Thursday, February 26, 2009

Easter is still far away, but . . .

While running errands today, I couldn't avoid going to the Dreaded Wal-Mart.  I couldn't find the things I needed anywhere else.  

Creed and I ended up walking up and down the rows of Easter goodies as I explained a bit about Easter.  Imagine my delight when I turned a corner and saw this: a beautiful, color-coordinated display.  If you have a child like mine who prefers all things to be his favorite color (in his case, yellow) then seeing all these perfectly matching treats together will give you visions of beautiful Easter baskets.  Granted some of the products were cheesy, but a lot of them were pretty.  How can you resist that cotton candy?
They even had a whole row of color-coordinated Easter grass
And each box had four different kind of Easter grass so you can find what you need whether it's the plastic grass or crinkled paper.
And to top it all off, they had loads of Cascarones!  Cascarones are eggshells will with confetti. It's a Mexican tradition to try to break them over your friends' heads said to bring good luck.  I've always thought it would be fun to include cacascarones in our moonlight-flashlight Easter egg hunt that we hold for our grown-up friends, but I've been too lazy to make them myself.  What a score!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rainbow Bright

Remember making pasta necklaces back in kindergarten?  (Ok, I never actually got to do that because I went to kindergarten in the country in Tennessee where we weren't spoiled with such fantastic activities such as making jewelry out of noodles and we were also only allowed to whisper during lunch or we would be paddled, but that's another story for another day).  Maybe being deprived of the joy was what made this idea that I saw on another blog stick in my head.
We've been working on colors with Creed so these bright colored noodles seemed like another cheap, simple activity for days we're stuck inside.

They are so easy to make.  You will need pasta in fun shapes, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, ziplock bags, and food coloring.  Pour some rubbing alcohol in a ziplock bag (the original post said to fill the bag to totally cover the noodles, but I only used about 1/3 - 1/2 cup in each bag) add some food coloring and swish it around until it's mixed up and then pour some pasta in and seal the bag up.  I double bagged mine and put them in cereal bowls just in case they leaked.  The more dye you use and the longer you let them soak, the brighter the pasta will be.  I mixed mine during Creed's nap and squished them around and turned them over every hour or so.  Then after he went to bed for the night, I poured out the dye and spread each color on a separate cookie sheet to dry.  Because of the alcohol, they will dry really quickly.
We keep them all together in a big ziplock bag and Creed likes to sort them and stack them up and we practice naming the colors and counting them.  I suspect they will soon make it into some of the concoctions in Creed's play kitchen too.  The rubbing alcohol helps set the colors so it won't rub off and make a mess as you're playing with them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ABC's and 123's

Eva just finished printing a new product that I designed for Sycamore Street Press and I am so excited about it!  She asked me if I was interested in designing a number print to go with the alphabet print that I designed, and of course, I jumped at the chance.  I love the new color combinations that she chose to print them in.
And she reprinted the alphabet prints in all the new color combinations too. Water and tulip, apple and chocolate, watermelon and rose, and then she reprinted the charcoal and orange.

You can find them on the Sycamore Street Press website or in the Sycamore Street Press Etsy shop.  both prints are 11" x 14" so you can use a standard size frame.  Eva cranks each one by hand through her letterpress and her hard work really makes them beautiful.

I think the water/tulip and the apple/chocolate colored prints would also look really lovely hanging in combination with the frame mats printed in matching shades of water, apple, and tulip.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beans, Beans, the magical fruit

Yesterday, I finally got around to a project that I've been meaning to do for months.  Creed loves playing in the sand so we set out to put together an indoor version for him.  My friend Shauna made a bean box for her son to play with in the winter months and it was a great success.  I let Creed pick any dried beans that we wanted at the store and then we went home and poured them out in a cookie sheet and large muffin tins.  Ideally we would be using a shallow tupperware bin with deeper sides so the beans don't spill everywhere and we can just pop the lid on and store it when Creed's done playing.  We'll pick one up soon but we couldn't wait to play.
Creed got out the measuring spoons and cups that he so dearly loves and got busy.  He could have sat there all day if I would have let him.
It was a great way for him to work on his small motor skills and also something to keep him busy while I am cooking and he wants to "help".  Granted they were instantly scattered everywhere, but they are a lot easier to cleanup than sand and Creed liked sweeping with our little hand broom just as much as playing with the beans.
If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't go for the tiny split peas, I would try to convince Creed to pick the biggest beans, which are the easiest to clean up.  I saw someone who only used split peas and know of another friend who uses rice, but the larger beans are a lot easier to deal with and Creed doesn't care either way.

Speaking of Lisa

Last Friday, Creed got gussied up for a pre-Valentine's lunch date with Lisa.  It was cute to see Creed so excited to go.
He even insisted on wearing this fedora and he kept it on almost the whole time.
Lisa took us to Big City Soup and it was amazing.  I'm just sad that they're not open in the evenings or weekends because Larry will never have a chance to go and I would love to eat there every day of my life.  Creed ordered yellow soup which I interpreted to chicken curry soup and it turns out he made a very good choice (yellow is his new favorite color and he points it out everywhere and always requests yellow when he has a color choice, although he also calls orange yellow because he can't say orange).  Maybe it has something to do with Lisa often wearing yellow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bringing up Baby

So Larry and I very rarely go out without Creed.  Seriously.  We've only been on a few dates since Creed was born.  There are several reasons; Larry works so much and doesn't want to miss out on time with Creed in the little time he has left, we moved to a new place and didn't have anyone we could ask to babysit, and for about a year Creed didn't do very well with babysitters and spent a lot of time crying for mom so we felt bad for the babysitters, but even worse for Creed.

At any rate, Larry planned a Valentine's date on Friday night and luckily two of Creed's favorite people, Tyler and Lisa, we available to babysit for us.  Imagine what a relief it was to look back after our goodbyes and see Creed like this.
Larry and I went out to dinner and then saw a production of Romeo & Juliet.  Larry ended up forgetting the tickets and when he went back to the house he said Creed just smiled and said, "Bye, Dad!" as he headed back out.

As if all of that wasn't enough, after Tyler and Lisa left at the end of the night, I opened the fridge to see this

They made my new favorite dessert, stroopwafels, and left them for us to discover!

Best Babysitters Ever!

Creed's Valentine

It's become tradition for Creed to send a Valentine to his friend Audrey every year.  Since I was in the midst of party planning, I had to keep things simple so I used an idea I saw on Jordan Ferney's blog last year.  I made a simple black and white Valentine and sent it to be printed at Kinkos on their large format printer.
We took a picture of Creed holding the poster and then folded up it as small as we could and slipped the picture in the middle.
Along the way I explained what we were doing and who we were sending it to and imagine his joy the next day when I box arrived and I told him it was a Valentine for him.  There were two cute Valentine themed books and a framed picture of Audrey, which Creed snatched and exclaimed, "Audee!  Audee!" so I guess maybe he understands Valentines a little more than I thought that he did.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Photo boothing it up

I never came across any vintage photo booths when we lived in Columbus, only the new digital ones so we've been trying to take advantage of having photo booths around in Salt Lake.  The only problems is that we are so bad at being ready for the pictures.  Here we are back in October.
And here we are last night.  We always have at least one total mess up, but I guess that's part of what makes it so fun (and so funny to look back at the photos)
Our plan is to drag Tyler and Lisa along next time to help have Creed ready.  I think he'd do just about anything for Lisa.

Holiday Toys

My ideas about holiday decorating have totally changed.  I used to want everything to be picturesque and beautiful. While I still want things to be beautiful, lately it's more important to me that they help create magical holidays for my son.  I want him to be just as excited as I am to get the holiday decorations out, and I don't want to gasp when he tries to pick up something made of glittery glass.  Things are a lot less about beauty and a lot more about fun.  With that in mind, I've starting collecting some holiday toys to store with the decorations so Creed has something a little extra to look forward to each holiday.  He already had his own nativity set and this Christmas I added these Christmas puppets from Land of Nod to the stash.
I posted about this Playmobil Bunny school last year.
I've since learned that Playmobil has a whole Easter Bunny series and they have a different piece every year or two.  This year it's the Easter Bunny treehouse.  It think it would be such a fun toy to add to the few Easter decorations we have.  The toadstool school has been retired, but there are still a few available on Amazon and thanks do an Amazon gift certificate that Larry just got, one of these might soon be ours.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pie in a jar for my Valentines

I had such a hard time trying to decide what to make for my Valentines to exchange at my party.  I've come across so many great ideas that I ended up with a long list to choose from so of course I choose the most time consuming and the least practical idea of them all.  I decided to make pies in tiny jars.  I got this idea from this post on Not Martha months ago and I've been dying to make them ever since.  This seemed like a good opportunity to try.  She made the pies in tiny canning jars and froze them raw, then you can take them out whenever you feel like dessert and pop them in the oven.  I thought they would make great Valentines because people would already be full of cookies and candy and this dessert they could take home and keep in their freezer until they felt like having dessert with their valentine.

I had to do a trial run because Not Martha used cherry pie filling and since a lot of people don't like cherry pie filling, I wanted to try to use real fruit.  I wasn't sure that the fruit would cook all the way since it starts out frozen and cherry pie filling is already cooked, but after a trial run, I think we worked out the kinks.  I used frozen fruit since nothing is in season right now so I really crammed it in thinking that since it was already frozen and expanded, it would cook down a lot, and I didn't want half empty pies.  As you can see, the first round bubbled over a lot so I didn't cram them so full during round two.
I still thought they were cute, but I slid a knife around the edge and turned them over onto plates and served them upside down with whipped cream on top.
Lisa helped me with the whole process so she came over with Tyler and helped do a taste test after the first round.  We picked our favorites and then made 26 for the exchange.
They looked so cute together.  I wish I had taken a picture of the entire group.
For anyone who wants directions, I used the same Cooks Illustrated  All Butter Pie Crust recipe that Not Martha used (although I do not have a food processor so it took a long time to mix).  You can find it here, but be sure to scroll down because it's the second pie crust recipe that they list.  It makes enough for about 6 tiny pies.

I used Kerr's little half-pint wide-mouthed jars (be sure to use a wide mouth jar or you will not be able to get your pie out of the jar).  I sprayed each jar with cooking spray and then just squashed crust in until the bottom and the side were covered.  For the filling I mixed about 4 1/2 cups of frozen fruit with 1/2 sugar, 2 T flour, and 2 T lemon juice.  You can also add 1/4 tsp cinnamon or at 2 T of butter cut up but I opted not to.  I made two kinds of pies; a mixed berry with frozen blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and a peach pie.  I had to cut the peaches up a little bit so they would fit easily in the jars without too much empty space.  Fill the jars until about 3/4" from the top then roll out remaining pie crust and use and empty jar to cut out circles for the tops.  Be sure to cut slits in the top for ventilation.  Then just add the tops and crimp the sides.  Put on the jar lids and pop them in the freezer.  Now you have pie ready on demand.

These are the baking directions that I included with each pie: Keep pie frozen until ready to bake.  Remove jars from freezer and place on cookie sheet to acclimate while over preheats.  Take off lids and put foil ring around the outside edge of pie to prevent crust from burning.  Bake at 375 for 55 minutes, then remove foil and continue to cook at 400 for the last 15 minutes.  Let pie cool and serve in jar or run a knife around the edge to remove it.

Since they were Valentines I had to decorate the lids, and here's how they turned out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine Exchange 2009

I really needed something to look forward to during this dreary weather so I decided to throw a Valentine exchange, basically just like the one that I threw last year in Ohio only with a whole new set of friends.  I love exchanging Valentine's.  I miss picking out a Valentine and addressing them to each person in my class, but I figure there's no reason that I can't do that now, right?

There were 14 guests so I told everyone to bring 13 valentines to exchange, and the valentine's could be as simple or as ornate as they wanted, the purpose was really just to have an excuse to get together and introduce some of my friends to each other.  I kept the food really simple since I was sure the Valentines would include some sweet treats.  
I picked up Italian Soda in shades of pink and red (because I'm the sort of person who selects drinks by color, but flavors like blood orange and strawberry pomegranate also sounded good)
I made sugar cookies and left them for the guest to decorate and take home.
Vanilla, cream cheese, and strawberry frosting.

Lots of sprinkles
And of course a lot of heart shaped candy
This picture is from later in the party when things had been rearranged, but I had to show off that I finally got around to hanging some of the letterpress frame mats that I designed for Sycamore Street Press.  Eva brought a bunch of them to me when she was in town for Christmas and I've been debating about what to frame.  About an hour before the party I decided I couldn't stand the awkward space on this wall in our dining room so I printed out some Valentine themed prints of children's book characters (since I love children's literature so much) and Larry brought up the table that was behind our couch in the basement.

Hearts were everywhere.  I even hung heart ornaments in all the windows.
We did the exchange speed date style so you had three minutes to swap with one person and tell them about your Valentine and then when the timer went off, you moved to the next person.  As usual, I didn't get photos of everyone, but here are some of my friends with their valentines.

Whitney with Yo Gabba Gabba valentines.  I laughed when she said she tried to buy New Kids of the Block valentines on Ebay, but didn't win the auction.
Melissa had mini spa treatment for everyone.  She made a lavender milk bath treatment and gave out chocolates to each while you soak.
My mom gave out these cute candy filled hearts and put earrings that she made on the name tags.
Elisa made really cute chocolate mice (and Creed might have eaten two this morning for breakfast).
Melinda made salsa and handed them out with chips.
Annie made CDs of her favorite romantic songs.
Wendy made chocolate covered pretzels and heart barrettes made from felt.
Liz gave out white chocolate because that's her favorite treat.
And Marnie handed out heart ornaments with one of her favorite quotes.
Faith made really cute Valentines bracelets and Lisa made little terracotta hearts that came with a little bottle of perfume to soak them in so you can put them in your drawers and they will smell good.

Thank you to my mom for the pretty tulips and for helping me set up and thank you to everyone who came.  It was so fun to visit with everyone.  I'll post pictures of the valentines that I made next.