Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Cookies

It was conferences this week at school.  That means the girls had half days, (more like super short 2.5 hour days) and we had some extra time on our hands in the afternoons to have a little fun.  We came across these Halloween inspired chocolate chips at the grocery store, and thought we could do something creative with them.  We succeeded!

Ooo spooky fun PURPLE cookies!
We had only just started whipping up our regular cookie recipe: the Nestle Toll House one on the back of the bag (with 2 small alterations which I will share in a moment), when my oldest suggested we dye the cookie dough orange or purple.  We went with purple!  I, myself, who has loved making rice krispie treats all the colors of the rainbow from my teenage years on up, had never once in my whole life, ever thought to dye chocolate chip cookie dough.  

...And a child shall lead them...  Genius!  

Nothing more perfect to bring out the orange and black colors in the chocolate chips than amping them up with that other fun Halloween color of purple!  Here are the chips.  We found them in the baking aisle or sometimes they will have a holiday baking section in the grocery store.  The orange colored chips are actually orange flavored, and the others are the regular semi-sweet.

The orange chips add a nice flavor to the cookie!
Then we mixed our dough.  We only happened to have the neon food colors, so I was not sure how that would turn out... but shazam, the dough did indeed turn purple!  By the way my two secret "enhancements" to the Toll House recipe (in making a double batch) are as follows:  Add 1/2 cup extra flour, and 1 tsp extra vanilla

Ooo purple-y dough!
Then we plopped them on the cookie sheet as normal.  Oh I guess I do one MORE thing different in the cooking department as well.  When I use these sturdy half sheets pans with the handy dandy silpat mats (love them!!), I will bake these at 350º for 13 minutes exactly.  The original recipe calls for 375º for 10 minutes but I was tired of brown edges and soft centers. 

With the lower temp of 350º and the slightly longer bake time and they came out perfect for us.

Mmmm cookies

After that all you need is a nice cool glass of milk and a stack of your purple spooky treats to enjoy.

The neon color dye made this a light purple shade.  I'd love to try it again with a few drops of regular red and blue to attempt a darker shade.

It sort of reminded me of the back of a sting ray creeping through the ocean...

See what I mean?  I don't know if you've ever seen a sting ray before up close, but they are huge, glide-y... almost alien-esque.  Some of these above are as big as dinner tables, and although we were told they were friendly and snugly like "big cats"... All I could think about were they were over-sized wasps with killer tails.  Did I mention I kissed one?? I was told it was 7 years of good luck if you do.

Hubby and me kissin' sting rays in Grand Cayman Island
Sure.. I look "happy" in this picture... but would you believe I'm terrified!?  Standing chest deep on a sandbar with ocean currents knocking you over and your last known instructions were "do NOT STEP ON OR SWIM OVER A STING RAY"... careening through your head... Right after this pic I high-tailed it back to the boat, having to navigate past 12 other huge stings rays just to make it back safely.  Why did I go off on this crazy sting ray tangent just now?  Because sting rays scare the crap out of me, and purple chocolate chip cookies oddly now remind me of them. Especially Halloween themed cookies, which should be scary too!

All in all it was a fun way to slightly change up a regular cookie baking afternoon with some newfangled chips and some revolutionary fun cookie dough colors.  I have to thank my 8 year old for the inspiration.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kid's Table for Thanksgiving

So a few times this month (and even though it's early) I am going to post some holiday ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas, because sometimes you have to plan ahead to make a gathering extra special.  I just wanted to pass on this quick tip of these fun paper tablecloths that we have used for  the past few years at our kids table.  I am telling you about them now because if you wait until November to purchase them, they will be gone!  As soon as Halloween gets over, BAM it's Christmas time in all of the stores, and Thanksgiving is one holiday they like to skip.  If you have small fry (or some big kids at heart) in your family tree, then this is the perfect inexpensive way to keep them busy as the cooks in the family do food prep.

Mazes, tic tac toe, coloring, dot to dot, games, word searches - Genius idea!

We love this tablecloth!  You can find them packed like this for under $2:

We found ours at Walmart.  Right now there is a super huge Halloween section going on, but over by the birthday party supplies there is a tiny little section of Thanksgiving items.  Thanksgiving paper plates, cups, cookie cutters... and THESE tablecloths.  Run, don't walk and snatch yours up today.  All you need is a container of crayons and the kids will flock to the table (thus keeping them out from "underfoot" as they said in the days of old).

  Be mindful though, these will easily attract "big kids" too.

It lasted through cousin bonding...

It lasted through setting the table

It lasted through drumsticks

Jacob dreams all year of being the one who gets the huge turkey leg
It even lasted through more crafts!

and more crafts... (we are a crafty people)

And at the end of it all, we could just quickly scoop the whole thing up and the table was instantly cleaned.  It was a beautiful thing.  Now if you wait until November, these lovely little babies will be gone I tell you... GONE.  So if you want to add to your family fun in an easy and inexpensive way, you can't beat $2 dollars for all day fun.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Friendly Skeleton Snacks

Well, last year, my preschooler was doing a 5-week study on the different parts of the body.  We were assigned snack on the week they were learning about the brain and the spine.  Given my desire to coordinate a fabulous snack with the weekly theme (all while trying to impress students, teachers, and other parents alike), I went searching for something body related.  Only trouble was, googling "brain" and "spine" food images do not conjure up anything remotely appetizing.  I did find some inspiration over at the "Wants and Wishes" blog, however, it included some messy chocolate covered gauche brownie and a bamboo skewer.  Since sharp, pointy objects and 4.5 year olds don't go together all that well, I came up with this easier version.  Not only would these work for a preschool body lesson, BUT they also are the cutest little friendly skeletons that would work for a school snack or after school craft for the kiddos.

Friendly little brains and spines - how cute is that?
Luckily, you only need a few things to make this little craft/snack come to life:

Yogurt or white chocolate covered pretzles
Food dye ink pens

Plus cellophane and twist ties. 

First get out your marshmallows and your food dye pens.  I got a pack of 5 colors at Joann's in the cake decorating section for $9.  Using the 40% off coupon you can get them for around $5.  Draw on some happy faces.  By the way, the first time I tried to do this, I attempted a more "accurate" skeleton face with just the black pen.  Let's just say the ink ran a bit and made the face turn out a little too spooky.  You don't want your food to look like it could jump off the table and latch onto your neck, right?  Yikes.  Get ye behind me, evil marshmallow head!

unintentional creepy ghoul.
If you DO want yours a bit more spooky, then by all means use just black ink.  Since we were making these were for the small fry, I opted to make green-eyed happy faces.

The happiest disembodied heads you ever done seen!

After you make your heads, all you need is a small stack of the yogurt covered pretzels (we found ours in the bulk section at Winco).  It turns out five stack up pretty nice, and are sturdy enough to stand up without tipping over.  At first I bought some tall 1-inch narrow cellophane bags (usually meant for large chocolate dipped pretzel rods), thinking the skeletons would stack up nicely inside.  However, they were too small for the pretzels to fit in laying down flat.  I ended up tearing out a small rectangle of plastic wrap for each skeleton and wrapping them up the old fashioned way, with the marshmallow balanced on the top.  Then when you seal them up with the twist tie, everything will stay together in one nice stack.

Awwww adorable!

After that, just make as many as you need to give one away to each child in the class.  As you can see, we made a little army of happy skeletons.  The kids absolutely LOVED these!  Not to mention, yogurt covered pretzels are my daughter's favorite snack.  Win and a win again!

The teacher, Ms. Cindy, (who is a BIG fan of themed snacks) was excited, nay giddy about our cute little spines and brains. By the way, the kids thought we had used sharpies on the marshmallows at first, so be sure to let them know it is food dye.  Just thought I would pass these along to you for the month of October.  These would make a great little snack to take to school!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Warm Adult Hat on a Round Loom

Well it is officially fall around here!  Cooler temps, crisp autumn days, leaves starting to change colors, pumpkin flavors appearing in almost every coffee and baked good across the land...and soon thoughts will turn to keeping warm and dressing warm.  If you are going to be warm outside, you're gonna want and nice warm hat and scarf! (scroll to the bottom of the post for my BRAND NEW video tutorial!!!)

My dad, out walking his Golden Retriever Bella and wearing the hat and scarf I made him
A few years back I made some youtube videos about how to make a hat on round knitting loom for beginners

Looms can be fun... AND addicting. 
The videos have became incredibly popular, even more so between now and Christmas time. Making a hat and matching scarf can be fun, (addicting actually), and can easily become perfect presents to customize and make for your favorite people!  The great thing about the Knifty Knitter looms is that the technique for the smallest loom will work exactly the same on the bigger ones.  I recently made a new video, featuring how to make an adult-sized hat on the round loom (see below for video link).  Looms by the way, tend to come in a pack with four sizes:

You can find this 4-pack of looms in most craft sections of regular stores, or at craft stores for around $15
Hat wise, blue is for dolls and preemies, red is for toddlers, green is for teens and small adult heads, and yellow is for big hair or larger heads.  You can also use these same looms to make easy tube scarves with tassels.  If you have never shopped for yarn,you will find that the thick and fluffy yarn is pretty expensive.  I show a trick in my newest video on how to get a warm hat using two strands of some less pricey yarn, namely Red Heart yarn, which is available in almost every color of the rainbow, and found in even the local grocery store.  I was able to make a new hat for my dad using these looms, and I give you a start to finish tutorial on how to do that. Click play now for your personal making a hat on a loom lesson!

I thought I would pass this along now at the beginning of the season so you will have time to make yourself a few warm hats and scarves before the cold really gets here.  Plus if you get addicted (be forewarned! Once you learn how to loom knit you will want to make something for everyone you know) friends and loved ones could be blessed with warm things to wear.  

scarves and hats for all... even your dollies!
I have had people let me know via youtube comments that they also make hats for the homeless, and preemie babies in the NICU with these same techniques!  How cool is that!  Do you loom knit?  Let me know if you try these and feel free to show me projects you have completed.  Up next, I will try to make a video tutorial on how to make a cute Santa hat with soft white trim!  Enjoy.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Misadventures of Trufflebutt

Wanna hear a funny story?  Sure you do that's why you're here.  We have a saying in our house when we see something hilarious happen to someone else, we say, "That's funny... cause it's not me".  But alas, this next story sadly IS about me, and it IS pretty funny.  Well at least according to my hubby.  Rest assured that through my embarrassment of my latest forgetful adventure, I have now garnished a sweet new nickname.

I soon am going to give an entirely new meaning to "apple bottom" jeans

Okay, so, yesterday, we took the girls on a little adventure.  We picked them up from school, and drove early to our destination.  There we had an early dinner at a restaurant (a special treat in itself), and then we had some time before the show to walk around.  One of the shops near the restaurant was See's Candy shop.  So of course one look through the windows and everyone wants to go in and check it out.

Who doesn't love a store FULL of chocolate?  I know this girl can't resist.  Well you waltz into that cool black and white-tiled candy shop, and immediately you are hit with the whiff of fragrant chocolate air.  Yum.  What's better than smelling chocolate?? That's right, TASTING chocolate!  The kind lady behind the counter offers us a free sample.  Don't mind if I do!  She pulls out a plate of apple pie white chocolate truffles and gives us each one.

It's like apple pie.  Covered in white chocolate. When I first heard this I secretly thought apple pie? Yes please.  White chocolate?  Double yes.  Apple pie and white chocolate together??... Ew.  But after taking a small bite, it was pretty darn tasty and I continued to chow down.  Now she had also given my girls each a truffle.  One ate it straight up.  One nibbled off the chocolate and threw it away when she got to the truffle, and one just handed hers right to me. Didn't even try it (seriously, is this child really mine? I wondered).  In their defense, they had little scoops of ice cream with their meal and I think were pretty full already.  So now I am blessed with a second truffle.  Lucky ME!  I'm totally full too, so I just slip it in my small purse and we leave the candy store to walk to our venue. Once there, I realize we are almost the first people in the very long security bag check line.

Passing the time, I absentmindedly read the giant sign in front of me that says "NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED INSIDE".  No big deal... until I realize... I'm bringing in a contraband truffle!  I don't want "the man" to get my sweet treat.  So as the line starts moving towards the guards, I take my truffle quickly out of my purse and put it in my back pocket.  I figure, they are not going to do a pat down, right?  This isn't the TSA.  My original thought here was:  Put truffle in back pocket... breeze through security check, then retrieve said truffle from it's hidden locale and place back in my purse for some future chocolate craving.

Mmm Chocolate....

Only... that's not what happened.  What happened is: The second I went pass the main entrance doors, I COMPLETELY forgot I had a giant truffle in my back pocket.  Plum. Forgot.  Didn't think about it again.  Attended an entire pre-show meet n greet, with no thoughts of chocolate whatsoever.  Sat through the full 2-hour show without a care in the world.  Drove home for 45 minutes in the car, with a bonus stop to get Slurpees, and it never crossed my mind.  We get home, start getting the girls ready for bed, and I reach into my left pocket because I'm not sure which one my cell phone is in.... and... UG.  What on earth??? 

Inside my pocket is a warm, slimy, gooey, melted chocolate mess.  Not only that, but it is only NOW, at this exact moment, that I remember I have had a smashed truffle in my back pocket for the last FOUR hours.  Gross.  I make a little squealing noise which makes my husband look up and ask what is wrong.  Holy crum, I have a entire truffle melted into my pants pocket!  Huge Mess.  He of course, find this hilarious.  I start pulling it out in chunks.  CHUNKS.  Ug.  On a bonus side note though, my pants smell like delicious apple pie.  I turned the pocket inside out and the whole thing is caked with truffle.  Mr. D is wracked with laughter by this point and says lovingly "That's okay my little trufflebutt, we still love you"... and with that, my newest nickname was born.  Now, off to do some extra laundry.  Also I'm now craving apple pie for some reason...

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