Saturday, September 25, 2010

Run, Run, as Fast as You Can!

Submitted by Linda
Every September, it seems like I fall off the face of the earth, because school has started. All you teachers out there know how time consuming it is to start a school year. I love the beginning of school, though, because I get a fresh start also. I have the professional privilege of refreshing and upgrading my curriculum, adding new things, and changing things that haven't worked so well. And it's pretty amazing what my kindergarten friends have learned in 17 school days: bathroom and drink signals, seating assignments, color groups, classroom expecations and routines, and so on.

Every year, on the 2nd week of school, our theme is the Gingerbread Man. I know it's hard to believe, but he ran away again this year. I wish you all could experience the excitement in my classroom when his clues lead us to the office, nurse's office, computer lab, library, our big buddy class, and finally the principal's office. By the end of the week, the students know the important people on campus, and can find their way to places they will need to go throughout the year. (Coincidence? I think not!)

When we finally find him, after an excruciatingly long week of looking, Mrs. Wallace forces each student to pose for a picture with the G-Man before we eat him up. Here are a few of my friends with the Gingerbread Man:


So life is good in my classroom.

On a personal note, I'm actually really enjoying the quiet and clean life of an empty nester, except for one sort of biggish problem.....
Yes, this is our dog, Toby (by my desk at school). Toby, who we've had for 10 years, has a long history of separation anxiety (don't even ask what we've tried over the years to keep her contained). Fall is always hard for her, when her people who have been home all summer leave for the school day. This year, it's been really bad, because her beloved boys are not coming home from high school in the early afternoon each day to let her in and give her all sorts of attention. I've been trying to come home right after school, and walk her back to my classroom with me, where she happily hangs out. The only downside to this idea is that I'm seen traipsing across the park with a basket, a starbucks cup, wearing an apron, with a dog on leash. I worry that I'm quickly becoming one of those quirky, eccentric teacher types (this does not support the "Kindergarten Goddess" image I'm trying to promote!)

Over the years when the boys attended my elementary school, she had been known to bust out of chain link, hop an 8 foot block wall to cross the park to come over to our school (where she was lovingly reinforced by 500 elementary kids). Though she hasn't done this in years, last Friday I was surprised to learn that she was on campus. The picture above is her happily snoozing, after being my "show and tell" to 22 very excited kindergartners. She was perfectly happy laying by my desk, tied up with a jump rope.

I'm hoping she will start behaving herself soon, or we will have to think about sharing her with another family. If only she could be my class mascot....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

College Cooking: Calzones

Submitted by Linda
Thanks to Michelle, Tommy has developed a sophisticated palate, and is an adventuresome eater who enjoys the finer things in the world of food. He has learned to make brushetta, hummus, and can season and grill up a nice slab of meat.

This year, his on-campus housing is apartment style, complete with a kitchen equipped by him and his roomies. Though he does have a basic meal plan for the cafeteria, I wanted to cook a few simple recipes with him before he left, to have in his 'quick and easy' repertoire.

His wish was these Three Cheese Calzones from Real Simple Magazine, November 2008. With few ingredients, including prepared sauce and pizza dough, it was quick and simple enough for smaller kids to do (with a bit of help from an adult).

After mixing the 3 cheeses with fresh spinach, we layered the mixture over salami and the dough.
Pinch together and brush with olive oil.
Bake, and Voila! A happy kid-made meal!
Three Cheese Calzones
From Real Simple, November 2008
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 20m | Total Time: 35m

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll and stretch them into 8-inch rounds.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Layer the salami on one side of each round of dough and top with the cheese mixture. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges to seal.
  4. Brush the tops of the calzones with the oil. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with the sauce.

My Kind of Party ( Part III)

Submitted by Linda
You may remember my post one year ago about our annual family gathering in Carls'good'. (That's Michelle-speak for Carlsbad!) If you'd like to look back at that party, click here. Well, as usual our warm and welcoming Carlsbad cousins hosted an event to remember. This year's theme was Beach Boardwalk. Notice the pool chairs, towels, and beach balls ready for guests.
I was happy to see my own boys there, since they have been 'away' at college for a few weeks. (By 'away', I mean, that they live on campus at APU, which is a 15 minute drive from our home.) Here's Tommy's usual 'grab the camera and shoot' photo.
Here's Nick with cousins Matt and Jeff, and Baby Olive (or "O-Joy" as Aunt Faith says). Olive is sporting her first dress made of the Wallace Plaid. For a look at her mom's blog about the dress, click here.So let's talk about the food! What I love about our hosts is that they cater the meal, so that they can visit and enjoy the party with our family members. Here is the dessert bar, which included fruit for self-skewering.
Another station, shown below, offered tacos with 3 types of grilled meat and all the fixin's, as well as burger sliders. Another station had a beautiful salad bar with grilled shrimp and chicken skewers.
One of my favorite moments was this '4 generation shot' of Craig's mom and all the girls.
Here's Nick checking in with 2nd cousin Zeke.
One of the highlights of our gathering is the opportunity to sing oldie-but-goodie hymns, and hear stories from the 'senior' family members. The Wallaces have a long history of faith, and it is really special to gather everyone in one big room and share stories and songs. Craig's brother Mark's family is super talented, and they sang an accapella version of "The Lord is My Shepherd" that was amazing!
Here's one last shot of all the cousins, and spouses of cousins. Sadly, my boys had left before this photo for the APU football game.
Well, another family reunion has come and gone. I'm grateful that our family is able to gather, at least once a year, especially in such lovely surroundings. I can't wait to hear what next year's theme will be......

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Halloween with some Bling

Submitted by Michelle
It's September. I've been back in the classroom for 3 weeks now and have officially caught my first cold. The cold is bad enough that I took the day off from work but not so bad that I feel the need to lay in bed all day long. Lucky for me, I used my Michael's coupon this weekend to buy some white pumpkins and I'm all set to craft.
I got the idea for these blinged out pumpkins from a fellow Stampin' Up demonstrator, Sue Reynolds. They were soooo easy to make and will be a fun addition to my fall home decor.

To create the pumpkins I purchased the Spooky Things Decor Elements from Stampin' Up. Along with the words Trick-Or-Treat, the Decor Elements set came with other Halloween themed images, none of which I will really use, so I already made plans to split the set with a friend. I also needed 2 packages of Stampin' Up's black flourish designer jewels.
Decor Elements are super easy to use. You can put them on most any surface, including walls. I cut the words from the other images and scotch taped them to my pumpkins. (If I was putting them on a wall I would use painter's tape.)
Then, just like when I put on temporary tattoos from the Cracker Jacks box as a kid, I adhered them to the pumpkins by rubbing the front of the paper and peeling it away. Seriously, I had the words on all 3 pumpkins in a matter of 5 minutes.
(For those of you looking closely, that IS Napoleon Dynamite wearing his "Vote for Pedro" shirt in the top right corner of the picture. )
The designer jewels took longer to adhere to the pumpkins, but were also fairly simple to use. The adhesive on the back of the rhinestones is connected, which is a great help when trying to keep them lined up and spaced properly. They can be cut apart, twisted and reshaped as needed.
Now that this job is done, I'm off to make a cup of tea and relax a bit. After all, I don't want to craft so much that I cause myself to have a relapse.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Clementine

Submitted by Michelle
About a week ago David brought home, as he often does, a delectable dessert that I assumed came from the bakery at Bristol Farms, his place of employment. It was reminiscent of a Magic Cookie Bar, the ones made with a graham cracker crust and then layered with a gooey mixture of sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, nuts and coconut, but this tasty treat was an amped up gourmet version in which the chocolate was a thick layer of the bittersweet kind, the crust was akin to shortbread and there was a tantalizing drizzle of caramel on top. It was so amazing that I ate the entire bar all by myself BEFORE dinner. Come to find out, this amazing treat was not conceived at Bristol Farms but in fact, came from a new French Bakery, Clementine.
Yesterday I was on my typical Sunday mission of going to Michael's to use my 40% off coupon and much to my delight, I found Clementine in the same shopping center. I had to go in and I was so thankful I had my camera. The owners, Christophe and Jennifer Douheret, were both on hand and more than accommodating when it came to my questions and photo taking.
The store offers amazing desserts made by Christophe, and whilst the cupcakes were gorgeous I had to purchase a loaf of bread pudding, David's favorite treat.
They also offer breads. I purchased a baguette and David used it last night when he made grilled vegetable sandwiches for dinner.
Jennifer decorated the shop herself and even sewed the brightly colored yellow and white striped awnings.
I love this chandelier!
There is lots of merchandise to look at, though it was hard for me to tear myself away from the pastries.
If you live in the desert, check out Clementine. You and your taste buds won't be sorry.
44250 Town Center Way, Palm Desert (next door to Trader Joe's.)
760/834-8814
Tuesday - Sunday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Closed on Mondays

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Sew-ology"

Submitted by Linda
Look at these cute fabrics!!! I worked on a really fun project with them recently. But first, some background information.
Back when I was young, my mom would sew cute things for me to wear, Barbie clothes (I still have the wedding gown), and curtains for my room. Both of my Grandmas were quilters, and also knew their way around a sewing machine. When I entered 7th grade, I signed up for "Sew-ology" and had the opportunity to move beyond the oodles of bean bags that I had sewn on my mom's machine as an elementary student. I remember making a terrible pair of elastic waist gray corduroy pants - they looked terrible, and my craftsmanship was also terrible.

My dad had a rule about fabric - he said he would pay for whatever my mom and I wanted to sew, as long as we made each project before buying new fabric. (He wasn't of the same mind as those "who die with the most fabric wins"). This rule was only broken when I came home as a college student, and also as a young mother, when we would have a sewing marathon, and make a bunch of clothes for me and the baby boys. Back then, we used this sewing machine which was given to me by my grandma in the late 70s. It still works like a charm, though it doesn't do anything too fancy. The cabinet is my mom's old one. Nice "blonde" finish, right?
Some of the lessons I learned through my sewing projects are:
1. You will usually have to rip something out and redo it.
2. The apparel item will never look the same on me as it does on the drawing of the pencil-shaped girl on the cover of the pattern envelope.
3. Because of #2, it isn't always economical to make something yourself.
4. Again because of #2, I prefer making little boys' clothes, craft projects or curtains.

Yet, my mom and I had many good times together, and we ended up making some pretty cute things. We would go shopping, and find ourselves saying "We could whip that up so fast, your eyes would spin", and sometimes we did!

Though I love love LOVE quilts, and am privileged to have some very precious family quilts, I'm not sure I will ever have the patience to create one. For me, sewing has always been the means to an end, and I'm usually so eager to finish something, that I do a "quick and dirty" job of it. I don't really enjoy the process, like I do with paper-crafting.

Well, enter my new European mindset of slowing down, along with a desire for a ruffled apron. I have seen them at shops and craft fairs, and I either didn't like the color choices, or I felt they were poorly made. I knew that my front-row-friend Michelle wanted one for Christmas, so off I went, looking for apron fabrics.

I wanted to start with something that looked vintage, and I ended up with some printed dishtowels from Barbara Cheatley's in Claremont. Then I took my mom with me to Ginger's Quilt Shoppe, in Montclair, where we oohed and ahhed over all the fabrics and completed quilts. I picked out some dots, stripes, and a floral, and was ready to begin. I found a pattern online, so instead of looking at printed directions, I kept checking my computer. The tutorial was very easy to follow, and included step by step directions and photos. Click here to see for yourself!

Then I found a cute slender model (niece Tiffany!), and Ta Daahhh!!!! Here it is!
I'm very happy with the outcome, and I think Michelle will love it, though now it won't be a Christmas surprise.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hoosier Pie

Submitted by Michelle
My husband David has brought many wonderful things to my life, but one thing in particular which I am thankful for is pecan pie. In my pre-David years I never touched the stuff. To me, dessert had nothing to do with nuts and everything to do with chocolate. Sometimes I would let fruits or berries interrupt my dessert routine. After all, a slice of fresh peach pie topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream is mighty delightful, but in general I stuck to chocolate. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate cream pie. If it had chocolate, I would eat it. And if nuts happened to creep in with the chocolate then so be it, but an all nut dessert was not my cup of tea. However, when I met David he encouraged me to try all kinds of new things, and pecan pie was one of them. And oddly enough, I didn't just like it, I LOVED it. The downside was, having discovered my adoration for pecan pie, it became my nemesis in the kitchen. I tried recipe after recipe and failed every time. It seemed the pie was either so full of nuts that it was hard and dry, or not nutty enough so that the filling seemed soupy. I also struggled with knowing when to take it out of the oven so that it was cooked enough to have a firm filling but not so overcooked that it would be hard as a brick. But now, thanks to Molly Wizenberg, my pecan pie woes have come to an end. I've discovered the absolute perfect recipe for pecan pie AND it has chocolate in it to boot!

As I mentioned last week I am reading A Homemade Life and each chapter ends with a recipe. I'm finding that at the end of every chapter I'm saying to myself, "I've got to make this" because everything sounds so amazing. The chapter on Hoosier Pie promised "...an unusually good pecan pie, with just the right ratio of nuts to soft, not-too-sweet goo." Yesterday morning I decided to give the recipe a whirl and see if all that Wizenberg writes about it is true.

The pie baking actually started on Saturday night with a trip to Bev-Mo for a bottle of bourbon. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of "the best bourbon you have because its flavor will shine through." I'm not a bourbon drinker so I went straight to the rack of tiny bottles of booze, you know the size they have on airplanes. I only had two choices: Wild Turkey or Maker's Mark. I figured Maker's Mark might be the better of the two.
Other than the bourbon, I had everything I needed in my kitchen pantry.
Me and my Type A personality would usually make a crust from scratch, but I was in a crunch for time so I allowed myself to purchase a Pillsbury crust - the kind that you unroll and put in your pie pan. It turned out really well, tasted great and I was so glad I let go of my regular routine and gave myself a break.
The recipe is simple and straight forward. The nuts and chocolate chips go in the bottom of the crust.
Everything else is mixed together and poured over the top.
The recipe gave great directions for the baking of the pie. It said, " The pie is ready when the edges are firm, the top is deep brown, and the center seems set but jiggles ever so slightly."
I served the Hoosier Pie to some friends last night who had joined David and me for dinner. It was a hit all the way around the table and even Celeste, who can be just as picky as me when it comes to desserts, enjoyed it to the very last bite.


Molly Wizenberg's Hoosier Pie

One 9" pie crust, unbaked (In the book there is a recipe for crust but I didn't feel like typing it here.)

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup chocolate chips, preferably bittersweet, such as Ghiradelli 60%
1 cup pecan halves

Set an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium-low speed until soft and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating all the while. When the sugar is fully incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Beat well. Beat in the bourbon. The batter should be pale yellow and fairly thin.

Scatter the chocolate chips and nuts evenly over the base of the crust; then pour in the batter. Bake for 35-45 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after the 30-minute mark. The filling will puff gently as it bakes. The pies is ready when the edges are firm, the top is deep brown, and the center seems set but jiggles every so slightly. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. The filling will firm up as it cools. Serve with whipped cream, if you like.