Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick little last-minute project made with all of the cool new "Twilight" goodies from Pink Paislee. This makes a great little card for your kids (that can later be used as a door hanger), or even a quick hostess gift for those Halloween parties I know you;ll all be attending tonight. It only took about a half an hour to put it together (aside from waiting for the glitter and glue to dry).

Everyone in the Hanks houshold wants to wish you the happiest of Halloweens as well. Including our new rescue Frenchie, Zee...

She looks real happy, doesn't she? Yeah... not so much. Next year I'm going to devise a costume for her that looks like "Spike" from the movie, Gremlins. Everyone keeps telling me she looks like a gremlin, so I figure, "Why not?"

Sake's just glad that she avoided having to wear the hot dog costume again this year. The skeleton suit is much more dignified... and it glows in the dark!

I'm quite certain that my dogs hate Halloween. But, not my kids. Luka threw a fit until I relented, and bought him this Brobee costume. Not the most manliest of things, but Bryan isn't home for this Halloween to complain. *wink*

As for Hazel, we've managed to avoid the generic princess costumes... until this year. But, her obsession with all things glittery has taken over, and she fell in love with this Cinderella dress when she spied it this summer at Disney World. Fortunately, the Disney Store had it for about $30 cheaper. She looks beautiful... if I do say so myself.

I hope you all have a wonderfully fun (and safe) Halloween! Trick-or-treat!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy birthday in a jar!

My dear, sweet husband recently celebrated his 29th birthday... his third birthday in Afghanistan. With every birthday in the sandbox, comes a birthday without cake (something he misses a lot). So this year, with a bit of research and experimentation, I found a way to can up that sweet, celebratory starch and send it on it's way across oceans and deserts. My version is super-easy, and uses a boxed cake mix. Of course, you can get all Martha Stewart with it, and whip up your own cake recipe. Either way... Anyhow, several people asked me to share the secret, so here we go...

Start off by getting yourself some 4 oz. (you'll need about 24) or 8 oz. (You'll need about 12) wide-mouthed jars. You'll want the variety with the straight side so that the cakes will slide right out. Otherwise, if there's a mouth to the jar, you'll have to just settle for spooing it directly out of the jar into your mouth... which can be okay too. *wink* *wink*

Coat the insides of the jar with Baker's Joy. This stuff is great, if not sometimes hard to find. It's like flour and butter all in one convenient aerosol can. If you can't find it... go the old-fashioned way: butter and flour the jars by hand.

Prepare the cake mix according to package instructions. Fill those jars up to about half-way full. Don't go more than that, or it will ooze over the edges of the jar while baking. The confetti cake happens to be B's favorite, and fortunately it makes for some pretty looking jars!

Arrange the jars on a baking sheet... just in case there's any over-flow. Pop them in the oven at the box's recommended temperature. I found that the 4 oz. jars take about 20 minutes to bake, and the 8 oz. ones about 30 minutes. But, I have a convection oven so, even with conversions, my times are often different than most other people's. You'll just want to check on your cakes frequently. I always keep long wooden skewers handy for BBQ'ing, and those are perfect for checkind doneness in the taller jars. Just insert one of the skewers into the center of the jar. Once it comes out clean, your cakes are done.

Now, here's where you have to make some decisions. Are your cakes traveling 3 days in the mail to someone a few states away? Are you taking them down the street for a neighbor's birthday party? Or are they being boxed up to be shipped thousands of miles away with no definitive delivery date? If you picked the latter, I recommend not icing your cakes. Instead, let them cool outside of the oven for 2-3 minutes. After that 2-3 minutes, immediately seal the jars. The remaining heat will actually create a seal to the lid. It will keep those cakes good long enough to reach their overseas destination, but isn't intended for long-term preservation. Throw in a tub of icing, some sprinkles, and a plastic knife with the box, and your recipient can ice their own cakes.

However, if an 8,000 mile trip to Afghanistan isn't in your cakes' future (and for presentation purposes here)... you can do the following:

Allow the cakes to cool completely in the jars. Once cool, slice off the muffin tops to the cakes so you have a smooth, clean top. I jiggle the cakes out of the jars a little ways because you'll actually want the tops of the cakes to sit about 3/4" from the top of the jar...

Now, it's time to make those cakes pretty. I take a tub of the whipped icing (it's easier to work with), and spoon it into a large Ziplock bag. Squeeze the icing into a bottom corner of the bag, and cut the tip off. Of course, if you have the forethought to actually purchase one, a pastry bag works just as well. Squeeze the icing, working in a circular pattern until the tops of your cakes are completely covered, and the icing is about 1/8" - 1/4" from the tops of the jars...

Add some rainbowliscious sprinkles...

Seal up your jars, and deliver some birthday wishes in a jar to someone you love!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins

1. Sweet dreams of pumpkin pies will fill your head when you give one of these a go! Pumpkin pie potpourri...

To be honest, some of my Martha experiments have gone less-than-perfectly in the past. Either that woman has the Midas-touch when it comes to anything crafty and can turn any potentially disasterous project into gold, or she doesn't have a very good test team and the rest of us aren't as domestically-inept as she would have us believe. So, I was a little skeptical about this idea. But, it actually works WONDERFULLY, and I'm enjoying the scent of fresh-baked pumpkin pie as I type this. These little pumpkins are $1 at Wal-Mart, and it took about 15 minutes to make one. Nearly effortless, and smells just as good (if not better than) any $20 candle I've bought in the past.

2. Something made especially for me...

by my Sweet & Sinister swap partner, Kari Ramstrom. She really spoiled me for this swap! I'll have to share some more of the goodies I received with you all soon.

3. Silliness is a necessary component of any life. At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities. ~Jean Houston. I love that quote.

4. I am completely ready for this Halloween. Some of our decorations...

5. Outstanding or not, this week is finally over! It's been a real doozey.

6. Peace and quiet is what I want right now! That concept has been lost on my co-habitants for days on end... both with the human, and furry variety of squatters.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing with a stack of books received in my most recent Amazon order. Some of the titles include...

I'm already about halfway through this book, and it is wonderful! Some of you might already be familiar with the author through her delicious little blog, Orangette. This is more than just a cookbook... it's a reflection on life through the memories associated with some of her favorite foods and recipes. It's lovely... a must-read.

I have yet to only flip through this book, but the food photography is AMAZING. I'm sure you all know that the styling of food in photographs can make or break your decision to actually put something in your mouth. We've all seen the less-than-appetizing photos on some menus... lots of Chinese and Mexican restaurants come to mind. But, the pictures in this book make you want to break out your collection of pots and pans, and attempt to cook EVERYTHING. The book is extremely visual, and interstingly divided into chapters based on the colors of the food. For instance, the "pink" chapter contains recipes for everything from Pomegranate Sorbet to Beet Gnocchi. Bon Appetit!

Anyhow, tomorrow my plans include a babysitter, and ladies-night-out!

And Sunday, I want to make jars upon jars of yummy applicious treats with the apples we collected last weekend!

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, October 5, 2009


This past weekend was the one I eagerly anticipate all year long... our annual trip to the apple orchard.

This year was actually somewhat disappointing. There were easily 5 x's as many people as when we went last year. I'm not sure if it's because we went a week earlier than usual, the fact that everyone is doing "stay-cations" now, or that a bunch of people wised up and realized that they can get about 30 lbs of apples for the same price they would pay for less than half that many at a grocery store. And that all those apples make lovely applesauce, apple butter, apple bread and apple pies of their own. Whatever the reason, it was frustrating to wade through that crowd and try to enjoy ourselves. But, we managed anyway.

They make the best homemade donuts at the orchard... great with a warm cup of cider. But, after waiting in a line 20 people deep for almost half an hour without moving an inch, I gave up. The kids didn't mind the wait, though. They were busy rolling around in the hay.

We managed to find some lovely pumpkins. They always have such gorgeous heirloom varieties. I just wish the large crowds hadn't forced us to park nearly 3/4 of a mile from the orchard, so that I could have brought more of these beauties home. As it was, I could barely carry everything back to the truck. But, lugging these chubby gourds back was well worth it.

For me, one of the best parts of the trip is always on the way home... our stop at Flat Rock Village Bakery just a couple of miles down the winding lane from the orchards. Oh, it is delicious! They have their own brick wood-fired oven, where they fire handmade pizzas from the freshest ingedients. We enjoyed sharing a margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil. They also offer a variety of sandwiches, organic juices and fresh-baked loaves of artisan bread for you to take home. I've never bought any of the bread, but this year I couldn't resist the 3 cheese with basil loaf.

To be quite honest, I wasn't entirely sure that I hadn't wasted $6 on this loaf of bread. I thought it impossible for myself to devour the whole loaf, and my little ones aren't big starch eaters. I toasted a couple of slices for dinner that night... pretty yummy. Then yesterday, I had a delicious revelation... I could make sandwiches out of it. But, this bread... it is deserving of something more than just processed lunch meat. Once or twice a month, I make one of these chickens for dinner. WIth Bryan gone, it is entirely too much food for the kids and myself to eat in one sitting. So, I shred the left-over chicken and snack on it for a few days afterward. It just so happens that I made one a couple of days ago, and had some left over. With some fresh spinach leaves, a little spicy brown mustard, some mayo and a slice of pepper jack cheese... heaven between 2 toasted slices of 3 cheese basil bread.

Have you ever eaten something that was so delicious, it nearly brought tears to your eyes? You probably think that sounds silly. But, trust me... there are a few meals out there in this earth that can evoke such feelings. The first time I ever experienced it was earlier this year when my great-uncle took me to lunch at Magnolia's in Charleston, SC. There, I had a bacon, lettuce, lump crab meat and fried green tomato sandwich with homemade sweet potato fries. I had never put something so amazing in my mouth... but, that's a stoary for another time. I had certainly never made something so awe-inspiring in my own kitchen... until this sandwich.

It's a good thing that bakery is over 4 hours from my house. Otherwise, it might well be responsible for adding about 100 extra punds to my figure. But, trust me... if you ever find yourself in the Asheville area, a side-trip to Flat Rock is worth the extra time in the car. Then, you can have one of these delicious artisan loaves of your very own.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have about 5 dozen apples calling my name... waiting to be turned into something warm, sticky, sweet and homemade.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I've been a very Bad Girl!

I'm so excited to FINALLY announce that I will be the new Design Team Coordinator for the infamous Bad Girls Kits. You can read the official announcement here to find out who the rest of my partners in crime will be.

In case you didn't know... Wendy puts together some GORGEOUS every month, and October's kits are no exception! Take a look at the main kit...

Holy smokes! That baby is packed with some killer goodies! There are also 3 add-on kits... some of them with their own vintage spooky theme. You can check them out here. I don't know about you, but I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on some of that badness!

That's about all I have to report from the crafting frontlines today. Like most of this infected nation, the flu has hit our house... HARD. We've all taken turns being bed-ridden this week, and most recently I've taken my turn. I'm still not feeling 100%, but I'm getting there. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch up on my blog reading soon... don't want anyone to think I forgot about them! I'll leave you with a couple of fun American Crafts projects (including this one that is LOTD at 2Peas today)!

Those little photos were taken with my new Fuji Instax camera. Gosh! I love that thing! And, as you can see from this layout... the little edges of the photos are the perfect place for journaling!

And, here's a spooky little card just in time for Halloween!

Well, that's it for today. I'm going to pour myself a tall glass of DayQuil, and watch some movies with the little man. Hope you're all having a better week than I am. Achoo!