Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baking Thursday - Peppermint Cookies

I usually make these - along with three or four other varieties - for our family cookie trays. This year, I had a pleasantly low-stress Christmas prep week, and I decided to enjoy it! So my baking list got cut down from three kinds of cookie to one. (PB Chocolate Chip, if you're interested.) There was still a huge variety for the trays, and the only person who complained was my sister, because there were no mint cookies this year. Guess what? I missed them, too, so I made them tonight.

This was originally a recipe for candy cane cookies, and back many, many, years ago, my sister and I would painstakingly roll each cookie into candy cane shapes, only to have most of them break apart during baking and/or on the trays. One year we had a lightbulb moment and opted to make them as pinwheels instead ... and never looked back!

One of my favorites ... also cute in green and white ... enjoy!

Peppermint Cookies

3/4 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

• Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
• Add egg, vanilla and peppermint, mix well.
• Add dry ingredients, mix until dough comes together.
• Remove half of the dough, add several drops of food coloring to remaining dough and mix well.
• Pat dough into rounds of equal size, stack and roll (1/4" thick) on floured surface into long rectangle shape.
• Roll long edge into dough, making a long roll about 2" diameter.
• Wrap in wax paper and freeze 2 hours or overnight.
• Cut into 1/4" slices and bake at 375 until just lightly browned.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ornaments 2010

For ornaments this year, I gave the kids a choice of these or stamped clay, and they all went with the clay. (I was really expecting Theo to want to chop things up in the blender, maybe next time.) We used air dry paper clay, and it was fun to work with.

I just bought my first set of clear stamps and an acrylic block, and I'm addicted, they are so fun to use. The kids stamped patterns into the clay, and after they were dry, painted them with gold, silver or glitter paint. Kind of a variation on last year's ornaments, but a different look.

These are Clark's. He stamped a penguin (had a tough time using a light touch, but I can still tell what it is) and a "C for Clark." I kind of like the minimalist monogrammed look - very Martha Stewart. He also did the shape cutting, which is why the star is missing a point, oops. He did this project 100% by himself, which is pretty good for Clark and crafts.

Theo's snowflakes.

Dora's stars. She chose the words to print on each one, I am loving "laugh a lot", I never would have thought of that. The snowflake stars turned out very thin and delicate looking.

And these are mine! Just for fun.

Happy Holidays, everyone ... see you next year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cards

No Baking Monday this week, as I'll be doing giant baking for my family cookie swap on Thursday. We've been busy over here - the kids made Christmas cards for their teachers this week. I've found that it works well to have a couple ideas in mind, then they can choose to do those or their own thing. Family Fun to the rescue again! We used these cute cards for ideas.

Theo selected the tree and candle designs.

Clark also liked the candles, and the thumbprint reindeer.

Really, throwing googly eyes on anything makes it adorable.

And Dora, of course, did her own thing.

And this was my card for Jeff ... he's getting a hockey jersey for Christmas, but unfortunately it won't arrive until after the new year.

We'll be tackling ornaments today!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Call 'Em Like You See 'Em

I think I heard about 20 "why?" questions during the 10-minute drive to the grocery store today.

Me: Here's a question for you. Why do you ask so many questions?
Clark: Because you're a nutty nut-head!

Fair enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baking Monday - Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Squares

I am not a big cheesecake fan, but if a dessert looks good enough, I will try it! This is the first time I've ever made cheesecake, and this recipe is a winner.

A few notes: if you forget to buy chocolate wafers at the grocery store, chocolate Teddy Grahams will do just fine. The squares are decorated with teddies as a memorial to those brave little guys who gave their lives in the food processor to make the crust.

Also, the recipe calls to bake with wax paper and it occurred to me (too late) that I should have used parchment paper instead. And I think mixing an entire stick of butter with the chocolate chips for the piping is way overkill, I scaled it back to two pats of butter instead.

Verdict: Good stuff. Would be perfect for a holiday party if you want to impress!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dora's class is studying Japan, so she decided to make these little necklaces for everyone in her class. She traced and colored the country from her world map and asked me to scan and print copies.

Our Advent calendar! I've been wanting to do this for a few years, and this year happened to remember BEFORE December 1st. I've collected enough holiday books over the years to wrap one for each day. The books are labeled with numbers, one color per kid, so they get to take turns opening them and then we all read the book together. Also a nice way to use up lots of scraps of paper from previous years. (I have a problem: all Christmas gifts for the year must all be wrapped in the same paper. The paper selection changes each year, but I love when all the gifts coordinate. It's a sickness, I know. But my sister is also afflicted, so at least I'm not alone.)

Organized my tea cupboard ... ahhh ... it makes me so happy. Any time spent with my label maker is quality time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Baking Monday: Spicy Molasses Waffle Squares

My original plan for today was foiled because of a snow day. I had to run to Wegmans for a couple of additional ingredients and it wasn't worth turning a 15-minute stop into a 45-minute stop, dragging three kids along. I'm going with Christmas-y themed items this month, I've had this one bookmarked for awhile. It's from this fantastic (appropriately titled) book. This is one of my favorite books because it has pictures of every recipe ... a must for me!

These were super fun to make. I loved using the waffle iron for something other than breakfast. (Okay, and let's be honest, the occasional dinner.) They cook quickly! I used my handy-dandy mini scoop yet again (really, if you don't have one, get one. It makes baking a zillion times easier) and dropped four teaspoons of dough onto a heated, lightly greased waffle iron and cook for about a minute.

The recipe called for orange juice in the glaze, but I am not a big orange fan, so I used apple cider instead ... super yum. The recipe only made 22 cookies, so plan ahead if making for a crowd. Also, these are a softer cookie. The recipe says to store in the fridge up to three days, so they're likely best eaten right away.

To quote my husband ... they'll go really well with tea!

Spicy Molasses Waffle Squares

2/3 c white flour
1/2 c wheat flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
dash ground cloves
2 eggs
1/4 c melted butter
2 tbsp molasses

• Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
• Combine eggs, molasses and melted butter in a small bowl.
• Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stir until just moistened. (Dough will be thick.)
• Drop spoonfuls of batter about 3" apart on prepared waffle iron. Close the lid and bake for one minute, until cookies are brown. Transfer with a fork onto a cooling rack.

Glaze: combine 3/4 c powdered sugar with apple cider or juice until a drizzling consistency (about 3-4 tsp.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bright Side

Another one of Clark's fun little quirks is that he will not tolerate my singing. At all. (He's like Sheldon with the whistling.) A scene from getting in the car today:

Clark (picking up a penny from the floor of the car): I found a penny!
Me: It's your lucky day! (Singing) You found a lucky penny, la la la la la la ...
Clark: Stop! Stop!
Me (lifting him into his seat): BONK!
Clark: Ow!
Me: Clark! I'm so sorry! I bonked you in the head! That wasn't very lucky!
Clark (rubbing his head): Well ... bonking my head stopped you from singing. So that's lucky.

Because I'm a Little ... Well, You Know

Dora and Theo are afraid of nuts.

Whenever they are offered a new cookie, they first shoot a panicked look and ask, "Are there NUTS in that???" Recently, Dora flipped out about halfway through a granola bar (a peanut butter granola bar, mind you) when she squinted and suddenly identified a portion of a real, live peanut.

I decided that it's silly for them to be afraid of nuts.

So, at Wegmans today, I walked around the bulk aisle and picked out tiny bags of different kinds of nuts, deciding that after school, we would have a "Nut Tasting Party." And this is how the scene went:

Me: Hey kids, we're going to have a Nut Tasting Party!
Dora (welling up in tears): Nononononono ... no!
Clark: Yay! (see how he doesn't want to do what the rest of the group does?)

So, I sat down with Clark to taste, and eventually the other two joined us.

All three kids tried every thing on the table. Granted, some bites were microscopic, but they willingly participated.

Clark liked everything, sunflower seeds got across the board smiles, and they happily discovered that they DO like peanut M&M's (I had to sweeten the deal a bit!) All in all ... a success!

Do I dare try vegetables next?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Little Non-Conformist

I got Clark's speech evaluation from school this week, and laughed out loud when I read it:

Clark chose not to participate in the evaluation at this time.


Clark: What are you laughing at?
Me: You! You didn't want to talk to Miss Terry?
Clark: Oh, that was just a hologram of Clark.
Me: So, the real Clark would talk to Miss Terry?
Clark. No.

This is a kid who totally does his own thing. He doesn't even like to go on playground equipment if there are too many other kids using it. Maybe it comes from him being an only kid all day and getting to do whatever he wants. He does not like to be told what to do.

About mid-way through last school year, he started rebelling against group activities. During circle time at school, he would purposely sit facing away from the group. He spent an entire music class standing with his arms folded. We tried a fitness class at the Y, where he spent the whole time doing only the activities the rest of the group was NOT doing. Gymnastics, outright refusal. We've stopped going to storytimes and music concerts. He hates having his picture taken.

This has been really hard for me, because doing all these kinds of structured activities has been such a big part of my life as a parent, and I so enjoyed doing them with the older two kids. Clark couldn't care less ... he has no anxieties about any of it, just sports a "Nope, not going to do that" kind of attitude. I was really unsure how school would go for him this year, being his first experience being without me in a classroom. We had one (very) sad day about a week in, but since then, he's been great. I wouldn't say that he looks forward to going, but luckily, he does tolerate it.

We've only got one more year together before he's off to Kindergarten, I guess I'll have to find things that we can enjoy together on his own terms.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baking Monday - Tuxedo Bar Cookies

Today's recipe is another from the Mrs. Fields cookbook. I think something went very wrong with these, because they look nothing like the picture in the book. (Or like the picture on the blog that has the recipe.)

As the brownies were baking, they got really puffy, but the insides fell, leaving a crunchy brownie roof.

Which means, when cut, they looked like this ...

They were very gooey on the inside.

Not the prettiest looking, but they tasted pretty good. I used pb chips instead of white chocolate.

My taste test panel approved!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


At least one reader wants to know ... where have I been? What have I been doing?

Answer: Celebrating four funny years with this guy:

Who wanted to know every day for the past week, "Is TODAY my berf-day?" He finally got to celebrate last Thursday. The big kids had a half day of school (note to school board: one hour and 45 minutes is NOT half of a day), so they came to visit the frog room. Theo was all too cool for school, but Dora LOVED being around all the little kiddos and switched into full gear "teacher" mode.

Her five minute story took 20 minutes to read, because she str-eeeeee-tched it out. ("What color are his spots now? That's right! Blue! What is he holding here? That's right! A flower!") School was followed by lunch at our favorite diner, a movie at home, and dinner with our family (with Whoopie Pies for dessert, mmmmm.)

And yesterday, we had a little party for his buddies at the bowling alley. I loved these bowling cookies, they were so fun to make! This is my first time making chocolate cutouts (for my little chocolate guy), and they were excellent. 

A little note about the cookie cutters: I usually order from this store, because they have a big selection and very reasonable prices. But I really wanted a separate pin cutter, and they only carry a ball and pin combo. So after much, much searching, I found exactly what I wanted from this store on Bonanza. I've never used (or heard of) Bonanza, it's kind of like a mix between Etsy and Amazon. The prices in this shop were a bit higher, but the quality is excellent. The cutters are extremely sturdy and well made, and the sides are a good 2" tall. Highly recommended!

Next up: favors.

Clark got this mini bowling set in his stocking last year, and it's still one of his favorite things. We thought it would they a great goodie for his bowling buddies, each kid got one in a monogrammed bowling bag.

Clark was being a bit of a stinker about pictures yesterday, so consequently I have a group picture of all the party guests ... minus the birthday boy!

But I happened to sneak this one in when he was being goofy. The party moved outside after lunch ... I really didn't expect to be outside in mid-November!

And I snuck in a little mini-photo session after our friends went home. (Note the haircut between picture #1 and this one ... no more mop top!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baking Monday - Candy Bar Cookies

With no plan in mind today, I gathered inspiration from the bowl of Halloween candy on our kitchen counter. Some might say that it makes no sense to take candy bars and add them to MORE sugar and fat, and I say that those people have no business reading baking blogs. If you have Thanksgiving parties coming up and there's still a bowl of miniature Snickers staring at you, give these a try!

(BTW, my kids had the most Reese cups, by far. Only two Kit Kats, much to Dora's disappointment, but Theo was thrilled to get more than a few mini Crunch bars.)

A few observations ...

The recipe calls for six ounces of chopped candy, I used about ten. And then after mixing it in to the dough, decided that it didn't look like enough, and threw in some chocolate chips, too. This was not a great idea, because the flavor of the dough goes much better with the milk chocolate candy bars than the semi-sweet chocolate chips. So next time: more candy bars. I say at least 12 ounces.

I wasn't thrilled with the texture of the cookies once baked ... I like chip cookies to be dense and soft, these were thin and crispy. (And super sticky: bake on parchment!) So, I tried baking the second half of the dough in a mini muffin pan. However, upon cooling, I was surprised to find that I actually liked the thin cookie better ... go figure.

This recipe makes a ton of cookies, so you may want to freeze half the dough for a mid-January, post-Christmas, pre-Valentine's Day candy bar fix.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Latest Sewing Projects

A bib and burp cloth for Lucy ...

... and another for Baby Maria.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Baking Monday - Peanut Butter Knockouts

Today I made this recipe, which specified using a boxed mix for the pb cookie base, which I did this time, but will make them from scratch next time.

They're peanut butter cookies, filled with a mixture of cream cheese, peanut butter, and mini chocolate chips. I used a bag to pipe the filling into each cookie, much easier.

These are pretty good and super-peanut-buttery ... serve with milk!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brownie Try-It: Write Away

I planned my first Try-It activity for D's Brownie troop a few weeks ago. We tackled Write Away, and I had so much fun planning this. I had a hard time finding Try-It suggestions online, so I'm including a little write-up of our plan.

Our meeting was an hour long, and we had to cut a few things out, like Group Giggles and reading a sample interview, but still did enough activities to meet the badge requirements. 90 minutes would be perfect to fit everything in.

Download printable directions here.

Write Away

1. Read the Story of Someone Special:
Take turns reading a short biography of Juliette Low.

I printed out a biography from the Girl Scout website and split it in to nine parts for the girls to read out loud. I'm very happy that the girls did the reading, because I have a hard time getting through it without tearing up. I mean, really, does it get more inspirational than this?

Juliette Gordon Low spent several years searching for something useful to do with her life. Her search ended in 1911, when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and became interested in the new youth movement. Less than a year later, she returned to the United States and made her historic telephone call to a friend, saying, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides.

In developing the Girl Scout movement in the United States, Juliette brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for possible future roles as professional women—in the arts, sciences and business—and for active citizenship outside the home. Girl Scouting welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities. This idea seemed quite natural to Juliette, who never let deafness, back problems or cancer keep her from full participation in life.

2. Group Giggles: Have one girl start a story and go around the room, adding to it until everyone has had a turn and the story is done.

3. Write A Letter: Have the girls each fill out an envelope with their name and address. Put the envelopes in a box and ask each girl to choose one and write a short letter to that person. Drop the finished letters in a box to be mailed.

As the girls arrived, I had them each address an envelope to themselves. I realized as they started that it would have been a good idea to have a sample out ... some of them did not know how to address a letter! Which makes this activity even better practice. I encouraged the girls to include questions in their letters, so their secret pen pal would be more likely to write back to them.

I made up these little stationery sheets using a Brownie illustration.

Download Brownie stationery sheets here. (For personal use only, please!)

4. Become A Reporter: Choose one girl to be a reporter and another to be a subject and read a short interview. Brainstorm about questions a reporter could ask, and have the girls fill out five questions on their sheets. Send reporter sheets home with each girl. Must be returned at the next meeting to earn their Try-It!

I had printed out a short interview with Nancy Krulik, author of the Katie Kazoo books. I chose her because 1) my daughter loves the books, 2) she's a woman author, 3) I used the interview for another project this year and knew I could find it easily, and 4) she'll be visiting the kids' school this year, yipee!

The brainstorming session went surprisingly well, the girls came up with some interesting questions to ask.

Download reporter pages here.

5. All About Me: write a story about your life, using the books provided. Also have blank books if girls want to make up their own story. Each girl can make their own book cover.

This was a lot of fun, I made these books for each girl.

We got out markers and colored pencils and they got right to work, making elaborate covers for their books.

It was so much fun when they would ask, "Can we do this or that?" and I could say YES! It's your book!

Download book pages here.

I read this excellent book while researching the meeting, and condensed some of the ideas into a handout for the girls to take home. Definitely check it out if you have an aspiring writer or artist at home.