Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bouchon

Submitted by Michelle
Yesterday Jennifer, my work compadre, and I took a road trip out of the desert and headed to the land of the rich and famous, Beverly Hills. Thomas Keller's newly opened restaurant was our destination and we were ready to hit the town LA style, complete with our dark shades incase the paparazzi caught wind of our plans.
On the way we made a stop at T Salon, a fabulous establishment that I've blogged about here. The last time I visited, T Salon was still under construction and they had a small, make shift shop for the interim. The permanent shop was well worth the wait. It is large, airy and eco-friendly, of course. I enjoyed a pot of Viva Mango, my favorite blend, and picked up a few presents for some of my front row friends.
After a quick stop at the shoe department of Barney's we made it to Bouchon for our lunch date with Wendy Betancourt, blogger (Pink Stripes) , foodie and lover of all things Bouchon.
For lunch Jen opted for the Steak Frites. The presentation was beautiful and the caramelized onion that encrusted the entire top of the steak was fantastic. The steak itself however, was a bit chewy and not as good as Jen remembered from her first trip to Bouchon in Las Vegas. Not wanting to be the annoying diner, she didn't complain but also didn't eat much of the steak. Our top notch server not only took note that Jen didn't eat much of her main course but also comped her meal after inquiring about Jen's satisfaction with her lunch.
My meal on the other hand, was as outstanding as it looked. I chose the roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes, button mushrooms and pearl onions. The crispy skin of the chicken encased the tender and juicy meat inside, and the brothy sauce was an excellent compliment to the meal, as well as my glass of Pinot Noir.
Two good lookin' gals ready to dive in!
Dessert was by far the best part of the meal. I ordered the Chocolate Bouchons and ate every bite of the Valrhona chocolate brownies and housemade vanilla ice-cream by myself.
Jennifer ordered the pot de creme and after devouring the shortbread cookies and butterscotch custard was tempted to lick every last taste out of the tiny little serving pot.
Our trek back to the desert was long and traffic-filled, but a fun day with friends and the fantastic food made it all worth while.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I'm Working On: December 29

Submitted by Michelle

OK, this card looks way better in real life and I was tempted to NOT blog about it, but I've been absent for a while and I'm afraid Linda will move me out of her front row if I don't get back on board so here goes.

A Brand New Year is one of many fantastic stamps offered in Stampin' Up's Holiday Mini Catalog. I'm not one to send New Year's cards since I do Christmas cards, but I couldn't resist this stamp and it's a bargain at only $8.95. I really like all the different fonts and how crisply they come out, and the glass of bubbly makes me smile. I used some Champagne Mist Shimmer Paint to make the glass look like there is actual champers in it, and then I went over it with crystal effects to give it a shiny, glassy look. (It's hard to see in the photo but trust me, it looks primo.) The snowflake stamp used as a background on the card came from the Christmas Punch set offered in the regular catalog. Instead of ink, I used the champagne mist shimmer paint so the snowflakes would have a sparkly effect.

I'm planning to stamp out about 20 of these babies and send them off to family and my Claremont Stamp Club friends. My family always enjoys snail mail of the handmade sort, and I'll use the card to remind my C-mont clubbers about our January meeting.

If you didn't have time to do Christmas cards this year you still have time to make a New Year's card but you've got to hurry. The Holiday Mini catalog expires on January 4th.

ALL MATERIALS FROM STAMPIN' UP!
Stamps: Christmas Punch, A Brand New Year (holiday mini)
Cardstock:
Basic Black, Whisper White, Brushed Gold
Ink: Black Staz-On and Champagne Mist Shimmer Paint (holiday mini)
Accessories: Gold Cord (holiday mini), Crystal Effects

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tin O' Tags 2009 Version

Submitted by Linda
For 3 Christmases in a row, Michelle and I have made a "Tin O' Tags" for our friends and colleagues for Christmas. We squeeze 8 or 9 cute, cute, cute tags into a giftcard tin from Michael's, and then decorate the tin.

After Christmas 2008, I bought a bunch of the tins on clearance, so I was ready to roll for this year. The only problem, is making 9 tags each for over 50 tins!!! My math tells me that's about 450 tags!!!! So early in this holiday season, I started working, but I said to myself, "Next year I'm only doing a few tins!" Well, I already have to take that back! Everyone who receives the tins so enjoys the Christmas cheer that is crammed into that tin- and it's such an economic gift (if I don't take into account the time spent-after all, it is a labor of love).

So Michelle and I have already been thinking of a plan for Christmas 2010...maybe doing one tag a month, or cranking them all out in the summer. In the meantime, here's a look at the tags I made this year:
One of my goals was to use up some random supplies, including these metal snowflake brads:

Again, using up old supplies, like the snowman embellishment on the left:
I included a 3x3 envelope with this one:

This one is a winner- Santa's beard if puffy (liquid applique) and he has glitter on his hat!
Here are the tins with their tags in....ready for the lid and a ribbon on the outside.I am not planning to buy any tins now for next year...unless I find them super cheap. Maybe next year we'll use a cello bag and call them "Bag O' Tags" instead!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Best Wishes for a Happy and Safe Christmas with Your Loved Ones!
From Linda and Michelle

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Tip #15: Cans!

Submitted by Linda
Back in June, Michelle posted an entry featuring these darling cans. This Christmas, I was inspired to use them as an upgraded wrapping for gift cards. I still think these would be great for tiny gifts, candy, or for party favors.
In the past I've decorated them to coordinate with what's inside (tool paper for a Home Depot gift card, music note paper for a "can o'tunes", etc). But this time, I used cute Christmas themed scrapbook paper, and attached it using "sticky strip" (much stronger than a typical tape runner).
I did, however, coordinate the gift card with the wrapping on the one pictured below. I remembered that Stampin' Up had a cute set called "fashion statements" that had a bra in it. I don't own that set (really, how often does one need a stamp of a bra???), but wonderful friend (and SU consultant) Rachel found it among her 11 boxes of retired stamps for me to borrow! After I punched it with they eyelet punch, I layered it on pink Christmas tree paper, and I just love it.
This is not a project you want to rush. My suggestion would be to start saving cans as you use them (cut them open with a safety can opener- Pampered Chef has a nice one). Buy your Crystal Effects from Stampin' Up (to glue the lids back on), as well as your "Sticky Strip" (to attach the paper). Now you're ready to upgrade some cans....maybe in time for Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Say the "F" Word!

Submitted by Linda
Don't worry....I'm talking about the other "F" work, FRUITCAKE! My mom has always made a special fruitcake during Christmas time that has converted many a fruitcake haters to her recipe. Last Christmas, I found all the candied fruit on clearance at Stater Bros, so I decided to freeze it so that I could have a lesson (the ingredients are pretty costly, so it was nice find them on sale).

As I have thought about it, I decided that my mom's particular fruitcake needed a new name for all those folks who would like it, if they weren't turned off initially by that dreaded word....."fruitcake". I thought about "Fruity-Pecan Squares" or "Nutty Fruit Bars". I wondered about baking it in a muffin pan and calling it "Nutty Fruit Jumbles" (I opted out of the muffin pan idea- I wasn't sure if it would all stick together, or how long to bake it).

Fast forward to this week, when my mom came into town and we got to work. Here are some of the ingredients: pecans, candied fruit, dates.

We dumped it all into the mixing bowl....We added the batter, and mixed it 'by hand!' The secret to this recipe, is that there is no bitter citron flavor in it- the batter is sweet and is just enough to hold the pecans, fruit and dates together.
This recipe was in a 1970's Women's Day magazine, and the directions are to butter your pan, then line it with a brown paper bag cut to size. Nowadays, the recipe may call for parchment paper.
It bakes at 275* for 1 1/2 hours.We let it cool and flipped it onto a platter, and viola!
Here it is, sliced up and ready to taste!
I wish all of you could taste it, and give me your suggestion for a new name!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ugly Sweater Christmas Party

Submitted by Linda
So, if any of you are worried about the youth of America....here is a bright spot of hope!

For entertainment, Nick and his youth group pals participated in an "Ugly Sweater Christmas Party"! Nick will probably shoot me for posting this, but I get a giant laugh every time I even imagine him wearing this sweater in public! (Believe it or not, this is the 2nd time he's worn it this holiday season). Notice the details on the sweater: 3 dimensional doggie bones on the collar and Christmas tree, various dogs embroidered on the left, and tiny velvet bows here and there - AND it's PINK CHENILLE!I'm even more embarrassed to tell you all that I bought this sweater in the summer when I saw it at a thrift store (he had needed an ugly Christmas sweater last Christmas....so I snatched it up, knowing it would be a hit this year!) You'll be glad to know he won the Ugliest Sweater Contest....way to make a mom proud!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Please Pardon the Interruption!

Submitted by Linda
Please pardon the interruption from Christmas....but we have to stop 'hauling out the holly' to celebrate the engagement of our friends Janelle and Allen!!!! Janelle has been our church's youth pastor, and has taken my boys on numerous outings and camps - how could we not love her? And now Allen loves her too! Tonight we were blessed to be invited to their "we just got engaged" celebration, which Janelle knew nothing about.
I was asked to bring a dessert, so I decided to make the always popular chocolate cupcakes. (I was trying to avoid anything that seemed too"Christmasy"- and I love how cupcakes always speak "celebration"!) Anyway, I wanted to upgrade my cupcakes a bit, so I went looking at my rubber stamps.

Remember, I am NOT a Stampin' UP consultant, but I am a huge fan of their products. One thing I like is that their stamps come in sets. Often, I'll buy a set because I like a certain stamp, but will end up being so glad that I have another needed stamp on hand. Case in point, this striped stamp from "Cute and Curly". I used my Stamp-a-majig to align the Mr. & Mrs., which came out of another stamp set.
Then I used my Curly Label punch to punch out the image. I used tiny glue dots to attach a toothpick, and in the picture below, I'm trying it out on a naked cupcake. Looks good to me!
Here are the frosted cupcakes all dressed up and ready to go to the party!
Congrats Janelle and Allen!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Are You Listening To?

Submitted by Michelle


Each year I anxiously wait to pull out my Christmas music and I usually start playing it the day after Thanksgiving...sometimes even a few days before! Christmas music has such a positive message of love. Love for Christ, love for family, love for those relationships we hold dear no matter how near or far away the person may be. No wonder I like it so much. Here's some of my favorites this season, both old and new.
Oh Andrea, I can't resist him despite his Italian accent when singing traditional American Christmas tunes like "San-tee Claus is caw-ming to town." The Lord's Prayer featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night) will give you chills. I can live without Reba McEntire and Andrea singing Blue Christmas but I do dig Mary J. Blige chiming in on What Child is This.
Josh Groban. Need I say more? This cutie pie can sing and I think his CD is the one that I listen to the most of my Christmas music. On Noel he sings both old and new Christmas songs and he even has a song titled Thankful which to me says, "Listen to this album before Thanksgiving."
My brother Michael gave me this CD on Thanksgiving this year. He and I are fans of the spunky, cute and classically trained Kristin Chenoweth. Though I don't love all the musical offerings on this CD, I really like her version of Do You Hear What I Hear? and she brings back Sing. You know it, "Sing, sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong." Karen Carpenter sings it best, but Kristin is a close second.
For all you a capella loving people, this one is for you! The group First Call recorded this as an album in the 80's and I always go back to it year after year. I had it on cassette tape from my college days and was so glad to convert to CD a few years back. Everything on this CD is great, but my favorite is O Come, O Come Emmanuel featuring the haunting and lyrical voice of Cynthia Clawson.
I've been in love with Harry since he first came on the musical scene with his Frank Sinatra like voice back when I was in college. He went through a phase of modern jazz that I didn't quite get into, but this Christmas album is a must have. Harry does a great gospel version of I Pray on Christmas that I can't get enough of, and It Must Have Been Ol' Santa Claus is one that I play in the classroom at this time of year. The kids and I get a kick out of singing along on the chorus.
You know I'm a Glee fan so there is NO WAY I could post a list of Christmas music and not include this one. It is a $1.29 download on iTunes. GET IT TODAY!
Chris Botti, another handsome and talented musician who both plays and sings, though Harry definitely trumps him in the singing department. His trumpet playing is smooth and warm and this CD makes great background music for a party or dinner.
I'm a lover of the piano and Jim Brickman always delivers in the easy listening department. Another CD that makes great background music and also has some songs with vocals that are heart warming and romantic. Sending You A Little Christmas is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Treat Bar

Submitted by Linda
Last July I posted an entry about a beautiful wedding I attended where the favor was an empty jar for you to fill with candy. I loved this idea back in June, and I was able to enjoy it again at a Christmas party I recently attended at my church. We had a beautiful meal, and after dessert, we were all invited to fill a large treat bag with all of these homemade holiday goodies!
The decor that night was white and gold, and all of these wonderful goodies where white, gold or cream - so pretty! All week long I snacked out of that goody bag, and was so thankful for the thoughtful folks who put it all together. I hope sometime I can contribute something to make a table like this for someone else to enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gift Wrap Recall

Submitted by Linda
Last Christmas season, I posted a suggestion about buying solid color gift wrap, so that you a) can use all your pretty patterned ribbon and b) could potentially use it throughout the year for other occasions. Well, this time around I broke my own rule! Earlier in the fall I got a 'clearance' mailer from Current Catalog, and in it I found this cute, cute, cute polka dotted paper. It was dirt cheap, and also 'buy one get one free'! So I stocked up, and now that I'm starting to wrap my Christmas gifts, I have to 'recall' my statement about only buying solid papers!

Look at this pile of gifts! I think these polka dots are so cheerful. And in my stash of ribbon, I managed to find plenty of options to tie on these packages.
May all your gift wrapping be merry and bright!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Everlasting Gingerbread

Submitted by Linda
I know that I've mentioned before how blessed I am to be in kindergarten where parent help is bountiful and families are generous in providing supplies. Here's another neat family who gave a wonderful gift this season to us K teachers and 90+ kindergarten friends!

Featured in the center of this picture is my student Peyton and her mom and dad. Her dad is a ceramics teacher at a nearby high school, so his students prepped the clay, and then he came (on his day off!) and both mom and dad helped all of our K students decorate their gingerbread men!
We've done this type of project before, without wonderful parent helpers like these, and it is a ton of work! So imagine how happy we were when these folks offered to take it on! Here are a few of the men, ready for their trip to the kiln....
These three glazed and fired men are hanging on my tree at home - But don't worry...they'll be back at school on Monday, ready to be bubble-wrapped, tucked in a gift bag, and sent home with kindergartners to their lucky parents!