Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Musings #16

I'm heading back to Atlantic City for Bachelorette Party #2 this year! Since I'm leaving work early I had to cram a lot of work in the past few days not to mention preparations for the weekend, so I didn't get to post anything yesterday... but look forward to some fun Bachelorette themed posts next week! Here's to hoping I'm a hot roller at Craps!! 

Wednesday Review: Pinterest!

If you haven't heard of Pinterest, you need to come out of that cave you've been hiding in for the past year. Pinterest is the picture-based internet site where craft-lovers everywhere come to post ideas they've found on the internet in one convenient location and share it with their friends.  Notice a bunch of your friends are all making the same fun looking dessert? They saw it on Pinterest.What's that? Everyone at work is rocking a cute side braid? They learned how to do it on Pinterest. 

What I like:
·         Not limited to just crafty things - though that is what the bulk of my friends use it for. You can post videos, hair styles, clothes you like, recipes, nerdy pictures, comics… the list is endless.
·         Pictures! I'm a very visual learner. And if you couldn't tell already from past reviews, I like when things have good pictures. The fact that you can pin a picture of a project, idea, or just a funny meme make it easier to relocate when you want to pull it up again. Not to mention you can further organize by pinning pictures to different boards.
·         Celebrities! It's kind of like twitter - you can follow famous people's pins, and if you're facebook friends with some D list celebrities, they may even be following you on Pinterest (hey there Hal Sparks - I hope you liked my Huger Games Cake pin!)

What I don't like:
·         The search function isn't the best. Maybe I'm the one failing at this and not the actual site, but I only get what I'm looking for about 50% of the time. When I want specific ideas on what to do for bridal showers simply typing in "Bridal Shower ideas" doesn't always get you the best ones. Many of the pins are on there multiple times and a lot of them don't really relate to what I'm searching for.

So if in the extremely rare chance you don't already have a Pinterest account, I highly recommend creating one immediately. Then get in some comfy clothes and get a snack - because you'll be sucked in for hours. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Break Me Off a PIEce of THAT

I think I've mentioned before how I always want EVERYTHING I see in the Williams-Sonoma catalogue. Of late I've really wanted the Breville Pie Maker. But I couldn't bring myself to spend $150 when I can just buy little pie crusts at the store. But then.... it went on SALE.

FIFTY DOLLARS people! Now I am the proud owner of a mini pie maker. All meals from here on out shall be in pie form. Breakfast - Sunny-Side Up Breakfast Pies! Lunch - Quiche! Dinner - Chicken Pot Pie! Dessert - PIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

I need the mini-pie cookbook STAT.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Another Party In The Bag

1.) Google changed their blog interface and it is FREAKING ME OUT. 

2.) Oxford Party = Big Success!! We finished off 2 bottles of Pimms and I think everybody enjoyed it. 

It ended up being more a blend of classy Oxford (Pimms, cucumber sandwiches, and scones) and your typical American BBQ (chips & dip, hot dogs, and Bud Light) but everybody had fun and most of my guests dressed up! Yay theme parties!! 

I made the BEST COOKIES EVER - and then ate about 10 of them. Seriously need to start exercising again. I put them in a Ben's Cookie's tin since that's what they remind me of. I'm still sad their Utah store closed. *sigh*

Again to stress how this was a combo UK/USA party - the day started with a thrilling game of Croquette....

 ...and ended with video games.

Though it is Beatles Rock Band - so that fits the theme right??

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Musings #15

So you may have noticed I took this week off (well, Tuesday - Thursday). Tuesday was TAX DAY! Everything is filed and I took the rest of the week to celebrate - aka eat ice cream, drink beer, and sleep. It. Was. Fabulous.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Oxford Party

The City of Dreaming Spires

Time for another Themed party!!! The weather is warming up and I'm feeling a little nostalgic for my favorite city on earth - Oxford. It is also in my favor that I live on Oxford street so double reason for the theme! I'm going to have people dress in their preppiest clothes, make a bunch of English food and buy a lot of English drinks. I still need to work on the menu, but I've pretty much decided on the drinks - the most important being Pimm's Cup!

Pimm's Cup is very popular in England in the summer. Usually imbibed at cricket matches and crew races, we'll have to make do with the croquet set I just bought. I am so looking forward to hosting a garden party. I am NOT looking forward to manicuring the back lawn beforehand. At least that can count as my exercise for the week right??

Friday Musings #14

I need to get organized. I just cleaned out my closet/dresser - 4 bags of old t-shirts and outdated clothes will be on their way to Goodwill in the morning! Woot! My room is the cleanest its been in a while. (i.e. you can see the floor.) While I'm on my organizing frenzy, I've been thinking that I need to make a craft calendar. I know there are certain projects I need to complete by certain dates (Comic-con costumes by July 12). That's the only hard deadline, but I'd like to get out my baby presents sooner rather than later as well. Right now I'm working on another top secret project that is pretty fun. Since I don't have a lot of plans this weekend hopefully I'll get a big chunk of that done. I'm excited to be in town for the next 2 weekends in a row - cause I'll be out of town for the following 4 weekends after that. I just realized that I'm pretty much rambling and this wont be interesting to anybody - so also I found $100, got punched in the face, and then we made-out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Its Fleece Was White As Snow - More Easter Treats!

To keep the theme going with cute animal shaped desserts and Easter - I invited my wonderful friend Virginia to guest blog today! 

Happy Easter!  As my high school religion teacher used to remind us, Easter is a season and not just a day - so I can still say that.  And I can still tell you about what my family did for dinner on the big day …

I heard a lot of people talk about very traditional dinners this year - many parishioners at my church missed the Obama family attending the 11 a.m. service this year because, like us, they went to the 9 a.m. in order to have more time to get various meats into the oven.  (In our absence, the First Family was as well-dressed as always.)  Some people talked about making ham.  I’ve never had ham for Easter, as far as I can remember, because the vast majority of special occasions are celebrated in my family with lamb, and - Easter being a particularly appropriate time for it - last weekend was no exception.

My mother’s maiden name is Lamb - and so lambs have always figured prominently in our lives.  My grandma’s maiden name, Wight, made her married name even cuter when said out loud.  She had a lot of lamb-related tchotchkes around, including a framed picture of a wooly lamb which assured the viewer: “Ewe’s not fat - ewe’s fluffy.”

She also made lamb cakes with a special cast-iron mold - kind of like this one:

Apparently my sister and I had these cakes for our first birthdays, though there was sometimes a problem with keeping the head and facial features in place - I’m told that toothpicks were involved.  The mold we used this time didn’t give us this problem (my aunt has just found the old one - so we’ll see if we can find success with that one in the future).

Grandma also dyed coconut green to be the grass the lamb was lying on … we didn’t go that far, but we did make him nice and fluffy.  First, my mom made the cake, using a  Duncan Hines white cake mix.  It was really good - she made mini-lambs with smaller molds using the extra batter, and we sampled it the day before.  It tasted like angel food cake but not as insubstantial.  Then my dad made some “Seven Minute White Icing” from The Joy of Cooking, and iced the lamb.  Finally, I took over with the coconut.  It was not easy to secure coconut onto all the vertical surfaces of this cake.  I found I had more success when I focused and had the courage of my convictions.

You can use part of a maraschino cherry, if you like, for the nose.  We used raisins for the eyes, and borrowed two red jelly beans - really - from a neighbor, in order to give ourselves more than one shot at creating the nose.  I also think a pink jelly bean would be cute.

Earlier in the day, I had lived out a very recent dream and made a Sweet Potato and Roasted Peep Casserole.  I found the recipe online through a Facebook friend earlier that week, but didn’t initially think I’d actually go through with it.  But I’m glad I did - it was delicious.

This was the picture from the website:

We picked up the yams (they’re interchangeable, right?) and Peeps on the way back from church that day, so it’s possible we were not availed of the most complete smorgasbord of Peep options possible.  A Safeway employee had to help me find the only Peeps left, and it looked like the only options available were small pink chicks or small yellow chicks, so I took two packages of the yellow ones.  They were not big enough to make a nice complete ring like the website’s picture - so I spaced them out evenly when I put the casserole back in the oven to roast them.  They got bigger, but they really got bigger when we put them in right before dinner to warm up.  They kind of melded together at that point into an almost full ring, and while that may not be the ideal way to do it, it meant more Peepy goodness for our guests to enjoy.

I would definitely make the casserole again - the crispy yellow sugar is a nice addition to the sweet potato casserole experience.

So next year, if you’re going to put marshmallows on your sweet pototoes or yams, why not go the extra step and make them bunny- or chick-shaped, sugar-encrusted marshmallows?  And if you’re going with lamb, why not have two?  Until then, happy Easter!

Wednesday Review: Fun & Original Character Cakes

Fun & Original Character Cakes by Maisie Parrish is a wonderful book! 

What I Like:
·         It's another British book! We get to read about sugarpaste, colours, and humour! While there are weird terms I don't know like "tylose powder" and "gum tragacanth" (I'm assuming they're just the British way of saying things instead of baking terms I'm not familiar with) they are fully explained in layman's terms in the book.
·         This book is a wealth of information. It tells you how to color, store, and paint fondant. It includes tips on how to store, transport, and cut your cake after it's made. It also has a section dedicated to the equipment you'll need to make the models complete with labeled pictures and explanations.
·         Recipes! You know by now that I love when books include recipes. There aren't a ton of them but there is a paragraph included with the benefits of each kind of cake (how long it lasts, easy storage etc). Of course there is a fruit cake recipe. (ahhh the English.) And because I love all things miniature, I'm excited that there is also a recipe for mini cakes (though why it’s a different recipe all together I'm not entirely sure.) There's also a recipe for pastillage - remember when I had no clue what this was? Well along with the recipe is an explanation that it is a form of sugarpaste that dries very hard. Also - edible glue recipe. Need I say more?
·         There are over 30 individual characters described in the book and they all seem relatively simple to make. As Maisie puts it: "everything starts with a ball". There is a mini tutorial on how to make a mouse, monkey, lion, elephant, rabbit, crow, and dog before you even get into the project instructions. The characters are all very cartoonish which I love.
·         The instructions are very easy to understand and really break it down into a step by step process. I also love the fun tip that dry spaghetti can be used to support the fondant models. SO COOL.
·         "A little More Fun" section at the end of each project suggests ways to decorate cupcakes and mini cakes with the same theme to compliment your cake.
·         There is a list of suppliers in the back which include both UK AND USA (as well as a few other countries) And woohoo! There's a store in Springfield! I will soon be very poor.

What I don't like:
·         I have a love hate relationship with the Brits. While some of their crazy lingo is explained for us yanks, you may still need to Google some of the words/phrases. It's also measured out with the metric system - grams pshhh. While the amount in oz is also given, there is a disclaimer that it is not precise and I'd prefer it all in cups and teaspoons anyways.

Per usual, there isn't a lot I can find that I don't like about this book. It has fantastic tips, goofy characters, great pictures, and I want to go home and start baking immediately. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Every Easter I annoy my family with a high pitched squeaky rendition of Peter Cottontail. Imagine my surprise when they actually played that song at Busch Gardens in their very own Bunny Trail!! I'm pretty sure my mom was embarrassed to be seen with me as I skipped down the lane singing along. I may be 27 years old, but I'm definitely 6 at heart.

I made these ADORABLE bunny butt cupcakes for our Easter Luncheon. I got the idea out of Hello Cupcake! This is the first time that I used a scoop for the cake batter. It is the BEST THING EVER. I used a 3 tablespoon scoop and the cupcakes just come out so even!

I had some leftover batter so I used a 1 tablespoon scoop and made some mini cupcakes too - cook's treat!

I frosted 6 of my 24 cupcakes and covered them in Oreo crumbs to make the bunny butts. I changed a few things around - the book called for white circus peanuts and chocolate covered sunflower seeds to make the feet, I used the leftover fondant from my Hunger Games Cake instead.

They were all out of little fondant rolling pins at Wal-mart so I used a glass... resourcefulness FTW!

Attached the bunny feet!

Icing the grass was a pain for the first few cupcakes, but then I got the hang of it and it became pretty easy.

I placed all the cupcakes on my serving platter so that it looks like bunnies are hopping into their bunny holes. 

Next I decorated the grass with egg malt balls and flower sprinkles!

Easter Tidings

I hope you all had a great Easter weekend! (And Passover weekend!) I spent it in Williamsburg with my fam. I got to relax, started a new book series (well new for me - it's actually about 5 years old) called The Mortal Instruments. I read the first 3 books, have the fourth and just found out there's a FIFTH coming out next month! AHHHHHHH SO EXCITING. I always get a little post-series depression when I finish reading. You spend so much time with the characters and then you finish and there's no more! So I'm excited that there are at least 2 more for me to read.

I also went to Busch Gardens this weekend. SO FUN. You can see the whole track for their new coaster Verbolten which is supposed to open May 18th. It'd better be good too since it is replacing my beloved Big Bad Wolf. After a day in the park, my mom and I started to prepare the meal for Easter. We made deviled eggs. When I was cracking one, it broke in half the wrong way, so I decided to make it into a chick like my friend VA had showed me.

Chicken never tasted so much like deviled eggs. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Musings #13

Ahhh - I wish this was next week! How cool would it be to have Friday Musings #13 on FRIDAY THE 13th!?!?!. I'm peacing out of work in about 2 hours (gotta beat the crazy DC traffic) and heading down to Williamsburg to spend Easter weekend with the fam - and of course go to Busch Gardens. I made cupcakes last night for Easter lunch but I still have to decorate them.

Peep Sushi

Look at the ADORABLE peep sushi my coworker Amanda made!! It's peeps on top of rice krispies wrapped in fruit roll up. I want to EAT THEM ALL. Next year I will be up on my Peep crafts - I failed miserably at them this year. Hope you all have a Hoppy Easter!!

Baby Shower Cookies!

With the last post about baby knits, I thought I'd continue the baby streak with the sugar cookies I made for Kim's baby shower. These were the first royal icing cookies I ever decorated. I copied the suggested designs off of the Wilton cookie cutter box. As you can see the teddy bear didn't get a lot of decoration. Now that I have more experience working with royal icing, I think I can get it to the consistency where it'd be much easier to decorate.

The carriage and the onesie were probably the easiest to decorate. The rocking horse and teddy bear had a lot more detail. But they all are so cute!!

Wednesday Review: The Little Box of Knits for Baby

This book (using that term lightly) by Sandy Scoville is really fun. It has some great projects for babies 6-18 months.

What I like:
·         It's a box! That's right - the title ain't lyin'. Inside are 20 "portable project cards" that have step by step instructions on how to knit sweaters, booties, blankets, hats, & Scarves.
·         The cards are colorful, with good pictures and a glossy finish. It's nice to be able to take the card out for the specific project you're working on and not worry about it getting all crumpled up.
·         There are some really cute designs! There is an adorable cardigan for a little boy and this cute pixie dress for a little girl that I definitely want to make someday.
·         There is an extra card that has a list of abbreviations, types of yarn to use, and a yarn conversion chart (for all those metric people?)

What I don't like:
·         A few of the designs are outdated (Hello 80s!) but I think if you just change the color yarn you could easily fix that.
·         There's no difficulty scale on the cards so you'll really have to read through the instructions first to make sure you'll be able to do the project. (Not that you shouldn't do that anyways)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bridal Shower Desserts Part 3

Here are the rest of the desserts I made for Kim's shower! Did I mention how much I loved the color scheme? Because I LOVE the color scheme! First - a major shout out to Mackenzie who came over the night before the shower and helped me to make all the desserts. I would have been up till the wee hours had she not showed up!! For the heart shaped rice krispy treats we dyed the marshmallow goo pink and then cut them out with cookie cutters.

I got yellow and orange candy melts as well as chocolate chips to dip the hearts in. 

This is a great way to spice up your rice krispies!

Next I made my traditional wedding shower cookies in the shapes of dresses and cakes. I used lemon flavoring in my royal icing to give them an extra springy taste. I dyed some of the leftover fondant from my Hunger Games cake to make bows and flowers to decorate the cookies.

Then of course I doused them in disco dust!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bridal Showers and Cherry Blossoms

This weekend was my friend Kim's bridal shower. We had a blast! I LOVED the color scheme too - we did a spring brunch and our colors were pink, orange, yellow, and green. It's a wonderful color combination. The sun even decided to make an appearance long enough for us to take pictures outside!

I made yellow and pink heart sugar cookies with the bride and groom's name in them. Tomorrow I'll post about the other desserts I made. Yesterday I ran in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. I PRd with a time of 1:44:39 (according to my phone). Here's me around mile 4:

Haha, I love the woman behind me. The fun things you can do when you have your smart phone with you on a run ;) The weather was a little chilly, but great for running. Afterwards we went to fill our calorie deficit at Cheesecake factory. What a GREAT weekend.