Category Archives: baking

Cookies, a shepherd, and a meme waiting to happen

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cookies

These are the gluten-free Christmas goodies I made for our after-Christmas-pageant family dinner. Chocolate-covered peppermint meringues, roll-out sugar cookies (from the book 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes), pralines, and chocolate-covered bourbon balls. I made chocolate-chip and oatmeal scotchies for the gluten-eaters among us, too.
shepherd

Here is a picture of my little shepherd right before the pageant. He had one line and took it very seriously. His big sister was one of the star narrators and I was proud of them both.madsantaAnd my little Santa Baby in the same fleece Santa suit both my other children wore. She’s just a meme waiting to happen, don’t you think?

 

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Cupcakes and t-shirts

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monkeysToday’s post is about birthdays and half-birthdays too. In our family we celebrate six-month birthdays with cupcakes, as was the tradition in my family growing up.  For Worth’s half-birthday we made Pinterest-inspired monkey cupcakes with chocolate frosting, vanilla wafers, white chocolate chips, and piped dark-brown frosting. My kids had a great time decorating these, and they were simple enough that the 4-and-a-half-year-old boy of honor could fully participate.

apple-cupcakeDorothy wanted un-decorated cupcakes that we could upend over some clipart of the Wicked Witch’s feet (see my photo on Instagram) to make the cakes look like houses that fell on the witch. Fun! We’d just been on a field trip to an apple orchard, and I was still working my way through the huge bag of apples I bought, so I made apple cupcakes with caramel icing. The apple cake recipe I used calls for shredded apple, so there is a nice apple flavor without the chunks that end up mealy or tough in some apple cake recipes. I substituted pie spice for the cinnamon, and the moist consistency of the cake made perfect cupcakes that don’t fall apart when you eat them and peel away from the paper easily. Go and make these cupcakes this afternoon–seriously, they are so good. And the cakes would have made a perfectly nice dessert or snack without frosting, but of course for us they were meant to be cupcakes, so they really had to have frosting. I used this caramel frosting recipe and it was just right, Caramel frosting over apple cupcakes–yum.

shirts

Amid our half birthday celebrating at home, Worth got invited to the birthday party of some friends. The kids were having a space-themed party so I made them embroidered comet t-shirts. Some of my favorite free embroidery designs are the retired sets at Bunnycup Embroidery. I used a design from the Stars N Stripes set, but rotated it to look like a falling star or comet. I like to do embroidered shirts like these, where the embroidery is done on a fabric panel that is then fused and sewn to the shirt, rather than directly on the shirt. That way I don’t have to deal with embroidering on stretchy knit, and the itchy back of the designs is not up against the wearer’s chest. I think the children liked their shirts.

Cookies, a sweater…oh dear, I’m disorganized!

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bow

It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged. I’m sort of getting out of the habit of remembering to photograph projects when I finish them. I don’t think I’m ready to quit this blog thing yet because I enjoy keeping this little record for myself, but I do need to put a note or something on my crafty table so I don’t completely get out of the habit. In any case, here’s a little bit of what”s been going on at my house this past month. Dorothy and I made hair bows. I made a few for her (including this one I glued to a headband) and she made some for her cousins. We used a Bowdabra, which is simple and gives good results. It makes puffy bows–not the tidy little twisted kind you can make with templates. sugar-cookies

I’ve used the season as an excuse to try a bunch of gluten-free cookie recipes I’d been wondering about. I’m not gluten-free but my mother is, so I’ve been enjoying experimenting with gluten-free baking on her behalf. These sugar cookies were from Carol Fenster’s 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes and they were terrific. I don’t think anyone would have noticed they were gluten-free if I hadn’t said something. I rolled them out between sheets of plastic wrap as suggested, but I found the dough just as easy to work with as regular cookie dough.

jam-cookies

These gluten-free jam cookies were from The Wheat-Free Cook by Jacqueline Mallorca. I don’t care for this book overall as well as the one above, but these cookies were tasty. They were really great just-baked and were nice but crumbly once they had been sandwiched with the jam. The drawback to them came the next day, when they’d apparently soaked up all the moisture from the jam and almost fell apart when I touched them, so they really want to be eaten only on the day they are made. Still, they are tasty and light with a nice flavor and don’t scream “gluten free alternative!” when you taste them.

new-sweater

I finished knitting (knooking) myself this sweater a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the freakishly warm weather has prevented me from wearing it much. I ran into the difficulty once again of trying to get a decent photo of a project made for myself but this one will have to do. I’d like to show the neckline, which I particularly like, but I didn’t think to take off my scarf for the photo when I came in today from shopping. I used this Oatmeal Pullover pattern and the Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn the pattern suggests, but in the color Eggplant. I like the sweater and it didn’t take that long to knook since the yarn is so chunky, but if this warm-weather trend continues I may never get to wear it since it is such a bulky, warm garment. I made the pattern in size medium, but since the knitter controls the length and the sleeve length I think I could have gone down a size and cut down on some of the bulk.

bookmarks

Finally, this is what my kids made their instructors/nursery care providers/extracurricular teachers as holiday gifts this year. Last year we did jars of homemade granola and I was going to do that again, but when my kids got snotty and sick it felt like homemade gifts from my kitchen stirred by their germy little hands might not be the most appropriate displays of our affection. Instead I cut strips of cardstock and cut the recipients’ names out with paper punches, then let the kids paint their own designs on the strips. Each kid needed to make about five. After they were dry we wrote the children’s names on the back and laminated them to make sturdy personalized bookmarks.

Hope you have a very merry, crafty Christmas!

A little after-race party

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My kids participated in a neighborhood fun run a couple weekends ago. My husband was a competitive runner in high school and college, whereas the only thing that could get me running (maybe) would be someone chasing me. I decided to show my support for my kids following in their father’s (swift) footsteps instead of mine by throwing a little after-race party. I made a paper mobile out of scrapbook paper and fishing wire with the name of the event to hang over our table.

Then I made cupcakes (gluten-free and delicious from this book, since Nana was coming) with little printed flags.

Like the way Dorothy’s cupcake is just a wee bit ahead? She’s so competitive…

I made use of our new chalkboard table by writing a message to my little runners.

Dorothy was pleased with her finish even though did not in fact “pull out ahead and beat them all” as she had intended. Her tank top was a work of her own, made with fabric paint and a freezer paper stencil. She made it especially to wear in the race. Unlike the running, she gets that from me. Compare her to her own self at the same race two years ago–when did she get so big?

Worth might have been the youngest participant in the road race, running a quarter mile in the “under five” category. He bolted in the wrong direction when they started the race with a loud noise, but his father convinced him to follow the herd and he ended up running on his chubby little baby legs the whole distance, never losing his grip on his father’s hand. He was very pleased with his finisher medal.

 

After the holiday buzz

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I love that after-holiday feeling. As eager as I was to pull out the Christmas tunes after Halloween, I’m equally satisfied to have packed it all up now, returning to life as normal with a new zest. Doesn’t everything in the house look serene and uncluttered once the holiday decorations come down?

I guess I took a little break from blogging during all the whirl of celebrations, but here are some photos I’ve collected to share.

Belle got a new collar and tag in her Christmas stocking. Her collar came from this Etsy shop, and the tag (check out that awesome camper stamp!!) came from this one. Maybe I should be embarrassed that my dog’s accessories will match my camper but I’m not. Belle seemed impressed with it, but was more impressed with the chocolate she stole from our kitchen counter on Christmas morning. If I’d had to make that phone call to the emergency animal hospital before Christmas I might never have been so generous with the dog gifts! But it all turned out fine…nothing says “Merry Christmas” like inducing dog vomit. Oy. At least she’s nicely accessorized.

The owner of Stamped with Love also sent me this fantastic key chain, which I think speaks for itself. It’s stamped with the same words as our camper sign. I love it!

This is my favorite picture from Christmas 2011. My boy refused to let anyone remove his new shoes from his feet and he slept with his arms around his beloved new fire truck. He’s still too little to grant affection to Christmas gifts on any other basis than how much he loves them in the moment, and these wee running shoes and charming fire truck took the day. Dorothy’s favorite gift (I think), after all was said and done, was the new “pet” mouse Santa brought. We’ve been reading the Ralph the Mouse books, so I purchased a very cute toy mouse and stuck it in a real cage with a real rodent water bottle and clean shreds of scrapbook paper. The cage has a handle, so Dorothy totes the whole setup around with her. She loves it. It wasn’t a homemade gift, obviously, but I did feel like my creativity in assembling it made it more special than the ready-made gifts she has played with less.

These are the sugar cookies the children decorated at our New Year’s Eve celebration with another young family. I baked the cookies using Martha Stewart’s sugar cookie recipe, then iced them with plain white royal icing, then let the kids do the rest.

I put a shark applique on a plain white cotton tee as a birthday gift to a little friend who turned one on Christmas Eve. This felt like a useful and simple gift and I hope he likes it.

And last but not least, one of my own favorite Christmas gifts was a bit of a long shot. Some time last fall before Rob injured his heel we concocted a plan to acquire family pogo sticks this Christmas (with the exception of Worth, who has just perfected jumping on his own two feet). I don’t remember now what made us think this was a good idea. In any case, Rob got a pogo stick but can’t use it until his physical therapist and surgeon allow him to do so (maybe March?), Dorothy got a pogo stick with a nice, wide, detachable base to ease the learning curve but is still a bit of a stretch for a novice pogo-girl in chilly weather, but  me, well I’ve gone pogo crazy! I love it. I thought I’d never be able to get up on the thing, but it turns out that pogo jumping is rather like riding a bicycle; the muscle memory of the skill perfected as a young person followed me, forgotten but not gone, into my adulthood. Jumping on the pogo stick is the most fun exercise I’ve gotten in recent memory. It’s intense and makes the legs burn, but it’s so fun and thrilling I barely notice. I’ve been adding sets of pogo jumps to my day before and after our evening dog-walk, and the increase in heartbeat makes the whole endeavor more worthwhile, health-wise. If I’d just lay off the sugar cookies (see above) maybe I’d lose a few pounds too!

I hope your holidays were wonderful!

Hot buns

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Because, well, I just couldn’t resist that title.

I’ve done bloggable things this week while Dorothy’s been at Bible School, but in the form of a birthday gift for Molly, and since she reads this blog I’m not going to dish. 🙂

These rosemary-herb sandwich buns came out of the oven this evening looking so pretty I just had to photograph them. Wish I could capture the smell too.

And photographing reminds me that I’m now officially, totally addicted to Mpix. I mentioned them this spring, and I am a little more in love with them after each order arrives. The combination of the camera I got last month, my old but still useful copy of Photoshop, and the print quality from Mpix has turned me into some camera-toting-mother-hell-on-wheels-nightmare, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Last week I took some sweet pictures of Baby in the outfit he’ll wear for his baptism this weekend, and then I had little wallet-sized prints made for our guests to take home (they send them die-cut with the cunning little round corners!) and some 4×6 thank-you cards, too, since I know his proud grandparents have gifts for him. Necessary? Nope. But fun. And worlds better than Walgreens, when I have the time to wait for shipping.

The "sweetest" bouquets

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Today is the happy day Dorothy and Worth get their grandparents back in town forever. Hooray! My in-laws, who have been living in Saint Louis for the last nine years or so, are closing on a house nearby today. It makes us feel great that we’ll have our whole cast of important people in town and near us. Dorothy and I made a cookie bouquet to take them tonight as a house warming gift (and dinner, but no help from Dorothy on the soup). I’ve done a couple experiments in the cookie bouquet realm over the last few years and I think I’m establishing best-practices, so in case you ever want to make one, here’s how.

First bake a recipe for soft and chewy cookies of any type. I’ve done double chocolate and chocolate chip. Today I used this recipe that I found online and it worked perfectly. You can’t just use any cookie recipe, because one that only makes small cookies (which might not scale) or crisp cookies (too brittle or crumbly to hold sticks) wouldn’t work. When you take the cookies out of the oven, immediately skewer them gently with wooden barbecue skewers. Push the skewer all the way in, but not so far that it comes out the top. Put skewers in more cookies than you think you will need just in case some fall out or break when you’re assembling the bouquet. (Don’t ask how I learned that!) Then walk away and don’t touch the cookies until they are perfectly cool.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare a container to hold the bouquet and some decorations for their packaging. I’ve used clean peanut butter jars in the past, just decorated with ribbon and fabric. A decorated yogurt container weighed down with uncooked rice would work nicely too. Today we used a container that actually came with a professional cookie bouquet we received after Worth’s birth. It already has little holes for skewers. Dorothy decorated it with permanent markers. We also decorated little stickers to put on the outside of the cookies. I used round Avery inkjet labels, which I printed with little welcome home slogans, then let Dorothy decorate with the markers. In the past I’ve printed out simple labels with words in a flourishy font in a color to match the ribbons I use on the cookies and jar–simple and pretty.

After the cookies are completely cool, wrap each cookie individually with plastic wrap and tie it up with a ribbon. Cut off the bottoms of the skewers so the cookies are of various heights, then arrange them in your vessel. Stick the labels on the front of the cookies. Finally, stabilize the cookies by arranging tissue paper around them. I wish I could think of a better way to handle this last step than killing trees by using the tissue, but I can’t. Only tissue paper (that I can think of) can be wadded up at the bottom and splayed out at the top to gently support the cookies all the way up.

Gift the bouquet, then enjoy the leftovers with milk! 🙂
I saved a couple skewered cookies by wrapping gently in foil and freezing. These individual cookie “pops” will make nice hostess or birthday gifts from Dorothy in the next couple weeks.