Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monkeying Around: Baby Shower Part I

Submitted by Linda
When I was asked if my home could be the location for my niece Courtney's baby shower, I was happy to say "yes". Her sisters and mom promised to do all the food, so I offered to do drinks, and then begged to make a favor for the party. The shower theme was 'sock monkey', so I borrowed the Sock Monkey stamp set from my pal Rachel. She also sent me some online samples, from which I created this little gem:
For those of you who stamp: I used the SU pillow box die, the scallop square punch, and the small tag punch. The colors are Real Red and Crumb Cake (the color formerly known as "kraft".)
I think they look so darling all bunched together in the basket.
I attached a tiny baggie of m&ms (in brown, white and red), so that they would peek through the window. I know the guests enjoyed having a memento from the shower - and I so enjoyed making them for a special grand-nephew!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cookie Time

Submitted by Michelle

The kitchen has always been a magical place for me. From a young age I enjoyed cooking, particularly when I was able to do it with an adult that I loved. Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks. My Polish grandmother was strict in the kitchen and taught me important details like "don't lick the butter knife!" whilst my Italian grandmother taught me the art of making an oil and vinegar salad dressing (aka Jiampietro sauce, as my family called it) by carefully slicing garlic over the bowl of lettuce, eyeballing the amounts of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and then tossing everything together with her hands.

As an adult, one of my desires has been to inspire the love of cooking in children, just as my grandmothers did for me. Since I don't have any children of my own, I find the next best thing: children of my friends!
These cutie pies belong to my friends Duane and Cheryl. Duane and I have known each other since childhood and when I travel to the Central Coast he and Cheryl always welcome me into their home.

The last time I visited I introduced the kids to the domestic art of baking Snickerdoodle cookies. The lesson was a hit and when I arrived at their house this past Thursday, cookie baking was all Graham, the youngest, could talk about. Not wanting to disappoint my fans, I pulled out my recipe for Snickerdoodles and we headed to the kitchen. The boys got right to work with the measuring and mixing.
And Regan was a big help with the rolling of the dough balls in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
I was in town for a few days so I decided to try out Chocolate and Cinnamon Rugelach with the kids too. Regan was with me every step of the way.
Graham enjoyed spreading the mini-chocolate chips out almost as much as he enjoyed snacking on them.
And Tyler? Well, he got a little distracted by his new baseball bat and went outside to practice with his dad.
Regan and Graham could hardly wait to try out the cookies!
Along with the cookie baking there was a bit of rough housing with dad.

And I got some very high praise from the kids. Graham told me he wanted me to stay with them forever and Regan assured me we would be best friends for a long time.
Yesterday was a holiday and since I wasn't teaching, I decided a little more cookie baking was the order of the day. I rounded up one of my favorite cooking apprentices and set out to try a new recipe for oatmeal, raisin and pecan cookies from Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Back to Basics.
As usual, Ina did not disappoint. The cookies were simple enough to mix together and Ina's tip of roasting the pecans before adding them to the batter was genius.
The dough baked into gorgeous cookies that had the perfect blend of crispiness and chewiness.
Part of the Stampin' Up motto is to "love what we do and share what we love" and I have to say when I am in the kitchen with friends, whether big or small, I am the perfect embodiment of this ideal.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Day In The City of Angels

Submitted By Michelle
The Spirit of Los Angeles bronze statue created by De L’Esprie stands majestically at the center of The Grove

I love it when a plan comes together and thankfully my front row friend Carrie makes things happen. Carrie is from Michigan and has only been on the West Coast for two years. She likes to find new and fun things to do and driving long distances never stops her. A while back she suggested that we go to the American Girl Store with Celeste and Samantha (or Sis as we like to call her) who despite being 18, still enjoys doing girly things with her mom. Carrie and Sis have shared happy memories at the American Girl Store in Chicago and this was a chance to start them again with another little girl, Celeste.

The only American Girl store near to La Quinta is located at The Grove in Los Angeles. The Grove is an amazing outdoor shopping mall in the heart of LA.
It is like a Disneyland for shoppers with it's vast array of stores, piped in music and trolley car that runs up and down the main street. It is also a great place to sit and people watch. Many TV and movie stars are often spotted at The Grove so we had our Celebrity Radar up and lo and behold, who should we bump into but none other than Joshua Jackson (a.k.a Pacey from Dawson's Creek or more currently, Peter Bishop from the Fringe) at Sur La Table! I was behind him in the line for the cashier and he struck up a very brief conversation with our group about a small dog that was being carried around the store like a baby by it's owner. Ah, the small joys of shopping amongst all the beautiful LA people.
The Grove is adjacent to the L.A. Farmer's Market so we were able to go there, too! The food stalls were packed with people but we navigated our way around and found a Starbucks since Linda was having a hankering for a black tea lemonade.
Celeste, her American Girl doll Junie, and Me outside of Nordstrom
The point of the trip, however, was the American Girl store and we had a grand ol' time. Celeste and Sis brought their dolls and Carrie made reservations for us to eat lunch in the cafe. It was quite the affair. The dining room was decorated in black, pink and white and there were tables and tables of girls with their dolls. The dolls were supplied with booster chairs so they could sit at the table, along with their own miniature tea cups.
Celeste and Junie
For the most of the day we called Celeste's doll Dollie because she did not have a name and Celeste had never bothered to give her one. However, by the end of the day, we all decided that she should be called Junie due to the fact that Celeste's doll is supposed to look like her so she is a "Junior" (or Junie in the feminine form) of sorts.

Sis and her doll Samantha
Sis's doll is really named Samantha so it was helpful that we already had a nickname for Sis so as not to confuse her and the doll.
Lunch started with warm cinnamon rolls that were delish. Also on the table were pink flowers which Celeste adored and a box of conversation starters that included such topics as, "What is your favorite book?" and "Do you find call-waiting to be a nuisance?"
Fruit kebabs, crudites and pretzel rolls were the second course and we gobbled them down.
We had a choice of main courses but many of us choose the grilled chicken melt with curly fries. Mmmm, good!
Dessert consisted of a decorative sugar cookie, a heart shaped piece of cake and chocolate mousse in a flower pot!
Celeste did a bit of shopping for Junie after we had lunch and was delighted to find that there are dolls who have wheel chairs just like her.
Celeste was really happy that her mom was able to come on the road trip.
Carrie, Linda & Me
And I was excited to spend time with my girl friends, both big and small, in such a happy environment.