Monday, August 27, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Submitted by Linda
One of my goals this summer was to go through my recipes and get them a bit more organized. This also meant sifting through the piles of recipes ripped out of magazines. I threw most of them out, after all, we can find a multitude of recipes on pinterest or the food network website, right? I saved a few (ok, maybe more than a few), and this is one I tried and enjoyed enough to share. Can you believe I saved it from the April 2010 issue of Family Circle?
Though I wouldn't call this a "wow" cookie like "Miss Carla's Chocolate Chippers" or our family's favorite sugar cookies, this is a nice shortbread type cookie, with a hint of lemon, that would be perfect with an afternoon cup o' joe. Or in my case, a cup of English breakfast with a splash of half-n-half.
Unlike many bakers, I really enjoy rolling out cookies. My secret is the "no mess dough disc", which (for me) makes rolling easier, and uses less flour, so the cookies never get tough after they've been rolled out several times.
Ready to go in the oven!
All done!
Packed up and ready to share. These came out exactly as the recipe suggested. The only upgrade I may add next time is a very light lemony glaze on top! Mmmmm!

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

(Family Circle Magazine, April 2010)

Yield: about 36 cookies

Prep: 20 mins
Chill: 2 hrs or overnight
Bake: 13 mins 350°F


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds


1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in egg, zest and juice until fluffy, 1 minute. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low, just until blended. Add poppy seeds; stir to combine. Divide dough in half. Flatten each into 6-inch square; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out dough.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly flour dough. Roll half of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. For variety, use 2 cutters, one about 2 inches and the other 2 1/2 inches. Reroll scraps and repeat. Place cookies, 1 inch apart, on baking sheet. Repeat with other half of dough.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden around edges. Remove to rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Newport Beach '12: Biking, Crafting, and Being Quiet in the Kitchen!

Submitted by Linda
I'm eeking out every last minute the summer has to offer. I'm feeling blessed that my school starts later than many, so it feels like a bonus to have these few final days in August as the end of my summer vacay. (When these other teachers are done in May, or early June, remind me of this feeling!)

I want to share a few final pics with you from our beach week. When we first moved into the beach house, we saw this sign and thought maybe we were heading for trouble with the neighbors.
We made an effort to mind our Ps and Qs while we were at the sink, and didn't hear a peep from them either.

After I snapped this pic on my phone, the boys taught me how to use Instagram and made some edits. I love this pic, especially how the boys are taller than Craig. Nick thinks he's pulling a fast one because he's on a big mound of sand. I'm not a super giant fan of the tank top with a bomb on it, but I guess we can't have it all. We called Tommy "the unibomber" when he wore those glasses all week.
Here's my turn to be in a pic with the boys. We were on a little dock by the bay, fishing.
One of my favorite things about the week was riding bikes. We were recently given some gently used bikes, and there really is nothing better then riding by the ocean. Or in the town where the ocean breezes blow all over you. I was so enjoying myself that I risked my life and limb to capture the moment (from my phone), whilst riding. You can see Craig behind me. I also snapped this one, from my moving bike, to capture Nick skating, with Cousins Sam and Kari on bikes. You will notice that the light is yellow. I have a bad feeling that I blew right through that light after I took the pic. So far I haven't received a ticket in the mail.
I packed myself a pile of magazines for my week and a bit of crafting. I wanted to use up these neato felt pompoms, so I copied an idea out of PaperCrafts mag.
For the next two cards, I used the Thoughts and Prayers set, and made plenty, so that I could share some.
Both of these ideas are straight out of Stampin' Up's Idea Book.
I'm so grateful for our time away, and I'm already hoping we can go again next summer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Newport Beach '12: Eating our Way though the Week

Submitted by Linda
I think that Michelle has rubbed off on me. During our beach vacation in July I found myself in the kitchen cooking and prepping food for fun! It really is more fun to cook when you have time, and when people are excited to eat what you make. (For all of you young moms out there, the 'picky eater syndrome' will pass). I had brought the fixins for bruschetta, which included homegrown tomatoes and basil. I used Mario Batali's recipe.
Another day, I busted out some smoked salmon that I had received in a gift basket at Christmas time (no worries - smoked salmon has a long shelf life!). Smoked salmon is great by itself, but adding cream cheese never hurts anything. This time, I used Ina Garten's recipe for "smoked salmon dip". I've tried to link it to no avail! You can easily find it by asking Mr. Google.
Next up, was Michelle's recipe for roasted beets. These came from the farmers market and my niece Courtney's garden. I even brought some fresh thyme to sprinkle on top, just like Chef Michelle does! I love the gorgeous colors of the red and golden beets together.
Toward the end of the week, I realized that I had all the ingredients to make Susan Branch's Fresh Corn Salad. I LOVE this salad because it is so crisp and refreshing.
Tommy's wish during vacation was to sear fresh ahi tuna. We went to the Santa Monica Fish Market in Newport to splurge on one pound of fish. This seafood market was amazing!
No recipe for these fish tacos. They are from Bear Flag Fish Market. We ate them on the beach, and everything tastes better on the beach!
During our outing to Joe's Crab Shack, we captured a typical moment with the Wallace boys. One of them is always doing the 'non-smile' on purpose. Just to irritate their mom, I'm sure.
Our week wouldn't have been complete without a bike ride (or two) to the Balboa Fun Zone for a Balboa bar, a frozen banana, or a really gi-normous shave ice!
Now vacation is over, and back-to-school is looming ahead. I'm so thankful for these moments in time when we can savor good food and time with family.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crabapple Hill Pillow

Submitted by Linda
For Christmas last year, I asked for (and received) some patterns and embroidery supplies from Crabapple Hill Designs. Click HERE to see their cute stuff!

One pattern was for a vintage postcard pillow. In this pic you can see that I've only stitched the stamp and postmark. The dark writing you see (the address) is printed on Fabri-Sticky Solvy, then stuck on the fabric. It rinses right out when I'm done embroidering!
Here's the pillow, completed. Knowing that I would do an average job creating the pillow, I enlisted my friend Carla to sew it together for me. She added the pink piping, and inserted the lace trim (you can barely see it on the bottom right of the pillow).
The fabric (also from Crabapple Hill) matches the design on the pattern.
Here's what's amazing about Carla. Not only did she do a beautiful job, she added a zipper on the back so that the pillow could be removed for cleaning.
Here is how the back looks all zipped up!
Here is a closeup of the postmark. I love the vintage feel of the variegated floss!
Now it sits on my bed....and I'm onto my next stitching project!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spreading Some Sunshine

Submitted by Michelle

It's been a busy summer.  I anticipated lots of down time and relaxation and re-charging.  I knew June and July would be full with my Master's program, but I thought, "I won't be teaching.  This will be a breeze."  Turns out, taking 13 units and doing 60 hours of fieldwork uses up a lot of time and energy. When August rolled around (all too quickly I might add) and I was free from all academic obligations, I had a big TO DO list of all the things I wanted to accomplish around the house.  I also had to pack up dishes and furniture that belong to my parents and have been living at my house for the past 8 years.  And now, it's time to head back to the classroom and get ready for my 36 (or more!) first graders.  What happened to all the relaxation and re-charging???  

While I could complain for days about what I wish my summer would have looked like, it won't do me any good.  I find that when I'm feeling a bit blue it is best to focus on those circumstances which I have control over.  It is also helpful to find someone besides myself to think about.  It helps me forget my worries and it makes me feel good to do something positive.  

My friend Brenda, who I've known since high school, had shoulder surgery last week.  I thought it would be fun to make her a care package and what better to send than cookies!  I started with my favorites:  rugelach.  (You've seen these before and can find the recipe here.)
I also made a batch of Alexis Stewart's Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (Alexis is Martha's daughter. Click here for the recipe.)  I really like a cookie that is chewy and crisp at the same time, and these ones do the trick. The recipe is the same as regular chocolate chip cookies, but the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar is 2:1.  The added brown sugar makes the cookies spread thin.  They look beautiful all stacked up, too.  
Recently I discovered a new cookie, simply called Scandinavian Almond Bars.  I got the recipe from a friend and I'm not really sure where the recipe originated prior to her. The dough is made from the usual suspects: butter, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and almond extract.  It forms a nice ball that is then cut into fourths.  You can use a knife but I like to use my handy-dandy scraper/chopper.  Makes me feel like a professional.  
The dough is then rolled into long logs and placed on cookie sheets.  
Using my fingers and the heel of my hands, I flattened the dough until it was about 3" wide.  
The dough is brushed with milk, which acts as glue, and then sprinkled with sliced almonds.
You can bake the bars soft or crisp.  I like mine crisp so I waited for the edges to brown.  
It is important to slice the bars as soon as they come out of the oven, otherwise they will get too crumbly and not look pretty.
Once cooled, they are drizzled with a frosting made from powdered sugar, milk and almond extract.  
All three types of cookies look great in a cello bag and I think they will travel well.  Brenda lives in NYC and they have to make it 3,000 miles across the country.
I hope the cookies bring as much happiness to Brenda as they did to me while I was making them.  

Scandinavian Almond Bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large mixer bowl beat butter till softened.  Add sugar and beat fill fluffy.  Add egg and almond extract and beat well.  Add flour mixture and beat till well mixed.

Divide dough into fourths.  Form each into a 12-inch roll.  Place two rolls 4 to 5 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes or till edges are lightly brown.  While cookies are still warm, cut them crosswise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips.  Cool.  Drizzle with Almond Icing.  Makes 48.

Almond Icing:  Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and enough milk (3-4 teaspoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.  (Note from Michelle:  It took me about 6-8 teaspoons of milk to make the icing drizzly. Start with the 3-4 teaspoons but don't be afraid to add more.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Charm of Newport Beach

Submitted by Linda
Since before my kids were born, we vacationed at Newport Beach for a week with Craig's sister and her family. We rented a beach house, and some of our favorite family memories are tied in to those happy days. Our boys grew up riding the waves and biking on the boardwalk with their cousins.

We hadn't gone in about 6 years because our favorite beach house wasn't available anymore, and we hadn't taken our kids on a vacation with us in the last few years, so this summer it was time!

We found a different beach house, and it turned out to be a sweet time of remembering the 'good old days' and creating new memories with our 'adult' boys.

Newport continues to have such a charm about it. We were there in July, and the homes were decked out in their patriotic swag.
I love the scroll work on this fence.
And on closer inspection, I discovered the surfer topiary! If I lived at the beach I would certainly want one of these on my patio.
In the evenings, we walked to the Balboa Fun Zone, and on the way I quickly snapped a pic of this party in action. Doesn't it look so lovely in that courtyard?We used to stay on 14th street which was closer to the Newport Pier. This time we were near the iconic Wedge.
Tons of kids were enrolled in the junior lifeguard program. I didn't envy them running in the sand and swimming in the ocean. Those kids worked hard!
Here are my boys in front of an interesting art gallery. They would say that they're looking 'tanktacular'!
We tried to get a family picture for our Christmas card. This one might work! I like how we all look happy to be together on vacation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

Submitted by Michelle

It is mid August and though I'd rather not admit it, I'm back to work. I'm moving classrooms this year as I've been promoted to the First Grade. Setting up a new room is tiring work but I'm happy to report that I'm about 75% done and should finish up today. Having a classroom in transition makes me especially happy to come home to my organized and tidy house. So does this new banner that my FRF Carrie made for me. Carrie professes that she is obsessed with Stampin' Up's new designer paper Storytime. I, too, think it is adorable and I love the elementary school theme.
Here's a close up of each letter.

Carrie made her own brad using a now retired Stampin' Up product called Build A Brad. The little birdie is such a great way to start the banner out.
Each letter has some sort of 3-D element on it. This little chick-a-dee was cut out with a star punch and then covered with crystal effects to make it look shellacked and shiny.
Crystal effects also helps these frogs look like they are really swimming in a pond!
Every banner must have a mini-banner, right?
Dazzling Diamonds glitter helps these blue birds sparkle.
I was so delighted when Carrie gifted me with this banner, and I'm thankful I have such creative friends who constantly inspire me and bless me with their talents.