Thursday, March 31, 2011

1/2 Way to Twilight Party Invitation: Breaking Dawn

OK, I realize if you haven't read Breaking Dawn, this invitation is going to go totally over your head, but it must be documented. 
Last June, a big group of gals at my work got together to see the opening of Eclipse.  We had a really good time.  This is not to be confused with our get together for the opening of New Moon.  Or our future plans to go see Breaking Dawn, or a party I wasn't able to attend that was a pre-party for the Eclipse party.  Let's pretend it's because we all like each other so much, OK?    (In our defense, as this goes up to post, there is another large group of gals headed over to my house for a book club meeting (Melissa started) on :gasp: a book other than Twilight. )
Anyway, we decided to have a halfway to Breaking Dawn party so we could get together and watch Eclipse on Lauren's amazingly humongous TV.  Mostly, we wanted to inspect the skin condition on random actors and actresses playing the roles of wolves, and vampires. 
Since it was a halfway to Breaking Dawn, we decided to celebrate the halfway point of the book-Isle Esme.  I'll do a full post Friday with beach, sparkles, and feathers.  Only Twilight readers will get this.  And just wait until you see a party game....Jacob fans, be prepared to mount a campaign! 
But first, my favorite part of any party, and the main reason I'm willing to get involved in ANY party-the invitation! 
I baked up pina colada cupcakes (which I blogged the recipe for two days ago). 
Lauren had the perfect size box for the cupcakes (from Michael's), and printed off these invites. 
Heather brought shells, and we went to work. 
A few of the invites getting ready to go out. 
A ribbon, and a feather (Twilight fans get this). 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From Austin to Aquarina Springs

For spring break (a few weeks back), I took a few of the days available, and I headed down I-35 to see my friend Carla in Austin.  She lives about 3.5 hours away from me, which is approximately 3.5 hours too far away! 
Not only is she one of my oldest friends, she has one of these...
John Ross has one of the cutest little arsenal of questions ever asked by any 5 year old.  I love to listen to him talk, explore life, and then attempt to explain it to me. 
Carla (and her husband) also own this....
There is a Flintstone cartoon missing a baby.  I heart this little girl.  Alexis is full of smiles, and cuddles.  I got to spend some time alone with the kiddos playing Toy Story Yatzee with John, and later holding this...
while she slept in my arms for an hour...or two.  I love kids, in particular these two, and I'm grateful Carla shares them with me when I come to visit.  It was a short visit b/c I have a (too) full schedule, but a few years back I decided to really put forth an effort into visiting the people who mean the most to me, and cutting back on the things (and people) distracting me from being a good friend to people that know me...and love me despite the knowing.  So...even if it's a short visit, I go as often as I can...which is STILL not enough. 
We spent the day at an Austin area Y climbing waterfalls, and throwing rocks. Waterfalls, and water, springs, and limestone....so 'Austin.' 
Carla is a really laid back Mom, and one of my favorite things to do is parent watch.  I like to see how each friend interacts with their kiddos.  I'm doing a scientific investigation.  Everyone's approach is different, but they come from the same place, but Carla definitely ranks up towards the top. 
Carla's husband headed home after work (eww, work) and we went out to dinner at the Salt Lick.  Yum.  I recommend the sausage sandwich. 
The great thing about Austin (all the great things would take waaaay longer than one post to cover) are all the really awesome natural features (lots of caves, and fresh springs thanks to it's location on a fault line, that incidentally separates the Texas hill country from the prairies).  I've blogged about trips to see one of the biggest bat colonies leave their home at dusk, and a visit to (nearby) Luckenbach, but this time we spent some time on my second day in town visiting Aquarena Springs in San Marcus (about an hour South of their home).
This spring fed area is an old resort that 'used to be.' 
My great grandparents honeymooned (via train) and swam here about 85 years ago, as did my aunt and uncle (30 years ago). 
There used to be resort hotels and cottages all along the springs, a gondola ride above the springs, a swimming pig/and diving show...
...you enjoyed from a seat in this submarine theater...submerged. 
The thing that IS still here, other than this gorgeous little water source are glass bottom boats. 
We took a ride, of course.  You can see straight down to the bottom where bubbles from the springs are constantly moving, and old archaeological dive sites are still marked off (this spring has been used prior to the Spanish explorers investigating the state, and each time line visitor left a piece of themselves when they came through to freshen up their horses).
We also saw fish, turtles, and scuba divers swim around below our boat.

This spring area is kept up thanks to the local university students. 
I love and hate spending time visiting Carla.  I love everything about it...until it's over.  I wish that fault line would move again (gently!) and create less of a track from my house to hers. 
While I was blogging this journey, I searched old post, and I got to relive some old visits, and smile....and now, I'm adding this to my memory bank...AKA my blog to relive again when I'm missing Carla....and Chris...and John Ross...and Alexis...and lime stones, and everything else between here and there. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pina Colada Cupcakes

This is a part of a bigger post I'll be throwing up on Friday (another 3-D edible invitation-and no, it's not a luau).  I wanted a tropical cupcake, and so I googled cupcakes that use boxed cake mixes.  I really prefer boxes, they are so much moister than most from scratch recipes.  I'm sure that says something about my palate, but I'm OK with that.  I found this recipe via Betty Crocker.  It calls for rum extract as well, but I just went with the pineapple and coconut.  I really liked the results. 
Ingredients:  1 yellow cake mix, 3 eggs, 1/3 c. oil, 1/4 c. water, 8 oz can of crushed pineapples (don't drain). 
Instructions:  Mix all ingredients, including juice and crushed pineapples.  Bake at 350 for 14-18 minutes.  (I was able to get 18 cupcakes out of this cake mix).
 For the coconut icing, I just used a can of whipped icing, and then I dipped each cupcake in shredded coconut. 
I decided this wasn't good enough, so my last 12 cupcakes (that were going towards my project) got the same treatment, except I just mixed the coconut right into the icing, spread it in one big clump, and then I rolled the cupcakes in crushed graham crackers to look like sand. 
 Heather provided the crushed grahams and umbrellas.  Her husband questions my influence, and ultimately our sanity. 

 He's not far off base in his concerns, but regardless....more on these cupcake destinations soon, but I just need to say one more time....
umbrella or not, they were tasty!  ...and easy to make. 

Linking To:  Fireflies and Jellybeans Glue Sticks Sugar Bananas HOH Fingerprints on the Fridge

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Anthropology Inspired Charm Necklace


My pal Kelly called me up to tell me about a hobby she picked up when she accidentally entered a store near her house-jewelry.  I've accidentally picked up a lot of hobbies this way, but I had been wanting to try my hand at jewelry making for awhile, so this was good timing.  It's an unexplored piece of my world.   The great thing about necklaces is that they fit, no matter what you had for dinner the day before. 
She took a couple classes, and we made plans to get together.  She taught me some really cool techniques I'll blog about soon.  After my tutorial, I showed her this necklace from Anthropology I was in love with...
*Image from Anthropology website
I did not love the price (almost 300 dollars), or that weird tooth looking thingie in the middle.  I saw this tutorial at Flamingo Toes for making your own....oh my!  I went to Hobby Lobby, and Michaels, collected some beads and charms, and got to work.  The hardest part of the whole project was finding the charms I wanted. 
I laid out the beads in the order I wanted them to go. 
I bought these little circle thingies, and attached them to each charm (like little key rings), and then attached those little ring thingies to the necklace using needle nose pliers. 
I bought a long chain, and I pulled off part of it for the second row, and attached charms every three circles on the chain. 
I attached the smaller swoop to the necklace using more of those circle/wannabe keychain ring things. 
Hobby Lobby sells charms half off just about every other week, they were only about a dollar each.  I bought a few more at Michaels, like the middle piece, and some of the number pieces. 
It wasn't cheap to get all the beads, though I got most of them on sale, but it certainly was nowhere near that $300 necklace that stole my heart.  I attached findings to the end of the necklace using more of my circle things.  I might be a little obsessed with jewelry making now....11 more steps to go until I'm cured.

Crockpot: 20 Clove Garlic Chicken

     I love making list. 
     The prime list making time is New Year's....I'll make 15 list the day before, and 27 the day after...and the day after that...and the day after that, BUT I write my "New Year's To Do List" in a special little binder, and I keep them year after year, and they are usually list items that span a longer amount of time....say, a year?!
      There are big things that will take the whole year to accomplish, and little things, case in point.  This year I decided I wanted to cook at least 10 new crockpot meals.  Had this experiment been a good thing, perhaps I would have posted a week of recipes you can throw in the crockpot, but what I'm learning is....it's really...REALLY hard to find meals that actually taste good from a crockpot, AND it would have been smarter to start this in the summer because when I made most of my meals, it was snowy, and cold, and January, and I actually WANT to pop the oven on when it's like that outside.  Summer is when I don't even want to turn lights on in a room for fear the light will give off additional heat to accompany the 100++...+ weather outside beating down my doors, and infiltrating my house. 
    Regardless of all thos other failed recipes (that need a separate blog), this one worked.  I was actually a little nervous because I do heart garlic, but when I came home, the smell was a little overpowering in my house, the taste, on the other hand, was just right. 
   I found this recipe at 356DaysofSlowCooking.  Here's the recipe typed up (I halved it when I made it since I'm a party of one).
20 Clove Garlic Chicken
Ingredients:  3-4 lbs chicken (I used boneless, she used bone-in), 1 large onion (sliced), 1 T. olive oil, 2 t. kosher salt, 2 t. paprika, 1 t. pepper, 20-40 cloves of garlic (peeled, but left whole). 
Instructions
1.  Place onions on bottom. 
2.  Toss chicken with olive oil, salt, paprika, pepper and garlic.  Put on top of onions (don't add any water). 
3.  Cook, 6-8 hours on low (4-6 on high). 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Easter: Cartons of Mini Easter Egg Cupcakes

 I saw this idea linked last year at Frost Me blog (Now Party Frosting)  from the Magnolia Bakery, and the deliver in the egg cartons was so cute, I could hardly wait another year!  It's always all about the deliver!  Fine...the cupcakes don't hurt.  My favorite carrot cake recipe is here, and does anything say Easter cupcake better than carrot cake?  Unless you don't like carrot cake and then...well, I really don't know how to handle it because it's just not allowed. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Easter: Rice Crispie Eggs

I think I've mentioned it a time or six....I'm a rice crispie treat fan.  I actually made some bunny decorated rice crispie treats for my table 'favors' a few years ago.  I also love egg carton packages, and so....this is my latest rice crispie creation.  I found out last fall you can dye rice crispie treats, and the world seems like a better place now.  Basiclaly, figure out what colors you want to use, divide the marshmallow/butter mix up into that many bowls, add  your dye to each, and then add your rice crispies to each, stir, and you are ready to create.  To make the eggs, I took egg halves, and I covered each half with syran wrap, and the pressed in my rice crispies. 
I squished both sides together, and let them cool.  I then just popped out the treats using the syran wrap to slide them out easily, wrapped, and placed it boxes for give aways.  There is probably enough butter in the treats that the syran wrap isn't necessary, but I just used it for storage/freshness purposes after I popped it out.  I could have left the rice crispie the 'color it comes' and just left them in colorful eggs in the carton, or added sprinkles/dipped them in chocolate etc etc etc, but I have plenty more Easter celebrations in my future, so dyed rice crispies will be 'my thing' for 2011!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Easter: Hot Crossed Buns


I've always wanted to try Hot Cross Buns.  I'm sorry I didn't listen to myself sooner because these were really delicious, and easy to throw together.  I adapted this from Tasty Kitchen, pull out a few ingredients, adding measurements to a few....oh...so good! 
HOT CROSS BUN RECIPE
Ingredients for the Buns: 
2 c. milk, 1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 pkg active dry yeast, 4 c. flour, 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 2 t. salt, 1/4 c. sugar, 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/2 t. allspice, 1/2 c. raisins. 
Instructions for the Buns: 
Combine the milk, oil, and sugar in the saucepan.  Stir and heat until very warm, but not boiling. 
Turn off heat and cool until warm (not too hot). 
Add yeast and flour to mix and stir.  The mix is not like 'regular dough,' it's sticky. 
Cover with a towel and set aside for one hour. 
Mix 1/2 c. flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Knead quickly into mix. 
Roll out dough on a floured surface. 
In a seperate bowl mix sugar, cinnamon and spices. 
Sprinkle 1/2 of mix over dough and add 1/3 of raisins. 
 Fold over. 
 Flatten the dough, don't allow any of the seasoning and raisins to show.  Repeat sugar/raisin step, and fold one more time, and repeat a third time. 
Pinch off 20 even balls, roll into balls. 
 Let rise for about an hour.  (I placed mine with syran wrap covering my rolls in the fridge, and pulled them out for about 45 minutes the next day before baking. 
BEFORE BAKING add a glaze:  1 egg mixed with 1 t+ of milk brushed on top. 
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. 
FOR THE ICING CROSS
Mix 1 egg white with enough powdered sugar to be very thick (I need to do this better next time, my icing was too thin, but it still tasted great).  Add to ziplock bag, snip end and create the cross.