Sunday, November 30, 2008

Praline Yams

Submitted by: Linda

You blog followers know by now that Michelle is the real chef, but I can "bring it" now and again. You read on Michelle's post about the wonderful friendship feast; pictured above is the recipe I submitted for the feast and the special cookbook we made that day. The recipe is courtesy of my sister in law Renee, and I made it again for our family Thanksgiving celebration. The picture below shows the yams with the praline topping before it is baked.

This next picture is a serving of the finished product: YUM!

This recipe would be a nice addition to a Christmas meal, so I've included the recipe for your enjoyment.

Praline Yams

1-cup brown sugar
1/2-cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

3 eggs
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4-teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4 cups mashed yams or sweet potatoes (see tip below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Make topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer combine brown sugar and flour. Cut butter in small chunks and add, mixing until it resembles crumbs. Add pecans, mix and pour crumb topping into a bowl and set aside.

Make potatoes: In same mixing bowl (no need to clean it), beat eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, sugar and pumpkin pie spice, until well blended, about 1 minute. Add mashed yams and mix until well combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. It doesn’t have to be smooth, and in fact, some lumps are desirable.

Pour potato mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over all (it will be a thick layer of topping), and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes and serve. Serves 12.

Yam tip: To get 4 cups mashed yams, start with 2 ¾ pounds of fresh yams. Pierce the skin of each yam once with the tip of a knife, and microwave cook the yams for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and wrap hot yams in a tea towel and let them sit on counter for 10 minutes. This completes the cooking process. (Or you may roast them in a conventional oven at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.) Then peel, mash slightly with a potato masher and measure 4 cups.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Linda's QUICK Christmas Tip #7

Submitted by: LindaThis is what my tree looks like when I stand back and squint.
Hello Friends,
I had to quickly get this tip in today in case you are putting up your Christmas tree this weekend.

Michelle and I were "in calling" and texting all day yesterday as we were hauling out the holly. She was asking me where we put certain decorations last year (I went to her house last year to help decorate) and I was calling her to ask, "Can I wash my new Spode dishes in the dishwasher?"

Anyway, she reminded me of a tip I shared with her last year, and suggested I share it on the blog. So here it is: When you are putting lights on your Christmas tree, string the lights up and down, rather than around and around. I used to spend so much time winding the lights around every branch, hiding the cords meticulously. Then I observed someone at my church putting lights on multiple trees lickety split! She just ran the strings up and down and then shoved the lights in the branches. I now do my tree like this, and it looks as good as it did when I spent a ton of time, and I think I'm using less light strings with the same effect.

One more thing: to check your progress, or see it you missed a spot, stand back and squint at your tree - you'll be able to easily see if the lights are spread evenly.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Trot: We Did It!

Submitted by: Linda
So, some friends and I ran in Claremont's first annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. We have been "training" at dark-thirty in the mornings (about 5:45 am) and today we all improved our times since we ran the "fun run" at APU in October. I'm just thrilled that I was able to finish!!!! Pictured below are Patti, Amy, Nora and me. Hooray for women in the "over 40" category!

Thanksgiving Wishes

Submitted by: Linda

This year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.......I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at seas and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Abraham Lincoln 1863
This pretty cornucopia is made of chicken wire - an idea I copied out of a magazine several years ago. Each October I fill it with tiny pumpkins and gourds for a welcoming front door that lasts though Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #6

Submitted by: Linda

Here is something useful to me, which I use all year around. I'm talking about As a teacher, I use this site at least once a week, to label student work, organize my classroom, or send reminder labels home on children's shirts.

However, this site is great for home use as well. Pictured below is an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of cardstock, printed with a simple design I made at the website.

I chose to print it on card stock so that I could cut it into a cute gift tag, which can be attached to a cello bag filled with Thanksgiving treats.

Simple directions are as follows:
1. Go to the site.
2. Click on Design and Print Online.
3. Click Create Project by Product Type.
4. Type in your Avery label number (my faves are 5160, 5161, 5162, 5163). After you pick your number, click next and it will show a diagram of the label layout. If you picked the wrong size, go back and try again.
5. Click next, and you will be able to choose a template for your label with tons of choices, then you can choose your artwork and type in your words. You may need to click around a bit to figure it out, but it is relatively easy. Some holiday suggestions for use are:

Gift Tags
Holiday Address Labels
Return Address Labels
Tags for Treat Bags

P.S. They will ask you for your email address, but you can opt out of any emails sent from them. I hope you find this helpful!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friendship Feast

Submitted by: Michelle
Going clockwise from me we have:
Laurie, Lisa, Karen, Linda, Maribel, Jodi, Diane, Gloria, Lynn, Stacey and Debbie.

The ladies in this photo are all members of my Claremont Stamp Club. Over the last 2 years we have gone from acquaintances to great friends. I am honored and wowed by the commitment that these ladies make to gather on the 3rd Friday of every month to craft together.

What I find really interesting is that the 12 of us did not all know each other when our club began, in fact, I didn't know any of these ladies (except for Linda.) Linda hosted my first Stampin' Up party and invited Stacey. Stacey instantly became addicted to stamping and recruited a group of her friends to have a club. And, the group of friends that she recruited did not all know each other very well either. I committed to teaching the club, despite it being 2 hours from my house, because it meant I'd get to see Linda on a regular basis. Little did I know that these ladies would all become front row quality friends.

Now, besides our monthly club meetings, Stacey and another club member, Diane, have organized holiday themed parties for our group. Last year was a cookie exchange (which I unfortunately was not able to participate in) and this year we had a Friendship Feast.

The Friendship Feast was this past weekend. We all gathered at Stacey's lovely home in La Verne for a Thanksgiving Potluck Lunch and recipe book making session. Each club member was required to bring part of the meal as well as a copy of the recipe. We ate together and tasted each other's dishes and made this fabulous recipe book to take home.
Diane painted the pumpkins for all of our books!

Linda and I put our music degrees to good use and provided the musical entertainment for the afternoon. It was great fun for us to dust off our flutes and play duets together, just like we did in college.
Everyone contributed to a great afternoon of food, fun and friendship, but a big shout out needs to go to Stacey for organizing the event and opening up her home to us and to Diane for helping Stacey design the recipe books as well as creating a gorgeous center piece for our table. Check it out!
( Diane specifically told me she doesn't like having her picture taken, but I ignored her and posted this anyway.)

Though the food was amazing and I will cherish the recipe book for years to come, I most value the opportunity to spend time with women who are so talented and that I respect so much. In a busy world full distractions and expectations, it is good to know that I have 11 other kindred spirits who enjoy some of the simpler things of life: cooking, crafting and being front row quality friends.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being a Wallace...almost

Submitted by: Michelle
Me & T-Bone

This weekend I've been in Claremont crafting with Linda, stamping and eating with my C-mont Stamp Club (more on that in tomorrow's blog) and enjoying being Auntie Shelskie to Tommy and Nick.

One of the best perks of being in Linda's front row is being an honorary part of the Wallace Family. T-Bone and Nick Dawg, as I like to call them, always seem genuinely happy when I come to visit and are never embarrassed when I harass them and their friends with annoying questions about school or girls or life in general.

Much of Linda's extended family lives in the area and we often run into them at the boy's baseball games or church or events at Azusa Pacific University. I'm always amazed that they remember exactly who I am and are usually up to date on what I've been doing via Linda. I'm never just "Linda's friend" but a part of their family.

Tonight Linda and I went to a Turkey Feast hosted by the church she and her family attend. I've heard about this feast for years but have never been able to be a part until now. The event took place at APU and it was great fun seeing all the men working in the cafeteria kitchen. Craig, Linda's husband, always heads up the kitchen crew and does an amazing job. He is such a worker bee and is always a cheerful giver. Just the thought of organizing food for 400 people tires me out, but Craig makes it happen every year. Here's a pic of Craig and Tommy working together preparing food.
And here's Nick and his cousin Matt who, as always, recognized me and gave me a hearty hello.

I always feel lucky to have my C-mont family, but at this time of year when we are reminded to counting our blessings, I am especially thankful to be a part of the Wallace crew.

Linda and Nick

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pomegranates 101

Submitted by Linda (with Michelle looking over her shoulder)

Look at these pretty pomegranates! Michelle is here for the weekend and she brought me my favorite fall fruit from her big box of produce. These beauties are famous for their antioxidant properties, but I just think they taste great. Many folks are intimidated by the mess and hassle of getting the seeds out, so I thought it may help if I posted a photo tutorial. Ready?

First, cut off the pointy end.
Next, use a knife to score in about 4 places.
Get a large bowl and fill it about 3/4 full of cool water. Break the pomegranate apart and brush the seeds out, under water.
Then drain out the water and VIOLA! Pomegranate seeds without the mess!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #5: Finding Joy in the Mundane

Submitted by Linda:
Michelle and I joke about "spreading joy and sunshine wherever we go", but seriously, I hope my little philosophical jaunt will be an encouragement to all of you.

This summer I decided to start shopping for this beautiful Spode Christmas Tree pattern for Christmas dishes (what I had previously were really dated, and were well used). Anyway, I happily bought plates in different sizes on ebay. So fast forward to last week, when Tuesday Morning had a sale on Spode Christmas Tree serving pieces. I scored this wonderful teapot, cream and sugar set. I do drink and serve a lot of tea, so I will really enjoy using it during the holidays.

The tea set reminded me of a great nugget of wisdom that I read quite a few years back in Alexandra Stoddard's book Tea Celebrations. She writes that the point of tea parties and tea times is really time well-spent with others (especially Front Row friends). But what encouraged me the most from the book was this idea: she talks about ironing a tablecloth for an upcoming celebration, and approaching the task not as a chore, but in anticipation of the joy and appreciation your friends or loved ones will feel when they experience your table set on this beautiful, well-ironed cloth. Her point was that a change in our attitude can change our whole perspective on the many 'must-dos' (chores) that we women are faced with all the time. So I tried to adopt this approach when making lunches for my boys (who were little at the time). I thought about how much they would enjoy their lunch, especially with the crusts cut off the sandwich, etc. And guess what? I enjoyed making those lunches a lot more.

We all get overextended during the holidays, so maybe it will help us find joy in those many extra tasks if we can see that our effort does make a difference for others. And it definitely makes a difference for us, as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One of my Best Days Ever!

Today was one of my best days! At my school's annual Walk-n-Roll-a-Thon, a lucky teacher is chosen to climb a fire ladder to kick off the event. This year it was my turn!!! I've been hoping to do this for a few years now...who ever gets to climb a fire ladder unless they're a fire fighter??? So, here's the truck......

....Now the fire fighters are getting me all geared up and giving me instructions......

....not my most flattering photo, but I'm sooo excited!
....Starting the climb...... the top....students are cheering me on........ the top! I'm wearing a mic here and giving a shout out to my kindergarten friends and kicking off the walking and rolling (the nice fireman below me did ask me to hang on)! What a fun experience!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #4

Submitted by Linda:

This post ends with the Christmas Tip... be sure to read on.

So, every fall APU hosts its annual fundraiser, "Dinner Rally". It is always a very inspirational event for me, because of my great experience there as a student, because my husband works there, and because such amazing things are happening in Azusa and around the world (as a result of their wonderful service and ministry programs). Anyway, I could share way too much information about the whole evening, but I thought I would share one great nugget. The event featured two of its alum, Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay (I'm sure I'll post a blog entry about him someday) and Steven Moser, co-founder of Anti-Body.

Anti-Body (Anti-poverty, beautiful Body) was created in 2005 after Steven, his wife and her sister lost a beloved family member tragically. They felt the need to lead a more purpose-filled life, so they left their lucrative jobs and embarked on a mission to create products that would benefit both the customer and the individuals from developing countries who produce their ingredients. So they actually visit faraway places to purchase the raw materials that go into their products!

After extensive research about the most natural and beneficial ingredients, they formulated a body-care line that would include fair trade certified ingredients. At Dinner Rally, we each received the items shown in the picture below (They even printed the APU logo on it). The hemp and shea lotion is NICE! I would suggest you visit the website, where you can read their story and see a short video. Their story is very inspirational because they now run a family business that also helps others around the world.

So, Christmas Tip #4 is to start early on your Christmas shopping - maybe start by buying something from Anti-Body! Here is the link:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #3

Submitted by Linda:

Have you heard of the Flylady? She's an organizational guru who has a website helping people get rid of clutter 15 minutes at a time. She has many fun and easy ways to get your home organized. Check out her website at In past years she helped people like me get prepared for the holidays by helping us 'cruise through the holidays'. She sent email "missions", which were tasks to do ahead of time, so that folks could enjoy the holidays and not be stressed out and cranky by how much we all have to do.

One recommendation from the Flylady is to get your Christmas card materials all gathered so that they can go out on time. My tip for today is to order your stamps online! When it's time to work on your cards, you won't be making a last minute trip to the P.O.!! Here's the link:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

497 Tags!

Submitted by Linda (back in C-Mont):
So, if any of you are wondering about our "wild rumpus" in LaQuinta, here are the details! We ate some nice meals, including wonderful salads made from Michelle's big box of produce, and a calorie splurge on some amazing Thai food. Michelle prepared 4 thanksgiving dishes (which are now waiting in the freezer!) for some of her (and my) upcoming events . I love it that she finds cooking relaxing (that way I'm usually released from cooking duties). While she cooked, I crafted away, making samples and finishing cards. The big accomplishment of the weekend was creating 497 hand-stamped Christmas tags! We had an assembly line going, and we worked from dawn to dusk. These tags will go in our "Tin o' Tags" which will be given as holiday gifts for work colleagues, our school volunteers, etc. We think they will be so happy to open up the tin and find it chock-full of cute tags! Most of the supplies are Stampin' Up, so if you are curious about specific products, contact Michelle through her SU website.

As I was driving home, Michelle called me to say that when she was changing the sheets in the guest room where I slept, she found a bunch of glitter on them - we laughed about how a "wild" time for us women over 40 is crafting all weekend!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our Workspaces: A Study of Contrasts

Submitted by Linda at Michelle's House:
So, we are working like busy bees on our fun projects here in the desert. We thought you might get a laugh seeing the contrast in our crafting styles. The first picture is my workspace in Michelle's Craft Room: productive but cluttered. I usually keep working until I can't find anything and then I do a quick "refresh'' and keep going. Actually Michelle, who says I have some messy habits, will often do my refreshing for me if I wait long enough!

Now notice Michelle's pristine work space! She lives faithfully by her "clean as you go" motto and it serves her well.
The good news is that our messiness or cleanliness doesn't keep us from having a blast together, creating and laughing. We're planning on posting pictures of all that we got accomplished this weekend, so stay tuned!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wild Rumpus

Linda is coming to visit for the weekend and I am so excited! Ironically enough, we both had eye problems this morning...we couldn't really see ourselves going to we took the day off and will be stamping and laughing and having a wild time as soon as she gets here. There is no better recipe for a fun weekend than having your front row friend in the house!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Turkey Lurkey Part Two

Submitted by Michelle

For all you lower elementary school teachers out there, this one's for you! My class and I create this festive turkey every November and I always love how it turns out. The feathers are cut from construction paper by a parent volunteer, I write the kids names on the feathers in pencil, and the kids glue popcorn kernels over their penciled names. (To dye popcorn kernels, simply put kernels in a Ziploc with some rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring. Shake and let dry.) The project isn't difficult, the kids get a kick out of seeing the completed turkey on the wall, and it makes for a great classroom decoration all month long. Gobble! Gobble!

Turkey Lurkey

Submitted by Michelle

Linda and I are members of a stamp club in Claremont and I am the Stampin' Up! demonstrator who runs it. We have a great group of front row worthy friends that we stamp with every month. This card is one I created for our last club. (Actually, I didn't create it, I stole the idea out of my Stamping Success magazine.) It didn't involve a lot of stamping but my people loved the opportunity to play with punches and fold paper.

All materials from Stampin' Up! Cardstock: More Mustard, Whisper White, Chocolate Chip, Riding Hood Red, Old Olive, Pumpkin Pie, Basic Black. Ink: Chocolate Chip Stamp Set: Holidays and Wishes. Punches: Boho Blossoms, Scallop, Circles (1 3/8", 3/4", 1/4"), Double circle. Ribbon: Chocolate Chip satin.

Shameless plug: To purchase any of the above supplies, click here to visit my website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Linda's Christmas Tip #2

I know we all know this one.....but start early! I want to enjoy the holidays, and savor the true meaning of the season, so I like to plan ahead and limit what I do to what is really important. If you are someone who sends out cards, here is my advice: If you're crafty, begin designing your card and gathering materials now. If you like to do a photo card, find the picture or get it taken before Thanksgiving. There have been years where I've opted out of Christmas cards (and Christmas still came!). Last year I was having a hard time getting them out, so I enlisted Craig and my boys to help. Also, there's nothing wrong with "Happy New Year" cards or greetings sent out later in the year.

I'm sure some of you will think we are wacky, but Michelle and I cranked out our Christmas cards in mid-October. We set aside an entire day (Craig and the boys were out of I wasn't interrupted by any hungry teenagers) and we ended up making about 100 cards each. Pictured above is my card, using the following supplies:

Everything except the fake postage stamp (which is an old sheet of gift wrap from Paper Source) is from Stampin Up.

Stamp Set: Winter Post, Wondrous Gifts (greeting), Frames and Flourishes
Ink Colors: Old Olive, Riding Hood Red, Basic Brown
Designer Series Paper: Holiday Treasures
Card Stock: Very Vanilla, Kraft
Ribbon: Riding Hood Red Twill
Other: Dazzling Diamonds Glitter

Michelle's Card

Stamp Set: Winter Post, Wondrous Gifts (greeting), Frames and Flourishes
Ink Colors: Old Olive, Riding Hood Red, Basic Brown
Designer Series Paper: Holiday Treasures
Card Stock: Very Vanilla, Riding Hood Red
Ribbon: Old Olive 5/8" Grosgrain
Other:Little Felt Flurries, Circle Rhinestone Brads

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ginger Crisps

Submitted by Michelle

"I'm not interested in dishes that take 3 minutes and have no cholesterol." Julia Child

Those who know me know I love to putter in the kitchen. For me, it is a way to relax. Though there is nothing wrong with "30 minute meals" or "Semi-Homemade cooking" that is just not how I roll. I admit, in the middle of the work week I do not always have lots of energy or time for a meal that takes an hour or more, but on the weekends or when I'm enjoying a 4 day holiday, I love to hang out in the kitchen.

And as for low-fat, low calorie cooking...I'm not a big fan. I find that since I eat so many veggie meals they tend to be low calorie anyway and because I cook at home and don't eat out much, I save on calories there too. However, if I'm going to make Martha Stewart's macaroni and cheese, I'm not going to substitute low-fat cheese or leave out the bread crumb topping. I prefer to eat in moderation than skimp on taste.

That being said, I made some of my favorite fall cookies yesterday. The recipe comes from a cookbook called Autumn by Susan Branch. (Someday I'll do a whole entry about how fabulous and talented Susan is, but for now check out her website to learn more.)

The cookies are called Ginger Crisps and they are perfectly sweet and spicy and make for a great snack with a cup of tea on a chilly autumn day.

There is nothing tricky about the recipe except that you need to plan ahead since the dough needs time to chill. I usually make the dough a day ahead of time and then bake the cookies the next day. Also, the dough lasts for days in the refrigerator so you can bake up just enough to eat and then save the rest for another day. Susan recommends freezing them because they thaw in just moments, but I like the smell freshly baked cookies give the house.

Cookie Cutter Ginger Crisps
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c molasses
2/3 c light corn syrup
4 1/2 c sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Cream butter and sugars until light. Add molasses and corn syrup and stir well. Add in the rest of ingredients and knead until smooth. Chill well.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface to less than 1/8" thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees on greased cookie sheet for 8 minutes or until edges or browned. Cool and store in airtight container.

A note about spices: Keeping in mind that the quality of ingredients directly affects the quality of your finished product, think about giving Penzey's a try. For years I bought spices at the grocery store until my front row friend Sheryl turned me on to Penzey's. Their spices are far superior to anything I've ever cooked with and the cost is, at times, less than the grocery store. Also, unlike wine, spices do not get better with age. Consider throwing away some of your ancient spices and re-stocking with a fresh batch from Penzey's.

A note about kneading for all my kitchen phobic friends: Don't let the word knead scare you. You aren't baking bread, just incorporating the ingredients for the cookies. I usually mix the dry into the wet using my kitchen aid mixer and then turn the dough out onto the kitchen counter and knead a few times until the dough is smooth. You can do it!

A note about greasing cookie sheets for all my calorie counting friends: Having discovered the Silpat silicone baking mat (made by Demarle), I never grease my cookie sheets and thus cut down on unwanted fat. You can find Silpat most anywhere (Williams-Sonoma, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, even Silpat isn't cheap (around $20.00), but a great investment for your kitchen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Go Green or Go Home

Submitted by Michelle

My wishes have come true. La Quinta officially has it's own farmer's market! I've been dreaming of a local farmer's market ever since David and I moved to the desert from Pasadena 9 years ago. In fact, when we first moved, David and I would occasionally drive to the farmer's market in Redlands. Now we don't have to go further than Old Towne La Quinta. And the best thing is, we can walk there from our house!

Yesterday morning Lucy (the dog) and I walked to Old Town armed with our cash, grocery list and cloth bag to carry our goods in. We arrived just as the market was opening and I was so giddy I could barely contain myself. I was delighted to see that the owner of Le Artisan, a local French bakery, had a stand and I snapped up a French baguette, though I did forgo the chocolate croissant that was calling my name.

I found beautiful produce and though I do get my big box from the CSA, I bought a few things to supplement what I already had on hand at home. I purchased garlic, basil, cilantro, red onion, red beets (for juicing), cucumber, tomatoes and some interesting sunflowers.
An added bonus to my trip was one of my favorite local hangouts, the Old Town Cellar was open and I was able to rest on their patio and enjoy a passion fruit mimosa before going home.

So to all my fellow foodies out there, I encourage you to find a farmer's market near you and enjoy the bounty of the land. And to all my C-Mont peeps (Stacey, Diane, Jodi, Maribel, Karen and Laurie) I hope you are taking advantage of the Farmer's Market in downtown C-Mont every Sunday morning. You won't be sorry you did!