Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Little Bit of My Dad

My dad grew up during the Great Depression.   Poverty, combined with having to support his divorced mother and his brother, had a profound effect on the rest of his life.  I remember him telling my brother and me about having to pick cotton and how the thorns would tear his hands apart.  How, when his house burned down, a teacher at his school took him in.  A life filled with challenges that I probably could never imagine.  

My mom didn't feel the Depression in her home.  A father who owed a very successful millinery establishment was the provider for his and his brother's families.  Her teenage years were relatively trouble free (not counting the "trouble" that five sisters and one brother could get into!)  

These two extremely different life experiences conflicted every so often.  Dad would save every single leftover.  Mom would never cook the leftovers, but when they went bad, she threw them out.  Mom would readily take clothing to Salvation Army; Dad would wear things until they were threadbare.  Dad would also SAVE EVERYTHING.  Every screw, every washer, every dime, every penny that he found in the street would not be discarded.  He'd bring home furniture he'd find by neighborhood trash cans and refinish or reupholster it.  He recycled newspaper before it became trendy (and he would insist that my brother take his wagon and collect newspapers from the neighbors as well).  His garage was filled with jars of nails and screws, piles of wood pieces, and tools hanging neatly on pegboard.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

When we moved to our home here, we packed up our garage (it looked very similar to my Dad's since I did marry a man very much like him!) and two crates that once sat in my father's garage sat in ours for the last 10 years.  After my husband built bookcases in our spare room, I was looking for something to fill some of the space that wasn't taken up by books.  I thought of those crates.

Well, they fit in the bookcase perfectly.  It's time to hit Pinterest and find some great ways to display them and make them useful.  It's nice to have something nearby too, that reminds me of my dad.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Crispy Croutons in a Snap!

I love croutons on my salad.  I hate spending money at the store on them.  They're so expensive, I usually go without.  

We had a huge loaf of day old bread that was too beautiful to throw out.  I thought it would be perfect to try making croutons with.  And it was.  And they turned out great!

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Here's the simple recipe:  Just pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut your day old (or older!) bread into squares.  Pour olive oil or melted butter, or both, back and forth across the bottom of a cookie sheet.  Put the bread squares on the sheet and swirl them around.  Pour more oil on top and swirl some more.  Add spices, salt, parmesan cheese, seasoning salt - whatever you like - on top.  Cook for 5 mins.  Pull the sheet out, turn the little buggers over and cook for 5 more minutes or until brown.

That's it!!  I will never buy croutons again!!

After the first 5 minutes, these are ready to turn over.
The finished product!

Close up view - I used olive oil and Italian seasoning on this batch.

Fresh lettuce, avocado and a tomato from the garden - oh, and David's home made blue cheese dressing!!

Churro Cupcakes!!!

Churro cupcake update:

I took a dozen cupcakes over to my daughter after I made them.  She was heading out to Girls' Movie Night at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for a screening of Spice World.  She took the cupcakes with her and ended up sharing not only with her girlfriends, but also with "Scary Spice".  There was a DJ at the event and he wanted one too.  So, she told him he could have one if he played one of her fav songs.  And he did.  And he totally photobombed her pic with "Scary" (check it out - he has one of the cupcakes in his hands!)  Hooray for the Churro Cupcakes!!

Original Post:

Okay, I admit it.  I've never had a churro.  Hard to believe, but it's true.  My daughter tried her first one at Disneyland, and while she worked there I think that probably was her lunch and/or dinner on many occasions.  On our last few visits there with her, churros were at the top of the "I have to have one of these!" list.  So, when I saw this recipe, I thought these would be perfect for her so I baked a batch.

Let me just say from the beginning, this recipe from is amazing.  Not only is it yummy, but when making it, I thought that some ingredient was left out at least twice.  Not the expected combination of things.  But, despite my scoffing.... the batter and the frosting were PERFECT!

The recipe is on the Recipe page.  The link is here.

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The batter is made of sour cream, butter, eggs, flour, brown and white sugar, baking soda & powder, vanilla, salt and cinnamon.  It had a thick consistency, and I scooped rather than poured it into the tins.

The frosting is made of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  I thought for sure it would need a few drops of milk or other liquid, but it transformed from thick to creamy before my very eyes!!  Perfect consistency for using my frosting bag and tip.

The recipe makes about 16 - 18 cupcakes

A sprinkle of sugar/cinnamon tops off the cupcake perfectly!!

Give this quick, easy recipe a try.  So good with a cup of coffee!  I'm just sayin'!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Little Cakes for the 4th!

Here is a picture of the 6" cake that I made this morning in honor of the 4th of July!  You can find all the cake talk near the bottom of the post.  I'm venturing into nostalgia territory briefly, so please feel free to skip ahead...  :)

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It's always fun to celebrate and the Fourth is certainly a celebratory occasion!  One of our traditions after we got married over 30 years ago, was to have a 4th of July barbeque.  My husband would make his "secret" barbeque sauce recipe and cook up 50 pounds of baby back ribs and 30 pounds of bratwurst that we would purchase from a German deli in Montrose (a 40 minute drive one way).  Year after year we would invite friends and family.  Friends from as far away as Chicago, Dallas and Boston would somehow make it fit into their itinerary.  One year, a friend who had faithfully joined us over the years couldn't make it happen, so David purchased a ticket for her with his frequent flier miles.  It was a joyous occasion!

The first year we started small.  We had probably 6 to 10 people and we cooked up the brats and ribs in the teeny tiny back yard of our duplex in Arcadia (our "deck" was a palette that we had picked up somewhere in the neighborhood.)  I remember that we had no trees and boy was it hot!  (All the pictures I have are of 20-something guys without shirts on.  Not pretty, I tell ya!  Remember, this was the 80's!)  When we moved to Covina, we had a huge back yard and plenty of space to put up as many lawn chairs as we could find and fire up the BBQ.  In addition to the ribs, brats, and corn on the cob, we always made homemade ice cream ... by hand.  No electric ice cream maker - just guests' muscle!  It always tasted so much better when we worked to make it!!  The final year, 2009, we had about 40 guests!  What fun!

Looking back through the pictures it's amazing that so much time has passed (I don't feel a bit older... okay, I lied.  I do feel older!) and how many of our friends have remained in our lives over the years.  We've had to seriously cut back on our spending over the past 5 years and the annual barbeque has been on hiatus.  Maybe when we're totally back on our feet we'll pick it up again.  I think the ice cream maker is somewhere on a shelf in the garage and my grandmother's ice cream recipe, as well as David's "secret" sauce recipe, is in the recipe box.  It would be great to celebrate again with everyone.


We're heading to my brother's house tonight to watch fireworks from his back yard.  He lives on a hill overlooking the Valley and it should be fun.  I, of course, wanted to bring dessert, so I made a white cake from scratch with vanilla buttercream frosting.

I found the cake recipe on I Am Baker ("The Perfect White Cake") and then used the frosting recipe from Glorious Treats. I usually use a boxed cake mix, so this was fun.  I was all ready to start and I re-read the cake recipe and it asked for cake flour.  Cake flour??  Who knew my husband had ESP.... he had bought a box recently because he thought I might need it someday!!  Awwwww!  Anyway, you can find the recipe for both cake and frosting here.

Cake flour... how come I didn't know what this was??
This batter was BEAUTIFUL - 6 egg whites, sugar and flour!

I had bought three 6" pans because I thought it would be fun to make a three layer cake, but I decided to just make three petite cakes and spread the deliciousness around a bit.  It actually was fun frosting each one - no stress about running out of frosting or not having it look the way I wanted.  If I didn't like it, there was another cake available to try again!  Oh and one more tip I've learned - cut a parchment paper circle for the bottom of each pan.  It's so much easier than rubbing it with shortening and dusting with flour or spraying it with a non-stick coating!

I did a crumb coat on the cakes and put them in the fridge to harden a bit before decorating. 

Downloadable cupcake toppers from Pinterest made me happy :)

I didn't really like how the small tip decorating turned out.  I also wasn't a fan of the sprinkles.

Another version was covered with the big rosettes.  It looked pretty from the top but was too poufy.
Just like The Three Bears, this one was juuuuust right!

Happy Fourth of July!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Birthday (Year #2) Pranks But No Cupcakes!

It was that time of year again - my colleague's birthday snuck up on us and we had to think fast.  Pranks are now the norm at the high school where I work and we try to find things that are fun, that require a little effort to clean up, but aren't mean.  Since this was a 50th birthday prank, it had to be good. (See last year's prank here.)

I did a little chalkboard in honor of the big 5-0 and on Sunday afternoon, my boss and I met at school.  Despite there being no air conditioning running, we managed to do a pretty dang good job of decorating (whew it was hot in that small office!) 

He was very surprised (and pleased!) on Monday morning.  I do have to make another birthday banner though - I don't think he ever really noticed that it was the traveling banner in the office and he threw it away.  Oops!

Of course there has to be a chalkboard!!

The big 5 - 0!!

He's happy!!

Just for fun, here are the pictures of my office on the morning of my birthday last September.  I love post its, but after pulling all of those off every surface in my office.... I didn't love them quite as much.  Almost 10 months later, I'm still using them.  (Yes, I saved every last one of 'em.  Can't throw them away!!!)

Yes, that's THE birthday banner!

That is so me!!

  Oh, and the tin foil... and the balloons!  What a great couple of years this has been!

TBT - V-Stitch Crochet Baby Blanket

Originally posted in September 2013:  Time for Throw Back Thursday!!

Original Post:

Another baby on the way means another blanket to crochet!  (And no, not another baby on the way for me.... for a friend!)

I enjoy crocheting when it's sort of mindless.  No stitch counting, no real pattern to follow.  This blanket is pretty simple once you get the V-stitch going.  I did not put an edge on this blanket because I used a thin baby yarn.  

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I also chose a variegated yarn because I wanted it to be simple AND pretty!

See the craft directions page for instructions.