Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let them eat cake....

...and pies, cookies, brownies...

We've had so many yummy treats around here lately!  Mostly desserts, but a few really good appetizers too!  I'm deliberately not posting any pictures today.  Sorry, but I just can't do that to you.  Because you would see how good these things look, you'd really start wanting some, you won't have anything in the house, it'll be too late (cold, rainy, fill in the blank here) to go to the store, and you'll hate me.  So, in the interest of our friendship, no pictures.  (Plus, I forgot to take any, I was too busy with my fork.)

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a yummy treat to make, and picked up my latest cookbook, "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3" by Todd Wilbur. I think I have every cookbook in this series, and we really enjoy them.  This guy's a wiz!  Anyway, I came across the recipe for his version of Cracker Barrel's Double Fudge Coca Cola cake.  We don't have Cracker Barrel's here, but I've eaten at a few, and really enjoyed them.  I had never, however, tasted this cake, and it sounded intriguing.  Coca Cola?  In cake??  Really????  Well, in a freak coincidence, I did have some Coke in the house, which I usually don't, so we gave it a try.  All I have to say is that this is, by far, the BEST CAKE I'VE EVER TASTED!  Because this is a new book on the market, I don't feel right posting the recipe, but I really recommend you find a copy of this book and try it.  You won't be sorry! Oh, and you might want to make extra frosting.  A double batch.  Frost the cake with half, and put the other half in a container in the refridgerator.  You know, just for late night chocolate emergencies.  (C'mon, you know what I'm talking about!)

Next up, bite size pumpkin pies.  At our Bible study last week, we all brought things to snack on.  I had some pie crusts, and some canned pumpkin, and didn't want to half to fiddle with serving utensils and such.  So, I got out my mini muffin pan and a cookie cutter.  I rolled the piecrust a little thinner, then cut out circles, fitting them into the muffin pan.  I followed the recipe on the back of the pumpkin can, filled the little crusts, and baked them until they were set.  They were wonderful....just the thing for a dessert buffet.  Of course, I had too much filling, and extra pie dough.  So, the ladies at Bible study got the mini pies, Don and the kids got some made in regular sized muffin tins, AND I have a pumpkin pie in the freezer for another night.  Love when things like that work out!

The senior high youth group at a "Formal Backwards Progressive Dinner" this past Sunday night, and I was asked to contribute.  What a fun idea!  The kids met at the first house for the dessert course.  The next house had the Main Course, then they went to a third house for the Side Dish.  At the fourth house, they had soup and salad, then met back at the church for the appetizer course.  That's where I came in.  Since Don and Katie were down in southern California for the weekend, I had a part foods night for myself and the other kids, and started cooking early.  I opened my current favorite cookbook, "Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond and got busy.  First up was the Hot Artichoke batch for home, one batch for the church kids.  Wow, was that good!  Our local grocery store carries a similar dip, in two versions, one plain and one with jalapenos, and this was very good.  I'll definitely be making it again...for Thanksgiving, as a matter of fact.  A double plain, one with jalapenos.  and I bet there won't be much leftover, either.  I also made potato skins from this cookbook, which I've done before, and love.  Fifteen JUMBO russet potatoes.  These potatos were huge...we're talking each one a meal for two, seriously.  But, since I was making some for home and some for church, it worked.  I made 120 potato skin appetizers, and there were none left.  What does that tell you?

Tonight is another Bible study, and I'm bringing Hot Milk Cake, which I discovered a few years ago, in a cookbook my Mom purged from her shelf called "America's Best Lodge Recipes".  This recipe was contributed by the Wikle Lodge in Bryson City, North Carolina, and is wonderful.  This cookbook was printed in 2004, so I'm going to go ahead and share the recipe with you.

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups four
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter or margarine (I use butter)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until creamy.  Add flour and baking powder, and mix well.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring butter and milk to a boil.  Add hot milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until well combined.  Blend in vanilla.  Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Try it.  I promise you won't be sorry!

I was feeling guilty about making a treat for the ladies in the Bible study, so I got out the Magic Brownie Pan and made a batch of brownies for the kids.  Before putting them in the oven, I raided the Trick or Treat candy, and sprinkled M&Ms on top.  They were thrilled.   I'm leaving them with 12 perfectly cut brownies...I'm sure they won't even notice that I'm gone.

Add the above treats to the seasonal sugar cookies, bowls of candy, and cold weather comfort food, and I'm sure you'll come to only one conclusion...

These days, I'm wearing my "comfortable" pants.

Until next time, enjoy the treats of the season!

P.S.:  If you want the recipes for anything I've shared here, email me and I'll send them to you!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween at our House

Wow, can you believe that it's November already?  I would've posted this yesterday, but I was too busy un-decorating to sit at the computer.  My Halloween decorations are totally taken down, and packed away until next year.  Well, except for 14 jack-o-laterns.  They get flipped around, and stay out for another month as pumpkins.  (The girls were astounded when I performed this bit of "magic".  At least they gave good performances!)  Why the rush, you ask?  It is only slightly over 3 weeks until Thanksgiving, and I really want to enjoy my fall decorations for as long as possible, before pulling out the Christmas stuff!

Here are some of the things that kept us busy in the last few weeks:

Here is a project that the girls and I did this year.  A friend had these on her front porch, and Katie loved them, so we came home and raided our recycling bin.  They are milk jugs, with holes cut in the back, and drawn on with Sharpie:

Katie and her creations.
Abby, Emma, and Katie each made two.  We weighted them with rocks, moved them to the porch, and stuffed them with white Christmas lights.  They looked so cute!  Here is the whole group:
Cute, easy, fun, and CHEAP!  All the hallmarks of a good craft.

Abby and Emma had their first costume parade and class party last Friday.  I was scheduled to help with the party, and Mrs. B. said that Katie could join in the fun.  First of all, Brianna, Brittany, and Maddie came with us to watch the parade.  After dropping them off at home, Katie and I went back, and spent the whole day at kindergarten.

Maddie Mouse, watching the parade.

Super Girl Katie at the parade.
The kindergarten class actually had their learning centers to start the day, and Katie was feeling a little left out.  I gave her the camera, and had her take some pictures.  Here are a few of the better shots:

Emma, decorating a cupcake and a cookie.

Abby, making a pinata bag.

And the one and ONLY picture of me in my costume.  Out of focus, but documentation nonetheless!
There were a few learning stations where Katie was able to participate.  She got to decorate a cookie and a brownie, make a bat, make a Halloween necklace, and play Halloween bingo.

Here's Katie, playing Halloween bingo.  Emma is on her other side.
After centers came recess time.  All three girls ran around like crazy with their friends.  I did manage to corral them all long enough to take a picture.

Then, of course, was party time!  Picture 26 kids, all at their tables, eating plates of pure sugar and drinking juice.  Halloween music played nonstop, and there was plenty of chattering.  LOTS of fun.  Katie got to sit next to Emma, and they fixed a plate of goodies for her too.  And since that wasn't enough, they also got to break a pinata, with each kid in class getting 3 swings at the pumpkin.  Apparently, the pinata didn't hold enough candy, so the teacher gave each mom a bag of candy to sprinkle on the floor for the kids to pick up.  At dismissal time, 3 of the kids handed out treat bags to the entire class.  We hardly needed to go trick or treating!

Saturday found Brittany and the 3 kids carving pumpkins.

And on Sunday, Don helped Maddie with her pumpkin:

Sunday night, of course, was trick or treating.  Each year, we seem to go a little further around the neighborhood.  This year, we were out for about an hour, and each of the 4 kids got plenty of candy.  Here is a group shot of them before we went out:

And here is the one shot I took of them out and about:

Hope your Halloween was fun!  Talk to you again soon!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Bag mania!

Sometimes, I get a little tunnel visioned, and, well,  fixated (although Don likes to call it obsessed) with an idea or project.  Recently, it was bags.  Tote bags, purses, wallets, purse organizers...they all fit into that category.  It started with the tote bag I made for my mom for her birthday.  I also made one for myself:

Next, using 100% wool yarn that I had leftover from other projects, I found a bag pattern that I just had to try:
This bag is made up of 10 hexagons and 4 diamonds, all knited in one piece, then felted.  As I wanted to use up some yarn in my stash, I used EVERY color I had, in various combinations.  No 2 hexagons are alike.  My kids promptly christened this the ugly purse.  It was felted, then I lined it, added closures and handled, and was pleased with the results.  So pleased, that I.....

...had to make a wallet and cell phone case to coordinate with it.

Next came a felted mini messenger bag for my grandmother's birthday.  Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of it, as I was afraid that I would forget and post it before her birthday.  I did, however make one for my mom as well.  My grandmother's was purple, and my mom's was black.  Although you can't really see the detail in this picture, the flap has a cable pattern on it.  Both were fully lined, with an interior pocket.

Next came this fun little bag.  I really liked the shape of it, and couldn't resist.  It was a really quick knit, and is also felted and fully lined.

This was another quick knit, and I thought it would be good for those quick little outings, when you don't really need a big purse:

I'm not much for beads and buttons usually, but when I saw that heart bead, I thought it would be the perfect compliment to the yarn.

And finally, I found a pattern for this bag.  The pattern came in 3 sizes, and I chose to make the medium one, which did not turn out to be as large as I thought.  I may have to make the bigger one eventually, but this will be big enough for smaller projects, or quick outings.  There is a braided cable on the front that extends into the handles.

This bag is also lined, but I added a covered cardboard bottom and some pockets, to give it some stability and to help keep it organized.  I'm really happy with how it turned out!

The crazy thing is that I'm not the kind of person that changes purses with regularity, but I think I will have to start, with so many cute options now.

The even crazier part is ....  I still have an awful lot of wool yarn!

P.S.  Remember the charity fundraising gift basket I made for my mother-in-law?  I found out that it sold for $75 at silent auction!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy...and about to get busier!

Yikes, time sure flies!  I've had the best of intentions for sitting down and writing to you, but before I know it, the day is over!

Two weeks ago, Katie, Maddie, and I went to MOPS.  It was Craft Day, which is one of my favorite things about going there.  Big surprise, right?  This month's craft was children's aprons.  Some moms worked on their projects there, but I took mine home to do with the girls.

We were given canvas aprons to color on, using regular crayons, then heat setting with an iron.  I had each of the girls pick out a picture from PrintShop to use:

Then, using my sliding glass door and a Sharpie pen, I traced the outlines for them:

This was a really good idea, but by the time I finished the fourth one, I thought my arms were going to drop off!  I used to have a glass topped dining room table, which was perfect for things like this.  On that day, I missed that table!

The next step was to get the kids busy with their crayons:



and Katie.

Maddie didn't get to help, but she was there "supervising" while I made one for her.

The next step was to heat set the design, and make it washable.  Using an iron on high heat and a sheet of computer paper, you iron the design until the wax starts to bleed through the paper.

Proof that I own an iron, even if it is only used for craft projects!

And now, the finished aprons:

Super fun, super easy, super quick!  Do kids' projects get any better than that?

On a quick side note:  in my title, I say I'm about to get busier.  NO, not baby #7.  Two nights ago, I signed on to be a Daisy Scout Troop leader for the kindergarten and first grade girls at our elementary school.  So far, we have 11 girls signed up to participate, and could get more.  As if that won't keep me busy enough, last night I participated in a Children's Ministry Vision meeting, and it looks as if that will be an ongoing project also.  I'm excited about both of these projects, and hope that I can balance everything, without having to give up much of what I'm already doing.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm back!

I've been gone for a while, which you might not have noticed.  I got a rare treat (although my family will tell you it's not as rare as I think it is!), and got to go out of town without any of the kids.

My last post, I wished my grandmother a happy 90th birthday.  The real truth is that on that day, which was her actual birthday, my mom, sister, and I were on a plane bound for New Jersey.  My mother and two aunts had planned a surprise party to celebrate, and part of the surprise was that the three of us from California were going to be there.

Once a month, my grandmother goes out to dinner with a group of people from her church.  The dinner was scheduled for Friday night, so my aunt planned the party for that particular night.  The plan, of course, was for everyone to be there ahead of time.  My sister, cousin, and I got to the restaurant to set up a little early.  We placed the members of her regular group at the first table she would see. 

My grandmother walked in, saw them first, and greeted them.  The next table was more of the usual group, with some of her local family.  We figured she would be surprised to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren there.
The lady in the front left corner is the pastor at my grandmother's church, seated next to a member of the Adults Dining Out group.  Next to him is my aunt and uncle, with my grandmother at the head of the table.  On the right side of the table is my cousin, her husband, and their two daughters.

At the last table was the rest of the family:  my aunt, uncle, and cousin, my mother and sister, and my cousin, his wife, and their daughter.  Oh yeah, and I was there too!  My grandmother walked in, and looked at my sister.  She looked away, looked back again, and repeated the scenario again.  Finally, it occurred to her that she DID know my sister, and that she wasn't some random stranger, crashing dinner.  Here is the expression on her face when she realized that the three of us were there:

Needless to say, it was totally worth the difficulty in keeping quiet about our plans.  THAT is one of the main reasons my blogs last month were so few and far between....I was afraid I would spill the beans!  By the way, my grandmother mentioned that this was the first birthday party she had ever had that was not a family party.  My aunt did a fabulous job...planning the party, cleaning her house so that she could host the three of us, planning events for my grandmother, so our presence would be undetected for the 19 hours we were there before the party, and keeping it all quiet.  Great job, Aunt Jill!

My sister was able to stay for 5 days, my mom and I were there for 11.  Here are a few more pictures of our trip.  Not many, however, we were kept too busy to really use the camera!
My mom and aunt, with 2 of their nieces.

Me, Gam, and Becky, around dessert time.

My cousin, with his niece and his daughter.

My grandmother, with her 3 daughters.  This picture was taken at the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City.

My sister, me, Gam, and my cousin, also at the Tropicana.
We had a great visit with family, good food (and lots of it!), shopping, great weather.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  But it was good to get home!

Take care, and I'll talk to you again soon!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Gam!

This picture was taken in 2006, when Katie was baptised.  Four generations of women in my family, minus one great grandchild!

Today's post is just to say a great big Happy 90th Birthday to my grandmother!  Sure wish we could be there to help you celebrate, but I just want you to know that we are all thinking about you today, and love you very much!

Here's hoping you keep your good health and your spirit of getting out and doing fun things for years to come!

Love, Amy, Don,
Brittany, Brianna,
Abby, Katie, Emma,

and Madison.