Sunday, January 30, 2011

Makin' Whoopie!

Submitted by Linda
...another reason, another season, for making whoopie.....
I'm talking about whoopie pies, of course! As for their origin, here is what Family Fun Magazine says:
No one is certain who invented the whoopie pie; folks in both Pennsylvania Amish country and Maine have claimed it. As for the name, one theory is that is comes from children saying "whoopie!" upon finding the moist chocolatey sweets in their lunchpails.

I keep hearing that cupcakes are going to be passe soon (hard to imagine, I know). But I have wondered what could be the next trend in desserts. Maybe the cake balls or cake pops from Bakerella? Or maybe it will be whoopie pies!

Though my children are not small, I still enjoy my subscription to Family Fun magazine due to the great kindergarten ideas I find. And in the February 2011 issue, I came across the whoopie pie recipe, and decide to give it a whirl.

The recipe is not difficult, though it does take some time. I wouldn't rush this one. Also, I had most of the ingredients on hand, except buttermilk and marshmallow cream. Since buttermilk always comes in a quart carton, and I only needed a cup, I did the "fake buttermilk" substitute by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to regular milk.

After the batter is made, it is suggested that you use a small cookie scoop to get uniform sized cakes. My cookie scoop is big (perfect for cupcakes), so you'll notice that my cakes are not uniform. It was easy, however to drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
Bake for 10 minutes, and voila!
After making your filling, simply spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the bottom of one cake, then gently press another cake on top.
I'm taking these babies to a church event tonight, and I'm guessing they'll be a big hit!

Ingredients
Hands on time: 30 minutes/Total time 90 minutes
Cakes
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
Filling
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla extract.

3. In a large bowl with a hand mixer set at medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until evenly blended, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg, increase the speed to high, and beat until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute more.

4. Pour half the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, and beat at medium speed until combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and continue beating until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat again.

5. Use a cookie scoop or spoon to place a heaping tablespoon of batter on a prepared cookie sheet. Add more mounds of batter, evenly spacing them, until there are nine on each sheet. Slightly flatten each mound with a spoon.

6. Bake the cakes one sheet at a time for 10 minutes (they should be moist and spongy). Let them cool on the sheet for 2 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Reline the sheets and scoop, shape, and bake the remaining batter.

7. Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl until evenly blended, about 2 minutes. If you want to give the filling a Valentine hue, fold in drops of red food coloring until the desired tint is reached.

8.To make each pie, spoon and spread a heaping tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of a cake, then gently press another cake on top.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day in the Magic Kingdom

Submitted by Linda
I know that I often blather on and on about what a pleasure it is to work in the community where I live. I think I've mentioned that my life happens in a 'two mile radius', which in southern California is quite an anomaly. It's true that my trips to the gas station are few and far between, yet, the biggest benefit of working, living, and attending church within my 'two mile radius' is the connections I make with families and kindergartners. It somehow feels like a small town, or a bygone era, when I have relationships with kids that go beyond the classroom. I have a long history with my friend pictured below. Her parents are alumni of APU, and her daddy works with Craig there. I once babysat Grace when she was about 2ish, and she was very savvy in her strategies to not be put to bed. This past fall, she joined my kindergarten, and I began stalking her mom about joining them at Disneyland sometime.

My wish finally came true on our recent MLK, Jr. holiday. As a mom of teenage boys (insert your own conception of boy smells and rude sounds here), what could be better than a "girls day" with a petite chatterbox who insisted on holding my hand all day and sitting by me on every ride?
We arrived shortly after they opened at 8 am, and managed to ride 12 rides before we left at 2ish. I think that may be a record for me! One treat was seeing "Small World" all decked out for Christmas. For all these years, I've seen the outdoor decorations, but who knew that they transformed the entire interior as well, alternating between the tunes of "dashing through the snow" and "it's a small world"? I didn't! And it was pretty amazing!
When my boys were little and we had Disney passes, on the way we would always wonder if we would see anyone we knew there that day. I asked Grace the same question......and then we ran into Connor and Makenna!
Grace's 1st choice for her ride was "Silly Symphonies" Swings at California Adventure. While we were at that end of the park, we rode the giant ferris wheel....
...posed for a picture in the Toy Story toy box......
...admired the landscaping (this time it was Iceland poppies!)....
...and rode King Triton's Carousel. Grace chose this dolphin because at school, she is a "Sumner Dolphin"! I love the picture with her mom, Karen, who was so gracious to let me monopolize her daughter all day.
I think Grace captured my thoughts exactly when she prayed a blessing over our lunch: "Dear God, thank you for Mommy, and Mrs. Wallace, and that we can have a 'girl's day'. Amen".

I think working and playing with 5 year olds somehow eases the melancholy of sending my own boys off to college. There really is something magical about a little hand holding yours at the happiest place on earth. I was so excited that day, I may have been a bit wacky. Hopefully I behaved myself enough to be invited again sometime.






Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gumballs Galore!

Submitted by Michelle

I claim there ain't another saint as great as Valentine. Ogden Nash

In my opinion, it is never too early to plan ahead. This year, Linda and I have mapped out all our stamping projects, from Valentine's to Christmas Cards to Tin-O-Tags, and when we will complete them. We've got quite a bit on our plate but with a solid plan in place, I know we will get everything made well ahead of the gift giving and Christmas Card mailing deadline so our crafting can be fun and enjoyable rather than crazed and last minute.

First on our list for 2011 is Valentine's Treats for our kiddos at school and our grown up friends. This past weekend I was in Claremont and we got busy on our treats.

Linda and I love the website clearbags.com where you can find any sized bag or box possible, along with lots of other great packaging resources. We ordered a plethora of long skinny bags because the more you buy, the less you have to pay for them. They are coming in very handy as you can fit gumballs or M&M's in them.

For our Kinder Kids, we made a cute "I {heart} U" topper to go on bags of rainbow colored gumballs. Though the kids can't eat gum at school, we thought gumballs would be more fun and less likely to melt than M& M's. (We found mini-sized gumballs at Smart and Final.)

The adults in our lives will get M&M's with a glittery "Happy Valentine's Day" tag. We used bakers twine to attach the tags to the bags. Doesn't it look great!
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

And, because we had extra time this weekend and we just couldn't help ourselves, we began working on our Christmas tags. This year we will need 100 Tin-O-Tags! Yes, we are a little crazy but it is such a great gift for family and friends. Anyway, the plan is that each of us will design 1 tag a month and make 100 of them, so by summer we will have the 1,000 tags we will need for the tins. 1,000 is a daunting number, but if we do it little by little, it won't be so hard, right? And, we are already ahead of the game because I made 2 designs this month (that's 200 tags) and Linda made 1 very labor intensive design (that's 100 more tags).

Hopefully our uber-organization skills are an inspiration to you and not further evidence that we are totally insane when it comes to crafting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Update on Celeste

Submitted by Michelle

Many of you probably recognize the sweet little face of Celeste, my former kindergarten student whom I love dearly and steal away from her family as much as I possibly can. She is 9 now and in the 4th grade. I can't believe she'll be heading off to middle school in just 1.5 more years!

In late November Celeste had surgery on her left hip and foot and was out of school for about 6 weeks. She was finally able to return to school last Wednesday and then suffered a terrible setback on Friday. She began having seizures at school and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Her family, friends and I have been extremely worried this weekend but, thankfully, today I was able to visit her at Loma Linda and she is doing much better.
Celeste's neurologist still does not know what caused the seizures, but with medication they have stopped. At first there was a concern about a hematoma (bruise) on her brain that might be the cause, but because the hematoma is very small and old, the doctors are certain it isn't the source. In a few weeks she will have an EEG to determine if perhaps epilepsy is the reason for the seizures. So for now we wait and hope that Celeste will be released from the hospital tomorrow.

Despite all her medical issues, Celeste is a constant source of sunshine in my life and those around her. She never complains or gives up and doesn't let surgeries or wheelchairs get her down. Her spirit is amazing and she is a daily reminder for me to be thankful for the good health I often take for granted, and for all the blessings which have been heaped upon me, particularly the blessing of having Celeste in my life.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What I've been working on: "Fancy Favors"

Submitted by Linda
Tomorrow I'm attending a 50th birthday for a good friend who is part of my walking group. When I received my invite, I immediately contacted the host to see if I could help with party favors. After I received a resounding "yes" to my offer, and the directive to use pastels, I decided to use my Fancy Favor die for the Big Shot. This is what it looks like after I crank it through the Big Shot. Don't you love that scallopy edge? The reddish strip is the famous "sticky strip" product, which is a must-have when you're building boxes or other 3D paper projects - it's much stickier than a tape runner adhesive.
After assembling and adding a scallop circle with an "N" for Nora, I filled the bags with Hershey Kisses and shred, and tied them up with some pretty ribbon.
What you can't see, is the back side of Stampin' UP's beautiful 2 sided paper. When the guests open their bags, they'll find a pretty contrasting paper on the inside. A bonus surprise!

I'm looking forward to the party, and am hoping that the guests enjoy their little treat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I've Been Working On

Submitted by Michelle

For the better part of 2010 I took a hiatus from holding card making classes. I still worked on my own creative projects but felt a bit overwhelmed by trying to keep my life in order and teaching full time and being a front row friend to those I hold dear and attempting to be a blogger. Now that the new year has come, the holidays are over, and I'm feeling more in control of my life, I've been inspired to get back to the good ol' Stamp-A-Stack. In a nutshell, people come to my house and, for a fee, make 10 cards. I design 5 cards and everyone makes 2 of each. I also supply all the materials (except adhesive) and envelopes. It is a fun way for me to have people over, to share my love of stamping, and to get people involved in crafting who may not want to own all the supplies but still want to make cards.

This month I am holding a SAS on the last weekend of the month. Here is a peek at what we will be making.

Though the picture doesn't show it well, the 'Thanks' image in the middle of the card is embossed so it pops up from the paper.

I always try to include a masculine card in my classes. My uncle has a birthday coming up in February and he loves classic cars so I'll be sending this one to him.
This card is a direct copy from a fellow Stampin' Up! demonstrator. Often at demonstrator meetings we swap card fronts to give each other ideas. I got this card at a swap and unfortunately, the swapper didn't put her name on it so I can't give her credit.
The inspiration for this birthday card is also stolen. You can see the original here.
I thought a Valentine-ish card would be a good way to round out the stack of cards. I went to a card making class in Redlands over the weekend and it was a blast to go to a class that I didn't have to prep! Linda and Carrie joined me and we made some new friends too. (That's a shout out to you, Paula!) We made a card very similar to the one above and I liked it so much that I created my own version of it.

There is still room left in the class if you want to join in. We'll be stamping on Friday, January 28th and Saturday, January 29th. Email me if you want to sign up. (meshers@yahoo.com)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Little "Happy"

Submitted by Linda

"Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends."
Mary Catherwood

My dear Front Row Friend Heidi is someone with whom at 'first speech' we were old friends. One thing we discovered right away, was that we both possess the love-language of gift giving. Years ago when we started meeting for lunch or tea or fun, we both would have a little treat for each other, and if it wasn't a "happy birthday" treat or "happy Easter" treat, it would just be a little "happy" something. Since then, we both use the term "a little happy" as a noun to describe little gifts for loved ones, just because.

A true southern California girl, Heidi met and married a wonderful man who has deep roots in Chicago. So 13 years ago, she moved across the country to marry him and set up house (actually to transform his bachelor pad) in the windy city. You may remember my visit to Chi-town last May, when I raved about her darling playhouse in her backyard.

This Christmas, Heidi's husband surprised her with a gift of a trip to SoCal to see some of her California friends. He coordinated it on the sly, via email and such, and arranged it so that she visited a few different friends over the course of a long weekend. All she had to do was get on the plane and relax. As a mom of 4 small children, you can imagine how Heidi needed a nice getaway!

When Heidi arrived at my house, it was as if time had never passed since we'd been together. Don't you love that about old friends? We talked about how in some of life's seasons, finding good friends sometimes feels like a barren wasteland. And then when you connect with someone, you realize what a gift a good friend is.

The better part of one's life consists of his friendships.
Abraham Lincoln

Heidi and I had about 24 hours together for my portion of her visit, and I intended to have it be all about her. But as we were visiting and catching up in my kitchen, we began to talk about some changes I'd like to make with fabrics and kitchen window treatments. Next thing I knew, our plan was to visit Calico Corners in Pasadena to help me choose fabrics. I wouldn't say home decor is a strength of mine, so I was so grateful for her willingness to help. She insisted it was fun for her! We were there for just minutes when she had pulled together fabrics I love.
Next stop was the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. Back when Heidi lived here, we went often for the delicious tea at the Rose Garden Tea room on the fabulous grounds of the estate. We were glad to find a few roses blooming in early January.
After tea, I showed her the new Chinese Garden, and I had to snap a pic of the roof line of this wall.
This was our view of the Japanese Garden as we sat on a bench to chit-chat and catch up.
Here we are together....
Heidi's back in the true winter of Chicago now, but we are both warmed by the old memories, and the opportunity to be together. And of course, we both had a little 'happy' for each other!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cure for the Winter Blues

Submitted by Linda
I am one of those crazy people who loves Christmas. I know most people like Christmas, and a lot of people love Christmas, but I really really love love love Christmastime. Maybe even more than the actual Christmas Day, I enjoy the process of Christmas. The advent season at church reminds us to prepare our hearts for Christmas, and I immerse myself in the other preparations as well. It may be as fun (or more fun) for me to make my lists and check them twice, than the actual Christmas day. Picking out and/or creating gifts, wrapping, baking, planning meals - it's all at the top of my "favorite things to do in December" list.

And though I do enjoy a clean and clutter free house in January, the post-Christmas blues hit me when the trees are bare and the roses are cut back. All of a sudden, there's no color in the yard, and my fun December is now a memory. Thank goodness I don't live where winter is more of a reality, and the growing season is truly dormant.

My DH (dear husband) is more than willing to plant anything, as long as I help him choose plants. I had mentioned that when our planters need refreshing (in other words, when the stuff we planted in spring is totally trashed), I would love to have decorative kale and primroses. And don't we love it when our men listen?

Shortly thereafter, I came home to this planter in the front of my picture window:
And these three pots are in the driveway by my back kitchen door:
I get happy just pulling into my driveway each day after school!
So far, I've kept my January blues at bay. I think Craig should be thankful that kale and primroses keep me happy!



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Don't Tell my SU Consultant!

Submitted by Linda
So, Michelle and I blather on and on about the wonder of Stampin' UP products. And truly, I've learned that I'm much more successful as a stamper and crafter if I use their excellent supplies (someday I'll tell you why I will never buy white cardstock anywhere else!)

I'm not ashamed to say that I usually hit Michael's each week to spend my 40% coupon on some basic products I always need (sticky strip, tape runner refills). But as a rule, I try to avoid buying too much 'contraband', since the Stampin' UP color families all work together with the inks, cardstocks, and designer papers.

However, on my outing to Hobby Lobby in Mesa, AZ in the fall of 2009, I came across this beautiful pad of printed papers. Every single page called my name! (This is unusual, because most often, scrap pads have a little of the good stuff, and a bunch of cruddy designs that you would never use!) At 40% off, I couldn't control myself!
You may recognize these papers from Celeste's birthday, and from some of the calendars Michelle and I made in late December. Here is what I've been working on lately- all of my background card stock and inks are Stampin' Up:

(Stamp Sets: Living Large and Whimsical Words)
(Stamp sets: Happy Moments and Vintage Labels)
(Stamp Sets: Always and Thank You Kindly)
(Stamp sets: Wagon Full of Fun and Small Sayings)
I love how all the pages are glittery! And bright! and Happy! I've had so much fun with the Summer Song papers, I asked my mom to bring me an additional one when she came from AZ for Christmas.

So by now you've figured out that even Michelle dabbles in the 'contraband' now and again!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunny's Breakfast Strata

Submitted by Linda
So, if you read Michelle's New Years Eve post, you learned that we had a wonderful time together (despite the kitchen fire and the blatant mocking of my catch phrase hints). When we were planning our menu, Michelle suggested that I make her mom-in-law Sunny's Breakfast Strata for our New Years Day breakfast.

Though I have tasted a dish like this in the past, this recipe is definitely a new favorite. One super-neato feature of this recipe, is that it's prepared the day before it is served, so one doesn't need to be an early riser to make a nice breakfast for your family or guests. It's also one of those "no fail recipes".

Here it is, just out of the oven. After it rested for a few minutes, it was cut into neat squares and served with fresh fruit.

Breakfast Strata
(Makes a 9x13 dish)

Ingredients:
1 pkg. Jimmy Dean Sausage (regular or sage)
1 shallot, minced
6-8 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
6 slices white bread
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
12 eggs
4 cups half & half (I used 2 cups half & half, and 2 cups milk)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Directions:
Cook sausage with shallot and mushrooms. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Butter the top side of the bread and place in baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and then the sausage mixture. Combine eggs, half & half, mustard and salt and pour over meat, cheese and bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 - 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Friendly Fire in Linda's Kitchen: The Story of Cheese Fondue, Catch Phrase and The Peppermint Pig

Submitted by Michelle
Once upon a time, two front row friends gathered in Claremont to celebrate the start of a new year. Their husbands were on hand, along with Courtney and Jeremiah, an adorable niece and nephew-in-law.
The cute couple

The menu was planned and Michelle, the more culinary minded of the two friends, worked hard in the kitchen preparing Chicken, Artichoke and White Bean Spezzatino along with Cheese Fondue, assisted by her husband David, the real holder of a culinary degree.
All was going well and the fondue was looking fantastic when...
...Michelle decided to move the fondue from the kitchen counter to the dining room table and in the process dropped the flaming can of Sterno onto the floor and started a fire in her friend Linda's kitchen. Fortunately David and Craig, Linda's quick thinking husband, were able to extinguish the fire, but not before the white kitchen cabinets and the ceiling were stained pink from the Sterno and scorched from the flames. Even the beloved Magic Eraser could not remove the spots! (Luckily, later in the evening, Linda did try some Clorox Clean-Up and that did the trick.) Despite the minor kerfuffle in the kitchen, the friends feasted on a tasty dinner and ate to their hearts content. (Though Michelle continued to be a bit mortified by her mishap.)

After dinner the games began with a new tradition: The Peppermint Pig! The confectionery swine was purchased as a Christmas gift by Michelle and David's thoughtful niece Rachel on a recent trip to the Adirondack region of New York State.
According to legend "...after the holiday dinner, the Peppermint Pig was passed amongst those gathered, each in turn giving the pouch a firm tap and sharing a tale of the past year's good fortune. The delicious broken peppermint and warm memories were enjoyed by all in hopes of prosperity for the coming year."
The group of friends decided to modify the tradition by sharing something they were thankful for and giving the pig "two pops" rather than one firm tap. Courtney loved the game, despite hitting her finger the first go round, instead of the pouch which contained the pig.
Craig and what was left of the pig

At the end of the sharing the pig was nothing more than chunks of delicious, buttery peppermint candy. Though the pig was finished, the games were not. The group enjoyed Catch Phrase a lightning-fast game of words and phrases, in which one gives as many clues as possible until a teammate yells the word or phrase. Ironically, "friendly fire" came up in the game and Linda described it by saying, "When one person shoots at another in a warm and welcoming way."
After the games, everyone enjoyed a delicious cake which Courtney had made for dessert and then fought to keep their eyes open long enough to ring in the new year.
And so this story ends and the year 2011 begins. All is well in Claremont, and though Linda may have some messy tendencies in the kitchen (which Michelle often likes to remind her of), Linda can now boldly say, "I may have some habits, but at least I've never started a fire in my kitchen!"

The End