Friday, June 26, 2015

More Photo Booth Props!



I've added to my Photo Booth prop collection! The first batch were for one of Dora's parties and are a bit girly-themed. So before we went on family vacation last year, I made another set for a little more variety. We had a super fun photo session with all the littles ... I was snapping photos for about an hour!



See? The bow works well in the hair or as a neck tie!


They were used again for the second grade class party this week. Super fun!


Would you like them, too? Here you go! Assembly instructions can be found in the original post.

Download bunny ears here
Download bowtie / toothy grin / alien antennae here
Download alien eyes / mask here
Download top hat here

Personal use only, please! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Where I've Been!

I've still been baking, but the weekly recipes and photo shoots were getting to be more of a chore than a pleasure. And while school life always gets busy this time of year, there were a few extra events throwing our schedule off track, such as ...



The honor of traveling to Michigan State University last month for the Odyssey of the Mind World finals! Our middle school team won their regional competition ... then WON states (holy cow, that was so cool) ... which made them eligible to compete against 65 other teams from all over the world. Dora and Theo are both on the team and Mr. Hotcakes is the coach, so we all hopped the bus to MSU! It was an amazing experience, both in what they learned and how much fun they had. I really can't say enough good things about the program, it's incredibly hard work, but also incredibly rewarding.


Clark has had a many ups and downs lately. While he did great on our trip to Michigan (for the most part) the last three weeks of school were incredibly challenging. He also celebrated his First Communion (praise the Lord! I was worried all year about whether he'd go through with it.) and bridged to a Bear scout. He continues to be a big thinker and makes me laugh every day. Always trying to understand what's going on in that little walnut of his. 


(And look! Cookies!)



I've also been working quite a bit (yay). Did you know that my updated work can be found here? The spotgirl.net website is long overdue for a change, that's also on my long list of projects. I've been having a lot of fun working by hand and have been using Instagram and Tumblr to post those works in progress. I don't have any of my own materials that I'm currently marketing and am hoping this playtime helps point me in the direction of what to do next. 

Thanks for tuning in. More soon! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Baking Monday (on a Tuesday and Really Really Late) – Caramel Toffee Bars



Special shout out to a good friend who I know will be very excited about this post (hi, Laura!) Yes, I've been gone for awhile. Pool season wrapped up in May, and life got crazy busy. But I do have a small bank of baking pics to post. These bars are kind of a cheaty baked good in my opinion, because it uses lots of pre-processed foods vs. whole ingredients, but tasty nonetheless.



Replace the coconut (bleck) with white chocolate chips (mmm).



Also line the pan with baking parchment to make removal and cutting stress-free (as long as you wait until they are reeeeally cool to dig in)!



Very easy and very yummy. A hit with the littles in our house!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Baking Monday – Almond Sugar Cookies



I love almond flavoring in baked goods! Not all the time, but every once in awhile, the idea of almond hits the spot. These were easy sugar cookies with almond flavoring ... yum!



Theo and I debated about what color the icing should be ... white would have been fine, but I was in a colorful mood. But so many colors made us think of flavoring (cherry, orange, lemon, mint, chocolate). Theo suggested blue, I ended up with purple. Not sure it was the best choice? Maybe white with some colored sprinkles would have been the way to go. Anyhow, these cookies were very good. Several of the people who tried them swear they tasted cherry. (I've done almond-cherry before ... a favorite!) Turns out, there's a chemical connection between almond and cherry. Interesting! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Baking Monday – Birthday Cupcakes



Cupcakes this week for a friend's birthday! Sadly, she was under the weather and couldn't enjoy one until a couple of days later. These cupcakes were inspired by this chocolate layer cake ... that chocolate cake plus pink icing just looked like the perfect birthday combo.



I do have a go-to chocolate cake recipe, but am always happy to try something new, and this one was great! I wanted to do a gooey, soft icing but didn't have the ingredients for the cream cheese icing in the original post. After flipping through The Complete Book of Baking, I decided on Seven-Minute icing. It seemed so quaintly old-fashioned, like the kind of icing my grandma would have made. 



This icing is more time-consuming than buttercream, but SO satisfying! (BTW, I should clean the hand mixer, maybe?) It's smooth and glossy, and just when it seems like I've been mixing waaaaay too long ...



BAM! Peaks! We've got icing! This icing does look pretty and is very sweet, though not as flavorful as buttercream, and has an interesting bubbly texture. Even though it wasn't exactly the icing I was hoping for, I did enjoy trying something new. (And one recipe made more than enough for 26 cupcakes, so I may have to make another batch this week to use it all up.)



Here's the big question ... sprinkles or not? I preferred the look and taste of plain, but the kids voted for sprinkles. We ended up with some of each for everyone. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Toffee Bars



I've had this recipe saved for awhile, it was originally found in Family Fun magazine. Sometimes I plan ahead for Baking Monday and will purchase specific ingredients, sometimes I find a recipe that works with whatever is on hand. My pantry is usually pretty well stocked with the basics, but somehow I ran out of flour (FLOUR!) this week while the kids were home on break. Shocking, right?



I had bought a bag of toffee chips for last week's bar cookies, so decided to make this recipe with the leftovers. I assumed there were two cups of chips in the bag (like chocolate chips!) until I went to make these, and realized the bag only contained one and a third cups, one which I used up last week. Whoops, time to go through the baking chip bin (yes, I have a bin of baking chips) and find something else small and crunchy to fill in the gap ... mini M&M's!


Which, are admittedly not my favorite, but worked in this case. These bars have a really great peanut butter / shortbread with a little bit of oatmeal crust, spread with a thin layer of chocolate. I didn't measure out how many chocolate chips went on top, but it was way less than the three cups recommended in the recipe, I think that would be way too much. I sprinkled enough just to cover the surface once melted. The rest of the recipe is good as is! Bake in a parchment-lined pan for easier cutting.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Baking Monday – Little Bit of Everything Bars



This recipe is super yummy. I made a few alterations to the original recipe, including the name, because when the kids and Mr. Hotcakes asked, "What's in these?" I had to say ... a little bit of everything! Peanut butter, oatmeal, two kinds of chips, caramel, toffee in a blondie-like dough.



Spreading the top layer of dough can be tricky, but I've got several recipes in my usual rotation that involve placing sticky dough on top of gooey fillings! It works well to take little scoops of dough at a time, flatten with your fingers, and lay in place. Keep moving all around the pan and fill in spaces until all the dough is used up ... I find it kind of fun. The dough will puff up, so don't worry about covering every last spot. I also recommend lining the pan with parchment paper, letting it stick up just over the sides. The bars really need to completely cool several hours or even overnight before cutting to avoid a giant mess. Using parchment, the whole bar can be lifted out of the pan and onto a cutting board, using a Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper for cutting.

Very rich and very delicious!

Print recipe

Little Bit of Everything Bars

Brownie Dough
12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup oats
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1 cup Heath toffee bits

Caramel Filling
8-9 oz (about 30) unwrapped caramel squares
14 oz sweetened condensed milk

Directions
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper
• Cream sugar with butter and peanut butter in a mixer
• Add eggs and vanilla, mix well
• Add flour, oats, baking powder, and salt; mix to combine
• Stir in chocolate and pb chips and toffee
• Melt caramels and milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until smooth
• Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of a pan, pour melted caramel over the dough
• Flatten out small pieces of remaining dough with fingers and place on top of caramel until mostly covered
• Bake about 30 minutes until lightly browned
• Cool completely before cutting into bars