Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking Monday - PB Pretzel Buttons

Apologies to my husband, another peanut butter recipe this week!

My sweet Aunt Beth used to make a specialty chocolate-pb dessert that our family always called Betty Bars. Sadly, she passed away ten years ago, but thanks to her children, Betty Bars are still a staple at family gatherings. This recipe is very similar, but swapping pretzels for the graham crackers in Aunt Beth's original recipe. Of course she was on my mind while I was making these yummy treats.



See inside? Let them several hours in the fridge for the chocolate to really set, so they're not too sticky.

Really delicious.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Watercolor Eggs

More crafting with Grandma ... we made watercolor eggs a few weeks before Easter. Not my favorite color combo - the red turned out too dark - but it was a fun project. Inspired by a tutorial on this blog (I can't link directly to the project page, but it's called "Good Egg"), but the directions are pretty simple: trace shapes on watercolor paper, then paint, dry, and cut.

Clark got really into the painting. BTW, plastic egg cartons make perfect paint trays! I also prefer using liquid watercolor over solid for kids - it's easier for them to get really vibrant hues and easier to change colors without mucking up the paint.

Clark's paintings.

Grandma's paintings.

... and mine. It's been interesting working on art projects with Grandma. I like making things with allover patterns, but she definitely prefers more controlled, symmetrical designs. We hung these paper eggs on our back window, they made a nice decoration.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Works for Me Wednesday - Photo Booth!

I set up a faux photo booth for the kids to have fun with during a recent party. There are some cute photo props available online, both for purchase and for sharing. Of course, I wanted to do my own instead. I spent a morning working on the artwork, then printed and colored with bright markers. (Yes, I could have let the kids do the coloring, but why should they have all the fun?)

I mounted them on black poster board. (Old phone book + Diet Coke flat = perfect surface for spray glue. Then just rip out and toss the sticky pages when done.) Running a black sharpie over the edges after trimming hides any white and finishes them off nicely.

I taped a bamboo skewer to each shape with black duck tape, and reinforced the frame with skewers as well. A (semi) pressed bed sheet was the back drop. I set up my camera on a tripod aimed at kid height. This was done in the basement play room, so no natural light, but the pics still turned out pretty good.

This was a FUN party activity - the kids had a great time taking snapshots of each other. You could use other props too, like scarves or dress-up clothes, but Dora only wanted to use the paper shapes.

Would you like to use them for your next party? Here they are!

Download balloon prop here.
Download frame prop here. (Tile on two 8.5 x 11 pages)
Download face props here.
Download hat props here.
Download microphone prop here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Scrappy Paper Tree!

This scrap paper tree was one of the first things I ever pinned, over a year ago. So it's been in my want-to-make hopper for awhile. I picked up a couple small packs of scrapbook paper on sale a few months ago that had nice colors and patterns. As I'll be putting away Easter decorations soon and have nothing to go on the table in the foyer, it seemed like a good time to finally make it.

I had the paper, wire, and a yard full of branches, but didn't have a vase. Happily, one fell right into my lap ... Dora participated in an Edible Arrangement workshop and her finished product came home in this perfectly sized, lovely colored vase. Project - ON!

The original poster traced and cut the leaves by hand, which would probably be easy enough to do. I was hoping to find a leaf punch, but the closest I found was an oval.

I started with a bunch of oval cutouts and used a paper template to taper the ends. (No tracing, just held up the template on top of each oval. I ended up doing the little leaves by hand - put two pieces of paper back to back and trimmed. It's a forgiving enough shape to eyeball.

Then came the fun part - matching up fronts and backs and assembling. I used a glue stick to sandwich a short piece of wire in between the two leaves. I found that this is not super secure ... would recommend keeping the wire in place with a little bit of clear tape before gluing.

I found it easiest to hold the leaf in place at the base, and then wrap the wire around each branch, from leaf to end.

It's been awhile since I've worked on a good ol' fashioned craft project, and this was a fun one.

It's actually a little addicting ... I love the instant gratification! I may be adding more leaves.

Yay! So pretty!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Baking Monday - Chocolate Dipped Mint Cookies

I had mint on the brain today.

I used these mint cookies from Pillsbury, but bumped the mint up to 1 full tsp instead of a half. After baking and cooling, they were coated with dark chocolate. I found the easiest way to dip was to do half, let it set, then go back and do the other half. Easy and not too messy.

Super yum!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen

I can't say that Dora is a big fan of cooking and baking, but she definitely enjoys decorating. We went to a scout workshop last month called "Ace of Cupcakes," where each girl got to decorate cupcakes with different designs, like:

tye dye,

candy flowers,

and happy frogs.

I was getting a little stressed out at the workshop, watching the girls work with pastry bags. They hadn't been secured at the top, and each time a girl picked one up, icing shot out like a volcano. Icing ties .... they are a decorator's best friend!!

I put Dora and my niece in charge of decorating our Easter cookies, and they did a fantastic job!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bonus Baking - Triple Chocolate Cookies

I made these cookies again, this time with chocolate buttercream instead of ganache.

For some reason, they remind me of the deli scene from When Harry Met Sally ...

Use mini chips for the cookie recipe, they are just the right size.

Yeah, buttercream was the way to go. Mmmmm.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baking Monday - Vanilla & Strawberry Whoopie Pies

Dora and I had a weekend to ourselves, and she decided what dessert to bake. We went back to this cookbook and chose vanilla whoopie pies with strawberry buttercream. The boys are both chocolate kids, but Dora is my fruity girl. Ice cream, candy, desserts ... she always chooses fruity over any other flavor.

The buttercream called for freeze dried strawberries, which made sense because fresh would probably be too juicy with the sugar. Happily, we found them at Wegmans and they weren't too expensive ... Dora chose one pack for baking and one for snacking.

She was really proud of the final product and brought some in to school to share with her teachers. These were really good. I usually go for the chocolatey desserts, but fruity is a nice treat, too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Crafting – Sock Bunnies

I've been spending Fridays with Grandma, and it's been fun to have projects to work on. We've stamped cards, painted with watercolor, filled beanbags, decorated cookies, and done lots and lots of jigsaw puzzles. I had been searching for an Easter project that we could make and send out to the great grandkids - these little sock bunnies from Family Fun were just our speed.

Start with a toddler sock, fill with dried beans, tie off the top with a rubber band.

Cut the top into ear shapes (cut a "v" with rounded tops), tie a bow around the neck. We opted to paint the features because some of them are going to little kiddos and we didn't want to worry about pieces coming off. We dabbed the eraser end of a new pencil in paint to make the eyes, noses, and a tail on the back of each bunny.

Super cute! Clark made one by himself and has been playing with it all week - building block houses for him and acting out scenes.

All packaged up and ready to go! I found these little bunny stamps at the craft store for $1 - perfect. The bunnies are all on their way to new homes.

And in other cute news ... Clark and his hypnotized bunny.

Happy Easter!

Update: Found a pic of Clark's bunny and house. He was really insistent on his bunny having teeth like in the original photo ... turned out a bit fang-like, but he's happy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baking Monday - Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Jeff's request: something super chocolatey today. Inspiration came from a double chocolate sandwich cookie that we used to buy at a grocery store when we lived in VA (the only cookie I would ever buy at a grocery store!) So I made Mrs. Field's double chocolate chip cookies, which are perfect for filling, because they bake flat and stay soft.

Half got filled with mint buttercream that I had left over in the fridge ...

... and half got whipped chocolate ganache from the Whoopie Pie cookbook. Turns out, chocolate buttercream would have been a better choice - the ganache was too rich, it needed something a little sweeter. These should make a chocolate (and frosting!) lover very happy.