December 31, 2008

The Magic of a Good Book

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn and Mark Buehner
(the original, Snowmen at Night, is also very good)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I have been meaning to put some of my favorite books on this blog for some time. A bookstore was going out of business near my home so I was able to snag a few of my favorite children's classics for half price. I cannot tell you how much I love books and I hope to instill that same love in my boys at an early age.

I love the idea of snowmen coming alive at night and having fun outside while we are all sleeping. The illustrations are beautiful and there are hidden objects on each page for extra fun when your child is a little older.

The Paper Bag Princess is a silly book that my 4 year old loves and laughs all the way through. I love the conclusion of this book.

Olivia is a delight. My favorite part is when she has to keep moving her cat. Her attempts at modern art are great as well. The last lines as Olivia is going to bed are so cute too, it's something my kids would definitely say to me. I have a couple of friends with daughters named Olivia....get this book for them if you don't already have it!

December 29, 2008

Belated Christmas Treats

Homemade caramels. The recipe I use makes A TON! Let me know if you want it.

And, of course, the famous poppy seed bread. Sorry, it's a super secret family recipe and a must for the holidays. I think there is still a loaf in my fridge.....see ya! Hope everyone had fun making their Christmas treats as well!

I Heart Costco

I love Costco and since I have now moved closer to my most beloved store, I venture there much more frequently. My newest discovery: Margherita pizza, ready to take and bake. This wonderful pie is simple, consisting of sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. Oh, my mouth is watering....this is the true Italian pizza in case you were wondering.

December 18, 2008

Vote for Tiff!

(My sister in law sent this to me today and I just had to post this in hopes of getting her some more votes. She's such a good party planner and hostess. Wish I could have been there Tiff!)

We had our girls night cocoa party last weekend and it was a blast. Always love to get together and chat with friends. Well the girls I did this with are amazing and we decided we loved our party so much we'd enter it in a "Holiday entertaining contest" at Hostess with the Mostess. Well me made the top ten and now need your votes. Go to Hostess with the Mostess to vote. Our entry is the Girls Night Cocoa Party. All you have to do is leave your vote in the "Comments" section on who you vote for. Thank you now for your support, we had a great time doing this party and are so excited to be entered. WooooHoooo!!! And if you feel so compelled to pass/forward this on to others you know we would greatly appreciate it. We have until midnight EST Friday to vote.

December 8, 2008

White cake with chocolate and caramel frosting

I made a little yummy cake for the adults at my son's birthday party this weekend.

It's a white cake (2 6x2 inch cakes stacked) with chocolate frosting in the middle. I frosted the outside with caramel frosting and topped it with a little chocolate sprinkles ring. Yum! I heart caramel frosting!

Elmo Cupcakes

My son's second birthday was this weekend and he has two loves in his life: Elmo and Thomas the Train. Having just moved across town and spend a hectic week unpacking my house, I knew I needed a quick birthday project this year. After imagining myself making a 3-D Thomas cake with accompanying Annie and Clarabel passenger cars....I opted for some Elmo cupcakes. And it was definitely a wise choice because my two year old could really care less.

Red, white, orange, and black frosting. Star tip cupcake with red. Add white eyes and orange nose. Finish off with black mouth and dots for eyes.

This is a la la la....Elmo cupcake song....
(those with toddlers know what this means)

November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey Treats

You need: Oreos or another creme-filled cookie(base for feathers and body)
Frosting(glue everything together)
Candy corn (feathers)
Whoppers or another malt-flavored ball (body)
M&M candy (head)
Red hot (gobbler)

Isn't he cute? We make these every year for Thanksgiving. It's a great kid craft and they can eat it after they are done admiring their work!

Try experimenting with different candies. They have different colored candy corns that give you a variety of feathers to choose for your turkey. Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving!

We are moving into a new house across town this weekend, so my posting may be delayed for a little bit....I'll be back as soon as all my crafting and baking supplies are unpacked again!

November 15, 2008

My Favorite Dessert

Nothing is better than delicious, homemade shortbread with a little drizzle of melted chocolate and a cup of cocoa for dipping. To my detriment and delight, this recipe makes a full cookie sheet of shortbread. My mouth says yum..... and my figure says no!

I begged my friend for this recipe after tasting it once at bookclub and I believe it is her Scottish grandmother's recipe. Authentic. It makes me like it even more.

Nan's Shortbread

1 lb. real butter, softened (yes, FOUR sticks!)
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 cups of flour

Mix first four ingredients for about 5 minutes until whipped. Add flour one cup at a time, beating for 2-3 minutes each time.
Butter cookie sheet (with sides) and add wax paper to bottom of pan. Spoon mixture onto pan and smooth out. Add another piece of wax paper on top of dough and use a rolling pin to roll out until smooth and even on edges. Pull top layer of wax paper off slowly. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
Take out of oven and cut dough into desired amount of bars. Prick each bar with a fork a couple of times and return to oven. Bake for an additional 13 minutes or until golden brown on edges.
Cool for 20 minutes in pan. Cut bars again and remove from pan.

Enjoy and bake with caution, this stuff is just too good to sit in your house for long!

Homemade Pizza

I used to make homemade pizza when Doug and I were in college and stopped for some reason after we moved. Now, thanks to my cousin, Erica, we are back in business and loving it! Check out her cooking blog for the dough recipe and excellent BBQ chicken toppings. I made her pizza the first time I tried it, and thought it was heavenly. A few days ago I was craving homemade pizza again, but didn't have all the ingredients for the pizza I made we improvised.

This is buffalo-blue cheese chicken pizza with mozzarella. I added some veggies I had in the fridge and it was delicious! I used blue cheese dressing for the sauce and tossed the shredded chicken in some buffalo wing hot sauce. Add your preferred veggies or leave as-is and enjoy.

Thanks Erica, you have brought homemade pizza back into our home again.

November 12, 2008

My Twilight T-shirt

I loaded my boys in the car today and went to the craft store to get my supplies. This shirt took me about 30 minutes to make from start to finish.

Black T-shirt
Iron on T-shirt transfers (for dark fabric)
Word/phrase/picture on computer that you want to print out
Scissors and/or craft knife
Iron with steam off
Red glitter glue

This is what the shirt looks like after you iron on the letters printed on the transfer paper. I almost left it like this because it looked so good, but alas....I like sparkles. I got this font from this website. They've got some fun stuff on there for Twilight fans.

Preheat your iron and follow the instructions in the iron-on transfer packet for printing and ironing on your letters.

My mom did some experimenting and suggested that you cut out each individual letter so it looks really authentic. You won't get any transfer paper line that way on your shirt. Once each letter is cut with scissors or a craft knife, then you can iron them on your shirt.

Last step: glitter glue! I used a toothpick to get it up right to the edge in some places.

Anyone interested in a Twilight shirt? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail. We can personalize it to your preference if you wish.

Twilight T-shirt

Ok, so doesn't this shirt look great? My mom is hosting a "Twilight" party before she and her friends go to the midnight showing on Nov. 21st. She had a hard time finding a shirt that she would like to wear for the party and movie, so she decided to make her own. I love how it turned out and it's one of a kind. It's glittery too, so what is better than that?
This has inspired me to want to make my own and I have her instructions on how to do it. I'll post my version and how-to soon. If it goes well.....maybe I'll even take some orders if anyone is interested!

November 2, 2008

Hello Pumpkin

I have a new niece and wanted to make a little homemade gift for her to wear during the Thanksgiving season. I even ordered a special stamp that said "hello pumpkin" and was going to use it. Well, the stamp still has not been delivered (bought it online), so I was forced to use plan B. It turned out alright, but I think I'll make another one when my real stamp gets here.

The present probably hasn't gotten to you yet Tiff, so I guess you get to see it early. I hope you like it and you'll have to tell me how it washes up for you. I washed it once with the decorations on, but baby clothes get washed so often, you don't know how they'll hold up.

Mummy Dogs

The boys and I had these for lunch on Halloween.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut thawed puff pastry into long strips and wind around hot dog. Cook for 25 minutes and add mustard eyes.

October 27, 2008

Chocolate Pumpkin Tart

This little dessert is heavenly. I am not a big pumpkin fan, but if it is combined tastefully with other dessert items (my mother-in-law has a wonderful recipe combining pumpkin and yellow cake mix for example) I find it quite good. Pumpkin and chocolate is an excellent combination. Try this recipe out, you will not be disappointed.

20 chocolate wafers
2 TB sugar
3 TB unsalted butter, more for pan
4 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse cookies and sugar in food processor until finely ground. Add butter, pulse until crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch removable -bottom tart pan. Place tart pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes.

Pour chocolate onto warm crust, spread with spatula. Freeze until chocolate is firm, about 5 minutes. Brush sides of tart pan with butter, set aside.

In a bowl, combine all filling ingredients using a whisk. Pour filling into prepared crust and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 45-50 minutes until set. Cool 1 hour at room temperature or cool in fridge. Unmold tart and transfer to a platter for serving.
(Martha Stewart Everday Food magazine November 2008 issue, page 27)

(Britt tip: a little dabble of whipped cream just before serving doesn't hurt either)

Pomegranate Soda

I made this delicious drink for a YW sleepover and we liked it so much that we made some more in the morning for breakfast!

2 cups sugar
1 cup pomegranate juice
club soda, for serving
maraschino cherries

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and juice, bring to a boil over high, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Reduce to a simmer and cook 3-4 minutes. Remove from stove and cool until room temperature. Store in fridge for up to a week.

To serve, fill glass with ice. Pour 2 tablespoons of syrup in glass and top with club soda to taste. Stir until combined. Garnish with cherries and enjoy!

This is very yummy and easy. I will definitely be making it again. I think I want to try it with 7-up or Sprite next time too, as long as it doesn't make it too sweet. Experiment with this and let me know what you think!
(recipe from Martha Stewart's Everday Food magazine)

October 23, 2008

Werewolf Cupcakes

These are just too cute. I don't know if I have time to make these this year, but they're adorable and seemingly easy to make. Check these out on the Wilton website here.

October 21, 2008

Candy Corn Cake

Using this handy little tool from Wilton, you can create a fun Halloween cake. Due to time constraints, I used a boxed white cake mix, divided the batter, and colored some yellow and orange, leaving a little plain white for the center. I would recommend a homemade cake mix if you have the time though, the box mix is only enough for one 9-inch round using this Wilton pan (there is some left over but not enough for a second cake) and I think this cake looks better as two cakes stacked on top of each other. I guess you could use two cake mixes, duh.

After getting your circles of cake colors in their correct position using the handy tool (I don't know if it has a name), pull it out, and VOILA!...your cake is ready to bake!

When coloring the cake mix and getting into the right places in the pan, I use Pyrex measuring cups. I can measure out the right amount of batter for each ring (you need a lot more yellow batter obviously), mix the gel food color right in the Pyrex, and then easily pour it into the pan. Much easier than trying to do it all in regular bowls.

This cake was for a birthday, so with the leftover batter, I made a small example cake that I could cut and show the layers. Doesn't that look great? It's a fun surprise if you don't tell your guests before cutting it open.

Add some star-tipped icing to your cake to coordinate with the colored cake underneath and you are good to go. Just make sure you slice it like a pie, or it won't look like candy corn when you serve it.

I like to add a little of the real thing on the side, just for fun. Check out the Wilton Cake Decorating Yearbook 2006, that's where I first saw this idea.

Pumpkin Tie Dye Shirts

My cousins, Erin and Cami, invited the boys and I over for a craft day. Erin's sister-in-law was there as well, which gave us a total of 4 moms and 9 kids ages 5 and under. Crazy? Yes. Fun? Of course.

Cami found this idea in this month's issue of "Family Fun" magazine. Pre-washed white shirts, one rubber band around a gather in the middle of the front to create the white circle, and a bottle of orange Rit dye. Follow the directions on the dye bottle and about twenty minutes later, you have a nice circle shape for your pumpkin. I bought a fabric marker from Michael's, drew the faces on (use cardboard underneath the front of the shirt so it doesn't sink through), and heat set it with an iron.

Great idea Cami, thanks for getting us crafting this Halloween! We also made some cute bats using little pumpkins and foam pieces, but Scotty has this thing with taking things apart and they were destroyed before I could take a picture. Way to go kid.
Oh, and by the way Erin and Cami, I was planning on washing these separatly a few times just in case the dye washed off, but they ended up accidently in a load of whites.....I am happy to say my whites are still white and the shirts still look great, so no worries in case you were wondering about washing yours. The fabric marker hasn't faded yet either, but even if it does, just pull it out and do a little touch up.

October 15, 2008

Sugar Cookies

I saw this effect a few years ago and finally got around to trying it yesterday. I love them!

Spider web, anyone?

I have a letter cookie cutter set and couldn't resist making some cookies for my alma mater. We'll eat them during the game this week. Go Cougars!

I cut out the letters separately and then squish them together a little before I bake them on the cookie sheet. They come out as one cookie. Just let them cool and then add some royal icing. They're shiny when wet, but dry in a couple of hours.

A little shout out to the mother land. Dad, I would seriously mail these to you if I knew they would get there in time for the game, but I think it will be too late. Maybe for the BCS bowl game...? :) If you know the top teams in collegiate football this season, you will know that I am VERY happy with my teams this year. Go Broncos!

Spider Web Sugar Cookie How-To

Start with a yummy sugar cookie. I use the Better Home and Garden "sugar cookie cut-out" recipe. Lots of butter, very scrumptious.

Frost using a piping bag filled with Royal Icing. I use Martha Stewart's and it's really easy to make. One batch of icing is plenty for a batch of sugar cookies. I always have extra icing. Make it right before you are ready to frost though, you do not want your icing to dry out before you are done decorating.

Outline the spider web in black tinted royal icing and then make a swirl starting in the center, all the way to the outline.

Use a toothpick, starting in the center, and pull the icing gently to one of the points of the spider web. You have to do this before the icing dries and don't press to hard or you will scrape the icing off and see cookie underneath. Repeat all the way around the cookie.

The icing is shiny when wet and then dries with a kind of pearl-like sheen to it with no separation between colors, it's a cool effect. Very pretty and great for a gift or a thank you. These are for Scotty's preschool teacher because I was late picking him up a couple of days ago. I learned my lesson: never schedule doctor's appointments during will always be late to pick up your child!

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