31 December 2011

Pinterest Christmas

Through my friend Erin, I became addicted to Pinterest this fall. It. Is. Awesome. Better than Facebook.

This year was the year of Pinterest Christmas.

For example, the treats I made for gifts for people at school: all recipes from Pinterest.

Hot Cocoa Rice Krispies
Saltine Toffee (aka "Christmas Crack")
Peppermint Popcorn (in the baggie)
Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles
Brown sugar and spice cookies

Besides a million recipes I want to make, I also found a ridiculous amount of crafty things to make, too!

I painted on these mugs, plus two more that I forgot to take pictures of, and a teapot, for my sister.

I knitted this blanket for my newest niece, Chloe.

I did some other projects, but forgot to take pictures. Don't worry, one of my resolutions for 2012 is to be better about blogging. :)

Happy New Year!

07 October 2011

Baby Shower

I love to bake. (Clearly. I have a blog about it.) 

I love to cook, too, but I really love to bake.

So when I was asked to be a kind-of* co-host for a baby shower for a teacher at work, I totally agreed. Over a month before the shower, agreeing to make 2 dozen cupcakes, and cookies as shower favors sounds like fun. To get ideas for the cookies, I started Googling "baby shower ideas" and saw diaper cakes. So I offered to make one for the centerpiece. Easy peasy. 

And in the month between agreeing to all of this and it actually happening, school starts. 

Then we vote to go on strike.

And stay on strike for 10 days.

And then vote to accept our contract, so we go back to school.

And then I realize that the shower is this week, the first full week back to school after the strike. 

Because I had post-strike/back-to-school-for-the-second-time-in-one-month brain, I struggled through my kind-of co-host responsibilities. For example, the night before I was going to make the red velvet cupcakes, I read the recipe far enough to realize I needed buttermilk. I went to the store after school the next day, got the buttermilk, headed home to make the cupcakes, and realized I also needed red food coloring and cupcake liners. I was at Michael's or the grocery store every day after school that week, picking up something I had forgotten the day before. Somehow, I managed to scrape together enough ingredients to make Paula Deen's red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

In all of those trips to the store, I never managed to figure out or pick up what I would need for my favorite royal icing recipe, which is the key to the 6 dozen cookies I made as favors. Using what I had at home, I made the footprints. (Yes, I know the color makes them look like radioactive Bigfoot prints.) And, I was able to get the yellow bodies on the ducks. But that was a stretch. So I Googled "royal icing recipes" and used the first one that I found that I had the ingredients for. (Royal icing has to dry for 24 hours before you can add a new color or details, I didn't have time for another trip to the store.) The new recipe I found whipped up a whole lot fluffier than my other recipe. It felt like trying to squeeze a pink marshmallow out of a piping bag. That's why the onesies look so goofy.

While waiting for the royal icing to dry, I made the diaper cake. It actually was the easiest thing I made, because everything came from Target, all in one trip. (There are more little gifties that go on the diaper cake, but I didn't take pictures of them because I wasn't sure where to put them. When I got to the party, I just kind of set them on the cake, so I'm not even sure what the finished product looked like.)

* Being a "kind-of co-host" means that I don't have to do any real hosting things: the party wasn't at my house, so I didn't have to clean before or after, I didn't help with the invitations, I didn't figure out party games. I just made stuff at home before the party, and got to the house a little early to help assemble finger sandwiches. Then I did what I do at every social event where I feel a little awkward: I drank a lot of coffee and told embarrassing stories about myself. 

08 September 2011

What I've Been Doing Lately...

... painting red feet and shoes for the "Right Foot" series starting at Discovery Church.

...making these taquitos. Seriously, I've made them once a week every week since I found the recipe on pinterest. (Also, I've been spending A LOT of time on pinterest.)

... starting school, (amid worries and talk of a strike) and having my students take the Marshmallow Challenge.

... crafting juice recipes, after watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix a few weeks ago. Seriously, watch this documentary. It will change your life.

... roasting corn in my oven. After an epic night on Fox Island with my friends, where we ate Eastern Washington corn and laughed hysterically, I've been obsessed with eating corn.

... and making a batch of birthday cupcakes with Paula Deen's Red Velvet recipe (so good!) and another batch of vanilla cupcakes with custard filling (my first custard - no one told me I could make Jello pudding and call it custard). 

05 March 2011

A Shiny New Australia

For Erin and Greg's joint "Rock Band" birthday party, I made Coconut Cream cupcakes, with "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog" cupcake toppers. It was my first try at royal icing "runouts". I like the idea of them, but I definitely need more practice.

A ton of people RSVPed for the birthday party, so I doubled the cupcake recipe. For some reason, I decided that meant that I needed to double the frosting recipe. I nearly overflowed the mixer with cream cheese coconut frosting. Once it was in a piping bag, it looked like this:

To clearly illustrate the size, I put a regulation size cupcake next to it:

So. Much. Frosting. I feel bad throwing away what's left. I may end up putting in my coffee in the morning, and on toast, and as salad dressing, just to get rid of it all. 

26 February 2011

Is this a joke?

Seriously, Winter?

2 days of snow, plus the following day or so of nasty icy roads, is seriously cramping my style. Don't get me wrong, I loved having 2 hour delays at school. But the crazy slippery drives to school were nuts. And having to come home straight after school wasn't my favorite, either. Do not go to the Y, do not go to the volleyball game, do not go to the store and stare longingly at baking supplies. Again, I ask, "Seriously, Winter? It's dang near March, for the love."

By Thursday evening, I was going a bit stir crazy in the house. I did a Jillian Michaels workout video, I did the dishes, I did my laundry. I ate pancakes. I watched some shows on the Food Network. I chatted with the roommates that I rarely get to see. I put on my roommates boots and ran outside to measure the snow that had fallen.

9 cm. Or nearly 3 inches, for those of you non-metric folks.

And then I couldn't take it anymore, so I did this:

Yes, that is two sheets nailed over the doorway. Desperate times...
Erin's birthday is next week, and I've got big plans for her birthday desserts. I had to create an area where she couldn't see what I was working on, since Winter has decided to not let us leave the house.

22 February 2011

21 February 2011

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

I made these bad boys for Valentine's Day, using this recipe. For the most part, they worked out. The cupcake recipe called for sugar to be boiled in water, cooled, added to eggs, and then incorporated into the dry ingredients. I ended up with super liquidy batter. Not liquidy like cupcake batter is supposed to be, but liquidy like chocolate milk is supposed to be. I put them in the oven anyway, hoping that they didn't evaporate. 

They looked normal when they came out of the oven, so I filled and frosted them. They were supposed to chill for 15 minutes before the white frosting, so I took a 2-hour nap on the couch.

To be honest, I was looking forward to all the cool ideas to write on them. I whipped up my frosting, and put it in my piping bag (I love any recipe that requires me to use a piping bag) and went to town. 

I Cakewrecked these, so I scraped the icing off and tried again.

Oops... Cakewrecked for sure. (This was going to be three cupcakes that spelled out "I love you", but the "I" was so goofy I tried to change it into those squiggly Hostess lines. Not so much.)

Another Cakewreck. Misspelled. 

I finally got four of them that I was somewhat happy with to give to my Main Squeeze for Valentine's Day. Relief, finally....

Until I turned around and realized the mess this recipe had created. 

I would have had a few less dishes, except my first ganache never got glossy and smooth, so I tried to heat it over a double boiler, and then gave up and made a new batch.

Oh, and the frying pans. I'm not trying some sort of Richard Blais-Top Chef-avant garde method of frying cupcakes. We had that new pretty stove installed, but the bottom drawer didn't have runners, so it would just drop to the floor if you tried to use it. Those frying pans lived on the counter until the drawer got fixed. 

All in all, I would probably make these cupcakes again. I think I need more practice with my frosting writing. I'm pretty sure I have the bakery equivalent of serial killer handwriting.
See? Creepiest Valentine's cupcakes ever. If someone gave me these, I would think they spend a lot of time hanging out in the bushes outside of my house. 

13 February 2011

Sticker Shock

At some point in my first year of teaching, I acquired three sheets of these stickers. I wasn't sure when I would ever use them, as I didn't think high schoolers would be motivated by a sticker reward. At the end of every school year, I pack everything up in my classroom, and every summer I think about throwing these stickers away. (However, I have an issue with throwing away anything that may have some future purpose.) So I held on to them, and this semester, I'm glad that I did.

This year has been the hardest year of my teaching career, for a lot of reasons. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a training by Lee Meadows in January, and I used what I learned there to completely change my teaching style. I now use a day-to-day inquiry format, where kids work in groups to gather evidence to answer a specific question of the day, which leads them to be able to answer a larger question for the unit. It's only been 2 weeks, but I've already decided I'm never going back to traditional teaching. The new format has alleviated a lot of the issues I had first semester. More importantly, students who were struggling last semester are doing beautiful work this semester. They are engaged in class, and are actually learning. 

I've had one student who I've struggled with all year. He's super smart, but rarely demonstrates it. He carries a backpack all day, but never opens it in class. Doesn't use a pen or pencil, or paper. Because he isn't doing any work, he gets bored easily, which means he starts distracting other kids, who were just barely on task anyway. This semester, I put him in a group with kids he can't distract, and far from his friends. For the past two weeks, he and his group have been doing amazing work. Last week, they finished a little bit early, and the wingnut made a joke that he thinks they deserve a sticker. Because I was happy that they were learning, I dug out these sticker sheets, and put one on each students notebook. The jubilation was intense. I've never seen a 16-year-old get so excited over a goofy "Whale of a Job!" sticker. The excitement rippled through the room, and since then, everyone has been asking about stickers. 

Earlier this week, some kids were trying to convince the wingnut that stickers weren't that cool. His argument was this: "You know how it feels when you put something in the microwave, and then walk away to do something else, and come back right as the timer goes off? That's what getting a sticker feels like." I was a bit puzzled by the argument, but every kid in the room just got quiet and went, "Oohh". They were convinced. Guess I need to go buy more stickers...

17 January 2011

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

During Winter Break, my main squeeze and I went up to Seattle for a quick, random day trip. We started our day at Voula's Offshore Cafe for breakfast. Guy Fieri from the Food Network has been there. On their menu, they have an area of his recommendations. I chose "Billy's Biscuits", which was biscuits and sausage gravy, with hash browns, and eggs. (I was not a member of the Clean Plate club that day.)  I was hesitant about trying them, since I was sure that I didn't really like biscuits and gravy. I have a vague memory of trying it once as a kid, at Perkin's with my parents, and not liking it. But then again, all I ever ate at Perkin's was chocolate chip pancakes. (During college, I told my parents that I never liked the chocolate chip pancakes, but always ordered them because I was too scared to try anything else. Their responses were just blank stares. I don't know if they were shocked that a child wouldn't like chocolate chip pancakes, or if they were trying to figure out how many times I ordered it, even though I didn't like them.)

Anywho, Voula's changed my mind, and I've had biscuits and gravy on the brain ever since. There was no school today, so I figured it would be a good time to try it out. I used Alton Brown's Southern Biscuit recipe, except I used half whole wheat and half regular flour. My biscuits were more like hockey pucks than I had hoped, but they tasted good. I forgot to take pictures of the process until they came out of the oven.

Pay no attention to that blobby one on the lower left. He was the leftover dough. Couldn't bring myself to throw away dough.
I made my gravy using this recipe from Paula Deen. I liked it, but it got really thick after it sat. Next time, I'll use less flour to thicken it. But again, it tasted good.

I used this sausage that I found:
No MSG! Yeah!
 Next time, I might use turkey sausage. Probably a healthier option, in the long run. Until then, leftovers for dinner this week!

05 January 2011


When my main squeeze and I were in Portland last week, I found a Tatebanko kit in the art section of Powell's City of Books. According to the cover, tatebanko is a "forgotten Japanese art of creating amazing dioramas and scenic perspective from paper." For ten bucks, I figured a little art project that would become decor was a worthwhile purchase. 

I opened it up the other night, and was instantly confused. It came with all of these pieces...

... not to mention that the directions were originally in Japanese, and then translated to English. And they were sparse. The first direction basically read "Cut out the pieces, and glue them down, dummy." 

So I started cutting and gluing.

It was going well until I hit this roadblock:

Pieces 6, 7, 8 and 9, all had As, Bs, and Cs, on them. What am I supposed to do with that business? I just stuck with my  strategy to keep cutting and gluing, now in alphabetical order. 

Ooohh... it's coming together! 

Now it has sides! This was harder to accomplish than I had imagined.

And a front!

This finished project! I love it. I think it's the best 10 bucks (plus 2 hours of cutting and gluing) I've spent in awhile. 

Uh-oh. Leftover pieces. That's no good, right?

Um, Dear 20A, 20B, 21A and 21B- where the feez do you guys go?

Oh, I get it.

One of you holds up this explanation written in English. The other holds up the version in Japanese. (I'm assuming that it says the same thing in Japanese. It may say something along the lines of "Some dumb American bought this. Laugh at them." I'll never know the real truth.)

Anywho, it was a fun project. A little artsy, a little craftsy. Good stuff.

Oh, and I forgot my favorite part.

This dude:

It's a little surfer dude. If you go to the website, it suggests where to glue him. I'm trying to figure out a way to make him mobile, so I can move him all around the diorama. 

The whole time I was working on it (when I wasn't puzzling over the lack of directions) I was thinking of other applications for this technique. I wanted to buy more kits, but the company doesn't ship them outside of Japan. And, I can't buy them online from Powell's. And they are over $100 bucks on Amazon. So I'm thinking of making my own. I think Van Gogh's "Starry Night" would look amazing, if I can figure it out. And, wouldn't it be fun to make one out of personal pictures? Like a little diorama of a vacation or something? I have ideas. I'll keep you posted. 

(Also, "diorama" is nearly impossible for me to spell correctly. My fingers literally freeze on the keyboard, no idea where to go after the "di-". So I just fill in letters phonetically and then wait for the squiggly red line to appear underneath. Ah well. Can't be good at everything, right?)

04 January 2011

Bye, 2010!! Hi, 2011!!

(Warning: This post is long, and only has one picture. Read at your own risk.)

If you are one of the five people that read this blog, you'll know that I made a lot of my Christmas presents for people this year. Most of them I'm not super proud of, but there is one that I could live with.

I made this for my friend Erin, who also started a blog in 2010, called Punched at Recess. I always admire and appreciate Erin's outlook on life, and her blog is the perfect mix of intelligence and humor. She and her students had a run-in earlier this year with a one-eyed pigeon, which Erin deemed Cap'n Pidgey. I decided it would be fun to make her a little mascot of her pigeon friend.

So, my 2010 ended with a bunch of art projects, a couple fun little road trips, and an excellent Christmas and New Year's. 

Now, on to 2011, with a note about resolutions.
I make resolutions every year. Every year. For as long as I can remember. I'd also make resolutions at the beginning of the school year. And sometimes my birthday. I'm a goal-setter. The problem is, I'm not always a goal-reacher. As I was thinking of resolutions for this year, the same ones popped into my head... exercise more, lose weight, eat better, read more books, spend more time being creative, blah, blah, blah. When I made a joke to a friend about how most of the people at the Y this week won't be there in February, I silently thought "Man, I better still be there in February."

That got me to thinking... and I changed my resolutions this year. My resolution is to be realistic. That's it. Realism. I'm applying my realism to my goals (I'm not calling them resolutions anymore. They are goals now.). 

Goal 1: Get back into running again. I want to run Bloomsday in May. I haven't run seriously since Bloomsday 2009. To be realistic about my goal, I'm starting slow. I'm on week one of a "Couch to 5K" program. It's going well, but I'm bummed I'm slower and more out of shape than I had hoped. 

Goal 2: Eat better. I know, same words as the former resolution. But, I'm being realistic about this one, too. In the past, I would have made myself eat only salads. That's not realistic. A side salad every day wouldn't kill me though. And I'm not going to count every calorie, either. I love food. Eating better to me means that I eat food that is good for me, and tastes good. I want to cook more often, not just look for meals that are prepared quickly and with a minimum of dishes to wash. 

(Note about goals 1 and 2: In the past, I would have used those two goals as a means to a different goal- losing weight. I would have set an unrealistic numerical goal, and then obsessively counted every calorie consumed and burned. That would last for a few weeks, and I would see some results, but all the joy of running because I like it, or eating food that tastes good, would be gone. I'm not gonna do that this year. I haven't even set a weight goal. I would like to weigh less, and would love one of those flat stomachs. I don't remember a time in all my 28 years where I had a flat stomach. That ship may have sailed.  Realistically, I realize that to reach a magical number on the scale, or have flat abs, would take a lot of the joy out of exercise and food for me, and it's not worth the sacrifice in my mind. Healthy and happy is a realistic goal.)

Goal 3: Spend more time on creative pursuits. I started this blog as a way to hold myself accountable to use my creative talents. I have only told one person about my blog, because I'm afraid of failing, at blogging and being artistic. Am I going to create a masterpiece in 2011? Realistically, probably not. But I'm definitely never going to create anything if I'm too afraid to try. 

Goal 4: Don't set any more goals for the year. Three goals is enough. Are there other things I'd like to change about myself or my habits? Of course. Can I change that many things about me in the next 361 days? Realistically, no. So three goals is good for now. 

The past four days have been a good start. Here's to 361 more of the same!