Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finally: A Gingerbread House!

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus. And, yes, M&B, our gingerbread house will get done. (That is in answer to the 750 times they asked if we could make it, while I was vacuuming or preparing dinner, or when we were expecting company, or when it was 10 minutes before bedtime.) Well, the stars and the planets must have aligned last night because we were able to construct our very own edible edifice.

Step One: Open the PRE-CONSTRUCTED box of gingerbread walls made by Anna's Swedish Bakers, often found at IKEA. Ours came from Carolina Grandma.

Step Two:  Heat up the 1/4 tub of Duncan Hines frosting you were keeping on the top shelf of the fridge for just the right occasion. Pour the microwaved frosting where you need to attach walls and the rooftop.

 This step is a lot easier if you have a handsome architect on hand.

Step Three: Patience! Let the walls harden so the house doesn't implode when you try to decorate it!

Step Four: Open all the mini packages of colorful candy that mom didn't consume you saved from Halloween. Sample every package you open to make sure the gummies and m&m's are still fresh! :) 
Step Five: Have at it! Get your frosting spreaders and decorate from north to south, east to west. 

  Step Six: Smile with your sister and your finished product!

If you have no Duncan Hines frosting in your fridge or pantry, this is the halved recipe from the Domino's powdered sugar box that I used for Day 2's "mortar". (Didn't think I needed the full recipe which is supposed to be enough to frost a 2-layer cake.) I urge you to splurge on GOOD vanilla. I used Costco's Kirkland brand 100% pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and the result was divine!

All it takes is 1/2 of a one pound box confectioners sugar; 1/4 cup butter; 2 Tbsp milk; 1 tsp vanilla.
Don't bother sifting the powdered sugar. It will be mixed with a hand mixer. Place all 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, then mix on LOW speed (to avoid the powdered sugar dust cloud). If the final product is too stiff, add a mini, mini, mini splash of milk from a teaspoon until you reach the desired consistency. But remember, you don't want the end product to be too moist, because it will take longer to harden.

Anyone else make a gingerbread house this year?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010 Wrap-up

Merry Christmas to Everyone! Ours was one of much joy and many sweets...

Cookies for breakfast? Check. Skyping with family on East Coast and West? Check. New Christmas outfits for Doggie and Teddy? Check.
 Very own Pillow Pets to squeeze tight? Check.
 Fistfuls of Rolos in stockings? Check.
 An adorable husband to sit by the fire with? Check.
And snow making a white Christmas to top it all off? Check!
I hope you've all had a wonderful, memorable Christmas wherever you may be.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tasty Tradition: White Chocolate Chex Mix

I like baking. I do. But the kids elbow to elbow over the oven? Not too keen. And the cleanup afterwards? No thank you. How about a DELICIOUS salty, sweet, and crunchy treat that only takes 2 bowls and the ease of a microwave? Sign me up!

I have been making this mix for at least four years. And I'll tell you why. The ingredients are not too expensive, they can all sit at room temperature, and even the youngest sous-chef can scoop the required amounts. Also, once assembled, the mix keeps really well after you make it. Not like some baked treats that start to go south a day after they come out of the oven.

First, grab a Santa hat to get in a jolly mood.

Next, print the recipe and find two bowls: one small for melting the chocolate and shortening in; the other LARGE for mixing the whole concoction without tossing it over the sides.

Then, grab your favorite aunt and start the fun!

White Chocolate Chex Mix

5 cups mini pretzels
4 cups corn chex cereal
1 cup salted peanuts
1-1/2 cups M&Ms (or Reeces pieces)
2 cups white chocolate chips (12 oz.)
1 Tbsp. shortening

In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, cereal, peanuts and M&Ms.

In a separate microwave-safe bowl, microwave the white chips and shortening for 1-2 minutes or until chips are melted, stirring every 30-45 seconds until smooth.

Pour over cereal mixture and mix quickly.

Spread onto a 15x10x1 inch baking pan lined with wax paper. Allow to cool completely, then break apart into small morsels. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Makes about 4 quarts.

Oh, and when I say store in an airtight container, I mean a husband-tight container, because if you make a batch tonight, you may not see any of it left tomorrow.

Sidebar: If you buy your holiday m&m's at the after-Christams prices, you can stash away the red ones and make this mix as a Valentine's gift, and you get to snack on the green ones all through January and February! Happy eating!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Special Day for Family

While celebrating Thanksgiving last week with visiting family was nice: the turkey, the trimmings, the pies and ice cream; this past Sunday was even more special.
Even though I attend church and my girls are being brought up in my faith, I had never made the formal arrangements to have them baptized. Typically in the Catholic religion, children are baptized within the first few months of their birth. What took me so long? First off, my husband is not Catholic, so that makes it complicated, and secondly, all of my family lives 1,000 miles north of us. Not to mention, I have a certain reputation as a procrastinator to boot.

But lo and behold, we had a Thanksgiving miracle! I was able to schedule a dual baptism when my mother, my sister and her husband would be in town for Thanksgiving. The girls with their new godparents at their backs, and Grandma to my side.

My girls looked lovely and they had a truly special day. What the priest mentioned, and I had been thinking myself, too, is that they may actually remember their Baptism. M even wrote about it in her weekly at-home writing assignment, and has been telling all our neighbors. And in recapping the day's event with my mom, who is of few words these days, she mustered, "That was beautiful." So I know that it meant a lot for her to share the day with us too. A day I wasn't too sure would ever come to pass, but it has, and I am so grateful. I am blessed to have a supporting family and a sweet husband who understood how much it meant to me.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Blog-o-ween!

I made it, folks! A whole year of blogging. Not the most prolific year, but a year nonetheless. I wish to thank each and every one of you who ever stopped by to see what was going on in the Fun As You Make It lineup.

Halloween is a great time to celebrate, and boy, did we ever. We had a send off party for friends at a restaurant on Friday night, a MOMS Club party Saturday morning, a neighborhood party on Saturday night, and our traditional Halloween bag-filling and trick-or-treating today. Quite a fun-packed weekend.

Here are my two beauties tackling the 87 bags we filled, which turned out to be insufficient.

For the record, I had to use backup lollipops and Smarties that I had leftover from our Paper Bats craft and Candymen I made for the kiddies, AND open another bag of chocolates I had set aside for a special occasion.

The girls were more than thrilled to don their costumes multiple times. Daytime, nighttime, twilight - it's all good.  Have you ever seen a prettier pumpkin or more unique unicorn??

 Can you spot them at our annual MOMS Club party at our Town Green? Mom and Dad had a chance to get in on the costumes, too.

 Happy Halloween from yours truly, 'Benjamina' Franklin!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Double the Cookies, Double the Fun

For today's back-to-back Halloween parties, I decided to bring a bunch of cookies. But I was not about to bake several dozen cookies from scratch. Instead, I made a set of 'Witches' Hats', like I did last year and Chocolate Drizzled Mint Cookies.

My cookie arsenal:

The Witches' Hats consist of Fudge Stripe cookies, Hershey's Kisses, and frosting tinted orange or melted orange candy melts. With the cookie upside down, dab on a bit of the orange frosting or melts, then adherre the Hershey's Kiss on top. Can't get any simpler than that!

For the Chocolate Drizzled Mint Cookies, I started with prepackaged mint cookies, drizzled them with a bit of white chocolate, then a bit of melted orange melts, and finally a tiny toss of Halloween sprinkles on top for extra color.

Final product of cookie deliciousness:

But before the orange candy melts made it to the cookie trays for their dainty decoration, they first made a detour via the piping bag to my pajamas: a nice bright orange sash across the front of my shirt, down the leg of my pants, to the top of my slipper and onto the floor. And, no, the carnage didn't stop there. There was a broad splatter on the countertop, as well as the crack between the counter and the stove, the cabinet door, and the cabinet knob. Not so dainty. It was like Amityville Horror, but with melted orange chocolate instead of blood.

All was not lost, however. There was even some melted chocolate left over to make a few tasty skulls.

The skulls made a nice addition to the tower of treats I made with gummy worm skewers winding up around a styrofoam cone topped with a creepy rubber spider.

Gruesome and tasty. Hope you've had your share of Halloween treats too!  

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Halloween Homecoming

My daughters have a friend who was born in the US and lived here up until the age of 5. Last year, she moved back to her parent's homeland. Last weekend she arrived for her first visit back to the States, so we celebrated with a Halloween-themed homecoming party.

First were the hugs and squeals to pass around.
After much playing and giggling, the girls in attendance got down to serious craft making.

My thanks to Mama King for supplying the idea of  these simple prepare-in-advance paper bats that also serve to hold a lollipop.

There was the obligatory kid's requested pizza party. (They thought was funny that they all sat at the kitchen table and mom and dad were relegated to the kids table!)

To wrap up the evening, we had drop in guests of neighbors and the mom/dad/lil brother of one girl arrive just in time for the scavenger hunt and dessert. The kids had to search for clues around the yard that lead them to the sweet toppings (frosting, candy corn, m&m's, marshmallow ghosts, and orange sprinkles)

to decorate their own Devilishly Good Cupcakes:
A very special night of reconnecting with friends and getting us in the Halloween mood. I hope to get back to you with more of the great Halloween fun I've been knee-deep in this month but haven't made time to post about yet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Fever!

What is one to do when Pumpkin Fever strikes? Make as many pumpkins as possible!

Friday: The girls painted a pumpkin patch - using water balloons (inflated to different sizes) dipped in orange paint, and a green marker for the vines.
Saturday: They assembled 3D paper pumpkins. Eight strips of orange cardstock (each just under an inch wide), two small brads to connect the ends, and a loop of green construction paper glued to the top for a stem. 

Then they drew jack-o-lantern faces on orange paper sacks, stuffed them with balled up newspaper, and added contruction paper leaves and a pipecleaner stem they had coiled around a pencil.

 Sunday: And last but not least, they broke out the paint brushes once again to jazz up their mini pumpkins.
Next Saturday we get to carve the big ones!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lighthouse with a View

This past weekend, we headed over to South Carolina to visit my in-laws. They live on a salt water creek that puts on a daily display of nature's wonders. Steadfast sweetgrass in the changing tide, numerous water birds (heron, ibis, cranes, laughing gulls) and regular dolphin sightings. We witnessed one family of dolphins  'storming' the shore line, making almost ominous waves in pursuit of their shrimp dinner.

B and I spent a good deal of time spying on a couple sting rays circling around the dock, stirring up the fluff mud in search of food. The two of us were also invited by a neighbor to watch him cast and haul in his shrimp net. Along with some decent sized shrimp, he also netted a young flounder (about 7 inches) and a mini squid which he taught us appears white on the surface, but turns black when released to the water again.

One afternoon, the hubby and I were able to venture out on our own and take a walk on the beach at Hunting Island State Park. It is an incredible spot, with enormous trees dotting the coastline, downed by the encroachement of the sea. This is our 7th year coming to this beach, and it's the 1st time we took the opportunity to climb the lighthouse. The only lighthouse in the state of SC open to the public, mind you.

After climbing 167 steps of the spiral staircase...

this was the view of the beach from 132 feet in the air.

Personally, I kind of enjoyed the view from one and a half feet directly in front of me. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Deal and Good Fun

My girls needed a pair of new toothbrushes, and as I was scanning the dental care aisle at Target, I spied this little number:
The Firefly Toothbrush that blinks for one minute at a time. Of course, in typical American consumer culture, there were Barbie and Hot Wheels varieties available, too. But I thought the light up factor was special enough to please my kids. And for $1.02 each, it's even a great price for a toothbrush, period!

Now the girls brush their teeth for one minute in the dark, then mom or dad check their teeth for another minute. It's kind of freaky seeing their cheeks and nostrils illuminated in red, but if it keeps them brushing, I have no problem with it.

A little added bonus: the dentist has recommended that my oldest use a fluoride rinse every evening, and according to the directions on the bottle, the child should swish for an entire minute. So now my daughter doesn't have to trek back and forth to my nightstand to observe my alarm clock, she can just reset the Firefly and after one minute, she's done.