found in store-bought energy bars (not that I’m above those mind you). The wheat germ had me especially excited. I’m always looking for recipes that call for wheat germ or flax seed. Both are great ways to sneak in a little extra nutrition without anyone being the wiser. For example,wheat germ is known for its vitamin E and folic acid content among a BUNCH of others.

Ground so fine they'll never even know its in the recipe!

The recipe is from Ellie Krieger’s Book “The Food You Crave.” I’m on my second renewal from the library with it. I am seriously considering buying a used copy from amazon. I’ve made several of the recipes from it and they have all been delicious with just a little minor tweaking.

Last step before heading into the oven! This even looks pretty before its cooked!

Did I mention the heavenly cinnamon aroma that fills your house while these are baking?


THE GOODS:

Cooking Spray

1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats

1/2 c. shelled unsalted raw sunflower seeds

1/2 c. toasted wheat germ

1/4 c. whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour

1/2 c. dried apricots

1/2 c. raw almonds

1/2 c. raisins

1/2 c. pitted dried dates   (These are great way to sneak some fiber into your diet!)

1/2 c. nonfat dry milk    (I used regular lowfat milk and they turned out fine.)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. pure maple syrup

2 large eggs

THE GRIND:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. coat a 9×13 -inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place all ingredients, except the maple syrup and eggs, in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the syrup and eggs and pulse until the mixture is well combined. It will resemble a coarse paste.

Transfer to the baking pan and spread evenly to cover the bottom. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into 24 bars. Sore in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Can’t get enough granola? Head over to Prudent Mama. I just found a tasty looking granola recipe over there from Cooking With My Kid!


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New Uses for Gift Wrap, Pt. 1

I love gift wrap! Love, love, love it! Good things often come in pretty packages! But there’s also some pretty fabulous ways to use gift wrap for things other than wrapping gifts! Here’s a few that I’ve come up with:

  1. Use it to coordinate a bunch of books on a shelf. No adhesive is necessary if you make the flaps a little longer. Then when you want a new look it’s as easy as tracing the “templates” onto the new paper.
  2. Use it with some ModPodge to cover just about anything. Here I used it on an old ugly 3-ring binder and a box of checks. If you must pay bills why not have something pretty to look at?

    Litlle bit of measuring, cutting and modpodge. Goodbye boring!

  3. Frame it. A large frame allows a pretty print to be shown off.

    A group of coordinating ones could provide a little eye candy like I did with these scrapbook papers.

  4. Or use it as mat board when framing pictures. Way more interesting than just your typical mat.
  5. Wrap empty shoe boxes with it. Add a tag and you’ve got yourself some cheap organization.
  6. Make labels to coordinate with just about any project you’ve got. Here I used it in my closet for a little laundry organization.

    A five minute project to help family members keep things straight and presorted for laundry day.

  7. Make notebook dividers with it. Take paperboard (i.e. an empty cereal box, cracker box, etc.), cut paper to fit, followed by a thin coat of modpodge, and trim as needed. Punch holes for the binder rings. Use alphabet stickers or marker for labeling.
  8. Make bookmarks out of them. Take the leftover paperboard from idea seven and use it to make sturdy, pretty bookmarks. Same procedure as in step 7. Punch a whole on one end and thread some ribbon through for a little extra flair. Try using stickers/letters or even special edged scissors for fun.

    I like making some bookmarks extra long-they're great to use with magazines!

  9. Use it to cover an old beat up closet door for coordination with the rest of your room. I haven’t done this yet myself (we’re renters), but I think it could be pretty easy and fast and make a big impact in a room.
  10. Use it to line drawers like they did over at Young House Love.  Now this is taking things to a whole new (beautiful) level!

Stay tuned for more ways to use wrapping paper and gift bags-including reusing/recycling them-tryin’ do my part for the planet, ya know?