Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lily's Love Potion - Valentine's for Toddlers

So... I was instructed by Lily's teachers to bring in a valentine for each child in her class and was provided with a list of names. The funny part is that most of the kids in her "class" can't even stand up, let alone walk, or eat candy so I had to be creative and figure out what was appropriate. Obviously, I couldn't just buy the store bought cards...obviously.

I was strolling through Target and saw bubbles... instantly I started thinking about fun ways to turn that into a valentine and came up with "Lily's Love Potion"!!!

They had 6 packs of bubbles for $2.99 - less than one pack of the little cards!

I then had to figure out how to package them...
I had recently seen some cute baking blogs that had great ways to package valentine cookies, so i just followed their lead.

Here's what you need:
  • Small bottles of bubbles
  • Nice cardstock or construction paper (I used red)
  • Candy Bags (plain or printed)
  • Stickers
  • Sharpie or nice pen
  • Stapler
  • Scissors

Measure your paper into 4" squares. Fold each piece in 1/2 to create your label - You can write anything, or just use stickers. You could also print them on a printer.

Place the bubbles into the bag. Fold the bag over a few times. Place the label over the folds trying to keep the edges neat and staple each side of the bag and label together.

It's that easy!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sugar and Salt and Everything Nice!

Salty and Sweet is such a great combination - think about some of the great treats with this combination... Peanut Butter Cups, Kettle Corn  and Chocolate Covered Pretzels!

At Easter time, I was trying to come up with a quick, packable treat that I could bring on the plane to Boston... I came up with chocolate covered pretzels, accented with egg and bunny shaped colored sprinkles. They were easy to make and made it to Boston without getting
 crushed and were gone in a flash!

Here's what you need: 
  • Pretzels (small rods, twists, nuggets - you pick!)
  • Chocolate Chips (dark and semi-sweet seem to "dry" best)
  • Sprinkles (rainbow non-perils are my favorite)
  • Waxed paper
Here's what to do:
  1. In a microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate chips
  2. Dip pretzels into chocolate (1/2 or full dip, depending on your sweet tooth)
  3. Sprinkle with decorations (over a bowl, so you can recycle the spilled sprinkles)
  4. Place on waxed paper to dry for a few hours.
  5. Store in an air-tight container

A few notes: 

I Also tried making chocolate dipped marshmallows, which were very yummy and 
a big hit with my taste testers! 

Treats like this also make a great party favor (just place in a clear goodie bag and tie with ribbon. I just made some last week as a baby shower favor... let's just say there were no leftovers!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Double Duty

Americans spend "zillions" of dollars a year on cleaning products... special products for every little thing because we are slaves to marketing. So many of the products have the same ingredients, often listed in different orders or with fancier labels. When it comes to jewelry, you can stop searching and just open up your cabinets because hopefully you already have these 2 multi-purpose products --- Windex and Toothpaste.
To clean your diamonds... pour Windex into a small bowl and drop your diamond jewelry right in and let them sit for a few hours (or overnight). Take an old toothbrush and brush the loosened dirt and grime (conditioner, moisterizer, soap, etc) off and rinse in hot water. They will sparkle like they are brand new and you never had to leave your house, or deal with harsh chemicals.
To clean your silver jewelry (not sure about silverware)... squirt some toothpaste onto your finger tips and massage your jewelry - chains, ball earings, bracelets, etc. until they are well covered in toothpaste... you will start to see the dirt/tarnish mixing with the toothpaste. After a few minutes, rinse in hot water until the toothpaste is gone and your jewelry will be back to it's orginial state (unfotunately, it does not remove the scratches).

It's like magic!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

COSTCO - more than meets the eye!

Everytime I go to Costco, I am surprised by what I can find... first I was blown away by their Tire Center and the prices (and warrantees) on their car tires... then it was their electronics and their jewelry. They sell everything under the sun from vacations to cases of soda and even caskets.

My latest find is the photo center - it's amazingly efficient and shockingly cheap! Everything can be done online from the comfort of your home (or office) and you can pick up at the warehouse about an hour later, or have the photos mailed to your home for a small fee.

For our first official family holiday card, I ordered a handful of very elegant, customized photo cards from an expensive printer, but for the masses (100+) I opted for Costco's new photo greeting cards. Again, order them online, pick up in about an hour and they come with envelopes.

For Valentine's Days, here is the card I had printed. Remember, it's the little things in life that people remember...

Prepare yourself - only $14.99 for a set of 50 cards with envelopes, and
only $5.99 for each additional set of 25. I promise that you will not find
a lower price for cards that look this great!

Oh, and if the thought of creating a custom card scares you, take baby steps!
I started with simple prints (4x6 are just $0.13 each) and then started adding borders, i.e. I took a photo of Lily and added an autumn leaf border and sent it out to family and friends for Thanksgiving - what's even better - this lovely touch is totally FREE - still just $0.13 each!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quick and Pretty

I had never used slice and bake cookies before, but once again, I had to whip something up last minute for a baby shower... I found out at the last minute that sugar cookies were required by the pregnant mama and didn't have time to make, chill and roll out dough so I went old school and bought a roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough.  

A very simple way to make boring round sugar cookies sparkle is to add simple toppings either right before they go in the oven, or right after they come out and are still soft to the touch (almost puffy). 

My two designs were "stained glass" and "flower power"... I used a multicolor sugar crystal and pink and white M&Ms... from start to finish, the whole batch took less than 30 minutes and they were yummy and very festive!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Last Minute Desserts

Yesterday, we were invited to a last minute dinner party for a dear friend's birthday. I offered to bring dessert as I often do because I love to bake!  

As soon as I hung up the phone I realized that a birthday cake was in order and panicked because of the limited amount of time I had, so I decided to go old school... 
Devils Food cake with homemade buttercream frosting... and simple decorations of shredded dark chocolate and rainbow sprinkles... Let's just say there were no complaints! 

Then, as the cake was cooling, I decided to whip up some cookies because not everyone likes chocolate cake... so I went to one of my staples - chocolate chip meringues. 
Both of these desserts were plated and ready to go in less than 3 hours.
Meringue Recipe 

8 egg whites (room temp)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz. chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Separate eggs (discard yolks, or use them for something else like key lime pie) and let stand to get to room temperature. Whip on high speed in mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar to sugar. Gradually add sugar mixture to eggs while whipping on high until peaks hold (2-3 minutes). Add vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips and add a few drops of food coloring if desired.
Scoop mixture into a large zip lock bag and seal bag. Snip one corner of the bottom of the bag to create a disposable piping bag (easy clean up!). Pipe 1" meringues onto greased cookie sheets creating pointed tips if possible. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 4-5 dozen (depending on size). *To easily 1/2 or double the size of the recipe, use 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

KISS - keep it simple "silly"

Wrapping (and buying) gifts is something that I have always enjoyed. I feel like if you can make the effort to purchase a thoughtful gift, you should also make the effort to package it beautifully. Believe it or not, many people actually judge "a book by its cover"... 

I used to store several rolls of wrapping paper so that I always
 had the right theme (birthday, baby, wedding, christmas, etc.), but then I also had to have the matching ribbons and bows for each paper. My husband would roll his eyes at me and my piles of supplies... so, I decided to simplify... I think we all came out as winners!
NOW... I wrap ALL gifts in brown craft paper (similar to parcel packaging paper, but often a little more flexible), and then just stock beautiful, higher quality ribbons. I try to buy my ribbon on sale at craft stores (Michaels, AC Moore, etc.) and also try to use colors specific to holidays rather than patterns. For example, I don't buy Christmas Trees,  but rather Red and Green polka dots. Or I don't buy Baby Bottles, but rather Pink and Blue stripes. 

Pictured are a few samples of my Christmas gifts for this year!