Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Candy Cane Cake!

I am in love with this cake. Though I love chocolate and peppermint!! After my trial run I knew I wanted to make this for dinner with the McLean family - otherwise knows as Christmas Part 4! Even Conor, who is a self proclaimed anti-chocolate person, liked this cake...and that makes me happy!

This cake is from Annie's Eats. The only things I did different were: I didn't have espresso powder so I just used coffee and I didn't sprinkle the cake with crushed up peppermint...though I wish I would have! We were just out of candy canes!

So pretty and so yummy!

I hear peppermint!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas cakepop camp #2 (the kid version)...

Seeing as I don't have kids of my own yet...that must explain what I was thinking when I decided to teach my friends and their kids to make cakepops! All kidding aside, the kids and mom's did wonderfully!! I even got asked by one of them if I would do a cakepop birthday party...so it must have been a success. We all gathered at Danielle's gorgeous house to have a blast.

I was much more cautious with how I planned this one than I was with the one from the previous day...seeing as there were kids aged 7 - 14 involved. We (Sabrina and I) set up 3 stations for 3 different cakepops which was the best idea. The family groups each rotated with their mom's through each station and after about 20 minutes switched. After each group had gone through each station the kids really had a handle on it and could go where ever they wanted.

Crumbling on the counter. Don't worry, it's her house.

Discussing chocolate :)

Rolling into balls.
This was the most challenging part for the kids because they had a hard time making them tight enough.

Busy hands!

Haha. I think there were 4 kids working on this batch.

Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Explaining to dip it like a joy stick. Those kids have NO idea what a joy stick is. Next time I'll bring an XBOX remote to demonstrate...

More teaching.

Oh sisters...making snowmen.

Christmas trees. We really struggled with this green Wilton melting candy.

Regular cakepops disguised as The "ornament" station.

The Wing's making snowmen!

Sabrina, she didn't even make one cakepop. She just packaged them all. She is a great friend!

A few things I learned...
- Kids can be better at things than adults
- Take more pictures
- Bring an assistant ;-)
- At the time it seemed like a lot for each family to have a batch (40-45) of cakepops but in the end...I think everyone was happy with how much they got to go home with. And I still have some in my freezer....waiting for me to get motivated enough to make more.
- With kids, your sprinkles WILL get mixed...even if the adults watching over them are teachers...its just inevitable.
- I love kids, my friends, Christmas break, and cakepops.

Christmas cakepop camp #1...

I had decided a while ago that I wanted to teach people to make cakepops. Secretly, I want people to make them and for me to eat them...without having made them. Sure, they are cute but they are time consuming! I lined up some of my work friends (and some of their kiddos) to teach over Christmas break. We did it before Christmas so that people would have them to give away as treats to neighbors or family members...so keep a few for themselves :)

I should mention that originally I was supposed to do this one of the two days with my old college room mate but she had some unfortunately and untimely deaths in her family...love you Meggers and we'll make cakepops soon!

I really had a blast teaching people, I mean - I am a teacher after all!

The first day (which was supposed to be with Megan) ended up being with 4/5 of the 4th grade team members at my school. Laurie was gracious enough to offer her kitchen up. Thanks Laurie!

4/5th of the 4th grade team!

Smiling Snowmen.

My favorite - made by me :)

Me. I chopped my hair off 2 days later, I kind of miss it now looking back.

The wrapper bee's.
Norma is in the middle. She is Laurie's (on the right) Mom and also volunteers in my classroom 2 days a week to help with my kiddos!

Santa hats. Very time consuming.

My new best friend (sorry Sabrina!)

My masterpiece!!
Peppermint cake with dipped in chocolate coating and sprinkled (heavily) with crushed up candy cane! OOOHHH they were SO good!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Candy Cane Cake - trial run...

I knew at some point during our 6 (yes, six) Christmas festivity nights I'd be making a cake but I didn't know what one. Then I stumbled upon it...annies-eats and her peppermint cake and I knew I HAD to make it!! I always get warry when trying new cakes from scratch so I wanted to do a trial run...I knew no one would mind. My trial runs usually get passed out to my friends and Jason's co-workers.

The post from Annie's Eats had it in a whole cake but it was fun to make into gift sized portions!

I decided to bake and deliver them in these Reynold's star shaped pans. I've had them in the cupboard for years and never used them...and they were just different from cupcake tins :)

I also made a few rectangluar cake ones!

They were SO good and I will definitely make them for Christmas time!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

closet conversion - the cost...

From the time I started this closet conversion I wanted to calculate the cost so I kept all the receipts to review later. Well, later is now. Really, I think we did pretty good. I had been looking at items like this from Ikea or this system from at Michaels and the benefits would have been that I could take them with me when we're gone and who knows, one day that might be what I have. Though neither would have given me exactly what I wanted. But for now, this really worked for us for many reasons. I wanted a permanent space (nails make it permanent), I wanted a large space, we wanted to save money and Jason wanted a project!

So here is the rundown of the costs. We had the nails, screws, and green paint left over from various other projects.

$ 25.00 - white board. used for desk and one shelf.
$ 14.35 - trim for around peg board. 25.17 ft @ $.57/ft
$   7.42 - 3/4 in. square trim. 13.25 ft @ $.56/ft
$ 12.48 - primed baseboard. 2 @ $6.25 each
$   2.94 - brown paint. Use sample size in exact color as wall.
$   7.50 - pegboard. Whole board was $15.22, used half for this project.
$ 69.09

The trim for around the pegboard is what you can see in the pictures that is painted brown. We had to buy more because Jason mis-cut some of the pieces... The 3/4 square trim we used to back the pegboard so that hooks would fit back there and it is also the support underneath the shelf in the nook and there will be enough for another shelf someday.

All in all I am really proud of my husband! He did such a nice job and really took his time to help me figure this all out. I would say I have used it about 4 times a week since I've had it, though funny enough I haven't scrapbooked on it yet...that will come :-)

Cookie Bake & Exchange...

Myself and a few of my friends from work had been talking about doing a cookie exchange, problem was no one was really in the mood to make a few dozen cookies in their own kitchen! We decided to switch it up and bit...we had everyone make their cookie batter at their house and then come to school (we're teachers - so this was a normal meet-up spot) and bake them and chit chat! It was a fun but oddly hectic event. I decided to make my absolute favorite cookie - Russian Teacakes. Turns out, many other people liked them too and were happy to have them on their plates.

Another fun part of this was getting everyone else's recipes! This was a great way to get a variety of cookies. While I know everyone can not bake all their cookies and their friends cookies in one place (schools happen to have lots of big ovens!) there are many other ways to have a cookie exchange!

huge ovens!

my best friend baking!

me. with my caddywhompus eye... with my Russian Teacakes


more cookies!

what a fun looking plate!!

Thanks to my wedding acquaintance Jill for telling me about picnik which lets you edit and arrange photos...I am SUPER excited to put this to use and hopefully get Photoshop for my upcoming birthday!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

wild wrapping paper...

**Due to an error on my part (I deleted pictures from my Picassa Account with deleted them from the blog) these pictures aren't avaliable**

I've been using my old (as in, from high school) laundry basket for wrapping paper storage for a long time. I never could spend the money to buy a fancy container when it has always worked just fine and it still is, with a slight modification as of today. Today, I could finally not stand the clutter of it...

The rolls went to the right, left, and outside corners. Over half of the bows had met a squashed demise at the bottom of the basket. By two bags (one for other bags and one for tissue paper) have always been this organized. But the rolls drove me crazy.


I used a small tension rod (the pair from a previous project I apparently didn't write about because I can't find it) to separate the space and keep the wrapping paper upright! The problem occured when I would take the bags out of the hamper and then that is when the wrapping paper rolls would slide every which way.

I also used a box to store the ribbon and bows, to have them from a crushing demise. The Ziploc you can see at the bottom of the screen holds pens, tape, scissors, some curling ribbon and gift tag stickers.

I'm very happy with the edition and the little touch organization.

homemade liquors :)

This all came about a few weeks ago when my staff assistant Carol and I were talking about how flipping hard BOYS can be to buy for. I was thinking about my brother-in-laws in particular because they have every video game I could imagine and still live at home so don't need house stuff...but I could not think of what to get them. Though I just realized that IF they read the blog they'll now know what their Christmas present is...hopefully they don't :) Moving on...

Carol told me about how she makes homemade hard alcohol and this was intriguing in many ways, but specifically for BIL presents. They do like to drink. So Carol graciously wrote down about 4 or 5 different recipes that are her "tried and true" ones that her family loves and tonight, randomly and without any warning, Jason wanted to make one. Well, I guess it might have had something to do with me buying the below bottles at World Market today. I would link to the exact bottle but I cannot find them online.

These bottles were $5.99 each.
My plan is to eventually stock up on cool and different ones, even hitting up Goodwill and whatnot, but this was efficient for today.

We made the recipe according to Carol's instructions. The one thing I would do next time is actually use liquid food coloring instead of gel. I just only have gel from baking...

Also, we had the vodka around the house. Funny story. I guess in Jason's line of work when you do an exceptionally good job with a Captain, they give you booze. Jason has gotten 3 fifths in the last month - vodka, brandy, and something called Ouzo. So We used the vodka he got from work to make this recipe!

2 cups sugar with 1 cup boiling water.

Pour water over sugar.

Stir until dissolved.

We amazingly had this all on hand.

photo credit to Jason!

Add 2 cups Vodka.

2 -3 tsp peppermint extract. We used 3 because Jason felt like it.

food coloring.

mix. you get a little light headed!!

funnel into jars.

seal up and you're ready to go.

credit - Jason.

credit - Jason

We have a few more recipes we are going to try...maybe I'll keep those ones under wraps until later :)